Marxist Bulletin No. 2

The Nature of the Socialist Workers Party—Revolutionary or Centrist




Theses on the Situation and Tasks of the Revolutionary Tendency in the American Trotskyist Movement

by Shane Mage

I. The crisis of the SWP is nothing but an American expression of the crisis of the international Trotskyist movement.

II .The crisis of the international movement is caused by the failure of its leadership to apply and develop creatively the method of Marxism. This failure has led a section of the Trotskyist cadre, under the pressure of isolation from the working class and proletarian failures and defeats, to abandon in practice the proletarian-revolutionary perspective of Marxism.

III. By accepting the role of pressure-group subordinate to the pro-capitalist stalinist, social-democratic, and national-bourgeois leaderships of existing social movements, this cadre has succumbed to capitalist ideology and ceased to be a genuinely revolutionary tendency.

IV. The political merger of the Cannon and Pablo groups on the basis of a program in no way superior to that formerly advocated by Pablo and, within the SWP, by Cochran and Clarke, has proven that the SWP majority is no more than a revisionist tendency identical in nature to the other Pabloite groups.

V. The SWP minority is the American component of the international tendency struggling for the revitalization of the Fourth International. Success in this struggle can be obtained only through the most persistent study and development of Marxist theory in application to the course of the class struggle in every country.

VI. In all countries the revisionist tendencies contain a significant proportion of individuals who sincerely consider themselves to be revolutionaries, including both veteran working-class cadres and new young militants. Through political discussion and common action many of these comrades can be won away from the revisionist politics of the groups with which they are presently identified.

VII. The division between the revolutionary tendency and Pabloite revisionism in all its forms is politically irreconcilable. In the long run, unless the revisionist tendency should reverse its very nature, this fact must inevitably find full organizational expression. However, at present the two tendencies remain within a single party, and formalization of their division will remain premature until the political disagreements have been thoroughly clarified and the choice clearly posed for all.

VIII. Presence in the same movement as the Pabloite revisionists and even, in certain cases, participation in a national party with a solidly entrenched revisionist majority, is a necessary tactic for the revolutionary tendency. Like any tactic it is entirely subordinate to revolutionary strategy.

IX. The essential strategy of Marxism today is the formation of the revolutionary vanguard party of the working class through continual promotion of and participation in the class struggle on the basis of the perpetual development, dissemination, and implementation of the program of Trotskyism.

X. Strategic imperatives can give way to tactical considerations only on the basis of concrete and compelling arguments. Where the discipline of a non-revolutionary organization conflicts with the obligation of a revolutionary to his class and to the Marxist program there can be no presumption in favor of acceptance of that discipline.

XI. The revolutionary tendency consists of all those individuals participating in the class struggle on the basis of the Trotskyist program, irrespective of whether some party with a revisionist majority is willing to permit them to be ‘party members’. The mode of participation of such individuals in the revolutionary tendency is exclusively a tactical question.

XII. On the basis of the foregoing strategic line, the fundamental tasks of the revolutionary tendency are at present as follows:

(a) Its own theoretical and political development through serious and systematic study of Marxist method and theory.

(b) Participation in the struggle of the working class and Negro people to the maximum extent possible, and intensive effort to place its members in position to participate in future struggles.

(c) Fullest activity within the Socialist Workers Party, which constitutes our primary arena for political work and primary mode of participation in the class struggle.

(d) Full and active intervention in the international discussion process as an integral part of the revolutionary tendency grouped around the International Committee.

10 October 1962


Note to Thesis XI

Some comrades have queried the absence of an explicit enumeration of acceptance of the discipline of a democratic-centralist (Leninist) party as a criterion for inclusion in the tendency. To remove any possible doubt, it should be made perfectly clear that functioning ‘on the basis of the Trotskyist program’ must include the living practice of democratic centralism. The actual meaning of democratic centralism is necessarily dependent on the concrete conditions in which the Marxist functions--thus in the U.S. today the problem is complicated by the fact that the revolutionary tendency is not yet organized along democratic-centralist lines, so that a fully Leninist ‘party’ cannot be said to exist, but is merely in process of formation. I am for the speediest possible perfection of the functioning of the tendency along democratic-centralist lines.

S.M., 14 October 1962




Posted: 16 July 2005