Main LA Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Labor Action, 27 January 1947


A Report on the Recent SWP Convention

Bureaucratism and Political Weakness


From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 4, 27 January 1947, p. 7.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Several weeks ago we printed a notice of the expulsion of Felix Morrow and David Jeffries from the Socialist Workers Party at that organization’s recent convention in Chicago. The purpose of that bureaucratic action by the Cannon leadership of the SWP was to deprive the SWP Minority of its leadership. Since then the SWP Minority has issued an appeal to all the sections of the Fourth International to move for the reversal of the expulsion at the forthcoming World Congress of the Fourth International. The document issued by the Minority is too long for total publication here, but we excerpt below sections of it describing the SWP convention, for the information of our readers.Editor


If the convention had committed no other outrage than the expulsion of Comrades Jeffries and Morrow, it would have been sufficient to mark a milestone in the bureaucratization of the SWP. And yet, placed beside the conduct of the convention as a whole, the expulsions almost begin to take on the appearance of minor bureaucratic acts ...

To give the most devastating picture of this convention, it is merely necessary to record one by one the procedures taken and the motions passed.

On the eve of the convention (literally the night before) the Minority was informed that the traditional custom of equal time for National Committee Minority reporters was to be disregarded. The Minority was to be granted one hour to the Majority’s hour and a half for the International reports and three-quarters of an hour to the Majority’s hour and a quarter for the reports on the American Theses. Two pretexts for this unheard of procedure were advanced by the Majority: (1) that the Minority was, after all, a “small minority,” and (2) that the minority had only to criticize while the Majority had to give “a complete picture of events.” ...

This was only a foretaste of what was to come. When the discussion began from the floor on the International report, Minority speakers were ignored as four consecutive majority speakers took the stand. When this procedure was protested by the Minority and a motion for alternate speakers put before the convention, the protest was cut short and the, motion voted down without so much as an argument in justification. All in all, six Majority speakers got the floor to only one representative of the Minority ...

The remainder of the convention continued in the same pattern. In the discussion on U.S. Tasks only one additional Minority speaker got the floor as against a dozen Majority supporters. The final touch came in the Unity discussion on the final evening of the convention. The Majority reporter had spoken for his half-hour period and had been unanimously granted a ten-minute extension. Immediately thereafter, the Minority reporter requested a ten-minute extension at the end of his time and was just as unanimously refused.


After reading this account of the organizational procedure of the convention it does not take a great deal of imagination to realize what the political tone must have been. From the very first speech when E.R. Frank consciously distorted the entire Minority position on international questions, attributing to it positions it had never taken, no one from the Majority attempted to make an honest presentation of what the Minority stood for and argue against it fairly. Falsification and abuse became the substitute for argumentation. When the Minority asserted, for example, that a major economic crisis in America would be postponed for a few years, every Majority speaker was quick to attack the Minority for faith in the permanent prosperity of American capitalism. This method was standard procedure for the entire convention ...

It is impossible to plumb the depths to which the Cannonites descended in this convention. Personal attacks on members of the Minority, the signal for which was given by Cannon in his hour-and-a-half summary on the American Theses, brought down the house in thunderous applause more reminiscent of a football rally than a serious political gathering. All any speaker was required to do in order to obtain an ovation was to launch into personal defamation of the Minority. Minority speakers were met with the greatest hostility, manifested by constant jeering, hissing and other disturbances during the speeches. This was the atmosphere necessary to pave the way for the expulsions.

We could speak, in addition, of the political dishonesty of the Majority; of its refusal, for example, to vote on the Jewish resolution and thereby take a position; of its two key amendments to the wage-price resolution which destroyed two of its main arguments against the Minority position; of its sudden recognition, in reporting on U.S. Tasks; of the importance of “all-sided political activity” in order to disarm the Minority criticism – we could speak in detail of all this, which in itself constitutes the most damning indictment of the Majority. But of what additional import would this be against the background we have already described? The degeneration of Cannonism has already gone so far that it is no longer necessary to take special note of its political dishonesty – this is accepted as a matter of course, as something to be expected from the Majority, and we concentrate our fire upon the newest stage of degeneration – open organizational bureaucracy ...

Comrades Morrow and Jeffries were not expelled on any specific charges, but on a general charge of “disloyalty and disruption,” reminiscent, even in its phraseology of the Stalinist method. These general charges, designed in the first place to conceal the real political motivation for the expulsions, were substantiated by “examples” of organizational “disloyalty” but it is extremely significant that these three “examples,” the only concrete justifications for the convention action, were not in themselves the grounds for expulsion – they remained merely “examples.” The reason for this is not hard to find. If the Cannonites are backed to the wall and these three “examples” torn to the ground in subsequent international discussion, they will be able to maintain that this changes nothing since the expulsions were based on “general” disloyalty! Thus there is always a way out ...

Our analysis has shown how flimsy is the case for the outrageous expulsions. In the light of this we appeal to all sections of the Fourth International to voice their protest against these bureaucratic measures, and we appeal specifically to the coming World Congress of the International to reverse these expulsions and reinstate Comrades Morrow and Jeffries in the Socialist Workers Party.


The bureaucratism of this SWP convention, marking a new stage in the bureaucratization of the party, is, like all bureaucratism, the sign of terrible political weakness. Unable, as the whole course of the discussion in general and the convention in particular have revealed, either to counter the political positions of the Minority or to solve the problems of the revolutionary movement, the Majority resorts to bureaucratic violations in the first case and to ritualistic exhortations in the second. Neither of these will advance the cause of revolutionary socialism one inch; on the contrary, they set it back immeasurably. The continually increasing bureaucratism in the SWP is analogous to the rising mercury in a fever thermometer; it mark the growing disease of the organism.


The SWP Minority

Top of page

Main LA Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Last updated on 28 November 2020