David North
The Heritage We Defend

The SWP’s “Regroupment” Fiasco

The change in the attitude of the Socialist Workers Party toward the Pabloite International Secretariat—that is, its desire to negotiate an end to the split on the basis of a “concrete” agreement on current tasks, without a theoretical and political accounting of the fundamental differences on perspective and method which gave rise to the 1953 explosion—was inextricably linked with a sharp shift away from its traditional proletarian orientation. With the adoption of the “regroupment” policy in December 1956, the SWP embarked upon a course directed toward the poisonous milieu of American middle-class radicalism and away from the struggle for Trotskyism in the working class.

The relation between the regroupment policy pursued by the SWP within the United States and its new interest in reunification with the Pabloites was indicated by Cannon in a letter to the Political Committee March 12, 1957, justifying his favorable reply to Goonewardene’s proposal for discussions:

At a time when we are campaigning for regroupment of forces in this country and England, and are actually contemplating all kinds of possible cooperative relations and fusions with other tendencies which may begin to move in a revolutionary direction, we would certainly find it hard to explain why we refuse to even talk about unity with an international tendency which is taking a political position much closer to our own.

No, we cannot refuse to talk. My letter to Goonewardene takes the situation as it is and offers to discuss the question of unity.[1]

The background of the regroupment policy was the devastating crisis that had been unleashed in the American Communist Party by the exposure of Stalin’s crimes and the brutal suppression of the Hungarian Revolution. The CPUSA had all the vices of its sister Stalinist organizations without their one saving virtue: a mass base in the working class. For decades, it had functioned as the most slavish supporter of Stalin’s crimes. It had collaborated with the GPU, the Soviet secret police, in organizing the assassination of Leon Trotsky. It assisted the FBI in setting up the state frame-up which resulted in the jailing of SWP leaders during World War II.

Defending the Kremlin bureaucracy’s betrayals, the CP acted in complete disregard of even the most elementary interests of the American working class. The term “Stalinist hack”—describing the CP functionaries in the trade unions who cynically sold out the rank and file in accordance with the foreign policy interests of the Soviet bureaucracy and whose methods differed little from those of the mafia hoodlums with whom the Stalinists frequently worked—entered into the everyday vocabulary of militant workers.

The innumerable betrayals perpetrated by the Stalinists, especially during World War II when they endorsed and enforced the no-strike pledge, built up a vast reservoir of distrust and hatred among wide sections of workers that right-wing bureaucrats like Reuther and Murray were able to exploit. The reactionary apostles of anticommunism in the labor movement had no greater weapon than the record of the Communist Party.

There were many courageous and self-sacrificing CP members who were genuinely devoted to the working class. But with the advent of the Cold War, the McCarthyite witch-hunt and the destruction of the big Stalinist apparatus in the trade unions, the politically-sincere CP militants were either driven out of the industries or survived by burying their political identity. Even before 1956, the Communist Party was a demoralized organization. So complete was the putrefaction of the CP leadership that it was incapable of mounting any principled struggle against McCarthyism. Among the most terrible examples of the CP’s prostration was its refusal to conduct a class defense of the Rosenbergs.

Two decades of systematic class collaboration had turned large sections of the CP membership into little more than dedicated liberals, who believed that the primary political task of American communists was to drum up support for the election of Democratic Party candidates.

The events of 1956 shattered the Communist Party. Thousands of members, who had grimly hung on to their membership cards during the worst period of the witch-hunt, reacted to the exposure of Stalin’s crimes with horror. Then, the invasion of Hungary set off a mass exodus. The CP leadership divided into two basic tendencies. The faction of unreconstructed Kremlin lackeys, led by William Z. Foster (and supported by Gus Hall), simply waited for new instructions from Khrushchev, and were opposed to any discussion on the crisis within the Stalinist organizations.

The other faction, led by Daily Worker editor John Gates, while favoring extensive discussion, opposed Stalinism not from the standpoint of Marxism, but from that of petty-bourgeois democracy. By Stalinism, Gates understood not the betrayal of the world socialist revolution by a bureaucratic caste, but rather the suppression of democratic rights, thus mistaking an aspect of Stalinism for its essence. His political orientation, and those of his supporters, was not toward the building of a Marxist party, but toward the complete rejection of socialist revolution.

The Gatesites’ inability to conduct a principled struggle against Stalinism, their mood of personal despair and open disavowal of the class struggle against capitalism, alienated whatever remained of proletarian elements inside the Communist Party, and played into the hands of unflagging lackeys of the Kremlin bureaucracy. The latter, Foster, Hall and Harry Winston, accused the Gatesites of being “liquidators” who were simply looking for an excuse to get out of the workers’ movement. And there was more than a grain of truth in this accusation, however dishonest and cynical the intentions of the old Stalinist hacks.

Given the specific conditions which existed in the United States, the breakup of the Communist Party did not, in itself, immediately hold the promise of large-scale recruitment among workers. (In the struggle against Cochran, Cannon had shown that there no longer existed the broad layer of Stalinist workers that had in the 1930s and 1940s constituted a vanguard element in the trade unions, and that Cochran’s use of Pablo’s pro-Stalinist orientation was, in fact, a cynical cover for a complete abandonment of the struggle to build a revolutionary party in the working class.)

But the essential significance of the Stalinist crisis was not that it immediately provided opportunities for recruitment out of the CPUSA. Rather, the breakup of the CP marked a turning point in the long struggle that had been waged by the pioneers of American Trotskyism, and created unprecedented conditions for the political clarification of the working class and socialist-minded elements among the middle class and intellectuals.

The education of the new generation of workers, students and youth, who would inevitably be brought into political struggle by the insoluble world contradictions of American imperialism, required that the SWP uphold principles for which the international movement identified with Trotsky had fought since 1923. Thus, the task that confronted the SWP was to explain the historical and political significance of the life-and-death struggle that had been waged by Trotsky and his followers against Stalinism. While working out a patient and pedagogical approach to the heterogeneous forces that claimed to reject Stalinism, the SWP could in no way adapt to their confusion, evasions and self-justifications. Above all, it could not tolerate the perpetuation of the political essence of Stalinism—its rejection of world socialism in favor of peaceful coexistence, the usurpation of the political power of the proletariat by the privileged bureaucracy—in the name of a superficial rejection of Stalin the individual tyrant.

In other words, only by retracing the path of its own historical development, strengthening the old foundations and rebuilding upon them, could the SWP find a sure road to the vanguard elements of the working class. It was not wrong to propose a wide-ranging and comprehensive discussion with all those forces, however confused, that had been set into motion by the breakup of the Communist Party. But that discussion had to be directed toward the clarification of the advanced elements within the working class.

Therefore, it was necessary to explain why the Trotskyists, and only the Trotskyists, had fought Stalinism on a principled basis, and how this struggle was bound up with the historical destiny of the American working class. Moreover, it was necessary to explain why so many American radicals, whatever their intentions, had been so easily duped by Stalinism and wound up sanctioning, if not directly participating in, its crimes.

But in initiating its regroupment policy, the SWP directed its arguments not to the working class, which it should have been seeking to educate, but to the Gatesites, the intellectuals, radicals and “left” liberals who constituted the periphery of the CP and who had been set adrift by its collapse. For this very reason, the approach of the SWP was wrong. Rather than intensifying its struggle for Trotskyist principles, which now were being vindicated in great international events, the SWP began to downplay its historical identity to avoid offending the sensibilities of the forlorn ex-Stalinists and their radical, semiradical and liberal friends.

Petty organizational calculations, rather than principled considerations, became the basis of the SWP’s regroupment policy. Its initial insistence that regroupment required political clarification was dropped. Regroupment became a means of adapting the SWP, politically and ideologically, to the amorphous milieu of American radicalism and its petty-bourgeois democratic perspective.

Worst of all, the SWP’s definition of regroupment marked a retreat from the conception that the SWP was the revolutionary vanguard of the working class, the only genuine representative of its historic interests, and that to it fell the task of resolving the crisis of leadership.

The liquidationist perspective which underlay the regroupment policy was spelled out at the SWP Seventeenth National Convention in June 1957. In his political report, Farrell Dobbs held out the prospect that regroupment would lead to the creation of a new revolutionary party by unifying the fragmented remains of the old radical elements that had been jogged loose from their old niches by the Stalinist crisis. “We do not make a fetish of the organizational question,” Dobbs declared. “We are entirely flexible as to the ultimate form of the party that will emerge from the regroupment process.”[2]

Cannon provided the theoretical justification for the SWP’s liquidationist policy. According to the convention report published in The Militant:

Cannon noted that the revolutionary regroupment in 1917–19, which gained its impetus and inspiration from the Russian Revolution, brought together in the young Communist Party of the U.S. elements from all the organized radical tendencies—the Socialist Party, the IWW and even the Socialist Labor Party. He pointed out that Louis C. Fraina, one of the most influential figures in the early years of the American Communist movement, began his socialist activities in the sectarian SLP.[3]

Cannon’s arguments were based on a false and preposterous analogy. To compare the situation after 1956 to that which had existed in 1917 was not merely to indulge one’s imagination. It was to falsify history and justify liquidationism. There existed no legitimate comparison between the fiery labor agitators, antiwar militants and idealistic socialist intellectuals who, disgusted by the opportunism of the Socialist Party and inspired by the example of Bolshevism, formed the American Communist Party, and the tired, cynical, complacent and generally well-heeled anti-Stalin Stalinists, ex-Stalinists, ex-fellow travelers, ex-Wallaceites, and well-meaning liberals with whom the SWP was now proposing to regroup.

Moreover, the “regroupment” of 1917–1919 took place beneath the impact of the greatest revolutionary upsurge of the international proletariat in world history. The regroupment within the United States directly expressed an organic process of differentiation within the labor movement. The new stage of the class struggle, bound up with the transformation of the United States into the world’s premier imperialist power, dealt the death blow to both the revolutionary syndicalism of the IWW and the Debsian conception of socialism.

Cannon’s role in initiating and supporting the regroupment policy marked the political end of his long struggle to build the Trotskyist movement. When viewed in the context of Cannon’s political biography, it is clear that his approach to regroupment was not simply an episodic error. It marked a break with fundamental political conceptions that had animated his work in the labor movement since 1918–19, when he recognized the need for the formation in the United States of the type of party that Lenin had built in Russia.

Cannon’s development as a party leader, as an American Bolshevik, proceeded through a critique of not only IWW syndicalism, but also of the Debsian conception of a socialist party. Cannon became the implacable foe of the “all-inclusive” party open to all those who mistakenly believe themselves to be socialists.

For Cannon, socialism had meant class war against capitalism, and the party that professed to fight for socialism had to recruit new members and train its cadre on that basis. The organizational principles adopted by the SWP at its founding convention in 1938 declared:

The revolutionary Marxian party rejects not only the arbitrariness and bureaucratism of the Communist Party, but also the spurious and deceptive “all-inclusiveness” of the Thomas-Tyler-Hoan Socialist Party, which is a sham and a fraud. Experience has proved conclusively that this “all-inclusiveness” paralyzes the party in general and the revolutionary left-wing in particular… The SWP seeks to be inclusive only in this sense, that it accepts into its ranks those who accept its program and denies admission to those who reject its program.[4]

As late as 1955, in an article honoring the centennial anniversary of Debs’s birth, Cannon stressed that the old pioneer’s greatest failing had been his false conception of the party, his failure to understand that a revolutionary organization cannot be based on “all-inclusiveness,” his toleration of opportunist tendencies inside the party and its leadership, and his avoidance of factional struggle.

Cannon argued passionately that Debs’s “mistaken theory of the party was one of the most costly mistakes a revolutionist ever made in the entire history of the American movement.” It was impossible to overthrow capitalism with a party based on Debs’s theory of all-inclusiveness. “As we see it now, in the light of what we have learned from the Russian Revolution and its aftermath, nine-tenths of the struggle for socialism is the struggle against bourgeois influence in the workers’ organizations, including the party.”[5]

The founding of the Communist Party, Cannon explained,

represented, not simply a break with the old Socialist Party, but even more important a break with the whole conception of a common party of revolutionists and opportunists. That signified a new beginning for American socialism, far more important historically than everything that had happened before, including the organization of the Socialist Party in 1901. There can be no return to the outlived and discredited experiment of the past. …

The struggle against the crimes and betrayals of Stalinism, the prerequisite for the construction of an honest revolutionary party, requires weapons from a different arsenal. Here also the Russians are our teachers. The programmatic weapons for the fight against Stalinist treachery were given to us by Trotsky, the coequal and successor of Lenin.

There can be no return to the past of the American movement. In connection with the Debs Centennial some charlatans, who measure the worth of a socialist movement by its numerical strength at the moment, have discovered new virtues in the old Socialist Party, which polled so many votes in the time of Debs, and have recommended a new experiment on the same lines. Besides its worthlessness as advice to the socialist vanguard that prescription does an injustice to the memory of Debs.[6]

And yet, with the adoption of the regroupment policy, Cannon reverted to the very political conceptions whose bankruptcy he had so clearly analyzed. On March 1,1958, as the regroupment policy was rapidly degenerating into a shabby electoral farce, Cannon shared a platform with Vincent Hallinan, a longtime Stalinist fellow traveler and 1952 presidential candidate of the capitalist Progressive Party, to speak on “United Socialist Action in 1958 and the Outlook for American Socialists.” Cannon’s speech was a sentimental and nostalgic appeal for a return to the past:

The basic aim in rebuilding for the future—as I think all present will agree—the basic aim for which we are all striving, is to regroup the scattered socialist forces, and eventually to get all honest socialists together in one common party organization. But that can’t be done in a day. The experience of the last two years shows that it will take time. We’ll have to take the process of collaboration and unification in stages, one step at a time.

The starting point of the process is for all genuine socialists of all tendencies, whether presently affiliated to one organization or another, or independent at present, to recognize that we are all part of one movement, and that we ought to work together fraternally in one field of action after another, work together against the injustices and oppressions of capitalism. That sounds almost like a revolutionary assertion after the terrible experience of the disruption of solidarity. But it used to be the unvarying practice and tradition of the old socialist and radical movement in America.[7]

Cannon’s renunciation of the Lenin-Trotsky conception of the party meant that he had given up on the struggle for Marxism in the working class, a struggle which finds its most intense expression in the fight against the pressures of hostile class forces as they are reflected, politically, theoretically, and organizationally, within the party. For years, Cannon had been on the left wing of the party leadership. Without the intervention of Cannon in 1952–53, the Cochranites would have won a majority in the SWP, almost by default. When the struggle began, Cannon was in a minority in the SWP leadership, and only with the greatest difficulty was he able to win a majority within the leadership and rally the party membership.

But even after the split, the political pressures which had given rise to Pabloite revisionism continued to bear down on the SWP and move it to the right. The protracted economic boom, the quiescence of the labor movement, the stranglehold of the bureaucracy over the unions, and the lingering effects of the anticommunist hysteria had built up enormous pressures on the cadre of the SWP.

Cannon’s resistance to these class pressures had collapsed by 1957. This was the meaning of his acceptance of regroupment, his turn toward reunification and his reversion to the Debsian conception of the all-inclusive party. Exhausted and unable to fight opportunism, Cannon became an opportunist.

Throughout 1957, the SWP worked to cultivate relations with the jetsam and flotsam of disintegrating Stalinism and senile American radicalism, that is, with the veteran professional practitioners of reformist protest politics. In May 1957, the SWP “greeted with enthusiasm” the formation of the American Socialist Forum, which it viewed as a crucial development in the regroupment process.

The forty-member National Committee of the forum included, in addition to Farrell Dobbs, the pacifist A.J. Muste (who served as the forum’s chairman), John T. McManus of the National Guardian and former supporter of Wallace’s bourgeois Progressive Party, Stalinist W.E.B. Dubois, Stalinist fellow traveler Waldo Frank, Gatesite Joseph Starobin, radical Dave Dellinger, and Pabloites Bert Cochran and Mike Bartell (Zaslow). To claim that out of such an assemblage could come “a reinvigorated socialist movement in the United States” was to defraud the working class and deceive the SWP membership.[8]

To accommodate the bones of all the skeletons rattling in the closets of the forum’s national committee members would have required the renting of a spacious New York warehouse. The SWP was acting as if the past no longer mattered at all. More than twenty years had passed since Muste’s brief association with Trotskyism had ended. He was as far from revolution as the man in the moon. Moreover, to sit on a committee with Cochran and Bartell, who had long since split with the Pabloites to move even further to the right, signified that the SWP had already, as far as its work in the United States was concerned, disavowed 1953.

Cochran and Clarke had been expelled precisely because they rejected the SWP’s claim to be the party of socialist revolution in the United States. They had insisted that the SWP was nothing more than one small eddy in the broad socialist current out of which the revolutionary party would eventually emerge. By 1958 the SWP fully accepted this conception. Marking the anniversary of the SWP’s founding, The Militant proclaimed in an editorial:

Socialist Workers Party members are proud of their party and its 20-year record. But such pride in no way blinds them or is in conflict with their first allegiance—to the socialist interests of the working class. They are therefore hopeful that out of the conscientious re-examination of ideas now going on, and out of the increasingly free and frank discussions now taking place among groups and individuals of different political persuasions, there will emerge the will to regroup now divided forces on the road to building a party in the U.S. capable of guiding the struggle for socialism to success.[9]

The liquidationist content of the regroupment policy found its clearest expression in the SWP’s involvement in the farcical “independent socialist” campaign of 1958. All remaining pretenses that regroupment was merely a tactic aimed at exploiting the crisis of Stalinism in order to win new forces to Trotskyism were abandoned as the SWP threw itself into the task of uniting all “socialist” forces behind common gubernatorial and senatorial candidates in the New York State elections. In an official “Proposal to the Radical Movement,” the SWP proclaimed its willingness to accept an electoral program based on a minimal platform upon which everyone to the left of the Democratic Party could agree.

In formulating the proposal for a “united socialist” campaign, the SWP formed the closest working relations with the Guardian group. This was, in itself, indicative of the change that had occurred within the SWP. In 1955, the SWP had explicitly rejected a call written by John T. McManus, a leader of the group, for a “united socialist” ticket. Cannon, in a letter to Murray Weiss March 4, 1955, spoke of McManus and Co. with unconcealed contempt:

The American Guardian Monthly Review outfit, as far as I know … does not object to the general ideology of Stalinism on any important point. They are willing to endorse everything from the Moscow Trials to the Second World War and the pacifist ballyhoo for co-existence, if only they are allowed to do it as an independent party… The great bulk of these dissident Stalinists are worn-out people, incurably corrupted by Stalinist ideology, who haven’t the slightest intention or capacity to do anything but grumble at the official CP and to demand a stagnant little pond of their own to splash in.[10]

The adoption of the regroupment policy strengthened the most right-wing elements in the SWP, and they welcomed the election campaign as a means of finally getting rid of all the unwanted “Trotskyist baggage,” which they held responsible for the isolation of the party. The foremost representative of the right wing was Murray Weiss, who vehemently defended liquidationism against the critics of regroupment inside the SWP.

Praising the election campaign, Weiss declared:

Our proposal was essentially very simple: socialists should get together to oppose the capitalist system and its two parties in the state elections. What socialists? Those socialists that took the name socialism seriously enough to oppose capitalist parties and politicians. On what program? On a program that could be agreed upon among those willing to join together as socialists against the capitalist parties. And we had a suggested outline of what such a minimum program should be. This approach left it to the struggle to decide what forces within the radical movement would be ready to move in this common direction of socialist class struggle politics.[11]

The alliance formed by the SWP with the New York petty bourgeoisie was unprincipled and reactionary. “Many of our allies in this bloc don’t agree that it is an elementary principle of socialism never to make coalitions with capitalist parties,” Weiss blandly admitted.[12] Furthermore, in the interests of concluding the electoral deal, the SWP shamefully renounced Trotskyism by capitulating to the pro-Stalinist sympathies of the Guardian representatives with whom the SWP was working. Weiss described the SWP’s capitulation:

In alliance with others in the bloc we insisted that it was necessary to have an unambiguous statement on socialism and democracy in the platform; a statement that would clearly oppose the bureaucratic dictatorship of Stalinism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. We argued that only by doing this could we go to the voters with a message of socialism that was not tainted with the crimes of Stalinism. We fought for this position pedagogically, but insistently.

However, in the course of many discussions we were unable to convince the representatives of the Guardian or the former ALP [American Labor Party] leaders on this point. While they would grant the correctness of a minimum stand for workers and socialist democracy everywhere, they argued that it had no place in a platform for an election in the U.S. They also contended that if we tried to get a minimum formulation on this question it would blow up the coalition, since there were many deep-going historical and theoretical differences that couldn’t be reconciled in any minimum formulation. And they stubbornly persisted in refusing to agree to such a clause in the platform. We had to weigh the significance of this in determining our own course.

Was their refusal to agree to a simple statement opposing the bureaucratic practices of Stalinist regimes and championing the cause of socialist democracy a sign that they were simply captives of the Kremlin, just like the CP leadership? If this were the case the possibility of a fruitful coalition with them in the elections would be extremely dubious. Or was it a sign of the continued pressure of Stalinism and that their break with the organized Stalinist movement was still incomplete. Our assessment was the latter. All the signs pointed to their eventual open break with Stalinism in which they would be compelled to denounce the crimes of the Stalinist bureaucracy. Whether this would lead them to agreement with our position or not was, of course, problematical. But we estimated that in the period of the election itself, they would be unable to hold on to a position of “dummying up” on socialism and democracy in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, etc.[13]

In order to accommodate the pro-Stalinist scoundrels, the SWP moved to repudiate publicly the political revolution against the Soviet bureaucracy. This job was eagerly undertaken by Joseph Hansen, a man capable of writing anything, in the Spring 1958 issue of the SWP’s International Socialist Review:

The program of political revolution in the Soviet Union has been badly misunderstood—and sadly misinterpreted—in the radical movement. It has been pictured as “revolutionary romanticism,” a smoking-hot kind of sectarianism that rejects the struggle for reforms in principle, a remote-from-this-world attitude like that of the De Leonists, who haughtily scorn “mere” reforms and who will settle for nothing less than the whole hog delivered at the kitchen door. A more generous visualization sees something like a TV Western where the victimized cow hands organize a posse to shoot up the outlaws who have taken over the sheriffs office.

It is much closer to reality to view the program of political revolution as the total series of reforms, gained through militant struggle, culminating in the transfer of power to the workers.

No revolution comes in a single oversize dose like a horse pill. It develops in interlinked stages affecting interlinked fields. If any of the demands of any of the stages be viewed in isolation, or fixed as an end in itself rather than a means to a higher goal, it appears as a reform.[14] (Hansen’s emphasis.)

In terms far more explicit than had ever been used by Pablo, Hansen outlined a process of democratic self-reform by the bureaucracy: “A section of the officialdom, the section that is capable of responding sensitively to the demands of the people, comes over to the workers at various speeds and in varying degrees, providing fresh sources of encouragement.”[15]

Hansen was not finished. Using the opportunity that had been finally provided by regroupment, Hansen was determined to totally disassociate the SWP from any perspective for the violent revolutionary overthrow of the Kremlin bureaucracy:

To remove any further misunderstanding, I want to emphasize that political revolution is not proposed as a slogan for immediate action. Nor is it proposed as a slogan for agitation. It is a strategic line to be used as a guide for understanding and helping to shape coming events in the whole next historical period of Soviet development. …

To those fellow socialists who have reached the conclusion that Stalinism must go but are undecided whether or not the bureaucracy can be reformed out of existence in one way or another, I am quite willing to let the test of further events prove which program and perspective best fits the needs of the workers struggle amidst the new conditions of Soviet life.[16] (Hansen’s emphasis.)

The independent socialist campaign ended as a complete debacle for the SWP. It even accepted the decision that none of the “socialist candidates” would be associated with the SWP. The nomination for New York Senator went instead to the millionaire pacifist and former Moscow Trials-enthusiast Corliss Lamont. The nomination for Governor went to John T. McManus. For Lieutenant Governor, the “United Socialist Party” nominated another displaced liberal “friend of the Soviet Union,” Dr. Annette Rubinstein. The selections were hailed by The Militant as “A Great Step Forward”: “Corliss Lamont, John T. McManus and Dr. Annette Rubinstein are to be congratulated for undertaking the campaign for peace and socialism. Their long and courageous record of opposition to the cold war and witch hunt gives assurance that they will wage a militant campaign that will strengthen the socialist cause.”[17]

For the SWP to have associated itself with, let alone praised, the candidacy of Corliss Lamont was irrefutable evidence of its political decay. The millionaire Lamont was the quintessential embodiment of that broad category of frightened liberals, radical tourists, and professional humanitarians known as fellow travelers. Lamont’s acceptance letter gives an indication of his reactionary political outlook: “In the view of the crisis in the Middle East and the other international issues facing the United States and the world, I intend to stress in my campaign the questions of peace, disarmament and international cooperation both inside and outside of the United Nations.”[18]

In addition to his faith in the United Nations, Lamont firmly believed that “a summit meeting” between Eisenhower and Khrushchev “to work out international issues” would represent a major gain for the cause of peaceful coexistence. In fact, a resolution dealing with the Lebanon crisis passed at the United Socialist Party rally declared: “The hope for peace by peoples everywhere is now focussed on the summit meeting scheduled at the United Nations. … ”[19]

Corliss Lamont’s “militant campaign” reached its climax with the issuing of a “10-Point Peace Program” which included … the firing of Secretary of State John Foster Dulles! Speaking on statewide radio on September 26, Lamont amplified on this astonishing proposal: “If international peace is to come, Secretary Dulles must go! In the interests of America and all humanity, it is time for President Eisenhower to dismiss Mr. Dulles as his Secretary of State. I suggest that Harold Stassen, a member of his own party, who has worked hard and sincerely for disarmament, should replace him.”[20]

Three days later, The Militant endorsed Lamont’s call for the removal of the secretary of state in an editorial entitled “Dulles Must Go!”:

For millions of people across the globe, John Foster Dulles has become the dread, hated symbol of the reactionary American foreign policy that keeps the world in constant peril of atomic war. Here at home there is also a developing popular opposition to the Secretary of State and to the insane policy of “brinkmanship” associated with his name. There is every justification for the growing demand that “Dulles must go!”[21]

The SWP was not merely adapting itself to Lamont. Its endorsement of Lamont’s proposal that American imperialism give itself a face-lift flowed organically out of a capitulation to bourgeois democracy that had been foreshadowed in its call for the use of federal troops in the South. If Eisenhower could be called upon to defend democratic rights in Mississippi, why could he not be prevailed upon to hire a new secretary of state who would do the same thing on a world scale?

It was left to Murray Weiss to find the most profound reason for supporting Lamont’s call for the removal of Dulles. It reminded him, he said, of the Bolsheviks’ call in 1917 for the removal of the ten capitalist ministers!

Only those who steadfastly refuse to study the real political evolution of the SWP after 1957—its treacherous repudiation of the Transitional Program and the foundations of Trotskyism, its obscene capitulation to the dregs of American radicalism, and its rejection of the struggle for workers’ power in favor of a program of middle-class protest—can seriously claim that the reunification with the Pabloites arose simply because of agreement on the nature of the Cuban Revolution.

The SWP could not write flattering editorials about Annette Rubinstein and Corliss Lamont and simultaneously denounce Pablo’s betrayal of Trotskyism. Well before Castro descended from the Sierra Madre and made his triumphal march into Havana, the SWP had made a somewhat less glorious entry into the camp of the American petty bourgeoisie. That is what brought the SWP back to the Pabloites and placed its break from the International Committee and its reunification with the International Secretariat on the agenda.


National Education Department Socialist Workers Party, Education for Socialists: The Struggle to Reunify the Fourth International (1954–63), vol. 3, July 1978, p. 15.


The Militant, 17 June 1957.




SWP Internal Bulletin, vol. 8, no. 10, August 1946, p. 25.


James P. Cannon, The First Ten Years of American Communism (New York: Lyle Stuart, 1962), p. 270.


Ibid., p. 275.


James P. Cannon, Speeches for Socialism (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1971), p. 338.


The Militant, 20 May 1957.


The Militant, 6 January 1958.


SWP Discussion Bulletin, vol. 20, no. 2, January 1959, p. 27.


SWP Discussion Bulletin, vol. 20, no. 1, January 1959, p. 3.


Ibid., p. 8.


Ibid., pp. 10–11.


Joseph Hansen, “Proposed Roads to Soviet Democracy,” International Socialist Review, vol. 19, no. 2, Spring 1958, p. 50.


Ibid., p. 51.




The Militant, 21 July 1958.


The Militant, 28 July 1958.


The Militant, 4 August 1958.


The Militant, 6 October 1958.


The Militant, 29 September 1958.