Marxist Bulletin No. 3 – Part I
1962 Split in the SWP Revolutionary Tendency
Letter from S. Mage to G. Healy
New York, N.Y.
4 November 1962
Dear Comrade Healy,
I write to you in shock and disbelief. Last night comrades Philips and Wohlforth, claiming to act in your name and on your instructions as given to Philips last week in London, in short declaring themselves to be your direct agents, carried out a criminal split from the majority of our tendency. Slandering the other comrades present with words like “renegade,” “strikebreaker,” “petit-Bourgeois,” and “disloyal,” they presented a document that previously had been kept secret from the members of the tendency and delivered the ultimatum that those who refused to sign it would immediately cease to be members of “their” tendency. When the majority of the tendency in New York voted to regard this document as a discussion contribution, Philips and Wohlforth announced that their split from the tendency was henceforth in effect.
I find it nearly impossible, comrade Healy, to believe that the Wohlforth-Philips claim to your full endorsement is accurate. The ultimatum presented last night is one which no sincere and thinking revolutionist could possibly accept. The Philips document makes a large number of statements and proposals on questions currently under discussion and on which many comrades have expressed diverse opinions. Disagreement [with] even one of these points makes it an act of perjury and political suicide for a comrade to sign the document. Particularly since all, of these controversial points, if adopted after full discussion by a majority of the tendency in accordance with the normal procedures of democratic centralism, would be accepted in disciplined fashion by every member of the tendency, this ultimatum can have no purpose except to split from comrades with whom no avowed fundamental difference exists (or exists as yet—there are indications that Wohlforth may be preparing capitulation to the SWP majority by way of certain formulations in this document.)
You have undoubtedly been told, as we were told to our face. that the majority of the tendency in the U.S. is preparing to split from the SWP. I can give you the most categorical assurance that this is a lie. If we were willing to falsify our views, we would have no qualms about signing this document, either. When all of us have stated that we have no perspective outside the SWP we meant every word. What then are the main disagreements with the substantive line of the Philips document? Speaking for myself, (and leaving aside its introduction as a split ultimatum, which would make it impossible for me to sign it even if I agreed with every word and comma otherwise,) I would state that these differences are essentially only two;
1) I disagree with the proposal to centralize discussion among members of the tendency in the U.S. through a bulletin published in England. This proposal could only tend to obstruct the healthy political and organizational development of the tendency. Moreover, as far as I can see it would be a direct violation of SWP party discipline and certainly would be a disloyal act toward the party!
2) I believe that the entire SWP leadership, by its political methodology, outlook, and practise, is fundamentally Pabloite. Like all centrist tendencies it is heterogeneous, and splits within it can be counted on to provide us with concrete chances to intervene. But I would give weight to differences among individuals within this leadership only in the context of their basic political identity.
But what it is most difficult for me to accept in the Wohlforth-Philips claim, comrade Healy, is the light in which it casts your letter, dated Oct. 24, 1962, to comrade Ireland. In that letter you wrote “I think there will have to be some compromise between you on this matter without, of course, interfering with your political opinions.” Could this wise and correct orientation be more drastically belied than by the Wohlforth-Philips document which makes no “compromise” whatsoever with the majority opinion of the tendency and “interferes” in the most reprehensible way with the “political opinions” of the majority, by demanding their public recantation?
I cling to the hope that your words of Oct. 24 continue to express your true position and that your views have been as thoroughly misrepresented to us by Wohlforth and Philips as ours have been misrepresented by them to you. If this is the case, then little is permanently lost, and the discussion within a united tendency can continue in a constructive way. We would, I am sure, do everything possible to assure this and, notably, would make all sacrifices necessary to send representation of the tendency majority to consult directly with you and other European comrades.
I anxiously await your reply in the earnest hope that healthy political collaboration between us can be restored.
Copy to Paris