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John Dwyer Papers

Identifier: LP001039

Scope and Content

Part 1: John Dwyer Papers

Section 1: Work in the 1930s A. In the CIO B. The Socialist Party, the Spanish Civil War C. Debates on the Spanish Revolution Leading to the Expulsion of Trotskyists/Left Wing from the Socialist Party D. "The Spanish Revolution" E. From the Socialist Party to the Founding of the Socialist Workers Party -- Journalism and Activity; The Moscow Trials

Section 2: Work in the 1940s A. "Stalinist Russia, A Capitalist State" -- Writings on Russia and Related Questions B. Creation of a State - Capitalist Tendency in the Socialist Workers Party C. International Correspondence on State - Capitalism D. Activity and Disputes in the Socialist Workers Party E. Journalism in the Post - War Period

Section 3: Trotskyism in the 1940s: World War II and the Post-War Period A. The Socialist Workers Party During World War II B. The Socialist Workers Party in the Post-War Period C. Post-War Trotskyism: The International Scene D. The Socialist Workers Party and the Workers Party -- Debates on Reunification and Other Questions E. Documents of the Workers Party

Section 4: Marxist-Humanism: Philosophy, Organization, Journalism A. Founding of News and Letters Committees B. Journalism of Peter Mallory (John Dwyer) in "News & Letters"
Part 2: Martin Abern Papers Section 1: Bolshevism in America: Early Documents of the Communist Party of the U.S.

Section 2: Early Documents of the U.S. Socialist Party

Section 3: Other Documents of the 1920s

Section 4: Development of Trotskyism, 1928-1940: In the U.S. and Internationally A. Expulsion of Trotskyists from the Communist Party; Organization of the Communist Left Opposition B. Trotsky in Exile, 1930-33 C. Communist League of America D. The International Left Opposition E. Workers Party of the U.S.; Debates on Entry into the Socialist Party F. From the Spanish Revolution to the Eve of World War II: Debates Leading to the Expulsion of Trotskyists/Left Wing from the Socialist Party G. Other Documents of the 1930s

Section 5: Founding of the Fourth International: Crisis in Trotskyism Over Defense of Russia


  • 1920 - 1987


Language of Materials

Material entirely in English.


Collection is open for research.


Refer to the Walter P. Reuther Library Rules for Use of Archival Materials. Restrictions: Researchers may encounter records of a sensitive nature – personnel files, case records and those involving investigations, legal and other private matters. Privacy laws and restrictions imposed by the Library prohibit the use of names and other personal information which might identify an individual, except with written permission from the Director and/or the donor.


In 1931 John F. Dwyer was living in Lynn, Massachusetts, where he joined the Socialist Party. He became active in the labor movement, organizing shoe, leather and tannery workers with Joseph Massida, who led the union and was a member of the Socialist Party. When the International Ladies Garment Workers Union undertook a national drive to organize runaway shops, he organized local garment shops for the union. As the Socialist Party moved to the left, the Communist Party was moving to the right, which brought Dwyer into conflict with them in the United Shoe Workers, where they had a substantial faction. During the period of the WPA, he found a teacher's job and founded a branch of the American Federation of Teachers. He also served as its representative on the local American Federation of Labor council in Lynn. He was appointed New York state organizer of the Socialist Party in 1936 and left Massachusetts to organize locals of the Socialist Party in Rochester and Buffalo during the Presidential campaign of Norman Thomas. During the Spanish Civil War he helped organize the Debs Brigade and was able to send supplies to the Loyalists from Rochester. At this time the struggle within the Socialist Party between its left and right wings was heating up, and Dwyer's salary of $15 a week was cut off by the right wing leadership. He was forced to take a temporary job in Springfield, Massachusetts. There he went to work for the Amalgamated Clothing Workers and successfully organized the Asinoff factory. After the end of the organizing drive at Asinoff, he worked for the Retail Clerks union, organizing retail clerks and delivery workers on Springfield newspapers. At the founding of the Massachusetts State CIO Industrial Council, he was elected State Secretary. By 1937, Dwyer was an active member of the left wing of the Socialist Party and was expelled from the party along with other supporters of Trotskyism. James P. Cannon advised him to transfer to New York City to participate more fully in the new Socialist Workers Party, which was founded Jan. 1, 1938. Dwyer was elected a member of the National Committee of the new party. In New York he held various engineering jobs, working for Texaco during the early part of World War II. The draft exemption he had held during that period was removed in 1944, when the entire engineering group he was working with, except him, was transferred to the Manhattan Project. He served in the U.S. Navy on the aircraft carrier Sangamon and was wounded when the carrier was hit by a Kamakazi at Okinawa. Discharged in December 1945, Dwyer returned home to find the Socialist Workers Party engaged in an internal dispute. None of the political positions advanced by the factions seemed to be adequate to the needs of the post-war period. Under the pen name John Fredericks, he wrote "Stalinist Russia, a Capitalist State" in 1947. In that document he espoused the theory of state capitalism, and formed a faction within the party to promote that theory. He did not know of the writings of the state-capitalist tendency in the Workers Party — the Johnson-Forest Tendency -- when he began this work. Within a year, however, the Johnson-Forest Tendency joined the Socialist Workers Party. The subsequent history of what began as the state-capitalist tendency, from its origins in the 1940s, through its split between Johnson and Forest in 1955, to the founding of a Marxist-Humanist organization, News and Letters Committees, can be found in the Raya Dunayevskaya Collection, housed in the Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs at Wayne State University, Detroit. Mary Obst, who has organized and presented John Dwyer's documents for researchers here, has provided those interested with cross references to the Raya Dunayevskaya Collection from appropriate sections of Dwyer's papers. John Dwyer's 1956 summation of C.L.R. James, entitled "Johnsonism: A Political Appraisal," and written under the pen name of John O'Brien, offers Dwyer's view of the break-up of the state-capitalist tendency. Dwyer's writings as a Marxist-Humanist were published in News; Letters from its inception in 1955 under the pen name of Peter Mallory. He authored the column called "Our Life and Times" for some 27 years.


8 Linear Feet (16 MB)


John Dwyer was active in the labor movement as an organizer for numerous labor unions, including the International Ladies Garment Workers, Amalgamated Clothing Workers, and the Retail Clerks union. Mr. Dwyer worked as the New York State Organizer for the Socialist Party and served as State Secretary of the Massachusetts State Council of Industrial Organizations (CIO).

As a Trotskyist, Mr. Dwyer was expelled from the Socialist Party, after which he joined the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), where he adopted the theory of State-Capitalism and later wrote for the Marxist-Humanist journal, News & Letters under the name of Peter Mallory. Mr. Dwyer’s papers reflect his work with the CIO, the Socialist Party and the SWP, relating the events of the Spanish Civil War and the Trotskyist movements, and the affairs of the Socialist Party in the 1930’s and the SWP in the 1940’s and 1950’s.

Included in the collection are the papers of Martin Abern. Mr. Abern’s papers relate the American Communist and Trotskyist Movements from the periods of the Russian Revolution through the outbreak of World War II.


Part 1: Arranged in 4 sections – Section 1 (Boxes 1-2), Section 2 (Boxes 2-3), Section 3 (Boxes 3-10), and Section 4 (Box 10). Folders in each series are simply listed by their location within each box.

Sections 1-3 are each further broken down into 5 subsections. Section 4 is further broken down into 2 subsections.
Part 2: Arranged in 5 sections – Section 1 (Box 11), Section 2 (Box 11), Section 3 (Box 11), Section 4 (Boxes 11-15), and Section 5 (Boxes 15-16). Folders in each series are simply listed by their location within each box.

Section 4 is further broken down into 7 subsections.


Part 1: Appendix One includes photographs, from the late 1930s to approximately 1943. Included are photographs of Socialist Workers Party members James Farrell, Max Shachtman, Joe Hansen, Farrell Dobbs, James Cannon, Vincent Dunn, George Novack, Grace Carlson, Felix Morrow, Albert Goldman, John Fredericks, and others. Events include CIO demonstration (New York, late 1930s?), funeral procession for Leon Trotsky in Mexico City (1940), SWP fundraising commemoration of 25th anniversary of Russian Revolution (1942), picket line at theatre showing movie "Mission to Moscow" (c.1943), SWP defendants on way to jail in Minneapolis (1943). Also includes a photograph of John F. Dwyer, March 21, 1985, taken at the lecture exhibit program for Raya Dunayevskaya, sponsored by the WSU Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs. "The 'Appeal' in the Making" [c. 1938-39] Film issued by the Educational Committee of Local New York, Socialist Workers Party. The film presents the production and distribution of the Party's newspaper, Socialist Appeal. Scenes includes editing discussions, the press room, mailing the newspaper, and street sales. No sound; approximately 10 minutes.
Part 2: Appendix Two contains newspapers, journals and magazines, predominantly published by Trotskyist and Communist organizations, 1928-29 through the 1930s. These materials are located in the library section of the Archives.

Processing History

Processed and finding aid written by Walter P. Reuther Library in January, 1985.
Guide to the John Dwyer Papers
Processed by Walter P. Reuther Library.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Walter P. Reuther Library Repository

5401 Cass Avenue
Detroit MI 48202 USA