Party Building in the 70s

Mark Lause lause at
Sat Mar 10 15:10:15 MST 2001

I've taken the liberty of changing the subject line to reflect better what we
seem to be discussing.

You are all right that this was the standard procedure.  I didn't know Louis
was ever in Kansas City.  I was recruited there in 1970, part of the successes
of the YSA in areas where the debris of the old SDS was still plentiful.  We
built an urban-based YSA local up to 21 or 22 members, but were asked
one-at-a-time to move to branch areas.  I wound up in Houston in 1971.  Shortly
after, the party grafted a branch into K.C.  This was the norm.

One question occurs: Why would any radical organization really interested in
building something rooted in the real world do this?  Isn't the best answer the
preoccupation of the leadership with control?  with making itself the arbiter
of the membership's perceptions?  It is an aspect of the greater question of
movement democracy.

In soldiarity,

Louis Proyect wrote:

> >With the closure of the Austin Branch several years later, it became
> >clear to me that the SWP was never much more than a group of Leftist
> >carpetbaggers in the South.
> >
> >Later the SWP failed to be able to build anything either, in its Dallas,
> >New Orleans, Miami,  Norfolk and Birmingham branches.       Conclusion
> >to the record of the SWP in the US South???      It was a total failure.
> >
> >Best wishes, Tony
> Let's not adopt such a haughty attitude toward the carpetbaggers. The
> hatred directed toward them by official AmeriKKKan historiography has a lot
> to do with resentment toward the abolition of slavery and the radical
> democratic aftermath during reconstruction.
> When I arrived in Houston in 1973, the party was still in the middle of a
> huge battle with the KKK. The Klan had dynamited the Pacifica transmitter
> *twice* and pipe-bombed our headquarters. It had also machine-gunned the
> home of Fred Brode, a branch member and activist in the Vietnam antiwar
> movement. When we put sandbags in front of his house, it made the front
> pages of the local newspapers.
> Houston had developed the reputation for being under Klan control, reaching
> into municipal government and the police department. A Time Magazine
> article showed a Houston cop sitting in the front seat of a squad car with
> a hood on his head.
> The SWP rallied local peace and civil liberties groups to stand up to the
> Klan. Eventually the local ruling class decided that bad publicity risked
> its bid to become a major financial and industrial center like Atlanta, so
> they started arresting people. This was the SWP's proudest moment. The
> tactics they applied came from deep within the arsenal of American
> socialism, adapted to local conditions.
> The reason that the SWP failed to sink roots in Houston is the same reason
> it failed to sink roots anywhere. It built branches by importing cadre and
> then recruited people through propaganda activity. It had about as much
> clue in Houston as it did in Kansas City, my last branch before dropping
> out. A Marxist party can not be built in this fashion. It has to be built
> the way that the Bolshevik party was built, by gathering together Marxist
> activists around a fighting class struggle program broadly defined. Our day
> will come.
> Louis Proyect
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