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What is a united front? Exchange on the U.S. SWP

July 12, 2012

Posted here is an exchange between myself and Ernesto, plus a brief rejoinder from me, on the evolution and current course of the U.S. SWP. These comments deal with issues raised in articles and comments at “The SWP Attempts an Outward Turn,” “Causes of a Socialist Collapse,” and Ernesto’s Letter in Support of the SWP’s Current Course” on this website.

Contents

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John Riddell: “I do not see SWP initiatives toward broader actions carried out jointly by worker and socialist activists of different traditions.”

Thanks for your thoughtful comments, and also to other supporters of the SWP’s course who have expressed their views on Gus Horowitz’s blog. This is, to my knowledge, the first such open exchange of views in at least thirty years between SWP supporters and socialists outside the SWP. All of us outside the SWP need to take notice and act accordingly. We need to consider whether this an accidental incident – ships passing in the night – or whether there is there a possibility of respectful discussion and collaboration between SWPers and non-SWPers.

So our first task is to seek out common ground. And you have shown us in your letter where this common ground lies. Reporting on the work of SWP delegations at international conferences in Havana in 1997 and 1999, you say:

“We argued forcefully for our communist politics and international point of view, we didn’t hide them. I met some wonderful people and I felt a bit richer, like the rest of us from that experience. We didn’t have to see eye to eye on everything under the sun, but we argued with respect, self-confidence and at least we started to understand in our own ways, each of us, how convergence or divergence in class politics are aspects of a single process.“

What you are describing here is experience in a united front. In such a joint endeavour, a broad range of forces join in pursuit of a common goal, and each component retains its full freedom to express its own point of view. Such united front activity is the common ground within which working-class activists of many viewpoints and socialist currents can work together respectfully and constructively, while learning from each other. It is also the best arena for revolutionary Marxists demonstrate in life their leadership capabilities and the validity of their ideas.

You also mention similar interventions at a youth festival and book fairs in Caracas. You could also have cited the work of the SWP and its sister organizations in Cuba solidarity groups and committees for the Cuban Five in different countries, where SWPers collaborate constructively with activists from socialist currents with which the SWP may strongly disagree on fundamental issues.

We should note that all these activities take place in what we can call, in a loose sense, the internationalist work of the Cuban revolution. The Cuban comrades have always promoted united action by socialist and anti-imperialist currents, and the SWP interventions you describe take place in that framework. I think the Cuban approach is a good one, and we would do well to apply in our own countries and on other issues. In addition, it would be useful to engage with other arenas of Cuba’s internationalist work, such as Cuba’s efforts for global environmental justice and its work for Latin American solidarity, which is structured around the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA). I recognize that the SWP dispute the general thrust of Cuban policy in these arenas, but there should still be areas of common agreement and scope for constructive criticism.

I believe that the united front approach is in the bones of SWP members. I notice this when I meet young people who have recently left the SWP. Yet I do not see this approach in the Militant. I meet SWP supporters at working-class events only if the action has a Cuban focus or if SWP supporters are staffing a literature table at the edge of a large action. Perhaps the Militant is overly modest about the SWP’s initiatives; is it perhaps involved in broad campaigns of which I am unaware?

You mention the Crystal Sugar strike struggle, and I reviewed a few Militant articles on it. The SWP is doing a fine job telling the story of this battle, on the basis of first-hand reportage; many comrades have travelled a long way to express support. What I do not see in these articles – and I may be overlooking something – is initiatives toward broader actions, support meetings, or collections on behalf of the strikers, carried out jointly by worker and socialist activists of different traditions. In my experience, on an important issue, even a single determined socialist can often initiate a broad, effective action.

Anti-war work provides another example. The Militant speaks out forcefully against U.S. wars and militarism. But socialists have to do more in this area than make the record; they have to take practical initiatives toward united action. Why does the SWP not take part in broad anti-war coalitions? Some of these efforts are problematic, but, overall, the obstacles are not as great as those that faced us in the Vietnam war era. There are also useful things a party like the SWP can do on its own – a shop-floor petition, perhaps – which may carry moral weight. The apparent absence of reports on such work troubles me greatly (and was the issue that led to my estrangement from the SWP in 2004).

The SWP feels strongly that its contribution to building a revolutionary party is unique and essential; it has quite a low opinion of other socialist currents. No one is asking the SWP to back away from these convictions. Actually, many other socialist groups have exactly the same opinion regarding their own particular heritage and the defects of their socialist rivals. The united-front approach enables each current to maintain its convictions and advocate its views freely, while contributing to a common goal.

A united front is not a cartel of socialist groups. In fact, it may contain no socialist groups at all – as has often been my experience in the Toronto environmental justice movement. Years ago, when the SWP campaigned for mass action for U.S. troops out of Vietnam now, it was unable to win the consistent support of any socialist current on this point. But today there is substantial agreement among socialists as to a program of immediate demands for the working class. Also, the obstacle to united action posed by Stalinism and Social Democracy is greatly diminished. In the early stages of the Iraq war, for example, the range of forces favouring mass action for “out now” was quite large. True, there were political problems; they could have been more easily overcome if the SWP had not abstained.

Overall, I think you may be overestimating the obstacles. You provide the following quotation:

“The revolutionary movement, under the best conditions, is a hard fight, and it wears out a lot of human material. Not for nothing has it been said a thousand times in the past: ‘The revolution is a devourer of men.’ The movement in this, the richest and most conservative country in the world, is perhaps the most voracious of all.

“It is not easy to persist in the struggle, to hold on, to stay tough and fight it out year after year without victory; and even, in times such as the present, without tangible progress. That requires theoretical conviction and historical perspective as well as character….

“It is not easy to persist in the struggle, to hold on, to stay tough and fight it out year after year without victory; and even, in times such as the present, without tangible progress…”

I do not understand this at all. These paragraphs describe a different planet than the one I know. This is a wonderful time in which to be a socialist. Socialism provides hope and direction in a society where there is so much despair. This is a time in which socialists are winning an increasing hearing, including among workers.

But perhaps what your quotation is describing here the situation within the SWP itself. The party has been doggedly following a fixed course for thirty years without gaining ground – indeed, while suffering significant losses. If this is the case, then SWP members should consider alternative tactical approaches.

Finally, you may wonder how I can write of the SWP in a positive spirit when I have just published an article that speaks of its decline in harsh terms. Well, I have kept my silence for eight years. My reason for speaking up is the publication of Barry Sheppard’s second volume on the history of the SWP. I recommend his books to you – volume 1 provides the only available account of the SWP in its prime, and it is available on line.

But Barry makes a major error, in my view. He blames the SWP’s decline, in part, on its political alignment with the Communist leadership in Cuba. I have tried to prove that this is a misimpression. I argue that SWP support for Cuban communism was (and is) the party’s strong point. I know you agree.

Thank you again for your contribution.

John, July 7, 2012

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Ernesto: Support a concrete united-front class approach through the SWP 2012 campaign

Hi John!

I’m thankful for your answer  on such short notice and the opportunity given to clarify some political points and thoughts in a manner that is respectful, while at the same time forceful.

First something of a more practical nature. You are aware that the Socialist Workers Party has   just recently announced their candidates for President and Vice- President in the coming U.S. presidential elections. In the latest issue of the Militant (July 16, 2012) in the article “Socialist Workers 2012, ‘Join us, join with us’” under the heading “A fighting road forward” the paper writes:

“The party is running a working class, labor, socialist campaign. The candidates and their supporters are helping build solidarity with workers’ struggles and engaging in discussions on a fighting road forward to combat the consequences for workers and farmers of the world capitalist crisis, which has only just begun.”

“The Socialist Workers Party is joining the resistance with a program of struggle to defend the most immediate needs of the working class. This includes a demand for a massive, government funded public works program to put millions to work at union scale wages, building high-quality housing and safe and convenient public transportation affordable for workers, as well as schools, child care centers, recreational facilities and other infrastructure to improve the living conditions of working people.”

“The campaign points to the need to organize unions and use union power, transforming them through struggle into organizations that champion all the broader social and political struggles in the interests of the working class and its allies here and the world over.”

Now, you write at the beginning of your response:

“..So our first task is to seek out common ground. And you have shown us in your letter where this common ground lies.”

I take your words seriously, John, one of the things that has stayed with me over the years, that I learned the hard way in some ways. One of the things the then comrades of the Communist League in Sweden helped me understand trough collective, disciplined action and discussion.

This is how Buddy Howard from Keokuk, Iowa, put it in a message adressed to the Militant (latest issue):

“I would like to wish James and Maura the best of luck as they campaign across the country.

“I hope you can get your message out to as many people as possible while competing against   a stacked deck as corporations have already purchased the election. You will take your common-sense message out on the road and just about everyone you talk to will understand     and agree with what you have to say. Then the billionaires will go to work and pound them with messages night and day and they will go out and do their patriotic duty by voting for the lesser f two evils.”

“You will be in a “third-party debate” somewhere and a worker will just by chance catch it on the radio and want to tell everyone about what they heard. It will go in one ear and out the other as their associates will not have heard the debate. Later he or she will wonder if a politician could have really made so much sense or did they just dream it because no one else seems to have heard it.”

“But then maybe this person will run into someone who has recently been locked out of their job or been on strike, or been marching in a rally for immigrant rights or gay rights or for a woman’s right to choose. Maybe they will have seen the Militant and read about other struggles. Maybe they will realize they are no longer alone and will join the fight. [My emphasis, /Ernesto] to take back our cities and our country from these greedy corporate bastards. This is what we have to work for and be patient for.”

“Thank you for taking on the task of making sure there is a voice for the millions of workers who aren’t being heard.”

“In Solidarity, Buddy Howard”

I read these lines recently, sitting in a noisy Metro wagon late at night. My whole body ached after working a particular long and heavy shift at the restaurant where I currently work, but when I read these lines I suddenly got a smile and I forgot for a moment about the pain. How many “Buddy Howards” are starting to come forward right now (and not only in the U.S. of course, even though I find that development quite promising..)?

The 2002 SWP political resolution “Capitalism’s Long Hot Winter Has Begun” put it this way:

“In the months and years ahead, communist workers and youth will come to appreciate more and more the benefits of the fact that an upturn in resistance among our class and its allies—both here and in many other parts of the world—began before the harshest initial shocks of the period of depression and wars we’ve now entered.”

“We’ll understand more concretely the importance of the political space workers carve out in struggle, and the stakes involved in using that space if it’s not to be lost. We’ll see more examples of how experience gained from any single battle—even battles that end in a stalemate with the class enemy, or a temporary setback—doesn’t just dissipate; how individual workers absorb lessons and a little later turn up again, either on that same battlefront or another one. How they don’t forget militants, organizations, or newspapers they learn through experience can be trusted for their proletarian integrity and for being in the front ranks of a just battle.”

A specific word from Buddy kept coming back to my mind though, together with that “understanding” that strengthens the spine, when you start feeling, wherever you are, that youre not alone: “dream”. That word didn’t leave me alone. And so I found this:

“And if indeed we succeeded in reaching the point when all, or at least a considerable majority, of the local committees local groups, and study circles took up active work for the common cause, we could, in the not distant future, establish a weekly newspaper for regular distribution in tens of thousands of copies throughout Russia.

“This newspaper would become part of an enormous pair of smith’s bellows that would fan every spark of the class struggle and of popular indignation into a general conflagration. Around what is in itself still a very innocuous and very small, but regular and common, effort, in the full sense of the word, a regular army of tried fighters would systematically gather and receive their training.”

“On the ladders and scaffolding of this general organisational structure there would soon develop and come to the fore Social-Democratic Zhelyabovs from among our revolutionaries and Russian Bebels from among our workers, who would take their place at the head of the mobilised army and rouse the whole people to settle accounts with the shame and the curse of Russia.

That is what we should dream of!” (V.I. Lenin – What Is To Be Done?)

You write some paragraphs later:

“I believe that the united front approach is in the bones of SWP members. I notice this when I meet young people who have recently left the SWP.”

But I must ask you John, how could this be possible – and even recently – in an organization that “withdrew from the stage of working-class politics and dwindled to a small, self-absorbed remnant with a harsh, undemocratic political culture” quite some time ago.

How could anyone in the real world of class struggle politics – where words and how you undertake all kinds of actions have political/personal consequences for yourself and others in real time and beyond – have this aproach – this political aproach- in their bones in such an organization? Are we talking about individuals who already had these attributes before they joined?

But if so, why did they join specifically the SWP or the communist leagues? Organizations described as “self-absorbed”. This still doesnt explain why these people left, but the first process is not the same as the second one.

I asked you in my first comment if you had read my response to some of your initial points in the “About” section of Gus’s blog. There I wrote:

“..First something of a personal nature. I remember reading the introduction to the first issue of New International magazine of Marxist theory and politics when I was barely 15 years old. The authors were John Riddell, Steve Penner and Steve Clarke, if I’m not mistaken..”

“The summer of 1996 I spent in Habana, Cuba. It was a time that came to be known as the “Special Period”. I didnt know anything back then about an organisation in France called the OCI or Pierre Lambert for that matter.”

I did learn, John, from reading you among others (and I can add John that I loved back then reading your introductions to the Communist International series), that when you represent the opinions and practice of political people, friends or opponents, you have to do it in a concientous and measured way, not in a doctored manner.”

At the end I continued:

“John, reading you and others as a 15 year old boy made me want to come back to Sweden, to help build this movement. That’s the John Riddell among others I remember.”

“And no matter what detours my personal life took, my confidence has grown in the Militant and the SWP. Not because anyone is perfect, but because they are true. True to themselves in the only way one can remain true, trough change, deeper into that class who has nothing to loose..”

And now I go back to the 2002 SWP resolution, under the heading “A deeply political cadre” it says:

“For the back cover of Their Trotsky and Ours, we prepared a brief description of what that book is about. “History shows that small revolutionary organizations will face not only the stern test of wars and repression,” it begins, “but also the potentially shattering opportunities that emerge unexpectedly when strikes and social struggles explode.”

That’s where not only chance but the preparedness that can help turn the unexpected into good luck become decisive. The text continues:

“As that happens, communist parties not only recruit many new members.” And they do recruit under those conditions, more rapidly and in larger numbers than almost anybody in this room can imagine from our own experience in the revolutionary workers movement. In addition to direct individual recruitment, we say, communist parties under those conditions also converge politically with other fighting (my emphasis) forces. They “politically fuse with other workers organizations moving in the same direction and grow into mass proletarian parties contesting to lead workers and farmers to power.””

“This assumes, first of all, “that well beforehand” the cadres of such parties “have absorbed and grown comfortable with a world communist program.” That an international communist perspective has become a political habit; has been internalized; has become a matter of seeming reflex.”

“Second, it assumes that the revolutionary political orientation of such parties is built on the daily activity of cadres who “are proletarian in life and work.” Both are equally important—in life, and in work. That’s what our turn to industry and the industrial trade unions a quarter century ago, and our ongoing efforts to strengthen that course ever since, is about. That’s what makes revolutionary centralism possible. It is not an organizational caricature of proletarian habits. It’s about being where we need to be, among a vanguard of our class, and being there in a structured, disciplined manner.”

Among a vanguard of our class, among a vanguard in becoming. You write reviewing Barry’s book about what’s primarily become of the SWP through the years until the present, if I understand your words “demise” and “downfall” correctly.

I think more about what the SWP is becoming, about what the Party is becoming, what hundreds and yes, thousands right now, of young and old fighters/workers are becoming, through struggle, meeting each other, reading about each other.

For me they are the party, they are the SWP (or what people may come to call that international living tradition in the future), even if the big majority doesnt know it yet. Even if  some class-struggle fighters would initially answer as Malcolm did in an YS interview from 1965 with Jack Barnes and Barry Sheppard:

“But I still would be hard pressed to give a specific definition of the overall philosophy which I think is necessary for the liberation of the Black people in this country. ”

Why, because its not an ideological problem primarily in the sense that further collaboration that is commited, disciplined, combative, honest, reveals revolutionary truth about onself in relation to others, trough class action.

In the sense that the class struggle and the further self-confidence of the proletariat through all its ups and downs, in all its manifestations,  is revealed in the strikes, lock-outs, in the campuses, in the workers districts, through the mountains, praires and farms, in the struggles of inmates in solitary, trough the fight againts police brutality/murder and so on, in the struggle against one’s “own” imperialism.

Another way the proletariat truly becomes an international class for itself. If you wanna be a part of it, if you strive to be a part of it, in a disciplined, concious and politically collective and individually subordinate way.

You write:

“What you are describing here is experience in a united front. In such a joint endeavour, a broad range of forces join in pursuit of a common goal, and each component retains its full freedom to express its own point of view. Such united front activity is the common ground within which working-class activists of many viewpoints and socialist currents can work together respectfully and constructively, while learning from each other. It is also the best arena for revolutionary Marxists demonstrate in life their leadership capabilities and the validity of their ideas.”

Well John, the affirmation of that general truth doesn’t say through what class arena that truth becomes concrete, how the united front becomes an expression, not only of what the workers movement and its political and social structures are right now, but more importantly of what its fighting to become.

The recognition of that truth in general doesnt commit no-one to a definite class practice, to a definite class arena, to a definite class tradition or perspective and the definite ways its embodied trough history, the result of struggles, faction fights, splits and unifications.

The SWP resolution from 2002 continues:

“Third, the nuclei of communist parties need to be made up of those who “derive deep satisfaction from doing politics.” That might seem to be a stretch. But it’s not. Yes, revolutionists can and will have a bad month, a bad three-month period, even a bad year. That’s part of the human condition under capitalism…”

“…But if over the medium and long haul, a party cadre does not derive deep satisfaction from engaging in communist political work, then they can’t live up to the founding rules of the Communist League drafted by Marx and Engels in 1847. One of the “conditions of membership” stated in those rules was “revolutionary energy and zeal in propaganda.”[41] Those were the words Marx and Engels chose for a document placed for vote before delegates to the same congress that assigned them to draft the Communist Manifesto. To be a member meant to conduct propaganda work with “revolutionary energy and zeal.”

And fourth, we say that well before a rise in revolutionary struggles, a communist party needs to have forged a “leadership with an acute sense of what to do next.” What to do now. Today. Not the day after tomorrow. And always concrete.”

Forgive me for the length of this answer John. I want to finish quoting from the last paragraphs of your answer.

“I do not understand this at all. These paragraphs describe a different planet than the one I know. This is a wonderful time in which to be a socialist. Socialism provides hope and direction in a society where there is so much despair. This is a time in which socialists are winning an increasing hearing, including among workers.

But perhaps what your quotation is describing here the situation within the SWP itself. The party has been doggedly following a fixed course for thirty years without gaining ground – indeed, while suffering significant losses. If this is the case, then SWP members should consider alternative tactical approaches.”

Maybe you’re right about my quotation of Cannon from 1953. It’s from a different historical/political time. Maybe it feels poorly chosen or like coming from another planet. I felt more that Cannon speaks to my gut reaction, but not in a sense of despair. And I cannot describe the situation within the SWP since I’m not a member and if I were I wouldn’t, other that through the Party.

The party in becoming who has the right to aspire to a great future as Cannon once said when talking about the SWP.

As I said, I learned from people like you, some years ago in another planet, to take the words and the proletarian class action, history, tradition, perspective and interests they generalize in a truthful way, seriously.

Why do you not like the working-class vanguard in becoming, like a lot of Buddy Howards, and support a concrete united-front class approach through the SWP 2012 campaign? Beause they are the men/women of destiny.

/Ernesto, July 8, 2012

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John Riddell: A revolutionary movement must strive to draw together in action workers of different social layers, with different economic status, and with different political opinions.

I agree, Ernesto, that the SWP’s 2012 presidential campaign is a positive initiative, and I wish it well. Let’s note, however, that your portrayal of the SWP’s approach to workers’ unity is identical to what I said in the comments you are criticizing. In a word, the SWP’s “united-front class approach,” as you put it, consists merely of calling on workers to support the initiatives of the SWP. You do not cite any willingness by the SWP to join in unity with other forces and currents in the workers’ movement in common endeavour for shared goals.

You write movingly of your confidence in the SWP as the “working-class vanguard in becoming” and its members as “the men/women of destiny.” But let’s remember that a great many other small Marxist groups make the same claims regarding their own historic importance. How are radicalizing workers to choose among all these small groups? The choice is made, primarily, in the field of action. Unfortunately, in most of the major fields of working-class action, the SWP is not a participant, or is present only in the form of literature tables at movement’s distant edge.

The common excuse offered by the SWP for this abstention is that the left-wing, socialist, and working-class activism we see around us is merely “middle-class radicalism” that does not combat but rather aids capitalism. Certainly we hear right-wing notions from some left-wing activists: apologizing for nuclear power, for example, or for the Zionist state of Israel. But the SWP defines “middle-class radicalism” to include important themes of revolutionary activity, like support of Cuba’s alliance with radical anti-imperialist governments of Latin America; opposition to governments and corporations fueling global warming; opposition to Zionist oppression of the Palestinians. In my previous comments, I noted that the SWP has repeatedly abstained from or opposed major class mobilizations on the excuse of “middle-class” contamination.

“Middle-class” is not a sociological term here but simply a term of abuse for activists and worker militants outside the SWP. And in any case, Marxists have never rejected collaboration with non-proletarian forces. A revolutionary movement must strive to draw together in action workers of different social layers, with different economic status, and with different political opinions.

Advocating and taking part in united action for workers’ needs enables revolutionaries to show workers in life how right-wing misleaders betray the movement and how to achieve a unity that aids the struggle. This is part of the ABCs of Marxism. It is deeply embedded in the SWP’s history. A good way to learn about this mostly hidden record is to read Barry Sheppard’s two volumes on the SWP’s history in the 1960s and 1970s.

Let us hope that the SWP may yet rediscover that heritage and act on it.

21 Comments
  1. Richard permalink

    Dear Comrade John: The Militant, as far as I can ascertain, is the only socialist newsweekly left standing that is currently being sold and distributed face to face, eyeball to eyeball, to actual human beings in the United States, with the political approach and program of one of the relatively few socialist organizations that has survived the four decade-old retreat, with a sizable cadre, if you include the organized supporters and monthly contributors — you estimate these supporters at 150, but the actual number is closer to 500 — which makes the party one of the larger socialist currents in existence today, although, as everyone knows, much reduced in size since the late 1970’s. I’m not sure if you read The Militant on a weekly basis, but if you’re not, you should, and if you are, I’m afraid you’re not reading it very carefully, no disrespect intended. The SWP is involved in lots of struggles today, not only in bringing solidarity (and yes, material aid) to the strikes and lock-outs currently underway throughout North America, engaging, with others, in the hard work and crucial task, as Karl Marx put it, (of the) “forging together of the union of workers” (paraphrased), but in events and actions around Cuban solidarity, the movement to free the Cuban Five, immigrant rights, police misconduct, clinic defense and actions against racist violence against the Black nationality, like Troy Davis and Travon Martin, which are united fronts of sorts, although not on the magnitude of NPAC or the SMC. Here we find participants that are both working-class, as traditionally defined, and middle-class as well, and both are approached in a comradely way by the SWP. Amongst these sisters and brothers stand “the party” in gestation, which is not the party that exists today, small and inadequate as it is, and as likely as anyone else to make mistakes. The coming party will be forged by this “union of workers” as it advances along it’s strategic line of march, mandated by it’s own self-defense (the speed of which will surprise us all), and not so much in the union of various affiliated and non-affiliated leftists, so many of whom have one foot in, and one foot out, of the Democratic Party. Thank-you again for the opportunity to share my thoughts.

  2. Ken Hiebert permalink

    Perhaps a measure of the size of the SWP would be the number of subscriptions sold in their recent
    international sub drive, http://www.themilitant.com/2012/7626/762603.html
    This reminds me in some way of the Communist Party in Canada. There were many seniors willing to give money, but not able to join in the activity.

  3. prianikoff permalink

    Ernesto; Try learning what a united front actually is.
    Proposing the electoral campaign of your own party as the basis for one is sheer arrogance.
    The fact that you’d just spent a hard day at work is no excuse for this.

    You might also want to consider the question of why the SWP’s vote has fallen almost continuously under its present leadership.

    1972 Linda Jenness: 83,380 (inc. Pima and Yavapai counties Ariz.)
    1976 Peter Camejo: 90,986
    1980 Andrew Pulley: 40,105 .
    1984 Melvin T. Mason: 24,672
    1988 James “Mac” Warren: 15,604.
    1992 James “Mac” Warren: 23,096 .
    1996 James Harris: 8,463 .
    2000 James Harris: 7,378 .
    2004 Róger Calero: 3,677
    James Harris: 7,411
    2008
    Róger Calero: 5,151
    James Harris: 2,424

  4. Richard permalink

    Yes, Brother Ken, the SWP is quite small, on that you will get no argument from me. But that does not negate any of the observations I made above. And it’s also true that a sizable percentage of those I count as supporters and sympathizers show their support mainly in the form of financial contributions. But that is important as well. It allows the party to maintain a weekly paper, public office space, Pathfinder Press (which includes international outreach with new titles such as the newly released edition of the Communist Manifesto printed in Arabic) and to do the things that are necessary and possible, like run a presidential campaign. That is to say, to keep the party structures in place until more favorable conditions appear for recruitment, which I think we all agree has begun. To me the real debate, enunciated in a capable manner by Louis Proyect and his co-thinkers is over the question of whether or not the democratic-centralist “model”, for lack of a better word, is applicable for today, and not so much the micro-analysis of this or that party policy and position over the past fifty years, expounded upon with great relish and ample copy, that tends to produce as many time lines for the party’s “demise” as there are authors. I think we will find that when the rightist gangs begin to hit the streets in an organized manner, we will all be happy the working people have available the Leninist method of party building at their disposal, which I believe would have been lost had the party not made the turn to industry and maintained an industrial orientation these past years.

  5. Ken Hiebert permalink

    Further on the united front

    For a united socialist electoral alternative to the ultra-right

    http://www.socialism.com/drupal-6.8/?q=node/1975

  6. Richard, you say “the real debate, enunciated in a capable manner by Louis Proyect and his co-thinkers is over the question of whether or not the democratic-centralist “model”, for lack of a better word, is applicable for today.” I would say that the essence of democratic centralism – inclusivity in decision making and loyalty and discipline in carrying out decisions – is instinctive and universal in voluntary workers’ organizations.

    There is, of course, the question how to shape this principle to political functioning. Here, discipline should be directed outwards – toward parrying the blows of the class enemy. Unfortunately, in small Marxist groups, discipline is directed mainly toward keeping the members in line and putting limits on discussion. I doubt that the SWP is much different in that respect from the small-group norm.

    Yet democratic centralism in the SWP is certainly radically different from before 1981-83. Why was the sweeping ban on internal tendencies imposed in 1983? Why were these changes made? What justifies the much more rigorous regime?

    And why is the SWP’s internal regime so much more severe than that of the pre-revolutionary Bolsheviks? Perhaps because the Bolsheviks under the tsar did not suffer such intense repression? Was it that the class struggle in Russia was not as intense as what we face in the USA today?

    – – – – –

    What you say about the size of the SWP’s forces, Richard, does not differ qualitatively from what I wrote in “The U.S. SWP attempts an outward turn.” The SWP claims attendance of about 350 at major national rallies – that gives a sense of mobilizable forces. Small, but not without potential.

    Given these forces, why does the SWP have such an insignificant presence in working-class struggles? It has not been the norm for SWP members and supporters to undertake major responsibilities in united-front committees. You suggest that this may have happened in the Troy Davis and Trayvon Martin campaigns. If so, let us hear more of it; I hope such efforts become frequent and prominent.

  7. Ernesto Oleinik permalink

    “Revolutionary activity based upon theoretical skepticism is the most awkward of inner contradictions. “Devotion to the revolutionary fight of the masses” is impossible without theoretical understanding of the laws of this revolutionary fight. Revolutionary devotion is possible only if one gains the assurance that his devotion is reasonable, adequate; that it corresponds to its aim. Such assurance can be created only by theoretical insight into the class struggle. “ Skepticism towards all theories” is nothing but preparation for personal desertion.”(1)

    Hi John and all other contributors to this political discussion.

    As I have said before in an earlier post:

    “I’m glad that we have been able to engage in this exchange with a sense of proportion and mutual respect. I do feel those qualities are of immense importance in any kind of political exchange, specially among those who strive to be engaged “by any means necessary” in the organized and collective struggle to end all forms of explotaition and oppresion.”(2)

    I think John it can be said without ambiguities now, after studying carefully all the different contributions, including your last one, how the discussion has EVOLVED, revealing som fundamental differences on how we conceive the revolutionary perspective and tradition, class program and methods necessary for helping to achieve “the socialist victory in this country”(3) – and may I add globally – through all the ups and downs of the class struggle, trough all its different arenas.

    After reading all the arguments, reactions and emotions, both on your blog and Gus Horowitz, AND Louis Proyect’s recently published “Trotskyist postmortems on a dead party”(4), I think it’s more possible for me to say what I consider the discussion is NOT about.

    It’s not primarily OR fundamentally about different tactical aproaches, including different political aproaches to the TACTIC of the united front of the proletariat.

    Those considerations – however important in the here and now and for the future being prepared TODAY – are and will be subordinate to the development of the class struggle in all its unpredictable, international, uneven and combined forms, stages and FUNDAMENTALLY: the deepening revolutionary consciousness of the proletariat and its growing recognition of its own self-worth.

    The political issues at stake in this discussion among others, can not be truthfully distorted to a “merely… calling on workers to support the initiatives of the SWP” and its NOT about sociological definitions per se NOR using political terms “of abuse for activists and worker militants outside the SWP”.(5)

    Its about the historical record of the communist movement to this day – including necessarily the changing and ENRICHING experiences and lessons of the last 34 years since the turn/s to the industrial proletariat was decided and acted upon. To this day.

    It’s about a communist world program and historical perspective and the strategic orientation for revolutionaries worldwide

    Its about the Leninist strategy of building a world party of political EQUALS who subordinate all considerations to helping to build – and strive to become an ever more disciplined part of – an international movement of PROLETARIAN revolutionaries.

    Or as James P. Cannon put it 73 years ago, during a political struggle of a fundamental importance for the SOUL of the revolutionary movement, on the eve of what came to be by 1941 a truly GLOBAL imperialist slaughter, the “Second World War”:

    “The fundamental conflict between the proletarian and the petty-bourgeois tendencies expresses itself at every turn in questions of the party organisation. But involved in this secondary conflict are not little incidents, grievances, personal friction and similar small change which are a common feature in the life of every organisation. The dispute goes deeper. We are at war with Burnham and the Burnhamites over the fundamental question of the CHARACTER OF THE PARTY (emphasis by James P Cannon)…

    “…Burnham is concerned first of all with “democratic guarantees” against degeneration of the party after the revolution. We are concerned first of all with building a party that will be capable of leading the revolution. Burnham’s conception of party democracy is that of a perpetual talking shop in which discussions go on forever and nothing is ever firmly decided… Consider his “new” invention—a party with two different public organs defending two different and antagonistic programs! Like all the rest of Burnham’s independent ideas, that is simply a plagiarism from alien sources. It is not difficult to recognise in this brilliant scheme of party organisation a rehabilitation of Norman Thomas’ ill-fated “all-inclusive party”.

    He then continues, putting into perspective the question of the proletarian party and its relation to the individual human beings – to the concrete beings of flesh and blood – who comprise it, to the proletarian revolutionaries – including those from non-proletarian class backgrounds who trough collective struggle and study cut themselves loose from alien class influences – who freely and voluntarily submit to its revolutionary centralist, communist discipline:

    “Our conception of the party is radically different. For us the party must be a combat organisation which leads a determined struggle for power. The Bolshevik party which leads the struggle for power needs not only internal democracy. It also requires an imperious centralism and an iron discipline in action. It requires a PROLETARIAN COMPOSITION CONFORMING TO ITS PROLETARIAN PROGRAM (my emphasis, Ernesto). The Bolshevik party cannot be led by dilettantes whose real interests and real lives are in another and alien world. It requires an active professional leadership, composed of individuals democratically selected and democratically controlled, who devote their entire lives to the party, and who find in the party and in its multiform activities in a proletarian environment, complete personal satisfaction.

    For the proletarian revolutionist the party is the CONCENTRATED EXPRESSION OF HIS LIFE PURPOSE (my emphasis, Ernesto), and he is bound to it for life and death. He preaches and practices party patriotism, because he knows that his socialist ideal cannot be realised without the party. In his eyes the crime of crimes is disloyalty or irresponsibility toward the party. The proletarian revolutionist is proud of his party. He defends it before the world on all occasions. The proletarian revolutionist is a disciplined man, since the party cannot exist as a combat organisation without discipline. When he finds himself in the minority, he loyally submits to the decision of the party and carries out its decisions, while he awaits new events to verify the disputes or new opportunities to discuss them again.”(6)

    However we twist and turn it: All these organizational forms and tools, revolutionary concepts, moral qualities and proletarian habits of politically objective and unselfish behaviour, all these practical, human, revolutionary social relations and course of action embodied in words like “combat organisation”, “Bolshevik party”, “professional leadership”, “party patriotism”, “discipline”, would not make a truly lasting and constructive contribution to the self-emancipation of the world working-class, trough all its historical detours, without being a political expression of the world communist program: the truthful, non-alienated, humanly un-interrupted, multi-national and multi-generational, scientific generalization of the struggles, victories and defeats, of the proletarian men and women (and those who FUSE their destiny to them) who truly are the DRIVING force of historical progress.

    Or, as Jack Barnes quotes Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky in describing the political essence of what constitutes a communist program, in the introduction from 2002 to “Their Trotsky and Ours”:

    “”In our epoch, which is the epoch of imperialism, i.e. of world economy and world politics,” Trotsky had written in his 1928 criticism of Stalin’s increasingly nationalist and class-collaborationist course, “not a single communist party can establish its program by proceeding solely or mainly from conditions and tendencies of developments in its own country…. An international communist program is in no case the sum total of national programs or an amalgam of their common features. The international program must proceed directly from an analysis of the conditions and tendencies of world economy and of the world political system taken as a whole in all its connections and contradictions, that is, with the mutually antagonistic interdependence of its separate parts. In the present epoch, to a much larger extent than in the past, the national orientation of the proletariat must and can flow only from a world orientation and not vice versa.”(7)

    John, you write at the beginning of your answer (“A revolutionary movement must strive to draw together in action workers of different social layers, with different economic status, and with different political opinions”):

    “I agree, Ernesto, that the SWP’s 2012 presidential campaign is a positive initiative, and I wish it well. Let’s note, however, that your portrayal of the SWP’s approach to workers’ unity is identical to what I said in the comments you are criticizing.”(8)

    John, it wasn’t a retorical trick or a question of moving confidence in the abstract, beyond space and class time, it was a practical-revolutionary question, not a philosophical one, when I asked you at the end of my earlier post:

    “Why do you not like the working-class vanguard in becoming, like a lot of Buddy Howards, and support a concrete united-front class approach through the SWP 2012 campaign? Beause they are the men/women of destiny.”

    ..After quoting the Militant article announcing the candidates of the SWP for the 2012 presidential election who says among other things:

    “The party is running a working class, labor, socialist campaign. The candidates and their supporters are helping build solidarity with workers’ struggles and ENGAGING IN DISCUSSIONS (my emphasis, Ernesto) on a fighting road forward..”

    “..The Socialist Workers Party is joining the resistance with a program of struggle to defend the most IMMEDIATE NEEDS (my emphasis, Ernesto) of the working class. This includes a demand for a massive, government funded public works program..”

    ““The campaign points to the need to ORGANIZE unions and USE union power, transforming them TROUGH struggle into organizations that CHAMPION ALL THE BROADER SOCIAL AND POLITICAL STRUGGLES in the interests of the working class AND its allies HERE AND THE WORLD OVER (all my emphasis, Ernesto).”

    Or when I quoted from Buddy Howards letter:

    ““Thank you for taking on the task of making sure there is a VOICE (my emphasis, Ernesto) for the millions of workers who aren’t being heard.””

    Aside from the fact that you write about the SWP 2012 as a “positive initiative” and you “wish it well”, you seem to miss the political point when you describe the SWP united-front CLASS aproach – and a communist election campaign in the belly of the beast, from an international perspective, reaching out to workers and young people in struggle is a revolutionary manifestation of it in real time – as:

    “..merely… calling on workers to support the initiatives of the SWP. You do not cite any WILLINGNESS by the SWP to JOIN IN UNITY WITH OTHER FORCES and currents in the workers’ movement in COMMON ENDEAVOUR (all my emphasis, Ernesto)for shared goals.”

    You write in the next paragraph that fighting workers make their political choices “in the field of action”. I agree, but you dont seem able to capture the SPIRIT nor meaning of choices being made right now by working-class militants, nor of the revolutionary program expressed in the proletarian course of action of the SWP in all aspects of its current multi-faceted practice, with expressions such as “abstention”, towards some undefined “left-wing, socialist, and working-class activism we see around us” and towards “important themes of revolutionary activity, like support of Cuba’s alliance with radical anti-imperialist governments of Latin America”.

    I could add that I dont think its up to the SWP nor the communist movement internationally to “support” nor “oppose” (my words, Ernesto) the Cuban WORKERS state’s alliances with what you describe as “radical anti-imperialist governments”, or their efforts to use all means available to break the economic or political isolation of the revolution, even if it means exploting the contradictions among the imperialist powers and bourgeois power blocs in Latin America or elsewhere. Its not a question of “abstention” at all, even though I would say that the rejection TODAY of an internationalist communist perspective, IS an abstention from the REAL beginnings of independent working-class politics, it is turning its back on it, by way of substitution, all in the name of non-sectarianism.

    I personally dont think the communist leadership of the Cuban revolution and the Cuban workers state expect communists fighting to spread the revolution around the world to “support” politically ALL the measures they have to undertake in self-defence.

    You seem oblivious to the fact of political life in Cuba today (and not only in Cuba for that matter) such as the debates and polarizations around all the questions – economical, social, political – confronting the revolution TODAY. You neither give any concrete explanation of the class content nor class direction of the actions, more that the words, of what you call “radical anti-imperialist” governments.

    You substitute the word for the deed, and theres no concrete feel the real challenges, and real political space won trough struggle by the opressed and exploited, through all these years, neither in Venezuela, Bolivia, nor anywhere else, expressed politically among other things in such governments, but not identical with them.

    The Militant has NEVER through these years to this day, stopped defending and spreading the uncompromising truth about all these developments in a practical way, the governments of opressed nations against imperialist agression, from Bolivia to Iran, without exception, while at the same time recognizing the class developments, class divisions, advances and retreats, political opportunities in these nations, that have proceeded apace and in some cases accelerated, among other things trough wars and crises, as the war in Iraq for example, or as the polarizing consequences of the Israeli war on Lebanon in 2006 and Gaza in 2009 demonstrated.

    Its not nearly enough to speak in a general way, its positively damaging to ones revolutionary fibre, to not give an OBJECTIVE and measured explanation of the actual positions and actions of the SWP and broader communist movement internationally, as stated publicly trough the years, trough the pages of the Militant and political resolutions, documents and so on.

    (To give one concrete example of fundamental political value not only in Cuba, but in the US and internationally aswell, the Militant has done a continuous reporting during the years on the discussions and lessons of the struggle against the legacies of racism, on the contributions of Chinese-cubans to Cubas ongoing revolutionary history and so on.)

    The communist leadership of the Cuban revolution and the Cuban workers state dont allways act from the same starting points, necessities and politcal requirements. And they shouldnt. As Raul Castro and other revolutionaries in Cuba have said a lot of times, the political leadership of the revolution can not and should not allways and under all circumastences be IDENTICAL with the leadership of the workers STATE.

    In the same way, that a revolutionary proletarian party is NOT and can not be a DIRECT reflection of the working class as it is right now in all its economic, social stratifications and national divisions, but should strive to be a PART in a disciplined way of the class-struggle VANGUARD of the world working-class in becoming.

    Thats is the way to the masses. No “united-fronts” gutted of class-struggle content. No short-cuts, no clever tactics, no adaptions to “national” “characteristics” instead of an unflinching orientation to an international class in each national state, no camouflaging in words or action so workers “can understand you better” as someone once told me when questioning why the Communist League in Sweden sold an “American” newspaper to “Swedish” workers, no centrist substitutions for communist principles, verified trough the common revolutionary practice of an international movement who strives to be and understands the necessity of becoming more politically homogenous trough experience.

    You write in the last paragraphs of “A revolutionary movement must strive to draw together in action workers of different social layers, with different economic status, and with different political opinions”:

    “And in any case, Marxists have never rejected collaboration with non-proletarian forces. A revolutionary movement must strive to draw together in action workers of different social layers, with different economic status, and with different political opinions.

    Advocating and taking part in united action for workers’ needs enables revolutionaries to show workers in life how right-wing misleaders betray the movement and how to achieve a unity that aids the struggle. This is part of the ABCs of Marxism. It is deeply embedded in the SWP’s history.”

    Yes John, that non-sectarian collaboration with all the different strata of the opressed and exploited, that kind of honest engagement with fighters coming forward, that “enables revolutionaries to show workers in life how right-wing misleaders betray the movement and how to achieve a unity that aids the struggle”, that kind of class aproach, that proletarian orientation is deeply embedded in the SWPs history. But one cannot se that nor sense it, watching at the back of history.

    Because that history’s, living and changing manifestations are described week after week through the pages of the Militant, trough tribunes of the people carrying it in an organized fashion to each and every just fight against opression going on, wherever it may be, a fighting paper who has become much more than a direct expression of the SWP (something it never was to begin with since 1928..), a paper who has become a much more politically conscious voice and organizer of a broader working-class vanguard’s evolution to communism.

    John and others: “…el amanezer ya no es una tentacion”. Dont settle for less. The working-class vanguard is starting to grow a nose for power, through all its experiences, from the intial battles today to the organized struggle for workers power, whenever it may come. And the program, the human tradition, the perspective, the strategic orientation IS the essential political component of that line of march.

    /Ernesto

    (1) Leon Trotsky, “On A Petty Bourgeois Philistine – Letter to Albert Goldman”, August 1940,
    http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1940/08/letter08.htm

    (2) https://johnriddell.wordpress.com/2012/07/10/letter-in-support-of-the-swps-current-course/

    (3) http://gushorowitz.wordpress.com/2012/06/24/on-the-formation-of-the-jack-barnes-cult-in-the-swp/

    (4) http://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2012/07/11/trotskyist-postmortems-on-a-dead-party/

    (5) John Riddell, “A revolutionary movement must strive to draw together in action workers of different social layers, with different economic status, and with different political opinions”
    https://johnriddell.wordpress.com/2012/07/12/what-is-a-united-front-exchange-on-the-u-s-swp/#more-1121

    (6) James P Cannon, “The Struggle for a Proletarian Party”, Pathfinder Press, 2000, p. 38-39

    (7) Jack Barnes, introduction to 2002 edition of “Their Trotsky and Ours”
    http://www.themilitant.com/2002/6628/662850.html

    (8) John Riddell, “A revolutionary movement must strive to draw together in action workers of different social layers, with different economic status, and with different political opinions”
    https://johnriddell.wordpress.com/2012/07/12/what-is-a-united-front-exchange-on-the-u-s-swp/#more-1121

  8. prianikoff permalink

    “No “united-fronts” gutted of class-struggle content”

    Since you’ve already defined “class struggle content” as agreement with the Presidential campaign of the SWP, this leads precisely nowhere.
    It’s therefore, not a proposal for a United Front, but an ultimatum.

    Maybe it’s a joke, but if this represents a genuine position, it breaks with the 4th Comintern Congress and everything Trotsky wrote on the subject.
    The methodology is more reminiscent of the Stalinists of the Greek Communist Party (KKE).
    i.e sectarian ultra-leftism camouflaged with pseudo-Marxist phraseology and moralistic workerism.
    It’s no surprise that the US “Militant” had nothing to say about the political crisis in Greece.
    Or did I miss what its Greek supporters wrote?

  9. Ernesto Oleinik permalink

    Hi John, Prianikoff and other contributors and readers!

    I take the added opportunity of Prianikoff’s last comment – and what it reveals to me about “methodology – to try to show in a more concrete way than I have done before, the differences in perspective and revolutionary orientation involved in this discussion, in my opinion.

    I will try to do it in a way that reflects the more combative practice, self-confidence and consciousness of working-class militants, and fighters against all kinds of injustices, in their OWN words.

    But first I would like to clarify one thing. Prianikoff writes:

    “Since you’ve already defined “class struggle content” as AGREEMENT with the Presidential campaign of the SWP, this leads precisely nowhere. It’s therefore, not a proposal for a United Front, but an ULTIMATUM (my emphasis, Ernesto).”

    Now Pranikoff, maybe it feels like a “joke” to you and a political course of action and “methodology” that “is more reminiscent of the Stalinists of the Greek Communist Party (KKE). i.e sectarian ultra-leftism camouflaged with pseudo-Marxist phraseology and moralistic workerism.”, or as John put it in an earlier contribution:

    “You do not cite any willingness by the SWP to join in unity with other forces and currents in the workers’ movement in common endeavour for shared goals.”

    Personally I dont think the remarks concerning my personal, political opinions and perspective’s “break” with “the 4th Comintern Congress and everything Trotsky wrote on the subject”, are very helpful or constructive in capturing the essence of the questions now in discussion.

    To do that, to capture the political significance and “meaning of choices being made right now by working-class militants… of the revolutionary program expressed in the proletarian course of action of the SWP in all aspects of its current multi-faceted practice” (1) – instead of erecting straw-men easily destroyed by ideological decree – you could take as your starting point the PUBLICLY defendend, SYSTEMATICALLY implemented course of action of the SWP and broader communist movement as transparently related trough its pages, week by week, month by month, year by year.

    That course of action, and its practical proletarian record, is (and has been for some years) easily accesible in the English, Spanish and now the French languages on http://www.themilitant.com.

    So, to give you a concrete, practical example of a course of action that I believe is imbued with a “class-struggle content” I quote some parts of the editorial from the latest issue of the Militant ( “Endorse, use campaign!”, July 23, 2012):

    “The SWP campaign is A PART OF BROADER EFFORTS by a developing vanguard in the working class to ORGANIZE effective resistance to the assaults of the bosses and their government. LIKE OTHER GROUPS (all my emphasis, Ernesto) of militant workers, the campaign seeks to link up with and build solidarity with workers’ struggles whenever and wherever they emerge.”

    Conecting the present, changing circumstances of the class-struggle with the future political circumstances that will change the world proletariat, the editorial continues:

    “The campaign is getting out the truth about these fights as it also tells the truth about the long ROAD OF STRUGGLE ahead and the character of the crisis for which the propertied rulers have no solution. What we confront is a SYSTEMIC crisis of capitalism, which has only just begun. This WILL POSE THE NEED for a revolutionary struggle to WREST POWER from the propertied rulers and replace it with the political rule OF the working class.

    The Socialist Workers campaign SEEKS TO GIVE A VOICE TO THOSE UNDER ATTACK (all my emphasis, Ernesto), from big cities to small towns; from the picket lines and the factory floors to those without work; from small farmers, families whose homes have been foreclosed and others saddled with unpayable debt burdens to those protesting police brutality, attacks on immigrant workers, or U.S. wars.”

    And we come to the heart of what is to be done next and HOW its to be done:

    “We urge other fighters to see this campaign as their own. USE IT as a tribune of the working class and its allies. USE IT TO HELP SPREAD Solidarity. Use it as an OPPORTUNITY to ENGAGE in a discussion on how WE can advance the interests of working people against those of the capitalist class and their political parties…”(2)

    Now, we may understand words very differently (as I think we do) – and what they reveal in the field of revolutionary working-class politics – but exactly HOW, in all its practical consequences, does THIS CONCRETE aproach find a truthful description in your definition of it as an “ultimatum” or a “methodology… more reminiscent of the Stalinists of the Greek Communist Party (KKE).”?

    By the way, you write:

    “It’s no surprise that the US “Militant” had nothing to say about the political crisis in Greece.
    Or did I miss what its Greek supporters wrote?”

    Well, honestly Prianikoff, I think you missed some important articles and reportages (distributed broadly to working-class militants and fighters in the US and internationally), during at least the last six months, and written not only by the Militant’s “Greek supporters”. We can name a few of these contributions to the political education of militant workers worldwide:

    a) “Athens deepens gov’t cuts and targets private industry workers”, Feb. 20, 2012 (3)

    b) “8,000 join May Day rally for steel strikers in Greece”, May 21, 2012.

    There we can find an interesting and iluminating quote from Giorgos Sifonios, president of the striking steelworkers at the Elliniki Halivourgia steel mill, in his own words:

    “There are struggles that offer much more than immediate gains… They PREPARE FOR THE NEXT BATTLES of the working class as a whole. They play a central role in its AWAKENING, in DISPERSING FEAR, and they become milestones. Such is the struggle waged by the steelworkers”(4)

    c) “Greek rulers fail to form gov’t, Europe crisis deepens”, May 28, 2012 (5)

    d) The editorial of that same issue, “Workers need conscious leadership”, May 28, 2012 (6)

    e) “Greek crisis lays bare illusions of EU project”, June 4, 2012 (7)

    Now, you can deeply disagree with the tone, content and political perspective expressed trough these articles, but personally I wouldnt define it as having “nothing to say about the political crisis in Greece”, or beyond Greece for that matter.

    IF anyone, WITH THE WILL to do it, follows and studies carefully, with an open mind, not ideologically preconceived, with eyes open to the world in becoming, one can find in the pages of the paper, week by week, articles of great detail concerning the concrete class developments and the proletarian awakening in countries such as China, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Egypt, Canada, Romania and the list could continue..

    But I give you two concrete examples:

    a) “Egypt workers organize unions, fight for wages, political rights”, Feb. 13, 2012, where we can read this lines of inspiration from what OUR class brothers and sisters are doing in that particular country, at this particual turning point of history and as a particular manifestation of a world struggle “…a historical movement going on under our very eyes…”:

    “…Two hundred new unions have been formed since the Jan. 25 Revolution, compared to 24 before,” Mohammad Ahmad Mustafa, a spokesperson for the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions, told the Militant. “I estimate there are now about 3 million union members and 23 million unorganized workers.”

    “The independent federation was founded during the fight to overthrow Mubarak. The old government-run Egyptian Trade Union Federation, still dominated by Mubarak-era officials, is in disarray. “They are trying to rebuild themselves,” Mustafa said. “Our hope is that NEW LEADERS will be elected who will JOIN THE FIGHT (my emphasis, Ernesto) for freedom and democracy for the working class.”

    “The independent unions are fighting for a new trade union law that would recognize their right to organize. The current law only recognizes the old federation. They are also demanding a higher minimum wage.”

    “The agricultural worker ALSO NEEDS TO BE ORGANIZED,” Mustafa said. “In the last few months we have formed agricultural labor unions.”

    “WOMEN HAVE ALSO TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF THE INCREASED SPACE. Thousands of women and hundreds of men marched through downtown Cairo Dec. 20 to protest an attack by soldiers on women participating in a demonstration in Tahrir Square three days before. Participants were incensed by the beating of a woman whose clothing was torn off by soldiers, captured on video.
    Marchers carried signs that said “WHAT ARE YOU WAINTING FOR? (my emphasis, Ernesto) For this to happen to your sister?” and “Women are half the population..”(8)

    And then we have another source of inspiration, showing us both the continuities, challenges as well as the new posibilities opening up in the class-struggle, in this case the article:

    b) “Strike reflects changing working class in Israel”, March 5, 2012.

    “The first nationwide strike to hit Israel in five years has drawn attention to the struggles of hundreds of thousands of contract workers, often Ethiopian and Russian immigrants and Arab citizens of Israel, who receive lower pay and fewer benefits than their directly hired coworkers.

    The four-day strike by the Histadrut, Israel’s largest and until recently its only union federation, was centered in government agencies and state-owned industries and services. While it won higher pay and benefits for the contract workers, it did not end their second-class status..”

    “..The fight over contract workers sheds light on the CHANGING COMPOSITION (my emphasis, Ernesto) of the working class in Israel over the last few decades.

    “The working class in Israel includes Jewish immigrants who emigrate to Israel—including Ethiopians, Russians and eastern Europeans—and have citizenship rights, as well as Israeli Palestinians who are citizens of Israel and make up about 20 percent of the country’s population..”

    “There are more than 116,000 foreign workers with temporary work permits in Israel, according to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, including about 28,000 from the Philippines who work primarily in home health care, 27,000 Thais who work mostly in agriculture, and 10,000 Chinese employed in construction. The bureau estimates there are more than 70,000 undocumented workers.”

    “Jewish, Palestinian, and immigrant workers all face exploitation,” said Wehbe Badarne, director of the Arab Workers Union in Israel. “But for immigrants on work permits it is even worse. There are reports that 70 percent of them never even get paid minimum wage…” (9)

    These are interesting, inspirating times to live, right? Enriching experiences are being made by proletarian militants and young fighters everywhere, reaching out to each other, challenging each other, transforming themselves through common struggle and collective organisation. Or as USW member Terri Thompson is quoted saying in the Militant article “‘Community behind us,’ tire workers say” (Jan 30, 2012):

    ““This is the first time in 16 years in the plant I have seen everybody stand up together like this… And we’re getting support from all over and MAKING CONNECTIONS. We’re getting workers locked out by American Crystal Sugar writing in to our union website. We’re all fighting against the same thing.”(10)

    Or as ILWU Local 21 member Shelly Porter puts it, in the article “EGT agrees to hire ILWU labor, but fight is not over”, expressing those proletarian fighters growing consiousness of their fighting place in history:

    “I didn’t really pay attention to the world BEFORE this fight and now I see other people are fighting everywhere… There is so MUCH MORE TO DO (my emphasis, Ernesto).”(11)

    This growing recognition of proletarian self-worth is expressed, among other fighters, by Graham Alexander, painter at Electro-Motive Diesel in Ontarion, who is quoted in the Militant article “‘Groundswell of support’ backs Caterpillar workers” (Feb 13, 2012) saying:

    “They don’t care about us and never have. I think there is a groundswell of support starting for this. We have a moral obligation to look after each other.”(12)

    In the same article, USW member Chris Colby, who’s come in solidarity is quoted expressing:

    “All workers, union and nonunion, should recognize this is their fight… We have to tell the lords and masters that enough is enough”(12)

    And I could quote a lot of more examples of the beginnings of a class waking up, reaching out, learning through dozens, hundreds, maybe thousands of united-front circumstances and fights, how to conduct themselves in a combative, more conscious, more disciplined way.

    Through hard-fought struggles, with their inevitable ups and downs, trough practical, transparent, organized collaboration, these human beings of flesh and blood learn how the “truth becomes concrete, how the united front becomes an expression, not only of what the workers movement and its political and social structures are right now, but more importantly of what its fighting to become” (13)

    Is it any wonder then, that working-class militants such as Tamara Johnson and Manuel Ramon from East Grand Forks, Minn, can express themselves (the Militant, Feb 20, 2012) with afection and honesty, about a paper they’ve come to trust, trough practical collaboration, as a VOICE, an inspirator and TRIBUNE of their own struggles and other just fights going on, with these words:

    ““I really like the Militant.. What I like best is the global coverage of labor issues. It’s probably the best source for that that I know of.” (Tamara)

    ““The Militant makes me aware of a lot of things that interest me, how other people are dealing with situations like what we are dealing with. I share it with a couple of union guys and also show it to my brother.” (Manuel Ramon)(14)

    This is how the editorial of the Militant, “Solidarity with longshore workers!” (Jan 30, 2012) puts its practical, united-front aproach to USE in relation to proletarian militant involved in struggles where much is at stake:

    “The Militant ENCOURAGES working people and youth to ACTIVELY (my emphasis, Ernesto) solidarize with the fight of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union against union busting by EGT Development in Longview, Wash., one of the central battlefields in the U.S. class struggle today.”

    “The protest is being organized to ADVANCE THE FIGHT UNDER THE CURRENT RELATIONSHIP OF CLASS FORCES. It will be among many important solidarity actions, past and future, in an ongoing battle that will continue for some time.”

    “Spread the word widely about the longshore workers’ battle. Discuss it with your coworkers and all who are repelled by the assaults of capital today. Organize solidarity, build the coming protest, raise financial contributions, gather messages of solidarity.”

    “Prepare now, on what is likely to be short notice, to JOIN the ILWU in Longview, to MARCH ALONGSIDE them and to HELP (my emphasis, Ernesto) make the coming protest as disciplined—and effective—as possible.”(15)

    This is how farm worker Kenneth Logan from Strathroy, Ontario, put it to describe his attitude to the Militant and why he SHARES it with others:

    “I share the Militant because of its FOCUS.. The people in these pages.. are FIGHTING FOR OUR LIVES. The news covers not just Canada, but the world. There’s a lot of information on the Internet, unsorted, and we don’t know how credible it really is. The Militant is TANGIBLE. You can SHARE IT (all my emphasis, Ernesto) with someone and have a conversation about what’s in your hands.” (16)

    Do you remember, John and others when I wrote:

    “I read these lines recently, sitting in a noisy Metro wagon late at night. My whole body ached after working a particular long and heavy shift at the restaurant where I currently work, but when I read these lines I suddenly got a smile and I forgot for a moment about the pain. How many “Buddy Howards” are starting to come forward right now (and not only in the U.S. of course, even though I find that development quite promising..)?”

    “…A specific word from Buddy kept coming back to my mind though, together with that “understanding” that strengthens the spine, when you start feeling, wherever you are, that youre not alone: “dream”. That word didn’t leave me alone”(17)

    Among others I got this response from Prianikoff:

    “Ernesto; Try learning what a united front actually is… Proposing the electoral campaign of your own party as the basis for one is sheer arrogance. The fact that you’d just spent a hard day at work is no excuse for this.”

    In my mind, I could not find a better answer, reflecting the actual, practical, comradely, collaborative, proletarian and non-sectarian way of learning of real men and women of destiny, than in the article “Working-class fighters speak on, help raise money for, the ‘Militant’” (May 28, 2012):

    “..On the speakers panel in Seattle May 12 were James Harris, Socialist Workers candidate for U.S. Senate in California; and Dan Coffman, president of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 21 in Longview, Wash.; and Ralph Rider, an executive board member of Local 21. Mary Martin, SWP candidate for governor of Washington, chaired the meeting.

    “Coffman talked about his union’s two-year struggle against EGT Development’s attempt to shut the ILWU out of its grain terminal at the Port of Longview. Union members are now working in the terminal from where their fight continues.”

    “Thanks to the Militant people for COMING to Longview every Saturday and NOT ONLY telling the truth in the paper but PARTICIPATING (all my emphasis, Ernesto) in the picket lines and canvassing neighborhoods in the community,” Coffman said. ”

    “…“The Militant is an awesome paper,” Jacobson said. “It doesn’t depress us like the Fargo Forum, which paints us as no good, lazy union workers.”

    “Ripplinger described the impact of the struggle on the locked-out workers as a SOCIAL AWAKENING. “Many of us are different people,” he said.”

    “I have subscribed to the Militant for many months now,” added Ripplinger. “It is a good paper that LIFTS OUR SPIRITS because it puts our fight in the forefront. It makes us feel LESS ALONE by connecting us to other struggles.” Ripplinger said he often brings the paper to the picket lines for others to read.” (18)

    Those words capture for me the “meaning of choices being made right now by working-class militants…” and the beginning of their line of march to “the revolutionary program expressed in the proletarian course of action of the SWP in all aspects of its current multi-faceted practice..”

    Those uncompromising militants and all those soldiers of the revolution to come, will understand through their own changing experiences and some historical imagination, the revolutionary social relations established trough international, disciplined, collective, truthful, communist collaboration and the essential necessity of them, to achive the world socialist revolution
    and they will come to make their own the meaning of the following words, from another time, another man, the same fundamental struggle:

    “One step forward, two steps back…. It happens in the lives of individuals, and it happens in the history of nations and in the development of parties. It would be the most criminal cowardice to doubt even for a moment the inevitable and complete triumph of the principles of revolutionary Social-Democracy, of proletarian organisation and Party discipline.”

    “..We have already won a great deal, and we must go on fighting, undismayed by reverses, fighting steadfastly, scorning the philistine methods of circle wrangling, doing our very utmost to preserve the hard-won single Party tie linking all Russian Social-Democrats, and striving by dint of persistent and systematic work to give all Party members, and the workers in particular, a full and conscious understanding of the duties of Party members, of the struggle at the Second Party Congress, of all the causes and all the stages of our divergence, and of the utter disastrousness of opportunism, which, in the sphere of organisation as in the sphere of our programme and our tactics, helplessly surrenders to the bourgeois psychology, uncritically adopts the point of view of bourgeois democracy, and blunts the weapon of the class struggle of the proletariat.”

    “In its struggle for power the proletariat has no other weapon but organisation. Disunited by the rule of anarchic competition in the bourgeois world, ground down by forced labour for capital, constantly thrust back to the “lower depths” of utter destitution, savagery, and degeneration, the proletariat can, and inevitably will, become an invincible force only through its ideological unification on the principles of Marxism being reinforced by the material unity of organisation, which welds millions of toilers into an army of the working class.”

    “… Neither the senile rule of the Russian autocracy nor the senescent rule of international capital will be able to withstand this army. It will more and more firmly close its ranks, in spite of all zigzags and backward steps, in spite of the opportunist phrase-mongering of the Girondists of present-day Social-Democracy, in spite of the self-satisfied exaltation of the retrograde circle spirit, and in spite of the tinsel and fuss of intellectualist anarchism.” (20)

    /Ernesto

    (1) https://johnriddell.wordpress.com/2012/07/12/what-is-a-united-front-exchange-on-the-u-s-swp/#more-1121

    (2) http://www.themilitant.com/2012/7627/762720.html

    (3) http://www.themilitant.com/2012/7607/760702.html

    (4) http://www.themilitant.com/2012/7620/762060.html

    (5) http://www.themilitant.com/2012/7621/762103.html

    (6) http://www.themilitant.com/2012/7621/762120.html

    (7) http://www.themilitant.com/2012/7622/762201.html

    (8) http://www.themilitant.com/2012/7606/760604.html

    (9) http://www.themilitant.com/2012/7609/760954.html

    (10) http://www.themilitant.com/2012/7604/760454.html

    (11) http://www.themilitant.com/2012/7606/760601.html

    (12) http://www.themilitant.com/2012/7606/760602.html

    (13) https://johnriddell.wordpress.com/2012/07/12/what-is-a-united-front-exchange-on-the-u-s-swp/

    (14) http://www.themilitant.com/2012/7607/760703.html

    (15) http://www.themilitant.com/2012/7604/760420.html

    (16) http://www.themilitant.com/2012/7616/761603.html

    (17) https://johnriddell.wordpress.com/2012/07/12/what-is-a-united-front-exchange-on-the-u-s-swp/

    (18) http://www.themilitant.com/2012/7621/762104.html

    (19) http://www.themilitant.com/2012/7621/762104.html

    (20) V I Lenin, “One step forward, two steps back”
    http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1904/onestep/r.htm

  10. Thanks to Ernesto for his two further comments on the U.S. SWP. I find them evasive.

    In the first, “Revolutionary activity based on theoretical scepticism…”, he argues at length that there is no reason to discuss Cuba’s internationalist policy. In the second, “Hi John, Prianikoff and other contributors and readers,” despite a wealth of quotations from the SWP newspaper, he fails to provide any evidence of significant participation by the SWP in united-front initiatives.

    In both cases, the issues are not addressed. The discussion seems stalled. How do we go forward?

    It would be useful for participants to comment on Barry Sheppard’s books and give their opinions specifically on where he does or does not go wrong. As previously noted, the first volume, which bears directly on the issues discussed in recent comments, is available online at http://www.barrysheppardbook.com/TheParty.pdf.

  11. prianikoff permalink

    re. Ernesto.
    Thanks for the detailed references to ‘Militant’ articles that you took the trouble to list above.
    The fact that the US ‘Militant’ writes about working class struggles (including in Greece) is not in dispute.

    The issue was the “United Front”.

    This has always been understood b y Marxists, as an agreement between working class political parties to achieve a specific common objective. For example, preventing the growth of fascism (Kornilov, Hitler , Franco Pinochet, Golden Dawn etc..), or defeating capitalist austerity measures using partial, immediate and transitional demands.

    Unfortunately none of the articles on Greece I’ve seen in ‘Militant’ analysed the positions of the political parties in Greece.
    Since the whole idea of a United Front is to draw mass reformist organisations into action, whether a United Front has a “class struggle content” depends on the activity of its most left-wing component.

    If you never call for one in the first place, you can’t possibly have any activity in it
    So this particular criticism becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    There are sectarians by the Spartload out there. For such people, United fronts are OK if they fall, perfectly formed, from heaven, but never in practice.

    When the Stalinist KKE refused to call for a United Front with SYRIZA against Austerity, they were punished with plummeting votes and declining political support.
    Even worse, their sabotage helped the right wing regain power.

    The US SWP has no effective means of criticizing this, because it’s leadership abandoned its historical positions on these questions.

  12. David Altman permalink

    Excerpt from editorial in The Militant, May 21, 2012:

    “. . .The one example of a capitalist state reconquering profitability and competitiveness after being devastated by economic crisis and foreign intervention is that of Nazi Germany in the 1930s. Because of the lack of a mass revolutionary working-class party after Germany’s crushing defeat in World War I and the ensuing decade of deepening economic crisis, the capitalist rulers there backed the fascist Hitler regime to crush working-class resistance and obliterate political rights. On that basis they cranked up their war machine and challenged their imperialist rivals on a world scale. . .”

    The illustrates rather well the current SWP mindset. There was indeed a “mass revolutionary working-class party” in Germany after World War I. It was the Communist Party of Germany, which in the grip of “Third Period” Stalinist idiocy, refused to unite in action with the reformist Social Democrats, thus paving the way for Hitler’s rise to power.

    Pathfinder Press published a whole book devoted to the subject, The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany by Leon Trotsky, which it sells to this day. Apparently it is no longer part of the “education” the SWP provides its members.

  13. David Altman permalink

    Ernesto: I was struck by this passage in your comment: “. . .Thats is the way to the masses. No “united-fronts” gutted of class-struggle content. No short-cuts, no clever tactics, no adaptions to “national” “characteristics” instead of an unflinching orientation to an international class in each national state, no camouflaging in words or action so workers “can understand you better” as someone once told me when questioning why the Communist League in Sweden sold an “American” newspaper to “Swedish” workers, no centrist substitutions for communist principles, verified trough the common revolutionary practice of an international movement who strives to be and understands the necessity of becoming more politically homogenous trough experience. . .”

    You know, you’re right, Ernesto! Just as the Quran is only truly comprehensible in the original Arabic, so too must the revelations of Comrade Jack Barnes be conveyed to the working masses of all countries in their pure, undiluted form.

  14. Richard permalink

    @Comrade David: I’m not sure what your criticism is exactly because the Militant is available in three languages that I am aware of and Pathfinder titles are available in quite a few more than that – Farsi, Chinese, Icelandic, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, English, Arabic, Indonesian, Russian and I think German and Swahili as well. Possibly more. A modest amount to be sure, but a start. And as the party grows and attracts middle-class militants with certain language skills and other skills as well, which the workers will greatly appreciate and will shower them with heart-felt thanks, that number will only increase.

    And I think this good and interesting discussion has stalled somewhat because there are areas (in the discussion) where we have access to the same set of facts but interpret them differently, which is wont to happen in politics, and which is why there are usually more than one socialist party in any given country.

    One area is in the field of activity. We say the SWP is fully engaged on a level realistic for it’s size, resources and cadre and most others involved in these discussion say it isn’t engaged at all. Same set of facts, wildly different conclusions. So far, I’ve listed these areas of work twice, from Cuban solidarity, which includes the tactic of the United Front and which also includes party members taking organizational responsibilities, to heavy involvement in workers strikes and lock-outs, which represents a massive united front in the making. It seems to me that in many ways the majority of criticism centers around the party’s political judgement on the various anti-war committees, the OWS and to a lesser extent the BDS, as opposed to the argument that the party has become a self-absorbed sect, which I don’t really think, based on the continuous discussion for many months now, comrades really believe. In the case of the anti-war movement, one could argue that the objective political criteria is not in place that would be conducive to the type of movement that arose against the Vietnam War, which was a truly a mass movement and a bona-fide United Front. These factors, which are not in play today, include a massive upsurge of the planet’s youth and a corresponding flourishing of Marxian culture on every campus around the world, the political maturity, moral high-ground and revolutionary thrust of the Vietnamese freedom fighters, the existence of a grossly unpopular and unfair (to say the least) draft, and the intersection with this movement another mass movement of working-class composition, i.e, the movement against Jim Crow and the oppression of the Black nationality in all it’s forms. If based on these factors, the SWP does not feel it is realistic to materially change this dynamic and thus concludes not to do so, one may, I suppose, call this abstention. However, I would call it abstention for a reason. Same for the OWS. The BDS, on the other hand, the party does not abstain from, but opposes.

    Finally, there is the question of organization, the “model”, the norms of membership and the definition of democratic-centralism. Here again, same facts, different conclusions. I have been around a long time, not as long as you Comrade John, but a long time, and I must say I don’t see any real difference in any of these regards from what was in place in the 1960’s, which, by the way, does not exist anymore (which is fine by me because I despised grade school and I hated being dragged — kicking and screaming — to church every Sunday morning). I read “Out Now” and how the party functioned as a disciplined unit during that era, and I was around during the Battle of Boston, when the Boston Branch — well forget democracy — it was practically under Marshall law due to the extent of violence and possible violence directed at our organizers. So I don’t really think the principles have changed qualitatively, but rather I believe that it’s the people formally involved that have changed, and I include myself in this unwillingness to meet the norms of membership in a revolutionary party where one makes his/her work inside the party a vocation.

    Nor do I (and I would guess the other pro-SWP’ers who have made contributions would feel the same as well, although I speak only for myself, not for them and certainly not for the party) believe that the debate centers around this or that policy or position of the past forty or fifty years. That is to say I do not think the discussion is primarily about Soviet troops to Afghanistan, whether Joe Slovo should have been referred to as “Comrade Slovo”, the use of gender-appropriate bathrooms at party meetings, or party policy on whether or not party members should breast-feed at meetings where the party is the principal organizer.

    People join revolutionary party’s, usually when they are young, to make the revolution, and when the revolution doesn’t come (or when real mass movements ebb) most folks move on to do other things with their lives, especially with the onset of the disease we call “middle-age”. It’s a basic fact of the human condition, which I know of all too well on a personal level as well. What is important is what is coming, and every indication points to a clear awakening of the working masses everywhere in the world, and I feel in the marrow of my bones, that the long deluge is coming to an end.

    • David Altman permalink

      The point was, wasn’t the Communist League of Sweden, small as it was, capable of (or should I say trusted to) putting out its own publication, in Swedish?

  15. Ken Hiebert permalink

    Richard says, “…the Militant is available in three languages..” I checked and he is right, to a degree. Some Militant articles do appear on the website in Spanish and in French. For the French it seems to be one article per issue.
    But when the paper is sold on the streets of Montreal or in Caracas, is it in French,
    Spanish, or perhaps just in English?

  16. Richard permalink

    The print version appears in English with a section in each issue that is printed in Spanish.

  17. Ken Hiebert permalink

    Thank you, Richard. I should add that the book Richard mentioned, Out Now!, is well worth reading.

  18. Richard’s latest comment has convinced me there was a gap in my presentation of the causes of the SWP’s decline.

    Richard suggests that the SWP selects its work areas on the basis of practical considerations rather than because it desires to avoid collaboration with other left currents. I question that conclusion. But there’s something else involved that should be noted: the political line that often accompanies SWP abstention.

    Consider, for example, why I am no longer affiliated to the SWP’s Canadian sister organization, the Communist League (CL). I was expelled in 2004 for writing a letter to the CL leadership, at the height of the U.S. war in Iraq, advocating that the CL actively defend the right of the Iraqi people to determine their own future.

    Did the CL take this action because it had a norm forbidding the writing of private letters to the leadership? Not at all. Actually, the CL, with SWP involvement, used a variety of pretexts to expel every adherent known to be sympathetic to defense of Iraqi self-determination.

    One case, for example, concerned a talk that year in Toronto by SWP presidential candidate Roger Calero, which noticeably omitted any mention of the U.S. war then raging in Iraq. An audience member asked him to speak on the Iraq war, which he did. Later, another audience member, Art Young (a 40-year militant and former CL executive secretary) was overheard to say, “That was a good question.” He was expelled for that statement.

    Richard, I assure you, these actions do not reflect the norms of the pre-1983 SWP.

    But the overriding question here is, why were the SWP and the CL suddenly so touchy about Iraq’s right to self-determination? The Militant had stopped mentioning that concept during 2003 and brushed aside readers’ questions on this point. It made much of the supposedly reactionary character of the Iraqi resistance and the supposedly progressive unintended consequences of the U.S. occupation. It did not only abstain from the anti-war movement, then rallying tens of thousands internationally, but denounced this movement as reactionary.

    (I am glad to report that subsequently, the concept of Iraqi self-determination was once again mentioned in the Militant’s columns.)

    I have argued that the drift of SWP evolution has been toward the commonly held features of a broad range of small inward-turn Marxist groups. I stand by that view, but it doesn’t explain the SWP position in 2003-2004 on the Iraq war. To my knowledge, except for the SWP, all groups that consider themselves Marxist flatly opposed the U.S. war, at least in words.

    Another example, from the field of solidarity with Palestine: the SWP’s opposition to the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign directed against Israeli apartheid. There are other Marxist groups that oppose this campaign. But the SWP goes further: it denounces the campaign as anti-Semitic – exactly the same charge made by the ruling class in Canada and elsewhere in seeking to deny freedom of speech to advocates of this campaign. I would be pleased to be shown a statement in the Militant dissociating itself from these ruling-class attacks on democratic rights.

    Another example: the SWP opposes Cuba’s policy of building anti-imperialist alliances in Latin America, most notably through the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas (ALBA). Once again, this comes as no surprise: many small Marxist groups oppose these Cuban policies. But once again, the SWP goes further. When pro-U.S. forces overthrew the president of Honduras, an ALBA member, a mass movement mobilized in an effort to reverse the coup and restore constitutional government. The SWP opposed this movement.

    Such unusual political positions deserves examination. Barry Sheppard discusses this trend in Chapter 32 of his second volume, providing a number of other examples. He concludes: “The generalization of abstentionism to the antiwar and other mass movements has resulted in a general shift to the right compared with the SWP of the first volume of this book.” (p. 326)

  19. David Altman permalink

    A reader on the Yahoo SWP List, commenting on a flurry of articles about Equatorial Guinea that appeared in The Militant from 2005-8:

    “. . .I signed up to this list to observe, not to post, but I can’t let this one get by. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo has either taken in or bought off many Western observers who are otherwise ignorant about Equatorial Guinea’s past. The country remains, as it was from 1968 to 1979 under the infamous Macías, a vicious dictatorship. Oil has brought superficial prosperity and enormous corruption at the highest levels of government, making outright terror somewhat less “necessary” for the regime to maintain its grip on power. The Militant article makes Obiang Nguema Mbasogo out to be some kind of anti-imperialist facing a great deal of hostility from Western governments and mercenaries, but that is patently false. He came to power in a coup after serving as a military functionary and prison supervisor, roles in which he was the nation’s premier torturer. Every legally permitted political party (with a single exception) offers essentially uncritical support of the president, and members of banned organizations are regularly arrested and tortured in custody. Shame on the SWP for parroting regime propaganda and not providing any hint of criticism of this tyrant. . .”

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/swp_usa/message/16707

  20. Richard permalink

    We could go on forever, couldn’t we John? I am certainly able to answer you’re latest post and you would then be capable of answering mine. So I think I will conclude my participation, at least for the time being, by thanking Comrade John for the opportunity to present my views, and having the chance to do so in a calm and respectful environment. But when you get down to the nitty-gritty, the SWP is not overly concerned with other “left currents”, however defined, but rather hones it’s attention and activity to what is happening inside the working-class, particularly it’s industrial component, and the party is organized accordingly.

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