The last formal contact I had with the Socialist Workers Party was when George Novack came to see me on a Sunday morning right after I got married. They’d heard l was raking it in; I had no objection to that. He was doing the missionary thing.
I’ve used the same technique. ln my SWP days, when I was very young, I used to go out to Michigan City to see an optometrist who had somehow become a sympathizer. We would paint a thrilling picture of what was going in the steel union and so on. You interpreted history for the person in a way that would make them want to give you some money.
I also knew that when the movement was on a roll, money chased the movement. When the movement was under attack, on the other hand, money, like everything else, was scarce. Don’t ever blame the demise of the radical movement on the fact that the ruling class has more money. When you were riding the tide of history, money was not a problem; there was always some out there. During the height of the movement against the Vietnam war and the civil rights movement, money was pissed away all over the place.
The favored approach during drought periods, though, was that of the missionary coming to gather in the lapsed faithful who, having fallen away, needed an inside report on what was going on. You would be full of glad tidings, to which only a few were privy, about the great things that were happening and all the new converts being found. Of course the single aim was to get some dough, but you offered all sorts of entree to the most exciting radical circles.
After Novack had gone on for a time, I started interjecting my own views, which were rather sharply defined by then. I had not regressed back to SWP politics; in fact, by that time I had read Trotsky for myself, and had some ideas of my own.
Novack stopped and looked at me in surprise. “l didn’t know you were still interested in politics, Frank.” I said, “George, I didn’t leave socialism, I just left the SWP.”