Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

May 26, 2008

Split in the Australian DSP

Filed under: revolutionary organizing — louisproyect @ 4:40 pm

I want to say a few words about a recent split in an Australian Marxist group called the Democratic Socialist Perspective that I feel a certain affinity with, including both of the severed parts.

Back in 1982 Jim Percy, the leader of the group which was named the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) at the time, spent a couple of evenings at my apartment in Manhattan as part of a tour of the USA. (Jim died of cancer in 1992. He was 44 years old.) Jim and the Australian SWP had begun to work closely with Peter Camejo, who had been more or less expelled from the American SWP a year or so earlier. Jim, a very likable guy with a huge beer belly, struck me as the direct opposite of the imperious leaders of the SWP. We spent hours talking about Peter’s new project that I was deeply involved with, namely the North Star Network that was an attempt to break with rigid “Marxist-Leninist” vanguard party organizing methods.

Peter sought to apply the lessons of the Cuban and Nicaraguan revolutions to the United States, which first of all meant dropping any pretensions that you had the inside track on the future revolution. For the leaders of the American SWP, who were busy genuflecting to the Cubans and Sandinistas at this time, this was anathema. They might be willing to create an altar for them in the Militant newspaper, but it was totally unacceptable to entertain the possibility that Jack Barnes was not the Lenin of his day.

As a long time member of the SWP, Camejo had taken an extended leave of absence in Venezuela in order to try to figure out why the party had gone off on a sectarian workerist tangent. When he returned to the USA, the party brass told him to get lost. I had gone through a similar experience with the SWP myself around the same time. When I resigned in Kansas City in 1978 after an 11 year membership, I was persuaded to keep that a secret from the membership. I, like Peter, had become an “unperson”. In Peter’s case, the stakes were much higher since he had been a member for twice as long as me and a central leader.

The American SWP had also acted in a high-handed manner with the Australians who had originally taken the name Socialist Workers Party in honor of the group that had served as their model. While it would be an exaggeration to call them a clone, they certainly had absorbed the “lessons” of the American Trotskyist movement, which had reached its pinnacle of success at the time that Jim Percy and his brother John attended a Young Socialists Alliance convention in 1969. (The YSA was the youth group of the SWP).

If you were going to choose a model, the American SWP did not seem to be a bad choice at the time. Unbelievable as it might seem now, in light of its degeneration into a bizarre sect-cult around party leader Jack Barnes, the group was seen in an attractive light back then. So much so that when the NY Times Magazine assigned Walter and Miriam Schneir, authors of a highly regarded study of the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg trial, the Times finally decided to turn it down because it was too flattering.

In a 2-part history of the DSP (part one, part two), John Percy, a leader of the minority faction that has just been expelled, explained how the SWP and the Australians parted company. Ironically, both groups had begun to evolve away from ortho-Trotskyism in the late 1970s and had generously elevated the Cuban Communist Party to their own level. The DSP made the mistake, however, of maintaining ties to Peter Camejo. No matter how close they were ideologically to the Americans, fraternizing with an “enemy of the party” like Camejo was unacceptable. Percy put it this way:

The US SWP was always a little bit suspicious of us. There were never equal relations between us. We at first put it down to the fact that we were a very new party, just learning a lot of things. But even as we became a larger party, and played an increasing role in the Fourth International, they still treated us with less than 100 per cent candor. They suspected our origins probably, coming completely out of the youth radicalisation, and were a bit hesitant about our initiatives and our independence. They were right. We weren’t just followers. One thing we’d already learned by that time (strongly pushed, ironically, by the early leaders of the SWP like James P. Cannon) was that you can’t make a revolution if you don’t develop an independent national leadership team.

My advice to the DSP–put in my inimical provocative fashion–has been to burn all their James P. Cannon books. While Cannon was a principled and talented socialist leader, his writings on how to build a revolutionary party are guaranteed to create the kind of internal regime that leads to splits and expulsions over and over again, no matter the best intentions of the people in charge. Back in June 2003, I wrote a reply to John Percy’s article “Looking backward, looking forward: Pointers to building a revolutionary party” that had taken exception to people on Marxmail, such as myself and Joaquin Bustelo, who supposedly spend “a good part of their political activity attacking their own past by attacking those still actively building a party.” In reality, we were far more interested in attacking the party-building model than the people in the trenches doing the hard work. We were trying mostly unsuccessfully to persuade the Australians to move away from Cannon’s ideas that had inspired his chief lieutenant Morris Stein to utter these words to the 1944 SWP convention:

We are monopolists in the field of politics. We can’t stand any competition. We can tolerate no rivals. The working class, to make the revolution can do it only through one party and one program. This is the lesson of the Russian Revolution. That is the lesson of all history since the October Revolution. Isn’t that a fact? This is why we are out to destroy every single party in the field that makes any pretense of being a working-class revolutionary party. Ours is the only correct program that can lead to revolution. Everything else is deception, treachery. We are monopolists in politics and we operate like monopolists.

To put it bluntly, any group that operates on the party-building principles that spawned such self-aggrandizing nonsense will by necessity suffer splits and expulsions, not to speak of the artificial barriers to growth. Radicalizing workers and students are naturally suspicious of any group that sees itself in these terms. Frankly, the idea of being “monopolists” owes more to business world than revolutionary politics. Try to imagine Che Guevara or Fidel Castro speaking in these terms in 1957. Impossible.

Back in 2002 we had a discussion on the Marxism list about the DSP and expulsions in which a number of their members dismissed as a remote possibility. One who has just been expelled himself insisted that “getting expelled from the DSP is hard.” Peter Boyle, the current leader of the DSP, took exception to the idea that the DSP was “some sort of expulsion-happy sect.” While it is true that the group had very little resemblance to the American SWP that certainly could be described as an “expulsion-happy sect”, there were some concerns about what might happen in the future given Peter’s declaration in the very same post that Leninism includes “A revolutionary factionalism/interventionism in the broader movements (revolutionary party-ism).” It sounded to me at the time that Peter was channeling Morris Stein. What kind of group would conceive of itself in terms of “revolutionary factionalism”, a label that an enemy of a party would more likely attach to it?

While it is hard to imagine John Percy uttering such infelicitous words, I am afraid that his party-building concepts remain identical to Peter Boyle’s. Both the DSP and the expelled Leninst Party Faction (LPF) that Percy leads remain wedded to the unfortunate “vanguard” conceptions of Jim Cannon. You can spot it immediately in their explanations of why they parted ways.

The LPF believes that “This process of destroying the DSP’s democratic centralist practices was an outgrowth of the majority’s most fundamental break with Leninist norms regarding differences.” The DSP leaders meanwhile regard the minority of flaunting democratic centralist principles itself:

A revolutionary socialist organisation like the DSP cannot exist without internal democracy: it requires the maximum possible discussion and democratically exchanged ideas at all levels if the party is to be able to chart a correct course through the shifts of the class struggle. Likewise, centralism is implicit in the very existence of a revolutionary socialist party: we are a voluntary union of revolutionaries precisely because we understand that united action is more effective than the uncoordinated efforts of individuals.

All this verbiage about Leninism and democratic centralism practically screams out for a reevaluation of such “principles” that seem guaranteed to do everything except produce a mass revolutionary party such as the kind that took power in 1917.

I want to conclude with some observations on the differences between the two groups, which centered on the Socialist Alliance in Australia. Ordinarily I try not to stick my nose in the business of groups in other countries in a bid to avoid the “Coyoacan syndrome” but will make an exception in this case since the Socialist Alliance question is critical for revolutionaries everywhere trying to figure out how to unite the left.

Over 5 years ago the DSP embarked on a project to unite the Australian left in a Socialist Alliance (SA) that was inspired by a similar experiment in Great Britain. This was basically an attempt to unite socialist organizations and individuals in a new framework for common action. They never went anywhere because the strongest parties in such formations tended to see them as opportunities for their own particular growth at the expense of their opponents. In Great Britain, the Socialist Alliance collapsed because of the British SWP’s heavy-handed “revolutionary intervention”, to use Peter Boyle’s formulation. In Australia it sputters along with the DSP at the helm. The built-in contradictions that are bound to hamper such formations eventually led John Percy and his co-thinkers in the DSP to mount a struggle against what they considered “liquidationism” in the Socialist Alliance. After the struggle reached a fever pitch, the DSP majority expelled the minority. I am quite sure that if Percy was in the majority, Boyle and company would have gotten the boot. That’s life in the world of James P. Cannonism.

My take on the Socialist Alliance will be in my customarily provocative fashion. If anything the DSP was not liquidationist enough. The best thing would have been to dissolve the DSP completely and work in this new framework on a totally new basis, one that dumped the “democratic centralist” mumbo jumbo that puts an artificial ceiling on the growth of any revolutionary organization. Even though the act of self-liquidation might seem suicidal to those trained in Cannonist conceptions, it is instead a necessary first step in building something genuinely massive.

Despite my obvious disregard for Cannon’s organizational recipes, I still find this American original worth quoting from time to time. When Cannon was in prison during WWII for violating the Smith Act, he found himself in conversations with some big time bank robbers who questioned his willingness to go to prison for his ideals. If you are going to go to prison, they said, you might as well go for robbing a bank when at least you can score some loot if you don’t get caught. Cannon’s reply to the robbers was that he was not interested in small scores like individual banks. He wanted, as he put it, the whole thing.

For revolutionaries who are interested in the whole thing, the necessary first step is to forget about those small scores. Making a revolution in a country like the USA or Australia involves thinking big and especially getting rid of the idea that revolutionary politics seeks to to establish a “monopoly” to use Morris Stein’s words. Ironically, it is this very ambition that is bound to keep you in the realm of petty shop-keeping.


  1. Hi, very interesting.

    As an aside I think it’s wrong to place all the blame for the collapse of the English Socialist Alliance on the SWP. The should and do bear a good deal of the responsibility for its failure, but they should not be unfairly singled out.

    It is an unfortunate truth that all the groupings had a problematic relationship with the SA, with the posible honourable exception of the ISG/Socialist Resistance who were too small and too timid too make enough of a difference in the culture.

    In fact it was the way that some other groups behaved, in particular the small but noisy AWL, that allowed the SWP to win many of the arguments that eventually led to the SA’s termination. The AWL, as an example, used the SA for their own purposes and as cynically just as much, if not more than, the SWP – but because of their size (or lack it) never get the blame.

    The other key group that was problematic was the Socialist Party who walked out of the SA once the SWP joined because they couldn’t cope with the threat to their domination. The SP leaving, effectively in a sectarian flounce, is just as much a factor for the SA’s collapse as anything the SWP did (who lest we forget helped create most SA branches).

    So to the self criticism… independent socialists like myself were either too slow to try to generate an independent, pro-SA current or were too antagonistic to all the groups ending up as pointless pools of disatisfaction. I like to think I was in the first camp, but we none the less were unable to save the project and probably could have done better with the benefit of hindsight.

    Comment by jim jay — May 26, 2008 @ 4:59 pm

  2. I think Louis makes a big mistake. His description is exactly right of the Aussie SA: it was modeled on the British SA…but which itself was a failure because it tried mechanically to repeat itself was tried succesfully in Scotland.

    The issue is never ‘uniting the left’ it’s unity in the class struggle as it relates to the workers movement (an a very broad based understanding of what that means). That it worked in Scotland wasn’t *simply* because there was a downing of sectarian blinders (which is true) but that the political development in Scotland was so much different than in England it allowed for this sort of unity-in-action that became unit-in-organization. Not a one the English groups saw this, they simply saw the “SA” in Englands as a feed bag around their equaline politics.

    When I heard that the DSP was going to do this in Oz 5 years ago I laughed: yet another mechanical adaption to something literally half-way around the world that itself was failing and still born. This is especially true since the DSP had *almost* the reputation there as the SWP in the US did: a smothering type organization that allowed little for other groups in a united front to manouver or even participate.

    Did anyone look at what the state of the class struggle was in Australia? Was there some sort of motion in the class that indicated a pushing together or disparet organizations based on even a mild agreement on what the tasks for socialists were? I don’t think so.


    Comment by David Walters — May 26, 2008 @ 6:30 pm

  3. David,
    I think there was some new leftward motion in the working class following the mass campaign to defend the Maritime Union of Australia in 1998. A new minority militant current arose in the trade unions. The emergence of this left boosted the confidence of activists in other movements and leftists who had pulled back from activity. The leaders of this current were mostly outside any of the existing left organisations but some of them joined the Socialist Alliance, which had been formed in 2001, and others have worked as allies while remaining in the Australian Labor Party. This new situation helped keep the fractious left groups in the SA until 2005. There was plenty of argument and jostling in SA but remarkably there was no problem coming to agreement (with all the affiliates) around the main lines of a common intervention in the trade unions, anti-war movement and all the major political campaigns of the time (between 2001-2005). While the sharp decline of the anti-war movement in 2003 and the rise of the Greens as the party that scooped the progressive vote did spell trouble for SA, the new militant current in the trade union movement continued to play an important role in campaign against new anti-union laws right until the defeat of the Howard Liberal-National government last November. So there was some motion out there in the class that SA was trying to relate to.
    Peter Boyle

    Comment by Peter Boyle — May 26, 2008 @ 11:33 pm

  4. Do you think the SWP could have persuaded the bulk of the movement against the war in Vietnam to the Out Now position, without democratic centralism?

    Comment by Renegade Eye — May 26, 2008 @ 11:37 pm

  5. I am not sure what the connection between Out Now and democratic centralism was. Maybe you can expound on this a bit.

    Comment by louisproyect — May 26, 2008 @ 11:43 pm

  6. >Back in 2002 we had a discussion on the Marxism list about the DSP and expulsions in which a number of their members dismissed as a remote possibility. One who has just been expelled himself insisted that “getting expelled from the DSP is hard.”<

    I’m pretty sure no-one was expelled from the DSP between 1983 and 2005. The latter case was a single comrade who appeared by his actions to have a bit of a martyr complex, and got what he wanted.

    The key point about the successes, trials and tribulations of SA has been objective circumstances, which of course David Walters has always been uppermost in many minds here. It’s sheer idealism to think any different organisational moves by the DSP would have or would now make much difference for good or ill. And there’s a serious question of what might be lost by radical junking of centralism which is very easy for Louis to be glib about.

    The trajectory of SA was significantly upward IMO actually until at least the November 2004 re-election of Howard. In 2003-04 the anti-war movement was declining sure, but there was certainly a strong mood resulting from the war and other Howard policies, reflected for example in the tripling of the Greens vote from 2001 to 2004, and a reversal of the previous negative and pro-government public opinion of refugees. SA peaked numerically in 2005 (at 1100 paid up members, a lot for Oz), and up to that year there was for example positive involvement by the ISO in the 40-strong tertiary education union caucus that I produced 8 editions of a spiffy national newsletter for (and which for several years got up to 10% of conference delegates). There was a serious case of depression among the left after this election (which until mid 2004 looked like the end of Howard), and it was soon after that the ISO gradually withdrew and some independents dropped out.

    Perhaps SA is “stumbling” but these stumblings includes much better relations with the migrant left than most of the gringo left are capable of, including the recent affiliation of the Sudanese CP organisation, and election campaigns in Queensland involving a central Indigenous leader and 100+ people. This stuff seems quite worthwhile until there’s some better (concrete) suggestions on the table.

    Comment by Nick Fredman — May 27, 2008 @ 12:34 am

  7. I suspect what Renegade Eye is asking is whether you think that in the abscence of democratic centralist organizational norms, the SWP/YSA could have achieved political hegemony by 1970 in the mass movement against the Vietnam War. (Recall that folks were expelled in Boston for breaking party discipline by abstaining on votes at public antiwar meetings in 1971). Perhaps you need to clarify whether Cannonism is the root of the sectarian disease, or Leninism itself. In this regard, I’ve found your past reflections on the Zinovievist variant of the party very helpful.

    Comment by Bob Montgomery — May 27, 2008 @ 3:34 am

  8. There is no question that the “combat party” structure, what Fred Halstead called the “big red machine”, allowed the SWP to get a lot done in the antiwar movement. Some of this was good, like fighting for immediate withdrawal. Some of this was not so good, like alienating independents who figured out before long that it did not matter what arguments they raised at conferences. SWP’ers always voted as a disciplined bloc, so the debate was strictly pro forma. I think the same goals could have been achieved if a more loosely structured organization allowed its members to vote on their conscience and not on the basis of instructions from floor leaders. An occasional contrary vote would have made the SWP appear more attractive, less monolithic. Finally, immediate withdrawal had become pretty much the consensus of the movement by 1969 or so. The CP and some of the pacifists would have always had their phased withdrawal schemes, but that’s the nature of middle-class politics in the USA.

    Comment by louisproyect — May 27, 2008 @ 1:15 pm

  9. As one who was recently purged from a Left party, I’ve been pondering that, wondering why the far left seemingly delights in ousting members who they deem to have fallen from the faith in such deliberately and pointlessly nasty ways.

    When a corporation ousts someone in top management they at least couch it in bland language, “he left to pursue family interests.” One of the first rules of real world politics is you don’t want to make enemies out of opponents because you might need their support someday down the line, a tactic left grouplets might consider.

    Comment by Bob Morris — May 27, 2008 @ 3:55 pm

  10. Louis writes: “What kind of group would conceive of itself in terms of “revolutionary factionalism”, a label that an enemy of a party would more likely attach to it?”

    Perhaps this kind:
    “In what relation do the Communists stand to the proletarians as a whole?

    The Communists do not form a separate party opposed to the other working-class parties.

    They have no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole.

    They do not set up any sectarian principles of their own, by which to shape and mould the proletarian movement.

    The Communists are distinguished from the other working-class parties by this only: 1. In the national struggles of the proletarians of the different countries, they point out and bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat, independently of all nationality. 2. In the various stages of development which the struggle of the working class against the bourgeoisie has to pass through, they always and everywhere represent the interests of the movement as a whole.

    The Communists, therefore, are on the one hand, practically, the most advanced and resolute section of the working-class parties of every country, that section which pushes forward all others; on the other hand, theoretically, they have over the great mass of the proletariat the advantage of clearly understanding the lines of march, the conditions, and the ultimate general results of the proletarian movement.

    The immediate aim of the Communists is the same as that of all other proletarian parties: formation of the proletariat into a class, overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy, conquest of political power by the proletariat.”

    Comment by Alan B — May 27, 2008 @ 11:00 pm

  11. Interesting post which relates to the whole issue of the broad party (so called) and the revolutionaries.
    Clearly whatever the rights and wrongs of DC, what has been interpreted as DC pretty much across the world hasn’t worked. I’m a support of Permanent Revolution in the UK, which split from Workers Power, a small group that perhaps people haven’t heard of, but which basically operated an extreme version of Cliffite bureaucratic centralism. This organisational structure was inherited from Cliff in the 1970s without much thought from what I can see. Cliff’s model was in turn based on Cannon.
    Now might there not be a case to say that Trotsky’s organisational methods of the 1930s were appropriate to the time – after all revolution was immanent – fascism and war were immanent – there was a profound revolutionary crisis – but not the cadres or organisation to learn for themselves the methods of revolutionary intervention. In addition of course the Trotskyists were being beheaded by the Stalinists – which can’t have encouraged a relaxed atmosphere and tolerance of differences, but they are not immutable rules that are appropriate at other times.
    Let’s not forget that Lenin’s What is to be done? which is usualy attributed as providing the master plan for subsequent Leninist organisation – contains no such plan and doesn’t even contain the phrase democratic centralism, which was something inherited from the German social democracy a couple of years later.
    So do we not then need to re-look at the relationship between politics and organisation and remember that organisation flows from the political tasks of the moment, which are to reestablish a thinking Marxist cadre able to fight for revolutionary ideas inside the working class – we then need to work out the best organisational structure to fulfill that task, not decide what the organisational task is (build the party) and then work accordingly. That is surely, putting the cart before the horse?

    Comment by bill j — May 29, 2008 @ 10:28 pm

  12. […] Marxist group called the Democratic Socialist Perspective that I feel a certain affinity with,https://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2008/05/26/split-in-the-australian-dsp/Missouri PSC reopens record on Aquila sale BizJournalsKansas City power & light Co.’s fatal crane […]

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  13. After Peter Camejo was ousted from the SWP in the early 90’s he engineered a sinister & devastating split in the biggest anti-imperialist movement in the last decade of the 20th Century when he redbaited the leadership of the 1st Gulf War just because he either had a grudge against Sam Marcy or was jealous of the WWP’s ability to organize, with very little resources, enormous anti-war coalitions & marches.

    Camejo aided this perfidious anti-war split along with DSAers & other Democratic Party apologists arguing “Give Sanctions a Chance.”

    The legacy of reformists like Camejo & Leslie Cagan still cripple anti-war efforts today insofar as UFPJ & MoveOn.Org redbait & blackout mass events such as the upcoming 3/21/09 mass actions.


    As far as the First Gulf War it would’ve been more humane to bomb to death the 500,000 Iraqi children & elderly who ultimately perished in the 90’s than to slowly starve them with a decade of those murderous “sanctions” that Camejo & Cagan cheered for.

    Ironic that in the 21st Century, out of sheer embarassment no doubt, the words “give sanctions a chance” haven’t been uttered once in the lead up to, or after, the Iraqi invasion, but their thwarting of the Peace Movement in deference to the hawks leading the Democratic Party continue.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — March 19, 2009 @ 6:27 pm

  14. After Peter Camejo was ousted from the SWP in the early 90’s…

    I don’t know how to tell you this, but Camejo was thrown out of the SWP in the early 80s. On the rest of it, I have no information about Camejo “engineering” a split in the antiwar movement. Peter was not a major player in the antiwar movement and the split can be blamed primarily on the CP and the Committees of Correspondence who had real muscle in the movement. Anyhow, if you can document anything of this, please do. I am truly interested in getting at the facts if there are any.

    Comment by louisproyect — March 19, 2009 @ 6:46 pm

  15. My mistake on the years but it’s irrelevant exactly what decade the nut Barnes drummed Camejo out of the SWP. The fact is he was united with the CofC & their DSA allies in splitting the Anti Gulf War movement.

    They boycotted the big marches and called for different dates to lead different, smaller marches under the banner of giving “sanctions” a chance. A chance to what? A chance to starve brown people, the historic victims of Imperialism, into either submission or enough anger to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

    Camejo & Cagan & the CofC were aghast that this dynamic and quickly growing anti-imperialist movement, led obstesibly by the WWP, which engineered a march of well over 100,000 on Washington on MLK’s birthday even BEFORE the troops were deployed into Kuwait, was organized primarily by Marcy’s skilled cadre, who as you say in your obituary of Sam Marcy, led the “largest Marxist-Leninist” party in the USA (and it was also the largest back then.)

    I realize their ability to organize such large events & huge coalitions over the last 1/4 century on important anti-imperialist struggles, ranging from Haiti & Latin America to Palestein, greatly undermines your dubious assertion that they’re simply another Trotskyist sectarian cult of Sam Marcy, but the fact is they’ve been at the forefront of every mass march in the US since the early 80’s and as a politically astute New Yorker you know it.

    Now proving the Camejo connection with the CofC regarding the pro-sanctions split in the anti-war movement of the early 90’s will be difficult for me as I was much younger then and this particular struggle is not well documented on the internet.

    I learned about it from my late father, Don Smith, whose brilliant mind was like a trap and whom you probably know insofar as he not only was friends with Camejo in the late 60’s but was also drummed out of the Chicago branch of the SWP by Barnes in the early 70’s for co-writing the internal SWP document known as the “Proletarian Orientation.”

    Ironically, after expelling the members behind the Proletarian Orientation document, Barnes went ahead and called it his own idea and adopted it in draconian spades, ultimately leading the party to ruin.

    So in the early 90’s when the WWP organized a broad, anti-sectarian coalition culminating in the largest anti-war march since Vietnam, and the CofC began it’s campaign to redbait, sabotage & boycott it, I asked my father who could be behind such a dastardly act?

    He explained that because in the Workers World newspaper there was an editorial with the line “Victory to Iraq” people that might otherwise be for the “Defeat of imperialism” wanted to break from that coalition for various reasons.

    When I asked “but isn’t Victory to Iraq objectively the same as the defeat of Imperialsm” he said of course it was but that folks like Camejo, who at the time had his eye on getting somewhere in bourgeois elections, couldn’t stomach that, and moreover, he couldn’t live with the idea that so-called “sectarians” like Marcy could be so potentially successful.

    Thus Camejo’s politics at that particular juncture morphed into essentially what the DSA and the CofC had been echoing, “give sanctions in Iraq a chance” while cheering the collapse of the USSR.

    It was, after all, the end of Stalinism, so why wouldn’t they cheer? Saddam, after all, was a dictator like like Stalin so how could they march under the banner of a movement that was led by a party that advocated the victory of Iraq?

    The answer is they couldn’t and thus proceeded to undermine the anti-war movement for both personal & political reasons.

    In the end they got their intial wish — sanctions against Iraq and the undermining of the WWP’s efforts to organize an effective anti-war coalition, just as their political successors are attempting to do today by redbaiting, boycott & blackout of the 3/21/09 demos led by the ANSWER coalition, which is essentially a WWP front organization.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — March 19, 2009 @ 8:24 pm

  16. Now proving the Camejo connection with the CofC regarding the pro-sanctions split in the anti-war movement of the early 90’s will be difficult for me as I was much younger then and this particular struggle is not well documented on the internet.

    I’ll say.

    Comment by louisproyect — March 19, 2009 @ 8:27 pm

  17. Just because it’s not well documented on the internet isn’t surprising at all, since we’re talking about 1991 & 1992, but it is surely documented somewhere and can be ultimately unearthed.

    My father wouldn’t tell me the anti-communist inspired “give sanctions a chance” anti-war split was propogated by Peter Camejo in conjunction with the CofC for nothing. He had no axe to grind with Camejo.

    I remember it so distinctly because I hadn’t even heard the name “Peter Camejo” since the time my father hung with him at the SWP Convention in Oberlin, Ohio when I was a small boy.

    Stunned, I asked my father why Camejo, a past comrade, would support such a malicious gang of redbaiters & reformists?

    He could only speculate that it was partly due to his wanting to enter into bourgeois elections (he was set to become Nader’s VP after all) and partly because he (mistakenly) considered Marcy to be as sectarian as Barnes, so much so that he evidently didn’t want some potentially explosive, communist led movement coming to the fore in the middle of a breaking Imperialist War right when he was beginning his new carreer at becoming VP of the USA on the Nader ticket.

    Without me digging up the proof, which I’m sure I could if my life depended on it, it’s certainly prima facia plausible isn’t it?

    Louis, you were apparently close to Camejo for many years. Then perhaps you have evidence that what I’m asserting is untrue? Unlikely since you’d have provided it already.

    Louis — I’ve read much of your excellent blogs before posting here and you obviously admire & know alot about Camejo, more than I to be sure.

    Yet when most contrarians comment on a subject you’ve mastered you retort definitively & confidently — but interestingly you’re conspicuouly mute on my assertion that in his bid for Nader’s VP slot Camejo not only redbaited but helped split the Peace Movement alongside the Democratic Party, the CofC and the DSA — all in a concerted effort to hobble the organizing efforts of the WWP.

    I suspect that’s because you believe it’s indeed quite possible but would feel much better if I could provide some hyperlink wherein he’s been documented to second some motion at a CofC convention. Well I cannot. I can, however, offer the following circumstantial evidence.

    As you’ll concede Camejo’s seminal work (at least in your view) was his treatise “Against Sectarianism.” Camejo grew to despise the sectraianism of the left in general and Trotskyist organizations in particular. (Barnes had that affect on even the most grizzled cadre as you’ve documented well.)

    Camejo became a Socialist because he originally had honest political instincts. He became a Trotskyist because he loved the idea of socialism but hated Stalinism. Fair enough. Yet he came to despise what he initially saw as the vangurd of socialism in Trotskyism not only because he was unfairly treated by SWP’s leadership but also because he believed it’s notion of Democratic Centralism was inherently sectarian and thereby doomed to failure, aka, Proyect’s worldview.

    The profound and unprecedented degeneration of the SWP into political worthlessness by the time of the Gulf War was complete, so Camejo felt in a way vindicated & so he began a new career path in bourgeois electoral politics.

    Then along comes this hitherto obscure Trotskyist “sect” led by Marcy (who left the SWP in the 50’s) and suddenly, right when the USSR was collapsing and both Trotskyism & Stalinism seemed kaput & it was time to run in borgeois elections as VP on the Nader ticket, the WWP’s organizational prowess seemed utterly amazing, and also, from his way of thinking, dangerous enough that it must be stopped at all costs.

    Not only was Marcy (wrongly) seen by Camejo as an Ultra-Trotskyist Sectarian but also Camejo (along with Barnes)considered Marcy a Stalinist! — NOT because Marcy ran the WWP like a Barnesian sectarian despot (hardly) but because the WWP was THE LARGEST (at least in the USA) & ONLY MARXIST-LENINIST ORGANIZATION AT THAT TIME that not only predicted the bankrupt perfidy of Perestroika but explained it scientifically.

    That’s right. They were defending the USSR when absolutely NOBODY else in the First World was, not even the previously Kremlin-beholden CPUSA.

    I’m not now, nor never was, a member of the WWP but I am a sociologist and defy anybody to find a more prescient & sociologically accurate documentaion of the USSR during it’s collapse than the first 1/3 of the book “Perestroika: A Marxist Critique” by Sam Marcy, especially insofar as the hallmark of science is its predictive success.

    The Introduction linked below, written in 1989, is absolutely riveting in its understanding of the past and predictions of the future:


    I seriously doubt after reading just the Intro Louis will find a single sentence he disagrees with (his rather unflattering obituary of Marcy notwithstanding).

    Scorned by the mendacity of Barnesian Trotskyism, Camejo’s new adventure into bourgeois politics is suddenly potentially eclipsed by his worst nightmare — the erstwhile Stalinists in sectarian Trotsyist garb at the WWP. He calculated they needed to be stopped at all costs so it’s not far fetched that he joined forces with the CofC & DSA advocating “sanctions” to distance themselves from the embarassment of those “sectarians” who’d have the audacity to shout “Victory to Iraq” — just like every other left-liberal at the time.

    They all, including Camejo, were rooting for the collapse of the Soviets after all. And the WWP was against it. They all, including Camejo, rooted for “sanctions” against Iraq as an utterly naive way to “maybe” stop the war. And the WWP was against that. None of the reformists, including Camejo, were for the Victory of Iraq in that war. But WWP was for it.

    Rest assured if Lenin were alive in 1991-92 he’d be shouting “Victory to Iraq” too. Are you kidding. Millions of brown people, the historical victims of imperialism, forced to take up arms against the most pernicious of imperialist marauders — the world’s only superpower, armed to the teeth & freshly emboldened with the collapse of the Soviets.

    Camejo et al actually believed, again as naively as a Boy Scout, that there’d be some Congressional stop put to that war. The vote was, after all, very close & most on the left held their breaths in hope. The 60 Minutes piece about Iraqi troops storming a Kuwaiti hospital & yanking baby’s from incubators turned the tide of the votes for war (much like the Gulf of Tonkin Incident) even though 2 weeks later it was discovered the woman narrating the story was the neice of a Kuwaiti Emir who was paid by the CIA to lie like a derivatives trader.

    That’s what one gets for resting their hopes on Parliamentary Cretinism.

    Like Lenin famously said: “Democracy never prevented a single war.”

    Even Noam Chomsky was for “sanctions” against Iraq. He told me that to my chagrined face. You can bet therefore Nader was too. Therefore do I really need proof to assert that Camejo was too?

    As for my contention that in addition to redbaiting the Peace Movement & advocating murderous “sanctions” — Camejo, like Nader, was for the collapse of the USSR — Louis remains silent.

    Yet I believe (and I suspect Louis does too) that the collapse of the Soviets was a disaster for the Trade Union Movement & the Left in general, and the 3rd World in particular (just ask the Cubans) — the Bolivarian Revolutions notwithstanding, although that is another topic which I’d be happy to take up with anybody who is willing, although I warn in advance that it will be impossible while I’m alive to make a convincing case that the world’s a better place without the Soviet Union.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — March 20, 2009 @ 2:39 am

  18. Louis, you were apparently close to Camejo for many years. Then perhaps you have evidence that what I’m asserting is untrue? Unlikely since you’d have provided it already.

    You must subscribe to the legal system that requires a defendant to prove that he is not guilty. I much prefer the system in which the prosecutor–you namely–has to establish guilt. If you want to write about how great the WWP is, why not stick to that–just stop pissing on Peter Camejo’s grave. He cannot defend himself, you know. Being dead and all that thing.

    Comment by louisproyect — March 20, 2009 @ 3:48 pm

  19. Right. I just crawled out from a under a rock to invent these baseless charges, none of which ring true or are even plausible, lacking any detail or context.

    It’s ludicrous to imagine somebody that was purged from Fred Barnes’ gulag after being habitually browbeaten & forced to pass out leaflets proclaiming that the Iranian Revolution produced a Workers’ State would embark on a bourgeois electoral career a decade later and then collaborate with reformists & other scallywags to undermine a “Trotskyist sect” that he (erroneously) felt was indistingishable from the SWP but was even worse since they had the audacity to not only muffle the fanfare & glee surrounding the collapse of the USSR but also the gall to shout “Victory to Iraq” from the rooftops at the outset of an Imperialist War that figured to quickly eclipse the relevance of his VP bid.

    Res Ipsa Loquitur.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — March 20, 2009 @ 5:30 pm

  20. Was Fred Barnes the same guy who expelled Peter Camejo in the early 1990s? Or maybe you were thinking of Peter Tomato.

    And I don’t think you crawled out from under a rock. But your charges definitely don’t ring true. If you want to smear somebody, you will have a much easier job if you stick to the public record, like Peter Camejo running as a “bourgeois” candidate. Speaking of which, for all your enthusiasm for the WWP, how do you justify their support for Harold Washington, a DP politician? Oh, I know. It is okay because they are a truly revolutionary vanguard.

    Comment by louisproyect — March 20, 2009 @ 5:37 pm

  21. Louis says — “…just stop pissing on Peter Camejo’s grave. He cannot defend himself, you know. Being dead and all that thing.”

    So it’s OK for you to piss on Sam Marcy’s grave by insinuating that the Party he founded, which you say is the largest Marxist-Leninist organization in the country, is nothing more than a cult of personality sect revolving around Marcy.

    Like a guy attempting to urinate with an erection, your pee has 2 simultaneous streams — one lands on Marcy’s grave and the other on Lenin’s tomb.

    True enough, Camejo is dead and cannot defend himself but his rancid politics lives on in the form of UFPJ with their redbaiting & blackouts and his defenders are alive & well on MoveOn.Orgs website as well as this one so long as you remain Unrepentant.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — March 20, 2009 @ 5:56 pm

  22. So your father was in the WWP for 28 years. Wow.

    Anyhow, this is not a productive discussion since you don’t have the facts on Camejo and Moveon.org, which you will never find because it is such an obvious slander.

    Despite calling yourself “Karl Friedrich”, you don’t seem to be familiar enough with the debates on what Lenin’s Bolshevik Party was really about and only took an opportunity to get us sidetracked in a debate about the WWP that I am not really interested in having. Like I have said on many occasions, such groups do not operate on the same principles as Lenin. If and when you have developed enough of a background to discuss things like why the Bolsheviks never expelled anybody, why they held their debates openly in their newspaper, etc., I will gladly debate them with you. The politics of Sam Marcy and the WWP is simply not important enough for me to waste my time debating.

    If you want to discuss topics germane to this post on the Australian SWP, that’s fine. Otherwise, go away.

    Comment by louisproyect — March 20, 2009 @ 6:13 pm

  23. Your analysis of the DSP LTF faction split is spot on. The SWP/DSP has alway suffered with the Cannonist approach and its version of Democratic Centralism. The whole left and broader radical community in Australia is littered with former members who have either been disallusioned by the factionalism or expelled because they did not quite conform to the rules.

    Is it really necessary to expel people for disagreeing with policies and for meeting and discussing disagreements with others? Most of the charges are trumped up and ludicrous and this has always been the case from the 7Os until today. The Percys, Doug Lorimer and all the other former leaders have all participated in this stupidity and it obvious that ultimately they would have suffered the same fate that they have dished out regularly to others.

    The DSP and the LTF cannot help themselves. They will not build a large movement because they will stifle it with their ‘activism’. Despite their claims to the contrary, all the current far left parties are in this operating framework. They want to recruit and control and not build. They do believe they are the vanguard and that other do not contribute as much as they do to the struggle.

    I think that they are all quite delusional and the only real way forward is for organisations that are genuine to disolve their parties and disolve their control structures and to participate in the broarder committees and actions without the democratic centralist discipline that forces people on the defensive.

    I’m sure that the LTF would call this liquidationist maybe even throw in references to Pablo. I’m afraid the current DSP are not much better. They will shift to building the SA and gradually force out all the independants and be left with a name change and thats all. No new movement no development of the left. They are probably busy meeting to work out how to function fully in the SA without the DSP and still retain the essence of their method and factionalism.

    The core of the problem is I think their leninist theory of party building and the supposed lessons of the Russian Revolution which I am not sure they understand or apply correctly even if you could apply it to a liberal democratic country like Australia.

    Anyway thank for your comments. I enjoy reading them.



    Comment by Eugene Sibelle — July 14, 2009 @ 3:57 pm

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