Socialist Equality Party (United States)
The Historical and International Foundations of the Socialist Equality Party (United States)

Opposition in the SWP: The Emergence of the ACFI

Within the Socialist Workers Party, a minority tendency, led by Tim Wohlforth, opposed the increasingly opportunist orientation of the SWP and supported the criticisms made by the Socialist Labour League. The greatest strength of this tendency was its recognition that the political crisis of the SWP had to be approached as an international problem. The struggle within the SWP, therefore, could not be conducted from the standpoint of obtaining a tactical advantage in the discussion of one or another political issue. Instead, the basic aim of the discussion was to achieve political and theoretical clarification of the central problems of revolutionary perspective in the Fourth International. The advice given by the British SLL to its American supporters was to avoid, to the greatest extent possible, factional conflicts over secondary political differences and organizational issues, and to work for the political clarification of the SWP cadre. This principled approach differed sharply from that taken by another minority tendency, led by James Robertson, which placed its national factional concerns above those of international clarification.

The Wohlforth-led minority worked within the SWP from 1961 to 1964. Even after the 1963 Reunification Congress, the minority continued to seek a principled political discussion within the Socialist Workers Party. However, events in Ceylon brought the struggle within the SWP to a head. The pro-ICFI minority issued a letter to the SWP membership demanding that the organization permit a discussion of the roots of the LSSP’s betrayal. The statement issued in June 1964 by the minority declared:

During the whole period from 1961 to 1963 we reiterated time and time again, in political solidarity with the International Committee, that a reunification of the Fourth International without the fullest political discussion prior to the actual reunification could only lead to disaster and the further disintegration of the international movement and the party here. Our position has been fully vindicated...

There can no longer be any further refusal to face up to the political, theoretical and methodological crisis tearing apart our party and the international formation to which it is presently in political solidarity. For the very survival of the party a thoroughgoing discussion of these questions must be organized immediately in all branches.[1]

After issuing this letter, all nine signatories were suspended from membership. The minority formed the American Committee for the Fourth International and undertook the extensive preparations necessary for the transformation of the ACFI into a new Trotskyist party, allied politically with the International Committee.


The Heritage We Defend, op. cit., p. 403.