Steve Bloom Internet Archives
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
Selected Political Essays, Classes, Talks, Letters, Etc.
(under construction)
     
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Sound the Alarm
     
Appeal to sections and members of the Fourth International by four "suspended" members of the Socialist Workers Party National Committee

Bulletin In Defense of Marxism, issue No. 1, December 1983
Since the August 1981convention of the U.S. Socialsit Workers Party, the current party leadership has been carrying out a revisionist course which threatens to destroy that organization as a revolutionary party. The open repudiation of the historic program of Trotskyism, in particular the attack on the theory of permanent revolution, has been imposed on the membership in a step-by-step processthrough the pages of the party's press and other public activities, as well as through an internal "educational" campaign of anti-Trotskyist classes, educational conferences, and speeches.

 
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Why Steve Clark Can't Really Explain what Happened in Grenada

Bulletin In Defense of Marxism, issue No. 3, February 1984
Since the coup in Grenada and the U.S. invasion, quite a few pages in the Militant and Intercontinental Press have been devoted to explaining these events, presenting the views of the present leadership of the Socialist Workers Party or of others whose perspective they share. Articles on the subject include an initial assessment by Steve Clark in the November 7 IP, a report from the NJovember SWP National Committee plenum in the December 9 Militant, a speech by Castro printed in the December 12 IP, and an interview with New Jewel Movement leader Don Rojas in the December 12 IP. The most recent effort appears in the December 1983 International Socialist Review, also by Steve Clark, entitled, "Grenada's Workers and Farmers Government, its achievements and its overthrow." This article continues the general approach of those that preceded it. Clark quotes exensively from both Castro and Rojas go back up his points.

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Who is Responsible for the Split in the Party
In reply to the SWP Political Bureau


Bulletin In Defense of Marxism, issue No. 4, March 1984
The Political Bureau of the SWP in its statement printed above, claims that it has expelled a disloyal secret faction, which engaged in flagrant acts of indiscipline in violation of the party's organizational principals, and was determined to split from the party. This is completely false. Those labelled "splitters" are not the initiators of a split, but its victims. It is the Barnes leadership of the party which is solely responsible for what has occurred.

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On the Workers' and Farmers' Government

Introduction, theses, article.

Bulletin In Defense of Marxism, issue No. 6, April 1984
One feature of the Bulletin In Defense of Marxism has been the printing of doucments, suppressed by the SWP leadership, which were written and submitted by minority members of the National Committee before their expulsion. Those suppressed document which we have published up to now were all distributed to NC members, but not to the party rank and file. The members were denied any first-hand account of the opposition's real views, while a caricature of those views was presente by the leadership in the name of "information."

The Theses on the Workers' and Farmers' Government and the accompanying article by Steve Bloom, "The Workers' and Farmers' Government and the Socialist Revolution," printed below have received an even narrower distribution than other suppressed documents.


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Tribute to George Breitman

Talk given at a memorial meeting, June 7, 1986, published in the book Tribute to George Breitman (1987, Fourth Internationalist Tendency)
Last February we held the third national conference of the Fourth Internationalist Tendnecy in Celeveland, Ohio. George was too ill to make the trip, and when we realized that it was just short of his seventieth birthday, we voted tosend him a message, a birthday greeting, which said a few nice things about his lifetime of dedication to the movement, and his courage in the face of physical ailments which would have caused many a less dedicated comrade to decide it was time to retire.

George complained in a letter which Paul Le Blanc showed me that the greetings were "overly laudatory," and expressed the same thought to me verbally. I don't think most of the delegates who voted to send the greetings would have agreed. But there was nothing phoney or put-on about George's reaction.


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Four Conceptions of the Workers' and Farmers' Government

Article published in the International Marxist Review, Vol. 2 No 2., Spring 1987
Since the revolutions in Nicaragua and Grenada in 1979 a discussion has been taking place within the Fourth International, and amongst its supporters around the world, concerning the theoretical implications and general applicability of the term "workers' and farmers' government." This discussion no doubt seems somewhat arcane and esoteric to the casual observerof little practical consequence or importance. But such a superficial assessment could not be further from the truth. In fact, the differences within our movement over this concept touch on some of the most fundamental problems of revolutionary Marxist theory and strategy, as I will try to demonstrate.

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Marxism and Scientific Method
     
with Abe Bloom
     
Unpublished essay, originally written in the late 1990s
    "Life is short, the art [of healing] long, opportunity fleeting, experience treacherous, judgment difficult"—Hippocrates
      
    "Truth emerges more readily from error than from confusion"—Francis Bacon
      
    "Doubt everything"—Karl Marx
      
Preface: Why the present text and authors?
     
Let us begin dialectically, with an apology that is not really an apology. The two authors of this paper (father and son) are, in some ways, not the ideal people to be writing on the subject of Marxism and scientific method. We are not scientists, nor have we been able to take the time to bring ourselves up to date on the latest thinking about the history and philosophy of science—an area where much research and discussion has taken place in recent decades. We recognize full well that our present effort will probably be deficient on that account, at least in some respects.
     
On the other hand (and this is why we do not really apologize) we believe that we bring something to this presentation which most academics who have had the time to study the history and philosophy of science cannot—a collective 11 decades (more or less) of activist experience in the struggle for social change in the United States, combined with a serious, if amateur, interest in problems of science and scientific method. (Abe enjoys a formal training in mathematics and engineering as well).

     
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Karl Marx

Presentation for Solidarity Summer School—June 2001


I.

There are different ways that people study historical figures. Most often we get biographical studies (that is, a discussion of who they were) or ideological studies (what they thought). Both of these are perfectly valid. But I want to approach Marx a bit differently today. You already have a short biography. And I will talk about essential ideological contributions. But mostly I want to focus on Marx in still a third kind of way: philosophically or methodologically.
     
Good, nobody got up and walked out of the room. You don’t need to get nervous. I won’t use words that nobody (including me) can understand. All I mean by this is that we are going to talk about
how Marx thought, rather than simply what he thought or who
he was.
     
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Marxism, Scientific Method,
and Cuba—
Pursuing an Essential Discussion

Solidarity Discussion Bulletin,
September 2003

I agree with Joel F. (DATE DB) when he tells us that this discussion is important for younger comrades. I would add that it is also essential for the more experienced generation in Solidarity, because it will help us to avoid misunderstandings and grapple with real disagreements—disagreements that have consequences in terms of political analysis and proposals for action.

A misunderstanding, and a note about our approach

One misunderstanding runs throughout Joel’s article and we should get it out of the way before we take on the heart of our real disagreement. I take full responsibility for this since I assumed something to be a common frame of reference that, apparently, Joel did not. He writes: “Steve attempts to convince us that Cuba must be either socialist or on the road to socialism or was born in a socialist revolution, or something along these lines.” He then proceeds, in the rest of his article, to explain how bad it would be to call Cuba “socialist,” as if this is what I were proposing, and it is of no consequence whether I am asserting that Cuba is “socialist,” or “on the road to socialism,” or “was born in a socialist revolution.” But these three statements are not equivalent.



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Report on February 2004 meeting of the International Committee of the Fourth International

I am sending this report out by blind copying everyone. I am using overlapping lists of interested people (all members of the FI so far as I am aware). We do not yet have a formal basis for a collective discussion among all concerned comrades internationally. If anyone sends a comment, clarification, question, or alternative/supplementary report and asks me to circulate it to everyone who received this, I will do so.
     
The one agenda item I will report on dealt with Brazil.
     

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Leninist Organization and Left Refoundation from Below
   
May 15, 2004
     
For Solidarity Internal Bulletin

I write this in the context of the article "Left Refoundation from Below," by Jose Perez, with which I wholeheartedly agree.
     
At the Solidarity summer school last year Mike Parker gave a presentation as part of a panel on "The Solidarity Experience" in which he suggested that our goal should be to become a more disciplined group. When asked directly whether this was a call for "democratic centralism" he replied in the affirmative.
     
That sparked a spirited discussion at the summer school which continued afterwards. Reactions have ranged from comrades who applaud Mike to those who say absolutely not, or (if they speak based on some experience) "Never Again!"—with many others somewhere in between.
     
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Yes, Charlie, There Is a Labor Aristocracy     
Though We Might Decide to Call it
Something Else
   
January 23, 2005

For Solidarity Internal Bulletin
In his article “The Myth of the Labor Aristocracy” in the January 2005 issue of the Solidarity Discussion Bulletin Charlie P. states: “The theory of the labor aristocracy . . . has and continues to inform the politics of many currents on the US and international left. It even has adherents in Solidarity.”
 
Imagine that! Even in Solidarity? Yes, and I can testify that I am one of these remarkable individuals. True, were it up to me I would not have chosen the term “labor aristocracy” because I don’t really think it characterizes the phenomenon very well. I actually like the concept of “white privilege” better. It is more descriptive of something that exists not as an absolute difference (between the aristocrats and all others) but as a relationship that is flexible, relative, representing a continuum of possibilities.

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Comment on Venezuela and Bolivia

Presented to the International Committee of the Fourth International in February 2006

First I need another disclaimer. These remarks definitively do not reflect the collective views of comrades I have been collaborating with around Brazil. Judging from informal conversations, most of them would have a decidedly different viewpoint.
     
I want to make a few remarks about our overall framework for understanding events in Venezuela, which I think are equally applicable to Bolivia. I agree with D. when he says that there is a dynamic of permanent revolution unfolding in Venezuela. But I will approach the question from a different angle.
     
In our earlier discussion on the world situation one comrade expressed the thought that a process of socialist revolution was taking place in Venezuela, but Chavez does not know how to bring it to a successful consummation, or words to that effect. The implication seemed to be that we would know how if we were in power in Venezuela. I want to raise a serious question concerning that assumption. If members of the Fourth International were in power today in Venezuela we would have to discover how to move forward, in collaboration with the mass movement. Chavez is in a similar position.     
     

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Labor Aristocracy:
Myth
or Reality
(A Reply to Charlie Post)
 
Published in Against the Current, No. 126, January/February 2007. Also available on-line at https://solidarity-us.org/site/node/348

In ATC #s 123 and 124 a two-part article by Charlie Post declares “The Myth of the Labor Aristocracy.” As the author notes, this idea was originated by Frederick Engels, one of the founders of Marxism. It was subsequently developed by Lenin as an explanation for the social chauvinist capitulation of the Second International at the beginning of World War I.

Lenin's approach to this question has been pretty much accepted by most Marxists up to the present day.

    
Post’s effort to correct Lenin’s thinking rests on two fundamental lines of argument:
    
1) The labor aristocracy concept attributes higher wages and other privileges enjoyed by workers in the imperialist centers to the superprofits of monopoly capital in the colonial world (“third world” or “global south”). This idea, we are told, is mistaken. Higher wages are the direct result of higher labor productivity in the imperialist centers (global north), not the super-exploitation of the global south.
    
2) The assertion that more privileged strata of workers become passive supporters of capitalism, incapable of struggling against it because they are “bourgeoisified,” is empirically false. A survey of struggles in the 20th century shows that such workers have repeatedly engaged in actions that challenge the capitalist system.
    
Below we will examine these two lines of reasoning, then look critically at Post’s alternative explanation for the working-class conservatism that does exist today.
     
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On the SWP and the culture of white male domination on the left

October 16, 2007 email message


 

I think we are getting confused by apples and oranges. I didn't, actually, make any assessment of the SWP's attitude toward racism or women's oppression. The party's credentials on these questions, as specific social issues in and of themselves, can hardly be disputed. But you can be very good on questions of racism and women's oppression, as specific social issues in and of themselves, and still live in a white-male centric universe which clouds your judgment and affects your behavior. My mom was the first one who raised my consciousness on this when she described my father as the kind of communist who would sit on a stool in the kitchen reading "Lenin on the Woman Question" to his wife while she was down on her hands and knees scrubbing the kitchen floor.
     
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From:
The Conference on The Legacy of Leon Trotsky and U.S. Trotskyism

Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow

July 2008
     
1) The Legacy of Trotskyism
(Written contribution to the preconference discussion)     

The purpose of this contribution is to briefly explore the legacy of Trotskyism on two levels—political and organizational. The conclusion I draw, which seems obvious to me, is that the political legacy of Trotskyism continues to summarize essential historical lessons which can be of inestimable value for the next generation of revolutionary struggles. At the same time, the organizational legacy of Trotskyism can only be described as dismal—a maze of incompatible sects incapable of agreeing on what their political legacy actually means. This disconnect needs to be explained, in particular by those of us who continue to identify with the theoretical tradition of Trotskyism as an international current.

     
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2) Reconsidering Party-Building Paradigms
(Written contribution to the preconference discussion) 
     
One of the key questions we need to discuss in the lead up to our conference next summer, and at the conference itself, is: How do we assess the SWP’s party-building paradigm in light of its degeneration and our subsequent experience? Was there anything in the basic self-conception that contributed significantly to the demise of the party? Also: have there been any changes in the world in the last 2-3 decades that might make us reconsider what we did back then as a model for building a Leninist organization today? (Do we want to still build a Leninist organization today?)
     
This contribution will not try to provide a comprehensive answer to these questions. I will, however, suggest two key problems, and one conclusion:

     
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3) Supplemental Comments to "Reconsidering Party-Building Paradigms"
(Circulated among the conference planning committee)
     
I circulate this merely to the planning committee for now. With a little encouragement I will also submit it to the listserve.
   
At our meeting on Tuesday evening we got into a discussion about the party-building panel and its composition. I pledged to submit an outline of the perspective I plan to present, as a way of alleviating fears expressed that the session could become dominated by efforts to dump on those who are presently engaged in organization-building projects. When I sat down to write that outline, I discovered an article already written some months ago, and submitted to the conference listserve, that addresses the most relevant points. That article is attached FYI. I’m not upset with comrades for forgetting about this contribution. I had forgotten about it too. I resubmit it now, with the following notes:

   
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4) Comments on "Building the Revolutionary Party"
(Presentation made to the conference)

   
I would like to start by emphasizing a point made by the chair in introducing this panel. I am a member of Solidarity, but I do not speak here for that organization. I take full personal responsibility for the ideas I am about to present to you. (And I may have to.)
    
Yesterday the question was posed—by a conference participant who comes from a different tradition, does not share most of our history: “Why are there so many Trotskyist groups when there seems to be so much agreement on fundamental political matters?”
    
I believe that this is a central question for our historical current, especially when we are talking about “party building.” It’s one we not only need to answer; it’s one we need to do something about.
  
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Letter to the International Committee of the Fourth International

February 2009

For the fist time since I have functioned as a member of the international leadership I am unable to make the IC meeting this year. My apologies. I would like to comment on the document which is being circulated—in particular points 4, 5, and 6.
     
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Comment on "Italy, A Failed Refoundation" by Salvatore Cannavo

Posted to the FI Forum of Solidarity on February 5, 2012
I am struck, on reading this document, by several thoughts I would like to share:
     
1) We are offered an assessment of the PRC experience, what went wrong. The comments seems quite reasonable on the whole. But does this document prepare the conversation we need to have in the Fourth International? Shouldn't that discussion be primarily about the role of our own cadre as part of this process? What was our assessment and what were our actions
while all of this was going on? When did we come to these conclusions? When should we have? What did we do in response and when did we do it? What might we have done? Could we have been more conscious and acted in a more timely fashion?

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Revolutionary History
and its Relevance for Today:
The Legacy of Trotskyism in the US
      
Edited text of a talk given in Columbus, Ohio, May 12, 2012
Let me start with a disclaimer. I am a member of Solidarity and the Columbus branch of Solidarity is sponsoring this conversation. But these remarks do not speak for Solidarity. I speak only for myself. We have many viewpoints in Solidarity on this topic and mine is only one of them.
    
This is part of a new approach to revolutionary organization-building, an approach which is critical, in a way, of the Trotskyist legacy in the USA. This is something I will come back to it at the end of my remarks.
    
Also, allow me to preface my main comments by noting that times are changing. We all feel the change and have talked about it a lot since the development of Occupy Wall Street last Fall. I have heard many musings about the question: Will OWS come back again now that the Spring has arrived? But I would like to suggest that the question should be broader than just whether OWS will come back. We need to consider not only that, but also whether the spirit of resistance and protest that OWS began to manifest will bubble up in other places too.
     
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Human Economy and Class Society
(a new introduction)
 
Originally written April, 2012, for Scientific Soul Sessions and posted on the SSS website, revised July 2014
This is an attempt to write another brief introduction to a subject that has been introduced many times by many people, traditionally called "political economy" (recognizing the link between the economic and the political, as opposed to a more academic approach which presents “economics” as something completely independent.) And because the political economy I propose to elaborate is based on a certain understanding of human history that goes by the name "historical materialism" we will deal here with some of the fundamentals of this concept as well.
 
Why a new effort? Because none of those developed previously that I am aware of seems adequate if our goal is to envision a 21st century ecosocialism.

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The "Struggle for Organizational Hegemony" on the Left—
A Formula for Failure

     
Published by Old and New,
September 2014
It is hard for anyone to avoid noting the fragmented condition of the revolutionary left: multiple small groups each competing with all others for influence and recruits. There are many and complex reasons for this state of affairs. To some extent it does represent genuine and important political disagreements on questions such as how to orient toward contemporary struggles, what strategic path to follow to promote revolution, what forces constitute the revolutionary subject in contemporary society, who are the primary allies, what ideologies should be promoted and which ones combated, plus many similar issues.
     
But there is one factor which has generated considerable fragmentation and which, in my view, ought to be theoretically discarded: The idea that there can be one, and only one, organization that has a truly revolutionary outlook, that this organization with the correct revolutionary outlook is the one I belong to, and that the most essential goal, therefore, is to battle for the organizational hegemony of my group. All other organizations on the left represent the enemy, either actively or by default.
     
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Ecosocialism: The Road Ahead, the Struggle at Hand

Reply to six questions posed by Solidarity's Ecosocialist Working Group in 2014


Published in Solidarity's webzine, 2015
I would like to suggest that one way to think about the answers to these questions might be as stones in an archway. One base of that arch rests in the capitalist present, the other in our ecosocialist future. And if we approach things in this way then perhaps our answer to question number 4 represents the keystone to that arch, the answer that supports the entire structure: “How, if scaling back production is necessary, will ecosocialist strategy remain committed to meeting human needs? Or can we envision continued expansion and economic growth under ecosocialism, as the working classes and others in the industrialized nations have come to expect?”

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