[Marxism] US SWP numbers

Brian Shannon brian_shannon at verizon.net
Wed Jul 5 10:15:09 MDT 2006

> On Jul 5, 2006, at 10:52 AM, Marvin Gandall wrote:
> It seems to me, though, that given the movement towards services in  
> the advanced capitalist countries, the strategy should have  
> included - even emphasized - moving into the public and parapublic  
> sector unions (teaching, health, government) and emerging  
> industries where it's members had already found more secure work  
> consistent with their skills, social background, and career  
> trajectories. Had this happened, the SWP might well have found more  
> favourable opportunities to build fractions and exercise influence  
> in the labour movement, and would have retained the allegiance of  
> many capable members who seem to have left the party because of  
> their reluctance to go into industry.
> Was this perspective advanced in the discussions leading up to the  
> turn? Have these observations already been well integrated into how  
> ex-SWP'ers reflect back on it? If so, it hasn't been evident in the  
> list discussions I've followed on the subject.

In fact, this has been the main theme of several of us on the SWP  
Yahoo site. Had someone sat down with Proyect and talked to him about  
applying his programming skills to jobs in industry--there were and  
are many--he may have seen this as a valid way to apply his talent to  
the new working class.

Instead of a wholesale campaign, the turn should have been done with  
individuals. Some could have returned to jobs that they were already  
skilled in or enjoyed. Others could have been personally worked with.

I have written a few times about the stripping of comrades from  
successful participation in District 1199 to send them to West  
Virginia, where there were new comrades that should have been  
supported but not at the cost of already successful participation in  
NYC largest, and racially integrated, health services union. This was  
just before the turn. Based on this, when the turn came, I knew that  
Barnes was incapable of leading it.

When the turn skidded around the corner, older heads and some younger  
ones said let's take another look, pull back, and go another  
direction. But what many saw as a strategy became an article of  
faith, backed by old texts and shibboleths, and embarrassing for the  
new young leadership, which plunged on into disaster.

As to the first question: "Was this perspective advanced in the  
discussions leading up to the turn?" No, it wasn't. The turn was  
presented as agreed upon by the PC and NC as a whole. Those of us who  
should have challenged it, just shut up -- excepting Jack Lieberman,  
of course. By then, we knew in our bones that you couldn't challenge  
Barnes. He and others would have dropped on you like a ton of bricks.  
He was able, but he could be very nasty, as well. Besides, behind  
Barnes were the trade unionists of the 30s and 40s, who were  
validated and given new life. We became inactive and walked away.

This is why many of us strongly disagree with the idea that something  
went wrong in the early 1980s. Even if there isn't agreement that the  
so-called Leninist structure wasn't at fault, there is broader  
agreement that there was a long-term erosion of democratic attitudes.  
However, I don't think it can just be put down to a resolution of  
1965. Over time, a concept had developed that the best way to prevent  
problems was not through discussion and debate, but through the  
stifling of it from the beginning. After all, the majority had always  
been right! Who needs a minority at all. And if you had ever been in  
a minority, you were only righteous if you vigorously condemned your  
silly past.

Brian Shannon

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