Proyect on Camejo


Louis Proyect is a well known new York based Marxist writer. His work has appeared in Sozialismus (Germany), Science and Society, New Politics, Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Organization and Environment, Cultural Logic, Dark Night Field Notes, Revolutionary History (Great Britain), New Interventions (Great Britain), Canadian Dimension, Revolution Magazine (New Zealand) and Green Left Weekly (Australia).

From 1967 to 1978 Proyect was active in the Trotskyist, US Socialist Workers Party where he got to know Peter Camejo, while both were active in the Party’s Boston branch.

In Proyect’s opinion, Peter Camejo remains a hard core Marxist who is using the US Green Party as a means to an end.

Below are excerpts from Proyect’s Marxism Mailing list. Proyect’s answer to Gabosch’s question is extremely revealing as to Camejo’s possible tactics within the US Green party. It also useful in analysing the approach of modern Latin American revolutionary movements such as the Sandinistas, the Brazillian Workers Party and the supporters of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and Evo Morales in Bolivia.

Not to forget the NZ Green Party of course.

Steve Gabosch
The other question I had was where does Camejo stand, based on things he has recently written, on how to make a revolution?

Louis Proyect
My guess is that Peter Camejo basically sees things the same way that he saw them in 1980 when I first got in touch with him after he was expelled from the SWP….

Here’s the gist of what I absorbed from him. I should mention that Peter was the strongest influence on my political evolution and a sort of forefather to this mailing list…

Peter had been profoundly influenced by the Nicaraguan revolution. He told me that the spirit of a living revolution was completely at odds with the growing sectarianism and dogmatism of the Trotskyist movement, no matter how much lip-service the party was devoting to the FSLN…

So he went to Venezuela to study Lenin with fresh eyes. Rather than reading something like “What is to be Done” through the prism of the SWP or any other sectarian group, he would read Lenin in context. I have tried to do the same thing myself. Basically he came to the conclusion that the Bolshevik Party was far more like the FSLN or the Cuban Communist Party in terms of its strategic and tactical flexibility. He decided that it was necessary in the USA was to create a true vanguard, not a little chapel dedicated to Trotsky with a thousand or so true believers.

When he came back to the USA to argue his point of view in the party, he was told that he was no longer welcome–this after 25 years as a member. It was pretty obvious that the SWP was afraid to allow a popular oppostionist to be heard.

Peter accepts all the classical Marxist teachings on the state, etc. His emphasis is not so much on this but how to create a broad-based mass movement in the USA, which can ultimately lead to a revolutionary working class party. As such, his approach is diametrically opposed to the sectarian model that attempts to recruit people to a fully elaborated program by ones or twos or threes. He sees formations such as the Green Party as a means to an end. You are possibly confused because the Green Party statements, the Avocado Declaration, the Nader-Camejo campaign literature do not put forward socialist tasks.

New Zeal
In other words Camejo rejects the tiny Marxist-Leninist party as the best way to achieve revolution. He advocates building large coalitions, in order to challenge the status quo through force of numbers. The Marxist Revolutionary stuff comes later.

Proyect
As a rule of thumb, small sectarian groups are virtually unsurpassed in their ability to proclaim the need for revolution, but history teaches us that whenever genuinely massive revolutionary struggles take place, such groups are bypassed completely. If Fidel Castro had clasped the organizational principles of the SWP to his bosom in the 1950s, he would have remained a marginal figure at best.

The July 26th Movement, the FSLN, the FMLN, etc. did not organize people around the need to abolish capitalism. Mostly they projected democratic reforms. For example, if you read “History Will Absolve Me,” Castro’s statement to the courtroom in the 1953 trial following the abortive attack on the Moncada barracks, the words socialism and capitalism do not appear *once*.

Castro does not call for the overthrow of capitalism, but puts forward rather modest demands such as granting “workers and employees the right to share 30% of the profits of all the large industrial, mercantile and mining enterprises, including the sugar mills.”

After Batista was overthrown, many Latin American experts tried to explain why Castro overthrew capitalism despite the complete absence of socialist verbiage in his speeches and in the written statements of his movement. Some, including in the SWP, thought that he was a kind of accidental Marxist who fell into communism only because the USA gave him no alternative….

In reality, the leaders of the urban and rural movement in Cuba were steeped in Marxism, but not the Trotskyist subgenre. They were much more influenced by Mariategui and other lesser-known thinkers. If they had followed the Trotskyist model, it is certain that they would have never succeeded. In fact, it is almost a guarantee of failure to adopt the party-building model of the self-declared Leninist sects.

I would leave it like this. Peter’s main concern is over how to build the movement. He really does not get involved in trying to make any big theoretical breakthoughs over the character of workers states, etc. He is preoccupied with what James P. Cannon described as the “art of politics”, namely knowing what to do next.

New Zeal
So Proyect clearly believes that Camejo has learned the lessons of Castro and other successful Latin American revolutionaries. Don’t talk about capitalism and socialism…build a mass movement based on fairly moderate demands. Build alliances where you can, until you have sufficient power to overturn the existing order.

Then and only then do you start talking socialist revolution.

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