Jenness, Barnesites

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Sun Apr 22 07:47:44 MDT 2001

>Who's Dan Styron and how did he die, that he might of interest in the
>way alluded to here?
>- juan

I met Dan in 1967 when I was first coming around the Trotskyist movement. I
was being courted by the the Maoist Progressive Labor Party as well, which
oriented to SDS.  The PLP/SDS reflected a rather widespread feeling among
student activists that it was insufficient to be against the war. You had
to be against imperialism as well. Unless the antiwar movement converted
itself into an anti-imperialist movement, there would be more Vietnams.
Since I found this argument seductive, I posed it to Dan one friday evening
before a party forum. He explained that the antiwar movement was
"objectively anti-imperialist". If we could stop the US war, it would make
it more difficult to participate in future imperialist adventures. But in
order to build an effective movement, it was necessary to gear your slogans
to the masses rather than to a radicalized milieu on campus. This meant
"immediate withdrawal" rather than "Victory to the NLF", etc. At any rate,
I had never heard such a lucid explanation before and decided at that very
moment that I would join the Trotskyists.

Dan, who started off as a leader of the Berkeley student movement, was a
lot like Peter Camejo, another party leader who did not really fit in with
the clique that ran the national apparatus. He was greatly admired by the
rank-and-file, however, and was an extremely capable mass agitator and
branch organizer. Tall, handsome, and straightforward, he seemed cut from
the same cloth as Billy Budd.

When the party entered a crisis in the mid to late 1970s as a result of the
ebb in radicalization, you found a certain kind of disaffection that could
not be easily identified. Since so many people had thrown their whole life
into the party, when the party seemed rudderless, they might have felt
rudderless as well. It was under those circumstances that Dan Styron took
his life. The official explanation is that he was manic-depressive and
suffered from painful stomach ailments. I don't know. All I do really know
is that when word of his suicide went out, I felt deeply troubled.

Louis Proyect
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