Problems in History & Theory: The End of “American Trotskyism”? — Part 2

Against the Current, No. 54, January/February 1995

Alan Wald

[This article is part two of a series: Part 1 can be read here.]

II. Trotskyism in Perspective

IN MY VIEW, there are many important elements of the historical experiences of the Trotskyist movement that warrant retention, but the over-riding issue is how to theorize them. For example, the 1930s experiences of Minneapolis, and the 1960s experience of the anti-war movement, are the most memorable. But there are also other recuperable episodes such as James P. Cannon’s World War II political strategy,(1) the Workers Party’s fight against the No Strike Pledge, the theoretical work of C. L. R. James and George Breitman on Black nationalism, Hal Draper’s “Socialism From Below” concept, and perhaps the Independent Socialist League’s economic analysis of the Permanent War Economy.

These achievements, though insufficient as a foundation, condemning any movement to continuing isolation if made its centerpiece, can be powerful contributions to some larger project. For the latter to happen, one must do the necessary housecleaning and think seriously about the problematical features of the legacy, not simply repeat mythologies created to justify different Trotskyist traditions from one generation to the next.

Unfortunately, no clear answers to any of the most difficult questions about this legacy are available. This is because, for all the massive amount of internal debating and document-writing on U. S. Trotskyism, surprisingly little serious research and even creative thought has been applied. For example, despite the fact that the one arena in which Trotskyists might hope to have a claim to future radical activities is the labor movement, surprisingly little detailed and circumspectual information exists in readily-available form about the past experience.

* There is Art Preis’ Labor’s Giant Step (1964), which had some influence among New Left writers in the 1960s, and Farrell Dobbs’ four volumes — Teamster Rebellion (1972), Teamster Power (1973), Teamster Politics (1975), and Teamster Bureaucracy (1977) — which have been ignored by recent scholars.(2)

* There is one quarter-of-a-century old dissertation on the Minneapolis Strikes, “The Labor Movement in Minneapolis in the 1930s” (University of Minnesota, 1970) by George Tselos, which was never published and is rarely cited.

* There is some brief mention of Trotskyists in Martin Glaberman’s War-Time Strikes (1980), David Milton’s Politics of U.S. Labor (1982), and Nelson Lichtenstein’s Labor’s War at Home (1982).

* There are a number of essays and books that provide Trotskyist and semi-Trotskyist perspectives on episodes in U.S. labor history, but for the most part not detailed descriptions of what real female and male Trotskyists actually did in specific situations.(3) Among such authors, who vary considerably in the degree and kind of “Trotskyism” that shapes their outlook (and who may well have adopted dramatically different political perspectives by now), one might include Steve Briar, Paul Buhle, Charles Capper, Bert Cochran, Mike Davis, Michael Goldfield, Tom Kerry, Dan LaBotz, Bruce Levine, Geoge Lipsitz, Frank Lovell, Staughton Lynd, Kim Moody, George Rawick, David Roediger, Stan Weir, and Seth Wigderson, among others.

Yet the area of labor scholarship, which is characterized mainly by evidencing the impact of Trotskyist analysis and a minimal representation of Trotskyist practice, is probably the high point of research on U.S. Trotskyism. For example, although we can expect some improvement with Peter Drucker’s political biography of Max Shachtman, Max Shachtman and His Left: A Socialist Odyssey Through the “American Century” (Humanities Press, 1994), the general histories of U.S. Trotskyism are almost universally the marred by a corrupting kind of partisanship. Obviously a clear point of view is necessary for such a project but too often the political hobbyhorse of the author drives out two crucial elements.(4)

One such element is the need for rich and multifaceted primary research, since a political movement is not just words on paper but lived experience in meetings, on shop floors, and in personal life. Another is an elementary good-faith effort to reproduce fairly other points of view before smashing them on behalf of views reflecting one’s own partisan allegiances. Refuting a caricature is, to say the least, a pyrrhic victory, useful mainly for bolstering the morale of own’s own small circle.

Extreme partisanship and a priority on proving one’s own faction’s “correctness” may be expected, and perhaps even desired, in works published by party presses and authored by party leaders, such as James P. Cannon’s History of American Trotskyism (1944) and Tim Wohlforth’s The Struggle for Marxism in the United States (1971), or even in the memoirs of rank-and-file activists loyal to one group or another, such as Ben Stone’s Memoirs of a Radical Rank and Filer (1986). But works of a scholarly, historical or theoretical character aimed at a broader audience should be held to a higher standard.

Alex Callinicos’s book on Trotskyism, focusing mainly on the U.S. and England, gets off to a promising start, worthy of the considerable abilities and admirable political commitment of its author. Within a short time, however, a large number of important issues are treated through the prism of British Socialist Workers Party leader Tony Cliff’s version of state capitalism. Most of the important rivals to Cliff are depicted as near-idiots (or, at best, like Max Shachtman and Ernest Mandel, praised as slick debaters), whereas Cliff, an important figure to be sure, is portrayed as never having made a political blunder in his life.(5)

Christopher Z. Hobson and Ronald Tabor’s massive Trotskyism and the Dilemma of Socialism states in its Introduction that the work was intended to be a history of the Trotskyist movement with only a “relatively brief discussion of the Trotskyist movement’s mistaken position on Russia.” In the end, however, the authors discovered that they had devoted “nearly half the book” to castigating all other Trotskyists for their failure to understand the authors’ view of state capitalism.(6)

In my opinion, the tendency to study Trotskyism mainly by filtering everything through a “line” (usually on “the Russian Question”) to which one had a previous loyalty, is partly due to the previously discussed problem that so much of Trotskyism’s validity depended on its relation to the model of the Russian Revolution. But narrow “line evaluation” is also the mode of thought predominating for another reason: It is easier to resort to ideological hair-splitting based on documents, polemics and periodicals (often spiced at crucial points with unverifiable personal “horror stories”, than to confront in a fair and sympathetic manner the ambiguities of lived experience.

Thus, when Hobson and Tabor mention in passing issues that might be rich with lessons for subsequent generations of radicals — for example, the 1939 “auto crisis” in the Trotskyist movement, which reveals early on the difficulty of navigating between anti-Stalinism and reaction; or race relations in the SWP during the 1940s when hundreds of Black proletarians joined the organization — they present one-sided smears of the Socialist Workers Party.

It is also unfortunate that the biographical component of Trotskyist historiography is so weak. Drucker’s book about Shachtman will be a signal contribution, yet it is still a political rather than a personal study. No biography of Cannon has been written,(7) and the sustained essays that exist, such as the recent one by the Spartacist League introducing a collection of Cannon’s early writings, omit all references to aspects that complicate their one-dimensional portrait.(8) Of course, the writings of Cannon reprinted in that book can certainly facilitate one’s learning more about U.S. Marxist strategy and tactics in the 1920s; but one would never have the slightest idea from the biographical essay or contents of this volume that Cannon was anything other than a political machine.

It is conveniently omitted that he began his political life as a “Christian socialist”; that his personal life was extremely complicated (he ran off with his high school teacher who was twice his age, only to abandon her for the young wife of Debs’ biographer); that he was much shaped emotionally by the poetry of Bryant and Kipling, which he loved to recite; that his brothers (never mentioned) may have been an influence on his life — all of which would humanize Cannon and make possible a richer explanation of his strengths and weaknesses. More importantly, Cannon’s political role in the period covered by the volume almost always is filtered through the lens of Cannon’s memory decades later, with minimal independent verification.

It is also regrettable that, at this late date, there is no serious study of Trotskyist women in the U.S. — even though, until recently, several rather crucial figures, such as Raya Dunayevskaya and Grace Carlson, were living and available to assist, and other leaders such as Myra Tanner, Dorothy Schultz, and Genora Dollinger are alive yet.(9) The work on African-American Trotskyists is only slightly better, thanks to the efforts of George Breitman and the international fame of C.L.R. James. Still, there is very little on Ernest Rice McKinney, other than Dianne Feeley’s mostly unpublished research on the unemployed movement, or Edgar Keemer, other than his own autobiography; and almost nothing on other important African-American Trotskyist women and men.(10)

While I myself have devoted efforts to literary Trotskyists, the cultural field offers many other possibilities — such as several important musicians including the composers George Perl and Noah Greenberg, and the artists Laura Slobe (Laura Gray) and Jesse Cohen (Carlo). The recent obituary for Vincent Copeland in the New York Times may have surprised many with its discussion of Copeland’s acting career.(11) Local studies of Trotskyist political activities — in Chicago (where there were several major anti-racist campaigns); San Francisco; Los Angeles; Detroit; etc. — are virtually nil, although, fortunately, the historian Bruce Nelson (who comes from different political tradition rather than Trotskyism) is working on Trotskyist steelworkers in Youngstown.(12)

There are no studies of gay and lesbian Trotskyists. The gay one-time Trotskyist leader Tom Stamm was interviewed only by Robert Alexander, and exclusively on the French Turn dispute. The discussions some of us held with Phil Clark, a rank-and-filer and occasional branch organizer of the SWP, before his death were never tape recorded nor properly authenticated, so that the participants now disagree about what he said.(13) Hence, the information available remains highly contradictory, although it is still possible for more detailed research to be pursued.

In 1985 I corresponded with George Breitman in regard to homosexuality in the SWP. Breitman insisted that he never heard any deliberations about any aspects of sexual orientation among the leadership on the National Committee or in the National Office until the 1960s, although it is possible that he was simply ignorant of such discussions. Moreover, he recalled that during the time he served as branch organizer in Newark during the 1930s or 1940s, no one ever suggested to him that homosexuals should be prohibited from joining, and he is certain that homosexuals were active in the membership and leadership of the branch.

In Breitman’s recollection, the argument that homosexuals might be blackmailed by the FBI during the witch-hunt was never raised until the 1960s. Although he had heard, after he joined, that Tom Stamm was gay and had taken a leave of absence for a while, he was skeptical of Clark’s memory that George Novack on behalf of the Political Committee had urged Clark to leave the SWP until he had been “cured” by a Freudian therapist.(14) On the other hand, Frank Fried, a one-time Chicago leader of the SWP, was certain that a number of female party members working in the packinghouses were expelled for lesbianism.(15)

Trotskyist autobiographies are both thin and sparse compared to those of former Communists.(16) Neither Cannon’s written nor Shachtman’s oral histories are particularly searching, and certainly not very self-critical in light of the major problems of the movement.(17) The major published activist memoir to date, other than the one previously mentioned by Ben Stone, is Albert Glotzer’s Trotsky: Memoir and Critique (1989). This, again, shows the tendency to abandon complex personal and human revelation and primary research, and to refract everything through the programmatic obsession.

Glotzer’s memoir could have told us many important things about the day-to-day life of the Trotskyist movement, but, instead, we get a tedious reiteration of the argument that Leninism led to Stalinism.(18) Irving Howe’s autobiography, A Margin of Hope, is certainly more thoughtful, but, as an “intellectual” memoir, political practice, personal revelation, and scholarly documentation are all given short-shrift.

In sum, virtually all the exciting research that has been applied to the Communist movement in recent decades has bypassed the Trotskyists. Hence it is now possible to give fuller and more serious answers to questions about the Communist than the Trotskyist tradition.(19) Given this limitation, I propose to raise questions that might be topics for research if their importance can be established, and to provide what light we can based on what is known at present.

III. Defining Trotskyism

One of the key problems in the theory and history of U.S. Trotskyism is the definition of Trotskyism itself. This problem immediately underscores the need for an analytical method based on perspectives and approaches, not absolutes and blueprints. It is, I think, fair and plausible to include within Trotskyism all those who declare themselves Trotskyists and exclude those who deny any such allegiance. Nevertheless, accepting any and all self-definitions will be problematic, since some self-proclaimed Trotskyists are regarded by others as palpably fraudulent, and some groups refusing a Trotskyist identity have political views similar to Trotskyism.

The “open door” policy of determining who is and isn’t “Trotskyist,” although it may be the only option, can force a discussion of Trotskyism into all sorts of by-ways, and necessarily often into the very debates that have make it appear sectarian, ingrown and cultist.

A constructive discussion in the 1990s of Trotskyism, while it has an obligation to deal critically with sectarian off-shoots that may well have done more harm than good to its legacy, has to keep its primary focus on the recuperable segments. One or another of the little groups that may be traced back to Trotskyist origins or that may consider themselves the only “true Trotskyist” current may have produced an impressive analysis of this or that conjunctural event, or led a significant struggle here or there. However, in the end, one has to come back to the question of “impact” to determine one’s priorities for focusing one’s energies — the same question of “impact” that relegates Trotskyism as a whole to a vital element, but not the epicenter, of U.S. left-wing politics.

This issue of trying to define Trotskyism also raises the problem of explaining why there have been so many schisms and divisions in the U.S. Trotskyist movement, which parallels, although perhaps in more intensive form, a feature of the left as a whole. The unfortunate result, as we all know, is that there now exists a plethora of different socialist and communist groups and grouplets, most of which are extremely hostile to each other. Many newly radicalizing students and workers can hardly tell the difference among the groups. Thus quite a few would be-socialists become perplexed if not discouraged by the state of disorganization on the part of the so-called “organized” left.

At the least, this proliferation confuses the non-socialist public as to the very meaning of the word “Socialism” let alone “Trotskyism.” At worst, these divisions set the left against itself precisely when it needs to unify against common enemies of racism, sexism, imperialism, and the exploitation of labor and the environment. Yet one finds that the subject of schisms on the Trotskyist left is one which rarely, if ever, is treated with the seriousness, subtlety, and sophistication it deserves.

Most often intra-left feuding, and the creation of what seems an endless list of new self-proclaimed vanguard parties bearing pretentious and redundant names and initials, gives rise to ridicule and cynicism on the part of those who have either abandoned, or who never took to heart, a commitment to build a socialist movement. On the other hand, for those immersed in the difficult task of building socialist organizations, the subject is so complex, and the issues so volatile, that it is difficult to present an analysis that achieves any semblance of objectivity, or at least a dispassionate statement of the two, three, ten, twenty, or fifty different positions that can and have emerged over a controversial political event.

Still, although one desires unity on the left, and has a vision that one would like to see realized of a broad, non-sectarian, internally democratic, multi-tendency, revolutionary socialist organization, it is pretty obvious that some of the divisions that have occured on the U.S. left “have” been necessary and important. To some degree these divisions are the same that have occurred within the international socialist movement of the last one hundred and fifty years or so, and reflect real differentiations in strategy, tactics and even morality that can not be overcome simply by good will. Here I am referring to the famous disputes between Marxism and anarchism; Marxism and Bernsteinian-type revisionism; Bolshevism and Menshevism; internationalism and social patriotism; workers democracy and bourgeois democracy; and Trotskyism and Stalinism.

Differences in these categories can be so momentous, can touch on such fundamental questions relating to the strategy and the very nature of social transformation, that I don’t see how any “tactfulness,” no matter how artful, or how any “conciliationism,” no matter how magnanimous, can in the long run prevent differences of this order from erupting and necessitating a parting of ways. After all, if an interimperialist war breaks out, and one faction in an organization wants to support “its” country’s war, and the other takes an internationalist position of urging all workers to refuse to fight, these factions cannot coexist in the same organization.

Likewise, there have been situations such as the war in Vietnam, where French social democracy and later the United States social democrats refused to demand the complete withdrawal of the imperialist troops of France and then troops of the U.S. from the colonial country, while the revolutionary left demanded “out now” and supported the right of the Vietnamese to self-determination. These are incompatible positions of historic magnitude. And such divisions occur not only in wartime. There have even been relatively small strikes, such as the famous Ocean-Hill Brownsville teachers’ strike of 1968, where different radical groups were on opposite sides of the picket lines: some supporting the union, and others suppporting the Black community.(20)

Schisms of this character are subjects for highly detailed study; they are, in fact, the classroom for learning the “ins and outs” of politics. They should really not be cause for dismay or demoralization in that they at least lend themselves to rational analysis, to the potential assimilation of certain methodological principles that ought to help prevent a repetition. These are real and clear-cut distinctions. They are the kind of differences that resulted at certain past moments in the formation of Communist parties, Socialist parties, Trotskyist parties, Leninist and non-Leninist parties, and so on.

At the other extreme, and far more troubling, are splits and schisms that seem less explicable. For example, there might be two Trotskyist or Maoist factions of the same party, which adhere to the same body of theory yet who go to war with each other over some passage in a document that might seem obscure to the uninitiated. One faction ends up expelling the other, and perhaps even goes so far as to denounce the other as counter-revolutionary. Here, there might be all sorts of possible explanations. There could be genuine differences in the assessment of this or that event, although the question remains as to why that should necessitate such a brutal schism. Why shouldn’t a socialist organization be broad enough to contain a variety of opinions, with the factions and tendencies learning from each other?(21) Why not let the test of time resolve such episodic controversies as long as there is agreement on the larger questions? Clearly this is a reasonable perspective so long as one is not in the situation of coping with provocations by police agents, or a wrecking operation by some external political group that has sent in or recruited agents bent on destroying one’s organization.

Yet one also has to be careful about relying on platitudes about democracy and programmatic agreement that are likely to be violated the moment one is faced with a real-life situation. The truth is that sometimes the kinds of schisms described above are going to occur whether or not they are objectively justified. They may reflect internal power struggles for leadership of an organization, or severe personality conflicts, or fits of subjectivity induced by conditions in the outside world. People with socialist dreams still live in the same world and are subject to the same weaknesses as everyone else.

On the other hand, an internal struggle that seems cryptic could actually be symptomatic of one faction or another drifting in the direction of one of those historic dividing lines that do seem to necessitate separate organizations — that have always caused a parting of ways, internationally and repeatedly, for a century and a half.

The list of schism-causing issues since the 1930s is unbelievably long. There have been disagreements over the relationship of workers to farmers; whether to work in existing trade unions or create new, revolutionary unions; whether to work within, without, or inside/outside the Democratic Party; whether to work with or against the trade union bureaucracy; whether to support or oppose the nationalism of oppressed minorities or condemn all forms of nationalism. Other debates occurred over the relation of politics to artistic and cultural work; and the relation of socialism to feminism.

Moreover, it is necessary to realize that questions and disputes such as these have been played out against the very complicated social formation of the United States. Indeed, since the time of Marx and Engels a debate has raged over why the United States, with what appears to be the purest form of capitalism, has produced a working-class movement with a remarkably low level of socialist class consciousness in comparison not only to other advanced industrial societies but even to numerous dominated Third World nations.

This debate has been recreated in many famous essays with variations of the title, “Why No Socialism in America?” which means, why have socialist class consciousness and mass organization been so limited? This could give a U.S.-specific framework to certain controversies, especially those around the most effective approach to the Democratic Party and to nationalist movements of people of color.

Such complications notwithstanding, the question remains of why are there so many splits and what to do about them. This can not be answered by any formula and least of all by platitudes, pro-“pluralism” of all views, or pro-programmatic agreement. Formal guarantees of democratic rights and procedures for resolving disputes are absolutely essential, yet no one should have the illusion that these can’t be readily twisted, reworked and refunctioned by majorities as well as minorities to justify almost any desired behavior. The answer will only come through studying examples and concrete experiences from all angles, and, of course, through one’s own engagements in analogous situations in the 1990s and after. No formula exists to protect socialists from complex and painful developments. One can, however, seek to foster a long-term commitment to constructing a serious and democratic organization, through collaboration with diverse individuals, all pledged to a kind of collective political life, through which individuality is realized with, not against or apart from, one’s co-thinkers.

The big question nonetheless remains: can Trotskyism play a uniquely dynamic role in a current reconstitution of a revolutionary socialist left? The answer, I feel, will not be found in doctrine, by which I mean adherence to labels, programs, slogans or theory. As with organizational “rights,” the record now shows that all these can be interpreted far too variously. The answer can only lie in method. We have to go back and review the epistemological issues raised in Georg Lukács’ famous essay, comprising the opening of History and Class Consciousness, “What Is Orthodox Marxism?”(22) Lukács claimed that the essence of Marxism was method; Leninists, such as the Trotskyist George Novack, intelligently observed that a method which can exist for long periods of time without producing valid “programmatic conquests” must be highly suspect. Therefore, Marxism must be more than a method, also embracing specific conclusions on historical experiences and political policy.(23)

By 1994, however, we can see for ourselves that the reliance on the more specific kinds “programmatic conquests” is also highly problematical even if the more general propositions about class struggle seem to be confirmed over and over again.(24) Once a passage in a programmatic document begins to be applied in practice, all hell breaks loose. There are just too many divergent assessments of that application to enable socialists to crow about “programmatic conquests” with any certainty. The application of the “united front tactic” in the opinion of one Trotskyist is nothing but “slimy Popular Frontism” in the opinion of another; the defense of the principle of self-determination to one, is merely “tail-ending petit-bourgeois nationalism” to another, and so forth.(25) As a consequence, while not eschewing program entirely, we must return again to method, but method as inseparable from program.

[A href=”/?p=2853/”>Continue to Part 3.]


  1. See my discussion of this in The New York Intellectuals, 193-99.
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  2. In 1991 an impressive study called Community of Suffering and Struggle: Women, Men, and the Labor Movement in Minneapolis by Elizabeth Faue was published the University of North Carolina Press; yet she refers to Dobbs only twice in the book, while the Communist writer Meridel Le Sueur is cited at least thirty times.
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  3. A notable exception is Rank and File edited by Alice and Staughton Lynd (Urbana, Illinois; University of Illinois Press, 1990).
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  4. Two important exceptions to this are A. Belden Field’s Trotskyism and Maoism: Theory and Practice in France in the United States (New York: Praeger, 1988) and Robert Alexander, International Trotskyism (Durham, N.C.: Duke U. Press, 1991). Although both authors have their own political views, neither reshapes the subject dramatically in order to validate a factional obsession. On the other hand, both, at times, lack a “feel” for the reality of the Trotskyist movement, and both cast their nets so wide that their surveys of the historical experience in the U.S. are limited and partial. See review of Fields by Alan Wald in American Historical Review (April 1991): 473-4, and review of Alexander by Paul Le Blanc in Bulletin in Defense of Marxism #102 (Jan. 1993): 38-40.
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  5. One might hope that Callinicos would take to heart the thoughtful review by Paul Clarke in International Marxist Review #13 (Spring 1992): 127-43.
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  6. Christopher Z. Hobson and Ronald Tabor, Trotskyism and the Dilemma of Socialism (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1988), xvii.
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  7. The eminent Canadian labor historian, Bryan Palmer, recently announced his intention to write one.
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  8. At the least, an effort should have been made to reconcile certain contradictions in the available data. For example, Cannon recalled that he was central in demolishing the “Goose” Caucus in the underground and defeating the policies of Comintern representative John Pepper; yet the dates of his activities show that Cannon was either away in Moscow (seven months) or on a West Coast speaking tour (five months) during these episodes. The Cannon-Foster relationship might also more critically explored. Among other things, apparently due to factionalism, the editors take seriously Constance Ashton Myers’ claim in The Prophet’s Army that Max Shachtman died an admirer of Stalin (it’s not surprising, based on her book, that she mistook his irony — but the editors of this volume must have been mainly looking for a factional club against Shachtman), and they misrepresent Earl Browder’s attitude toward Cannon, assuming that it must have been totally hostile when, in fact, he saw many virtues in Cannon’s published recollections.
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  9. Elizabeth Faue, at least, interviewed Marvel Scholl for Community of Suffering and Struggle, but the references are sparse in accordance with her general lack of interest in Trotskyism.
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  10. Edgar Keemer, Confessions of a Pro-Life Abortionist (Detroit: Vinco Press, 1980). Unpublished manuscript on McKinney and the Unemployed Movement in possession of Dianne Feeley. See also Charles Denby, Indignant Heart (New York: Monthly Review, 1963).
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  11. Bruce Lambert, Vincent Copeland, 77, Is Dead; Led Anti-War Protests in 1960s, New York Times, 10 June 1993: A16.
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  12. Correspondence with Bruce Nelson, August 23, 1993.
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  13. See Patrick Quinn, “In Memorium: Phil Clark,” Against the Current VII, no. 4 (New Series): 49.
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  14. Letter from George Breitman to Alan Wald, March 14, 1985. Sam Gordon’s recollections about Cannon’s support of Stamm when Stamm was arrested for homosexuality tend to confirm Breitman’s views. See Les Evans, ed., James P. Cannon as We Knew Him (New York: Pathfinder, 1966), 66.
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  15. Telephone interview with Frank Fried, Sept. 1993.
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  16. Wohlforth must be especially praised for the generosity and balance of his portraits of numerous figures in the Trotskyist movement with whom he came in contact. However, his political conclusions do not strike me as anything new, as he claims, but largely a reversion to familiar pre-Leninist and anti-Leninist simplicities. I expressed my differences with Wohlforth on this matter in the article “In Defense of Critical Leninism,” Against the Current 6 (New Series, Nov.-Dec. 1986): 44-47. Wohlforth replied in “The Need for Post-Leninism,” Against the Current 8 (March-April 1987): 37-39.
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  17. However, some of Cannon’s personal letters toward the end of his life indicate an awareness of some of the dangers facing the SWP; see the pamphlet by Cannon, Don’t Strangle the Party (New York: Fourth Internationalist Tendency, 1986).
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  18. See review by Wald, “Party Lines and Passing Factions,” Washington Post Book World, 14 January 1990: 4, and exchange in Post between Glotzer and Wald, “Russian Histories,” 4 March 1990: 15.
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  19. Also lacking at this date is a theory for such a discrepancy, outside of the obvious observation that the Trotskyist movement was smaller. Among the factors that might be considered are the close connection between this movement and its exiled leader, who was assassinated in 1940 — thus imparting a legacy that was largely based on a politics of survival apart from a center of power (note the title of the third volume of Deutscher’s biography, Prophet in Exile), and that failed to address the dramatically new political world of the post-World War II era.
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  20. See the recent study by Jerald E. Podair, “’White’ Values, `Black’ Values: The Ocean-Hill Brownsville Controversy and New York City Culture, 1965-75,” Radical History Review 59 (Spring 1994): 36-59.
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  21. Of course, small groups do usually not have enough resources to try to do many things at once.
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  22. Georg Lukács, History and Class Consciousness: Studies in Marxist Dialectics (London: Merlin Press, 1971).
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  23. George Novack, “Georg Lukács as a Marxist Philosopher,” in Polemics in Marxist Philosophy (New York: Monad Press, 1978), 117-145.
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  24. However, even in regard to “more general propositions about class struggle,” I would suggest that no alleged principle should ever been seen as “automatic.” Thus the “principle” of never crossing a picket line or opposing a strike can be challenged if the strike is racist, just as the policy of never supporting the economic or military power of U.S. imperialism was modified when revolutionaries endorsed the U.S. economic embargo of South Africa and the use of Federal troops to enforce school integration in the South. While there are no doubt relevant analogies from the past, “general propositions” themselves must under new conditions be redefined and even put in question by experience.
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  25. For an example of this kind of sectarian polemicizing, see Fred Mueller, SWP: Reform or Revolution (New York: Labor Publications, 1972).
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ATC 54, January-February 1995