Wednesday, August 24, 2011

My Workers World after-party


Marxist-Leninist parties are challenged in their institutions and habits during periods of increased class struggle as much as they are during periods of working class retreat and quietude. Old habits, old routines from previous periods become brittle and unresponsive, and may shatter when new periods of opportunity open.

Habituation to minimum program and identity politics at the expense of building consciousness of and a movement toward world socialism also registered the contradictory aspects of periods like the one we are currently emerging from.

As a rising curve of working class resistance continues to strengthen in today's world, turning revolutionary parties outward, taking the mass line out for testing and verification in the laboratory of objective reality can begin anew. So can the sale of books, pamphlets, and newspapers, testing the receptivity to scientific socialist politics in a period of imperialist war, popular uprisings, and a growing crisis of confidence within ruling class institutions in many countries.


Six months after the whole sorry shambolic mess, I have been coming to grips with Workers World Party's rejection of my application for membership. The luxury of not having to defend their line that the Wisconsin recall debacle was an example of a labor-community coalition does help, but were I a member, I am sure I would out-Zhdanov Zhdanov in defending the party line. The fact that the process of cadre recruitment was completely undemocratic with respect to the party's own rights for itself [not to mention minimal obligations to be shown potential recruits] did not salve my bruised feelings or outraged sense of having suffered a profound and [by party cadre] unacknowledged and uncorrected misdemeanor. Every objection I raised to the process, every summing-up I attempted to introduce, was written-off as the arrogance of a sexist and racist middle aged white male.

For a time afterward I contributed my efforts to distributing a modest bundle of Workers World newspapers each week in Cleveland, and donated some of my meager pay to the party. Financial hardship due to the ripple effects of a recent lay-off have put an end to these activities, however.

So yesterday when I opened a letter inviting me to contribute financially to an upcoming national meeting of Workers World Party to be held in New York over the Columbus Day Weekend, I began reflecting upon how intolerable said party's recruiters viewed all my political, organizational, and inter-personal shortcomings.

In acknowledging a situation that has already existed for months, but which I was loath to admit until time offered a clearer perspective, I sent off a note to WWP's national office confirming today that I have no official, semi-official, or un-official relationship to Workers World Party.

Many are called, but few are chosen.



Summing-Up my Workers World Party Recruitment Experience

[March 2011 letter sent to WWP National Office. No response has ever been received by me. JR 08/24/2011]

On 18 February I was informed in Cleveland, Ohio that my request to become a candidate member of WWP had been rejected.

There were two reasons given for the rejection of membership:
1. Lack of sensitivity
a. issues of gender [taking part in an informal email discussion
defending Julian Assange against the criminal charges
made against him];
b. posting articles on my personal blog that were critical of
revolutionary leaderships in Third World countries.
[posting an article critical of Nepal's revolutionary leadership.]
2. Lack of political agreement with the line of WWP.

Local party leaders told me that by not becoming a member of the party I could retain my "independence."

I do not want or prize "independence."

Over the last two weeks I have been thinking about the party's decision, and summing up my experience. I want to share my conclusions with the party. Perhaps it will be useful; it certainly shines a light on the question of party-building, and how seriously WWP takes the matter, whether or not the party consciously realizes it.

The "public face" of WWP does not reflect the reality of the party as I experienced it on the ground here in Cleveland.

No one from WWP in Cleveland except _______ addressed my request to become a candidate member. After _____ left town for another assignment, no one concretely addressed it with me until the meeting where it was rejected.

Throughout the whole processes, there was also no appetite on the part of WWP members to reach out to me and consciously recruit me. [Other than by ______ before he was reassigned. Perhaps the cynical dismissiveness and lack of respect I saw expressed toward ______ by local party leaders _____ and ______ infected their opinion of me, also.]

Many of my interactions with local WWP comrades took the form of them spreading gossip about the scandals, shortcomings, and personal lives of other national and local party members and supporters behind each other's backs. This gave me the ghastly feeling that there was a very unhealthy cliquishness in WWP's Cleveland branch. I realize that this in-grown closed-circle type of suffocating and clannish political life is the result of the prolonged period of retreat by the U.S. working class, but I resent the fact that it may have helped torpedo my candidacy.

I can imagine how other new contacts and potential recruits might view it. They would say, "If they talk like this about each other, what must they be saying about me behind my back?" How many local contacts already have not even asked to become candidates for membership based on this mode of operation? Giving new contacts the "low-down" or "lay of the land" about one's fellow party members is a dangerous and poisonous habit.

Given these local deficiencies, why did no one from the national leadership speak with me about my request for candidate membership? If all they had to base their decision on about me was my blog, then they did not have all the pertinent information, and an error was made. I post many articles of interest on my blog. They do not represent my judgments of issues and events, only my interest in those issues. I would have gladly suspended it if that was the difference between becoming a candidate member or not.

I would have willingly learned how to become more sensitive to questions of national and gender oppression; and it would have been my pleasure to diligently close the gap in political differences between myself and WWP. I have for two and a half years [since first reading WW and LWC and collaborating with comrades locally] felt that my place was in this party and building this party. I spelled that out very clearly in the letter I sent to in October 2010. [See below].

No one starts out 100% in agreement with the party they join. Why did WWP decide not to recruit me, when every Leninist party in the world has recruited people from divergent backgrounds and starting points? I would have gladly carried out the line of the party; as a matter of fact I thought I had been in all my local collaborations here in Cleveland. I gladly corrected any mistakes I made when they were pointed out to me by more experienced comrades.

Doesn't WWP realize that there are going to be thousands of workers like me who will want to join? Will they all be rejected using the same criteria? It may seem obvious, but I have to state that potential recruits need to be judged based on their actions, rather than our assumptions about them based on limited information.

I realize the decision has been made by the national leadership, and will not be altered or revised. I simply want to state for the record that WWP has made a mistake in not allowing me to become a candidate member. I would have been a very reliable and active cadre, and would have followed the party's line loyally, and would have done everything I could to build this party and expand its work here in Cleveland.

Jay Rothermel


October 9, 2010: My initial inquiry

Dear Workers World Party:

I just got done with the latest issue of WW newspaper. I appreciate this party more and more. Support of the Freedom Party (and an understanding of its social weight and what it may portend for the future); participation in the Bronx People's Assembly (and the admonition that activists in other cities should be on the look-out for opportunities to create these kinds of people's assemblies in their own cities); a clear line on the Oct 2 march on Washington: all confirm for me that WWP is active in the living class struggle and have a correct understanding of the current conjuncture in the working class line of march. The youth paper Left Hook also reflects their clear and correct line on Obama and the tasks of activists today.

The other thing I like about the WWP is that the party puts into concrete action the concept of class solidarity: "An injury to one is an injury to all," which has been a touchstone of independent labor political action and non-partisan defense work since the dawn of our movement in the 19th century. The principled and unconditional support of immigrant workers, the victims of FBI harassment, the Cuban 5, the Michigan college student who pied Carl Levin, and the inclusive stand on Mumia defense work all show this.

As well, WWP is solidly internationalist. Its unconditional defense of liberation struggles and workers states (regardless of the strengths and limitations of the leaderships of said states) against U.S. imperialism is completely free of the petty bourgeois radical "yes-but" so-called support given to countries like Iran and DPRK by many groups in the U.S. While I do not believe that the Iranian government is anything other than a dictatorship of capital, and that communists in Iran need to carve out the political space to build their own communist party to fight for power, I do not think this fact imposes any limitations on us about unconditional defense of Iran vis-à-vis Washington and its allies.

The pages of WW and Left Hook also reveal WWP's strength in building an organization of revolutionary youth. This is an acid test for any communist party, and the consistency with which WW and FIST pursue this, and their effectiveness in concrete action as well as programmatic education of the youth, is evident in their press and the videos of their forums and conferences.

The critical foundation for any Leninist party (and this has been true for over a century ) is that it be proletarian in composition and program. It is only such parties that can effectively intervene in the class struggle, especially in the imperialist heartland, and not be shattered by either the set-backs or the astounding opportunities that are opening up for communists today. All the liberal, social-democratic, or green "third way" and "winning without taking power" organizational nostrums of the post-cold war era have been revealed as totally useless in confronting the sheer theoretical and practical scale of world depression and war today, just as they were no match for the wars (at home and abroad) of the Clinton and Bush years. It is only by carrying out rounded mass work today as communists that we can build the irreplaceable instrument of our class: a Leninist combat party of worker-Bolsheviks that can lead the U.S. working class and its oppressed and exploited allies in overthrowing the dictatorship of capital and joining the worldwide struggle for socialism.

It is my belief, based on two years of intermittent collaboration with WW cadre in Cleveland (_____, _____, _____), a careful reading of the party press, Low-Wage Capitalism, and several other books, and closely following WWP work in various struggles, that it is a party deserving of my active support.

I have been a communist for over twenty-five years. For several years in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I was a member of the Young Socialist Alliance and Socialist Workers Party in Cleveland, Ohio. During those years I was a member of the party's garment fraction in ILGWU and ACTWU, carried out the party program loyally, and as a committed cadre happily submitted to party discipline. Due to crises of a personal and family nature, I retreated from life as a professional revolutionary in the 1990s, and have only returned to a low level of activism since 2000, when I moved back to Cleveland. The SWP declined my request to resume membership since I had previously resigned, but I was able to loyally collaborate with the Cleveland SWP branch in sales of the party press and forum attendance and very modest financial contributions [in an intermittent way - 08/24/11] until the branch was closed several years ago. Since then, I have been on the lookout for a serious and consistent communist party to collaborate with. At the same time, I have deepened my reading of classic and contemporary Marxist literature, and made several modest contributions of articles and book reviews to left and Marxist websites. A year ago I began a very informal web log called Marxist Update as a way of keeping myself and a few other comrades I am acquainted with around the world abreast of interesting articles and news in the broader Marxist milieu.

Why WWP and not the SWP, my old party? There are a variety of reasons, based on the criteria expressed above. Essentially, I think WWP is a party actively engaged in fightback and people's struggles around the U.S. and internationally, bending every effort to give them independent working class orientations and Marxist leadership. It pays particular attention to the Black liberation struggle, its leadership, and current opportunities for communists to link-up with fellow fighters of color. The SWP does not engage in collaboration with any current struggles; the content of their weekly newspaper is useful, but does not breathe the vitality of forward motion that is evident on every page of WW. SWP's newspaper has not given any coverage to the work of the party's industrial union fractions for several years. SWP's newspaper is silent about Venezuela. The SWP did not dedicate any leadership or cadre resources to the anti-war movement, or give it any constructive attention in their press. The SWP newspaper does not mention Gaza, and equates in an undifferentiated way anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. It is indicative of their current trajectory that while they continue to keep many essential Marxist classics and new titles about the Cuban leadership in print, their previous enthusiasm for revolutionists of action that inspired and recruited me (FSLN, FMLN, ANC in the 1980s) has abated, as has a goodly portion of general intellectual curiosity. While the SWP has recently has excellent analysis of the changing face of China's working class and struggles in that socialist country, they are completely unenthusiastic about anything in the world that is not their current subscription drive, election campaign, capital fund drive, or latest book sales effort.

The enthusiasm and energy of youth permeates the pages of WW and videos at the party website; young rebels are clearly voting for WWP and FIST with their feet, and this is indicative of a serious revolutionary party with programmatic consistency, organizational transparency, and a commitment to action based upon its understanding of the challenge of party-building in this period. That is the party that deserves the support of a currently "non-aligned" communist like myself!

This was confirmed concretely for me recently when I started bringing WW and Left Hook to work and showing them to co-workers (predominantly young and Black) that I often have political discussions with. The newspapers appealed to them, and one co-worker has taken a copy two weeks in a row.

I am middle aged, work full time in Cleveland, and have many family responsibilities that prevent me from dedicating a great deal of my time to political activity. But what little time I do have must be made to count. Only the leverage of a Leninist party makes this realistic. So I would appreciate, when convenient for the party, discussing a more formal role for myself as supporter or member of WWP, given the limitations of job and family commitments. I take political work very seriously, and want to make sure that whatever level of activity and financial support I commit to is one I can be sure I will maintain consistently over the long haul.


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