An Answer to Socialist Action Newspaper
The editor of the monthly newspaper, Socialist Action (SA), Michael Schreiber, wrote a dishonest, self-serving statement attacking the Socialist Workers Organization, though not by name (he calls us the "Weinstein group") in the March, 2001, issue of the paper. The first and most serious charge in the SA editorial statement was that "the Weinstein minority rejected taking a public position of support to self-determination for the Albanians in Kosovo, who were nationally oppressed by the Milosevic regime and the victims of attempted genocide."
Self-determination and the U.S. war on Yugoslavia
The Socialist Workers Organization, which was in the majority of Socialist Action at the time of the U.S./NATO war on Yugoslavia in the Spring of 1999, unconditionally supported Kosovo self-determination. We did so publicly, as a reading of Socialist Action newspaper at that time will prove. The difference over self-determination was not in whether to raise itbut how to raise it.
The then-minority of Socialist Action insisted that self-determination be a central immediate demand on the Clinton administrationon a par with Stop the Bombing!during its war on Yugoslavia. We argued that once the U.S./NATO bombing of Yugoslavia began, the demand of self-determination became subordinate to the two central demands of Stop the Bombing! and U.S./NATO Out of the Balkans!
Clinton justified the U.S. military intervention to the American people on the grounds that he was bombing Serbia and Kosovo to save the Kosovars from genocide. We believed the American anti-war movement should demand the complete cessation of bombing and the complete end of military intervention, not make demands that imply that American and world imperialism had a right to intervene because of the crimes of Yugoslavia's Stalinist government.
The call for Kosovar self-determination as a demand on the American government was tantamount to a call for intervention to stop the brutality of the Milosevic regime. That's why we did not put this demand on the same plane or give it the same emphasis as our demand on the U.S. government to stop the bombing and get out of Yugoslavia. At the same time, however, we condemned the Yugoslav Stalinist regime's brutal assault on the ethnic Albanian majority of Kosovo and explained our full support to their right to self-determination in Socialist Action newspaper and in public speeches.
The Demonstration at the Democratic Party Convention
The difference over the Mumia Abu-Jamal demonstration at the Democratic Party National Convention in Los Angeles last August was misrepresented in the SA editorial statement as well. Schreiber says that we "claimed that because the demonstration coincided with the Democratic Convention, it had to be objectively a pro-Democratic Party action, and therefore our participation was unprincipled."
That is not what we said. We opposed S.A. participating in the demonstration because it took place at the Democratic Party Convention and many, if not most, protesters sought to improve the program of this capitalist party and promote its good politicians and oppose its bad ones.
This, we argued, tended to lead participants to look towards the Democratic Party as a positive alternative to the Republican Party (which many, if not most Mumia supporters now do). This would weaken the independent character of coalitions formed to defend Mumia and thus impede their ability to continue independent mobilizations, so necessary to an effective defense, after the election.
On the question of whether or not to participate in demonstrations at conventions of capitalist parties, Socialist Action, and the revolutionary Marxist movement in general, have always held the view that attempting to influence what capitalist politicians say they stand for has absolutely no relation with what they do! It is well known that a capitalist politician's promises are not worth a plugged nickel.
Consequently, under the concrete circumstances of a demonstration whose participants clearly aimed to influence what capitalist politicians promise, the demonstration implied electoral support should they indeed make such promises. In our view, it then became a matter of principle.
The following fact substantiates our view of SA's historic position: Socialist Action had already voted unanimously in its leadership body not to support the L.A. demonstration. It did so before the March, 2000, S.A. convention. And at the S.A. convention it was reaffirmed reaffirmed, also unanimously. It was the SA editor's faction that changed the policy regarding "protesting" at capitalist party conventionsand other disputed questionsnot ours.
Since this debate in SA took place, Socialist Action newspaper subsequently supported the anti-inaugural demonstration against George W. Bush, a demonstration in which most of the speakers and its participants saw Al Gore and the Democrats as a lesser-evil to George Bush and the Republicans. Independent working class political action was not the theme or thrust of the Jan. 20 counter-inaugural demonstrations. It was a pro-Democratic Party demonstration, which included among its sponsors leaders of the Democratic Party, including the Congressional Black Caucus and Jesse Jackson.
Relations with the Fourth International
The S.A. editorial statement also accuses the Socialist Workers Organization of breaking off relations with the Fourth International, the world political party founded by Leon Trotsky in 1939.*
That has not yet occurred. However, our position is that if the leadership of the Fourth International proceeds with its declared aim of abandoning the programmatic foundations of the world Trotskyist movementembodied in its statutes and preambleat its upcoming World Congress scheduled for October 2001, we would not continue to maintain political solidarity with this empty shell of the World Party of Socialist Revolution founded by Leon Trotsky. That's quite a different situtation than the false SA editorial statement.
In fact, a resolution entitled "Stop the Liquidation of the World Party of Socialist Revolution!"endorsing our above-stated political standwas actually moved for adoption by the SA Political Committee, by Carole Seligman and Nat Weinstein, the two minority members of that body. That resolution was adopted unanimously by all five members of that leadership body.
In regard to Palestine: We criticized the S.A. leadership majority in the political committee of Socialist Action for failing to publish statements in our press or organize support for the new Palestinian intifada when it first began in the Fall of 2000. The Israeli government was shooting down Palestinian children and a number of demonstrations took place including some sizeable actions organized within the Palestinian diaspora communities in the United States. No articles or editorials appeared in the S.A. newspaper until well over a month after these developments, and our minority at the timealong with a couple of supporters of the new SA majority in the SF branchwere critical of this serious error of omission.
When articles did appear, the decisive role of U.S. and world imperialism was played down. And there was not a single reference in these statements, nor in the majority's Draft Resolution on Palestine, to the need for a united international workers' struggle against both imperialism and its indigenous capitalist junior partners in the Middle East and elsewhere. We didn't reject the historic position of the Trotskyist movement against the Zionist state of Israel and for Palestinian self-determination. On the contrary, it was the new SA majority that has retreated from our historic program regarding how we fight imperialism and all its junior partners.
The S.A. national convention
The SA editorial statement addresses the Socialist Action national convention scheduled for May, 2001 in a completely dishonest manner. The convention was not called by the SA leadership. Neither was it a regularly scheduled convention. The convention was originally called by branches representing over one-third of the membership.
And the sole reason why these branches endorsed the call for a Special Convention, as stated in the motion for its adoption, was the threat made by Jeff Mackler, the National Secretary of Socialist Action, to dissolve the San Francisco branch and reconstitute its membership into two separate branches based solely on how comrades had voted on disputed questions at the previous conventionwithout a discussion or vote by the SF branch membership.
Macklers entire proposition was in violation of the SA Constitution, which provides for the establishment of branches based only on where members live or where they worknot on how they vote on disputed political questions.
After the call for a Special Convention was adopted by the required branches representing one third of the SA membership, the San Francisco branch, the largest in SA, was unilaterally disbanded and reconstituted into two separate branches, as had been threatened. This was done without a discussion or vote by the members of the San Francisco branch. It was accomplished by a 3 to 2 vote by the SA Political Committee.
The SA editor dismisses these violations of the organizational principles of Socialist Action as "a number of organizational grievances in an effort to justify their split and to deflect attention from the fact that members of their group held political views that were not clearly statedand which certainly did not warrant their leaving Socialist Action."
We do not, however, consider violation by the PC majority of the democratic rights of the membership of Socialist Action and the violation of the organizational principle of democratic centralism, to be merely organizational grievances." It was far more than that. It was, as we stated in a written warning that was rejected by the three majority members of the SA Political committee, that a failure to rescind their dissolution of the SF branch would mean that Socialist Action as we knew it no longer existed.
The Division Was Really an Expulsion
SA editor Michael Schreibers disingenuous statement that "no disciplinary measures or threats had been made against any members" is a fraud. The leadership majority carried out an expulsion, but called it a "division" into two separate branches.
Political Positions in Writing
Never have the members of the Socialist Workers Organization failed to put their political positions in writing within Socialist Action and we certainly have no intention of failing to do so now.
A Blow to American Trotskyism
The conclusion of Schreibers statement, that we have dealt a blow to the work of building a revolutionary socialist party is turned around. The SA leadership majority dealt that blow. They forced out of Socialist Action the main founders of the organization, including the leaders of the fight to defend Trotskyism within the Socialist Workers Party, Nat Weinstein and Lynn Henderson. With the exception of the three remaining members of the Socialist Action political committee and one other member, they forced out all the experienced cadres who had been party builders and activists for several decades. They forced out the entire section of the party, but one, who work in the rail industry, all but one Teamster, the steel workers, the Black members, the women members with experience in the women's rights movement, and several other working class members. They destroyed a good attempt to rebuild American Trotskyism when the SWP dropped the Trotskyist program.
Now, we're smaller and the obstacles are greater, but the Socialist Workers Organization firmly believes that a revolutionary socialist, democratic-centralist workers political party needs to be built. That's what we mean to do. That's what this new magazine will be all about.
The Editorial Board