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

David Rowlands davidrrowlands at hotmail.com
Wed Mar 21 06:49:25 MDT 2012

News of the party's demise, in my opinion, have been greatly exaggerated.


> Date: Tue, 20 Mar 2012 23:38:03 -0600
> From: daynegoodwin at gmail.com
> Subject: [Marxism] Barry Sheppard's Volume 2 on SWP is out
> To: davidrrowlands at hotmail.com
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> 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).
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