International Socialist Tendency Split

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Fri Mar 9 08:44:15 MST 2001

>But in the end, there was no split. The majority, under the pressure of
>(the abandonment of this strategy by the Cubans, the conflicting
experiences of
>the respective factions in Argentina, the Allende experience in Chile, etc.)
>published a "self-criticism" in the mid-1970s that largely accepted the
>criticisms that American comrades such as Joe Hansen had made of their
>"strategy". A few years of fruitful collaboration ensued in the USFI forces,
>with the adoption at the 1979 World Congress of a common political
resolution by
>a very large majority that included the support of the SWP sympathizers.

I generally agree with Richard's assessment that there was not a cold split
as such, but speaking as a faction organizer in the Houston branch where
Mandel supporters constituted half the branch, the general consensus
appeared to be that the other side was latter-day Narodniks. Eventually the
Europeans stepped back from the guerrilla warfare orientation and the
tension was reduced. Perhaps the destruction of the PRT-Combatiente in
Argentina made that re-orientation inevitable. In any case, anybody in the
US who continued to identify with Mandel, Maitan and Frank were considered
ideological enemies. Interestingly enough, tensions reduced with the
American supporters of Mandel soon after the turn was launched since many
of them had already taken jobs in industry years earlier. In Houston, for
example, nearly all of the Mandelistas worked in oil refineries, steel
mills, etc. In fact, their enthusiasm for guerrilla warfare was only
skin-deep since it was "workerism" that consumed them, more than peasant

All in all, the Houston branch was something of a madhouse. The youth group
organizer's wife had taken to topless dancing to pay off some debts and the
Mandelistas would go to watch her. She and her husband were devout
Christians who met at a Church-based college and soon after got involved
with the antiwar movement. After the SWP's meltdown in the early 1980s, she
went back to the church. He also dropped out and lives in Los Angeles where
he works as a programmer, like many ex-SWP'ers. A friend visited him once
and reported that he is completely friendless and sits alone in his living
room with the shades drawn staring at the wall. The SWP experience left
many people like this.

>Although I am less informed about the subsequent history, I think the actual
>split that developed in the 1980s had a lot more to do the American SWP's
>to industry" and the dogmatic interpretation that the Barnes leadership
gave to
>it over the years, with a consequent depoliticization of the SWP.

All in all, the Fourth International has been much more in touch with
reality than the forces aligned with the SWP. It is too bad that they hold
on to certain obsolete notions about democratic centralism. Otherwise they
could be a powerful catalyst working to reorient the left in the direction
staked out by the Australian DSP, the American ISO, Solidarity, etc. Of
course, while supporting their intelligent initiatives on the question of
party-building, I retain my right to criticize their positions on such
questions as Kosovo, etc. But that's what Marxist debate is about, isn't it?

>In Canada, the reconciliation of the international factions made it
possible in
>1977 to reunite the three major groups that had developed as a byproduct
of the
>international faction fight. Although this regroupment, the "Revolutionary
>Marxist League", fell apart in 1980, largely but not entirely along the old
>factional lines, the break-up was to a considerable degree provoked by
some very
>arbitrary leadership practices that reflected American SWP leadership
>but could hardly be attributed to the "g-war" debates of the previous decade.
>Richard Fidler
>rfidler at

Louis Proyect
Marxism mailing list:

More information about the Marxism mailing list