Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Tue Jun 5 08:02:51 MDT 2001

Although the regroupment initiatives underway between the IST
(International Socialism Tendency, a worldwide current formed by 'state
capitalist' Tony Cliff) and the Fourth International are a hopeful sign,
there is a need to remind ourselves of past experiments that were hobbled
by sectarian habits.

After the Khrushchev revelations, the CPUSA went into a profound crisis.
While the harsh conditions of the witch hunt led many of their activists to
simply withdraw from politics altogether, a rather broad layer including
scholar Annette Rubinstein and Daily Worker editor Joseph Starobin to
explore the possibility of a new socialist formation that dispensed with
slavish ties to Moscow and dogmatism of one kind or another.

The first tendency to react positively to these initiatives was the
Socialist Union, the split from the Trotskyist SWP led by Harry Braverman
and Bert Cochran. Forums were held around the country to discuss the
situation facing the left. Participants included such luminaries as A.J.
Muste, who had been a left socialist trade union leader in the 1930s before
uniting his group with the Trotskyist SWP. By the 1950s Muste had become a
well-known Christian pacifist. Other figures included ex-CP'ers and
independent socialists like Sidney Lens, who generally sought the same
thing as Cochran and Braverman. Namely, the creation of a broad socialist
formation that could transcend the kind of sectarian framework of the past,
which was based on an undialectical understanding of "Bolshevism".

The Trotskyist SWP saw regroupment in an entirely different fashion. They
saw it as a way to pick up individual members, especially disaffected
ex-CP'ers. Although they threw themselves into the project with
characteristic energy (the Friday night Militant Forums were originally a
product of regroupment forums, especially in Detroit), the end goal was to
build their sect at the expense of the left. It is a classic 'small
proprietorship' attitude toward revolutionary politics. Market share is
everything. Those who end up with the lion's share are the true "vanguard".
Obviously this has nothing to do with true Bolshevism.

My impression is that Alex Callinicos's ideas on regroupment are somewhere
in between those of Braverman-Cochran and those of the American SWP in the
1950s. The hostility toward the American ISO and the Australian DSP strikes
me as not only uncharitable, but characteristic of the kind of 'scratch to
gangrene' mentality that is the bane of the Trotskyist movement. This does
not mean that I advocate the ISO re-entering the mother ship, something
that is not really germane to my interests. Instead what I think is
necessary is continuing collaboration across the board, like the Socialist
Alliance campaigns, the Scottish Socialist Party, etc. By continuing to
participate in electoral initiatives that emphasize the current class
struggle rather than worrying over when and if the Soviet Union became
capitalist (or not) seems to make the most sense, at least for the time being.

Louis Proyect
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