Jack Barnes

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For other people named Jack Barnes, see Jack Barnes (disambiguation).

Jack Whittier Barnes (born 1940) is an American Communist and the National Secretary of the Socialist Workers Party. Barnes was elected the party's national secretary in 1972, replacing the retiring Farrell Dobbs.[1] He had joined the SWP in the early 1960s as a student at Carleton College in Minnesota and quickly became a leading member of the party's youth wing. Barnes was one of a group of members, many of whom also attended Carleton College or other universities, who joined the SWP shortly after the Cuban Revolution.

Barnes was a key advocate of the party's 'Turn to Industry' in the 1970s, its exit from the Fourth International in the 1980s and its orientation towards the Cuban Communist Party in the 1990s.

Turn to Industry[edit]

Barnes was one of the central organizers for the idea that the party should 'Turn to Industry'. In 1978 the party's National Committee approved a report by Barnes which argued that "we must subordinate everything else to immediately organizing to get a large majority of the membership of the SWP into industry and the industrial trade unions". Socialist Workers Party SWP members took up union jobs in basic industries such as meatpacking, steel, mining and textile industries.

Work within these industries became a condition of membership in the SWP, as the party attempts to penetrate into the portions of the working class that it feels will be most combative and open to communist ideas in the future: those unionized in basic industries. Party members organized within these unions form fractions within the party. The SWP asserts that this course follows the continuity of the communist movement from Marx and Engels to Lenin's time, which stress a party based in the working class.

Break with FI and Permanent Revolution[edit]

Barnes' article Their Trotsky and Ours also underpinned the party's decisions in the 1980s to abandon its support for Leon Trotsky's theory of Permanent Revolution, and its withdrawal from the world Trotskyist movement and the reunified Fourth International. It is based on Barnes' speech and explains the SWP's view on Trotskyism. Barnes repudiated the traditional Trotskyist understanding of Permanent Revolution in favor of Lenin's pre-WW1 positions of the "democratic-dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry", and a view highly sympathetic to the governments of Cuba, Nicaragua and Grenada. The speech was a preface to the expulsion of a significant minority of the SWP, and was regarded by the opposition as a complete break with the party's traditions.[2]

As national secretary, Barnes played a key role in the expulsion of more than a third of the party's members in 1983 and 1984, those who supported the USFI. In 1990, Barnes wrote on behalf of the SWP to withdraw it from close relations with the Fourth International and to recognize the reality that it was now part of a 'Pathfinder tendency' consisting of the SWP and several Communist Leagues of co-thinkers in other countries.

Orientation to the Cuban CP[edit]

Barnes has encouraged the SWP's growing interest in the Cuban Communist Party. In the 1960s he was a leader of the Fair Play for Cuba movement. This interest continues, and he wrote a 2001 book titled Cuba and the Coming American Revolution. The SWP views the Cuban Revolution and the Cuban Communist Party more sympathetically than do some other currents from the Trotskyist tradition, stressing the alleged vanguard role of Cuba's foreign policy and the alleged ability of socialists to learn from Cuba about building a socialist society


Jack Barnes is also the author of political books and articles, including:

  • Capitalism's World Disorder
  • Cuba and the Coming American Revolution
  • Their Trotsky and Ours
  • U.S. Imperialism Has Lost the Cold War
  • Capitalism's Long Hot Winter Has Begun
  • The Lesser Evil? - Debates on the Democratic Party and Independent Working-Class Politics.


  1. ^ Hadjor, Kofi Buenor (1995). Another America: The Politics of Race and Blame. South End Press. p. 318. ISBN 9780896085152. Retrieved 17 March 2012. 
  2. ^ See George Breitman in the introduction to Don't Strangle the Party.

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
Farrell Dobbs
National Secretary of the Socialist Workers Party
1972 - present
Succeeded by