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Multi-tendency, when used in regard to a political organization, especially a left-wing or anarchist one, means that the organization recognizes or at least tolerates members who are affiliated with or identify with a variety of ideologies within the broad stance of the organization. It often distinguishes such organizations from those that adhere to a party line or a stringent credo.


The term “multi-tendency” was first used by Philip Selznick. Selznick (1919–2010), later professor emeritus of law and society at the University of California, Berkeley, under his party name of Philip Sherman, first used the term in the Workers Party's Internal Bulletin (April 1941, 4). He used it to represent the opinion of Trotskyists who rejected the leadership of James Cannon and who left the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) to found the Workers Party in 1940. In 1941, Selznick was head of a faction in the Workers Party known as the Shermanites. In the Bulletin he used the term to criticize the leadership of Max Schachtman who was criticized for a leadership style that was considered too close to that of the democratic centralism of James Cannon. Therefore the term was first used simply as an antonym of democratic centralism. In 1949, the Workers Party renamed itself the Independent Socialist League (ISL) and later, in 1957, joined the Socialist Party of America.[1] [2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Workers Party's Internal Bulletin (April 1941, 4)
  2. ^ Alan Wald, The New York Intellectuals, the Rise and Fall of the Anti-Stalinist LeftChapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987;pp. 183-187