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The Struggle for Marxism in the United States

A History of American Trotskyism

By Tim Wohlforth

Written: 1964-1969.
First Published: 1971.
Source: A Bulletin Book for Labor Publications Inc., New York 1971.
Transcription / HTML Markup: Sean Robertson for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Copyleft: Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (marxists.org) 2013.
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Struggle for Marxism (1971) THE ROAD AWAY FROM TROTSKYISM

Jack Barnes, National Organization Secretary, took time out in a speech at the Summer 1970 Socialist Activist and Educational Conference to look at the evolution of the new theoretical positions of the SWP.

"What we've talked about this last week reflects a new stage in the party's thinking. This perspective is not something that has always been there in a book which we just had to open up. That's not the way the program and tactics of a revolutionary party develop. They arise out of the combination of previously developed theory with current day experience in struggle, and analysis of it. . . .
"Many of the factors we look back on now as important were not clearly seen as such at the time. . . . But they were absorbed, and gradually new patterns of analysis began evolving. But the fact that it took a little time to see the process clearly is nothing to be ashamed of, for this is what the best revolutionary party always does when qualitatively new events occur. What is decisive is whether you are absorbing the new experiences, while you're trying to understand what is happening, and while you're applying class struggle principles to unanticipated forms of struggle, you act as revolutionists. If you act as revolutionists, you'll be able to absorb politically and theoretically what is happening and changing and affect it. . . .
"You don't know exactly where you're going when a radicalization first begins. You can't know exactly where you're going until the radicalization becomes more concrete and you can absorb the new forms of struggle and analyze them thoroughly."

And finally:

"I think that for the first time since 1938 we've made major additions to the transitional program." (1)

In 1963 the Socialist Labour League had made it clear in Opportunism and Empiricism that behind the SWP's capitulation to Pabloism internationally was a going over completely to the method of bourgeois pragmatism as opposed to dialectical materialism. (2) Pragmatism in turn laid the basis for a non-revolutionary opportunist practice. The split with the International Committee and the reunification with the Pabloites to form the United Secretariat could only reinforce this pragmatic and opportunist trend.

It is precisely this empirical and opportunist process that Barnes is describing. One has certain "principles" and "previously developed theory." One then enters the current movement – the main thing, anyway is to "act as revolutionists." Then you "absorb" experience and "gradually new patterns of analysis began evolving." One "absorbs" "what is happening." Out of all this one makes "major additions to the transitional program"!

What this means is one begins with the act, with active involvement in the surface movement and on this basis one figures out what works. What works is in time codified into new theories which in actuality replace the old transitional program. Thus the empirical method is both the product of and reinforces the opportunist practice.

Dialectics proceeds differently. It does not worship the accomplished fact nor disparage "the books". It proceeds on the basis of historically developed theory in the Marxist movement – that is the Trotskyist movement – to penetrate beneath surface appearance to the basic contradictions in the movement of society. This means a penetration to the underlying clash of classes rooted in the developing internal contradictions of the capitalist mode of production. On this basis the strategy of the first five years of the Communist International and developed in the Transitional Program of 1938 is carried forward into the new period, developed, and acts take place which are consciously motivated by this understanding.

Anti-War Movement

If we look at the evolution of the SWP and YSA in relation to both the anti-war movement and the Black question in the period from 1964 to 1970 this will become clearer. We will begin with the anti-war movement which has been the major activity of both organizations from 1965 to today.

The work of the SWP and YSA in the anti-war field began in earnest in the aftermath of the April 17, 1965 March on Washington organized by SDS. The SDS march, which attracted 20,000, was sharply attacked by the Social Democrats around Rustin, Thomas and McReynolds and the liberals in SANE. The Communist Party also opposed it as too radical. These forces favored a call for negotiations as well as support to pro-peace Democrats.

In that period the YSA and SWP uncritically supported SDS commending SDS for refusing "to tone down its call, which accurately names the Vietnamese war as a civil war, or to exclude radical organizations." (3) Doug Jenness of the YSA further states:

"The conflict that has been raging in the peace movement since the SDS March on Washington is a political conflict between those like Rustin, Thomas and McReynolds who still want to maintain a coalition with the Democratic Party and the New Radicals who see the Democratic Party, the 'liberal wing' notwithstanding, as the enemy and want to organize an opposition to it." (4)

Within this framework Jenness even lauds the "uncompromising and politically independent tone" of the Los Angeles Congress of Unrepresented People which declared: "We will oppose any candidate that is tied to the twin parties of war and racism." (5)

So in this early period the YSA looked favorably on those who called the Vietnam war a civil war and who openly attacked the two capitalist parties and fought to build a movement in opposition to the Democratic Party. By the end of 1965 the line of the YSA and SWP was to make a complete turn into its opposite.

The turning point for the SWP and YSA was the November 1965 Conference in Washington called by the National Coordinating Committee. Prior to this conference a sharp factional situation broke out in New York and elsewhere between forces associated with the SWP and forces led by SDS. In many ways it was an organizational battle for control with political issues buried beneath this battle.

So it began at the Washington Conference. From the beginning a factional battle shaped up between a majority bloc of SDS, the CP, liberals and pacifists and a minority around the SWP-YSA. The SWP-YSA fought primarily around the organizational question. The SWP-YSA wanted the NCC to be controlled by the local committees which it dominated while the majority sought to prevent this.

At the same time the SWP-YSA had been evolving away from the earlier position which was friendly to the "New Radicals" of SDS who sought in a very confused way to oppose the liberal politics of the SANE-Stalinist amalgam. They began to bring to the fore the demand that the peace movement should be organized around the "single issue" of immediate withdrawal. At the NCC meeting this question was subordinated to the organizational question, only to receive heavy treatment after the split of the SWP-YSA forces. (6) This suggests that the position of the SWP, to be so central for a number of years, actually "evolved" at least in part because of factional considerations brought about by the bloc of SDS with the CP forces.

However this may be, the result was that the SWP virtually pushed SDS and other radical sections into the arms of the Communist Party. The Communist Party and SDS combined in opposition to the SWP around the question of a "multi-issue" approach which for many SDSers and other independent youth means fighting the war by relating it to the struggle of the American working people but for the CP and liberals meant forming a popular front type coalition with the liberal Democrats.

From this point on the SWP-YSA was to fight tooth and nail against anyone who would refer to the Vietnam war as a "civil war" or who would insist that the anti-war movement must oppose the Democrats and actually mobilize against them. But at least in this period the single issue position was put forward as some sort of alternative to the Stalinist-Pacifist-Liberal bloc around SANE, various local peace groups and the Women's Strike for Peace.

But this was only the beginning of the evolution. The "new patterns" are only "evolved" "gradually"! Next enters the Reverend A. J. Muste. As a pacifist churchman he became the SWP's favorite arbiter for the anti-war forces. Through Muste the SWP was able to bring the forces around the CP back together with those around the SWP. The single issue of immediate withdrawal which was supposed to guarantee a movement independent of bourgeois Politics and popular frontism became the umbrella for precisely such a movement.

So through the initiative of the Fifth Avenue Peace Parade Committee the Spring Mobilization Committee was set up in November 1966 with Fred Halstead of the SWP joining with Arnold Johnson of the CP. By December 1966 the SWP had completed a full circle by saluting and supporting a SANE Madison Square Garden Rally noting that SANE was now part of this "coalition." (7) A year earlier, SANE, which had not changed its position in the least in the interim, was seen as the evil right wing while now they were embraced as part of the broad new movement!

The fruits of this policy was the Sheep Meadow demonstration in April 1967 which was addressed by Republican Mayor John Lindsay!

This was the first of a series of demonstrations to be addressed by Democratic and Republican Party leaders. The Communist Party found that through such demonstrations for "immediate withdrawal" it was able to build its coalition with the liberal bourgeoisie. It was actually able to build a movement for compromise and negotiations under the cover of a simple call for withdrawal. At the same time it could develop bourgeois coalition politics within this "independent" movement precisely because this movement did not take a class stand and did not oppose the Democrats and Republicans.

The relationship between the Communist Party and the SWP was never a peaceful one. The pattern was for these forces to split apart during election times when it more to the interests of the CP to simply build a coalition around McCarthy or some other bourgeois politician. They would then come together in the aftermath of the elections allowing the CP to rebuild its coalition. So in 1971, after a considerable period in which the CP and SWP operated in separate peace groups these two formations were able to collaborate on the April 24th Washington demonstration. This demonstration in turn was the most right wing politically, being openly endorsed by prominent bourgeois politicians like Muskie, Hartke, and McCloskey of the Republican Party.

Several important features emerge from this brief account of the SWP's activities around the Vietnam war. First the political and theoretical position of the SWP on the question of the Vietnam war evolved from out of its opportunist practice and not from any principled considerations. For this reason the SWP could not raise at any point a consistent struggle to bring out the American working class against the war nor could it take up openly within the anti-war movement a defeatist line towards American troops and a revolutionary defense of the workers and peasants of Vietnam.

An example of how far it actually went as early as 1967 in this respect was a speech by Barry Sheppard, then editor of the Militant at an East Coast YSA Conference:

"What particularly upset Sheppard about the position of the Workers League was the following quote from the Bulletin which he read to the assembled students: 'We want the U.S. not only to get out, but we want the U.S. to be completely and utterly defeated, routed, smashed.' Is this, this 'socialist' gentleman continued, what we say to American mothers. Yes, that is what this professed revolutionary said.
"What, Mr. Sheppard, do you propose we say to Vietnamese mothers? That you do not want the invader who is murdering their innocent sons to be 'completely and utterly defeated, routed, smashed?' What would you do in Vietnam, Mr. Sheppard? Run around the battlefield urging the NLF troops: 'Don't defeat them, certainly not completely and utterly. For God's sake don't rout them or smash them?'" (8)

Secondly, there developed an even deeper relation with the bourgeoisie. When President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 Farrell Dobbs was to send his widow condolences! In the course of the work in the peace movement the SWP was to develop its relations with the bourgeoisie on a closer and closer basis. By 1971 SWP member Don Gurewitz was publicly soliciting the support of Muskie while Hartke and others happily participated on common platforms and committees with the SWP. Thus within the framework of single issue peace work, the SWP and YSA were actually developing a close relationship with the very same section of the capitalist class the Communist Party was interested in.

Finally, is the relationship between the Communist Party and the SWP. The major characteristic of Pabloism has always been a break with Trotsky's assessment of Stalinism as a counterrevolutionary tendency and the Stalinist bureaucracy as a caste which can only be removed through a violent political revolution organized by a Trotskyist party. We have noted that the SWP in the course of its turn toward reunification with Pabloism began to see Stalinism as Pablo did with some even claiming it could be forced by popular pressure to play a revolutionary role.

Beside the peace movement the SWP developed a working relationship with the Communist Party which became a cover to escape from any serious struggle against Stalinism. The Communist Party, to the extent that it was fought at all, was fought on an organizational level. The Communist Party in turn of course did not for a moment give up its attacks on Trotskyism. In fact these have intensified over the years. (9)

So, by 1970, the 30th anniversary of the assassination of Trotsky, the Socialist Workers Party did not hold a single meeting commemorating this event drawing the lessons of the Moscow Trials period for a new generation of revolutionaries. In fact it can be said that to the extent that the American Communist Party has been able to get a new foothold among youth and in the trade unions it can be attributed to the paralysis of the SWP before Stalinism. To the extent that it has criticized the CP it has tended to do so from the right – for not completely and uncritically endorsing Black nationalism or for seeking to bring in a working class issue in the peace movement.

Black Nationalism

The entire period under discussion, 1964-71, has been characterized by the break-up of the political equilibrium and relative class peace of the boom period of the 1950s. Behind this break-up is the deepening crisis of capitalism. This objective situation was setting the stage for a whole new movement of the working class bringing with it opportunities not only for constructing mass revolutionary parties but actually coming to power. May-June, 1968 in France was to verify this assessment – the essential assessment the International Committee fought for against the SWP leadership in the 1961-63 period.

In the United States this objective situation found its first expression in a radical movement of the students. SDS was the most widespread reflection of this development and since 1965 the Vietnam War has been the main, but not only, issue around which these youth struggled. At the same time a movement of the working class began but not in a direct form of trade union struggle. This was the movement of the black masses which continues to this day. Beginning even earlier in the South with King and then SNCC it spread into the Northern industrial cities finding its most militant expression in the ghetto uprisings particularly during the summer of 1967.

The movement in the ghettoes was a class movement directed against unemployment, poor housing, decaying schools and the racism which forces such conditions upon the Blacks. But the struggle took the form primarily of the movement of Blacks as Blacks and in the neighbourhoods rather than in the shops and through the unions. This is turn encouraged an even more distorted political expression of this movement in Black nationalism – first of Malcolm X and then of the Black Panthers.

It is important to understand the development of the position of the SWP-YSA on the Black question in this light. Here we are dealing with the reaction of the SWP to the first movement of the working class in this new period, but a movement which takes on a contradictory expression with its ideological expression distant and partially antagonistic to its class roots.

The resolution "Freedom Now: The New Stage in the Struggle for Negro Emancipation and the Tasks of the SWP," passed at the June 1963 Convention – the very same convention which carried through the re-unification with the Pabloites – represents the SWP's first reaction to this new movement among the Blacks. And reaction it was, for no serious attempt was made to explain why in its last resolution in 1957 the SWP made no mention of nationalism concentrating instead on the potential of Martin Luther King!

This resolution, produced not only in reaction to Malcolm X but also under the influence of revisionist theories of Cuba, was a complete break with Marxism on this question. It stated:

"Negro nationalism is progressive because it contributes to the creation of such an independent Negro movement. . . .
"Revolutionary socialists welcome the growth of such Negro nationalism and give its participants whole hearted collaboration in the fight against our common enemies. For us, Negro nationalism and revolutionary socialism are not only compatible but complementary forces that should be welded closer together in thought and action. . . .
"Nationalism itself is an empty vessel which can be filled with vastly different contents." (10)

This position, as we have gone into elsewhere in detail, represents a sharp break with Lenin and the Third and Fourth Internationals. (11) The Marxists have always viewed nationalism as a bourgeois tendency and therefore have remained distinct from it and hostile to it. The only progressive and democratic content to the national question is the right to self determination. This right is simply the right of a oppressed nation to secede and nothing more.

While the resolution adapted to nationalism as an ideology it did not hold that the Blacks are a nation. To that extent the resolution reflected at least some connection with the past theoretical work of the SWP and with the materialist method, a weak connection but still a connection.

"The 1948 convention resolution of the Socialist Workers Party noted the appearance and growth of an embryo Negro 'nation within the nation.' It is still an embryo today, but bigger and more mature. . . .
"But the American Negro people are in a situation with some unique aspects. They are an oppressed minority without a clearly defined geographical, language or cultural basis for differentiation from their oppressors. Negro nationalism is at this point a broad medium for 'self-identification,' a method of differentiating a racially oppressed minority from its oppressors and of uniting it ideologically and organisationally to free itself from oppression. Negro nationalism plays a function for the Negro people here in many ways like that which class consciousness plays for the working class." (12)

The resolution even seeks to make a distinction between nationalism and separatism for precisely because the Blacks are not a nation, as the resolution is forced to admit, actual movement towards creating separate Black states either in the United States or Africa have played only a relatively minor role with Blacks even in the period since this resolution was written.

"Viewed in this light, Negro nationalism, as it exists now, should not be equated with Negro separatism, the tendency that advocates creation of a separate Negro nation. All separatists are nationalists but not all nationalists are separatists. . . . But so far they have not made a choice in favor of a separate nation." (13)

Since the only democratic right involved from a Marxist point of view is precisely separation into an independent state or region, and since this remains a minor tendency precisely because it is not rooted in the national character of the Blacks, then the only Marxist conclusion could be that nationalism has no progressive content at all. The SWP, needless to say, was to evolve their position in the opposite direction.

Next comes the 1964 SWP Resolution "The Freedom Now Movement in 1965: Its Progress, Problems and Prospects." This resolution notes:

"There has been a noticeable decline of separatist sentiment, most conspicuously manifested in Malcolm X's evolution. This has, paradoxically, been attended by a heightening of racial consciousness. This two-sided development confirms the point that Black nationalism based upon an acceptance of self-reliance, racial pride and dignity, identification with Africa and an assertion of independence in action is not necessarily bound up with separatism. In all its manifestations, however, it is bound up with the demand for black unity, autonomy and power." (14)

Once again the document clearly states that Blacks are not a nation and refers to "the caste system of U.S. capitalism." (15) Even as late as 1967 there is no mention of Blacks as a nation even though Black Power is uncritically endorsed. (16)

However by 1968 the whole situation changes and two new strands of the line of the SWP-YSA emerge. Both were expressed in the YSA resolution, "On The Revolutionary Struggle Of Black America For Self-Determination." For the first time – and with no attempt to explain it – Blacks emerge as a nation:

"Hence the position of Black people as super-exploited beasts of burden involves a dual state of oppression: oppression deriving from being black, i.e. national oppression, and oppression as members of the working class." (17)
"Black people make up what is known as an intra-colonized nation. (18)
"The application of this theory to the wilderness of North America produces the inevitable conclusion that the enchained Afro-American nation will achieve its complete liberation, i.e. self-determination, only through a socialist or anti-capitalist revolution." (19)

By the 1969 YSA resolution "Strategy and Tactics In The Struggle For Black Self-Determination" the question of "national oppression" and "national liberation" are treated in a matter of fact way and the YSA and SWP are referred to as "multinational organizations." (20)

Nothing serious was written in the interim to explain why this change in assessment took place. Did the Blacks change in the period since 1965 and become a nation or was the earlier position of the SWP wrong (and if so how was this discovered and what theoretically can we learn from correcting this error?

None of these questions are discussed because again we have theory "evolving" in the course of actions. Theory becomes a reaction to pressure, an explanation for what is decided to do because of opportunist openings or class fears. Action and experience in the "movement" determines theory but theory is no real guide to action.

We also have emerging in the 1968 YSA resolution – for the first time clearly – the demand for "Black Control of the Black Communities." In fact this demand is seen as "emerging" from out of the movement itself:

"Out of the debate over the concept of black power, coupled with the actions of the people, has emerged a working definition of black power: Black Control of the Black Community." (21)

By 1969 this becomes ensconsed as "A Transitional Program for Black Liberation." This, of course, is theoretically absurd for if the Blacks are a nation or are emerging as a nation then the central demand which they themselves would raise would be separatism – the demand for a separate state. Revolutionaries, without confusing their banners with nationalists, would have to uphold the right of the Black nation to secede if that was its desire. Therefore if "Black Control of the Black Communities" is central this in turn reflects that the Blacks, far from being a nation, are an oppressed minority dispersed in urban cities and an integral part of the working class as a whole. (22) But for the purposes of this history it is enough to note how the slogan of Black control was arrived at!

By the summer of 1970 Derrick Morrison, speaking at the Oberlin Educational Conference, is telling us that the Blacks are a nation because the land question was never solved!

"The conflict between the need to expand bourgeois property relations and the plantation system led to the second American revolution in 1861, which ended with the destruction of slavery. However, the former slaves – even though 200,000 fought in the Civil War and provided the margin of victory for the North – did not get possession of the land. The campaign for 'forty acres and a mule' which was an expression of this urge for land, never got off the ground." (23)

While it is true that rather than creating a class of Black free farmers the Southern racists reasserted their control over the region and developed a class of Black sharecroppers. But at the same time the industrial revolution developed at a fantastic rate – because of the destruction of slavery – and the mass of the Blacks left the countryside to enter modern industry. The land question was solved in this way and talk of a new Black "nation" being created after the Civil War is complete fantasy.

If one were to take Morrison's arguments seriously then one would have to conclude that free land should be the central demand in this period! Malcolm X gave one such land speech in the middle of Detroit and it went over like a lead balloon!

Clearly the theoretical positions developed by the SWP do not lead to its proposals for actions. The theories and the proposals for action are evolved out of pressures upon the SWP – not out of a scientific attempt to lay bare the essential class relations underlying important surface developments.

If one traces the development of class relations in the Black masses and of the Black Panther Party and how these relate to the theoretical positions of the SWP-YSA the class forces at work will become clear. Up until 1965 the SWP actually noted a certain trend away from separatism and this was the significance it attributed to Malcolm X's evolution in the last year of his life. After Malcolm's death the masses of Black workers entered the struggle through rebellions in the ghettoes. In reaction to this massive class movement there developed a sharp cleavage of an ideological character in the Black movement. This in turn reflected the division in embryo between Malcolm's earlier thinking and the direction in which he was moving.

Following the ghetto uprisings came a widespread movement among Black students on the university campuses. It was out of this movement that the SWP was able to recruit a few cadres like Morrison and Thomas. While this student movement was a reflection of the ghetto rebellions which in turn were rooted in the class struggle, being a movement of the petty bourgeoisie, reactionary nationalist separatist ideology was stronger.

Critical in all this was the evolution of the Black Panthers. Always a confused organization, never fully breaking from Black nationalism, the Panthers had their origins in a struggle against the reactionary petty bourgeois separatism of the "cultural nationalists." They attempted to go further along the lines of Malcolm's last year by openly bringing in Marxism and socialism. As the Panthers evolved they deepened their differences with nationalism to the point of openly denouncing it, issuing a call for a socialist America, and urging a turn to dialectics. Unable to come to grips with Marxism as it has developed in the Trotskyist movement they could not break completely out of the nationalist and reformist straitjacket and in the recent period have been drifting to the same reactionary Black capitalist positions they originally fought.

The significance of the Panthers was that they represented within the Black movement more clearly than any other tendency the underlying class movement of the ghetto uprisings. The cultural nationalist trends, which developed so strongly on the college campuses, reflected the fear of the petty bourgeoisie of this class movement.

The evolution of the SWP and YSA in relation to the Panthers was one of growing hostility to the extent that the Panthers deepened their class movement away from nationalism. So in 1968, when the YSA was moving sharply in the direction of the Black nation theory, they still find a few kind words for the Panthers. In fact the cover photo of the discussion bulletin containing their 1967 resolution shows Panthers. In a center spread of photos a YSA banner is shown carrying the slogan "Support The 'Black Panther'''. But by 1969 they started a polemic against the Panthers as "ultra left" which is developed even further by 1970 and 1971. The further the Panthers moved in the direction of Marxism and the working class the sharper were the attacks on the Panthers by the SWP and YSA.

By the end of 1970 Derrick Morrison was writing attacking the Panthers for the movement away from nationalism:

"But since the end of 1968, the Panthers have, to a large degree, withdrawn from the mass struggle for black control. And as a consequence, their defense efforts have lacked the necessary broad-scaled organization and education." (24)

In the same article Morrison launches a big polemic against the "terrorism" of the Panthers precisely at a time when the bourgeoisie was launching a similar campaign seeking to legally lynch the Panthers through the hysterical atmosphere it whipped up. While Morrison attacked the Panthers for "picking up the gun" the Panthers were actually in a movement beyond this to Marxism, a movement which led to a sharp break between Cleaver and Newton.

What all this makes clear is that the SWP-YSA did not just adapt to surface movements. These movements in turn reflected the sharpening class struggle underneath. They had to take class sides even though they were to persist in their denial of any class movement. Having broken with the continuity of Trotskyism through the struggle against revisionism, proceeding with the method of the bourgeoisie rather than Marxism, the SWP fell prey to the pressures of the bourgeoisie as it is expressed through layers of the petty bourgeoisie.

The sharper the movement of the working class, the deeper the trends moving in a Marxist direction, the more intense became the SWP's commitment to nationalism, separatism, Black control. The sharper the attacks of the bourgeoisie at home on sections of the vanguard, the more the SWP took up a polemic against terrorism and picking up the gun which it found so revolutionary a few years earlier many miles to the South in Cuba and Latin America. The abandonment of the Marxist method means the embracing of the bourgeoisie. It can be no other way.

The Theory of the New Radicalization

In the summer of 1970 the Socialist Workers Party together with the Young Socialist Alliance held a Socialist Activist and Educational Conference at Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio. This conference, together with the convention and plenum which preceded it, was to be viewed as a turning point in the evolution of the SWP by the SWP itself. This it surely was.

The resolutions passed by the September, 1969 SWP Convention, added to at the February, 1970 SWP Plenum, and developed in lecture form at the summer 1970 Oberlin Conference represents a summation of the new stage of the political development of the SWP-YSA, the product of a six year development since the split in the International Committee of the Fourth International.

The party which met in Oberlin in 1970 was vastly different from the party which in 1960 began a struggle which would lead to a definitive break in the international movement. The old cadres of the SWP, almost entirely recruited from out of the trade unions in the late 1930s and the 1940s, had almost disappeared by 1970. Between 1963 and 1965 a series of splits brought a significant portion of old cadres out of the party. While the tendency which supported the International Committee, was primarily composed of the youth leadership which founded the YSA, a group of older comrades supported this tendency and left the party before the tendency itself was expelled. The Robertson group brought out almost entirely youth. (25) Swabeck together with James Boulton of Milwaukee brought important working class cadres out. The Weiss group almost to a man drifted out of the party by 1965, taking comrades with 20 or more years in the party with them. The Phillips group took the last active auto workers with them. The Kirk group in Seattle wiped out a whole branch including trade union comrades.

More important numerically than those trade unionists and old cadres who split or were expelled for political reasons in the 1961-65 period was the slow attrition of scores upon scores of cadres who could neither make the turn to the "new radicalization" nor fight those who made the turn. They voted with their feet and left the movement and politics. Precisely because of the failure over decades of the SWP leadership to fight to develop the party's working class cadres as Marxists, as Bolsheviks, these cadres were incapable in large measure to fight back politically in the 1960s. But they were also incapable of building a party now based on the opposite of everything they had originally fought for. What a mockery the SWP of 1970 was for those who had fought to build a party based on James P. Cannon's The Struggle For a Proletarian Party!

This is why it was only at the 1969 SWP convention that the SWP as such began to experience a small net growth. In the whole past period the YSA had grown and many of these YSAers had entered the party but they had, by and large, simply replaced the older cadres who had drifted out. It is doubtful if even today the net growth of the SWP over a 10 year period has exceeded 200 even though the YSA had increased more than five times its size in that period.

The credentials report of the Oberlin Conference bears out these trends. There were some 674 registered at Oberlin. Their average age was 25 and median and mean age 23. The average years in the movement was 4 years, 3 months. Of the 674 at the Conference only 115 were even affiliated to unions – less than one sixth – of which only five were in the UAW and none listed for other basic industries. (26)

Joel Britton in reporting to the SWP Political Committee on the Conference notes:

"These figures confirmed the estimates that we made at the 1969 National Committee plenum in the political trends and organizational tasks report by Comrade Barnes. He pointed out that not only had recruitment to the YSA been increasing, but recruitment of primarily young people to the party was increasing. The party was beginning to grow, not simply going through the process of replacing people as they dropped away but growing absolutely. He spoke of 'the changing character' of the SWP and 'our tasks in anticipation of future growth'. . . .
"The following quote from that report was very much confirmed by the conference. 'The internal composition of the branches has changed markedly to include a growing percentage of active forces, young people with the perspective of a lifetime as Bolsheviks before them, and who are open to being assimilated into the Socialist Workers Party. . . .
"These observations were confirmed shortly after the plenum in a membership survey. It showed that seventy per cent of the comrades in the party at that time had been recruited since 1960 or later, underlining the fact that we can no longer think in terms of the party being an organization primarily of older people or an educational, advisory or service organization for the YSA." (27)

What this means is the very social composition of the SWP has changed fundamentally in ten years. It means the mass of its present membership come from out of the middle class and have had no experience in the party when it conducted struggles in the working class.

Of course some such change was inevitable, as in preparation for the new stage in the class struggle, student elements enter the movement. But this time they entered a movement where they were not brought into sharp conflict with the class pressures inevitably upon them, where they could be guided and struggled with by a layer of working class cadres trained in Marxism, where in fact they were encouraged in their petty bourgeois method of thought by the complete abandonment of dialectical materialism.

The situation in the leadership of the party reflected the changes in the party as a whole but not as severely. The old leadership around Farrell Dobbs and Tom Kerry remained. But new forces were brought forward untrained in any sort of real struggle and a shift took place among the old leadership cadres in the direction of those who had always been the most susceptible to petty bourgeois pressures.

Most important has been the emergence of Jack Barnes. Jack Barnes joined the SWP in 1961 after being, to quote a book jacket description, "first attracted to radicalism by the Cuban Revolution." (28) He was a graduate student at Carleton College. Barnes was recruited to the party and worked closely with one Carl Fine. Fine had been very close to the Weiss group when he was in Los Angeles and in the period he recruited Barnes had a particularly close relationship with James P. Cannon and was later sent to New York as Cannon's man as part of a move to remove both the supporters of the International Committee and the supporters of Weiss from the leadership of the YSA. Fine later left the party.

Barnes actually played little role in that period in the construction of the YSA. He was not part of the group which had formed the YSA under difficult circumstances. Thus we have in Barnes a man drawn to the SWP precisely by its most extreme Pabloism around the Cuba question. He had no experience in the labor movement nor did he even participate in the construction of a youth movement. When he later was made National Chairman of the YSA in 1965 it was to supervise the YSA's subordination to the SWP's whole opportunist politics. Moreover it was for Barnes a stepping stone to the position he now holds of National Organizational Secretary of the SWP.

Barnes was and is an "inside man" He rarely makes a public speech or participates in any form of external struggle. He is an apparatus man who from the beginning was attracted by the organizational side of the SWP. This man, with no real credentials, has emerged as the most powerful single individual in the SWP today. It is Barnes who guides the day to day functioning of the party. It is Barnes who makes the major political reports at all Conventions and Plenums. It is Barnes who rests upon this seventy per cent who came into the party after 1960 while going out of his way to pay proper homage to the "traditions" of the party.

Out of the older leadership group of the SWP emerges three other men who play a particularly central role in the current development of the SWP. First is Joseph Hansen whose political history we have dealt with earlier. Hansen is the technician of polemics whose specialty it is to defend the party internationally from the criticisms of the International Committee and to somehow preserve it disintegration of the United Secretariat. To Hansen the idea is a tool to be put to use for a political end – not the other way around.

Next is George Novack and George Breitman. These two men have played a similar role inside the SWP leadership for some time. While completely loyal to the Dobbs leadership, and therefore maintaining a certain distance from Weiss, they represent a similar tendency. It was well known in the party that both men were deeply upset with the split with Pablo in 1953. They kept their differences to themselves but once the reunification moves began they were able to move forward very rapidly and develop the revisionist theory they had held all along. Today the role of both men is important in providing the theoretical justification for the opportunist practice of Barnes.

Novack, the man Trotsky urged to develop dialectics, did so as we have noted, only in a formal way. As long as he separated his theoretical studies from an actual struggle within the party to lead the party on the basis of dialectical materialism, Novack could only develop dialectics one-sidedly. In the end he would become a major force in justifying pragmatism and liberalism within the party. (29)

We have dealt with Breitman's political history in more detail in Black Nationalism and Marxist Theory but suffice it here to note the following which reflects not only Breitman's but Novack's relationship as well to Pabloism in earlier days:

"In 1952-1953 the SWP was embroiled in an internal factional battle with a tendency led by Bert Cochran.
"This tendency received support internationally from Michel Pablo, at that time head of the Fourth International. In reaction to this Cannon carried through an empirical split internationally with Pablo, forming the International Committee of the Fourth International together with what are now the British and French co-thinkers of the Workers' League.
"At this time Cannon issued an 'Open Letter' which stated:
'To sum up: The lines of cleavage between Pablo's revisionism and orthodox Trotskyism are so deep that no compromise is possible either politically or organizationally.'
"Some in the SWP did not see it quite that way. At the very same time as Cannon was issuing this letter, Breitman was in correspondence with Ernest Germain-Mandel of the Pablo group.
"'My dear Ernest,' wrote Breitman, despite the cleavage.
"Cannon called him to order and the tone of the letters stiffened. But Breitman, as well as George Novack, who was equally upset with the break, just pulled in their horns and waited for a more propitious moment. (30)"

This was then the situation inside the SWP at the time of the 1970 Oberlin Conference. Tom Kerry and Farrell Dobbs continue to play important roles in the leadership of the party but they have allowed new forces rooted in the petty bourgeoisie to play an ever more dominant role. Barnes represents this new petty bourgeois strata, now at least 70 per cent of the party membership. Barnes is joined by Joseph Hansen who protects the party leadership from attack internationally while Novack and Breitman come into their own filling a theoretical vacuum and providing the SWP with a whole new theoretical outlook, an outlook to justify its opportunist practice and which reflects its petty bourgeois composition.

In his Political Report to the 1969 SWP Convention Jack Barnes takes a brief look at the history of the SWP in an effort to place the 1969 Convention in perspective. He saw the 1969 Convention as a major turning point in the development of the SWP:

"The Political Committee's purpose in drafting this resolution was to step back from the conjuncture and try to take a broader look at the forces involved in this stage of the radicalization and the long-run perspectives of the third American revolution." (31)

He then relates this to previous turning points in the history of the SWP:

"The party has several times before stepped back for a moment to take a broader and longer view: in 1938, 1946 and 1952.
"In 1938, we were on the eve of the founding of the Fourth International, and much of the discussion prior to the founding convention of our party revolved around the transitional program, which was formally adopted for the first time at the founding convention of the Socialist Workers Party.
"In 1946, we were in the midst of an upsurge in the class struggle, and it was necessary and fruitful to step back again. Not only had the party gone through its most rapid growth, but at the same time there had developed inside the party a challenge to its basic perspectives. So at the 1946 convention, in the report and discussion on the draft Thesis on the American Revolution, a basic perspective was affirmed. We challenged the concept of the American century, that is, the long-term perspective of the international stability of post-World War II American capitalism. We said that post war expansion of American imperialism as a gigantic world power rooted in it all the powder kegs of the world. Far from looking toward an American century, we foresaw a period of explosions, often fomented by and involving American imperialism. We said that the perspective of a socialist revolution in the United States was not a nebulous perspective for the faraway future but the practical perspective for our epoch. And we reaffirmed our view that the American workers were the force that could and would carry out this revolution. Finally, we stated that one of the keys to our internationalism was stating clearly that the central task of the American revolutionary party was organizing for and leading the American Revolution, and the SWP was the nucleus of this party.
"By 1952 the party faced a different situation. A decline in objective possibilities had taken place; the rise of McCarthyism, the beginning of the postwar prosperity and the retreat of the labor movement precipitated another internal challenge to the party's perspectives. This challenge took the form of a search for alternatives to a mass revolutionary socialist party, of which the SWP was the nucleus, to lead the American revolution. So in 1952 the party again stepped back and reaffirmed the four basic points of our assessment in 1946. It also affirmed two other points.
"In the midst of McCarthyism and at the beginning of the boom, we rejected the notion that Stalinism could be reformed and become the leadership that could win a socialist world. We said that far from heading towards this kind of reform, Stalinism was headed toward an inevitable disintegration.
"Secondly, we rejected the concept that the Reuther wing of the American labor bureaucracy, or any other wing, could do this job. We predicted that the Reuther wing of the bureaucracy would always be too late with too little." (32)

We have quoted this at some length because attempts on the part of the SWP leadership to explain their history are rare events and this attempt comes precisely at a moment when the SWP is ratifying a whole new perspective and outlook.

These three dates did very much mark turning points in the history of the SWP but their relationship is far from the linear development Barnes projects. He sees each date as a reaffirmation of the basic position of the party which, we expect, he wishes us to believe the 1969 resolution also will do.

What distinguished the 1938 period is precisely that the SWP was preoccupied with an international resolution enunciating a perspective not just for the SWP in the United States but for the whole international movement. This period of the founding of the Fourth International and the consideration of the Transitional Program represents a high point in the history of the Fourth International and the SWP. At this point, with all its weaknesses, the SWP was a functioning, central part of the Fourth International and its perspectives in the United States was an expression of an international strategy.

But 1946 marked a sharp break with this perspective. Barnes, in hindsight, is forced to express this break when he stated: "One of the keys to our internationalism was stating clearly that the central task of the American revolutionary party was organizing for and leading the American revolution. . . . " In actuality, as we have seen, in 1946 an American perspective of revolution was developed independently of an international strategy and in fact in defiance of the actual stabilization of capitalism on an international scale.

Barnes does his best to water down the American Theses in retrospect in order to avoid what was fundamentally wrong with it and what this meant and at the same time removing its strengths. The American Theses did not simply speak about an American revolution in this "epoch" but put forward the perspective of a revolutionary situation developing in the immediate future. By posing it the way he does Barnes both avoids the incorrectness of the perspective and, that for all its weaknesses, it was a perspective of a revolution in our times led by workers – and thus a far cry from what Barnes was to put forward in 1969.

One would not realize, if all one knew was what Barnes reports to the convention, that the "different situation" faced by the SWP in 1952 was a struggle not just in the United States but internationally in the Fourth International as a whole and that "the notion that Stalinism could be reformed" was the position of Pablo and his allies like Ernest Mandel. This led to an international split, not just a national one and the International Committee was formed at the initiative of the SWP.

But in the interim the SWP was to aid in the reunification of a section of the International Committee with these very same Pabloites without any discussion taking place over these vital questions which Barnes sees as an important turning point in 1952. The SWP simply cannot look truthfully at its own history.

What links 1946 and 1952 with the perspective of the 1969 Conference in Barnes' eyes is a perspective which sees "the party," that is the SWP, developing independently of the Fourth International as such. What emerges is a completely nationalist outlook in which even the transitional program of 1938 is seen as a document "adopted for the first time" by the SWP. Barnes' brief history reveals the complete degeneration of the SWP into an American perspective and nationalist outlook with the United Secretariat acting as no more than a thin and disintegrating international cover for this nationalist outlook.

There is in actuality a close identity between the 1946 Theses and the 1969-70 theory of a "new radicalization." On one level they appear as absolute opposites. After all the 1946 perspectives was one of immediate revolution of the American working class led by the SWP while the 1969 perspective is one of the "radicalization" of the petty bourgeoisie with the movement of the working class something extremely distant.

But the two positions stand on the same nationalist grounds, represent sharp breaks with an international strategy, and reflect the same pragmatic method. The central elements of the 1946 perspectives involved more than the assertion of an American revolution under conditions of the international restabilization of capitalism. Also involved was the theory of the small mass party. According to this outlook it would be possible for a small party to quickly come to the head of the American working class.

Contrary to what Barnes says about "a mass revolutionary socialist party, of which the SWP was a nucleus . . . " the perspective in 1946 was such a small mass party could grow quickly through direct recruitment. But, as we have pointed out, such a perspective meant a turn away from a serious struggle with the American Communist Party, an organization of close to 100,000 in that period, and a struggle within the labor movement for a labor party. The 1946 perspectives was totally devoid of any serious strategy for confronting the grip of bourgeois politics on the mass of workers, a grip strategically reinforced by the powerful Stalinist party.

Let us now look within this framework at the basic elements of the theory of the "new radicalization" first enunciated at the 1969 convention and developed further at the Oberlin Conference. First we must turn to George Breitman's speech at Oberlin "The Current Radicalization Compared With Those Of The Past" which explains this "new radicalization." Breitman, in the tradition of 1946, discusses radicalizations as purely American phenomena and he is as impressed with the current one as Cannon was with the situation in 1946 (which now does not merit consideration by Breitman as a period of radicalization). He states:

"The present radicalization in the United States, which has not yet reached its peak, is as genuine and authentic a radicalization as any this country has experienced in the twentieth century; in addition, it is the biggest, the deepest, the broadest – and therefore the most threatening for the ruling class and the most promising for revolutionaries." (33)

He refers to two previous radicalizations. The first is:

"The Debsian radicalization was a response to the contradictions of capitalism in its phase of industrialization, urbanization and heavy immigration at the beginning of this century." (34)

Next comes the radicalization of the 1930s:

"Unemployment, hunger, economic insecurity, then the fear of war and fascism were the factors that shaped the second big radicalization of the century, leading to efforts to organize the largely unorganized industrial working class and to bitter class struggle." (35)

The third is different than the previous two:

"If we were expecting the third radicalization to resemble the second, we would have been disappointed too, because we will not see the same kind of radicalization that occurred in the thirties unless or until the conditions of economic depression and of an un-unionized industrial working class are recreated." (36)

What, then, is the cause of this new radicalization?

"It is an oversimplification, I repeat, but I don't know any other short statement for it than alienation. This capitalist system, which long ago outlived its historic mission, which is overripe and rotten to the core, has managed to hang on at a frightful price to humanity, but it has not managed to convince growing numbers of the people that this is the way life should be. It has alienated, repelled and angered increasing millions of Americans, who do not yet agree on what should be done but who feel that things cannot, should not, need not continue the way they are." (37)

If we view these periods of "radicalization" within the framework of a Marxist understanding of the international development of capitalism, and the development of this understanding in the Communist movement, then a very different picture emerges than Breitman's American impressions.

The radicalization of Debs' period took place in reaction to the emergence of monopoly capitalism within the United States and the emergence of the United States as the dominant world capitalist power. The Debs period was followed by World War I and this war saw the United States emerge to dominate the whole world. But it emerged precisely at a time when capitalism as a world system was entering its final period of imperialist decay.

During the first five years of the Com intern, Lenin and Trotsky developed an understanding of the role of America in this new world situation and the revolutionary implications of the relations between Europe and America. Only through understanding this relationship could an international strategy be developed so that specific parties in European countries or in the United States could move forward towards the socialist revolution.

The 1920s was marked by America's efforts to foist all problems of world capitalism on Europe and hold back Europe's recovery in the interests of American business. However, this insoluble crisis of European capital was in turn to bring American capitalism down, creating the conditions for what Breitman calls the second period of radicalization. If the Debsian radicalization was brought about by America's headlong thrust into world domination the second period was brought about by the fact that America was to dominate an international system in decay.

Viewed from this perspective any new radicalization must have at its roots once again this question of Europe and America in a context of capitalist decay. The current period is characterized by a breakdown of the conditions of the relation between Europe and America established at Bretton Woods in 1944. American pre-eminence was acknowledged through the setting up of the dollar as a basis for all other currency. This, in turn, allowed for an inflationary boom. This time, however, rather than seeking to maintain an American boom on the basis of European prostration, the American bourgeoisie sought to maintain an American boom on the basis of a European boom which would have as its base American investment.

Thus the relation between Europe and America became all the more intimate and the fate of world capitalism as a whole more intertwined. Viewed this way the May-June events in France in 1968 must be seen as the first shots in the American as well as European revolution. It signified the resurgence of the fundamental crisis of capitalist relations and the beginning of a new movement of the working class in all countries. Of course the first manifestation of this movement in the United States and elsewhere has been movement within the middle class particularly the students. But already the main classes of the proletariat and bourgeoisie are coming out into open conflict and now in the United States as well as Europe.

Breitman's outlook is completely distant from this perspective. It represents a complete break with the development of the strategy of the first five years of the Comintern and the Transitional Program of the Fourth International. It is the empty superficial method of bourgeois historiography which notes certain past features of a phenomenon and comes to the brilliant conclusion that since there are new features the phenomenon today will be different.

To say that the movement of the working class in the coming period will not be exactly the same as in the 1930s is to repeat the obvious. What is at issue is whether the movement today will be conditioned by the decay of capitalism internationally and therefore be a battle between capital and labor at the point of production or some new conditions have been created which change the nature of the capitalist system itself.

Flowing from the former perspective we can state that precisely because a massive labor movement was created in the United States in the 1930s the heart of the struggle today will be in this labor movement. There will be no solution, even temporary, for American capital, outside of a smashing of this union movement. Because the decay of world capital was covered over for a whole period by dollar bills producing a deeply inflationary trend the monetary crisis and the related wage offensive of the working class are the major ways in which the decay of capitalism and clash of classes is expressed today. As the relation of Europe and America is today more intimate, based as it is upon the massive American investment in Europe, there will be no long period where Europe is allowed to be prostrate while the American economy booms. The movement of European and American workers as well as workers in the colonial countries will be much more closely related in the 1920s and 1930s.

Breitman proceeds with the latter perspective. His talk of alienation makes it clear he bases his perspective on Mandel's theories of neo-capitalism whereby a third industrial revolution has taken place removing the basic contradictions between capital and labor and replacing this with a generalized malaise and rebellion of the middle class against alienation. (38) In saying the "new radicalization" will not be like the 1930s Breitman clearly means it will not center on a clash of capital and labor.

Breitman's theory actually represents a complete prostration before the movement of the middle class. The underlying class contradictions first manifest themselves in movements among petty bourgeois strata. Breitman takes this movement, develops demands related to it, and proposes that this movement is now the characteristic for the whole period. The workers may enter this movement and add their social weight to it. At this point the radicalization becomes a "revolutionization." But it is workers adding their weight to a movement of another class around the demands of that class.

What is most revealing is the assessment Breitman makes of the trade unions.

" . . . We can make serious errors by putting an equal sign between 'working class' and 'organized labor.' The two are not the same, and sometimes they can represent forces in conflict rather than equivalents.
"We cannot predict with certainty what is going to happen to the unions as the radicalization continues, nor do we know what role the unions will play in the coming revolution. . . .
"In the 1930s some of us thought that the unions would play a central role in the revolution, perhaps even a role like that which the soviets played in the Russian Revolution of 1917. Today it seems to me less likely, because of the changes that have occurred in the unions and in their relations with the capitalist state, because of the way they have been incorporated or integrated into the state apparatus. . . .
"But in any case we are not trade union fetishists. . . . History will absolve Castro for not waiting until the Cuban unions were revolutionary. . . .
"What does seem certain is that radicalization of the working class in the present decade will not be a simple repetition of the process in the 1930s. . . .
" . . . The very bureaucratization of the unions since the 1930s insures that the radicalization of the unions will dig new channels in the 1970s." (39)

It is clear from these excerpts from Breitman's discussion of trade unions that precisely at a time when the crisis of capitalism places the trade unions in an exceptionally important position as the only organs of defense of the working class, Breitman is looking for new forms, some new channels around the trade unions. These forms and channels will no doubt be consistent with the petty bourgeois radical milieu Breitman and the SWP is presently travelling in and can even become open attacks on the trade unions. This is how it worked out with LeRoi Jones in Newark in the 1970 teachers strike.

Here we have the complete circle. The SWP was, from its origins under the leadership of James P. Cannon, an organization deeply involved in the American trade union movement. This was always its strength. It weakness was that it never really understood that the penetration of the American working class was a theoretical task and this theoretical task could only proceed on the basis of the struggle to construct an international party fighting to develop dialectics in this process. Roots in the labor movement were not enough – but they were essential.

The refusal of the SWP leadership to confront this task theoretically had led it to a position by the summer of 1970 that one of its leading "theoreticians" proposes that it is quite possible to by-pass the union movement entirely – to "dig new channels." But this is just a part of the by-passing the SWP is presently considering. We must turn to Jack Barnes' speech at the Oberlin Conference to get the rest of this 1946 perspective turned inside out!

In this speech Barnes develops, or we surmise simply summarizes the product of others, two of the most dangerous theories of the SWP – the non-reversing character of the "radicalization" and that that crisis of leadership is really solved.

Barnes states:

"There will be no reversal of this radicalization before the working masses of this country have had a chance to take power away from the American capitalist rulers." (40)

He then states:

"There will be ebbs and flows in the struggle, there will be class polarizations, there will be partial defeats and partial victories. There will be all sorts of stages, some rapid, others drawn out, as the ruling class uses different methods, up to and including the attempt to use fascism, to try to prevent the workers from winning power. But the important thing for us to see is that this radicalization will not be reversed until we have had our chance (his emphasis). (41)

On the face of it this is simply an absurd statement. We are told there will be no "reversal" of radicalization but then we are told there will be "ebbs," "partial defeats," "stages," and even "the attempt to use fascism." It is then concluded that even though there may be all these reversals, albeit partial, the "radicalization will not be reversed . . . "!

If what Barnes means is that there will be no return to conditions of relative capitalist stability except on the basis of a fascist regime and the destruction of the working class' organizations he would be stating a truth based on the analysis of the Transitional Program and the whole historic experience of the working class. If he were then to conclude that the working class will get a chance to come to power in this period then he would again be stating a truth based on a Marxist assessment of the capitalist crisis and the struggle of classes.

What he is saying is that the "ebbs," the "stages," even the threat of fascism does not matter. All that counts is the deepening radicalizations over the long haul. The effect of such an outlook is two-fold. First of all it destroys any strategy for strategy requires a scientific understanding precisely of "ebb and flow" within the framework of a materialist understanding of the objective crisis of capitalism. Secondly, it disarms the working class before the threat of fascism and the attacks of the ruling class by minimizing the dangers in the situation.

A scientific Marxist understanding of the conjunctural situation and the future must proceed very differently. First of all we begin not with superficial impressions of non-class "radicalization" processes but with a materialist evaluation of the economic crisis of capitalism. Secondly on that basis we see we are entering into a sharp period of class struggle which has had its first reflection in movement among the middle classes, particularly the students. Thirdly we understand the extreme potential and dangers in this current situation. Just as we are entering a period of the possibility of revolution so we enter a period of the possibility of fascism. Just as a particular "flow" can be deepened into an actual revolutionary situation so an "ebb" can go over into fascism.

The theory of a non-reversing radicalization is a theory aimed at comforting the middle classes. It urges complacency; it counsels a continuation of the old ways and old method. There is no urgency for somehow in time this radicalization process will deepen to the point where the workers enter it and then almost automatically bring about socialism.

Next Barnes states:

"For the first time in decades in the United States, the Communist Party does not have a decisive qualitative edge in forces, resources and power over our forces – at the beginning of the radicalization. . . . It means that the obstacle that stood in the way of socialism for half a century, the problem that is posed at the beginning of the transitional program, the crisis of leadership, shows itself open to being resolved."(42)

This is the most absurd statement of the lot and reflects how completely Barnes' thought is enclosed within the confines of movements among the radical middle classes. The difficulty in the United States is that the question of leadership of the working class cannot even be posed under conditions in which the mass of the workers have no working class party at all. That one can be so cocky about the resolution of this crisis when that crisis has not yet even been posed in a mass way is complacency taken to its highest level.

In order to argue the point Barnes states: "The major obstacle that stood in the way of a socialist revolution in France does not have to stand in the way in the United States." It is true that in France we face a powerful Stalinist movement which receives the votes of five million workers but in America more workers than that vote for the Democratic party! Can we call it a positive blessing that there does not exist a mass workers party in America? Can we assume that because of that therefore neither Stalinism nor reformism are a threat?

Precisely because the American working class has not yet reached a level of class consciousness where it has formed a party distinct from its oppressor, the crisis of leadership is posed in the United States with the greatest sharpness. As the crisis deepens here in the immediate period large movements breaking away from bourgeois politics must develop within the working class. Within such movement the Stalinists – today very weak – can play an extremely dangerous role attempting to bring the working class back under reformist and bourgeois political dominance. Unless the Stalinists are fought sharply it is possible that American workers will be brought to the brink of revolution without the development of a mass workers party. Under such conditions the dangers of defeat and fascism would be very great.

Here we have the elements of the 1946 position repeated in a grotesque middle class context. Once again the question of the bourgeois political domination of the working class is written off as unimportant and the struggle against Stalinism is minimized. Certain successes among the middle classes lead to the complacent conclusion that the crisis of leadership itself – what the Transitional Program held to be the central crisis of mankind – is almost completely resolved and the SWP's position within these middle class circles will guarantee to it dominance of the future American revolution.

Let us recall that the 1946 Theses simply prepared the way for the deepest crisis in the history of the SWP since 1940. This, too, will be repeated in this period but on a far more profound level than ever before because the SWP has travelled so much further from Marxism and from any connection with the American working class.

The United Secretariat in Crisis

The necessity for the construction of an international movement flows from the international character of capitalism and therefore of the division between capital and labor. It is for this solid materialist reason impossible to develop a revolutionary strategy separate from an international strategy developed as part of the world party of the working class.

The international movement has developed historically beginning with the Communist Manifesto in 1848 and Marx's efforts to construct the First International. It is only through this historical process that the Marxist understanding of capitalism in its development and a strategy to bring the working class to power can be carried forward. A break from this continuity of Marxism through the international movement means a break with revolutionary strategy. This inevitably means the national party proceeds from a national perspective and comes under the domination of capital through the medium of the petty bourgeoisie.

The development of revolutionary strategy and the theoretical understanding which lies behind this strategy itself is a dialectical process. It is not a matter of "preserving" past doctrines nor of "adding on" quantitatively to these past doctrines. Revolutionary theory is developed precisely through the struggle against its opposite within the movement – revisionist theory. The continuity of Marxism is actually therefore the negation of the negation – that is, the conscious struggle for Marxism against those who seek to destroy Marxism with empirical and idealist methods.

This process in turn is not an idealist one. The negation is not simply negated as idea to idea but through the concrete struggle of the party to take the strategy of Marxism into the working class and on this basis develop mass revolutionary parties.

Trotskyism is the development of Marxist theory and on this basis a carrying forward of revolutionary strategy in the form of the Transitional Program. This development took place historically through the struggle against Stalin's revision of Marxism and destruction of the Third International. Today Trotskyism is carried forward through the struggle against the revisionism within the Trotskyist movement represented by Pabloism.

In the 1930s there were several attempts to construct international movements independent of the Fourth International and at the same time separate from Stalinism and the social democracy. The London Bureau, supported by such parties as the POUM in Spain and the ILP in England, was a classic example of this. Even though these international bodies were composed of political parties considerably bigger than the Trotskyist movement at the time, not one of these international bodies was to survive the great events of the period.

Even in the period of their functioning they were internationals in name only. Each party belonging to the international carried forward its own opportunist policies in its own country, policies many times in conflict with the policies of other sections. The international was really no more than a cover for national opportunism. Its purpose was to avoid the principled politics and strategy of the Fourth International. These internationals were nothing more than international mutual protection societies for centrist scoundrels searching to avoid the responsibilities of revolutionary leadership under conditions of momentous class movements.

The real significance of the 1961-63 period to the evolution of the SWP can only be understood in this light. The reunification with the Pabloites was for one purpose only – that is to cover the break from the International Committee of the Fourth International. It was this break that was decisive for it meant a complete break for the first time with the continuity of Trotskyism through the struggle against the revision of Trotskyism. This is why the 1963 reunification was to be followed by the sharp turn by the SWP towards a narrow nationalist outlook which we have outlined in the preceeding sections of this Addenda.

Pabloism, from its origins, has played the role of covering for the dispersal and destruction of the cadres of Trotskyism leading in fact to their abandonment of even Pabloism. Since Pabloism, at its heart, is the break with the Marxist method and a substitution of impressionism for the strategy of the Transitional Program, it is quite capable of coexisting with the most diverse political tendencies – at least for a period. All that is required is a common hostility to the revolutionary Marxist movement.

The Pabloite movement is not capable of holding together a real international force. Its very character, like centrist internationals before it, breeds adaptations to differing national conditions which in time lead to collisions and disintegration. Without an international strategy to weld together a common international movement disintegration and finally liquidation of even the form of an international movement is inevitable.

So in the early period Pablo encouraged Cochran and Clarke who had no use for Pablo once they had utilized him to get out of the SWP. In England Pablo's man Lawrence openly joined the Communist Party dropping all pretense of Trotskyism as did Mestre in France and many others in other countries.

The very reunification period itself was actually a period of the further disintegration of Pabloism. One year prior to reunification the entire Latin American Bureau of the International Secretariat split off around the leadership of Posadas. The reunification itself was followed by two important splits which came on the heels of each other. First, Michel Pablo himself split off taking approximately 15% of the international forces with him. Pablo supported the Soviet bureaucracy in the Sino-Soviet dispute while the United Secretariat forces, particularly in Europe, supported China.

Following this came the critically important split with the LSSP. It was because of demanding a discussion of the causes of the split that the tendency which today is the Workers League, supporters of the International Committee, was expelled from the SWP. It is important to look a little more closely at this split.

In the summer of 1964 the LSSP, for decades the largest section of the Fourth International, openly entered the bourgeois coalition government of Madame Bandaranaike. By 1971 the LSSP was actually prosecuting a war against youth and peasants in the countryside of Ceylon in the interests of that bourgeois government. How such a development took place would seem to be a matter of central concern for discussion within any revolutionary party. But in 1964 the SWP refused to hold any discussion on the matter and expelled those who issued a statement within the party demanding such a discussion.

By 1971 the SWP still could not explain the real meaning of this development and its relationship to Pabloism and to the SWP. Caroline Lund wrote a special four page feature in the Militant seeking precisely to cover up the SWP's inability to confront the meaning of the LSSP's evolution. Lund noted that the LSSP reacted in a politically soft way to the left bourgeois Sri Lanka Freedom Party as far back as 1956. She even admits that in 1960 the LSSP formed a no-contest agreement with the SLFP and voted for the government in parliament. But she seeks to deny any connection between the evolution of the LSSP and the growth of revisionism within the Fourth International as a whole. After quoting at length a criticism of the LSSP printed in the Militant in 1960 she states:

"A split had taken place in the international Trotskyist movement in 1954, which lasted until 1963. Therefore, at the time of these developments in Ceylon, the world Trotskyist movement consisted of two factions – with the Socialist Workers Party of the United States, together with other forces, supporting the International Committee of the Fourth International, and most European sections organized as the International Secretariat of the Fourth International. Both factions of the Fourth International condemned the moves made by the LSSP in 1960 toward support to a capitalist government." (43)

So in hindsight, to the SWP, the split in 1953 was all a mistake and bore no relationship at all to the later evolution of the LSSP into a bourgeois government! The exact opposite is the case. It had everything to do with this.

In the first place the current LSSP is the result of a merger between the LSSP and the Bolshevik Leninist Party of India and Ceylon carried out in 1950 at the insistence of Pablo and motivated primarily by concern with electoral strength in parliament. No principled discussion took place then or afterwards. Secondly the LSSP was to develop within the framework of an international leadership which had come to the conclusion that the revolutionary party of the working class was no longer a matter of central concern and that other social forces of a petty bourgeois character could carry through the revolution. This theoretical outlook set the stage for the LSSP's own adaptation to the petty bourgeois based SLFP.

Most significant was the role of the LSSP in the 1953 international split. The LSSP leadership had experienced its own split of a pro-Stalinist group under the influence of Pabloism. On the political issues in the international split it was in agreement with the International Committee forces. This is why, as we noted earlier, Cannon was to write letters to Leslie Goonewardene of the LSSP in 1954.

However, the LSSP subordinated its agreement on the question of Stalinism with the International Committee to its opportunist and nationalist concerns. To stay with Pablo would cause the least internal problems. It was the least dangerous of courses. Pablo could be counted upon to allow the LSSP to go its own way in Ceylon. Thus the LSSP placed its considerable prestige and forces behind the liquidationist revisionist forces of Pablo. There is no question that this was of considerable importance in shoring up the crumbling Pabloite forces. More important, it was to be of decisive import for the future of the LSSP because it meant a complete break with the continuity of Trotskyism and its strategy. Therefore it cut itself off from any way of correcting its opportunist evolution.

As we have detailed elsewhere, the Pabloites did not take a principled stand in 1960 on the question of the LSSP's opportunism. (44) Nor did they seriously fight the LSSP in the intervening period. The LSSP again emerges in the 1961-63 period as a strong advocate within the International Secretariat of reunification with the SWP. This reunification took place on a common basis with the LSSP without any discussion of the history of the LSSP or of Pabloism as a whole. The entry into the coalition government one year later was the product of this reunification. Not only this but even this entry was not fought against in a principled manner by the SWP or the United Secretariat. (45)

It is precisely this relationship of a national opportunist development with Pabloism internationally which characterizes the present evolution of the SWP. But we must keep in mind one factor. While the LSSP came to Trotskyism as an already-formed party, the SWP was actually created around Trotsky's criticisms of the Stalinist Draft Program of the Comintern. For all its American radical background its actual origins as a distinct party were completely wrapped up in international questions. This creates for the SWP a contradiction not easily done away with. It is not easy for the SWP to openly abandon any pretense of involvement in the Fourth International. Thus it clings to some international relationship even when as at present, that relationship is one which has deep disintegrative effects within the SWP itself.

The fruits of the unprincipled reunification of 1963 did not take long to ripen. At the Summer 1969 International Congress of the United Secretariat – at the very same time as Barnes was complacently steering the SWP on its new American course – a new international crisis exploded. The crisis centered around the question of guerillaism. A majority faction led by Mandel and Maitan in Europe and Moscoso in Latin America put forward a perspective of forming guerilla bands in the countryside as a substitute for a perspective of constructing revolutionary parties rooted in the working class.

The SWP found itself in a minority on this question. Even though a few years earlier it had itself been in the forefront of such romanticising guerillaism it came into collision with it at this time. Its most vocal supporter on this issue in Europe was Peng who sought to revive the old Cannonism demanding a "return to the road of Trotskyism" and even making oblique attacks on the SWP by urging a turn towards the working class on the part of all sections. (46)

Hansen took up the cudgels for the SWP against Mandel-Maitan accusing the latter of having a liquidationist perspective. He counterposed to this the strategy of constructing Leninist parties about which he remained purposely vague. Outside of mentioning an orientation towards students in the urban centers, he really put forward precious little in the way of an actual strategy for Latin America or anywhere else. Clearly, Hansen was not motivated in this dispute by any serious concern over strategy. If this were the case he would not have been in the forefront of peddling guerillaism in the earlier period.

In the almost two years since this factional division occurred nothing has taken place to abate the sharpness of the dispute. All indications are that it is in fact sharpening. Why it is that the SWP has taken the position it has, however, has become clearer.

Ernest Mandel, at the time of the reunification, was deeply involved in the Belgian social democracy. In this period "picking up the gun" was the farthest thing from Mandel's mind. His orientation was one of adaptation to the social democracy and particularly to a section of the labor bureaucracy. However, in the interim he had been expelled from the social democracy and particularly in the aftermath of May-June 1968 he and his collaborators in Europe had adapted to the petty bourgeois student movement and its more adventuristic tendencies. So for Mandel guerrillaism in Latin America meshed well with a perspective of petty bourgeois revolutionism in Europe much on the model of the May Day Tribe forces here in the United States.

The political meaning of this tendency has found a particularly sharp expression in the IMG group in England. This group collaborated with May Day Tribe elements like Robin Blackburn in publishing the Red Mole. Tariq Ali, who is a member of the IMG, expressed similar views. The IMG as a whole came into open collision with the working class through its refusal to support the Labor Party in the last elections. Blackburn wrote in the bourgeois press about the Weathermen and the counter-culture in the United States – favorably of course.

In the interim in Latin America the official section of the United Secretariat followed the lead of the Tupamaros and kidnapped the manager of Swift and Company! Suddenly rural guerrilla warfare became urban terrorism. (47)

Now the meaning of the moves towards split in the United Secretariat becomes clear. The petty bourgeoisie reacts to the crisis of capitalism in two ways – each hostile to the working class. One way is through terrorism – a tendency to substitute the adventures of the individual revolutionary for the movement of the working class. Such a tendency always expresses a deep hostility and distance from the working class such actions are supposed to "serve." Other sections of the petty bourgeoisie seek to maintain the traditional liberal relationship between the working class and ruling class but in a new radical form. It is the latter tendency that the SWP was moving towards with its support to Black nationalism and its coalition with bourgeois political leaders in the peace movement.

Terrorism is definitely liberalism with a gun. But one can't have it both ways. If one wishes to have Democratic Senator Vance Hartke on one's platform one cannot at the same time condone or involve one's self in kidnapping and the like.

So the opportunist direction of the SWP in the United States has led it into collision with the opportunist direction of other sections of the United Secretariat in other countries. The division in the United Secretariat is not a principled one as the United Secretariat as a whole has broken from the principled politics of the Trotskyist movement. It is no less serious and deep for its lack of principles.

There is another side to this controversy which Peng represents particularly sharply. In the course of the struggle against the particular form of liquidationism of Mandel and Moscoso sections of the United Secretariat and the SWP are forced to go back into the history of Trotskyism to fight this tendency. Thu s they are forced more and more to bring up the question of the 1953 split, of Pabloism, of the meaning of the 1938 Transitional Program, of Cannon's whole fight for a proletarian party.

All the issues of the 1963 split are being raised once more. It is now more difficult than ever before for the SWP to avoid the discussion it refused to have in 1963. But it is not possible to discuss these issues without confronting the question of the International Committee. So a whole new discussion must open up inside the SWP.

The SWP cannot remain as it is nor can it peacefully continue along the liberal and opportunist path it has travelled since 1961. One cannot predict the future evolution of the SWP in a detailed way but one can state that it has now entered an explosive stage. The United Secretariat, conceived as a protection against the International Committee, has proved to be a powder keg on its own forcing the SWP up against every question it has so long sought to avoid.


1. Barnes, Jack. "The New Radicalization and the Revolutionary Party," in Towards an American Socialist Revolution, A Strategy for the 1970s, Pathfinder Press, New York, 1971, pp. 110-111.
2. Opportunism and Empiricism, Documents from the Socialist Labour League, Bulletin International Series 2, Labor Publications, New York, June, 1971.
3. Jenness, Doug. "New Radicals and the Anti-War Movement," Young Socialist, September-October, 1965, p. 4.
4. Ibid., p. 5.
5. Ibid., p. 3.
6. "Real Facts about the SWP's Role in Washington," Bulletin of International Socialism, Vol. 2, No. 22, December 27, 1965, p. 6.
7. Militant, December 19, 1966.
8. Wohlforth, Tim. "SWP-YSA Wraps Itself in American Flag as LBJ Escalates War," Bulletin of International Socialism, Vol. 3, No. 15, March, 27, 1967, p. 3.
9. See Fred Mueller, Stalinism and Trotskyism in the U.S.A., An Answer to Hyman Lumer and Others, Bulletin Pamphlet Series 3, Labor Publications, January, 1971.
10. SWP Discussion Bulletin, Vol. 24, No. 13, May, 1963, p. 7.
11. Wohlforth, Tim. Black Nationalism & Marxist Theory, Bulletin Pamphlet Series 1, Labor Publications, New York, November, 1970.
12. Discussion Bulletin, op. cit., pp. 5-6.
13. Ibid., p. 6.
14. SWP Discussion Bulletin, Vol. 25, No. 1, June 4, 1965, p. 6.
15. Ibid., p. 16.
16. "In Defense of Black Power" by George Breitman, International Socialist Review, January-February, 1967.
17. Young Socialist Discussion Bulletin, 1968, p. 8.
18. Ibid., p. 17.
19. Ibid., p. 19.
20. Young Socialist Discussion Bulletin, Vol. 13, No. 2, November 30, 1969, p. 4.
21. Young Socialist Discussion Bulletin, 1968, p. 15.
22. See: Black Nationalism & Marxist Theory, op. cit.
23. "The Combined Character of the Coming American Revolution" by Derrick Morrison in Towards an American Socialist Revolution, op. cit., pp. 52-53.
24. "The Need to Build a Panther Defense" by Derrick Morrison, Militant, November 27, 1970.
25. See: What Is Spartacist? by Tim Wohlforth, Bulletin Pamphlet Series 6, Labor Publications, April, 1971.
26. 1970 Socialist Activists and Educational Conference Reports, Vol. 1, No. 30, "Credentials," p. 23.
27. Ibid., "Oberlin Conference Evaluation Report to Political Committee – September 22, 1970" by Joel Britton, p. 22.
28. Towards an American Socialist Revolution, op. cit., back cover.
29. See: Marxism and American Pragmatism by Tim Wohlforth, Bulletin Pamphlet Series 4, Labor Publications; February, 1971.
30. Black Nationalism & Marxist Theory, op. cit., pp. 34-35.
31. Towards an American Socialist Revolution, op. cit., p. 133.
32. Ibid., pp. 134-135.
33. Ibid., p. 83.
34. Ibid., p. 85.
35. Ibid., p. 86.
36. Ibid.
37. Ibid., p. 87.
38. See: Ernest Mandel – The Fraud of Neo-Capitalism by Dennis O'Casey, Bulletin Pamphlet Series 7, Labor Publications, July 1971.
39. Towards an American Socialist Revolution, op. cit., pp. 98-99.
40. Ibid., p. 108.
41. Ibid.
42. Ibid., p. 109.
43. Militant, June 4, 1971, "Behind the Rebellion in Ceylon" by Caroline Lund, p. 12.
44. See: "Pabloism & the History of the LSSP" by Tim Wohlforth, Bulletin, May 24, 1971, p. 13.
45. Ibid.
46. See: Revisionism in Crisis by Tim Wohlforth, Bulletin Pamphlet Series 2, Labor Publications, December, 1970.
47. See: "United Secretariat on Collision Course" by Tim Wohlforth, Bulletin, June 14, 1971, p. 13.

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