Robin Maisel's comment on SWP-US view of Allende and Cuba's role

Robin Maisel robinmaisel at
Tue Sep 9 21:00:00 MDT 2003

Tom O'Lincoln wrote:

>Trouble is, sometimes organisations say things in public documents that
>sound OK, but internally they are saying quite different things -- and it
>can be the latter that is the "real" position. The Australian I.S. in its
>1980s sectarian phase took to describing other leftists as "scum".  This
>never appeared in any public document, but that didn't stop it being the
>attitude of the organisation - at least to a certain degree. In my little
>history of the IS Tendency in Australia (now in advanced draft form), I had
>no choice but to use internal as well as external documents to give an
>accurate portrayal. And unfortunately, all use of documents is "selective".
>On the substance: I remember the SWP's writings on Chile and Allende; and I
>found them very useful.

> Robin Maisel Replies:

    So, what internal documents (or other documents) do you have that
demonstrate that the SWP and its leadership had a different view than
that expressed in its public documents?  Clearly what I am writing about
is the use of  "recollections" and "impressions" that allegedly indicate
that the SWP had a different opinion expressed to the public regarding
the Cuban position or its own position on Allende and the UP.  I recall
many of the documents from discussions in the SWP about the Cuban CP,
Fidel's views, Allende and the UP.  Internal discussion bulletins are
exactly that, internal in order to protect the right of every member to
give his/her/their opinions and views without fear of being pilloried.
Likewise, comrades always have the right to change their opinions and
must not be pilloried for having done so.  That is exactly what
differentiates a party organized along Leninist lines from a talk shop
or discussion circle.
    The problem with Fred's post is that it does not differentiate the
purpose of discussion in a party from that in a discussion circle..  If
Fred has (or had) a different position than that expressed by the SWP in
its public documents that is fine.  But it is not fine to say the SWP
has or had a different view than expressed in its public documents
without proof.  It is particularly painful to see such things on a
public forum such as this list because it is not a private or internal
list/discussion forum.  I have picked out Fred for criticism not because
I believe he is in any way dishonest, but precisely because, after
knowing him and working with him for over forty years, I believe him to
be not only honest but respectful of the damage such an example can
inflict upon a new recruit to Marxist ideas and practices.  I expect he
is probably as troubled about my continuing relationship to the SWP and
its views of organizations and individuals it considers to be
"centrists"  (whether self described or described by the party).  I
think he believes the views and actions of the SWP are wrong, whereas I
think they are correct.  But whatever his views or mine, both he and I
believe discussions must begin with facts in order to be useful.  I am
sure he would not hesitate to point out to me where he differs and
especially were he to think I had fallen away from the norms of factual
bases for discussion, and I hope he will continue to do so. Clearly I am
as liable as anyone to permit polemical excess to overcome political
argument.  He correctly did so in his last post and for that reason I
felt it important to apologize to him in particular and the list in
general for language on my part which created more heat than light.and
appeared unfair
    I know that Fred has differences with the SWP, just as he has
differences with a huge number of organizations and individuals.  I also
know that this list encourages (with a lapse or two from time to time)
its readers and writers to be forthright with their opinions and
encourages contributors to provide facts which support  a position or
opinion.  Of course that is not a requirement for contributing to the
discussions here, but it ought to be encouraged.  What I find troubling
is the use of the list to attack individuals and organizations by
"recollections" or "impressions."  We just went through a storm of that
with respect to the SWP's norms for its members and its organized
supporters (i.e. those who are closely identified with the party by
their views and actions) going to Cuba where the Cuban Communist Party
has shown respect for the opinions and actions of  those it considers to
be serious revolutionaries (of many different ideological backgrounds,
views and organizations).  I note that Fred did not get drawn into that
maelstrom and therefore was particularly upset when he appeared to use
such methods in the present that is not the norm for his
9:50 pm CDT

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