In Reply to Peter Boyle, by Barry Sheppard

By Barry Sheppard

In his review of both volumes of my political memoir about my time in the SWP (Posted Here), Peter has a long section justifying the Democratic Socialist Party’s position on various subjects. (Like Peter, I’ll just refer to the Australian SWP which later became the DSP as just the DSP, for clarity. When I refer to the SWP, I mean the U.S. SWP.)

Since Peter’s piece is a review of my book, one could get the impression that Peter is answering criticisms I made of the DSP in it.

While I do talk about the DSP a fair amount in both volumes, in only one place do I criticize the DSP, and that occurs in the second volume, in the chapter on Afghanistan in the late 1970s and 1980s. A point in that chapter centered on the initial support both the SWP and the DSP gave to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The SWP subsequently came to the conclusion that this was an error. In contrast, the “Australians….held fast to the wrong position of supporting the ill-fated Soviet invasion,” I wrote. That sentence is the sum total of criticisms of the DSP contained either volume.

In subsequent years other differences have developed between myself and the DSP. Although I did not discuss these differences in my book, Peter has opened the subject in his essay. So, I will outline a few major ones.

When the DSP broke with the Fourth International in the mid-1980s, it publicly took the position that Trotsky’s analysis of Stalinism was wrong and an obstacle to reaching agreements with “new forces.” In particular, the Trotskyist position that the ruling bureaucracy in the Soviet bloc and China could not be reformed but that a new proletarian revolution was necessary, was rejected. This was the most egregious aspect of the DSP’s break with Trotsky. In these years, the DSP began to orient to Gorbachev’s reforms in the USSR, and, at different times, sought to fuse with the two Stalinist parties in Australia. These efforts at fusion came to naught. In this orientation to Gorbachev and rejection of Trotsky’s analysis of Stalinism they were joined by Peter Camejo, who was working closely with the DSP at the time in its regroupment efforts with the Stalinists.

A terminological revision, resulting from this line, was the adoption by the DSP of the term “socialist states” in regard to the USSR, Eastern Europe and China. It is an oxymoron in itself, and could only possibly be applied to a dictatorship of the proletariat in an international situation where capitalism had been defeated and the workers’ state was “withering away.” Socialism never existed in these countries or anywhere else in the world. They were saddled with monstrous bureaucracies and bloated state apparatuses, which were certainly not “withering away.” The use of the term “socialist states” was an adaptation to forces which were themselves Stalinist (since the Stalinists long claimed they had achieved socialism), or revolutionaries who did not understand Stalinism and rejected Trotsky’s analysis of it such as the Cuban leaders.

In discarding Trotsky’s analysis of Stalinism the DSP was ill prepared to understand the collapse of the Soviet bloc and its return to capitalism, and China’s similar evolution. What had happened was what Trotsky predicted would happen if the workers failed to overthrow the Stalinist bureaucracies: “The political prognosis [for the USSR] has an alternative character: either the bureaucracy, becoming ever more the organ of the world bourgeoisie in the workers’ state, will overthrow the new forms of property and plunge the country back to capitalism; or the working class will crush the bureaucracy and open the way to socialism.”

After the collapse of the USSR, Peter Camejo, unlike the DSP, rejected his earlier view that Trotsky’s analysis was wrong.

Camejo went back and re-read Trotsky, especially “The Revolution Betrayed,” and came to the conclusion that Trotsky was completely correct about Stalinism. Camejo and I had long discussions from time to time as he read the book. When there was a public forum on what caused the collapse of the USSR with speakers from various points of view, Camejo was one of those scheduled to speak. He couldn’t make the meeting, and I substituted for him at his request.

The DSP first broke with Trotsky when Barnes did. But the DSP went much further. Barnes never broke with Trotsky’s analysis of Stalinism.

The second major difference I have with the DSP was when it publicly attacked the SWP’s analysis in the 1960s of Black Nationalism in the U.S. and our relations with Malcolm X. The DSP came to the conclusion that the Spartacists and Freedom Socialists had the correct analysis of the oppression of Blacks. The DSP rejected the SWP’s analysis, based on the lessons taught U.S. communists by the Bolsheviks, specifically both Lenin and Trotsky, that African Americans constitute an oppressed nationality. The DSP asserted that we were wrong to root our participation in the Black struggle in the right of Black people to self-determination. Moreover, the DSP at the same time (I believe this was in the early 2000s) came to the conclusion that that native Australians were not an oppressed nationality and they also had no right to self-determination.

Another difference was the DSP’s rejection of the SWP’s historic analysis of the Cuban revolution, and with it, the development of the concept of the workers’ and peasants’ government the SWP had developed in relation to the Chinese as well as Cuban revolutions.

A related deviation was an over-emphasis on the military in analyzing the class nature of states in developing worker and peasant revolutions. Thus when the attempted coup against Chavez in Venezuela failed in 2002, the DSP claimed that a “workers and peasants state” had been formed. Leaving aside the confusion in this formulation of a two-class state, this runs directly against what Chavez himself emphasizes, that a capitalist state and largely capitalist economy still exist in Venezuela, and that the masses must be further mobilized against it.

To return to Peter Boyle’s review. He claims “Barry proposes three main reasons for the degeneration of the SWP.” He lists these as 1) the objective situation; 2) “The SWP’s 1981 abandonment of Leon Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution”; and 3) the rise of the cult around Jack Barnes. This is not an accurate summation of the thesis I develop in my book.

What I explain is that the fundamental cause of the degeneration of the SWP was the degeneration of the leadership of the SWP into a cult. This began in the mid 1970s, predating both the political degeneration and the long turn for the worse in the objective situation internationally and nationally beginning in the 1980s. The developing formation of the cult made it impossible for the SWP to make the necessary political corrections in the face of the worsening objective situation, I explain. It was also at the heart of the complete break with the entire history of the SWP, organizationally, theoretically and politically, which included but was not limited to the break with Trotskyism (not only the theory of permanent revolution). The most debilitating aspect of this break with the historical SWP was the rejection of our previous analysis and practice in the trade unions spanning decades, and even reaching back to the orientation to the labor movement of the predecessors of the SWP. It was this break that had the greatest destructive effect on the SWP. It was in the labor movement that the new SWP under the Barnes cult first developed the sectarianism and abstentionism that soon spread to the SWP’s orientation to all the mass movements.

Peter doesn’t take up this central aspect of my second volume. Peter says that, “In 1979 [actually in 1978 — BS] the SWP adopted a ‘turn to industry,’ a tactic that subsequently hardened into a permanent workerist schema…”

It was not the turn to industry in 1978 that led to the SWP’s abstentionism, but the subsequent perversion of the original 1978 report outlining the turn. As I explain in a separate chapter, the turn to industry was a necessary step for the SWP. It wasn’t the turn to get a majority of our members into industry that was wrong, it was how it was carried out.

It is also wrong to characterize the present politics of the SWP as “workerist.” That term applies to those who reduce the broader class struggle, which encompasses all the oppressed, to the workers’ immediate struggle with the capitalists “on the shop floor.” In fact, as I explain in my book, the SWP turned its back on immediate shop floor issues and union politics beginning in the 1980s, and retreated into a circle-the-wagons policy of abstention from those struggles that spread to other areas of the mass movement. The correct term is not “workerism” but “abstentionism.”

If the SWP were to become workerist now, that would actually be a step forward from their present abstentionism. At least they would then become involved in shop floor issues.

Peter says of the objective situation since the 1980s: “many political memoirs of people who radicalized in the West in ‘the sixties’ look at its passing with a sense of nostalgia, regret and failure. Nothing since then lives up to their memory of those times of hope and revolutionary expectations. Radical politics since the 1980s seems like one long miserable slog.

“The retreats in the face of the global capitalist neoliberal offensive are real, and I understand the emotional response, but I don’t share their generational disappointment.

“The past three and a half decades have been difficult, but the era of war and revolutions didn’t end in the seventies. There were revolutionary upsurges in Nicaragua, Iran and Grenada in 1979, and later in Venezuela and Bolivia. The capitalist triumphalism after the fall of the Soviet Union and the bureaucratic regimes in Eastern Europe proved short-lived.”

Since my book is a political memoir, and since Peter’s essay is a review of my book, one can only assume he is referring to me.

I don’t look back at the period of “The Sixties,” which my entire first volume is about, with “nostalgia, regret and failure.” This was a time of great accomplishments that changed the United States deeply. In this period of radicalization and struggle the Socialist Workers Party and the Young Socialist Alliance played an exemplary role. One of the important lessons I make in my first volume is how a revolutionary socialist organization with a correct program, strategy and tactics can make a big difference. No “nostalgia” or “regret” or “sense of failure” in what I wrote.

What I write about concerning the objective situation internationally and in the U.S. is a factual, clear-headed facing of the real situation. Unlike what we in the SWP in 1978 thought was going to happen, the working class in the U.S. moved to the right politically and did not radicalize. The unions adopted ever more conciliatory stances to capital, and the unions have drastically shrunk in size and influence, not only “retreated,” unless Peter is referring to a disorderly retreat known as a “rout.”

Yes there were revolutions in Nicaragua, Iran and Grenada (and Afghanistan and Poland, which Peter doesn’t mention). These made important advances, which I document at length if succinctly. But in the end they all failed. These failures represented big blows to the working people internationally and in the U.S., and weighed down on the SWP.

The collapse of the Soviet Union is treated cavalierly by Peter — “the capitalist triumphalism was short-lived.”

The collapse of the Soviet workers’ state was a huge blow to the workers of the world (and of course to the Soviet workers). It drastically changed the world class relation of forces in favor of the capitalists to the detriment of the workers, both materially and ideologically. The capitalist neoliberal offensive was furthered ideologically by the discrediting of socialism among the broad masses. This has had a profound impact in the U.S.

With the disappearance of the Soviet bloc, imperialism was emboldened. The imperialists might not have dared launch the first Gulf War if the Soviet Union had not been crumbling. The years of harsh sanctions against Iraq and the second war against it and the invasion of Afghanistan, countries bordering the old USSR, would have been fiercely opposed by the Kremlin and might not have happened. The Palestinians would never have been forced to accept the deals the White House foisted on them, if the Soviet Union still existed to back them up, however poorly and hesitantly it previously did.

The restoration of capitalism in China has also been a big blow to socialism.

I assume that Peter does not agree with Jack Barnes, who says that the U.S. lost the Cold War, but with Fidel Castro, who said the U.S. won it.

A key point is that from the end of the 1970s to the present we have not seen a period of radicalization in the United States. This is the longest such period in over a century.

Peter implies that I think that this objective situation precluded the survival of the SWP. I explicitly state the opposite.

Of course new struggles have emerged, including in Latin America and elsewhere, and we should embrace them. The class struggle continues. New resistance to the capitalist drive to make the workers pay for the new depression caused by their system is gradually developing, in Occupy in the U.S. and elsewhere. But these struggles are developing in a context of a previous period of big blows against our class, and from that starting point. Revolutionary optimism, of course – but with eyes wide open.

Peter’s explanation of why the DSP broke with Trotskyism is quite thin. He apparently is opposed to the theory of permanent revolution, but he doesn’t say what’s wrong with it. He doesn’t say what’s wrong with Trotsky’s analysis of Stalinism. It’s not clear what the DSP thinks of Trotsky’s analysis of fascism, or of Trotskyism’s continued adherence to the strategic concepts that emerged from the first four congresses of the Communist International, including such things as the united front, the slogan of a workers’ government (or workers’ and peasants’ government) and much more. His main argument in his review comes down to Trotskyists care too much about program and fight a lot among themselves, and don’t have state power. He adds that the Maoists have similar problems.

But why stop with Trotskyist and Maoists? There are many small groups which consider themselves Marxists. Trotskyists and Maoists are a subset of them. A few in Australia are Socialist Alternative, the International Socialist Organization, Freedom Socialist, Revolutionary Socialist Party, a group that looks to the Barnes SWP, another that orients toward the Fourth International, and Socialist Alliance. They argue among themselves.

Peter says that the SWP originally moved in a positive direction when it rejected its Trotskyist past, but then “reversed course.” That is inaccurate. The SWP under Barnes never went back to the Trotskyism it once stood for.

He also doesn’t explain the contradiction between his position that the SWP in “The Sixties” and presumably before, played a positive role in the class struggle, yet was without question Trotskyist during that time.

Peter refers to the fact that the DSP “became members of the internal faction that the SWP led in the Fourth International (FI).” He doesn’t say what that faction took as its name: Leninist Trotskyist Faction. The ideas of both Bolshevik leaders were central to the politics of this faction.

This factional struggle took seven years to resolve. It was a major part of the life of the DSP as well as the SWP and the whole of the Fourth International. It resulted in splits in many sections, and almost split the FI itself. The issues involved were not trivial (in some cases actually involved life and death), and did not amount to programmatic splitting of hairs. That this struggle was resolved in a positive way is a tribute to the cadres of the FI from both sides.

In my two volumes, there are ten chapters about this factional struggle. Peter doesn’t mention what it was about, although the DSP was part of it. In fact, DSP leaders Jim Percy and Nita Keig joined myself and Caroline Lund as the former LTF comrades who moved to Paris to work with younger leaders from the other side to help rebuild the FI center following the dissolution of the factions.

Peter talks about how breaking with Trotskyism enabled the DSP to “reach out” to “new forces” and “learn from them.” John Riddell in his review of my book develops this theme more extensively, and I’ll take it up in a reply to him.

On the content of Trotskyism, Malik Miah has dealt extensively with that in his review, and I won’t repeat it here.

Finally, I want to say that there is much agreement between the DSP and myself, in spite of our disagreements. After the break between the DSP and the SWP in the early 1980s, my companion Caroline Lund and I lost touch with the DSP. Exacerbating this was our growing difficulties in the SWP and isolation, as I extensively explain in my second volume.

Later, we reconnected with both Peter Camejo and the DSP. We met Jim Percy, the DSP National Secretary, when he came through the United States after he had learned of his cancer. We had a dinner with him and Peter at our house. When Jim died too soon after, Peter asked me to go to Australia to represent us both at Jim’s memorial meetings.

I began to write for Green Left Weekly. Later I began to attend DSP conventions and the Asia Pacific Solidarity Conferences, and then Caroline did also. Our close comrade Malik Miah did likewise. We became close to the DSP leaders, including Peter Boyle, John Percy, Doug Lorimor, Lisa Macdonald, Kathy Newman, and so many others. I became the distributor of Links for North America when it was a printed magazine.

What we saw in the DSP was the opposite of what the SWP had become. The DSP continued to be actively engaged in the class struggle at home and abroad, in sharp contrast to the abstentionism of the SWP. We agreed with what the DSP was doing in practical political work – defense of trade unions, support for Aboriginal rights, women’s equality and gay rights, international solidarity – whatever our differences on important historical, theoretical and party-building issues. These become central when revolutionary situations emerge, which is why it is important to discuss and debate them in a comradely manner today.

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6 Responses to In Reply to Peter Boyle, by Barry Sheppard

  1. Joe Auciello says:

    When the Democratic Socialist party quit the Fourth International, a lengthy polemical reply by Ernest Mandel was published in 1986 in “International Viewpoint” It is online at .
    Joe Auciello

  2. Joe Auciello says:

    Sorry! It is online at

  3. Ben Courtice says:

    I was a DSP member from 1993 til the organisation’s dissolution into Socialist Alliance in 2010. I think that Barry has misconstrued a couple of points of theory promoted by the DSP. First, on Trotsky’s analysis of the Soviet Union. If the analysis promoted in internal DSP educationals during 1993-2010 was at odds with Trotsky’s that certainly wasn’t clear to me. We saw our earlier pro-Gorbachev line as having been a mistake.
    As an aside, in recent years, Che Guevara’s critique of the USSR and his prediction of its demise has also become more available in English – such as Helen Yaffe’s excellent book. I think this adds a lot of new material which is broadly complementary to Trotsky’s theory, despite Che writing some 30 years later and not being overly familiar with Trotsky. However that is from my own readings, not from DSP educationals.
    The DSP never to my knowledge made a public re-assessment of the mistake in supporting the Perestroika movement. We did, however, candidly admit our mistake when questioned.
    Regarding black liberation, the position taken by the DSP is more accurately seen as being similar to that of the 1980s US communist group, Line of March. We paid little attention to either the Spartacist or Freedom Socialist line, whatever similarities there may have been.
    The short version is that, based particularly on the Stalin pamphlet on the national question, the DSP saw that national self determination for Australian indigenous people, or for African-Americans, was unlikely to succeed due to the lack of a common territory they could lay claim to, separate from the oppressor nation. When you look at examples of attempts to create nations without a real territory you see bantustans in apartheid South Africa; and (rather differently) apartheid Israel today.
    However, in practice and principle, the DSP always (in my experience) supported the efforts of indigenous Australians for self-determination, including land rights claims and so on. Maybe this was a tacit admission that our theory was wrong, or maybe our theory was more nuanced than is given credit to here.
    Without going through piles of old documents, I can’t be sure that this position was actually adopted in detail as a position of the DSP, or if it was only a position put in articles by leading members; however it certainly carried some weight in the organisation.
    Lastly, the DSP never changed its position that the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was at invitation of the government and necessary to counter the US involvement. In the last year or two contact with Afghan leftists has convinced some of us that we had a wrong position. Well, better late than never!
    Other points Barry makes about Trotskyist positions on Permanent Revolution and participation in the Fourth International. I don’t see the DSP’s position on these as being especially wrong, although I think we probably made our own position into a bit of a rigid dogma at times, whereas reality is less easy to pin down to one theory or approach.

  4. Ben Courtice says:

    I should add, it was a pleasure reading both volumes of your biography, Barry. It filled in a lot of history that explains how many people I have worked with for so long got to where they are. It explains a lot about world history, too, that is not widely known today. The sections on Iran were a particular stand-out, as I knew little of that history previously. Well done!

  5. Doug Lorimer says:

    In your reply to Peter Boyle’s review of your book on the SWP you list a series of criticisms of positions of taken by the DSP (before we were expelled from the DSP) and invite us to respond to them. This is what I will do below.
    In the second volume of your book, you wrote that the “Australians….held fast to the wrong position of supporting the ill-fated Soviet invasion”. Regrettably you do not see that Barnes’ change of position on the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan was the first expression of his sectarian abstentionist politics as in Barnes’ remark in his 1980 report that “You can’t pose the question ‘For or against Soviet troops?’ in an isolated manner. It’s like story about the drunk who staggers into the middle of the road with cars whizzing by both ways. Either way he moves he’s likely to get hit.
    “Which way should I go?’ he shouts to someone on the side of the road. The only good advice is that he shouldn’t have gotten drunk and stumbled into the middle of the highway in the first place.” So the Afghan workers and peasants are compared to a drunk staggering around in the middle of the road, equally endangered by the “car” of imperialism and the car” of the Soviet bureaucracy. Barnes does not see that imperialism and Stalinism are not equal dangers to the workers and peasants in Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world. But from the point of view that that are, he offers an analogy which leads to the following conclusion: The duty of Marxists is to stand by the side of the road. And when workers and peasants ask the way out of their difficulties to shout: “You fools! You shouldn’t be there in the first place!”
    The second position you crticise is “a terminological revision, the adoption by the DSP of the term ‘socialist states’ in regard to the USSR, Eastern Europe and China” you say this is “an oxymoron in itself, and could only possibly be applied to a dictatorship of the proletariat in an international situation where capitalism had been defeated and the workers’ state was ‘withering away’.”
    We adopted this “terminological revision” in order to draw a distinction between the political measures needed to establish a workers’ state and the economic measures needed to establish a state that organises a post-capitalist economy. This was expressed in the Program of the DSP in the following way: “State power of the working class is indispensable in order to prevent these ‘islands of capitalist influence’ from becoming bases for the restoration of capitalism. The constitution and penal code of a socialist state (i.e., of a workers’ state that has expropriated capitalist property in industry, banking and wholesale trade, introduced a state monopoly of foreign trade and a planned economy) will severely limit, if not totally outlaw, private appropriation of means of production and the private hiring of labour.”
    Was it an “oxymoron” for the Russian Communists to adopt the official name “Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic” for Soviet Russia in July 1918, as they took the measures to reorient the Russian economy on a post-capitalist basis? Was it an “oxymoron” for Lenin to declare that “The socialist state can arise only as a network of producers’ and consumers’ communes, which conscientiously keep account of their production and consumption, economise on labour, and steadily raise the productivity of labour, thus making it possible to reduce the working day to seven, six and even fewer hours. Nothing will be achieved unless the strictest, country-wide, comprehensive accounting and control of grain and the production of grain (and later of all other essential goods) are set going. Capitalism left us a legacy of mass organisations which can facilitate our transition to the mass accounting and control of the distribution of goods, namely, the consumers’ co-operative societies. In Russia these societies are not so well developed as in the advanced countries, nevertheless, they have over ten million members. The Decree on Consumers’ Co-operative Societies, issued the other day, is an extremely significant phenomenon, which strikingly illustrates the peculiar position and the specific tasks of the Soviet Socialist Republic at the present moment.” (The Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government, April 1918)?
    We agree that “Socialism never existed in these countries or anywhere else in the world” and that the USSR, Eastern Europe, China and North Korea “were saddled with monstrous bureaucracies and bloated state apparatuses, which were certainly not “withering away”.
    You claim we had rejected Trotsky’s analysis of Stalinism and ask what Peter Boyle’s view is of Trotsky’s analysis of fascism. I do not know what his view is today. However, in 1998 we published the following introduction to my booklet Trotsky’s Theory of Permanent Revolution: A Leninist Critique:
    “Leon Trotsky was one of the outstanding Marxist revolutionaries of the 20th century. A leading figure in the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party from the time of its second congress in 1903, after joining the Bolsheviks in July 1917, Trotsky rapidly became one of its central leaders. When the Bolsheviks won a majority in the Petrograd soviet a (council) of workers’ and soldiers’ deputies, Trotsky was elected its president and in that capacity headed the organisation of November 7 (October 25 in the tsarist calendar). A member of the Soviet government, he served as People’s Commissar of Foreign Affairs until the signing of the Brest-Litovsk peace treaty between Soviet Russia and imperial Germany, and then as People’s Commissar of War. In the latter capacity, he was responsible for the organisation of the Red Army in 1918 and was its supreme commander during the 1918-21 Russian civil war. A central leader of the Communist International during its first five years’ from the mid-1920s he became the chief spokesperson for the Bolshevik-Leninist Opposition within the Soviet Communist Party, fighting against the antiproletarian line of the Stalin bureaucracy.
    “During the 1930s Trotsky made his most significant contributions to the theoretical arsenal of the Marxist movement. In 1932-33 he wrote a three-volume History of the Russian Revolution, providing an incomparable Marxist exposition of the events that led to the Bolshevik victory in 1917. During the same period in his writings on Germany, he made the first systematic Marxist analysis of the nature of fascism and of the strategy and tactics needed by the working-class movement to combat and defeat this reactionary phenomenon. In his 1936 book The Revolution Betrayed he provided the first consistently Marxist explanation of the nature and causes of the regime established in the Soviet Union under Stalin.”
    This remains my view of Trotsky and his contributions to the Marxist movement.
    You say that the other difference you have with the DSP was “when it publicly attacked the SWP’s analysis in the 1960s of Black Nationalism in the U.S. and our relations with Malcolm X” and that the “DSP came to the conclusion that the Spartacists and Freedom Socialists had the correct analysis of the oppression of Blacks.” And that the “DSP rejected the SWP’s analysis, based on the lessons taught U.S. communists by the Bolsheviks, specifically both Lenin and Trotsky, that African Americans constitute an oppressed nationality. The DSP asserted that we were wrong to root our participation in the Black struggle in the right of Black people to self-determination. Moreover, the DSP at the same time (I believe this was in the early 2000s) came to the conclusion that native Australians were not an oppressed nationality and they also had no right to self-determination”. It’s true that the DSP (and the RSP) do not agree with the US SWP view that African Americans constitute an oppressed nation, but an oppressed racial group.
    You also say that “Another difference was the DSP’s rejection of the SWP’s historic analysis of the Cuban revolution, and with it, the development of the concept of the workers’ and peasants’ government the SWP had developed in relation to the Chinese as well as Cuban revolutions.” In its Program the DSP recognised that a working people’s (“workers’ and peasants”) government is a necessary stage on the road to the creation of a socialist state: “The experiences of revolutionary struggles in the 20th century have also provided new insights into the process of establishing the democratic power of the working class:
    “1. The working class is profoundly democratic in its aspirations. As the class struggle sharpens, the workers spontaneously strive to create democratic forms of organisation in order to most effectively employ their chief weapon in their fight against capitalism — collective action.
    “2. As their mass mobilisations grow in intensity, the workers seek to create progressively broader forms of democratic self-organisation, including elected strike committees, factory committees, and finally, in a revolutionary upsurge, elected councils that extend beyond individual workplaces, tend to encompass larger and larger sections of the allies of the working class, and challenge the power and prerogatives of the capitalist state machine.
    “3. The generalisation, coordination and centralisation of such councils (soviets), together with the growing paralysis and initial disintegration of the organs of capitalist power, creates a revolutionary crisis in society, a situation characterised by the existence of two parallel, competing centres of power.
    “4. To fulfil their role as organs of revolutionary struggle, the soviets must seek to include all political tendencies within the insurgent population and guarantee the right to freely debate policies and actions. In this sense, they are the highest form of the united front.
    ”5. A multi-faceted struggle erupts between the class-collaborationist and the class-struggle forces within the soviets and other mass organisations for leadership of the insurgent population. A process of selection unfolds, that makes possible the rapid growth of a revolutionary socialist party — provided it has grown sufficiently before these events to appear as a credible alternative leadership to the masses and has a sufficiently large and tested nucleus of cadre firmly based in the working class.
    “6. The transformation of this revolutionary cadre organisation into a mass workers’ party is the decisive element in winning a majority to the revolutionary perspective of the conquest of state power by the workers and their allies.
    “7. The first qualitative step in establishing the democratic power of the working class is the revolutionary replacement of the capitalist government by a working people’s government based on the soviets and other organs of mass revolutionary struggle.
    “8. Such a government stands at the head of a turbulent, transitional process, during which the capitalist class retains significant advantages. Unless it acts decisively to consolidate the organs of revolutionary mass struggle as the new institutions of state power, that is, to replace the weakened capitalist state with a workers’ state, and to organise the workers to assert control over the capitalists, the revolutionary foundations of the working people’s government will gradually be undermined. The capitalists will use their economic power to unleash economic chaos, leading increasing sections of the working people to become demoralised, inactive, and confused. The erosion of the masses’ confidence in the revolutionary leadership will enable the capitalists to reassert their political power — to oust the working people’s government, re-establish a capitalist government, rebuild the capitalist state machine, and dismantle the democratic gains of the revolutionary upsurge. (emphasis added)
    “9. The consolidation of the workers’ state and mechanisms for workers’ control over the capitalists enables the working class to prepare itself to begin “wresting by degrees” productive property from the capitalist class, to establish a state monopoly of foreign trade and to introduce a planned economy.
    “10. The pace of this qualitative transformation is dependent upon the ability of the workers’ state to break the resistance of the capitalists to the consolidation of workers’ power; the acquisition by the working class of the administrative experience and technical skills to begin managing state-owned industries and participating in national economic planning; and the cementing of the alliance between the working class and the exploited sections of the petty-bourgeoisie, above all the working farmers.
    “11. In effecting the transition from a capitalist economy to the nationalised, planned economy of a socialist state, it is to the benefit of the working class to seek to take advantage of those capitalists, and the even larger layer of managers and middle-class technicians, who can be persuaded to place their managerial and technical skills at the service of the working class.
    “12. Success in carrying through these tasks depends not only upon the evolution of the international and domestic relationship of class forces, but above all upon the political calibre and consciousness of the revolutionary leadership, of its ability to act decisively to educate, organise and mobilise the workers to defend and advance their common interests.”
    Other than the use of the term “socialist state”, this seems to me to be in line with the “historic use of the ‘workers’ and peasants’ government” by the US SWP.
    You say that the DSP adopted “an over-emphasis on the military in analyzing the class nature of states in developing worker and peasant revolutions. Thus when the attempted coup against Chavez in Venezuela failed in 2002, the DSP claimed that a “workers and peasants state had been formed.” As far as I am aware the DSP (and the RSP) have never characterised Venezuela as a “workers’ and peasants’ state,” but as having a workers’ and peasants’ government.
    Doug Lorimer

    • Manuel Aguilar Mora says:

      Barry, sólo he leído reseñas de tus dos libros y muchos comentarios de los mismos en la red pero con ello basta para felicitarte por tu trabajo de darnos una explicación de lo que fue el SWP de EUA desde los años gloriosos de los sesentas hasta su actual deplorable situación. ¡Felicidades!

      —- translation below (B & G)
      [Barry, I’ve only read reviews of your two books and many comments about them on the net but that is enough to congratulate you for your work in giving us an explanation of what the U.S. SWP was like from the glory years of the Sixties to its current deplorable situation.Congratulations!]

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