Barnesite Dog and Pony Show

Mark Lause lause at
Sun Feb 17 10:21:01 MST 2002

Louis Proyect wrote:

> The "turn" is nothing more nor less than
> the kind  of "workerism" that has rendered much of the Trotskyist
> movement ineffective. It is based on a schematic understanding of the
> 1930s. Rather than seeing the 1960s as the particular form that the
> class struggle in the USA took, Farrell Dobbs believed that this was
> merely some kind of "detour" that allowed the SWP to pick up some
> members until the "real" class struggle began again.

Generally agreed, but while Dobbs may have seen the need for a "turn"
like this, the Barnes leadership did not view the world in this way with
any consistency.  There's two points of response.

1. You are dealing with a definable kind of institutional

Dissenting party members of the early 1970s advocating various
adjustements to the SWP's orientation rarely meant that the membership
should generally don the blue overalls, the red card and the Knights of
Labor lunchpail.  All we suggested in 1973 and 1974 in this regard was
that the party should provide some structure for those of us who were in
industry because we were there anyway.  However, we encountered a strange
inability of the SWP leaders (and many members) to understand this as
anything but a kind of "workerist" herding of the membership into
industry.  As one of them said to me early in the debate (this is nearly
verbatim because it was so enlightening to me), "Can we do better on the
campuses or the factories?  If we can do better in the factories than on
the campuses, then we should all go there.  If we can't, you are hurting
work on the campuses where we are getting better results."  My response
was something like, "Can we do two or more things at once?  Can't we walk
AND chew gum at the same time?"  Such a course does require some
confidence in the ranks the leadership lacked, but the ranks themselves
opted for confidence in their leaders rather than in the party.

2. I'd also suggest that Tom Siblo's probably right about the impact of
government infiltration. For those of us on the Left who know the size of
the SWP, the sheer numbers of informants and agents discussed in the
COINTELPRO disclosures meant that this should be a factor of some sorts
in any explanation.

Mark Lause

"Perhaps it is a universal truth that the loss of liberty at home is to
be charged against provisions against danger, real or pretended from
     ---- James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, May 13, 1798

The Civil War's Last Campaign: James B. Weaver, the Greenback-Labor
Party, and the Politics of Race and Section

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