Letter from the iSt to the WSL
Letter from the iSt to the WSL
international Spartacist tendency
BCM Box 4272
London WC1V 6XX
17 June 1976
Workers Socialist League London
We have carefully studied your document “Fourth International Problems and Tasks”. Many of the particular and general points and conclusions in the document appear to parallel positions we have reached and fought for, in some cases as much as fifteen years ago during the period of our emergence as a distinct tendency within the Socialist Workers Party. Rather than reiterating these points; we would like to focus on a few matters dealt with in your document which in our opinion are both important and the focus of unclarities or possible differences.
The document correctly sees the evaluation of post-war Stalinism and the emergence of new states such as those in Eastern.Europe, China, and Cuba as a central axis of the disorientation and destruction of the Fourth International. Not only the political liquidationism of the Pabloites but also the initial shortcomings and eventual degeneration of the “anti-revisionists” of 1951-1953 was accompanied by an inability to correctly analyse these phenomena and a concomitant failure to uphold the revolutionary Trotskyist programme.
However, while the document shows a proper concern for the question of Stalinism, it does this to the exclusion of an analysis of social democracy. Thus while you refer to “the main counterrevolutionary force within the world workers movement — Stalinism” and state that the struggle for Trotskyism is “first and foremost, a struggle against Stalinism and its influence”, there is virtually no analysis of the role of social democracy. This weakness shows in several ways. In the treatment of the Chilean coup, for instance, the defeat is attributed simply to “the popular front demagogy of the Stalinists”. It is correct to denounce the Stalinist betrayals of the Chilean CP, but it is crucial as well to expose Allende and his social-democratic Socialist Party, which within the spectrum of the popular front generally stood to the left of the Communist Party. It was the prostration of the two mass reformist parties before the class enemy, expressed through the vehicle of the popular-front Unidad Popular government, which paved the way for the bloody coup.
Your document also discusses Pablo’s “attempt to liquidate the cadres of the FI into the Stalinist parties”. In fact, however, though the liquidationist theories of “entrism sui generis” were developed largely in relation to Pablo’s capitulationist analysis of Stalinism, the entries were often carried out as well into social-democratic parties (in Canada, Belgium, Chile, Australia) and radical nationalist parties (Indonesia, India and the classic example — Algeria, where Pablo personally played a direct role with the Algerian FLK in the destruction of nascent centres of independent proletarian power). Presently the continuation of this method is shown in the USec majority’s tailing of the Vietnamese Stalinists, and guerrillaist groups like the Chilean MIR, nationalist formations like the Angolan MPLA, and left social democrats (the Labour “lefts” in Britain, the PSU in France). Particularly in Britain, which lacks a mass Stalinist party and where it is the social-democratic Labour Party and the pervasive traditions of parliamentary cretinism associated with it which stand as strategic obstacles to proletarian revolution, the omission of social democracy is glaring. Taken together with your slogan of “Make the Lefts Fight” and calls such as that “The Labour Party must be forced to return to its Manifesto” (leaflet distributed at the Conference on Women and the Cuts, 28 February 1976) this suggests an inability to pose a clear programmatic alternative to the Labour Party. What is indicated is a general softness towards social democracy, in particular in Britain an unwillingness to break from and confront the influence and strength of the Labour Party reformists.
A second aspect of your discussion of Stalinism is unclear to us; that is the question of political revolution in the deformed workers states. You write of the “first forms of the political revolution” appearing in Czechoslovakia in 1968 and elsewhere of the political revolution in Berlin, Budapest, Prague and China. We believe that it is essential to examine carefully any oppositional movements within the deformed workers states. Frequently ostensible Trotskyists have embraced any oppositional movement or individual. A graphic example of this was the uncritical treatment of Solzhenitsyn in the Healyite press when he was first exiled; though he had not yet made his most overt anti -Soviet and anti-communist statements, it was already quite clear that he was the purveyor of the most reactionary ideas and an “anti-Stalinist” from a rightist direction. The proletarian uprisings in Berlin and Budapest were certainly struggles that Trotskyists would seek to join and lead towards political revolution. In the case of Czechoslovakia, we recognised that the “liberal” Dubcek wing of the Stalinist bureaucracy was in a number of respects to the right of the pro-Soviet elements, and more oriented to concessions to Western capitalism. While condemning the Soviet invasion, we noted that the relaxation of political controls by Dubcek was a concession in order to “liberalise” the economy by increasing the product extracted from the Czech workers. And in China, we analysed the Cultural Revolution as essentially an intra-bureaucratic struggle. To justify its disgusting tailism of the Mao wing, the Healy/Wohlforth tendency fulsomely applauded Mao’s mobilisation of Chinese youth, conveniently failing to notice that the Liu wing was able at times to mobilise significant sections of the industrial proletariat. Obviously the tactics that a Trotskyist group would apply in such a situation would be varied and complex, but the essential point is that there was no justification for any form of political support to either side and our fundamental strategy would be to seek to mobilise the workers independently of either wing to oust the Chinese Stalinist bureaucracy as a whole.
The major point with regard to Stalinism in your document concerns the explanation of the emergence of deformed workers states in East Europe and China and the nature of the Cuban revolution. The failure to understand this question is illustrated in the history of both the SWP and the SLL/WRP. Firstl the SWP opposed Pablo’s liquidationism in 1951-1953, later “reunifying” on the basis of its own adoption of the same Pabloite methodology with regard to Cuba. Then Healy attempted, to oppose the SWP’s liquidationism over Cuba, but was unable to come up with any analytical alternative except the absurd position that Cuba is capitalist, while at the same time pursuing a line of the most crass capitulation towards the Vietnamese Stalinists (a question ignored by your document) fully rivalling that of the USec.
Our tendency was first formed in a struggle against the SWP leadership’s turn to Castroism (as well as other questions). The position reached by the Revolutionary Tendency in its anti-Wohlforth/Healy majority and since further developed by the international Spartacist tendency surmounts the methodological difficulties of the “anti-revisionists”, difficulties flowing from premises shared with the Pabloites. In this struggle Wohlforth did make a contribution, as the documents written by him in our Marxist Bulletin Number 8 show. His preliminary Cuba documents constituted a useful literary undertaking, in sharp contrast to later attempts to make himself a reputation as a “theoretician” — most notably his pretentious updating of Mandel’s theory of “structural assimilation” which if it was inadequate when originally set forth becomes in the period of the Cuban and Vietnamese revolutions totally farcical.
As we note in the “Addition to the Preface of MB8”, Wohlforth’s theory of structural assimilation collapses with its inability to incorporate Cuba in its schema;
“Wohlforth’s ‘theory’ boils down to the following: first, absorption of adjacent states into the Russian degenerated workers state; second, social transformation of the newly acquired region; third and finally, its release as a separate deformed workers state — all because of a ‘defensive expansionist’ drive by the Russian Stalinist bureaucracy in response to the urgent threat from capitalist imperialism. Wohlforth explained North Vietnam’s becoming a deformed workers state by his own version of the ‘domino theory’; first China was absorbed by Russia and regurgitated, then North Vietnam likewise by China.
“But looking at his map Wohlforth noticed that Cuba is rather distant from Russia and an island to boot. Thus was Wohlforth left holding the position which the Workers League more or less shamefacedly advances today — that the Cuban state led by Fidel Castro is capitalist.”
While the WSL appears to recognise some of the limitations of Wohlforth’s document and to be particularly concerned with finding an explanation of the events in Cuba, hitherto you seem to have approached this as a matter of developing Wohlforth’s “theory. At a superficial level this theory may appear to fit the East European states, but it does not explain the victories by peasant guerrilla armies in China, Vietnam and Yugoslavia led by native Stalinists acting at crucial junctures against the orders of Stalin and the Soviet bureaucracy. The suggestion in your document that Wohlforth underestimates the extra-territorial power of the great powers seems to be an attempt to explain Cuba by reference to some sort of indirect influence or latent threat emanating from the USSR allowing the native Stalinists to carry out “structural assimilation”. But neither Mandel’s original theory nor this simplification can explain how and why deformed workers states were created, in particular the internal mechanisms of their creation.
We do not date the existence of deformed workers states in China and East Europe from the time of the actual expropriations per se. In East Europe the Red Army was the effective state power despite the existence of the trappings of bourgeois democracy and even monarchy. That army, the state power of the degenerated workers state, had ultimately either to defend proletarian property forms or (as it did in Austria and in Northern Iran) withdraw leaving capitalism intact. In China, the capitalist state power was overthrown in 1949, and though the Chinese Stalinists tried to have “New Democracy” they were compelled to complete the expropriation of the capitalists or face destruction at the hands of resurgent capitalism. The question of what property forms the victorious Castroist guerrillas in Cuba would defend was not resolved until late I960 with the expropriation of the major industries, and only after an internal struggle in the guerrilla force, under the pressure of the intransigent hostility of US imperialism to the new regime. The essential difference between our approach and that shared by the Pabloites and the SLL/WRP is that we recognise that what was created was a deformed workers state, in which there were never any genuine organs of proletarian democracy and in which a bureaucratic caste (in the case of Cuba initially enjoying immense popular support for its ouster of the hated Batista dictatorship) held political power. Thus from their inception these states were controlled by a bureaucratic caste which stands in the way of the advance to socialism, and must inevitably betray the international proletarian revolution. Within them, the task of Trotskyists is the same as for those in the Soviet Union; to prepare and lead the political revolution, to sweep away the bureaucracy and institute workers democracy based on Soviets.
The consideration that led us to characterise Healy as an “inverted Pabloite” is this: the Pabloites see the social transformation and draw the conclusion that there is no longer any need for the working class to be mobilised behind a revolutionary programme — either non-proletarian forces or non-revolutionary leaderships compelled by the objective “dynamic” can make proletarian revolution. On the other hand Healy and the like see the absence of a vanguard party and conscious mobilisation of the working class and refuse to acknowledge that there could have been a social revolution (not surprisingly, to our knowledge, the Healy tendency has never tried to explain how China became a deformed workers state). What “both conceptions share is the refusal to grasp the qualitative distinction — marked by the call for political revolution — between a workers state and a deformed workers state. Instead they see a kind of “sliding scale” of workers states ranging from very bad (Stalin’s Russia) through to those with a few “bureaucratic deformations” (at times China, Cuba and Vietnam).
History does not give any prizes for “definite attempts”. The inability to resolve this question, as the comrades of the WSL recognise, has had disastrous results. Inability to achieve Marxist clarity would pose for the WSL a path following that already taken by Healy. A useful illustration of the problem is your treatment (in Socialist Press number 19, 15 October, 1975) of the WRP’s series on Vietnam, You correctly denounce. the WRP’s capitulation to Stalinism, “but you cannot go beyond that. A contrast with this is the article in Australasian Spartacist, number 24, (October 1975) dealing with the same Healyite series:
“John’s basic argument is simple — merely the ‘inverted Pabloism’ of Cuba turned right side up! The social revolution in Indochina, occurred under the undoubted hegemony of the Stalinist Vietnamese Workers Party (VWP). Like the Pabloists on both Cuba and Vietnam, Healyism makes absolute the premise that a capitalist state can only be smashed by a revolutionary leadership, in order to draw from that Aristotelean premise the opportunist ‘only possible’ conclusion — the Vietnamese Stalinists cannot be Stalinists, they must be a revolutionary leadership! But analysing and changing the real world requires the science of dialectical materialism, not a worship of the accomplished fact and the application of logical syllogisms. In Indochina, as in Cuba, China, Yugoslavia, etc. the military victories of the guerrilla forces occurred in exceptional circumstances of the disintegration of the national bourgeoisie and its state apparatus and decisive limitations on the ability of imperialism to intervene at crucial moments. But the crucial characteristic of all these revolutions was the absence of any intervention by the working class acting consciously in its own interests. Such an intervention would have polarised the Stalinist and petty-bourgeois nationalist forces, driving their misleaders into the camp of the ruling class. In Vietnam it was the political disintegration of the national bourgeoisie, the hostility of imperialism, the pressure from their peasant base and the need to consolidate their own rule that forced the Stalinists to collectivise the economy and join the “socialist” camp. It was the absence of a conscious working class led by a Trotskyist party that allowed them the necessary independence to do so and that ensured that the resulting workers state would be burdened by a parasitic bureaucracy from birth.”
(“IC grovels before Vietnamese Stalinists — Healy’s Pabloism exposed”, Australasian Spartacist, number 24, October 1975)
These issues bear heavily on the general historical evaluation of Healy, the SLL/WRP and the International Committee. In 1971, for example, we wrote:
“The Healy grouping, whose revolutionary competence was seriously called into question from the beginning by Healy’s own tarnished political history, represented politically a reflexive reaction against Pabloism which never broke from its essential theoretical method. The Healy position accepts the revisionist analysis of the implications of the Cuban Revolution, concluding that the only way to avoid its abjectly liquidationist conclusions is to deny that any anti-capitalist social transformation took place in Cuba (a political absurdity which the USec constantly invokes to discredit all its opponents on its left). “Healy’s analysis of Stalinism follows the method which is the very crux of Pabloism: the choosing of one or another fundamentally defective nationalist or Stalinist current to ‘critically’support’ on the grounds of the implicit rejection as irrelevant of principled Trotskyist politics posing an independent proletarian line. Thus the Healyites supported the Mao wing of the Chinese bureaucracy in the ‘Cultural Revolution’ intra-bureaucratic fight and purge, enthused ever the petty-bourgeois rationalists of the ‘Arab Revolution’ and abstained for years from the unpopular task of denouncing Ho Chi Minh and the NLF for their repeated Stalinist sellouts.” (“World Trotskyism Rearms,” Spartacist, April-May 1971)
From your document it is not clear how you view the history of the lnterniational Committee. On one hand you have correctly noted Healy’s inability to deal with the Pabloite analysis of Stalinism, the shortcomings of the fight led by Cannon against Pablo, the absence of democratic centralism in the International Committee. At the same time your analysis in other places appears to suggest that the SLL/WRP only degenerated around 1973. You yourselves remark on the way in which Healy has attempted to obscure the real history of his activity, and clearly any understanding of the IC’s history must involve a considerable and careful examination of documents that hitherto (and we would argue quite deliberately) were not made available to members of the IC, We view Healy’s degeneration as expressed in a series of programmatic positions that the IC developed in 1967 and subsequently. Prior to this, despite a series of organisational atrocities perpetrated against us by Healy and important political differences (e.g. Cuba) there existed sufficient political agreement for the Healyite and Spartacist tendencies to have belonged to a common international tendency, had Healy’s cynical sectarianism not destroyed the chance of principled collaboration.
For our part, there were in the early 1960’s during the period of collaboration and discussion with the SLL (and still remain) areas of “Healy’s own tarnished political history” about which we lack detailed information (for example his conduct inside the Labour Party in the early 1950’s). Nevertheless in a number of respects your account of the history appears to fall within the framework of Healy’s interpretation of events. In particular this relates to the struggle of the Revolutionary Tendency within the SWP, and the dispute of its majority with Healy/Wohlforth. This is apparent in your discussion of the Cuba question. Your document claims that the SLL did not see their position as final, and you rebuke the IC for failure to discuss the issue. Our experience, however, indicates that the failure to discuss the question goes far beyond simply underestimating its significance. The IC has systematically avoided discussing the issue, but when forced to, at least in Australia and the USA, has strongly defended the line that Cuba is capitalist. After Healy and Wohlforth contrived to split the Revolutionary Tendency in late 1962, Wohlforth replied to our proposal for reunification of the two groups, centring his objections on the differing analyses of the Cuban revolution, and strongly defending the position that Cuba remained capitalist. This is hardly the posture of one who believes that the question was not resolved and ought to be one for discussion. (See Marxist Bulletin 8, “Cuba and Marxist Theory”)
We have extensively documented the history of the Revolutionary Tendency within the SWP, as well as the split in it and our subsequent relations with Wohlforth/Healy. The WSL comrades should carefully study these disputes, the documents of which (like, we understand, the documents of your struggle in the WRP) were never made available to the IC membership in Britain, USA or elsewhere by the Healy leadership. In the second part of your document you refer to the period “After the pro-International Committee tendency in the SWP, headed by Wohlforth and Robertson, had been expelled, and was acting independently” . In fact the RT had previously been split in 1962 as a result of the bureaucratic manoeuvres of Healy and Wohlforth, and a Stalinist-type ultimatum by Healy himself. The majority of the RT was expelled, before the Wohlforth/Phillips group, purely on the basis of having opinions contrary to the SWP leadership. One pretense for the expulsions was extracts from internal RT documents, which Wohlforth had selectively leaked to the SWP leadership, purportedly showing that the RT majority had a split perspective. This early work in support of the no longer revolutionary SWP leadership against its Trotskyist opposition was just one of the many services Wohlforth provided. The SWP leadership has been able to use the Workers League’s opportunist flip-flops and capitulations as an example to harden their membership against left criticism, for example by pointing to Wohlforth/Healy’s gross insensitivity to women’s and black oppression in order to justify support to feminism and black nationalism. His well publicised return to the fold of the SWP, now a brazenly reformist organisation upholding “free speech for fascists”, demanding the US imperialist army be sent to Boston and defending the reactionary mobilisation headed by the Socialist Party in Portugal last year is only the latest example.
The details of the Healy/Wohlforth manoeuvres and gyrations at the time can be found in the documents contained in our Marxist Bulletin series. Two other examples will suffice here. First you refer to the IC’s struggle against the betrayal of the LSSP and Wohlforth’s insistence on a discussion of the question. For years the Healyites have used the LSSP’s betrayal to expose the USec which covered for the LSSP leadership right up to the last moment. However, Healy himself is tarred with the same brush. In August I960 James Robertson wrote to the SWP Political Committee criticising the failure to publicly condemn the LSSP over its entry into a Popular Front electoral pact. At that time Healy was urging “caution” and was against publishing any criticism (See Workers Vanguard number 3, December 1971). In the same issue of Workers Vanguard you can find evidence of Healy’s hypocrisy in another matter, the dispute with the OCI over the Lora FOR.
Your document expresses an inability to understand why Spartacist was at the 1966 conference. Now while Healy’s exact intentions may be obscure, our attitude has been publicly stated both at the time and since. The spokesman for the Spartacist delegation at the conference stated
“…we feel we have the responsibility to present to you our specific views where they are both relevant and distinctive, without adapting or modifying them for the sake of a false unanimity which would do us all a disservice, since we have, in our opinion some valuable Insights to offer.
“We are present at this Conference on the basis of our fundamenial agreement with the lnternational Resolution of the IC; moreover the report of Comrade Slaughter was for us solidly communist, unified throughout by revolutionary determination.”
(Spartacist Statement to International Conference, Spartacist, June-July 1966)
We believed (arnd still do) that at that time on the basis of the published dcouments and of discussions with Healy himself (in Montreal prior to the conference) there was a principled basis for our presence at the conference. After our unjustified and bureaucratic expulsion (in which the WSL comrades may see many parallels to their own expulsion from the WRP), we stated:
“The current wrecking campaign being pushed in the columns of the ACFI Bulletin and elsewhere represents a 180 degree turn away from the principled fusion line advanced by Healy at the October 1965 Montreal conference. Then Healy insisted, with our full concurrence, that the three-year-long unjustified (and unprincipled) division between Spartacist and ACFI must be brought promptly to an end; ACFI-Spartacist fusion, he then insisted, was an absolute pre-condition to building the Trotskyist movement in the U.S. “Now, in the wake of the April London I.C. Conference (reported in this issue) Healy, without offering any serious political pretext for his actions has diverted the energies of the I.C. away from building an international to conducting a campaign of petty internecine warfare against those with whon, up to April, he proposed to unify. By his own criteria of last October, Healy has set out to wreck the revolutionary movement in the United States…..
“We firmly believe that real politics shapes the direction of organisations far more decisively than organisational and personal issues. At the same time the latter interact with and are therefore a part of real politics. It is from that that we draw the lessons of the April Conference and define our tasks flowing from it.
“We draw appropriate political conclusions from the organisational wrecking practices of Healy and Wohlforth. However, we do not close the door to them, much less to all those forces within the I.C. who are their victims. Yet, from Healy and Wohlforth, in particular, we will need evidence of an inner-revolution before collaboration would be possible. So long as they remain on their present bankrupt course, we are locked in an implacable struggle to cleanse the revolutionary movement of their poisonous influence.” (“Reunification Smashed”, Spartacist number 6, June-July 1966)
Several years later we wrote:
“We consider that organizational forms should correspond to political realities. We strongly opposed the break by the SLL, (“IC”) with us in 1962 because of its apparently mainly organizational character. Only after the very sharp rupture at the 1966 London Conference, and especially in the several years following when the SLL piled up a series of major political differences with us; were we able to appreciate that the SLL’s desire in 1962 to make a rapprochement to the SWP when (to which we were; willing to acquiesce but not agree with) was an expression of a fundamental political difference.” (“Letter to the OCRIFI and the OCI” Spartacist number 2, Winter 1973-74)
Your analysis of the split in the WRP seems to be based on an overly simplified explanation of the WRP’ s difficulties and the present economic conjuncture, and of the relation between the correct programme and links to the working class. Thus your document contains passages like the following:
“It is not by chance that the nature and method of the Transitional Programme has been thrown into question within the International Committee. The forces driving or the discussion and factional struggle are material ones. They are those of the international working class and other oppressed classes on the offensive in Europe, in the Middle East, in Indochina, in the United States itself — in fact in every continent of the globe.”
“It is the world-wide offensive of the workers which forms the material basis of the discussion and splits.”
“The offensive of the working class is the essential and specific element for understanding the split in the WRP.”
“This struggle was only possible because the WRP opposition was based on experienced roots, narrow but none the less real and tempered, within the organised working class. And the WSL in breaking from the WRP, expresses the practical and theoretical offensive of the international working class.”
If the comrades are simply suggesting that the current economic crisis and destabilisation of the global imperialist order offers greater opportunities for revolutionary organisations to grow and affect events on an historic scale, and that the attempt to do real work in the class revealed the SLL/WRP’s inability to actually carry the revolutionary programme in struggle within the mass organisations of the working class, then we would not want to object. The evocation of the final “Crisis” of capitalism in which the working class is inexorably surging forward has been used by the IC to justify the most gross opportunism, even explicitly repudiating the necessity of the Transitional Programme on the grounds that today the simplest demand of the working class takes on an automatic revolutionary content. In fact, without the successful intervention of the Leninist vanguard there will be no “final” crisis of capitalism unless it is a barbaric nuclear holocaust. We would note as well that at least in Britain and the USA, the disarray of both the IC and other ostensibly revolutionary organisations can be more readily related to the present quiescence of the working class, and a concomitant “crisis of expectations” in many of these organisations. (For a fuller critique of Healy’s analysis of the “Crisis” see “Healy/Wohlforth and the Crisis”, Workers Vanguard number 26, 3 August 1973)
The other aspect of oversimplification is the way in which you link your opposition to your “experienced roots” in the working class, and see the WSL as expressing the “practical and theoretical offensive of the international working class”. Certainly an organisation which does not develop roots in the working class will inevitably degenerate, but to argue that an organisation can be protected from revisionism simply because it has roots in the working class is wrong. Thus at the 1966 IC Conference we stated our disagreement “with Voix Ouvriere’s view that Pabloism can be explained simply by reference to the petty-bourgeois composition of the F.I., any more than one could explain the specific nature of a disease by reference solely to the weakened body in which particular microbes had settled.” (”Spartacist Statement to International Conference”) As Trotsky noted in In Defence of Marxism the trade unions are the culture medium for every sort of opportunist deviation, and there are always enormous pressures on the trade-union members of a Bolshevik organisation. In developing our work within the organised working class we have struggled against the workerist conception that sees
‘”communist consciousness as a function of the social composition of the party. Workers are viewed as the proletarian conscience of the party. In reality the communist vanguard creates itself by breaking its recruits from the dominant social and political attitudes of whatever section of society they are part of, including the proletariat…. The communist vanguard maintains itself through constant struggle against the enormous social and ideological pressures that bourgeois society bears down on it in all areas of party work, particularly against the backward prejudices in the working class and particularly in periods of rising class militancy when the party is seeking to expand its influence in the unions„”(“Trade Union Memorandum”, adopted by the Third SL(US) National Conference, 25 November 1972, Marxist Bulletin number 9. part iii)
In the implementation of our perspective for work in the trade unions (in which we have had real, if still modest successes)
“The key organizational form for intervention in the unions is the caucus, the nucleus of an alternative, revolutionary union leadership, uniting members of the vanguard with those union activists who agree with that section of the party program for the labor movement. We strive to build our caucus in as political a way as possible. The growth of our caucus will not be primarily through the recruitment of politically backward militants drawn to us because of our leadership in local struggles. Rather, the caucus will grow through political struggle with other left and militant union formations leading to a process of splits and fusions. Thus we project our caucuses growing in a manner similar to, although not identical with, the party. However, the establishment of our cadre as recognized militants with real constituencies is the essential building block and core of our caucus. Without such a base of reputable militants, our caucus actions would be either empty rhetoric or tail-ending forces much stronger than ourselves. The caucus program is a program to lead mass struggles. In general, caucus recruits should be of a significantly higher political level than that defined simply by the caucus program.” (ibid)
In the context of these serious concerns and disagreements, we are in general agreement with the main thrust of the seven points which you lay out as forming the “basis for initial discussions between ourselves and other tendencies, especially those expelled from the IC”. As well we would generally agree with the additional four points made in the concluding section of the document. We would like however to clarify our view of the process through which the Fourth International can again exist. This is particularly necessary in the light of references in your document to the “world Trotskyist movement”, your statement that the “contlnuity of this struggle runs through the Trotskyist movement”, and your call for the “reconstruction” and “rebuilding” of the Fourth International. We are not clear exactly what you mean by these terms. Our slogan “For the Rebirth of the Fourth International” implies that a very fundamental process must be gone through, that it is not possible to fit together the existing rotted bits and pieces, perhaps with a little chipping here and there in order to put the edifice together again. [See “Letter to the OCRFI and the OCI” ). Your document correctly notes the practical meaning of the OCl’s call to “reconstruct” with regard to its dealings with the SWP.
In any discussion on the struggle for a reforged Fourth International, central attention must be focussed on the programmatic stance that revolutionists ought to adopt with respect to significant events in the recent international class struggle. Trotsky, in his struggle to build the International Left Opposition and later the Fourth International, sought to regroup revolutionists through political- struggle and clarification centred around the evaluation of certain events. Thus at various points the attitude that would-be revolutionaries adopted to the 1925-29 Chinese revolution, the struggle against fascism in Germany and the Spanish civil war were used as test cases for sorting out and regrouping the authentic Leninist cadre. Similarly today, we would seek such axes for discussion in issues such as Chile, the national question in the Middle East, the Vietnamese revolution, the tasks of revolutionists in Portugal, and such burning issues of the class struggle as arise in particular-countries.
In our opinion your evaluation of the roots of revisionism and of your own history as a tendency emerging from the Healy group must proceed to a consideration, barely undertaken in “Fourth International — Problems and Tasks”, of the main programmatic disputes involved in the fragmentation of the IC. In particular, we note that the present document undertakes no real assessment of some of the main questions which were disputed by the IC’s main components, the SLL and the OCI — for instance the role of the Bolivian POR and the question of the 1967 Near East war. With regard to the latter, it appears that the WSL may share the “Arab Revolution” line of the Healyites and Pabloites. In any case the crucial issues of popular frontism and the national question would be proper subjects for discussion between us.
We are sending copies of the articles and documents referred to in this reply. We look forward to receiving your answer to this letter and your suggestion as to what form further discussion might take.
for the international Spartacist tendency