A Note on PL & SDS, was Re: united students against sweatshops

Carrol Cox cbcox at SPAMilstu.edu
Sun Aug 20 18:48:37 MDT 2000

Louis Proyect wrote:

> (I posted Tony's report to the Trotsky newsgroup, where it received
> comments from John Lacny who is a anti-sweatshop activist.)
> > comrades:
> >
> > [clip].
> > but it appears that the international socialist organization (ISO) has
> > made work within USAS a high political priority [clip].
> It's true.  I've heard people say that ISO is playing a role in USAS
> roughly analogous to that played by PL in SDS.

At the time I was among those who regarded PL as ogres and wreckers, but
even then I recognized that it was through PL and almost solely through PL
that any sort of class perspective penetrated SDS. And many SDS members who
became marxists owed their first exposure to marxism (and to revolution as a
serious concept) to intervention by PL. Finally (and this may apply to
John's objections to ISO -- I don't know) I have come to see subsequently
that PL's operations in SDS were essentially principled. The Worker-Student
Alliance they built as a caucus simply did a better job of recruiting than
did either wing of the "Revolutionary Youth Movement" -- and also in
retrospect I believe it was wrong of RYM (Weathermen & RYM 2) to walk out of
the 1969 convention. It was that walk out (of which I was part) which was
the sectarian action. That the two wings of RYM immediately split that
summer is a reflection of their error in splitting from SDS.


>  They've tried a lot of
> undemocratic stuff like packing conference calls and membership meetings
> with their own members, etc.  Typical authoritarian and sectarian
> attempts at manipulation.

On the surface, those activities may be incorrect, but they are not
obviously either "Undemocratic" or "attempts at manipulation."

> The sad part is that, in their heart of
> hearts, the ISO people really think that by doing what they're doing,
> they think they're doing a better job at "building" USAS, and pushing it
> in a more radical direction.  What's really going on is an ISO attempt
> to make USAS say what they think on every jot and tittle of the
> organization's program.  That's a sectarian mode of operation.

??????? Are the other USAS member too delicate to fight back?

> > the nature of the political split which occurred earlier this morning
> > appears [clip[
> With all due respect, I'm a little baffled with the definition of what
> constitutes a "political" argument.  Were the "politics" that split SDS
> really any more sophisticated?

No, but so what? How does one achieve "sophistication" except through

>  How to interpret this or that phrase
> from the Maoist playbook?

This is red-baiting. Everyone in SDS fucked up some -- but labels like
"Maoist playbook" are simply offensive.

> I don't think so.  It seems to me that
> process is a VERY political question, especially when you get to the
> question of caucuses for oppressed groups.

So John thinks and has a right to think. But this assumption that *he* knows
the difference between what is "political" and what is not (what is it
then?) is also offensive.

>  I could see how there would
> be real political splits over the China issue, say, or even over the US
> elections.  But from your short description here, it actually seems to
> me that the split in USAS is a good deal more POLITICAL than the split
> in SDS!

Nonsense. It is arguable that *all* sides in the SDS splits were wrong. But
again it is simply offensive to try to label them as "not political."

> > [CLIP] the most baffling thing about this is that
> > nobody beat the crap out of him, which would have been the most
> > appropriate response in my opinion...
> Agreed on that point, save that I will take the "beat the crap out of
> him" exhortation figuratively, because internal physical violence is
> probably the last thing I'd want to see imported from the 1960s student
> movement into today's.

Mere bad mouthing of the past hardly makes a political point. When I had a
debate with Jeff Jones at a local SDS meeting that lasted till around 3:00
am I did occasionally wonder whether the bicycle chain his sidekick kept
fondling was meant for the cops or for me -- but in fact he didn't use it.

> [CLIP].
> John Lacny
> * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * !
> * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * !
> Sent via Deja.com http://www.deja.com/
> Before you buy.
> Louis Proyect
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