Marxist Bulletin No. 2
The Nature of the Socialist Workers Party—Revolutionary or Centrist
Proposed Statement on Orientation
By Tim Wohlforth
1. The basic political and strategic outlook of our tendency is expressed in our statement, “In Defense of a Revolutionary Perspective.” That statement explains our fundamental political critique of the present drift of the SWP majority in the direction of centrist politics. It also states in unequivocal terms that, despite the revisionist political positions of the leadership, our tendency is an integral, loyal, constructive part of the SWP and our task is both to help build the party as it is today and to struggle politically to return it to its original solid revolutionary perspectives. All the work of our tendency flows from these two aspects of our assessment of the SWP. We recognize that the political rejuvenation of the party cannot be carried out by our tendency if our tendency is not fully and loyally integrated in the work of the party.
2. The task we set before ourselves is extremely difficult and the forces at our disposal are quite limited. Our perspective is a long range one. We seek to reorient the basic proletarian backbone of the party which has become confused and disoriented by the revisionist political trends in the leadership. Such a task will take time. Further, it will take the combined impact of the international movement, our own political work in the party, and a revival on the part of the masses which the proletarian elements in the party continue to remain responsive to.
3. During the course of this long-term party work, the comrades of our tendency face two dangers. First, some comrades can become so well integrated in the work of the party that they neglect the political necessity of struggle against the revisionism of the leadership. Secondly, and at present this is a much more real danger to the tendency, some comrades may seek to maintain a revolutionary perspective but to isolate themselves from the concrete work of the party. Both tendencies are equally harmful and represent a desertion from the revolutionary tasks that our tendency must tackle. A Bolshevik must learn to work effectively under conditions where there are strong centrist political pressures upon him without either deserting his own political ideas or deserting the working class cadres of the party who can be reoriented. As Bolsheviks we do not take lightly this party, which despite its political sickness, has been produced by 30 years of revolutionary struggle.
4. Through the intensive political discussion prior to the last convention, and through our current Statement and the work around it, our tendency has done an excellent job of presenting its Marxist views within the party. However, our tendency continues to display serious weaknesses in integrating all its members into the work of the party and properly orienting them so as to establish the closest personal working links with the proletarian elements in the party. Despite the very, very real difficulties of work in the party, every member of our tendency can find effective, productive work in the party which will help strengthen the party, and, in the process, our tendency. The major obstacles to the effective integration of the comrades into party work remains the comrades themselves, not the party. The comrades who continue to fail to integrate themselves into party work, within the framework of their own personal capabilities, are expressing their own inadequacies as Bolsheviks. No real Bolshevik will allow the centrist politics of the party leadership to prevent him from reaching the working class cadres of the party.
5. The deep political sickness of the party cannot fail to have an adverse effect on the functioning of the party in its day-to-day work. It is therefore inevitable that to the extent that our comrades become active in the outside work of the party, to that extent there will be times when their tactics, as well as others they are working with, will come into conflict with the tactics of the party leadership. In addition, the political sickness of the party has already created a certain breakdown in the disciplined functioning of the movement. Under such conditions discipline tends to be exercised in a capricious way with a good deal of leeway being given petty bourgeois elements in the party while an occasional stringent enforcement is applied against our comrades.
6. Under such conditions it is imperative that our comrades function as disciplined revolutionists even if we are the only comrades so acting. Our task is to urge the tightening up of discipline where it is slack, not the application of the slack standards to ourselves. Decay in discipline is always the sign of a drift away from the concept of the essential role of the combat party, and thus a drift away from the working class itself. Our tendency, which has stressed so heavily the critical importance of the role of the party, must be the foremost defenders of the integrity of the party even under conditions when the party is controlled by political elements drifting towards centrism. The best proletarian elements in the SWP are most critical of the party’s organizational slackness and quite correctly evaluate a political tendency, in part, by its attitude toward the party today, as it is, in the concrete. Therefore, our effectiveness in reorienting the party politically will be heavily influenced by our ability to function in a disciplined manner as a minority in the coming period.
7. A Bolshevik minority must at all times prepare for becoming a Bolshevik majority. Our tendency is not in business to remain a perpetual minority. We intend, in fact, we are going to, become the majority of the Socialist Workers Party, and that is all there is to it. We must therefore train our own comrades today to learn to function in a responsible way so that they will be fit to play an important role in the future majority leadership of the revolutionary party in the U.S. Therefore, for the education of our own cadres, we must insist strongly on loyal, disciplined, functioning in the party.
8. We recognize no circumstances whatsoever which would justify a member of our tendency, or any member of the party for that matter, in resigning from the party. We predict that there will be many, many situations in the coming period in which comrades will have to see important mass work temporarily injured in order to remain a part of the party. The party to us is more important than any of these individual mass activities–or all of them together. Our task is to politically utilize these grave errors of the party leadership in order to educate the proletarian cadres of the party politically as to the nature of the political process now going on in the party.
9. Any comrade who, despite the advice of our tendency, resigns from the party, is breaking with our tendency organizationally and politically. As our tendency is a loyal part of the SWP, we have no members or supporters outside the ranks of the SWP. As our tendency is above all else a Bolshevik tendency which values more than any other section of the party, the necessity of the building of the combat party, anyone who takes this task so lightly as to resign from the party is politically breaking from our essential political outlook. Any comrade who so acts will be recognized by our tendency as a deserter of the revolutionary party in the United States and of the World Movement.
10. Until our tendency fully absorbs the basic Leninist concepts reiterated above, we will continue to be plagued by problems which prevent our full political effectiveness in the party. In other words, our ability to solve our own political problems will go a long way towards putting us in a position to help solve the political problems of the party as a whole.
(Submitted to NYC tendency meeting 5-18-62)