James Miller jamiller at igc.apc.org
Sun Feb 18 23:26:59 MST 1996


   Louis Proyect indicates that one of the main problems
with the SWP is its "workerism." Louis says,

>What is the correct and exact description of this particular deviation from
>Marxism that Miller defends? It is called "workerism". Workerism
>represents an undialectical approach to politics. It has led to all sorts
>of sectarian errors on the American left. Workerism also plagued the
>Maoist sects which used to be much more important in the US left from
>around 15-20 years ago. Marx said that the working-class is the only
>class that has the power to change society. The workerists, therefore,
>conclude that the sole arena for a revolutionary socialist party is in the
>factories or mines. Period.

   The problem here is the implication that the SWP considers
the factories or mines are the "sole arena" for its activities.
This is not the case. Politically active people might run into
the SWP on campuses, in political organizations, etc. SWP
members go wherever they might get a hearing.

   Louis also questions SWP relations with CISPES during the
1980s. I'm unaware of any such problems. SWP supported CISPES
and participated in it. Same with the Nicaragua solidarity

   Some people believe that the SWP is a sect or cult. They
often assume that everyone already knows this and that there's
no need to prove it. Or, if they do offer evidence, it's often
the recounting of some incident which they hope people will
accept as proving the point. I don't feel that such discussions
are useful, because only people who are familiar with the
record of events will be able to judge.


   Louis says that Jack Barnes predicted that the industrial
unions "would be at 'center stage' of all fights against the
capitalist system from around 1976 on...". I'll take that as
a more-or-less accurate statement.

   Then Louis says, "what happened, of course, is that the
capitalist class took center stage and the union movement
was beaten back."

   I think that when Barnes talked about unions at center
stage, he meant at the center stage of the resistance to
the capitalist attacks. The SWP did not ignore the capitalist
offensive against unions, against Black rights, women's rights,
immigrants, etc. What the SWP argued was that the attack on
unions would be more direct than before, and would tend to
drive the workers into a defensive fight. This would tend
to put the industrial unions in the center stage of resistance
to the capitalist offensive. And this, in the long run, would
teach the workers something about the potential power that
they could wield. It is these defensive battles that give the
workers ideas about the character of the struggle they are
being forced into, and about how they can defend themselves:
what works, what doesn't work; who their friends are, who
are their enemies, etc.


   Jack Barnes never held a job, "other than one on the party
payroll," says Louis. How many people consider that a decisive
point? Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Castro... what jobs did they hold?
Of course Engels held a job in a textile factory, but he was
doing the books, not running the looms. Louis then adds, "this
is not a Lenin or Castro we're talking about."

   The reason why Barnes is not a Lenin or a Castro is because
there has never been a revolution in this country, or anything
close to it. Could Barnes lead a revolution? Who can say for
sure? I would argue that the SWP is making the attempt to build
a revolutionary party. They have no grand edifice or mass
following to show for it. But they are making the effort.


   Carlos claims that the SWP has abandoned the task of making
a socialist revolution in South Africa. He says:

>The SWP *did* in fact proclaimed that the South African revolution
>*could not* abandon the parameters of a bourgeois democratic
>revolution (several articles), therefore theoretically abandoned
>the thrust of the task of "ending capitalism".

   The SWP supports the African National Congress, and has
provided coverage in its newspaper, "The Militant," on the
struggle against apartheid. The SWP also participated in many
anti-apartheid action coalitions in the 1980s, when such groups

   The struggle to end apartheid has a bourgeois-democratic
character, not a socialist one. First things first. End apartheid,
then the door is open to pose socialist tasks. In thinking about
this one should not underestimate the difficulties of wiping out
the political and economic structures of apartheid. These are
huge tasks. This doesn't mean that you can't build a communist
type of party in South Africa. You can. But that party has to put
the tasks of overcoming the legacy of apartheid at the top of its
agenda, while at the same time building a base of support for

   Some of the thinking of the SWP on this issue comes from a
study of Lenin's theory of the democratic dictatorship of the
working class and the peasantry, which he outlined, among other
places, in the pamphlet, "Two Tactics of Social Democracy in
the Democratic Revolution." For more information on this, see
"The Coming Revolution in South Africa," by Jack Barnes, in
_New International_ magazine, No. 5.

Jim Miller

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