On organisation

Dayne Goodwin dayneg at SPAMaros.net
Sat Jan 20 15:14:07 MST 2001

There is a historical record (not that I claim to know it particularly
well) so that we can compare the work of the Socialist Union of America
and the Socialist Workers Party in the U.S. over the next period from the
mid-1950s into the 1970s when there were actual mass movements and it was
possible to recruit (young)people to revolutionary socialist
organizations.  How did the Socialist Union of America fare?
        What happened to Bert Cochran?  I know even less about the answer
to this question.  Here's the little I know:  I have a book by Bert
Cochran titled "Labor and Communism: The Conflict that Shaped American
Unions" which identifies Cochran as a "senior associate of the Research
Institute on International Change, Columbia University."
        In his preface Cochran says: "It is a pleasure to acknowledge the
assistance that I received in writing this book.  My thanks go to Zbigniew
Brzezinski, then director of the Research Institute on International
Change at Columbia University for the senior fellowship that he and his
colleagues on the adminstrative board awarded me beginning with the fall
semester of 1973, and for his unfailing consideration during the period of
my residence."
        I am not referring to these few facts above with the thought that
they are intrinsically disparaging.  I do think it is important to
consider what Bert Cochran actually did in the years after 1954 when he
wrote the document "Our Orientation," especially the sections I have
copied below.
        Dayne Goodwin

On Sat, 20 Jan 2001, Louis Proyect wrote:

> >From Bert Cochran's "Our Orientation"
> (Published in the May 1954 issue of The Educator, an internal organ of the
> Socialist Union of America)
> We said before that only by integrating ourselves within the existing
> movements could our cadres survive and fulfill their mission. We will now
> add to that proposition this corollary: Only by dropping all sectarian
> notions of imposing our specific tradition upon the mass movements which
> developed in different circumstances and under different influences, can
> our approach register successes and guarantee the future of our precious
> cadres. What is involved, it is [cl]ear, is not any modification of
> programmatic essence, but a sharp reversal of organizational concepts and
> perspectives on the nature of the development of the mass revolutionary
> parties of tomorrow.
> There remains to say a word whether this course does not contain dangers
> that the cadre will get lost in the mass movement and therefore become
> liquidated as a specific revolutionary current. Of course, the danger
> exists, just as there is danger every time a revolutionist takes a job as
> an official in a union, and begins to live in an opportunist environment
> Some succumb to material blandishments. But if the cadre is cohesive, and
> firm in its revolutionary convictions and aims, the losses are few and the
> gains are many. Events will justify the necessity for a Marxist policy and
> prove its effectiveness in action. The dangers will be counteracted by the
> struggle Itself. We have an additional guarantee, insofar as there are any
> guarantees in these things, in the clarity of our views, the devotion of
> our ranks who have been tested over a long period of time, in our
> ideological solidarity, and In the unifying element of an international
> center. If we try to impose additional guarantees by adopting narrow group
> viewpoints, and sporting narrow group ideologies in the mass movement, we
> will vitiate the whole concept, and defeat our common purposes.
> Of course, as we tried to explain to the SWP, between the present and the
> next developments exists a more or less protracted period of time, and a
> political tendency cannot deduce its day-to-day tactics solely, directly
> and immediately from the grandiose strategy, but must seek out and find
> every possibility for advancement of its program and its influence, be It
> on the most limited basis, and from sources that by themselves will not
> necessarily be the main forces of the big labor advance. That is why in
> many localities, where trade union avenues are not open to us for one
> reason or another, we must seek out other milieus, whether of the Stalinist
> variety, or student circles, or various liberal or minority groups.
> We approach all these strata, however, in the spirit of Marx's Communist
> Manifesto which proclaimed that the revolutionists had no interests
> separate and apart from the working class, that we are not a special sect,
> cult, or church, which seeks to draw people out of the broad currents into
> its backwater, but rather as American Marxists, we seek to join with others
> in advancing the existing struggles to a higher stage and on a broader
> front. We are convinced that out of these struggles and experiences, even
> before big mass forces take to the field, Left currents will arise with
> which we shall be able to cooperate and fuse; that the American Marxist
> tendency, as a stronger formation than at present, will thus be able to
> discharge its role as a left wing in the big movement - as part and
> parcel of the struggle to create the mass revolutionary party in the
> United States. That is our perspective.
> Full article at: http://www.marxists.org/history/etol/document/ibt08.htm
> Louis Proyect
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