Monday, April 1, 2013

Shachtmanism: Unity Caucus, Know Your Roots

Al Shanker's long-time secretary was Yetta Shachtman, Max Shachtman's wife. Almost all the early leaders of the UFT were members of Social Democrats USA (SDUSA) and in fact it was well-known you could not rise in the UFT without being a member.

In 1976 Al Shanker tried to push the UFT into supporting Henry Scoop Jackson for president. I was the opposition speaker at the DA and in probably my best moment in those years raised the guns/butter argument as we were right smack in the midst of the massive 1975-76 NYC budget crisis with 15,000 teachers laid off. I was really astounded at Shanker's brazenness.

Note this interesting 2003 item talking about Shachtmanites in the Bush White House.

Trotsky's ghost wandering the White House

Influence on Bush aides: Bolshevik's writings supported the idea of pre-emptive war 
www.prisonplanet.com/trotskys_ghost_wandering_the_white_house....
Shachtman had a legion of young followers (known as Shachtmanites) active ... When the Shachtmanites started working for Senator Jackson, they forged close ...
Really fascinating stuff and maybe a hint of why the UFT/AFT are closet neo-liberals. Or maybe not so closet. I didn't read it all yet but intend intend to.

Randi was never outwardly known to be a member of SDUSA but some people think she would not have been let in the door if she wasn't, at least in her early days. Some think she would have joined whatever they wanted her to to serve her ambition, that she is agnostic on these issues. I am not sure. But given the fall of the iron curtain before Randi took over and the UFT initial support for both Bush wars, despite the fact it was clear they would decimate education budgets, someone has to show me where she has strayed from basic Shankerism/Shachtmanism.

I'm putting this up front since it has the most application to the UFT:

Social Democratic Shachtmanism

Social democratic Shachtmanism, later developed by Shachtman and associated with some members of the Social Democrats, USA, holds Soviet Communist states to be so repressive that that communism must be contained and, when possible, defeated by the collective action of the working class. Consequently, adherents support free labor unions and democracy movements around the world. Domestically, they organized in the civil rights movement and in the labor movement. Social democrats influenced by Shachtman rejected calls for an immediate cease-fire and the immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces from Vietnam, but rather opposed bombings in Vietnam and supported a negotiated peace that would allow labor unions and government-opposition to survive. Such social democrats helped provide funding and supplies to the Solidarity, the Polish labor union, as requested by the Polish workers.
Sounds simple when the say "free" labor unions. In fact "free" means any union free of left influence. They spent money undermining left-leaning labor unions around the world, most notably in Chile (see George Schmidt's late 1970s pamphlet in this issue which I can send you upon request.)

Thus the Unity Caucus MUST prevail against any opposition because by nature any serious opposition will have left influences or it wouldn't get anywhere. Some people on the left view New Action, which has/had a left base, as selling out any chance for a real opposition to get a foothold by making a deal with the devil for a few Executive Board seats.

Here is the full wiki piece and links to other info:

Shachtmanism

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Shachtmanism is the form of Marxism associated with Max Shachtman. It has two major components: a bureaucratic collectivist analysis of the Soviet Union and a third camp approach to world politics. Shachtmanites believe that the Stalinist rulers of Communist countries are a new ruling class distinct from the workers and reject Trotsky's description of Stalinist Russia as a "degenerated workers' state".

Origin

Shachtmanism originated as a tendency within the US Socialist Workers Party in 1939, as Shachtman's supporters left that group to form the Workers Party in 1940. The tensions that led to the split extended as far back as 1931. However, the theory of "bureaucratic collectivism," the idea that the USSR was ruled by a new bureaucratic class and was not capitalist, did not originate with Shachtman, but seems to have originated within the Trotskyist movement with Yvan Craipeau, a member of the French Section of the Fourth International, and Bruno Rizzi.
Although Shachtman groups resignation from the SWP was not only over the defence of the Soviet Union, rather than the class nature of the state itself, that was a major point in the internal polemics of the time.

Currents influenced by Shachtman

Regardless of its origins in the American SWP, Shachtmanism's core belief is opposition to the American SWP's defence of the Soviet Union. This originated not with Shachtman but Joseph Carter and James Burnham, who proposed this at the founding of the SWP in 1938. C. L. R. James referred to the implied theory, from which he dissented, as Carter's little little pill. The theory was never fully developed by anybody in the Workers Party and Shachtman's book, published many years later in 1961, consists earlier articles from the pages of New International with some political conclusions reversed. Ted Grant has alleged that some Trotskyist thinkers, including Tony Cliff, who have described such societies as "state capitalist" share an implicit theoretical agreement with some elements of Shachtmanism.[1] Cliff, who published a critique of Shachtmanism in the late 1940s,[2] would have rejected this allegation.

Left Shachtmanism

Left Shachtmanism, influenced by Max Shachtman's work of the 1940s, sees Stalinist nations as being potentially imperialist and does not offer any support to their leadership. This has been crudely described as seeing the Stalinist and capitalist countries as being equally bad, although it would be more accurate to say that neither is seen as occupying a more progressive stage in the global class struggle.
A more current term for Left Shachtmanism is Third-Camp Trotskyism, the Third Camp being differentiated from capitalism and Stalinism. Prominent Third Camp groupings include the Workers' Liberty grouping in Australia and the United Kingdom and by the International Socialist predecessor of Solidarity.
The foremost left Shachtmanite was Hal Draper, an independent scholar who worked as a librarian at the University of California, Berkeley, where he organized the Independent Socialist Club and became influential with left-wing students during the Free Speech Movement. Julius Jacobson and the New Politics journal continued to develop and apply this political tradition.

Social Democratic Shachtmanism

Social democratic Shachtmanism, later developed by Shachtman and associated with some members of the Social Democrats, USA, holds Soviet Communist states to be so repressive that that communism must be contained and, when possible, defeated by the collective action of the working class. Consequently, adherents support free labor unions and democracy movements around the world. Domestically, they organized in the civil rights movement and in the labor movement. Social democrats influenced by Shachtman rejected calls for an immediate cease-fire and the immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces from Vietnam, but rather opposed bombings in Vietnam and supported a negotiated peace that would allow labor unions and government-opposition to survive. Such social democrats helped provide funding and supplies to the Solidarity, the Polish labor union, as requested by the Polish workers.

References

  1. ^ Ted Grant: "The Marxist theory of the state (Once more on the theory of 'state capitalism')", Appendix to Russia: From revolution to counter-revolution.
  2. ^ Tony Cliff: "The theory of bureaucratic collectivism: A critique" (1948) at Marxists.org.

External links

The Fate of the Russian Revolution, Lost Texts of Critical Marxism Vol 1, edited by Sean Matgamna: Max Shactman, Hal Draper, CLR James, Al Glotzer, Joseph Carter, Leon Trotsky, a.o [Phoenix Press, 1998]

11 comments:

  1. Literary critic and essayist Irving Howe started out as a Schachtmanite, and Shankar was connected with them through his affiliation with the Student League for Industrial Democracy at Columbia.

    The key takeaway and current relevance of all this is the continuing paper-thin claim of Social Democratic beliefs on the part of UFT/AFT leaders, while aligning themselves over the decades with stone Cold Warriors (even going so far as having involvement in the 9/11/73 fascist coup against the Allende government in Chile) and Austerians at home.

    That continues to this day, with Randi Weingarten's professed pwogwessive politics belied by her direct collaboration with education privatizers such as Gates and Broad.

    Another takeaway from the Schachtmanite heritage is the willingness to divide and destroy what you cannot control, and to be unscrupulous in internecine conflicts, using rumors and falsehoods to advance the Party Line.

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  2. Thanks for the education. But to most of our members this is right up there with Sulla's proscriptions, in terms of relevance. I went to an ICE/TJC event years ago in disgust with Randi's dictatorship, but I knew it was a waste as soon as I heard all the old left claptrap about capitalist courts, proletarian classaes, and the like. My intuition was that the opposition was more about world revolution and less about Our Union.

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  3. Norm, I gotta hand it to you with this piece. You should also post it on the MORE and ICE blogs.

    It really shows how crazy you are. I'd imagine anyone 50 or less would read this and think you were batshit insane. You're really out of touch with the teaching force.

    Go on, post this again and again!

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    1. Admit to being batshit insane, mainly because I'm answering you and even let your usual inane comments go through. But here is a suggestion. Just copy and paste this yourself. And of course I'm out of touch with the teaching force and have been in many ways for 20 years. But I guess you think people over 50 have no rights or that I should ignore them. And you should note that when Michael Fiorillo and I did a history of the UFT last July almost 60 people showed up, mostly young. You can see the video for yourself -- and we covered a lot of this territory. And I get emails from younger teachers who hunger for this history. So maybe far from a majority but I am not interested in the majority half of which will leave teaching and a quarter of what's left will gravitate out of the classroom. I'm interested in the younger teachers like the ones we have recruited to MORE. Just take a look at the elementary school slate and how long most of them have been teaching. That was the point I wanted to make -- there is a new generation of activists with hopefully some staying power. We'll see.

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  4. You could not have gone to an ICE/TJC event since there never was an ICE/TJC event. Each group met on its own and in fact there was little interaction other than briefly at election time. Maybe you dreamed it.

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  5. There was an ICE-TJC event at a church around the time of the 2004 election. Guy from 5:01 pm has a good point about many in the opposition.

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    1. You're not right about the joint meeting. Not TJC at all. That was in Dec. 2003 at the first public meeting of ICE just a month after forming. TJC had no role in it. TJC people were not happy since they had declared they were running in October 2003 and put forth a presidential candidate which ICE people were not happy with. (I and others had attended some TJC meetings in Sept and Oct and were not happy with the narrowness of focus and that spurred the idea of ICE).
      There were a few TJC people in the audience of about 50 or 60 people. What is interesting is that given that there were 3 groups out there -- TJC, New Action, and Marc Pessin's Progressive Action Caucus (I've left them off the story for now because even though ICE ran a joint slate with them ICE-PAC that was their last shot before fading) ICE was creating initial excitement in in fact over the next 3 years had some promise.
      But let's deal with your rhetoric about who was at that meeting and what was said. In any open meeting everyone is welcome to speak. And of course the left and ultra left showed up for that and each one of them must give their spiel. Progressive Labor Party (Challenge newspaper) got involved with ICE (they were not exactly welcome in TJC which had its own rhetoric) and at every single meeting they each had to give their spiel which even today is pretty much the same. And they do that at MORE meetings too. Which doesn't make it bad but for people not used to the left POV that can be a turn off and begin to brand an organization.
      At one point a PL person used to say at every meeting how she is a Communist and one woman I recruited to ICE looked at me in horror and never came back. I was pretty frustrated and told the PL person that and she stopped. Sometimes I don't know what people were thinking. Like I said -- the left talks to the left and either doesn't understand or doesn't give a crap where people may be coming from.
      But your point about the many in the opposition is a good one. If it is only the hard core left then it goes nowhere.
      ICE was an attempt to counter that -- note the word "Independent" in the name -- independent from the influence of a leftist organization pulling the strings. And we truly were -- James Eterno not a leftist and Jeff Kaufman took prominent roles in ICE and in fact became the voice of the group which of course turned off some leftists. And it was a balancing act as MORE is. So like I said -- if it tips one way or the other I will not spend much time going through this deja vu thing time and again.

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  6. I didnt dream it, but i cant swear which group specifically hosted it. It was at the Graduate Center? And it was pathetic. But, since you are an expert at dream analysis, was the 8% showing in the last election also a figment of my imagination? You will never be a legitimate force as long as Trotsky continues to occupy one scintilla of space in your mind.

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    1. YES I remember - Jan. 2009 at CUNY -- outcome of the ATR rally that you guys tried to undercut with the wine and cheese party but ICE and TJC had nothing to do with sponsoring this event. I think there may have been some reps on the panel from various groups. ICE showed up just as Unity and New Action people did. As a matter of fact some of the disatisfactions with that panel led Angel and I to start putting people together in the group that became GEM.
      The moderator was not in any of the groups at that time. I was in Mexico when that was being promoted and I kept asking who is behind it but never got a satisfactory answer and that caused some rifts. Once we got there it was clear that Behind it was Marjorie Stamberg and her new group at the time Class Struggle who I view as ultra left. The reject groups like MORE and ICE as being not Marxist enough. OR whatever term they are using. They have been openly critical of Chicago TU for not staying on strike until they won really big. Like forever. But you might as well have dreamed it because I don't view their views as coming from earth.
      So yes you are right. Groups like class struggle don't have much of a following -- I can't name one UFT member other than Marjorie. They won;t support MORE and never did ICE though when they needed support for an issue they are always ready to ask us to promote for them. But I know the game -- try to brand the entire opposition as them. But they are not in it to win it but to use whatever forum to
      On the vote last time, In fact since we had no interest in trolling for votes among retirees who we think should not vote or any way to reach fucntional people, and given the forces we had we concentrated on high school teachers and those results were 35% -- if new action weren't in this to distract or if NA had run with MORE Unity would be toast in the high schools.

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    2. Oh, and since there were only about 5 or 6 Unity people there you pretty much are giving yourself away. let's see if I can jog my old memory though i think i got it.

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  7. Again, this forum ought to be reserved for the purposes of us personally insulting you and anyone associated with you. We would very much appreciate it if you would refrain from defending yourselves with facts and get back to the topic. Namely, when are you going to answer my unsubstantiated accusation about a MORE member I have not named? And why won't you accept 30 seconds at the DA as a substitute for debate?

    Let's stick to issues, please.

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