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Trotksyism and Political Confusionism: The Case of Sam Marcy and the “Marcyites”.

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Macryites: the Anti-Imperialism of Fools.

Louis Proyect recently had a post about  some the more unpleasant figures on the US left.

“Trotskyists” put down red carpet for obscure Stalinist blogger

On Friday, July 14th at the Solidarity Center in NYC, Stephen Gowans will be speaking on “Washington’s Long War in Syria“, his new pro-Assad book. Solidarity Center is the HQ of the International Action Center, the antiwar front of the Workers World Party, a group that emerged out of the Trotskyist movement after the founder decided to back the Soviet tanks rather than the Hungarian workers in 1956. They are essentially Stalinists–much more so than the Communist Party.

Among the sponsors of the meeting is something called UNAC, the United Antiwar Coalition, that has a steering committee that is a mixture of WWP’er Sarah Flounders and independent Stalinists like Phil Wilayto.

But the largest party representation is from Socialist Action, a tiny sect led by Jeff Mackler. After splitting from the SWP, Mackler and other party veterans formed SA in the early 80s to rebuild a purified Trotskyist group. It has failed abjectly but like the group it split from, it soldiers on in the foolish notion that it is to the USA that Lenin’s party was to Russia. Mackler is on the steering committee as is Marilyn Levin and Christine Gavreau, who like Mackler are in their seventies. I can’t say for sure if they are still in SA but I strongly suspect that they are. This is definitely not a formation that is going to compete with the DSA for fresh young blood.

As part of our wider project of charting “Confusionism” Lois has made a contribution.

“the ideological cocoon of the Marcyite wing of the American left that now includes Socialist Action. Indeed, nothing that took place within Syria held even the slightest interest for them. These are people who get their ideas from ZeroHedge, Moon of Alabama, Global Research, Information Clearing House and other bottom-feeding click-bait outlets of the lunatic left.”

Now Marcyites….

Recently we had a hard job on Facebook trying to explain Campism to French comrades, or rather I and one French comrade had a difficult job in explaining this to people in France and Belgium.

What is Campism? As used by the AWL and others it describes those who, despite the Fall of Official Communism, the end of the time when the planet saw the ‘Socialist Bloc’  pitted against the Imperialists still divide the world  into two camps, Imperialism, and Anti-imperialism, to French comrades.

Oddly (….) they had not heard of Max Shachtman

Macryites are the ultimate ‘campists’, the defenders of the original anti-imperialism of fools (a term which French left-wingers did not find hard to get). In the original version they believed in a “global class war”, one waged between states.

The term comes from Sam Marcy (pseudonym) and his faction.

“Basically he took the concept of “deformed worker’s state” in the opposite direction that most traditional Trotskyists do. In essence he believe that socialist states were necessarily deformed because socialism can not co-exist with capitalism. To that extent he opposed the idea of socialism in one country. At the same time through his theory of global class war he saw the socialist nation state as a key factor in the final downfall of world imperialism. WWP was one of the few parties to call for PRC-USSR unity. Of course WWP was in the awkward position of being a Trotskyist group condemning Khrushchev for being revisionist in denouncing Stalin.

In general as far as Trotskyism goes, the Sam Marcyist brand is the closest to genuine Marxism-Leninism. Of course in practice it amounts to simply supporting any anti-US force as anti-imperialist or even socialist. Its a sort of reverse Trotskyism.”

Marcy wrote, (The Global Class War and the Destiny of American Labor by Sam Marcy May 20, 1953)

the camp of the proletariat today, unlike the previous epoch, has the bulk of the oppressed peoples in the colonies and dependent countries within its camp as allies. The class of peasants, semi- and non-proletarian elements of the backward countries, which in previous epochs were the reserve of imperialist reaction, can now be regarded not merely in a social but the political sense as well, as having been attracted to and daily becoming more and more part and parcel of the camp of the proletariat. The revolutionary ferment all over the colonial world is testimony to this fact. Our class camp is numerically much larger, much more politically conscious than in all previous epochs. The second characteristic of our class camp is that it has state allies, states where the working class, if not in a political sense, then certainly in a social and historic sense, holds the ruling power.

Today’s Marcyites believe that while there are no longer many states where the working class ‘holds power’ on a formal socialist basis that there are some kind of ‘objective’ allies of the left in the ‘colonial world’. According to some positions this would go right down to ‘anti-imperialist’ states like, as Proyet complains, Syria.

Workers World in the US keeps the flame lit.

Perhaps the nearest we have to this line is the groupuscle Socialist Action around Gerry Downing though some in the Stop the War Coalition often sound like them..


Sam Ballan (1911 – February 1, 1998), known by his pen name Sam Marcy, was an American Marxist of the post-World War II era. He co-founded the Workers World Party in 1959 and served as its chairperson until his death.

Marcy was born in Russia to Jewish parents. During the Russian Civil War, his family was a target of anti-Jewish pogroms by the White movement and received protection from the Communist forces. They resettled in Brooklyn, where Marcy became an activist for the Communist Party USA. He studied law at St. Johns University and provided legal advice to labor unions in New York.[1]

Marcy grew discontented as a member of the Communist Party, viewing the Third International as increasingly detached from working class interests and instead a mouthpiece for Joseph Stalin, whose oppressive bureaucracy he despised. He joined the Trotskyist movement in the 1940s, building a branch of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) in Buffalo.[1] Yet he again became dissatisfied, finding the SWP uncommitted to revolutionary politics and instead oriented toward parliamentary reform.[2] Marcy, Vince Copeland, and other SWP members developed a theory of “global class war“, according to which Marxists had a duty to defend the existence of the USSR and its satellites in spite of their bureaucracy[3]. Over several years Marcy clashed with the SWP leadership on several questions, including their approach to Communist China and North Korea, whether the SWP should endorse Henry A. Wallace,[4] and the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. On the last question, Marcy’s faction supported the Soviet military intervention, arguing that the initial worker uprising had attracted class elements that sought to restore capitalism.[5][6]

In 1959 the “global class war” faction set up a new organization, the Workers World Party, characterized by outspoken defense of all Communist governments in the world. After the first issue of the Workers Worldnewspaper was published, Marcy started applying his view of Marxism–Leninism to contemporary issues. Marcy’s writings included extensive works on socialism, the Cold War era and the rise of the powerful military-industrial complex. He also wrote about the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, the anti-war movement during the Vietnam War, the economic forces behind capitalist downsizing and the impact of the scientific-technological revolution. [1] Selections of his works have been translated into many languages, including Persian, Spanish, Turkish, Korean, French and German.[citation needed]

His writings show a strong support for Mao Zedong and the Chinese Cultural Revolution, though he continued to defend China against imperialism following the reforms of Deng Xiaoping. Marcy defended China and also the Soviet Union against the charge of imperialism even while disagreeing with some policies and practices of the Communist Party leadership of both countries.



Written by Andrew Coates

July 10, 2017 at 5:51 pm

5 Responses

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  1. It is not all that clear that Socialist Action has the “largest party representation” in UNAC. The National Secretary of SA, Jeff Mackler, does play a role in the coalition.

    Proyect makes a couple of errors in my opinion. In his zeal to score points against SA, he makes an amalgam between the politics of SA and those of the Workers World Party. SA does /not/ support what you call a “campist” position. He also presumes to name the names of possible SA members without being altogether sure if they are or not — but he “suspects” so it must be true. Did he speak to either Marilyn Levin or Christine Gauvreau? Did he ascertain that “outing” them as possible members of SA would endanger their jobs? Dd he care? This method reminds me of the sort of red baiting we see from the right.


    July 10, 2017 at 6:16 pm

  2. A serious point Resistance.

    I am however, from this distance, more broadly concerned with the ideology.

    Andrew Coates

    July 11, 2017 at 10:03 am

  3. Perhaps we can find a clue in Isaac Deutscher’s writings: he saw the class struggle after the Second World War being concentrated upon rivalries between capitalist and Stalinist ‘post-capitalist’ states. This led him to view the Hungarian uprising as a potential counter-revolution which, albeit regretfully, he felt had to be stifled by Moscow. Marcy’s break with the US SWP was triggered by Hungary in 1956.

    The backing of one’s enemy’s enemy goes back a long way, and isn’t confined at all to Trotskyist or even any left-wing group. Anti-colonial forces have often played off one imperialist power against another; imperialist powers have often manipulated one anti-imperialist group or third world state against another. Britain and the USA helped left-wing resistance forces during the Second World War; Germany and Japan helped radical Indian nationalists.

    Dr Paul

    July 11, 2017 at 6:06 pm

  4. The AWL is no stranger when it comes to ‘campism’ — for all its criticisms of its rivals’ capitulation to Stalinism, third-world nationalism or Islamism, its line on Libya ended up backing the various Islamist forces that have since made the place an appalling mess for the last few years, viewing their takeover as a ‘revolution’. See Boffy’s Blog here, here and here (the comments section show that I was aware of the AWL’s tortuous gyrations at the time).

    Dr Paul

    July 11, 2017 at 6:19 pm

  5. Interesting stuff on Libya.

    Many of us favoured UN backed intervention, as indeed did much of the French left, right up to this chap:

    Jean-Luc Mélenchon et la guerre en Libye.


    This is not the same as backing the various Islamist groups, and one does not need references to Lenin to believe that (which I would not consider much of an authority on present-day Islamism though the citations from his critical stand on a similar reactionary movement, pan-Islamism is of interest).

    Nor does the word revolution have much relevance in a world of vicious militia take-overs, murders, and power grabbing.

    I imagine AWL supporters have an answer to Boffy.

    One point you made, about Soumaya Ghannoush, and Sacha’s stand against Ennahdha, reminds me: Seumas Milne was a leading supporter in the UK (he wrote Guardian articles on them) of this right-wing Tunisian Islamist party.

    What’s the betting he still favours such ‘progressive’ Islamists?

    Andrew Coates

    July 12, 2017 at 12:53 pm

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