In the wake of the Socialist Workers Party’s suit to halt surveillance of its activities by the FBI, there has been a steady flow of media comment suggesting the party is simply a group of peaceful “Socialists,” of no particular danger to anybody.
A recent example is the August 8, 1977 issue of The New Yorker, containing a long article by Richard Harris on the alleged misdeeds of the FBI in its dispute with the SWP. Harris depicts the Socialist Workers Party as “a small, peaceable, and wholly ineffectual political party,” shamefully harassed by the FBI. He goes on to describe the SWP as “these Socialists,” and to assert that, “despite the SWP’s harmless political efforts, the FBI did its utmost to destroy the Party…. ”
Similar statements about the SWP appeared in the Jack Anderson-Les Whitten column of June 18, 1977. Anderson-Whitten wrote that the FBI had devoted “an incredible portion of its manpower, its budget and its priorities to spying on citizens who merely exercised the constitutional guarantees of free speech, assembly, and petition. The Socialist Workers Party, for example, preaches a peaceful but unpopular Marxist political philosophy. It does not advocate the violent overthrow of the existing system.”
For anyone who knows the first thing about the Socialist Workers Party and its place in the Marxist pecking order, such statements are astonishing. As demonstrated by Rep. Lawrence McDonald in the pages that follow, the Socialist Workers Party is very far from being “peaceable” in intention, and equally far from being “Socialist” if that word is meant to suggest devotion to parliamentary change within the existing system. The facts of the case, as Rep. McDonald shows, are quite the other way around:
1. The SWP consists of American followers of the late Leon Trotsky, who was of course a major figure in the Communist revolution that destroyed the democratic Kerensky government in Russia. That means, in the first instance, that the SWP is a revolutionary Communist organization, not a peaceful “Socialist” one in the manner of Norman Thomas. The SWP is “Socialist” only in the sense that countries behind the Iron Curtain are “Socialist.”
2. Moreover, the distinguishing feature of Trotsky Communists is that they are more inclined toward immediate revolution than are members of the orthodox Communist party. Trotsky’s disagreement with Stalin was that the former believed in “permanent worldwide revolution,” as opposed to Stalin’s strategy of consolidating Communist power in the USSR before seeking additional worlds to conquer. To describe a Trotskyist party as one that “does not advocate the violent overthrow of the existing system” is absurd.
3. The Socialist Workers Party, as McDonald shows, is the American branch of the Fourth International—a global network of Trotsky Communist parties. The Fourth International contains elements that espouse (and practice) terrorism, and many exponents of global terror have contact with the SWP. The party’s single claim to “peacefulness” is that it contends that isolated acts of terrorism, right now, are counterproductive. Its leaders stress that this is a tactical difference, and that terror as part of a general struggle would be quite proper. (One spokesman asserts that, “if supporters of the minority view were against armed struggle, they would be Social Democrats or Stalinists, not Trotskyists.”)
4. The SWP, despite its doctrinal differences with the Communist Party, has collaborated with the CPUSA in various enterprises. Both groups were active, for example, in the so-called “mobilization” efforts of the latter 1960s designed to cripple American resistance to Communist aggression in Vietnam. They collaborated as well in the so-called Fair Play for Cuba Committee, financed by Fidel Castro, and the SWP of course remains enthusiastic in its support of Castro to this day.
5. Perhaps the most famous Fair Play for Cuba Committee member was Lee Harvey Oswald, the assassin of President John F. Kennedy. Oswald was not only a member of the SWP-supported Committee, but an avid reader of the SWP publication, The Militant, and an applicant for membership in the SWP (turned down because there was no chapter in Dallas). To prove his Communist credentials prior to the assassination, Oswald had himself photographed holding his rifle and a copy of The Militant—its masthead clearly visible in the picture. (Interestingly enough, in a new ABC film about the Kennedy assassination, the actor portraying Oswald holds an entirely different newspaper, the Yugoslavian journal, Politika. In running this picture alongside the actual Oswald photo, Newsweek offered a blurred reproduction of the original in which the masthead of the SWP paper is indecipherable.)
In the pages that follow, Rep. McDonald offers a wealth of data by which to gauge the recent media effort to portray the SWP as a group of peaceable Socialists. The materials appearing here are reproduced from the Congressional Record, where Rep. McDonald published them at intervals beginning August 30, 1976, and concluding April 29, 1977. In preparing these statements for publication, he was assisted by Herbert Romerstein and S. Louise Rees of his congressional staff. The ACU Education and Research Institute is pleased to make these materials available in collected format so that the public may judge the nature of the Socialist Workers Party, and the internal security problem presented by it, in the light of all the evidence.
~ M. Stanton Evans
Chairman, ACU Education and Research Institute