Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

January 29, 2012

Winter Musings

Filed under: Trotskyism — louisproyect @ 11:40 pm

(It is probably obvious to my readers that I do not really agree with this article but I am posting it as a courtesy to an old comrade from the SWP who at least had the foresight to see what a monster Jack Barnes was.)

 “Winter Musings” by Mike Tormey

A few reminiscences of the era covered by Alan Wald in his article “A Winter’s Tale”, focusing on Larry Trainor, Jack Barnes, the SWP, the necessity of a vanguard party, and Wald’s infatuation with “creative Marxism”.

I ran across an old photograph of Larry Trainor the other day while rereading Kropotkin’s book on the Great French Revolution, which was fitting because the picture was taken after the completion of the first 4 hour session of Larry’s class on the French revolution. I remember he closed that session by quoting Danton “Audacity, again audacity, and always audacity” a quote I scribbled later on the back of the photo.There was no better educator of the party youth than Trainor and on a plethora of subjects The French revolution, the history of the Russian revolution, the history of the american labor movement, the revolutionary epoch of 1848 and the first international etc. Primary and secondary source material was suggested and refrenced during his educationals which always had large attendance and vociferous post session discussions. After 30 odd years of building branches in Boston, Buffalo, and Seattle by the early sixties Larry was settling in as an educator and advisor to the young people entering the revolutionary movement. Larry knew it was imperative that the younger generation understand the past, foresee the future, and most importantly prepare for it.

I first met Larry Trainor on a Friday evening in the late summer of 1963, when I dropped in on a Militant Labor Forum. That Friday I was in the Corn Hill bookshop and purchased a first edition of “Laughter in Hell” by Jim Tully, even in 1963 a scarce book. They had a leaflet in the store promoting that days MLF and I decided to attend. I walked from Corn Hill near old Scollay square down Tremont st. to the Boston Common then through to the Public Gardens and picked up Huntington ave. at Copely square. In those days the MLF was on Huntington a few hundred yards beyond Symphony hall. I carried my book into the MLF dropped a dollar in the contribution basket and took a seat in the rear. A minute later a grey haired gent sporting old fashion suspenders sits down and asks me what I’m reading, I show him and off we go into a discussion of Jim Tully, who he is very familiar with, from there we jump to Frank O’conner and his great short story “Guests of the Nation” then proceeding on to the Easter rising and then ” O’casey’s Juno and the Peacock” from which Larry is able to recite several passages. About this time Steve Chase walks in, whom I had met about 10 days before at Boston University. His parents and mine had known each other in the CP USA, although I had not met him before we spoke at BU where he was selling the Militant. He sat down on the other side of Trainor and full introductions were made. After the MLF we adjourned to a local tavern to hoist a few beers, after an hour of chewing the fat Larry asked me what I’m doing on Sunday, as it happened I had tickets to the day game at Fenway park but had no plans after that. He then invited me to supper on Sunday evening at his house and he would meet me at the headquarters on Huntington after the game. I accepted the invite, and walked from Fenway park through the Fens and to the Museum of Fine Arts and down Huntington to the hall where Larry and Gusty were waiting for me. Larry didn’t drive so Gusty had to ferry him around, a task she did not always find agreeable. Yet we proceeded to their abode on 27 Vineland in Brighton without incident. Once we get inside Larry takes me in to his living room and to a large bookcase by the stairs and he then opines “you can tell alot about a person by his library or lack there of” a statement I’ve found to be spot on over the years. I take my first look at Larry’s books, he had a copious amount of volumes by Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Trotsky including “Wither Russia” in a dust wrapper published by International publishers in 1926, I’m sure the last book by Trotsky they ever published. He also had a wide selection of “proletarian literature”, “The Disinherited” by Jack Conroy, “Somebody in Boots” by Nelson Algren. “Down and Out in Paris and London” by George Orwell, “Young Lonnigan” by J.T. Farrell and “Deathship” by B. Traven among others. Although I didn’t notice it at this time he also had an inscribed copy of John Brooks Wheelwright’s first book of poetry “North Atlantic Passage”, which I believe Wheelwrights mother got published in Florence Italy in the 1920’s. I don’t know what ever happened to that volume which today would be worth many thousands at auction. Larry was very friendly with Wheelwright and played a major part in his recruitment out of the Socialist party. Unfortunately Wheelwright was hit by a car and died in 1940 just a scant 3 blocks from where I was born in Boston. I asked Larry what his favorite book of fiction was and he said “War and Peace” hands down. He then went on a 1/2 hour soliloquy on “War and Peace” with special attention to the battle of Austerlitz and its aftermath. He then picked up a volume on an end table next to his chair and stated “This book gives me the greatest comfort and I read from it most evenings”. The volume was the “Correspondence of Marx and Engels” and he could quote from it like a fundamentalist preacher can quote bfrom Leviticus.

Supper that night was a home made lasagna complete with ricotta cheese, a specialty of Gusty. Gusty as it turned out was employed for several years as the chief cook and bottle washer for Alfred Baker Lewis, one of the major leaders of the Socialist party and League for Indusrial Democracy in New England, well known at the time now a footnote at best. As we started eating I noticed Larry was consuming a plate of baked beans with a pair of hot dogs while Gusty and I had the lasagna. I asked if Larry was being punished but no, Gusty remarked he never eats any on my “exotic creations” and only ever eats meat and potatoes and other simple faire. I noticed a copy of “The Feminine Mystique” on the counter and we started a discussion of the book. Betty Friedan had been a UE organizer and writer after WWII until McCarthyism and redbaiting hit the UE and she ran for cover. Gusty thought it was an important book and struck a chord with women. This led us to a discussion on women in society, women workers, and women in the SWP and to another person all but forgotten who played the pivotal role in the political development of Larry Trainor. That was Antoinette Konikow, referred to by Larry as “The Old Lady”. Antoinette Konikow was born in Russia a year before Lenin, she was a member of Plekhanov’s Emancipation of Labor Group. She emigrated to the USA in the mid 1890’s and joined the Socialist Labor Party, after the failure of the revolution or 1905 she joined the socialist party. She was in the left wing of the Socialist Party and a founding member of the Communist Party and in fact a delegate to the Chicago convention. During this time she put herslf through college and medical school graduating from Tufts medical school in Medford Mass. She was as well known at the time as Margret Sanger in the movement for birth control. In fact she invented some form of birth control spermicidal opntment. She was invited to the USSR in 1926 to educate both politically and clinically on birth control. Her stay in the USSR was cut short after becoming won over to the ideas of the united opposition. Back in the USA she was expelled from the CPUSA for Trotskyism in 1928 and left with a handful of people. She was close to Martin Abern at that time and joined the Communist League of America.

After supper we adjourned to the living room and had a lively discussion about the trade union movement. Larry wanted to know what my outlook was and how I would proceed given the current state of affairs. I told him I thought the bureacrats of the C.I.O. were in accommodation mode and were becoming more conservative and less combative almost daily. I thought a struggle would emerge between the rank and file and the bureaucrats over maintaing the standard of living and improving real wages which the leadership of the AFL-CIO was unwilling to lead. I thought there were opportunities in the UAW. Steelworkers, IUE especially the Lynn GE where the UE barely lost an election, and even in the ILA where they still had the shape up at Castle Island in Boston. Larry didn’t disagree but pointed out a second dynamic that I had not considered. That manufacturing jobs were on the wane and that trend would continue and the next wave of union organization would be among service workers, food workers, hospital workers, transportation workers, and government workers. He pointed out that this sector would not only continue to grow but would encompass a lot of women and minority workers all of whom would come in with to a situation with sub-standard wages and conditions. He continued that while the service workers were not at the point of production withholding service at the delivery point is powerful. As it turned out Larry was prescient. The last 25 years of my working life was spent at the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART). Almost all of that time I was on the executive board of the local and elected to the negotiating committee and the withholding of train service or the threat helped secure the best contract with wages and benefits in the ATU including a portable retired medical plan that I enjoy today.

Larry felt it was critically important for the student youth entering our ranks to either become workers or thoroughly identify with the working class before joining the SWP and in looking back he was spot on again. As I was leaving the Trainor home that evening Larry gave me a copy of Engels “Ludwig Feurbach and the outcome of classical German philosophy”. He mentioned “its a good introduction to dialectical materialism and we’ll discuss it the next time you come over”. Keep in mind now that I was not yet a member of the SWP nor the YSA and had just met Trainor two days ago. That was the first of over 40 meetings I had at Larry’s house over the next seven years, he truly was the best of his generation as an educator, an agitator or a popularizer of socialist concepts. One of the problems of the SWP was there were not enough Trainor’s.

George Orwell once wrote that “people are always better than we think they are. They are more kind, more loving, more brave and decent. They keep their mouths shut in the torture chambers and go down with decks awash and guns blazing”. Orwell never met Jack Barnes. I joined the YSA the next week and my first assignment was to arrange speaking engagements for Jim Bingham one of the indicted Bloomington students. I arranged a tour that included all the major campuses in the area plus a few local union meetings and even a presentation before the Workmens Circle that was still functioning in Boston at the time. The most interesting time I spent with Jim Bingham was between engagements and his explanation of the history of the YSA in Bloomington. Initially the Young Peoples Socialist League (YPSL) dominated the campus. It was one of the larger YPSL chapters in the country and included Leroy Johnson a member of the I.U. varsity basketball team and Walt Carnahan a member of the I.U. varsity wrestling team. Strangely and almost simultaneously two Fair Play for Cuba committees were formed on the Bloomington campus each with no knowledge of the other. Jim Bingham and Ralph Levitt joined the committee organized by Phil Weigand the other committee was organized by George Shriver. Eventually the two groups merged and Shriver was able to build a large viable YSA that could challenge YPSL and eventually eclipse it, not only did the YSA have Bingham, Levitt, and Morgan, but Bill and Paulann Groninger ,she was I.U. student of the year, Jack Marsh, JerryFoley, Don and Polly Smith, David Fender etc. Jack Barnes in the meantime had built a very successful YSA at Carlton College. Then did some obvious good work in Minneapolis and then in Northwestern and Chicago further building the YSA in the midwest. Make no mistake on a number of levels Jack Barnes did an excellent job of establishing the YSA in the midwest. However, he had no real role in building the most dynamic YSA in the midwest, that of Bloomington. Additionally, Barnes had one obvious weakness he kept a coterie of sycophants around him like vassals around a lord. These vassals consisted of people he recruited at Carlton and Northwestern and all of them seemed to have been granted a most favored nation status. As a group they were C+ in talent but A+ in obsequiousness. Barnes also kept a group of people on his periphery that could be useful to him the way a box of toothpicks is useful to a glutton. Historically, Dick McBride would best represent this bunch of servile tools that hung in Barnes orbit like a group of junior Faust’s seeking alms from Mephistopheles, of the two groups the second was more contemptible.

The Bloomington local was the first to both feel and articulate suspicions of Jack Barnes. Don Smith was the first one to communicate his doubts he felt there “was a taint to Barnes from the beginning” and it manifested itself initially in subtle differences on tactics, strategies, organization, and character. Jim Bingham expressed it as “the guy just gives off a bad vibration”. Unfortunately the leadership of the Bloomington YSA was indicted for sedition in the spring of 1963 and a giant and successful defense case was launched on a national level. I remember speaking to Betsy Barnes and a few of the minions that winter they were trying to educate me on how ultra left the Bloomington local was and how they lacked control and leadership, “if we were down there none of this would have happened”. What Barnes didn’t like was that Levitt, Bingham, and Morgan were on national speaking tours and heroes of the YSA and none of them had much use for Jack Barnes.

After WWII the SWP had almost 2000 members and overwhelmingly workers with functioning fractions in auto,steel, and maritime. I believe at that time the SWP was approaching becoming a vanguard party, for many reasons it did not happen what did happen over the next 20 odd years did not augur well for the SWP. The social composition of the SWP membership started deteriorating from the high water mark in the years following WWII. By the mid 1960’s the social composition of the directing organs of the party both locally and on the national level had also drastically deteriorated. By the end of the 60’s and with the full cooperation and participation of Kerry, Dobbs, Novak, Breitman etc. Barnes had at least six of his minions on the political committee, Betsy Stone, Mary-Alice Waters, Lew Jones, Larry Siegle, Joel Britton, Doug Jenness, and Gus Horowitz who worked closely with Barnes in Chicago was also on and at this time fully enamored with Barnes. I don’t remember the exact date maybe 1967 David Suskind had a television show and on this particular episode he was interviewing the “radical” youth, what they were doing and why, what there program for change was and what were the differences between them. It was a great opportunity to put our program before a national audience. Diedre Griswold was on the show representing Youth Against War and Fascism, someone was there representing Dubois Club,and Suskinds producer wanted someone to represent the YSA. So Barnes sent his minions down one after the other to be interviewed by Suskinds producer he rejected them all. In desperation Barnes asked Ralph Levitt to go interview, he of course was accepted, Suskinds producer asking Ralph “why did you send me all those vapid dolts”? The amazing thing is it took Suskinds producer 20 minutes to figure out the worth of Barnes vassals, it took Tom Kerry more than 20 years.

Major political differences didn’t manifest themselves until the summer of 1970, between convention years at Oberlin, where Barnes and company sped up their journey on the treadmill to oblivion. They asserted that the present radicalization was the biggest, deepest, broadest, radicalization of the century and furthermore, was the most threatening to the ruling class. They listed the anti-war movement, Black movement, Chicano movement, and feminism and abortion rights as proof positive of there biggest, deepest, broadest, most threatening theory. The working class was not mentioned, nor its relative quiescence, nor the lack of class consciousness among the workers. The class struggle became past tense. It was against this fatuous nonsense that the POT was formed. At the 1971 SWP convention Barnes even expanded on the biggest, deepest, broadest, radicalization by imbuing it with a permanence and ever deepening quality. The POT recognizing the deterioration of the working class composition of the SWP as a whole and proposed some modest demands; to send non student comrades into industry where feasible and to orient to a class perspective. During the debates it seemed like the majority believed that the coming revolution would be made by some amalgam of Black and Chicano militants, feminists, homosexuals, and people that marched in the anti-war demonstrations, it was truly a circus. Barnes report carried by 90% compared to 10% for the POT.

The only old time member of the SWP that supported the POT was Larry Trainor. The Brietmans, the Lovells, the Winesteins, etc.supported Barnes right down the line. Of course i take a small degree of solace in that those old timers who lined up behind Barnes in the early 70,s belatedly saw the error of their ways in the early 80’s. When they finally tried to take a stand against Barnes they were mowed down like Eton boys at Paschendale. I’m only sorry Larry didn’t get to see it, although he knew it was coming. I foolishly thought the POT would have several years to operate and over time we would become more homogeneous and the correctness of our position be more obvious. The POT wasn’t a homogeneous tendency and had only about to 15% workers at the time. Barnes was not going to let the POT “co-exist” and led an all out faction fight against us from which we were not able to survive.

There were also divisions within the POT itself the essence of which is contained on page 7 of Wald’s piece “A Winters Tale”, namely he asserts that a major flaw in the POT was it was tied to the older SWP proletarian tradition of the party and in that it was backward looking and therefore was too much in the frame work of an outmoded form of politics. Wald was wrong then and he is still wrong now. That was our strength, the proletarian traditions of the SWP were built on Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Trotsky. Marxism has three parts : Philosophy where Marx took Hegel’s dialectic casting out its idealism and turning it over as as a theory of dialectical materialism, which when applied to society became a theory of historical materialism. In economics Marxism is based on the theory of value as labor and then he worked out the theory of surplus value and the laws of accumulation of capital analyzing both the structure and evolutionary functioning of capitalism. In politics he grasped the principles of class struggle and developed a thesis leading to a new system of society, that of course is communism attained by the working class carrying out its historic mission and establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat. Simply put classes are bound up with particular historic phases in the development of production, the class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat, and that the emancipation of the working class is a task for the working class itself.

What I share with Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, Cannon, and Trainor is an abiding faith in the working class to carry out its historic mission. That is the part of the looking back to the tradition of earlier SWP I embrace. Barnes and his retinue never had faith in the working class to carry out its mission. By the same token the same can be said about that long list of “creative Marxists and leaders of “contemporary’ Trotskyist thought Wald thinks so much of namely Eagleton, Anderson, Rowbotham, Jameson, Althusser, Wood, Mitchell, and lets not forget Tariq Ali who last I heard was off stumping for John Kerry for president. Those people are not creative Marxists at all but left pragmatists that is pragmatists covered with a patina of Marxism which becomes a substitute philosophy for Marxism among intellectuals who operate on the fringes of the workers movement. This left pragmatism is not even new Sidney Hook espoused it 75 years ago when he attempted to harmonize pragmatism with Marxism see “Towards the Understanding of Karl Marx” by Hook, Wald most likely has a copy. So if they have no faith in the working class then these left pragmatists have to look for another road to travel, to get to socialism, not to much different than Barnes in 1971, look at the roads traveled by creative thinkers of “contemporary Trotskyist thought” Maoism, Titoism, Ben Bella, Castro, guerrilla warfare, Black nationalism, Grenada, Sandinistas, feminism, homosexuals, etc. Substitutionism and opportunism can be the by-products traveling down these roads. One thing certain among these “creative Marxists” they do not believe in the inevitability of the dictatorship of the proletariat and they want nothing to do with a Leninist combat party capable of leading the working class to seize government power in open combat. Oh, no that is “an outmoded form of politics”. The revolution of 1905 started in Jan. with Father Gapon at the head of the Petersburg workers, by Oct. leading the Petersburg workers was the elected council of workers deputies the Soviet. From Oct. 13-Dec.3, the Soviet became an organ of public authority, when the Soviet held authoritative power it made use of it; when the power was in the hands of the military or monarchy the Soviet fought to obtain it. The Soviet became an organization whose purpose was to fight for revolutionary power. In 1905 the executive committee of the Soviets had been created from a strike wave which the conscious workers led, in Feb. 1917 due to the revolt of the army after the strike waves started by the International Women’s Day demonstration, the February revolution was victorious before the workers created the Soviets. Immediately the Soviets started functioning as an organ of public authority by occupying the state bank, the treasury, the mint, printing offices etc. with revolutionary guards. At this time the Mensheviks and SR’s were the overwhelmingly leading voices in the Soviets with the Bolsheviks of Feb-March becoming the left flank of “revolutionary Democracy”. Lenin changes all this on April 3-4. Lenin excoriates Pravda (Stalin, Kamenev, & Molotov) for consolidationism with the “defensists”. “The proletarian revolution is imminent, we give no countenance to the provisional government, we don’t need a parliamentary republic, we don’t need bourgeois democracy, the only government we need is the Soviet of workers, soldiers, & peasant deputies”. The proletariat did not seize power in Feb. because the Bolshevik party was not equal to its objective task and could not prevent the “compromisers from expropriating the masses politically for the benefit of the bourgeoisie”. As we know, Lenin presented the April theses which the executive committee of the k party opposed including Kamanev, Rykov, Stalin, Tomsky, and Zinoviev. Supporting Lenin were the Vyborg workers and the Kronstadt sailors. From this time until the actual seizure of power in Oct. there was a division in the Bolshevik party with Lenin & Trotsky heading one group and Kamanev, Zinoviev, Stalin, & Rykov the other. Sukhanov qoutes a naval officer who took part in the Bolshevik party conference on April 4 “Ilyich laid down a Rubicon between the tactics of yesterday and today”. This division was in many ways similar to the division between the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks before the Mensheviks joined the Government.

What does it all mean today, Lenin defined our age as the age of war and revolution, he also pointed out that a new social system of planned economy based on nationalized property with a state monopoly of foreign trade can not co-exist with imperialist states for any length of time in the end one or the other must triumph.

However, it is not the end; the class struggle of workers in the capitalist countries goes on and must inevitably culminate in the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of socialist society. Today world capitalism is in deep trouble not only in Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland other obvious places but in the USA itself. The National debt is over 15 trillion dollars, the real unemployment figure is approaching 20%, what these numbers express is a degradation of the living standards of workers and the “middle class” and the complete pauperization of the unemployed, the under employed, and in fact the entire underprivileged population. All this while the now famous 1% utilize the crisis to grab an even greater share of the nations wealth. Now we must go back to Marx not Alan Wald’s “creative” Marxists but the man himself and take note “the emancipation of the working class is the task of the working class itself, a seminal thought. By absorbing this we can see the future and best prepare for it. Faith in the working class to carry out its historic mission must be as strong as ever. What exact form it will take we do not know the workers when the IWW called in 1905 did not move, despite some episodic success by 1929 the IWW was moribund. Less than 3 million of a work force of 35 million were organized and many of them in the old craft unions. For the vast majority of workers if they knew unionism it was through company unions, but by 1946 there were 2 million CIO workers with little union experience all on strike at the same time. The next step will be the big one the political education of the American workers and that education may come fast as conditions continue to deteriorate. Wald closes his essay “A Winter’s Tale” with a search to discover wisdom. I would suggest you have to long been searching for it in the wrong place. Maybe you and the devotees of “creative” Marxism should look back to “older SWP proletarian tradition you reject on page 7 of your essay. You could start by learning from Larry Trainor a man who stood head and shoulders above Breitman, Novak, Dobbs, Kerry, and all of his generation. Start with the educationals Larry delivered in the 60’s some of which you can hear on the internet and hopefully you can glean some kernels of unadulterated Marxism to help you on your journey toward wisdom!

Mike Tormey, Fort Pierce Florida

49 Comments »

  1. Great memoir of Larry Trainor. I never knew the man personally, only second-hand through Tom Kerry’s infamous denunciation of him (and David Fender’s “little Trotsky beard”) at the 1971 convention. Hate to say it, Mike, but Barnes was still more correct that you and the POT then.

    Comment by David Altman — January 30, 2012 @ 2:10 am

  2. Hi,

    Hope all is well. This was a very informative piece and I thank you for printing it. It seems I have so much to learn! I do not understand the difference between Trotsky and the main line Communist Party. Could some one please explain.

    Also as a Christian if I was in a congregation and the preacher’s favorite book was Leviticus odds are that I would be looking for a new congregation to attend.

    I had never heard of creative Marxism but I am intimate with Grenada and what happened there. My wife is from there and I have visited the island twice. Needless to say we did not stay at a hotel. I would love to hear the Marxist take on what happened down there and more important what they could do to help that country. I believe Grenada should default on their loans to the World Bank. Nationalize all their resources and live off of the riches of the land. The community could be united by real work improving the infastructure and agriculture. As far as military intervention it would be up to the masses in the USA, England, and Western Europe to ensure an invasion does not happen. Success in Grenada would encourage the whole Carribean to imitate the process. It is also very difficult to attach islands with no navy.

    Love,

    John Kaniecki

    Comment by johnkaniecki — January 30, 2012 @ 2:47 am

  3. Hello,

    Last line, It is very difficult to attack an island with a navy.

    Thanx,

    John

    Comment by johnkaniecki — January 30, 2012 @ 2:47 am

  4. Man I should read more carefully. One more try.

    It is very difficult to attack an island without a navy.

    Sorry,

    John

    Comment by johnkaniecki — January 30, 2012 @ 2:48 am

  5. I find it astonishing that anybody could say that Jack Barnes was more correct about anything than anybody–including my pet rock Gerald, who, at the very least, had the virtue of never misleading me or flying a great, historic party of the working class into the nearest mountain while defining it as a cream puff.

    The thing to take away from this reminiscence was just how important that old generation of veteran socialists were to some of our education in the 1960s and 1970s. I think it’s something the present lot of old farts should keep in mind when dealing with the Occupy forces. A bit of help and advice at the right time and place might minimize the time spent reinventing the wheel there.

    Comment by Mark Lause — January 30, 2012 @ 3:30 am

  6. Thanks Lou (& Mike Tormey & P.P.)…this is a great, classic post!

    Never mind the arguable political flaws of its author’s conclusions & the obscurantism vis-a-vis the current OWS movement, my late father used to tell me that ultimately “Marxism is the history of the working class struggle that wouldn’t otherwise be told”.

    According to this article the first person to be “suspicious” of the “monster” that Jack Barnes would become was a Bloomington member named Don Smith who I suggest should go down in the history of Marxism as a true proletarian hero:

    [“The Bloomington local was the first to both feel and articulate suspicions of Jack Barnes. Don Smith was the first one to communicate his doubts [insofaras] he felt there “was a taint to Barnes from the beginning” and it manifested itself initially in subtle differences on tactics, strategies, organization, and character.”]

    Unfortunately, except for this article, you won’t be able to Google any information about Don Smith. He was however a person that people gravitated towards due to his sheer intellect, never mind good looks, which commanded respect from both friends & foes alike. He was neither an orator nor writer but since early childhood (born in 1931) he was a very keen reader from kindergarten on, and absorbed all manner of texts, a voracious reader like a Karl Marx, his mind was like a trap. Nevertheless his friends nicknamed him D.O. for “Damned Oblivious” because he could so easily tune out immediate mundane tasks that required grunt work, like raising children or painting picket signs.

    He did, however, possess a great sense of humor, so for example one time during a Fair Play for Cuba Committee meeting when they were requesting slogans for picket signs he suggested: “Git out of Gitmo!”

    His father, who (he never admitted this to any comrade out of sheer modesty & embarrassment) was the V.P. of Johns-Manville Corp. in NJ during the 50’s, was a military man during the 40’s who made the family move around a bunch so he could never retain long term childhood friendships and so literature became his best friend. His intellect lead him organically to certain truths, like atheism at age 13, when H.L. Mencken was a big influence on his intellectual growth.

    When he came to an atheist worldview at 13 he wanted to tell the world so first he told his best friend, Thorton Klauss, excitedly that “religion was a fraud” & Thorton said with horror: “Of course, but you don’t dare tell anybody!” That’s how puritanical America was in the 40’s!

    Through the early 50’s he read voluminously & rode commuter trains from NYC to his parent’s home in Plainfield, NJ where, owing probably to two Cadillacs in the driveway, his mother was murdered by a burglar in the mid-50’s (unsolved) & he then gravitated towards the Bohemian soap box orators in Times Square. He was essentially libertarian in political philosophy through the late 50’s, attending IU Bloomington where he majored in Biology and Psychology and then graduated going on to later complete law school there. His dad died of prostate cancer in the late 50’s quickly after incompetent doctors cut something for a biopsy. He too ultimately developed a slow growing prostate cancer which modern doctors urged to just monitor carefully rather than doing anything radical.

    Later that year he took a trip to the USSR with Jack Glenn who would later become his law partner in Bloomington, IN circa 1963. While in the USSR that year (1959) on a bus tour, concerned about a potential nuclear holocaust’s impact upon bio-diversity, he questioned a Soviet bus driver about all the Soviet missiles pointed at the USA. The bus driver, upon hearing the question, screeched the bus to a halt and pulled to the shoulder, turning to Don and shouted vociferously about the 1000 plus US nuclear missiles at their border in Turkey pointing at the USSR and what the hell was he talking about? The driver convinced him rightly that Uncle Sam was always the aggressor during the Cold War and the logic this bus driver’s argument had a very deep & profound impact on Don that changed his worldview forever.

    By the end of that trip Don got some sort of dysentery in the USSR and went to a medical facility for treatment. They fixed him all up and he went to the clerk who laughed when he asked how much the bill was with wallet in hand. The clerk explained that there was no fee for medical treatment in the USSR. That subtly shocked him & made him really think about a society that had not only no unemployment, no homeless beggars & prostitutes but free universal health care, free education through college, atheist education, cradle to grave social security, plus state subsidized food & housing, never mind it was forced to squander so many resources to defend itself against US militarism.

    Drafted into the military despite the Korean War being over he was suddenly stationed in New Mexico as a medical lab technician circa 1960. He went to the military base library and checked out a copy of “The Communist Manifesto” and interestingly, when he returned it, the librarian told him that some CID officers came in and demanded who exactly checked out this copy and the librarian, American hero that he was, not only tipped him off but told those military police that even under torture he was forbidden to divulge such information to any authority due to the credo of librarians & solemn oath he took to protect individual privacy! (Whatever his name was a book should be written about this Constitutional Civil Rights Soldier!)

    That episode shook up Don Smith and when released from the Army around 1962 he went first to San Francisco and upon finding it strangely a very lonely & peculiarly alienating city he went back to Bloomington to open a law practice with his partner Jack Glenn (who later in the mid-60’s moved to CA and became a Scientology kook). Having hosted some YSA meetings in his law offices he was suddenly indicted for “sedition” in the case of the “Bloomington 10” because, allegedly, Trotsky advocated violent overthrow of the government!

    Just before this YSA involvement Don had this confluence of events in his life that became a political epiphany. He realized that as a lawyer he could no longer be a faithful agent of the US courts. The USSR he realized was not the aggressor in the Cold War & may be in fact the precursor of a better society. The Cuban Revolution, which he admired, suddenly embraced the USSR for a reason. All these brown people in China, Korea, Cuba and Vietnam embraced Marxism-Leninism for a reason. The USSR was clearly this counter-hegemonic force that he was feeling he must be on the side of, the historically oppressed, the victims of imperialism that were one by one revolting, advocating atheist education and the like. Surely this must be no accident. But what about Stalinism and the police state formations these revolutions were forced into?

    Then came the exigencies of the Cuban revolution. What about the 500 ex-prison guards & National Guardsman, known torturers, that Castro publicly executed? He was against that but it turned out he realized the popular will of the revolutionary masses compelled Castro to execute them for sheer political legitimacy. Then came the Cuban missile crisis, which as a biologist scared the shit out of him. When he saw how willing JFK was to send the planet into a nuclear holocaust over a couple missiles in Cuba when the US had 1000 missiles in Turkey, he was forever convinced that US Imperialism was the diabolical menace it still is today.

    So he ultimately went back to grad school at Roosevelt University in Chicago to get his teaching degree and landed a job as a poorly paid Chicago Public School teacher for 23 years, half that time as a substitute taking 3 buses a day cross town, teaching high school biology in some of the poorest neighborhoods in the city. One time he asked me to grade some of his high school test papers and I’ll never forget on the back of one exam from an exclusively Black south side high school (despite being a Northern city Chicago has historically had one of the most segregated populations in America) the student wrote verbatim: “Mr. Smith is a weirt fuck!” I considered that as a compliment.

    As far as I can recall the POT (Proletarian Orientation Tendancy) was the brainchild of Don Smith, or at least its most intellectual proponent in the Chicago branch. Unfortunately, like a Stalinist tragedy, it was ultimately adopted by Barnes after purging every proponent by such draconian means that loyal party members who were simple dentists were purged as “petty bourgeois” influences, a far cry from what Don Smith envisoned as the outcome for the Proletarian Orientaion of the party.

    Don Smith (1931-2003) was ultimately murdered by capitalism. That’s right, in 2003, just after Bush launched his illegal, predatory war against the Iraqi people, he participated in a pro-Palestinian march in Chicago where the chant was: “Jewish people yes, Zionism no!”

    He complained after the march about tightness in his chest and later that night he suffered a fatal heart attack. This warrior of profound intellect, who unlike myself didn’t have a malicious bone in his body and who was keenly sympathetic to all human sensitivities and the slightest human suffering, will be greatly missed by all who had the privilege of knowing him.

    There was a small obit in the Workers World paper, then later in the Chicago Tribune that reads as follows:

    March 19, 2003
    Don Smith was a consistent proponent of the ideas of Marx,Engels, Lenin, Trotsky and Marcy. He was an unbending fighter against racism, sexism, and bigotry of all types including anti Lesbian and anti Gay bigotry. He struggled all of his life against the status quo and used his very creative mind to wage war against imperialism and chauvanism . He was a lifelong foe of U.S. imperialism in particular. He was a member of Workers World Party for nearly thirty years.
    Don knew how to patiently explain. He sought to win people over to his ideas not slay them. He knew the difference between
    enemies of the working class and backward or misguided friends. Don’s rich accumulation of knowlege of philosophy, history and science mixed with a truly cultured demeanor was the material basis of his patience and charm.

    Don was a very sweet person in whose presence I spent some of the most enjoyable times in my life. I learned some of the most important things I needed to know from him. He leaves a void but it will be partially filled with the rich memories of having known him. He was my friend and I will miss him.
    ~
    Bill Massey,
    Chicago
    |
    March 08, 2003
    I guess I have loved Don the longest next to his sisters and family and Karl. I did not love him best. He is my hero, the man who made me the woman I am, who through his patient prodding asked me if I had done my best to fight Imperialism today. Everyday of my life I tried to live up to his expectations.
    ~
    Polly Connelly,
    Tucson, Arizona
    |
    March 01, 2003
    To paraphrase James Cannon, when at the end of our days we are still true to the idealism of our youth, we have done well in life. Don never flinched from his commitment to the exploited and oppressed. I will always be grateful for the many things he taught me.
    ~
    guy miller,
    chicago, Illinois

    February 28, 2003
    We met Don Smith fleetingly on several occasions. Any loss in the ranks of fighters for justice is a loss to us personally and to that noble struggle. Our condolences to the family he left behind.
    ~
    Rosemary & Milt Neidenberg,
    Brooklyn, New York

    To my father, Don Smith, a far greater man than me, I shout, Presente!

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — January 30, 2012 @ 5:41 am

  7. re Antoinette Konikow.

    Her daughter Edith was married to Joseph Vanzler, who became the “Russian expert” of the SWP in the 1940’s.
    He wrote many of the articles they published on the USSR in wartime, under the pen name John G Wright.
    Many of the English translations of Trotsky’s writings were produced by him.
    Vanzler was also a Chemist and manufactured the contraceptive gel that his mother-in-law had helped to develop.

    for a bio of Vanzler see:-

    Click to access bio-bibl_wright.pdf

    for Antoinette Konikow
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antoinette_Konikow

    Comment by prianikoff — January 30, 2012 @ 9:50 am

  8. @Karl Friedrich: I didn’t know your father, but I knew Jack (or John) Glenn, whom you mention. In the early ’70s he was a stoned-out and relatively well-off hippie living in Los Angeles. He was friendly to the SWP & occasionally donated large sums of money to it. In the early ’60s he had been a leading member of the Spartacist League & friend of Jim Robertson. John told me that once at a party he was discussing the principles of Scientology with Robertson, who was very excited to hear about these new revelations. John went on to become a full-on follower of L. Ron Hubbard and Robertson, of course, didn’t, John didn’t last with Scientology long and drifted back to radical politics. Once I was walking around Venice Beach and ran into John and we went to visit a friend of his, another defrocked Scientologist, who hooked me up to an E-Meter and gave me a reading.

    Comment by David Altman — January 30, 2012 @ 11:55 am

  9. I appreciate what people have said regarding who noticed what when, but the old-timers like a comrade from Detroit (can’t recall name right now). DeBoer, the Cooper brothers . as well as, Larry smelled the rot early. Some say politics first, well when divorced from simple proletarian ethics and how far and fast it all went we are compelled to examine the earlier regimes.
    Last year I re-read the lectures by Dobbs and it struck me that they were an opening shot against democracy in the SWP. Cannon had faults, but just examine the overall culture and it was very, very different.
    Oh, has it hit anyone that a “clique” is just a personal group that has NOT been selected by the leadership in power? There will always be trends in a Marxist group, that’s life. Not talkin’ about a faction fight.
    I have pamphlets from the 50’s documenting the incredible work in the 50’s by the Weiss-led LA branch. One was to mobilize a real union/community defense of a Black family under threat in a white neighborhood.
    There’s more too. The statement by Dobbs that “the majority is the party” should have rungs some bells.
    I’ve read the FAPO documents and would have voted for them, however, did anyone notice the wildcats in auto at the time? I think, not sure, that this was the first time an International crushed a strike.
    I knew some old-timers from the CPUSA and they had a conception of the “Industrial concentration” – encouraging (like Lovell suggested) comrades to give these jobs a try with lot’s of party help.
    The Maoists owe much of their growth to orienting to labor and social struggles. Oh, like the CP they went to the South.
    BTW, yes we grew with the student orientation – I separate that from making anti-war work central – but, where is it all now? In fact the Left in general. Thanks to everyone for beginning this important discussion.

    Just some thoughts, thanx!

    Comment by David Walsh — January 30, 2012 @ 12:46 pm

  10. @ #7, Yes D. Altman, I too got an E-meter reading circa 1970 in Hyde Park Chicago. Of course Don was too kind to ridicule such nonsense to Glenn’s face and I was too young too ridicule but today I’d tell him he’s nuts.
    ——————————————————————————————-

    @ #8 D. Walsh. “where is it all now? In fact the Left in general.” Well the old left went the same way as the US steel industry & the big industrial unions. Lighted Marlboro cigarette billboards & Czarist flags festoon brothels in St. Petersburg Russia while Uncle Sam erects military bases in Afghanistan and the dollar is the primary currency in Ho Chi Minh City.

    The days of pamphleteering are gone forever.

    The new left is the youth of the Occupy movement which is a global phenom and in this age of instant communications… has just gotten its feet wet.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — January 30, 2012 @ 1:45 pm

  11. @ David. No problem with that.

    Comment by David Walsh — January 30, 2012 @ 2:11 pm

  12. “look at the roads traveled by creative thinkers of “contemporary Trotskyist thought” Maoism, Titoism, Ben Bella, Castro, guerrilla warfare, Black nationalism, Grenada, Sandinistas, feminism, homosexuals, etc. Substitutionism and opportunism can be the by-products traveling down these roads. One thing certain among these “creative Marxists” they do not believe in the inevitability of the dictatorship of the proletariat and they want nothing to do with a Leninist combat party capable of leading the working class to seize government power in open combat. Oh, no that is “an outmoded form of politics”. The revolution of 1905 started in Jan. with Father Gapon . . . ”

    Our esteemed guest author still doesn’t get it as he is still counterposing an economist and idealized notion of the class struggle against the real struggles going on in the present time, exactly the mentality Lenin railed against in What is to Be Done? Didn’t Mao, Tito Castro, the Black Panthers, Sandinistas fight for the dictatorship of the proletariat and in the first three instances actually achieve it through historic victorious revolution And who was Father Gapon? What is Occupy? a Leninist combat party? no and certainly not a wretched trotskyist sect.

    Sadly, the POT was exactly as Wald implied it was, a backward looking trend rooted in the more conservatized sections of the SWP who were hostile to the radical movement of the 60s, an attitude the above quote blatantly expresses . To say, in the wake of Kent State, that socialists should abandon the student and radical movements for the traditional industrial proletariat was in the context of that conjuncture exactly what Barnes said it was: “missing the boat” and pandering to the reactionary and bigoted false consciousness of the more backward “Archie Bunker” sections of the proletariat which the above quote’s glib put down of various struggles aptly expresses. It is unfortunate that Barnes’ bureaucratic methods and personal attacks obscured this basic political issue: that these folks, wittingly or unwittingly, were using marxist orthodoxy as a cover for capitulation to right wing pressure and retreat from the struggles of the oppressed which they mocked, a mentality that, sadly, gave credence to the ideas of Marcuse. How about some solidarity, great marxist thinker?

    The comrades who wound up in and around Workers World Party, to their credit, rejected that perspective, whether they acknowledge that or not as their outlook is diametrically opposed to that.

    Comment by Tom Cod — January 30, 2012 @ 3:10 pm

  13. The first shock, of many, after I joined the YSA was how almost to a person they viewed the working-class as Archie Bunker’s. Says a lot to a working-class kid.

    Comment by David Walsh — January 30, 2012 @ 3:19 pm

  14. @david w.: That wasn’t my experience at all. Even though, almost to a person the YSAers I knew came from the professional & more priveleged layers of the working class they rejected the then-common view that the workiers were “bought off” and hopelessly reactionary.

    It’s ironic that Barnes came to embrace the POT’s “workerism” with a vegeance, sort of like the way Stalin co-opted some of Trotsky’s ideas and turned them up to 11.

    Comment by David Altman — January 30, 2012 @ 3:54 pm

  15. This reads like a stale workerist blast from a forgettable past. Amazing that Tormey misspells nearly half of the names of his former comrades. He must not have saved any documents from those years. We had several oldtime labor leaders in the Minneapolis SWP branch when I was organizer, and only one that I recall shared similar workerist views. An irony is that the Barnes cult itself wound up in the late 1970s embracing a simplistic workerist perspective. Not that it produced positive results. Quite the contrary.

    Comment by David Thorstad — January 30, 2012 @ 3:58 pm

  16. @ david w: I didn’t and don’t view workers as Archie Bunkers, however dismissive attitudes towards struggles of oppressed people as related above were sadly evocative of that bygone character, Carrol O’Connor rants against meathead and his likes gussied up with technical marxist verbiage. Sadly, it was my own immaturityand political backwardness at the time, together with Barnes putting FAPO in the role of victims,that caused me to identify with this trend to the extent I did.

    Comment by Tom Cod — January 30, 2012 @ 8:35 pm

  17. For example, emotional rants against “women’s lib”, an expression Arch used frequently

    Comment by Tom Cod — January 30, 2012 @ 8:38 pm

  18. Turns out I met up with the George Shriver and Polly Smith, now Connelly (my mother) mentioned in this article a few months ago at Occupy Tucson. Shriver now also resides in Tucson.

    As far as the P.O.T. being “workerist” & “conservative” — those were the labels the party apparatus (Barnes) used against them. If you actually knew and heard the members advocating this line at the time it was anything but conservative since first & foremost they all came by & large from the university milieu & were therefore keenly aware of that milieus’s being determinining consciousness.

    Their position was in reality more akin to Lenin’s insistence that he’d trade 50 Finnish Professors for one Jack Reed.

    Moreover, The POT was not a prominent tendency of the 60’s (like during Kent State) but rather the 70’s when the surge of the youth activism was receding and the War was winding down and those youthful activists began entrenching themselves not in grimey factories but rather in academia that would gravitate toward the SANE/FREEZE movement of the early 80’s.

    That’s precisely why, as T. Codd notes in post # 12 that: “The comrades who wound up in and around Workers World Party, to their credit, rejected that [conservative] perspective…”

    If it weren’t for the P.O.T. then myself and many others would be destitute today as little did anybody know (the embryonic growth of the service sector notwithstanding) that the last gasp of the big trade union jobs with good benefits & retirement were on the death wane and it’s precisely those jobs, namely the UAW, which afforded my mother enough to put me through college, albeit I helped enormously by aceing virtually every course I attended and earned as many Pell Grants as I was able to.

    No wonder Pell Grants are being chopped by Obama in the first stage of many in the protracted austerity measures that the 99% are certain to endure going forward.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — January 31, 2012 @ 1:46 am

  19. Mike Tormey raises a few questions, and is a valuable recollection of Larry and Gusty. I do
    remember the educational discussion which Larry led concerning Joe Hansen and the Abern
    Clique. It addressed the problem of Ralph Levitt relationship with Mike Tormey in the party.
    However, they were right when it came to the Barnes Clique!

    Roger

    Comment by Roger Sheppard — January 31, 2012 @ 4:43 am

  20. Correction re: Kent State in the 60’s as I meant to say “the end of the 60’s” since that incident was May 1970 whereas the FPOT was fulminating many years later, toward the mid-70’s, when the War had winded down and the student movement had nothing to generate steam for anymore, thereby dissipating into myriad forms of so-called identity politics and environmental activism culminating into movements like SANE/FREEZE at the end of the decade.

    Now when a small worker’s party with limited resources is faced with the decline of student activism at the end of the War it’s not exactly unreasonable nor necessarily “conservative” or “backward looking” to suggest a turn back toward the trade unions where the organized workers are, and it certainly wasn’t a demand to go into heavy industries either since Don Smith himself was active in the Chicago Teacher’s Union.

    To blame the FPOT for the truly conservative blind alleys that Barnes lead the party into is a bit like blaming Stalinism on the October Revolution.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — January 31, 2012 @ 6:15 pm

  21. This is Larry Trainor as he really was. Through it I can see and hear Larry at the podium on Huntington Ave. giving a historical lecture, shaking his head and pointing: “And in England came the “ILP”– The “independent labour party”. Well, the only thing they were “independent” of– (pause)– was the working class!!” For those of us from working class backgrounds, like myself and my brother George, Larry and Gusty made us feel at home in a social milieu that seemed merely non-working class, at first. By the time of the no holds barred assault on FAPO we felt it had become openly anti-working class. My brother left first; then me. Thanks to Louis for the generosity of spirit in posting a memoir with which he must totally disagree.
    Bob

    Comment by Bob Montgomery — February 1, 2012 @ 8:39 pm

  22. I liked the first part of Mike Tormey’s early reminiscence of Larry Trainor. It was quite a nice portrayal of the endearing and very human qualities of the man and the revolutionist. It was a good portrayal because it was drawn from Mike’s first-hand experience. I also shared some of that experience of Larry, since I was in Boston from 1963 (a couple of months before Mike joined) until the late spring of 1966.

    But the latter part of Mike’s story is very weak, in my view. I will set aside the political issues and speak only of Mike’s personal judgments.

    Mike grants Jack Barnes some grudging credit for his work in the early 1960s in building the Chicago YSA (and SWP, it should be added), but says “he had no real role in building the most dynamic YSA in the midwest, that of Bloomington. “

    How does Mike know about Bloomington? Was he ever there in the 1961-63 period, when Bloomington was at its strongest? Or even a couple of years afterwards? I knew Mike very well in the 1963-66 period. We were friends then. To the best of my knowledge Mike never visited or saw Bloomington first hand. I was in Bloomington at least a couple of times during 1962-63, and while I do agree that the Bloomington YSA was strong and had a good group of capable people, I do not think they were at the same level as the Chicago organization. Perhaps this opinion reflects prejudice or vanity on my part, but I think it is borne out by the later respective achievements of the various people involved.

    No, Mike is simply relating stories he has heard from others. Not very specific stories either. Don Smith felt that there “was a taint to Barnes from the beginning.” Jim Bingham expressed the view that “the guy [Jack Barnes] just gives off a bad vibration”. Sounds to me more like the bitter jealousy of rivals rather than fact-based assessments. “What Barnes didn’t like,” Mike tells us, “was that Levitt, Bingham, and Morgan were on national speaking tours and heroes of the YSA and none of them had much use for Jack Barnes.” Never mind that Jack Barnes, along with Barry Sheppard, was one of the main organizers of the Bloomington defense, including arrangement of the very national speaking tours that he is supposed to have disliked. See Barry Sheppard’s book for the story.

    Mike says, echoing the views of others who have become embittered about the SWP in the 1960s and 1970s, that most of the young leaders on the party’s Political Committee were simply “minions” of Jack Barnes or part of a Barnes “coterie of sycophants.” Never mind that many of these people had been leading various important areas of party work and were duly elected to their positions. Mike omits Peter Camejo and Barry Sheppard, but does associate me with the list of Barnes “minions” on the Political Committee, even though I had been elected to the party’s National Committee in 1965, at least in part, on the recommendation of Larry Trainor. (I was the main younger leader of the Boston SWP in the 1963-66 period. Larry and I worked very closely together until nearly the end, when we had a serious falling out, leading to a major change in direction of the Boston branch and opening the door to its nurturing of the Proletarian Orientation Tendency. But that is a story for another day.)

    The SWP has degenerated from its glory days of the 1960s and 1970s. Jack Barnes himself has become a grotesque caricature of what he once was. It should be understood, however, that the very concept of “degeneration” implies change. Both the party and the person have changed. Jack Barnes, like everyone, had flaws. The potential of a bad seed may have long been present, but it did not bloom until later. For most of the 1960s and 1970s Jack Barnes was a strong, capable and deserving leader. To think otherwise, in my view, is not only wrong, but makes no sense historically. It allows for no change. It turns the big majority of older party leaders into fools lacking judgment for backing Barnes, too blind to see an emerging devil.

    Only Larry Trainor, we are told, was able to foresee the problem. Larry, who expressed his hostility to Jack Barnes and the so-called Barnes clique from the early 1960s (I heard him say as much many times) “stood head and shoulders above Breitman, Novak, Dobbs, Kerry, and all of his generation,” Mike tells us.This despite the fact that Larry hardly even knew Barnes at that time, only met him at a few National Committee meetings, and did not even know most of the so-called Barnes clique (except for me, of course). Larry, in my opinion, was expressing prejudices rather than assessments derived from facts. Perhaps that is why Larry expressed such opinions only in personal conversations and in casual remarks from time to time on the Boston branch floor, never in writing and never openly at National Committee meetings or other gatherings where he could be challenged by equals.

    Louis Proyect, in his preface to Mike Tormey’s piece, says he has posted it “as a courtesy to an old comrade from the SWP who at least had the foresight to see what a monster Jack Barnes was.” There is no factual basis for an ex-post-facto opinion of that sort.

    Comment by Gus Horowitz — February 2, 2012 @ 8:07 pm

  23. Louis Proyect, in his preface to Mike Tormey’s piece, says he has posted it “as a courtesy to an old comrade from the SWP who at least had the foresight to see what a monster Jack Barnes was.” There is no factual basis for an ex-post-facto opinion of that sort.

    Probably right, but I didn’t spend a long time composing a prefatory note. Instead I probably should have written something like this: “This is being posted as a courtesy to Mike Tormey, whose complaints about hand-raisers I scoffed at when i was in the Boston branch with him in the 1970s. Looking back at that period, I have come to the conclusion that he was mostly right.”

    Comment by louisproyect — February 2, 2012 @ 8:14 pm

  24. While it’s an axiom that Marxism generally discounts the role of individuals in the long run of history the fact is in the short run they’re pretty damned significant.

    Thus I’d argue that if Lenin were never born there’d have never been a USSR; that if Trotsky were never born the Soviets would have lost the Civil War; that if Stalin died in 1924 and Lenin lived until 1953 the USSR would still be in existence.

    The same arguments could be made in regards to the fate of the SWP USA. Thus I’d argue that if any one of the Bloomington party members mentioned in Tormey’s article achieved the position of power that Barnes did, the SWP would still be a significant political fighting force today, which clearly it isn’t, thanks in large part to Jack Barnes, the gravedigger of the party, entirely analogous to Stalin’s role in the butchering of Bolshevism.

    Such rare examples of a confluence of evil incarnate only give credence to all those left liberals in the University milieu who diminish the progressive historical significance Bolshevik Party with their mantra: “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

    Res ipsa loquitor

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — February 3, 2012 @ 12:57 am

  25. The problem with discussions like these is that they become rather circular, as everyone who has left the SWP in an unhappy state dates the “degeneration” to more or less the time he or she left, excluding those who exited on happy terms to do other things with their lives but still contribute in small ways, and whose number, I assure you, is legion.

    Comment by dave r — February 3, 2012 @ 4:26 pm

  26. Almost everyone, I should say. There are those who make the argument that the project was flawed from the beginning.

    Comment by dave r — February 3, 2012 @ 4:54 pm

  27. It is ahistorical and an exaggeration to blame Jack Barnes for the degeneration of the SWP. Jack did some good things, as Gus Horowitz notes. But surely the organizational methods Barnes and the top leadership used that hastened its degeneration and antidemocratic behavior got a big boost by the organization resolution that Farrell Dobbs wrote in the early 1960s, and which, during my seven years in the party, was held up as brilliant. To her credit, Myra Tanner Weiss denounced it at the plenum at which it was adopted (and was thrown off the National Committee). The larger problem was that most of the party became hand-raisers, afraid to stand out apart from what they knew was considered the “correct line” (even before a convention had decided on one), so self-censorship and improper buttonholing in the corridors replaced open debate. In some ways, it resembled the bourgeois parties’ and their phony election campaigns, where they go through motions of deciding things democratically, whereas in reality, things are decided behind the scenes. For that, Jack Barnes can hardly be singled out as the main bogeyman. Rather, all those hand-raisers who went along–the majority of the membership–are the real culprits. When I was involved in 1973 in fighting for a radical position on homosexuality and gay lib, our group was urged by Barry Sheppard to define ourselves as a “tendency,” separate from the majority. But we were not a separate tendency, and supported the majority views on other matters. So, it was a way to try to pressure us into isolating ourselves even more than we were already. And minions of the leadership went around outside of party branch meetings buttonholing comrades to get them to support the leadership. That was a violation of party norms, but nobody called them on it. So much for “democratic centralism.” Again, it is ridiculous to blame Barnes for everything that “went wrong.” Some of the people who now do dump on him played along until they themselves got expelled. They are rewriting history to paint themselves in a favorable light. I saw the writing on the wall and quit the party in 1973, but many others stuck with it even through stupid policies like the “turn to labor” in the late seventies, or even later, until they got expelled. To me, that suggests that self-appointed “vanguards” are often made of up deluded individuals.

    Comment by David Thorstad — February 3, 2012 @ 6:13 pm

  28. Oh yeah, my thanx to Louis for posting this also. Am I remembering correctly that the FAPO was denied representation on the National Committee? This had to be the first time in the history of the SWP or any healthy Marxist group. I remember reading the old documents and really shocked. I have to admit I, for one, didn’t speak up on many problems as I was schooled about “doubts” being suspect.
    There was a culture in place in the YSA in Boston where I was always questioned, many times a friendly jibe but also being spoken to by a leader about why I was reading “opponent” literature. Stalin included, god forbid.
    A total misuse of what Cannon intended IMO. His history was (with some problems) that the membership speak their mind. When I joined I heard many times the mantra “the leadership is elected to lead.” This meant eventually to do the thinking, just think back to when NO people would come in to lay the law down to Exec members in the SWP/YSA when on tour.
    Maybe this developed out of the combined problems of the witchhunt and the ultra-lefts who were recruited and became the leaders of the YSA.
    Any further thoughts and thanks to PP, Mike and the comrades from other currents and non-aligned for contributing in a comradely spirit. This is how I find we must approach disputes in the OWS today as the young people just don’t tolerate the “old culture” most of us learned decades ago. A lot like the pre-Stalinist period in the workers movement methinks!

    Comment by David Walsh — February 4, 2012 @ 12:20 pm

  29. Dave W: the POT was indeed denied representation on the NC, and a couple of years later so was the Internationalist Tendency, although they both were big enough to warrent this (about 10% of the membership if memory serves). I don’t remember the convoluted reasoning for this gross violation of their rights.

    Comment by David Altman — February 4, 2012 @ 1:29 pm

  30. Great history and what a tremendous asset to find this history and site. I was in the POT and knew Don Smith. Sorry to say, I did not know him well enough and did not even know his history. When I first came to Chicago from the Houston branch as a POT representative, I lived in the apartment building managed by Polly. John Barzman and Bill Massey along with the rest of us were trying to craft a political direction that would help steer the party clear of the basically liberal course that Barnes and MAW had set the Party on. Guy Miller and I submitted a proposal on union orientation to the convention, I think, 1974. Of course, for this we were expelled. These were all great comrades in the POT.

    John Shaffer bears mentioning. He helped recruit me to the Party after we moved there from the Norman, OK YSA branch.
    John was one of those rare self-taught Marxists. He was a combat veteran of WWII and had shrapnel wounds in his legs. He had read Marx extensively and had one of the best understandings of Marx and Leninism of anyone I ever knew. He often commented on the Barnes/MAW liberalism as “Lenin would turnover in his grave.” John and his wife Jeanne, were union bakers by trade. They were great people. John certainly did not have any sentimentalized view of the political ability of the American working class in the 1970s. What he knew was that the Barnes/MAW thesis was not going to get the party anywhere close to the working class as a vanguard party. I liked John and Jeanne immensely. I was an ex-Marine combat vet fresh back from the imperialist assault on Vietnam when I joined the YSA. I was one of the campus leaders who, independent of the YSA, had organized sizable anti-war demonstrations in Norman. We also did other things like form a coalition to elect the first Black student president and host pro-Palestine educationals and forums with Arab and Iranian students. I remember Cindy Jacquith meeting with us (Bill Gomboc, John Neal, and me) in my apartment in Norman. I had read and tried to understand some of the new writings and was ready for revolution. I asked Cindy when she thought that would be. She responded that she thought it would be in our generation I believe. Little did we know that John Neal was a cop, worked for the FBI, so he claimed. I can usually smell a rat cop, but I never smelled him. He was the YSA campus organizer. At any rate, we left him behind and migrated to Houston. I became a traveling Pathfinder book salesman venturing to remote college campuses deep in Klan territory in Mississippi, East Texas, and Louisiana. Along the way, I organized appearances for candidate Andrew Pulley in Louisiana. In Houston, I got to know Tom and Debby Leonard and went fishing with them along with John and Jeanne on the Shaeffer’s boat in Galveston. Another old worker, Fred Brody, was one I tried to gain insight from. He was progressive, anti-Klan, but no theory there. Of the Houston group, John was the most based in Marx. The rest of us were reading Marx. After reading the 18th Brumaire, History of the Russian Revolution, What is to be Done, Science of Logic, Capital, Poverty of Philosophy, and then reading the stuff published by Barnes/MAW, one could not help but question the direction of the Party. It was fluff. Doing good things as a social organization to challenge imperialism’s attack on the Vietnamese, but not going anywhere as a worker’s party.

    The POT certainly did not have the answers. We were looking for them. We met with leaders of the French Section. We studied Mandel. We looked to the Paris students. We tried to hash out a cohesive approach to party and tasks. I think we failed because no leader of the POT was sufficiently aware of just was was the essence of Capital and Marx and Lenin. I think we were on the right track, certainly going in a better direction than Barnes/MAW’s faction which was basically pursuing a liberal agenda. I’ll never forget one SWPer’s comment to me after we had shared a bed in Houston and were discussing the Barnes/MAW thesis regarding the women’s movement as a component of revolution. Her comment was that if the Party did not have its position on ERA and the women’s movement, she would not be a member. She did not have even a miniscule understanding of Marx, commodity labor or even capitalism. She was not interested in those ideas. She was interested in a liberal agenda that pushed women’s rights as a goal, not as a tool. To me, this summed up the Barnes/MAW faction’s approach to Party building because it was how they recruited and how they educated the cadre as it was. The Party should grow (hence their base) by pursuing popular solutions to the intrinsic inequities of capitalist society. This approach was echoed I remember in the Party platform as it was running candidates for local office in Houston. Debby Leonard, dear that she was, and Maureen Jasin, both working class in orientation, presented the party line as just another civil rights organization, but a revolutionary one!

    The real problem was not just theory and leadership. The real problem was that there was no objective situation in the United States that was going to send the American working class onto a fundamental collision course with international capital. In the absence of this, the Barnes/MAW faction had concocted a new theory of revolution based on students and various civil rights issues that took advantage of some imperialist warts. Forgotten was Marx and the analysis in Capital. Commodity labor was not the issue. In the Barnes/MAW world, the issues that would carry the Party to the New World could be found in a liberal agenda. Perhaps it is good thing that the objective situation was what it was. One would hate to think what a Barnes’ organization with state power would do.

    At any rate, most of usw POTers were thrown out, at least for a stretch. When I was readmitted, it was as a junior partner, on probation. I drifted away into union politics for 18 years where I was red-baited thanks to some former POT hangers on who had joined the UAW bureaucracy. All fairly meaningless.

    Probably what we should be doing is trying to find a new synthesis based on the fundamentals to help establish links, theory, and organizational ideas to the real confrontations between international capital and the working class that are now nearly every day events. Ted Stacy

    Comment by Ted Stacy — February 4, 2012 @ 3:21 pm

  31. I have a question for Gus. You speak positively of Barnes here, and also at the Trotskyist Legacy Congerence in 2008. Were you part of the SWP miniority, 1981-1984, or were you helping Barnes with the expulsions? Just curious.

    Comment by Ken Morgan — February 16, 2012 @ 2:28 am

  32. I was not a member of the SWP in 1981-1984. I had quit a little before that, mostly for what would be called “personal” reasons, although I did have some premonitions about the future course of the party.

    I am thankful that I had no part in the expulsion of George Breitman and the others. I had previously worked closely with George Breitman in particular, and I had great respect for him. I think those expulsions were a disgrace.

    I did not and could not have foreseen what was to happen to the SWP. Although I had some forebodings at the time, I still hoped that events or other circumstances could turn things around. And though I sympathized with some (only some) of the ideas of the minorities, I did not think they had much of a chance to mount an effective independent course of action.

    In my view (in retrospect, for I did not hold this view at the time) the biggest political error by all sides in the discussions of the late 1970s and early 1980s was the failure to challenge the disastrous turn to industry or, more exactly, the disastrous way in which it was implemented. We had all hoped for years that there would be a turn to industry some day, and this hope probably made us all susceptible to illusions. But the illusions kept sway in face of reality, and the way in which the turn was implemented was not only unjustified but set everything on a headlong course to catastrophe.

    No one in the leadership or oppositon at the time – neither Barnes nor Sheppard nor Breitman nor Lovell nor Weinstein nor Camejo – seriously challenged the turn or offered a better alternative at the time. Barry Sheppard will take up this issue in his upcoming second volume, and based on discussions I have had with Barry, I will certainly agree with his reassessment of this issue.

    Of course there were other important political issues and a very difficult “objective situation.” But I believe that the wrong turn on the “turn” was the most important of the political issues because it was the issue that most affected the day to day activity of the SWP.

    There were also, of course, organizational and personality weaknesses.

    I believe that Jack Barnes played a generally positive role up until the latter 1970s. I think he started to change significantly for the worse from then on. But it was not an immediate, sudden thing. He had great prestige in the party owing to his talents and positive accomplishments. He was able to draw upon that prestige to lead things in the wrong direction. And he himself changed very much.

    As I have argued on previous occasions, it makes no sense to read back into the past what you see today. One cannot explain anything in history that way. We have to see change. The seeds of what has developed may well have been present for a long time, but only as seeds. They did not flower until later. We may argue about how to explain the change and how to assess when it occurrred, but if we do not see the change we will get nowhere in understanding what has happened.

    Comment by Gus Horowitz — February 16, 2012 @ 5:19 am

  33. This has been a very informative and positive discussion. But, tho I think Gus adds a very helpful angle to viewing this, I don’t see that comrades have “read back” making their judgements. Each comrade I’ve seen on this blog took a very serious (even tho I thought most mistaken) and thoughtout approach.
    Actually, We always must have our noses in the air or “looking for seeds”. healthy skepticism was dead in the pro-leadership current when I came around the YSA/SWP in 69 in Boston. This didn’t increase my confidence.
    Ya know, Cannon talks about giving up ten intellectuals (smart kids was my term then) for ONE worker with some savvy –and something else I forget.
    I remember that too talk about “having” a feel” about something or someoene was always countered with “that’s not political. It’s more than that. Cannon also spoke about keeping people out simply based on their looks!
    A central problem I think is that a conception existed that the leaders did the THINKING not the leaders are elected to lead. You wre in the leadership and to this day people from that group are unable to hear from the ranks. When leaders came to town I never experienced give and take and I was from the city!
    Thanx Gus, I appreciate the contribution.

    Comment by David Walsh — February 16, 2012 @ 11:33 am

  34. Gus,
    thank you for your timely reply to my question. I wasn’t aware that you had dropped out prior to 1981. You’re right about few challenges to not only the turn, but the way the turn was implemented from the minority. The only contrary opinions I remember from the 1981 pre convention discussion were from Harry DeBoer who correctly noted, “6 months as a machine operator doesn’t make you a machinist.” Not an exact quote but close enough. My own contribution was charging the party was abandoning the basic Marxist premise of the Reserve Army of the Unemployed, by blaming those who had problems being hired at workplaces that were very competitive, While the unemployed or underemployed were never publicly trashed in print, that was certainly the case in private conversations, especially among those who joined in the 1960’s. Anyone who trashes those going through economic hard times, and yet claims to be a Marxist is being, shall we say, less than honest. Even though most of the minority were opposed to the pro Khomeni stance in Iran, by the leadership, I was told Iran was not even an issue at the convention. I didn’t attend, due to financial reasons. I departed Barnestown a month after the convention.

    I moved to San Francisco from Utah in 1983, where I had the opportunity to talk with Nat and Sylvia, and others who would form Socialist Action. I was concerned with an almost lack of criticism in the way the turn was implemented by these members of the minority. It was the main reason I didn’t join Socialist Action or the Fourth International Tendency. I also disagreed with the concept of “external faction.,” I don’t support such a concept. You’re either in or out of an organization. This term needs to be abolished from the Trotskyist vocabulary.

    Comment by Ken Morgan — February 16, 2012 @ 4:04 pm

  35. Gus although you were in the Boston branch with Larry Trainor for several years you failed to absorb some of his most important lessons. One that he emphasized was “the power of rationalization is endless”. I know it is comforting for you to believe that there was a good Barnes that you worked with and a bad Barnes that you left behind, the facts show something else. When you became a minority in the Boston branch in 1966 Barnes immediately called you down to New York where you embarked on a 15 year run as nothing less than a toady for Barnes. Already in the middle of 1966 the start of the putrefaction of Jack Barnes was evident to many Don Smith,Tom Morgan, Ralph Levitt, Jim Bingham, Bill Massey, John McCann, Barbara Gregorich, Phil Passen, David Fender, Larry Trainor,and myself were among those who could discern a serious problem. The fact you were not a hatchet man for Barnes like Sheppard and not as slavish as the Carlton or Northwestern sucklings is only an incremental mitigation. While it is accurate to say you left before the expulsions of George Breitman and others including eventually Jimmy Kutcher of all people you played a part in other expulsions. In the summer of 1974 Ralph Levitt and myself were expelled by fiat a papal bull no trial no right to a trial no appeal and no right to an appeal. That did not come down from pathetic Nelson Blackstock but from Barnes and the political committee so said Blackstock the Berkeley-Oakland organizer. Barnes must have already been contemplating his turn to industry because in 1974 I was president of Local 1412 the G.E. transformer plant on E,14th street in Oakland and while working in the plant I was also organizing the G.E. repair plant on Wood street also in Oakland, a campaign that proved successful. Ralph was working for the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) and had just played a role in organizing this property into the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), in fact we had 4 or 5 comrades in ATU in Oakland. Barnes knew he had to purge Levitt and myself because we had proposed a moderate plan to orient to the working class in 1971 and we had both positive experience in the trade union movement bouyed by recent organizational successes and respect and authority among the workers we represented. That would be a major hurdle for Barnes when he tried to implement his turn to industry in the ludicrous manner that he did. So Barnes and the PC expelled us by papal bull and did my old pal Gus raise a hue and cry he did not. Did he raise a wimper or a little bleat he did not, no trial no appeal. Gus knowing the power of rationalization is endless I am sure you rationalized your complicity away but you know what you fucked up you wasted 15 years of your life toadying for Barnes, stop crying and justifying you screwed up accept it.

    Comments by Mike Tormey February 22, 2012

    Comment by Michael Tormey — February 23, 2012 @ 2:38 am

  36. Mike Tormey’s comments are welcome and very appropriate—in contrast to some sneering reference to the “legendary” Trainor.
    Given the forum, I will write only about my recollections of Larry Trainor—with the understanding that memory is imperfect. I knew Larry well only in the period 1969-71, before I left the SWP (with David Fender and others) as part of the Communist Tendency. [By the way, Jon Flanders, who was also in Boston in that period, has a good picture of Larry among the photographs on his site.]
    The period that none of us know anything about may have been the most significant, when he came back to Boston with Gusty in the midst of McCarthyism and the Cold War, rebuilt the branch, and kept it alive until there was some awakening. He often talked about how the FBI would waylay Toni, his young daughter, on her way home from school, to ask her questions about her parents. He was blacklisted in his trade as a printer.
    As I recall, Larry grew up in an Irish Catholic working class area of the Roxbury section of Boston, but no one was more opposed to the Catholic Church and to the damage “the mucks” (as he called them) had done to the labor movement than he was. His father had been one of the participants in the Boston Police Strike of 1919, and lost his job when the strike was broken.
    The French have a word, formation, which means all at once education and training and, literally, “shaping.” Larry’s formation took place under the tutelage, as Mike indicates, of Antoinette Konikow. It seems likely to me that Larry’s role as an educator, so often spoken of, reflects how Konikow “formed” Larry, which in turn she got from Plekhanov. Larry tried to “form” us in the same way. We are not dealing then with just top-notch classes, but with a historic legacy that should not be thrown away.
    Discussing with us the policy that existed at that time against gay people being SWP members, he mentioned that the poet (and SWP member) John Brooks Wheelwright had been gay, and that in those days it had not even been an issue. (Likewise, Gusty told us how, at a plant she worked at, each day she waited for a worker whom others denounced as a lesbian, and then walked with her into the plant until the hostility was silenced.)
    Beside the assignments as branch organizer in Buffalo and Seattle, Larry also worked on the The Militant for a number of years. He told a story about how a headline on the paper, responding (I believe) to some supposed deal from the government, read: “In a Pig’s Eye!” But the edition that they put on Cannon’s desk greeted him in the morning with the headline: “In a Pig’s Ass!” It took them a while to calm Cannon down.
    Larry also related walking with Cannon, who was silent on these walks. At one point Cannon stopped and said to Larry, “We’re not revolutionaries.” Larry was stunned, but they walked on again in silence until Cannon said, “No, we’re revolutionary working class politicians.” This was an important point to make to young people in the ‘60s, when there was a “revolutionary” on every corner.
    On another such walk, Cannon broke his silence and said, “What would happen if we got $10,000.00 [or some equivalent large sum for the ‘30s or ‘40s] right now?” Larry started talking about a new press, a new office, another organizer, etc. And Cannon stopped him and said: “It would ruin us!” —because the apparatus would outrun the party’s actual support. (Think about that in terms of Jack Barnes.)
    Larry also had a wry sense of humor. He told the story of how he was discussing with some workers the need for a workers’ state, and they replied: “As long as Jim Curley is governor, Larry, Massachusetts is a workers’ state!” He was unhappy that his younger brother, whom he had recruited to the party, left with the Shachtmanites. Alas, he said, his brother was not a revolutionary but “a Tolstoyan democrat: if the workers were about to hang Hitler, my brother would have said, ‘Don’t kill him. He told you he was sorry.’”
    As others have noted, he early sniffed out the Barnes clique. That was one of the reasons he gave a copy of Hansen’s document on the Abern clique—long before the SWP reprinted it—to anyone who would take it. The copy I received had been xeroxed so many times that it was real job to read it. He always believed that this clique would just fall apart, and that then the party would right itself. The Barnes clique did break up, at least in part (Doug Jenness has happily returned to bird-watching), but by that point the damage had been done. But Larry always attributed Barnes’s prominence to the fostering given him by the top leadership. He recalled criticizing Jenness’s pamphlet, “War and Revolution in Vietnam,” at an NC meeting, closing his remarks by saying that it was written by a young comrade and he could learn. But then Tom Kerry stood up and said, “I wrote that pamphlet.” Likewise, Larry would mimic Tom Kerry talking about Barnes. Pasting a reverent look on his face, he would breathlessly intone: “He’s the new Lenin!” Larry would also refer to Cannon’s having said that Farrell Dobbs was a trade unionist only (that is, not a “revolutionary working class politician”). When I asked why Dobbs had become National Secretary, Larry would shake his head and say: “Some of us couldn’t understand why the man who held the party together during the war [Morris Lewit] didn’t get the job.”
    As Mike points out, Larry was a person of broad culture and learning, which he acquired on his own, without the benefit of formal education. (A person as opposed to Larry’s politics as Barry Sheppard also notes this in his book.) Larry enjoyed quoting Big Bill Haywood: “There is nothing too good for the proletariat.” Even Ernest Mandel sent him a letter (when Larry was in a serious auto accident, after which he never fully recovered his health) telling him that he hoped to discuss the Dutch Republic with him again; for Larry was a student of Motley, and of Henri Pirenne, who wrote, among other things, on the Low Countries. It seems to me that he also loved classical music and opera, but I didn’t, so this memory is uncertain. To portray Larry as some narrow “workerist” or “economist” is to create a parody of the man, who expressed in himself the heights to which the working class can rise.
    Many others, like Roger Sheppard, who knew Larry far longer, can contribute much more about this remarkable person, someone who really was, we can say without embarrassment, a worker-Bolshevik. If we do not understand and honor what was best about our past, exemplified by Larry Trainor, then we have no basis for going forward.

    Comment by Kevin FitzPatrick — February 27, 2012 @ 2:58 am

  37. Tom Kerry was von Hindenburg to Barnes’ Hitler. Kerry selected Barnes to lead the Party in an way and
    a process that were acts of disloyalty to Barry and Pete who had played such key roles in building the
    YSA. Early on the leadership should have insisted to Barnes that he share leadership with Barry and
    Pete. The Party deserved as much. It required as much.
    Barnes then ruled in a fashion that must remind us of Hitler’s use of the Weimar enabling act and the
    Reichstag Fire Decree——–paralleling the new, non-Bolshevik “organizational norms” that Barnes used
    to destroy the Party (Republic).
    Early on, Hitler had the Blind WW I. German Army Veterans organization expel the blind Jewish war
    vets. Think of Barnes sinking so low as to give the boot to the “legless veteran” Jimmy Kutscher.
    And Tormeys praise and defense of Larry Trainor is so on target. Larry was the best. After James Cannon and Vince Dunne were gone, Larry stood head and shoulders above the rest of the older generation—
    Tom Kerry was mud on his shoe.
    Tormey defends the old Party program and principles. Without them, what good were we? What reason
    for our existence?
    The POT made such modest proposals—–yet they outraged many Barnes supporters. Then, in just
    a few years, Barnes made a turn that was super extreme compared to the POT and must remind us
    of one of Stalin’s abrupt changes in the orientation of the CP of the USSR and the Comintern.
    Barnes was given his position by the very comrades whom he then expelled———Barnes expelled
    those who gave him the power to expel————and to destroy the SWP.

    Comment by Ralph Levitt — February 28, 2012 @ 9:20 pm

  38. Repentant Revolutionary

    Barnes and the Barnesites have captured the Socialist Workers Party. Some of us predicted this event and process a half century ago. It is as important to theoretically understand how this occurred as it is to recognize the fact of its occurrence. Consciousness is prerequisite for political direction. Open discussion is prerequisite for consciousness.

    I commend this site for providing accessible discussion on these matters. Special plaudits to Mike Tormeyand his splendid piece, “Winter Musings” on Larry Trainor. The foundation of the SWP was on such fierce intellect and proletarian militancy. Alan Wald’s “Winter’s Tale” apparently and creatively provoked much of the brilliance of Tormey’s article. What binds us all together is our share in a huge, historical defeat.

    Neither the best of Marxist-Leninist-Trostkyist (1) philisophical, (2) economic, (3) political foundations or (4) creative marxist variations have stopped the Barnesites onslaught; the successfully destructive machinations and organizational coups of Barnes and his Barnesites. Wald noted we need to understand the culture of organization practiced by political groups. In seconding that notion we may grow closer to not farther from the proletarian foundations, Tormey writes. Again, comradely thanks to Louis Proyect.

    It is especially fine to learn that the Karl Frederick I’d earlier read on this site being patient, kind, and nonsectarian to an evangelical fanatic was the K.F. Smith I’d hoped it would be. I knew your parents son and lived with them the day they brought you home. They were sure proud of you then … I’m sure they’re proud of you now.

    Gus Horowitz; good to hear you’re still kickin’. I told Ralph Levitt last week I thought you and Melissa Singler were the hardest working YSAers of the sixties. However, you are misinformed Jack Barnes was in Bloomington working hard for (C.A.B.S.) Committee to Aid the Bloomington Students. The reason Barnes wasw in Bloomington more than anything else was to compromise the marriage of PaulAnn and Bill Gronninger. Just as he lethally compromised Mary Alice and Dan Styron. You were right to suspect Barnes in 1979. He’d been betraying us all on the installment plan since 1962.

    A slight correction to Mike T.; Don Smith never communicated to me that Barnes was “tainted”. He went on voluminous record with our mutual diagnosis that Jack Barnes was an “Adlerian Personality Disorder; embittered and driven to cripple others”. D.O. would quote Miguel de Unamunos remark to a one-armed fascist officer occupying the University of Salamanca, Oct. 12, 1936; “The trouble with cripples is they want to cripple others”.

    “The absolute general law of capitalist accumulation” according to Marx (Capital vol. 1 p. 603) is “in proportion to the active labour army, the greater is the mass of a consolidated surplus population, whose misery is in inverse ratio to its torment of labour”. Or, as the rich get richer from labor of the working class, there is proportional growth of subemployed surplus populations getting poorer and tormenting labor from below.

    During the last half of the twentieth century this “absolute general law of capitalist accumulation was widely taken to be the weakest aspect of ‘Marxism analysis” (Henry Frankel Braverman: Labor and Monopoly Capital Ch. 17 p. 269) From the vantage point of the twenty-first century we know it is statistically true. Marx then distinguishes three froms of these relative surplus populations: (1) the floating, (2) the latent and (3) the stagnant. The (1) floating is that stratum with broken down ties to localities and/or communites moving from job to job hired and discarded randomly. The (2) latent is that residual labor force surviving the annihilation of most of the agricultural population in advanced capitalist countries. Most rural families “set free” from traditional country work to be atomized in subemployed city life. This “latent” form of surplus population “now exists chiefly in the neocolonies “and…”this regulated internationalization of the labor market is supplemented by the export of various industrial processes (outsourced!) to cheap labor areas in the countries which are kept in subjugation as ‘undeveloped regions’ “.(IBID p. 208) The (3) stagnant subemployment is marginal, casual, and irregular merging with the ‘sediment’ as Marx called it at “Pauperism, the hospital of active labour …and the dead weight of industrial reserves …stagnancy pauperism forms a condition of capitalist production.” (Karl Marx: Capital vol. 1 p. 604) It enters the faux frais of capitalist production.” (faux frais: literally fake freshness; figuratively, “the incidental operating costs of keeping the Proletariat in line”)

    Similarly, the Barnesites milieu in origin and style, form and content entered faux frais into the YSA-SWP. During the last half centuries vast undertow of lumpen stagnancy these subemployed social refugees were metamorphed into so-called revolutionary youth by the Barnesian phenomena. After decades of keeping the proletariat culturally and functionally remote, then purging comrades of proletarian influence factionalizing relationship management one against the other until no one remained but themselves. These revolutionary youth politicians who were not mindless militants seemed akin to labor skates; proportionally subsidized and hypocritical.

    By the end of the sixties, Barry Sheppard comprehensively reports in the first volume of his politcal memoir, “The Party” how successfully the YSA-SWP had organized, worked with, and amassed significant political force to (1) destroy racist legal segregation south and north. (2) Secondly, we’d led in mobilizing a massive anti-war movement persuading the American people their government was wrong and morally deserved defeat by the armed Vietnamese peasants and workers. We were all a credible part of that. We were also all a culpable part of the larger youth culture which provided a half century hen house for the likes of Fox Barnes.

    By the seventies the older generation began to die. When Vincent Ray Dunne died, I feared an irreparable existential gap was opening. Without the experience of capitalist crises and labor radicalization, then losing touch with older comrades who had …the “revolutionary youth” would start reifying themselves. Their own experiences and issues would be increasingly exaggerated in importance to compensate as and eventually substitute for real socialist action …real socialist thought with and for the working class in real time.

    The 1971 SWP convention discovered a “new way” for revolutionary Marxism. All the youths’ sexual, gender, and family issues would be threaded together in “a new way”. The role of the revolutionary marxist party was by bankrupt fiat “expanded” beyond its bid to lead the working class to socialism …to now “lead all of humanity to freedom …against all forms of oppression” [ “All of ’em newspapers”, Sarah Palin said.] “leading not just the working class …but the wholes of society”. Thus allowing the passage to fantastic materialism from vulgar materialism barely passing through dialectical materialism.”

    Like the ‘Reichean’ youth of the new left and SDS, the YSA-SWP was discovering “in a new way” that after all is said and done it is really Daddy’s fault. At the 1971 convention Barry Sheppard reports actually giving “a talk on the sexual revolution that was taking place among youth and contributions of the german psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich.” It would be uncharitable to reply to that event … Gak! Wilhelm Reich, the nut case convicted of selling Orgone boxes to catch the bluish-gray energy of orgasms …materially …in the box!

    As I said, tht would be uncharitable. But, not very. At least he was a materialist. Indeed, it may be less absurd that Comrade Sheppard recommended for dicussion the ideas of Reich (to the revolutionary youth regarding the “ongoing problems they face in relation to their own sexuality and the political issue of sex”) as the fact they’d already walked a parallel plank. These youth were already stuck as much as old Reich in an antinomian tradition as old as the classcial mystery cults. That ‘moral law is not binding’ sums up the doctrinal cult of religious antinomians. Secular sectarian devotionals push it a cultic step further; ‘there is no moral law’. Morality viewed as an imposition on humanity before we have the wit to realize imprisonment inside walls of sentiment separating us from the elemental rewards of true living. Whatever is is right. If it itches, scratch it. If it feels good, do it. Not merely the state but the conscience should wither away.

    Reich’s “natural youth” and “natural man” is a stale leftover of eighteenth century imagination. His hostility to the socially conservative culture of the Proletarian family led him to call for its destruction. Spoiled, disobedient, and lazy brats seem to me altogether too Reichian. Adulterous spouses, promiscuous teens, and brattish children are no help for the Proletarian home, workplace, picket line or barricade. Parents need to be loyal to each other (materially, sexually, and emotionally) to provide for and protect their offspring disciplining childrens’ behavior in family solidarity that can build class solidarity.

    Comrade Sheppard’s 1971 convention sexual talk to the youth was just catching up with how their borgeois professors and peers had already prepared them. “The old thunder of nineteenth century german literati (and degenerati) had become the “new” social science of anglo-american academia (and their antinomian students). Where the so-called sexual revolution and the surplus populations converge there grew the pathogens of political disease and degeneracy. In the YSA-SWP the worst was the Barnesites.

    There is one intolerance worse than a blind dogmatist; that is, the peculiarly modern intolerance of those Reiff calls the “factualists”. I’ve referred to them as factmongers or ultra pragmatists. “Marx, Lenin, and Trotsky have provided all the theory we need. Now we just need to organize” has been their half century refrain.

    Organizational forms are facts. Criticism of organization is a denial of facts to cloak political differences and disloyalities. Worshipers of facts – be they Reich’s fantasy facts, Jack Barnes’ organizational facts (or shared clinical genital facts) “compose the most powerful of all forces inhibiting serious criticism. Of course, facts do not speak for themselves; they speak only when theory teaches them to do so, and then only in th voice and with the resonance that theory lends them”. – Philip Reiff: The Impoverishment of Western Culture

    A fundamental axiom of statistical protocol is that “you cannont legitimately test a hypothesis on the same data that first suggested that hypothesis”. It becomes a self-serving circular solipsizm; a specialty of Evangelicals and Barnesites.

    The Evangelical begins:

    a. Jesus is God and we invite Him into our heart’s interiority.
    b. As Jesus is within us, we maintain a personal relationship with God.
    c. Then concludes, they speak for Him, confusing the idea of His existence with their own visceral self.

    The Barnesites begin:

    a. recruiting marginally undefined youth to a highly defined ideological membership to
    b. maintain personal and personel relationships of loyalty through ad-hominem gossip and purges against those disloyal to their ideological identities.
    c. Thus confusing identity with politics and substituting one for the other.

    Both processes become unconscionable, that is, violative of conscience formation. Conscience, no less than consciousness thrives with admonitions and work not with fantasies and sloth wherin it is further displaced with organizational relationship management. Relationship engineering or management is always preoccupied with those judged outside of i.e. disloyal to the organization’s leadership definition of principle and interpretaion of behavior.

    A combat party of children emerge; i.e. atomized individuals primarily relating to each other in a clrcle jerk of abstruse concerns and ad-hominem gossip.

    Will the comorbidities of lumpen and liberal corruption be lessened as Barnesites are workerist ordered into Proletarian jobs? Their identity complex merely entering an industrial phase or …might the power of Proletarian influence boomerang them around to something else entirely?

    As the possum prophesied, “We have met the enemy and he is us”. Last night I checked out the new online post-workerist Militant. Barnes and Barnesites are producing probably the best Proletarian oriented socialist newspaper in America. And, Barnes so-called epiphanous turn to emphasize Fidelismo en vez de Trotskozmo to focus on a Western Hemisphere International is no less attractive, including the propensity like latins to emphasize being Communist instead of slightly cold war shy of the word.

    Is it possible? Is it possible his predatory adulterous, cultic, crippling ways are achieving such things? The dialectic may move in mysterious ways …or is it possible as a police spy liquidator he is staking out advanced positions to discredit them?

    The Militant is convening a March 15th meeting in New York for all who are interested in forming a new Communist, Workers Party. If it is a bluff, it should be called. The way the YSA called the CP’s bluff in ’65 convening an “open, nonexclusive W.E.B. DuBois Club”. Enough old veterans might be able to outjoin them. If the Barnesites respond in their renown, sectarian, cultic manner they will be justly exposed as such. If by a miracle they’re on the level .. Hurrah … but does that mean the Barnes organization should be followed:?

    American workers require a party that is more than politically correct and proletarian oriented. Above all else the proletariat requires a Socialist-Workers Party that is trustworthy. Trust is not complicated. One cannot trust leadership that consistently over a significant period of time says one thing and does otherwise. One cannot distrust leadership that consistently over a significant period of time does what it says it is going to do. Let’s hold Barnes accountable from the outside. Grit our teeth and critically support him if he straightens up.

    “Sorry Tessio. Nothing personal. Strictly business.” – (The Godfather II)

    Nothing personal Jack …just strictly politics. Grit our teeth and critically support his policies if proletarian socialist. (We did no less for Stalin).

    If not …lay siege to them electronically! (Barnes cannot, anymore than Egyptian Colonels deflect an electronic siege of information).

    Concede (for the time being) to the Barnesites their organizational forms; (It’s what they most value)

    Concentrate and capture the Revolutionary content! (Organization follows program content, not the reverse: Trotsky understood better than Cannon, Dobbs, or Barnes:

    Without exclusive authority of content; Barnesites will reorient or organize themselves into oblivion. Lou, why not further pick up on Bert Cochran’s ideas and build the site into an open SNC Socialist National Committee toward a Socialist National Congress to critically support or enjoin the SWP and all lthe othe rRed mastheads. This electronic thing might do it.

    Not to be overambitious …but it might be the initial stages of an electronic Soviet.

    Comradely,

    Tom Morgan

    Comment by Tom Morgan — March 5, 2012 @ 12:38 am

  39. The last entry, a comment by Tom Morgan, touched on something in which I have some expertise based on recent study, the work and writings of Wilhelm Reich. Barry Sheppard’s discussion of Reich on p. 305 of The Party, to which Tom appears to allude, is not bad, but rather derivative and not very thorough, although probably not worse than what I would have come up with at the time, given the SWP-Marxist mindset of the period. (In the early 1970’s, many of Reich’s writings that are now again available were not easily accessible, given that many of them had been banned and even publicly burned in the 1950’s at the hands of the U.S. government.)

    Morgan’s tirade against Sheppard’s even discussing Reich is based on the worst slanderous attacks on Reich; the animus behind those attacks can probably be traced to the hostility directed against Reich by the Stalinist Communist Parties and their hangers-on, in the 1950’s still a significant number in the U.S.–a hostility against a creative scientist taken over by the bureaucrats of the FDA without realizing its ultimate origin. For a “Trotskyist” (as I suppose Morgan still claims to be) to form a judgment of Reich based on those slanderous attacks is, to put it mildly, very sad.

    Comment by Jan Garrett — March 11, 2012 @ 9:28 pm

  40. Gus compares Chicago and Bloomington—-in favor of Barnes.
    OK, Gus, let’s take a look.
    Jack Barnes did a fine recruiting job—no doubt. But he had the Party branches behind him—-
    and he was double recruiting from the start—to the YSA AND to his personal clique.
    In Bloomington, George and Ellen Shriver, with no branch and from their living room, directly or
    indirectly recruited———Bingham, Jack Marsh, Paulann and Bill Groninger, Morgan, Gerry Paul, Polly
    and Don Smith, Fender, McNaughton, Jack and Marcia Glenn, Joe Henry, Tom Marsh, Jeff
    Phillips and others that I can’t recall 50 years later. It was recognized at the time as remarkable.
    And the Cuba demonstration at the time of the Missile Crisis?
    That was the single most important thing the YSA did in defense of the Cuban Revolution.
    A dozen YSAers faced a violent, wild mob of hundreds, maybe thousands of counter demonstrators.
    The national news didn’t ignore it. It was sensational.
    Barnes downplayed it but used it in a whisper campaign to convince the Party leaders in New York that
    Bloomington was “ultra left”—-that they could have been killed, etc.
    But that was just the point—-the Bloomington YSAers could have gotten killed.
    And what did Barnes risk? He could have dropped his coffee cup and bruised his toe.
    (Ironic—-Tormey always said Gus had guts—–and would have stood up at the demo).
    (I don’t include myself in the demonstration. I got lucky and was early on arrested and jailed. But I’ll
    never forget Jack Marsh holding up his sign as he was being punched. Jack was more than capable of
    punching back but he felt it was more important to hold up the sign. He got a brief respite when YPSL
    Walt Carnahan stepped in to back off the attackers).
    Gus——do not forget that demonstration. It should be a point of pride.

    Comment by Ralph Levitt — March 28, 2012 @ 11:36 am

  41. Kevin FitzPatrick’s comment about being expelled with David Fender and the Communist Tendency intrigued me. I have been trying to locate Fender for several years. If anyone knows how, I’d appreciate hearing. My e-mail addy: binesi@gvtel.com. David and I spent some time together in Paris in 1967, where I was working on the Bertrand Russell War Crimes Tribunal. He was in frequent contact with Peng Shu-tse, who lived near Versailles, and who the French Trotskyists ignored. I was then a member of the Jeunesse Communiste Revolutionnaire, and David took me to meet Peng and his wife. I was new to the Trotskyist movement, so wasn’t familiar with the Communist Tendency of much of the history and factional issues involved. I appreciate all the contributions to this discussion and have learned from them. David

    Comment by David Thorstad — April 8, 2012 @ 3:05 pm

  42. Larry Trainor was my main introduction to the class struggle and working class politics through classes he taught which I was fortunate enough to attend in 1963-4 in Boston. I will never forget what he said in one of those classes about the role of judges as money grubbing pawns of the ruling class, “who would get down on their knees to lick the floor” for a penny. Such a truth, so colorfully expressed, introduced me to the basic socialist understanding of the irreconcilable class struggle. Thank you, Mike for your appreciation of Larry Trainor.
    Carole Seligman

    Comment by Carole Seligman — April 9, 2012 @ 6:53 pm

  43. @#39 I agree with Jan, the anti-sex attitude expressed by Tom M is just another iteration of the uptight, right-wing hostility to the 60s radicalization by “orthodox marxists” which sadly also reflects, among other things, consistent with Marcuse, the reactionary influence of the Catholic Church in too many working class communities. A former leading SWPer once told me that in her over twenty five years of marriage to her former husband, an SWP leader, she never once saw his naked body and how dark, hidden and unsatisfactory her sex life or lack thereof, was with him, an attitude she attributed to his Catholic upbringing.

    Comment by Tom Cod — April 12, 2012 @ 7:49 pm

  44. Returning thanks to Tom Cod (April 12) whose puerile remarks illustrate my critique of lumpen influences. May he continue celebrating naked, brightly displayed sex life as History and adult socialist efforts elude him. Serious Proletarians keep their religion and sex life personal. He’d best stay clear of mine!

    Comment by Tom Morgan — April 27, 2012 @ 4:35 am

  45. I apologize for the length of the article below, but I do not have time to edit it. It was written in response to the political positions of some comrades I knew many years ago in Britain. I am including it, because I think there are salient points in it that are relevant to some of the remarks here. One is regarding the origins of the degeneration of the SWP. Enough with Barnes this and Barnes that! Jack Barnes was not the devil incarnate who took over the party and led it down the primrose (golden) path to hell. Jack Barnes was no more personally responsible for the demise of the SWP than was Stalin personally responsible for the fate of Bolshevism in the Soviet Union. The dialectical “diabolical” debasement of the SWP is germane to the whole of the Trotskyist movement that started theoretically decomposing shortly after the death of Trotsky as I tried to show in the historical document I wrote for the 1971 convention discussion. Barnes is simply, in the flesh, the locomotor ataxia (the final convulsive stage of syphilis) of the disease that had been ravaging the party and the totality of Trotskyism for decades, and I think the theory herein on the countries of Eastern Europe after WWII further substantiates this fact. Second are some apropos observations about the petty bourgeoisie with which Mr. locomotor ataxia and the ivory-tower, erudite dilettantes that Comrade Tormey was addressing in his article could be confused! I did not know Comrade Larry Trainor as well as did some of the other comrades, but I believe there are some cogent reasons for this. My health was not good when I arrived in Boston during the summer in 1969, and I soon suffered a relapse of the Hong Kong flu that had severely debilitated me during the late spring in Paris, so I had to stay close to home, and I occupied myself with writing my answer to Kerry. I was already in political opposition, and I was the only one in the branch to vote no on all the SWP leadership’s documents. As soon as my health permitted I began working the night shift as a teamster, so I missed almost all the branch meetings. Two things I do remember about Larry, however, are that Larry cornered me on my way in to hear Tomfoolery Kerry give his expected droll, disdainful, duplicitous diatribe at the 1969 convention of which I knew I would be made the butt in order to entertain and to shore up the petty-bourgeois ranks. At first I tried to escape, and then I realized that Larry was trying to spare me Kerry’s predictable disingenuous remarks which I believe he thought might make me cynical and hasten my exit from the party which I suspect also indicated a certain sympathy with my political position. While cynicism was not then and never has been part of my political being, I quickly decided that without doubt I could learn more from listening to Larry than Kerry. Larry was as well the only one that stood up on the branch floor and defended me personally during my “trial” and was the sole vote against my expulsion. david fender, 5-25-12, dhfender@netzero.net PROLETARIAT, PROGRAM, & PARTY I would never sign this AVAAZ “on line” petition (Feb. 20, 2012) as it could have been written by the CIA—very much like most of their campaigns—and in fact, I would not doubt that this group is an invention of or supported by the CIA. The premise for this petition—“With each passing day, Syria’s crackdown on democracy protesters reaches new levels of horror bombing crowded neighborhoods filled with innocent civilians, cutting off electricity and phones so families can’t call for help, and blocking medical aid to the wounded….”—is a propaganda lie! The struggles in Libya and Syria are not the same thing as the struggles in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, and Bahrain. You said you could see no difference in these struggles, but you should at least realize that imperialism sees a huge difference—the difference of night and day—that is most obvious from the historical antipathy and aggression against Syria and Libya with the US branding them as part of the “Axis of Evil” and in the different ways the imperialists have dealt with these struggles, and this difference should have given you a clue that they are not the same thing. In Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, and Bahrain the struggles began as indigenous, civilian, spontaneous revolts that grew into mass demonstrations against the autocratic rulers who for decades had enjoyed the uncritical backing of the US in consort with the other imperialist powers. The imperialists temporized as much as possible in the face of these popular uprisings making sure the status quo would not change qualitatively—and nothing has changed qualitatively—although in Bahrain the situation was more acute and called for direct action, and the green light was given for the intervention of Saudi tanks and troops not to take out the king but to suppress the masses and maintain the rule of the minority Sunni monarchy. In Yemen US drone strikes have been the order of the day for some time now to preserve the regime of the autocrat Ali Abdullah Salih along with strategic arms shipments for his personal special forces. Hardly anybody knows about the thousands upon thousands of civilians that have been killed and injured in Egypt, Yemen, and Bahrain, although you hear daily of the exaggerated body counts in Syria but not however that many of those casualties have been government personnel and civilians supporting the regime. Just think about the fact that it has been the Middle-East, repressive, religious monarchies of Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, and Arabia with the backing of the imperialist powers that have been paramount in spearheading the drive against the secular regimes of Libya and Syria in the name of liberating the population from their autocratic rulers (along with Turkey who has been playing the role of the loyal lap dog of the imperialist war machine, NATO) while violently suppressing the masses in their own countries struggling against the most detestable, super-religious, despotic regimes in the world. Why, because the mere existence of the secular regimes in Libya and Syria threaten the existence of their own religious autocratic regimes, and this is a major reason, as well, why the Saudis supported the overthrow of their Sunni brothers in secular Iraq. Religious trumps secular regardless of sect! The Libyan and Syrian “uprisings” were not mass outpourings of the population against the ruling regimes—“protesters calling for reforms”—but long-planned, well-organized, instantaneous, armed assaults by imperialism utilizing the most reactionary religious Islamists, foreign and domestic, mainly of the Salafi Sunni sect and “al Qaeda” minded ilk, with the overt backing of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and Turkey along with the behind-the-scenes backing of Israel, Jordan, and several others including now the new reactionary, pro-imperialist, religious, ragtag regime in Libya who have committed hundreds of mercenary fighters and millions of dollars to take out the Syrian regime. In fact the massive demonstrations that occurred in Libya and Syria were and have been in support of the ruling regimes of Gaddafi and Assad which were ignored by the capitalist press or misrepresented as being against the ruling regimes while the so-called “popular” demonstrations touted by the imperialist press against the regimes were—if they existed at all—small in comparison, composed of many outside elements, and centered in the most politically reactionary and religious areas of the two countries, or, especially in Syria, in towns near the borders where the imperialists infiltrated their armed gangs and special ops instigating immediate armed insurrection targeting not only the police and army units but civilians as well. The evidence for this is readily available and abundant, although not necessarily in the imperialist press but still evident if you read between the lines. The western-imperialist interventions in Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, and now Syria are for the same fundamental reasons differing only in scale, tactics, and opportunity. The imperialists’ motives are not only to change obstreperous regimes into docile lapdogs; to gain or secure strategic positions, resources, and markets; and to drive out competitors, but also to stamp out the intrinsic institutionalized social reforms and pro-labor policies, and to privatize nationalized industries that characterized to one degree or another the secular states of Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. These are the very same social programs providing for the health, welfare, pensions, equality, workers’ rights, and education along with the nationalized industries that you have been attempting to defend in England against the onslaught of capital through the aegis of Thatcher, Majors, Cameron, et al. Imperialism has for decades used finance capital through the auspices of the World Bank and the IMF to destroy these same reforms in states around the world and to privatize everything owned by these states as they are now doing in Greece for example, but the World Bank and the IMF could not penetrate Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, and Syria, so imperialism has had to resort to more extreme measures. Your support for the imperialist onslaught against the regimes of Libya and Syria is a huge impediment to your own struggles to protect the English workers not to mention the devastating setback the workers in these states already have suffered and will suffer, nor can your position be differentiated in any qualitative way from the position and actions of imperialism overtly and covertly supporting the overthrow of Gaddafi—now a done deed—and Assad in spite of your attempt to give the struggle in Syria a “socialist” propensity—an anti-Marxist concept in-and-of-itself—rendering your struggle against English imperialism mute. The western imperialists have gained a strategic position in Libya, and they will gain—along with Israel as Syria and Libya had been the most stalwart “backers” of the Palestinians—an even greater strategic position if successful in Syria and that will become a gigantic advantage in carrying out the rest of their agenda in Lebanon, Sudan, Somalia, and ultimately Iran, the long-range, major target in the Middle East, from the beginning. This in turn will lead to the hegemony they seek in isolating and controlling the BRICS, the major long term economic and military rivals confronting them. Your casual dismissal of imperialism and its primary and decisive role in the struggle in Libya and Syria as only “unpleasant people ‘fishing in murky waters’” and merely “jockeying for influence,” is remarkable in light of all the evidence, but even more incredible is your characterization of the Assad regime. You describe yourself as a Marxist, but your analysis is religious in nature, not Marxist. You essentially maintain that the Assad regime is bad, evil, and your first-hand account notwithstanding since nobody needs to go there to know what the Syrian regime is, and therefore, your implied conclusion is that any struggle against it must be good, especially in this case since, as you maintain, there is a long history of struggle against the regime—you fail to mention, however, that much of it has been religious and sectarian—with many socialists participating, but what are the class forces involved in the struggle? What are the consequences for the working class of Syria and the world working-class struggle? We know that the working class in Libya has been decimated by NATO’s bombs along with the armed mercenary, tribal, religious, monarchist, and fascist forces that were sponsored, unleashed, and sustained by imperialism that are now in control of the country, and it will probably take a generation or more for the working class to recuperate. Why would you support any outright struggle for power where the working class itself was not the leading force? How can you conceive of any favorable outcome when the working class is not the driving force in overthrowing Assad? The most probable outcome in Syria will be a sectarian civil war which, barring an outright lapdog of imperialism replacing Assad à la Mubarak, would lead to the next best outcome for the imperialists: a weakened and even more dictatorial state whether it is led by Assad or one of the religious sects such as the Muslim Brotherhood. Even if the imperialists were not involved and it were only socialists running around with guns, the present struggle in Syria would be foolhardy to the nth degree, similar to the JCR fighting the CRS in the streets of Paris during May-June, 1968—pure adventurism. What role is the working class playing in Syria? Have we not learned anything from Algeria, China, Cuba, Bolivia, Vietnam, and now Libya as well as so many others? Theoretically you are guilty of what I call “substitutionism” as was the Socialist Labour League (SLL), the International Secretariat of the Fourth International (IS), the International Committee of the fourth International (IC), the Socialist Workers Party-US (SWP), etc., etc., etc. They all put their hopes in Will-o’-the-wisps such as Tito, Ben Bella, Mao, Castro, Gaddafi, Ho Chi Min, etc., or in amorphous “progressive” movements and struggles such as the anti-war movement, the Vietnamese struggle, guerrilla-war, ad infinitum completely ignoring the role of the working class as the only vehicle that can bring about a true and meaningful change. It is only the working class that can overthrow capitalism and thereby change the world for the better not to mention the necessity of the program and party. We do not take a political position based on good and evil; as I said this is the religious or moralist methodology, not the Marxist dialectical approach. This is the same path that Christopher Hitchens treaded to support the invasion of Iraq. He too thought Saddam was a very bad man, and his removal would be a good thing, regardless. I know you are aware that Trotsky supported the butcher of the Shanghai workers, Chiang Kai-shek, against Japanese imperialism and the reactionary Emperor Haile Selassie against Italian imperialism. The struggles in Libya and Syria are in theory and fact no different even though there are even more reasons to support Gaddafi and Assad against imperialism, and your personal animus toward Gaddafi and Assad (something we will examine later) should not have dissuaded you from supporting them as I believe you supported Saddam in Iraq against the invasion of imperialism, and Saddam was no less cruel to the Kurds than the Assads in Syria, was a dictator who took power in a coup as a member of the right wing of the Iraqi Baath party, discriminated against the Shia who constituted over 40% of the population while the government was almost exclusively Sunni who constituted only about 20% of the population, etc. Can you really justify a qualitative difference between Iraq and Libya or Syria in light of the imperialists’ violent incursions and the skulduggery they are committing in Syria without which—as well as in Libya—there would be no “crisis”? The only differences are in the methods employed by imperialism, but they are no different than the methods US imperialism has used around the world for decades, and quite successfully I might add, many of which are even elaborated in a CIA “subversion” handbook. We should do everything in our power to make sure they are not successful in Syria. We as Marxists should have been supporting Gaddafi—as I did—and must now support Assad—as I do. Do not misunderstand: I too would like to see the Assads and their pals deposed, and the sooner the better, but not by the hand of imperialism. I will support the Assads and their pals as should the Kurds and the workers eight days a week against imperialism. The question is not should we support them against imperialism but HOW we support them and therein lies the key to how we will depose them which I will illustrate later. Since you sign off on some of your emails with “Venceremos,” I infer that you are a supporter of Che Guevara and Castro as well as Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales. I too support the Cuban “revolution” as well as Chavez and Morales against imperialism, but I will not use the phrase “Venceremos,” because it is essentially a subtle endorsement of their “revolutionary” politics with which I categorically disagree. Their politics are not revolutionary and in most respects counter to the interests of the world proletariat, and because of their politics they along with the workers will sooner or later be hung-out-to-dry by the likes of imperialism no different than Gaddafi has been—a prospect that is now even closer with the defeat of Gaddafi by imperialism. On the other hand you expressed utter contempt for Gaddafi, and you could not wait for the “rebels” to put a bullet in his head—very prophetic. What is the essential difference between Castro and Gaddafi? I see none, except for the fact that Gaddafi had the oil riches to finance his reforms unlike Castro, but other than this I can see no fundamental difference although Gaddafi might have been less of an autocrat than Castro, but again this might have been due to Libya’s riches and the tribal society of Libya to which Gaddafi acquiesced while also trying to maneuver around it. You made the statement that “Gadaffi made himself Blair’s agent in the Magreb.” I am not exactly sure to what you are referring, but Castro on many occasions has tried to ingratiate himself with US imperialism such as after 9/11, but even so, this is an absurd and bizarre reason to back the imperialists including Blair’s successor, Cameron, taking him out. Don’t you think the imperialists should be in your gun sights and not Gaddafi? We should have been supporting Gaddafi against the imperialists, and the only force we should have ever supported taking Gaddafi out is the Libyan working class. I am guessing here, but I can not help but think some of your loathing for Gaddafi might also be rooted in your revolutionary history where I believe Gaddafi, Saddam, and I am not sure about the Assads, gave money to the Healy and possibly others who then sang their praises while the IS leaders such as Livio Maitan, Pierre Frank, et al, theorized that Iraq, Syria, and Libya could be “deformed workers’ states,” an abhorrent concept to a Marxist, although, I realize your enmity toward Assad mainly comes from your ardent support of the Kurdish struggle for independence (more on this later) nevertheless, imperialism should always be the main target. When I wrote the history of the Fourth International and the role of the SWP I had to end it essentially just after WWII due to time constraints, although I had intended to finish it for the International discussion which I had projected as the plan of action for the Communist Tendency, but the petty-bourgeois elements in the tendency had no stomach for the fight and took the easy way out which I knew would be the road to oblivion. I still meant to finish the history as member of “Vanguard Newsletter,” but the promise of sixty new bodies piqued the opportunist vein in some of the leaders to the point that they undemocratically dissolved the organization into the neophyte, heterogeneous “Class Struggle” group—a remnant of the POT that had just left the SWP without a fight after miraculously discovering the politics of the SWP to be reformist as stated in their resignation letter just a matter of months after they had denied any political differences with the SWP during the convention discussion. The one major topic with which I wanted to deal was the problem of the Eastern European states occupied by the Soviet Union. It was a theoretical nightmare on all sides of the question. As you know Jock Haston and the RCP along with Vern-Ryan tendency in the US essentially held that the occupation of the Red Army equaled workers’ state, while the Fourth International’s leadership maintained that nothing had basically changed until they discovered Yugoslavia when overnight Tito was in essence thought of as being the new Lenin that only needed to make a few more reforms in the countryside. Tito’s portrait was hung in about every Trotskyist headquarters across Europe. Then, after Stalin nationalized the economies of the occupied states and threw out the pro-imperialists who had threatened his defensive buffer zone, the International’s leadership, again overnight and again without discussion, declared that the states of Eastern Europe had become “deformed workers’ states,” and acknowledged, the conjectural corollary to that theoretical abortion, that Stalinism could be transformed and play a revolutionary role which logically meant that Trotskyists should become the “Left Opposition” once again and dissolve into the CPs around the world. Those sections that made up the IC could not accept the latter liquidationist conclusion of becoming a new “Left Opposition,” but accepted hook-line-and-sinker and still do to this day the idea that Eastern Europe had immediately become “deformed workers’ states.” By accepting this anti-Marxist concept that a workers’ state or a “socialist revolution” can be accomplished without the working class being its driving force, the Johnny-come-lately theoreticians opened themselves up to the idea that any petty-bourgeois movement or personality could become the initiator of the “socialist revolution,” and the requisite Marxist concept of the dictatorship-of-the-proletariat was simply discarded and forgotten. All you needed was a “socialist” surrogate, and thus you can see the genesis of declaring Libya, Syria, Iraq, China, Cuba, Algeria, North Korea, etc., “deformed workers’ states” or in the new lingo “socialist states” with some being “healthier” than others in their evolution to socialism. Is it any wonder then that so-called Trotskyists gave their praises and allegiance to the likes of Ben Bella (IS), Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-Il (Workers World, US), Fidel Castro (SWP, US), Hugo Chavez (Ted Grant’s group, UK), etc.? After all, the impressionist theoreticians could not see any real difference between the Eastern European “deformed workers’ states” and these “new” states that had had their old bourgeois or imperialist-dominated regimes overthrown, their major industries nationalized, and the social-welfare programs taken over or initiated by the new government, all of which incurred the wrath of imperialism, so, it looked as though these “new” states had to be in the “socialist” camp or on the verge thereof. It would seem that all one had to do was to put the negatives on one side of the socialist scale and the positives on the other side and see which outweighed the other to determine whether the “new” state was “socialist” or not. This was empiricism at its best! The IC groups would not dissolve into the CPs, but on the basis of the concept of “deformed workers’ states,” more commonly now referred to as “socialist states” (i.e., regimes that had not come to power by the working class itself establishing the dictatorship-of-the-proletariat) the “Trotskyists” around the world dissolved into being support groups for almost any “progressive” movement or personality. Ironically this included the Vietnamese CP—the murderers of the Vietnamese Trotskyists—during the Vietnam war which practiced the most crass class-collaborationist politics the world has ever seen. Trotsky called their type of politics the “émigré ‘People’s Front’” which he described as “the most malignant and perfidious variety of all possible People’s Fronts. Essentially, it signifies the impotent longing for coalition with a non-existent liberal bourgeoisie.” (The Transitional Program) As could be expected, their émigré liberal bourgeoisie are no longer émigré but have become the so-called Communist themselves who are practicing capitalism and eager for the imperialists to invest in Vietnam. There was nary a criticism of the Vietnamese Communists’ politics by anybody on the left let alone those calling themselves Trotskyists, although I did broach the matter in an internal criticism of the SWP in 1969. The Vietnamese were fighting imperialism and that was all that was necessary to be declared revolutionaries, as any struggle “against” imperialism, capitalism, or a dictator must be a revolutionary one in and of itself. Neither a correct political program, nor a Bolshevik party, nor even the working class itself was necessary to bring about a “good outcome” or even a “socialist state.” Any personality, “blunt instrument,” or collective thereof would suffice in the creation of a “socialist state,” voilà the “socialist states” of China, North Korea, Cuba, North Vietnam, (Vietnam today?) etc. were born with the possibility that Libya, Iraq, and Syria could also be included as well as Algeria—oops! close, but turned out to be more like stillborn—and perhaps even Egypt could have qualified if Nasser had lived. The proletariat, program, and party be damned as the progressive cause and the struggle were everything, and this was expressed in a myriad of ways: guerrilla warfare, politically amorphous demonstrations, coups d’état, putsches, rioting in the streets, “socialist” electioneering, adventurism, etc., and on any number of issues, all of which were looked upon as being revolutionary or serving the revolutionary cause in their own right. This is most appealing to the petty bourgeois that relish do-good causes, that need to have action and see some sort of success, and that need the comfort of praise and numbers, and therefore, the petty bourgeois flocked into one or more of the cause-de-jour movements and then into the leftist groupings and parties bringing their get-rich-quick, short-sighted, petty-bourgeois, political baggage with them. It is not enough to struggle against capitalism and imperialism as anybody who calls himself a democrat, social democrat, socialist, anarchist, communist, etc. ostensibly does just that in their numerous ways. Marxists do not struggle against capitalism per se but rather against the capitalist state. Marxists struggle to build a cadre of workers around a program that can lead the working class to the goal of establishing the dictatorship-of-the-proletariat which is the only way to do away with capitalism. It is hard work, unrewarding, and can be very dangerous much like the every day work and life of many workers around the world. 99.67% of the petty bourgeoisie can not relate, and they have no patience, time, nor stomach for such work and are therefore susceptible to any and all shortcuts, gimmicks, and action for action’s sake. The working class seems to be too stuck in the rut of their daily lives, too ignorant, or too slow to act for the likes of the petty bourgeoisie, and therefore, they have absolutely no confidence in the working class and are susceptible to any and all substitutes to bring about change, thus the petty bourgeois have a long and scurrilous record for introducing alien-class schemes and anti-Marxist theories into the workers’ movement that have deceived and led astray some of the best militants in the working class. The theory of “deformed workers’ states” is such a theory. What then was the nature of the Eastern European states? (I will only give a cursory explanation here, and then perhaps at a later date I can go into the subject in more depth.) Marxists understand that each state represents a distinct and heterogeneous ruling class and that the nature of the state is distinguishable from and not determined by its form or type of government. In the US, France, England, Germany, Italy, etc. we have the dictatorship of the capitalist class, and therefore, we have a capitalist state regardless of the varied forms of government they have or have had. In Eastern Europe and such states as China, Cuba, Libya, et al we can take for granted there was no dictatorship-of-the-proletariat, and therefore, we must entertain the idea that they have remained fundamentally capitalist states regardless of what kind of government there was. We know that even the imperialist countries can nationalize a tremendous amount of their economies and introduce social-welfare and nationalized health programs such as England did after WWII, but we do not, as the bourgeois commentators do, add these items to one side of the “socialist” scale to see if there has been a qualitative change in the nature of the state, and by the same token we do not use the “socialist” scale to see if the nature of the states in the Eastern European countries has changed regardless of how much of the economy has been nationalized. The nationalizations that have occurred in such countries as England and in the fascist countries as well were due primarily to the fact that capital was no longer productive in these industries and services, but their continued existence was regarded as a national necessity—as was some amount of the social safety net—by capital as a whole which resulted in socializing their maintenance, i.e., preferably from the capitalist point of view by subsidizing them but if need be by nationalizing them. Surplus value is realized not just from a particular industry but effectively as a result of the whole economy. These reforms do not in any way change the nature of a state, although they are not procedures the capitalists advocate but employ only as a temporary expedience to save the overall productivity of capital with the idea that the industry or reform can be either scuttled or privatized at a later date, and the sooner the better, since such reforms give rise to the idea of the state taking over all industries and services for the public good. The productivity of capital was not the main reason for the nationalizations that took place in Eastern Europe or in countries such as China, Cuba, Libya, et al. In Eastern Europe they took place due to the expulsion of the bourgeois elements that threatened to turn these countries into pro-imperialist states that would have thereby jeopardized the borders of the Soviet Union and thus the Stalinist bureaucracy itself. When Stalin finally realized the imperialist Cold War policies were for real and gaining ground in Eastern Europe he felt compelled to end his appeasement toward the imperialist powers of which pulling the Red Army out of Austria had been a part—so much for the theory in Austria that the Red Army equaled workers’ state. The other major factor for the Stalinist bureaucracy not carrying out these nationalizations sooner was the fear that the working classes in the Eastern European countries would be encouraged to take matters into their own hands, an apprehension not too different from that of the bourgeoisie in the capitalist countries we already mentioned. The fear of the workers was simply overcome by the fear of the imperialists. The motivation was not then a desire to replicate the same social relations that the working class established in the October revolution in Russia, as the Soviet bureaucracy saw it as a dire necessity to defend its rule by protecting its national borders. It was not a revolutionary act in any way, but pure and simple nationalism which is a perfidy of the first degree in the working-class movement. The Stalinists were careful not to organize or even involve the workers as the Bolsheviks would have, but rather carried out their tasks in their habitual bureaucratic way using the Red Army as their iron fist to do all the dirty work, to establish and empower a subservient bureaucracy, as well as to make sure the workers remained compliant. Had it been the Red Army of the Bolsheviks under Lenin and Trotsky, then we could have agreed with the RCP analysis that the occupation of the Red Army equaled workers’ state, since the Red Army would have been the organizer of the workers from day one for the founding of the dictatorship-of-the-proletariat, but the Red Army under Stalin was nothing more than a reflection of the nature of the bureaucracy itself which we know had a dual character, one of which was introducing alien class forces back into Soviet society. The Soviet bureaucracy did not in any way have an internationalist perspective of proletarian revolution and did not establish any kind of workers’ state in Eastern Europe, and thereby, proved it had not changed its own stripes one iota! The status of Eastern Europe was then essentially that of satellite countries of the Soviet Union with their social relations only made to mirror and not actually replicate those of the Soviet Union. Some of the major differences were that the Soviet Union had been born by the working class taking power and establishing the dictatorship-of-the-proletariat, and the Stalinist bureaucracy continually felt constraints to the extent the revolutionary consciousness of the working class remained. The reforms in the Eastern European countries began to raise the class consciousness of the workers, but there was no revolutionary consciousness or revolutionary party to lead them. The only constraints the proxy bureaucracies felt were those that came from Moscow, and since they lacked any working-class credentials they were surely to earn the antagonism of the working class, so the Stalinist bureaucracy and its use of the Red Army had to remain the supreme enforcer as we saw in Hungary and Czechoslovakia. The dual nature of the Stalinist bureaucracy simply means that one can not count on them to stay the course in any direction or for any amount of time. The whole history of the Stalinist bureaucracy is one of flip-flopping from one inappropriate political position to another, zigzagging its way between the landmines of social revolution and the perils of imperialism. The sudden nationalizations in Eastern Europe was one such flip-flop, but who was to say that the Stalinists would not in the near future make some accommodation with imperialism and abruptly flip-flop again sacrificing one or all of the states in Eastern Europe. Had imperialism switched their cards to the left hand instead of maintaining them in their iron-fisted right hand all of Eastern Europe might have ended up more like Austria. The best one can say then is that the Eastern European states still had to be considered as capitalist ruled by a dictatorial Bonapartist bureaucracy and would remain thus until there was either a political revolution in the Soviet Union or the working class of one or all of the countries established their own dictatorship-of-the-proletariat, or until the capriciousness or the rot of the bureaucracy made clear to all the true social nature of the reforms. In the former the political revolution would have made them a part of the regenerated workers’ state of the USSR, and if in either of the latter they would have simply remained in the capitalist camp. When the Bolsheviks took power one could say immediately that the dictatorship-of-the-proletariat had been created before even the first reform had been made, but with the Stalinist bureaucracy father time became a deciding factor as to which of the two opposing dynamics, the persistent degeneration of the bureaucracy or the working-class revolution, would prevail. Immediately designating the Eastern European countries as “deformed workers’ states” gave them the status of proletarian dictatorships squarely in the “socialist camp,” and if these new “socialist states” could be spawned not by the working class but in their absence simply as a result of a diktat by the Stalinists, then it logically followed that the Stalinists also could be transformed into quasi-revolutionaries. The theory of the immediate establishment of “deformed workers’ states” was a complete negation of Trotsky’s “Theory of the Permanent Revolution” and Marxism in general and has had colossal detrimental consequences for revolutionary theory and practice ever since, and this can best be seen in relation to such countries as China, Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam, Libya, Iraq, Syria, Algeria, Bolivia, and possibly a few others along with new candidates such as Venezuela and Bolivia again. No longer was it necessary for the working class even to be considered in any way as to whether these states had entered or could enter into the ranks of “socialist states.” Now all the empirical pundits of “socialist” theory had to do was cheer on some progressive leader and talk about the “masses” or the “people” in lieu of the working class, the very same code words the Stalinists and Social Democrats have used for years to hide their treacherous class collaboration. Joining the ranks of the “socialist states” from their point of view was as simple as carrying out a few “radical” reforms after an election, coup d’état, people’s insurgence, or peasant revolution which are in the main the origins of the above mentioned states. The reforms and nationalizations were primarily then the result of a petty-bourgeois leadership personally through the apparatus of the state taking control of property in opposition to or left by the imperialists and their cohorts after their continued presence became untenable, not really much different than what happened in the Eastern European states. What then is the nature of these new “socialist states”? We know that there was no Bolshevik Party, and there is not any semblance of a Marxist revolutionary leadership or even a hint of one to this day. If at any time the working class was involved it played only a peripheral role at best. We can be confident then that none of these states are or have ever been a dictatorship-of-the-proletariat, nor have they ever been or are they now on the road to a proletarian dictatorship, therefore, as Marxists, we can say that none of these states are in any way comparable to the Soviet Union established by Bolshevik revolution, and while the imperialists or even the old national bourgeoisie may no longer be in direct control, their ideological proxy is contained in the policies and programs or lack thereof of the new leaderships in spite of any reforms, nationalizations, or sworn allegiances to “socialism”. The fact that the state was used to carry out the nationalizations and reforms—not all of which were socialist in nature—was due to the reality that the state was the only agency available and capable of carrying out these tasks, but as such there was no preclusion—nor in the Eastern European states for that matter—that in the future any industry or enterprise could not be privatized, introduced, or turned back over to an imperialist or a bourgeois concern, not to mention the lack of implementation or elimination of the absolute necessity of the monopoly of foreign trade without which imperialist penetration would only be a matter of time, and these decisions would be entirely at the whim of the bureaucracy. To one degree or another, the embryonic seeds of capitalism have remained mainly via the petty bourgeoisie: the dictatorial bureaucracy itself, the ties to international trade, the peasantry, and small enterprisers, with imperialism nurturing them in every way possible at every opportunity by economic enticement, economic strangulation, propaganda such as demanding bourgeois elections, special ops financing oppositions and sabotage, covert and bold-faced military intervention, etc. The qualitative difference in these new “socialist” regimes including Eastern Europe and the Stalinist bureaucracy is their origin. The October revolution immediately produced a workers’ state, but the Soviet Union degenerated because of the new state’s economic backwardness and isolation giving rise to the Stalinist bureaucracy that began introducing alien class forces back into Soviet society. The new “socialist” regimes were instantaneous bureaucracies on top of states that remained capitalist in nature in spite of any “socialist” reforms. Both were Bonapartist dictatorships of a transitory nature sitting above the classes, although the particular class upon which each rested was a fundamental difference. They both suppressed the imperialist agents, the militant workers, and revolutionaries alike or unlike, depending on which way the political wind was blowing, in addition to decreeing capricious edicts pushing their economies to one extreme after another along with practicing a bourgeois-diplomatic foreign policy of which the underlying theme in the end boiled down to mutual co-existence. Absent the dictatorship-of-the-proletariat, however, and dependent only on the whims of the new “socialist” bureaucracies, all the reforms were subject to being compromised or even reversed which we have seen time and time again in China, Vietnam, Libya, et al. In other words, a counter-revolution was not necessary and has not been necessary, since capitalism was never essentially destroyed. The emergence and survival of these new “socialist” regimes was or is only due to a temporary weakness, mistake, or tactical retreat of imperialism along with the existence of the Soviet Union and sometimes its assistance, the direct or indirect help from an imperialist competitor, the help of a wealthy fellow-traveler country, or the extraordinary riches in the country itself, none of which can or will assure a positive outcome for the working class in the country or the rest of the world. Everyone of these petty-bourgeois Bonapartist regimes needs to be overthrown by a Bolshevik party leading the workers to establish a dictatorship-of-the-proletariat, since only the dictatorship-of-the-working class with a foreign policy of proletarian revolution can defend the “gains of the revolution” and defeat imperialism, otherwise, imperialism will in the long run prevail in one way or another as we have just seen in Libya. Ever since the theory of “deformed workers’ states” the struggle for “socialism” has become a simple matter of consciousness of the individual. Proletariat, program, and party, were no longer relevant. All that was necessary was to take power in any way possible and then execute the necessary reforms to put the country on the road to “socialism,” and the Trotskyist theoretical pundits would, after the fact, sit in judgment as to which state had made the grade and which were the “healthier” states reflecting of course the more “conscious” leaders worthy thereby of praise and adoration, and as Tito’s picture had adorned the walls of the Trotskyist headquarters so did the images of some of these new “revolutionary socialists,” thus perpetuating their prestige, the cult-of-their-personality, their methods, their politics and slogans, etc. Marxist philosophy of dialectical materialism, theory of the class struggle, and the role of the working class, along with “What Is to Be Done;” “The Theory of the Permanent Revolution;” and the “The Transitional Program” were all merely iconic memoirs of the past and no longer really relevant to today’s “socialist revolution” except maybe for the occasional, abstract, obligatory, reverential homage to tradition. Now all we need are these new dynamic socialist leaders showing us in deed the revolutionary road! Ted Grant piteously summed up this wretched political outlook for the entire left from what I can see in his advice to Hugo Chavez: “Take power!” He might as well have said: “Long live the petty bourgeoisie, and let Marx, Lenin, and Trotsky rest in peace, as the petty bourgeoisie have now lifted from the shoulders of the entire world working class their historic revolutionary responsibility!” As I said earlier I can understand a reason for your enmity in regard to Assad, since you have been an ardent supporter of the Kurdish struggle for independence, but the emphasis on the Kurdish struggle for your hostility against Assad is askew. You have allowed the Kurdish struggle for independence to color your political thinking not just in the Middle East, but, it seems, across the board. In your relations with the Kurds you have allowed them to recruit you to their bourgeois-democratic politics in the struggle for national independence and nationalism in general instead of you recruiting them to internationalism, to the struggle for the dictatorship-of-the-proletariat, to “What Is to Be Done,” to “The Theory of the Permanent Revolution,” and to “The Transitional Program”! First and foremost the struggle against Assad and his pals does not revolve around the Kurdish struggle, although it does play a part and can even play a decisive part but not in the manner the Kurds and you are advocating and have been carrying out, as the Kurds’ political program is nothing more than the essence of a “People’s Front” that has long been discredited by Trotsky time and time again. The document you sent me, “Kurdistan, A Short Contemporary History,” is a narrative of a continuous reoccurring tragedy in the futile struggle for bourgeois-democratic nationalism and a negative testament to the validity of Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution. We as Marxists unconditionally support the independence of all national minorities, but the liberation of the Kurds will not materialize with their bourgeois-democratic nationalist ideology. The Kurdish workers who constitute an exploited minority and are therefore more receptive to revolutionary working-class politics must be the vanguard in organizing and leading the Syrian workers, the Iraqi workers, the Turkish workers, and the Iranian workers to establish the dictatorship-of-the-proletariat not just in their respective countries but in the region as a whole. There is no concept here that the Kurds must wait for the workers of Iran, Iraq, Syria, or Turkey to make the revolution for the Kurds to gain their independence or merely play a separate but conjunctive role to that of the workers in each nation. It is imperative that they play a vanguard role in organizing the working classes, as it will only be under a proletarian dictatorship that the Kurds will be able to form their own independent proletarian dictatorship should they so desire. Up to now, however, their pathetic history has been one of struggling for bourgeois democracy in the four nation states all the while supporting one imperialist aggression after another, even if in an unconscious or roundabout way, if they thought they might gain some advantage, i.e. allowing imperialism to use them for its own advantage, as is the case today in Iraq, Iran, and Syria, combined with a continuous sycophantic pleading for help, favors, and recognition from this or that imperialist power including the UN, an institution of imperialism, only to see themselves “betrayed” over and over again in spite of the incessant proffering of their impeccable bourgeois-democratic credentials. They are delusional in their hopes for an imperialist ally and that the imperialists are sincere a propos the unrealizable phantasmagoria of “freedom and democracy.” For the imperialists the slogans of “freedom and democracy.” are a simple matter of propaganda and camouflage which help them subjugate the masses. The Kurds’ persistent presentation of their bourgeois-democratic credentials for acceptance by the imperialists not only helps spread the illusion that bourgeois democracy is real and attainable but that the imperialists actually care about such patronizing matters, other than to promote their own interests. It is this striving for bourgeois democracy that keeps not only the Kurds enslaved but helps keep others enslaved as well such as the Palestinians. Combined with this delusional and obsequious behavior are the politics of adventurism such as sabotage, guerrilla warfare, etc. which only divides the working classes and allows, for example, such ilk as Assad and his pals to turn the Syrian working class against the Kurds. No Marxist should have a problem with the Kurds in Syria or elsewhere initiating and maintaining armed defense groups, but they should be armed defense groups of all the workers of Syria—Syrian workers’ militias. They would be entirely independent of any government or any kind of bourgeois influence and control, and they would be used in the present circumstances to defend against the imperialist, religious, and mercenary sponsored terrorist uprisings. These militias should be in the forefront against these imperialist incursions, and they should also be generated as units inside the army itself that would protect the citizenry from unrestrained behavior such as forays against minorities, torture, breaking strikes, etc. for which the armed forces are well known. Here we see that the present situation provides us the perfect excuse and with more than justifiable grounds for establishing these vehicles of potential dual power, the workers’ militias, and the Kurds can finally put to some good use their experience of armed resistance which can and must play a crucial vanguard role in organizing, training, and arming the workers throughout Syria. The imperialists would be beleaguered in opposing and fighting the popular, independent, worker-controlled militias in-lieu-of Assad’s army. The militias would prove to be even more attractive and popular than Hezbollah in Lebanon, since they would, being organized on the basis of class only, not have the downside of the religious baggage, and would, therefore, cut across all the strife between the religious denominations, sects, ethnicities, and minorities, countering a main strategy of the national bourgeoisies and the imperialists who have for their own interests historically used such differences to create division and inflame discord as they have quite successfully done in Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Yugoslavia, etc. In light of the present situation Assad would be hard pressed to oppose such admired grass-root organizations that would protect the neighborhoods, workers struggles, fight the religious and al Qaeda saboteurs, and protect the borders from the infiltration of mercenaries, special ops, and arms supplied by the imperialists and their lackeys. If he did he would expose himself as being dismissive in opposing the imperialist onslaught, thereby making the militias understandably even more important and easier to organize albeit underground. Either way the militias could grow rapidly to the point that Assad and his pals would—and they eventually would—turn on the militias where he would (again) expose himself politically and hopefully at such a point that the army ranks would support the militias and not the regime or at least be neutralized whereby the question of taking power by the working-class militias would be the order of the day—“All power to the workers’ militias!”—and the Syrian Socialist Republic would be born showing the way for the Kurds and the working classes in Iraq, Turkey, and Iran. This is how we would support Assad against imperialism, as Lenin said, “in the same way as the rope supports a hanged man.” The Kurdish and Syrian workers must support Assad with the anti-imperialist rope of the proletarian revolution! In order to accomplish the above the Kurds would have to break with their bourgeois-democratic-nationalistic politics and struggle for the dictatorship-of-the-proletariat in Kurdistan, as well as in Syria, Turkey, Iraq, and Iran which means combining the struggle of the Kurdish workers with that of the Syrian, Turkish, Iraqi, and Iranian workers. Heretofore all the struggles of the Kurds that have met with even a hopeful modicum of “success,” albeit always oh so brief, by exercising some amount of autonomous rule over this or that area of land, have been crushed by either the national bourgeoisie of the country or by imperialism or by both, but how could anybody expect otherwise. The whole history of capitalism has been the desire and the attempt by imperialism and every national bourgeoisie to expand the area of their exploitation by subjugating weaker national states or minorities. Is this the kind of state the Kurds want to establish in light of their own history of being subjugated? The Kurds must ask themselves that if the capitalists with the longest knives are continually looking to conquer other lands for exploitation, then why would they relinquish voluntarily some of their own lands to a weaker grouping like we Kurds? If the Kurds at any time could exploit a temporary weakness and realize autonomy in a certain area, they should recognize that sooner or later the momentary weakness of the national bourgeoisie of the country will disappear, or that they will make a deal with imperialism for help, or that another neighboring national bourgeoisie will step in to make sure any Kurdish venture will not endanger them in their own country, and therefore, the rug will be pulled out from under them and most likely with the utmost brutality as has happened so many times in the past, and this is without doubt the fate that awaits the national-bourgeois Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq as well. The Kurdish bourgeois-nationalist leaderships have always tiptoed around and through the bourgeois-diplomatic venues begging, pleading, and wheeling and dealing in the hopes of finding that altruistic big brother that will take them under their wing and protect them. It never happens of course and never will, and after one humiliating defeat after another the response of the bourgeois-nationalist leaderships has always been to take up arms and head to the hills once again, and this is a response of futility no different than their bourgeois diplomacy. Guerrilla war has never been successful without the backing of a major economic force in the world, and even then it is not too many years before the masses are back in the same old black hole they thought they had left behind. Just as the Kurds can not find any enduring positive response to their bourgeois-diplomacy, they will not find anybody to support them in their guerrilla-war efforts against the national bourgeoisies, and such strategies alienate them from their one true ally, the working classes of those counties where they are fighting. The solution for the Kurds, which will never be solved with bourgeois diplomacy or guerrilla warfare, is a political one tied to the working class. Only the working class can overthrow the national bourgeoisie who are the nemesis of both the working class and the Kurds, but this can only happen if the Kurdish working class joins in the struggle for the dictatorship-of-the-proletariat in Kurdistan as well as in the other counties in which the Kurds are located, and at present the Kurds taking the initiative in forming the all Syrian workers’ militias would be a perfect way to start. Even if there were a benefactor in today’s world that would come to the aid of the Kurds’ bourgeois-diplomatic endeavors or guerrilla-war strategies, the motives for such support would be based solely on the needs of the benefactor and most assuredly short lived, and as soon as the Kurds were no longer of any value, the assistance would fade away faster than the setting sun leaving them to suffer the devastating consequences that they have already known too often. The Kurds must learn from their history of failure after failure and break with their pursuit of bourgeois democracy, the root source of their bane. The national-bourgeois Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq will suffer no different fate. Already their “national” patron, the bourgeois Jalal Talabani in the Iraqi government, is on the run, and the Iraqi bourgeoisie will begin to put more and more pressure on the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of north-eastern Iraq especially now that the influence of the US is waning, as the US used the Kurds to pacify this area so that they could concentrate on the rest of Iraq where they were fomenting civil war between the Shia and Sunni sects although they did turn a blind eye to the Turkish incursions and always will since the Turks are far more important than the Kurds will ever be. The Iraqi bourgeoisie of Baghdad are not about to give up the oil riches in the region, and if they do not eventually crush the Kurds newest experiment in autonomy, possibly with the help of the Turks if need be, then perhaps a “compromise” may be reached where a few bourgeois Kurds become very rich figureheads while the Kurdish masses are left out in the cold as the oil revenues flow back to Baghdad. The Kurdish workers must organize the workers all over Iraq which has a rich tradition of worker militancy, and struggle for the dictatorship-of-the-proletariat in the Kurdish area now controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government as well as in Iraq as a whole, and given the situation in Iraq, forming workers militias that would cut across the ethnic, minority, denominational, and sectarian lines would be, as in Syria, an excellent place to start. After the elections in Iran (2009) you supported the demonstrations that eventually broke out which were centered mainly in Tehran but also in some of the minority areas that were demanding that the elections should be redone. You seemed very dismissive of the relevant facts that I pointed out to you: “I do agree that the Ahmadinejad and the Mullahs must be overthrown. Supporting Iran against American imperialism however is a must, but this support should in no way be interpreted and confused as support for the bourgeois policies and politics of Ahmadinejad and the Mullahs who support him, nor should this support for Iran against American imperialism be confused as support for any of Ahmadinejad’s bourgeois counterparts such as Mousavi and his Mullah supporters in and outside the Guardian Council. The demonstrations in Iran were a farce, and not in any way representative of any working-class movement, but quit remarkably devoid of any real working-class support. Not that it means anything in the ridiculous sham that we know all bourgeois elections are, but it seems the working class voted overwhelmingly for Ahmadinejad mainly due to the crumbs and entitlements he threw their way during his first term, and the outcome of the elections as reported by the Guardian Council was right in line with two independent US polls done weeks before the elections. Mousavi and his supporters were not able to produce any substantiated, crucial, or significant acts of fraud, none that could even come close to the election fraud that occurred in both of Bush’s election victories here in the US….these demonstrations are the same motif and character orchestrated many times over—with great success I might add—by the CIA and US imperialism—the green revolution, the yellow revolution, etc.—after elections did not go their way….Supporting the bourgeois-scoundrel Mousavi by giving credence in any way to these demonstrations over the bourgeois-scoundrel Ahmadinejad would be playing right into the hands of American imperialism. The Mullahs were not really fooled and not just crying ‘wolf,’ and they knew exactly that the prime mover behind these demonstrations was US imperialism which even had some of the earmarks of the CIA’s earlier work in bringing down Mossadegh and installing the Shah.” “…there have been some demonstrations outside of Tehran, but these are mainly in the North as opposed to the South where the major centers of the working class are located, and these disturbances in the North where several minorities are located are colored by as you said ‘a backdrop of being a national struggle suppressed by the mullahs’. It is fertile territory for US imperialism to exploit.” “…the US government allocated four-hundred million dollars to subversion and regime change in Iran and who knows what the CIA and the Brits [along with Israel, NATO, etc.] have poured into the pot, and one of their major targets has been the minorities. All bourgeois elections are a farce from the get-go, nevertheless, the objections you raise in regard to the Iranian elections are nothing more than generalities, and even Mousavi and his backers did not complain about any irregularities until well after the election results had been declared and then could not point to any specific problems and still can’t. The mullahs did report that they had uncovered some problems in their investigation of the elections which is only par for the course in any bourgeois election that usually don’t matter unless it happened to be a close election as in the US when JFK and George W Bush (twice) were elected. You also have to realize that in the Iranian elections you do not have to vote in a particular place and that you can vote where you are during the election, and that during the election time there were many outsiders, vacationers, etc.—in the places where Mousavi was supposed to be strong.…US imperialism wants to maintain the façade that the WHOLE country is up in arms over the ‘stolen election’ which is not the case….The protests simply represent a struggle between two major ruling factions, and the minorities are being sucked into the fray. Supporting one side or the other or adding to the illusions that any bourgeois election can be ‘free and fair’ is counter-productive.” You said that “Every socialist has to oppose this ballot tampering and support free and fair elections – though obviously the sort of choice available in Iran at present is a joke,” but the real joke is that there could ever be “free and fair elections” in a capitalist dictatorship. I remember you tried to shore up your argument referring to the “The Transitional Program” stating that Trotsky had supported the struggle for a “constitutional assembly.” In that part of “The Transitional Program,” however, Trotsky is writing about colonial and semi-colonial countries, backward countries dominated by imperialism where the agrarian problem is a major concern. Neither Iran, nor Syria, nor Iraq, nor Turkey, the countries where the Kurds are, fit that category, and in fact they are countries, except maybe for Turkey, where the imperialists have—had in the case of Iraq—been curtailed to a certain degree by a section of the national bourgeoisie, and the imperialists have been on a mission ever since to recoup their former dominance in one way or another—a mission made much easier since capitalism was never destroyed. In the colonial and semi-colonial countries the slogans of revolutionary democracy are transitional and tied to the national liberation from imperialism and to agrarian reform, but even then only as a prelude to the formation of soviets and the taking of power by the proletariat as that is, as the theory of the permanent revolution tells us, the only way to accomplish a permanent solution to the agrarian question and to rid the country of every last vestige of imperialist domination. In the countries where the Kurds are struggling, however, the struggle for democracy is the equivalent of caving in at the outset to Menshevism and supporting “Kerensky,” a Kurdish Kerensky as well as an Iranian Kerensky, which will doom the struggle from the start. The implication is that bourgeois democracy is not only feasible but a legitimate objective in and of itself which is consistent with your political position of uncritically supporting the bourgeois-democratic program of the Kurds that is nothing more than a program of struggle for bourgeois democracy. To quote you: “The KDPI currently support a ‘democratic federal Iran’ as a goal after overthrowing the mullahs.” This is pure Menshevism—support for the Kerensky government after overthrowing the Czar!—and you are announcing in advance that you will support the new “Kerensky” government even before it is formed, and this is in a state that is not even close to being as backward as Russia was in 1917 that was, nevertheless, already mature enough for the dictatorship-of-the-proletariat. Do you really think the bourgeois-democratic solution of a “democratic federal Iran” in any way, shape, or form is advantageous let alone feasible for the Iranian or Kurdish working class? Have you turned your back on Trotsky’s “Theory of the Permanent Revolution” which was proven to be correct in the Russian Revolution and has since been confirmed at least in the negative outcomes in such places as China, Spain, etc.? The truth is that struggle for a “democratic federal Iran” is a death knell for the Kurdish and Iranian workers as it was in China, Spain, etc. Just how and who are going to overthrow the mu

    Comment by david fender — May 25, 2012 @ 2:35 am

  46. continuation of article above
    Just how and who are going to overthrow the mullahs so that this state of nirvana, a “democratic federal Iran,” can be established? You stated without criticism that the Kurds along with several other minorities had supported Mousavi. Do you actually expect a “democratic federal Iran” as a result of supporting one particular set of bourgeois politicians against the others even if they should be anti-mullah and come out on top? What assurances do you have that they would set up a “democratic federal Iran”—as if that were the answer for the Kurds and the Iranian workers in the first place—and that the Kurds and the other minorities would have their “fair and equal” piece of the federal pie and for how long? As Trotsky said: “The slogan: ‘First Victory. Then Reforms,’ is the slogan of all oppressors and exploiters from the Biblical kings down to Stalin.” A “democratic federal Iran” is a Menshevik pipe dream that serves no other purpose than to enslave the Kurdish and Iranian workers to an unending struggle. At face value does not the absurdity of all these expectations stand out in bold relief to anybody with an once of logic and a smidgen of historical knowledge, let alone to a Marxist and Trotskyist who is familiar with the “Theory of the Permanent Revolution,” and has not the defeat after defeat of the Kurds and the thousands upon thousands of lives lost already answered that question many times over?

    In an answer to me you stated that: “You do seem to be saying that the Kurds should not fight for their national self determination until the Persian working class is ready to support them – the same sort of nonsense that some on the English left kept preaching to the Irish Republican struggle. Marx and Trotsky would both have swiftly denounced that as a position.” We will take up the Irish question later, but if you agree that supporting, pressuring, and wheeling and dealing with the Iranian politicians in and around the bourgeois corridors of Iran is not a way to fight for the national self-determination of the Kurds—“Marx and Trotsky would both have swiftly denounced that”—then what form of struggle do you envision for the Kurds? You have defended the use of sabotage and guerrilla warfare which is an unsuccessful and counterproductive strategy the Kurds have employed off and on, along with bourgeois diplomacy, throughout their struggle for independence. Even if a guerrilla war were winnable what would be the nature of the new state? It would of necessity be a bourgeois state, not unlike the already-experienced, although-brief autonomous rule, and one possibly still dominated by their old nemesis or imperialism, and this would not solve the independence problems nor improve the lives for the Kurds in the long run. The reality is as history has shown that their guerrilla war is un-winnable, and without doubt the tacit logic is that guerrilla war is nothing more than a strategy to pressure the enemy just enough to bring them back to the negotiating table in order that the Kurds might begin the dance of bourgeois diplomacy anew and posture for concessions once again. Actually wallowing in the mud of bourgeois politics and guerrilla war are two sides of the same coin; both are futile, petty-bourgeois in nature, and an impediment to uniting the Kurdish and Iranian working classes for the establishment of the workers’ state of Iran and Kurdistan. No, the Kurds should not wait for the Iranian working class to support them. The Kurdish working class should not only organize themselves on a working-class program but be in the forefront of organizing the Iranian working class for the overthrow of not only the mullahs but the capitalist state of Iran and the establishment of the dictatorship-of-the-proletariat, and with the ever increasing threat of a military attack by the US and Israel a good place to start would be to form an independent revolutionary “Republican” Workers’ Guard linking up with the workers’ militias in Syria and Iraq which will in the long run as well as short run provide the best defense against imperialism and their own national bourgeoisie.

    Continuing the quote from above you stated: “Connolly fought with the slogan ‘We support neither King nor Kaiser but Ireland’ – the Kurds can equally say ‘We support neither Teheran nor Washington but Kurdistan’. Our position as socialists in the ‘West’ must be to support those secular and democratic [!] forces fighting oppression and fundamentalism. There is really no compromise on this. Of course US imperialism will seek to benefit from any upheaval – it is currently the strongest force internationally. We cannot take an ‘armchair socialist’ view that it might be dangerous to fight and we should wait until a perfectly formed revolution bowls along – we need to take sides and influence events now.” In other words everything we consider “progressive” must be supported uncritically, and we must have action now for the sake of action. This is not the way a working-class revolutionary fights, and unlike the petty bourgeois we fight on a class basis, on definite terms choosing how we fight as well as the most favorable time and place. Beyond this, however, you make a fatal flaw, and with your proposal you put the working classes of the Kurds and Iran as well as the world working class in the utmost jeopardy. We will not take up the shortcomings in Connolly’s slogan, but at least as far as he was proposing not to support either of the two imperialist countries at war with each other, his position was a principled one in spite of the fact that there was considerable support for Germany among the Irish masses due to their hatred of the British. You try to make an analogy with Connolly’s slogan with the slogan saying: “We support neither Teheran nor Washington but Kurdistan.” Teheran or rather Iran is not an imperialist country while the US is the most powerful imperialist country on earth that has been hell bent for many years on pounding Iran, Syria as well as Libya, already accomplished, back into the camp of imperialist dominated states, and if this should happen, it will be a disaster for the Kurdish, Iranian, and Syrian working classes à la the working classes of the former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, etc. The essence of your position is a revolutionary defeatist position in Iran against the US which is the same thing as a revolutionary defeatist position in China against imperialist Japan or in Ethiopia against Italian imperialism. When it comes to imperialism you have the “armchair socialist” view! You not only underestimate imperialism by casually dismissing the enormous and pernicious impact it has on the world-wide working-class cause, but you have no program to fight imperialism. Defending Iran as well as Syria and elsewhere against imperialism must take center stage, and in this regard we organize the workers around a program for proletarian revolution independent of the Kurdish, Syrian, and Iranian bourgeoisies and their bourgeois and petty-bourgeois democratic programs thereby setting the stage for dual power and the dictatorship-of-the-working-class in Kurdistan, Iran, and Syria. It is the only way to fight imperialism as well as the mullahs and the bourgeoisies, and the Kurdish workers have a most crucial role to play.

    There has never been any question of whether we as Marxists/Trotskyists should or should not support the Kurds in their struggle. We have always supported unconditionally any minority against a national oppressor or a nationality against an imperialist oppressor, but we do not support them carte blanche politically! The Trotskyists unconditionally supported the forces against the fascist Franco in Spain, but Trotsky unmercifully criticized the politics of the Stalinists, the Republicans, the Anarchists, and even the POUM as being the politics that would—and did—lead to defeat, and those politics are very much analogous to those of the Kurds which have continually led to defeat and will continue to do so in the future. As revolutionaries we have the obligation to make sure the struggle of the Kurds is successful and that can only be as part of the world-wide proletarian revolution, and the Kurds must play a positive role and not be a obstruction, and this depends on the decisive cornerstones of proletariat, program, and party. We should not simply become uncritical cheerleaders for any deserving cause as has almost every “Trotskyist” organization on the planet in one way or another; re: The Vietnamese during the Vietnam War, the Cuban “Revolution” during and after, etc. It is our obligation as Marxists to expose every bourgeois and petty-bourgeois leadership and program that is antithetical to the workers needs. Up to now it seems you too have been in step politically, at least on the international questions, with all the others who wondered down the path of uncritical support for “progressive” causes. In that light you have the duty to criticize the bourgeois-democratic program of the Kurds and recruit them to Marxism, i.e.: to the international struggle for the dictatorship-of-the-proletariat, to “What Is to Be Done,” to “The Theory of the Permanent Revolution,” and to “The Transitional Program”!

    Pat Byrne’s “Work in the Mass Organisations” that seems to have positively stirred everybody’s fancy is seriously flawed, although I am sympathetic to the underlying theme of the work of the necessity of unifying the working class in the struggle for power, however, the question is how and on what basis the class is to be unified. Unifying the class on a political program of reformism, I am sure you would agree, is not what a revolutionary should be doing, and, in fact, splitting the class away from the politics of reformism is a necessary task, so the concepts of unifying and splitting all revolve around program. I will not go into an extensive analysis here but only offer a brief criticism in the context of this writing.

    The major defect that is a constant theme throughout comrade Byrne’s work is epitomized and flows from his critique of the formation of the Third International that thereby split the Italian Socialist Party, essentially the Italian working class, and that due to the preoccupation with the resulting infighting allowed Mussolini to take power almost without a fight. According to Pat without the split and the resulting distraction the Socialist Party of Italy could have and possibly would have not only been able to defeat Mussolini but also been able take power themselves establishing the Soviet Socialist Republic of Italy, and in so doing, ended the isolation of the USSR that gave rise to the bureaucracy as well as avoided the replica split of the German working class that doomed them from taking power giving rise to Hitler and the further isolation of the USSR. The essence of the theses is: Lenin and Trotsky were great but not perfect, and they made a big mistake in forming the sectarian Third International after WWI unnecessarily splitting the working class throughout Europe without which we could all be basking in the sun shining down on the World Socialist Republic!

    This is what we call in the US as “Monday morning quarterbacking.” After seeing the outcome of the game on Sunday and the results of each play, the “Monday morning quarterbacks” criticize those plays that were called in the huddle, but comrade Byrne’s work is bad “Monday morning quarterbacking” in that the plays he criticizes are the ones that made gains whereas the ones he promotes are the ones that lost ground!

    First, however, is the fact as Pat acknowledges that Lenin and the International leadership may have had bad, little, or even no information about the actual situation in Italy especially in regard to Mussolini and the fascist movement in general. Had they had a proper accounting, who is to say that they would not have rallied the forces of the newly created, practically concomitantly with the rise of fascism, Communist Party into action against the fascists as this would have been right out of Lenin and Trotsky’s political playbook in that it would have allowed them the perfect excuse to unite most of the workers remaining in the reformist Socialist Party, approximately two thirds, behind the banner of the Third International. Of course, the Italian Socialist Party could have used the same tactic against the Communist Party of the Third International rallying the workers against the fascist except that their whole history was not about rallying the workers but rather just the opposite, pacifying them and maintaining class peace.

    On the other hand had there not been the Third International, and therefore the Socialist Party allowed to remain intact, it is more than a sure bet to say that Mussolini would have still come to power. The period following the war saw a revolutionary upsurge of the Italian working class with workers occupying and seizing factories to the point that taking power should have been a mere formality. The dictatorship-of-the-proletariat was in essence a fait-accompli, but the leadership of the Socialist Party recoiled in trepidation and instead of taking power temporized and restrained the workers to the point that the thrust of the workers’ movement began to ebb and retreat. It was at this very moment when the Social Democratic leadership of the workers showed weakness and that they were incapable of taking power that the fascist movement began to take heart. The Socialist Party leaders even then failed to call the workers to meet the fascists head on relying instead on bourgeois institutions and even appealing to King Victor Emmanuel to stop the fascists—this fact in and of itself should be evidence enough that the Social Democrats were incapable of leading the workers to power—and only after it was too late when the enthusiasm and confidence of the workers had been completely shattered did the socialist leaders try to rally them but not even then to come out and meet the fascists head on in the streets but for a general strike that was, of course, too little and too late and resounded in an ignominious dud. So before the intervention of the Third International the leaders of the Socialist Party of Italy had already conceded possession of the ball to the fascists by intentionally dropping it and then continued to clear the path for the fascists to take it into the end zone.

    It is true that at that time the fascist movement and all its ramifications were not fully understood, and it was looked upon as just another right-wing movement among the many. The fact remains, however, that it would not have taken root nor had any real impact had the Socialist Party leaders not recoiled from taking power when it was handed to them. Mussolini taking power was not the fault of the Third International splitting the Italian Socialist Party when it did. In fact if there is any criticism to be laid at the doorstep of the Third International it is not that it split the Socialist Party but that it was not formed earlier and had not split the Socialist Party in time to be in a position to take the leadership of the workers and thus take power when power was there for the taking. The formation of the Third International was not formed on the mistaken basis “of wildly incorrect perspectives and a lack of appreciation of the loyalty workers felt towards their organisations” or on the basis “that Social Democracy and its leadership had lost all credibility for the workers.” Any incorrect appreciation in this regard, notwithstanding, the Third International was formed precisely because the Second International had already shown that it was incapable of struggling against their own bourgeoisie and unable therefore of leading the workers to power. This was demonstrated conclusively in their social-patriotic kowtowing to their national bourgeoisies during the war as well as in Russia during the Bolsheviks’ struggle for power. The problem with Pat’s theses is simply that unity in and of itself means nothing if the unity is not tied to an independent revolutionary program designed to lead the workers to power against their own bourgeoisie and that is precisely why Mussolini took power, not because the Socialist Party was split, but because Social Democracy had no revolutionary program to take power and had already proven it was incapable of taking power many times before which is exactly why the Third International was formed.

    Denouncing the 21 points of the Third International as sectarian is in fact an attack against Lenin’s whole struggle against Menshevism without which there would have been no Bolsheviks, no October Revolution, as the 21 points were essentially a summary of the lessons of October. If you repudiate the 21 points you are in essence then repudiating Leninism and the October Revolution. It is as well a back door political endorsement of the Second International by downplaying their treacherous politics during and since the war and spreading the illusion that the Second International could lead the workers to power either because the mass of the workers were united behind it or that it could be reformed. Both perspectives belie the political reality. Had the Second International played a revolutionary role by following a program outlined in the 21 points during the war there would have been several October revolutions; there would have been no need for the Third International; nor would the degeneration of the Soviet Union have been an issue, but yet you blame the “sectarianism” of the Third International for the ruination of all subsequent revolutions! After such a betrayal during and after the war, continuing to remain under the same roof with the Social Democrats—even if the relationship would have been a cantankerous one—in their comfy bourgeois quarters, with their bourgeois friends, and their reformist bourgeois ideology that they would never give up regardless what the workers did, would not a revolution make. If you were in league with them when the workers moved it would already be too late. You must lay the groundwork for treachery long in advance, warn the workers of the coming betrayal, break the most advanced workers away from the reformist politics and leadership, and provide as well a steeled cadre and rock-hard organization to which the workers can gravitate which was exactly the purpose in forming the Third International. Forsaking the 21 points of the Third International is also justifying the perfidious politics of the Stalinists since they have replicated exponentially the nefarious politics of the Second International, and in so doing, they had to contravene every one of the 21 points. You have also repudiated Trotskyism and the Fourth International since the basis for the founding of the Fourth International was the Stalinists betrayal of the principles of the Third International. Like the formation of theThird International the Fourth International was not formed because the workers had lost faith in the Third International but because the Stalinist Third International had proven that it was no longer an instrument of proletarian revolution and could no longer be reformed. If the differences with the Social Democrats after the war were not enough to form the Third International then how could the same differences with the Stalinists justify the forming of the Fourth International? Do you or don’t you believe that the Trotskyists should have denounced the Stalinists, split the class, and formed the Fourth International, or should we still be the Left Opposition in the Communist Parties or perhaps even in the Socialist Parties around the world? Abandonment of the principles of the Third International opens Pandora’s Box and leads directly back to the politics of reformism, Menshevism, and away from the dictatorship-of-the-proletariat.

    On North of Ireland you stated that: “The members of Sinn Fein and the IRA we know and count amongst our friends actually fought the British Army to a standstill, exhibited great personal bravery and achieved real change in the North of Ireland.” I do not doubt for a minute that those who fought the British Army and the police exhibited great personal bravery, but nor do I doubt for a minute that many of those who fight for imperialism exhibit great personal bravery, although I would be fighting on the side of those fighting against imperialism as well as on the side of those fighting the British Army, but my fight would be entirely different as I am against the methods of struggle and political program of Sinn Fein and the IRA as they are no different than those of Mao, Castro, the Vietnamese CP, the Kurds, “al Qaeda”, etc., and I vehemently disagree with the conclusion that they “achieved real change in the North of Ireland.” You wrote that: “It was only by armed struggle and mass action that IRA / Sinn Fein were able to achieve the “civil rights” programme, something that the reformist and collaborationist groups could not.” The fact of the matter is, however, that in its historical context the “‘civil rights’ programme” is almost meaningless, something the bourgeoisie could easily concede, and it will most likely prove to be in the long run of no great significance as far as the working-class struggle is concerned, while at the same time, much more harm than good was achieved. The “Catholic” working class and the “Protestant” working class are more divided than ever even to the point of being physically separated by a wall, but what is worse is the political chasm that has been created along with each section of the class being more dependent than ever on their respective religious dogmas. So much for uniting the working class! These petty-bourgeois nationalists and anarchists running around with guns and bombs have no clue of Marxism, of revolutionary politics, of the power of the working class, of the historic role of the working class, of the necessity of uniting the working class, i.e., proletariat, program, and party. They have no confidence in the working class, and their actions regardless of motives and outward appearances fit well into the parameters of bourgeois rule by dividing the working class not to mention providing an excuse for the most reactionary elements such as Ian Paisley and his ilk to organize and arm one section of the working class on religious grounds against another section of the working class, but what else could one expect when the petty bourgeoisie are terrorizing society on the basis of their own religious sect even if they are doing it in the ostensible fight against discrimination? Then there were the London bombings that alienated the English working class and provided all the justification the British government needed to justify the troops being in the North of Ireland in the first place and for keeping them there for as long as it should take. Again, so much for uniting the working class! Remember the words: “Workers of the world unite!” How are the politics and tactics of Sinn Fein and the IRA qualitatively any different than those of the ilk of bin Laden and the al Qaeda minded fighters? These backward nationalist-minded elements are renowned for organizing on the basis of religion or sect. Marxists organize based on class. While every Marxist must support all the above unconditionally against the British Army and imperialism, every Marxist must also recognize that nationalism is a bane of the working class, and therefore, Marxists must struggle against the program of bourgeois and petty-bourgeois nationalism, as it is an impediment to uniting the working class and keeping it independent from petty-bourgeois and bourgeois influences in its struggle for power, and, for all intents and purposes, nationalism is an impediment to the sincere aspirations of the petty-bourgeois nationalists as well.

    The same is true of your support for nationalism in Scotland and Wales: “Any socialist in England has a first duty to support the destruction of the British Empire – our predecessors did this by supporting Indian and African independence struggles. With the Irish struggle now reaching its denoument, the only imperial provinces left are Scotland and Wales. Scotland is getting closer to self-determination and when that happens British imperialism will be severely weakened. Wales…will then not be far behind in freeing itself from a thousand years of oppression.” While I appreciate your anti-British imperialist sentiment, this is not the way to fight British imperialism, but I am struck by the dichotomy of your across the board advocacy of nationalism as the way to fight imperialism, except in Libya and Syria, as opposed to organizing the workers for dictatorship-of-the-proletariat. I am not quit sure what denouement you see in the Irish struggle, as I do not see the Irish working class on the verge of taking power. I do not even know of any revolutionary working-class group that has the perspective of establishing the dictatorship-of-the-proletariat in Ireland, certainly not bourgeois-nationalist Sinn Fein, the IRA, or the reformist-bourgeois politician, Gerry Adams, who seems to think that all the Irish workers need is: “a new type of politics based on fairness and decency.” As I said before, guerrilla tactics and adventurism are only the other side of the coin of bourgeois politics in that both tactics show the architects of both have no confidence in and possibly no awareness of the historical role of the proletariat, and should the proletariat rise up they would cower no less than Turati and the Social Democrats did in Italy (during and) after WWI.

    You tout your predecessors for weakening British imperialism by “supporting Indian and African independence struggles,” but today you support the imperialists trying to reestablish their hegemony once again in Libya and Syria. You also think “British imperialism will be severely weakened” again once Scotland and Wales set up their own political shop outside of the British Parliament, but the reality is that the political independence of India and the African nations did not really weaken British imperialism. The colonial structure came down, but the economic stranglehold on these countries by Britain did not lessen except for where US imperialism moved in to claim a share of the pie. In fact the US was the biggest destroyer of Great Britain as a colonial power under the guise of spreading freedom so it could gobble up a big chunk of the markets and resources at Britain’s expense. The other countries in Africa and other parts of the world also gained their so-called political freedom from Spain, Portugal, Holland, France, etc., but their resources, their money, their banks, their trade, i.e. their economies along with their legal system and sometimes even some of the security forces remained in the clutches of the old colonizers while their toadies ruled the new “independent” state—imperialism at its finest. The years of continuing unrest in Africa, as confused as it might seem, is for the most part a result of this sustained imperialist iron grip on the economies of these nations.

    Time and time again the theory of the permanent revolution is proven correct that only the dictatorship-of-the-proletariat can solve the national question, and therefore, while supporting the struggles for national independence unconditionally against imperialism, we must criticize the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois nationalist ideology unmercifully and organize the working class independently of all nationalist movements and prepare them to take power. Gaddafi was no exception to this, and his recent demise is the proof that only the proletarian revolutionary road can defeat imperialism. His bourgeois nationalism combined with Pan-Africanism and Pan-Arabism proved useless in the long run, and all his anti-imperialist positions and efforts were nothing more than a huge nuisance to the imperialists for which the imperialists continually plotted against him. A few of the reasons among a great many why Gaddafi was so hated by the imperialists although venerated by the majority of the Libyan population are because: he nationalized Libyan oil and encouraged others to nationalize their resources; he showed it was possible as he did in Libya to take the population from being at the bottom of all the African countries in income per capita, in health, in education, and in welfare to the top; he endeavored with some successes to unite the Africans and Arabs to defy Western exploitation, to resolve disputes, and to realize projects providing for the needs of the countries and their populaces; he put the central bank of Libya as well as other banking and development institutions that he organized throughout the continent outside the control of the World Bank, the IMF, and all the other imperialists’ mega banks; he advocated the introduction of the gold dinar as the currency of trade for Africa in opposition to the imperialist dollar; he was the most staunch defender of the Palestinians along with Syria among all the Arab countries; Libya was the only country in Africa who refused to sign the US’s “Africom” plan for military subjugation and control; he opposed all foreign military presence in the Mediterranean while the US and NATO along with Israel have been on a mission to make it their private and exclusive armed lake—now only Syria with its port for Russia stands in the way of this essentially becoming a reality—etc. Outside of a dictatorship-of-the-proletariat, the anti-imperialist benefits from the divorce of Scotland and Wales from Britain that you have imagined will not begin to compare to the actual thorn in the side of imperialism that Gaddafi’s own brand of anti-imperialism was, and yet you could not wait until the lackeys of imperialism put a bullet in his head. Organizing around a bourgeois-nationalist program for secession or independence is a prescription for failure sooner or later as Libya has proved. As Marxists we organize the workers under their own banner on a working-class program to take power in opposition to the bourgeois-nationalists, as this is the only way to defeat imperialism.

    Capitalist Scotland and capitalist Wales politically seceding from Britain will not really weaken British imperialism, and it could actually prove to be a negative in regard to the working-class struggle. If they secede with the Tories at the head of their respective governments then it will only be another case of the rats, their capitalists, abandoning the already sinking ship, and if Labor is at their respective helms it most likely would be a consequence of the same phenomenon but with the added negative that the British workers, at their present level of consciousness, will see it as their comrades abandoning them especially in regard to Parliament since they would not have as large a Labor contingency without them. You will have to show me how dividing the class on nationalist grounds will, either in Great Britain or elsewhere, advance the struggle for the dictatorship-of-the-proletariat. By advocating and supporting nationalism you could even under certain circumstances aid and abet a real nationalist movement equivalent to the Blackshirts! The struggle in Scotland and Wales should not be for seceding and thus beguiling the workers into thinking that living directly under the tyranny of their own bourgeoisie will improve their fate or the fate of anybody else for that matter. The only struggle should be for the dictatorship-of-the-proletariat, and should the Scottish workers find it in their power to establish the dictatorship-of-the-proletariat in advance of their brothers and sisters to the south, then even then they should take into consideration the political development of the British workers, much the way Lenin dealt with the more politically advanced workers in St. Petersburg compared to the rest of Russia, in order to obviate the possibility that the British workers could be used to put the Scottish workers down. If such a possibility existed hundreds working-class contingents would have to be sent to rally the British workers to not only support the Scottish workers taking power but to emulate them by taking power themselves. This is the way not only to win but to advance and defend the proletarian revolution. Seceding under present circumstances is not going to advance the consciousness of the Scottish, Welsh, or British workers, nor will it help in any way to unite the class, nor will it prove beneficial in any way to the world working class, but on the contrary it will only serve to divide the working class and tail end a section of them behind their own bourgeoisie, and therefore, we as Marxists must struggle against secession all the while working tirelessly to make clear that the British workers must be in the forefront to guarantee that the workers of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales should be equal in every way, and guarantee as well that should they choose to secede the British workers will back them unconditionally. There is no contradiction in the above, and it is a paradigm for uniting different sections of the working class, for keeping them united, and for dealing with their uneven development.

    In spite of all the hoopla about uniting the working class I have seen not the first suggestion on how to do it, as I have done above, nor, and this is the most important part, the first word about the program around which the working class must be united if it is going to be in a position to challenge the capitalists for power. All I have seen on the one hand is the downplaying of crucial revolutionary ideology for the sole purpose of uniting the class, and on the other hand I have seen support and praise for policies that actually have divided the workers not only unnecessarily but based on bourgeois and petty bourgeois ideology and not on any fundamental working-class principles like those that led to the formation of the Third International. In other places the workers and their historical revolutionary role have been completely ignored. As regards to the latter would fall your position on Libya and Syria and as to the former would be your position on North of Ireland and Scotland. Uniting the working class is very important, and one principled way of unification is through the use of the untied front, but compromising on this or that part of a revolutionary program to obtain unity will cost the working class dearly if not in the short run then definitely in the long run. Uniting the working class will not fall under one all-inclusive formula, as the struggle in each country will take different forms, but a major unification factor will be the institutions of dual power that will most likely vary from country to country. These institutions could be factory committees, workers’ militias, worker councils, trade-union councils, soviets, etc. Struggling for and implementing a principled revolutionary program is most important, and in that process revolutionaries can not be afraid of splitting and uniting, as these are natural and necessary parts of putting the working class on the revolutionary road.

    When I asked you about your position on Yugoslavia you gave a contradictory answer. You said that: “The imperialist interventions there made a bad situation far worse and we should all have resolutely opposed them.” I must ask you, what was the “bad situation” before the imperialists intervened? Your answer revolved around the national question which is congruous with your political outlook in general, since you see almost everything in terms of a national question. Your position was essentially that since neither Bosnia nor Kosovo—and I presume Croatia—do not constitute a “nation,” and since they all “had the same ethnic origins,” self-determination was not a consideration and therefore could be not be supported. I can not help but wonder if you or they decided that they did constitute a “nation” what your position would have been. Would you then have supported the imperialists “helping” these “nations” realize their self-determination, and would this not be similar to your making light of the role of imperialism in Syria now in the hope that just maybe if the imperialists can overthrow Assad the Kurds will be able to realize their self-determination which seems to be your sole concern in regard to Syria? This is, of course, nonsense as I pointed out why and how in the above text. The Kurds have gone down this same political road many times in the past, and just as in the past, the position of supporting the imperialists will prove more than a disaster if the imperialists win or even if Assad wins. You did point out that in Yugoslavia the imperialists highlighted and egged “on RELIGIOUS groupings – the only difference between a Croat (Roman Catholic), Serb (Eastern Orthodox) and Bosniak (Moslem) was one of religion….By inciting religious separatism, it resulted in a bloodbath of various groups with the ‘Serbs’ being demonised and being moved into statelets where they became minorities. The finely balanced deals that were involved in setting up Yougoslavia were smashed with disastrous consequences.” Even though the imperialists blamed the Serbs for ethnic cleansing it was actually the Serbs that were being ethnically cleansed, nevertheless, the imperialists used ethnic cleansing and self-determination as an excuse for intervening. We know this was nothing more than a subterfuge, and the real reason for the intervention was to break up the secular state of Yugoslavia, the last vestige of “socialism” in Europe, something that you did not mention and does not seem to concern you. The fact that there was never a dictatorship-of-the-proletariat in Yugoslavia meant, as I said above, that “the embryonic seeds of capitalism…remained” and the imperialists nurtured those seeds until they could move in and destroy the secular state and regain the markets and resources they had lost, motivations not too different from the reasons for their intervention in Iraq, Libya, and now Syria. What is interesting is your acknowledgement of the imperialists “inciting religious separatism” which they have also done in Iraq, Libya, and now in Syria, and we can see the disastrous results in Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Libya, but you seem to think there will be a different outcome in Syria if the imperialists prevail there. The Kurds need to organize and build independent (of the bourgeoisie) “Syrian workers’ militias” to drive out the imperialists and thereby create a base and means for taking out Assad and turning Syria into the Workers’ Republic of Syria with the dictatorship-of-the-proletariat.

    We agreed that the only solution for the “Israeli and Palestinian conflict” is a one-state solution, but I want to make sure that we agree on what that means and about how it must be realized especially in light of your uncritical support for the politics of the Kurds and their methods of struggle in as much as the Palestinians have almost identical politics and methods. Outside of completely driving the Palestinians out of Palestine by Israel or imperialism or combination thereof the one-state solution, or any solution for that matter, is not going to come about by direct negotiations, brokered negotiations, or international negotiations, nor by directions, resolutions, or mandates from the imperialist UN or any other international organization.

    The Zionists’ objective from the start claimed all of Palestine as their own, exclusive Manifest Destiny, but their horizons for conquests have now expanded in almost every direction. The pathetic Palestinian resistance to the overpowering Zionists’ onslaught is a miserable record that can even match that of the Kurds, all the while the Palestinian fighters have, like the Kurdish fighters, shown amazing bravery, tenacity, and heart even as their prospects have faded and are fading with every passing day. Their continuous setbacks are attributable to the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois leaderships that, again like the Kurds, have a bourgeois-democratic nationalist program and have vacillated between bourgeois diplomacy and adventurism. During WWII they allowed the imperialist powers to play them like a fiddle, and then, since the war, they have been the sacrificial lamb to keep the oil producers in the region in a state of consternation, and because of the bourgeois-democratic class nature of their politics these Palestinian bourgeois and petty-bourgeois leaderships have no other choice than to continue treating the US as an honest broker, pleading and begging the other imperialist powers for respite, and groveling at the imperialist UN for their own bar mitzvah which even if conceded would not change a thing on the ground. In between bouts of bourgeois, shadow-boxing diplomacy—and sometimes at the same time—the Palestinian bourgeois and petty-bourgeois leaderships have resorted to desperate, inane, and futile acts of terrorism—imitating the earlier acts of Zionist terrorism—which have always made their plight worse. The Zionists were only able to dominate the Palestinians due to the backing of the US while the only backing the Palestinians could muster were the motley, disunited, conservative Arab states who themselves were to one degree or another controlled by imperialism. Most of the time the Zionists goaded the Palestinians into adventuristic actions that would, thereby, provide the perfect excuse for the Zionists to continue their unmerciful aggression to drive them out of Palestine. Whether it is the one-state, the two-state, or a multi-state solution the Palestinian bourgeoisie and petty-bourgeoisie have no solutions to overcome the Zionists and their imperialist masters. Only the Palestinian working class and the Israeli working class can solve the problem by uniting and struggling together against their respective bourgeoisies to establish the dictatorship-of-the-proletariat. The Palestinians inside Israel will have to play a most important role, albeit clandestine, in that, like in North of Ireland, much of Palestinian working class is separated physically from the Israeli working class by a formidable and colossus wall as well as being politically and religiously estranged by their respective bourgeoisies. The first steps of the Palestinian workers would of necessity be to organize themselves strictly on a class basis independent of the Palestinian bourgeois and petty-bourgeois leaderships, to repudiate their former leaderships’ terrorism and bourgeois diplomacy, and to work tirelessly to overthrow them on a program of establishing the dictatorship-of-the-proletariat appealing to the Israeli working class to do the same and join them. In spite of the enormous rift created by the respective bourgeois leaderships this is not as difficult as it might seem at first, since the Israeli working class is very militant, and especially now since it is being asked to shoulder more and more of the state’s military aggression and pay for its increasing economic woes.

    This brings me to your assessment of BRIEFING and the Labour Party. You said that the politics of BRIEFING are “patchy. Some issues are brilliant and some I am desperately angry at but it does reflect the real debates going on in the working class movement and doesn’t spout a ‘line’ handed down by some guru in a small office….What I am sure of is that BRIEFING has survived and even prospered whilst all the ludicrous sects and self-appointed leaderships have blown themselves apart.” Survival, prospering, or being the best of the lot are not revolutionary qualities, but class orientation and program are. BRIEFING does contain some useful information, coverage of the “debates going on in the working class movement,” and very occasionally a decent political article, but the same could be said of a bourgeois newspaper. The questions are, however, what is its class orientation; what is its political program; and what is its role in organizing the working class for the dictatorship-of-the-proletariat? If we should grant that it has a working class orientation, we would, nevertheless, without doubt say that its overall political program is that of Social Democracy, reformism, even if you want to call it left wing. “Left wing” is not a revolutionary political characterization. As revolutionaries we do not report the debates; we do our best to determine the debate in making the case not for the Labour Party or even the trade unions but for the working class. They are not the same. There is not the first hint about the objective of striving for the dictatorship-of-the-proletariat, and in its stead there is the constant theme of defeating the bourgeois parties by bringing the Labour Party to power in Parliament. I have not seen the first proposal telling the working class that the Labour Party being in Parliament is not the answer to their problems, and as such, BRIEFING is not an organ around which a cadre of revolutionaries can be organized to bring about the dictatorship-of-the-proletariat. You stated: “What I am certain of is that we can only seize power and overthrow capitalism in the name of the Labour Party, the trades unions and the working class.” There is a huge difference between the Labour Party and the working class, and the two are being confused. Even the trade unions should not be confused with the class. You also stated: “In July 1917 Lenin actually decided the workers soviets were a write-off and urge the Bolsheviks to leave them! Luckily he swiftly retracted that position and were able to seize power in the name of the Soviets.” I responded: “I do not agree with your criticism of Lenin on changing his position on the soviets, and I do not agree with your perspective that ‘we can only seize power and overthrow capitalism in the name of the Labour Party’…. To a great degree the events themselves will determine the working-class organizational structures that will prove to be the most efficacious in taking power. We should not be blinded…nor harnessed to one cart in advancing the workers’ march to power.” From a reading of the tea leaves of the present day I would be inclined to wager that the English revolution will be made through institutions outside the Labour Party and most probably in opposition to it.

    In the same correspondence you stated: “I can remember you and Al Richardson agreeing that you cannot build a revolutionary party by recruiting in ones and twos to a sect – that is true one hundred times over. There are thousands of workers here who think they are Marxists, Trotskyists, revolutionaries or anti-capitalists. However, this support need channelling into the mass movement and a struggle for power against the corrupt leaders who are the ‘labour lieutenants of capitalism’ as De Leon remarked.” I replied: “I am most certain that in January of 1917, many would have described the Bolsheviks as a sect. It is not a matter of being small, but rather struggling in the class with the correct politics. Without these two perspectives you will not be able to “hit it, [and] it won’t fall.” The key words are “to a sect,” and recruiting “in ones and twos” is only the natural progression of building a cadre organization until the workers begin to move, and if there “are thousands of workers here who think they are Marxists, Trotskyists, revolutionaries or anti-capitalists” they do not need to be channeled “into the mass movement,” since they are already part of the mass movement. The best of them, which understandably will be only a small number, need to be channeled into the revolutionary vanguard movement. To what vanguard organization will you recruit them? The fact of the matter is that during a period of quiescence in the labor movement, you will not have a cadre organization or a journal with any kind of mass appeal, but it will be this hardened kernel, however, that will become the backbone of the revolution and lead the workers to power. BRIEFING is trying to be a magazine with a mass appeal, and in so doing it has the left-wing politics of the lowest common denominator. It is not the organ around which you can build a revolutionary cadre, and it will not be the journal that will show, let alone lead, the British workers to the revolutionary road and the dictatorship-of-the-proletariat.

    As you know I regard you as a close friend whose company I have always enjoyed especially in the exchange of ideas, and I appreciate your knowledge as well the fact that you still refer to yourself as a Marxist and that you have spent many years dedicated to improving the lot of the working class. These are the reasons I have even bothered to offer the above criticisms. You and I share a common criticism of the multiple petty-bourgeois groups running around quoting scripture who are in the main sectarian, obsolete, irrelevant, or just lost when it comes to the working class. Due to the perceived long dry spell of working-class militancy there are also those who have become disheartened and have adopted anything that seems like a success or those who have looked to find the errors of the past in order to chart a new course. The problem with the last two is that they essentially throw out the baby with the bath water. There is no need to concoct shortcuts, reinterpret history, or reinvent the wheel. We must recognize that here has been a rich history of working-class militancy since the October revolution, and in every instance where the working class has tried to express itself, there was no revolutionary leadership capable of applying the proven principles laid down by Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Trotsky. The defeats of the militant workers were not because the old lessons no longer applied or that they were defective in some way, but because they were not employed. We can dissect every defeat and show precisely how, why, when, and where the leaders led the workers into a blind alley. In every instance the workers were led to defeat by the same political opponents that Lenin and Trotsky had to dispatch to bring the October revolution to fruition. The anti-revolutionary politics that stood in their way to success are the same politics that have and are still standing in the way of any further working class success. There is nothing new under the sun. Trotsky showed us many times that the politics of Stalinism was nothing more than Menshevism, the politics of the Second International, but only writ large and more grotesque. All of Trotsky’s writings as an oppositionist on China, Spain, France, Germany, etc. were in essence an elucidation of the fights that he and Lenin fought applied to the current events of the time, and these writings are a rich treasure-trove identifying and exposing over and over the same old deadly political pitfalls and showing us their revolutionary antidote. All that is needed is to persistently recognize, relentlessly defend, and uncompromisingly work for the objective of the dictatorship-of-the-proletariat; to identify all the same old political antagonists and unremittingly tear them down with the already known and proven principles; and to build an organization with a steadfast cadre that has the will and unabashed courage to lead the workers to power.

    Remember: we are not nationalists; we are internationalists, and while we unconditionally support minorities fighting for their national identity we are, nevertheless, Marxists who fight on a class basis for the dictatorship-of-the-proletariat in opposition to nationalism and bourgeois democracy, and in this fight we demand that all the workers be organized under their own banner.

    With my warmest comradely greetings to you both,
    david fender 5-12-12
    dhfender@netzero.net

    Comment by david fender — May 25, 2012 @ 2:40 am

  47. @Tom M who said, “[r]eturning thanks to Tom Cod (April 12) whose puerile remarks illustrate my critique of lumpen influences. May he continue celebrating naked, brightly displayed sex life as History and adult socialist efforts elude him.”
    Exactly the kind of reactionary neo-con caricature of the 60s one would expect from the likes of Roger Kimball and David Horowitz that only proves my point.

    Comment by Tom Cod — December 30, 2012 @ 11:41 pm

  48. If anybody knows how I might contact Kevin FitzPatrick, in case he does not receive this, would you please let me know. david fender dhfender@netzero.net (813) 949-1704

    Comment by david fender — May 31, 2013 @ 9:22 pm

  49. Robert DeVerney’s son is putting together a bio of Larry Trainor. He is very interested in those who knew him in Boston. U can email me @ davidrail68@yahoo.com

    Comment by David Walsh — July 1, 2014 @ 2:20 pm


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