Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Thu Nov 16 13:23:03 MST 2000

Hey everybody, I've read about the Progressive Labor Party and the October
League sending their middle-class, educated members to get blue-collar
jobs, and in that way, try to get a working-class membership base. I think
this was the same as the "Colonization" strategy of the old CPUSA. Does
anyone know how widespread this practice was/is? How successful?

More generally, once communists and radicals were expelled from unions,
how did these groups try to gain a working-class base of support? Of the
various American radical groups, which ones had the strongest
working-class support?




During the 1930s the practice was quite successful but it didn't
necessarily involve middle-class, educated members. For example, list
member Sol Dollinger went into the auto factories in Flint in the 1940s
after returning from a stint in the Merchant Marines (he was torpedoed off
the coast of Murmansk) where he joined other Trotskyists in the Detroit
branch in recruiting hundreds of mostly Black auto workers after WWII. For
Sol this was not like doing missionary work among the workers. He was of
working class origins and went into auto because that was where the action

The efforts at colonization since the 1960s has been very much of a mixed
bag. I am nearly positive that very few genuine workers have joined
"Marxist-Leninist" groups. For example, I was in Kansas City in 1977-78
trying to get a job in industry until I gave up trying. Everybody else in
the branch of the SWP was in one factory or another but they could not get
workers to come to a forum or election campaign event, let alone recruit
one. Mostly their presence in the auto plants served to sell the occasional
newspaper or pamphlet which most workers will buy out of a sense of

Probably the most successful colonization effort was led by members of the
Draperite International Socialism group which took jobs in warehouses and
driving trucks in the 1970s. From that position they were able to help
launch the Teamsters for a Democratic Union. My guess, however, is that
very few workers decided to become socialists because of their
intervention. Peter Camerata, a TDU leader, was a member at one point and
did have genuine working class roots. But I have no idea what has become of

Louis Proyect
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