[Marxism] Paul Le Blanc on the SWP crisis

Nick Fredman nick.fredman at optusnet.com.au
Mon Feb 4 15:31:58 MST 2013

On 5/02/13 12:45 AM, "Anthony Hartin" <anthony.hartin at desy.de> wrote:

> I wasnt very happy with the people who expelled us in 1995, but its
> silly to hold life-long grudges. They (life-long grudges) should be
> reserved for the ruling class (and maybe certain football teams) only.
> The main problem is that everything gets overheated. Blame it on
> Zinoviev, or blame it on human nature, I dont know how you make people
> stay calm.

It's pertinent that in recent informal discussions in Australia there's been
a lot more acrimony between Socialist Alliance members coming from the DSP
and RSP members than between the former and Socialist Alternative members.
Although there are starting to be outbreaks of civility between the the two
former factions of the DSP.

A few years ago on the Greeen Left discussion list Chris Slee relayed an old
split and its resolution which in the fact that the split and some of the
hilariously abusive language used was forgotten a few years later is also
encouraging. It'd be better to avoid the abuse and hyper-factionalised
exaggeration of differences in the first place of course. It's worth noting
that this re-unification pre-dated that of the associated factions of the
FI, which Barry Sheppard details in the second volume of his memoir.

Chris wrote:

> In 1972 there was a split in the Socialist Workers League (the name of
> the DSP at that time). It was linked to divisions in the Fourth
> International, of which the SWL was a sympathising organisation.
> One of the most contentious issues of the debate in the FI was the
> question of guerrilla warfare in Latin America. This should not have
> caused a split in Australia, but it did. To a large extent this was
> due to the FI's concept of international democratic centralism, which
> led people to feel they should take a position on tactical questions
> facing revolutionaries in other countries.
> In the aftermath of the split, relations between the SWL and CL were
> very acrimonious. As an example, I will quote from an article in the
> second edition of the Militant, the Communist League's newspaper. The
> Militant article is responding to criticisms made in Direct Action,
> the newspaper of the Socialist Workers League and the Socialist Youth
> Alliance, of the Palestinian commando attack on Israeli athletes at
> the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. The Militant article says:
> "Direct Action, the Woman's Weekly of the Left, and mouthpiece of the
> centrist Socialist Youth Alliance, has done a characteristic "job" on
> the Palestinians with a black-bordered statement from something
> calling itself the 'Political Committee of the Socialist Workers (sic)
> League' - see DA 26. While of course allowing that the means to
> achieve "self-determination" is "entirely up to the oppressed people
> themselves", SYA would be "failing in its duty" if it "remained silent
> on this occasion". Then follows four columns of typical SYA "critical
> support" - 1% support and 99% criticism - the sort of unadulterated
> filth that offers comfort to the capitalists and their Zionist
> lackeys, that undermines and demoralises the struggle of the
> Palestinians, and leaves the Australian working class thoroughly
> confused and likely to remain as backward as ever. After this further
> evidence of SYA's continuing rightward momentum, following its attack
> on the IRA in DA 23, and its statement that the ALP can be reformed in
> DA 25, the Vietnamese can only be relieved that in the early
> "terroristic" period of their struggle, they did not have to tolerate
> the holier-than-thou carpings of bloated student parasites.
> Otherwise, we have no doubt that SYA would have advised them to put
> away the "conspiratorial and elitist" gun and get involved in mass
> action that the masses understand - like gay liberation demonstrations
> and high school strikes over long hair."
> Eventually most people on both sides of the split saw the need to
> re-unite. By 1977 relations beteen the CL and the SWL (by then called
> Socialist Workers Party) had improved sufficiently for the fusion
> process to begin. It was completed at the fusion conference in
> January 1978.
> This experience shows that it is sometimes possible to overcome even a
> very bitter split.
> For the sake of completeness I should mention that the fusion was not
> without problems. A minority of the CL (I think it was about a third
> of the members) voted against the fusion. Some of these people were
> later expelled from the SWP on various grounds, and all or most of the
> rest of them had left within a couple of years.
> Nevertheless the fusion was an important step forward for the left in
> Australia.
> Chris

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