Marxist Bulletin No. 4

Expulsion from the Socialist Workers Party

Document 2




Letter to Dobbs
By James Robertson

New York
July 9, 1963

Farrell Dobbs
National Secretary

Dear comrade Dobbs:

I have carefully considered your letter to me of July 5 which stated:

“Attached you will find a copy of Discussion Bulletin, Vol. 24, No. 27, containing a statement, with three appendices, submitted by the ‘Reorganized Minority Tendency’.

"I call your attention to references made therein to a ‘Robertson-Ireland document’ and a ‘Harper statement’ which have been circulated by your faction.

“I hereby formally request that you immediately provide me with copies of both these items.”

You have apparently been misled concerning the nature of the material of which you request copies. In the course of developing views of the Minority over the past period a great many pages of material have been written and supplemented by extensive oral contributions. Included in the written material are correspondence and summaries of phone calls, draft documents or statements and suggested amendments, discussion comments and critiques, procedural proposals, and the like. Certain of the material has now been brought to your attention by references in Wohlforth’s and Philips’ old inner-tendency discussion material and correspondence which they have submitted to the bulletin. The views offered by comrade Harper and by comrade Ireland and me were contributions to the necessary internal process of arriving at tendency positions such as those presented to the party during the current pre-convention period. The particular documents in question were never adopted by the tendency nor to my knowledge have they been circulated among Majority supporters. (Presumably had they been so circulated, you would now be in possession of copies.)

On the face of it you would seem to have no more right to copies of these documents you formally request than to other such materials from the files of the Minority. Nor is your request different in kind from asking for Majority observers to be present in tendency meetings, to listen in on tendency phone calls, or to scrutinize tendency mail. For that matter, you would have no more right to such access than a Minority supporter would have to monitor the Majority's meetings, internal reports, preliminary drafts, etc.

While not indicated in your note, it may be that you were asking for these documents not as an outrageously mistaken ‘right’, but rather as a privilege -- a request which is entirely in order. If this latter is the case I must respectfully draw your attention to the sentence from the Minority’s ‘Discipline and Truth -- Reply to Wohlforth’ in which it is stated that ‘We are not at all interested in carrying old inner-Tendency disputes to the Majority or involving it in our arguments with Wohlforth.’

There is another consideration which you may have in mind in making a formal request for copies of these writings: that of a fishing expedition for either general information to embarrass the Minority in some way or else seeking after evidence in the documents to support Wohlforth’s accusations of indiscipline against myself or other supporters of our tendency. If this latter is the case and if, even after the Minority’s documented reply ‘Discipline and Truth’, you still entertain any substantive doubt as to the self-serving falseness of Wohlforth’s charges, the proper way to proceed is, of course, to cause a trial body or control commission inquiry to be convened.

Thus by every test but one, your request fails to find a proper or sufficient justification. The only remaining ground would be that of sheer organizational intimidation on the basis that anything the National Secretary asks for is damn well to be complied with. Such a justification unfortunately has been well prepared; the political contribution to date of the party leadership to the pre-Convention discussion has had as its central axis -- threats. This is so even though no member of any Minority in the SWP has said or implied anything other than the ready acceptance of party decisions including those of the coming Convention.

As an enormous concession in order to improve the atmosphere for political confrontation as we enter the final phase of the convention period, I am making an extraordinary effort toward satisfying your formal request by enclosing my own written contribution from among those which you asked for. I must stress that this partial compliance with your request should not be taken as in any way setting precedent, nor does it imply or initiate any right by Majority comrades to be privy to the processes in which the Minority works out its views.

Moreover, it is not my place to supply you with the private written thoughts of other Minority comrades. Should you be sufficiently curious about additional material from within our Tendency, I feel sure that at your slightest suggestion comrade Wohlforth would readily oblige you. Indeed he has already seen fit to publish an extract in the party bulletin of a document which did not come into his own possession in a straightforward fashion. I am referring to a draft letter which had been considered by us, but not used, as a reply to the Philips-Wohlforth ‘Reorganized’ grouping.

James Robertson

[Encl. Part I - 'The Centrism of the SWP’ plus first sentence, Part II.]




Posted: 22 October 2006