[Marxism] No Democracy in SWP an Exageration

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Apr 2 15:43:14 MST 2005

Guy Miller wrote:
>To write that democracy "ended" inside the SWP in the 1960's is, at least 
>pro forma, not entirely true.  Every article we in the various minorities 
>submitted for publication was dutifully published. At pre convention 
>discussion time we were allowed our say. None of this excuses the summary 
>expulsions of minority groupings. But, to a certain extent the SWP  of the 
>60's and early 70's allowed dissident voices to be heard. The problem was 
>in including minorities back into the organization, and the ability of 
>minorities to act responsibly.

In reality, the problem was much more about self-censorship than respecting 
the rights of the minority. In other words, the internal atmosphere of the 
SWP was controlled largely through peer pressure rather than the threat of 
expulsion. When people went into serious opposition, it was usually with 
the understanding that their days were numbered in the SWP. The logic of 
"scratch to gangrene," in Trotsky's most unhelpful words, was behind every 
fundamental debate in the group. But this was generally a logic applied to 
groupings that had stopped believing in the great powers of our resident 
Wizard of Oz. The curtain had been dropped long before they went into 
serious opposition in nearly every instance.

Even if the SWP was more tolerant of minority rights, the real affront to 
workers democracy was the way in which people felt the need to be accepted. 
This meant getting up at meetings all year long and "motivating" some 
proposal that had come down from the National Office, no matter how 
boneheaded. It reached the point where people would get up and say the 
opposite of what they believed, just to make sure that they felt validated. 
For example, in the months preceding my transfer out of NYC in 1978 to go 
to Kansas City and into industry, I had been complaining bitterly about 
going off on a wild goose chase. I was absolutely convinced that there was 
no deep radicalization going on at the shop floor level as the Militant 
reported. So what do I do after finally being cajoled into transferring, 
leaving my apartment and job for an pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? 
I got up at a big meeting and told the membership that I was leaving town 
in order to help build the party and become proletarianized in the process.

What bullshit. I should have done what that character did in Costa-Gravas's 
great "The Confession", a film dramatization of the Slansky trials. This 
guy, who has been in the party for 30 years or so, has been accused of 
being an imperialist agent. So he gets up in the witness stand, in front of 
the international media which is covering the trial, and begins to pour out 
a lurid tale of betrayal. But in the middle of his confession, the press 
begins to chuckle. Before long, they are guffawing. Why? The defendant had 
begun to drop his pants while confessing. It was his way of saying the 
whole thing was a joke.

That's what I should have done, drop my pants.

Louis Proyect
Marxism list: www.marxmail.org 

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