From an ex-SWP'er

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Sun Aug 29 14:58:58 MDT 1999

Dear Lou,

Yes, I was in the San Diego branch and then in the Los Angeles branch.
During the time I was in San Diego, I became fairly well known because a
group called the Secret Army Organization, a right-wing terrorist group,
carried out some sort of campaign against me, the SWP, and antiwar
activists in other tendencies.

My wife of the time was ...  She was also an activist.  She died of lung
cancer at the age of 45.  That was back in 1983 or so.  We had a daughter,
..., who never was interested in politics.  She now lives in San Francisco
with her husband and went back to school (San Francisco Academy of Arts).

I am now living in Seattle and work ... as a medical transcriptionist and
also do a bit of programming.

The big political influence during that part of my life was Bill Kitt, who
had earlier been in the Buffalo branch during the Marcy split.  I never did
find out what role Bill played, but I gather that the experience was quite
painful to him.  Bill had that rare ability to talk with people he
disagreed with, make a really strong political argument, but not make them
feel angry or stupid.  He was respectful of those whom he disagreed with.
He really avoided name-calling and stuck to issues (all to rare on the
left).  He had been a Wobbly back in the early part of the century and was
a founding member of the Trotskyist movement in this country.

Like you, I still am a socialist.  I still have enormous respect for the
ideas of Trotsky and Lenin, but I cannot call myself a Trotskyist or
Leninist any more for many of the same reasons you have.  I also find that
I have many more questions and many fewer answers than when I was young,
when I had many answers and far fewer questions.

Looking back at it, I think that what attracted me to the SWP during the
that time consists of several factors.  One was the ever courteous Bill
Kitt.  Another was that the SWPers seemed interested in and respectful of
analytical thought.  The SWP that I bumped into attempted to argue from
logic and experience, not dogma, as I had been exposed to during my stay in
SDS.  Another was their interpretation of united front as they applied it
to the antiwar movement, with its emphasis on mass action and the idea that
the demands of "out now" and "bring the troops home now" were transitional
demands.  Although there were always SWPers that I knew who were somewhat
bonkers with sectarianism, this seemed to me to cut across the sectarianism
inherent in the Trotskyist movement that was so much more evident in other
groups like the Sparticist League, Workers League, etc.  Another thing that
attracted me to the SWP was their concept that socialism was inherently
unworkable without democracy.  I also thought that the concept of a
transitional program, along with the law of combined and uneven
development, was a brilliant idea.

The left political landscape in San Diego was weird.  First of all, there
was SDS.  I was older then (ripe old age of 28) than most of the other
students at San Diego State, not really a baby boomer, and I had this
fondness for orderly meetings and taking votes.  I also had short hair and
was not overly given to "motherfucker" rhetoric (you know, up against the
wall, motherfucker).  I did not think rationale discourse was a "male
linear trip" as so many others did.  I also did not think that the solution
was dropping out.  Looking back on it, I now see what a large role
deconstructionism played in a lot of the climate of the time, although most
of us had no idea what that was.

Here I am, going on and on.  Anyhow, visiting APST is an interesting blast
from the past.  The posturing there is truly astonishing.  I used to post
there some years back, but it seems like such a sandbox to me.  I now
mostly just lurk there occasionally.  I find that the state of the left,
the entrenched conservatism of the American public, the incredible
anti-intellectualism as exemplified in the recent Kansas State initiative
to scrap big bang theory and the theory of evolution, and the collapse of
the Soviet Union have appalled me deeply.  I don't know how we can ever
reconstruct ourselves, although like you, I cannot help but noticing that
the Leninist idea of a democratic centralist cadre has come to naught, and
the followers of Trotsky have been singularly unable to influence the world
around them or even attract much notice except in a few brief historical


Louis Proyect

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