Marxist Bulletin No. 4
Expulsion from the Socialist Workers Party
Letter to the National Committee
By Lynne Harper
November 18, 1963
Socialist Workers Party
I have received notification of my suspension from party membership, not for any alleged disloyal acts on my part but on the basis of a single sentence culled from a document I once submitted to the Minority tendency. This document was neither discussed nor voted on within the tendency. The views contained in it are my own personal opinions, and I take full responsibility for them.
I would like to call attention to certain statements in this document which the Control Commission did not see fit to quote in its rather ‘selective’ report. In paragraph 1 I state that minority orientation, objectives, and perspectives in youth work must be formulated within the framework of a primary perspective as a minority tendency in the party. Continuing along this line, in the second paragraph of the document I state:
‘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.’
In the fifth paragraph I make clear that where minority comrades in the youth ought to consult on questions coming before the youth organization, that they do not act as a disciplined caucus or faction in that work. It seems to me that it should be perfectly clear to anyone reading my document — that is, to anyone not utterly blinded by factional prejudice — that even though I disagree totally with the distorted concept of party-youth relations currently practiced by the SWP, nevertheless I unconditionally advocate abiding by these grossly perverted standards because of the overriding importance we place on carrying out what we consider to be not only a necessary but an obligatory political struggle within the SWP. And, if my document alone were not sufficient to make this clear, I also furnished the Control Commission with a several pages long cover-letter to the document written to Comrade Freeman in Seattle at the time explaining why I felt the document was necessary, outlining the youth and tendency situation in New York, and explaining several parts of the document in greater detail. But the Control Commission was not interested in this, or in the obvious intent of the document as a whole, in their search for an individual tidbit which might sound unsavory out of context. In my whole document they were only able to find one! And even then the Secretariat in its motion felt it necessary to change the words of this sentence, which were that we should seek to work ‘where we are relatively free from the hindrance of large majority fractions…’ to ‘seeking to work as free lancers in areas where they are unhindered by the presence of comrades loyal to the party.’
As a matter of fact, minority youth comrades have had the chance to engage in just the sort of work I advocated ever since last February. I am referring to our work on the Columbia campus. There we built a socialist forum, sponsored two majority-speakers, held weekly sales, and distributed leaflets on all party-held or supported functions. All views presented by us in the forum were in accord with the majority line, and no other person we worked with knew that we were in any sort of minority in the YSA or SWP. In short, our work there was a model of disciplined functioning which no one can challenge. How, then, could this sort of work benefit the Minority? Through the simple fact that anyone won to socialism by our arguments and our work will naturally have political respect for the person recruiting them. And once in the YSA the rabid factionalism, constant organizational injustices, and false, slanderous attacks perpetrated by majority youth against minority supporters will (and has) only serve to bind most people we recruit closer to us and predispose them to consider a minority viewpoint during proper discussions. The very factionalism of the New York youth majority which I have just attempted to describe (which, in fact, practically defies description) has made it largely impossible for a minority supporter to function as a political person in arenas heavily dominated by the Majority; and as a matter of fact, where possible the Majority has consciously sought to prevent minority supporters from engaging in normal arenas of mass work (for example removing Shirley from southern SNCC, refusing to let Edith join CORE, etc.).
One final word, on the Control Commission investigation itself. This investigation could in no sense of the word be termed impartial, or hardly even an ‘investigation’. The two comrades conducting the investigation were Comrades Chester and Tabor. The former is the wife of a leading majority member of the National Committee and both have been years-long supporters of the central party leadership, incapable of distinguishing between loyalty to this leadership (a leadership and line we openly state we wish to replace) and loyalty to the party. If this is not sufficient to establish the pre-biased nature of the investigating body, there is also the fact that Comrade Chester remarked to Comrade Harry T. nearly a year ago (months before the investigation) that we were disloyal! The investigators assumed from the beginning that we were guilty and even obviously thought that we also knew we were ‘guilty’, and the bulk of the investigation itself consisted of attempts to trap us into admitting that we were guilty on one or another point. This is why I say the procedure could scarcely be termed an ‘investigation’. In addition, sadly enough, the complete lack of understanding of the party’s organizational principles and statutes by the comrades conducting the investigation is revealed in their report itself. This report was incompetent even from the point of view of the needs of the party leadership and has placed them in the embarrassing position of having to go beyond the findings of the Commission (to twist the thoughts and attitudes cited in the report into ‘methods’ and ‘practices’) in their final attempt to get rid of us (after having failed to drive us from the party in 2 1/2 years of ever-increasing organizational provocation and harassment).
I have nothing more to say than that at all times I have abided by the organizational statutes and principles of the party as stated in the 1938 convention decision and in the party constitution, and believe that these statutes are correct and necessary for the functioning of a Bolshevik organization, and I protest to the uttermost my suspension from the party.