SWP policy, as I recall it, on travel to Cuba

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Wed Aug 13 19:10:10 MDT 2003

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It is not true that former members of the SWP who visit Cuba become
unpersons.  The SWP claims no general right to control the political
activities of nonmembers, including former party members.

When I departed in 1999, the policy I recall was that, for party members
and active supporters which is regarded as a category of membership in
the "movement" represented by the party though not in the party, trips
to Cuba are basically a party assignment and that such trips are useful
to the party only on a pretty selective basis, with perhaps some
exceptions where the net is cast more broadly like Cuba Youth Tours that
are supported by the party. I have no knowledge that the party policy
has changed for better or worse since then.

I think there may well have been a sense that people who visit Cuba to
find out more about a revolution and are not pursuing a immediate
party-building agenda are "radical tourists," but I don't think that was
ever said explicitly in my hearing.

This is one of the many ways in which I think the SWP's insistence on
"political centralism," "political homogeneity," and Iron "discipline"
has become an obstacle to building a communist party in the United
States and elsewhere. But I think it is useful to maintain a sense of
proportion about this.

The claim that nonmembers who visit Cuba without permission become
"unpersons" is also not really true.  First of all, there are people who
visited Cuba without party permission and were dropped as active
supporters as a consequence who still retain very close relations with
the party.

Further, I'm opposed to overhyping the Orwell analogies re the SWP's
organizational practices. The term "unperson" in '1984' refers, I
believe, to those who have been either outlawed and, with the doubtful
exceptions of Emmanuel Goldstein and a few others, physically liquidated
by the regime.  Books, newspapers, and official records are then combed
for possible favorable references to them which are either deleted or
edited into denunciations or proof of their eternal villainy.

Pathfinder publishes quite a range of books or pamphlets by people who
broke politically with the party, including Felix Morrow, George
Breitman, Peter Camejo, and myself -- to cite only a few of the total.
There has been no effort to delete their names from the history books or
to portray them as having been agents all along (except in the quite
different case of Ed Heisler, who really was an FBI agent all along).
Their role may be played down more than the real record justifies in
speeches by Barnes or current writings on party history but they are not
"unpersons."  Those who have become opposed to the party are considered
opponents.  The sectarian way the party tends to deal with that category
-- whether former members or not -- is another question.  Fred Feldman

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