Marxist Bulletin No. 4
Expulsion from the Socialist Workers Party
Letter to Dobbs
By Laurence Ireland
8 November 1963
Socialist Workers Party
116 University Place
New York, N.Y. 10003
Dear comrade Dobbs:
Your letter of November 2nd conveying the Political Committee’s decision to suspend me from membership in the party is acknowledged.
By a Leninist standard, this suspension is illegal. The Control Commission, through adroit selection of phrases from the Robertson-Ireland document, can only weakly conclude that a ‘hostile and disloyal attitude toward the party is clearly manifested.’ A wrong attitude comrade Dobbs! The Control Commission, after nearly two hours of interrogation and after reading both documents which I submitted (the second half of the Robertson-Ireland document and ‘What the Discussion is Really About’) can only come up with a ‘hostile and disloyal attitude.’ This is false.
I think that men’s minds are most clearly read in their actions. Yet the Control Commission is unable to produce evidence of any disloyal actions. Why not? Because, Comrade Dobbs, there have been none.
It is left to the Secretariat, in its November 1st motion to the Political Committee to charge that provisions of the 1938 organizational resolution, ‘On the Internal Situation and the Character of the Party,’ were violated. This charge, Comrade Dobbs, is a lie. This motion is dishonest because it does not even fairly state what I wrote. This motion is cynical because it goes beyond the Control Commission’s findings. This motion is disloyal because it attacks a minority tendency member for his opinions and ideas alone. Here is how a Bolshevik views tendencies and discipline:
If there are no … tendencies, if the membership is fairly homogeneous, there will be only temporary groupings–unless the leadership is incorrect. And this will be shown best in practice. So, when a difference occurs, a discussion should take place, a vote be taken, and a majority line adopted. There must be no discrimination against the minority; any personal animosity will compromise not them but the leadership. Real leadership will be friendly and loyal to the disciplined minority.
It is true, of course, that discussion always provokes feelings which remain for some time. Political life is full of difficulties–personalities clash–they widen their dissensions–they get in each other’s hair. These differences must be overcome by common experience, by education of the rank and file, by the leadership proving it is right. Discipline is built by education, not only by statutes. Organizational measures should be resorted to only in extreme cases.
It was the elastic life within it which allowed the Bolshevik Party to build its discipline. Even after the conquest of power, Bukharin and other members of the party voted against the government in the Central Executive on important questions, such as the German peace, and in so doing lined themselves with those Social Revolutionists who soon attempted armed insurrection against the Soviet state. But Bukharin was not expelled. Lenin said, in effect:
‘We will tolerate a certain lack of discipline. We will demonstrate to them that we are right. Tomorrow they will learn that our policy is correct, and they will not break discipline so quickly.’ By this I do not advise the dissenting comrades to imitate the arrogance of Bukharin. Rather do I recommend that the leadership learns from the patience and tact of Lenin. [L.D. Trotsky, In the Middle of the Road, pp. 29-30. Some emphases added.]
Do not interpret the use of this quotation as an admission of having broken discipline. I have not. It is you, Comrade Dobbs, and the Secretariat who are behaving in an undisciplined fashion. You are penalizing me for the ‘crime’ of submitting my views and opinions to a loyal and disciplined minority tendency for consideration. The question is not even whether or not these views were adopted by the tendency–which they were not–but whether or not I had the right to offer dissenting views without the sanction of the leadership faction.
If I had committed a heinous act against the party, I would have been tried and expelled. This would be proper. But my alleged crime is entirely in the realm of ideas. This is a frame-up, Comrade Dobbs, and is unworthy of a man who has struggled so courageously in the past against similar outrages. No party member even attempted to speak to me in an informal and comradely fashion concerning the allegations. There was no attempt to determine if this allegedly rotten material could be salvaged. Instead, a hard organizational tactic was pursued. Not to determine the truth, but to silence loyal opposition. This is not a Leninist tactic.
Your suspension is therefore illegal as it is based on no crime against the party; only disciplined criticism of certain leadership policies. I protest this bureaucratic maneuver of the Secretariat and demand my right to appeal this criminal act before the National Committee at the earliest possible moment. Meanwhile, ignoring the provocation, I shall continue to abide by party discipline which flows from the program of the Fourth International.