Fire Ants

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Wed Nov 20 09:30:57 MST 2002

Richard Fidler wrote:
> None of what Lou says in his lengthy rejoinder negates the eligibility of a
> major class-struggle leader like Farrell Dobbs in the 1930s for inclusion in
> the leadership of a revolutionary working-class party (or caucus or
> tendency, or whatever). Which was my point, of course.

That a formation like the SWP (or Healy's group, or Tony Cliff's, etc.)
can win a genuine mass leader to its ranks is not in question. What is
in question is their ability to open themselves up to a broader,
leftward leadership that begins to emerge in the mass movement. How can
it when it creates such absurd litmus tests? When one joined the SWP,
one had to not only accept a long laundry list of positions on
historical and international questions that a tested leader might not
accept in its totality, but you would be expected to defend them
fiercely in public. When you tell a Juan Gonzalez that he has to accept
the Trotskyist analysis of the Allende government or the interpretation
of the USSR found in "Revolution Betrayed", etc. in order to belong to
the SWP, you are setting up artificial barriers. As Jose pointed out to
Lou Paulsen, I am opposed to these kinds of litmus tests. The only
litmus test can be acceptance of a fighting revolutionary program for
the United States, just as Fidel Castro put forward a program for
overthrowing Batista and creating a new society free of imperialist

> Even if one were to accept Lou's version of SWP history - which I certainly
> don't - there is no denying that, hobbled as it allegedly was by Trotsky's
> allegedly mistaken democratic centralist precepts, the SWP did find room in
> its leadership for a Farrell Dobbs, a C.L.R. James, a Fred Halstead and so
> many other sterling militants.

I wouldn't put James in the same category as Dobbs and Halstead. He had
the same relationship to the SWP that I had to LBO-Talk when I was
subscribed. Sparks flew every day.

> That some of them ultimately failed to rise
> to the lofty standards upheld today by Louis Proyect is hardly reason to
> conclude that this "Zinovievist formation" was incapable from "the outset"
> (as Lou originally argued) of fusing with the natural leadership of the
> class, or that it was inherently oriented to placing acolytes, not leaders,
> in positions of authority.

Actually, I advocate a lowering of standards. I am against ideological
purism. I want to build what some Trotskyists would call a "swamp". Of
course, swamps are places where there is rich and fertile growth...


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