SWP Uses Watergate Methods Against Trotskyists
SWP Uses Watergate Methods Against Trotskyists
[First printed in Workers Vanguard #29, 28 September 1973]
DETROIT~Taking time out from their international faction fight and legal suit against Nixon for his Watergate-type harassment of them, the leadership of the Socialist Workers Partj recently expelled three of its members using evidence gathered with its own (rather inept) brand of “dirty tricks.” Among other things, the SWP had four of its members hiding in the bushes around the Spartacist League summer camp in August and instructed a YSA member to act like a Spartacist sympathizer in the time-honored agent-provocateur manner, The victims, Irene Gorgosz and Michael Milin, both of the Detroit branch, and Gerald Clark of the Oakland-Berkeley branch, were the three signers of the “Declaration of Revolutionary Internationalist Tendency” submitted to the SWP preconvention discussion. The charges brought against these comrades were “collaboration with the Spartacist League” and double recruiting. At the three sham “trials,” the charges against these comrades were patently only pretexts for a political expulsion, exposing the hypocrisy and intriguing of the SWP majority.
The Revolutionary Internationalist Tendency (RIT) had stood counterposed to both the International Majority Tendency (IMT) and the SWP majority-led Leninist~Trotskyist Tendency (see WV No. 28, 14 September). The “Declaration” wages a broad attack on the SWP’s deepening immersion in reformism and petty-bourgeois “movements” in the face of an intensifying capitalist crisis and working-class restlessness. At the same time its criticisms of the IMT are fundamental:
“The International Majority Tendency in standing for the petty-bourgeois guerrilla road in the colonial world which even if successful could at best lead to a deformed workers state, and at the expense of a working class centered revolution-has reaped with the PRT-ERP the inevitable consequences: that for such guerrillas, a Mao or a Castro, not a Trotsky, is their legitimate ideological hero and inspirer. In Europe, the IMT’s latest fad is the phrase “new mass vanguard” and the revolution guaranteed within five years. These quick remedies are not one bit superior to the concept of ‘red universities’ as the bastions of revolution, or ‘from the periphery to the center,’ since for many years they lamentably failed to turn Stalinist and reformist bureaucrats into involuntary revolutionaries through the tactic of ‘deep entryism.’ And for the United States, the IMT has been content to endorse the whole past work of the SWP, suggesting only that it might have been given a. somewhat more radical cover.”
–” Declaration of Revolutionary Internationalist Tendency,”
SWP Discussion Bulletin Vol. 31, No. 22, July 1973
In contrast the RIT stood on the general line of the two documents submitted by Gerald Clark: “The Only Road to Revolution is Through the Proletariat” (SWP Discussion Bulletin, Vo1.31, No. 1, April 1973) and “A Program for Building a Proletarian Party: In Opposition to the Centrism of the Party Majority” (SWP Discussion Bulletin, Vol. 31, No. 14, June 1973). Starting with the premise that the “question of building a mass, proletarian World Party of Socialist Revolution” is the “central task facing revolutionaries throughout the world,” the first document traces the betrayals of both wing of the United Secretariat fight on the questions of Vietnam, Latin America, Cuba, the Middle East and strongly argues for the adoption of the Leninist conception of a democratic-centralist International.
The second document authored by Clark deals with the SWP’s policies regarding students and the “new radicalization, ” nationalism, community control, the chicano and women’s struggles, the antiwar movement and democratic centralism. In each case the document counterposes to the SWP’s abandonment of Trotskyism a revolutionary proletarian approach to these questions. It emphasizes the critical necessity of the application of the Transitional Program as opposed to adaptation to the present consciousness of the “masses” and demonstrates historically the importance of democratic-centralist functioning in regard to party-building and youth-party relations.
A third important document, “The Fight in the United Secretariat:Reformist Appetite Versus Guerrillaist Centrism” by Michael Milin (SWP Discussion Bulletin, Vol. 31, No. 28) examines the legalistic, class-collaborationist approach of the SWP on the one hand and the capitulation of the IMT to insurrectionary nationalist Stalinism on the other hand. Each side, while seeking to establish for itself orthodox Leninist credentials in contrast with the other, at the same time shrinks from fundamental criticism of the other side for fear of exposing its own past opportunism:
“The central revision of revolutionary Marxism by the international majority is the separation of the class organization of an insurrection from the society emerging from it. A revolutionary workers state, in which the working class democratically governs on the basis of collectivized property, can only be established if the armed forces of the labor movement itself play the dominant role in overthrowing the capitalist state ••••
“For many years, the SWP leadership was not only an ardent advocate of guerrilla war, but engaged in idiot enthusing over the Castro regime and Fidelista movement. The SWP’s selfstyled orthodox turn against guerrillaism is part of its rightward motion in adopting a reformist program acceptable to sections of the liberal bourgeoisie. “
–“The Fight in the United Secretariat”
It was for these politics that the SWP expelled the three RIT comrades.
Snakes in the Grass with Binoculars
The trial of Milin and Gorgosz was highlighted by the revelation that the SWP was modelling its intelligence gathering methods on old cowboy-and Indian movies. The charge of “collaboration with an opponent organization” was proven on the basis of Milin’s and Gorgosz’s admitted attendance at certain sessions of last month’s SL summer camp. However their admission was not sufficient, for the Detroit executive committee took the trouble to plant four spies for direct observation on the camp grounds during the entire duration of the camp:
“The method used to “get” these two comrades was the method of Watergate. Surreptitiously sneaking into the woods surrounding the camp, the accusers spied on people whose only crime was that they were there and disagreed with the program of the party majority. Crawling on their bellies ‘for the party,’ comrades Kelly, Bechler, Fruit and Wallace, equipped, one assumes with binoculars and other assorted James Bond do-i t-yourself spying devices, scanned the campsite in the hope of recognizing the ‘disloyal’ elements in the act. I could just imagine the look on comrade Kelly’s face as he spotted not one, but two, three, many ex-SWPers in the crowd: comrades he once collaborated with when they were members of the party. But all that crawling around had its rewards: they spotted two faces they recognized, comrades Milin and Gorgosz. A job well done comrade Kelly! Maybe now they will give you a seat on the National Committee. “
–Clark to SWP Political Committee, 27 August 1973
As an additional reward the SWP might recommend its four intrepid woodsmen for an appropriate Boy Scout merit badge. The Detroit exec had also gone to great lengths to find the exact camp location. While the camp itself was widely publicized and open to a broad range of interested people, the location was given only to those serious about attending. Stating that “it was a source of information [it] might want to use in the future,” the exec refused to reveal how it discovered the location.
This unsavory activity was not the only devious tactic used by the SWP to “expose” the two “disloyal” elements. The two comrades were also charged with double recruiting on evidence provided by a majority agent, YSA member Steve Beumer. Professing to RIT supporters in July and August his intention to quit the YSA and his interest in the SL, this comrade miraculously abandoned his differences, went over to the majority and was accepted into party membership a mere two weeks after the Oberlin SWP convention in early August. In fact it was the party majority that engaged in double recruiting in order to procure an agent to work in its interests!
By the SWP’s bureaucratic anti-Leninist norms, members of the YSA must be treated as members of an opponent group. SWP members function under party discipline within the youth organization. Thus the youth are treated as political infants incapable of making intelligent decisions. While they are privy to internal party discussions (a good percentage of the Oberlin SWP Convention attendance was composed of non-party youth), they are expected to refrain from taking position on the party’s disputes! It was this paternalist, front-group attitude toward the YSA which impelled the party and youth leaderships to rid themselves of the troublemakers in the RIT before the youth preconvention discussion scheduled for this fall.
“Dirty Tricks” versus Principled Political Struggle
This was not the first time that agents provocateurs were used by the SWP /YSA majority in order to create charges sufficient (in their eyes) for the expulsion of a dissident minority. In July of this year three YSAers were expelled for “political solidarity with SL” (see RCY Newsletter Supplement, August 1973). In their case much of the prosecution’s evidence was supplied by a majority agent who, again professing interest in the politicS put forward by the three in branch meetings, encouraged their expressions of sympathy to SL/RCY politics. The method of entrapment, well known to the FBI and narcotics agencies, can do nothing but promote cynicism and suspicion among the SWP /YSA ranks. Apparently SL politics are so threatening to the SWP that it is willing to use all types of “dirty tricks” to root out a suspect.
These tactics, which are used in place of open political struggle, . have led to a fear of all political opposition and an atmosphere where intelligent discussion of opponent tendencies is necessarily reserved for guilty closet meetings. In fact the SWP ranks are treated to precious little “official” analysis of other organizations. Those rare references to other groups are usually superficial characterizations leading, for instance, to the lumping together of the SL and Workers League as “sectarian” or “ultra-left,” a gross distortion of these two groups, whose main similarity at this point is the fact that both were expelled from the SWP in the early sixties. SWP /YSA members find themselves disarmed, then, in the face of opponents; they have only cynicism or nervous half-serious repetitions of vague generalities at their disposal for polemics. It is not surprising, therefore, that exposure to the real politics of the SL or of groupings moving toward the SL, politics which represent the continuity of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky, is a serious threat to the reformist leadership of the SWP.
Prosecution Lies Exposed, Defendent Proclaimed GuiIty Anyway
The Gerald Clark case was a manifest bureaucratic contrivance. Clark had been a member of the SWP for four years, a YSA member before that. As organizer of the Hayward, Cal. branch and a delegate to the 1971 SWP convention he was one of the few to vote against the “Youth Radicalization” document. His documents for the 1973 convention were deep-going criticisms of both the SWP majority and the IMT.
One of the SWP’s eagle~eyed spies reported that Clark had attended at least the first four days of the SL summer camp. Clark had little trouble proving to everyone at the trial that he had not attended the camp at all. Its first charge completely discredited, the SWP leadership fell back on its second line of defense-you guessed it, Steve Beumer. At the Oberlin SWP convention, Beumer had approached Clark and the other RITers telling them that he was dissatisfied with the YSA. He asserted that he was interested in knowing more about the SL, at which point Clark mentioned that the SL was holding a summer educatlonal camp. Beumer then tried to get Clark to attend the camp, but the latter wouldn’t consider it!
However, the trial body made it clear that the formal charges were irrelevant. Clark was really being charged withpolitical agreement with the SL and not organizational collaboration. Clark asserted that he was not an agent of the SL and, in fact, disagreed with it on important questions. The two major documents that he submitted to the pre-convention discussion should adequately answer any questions the SWP majority might have about his political beliefs.
These clearly political expulsions were motivated by the SWP’s almost pathological fear of Spartacist politics. They enabled the SWP to rid itself of a known dissident and an irritating left-wing tendency, lest an open political struggle expose the reformism of the SWP leadership