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15727Re: [GreenLeft_discussion] Re: Barry Sheppard's political memoir ofthe US SWP,1960-88

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  • Doug Lorimer
    Mar 30, 2005
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      why did Cannon, a
      > >pretty experienced socialist organiser, write "Don't Strangle the
      > >Party" in response to the US SWP's new organisational rules?

      Don't Strangle the Party is a collection of three letters and the text of a
      talk by Cannon in 1966 and 1967 out together by expelled US SWP leader Geoge
      Brietman in 1983 to as he said in his introduction ``prove conclusively that
      Cannon did not share the current SWP leadership's interpretation of the 1965
      resolution'' on the organisational character of the SWP. The collection and
      Breitman's intro is reprinted in the 1997 Resistance Books collection
      Building the Revolutionary Party: An Introduction to James P. Cannon.

      Breitman's introduction may also be found at

      According to Breitman's intro the background to Cannon's letters were the
      following: ``Arne Swabeck, a party founder and NC member, had been trying
      for seven years to convert the SWP from Trotskyism to Maoism. Despite
      repeated efforts before and during SWP national conventions in 1959, 1961,
      1963, and 1965, his small group made little headway among the members.
      lncreasingly he and his group began to ignore the normal channels for
      discussion in the party, and to communicate their ideas to selected members
      by mail. This led to demands by Larry Trainor, an NC member in Boston, for
      disciplinary action against Swabeck and his ally in the NC, Richard Fraser.
      Through a circular letter for the PC Tom Kerry announced that the matter
      would be taken up at a plenum of the NC to be held at the end of February.

      ``Cannon's letter was addressed to the supporters of the NC majority
      tendency (which excluded the supporters of the Swabeck and Fraser-Clara Kaye
      tendencies, etc.). Cannon tried to convince the majority that political
      discussion and education were the answer to the minority tendencies, not
      disciplinary action.''

      In particular, Cannon argued against ``committee discipline'' - barring
      minorities on the NC from presenting their political views to non-NC members
      outside of authorised pre-convention discussion. He wrote: ``Committee
      `discipline' follows from conviction and a sensee of responsibility; it
      cannot be imposed by party law or threats. I have said before that in more
      than thirty-seven years of our independent history we have never tried to
      enforce such discipline.''

      ----- Original Message -----
      From: "Nick Fredman" <srcsra@...>
      To: <GreenLeft_discussion@yahoogroups.com>
      Sent: Thursday, March 31, 2005 11:50 AM
      Subject: [GreenLeft_discussion] Re: Barry Sheppard's political memoir ofthe
      US SWP,1960-88

      > Jack:
      > >Okay, Nick, that's a reasonable point, if a bit general. Socialist
      > >groups are affected by their social environment ... What material
      > >forces do you think would lead to the sort of internal regime Mark
      > >Lause describes in the US SWP
      > I didn't just make such a general point, I also gave a brief but
      > clear hypothesis on what happened to the US SWP: that the actual and
      > potential negative features caused by the isolation of all small
      > socialist groups were massively exacerbated by a disastrously wrong
      > policy, i.e. a "turn to industry" in the later 70s. (More orthodox
      > Trotskyist critics of the US SWP put the blame on abandoning
      > permanent revolution). In contrast the DSP had the good sense to
      > realise that the loss of half its membership in the beginning of the
      > 80s indicated that its turn to industry was a flop, and reoriented to
      > the actual movements existing: a good materialist explanation of why
      > the DSP is very different in a healthy direction from the US SWP
      > today.
      > >why did Cannon, a
      > >pretty experienced socialist organiser, write "Don't Strangle the
      > >Party" in response to the US SWP's new organisational rules?
      > I don't know. Barry puts up a good case these changes weren't
      > negative, and also that Cannon was a bit meddlesome from his base in
      > Los Angeles by that stage. Maybe he's wrong and such rule changes
      > created further potential problems - democratic guarantees are very
      > important - but to think they *caused* a major degeneration is highly
      > idealist. Barry's account doesn't have to be taken as gospel but his
      > arguments and evidence deserve to be taken seriously by anyone
      > interested in the many issues taken up in his book.
      > --
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