Episodes from American Trotskyism

Néstor Miguel Gorojovsky gorojovsky at SPAMinea.com.ar
Sat Dec 25 08:00:48 MST 1999

Mutatis mutandis, these words by Louis Pr, addressed to an
audience in the United States of America, may well prove
prophetic for Latin American Marxism too:

:There is much to be learned from the example of the American
:movement, just as we can learn from studying the Communist
Party. They won
:strikes, built antiwar movements and fought against racism. Each
had its
:strengths and weaknesses. But the underlying and defining
:principle--namely, the umbilical cord to the USSR--has been
severed. This
:brute fact will do more than anything to heighten interest in
:Marxist initiatives, which can only emerge from the native soil.

The effect of the glorious and ill-starred Russian Revolution of
1917, the effect of the failure of the workers and working class
militants in Western Europe to follow suit, the effect -to sum
up- of this overwhelmingly complex defeat in victory and victory
in defeat, became a tremendous weight on Marxists the world over.
Not even the powerful German party of Paul Levi could stand it,
not even that marvelous Italian working class of the 20s could
stand it, not even the heroic and determinate peasants and
workers of Republican Spain could stand it. What could we then
expect for places such as Latin America (and the United States,
which in this sense are much like us)?

Marxism, here, was still to be built. And though due to different
reasons (basically: sheer littleness and isolation here in the
Latin South, affluence there in the Anglo North) the working
classes in America did not exactly fit with the European
paradigm, nor the memories and historical working of the class.

In Latin America, at least, Marxists should have laboured in
order to root our ideas in in the long revolutionary histories of
our popular struggles, a task only a few among them realized as
necessary (Mariategui the first among them -not at all the only
one-; but Mariategui died young, and the Stalinist machinery was
all too strong even for him); thus, while the Russian debate
poisoned somehow the tiny atmosphere of Marxism in Latin America,
it is in the best moments of the Latin American popular
(non-Marxist, which not of necessity implies anti-Marxist)
politicians that true revolutionary politics took root --with the
tragic consequence that history here meandered in a
merry-go-round of incredible victories and misunderstood defeats.

In order to take their stead, Marxism should have been grafted
into the living history of Latin American struggles, in the same
way that in the United States,  where there was and to a large
extent there still lays in front of us a vast horizon of popular
necessities without clear political expression.

The consequences of the Russification of Marxist politics on
these in this sense actually 'new' lands were devastating.

I will take Lou's wonderful words as a banner and a guide, and I
propose that we include them in the 'quotes' section!

Néstor Miguel Gorojovsky
gorojovsky at inea.com.ar
-----Mensaje original-----
De: Louis Proyect <lnp3 at panix.com>
Para: marxism at lists.panix.com <marxism at lists.panix.com>
Fecha: Sábado, 25 de Diciembre de 1999 10:54
Asunto: Re: Episodes from American Trotskyism

:>I remember back in 1973 in the Los Angeles branch of the SWP,
Milt Zazlow
:>(Mike Bartell), was applying to rejoin the SWP, and some of
these points
:>were made. A comrade, Peter Herresshoff, whose father David had
been a
:>prominent Cochranite, got up and said, "well, what you're
saying is, 'if
:>you're so smart, why aren't you rich?'
:>Yeah, I think that about sums it up.
:>David Altman
:>(a confirmed "Cannonite")
:Ah, yes. 1973. Those were the days. Branches in every major city
in the
:country. Subscription drives of 35,000 Militant newspapers.
Walter and
:Miriam Schneir got an assignment from the NY Times magazine
section to
:profile the SWP, but the article they wrote was rejected because
it was
:considered fawning propaganda. Then it all collapsed.
:You have to put the American Socialist in its proper
perspective. It is
:part of a 150 year old effort to create an indigenous Marxist
movement in
:the United States. Periodically there is evidence that support
for such an
:initiative exists. The first example was the 'Yankee
International' led by
:Victoria Woodhull, which unfortunately even Karl Marx himself
did not fully
:understand the importance of. He backed the dogmatic Sorge
:Woodhull, the very same Sorge who while paying lipservice to
:supported exclusion of Chinese workers from the trade unions.
:Then Debs's Socialist Party came along, cheek by jowl with the
IWW. While
:both of these formations had the possibility of transforming
:into a genuine Marxist party, they were sidetracked into 2
losing efforts,
:the Stalinist and the Trotskyist movement, both of which shared
the rather
:regrettable notion that the example of the Bolshevik party could
be cloned.
:The only exception to this during the heyday of American
communism was A.J.
:Muste's Workers Party, which sought to translate Marxism into
the American
:idiom. Poor Muste was outmaneuvered by James P. Cannon and his
party was
:swallowed whole.
:The next initiative was the Socialist Union and the magazine
:with it, the American Socialist. Unfortunately this was like
trying to
:start a garden during a drought.
:Louis Proyect
:Marxism mailing list: http://www.marxmail.org/

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