[Marxism] US SWP numbers

Mark Lause MLause at cinci.rr.com
Wed Jul 5 10:27:12 MDT 2006

Well, it strikes me that the proposition that the "old left originated in
heavy industry" is an article of faith.  We could debate the meaning of each
of the essential terms: "old left," "originated" and "heavy industry." 

Instead, though, let's think of the base of the American Left a bit as
primarily among skilled workers and lower middle class types who are in
danger of being socially submerged.  Their key voices have always included
disproportionate numbers of media workers (historically printers and
writers) and schoolteachers.  Viewed from this angle, the 1960s represented
more continuity than is usually acknowledged from the 1930s-40s or the 1910s
or earlier.  

Obviously, the social formation has changed a great deal.  In particular,
American higher education drew from a socially lower student body than in
Europe.  This offered the sort of thoughtful and aggressive types who'd
otherwise be "organic intellectuals," etc. an opportunity to improve the
status or pay their labor could earn. It did not pacify them, as the history
of the 1960s indicated, but it did focus the alienation and radicalization
in channels more easily contained and regulated.

The point is that all radical organizations have historically needed to make
decisions about where to focus their efforts--even if they often made those
decisions by not discussing or making them very consciously.  The best of
them sought to use the people where they were recruited and already had

That's impossible in a student milieu, which is composed of inherently
transient individuals.  But the work force of that period, among
contemporaries of the same age group, were also in flux.  

However, the fact that the SWP deigned to keep people geographically where
they recruited them implies a deliberate choice to break the membership from
the past--theirs and that of the Left generally.

Mark L.

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