Barnesite Dog and Pony Show

fajardos at fajardos at
Sun Feb 17 12:05:09 MST 2002

Louis Proyect wrote:
> On Sun, 17 Feb 2002 11:19:21 -0500, Tom Siblo wrote:
> >
> >Later I felt the COINTELPRO was far greater than
> >any of us thought. Many of the top leaders might
> >have been FBI or Naval Intelligence.  I said no.
> The answer is much simpler. 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.

I'm not sure it is just that, Louis.  The constant turn toward
"turns"--the "French Turn", "The Turn", and now this "turn"-- seem
designed to keep the members off balance and isolated.  They seem to
coincide with periods at which the leadership could start to come into
criticism over past failures.  So rather than honestly evaluate whether
the 1980s "Turn Toward Industry" was a success strategically --no one in
the SWP questions that it was a tactical success, afterll it did
happen-- the party is called on to respond to new "objective conditions"
in the politics today.   Rather than begin a discussion on why the party
is losing ground, in membership and income, nationwide, the members are
asked to consolidate branches and move them into lower-rent districts as
part of a turn toward worker communities.

It is common on this list to deride the SWP as a "cult" to Jack Barnes,
but while I was active with the SWP --I was never actually *in* the SWP,
but was in the YSA and fought against its dissolution,and then helped
found the YS in San Francisco-- I never experienced or saw anything that
smacked of a cultish regard for Jack.  There was a general sense that
they were just comrades like the rest of us who had been chosen to
assume leadership positions because of their time, efforts, dedication,
and skills made them suitable for the positions.  Meanwhile the constant
flow of people between the branches and the national office reinforced
the impression that given time and dedication anyone could move into a
position of responsibility.  (I almost wrote "rise to a leadership
position" but there wasn't a hierarchical feeling attached to national
or branch offices.)

Nevertheless, Barnes' continuance in his post and the party's inability
to effectively evaluate and critique his tenure deserves some
explanation.  If not by cultish devotion, then how?  I suggest that it
has to do with the constant movement of people within the party.  Just
when doubts could begin to creep in to an extent that they might be
given voice, a turn is announced, branches are merged, members are
shuffled about to "take advantage of new conditions" in different
regions.  Thus criticisms never gel, and members are disoriented and
isolated.  In my experience, the result is that there is no one who is
able to articulate and explain the party's history and provide new
members with a sense of continuity and coherence.   What was Healy's
"Big Lie" after all?  Whatever happened tp Peter Camejo?  Who was Tim
Wohlforth and why did he get expelled?  How did the YSA get started?
Why doesn't the party have branches in San Jose and Oakland anymore?
Who are our contacts in this community?

New members, of which there is a constant flow, thus have not the tools
to judge party activities and policies, and older members are left by
the constant shuffling devoid of social contexts and emotional ties to
projects outside the party.

Several posters have already commented on this constant mobility during
this thread, and noted the inconstant feeling that produces: one never
knows who's going to be there when one walks into a Pathfinder
bookstore, and just as often as not, those who one knew will be
elsewhere and the store or event will be filled with whippersnappers who
know not the history of the movement, of the party, or even of the
branch they're at.  And what's more, no one's gonna tell them.

How can you measure anything, even a party's --and its leadership's--
success or failure if you have no yardstick?

-Juan Fajardo

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