MIA: History: ETOL: Document: Education for Socialist Bulletin: Counter-mobilization: A Strategy to Fight Racist and Fascist Attacks

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line

—Socialist Workers Party [US] Education for Socialist Bulletins—

Counter-mobilization: A Strategy to Fight Racist and Fascist Attacks


Introductory Note

Dialogue Among the Participants:

Speakers: Dobbs, Clark, Barnes, Hildebrand, Dobbs, Clark, Barnes, Jenness, Novack, Hildebrand, Stone, Dobbs


1. Two Letters on the Youth Committee Against Fascism (October 12, 1934, Young Spartacus)
2. Why I Agreed to Appear Before the Dies Committee (excerpt), by Leon Trotsky
3. Comrade Cross Invents a Problem, by Felix Morrow
4. Political Report to the June 1961 SWP Convention, by Farrell Dobbs

Introductory Note

This Education for Socialists publication contains the transcript of a May 6, 1975, discussion led by Farrell Dobbs on problems of strategy and tactics in the struggle against fascism. The discussion has been edited by the participants for inclusion in this publication. Farrell Dobbs is the author of Teamster Rebellion, Teamster Power, and Teamster Politics. These works, published by Monad Press, record Dobbs’ experiences as a leader in the Minneapolis truck drivers’ strikes of 1934, as the organizer of the campaign to unionize truck drivers throughout the Middle West, and as a participant in socialist efforts to build a left wing in the Teamsters Union. Dobbs is a former national secretary of the Socialist Workers Party, and was the party’s candidate for president in 1948, 1952, 1956, and 1960.

Other participants in the discussion included: Steve Clark, at that time the National Secretary of the Young Socialist Alliance (YSA); Ginny Hildebrand, at that time the National Organization Secretary of the YSA; George Novack, the outstanding Marxist philosopher who is the author of Pragmatism versus Marxism and Democracy and Revolution; Doug Jenness and Betsey Stone, members of the National Committee of the Socialist Workers Party; and Jack Barnes, National Secretary of the Socialist Workers Party. After the December 1975 YSA Convention, Clark and Hildebrand left the YSA national leadership to join the staff of the revolutionary-socialist newsweekly, the Militant.

The discussion was sparked by an incident at San Francisco State University in March 1975. A professor invited a member of the National Socialist White People’s Party, a fascist group that apes Hitler’s storm troopers, to speak before a speech class. Ultraleft groups organized a small confrontationist demonstration that successfully forced cancellation of the talk. Most of the campus community reacted with hostility to the demonstration, which students saw as a violation of freedom of speech. Taking advantage of this atmosphere, the university administration launched an effort (ultimately unsuccessful) to expel several radical and socialist groups from the campus.

The campus chapter of the Young Socialist Alliance issued a leaflet that opposed the victimizations while criticizing the ill-chosen tactics of the ultralefts. In line with a policy adopted by the YSA at the July 1974 Plenum of its National Committee, the leaflet held that fascists had no right to speak at the university.

The incident in San Francisco sparked a reconsideration by the YSA leadership of the advisability of opposing democratic rights for fascists. They discovered that the Socialist Workers Party, together with Leon Trotsky, had long held that slogans that denied anyone’s right, to free speech damaged the defense of democratic rights against fascist attacks.

In the course of re-evaluating the previous stance of the YSA on this point, some of the YSA leaders proposed a discussion with Farrell Dobbs and other party leaders on this. The result was the discussion reprinted in these pages.

On June 7-10, 1975, the YSA National Committee held a plenum. A report on the struggle against fascist and racist attacks was presented by YSA National Chairperson Malik Miah. After several hours of discussion, the report was approved. It reaffirmed the basic strategy of the YSA on the building of a mass movement in defense of democratic rights, while incorporating the view that these struggles should not call for the suppression of anyone’s free speech. The report, entitled “Free Speech and the Fight Against the Ultraright,” is reprinted in the Education for Socialists publication, The Fight Against Fascism in the USA. That volume can be viewed as a companion to this one.

‘One, of those who played a major role in clarifying’ the thinking of the young revolutionists on how to fight fascism was Bob Chester. He was a political leader and educator of the Trotskyist movement for more than forty years. A member of the San Francisco branch of the Socialist Workers Party, he died at the age of 62 on June 22, 1975.

May 1976