Marxist Bulletin No. 4

Expulsion from the Socialist Workers Party

Document 3




Political Committee Motion on the Robertson-Ireland-Harper Case, 2 August 1963
(plus Control Commission cover letter)

August 16, 1963
James Robertson
New York City

Dear Comrade Robertson:

Enclosed is a copy of the Political Committee motion of August 2, 1963, requesting an investigation by the Control Commission of charges publicly made against you.

In conformity with this motion we request that you appear at a hearing to be held at 116 University Place. Please telephone SU 7-4259 on Monday, August 19, between 6 pm and 10 pm, to arrange date and time suitable to you and to the Control Commission.

The party constitution makes the following provisions concerning the Control Commission:

‘The Control Commission, on completion of its investigation in each case, shall present its findings and recommendations to the Political Committee for action. Action shall be taken by the Political Committee, or by the National Committee, in those cases referred to it by the Political Committee…

‘It shall be obligatory on every member of the Party to furnish the Control Commission or its authorized representatives with any information they may require.’

Please bring with you to the hearing the material pertinent to this investigation.

Fraternally yours,
for the Control Commission:
Anne Chester
John Tabor

Attachment to P.C. Minutes No. 1, August 2, 1963.

Motion by Cannon-Dobbs-Hansen-Kerry and Warde:

On Robertson-Ireland-Harper Case

During the pre-convention discussion, the Wohlforth-Philips tendency made certain accusations of a most serious character, involving the party loyalty of the Robertson-Mage-White tendency. In a statement published in Discussion Bulletin Vol. 24, No. 27, they wrote:

“It became clear to us that a section of our tendency had simply written off the party as a whole without a serious struggle to reorient over a period of time the best working class cadres of the party. In addition they displayed no serious interest in the work of our party in the mass movement and instead sought to retreat into a comfortable ‘study circle’. And finally their evolution seemed at that time to be propelling them rapidly in the direction of a split from the party.” (page 4.)

As evidence that the Robertson-Mage-White tendency were moving toward a split, the Wohlforth-Philips tendency attached three documents as appendixes to this bulletin. In these, they cite the following to substantiate their charges:

(1) Hostile attitude toward the Party

Referring to a “Robertson-Ireland” document, the following is stated in Appendix II:

“These comrades, as they have no class analysis of the party, begin with a feeling of deep alienation from the party as a whole. This is expressed in a thousand little ways throughout the document. ‘We have no intention of building centrism’. Robertson-Ireland state, and they caution us on having ‘any mistaken concepts of loyalty to a diseased shell.’ Along the same lines is their distinction between the discipline of the party and the discipline of the tendency. They claim to reject the former and adhere to the latter.” (page 20)

(2) Double recruiting

On this violation of party discipline and elementary loyalty, it is asserted:

“Their activity, to the extent that it occurs at all, takes on a ‘circle building’ character. This is expressed in their concept of ‘“double” recruitment.’ They urge our tendency to take your fresh elements, indoctrinate them with our views (in a careful manner of course so as not to get ‘caught’) and then sneak them into the party and into the tendency.” (page 21.)

“While the comrades recognize that we cannot operate independently of the party they urge us to operate through the form of the party as if we were in fact a separate organization. This is the meaning of their urgings that we ‘act as united blocs within the Party when approaching some outside activity as a strike, campus activity or the like.’ Comrade Harper similarly urges us to function where the majority isn't.” (pages 21-22.)

“For us to consider opening up our tendency to non-party members is simply to invite disciplinary action from the majority. This is clearly an action in violation of the statutes in our party.” (page 22.)

(3) Split perspective

Referring again to the “Robertson-Ireland” document, the following is stated:

“The Robertson-Ireland orientation, taken as a whole, has an internal logic to it that the authors may only be partially aware of, or not aware at all. To state it openly and plainly theirs is a split perspective. A tendency which rejects party discipline (even if only partially) and party building, which seeks to sneak people into the party, which functions in part as an independent entity, which carries on an organizational faction war within the party, which, in violation of party statutes includes non-party members, which is so deeply alienated and isolated from the party ranks that it has in fact already split in content if not yet in form--such a tendency is going down a road which must inevitably lead to a split from the party.” (pages 22-23.)

In connection with this, Albert Philips offered the following in a letter attached as Appendix III:

“The history of the revolutionary movement is replete with individuals and little groups of frustrated and rootless petty-bourgeois, who under cover of revolutionary phraseology prepare a desertion of the revolutionary movement.

“I hope I am wrong, but the Robertson-Ireland ‘document,’ taken together with the Harper statement on the YSA to which he refers, appears to be heading in just that direction, and at top speed.” (page 25.)

Making a comparison with the minority of 1939-40, Philips states that the Petty-Bourgeois Opposition of that time “did not start off with a split perspective anywhere near as clearly enunciated as that of Robertson…” (page 26.)

In view of the grave charges contained in this material, Comrade Dobbs, acting in his capacity as National Secretary, wrote to James Robertson under date of July 5, formally requesting copies of the “Robertson-Ireland document” and the “Harper statement.”

Robertson rejected this request, declaring in a letter dated July 9 that if “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.”

From the floor of the July convention, Robertson made similar remarks concerning his rejection of any form of cooperation with the party leadership in ascertaining the facts unless a control commission were convened.

In face of Robertson’s refusal to cooperate with the efforts of the National Secretary to clear up this question, Comrade Dobbs sent a formal request dated July 10 to Tim Wohlforth, requesting copies of the “Robertson-Ireland document” and the “Harper statement.”

Apparently solidarizing himself with Robertson in this matter, Wohlforth rejected the request, alleging that the documents that had been cited and quoted from in Discussion Bulletin Vol. 24, No. 27, were “private political material.”

In view of this obstructionist course being followed by both Robertson and Wohlforth in a matter of vital concern to the welfare and discipline of the party, the Political Committee now refers this question to the Control Commission, requesting that it conduct an investigation into possible violations of the statutes of the party, especially involving Robertson, Ireland and Harper.

Adopted by P.C., August 2, 1963.




Posted: 22 October 2006