[Marxism] US SWP numbers

Marvin Gandall marvgandall at videotron.ca
Wed Jul 5 10:48:04 MDT 2006

Sure, I agree with you that the lack of class consciousness deters any left
group from growing at the present time; our disagreements seem to me have
always turned on whether this is primarily the result of a crisis of
leadership which can be overcome by more clear-headed thinking, or primarily
the result of capitalism's continuing expansion and ability to maintain
minimum living standards and social order which will require a social crisis
to overcome before there is a mass audience for the kind of thinking
represented on this list. But we can agree to disagree about that.

Taking the lack of class consciousness into account - for whatever reason -
let's suppose that the SWP did not mistake a turn to (shrinking) heavy
industry for a turn to the (contemporary) working class? Suppose it didn't
dogmatically insist on uprooting people from the white-collar sectors they
were already graduating into from university and sending them to often
remote and dead-end industrial jobs which couldn't be sustained - the echo
on a much smaller scale of the wasteful Maoist practice of dispersing it's
urban cadre to the countryside? Suppose it said instead, "stay where you are
if you're already active in a union, or move to a workplace in your field
where there is a one, or try to organize them where they don't exist"?
Wouldn't that have kept you and many others on the list, including some of
its most capable leaders, in the party, and still have progressively altered
its ratio of organized workers to students?

It may still not have been able to grow much, but wasn't it the misconceived
nature of the industrial turn which caused the SWP to distintegrate so
precipitously? Would it's political level have declined so rapidly if the
turn hadn't
caused the exodus of so many of its members? Would the Barnes leadership
still have consolidated its hold if these members had stayed? Would you have
anywhere near the same degree of "frenetic activity" and "ideological hair
splitting" which seem to me to be more the expression than the cause of
sects? In other words, was the SWP beyond reform in the late 70s, and what
other reason(s), apart from the turn to heavy industry, could have provoked
so many people to leave rather than trying to reform the party?
Louis wrote:

> Marvin:
>>By contrast, the old left originated in heavy industry and found plenty of
>>room to grow in much different circumstances - that of a rapidly expanding
>>industrial economy which relied heavily on a constant stream of
>>to augment the supply of labour.
> The issue is not whether heavy industry is expanding but rather whether
> class consciousness is expanding. The hard truth, which sectarian groups
> have trouble swallowing, is that there has not been a significant interest
> in socialist ideas in the American working-class since the end of WWII.
> The last time there was something approaching a labor radicalization in
> the USA was during the early 70s in places like Lordstown, Ohio, etc.
> where autoworkers shook up the union and confronted the bosses. Marvin is
> correct to point out how the demise of auto, steel, etc. has eroded the
> social base for this kind of movement, but it is questionable whether
> these workers would have ever found a home in sects like the SWP. The
> simple truth is that the self-declared vanguard parties are inhospitable
> for the average worker. For the kind of frenetic activity and
> super-dedication such groups demand, the real candidate is a college
> student who is used to ideological hair-splitting from seminars and forced
> marches around final exams, etc.

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