Similarities between ISO/SWP and Jose Perez/Militant fights

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Mon May 15 08:03:22 MDT 2000

I just had a chance to take a brief look at an internal document from the
ISO, the American affiliates of the British SWP, itself a fairly large
group founded by the recently deceased Tony Cliff on the principles of
'state capitalism.' (

What's of particular interest is the browbeating the American group has
taken from their big brothers in the British group over having "missed out"
on Seattle. The explanation for this has to do with the Americans
"underestimating" the period, which is referred to as the "theory of the
1930s in slow motion". Well, I guess that is less egregious than Jack
Barnes' "Imperialism's March Toward Fascism and War", first announced in
1987 when the stock market crashed. (I guess it's a march a la andante

To their credit, the American ISO'ers dropped the analogy, 'the 1930s in
slow motion' as they "responded to the changing political situation." The
nerve of some people, to actually change according to objective
reality--don't they know that this what did the Mensheviks in. They write:

"Of course, the state of the U.S. economy marks the biggest difference
between the 1930s and today. In the 1930s, one-quarter of the U.S. working
class was unemployed. Today in the U.S., unemployment stands at record
lows. Between 1929 and 1932, the U.S. economy contracted by 30 percent. It
did not recover until the Second World War buildup. In February 2000, the
U.S. economy broke its previous record for the longest continuous expansion."

These are the same kinds of observations that Jose Perez made and which
drove the Militant editor into a frenzy. Quoting the cult leader, Steve
Clark writes:

"Fascism and war is the logic of the march of finance capital," Barnes
explained to participants in the Los Angeles gathering. "That is what
imperialism has inflicted on humanity twice before in this century, and
that is where capitalism is heading once again."

Let me tell you something. It is a formula for self-destruction to build a
revolutionary party today on the expectations that we are somehow in a
situation like the 1930s. It leads to all kinds of adventures and to
imposing artificially high expectations on your cadre, which leads to
burn-out and the reduction of the remaining members into a "hard core" who
can not be expected to correct the organization from a path of folly.

The first people to accurately diagnose this dynamic were the Cochranites
who cooly estimated the post-WWII period as one of economic expansion
rather than a repeat of the Great Depression. They advocated regroupment
and participation in the mass movement, based on its real potential rather
than fantasy. Their example, embodied in the pages of American Socialist,
are still worth considering. You can find a selection at:

Louis Proyect

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