Marxist Bulletin No. 4
Expulsion from the Socialist Workers Party
Letter to the National Committee
By Wendell Phillips
November 12, 1963
The National Committee
Socialist Workers Party
116 University Place
New York 3, New York
I am profoundly disturbed by the action of the Political Committee suspending comrades Robertson, White et al, from membership in the Party.
Let me say at the outset that no one could differ more drastically from the political position of this group than I. I have never read one of their documents with which I did not violently disagree, and their opinions on the “Negro question” are particularly repugnant.
This, however, is irrelevant. I do not have to point out to fellow Trotskyists, the role of differences of opinion in the development of a correct program. Nor do 1 need to use historical analogy to show that those who make serious political mistakes at one period may play a valuable role in the revolutionary movement at another.
I do not intend at this time to go into a detailed examination of charges made against this group. The most important charge, and the one which concerns me, is that these comrades have failed to maintain the organizational loyalty demanded of members of the Socialist Workers Party.
What is this loyalty which the Political Committee demands? If it consists in the suppression of legitimate programmatic differences, and the abandonment of all attempts to change the opinions of the majority, then it is the sort of loyalty which will lead inevitably to political isolation and defeat. The right to differ from the majority, the right to organize dissenting groups within the Party, the right to proselytize among both members and potential members so long as it is not done in the name of the Party, and does not monopolize and disrupt Party meetings, must be vigorously protected. To deny these rights to any member, no matter how mistaken he may be, must inevitably lead to the establishment of the sort of “monolithism” which is so hateful to us all. Furthermore, any member who has not been convinced by convention discussion, by documents, by argument both polemical and friendly, but who will abandon and cease to advocate an idea which he believes to be correct from fear of disciplinary action, is a spineless weakling and hardly the stuff of which revolutionaries are made.
It is admittedly difficult to maintain a revolutionary organization in the introverted circumstances in which we are forced to exist. The temptation to concentrate on internal disputes and to exaggerate their importance and gravity is difficult to resist. But it must be resisted if we hope to increase our numbers. After the bitter experience of the Russian Communist Party, the manner in which a party treats its dissenters will be a criterion to those whom we must have to make a revolution. Our record must be immaculate in this respect!
I urge you to rescind immediately this unfortunate action of the Political Committee.