Marxist Bulletin No. 4
Expulsion from the Socialist Workers Party
Letter to Dobbs
By James Robertson
July 9, 1963
Dear comrade Dobbs:
I have carefully considered your letter to me of July 5 which
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 Wohlforths 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
Minoritys 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
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 Wohlforths
accusations of indiscipline against myself or other supporters of our tendency.
If this latter is the case and if, even after the Minoritys documented
reply Discipline and Truth, you still entertain any substantive
doubt as to the self-serving falseness of Wohlforths 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.
[Encl. Part I - 'The Centrism of the SWP plus
first sentence, Part II.]