[Marxism] Cliff Conner report on Trotsky Legacy conference

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Jul 28 08:50:32 MDT 2008

Several people have asked me for my opinion on the Trotsky legacy
conference. Here it is, in brief.

First, I should point out that I only attended the day sessions on
Friday and Saturday, which amounted to about half of the total
conference. I probably would have attended more if it had been in
Manhattan, but it was quite a time-consuming schlep getting to Fordham
in the Bronx.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was actually more
interesting and lively than I had expected, which accounts for why I
returned for the Saturday sessions. I had expected it to be a somewhat
morbid exercise in nostalgia and soul-searching about the destruction
of the SWP, but the talks given by Kipp Dawson and Gus Horowitz were,
in my opinion, of very high quality and interest value. A few of the
others, notably those by Robin David, Paul LeBlanc, and Linda Thompson,
were likewise quite listenable. Only one of the featured speakers that
I heard hit a sour note (and I'd rather not identify that person by
name). So if the criterion by which the conference is to be evaluated
is whether it was boring or not, I would give it high marks. As a
historian, I could appreciate it on that level. However, if it is to
be judged for its practical value in advancing the class struggle
today (for example, by resulting in a higher level of political
collaboration--not to mention unification--among the attendees),
I suspect it will be seen as not very successful.

It appeared that about a hundred people participated. Roughly
speaking, there were three kinds of people in the room: (1)
representatives of the ISO, (2) representatives of the "old SWP,"
including supporters of organizations that claim its heritage, like
Socialist Action and Socialist Organizer, and (3) professional
denouncers, such as the Spartacist League, the Bolshevik this-that-and-
the-other, etc. ISO was represented by a couple of its leaders, Ahmed
Shawki and Sharon Smith, but they also had a large and impressive
Haymarket Press literature table, and a significant number of their
young cadre. (By "significant," I don't mean relative to their total
membership, but relative to the number of people at this conference.)

On the surface, the relations between the ISOers and the "old SWPers"
were very cordial. I saw no evidence of any real political engagement,
however, on the issues that would have to be discussed if any real
rapprochement between the two were to be attempted; for example, on
the nature of the Cuban Revolution. Ahmed Shawki is a very charismatic
speaker, and I suspect that if there were any impressionable young
radicals there to be recruited, they would more likely have been drawn
toward the ISO (and away from the Cuban Revolution) than toward the
groups that claim the continuity of the Cannon/Kerry/Dobbs SWP.

That's it. More could be written, of course, but I think that sums up
its essence.

	Cliff Conner

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