[Marxism] Barry Sheppard's Volume 2 on SWP is out

Dayne Goodwin daynegoodwin at gmail.com
Tue Mar 20 23:38:03 MDT 2012


The second volume of Barry Sheppard's history of the Socialist Workers
Party (U.S., of course) from 1960 (when he had just joined) until 1988
(when he resigned) has just been published.  This volume covers events from
1973 onward.  Just as the first volume reviewed some of the pre-60s history
of the SWP, this volume's final chapter "Conclusions" goes briefly into
what has happened to the SWP since 1988.

The concluding chapter is dated as having been written last September.  I
know that Barry said he was still doing editing last fall - probably in
communication with the publisher which turns out to be Resistance Books in
London (Resistance Books is the publishing arm of the organization
Socialist Resistance <http://socialistresistance.org>, <
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socialist_Resistance>).  The book i received a
few days ago was printed in Berkeley, CA (i think the book will be printed
in England, Australia and the U.S.).  Bolerium Books <
http://www.bolerium.com> in San Francisco is the North American
distributor, selling the book for $15 plus $3.50 shipping <
http://www.bolerium.com/cgi-bin/bol48/165457.html>.

The title of volume 2 is interesting, "Interregnum, Decline and Collapse,
1973 - 1988".  Barry explains in his brief introduction that he considers
the years 1973 - 1979 as an interregnum or "bridge" between the relatively
healthy organization he described in Volume 1 to the sick SWP of the
1980s.  This second volume is divided into two parts, the eighteen chapters
of Part One cover the "Interregnum" period while fourteen chapters make up
Part Two, "Decline and Collapse".

Chapter 20 is titled "The Emergence of a Cult" around Jack Barnes which
Barry says he first perceived in 1978.  He deals explicitly with the
decline of the SWP in Chapter 26 "The Turn Derails" and then the 1983 - 84
purge under the questionable title "Faction Fight and Split" (Chapter 28).
Chapter 29 is "My Culpability" where he acknowledges "I was fully
responsible for and complicit with the course of the SWP from 1979 through
the expulsions of 1983, and for a time beyond."

This book is dedicated to Barry's late wife Caroline Lund who died in 2006
from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis/ALS, "Lou Gehrig's disease."  Caroline
had agreed to come to Salt Lake as a guest of Utah Socialists in 2005 when
she started suffering initial symptoms of ALS and canceled the trip.
Caroline was a guest of the Salt Lake branch of Solidarity in spring 1996
when i first had the opportunity to ask her about her experiences with
'what happened to the SWP..'  Caroline's story was similar to what Barry
describes in the book.  She said that around 1978 when she and Barry were
living in Europe and representing the SWP within the Fourth International
she became concerned that Jack was taking too much responsibility into his
own hands.  She perceived it as an unconscious development, a failure to
delegate, and when she next had an opportunity during a visit to the U.S.
she met with Jack and told him of her concern.  She was brusquely made
aware that Jack's concentration of power in his own hands was purposeful.
He told her (as i recall Caroline telling me), 'You know that membership in
the SWP is voluntary. It would be sad to see you leave.'

There is an appendix chapter "An Example of Work in the Unions" where Barry
tells of Caroline's remarkable political work in her workplace and in the
United Auto Workers union during the fourteen years she spent on the
assembly line at the NUMMI (joint GM/Toyota) auto plant in Fremont,
California.  It makes quite a contrast with their experiences with the
SWP's "turn to industry."

Ken Morgan (in Portland) and i read the book over the weekend.  I agree
with Ken in recommending the book as well worth reading.

I'm sure i will read the book again more carefully and critically, paying
close attention to the sections dealing with internal SWP organizational
developments.  In my first read i didn't find any reason to reconsider my
recent 'autopsy' of the SWP which is available here <
http://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2011/09/06/a-response-to-alan-walds-article-on-the-swp>
and here <http://solidarity-us.org/site/node/3394> (with one additional
sentence).



More information about the Marxism mailing list