The Militant takes a break

Jose G. Perez jg_perez at
Thu Feb 20 22:39:33 MST 2003

Well I went over to the Militant's site, looking for their take on the
demonstrations last weekend. I must have seen the notice the previous week,
but I had forgotten -- the Militant has gone on a three-week break. They're
moving, I assume as the result of the multi-million-dollar sale of the West
Street building. So there was nothing on the demo.

Which is not to say there was nothing new. There was. Not an article, mind
you -- these folks are *orthodox* Leninists, and if Lenin in 1903 said the
central organ was a newspaper, that's the way it'll stay. After all, where
in Lenin does it say it is okay to publish on the web instead? So you have
the biggest wave of anti-imperialist war demonstrations ever in the entire
history of the human race and the SWP has nothing to say on it. Which,
considering what the Militant has been writing about  the antiwar movement
recently, may actually be an improvement.

But, as I said, they do have something new on the website, right there above
the main headline. A link to New International #12, which, as it turns out,
is actually a link to a PDF leaflet announcing New International #12. It
reads, in part:

*  *  *

New International no. 12


by Jack Barnes

"For the first time since the opening of the depression-ridden, war-ridden
1930s, all the evidence in the advanced capitalist countries points to the
onset of something much more than a deep recession such as the three we've
seen the past quarter century. What we're seeing today are the symptoms of a
debt-deflation deadness that does not respond to the monetary or fiscal
prodding that helps accelerate an upturn in a normal trade cycle. In short,
we're in the opening stages of a world depression....

"One of capitalism's infrequent long winters has begun. Given the
accompanying acceleration of imperialism's drive toward war, it's going to
be a long, hot winter. And, even more important, one that will slowly but
surely and explosively breed a scope and depth of resistance not previously
seen by the great majority of revolutionary-minded militants in today's

Jack Barnes
July 2002

*  *  *

The leaflet also has a reproduction of what I guess is the cover of the
issue featuring, you guessed it, the same article with "Jack Barnes" again
very prominently featured.

One thing that never ceases to surprise me is how clever Jack is in coming
up with new ways of saying pretty much the same thing so that it sounds
different. A few years ago it was the "sea change in working class politics"
or some such phrase. It was reassuring to pick up "The changing face of U.S.
Politics" -- the original 1981 edition, I think there have been others, and
read what I had heard live then, exactly a quarter century ago, at the
February 1978 plenum of the SWP National Committee:

"We know that by 1974-75 we had entered a period of crisis for
capitalism--one we will not come out of without gigantic battles for power."
Well, that's probably true enough, I guess, if you take a broad enough view
of the words "period" and "crisis."

But what about this one: "The Political Committee became convinced that
there are more workers developing anticapitalist sentiment or greater
openness to anticapitalist conclusions and solutions today than at any other
time in American history."

That one struck me because I believe it is true that today there are more
people coming to anticapitalist conclusions than previously, of course not
more than at any time in history, but certainly than, say, in the last 25
years. The reason I think that is because I go to Solidarity meetings Monday
nights, and a lot of the people in the room hadn't even been born when the
Oracle of West Street was making that pronouncement. Us alter cockers are
always in a minority, which is probably as it should be.

In a way, it is unfair of me to castigate Jack Barnes for the murkiness of
his crystal ball. It's simply failed, gone dark, and he thinks what he sees
is the road ahead. In this, he is only following the time-honored SWP
tradition. If anything, his optimism pales in comparison to the over-the-top
triumphalism of Jim Cannon's post-WWII "American Theses," which the SWP
stuck with through the fall of 1953, where it was again debated and
reaffirmed at a plenum. That National Committee meeting coincided with the
25th anniversary of the Militant. The expulsion of the Cochranites for their
failure to attend the banquet on that occassion was Cannon's last initiative
as the central national executive officer of the party. And as Louis never
tires of pointing out, those of us ex-SWP'ers who have become
anti-"Leninists" are really following in the footsteps of that 1953

A quarter of a century later, Jack was doing his turn to industry report. I
have a more positive take on the SWP in the intervening years than Louis
does --for one thing the SWP taught me the rudiments of revolutionary
politics and later, by negation, some of the finer points, too-- but, in the
main, on the whole, that 1978 report showed that once the mass
radicalizaiton of the previous two decades has subsided, the old American
Theses sickness was back, and with a vengeance.

Now another quarter century has passed, and it's the same old song: an
irremediable economic crisis "that will slowly but surely and explosively
breed a scope and depth of resistance not previously seen by the great
majority of revolutionary-minded militants in today's world."

"A scope and depth of resistance not previously seen by the great majority
of revolutionary-minded militants in today's world." That's actually not too
bad of a description of what happened last weekend. A bit overstated,
perhaps, but who is going to quibble about the exact wording? Not me.

The shame of it is, the Militant didn't even notice.


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