Doug Jenness & Yuri Gagarin

Jose G. Perez jgperez at
Thu Apr 12 01:18:04 MDT 2001

This [see it below] is essentially the same report I got wind of several
months ago. I did not pass it on, as it seemed to lack --and it still does--
much more than a personal interest for those of us who were in the U.S. SWP.
Also, it came to me about fourteenth hand, though I do not doubt for a
second it is true.

Worth mentioning is that Doug was the SWP's premiere election campaign
"strategist" since at least 1968 or 1970 or so, when he ran Linda Jenness's
Georgia governor campaign. He wrote an absolutely *miserable,*
hyper-propagandist, non-struggle pamphlet called "Lenin as election campaign
manager" that tried to explain the SWP's approach to election campaigns and
tactics as matters of "principle" based on the absolutely, well, *reformist*
idea that in election campaigns, the the question of which class should rule
is posed ... which, if taken literally, is electoral cretinism of the
highest order.

But, of course, the SWP didn't really mean THAT, all they meant was that the
IDEA of which class should rule was posed, but even then, that was only true
in a very qualified, propagandistic, and, yes, idealist sense. Still, I must
admit that running a feisty miniscule little workerist campaign is a ton
better than pimping for the likes of George Bore or Al Gush.

He was, I believe, the SWP's national campaign director last year, but got
expelled before the voting, if I understand the chronology right. He was in
Minneapolis, which I can partly verify as that's what he told me when I saw
him in Atlanta in August of  --was it?-- 1999. Long time subscribers to the
list might recall that I wrote up that experience and posted it here.

*   *   *

Having been a  "right-wing majorityite Barnesite hand-raiser" from WAY back,
at least 1971 or so, when I was still a wee teeny trot neonate in the YSA, I
want to suggest that the evaluation of "40 years wasted" is a tad one-sided.
Not everything that was done was bad or a mistake: and even if you think NOW
something, or EVERYTHING, could have been handled more intelligently, I
think the bottom line is not so much what mistakes you make, but what you do
with them.

Exhibit one would be this list.

If more were needed, you can consult Cuban history. I think it is hard to
portray the Moncada attack as anything but a catastrophic mistake -- yet it
is simply a historical FACT: no July 26, no Granma, no January 1.

It is not the mistakes we make, or even the lessons we might draw, that are
important. It is what we do with them.

And at a distance that is no longer measured in months or years but in
decades, long removed from the heat of battle or polemic, I believe that
what we are here for is not to judge right and wrong, but to *understand*
the role we played and the forces that shaped that role. We are PART of the
long and jumbled and checkered history of the anti-imperialist, workers and
communist movement -- and if humanity is to have any future, we must embrace
it, all of it. For better AND for worse --that is what we have to build on.
That is ALL we have. That, and the future.

Which brings me to my real subject, Yuri Gagarin. There is an additional
reason I didn't post about Doug and that is, (in the immortal words of Rhett
Butler) "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."

But tomorrow is another day. And Yuri, I believe, is important. Son of
collective farmers, foundry worker before he was 20, the world's first
cosmonaut shortly after his 27th birthday.

Today we celebrate --or, I believe, we should-- the 40th anniversary of his
spaceflight. For reasons related to my work, I have spent the past few weeks
communing with the spirit of Yuri Gagarin, looking at old videos of him,
reading what he said and wrote, and what others wrote about him.

No matter how faded the colors on the monitor, his modesty, his carisma, his
directness, his humanity comes through in such a way as to create the
starkest possible contrast with the macho, cocky, egotistical (not to say
egomaniacal) American astronauts.

Gagarin was one of the first world-wide celebrities. There was Elvis, there
was Marilyn Monroe, and there was him. Before Beatlemania there was
Yurimania. And for the same reason, at bottom, that there was Beatlemania.
He was the real thing. Hero of the Soviet Union -- of the international
working class. Rarely has our class shown its mettle in one individual more
truly than in OUR first cosmonaut.

And if you still feel conflicted because Yuri was a "Stalinist," because the
Soviet Union that ushered humanity into the cosmos wasn't "Lenin and (of
course, of couse, of course) Trotsky's" Soviet Union, but Khruschev's well
on its way to becoming Brezhnev's Soivet Union, if you do not feel your
heart stir upon hearing the Soviet Anthem play quietly, almost mournfully
under the TV reports recalling the Gagarin flight, then your years in the
Trotskyist movement were really and truly wasted. Do not bemoan the fate of
Doug Jenness: bemoan your own.

For the Soviet Union was never, ever, Stalín's Soviet Union, it was never
Khruschev's (despite my fondness and admiration for him), it was never
Brezhnev's nor Andropov's nor Gorby's nor --heaven forbid-- Yeltsin or
Putin's. It was always Lenin's, the state born of and grounded in the
consciousness, and self-sacrifice, and creativity of the working class. And
when the bureaucracy finally succeeded in destroying this consciousness, of
breaking the identification between the workers and their state, the Soviet
Union was dismembered and overthrown.

Where I work, I gave one of the copyeditors a Spanish version of Gagarin's
most famous statement:

"Circling the Earth in the orbital spaceship I marvelled at the beauty of
our planet. People of the world! Let us safeguard and enhance this beauty -
not destroy it!" - Yuri Gagarin

He said, "Yuri Gagarin -- precursor of the ecologists."

I answered, I think he was talking more about the cold war, and what he
viewed as the only social system that could save the world.

He laughed and said, "I fell victim to my post-modernist education and


Tonight, let's not post to this list. Go to, and go to
one of the raves celebrating what our class did 40 years ago. Or just
celebrate on your own, if there's no party in your city.

Forty years ago today, a future we have yet to see was born.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Louis Proyect" <lnp3 at>
To: <marxism at>
Sent: Wednesday, April 11, 2001 9:45 AM
Subject: Doug Jenness

Dear Louis,

I heard that Doug was expelled because he refused to switch jobs
he refused to go into meat packing or garment). I don't know about Sarge.
only other thing I have heard is that another member was expelled because he
refused to turn over a car to the party that he had won in some sort of
company safety raffle (or something along those lines). I wish to remain
anonymous, as I don't want to get teased for gossiping about the SWP, even
though like many ex-members, I have a morbid fascination about the Party.

Louis Proyect
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