First National Conference and Spartacist League marked by seriousness and youth

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As FSP’s socialist feminist orientation grew and the Spartacist League’s sexist ultraleftism increased, the relationship between the two organizations changed from these very early perspectives. For more recent analysis see:

History as revised by left sexists: anti-feminist fiction
On the Centrality of Feminism to the Liberation of the Working Class
How Can African American Liberation Be Won?

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It was with considerable gratification that I attended, as a fraternal observer, the first national conference of the Spartacist League, held in Chicago over the Labor Day weekend.

The Spartacist League is one of the tendencies created by the centripetal forces of the Socialist Workers Party, as a faction in the SWP, it was expelled a few years ago and has since grown into a national organization of modest proportions.

It is staffed largely by young people and their ability to hold a serious national conference was in itself a big achievement for them.

Discussion at this three-day gathering centered on the Negro question and on Tasks and Perspectives of the Spartacist League.

I was happy to participate in the former, which opened with a Resolution proposed by Lynne Harper (well known to Seattle socialists) and M. Small.

A prolonged discussion on the Negro struggle ensued, constituting the first objective and realistic official discussion of this vital question that I have heard (outside the Pacific Northwest) in my thirty-some years of continuous activity in the revolutionary socialist movement.

The discussion refracted, in its own way, the basic polar opposition between Negro nationalism/separatism and revolutionary integrationism.

But there was hardly a trace of tho Vulgar petty-bourgeois nationalism characteristic of the SWP, and the majority stood firmly on tho ground of revolutionary integration, an unfortunate tendency prevailed among many speakers to seek differences where they didn’t exist and to escalate minor differences or shades of innuendo.

Still, the result was meaningful discussion which will certainly aid this organization in establishing itself firmly in the Negro community in the several places where it already has a foothold, particularly in Harlem and certain places in the deep South. Both areas had impressive delegations at the Conference.

The discussion on Tasks and Perspectives ranged over both the strategic and organizational problems of the Leage. Jim Robertson, National Secretary of the League, and one of its principle founders, advocated the perspective of socialist regroupment, much along the lines we have pressed, at the same time pointing out important ideological areas which particularly identify Spartacist and its contributions to the development of socialism in the U.S.

Dissident and critical views were expressed by several participants who were granted extremely generous debating time. Implicit in the sentiment of some critics was an attitude of too great self-sufficiency, a tendency to view the present form and activity of the League as eternal.

This sectarianism is not unnatural in a small organization with largely propagandistic tasks and an intense internal life, and I do not view it as a dominant trend in the Spartacist League. Its members are imbued with a revolutionary determination to become a force to be reckoned with in the emerging socialist movement.

We share with them a belief in the basic scientific validity of Marxism, as taught by Karl Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Trotsky. Spartacist’s approach to the Negro question, which we view as a decisive key to the American Revolution, is in close proximity to ours in the FSP. Despite some serious differences with Spartacist over various issues, our agreement on questions as basic as those cited above lays a foundation for fraternal collaboration during the coming period.

It was a pleasure to see our old friend and comrade Art Phillips, who was also a visitor at the Conference. We had some fruitful discussions about the future of the socialist movement in the United States and I anticipate that our preliminary conclusions will be useful in stimulating the process of revolutionary reorganization on a national level.

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