[Marxism] February 24, 2006
guycarlos at msn.com
Sun Feb 26 05:18:05 MST 2006
The leadership of the late 70s consistently pooh-poohed the idea that "the party's internal life would become healthier by its change of social composition." That never was part of their motivation.
The turn to the working class in that period came in 2 phases. It began as a more flexible and experimental policy, not unlike the process we in the Proletarian Orientation argued for in the in 1969 and 1971. Later it morphed into a rigid "everybody into the pool" insanity that continues into the present.
----- Original Message -----
From: Marvin Gandall
Sent: Saturday, February 25, 2006 8:08 AM
To: Activists and scholars in Marxist tradition
Subject: Re: [Marxism] February 24, 2006
> I hate the turn like all the other kids on the post-SWP block? I don't
> know, It isn't JUST political. I love having had and continuing to
> have those experiences.
The original industrial "turn" urged on the SWP in the 30s by Trotsky and
Cannon and its other working class leaders was encouraged not only because
of what the party could do for the radicalizing working class, but of what
the working class could do for it. I think it may have been Trotsky who
disparaged the the students and intellectuals who were disproportionately
represented in the party as "schoolboys", and regarded it as urgent that
their political consciousness and character be hardened by participation in
a working class organization. It was held that the party's internal life
would become healthier by virtue of its changed social composition. My
impression is that the late 70s turn directed by the present generation of
SWP leaders didn't occur in the same context of generalized working class
militancy and was more sectarian in regard to holding union office, but that
it was driven by the same considerations.
Many young Trotskyist and other radical activists who became trade
unionists - either as a conscious choice or a byproduct of their jobs -
became leaders at all levels of the labour movement, but only by adapting to
the prevailing consciousness of the working class "vanguard" of local
officers and stewards and militants, who identified with the social
democrats and the CP and, in the US, also with the liberal wing of the
Democratic party. Those who didn't adapt - who faithfully distributed the
party press and emphasized its particular themes and campaigns and took less
interest in everyday union politics and administration - made little
headway, or if they did, it was because they earned respect as trade union
militants despite their revolutionary politics. The Spartacists, who stood
outside union meetings warning the working class through their press of the
dangers of "Pabloism" and violently denouncing the leaders in whom it still
had some degree of confidence, were notably eccentric, but their general
approach to trade union work was simply the most extreme expression of that
of many other far left groups.
The paid leadership staff in the far left groups, whose own experience was
often limited to the campus and radical intellectual circles, were quick to
denounce such "adaptations" by their trade union cadre as "liquidationism" -
motivated either by "careerist" impulses or an inability to withstand the
pressures of a "more backward" milieu. These tensions could not last
forever; the trade unionists either left the workplace for the party, or
left the party to pursue their own activities in the workplace - mostly the
latter, as the influence of the far left waned and its groups atrophied.
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