Jack Barnes’ property ladder


A thousand thanks to the reader who emailed me this New York Observer story about Jack Barnes, Maximum Leader of the US Socialist Workers Party.

Communists Capitalize on Village — Get $1.87 M. for Loft
by Max Abelson

If bow-tied, cigar-mouthed Republicans can have nice seven-digit, six-room co-ops, don’t a few old Manhattan communists deserve multi-million-dollar real estate, too?

A two-bedroom loft at 380 West 12th Street, a 109-year-old building on a cobblestone block by the Hudson River, was sold by American socialist leaders Jack Barnes and Mary-Alice Waters. Their buyers, Sony BMG Music Entertainment vice president Ole Obermann and his fiancée, Stephanie Jakubiak, paid $1,872,500.

“I don’t want to hurt the sellers’ feelings at all, but they definitely had a funky style in terms of how they did the apartment,” said Mr. Obermann. That means there are sliding stained-glass doors, plus a wall of bookshelves. (Ms. Waters is the president of publishing house Pathfinder Press, which publishes Marx and Trotsky, and Mr. Barnes, too.)

“Personally, our tastes are different and we’ll probably do something different,” the buyer said. “It will be open, airy, simple, whereas when it was done 15 years ago there was a lot of light-colored wood shelving.” He’s adding six or so wireless speakers, “a nice music system.”

Edward Ferris of Brown Harris Stevens was the listing broker.

It isn’t clear when Mr. Barnes and Ms. Waters bought the place or how much they paid, but city records date back to 1993, when apartments were massively cheaper.

Unlike most people in six-room lofts, Mr. Barnes once met with Kim Il-sung, the late North Korean president. The leader “conversed with the guests in a cordial and friendly atmosphere and arranged a lunch for them,” a report published by the BBC in 1990 said. “US Socialist Workers’ Party, led by its National Secretary Jack Barnes… presented him with a gift.”

So what is the couple like? “We only met Mary-Alice, and she was incredibly friendly, interesting, had a nice warm way about her, seemed like a very nice woman,” Mr. Obermann said. “She mentioned she really liked to cook, they would have friends over—it’s like a social space.”

Nice one Jack! I should point out that I’m not a hairshirt socialist. If Jack Barnes wants to own a Manhattan apartment, or even make a profit selling one, that’s fine by me.

That’s not to say that there is no issue here. The late Jim Cannon, whom Jack professes to follow, used to be very hot on the idea of communist leaders setting an example for the rank and file. So there is, and let’s be kind here, an itty bitty tension between leading a group that fetishises “footloose revolutionaries” and discourages comrades from owning property, and dabbling in the property market yourself.

Then again, maybe Jack is onto something. After all, this is the guy who was perspicacious enough to dump Trotskyism for Stalinism just as the latter entered its period of terminal decline. Perhaps Jack’s latest wheeze is the Sarah Beeny road to socialism.

 More on this from Louis.


  1. Ed Hayes said,

    July 25, 2007 at 1:30 pm

    Is that Mary Alice above? Pathfinder must be more profitable than I imagined if Barnes can get a loft in Manhattan out of it. Then again they do publish a lot of Che, Fidel etc and perhaps the Cuban education system bulk buys for its English language lessons.

  2. Cam said,

    July 25, 2007 at 1:45 pm

    It’s quite possible he’s owned it for years now. I don’t think real estate in pre-Seinfeld New York was so ridiculously expensive.

    The North American far left sure is a strange bunch though. They make their European comrades look surprisingly normal.

  3. splinteredsunrise said,

    July 25, 2007 at 1:51 pm

    No, that would be Sarah Beeny of Channel 4’s Property Ladder. Though I did once meet Mary-Alice, and very pleasant she was too.

  4. July 25, 2007 at 1:53 pm

    […] Link to Article west 8 Jack Barnes’ property ladder » Posted at Splintered Sunrise on Wednesday, July 25, 2007 Jack Barnes’ property ladder July 25th, 2007 [ sarah-beeny-45744s.jpg] … -bedroom loft at 380 West 12th Street, a 109-year-old building on a cobblestone block by the Hudson View Entire Article » […]

  5. Liam said,

    July 25, 2007 at 2:17 pm

    Pathfinder books are so expensive that only people with the spare cash to buy a Manhattan loft apartment can afford them.
    Their London bookshop, which I walked past this morning, is the Bates’ motel of lefty publishing. They are startled when you walk in and while you can buy the works of Jack Barnes in two or three languages they don’t really offer that much you’d want to take home.
    It’s genuinely odd when you walk into bookshops in Cuba and comrade Barnes’ oeuvre is often given pride of place in the store display. Is that what socialism will look like?

  6. Idris of Dungiven said,

    July 26, 2007 at 4:36 pm

    They’re donating the proceeds to the party, right?

  7. splinteredsunrise said,

    July 26, 2007 at 8:04 pm

    You would hope…

  8. August 19, 2007 at 1:24 pm

    A dear comrade of mine who wrote a humor column in our organizations magazine died a few years back. At his memorial service a couple comrades read some of their favorite bits from over the years, and here is my favorite:

    “If Pathfinder Press is selling a paperback copies of ‘Trotsky on the Balkans’ for thirty five dollars… is that considered war profiteering?”

    As far as the American SWP goes, they don’t really function as a political group anymore. The ‘party’ basically sells Pathfinder books and little else. You don’t hear of them actually involved in the movement anymore, just staffing literature tables. The odd thing is they do not politically agree with 80% of those old titles they keep printing, they just need to sell them. They are not a force on the US left at all, they just happen to still own a publishing house and still have a little cult going to keep the publishing going.
    The sad thing is the American SWP was a badass group for many, many years. They haven’t been the same since the 80’s, at the latest.

  9. Phil said,

    September 12, 2007 at 12:25 am

    No, they’re not giving the money to the party. The luxury apartment is the private property of Barnes and Waters and the money form the sale is theirs.

    Pretty disgusting when you think that rank and file party members slaving away in the mines are expected to donate danger bonuses and so on in toto to the cult, as well as be “footloose revolutionaries” owning no property.

  10. Cian said,

    September 12, 2007 at 9:11 am

    There seems to be a real split in the far left in the US. If you go on a couple of the mailing lists (Doug Henwood’s say, or the one run by Louis Proyect) – its either crazies (Stalinists, for example), or surprisingly nuanced, analytical and pragmatic people. The latter are outnumbered, but still, they have them and we don’t.

  11. louisproyect said,

    September 12, 2007 at 1:58 pm

    So am I a crazy Stalinist or a surprisingly nuanced person?

  12. splinteredsunrise said,

    September 12, 2007 at 2:13 pm

    I’d go with nuanced, but I might leave out surprisingly.

  13. Cian said,

    September 12, 2007 at 9:35 pm

    Why not be a mix of the two? Be a bit different.

  14. curious said,

    September 20, 2007 at 2:23 am

    Do you have proof that the proceeds of their sale are not being reinvested in the SWP?

  15. KaseyGirl said,

    September 20, 2007 at 2:36 am

    I am disturbed but not surprised. While I believe this property was bought long ago, the disturbing thing is not owning it, but the drastic difference in life style between Barnes and Waters and the rank-and-file. You don’t see the SWP around the “Left” because their political activicty is geared toward their work in industry (with the working class). But besides that point, Barnes doesn’t only repeat James P. Cannon’s words of being a “footloose revolutionary in the book “Socialism on Trial” but is critical towards members that don’t save enough money to move at moments notice to a different city. The life he and Mary-Alice Waters, eating in nice restaurants, going to plays in NY and every so often going to the Birdland jazz club and membership in a Manhattan gym–is quit foreign to the life of their regular members. Let’s just extremely foreign.

  16. curious said,

    September 20, 2007 at 9:19 pm

    Where do you get your info on Barnes and Waters? I have googled them and can find nothing other than info on their books and SWP activity. Do they really live that well and how do the rank and file members of the SWP who are working in industry for poor pay and no benefits respond to this? Are they unaware of it? Thanks!

  17. Tom Siblo said,

    October 24, 2007 at 8:36 pm

    Should this be a surprise to anyone? The personal life is suppose to be separate in the SWP. Back in 1972 when a number of us former students who were unemployed because of the recession and had come to the center to join and become members of the party. One of the comrades who struggled through Bard College on scholarship who left his job in Buffalo spent all of his remaining savings to move to NYC. After three months of looking for work applying for public assistance he could not find a job. One us was given a job at Pathfinder and I was on UIB looking for work myself. I was told by a party leader to pick the clients stuff up in a shopping cart and send him rolling down the road. If I did this I could pay more of my UIB to the party and find a roomate to replace the young man from Bard. Well I came home packed my bags and headed back to Long Island. It turns out later the comrade was asked to become a supporter as a lifetime commitment closed before him.

    Remember always keep the personal separated ftom the political and as long as you do that contradictions between professional revolutionaries like Barnes
    and Waters can live the life they do. Supported by weekly wages from the hard earned money sufferings of the proletariat. This is not what either Lenin or Cannon meant by professional revolutionaries.

    I do recall Lenin set limits of paying only what the highest paid worker in the party makes. In this way your professionals do not end up accumulating massive amounts of capital.

    I recall getting a wealthy YSA once to foot the entire bill for publishing Trotsky’s indepth book on German Fascism back in 1970. I worked the whole thing out via George Novack.

    The truth is the workers know what you are in terms of class. We have long memories and those who betray us or in reality exploit us we know them.

    I can say in defense of Jack Barnes and Mary Alice Waters they have never been directly involved in such exploitation. They are dedicated revolutionaries lucky enough to purchase a spot in the Village when things were cheap. There are no holes in their commitment and work for the liberation of the proletariat.

    So I disagree with the author of this thread and it is easy to cast stones from the sidelines.

  18. Tom Siblo said,

    October 24, 2007 at 9:04 pm

    It is an accepted and well known fact that these places are frequently visited because as I said above working people know what their leaders are up too and besides neither Jack or Mary Alice have denied their personal lives. Why should they? What is the problem here. Engels supported Marx and his family where he worked owned the very industrial concerns he wanted the worker to own. I am always ready to accept inividuals with money that brake away from the ruling class and give their lives for the interests of working people.

  19. curious said,

    October 25, 2007 at 3:22 pm

    The previous posts by Tom Siblo sound somewhat contradictory. He says what Barnes and Waters do is okay, but in another sentence he says something about the lifestyles they live “from the hard earned money sufferings of the proletariat.” He also states that this is not what Cannon or Lenin meant by being professional revolutionaries. I question why they bought property for themselves back in the 70’s when the party preaches against property ownership. Are they above the “rules” established by their own party? It disturbs me that the “normal” members are working in dangerous, underpaid jobs, without benefits-including NO health insurance, living in low rent roach infested apartments in groups of 2-4, having to move at a moments notice at the party’s request, and spending much of their own money to do so. Most of these people are so underpaid that they can’t even afford to take care of themselves properly in terms of food, shelter, and other basic needs, and would find it impossible to attend a play or have a gym membership! I would like to have the opportunity to ask Barnes and Waters why this is okay. It seems to me that this is just another form of exploitation of working people and that their version of communism still allows for certain people to have privelges of class, no different from the capitalism we are now forced to live under. I would really like to hear if these things about Barnes and Waters are really true-it seems they are very quiet on the subject.

  20. John said,

    October 30, 2007 at 2:39 am

    This is stupid. The money was re-invested in the party. They both earn minimum wage for their posts. Aside from the crime of living in Manhattan – they do not live a decadent life. Many other party members do own houses/condos as they have throughout the history of the party. The only discussion here that is not personal attacks or rumors is that Barnes dumped Trotskyism for Stalinism. And this is not even accurate.

  21. curious said,

    October 31, 2007 at 4:00 pm

    I am not trying to insult Barnes and Waters. I really just want to know if they live the same lifestyles as the “regular” party members who work in underpaid, no benefit, often dangerous (brown and black lung from garment and coal mining, injuries from meatpacking) jobs. I keep hearing that they kept the money from the condo sale, attend plays, and have gym memberships, etc. The regular workers in the party do not own property (the supporters do) and are sent around the country often, so they are not even able to settle more permanently in any one place and they spend most of their own money doing the work of the party. Being so underpaid, they can’t afford to buy property anyway unless they entered the party already wealthy. From what I’ve seen, most of them live in groups of 2-4 in crummy, roach infested apartments in the poorest, most dangerous parts of the cities the SWP is active in. How can they live any differently? They are making low wages and are spending any available money to support the work of the party. There is nothing left to take care of their personal needs and enjoyment. I just feel there should be more to life than that and it appears to me that Barnes and Waters know how to enjoy life. That isn’t wrong unless the same privileges are not encouraged for all the party members. It is easy to say they can live as they please, but it isn’t possible when they are assigned to these industry jobs. It is very expensive to live in Manhattan and most of the NY party members live in the South Bronx or Queens and not the nicer parts of these areas. The cause is good, but I think the party requires too much personal sacrifice and I don’t really agree with the methods used to achieve the goal. I don’t think the party is really that effective. It disturbs me even more when the “leaders” of the SWP live differently from the rank and file.

  22. curious said,

    October 31, 2007 at 11:04 pm

    I also wanted to ask John how he knows his info on Barnes and Waters is accurate. He states that they earn minimum wage for their work. They must have some money coming from some other source, because you couldn’t afford to keep a condo in Manhattan on minimum wage and still have a gym membership, etc. If they have been working in low wage jobs for years, they couldn’t have made payments on a condo even if it was purchased back in the 70’s. Even though property values have increased greatly since the 70’s, minimum wage earners have never been able to buy property. If they re-invested the money from the condo sale back into the SWP and are currently earning minimum wage, how can they afford to live in Manhattan now? My understanding is that rent in that area is well over $2000.00/ month for something quite small and simple. Minimum wage and $2000.00 plus rent doesn’t add up in my book!

  23. Truth said,

    November 14, 2007 at 5:54 am

    I saw payroll reports of the party’s staffers back in the 1990’s and can tell you definitively that Jack and Mary Alice pulled down $50K+ per year way back then. They definitely didn’t make the $200 per week that the party’s print shop volunteers lived on.

  24. John said,

    November 20, 2007 at 3:01 am

    Who is propagating this information? They make minimum wage. The house wasn’t originally purchased by them. They are not the only party members to live there and as far as I know they haven’t lived together in number of years. Cops and those with weak political arguments thrive in rumors and gossip because it doesn’t require them to politically address the ideas and actions of their opponents.

  25. Joaquin Bustelo said,

    November 25, 2007 at 11:41 pm

    I knew Jack and M-A well through the mid 80’s. They did not have this property then. Jack had a small rent-controlled apartment in Greenwhich Village which I had occassion to visit a couple of times, and had had it since the mid-60s so it was affordable. M-A had a separate apartment for a long while which I also saw (they broke up in the late 70’s but I believe got back together in the 80’s). Nothing in their life styles or personal belongings that I ever saw suggested that they had an income above what was claimed, roughly minimum wage, the same as everyone else who worked for the SWP got. There is no way the two together could have saved enough to buy even a trailer for a trailer park.

    I can think of various ways this might have come to them legitimately, e.g.., inheritance or a gift. But it was certainly at variance with the SWP ethos to have kept it for personal use.

    As for them having salaries of $50K in the 90’s, this would certainly have been in outrageous violation of the claimed norms that applied to all who worked for the SWP during the 15 years I was a member. Everyone was supposed to receive the same very low level of pay — “subsistence,” we called it, and I understood there might be special arrangements in case someone had children (for example) or medical needs, but there was meant to be no differentiation in the basic standard of living of full-timers, whether you were the newest print shop worker or national secretary.

    Clearly, through whatever mechanism, that changed.

  26. dave rowlands said,

    December 30, 2007 at 8:06 pm

    The Socialist Workers Party makes no attempts to equalize the amount of wealth party members have at their disposal. And as anyone who has ever been a member, sympathizer, or a political opponent knows — they would not even try. Throughout the history of the party, or any other revolutionary party for that matter, there have been members who’ve been rich and members who are just getting by. That’s just the way it is in class society, and no amount of phony hand-wringing by people who haven’t attended a picket line in the past twenty years (or who have never attended a picket line) can alter this reality.
    The point is not how much money you have in your bank account, be it through accident of birth, inheritance or a really smashing condo sale, but which class you’ve attached yourself to and whose interests you struggle to advance. The suggestion that Jack Barnes and Mary Alice Waters, forty-five year veterans of the struggle for social justice and socialism, are enriching themselves at the expense of other party members is a complete and utter slander. Such insinuations are neither new in the history of the international worker’s movement, nor are they in keeping with the elementary principals of human dignity and fairness.
    Where they got the money to buy the property in the first place and what they did with the profits is simply nobody’s business. One can safely assume, however, that they didn’t keep it for themselves. But such generosity — like the character of a revolutionary socialist party in the epoch of imperialism — is something most of the bloggers are not equipped to understand.

  27. dave said,

    December 30, 2007 at 8:43 pm

    Despite what “Curious” seems to think, SWP members are not running around town in ragged clothes without proper medical attention. Nor are they living in roach infested slums, weak with hunger. SWP members have more or less the same standard of living as any other worker, which in the United States is thirty to sixty thousand per household. Just thought you would like to know.

  28. curious said,

    January 13, 2008 at 1:05 am

    I don’t see how it is ok for certain people in the party to live a lifestyle of travel, condo ownership, broadway play attendance, etc., while the rank and file are OFTEN working in 8.00/hour jobs without benefits or dangerous jobs that leave them with black or brown lung disease. Maybe a few party members get good paying union jobs, but most work in non-union, trying to unionize or in weaker unionized plants trying to strengthen the union. Many of these jobs have no benefits-causing LACK of medical attention, and an 8.00/hour income is too high for government medical assistance. Roach infested apartments? Try to rent something better at 8.00/hour, not to mention buying decent quality groceries and clothing. What planet is Dave living on where typical workers are earning 30,000-60,000/year with full benefits? Garment workers and meat packers (main targets of the SWP) are not earning nearly that much. The households Dave is talking about must have several workers in them. The stated goals of the SWP are admirable, but I don’t think it is fair for some in the party to live well while others struggle. Maybe the wealthy members should help the struggling members with health insurance, groceries, rent, etc. Oh, maybe that idea is too socialist!

  29. dave said,

    January 15, 2008 at 1:08 am

    If your goal is to build a multinational, revolutionary party of the working class then you have to be in the industries where one might expect a response to the crisis of capitalism. In the United States, in the past decade, such stirrings have occurred primarily in the mines, in meatpacking and in other workplaces that employ workers from south of the Rio Brave (such as garment). This is where the fight is currently being engaged and this is where the party needs to be.
    It’s dark as a dungeon and damp as the dew, but being in an optimal financial setting is not exactly the priority most party members have set for themselves. Having said that, SWP members are NOT living in abject poverty, as anyone close to the situation knows full well. True, a certain percentage, maybe even a significant percentage, do not have acsess to health insurance, but in the United States many millions of workers do not have acsess to health insurance. But tell me, how is the SWP to be held responsible for that?
    Simply put, it is not now, nor has it ever been the responsibility of the party to make the membership equal in terms of personal wealth, and the notion that they should try to do so is nothing more than petty-bourgeois utopianism. If that’s what you’re looking for you should join a back-to-the-land commune in the Baja Penninsula.
    P.S. I think you will find, when all is said and done, that the condo in question was never owned privately in the first place.

  30. curious said,

    January 15, 2008 at 3:42 am

    I just find it odd that party members who have more than they need are not helping those members in need. It is a lot easier to do the work of the party if you aren’t first struggling to survive. Don’t try to tell me that 8.00/hour is not poverty-try to support yourself on it. If party members are not living in poverty on those wages it is because they have another source of income, such as the support of a wealthy family. Party members in that situation never really feel the struggle of the workers they are involved with. And yes, it should be the responsiblity of the organization to make sure their members have equal access to health care and enough food to eat. It appears the party leadership is having all their needs met.

  31. curious said,

    January 15, 2008 at 5:04 am

    Have Barnes and Waters ever worked in industry?

  32. curious said,

    January 15, 2008 at 5:22 am

    It appears that my post in response to Dave was deleted. Don’t tell me that trying to live on 8.00 per hour without health insurance does not equate to poverty. That is a common wage for party members working in industry. Members who are living well on this income must have another source of income-most likely a wealthy family member. And yes, I do believe the organization should make sure the members have access to food and health care. It amazes me that the more fortunate ones do not help out their comrades.

  33. dave said,

    January 15, 2008 at 5:25 pm

    “Curious” and I could debate forever what constitutes poverty, but with your average party household consisting of two people holding down two jobs paying (on the average) 10.00 an hour (after probation), the yearly income would be around 40,000 dollars per year. And at nine dollars an hour the yearly income would be around 36,000 dollars. This is in line with what tens of millions of US waitresses, grocery store clerks, bank tellers, school janitors, meatpackers, nurses aids, garment workers and college adjuncts make. Properly budgeted, this is sufficent to provide for ample food, clothing, a clean but modest living space, and a car. Heck, they’re might be enough left over to see a movie, join a gym or attend an occassional play. That’s not to say that the capitalists aren’t robbing these workers blind, it’s just to say that this is the way it is. It’s criminal, of course; we will visit them later.
    But none of this really matters because this is not what “Curious” and I are debating. What we are talking about is something different altogether. “Curious” does not believe — or even worse — no longer believes — that it is possible to build a class-struggle socialist party amongst the working masses of the United States (or anywhere else), and is annoyed at those who think otherwise. This is at the heart, as James Cannon would say, of “the beef” with the SWP. Not some made up fantasy about party members running around town like a gaggle of ragtag street urchins.

  34. curious said,

    January 16, 2008 at 3:04 am

    To some extent, Dave, you are right in your assumptions. I do support a revolutionary socialist party formed by the working class of the United States and I admire the goals of the SWP. I am just not sure that they are an effective organization at this time and I am irritated at the things I am hearing about the party’s leadership. The leadership of the SWP should have no higher quality of living than the rank and file and should be working in industry like most of the other party members. I am specifically referring to Barnes and Waters. I keep hearing that they earn more money, live better, haven’t worked in industry, etc, etc. I would like some factual clarification. I am also concerned that the “turn to industry” has excluded some very valuable people from membership and that the focus is so small that the movement can’t grow. It seems to exclude most everything but mining, garment, and meatpacking. I will always disagree with Dave about what constitutes poverty. Maybe 2 wage earners can make a very modest living on 8.00 per hour, but a single wage earner is not in nearly so good a position. I have seen the areas that party members live in and the types of apartments they can afford and if you factor in lack of health insurance and benefits, you certainly have poverty. I know that the members are generally not concerned with their own financial stability (that is not why they became involved with the party), but it seems that within the party some still have unfair privileges of class.

  35. dave said,

    January 16, 2008 at 11:02 pm

    “Curious” is, no doubt, a very fine person, and has, without question, a very tender heart. SWP members have big hearts, too; not only for the class at large, but for one another. They would never leave a comrade in peril, be they rich or be they “poor.”
    But please consider this. If the Socialist Workers Party had not taken the course it took, throughtout the eighties, the nineties and into the new millinieum (a course which continues today), instead of one (somewhat weak) revolutionary party, there would be NO revolutionary party. It’s a plain and simple fact that the SWP is the ONLY communist party in the united States still standing in the aftermath of what has been an unusually long (and generalized) retreat of the working-class. One must ask him or herself why that is.
    And seeing that the SWP is one of only a handful of organizations worldwide that can trace their lineage back to the Russian Revolution and the Communist International — the lessons of which the party holds in trust for the workers of the world through the publication of Pathfinder Books — had the party gone under, this would have been a devasting, perhaps fatal, blow.

  36. Mike Peters (New Zealand) said,

    January 24, 2008 at 9:40 pm

    I recently read a couple of talks by Jack Barnes in New International about the coming (and now arrived) global capitalist crisis.

    Jack was bang on the money.

    There seem to be a lot of pathetic petty slanders against Jack and the SWP from useless idiots. I think the SWP analysis and careful preparation for the coming battles is completely justified and I look forward to that beautiful day when we get our chance.

  37. NollaigO said,

    January 25, 2008 at 9:48 am

    ” Where did you get your money from, Taoiseach?”

    ” It’s none of your business”

  38. dave said,

    January 26, 2008 at 9:26 pm

    What does “Where did you get your money from, Taoiseach?” mean? How come I can never understand the chic formulations of middle class radicals?

  39. NollaigO said,

    January 28, 2008 at 6:25 pm

    “What does “Where did you get your money from, Taoiseach?” mean? How come I can never understand the chic formulations of middle class radicals?”

    Which word is causing difficulty, Dave? “Where” ? “money” ? “Taoiseach” ?

    Radical? me?!

    Middle class? I’m only a poor ould teacher, my face is all tattered and torn.

  40. dave said,

    January 28, 2008 at 6:53 pm

    I mean, what’s your point? Why can’t anybody but me, Mike, John and Curious make a political argument without trying to be cute?

  41. NollaigO said,

    January 29, 2008 at 12:21 am

    But ” you should join a back-to-the-land commune in the Baja Penninsula.”
    is not trying to be cute ?!

    Physician,heal thyself !

    One Gerry Foley; there’s only one Gerry Foley

  42. dave said,

    January 29, 2008 at 1:00 am

    I must admit, compadre — you got me there. Seriously though, I really don’t know what Taoiseach means. I looked it up in the dictionary and could not find a reference.

  43. margo said,

    January 29, 2008 at 11:27 am

    Taoiseach – Irish Prime Minister

  44. dave said,

    January 29, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    Thanks, Margo

  45. Derek said,

    February 20, 2008 at 12:43 am

    First I have to say I enjoy the discourse on this site, it was unexpected as I was actually attempting to ‘steal’ a text copy of Barnes’ book, I refuse to pay for it.
    This is more of a reply to Dave/Curious’ discussion. In many ways I believe that Curious may be correct, at least in regards to the United States. Building a socialist revolution would be difficult with the current climate as the US is seemingly constantly teetering on crushing the worker under it’s boot and then letting them up for air. The talk of social revolution is nearly moot. Revolution traditionally is very fast in happening, not a twenty year plan. The idea being. things must get much worse prior to a revolution. Not that this is a good idea, or appropriate but historicaly accurate. I can see where Curious’ frustration is coming from. And in many ways the SWP (of which I am a member) seems to be more of a weak political entity that a revolutionary organization. What the causes of that may be is highly debateable, personally I feel that it’s little fault of the party’s but mainly a fault with the American system of values. One should remember that although the cold war is very much over, the propaganda of the cold war is not. We are talking about a country that still believes Fidel Castro to be evil incarnate. I think the SWP gaining any viable political foothold at its current pace is very far in the future. Again, as a country we are calling current health care legislation ‘Universal’ without it being a single payer system.
    The reality of the situation is that things are getting worse for the average worker (leadership aside). Unions are weak in the states, many of the Unions that do operate are in themselves run like a for-profit corporation. But I digress.
    Not that I don’t appreciate the SWP and what they try to do, again Curious makes a good point, exclusion of non-industry workers will not help the cause. America is one of the few countries where it is almost mandated that the intellectual population and the working class population have nothing in common, and share no similar goals. Many socialist and communist thinkers were just that…thinkers, not members of industry. The arts of all facets have contributed to socialist uprisings or changes in the past. Personally I believe this should be a top priority of the party, to include as many as possible of all different mind sets and abilities. The best laborer in the world can not build a bridge without the engineer.
    But Dave, you are absolutely right, the SWP is the only communist party left standing in the States, and that counts for quite a bit, particularly with the new ‘scare-quick’ population. But you must realize, many Americans can not conversate on the differences between socialism, communism, nationalism or a myriad of other ‘isms’. Many Americans are blind enough or dont care enough to know the difference. You obviously have an education, but I doubt your personal political beliefs were taught to you in a class room, you found them else where. Well many (too many) look no farther than the class room for their beliefs, which in America is “Democracy=Good, Everything Else=Bad”.

  46. Phil said,

    February 28, 2008 at 2:07 am

    Far from being any kind of “communist” organisation, the outfit bearing the name American SWP is a cult. It is presided over by a royal couple who live just as cult leaders live. Its members are cut off from reality by continuously being moved around the US like pieces on a chess board, just as you would expect in a cult. Their entire lives are circumscribed by the outfit, right down to who they can and can’t invite to baby showers (yes, the cult leaders wrote a lengthy document on the subject), just as you would expect in a cult. The function of their existence is simply to keep existing and keep the cult leaders atop the machine.

    Barnes has been wrong about every major political issue in the last 25 years. He argued that the radicalisation of the 60s/70s would not come to an end without a battle for state power in the US. How nutty. He argued that the ANC were leading a real revolution in South Africa long after it was evident to every sane person on the left that the ANC was implementing neo-liberal economics. He argued, long after the GFA, that the Provos were leading the struggle for national liberation – ie after the Provos had actually sold out the struggle. He argued the US lost the Cold War. He continued to argue that there was an “East German workers state” long after East Germany itself has ceased to exist. Most of these positions are really quite mad.

    Then, of course, his cult abstained from building the protests against the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq. They even went so far as to cliam that the US was running a “soft protectorate” in Iraq. And their cult paper was full of gushying articles about how all-powerful the US military was. Again, all of this has proven to be crap.

    The best way of seeing these cranks is as a money-generating cult. The cult takes a political form because that is where it came from, just like another cult might take a religious form.

    Most of the members have up and left, unable to take the cult any more, so they are now pretty much irrelevant and rapidly aging.

    The bourgeoisifed lifestyle of the royal couple atop the “SWP” – actually the SWP was destroyed in the purges of the early 1980s – contrasts sharply with what is expected of the members, help[ing facilitate continuing decline. (I might add, that since pictures of the royal couple’s luxury apartment could be viewed on the web when it was up for sale, denying its existence is especially stupid.)

    Cult members are generally seen on the rest of the left as jokes and as brain-dead zombies. Pretty much everyone on the left has jokes about them and how weird they seem to ordinary people, a fact that also makes it almost impossible for them to recruit and hold on to genuine working class members.

    Essentially they inhabit a parallet universe in which there is still an East German workers state, the US lost the Cold War and pigs fly.


  47. Phil said,

    February 28, 2008 at 2:22 am

    A ps:
    One of the veteran working-class leaders who was bureaucratically purged by Barnes, in the mass purges of the early 1980s, Frank Lovell, reported that he and other older leaders had noticed signs of psychosis in Barnes (see http://www.marxists.org/history/etol/document/fit/meaning.htm).

    The purges, and Barnes concentration of power, meant the psychosis had full rein. Not surprisingly, Barnes was a big fan of Kim Il-Sung, sent him birthday greetings and, I believe, even went to Korea and met with him and delivered a present.

    Like attracts like, as they say.


  48. dave said,

    February 28, 2008 at 8:17 pm

    If Phil cannot figure out why a revolutionary party centered in the the United States shows solidarity with an oppressed nation that has 40,000 imperialist troops lined up on it’s border with nuclear weapons and with whom it waged a war that killed millions of its citizens and who threatens the working masses of the region relentlessly, that he is a bigger idiot than I thought he was.

  49. Phil said,

    February 29, 2008 at 1:48 am

    Opposing imperialist threats against North Korea don’t necessitate snuggling up to the North Korean Kim dynasty, sending birthday greetings to the despot in Pyongyang, and giving him presents.

    Still, as I said before, like attracts like.

    The SWP-Inc CEO Barnes runs the business-cult much as the various Kims run North Korea.


  50. Tom siblo said,

    April 22, 2008 at 7:14 am

    I find it interesting that whenever a contradiction comes out like this all the same people appear at the festival. When the revolution comes it will not be televised nor will any of the people struggling with the contradictions of production and wealth. It all comes down to where you are sitting in the final act. I have no place to go but with my class-the farmers and workers. I am sure Jack B and Mary W will be standing right next to me. No one spends a lifetime in this movement in order to become wealthy or have a cult of personality developed around you. Dave as I recall we shared a few roaches and all other kinds of bugs both ortganic and inorganic.

    If we do not fnd ourselves all together then we will be able to see each other in Zurich.

    All Power to the Workers and farmers!
    Down with the cult of personalities!
    A condo for everyone now!

  51. curious said,

    May 4, 2008 at 1:31 am

    Do you mean a 1.8 million dollar condo for Jack and Mary Alice? I still object to the lifestyle they live compared to the rest of the SWP members. This may seem petty, but how can they lead a revolutionary workers’ party when they don’t make the same sacrifices?

  52. Tom O'Connor said,

    May 4, 2008 at 5:50 am

    This is the wildest discussion I’ve come across on the internet! For some reason, I decided to Wikipedia Jack Barnes and I found a link to this. I was a member of the SWP from the early ’70s to the late ’80s. In that time I lived in Milwaukee (where I joined), San Antonio and Dallas.

    I was familiar with the living arangements of my comrades in those cities because, obviously, we were all there together, in close and frequent contact – both political and personal. If I had lived in NYC I’d probably have known something of Barnes’ and Mary-Alice Waters’ living arrangements – even more if I had worked in the National Office. Since I didn’t live there, I knew no more about them than I did about any other party member living somewhere else.

    Nobody ordered me to move to San Antonio. In 1979, when my companion, Claudia and I were “burned out” and just “going through the motions” of minimal party activity, the branch organizer asked us if maybe a change of scenery would help us recover our previous fervor. The party was looking for people to build new branches in Toledo and San Antonio. My eyes lit up at the mention of San Antonio – no winters!. Claudia liked it too – she was from Texas.

    When that branch was forced to close down in 1984 (effect of the political retreat than in progress and the split referred to above) I said I’m moving to Dallas. And that was all there was to that. (Claudia had already moved to Baltimore to be with her new companion – again, hardly a party “directive.”)

    There wasn’t (and I doubt if there is now) any provision in the SWP constitution allowing the Political Committee to “order” any member to move anywhere, take any particular job, or do anything except not disagree publicly with the (democratically decided upon) policies of the party.

    An exception would be if you were elected to the National Committee (the ruling body between party conventions). The PC – which was elected by the NC – could tell you to move. If you didn’t, the “punishment” was removal from the NC. In my time in the party I never heard of it coming up.

    I had a lot of different jobs in those years. Some paid better than others. We had a list of ten unions we wanted to be in. Sometimes we got in, sometimes we didn’t. I recall that in San Antonio, none of us could match the wages being earned by our Houston comrades, many of who were employed in the oil and chemical plants. So when we went there for conferences we made them pay for the booze we drank at the parties afterwards. And we inssited on the good stuff!

    A more formal “equalizer” was the “sustainer” we paid in addition to our (minimal, like $2.00 a month) dues. It was a percentage – I really don’t remember how much – of our incomes. The idea was not some petty bourgeois utopian socialist notion about “levelling” members’ incomes. It was about supporting the party’s full-time national staff (you gotta have one) and our printing operation – which was then and probably still is a money loser. People who made more, paid more (if they wanted to), kind of like tithing at church, I guess.

    I don’t know how Barnes and Waters got that piece of property, or how much they got for it. There’s only three people who know where the money for it went. That would be them and the SWP’s financial officer. And that’s a good thing. Revolutionary parties don’t need to be making financial statements to the government they’re trying to overthrow.

  53. curious said,

    May 7, 2008 at 1:24 am

    Phil, where do you get your info/ideas!!!!!!?????? While I don’t agree with some of the methods and policies of the SWP, I do respect their dedication and hard work and agree with their goals. If push comes to shove, it is the only organization I will support. Lack of motivation is my poor excuse for not being involved. Tom, you are right-the SWP doesn’t force members to move, etc. and members are involved by choice and not interested in personal financial gain, but I still think the party could be more supportive of the members, and I think that the party leaders should lead by example. It is not an issue of levelling members incomes, but rather making sure that all members have basic needs met. I know that many members lack decent living conditions, health insurance, and other basic needs, while some have way more than enough. Isn’t it a goal of socialism to close the gap between the wealthy and the poor?

  54. Tom O'Connor said,

    May 8, 2008 at 2:22 am

    Isn’t it a goal of socialism to close the gap between the wealthy and the poor?

    Actually that gap will only close after a socialist revolution. And that goal is what requires the members to support the party, not vice versa. It is the responsibility of the individual members of the party to support themselves – like other members of our capitalist society have to.
    Of course, when someone got in a jam, we helped each other out (personal loans, a place to stay for a while, etc), but it was on an individual to individual basis. The party was not there to “help” us in any way (except to develop politically).
    Despite variations in our incomes, no party member that I was aware of ever “lack(ed) decent living conditions,” or went without sufficient food or needed medical care. And if any has since then, it’s not due to the SWP – which has no authority to force anyone into those conditions.
    Anybody who thinks they’re ready to overthrow the government should, by definition, know how to take care themselves, and, know better than listen to gossip about other comrades’ financial status.

  55. curious said,

    May 8, 2008 at 4:10 am

    How can you take care of yourself when you are working for little more than minimum wage without health insurance? You must have plenty or you wouldn’t make such an ignorant statement. It is obvious that you have never had to go without. You say the SWP doesn’t put people in that position, but it does, by directing members to specific industry jobs that have poor pay and little or no benefits. If you won’t work in those industries you cannot be a member. It should be the responsibility of the party to take care of all members, those with more helping those with less. The work or the SWP is very hard, and if they supported each other better, maybe members wouldn’t become frustrated and exhausted and leave the party. Is it gossip to want to know where the proceeds of a 1.8 million dollar condo sale went? Should the leaders of a revolutionary socialist party want to be personally wealthy?

  56. curious said,

    May 8, 2008 at 11:30 pm

    Dave and Derek-where are you???????

  57. Tom O'Connor said,

    May 12, 2008 at 7:14 pm

    Oh, boo hoo! Tell it to Dear Abby!

  58. curious said,

    May 14, 2008 at 3:27 am

    Tom O’Connor, that was a very well thought out response! Is there some truth to the suggestion that you were one of the wealthy members who always had financial support when the income from the minimum wage job wasn’t enough to buy groceries, pay the rent, and take care of the bill from that recent trip to the emergency room? It is much easier to be a party member when you have the support of a rich family!

  59. dave said,

    May 15, 2008 at 12:01 am

    In the 34 years I have been associated with the SWP, as a member of the youth organization, a member of the party, a member of the supporter’s auxillary and as a sympathizer, I have never once run across any comrade who went to bed hungry, was homeless, was without a warm winter coat or was abandoned when ill. The world Curious describes — of haggarrd party members running round town like modern day Oliver Twists — is simply a fantasy. SWP members and supporters live in exactly the same conditions as their class brothers and sisters — nothing more, nothing less. What would Curious have the party do? Demand that all paychecks and personal accounts be sent directly to the National Office to be distrubted accordingly? Like I said before, if that’s what you’re looking for you should join a commune. Do they still exist?


  60. Tom O'Connor said,

    May 15, 2008 at 3:22 am

    Oh, so now I’m from a rich family? Hmm. Tell you what, get me the name and address of an SWPer forced into a job so low-paying that he or she cannot “buy groceries, pay the rent, (or) take care of the bill from that recent trip to the emergency room.” I’ll see if any relatives of mine can spare a few bucks.

  61. curious said,

    May 15, 2008 at 4:15 am

    Dave, I never painted an Oliver Twist picture. I do have personal knowledge of party members going without their basic needs being met, in areas such as health and dental care, living in sub-standard, roach infested apartments in unsafe areas of the cities they work in, and not being able to afford adequate groceries. I assure you that I know this for a fact. No, I do not think that paychecks should be collected and I am insulted that you would have such a sarcastic response to a valid argument. I just feel that the party would be much stronger and keep many more members if those members knew that by giving up all security (financial, healthcare, pension, etc.) in our harsh society, that they will be taken care of when they need it. I would like to think that an organization so concerned with workers’ rights would care about their members and the work that they do. There are many members who enter the party wealthy and their lives are much easier than their less wealthy comrades. It is very easy to be a socialist when you don’t have to worry about paying the rent. Also, going back to a previous post, the party is so limited in it’s target industries, that it excludes many people from involvement, and many workers from the party’s information.

  62. curious said,

    May 15, 2008 at 4:37 am

    Tom, you really don’t deny being wealthy, you just make quick sarcastic comments. Does the truth hurt? Why are you so sensitive and why are you so angry that my opinion is different from yours? Look around and you will find party members in need!

  63. dave said,

    May 15, 2008 at 1:34 pm

    Both Tom O. and myself, with a combined net of more than 50 years of direct experience in the SWP have never encountered the conditions you describe — members weak with hunger, living in roach infested apartments, left alone sick without medical care — and we have both pointed out that the role of a revolutionary party is to join the fight for socialism, functioning within the conditions that exist in situ with any given society, and that it is not the job of the party, nor would it be possible, to equalize wealth among the members. But just for the sake of argument; if such deplorable conditions were to exist, how would you propose to deal wirth it? Specificly, that is.


  64. Tom O'Connor said,

    May 15, 2008 at 11:18 pm

    You’re right about one thing: not denying that I’m wealthy. Of, course I haven’t confirmed it either, have I? I assure you, I’m not sensitive enough to get angry over this discussion. Sarcastic? Guilty as Hell! (I got this way dealing with the scandal-mongering Sparts, Woolies, LaRoucheites and other idiots that used to follow us around. They wouldn’t believe anything I said in response to them either.)
    I’ll spare the sarcasm if you dispense with the generalities and give me some facts, starting with whatever information you have on my financial situation. Go ahead and put it out there, I authorize full disclosure.

  65. curious said,

    May 16, 2008 at 12:31 am

    If Dave had completely read my post, he would know that I never said party members were starving and left alone sick. I will repeat that I do have personal knowledge of party members not being able to afford a dentist when they have a toothache and not going to see a doctor when they have health issues because they are uninsured or underinsured and can’t afford the copays. It is a fact that many live in roach infested apartments in not so nice parts of various cities, and cannot afford good quality food. That is NOT painting a picture of someone weak with hunger,etc. I also again state that many party members live much different lifestyles because they have wealth from families or wherever, and are able to live in better places, wear nice clothing, eat well, have health insurance, and have enough disposable income to go to plays, out for nice dinners, have health club memberships, etc. Not all members are “functioning within the conditions that exist in situ with any given society”! The fact that Tom O. is so sensitive to this issue makes me suspect that he is one of the party members who has never really had to struggle to get by. It disturbs me that members can’t see this taking place in their own party. Although I do not have a complete solution for this I think that if members are really dedicated to the cause and are wealthy, they should be expected to help the other members on a regular basis, not just an occasional bail-out by way of a short term loan, etc and not just by donating money for someone to go to Cuba for a book fair. I also think that there are several industries where wages and benefits are slightly better and that should be an option-the workers in those industries may be as open to change as those in the “targeted” industries. If a member chooses to work in one of the worst benefit/pay industries, perhaps he or she could be supplemented with a health insurance policy or some rental assistance. There is enough money in the party to do that and don’t try to say there isn’t.

  66. dave said,

    May 16, 2008 at 2:36 pm

    Why stop there, Curious? Why not require the party faithful to tithe a portion of their personal assets — perhaps on a sliding scale — to the working class at large? After all, wouldn’t it be “easier” for our class brothers and sisters to fight for union rights and immigrant rights and socialism if they did not have to worry about paying a dentist everytime they had a fricken toothache? So as to not duplicate our efforts, we could contract the whole operation out to the Salvation Army. They have experience at this sort of thing and could, no doubt, do a far better job than a gaggle of run of the mill communists.


  67. curious said,

    May 17, 2008 at 5:12 am

    MY, my, aren’t we just a wee bit sensitive and sarcastic! The SWP has truly lost emotional contact with the people they are supposed to be supporting. Maybe it’s because many of the members are wealthy and can’t really identify with the real struggles of the true working class. As I have said over and over, it is easy to be a socialist when you have financial support. The members without that support have a MUCH bigger challenge. The SWP has become so small in its outreach that they can’t see beyond garment factories, coal mines, and meat-packing plants.

  68. johng said,

    May 17, 2008 at 10:40 am

    Personally I think most workers would find it very wierd if their workmates only agreed to lower themselves to working with them if they got their richer buddies to subsidise them. the whole practice of attempting to build a socialist organisation by sending student activists into factories seems screwed up from the get-go.

  69. dave said,

    May 17, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    Last word to Curious: If I am a wee bit sarcasrtic it is only because the question you can’t seem to let go of — the idea that a revolutionary socialist party should attempt to equalize the wealth of their members within the framework of class society — is so absurb that most of us who are drawn to socialism figure it out while we are still in high school, or very soon thereafter. Personally, I had it out, along with like questions of how to eliminate hunger and disease on a global scale, with members of the Methodist Youth Federation when I was fifteen years old. People who join the communist movement are big boys and girls, are not — as a rule — wealthy, and don’t need social workers like you instructing them on which areas of activity — industrial or otherwise — are best suited to provide the utopia you envision.

  70. curious said,

    May 19, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    Interesting-you are so full of yourself and the SWP that you must try to insult my intelligence and maturity. In response to johng, I agree that sending a bunch of student activists into factories is weird, but my point about richer members helping the poorer ones still stands. Members are not only working in poor paying jobs, they are also planning forums, selling papers, and are involved in up to 20 hours per day of socialist promoting activities. For these people to continue this pace they need some support which should be given by the more fortunate members. The point is not to equalize their incomes but to try to make very difficult assignments a little more tolerable. I am not talking about social workers and utopian society. Like I keep saying, it is much easier to play communist when you know your rent is covered! Dave just doesn’t like what I have to say, so he feels that trying to insult my intelligence and opinions will draw away from the facts of how many SWP members and leaders really live, like manhattan apartments, etc. Also, this “big boy and girl” business is questionable because it seems that most new members are very young people brought into the Young Socialists and then moved toward the SWP if they last that long-most of whom don’t. SWP members don’t seem to last long either. What is the current membership now? Are all the members who can’t stay involved not real socialists or are they simply exhausted from the SWP’s demands?

  71. dave said,

    May 19, 2008 at 5:31 pm

    It is very hard to detect tone and timber while blogging, but rest assured, Curious, I was not trying to insult. If anything, I was being playful, while at the same time sharply presenting my position, as political people are wont to do. I think you should go back and read the entire exchange and just consider the possibility that someone like myself, with decades of experience, might know what he/she is talking about. The fact is, the SWP, AS AN ORGANIZATION, can no more insulate individual members from the hardships of capitalism than it can insulate Black members from racism or female members from sexism.

  72. curious said,

    May 20, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    Yes, Dave, I realize that the SWP cannot insulate its members from the realities of capitalism, but it can help to make those very difficult assignments more tolerable. Members not only carry the weight of the very low income working class, but they also have MUCH other work they do within the party, making their lives even more difficult. Many members are very young and impressionable and I don’t believe they really know what they are getting into until they are in some strange city, with a poor paying job without benefits, trying to pay rent, buy groceries, and work 24/7 for the cause with no back-up plan. So, yes, the seasoned older members are “big boys and girls” but that 18-20 year old is a different story. The fact that they get no assistance from anyone is a big part of the reason the SWP/YS does not retain members, (only in my opinion of course). Looking in from the outside, I see many members who really haven’t given up much to be socialists and their lives are much easier. Can those wealthy members really identify with the lives of the working poor or their comrades who are struggling to get by? To expand this discussion further, I would also like to know why the party is so narrow in its target industries. It seems to almost reject workers in anything but coal mining, garment, and meat-packing. Why not accept members working in any low pay, poor benefit jobs? Those are the only kind of jobs that seem to exist anymore so why not open things up to include more workers?

  73. Tom O'Connor said,

    May 23, 2008 at 2:05 am

    OK, Curious, now you “suspect” that I was one those wealthy SWPers (May 16 post). Before that (May 14) you wrote of a “suggestion” of the same. Maybe you missed it but I did respond then and asked you to put forth whatever information you had on me.
    But you haven’t. I am left to conclude that you introduced the question of my financial status as a red herring in thes discussion. Let me restate my position:
    I left the SWP nearly 20 years ago. I was a member for 16 years. The idea that party funds should be used to “help” comrades “in need” was never an issue.
    Wait, it did come up once – but this was in 1974 or ’75, (before the “Turn to Industry,” and all that “forcing” of people into different jobs). Lynn, a welfare mother of a toddler asked if the party branch in Milwaukee would pay her way to the annual gathering in Oberlin, Ohio. We said no
    One comrade, obviously less “sensitive” than I, and much “angrier” and “sarcastic,” said: “this is a revolutionary party, not the Salvation Army.”
    He said it out of her earshot but the underlying sentiment was true.
    If you really are out to overthrow the government, it’s not about what the party can do for you….
    Anyway, Curious, that’s my position. You have yours. At this point, it’s obvious neither of us will change.
    I’ve offered not only my opinion, but my experience. I’ve had enough of your opinion, where’s your experience? Obviously, you are not now, nor ever have been, a member of the SWP. I suspect – correct me if I am wrong – that you are a mere dilletante. You probably know, based on your views, a former member or two of the SWP. Or maybe, in your political dabblings you’ve run across some of the SWP’s rivals.
    Answer me, please, two questions:
    1) What do you know about me;
    2) What do you know about the SWP – I mean that in the sense of, do you live in the area of a branch of the party, are you awarw of any SWP political activity, do you know any party members?

  74. curious said,

    May 24, 2008 at 3:29 pm

    Tom O, I certainly know enough about the party to know that if all members have the same ideas and attitudes about welfare mothers, etc, the future of socialism in this country is in big trouble. I realize that the SWP is not a charity, but I always thought that the organization was meant to represent a future for the working poor of this country. I guess that doesn’t include “welfare mothers of toddlers”. Would the party just take her out and shoot her and her child or just get rid of her and take her child? By your last post I know more about you than I ever wanted to know and have even more mistrust of the SWP. If you had ever been poor, you wouldn’t have such a cruel attitude toward the poor. The Militant newspaper sure paints a different picture of the party. To answer your questions, I have never been a party member, although I was a member of the young socialists many years ago, and yes I do know past and present party members and I am aware of SWP political activities. I know nothing of you other than your sadly revealing posts which really say a lot about you. I really don’t care what you think of my opinions and having “experience” doesn’t necessarily make you right, it just
    proves that you have worked for the SWP for awhile. George W. Bush is “experienced”. Does that experience make him right?

  75. dave said,

    May 24, 2008 at 6:53 pm

    Tom O. did not say one negative thing about welfare mothers or their children; he only made the observation — voiced by someone else in the room at time of this particular recollection — that it is not the responsibility of the party to see to the financial upkeep of individual members. If the SWP set such maintenence as a goal, it wouldn’t be the SWP — it would be the Salvation Army. Just what would you have the party do? Please, tell me! Put an ad in the Militant advertizing, “Group coverage available to all new members — dental plan after 90 days.” The party seeks to attract people to the program of revolutionary socialism — which WILL eliminate poverty — not to a social service agency that won’t

  76. curious said,

    May 25, 2008 at 2:17 pm

    So Dave and Tom O., what you are saying is that if you are a party member who happens to be a member of the much lower class-either the working and very poor, or “welfare mother with a toddler”, you are not eligible to attend the SWP’s important meetings. Only those who can afford to attend should be able to go. Again it is much easier to play communist when you have those back-up funds! And Dave, don’t try to defend your comrade, the comment about “welfare mother” was said with so much disdain for her and others like her that it was disgusting! So, let’s encourage those poor people to join the party, treat them just like the rest of society does, and tell them things will get better after the revolution. It makes me think that maybe the party’s wealthier members don’t want to live in a society where they might have to share with “welfare mother of a toddler”. We all know that she is in that position through some lazy fault of her own, not the fault of a screwed up capitalist society! If Tom O. doesn’t feel that way, he would not have referred to her in such a negative manner. Dave, I do not think that the SWP should function like a charity, I just still hold to the novel idea that there is a lot of money in the party, and those with it could certainly help their struggling comrades! Maybe “welfare mother” would have had something valuable to offer at the conference in Oberlin. It is not only the wealthy who have good ideas. You are so hung up on this one issue that you can’t even discuss other SWP issues I have commented on. I am tired of repeating myself in these posts in an argument that will not be resolved and would like to expand the discussion. We obviously are not going to agree on this.

  77. Tom O'Connor said,

    May 25, 2008 at 10:01 pm

    “…take her out and shoot her and her child….?”

    What’s “sadly revealing” here is your attempt to hde your lack of facts and logic behind a screen of dishonest hyperbole. A review of this discussion shows that not a single current or former member of the SWP agrees with your view that the party should take responsibility for individual comrades’ personal financial situation.
    Your response to my contributions has been to attempt to cast aspersions on my character through unfounded innuendoes regarding my alleged wealth, and cracks about “playing communist.”
    I point out that the whole discussion began with a report of a high-dollar real estate deal involving 2 leaders of the SWP. Nobody involved in this discussion knows where the money is now. Who knows? Maybe some or all of it IS going to pay for dental visits and rent for poor SWPers. Or maybe for Pathfinder Press. Or maybe the Militant’s Prisoner Fund. But, in my experience, lack of facts has never been reason for some people not to launch a beat-up-the-SWP session.
    I mentioned earlier how this whole discussion reminded me of attacks on the party by “Sparts, Woolies and LaRoucheites.” Back in my day, they didn’t care about facts or logic either.
    Since you’re not a member I don’t see what it matters to you, unless it’s a similar case of “any stick to beat a dog with.”
    Speaking of facts, by the way, “welfare mother” was not only not taken out and shot, but made it to Oberlin that year, thanks to some personal loans from other comrades – including the guy who made the Salvation Army crack. (Sorry, the kid had to stay home with grandma.)
    And the discussion we had on the floor of the branch meeting was actually quite educational and illuminating, not the least bit harsh personally or dismissive of human needs.
    Anyway, Curious, I’ve told you all I know about this, and I’m tired of your ignorance, your stubbornness and your “synthetic and elliptical formulations.”

  78. curious said,

    May 25, 2008 at 11:41 pm

    Tom O., I like your statement after the fact that “welfare mother” got to go to Oberlin, yeah, right. I’m sure of that. I wonder if she knew what people were saying about her. And if you weren’t so ignorant, you wouldn’t have made such an insensitive comment in the first place, it just shows how you and apparently, some other members of the SWP feel about the poor. Again, and I am extremely tired of repeating this, I have never said that the SWP should take total responsibility for other members finances. You don’t like what I am saying so rather than discussing it with any intelligence, you take it and change it to fit how you wish to respond. Yes, I still want to know how a couple of communist leaders came into a 1.8 million dollar condo and what they did with the proceeds when they preach a much different lifestyle, and I have many issues with the SWP-none of which you care to discuss. I am also tired of your ignorance, stubbornness, and your lack of respect for the opinions of others. I still stand by my “playing communist” comment! I don’t really care at all how you feel about it. Just so you know, I haven’t made one dishonest comment on any of my posts. I have formed some personal opinions and will state them as I please.

  79. dave said,

    May 26, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    Everyone has the right to their opinion, Curious; be it on Cuba, South Africa, the SWP’s industrial orientation or the organizational norms of a revolutionary party — I just wish I knew what your opinion was. Three times I have asked you to state — even briefly — how you would address differences (which you greatly exaggerate) in living standards, but you refuse to do so. Instead you make vauge statements about how members should “be expected to help out” and accuse those with whom you disagree of being arrogant secondary to wealth (of which you could knno nothing about), cruel (and apparently homicidal) to single mothers and their children, liars, insenitive to the plight of the poor, indifferent and bigoted to the opinions of the poor, indifferent to the full political participation of the poor etc, etc… This is no way to conduct a discussion, and makes me leery of engaging you on other issues. You believe the party should organizationally intercede, on some unstated level, to some unstated degree, in member’s financial situations, and Tom O. and I disagree. That’s a difference of opinion; all of which is fine and dandy. It does not, however, make us enemies of people with low incomes. But you’re right about one thing; the discussion is exhausted, and I for one intend to drop it. Starting now.

    P.S. I am not a affilliated organizationally and speak only for myself.

  80. curious said,

    May 26, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    Dave, I am extremely tired of this conversation, but I think I have made my opinions quite clear. Like I said before, I think you like to take parts of what I say and just respond on that level. Please, don’t try to tell me again that there isn’t a big difference in the lifestyles of your members. Maybe on the surface some members appear to live more equally, but the money that supports them is not equal and that makes a lot of diffence in how one lives. I never said that the party should equalize incomes. Do I know EXACTLY how helping “poorer” members should be accomplished? NO! It does seem that in a party of socialists helping each other shouldn’t be a big bureaucratic nightmare. You know, that thing called common-sense. I have been insulted numerous times by you and Tom O. on these posts. I have only been defending my position in the same manner. I would hope you are intelligent enough to recognize my sarcasm regarding “welfare mother”. You must realize that I didn’t seriously think the SWP would kill her anymore than I believe your sarcastic comments. Again, a little common-sense! I do stand by my statement that it was extremely insensitive to refer to this woman as “welfare mother with a toddler” and that SWP members who support the working class should absolutely, without a doubt, know better. Yes, I do think that party members and supporters with money are arrogant secondary to that wealth. I don’t know if it is conscious or unconscious, but I believe it exists and the comment about “welfare mother” demonstrates that and so do many other things that I have observed with the SWP. I do believe that for the most part, members are dedicated and hard working whether I agree with their methods or not. I don’t really care if you do not wish to discuss other issues, you would probably continue to just pick at one small part of what I say and beat that to death, rather than discuss a whole issue.

  81. dave said,

    May 26, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    Holy crap, we’ve been butting heads for nothing! Because if what you mean by “common sense” implies personal loans, personal gifts, gas money, grocery money, BBQ’s and fund raising parties, raffles, silent auctions, casino nights, yard sales and countless other examples of fund-raising activities to help those in need — well, THATS been going on forever.

  82. curious said,

    May 26, 2008 at 6:57 pm

    Yes, I know that you have done fund-raising, etc. for a long time. You do several activities to help send people to meetings, to move for party activities, to attend rallies and book fairs to name a few. That is not exactly what I meant and you know it. Please, just get your last word in. I’m getting bored and tired of the same old thing. We aren’t going to agree and I have other things I would rather discuss.

  83. Bill Warren said,

    September 11, 2008 at 11:17 pm

    I was a YSA member from 1972-1975. Interesting confirmation of unbelievable high life of cult leader. Still a Barnes-0-phobe though not a Trotskyist or even Leftist.
    All Trots fell between the 2 stools of Stalinist apologetics or unconscious agents of CIA in both Portugal ’75 and the democratic counterrevolution in 1989-91 in Soviet Bloc as far as I can see,yours truely included.
    What ever happened to Penti Manti? He introduced me to Chicago Surrealism during his brief membership in the YSA in 1972? . I understood that the SWP?YSA was guarded in their acceptance of him since the Surrealist had their own Democratic Cenatralist discipline. He was under or soon to be under the influence of LaRouche during their Luxembougish phase of NCLand the last I heard of Mr. Manti he was one of their candidates in the Illinois Democratic Primary -which the won causing the Demos to set up a fake 3td party.to avoid th prot0fascist group.

  84. sky said,

    November 10, 2009 at 8:56 pm

    I just want to jump up in here and say that this story proves the SWP is truly on some bullshit. They getting money like this?!?!?!? That’s some armchair revolutionary shit if I ever seen it.

  85. BJerr said,

    January 4, 2010 at 2:19 am

    I am so glad stumbled upon this thread!!

    I was in the YSA/SWP from 1970 to 1974. I have to say that they are biggest hypocrites on the planet! There are a few good ones but most of them are just white middle-class kids with emotional problems! That may sound like a personal attack but it is! That is what holds back many people from getting involved with them; as a matter of fact many organizations on the left1 Who the hell needs that? Nobody! Because the average – or even below average – person’s life is better than what the YSA/SWP have to offer!

    The fact is many paid members were living in poverty! The SWP would rationalize it as that they are living together, or their family gives them money, etc. The fact of the matter is you could only be self-suffcient as a full timer if your parents were giving you money! Also the members who weren’t getting any money *did* live in cockroach infested housing!! In Boston it was Gainsborough! Yes, otherwise known as “Cockroach Jungle”!!

    Also, it really seemed as of though if you weren’t in the top of the organization then you were treated like less than nothing! But, if you were in the top then you could almost get away with murder. And members would brush it off as a complaint that is non-political! I find it very easy to believe that child molestation and other things have been brushed off in the YSA/SWP!
    I could mention one person who was a “heavy” in the Boston Branch who I heard had rape accusations against him! Anyone in Boston at the time knows who I am talking about. BTW, the feminists there did not rebel against it!

    One more thing,
    “Speaking of facts, by the way, “welfare mother” was not only not taken out and shot, but made it to Oberlin that year, thanks to some personal loans from other comrades – including the guy who made the Salvation Army crack.”

    BFD! I know of RW Republicans who give to charity! So BFD! That fact of the matter is he had no empathy for the woman! And the only reason why he gave the money is because it was politically related! I heard many members say that wouldn’t do anything for someone unless it was politically related!

    Let’s face it! They claim they love the working class but they *hate* workers; or anybody else for that matter!

  86. welder said,

    February 22, 2010 at 5:34 am

    thrift pays off.

    • BJerr said,

      February 22, 2010 at 4:51 pm

      BTW Welder, my “thrift” paid off a about three weeks agoI I cashed out *some* Coca Cola stocks and bought a BMW! Nice ride BTW. *thumbs up* lol.

      Anyways, back to the topic at hand.

  87. Barry said,

    March 14, 2010 at 7:48 am

    hello comrades

    • BJerr said,

      March 26, 2010 at 4:42 pm

      Is this Barry Sheppard? Hey Barry. How are you doing?

  88. Nick P. said,

    March 29, 2010 at 4:09 am

    It isn’t surprising that JB and MAW would have such a swanky place and that its origins are shrouded in mystery. Google about Jack and Mary-Alice and the rest of the Carleton College crowd and see what answers you can come up with yourself. Put simply: the SWP is NOT what it seems.

    Former YSA comrade here. I’ve seen this organization from the inside. It is insidious, bureaucratic and cultish. When you figure what precisely what the Socialist Workers’ Party actually is, it isn’t hard to figure out how this ties into mysteriously amazing property falling into the lap of the two party bigwigs.

    The Socialist Workers’ Party has never recruited a single member from its turn to industry. Members also frequently get security clearances, and as I recall, international comrades never had any trouble getting visas. The question as always is: why and how is this possible? Hint: When you figure it out, you’ll understand why the leadership has people throwing Greenwich Village condos at them.

    Most importantly, however is this question: How realistic is it that the core leadership of a Marxist organization would all be recruited by a branch on life support from a privileged, middle-class Christian liberal arts college 100 miles away with a startlingly low rate of attrition and high rate of intermarriage?

    Use your Google and demand hard answers about the Socialist Workers’ Party.

    • BJerr said,

      March 29, 2010 at 9:42 pm

      “The Socialist Workers’ Party has never recruited a single member from its turn to industry.”

      I heard that they have but they last about 5 minutes. lol.

      “Members also frequently get security clearances, and as I recall, international comrades never had any trouble getting visas. The question as always is: why and how is this possible? Hint: When you figure it out, you’ll understand why the leadership has people throwing Greenwich Village condos at them. ”

      Unless things have changed about the U.S. issuing security clearances to their members of the SWP then that is very strange indeed.

      • Nick P. said,

        March 30, 2010 at 6:49 pm

        A number of members of the local I worked with had in the past had security clearances. A number of SWP members worked in sensitive positions in the defense industry. There were at least two members and one supporter in my local who had green cards.

        Very, very strange indeed.

        Look into the Carleton College phenomenon.

    • BJerr said,

      March 31, 2010 at 8:33 pm


      There isn’t a reply button below your March 30 post. Just thought to tell you.

  89. BJerr said,

    March 30, 2010 at 10:30 pm


    Could you please sign up at http://www.DemocraticWarrior.com/forum ? You would be very welcome there! We have a forum where things like the SWP can be exposed; it’s called Revelations lol. Though we did vote for Obama there are a few things – like healthcare – that many of us are critical.

    Besides I/we have to know all about this Carlton college thing – my fingers are too tired to Google. lol.

  90. Sarah said,

    June 11, 2010 at 9:33 pm

    Tom O’Connor,

    As you and others noted, Barnes took over the party in the mid-1980’s. You left in 1984. It was almost 2 decades between the time Barnes and Waters de-democratized the SWP. Plenty of time for them to collect a lot of dollars from their struggling rank and file.

    My main contact with the SWP came from participating in consensus groups in the anti-nuclear movement in the 1970’s. They would disrupt our work by trying to install “democracy” instead of consensus.

    I first became aware of this when I first joined a consensus group. I’d only been a member a few weeks, when a young man joined who stymied our work at every turn. He kept telling us we needed to vote on things.

    After a few months of this, I happened to go to the local dollar movie theater. Because we were poor, my companion and I had brought our own popcorn. Because the movie theater did not allow this, we hunkered down in our seats. It was very dark in the theater.

    Two people sat down directly behind us. I heard the disrupter’s voice. I kept my head down. The disrupter began giving a report to his colleague about his efforts to disrupt our anti-nuclear organization and turn us from consensus to democracy.

    No wonder my other group members and I were having such trouble–we were all new to politics. In fact, we were not political at all. We just felt compelled to do something about the hazards, environmental and economic, of nuclear power. The US has suffered an energy crisis in the 1970’s and the only answer to it that could ONLY be done by large corporations was nuclear power. This was clear to most people I knew in the anti-nuclear movement at the time. But, few of us had any experience in political maneuvering at all. No wonder we were having trouble–the SWP had sent a trained operative who was having no trouble confusing a bunch of neophytes.

    I let Mr. SWP talk until the movie began. Then, as the light in the theater increased, I slowly sat up and turned my head. I grinned at him. He and his “comrade” fled the theater. They didn’t even stay to watch the movie and we never saw him in the anti-nuclear group meetings again.

    I also had other experience with them while I was involved in both anti-nuclear and women’s rights organizations in another state. It was difficult to get anything done when an SWP member was in the room. They just disrupted everything–talked out of turn and off-topic, and constantly interrupted others.

    This was before Barnes’ turning the party into a cult of personality. But the party already had a tendency toward fascism.

    Barnes had all the old-time, open-discussion, freedom-loving members purged in the mid 1980’s. In the anti-nuclear movement, we ran up against some Cointelpro type operatives from the feds. Their effects were pretty similar to the SWP’s–kicking the feet out from under groups that might have led more people to see how US imperialism is not helping the average American and how any one person’s freedom and safety rests in insuring freedom and safety for others.

  91. BJerr said,

    June 20, 2010 at 3:53 am

    Doesn’t anyone know where JB and MAW are living now? It would be interesting to find out! LOL.

  92. David Altman said,

    June 28, 2010 at 10:41 pm

    The tinfoil-hat crowd over at WSWS have been pushing this “Carlton Twelve are police agents” business for many years. It’s all bullshit. A number of the “Twelve” have left or been expelled from Jack Barne’s cult recently. If they were cops for all those many years they’d have no reason to hide it any more.

    I recently visited an old friend who was married to a central leader of the SWP for some years. She was not a big leader herself although her position gave her a useful insight into the goings-on in the upper reaches of the cult.

    This friend told me that back around 25 years ago all of the National Office staff were required to stay on at Oberlin for a week or two after the SWP conventions to transcribe the proceedings and so forth. Only Jack and Mary-Alice were exempted from this duty. Why? Because they spent the time at their time-share in Key West, with cases of wine shipped down for the enjoyment of the Royal Couple.

    Jacko and MA split up several years ago, and “the left-winger with no left wing” is now married to his secretary. Mary-Alice leads a jet-set lifestyle with apartments in New York and San Francisco. This according to a former SF branch organizer.

    Real plebeians, those two!

    • BJerr said,

      June 30, 2010 at 12:11 am


      BTW, I knew the mistress of a former SWP Presidential Candidate. LOL.

      Isn’t WSWS the former Workers League?

  93. Nick P. said,

    September 26, 2010 at 4:28 am

    “The tinfoil-hat crowd over at WSWS have been pushing this Carlton Twelve are police agents business for many years. It’s all bullshit. A number of the ‘Twelve’ have left or been expelled from Jack Barne’s cult recently. If they were cops for all those many years they’d have no reason to hide it any more.”

    There are, of course, many reasons that a former police agent would hide his or her agent status, starting with the obvious argument that “expulsion” was really a form of retirement. Just speculating, but it beats the hell out of base name calling.

    “Left-winger with no left wing.” Heh. I like to call him the “One Armed Bandit.” Love to know more about the extravagant lifestyle of proletarian publishers MA and Jacko.

  94. Z said,

    November 20, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    I recently left the SWP after a whirlwind “affair.” It’s really nearly ruined my life. And having just discovered the overwhelming case against Mark Curtis, their cause célèbre, I’m just disgusted. What I think is funny, though, is that I can’t find any evidence of a few young people I knew in the party for a year. One of their biggest young supporters was M.I.A. as of just a few months ago, with members extremely tight-lipped about his whereabouts. Then again, they’re impossibly secretive about EVERYTHING.

  95. Sonja Foxe said,

    December 24, 2010 at 4:54 am

    Yo — comrades — i was into ysa/swp — fpfc — way back — circa 1960 farrell dobbs last hurrah … i then went to chicago for collitch where jack and betsy (pre mary ann) barnes were the organizing factors.

    i am convinced the nyc swp/ysa — which had the fair play for cuba concession (other cities the stalinists had it) — was instrumental in the jfk assassination … two of the comrades — cary reinstein and leo cygnes — the man behind the fence & the grassy knoll dudes.

    farrell was jimmy hoffa’s mentor since he’d organized the minneapolis teamsters 1934. rfk was riding hoffa too damn hard & called his old friend farrell. i used to ‘date’ leo — my cousin eloped with cary. leo was a marksman, and would shoot into a nyc phone book propped up agaainst the wall of his lower east side apartment

    besides which there is a correspondence between lee harvey o & farrell qua swp ny that’s documented

    according to my aunt, they (swp) were on to lho — after all in the late 50’s early ’60s there were more philbriks in the party — probably more fbi double agents paying dues that bona fides

    so when kennedy was in dallas … lho calls up since his route is published and cary & leo ride hell for leather to meet oswald in a place called “Dobbs Diner” …

    ruby was hoffa’s contribution, since farrell qua swp considered lho a nuisance and possible double agent

    y’know marx used to say he turned hegel upside down

    well hegel right side up is all about the new world order

    ps … barnes is no proletarian … in fact there is a nice distinction (classic roman) between the plebes and the proles … the plebes are an enfranchised class with access to means of upward mobility … while proles are just about by definition disenfranchised

  96. gemini901d said,

    April 6, 2011 at 1:24 am

    I’ve been friends with many members and a supporter of the SWP for many years. I’ve sold Militant subscriptions on picket lines, at truck stops, etc..and Pathfinder books at info booths etc.., setup area headquarters, housed and fed members moving to the area. I’ve been to the NYC Headquarters a few times but have never seen actually met nor seen Jack Barnes. Being a die hard Marxist/Trotskyite, I found the message appealing but even without doing hardcore research into the personal lives of the messengers (JB and M-AW) it did just feel cult-like. I figure that it could be a right message, wrong messanger scenario.
    I think that they might (or maybe not) help the cause if they were even a little open about their personal life. I don’t mean every detail but I think its kind of odd or maybe even scary the lack of any info on them. I mean almost no info, even on Wikipedia to say he was the son of a bank president or a grocery store clerk, etc… It at least appears that they could’ve gone to great lengths to hide something.

  97. David Altman said,

    June 1, 2011 at 11:49 pm

    Mary-Alice’s San Francisco apartment:


    This is in addition to her $4000/mo/ digs in Battery Park City in Manhattan.

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