“When Prophecy Fails’ was originally a famous study from the 1950s about a UFO cult that predicted the end of the world. They managed to recruit more people than you might think and attracted considerable public interest.
Then bingo! The time for the End came and nothing happened. After some catcalls, public interest dried up and they lost much of their membership. BUT, they didn’t lose everybody. Through frenetic activity and the like they managed to hang on to a core; a core that was oblivious to life outside the cult.
That is the situation of the Socialist Workers Party today. Back in the 1970s they were one of the top left-wing groupings in the country. Behind the scenes they ran almost all of the big anti-war mobilizations. Maybe 20,000 people passed through their youth group, the Young Socialist Alliance. The Party itself had 2,000 disciplined cadre, average age in their twenties. The SWP leadership was mostly in their thirties and late twenties.
Today they are still around. But they’re down to 90 members, most of whom are in their fifties and sixties. They have no impact outside their own ranks. Their hard core has 30-40 years sustained political activism. Yet they seem oblivious to what went wrong.
The tipoff is 1966. The AFL-CIO leadership, aware of rising racial discontent in the ranks, tries to revive that old left-wing saw, ‘Black & White, Unite & Fight!” They wish to unite the ranks around a joint fight to raise the minimum wage. The fight stalls at the local union level. In places like Ohio and Michigan, white workers want to know: “How do we stop this busing?”
In the meantime, the Socialist Workers Party has endorsed Black Nationalism. This shuts them off completely from the white working class, yet they recruit hardly any blacks. The blacks prefer to be in their own organizations. (Only whites aren’t allowed to have their own.)
Unionized white auto workers flee places like Detroit in droves. This is even before the black insurrection in 1967. The white suburbs surrounding Detroit become heavily armed. This is not for the purpose of launching a race war. The whites have no plans for sending armed patrols into the ghetto. Then, as now, the whites are only interested in self-defense. Any attempts at race war are one-sided and from the black side.
When the Vietnam War ended in the early 1970s, the SWP had a message no one wanted hear, at least from them.
White workers had it worst. The Nixon Regime enforced all the busing edicts of the courts. (The SWP, like most of the Left, supported busing, thus putting themselves on the side of the Establishment against the real, existing proletariat of the country.) Nixon also introduced quotas in hiring through the Philadelphia Plan and accelerated racist affirmative action in the colleges.
In the meantime, New Politics liberals told over the machinery of the Democratic Party, and soon dominated Congress as well. These folks were ultra-liberal on civil rights and cultural issues but Eisenhower Republicans on economics. No where to turn if you were a white worker.
Just when you though things couldn’t get any worse for the white working, along comes Reagan. The Reagan-Bush Regime began de-industrialization in earnest. This combined with opening the border with Mexico accelerated the assault on working class living standards.
The SWP? Like Karl Marx himself, they were free traders. In economics and culture, the Left placed itself on the side of the Oligarchy against the real working class of the country.
With death of outfits like the SWP, the Green Party tried to pick up some of the slack. But the American Greens are slowly following the European Greens in going over openly to finance-Capital. When the Rothschilds are billed as Green, you know the hustle is in full gear.
Nobody said the struggle was going to be easy.