J.P. Cannon on leadership election

Jose G. Perez jgperez at netzero.net
Sat Nov 23 06:09:50 MST 2002


[ quoted text snipped. tsk tsk tsk ]

>>Camejo once told me that during his entire time on the PC, there was
never a split vote. He also told me that people used to have cocktails
at Jack Barnes's apartment before convening at West Street. Gus Horowitz
(hi, Gus) got hammered into resigning after giving one stinking report
that had a somewhat heterodox interpretation of the meaning of the term
"democracy". People in the SWP who had been in for more than 20 years
and who believed in permanent revolution as a fundamental principle of
Marxism changed their mind overnight when Barnes changed his mind.<<

What Peter told you may well be true, but to a significant degree that would
be because the central leadership functioned largely by consensus on
practical matters, with Jack, at least until the late 70's, playing the role
of facilitator/mediator/ward healer. I recounted one such incident in my
long post on "The Decline and Fall of American Trotskyism" which is
available in the old "journal" of the list:

http://www.marxmail.org/archives/July99/reflections_on_the_decline_of_am.htm

"Now, it certainly was no secret to people who went to expanded PC's or
plenums that comrades like Tom Kerry, Frank Lovell, Nat Weinstein, and
others placed great stress on getting into unions within this overall
approach, whereas comrades involved in the New York local leadership placed
their emphasis on community struggles (based on their experiences in the
Lower East Side); Breitman and I think George Novack, Dick Roberts and
perhaps some others were for greatly expanding our educational and
publishing efforts, and so on. So it was a process of give and take, with
priorities and allocation of resources evolving over time as opportunities
developed. At least once I saw Jack very much take the role of ward healer,
putting out a small brushfire over some proposal that would have shifted the
balance of resources away from Pathfinder and towards the periodical press.
The initial proposal clearly left several members of the PC very unhappy,
and it was sent back for reworking. It was Jack who brought the reworked
proposal again before the group (whether hours or days later, I don't
remember), and he just said that on these sorts of issues, given where
things are at in the country, there's no "right" answer, just a compromise
that will put the greatest number of comrades in the best frame of mind to
contribute as much as they could to the party. And if something came up that
required a shift, that would be done."

As for people having cocktails at Jack's apartment before PC meetings, I
just don't believe it. PC meetings tended to be early in the day, typically
10 AM. The meetings always started on time and with everyone present or an
explanation of someone's absence. It may be that Peter misspoke, or you
misremember, for I can certainly imagine Jack and some of the others having
cocktails AFTER a day of meetings or whatever. I was never at any such
session at Jack's apartment, although I did go by there once or twice to
deliver some sort of document or something (it was on my way home, in the
70's I often walked home from West Street to the Lower East Side to save the
bus fare. And, yes, we were that poorly paid). But I did work with those
comrades at close range in a few "post Oberlin" international sessions, and,
yes, they did drink a fair bit, but no, not until after the workday was
done. So I can perfectly well imagine Jack and a few others having drinks at
his apartment after a day at West Street. But not before, at least insofar
as I can testify (until the mid-80s).

José


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