Marxist Bulletin No. 2
The Nature of the Socialist Workers Party—Revolutionary or Centrist
Orientation of the Party Minority in Youth Work (Draft)
By Lynne Harper
1) More than half of the revolutionary Marxist tendency remains involved in the youth organization where we function on both a national and a local basis. Our work in this area has not been as effective as it could have been due to our failure to define our orientation, objectives, and perspectives in regards to this work. These must be formulated within the framework of our primary perspective as a minority tendency within the SWP. The kind of struggle we can carry on in the youth is circumscribed by this, and is differentiated from party work by several factors: we comprise a significantly larger percentage in the youth organization than in the party; we are in more frequent contact with and have greater opportunity to work with new and politically unaligned people; the party, contrary to Leninist principle, prohibits free discussion from taking place with non-party youth.
2) Our major goal in the youth is to build the revolutionary Marxist tendency by recruiting party-youth members of the youth to that tendency, by young members of the tendency gaining political and organizational experience, and by making those locals in which we may have a majority into exemplary organizations of revolutionary youth functioning. We cannot seek to gain political and organizational control of the youth movement independent of simile developments within the party, for the party as it is now has arrayed the whole weight of its authority against this; nor can we therefore, prevent the majority youth leadership from carrying out its program, no matter how rotten or detrimental it is to the real interests of a revolutionary youth movement. The party not only limits us in the discussion of our politics within the youth, but prohibits us from revealing this limitation. We are not even able to discuss openly the relation of the party to the youth organization. In our work in the youth we must act as disciplined SWP members at all times, even when SWP discipline is counterposed to Leninist principle. Our work and the nature and extent of our struggle within the youth is thus at all times necessarily conditioned and limited by the primary consideration of our work in the SWP.
3) These considerations, however, do not limit our role in the youth to merely that of a ‘loyal opposition’, and we help neither the youth nor ourselves by playing this role. The present youth leadership not only apes and even exaggerates the centrist politics of the party, but is consciously cooperating in the destruction of the organizational independence of the youth out of motives of personal opportunism. Our approach to a youth movement can have nothing in common with the approach of such a leadership. Our orientation should not be to give critical support to objectionable majority proposals or to formulate the majority’s proposals in a more reasonable way. Rather our orientation should be to expose the rottenness and inability of the present youth leadership to the greatest extent we can without jeopardizing ourselves, and to offer for consideration of youth members, either through local debate or by statements and countermotions in NEC minutes, a revolutionary alternative on issues under discussion.
4) Our work in the youth has thus far been hampered by an incorrect orientation within the youth minority, which it is hope will be corrected through this discussion. This approach is that in order to influence others we must above all appear to be ‘responsible’. This concept of ‘responsible’ is elucidated by the following statement from Tim’s document Proposed Statement on Orientation, in which he says, ‘We must…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. [referring here to the SWP] Therefore, for the education of our own cadre, we must insist strongly on loyal, disciplined functioning in the party.’ No matter what our analysis of the SWP and of our perspectives therein this approach transferred to the youth, i.e., being loyal, disciplined members of the youth in order to prepare ourselves for the control of that organization, is incorrect, for we have already seen that this perspective for our youth work is out of the question. We do not seek to be ‘responsible’ members of the youth in the sense given above, but rather to be responsible, loyal, and disciplined members of the Marxist tendency working in the youth for the purpose of building that tendency. Of course, our ultimate orientation to youth work will be defined during the course of the tendency’s forthcoming discussion on our perspectives within the SWP.
5) The effectiveness of our work thus far has also been limited by a certain organizational sloppiness. Minority youth comrades should regularly meet to discuss issues coming before the local, particularly in those locals where we have a significant force. NEC comrades should see to it that the majority carries out its responsibilities towards minority members. NEC comrades should meet prior to NEC meetings to discuss issues coming before that body, not to enforce any sort of discipline over these comrades but to make sure that the implication of various possible approaches to these issues are understood. To the extent that common agreement is arrived at, they should then plan the most effective sort of action to take in that body or formulate proper alternatives to the proposals of the majority. We should seek to get our views into the minutes whenever possible, through statements counter-motions, etc., in order to bring these views before a wider audience, and should seek to avoid where possible the unconsidered splitting of our vote, which, if too frequent, can make the minority to appear non-serious or to have major Internal differences or to have no overall alternative to the majority’s approach to youth work. At all times, in both national and local work, we should refuse to do the dirty work of the majority for the majority, we should assume no responsibility for actions which we consider incorrect, and should always put forward correct proposals even when we know they will be overturned by the membership
6) Because of the nature of a youth organization and because of the relatively favorable size of our youth fraction, many avenues of work are open to us in the youth. Yet, compared to the majority, our forces are limited. Therefore we should pick and choose, channeling our energies into that work which will be most fruitful for our purposes. Examples of this sort of fruitful activity would be work on campuses and in organizations where we are relatively free from the hindrance of large majority fractions and actions where we can independently bring in contacts, work with them, and offer them our views of whatever struggle we are engaged in. We should seek to further our own political development by giving forums and classes whenever we can. And at all times we should seek to deepen our understanding of revolutionary Marxism through study of the basic works and of the issues over which we are presently engaged in struggle.
August 8, 1962