Episodes from American Trotskyism

Jose G. Perez jgperez at SPAMfreepcmail.com
Thu Dec 23 22:31:59 MST 1999

If I remember right, the speech motivating the adoption of the theses is
even more out there. It's in one of the speeches books, speeches for
socialism, I think.

But what motivated your resurrection of this at this time?


-----Original Message-----
From: Louis Proyect <lnp3 at panix.com>
To: marxism at lists.panix.com <marxism at lists.panix.com>
Date: Thursday, December 23, 1999 1:39 PM
Subject: Episodes from American Trotskyism

>1. Bonkers hyper-sectarianism:
>The hopeless contradictions of American capitalism, inextricably tied up
>with the death agony of world capitalism, are bound to lead to a social
>crisis of such catastrophic proportions as will place the proletarian
>revolution on the order of the day. In this crisis, it is realistic to
>expect that the American workers, who attained trade union consciousness
>and organization within a single decade, will pass through another great
>transformation in their mentality, attaining political consciousness and
>organization. If in the course of this dynamic development a mass labor
>party based on the trade unions is formed, it will not represent a detour
>into reformist stagnation and futility, as happened in England and
>elsewhere in the period of capitalist ascent. From all indications, it will
>rather represent a preliminary stage in the political radicalization of the
>American workers, preparing them for the direct leadership of the
>revolutionary party.
>The revolutionary vanguard party, destined to lead this tumultuous
>revolutionary movement in the U.S., does not have to be created. It already
>exists, and its name is the SOCIALIST WORKERS PARTY. It is the sole
>legitimate heir and continuator of pioneer American Communism and the
>revolutionary movements of the American workers from which it sprang. Its
>nucleus has already taken shape in three decades of unremitting work and
>struggle against the stream. Its program has been hammered out in
>ideological battles and successfully defended against every kind of
>revisionist assault upon it. The fundamental core of a professional
>leadership has been assembled and trained in the irreconcilable spirit of
>the combat party of the revolution.
>The task of the SOCIALIST WORKERS PARTY consists Simply in this: to remain
>true to its program and banner; to render it more precise with each new
>development and apply it correctly in the class struggle; and to expand and
>grow with the growth of the revolutionary mass movement, always aspiring to
>lead it to victory in the struggle for political power.
>(Concluding paragraphs of SWP's 1946 Theses on the American Revolution)
>2. Political reality:
>Are we then a propaganda group? Yes and no. We are a propaganda group in
>that we must still recruit a sizable section of the vanguard of the class
>without which we cannot become a party. Above alt, we are still engaged in
>a struggle with other tendencies for influence over the workers' vanguard.
>It is pure self-deception to believe that the struggle has already been
>won. The chief factor in the decline or disappearance of this or that rival
>organization has been the impact of reaction-prosperity, not the triumph of
>our ideas in the workers' movement. The struggle of tendencies has not been
>settled in our favor or anyone else's, but merely postponed to the next
>onset of social crisis.
>We are not a propaganda group because where possible, in accordance with
>the opportunities provided by the objective situation, and in keeping with
>a realistic appraisal and proper disposal of our own forces, we attempt and
>should attempt to act as a party. We are not a propaganda group in that we
>assert our right and our qualifications from the point of view of record,
>program, and cadres to fulfilling the role of a party. This contradiction
>between our political aims and our physical and historical limitations,
>between our will to be a party and the reality of our present forces, is
>best demonstrated by the tactic of "caution" we are obliged to follow in
>the unions.
>Were we a full-fledged party, we would today follow a carefully planned
>course of defensive combat in the unions which would lead undoubtedly to
>certain victimizations but would at the same time be compensated by the
>class education of certain sections of the workers' vanguard, many of whom
>would be probably won over to the party. But because our numbers are so
>limited, i.e., because we are essentially a propaganda group, we cannot in
>the main pursue such a line because, for one, we lack the influence to
>carry it out, and secondly, any important victimizations can lead to the
>total elimination of our forces from the unions.
>Now, all of this is elementary, and has always been considered ABC in our
>movement. Even in the flush of our greatest progress, the watchword of the
>1946 convention was "From a Propaganda Group to a Party of Mass Action." We
>did not make the grade in real life - through no fault of our own. But
>obviously we did make the grade in some people's dreams.
>(From the "Cochranite" minority's 1952 "Roots of the Party Crisis"; the
>full document is at: http://home.inreach.com/soldoll/)
>Louis Proyect
>Marxism mailing list: http://www.marxmail.org/

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