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SWP (USA)

Book excerpt: Barry Sheppard on the triumph and defeat of the 1979 Nicaraguan revolution

The Nicaraguan people celebrate victory over the Somoza dictatorship in central Managua, July 20, 1979.

By Barry Sheppard

July 19, 2012 – Links international Journal of Socialist Renewal --The following are two chapters from volume 2 of my political memoir about my time in the US Socialist Workers Party (SWP). They give an overview of the triumph and eventual collapse of the Nicaraguan revolution (1979 through the 1980s) under the blows of US imperialism’s war against the small and impoverished country.

It is important for socialists today to not forget the victories and defeats of the past, and their lessons for the future. One of the lessons of the Nicaraguan revolution, like the Paris Commune, the Russian, Chinese, Yugoslavian, Vietnamese and Cuban and other revolutions, as well as revolutionary upsurges that didn’t take power, like the German one (1917 to 1923), the May-June 1968 near revolution in France, the Portuguese revolutionary events of 1974-1975, the Prague Spring of 1968, the rise of the Polish workers in 1970, etc. is the power of the workers and peasants when they enter the stage of history in their own name and interests.

John Riddell on the US SWP: Part 2, causes of a socialist collapse (1976–83)

The Party, The Socialist Workers Party 1960-1988, Volume I: The Sixties, a Political Memoir by Barry Sheppard, Resistance Books (Sydney), 2005, 354 pages.

The Party, The Socialist Workers Party 1960-1988, Volume II: Interregnum, Decline and Collapse, 1973-1988, a Political Memoir by Barry Sheppard, Resistance Books (London), 2012, 345 pages.

[For more discussion of the US SWP, click HERE.]

By John Riddell

Part 2 of a two-part article. Part 1 is available here.

John Riddell on the US SWP: Part 1, SWP attempts an outward turn (1976–83)

In 1976, the campaign of SWP presidential candidate Peter Camejo won unprecedentedly wide support from left currents.
The Party, The Socialist Workers Party 1960-1988, Volume I: The Sixties, a Political Memoir by Barry Sheppard, Resistance Books (Sydney), 2005, 354 pages.

The Party, The Socialist Workers Party 1960-1988, Volume II: Interregnum, Decline and Collapse, 1973-1988, a Political Memoir by Barry Sheppard, Resistance Books (London), 2012, 345 pages.

[For more discussion of the US SWP, click HERE.]

By John Riddell

Part 1 of a two-part article. Part 2 is available here.

Review: Invaluable history, important lessons from Barry Sheppard

Malik Miah.
The Party, The Socialist Workers Party 1960-1988, Volume I: The Sixties, a Political Memoir by Barry Sheppard, Resistance Books (Sydney), 2005, 354 pages.

The Party, The Socialist Workers Party 1960-1988, Volume II: Interregnum, Decline and Collapse, 1973-1988, a Political Memoir by Barry Sheppard, Resistance Books (London), 2012, 345 pages.

[For more discussion of the US SWP, click HERE.]

By Malik Miah

Who or what killed the US SWP?

Barry Sheppard (right, holding banner pole with Sylvia Weinstein) at an anti-war march in New York in 1966.
The Party, The Socialist Workers Party 1960-1988, Volume I: The Sixties, a Political Memoir by Barry Sheppard, Resistance Books (Sydney), 2005, 354 pages.

The Party, The Socialist Workers Party 1960-1988, Volume II: Interregnum, Decline and Collapse, 1973-1988, a Political Memoir by Barry Sheppard, Resistance Books (London), 2012, 345 pages.

[For more discussion of the US SWP, click HERE.]

Review by Peter Boyle

Peter Camejo: Against sectarianism -- the evolution of the Socialist Workers Party, 1978-1983

AGAINST SECTARIANISM

The Evolution of the Socialist Workers Party 1978-1983

by Pedro (Peter) Camejo

During the years 1978-1983, the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) of the United States has been making sharp shifts in its policies, political positions, methods of work and internal norms. These shifts reflect an effort by the leadership of the SWP to develop an orientation in the post anti-Vietnam war movement period. Some important steps forward have been taken by the SWP. Two important shifts, which reflect fundamentally positive steps, have been the decision to colonize industry and to recognize the revolutionary proletarian character of the Cuban Communist Party, the FSLN in Nicaragua, the FMLN in El Salvador and the New Jewel Movement in Grenada.

Along with these positive steps, however, there has been a hardening of increasingly sectarian positions which threaten to undermine the positive aspects of the two points mentioned above. This document is a review of the increasingly sectarian positions developed by the SWP in the last five years. Why this is happening is beyond the scope of this document, although it is clearly related to the years of isolation from the broader workers' movement. The development of hardened sectarian political views has occurred quite frequently in groups which have developed within the world Trotskyist current. While the causes of the sectarianism of the SWP are undoubtedly related to these broader questions, this document takes up each political question at its face value, independent of broader judgments.

Paul Le Blanc on Barry Sheppard’s memoirs: Revolutionary redemption, lessons for activists

Barry Sheppard in 1964.

By Paul Le Blanc

The Party, The Socialist Workers Party 1960-1988, volume I: The Sixties, A Political Memoir, by Barry Sheppard, Chippendale, Australia: Resistance Books, 2005, 354 pages including index, with a rich collection of photographs.

The Party, The Socialist Workers Party 1960-1988, volume II: Interregnum, Decline and Collapse, 1973-1988, A Political Memoir, by Barry Sheppard, London: Resistance Books, 2012, 345 pages including index.

Five points in response to Pham Binh

By Paul Le Blanc

"The creation of healthy, democratic and cohesive revolutionary organisations on the Leninist model is both possible and necessary, in my opinion."

February 1, 2012 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- I am sorry that Pham Binh has chosen to respond in the way that he has to my criticism of his article ("Mangling the party: Tony Cliff's Lenin"). I will make only a few comments here to help clear up misunderstandings.

1. My critical comment about Pham’s article not providing us with anything useful for those engaged in today’s struggles was not a judgment about him as a person or about all things that he may have written about the Occupy movement or anything else. A substantial review article having to do with building the revolutionary party, however, should contain (in my opinion) something of value for those of us who are committed to such things.

Revolutionary method in the study of Lenin – A response to Pham Binh

[For more discussion about Lenin, click HERE.]

By Paul Le Blanc

[Read Pham Binh's reply HERE.]

January 31, 2012 – Submitted to Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Amid a continuing crisis of capitalism, the renaissance of Lenin studies – what I once referred to as “Lenin’s return” – continues. Aspects of this find reflection in new books, new articles, symposiums and debates as we attempt to clarify the actuality of Lenin’s thought and example, and (for some of us) their relevance for the situations we face.

Road maps, dead ends and the search for fresh ground -- How can we build the socialist movement in the 21st century?

[For more discussion on how socialists organise, click HERE.]

By Dan DiMaggio

December 2010 -- Cultural Logic, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with Dan DiMaggio's permission -- For the past seven-plus years I have devoted much of my life to effort to build a socialist movement in the United States. As a member of one of the many tiny socialist groups on the US left, I have organised dozens of anti-war, labour solidarity, immigrant rights and other rallies and campaigns. I have toured the country to speak at college campuses about socialism. I have set up numerous study groups and conferences and written and edited hundreds of articles for socialist publications. Most people might say, “Dan, you’re crazy if you think that socialism can be achieved in a country like the United States!” But despite the challenges, I hope to continue doing this for the next 50 or so years.

Evolution not 'reinvention': Manning Marable's Malcolm X

Malcolm’s political evolution was influenced by his own experiences and his discussions with Fidel Castro and Che ..., with Nasser in Egypt and Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana, as well as with discussions with North American ex-patriates in Africa. 

By Malik Miah

Lenin and revolutionary organisation today: An exchange

Introduction

Anyone familiar with the socialist movement in the industrialized countries today must be struck by the huge gap between what’s needed — mass socialist parties with deep roots in the working class — and the reality — small groups of socialists with little influence. The following exchange contains a searching discussion of these issues between the noted Marxist scholar Paul Le Blanc and John Riddell.

The exchange opens with an article by Le Blanc and continues with an exchange between Riddell and Le Blanc. The discussion was first published in Socialist Voice in June 2008 and later appeared on John Riddell's website (with more comments).

About the authors

Paul Le Blanc, a former member of the U.S. Socialist Workers Party, has been a long-time anti-war, anti-racist, activist in Pittsburgh. He teaches History at La Roche College. He is author of Marx, Lenin, and the Revolutionary Experience (Routledge 2006).

Making sense of Trotskyism in the United States: Two memoirs

[This review-essay was written for and is scheduled to appear in the British journal Revolutionary History, which has granted permission to circulate it on-line. Please include this acknowledgement when sharing it. The text is from Labor Standard.]

North Star, A Memoir (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2010)
By Peter Camejo
364 pages with index

Outsider’s Reverie, A Memoir (Los Angeles: Boryana Books, 2010)
By Leslie Evans
438 pages with index.

By Paul Le Blanc

October 1, 2010 -- The Socialist Workers Party (SWP) of the United States was for a number of years the largest and strongest section of the Fourth International — both of which were formally established in 1938, both representing the revolutionary socialist perspectives associated with Leon Trotsky. Rooted in opposition to Stalinism in the early Communist movement, the U.S. Trotskyists worked closely with Trotsky in building the Fourth International, the global network of small revolutionary groups adhering to the original “Bolshevik-Leninist” perspectives. They also played a heroic role in U.S. class struggles of the 1930s, and their reputation among many was as unyielding partisans of workers’ democracy and Trotsky’s revolutionary Marxist orientation. Yet in the non-revolutionary aridity of 1950s America, their ranks dwindled down to handfuls of stalwarts, perhaps 400 aging members, in a handful of cities.

Australia: The DSP in the 1980s

[This first appeared as the introduction to Building the Revolutionary Party: Jim Percy Selected Writings 1980-87 (Resistance Books: Chippendale, 2008). Dave Holmes is now a leader of the Socialist Alliance in Melbourne. This and other writings are also available at Dave Holmes' blog, Arguing for Socialism.]

By Dave Holmes

This is the second volume of writings and speeches by Jim Percy, one of the founders of Australia's Democratic Socialist Perspective and its longtime central leader until his death in 1992. These seven items — reports given by Jim to conferences and leadership gatherings of the DSP (or SWP, Socialist Workers Party, as it was known in this period) — span the years 1980 to 1987.

James P. Cannon: An introduction

[This the introduction to Building the Revolutionary Party: An Introduction to James P. Cannon (Resistance Books: Chippendale, 1997). Dave Holmes is now a leader of the Socialist Alliance in Melbourne. This and other writings are also available at Dave Holmes' blog, Arguing for Socialism.]

By Dave Holmes

James P. Cannon was a pioneer of the Communist Party of the United States and one of its central leaders in the 1920s. Breaking with the Stalinised CP in 1928 he founded the US Trotskyist movement and played the decisive role in building it for over three decades.

Why the left should support the boycott of Israel -- a reply to the US Socialist Workers Party

South African workers support boycotts and sanctions against Israel's apartheid state.

By Art Young

August 6, 2010 -- Socialist Voice -- When Israeli commandos attacked the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in international waters on May 31, 2010, murdered nine humanitarian aid workers and seized the cargo of badly needed supplies for Gaza, they touched off an international storm of outrage that continues to this day. The widespread anger has galvanised the international movement in solidarity with the Palestinian people, drawing in new forces and producing new initiatives.

Following the attack on the flotilla, Palestinian civil society issued an appeal to progressive forces around the world to redouble their solidarity efforts and to strengthen the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign (BDS) against Israel. On June 7 the major Palestinian trade union federations appealed to dock workers to refuse to handle Israeli cargo. They said:

Barry Sheppard reviews Peter Camejo's `North Star -- A Memoir'

North Star – A Memoir
By Peter Camejo
Haymarket Books, Chicago, 2010

Order a copy

Review by Barry Sheppard

[Posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission.]

July 8, 2010 -- North Star – A Memoir by Peter Camejo, who was an important figure in the radicalisation of “the Sixties” and beyond, up to his untimely death in 2008, should be read by veterans of the socialist movement and wider social causes. It also should be read by new activists thirsty for understanding of previous struggles in order to better equip themselves for present and future battles.

Also, the book is a good read. The first chapter is set in 1979, out of chronological order from the rest of the book. It explains how the CIA attempted to get Peter arrested in Colombia, on a leg of a speaking tour in South America. If he had been imprisoned there it is possible that he would have been “disappeared”. Without giving away the story, Peter escaped this fate through an unlikely intervention, quite a tale in itself.

Available for download: Barry Sheppard's The Party: The Socialist Workers Party 1960-1988: A Political Memoir -- The Sixties

Barry Sheppard, 1964, editor of the Militant newspaper. Photo by Ed Shaw.

http://www.barrysheppardbook.com/ -- Barry Sheppard was a member of the US Socialist Workers Party for 28 years, and a central leader for most of that time. This is the first of two volumes recounting his life in the party. It is a case study in the inspiration and difficulties involved in building the nucleus of a revolutionary socialist party.

This book covers from 1960 to 1973, the period of radicalisation known as "The Sixties". Walking picket lines for Black civil rights, helping to organise the anti-Vietnam War movement, interviewing Malcolm X, meeting with US soldiers in Vietnam, defending the Cuban Revolution, collaborating with socialists worldwide including in Australia, India, France and Japan -- Barry Sheppard has lived a life enriched by contact with and involvement in popular struggles around the world.

Peter Camejo remembered: tributes from the left

Below are number left tributes to Peter Camejo, who died on September 13: from Green Left Weekly (Australia); Ralph Nader, US presidential candidate; veteran US socialist Barry Sheppard; Socialist Worker (USA) and Louis Proyect, moderator of the Marxism List (USA).

As a tribute, Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal has also republished two of Peter's most influential and enduring lectures (at http://links.org.au/node/625), talks that continue to educate young revolutionary socialists to this day. 

Peter Camejo.

Peter Camejo interviewed in 1976

Peter Camejo is heard here speaking in 1976 on the NBC network when he stood for the US Socialist Workers Party as its presidential candidate.

Source: Jon Flanders.

A brilliant piece of socialist advocacy and showcases Camejo's skill for making socialist ideas accessible to a wide audience.

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