BY PETER SEIDMAN
Delegates and guests cheered the announcement that six years of work preparing a comprehensive index of the theoretical magazines of the Socialist Workers Party and its predecessors was completed during the July 8-11 convention of the party in Oberlin, Ohio.
The magazines record sixty years of communist writings that workers and youth from around the world can use to enrich and defend Marxist theory as a necessary part of becoming more effective participants in the struggles of their day.
Communists fighting to unify the working class on an international scale in struggles to organize militant industrial unions, against fascism, and for clarity in how to oppose the bureaucratic caste in the Soviet Union began publishing New International in July 1934. After March 1940, a minority faction that abandoned communist politics under the pressure of World War II stole the magazine's title. The party launched Fourth International in May 1940 to continue its fight.
The International Socialist Review carried on this tradition beginning in 1957 (and, as a magazine supplement to the Militant since 1975, has continued through today). Then in 1983 the SWP, in collaboration with co-thinkers around the world, renewed publication of New International. Two years later the French-language Nouvelle Internationale began publishing, to be followed by the Spanish Nueva Internacional in 1991 and the Swedish Ny International in 1993.
A display set up under a big sign reading "Magazine/Bulletin Indexing Project: Mining our Communist Continuity" was a constant center of attention during convention breaks. The always-crowded tables featured bound volumes of the magazines as well as an initial edition of the printed index, which allows the magazines' more than 3,500 articles to be searched by author and subject.
The actual indexing of the publications was carried out over six years by a team of 21 volunteers who painstakingly entered information about each article and categorized them by more than 600 subjects into a computer data base (this work was part of a larger project to index the entire collection of the SWP's documents).
The computerized version of the index allows the magazines to be searched in many useful ways. For example, all the articles by a particular writer can be found for particular years. Or you can list everything that an author wrote on a given subject. Index project volunteers demonstrated how the computerized searches are carried out.
These computer searches, along with collages of reprints on various topics from the magazines, revealed how useful the index will be for today's working-class fighters. Here are some examples of the "gems" mined by volunteers:
"Japan Faces The Abyss," by SWP leader Frank Graves, writing under the pen name of Li Fu-Jen. This is a three- part series written at the height of World War II explaining the origins of capitalism in Japan and why workers there are not enemies of U.S. workers but potential allies in a common front against the imperialist system that pits us against each other in lethal combat.
"The Problem of Smashing McCarthyism." Writing in 1954, Murry Weiss notes, "The emergence of an independent fascist movement, headed by a powerful political machine in Congress, with a platform based on the theme of `national betrayal' " should be a "warning signal to the American working class." His insights are quite useful in considering the fascist militia groups of today.
In Germany, Weiss wrote, "With the default of working class leadership, the middle class, frustrated in its hopes for a solution to its problems under the leadership of the working class, became easy prey for fascist demagogy and was attracted to the anti-capitalist facade of the fascist program. Thus they became raw material for an anti-labor militia. In the name of anti-capitalism the fascists mobilized to do the work of monopoly capitalist reaction."
"The Political Meaning of the CIO-AFL Merger." Tom Kerry discusses how the last thing on the minds of the officials is the unification of labor's forces for a real battle to defend the unions. Although the AFL-CIO merger took place in December 1955, Kerry's analysis seems timely.
"The Struggle for Ireland." This 1939 article set off a discussion in the pages of New International on the road forward for that liberation struggle.
The editors of New International have announced that they plan to publish a printed version of the index in a forthcoming special issue.
Demand for back copies of the party's magazines is expected to grow as the new index comes into use among today's fighters. This poses a real challenge, as the bound volumes, often in frail condition, are few and far between.
Party supporters plan to rectify this problem using new computer technology that makes it possible to scan the magazines. This will make it possible to produce a publicly available CD-ROM that will contain the index as well as all the articles themselves from 1934 through the present.
After finding articles that look useful in the index, it will be possible to call them up onto the computer screen or print them out. The index also indicates when a particular article has been reprinted in a book or pamphlet, for those who don't have access to a CD-ROM reader or prefer to study in that format.
The magazines are also available on microfilm from University Microfilms International, 300 N. Zeeb Rd., Ann Arbor, MI 48106; Tel (800) 521-3044. Many libraries, once informed that a computerized index will soon be available, will be interested in purchasing a set of these.
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