The WWP is splitting

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Reddebrek's picture
Reddebrek
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Jul 16 2018 02:08
The WWP is splitting

Apparently the Workers World Party (WWP) oldest branch has left the party. Its published a statement that seems rather revealing of how the party operates. Though as this is happening during a split the claims shouldn't be taken at face value.

https://twitter.com/BLACKDIAMAT/status/1018660265339031554

I don't really know anything about the WWP so I don't know how important this will eventually be, but hopefully more knowledgeable users will have more information to share.

Black Badger
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Jul 16 2018 03:24

The Party for Liberation and Socialism was formed out of a split in WWP...
also this from wikipedia:
In 1968, the WWP absorbed a small faction of the Spartacist League that had worked with it in the Coalition for an Anti-Imperialist Movement called the Revolutionary Communist League (Internationalist). This group left the WWP in 1971 as the New York Revolutionary Committee. The NYRC's newspaper provided rare details about the internal functioning of the group that have subsequently been used by scholars as a primary source. The NYRC later reconsitituted as the Revolutionary Communist League (Internationalist).[17]

In 2004, the WWP suffered its most serious split when the San Francisco branch and some other members left to form the Party for Socialism and Liberation.[18][not in citation given]

Caleb Maupin, a prominent member of WWP who had been publicly representing the party as well as its various front groups like the International Action Center and been the main representative of WWP within the Occupy Wall Street protests, ceased to be a member in 2016. The details of his departure have not yet been made public by either Maupin or WWP. Maupin is now a reporter for the TV network RT, having previously worked with PressTV. Speaking to leftist students at Rutgers University in October 2016, Maupin castigated the protests against Donald Trump which WWP was devoting its energies and funds to organizing and—while not directly criticizing the party—called for a more populist approach to socialist politics.[19]

Mike Harman
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Jul 16 2018 09:23

Some further context for the OP is the twitter thread here from an ex-member of the WWP Baltimore branch who spent eight months trying to get accountability for a sexual assault from a branch member (who had also assaulted other members of the branch) and went public last week. This also mentions someone from the NYC branch who was more or less brought in to interrogate them. As far as I can tell from this statement and twitter, the sexual assaulter was kicked out of the Baltimore branch very shortly after things went public, and Detroit's split and statement was released in part to support the abuser.

---

reddebrek wrote:
I don't really know anything about the WWP so I don't know how important this will eventually be, but hopefully more knowledgeable users will have more information to share.

Yet another thing I wish I'd never heard of but decided I had to find out about. US comrades might have a lot more detail, but what I've learned the past couple of years since their members/supporters started calling libcom a CIA psy-op on twitter.

For a one sentence description of the WWP for British readers, I'd say it's the organisation praxis of the SWP, combined with the political positions of the CPGB-ML or WRP to the point where they co-operate internationally with third positionist groups. They've been able to pick up a lot of new members post-Trump who think social democracy is bad enough and Lenin is good enough to join them instead of DSA and/or where they had pre-existing chapters where the DSA wasn't so functional.

The PSL and the WWP have more or less identical politics, they split shortly after the death of the founder Sam Marcy. PSL managed to retain the ANSWER Coalition front. The WWP got the International Action Center (with former US Attorney General turned anti-imperialist Ramsey Clark).

There's a good explainer here from some people who left a while ago: https://theleftwind.wordpress.com/2018/03/02/winter-palace/ / https://libcom.org/library/where-s-winter-palace-marxist-leninist-trend-...

Ken Lawrence (of the Sojourner Truth Organisation) on their origins: https://libcom.org/library/roots-workers-world-party-ken-lawrence

This goes into the often fashy guests of PSL central committee member Brian Backer's show on Sputnik radio: https://medium.com/@dotcommunism/psls-brian-becker-loud-clear-radio-and-...

This goes into (too much at once) depth about some of their connections with international third positionist groups - for example members of the WWP have attended 'anti-imperialist' conferences with Russian nationalists and the League of the South: https://libcom.org/library/investigation-red-brown-alliances-third-posit...

edit: just quickly wrote up their attendance at international third-positionist conferences because it's almost impossible to keep track of anything in the long red/brown alliances piece: https://libcom.org/library/why-did-workers-world-party-attend-conference...

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Steven.
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Jul 16 2018 15:42

And just to clarify, they don't just say we are a CIA psy-op as a joke, or in that they mean our internationalist positions (and so opposition to "anti-imperialist" regimes like that of Assad and Gaddafi) effectively puts us on the side of the CIA, they actually genuinely claim we are working for the CIA.

If we actually were working with the CIA, I think we would have been able to fix the fucking paging error on our website which has plagued us for about 5 years…

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Jul 16 2018 16:29
Steven. wrote:
If we actually were working with the CIA, I think we would have been able to fix the fucking paging error on our website which has plagued us for about 5 years…

Well that's just what you want us to believe!

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Jul 16 2018 19:52

I'd heard somethings about the WWP being a really dodgy Lenninist group with a toxic online base, and I did some people say the complaint about due processes was about supporting a member who had committed sexual assault. The doc seems a mix of good and bad with some very strange things thrown in there.

Can anyone confirm what it says about the WWP in the West Virginia teachers strike is true? Did they denounce the strike and tell striking teachers to pay reparations?

And I think the part about third worldism is rather telling if its accurate.

Mike Harman
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Jul 16 2018 22:31
Reddebrek wrote:
Can anyone confirm what it says about the WWP in the West Virginia teachers strike is true? Did they denounce the strike and tell striking teachers to pay reparations?

I haven't seen that specifically. What I could find said it was on the local branch's fb page which then disappeared.

There was a bizarre week recently where members of the Party for Socialism and Liberation were saying everyone would have to do 30 hours per week of wage labour for the state (and pay back 10% of those wages as rent, also to the state) under socialism to fund reparations. Which more or less matches their program http://liberationschool.org/program-of-the-party-for-socialism-and-liber... Because the best way to handle international solidarity during an international communist insurrection would be... enforced labour to send money??

The line that completely opposes strikes by any white workers in the US mostly comes from J Sakai's Settlers: http://readsettlers.org/ There's an interview with him on here with some discussion on the comments: https://libcom.org/library/when-race-burns-class-settlers-revisited-inte.... However not everyone who says the word 'settlers' is channeling Sakai. edited to add: I'm also not convinced that Sakai even argues this himself, he talks about settler colonialism as a particular model of capitalism which tries to tie white workers to capitalism via imposed racial stratification, and that while this is often applied to South Africa and Zimbabwe it was less applied to the US. Then the bits I've skimmed of the book are mostly trying to document racism of white US workers (whether race riots, or segregated strikes, or unions banning black workers - all of which happened, there also being counter-examples). But this is an analysis of how/why unity is lacking, it's not an essentialist argument. There's a later interview here: http://www.infoshop.org/stolen-at-gunpoint-interview-with-j-sakai/ - doesn't make Sakai good, but his most enthusiastic interlocutors are mis-representing the argument a bit to make it worse.

It would absolutely not surprise me if some WWP members took a Sakai line on strikes in the US, but the more common praxis of the WWP and PSL is defending the crushing of strikes (and everything else) in any country not aligned with the US - because if you go on strike in Iran, you're obviously being funded by Israel, or the CIA, or Saudi Arabia etc. and if you're Eurasianist fash, or Gaddafi, or Assad, do what you like because you don't like the US.

For example the WWP supported Mengistu right up until 1992 and beyond. Here's one from 1999: https://www.workers.org/ww/1999/mengistu1230.php

And some discussion of their support: http://abyotawi.blogspot.com/2017/09/contribution-injustice-towards-thos...

I've been slowly adding some bits to the site about Ethiopia in the '70s, there was quite a large left movement that was involved in the 1974 general strike then got completely crushed under Mengistu and the Dergue, depressingly considering the WWP's stance, they were mostly self-described Marxist-Leninists (in the EPRP). Most of it under here: https://libcom.org/tags/ethiopia

Completely fucked organisations but they rely on their membership having pretty much zero political education so invariably are going to scoop up well-intentioned people to harass into selling papers and the rest.

Mike Harman
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Jul 16 2018 22:33
Steven. wrote:
And just to clarify, they don't just say we are a CIA psy-op as a joke, or in that they mean our internationalist positions (and so opposition to "anti-imperialist" regimes like that of Assad and Gaddafi) effectively puts us on the side of the CIA, they actually genuinely claim we are working for the CIA.

The best bit was when we did the April Fool's joke, which was inspired by all the CIA/State Department conspiracy theories, and some of them said that proved we were CIA because of 'irony poisoning' which is just... quite impressive in a way.

Mike Harman
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Jul 16 2018 23:35

WWP DC branch has disbanded in protest against the handling of the sexual assault allegations: https://twitter.com/bratatouillle/status/1018930943451631618

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Jul 16 2018 23:46

Thanks for the updates Mike, especially the bit about Mengitsu, I'm currently working on a mammoth project about a list of great Tankies that has him on it and that should be useful when I eventually get round to him.

Here's what I've gotten done so far.

http://reddebreksbowl.blogspot.com/2018/07/wall-of-shame-when-memes-go-w...

Mike Harman
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Jul 17 2018 10:33

That's a great idea for a blog post. I might never have started reading about the 1974 general strike and Ethiopian Marxist youth movements without finding out about American 'communists' who supported Mengistu massacring them...

It might be worth mentioning China funding UNITA in Angola (against the USSR-backed MPLA). I've been trying to find something about the 27th May in addition to Lara Pawson's book (ideally a translation from a Portuguese source), but not much luck yet. https://africasacountry.com/2013/06/the-battle-over-the-27th-of-may-in-a... has some pointers.

Also, Bhagat Singh's reading list: https://libcom.org/library/bhagat-singhs-reading-list

Part of reading up about the WWP/PSL in the first place was trying to understand what it is that leads people into groups like that - it's hundreds of people, most people join groups like that because they hate capitalism and want to do something etc., and then they get twisted into supporting various capitalist states that use some vague left imagery via horrible abusive party structures.

I think the groups rely on two kinds of ignorance. 1. They obviously rely on the political ignorance of the people who join, who then get instructed in the correct revolutionary science of Milosevic being an innocent victim of NATO imperialism. 2. But they also rely on our political ignorance in that while there are literally millions of words on this site about Russia 1917-1921, there are gaps when it comes to someone like Sankara, Nyerere, Nkrumah, Bhagat Singh, (or Cabral and Fanon who didn't make the cut for that meme). This allows those individuals (and the movements that they were either involved with in some cases, or suppressed in others) to be claimed as the historical and theoretical lineage of US cults, rather than dealt with critically on their own terms. So debunking the meme helps both show them up as liars who completely distort history, but also gives people a starting point to learn about something like the Saigon Commune or Strikes under Nkrumah, or Nyerere calling in British troops to put down a mutiny.

On people running for elections, relevant to this thread it's worth pointing out that both the PSL and WWP field presidential and sometimes local candidates. The PSL was responsible for machinations that involved getting Roseanne Barr nominated for the candidacy of the Peace and Freedom Party (which appears to be some kind of RESPECT-like front electoral party for a handful of different groups) when it was clear their own candidate wouldn't make it.

The WWP had Lamont Lilly in 2016 as vice presidential candidate, they also endorsed Rosa Clemente and Cynthia McKinney. There's some weird tankie crossover with the US Green Party and some democrat factions of the Democrats, I guess not that different to tankies and the Labour Party here but still.. Sam Marcy endorsed Jesse Jackson (and defended Farrakhan) in the '80s too: https://libcom.org/library/left-wing-apologists-farrakhan

So like a lot of Trotskyist and tankie groups, they're actually deeply invested in social democracy and electoral strategy even while claiming rhetorically to despise the 'Democratic Socialists', ending up endorsing Democrat or worse candidates in the end.

Coming back to this:

reddebrek wrote:
I don't really know anything about the WWP so I don't know how important this will eventually be

They're pretty small, but I would guess still in the hundreds? I think the PSL has managed to scoop up most of the post-Trump membership increase. If it results in people just joining the PSL, or some kind of continuity split, then it won't mean much.

You would hope that the people speaking out publicly about the sexual assaults and the reaction of party leadership are able to make themselves heard to a sufficient point that it warns other people against joining, and maybe leads others to reassess whether unaccountable party structures are what they want to be involved with. The sort of external accountability that has happened to an extent with the SWP here might be possible, not sure. However it shouldn't require people going public about sexual assaults for these kinds of structures to come under pressure.

There's a serious problem in that any external criticism of these organisations is used to strengthen it's hold over the members - because the critics must be cops or whatever - but you would think with the internet this should be harder to do than it was in the '60s. i.e. the people who show up with pictures of Stalin at demonstrations are now on twitter individually and talk to people. Post-2008 it seems to be getting worse, but there might be a way it also gets better.

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Jul 17 2018 11:13
Mike Harman wrote:

Coming back to this:

reddebrek wrote:
I don't really know anything about the WWP so I don't know how important this will eventually be

They're pretty small, but I would guess still in the hundreds? I think the PSL has managed to scoop up most of the post-Trump membership increase. If it results in people just joining the PSL, or some kind of continuity split, then it won't mean much.

but they have a professionally-made weekly which is sent for free e.g. to thousands of prisoners

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Jul 17 2018 12:00
Entdinglichung wrote:
but they have a professionally-made weekly which is sent for free e.g. to thousands of prisoners

Yes there's reports of it getting censored here: https://shadowproof.com/2017/05/04/pennsylvania-prison-officials-censore...

It's only possible to guess how many members are in the party, my guess would be high hundreds or low thousands at most though - especially with the currently more popular PSL split. They have a certain amount of output required from full members (one of the demands of the Baltimore survivors was to be able to step back from organising work for a year), so like the SWP there is a lot going into printing placards and papers and selling them. Seems likely the New York chapter controls the website, paper and would contain a lot of the writers/editorial committee, so unless their revenue dries up or there's a complete collapse of the central party, it would probably take a fair bit for production of that to actually stop.

On Ethiopia, here's Deirdre Griswold fresh from a sponsored trip in 1978 waxing lyrical about 'Comrade Mengistu' and speaking approvingly about the 'red terror' https://aklatangbayan.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/eyewitness-ethiopia-th...

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Jul 17 2018 12:45
Entdinglichung wrote:
but they have a professionally-made weekly which is sent for free e.g. to thousands of prisoners

Hah, I'd considered making this point, but didn't want to be too predictable - but yeah, from personal experience, I remember discussing the Iran protests around the start of the year with one relatively high-profile prison rebel and realising that a lot of his impressions of it came from reading WWP coverage - which, tbf, was not as bad as it could've been, but obviously had some fairly major differences in emphasis from how libertarian/internationalist types would see it.
I guess the whole subject of paper publications and what they're good for in 2018 is probably a bit of a derail, especially if we're also going to be discussing the whole history of African Leninism in this thread as well, but I'd just quickly note that there's really nothing at all comparable from the libertarian left - do BR/RN even do a publication? Also I kind of got the impression that the PSL paper is kind of crappy in comparison, as in like 4 pages long.

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Jul 17 2018 12:49

On membership: I doubt there'll be exact figures anywhere, but I guess if anyone's interested it'd probably be relatively easy to go through and check where WWP, or indeed PSL, DSA and the wobs, claim branches, which might have some value, not least for illustrating places where x group might be the default as the only game in town?

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Jul 17 2018 14:35

More coming out, this is from a Detroit ex-branch member:
https://twitter.com/communistfriend/status/1019205362556329984

redpartisan wrote:
In this thread I will address information regarding the internal ideological struggle in Workers World Party surrounding the role of the YPG/SDF as imperialist mercenary armies working toward the partition of Syria. When I began the process of joining WWP Detroit
[snip]
edits, J. Catalinotto and other NYC editors made various additions that totally blunted the edge of the article and made it essentially a propaganda piece for “Kurdish national liberation” in Syria, again supporting the partition and delegitimizing the
[snip]
I regret that I was not able to publish an article rightly denouncing the YPG and SDF as imperialist, Zionist running dogs and that I was complicit in maintaining anything to the contrary via the WWP newspaper and site.

So the WWP old-guard looking at Rojava from a Kurdish national self-determination standpoint (but emphasising it's not at odds with support for Syria against the US (with 'Syria' meaning Assad, not the Syrian working class). This is by one of their Ukrainian contacts but seems like more or less the position, they're generally quiet on Rojava probably because they know there's a lot of tankie Assadists out there: https://www.workers.org/2016/11/21/syria-and-donbass-two-sections-of-a-u...). For those who don't click through, the writer went on an official tour to Syria organised by Assad's government and met with his deputy. This is a pattern with the WWP and PSL - they are often invited on official delegations to places like Syria, Serbia etc..

The Detroit branch trying to push literally "imperialist, Zionist running dogs against Syrian sovereignty" because of YPG co-operation with US forces, which would rhetorically support the annexation of Rojava by Assad.

Going to say the Detroit branch's outright Assadism is a monster of the WWP's own ('Global Class War' campist geopolitics over class) making.

Mike Harman
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Jul 18 2018 07:06

Blog post about the Syria position here from the author of the above tweet thread:

https://internationalistdispatch.wordpress.com/2018/07/17/on-opportunism...

What's mildly interesting here is that it suggests the WWP got to a point where it essentially could not talk about Rojava at all or only in the most circumspect terms.

Either Rojava was 'national self-determination for the Kurdish people', or it was 'Zionist imperialist NATO partition of Syria' and the idea there could be multiple conflicting actors and interests within Rojava and/or rival imperialist interests outside it just does not fit into the parameters of the discussion at all. The article by the Ukrainian tankie makes it sound like Welsh devolution or something.

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Jul 18 2018 10:39

Censorship, secrecy, slander and crushing of internal dissent to preserve an elite from a Bolshevik group. Who would have thought it? Well, Lenin himself probably.
When will they learn? Well the WWP split says 'there is a dire need for a Leninist party in the US', so obviously they haven't. They still think it is about the politics of the campaigns themselves.
Never get involved in a group that crushes internal dissent and asks you to keep the public unaware.

Mike Harman
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Jul 18 2018 11:21
jondwhite wrote:
Censorship, secrecy, slander and crushing of internal dissent to preserve an elite from a Bolshevik group. Who would have thought it? Well, Lenin himself probably.
When will they learn? Well the WWP split says 'there is a dire need for a Leninist party in the US', so obviously they haven't. They still think it is about the politics of the campaigns themselves.
Never get involved in a group that crushes internal dissent and asks you to keep the public unaware.

It's worth pointing out that there are at least three splits at this point, in chronological order:

1. The public exit by the Baltimore members who tried to deal with the rapist, although leaving the branch as opposed to the branch splitting.

2. The Detroit branch, which appears to have split because the WWP wasn't Assadist enough (which frankly I didn't think it could be any more pro-Assad, but you live and learn). Then used the belated action taken against a rapist as an example of lack of democracy.

3. The DC branch, which split because the neighbouring Baltimore branch's leading member was a known rapist for months (or longer) and the party actively suppressed the allegations (until recently forced to take some action by the survivors going public).

#1 and 3 have been critical of party structures and the way the party hierarchy was put completely above the needs of the membership. I've also seen at least one message from someone who was thinking about joining the WWP, who now won't (and someone also informed them about the Milosevic apologism, which they didn't know about). Have also seen other WWP members and sympathisers be quite critical of the situation.

The Detroit branch seems to be spiralling further into conspiracy theories about Trotsky-fascist-NATOists.

So.. some people are learning, again the best you can hope is it results in some other people not having to spend months or years learning what it's like first hand to be members of these organisations but steering clear in the first place.

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Jul 18 2018 12:15

i knew someone in WWP who went to syria to be an election observer for the baathists, so the idea that any branch of WWP could be more assadist is mind-blowing

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Jul 18 2018 14:13
gram negative wrote:
i knew someone in WWP who went to syria to be an election observer for the baathists, so the idea that any branch of WWP could be more assadist is mind-blowing

W: "Hi boss, Id like to apply for some holiday leave in a month or so, a week starting on the Nth"

B: "Yeah ok, no one else is on the schedule for then so thats fine, i suppose. Going anywhere nice?"

W: "Oh, yeah, just over to that massive, brutal civil war in Syria to be an election observer for the regime. I dont speak a word of Arabic, but the guy going round hiring election observers from miniscule Leninist sects half a world away said that i wouldnt really need to be able to read anything or talk to anyone while i was there, so thats probably fine."

B: "..."

W: "Would you like to buy a copy of Workers World?"

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Jul 18 2018 14:24
Uncreative wrote:
but the guy going round hiring election observers from miniscule Leninist sects

plus observers from the Iranian and Russian governments, fascists from Western Europe, etc.

Mike Harman
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Jul 18 2018 17:58
gram negative wrote:
i knew someone in WWP who went to syria to be an election observer for the baathists, so the idea that any branch of WWP could be more assadist is mind-blowing

Yeah it really is. At the risk of just repeating vague grasping at what it means, trying to summarise the two positions again:

WWP old-guard: Kurdish independence is national self-determination. Assad is under threat from the US, but is fine with regional Kurdish autonomy. We can't mention that the Kurds are US backed because that would undermine our line that the entire Syrian working class opposed to Assad is actually US-backed militias/Al Qaeda/ISIS so we just don't mention it. Also we never mention that Assad was US-backed until 2011 and could be officially US-backed again soon.

WWP Detroit: Kurds are US-backed so are part of the US plot to destabilise Assad the same as ISIS and Al-Qaeda are being used against by Zionists to destabilise Assad. i.e. more Assadist than Assad himself who's fine with Kurdish regional autonomy and a ceasefire.

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Jul 24 2018 09:21

reply by the WWP: https://www.workers.org/2018/07/18/can-we-meet-the-challenges-facing-the...

Mike Harman
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Jul 24 2018 12:20

Kind of amazing that it doesn't mention the Baltimore or DC branches but also what you should expect.

Mike Harman
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Sep 11 2018 09:59

The Detroit split (the ones that think Rojava is a NATO-Zionist plot to destabilise Syria) have formed a new ML sect, the Communist Workers League:
https://twitter.com/communistfriend/status/1037012959661305857

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Dec 28 2018 22:27

Bit of an update

https://medium.com/@socialistobserver/workers-world-party-disintegration...

The WWP seem to have lost 14 branches and are left with 4 offices, with other areas being listed purely by e-mails and PO boxes. It also contains info on the names of some of the splits including Communist Workers League and Struggle for Socialism.

Mike Harman
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Jan 4 2019 19:32

A large number of candidate members and members are leaving the PSL (which was a split from the WWP about 20 years ago). This is due to one candidate being subject to some sexual harrassment/stalkerish behaviour, mentioning it to their party contact, then having their candidacy cancelled due to 'horizontal communication'. It turns out the PSL completely prohibits any kind of communication between members in different branches, formal or not - everything has to go up the party hierarchy then down again.

There's a write up here by one of the people who left, no conversion to anarchism at all, (they accuse Makhno of mass rape in the letter, which seems to be via an old ISR article in turn relying on Voline): https://medium.com/@newdialectician/women-and-the-vanguard-party-why-im-...

There is not yet any kind of split forming, but it looks like these are mostly younger members of the party at least so far, and at least one or two of the people leaving have also complained that the PSL isn't Stalinist enough (i.e. similar to the Detroit WWP split above).

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Jan 15 2019 08:16

Yeah I've seen that doing the rounds. Its good that a large percentage of the membership of such a group are willing to walk over sexual harassment,

But that letter in particular was written by someone whose been very active in many harassment campaigns themselves, dredging up identifying information of critics and assumed critics. Hopefully this is the start of the turning of a new leaf, but certain passages in that letter don't give me much hope.

Mike Harman
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Jan 15 2019 10:32
Reddebrek wrote:
But that letter in particular was written by someone whose been very active in many harassment campaigns themselves, dredging up identifying information of critics and assumed critics. Hopefully this is the start of the turning of a new leaf, but certain passages in that letter don't give me much hope.

In addition, at least one of the people that left seems to have figured out that the PSL leadership are still mostly old Trots who are happy to support Democrat candidates like AOC and make mild criticisms of 'anti-imperialist' leaders like noting Gadaffi's working relationship with the EU in the 2000s (as well as working with 'anti-imperialist' third positionists). Their conclusion seems to have been to go off the deep end into full conspiracism.

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Feb 6 2019 13:14

This is a bit tangental but it seems like an interesting way to measure their decline. A Maoist group in Texas Red Guards Austin (who I thought had disbanded but I guess not) disrupted a joint PSL/WWP protest and seize their material and a megaphone.

The combined PSL/WWP presence is about four people, and there's accusations about police informants and the use of a gun for intimidation, its very strange.

There's also a comic music score via a trumpet.

This is from an RGA website but it does have video.

https://incendiarynews.com/2019/02/05/video-militants-confront-workers-w...

Very bizarre but it looks like the RGA have the numbers in Texas.