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Introduction by the United Secretariat Bureau, Fourth International
Chronology of Events 1981-1984, by the United Secretariat Bureau, Fourth International
Defending Our Organizational Principles, by Larry Seigle, report adopted by SWP National Committee, August 1982
Resolution on the Attempt of 18 SWP Comrades to Form a Tendency for the Discussion in the International, by the United Secretariat, October 1982
Letter to the SWP Political Committee on the "18" by Jones and Segur, on behalf of the Bureau of the United Secretariat, October 1982
Resolution on the Suspension of the Four NC Minority Members and Related Expulsions by the United Secretariat, October 1983
Statement of the United Secretariat Representative upon Being Excluded from the SWP NC Plenum by Smith, November 1983
Open Letter to Members of the Socialist Workers Party (Extracts) by recently suspended and expelled members of the party, November 18, 1983
The Expulsion of Max Geldman: Documents of December 1983 and January 1984
End of the Split Operation Against the Party, Statement of the SWP Political Bureau, January 21, 1984
Resolution for the Point "Report on the November 1983 Plenum of the SWP and Report on the Constitution of Socialist Action (SWP)" by the United Secretariat, January 1984
Who Is Responsible for the Split in the Party: In Reply to the SWP Political Bureau by Steve Bloom

In 1984 a special issue of the Fourth International's Paris-based journal, International Viewpoint, published a report with documents on the organizational “tightening” and purge being carried out by the leadership of the Socialist Workers Party. It was hoped that this publication would help pressure the SWP to reverse its course, and would help explain to Trotskyist movements around the world the crisis in the U.S. sympathizing section. This special issue is reproduced here in its entirety, with two exceptions: “The Latest Wave of Expulsions (Extracts)” and “Introduction to Documents of the Opposition 1981-1983 (Extracts)”—containing material that is duplicated elsewhere—originally produced by Socialist Action. At this time, those driven out of the SWP participated in the founding conference of Socialist Action; over the next year further expulsions and differences among those expelled from the SWP led to the formation of the Fourth Internationalist Tendency and Socialist Unity (the latter group soon fused with non-Trotskyist forces to establish Solidarity).

The International Viewpoint compilation, entitled “The Organizational Situation in the Socialist Workers Party (USA),” is especially valuable because it contains materials reflecting the standpoint of Fourth International representatives, expellees from the SWP, and also the leadership of the SWP.

Also included in this part of the book is an analysis written at the time by Steve Bloom, a leader of the newly formed Fourth Internationalist Tendency, responding to the SWP leaders' 1984 document “End of the Split Operation Against the Party.” Bloom's article, “Who Is Responsible for the Split in the Party,” was originally published in Bulletin in Defense of Marxism, March 1984. One of the clearest explanations of the events, it is also a useful summary of the issues presented in the International Viewpoint compilation.



by the United Secretariat Bureau, Fourth International

The October 1983 meeting of the United Secretariat passed the following motion:

The Bureau is assigned to publish a special I.I.I.B. containing material relating to the suspension of 4 NC minority members and other relevant materials. That should include the report submitted by the SWP leadership, documents of the 4 suspended comrades and the USec position.

The January 1984 meeting of the United Secretariat decided to reaffirm this motion while noting:

Up to date no such report has been received from the American SWP leadership. This has held up the publication of the above-mentioned bulletin. Thus members of the F.I. have received no comprehensive information about the suspensions and expulsions taking place in the SWP and the position adopted by the leadership of the International in relation to this development.

Given this fact the United Secretariat charges the USec Bureau with the immediate publication of a special international information bulletin%#8212;sized 24 IIDB pages—informing the members of the International about the organizational developments in the American SWP and the position taken by the United Secretariat in relation to this.

The USec Bureau is mandated to make the appropriate selection of material available.

The dossier begins with a chronology of the developments inside the Socialist Workers Party since May 1981. The documents are then arranged chronologically.

They start with the report made by Larry Seigle to the SWP National Committee in August 1982. This report summarized the view of the SWP leadership on a range of organizational questions, but in particular rejected the June 29, 1982, letter from 18 members of the SWP asking for the right to form a tendency to participate in the pre-World Congress discussion.

This refusal was the subject of a United Secretariat resolution of October 1982 which noted that this decision was contrary to the statutes of the Fourth International and urged the SWP to reverse it. The resolution was motivated in a letter written by Jones and Segur on behalf of the USec Bureau.

The next action of the USec in relation to the internal situation in the SWP was to pass a resolution in October 1983 protesting the de facto expulsion of the four minority National Committee members. The resolution continued to recognize them as members of the FI (to the extent that this is compatible with U.S. law) and urged the SWP to reverse its course. At the November 1983 meeting of the SWP plenum Smith, the USec representative, was excluded, only being permitted to make the statement which is included here. The four suspended NC members and many others expelled from the SWP in the previous months had formed Socialist Action, a public faction of the SWP, at the end of October 1983. Socialist Action issued an open letter to the membership of the SWP, explaining their case, of which extracts are included here.

A new wave of expulsions followed. One of these was Max Geldman, a member of the Trotskyist movement since 1931. Documents relating to his case are published here. The SWP summed up its view of the expulsions in a document of the PB entitled “End of the split operation against the Party,” which included a list of the “splitters.” Socialist Action made a number of statements on the new purge in their internal bulletins, extracts of which appear in this dossier.

Finally, the USec passed another resolution January 26-29, 1984, which noted a new wave of expulsions, reaffirmed its position of October 1983 and explained why it had established political relations with Socialist Action within this framework.

When the report of the SWP leadership on the question is made available to the United Secretariat it will also be made available to the membership.

February 1984



Chronology of Events 1981-1984

by the United Secretariat Bureau, Fourth International


May: International Executive Committee adopts resolution on Cuba.

May-July: SWP preconvention discussion—Cuba a major issue but IEC resolution on Cuba not made available.

August 2-8: SWP convention—two tendencies formed, led by Breitman (amendments on Cuba) and Weinstein/Henderson (differences on trade union work and Central America). Breitman tendency dissolves. Weinstein/Henderson continues as NC tendency.

August 9-10: Enlarged Political Committee: Lenin's democratic dictatorship theory to be presented above Trotsky's permanent revolution in Lenin class series in all party branches.

September onwards: Lenin class series held; presentations giving Trotsky's position ruled out of order.

November: “How Lenin Saw the Russian Revolution,” by Doug Jenness appears in ISR magazine.

November-December: Differences emerge over SWP's coverage of Iran, response to martial law in Poland, pessimism in labor struggles in U.S., and a number of disciplinary measures directed at dissidents in SWP.

December: Lovell and Bloom form new National Committee tendency, the Fourth Internationalist caucus.


January: Young Socialist Alliance convention—YSA leadership denies the existence of right to maintain a tendency after convention. At end of January, after informing SWP leadership, USec members Walter and Duret meet Lovell and Bloom in Montreal, Canada.

February-March: SWP National Committee plenum. Speech by Barnes on organizational norms. Control Commission report finds that Lovell, Bloom, Weinstein, and Henderson have “forfeited their right to membership in the SWP.” 27 restrictive organizational motions passed. Plenum adopts report calling for workers and farmers government in the United States as “two-class government.”

March-April: Pedro Camejo returns to U.S. after trip to Venezuela, denied readmission to the SWP and declared hostile to the party.

May: Expulsion of DeBoer, Cooper, and others in Minneapolis.

International Executive Committee:

* SWP members cast consultative vote in favor of Camejo remaining a consultative member of IEC, as against USec Bureau recommendation that he be seated as an observer until World Congress.

* SWP consultative members propose that a Canadian, a British, an Australian comrade, and a consultative member of the SWP deliver counter-reports to the Bureau reports. This proposal, which presupposes previous contacts between these comrades, is made without the declaration of a tendency, without the announcement of an international “current” meeting, and without any indication of who participates in that current (sections? section leaderships? majorities of section leaderships? minorities? secret tendencies?) and on what precise platform it is constituted.

* IEC opens pre-World Congress discussion.

June: 18 members of SWP announce the formation of a membership tendency to participate in the pre-World Congress discussion.

July: Letter from Barnes ordering the 18 to “cease and desist” from forming a tendency.

October: United Secretariat passes resolution defending tendency rights of “18.”

December 31: Barnes public speech in Chicago claims 70 to 90 percent of Trotskyists are hopeless sectarians, attacks several sections of the Fourth International, and declares the permanent revolution an obstacle.


May: Weinstein/Henderson tendency and Fourth Internationalist caucus form a bloc on the basis of six documents for expected preconvention discussion. This bloc is characterized as a faction by majority of SWP NC.

May-August: National Committee fails to call regularly scheduled convention.

August: Educational conference and National Committee plenum held. Bloc dissolved. NC suspends four minority NC members from the party with effect of expulsion. Purge announced. New International magazine launched.

September: Poll is taken in branches on approval of postponement of the convention. More individuals expelled.

October 20: United Secretariat declares the suspensions and expulsions unjust and will continue to treat those expelled or excluded as members of the Fl.

October 30: Expellees' conference founds Socialist Action as a public faction of the SWP. USec member attends as observer.

November: SWP NC plenum excludes United Secretariat representative.

December: California State Convention of SWP. All minority delegates expelled afterwards. All comrades “identified with the minority” nationwide asked to repudiate alleged California delegate statement, and expelled.


January: USec condemns the political purge of dissidents from the SWP, votes to maintain relations with Socialist Action.

February 1984



Defending Our Organizational Principles

by Larry Seigle, report adopted by SWP National Committee, August 1982

Our organizational principles—our norms—are not rules to keep people in line. They are not laws to punish members who get out of line. Rather, they are the framework through which worker-Bolsheviks organize ourselves to most resolutely advance all of the work of building the party; to build our fractions and branches; to carry out the party's campaigns; to participate effectively in the sharpening conflicts of the class struggle and various experiences of the mass movement. They guarantee the democracy of the party, so that an active membership can decide in order to act.

These organizational principles help maintain the equilibrium and rhythm of work in the party at all times, in the normal course of developing our political response to new events, which requires thinking and discussion, as well as in situations where political disputes arise.

Our organizational principles are what we rely on to protect the rights of every member, and of the party as a whole, as well as to indicate the responsibilities of all members to the party. A key aspect of party structure they outline is that branches and fractions, democratically elected local, district, state, and national committees, and national conventions—not tendencies or factions, let alone cliques or networks—are the basic units of the party.

Without our organizational norms, our goal of building a growing, politically homogeneous, revolutionary workers' party that advances and enriches the program of scientific socialism along the line of march of the working class would be unrealizable. This objective sums up what our 1965 convention resolution on organizational principles calls revolutionary centralism.

The turn to industry, which we began in February 1978, has brought the question of our norms into sharper focus. We didn't start out by reviewing our organizational principles—we assumed them—but we have been led to do so because they have been systematically challenged over the last year by the actions of the minorities.

We had an initial discussion on this question at our November 1981 plenum in the context of the case involving Greg Cornell, Harry DeBoer, Gillian Furst, and Jake Cooper. At that plenum we decided to expel Cornell. The NC took note of the fact that the other three members of the grouping openly declared their co-responsibility for Cornell's undisciplined actions, and that they defied and refused to cooperate with the Political Committee investigating committee that they themselves had requested. The NC took no disciplinary action against them, but we warned them that they must cease and desist from a mode of political conduct that, if not halted, could only lead them out of the party.

It was under the discussion on this point that many of us heard for the first time Comrade Lovell's considered opinion that what we need today is a “loose” party, one where we let comrades do as they want. On those grounds, Comrade Lovell voted against the expulsion of Cornell, despite the fact that no one disputed the fact that Cornell had not only consciously and deliberately carried a counter-line to party policy into the labor movement, but also stated that he would do so again in similar circumstances.

At the November 1981 plenum, we also upheld the decision of the Los Angeles branch that repeated experience had shown that Edmund Kovacs's ownership and operation of a jewelry store placed him in a situation that was not compatible with membership in a revolutionary workers' party. This decision, while unanimous in the plenum at the time, was sharply disputed by supporters of the Bloom-Lovell and Weinstein-Henderson NC tendencies in the Los Angeles branch.

The November 1981 plenum also approved a decision of the Bay Area District Committee to reverse a decision of the San Francisco branch that ran counter to the line of the party against the “Message Brigades” scam being pushed by the national leadership of the National Organization for Women. This was opposed by Bloom, Lovell, Henderson, and Weinstein.

Following that plenum, we saw the first danger signs of a revival of factionalism on an international scale. This was expressed in two incidents.

The first was the launching of a slander campaign to scandalize the SWP in connection with Pedro Camejo's resignation from the party.

The second was the meeting in Montreal between Comrades Lovell and Bloom, and Comrades Walter and Duret of the United Secretariat Bureau. The SWP Political Committee was neither consulted ahead of time nor properly notified about this meeting. More importantly, we asked, who sponsored and financed this trip? Comrades Walter and Duret asked and received the agreement of the Bureau to make the trip and hold this meeting with a tendency in the SWP leadership. If the trip was financed by the Bureau, then the Bureau was functioning not as an elected leadership body of our world movement, but as the steering committee of an undeclared international faction. If it was financed by personal wealth, which is the only other alternative, then it is an unacceptable mode of political functioning in the workers' movement, one that violates proletarian morality.

Nonetheless, when our Political Committee was finally informed of the meeting—by Comrades Bloom and Lovell, not by the Bureau, and after the meeting in Montreal had already begun—we sent Jack Barnes and Barry Sheppard to Montreal to talk with Comrades Walter and Duret at their request after the meeting with Bloom and Lovell had ended. We appealed to these leaders of the United Secretariat Bureau to urge Lovell and Bloom, as well as Comrades Weinstein and Henderson, to chart an active, disciplined course and not to engage in actions that would force us to take disciplinary steps. To do otherwise, we said, would unnecessarily interfere with the discussion we need in the Fourth International. We hoped they would all act as if they had learned something from the destructive factional mode of operation of the International Majority Tendency in the early and mid-1970s, which encouraged a split from the SWP and almost led to a split in the International.

Growing Disagreements on Organizational Principles

We discussed both of these events at the February-March plenum. Since that time, the differences within the National Committee over our organizational principles have rapidly widened.

Both NC minorities have objected to the decision of the Bay Area District Committee, upheld by the California State Committee, to censure Comrade Harer—not an expulsion or suspension, just a censure—for threatening physical violence against another comrade during a political dispute in the party's headquarters.

We have heard Comrade Weinstein, here at this plenum, propose that we legitimize and approve heckling of speakers at branch meetings as a norm of our movement.

The two NC minorities are outraged at the decision of the Twin Cities branch to expel DeBoer, Furst, and Cooper for defying the clear decisions of our last plenum, a defiance that was only the latest in a long string of undisciplined acts. They oppose the party's rejection of the Camejo caper. And they object—in the name of international democratic centralism, of course—to the instructions from the Political Bureau to the eighteen signers of the declaration of the “Fourth Internationalist Tendency” to halt all organized tendency functioning, since the NC has opened no discussion in the SWP.

In short, we have a challenge up and down the line to the fundamental organizational principles of the party. That is why, once again, we have this point on the agenda. And that is why we need to review the organizational norms, and how they are being applied, in order to make sure they are in harmony with the advance of the party as we deepen the turn. To make sure that we are applying the organizational principles that the cadres of the party need today to carry out the tasks of building the party.

It's not surprising that the organizational question, the question of our norms, is being more sharply posed as a central political question now. We discussed this at our last plenum.

Comrades will remember that Trotsky in the late 1930s wrote a series of letters to the party centering on the necessity for a sharp turn into industry to advance the proletarianization of the party, to transform the class composition of the party in order to strengthen it in preparation for the coming war—and the anticipated pressures and opportunities that were coming.

For Trotsky, the question of proletarianization was inseparably linked not only to defense of all the historical conquests of the toilers and the program of the party against the petty-bourgeois opposition, but also to the proletarianization of all aspects of party functioning—from the workers advancing into the leadership of the party at all levels to the application of proletarian norms of functioning. He stressed the necessity of ridding the party of attitudes and characteristics displayed by those who came from petty-bourgeois circles: cynicism, gossip, endless discussions, and light-minded attitudes toward the party in general and toward the responsibilities of party membership and leadership. He considered these changes to be essential if the party was going to meet the tasks that it faced.

In one of his letters, written in 1937, he said,

I have remarked hundreds of times that the worker who remains unnoticed in the “normal” conditions of party life reveals remarkable qualities in a change of the situation when general formulas and fluent pens are not sufficient, where acquaintance with the life of workers and practical capacities are necessary. [See Education for Socialists publication, “Background to The Struggle for a Proletarian Party,” p. 10.]

In a later letter, Trotsky wrote of the need to educate the cadres of the party in a spirit that “rejects unhealthy criticism, opposition only for the sake of opposition.” [Ibid. p. 13.] The key to this, he said, was

to change the social composition of the organization—to make it a workers' organization....When you have a meeting of 100 people and between 60-70-80 are workers, then the 20 intellectuals, petty bourgeois, become ten times more cautious on the question of criticism. It's a more serious, more firm audience.

More serious and more firm. That's a good description of the educational and activists conference we just had, isn't it? Not afraid of something. Not rigid. Not tight. Not uptight, certainly. But more serious and more firm. A confident party was clearly visible here, not one afraid to turn outward to the revolutionary proletarian forces—in this country, from elsewhere in this hemisphere, and from around the world—who were represented at the conference. Toward the people we're working with in the Seasides, Lincolns, Clevelands, and New Yorks. A party not hesitating to reach out and clasp the hands of those who are marching in the same direction we are.

More firm and serious and less and less in the mood to tolerate monkey business in the party. That was what we saw at this conference. The kind of party that is alien to skeptics, pessimists, those preoccupied with organizational grievances, those who stand around the fringes gassing while the party machine gets geared up.

Applying Our Proletarian Norms

In the discussion we had earlier in this plenum on the Harer cace, a couple of comrades used the phrase, “proletarianizing our norms.” This is getting at the heart of the matter, but it is a formulation that is not quite precise, and it's open to a possible misinterpretation.

Our organizational norms are proletarian, and they always have been proletarian. Any other organizational principles are alien to us. What we are discussing, and what we've discussed at the last two plenums, is the timeliness of applying those proletarian principles. What we are doing is applying the norms that we need to build a proletarian party, and we are rejecting all the challenges to the application of those norms. In the process of doing that, the party is educating and reeducating itself in the meaning of our organizational principles.

This is the framework within which to look at the party's 1965 resolution on our organizational principles. At the heart of that resolution is the reaffirmation of the proletarian organizational principles of the party.

A myth exists that the 1965 resolution was written to be specifically applied to disloyal minorities, following the experience with the Robertsonites and the Wohlforthites. This is totally false. The resolution was written for the entire party, as a recodification of the principles that govern the functioning of every member and every unit and elected body of the party.

We didn't need to write a resolution to deal with disloyal minorities like the Robertsonites and Wohlforthites. In fact, if you think about it, such an idea is self-contradictory. How would you write an organizational resolution to be applied only to disloyal minorities? What would you say? Their whole objective is to evade the norms, negate them in practice but not get caught at it.

Why 1965 Resolution Was Written

The 1965 organizational resolution was drafted, discussed, and adopted at a time when the party was beginning the end of the long postwar retreat and enforced isolation from the working class, and experiencing modest recruitment, political expansion, a growing youth organization, and greater opportunities to participate in the mass movement. We were going through the beginning of the end of the weakening of the party. The 1965 resolution was part of the recognition of this and the preparation for deeper involvement of the party in the new openings. The party was responding to the rise in proletarian struggles, which occurred in the form of the upsurge in the Black movement, the victory and consolidation of the Cuban Revolution, and the radicalizing youth who were inspired by and attracted to these struggles and, as a result, were attracted to a proletarian party.

As part of this response and preparation, the party found it valuable to review our organizational principles, and to reaffirm and recodify them. One of the necessary consequences of the period of retreat and enforced isolation from our class—what we have called the semi-sectarian existence of the party—was that the organizational norms could not be applied in the way they could be at other times. There was a conscious and deliberate decision to relax the application of the norms. This was part of leading the retreat after 1947, surviving the dog days of the 1950s with our Marxist program and proletarian orientation intact, and capable of attracting a new generation of revolutionists of action when new openings appeared.

You can go wrong if you apply too literally the Grenadan slogan, “forward ever, backward never.” No. Backward sometimes—by necessity. Real leadership includes knowing how to lead a retreat—and it is always a tougher leadership job than leading an advance. And part of leading the retreat after the end of the postwar strike wave was relaxing the application of our proletarian organizational norms.

But by the early 1960s, we could see the end of the period of retreat of our class. This made it possible and necessary to reaffirm our norms, just as it opened the door to ending other abnormalities the retreat had imposed. For example, we began once again establishing branches in more than the handful of major cities we entered the 1960s with, and we began the process of the leadership transition in the party. With the new opportunities, the practical political value of our norms and the necessity of their application became more and more clear.

There was, however, a challenge to the reaffirmation and application of the principles of a proletarian party. This came from a layer of the party that had gotten comfortable and habituated to the loose modes of functioning the party had been forced to accept. They held this up to be the standard for all times, rather than an abnormal situation imposed on us by exceptionally unfavorable objective conditions.

They specifically challenged the principle that the party has the right and duty to regulate the internal functioning of individuals and groupings in the party. This challenge was rejected.

The 1965 resolution presented our organizational principles in harmony with the current stage of the class struggle, and in preparation for anticipated future developments. The resolution updated the section dealing with proletarianization from the organizational resolution that had been adopted in 1940. Farrell [Dobbs] explained this in his 1970 lectures on the organizational principles of the party. [Education for Socialists Publication, The Structure and Organizational Principles of the Party, by Farrell Dobbs, June 1971.]

As Farrell summed this up:

These passages had been applicable in those earlier circumstances, but a modified approach was obviously required in today's objective conditions. Instead of the one-sided emphasis on penetration of the organized labor movement and on reaching the proletariat in the working-class neighborhoods, the 1965 recodifcation calls for efforts to penetrate all sectors of the mass movement: labor organizations within industry; the unemployed; the movements of oppressed nationaliti es—Blacks, Chicanos, Puerto Ricans and others—that are becoming radicalized and in which workers, by the way, predominate; college campuses and high schools, where the students are showing more and more of a tendency to turn toward socialist ideas. These were the essential sectors of the mass movement listed in the resolution. But the general concept on which this list was based automatically implies attention to new developments that could not be specifically anticipated in 1965, for example, the women's liberation movement that is unfolding today.

The provisions that had been included in 1940 under Trotsky's urging are worth looking at because they reveal the continuity of our organizational principles, and their connection at each stage to leading forward the proletarianization of the party.

Under the heading “Proletarianize the Party,” the 1940 organizational resolution stated:

A party of non-workers is necessarily subject to all the reactionary influences of skepticism, cynicism, soul-sickness and capitulatory despair transmitted to it through its petty-bourgeois environment.

To transform the S.W.P. into a proletarian party of action, particularly in the present period of reaction, it is not enough to continue propagandistic activities in the hope that by an automatic process workers will flock to the banner of the party. It is necessary, on the contrary, to make a concerted, determined, and systematic effort, consciously directed by the leading committees of the party, to penetrate the workers' movement, establish the roots of the party in the trade unions, the mass labor organizations and in the workers' neighborhoods and recruit worker militants into the ranks of the party.

To proletarianize the party, the following steps are imperative:

1. The entire party membership must be directed towards rooting itself in the factories, mills, etc., and towards integrating itself in the unions and the workers' mass organizations.

2. Those members of the party who are not workers shall be assigned to work in labor organizations, in workers' neighborhoods and with the worker-fractions of the party—to assist them and learn from them. All unemployed members must belong to and be active in organizations of the unemployed.

Those party members who find it impossible after a reasonable period of time to work in a proletarian milieu and to attract to the party worker militants shall be transferred from party membership to the rank of sympathizers. Special organizations of sympathizers may be formed for this purpose ...

3. To attract and to hold workers in the ranks of the party, it is necessary that the internal life of the party be drastically transformed. The party must be cleansed of the discussion dub atmosphere, of an irresponsible attitude toward assignments, of a cynical and smart-alec disrespect for the party. (Emphasis in original.)

Talk about a “brutal turn”! Talk about leading it through to the end, making it universal, bending the stick. The calamity howlers today who have left the party because of their opposition to the turn are part of a long tradition, just as the turn we are making now is in continuity with our long struggle to build a proletarian party.

Since 1981 Convention

The current wave of challenges to our organizational principles began as our 1981 convention was drawing to a close, after a thorough debate had been held on all disputed points, and the party delegates had resolved the disputed points by majority vote.

On the last day of the convention, statements were presented from each of the two minority caucuses at the convention. Comrade Weinstein took the occasion to announce that the Weinstein-Henderson minority tendency would not dissolve following the convention, but would “maintain its existence in preparation for the upcoming international discussion that will take place in our world movement.” The Weinstein-Henderson caucus decided on this course, even though—as Comrade Barnes explained at the convention, and as we discussed at our last plenum—there is nothing a tendency in the membership has a right to do, within our organizational principles, “in preparation for” a discussion that the elected party bodies have not yet opened in the party.

The spokesperson for the Bloom-Lovell caucus addressed the convention next. He announced that, while they were dissolving following a democratic convention and preconvention discussion, and while they considered the decision of Weinstein and Henderson to be unwise, they would defend the “right” of the Weinstein-Henderson grouping to maintain its existence as a membership tendency after the convention.

The party decided not to take any action on the basis of these statements alone, but rather to give the comrades a chance to consider the question and see what their actual course would be.

A further negative sign was the refusal, both at the convention and afterward, of Comrades Weinstein and Henderson to provide the Political Committee with a list of the members of their tendency, despite formal requests for this information.

Within days after the convention, the dispute erupted in the Los Angeles branch over the Edmund Kovacs case, which we discussed at our November 1981 plenum.

Also within days after the convention, members of the Tendency for Party Growth—a rather inappropriate name—split from the party. This grouping had opposed the party's turn to industry on the grounds that it is based on an exaggerated view of the radicalization in the working class. They proposed as an alternative orienting toward radical petty-bourgeois layers, along the lines that supporters of Jack Lieberman had done at the 1979 convention. Their views were thoroughly aired in the preconvention discussion, and decisively repudiated by the convention. Their response was to quit the party immediately following the convention (as the Lieberman grouping had done two years before).

In splitting, the Tendency for Party Growth ascribed their lack of support in the party to the allegedly undemocratic internal life of the party. Gene Lantz, the leader of this grouping, stated in his letter of resignation:

[T]he SWP leadership has chosen to avoid discussion with its rank and file members about its major political orientation for the past 3 1/2 years. During this period many of the comrades most able to lead the rank and file against this erroneous course have left the SWP in a thin but steady trickle, while the most subservient and unquestioning have ascended into leadership.

Since the convention, we have had an escalating debate with the minorities in the National Committee, growing in intensity with each new organizational conflict and disciplinary action. The minorities' charges against the decisions of the NC and against branch, district, and state committee actions, have become unrestrained.

Comrade Weinstein said two days ago that he feared that “new organizational norms, or abnorms, will be proposed at this plenum, carrying the concept of political centralism further in the direction of Stalinist norms.” Comrade Lovell, similarly, has charged that we are imposing “perversions” of Leninist norms, and are moving toward a monolithic party.

The debate over our organizational principles that has emerged since the last convention is the result, not of any innovations introduced by the NC, but of the deepening challenges to our basic organizational norms by each of the two NC minorities, as well as by representatives of the majority of the international leadership who have been present.

At each plenum since the convention we have been presented with such challenges. Comrade Weinstein charges that, in our decision to uphold the Bay Area District Committee and California State Committee action in censuring Asher Harer for physically threatening another comrade—an act Comrade Hater admits and about which there is no dispute—we are heading toward Stalinist norms.

Comrade Lovell proposes that we move toward a “looser” party, with more relaxed norms; a party that doesn't expel people no matter what they do, even when they defiantly proclaim their duty to publicly carry out their interpretation of “Trotskyist principles” against the decisions of the party—as the Comell-DeBoer-Furst-Cooper faction did. Comrade Lovell's conception of the organizational norms we need now is an aspect of his view of the crisis the party faces and the political direction in which he proposes to take it. As he put it at the February-March 1982 plenum: “I strongly believe that what the radical movement in this country needs is a broad and open discussion of all the problems facing the American working class, and I am convinced that that discussion must begin right here in our own party.”

There is an organization in this country that does operate along many of the lines described by Comrade Lovell. An organization that does not strive for political homogeneity. That doesn't expel people no matter what they do (or at least claims not to). That advertises itself as a forum for a broad and open discussion of problems facing the working class. That organization is the Democratic Socialists of America. But it makes no claim to be structured along Leninist organizational lines.

The democracy in our party is of a different kind altogether. Our discussions are not open to inactive or undisciplined people, but to the comrades mutually discussing, adopting, and then carrying out decisions. Input from a Greg Cornell, who refuses to implement party decisions, or a Pedro Camejo, who walks away from the party and his leadership responsibilities, doesn't enrich those discussions. We discuss in order to decide and then collectively implement our decisions to build the party.

Only One Category of Membership

We have heard, from the comrades of the NC minority tendencies, the argument that longtime members of the party are entitled to special deference, special treatment under our norms. This came up initially in connection with the Kovacs case, now in connection with the Harer case, and it was raised in connection with Camejo, too. We were told that Camejo should not be held to the same standard of membership conduct as other, lesser, party members; and that his long years in the party leadership require that we put aside our norms in this case.

At our February-March plenum, we discussed Comrade Evans's proposals for our organizational norms: the continuous private circulation of discussion articles, polemics, and “drafts” of articles among selected groups of party members. These were his famous Christmas card list and his ideas on categories of membership, such as “experts” and “former literary collaborators.” The two NC minorities fully endorsed Evans's novel ideas about how party life should be organized. They had to—they had organized circulation of material that way.

We heard, at that plenum, both of the NC minorities argue that there is an absolute right at all times for tendencies and factions to meet, to discuss, and to circulate documents as they choose and to whomever they choose in the membership. They defended as correct every one of the acts that the Control Commission condemned in its report to the February-March plenum. Every single one!

At that plenum, we got a graphic picture of the kind of party we would have if the Weinstein-Henderson-Bloom-Lovell concepts of organizational norms were to prevail: permanent selective discussion among cliques, tendencies, and undeclared factions; and exclusive discussion circles of cronies, longtime “literary collaborators,” and self-styled experts.

None of these proposals is new. They've all been made—and rejected—before. There are only a limited number of things you can propose to undercut our norms, and all of them get raised at a certain stage in the political evolution of minority groupings whose line is diverging more and more from that of the party. They become increasingly dissatisfied with the fact that, despite full opportunities to present their point of view, they turn out to be in a small minority. We know that this can be an unpleasant position to be in, but it doesn't prove the party is undemocratic. It just proves that events haven't convinced the party that you are right, so you haven't won many people to your positions.

What we are seeing in the challenge to our norms is the inevitable result of a situation where a minority in the party finds its differences with the party deepening at each stage, where it no longer recognizes when disputed questions are settled by the test of events, and where each party decision, action, campaign, and success is more and more oppressive and intolerable to the minority.

As the 1965 resolution states:

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

Some Previous Challenges to Our Norms

It is useful to look back at a few of the earlier challenges we have faced to the 1965 resolution. In doing so, we can see that there is not much that we are hearing today that has not been clearly rejected before by the party, contrary to the comrades in the minorities who are clamoring about the introduction of “new” norms.

Right after the 1965 organizational resolution was adopted, it was challenged by the Kirk-Kaye minority in Seattle—the people who became the Freedom Socialist Party. This was a “carbon copy” caper. Kirk wrote a letter addressed to the Political Committee attacking the party's policy in the antiwar movement, and then immediately distributed copies to selected individuals in the SWP and in the Canadian section. The Canadian leadership found out about this and registered a strong protest to the SWP. They pointed out that the action of the Kirk-Kaye grouping had violated the right of the Canadian party to decide for themselves what material is to be circulated in their movement and when. Our party was formally asked to take action to guarantee that such a violation of their rights didn't happen again.

The matter was placed on the agenda of the next National Committee plenum, held in February 1966. Kirk was censured by the National Committee for his violation of party norms, and warned that any repetition would lead to more drastic disciplinary action. It wasn't long after this that the disloyal Kirk-Kaye group split from the party.

The very next year we ran into the concept that there should be different standards for those with long-standing membership and participation in the leadership of the party. This idea came up in connection with disciplinary action taken against Arne Swabeck. Swabeck, after many decades as a Trotskyist, became a Maoist. In 1967, he sent a lengthy political letter to the Healyites, a group in Britain which refused to recognize that a socialist revolution had occurred in Cuba and split from the Fourth International in the early 1960s, launching a bitter attack on the International and the SWP.

The PC voted to suspend Swabeck for this act and to recommend to the NC that he be expelled. But some comrades argued, you can't do that. This is Ame Swabeck, they said, who has given so many years of service to the party. You can't apply the same standard to him that you would use to judge other members. The NC disagreed. It said there can be no dual standards. There can be no special treatment for some, or the whole basis for our norms begins to break down.

Private Circulation of Documents

We had a series of challenges of a different sort from David Keil, centering on private distribution of discussion articles. Keil was a comrade who made full use of the discussion bulletin every year. He was prolific. National discussion bulletins, local discussion bulletins, district discussion bulletins—he was always in print. There wasn't much support in the party for his views, and over the years there was less and less interest in what he wrote. Nonetheless, he had complete freedom to publish anything in the discussion bulletin.

But Keil wasn't satisfied with the right, which every member has, to submit his views on all political subjects to the discussion bulletin. He also wanted the right to privately circulate “drafts” of his thoughts, and to do so before the discussion opened. In 1979 he circulated an article he had written on Cuba to selected friends of his and people he thought might agree with him. He did so before the opening of the preconvention discussion, to “prepare” for the discussion, he stated.

The Political Committee, very politely, called him to order. We said, hold on, comrade. You can't do that. We explained why the right he was claiming for himself was contrary to our norms and to the 1965 resolution. We explained to Keil that all internal discussions in the party must be democratic. This means three things: one, every comrade has to be able to hear all points of view, not just one side; two, every comrade has to be able to participate on an equal footing, not just those who are privileged to be included by virtue of being friends, roommates, or previously in agreement with those holding the discussions; and, three, the membership as a whole has the final say by deciding on the basis of majority rule the question in dispute, and by ending the discussion and moving on to carry out the work of the party when it decides to do so. This is done through the elected bodies of the party. That is our tradition.

The PC pointed out to Keil what happens when unregulated groupings in the party organize their own private, exclusive and selective discussion. This undermines what is essential to a Leninist party; the constant process of advancing, through discussion and through experience, the political homogeneity of the party cadres. When you have groupings discussing things among themselves, sealed off from the party, without the benefit of the thinking of the whole party, you increase the divisions. If you talk only to people who think like you, you can sit in a little room and get yourselves far out on a limb politically; it is wiser to take advantage of discussions with people who don't necessarily agree with you, hearing criticisms and other reactions, have some give and take before you harden your position. That's how party discussions work, even when there is a sharp disagreement. But that can only happen if the membership, through the elected leadership bodies, regulates the discussion.

If everyone in the party did things the way Keil was proposing, you would have everyone with an idea—good or bad—off in separate groups, fine-tuning their like-minded views. Then, when the discussion formally began, you would have hardened positions, with people lined up, confronting each other. This procedure would intensify cliquist tendencies, factionalism, and centrifugal forces operating in the party.

This would be disruptive in the most serious sense of the word; it would disrupt the process of achieving political homogeneity, which is at the foundation of democratic centralist functioning in a revolutionary workers' party. The homogeneity of the party would be weakened, it would break down over time, and you would be left with a collection of more or less permanent groupings, a collection of permanent factions, coexisting in the same party.

This is not speculation. It is the experience of the whole range of organizations—including some that consider themselves Trotskyist—that base themselves on functioning of the kind proposed by Keil. That is why groups that allow permanent, unregulated discussion always are composed of permanent cliques and factions.

This method of organization stifles democracy and deprives the membership of its rights. If you aren't in a clique or a faction, you are a bystander with no rights. You're “out of it.” You have no right to participate in the “real” discussion, because you are not included. All you see is the end products, the final drafts, edited by groups of people you had no say in choosing. Party committees, fractions, and branches are no longer the places where the real discussion occurs—it all takes place in meetings of tendencies or cliques.

This can be most destructive on the branch and local level, when groups of like-minded people meet together before executive committee and branch meetings to “work things out.” Over time, this destroys party democracy. When this mode of functioning exists, the membership as a whole is deprived of its right to settle disputes in an orderly, democratic way, to settle disputes by majority vote and move on. The real leadership becomes frozen and exclusive, rather than inclusive, continually incorporating additional comrades.

So, the PC told Keil to cease and desist. Earlier this year he finally decided he couldn't abide by these norms and just upped and quit the party. He now collaborates with the small American band of followers of Alan Thornett, of the Workers Socialist League in Britain, among others. I am sure he is as happy as a clam, because to see his latest disagreements with the SWP printed up and distributed is what he appears to live for.

Lessons of RMC Fusion

The fusion with the Revolutionary Marxist Committee in 1977 also posed a challenge of a sort to our organizational principles. This was a good challenge, and it's worth looking at, because it has been a positive experience. More often than not, when we discuss questions of organizational norms, we do it in the context of violations of the norms. But the discussion with the RMC on our organizational principles was part—an essential part—of working through a successful fusion.

We had to explain our norms to the comrades of the RMC. They didn't understand our concepts, and they were prejudiced against them by their whole experience and training in the tradition of the Shachtmanites—the tradition of permanent talk-shops, where discussion goes on permanently, and where internal life is defined in practice as tendency or faction life. The party itself and its elected committees, branches, and fractions are secondary. In practice, it is the permanent groupings that command primary attention, and primary loyalty.

In preparing the fusion, we discussed the organization question more than any other. We could defer differences on other questions—including the RMC's views on state capitalism—for later discussion. But we couldn't defer the question of how the party functioned, and how the ex-RMCers were going to function as members of the SWP.

When we first began the discussions, the comrades from the RMC assumed that they would function as a tendency in the party. They were shocked when we said that would not be wise. We didn't begin by saying they couldn't do it if they insisted, but we urged them not to.

We explained that we were going to recommend that RMCers be included on the incoming National Committee, and that one or more of them be elected to the PC. Ex-RMCers who were elected to the PC, we explained, would have the same rights as all other members of the Political Committee to express their point of view on all questions that come up, to talk them out, to vote their opinions. Members of the NC from the ex-RMC would have the same rights as all other members of the National Committee. And when a discussion was opened in the party, they would all have the same rights as every other member of the party to express their opinions. If a particular current of thought emerged on any question in the course of such discussions, they would have the right to form or join a tendency of all comrades who agreed with that point of view. Anyone who might agree with that point of view would be part of that tendency—whether they came from the RMC or not.

They said, that's fine, but what about our tendency rights in the party? We said, “Those are the rights in the party. There are no other rights. There are no automatic rights for a tendency in the membership outside of a preconvention discussion period.” This was an eye-opener. We had a lot of discussion about it. We explained why we waged war on the idea that the norm in a proletarian organization is the existence of permanent factions or cliques or tendencies, where questions are discussed inside the different groups first, and only later in the elected leadership bodies of the party. The goal of our discussions is not simply realignment of tendencies, or different blocs of tendencies, or more effective collaboration of tendencies, but the dissolving of tendencies and the achievement of greater political homogeneity in the party as a result of each discussion.

At the convention itself, where we brought the RMC into the party, the RMC comrades finally decided not to maintain a tendency in the party.

Looking back on it, that was the critical decision for these comrades. It was essential to making the fusion work—for genuinely integrating them into the party. It wasn't until that moment that they began to see themselves as SWPers, not ex-RMCers functioning in the SWP. It opened the door to politically integrating them.

And one by one, two by two, over a period of time, their views on questions we had had disagreements on at the time of the fusion disappeared. They were integrated into the party. If they had joined as a tendency, that process would have been disrupted or blocked altogether. We might not have the comrades here, including the NCers and organizers here in this room who came to the party from the RMC. The success of the fusion—which you can measure by the fact that few of us can now remember who among us used to be in the RMC—is a demonstration of the strength of these proletarian norms in the party.

The approach we took to the fusion with the RMC, I should point out, is one of the points on which we have the strongest differences with Comrade Alan Jones, who was one of the representatives of the United Secretariat Bureau at our last plenum. He reminded us there that he totally rejects the approach we took and considers it one of the prime examples of our errors on the organization question.

We now have a very recent example of the same difference of opinion within the party: the viewpoint expressed by Comrade Don Mahoney, a supporter of the Weinstein-Henderson tendency at the last convention. In a letter to the PC, Mahoney wrote—he was speaking about the YSA, but the point would be the same for the party—that because the YSA “is not organized on Stalinist organizational principles,” therefore “all members of the YSA have the 'right' to form tendencies” even when no preconvention discussion is under way.

The YSA NEC, however, took a different position, one in harmony with our norms. Writing for the NEC, Lisa Hickler explained to Mahoney that

the formation or maintenance of an “ongoing tendency” outside discussion periods decided upon by the organization is in contradiction with the organizational norms of the Young Socialist Alliance.

A tendency is an ideological grouping defined by adherence to a written platform published in the channels decided upon by the elected leadership bodies of the YSA. A tendency platform must present a counter political line on one or more of the questions under discussion. Its purpose is to try to win a Majority for its political positions during constitutionally defined periods of literary and oral preconvention discussion. It has no other function or goal....

Once a convention adjourns, supporters of a particular position at the convention have no rights different from any other member of the YSA. They have no right to meet, circulate political materials, or conduct organized private political discussions among themselves.

What Mahoney left out in his definition of “rights” in the YSA is the right of the YSA to regulate its own internal affairs, to decide when a discussion will take place, and to guarantee that all members can participate equally in a truly democratic discussion.

An Innovation

The series of challenges to our organizational norms has now been culminated by Comrade Lovell's new proposal. We heard him state it here earlier today, in explaining his opposition to expelling the remaining three members of the Cannon-Trotsky Faction for defying the decisions of the last plenum. According to Comrade Lovell, we should emblazon on our banner the slogan: We Never Expel Anyone! “We used to say with pride and honor,” he tells us, “nobody was ever expelled from our party.” That's the history of the party comrades used to be taught, he says. That is the “honorable reputation” we used to have “within the radical and labor movement.”

Is that the history you learned when you came around the party? Is that what anybody learns?

You learn the story of B.J. Field, the intellectual who became an official in the New York hotel workers' union. We expelled him in the middle of a strike because he didn't have time for the party fraction in the union. And you learn how Cannon used that story in his History of American Trotskyism to explain how the party settled

a fundamental problem which is decisive for every revolutionary political party: Shall trade union functionaries determine the party line and lay down the law to the party, or shall the party determine the line and lay down the law to the trade union functionaries? The problem was posed point-blank in the midst of this strike. We did not evade the issue. The decisive action which we took at that time colored all the future developments of our party in the trade union field and did a great deal to shape the character of our party.

You also learn that we expelled the Cochranites in 1953 for the act of boycotting the Militant 25th Anniversary fund-raising banquet. That's the final act that they were finally thrown out for—boycotting a party fundraiser.

And we also learn there have never been unjustified expulsions or frame-ups—and that we are proud of. That's how we all learned what the party is all about.

Of course, what Comrade Lovell says is so wildly at variance with what we all know that it sounds as though he has simply taken leave of his senses. But it is not absurd: what Lovell deeply believes is that we should emblazon on our banner the slogan, “We Never Expel Anyone.” That is what he thinks the party should be like, and that is what he thinks will attract to the party the kinds of people he proposes that we orient toward. This is the organizational expression of the deep difference we have over where the party is at, where we are going, and what we need to get there.

Comrade Lovell thinks we should change the norms of the party to meet the crisis he thinks the party is in: we need permanent discussion because the party is wrong and headed toward disaster, this is not the time to apply norms, or expel anyone or prevent anyone from rejoining. That is the grounds on which Comrade Lovell opposed the expulsion of Greg Cornell: not because he disputed the facts, but because he doesn't think anybody should be expelled, no matter what they do. He even acknowledged at the November plenum that no one could have any doubt that Cornell had left the party in all but the formal sense and that he had become hostile to the party some time ago. But still Comrade Lovell didn't think Cornell should be expelled, even though he had deliberately defied the branch, taking his own line, against the line of the party, into the labor movement, and said he would do it again. You heard what Comrade Lovell said here about DeBoer, Furst, and Cooper, too. The party is not in good shape, and it is not the time to be expelling anybody.

This is exactly the opposite of the political judgment of this plenum, a judgment based on the year's work carrying out the decisions of the convention and adjusting them on the basis of experience and new events.

Real Issue in Camejo Affair

This is what is significant, now, about the Camejo affair. Camejo's concept of the party as one he can walk out of and back into at his whim is a challenge to the most elementary concepts of the party. But Camejo isn't important to us any more. That's over. What is relevant here is the challenge being raised by the minorities to the basic norms of membership—not their application in borderline cases. The fact that they would vote today to simply readmit Camejo to membership in the SWP is a sign of the depth of difference we have on the need to apply our proletarian norms.

I'm not talking about questions that comrades in the branches might have, who may have heard incomplete or abbreviated reports from the last plenum or the slanders spread far and wide by Camejo himself, and who have not seen the additional materials you have in your kits, including Camejo's final letter, in which he continues to insist he did nothing he needs to explain to the party. But comrades who—after seeing all the information, having all the facts in front of them, and after the discussion at the last plenum—think that Camejo should be a member of the party now are talking about a totally different set of norms for the party. They are talking about a different kind of party.

The decision of the last plenum was very straightforward. The plenum recognized that Camejo's action, in walking out of the party—away from his leadership assignments, away from the garment fraction, away from the branch, turning his back on his responsibilities—was an act of utter political irresponsibility and hostility to the Socialist Workers Party. The decision of the plenum was not based in any way on Camejo's political views. What Camejo thinks or thought on some group of political questions had nothing to do with the plenum action. It is what he did and has kept doing that the plenum judged.

What has happened since the last plenum? Camejo has organized a national and international campaign among members, ex-members, non-members, and never-will-be-members of the party and of the Fourth International. The axis of this campaign is that Camejo has been victimized by the party leadership.

That first he was hounded out of the party, then subjected to character assassination. What motivated the party leadership to devote so much energy to victimizing Camejo? That part is less clear. It varies, depending upon who is being told the story—as you can tell from the letters from comrades in your kits.

In none of his statements is there any indication of the slightest understanding that his act of walking away from, and out of, the party is intolerable behavior for a leader of the Socialist Workers Party. That is the problem. He doesn't recognize that fact—just the opposite; he continues to insist he did nothing wrong, except to overlook a formal procedure of the statutes of the Fourth International.

We cannot admit into the party someone who rejects, as Camejo does, the norms of membership and of leadership responsibility. If we were to do that, we would do serious damage to the basic fabric of the party.

We will move here that the plenum reject Camejo's application for membership and end this episode. We don't need any more exchanges of questions and answers with him. We have enough answers.

Letter of the Eighteen

We have yet another challenge to our proletarian norms represented by the June 29 letter from eighteen members of the party, including two members of the National Committee.

This letter was prepared and circulated for signatures despite the actions of the last plenum, where the National Committee decided to reject opening a discussion in the party, and where we directed Comrades Lovell, Bloom, Henderson, and Weinstein “to restrict their activities to that of NC minority tendencies until such time as the National Committee opens a discussion period in the party.”

The preparation of the letter of the eighteen raises many questions, including the ultimate question of whether it had been done in deliberate defiance of the decisions of the last plenum. But the Political Bureau chose to put aside those questions. We decided not to ask the comrades to tell us how the list of eighteen was compiled, on what basis names were chosen for inclusion or exclusion, and who made those decisions.

We chose not to go beyond what the letter said on its face. We did so in order to take the opportunity to correct the false interpretation of the letter of the connection between the norms of the party and the call from the International Executive Committee for the World Congress.

We chose to take the opportunity to restate, for everybody, that no decision of the IEC or any other body of the Fourth International does or can open a discussion in the Socialist Workers Party. Only the elected leadership bodies of our party can do that. They have not done so, and explicitly rejected doing so at the last plenum. Violation of this decision is incompatible with membership in the party.

This is not an ambiguous point. The National Committee has the right and responsibility to regulate and organize preconvention and pre-World Congress discussions in the party. And there is, of course, no unclarity that this committee has decided not to open such a discussion in the party.

It is impossible for any action of a leadership body of the Fourth International to negate or reverse this SWP decision, because such a concept would violate an essential part of international democratic centralism. Any action taken in the name of international democratic centralism that interferes with or violates the right of the elected leadership bodies of the sections of the Fourth International to regulate their own internal life, to determine their political line on all questions, and to interpret and determine the application of the decisions of the Fourth International in their country, would undermine the central task of the International, which is to aid the construction of mass revolutionary combat parties that develop their own tested and trusted leaderships. Only such parties can lead proletarian revolutions to victory—and, more immediately relevant to where we are today in the Fourth International, only such parties can make the turn. The socialist revolution is international in scope, but it takes place nationally in each country. And the task in each country is to build self-confident Bolshevik parties, a task that cannot be accomplished if they do not have complete control over their own internal affairs.

The political resolution adopted at the 1979 World Congress reaffirmed the principle that

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

International democratic centralism can't operate in such a way as to subvert the democratic centralist functioning and norms of national parties. If it does so, it ceases to be international democratic centralism and becomes merely an obstacle to the development of proletarian parties and a world party of socialist revolution.

We likewise reject any notion that a minority in the SWP can subvert the decisions of the elected leadership bodies of the party, claiming that it is justified in doing so by international democratic centralism. There is no “Fourth International immunity” that justifies violation of the norms and decisions of this party. That would make a mockery of everything we have been saying.

Take the excuse for going around SWP norms and party decisions raised by the letter of the eighteen: the opening of a pre-World Congress discussion in the International. The last pre-World Congress discussion was open for well over four years from early 1975 to late 1979. We went through three party conventions during that period; with preconvention discussion, decision at the conventions, and the closing of discussion afterward. Had it been a norm that anyone dissatisfied with the convention decisions had the right to keep the discussion in the party going after the party convention, in the name of the pre-World Congress discussion, it would have meant the abrogation of the right of the party to end discussion on disputed questions following convention decisions for more than four years.

Comrades Lovell and Bloom are members of a tendency in the National Committee, recognized by the NC. They are and have been free to collaborate with each other in preparing articles for the pre World Congress discussion, and they are free to submit whatever they write to that discussion. The United Secretariat, after soliciting the opinion of the Political Committee, will decide how much and what of theirs to publish. Comrades Weinstein and Henderson's NC tendency has the same rights.

But what they don't have the right to do is to organize a selective discussion in the party, circulating platforms and drafts of documents in the membership of the party, holding private discussions, lining people up, hardening people up—all in the name of “preparing for” the pre-World Congress discussion. Because we can't have a double standard; if Lovell and Bloom can do it, so can anyone else in this party. And then we would have everybody circulating—to friends and like-minded people—anything they wanted. And doing it behind the backs of anyone they want. We would have not one or two, but ten, twenty, or more drafts of documents on Cuba, Iran, Poland, the turn, Lenin, Trotsky—the list would be a long one—circulating in the party, in the branches, being shown privately to potential supporters, with lists of signers being drawn up.

The right and responsibility of the NC to regulate the internal life of the party would be abrogated. We would have a permanent underground and private set of discussions going on, in which the membership as a whole would be denied the right to participate, to express opinions, to answer arguments. Comrades would be lined up on the basis of selective and one-sided discussions.

And all this would go on until the World Congress, which won't be held for almost a year and a half if it occurs on schedule. But it may take longer than that to adequately prepare a democratic and authoritative World Congress.

None of this means we think the SWP can reverse or negate decisions of the Fourth International. No body of the SWP has any power to overturn the decisions of the Fourth International. When the SWP adopts views different from the positions adopted by the bodies of the Fourth International, we don't claim our position is the position of the Fourth International. We can't change the position of the International. We say our position is our position, the position of the SWP, the revolutionary Marxist organization in the United States.

Take the example of Camejo. Camejo was co-opted to the IEC by special—unconstitutional—motion at the IEC meeting in May. He is living in this country, but he is not a member of the SWP. By decision of the IEC, Camejo is to be treated as if he were a member of the IEC. There is nothing we can do to change that. But we have the duty to decide what that fact means nationally, what that means here in the United States, in the Socialist Workers Party. And the answer is: it means absolutely nothing. Zero.

We also have a difference of opinion with Comrade Lovell concerning another aspect of the relationship between our organizational principles and international functioning. This is summed up in the exchange of correspondence between Comrade Lovell and Comrade Claudio of the United Secretariat Bureau.

On July 1, without informing the Political Bureau, Comrade Lovell initiated correspondence with the United Secretariat Bureau concerning the order in which material should appear in the International Internal Discussion Bulletin.

On July 13, the Political Bureau discussed exactly this question, which had also been discussed at a meeting of the United Secretariat in May. The Political Bureau had a full discussion on this question, and Comrade Lovell participated, even making a motion in the meeting. But he never mentioned that he had decided to open secret correspondence with the United Secretariat Bureau, behind the back of the party, on this question.

Two days after the Political Bureau meeting, Comrade Claudio, who rejected carrying on a secret correspondence with Lovell, sent us the original letter from Lovell and the brief answer to it. That was the first we learned that a member of the Political Bureau had taken this unilateral action.

You can't have a Political Bureau if individual members of the body take it upon themselves to write private letters about the business of the Bureau behind the backs of the body. This is true when it involves private political correspondence with the branches, which we have seen; and it is also true in regard to secret letters to leadership bodies or sections of the Fourth International. The same result follows: the elected leadership body breaks down. There can be no common functioning on this basis.

Internationalism and the SWP

This relates to our concepts of internationalism and international democratic centralism. Our concept of international democratic centralism is one of the democratic centralist functioning of the elected leadership bodies of the International, and political collaboration between those leadership bodies and the sections and supporters of the International.

This was summed up by Jim Cannon in his 1953 speech on “Internationalism and the SWP”:

The question of the attitude of the international movement toward us is an important one—with this understanding: that we are a part of the international movement, despite the fact that we have no formal affiliation, and we are going to have something to say about what the international movement decides on the American question, and every other. We don't consider ourselves an American branch office of an international business firm that receives orders from the boss. That's not us. That's what we got in the Comintern [after its bureaucratic degeneration under Stalin]. That's what we wouldn't take. And that's why we got thrown out. We conceive of internationalism as international collaboration, in the process of which we get the benefit of the opinions of international comrades, and they get the benefit of our opinions; and through comradely discussion and collaboration we work out, if possible, a common line.

That is our view of international democratic centralism. That always has been an integral part of our struggle for a proletarian party, a party with a cadre that not only does, but thinks, a working-class cadre that makes its own decisions and chooses its own leadership. Only parties like that in each country can ever build a real world party of socialist revolution.

We want international collaboration. And that is why we take so seriously the threats to that collaboration, such as those coming from Comrade Jones, when he openly states- as he did at a recent meeting of the Central Committee of the International Marxist Group—that his “advice to comrades who are subjected to the norms of the SWP is to ignore them wherever they are applied.” Comrade Ernest Mandel, who was sitting next to Jones when he made this statement, said nothing to contradict him. Not a word.

This is the kind of factional activity that increases the momentum of those in the International who prefer a split to carrying out to the end the decisions of the last World Congress, including the turn into industry. It is the kind of irresponsible statement made by those who want such a split, and who want to cut off the discussion. Comrade Jones must be called to order.

Organizing a Faction “In Passing”

We believe that the comrades of the majority of the International leadership now have a special responsibility to the comrades in the minority of our National Committee with whom they are in political agreement. That is to help persuade them not to split from the SWP, and therefore not to engage in action that will place them outside the SWP and outside the International.

It is inconceivable that the letter of the eighteen was prepared without the knowledge and agreement of members of the majority of the United Secretariat Bureau.

Now, as I said earlier, the SWP Political Bureau chose to take the letter of the eighteen on its face, and to take no action beyond clarifying the relationship between the democratic centralist norms of our party and international democratic centralism, and directing the signers of the letter to cease and desist from any further organized tendency activity.

We didn't ask any questions about the letter. We didn't inquire into the circumstances in which it was written, circulated, and approved. The decision not to do so was possible because we had not gotten any reports from any branches about people being approached to sign the letter, or discussions around it. The party didn't know anything about it until it was typed and delivered. It was obviously a well-organized operation.

We directed no questions at Comrades Bloom and Lovell, but they nonetheless evidently felt that they had to get something off their chests. This they did in their letter of July 27.

They say: “Now, of course, the question arises: How did we know that our views were shared by others? Didn't a determination of this require some secret discussion in the party, behind the backs of the elected leadership? ... In fact, there was nothing secret or sinister involved in this process.”

Comrades Lovell and Bloom explain, “It should surprise no one, then, that a number of comrades should let us know, in the course of informal discussions, or in passing while discussing other questions, that they agreed with us on one or more points.”

In passing. How does this happen in passing? “Seen any good movies lately?” “No, but would you like to sign my tendency declaration?” It tops Evans and his Christmas card list!

Read the letter yourself. The worst part of it is that it is a cynical letter. The norms of our party become, in the hands of Comrades Lovell and Bloom, a game for people to play. Cynicism toward the party is not a proletarian attitude.

People who are cynical about the party don't believe in the party. Think about it politically. What does it mean to be so cynical about the norms of the party, the decisions of the National Committee? Cynicism about the party is not merely a personality trait, it is a political stance. And we reject it.

In a separate letter of July 27, Comrade Bloom offers what he claims is a precedent for the letter of the eighteen. He cites a letter from Comrade Barnes for the Political Committee in response to a question from Bloom about consulting with some comrades in the New York Local on an article for the SWP preconvention discussion. However, the letter does not authorize any activity remotely approaching what Comrades Lovell and Bloom have done. In fact, the PC letter, which is very precisely written, does the opposite. It states: it would be no “breach of our organizational norms for you to check with a couple of New York comrades who indicated agreement with your contribution to the New York Local preconvention discussion last summer to see if they still agree and want to co-author a contribution to the coming [national] preconvention discussion.” (Emphasis added.) Bloom could check with the couple of comrades who stated agreement with his written contribution to a local discussion bulletin to see if they wanted to co-author an article along the same lines for the national discussion bulletin.

The eighteen members who signed the June 29 letter voted all different ways at the last convention. But, in passing, they have all come to agreement on Cuba, on Poland, on Iran, and on Mandel on Lenin. And “in passing” they drafted this letter, circulated it all over the country, and decided which names should be included and which should be excluded.

We don't accept that. What happened was that Comrades Lovell and Bloom, in collaboration with their co-thinkers in the majority of the international leadership, decided that no matter what the plenum had voted, no matter what the National Committee had decided, they were going to organize a steering committee for their faction, set about organizing a tendency in the membership of the SWP, and begin a broader campaign to line people up to support their platform.

We place before the National Committee a motion to approve the Political Bureau letter of July 13 to each of the eighteen comrades. We want to make it clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that there are no “Fourth International” loopholes to SWP norms, that there can be no such thing as international democratic centralism that subverts democratic functioning of this party, the rights of the members, and the responsibilities of the elected leadership bodies. And that no cynical games about it will be tolerated.

At our last plenum, we adopted 27 motions to defend the party's organizational norms. Now, in essence, we're proposing the 28th motion. It closes the circle.

A Halt to Heckling

There are two other questions regarding norms that this plenum must discuss and decide.

We have been presented here with the insistence of Comrade Weinstein that heckling of speakers at branch meetings is not only OK, but it is part of the Bolshevik tradition. We had no intention of taking this up here, but Comrade Weinstein raised it under the report on the Asher Harer case.

Comrade Barry Sheppard and Thabo Ntweng explained what has become “normal” in the San Francisco branch: shouting out, interruptions, and attempts at intimidating speakers from saying what is on their mind. This heckling is especially destructive of party democracy when it is aimed—as it often quite consciously is—at comrades who are newer to the party, or less sure of themselves at the podium. It discourages some from speaking at all—and that is clearly one of its purposes. It is the kind of bully-boy behavior that union bureaucrats use to silence the membership. It is not, and has never been, a norm in this party.

Comrade Weinstein has raised it here; we have considered it; and now reject it. Moreover, we instruct the branches to take immediate action to halt any such behavior at branch meetings, including immediate disciplinary action against those who persist in this kind of antidemocratic functioning. And if a branch isn't prepared to uphold this norm—by a majority of one vote, if necessary—the next higher body must act to protect the rights of every member of this party to speak their mind at branch meetings free from heckling and other disruption.

Finally, as we come out of this plenum, as we organize the momentum coming out of our education and activists conference, our job is to carry out the campaigns we have agreed on here. Advancing the turn further, carrying out an ambitious sales drive, paying attention to our jobs committees so that we help every comrade find a job in industry, conducting election campaign activities, making our $250,000 fund drive a success, deepening the education of the cadres, recruiting and integrating new forces. As we do all of these things, we will be applying in a thorough way the norms of activity, including the financial obligations, that are the basic requirements of membership in the party. We will do this, not to take care of problems, but as a natural and inevitable aspect of strengthening the party to meet the opportunities opening before us and to prepare for further openings we see coming.

Activity in building the party is a requirement of membership. Article III, Section 1 of the party constitution, which sets out the basis of membership, has three elements. We have to accept the program of the party, we have to submit to the discipline of the party, and we have to engage actively in its work.

This means membership is open to those who participate as part of party fractions in the mass movement, who participate in the campaigns of the party, who attend branch meetings, who contribute to the party financially. All this, of course, is within the limits dictated by health, by work conditions, by financial ability. But not within limits dictated by lack of interest or lack of agreement with what the party is doing and where we are headed.

Part of turning the party outward involves thinking out ways to organize the involvement of party sympathizers in the campaigns and mass movement activities of the party. Some people who are now on the membership rolls should be sympathizers of the party. That is their actual relationship to the party, and that should be formalized. Many active sympathizers make valuable contributions to the work of the party. We want to encourage that, and we will win more sympathizers around the party as we advance our work.

But people who are sympathizers should not be members. The forms should be brought into harmony with the content, because if they are not, over time, we have a real problem of party democracy. We can have individuals who are not systematically involved in carrying out the campaigns of the party casting decisive votes on those campaigns, and on other questions. We can have members who are inactive casting votes on positions to be adopted by the party's convention. This erodes the democracy of the membership, over time, and it should be corrected.

At the same time, we are constantly working with party sympathizers, and it is not infrequent that in the course of this process it becomes clear that someone who is a sympathizer should actually be a member, with all the rights and obligations of membership. This often involves people who were formerly members deciding to rejoin, as well as those who have never been members.

Part of being active is making financial contributions to the party, within limits dictated by each individual's financial situation. As the 1965 organizational resolution states, “Party membership implies the obligation upon every member to contribute materially to the support of the organization in accordance with his means.” A sustained financial boycott of the party—either by individuals or by groups—is incompatible with membership in the party. The membership indicated last week with a big vote—the $250,000 referendum—what they think of comrades with the ability to contribute who boycott the party financially. They won't tolerate it.

One aspect of this norm is the requirement that dues be paid. Article VII, Section 4 says that if you are three months behind in dues, the branch executive committee shall notify you that you are no longer in good standing. After six months of non-payment of dues, a member “shall be stricken from the rolls of the party.” Not may be stricken, but shall be stricken.

We are going to apply all these norms, because only by doing so can we have the organizational framework that we need for building a revolutionary workers' party that can advance along the lines we have discussed and decided here: to deepen the turn at a time when the bosses are deepening their war at home and their wars abroad.



Resolution on the Attempt of 18 SWP Comrades to Form a Tendency for the Discussion in the International

by the United Secretariat, October 1982

1. The United Secretariat notes the statutes of the Fourth International stating:

Decisions are reached by majority vote. Minorities are duty-bound to carry out majority decisions. Minorities, however, have the incontestable right to constitute themselves into tendencies or factions on the basis of a stated platform and to enjoy democratic rights such as:

To present their views to the membership of their national section during the preparatory discussion period before national congresses.

To present their views to the membership of the International through the Internal Bulletin during the pre-Congress discussion period. [point 29g]

2. It notes that the May 1982 IEC commenced a written discussion in the Fourth International open to all members. The leadership of the SWP [1] has however banned, on pain of expulsion, 18 members of the SWP from forming a tendency to participate in this discussion (Decisions of the Political Committee of July 13, National Committee of August 1982).

The United Secretariat notes that this decision is contrary to the statutes of the Fourth International. It should be reversed by the SWP.

3. In order to avoid any confusion in the ranks of the SWP and the International, and because it has been explicitly raised by the SWP leadership, the United Secretariat makes it clear that the tendency right granted in the statutes of the International means that comrades today have the right, individually or collectively, to prepare documents for the now opened pre-World Congress discussion and submit them to the International Internal Discussion Bulletin—within the framework of an ongoing party-building activity as defined by the leaderships of the national sections.

The right of the 18 comrades to collectively draw up written documents, on issues included in their platform, in order to submit them to the international discussion, is in line with our statutes, norms, and traditions, and should therefore be protected. In line with the statutes, we therefore propose a change in the SWP leadership's position either through a new discussion and decision of the SWP NC or by the next SWP convention.

In order to clarify a point raised by SWP leadership comrades at this meeting, we want to make it clear that this decision should be reversed by the SWP as an organization and in no way be misrepresented as a recommendation to the 18 comrades or any other SWP comrades to unilaterally overturn the decisions of the SWP leadership.

1. The SWP is banned by reactionary legislation from being the U.S. section of the Fourth International. All statements in the resolution therefore have only the status of requests to be carried out insofar as they are consistent with U.S. law. The general points made are binding on sections that can legally be part of the Fourth International.



Letter to the SWP Political Committee on the “18”

by Jones and Segur, on behalf of the Bureau of the United Secretariat, October 1982

Dear Comrades,

On 13 July the Political Committee of the SWP banned 18 members of the SWP from forming a tendency to participate in the international written discussion opened inside the Fourth International. [2] This was reiterated by the August National Committee plenum: “We instruct you to cease and desist from any further organized tendency activity of any type. Any violation of this instruction is incompatible with membership in the SWP” (letter of the PC 13 July).

This issue is obviously of importance to all members of the Fourth International as it concerns a discussion in which they all participate. Furthermore the letter sent to the comrades concerned involves fundamental questions of Leninist organizational functioning and therefore it is important in its own right. Given that the comrades from the SWP leadership who attended the October meeting of the United Secretariat as observers stated their strong disagreement with the resolution passed by the United Secretariat, we wish to take up the matter in writing and further explain our position.

The first point which should be made completely clear is what is really at stake in the decision of the SWP leadership. It is simply the banning of comrades from forming a tendency to participate in the written discussion in the Fourth International which was opened by the May International Executive Committee.

There is no dispute by the SWP leadership that such a discussion is opened. Nor that it is open to all members of the Fourth International-or its political supporters in the case of the United States—and not just members of the leadership.

For example, in dealing with a proposed submission to the IIDB by Comrade Les Evans, Comrade Barnes, in moving the resolution adopted that “he proposed that we postpone action on the Evans request until we have a better idea of how many party members plan to submit articles for publication as part of the international discussion, so that the Political Bureau, in accordance with the guidelines of the EEC motion, can decide whether it is best to propose to the United Secretariat that they be printed in the IIDB or in an internal party bulletin” (PB minutes 13 July 1982).

In other words it is recognized that there is a written discussion taking place in the International, and it is acknowledged that individual members of the SWP may participate in it. But the PC declares that if they form a tendency to do so they will be expelled.

In short, what is involved by the SWP leadership is not a criticism of the way a tendency functions, or an attempt to convince comrades that this is an erroneous moment to form a tendency, etc. It is a ban on the creation of a tendency with the statement that anyone who does form one will be expelled.

One reason why it is important to be clear on precisely what is involved in this question is because Comrade Seigle confuses the issue in the report adopted by the August NC plenum.

The statutes of the Fourth International are in fact unambiguously clear on the question of the right to form tendencies in the international discussion. The statutes state:

Decisions are reached by majority vote. Minorities are duty-bound to carry out majority decisions. Minorities, however, have the incontestable right to constitute themselves into tendencies or factions on the basis of a stated platform and to enjoy democratic rights such as:

To present their views to the membership of their national section during the preparatory discussion period before national congresses.

To present their views to the membership of the International through the Internal Bulletin during the pre-Congress discussion period.

As we have seen, however, anyone who today seeks to utilize this “incontestable right” in the SWP is informed that they will be expelled.

Comrade Seigle in his report obscures these facts by stating that the leadership has the right to “regulate” the functioning of the party—including tendencies. Indeed it does. But as Comrade Seigle knows, the word regulate is not the same as the word abolish. No amount of points by Comrade Seigle will make it mean the same.

Regulating a tendency, or anything else in this context, means making sure it functions according to the statutes and norms. If a tendency functions as a faction, assumes to itself rights not specified in the statutes, or any other of the things that crop up from time to time of this type in an organization, then indeed the leadership, and the party as a whole, must demand a tendency conforms to the statutes. Where any tendency does not do so then the leadership must regulate the situation—which may in certain instances involve issues of discipline. But regulating a specified statutory right is not the same as abolishing it.

This point is also important to clarify because Comrade Seigle then obscures the issue further by in effect stating that the statutes of the Fourth International say something they do not. The statutes state:

Minorities, however, have the incontestable right to constitute themselves into tendencies or factions on the basis of a stated platform and to enjoy democratic rights such as ...

Comrade Seigle, however, wishes them to say not that “minorities have the right to form tendencies” but that “minorities have the right to form tendencies if the leadership is in agreement with that.” In other words he wishes the statutes said:

Minorities, however, have the incontestable right to constitute themselves into tendencies or factions, on the basis of a stated platform, if the leadership is in agreement with that ...

This is not what the statutes state. Comrade Seigle may wish that they did, and he has the right to argue for it. But until he gains a majority for that position the statutes stand as they exist.

“Decisions are reached by majority vote. Minorities are duty-bound to carry out a majority decision” applies to the leadership of the SWP as much as anyone else—except that they can only bring their functioning into line with the statutes on points compatible with U.S. law.

Finally Comrade Seigle attempts to justify the banning of a tendency on the grounds that, “the rights of tendencies and factions are subordinate to the rights of the party.” Indeed they are. But firstly this applies to the leadership just as much as to anything else, and secondly that “subordination” is regulated by definite norms and statutes, not by arbitrary diktats. Furthermore, the party involved in this case of the international discussion is the Fourth International—and not just the SWP.

The first aspect of “subordination” of the leadership, a tendency, or anything else, in this respect, is that it carry out the statutes—in this case of the Fourth International. These incidentally the SWP leadership indicated by consultative vote that it was in agreement with at the 1974 World Congress—although in any case it would have to act as closely in line with these as possible, in all ways consistent with U.S. law, even if as a minority it were in disagreement with decisions arrived at.

Secondly, the “subordination” of any part of the organization is regulated according to definite structures and statutes. It is not carried out by arbitrary instructions. Thus, for example, a leadership cannot decide not to hold congresses. In many sections in states with national divisions, definite rights exist of the party organizations in these areas. Members have the right to elect branch leaderships—which cannot be arbitrarily appointed by the national leaderships, etc. Persons may not be expelled without definite trial procedures. A minority or a branch is subordinate to the party, or leadership, via these structured means. It is not subordinate to arbitrary decision. The leadership must apply the statutes. It does not have the right to give instructions in contradiction with the statutes—because the party as a whole decides the statutes via congresses and the leadership is subordinate to the party as a whole.

This, however, precisely brings us back to the beginning. The SWP leadership is not applying the statutes of the Fourth International, but claiming the right to abolish them. But on this field of international discussion the SWP leadership is precisely, to use Comrade Seigle's phrase, “subordinate to the rights of the party”—in this case the world party of the Fourth International, its statutes, and decisions. In all ways consistent with U.S. law it regulates these statutes—that is, it has the right and duty to carry them out. It does not have the right to abolish them.

This question of the statutes is also relevant because of another diversion which Comrade Seigle introduces into his report. He claims that what is really involved in the case of the 18 comrades attempting to form a tendency is to open a political discussion. He fails to notice that there is a discussion going on—the written one decided on by the May 1982 IEC and which was voted for (in a consultative capacity) not simply by a majority but even by Comrade Seigle and the rest of the SWP leadership themselves. Because what lies behind this decision of the leadership of the SWP on the 18 comrades is, of course, not primarily a statutory question but politics. The SWP is carrying through a series of new political positions, not voted before, and above all beginning to carry out a fundamental programmatic reversal of the historical positions of the party and the Fourth International on the permanent revolution. It is not doing this, however, openly involving the membership in the process. Instead, it is carrying it out while silencing opposition in the party and only then involving the membership of the SWP.

It is this which constitutes the real fundamental issue which is at stake in the current organizational issues confronting the Fourth International and the SWP.

The organizational principles introduced by Comrades Barnes and Seigle in their reports at the February/March and August plenums in substance have nothing to do with Leninist or working-class organization.

To show this we will just take the issue involved in the case of the “18”—that of discussion in the organization and its relation to action. It is sufficient to contrast the types of positions advanced by Comrades Barnes and Seigle to those put forward by Lenin to see the total contradiction between the two. Here is Lenin's, as opposed to Comrade Seigle's and Barnes's, views on the relation between discussion and organization in reply to the Mensheviks.

The editors have received the following communication, signed by the Central Committee of the R.S.D.L.P.

“In view of the fact that several Party organizations have raised the question of the limits within which the decisions of Party congresses may be criticized the Central Committee, bearing in mind that the interests of the Russian proletariat have always demanded the greatest possible unity in tactics of the R.S.D.L.P., and that this unity in the political activities of the various sections of our Party is now more necessary than ever, is of the opinion:

“(1) that in the Party press and at Party meetings, everybody must be allowed full freedom to express his personal opinions and to advocate his individual views;

“(2) that at public political meetings members of the Party should refrain from conducting agitation that runs counter to congress decisions;

“(3) that no Party member should at such meetings call for action that runs counter to congress decisions, or propose resolutions that are out of harmony with congress decisions.” (All italics ours.)

In examining the substance of this resolution, we see a number of queer points. The resolution says that “at Party meetings” “full freedom” is to be allowed for the expression of personal opinions and for criticisms (pt.1), but at “public meetings” (pt.2) “no Party member should call for action that runs counter to congress decisions.” But see what comes of this: at Party meetings, members of the Party have the right to call for action that runs counter to congress decisions; but at public meetings they are not “allowed” full freedom to “express personal opinions”!!

Those who drafted the resolution have a totally wrong conception of the relationship between freedom to criticize within the Party and the Party's unity of action. Criticism within the limits of the principles of the Party Program must be quite free (we remind the reader of what Plekhanov said on this subject at the Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P ), not only at Party meetings, but also at public meetings. Such criticism, or such “agitation” (for criticism is inseparable from agitation) cannot be prohibited. The Party's political action must be united. No “calls” that violate the unity of definite action can be tolerated either at public meetings, or at Party meetings, or in the Party press.

Obviously, the Central Committee has defined freedom to criticize inaccurately and too narrowly, and unity of action inaccurately and too broadly.

Let us take an example. The Congress decided that the Party should take part in the Duma elections. Taking part in elections is a very definite action. During the elections (as in Baku today, for example), no member of the Party anywhere has any right whatever to call upon the people to abstain from voting; nor can “criticism” of the decision to take part in the elections be tolerated during this period, for it would in fact jeopardize success in the election campaign. Before elections have been announced, however, Party members everywhere have a perfect right to criticize the decision to take part in elections. Of course, the application of this principle in practice will sometimes give rise to disputes and misunderstandings; but only on the basis of this principle can all disputes and all misunderstandings be settled honorably for the Party. The resolution of the Central Committee, however, creates an impossible situation.

The Central Committee's resolution is essentially wrong and runs counter to the Party Rules. The principle of democratic centralism and autonomy for local Party organizations implies universal and full freedom to criticize, so long as this does not disturb the unity of a definite action; it rules out all criticism which disrupts or makes difficult the unity of an action decided on by the Party.

We think that the Central Committee has made a big mistake by publishing a resolution on this important question without first having it discussed in the Party press and by Party organizations; such a discussion would have helped it to avoid the mistakes we have indicated.

We call upon all Party organizations to discuss this resolution of the Central Committee now, and to express a definite opinion on it. [Lenin: “Freedom to Criticize and Unity of Action” in Collected Works 10.)

These principles, applied consistently in different concrete situations and by different means by the Bolsheviks, are a million miles away from those of Comrades Barnes and Seigle. The so-called “norms” which Barnes/Seigle advance are not those of Leninism or a proletarian party. They have nothing in common with Lenin.

Indeed, reading Lenin on organization is as we note unfortunately not one of the tasks recommended by the SWP leadership in its present reading Lenin series. Lenin provides a total and exhaustive demolition of a number of practical and theoretical positions put forward by the SWP leadership.

Considered from the point of view of Lenin, however, the real issues involved in the proposal to form a tendency by the 18 comrades can be seen clearly. Do the comrades propose anywhere to put forward “calls that violate the unity of definite actions” of the party? Not in the slightest. To propose to discuss the question of the SWP leadership's new positions on the Russian Revolution, or Poland—not to propose to reject carrying out the practical decisions taken by the leadership of “unity of definite actions” but to discuss the overall political situation—is not in the slightest to violate democratic centralism on any question of Leninism. It is indeed in contradiction with the ideas of Comrades Barnes and Seigle. But that is only an expression of the fact that their ideas are not Leninist on these issues.

Finally, we may note that the positions of Barnes/Seigle and the SWP PC and NC are not even in line with the previous best positions of the SWP. Cannon, writing on “Criticism and Discussion of Current Party Policy” in March 1942, had the following to say:

1. Questions of policy or principle which have been previously discussed and decided by convention may not be taken up for discussion again without a formal declaration of the National Committee to this effect or the calling of a party convention which, under the constitution, provides for a preliminary discussion period and reexamination of any question even though it has been previously decided.

2. Any party member or branch has the right to discuss and criticize current policy and procedure of the party leadership at any time, either in branch meetings or in the form of written communications to the National Committee. Branches, naturally, have the right to decide the form and procedure and the point on the agenda under which such discussion and criticism can be heard, but this formal right of the branch must not be employed in such a way as to unduly delay or postpone or make difficult the presentation of any criticism of current policy which any individual member of the branch wishes to make. [The SWP in World War II, p.232]

Even these positions of Cannon are a million miles away from the positions of Comrades Barnes and Seigle.

On these views of Cannon, let alone Lenin's real positions and the practice of the Bolsheviks and the revolutionary Communist International, far from forbidding discussions on key theoretical and political issues the leadership should be taking note of the fact that “Any member or branch has the right to discuss and criticize current policy of the parry leadership at any time, either in branch meetings or in the form of written communications to the National Committee.”

The example of Lenin, but also Cannon's views of 1942 show clearly that it is more the SWP leadership which is to be sharply criticized for not opening a full discussion than the 18 comrades for seeking to form a tendency to participate in a discussion which is open. A reaffirmation of the position of 1942 would at least be a step towards real functioning of a Bolshevik type—functioning which combined tremendous discipline in action, and rejection of any infringements of that, with a scope of political discussion unequalled in any party in the world. Comrade Barnes's and Seigle's positions on this, as with the rest of their reports, are totally contrary to Lenin's practice and theory of organization.

A final point, as regards opening of the discussion bulletin in the SWP—this is a matter for the leadership of that organization. The rest of the Fourth International can only express an opinion. But as regards the international discussion it is the statutes of the Fourth International which apply. Therefore, to conclude, we restate the resolution of the United Secretariat.

Comradely greetings,
Jones and Segur,
For the USec Bureau

2. As this letter includes issues of relations between the SWP and the Fourth International it may touch on issues of U.S. law. The FI is of course not an expert on these. Therefore, as always, we seek the closest possible contact with the SWP in all ways consistent with it observing U.S. law. Any point of this letter which is not in accordance with U.S. law therefore of course is not to be carried out by the SWP.



Resolution on the Suspension of the Four NC Minority Members and Related Expulsions

by the United Secretariat, October 1983

1. The decision by the SWP National Committee at its August 1983 plenum to suspend (in reality: expel) the four minority N.C. members—comrades Bloom, Henderson, Lovell, and Weinstein—first from the National Committee and then the party as such, and the new wave of expulsions of comrades with minority views initiated at the plenum, represents a qualitative escalation of the purge of oppositionists underway in the SWP.

The de facto expulsion of the N.C. minority comrades is designed to prevent their participation in the international discussion in the pre-World Congress period and in the political life of the Socialist Workers Party.

These measures are in defiance of the norms and traditions of the Fourth International, which also used to be those of the SWP.

This attempt to destroy political opposition by arbitrary organizational means is an attack on the fundamentals of proletarian democracy and undermines the basis of political collaboration both in the SWP and in the International. It has led to a de facto split carried out by the SWP leadership in the American party.

2. In the last period and especially after the August 1981 SWP (USA) convention, the SWP leadership has carried through a number of revisions of traditional positions of the SWP and the International.

A leadership concerned about its democratic authority would have ensured a democratic process of discussion on these issues involving all the ranks of the SWP.

But on the contrary, the SWP N.C. plenum in May 1983, which according to the normal schedule would have opened a preconvention discussion, instead postponed it. At the same time, it rejected en bloc appeals of a large number of expelled members, victims of a series of new norms—including a de facto banning of tendencies.

The period following the plenum which should have been a preconvention period was further marked by an escalation of disciplinary proceedings. The August 1983 N.C. plenum then in turn decided to put off the convention another year, until August 1984.

Thus, instead of organizing a political discussion in the SWP and doing everything to limit organizational tensions inside the party in order to facilitate that discussion, the SWP leadership embarked on a different course.

3. During this process of adoption of a range of new positions compared to traditional views of the SWP and the International, the SWP leadership's participation in the political life and discussions of the International has markedly declined. For example, it has failed to propose a single positive written resolution on any political question in the International, in spite of the fact that it has systematically voted against the draft resolutions presented to the EEC meetings of 1981 and 1982 and a series of United Secretariat meetings during the same period, including drafts for the World Congress.

Moreover, the SWP leadership has unilaterally taken questions of internal debate in the FI to the public and launched major attacks against leaders and sections of the International. For instance, the Mexican PRT has been treated as an opponent organization in the Central American solidarity work. And the Australian section and leadership has been attacked as being degenerate and adapting to racism and the chauvinistic ideology of Australian imperialism.

Simultaneously, the SWP leadership has started to create an organized international current which in reality is a grouping without any platform presented to the International and its members and is thus unprincipled.

All these actions of the SWP leadership severely endanger the unity and integrity of the Fourth International.

4. This October 20-24, 1983, United Secretariat meeting declares that the four N.C. minority comrades have been victims of a de facto expulsion because of their political differences with the SWP leadership. The United Secretariat therefore continues to regard them as members of the FI (to the extent that this is compatible with American law). All other victims of the political purge of SWP oppositionists will be treated the same way.

The United Secretariat urges the SWP leadership to reverse its organizational course and immediately and collectively reintegrate the expelled comrades.

Until this is done, the United Secretariat recognizes that the comrades expelled from the SWP because of their political views will have no choice but to organize collectively in order to, on the one hand, participate in the World Congress discussion and fight for their political views, and on the other, continue carrying out their responsibilities as revolutionary class-struggle militants.

The International will continue to maintain political collaboration with these comrades as members of the Fl.

The United Secretariat finally urges the SWP leadership to fully participate in the present pre-World Congress debate by submitting its views on all the questions under debate to the members of the International, through written documents.



Statement of the United Secretariat Representative upon Being Excluded from the SWP NC Plenum

by Smith, November 1983

cc: SWP

Bureau of the United Secretariat

British Secretariat

The exclusion of representatives of the Bureau from the National Committee of the SWP, together with the other motions passed (morning session 16 November) pertaining to relations with the leadership of the Fourth International are an unprecedented attack on the organizational framework and legitimacy of the FI (even with the constraints of the reactionary Voorhis Act).

In our opinion, the world movement will see these resolutions as a declaration of intent on the part of the SWP leaders to split with the FI. Indeed, how could it be otherwise?

The resolutions restrain relations with the Bureau of the USec on the basis of the Bureau's alleged “urging and full support” for the establishment of Socialist Action—an organization of the expelled comrades of the SWP describing itself as a public faction. In fact, the Bureau has no separate position from that of the United Secretariat. All of the motions of the Bureau, including a motion recognizing the right of the expelled comrades to organize for their own defense and reintegration, were passed by the October USec. These motions were taken in the presence of SWP comrades and after discussion with them. Your National Committee motions continue: “Pending a decision by the January United Secretariat meeting as to the character and limits of the relations the United Secretariat intends to establish with this publicly declared opponent of the SWP” the representative of the Bureau is not allowed to attend the National Committee. The United Secretariat has already decided its relations with the minority comrades unjustly expelled from the SWP. They retain the full rights of membership in the FI, subject to the Voorhis Act. The leadership of the FI took these steps to defend the rights of unjustly expelled comrades to participate in the World Congress discussion. The delay in holding the normal SWP convention at which their appeals could have been taken threatened that right.

The National Committee motions declare that the minority comrades are “a publicly declared opponent of the SWP.” To be sure, the minority comrades are opponents of the political line of the leadership of the SWP. But we make a grave mistake if we confuse hostility to the line of the leadership of the Party, within the framework of commitment to democratic centralism, with hostility to the Party and its fundamental program. On the contrary, the leadership of the International regards the expelled comrades as having suffered their exclusion because of their loyalty to the fundamental program of the SWP and their preparedness to fight for that program in the face of a leadership intent on carrying out major revisions of that program without, thus far, any discussion or decision by the Party as a whole. Consequently, the leadership of the International calls for the full, collective, and unconditional reintegration of the minority into the SWP, including with all rights of tendency and discussion which are norms of our international movement.

Given the decisions of the National Committee Plenum a series of questions are left unanswered; will the SWP comrades participate in the leadership of the International now that they have barred representatives of the leadership of the International from participating in their own leadership meetings? (Despite all assurances given previously that the publication of the discussions of the National Committee Plenum are naturally under the control of the NC Plenum itself.) Will the SWP leadership participate in the World Congress discussion which will include the circulation of all contributions to all those enjoying rights of membership of the Fourth International, including in the U.S.A.? These questions, which imply the possibility of an open breach in the International, will now have to be answered.

Despite the political differences between the leadership of the SWP and the vast majority of the International, the leadership of the International sees these differences as entirely containable within the framework of the world movement. The United Secretariat is unequivocally opposed to a split. The International leadership has opposed, and spoken up against, the public attacks on the program and several of the organizations of the FI when those attacks were initiated in the Barnes speech in Chicago, in December 1982. They are on record as opposed to the split action aimed at supporters of the majority line of the FI in the U.S.A. And they have opposed the splitters and their unjust frame-up methods not through external declarations but rather inside the movement. Naturally, the leadership of the International is equally opposed to any encouragement of any real breaches of the democratic centralism of the SWP, in the framework of the unity of all members of the FI in the U.S.A. It therefore follows that the leadership of the International will be opposed to the open announcement of a split course by the SWP leadership in the resolutions of the November Plenum. The whole of the world movement urgently requests and requires the SWP leaders to reverse their split course.

The current situation inside the movement cannot be resolved by petty maneuvers. Delaying notice of these resolutions to the representative of the Bureau until the last possible moment, allowing the USec's position to be put at an hour and a half's notice, all this is utter childishness. We are not interested in “realpolitik” or the little coups and tricks of tinpot tyrants. At this point, we require a clear political decision on the part of the leadership of the SWP—is the discussion to continue within the framework of the FI? The whole of the International needs an unequivocal answer to that question.

November 17, 1983



Open Letter to Members of the Socialist Workers Party


by recently suspended and expelled members of the party,
November 18,1983

Dear Comrades,

We are writing to inform you of the founding of Socialist Action, a public faction of the Socialist Workers Party, formed by party members undemocratically expelled by the SWP leadership since the 1981 convention. By our count, some thirty-nine comrades have been expelled from the party on trumped-up charges, most of them in the last six months. The United Secretariat of the Fourth International at its meeting in late October branded these expulsions as politically motivated and not, as claimed by the Barnes leadership, based on violations of party discipline. It announced that these expelled party members, and those who resigned in reaction to this purge, retained their right to fraternal participation in the International on the same basis as that enjoyed by members of the SWP. In keeping with this decision, we have formed a national organization through which we can maintain our activity in U.S. politics, retain our right to participate in the internal life of the Fourth International within the limits prescribed by U.S. law, and seek a reversal of the undemocratic expulsions and a reunification with our comrades in the Socialist Workers Party. (...)

We are convinced that many revolutionists remain in the SWP Despite the very sharp departures from Leninist program and organizational norms it is not excluded that a combination of resistance from the rank and file and important events in the world class struggle can depose the Barnes leadership and bring the SWP back to genuine participation in the world Trotskyist movement. What is needed now is an intransigent fight for the historic program of the party. Without this, there is little doubt that the SWP will be destroyed as a revolutionary organization.

Our intention is to wage this political fight as a public faction of the SWP. However, we do not believe that this struggle, as important as it is, can be the only, or even main preoccupation of serious revolutionaries. Those of us who have been placed outside the party will continue to advance the cause of revolutionary Marxism in the class struggle in the United States. Even though our forces are small, we believe that we can have some impact, particularly in comparison to the current work of the SWP. One of the central characteristics of the Barnes group has been an almost unbroken record of abstention from every aspect of political life in the U.S. for at least the last four years.

Part of the consolidation of an anti-Trotskyist leadership has required downgrading the membership's respect for alternative sources of information. This involved disparaging the SWP's own past as “semisectarian,” derogating the tens of thousands of comrades of the Fourth International, many of whom have shown in life that they know how to build a party, and labelling almost all other Marxists and radical activists as “petty bourgeois.” This treatment was used to isolate the party ranks from U.S. radical public opinion, which was uniformly denounced as capitulating to imperialist pressures. Thus the party withdrew systematically from women's liberation work, and it declared the anti-nuclear movement to be “pro-war” through a logic that defies analysis. The bureaucratization of the unions was used to preclude comrades from taking even the most minimal formal responsibilities in these basic organizations of the working class.

The result is that for four years the party has done little but self-generated activity such as Militant sales and election campaigns. This is a key reason for the steady demoralization and decline in the SWP membership, which has dropped from some 1,700 four years ago to less than 1,000 today. (Other groups on the left are growing, both to the right and the left of the SWP, including the Communist Party, Democratic Socialists of America, and even the Morenoites, who in Los Angeles, the second-largest center of the SWP, have a branch as large as that of the party!)

Even in the one acceptable area for outside work, Central American and Caribbean anti-interventionism, the party has a very mixed record. Some branches, such as Pittsburgh, do good work—although expelling two leading solidarity activists did not help. Other branches, such as Los Angeles, abstained for several years. The attempt to reestablish such work as a norm early this year around the World Front adventure proved to be quite damaging to the party. The SWP tried to walk in from the outside and virtually take over the solidarity movement, all on the basis of a mysterious “mandate” from Mexico that never materialized. The result was the arousal of deep suspicions against the party in radicals who had long been active while we had not. In the name of a proletarian orientation, the SWP has in practice abandoned the key struggle to build a broad-based, united front, anti-intervention movement. Leafletting a handful of co-workers has become a substitute for working with others to mobilize hundreds of thousands (the bulk of whom would be workers) against a U.S. war threat more immediate than ever.

Jack Barnes and the undeclared faction he heads allege that the expulsions have taken place because individuals no longer accept the discipline of the party. This is false. Never in the history of the Leninist movement in any healthy party have expulsions been carried out on grounds such as those used by the present SWP majority. In Pittsburgh, Dianne Feeley, a longtime leader of our women's liberation work and a former member of the National Committee, was expelled for participating in planning meetings for an International Women's Day action to which she had been assigned by the party. The excuse was given that the action was at odds with the party's line for the women's movement, but afterward the Militant praised the demonstration. Paul Le Blanc, Dianne's companion, was expelled because, although he agreed to accurately report Dianne's expulsion and not to defend her in public, he refused to agree to actively vilify his companion to non-members, saying correctly that this went beyond the obligation of upholding majority decisions.

On the Iron Range, former Pathfinder Press staff member Anne Teesdale Zukowski was expelled for declining to give a majority report to a YSA discussion. She refused to discuss, with the YSAer who had approached her, any differences she had with the SWP majority. The YSAer lived with the party organizer and had attended plenum reports, so she knew very well that Anne was a supporter of the Fourth International majority and disagreed with the Barnes leadership. In no Leninist party has it been a requirement of membership that minority supporters falsify their own views by giving lengthy political reports for positions they do not agree with. That is a caricature of democratic centralism appropriate only to a monolithic organization, not a revolutionary party.

In San Francisco, Carole Seligman, a longtime leader of the party's women's liberation work, was expelled for asking a party member in the hearing of a YSAer if he had heard that Dianne Feeley had been expelled (Dianne was the comrade's former stepmother). Surely once a comrade is expelled, the mere fact of the expulsion is then public knowledge, since they are no longer a party member!

Also in San Francisco, Roland Sheppard was expelled for inactivity despite the fact that he had been playing a leadership role in an ongoing (and ultimately successful) strike. What better method could have been used to sour workers to an organization which ostensibly strives to be their vanguard!

In Los Angeles, five veteran members of the party, including Les Evans, former editor of the International Socialist Review, and Leo Frumkin, a leader of the party's antiwar work in the 1970s, were expelled for an alleged conspiracy to boycott activity and finances with the aim of destroying the party. Evans was completely unemployed, not receiving unemployment compensation, and attending night school as a condition for changing jobs from a non-targeted industrial job to student-teaching work. The majority had to argue that he had boycotted finances not by withholding money, but because he had quit his job to go to school and had hence placed himself in a position where he did not have any money. Such an objection, of course, would not have applied if the comrade involved had had plenty of money to begin with. Thus the argument of the trial committee rested on a class bias which should be intolerable in a workers' organization.

Recently in Washington, D.C., Jay Fisher was expelled. He had worked a double shift and dozed off during a forum afterward. Called to account by a zealous leadership, he defensively joked that he had only slept through the parts he disagreed with. That cost him his membership in the party.

In New York City, Jimmy Kutcher, the party's “legless veteran,” who successfully fought the McCarthyite witch-hunt in the 1950s when they tried to fire him from his job in the Veterans Administration for his socialist ideas, fell victim to the Barnes witch-hunt and was recently expelled from the party. Jimmy was falsely accused of striking a woman comrade with his cane—actually Jimmy, since he lost his legs in World War II, has been in the habit of giving people a light tap to let them know that he is behind them and trying to get by. The woman comrade denied that Jimmy had struck her. The branch rushed the trial through while Jimmy was out of town and not present to defend himself. They settled there for a censure, then demanded that Jimmy come in for an interrogation. Frightened, he requested a copy of the report made against him. This was promised, but the promise was never kept. While trying to reach an agreement on this matter, Jimmy was expelled for allegedly refusing to meet with the trial body.

Walter Lippmann in Los Angeles had a private discussion with a party member in the headquarters after a forum. No one claimed that any non-party person had heard anything Walter had said, only that it was conceivable that they might have done so—not giving either Walter or the majority comrade to whom he was speaking the credit that they would have stopped their discussion if anyone had sought to listen in. The branch found Walter guilty of indiscipline but refused to expel him. Overturning the branch majority took the convening of the State Committee and the personal intervention of Barry Sheppard.

This list could be expanded to virtually every one of the more than thirty expellees, one charge being as flimsy as the next. It is crystal clear, and this was the decision of the United Secretariat, that these comrades have been expelled for their ideas and not for acts that could reasonably be called violations of party discipline. For this reason the United Secretariat does not recognize the validity of these patently political expulsions.

We of Socialist Action have but two conditions for rejoining the SWP. The Political Committee must reverse the expulsions of the last two years, and must restore the democratic norms of a Leninist party, particularly the right of rank-and-file members to form tendency and faction caucuses. We must never again have the sorry spectacle of comrades such as Harry DeBoer, Jake Cooper, and Gillian Furst expelled from the party for forming a faction.

In the meantime, Socialist Action will maintain fractions in areas of mass work, including the trade unions and the antiwar movement. We are actively participating in defending the striking Greyhound workers and their union in the best traditions of the SWP only a short time ago. We will publish a newspaper, pamphlets, and a theoretical magazine. We will engage in public forums and classes and recruit new members on the basis of their agreement with the program of the Fourth International.

We are aware that many party members agree with our criticisms of the party leadership and do not wish to see the SWP leave the Trotskyist movement. We urge you to fight for these ideas inside the SWP, to struggle to win back the democratic norms that once characterized the party, to demand that we be readmitted to the organization, and to call for a full discussion and convention to freely debate the “new ideas” that are wrenching the SWP away from its genuine continuity with Leninism.

We urge comrades who are expelled in the future to join us. Do not allow the experience in the SWP to drive you away from the revolutionary movement. We have watched as seven hundred or more party members left the SWP in the past few years. The overwhelming majority of these comrades were majority supporters who felt uneasy about one or another aspect of the party's activity but who could not fully express what troubled them. Only recently has the party leadership's hidden agenda begun to be fully revealed. But this has led to the emergence of an opposition committed to defend the proletarian program and traditions of the Socialist Workers Party.

Comrades should note from the list appended to this letter that virtually all of those expelled from the party on political grounds in the last two years have adhered to Socialist Action and did not leave politics as did many of the majority supporters who left the party during the same period.

The construction of a mass revolutionary party in the United States remains a precondition for real human progress in our epoch. The bureaucratic purge of SWP oppositionists, coupled with the wholesale assault on the party's program, is an important setback for the revolutionary movement, a setback which you can be certain that Socialist Action is committed to reversing.


Jeff Mackler and Nat Weinstein,

for Socialist Action

Expellees who have joined Socialist Action

Steve Ashby, Steve Bloom (suspended by NC), Glenn Campbell, Dave Cooper, Jake Cooper, Larry Cooperman, Rod Estvan, Les Evans, Dianne Feeley, Carl Finamore, Jay Fisher, Leo Frumkin, Sheavy Geldman, Milt Genecin, Tybie Genecin, Noreen Gutekanst, Mojgan Hariri-Vijeh, Lynn Henderson (suspended by NC), Mary Henderson, Don Harmon, Mike Kramer, Jimmy Kutcher, Paul Le Blanc, Bill Leumer, Walter Lippmann, Frank Lovell (suspended by NC), Don Mahoney, Andy Pollack, Shirley Pasholk, Pat Quinn, David Rossi, Karen Shieve, Carole Seligman, Roland Sheppard, Shannon Sheppard, Nat Weinstein (suspended by NC), Sylvia Weinstein, Anne Teesdale Zukowski, Ann Menasche.



The Expulsion of Max Geldman

Documents of December 1983 and January 1984

To Max Geldman,

I charge Max Geldman with violation of article IV section 8 of the party constitution which reads, “Political collaboration with non-members of the party must be formally authorized by the party committee having jurisdiction.” He did this by collaborating with a member of Socialist Action by leaving the Dobbs meeting with Sheavy Geldman after she refused to pay the 3 dollar admission.

Mike D.
December 15, 1983


You are summoned to meet with a sub-committee of the branch executive committee to discuss this charge against you.

Please call James or Betsey to make arrangements for a time for such a meeting.

Joel B.


Statement of Max Geldman at His Expulsion Trial

December 1983

Comrades, I have been given ten minutes for 64 years of revolutionary activity. The charges against me are, “Political collaboration with non-members of the party must be formally authorized by the party committee having jurisdiction.” “He did this by collaborating with a member of Socialist Action by leaving the Dobbs meeting with Sheavy Geldman after she refused to pay the 3 dollar admission.” This is cited as being a violation of article IV section 8 of the party constitution.

When I met with the sub-committee of the branch executive committee after these charges were filed against me, my reply to them concerning these charges was they were absurd. Betsey Stone has just presented the position of the SWP in which my wife, Sheavy Geldman, has been described as an “enemy of the party,” because she is a member of Socialist Action. This so-called enemy of the party is my wife, with whom I have collaborated many years in building SWP branches in many areas of the country. To designate her as an enemy of the party is to denigrate the many years of party-building activity in which my wife and I participated.

The absurdity of this charge, if carried to its logical conclusion, would conclude in a demand that I separate from my wife. In the few short years that I was a member of the Young Communist League and the Communist Party, I never heard such a demand. I never heard such an absurd charge, and certainly not in my years in the Trotskyist movement, from 1931 until the present.

The specific incident on the night of the Dobbs Memorial Meeting was: Sheavy and I arrived at the meeting to find there was a 3 dollar admission being charged each person, and I considered this an insult to the contributions of Farrell Dobbs and the traditions of the Marxist movement. Memorial meetings are traditionally on neutral ground where members of the radical movement meet despite their differences to pay homage to the person who has died and to the contributions that person has made to the revolutionary movement.

Sheavy and I were short of money that evening because we had to eat dinner out in order to arrive at the meeting on time. We had five dollars left between us. When we saw an admission was being charged, Sheavy became incensed and stated she was not going to pay it. I asked the comrade who was collecting admissions whether we could contribute three dollars for both of us, even though I considered paying an admission an insult. The comrade replied, “no.” Upon which, Sheavy said, “I'm leaving; you attend the meeting and find someone to take you home.” I followed her out of the hall, and we waited for someone to arrive who could possibly drive me home after the meeting, but none appeared. Sheavy offered to come back and pick me up after the meeting, but I thought it was too heavy a burden to be placed upon her, since we live quite a distance from the headquarters. I therefore decided to leave with her, and we drove home. (My three dollars were left as a contribution to the party.)

I later learned that people were admitted without paying admission when they told the comrade at the door they didn't have enough money. (I did tell the comrade at the door we did not have enough money to pay six dollars.)

The comrades know I have expressed political differences on the branch floor a number of times. Those differences concern the party's turn away from the fundamental concepts of Trotskyist thinking.

My record speaks for itself. From the time I associated myself with the Trotskyist movement I was organizer of the New York branch of the Communist League of America; then became active in the Minneapolis movement, particularly the unemployed organization—as a result of which I was sent to prison; I was sent to prison again with the Minneapolis 18 (as one of them); I was organizer of the Philadelphia branch of the SWP; organizer of the Los Angeles Eastside branch of the SWP; organizer of the Newark branch of the SWP; played a leading role on the executive committee of the Chicago branch of the SWP; active on the executive committee of the Los Angeles branch of the SWP; and was an alternate member of the National Committee of the SWP for many years—and when in the Newark area sat in on meetings of the resident Political Committee in New York.

I stand before you as the last member of the Minneapolis 18 still in the party. Compare this record with the paltry charges against me and it can only be regarded as part of the ongoing attempt within the party to rid itself of any vestige of political dissent.

I do not take this as a conclusion of my political activities. I will continue to uphold and participate in the building of a movement for a Socialist America. I consider this expulsion another aspect of the degeneration of the present party leadership.

Max Geldman

Appeal of Expulsion by Max Geldman

January 1984


The National Committee of the Socialist Workers Party


This is to appeal my expulsion from the Socialist Workers Party on the charges that I collaborated with Sheavy Geldman, who was described as an “enemy of the party.”

At no time in the 64 years I have been in the revolutionary movement have I “collaborated” with an enemy of the party. As I indicated in my statement at my trial my entire history has been that of a loyal party member, having devoted my life to building the party.

As a person who has reached the age of 78, diabetic, and legally blind, who has served two prison sentences for the party, who has devoted a lifetime to the party, I deserve at least the same consideration given to old racehorses who are tenderly put out to pasture after serving faithfully. My only crime was I allowed my wife to drive me home when there was no one else to do so. In many speeches I have pointed out that the bosses use up the workers until they reach the age of retirement and then throw them out on the garbage heap. I am not ready for the garbage heap—nor am I ready for the pasture. I only desire to be able to continue to serve the movement in whatever limited capacity I am able to do so.

It is to be noted that at my trial there were only 19 members present out of a branch that used to number more than 100. The vote was 18 for expulsion, and one against (that was my own vote). I believe many members did not attend the meeting because they did not want to be in the position of having to vote for my expulsion—as they would have to do if they were present. To do otherwise would have left them open to charges also.

I request reinstatement to the party because I believe my expulsion was unjust, undemocratic, and deprived the party membership of the accumulated experiences of a person such as myself who still has much to offer the movement. I am still capable of leading classes, participating in branch discussions, present educationals to the branch. I wish to continue my life as a Trotskyist, dedicated to achieving the goals of the revolutionary movement.

Submitted by,
Max Geldman



End of the Split Operation Against the Party

Statement of the SWP Political Bureau, January 21, 1984

At its meeting in August 1983 the National Committee suspended four National Committee members—Lovell, Weinstein, Henderson, and Bloom—from the party for their secret factional activity. At the same meeting, the National Committee noted that these four National Committee members were responsible for a split operation that had been directed against the party for some time. This operation included both individual resignations and flagrant violations of party discipline and organizational principles resulting in expulsions.

At its November 1983 meeting the National Committee noted that the four suspended NC members had launched a public organization, Socialist Action, and that the splitters were increasing their disruption campaign from outside as well as inside the party. The National Committee further decided that membership in, affiliation to, support to, or collaboration with Socialist Action or any of its members, unless authorized by the National Committee, is incompatible with membership in the SWP.

On December 22, 1983, the Political Committee initiated action to bring the split operation to an immediate end. The action was completed in the first part of January, by which time all the members of the secret faction still operating inside the party had been expelled.

The Political Committee decision to immediately end the split operation resulted from a sequence of events beginning at the California state convention of the party on the weekend of December 3-4, 1983, which led to the expulsion or resignation of every supporter of the secret faction in California.

California State Convention

The state convention had been preceded by more than 60 days of written and branch discussion. A counter-resolution to the one presented by the State Committee was submitted by three members of the San Francisco branch. The supporters of this counter-resolution contributed the majority of pages to the discussion bulletin and made presentations in all the branches of which they were members. At the end of the discussion period the minority received 11 percent of the vote statewide. It had supporters in three of the six California branches. They caucused in each of these branches to elect a total of five delegates who were ratified by their branches. The minority delegates at the convention caucused to elect their reporter and decided on the line of his report.

In his report, summary, and subsequent interventions at the California state convention, the reporter elected by the minority caucus to present its line put forward a split perspective of political support for and intent to collaborate with Socialist Action and its individual members. No minority delegate took the floor at any time during the convention to repudiate the split course advanced by their elected reporter; all voted for the general line of the minority report.

The state convention voted to refer to the incoming State Committee the consideration of the full implications of the action by the minority delegates and instructed it to take appropriate and immediate action.

The next day, December 5, the California State Political Bureau met and charged each of the six members of the minority delegation with “disloyal actions in failing to take the floor before the convention to repudiate the split statements” of their reporter. The bureau scheduled the trials for December 10.

The State Political Bureau considered similarly charging all those in California who had voted for the minority resolution and had caucused to elect the minority delegates. But since the minority resolution, support for which determined minority delegate representation, had not included the split line advanced by the reporter for the delegation, the California State Political Bureau instead decided to first give each member who caucused to elect the minority delegates the opportunity to repudiate the split action of the delegation they had elected.

During the next few days, however, every single member in California who had voted for the minority resolution prior to the convention refused to repudiate the disloyal action of the minority delegates. Charges were filed against each of these comrades. At its meeting of December 10 the California State Committee tried and expelled 16 members for disloyalty. On December 17 two more members were found guilty by the State Political Bureau of the same charges and expelled. One other member who had voted for the minority resolution resigned.

Every single one of the individuals who voted for the minority resolution had previously identified themselves, over a period of many months, as a supporter of either the Weinstein-Henderson or the Lovell-Bloom wing of the secret faction. In addition to those who voted for the minority resolution, four other members of the party in Los Angeles had identified themselves as supporters of one of these formations but were not part of the minority caucus because they had not been present for the vote in their branch. Thus, they were not asked to repudiate the action of the delegation. Nevertheless, two of the four resigned with a statement that they would not have repudiated had they been asked. One other had been charged and was subsequently expelled for publicly walking out of the Farrell Dobbs memorial meeting and collaborating with members of Socialist Action. He stated in the course of his trial that he would not have repudiated the action of the minority delegation had he been asked.

(The fourth comrade was on a long-term medical leave of absence. When he was interviewed by a Political Committee delegation on January 4 he too refused to repudiate the action of the delegation and was expelled by the Political Committee.)

Escalation of Split Operation

Thus, within a period of less than two weeks, the scope of the split rapidly escalated from the minority reporter at the state convention, to the entire minority delegation, to the entire minority caucus statewide, to every single member in California who had at any time identified himself or herself as a supporter of either the Lovell-Bloom or Weinstein-Henderson wing of the secret faction. This was new evidence of the inside/outside operation being organized against the party by an utterly disloyal formation led by the four former National Committee members suspended from the party by the National Committee in August 1983.

Three additional incidents that occurred at the same time provided further verification of the split operation.

1) The first issue of the newspaper Socialist Action appeared early in December carrying an article by an unnamed San Francisco bus driver about the Greyhound strike. There could be no doubt that the unnamed author was the same individual who had been elected by the minority delegates at the state convention as their reporter. He had given the article to Socialist Action well before the California state convention.

2) When leaders of the Los Angeles branch went to the apartment of one of the minority caucus members to deliver written charges to her, she and one of the Los Angeles minority delegates to the state convention were there meeting with two of the Southern California leaders of Socialist Action.

3) On December 10, the Manhattan branch organizer informed Berta L. that charges had been brought against her for boycott of party finances and activity. Berta L. informed the organizer that “in light of what has transpired in California,” she wanted it known that she “intended to work with” Socialist Action. No report of what had transpired around the California state convention had been made to the Manhattan branch or any branch outside California at that time. Berta L. said she was not a member of Socialist Action, nor was she resigning from the SWP since her reading of party norms indicated that her planned collaboration with Socialist Action was not incompatible with party membership—regardless of decisions by the National Committee. An additional charge of violating the National Committee motion concerning collaboration with Socialist Action was filed against Berta L., and she was found guilty of all charges and expelled by the Manhattan branch December 11.

Political Committee Action

When the Political Committee, at its meeting of December 22, received the full report of this sequence of events that began at the California state convention, it drew the obvious conclusions:

1) The disloyal conduct of every single supporter in California of the secret faction was not an aberration, unique to California.

2) The actions taken by every single member of the secret faction in California were definitive proof of the disloyalty of the adherents of this formation nationwide.

A secret faction is not a legitimate faction with a political platform and defined membership, that just happens to be secret. It is an underground factional operation carried out by a political combination of sometimes multiple cliques and groupings whose dislike for, and bitter conflict with, each other are second only to what unifies them—hatred for the party and guilty knowledge of each other's disloyal activities. A secret faction is by definition an unprincipled combination that places covering up for each other's disloyal actions (whether they agree with them or not) ahead of loyalty to the party.

At its December 22 meeting, the Political Committee considered two possible courses of action to end the split operation. One was to expel the entire secret faction immediately. The other was to meet with every proclaimed supporter of the various wings of this formation before bringing charges, giving them the opportunity to repudiate the action of the California delegation, and thereby to break from the disloyal split operation.

The Political Committee decided on the second alternative. It voted to “draw up a list of minority supporters in every branch; prepare questions to be put to them and organize Political Committee delegations to meet with every individual on the list as rapidly as possible.”

The course followed by the Political Committee was the opposite of asking for an abstract affirmation of intent to act in a loyal manner—a “loyalty oath.” Such a procedure would be an abomination of our organizational norms and principles. Every member is assumed to be loyal from the day they join the party onward and are responsible to act accordingly. No one ever asks them to repeat it, to say it on the branch floor, to put it in writing, or anything else.

Nor were comrades asked to say what they would do in a hypothetical situation. They were not asked to say what they would have done had they been delegates at the California state convention. Posing such questions would be contrary to our norms also. Instead, they were told what had happened, informed that the party's elected leadership bodies viewed it as a split action, and asked if they repudiated it.

Secret Faction and Disloyal Actions

The Political Committee had decided to bring charges of disloyalty against comrades who by their own actions in their branches had identified themselves as part of the secret faction splitting operation. This was not because they were directly responsible for what someone said or didn't say in the California state convention, nor did they bear the same responsibility for the delegates' actions as caucus members in California who elected delegates to represent them.

The charges of disloyalty were based on the new evidence of the inside/outside split operation by the adherents of the secret faction. Their actions provided indisputable proof of their disloyalty. As the party's organizational resolution, adopted in 1965, states:

... loyalty is far more than an abstract idea; it is a standard of political conduct. The party's whole democratic-centralist structure is founded on the rock of organizational loyalty. Without loyal members the party, as a voluntary organization, would have no basis upon which to maintain the necessary discipline in carrying out its revolutionary tasks. Disloyal people don't believe in the party, they won't pitch in selflessly to help build it, and they will resist and evade discipline.

This bedrock of our organizational principles has been persistently challenged by the Bloom-Lovell wing of the secret faction from the beginning.

At its August meeting, the National Committee upheld the party's organizational principles when it suspended Bloom, Henderson, Lovell, and Weinstein for refusing to inform the National Committee of the differences among them that led to the disintegration of their faction. This disloyal cover-up was a particularly flagrant act of contempt for the party since each wing blamed the disintegration on the other, in identical terms. The NC pointed to the insistence of the four on keeping their platform differences secret as proof of a secret factional operation against the party and the Fourth International.

The National Committee did not expel the entire secret faction then, nor did it ask the adherents of the various wings of the secret faction to repudiate the action of the four National Committee members. The unconditional suspension from the party of the leaders of the split operation was an unambiguous final warning to every single one of its adherents. But in light of the developments around the California convention, it was obvious that there had been no change in course. The adherents of the secret faction had forfeited their right to membership. Under these conditions the Political Committee had one single overriding responsibility to the party—to bring the entire disloyal splitting operation to an immediate end.

Between December 23 and January 4, a total of 37 members who by their conduct had unambiguously identified themselves as part of the secret faction were talked to by delegations organized by the Political Committee.

Each was informed by the Political Committee representatives of the action of the minority delegation at the California state convention and the fact that the Political Committee considered it a split action, and each was given the opportunity to repudiate this concrete manifestation of disloyalty by the California minority delegation. Such a step was a prerequisite for the party to accept the possibility that an adherent of the secret faction had decided to turn her or his back on a disloyal course of conduct.

On the basis of the responses given, written charges were filed with the Political Committee.

Each individual who refused to repudiate the actions of the California minority delegation was given charges in writing.

Each was informed that the Political Committee assumed jurisdiction under Article VIII, Section 3 of the constitution, and told when the trial was scheduled.

Each was informed that any statement to be considered by the Political Committee could be mailed or telephoned to the national office and that it would be distributed to the Political Committee members.

Only two comrades, Naomi A. (Brooklyn), and Alan W. (at-large), requested to come before the Political Committee in person. The Political Committee voted to give each comrade time to make whatever statement they wished to the Political Committee, but neither appeared nor called to say they had changed their minds.

Expulsion of Disloyal Members

The Political Committee considered each case separately and reviewed whatever statement had been submitted by each comrade charged. The Political Committee expelled each of those found guilty of “disloyalty for refusing to repudiate the action of the members of the minority delegation at the California state convention, each of whom refused to repudiate their reporter's split statement of intent to collaborate with Socialist Action and its individual members.”

With these actions to bring the splitting operation inside the party to its conclusion, the Political Committee has carried through what amounts to a re-registration of the party membership.

The splitters spelled out their attitude toward the party in an “Open Letter” to party members dated November 18,1983. This statement is stamped by their utter contempt for the membership of the party, and reveals clearly that the splitters have given up hope of winning any support within our ranks.

The split operation against the party which developed over three years includes numerous components. The four suspended National Committee members organized Socialist Action. They put out a newspaper, Socialist Action, in San Francisco and a mimeographed magazine in New York under the title, “In Defense of Marxism.” Others have joined the North Star Network led by Byron Ackerman, Pedro Camejo, and Gene Lantz. As has been true from the beginning of this secret faction operation we are ignorant of how many people and internal groupings, circles, and cliques are involved and who adheres to which.

In their public leaflets, newspapers, and magazines the splitters are carrying out a provocation against the party, identifying themselves as a “public faction” of the party or otherwise claiming to remain some category of member. This false portrayal of themselves is a legal danger to the party, which is why the National Committee decided in November to print a public statement calling attention to this provocation and disavowing any legal or political responsibility for the sputters.

Close of a Chapter

With the termination of the split operation, this chapter in party history is closed and behind us. We have no interest in political relations of any kind with them. We now turn our backs on the splitters. We turn to the many party-building openings before us in deepening our turn to industry and the industrial unions, building the Mason-Gonzalez presidential campaign, defending the workers and farmers of Central America and the Caribbean against the steadily escalating imperialist attack, and all the other work we are engaged in.

At its November meeting, the National Committee decided that all the members of our movement would break totally all political relations with the splitters. Any violation of this decision is incompatible with membership in the Socialist Workers Party.

For comrades' information we are appending a list of those who were part of the split operation. We use the full names of those who are publicly identified in one of their own widely distributed newspapers, magazines, or open letters.

Freed of the one thing that held them together—their mutual hatred for the Socialist Workers Party and commitment to cover up for each other's disloyal actions—they will now go their various ways.



Resolution for the Point “Report on the November 1983 Plenum of the SWP and Report on the Constitution of Socialist Action (SWP)”

by the United Secretariat, January 1984

1. In an unprecedented stepping-up of its organizational attacks against the International, its sections and leadership, the November 16-20, 1983, plenum of the American SWP National Committee decided that “no sessions ... will be open to the representatives of the United Secretariat Bureau.” In motivating this point, the SWP Political Committee referred to relations between the establishment of Socialist Action (SWP) and the United Secretariat Bureau in the following way:

The establishment of Socialist Action [earlier described as a sect, political relations with which “is incompatible with membership in the SWP”] ... was undertaken at the urging and with the full support of the Bureau of the United Secretariat of the Fourth International. The Bureau sent representatives to participate in its founding conference. This was done without the agreement of the SWP leadership and with the full knowledge that the SWP was not told when or where such a meeting would occur. The Bureau thus shares the full responsibility for the course carried out by Socialist Action (including appearing as a “public faction of the SWP” as explained before in the PC motion).

2. The day after the October 20-24, 1983, United Secretariat meeting ended, the Bureau received a written communication from Comrade Steve Bloom—on behalf of the four NC minority comrades suspended from the SWP—in which he, referring to the adopted USec resolution on these suspensions and related matters, invited the Bureau to “attend and bring greetings to a conference being planned by expelled members in the U.S. in the immediate period ahead.” The letter added: “We will inform you separately about exact details.” This information was given over the phone.

Comrade Bloom's letter and the Bureau's response were brought to the attention of the SWP leadership:

Given the resolution adopted at the recent United Secretariat meeting, the Bureau has decided to send a delegation to the meeting. This delegation will be charged with explaining the resolution adopted and the declaration signed by a number of USec members to the participants in the conference ... [October 26, 1983, Bureau letter to the SWP Political Committee].

The Bureau did not interfere in questions relating to time and place as well as invitations to the conference. It judged this to be a matter for the comrades calling the conference and the conference itself to decide.

One representative of the Bureau—Comrade Frej—participated at the conference and carried out the task he was charged with.

3. In sending a Bureau representative to what became the Socialist Action (SWP) founding conference, the Bureau based itself fully on the adopted October resolution. The relevant sections of this resolution read:

This October 20-24, 1983, United Secretariat meeting declares that the four N.C. minority comrades have been victims of a de facto expulsion because of their political differences with the SWP leadership. The United Secretariat therefore continues to regard them as members of the Fl (to the extent that this is compatible with American law). All other victims of the political purge of SWP oppositionists will be treated the same way.

The United Secretariat urges the SWP leadership to reverse its organizational course and immediately and collectively reintegrate the expelled comrades.

Until this is done, the United Secretariat recognizes that the comrades expelled from the SWP because of their political views will have no choice but to organize collectively in order to, on the one hand, participate in the World Congress discussion and fight for their political views, and on the other, continue carrying out their responsibilities as revolutionary class struggle militants.

The International will maintain relations with these comrades.

The United Secretariat finally urges the SWP leadership to fully participate in the present pre-World Congress debate by submitting its views on all the questions under debate to the members of the International, through written documents.

The most recent developments in the American SWP—with the mass expulsion of comrades who disagree with a certain number of positions adopted by the SWP leadership and/or disagree with the attitude taken by the SWP leadership towards Socialist Action—can only confirm this opinion of the United Secretariat that the four N.C. comrades suspended in August and a great number of comrades expelled before and after that are victims of a political purge inside the SWP.

This January 26-29, 1984, United Secretariat meeting decides:

* to reiterate the positions adopted at the October USec meeting: to regard all victims of the political purge of SWP oppositionists as members of the FI (to the extent that this is compatible with American law), maintain political collaboration with them including giving them all rights as members of the FI when it comes to fully participating in the pre-World Congress debate;

* to regard the decision by the USec Bureau to open collaboration with the comrades who later formed Socialist Action (SWP) and then with Socialist Action itself as completely within the framework of the October USec resolution;

* to reiterate the urging made in that resolution that the SWP leadership “reverse its organizational course and immediately and collectively reintegrate the expelled comrades”;

* to characterize the decision by the SWP leadership to bar the USec Bureau representative at the November plenum as an act of overt hostility to the International and its leadership and request to the SWP that this not be repeated;

* to urge the SWP leadership to return to a normal form of collaboration in the International and fully present its views to the ranks through written documents.



Who Is Responsible for the Split in the Party
In Reply to the SWP Political Bureau

by Steve Bloom

The Political Bureau of the SWP, in its statement “End of the Split Operation Against the Party,” claims that it has expelled a disloyal secret faction which engaged in flagrant acts of indiscipline in violation of the party's organizational principles and was determined to split from the party. This is completely false. Those labeled “splitters” are not the initiators of a split, but its victims. It is the Barnes leadership of the party which is solely responsible for what has occurred.

The fundamental premise of this frame-up against loyal comrades engineered by the SWP leadership is the charge of secret factionalism. This charge was first leveled against two opposition tendencies in the SWP National Committee at the February-March 1982 NC plenum, and has been raised repeatedly since that time against those who hold minority viewpoints inside the SWP.

But what are the facts? Far from trying to organize secretly, those of us who oppose the political course of the Barnes leadership made repeated attempts to initiate a discussion and present our views to the party as a whole. When the Militant, in November 1981, published the first article by Doug Jenness—which initiated public changes in the party's attitude toward Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution—we proposed a literary discussion inside the party. The majority leadership rejected this proposal.

We submitted platforms and resolutions expressing our point of view to every one of the five NC meetings from February 1982 to August 1983, and repeatedly asked that they be made available to the party membership. The majority leadership consistently voted to keep them secret, limiting circulation to the NC. At the May 1982 NC meeting a motion was passed that the membership could not even be informed of the fact that the two opposition tendencies had formed an Opposition Bloc and submitted its platform.

When eighteen members openly tried to organize a tendency to participate in the pre-World Congress discussion and presented their platform to the NC in June 1982, the Barnes leadership ordered us to “cease and desist,” on pain of expulsion. And when we proposed, in the PC and the NC, to issue the traditional call for the regularly scheduled party convention in the summer of 1983, in order to discuss and decide the disputed questions, the majority leadership of the party, afraid to allow any semblance of open debate before they had expelled us, voted to postpone that convention; and they voted three months later to postpone it a second time.

At every opportunity, we of the opposition attempted to place our views before the party as a whole for consideration. This fact has been well documented through the material published up to now in the Bulletin IDOM, and even more of this material will be published in subsequent issues.

It is hardly credible, given the record, for the Political Bureau to accuse us of attempting to organize a “secret faction.” The only reason they can even try to get away with such charges is that they have hidden the real record from the party ranks.

And this is not all they have hidden. In fact, a strong case can be made that it is the Barnes leadership itself—which clearly began to rethink its perspectives on permanent revolution before the 1981 party convention but consistently denied that it was doing so—which is guilty of concealing its views from the party and of organizing behind the back of the party to impose those views without a discussion.

So the charge of “secret factionalism” is completely false. And an investigation of the facts exposes the web of lies which the Political Bureau uses to support that charge. Here we can only cite a few of the more flagrant examples:

1) The PB asserts that the “secret faction” was a single, organized current that included everyone who has at any time in the last few years raised a question about any aspect of party policy; and since this would include diverse elements, representing an array of political views, the PB charges that this opposition constitutes an “unprincipled combination.” It is correct that there were, and still are, multiple tendencies and currents which have arisen in the SWP in opposition to the policies of the Barnes leadership. But the idea of a single “secret faction” which included all such tendencies and currents and controlled everything that happened is a fabrication. Once it has been dreamed up, the PB can easily assert that this nonexistent faction was an unprincipled combination.

The majority leadership itself has consistently prohibited any organized expression of these tendencies and currents since the 1981 convention (except at the NC level for a limited period). Because of this some opposition to official policies has, as would be expected, become manifest in a dispersed and uncoordinated way, even occasionally revealing significant disorientation on the part of individual members. But whenever any organized opposition attempted to express itself, either in the NC or in the party as a whole, it always presented a clear and coherent political platform.

2) The PB declares that there was a conscious “split operation” for which the four suspended NC members are responsible. But here again, the prohibition against any “organized tendency activity of any kind” which was imposed explicitly on the four (and implicitly on all other members of the party) in March 1982 made it impossible for the NC members or anyone else to function effectively as a leadership for the opposition. Under such circumstances we can hardly be held responsible for what occurred.

If there has been a problem with the maintenance of party norms then the real responsibility for this rests squarely with the Barnes leadership—which is itself guilty of violating the most basic norms of leadership functioning by introducing its programmatic changes without allowing the membership to discuss them. It is not at all surprising, given these open revisions, and given the prohibition on discussion and other violations of democratic norms by the central party leadership, that resistance developed within the ranks—finding different expressions in different party branches. Indeed, it would have been surprising if this had not occurred. No conspiracy theories are necessary to explain what has been happening in the SWP

3) Connected to the last point is the charge that there were “flagrant violations of party discipline” by those who have been expelled. This is allegedly the form that the “split actions” took. It is, of course, impossible here to go into the dozens of cases of frame-up charges brought against oppositionists. But the record of this scandalous purge operation (not “split operation”) exists. Some of that record has already been made known, and more of it will be.

Those who disagree with the party leadership were expelled on such charges as “boycotting party activity” despite the fact that in many cases they were far more active in their branches than others who were not expelled; those who were allowed to remain in the party had raised no question about the political course of the leadership. Dianne Feeley, who repeatedly but unsuccessfully tried to meet with the Pittsburgh branch leadership to discuss the event she was helping to organize for International Women's Day in 1983—an event that was hailed in the Militant as exemplary—was expelled for failure to function in collaboration with her branch.

Ann Menasche of San Francisco was expelled for “unauthorized” distribution of a poem, which she had written, at a memorial meeting for Anne Chester organized by the party (she gave it out to some friends who requested copies). Anne Teesdale Zukowski was ousted from the Iron Range branch because she answered a question asked by a member of the YSA. James Kutcher was harassed and ultimately expelled from the party in Manhattan in a series of events which began with an alleged incident of “violence” by him, even though the “victim” of this supposed violence denied from the outset that it ever took place. The party leadership insisted that Kutcher is guilty anyway.

This list could go on, but it is clear to any objective observer that the central leadership of the party, in order to avoid a discussion of its programmatic revisions, has been making a concerted effort to rid the organization of those who might question or resist the new line. Organizational pretexts have been found to justify this political purge, so that members who do not want to confront the reality of what is going on can find excuses and rationalizations; but the mere assertion in the PB report of “flagrant violations of discipline” cannot hide the ugly truth.

4) The PB repeats the charge, used as a justification for the suspension (in reality a de facto expulsion) of the four opposition NC members in August 1983, that we insisted “on keeping our platform differences secret” and “refus[ed] to inform the National Committee of the differences among” ourselves. The fact is, however, and we explained this clearly to the NC at the time, that we had no new differences in the area of basic programmatic issues or platform, but that we did find ourselves unable to agree about how to pursue the inner-party struggle for the platform we had agreed on when the bloc was formed in May.

The Opposition Bloc-which was in fact a bloc of two different tendencies in the NC and not a unified faction despite the claims of the Barnes leadership—had been able to come together in anticipation of the opening of the preconvention discussion. With a prospect of the entire membership becoming active participants in the discussion, the two NC tendencies were able to agree on a common course of action to pursue the fight for the major programmatic positions we shared. But with the postponement of the convention at the May NC plenum, and the anticipated further postponement at the August plenum, the original differences which had been the basis before May for two separate tendencies in the NC reemerged. And this, in turn, necessitated the dissolution of the bloc and the resumption of independent activity by those separate tendencies in their own names.

It should not be surprising, in such circumstances, that “each wing blamed the disintegration on the other, in identical terms,” as the Political Bureau statement puts it. But this is hardly proof of “secret factionalism” or attempts to “keep our differences secret from the party.” The differences between the two tendencies were well known to every member of the party leadership, and the charges that were raised against us to justify our suspension were simply a smokescreen.

The alleged basis for the recent mass purge—that comrades wouldn't agree to repudiate others and characterize them as disloyal on orders from the PC—is likewise a pretext, and a rather flimsy one at that. The statement that members were required to endorse in order to remain in the party was deliberately worded so as to require agreement with a finding of fact about what occurred at the California state convention, and with a political characterization of the actions taken by the minority delegates as disloyal to the party. This wording was quite deliberate. The party leadership was well aware that any self-respecting revolutionary would find it repugnant to accept such a demand for repudiation without documentary evidence of what actually took place in California, and without access to explanations, by the specific comrades involved, of why they took the action that they did. The fact that the overwhelming majority of those interrogated refused to repudiate under such circumstances is, again, hardly proof of the existence of a secret faction.

The PB states that “the Political Committee has carried through what amounts to a re-registration of the party membership.” That contention is utterly false. A re-registration is universal. It applies to all, and requires an affirmation by every member in order to remain in the organization. The Barnes leadership did not demand statements from all the members—but only from some of them (those who were on a confidential list in the national office). The reason for their selectivity is obvious. They knew that not only oppositionists and dissidents would refuse to make repudiations under these circumstances, but also many of the Barnes leadership's supporters would have trouble acceding to such a demand. That was why they carefully confined their interrogations and demands for repudiation to members who have raised or might raise political questions: “The Political Committee had decided to bring charges of disloyalty against comrades who by their own actions in their branches had identified themselves as part of the secret faction splitting operation.”

This statement by the Political Bureau is the clearest proof of the political nature of these expulsions. There was no evidence of misconduct against those who were the victims of the recent purge, not even the dubious sort of evidence that had been invoked in previous expulsions. The party leadership itself had prohibited rank-and-file members from formally affiliating to any organized tendency or grouping, so it cannot be on the basis of any such affiliation that they determined who had “identified themselves.” The “actions in their branches” which made members targets of the PC were the expression of political views at variance with those of the leadership. This is, in fact, the only “evidence” that can be produced of a secret faction—that comrades in various parts of the country shared a similar commitment to the traditional revolutionary Marxist program of the SWP, and insisted that the changes in that program being made publicly by the party leadership be presented to the organization as a whole for discussion and decision.

A leadership that was truly confident in itself and its ideas would welcome such a debate, and organize the discussion—rather than expelling its political opponents. That would be the way a Bolshevik leadership would solve the current problems faced by our party. Even now, if the Barnes leadership would agree to a truly democratic discussion with its opponents it would find that there are no longer any problems—either real or imaginary—with “secret factions” or “splitters.”

There is one particularly striking aspect to the methodology which has been employed during this frame-up campaign. An event occurs (for example, the Opposition Bloc dissolves, or the minority reporter to the California state convention makes a statement). The majority leadership then unilaterally interprets that event, and draws conclusions about it (that there must be fundamental programmatic differences in the bloc which are not being expressed, or the entire delegation to the state convention is involved in a “split operation”).

The leadership does not treat these speculations as hypotheses, which need to be tested and proven, but as absolute and incontrovertible facts. They then act on the basis of their own opinion about what “must be true,” and consistently reject without consideration possible alternative interpretations of events. They reject facts that don't fit in and refuse to discover or acknowledge anything that might contradict their particular interpretation. (For example, when the NC was suspending the four opposition members, a motion was made by the four to establish a commission to investigate the actual facts before action was taken. This was voted down, and the NC acted solely on the basis of the false assertions made by the Barnes leadership. In California, the State Committee held its trials in secret session and refused to hear statements by the accused.)

Any questions that may be asked by the leadership in its “investigation” under such circumstances only make sense, and can only be answered if the particular conclusions and interpretations of the leadership are accepted as valid: “What were the programmatic differences that caused you to dissolve?” Or “will you repudiate the disloyal split actions?” When these questions cannot be accepted by members who do not share the leadership's assumptions, or who know for a fact that they are false (that there were no “programmatic differences” or “disloyal split actions”), then the failure to respond as required is cited as proof that these comrades are part of a disloyal secret faction, “refusing to cooperate with elected party bodies” and “hiding their views from the party.”

And of course only the leadership's version of events and the leadership's conclusions are presented to the party ranks—since those who could present a different interpretation are now expelled. Even if party members may have questions about the official version, they have no access to the information necessary to determine the real truth for themselves.

The timing of this purge, coming just a few months before the scheduled opening of our twice-postponed preconvention discussion, underlines the obvious fact that the current party leadership fears most of all a full and democratic discussion of the big theoretical and programmatic questions they have put on the agenda. The PB declares that the split in the party has been consummated, but this is a bad case of self-deception. Any Leninist will understand that no split can be really consummated without the essential precondition of a full political discussion and clarification. Attempts such as those being made by the Barnes leadership to substitute organizational measures for the requisite political debate can only lead to the most destructive consequences.

In the long run, the present SWP leadership will not be able to avoid that debate, no matter how many expulsions they carry out. It will be imposed on them by life—by the reality of the class struggle itself. And even if they pretend to ignore those of us who have been expelled—who will not go away, and will continue to remind the party of its true heritage—they will find that new opposition, questions and discussion will inevitably arise from those who remain inside the party as the membership confronts the contradiction between the new line of the leadership and the political realities they see and experience in the world.

The SWP leadership may even find that the very action they are counting on to end their problems and finish the “split”—the latest purge—will itself serve as a stimulus for other members to begin to wonder about what is happening in the SWP today. Some of these will take up a serious investigation of the vital programmatic and theoretical questions, and find for themselves what is being done to our heritage. They, too, will take action to oppose the leadership's present course.

This purge is, of course, an attack on the democratic rights of the oppositionists who were expelled. But even more than that it is an attack on and partial foreclosure of the democratic rights of all party members. As such it is a threat to the life-blood of the party. The continuation of this attack will mean the death of the SWP as a revolutionary organization. We urge all comrades to act to reverse this process before it is too late. Rescind the expulsions! Open the discussion! Solve these problems in a Leninist, and not in a bureaucratic, fashion!

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