Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

April 10, 2020

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

Filed under: Counterpunch,COVID-19,cults,Trotskyism — louisproyect @ 3:42 pm


In the photo below, 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?

Nope. 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.

Was there some sort of death-wish at work in this March 16th memorial meeting? If you are a typical member, there might be some relief in such an outcome. Many have jobs at Walmart despite college degrees and professional past. That in itself does not earn them brownie points with the long-time cult leadership that lives in Manhattan high-rises even more pricey than my own. Under social pressure, members must send in “blood money” to sustain the SWP. Such donations come from the paltry bonuses they receive at Walmart and other low-paying venues. Maybe, in the back of their minds, an end-run on a ventilator would be welcomed as euthanasia.

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  1. Out of this loop, I wouldn’t presume to judge the politics here. But as satire this is top of the class.

    Comment by Peter Byrne — April 10, 2020 @ 4:25 pm

  2. Not to defend the SWP’s politics, but the New York ban on public gatherings wasn’t in place on March 15, so the people who attended this memorial service weren’t really “defying” anything other than common sense. Also, saying that something is “scientifically knowable” is different from saying that it is “scientifically known.” Finally, one day before this, the FSLN convened thousands of Nicaraguans to “fight” COVID-19 by means of a mass rally, and a week later, AMLO was sitting in a restaurant in Oaxaca encouraging Mexicans to eat out, so stupid and dangerous responses to COVID-19 on the global left are unfortunately not limited to the Barnes cult.

    Comment by Dave Palmer — April 10, 2020 @ 5:46 pm

  3. All the museums and movie theaters in NYC had closed before March 15th, not under orders from the government but because they understood that a pandemic was underway. The SWP cult leaders simply did not take this seriously. As to COVID-19 being “scientifically knowable”, that has nothing to do with the politics of the SWP. Its presidential candidate said, “We must reject the social isolation the rulers are seeking to impose on working people.” What else could that mean except opposition to bans on gatherings of more than 50 people, etc?

    Comment by louisproyect — April 10, 2020 @ 5:58 pm

  4. Who Died – that this memorial was held for?

    Comment by John O'Brien — April 10, 2020 @ 7:57 pm

  5. It will be very sad, if somewhat ironic, were some these SWPers to end up having memorial meetings of their own because of their attending this one. As for closing meetings prior to the governmental instructions, I was instrumental in cancelling all social meetings for the support group that I help run for people with a neurological illness, a couple of weeks prior to the British government’s lock-down, on the basis that meeting in cafés was not a good idea, particularly for people with underlying health problems. As the SWP’s membership makes even me look somewhat young, and seeing how the Corona virus is especially dangerous to older folk, I would have thought that cancelling public meetings before having to by way of government fiat, would have been a good idea for the SWP to have implemented.

    Comment by Dr Paul — April 10, 2020 @ 10:03 pm

  6. […] The SWP and Social Distancing: a Study in Abnormal Political Psychology […]

    Pingback by The SWP and Social Distancing: a Study in Abnormal Political Psychology | Tomás Ó Flatharta — April 11, 2020 @ 3:03 pm

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