Marxist Bulletin No. 3 – Part I
1962 Split in the SWP Revolutionary Tendency
Statement from the NYC Tendency Majority
4 November 1962
To all members of the SWP Minority, the Revolutionary Tendency:
Last night the attached statement was read to the NYC section of the revolutionary tendency by comrade Albert Philips who had just returned from England. Philips, with comrade Wohlforth concurring, declared that this statement must be signed by any comrade in order to be in the “reorganized” group and that this statement together with signatures would be sent to the SWP leadership and submitted to the Party bulletin within two weeks. Philips further stated that the statement had been written by comrade Healy himself, acting in consultation with other comrades of the British SLL and also of the French IC group. Finally, Philips stated that the British didn’t care if only two people signed, those two were going to be “the” tendency as far as Healy was concerned. Comrade Philips offered no evidence other than his own word, and the fact that he’d been called for consultation by the SLL, to support his statement that his interpretations were nothing more or less than the views of the International leadership.
After discussion the following motion was adopted by the New York comrades;
“The New York section of the Revolutionary Tendency in the SWP regards the document presented to us by Comrade Philips as a contribution to the discussion now under way in the tendency. The section states that, in accordance with the principles of democratic centralism, it will accept in disciplined fashion the decisions of the international conference at which it will be represented. The tendency reaffirms in general and in detail its adherence to the basic statement of principle, ‘In Defense of a Revolutionary Perspective’.”
The vote on this motion was: for-8, against-0, abstain-1, not voting-6 (two visitors from Detroit also “not voting”). Following this vote the local minority (Wohlforth) declared they considered the tendency split and dissolved. Locally what this means is that only five party comrades of the existing tendency will sign the document (the other “not voting” is not officially a party member), while the eight voting for the adopted motion are joined by the “abstaining” and the only absent comrade in refusing to sign and accept the ultimatum. In addition, our two close sympathizers in the YSA will doubtless stand with our local majority.
It is to the enormous credit of the NYC comrades that they stood fast and refused to bow to a device literally borrowed from the arsenal of bureaucratic-centralism which facilitated the downfall of the Communist International in the Nineteen Twenties—but a crime has been accomplished nonetheless; the eager, adamant splitting of our weak tendency into two parts by comrade Wohlforth. Politically, what it means, of course, is that a section of the tendency is receding in the direction of the party majority or, more exactly, trying to crawl into its good graces (and perhaps seeking to offer up our necks in the bargain!). Sadly, this takes place just at a time when the unstable equilibrium and unity of the central party leadership has been shaken over the Cuban crisis and a section of the leadership shows signs of moving toward the left.
What is completely and entirely intolerable and unacceptable is the method of intervention by the British leadership and their demand for a recantation of views on the SWP by us. Independent of the incorrectness of the British opinions about the revolutionary nature of the SWP and the petty-bourgeois nature of ourselves, their laying down the law without a completed discussion and vote by all of us is dead wrong. We have stated clearly that should we lose in such a discussion we would loyally abide by the decision. Wohlforth can’t even abide by the process of democratic discussion and has instead inveigled overseas comrades into an ultimatistic intervention. What we will not do is repudiate our political convictions—i.e., we will not capitulate. (The acceptance of this course, even as a “tactic”, means the end of comrades as revolutionaries, since afterward one can never raise or act on one’s real ((?)) views without being denounced and disciplined as a deceiver.)
One of the most serious implications of the mode of intervention of the SLL-IC is the question mark that it places over the capacity of these comrades to rebuild the Fourth International on a solid basis. We must reserve final judgement until more of the circumstances are clear. But no matter what the British were told or what they believe, they will be hard put to find justification in Leninist and Trotskyist precedent and procedure for their conduct.
There is little point at this juncture in trying to undertake a detailed repudiation of the mass of lies and slanders about “strikebreaking”, “renegacy”, “disloyalty”, “betrayal”, and “splitting” as regards the SWP that have been heaped upon our heads by Wohlforth and Philips (and presumably whispered into Healy’s ear). Last night, when called to account for these charges and this language, Wohlforth stated that he didn’t actually know of any actual act violating SWP discipline (but that “it was implicit in our line”, etc.). This he said after presenting the syllogism, “We are loyal party members; you are disloyal party members; it is the duty of loyal party members to tell the party leadership when you know of disloyal party members.”
As our enclosed letter to Wohlforth and Philips’ presumed backers in Europe shows, we are prepared to go to any principled length to undo the split brought to us. Already in past weeks we have chosen to overlook the entire breakdown in common, responsible work in NYC. The Wohlforth local minority has repudiated the thought and practice of a common front to the Party Majority or of a democratic selection of our representatives in the movement. Likewise we went ahead to help finance Philips’ trip to England despite his provocative open letter which wrote us out of the movement.
Where we stand
1. We will persist along these lines in seeking reunification of the tendency (as well as naturally seeking a common front and common work wherever possible with the other wing of the Minority). We must, however, face the realities of the situation. This split, lightly made, will not be lightly undone. We will do well if we, by our present stance, but plant a seed of doubt now in the minds of European comrades over the correctness of their arbitrary involvement backing Wohlforth and forcing a precipitate split.
2. We will in any case, maintain our view on the nature of the SWP which was recently summarized clearly as follows: “…a majority of the tendency regards the Party as centrist, ourselves as the Bolshevik movement, the differences as ultimately irreconcilable, our taking power in the Party nationally as chimerical, and democratic centralism, or discipline in one form or another as essential.”
3. We will do our utmost to remain in the Socialist Workers Party no matter what provocations we are subjected to. In addition to all of the compelling reasons and the perspective that we’ve unfolded in previous discussion and draft resolution documents, with the intra-Tendency split, it becomes a matter of political survival of our precious revolutionary cadre that we stay in and work in the SWP in the period ahead.
WE CALL UPON ALL COMRADES OF THE REVOLUTIONARY TENDENCY IN THE SWP TO REPUDIATE AND REFUSE TO SIGN THE STATEMENT WHICH ENDS “5. ONLY THOSE COMRADES WHO ACCEPT THESE CONDITIONS CAN BE MEMBERS OF THE TENDENCY”…BUT WHICH CONDITIONS NONE OF US WERE ALLOWED TO DISCUSS AND VOTE ON. NO LENINIST COMMUNIST WILL PERMIT HIMSELF THAT DEGRADATION!
on behalf of the entire NYC Tendency Majority