Mike Bartell/Milt Zaslow

Jose G. Perez jgperez at SPAMfreepcmail.com
Sun Dec 26 18:12:19 MST 1999

The idea that someone's admission to a party should be based on their
opinion of a split almost twenty years before is hilarious. Really, the only
basis for letting in or not letting in someone like Zaslow is simply whether
doing so would contribute to the development of the movement. I wouldn't
hesitate for a moment, if, for example, bringing him in would help win over
a layer of activists around him, even if my estimate was that the particular
leader involved was unsalvageable.

The other thing this whole little regroupment shows is that basically, the
cochranites, weissites and others and the SWP really belonged together
politically. There were no serious enough differences to justify all these
splits, even by Leninist standards.

The other thing it shows is the very negative role played by "the
international" in all this faction fighting. It exacerbated what were
essentially disputes about the national political situation and tactics,
getting each side to blow up its preferred course into a metaphysical
"strategy" or "line" abstracted from all time, place and circumstance. It
encouraged the factional hooligans on both sides to push for splits, knowing
they could count on aid and comfort from their wing in the International.
This "internationalism" served as the ideal media for growing all sorts of
bizarro formations -- Posadasism, Healyism, Morenismo, Barnesism, the Sparts
and so on.
-----Original Message-----
From: David Altman <altman_d at hotmail.com>
To: marxism at lists.panix.com <marxism at lists.panix.com>
Date: Sunday, December 26, 1999 4:31 PM
Subject: Mike Bartell/Milt Zaslow

>In an earlier posting I mentioned that Milt Zaslow, who under the party
>"Mike Bartell," was a major leader of the "Cochranites" in the fifties, had
>applied to rejoin the SWP in 1972.  This discussion has brought back some
>memories of that time.
>I first became acquainted with Zaslow/Bartell in 1972 when I first
>transferred to Los Angeles from an outlying YSA local.  He had moved out to
>LA some time in the 50s or 60s and had remained politically active since
>1953 split.  In the late '60s he founded a group called "Friends of the
>Panthers" which was a "white support group" for the Black Panther Party.
>this regard they contributed quite a bit to the legal and financial support
>to the BPP, who as many list members know, was the target of a sustained
>disruption effort by the FBI & other state agencies.
>When the Panthers faded away, the "Friends" transformed themselves into the
>"Liberation Union," which was quite a force on the LA left, involved in all
>kinds of activities.  They had a socialist, and rather non-sectarian
>character.  A number of members of LU were involved in the movie &
>television industry in Hollywood, as was Zaslow, I believe.
>By the time I got to LA, Zaslow & LU were working quite closely with the LA
>branch in building the National Peace Action Coalition, the "mass action"
>wing of the anti-war movement.  NPAC was engaged in a battle with the LA
>affiliate of the Stalinist-led People's Coalition for Peace and Justice,
>basically to keep the movement oriented toward "the masses" and away from
>politically supporting the Democratic Party.  Zaslow & the LU were good
>allies in this fight, and we were all on friendly terms.  At this point, LU
>formally dissolved, and about half of the members joined the LA branch as
>individuals.  The sticking point for the rest was the SWP's hesitance to
>readmit Zaslow/Bartell.
>The former LU comrades were really a great bunch, who went all out to build
>the party, heading up sales of "The Militant," forums,  fund-raising, etc.
>I must, say, too, that as an 18-year-old party member, I found them a lot
>more likeable and interesting than some of the younger party "hotshots" (of
>course, the LA branch had a number of older comrades, too, who had a wealth
>of interesting stories to tell and contributed a lot to my political
>These amicable relations ended, however, when the branch, with the support
>of the Political Committee in NY, definitively refused to let Zaslow back
>into the party.  This had everything to do with the differing evaluations
>the 1953 split (it's no coincidence that "Speeches to the Party" was
>published in 1972, which also had a lot to do with the impending faction
>fight in the Fourth International).  At this point the former LU comrades
>the party went into "opposition" and those outside the party reconstituted
>themselves as the "Socialist Union [!]"  The SU was basically an
>inside/outside faction of the SWP, with Zaslow leading the whole operation.
>The "insiders" aligned theselves with the Internationalist Tendency, which
>supported "The Europeans" in the ongoing factional battle in the FI.
>Looking back on all this, it's obvious that the SWP leadership in New York
>never had any intention of letting Zaslow back in, as he wasn't about to
>admit that he was wrong in 1953.  My feeling then and now was that this
>shouldn't be a permanent barrier to membership.  The problem, though, was
>that Zaslow had a full-fledged CULT operation going.  The LU/SU members all
>followed Milt's lead slavishly.  There was no way, then, that they could
>ever be truly integrated into the party.  Of course, they were all tossed
>out with the rest of the IT in July of 1974.
>In the following years, Zaslow & the "new" Socialist Union continued with
>their activities & recruited several good activists in the local Chicano
>Black movements.  In 1978 the SU was involved in the short-lived "Committee
>for a Revolutionary Socialist Party" with Clara Frasier and Murray & Myra
>Tanner Weiss.  With Clara's & Milt's huge egos involved, there's no way
>could last.
>I don't know what ever happened to Milt's followers.  I take it Milt and
>wife Edith died several years ago.  Their son, Mike Zaslow, who was never
>politically active, became a quite-honored soap opera star before dying of
>Lou Gehrig's disease a year or two ago.
>David Altman
>Get Your Private, Free Email at http://www.hotmail.com

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