Some Tributes to Caroline Lund (1944–2006)
[Note: All the articles in the following selection have been edited in keeping with Labor Standard style practices.
[Additional articles about Caroline Lund may be found on the web site that she previously maintained for the rank-and-file union newsletter The Barking Dog.
[A particularly interesting article about Caroline, now on the Barking Dog web site, is by Jennifer Biddle, who describes Caroline as a young girl of about fourteen, at the age of confirmation in the Lutheran church, but already an atheist. Jennifer Biddle and Caroline Lund obviously became close friends, although they first met in the 1990s doing union solidarity work in the Bay Area.]
by John Percy
[This article, dated October 21, appeared in the October 25 issue of Green Left Weekly (GLW). John Percy is a longtime leader of the Australian organization Democratic Socialist Perspective (DSP), formerly Democratic Socialist Party.]
Caroline Lund, a lifelong fighter
for socialism, workers’ rights, and women’s liberation, died at her home in
Caroline succumbed to the ravages of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, sometimes called Lou Gehrig’s disease — physicist Stephen Hawking being a long-term sufferer). Caroline first noticed the symptoms in August last year, but doctors took some time to make the diagnosis. The rapid muscular degeneration would have been especially frustrating to her, an athletic person and a regular runner.
Caroline came from a conservative Lutheran family in the U.S. Midwest, but was won to revolutionary socialist ideas in 1962 when she attended Carleton College — a small liberal arts college just south of Minneapolis [Minnesota]. Carleton had a very active socialist discussion club, whose members would later become part of the central leadership of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), the main Trotskyist grouping in the U.S. at the time…[The former Carleton students included] Jack Barnes, Elizabeth Stone, Mary-Alice Waters, Dan Styron, Doug Jenness, and John Benson.
Caroline quickly became a leader of
the SWP’s youth organization, the Young Socialist
Alliance (YSA). In 1965, she moved to
In recent years, both Caroline and
Barry have been strong supporters of Green Left Weekly and collaborators
of the Democratic Socialist Perspective in
One result of that trip was an
invitation for a Resistance leader to attend the December 1969 YSA convention
A leader of the 1934 strike, Dobbs was the SWP national secretary in 1969. Holding the convention in the former stronghold of the U.S. Trotskyists registered the new rise of the movement during the campaign against the Vietnam War after the difficult years of the 1950s.
I was very impressed both by the YSA convention — an extremely exciting event attended by 800 revolutionary youth — and by the SWP.
Caroline gave the report to the convention on a document titled “The Worldwide Youth Radicalization and the Tasks of the Fourth International,” debating a leader of the FI’s French section.
From 1969, a fierce debate
developed in the FI, initially over the question of the FI majority’s call for
its supporters in
Caroline and Barry were based in
I next met Caroline in 1974–75, when I went to New York to work on Intercontinental Press, the weekly news magazine published by the SWP for the FI and edited by Joe Hansen. In 1975 Caroline also joined the IP staff for a time. I got to know her much better, reinforcing my impression of her as a wonderful human being and political leader.
In 1977-80, Caroline and Barry
again went to Europe to work with the FI leadership, this time to
The 1960s and early ’70s was a period of great political advances for the SWP and YSA. The party had played a key leadership role in many political struggles, especially the mass movement against the Vietnam War, and had recruited many of the best of the radicalizing youth to its ranks.
In 1972, this new generation took over leadership of the SWP. Jack Barnes became the SWP national secretary, and Barry Sheppard became for many years the SWP’s national organizational secretary. Caroline was elected to the SWP national committee.
This period of growth and political advance is described in the first volume of Barry’s history of the SWP (The Party — The Socialist Workers Party 1960–1988. Volume 1: The Sixties, A political memoir, Resistance Books, 2005). The book was written with the editorial assistance of Caroline. Barry’s introduction recognizes his indebtedness to his comrade — “This book would have been impossible without her.”
The second volume, which Barry is currently working on, will analyze a sadder period — the sectarian degeneration of the SWP.
At the end of the 1970s the SWP decided on a “turn to industry,” a push to get all its members into “blue-collar” jobs, in expectation that a sustained fight-back against the capitalists’ attack on working-class living standards would be led by “blue-collar” unionists, opening the way to a mass labor radicalization.
Unfortunately that projection
didn’t eventuate, but the SWP leadership persisted with the turn, “deepening”
it, and increasingly losing touch with reality. The SWP’s
and YSA’s political work became increasingly divorced
from and hostile to the actual course of
Critics of the sectarian course were increasingly denied their democratic rights within the party. In the early 1980s more SWP members were expelled than in the party’s entire previous history. Barry and Caroline were also pushed out, in 1988. They moved from the east to the west coast, settling in the San Francisco Bay Area where they could be near their old friend and comrade Malik Miah, who had been expelled from the SWP a few years earlier.
The DSP had broken off our relations with the SWP as we saw it degenerate, but renewed our collaboration with former SWP leaders as they were expelled or forced out — first with Peter Camejo, then with Barry, Caroline, and Malik.
Those who had been expelled formed different organizations as they tried to pick up their political lives. Barry and Caroline have been involved in some of these — Solidarity, Socialist Action — and also formed an organization with Malik for a while in the Bay Area, called Activists for Independent Socialist Politics.
Caroline had begun work at a
General Motors plant in
In the Bay Area, she briefly worked at an oil refinery, then at the Toyota-GM New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. plant from 1992. At NUMMI, she was a production worker until early 2006, when she went on disability pension, due to her illness.
For the last eight years, Caroline produced a newsletter at NUMMI that was a model for rank-and-file union militants. Called The Barking Dog, it defended workers against the company’s abuses and criticized the United Auto Workers union bureaucrats when they did not.
Caroline believed in the ability of workers to run their own unions and workplaces. “The rank and file are very ignorant about what real unionism is because they’ve never seen it in action, like the old-timers in the 1930s and 40s. But in many ways the rank and file understand more than the union officials,” she argued, adding: “I don’t think most of the existing unions can be reformed. They are too steeped in the culture of ‘cooperation’ with the companies, where the leadership thinks of the union as a source of perks for themselves and their friends. New unions are going to have to arise, from the bottom up, out of the ashes of the old.”
Caroline was a GLW
supporter, and a contributing editor of Links magazine. She attended the
DSP December 2003 congress, writing a report that concluded: “Overall, the
congress was very inspiring, full of energy, commitment and idealism. It
reminded me so much of the U.S. SWP in its good days of the ’60s and ’70s.” She
also attended the Third Asia Pacific International Solidarity Conference in
Those who met her at these events will warmly remember this passionate, courageous comrade, and deeply mourn her death, but her lifelong commitment to her socialist principles and activity will continue to inspire us.
by Michael Schreiber
Longtime socialist and
trade-union activist Caroline Lund-Sheppard died from Lou Gehrig’s
disease on Oct. 12 in
Caroline was a leader of the Young Socialist Alliance (YSA) and the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) beginning in the 1960s, and was a member of Socialist Action for a brief time in the early 1990s.
Caroline was born in
In 1964, Caroline joined the Socialist Workers Party. She and other young socialists in the Minneapolis area had the benefit of being able to learn politics and organizational skills from older Trotskyists in the SWP branch—like Vincent Ray Dunne—who had been active in the great 1934 Teamster-led general strike in that city.
In 1965, Caroline moved to
Caroline enrolled at
Beginning in 1967, Caroline Lund worked for many years on staff in the national office of the SWP. Her job included writing for the party newspaper, The Militant, and its journal, the International Socialist Review. A number of her articles, especially those dealing with the fledgling women’s liberation movement of the early 1970s, were published as pamphlets.
In late 1968-69, and again in
1977–80, Caroline served, with Barry Sheppard, on assignment by the SWP in
By the early 1980s, the radical
movement in the
By 1988, Caroline and Barry found that their political and organizational differences with the Barnes leadership had grown to such an extent that they were compelled to leave the SWP. They later joined Socialist Action and moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, where Barry took the assignment of National Organizational Secretary.
In 1992, they left Socialist Action to join the Committees of Correspondence, a recent splinter from the Communist Party USA. Not long afterward, they joined the diffuse socialist grouping Solidarity.
Caroline worked at the New
United Motors plant in
Socialist Action remembers and
honors Caroline Lund-Sheppard for the tireless work that she carried out for
the socialist movement. A memorial meeting for her will take place Saturday,
Nov. 11, 2 p.m., at the Humanist Hall (
by Paul Le Blanc
[These comments were presented at the Brecht Forum in
Caroline Lund was part of a political generation, and she must be understood in that context. It is the generation of many of us here today, and I have been asked to take time to walk through some of that experience.
An obvious cliché is that Caroline was “a Baby Boomer” — that is, part of the very large generation that grew up in the years following World War II. We grew up in the affluent 1950s, amid what seemed the triumph of American capitalism, with the claim that there was now in our country “equal opportunity for all.”
From grade school onward Caroline
and the rest of us began each school day with Bible readings and prayers, and
said the “pledge of allegiance” to the
There was a deep belief, as well, that there should be “rule by the people” and “liberty and justice for all.” Many of us really, really believed in such values. And when you stop and think about it, these are values that animated the authors of the Communist Manifesto, who called on the working-class majority to “win the battle of democracy” in order to create a society in which “the free development of each will be the condition for the free development of all.”
Of course, anyone who made that connection out loud back in the 1950s might find that there was not quite as much “liberty and justice” for them — but this was not something that was clear to most of us who were school kids back in the McCarthy era.
As Caroline and others of our generation grew up, however, we found our deep-held values to be in contradiction with realities of American capitalism. We found that workplaces in our economy were usually run like dictatorships for the enrichment of the few. Even more dramatically, these values were in contradiction to the racism and “Jim Crow” segregation laws that afflicted our country. These values were also in contradiction to the enforced conformism and the shallow, competitive consumerism that were so much a part of our capitalist culture of the 1950s and early 1960s. Even in our so-called “affluent society,” however, we found that there were shocking inequalities and terrible poverty.
And we also learned of even more
terrible poverty and brutal oppression throughout the world, and of U.S.
foreign policy giving support to some of the most unpopular and inhuman
dictatorships on our planet. These tyrannies were considered part of the “Free
World.” They weren’t really free, but they were pro-capitalist, anti-Communist,
As these realities became clearer to us, we were shocked and angered. Like many of us, Caroline felt she should do something to help make things right—supporting struggles for civil rights and Black liberation, opposing militarism and the threat of nuclear war, and challenging a U.S. foreign policy that was playing an oppressive role in the world.
This became especially sharp as we
looked at what the
In protesting against such things as
racism and war, however, we concluded that protest was not enough — that the underlying causes of these terrible problems had to
be confronted and overcome. And increasingly, we saw the overseas economic
expansionism of big business corporations (that is, imperialism) as decisive in
The number of young people going
through this evolution assumed mass proportions in the 1960s. So one key to
understanding Caroline Lund is seeing that she was very much part of a youth
radicalization sweeping through the
Yet the question was posed: what
was the alternative to this unacceptable status quo? The mainstream of the Communist movement
seemed to many of us as not providing a viable
alternative, due to its connection with the bureaucratic dictatorships, the
murderousness, the compromises with capitalist power politics associated with
Stalinism. The so-called “moderate socialism” that was associated with Social
Democracy seemed no less compromised, generally lining up with
Caroline was drawn, finally, to the revolutionary Marxism associated with the Socialist Workers Party and the Young Socialist Alliance, whose members were broadly identified as Trotskyists. Trotsky’s ideas, and those of Lenin and Marx, were essential to our orientation. But that orientation was also associated with some of the very best of the American radical tradition. Among SWP ranks were a layer of revolutionary workers and intellectuals whose experiences went back to the class struggles of the 1930s and before. In their view, the Industrial Workers of the World (the IWW) had been right when it proclaimed: “The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. Between these two classes a struggle must go on until the workers of the world organize as a class, take possession of the earth and the machinery of production, and abolish the wage system.” That’s socialism.
In the SWP, despite its relatively small size, Caroline found an intellectual seriousness, an activist seriousness, and an organizational seriousness that were quite uncommon on the U.S. Left. The fact that this organization was multi-generational gave us an incredible opportunity to learn from older comrades vital lessons from struggles of previous decades. For many of us who joined, particularly after frustrating experiences in other left-wing groups, it was an enormous relief to have found something that seemed so incredibly good.
For Caroline, all of this became integrated into her life — into what she was and what she did. It is undeniable that she and her comrades did a lot. From the early 1960s through the 1970s, the SWP and its youth group the YSA grew from about 400 to about 3,000 cadres. They became a significant force in a number of initiatives. This is only a partial list:
• defense of the Cuban Revolution;
• protests against the testing of atomic and hydrogen bombs and the threat to humanity posed by the possibility of nuclear war;
• support to civil rights and Black liberation struggles (including the historic role played in helping Malcolm X to get out his revolutionary nationalist ideas);
• involvement in early stirrings of feminism’s “second wave” and building the women’s liberation movement;
• socialist electoral challenges to capitalist politics-as-usual;
the movement to
end the war in
In this last mentioned initiative,
one can find a number of key elements of the SWP’s
success — including some things that are immediately relevant to our own time
in relation to the U.S. war in Iraq. The period of the Vietnam war was the first time in
As the 1970s flowed into the 1980s, however, the SWP foundered, entering an increasingly serious crisis and then a devastating decline. A number of us here lived through that. There were certainly multiple reasons for what happened, and varying interpretations of why it happened. In my opinion, it was bound up with a correct decision that — in the last analysis — was badly carried out.
The correct decision was to shift increasing numbers of comrades from the campuses and turn to the working class — getting more and more of us into various jobs that would put us in touch with other wage-workers and bring us into a growing array of unions, so that we could play a role in the class struggle that was beginning to stir in that period.
But the experience of our generation was so different from that of the older working-class cadres, comrades who had been an essential part of the workers’ struggles in earlier decades. This was a different working class, and we were different from the comrades [of the 1930s and ’40s]… We had an inadequate understanding of what we were getting into. There were some very unrealistic expectations, there was a tendency to make mistakes — not simply on the part of those of us going into the factories, mines, and shipyards, but especially on the part of the new central leadership of the SWP in the 1970s.
Making mistakes was inevitable. But this new leadership — feeling the tremendous weight of leadership responsibility — found it difficult to admit or face some of the mistakes, and (it seems to me) increasingly lost confidence in what had been some of our historic political, theoretical, [and] organizational norms.
The SWP would have benefited from a critical-minded and comradely discussion of such things. Instead, there was growing rigidity, and a decision by the leadership to move against comrades who voiced differences and especially against comrades who represented the old ways. Instead of discussion, debate, and collective learning, there was a destructive and demoralizing policy of polarization, of choking off discussion, and of accumulating, accelerating expulsions. And this made it impossible for the party to correct mistakes.
Caroline and Barry initially went along with this, they were part of it, but then — learning from their own harsh experience — they broke with that mode of functioning, something that they had to do simply in order to remain true to themselves as revolutionaries.
By 1988, Caroline was out of the party to which she had devoted so much of her life — but she remained immersed in the working class, rooted in the class struggle, never dismissing or laughing at or rejecting or forgetting what she had known as a revolutionary socialist in the SWP before its implosion. Her commitment remained. Her integrity remained. As a working-class activist and revolutionary socialist she continued reaching out:
• seeking to help rebuild a radical workers’ subculture, consciousness, and struggle;
• seeking to contribute to the struggle against all forms of oppression;
• seeking to help rebuild a revolutionary vanguard layer of our class;
• seeking to help nourish possibilities for the rebuilding of a revolutionary party;
• seeking to contribute, in whatever ways she could, to the struggle for socialism.
I remember hearing a Central American revolutionary song twenty-five years ago that moved me very deeply, and I think of it now as I think of Caroline Lund. It said something like this:
Our comrade has fallen,
But as we continue the struggle,
She lives in us.
Among those who continue the struggle,
She continues to live.
by George Saunders, co-managing editor, Labor Standard
[This is an edited version of a message sent on behalf of the online journal Labor Standard, formerly Bulletin in Defense of Marxism (founded by Frank Lovell with the support of George Breitman and many others)].
I first met Caroline around the fall of 1965—not long after Lyndon B. Johnson’s major escalation of the Vietnam war, with 500,000 U.S. troops sent to wage a neo-colonial war in that former French colony.
Caroline had helped start a YSA chapter at
During the previous three years or
so I had been writing about the Vietnam war (in its
“pre-escalation” phase) for the revolutionary socialist newspaper, The
Militant. Caroline asked me if I would come to
I agreed to take part in the
debate, and I focused on refuting the “domino theory,” the claim that the
Communists were trying to conquer the world, and if the
As we know, the Democrats under Johnson were openly committed to imperialist war, disguised as an alleged fight for “democracy,” just as they are now committed to neo-colonial war in Iraq (continuing in the “grand tradition” of the World War leaders Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Cold War leaders Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, etc.).
Caroline was one of hundreds. There
was a whole generation of young Trotskyists like her,
energetically building antiwar committees on the campuses—making them the most
dynamic force in the united-front antiwar coalitions of that time. They
insisted on immediate withdrawal and rejected the call for negotiations,
favored by the Stalinists, traditional pacifist groups, and other lukewarm
radicals. Within a few years, as you know, the demand for immediate withdrawal
won the support of the majority of the American people, including the
It was comrades like Caroline who
carried on the tough, painstaking, day-to-day work of building the “Out Now”
wing of the antiwar movement, which was one of the “top ten” achievements of
the American Trotskyist movement, to paraphrase the
title of an article by Frank Lovell. That kind of energetic, principled,
uncompromising campus-based and youth-based movement against the war, with a
united front perspective, building inclusive coalitions, based on democratic
decision-making conferences, while maintaining the “Out Now” demand—that
approach is sorely lacking in the movement against the
I think that, in memory of Caroline, we should all be trying to build that kind of component for today’s antiwar movement—and today we can do that not only on the campuses but also in such organizations as U.S. Labor Against the War. In the Vietnam-war era, no such advanced organization existed in the trade unions, only the beginnings of such organization, with figures like Jerry Gordon in Cleveland and John T. Williams of the Los Angeles Teamsters.
To go back to the debate at
And to my surprise, a year or so
later, while I was attending an antiwar conference in Washington, D.C., a young
fellow introduced himself to me and said he had changed his mind; he was now
active in the antiwar movement. It was that same Young Democrat from the debate
Generally speaking, I was never in close touch with Caroline, but I was aware of her: she was continuing to do her exemplary political work in her quiet, disciplined, determined manner. She was not one to seek attention or to try to hog the spotlight. As I recall, she was mainly writing for The Militant. Pathfinder published a pamphlet by her in the early 1970s, based on a series of articles she had written for the newspaper. I especially liked that pamphlet, which exposed the treacherous policies of the Kremlin bureaucracy hidden under the rubric of “détente.”
In the late 1970s and early ’80s the leadership team of the younger generation of the SWP—headed by Jack Barnes—made a dramatic shift, revising their former position on Trotskyism. In that wonderful year, 1984, they expelled me and hundreds like me, such as George Breitman and George Weissman, who stuck to the historical positions defended by Leon Trotsky and James P. Cannon.
After that the SWP went into a decline. Some years later, Caroline and her companion, Barry Sheppard, to their credit, broke with Barnes, however belatedly.
I encountered Caroline again, briefly, at the 1992 convention of the Trotskyist organization Socialist Action, which she and Barry, along with Malik Miah, had joined, but which they were getting ready to leave. I was there as an observer for the Fourth Internationalist Tendency.
Caroline went on to work in her exemplary way in the United Auto Workers union as an oppositionist to the UAW bureaucracy. I heard about Caroline’s excellent work as a rank-and-file trade union oppositionist from Bob Mattingly, who also lived in the Bay Area and wrote very well-informed commentaries on the union movement. Bob forwarded to us some of Caroline’s articles about the situation at the NUMMI plant where she worked and the fight against the UAW bureaucrats. And we reprinted some of Caroline’s writings in Labor Standard.
I have good memories of Caroline as a quiet, cheerful, diligent, and encouraging person. And I curse the fates that inflicted a cruel disease on her, depriving us of this good comrade at far too early an age.
by Louis Proyect
[This article was posted on Louis Proyect’s Marxmail discussion list (www.marxmail.org). It has been edited slightly, in keeping with Labor Standard style practices. The contention that guilelessness was “generally in short supply in the Trotskyist movement” is strictly the opinion of the author, a view that most supporters of Labor Standard probably would not share. Nevertheless, this article makes many valuable observations about the positive qualities of Caroline Lund and others like her who were part of the SWP in the 1960s and ’70s.]
Last Saturday [November 18] I attended a memorial meeting for Caroline Lund, who died of ALS on October 14 at the age of 62. The disease is also called Lou Gehrig’s disease after the Yankee star who succumbed to it as well. Today the best-known victim is Stephen Hawking. Once it sets in, paralysis and death generally occur within a year or two. Caroline first noticed the symptoms in early 2005.
Caroline was married to Barry Sheppard. They were both leaders of the American Socialist Workers Party (SWP) until irreconcilable differences between them and an ever increasingly sectarian leadership put them on a collision course. After they were separated from the party, both followed a trajectory known to many ex-SWPers which involved exploring non-sectarian socialist formations such as Solidarity, a group that both belonged to. Additionally, Caroline was an auto worker activist who put out a newsletter called The Barking Dog that was read by between 2 and 3 thousand members of her plant each time it appeared.
I knew Caroline only from a distance since I was a rank-and-filer [in the SWP]. That being said, she always made a good impression on me. I think that was because she had a warm smile and because she always appeared guileless, a trait that was generally in short supply in the Trotskyist movement.
Two of the speakers at the meeting, who I hadn’t seen in over 25 years, emphasized the decency of her character and the serious political commitment that she had demonstrated over the years that they worked with her.
The first was Kipp Dawson, another party leader I always appreciated. Kipp was a leader of the antiwar movement and served on the National Executive Committee of the Young Socialist Alliance when the Trotskyist movement was feeling the wind in its sails. Kipp said that whenever Caroline walked into the room, she felt a sense of warmth and was put at ease. She also said that Caroline had a very sharp analytical mind but never expressed herself in an arrogant manner.
I should say a word or two about Kipp herself. After working for 13 years as a coal miner, Kipp is now teaching school. She brings the same kind of enthusiasm to teaching that she once brought to political work. She believes in the innate goodness and the capacity for change in her students that she saw in people in struggle. The job seems a perfect fit for her talents.
I have a vivid memory of Kipp staying at my place in
Ginny Hildebrand spoke next. Ginny
became friendly with Caroline when the two of them were making the rounds in
This was something that drew her closer to Barry and Caroline as well since they were all dog lovers. But there was more to the dog business than this. Ginny said that the word “dogged” came to mind when she thought of Caroline. She really would not be budged when she felt principles were at stake. Her newsletter, The Barking Dog, of course captured both the image of the dog and the “dogged” attitude as well. (It turns out that she adopted the name from another newsletter that used to be circulated by another trade union activist at her plant.) After an unsigned leaflet circulated at the plant singled her out for attack, she responded by writing a reply leaflet that had the heading: “Why unsigned leaflets are bad.” She explained that this was cowardly. In addition, after she figured out that the leaflet was written by a bureaucrat named Art Torres (the typeface was the same that he had used in signed pieces), she needled him: “Sign your name, Art. Be a man.”
Ginny said that after she had decided to conclude her remarks at the meeting with a quote from Howard Zinn, she discovered that Caroline had already used it in one of her Barking Dog newsletters. The quote embodies her spirit:
To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places–and there are so many–where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.
Credit must be given to Gus Horowitz for organizing and chairing a truly inspiring meeting. My memory of the SWP is pretty negative, but hearing Kipp and Ginny and being reminded of Caroline’s great character and dedication reminded me of why I stuck around for 11 years. These were among the most appealing people I had ever met in my life. They were also clear about why we had come together. Revolution, unlike art, is a group experience.
I had a chance to meet John Percy,
who was over from