glevy at acnet.pratt.edu glevy at acnet.pratt.edu
Sat Feb 17 12:06:51 MST 1996

James Miller wrote:

>    Recently Lisa Rogers posted a message asserting that
> SWP members were required to choose companions or marriage
> partners from within the SWP or YS. This is not true. There
> are many SWP members who have wives, husbands, companions
> or partners who are not in the SWP.

As I recall, the SWP had no *formal* policy regarding companions (other
than, at one point in time, that they should be "straight", i.e.. the
infamous Barnes memorandum). However, there was an informal policy which
actively encouraged party members to have relationships with other party
members. Moreover, many relationships ended when one person in a
relationship resigned (or was expelled) or when one person became part
of a "minority." This was not a matter of formal policy, but it was a
fact nonetheless. In my perspective, it reinforced the cultish nature of
the SWP, i.e. party members generally only came into social contact with
other party members and were thereby isolated from "outside" influences.

>    The SWP is a democratic centralist organization. It is
> democratic in the sense that its program is decided by
> majority vote of democratically-elected delegates at a
> convention held every two years. Its leadership is also
> elected by the convention delegates. It is centralist in
> the sense that all members are required to abide by the
> decisions of the convention.

The SWP is "democratic centralist", to be sure, however, I wonder: to
what extent was the democratic centralism of the Bolsheviks different
from the democratic centralism of the SWP? SWP members have been
expelled for smoking a joint or talking to someone who they were
prohibited from talking to. Zinoviev and Kamenev, on the eve of the
insurrection, committed a somewhat larger breach of party discipline,
but were not expelled and were, in fact, given significant posts in the
Party, the state apparatus,(and, in Zinoviev's case), the Communist

In any event, aren't the conditions in the US today somewhat different
from the conditions in pre-revolutionary Russia? Why assume that the
organizational form that possibly made sense in that period of time in
that particular area of the world also should be emulated in all
countries where conditions, to a large degree, vary?

>    Other groups on the left, such as the
>Committees of > Correspondence, do not adhere to centralist principles.
> They do not attempt to train their members as disciplined
> members of a Leninist combat party. As such, they are
> primarily discussion groups.

The COC (of which I am not a member) does not "adhere to centralist
principles", *however* that does not make that organization merely a
"discussion group."


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