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List formed to discuss legacy and lessons of US SWP

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  • glparramatta
    Description http://groups.yahoo.com/group/swp_usa/ The SWP was a very influential Trotskyist group from the 1930s to the late 1970s, when it embarked on a
    Message 1 of 2 , Jun 5, 2005
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      The SWP was a very influential Trotskyist group from the 1930s to the late
      1970s, when it embarked on a sweeping series of changes both politically
      and organizationally. Politically, it began to disavow any connections with
      Trotskyism and defined itself as a kind of Castroist current that was part
      of an emerging new international movement that included the FLSN of
      Nicaragua, the FMLN of EL Salvador, the New Jewel Movement of Grenada, the
      ANC, etc. Despite its proclaimed willingness to become part of a political
      movement that was distinguished by its lack of sectarianism, the SWP
      actually became more sectarian. The turn toward broader political forces
      globally was accompanied by a workerist "turn to basic industry" inside the
      USA which resulted in a growing abstention from various mass movements
      located outside of basic industry.

      Organizationally, this turn was accompanied by a steadily increasing
      crackdown on the membership's right to criticize various aspects of the
      turn. Long-time members of the party who still saw value in the theory of
      Permanent Revolution were not allowed to answer the party leadership, which
      was consolidating itself around National Chairman Jack Barnes. Many members
      either left out of a feeling of alienation from the party's growing
      sectarian drift or were expelled in a series of purges that were
      reminiscent of how Stalinist parties functioned.

      The purpose of the mailing list is to come to terms with this legacy. Was
      it inevitable as some suggest or was it a function of a powerful
      personality subverting what was basically a healthy organism?

      We will discuss the party's past and its current activity and ideas as
      reflected in the Militant newspaper. In addition, we will try to come to
      grips with the problem of party-building in general with an eye to building
      a new movement that avoids the mistakes of the past.

      Group Email Addresses
      Post message: swp_usa@yahoogroups.com
      Subscribe: swp_usa-subscribe@yahoogroups.com
      Unsubscribe: swp_usa-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com
      List owner: swp_usa-owner@yahoogroups.com

      Marxism mailing list
    • Walter Lippmann
      Regarding the discussion list about the SWP (USA) which was launched earlier this week, here are a few additional thoughts. Most of them were posted to the
      Message 2 of 2 , Jun 6, 2005
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        Regarding the discussion list about the SWP (USA) which was
        launched earlier this week, here are a few additional thoughts.
        Most of them were posted to the Marxmail list. A few have been
        added for the Greenleft discussion.

        It has occurred to me more than once to initiate a discussion list
        devoted to analyzing the experience of the SWP by people who
        had a history with the organization. As the owner of another list
        which is very much moderated, I know that such a process isn't
        easy to organize or to conduct. Thus, taking such an initiative
        was an challenging step.

        How can we have a more or less calm, educational discussion of
        the rise and decline of a group like the SWP?

        The announcement posted earlier today was reminiscent of the
        Socialist Workers Party in that it's a "members-only" organization,
        and so its discussions won't be available to the public.

        Like the SWP, it will be necessary to become a member to be able
        to read the "discussion bulletins". Anyone who is not a member
        will not be able to access the discussions. Unlike the SWP, there
        are no dues, no meetings, and no agreed-upon framework.

        A better example is that provided by the Marxmail list, which is
        open to being read by anyone with internet access. Even people
        who aren't members can post through the moderator or another
        member of the list. The new list is closed off to the public.

        Here on the GreenLeft discussion list the same open discussion
        model prevails. Greenleft, which isn't heavily moderated from
        what I can see, provides a similarly better example. In my own
        opinion, a list devoted to the SWP (USA) would have to be very
        actively moderated, to avoid the kind of point-making and score-
        settling which evokes more friction than illumination of this very
        complex and frustrating subject.

        The rise and decline of the Socialist Workers Party has its own
        particular characteristics. It's also part of the much broader
        problem how how to build a revolutionary movement in the US,
        one which is both uncompromising in its opposition to capitalism
        and the evils associated with it, AND, at the same time, one with
        a genuine capacity for self-reflection with minimal factionalism.

        Why, therefore, should the public be excluded from reading and
        perhaps learning from such discussions as are held there?

        Those among us who belonged to the Socialist Workers Party
        in the past are all too familiar with a "democratic discussions"
        there in which some critical comment is permitted and then the
        leadership trounces those who question received wisdom. They
        may be subjected to sharp rhetorical assault. They're described as
        "petty bourgeois" or with other demeaning epithets. Discussion in
        such a setting is more likely to produce heat than illumination.

        Some exemples of that variety of discussion style, which have been
        seen at Marxmail occasionally, and which doesn't portend well for
        a new list just starting out, were posted recently:

        "I found that I was growing a third ear in the middle of my
        forehead after being exposed to their posts for a month or
        so. I was forced to unsub for the sake of my marriage.
        My wife was embarrassed to be seen with me in public."


        "cults leave very deep wounds. Mine have healed, thank god


        "you are obsessed with the SWP. When I met with you in Los
        Angeles 15 years ago, that was the only thing you wanted to
        talk about. After subbing to Marxmail, you sent me mail
        about the need you felt to examine the entrails of its
        rotting corpse. Every so often, you send me mail asking if
        so-and-so, an ex-SWP'er, is still on the list. This is not
        normal. Give it a break."


        "My recommendation is not to take the words of this
        minuscule sect so seriously. It is not as if it had
        thousands of members confusing antiwar activists with
        their shitty politics. In fact, if their newspaper was not
        online, nobody here would give it a moment's notice.
        That is one of the consequences of having the Internet,
        even when you are dealing with a group that has little
        engagement with it."

        To have a sneering and hostile response from the organizer
        or leader of a group to any comment with which she or
        he disagrees would make a serious discussion difficult.
        Little would likely be learned in such an environment.


        Walter Lippmann, CubaNews

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