[Marxism] Party democracy and the US SWP

Philip Ferguson philip.ferguson at canterbury.ac.nz
Thu Mar 31 22:12:59 MST 2005

Mark Lause is quite right to note that party democracy had ended in the
SWP in the 1960s and that as early as that stage, minorities were not
represented on the leadership.

As far as I am aware, this became established as the norm at the 1965
convention, when the Fraser-Kirk tendency, which consisted of virtually
the entire SWP and YSA in Washington state at the time, and a few people
elsewhere, had their representation taken away.

The point of the 1965 organisational resolution was to ensure no more
situations like the rather turbulent times in the early 60s, when a
number of minorities arose to criticise what they saw as the rightward
drift of the party.  The purges of the Wohlforth, Robertson and Fraser
groups seem to have made Dobbs-Kerry, and the middle class Carlton
College youth trained for future 'Bolshevik' leadership by Dobbs-Kerry,
determined to clamp down on any dissenting elements within the
organisation and make it a 'homogeneous' - ie monolithic - organisation.

In fact, only a sect can be homogeneous, and this is what the SWP
became, before complete degeneration into a cult under Barnes' one-man

Elements of the rot, however, go back much further.  The kinds of class
characterisations (and reductionism) made in relation to the Cochranites
- and, even to some extent of the Abern-Schactman-Burnham faction -
indicated a fairly unhealthy approach to building a mass revolutionary
workers party.  The only healthy period of the US SWP appears to be the
1930s, when at least it understood that there were other revolutionary
forces out there and they should be united with.

Ironically, the more the term 'Bolshevik' was subsequently trotted out
(to justify 'homogeneity') the less such outfits looked like the actual
Bolshevik Party.

As for Barry Sheppard, frankly, the guy has the whiff of Zinoviev about

Philip Ferguson

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