Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

American SWP (no relation to UK SWP) Denounce “Violent course of antifa, Black Lives Matter threat to working class.”

with 25 comments

Page 7: “Antifa, Black Lives Matter threat to working class.”

This Blog does not often comment on US politics. The earthquakes that have been happening recently have been covered from the left too well elsewhere.

There is excellent information available daily through Marx Mail, and Louis Proyect and people like Spencer Sunshine. Spencer is excellent on antifa and their fight against the US far-right.

It does not take long to imagine why there has been little comment here: conditions are dramatic and you need to be familiar with what is very different culture,  and political landscape, to write anything useful.

But this article in the very latest Militant (the original, not the UK version of years past), a Trotskyist publication which dates back to the 1930s, is too extraordinary to pass without comment.

Violent course of antifa, Black Lives Matter threat to working class

In recent weeks there has been an escalation in deadly street violence  led by antifa and leaders of Black Lives Matter, as well as by some rightist vigilantes – from Portland, Oregon, to Kenosha, Wisconsin. The looting, intimidation, arson, street fighting, and shootings pose a deadly threat to the working class.

All summer, groups of antifa have carried out provocative nightly actions in Portland, including attacking police, setting fires and breaking windows. These actions are dangerous for working people looking for ways to resist bosses’ efforts to push the capitalist crisis onto our shoulders. They deal blows to fights by unionists, against cop brutality and for Black rights.

This is unforgivable:

As they glorify violence, the embittered middle-class forces of antifa rail against “the elite,” elevate small group action above political struggle and remain deeply alienated from the working class. They have much in common with fascist groups they claim to oppose. Others have traveled this road previously, like Italian Socialist Party leader Benito Mussolini who went on to lead fascist forces to power in 1922.

There is more in the same vein,

The violence and thuggery practiced by antifa and Black Lives Matter is the opposite of the broad, inclusive mobilizations that were organized in late May, largely by young people in thousands of towns large and small across the country in response to police brutality.

By focusing on “Actions seeking to silence, “shame” and intimidate people are on a political course toward anti-working-class thuggery” – actions few would hesitate to condemn – as if anybody is in favour of thugs –  the SWP misses the dynamic in which this is happening.

It is not hard to agree with US comrades who immediately see this part of the sentence, that in the US the “deadly street violence (is)  led by antifa and leaders of Black Lives Matter, “

In other words, they are a major cause of “violence and thuggery”.

To boot, they are not just opposed to broad demonstrations, they  have “much in common” with  Mussolini’s  squadristi.

How has it come to this?  

The American Socialist Workers Party  (SWP) is  the oldest continuous organisation in the world which comes from the Trotskyist tradition. Formally created in 1937 its origins go back to the Communist League of America (CLA) created in 29128 by opponents of Stalin who had been expelled from the US Communist Party.

Many British people on the radical left have an affection for the early years of the party whose most famous leader was  James.P.Cannon.

When you read about Trotskyism in the 1930s and 1940s, from the strike waves during the Roosevelt years, to the New York Intellectuals,  you will find many references to the SWP. One dissident faction, the. Shachtmanites, which broke from them at the start of the 1940s, even gets a mention in the Coen Brothers film, Inside Llewyn Davis

This Blog comes from a different strand of the radical anti-Stalinist left, largely European. The tradition that supported workers’ self-management represented by Michel Pablo (Rapitis), was originally Trotskyist, and at frequent loggerheads with the US SWP. For some, our ideas are shaped by non-Trotskyist democratic Marxist traditions which have had roots  in such currents the London Bureau of left-socialist parties, later called the International Revolutionary Marxist Centre, the body that was behind the ILP and George Orwell’s support for the POUM during the Spanish Civil War or the 1960s New Left of  Britain, France, Germany, Italy and the Low Countries.

In broader terms our  activities, our socialist, social democratic, and labour parties, and radical new leftist groups which have had an electoral presence, have an imprint that makes it hard for us to relate to a political environment where ‘left’ frequently means liberal, and the Democratic Party has marginalised anything less moderate than (in European terms) social democrats like Bernie Sanders.

Some people in the UK have had more direct contract with the SWP. Within the 1970s British left, in the International Marxist Group, the supporters of the US party ‘The Tendency’ were a vocal presence during the 1970s and continued there until the mid-1980s.  They stood for very different politics to TC, above all through its hostility to the Portuguese radical left following the 1974  ‘Carnation Revolution’. For some the activities and over-vocal presence  of this group, described even then as ‘cultish’ did not create much affection for their parent body.

The tiny fragment that remains of this group, the Communist League, is pro-Brexit and has a variety of other obnoxious positions (cosying up to Castro’s successors for a start). They are part of what is the SWP’s ‘international’, the Pathfinder tendency Careful observers sometimes spot them at demos with their characteristic hand-made placards covered with felt-tip slogans, a practice mimicked by the Spartacists. They sell Pathfinder books and copies of the US Militant.

Here is a rare photo of their ‘candidate’ for the London Mayor in 2016  (he did not run in the end) Roger Silberman, who was once quite prominent in the IMG.

Galloway Faces Strong Left Challenge as Communist League Silberman Stands for London Mayor. | Tendance Coatesy

Their US parent has moved away from Trotskyism, summed up  Jack Barnes Their Trotsky and Ours (2002) and move to turn themselves into an ally of the Cuban Communist Party. After years of purges, shrunk down to a small cult, with more than enough money to keep going and attempt to run a 2020 candidate for President, Alyson Kennedy.

In case you think that description is a bit shop-worn, this is how Louis Proyect describes their present form,

In this photograph, dated March 15, 2020, you will see a group of mostly senior citizens defying the call for social distancing. Who could they be? Rightwing Christian evangelists? Libertarians standing up for liberty?

Instead, you are looking at members of the Socialist Workers Party at a memorial meeting for one of their members who died last month. The Militant newspaper reported that more than sixty people were in attendance. That’s probably about half the membership, and 1,900 less than when I was a member back in the 1970s. What happened to all these people, including me? Most either drifted away or became victims of a purge in the early 1980s when they fought to preserve the party’s Trotskyist heritage. Over the past decade, the dropout rate accelerated mostly as a result of the party adopting increasingly peculiar positions. Of the remaining 100 or so, their activism mostly consists of going door to door like Jehovah’s Witnesses peddling the books and newspapers of what most would view as a cult.

The SWP and Social Distancing: a Study in Abnormal Political Psychology

This is the SWP’s present perspective,

It is in the course of these fights and broader struggles in the years ahead working people will learn how to defend ourselves in disciplined ways from assaults by the bosses and cops who protect their rule. And we will see more clearly the middle-class character and dangerous anti-working-class course of antifa and the Black Lives Matter leadership.

As we do so we’ll gain confidence in our own forces and have the opportunity to build a movement capable of bringing an end to capitalist rule and replacing it with our own government.

Some suggest that they have just got older and more conservative with the years….


Some links: USA: On the Formation of the Jack Barnes Cult in the SWP Gus Horowitz.

USA – SWP: Long March to Oblivion David Finkel.

More than a cultist. Andrew Coates reviews Memoirs of a Critical Communist. Towards a History of the Fourth International, by Livio Maitan.


 The American Socialist Workers Party (no relation to the UK SWP), the oldest Trotskyist party in the world, and an influence on the celebrated list of 1930s New York Intellectuals, under the impact of Jack Barnes today subordinates its politics to the Cuban state. Maitan charges them with their leader’s ‘authoritarian behaviour’ and purging their group by accusations of ‘disloyalty’. He does not explore allegations of ‘cultism’ and ‘Trotskyist missionaries’ common to those who have had contact with them in Europe.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 12, 2020 at 8:30 pm

25 Responses

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  1. Is the pictured Roger Silverman the same Roger Silverman now standing for the NEC (under the LLA umbrella, I think) ?

    david walsh

    September 12, 2020 at 11:28 pm

    • No he is a member of the Workers International Network (only just heard of it myself seems to be Silverman with a few disciples). His candidacy is backed by Socialist Appeal who are also backing Carol Taylor-Spedding which should ring alarm bells.

      While I’m here I was surprised to see the Communist league taking part in the demonstration against antisemitism outside Parliament. The rest of the left was notable by it’s absence.

      Howard Fuller

      September 12, 2020 at 11:51 pm


        “So it is with the bit part members of the Communist League, who have managed to keep the show on the road in Britain since they were ejected from a more mysterious and deliberately secretive group, Socialist Action, in 1988. They will show up at demonstrations and unfold a bookstall with some very old pamphlets and copies of their newspaper, well, not their own newspaper, but one put together by the big boss over the pond, The Militant. The Militant was founded back in 1928, and is the public voice of the Socialist Workers Party in the United States, and every twist and turn of this once-significant force on the US-American left is dictated by Jack Barnes and relayed to followers in the so-called ‘Pathfinder Tendency’ around the world, including the Communist League franchise in the UK.”

        Back in the day, in the 1970s, Jonathan Silberman (that is Silverman, AC), who leads the Communist League, would regale members of the International Marxist Group, IMG, with stories of his motorcycle journeys across the US to attend the SWP congress in Oberlin, Ohio. Then Barnes’ supporters would operate in Britain inside the British section of the Fourth International as the ‘Leninist Trotskyist Faction’, and a small group of Canadians ran the Pathfinder Bookshop in The Cut near Waterloo Station south of the Thames in London. What was crucial to their success was winning IMG leaders Brian Grogan and John Ross to support them. the fatal blow was struck by Barnes insisting on a ‘turn to industry’ that effectively destroyed many sections of the Fourth International for a while, including in Britain.”

        “When the IMG changed its name to the Socialist League, went into the Labour Party and disintegrated, Socialist Action appeared as its best organised successor organisation; Ross broke from Grogan to continue with Socialist Action. The Barnes group had held on as long as they could, even winning a majority just before a conference, but the writing was on the wall, and out they went. Today they are reduced to being little more than a joke item in the bourgeois press, including the Jewish Chronicle, who didn’t know quite what to make of a self-declared communist standing for London mayor.”


        Andrew Coates

        September 13, 2020 at 11:09 am

  2. I’ve been a supporter of the US SWP for several decades.

    Whatever one’s opinions on these questions, it must be said that Proyect is not an objective commentator. Since the dawn of the www he has spend much time in a pathological drive to traduce the SWP and its leadership as a criminal organization. Not far from methods made famous by Gerry Healy.

    Jay Rothermel

    jay rothermel

    September 13, 2020 at 2:22 am

    • Nobody is likely to be ‘objective’ on these things, that is perhaps why this, the most famous intellectual Trotskyist journal in its history had got its name, “Partisan Review”.


      Jay, it is also fairly obvious that somebody (i.e., me) who has had some links with Michel Pablo and the Tendance marxiste révolutionnaire is unlikely to have warm feelings about the US SWP.

      Andrew Coates

      September 13, 2020 at 8:36 am

      • Lyndon LaRouche and Jack Barnes have transitioned from the Marxist left to the right wing of politics. Barnes has not jumped as far as LaRouche did of course, but the trajectory on this and Netanyahu is worrying.

        Julian Atkinson

        September 13, 2020 at 10:14 am

    • Proyect has his issues but has never sought to characterize the SWP as “criminal”, rather he derides its devolution into a small and isolated, conservatized sect, a cult even, one entirely on the margins of political life. As to the comparison with Healy, it is the SWP that has developed a Healyite, even LaRouche like, right wing hostility to the progressive movement that-increasingly openly-seeks to cover for Trump, a vicious enemy of labor, as some kind of lesser evil; a mentality that has little in common with Lenin and the Bolsheviks, who strove to be “tribunes of the people” building solidarity with all struggles of the oppressed. Former SWP leader Peter Seidman aptly summed up its present political character as being an outfit composed of “wretched turncoats”

      Sue Sponte

      September 13, 2020 at 7:46 pm

  3. Interesting shower of acronyms and abbreviations. These States are dominated about 95%, according to the vote counts, by national socialist and international socialist kleptocrats–both factions of which are entirely sold on the desirability of the initiation of force. The few of us who want no part of any kind of looter state–especially none of the communo-fascist variants of socialism, get no campaign subsidies from the Nixon Law passed within 24 hours of the Libertarian Party forming back in 1971. Fortunately our spoiler votes are highly leveraged and share is fast increasing on a replacement curve.


    September 13, 2020 at 3:28 am

  4. The American SWP has been in a state of gradual decline and degeneration since the 1960’s (arguably, earlier): those of us who learned out politics – initially – from James P. Cannon (even though we later recognised that Max Shachtman, intellectually, won the factional fight) have been dismayed by the organisatin’s degeneration into Stalinism.This latest attack on Black Lives and Antifa matter is a disgrace. James P. Cannon might well have had some comradely criticisms to make of both – but he would have been clear about which side he stood on – unlike the scabs of today’s degenerate “SWP”.

    Jim Denham

    September 13, 2020 at 7:39 pm

  5. It is indeed interesting that the Comminist League participated in the racist anti-Arab so-called demonstration ‘against anti-Semitism’ in 2018, attended by all sorts of Zionist and Blairites types as well as Norman ‘Cricket Test’ Tebbit and sectarian loyalist bigot David Trimble.

    And its interesting that the US SWP also denounced Corbyn’s Labour as anti-Semitic in a similar manner to the right wing media here. Which is rather odd for a US centred ex-left political cult.

    So the fact that they have capitulated to white supremacism and are denouncing BLM like gutter reactionaries is no surprise.

    White supremacism and Jewish supremacism today are closely related, as this article elaborates in some depth.



    September 13, 2020 at 10:55 pm

    • What exactly is ‘Jewish supremacism’?

      I assume amongst the pile of rhetoric you have heaped up you, that is Ian Donovan (rather shy about your making it clear who you are, but we know, and will talk about it at our regular meeting at the Prague cemetery next Friday) you refer to your anti-semitic conspi ideas about the ‘International Jewish bourgeoisie”.

      Andrew Coates

      September 14, 2020 at 6:46 am

      • Its actually worth clicking on to the article that Ian Donovan (the author, I wonder ?) cites, if only to feat on this surrealistic paragraph; “The connection of Tracy Ulllman with Blairism is through Neil Kinnock, with whom she made videos in the 1980s when he was the left-bashing, anti-union Labour leader who fought long and hard to reconcile Labour with Thatcherism, stabbing in the back striking miners, printers, dockers … you name it, and laying the basis for Blairism. This is all part of the cultural corruption of the BBC by Blairite luvvies, who can sneak in where stuffed-shirt Tories – apart from perhaps Boris Johnson himself – would still have risked being lampooned like Sir Gerald Nabarro was by the Goodies and “Monty Python” in earlier, less repressive times.”

        david walsh

        September 14, 2020 at 11:03 am

      • “What is Jewish supremacism?”

        “What is white supremacism”? asks Jack Barnes as he denounces BLM as something like the Nazi party.

        I suggest you both ask Donald Trump. A white supremacist whose daughter is married to a Jewish supremacist.

        Your kind of people.


        September 16, 2020 at 11:38 pm

        • Gone full Adolf I see.

          Howard Fuller

          September 17, 2020 at 9:13 am

          • Howard Fuller has much more in common with Adolf Hitler than I do.

            He is a racial nationalist who supports the racist state of Israel, where the majority of the indigenous population are in exile because they are of the wrong ‘race’ as conceived by ethnic nationalists like him.

            My politics come from Marx, Lenin, Trotsky and Abram Leon, the author of The Jewish Question: A Marxist Interpretation’ and the most important theorist of the Jewish Question in the Marxist tradition in the 20th Century.

            He was a prominent organiser of resistance to the Nazis in occupied Europe and for his efforts was murdered by the Nazis. Meanwhile as is well known the Zionists worked during this period with the Nazis to coerce Jewish victims of the Nazis to go to Palestine as colonists. Unlike the left, they opposed Jewish refugees going to other places such as the US because their prime purpose was use them to outnumber the Palestinians, not to save the victims of Hitler’s genocide more generally.

            Ethnic nationalists lie. That’s why Fuller lies that those who oppose his ethnic nationalism are like Hitler.

            No, I hate Hitler for the same reason I hate Zionism. Because I hate racism. Whereas Howard Fuller doesnt hate racism. He hates Arabs, and those who defend them.


            September 17, 2020 at 9:50 am

          • I’m getting bored with him – I think he may find his posts get snarled up in the George Soros Spam bin….

            Andrew Coates

            September 17, 2020 at 9:54 am

            • So my post was deleted by Coates. What a surprise!

              Incidentally I have never endorsed the nonsense about Soros. I’ll leave that to your mate Trump.


              September 17, 2020 at 9:59 am

  6. Roger Silverman is not Jonathan Silberman. Roger Silverman was a leading member of the RSL (Militant) while Jonathan Siberman was in the IMG and now the Communist League.

    Sue R

    September 15, 2020 at 12:50 pm

    • It was a leading member of the Fourth International who said on Facebook after I had originally written Silberman that his name is Silverman…..

      What are they trying to hide….

      (I had actually met the chap back in the days).

      Here he is:

      Communist League in UK: ‘Jew-hatred is deadly threat to the working class’

      “Jonathan Silberman, Communist League candidate for Tottenham in U.K., speaks Dec. 2 at pre-election candidates forum of 40 people at Turkish Cypriot Community Association, along with candidates from Labour, Liberal Democrats and Conservatives. “We need to build an independent working class movement like in the Cuban Revolution,” he said.


      Andrew Coates

      September 15, 2020 at 2:10 pm

  7. You seem to be confusing Jonathan Silberman (ex-IMG, supporter of the US-SWP, right-wing turncoat) with Roger Silverman (ex-CWI, member of Jewish Voice for Labour, left candidate for Labour NRC). They are not related, and have very different political histories and positions. Your error could cost Roger some votes, and I urge you to correct this.

    Roland Rance

    October 17, 2020 at 4:36 pm

    • No I am not, I quoted from the sources, and I am quite aware that they are different people, apart from having met Silberman. The confusion is not mine but the source.

      Being ex-CWI would cost anybody votes, not to mention the endorsement of Roger Silberman by Tony Greenstein and Jackie Walker of Labour Against the Witch-hunt.

      number of forthcoming events with LAW members Jackie Walker, Moshe Machover and Tony Greenstein.
      Labour NEC elections 2020

      Labour Against the Witchhunt calls on its members and supporters to vote for the following seven candidates in the current Labour Party NEC elections, which start on October 19.

      Roger Silverman.
      Chaudhry Qamer Iqbal
      Carol Taylor Spedding
      Ekua Bayunu
      Alec Price
      Steve Maggs
      Cameron Mitchell

      Andrew Coates

      October 17, 2020 at 4:56 pm

      • But you still caption a picture of Jonathan Silberman with the text “Here is a rare photo of their ‘candidate’ for the London Mayor in 2016 (he did not run in the end) Roger Silverman, who was once quite prominent in the IMG.”

        Roland Rance

        October 17, 2020 at 8:45 pm

        • Well it doesn’t now, and incidentally it was your FI friends who had got the names mixed up, not me. I remember him as a loyal Rossite in Tendency B.

          I would hardly put this confusion in the same class as, say the JVL’s publication of this,
          Fifty times Jeremy Corbyn stood with Jewish people

          (Point Number One): reads:

          Corbyn organised the Apr. 1977 defence of Jewish populated Wood Green from a Neo-Nazi march.

          1) (I was there and grew up in Bounds Green/Wood Green), Wood Green was not, and is not, Jewish Populated.
          2) Corbyn was not the organiser of the demonstration but a rather minor liaison officer between the organisers and the council.


          Andrew Coates

          October 17, 2020 at 9:12 pm

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