Second part of our reply to the WSP’s answer to our ‘Open Letter to the members of WSP’
We have given, in our first reply (https://rr4i.milharal.org/2018/10/19/reply-to-the-lies-by-wsp-leadership-to-our-open-letter/), a response to WSP’s lies and slanders against us in their answer (https://workersocialist.blogspot.com/2018/10/our-answer-to-frantic-and-spurious-open.html) to our Open Letter (https://rr4i.milharal.org/2018/10/14/open-letter-to-the-members-of-the-wsp-of-india/). Now we will move on to the more purely political aspects of the questions at hand.
On this issue, the WSP leaders say:
First part of our reply to WSP’s answer to our Open Letter to their membership
On 14 October 2018, Revolutionary Regroupment published an “Open letter to members of the Workers Socialist Party of India” https://rr4i.milharal.org/2018/10/14/open-letter-to-the-members-of-the-wsp-of-india/
One day later, the WSP posted a response on their website, entitled “Our Answer to the Frantic and Spurious ‘Open letter’ by Revolutionary Regroupment, Brazil, Addressed to WSP Members!” https://workersocialist.blogspot.com/2018/10/our-answer-to-frantic-and-spurious-open.html
The response was a flat denial of many things that Revolutionary Regroupment wrote, which are claimed to consist of lies, along with some vulgar political attacks. WSP’s leadership claimed that we never attempted to contact them and said that our open letter consisted of dishonest “trickery”. We will answer their slanderous accusations first.
Operation “Car Wash” and the bourgeois justice have no legitimacy, but we shall not forgive the Workers’ Party’s crimes against the working class!
Last January 24th, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Brazil’s President from 2003 to 2010 and the Workers Party (PT) main figure, was convicted in second instance for crimes of corruption, jeopardizing his intentions to run once more for Presidency in next October 2018 elections (being the almost certain winner according to different polls scenarios). His fate will now depend on the appeals to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Electoral Court, but, according to Brazilian laws, he can already be imprisoned under his 12 years and 1 month sentence. Continue lendo
Defend Iran! Imperialists out of the Middle East! For workers’ action against the imperialist war drive!
In the December 31st of every year, we from Revolutionary Regroupment, like to end the year with a publication to stimulate the revolutionary will of our readers. For 2017 we chose the following story by Alexandra Kollontai, written in 1922. In this short story, the Russian revolutionary tell the tale of Christmas in the world after the victory of Communism. We hope that this story may bring some hope to the times of uncertainty in which now live on, as well as to remember all fighters that the victory for all workers will still come someday.
We wish to the working class, and to all that fight for a world of social justice, a 2018 of many struggles and victories! Continue lendo
The Death of Kim Jong-Il and the Future of North Korea
Rodolfo Kaleb. Originally published in Portuguese, in February 2012. One or more excerpts were left out of the present version.
North Korea, one of the last countries in the world with a bureaucratically planned economy, has a new “Supreme Leader” to substitute Kim Jong-Il, who passed away at the end of 2011: the bureaucrat’s own son, Kim Jong-Un. This is the second transition in the leadership of the North Korean state bureaucracy that rests upon Kim’s family. The Kims and the whole layer of privileged state bureaucrats that they represent have one of the most tightly controlling regimes of the world. At the same time, the hatred of the bourgeois media against North Korea is not due to that. Capitalists – from New York to Paris, from London to Tokyo – have never refrained from giving support to many tyrannical governments, as long as they were subservient to them. Their intrinsic hate against North Korea, and their strong support to the South Korean capitalists, is explained by the class structure of that country.
US Imperialism Strikes Again
In Defense of Syria, China and North Korea! Only an international socialist revolution can guarantee peace!
Originally published in Portuguese on April 23, 2017.
On April 6, Trump ordered a missile attack against a Syrian military base. It was the first American attack against a Syrian government target, since until now the United States had been bombing only targets of the fundamentalist group Islamic State. Trump’s decision came after statements by the US intelligence service, quickly reproduced by major media outlets around the world, that Assad’s government was responsible for a chemical attack that killed about 80 people in the Idlib province – which the Syrian government denies, blaming the armed opposition instead. While it is impossible to know at the moment which statement is true, the imperialists are experts in making excuses to justify attacks and military actions against other countries – as in the case of Iraq’s nonexistent “weapons of mass destruction”.
The Response of the U.S. Left to Trump and the 2016 Election
Class Collaborationism and the Importance of Revolutionary Program
By Joseph Donnelly, March 2017.
On January 20th, Donald J. Trump was sworn in to become to the 45th President of the United States. Formally launched on June 16, 2015, Donald Trump’s campaign had been the center of many political activists’ attention who worry about what Trump’s America would look like. For many Democrats and other liberal political bodies, Donald Trump seemed to be the perfect rallying cry to their cause – if you don’t choose the liberal Democrat (like Hillary Clinton), you’re choosing Trump, or so the argument goes. Revolutionaries, like ourselves, have dealt with this “lesser evil” argument for hundreds of years. And always, we state, it is an argument for giving political support to bourgeois forces, leading to the disarming and demobilization of independent class struggles. Still, many nominally revolutionary persons and organizations give into it.
Seguindo nossa tradição, todo final de ano postamos um material histórico de estímulo à determinação e à vontade revolucionária de nossos militantes, apoiadores e simpatizantes. Esse ano escolhemos um trecho da autobiografia de Leon Trotsky (Minha Vida, 1930) no qual o revolucionário fala de seu exílio forçado, do significado histórico da Revolução Soviética e de seu destino pessoal. Acesse clicando aqui: O Planeta sem Visto – Leon Trotsky (1930).
Following our tradition, every new year’s eve we post a historical material dedicated to the revolutionary will and determination of our members, supporters and sympathizers. This year we chose an excerpt of Leon Trotsky’s autobiography (My Life, 1930) in which the revolutionary deals with his forced exile, the historical meaning of the Soviet Revolution and his personal fate. Access by clicking here: The Planet Without a Visa – Leon Trotsky (1930).
Seguiendo nuestra tradición, cada fin de año publicamos un material histórico de estímulo a la determinación y la voluntad revolucionaria de nuestros miembros, apoyadores e simpatizantes. Este año eligimos un extracto de la autobriografia de Leon Trotsky (Mi Vida, 1930), en que el revolucionario trata de su exilio forzado, del significado histórico de la Revolución Soviética y de su destino personal. Para accesar, hace clic aqui: El Planeta sin Visado – Leon Trotsky (1930).
We happily announce the publication of a new issue of our journal, Revolutionary Regroupment. Check out the contents and download the PDF or read it online:
(click on the article to read online)
- CWI/Socialist Alternative: Centrists for Bernie Sanders (2016)
- Declaration of fraternal relations between Revolutionary Regroupment and O Que Fazer? (2016)
- Two statements on Brazil:
- Two Polemics With the Trotskyist Fraction:
- Syrian Civil War, the Islamic State and the battle of Kobanî (2016)
- Israel’s War on Gaza (2014)
- Portugal: the crisis and the left (2014)
Cats do not lay eggs
By Icaro Kaleb, originally published in Portuguese in May 2016
An appeal for help translating articles: this article was translated to English by non-native speakers and we apologize for any misspelling and other errors it may contain. Revolutionary Regroupment has an internationalist perspective of growing around the globe and we want to make more of our political literature available in English and other languages. If you want to help us in this internationalist goal by translating our articles or providing support to improve our translations, please contact us at email@example.com. Thank you!
The Trotskyist Fraction (TF) is the group responsible for the online newspaper Left Voice and its international network (Red Izquierda Diario). Its main section is the Argentinian PTS. Amid the current political crisis in Brazil, its section – the MRT (Workers’ Revolutionary Movement) – has raised the slogan for an “immediate in-depth democratic response capable of really addressing the needs and wishes of the ‘low classes’, a sovereign and free Constituent Assembly”. The demand for a Constituent Assembly is often raised by the TF in various different scenarios. It was raised during Argentina’s mass uprisings in 2001; following the Honduras coup d’etat in 2009; during the Spanish indignados movement in 2011 and many other occasions.
It is based on the understanding of the need to build a revolutionary workers’ party, which currently does not exist in Brazil, that Revolutionary Regroupment and the group O Que Fazer? [“What is to be done?”] decide to establish fraternal relations in order to discuss the basis for creating a militant propaganda group that can contribute to this task.
No support to capitalist candidates, for a workers’ party in the U.S.!
By Icaro Kaleb, August 2016
An appeal for help translating articles: this article was translated to English by non-native speakers and we apologize for any misspelling and other errors it may contain. Revolutionary Regroupment has an internationalist perspective of growing around the globe and we want to make more of our political literature available in English and other languages. If you want to help us in this internationalist goal by translating our articles or providing support to improve our translations, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org Thank you!
We’ve updated the English section of our website with the following article:
Brazil: down with the coup government!
Fight Temer’s attacks, no support for the PT or its satellites!
Statement on Brazil
Fight the impeachment! Fight Dilma’s government and its austerity measures!
An appeal for help translating articles: this article was translated to English by non-native speakers and we apologize for any misspelling and other errors it may contain. Revolutionary Regroupment has an internationalist perspective of growing around the globe and we want to make more of our political literature available in English and other languages. If you want to help us in this internationalist goal by translating our articles or providing support to improve our translations, please contact us at email@example.com Thank you!
We’ve updated the English section of our website with the following articles:
On the Trotskyist Fraction’s centrist zigzags (November 2015)
The Brazilian MNN and the International Committee (April 2012)
An appeal for help translating articles: these articles were translated to English by non-native speakers and we apologize for any misspelling and other errors it may contain. Revolutionary Regroupment has an internationalist perspective of growing around the globe and we want to make more of our political literature available in English and other languages. If you want to help us in this internationalist goal by translating our articles or providing support to improve our translations, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!
Defend Syria against imperialism! For a position of class independence in the civil war!
By Icaro Kaleb
[This article was originally written between June and July 2015. Because of internal difficulties, it could not be published then and became partially outdated due to the speed of events in the Syrian civil war. Nevertheless, it still addresses a number of political issues that remain central in this complex conflict and also deals with the opportunist positions of ostensibly Trotskyist organizations. Thus, we decided to publish it in January 2016 adding some comments between brackets. Later additions and small corrections were made in August 2016.]
Over the last 4 years, the Syrian population has been engulfed in a civil war between a decades-long dictatorship, on one side, and a combination of bourgeois forces which want to form a new regime, on the other. Later, new elements were added to this already complex situation: the territorial advance of the fundamentalist organization Islamic State; the air strikes, bombings and overall imperialist intervention in the country, mainly by the United States military. We dedicate this text to deepen the debate on a few questions addressed some time ago, in our September 2012 article (The Syrian Conflict and the Tasks for Revolutionists, available in Portuguese) and update on certain aspects, taking into account these new developments.
We once again want to highlight a factor that most of the left, including many groups that claim to be Trotskyists, have left aside when dealing with the situation in Syria: the need for a position of class independence regarding the various bourgeois forces that currently struggle for power. Marxists do not buy the myth that Syria is going through a “revolution” supposedly led by “rebel” armies which fight the government, because these forces are submitted to the interests of various bourgeois fractions. The course of this civil war, though not resolved after four years, points to the need of an independent pole of the working class, opposed to both the Assad dictatorship and the reactionary forces that want to bring it down for their own reactionary interests. The same dilemma and the need for working class indenpendence is central to the political situation in Kobanî.
The character of the main contending forces in Syria
The Assad regime is a two-decade-long one-party capitalist regime, which rules over a poor nation, confined to the world imperialist order. The majority of the human rights violations that have occurred since the beginning of the civil war were committed by the Syrian government. It has Russia as its main international ally, with which it has relevant trade agreements. From the pov of the working class, however, this dictatorial regime deserves no political support.
The Syrian National Coalition (SNC) is the organized body trying to coalesce the different units of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which is a split of the Syrian armed forces. Since 2011, the FSA has gained important positions in the country, but many were lost back to Assad or taken by the Islamic State. In our 2012 article, we explained the political and military composition of the SNC/FSA: the links of its main components with the imperialists and its bourgeois program. Since then, the FSA was gradually dominated by religiously-oriented forces (mainly Sunni leaders dissatisfied with the secular aspects of Assad’s Alawite regime). The FSA also started operating in alliance with other forces, such that the “Islamic Front”, which arose in 2014.
Despite the illusions of a big part of the international left that the FSA’s struggle against Assad’s regime is part of a “Syrian revolution”, we made it clear on such article that these “rebels” are not a political force capable of (or interested in) achieving gains neither for the Syrian workers nor to the country’s oppressed national minorities.
The United States failed to achieve a lasting alliance with most of the rebels, who were not considered enough “moderate”. Washington has been more careful in choosing its allies since the disastrous experience in Libya, where many of the weapons sent to the country ended falling into the hands of anti-American extremists. Some especific FSA units, however, received significant military aid from the United States and Obama has already begun to train his own “rebel group”, which must as well be denounced as a ground troop of imperialism. As reported:
“The U.S. has decided to provide pickup trucks equipped with machine guns and radios for calling in U.S. airstrikes to some moderate Syrian rebels, defense officials said. But the scope of any bombing hasn’t been worked out – a reflection of the complexities of the battlefield in Syria.
“The plan comes as the US prepares to begin training moderate rebels, who are waging a fight on two fronts against the extremists and the Syrian regime. Defense officials said that the training will start in mid-March, in Jordan, with a second camp scheduled to open soon after in Turkey.”
— The United States will give some Syrian rebels the ability to call strikes, February 17, 2015. Available at http://tinyurl.com/kojxzx5
[January 2016: Russia’s entry into the conflict in October 2015, with air strikes and also by sending large amounts of ground forces – initially favoring Assad and later also extending logistical and military support to certain “rebel” forces against the Islamic State – complicated even more the scenario. Currently, everything points to a “solution” in a transitional government that contemplates the economic interests of both Russia and the U.S. – which, it must be said, are quite different from the interests of Syrian workers and the oppressed nationalities of the country.]
Another reactionary competitor in the Syrian civil war is the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Syria and the Levant (ISIS, over the previous name “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria”), which recently has gained strength. It was previously part of a same fundamentalist military operation with the Syrian Al-Qaeda (Al-Nusra Front). It was the Al-Nusra Front which broke relations with ISIS in early 2014, stating that they were “too intransigent”.
By then, ISIS had already taken over important areas of Iraq. Largely funded by Muslim oil barons from countries which are also supporting certain rebel groups – the so-called “Friends of Syria” (Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia) – ISIS used its links with the Syrian opposition to obtain heavy weapons and recruit fighters. It came into power in important Iraqi cities as the spearhead of a Sunni revolt against the Shi’ite-led government backed by the United States. From then on, ISIS had under its control more territories than Al-Qaeda was ever capable of. Many of the towns and villages in its power have large oil production, which ISIS exports in order to finance its expansionist effort. ISIS is at war against the Iraqi government (which is helped by the United States’ troops on the ground) and plan to build a “Caliphate” under its strict control. Around the same time, ISIS strengthened their positions in Syria and took over provinces in the deserted East of the country, as well as the entire border region between Iraq and Syria. It has fought both Assad and opposition forces, especially FSA units.
ISIS seems to be the best trained and equipped of the oppositional forces. About 8 million people live in towns under its controls in both countries and the group was able to establish a kind of “war economy”, in which the population is dependent on the extremist group for food and other necessities. That has so far secured a passive collaboration with their occupation. They have persecuted several non-Muslim minorities (and even some Muslim groups) and frequently boast about their practices of enslaving and trading women of other religions, as well as the massacre of groups of non-Muslim villagers. ISIS currently controls about a third of the Syrian territory, where the Islamic law (Sharia) was imposed.
We consider the Islamic State a form of fundamentalist reaction that seeks to eliminate even the most basic political, social and secular rights. If ISIS achieves complete victory over the Syrian territory it would mean the fall of many ethnic and religious minorities into a state of slavery or their simple execution. A revolutionary workers’ party in Syria would seek to defend the oppressed people and organize the working masses of the cities and the countryside against these vicious thugs. Their defeat is essential for workers. But our call to defeat ISIS does not change our opposition and denunciation of U.S.-led air interventions in the country, even if they are said to be aimed at eliminating ISIS.
The imperialists cannot present a serious alternative to the Syrian people, and have already perpetrated actions tens of times more violent and vicious than those of ISIS. Ultimately, ISIS growth and development itself is a byproduct of the imperialists’ disastrous occupation of Iraq, just to give an example. While the U.S. mainstream media exposes the cruelty of the Islamic State, it hides the acts of terror committed by their own allies in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Saudi Arabia, which also include many atrocities (not to mention the high number of casualties and injuries caused by death falling from the sky in the form of bombs).
We have no pity for the defeats that the imperialists may suffer in Iraq and Syria (even from the hands of the Islamic State). We do not forget the crimes committed by the imperialists in Iraq (including the deaths of about 200,000 Iraqi civilians) and consider their expulsion from the Middle East, as well as the defeat of any of their “boots on the ground”, as the main priority. But despite the fact that ISIS has been the current target of imperialist bombings, its conquest of Iraqi and Syrian cities in order to establish terror regimes is no form of “anti-imperialist struggle”, but instead reactionary actions.
Obama’s “good intentions” in bombing ISIS to supposedly save minorities in Syria are nothing but lies. The U.S. intervention has the sole purpose of ensuring its grip on the country. Anyone who has doubts about the intentions of the U.S. (and other imperialist powers) in Syria should look at the “big experiments of democracy” that Libya and Iraq have become. The American bombings are intended to gain time and contain ISIS (while at the same time it also weakens Assad’s regime), as Washington tries to better organize the forces loyal to it on the ground.
[January 2016: Currently, this paragraph appears to have become outdated due to the apparent U.S., France and Britain decision to destroy ISIS, in part as a result of pressure put on them by Russian bombings in defense of Assad and partly because of the hue and cry over the fundamentalists’ expansion. However, at the time this text was written, it appeared that the U.S. strategy revolved around “managing the situation”, it is, let ISIS weaken Assad, while trying to strengthen the positions of the “moderate” rebels loyal to them.]
Besides taking into account the imperialist threat on one hand and the Islamic State on another, one cannot forget that a proletarian revolution in Syria can only triumph over the dead body of Assad’s brutal dictatorship. The dictator and his party imposed the capitalist order for decades, with the most brutal methods. The main priority would be organizing working-class defenses, especially among the persecuted national minorities, in order to fight the various armies struggling for power, thus ensuring the creation of a working class force, politically independent from the reactionary bourgeois competitors.
[August 2016: All the main players are enemies of working class’ interests, but we recognize they do not have the same caliber. Syria is in a quagmire of intertwined confrontations and ever-changing combinations of forces in which it is not always easy to take a tactical military position at each given moment. Revolutionaries who are far from the ground face extra difficulty in following all the events. It would be counterproductive to issue a general tactical position for all the different scenarios and disputes that occur in the war. There are, however, some general political principles that Marxists should follow. The most important is that we oppose the imperialists’ intervention and their “boots on the ground” as a priority. This means we would, in principle, militarily side with Assad’s regime or rebel jihadist groups on certain occasions in which they confront imperialist forces. Second, we oppose the advances of the Islamic State and would seek to defend the working class and the national and religious minorities under its attack. Third, we’d oppose both sides in the war between Assad’s regime and the rebels that are not subordinate to the imperialist powers.]
USec and the Morenoites: class collaboration on the battlefield
The groups on the left which claim to defend the victory of a non-existent “Syrian revolution” against Assad use this excuse as a cover to support the efforts of the Free Syrian Army. The main argument is that many of the units participating in it are not subordinate to the Syrian National Coalition. Instead, the FSA is seen by them as a coalition of popular forces emerging from the streets and the protests of the Arab Spring. That is the position, for example, of the United Secretariat of the Fourth International (USec). They published on their website an interview with a member of one of these FSA groups, who claims to be a Marxist. When asked about cooperation with other units of the FSA, this fighter said:
“There is cooperation and coordination, but in a limited way, on the one hand because of divergent views and objectives, or disparities between positions due to the geographic location where comrades are fighting and the nature of other organizations. On the other hand, these organizations do not generally accept anyone else…”
–– “Our lack of weapons puts us in a position of weakness”, 18 January 2015. Available at: http://tinyurl.com/nhjea3b.
Such difficulty of coordination with other FSA units should be no surprise, since many of those are led by officials who are loyal and subordinate to the SNC and their reactionary friends. We shall not forget the various Islamic groups that are also under the FSA umbrella, not to mention those “rebel units” which received training and weapons directly from the imperialists and are their loyal allies on the ground.
The FSA is certainly a heterogeneous army. But the question that the USec’s website failed to ask these “Marxist” fighters, and that should have been the first question to be made, is: why this organization (which the USec considers to be “revolutionary Marxist”) is working side by side with those types? Since they claim to represent the Syrian working class, why don’t they, instead, organize a politically independent militia separated from the reactionary and pro-imperialist elements?
In a certain way, the dilemma of those fighters is the same dilemma of the USec and other groups which support the “rebels” against Assad. They do not want to defend an independent proletarian position, separated from the SNC and the FSA, as they only see immediate possibility of overthrowing Assad’s regime by holding hands with those bourgeois forces. They therefore abandon class independence and support the FSA, sugarcoating its nature and program, albeit criticizing its leadership.
A very similar conclusion is shared by other groups which also claim Trotskyism, as the Morenoite International Workers League (LIT-CI, led by the Brazilian PSTU) or the International Workers Unity (UIT-CI, led by the Argentinian Izquierda Socialista). See our previous polemic with the UIT in an October 2012 article available in Portuguese (Morenoism and the UIT’s Position in Syria).
Despite the existence of elements deluded by allegedly “democratic” politics in the FSA ranks, it is for most part controlled by SNC officials and other bourgeois forces. The victory of this army would result in no gain for the working class. It is as if the USec, LIT/IWL and UIT believed in some kind of magical “dynamic” that would put the working class in power, or at least in a better position, if Assad was overthrown by the SNC rebels. We have seen this movie in Libya, Ukraine and many other occasions, when such groups supported “mass movements” that had reactionary leaderships and purposes.
The Kurdish question and the battle for Kobanî
In the already complex scenario that is the Syrian civil war, things get even denser when taking into consideration the Kurdish element. Kurdistan is the largest stateless nation in the world. We’re talking about 30 million people split around Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Armenia and a small region in Northern Syria (Rojava). This is a legacy of British imperialism’s “divide and rule” politics after the fall of the Ottoman Empire.
Marxists must defend the Kurds’ national rights, including the right to self-determination, the use of their language in schools, public administration etc. and must be against any and all forms of segregation. But that does not mean that we consider a territorial separation of the Kurdish regions (or the creation of a Kurdish state) as a “solution” to the problems of the workers of that nationality. We certainly would take the Kurdish side in a war for independence or regional autonomy (including military support) if that is the expressed desire of this people.
But national separation is, for Marxists, an interest subordinated to the proletarian struggle. There are political issues of highest priority, such as the working class political independence and the defense of the oppressed nations under imperialist attack. Here is an illustrative example. In 2003, when the US attacked Iraq, the bourgeois nationalist leaders of Iraqi Kurdistan supported the imperialist invasion against the regime of Saddam Hussein, over promises of greater regional autonomy.
We would defend any autonomy obtained for the Kurdish population. But when the Peshmerga (the army of the Iraqi Kurds) was fighting under the U.S. command, it was not a force struggling for Kurdish independence against Baghdad, but an arm of the imperialist project to subjugate the entire region. Thus, we would oppose the efforts of Kurdish capitalists to support the imperialist invasion, while we would continue to defend the Kurds’ national rights.
Today, a similar situation emerges in Iraq, in face of the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State. The main Kurdish political parties in Iraq, KPD (Kurdish Democratic Party) and PUK (Kurdistan Patriotic Union), despite their alledged rivalry, are using their position at the head of the regional government in Northern Iraq to support the imperialists.
But while in Iraqi Kurdistan the scene is dominated by the imperialist stooges, in Syria the most influential political force among the Kurdish population is currently the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is the Syrian associate of the once-Maoist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which operates in Turkey. In 2012, Assad’s troops withdrew completely from the Kurdish regions, the territory known as Rojava. It is unclear whether this was due to military conditions or a demagogic attempt to gain the support of the Kurds, or a combination of both factors. Rojava has since come under control of the PYD. Through its military organization, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the PYD clashed with both the Assad regime and the bourgeois opposition on different occasions. Since the Islamic State began advancing on Northern Syria, though, the YPG has focused their efforts in defeating the fundamentalists.
ISIS operations in Syria first clashed with the Kurds in July 2014, in Kobanî – one of the three cantons under the PYD government, near the border with Turkey. This drew worldwide attention and the Kurdish resistance has won wide sympathy, getting known as the “revolutionaries fighting the Islamic State”. ISIS was finally defeated in the region in early 2015, through a combination of the relentless struggle of the Kurds (who have always been in technical inferiority) and imperialist bombings against ISIS in the region. Kobanî was besieged for months, during which many groups on the left (especially some anarchists) spoke of a “revolutionary character” of the Kurdish resistance.
The PYD is a party founded in 2003 by PKK sympathizers in Syria. It was considered by the Syrian government as a factor of instability, due to its popular support and underground operations in the Kurdish regions. Its main source of ideological orientation is the PKK, which was established in 1978 as a Maoist group dedicated to armed resistance against the oppression of the Kurdish population in Turkey, and has a long history of resistance against the Turkish government.
But it seems that the PKK is no longer an adherent of Maoism and its Stalinist practice of persecution against internal oppositionists and a program of “people’s war” that wobbles between a bourgeois democratic program of “New Democracy” and the prospect of reproducing a bureaucratic state-economy regime like Mao’s China. According to many reports, since the arrest of Abdullah Ocalan (its historical leader) in 1999, the PKK has undergone a programmatic transformation towards what is described by Ocalan himself as “democratic confederalism” – which is inspired by libertarian authors and seeks to build stateless “popular self-governments” in small scale.
The PKK is still considered by NATO and the Turkish government as a “terrorist organization”, and Marxists around the world have the imperative duty to defend the group against all attacks from Erdogan’s brutal regime. Except for a few brief periods of truce (the latter of which dates from 2013), the PKK has continuously fought against the Turkish regime for autonomy for the Kurdish regions. But while it is hard to precisely say how consolidated is this programmatic shift (the PKK continues to be an underground organization), its seems to have definitely changed the group’s outlook.
Trotskyists believe that workers and peasants need a form of political power based on their own organizations in order to crush the bourgeoisie’s military, political and economic domination and prevent the capitalists’ attempts to return to power after a victorious uprising. This authentic “workers government” should cover the whole territory and be based on representatives democratically elected by the workers and peasants (and removable by the same assemblies that elected them). This is the only formula able to balance the local nature of direct democratic management with large-scale working class’ interests in all areas.
Last but not least, such government should give internationalist material and political aid to workers fighting in other countries to defeat “their” own bourgeoisie. Socialism cannot be achieved on a national scale and, ultimately, no workers government can survive isolated in a world dominated by imperialism. The political program of the PKK/PYD seems to ignore the necessity of building this “proletarian dictatorship” based on a collectivized economy and workers centralized military power.
As mentioned, the PYD has control of the Rojava region. In early 2014 it adopted a “Charter of Rojava’s Social Contract, and this constitutional document makes no mention of socialism, collective control of the means of production or workers’ democracy. Instead, it is a confusing combination of community participation and private property maintenance. Article 41 provides that “Everyone has the right to own property and personal ownership is guaranteed,” while Article 42 says that the economic system aims to “ensure participatory economy while promoting competition in accordance with the principle of democratic management ‘To each according to one’s work’.”
[January 2016: Following the defeat of ISIS, the PYD consolidated its power in a region where all bourgeois parties and governments were defeated or withdrew. The PYD is not a bourgeois party, but an organization based on the mobilization of workers and peasants of that region. The conditions are the most favorable for the establishment of a proletarian government, with workers and peasants’ democratic control over the means of production, the political system and the army. However, the PYD has no clarity about the nature of the regime it wants to build. Despite the PYD’s democratic preaching, the maintenance of capitalist property puts clear limits for further development, due to social inequality and lack of workers’ direct democracy. Given what has happened until now, it seems that the PYD will not break from the bourgeoisie in a definite way. Its ranks, as well as other workers and peasants fighters of the Rojava region, should strive for a revolutionary leadership and reject the PYD’s current vacillations and illusions of a “third way” between capitalism and workers’ power.]
During and after the battle against the Islamic State in Kobanî, the PYD also spread dangerous illusions in the Peshmerga units of the Kurdish regional government in Iraq (from which it received weapons) and in the U.S. air intervention. It released a public statement “thanking” them for their fight against ISIS, during which the PYD gave military tactical advice to the U.S. (like where to bomb). A PYD leader, Saleh Muslim, expressed this attitude in various statements to the press:
“According to Muslim, the international coalition ‘has saved the lives of many civilians’ in its war against IS. […] He also thanked the international coalition led by the U.S. for supporting the Kurds in their misery and for helping the YPG forces to resist the IS radical group: ‘Such operations reinforce the relationship between Kurds and states that defend democracy and peace’, Muslim concluded.”
–– Syrian Kurds urge U.S.-led coalition to intensify anti-IS strikes in Kobanî, October 13, 2014. Available in: http://tinyurl.com/pkzaufb.
We believe that Marxists should have defended Kobanî against the advance of ISIS’s fundamentalist reactionaries. What Rojava’s workers and activists with revolutionary intentions urgently need, though, is a political orientation that their current leaders cannot offer. It is necessary to prevent the development of expectations and illusions in the character of the bourgeois government of Iraqi Kurdistan and the imperialist bombings.
The U.S. intended to contain ISIS’s advance in Kobanî for their own reactionary purposes, and not “help” the Kurdish people. The U.S. government is definetely not among the advocates of “democracy and peace” in the world. It should not be forgotten that Washington is a great ally of the Turkish regime of Erdogan, which did everything to prevent the PYD from receiving any help from the PKK bases in Turkey. We do not condemn the PYD for getting arms from any source that was offering them (provided that it did not mean making political concessions). And it certainly had the right to tactically benefit from the fact that ISIS was being targeted by the imperialists, provided it had clarity about the nature of the bombings.
[August 2016: Since January 2016, when we originally published this article, this course of the PYD has deepened. In the beginning of the year it cooperated with U.S. air forces with the aim of expanding into the non-Kurdish Raqqa region, one of ISIS’ main strongholds. Now it is cooperating with Assad in the siege of Aleppo and with imperialist forces in Manbiji, cities which are being completely destroyed, with high number of civil casualties. Besides that, in order to push ISIS away from Rojava, the PYD joined forces with several other parties and organizations when they formed the “Democratic Syrian Forces”, a military coalition in which the YPG was the main unit, as well as the “Syrian Democratic Council”, an entity that claims to be for a “federated, democratic and secular Syria” – a clearly class collaborationist move. If it wasn’t for the imperialists’ distrust in the PYD, the DSF/SDC would probably be a very suitable ally for them on the ground.]
Spartacist League: sectarianism on Kobanî
Pointing to the opportunistic positions of the PYD leadership, some groups on the left took the side of the Islamic State in Kobanî (!). This is the case of the degenerated sect (barely) disguised as Trotskyist organization that is the Spartacist League (SL) of the United States and its International Communist League (ICL). They explained their reasons for such an absurd position as follows:
“[…] Iraqi government forces and Kurdish peshmerga in Iraq are again conducting joint military operations with the U.S., as they did for years under the occupation. More recently, Syrian Kurdish nationalists have also sealed a treacherous alliance with the U.S. in the battle over Kobani in northern Syria, acting as the imperialists’ bomb spotters and otherwise coordinating military movements. The fact that all these forces are ‘boots on the ground’ for imperialist intervention means that revolutionary Marxists have a military side with ISIS when it targets the imperialists and their proxies, including the Syrian Kurdish nationalists, the pesh merga, the Baghdad government and its Shi’ite militias.”
–– Down With U.S. War Against ISIS!, October 31, 2014. Available in: http://www.icl-fi.org/english/wv/1055/isis.html.
In its drive to conquer Kobanî, the Islamic State was not fighting an imperialist stronghold, since there were no U.S. troops on the ground, but to expand its power in the Kurdish areas. The YPG was the only force fighting the fundamentalists with weapons in their hands in Kobanî and, despite the vacillating position of its leadership, it could not be seriously considered as a U.S. “proxy”. The YPG resisted the siege of ISIS in Kobanî for several months even before the imperialists got involved.
Revolutionaries must criticize the illusions propagated by the PYD and its “thank you” full of illusions to the international imperialist coalition. But what was central to determine which side to take on Kobanî was whether these positions and the military tactical collaboration with the imperialists made the PYD a force subordinated to the United States in their efforts to subjugate Syria.
We believe that the U.S. military took advantage of the conflict in Kobanî to bomb and weaken ISIS. But it could not use the PYD, which it still considers a terrorist organization, as a tool to control Northern Syria. After the battle, the U.S. was not able to have any real control over Rojava. The PYD was benefiting from the imperialist bombardments, but was not integrated and subordinated to the military efforts of the imperialists in the region.
[August 2016: reinforcing that statement, at the recent third round of peace meetings sponsored by imperialists in Geneva, no PYD-Rojava representative was invited, due to the U.S. distrust in them, what led the Syrian Democratic Council representatives to withdraw the invitations they received.]
Therefore, the battle for Kobanî did not consist of U.S. agents fighting the Islamic State (as the Spartacist League pictures it), but of a Kurdish resistance force fighting the fundamentalist reactionaries, coordinated with (but not subordinated to) U.S. bombarments. In such a struggle, revolutionaries had a side: with the PYD/YPG against ISIS, while at the same time it was important to warn the Syrian and Kurdish workers and activists not to consider, even momentarily, that the U.S. or the Peshmerga could be their “allies”.
What this position demonstrates is that the Spartacist League has completely lost its sense of proportion (if it had any to begin with). The victory of the YPG in Rojava is not the same as the victory of the rebels in Libya in 2011. It was not a coup d’etat and military revolt orchestrated and coordinated by the imperialists to put a puppet regime in power. The result was the maintenance of a Kurdish party with plebeian roots, which had risen to power as a result of the complex civil war dynamics. The victorious resistance against ISIS was an important move to prevent the advance of fundamentalist reaction.
For proletarian defenses in the midst of the civil war and a workers‘ revolutionary party!
In face of the religious sectarianism present in the ongoing civil wars in Iraq and Syria (involving Sunni / Shiite rivalry) and the bloodshed on both sides, there is room for the emergence of a non-sectarian resistance of the working class against these crimes. If accompanied by the revolutionary impulse to expel the imperialists from Middle East, prevent the victory of the fundamentalist reaction and defend the Kurds and other ethnic minorities, this position has the potential to develop rapidly among workers who see no alternative among the current forces competing for power.
Currently there is no mass party of the working class in Syria (not even a reformist one), due to Assad’s regime decade-long oppression. The only legalized union federation is entirely subject to the state structure and controlled by the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party (the regime party). A position contrasting with those currently expressed in the civil war would immediately gain sympathy from the working class, even if initially represented only by a small group of politically solid and dedicated cadres. On the other hand, embellishing any of the major forces in this dispute can only lead to opportunist disaster.
Workers’ internationalist solidarity actions are a touchstone of Trotskyism and would be essential to prepare the Syrian, Iraqi, Turkish and Kurdish workers and peasants against “their” respective ruling classes and the vicious imperialist machinations. The only way to ensure long-term peace in the region is through victorious socialist revolutions that end with the reactionary capitalist competitors, clan rivalries and their constant dependence on treacherous alliances with the imperialists. The positive result would be the creation of a socialist federation of the Middle East.
Therefore, the construction of a revolutionary workers party in Syria is an urgent matter. With a full socialist program of workers’ control of major industries and agrarian revolution, a Trotskyist organization in Syria would also defend a set of democratic demands against the regime and its reactionary adversaries. This would demonstrate the uncompromising desire of revolutionaries to build a proletarian democracy, as opposed to the false promises of the “democratic” imperialists.
An appeal for help translating articles: this article was translated to English by non-native speakers and we apologize for any misspelling and other errors it may contain. Revolutionary Regroupment has an internationalist perspective of growing around the globe and we want to make more of our political literature available in English and other languages. If you want to help us in this internationalist goal by translating our articles or providing support to improve our translations, please contact us at email@example.com. Thank you!
On the Trotskyist Fraction’s centrist zigzags
By Rodolfo Kaleb
About two years ago we published a lengthy polemical article directed to the Trotskyist Fraction (Fracción Trotskista) , which is the international organization of the Argentinian PTS (Partido de los Trabajadores Socialistas). The polemic was about the task of building a revolutionary party and what we consider the Trotskyist Fraction’s centrist strategy on this issue: they try to approach opportunist groups of the “family of Trotskyism” with the aim of mixing with them inside common political blocs. This position is revealed by the TF’s constant appeals for programmatic unity addressed to various revisionist groups. On these occasions, the TF usually ignores or minimizes the many times the opportunist currents they are wooing rejected major Marxist principles such as class independence.
The Argentinian “Workers Left Front” (FIT)
As we discussed in that piece, the Argentinian Frente de Izquierda y de los Trabajadores (FIT – Workers Left Front) has been the main arena in which the PTS has tried to implement this position in recent years. The FIT is an electoral coalition among the PTS and two other organizations that claim the Trotskyist heritage – the Partido Obrero (PO) of Jorge Altamira and the Izquierda Socialista (IS – Argentinian section of the Morenoite Unidad Internacional de los Trabajadores).
The FIT is not a bloc of class collaboration, meaning it is not what Trotskyists usually call a “popular front” with bourgeois parties. Therefore, in certain cases, a critical electoral support to the FIT candidates would be a principled tactic. However, the FIT is not just a tactical electoral bloc with the purpose of allowing working class groups to participate in the bourgeois elections of Argentina. For us, it is clear that the PTS regards the FIT as a trampoline to build political unity with the other left groups in it, especially the Partido Obrero. On certain occasions, the TF recognizes this, but on others they deny it. The PTS is always putting pressure on the other groups to maintain their unity beyond the electoral period, it is, to form a permanent bloc. In that sense, the TF has repeatedly said that the FIT is a “revolutionary front” and an embryo to a revolutionary party.
Since we wrote our article, we’ve had many conversations with Trotskyist Fraction militants in Brazil about this topic. One of the answers we heard was that the intention of the PTS was not to merge with the opportunist groups, but that the FIT was simply a “united front”, a collaboration for practical purposes, especially to allow the groups to participate in the bourgeois elections under Argentina’s restrict electoral law. The same opinion was broadcast by the German section of the Trotskyist Fraction (RIO – Revolutionary Internationalist Organization):
“Another important issue for the formation of the FIT is the question of electoral fronts as a temporary united front based on partial agreements in a concrete situation, as opposed to long-term projects that are based on more profound agreements in terms of program, strategy and practice. The FIT is by no means a project that has been designed in terms of a long-term alignment of the PTS with the PO, but on the concrete necessity of a united workers’ front against bourgeois repression.” (our emphasis)
The electoral campaign of the FIT in Argentina. July 27th, 2011
However the PTS itself is now clearly denying that the FIT is a “united front”. As the FIT has recently undergone a harsh dispute involving the formation of the slate for presidential elections, the PTS wrote several articles to answer the PO’s leader assertion that the bloc was only a “united front”:
“The FIT is a bloc of agitation among three parties that claim to be Trotskyists and defend a program of transitional demands, class independence and a workers’ government. This is not a ‘united front’, but a regroupment of left formations which claim to be revolutionary and are not yet big parties; and their objective is to agitate a common revolutionary program in electoral processes. The program of the FIT, more than the program of a ‘united front’, opens the way for debating the necessity of a revolutionary party, a proposal we have raised in many opportunities and which our allies have, unfortunately, systematically denied.” (our emphasis).
The Partido Obrero at the Luna Park and Jorge Altamira’s speech. November 9, 2014. http://www.laizquierdadiario.com/El-Partido-Obrero-en-el-Luna-Park-y-el-discurso-de-Jorge-Altamira (Spanish)
This statement, among many others put out by the PTS leadership, confirms what we have written (and what some Trotskyist Faction militants and even their German section failed to recognize). It is, that the PTS goal inside the FIT is to seek programmatic unity with blatantly opportunist parties.
Another (verbal) answer we frequently got was the recognition that “yes, the Trotskyist Fraction does issue calls for programmatic unity with opportunist groups” (what is evident just by reading the quote above). But, continues the answer, this would be just a “tactic” designed for the rank and file of these opportunist groups. The goal would be to show them that the PTS is not running away from the debate, that it’s not a sectarian group. If this were true, it would imply the TF does not actually intend to have unity with the revisionists, but that the TF only “says so” as a way of winning over the opportunists’ ranks.
We have a serious problem with this “explanation”. First of all, because it is dishonest. The Trotskyist Fraction’s supposed “tactic” – if it indeed is all that is – would consist of telling one thing to these ranks (that they desire unity with them) while actually having other intentions. Besides, if this is the truth, that would be a crappy “tactic” for the purpose of convincing these militants to join the TF. The TF often makes sharp correct criticisms of the PO and the Morenoites. However, these criticisms lose much of their value when, every now and then, the TF says that these opportunist groups “defend a program of transitional demands, class independence and a workers’ government” (as they supposedly do within the FIT).
It’s inevitable that most dedicated militants will remain in their current centrist organizations even if s/he concedes the existence of some errors, if these errors are considered somehow correctable in the long run. To win over the members of an opportunist group it is necessary to clearly expose their leaderships’ revisionist method. Revolutionaries must patiently explain to the ranks of these currents how the politics of their leaders can only lead the proletariat into defeats. Instead, the TF chooses to make these appeals for discussions and unity to the opportunists. As Trotsky wrote: “If a text book on physics contained only two lines on God as the first cause it would be my right to conclude the author is an obscurantist.” What are the Trotskyist Fraction’s many correct criticisms worth of when (in way more than two lines) they consider the opportunists capable of defending a “common revolutionary program” with the PTS?
How many times have these very same groups crossed class independence? Let’s not forget the various occasions in which the PO supported bourgeois platforms in the elections, the most noteworthy being their vote for Evo Morales’ 2006 campaign in Bolivia . Or the time the Morenoites of Izquierda Socialista hailed NATO’s takeover of Libya in 2011 as a popular victory against dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi . In 2012, the PO raised the perspective of a “left government” (led by SYRIZA) to rule over the bourgeois state in Greece and insisted this could be a solution to the political and economic crisis of this country . The Morenoites, on their part, claimed the military coup against the Egyptian government in 2013 was a “victorious democratic revolution” . The Trotskyist Fraction knows better, since they have criticized all these opportunist positions. So we can safely say that the TF’s statement that the PO and the IS (along with the PTS) defend “class independence” and “a workers government” is a centrist capitulation. It is centrist precisely because while on some occasions the opportunist groups are correctly criticized, these criticisms are intertwined with the TF’s occasional appeals for unity and the claim they raise a “revolutionary program”.
These appeals are not limited to an Argentinian context, but rather consist of the entire international perspective of the Trotskyist Fraction. See, for instance, the campaign initiated by the TF a couple of years ago “For a Movement for a Revolutionary Socialist International” (which seems to have been silently put aside). This campaign issued a Manifesto calling for the “regroupment” of a myriad of groups and tendencies around positions on the situation in Greece and the Arab Spring:
“We are making this proposal especially to the comrades of the New Anti-capitalist Party (NPA) of France, both to those who, with us, make up Platform Z, and to those who are grouped together in Platform Y, who see that it is necessary to confront the policy of the majority leadership of the NPA… and to the comrades of the United Secretariat from other countries who are confronting the majority’s orientation of reproducing this type of bloc with reformists, and those who are resisting the line of subordination to SYRIZA in Greece; to the leaders and workers who constitute the left wing of the miners of Huanuni in Bolivia …; to the comrades of the Partido Obrero of Argentina and to the Coordinating Committee for the Re-foundation of the Fourth International, with whom we make up, in Argentina, the Front of the Left and the Workers, and with whom we have agreed on different actions in the national and international class struggle; and to all those organizations of the revolutionary Left, or of the workers’ and young people’s vanguard, that seek a road towards the revolution.”
For a Movement for a Revolutionary Socialist International – The Fourth International. August 20, 2013.
It is clear that the groups and tendencies included in this appeal have political differences with the TF not only on the Arab Spring and on Greece but on many other questions as well. Some TF leaders think these appeals are some sort of “maneuver” while many ranks prefer to ignore the existence of such statements or buy the idea that they consist of “tactics” to win over the ranks of the opportunist organizations. Whatever is the reason for the appeals (if not itself the result of centrist confusion), they are a capitulation and a compromise with centrism that deeply undermines any serious attempt to defeat opportunism in the workers’ movement.
First the Brazilian PSTU, now the Partido Obrero…
Today the PTS is wooing and raising appeals for unity with the Partido Obrero of Argentina and the other groups in the FIT, which are considered to have a “common revolutionary program”. But until a few years ago, the Trotskyist Fraction had its attention devoted to the Brazilian Morenoites of the PSTU (Partido Socialista dos Trabalhadores Unificado). In 2006, for example, the TF published an “open letter the PSTU and the LIT” (LIT/IWL is the PSTU’s international organization). They wrote:
“Our current, just like the LIT, has correctly criticized the turn to the right of most international groups that claim Trotskyism, a phenomenon you call ‘opportunist rendezvous’… Recently, the PO took steps in the same direction and voted for Evo Morales’ popular front in Bolivia, and later for Romano Prodi in Italy. We consider that, just like us, the comrades of the PSTU and the LIT had the merit of not committing any of these capitulations mentioned and it is based on these political agreements that we propose to open a national and international discussion.”
Open letter to the militants of the PSTU and the LIT. May 5, 2006.
First of all, in 2013 the TF had apparently “forgotten” about these opportunist positions of the PO, since they then claimed to “have agreed” with them on “different actions in the national and international class struggle”. By the same token, in 2006 the TF had “forgotten” all the opportunist history of the Morenoites, including their support to “popular fronts” with the bourgeoisie, like the ones built around the Brazilian Workers Party, which the PSTU had voted for just a few years before .
The TF’s intentions “to open a national and international discussion” with the Morenoites was apparently frustrated by the PSTU’s own turn to the right in recent years, which involved their support to the overthrow of governments by right-wing sectors of the bourgeoisie as supposed “successful democratic revolutions”, including even processes led by the imperialist powers (Libya, Ukraine, twice in Egypt). If revolutionaries are supposed to be the “political memory” of the workers and warn them about treacherous reformist and opportunist leaders, in this case the TF couldn’t remember (or, what is even worse, pretended not to remember) their own writings.
All the attempts by the Trotskyist Fraction to justify their capitulation involve the idea that they’re actively struggling to build a mass revolutionary party as quickly as possible. All those who make criticisms to them on this issue are labeled “sectarians” who are not actively pursuing other left groups and will never build a party.
It is certainly important for revolutionaries to look for opportunities of fusion with other left-wing organizations. But there are some considerations to be made. In any attempt of fusion, there must be no “amnesty” towards the “weak spots” or centrist policies of the other groups, specially when they continue to apply the same politics as before. The history of the construction of the Fourth International gives us numerous examples of how to engage with young centrist organizations and win over their ranks (in some cases, the entire organizations) to a revolutionary perspective. To succeed in this, however, there must be no concessions of program, no illusions that any of these centrists can play a progressive role without a critical account and break from their previous politics. There is not even a whim of that from the groups to which the Trotskyist Fraction issue their appeals. Both the Brazilian PSTU and the Argentinian PO, for example, are consolidated centrist organizations, with decades of treacherous positions and methods. It is highly unlikely, to say the minimum, that these groups could be won as a whole to genuine Trotskyism. Even if this was possible, it certainly would not happen through the Trotskyist Fraction’s diplomatic approach of not mentioning shameful past positions of these groups when they issue their “open letters”. Their opportunism cannot be put under a rug. Debating it as much as possible is the only way to build a revolutionary party.
Just like most centrists wobble between an ostensibly revolutionary position and an openly opportunist one, so does the Trotskyist Fraction on regard to their position towards the revisionist groups of Trotskyism. Sometimes clear criticisms, sometimes a capitulation followed by a desire of unity. But the Fourth International won’t be rebuilt by “maneuvers” of any kind. Only a sharp and consistent criticism of opportunism can lead us to the rebirth of the world party of socialist revolution. As Trotsky once wrote about centrism:
“… The new International cannot form itself in any other way than that of struggle against centrism. Ideological intransigence and flexible united front policy are, in these conditions, two weapons for attaining one and the same end.
“The centrist, never sure of his position and his methods, regards with detestation the revolutionary principle: State that which is; it inclines to substituting, in the place of political principles, personal combinations and petty organizational diplomacy.
“The centrist always remains in spiritual dependence upon right groupings, is induced to court the goodwill of the most moderate, to keep silent about their opportunist faults and to regild their actions before the workers.
“… It is precisely on this plane that one must now deliver the principle blows at centrism. For carrying out this work with success it is essential to have one’s hands free, that means not only maintaining complete organic independence, but also critical intransigence concerning the most ‘left’ of the ramifications of centrism.”
Two Articles on Centrism, 1934.
 Fração Trotskista e sua ruptura incompleta com o morenismo (May 2013).
 Read our critique of this position in PCO, Partido Obrero e as frentes populares (February 2013).
 Check La revolución árabe y el final de Kadafi, available in Spanish at: http://www.uit-ci.org/index.php/noticias-y-documentos/revolucion-arabe/43-la-revolucion-arabe-y-el-final-de-kadafi- To read a critique by Revolutionary Regroupment of a similar position taken by the PSTU/IWL, see: PSTU, Fração Trotskista e a defesa da Líbia contra o imperialismo (November 2011).
 Check La pulseada entre el FMI y Syriza, available in Spanish at http://www.po.org.ar/prensaObrera/1224/internacionales/la-pulseada-entre-el-fmi-y-syriza To read the critique published by the PTS, see: Los revolucionarios y la cuestión del “gobierno de izquierda”. Available in Spanish at: http://www.pts.org.ar/Los-revolucionarios-y-la-cuestion-del-gobierno-de-izquierda
 Check Egipto: la movilización revolucionaria derribó a Mursi!, available in Spanish at http://www.izquierdasocialista.org.ar/index.php/noticias/internacionales/112-egipto-la-movilizacion-revolucionaria-derribo-a-mursi To read a critique by Revolutionary Regroupment of a similar position taken by the PSTU/IWL, see: O golpe militar no Egito e a posição escandalosa do PSTU/LIT (October 2013).
 Check their statement at the time: PSTU chama voto em Lula (2002), available in Portuguese at http://www.pstu.org.br/node/3435 To read a critique by Revolutionary Regroupment of the Morenoites’ practice of supporting popular fronts, see: A Frente de Belém na lógica do morenismo (August 2012).
We inform our readers that we have broken relations with Sam Trachtenberg. He was expelled from Revolutionary Regroupment (by unanimous vote of the other members) for disrespecting internal democracy. In an authoritarian fashion, he sneakily changed the group’s website and email passwords to prevent other members from using it, especially posting our articles.
This happened amid an internal dispute in which Trachtenberg nastily tried to assert control over the rest of the group by demanding it not published articles without HIS previous approval. He was not able to participate in the editing process due to a difficult personal and health situation. According to him, Revolutionary Regroupment should therefore hold from publishing articles that had been written for several months (even if it meant such articles became outdated and opportunities of intervention were lost) because HE could not participate in editing (a process in which we have always sought to democratically include all comrades within a reasonable time schedule).
After he realized he was isolated in his position that his personal contribution was so critical that the group couldn’t survive without it, he started launching attacks against the other members. While refusing to hold a meeting in which he would be in minority, Trachtenberg threw several slanders against RR members, including that we have “tortured” him – supposedly via email, since there has been no personal or even phone communication in this period. It’s unnecessary to say this is a lie (among many he has fabricated).
We notify the public that the website “Regroupment.org”, the email “Revolutionary_Regroupment@yahoo.com” and the New York PO box no longer represent and/or speak on behalf of our organization – only of Sam Trachtenberg. We will write an elaborate explanation and description of what happened in the future, as well as answer any slanders Trachtenberg may raise against our organization.
Defend the Palestinians! No Confidence in Hamas and Fatah!
Israel’s War on Gaza
Over the past few weeks Israel’s one-sided war against the Palestinian population of the Gaza Strip has, with a combination of bombings and ground troops, led to the deaths of nearly 2000 Palestinians, many of them children. Solidarity protests in the West Bank have also faced repression. It is in the class interests of the international proletariat to put a stop to this latest round of capitalist barbarism. With the full backing of the Obama administration and an implicit green light from the United Nations, the Israeli state has continued its murderous attack against a helpless population.
Despite some historical differences separating them, both Hamas and Fatah, the two political forces currently wielding mass influence amongst Palestinians, represent bourgeois class interests rather than the genuine interests of the oppressed Palestinian masses. Their class position means that in addition to opposing emancipation from capitalism and all the forms of oppression it engenders, they are simultaneously also able to betray the struggle for Palestinian national rights which they claim to represent.
Founded in 1964 as a group employing guerilla tactics with the aim of re-establishing a Palestinian state based on pre-1948 borders, already by the 1970’s the PLO, under Fatah’s and Yasser Arafat’s leadership, had retreated to accepting a “mini-state” based on the West Bank and Gaza, which, logistically, could only leave the populations there militarily surrounded by and at the total mercy of the racist Zionist state. Due to Israeli belligerence, Hamas is currently forced into taking a more militant posture. But its reactionary Islamic fundamentalist politics, which includes opposition to secular democratic rights as well as the rights of women and LGBT, means it too is opposed to the interests of the Palestinian masses.
Along with being incapable of appealing to the class interests of Israeli Jewish workers to abandon Zionism and come to the defense of their Palestinian brothers and sisters, whose combined strength would be capable of ending this massacre, both groups are also politically dedicated to running a capitalist society under any state they rule. Neither deserves the political support of Palestinians fighting to end their oppression.
Palestinians can therefore only achieve victory with a political program aimed at overthrowing capitalism, rather than under the leadership of forces devoted to bourgeois nationalism or religious fundamentalism. However we are not neutral when these forces are resisting the murderous Zionist attacks against the Palestinian population, we are formilitarily siding with them against the Israeli state. But unlike many leftist groups with deep illusions in Hamas and Arab Nationalism, we do not extend them any political support.
Along with the tasks posed before revolutionaries in the Palestinian region, it is also crucial to win international solidarity. In an increasingly globalized economy, strikes and other class struggle actions by workers in other countries can deliver major blows to the Israeli bourgeoisie and its imperialist supporters, strengthening the Palestinians ability to resist.
It is Necessary to Win Solidarity from Israeli Workers!
A common mistake by many groups on the left (beyond capitulating politically to Hamas), is to either ignore or deny the necessity of organizing the Hebrew speaking Israeli workers in a common struggle for socialist revolution in the region. The claim that the entire Israeli Jewish population is one big “imperialist military enclave” or “occupying force” ignores the complex situation of the interpenetration of two peoples in the same territory and the fact that Israel is a class divided society, whose bourgeois state does not represent the interests of the Israeli Jewish working class.
Also, at this point in history, it is simply no longer possible to view Israelis as nothing more than colonial settlers. Willy-nilly, they have over time developed in the region as a Hebrew speaking nation. Israeli Jewish workers can be convinced to unite with Palestinians because it is ultimately in their class interests to do so. Denying them their national rights can only throw them back into the hands of the Zionists.
In the recent weeks of the attacks, many thousands of Israelis have resisted the military draft in opposition to the Israeli states murders in Gaza, at the same time as mass protests have occurred in cities such as Tel-Aviv. These are demonstrations of the potential of the Jewish proletariat, under the leadership of a revolutionary vanguard party, to defend the Palestinians national rights and defeat the Zionist state from within.
Build a Bi-national Revolutionary Party! For a Socialist Federation of the Middle East!
Many groups on the left call for a “secular democratic and sovereign Palestine”, without mention of such a state’s class character. In practice this can only lead to subordinating working class political independence towards the goal of the construction of a bourgeois state in the territory. As proletarian internationalists, we are for building a bi-national revolutionary party composed of Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jewish workers (as well as other ethnic and religious groups living in the area) which expropriates the bourgeoisie in the region, making possible a fraternal co-existence between the two peoples where no one oppresses the other.
As the Palestinians, by themselves, cannot overthrow the Zionist state, being able to win the Israeli Jewish workers to an internationalist perspective is not an option but a necessity. An important measure to allow this union and help overcome the deep fears and suspicions systematically instilled in both groups over all these years would be the recognition of the right to self-determination for both groups within democratically redrawn boundaries, if that should be desired. At the same time that a revolutionary party would defend such a measure if it is necessary to move forward, it itself would advocate and struggle to build a single bi-national workers state, within whose framework the two people can build a socialist society together, free of both class and national inequalities.
An eyewitness report
Portugal: the crisis and the left
Marcio Torres, September 2014.
An appeal for help translating articles: this article was translated to English by non-native speakers and we apologize for any misspelling and other errors it may contain. Revolutionary Regroupment has an internationalist perspective of growing around the globe and we want to make more of our political literature available in English and other languages. If you want to help us in this internationalist goal by translating our articles or providing support to improve our translations, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org Thank you!
Introduction: one of our members visited Portugal in September 2014 and wrote an internal report about the crisis in the country and also the Portuguese left. We decided to publish a slightly edited version adapted to the public.
Portugal was one of the European countries that was most affected by the first years of the world’s capitalist crisis. At first, the Portuguese government, which is led by a coalition of the [bourgeois parties] PSD [Social Democratic Party] and CDS-PP [Popular Party] spent almost all of the country’s savings to bail out the big private banks, creating an enormous debt. The bourgeois state gave the money extracted mainly from the working class families to bank owners. Now, while the bourgeoisie is doing better, the workers are facing several attacks on their living standards, as the government tries to solve its debt by cutting the budget on public services like education and health care, laying-off public workers, changing the rules of Social Security to reduce payments and require more working time before retirement etc. All this is known as “austerity package” and is imposed by the so-called “Troika” (the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund). To sum-up, the Portuguese masses are going through the second stage of the capitalists’ plan to deal with the “socialization” of the crisis. Some big capitalists were saved by the state and then used this money to buy the assets of capitalists who weren’t bailed out and went bankrupt, increasing the concentration of capital that had led to the crisis in the first place.
One of the most serious consequences of the crisis on workers’ lives is the insufficiency of their salary. With a 585 Euros national minimum wage (on which 15.2% of the population depend, according to a recent document from the Economy Ministry), the Portuguese have to face high prices for manufactured goods (most of them imported from large imperialist centers) and even food. In Lisbon, for example, it is hard to find a good meal for less than 5 Euros, which makes really prohibitive for the average worker to eat outside home, since in a month it would cost more than half the minimum wage (280 Euros). This obviously leads to an intensification of the domestic slavery which women are submitted to.
Other consequences of the crisis are easily noticeable by taking a look at any newspaper. With the beginning of the school year, the main topic on the news for the last weeks has been the crisis of the educational system. The September 9 issue of Metro announced a huge mass migration from private schools to the public ones, due the impossible situation faced by many parents and which makes it difficult to pay for the high tuition. Although the government officers claim the existence of a comfortable 10 students per teacher ratio in public schools, the national teacher’s union claims that this is false data and that teachers in public schools are facing an overload of work (compared to the previous standards), aggravated by the fact that teachers have to do many bureaucratic tasks that take a great part of their time.
Obviously, the deterioration of working conditions is not affecting only teachers and education workers. To raise one more example, many private companies have been assigning young trainees to do the job of a regular worker – which is very profitable for the bosses, since the trainees’ scholarships are paid by the state and that the former have not even the most basic labor rights. If they protest, they will obviously lose their jobs, which is a fearsome scenario for a youth which has been defining itself as the “precariada” [precarious]. This word became popular in the several struggles of the unemployed that sprouted during the last few years.
Another hot topic during the first weeks of September was the situation of the “New Bank”. It was created as a state-owned company after one of the biggest Portuguese financial groups, the “Grupo Espírito Santo”, and its bank went bankrupt and its main assets were bought by the state. After using public funds to save the owners of the Grupo Espírito Santo, the government is now talking about privatizing the New Bank. This means that, after the government spent a huge sum of money to clean up the mess of the profit-hunger CEO’s and increased the public debt by doing so, the bank will be put again in the hands of those parasites – and will most probably be sold at a very a low price.
All these issues have been going on since 2009. The recent political upheavals that took place in Portugal as a protest to this situation, with massive street demos and several general strikes, still echoes in the streets of Lisbon. One can easily see stencils of radical slogans throughout the city, as well as big placards of different left groups, which call a lot of attention on the urban landscape.
The once Stalinist and now simply reformist Portuguese CP (PCP) recently ink-sprayed the entrance of the subway stations, demanding an “End with the massacre in Palestine”. Many of their placards can also be seen in different neighborhoods, announcing the big fest held in the beginning of the month by their publishing branch, Avante, which gathered many progressive artists. The much smaller Bloco de Esquerda [Left Bloc, BE] is an NPA-like multi–tendency party created in 1999 after the dissolution of USec‘s [United Secretariat of the Fourth International] Portuguese section. They periodically distribute their free bulletin at bus stops and subway stations. The recent issues of that bulletin are mainly dedicated to debating the ongoing effects of the austerity politics imposed by the EU, which were gladly accepted by conservative Portuguese parties. It is also easy to spot placards of the small Morenoite MAS [Socialist Alternative Movement, associated with late Nahuel Moreno], the Portuguese section of the [International Workers League] LIT-CI, which recently split from the Bloco de Esquerda. The posters by the MAS were mainly devoted to their candidate, who participated in the recent elections to the European Parliament, and whose main slogan was “No to the Euro”. Another group that had a variety of placards on the streets of Lisbon against the Euro and that were also announcing a “labor rally” which was held in mid-September was the Maoist PCTP [Portuguese Workers’ Communist Party], which is famous for their elaborated paintings on street walls.
Despite the variety of left groups, the Socialist Party (PS) is the one which has grown the most due to the popular dissatisfaction with the austerity policies. It’s easy to see Socialist MP’s on TV news and taking part in debate shows confronting the PSD and CDS-PP Government Ministers with a somewhat radical rhetoric. This “radical” character, though, is indeed limited to their speeches. The PS is a party with a somewhat mass influence, but its program is thoroughly bourgeois. It is a tool to maintain the workers within the rotten boundaries of capitalism and prevent any working class alternative to the austerity package imposed by the EU.
It is noteworthy that among the mentioned left groups, none presents a revolutionary solution to the workers’ problems. The PCP, although very big, is historically a class collaborationist group, responsible for several betrayals and which has presided over various provisional governments after the fall of the Portuguese dictatorship back in the 1970s. They had no problems in governing with the bourgeoisie. In their huge outdoors spread around Lisbon the CP proudly presents itself as a “patriotic” party as a way to profit from the dissatisfaction with the EU in the easiest possible way.
The Maoists, whose historical leader and founder left the group in the 1980s claiming that there was no more point for parties and unions and that the left was “pure shit” (but is still invited for the party’s rallies and public activities), despite their supposed “revolutionary orthodoxy”, claim the same rotten heritage of Stalinism, which should never be forgiven for betraying several revolutionary situations with their treacherous Popular Fronts. Following the Maoist guide book of class collaboration, the PCTP demands a “democratic and patriotic government” as a solution to the crisis, and raises the slogan for the “return of the Escudo” [Portugal’s currency before Euro].
Apart from the CP, the Bloco de Esquerda is the group that draws more attention at the moment. But its politics are very moderate, specially now that some left-wing tendencies left the bloc: the Morenoite “Ruptura/FER”, which formed the MAS, and the small “Socialismo Revolucionário”, associated with [Peter Taaffe’s] CWI. Now, the reformist majority is practically unopposed. This majority has its origins in the dissolution of the Mandelite PSR [Partido Socialista Revolucionário] in 1999, which created the BE [in a fusion with a then Maoist group and a group of former CP members]. The BE is hardly “Trotskyist” in any sense, not even in a purely formal one. Even the Mandelite grouping formally dissolved and those who want to be closely associated with the USec [in Portugal] have to apply for membership as individuals.
Although it has some union work and organizes some social sectors, the BE is too focused on electoral politics. On a June 2014 bulletin, a “Letter to the Left”, signed by its two national coordinators, expressed a huge disappointment with the results obtained by the entire left on the recent European Elections, assigning to that process a disproportional weight if compared to the little importance the Portuguese masses gave to it, expressed in an abstention of around 60%. The BE’s parliamentary cretinism is so deep that the bloc dropped historical demands of the radical left in order to gain “credibility”. In its most recent bulletin (September/October 2014), instead of demanding the canceling of the Portuguese international debt, which is an instrument of dependence imposed by imperialist powers, the BE demands only an “immediate restructuring of the debt” (that is, to make sure Portugal pays only a “fair” tax to its international creditors). Also, in face of the low national minimum wage, instead of putting forward a struggle for a minimum wage sufficient to put-up with the needs of a working class family, with further increases according to the elevation of prices, the BE merely proposes a 60 Euros raise. Plus, in some of their placards spread around Lisbon, the BE demands “Down with the government – Respect the Constitution”. One could ask if those who disrespect anti-labor and anti-protest laws should also be called upon to “respect” the bourgeois law in the Constitution.
Claiming to represent “a new left alternative” against the insufficiency of the other groups, the Morenoite MAS [Socialist Alternative Movement] split from the BE in 2012. But there’s nothing “new” about it, since before joining the BE as the “Ruptura/FER” tendency, they already existed since the middle 1970s as the PRT [Partido Revolucionário dos Trabalhadores], which participated in the CIA-backed demos led by the PS [Socialist Party] against the PCP/MFA provisional governments – a position which they rapidly swapped for a characterization of the MFA as a proto-soviet formation and of the government as “Kerenskyite” (according to Moreno’s revisionist “democratic revolution” terminology) [see Moreno’s Left Face, written by the then revolutionary Spartacist League and republished in Moreno’s Truth Kit]. Also, the [immediate reason for the] Morenoites’ split from the BE was from the right, confirming that they indeed have nothing new to offer. Instead of being a left-wing split away from the BE‘s parliamentary cretinism, the reason for the 2012 split was that the Morenoites opposed the BE being against entering a government with the reformist and proudly “patriotic” PCP! [See the 2012 statement by the MAS Executive Committee]. What can we say of these “Trotskyists” who propose electoral lash-ups with the formerly Stalinist reformists [to run the bourgeois state]!? According to the tiny CWI group in Portugal, the MAS recent campaign in the European Elections was entirely centered around the slogans “No to the Euro”, “Jail those who ruined the country”, “End the politicians’ privileges” and “600 Euro national minimum wage now”, without even a mention to the necessity of a revolution to smash capitalism – an absence which is reflected in their street placards [see the CWI polemic].
Something worth mentioning is the absence of powerful youth struggles among the Portuguese left – with the important exception of the city of Coimbra, whose life is closely linked to the Coimbra University and, therefore, has a somewhat strong youth militancy engaged in students issues. That is comprehensible since in 2013 the National Ethics Council for the Sciences of Life stated that Portugal is the 6th country with the eldest population in the world, 42 being the average age of one of its citizens. Since the 2008 crisis, many young people have left the country in search for better job opportunities. Militancy and radicalization in the left are generally associated with an important element of youth among its ranks – so much that Lenin once jokily said that “every revolutionary should be shot after passing the age of 35”. Therefore, this is certainly a factor (among others) behind the lack of radicalization in the Portuguese left that we referred to.
Despite the deep crisis that the country is going through, the political situation is not as intense as it should be in terms of militancy and struggles, since the mass protests and strikes seem to have wavered. The crisis of revolutionary leadership certainly plays a role in it, since no group on the left was able to build a revolutionary movement against the effects of the economic crisis. This situation, on its turn, reinforces the workers’ lack of trust on ostensibly socialist organizations.
To end this short report with an anecdote, in the morning of September 11th the subway workers held a 1-day strike. Around 4 thousand workers (according to the Diário Nacional) marched to the Republic Assembly (the Portuguese Congress) demanding a 3% salary raise, but many others simply gathered in front of the closed stations, waiting until 11am, when the subway employees promised to reopen, allowing the normal routine to be carried–on. At the night of the same day, an enormous crowd gathered at the historical center of Lisbon for the 5th edition of “Vogue’s Fashion Night Out”, an event to stimulate shopping at street stores – a luxury that fewer and fewer Portuguese workers can afford. This absurdly contradictory scene only reinforces the urgent need of a struggle to build a revolutionary party capable of defeating the Troika’s austerity “solution” and putting forward a revolutionary perspective to the crisis of capitalism.
On the recent events on Syria
September 3, 2013
In recent days the disposition of the imperialist powers to launch a military assault on Syria has changed, the official reason based on accusations the Assad regime had used chemical weapons against the forces of the Free Syrian Army and the general population. With John Kerry making clear the US’s determination to proceed regardless of the UK’s decision to not support its latest military gambit, we reiterate our position published on September 2012
“[…] class conscious workers of all countries should demand Imperialists: Hands off Syria! Any intervention into a country historically oppressed by the imperialists will only be to intensify the exploitation of the oppressed nation’s workers. If the imperialists were to intervene military to support the Syrian National Council , we will militarily side with the historically oppressed nation, even if lead by Assad’s forces, supporting the defeat of the imperialists and their domestic supporters.”
Letter to the Internationalist Group on the Ukraine Scandal
[The following letter to the Internationalist Group from the International Bolshevik Tendency was sent on August 28, 2003]
To the Internationalist Group
We hope that the IG will collectively reconsider its mistaken decision not to participate in a proposed joint statement on the Ukrainian fraud.
We are sure that all participants are willing to consider any reasonable suggestions to meet any specific concerns you mighthave, and it would also be possible to attach any clarifications to your signature.
Such a joint statement will not constitute a propaganda bloc, but a bloc to defend the working-class movement against criminal scum. It will focus on a single simple defense issue—without analysis, without social program, without propaganda. It will be made explicit that there are crucial differences between the signatories, and indeed, each organization is likely to present its different specific views on these matters elsewhere in its own name.
A joint statement on this issue, all proportions guarded, is in line with the bloc between Trotskyist and even liberals around the Dewey Commission in the 1930s to defend Trotsky from Stalinist calumny, or joint defense materials on the Minneapolis Trial in the 1940s. It would be of a piece with blocs supported by the Spartacists in their healthy period in the 1960s and 1970s against Healyite thuggery (see Marxism vs Ultraleftism, SWP Education for Socialists Series, January 1974), or against false accusations against Joseph Hansen and George Novack as accomplices in the murder of Trotsky (see http://www.marxists.org/history/etol/document/swp-us/verdict.htm), or to establish the truth regarding the Lambertistes’ accusation that their Hungarian leader, Varga, was a police agent. Our proposition is entirely within that tradition.
What is necessary in this situation is a joint statement on the core facts of the scam, issued by a list of the competing groups involved, and translated into a variety of languages. This would carry more weight and authority than individual statements, would attract more attention, and would permeate the workers’ movement more extensively and more quickly. All this is most particularly true in the countries of the former Soviet Union. A joint statement can make a palpable difference.
Your absence from such a joint statement would be a bad sign. It would represent a continuity not with the Trotskyism of Trotsky, Cannon and the healthy period of the Spartacist tendency, but with the degenerating later Spartacists who, in the interests of drawing the sharpest lines between themselves and the rest of the workers’ movement and of sealing their membership off from the influences of rivals, too often fail to draw a line between the workers’ movement and the bourgeoisie. Their practice shows that the tactics of defense blocs and united fronts are not at present open to them. We hope you do not share this approach.
Failure to join in such a statement suggests a fear of the SL’s continuing accusations that there is a fraternity of different groups in an “anti-Spartacist” bloc. It would be unfortunate if taunts like that were to prevent your doing what is best to defend the interests of the workers’ movement.
Of course various enemies will always misrepresent revolutionaries, and any blocs we advocate or enter into are particularly likely to attract such misrepresentations. Our stance on the united front and the French Turn in the 1930s was the occasion for Stalinist misrepresentation of the relationship between Trotskyism and social democracy. Our stance on the beating of Ernie Tate in the 1960s and on the smears against Joseph Hansen et al in the 1970s were occasions for Healyite misrepresentation of the relationship between the Spartacists and the Pabloites. But we did not then and we should not now allow ourselves to be prevented from drawing the class line by the likelihood that we will be misrepresented.
Certainly Stalinist and Healyite misleadership in the past attempted to use such misrepresentation of various temporary blocs and united fronts to mobilize their more backward supporters against Trotskyism, and certainly the Spartacist misleadership today may try the same thing. But the best SL supporters will not be impressed by such demagoguery. Subjective revolutionaries will be impressed instead by even modest measures that genuinely tend to protect the workers’ movement from these gangster con artists.
We hope you reconsider your decision on this matter. In any case we will continue to co-operate with you on this issue to the extent we are able.
Yours for a principled defense bloc
Samuel T. (Trachtenberg)
for the International Bolshevik Tendency
Selected Related Links
CWI Leadership’s Role in Ukrainian Fraud: “No Innocent Explanation”
International Bolshevik Tendency, March 8, 2004
A Band of Political Impostors and Swindlers in Ukraine
League for the Fourth International, August 27, 2003
Open Letter to the Committee for the Workers’ International
League for the Revolutionary Party, October 2, 2003
Ukraine: rogue CWI group deceives international left
League for the Fifth International, August 22, 2003
from the IBT web site
Brazil: down with the coup government!
Fight Temer’s attacks, no support for the PT or its satellites!
Originally published in Portuguese in June 2016
At the dawn of May 12, Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff (Workers Party, PT) was temporarily removed from office and will now be judged by the Senate under the authority of the Supreme Court, her conviction being almost certain. The fate of the country is increasingly conducted by the Judiciary’s “black-cloaked ministers”, who receive exorbitant incomes and are not accountable to anyone, since they have not even been elected by the population. It is very clear that the articulated action of the Supreme Courts, the Federal Police and the Public Ministry has taken increasingly authoritarian traits. This judicial coup must be stopped: we cannot let it be consolidated through the reaffirmation of the Supreme Court and co.’s superpowers!
The new de facto government of Michel Temer (Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, PMDB) has already made its intentions very clear: to make the working class pay for the capitalist crisis. Surely Rousseff and the PT were already fulfilling the same role. Soon after the 2014 election’s second round, she signed she would rule with the same neoliberal program as Aécio Neves / PSDB (Brazilian Social Democracy Party). Therefore, Revolutionary Regroupment is against the class-colaborationist attempt to turn the mobilizations against Temer into a campaign for the return of Rousseff to power. Due to a number of factors, the PT was not being capable of implementing attacks on the scale and speed required by the big capitalists. Temer and his PSDB and DEM (Democrats) allies immediately started making huge cuts in social programs, the budget for public education and public health, and intend to privatize absolutely everything they can, which may include charging for access to the public health system. It is worth remembering that Rousseff, by proposing and then sanctioning the “Anti-terror” Law, guaranteed legal instruments to massacre any serious attempt of resistance by the workers and the oppressed. Faced with this scenario, it is urgent to organize the struggles against Temer’s attacks, but with no support for the PT and its satellites!
We need a national united front to defeat the attacks!
For several months, while Rousseff was still in office, the PT did all it could to prevent a real popular mobilization against the impeachment and that could threaten the austerity measures of its own government. The CUT and the CTB (union federations led by bureaucrats loyal to Rousseff’s government) did not organize any political strike of the working class. The “Popular Brazil Front” – built by the PT, PCdoB (Communist Party of Brazil) and other pro-Rousseff forces, despite having organized big street demos, did it in a way that prevented any criticism against Rousseff’s austerity measures, restricting them to acritical rallies, many of which were actually musical concerts with pro-PT artists. The “Fearless People Front” – led by the MTST (Homeless Workers’ Movement) was integrated by large sectors of the PSOL (Socialism and Freedom Party); and not only its reformist leadership, the Unidade Socialista, but also groups on its “left bloc” such as USec’s Insurgência and the CWI/LSR. They organized some street demos against the impeachment, while also raising criticisms towards Rousseff’s government. But they quickly became reduced to an appendix of the “Popular Brazil Front”, with the leaders of the Fearless People Front putting aside any criticism of the PT during the common activities they organized. There were a few progressive initiatives like the “Socialist Left Front” (in Rio de Janeiro), but it has become a propaganda bloc, consisting of meetings among left groups which revolve around programmatic discussions, instead of mobilizing the working class for struggle against the impeachment and the austerity measures. What is necessary at the present moment is a united front of struggles, capable of uniting the working class and the radical youth around the slogans Defeat Temer’s attacks! Defend our jobs, wages, labor and social rights!
Reject “democratic” capitalist solutions! For a revolutionary workers’ government!
In this critical moment, the bourgeois “democratic” illusions that certain left groups have spread are not admissible – such as the proposals for “General Elections” (PSTU/IWL; MES/Movimento; LSR/CWI) or for a “Constituent Assembly” (MRT/Left Voice/Trotskyist Fraction; Esquerda Marxista/IMT). It is simply not possible to make use of the bourgeois elections to transform society in the interests of working people. Neither a Constituent Assembly on a capitalist basis would be able to make the structural changes necessary for workers. The political perspective that should be defended by revolutionaries during the struggles against Temer’s attacks is that of a revolutionary worker’s government, in order to clearly differentiate themselves from the reactionary “anti-corruption” mobilizations, the utopian class-collaboration project of the PT and the illusions that the workers’ problems can be solved within the limits of capitalism.
Revolutionary Regroupment strives to build a revolutionary party that fight for the following demands:
– No more lay-offs! For the reduction of working hours without loss of pay, allowing the return of laid-off workers and the creation of jobs for the unemployed. The capitalists are the ones who must pay for the crisis of their system!
– Put a halt to the effects of growing inflation! We demand immediate raise of wages according to the rise of prices and also a minimum wage that meets the basic needs of the working family, currently calculated at R$ 3,725!
– Down with the Outsourcing Bill! For the integration of outsourced workers to the regular staff of the companies to which they provide work, with full rights and wage equality! Against sexism and racism, fight for equal pay for equal work!
– Down with the reform of Social Security and the cuts on the budget of social programs! Tax the big fortunes to fund social security, housing, transportation and education!
– No more oil auctions and the destruction of Brazil’s state-owned oil company Petrobras! For the full re-nationalization of Petrobras and the expropriation without compensation and under workers’ control of the foreign oil companies!
– Down with religious interference on women’s rights! For the legalization of abortion, with the guarantee of free and safe procedure by the public health system!
– Down with the ‘super authority’ of the Judiciary! For the right of the people to elect the judges and other positions of responsibility! No more privileges for the corrupt political caste: that all elected members of parliament receive only the average wage of a worker!
– Land for those who want to live and work on it! Expropriation of the land and estate of large capitalist owners for the benefit of the population!
– Down with Rousseff’s Anti-terror Law! For the dissolution of the Military Police and other repressive forces! To protest is not a crime! For the right to self-defense! Drop all charges against those who fight the injustices of capitalism! Immediate freedom to Rafael Braga, homeless black worker imprisoned during the 2013 mass protests!
Statement on Brazil
Fight against the impeachment! Fight Dilma’s government and its austerity measures!
Reformism vs. Reformism in the CPUSA: Divorce in the Family
[First printed in 1917 West #1, Spring 1992]
The Communist Party USA appeared on the verge of splitting at its 25th national convention in Cleveland, Ohio, held in December 5-8 against the dismal background of counterrevolution in the Soviet Union. Actually, there were two conventions: the official one, held on the 6th floor of the Sheraton hotel under the bureaucratic control of Gus Hall (backed up by armed Cleveland police), and a counter-convention of the oppositional grouping calling itself the Initiative, many of whose members had been excluded from the official convention. The Initiative met across the street in Room 211 of the Cleveland Convention Center, under the leadership of prominent party members Charlene Mitchell, James Jackson, Carl Bloice, and Barry Cohen. Comrades of the International Bolshevik Tendency spent several days at the two conventions distributing our 1917 Supplement “Counterrevolution Triumphs in USSR” and arguing for a revolutionary Trotskyist alternative to the politics of both the majority and the minority
Not surprisingly, both factions have utterly failed to address the causes of the downfall of Soviet Stalinism. At a public forum in Cleveland on August 3, 1991, before the failed coup, chairman Gus Hall simply blamed the Soviet crisis on “Gorbachev’s errors.” When confronted by questions from the floor as to why the CPUSA lied and covered up for the bureaucracy and Stalin’s crimes, such as the execution or murder of virtually the entire Bolshevik leadership of 1917, Hall responded, “We’ve made mistakes, too.”
Speaking before a special meeting of the party’s National Committee on September 8, 1991, Hall elaborated:
“The system is not to blame. If one believes that the crisis of socialism is not systemic, in other words, not inherent in the socialist system itself, then you have to look for the cause of the crisis in human error.”
At the convention itself, he would repeat yet again that:
“The crisis of socialism is mainly caused by wrong, anti-socialist policies. The system itself is based on inherently humanitarian precepts.”
Hall had faced a rebellion in the National Committee, which at the September 8 meeting ended up condemning the failed Soviet coup:
“The National Committee states its strong condemnation of the attempted coup as adventuristic, unconstitutional and illegal…. We reject the formulation to ‘neither condemn nor condone’ the attempted coup, and deplore all public statements which give the impression of sympathy for the coup or its aims.”
That “impression of sympathy” had emanated from the lips of none other than Hall himself. The National Committee vote was thus a slap in the face for the Hall apparatus. But Hall’s cohorts backed away from support of the failed coup for other reasons as well. They were unable to maintain this stance because it would have totally alienated the liberal Democratic Party milieu.
For its part the Initiative grouping, despite its rebellion against Hall’s bureaucratic leadership, has responded to the crisis of Stalinism with nothing but vague social-democratic sentiments, and shows no signs of breaking with the CPUSA’s reformism. According to the October 21, 1991, “Initiative to Unite and Renew the Party” after which the grouping was named:
“The ability to make corrections, innovations and adjustments is the sign of a living movement. It is the hallmark of a party that is relevant and able to contribute to the further development of the movements for peace and international solidarity, labor rights, equality, political empowerment and democracy….
“While the 1992 election campaign is in full swing, we have not laid an adequate basis for our convention to adopt an electoral policy.”
This oppositional document, widely circulated within the party prior to the convention, was reportedly endorsed by over 900 party members, or roughly one third of the entire membership of the CPUSA. Of the roughly 600 delegates at the split convention, about a third supported the Initiative. Unfortunately, it would seem that outside of their organizational concerns, the main political problem for this grouping is deciding which 1992 Democratic Party presidential candidate to back.
The general mood of the delegates at the convention was one of disillusionment and disgust as they watched their party drift into irrelevance, and possibly out of existence in the near future. While the former Soviet Union was being declared dead by the counterrevolutionary nationalist regimes of the various republics, the delegates sat and listened to a three-and-a-half-hour speech by Gus Hall, in which he claimed that in the Leninist tradition:
“Factionalism and the development of organized trends in the Communist Party are incompatible with its democratic functioning. The institutionalization of factional trends by the application of such concepts as proportional representation and minority/majority positions in leadership runs contrary to the nature of the Party—it violates the basic organizational principle of collective process.”
This is Stalinism, not Leninism. All the way from its formation until 1921, factional rights were recognized and vigorously exercised in the Bolshevik party. The only condition was that factional groupings carry out the decisions of the majority if they lost a vote. The 1921 ban was implemented in a situation of crisis. Even in that situation it was intended only as a temporary, emergency measure. It is not in its proposals for democratic functioning and factional rights that the Initiative breaks with Lenin, but rather in the reformist politics it shares with Hall.
In counterpoint to Hall, Dr. Herbert Aptheker, a leader of the Initiative, revealed to the convention that:
”The main source of the collapse that Comrade Hall describes—not only in the USSR but in every party of Eastern Europe—lies not in socialism, but rather in the distortions and vitiation of the essential nature of the Party as conceived by Marx and Engels and Lenin into an organization eaten up by bureaucracy, tyranny authoritarianism, repression and finally human annihilation.”
“….the collapse, the present crisis of the world of socialism, rests fundamentally upon the Stalinization of Lenin’s party.”
The so-called crisis of socialism is indeed the crisis of Stalinism, not socialism. But for decades Dr. Aptheker, author of The Truth About Hungary, a pack of lies which whitewashed the brutal suppression of the Hungarian workers attempted political revolution of 1956, was a fervent supporter of Stalin’s every move. It is hardly credible when people like this suddenly “discover” that Stalinism is undemocratic. Moreover, Aptheker and the other Stalinist “critics” of Stalinism uniformly fail to go beyond this obvious truth. Stalinism destroyed every semblance of workers’ and party democracy for a reason: it was the only way to enforce betrayals of the working class on a generation of communists who knew a better way, that of Lenin and Trotsky, and were accustomed to fighting for it.
Using a variety of tried and true Stalinist tactics, Hall prevailed at the convention. According to people in the Initiative, those who signed the Initiative document (including 40 percent of the outgoing National Committee) were excluded from the elections. The new National Committee reportedly has no members of the leadership from New York and Northern California, the two largest locals in the country, which were heavily represented in the Initiative grouping. One delegate came out saying, “He’s acting like Ceausescu.”
The CPUSA has never had any qualms about calling the police on its leftist opponents, but this time Hall descended to a new low by using the cops against his own membership. Armed Cleveland police were used to keep out the numerous delegates sympathetic to the Initiative whose credentials had been rejected on various pretenses. There were police milling around the convention throughout the four days. One senior party member became so ill at the sight of the police in her convention that she refused to enter. Such sentiments are entirely legitimate, but Hall’s action was only a logical extension of longstanding CPUSA practices
NO SYMPATHY WHEN THE BITER GETS BIT
It is hard to feel too much sympathy for those in the Initiative grouping who profess outrage at Hall’s heavy-handed tactics and violations of workers’ democracy—now that they are on the receiving end. These people are up to their ears in complicity with use of the very same sort of tactics against others in the workers’ movement. As James Cannon, one-time CP leader and founder of American Trotskyism, once said, nobody cries when the biter gets bitten. To mention only a few recent and local examples: Bay Area CP honcho and Initiative supporter Kendra Alexander threatened to sic her goons on the Labor Militant group, who had setup a lit table in front of Finn Hall during the fall, 1991 Northern California CP convention. A CP goon “Franc” attacked one of our comrades at Chris Hani’s summer 1991 press conference at UC Berkeley. Another of our comrades was physically threatened outside an October 1991 forum featuring Initiative leader Carl Bloice.
What held the CPUSA together for so long? First of all, it was residual loyalty to the Soviet oligarchy and the illusion that this gave them some connection to “actually existing socialism.” Secondly, no matter how adverse the relationship of class forces in the US, they could always rely on the political and financial support of the Stalinist bureaucracies in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Five thousand subscriptions to their paper in the Soviet Union, along with other perks that came with being the designated franchisee of the Soviet Stalinist bureaucracy, didn’t hurt. These benefits have been cut off. No more summer camps on the Black Sea, no more scholarships to the Institute of Marxism-Leninism, no anything! Part of what makes the current factional struggle so messy is the question of who will control the party’s accumulated assets: buildings, bookstores, etc. This is particularly true in Northern California, where the opposition is in the majority and some party property is held in the name of the regional organization rather than the national organization. Fundamentally, though, and regardless of the outcome of these disputes, with the demise of the Stalinist bureaucracies both factions will be forced to rely on the correctness or their programs and the quality of their leadership in the working class. In other words, they’re in serious trouble.
Since the mid-1920s, the CPUSA has supported and covered up for every crime of the Stalinist bureaucracy— not only crimes of repression, but gross betrayals of the working class. For the proletarian internationalism of Lenin and Trotsky, the Stalinists substituted “socialism in one country,” which rationalized the class-collaborationist selling out of revolutions around the globe in a futile effort to gain peaceful coexistence with imperialism. If these betrayals left any doubt, the internal collapse of the system they were supposed to protect, coupled with the tremendous damage to the class-consciousness of Soviet workers who have been taught to identify socialism with Stalinism, has completed the practical refutation of this reactionary theory. Trotsky explained over 50 years ago that the Stalinist bureaucracy, despite the fact that it was at times forced to defend collectivized property with its own authoritarian methods would, unless overthrown by the working class, become ever more the organ of the world bourgeoisie in the workers’ state and eventually plunge the country back toward capitalism. The bureaucracy, in following first Gorbachev and now succumbing to Yeltsin is proving him right.
Both the CPUSA majority and the Committees of Correspondence, as the opposition is now called, are tied to their Stalinist past, and they both support the capitalist Democratic Party. At both conventions, many delegates wore Jesse Jackson’s 1988 presidential campaign T-shirts. Both factions continue to wallow in the Democratic Party swamp. Both have publicly announced, for instance, their intention to participate in the Mayor’s March on Washington.
There is an alternative to all of this. Stalinism has reached a dead end, but Leninism lives on. The revolutionary tradition of Bolshevism was maintained by Leon Trotsky and the Left Opposition. Trotskyists gave their lives resisting the Stalinist perversion of Leninism, yet remained implacable defenders of the gains of 1917. Though many pretenders to the name of Trotskyism today have abandoned or blunted key aspects of the Leninist/Trotskyist program, the International Bolshevik Tendency carries on the politics that made the October Revolution.
Statement on Brazil
Fight the Impeachment! Fight Dilma’s government and its austerity measures!
Originally published in Portuguese in April 2016
The following statement was originally published in Portuguese on April 11th, as an abridged version of a broader article published on March 23rd. It was written before President Dilma Rousseff (PT) was temporarily removed from office on May 12th (she will still be judged by the Senate and the Supreme Court). On June 1st we published a second statement on the tasks faced by the working class regarding the interim government of Vice President Michel Temer (PMDB) and the attacks he has been launching against labor rights, public services and social programs with the aid of the former right wing oppositional parties (PSDB, DEM and others). It summarizes our position to fight Temer’s government, with no support to the PT or its satellites.
Dilma deserves to be judged for her crimes against the working class, such as her attacks on labor rights, her complicity with the repression against the workers’ movement, the handing over of the country’s natural resources to imperialism etc. The same is true about former President Lula. But that can only be achieved through working class struggle to stop and revert government attacks. This Impeachment process is a maneuver of the right-wing oppositional parties PSDB and DEM, as well as sectors of the PMDB (the Vice President’s party) to gain full control over the Executive office. They want to profit from Dilma and the PT government’s complete demoralization and crisis. If Dilma is removed by them, this will not be beneficial to the working class and wouldn’t change the succession of attacks unleashed against us. On the contrary, the attacks would be intensified. Revolutionary Regroupment says NO to this Impeachment, not due to sympathy towards the PT, but for considering that this process is a smoke screen created by the right-wing opposition in order to benefit from the enormous popular dissatisfaction with Dilma’s government, which is to a great extent a product of the attacks the government has conducted against the population, attacks which the proponents of the Impeachment want to deepen.
For a workers united front against the austerity measures!
The central task for the working class in the current situation is the creation of a workers’ united front independently from both the right-wing opposition and Dilma’s government, capable of uniting several ongoing struggles around the following axis: Fight Dilma’s “austerity” measures! No cuts to public health and education! No removal of labor rights and no lay-offs! Down with the “Anti-terror” Law, which is an attempt to criminalize the workers’ movement and the left! The bosses must pay for their crisis! Fight the right-wing opposition and its Impeachment maneuver! Such a united front would mean working class mass action. The left groups and parties that want to take part in it would have complete freedom to express their ideas and criticize each others’ political views.
Enough of political blocs with government forces!
Many groups on the left, including most internal currents of the PSOL (Socialism and Freedom Party), such as USec‘s “Insurgência” and the CWI section (LSR), as well as the Stalinist PCR are taking part in political blocs dominated by pro-government forces, such as the “Fearless People‘s Front”. While claiming to be “For democracy” and against the Impeachment, those blocs include the PT, the PCdoB and the bureaucratic leaders of CUT, CTB and UNE (the trade union federations and the national students’ organization that support Dilma’s government). They are an obstacle for the creation of an effective united front dedicated to organizing and strengthening the resistance against Dilma and the rest of the bourgeoisie’s austerity. On several occasions, the “Fearless People‘s Front” puts aside any critique of the government and adapts itself to the position of the government forces, such as the PT-led “Popular Brazil Front”. At this crucial moment, the last thing the workers need is to be tied to the pro-government forces. We call upon all the militant ranks of these mass organizations to break from such blocs of class collaboration and fight for workers’ unity in opposition to all bourgeois forces.
The error of the “Oust Dilma, oust them all!” slogan
Ideally, we are for “ousting them all”, in the sense that we want to remove all the representatives of the bourgeoisie from power. But to raise such slogan in the current situation, in which the only concrete possibility of “ousting Dilma” is the consolidation of a right-wing PMDB-PSDB government, won’t help workers’ interests. To raise such a demand shows indifference towards its concrete results. It of course would be completely different if instead the threat against Dilma came from the working class. The “Oust Dilma, oust them all!” slogan, raised by the Morenoite PSTU (LIT-CI), by the also Morenoite CST (PSOL internal tendency and section of UIT), as well as by some Anarchist groups does not prioritize defeating Dilma’s attacks through the mobilization of the working class, but instead emphasize removing her from power in a moment when the working class won’t be able to do it – only the right-wing opposition will. Such position derives from the false logic that Dilma’s fall, independently on how it occurs, would give room to a “weaker” government, meaning some kind of victory to the working class. We do not wish to help the right-wing opposition, which is growing stronger and stronger. Dilma’s fall by the hands of the right-wing opposition would only give place to a government that would attack us even harder.
No to “general elections” – What we need is a revolutionary workers government!
We also reject demands for new “general elections”, which many groups on the left such as the PSTU (LIT-CI) and the MES (PSOL internal tendency and section of Movimento) have been raising. From the point of view of the workers’ interests, bourgeois elections are a dead-end. As a rule, the bourgeoisie only massively invests in and supports those campaigns that are willing to defend its class interests. The workers don’t have a say on matters that really affect their lives: how their workplace should be managed, who should pay for the economic crisis, should labor rights be removed etc. Bourgeois elections are merely a “chance” that the population has to choose their executioners. During periods of low ebb, it is possible to use the elections as a platform to denounce capitalism. But it is not acceptable to rise the demand for “general elections” at the current moment, when what is required is a relentless struggle against the austerity measures. Sometimes those groups say that the elections they fight for would be different – “controlled by the workers” or some variant of that. But it doesn’t change their confusion. If the working class had enough power to enforce “elections” of this kind on the ruling class, then we could as well build our own government. The MRT (Trotskyist Fraction – Left Voice network) slogan for a “Constituent Assembly convened by the workers” suffers from the same problem. The agitation that needs to be done is for a revolutionary workers’ government which can meet our social and democratic interests. Although it is not possible to implement such government immediately, we must patiently explain its necessity while fighting to build a broad united front of struggle. Revolutionary Regroupment strives to build a revolutionary party that fight for the following demands:
- No more lay-offs! We must demand the reduction of working hours without loss of pay, allowing the return of laid-off workers and the creation of jobs for the unemployed. The capitalists are the ones who must pay for the crisis of their system!
- Open the files to reveal the fortune that the big capitalists and bankers continue to make while the cost of the crisis is thrown at us!
- To halt the effects of growing inflation we demand immediate raise of wages according to the rise of prices and also a minimum wage that meets the basic needs of the working family, currently calculated at R$ 3,725!
- Down with the Outsourcing Bill! For the integration of outsourced workers to the regular staff of the companies to which they provide work, with full rights and wage equality! To fight sexism and racism we demand “Equal pay for equal work”!
- Down with Dilma’s reform of Social Security, which plans to increase working time and reduce the payments!
- No more oil auctions to international companies! Stop the attacks on Brazil’s state-owned oil company Petrobras! We demand the full re-nationalization of Petrobras and the expropriation without compensation of the foreign oil companies under workers’ control!
- Down with the “Anti-terror” Law, which is meant to be used against social movements! For the dissolution of the Military Police and other repressive forces! For the right to demonstrate, a democratic right increasingly curbed by capitalist governments! Drop all charges against those who fight the injustices of capitalism!
- Down with churches’ interference with women’s rights! For the legalization of abortion and the guarantee of free and safe procedure by the public health system!
- Down with the super authority of Judge Sergio Moro and the Judiciary! For the right of the people to elect the judges and other positions of responsibility! No more privileges for the corrupt political caste: that all elected members of parliament receive only the average wage of a worker!
- Land for those who want to live and work in it! Expropriation of the land and estate of large capitalist owners for the benefit of the population!
Brazil: down with the coup government!
Fight Temer’s attacks, no support for the PT or its satellities!
Northites Inc.: Toeing the Bottom Line
Being Determines Consciousness
[First published in 1917 No.30 2008. Originally posted online at http://www.bolshevik.org/1917/no30/no30-GRPI-WSWS.html ]
In the spring of 2007, the Socialist Equality Party/Inter-national Committee (SEP/IC) was rocked by a public scandal when Scott Solomon, an embittered former adherent, revealed that David North is not only the leading figure of the SEP and IC, but is also CEO of Grand River Printing & Imaging (GRPI), a multi-million dollar business in Michigan. The SEP leadership would apparently prefer to keep its successful commercial venture secret, but it cannot deny the facts.
The GRPI evolved from the in-house printshop that used to produce the Bulletin, the newspaper of the Workers League (WL—the SEP’s predecessor). When the WL/SEP suspended publication of the Bulletin in favor of producing an online daily on its World Socialist Web Site (WSWS), the party print shop was apparently quietly transformed into a full-blown business.
At about the same time, the SEP/IC leadership discarded the traditional Marxist view of trade unions as defensive organizations of the working class and declared that they had become simple agencies of the capitalists. North wrote a lengthy essay on this theme entitled “Globalization and the Unions,” in which he announced the “objective transformation of the AFL-CIO into an instrument of the corporations and the capitalist state.” We polemicized against this in 1917 No. 29 (see “SEP: Defeatist and Confusionist: The Class Nature of the Unions”).
The Northites recently seized upon the squalid deal signed by the United Auto Workers (UAW) in October 2007 with General Motors, which permits the company to offload responsibility for its retirees’ health-care coverage with a contribution of cash and a $4.4 billion convertible note (based on the value of GM common stock) to a Voluntary Employee Benefit Association (VEBA). The deal benefited the bosses by massively reducing their liabilities, while giving the UAW bureaucracy, which gets to manage the fund, a major new source of revenue and influence. The only ones to lose out will be retired autoworkers, whose benefits will be reduced when VEBA’s investment portfolio underperforms.
In a 12 October 2007 statement, the SEP wrote:
“The so-called ‘voluntary employees beneficiary association,’ or VEBA, will turn the union into a profit-making enterprise and make the union bureaucracy full-fledged shareholders in the exploitation of the workers. The UAW bureaucracy will get its hands on a massive cash hoard, including shares in GM, which will ensure its income even as it administers ever deeper cuts in the benefits of retired union members.”
—“The middle-class ‘left’ and the UAW-GM contract”
Seemingly oblivious to the parallel between the UAW bureaucracy’s relationship to VEBA and the SEP’s to the GRPI, the Northites declared: “The open transformation of the UAW into a business is not a sudden or unexpected development.” But the auto union has not been transformed into a capitalist enterprise; the UAW remains part of the workers’ movement, despite the grotesque, and growing, corruption of its leadership. Leon Trotsky described the tendency of the labor bureaucracy in the imperialist countries to be transformed from mere agents of the bourgeoisie into “stakeholders” in the ventures of the ruling class:
“The intensification of class contradictions within each country, the intensification of antagonisms between one country and another, produce a situation in which imperialist capitalism can tolerate (i.e., up to a certain time) a reformist bureaucracy only if the latter serves directly as a petty but active stockholder of its imperialist enterprises, of its plans and programs within the country as well as on the world arena.”
—“Trade Unions in the Epoch of Imperialist Decay,” 1940
Yet Trotsky concluded:
“in spite of the progressive degeneration of trade unions and their growing together with the imperialist state, the work within the trade unions not only does not lose any of its importance but remains as before and becomes in a certain sense even more important work than ever for every revolutionary party. The matter at issue is essentially the struggle for influence over the working class.”
When the IC first announced that it was writing off the unions, our German comrades projected that North & Co. might one day “find themselves in a political bloc with the capitalists in their attack on the institutions of the workers’ movement” (1917 No. 20). The SEP’s October 2007 statement does exactly that, declaring: “The Socialist Equality Party would advise workers, should the UAW come to their plant, to vote to keep it out.”
No doubt GRPI management would give similar advice to any employees thinking about unionizing. Socialists, by contrast, believe that workers should be organized. In a case of vice paying homage to virtue, the SEP’s 12 January 2006 statement for the U.S. mid-term elections advocated “a guaranteed right of workers to join a union and control the union democratically; the outlawing of union-busting tactics and wage-cutting.” This was coupled with a peculiar demand for “government support for small and medium-sized businesses.” Even the reformist left has not historically been in the habit of demanding public funding for private capitalists, but then few of them ever owned “medium-sized businesses.”
Sri Lankan Exceptionalism in the IC
The SEP/IC’s October 2007 statement on the UAW makes it very clear that its anti-union stance is not only applicable in North America:
“Two facts demonstrate that the transformation of the UAW is not simply the product of the subjective characteristics of corrupt leaders or misguided policies, but rather the expression of fundamental objective processes rooted in the nature of trade union organizations and the impact of major changes in the structure of world capitalism. The first is the protracted period, now extending over decades, in which the unions have worked openly to suppress the class struggle and impose cuts in workers’ wages and benefits, along with massive layoffs.”
“The second fact is the international scale of the degeneration and transformation of the unions. This is not an American, but rather a world phenomenon, embracing the unions in the advanced capitalist centers of North America, Europe and Asia, as well as those in so-called ‘less developed’ countries. From the American UAW and AFL-CIO, to the British Trades Union Congress, to the German Federation of Unions, to the Australian Council of Trade Unions, to the Congress of South African Trade Unions, the unions have adopted a corporatist policy of labor-management ‘partnership’ and worked to drive down labor costs at the expense of the jobs, wages and working conditions of their members.
“The driving force behind this universal process is the globalization of capitalist production, which has eclipsed the former primacy of national markets, including the labor market, and enabled transnational corporations to scour the earth for ever-cheaper sources of labor power. This has rendered the unions, wedded by dint of their historical origins and class-collaborationist tendencies to the national market and the national state, obsolete and impotent.”
It seems, however, that Sri Lanka is an exception to this “world phenomenon.” It is perhaps not a coincidence that this is the one country in which a leading member of an IC section is also a union president. Unlike North’s role as the boss of a capitalist enterprise, the IC seems proud of their Sri Lankan comrade’s activities. The WSWS report on a 13 November 2007 SEP public meeting in Colombo to denounce the ongoing war against Tamil separatists mentioned that one of the main speakers was “K.B. Mavikumbura, an SEP central committee member and president of the Central Bank Employees Union (CBEU).” The article extensively quoted Mavikumbura’s account of his recent union activities:
“We presented a resolution in the CBEU calling on workers to unite on socialist policies to end the war. We pointed out that the campaign for the withdrawal of the military from the north-east, which is under de facto military rule, is a necessary condition to unite workers….
“Recently I attended a trade union meeting to organise a picket in support of teachers. The government had said it could not increase the salaries of teachers as it had to pay for the war. It took out an order in the Supreme Court to intimidate teachers. I explained that workers should take up a political fight against the government. The central question is to oppose the war, but the trade unions leaders rejected that. Instead they said workers should form an alliance with the opposition United National Party (UNP), which is notorious for attacking workers’ rights. Workers need to build an independent political movement based on a socialist perspective.”
—“SEP holds public meeting in Colombo to oppose the war in Sri Lanka”
Anyone in the political orbit of the Northites might wonder how Mavikumbura’s activities can be squared with the view that unions are simply agencies of the bosses.
‘Transformation Into a Business’
Does the IC position on the unions simply reflect a loss of confidence in the capacity of the working class to oust the bureaucrats and gain control of its own mass organizations? Or is it a reflection of the social pressures of running a successful business? As Marx observed, being tends to determine consciousness, and for North & Co., the increasing revenues of the GRPI could certainly provide a material basis for the growth of personal/political corruption within the SEP/IC leadership.
Alex Steiner and Frank Brenner, former close associates of North who continue to identify politically with the SEP/IC, hint at this in the conclusion of a lengthy document dated 16 December 2007 which recalls how Gerry Healy (the former head of the IC) accepted large sums of money from various Middle Eastern regimes to act as their left publicist:
“This too was one of the key lessons of the WRP [Workers Revolutionary Party] split—that the ‘unanimity’ of Healy’s leadership group masked all kinds of opportunist relationships based on personal and financial arrangements. We have no doubt that the silence of the rest of the IC leadership is also based, at least in part, on opportunist considerations of a financial and personal nature.”
—“Marxism Without Its Head or Its Heart”
The IC’s revisionism did not commence with the transformation of the WL printing plant into a business, nor as Steiner and Brenner argue, when North et al abandoned the struggle against “pragmatism.” Gerry Healy’s political-bandit operation (including its American satellite run initially by Tim Wolhforth and later by North) was very distant programmatically from Trotskyism long before they began promoting Colonel Qaddaffi and other Middle Eastern despots.
Leftist organizations that obtain substantial funding from sources outside their field of political activity will inevitably tend to become depoliticized and subject to alien class forces. Trotsky made this point in an 8 October 1923 letter addressing some of the early symptoms of the growing bureaucratization of the Soviet Communist Party:
“There is without question an inner connection between the separate and self-contained character of the secretarial organization—more and more independent of the party—and the tendency toward setting up a budget as independent as possible of the success or failure of the party’s collective work of construction.”
—The Challenge of the Left Opposition (1923-25)
North et al said essentially the same thing in their major 1986 statement renouncing Healy:
“Moreover, elements among the journalists, actors and actresses who passed from Fleet Street and the West End into the Political Committee of the WRP, without any apprenticeship in the class struggle, provided a physical link to material resources such as the Party had never known. Apart from the day-to-day struggle of the Party membership inside the working class, huge amounts of money were raised. The central leadership thus acquired an independence from the rank and file that destroyed the foundations of democratic centralism.”
“Healy’s high-flying diplomacy and his sudden access to vast material resources, based largely on his opportunist utilization of Vanessa Redgrave as the WRP’s calling card in the Middle East, had a corrosive effect on the Party’s political line and its relation to the working class. Whatever its original intention, it became part of a process through which the WRP became the political captive of alien class force. At the very moment when it was most in need of a course correction, the ‘success’ of its work in the Middle East, which from the beginning lacked a basic proletarian reference point, made it less and less dependent upon the penetration of the working class in Britain and internationally.”
—“How the Workers Revolutionary Party Betrayed Trotskyism”
The commercial success of the GRPI today gives the SEP leadership far more independence from their ranks than is usually the case in bureaucratized leftist groups where disposable income tends to be closely tied to the size of the dues base. The SEP’s web-centered political activity requires a cadre of talented writers and editors, but the fact that the group conducts very little real public activity means that there are few opportunities for new recruits to develop outside of attending the occasional in-house event. Over time, we would expect the cash flow generated by the GRPI to have much the same effect on the SEP/IC’s upper strata as VEBA will on the occupants of Solidarity House.
The following commentary on the SEP/IC and GRPI originally appeared on the IBT website in May 2007.
In recent weeks reports have surfaced that David North, leader of the ostensibly Trotskyist Socialist Equality Party and its International Committee, also (as David Green) acts as CEO of Grand River Printing & Imaging (GRPI—www.grpinc.com/grandriver-history.html), one of Michigan’s larger printing companies, which reported $25 million in business transactions last year. Like other readers of the SEP’s online daily, we have been waiting to see what the World Socialist Web Site has to say about the flap over the GRPI. It seems that, for the time being at least, North et al have decided that discretion is the better part of valor, and are maintaining radio silence.
Most of the comments printed below were written by our comrade Samuel T., who was recruited to the Workers League (predecessor of the SEP) during Fred Mazelis’ 1989 campaign for mayor of New York City. Sam left the WL in 1991 when it refused to call for the defeat of U.S. imperialism in the first Gulf War (see Trotskyist Bulletin No. 8).
On the weekend of 31 March/1 April  Sam and a couple of other IBT supporters went to Ann Arbor, Michigan to attend an SEP anti-war conference that was advertised as open to “all WSWS readers.” When our comrades arrived, however, they found that supporters of organizations other than the SEP were not really welcome, and the SEP leadership seemed a bit put out by our criticisms of their claim that trade unions are no longer working-class organizations (see 1917 No. 29).
Gerry Healy, the founder-leader of the British Workers Revolutionary Party (WRP) who headed the IC until the mid-1980s, had a well-deserved reputation as a cynical political thug with a penchant for pseudo-dialectical gibberish and crisis mongering. In the late 1960s, along with Ernest Mandel and the Pabloist “United Secretariat” (USec), the IC hailed various Middle East bonapartists as manifestations of a trans-class “Arab Revolution.” The IC also shared the Pabloists’ enthusiasm for Mao Zedong’s “Red Guard” faction during the massive intra-bureaucratic wrangle known as the “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.” Today, in a symmetrical deviation, North’s SEP denies that China was ever any sort of workers’ state.
By the 1980s, the political prostitutes of the IC were acting as paid publicists for Libya’s Muammar el Qaddafi and other Arab despots. The most despicable act of these political gangsters was providing intelligence to Saddam Hussein’s reactionary Baathist regime on émigré members of the Iraqi Communist Party. When the WRP/IC imploded in 1985-86, former members came forward and told of being sent to take photographs of leftist exiles at demonstrations, which the WRP leadership then passed on to the Iraqi embassy.
After Healy’s fall, the current IC leadership, headed by David North, sought to adjust the group’s image to something more closely approximating the “anti-Pabloite Trotskyist” tradition it falsely claims to represent. In their disingenuous account of their belated break with Healy, entitled “How the WRP Betrayed Trotskyism,” the WL leadership downplayed their record of years of slavish obedience to Healy’s every pronouncement. The insistence by North et al that they bear no political responsibility for the IC’s crimes, and that everything was Healy’s fault, recalls Nikita Khrushchev’s 1956 attempt to whitewash the crimes of the Soviet bureaucracy by blaming everything on Stalin. People who go back and examine issues of the Bulletin will see for themselves that the Workers League’s uncritical adulation of Qaddafi and the rest of the IC’s bonapartist bankrollers was every bit as enthusiastic as the WRP’s. They will also see that the SEP/IC, like the USec and almost every other pseudo-Trotskyist tendency, consistently supported counterrevolution in the former Soviet bloc, from Lech Walesa’s Polish Solidarnosc in 1981 to Boris Yeltsin’s pro-imperialist rabble in Moscow a decade later. With the passage of time, and an influx of politically raw new members, the SEP/IC leadership has tried to distance itself from its inglorious history. The tone of the WSWS today is far less hysterical than the Bulletin used to be, but the program it puts forward is no more revolutionary.
Some have suggested that the SEP leaders’ role in the GRPI may be connected to their repudiation of the Trotskyist analysis of the trade unions. We don’t claim to know for certain. But it was clear in Ann Arbor that there is a great deal of confusion in the ranks of the SEP on their position regarding the unions. Many newer members seem uneasy with the line, while the older cadres adamantly defend it, even if there is little consistency in the arguments they use, and none of them are able to explain how the AFL-CIO today is qualitatively different than it was in the 1960s and 70s. One senior SEP member ventured that perhaps the destruction of the USSR had somehow transformed U.S. unions into simple tools of the bourgeoisie, commenting: “Well, the collapse of the USSR has changed everything, so why wouldn’t it also change the unions?”
* * *
These comments are from internal discussion in the IBT.
Lenin drew a connection between the 4 August 1914 betrayal of the Social Democrats and the privileged social position of the labor aristocrats who constituted their social base. Trotsky made similar observations regarding the Stalinist bureaucracy, and also traced the Shachtmanites’ [a right-wing split from the then-Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party (SWP)] abandonment of defense of the USSR in 1940 to their petty-bourgeois social composition. In 1953, James P. Cannon argued that the Cochranites’ [a subsequent right-wing faction in the SWP] liquidationist politics reflected the conservatizing effects of relative economic stability on older workers. In 1983, we pointed out that the SL’s [Spartacist League] dive on saving the Marines in Lebanon, and its offer the next year to provide defense guards for the Democratic Party, were related to the desire of [SL leader James] Robertson to cultivate a “respectable” image with elements of the ruling class.
It can be a dangerous thing for a small group with Potemkin village inclinations, which the Northites have always had throughout their history, to accumulate assets out of proportion to their actual social weight. It would be surprising if running a major commercial enterprise did not affect the political consciousness of the SEP leadership—as Marx remarked, “being determines consciousness.”
I was struck by the following passage from the SEP’s 2006 election program:
“To establish the economic foundation for the reorganization of economic life in the interests of the broad mass of the working people, we advocate the transformation of all privately owned industrial, manufacturing and information technology corporations valued at $10 billion or more—companies that, taken together, control the decisive share of the US economy—into publicly owned enterprises, with full compensation for small shareholders and the terms of compensation for large shareholders to be publicly negotiated.”
“Property rights must be subordinated to social rights. This does not mean the nationalization of everything, or the abolition of small or medium-sized businesses, which are themselves victimized by giant corporations and banks. Establishing a planned economy will give such businesses ready access to credit and more stable market conditions, so long as they provide decent wages and working conditions.”
—“For a socialist alternative in the 2006 U.S. elections,” 12 January 2006 (emphasis added)
How many printing companies in the U.S. are worth more than $10 billion? I notice that Rupert Murdoch is offering $5 billion for Dow Jones (which includes the Wall Street Journal). Would the SEP consider that a “medium-sized business”?
When I was a member, WLers were exhausted by mindless public activity (8-hour shopping mall sales, etc.). I think perhaps the turn away from mass agitation toward a more realistic propaganda perspective where members are not run into the ground accounts for why SEPers now project a more controlled, rational image in public (a high-pressure environment is not good for anyone’s sanity)….
In the old WL there was no escaping getting chewed out at an internal meeting (unless you were in the leadership) for not selling enough papers, doing enough work, contacting enough workers or giving the party enough money—there was no pledge schedule, rather comrades announced how much they were giving that month at a local meeting and then were pressured to give more.
The sense I got from what I was told when I was in, was that the org financed itself almost completely through contributions from members (who were bled dry and encouraged to collect money on the streets, go door to door, borrow from relatives, etc.). The other source was lit sales (which is one reason we’d get screamed at regularly for not selling enough).
I remember as a member asking about Cuba and its class character. When not attacked for raising the question to begin with (on the grounds that it reflected a potential desire to accommodate to Castroism), I was offered a wide range of explanations by different senior comrades. Some gave me a version of the ‘phantom capitalist’ theory (a Lambertiste position, that, as I found out later, was never adopted by the Healyites) [Pierre Lambert, leader of the French Organisation Communiste Internationaliste participated with Healy in the IC until they parted ways in 1971]. Other WLers told me that despite what I had read in books and newspapers, there was indeed significant private ownership in Cuba. They were all improvising, because the IC/WL/SEP to my knowledge always avoided any attempt to seriously explain their position in writing. Members who ask too many questions about touchy subjects like Cuba soon learn not to, as it is taken as displaying an appetite to abandon the working class. I suspect that a similar approach is being used today with those deemed too inquisitive about the GPRI.
On the myspace [website] discussion of the issue, one neophyte supporter of the SEP summed up the explanation he had been given as follows:
1. the GRPI does not fund the SEP;
2. the GRPI provides employment for a number of comrades;
3. no one is getting rich through their involvement with the GRPI;
4. the GRPI is a successful company and has won awards for being a quality employer.
If I were a member, I would be wondering what the purpose of the GRPI is, if it neither serves the needs of the SEP, nor makes anyone rich. I’d also be curious about which SEP comrades get jobs there and how they get selected. I suppose it’s nice to win awards, but most people would rather work in places where they have union protection instead of having to rely on management goodwill. (I think it is safe to assume that, since “unions have essentially completed their degeneration” they do not represent GRPI’s workforce.)
When the SEP liquidated its printed publications in favor of online publishing, they claimed that doing so was merely recognizing the reality that, in the new age of internet communication, printed matter was becoming obsolete as a way to reach people. It is clear that the SEP has continued to invest tremendous resources to produce its online daily. The WSWS, which is generally pretty well written and covers a wide range of topics from a leftist perspective, possibly has the largest readership of any English-language ostensibly Marxist publication. It gives the SEP a cyberspace presence that far exceeds its weight in the real world.
The existence of the GRPI, and the time and energy that North et al obviously pour into it, makes me wonder if the real motivation for curtailing the production of printed propaganda was to permit the company to reach its full potential. When I was a member we had to buy large numbers of the weekly Bulletin on consignment—each member probably sold around 100 papers a week. The group also printed a monthly Young Socialist, a monthly Spanish publication for immigrants, a monthly or bi-monthly French-language publication sold in Quebec and to Haitian immigrants in New York (amongst whom we had a significant readership), a monthly Canadian newspaper, tons of leaflets, a quarterly theoretical journal, and, most months, a pamphlet or a book. The discovery that paper printing was obsolete (although not for commercial purposes apparently) might also have been a result of a decision that meeting sales quotas by going door-to-door, hanging out at supermarkets, strike chasing and all the other things we used to do, was not an efficient use of members’ political time. It is notable that the change to online from paper publishing, and the transformation of the old party printing plant into a full-blown business enterprise seems to roughly coincide with the change of position on the unions. This may well be a classic case of “program generating theory.”
Marxists have generally seen revisionism as an expression of alien class pressures within the workers’ movement. Small propaganda organizations, with little organic connection to the labor movement, experience that pressure in more indirect ways than mass workers’ parties. In a small leftist group the personal qualities and political appetites of leading members are at least as important in determining the line and the character of its internal regime as the blind social forces that shape mass consciousness.
Marx and Engels wrote a fair number of polemics against the development of personality cults within small socialist organizations, whereas Lenin, Trotsky and Luxemburg, who operated in an atmosphere where socialist ideas were part of the mainstream of the labor movement, tended to dismiss the significance of such behavior.
Ignoring historical context and employing a caricature of the Leninist/Trotskyist analysis of trade-union, social-democratic and Stalinist bureaucracies, the IC has long denounced all other left groups as “petty bourgeois” (while their own social composition is no different) and simultaneously demanded that critics of their highly bureaucratic organization demonstrate upon what materially privileged stratum the IC leadership is based. The recent publicity surrounding the GRPI may lead the IC leadership to be a bit more careful about baiting other groups as “petty bourgeois” for a while.
A small and rigidly hierarchical ostensibly socialist organization, without significant connections to the labor movement or any other mass social movement, that has a largely literary political existence, with little public activity beyond occasionally running candidates in bourgeois elections, is likely to develop some peculiar political deviations. If the leaders of such an organization are also subjected to the social pressures of running a multi-million dollar business, it is hardly surprising that they may come to exhibit indifference to the actual struggles and needs of the working class, or at least find it difficult to connect the limited immediate struggles of the class to the necessity for socialist revolution (i.e., to find the sort of “bridge” that Trotsky outlined in the Transitional Program).
Trotsky saw it as essential for revolutionaries to struggle for the Marxist program within the existing mass organizations of the proletariat, i.e., the unions. The SEP leadership, by contrast, tends to advance a sort of abstract “Sunday Socialism” in which the key operational proposal is often the call to “build the SEP.”
For decades the IC has tended to cater to the backward consciousness of the more privileged sections of the working class and to show little interest in questions of special oppression. Those who insist on the importance of Marxists addressing such questions are attacked for “hating the working class” or being motivated by black-nationalist, bourgeois-feminist or other alien class ideologies. Tim Wohlforth, while still leader of the Workers League, spelled this out with his infamous comment that “The working class hates hippies, faggots and women’s libbers, and so do we!” While far less crude today, the WSWS coverage of the destruction of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina, for example, was profoundly flawed by the tendency to ignore the blatant racism that characterized capitalist officialdom’s response to the crisis.
The cadres who produce the WSWS can certainly not be faulted for their work ethic—it is an impressive achievement for such a small group to have sustained such a venture for so long. But the value of such a project, from a revolutionary point of view, depends on the political program it advances. The profound revisionism of the SEP on the social revolutions that produced the Cuban and Chinese deformed workers’ states, its support to capitalist restorationists in the Soviet bloc, its defeatist and reactionary position on the trade unions, its historic tendency toward indifference to issues of special oppression and its abandonment of the Bolshevik position of “revolutionary defeatism” in imperialist wars, negates any value the WSWS might have as an instrument for socialist propaganda.
A Marxist Programme for the Socialist Labour Party
[Main statement of International Bolshevik Tendency supporters inside Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party. Reprinted in every issue of Marxist Bulletin from #1 (April 1997) to # 6 (February 1998). Copied from http://www.bolshevik.org/mb/prog.htm ]
1. Labour Party/Election
The basis of the Socialist Labour Party is the need to break with the Labour Party and form an independent organisation to fight for the interests of the working class. Among others, we need to win the left of the Labour Party to this perspective. We need to call on those Labour MPs who criticise the leadership from the left to make a definitive break from the pro-capitalist programme of the Labour Party, and stand in defence of the working class. Only then would we vote for them. We should not support New Labour in any constituency, but should concentrate on standing candidates wherever we can. We should also support other non-SLP candidates who stand on a clear class line, on the side of the workers.
The occupation of Northern Ireland by British troops is one of the most brutal expressions of British imperialism. We call for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of the troops. British and Irish capitalists can play no part in assuring peace and social justice for the working class of these islands. We have no illusions that these politicians can solve the problems that they have created. Only united working-class struggle can make fundamental progressive social change possible.
We give our support to the resistance of the oppressed Irish Catholics against the British state. We call for the release of Republican prisoners and the repeal of the Prevention of Terrorism Act and all repressive legislation. The British state is the biggest terrorist in Ireland. However, we are opposed to a forcible unification. In fighting the oppression of the Catholic minority in Northern Ireland we also seek to promote measures that promote the unity of Catholic and Protestant workers in the struggle against a system that is based on oppression and exploitation.
We oppose the undemocratic institutions of the British state, and fight for an end to the monarchy and the House of Lords. We defend the right of Scotland and Wales to self-determination, ie, to establish their own separate state if they so choose. We seek to unite the British and Irish working class in common struggle and in a voluntary union of workers republics.
We reject the Maastricht plan for a European imperialist super-state as well as the Eurosceptics’ alternative, which points to an autarkic, protectionist Britain. We must prepare for aggressive resistance to all capitalist attacks on wages, living standards and social services, whether these are advanced on the grounds of promoting European integration, safeguarding British sovereignty or simply making British industry ‘competitive’. Workers’ struggle across national lines – not nationalist poison – must be our reply to capitalist attacks.
No country can achieve socialism on its own. Capitalism is an international system – to destroy capitalism and ensure the future survival of humanity, we must be even more international.
We absolutely oppose the military interventions of Britain and its imperialist partners in Bosnia, Iraq and any other non-imperialist countries, including when carried out in the name of the United Nations. We defend the right of self-determination for all nations.
The collapse of the Soviet bloc and the triumph of counter-revolution in the USSR represented a massive defeat for workers around the world. We defend Cuba, China, Vietnam and North Korea against imperialist aggression and capitalist restoration. Only successful workers’ political revolutions in those states can open the road to socialism.
The SLP calls for the scrapping of the Asylum Act; we should extend this to all other immigration laws. We need to actively fight all deportations. Everyone who lives in Britain should have full citizenship rights, including the right to education and all state services in the language of their choice.
Defence against racist and fascist attacks requires the formation of organised defence guards, based on the working class and including members of ethnic minorities and youth. Fascists must not be allowed to march, speak in public or distribute propaganda.
Women’s oppression is perpetuated and reinforced by capitalism. While we fight every instance of women’s oppression, we also recognise that it is not possible to get rid of sexism (or racism) under capitalism. Full social equality for women can only be won through destroying this unjust social system and replacing it with socialism. This requires uniting the whole working class (not just its female component) in struggle against all forms of oppression and exploitation.
Women’s oppression in capitalist society is chiefly rooted in their role in the family, the institution through which children are cared for and people’s emotional and social needs are met. Responsibilities as mothers and home-makers contribute greatly to women’s relative poverty and reduced access to educational and work opportunity. Increasing pressures on the family through the reduction of community and social services contribute to domestic violence and sexual abuse. Women need financial independence in order to choose their own living circumstances. We fight for full employment at decent wages, equal pay, decent maternity and paternity leave, free quality childcare day and night, free healthcare (including contraception and abortion), and decent housing for all.
We are opposed to restrictions on sexual expression and sexual choices among all those capable of informed consent. Therefore we fight for: an end to all discrimination against lesbians, gays and other sexual minorities; no age of consent laws; and no state censorship, including of sexual material.
7. Trade Unions
The crucial question in the unions is our response to the anti-union laws. We must fight these through active defiance and solidarity within and between unions wherever struggles occur. This means a fight against those in the union leadership who want to acquiesce to these laws in the futile hope of a better deal from New Labour. We need democracy in the unions, and the right of election and immediate recall of all officers. The key to transforming the unions does not lie through recruiting trade union leaders to the SLP but through building fractions in the unions which understand that every shop-floor fight is part of the larger class struggle which will go on until workers are strong enough to establish our own socialist society.
The purpose of the SLP is to destroy the destructive capitalist system and replace it with socialism, a system based not on profit but on human need. We also fight for immediate demands, such as a shorter working week with no loss of pay; equal pay for equal work; a decent minimum wage; higher benefits and pensions; benefits for youth; free, quality education, healthcare, housing and childcare for everyone. Our task is to build a bridge between these immediate objectives and the socialist society we want to achieve. Therefore, we seek to link such ‘minimum’ demands to a system of demands (sliding scale of wages and hours, massive programme of public works, abolition of commercial and government secrecy, etc) which points the way to the need for working-class state power.
This is only possible by recognising that every gain we make will have to be defended. As soon as our demands begin to pose a serious threat to the wealth and power of the capitalists, they will use every means at their disposal to stop us – the courts, the police, the army, all the forces of the capitalist state. If we achieve any control over the capitalist parliament, they will again use these forces, against us and against democracy. To defend ourselves we need to form mass-based organs of physical defence. We will need to take over our workplaces and join together to take the economy into common ownership. This will necessarily carry over into a fight for a new state power – working class rule, based on democratic organisations at all levels from workplace councils to a workers’ government.
9. The Socialist Labour Party
The victory of the socialist revolution is inconceivable without the existence of a party that unites the most militant and determined fighters into a single disciplined movement capable of providing effective leadership for all those who suffer under the existing capitalist state. We want to build that party. We should get rid of the membership restrictions in the constitution, both the one-year residency clause and the restrictions on membership of other organisations. A healthy mass working class socialist party can only be created on the basis of a high degree of internal democracy, a lively culture of political discussion and the capacity to change its policy as a result of that discussion. This requires that all members are free to argue for their views, individually or collectively, subject only to their willingness to abide by the democratic decisions of the majority.
For a Socialist Federation of the Middle East!
Israel Out of the Occupied Territories!
[Printed in 1917 #5, Winter 1988-89, originally posted online at http://www.bolshevik.org/1917/no5/no05pala.html
For the past year the Palestinian population of the West Bank and Gaza has been locked in a heroic and unequal struggle against Israeli occupation. Forty years after 700,000 Palestinians were driven from their homeland by Zionist terrorism, the Palestinian intifada (uprising) has focused world attention on the denial of their rights as a people. A new generation of youth, frustrated by the failure of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and big-power diplomacy to end the brutal occupation of their land, is rising to reassert its people’s long-denied national rights. In the wake of the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacres, and countless terror bombings of Palestinian and other Arab populations, the intifada has stripped away the myth of Israel as a land of idealistic kibbutzniks making deserts bloom, revealing the brutal reality of the Zionist “Iron Fist.”
Early on in the revolt, when the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) had trouble dispersing crowds of angry, stone-throwing youths with tear gas, soldiers began breaking demonstrators’ hands. When nightly television newsclips of this cold-blooded brutality horrified public opinion around the world, the Zionists emulated their South African allies and “solved” their public relations problem by banning the cameras.
The Israeli regime has tried everything short of a massive genocidal bloodletting to quell the revolt, and yet it shows no signs of abating. The beatings, jailings, mutilations, deportations, and demolitions have failed to break the resistance. Nor have the measures of “collective punishment;” the curfews and restrictions on food, fuel and electricity which are periodically imposed on Palestinian communities. Israeli military tribunals arbitrarily jail anyone suspected of participating in or abetting the intifada. The homes of suspects are routinely demolished, while the army “keeps the peace” by spraying crowds of rock-throwing schoolchildren with automatic weapons fire. To date hundreds of Palestinians have been murdered and thousands more have been wounded. Israeli soldiers have recently been issued with plastic bullets to fire at the demonstrators. Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin explained: “Our purpose is to increase the number (of people wounded) among those who take part in violent incidents….Whoever takes part must know that I am not worried by the increased number of casualties” (Toronto Globe and Mail, 28 September). The Israeli authorities have also detained some 10,000 Palestinians, of whom 2,000 languish in internment camps under “administrative detention” without charges or even the pretense of a trial. Dozens more have been arbitrarily and cruelly ripped away from their homes and families and deported to Lebanon.
The pro-Israel lobby in the U.S. likes to portray the racialist Zionist state as an island of democracy in a sea of Arab despotism. But one of the first casualties of the Israeli attempts to crush the intifada has been the pretense of “democracy” in the Zionist fortress. Dozens of Arab journalists and even a handful of leftist Jewish writers have been imprisoned, and several newspapers have been closed down because they dared to print the ugly truth about the measures used against the protestors.
Hussein Suspends the “Jordanian Option”
The United States—patron and protector of the Zionist state since its creation—has been unable to do much more than wring its hands. Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s hard-line policy has created anxiety in the U.S. State Department over the long-term effect of Israel’s deteriorating public image in America. Therefore, Washington has objected in an unusually blunt fashion to the arrogant Zionist policy of deporting suspected Palestinian leaders to Lebanon, and has even voted for the occasional motion of condemnation in the United Nations Security Council. But the U.S. rulers know that Israel remains its most powerful anti-Soviet ally in the Middle East and an indispensable counterrevolutionary watchdog for the entire region.
Shamir, also cognizant of this fact, has felt free to ignore all U.S. complaints and give Reagan’s Secretary of State, George Shultz, the cold shoulder during the latter’s various “peace missions,” to the Middle East. Shultz only undertook his diplomatic shuttles because he feared that Israel’s naked repression of the Palestinians posed serious strategic problems for the maintenance of the Zionist garrison state. Bowing to the Israeli refusal to negotiate with the PLO, Shultz dutifully scoured the Middle East for Palestinian quislings willing to submit to Israel’s diktat. He proposed to “settle” the Palestinian question by promising eventual Jordanian rule over some of the West Bank and Gaza—a position akin to that advocated by the Israeli “Labor” Party since the 1967 war. But Shultz found no takers among the Palestinians. The proposal was also rejected out of hand by Shamir, whose intransigence was rewarded with a new shipment of American warplanes.
The “Jordanian option” was foreclosed, at least for the time being, when King Hussein, Washington’s “Royal Highness” of Jordan, announced on 31 July that he was giving up all “legal and administrative ties” to the West Bank. Hussein called for the formation of a PLO government-in-exile for the Palestinians of the Occupied Territories. The Hashemite monarch reiterated that “Jordan is not Palestine” and returned full-circle to the proposition that the PLO is “the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people,” thus repudiating his U.S.-anointed role as diplomatic proxy for the Palestinians in an imperialist-brokered “peace process.” Ominously, Hussein’s move coincided with heightened Israeli repression in the Occupied Territories, including a campaign by Israel’s intelligence service, Shin Bet, to round up, torture and deport suspected members of the popular committees directing the intifada.
A New York Times editorial of 2 August sermonized that, “Either the P.L.O. will be able to bear the new burden he [Hussein] imposes by changing character, defining attainable goals and taking responsibility for governance of ordinary life. Or it will fail, prompting West Bank residents to clamor for the King to return.” Of course, Israel is not asked to change its character. Yasir Arafat Zionist terrorist Shamir, a former leader of the Stern Gang, which carried out the massacre of 250 unarmed civilians at Deir Yassin in 1948, responded to Hussein’s move with the announcement that: “Israel will prevent in the most determined way any attempt to carry out any idea—to the extent that there are madmen who raise it—of establishing a Palestinian government. Such people will be met with an iron fist that will leave no trace of their attempts.” In line with this policy, Israeli officials decreed that the PLO will not be allowed to fund schools and health services that have lost Jordanian support.
Hussein’s maneuver underscores the danger of Palestinian reliance on Arab diplomacy. Quite possibly Hussein expects that the PLO will be discredited by its inability to improve the lot of the Palestinians on the West Bank. In that case after exiting through the front door, Hussein could get a chance to reenter through the back—over the political corpse of the PLO leadership—and assume the role of Protector of Palestine.
But whatever plots are being hatched behind the scenes, Hussein’s renunciation of any claim over Palestine reflects the will and determination of the popular insurrection in the Occupied Territories. The Palestinians had repudiated his sponsorship for years and Hussein’s move must be seen, at least in part, as a recognition of this. Thus, while the PLO is busy drawing up plans for its bantustan on the West Bank and Gaza, the intifada has introduced a new element into the complex tangle of Middle East politics—one which could create an opening for independent working-class struggle against Zionism, imperialism and the Arab ruling classes.
Contradictions of the Israeli Occupation
While the “revolution of stones” cannot possibly triumph over the armed might of Israel, it has brought the contradictions at the heart of the Zionist behemoth into stark relief. Israel can neither live with the Occupied Territories nor without them. Enforcing the occupation further militarizes the entire society, while simultaneously eroding the morale of the army. Twenty-four Israeli soldiers are currently imprisoned for refusing to serve in the Occupied Territories. A document published last March by the Israeli Socialist Left (Shasi) noted:
“The prestige of the IDF has suffered a serious blow. It is difficult to square the myths about bravery, efficiency, and resourcefulness with the reality of the brutal, ugly, and vicious actions against a civilian population. The pride about `purity of arms’ and `the moral level’ of the army lies buried under a hill of stones.”
Professional armies are in general adversely affected by being assigned police functions against civilian populations. An article in the Summer 1988 issue of the Journal of Palestine Studies comments on this phenomenon with regard to the intifada:
“This need to use violence against unarmed civilians may create two kinds of reaction, say the psychologists. On the one end of the continuum a `moral apathy’ may develop, which may lead the subject to resort to violence without discrimination and often without functional justification. On the other end, it may lead to inner agonies such as depression, nightmares, and the propensity to disobey….Both extremes lead to an erosion of military discipline: moral apathy may lead to excessive use of violence even against military orders; the depressive reaction may lead to attempts at `service dodging’ and desertion.”
The occupation also imposes an economic burden which can only be ameliorated by ever greater infusions of U.S. aid, which in 1985 was already running at a staggering $1,250 per capita. The brutal suppression of the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories has widened the already existing rift in American Jewish opinion, and although an overwhelming majority of Israeli Jews have rallied behind the government for the time being, the Zionist consensus within Israel could ultimately be endangered.
Yet the Occupied Territories cannot easily be given up. Zionist ideology holds that the annexation of “Eretz Israel” (Greater Israel, including “Judea” and “Samaria,” the Old Testament names for the West Bank) represents the fulfillment of biblical prophecy. It was in the name of a god-given Jewish mandate that Palestine was colonized and the Palestinians driven from their homeland in 1948. Carrying this mandate to its logical conclusion is thus the overriding imperative of a Zionist state now more than ever in the grip of religious fanatics.
In the course of fulfilling its “destiny,” Israel has also acquired important extra-theological reasons for maintaining the occupation: the income generated by a complex web of taxes, licenses, customs and excise revenues, as well as the lucrative captive market which the impoverished inhabitants provide for Israeli manufacturers and retailers. Equally important is the reservoir of cheap Arab labor supplied by the Occupied Territories. Discriminatory regulations designed by the occupation authorities to destroy Palestinian agriculture and manufacturing have further increased the supply of low-cost labor for Israeli entrepreneurs. Control of the West Bank has also given Israel access to two aquifers, which supply 35 percent of its water. Palestinians have been forbidden to drill new wells, while the government has seized or closed many of those previously operated by Arab farmers. The Zionist settlers have virtually unrestricted access to draw water. The result is that in the West Bank, 60,000 settlers consume more of this precious resource than the 850,000 Palestinian residents! (see Israel Shahak in the July-September issue of Race & Class).
To date over a third of Gaza and 60 percent of the land of the West Bank have been seized and is being parcelled out to Israeli settlers and “developers.” There have been numerous cases of Jewish settlers uprooting olive and almond trees, and even bulldozing topsoil on those lands which are still in the possession of the Palestinian inhabitants. Disputes over land titles are now handled by a military review board which has generally turned a blind eye to the “unorthodox” methods used by their countrymen. The government has pursued a policy of encouraging Jewish colonization (known as the “Judaization” of the territories) with lucrative subsidies. (For an illuminating discussion of the economic aspects of the Zionist occupation see “The Price of Peace” in the March-April issue ofThis Magazine.)
The complaints of Israeli employers that the intifada is interrupting the supply of cheap Arab labor from the Occupied Territories and seriously damaging their businesses, is evidence of the dependency of the Israeli economy on the super-exploitation of these workers. This is a fundamental contradiction for the Zionist ruling class—its attempts to create a “Greater Israel” have meant increased reliance upon Arab labor. The parallel with South Africa is unmistakable. A nationwide strike by Arab workers in Israel last December in solidarity with the uprising in the Occupied Territories demonstrated the growing importance of Arab labor within the Israeli economy, and revealed a weapon far more potent than firebombs or stones. This strike signaled to the Zionists that, should they continue with their “Iron Fist” policies, they risk an uprising by “their own” Arab population.
It is often argued by Zionists and their apologists that peace would be possible in the Middle East if only the Arabs would accept the “right of Israel to exist.” But acceptance of the Zionist state would mean condoning a political entity founded upon what a famous UN resolution correctly described as a form of racism.
All major political factions in Israel, from the fascistic Kach party to the “Peace Now” movement, share the racial-theocratic definition of the state central to Zionist ideology. Israel is legally held to be the exclusive “state of the Jewish people.” Although some 750,000 Arabs are second-class Israeli citizens, first-class citizenship is reserved for those who qualify under traditional Jewish law, i.e., anyone born of a Jewish mother or converted to Judaism by a rabbi. Anyone in the world who meets either criterion automatically qualifies for citizenship under the Law of Return. Thus a Jewish American, who has never been to Israel in his life, has citizenship rights in Haifa, while a Haifa-born Palestinian refugee has no right to live in the land of his birth!
This definition of citizenship also underpins the continuing dispossession of the Palestinian population. As the late Moshe Dayan—the Zionist hero of the 1967 war—brutally admitted:
“We came here to a country that was populated by Arabs, and we are building here a Hebrew, Jewish state….Instead of the Arab villages Jewish villages were established. You even do not know the names of these villages….There is not a single settlement that was not established in the place of a former Arab village.”
—Haaretz, 4 April 1969
The Jewish National Fund admits that confiscated Palestinian property amounts to 88 percent of the land of Israel(Jewish Villages in Israel, p.xxi, quoted in Lehn and Davis, The Jewish National Fund). All of these properties were vested under the Absentee Property Law of 1950 with the Custodian of Absentee Property to be administered solely for the Jewish people. The fanatical gun-toting Gush Emunim “pioneers,” who today rob the Arabs of their land in the Occupied Territories, are merely continuing the historic act of usurpation in which the state of Israel was conceived. It is precisely because these “settlers” are carrying out the original Zionist mandate that no major faction on the Israeli political spectrum is willing to defy them.
Zionism, which has always insisted that Jews cannot be assimilated into “gentile society,” was a minority current among European Jews, before the Nazi holocaust. It is one of history’s most bitter ironies that Hitler, by inflicting genocide upon the Jews, has posthumously succeeded in converting many of his victims to the twisted logic of racism. The fascist extermination of six million European Jews was an unparalleled and ghastly crime. But it can only be invoked in justification of current Zionist terror by those who have abandoned all hope of overcoming racism through social struggle, and instead look for their salvation to the victory of their own exclusive racial, ethnic or religious grouping. If mutual hatred and slaughter among peoples and nations is an unalterable fact of human existence, the best that one can hope for is to be a victimizer rather than a victim. This is the suicidal reasoning with which the Zionists have led the Jews of Israel into their present cul-de-sac.
Zionist “Solutions” For Palestinians
The intifada has spurred discussion in Israel about possible “solutions” to the “Palestinian problem.” An option favored by many within Shamir’s right-wing Likud coalition is annexation of the West Bank and Gaza with Palestinians formally excluded from citizenship rights. But within the framework of Zionism, population statistics provide the opposition Labor Party with the most cogent argument against this course. Nearly 1.5 million Palestinians now reside in the Occupied Territories, in addition to those within Israel itself. Annexation would therefore bring 2.25 million Palestinians under Israeli jurisdiction. With a birthrate much higher than that of Israel’s 4 million Jews, Palestinians would one day “dilute” the Jewish majority, and hence pose a threat to Israel’s exclusively Jewish character. Annexation would also impose the necessity of permanently repressing a huge and rebellious subject population.
Another proposal being discussed is that of the “resettlement” of the Arab inhabitants of the West Bank and Gaza. It should not be forgotten that talk of “resettlement” was the prologue to Hitler’s “final solution” of the “Jewish problem” in Europe. Proposals of this nature, though commonly associated with Meir Kahane’s fascistic Kach party, are not the exclusive property of the Zionist ultra-right. Israeli “dove” Abba Eban, then Minister of Foreign Affairs, was among those who “proposed that all the [Palestinian] refugees be settled in Arab states, especially in Syria and Iraq” in the wake of the 1967 war (Davar, 19 February, quoted by Israel Shahak in Covert Action Information Bulletin, Summer 1988). Mass expulsion of the Palestinians from the Occupied Territories is now being openly discussed within the Zionist political establishment. No one imagines that such a massive population transfer could be accomplished by friendly persuasion; it would mean a bloodletting beside which the 1982 massacres of Sabra and Shatila would pale in comparison. The very fact that such an option can be seriously considered is an indication of the racist logic of Zionism.
The option considered most “realistic” by every one from Labor Party leader Shimon Perez to the Israeli “doves” of Peace Now, and endorsed by both Washington and Moscow, is “trading territory for peace.” According to this scenario, Israel would relinquish the most densely populated portions of the West Bank and Gaza, which would then be constituted as an independent Palestinian mini-state.
Jerome Segal, the left-Zionist founder of the “Jewish Committee for Israeli-Palestinian Peace” revealed the logic behind the mini-state proposal when he wrote that, “It would win the support of the PLO and is the only likely basis on which the PLO would formally abandon the right to return to the land and villages lost in 1948.” He pointed out that no military supplies could reach the state without passing through either Jordan or Israel. “The foreign policy of such a mini-state would be dominated by its links to the Israeli economy and by its national-security realities” (Los Angeles Times, 16 February).
Such a tiny “Palestinian state” carved out of the West Bank and Gaza (which taken together constitute less than a fifth of the area of pre-war Palestine) would be divided by Israeli territory, sandwiched between Jordan and Egypt, and possess scant economic resources. The notion that it could even physically accommodate 2.5 million diaspora Palestinians—let alone satisfy their national aspirations—is simply absurd. This would be comparable to the black South African masses accepting the phony independence of the bantustans as their share of South Africa. Indeed, even now the Gaza Strip with its 650,000 Palestinians packed into 100 square miles of desert is often compared to Soweto, since many of its workers use it only as a dormitory for work inside Israel. This reality would hardly be eliminated by running up the PLO flag and issuing a new set of postage stamps.
The PLO and the Mini-State
The PLO is currently supporting the proposal for an international peace conference to resolve the Palestinian question. In a 13 September address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Arafat suggested that either the UN or a consortium of European imperialists could administer the West Bank and Gaza as a transitional step toward establishing a mini-state on those territories.
In 1971 the Palestinian National Congress was proclaiming its:
“Firm opposition to the establishment of a Palestinian state on any part of the Palestinian Homeland on the basis that any attempt to establish such a state falls within the plans to liquidate the Palestinian question.”
—Free Palestine, April 1971
By 1974 the PLO had changed its tune and proposed to establish a national authority on any territory it could obtain. This retreat was justified by PLO spokesman Abu Iyad by the need to:
“read history so as to extract lessons for ourselves. What were the mistakes of our previous leaders?…Their mistake was adhering to our people’s historical rights without adopting stage-by-stage programs of struggle under the obtaining conditions.”
—Alain Gresh, The PLO: The Struggle Within
The “obtaining conditions” Iyad referred to were the result of a series of defeats inflicted on the Palestinians by Zionism, U.S. imperialism and the Arab regimes. Arafat began his political career as a disciple of Gamal Abdel Nasser, the Egyptian military strongman and self-appointed leader of the “Arab revolution.” But in 1970, the very same Nasser abandoned his alliance with the Soviet Union in favor of a rapprochement with American imperialism and accepted the “peace plan” then being touted by William Rogers, U.S. Secretary of State.
The Rogers Plan called on Israel to give back the Occupied Territories to Egypt and Jordan in exchange for recognition of Israel. Nasser and Jordanian King Hussein thought that this deal would lead to the satisfaction of their territorial demands and considered the Palestinians expendable. The massive Palestinian presence in Jordan was a constant threat to Hussein’s regime. Assured that Nasser would not intervene on their behalf, Hussein proceeded to massacre thousands of Palestinians in Jordan during the infamous 1970 “Black September” bloodbath. The Rogers Plan was never accepted by Israel or pursued by the United States.
In 1982 Israel invaded Lebanon (where the PLO had been driven by Hussein) with the object of wiping out the Palestinian camps. In the wake of the Battle of Beirut, a U.S.-sponsored United Nations “peacekeeping force” intervened and persuaded the PLO to withdraw its armed units from Lebanon in exchange for assurances that the “peacekeepers” would protect the remaining Palestinian refugees. The value of these assurances was demonstrated when Israel took advantage of the PLO withdrawal to unleash the reactionary Lebanese Christian Phalange on the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila.
The lesson to be drawn from these historic defeats is the folly of relying on imperialists or Arab potentates to protect the interests of the Palestinian people. But this is a lesson the petty-bourgeois PLO leadership is incapable of learning. Like even the most liberal and enlightened of his Zionist foes, Arafat simply cannot envision a political reality fundamentally different from the one that exists. He opposes the Middle Eastern status quo of imperialist spheres of influence, rapacious oil sheiks and murderous national hatreds only to the extent that there is no place in it for the Palestinians.
The experience of oppression does not automatically make revolutionaries of its victims. The Zionists argued that there could be no answer to the persecution of the Jews without the support of one or another imperialist power for the establishment of a “homeland.” It is the same “pragmatism” that sends Arafat scurrying from one Arab capital to another, weaving intrigue upon Byzantine intrigue, in the vain hope that some new combination of circumstances and political alignments will remedy the historic crime against the Palestinian people.
The PLO’s authority among the Palestinian masses derives not from its leadership of the uprising (which it did not initiate) but from its symbolic importance as the historic representative of Palestinian national aspirations. The Zionist ideologues, who deny the existence of a Palestinian nation, refuse to negotiate directly with an organization that claims to be its “sole legitimate representative.” Thus, the more the PLO is anathematized by the Zionists, the more its banner is embraced by the Palestinians as a symbol of national identity. Yet the reality does not measure up to the image. While certainly worthy of defense against Zionist persecution, the PLO is in fact led by petty-bourgeois nationalists bereft of any coherent political or social outlook. Arafat himself is famous for his proclivity for changing political alliances and demands in accordance with the shifting sands of war and diplomacy in the Middle East.
Arafat cannot make himself more acceptable to the imperialists without continually giving ground to the Zionist state, which is imperialism’s most powerful regional ally. He has thus responded to each Palestinian defeat by further moderating the PLO’s demands. Contrary to Zionist propaganda, Arafat has on numerous occasions indicated his willingness to accept UN Resolutions 242 and 338. This formula characterizes the Palestinians as “refugees” rather than a nationality, and calls for Arab recognition of Israel’s right to exist on the condition that the Israelis withdraw from the Occupied Territories.
The PLO’s current call for UN control of the territories is more maneuvering of the kind that paved the road to “Black September” and the Lebanese massacres. In time, weariness with Arafat’s fruitless diplomatic shell game is bound to create a crisis of confidence in PLO leadership among the Palestinian masses. Far more sinister forces—Islamic fundamentalists inspired by the example of Khomeini’s Iran—are already raising their heads in Gaza and the West Bank.
For a Trotskyist Party in Israel/Palestine!
The answer to Zionist terror does not consist in the harder Palestinian nationalist line advocated by Arafat’s “rejectionist” opponents within the PLO. The road to Palestinian liberation lies through a common struggle of Arab and Hebrew workers against all capitalist oppressors in the region. Amid the burning national antagonisms of today’s Middle East, such a prospect may appear “unrealistic.” The alternative, however, is a continued cycle of desperate revolt and brutal repression.
The fact that the Israeli economy is already dependent upon a working class comprised of both Arab and Hebrew workers provides the objective basis for their joint struggle. However, such a struggle will not emerge spontaneously. It will require the presence of a consciously revolutionary force—a Trotskyist party—determined to take advantage of every opportunity to forge links between the workers of both nationalities. While siding unambiguously with the Palestinians in their struggle against national oppression, a party aspiring to proletarian leadership in the Middle East must not adapt to the prevailing nationalist consciousness of the Arab workers, but base itself on a firm programmatic foundation of internationalist communism.
In the first place, there must be a clear understanding that no genuine solution to the Palestinian question is possible within the framework of U.S. imperialist hegemony, which is the main prop of reactionary forces around the globe. Israel is not the only regime closely allied with U.S. imperialism in the Middle East today. Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia are all heavily dependent on economic and/or military underwriting from their patron.
At the same time, while they are clients, none of these regimes can be regarded simply as U.S. puppets. Zionism contains an expansive dynamic of its own, the “excesses” of which are a source of embarrassment to Washington. In addition, the continued hostility between Israel and reactionary Arab regimes is a real obstacle to the American aim of cementing an anti-Soviet alliance in the Middle East. But U.S. imperialism, precisely because it is not all-powerful, must form alliances with regimes whose imperatives it does not necessarily share. Zionism will continue to act as an imperialist gendarme in the Middle East only so long as it is assured of U.S. backing for its own racist rule and territorial ambitions. This is the basis of the historic deal between Zionism and imperialism, and Washington realizes that to renege on it would endanger the entire structure of capitalist exploitation in the region.
The Trotskyist approach to the national question in the Middle East is profoundly different from that of petty-bourgeois nationalists and their leftist camp followers. Our program derives from the first four congresses of the Communist International, led by Lenin and Trotsky, and the further elaboration of this question by the international Spartacist tendency of the 1960’s and 70’s, when it was still a revolutionary organization.
Leninists solidarize with all oppressed peoples in the face of national persecution; hence we are on the side of Palestinian resistance to Zionist police-state terror. This includes support for the demand for immediate and unconditional Israeli withdrawal from the Occupied Territories. While we reject the various “mini-state” schemes as incapable of satisfying the legitimate national demands of the Palestinians, we nonetheless defend the right of the Palestinians to establish their own government in the Occupied Territories as a deformed and necessarily inadequate expression of their right to self-determination.
There is no such thing as an inherently “progressive” or “reactionary” people. Today’s victims can easily become tomorrow’s despots, as the history of Zionism attests. And it must be recognized that, within the present boundaries of Israel and the Occupied Territories, there are two distinctive nationalities, one of which speaks Hebrew.
The PLO standpoint is that Israel is merely a settler-colonial state, and the Jews within it are a religious grouping. From this it follows that Moslems, Jews and Christians should simply be merged into a single Palestinian nation. But by any objective historical or empirical standard, the Hebrew-speaking community in Israel is a nation, sharing a common language and a common territory—stolen though it was from the Arabs. One cannot simply wish a nation out of existence.
For Leninists, all nations, including the Jews in Israel, have a right to self-determination. That right, however, belongs to the Jews who currently reside in Israel, and not, as the Zionists maintain, to every descendant of the original Twelve Tribes of Israel throughout the world. It is, in other words, a right of the Hebrew-speaking people of the Middle East, and not a “Jewish” right. Moreover, the state of Israel does not represent the legitimate self-determination of the Hebrew-speaking peoples because it is a living denial of the national rights of the oppressed Palestinians.
The Zionist fortress can and must be destroyed by unleashing the class struggle within it. But the Hebrew-speaking working class can never be broken from Zionism without the assurance that it will neither be “driven into the sea” or itself become part of a subject nationality. Like the Catholics and Protestants of Northern Ireland, the Palestinians and the Israeli Jews are two geographically interpenetrated peoples. Where different peoples occupy distinct regions, self-determination can be exercised by a simple political divorce, creating two different national entities, as Norway once seceded from Sweden. But where two peoples cohabit the same territory, the bourgeois nationalist aim of creating a separate nation-state can only be realized by mass expulsions of one or another of the populations. Israel was consolidated in exactly this way.
The only alternative to this kind of mutual slaughter of peoples is the subordination of national divisions to a common struggle aimed at ridding the region of all oppressors—imperialist, Zionist or Arab. In this context, the victory of the working class of one nationality must be a prelude to the triumph of the class as a whole—not as a victory for one people at the expense of another. The result of such a struggle would be a voluntary association of peoples encompassing the entire region—a socialist federation of the Middle East.
In answer to those practitioners of the “art of the possible” who dismiss such a solution as impractical, we refer them to a concrete example of the implementation of such a program, albeit in a partial and deformed way, in an area of the world that had long been a synonym for national hatred: the Balkans. During the Nazi occupation of this corner of Eastern Europe, Tito forged an army to fight the fascist invaders. In Tito’s army, nationalities that had until a few years before been at each other’s throats—Serbs, Croats, Macedonians, Slovenes and Montenegrins—were welded together into a common fighting force.
It would be useless to speculate on what specific geographical or political form a socialist federation of the Middle East will take. The antagonisms that today divide the proletariat along national lines can never be overcome unless the right of all currently existing national groups to associate or disassociate from other nationalities is fully respected. The socialist federation slogan expresses our confidence that a proletariat aware of its class interests is fully capable of finding a formula that protects the rights of all.
The seemingly implacable national hostilities in Israel/Palestine can only be equitably resolved through the struggle for a bi-national Arab/Hebrew workers state as part of a socialist federation of the Middle East. Such a struggle requires the construction of a Trotskyist party, which upholds the right to national self-determination of the oppressed Palestinians, and is based on a program which links the democratic and economic demands of the proletariat of bothnations to the historic necessity for the overthrow of the racist Zionist state and the reactionary Arab regimes of the region.
FROM NEW YORK TO SRI LANKA:
IT IS DESPERATELY NECESSARY TO FIGHT!
A Call to Struggle Against the Degeneration of the iSt
We declare ourselves as part of an external tendency of the iSt. We stand in programmatic agreement with it. However, we, like many others, have been forced from the organization by the present leadership which increasingly exhibits hyper-centralist, paranoid and personalist characteristics. These tendencies on the part of the leadership have reached the point where they call into question both the possibility of significantly enlarging the organization and of reproducing Trotskyist cadres within it.
Those of us in the San Francisco Bay Area will be supporting the Diana Coleman/Ritchie Bradley Supervisors campaign actively though critically. This campaign will raise a revolutionary socialist alternative when it is urgently needed against the twin capitalist parties of racism, poverty and nuclear holocaust.
We choose this moment to make ourselves known as an external tendency because the positive political effects of this election campaign will be dissipated by the SL’s self-cannibalization just as has occurred with the SL’s trade union and anti-Nazi work.
Most recently, comrades Vetter, Clarkson and Marin among others have been targeted for “rehabilitation” or elimination because of an alleged “…egregious capitulation to Stalinism at the Chicago public meeting, July 10th, of a piece with the political line counterposed to Trotskyism expressed pervasively in our June 27th demonstration, constituting acquiescence to the popular front behind which stands the Democratic Party,…” (Working Proposal of Delegation While in Chicago, attached to PB minutes #11, 27 July 1982). Simultaneously a wholesale blood letting of the WV editorial board occurred. On July 17, 1982 the SL/US PB passed unanimously the motion “To drop Burroughs from the WV ed board, retaining him as a staff member of WV…” and “That as soon as feasible, we put comrade Norden (and preferably Salzburg as well) on a fairly lengthy sabbatical at the CC apartment in the Bay Area with key reading lists supplied.” On July 21, 1982, Mark K. offered his resignation from the ed board “In view of the fact that I have not been functioning as a member of the WV editorial board…”. These actions have serious implications for the future propaganda capacity of the iSt. The paper, along with the trade union fractions, has been the backbone and mainstay of the entire iSt for the past decade.
In the past two years, the SL-US/iSt has forced out or lost most of its prominent trade unionists, many local functionaries, virtually all of its Australian CC, the indigenous key component of its Canadian CC, and almost 50% of the German section (including founding members/CCers). Only remnants remain of the “fusions” with the Communist Working Collective (CWC) and the Red Flag Union (RFU) which initially enriched the SL/US. The organization is qualitatively less stable today than it was in the spring of 1980.
In Factional Struggle and Party Leadership, Cannon said of the Pabloites:
“The leading cadre plays the same decisive role in relation to the party that the party plays in relation to the class. Those who try to break up the historically created cadres of the Trotskyist parties, as the Pabloites are doing in one country after another, are in reality aiming to break up the parties and to liquidate the Trotskyist movement…”
“Given the program, the construction of leading cadres is the key to the construction of revolutionary parties; and the former requires an even higher degree of consciousness and a more deliberate design than the latter.”
Side by side with the frenzy of self-cannibalization have appeared a series of political positions which at minimum represent disorientation and at maximum the abandonment of historic LeninistTrotskyist-Spartacist stands.
PATCO: a violation of the principle that picket lines mean don’t cross, jeopardizing the SL/US single most valuable piece of political capital, the heretofore unbesmirched record on the Picket line question.
POLAND AND THE GERMAN SECTION: In order to purge the German section, the IEC delegation prepared a surprise for internal publication-only motion pledging the TLD to “take responsibility in advance for whatever idiocies and atrocities they [i.e. the Stalinist Red Army] may commit” in case military intervention became necessary to crush the capitalist restorationists of Solidarnosc. Even if this secret position was simply a gross provocation whose purpose was to split and purge the TLD, it represents a Marcyite/proto-Stalinist bulge. Trotskyists support Stalinists against counterrevolution while never for a moment endorsing their anti-working class acts and policies which constantly engender counterrevolutionary currents.
EL SALVADOR: The iSt blurred the edges of the organization’s hard opposition to all forms of popular frontism by carrying the flag of the FMLN which is at best a radical, petty bourgeois formation not even part of the workers movement.
FALKLAND/MALVINES: In the midst of the war, when internationalists had to mobilize — with due respect for bourgeois repression — for revolutionary defeatism on both sides, the SL/Britain liquidated its press for an entire critical month and, judging from Spartacist Britain, they devoted most of their energy to a forum on the black/trade union work in the U.S., not to urgently needed forums on the Falkland/Malvines.
LEBANON INVASION: While taking a literary hard line in WV, in action the organization did virtually nothing. This was most obvious in the Bay Area but judging from WV the SL nationally neither demonstrated nor even held forums after mid-June until the mid-September West Beirut massacre.
In June 1973, WV published an inspiring call to the Chilean working class to act against the first military coup. Now, in a very different situation from the Chilean popular front, with the Israeli working class mobilized by the Israeli bourgeoisie for capitalist war, it is equally urgent to appeal to the Israeli proletariat to break from their capitalist masters. Yet not once has WV agitated or even propagandized for the Jewish proletariat “to turn the guns the other way”. Instead of seizing the opportunity presented by the public opposition of significant sectors of the Israeli military and civilians within two to five weeks of the invasion, (it took U.S. soldiers and civilians two to five years of much bloodier combat during Vietnam), the SL tilted toward the position that the Israelis are paralyzed with a Master Race psychology and that only qualitatively more dead Jews could change that. Even after the outbreak of truly mass demonstrations the SL failed to raise the call for Israeli workers to strike against the war, a slogan the SL proudly raised throughout the Vietnam war. The SL’s formal posture for “Hebrew and Arab Workers Overthrow Your Rulers” and for an Arab/Hebrew Trotskyist party cannot hide the SL’s passivity toward the revolutionary potential of the Hebrew proletariat. Most indicative of the iSt’s abandoning an interventionist stance was its sharp de-emphasis at the height of the invasion of the unique transitional call of the iSt for a binational workers state in Israel/Palestine, focusing instead and almost exclusively on a socialist Federation of the Near East.
We constitute ourselves a tendency in the hope that it will cause comrades inside to organize to overturn the policies and practices of the present leadership which is disorienting and slowly destroying the iSt from within. We call on those ex-members who still think the rebirth of the Fourth International must be accomplished on the basis of the Declaration of the Principles of the SL/US and “Seize the Opportunity! REVOLUTIONARY REGROUPMENT” (Spartacist #14 — November/December 1969), not to become demoralized by their experience in the iSt and to join us in this struggle.
Those who founded the Revolutionary Tendency and fought on for two decades to build the iSt have made an invaluable contribution by bringing the program of revolutionary Trotskyism to a new generation of revolutionaries (if only a handful of us) in the U.S., Europe and Asia. Now they are destroying their own work.
“It must be said loud and clear: The slogan of party unity, in the hands of the ruling faction, is more and more becoming an instrument of ideological terror (intimidation and bullying) against the overwhelming majority of the party …
“Unanimity is produced by the party as a whole through the constant renewal and accumulation of collective experience, through a collective effort of thought, on the basis of the party’s program, rules and traditions, and past experience. This process is inconceivable without differences, criticism, and the clash of ideas… Without centralism, party democracy is the organizational path to Menshevism. Without democracy, centralism is the apparatus road to the bureaucratic degeneration of the party.”
“The organizational policy of the ruling faction has the.same kind of ‘scissors’ as are found in all the rest of its policies: in words, the recognition of party democracy; in deeds, the ever increasing suppression of every manifestation of thought or criticism outside the framework of the closed-in ruling faction at the top.” (emphasis in original)
Challenge of the Left Opposition, 1926-27, “Party Unity and the Danger-oT Splits, pg. 113)
We seek to build a healthy democratic centralist party.
“Iron party discipline is essential for us — as under Lenin. But intraparty democracy is also essential for us — as under Lenin” (“Declaration of the Eighty-Four”. May 1927).
Only an organization — where political debate is welcomed -where mistakes are learned from, not seized upon — which shows respect for its own cadre — which respects the subjective commitment to revolution of other cadre of the workers movement and fights to win them to a genuine Leninist-Trotskyist program — only such an organization can hope to survive this period of reaction, overcome its isolation and grow into the vanguard of the world workers movement.
We would rejoin the organization if guaranteed mutually agreed upon minority rights. For the present, we are making our views known only to members and close supporters of the common movement. We hope that the degeneration of the iSt will be halted before it reaches a point which will force us to carry our criticisms to the workers movement at large.
Revolutionary Regroupment Afterword
This was the first public statement of the External Tendency of the international Spartacist tendency, out which the North American component of the International Bolshevik Tendency developed. The IBT played an important role in maintaining a revolutionary line for a number of years, but we disagree with the decision of remaining part of an external tendency of such a tiny grouping as the iSt. Trotsky’s orientation towards the mass Communist International in the early years was an international one, but he recognized that at least in some countries (where CI sections were small), while a propaganda orientation was still important, narrowly acting as an external tendency to the CI section made less sense. He at one time for instance thought that was true of the US, amongst other countries. This was when these small CI sections were still many times larger than the entire iSt.
While at that time it made sense to have some orientation to the iSt (though not an exclusively narrow one), it should be recognized that by the time the ET was formed it was rather late in the game. The chances for mobilizing the iSt ranks against their leaders, if not impossible, were small. A split rather than a reform was far more likely. A broader propaganda orientation made more sense at the time (not to speak of now).
We furthermore disagree with the Cannon quote that “The leading cadre plays the same decisive role in relation to the party that the party plays in relation to the class.” This expressed Cannon’s view of the party leadership maintaining a discpline amongst itself in relation to the ranks, in a similar manner the party does with the general public. The notion of a leadership approaching the rank and file in the manner of a disciplined faction is a bureaucratic one (adherence to which played a factor in the defeat of the Left Opposition in the Soviet Union), but at least Cannon, with all his faults, was at heart subjectively revolutionary and not simply a cynical bureaucrat. That set certain parameters to the potential (and unfortunately at times real) abuses of such a practice. The current IBT leadership, which also approaches the ranks in the manner of a faction, on the other hand is not subjectively revolutionary but cynical and corrupt with fewer parameters inhibiting them.
Material on the Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal
Letter to Governor Tom Ridge demanding release of Mumia Abu-Jamal (1995)
Sectarian Stupidity Will Not Free Mumia (1995)
Disagreebale Sectarians (1999)
No Faith in Capitalist Courts! Free Mumia Abu-Jamal (2000)
Letter to Governor Tom Ridge demanding release of Mumia Abu-Jamal
[copied from http://www.bolshevik.org/Leaflets/LettertoTomRidge.html ]
1 July 1995
PO Box 385
New York, NY 10276
Governor Tom Ridge
225 Capitol Building
We demand the immediate release of Mumia Abu-Jamal, a political prisoner on death row for 13 years, falsely convicted of killing a Philadelphia policeman. The case of Mumia exposes the fraud of the U.S. “human rights” campaign against the People’s Republic of China and other targets of U.S. imperialism, In fact, the U.S. has the largest prison population of any country in the world. The “land of opportunity” and the “American Dream” is in reality a land of mass poverty and degrading racial oppression where thousands of poor, black and white, are driven into petty crime out of desperation, while the capitalist class loots with impunity.
The most exploited, especially blacks and other minorities, have few illusions in the “American Dream.” Lives of daily racist insults and discrimination, desperation, grinding poverty, junk-food diets and junk-food jobs make it hard for blacks to accept the lies at face value. The lack of social justice is all too obvious! Where ideology doesn’t work, the capitalists must resort to repression through the judicial system, the police, FBI, and National Guard to maintain the day-to-day “law and order” necessary to guarantee profits with a minimum of disruption.
The planned execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal, if carried out, can never silence the “Voice of the Voiceless!” Instead, it would create a martyr whose stature would tower more and more with the passage of time like Joe Hill, Sacco and Vanzetti, the Rosenbergs, and Malcolm X. Were Mumia to be legally murdered, his memory would become a wellspring of inspiration for all those who work to end this system of misery and exploitation.
For each activist you strike down, ten will arise to take his or her place. The decline of U.S. capitalism guarantees that all attempts by the state to stifle the class struggle are ultimately futile. We cannot foresee the timing and circumstances of a working-class counteroffensive. But we know that the chaos and irrationality of the capitalist New World Order generates its own nemesis from within: out of the ranks of the working class, whose labor is the source of all capitalist profits, shall arise new leaders to pick up the torches carried by those struck down.
Free Mumia Abu-Jamal!!!
For the Bolshevik Tendency,
Letter to Workers Vanguard
Sectarian Stupidity Will Not Free Mumia
10 August, 1995
To the Editor of Workers Vanguard:
Monday’s stay of execution was vital to the battle for the life of Mumia Abu-Jamal. Its achievement is a crucial tactical victory, which can open the way to the more profound victory we need—getting him off death row and freeing him.
This tactical victory was a result of mobilization by thousands of leftists, trade unionists and blacks throughout the world. The more profound victory will be possible only through the mobilization of even broader layers, and in larger activities. With the consistent application of united-front methods, Mumia Abu-Jamal will be freed.
The Spartacist League and the Partisan Defense Committee have done an admirable job in publicizing Mumia’s case and mobilizing in his defense. But your recent article, “Anti-Communist Smear Targets Jamal Campaign”(Workers Vanguard, 28 July) can only undermine the effort required to save Mumia from the executioner’s needle. Supposedly a response to attempts to sabotage the fight for Mumia’s freedom, it in fact resorts to Stalinist-style cop baiting to further the narrow organizational interests of the Spartacist League.
In the article you claim that the polemics of the Bolshevik Tendency exposing your cult-like internal regime are really aimed at sabotaging the fight for Mumia and bringing down state repression on your heads. You write that “defamatory ravings about the SL as a ‘cult’ feed into the Wall Street Journal’s vintage redbaiting, which is aimed atspiking the necessary mass protest that is essential in fighting for Jamal’s freedom” (emphasis in original). You write further that the BT “has always sought to be the instrument of bigger forces with its provocative slurs and slanders against the Spartacist League,” insinuating that we (along with the other left groups mentioned in your article) are in league with sinister forces (like the FBI, maybe?) to “get” the SL.
You find particularly sinister the WSJ article’s mention of the fact that we “deride [our] old party as ‘Jimstown,’ a takeoff on Jonestown.” What the WSJ reporter didn’t know, however, is that the term “Jimstown” (from our article, “The Road to Jimstown,” published ten years ago) was only indirectly derived from Jonestown. Its immediate antecedent was your characterization of Jack Barnes’ Socialist Workers Party as “Barnestown”. You also fail to mention that for years you have publicly labeled the Healyites, the Revolutionary Workers League, the Freedom Socialist Party and other left groups “cults.” When, during the Gulf War, you pointed to the years-long role of David North’s Workers League as paid publicists for Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq, and as apologists for the murder of members of the Iraqi Communist Party, the Workers League responded to these charges in exactly the same way that you respond to ours: they claimed you were attempting to set them up for government repression. Was the SL seeking to become “the instrument of bigger forces” against these other groups? Your accusations against them are no less a matter of public record than our claims about the SL, and are no less accessible to the Wall Street Journalor any other bourgeois newspaper. Or what about your remark in German-language Spartacist (Winter 1989-90) that we have “similar appetites” to those of the Mossad (Israeli secret police)? Did you think that such an insinuation posed no danger to our German comrades, in light of the resurgence of anti-Semitism in that country? The Spartacist League evidently believes it has a right to say anything about other left groups, but goes into a frenzy the minute it gets a taste of its own medicine.
Even more appalling is the fact that you explicitly equate any criticism of yourselves with an attack on Mumia Abu-Jamal. You are hardly the only group active in the fight for his freedom. We, along with yourselves and others, have participated in demonstrations for Mumia in every part of the world where we have comrades, including the San Francisco Bay Area, Berlin, Hamburg and London. An English supporter got a resolution for freeing Mumia passed in the Birmingham Trades Council. Our New Zealand section has initiated two demonstrations calling to free Mumia, the first in 1990. A New York comrade got his union (Local 2110, UAW) to send a protest letter to the Governor of Pennsylvania on Mumia’s behalf. Our Toronto group has helped to build two demonstrations for Mumia so far, and is now participating alongside your members in efforts for another mobilization on 14 August. Our name appears on the PDC poster for this rally as one of the endorsers.
According to your logic, Trotskyists in the 1930s, by pointing to the bureaucratic internal regime of the U.S. Communist Party and its cult of Stalin, were sabotaging the campaign to defend the Scottsboro Boys. The Stalinists themselves seized every opportunity to make this point. But Trotskyist exposures of Stalinist betrayals from Germany to Spain, or their condemnations of the Moscow Trials, never prevented them from defending the Soviet Union against imperialism, or from defending American Stalinists from McCarthyite witchhunts. Similarly, our knowledge of the cult-like practices of the SL leadership does not prevent us from seeking united fronts to defend Mumia, nor from defending the SL against repression by the state.
For many years the Spartacist League and Partisan Defense Committee, to their credit, campaigned for Mumia’s freedom before many were familiar with the case. More became involved when Mumia’s death warrant was signed, including many of the SL’s competitors on the left. Rather than welcoming these organizations to the fight, your reflex has been to defend your turf in truly sectarian fashion, writing that other leftists’ “venomous hatred of the Trotskyist Spartacist League far outweighs their professed defense of Jamal” (emphasis added). In other words, you are Mumia’s only real defenders on the socialist left. Some of your members even went so far as to claim that our protest letter to Pennsylvania’s Governor Ridge, which states that “For each activist you strike down, ten will arise to take his or her place,” means that we somehow conceive of Mumia’s murder as a positive development!
In the wake of your recent altercation with the International Socialist Organization, you write “that their ‘support’ to the campaign for Jamal isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on,” and that “united-front action[s] are completely alien to the ISO, which has been noticeably absent (or represented by token teams) at recent demonstrations for Jamal.” Yet at one major recent demonstration for Jamal in New York City (Saturday, July 22), where approximately 400 showed up, the ISO had many times more members than the SL, who turned up with fewer than ten people. In a city where you could have mobilized 50 of your own members at the very least (not to mention your periphery), this is truly shameful. Could this lack of enthusiasm be explained by the fact that the demonstration was called by the Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition, and not the SL or PDC? It would seem that united-front actions are somewhat “alien” to the SL as well. The SL, in fact, rarely engages in united fronts it does not initiate and unilaterally control. While there has been an unevenness in your methods internationally, on the whole your approach has been more reminiscent of the Third Period Stalinist “united front from below” which allowed Hitler to take power in Germany, than to the Trotskyist approach of negotiations among as many organizations as possible to mobilize the maximum forces in united action.
The campaign to save Mumia places the Spartacist leadership in a particular bind. On the one hand, it wants to maintain the SL’s reputation as Mumia’s best defenders, and build a broad campaign on his behalf. On the other hand, the leadership is uncomfortable about the fact that such a campaign will inevitably bring SL members into wider contact with other leftists—a development the SL leadership tries to avoid for fear that the rank and file may begin to question the leadership’s claims to infallibility. Hence the reluctance to participate in non-SL events and the need for cop-baiting attacks in the pages of Workers Vanguard.
It is this kind of sectarian behavior, and not the fact that we and others dare to criticize the Spartacist League, that truly sabotages the fight for Mumia’s freedom. Yet we insist that one need not be a fan of the SL leadership to keep working with the SL and anyone else who is willing to fight for the life of Mumia Abu-Jamal.
On behalf of the International Bolshevik Tendency,
Open Letter to Workers Vanguard
[Reprinted in 1917 #21, 1999. Copied from http://www.bolshevik.org/1917/no21/No21mum3.pdf ]
The following is an open letter to Workers Vanguard, newspaper of the Spartacist League/U.S.:
25 April 1999
As we have occasionally pointed out in the past, the Spartacist League / Partisan Defense Committee (SL/PDC) deserves credit for its pioneering work in publicizing the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal and organizing for his freedom. Since 1995 Mumia Abu-Jamal has won ever broader support within the left and labor movement internationally. Regrettably you have not seen this as an opportunity to engage in common work and political struggle with activists from other organizations. Instead you have tended to allow petty sectarian organizational considerations to take precedence over principled unite-front activity to free Mumia.
The 16 April Workers Vanguard (WV) commentary on recent events in Mumia’s defense campaign is a case in point. The article headlined “Mobilize the Power of Labor! Free Mumia Now!” treats in an extremely cursory manner the exceptionally important work-stoppage by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) on 24 April.Every port from San Diego to Bellingham Washington was shut down for the day in solidarity with Mumia! It is hard to overstate the importance of such an event – particularly in this period in which organized labor has been on the defensive. Yet this actual, living, mobilization of the “Power of Labor” to free Mumia is dismissed with a single paragraph buried in the text. You claim that it was organized so as “to minimize the cost to the company,” but Saturday can be one of the busiest days on the docks. You also mistakenly report that the work stoppage was only for two hours, rather than for the entire day shift.
You grudgingly admit that it was, “a powerful statement of the social power” of labor to win Mumia’s freedom. The ILWU’s coastwide shutdown for Mumia was an action that, to our knowledge, is unprecedented in the history of U.S. labor for at least 50 years. Of course we look forward to the hypothetical “broader actions” that you project for the future, but this event was of historic importance, something you are clearly loathe to admit.
You reported that “the ILWU” had called for the action, but did not inform your readers that it had been initiated by Jack Heyman, a former SL supporter, who is currently on the executive board of the ILWU’s San Francisco local, and is also active in the Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia (LAC), along with IBT comrades, former SL trade-union supporters and many others. Many LAC participants played an active role in building the historic 1984 labor boycott of apartheid cargo in San Francisco. This boycott established an important precedent for the ILWU’s recent action in defense of Mumia. The SL’s shameful sectarianism in 1984 was thoroughly documented by three former Spartacist trade-union activists in “Third Period Robertsonism at Pier 80,” published in the Bulletin of the External Tendency of the iSt, No. 4, May 1985.
Brother Heyman is introduced in the WV article as someone “who postures as the left wing of the ILWU Local 10 executive board” and roundly denounced for having the temerity to ask the “non-sectarian” PDC for a list of union endorsements gathered in the past for Mumia. WV admits that these endorsements were all a matter of public record, but still smears Heyman as someone whose real aim:
“is to go after the reads, in the service of the labor bureaucracy (whose seats Heyman et al. desire to fill) and of concealing the true nature of the capitalist state.”
WV denounces the Labor Action Committee as a “veritable rogues’ gallery” whose “visceral hatred” of Spartacist League has led them to try to give a “labor facade to the class-collaborationist politics that define the ‘Millions for Mumia’ protests.” The fact that Heyman (and the other comrades working in the LAC), through a combination of hard work and political skill made a vital contribution to sparking the most powerful act of labor solidarity in Mumia’s defense to date, is completely ignored by WV which claims of the LAC:
“obscures the class nature of the capitalist state, deep-sixes any mention of the Democratic Party and completely obviates the centrality of the fight for black liberation to the cause of emancipation of all of labor.”
The willingness to employ such brainless slanders has a great deal to do with why the contemporary Spartacist League is so widely reviled on the left and has so little influence in the labor movement.
WV wraps up its denunciation of the Labor Action Committee with a condemnation of its appeal for labor organizations to:
“join the ILWU at the head of the demonstration whose whole premise is not the cause of mobilizing the social power of multiracial working class for Jamal’s freedom but rather one which appeals to the agencies of the class enemy for ‘justice’.”
The SL did not organize a contingent in either the San Francisco or Philadelphia “Millions for Mumia” demonstrations on 24 April and it is clear that you opposed mobilizing the labor movement (or anyone else) for these events. The ostensible reason for this sectarianism is that you disagree with one of the main slogans of the rallies (i.e., for a “New Trial” for Mumia). You prefer to call for “Free Mumia!” So do we. Nonetheless we do not see this as a reason to abstain from participating in the national events that are many times larger than any rallies the SL/PDC have been able to organize. Of course we participate in these demonstrations with our slogans, including the call to “Free Mumia1”.
We recall that during the Vietnam War the SL marched in many demonstrations organized around clearly social pacifist slogans, but carried its own placards calling for victory to the Indochinese Revolution. The ILWU contingent, which headed the 24 April demonstration in San Francisco, raised the call to “Free Mumia!” It did not, to my knowledge, call for a “New Trial.”
WV approvingly quoted the remarks of a participant in an SL meeting last February who asked:
“How about somebody telling the truth, that there’s no way that Mumia’s going to get justice in the courts. It’s going to be exactly the same frame-up bullshit that happened the first.”
It is not impossible that a new trial could result in an acquittal. To assert otherwise is fake ultra-leftism. Fake, because the SL doesn’t truly believe it. If a new trial can only result in “exactly the same frame-up bullshit,” why is the PDC’s Rachel Wolkenstein still participating in Mumia’s defense team which has been pursuing every possible legal avenue, including trying to win a retrial? Furthermore, in the 1970’s, the SL itself launched successful court challenges against infringements of the democratic rights by both the U.S. Secret Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The SL’s abstentionism was not fundamentally dictated by the choice of slogans by the “Millions for Mumia” organizers. This is proved by the fact that both the London and Toronto unite-front events held in conjunction with the Philadelphia and San Francisco rallies were organized on the basis of the call to “Free Mumia!”. Yet in both cases, the Spartacist League’s co-thinkers refused to endorse or help build the events. In London, where a solidarity night organized by the “Mumia Must Live!” coalition drew over 100 people, the SL did not send even a single supporter.
In Toronto, a united-front demonstration was held involving many of the same groups that had organized a successful 14 November 1998 protest to demand Mumia’s freedom. On that occasion the Trotskyist League (the SL’s Canadian sister section) had been an active in the united front. But although it was invited, it refused to attend the planning meetings for the 24 April demonstration. At one of those meetings, a proposal was floated to change the basis of unity from “Free Mumia!” to a call for a new trial. Our comrades, and others, argued against making such a change and the proposal was shelved.
In Toronto, 150 people turned out to demonstrate for Mumia’s freedom across the street from the U.S. consulate. Among the participants were ten TL supporters. Speakers from the endorsing organizations addressed the crowd, including representatives of the United Secretariat, the International Socialists, Socialist Resistance (formerly Labor Militant), the Black Action Defense Committee, New Socialists, Friends of MOVE, Nation of Islam and ourselves. TL members marched in the picket line, carried their own placards and raised their own chants. Two TL supporters stood in front of the rally with a large banner featuring a picture of Mumia and virtually identical slogans to those the demonstration had been organized around. The absurdity of the TL’s posture was widely commented on at the demonstration – they agreed with the slogans, turned out and participated in the event, but for some inexplicable reason refused to endorse or build it.
Such “tactics” are not likely to win many converts among the left. Most political activists regard the SL as a slightly ridiculous, frequently hysterical and generally disagreeable sect. The only purpose of the SL’s leadership’s semi-abstention from the campaign to free Mumia can be to seal off their membership from excessive exposure to other leftists and social reality in general. In the process, the SL/PDC has managed to squander the political credibility it gained from its important early work in the fight for Mumia’s freedom.
Samuel T. [Trachtenberg]
for the International Bolshevik Tendency
No Faith in Capitalist Courts!
Free Mumia Abu-Jamal!
[First prinetd in 1917 #21, 2000. Copied from http://www.bolshevik.org/1917/no22/Fmumia.htm ]
The struggle to save Mumia Abu-Jamal, America’s most famous political prisoner, is moving toward a climax. Mumia, a former Black Panther, has been behind bars since 1982 when he was framed for the killing of Daniel Faulkner, a Philadelphia cop.
On 22 April 1999, Mumia’s legal team filed a writ of certiorari before the U.S. Supreme Court, which was tossed out on 4 October when the court announced that it would not hear the appeal. Nine days later, on 13 October 1999, Governor Tom Ridge signed a second death warrant for Mumia. The first one in 1995 was nullified when Mumia was granted a stay following a wave of international protests. The second warrant was also stayed when Federal Judge William H. Yohn Jr. agreed to consider Mumia’s request for an evidentiary hearing on a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. If granted, this will permit Mumia’s defense team to introduce a wealth of new evidence that has been painstakingly excavated since 1982. It will also provide an opportunity to demonstrate how Mumia’s constitutional rights were violated in his original trial. Every attempt by his attorneys to present evidence in 1995 during the Post-Conviction Relief hearings was blocked by extremely prejudicial rulings from presiding judge Albert Sabo, the “King of Death Row,” who had conducted the original frame-up.
During the prosecution’s closing summation at the original trial, the district attorney assured the jurors: “If you find the Defendant guilty of course there would be appeal after appeal and perhaps there could be a reversal of the case, or whatever, so that may not be final” (cited in L. Weinglass, Race for Justice). U.S. courts have previously established that urging a jury to find a defendant guilty, while suggesting that their decision may later be reversed, is, in itself, sufficient grounds for throwing out the conviction. Like many arguments presented by the defense, however, this has been repeatedly dismissed out of hand by the Pennsylvania judiciary.
The district attorney’s argument is all the more macabre since the appeals process has been short-circuited by Bill Clinton’s “Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act,” which was pushed through in the wake of the deranged rightist bombing of the Oklahoma federal building in 1995. This act guts federal habeas corpus by discouraging federal courts from examining state convictions, thereby speeding up the machinery of death. An evidentiary hearing before Judge Yohn would not only be Mumia’s first real opportunity to officially present new evidence, it is likely to be his only chance. In terms of legal options, a great deal depends on whether or not Mumia is granted the hearing he has requested.
Ultimately, the legal proceedings in the courthouse will be shaped by political considerations—especially the numbers and level of activity of Mumia’s supporters, particularly within the labor movement. The only reason that Mumia was not executed in 1995 was because of the scope of the protests in the U.S. and internationally.
Comrades of the International Bolshevik Tendency (IBT) have regularly participated in the campaign to save Mumia in the localities where we exist. In the San Francisco Bay Area, our comrades have worked with the Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia (LAC), which has done valuable work in bringing the campaign into the labor movement, and which helped initiate the International Longshore and Warehouse Union’s (ILWU) historic one-day West Coast port shutdown in April 1999 in solidarity with Mumia. The LAC has held public forums on the case, provided speakers for union meetings and organized labor contingents in demonstrations for Mumia.
A fund-raising “Party for Mumia” held by the LAC on 14 February was forced to change venues twice as a result of police intimidation. Originally scheduled for “Sweet Jimmy’s,” a black nightclub in Oakland frequented by longshore and postal workers, the event had to be moved when the owner canceled the booking after receiving threatening phone calls from the police. In a gesture of solidarity, the “Open World Conference in Defense of Trade Union Independence” offered the LAC space they had previously booked for a social at the Bay View Boat Club. But, at the last minute, the boat club also backed out. The ILWU saved the day by providing Local 10’s View Room for the party, which succeeded in raising $2,000 for Mumia’s defense.
Our German comrades in the Gruppe Spartakus (GS) participated in a major demonstration for Mumia in Berlin on 5 February, which drew 8,000 people from across Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark. On 10 March the GS sponsored a successful united-front demonstration in Mönchengladbach with Blockbuster/Youth Against Racism , the Party of Democratic Socialism (the successor to the former East German ruling party) and other anti-fascist groups.
In Britain, our comrades have played a central role, along with anarchist militants, in organizing “Mumia Must Live!” (MML) — a united front launched in February 1999 on the basis of two slogans: “Free Mumia Abu-Jamal” and “Abolish the Racist Death Penalty.” Mumia Must Live! has sponsored a number of significant events in London, including an emergency response rally last October following Ridge’s signing of the second death warrant, and a 150-person rally the next month to protest the circulation of anti-Mumia disinformation in the capitalist media. On 4 March, MML sponsored a demonstration that drew 1,000 people to Trafalgar Square, in the largest Mumia defense rally in Britain so far.
In the course of building the March demonstration there were several intense discussions within Mumia Must Live!, particularly after the British Socialist Workers Party (SWP) joined. The SWP contributed significant resources, and has given MML a much higher profile. At the same time, SWPers have made several attempts to include, as part of MML’s basis of unity, a demand for the U.S. courts to retry Mumia. Our comrades and some of the anarchists were opposed to including this demand, and after some to-ing and fro-ing, the SWP relented, and agreed to only raise it in their own name.
The SWP is not alone among Mumia’s supporters in attempting to make a new trial the focus of the defense campaign. In the 1960s and early 70s, there was a wave of demonstrations in the U.S. in defense of the chairman of the Black Panther Party, Huey P. Newton. Anyone who had raised a call for giving Newton a “New Trial” at one of these “Free Huey” rallies would have been regarded as either extremely dubious or insane. Today, some of the same “revolutionary” groups who called for freeing Huey are advocating a “new trial” for Mumia. They rationalize this adaptation to liberalism as a tactic to enhance the campaign’s mainstream appeal and thus make it easier to obtain celebrity endorsements from ephemeral glitterati.
We take a different approach, and recall Leon Trotsky’s injunction to “speak the truth to the masses.” And the truth is that the U.S. judicial system is shot through with racism and class bias. While every possible legal avenue must be pursued in the campaign to save Mumia’s life, the best way to protect him is not to pander to liberal illusions in the impartiality of the courts, but to use his frame-up to expose the whole corrupt system of racist capitalist injustice, and thus help win a new generation of youth to the program of socialist revolution.
The IBT published the following statement on 28 February:
The campaign to free Mumia Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther framed for the 1981 killing of a policeman, is reaching a critical stage. Over the past 18 years, as Mumia has sat on death row in Pennsylvania, his case has won worldwide attention and the campaign to save his life has steadily gained momentum. Trade unionists around the world, from Brazil, to South Africa and New Zealand have taken up his case. In the U.S., the longshore union shut down all the ports on the Pacific Coast for a day last April as a gesture of solidarity with this class-war prisoner.
Mumia was a founding member of the Philadelphia branch of the Black Panther Party in the 1960s. He subsequently won a reputation as the “Voice of the Voiceless” for his work as a reporter and his fearless criticisms of police brutality and racist persecution. The Philly cops knew him and hated him—his FBI file alone is over 700 pages.
He was convicted in a farcical trial presided over by Judge Albert Sabo, a life-long supporter of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), and a well-known “hanging judge.” Sabo also handled Mumia’s 1995 appeal for “post-conviction relief” where he ruled in favor of his original decision.
In January of this year, federal judge William Yohn in Philadelphia agreed to hear challenges to Sabo’s “findings of fact” in the case. Mumia’s attorneys have documented 29 separate claims of constitutional violations in a petition for a federal writ of habeas corpus to overturn his conviction. (A copy of the defense memorandum can be found on the internet at mojo.calyx.net/~refuse/mumia/court.html).
Judge Yohn is scheduled to begin considering defense arguments in April. This hearing, at the federal district court level, is Mumia’s only opportunity to introduce new evidence into the official record. Subsequent appeals in higher federal courts are bound to only review evidence heard in the district court. The defense is seeking to present new evidence, including statements from key prosecution witnesses at Mumia’s original trial, that their testimony had been coerced by the Philly police. Sabo refused to admit these admissions on the bizarre grounds that these witnesses, who had provided the “evidence” for Mumia’s original conviction, were no longer “credible.”
The outcome of these hearings is impossible to predict. In a memo issued in late January, C. Clark Kissinger, who is close to Mumia’s legal team, outlined a series of possibilities. The judge could permit new evidence to be heard and then overturn the conviction. But he could also deny an evidentiary hearing and uphold Sabo’s decision. He could also let the guilty verdict stand, but ask the Pennsylvania courts to reconsider whether the sentence should be execution or life imprisonment. He could also rule that Mumia’s conviction was unconstitutional without hearing any new evidence. In that case, the state would likely appeal, thus setting the stage for a subsequent decision on the basis of the “facts” established by Sabo’s kangaroo court.
“Free Mumia” or “Re-Try Mumia”?
Mumia’s case is at bottom about politics—not legalities. The reason that he was not executed after his death warrant was signed in 1995 is because there was a groundswell of popular political protest that exposed the racist vendetta by the Philly cops and courts. In November 1999 the national conference of the FOP, the largest police organization in the U.S., called for “boycotting” anyone who spoke out for Mumia, and singled out popular entertainers like Sting and Rage Against the Machine. The capitalist media has ignored the sinister implications of this unprecedented campaign of police intimidation. But it is a powerful confirmation of the fundamentally political character of this case.
Within the movement to defend Mumia an important disagreement has arisen over the political direction of the campaign. Some who once called for “freeing” Mumia are now calling for him to be re-tried. While it is necessary to pursue every possible legal avenue, the demand for winning freedom for Mumia must remain the political focus of the defense campaign.
Every fair-minded person who investigates this case can see that it is a classic frame-up. Every activist in his defense campaign knows that Mumia is innocent— which is why the prosecutors had to coerce witnesses and suppress evidence at his original trial. Why then should we focus on a call for the same racist state to re-try him?
In January 1927 when the International Labor Defense (ILD) campaigned in defense of Sacco and Vanzetti, two Italian anarchist immigrants framed for a murder they did not commit, James P. Cannon, National Secretary of the ILD at the time, wrote:
“One policy is the policy of class struggle. It puts the center of gravity in the protest movement of the workers of America and the world. It puts all faith in the power of the masses and no faith whatever in the justice of the courts. While favoring all possible legal proceedings, it calls for agitation, publicity, demonstrations….This is what has prevented the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti so far. Its goal is nothing less than their triumphant vindication and liberation.
“The other policy is the policy of ‘respectability,’ of the ‘soft pedal’ and of ridiculous illusions about ‘justice’ from the courts of the enemy….It tries to represent the martyrdom of Sacco and Vanzetti as an ‘unfortunate’ error which can be rectified by the ‘right’ people proceeding in the ‘right’ way.”
— “Who Can Save Sacco and Vanzetti?,” reprinted in Notebook of an Agitator
If Mumia’s conviction is overturned, the prosecutors are likely to demand a new round of legal hearings. What will the “revolutionaries” who are now calling for a new trial say then?
Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, subject of a recently released film, was targeted by the FBI and local police after he advocated black self-defense against racist cop terror. He was convicted of murder in 1967 on the testimony of two petty crooks whom the prosecutors paid $10,500. In 1976, after the state’s “witnesses” recanted their testimony, Carter was granted a new trial only to have it turn into a re-run of the original frame-up. In 1985, after 18 years in jail, a federal court judge granted his habeas corpus petition and released him. The prosecution initially threatened to try him yet again, but ultimately decided not to.
In 1997, when Geronimo Pratt, former Black Panther Party Deputy Minister of Defense, was finally released from jail after serving 27 years on a bogus murder charge, the prosecutors talked of forcing him to face a re-trial. In Pratt’s case, the FBI’s own wiretaps and surveillance logs proved that he had been 500 miles away when the murder was committed. His real “crime,” like that of Mumia and Hurricane Carter, was that the cops and state authorities considered him their enemy.
Liberals, civil libertarians and others who have confidence in the integrity of capitalist legality may view Mumia’s case as a product of collusion between a few corrupt cops, an over-zealous district attorney and a racist judge. Such people may indeed be more comfortable with a campaign which sets as its goal a new trial for Mumia, but they are also likely to accept the result, including a second guilty verdict.
Where is Pablo going?
by Bleibtreu-Favre, June 1951
[First posted online at http://www.marxists.org/history/etol/document/fi/1950-1953/ic-issplit/04.htm ]
[Revolutionary Regroupment note: While expressing confusion on Yugoslvia and China, the document’s more general critique of Pablo, who looked to the Stalinists to act as substitutes for the working class and it’s Trotskyist vanguard, was key in laying the groundwork for the 1953 split.]
Introduction by La Verite
The document we are serializing appeared at the beginning of June 1951 under the title ‘Where is Comrade Pablo Going?’ Its publication has been postponed for several months at the request of a member of the International Secretariat—Comrade Germain, the author of ‘Ten Theses’ (see issues 300-304 of La Verite)— who warned the leadership of the Parti Communiste Internationaliste (PCI) against ‘the trap Pablo has laid for destroying the French section.
When the author of the ‘Ten Theses’ opposed their adoption by the PCI Central Committee, he left no room for doubt that he had renounced defending his ideas. He had capitulated, like Zinoviev and others had done before him, like Calas did recently before the French CP’s Central Committee. Trotsky had learned from experience that the rarest and most necessary quality for a revolutionary leader is ‘that little thing called character’!
The Trotskyist critique of the revisionist notions expressed by Pablo in ‘Where Are We Going?’ began with ‘Where Is Comrade Pablo Going?’ The reader can refer to the former document, which appeared in the February 1951 issue of the magazine Quatrieme Internationale. It is interesting to note that neither ‘Where is Pablo Going?’ nor any other political documents of the PCI were published in the international bulletins preparing for the World Congress.
‘Where Are We Going?’ was the ideological proclamation of Pabloism. To date, the split in France has been the main practical result. May it be the last!
Where is Comrade Pablo Going?
Clarity in a discussion arises from the presentation of opposing theses on the one hand and from polemics on the other; the two methods do not contradict each other but are instead complementary, in the strictest sense of the word.
To refrain from stating your theses, to stage a sort of guerrilla warfare of partial amendments when principles are at stake or, even worse, to restrict yourself to polemicizing against the weak points of the contested thesis is the distinguishing characteristic of tendencies that have neither principles nor any consciousness of their duty to our World Party of the Revolution.
As for us, we think that the method that guided the international discussion on the problems posed by the people’s democracies is the correct method; each thesis was fully presented by various comrades (we are speaking of the comrades of the majority who at the Second World Congress came out against the revisionist tendencies, which dissolved after having fought us with a series of indirect attacks [Hasten is the prototype in this regard—F.B.]).
In particular, we believe that Germain’s ‘Ten Theses: What Should Be Modified and What Should Be Maintained in the Theses of the Second World Congress of the Fourth International on the Question of Stalinism!’—we emphasize that we mean the ‘Ten Theses’ and not their bizarre foreword—is a positive and extremely timely document in the discussion preparing for the World Congress. Its clarity fully exempts it from the obligation to engage in a polemic against the points of view expressed on several occasions by Pablo. This is the way a healthy discussion should start. But to remain healthy, it can’t stop there. The points on which there is disagreement must be brought before the full light of day, which is something that only a polemic can accomplish.
The goal of this document, which is addressed to our entire International, especially to all our leading comrades in the International, is to tell them fraternally and frankly of the danger that a whole series of new positions represents for the program, the activities, and the very existence of our International. We say: be careful; the scratch may become infected, and then gangrene can set in.
We don’t pretend to be infallible, we don’t think our theses are exempt from a number of insufficiencies, we don’t feel we have the right to give lessons to any of our comrades; but we say to them ‘Look out, our ship has lost its course; it’s urgent that we take our bearings and change our course.’
In his document ‘Where Are We Going!’ Comrade Pablo brings into full daylight the revisionist tendencies that were included in the International Secretariat’s draft thesis but were disguised in the Ninth Plenum’s [November 1950!] compromise resolution.
Beginning with its opening lines, the violent tone of this document is surprising, all the more so since we don’t know which members of the International Executive Committee and the International Secretariat were being taken to task in … January 1951. We will undoubtedly never know the names of the people in question, those ‘people who despair of the fate of humanity,’ nor those who have written that ‘the thinking of the international seems out of joint,’ nor those who ‘cry bitter tears’ (which Pablo wants to believe are genuine), nor those who ‘tailor history to their own measure,’ nor of those Trotskyist careerists who ‘desire that the entire process of the transformation of capitalist society into socialism would be accomplished within the span of their brief lives so that they can be rewarded for their efforts on behalf of the Revolution.’ [Emphasis added.]
I. The Theory of ‘Blocs’ and ‘Camps’ Makes in Appearance in the International.
‘The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles, one reads in that dustbin known as the Communist Manifesto.
But it’s necessary to keep abreast of the times and to admit without hesitation along with Pablo that:
‘For our movement objective social reality consists essentially of the capitalist regime and the Stalinist world. [International Information Bulletin, March 1951, ‘Where Are We Going?’ p.2. Emphasis added.]
Dry your tears and listen: the very essence of social reality is composed of the capitalist regime (!) and the Stalinist (!) world (?).
We thought that social reality consisted in the contradiction between the fundamental classes: the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Clearly an error, for from now on the capitalist regime, which encompasses precisely these two classes, becomes a totality that is counterposed …to the Stalinist world.
The term ‘world’ is quite obscure, you will say; but it offers some significant conveniences and permits classifying states and social groups according to the supreme criterion: their Stalinist or non-Stalinist ‘nature.’
Thus the state that arose from the Third Chinese Revolution (whose economy, let us recall, has retained a capitalist structure up to the present) is classified by Pablo as being in the Stalinist world. We will return to this question.
On the other hand,the Yugoslav workers state (where the economy is almost fully nationalized and planned) is expelled from the Stalinist world. And since it cannot remain outside the realm of objective social reality, it drifts objectively, though imperceptibly, into the enemy camp (along with its arms, bags and baggage, and dictatorship of the proletariat!).
In order to dispel any uncertainty as to his conception of contemporary history, Pablo continues:
‘Furthermore, whether we like it or not, these two elements (the capitalist regime and the Stalinist world) essentially constitute objective social reality, for the overwhelming majority of the forces opposing capitalism are tight now to be found under the leadership or influence of the Soviet bureaucracy.’ [‘Where Are We Going?,’ p.2. Emphasis added.]
Thus the sum total of Pablo’s ‘social’ criterion seems to be the political nature (Stalinist or non-Stalinist) of states and human groupings.
He gives us no details about the tiny remaining minority that is neither under the leadership nor influence of the bureaucracy. Let’s admit that it’s the exception that proves the rule. What then is this tiny minority of forces that are anticapitalist but non-Stalinist?
We don’t think it’s intended to include the millions of workers in the USA, England, Canada, Germany, etc., who are neither influenced nor led by Stalinism. We must then conclude that the proletariat in the most advanced countries of the world do not constitute ‘forces opposed to capitalism.’ They have been labelled and pigeonholed under the category ‘capitalist regime.’
It’s more difficult to pin this label on the massive liberation movements in North Africa, Black Africa, Madagascar, India, Ceylon, and Indonesia, a movement that cannot possibly be considered as either a tiny minority or belonging to the Stalinist world.
Thus, like it or not, classes, states, and nations must rush pell-mell into one camp or the other (capitalist regime or Stalinist world). Moreover, Pablo adds, the international relationship of social forces is, ‘to express it in a schematic way, the relationship of forces between the two blocs.’  (p.5.)
What Pablo calls ‘expressing it in a schematic way’ in reality constitutes mixing and jumbling everything together, ending up with an incredible confusion. When analyzing situations it is impossible to abandon class lines even for an instant without ending up with such ‘schematic concepts’ and fruitless endeavors.
What? The international relationship of forces is the relationship of forces between the two blocs! Some progress.
Since contemporary social reality consists of the two blocs, the relationship of social forces is naturally .. .the relationship of forces between the two blocs! This logic is irreproachable, because it is a tautology.
We will be told that we have misinterpreted what Pablo is saying; he meant the international relationship of forces between the classes which, schematically, is the relationship between the blocs. But where is there any room here for the old-fashioned notion of classes? Where in Pablo’s document is there any serious analysis of the situation of the International proletariat? If he had tried to give any, he certainly wouldn’t have ended up with this astonishing notion of ‘blocs,’ nor would he have designated the international proletarian forces as the forces of this extraordinary ‘Stalinist world.
Furthermore, he explains what he means quite clearly when he talks about the respective roles of Stalin and the revolutionary proletariat within the very ‘Stalinist world.
According to him, ‘the revolutionary spirit of the masses directed against imperialism acts as an ADDITIONAL FORCE supplementing the material and technical forces raised against imperialism.’ (p.5 Emphasis added.)
In effect, he is making it quite clear that the revolutionary forces are the forces of the Stalinist world. But within this Stalinist world there are major forces: these are the material and technical forces—Soviet industry, the divisions of the Red Army; and there are supplementary forces, a sort of National Guard that is tacked on to these technical forces. The revolutionary spirit of 400 million Chinese workers, the Vietnamese, the Koreans, and all the working people in the ‘Stalinist world’ are the auxiliary forces of the socialist bastion led by Stalin.
Here you have the conclusion that necessarily emerges when the petty-bourgeois concept of a ‘bloc’ between states is substituted for a class analysis of world reality (an analysis of the contradiction between the international proletariat and the international imperialist bourgeoisie), that is, for the basic reality of the world we live in. Like it or not, on the basis of this concept the most one can do is provide more ammunition for Zhdanov, whose thesis rests on the following supreme postulate: the acid test for revolutionaries is their loyalty to the Soviet Union and to its leader Stalin. The petty-bourgeois concept of blocs necessarily leads to a choice between Stalin (with or without reservations) and Truman (with or without reservations).
The direction in which the choice is made depends solely on where the dominant pressure is coming from. In Central and Western Europe, the petty bourgeoisie tends to lean in a ‘neutralist’ direction, that is,to adapt to the Stalinist bureaucracy, which they see as having the prestige of power and of numerous ‘victories’ in Asia, in the buffer zone, etc.—and whose ‘material and technical forces’ are impressive by virtue of the fact that they are quite close at hand.
Marxists have been accustomed to starting out with the criterion of class. It was this class criterion that enabled Leon Trotsky and the Fourth International to take on the revisionists on the question of the USSR and to classify the degenerated workers state in the camp of the international proletariat. Today we are supposed to turn Marxism upside down, stand it on its Hegelian head, its legs waving toward the sky ‘of life’, of ‘objective social reality, in its essence’ (the worst of abstractions under the circumstances). And from this inconvenient position we are supposed to classify such-and-such section of a class, and such-and-such state, and such-and-such technical force in one or the other ‘bloc’, capitalist regime or Stalinist world.
II. The Beginning of a Revision on the Nature of the Bureaucracy
In Pablo’s article we discover the notion of a Soviet bureaucracy that will survive after the world revolution and then wither away by virtue of the development of productive forces. We read, in fact, that the Soviet bureaucracy will disappear in ‘two (contradictory) ways’:—’by the counterblows of the anti-capitalist victories in the world and even in the USSR, stimulating resistance of the masses to the bureaucracy’;
—’by elimination in the long run of the objective causes for the bureaucracy, for all bureaucracy, in direct proportion as the capitalist regime suffers setbacks and an ever increasing and economically more important sector escapes from capitalism and organizes itself on the basis of a state-ized and planned economy, thereby stimulating the growth of the productive forces.’ (p.5 Emphasis added.)
The second thesis, the idea that the bureaucracy will disappear through the development of the productive forces, contains as many errors as words:
(1) It establishes an amalgam between the Soviet bureaucracy and bureaucratism as it appeared in the USSR during Lenin’s lifetime.
(2) It begins with the notion of a slow and gradual decline (‘in direct proportion’) and of a slow accumulation of sectors in which a planned economy is installed. This is in flagrant contradiction with the perspective of a war that will be the final struggle between the classes, of a war that will determine the fate of world capitalism and that excludes capitalism’s being nibbled away over a lengthy period.
(3) Does Pablo—who believes, by the way, that a third world war is imminent—mean that in the very course of the war the development of the productive forces (which would be turned entirely toward the war effort at the expense of consumer goods for the masses) is capable of forcing a retreat in bourgeois norms of distribution? Or doesn’t he take seriously the notion that the third world war will be a final struggle, that is, does his perspective admit the possibility that the outcome of this war might be a new situation of equilibrium between the fundamental classes, with fewer bourgeois states coexisting with more numerous workers states?
Actually, the principal fault with the second thesis is the fact that it even exists, because it is equivalent to conceding that the Soviet bureaucracy can survive after the victory of the world revolution over imperialism. It is in direct contradiction with the first thesis (the traditional Trotskyist thesis), which is juxtaposed in an eclectic manner to the second thesis (Pablo’s thesis).
In the draft theses that Pablo presented to the Ninth Plenum of the IEC, whose relationship to his personal positions we have noted, the sole explanation given for the Soviet bureaucracy’s hostility to world revolution was the following vulgar economist explanation:
‘If (the bureaucracy) cannot capitulate to imperialism without undermining its existence as such in the USSR; on the other hand, it cannot base itself on the proletariat and the extension of the world revolution, which would remove, by organizing and developing the productive forces in the world, the objective reasons for its existence and above all(?) : for die omnipotence of any bureaucracy!’
The notion here is perfectly clear and is substituted for the Trotskyist notion of the bureaucracy’s incompatibility, not with planning and the development of productive forces, but with the revolutionary action of the masses, whose ‘first revolutionary victory in Europe,’  Trotsky said, ‘will have the effect of an electric shock on the Soviet masses, awakening them, reviving the traditions of 1905 and 1917, weakening the position of the bureaucracy; it will have no less importance for the Fourth International than the victory of the October Revolution had for the Third International.’
The bureaucracy is not afraid of the development of productive forces. It is not holding back development in the USSR of its own will but rather through its incapacity. To the extent that its very character permits, it will try to increase development. Its slender results in relation to the great possibilities of planning both inside and outside the USSR don’t stem from a fear of disappearing following a growth in income sufficient to eradicate social inequality.  What the bureaucracy fears is not the growth of productive forces. What they fear is the awakening of the consciousness of the Soviet masses in contact with a revolution in another country.
The main danger in the explanation given by Pablo (even when juxtaposed with the discussion of another, correct explanation, the above one) is that it has the effect of masking the organically counterrevolutionary nature of the workers bureaucracy in the Soviet Union. This bureaucracy cannot be equated with the bureaucratism inherent in any society in which a scarcity in consumer goods exist. This bureaucracy is the result of nearly thirty years of the degeneration of a workers state. Politically, it has totally expropriated the Soviet proletariat. Contrary to what Pablo states, wherever it has been able to act bureaucratically or to maintain its bureaucratic control over the masses, the Soviet bureaucracy had tried to develop the productive forces (in the USSR and in the annexed or satellite territories) in order to strengthen the base of its own privileges and increase their extent. On the other hand, its liquidationist attitude toward the revolution that began in France in 1936; the way it brutally crushed the conscious cadres of the Spanish revolution; its complicity with Hitler in order to allow him to crush the Warsaw uprising; its Yalta policy against the interests of the revolution in Greece, Italy, Yugoslavia, and France; its blockade and military pressure against the Yugoslav workers state in the hope of delivering it bound hand and foot to imperialism (contrary to the interests of defending the USSR itself) unequivocally express the incompatibility between the Soviet bureaucracy and the development of the proletarian revolution. Such a revolution would represent a immediate and direct threat to the bureaucracy’s existence and it would do so even more sharply if it were to take place in an economically less backward country.
* * *
Leaving the door open, however timidly, to the hypothesis that the Thermidorian bureaucracy of the USSR could survive a third world war is to revise the Trotskyist analysis of the bureaucracy. First, as we have seen it calls into question the bureaucracy’s nature as a parasitic growth of the workers movement that lives off the advantage of the equilibrium between the fundamental classes. At the same time, this concept leaves the door open to the negation of its working-class nature. 
—Second, it overestimates the capacity of the USSR’s technical means when confronted with those of imperialism. —Third, it underestimates the breadth of the revolutionary movement in Asia and around the world. — Fourth, it accepts the notion that the Soviet bureaucracy can exist peacefully alongside a victorious revolution in the advanced countries.
— Above all, and here is where what Pablo really thinks comes in, it accepts the notion that the Soviet bureaucracy will not oppose the extension of the revolution but will even stimulate it.
In giving priority to ‘technical and material forces’ as opposed to the revolutionary struggle of the masses, however, Pablo does not go as far as the thesis of our comrades in Lyon.  This apparent superiority expresses a total incomprehension of the predominant role of the mass revolutionary struggle in the development and the outcome of a third world war.
The marked inferiority of the technical means at the disposal of the proletariat in the present world situation, a situation of ‘blocs,’ as Pablo puts it, becomes transformed into the proletariat’s superiority in direct proportion with its revolutionary mobilization, with an increase in its level of class consciousness and socialist consciousness, and with its revolutionary victories over imperialism. The military relationship of forces is politically determined. The Thermidorian bureaucracy in the USSR will play an even more emphatic counter-revolutionary role when it sees an upsurge in the revolution take shape, and when it sees mass socialist consciousness threatening its own domination in the USSR.
In its enormous struggle to smash the coalition of the imperialist bourgeoisie and its vast material means, the revolution will liquidate the Thermidorian bureaucracy in the USSR along the way. Otherwise the Thermidorian bureaucracy will impede, sabotage, and use military force against the revolutionary movement of the masses, paving the way for the victory of imperialist barbarism and for its own disappearance as a parasitic caste in the degenerated workers state.
All the experiences since 1933 have shown the role of the Soviet bureaucracy with increasing clarity and simply express its dual character—working-class and counter-revolutionary—its fundamentally contradictory nature, and its impasse. This bureaucracy will not survive a third world war, a war between the classes, a war whose outcome can only be world revolution or, failing that, a victory for imperialism that would liquidate all the conquests of the working class in both the USSR and the rest of the world.
III. From ‘Stalinist Ideology’ to the New ‘Bureaucratic Class’
Several times in the past the tendency to revise the Trotskyist concept of the Soviet bureaucracy has been expressed through the notion that Stalinism has its own ideology. Pablo seems to share this belief today when he speaks of the ‘co-leadership of the international Stalinist movement’ (our emphasis) by China and the Kremlin.
‘…China,’ he writes,’could not play the role of a mere satellite of the Kremlin but rather of a partner which henceforth imposes upon the Soviet bureaucracy a certain co-leadership of the international Stalinist movement. This co-leadership is, however, a disruptive element within Stalinism. …’ (‘Where Are We Going!’ p. 9. Emphasis added.)
What does this Russian-Chinese ‘co-leadership’ of the international Stalinist movement mean? Is there then a Chinese Stalinism alongside Russian Stalinism! What is the social base of this Chinese Stalinism? What then is its ideology? Is there really a Stalinist ideology?
We reply in the negative to all these questions.
The bureaucracy in the USSR has never even been capable of trying to define a new ideology, contrary to the way in which any historically necessary social formation, any class, operates. When you speak of the Stalinism of a Communist Party, you are nor speaking of a theory, of an overall programme, of definite and lasting concepts, but only of its leadership’s subordination to orders from the Kremlin bureaucracy. This is the Trotskyist conception. The ‘Stalinism’ of the international Stalinist movement is defined by this movement’s subordination to the bureaucracy of the USSR.
‘The Stalinist bureaucracy, however, not only has nothing in common with Marxism but is in general foreign to any doctrine or system whatsoever. Its ‘ideology’ is thoroughly permeated with police subjectivism, its practice is the empiricism of crude violence. In keeping with its essential interests the caste of usurpers is hostile to any theory: it can give an account of its social role neither to itself nor to anyone else. Stalin revises Marx and Lenin not with the theoretician’s pen but with the heel of the GPU.’ (Leon Trotsky: Stalinism and Bolshevism, New Park Publications, 1974, p.15.)
Would it be possible to have a Stalinist co-leadership, a dual subordination, one part of which would be .. .the Chinese revolution in full ascendancy? Is a modified version of Stalinist ideology supposed to have survived the victory of the revolutionary masses in China or is it supposed to have arisen in the course of the revolution?
But, Pablo adds, this co-leadership is a disruptive element for Stalinism. This clarification introduces a new confusion.
We are compelled on the contrary to state that the disruptive element in the ‘international Stalinist movement’ as such is the Chinese revolution and that this celebrated co-leadership, far from being a disruptive element, expresses an inherently temporary compromise between the counter-revolutionary bureaucracy of the USSR and its NEGATION, the Chinese revolution. This compromise reflects the lag between consciousness and reality, and more particularly the slowness with which China has begun to accomplish the tasks of the permanent revolution. We will return to this question.
The notion of co-leadership betrays a vast incomprehension of the irreducible character of the contradiction between the Soviet bureaucracy and a revolution in motion. Pablo has spoken several times of the victories ‘victories’ or ‘pseudo-victories’ of Stalinism when designating the development of the revolution in China, Asia, or elsewhere.
For Comrade Pablo, the most important lesson of the Yugoslav and Chinese revolutions is that it is important not to confuse them with ‘pure and simple victories (?) of the Soviet bureaucracy’!
For us, the lesson is that the development of the revolution is a defeat and a death threat for the bureaucracy, which does not evaluate the ‘revolution in all its forms’ from the same perspective as Comrade Pablo.
When this comrade adds that ‘the evolution of China can prove different from that of the Soviet bureaucracy,’ we have reached the height of confusion.(p.l2. Emphasis added.)
If someone can explain to us at what conjuncture, in what century, and on what planet the evolution of China could have even proved comparable to that of the Soviet bureaucracy—we’d like to hear about it.
This notion is only admissible if we accept beforehand Burnham’s thesis of the rapid formation (if not the pre-existence) of a bureaucracy of the Soviet type within the very course of a revolution.
In that case, this bureaucracy would not only have an ideology of international value, but we would have to accord it a historically progressive role. On the contrary, however, everything leads us to believe that the outcome of a revolution—even one that is isolated—will necessarily prove different and distinct from that of the USSR even if this revolution must degenerate because of its isolation and weakness. Trotsky has clearly demonstrated, in opposition to the revisionists, that the degeneration of the USSR has a specific historical character.
The Centuries of Transition
Are we compelled to revise Trotsky’s opinion on this point as well? Are the norms of the dictatorship of the proletariat, of the withering away of the state, outmoded and consigned to the rubbish bin by ‘life’ and by experience? Is the Soviet workers state really a degenerated workers state (a counter-revolutionary workers state, Trotsky said)  or, on the contrary, is it the prototype of what the transition between capitalism and socialism will be like after the victory of the world revolution? Although he doesn’t pronounce himself clearly in favour of one position over the other, and although his statements on this point are quite contradictory, Comrade Pablo does seem to lean toward the second response.
To those people-who-despair-of-die-fate-of-humanity, he replies that the transitional society between capitalism and socialism will last for several centuries (in oral discussion he has been more precise and has spoken of two or three centuries).  ‘… this transformation will probably take an entire historical period of several centuries and will in the meantime be filled with forms and regimes transitional between capitalism and socialism and necessarily deviating from ‘pure’ forms and norms.’ (‘Where Are We Going?’ p.13. Emphasis added.)
We are quite ready to engage in any struggle against purist utopians who subordinate reality to norms in order to reject reality. But we don’t see any sense in such a struggle at present, since we are unaware of any expression of this ‘purism’ within the international majority that emerged from the Second World Congress.
What we do see, on the other hand, is that the degenerated bureaucracy of the USSR has become the new norm, that Pablo is constructing a new utopia based on it, that the transitional society (‘several centuries …’) takes on a character of the sort that the Soviet-type bureaucracy (which is confused with all manifestations of bureaucratism that are inherent wherever you have a low level of the development of productive forces and a low level of culture) becomes a historically necessary evil, that is, a class.
What we see is that the bureaucratic caste of the USSR, which we consider to be the specific product of twenty-five years of degeneration of the first workers state, is supposed to be only the prefiguration of the ‘caste’ called on to lead the world for two or three centuries. So the notion of a ‘caste’ has been sent packing, and what’s really involved here is a class that was not foreseen by Marx, Engels, Lenin, or Trotsky.
As realists, we will have to revise Trotsky and his writings since the New Course because they are full of errors and misunderstandings on the historically progressive role of the bureaucracy. His explanation for the formation of the bureaucracy in the USSR is tainted from the start by its old-fashioned, utopian, and outmoded norms that have been contradicted by reality.
His attachment to these norms led him to consider the evolution of the USSR as a particular, exceptional, and specific violation of the norm.
‘In the bureaucratic degeneration of the Soviet state it is not the general laws of modern society from capitalism to socialism which finds expression but a special, exceptional, and temporary refraction of these laws under the conditions of a backward revolutionary country in a capitalist environment. (Leon Trotsky: ‘The USSR in ‘War’ in In Defence of Marxism, New Park Publications, 1971, p.8.)
What Trotsky calls degeneration is thus in reality the process that must begin after the victory of the world revolution and will last two or three centuries. And Trotsky put himself on the wrong side of the barricades when he wrote:
“The most honest or open-eyed of the ‘friends’ of the USSR console themselves with the thought that ‘a certain’ bureaucratic degeneration in the given conditions was historically inevitable. Even so! The resistance to this degeneration also has not fallen from the sky. A necessity has two ends: the reactionary and the progressive. History teaches us that persons and parties which drag at the opposite ends of a necessity turn out in the long run on opposite sides of the barricade.” (Leon Trotsky: ‘Socialism in One Country,’ in The Revolution Betrayed, New Park Publications, 1973, pp.307-8.)
He didn’t foresee that in the third world war the Soviet bureaucracy would be called on to carry out the function of gravedigger for world imperialism, to make an ‘international’ anti-capitalist revolution, or at least to co-operate with it. Neither Trotsky nor the Fourth International—a tragic misunderstanding—were aware of that up to this day.
Some Clarifications on an Incorrect Formulation
When we read in the Ninth Plenum resolution the following declaration on the defense of the Soviet Union: ‘The defence of the USSR constitutes the strategic line of the Fourth International, and its tactical application remains, as in the past, subordinated to unimpeded development of the mass movement in opposition to any attempt on the part of the Soviet bureaucracy, the Russian army, and the Stalinist leaderships to throttle and crush it. When we read this we are tempted to see no more than an incorrect formulation.
But we would be blind if we were to maintain this position after having studied the document in which the secretary of the International sets forth his perspective more fully, deriving it from the division of the world into the capitalist regime and the Stalinist world, a division considered as the essence of social reality in our epoch.
If we adopted this revisionist perspective it would seem to be necessary to go much further, to follow its logic to the end and to subordinate tactical application to the strategic line. It is precisely this principled attitude, this constant subordination of tactics to strategy, that distinguishes Marxism from opportunism of every stripe.
Pablo cannot remain there, straddling a fence. He must bring tactics into accord with not only strategy but also with a social analysis (his analysis) of the ‘present’ world.
If on the contrary we retain Marx, Lenin, and Trotsky’s analysis of society and their methodology, if we refuse to abandon the solid ground on which the foundations of our International rest, if we refuse to abandon this in favour of the quicksand of revisionism, our Third World Congress will of necessity return to the Trotskyist definition of the defence of the Soviet Union.
For Trotsky, the defence of the USSR did not constitute a ‘strategic line.’ The strategic line of the Fourth International is the world revolution.
Defence of the USSR against imperialism, like the defence of any workers state, is one of the tasks of this strategy, tasks that are entirely subordinated to the perspective of world revolution, to the strategy of the revolutionary mobilization of the masses.
Defence of the USSR cannot take the place of the strategic line of the World Party of Revolution—any more than the defence of the Yugoslav workers state or any other workers state could.
Therein lies the difference between Trotskyism and the Titoist and Stalinist varieties of centrism.
No unclarity can be allowed to remain in this discussion. Incorrect formulations on such questions are genuine errors of doctrine. No document of the International can today allow itself the slightest imprecision in defining the defence of the USSR and the place of this defence in our strategy. The defence of the USSR and of all the workers states constitutes a task of the Fourth International, a task that as such and in all its tactical applications must be entirely subordinated to the strategy of the struggle for the world revolution, to the unimpeded development of the masses, etc. 
Pablo Yields Ground to Martinet
This notion that the defense of the USSR (or of the ‘Stalinist world’) must be a strategic line has perhaps been most thoroughly developed by Gilles Martinet. Martinet is, in fact, the spokesman for the entire Stalinist intelligentsia in France. The Second World Congress correctly characterized his position as the Stalinist counterpart to Burnham’s revisionism.
The pro-Stalinist manifestation (a product of the Stalinist pressure in France) of this revisionism has been given its fullest form by Bettelheim, Martinet, & Co. in Revue Internationale. When they themselves apply the concepts mentioned above to the present world situation, they arrive at the following conclusions:
‘a) Owing to its lack of homogeneity and technical education, the working class will be obliged to pass through a stage of social differentiation and inequality after its conquest of power. Historic progress is assured by the privileged strata of the proletariat (the bureaucracy). It is the task of the state to defend these privileges.
‘b) During the epoch of decaying imperialism, the proletariat ceases to grow numerically and ideologically and instead retreats, witnessing the decline of its strength and the decay of its social structure. The failure of the ‘classic’ proletarian revolutions of 1918-23 is final. The Leninist strategy of the proletarian revolution is a thing of the past. In views of this incapacity of the proletariat to fulfill its historic mission, humanity has no other road to progress except to try to ‘participate’ in the stratification of the means of production by the Soviet bureaucracy on an ever larger scale,and to draw up a new minimum programme in order to attenuate the violent character of this process. …
‘There is no room for [these revisionist tendencies] in the revolutionary movement. But some of their features appear at the bottom of mistaken conceptions on the Russian question which have found expression in our own ranks. What is important is first of all to lay bare the inner logic of this incipient revisionism and make its proponents aware of its dangerous consequences to the whole of Marxism. [‘The USSR and Stalinism: Theses Adopted by the Second World Congress of the Fourth International, April 1948,’ in Fourth International, June 1948, p. 125.]
In ‘Where Are We Going?’ Pablo throws this analysis overboard, declaring:
‘Our fundamental (!) difference with certain neo-apologists for Stalinism, of the Gilles Martinet stripe in France, does not involve the fact that there are objective causes at work imposing transitional forms of the society and of the power succeeding capitalism, which are quite far from the ‘norms’ outlined by the classics of Marxism prior to the Russian Revolution. Our difference is over the fact that these neo-Stalinists present Stalinist policy as the expression of a consistent, realistic Marxism which, consciously and in full awareness of the goal, is marching toward socialism while taking into account the requirements of the situation.’ (p.8.)
Note first of all that contrary to the notion Pablo elaborated above, Martinet does not repudiate the Soviet bureaucracy; instead he considers it a necessary evil on which falls defacto the task of destroying imperialism, and which will be overturned historically by the development of productive forces. It is his servility when faced with an accomplished fact, his tendency to generalize on the basis of the degeneration of the first workers state in order to transform a specific historical fact into a general historical necessity, more than his evaluations of Stalin’s ‘Marxism’ that make Martinet the most agile theoretician of the Thermidorian counter-revolution. The definition Trotsky gave in ‘After Munich’ applies to him without qualification:
‘Only the overthrow of the Bonapartist Kremlin clique can make possible the regeneration of the military strength of the USSR. Only the liquidation of the ex-Comintern will clear the way for revolutionary internationalism. The struggle against war, imperialism, and fascism demands a ruthless struggle against Stalinism splotched with crimes. Whoever defends Stalinism directly or indirectly, whoever keeps silent about its betrayals or exaggerates its military strength is the worst enemy of the revolution, of socialism, and of the oppressed peoples. The sooner the Kremlin gang is overthrown by the armed offensive of the workers, the greater will be the chances for a socialist regeneration of the USSR, the closer and broader will be the perspectives of the international revolution.’ (Writings of Leon Trotsky: 1938-9, p.16.)
Such is the language we expected from the secretary of the International in regard to the wing of the petty bourgeoisie that has capitulated before Stalinism and its supposed ‘victories.’ In place of that we are supposed to accept an ambiguous definition (actually the absence of a definition) based on a stupid quarrel over Stalin’s merits as a theoretician.
The Chinese Comrades’ Error Corrected With Another Error
It would be useless to deny that the Chinese comrades’ error weighs very heavily on the present discussion. Not only does it explain in part the orientation presented by Pablo, but Comrade Pablo also uses it openly as an argument in defence of his thesis and in the hope of overwhelming his adversaries.
We are not overwhelmed and for a whole series of reasons, among them the following:
(1) In April 1950 one of us, Comrade Bleibtreu, spoke before a public meeting of the ‘Lenin Circle’ on the problems of the Chinese revolution. Vietnamese, Chinese, French, and Sinhalese comrades attended the meeting. It concluded with an analysis of the Chinese revolution and the Chinese Communist Party, and with the necessity for Trotskyists to enter the Chinese Communist Party and form its consistent Marxist wing, a wing capable of resolving in both theory and practice the tasks of the permanent revolution.
This led, among other things, to his being vigorously contradicted by a member of the International Secretariat.
(2) The Central Committee of the PCI [Parti Communiste Internationaliste—Internationalist Communist Party met December 2, 1950, and passed a resolution asking the International Secretariat to take a position on the Chinese events and on the errors of the Chinese comrades. To date we have had no response from the International Secretariat or the International Executive Committee. We hope that this document will see the light of day before the World Congress, because it would represent an essential element of clarification.
In the face of this persistent silence, we are compelled to take the initiative in a discussion that the international leadership should have begun.
What Was the Error in China?
According to Comrade Pablo, this error began ‘following the victory of Mao Tse-tung.’ (‘Where Are We Going?’ p. 17.) In our opinion, it predates this victory by quite a bit.
A revolution had been developing in China since 1946, a revolution in which the Trotskyists should have been an integral part. Abandoned by Stalin, whose advice aimed at forming a National Front government with Chiang Kai-shek they had rejected,and encircled by virtue of the fact that the Red Army had given up Manchuria to Chiang, the Chinese leaders had to confront the most powerful offensive the white troops ever launched against the Seventh Army. The only possibility that remained open to them (like the situation confronting the leaders of the Yugoslav Communist Party 1942-43) was the revolutionary mobilization of the masses. Rejecting their Stalinist course of the previous years, they adopted a limited programme of agrarian reform, which the masses greeted with immense enthusiasm. Mass peasant committees and resistance groups sprang up everywhere and organized themselves to defend and extend the agrarian reform and to crush Chiang, the representative of the landlords. The advances Mao’s army made were above all the product of the massive levy of the revolutionary peasantry, and of the parallel collapse of Chiang’s peasant army, which was contaminated by the revolution and the thirst for land. The Chinese CP itself underwent a change in its social composition. The literate sons of well-to-do peasants, who constituted the backbone of its cadres up to that time (and certain among whom tended to oppose the explosion of elementary violence set off by the turn their party had made), were submerged by an influx of new militants hardened on the forge of the revolution itself.
(1) The birth of the Chinese revolution was the beginning of the end of the Chinese CP’s ‘Stalinism.’ 
(2) The Chinese CP stopped subordinating itself to directives from the Kremlin and became dependent on the masses and on their actions.
(3) Its social composition was actually modified.
(4) The Chinese CP stopped being a Stalinist party and became a centrist party advancing along with the revolution. This doesn’t mean that the Chinese CP became a revolutionary party ipso facto. It retained from its past a series of incorrect and bureaucratic concepts that came to be reflected in its actions:
—by the timid character of its agrarian reform;
—by its limiting itself to North China;
—by the Chinese CP’s conscious effort to keep the urban proletariat isolated from the revolution.  The dialectic of social reality has already partially withdrawn certain barriers, and there are reasons to hope that this course will continue.
In any event, it is absurd to speak of a Stalinist party in China, and still more absurd to foster belief in even the resemblance of a ‘victory of Stalinism in China.’
The Korean war temporarily presented Stalin with both the means to slow down the Chinese revolution’s progress toward the solution of the tasks of the permanent revolution and to re-establish partial control over the Chinese CP. This explains Stalin’s policy of ‘nonintervention’ at the time when the victorious march of the Korean armies could, with a minimum of support, have driven the imperialists into the sea. This also explains the scantiness of his present aid and his fear of a solution, especially of a solution in favour of the Korean revolution.
But when all is said and done, the reality of class struggle will prove more powerful than the Kremlin apparatus and its maneuvers.
The error of the two Chinese groups is precisely to have failed to grasp the social reality. They have identified the revolution with Stalinism, which means identifying Stalinism with its negation.
The Chinese comrades turned their backs on the revolutionary movement of the masses, fell back when confronted with its march forward, and finally ended up in Hong Kong. 
Their greatest error was not their failure to understand Stalinism; it was a different and much more serious lack of comprehension.
They didn’t recognize the very face of the revolution. They saw the advance of Mao’s revolutionary armies as a step forward for Stalinism. They failed to understand that it is the action of classes that is fundamental,that it is social classes and not the apparatuses that make history, and that once it gets going, the action of masses is more powerful than the strongest apparatus.
In many respects Comrade Pablo revives the analytical errors of the Chinese comrades, even if he draws conclusions that are contrary, though just as disastrous.
He makes the same error on the nature of the Chinese revolution, which he considers as a victory—not a ‘pure and simple victory’ but nevertheless a victory of Stalinism.
This error flows from the erroneous notion of the Stalinist world and is expressed in the notion of Russian-Chinese co-leadership of the international Stalinist movement.
He shares the same erroneous criteria concerning the ‘Stalinist’ nature of a Communist Party. The Stalinist nature of a CP is constituted by its direct and total dependence in respect to the interests and policy of the Kremlin. A refusal on the part of the Chinese CP to accept the legal existence of a Trotskyist tendency—either inside or outside its ranks—and even the repression against this tendency would in no way constitute a criterion that ‘demonstrates its bureaucratic and Stalinist character’ (Pablo), but solely its lack of understanding of the permanent revolution, a lack of understanding that is not specifically Stalinist. We have often been served up such absurdities to ‘prove’ the ‘Stalinist’ character of the Yugoslav CP, which petty-bourgeois idealists don’t hesitate to define as Stalinism without Stalin!
He shares the same lack of understanding of the relationships between the masses, the CP, and the Kremlin bureaucracy: Pablo places an equals-sign between the dual nature of the CPs and the dual nature of the Soviet bureaucracy.
Generally, we would not deny that 2=2. But combining two errors (for example, Comrade Pablo’s error and the Chinese comrades error) is not the equivalent of combining two correct statements(for example, the thesis of our Central Committee and Comrade Germain’s ‘Ten Theses’). Thus it’s not always true that 2=2.
The dual nature of the Soviet bureaucracy is both the reflection and the product of contradictions in Soviet society. It is expressed through the Bonapartism of Stalinism when it is confronted with social forces inside the Soviet Union and on a world scale. The policy of the bureaucracy is not dual but rather forms an integral whole throughout all its variations: it’s a policy of balancing between the basic classes.
The dual nature of the CP means something quite different and expresses a different contradiction because of the fact that a parasitic bureaucracy of the Soviet type doesn’t exist internationally. The duality, the contradiction of a CP stems from the fact that it is a workers party by virtue of its social base (a necessary base for the Kremlin’s balancing act) and a Stalinist party by virtue of its politics and its leadership (a leadership chosen from above on the basis of its total submission to the Kremlin’s orders).
The thing that defines a workers party as Stalinist.—as opposed to a revolutionary party or a social-democratic party (linked to the bourgeoisie) or any sort of a centrist party—is neither a Stalinist ideology (which doesn’t exist), nor bureaucratic methods (which exist in all kinds of parties), but rather its total and mechanical subordination to the Kremlin.
When for one reason or another this subordination ceases to exist, that party ceases to be Stalinist and expresses interests that are different from those of the bureaucratic caste in the USSR. This is what happened (because of the revolutionary action on the part of the masses) in Yugoslavia well before the break in relations; the break only made it official. This is what has already happened in China, and will inevitably be reflected by a break in relations no matter what course the Chinese revolution takes.
A break in relations or a gradual differentiation within the Chinese CP, an eventuality that flows first from the correct evaluation of the nature of the CPs (an evaluation we gave in some detail at the Fourth Congress of our party in 1947) that was developed by the Second World Congress, and then from the lessons of the Yugoslav experience, would have the effect of greatly stimulating the revolutionary struggle in Asia, Europe, and Africa. It would also facilitate revolutionary victories in a series of countries, diminish considerably imperialism’s capacity for resistance and counterattack, and increase the level of consciousness and the combativity of workers in the advanced industrial countries. At the same time, it would modify in a favourable way the relationship of forces within the workers movement, making it more receptive to the revolutionary programme and thus infinitely more effective in the class struggle. The Chinese CP’s declaration of its independence in regard to the Kremlin and its steps toward accomplishing the tasks of the permanent revolution both in China and internationally are events that will probably take place before imperialism can start a world war.
It is under this perspective—with the Chinese masses, with the Chinese CP, against Stalin—that the actions of our Chinese comrades must be corrected. In every country where a Stalinist party has an extensive working-class base, the International must work under this broader perspective of the independence of the workers movement and its communist vanguard with respect to the Kremlin’s policy.
Concerning our Tasks
Never before has the Fourth International had such possibilities for implanting itself as the leadership in a mass revolutionary struggle. Nor has it ever (and this is a corollary of the revolutionary upsurge around the world) had such possibilities for gaining the ear of Communist workers organized in the Stalinist parties. Never in the past (and this is a function of the very development of the worldwide revolutionary upsurge) have we witnessed so profound a worldwide crisis of Stalinism.
Despite the fact that they consider these things as Stalin’s ‘victories,’ as proof of ‘his revolutionary effectiveness,’ the most conscious Communist workers will not accept the notion advanced by their leaders that socialism will be installed by the Red Army. They are seeking the road of class action, of the emancipation of workers by the workers themselves. This concern of theirs actually touches upon a fundamental aspect of the proletarian revolution, an aspect that dominates the works of Marx and Lenin: that is, that the essence of a proletarian revolution is not this or that economic measure but rather the proletariat’s gaining of consciousness, its molecular mobilization, the formation of its consciousness as an active and dominant class. This notion of Marx and Lenin has been strikingly confirmed by the example of the buffer zone on the one hand and, inversely, by the Russian revolution  and partially by the revolution in Yugoslavia on the other. We are not talking about a priori norms but rather about the very essence of the proletarian revolution: the working class gaining a consciousness of itself and setting itself up as the ruling class,not only by taking power but also and above all by exercising the dictatorship of the proletariat and building socialism. And this latter task is not a mechanical phenomenon (the opposite of capitalist development) but requires the intervention of the proletariat as a conscious class.  This is the ABC. The experience of the USSR confirms it 100 per cent (relative stagnation domestically and a counter-revolutionary policy abroad), as does the Yugoslav experience, the Chinese experience and, in a negative way, the experience in the buffer zone.
No serious Communist worker criticizes Stalin for being afraid of world war, for refusing to declare the war-revolution or the revolution-war. On the contrary, what the best of them criticize him for is for subordinating the class struggle in other countries to the diplomatic and military needs of the USSR, subordinating the strategic line of the proletarian revolution to one of its tasks, the defence of one of the workers states.
In France the crisis of Stalinism, which has just manifested itself in the split among the mine workers, is fuelled continually by the ample proof that the French CP is an inadequate instrument for making a revolution:
— the ineffectiveness of its policy of supporting national fronts, of building ‘New Democracy’ (the politics of Yalta);
—the ineffectiveness of its policy of [parliamentary] opposition, of its leadership in the important class struggles since 1947 (the Zhdanov line);
—the incapacity of Stalinism to contribute toward uniting the proletarian forces.
All the strikes up to the present have reinforced the impression held by Communist workers that the French CP is not leading the proletariat toward revolution, but toward neutralization of the French bourgeoisie and a period of waiting for the war and the Red Army’s entry into it.
The Communist workers witnessed their struggle against the war in Vietnam—an undertaking the French CP had entered with a violence tainted with adventurism—subordinated to the campaign around the Stockholm appeal.
They witnessed their struggle against the eighteen months halted in mid-course and used as a springboard for the Sheffield-Warsaw appeal.
A great uneasiness spread among members of the French CP (and certainly among members of other CPs) in the fall of 1950, when the imperialist armies in Korea were within an inch of pulling out and a minimum of material support would have been sufficient to assure a success of immense scope for the entire Asian revolution. They saw that Stalin—applying the same policy of non-intervention he had used against the ascendant phase of the Spanish revolution—then allowed the imperialist armies to regain the offensive. This uneasiness was expressed so widely that the leadership of the French CP had to respond publicly—using Jeanette Vemersch as a mouthpiece—in the following way: Those who demand that the USSR intervene in Korea don’t understand what a world war would be like. This response disarmed the burgeoning opposition, because no Communist worker wanted a world war. What they were demanding wasn’t intervention but an end to the de facto embargo on arms that was strangling the Korean revolution.
It comes as no surprise that the Stalinist leaders are still inventive enough to pull the wool over the eyes of Communist workers. But what is surprising and inadmissible is that La Verite, through Comrade Pablo’s  articles, did nothing to take advantage of this crisis, although:
—it explained that it was difficult to make pronouncements about Stalin’s intentions;
— it remained silent about the meaning of his non-intervention;
—it did not wage a systematic and sustained campaign to publicize the demand the Communist workers were making on their leadership: Airplanes and artillery for Korea,
—worse yet, it adopted J. Vermersch’s evaluation of the situation as its own (aiding Korea means a world war), simply adding that if Stalin were a real revolutionary he wouldn’t be afraid of entering a world war (war-revolution, revolution-war).
Here we have a convincing application of the orientation Comrade Pablo refers to as ‘Closer to the Communist workers.’ It reminds us of the politics of the right-wing tendency that left our party. This tendenency also fought for the slogan ‘Closer to the Communist workers,’ which meant closer to Stalinist politics.
In the present case, La Verite was closer to Stalinist politics (it played the role of the MacArthur of the ‘Stalinist world’) but quite far removed from the concerns of the Communist workers; it didn’t help them find the correct response to their uneasiness.
By virtue of its methodology, perspectives, and application, this brand of politics is related to the most negative aspects of the history of our International. Through its impressionism and empiricism, its passive submission before accomplished facts and apparent ‘power,’ and through its abandonment of a class strategy, it revives all the errors of the right wing in the French party, of Hasten ,” and of many other tendencies that followed a liquidationist course.
The Alarm Signal
We think that Comrade Pablo’s orientation is neither clear nor definitively set. We are convinced that he will correct his errors without too great a difficulty. But this isn’t the question. Comrade Pablo is also a leader of the International. This means that the positions he takes do not involve just him. His line has already been partially expressed in the Plenum resolution, which is a confused and contradictory document, the result of an unprincipled bloc between two lines, and the very model of an eclectic document.
But above all, a whole series of alarming signs have emerged as direct consequences of this theoretical hodgepodge.
On the one hand, a Stalinist tendency is rapidly developing in the International. Certainly Comrade Pablo can say, like the sorcerer’s apprentice, that this isn’t what he wanted. He can even apply a vigorous ‘self-criticism’ across the shoulders of politically weak comrades who tried to be more consistent than those who inspired them. But the remedy only disguises the disease and doesn’t heal it.
Similar destructive tendencies in the International have appeared on the editorial staff of our English comrades.
In France they cropped up among our comrades in Lyon, whose resolution we have cited.
They have appeared in our Central Committee, where Comrade Mestre stated her support for the Stalinist slogan of a struggle against German rearmament, manifestly subordinating the problem of the German and French proletariat’s gaining consciousness and taking up revolutionary struggle to the military defence of the USSR, seen in Stalinist terms as the number-one priority, the strategic line.
On the other hand, tendencies toward rejecting the defence of the USSR have already appeared and will inevitably develop. Some comrades who are troubled by the present tendency toward revisionism on the nature of the bureaucracy and on the Trotskyist concept of the defence of the USSR will inevitably break away from both Trotskyism and the defence of the USSR. We must seriously consider the defection of Natalia Trotsky, whose radically false concepts on the question of the USSR didn’t prevent the Second World Congress from placing her on its honorary presidium.
The orientation that has been outlined threatens to lead to the splintering of our International into a Stalinist tendency and a tendency that is defeatist toward the USSR.
We must react without delay and return to the Marxist method of analyzing society, return to the Leninist concept of the function of the working class, return to the Trotskyist analysis of the degeneration of the USSR and of the character of the bureaucracy, return to Trotsky’s fundamental statement that the crisis of humanity is and remains the crisis of revolutionary leadership, return to the revolutionary working-class line, that of the construction and the victory of the Fourth International, the World Party of the Socialist Revolution.
 Thus two camps have been formed in the world: on the one hand there is the imperialist and anti-democratic camp, whose basic goal is to establish American imperialism’s domination over the world and to crush democracy; on the other hand there is the anti-imperialist and democratic camp, whose basic goal consists in undermining imperialism, strengthening democracy, and liquidating the remnants of fascism.
‘The struggle between these two camps, between the imperialist and anti-imperialist camp, unfolds under conditions of a continued deepening of the overall crisis of capitalism, of a weakening of the forces of capitalism, and of the strengthening of the forces of socialism and democracy. (Zhdanov Theses, 1947, given to the first meeting of the Cominform in 1947.)
 So far as Europe is concerned, consider the bureaucracy’s policy in France (1936), Spain (1936-39), Poland (Warsaw uprising), Greece (1944-45), its efforts to prevent and overturn the Yugoslav revolution, its policy in France and Italy in the face of the revolutionary upsurge following the second world war.
 ‘…economic growth, while slowly bettering the situation of the toilers, promotes a swift formation of privileged strata,’ Trotsky said in the fundamental document defining the USSR (Revolution Betrayed, point D in the definition of the USSR, New Park Publications, 1973, p.255.)
 The draft theses presented by Pablo to the Ninth Plenum of the International Secretariat (point 2l, paragraph 3) spoke of the ‘conditions of economic exploitation’ of the Soviet proletariat by the bureaucracy. The idea of class exploitation no longer appears in the text adopted by the International Executive Committee, by the notion of historically necessary social layer (a class!) turns up again in Pablo’s document.
 “Once the war breaks out …the bureaucracy will no longer have any reason to oppose the development of mass revolutionary struggles in the imperialist camp. Quite the contrary the bureaucracy will have every interest in developing anything that will help undermine the military strength of the imperialist camp, including revolutionary movements of great scope. …’ (Thesis of the Lyons cell.)
The thesis as a whole comes down to this: up to the present the bureaucracy has been opposed to the revolution out of fear of military intervention by the imperialists. In the third world war the bureaucracy will no longer have this preoccupation and will become the leadership of the world revolution. This is much more consistent than Pablo’s thesis. The author of this resolution nevertheless was weak enough to renounce it in favour of Pablo’s position.
 Some voices cry out: “If we continue to recognize the USSR as a workers’ state, we will have to establish a new category: the counter-revolutionary workers’ state.” This argument attempts to shock our imagination by opposing a good programmatic norm to a miserable, mean, even repugnant reality. But haven’t we observed from day to day since 1923 how the Soviet state has played a more and more counter-revolutionary role on the international arena? Have we forgotten the experience of the Chinese Revolution, of the 1926 general strike in England and finally the very fresh experience of the Spanish Revolution? There are two completely counter-revolutionary workers’ internationals. These critics have apparently forgotten this “category.” The trade unions of France, Great Britain, the United States and other countries support completely the counter-revolutionary politics of the bourgeoisie. This does not prevent us from labelling them trade unions, from supporting their progressive steps and from defending them against the bourgeoisie. Why is it impossible to employ the same method with the counter-revolutionary workers’ state? In the last analysis a workers’ state is a trade union which has conquered power. The difference in attitude in these two cases is explainable by the simple fact that trade unions have a long history and we have been accustomed to consider them as realities and not simply as ‘categories’ in our programme. But, as regards the workers’ state there is being evinced an inability to learn to approach it as a real historical fact which has not subordinated itself to our programme. (Leon Trotsky:’Again and Once More Again on the Nature of the USSR,’ in In Defence of Marxism, New Park Publications 1971, pp.30-31)
 In 1651, three centuries ago, the bourgeoisie began to emerge in England.
In 1751, two centuries ago, it began to appear in France.
The two or three century transition period in which Pablo accords a necessary role to the bureaucracy would be longer than the period of bourgeois domination in the countries that developed the earliest, and three to six times longer than the worldwide domination of the capitalist bourgeoisie. It would therefore be difficult to find fault with applying the term class to the Soviet bureaucracy.
 In the Second World Congress theses there was already an unfortunate formulation, though it was appreciably different: ” ‘Defend what remains of the conquests of October’ is a (“a,” and not “the”) strategic line for the revolutionary party, and not alone a ‘slogan.’ ” [‘The USSR and Stalinism,’ Fourth International, June 1948, p. 114] It would have been more correct to say: ‘a strategic task’ or ‘a strategic orientation,’ formulations that are clearly opposed to the notion that the defense of the USSR is just a ‘slogan.’
‘The defence of the USSR coincides for us with the preparation of world revolution. Only those methods are permissible which do not conflict with the interests of the revolution. The defence of the USSR is related to the world socialist revolution as a tactical task is related to a strategic one. A tactic is subordinated to a strategic goal and in no case can be in contradiction to the latter.'(Leon Trotsky: ‘The USSR in War,’ in In Defence of Marxism, New Park Publications, 1971, p.ll.)
 A ‘Stalinism’ that was never very deeply entrenched at any given moment in the history of this party. Apart from the documents published by the Fourth International, a reading of the works of Mao Tse-tung (each page of which contains a more or less veiled attack on Stalin) is quite helpful in this regard.
 It is quite clear that the reasons for this stem from the difference between the proletariat’s aspirations and forms of action, and those of the peasantry. The peasantry desires bourgeois-democratic reforms and mobilizes spontaneously in the form of partisan armies. The proletariat has socialist aspirations and its revolutionary mobilization creates proletarian organs of power, both of which lead to a direct contradiction with the Stalinist bureaucracy right from the start.
 We request that the International Secretariat present its file of correspondence with the Chinese comrades to the World Congress,and in this way inform the congress of the directives that it had the right and the duty to give to the Chinese section.
 The Russian revolution unfolded in a way that was far removed from the ‘pure norms’; Lenin thought it was even further removed than any future revolution in an advanced country would be.
 ‘The primary political criterion for us is not the transformation of property relations in this or another area, however important these may be in themselves, but rather the change in the consciousness and organization of the world proletariat, the raising of their capacity for defending former conquests and accomplishing new ones. From this one, and the only decisive standpoint, the politics of Moscow taken as a whole, completely retains its reactionary character and remains the chief obstacle on the road to world revolution.'(Leon Trotsky: ‘The USSR in War,’ in In Defence of Marxism, p.23.)
 The Militant, the newspaper of the American Trotskyists, waged an excellent campaign around the revelations on this question. In France, where the basic cadres of the working class are organized in the CP, an extensive campaign should have been mounted around the theme: ‘Airplanes for Korea.’
 A reading of Hasten’s amendment to the World Congress is instructive: it is a timid outline of ‘Where Are We Going?”
Lessons from Working-Class History:
State Repression & the Left
[First printed in 1917 #25, 2003. Copied from http://www.bolshevik.org/1917/no25/state_repression.html ]
The aggressive neo-colonial wars being waged by the Bush administration are accompanied by a massive reorganization and expansion of the domestic security bureaucracy and heightened activity by America’s political police. The “war on terror” has made major incursions on democratic rights and constitutional protections of all U.S. residents, particularly for immigrants, Arab-Americans and critics of government policy. It is no accident that the U.S. Border Patrol has recently set up rotating checkpoints in the Detroit area, home to 350,000 Arab-Americans, the largest concentration in the country.
In a 15 November 2002 Salon.com article, Dave Lindorff reported that the assistant legal director of the left-liberal Center for Constitutional Rights, Barbara Olshansky, discovered her name is on a list maintained by the new post-9/11 “Transportation Security Administration” (TSA) of people subject to intensive investigation any time they attempt to board an airplane. It is unclear how many others are on the list with Olshansky, but authorities admit maintaining another list of 1,000 people who are deemed “threats to aviation” and not allowed to fly at all.
David Steigman, of the TSA, who told Salon that U.S. federal intelligence agencies (the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency) supply names for the list, admitted that there are no legal avenues through which to launch an appeal. According to Lindorff, so far the feds are “netting mostly priests, elderly nuns, Green Party campaign operatives, left-wing journalists, right-wing activists and people affiliated with Arab or Arab-American groups.”
The ostensibly revolutionary left, weak as it is, will automatically be a prime target of all new police-state measures, as the manufactured terror scare is used as justification for going after any and all opponents of the American ruling class. The fact that most of America’s supposed Marxists are pursuing a strategy that combines pacifist bleating with appeals to the imperialists to behave more humanely will not spare them the attention of the architects of a rightist security state.
The Marxist movement has confronted the issue of political repression under bourgeois-democratic regimes many times in the past. The right of socialist organizations to advocate revolutionary views, won through the struggles of earlier generations of militants, must be energetically defended today. The successful defense of the legal status and democratic rights of the left requires both political courage and tactical intelligence. In some cases, Marxist organizations have been forced to make important adjustments in the presentation of their ideas as a result of bourgeois repression.
Russian Revolutionaries vs. Czarist Repression
The Russian revolutionary movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, developed under a regime of constant police repression, and was forced to produce much of its literature underground. This increased organizational overheads, limited circulation and resulted in the imprisonment of hundreds of militants involved in the printing, transportation and distribution of illegal publications. Where possible, the revolutionaries therefore attempted to publish their materials legally. This required certain terminological accommodations to the sensibilities of the censors. Georgi Plekhanov’s classic, The Development of the Monist View of History, written in 1895 as a polemic against the Russian Narodniks (populists), was published under a pseudonym (N. Beltov) and given an “intentionally clumsy” title by the author to get by the czarist censors who prohibited “materialist” (i.e., Marxist) works. The defensive formulations employed by Plekhanov throughout the book permitted its legal publication and ensured broader distribution, but did not change the content of his arguments.
In the preface to Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, Lenin noted:
“This pamphlet was written with an eye to the tsarist censorship. Hence, I was not only forced to confine myself strictly to an exclusively theoretical, specifically economic analysis of facts, but to formulate the few necessary observations on politics with extreme caution, by hints, in an allegorical language—in that accursed Aesopian language—to which tsarism compelled all revolutionaries to have recourse whenever they took up the pen to write a ‘legal’ work.
“…In order to show the reader, in a guise acceptable to the censors, how shamelessly untruthful the capitalists and the social-chauvinists who have deserted to their side (and whom Kautsky opposes so inconsistently) are on the question of annexations; in order to show how shamelessly they screen the annexations of their capitalists, I was forced to quote as an example—Japan!”
The opportunist wing of the Russian socialist movement, the Mensheviks, who had also been forced underground by police repression, were inclined to adapt politically to the requirements of the censors, and gradually abandoned all illegal activity. This tendency was characterized as “liquidationism” by the Bolsheviks, who maintained an underground apparatus while attempting to maximize the opportunities for legal activity. In a speech in New York in November 1942, when the American Trotskyist movement was facing considerable government persecution, James P. Cannon described how prior to World War I the Bolsheviks managed to elect six deputies to the Duma (the czar’s pseudo-parliament) and published several daily newspapers:
“The daily paper of the Bolsheviks was published in what you call the Aesopian language….They called themselves ‘consistent democrats.’ And the paper did not espouse the cause of the Bolshevik party and did not propound its whole program. It did this only by implication. It wrote in parables. It modified its language to get through the tsarist censorship. But they managed to do it skillfully enough so that around that paper the Bolshevik party was organized. So that when the time came, more favorable conditions, and the chance to break out in the open, the Bolsheviks had previously created a wide sentiment for their basic ideas among the advanced workers of Moscow.
“All this time, however, they maintained the underground party. They did not confine themselves to this limited Aesopian legalistic propaganda; that was a supplement of the illegal program of the party. In the underground circles of the party they talked frankly about everything, clarified their program, and through it were able to maintain control over this vast network of legal activities.”
—”On Legal and Semilegal Work,” 19 November 1942
Sometimes the Bolsheviks were able to get around the censors by publishing important statements as signed discussion articles instead of official party decisions. In other cases, newspapers declared formal independence from the party. In their legal activity, the Bolsheviks could only convey parts of the Marxist program, and generally chose to avoid subjects that would not pass the censors. When possible, they attempted to find other ways to comment on such issues; when not, they remained silent rather than revise or repudiate the Marxist position.
Marx, Engels & the German Social Democracy
The Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), the leading section of the Socialist (or Second) International, with a membership in excess of one million at the outbreak of World War I in 1914, was consistently to the right of the Russian Bolsheviks. One index of the SPD’s non-revolutionary character was its tendency to put the “defense of the party” (and its assets) ahead of Marxist principle. Rosa Luxemburg, the leader of the SPD’s Marxist left wing, was critical of the party’s refusal to raise the demand for a German republic, i.e., abolition of the monarchy. Karl Kautsky, who was a collaborator of Frederick Engels and widely regarded as the leading exponent of Marxism in the Second International, rejected Luxemburg’s proposal to introduce this plank into the party’s program on the grounds that it was too dangerous. Kautsky claimed to be upholding the position of Marx and Engels on the question:
“‘…the  Gotha Program said nothing of a republic, and Marx, as much as he condemned this program, acknowledged in his letter that it wouldn’t do to openly demand a republic (Neue Zeit, IX, 1, p. 573). Engels spoke on the same matter regarding the  Erfurt Program (Neue Zeit, XX, 1, p. 11).
“‘I don’t have time to set forth to you the grounds which Marx and Engels, Bebel and Liebknecht acknowledged to be sound. Enough, that what you want is an entirely new agitation which until now has always been rejected. This new agitation, however, is the sort we have no business discussing so openly….We cannot and will not proceed in this manner. A single personality, however high she may stand, cannot pull off a fait accompli on her own hook which can have unforeseeable consequences for the party.’”
—quoted by Rosa Luxemburg in Theory and Practice (1980)
Luxemburg responded that the “entirely new agitation” amounted to a call for universal adult suffrage and a democratic republic, and was aimed at the monarchy as the “visible head of the reigning reaction.” She pointed out that in his critique of the Erfurt Program, Engels made an “allusion to the ‘opportunism prevalent in a great part of the Social Democratic press,’” and asserted:
“‘But the fact that one cannot even draw up an openly republican party program in Germany proves how colossal the illusion is, that we can genially, peacefully install a republic there–and not only a republic, but communist society.
“‘…On all these subjects, not much can be said in the program. I call this to your attention chiefly to characterize both the situation in Germany, where it will not do to say such things, and the self-delusion that would transform this situation into a communist society by legal means.’”
Luxemburg also cited Marx’s comment in the “Critique of the Gotha Program” that if it were impossible to openly advocate a democratic republic in Germany, it would be absurd to put forward other, derivative, democratic demands:
“‘Since you do not feel yourselves in the position…to demand a democratic republic as the French workers’ programs did under Louis Philippe and Louis Napoleon, you should not have tried to hide behind the…dodge [the dots are substituted for a boisterous adjective of Marx’s–R.L.] of demanding things which only make sense in a democratic republic, from a state which is nothing but a military despotism embellished with parliamentary forms, alloyed with a feudal admixture, obviously influenced by the bourgeoisie, shored up with a bureaucracy and watched over by the police.’”
The difference between the revolutionary intransigence of Luxemburg and the Bolsheviks and the cringing legalism of Kautsky and the “orthodox” Marxists of the SPD foreshadowed their subsequent divergence over “defense of the fatherland” in World War I, and their respective responses to the collapse of the Romanov and Hohenzollern dynasties. After the overthrow of the czar, the Bolsheviks, who had refused to support the imperial war effort, went on to win a majority in the workers’ councils (soviets) based on a program of ending the war, distributing the landed estates to the peasantry and expropriating the capitalists. On 9 November 1918, the Kaiser was forced to abdicate as a result of a revolt by German workers and soldiers who formed revolutionary councils in every major center across the country. Luxemburg and a small group of revolutionaries, who would soon found the German Communist Party, proposed to establish a new state power based on the rule of these councils. But the SPD’s rightist leadership, supported by Kautsky’s centrist bloc, formed a provisional government, thereby saving the capitalist state and derailing the German Revolution.
Trotskyists in World War II: ‘Socialism on Trial’
The question of revolutionary legality was posed quite sharply for the Trotskyist movement during World War II. In the U.S., the Socialist Workers Party (SWP—the leading section of the international Trotskyist movement at the time) anticipated that America’s entry into the war would be accompanied by severe repression. James P. Cannon, the party’s leader, predicted that: “During the war, especially the first stages, there is nobody going to be talking against the war without being in the jug the next hour. You can’t do it in the paper or in private conversation.” North of the border, in Canada, the Trotskyist organization had been outlawed as soon as war was declared in September 1939. Shortly afterwards, one young Trotskyist, Frank Watson, was arrested when he dared to speak against the inter-imperialist slaughter on a soapbox in downtown Toronto. Watson’s comrades did what they could to publicize his case, but he was quickly tried and convicted, and after losing a subsequent appeal, was sent to jail for six months.
On 15 July 1941, 28 prominent members of the SWP and the militant Minneapolis Teamsters union they led, were indicted by a grand jury for violating the reactionary Smith Act, passed a year earlier, which outlawed “seditious” ideas. They were also charged under an 1861 law with conspiracy to overthrow the government. At a special conference in October 1941, the SWP passed the following resolution as a directive to the comrades facing trial:
“The policy of the party in defending itself in court, obligatory for all party members under indictment, can only be one that is worthy of our movement and our tradition; no attempt to water down or evade our revolutionary doctrine, but, on the contrary, to defend it militantly. At the same time we maintain that we have legal right under the Bill of Rights to propagate our principles.”
—Defense Policy in the Minneapolis Trial
During their trial, the SWP defendants argued that they were being persecuted for exercising their constitutional rights to free speech and free assembly. The defense presented testimony on a wide variety of issues, including the question of expropriation of the capitalist minority, and the likelihood that during the revolutionary transition from capitalism to a socialist regime, the old ruling class would attempt to initiate violence. The national media paid close attention to the trial proceedings, which in Cannon’s view presented:
“the opportunity, for the first time, to speak to the masses—to the people of the United States. We seized upon the opportunity and made the most of it, and applied in practice without a serious fault the basic principles which had been assimilated in a long preparatory period.”
Cannon characterized the trial as “by far our greatest propaganda success” and noted with pride that “even those workers who disagree with our program, have approved and applauded our conduct in court as worthy of people who take their principles seriously.” The party published Cannon’s testimony at the trial and the closing statement of SWP attorney Albert Goldman (who was also one of the defendants) as pamphlets for use in educating new recruits.
The SWP cadres refused to renounce their principles and offered a political defense of their party, while at the same time employing “defensive formulations.” At points during their testimony, the defendants missed opportunities to take the offensive against their persecutors, but on the whole the SWP’s defense strategy in this trial provides a model for revolutionaries.
Grandizo Munis’ Critique
Grandizo Munis, a Spanish Trotskyist exiled in Mexico, criticized the way the SWP defendants conducted themselves during the trial; he felt they missed an opportunity in:
“replying to the political accusations—struggle against the war, advocacy of violence, overthrow of the government by force—where it was necessary to have raised the tone and turn the tables, accuse the government and the bourgeoisie of a reactionary conspiracy; of permanent violence against the majority of the population, physical, economic, moral, educative violence; of launching the population into a slaughter also by means of violence in order to defend the Sixty Families.”
Cannon responded that a distinction had to be made “between ‘maneuvers’ which serve principle and those which contradict it” and explained:
“we planned to conduct our defense in court not as a ‘criminal’ defense but as a propaganda offensive. Without foolishly disregarding or provoking the jury or needlessly helping the prosecutor, it was our aim to use the courtroom as a forum to popularize the principles of our movement. We saw in this second proposition our main duty and opportunity and never for a moment intended to let purely legalistic considerations take precedence over it.”
Cannon’s testimony at the trial was an excellent exposition of the Marxist attitude toward violence. In his reply to Munis, he summarized his remarks as follows:
“1) The Marxists prefer a peaceful transition. ‘The position of the Marxists is that the most economical and preferable, the most desirable method of social transformation, by all means, is to have it done peacefully.’
“2) ‘It is the opinion of all Marxists that it will be accompanied by violence.’
“3) That opinion ‘is based, like all Marxist doctrine, on a study of history, the historical experiences of mankind in the numerous changes of society from one form to another, the revolutions which accompanied it, and the resistance which the outlived classes invariably put up against the new order. Their attempt to defend themselves against the new order, or to suppress by violence the movement for the new order, has resulted in every important social transformation up to now being accompanied by violence.’
“4) The ruling class always initiates the violence, ‘always the ruling class; always the outlived class that doesn’t want to leave the stage when the time has come. They want to hang onto their privileges, to reinforce them by violent measures, against the rising majority and they run up against the mass violence of the new class, which history has ordained shall come to power.’
“5) That is our prediction. But of course, we don’t limit ourselves simply to that prediction. We go further, and advise the workers to bear this in mind and prepare themselves not to permit the reactionary outlived minority to frustrate the will of the majority.’”
As Cannon observed: “That is all any Marxist really needs to say on the question of violence in a capitalist court….It tells the truth, conforms to principle, and protects the legal position of the party.” He rejected Munis’ suggestion that the defendants should have raised their voices to: “call upon the workers to organize their own violence against the reactionary violence” as neither necessary nor advisable. Cannon cited Lenin and Trotsky on the advantages of using defensive formulations, and explained that his testimony had been intended “for the benefit of the uninitiated worker” who:
“is by no means waiting impatiently for our call to violent action. Quite the contrary, he ardently believes in the so-called democracy, and the first question he will ask, if he becomes interested in socialism, is: ‘Why can’t we get it peacefully, by the ballot?’ It is necessary to patiently explain to him that, while we would prefer it that way, the bosses will not permit it, will resort to violence against the majority, and that the workers must defend themselves and their right to change things. Our defensive formula is not only legally unassailable….It is also the best formula for effective propaganda.”
During cross-examination, the prosecutor asked Cannon if the May 1934 “Battle of Bulls Run” in Minneapolis, when strikers routed thousands of police and special deputies, was “Trotskyism demonstrating itself.” Cannon replied: “I am mighty proud of the fact that Trotskyism had some part in influencing the workers to protect themselves against that sort of violence.” The cops and deputies had been organized to drive the workers off the street, and: “They got a dose of their own medicine. I think the workers have a right to defend themselves. If that is treason, you can make the most of it.”
While the Trotskyists’ role in leading the Minneapolis Teamsters to victory gave them a working-class base in that city and resulted in an important regroupment with A.J. Muste’s left-centrist American Workers Party, small revolutionary propaganda groups rarely have the opportunity to demonstrate the superiority of their ideas through leading mass struggles. Munis all but ignored this and derided the emphasis the SWP defendants placed on winning a majority for socialism through education and propaganda:
“But we are a party of revolutionary action—economic, political and educative—in essence and potentially, because our propaganda itself can tend only to action and only through action will we conquer the majority of the exploited and educate them for the taking of power.”
“The bourgeoisie has always tried to picture communism as a ‘criminal conspiracy’ in order to alienate the workers who are profoundly democratic in their sentiments. That was the aim once again in the Minneapolis trial. It was our task at the trial to go out of our way to refute this misrepresentation and emphasize the democratic basis of our program; not in order to placate our enemies and persecutors, as is assumed, but in order to reveal the truth to our friends, the American workers.”
One weak formulation in Cannon’s testimony came when he suggested: “The reason we do not support a declaration of war by American arms, is because we do not believe the American capitalists can defeat Hitler and fascism.” Munis observed that this implied: “we would support it if we believed in that defeat.” Cannon might better have responded by pointing to the enthusiasm with which major sections of the U.S. capitalist class greeted both Mussolini and Hitler as bulwarks against the spread of Bolshevism.
Cannon made no claim to perfection, and commented, “we did only the best we could within the narrow limits prescribed by the court.” He forthrightly defended the SWP’s position of refusing to support either the Axis or Allied imperialists, and in response to a question from Goldman about whether the war was essentially a struggle between democracy and fascism, he responded: “It is absolutely true that Hitler wants to dominate the world, but we think it is equally true that the ruling group of American capitalists has the same idea, and we are not in favor of either of them.” Later, during cross-examination by the prosecutor, Cannon solidarized with the revolutionary position of the Fourth International:
“Q: Now, on June 29, 1940, the Socialist Appeal published this from the report of the Manifesto of the Fourth International: ‘Independently of the course of the war, we fulfill our basic task: We explain to the workers the irreconcilability between their interests and the interest of blood-thirsty capitalism; we mobilize the toilers against imperialism; we propagate the unity of the workers in all warring and neutral countries; we call for the fraternization of workers and soldiers within each country, and of soldiers with soldiers on the opposite side of the battlefront; we mobilize the women and youth against the war; we carry on constant, persistent, tireless preparation of the revolution—in the factories, in the mills, in the villages, in the barracks, at the front and in the fleet.’ You want the soldiers to do that, don’t you?
“A: Yes, I think that is a summation of the idea, for the soldiers and everybody to do that. That is the way to put an end to this slaughter.”
—Socialism On Trial
The prosecution introduced as evidence large quantities of SWP literature, as well as writings by Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky. In his summation to the court, Albert Goldman said that, as he sat listening to the prosecution the day before:
“my thoughts drifted far afield. What are we on trial for, I asked myself? Certain men wrote books many years ago, and we are on trial because these men had ideas and wrote about them. We are on trial because a man by the name of Marx spent most of his lifetime in the library of the British Museum, digging into statistics, statistics concerned with economics and with politics. We are on trial because this man, after reading the mass of statistics…formulated general laws—laws that he thought, and laws that we think, operate in the social system.”
—In Defense of Socialism
Goldman also addressed the question of “violence” upon which the prosecution had laid heavy emphasis:
“Everywhere in society there is violence of one sort or another, culminating in the dreadful violence which sacrifices millions of human beings upon the altar of war. It is this violence which we hate that drives us into a movement which has as its ideal the creation of a world free from violence, where human beings will cooperate in the production of goods to satisfy their needs, where peace and security will prevail.
“We are, of course, not pacifists. We do not believe with Gandhi that it is wrong for three hundred million people in India to use violence to drive out the British oppressors who claim to be fighting a war for democracy. As much as we hate the violence that exists in society, we see no alternative to the necessity of destroying the violence of the minority with the violence of the majority. But to accuse us of wanting and advocating violence is to accuse us of something that is revolting to our very nature.”
The charge of conspiring to overthrow the American government was thrown out, but on 8 December 1941, the day the U.S. declared war on Japan, 18 of the defendants were convicted under the Smith Act of conspiring to advocate the overthrow of the government, and sentenced to jail terms ranging from 12 to 16 months.
An Injury to One…
The SWP immediately organized a Civil Rights Defense Committee, which was chaired by James T. Farrell, a popular novelist and SWP supporter, with John Dos Passos (another famous author) and Carlo Tresca (a prominent anarchist) as co-chairs. Other well-known figures who signed on as official sponsors were John Dewey, W.E.B. DuBois, Mary McCarthy, A.J. Muste, Adam Clayton Powell, Max Shachtman and Edmund Wilson. The defense committee ran a vigorous and effective campaign that won support from the American Civil Liberties Union, much of the organized left, and over 100 local and national union bodies representing millions of workers. The rabidly anti-Trotskyist Communist Party (CP), at that time the largest and most influential organization on the left, stood virtually alone in applauding the prosecution of the SWP. Ironically, the government’s successful use of the Smith Act against the Trotskyists provided a precedent for its use in the subsequent persecution of scores of CP cadres beginning in 1949. The SWP, to its credit, was one of only a few groups in the workers’ movement to defend the Stalinists against the witchhunters.
The Smith Act was eventually declared unconstitutional and struck down, as were various other mechanisms used by the McCarthyites. One victory in this struggle was won through the efforts of Max Shachtman’s rightward-moving Workers Party which, in 1948, launched a legal campaign challenging its inclusion on the U.S. Attorney General’s list of subversive organizations. It was ten years before the Shachtmanites were finally successful, and in the meantime, they had devolved from ostensible Leninists to State Department socialists. But regardless of their political trajectory, the Shachtmanite campaign played a central role in the eventual decision by the U.S. Justice Department to scrap its infamous list.
A more recent case involved the degenerating Spartacist League (SL) which, in 1981, filed suit against California’s right-wing Republican Attorney General George Deukmejian for including it on a 1979 list of “terrorist” groups. Labeling leftist groups as “terrorist” creates an atmosphere conducive to wholesale repression of anyone who dares mobilize the workers and oppressed in defense of their own interests. The Spartacist League’s vigorous response to Deukmejian’s smear was supported by many civil liberties advocates and even black Democratic politicians. They created enough of a stir that in December 1981, the state Attorney General’s office issued a formal retraction of its allegation. This was a small but significant victory for the Spartacist League and the entire workers’ movement.
The persecution of leftist political dissidents typically begins with the malicious and deliberate misrepresentation of their aims and objectives. The intent is to isolate those who are courageous enough to resist the manifest injustices of the imperialist world order by depicting them as violent crazies and/or terrorists. In response to attempts to frame-up any members of the left and workers’ movement, it is incumbent on all to offer their active solidarity. For, in the words of the pioneers of the American labor movement, “An injury to one is an injury to all!”
Milwaukee’s Brand of Socialism
Socialism in One City
by James Boulton
First printed in Fourth International, Vol.I No.7, December 1940. Copied from http://www.marxists.org/history/etol/newspape/fi/vol01/no07/boulton.htm
We particularly recommend this 1940 Trotskyist polemic with US social democracy to supporters of groups historically associated with the late Ted Grant. To those familiar, the parallels in the politics critiqued are quite striking.
1. A Tenor Sings Socialism Away
The morning of April 3, 1940, broke dismally in the city of Milwaukee, heralding the defeat of Mayor Daniel W. Hoan and the return to capitalism. Dan, the Socialist mayor toward whom Norman Thomas could point with pride in every speech, the mayor whose treatise on City Government has now become a classic, who as City Attorney after the election of 1912 indicted and convicted hundreds of corrupt politicians and thereby ushered into office for over two decades the Milwaukee Socialist Party, its elected and appointed officials, and made the name of Milwaukee a star in international encyclopedias, the mayor, however, whose twenty-four years in office failed to produce any change in the life of Milwaukee’s proletariat.
When the final count came in, the beer parties in the wards were already ebbing and the golden haired thrush, Mayor-elect Carl Zeidler, had decreed the abolition of socialism. The major setback was not felt among the more “stupid” proletariat, but it did forebode ill among the many party Gifte Shoppe, butcher, book, and barber shop, tavern keeper, insurance salesman, and law suite members. Panic reigned in the City Hall and other municipal buildings; and in the offices of the stunned comrades of Norman Thomas there swelled a wave of defeatism that rolled right through the heart of the party convention which took place right afterward.
“What happened in Milwaukee?” was the paramount question put to delegates from the Cream City. Why had the workers cast their ballots for a tenor instead of for Dan?
When the initial delirium subsided, there still lingered a feeling of strength: Police Chief Kluchesky and “the Force” remained firmly entrenched in municipal power. All is not lost so long as comrade Police Chief Kluchesky remains at the head of the Force.
“Klooch,” as his comrades of the Socialist Party fondly call him, is expected to persist in waging the fight to liquidate the six mounted policemen, introduced by reactionaries to break the monotony of socialist civic life. Whole elections have been fought on this issue. The mounty funds, contend the Hoan men, could best be used in solving the problem of unemployment. Milwaukee Joe, when he is not busy “settling” strikes, will undoubtedly have something to say on this issue.
2. History and Achievements of Milwaukee Socialism
Pulling through the World War with very little to mar their record except the ride of Dan Hoan at the head of a Preparedness Day parade, the Milwaukee socialists continued on their march toward clean and efficient city government and a bigger and better convention city.
The first political boss of the Milwaukee local of the Socialist Party was Congressman Berger, who shared the job with Hoan until his death. Hoan now shares it with Andy Biemiller, Progressive caucus chairman in the assembly and author of the famous plea: “We must give aid to the Allies, our comrades!” Otto Hauser, ex-preacher and Hoan’s secretary to the Mayor, helps manage the dwindling machine, although he is mainly preoccupied with selling real estate.
“Old Vic” Berger merely bossed the party. Joe Kluchesky extended the practice of democracy against the general populace.
Frank Zeidler, State Secretary of the Socialist Party and a Sunday school teacher, readily concedes that nothing much was done in socializing the means of production. Nevertheless by the time Hoan retired to law practice in 1940, Milwaukee was the proud possessor of a socialized sewage disposal plant and many publicly owned streets.
Under the influence of comrade C.B. Whitnall, first elected in 1910 as City Treasurer, great strides were made in expanding the county parks; and today the Socialist county towers above the nation in quantity and quality of sweetheart’s rests.
In the course of this development Ernest Unterman, who reminds everyone that he is the Editor of the Fourth German Edition of Capital, was appointed Director of the Washington Park Zoo. Besides painting murals and collecting ostrich eggs, Unterman has also produced a work called Lenin’s Maggot.
In 1935, in a convention with eight other organizations, Milwaukee’s socialists gave birth to the Farmer-Labor Progressive Federation. The name was changed to Progressive Party Federation at the last convention when Comrade Hoan suggested that they should not give the impression of existing for farmers and workers alone. As a mass party the FLPF disappointed many. Some found it difficult to draw the line between the SP and the FLPF, the former usually meeting after the latter, often in the same hall or tavern as the case may be. A late comer was often heard questioning: “Is this the meeting of the SP or the FLPF?”
In all fairness to the party it must be added that much has been accomplished in placing 500 salaried election booth clerks, winning aldermanic, supervisory, and assemblymanic seats, appointing many tried and true men to various civic committees, administrative boards, and executive offices.
The achievements of the party culminated in the appointment of Joe Kluchesky and the completion of a really efficient police force, as the workers well may testify.
3. A Socialist Police Chief
Comrade Kluchesky is notable for his unique construing of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and for his view that transients do not vote and consequently are of no value to a crime-free socialist city.
The Socialist Party spent $10,000 for Norman Thomas’ New Jersey fight in which he contended handbill ordinances were undemocratic. But in the stronghold of Norman Thomas socialism, not a cent was spent to fight against such a handbill ordinance. As a matter of fact the Milwaukee comrades appreciated the ordinance’s value in keeping socialist streets litter-free and were inclined to favor it; so that, when the US Supreme Court invalidated that type of ordinance, comrade Kluchesky dissented and proposed an alternative ordinance to prevent the littering of public streets. The Milwaukee Young People’s Socialist League, at the instigation of a group who subsequently became Trotskyists, issued a statement to the press, repudiating the Police Chief’s action. The culprits were admonished before the SP’s Executive Board by Ed Knappe, who stated plainly: “The point is you cannot attack public officials.”
Klooch demonstrated his socialist efficiency during the Allen-Bradley strike. A trade union leader and member of the Socialist Party testified before the Party’s County Central that, in a conference with himself, Klooch, and President Bradley of the struck corporation, Klooch said:
“If law and order are not preserved I will have to put the police at the disposal of Mr. Bradley.”
Another act for which Hoan’s appointee has been criticized by some people was, in reality, not as arbitrary as it may seem, but logically arose from the Kluchesky theory that people ought to at least vote if they would breath Cream City rarefied air. This act took place at the Catholic Worker Family House, a haven for underprivileged transients. On March 23, 1940, a police detail under orders from the Chief raided the house without warrant and arrested seventeen inmates, on charges, substantially, that they were non-voters, unemployed, transient, loiterers, and defiled by their presence the grand beauty of a fair city. During the raid some people were mishandled, insulted, questioned and searched in violation of constitutional rights which apply to transients as well as voters.
When this act was brought (by those who later became Trotskyites) to the attention of the Party County Central with the pointer that under capitalism there is a fundamental antagonism between police and workers, and when the naively. indignant complainant vainly pressed for action, an Executive Board member objected to the use of Marxist formulas and windbagging, suggesting ejection of the disrupter.
At present Comrade Kluchesky’s force is cooperating with the FBI in cataloguing Socialist Workers Party street corner speakers and Socialist Appeal salesmen, no doubt crushing Trotskyism before it breeds Stalinism.
Recently there was a solemn ceremony, when 260 party members received “diplomas” for membership in the party of twenty-five years or more. One of those, grown gray in the service, was Comrade Police Chief Joe Kluchesky.
Believe it or not, some of those old boys who hold those diplomas aren’t able to figure out why the party didn’t once more this year win the election!
STATEMENT OF THE GRUPPE SPARTAKUS ON THE BUNDESTAG ELECTIONS:
No Vote to the SPD/No Vote to the PDS
Critical Electoral Support to the SpAD
[The following 11/17/90 statement by the German supporters of the International Bolshevik Tendency was originally translated and reprinted in the Spartacist League’s “Hate Trotskyism, Hate the Spartacist League” series (#6)]
The SPD has carried out an openly pro-imperialist unification policy in the West and the East. In the election campaign, Lafontaine is fanning the anti-foreigner backlash and seeking to give himself a distinctive image with the necessity of tax increases: The working class is expected to pay for capitalist reunification! The PDS, in contrast, is trying to play the classic social-democratic card as the party of the “socially weak.” However, the capitulation of the PDS leadership to the latest attacks by the state apparatus gives yet another confirmation: the last remnants of the formerly ruling Stalinist bureaucracy are seeking a cozy spot within bourgeois democracy, even at the cost of the sacrifice of Pohl/Langnitschke. This stance is only the continuation of the SED-PDS policy of handing over the DDR to German imperialism without a fight. That historic betrayal and the rightward evolution of the PDS rule out critical electoral support.
Why vote for the Spartakist-Arbeiterpartei Deutschlands (SpAD)?
Many militant workers and leftists rightly despise the SpAD for its sectarianism and its arrogant attitude as “savior of the working class.” But in contrast to the pro-capitalist practice of the SPD and PDS, the program of the SpAD in large part can be characterized formally as Leninist-Trotskyist. The SpAD calls, among other things, for independent working-class actions, for workers councils to achieve control over the plants. It is for workers strikes against the intervention of German imperialism in the Near East and for the mobilization of the workers against the fascists.
On the basis of this schematic but formally Trotskyist program the Gruppe Spartakus is giving critical support to the SpAD in these elections. Thereby we wish to express the principle “class against class.” At the same time we warn against the illusion that this sectarian, pseudo-Trotskyist group, bureaucratically degenerated and deformed to the highest degree, can play any real role whatsoever in working-class struggles. The SpAD is an obstacle to the building of the revolutionary Trotskyist workers party. Many of its newly acquired members, who were attracted by the SpAD’s revolutionary affectations, have been spat out because of the development of political differences, or repelled by the undemocratic and repressive internal life, the parody of a Leninist-Trotskyist party. While we have lots of political differences with the SpAD and the ICL led by the guru Robertson, we particularly consider two. aspects of its present propaganda to be confused and dangerously disorienting.
The SpAD and the “Fourth Reich”
Especially since the Anschluss, the BRD has been termed the “Fourth Reich” and Kohl the chancellor of the “Fourth Reich” in SpAD propaganda. It appears the SpAD has taken over the petty-bourgeois theory of the growing “fascisization” of Germany, that the state functionaries are (secret?) fascists and that the repressive apparatus of the police and the Verfassungsschutz [Office for the Protection of the Constitution] constitute independent fascist formations. The SpAD’s propaganda thereby feeds into the impressionist view that the reactionary reunification of Germany has called forth an abrupt change from a bourgeois parliamentary democracy to a fascist dictatorship that is destroying all workers organizations and already setting up its concentration camps.
Of course, the leaders of the SpAD know only too well that at this point in time the German capitalists see no necessity for handing over the state apparatus to the fascists as they did in 1933. The SpAD is thus using the fascisization theory for its brand of catastrophe-mongering: This is the last chance! Only a mass vote for the SpAD can stop fascism! Join the SpAD to fight the Fourth Reich!
A small revolutionary party can play an important role in organizing working-class actions to smash fascism. But the SpAD is disarming the working class by creating the impression that we are already living under fascism. It thereby downplays the frightful reality of fascism in power, distracting attention from the necessity of smashing the fascist gangs while they are still small.
The SpAD in search of an anti-imperialist wing of the Soviet bureaucracy
The SpAD is one of the few ostensibly revolutionary groups advocating military defense of Iraq against the imperialist-led military and economic aggression. However, it fosters the illusion that a wing of the Soviet bureaucracy defends Iraq. In its election program as well as in an Open Letter to various embassies (with a copy to its favorite general Snetkov) the SpAD calls on the USSR to lift its arms embargo and ship arms to Iraq. Here the fact that all wings of the Soviet bureaucracy, including Ligachev and the military, are capitulating to Gorbachev’s open cooperation with imperialism against Iraq is consciously denied. In contrast, the Trotskyist analysis of the role of the ruling Stalinist caste leads to the position that the workers must not place confidence in any wing of the USSR bureaucracy to defend the collectivized property forms of the bureaucratically degenerated workers state.
The SpAD creates yet further confusion when it invokes the memory of Lenin and Trotsky’s Red Army that drove the imperialists out of the oil fields of Baku in 1921. It suggests that the Soviet troops commanded by the bureaucracy can be equated with the revolutionary Red Army.
Trotskyists, on the other hand, know that only the working class in revolt, as it attempts to establish its direct political rule, can also cause parts of the bureaucracy to split off and go over to the side of the workers.
The demand that the Soviet bureaucracy lift the arms embargo is dangerously disorienting! Of course, it is not in principle wrong to place demands on the Stalinists. However, it makes sense only if they are at least pretending to support the oppressed against the imperialist oppressor. But when the Stalinists make clear that they stand on the side of the imperialists, as they have done since the beginning of the Gulf crisis, then such demands are absurd. This revision of Trotskyism by the SpAD is by no means surprising. In past years the ICL has grovelingly tailed after the most diverse Stalinist leaders, in search of a non-existent Leninist wing concealed somewhere in the top levels of the Stalinist state and party apparatus. The SpAD is incapable of building the Trotskyist workers party.
Those leftists and revolutionaries who wish to draw the lessons of the SpAD election campaign and want to learn how the SpAD has discredited Trotskyism in the past should get in contact with us. Let’s discuss how Trotsky’s program must be applied by revolutionaries today!
17 November 1990
German Section of the International Bolshevik Tendency
The Brazilian MNN and the International Committee (WSWS)
By Rodolfo Kaleb
This is an excerpt from an article entitled “What happened to the MNN?” originally written in Portuguese in April 2012, which discussed the MNN’s (Movimento Negação da Negação) change of position during the elections for the students’ movement leadership of the University of São Paulo. During the elections, the MNN decided to suspend their independent campaign and urged the students to vote for the slate organized around the Morenoite PSTU (Partido Socialista dos Trabalhadores Unificado – associated with the LIT/IWL) and the MES (an internal tendency of the PSOL – Partido Socialismo e Liberdade). They also started raising calls for the “unity” of all left groups active on campus under a common banner, dropping their previous criticisms of them. The MNN was previously publicly associated with David North’s International Committee, but was never its Brazilian section. Starting around the time this piece was published, the MNN silently distanced itself from the IC. We translated the parts of the article dealing with the MNN’s then obscure relationship with the IC.
At the same time that the MNN was turning to the right on student politics, they were also distancing themselves from the American-based International Committee (ICFI), led by David North, and its World Socialist Web Site (WSWS). The MNN did most of the Portuguese translations posted on wsws.org. We noticed a gradual reduction of such translations in the recent period.
The last article translated by the MNN (and posted on their own website) was about Putin’s election in Russia, dated March 11. But (curiously!) it wasn’t posted on the International Committee’s website, which last Portuguese article dates March 1st. Since the beginning of this project, in 2006, the MNN had never had such a long gap of translations from the group they claim represents the “continuity of Trotskyism”.
Despite the fact that the MNN has been translating articles from WSWS for all these years, it has not become the Brazilian section of the International Committee, whose main section is the American SEP (Socialist Equality Party). If there are fraternal relations between the MNN and the IC, they are of an obscure and non-public nature.
While the MNN states that the IC is the continuity of Trotskyism and has done a lot of propaganda about them in Brazil, the IC does not seem to share the same amount of enthusiasm for their Brazilian supporters. After a search on wsws.org, we found only one reference about the MNN. It is in a short article about the student struggles in the University of São Paulo in 2009:
“The MNN (Movimento Negação da Negação, a socialist group which identifies itself with Trotskyism in Brazil) participated actively in the assemblies, pickets and demonstrations, defending the continuation of the strike without any negotiation with the rector Suely Vilela.”
Brazil: students resist attacks by shock troops at University of Sao Paulo
http://wsws.org/articles/2009/jul2009/braz-j11.shtml (our emphasis)
It appears that for David North’s IC (at least publicly), the MNN isn’t more than just a “group which identifies itself with Trotskyism”. It is impossible for someone from the outside to say what exactly this vague comment means.
While some members of our own group were part of the Coletivo Lenin (see our split statement), they went through a situation with the International Bolshevik Tendency (IBT) that, at least superficially, resembles this one. The situation was described in the document in which the Coletivo Lenin broke relations with the IBT (dated December 2010):
“For almost three years, we used an adaptation of the IBT document ‘For Trotskyism!’ as our main programmatic statement. We regarded and publicly argued (until two months ago) that the IBT represented the programmatic continuity of Trotskyism on our website and in our activities in the workers’ and students’ movement. We translated all of the documents they used for the Portuguese language section of their web site. Despite this, the IBT refused to publicly acknowledge having any relations with us or even our existence. We considered their behavior strange since public recognition of fraternal relations is usually a first step for a future fusion perspective with another organization.”
In this case, the “strange behavior” of the IBT was a way to avoid engaging the Coletivo Lenin and honestly debating the differences between the two groups as a way to proceed to a fusion. Instead, the IBT wanted to gain time and maneuver with the younger Brazilian comrades. While claiming to have a perspective of fusion with the entire CL, the IBT tried to split it. As the CL wrote at the time:
“The day after the conference, while still claiming to desire moving towards a fusion, the IBT secretly ‘invited’ a couple of comrades from the faction closer to it to resign from the CL and become the IBT’s representatives in Brazil… While claiming to have close comradely fraternal relations with us, they were secretly maneuvering to split us, treating us in reality as a hostile enemy.”
While we cannot assert what exactly is the relationship between the MNN and the IC like, we can certainly say that the MNN’s acknowledgment of the International Committee as a revolutionary organization is one-sided.
It won’t be a surprise if the political shift of the MNN on the students’ movement is related to a departure from their association with the IC. It is possible that, after years of stagnated discussions with the International Committee, the MNN leaders decided to take a new path. But instead of searching for an alternative to the left of the IC, they seem to be taking an easier and more attractive road of seeking opportunist “unity” with the rest of the Brazilian left. That’s what happened with the Coletivo Lenin: some members left the group while others who remained became demoralized and open to going along with a senior member’s conclusion that the IBT’s bureaucratism and dishonesty was rooted in Trotskyism.
The International Committee defends some pretty degenerated political positions, some of which are discussed in an article we recently translated into Portuguese (Being determines consciousness). This document was written when we were still aligned with the IBT by a current member of Revolutionary Regroupment who is also a former supporter of the IC. The idea of translating this article to Portuguese was to warn the Brazilian public of how far the IC is from a perspective capable of building a revolutionary party and preparing the proletariat to successfully smash capitalism.
Despite our historical differences with both the IC and the MNN, we believe that at least part of the MNN members may have been attracted to the positive aspects of the tradition of struggle against Pabloite revisionism that the IC claims to represent. We believe that the most important contributions of the MNN are related to their opposition to the historical role of Pabloism since the 1953 split of the Fourth International. For instance, The MNN was the group that translated James P. Cannon’s “Letter to Trotskyists throughout the World” into Portuguese. In our opinion, this document represents a correct and historically important (although late and very imperfect) struggle against the revisionism formulated by Pablo and Mandel, which dominated the Trotskyist movement in the beginning of the 1950s.
Now, however, the MNN seems to be putting their criticisms against Pabloites and Morenoites under the rug in order to defend the politics of “unity” with them (without ever clarifying on what political basis). It seems that the MNN is now going through a process of ideological disintegration. Its dive away from the ICFI/WSWS is not leading the group towards a genuine critical review of David North’s group, but simply towards the swamp of opportunist politics.
For those MNN members who understand the importance of the anti-Pabloite struggle held by the International Committee in its first years and want to build a revolutionary party in a successful manner, it is necessary to split from the politics represented by the WSWS, as well as from the MNN’s recent shift. Revolutionary Regroupment’s politics are based on the original struggle of the International Committee against Pabloism. We also learned from those who fought the IC’s degeneration under Gerry Healy’s leadership. Thus, we imagine that many MNN members, disoriented by the political turn of their organization, would benefit from studying some of the historical documents on our website.
No. #3, April 10, 1982
Gibson Case — Golden Case — S.E.O. Injunction
CAPITALIST COURTS. ATTACK UNION
Coastwise unity of the Longshore Division is threatened by Local 10’s failure to pay our share of the Gibson Case costs. Increasingly in recent years longshore and clerk locals have been sued in the courts. In cases where these lawsuits threaten the union’s contractual rights over registration, promotion, dispatch, and transfers the Longshore Caucus has authorized the Coast Conmittee to pro-rate the costs of defending these cases among all the locals on a man to man basis. Brothers may not know, for instance, that the successful defense of Local 10 and Local 34 in the Sguire Scott case were distributed coastwide. In that case Local 10 longshoremen who had -been working out of Local 34 as clerks for some time sued to be transferred as Class A clerks on the basis of “squatters rights” and without regard to seniority.
Local 10 is the only local in the longshore division that, at the present time, is refusing to pay its share of the Gibson Case settlement. This refusal is based upon actions at two membership meetings where it was argued that Local 10 should not help defend any local charged with racial discrimination. Since then the Executive Board has had two lengthy discussions on the Gibson Case, but the facts that came out there haven’t been fully reported to the membership.
FACTS ON THE GIBSON CASE
Because of the extreme and increasing danger of the capitalist courts intervention into internal longshore union affairs, this article will give a few of the background facts on the Gibson Case.
1967: Gibson filed E.E.O.C. complaint against Local 40, Portland Ship Clerk’s Local — four black casuals originally involved — court later added ten more blacks to complaint — Gibson charged Local 40 with racial discrimination against him and against other blacks in dispatch as casual clerks — none had worked as casual clerks prior to 1966, none had applied for Class B Clerk registration.
The case went to District Federal Court under Title Seven of the Civil Rights Act — District Court rejected the complaint — Case appealed by Gibson and other plaintiffs to 9th Circuit Court of Appeals — The International was also sued, along with PMA — the International tried to withdraw as a defendant, but the Court ruled that the International ILWU could be sued as a defendant because of Coast Committee contractual control of dispatch and registration.
BRIDGES REFUSES GIBSON CASE SETTLEMENT
Early on there was an attempt to settle the case out of court with registration of the plaintiffs, but Brother Bridges refused and joined Local 40 in defending the case in court.
The Federal Appeals Court finally reversed the lower court and found Local 40, (and the International), guilty of racial discrimination in 1967. In 1981, the International, PMA, and Local 40 settled the case out of court to the tune of several hundred-thousand dollars. They figured that appeal and further litigation might run up the final cost of settlement to two or three million dollars
In 1967 there was one black class A clerk in Local 40. During the fourteen years of the court suit Local 40 registered a number of black clerks, mostly through transfers from longshore.
OTHER LOCALS AGREE TO SHARE COSTS OF GIBSON CASE
In June, 1981, all locals were billed for costs of settling the Gibson Case. The July Longshore Caucus did not reverse or reject this pro-rata billing. Local 13, Wilmington, delayed paying their share until they got reassurance-that their cost of defending the union in several local cases would also be pro-rated coast-wide. They have now agreed to pay their share of the Gibson Case.
GOLDEN CASE – COURT OVERRULES CONTRACT IN LOS ANGELES
The anti-union lawsuit which most clearly shows the extreme danger to the union is the Golden Case, which was just settled in Los Angeles. In that lawsuit a number of women, most of whom had never worked on the waterfront, went into court to block the transfer of 108 longshoremen to the clerks local. They were joined by a group of casual clerks who wanted also to block the transfers and get themselves registered on a new Clerk B list.
The settlement put the Federal District Court in permanent control of all registration, transfer, promotion, and dispatch of clerks in Los Angeles. In addition; the court required the registration of,a number of women and casual clerks to longshore B list. The court further ordered that all future longshore and clerk registration contain 25 to 30% women.
COURT ORDERS CLERK B LIST IN LOS ANGELES
A clerk B list will be set up in Los Angeles containing a certain number of women and casual clerks. Finally all future transfers from longshore to clerk after the present 108 men will have to be mostly women.
It is ironic that the court gained control over longshore registration in Los Angeles over sex discrimination charges, since Local 13 had probably the best record on the coast for bringing women into the work force. About 50 women are now registered and working as longshoremen in Los Angeles.
HOW CAN WE DEFEND OUR UNION AGAINST THE CAPITALIST COURTS ?
If any Local 10 brother had any illusions left that the courts were truly neutral where unions are concerned, these illusions should have finally ended when the Federal Court came down with an injunction prohibiting any action by Local 10 to protect hiring hall tractor and lift jobs against PMA’s S.E.O. men. Since anything in print could be used by the court against Local 10, the MILITANT LONGSHOREMAN is limited in what kind of union defense we can suggest.
When any union local’s contractual rights over registration, promotion, transfer, or dispatch are threatened by court action every local must see this as an attack on our union and share in the costs of legal defense. But let’s not have any illusions; the velvet glove has come off the iron hand and the courts will increasingly be used by the capitalist state to weaken and restrict union action in defense of our jobs.
Trade unions were built and defended not by relying solely on smart lawyers, (they have their use), but by working class unity in action.
My first reaction to the sharing by Local 10 of costs incurred in the Gibson Case was: hell no, I won’t pay! Having suffered the chilling, oppressive, and humiliating effects of racism personally, my reaction was predictable. I have lost job opportunities myself, exactly for what Local 40 was accused of doing — racial discrimination. We in Local 10 know that too few blacks have been selected As walking bosses, we are presently seeking to get more black representation. I reasoned: why should I pay for the privilege of Local 40 having discriminated against blacks?
I soon, however, began to expand my thinking into holistic rather than personalistic areas. The Williams case where Local 10 B men were fired was I suppose, of no interest to Local 40, but they had to share in our lawsuit. The hard, practical, reality is that Local 10 cannot afford to become isolated from the coast-wide concept of unity with other locals. We will need their help and they will need ours.
All ILWU Locals are reeling from the effects of automation, all suffer increasingly less work opportunities. The Steady Man system is a cancer that has the potential to destroy us all. We cannot afford the luxury of hating formerly all white Local 40 for their past practices pre-1967. We don’t have to love them, but we must work together, because our jobs, our very livelihoods are much more important to us in the long run, than getting even for past discriminatory practices. The black men who sued Local 40 are now A men and have been for many years. Local 8, their longshore component in Portland, dealt with their racial problems by registering blacks in 1964, thus avoiding lawsuits.
The above comments on both the Golden and Gibson cases by Brother Keylor clearly show the problems, (especially the Golden Case), which can beset a Local, when it is invaded by the Courts. The Courts are into almost all aspects of Local 13’s dispatch and hiring practices – it could happen to us. I strongly recommend that the members of Local 10 pursue a course that will strengthen the bonds between Local 40 and Local 10 and all other ILWU locals. Help them, so that they can help us — to fight the bosses and courts. A final comment: failure to abide by the constitution, which provides for pro-rata sharing of lawsuits Coast-wide, could result in Local 10 being placed into monitorship or in being excluded from future caucuses. The result would be more loss of control and isolation from other locals.
On the International Bolshevik Tendency’s Dodges and Evasions
By Samuel Trachtenberg
On March 23 we received the following communication from the International Bolshevik Tendency’s leader Tom Riley in response to our document “International Bolshevik Tendency ‘Explains’ Its Demise” posted 2 days earlier.
To Sam T.:
We have read your 21 March screed directed at us and note that it is largely a pastiche of distortions, falsifications and inventions as well as your previous criticisms. Given your troubled mental condition—which would appear to involve more than simply depression, and which we observed gradually worsen during your time in the IBT—it is difficult to know which of your misrepresentations are genuinely delusional and which are malicious. While we do not intend to comment on most of your allegations, we were struck by the claim that you “wrote many of their [IBT] documents for so many years.” Whether or not you actually believe this, it is simply not true. We tend to view this assertion as an example of how, at least in some instances, you are genuinely “incapable of recognizing reality.”
A far more serious (and in fact slanderous) allegation is that Comrade Jason had a job “for several years working at a clerical position for the Dept. of Homeland Security.” This is absolutely untrue. It is not clear to us whether you are deliberately inventing this or have derived it from a confused recollection of the fact that Jason, who has long been a unionized state civil servant, was one of the clerks assigned to x-ray mail sent to members of the legislature for a period of time after “9-11.” This had nothing to do with the Department of Homeland Security. The IBT would never have any supporter employed by any police agency, including the Department of Homeland Security, and none of our supporters would ever entertain such a notion. If you are indeed still capable of “making rational political judgements,” we presume you will be anxious to immediately retract this false allegation. If we do not see a correction on your website within 24 hours (and a notification of the change on the Leftist Trainspotters list to which you posted a link to your article), we will have to conclude that you are deliberately promoting a vicious slander.
for the International Bolshevik Tendency
Since Tom Riley’s “demands” and diktats hold no water for those who are not IBT members, we were obviously not going to rush to respond to his “deadline” just to please him.
While we are certainly willing to publically discuss the details of the IBT’s bureaucratic internal life when necessary, we will obviously not discuss those details which we feel may potentially pose security risks. Therefore, we were forced to be somewhat deliberately vague in our own description of Jason Wright’s (party name) job as “clerical position for the Dept. of Homeland Security on the docks in upstate New York”. We were initially unsure whether Riley’s letter, which discusses Jason’s job with a bit of more detail (“unionized state civil servant” and “one of the clerks assigned to x-ray mail sent to members of the legislature for a period of time after ‘9-11.’”), was intended to be reposted by us, or used as a trap to claim we published potentially sensitive correspondence. But the IBT’s public circulation of Riley’s letter themselves, with the following introductory comment, has made the job of responding significantly easier, allowing us to be less cryptic on many points than previously.
24 March 2012
We are writing to alert you to a vicious slander of one of our supporters, Jason Wright, circulated by Sam Trachtenberg’s Revolutionary Regroupment website. The latest issue of our journal, 1917, contains a report on the IBT’s Sixth International Conference in which we noted our recent failure “to win over members of the Coletivo Lenin (CL) in Rio de Janeiro, some of whom eventually aligned themselves with Sam T., a talented but troubled former IBT member who departed in September 2008 after deciding he was no longer prepared to carry out the directives of the organization.”
On 21 March, Sam posted an emotionally-charged and at times delusional critique of this report on www.regroupment.org in which he falsely asserted that comrade Jason “had for several years [been] working at a clerical position for the Dept. of Homeland Security.”
Two days later, we wrote Sam a short letter (reprinted below) correcting this misinformation and requesting a retraction within 24 hours. Regrettably there has been no retraction, and we are therefore circulating our letter to expose this odious lie.
Yours for workers’ democracy,
for the International Bolshevik Tendency
In this first installment, we will first deal with the nature of Jason Wright’s past employment, before more broadly responding to the other issues raised by Tom Riley’s letter.
Due to its politically sensitive nature for the IBT, (as opposed to many other groups on the left who would simply view all those employed by the repressive arm of the capitalist state as part of the working class), Wright’s job was not widely discussed through distributed written correspondence within the IBT (thereby potentially leaving a paper trail). We will therefore give Gary H. the benefit of the doubt that he himself truly believes that what is involved is an “odious lie.” There was informal verbal discussion. Those inside the IBT who knew at the time included Riley, and others in the leadership, who approved of Wright applying for and accepting (not “assigned” as in Riley’s description, which deliberately implies something that was inadvertently forced on him) the transfer as a way of climbing up the ranks of the NY State civil service ladder. Others who knew at the time were at least those who worked more closely with Wright in North America, including myself. The job was recognized as being potentially embarrassing politically and the details therefore to be hidden from the left public.
In hindsight I regret not giving the matter sufficient thought or probing at the time and therefore not protesting. I just assumed that the leadership was capable of making an intelligent decision on the matter based on looking at all the considerations. By the time I gradually started becoming uneasy after becoming more aware of the details, the decision was already a done deal and seemed to be too far in progress (I accepted that as a temporary expediency it would be finished with shortly anyway).
At the time Wright’s options for climbing up the ranks of the state civil service through applying for promotions was limited due to his lack of the necessary educational credentials. Applying for this particular transfer, which did not require those educational credentials, was therefore one of the few positions immediately open which, if accepted, would allow him to be eligible for other positions he could otherwise not pursue. So while it was indeed intended as a “temporary” measure (as we had already noted), and that he was to transfer asap to another less politically odious and embarrassing position after he worked enough years to become eligible, Riley’s use of “assigned” and “for a period of time” deliberately clouds both the significantly more lengthy time period involved and once again the fact that Wright, with Riley’s and the IBT leadership’s full knowledge and approval , applied for and accepted the promotion rather than being bureaucratically assigned by the state bureaucracy against his will.
Riley’s somewhat more detailed description of Wright’s job as “one of the clerks assigned to x-ray mail sent to members of the legislature for a period of time after “9-11” we think in and of itself indicates the claim that it “hadnothing to do with the Department of Homeland Security” as being false. It was not seen that way at the time either, which was why Riley was scared of others on the left finding out about it and Wright was instructed to start applying for transfers the moment he was eligible. It was seen as at best a highly uncomfortable grey area which should be done and forgotten about as quickly as possible.
While we do not believe Wright’s paycheck was formally signed by the Dept. of Homeland Security, (he was as Riley described employed by NY State) his job obviously was connected with working for, or perhaps “under” if the IBT prefers (and which we will happily insert into our article with a link to this exchange) the Department of Homeland Security. We will make that partial correction, though we believe the significance here is more formal/technical, rather than real or political.
That fact that Wright would not be an actual agent himself was obviously an additional factor which was seen as putting the job in a “grey area.” Our statement described his position as “clerical”, Riley’s letter gives a few more details describing it as “assigned to x-ray mail sent to members of the legislature for a period of time after ‘9-11.’” Not, for a communist, a comfortable job description any way you look at it.
Wright himself felt, quite understandably, very miserable and anxious to transfer as soon as possible at the time since he was constantly surrounded by all manner of security personnel at work with whom he was forced to relate to on a friendly on-the-job basis. One anecdote he related was of being stopped by a cop for a traffic ticket. The cop recognized him from work (“Oh, hi Jason, I didn’t know it was you”) engaged in several minutes of friendly banter and allowed Wright to drive on. Since Wright had frequently and recently driven some political contact/s in that car, he was struck with visions of the disaster that would have occurred had they been with him at that moment, trying to explain to them what they just witnessed.
While we would partially agree with the IBT’s view at the time that it was a “grey” area, the hue was of a sufficiently dark nature that it made the IBT feel very uncomfortable at the time, despite the attempt to now desperately try to paint it as a completely innocent affair. Dark enough in our view that it was not a position a communist should be working in, and that the leadership of a communist organization would not allow him to accept.
Since the decision to accept would ultimately be determined by the leadership, of which Wright (whom we are not partial to) was not a member of at the time, the IBT’s leadership, and primarily in this case Tom Riley would bear the burden of political responsibility in the matter.
While not quite putting them on the other side of the class line, for anyone familiar with the IBT’s public attitude towards these issues, it does indeed do much to politically discredit and compromise the IBT leadership’s political authority, which is why it was to be kept secret. The IBT itself would be a lot less generous in their assessment than we are being here if the shoe was on the foot of an organization other than theirs.
We initially raised the issue of Wrights past employment in the context of the IBT attempts at silencing and discrediting us through exploiting and grossly distorting politically inconsequential details of my personal life, via slander and attempts at blackmail. Along with my depression being distorted to portray me as “troubled” in an all too transparent attempt to avoid publically responding to the specifics of the accusations involved, the issue of my unemployment due to disability was also seen as a legitimate tool for political attacks to try to discredit Revolutionary Regroupment’s criticisms of the IBT. In that context a discussion of at least the politically uncomfortable elements of the employment history of those leading the charge are certainly in order also. Those who live in glass houses should generally be the last people going around making attacks of such a nature. To quote an older IBT polemic against the SL
“The Spartacist League evidently believes it has a right to say anything about other left groups, but goes into a frenzy the minute it gets a taste of its own medicine.”
The difference is our description of Wrights and Riley’s history on this question, as inadvertently evidenced in Riley’s letter, is indeed true.
(To Be Continued)
Head in the Sand Rationalizations & Attempted Blackmail
The International Bolshevik Tendency “Explains” Its Demise
Three decades since its first public statement [FROM NEW YORK TO SRI LANKA: IT IS DESPERATELY NECESSARY TO FIGHT! October 1982] the group that is today the International Bolshevik tendency is visibly smaller than ever, more isolated than ever, and older than ever. It has also, like previous groups which had struggled to rebuild the revolutionary movement under difficult conditions of many decades without success, lost its revolutionary purpose and degenerated. More specifically, it has transformed itself into a qualitatively similar organization as the group it split from all those decades ago, the corrupt bureaucratized sect known as the Spartacist League.
Those who struggled against the Socialist Workers Party’s degeneration without success in the 1960’s analyzed some of the similar circumstances which today affect the IBT.
“The SWP in its leadership has become a very old party. From 1928 to the present–34 years–it has been led by the same continuous and little changing body of personnel. Thus it is the most long-lived, ostensibly revolutionary, organization in history. Its current National Committee must have one of the highest average ages of any communist movement ever.
“While the leadership is old, many of the leading rank and file party stalwart at the local branch level are middle-aged and comfortably well off–skilled workers with many years’ seniority and homeowners to boot.
The Centrism of the SWP and the Tasks of the Minority
By Jim Robertson & Larry Ireland. September 6, 1962
“Against this background of defeat and of isolation from the direct class struggle, the political decay of the aging leadership of the Party, from which a whole generation was missing, was inevitable.
“Having no taste over a sustained period of even small victories, seeing the class reject them and turn to relative passivity or even reaction, the old leadership of the Party, aided by younger elements trained in a petty-bourgeois political milieu, lost confidence in the class and its own ability to achieve victory.”
The Tendency and the Party
by Geoffrey White, 10 October 1962
The IBT’s degeneration is not simply due to objective conditions. The many wrong policies of the leadership also inevitably had a negative effect. In particular many organizational practices which it inherited from the SL but failed to transcend inevitably took on an independent life of their own as the group’s existence increasingly became divorced from its initial revolutionary purpose until becoming transformed into an ednd in itself. The pressures for bureaucratization under such circumstances are obviously quite strong as much of the rank and file grows passive and depoliticized while the leadership’s unchecked power and control in the group increases by leaps and bounds. Leon Trotsky referred to this process as a “Thermidorean reaction.” James P. Cannon summed up the phenomenon in all its various historical manifestations in this way;
“There is nothing revolutionary about the bureaucrats. They fear the masses and distrust them and are always swept aside during periods of upsurge. Only when the masses quiet down do the bureaucrats have their day—the gray people of the ebb tide. You see this manifested in all workers’ organizations in all mutations of the class struggle, from strikes to revolutions, and from trade unions to the organs of state power.
The Road to Peace
James P. Cannon (1951)
In the aftermath of a series of very public (and many not public) resignations and splits (not to mention the loss of their Ruhr local in Germany), and the resulting breaking of relations of various groups and sympathizers, the IBT, after a lengthy period of radio silence on the matter, has decided to use its recently published International Conference report as an opportunity to partially acknowledge and rationalize its deep crisis to a by now largely already aware left public (combined with an explicit attempt to blackmail our organization into silence). For those few deluded enough in its periphery who possibly expected any honest attempt to seriously look at the problems (we estimate that since our exit the IBT is now down to around 20 people losing around a third of its people) and the conditions behind them, the IBT’s peerless “leader” (Tom Riley) and the spineless hacks who protect his every move choose to offer this instead;
“In assessing our work since our 2008 conference, we noted that despite some limited successes (e.g., gaining supporters in France and Poland), we have yet to make any major breakthroughs internationally and have in fact suffered some reverses. In 2010, one recently-recruited comrade left the IBT to become an anarchist in the aftermath of the explosive protests against the G-20 in Toronto. More significantly, we failed to win over members of the Coletivo Lenin (CL) in Rio de Janeiro, some of whom eventually aligned themselves with Sam T., a talented but troubled former IBT member who departed in September 2008 after deciding he was no longer prepared to carry out the directives of the organization. Our failure to win the Brazilian comrades came as the disappointing culmination of several years of effort and represented the loss of what had appeared to be a promising opportunity to undertake work in an extremely important part of the world.
Capitalist Crisis & Revolutionary Opportunity: Sixth International Conference of the IBT
1917 #34, 2012
That’s it, with much of the rest of the report consisting of some rather undeserved self-praise.
We may choose to comment more broadly on the IBT’s conference “report” in a future article, but for now will limit ourselves to addressing the self-amnestying head-in the sand explanations offered above.
“Defaming the Accuser”
On Sept. 25 2008 Samuel Trachtenberg resigned from the International Bolshevik Tendency with his resignation letter (“The Road out of Rileyville”) describing some of the key points in the history of the IBT’s bureaucratic degeneration and announcing his intention to continue struggling to rebuild a revolutionary group that can play a role in helping rebuild the Fourth international. As the IBT’s report conveys, confounding their expectations of quick failure, that intention was eventually met with some limited but real success at the IBT’s expense. That initial expectation is why the IBT initially chose to inform its readers the public resignation in its Fifth International Conference Report written shortly after his split.
Rather than re-iterating all the points made, we invite the reader to look over that resignation letter to see if there is any attempt to deal with the issues raised in the IBT’s description of events. There is none. The reason for this is rather simple. An attempt to deny the truth of any part of the resignation statement (and subsequent material) would force us to take the necessary time to give even more proof of our contentions by going into more, for IBT peerless leader Tom Riley, scandalous and embarrassing details on his years of bureaucratic abuse of his leadership position and dishonest manipulations of other left organizations. As Riley is fond of saying, silence is the better part of valor.
Instead the report attempts to externally continue its previous internal campaign to label Trachtenberg’s descriptions of bureaucratic corruption as a product of being “troubled.” Trachtenberg’s resignation letter noted
“Yet when I raised this issue (along with many other similar ones), comrades gave the same response Seymour did combined with a gross campaign to convince me that my criticisms stemmed from ―mental illness. While I do have a history of depression, I am not insane and am perfectly capable of recognizing reality and the leadership‘s attempts to use the same devices with me it‘s used with other critics..
“The term for such practices is “gaslighting” and I’d urge comrades to do a Google search on it. The fact that Bill Logan, a mental health “professional‖, has used his credentials for such disgusting factional purposes magnifies the corruption involved…”
The resignation letter also noted the use of similar techniques against internal critics by other bureaucratic leader cults such as the Revolutionary Workers League. Jason Wright, the IBTer currently being groomed as eventual successor to Tom Riley’s crown of shit, as a former RWL member himself described being given such treatment as a response to his criticisms (see “Letter (circa 1998) by the IBT’s Jason Wright documenting his leaving the Revolutionary Workers League”). At the time Wright noted “this sort of thing is not the healthy functioning of a revolutionary organization… and is enough alone (without even addressing the plethora of RWL programmatic deviations) to insure they have no right to claim the mantle of Trotskyism”. We are in full agreement at least on that much.
Of course the IBT leadership is already (inadvertently) on public record on how they would seek to properly deal with external critics (see “Published and be Damned”) which we would also urge readers to look at. The piece, amongst other things, documents an attempt to provoke “a cornered rat reaction of physical violence which would have been useful to the PRG [former name of the New Zealand IBT section] in discrediting Peter in his probable future career of anti-PRG ‘expert’.” Bill Logan (IBT’s second in command) reprimanded some squeamish comrades about his attempts to frame up and slander a critic of his bureaucratism that “My own sense is that the comrades are being a little over-critical of me, a little too scrupulous about the proper mode in which political struggle is conducted.” Whatever else anyone would ever accuse the IBT leadership of, scrupulous would never be it.
None of these practices are new. The IBT in better years described similar methods by the Spartacist League.
“We predict that you will not print this letter in its entirety. To do so would mean confirming or denying the above charges in print; to do either would be equally damaging to the reputation of the SL leadership. To deny them would contradict the direct experience of every SL member and sympathizer who saw the picture of Jaruzelski (clearly on display for months in the maintenance department of your New York headquarters), who contributed to Robertson’s house, who spent many hours constructing the playroom and installing the hot tub. A direct denial would expose your leadership as cynical, unmitigated liars in the eyes of all these members and sympathizers.
“If, on the other hand, you were to confirm these allegations, and say that, as head of a supposedly Marxist organization, Robertson is fully entitled to enjoy a materially privileged lifestyle at your members’ expense, and that Jaruzelski deserves a place of honor on your walls, you would forever forfeit any claim to be taken seriously as a Trotskyist organization, and reveal yourselves to the world as the degenerate personality cult you have become. It would then be highly improbable that any rational human being would ever want to support or join the Spartacist League.
“You therefore resort to the only dodge available to a culprit on the spot: to divert attention from the accusations by sowing confusion and defaming the accuser. An ordinary gangster might attempt to impugn the reputation of a witness against him by calling the latter a rapist or a drug addict; you respond to the testimony of the Bolshevik Tendency with a battery of epithets specifically designed to discredit us in the eyes of leftists and Trotskyists: anti-Soviet renegades, trade-union bureaucrats, racists, agent-provocateurs, etc. And just in case these specifically leftist terms of opprobrium do not have the desired effect, a few more ordinary accusations—e.g., ‘‘petty criminal’’—are thrown in for good measure. These tactics—all in the worst traditions of Gerry Healy and David North—should prompt the more thoughtful readers of Workers Vanguard to ask themselves: ‘‘Why should anyone believe James Robertson?’’
“Truth or Consequences”
1917 #8, Summer 1990
An earlier piece described a similar attempt to frame up and discredit a founding member of the IBT by the SL.
“[Bob] Mandel’s long record as a prominent Bay Area leftist was a prime asset for the Bay Area SL for all the years he was an SL supporter. Today, however, it is a liability for Robertson & Co. so he has become the target of some particularly unpleasant attacks by the SL leadership….
“At the time, Mandel was in the midst of a financial/personal crisis precipitated by his years-long blacklisting in the ILWU. He was also distraught and badly shaken by the prospect of separation from the political tendency to which he had devoted his life. Mandel did everything he could to prove his loyalty to the organization. He was presented with a statement penned by Al Nelson. The statement reads like an FBI-style confession. It begins: “I freely admit the following statements to be true and understand they are to be filed as a confidential statement with the Central Committee of the Spartacist League…”This bogus “confession,” composed of some pretty bizarre allegations, as well as various other statements, a few of which are true, was intended to be used to discredit Mandel publicly in the future. Having signed it, he found himself in a Catch-22 situation which the SL leadership has since sought to exploit. Mandel certainly made a big mistake in blindly signing such a “confession,” but the whole incident casts an unpleasant light on the routine practices of the SL leadership.
“Warren Street: ‘Home of the Whoppers'”
Bulletin of the External Tendency of the iSt #3,3, May 1984
The report also interestingly chooses not to mention either “Revolutionary Regroupment” nor “Samuel Trachtenberg” by name, which would easily show up on most search engines. Instead it refers to only “Sam T.”
The IBT is forced by circumstances to acknowledge our existence for those who already know, while trying to do so in a manner that shields our groups identity for their readers who don’t in case they are curious enough to want to read what we may have to say on all this. This is the Tom Riley’s understanding of what he calls “tactical acuity.” A former IBT associate noted that no doubt Bernie Maddoff called what he did using similar terms. Such crude bluffs, combined with a grossly transparent gladhand personality, are indications why for many of those who have met him, the IBT’s peerless leader is referred to as the “used car salesman of ostensible Trotskyism”.
The other purpose of the “troubled” accusation is an attempt to engage in implicit blackmail to force Revolutionary Regroupment to keep quiet about the IBT leaderships anti-socialist corruption on penalty of discussing sensitive areas of Trachtenberg’s personal life in public. This was previously attempted in a February 9, 2011 letter sent to the Coletivo Lenin and Trachtenberg in the aftermath of the CL breaking relations with the International Bolshevik Tendency and establishing fraternal relations with Revolutionary Regroupment (see December 2010 statement).
“We had not previously advised you of Sam’s September 2008 resignation from the IBT, or his attempt to project himself as a “competing organization” (via his website), because we considered it pretty much a non-event and we sought to avoid public discussion of the severe personal problems that we believe underlay his political trajectory…
“We have no idea what could lead you to imagine that Sam was “driven out,” or that his membership was “transform[ed] into a fiction.” There was never any attempt to exploit the personal/psychological problems that make it impossible for him to hold a job, leave home or do many other things that are usual for people in their late 30s. We tried to help him to the extent we could, but there is no question that mental-health problems did impact his functioning in the group, as he himself admitted on several occasions.”
“Sam presented us with the difficult problem of trying to deal with a valuable cadre who develops political/organizational differences that are, at least in part, a result of his own fragile mental/emotional condition.”
We think this makes it pretty clear that such attempts at exploitation did indeed occur, during and after. This would be especially scandalous for the IBT in light of Bill Logan’s well known record as a former Spartacist leader which was rife with just such exploitation of the details of comrades’ personal lives, which included driving one rank and file Spartacist member attempt suicide. As a previously quoted document (“Published and Be Damned”) demonstrates, none of that has changed qualitatively despite Logan’s claims to be a changed person upon joining the IBT. Logan, and his puppetmaster Riley, of course also share this, and many other traits, with corrupt bureaucrats of past periods (see for example James P. Cannon’s evaluation of Jay Lovestone in the Appendix).
We will clear the air on these matters.
As previously noted Sam Trachtenberg has suffered from depression for many years. That does not make him crazy, “troubled” or incapable of recognizing reality and making rational political judgements. The IBT would not have had him as a high profile member who also wrote many of their documents for so many years if that was true. The IBT leadership would not also allow many present IBTers who also have a history of depression (and who will know what to expect if they were to ever raise any differences in the future) to be members if they truly believed that. The reality is they don’t believe these accusations but are simply using them as a tool for blackmail and psychological warfare.
Sam Trachtenberg several years ago was also forced to leave work and drop out of graduate school after becoming ill with an ultimately fatal if untreated, rare medical condition which went undiagnosed for many years. We do not believe being disabled and unemployed makes one unfit to be a revolutionary or incapable of making rational and intelligent political choices. We don’t think most on the left do either.
Sam Trachtenberg, as some who know him on the left already know, also has a parent who has been severely ill since he was a child.
While being forced to discuss sensitive details of one’s personal life in front of the public is uncomfortable, none of these things are in any way scandalous or unethical, unlike many aspects of the IBT leaderships personal (not to mention political/organizational as already discussed) lives.
While we are on the subject, we would like to ask just what kind job does the IBT leadership believe that Trachtenberg should have or had (and before getting ill he had various). Like the job Jason Wright (party name) had for several years working at a clerical position under the Dept. of Homeland Security on the docks in upstate New York? The one he was encouraged to take by Riley and the IBT leadership as a useful temporary position for climbing up the civil service ladder and which was to be kept strictly secret from the left public? No, neither Sam Trachtenberg nor any other present or future Revolutionary Regroupment member ever had or will have such a job.
The IBT’s attempts to silence us will not succeed!
[Note: See our exchange with the IBT on this section of the polemic]
Turmoil in Toronto
The IBT report makes mention of a prominent Toronto comrade who left to become an anarchist activist in a local Platformist group. It gives no mention of the reasons behind his decision to leave (see “Brandon Gray’s Resignation Letter” 7/1710). While the issues he initially left over were related to tactical questions over the 2010 G-20 protests, questions we are not in a position to take definite positions on from afar, it is clear from the letter these issues were the final straw related to a broader developing critique of the IBT’s degeneration, which included an aristocratic snob disdain for militant young activists in favour of pursuing more respectable (and organizationally passive in the face of bureaucratic intimidation) elements within academia. (The Platypus Affiliated Society, for whom the IBT has recently traveled all over the US to speak at their panels, being a good example). Like many who have witnessed bureaucratic corruption in pseudo-Leninist sects, he ultimately concluded the roots of the IBT’s bureaucratism lay with its claim to Bolshevism.
It is also clear that his decision to leave the IBT were prompted by witnessing the sort of corruption described in Sam Trachtenberg’s resignation letter. Here are large excerpts which describe the internal situation.
“I formally joined the IBT in the spring of 2009 after being a sympathizer working with the group for two years in Toronto. The high level of programmatic education earned my confidence and respect despite the small size of the group relative to others. However, when the resignation of Sam Trachtenberg in New York came to light I took some time to investigate his case and delayed applying for full-time membership. The political criticisms raised by Sam. were never explained to me. Instead, damning personal attacks were made against his credibility. Personal health issues were ruthlessly exploited and distorted in order to discredit him and avoid articulating any of his criticisms. Unable to recognize these attacks for what they were, I submitted my application and after being accepted, I brought up the fact that I had taken a good look at Sam’s case before finalizing my decision to join. I was told he was paranoid and delusional, and that it was a good thing he left so the leadership didn’t have to work even harder to push him out. I regret that I did not contact Sam, at the time to get his side of the split but in my defense, my personal ties to the younger comrades in the TBT local influenced me to leave the issue in the past though I kept my suspicions in the back of my mind for a day when more information would come to light.
“At a 15 April 2010 local meeting it was suggested that a comrade who roughly fit my own description in terms of my limited relationship with Sam “befriend” him on a social media site in order to monitor him and relay information back to the leadership. I was the only person to comment on that point, stating that I would be the best candidate for such a job but that I don’t feel comfortable with it; that it felt dishonest and wrong. Riley merely shrugged and dismissed my objections by saying it wasn’t so bad and I shouldn’t have a problem with it. This was another weird side of the organization to which I responded with dismay. Could Samuel Trachtenberg be accurately describing the internal workings of my group? The validity of his case had grown with time and now a concrete example of unhealthy leadership practices had been demonstrated to me. I must now conclude that a disgusting campaign of lies and slander was used against Sam in order to push him out after he made various correct criticisms of the leadership. I now agree with Sam’s criticisms and urge comrades to look at them with open eyes.
“As everyone in the IBT knows, membership has continued to decline since Sam in New York left the group. The dropping off of long-time supporters such as L. in NYC and the dismissal of W.’s attempt to transfer to our local was merely brushed aside because they were “old” and “useless.” An appropriate political explanation was not given. Our London local is constantly trashed for various reasons that seem unfair to me. More recently it has been announced that we should expect the “likely” loss of A. in Ireland who is a long-time comrade of the group and probably one of our most energetic members in terms of adapting to tactical realities and functioning with keen initiative. I recognized at the time that it was no accident that yet another of our most energetic, engaging and least abstentionist comrades who was working outside of the direct supervision of either Riley or Logan had become a target for being pushed out. The only value this comrade had according to our local and international leader was that he is one of our few comrades who can maintain the website, hence, he will be kept around as long as is convenient. It is also no coincidence that he was my only supporter when I raised my criticisms.
“After recruiting a couple members in recent years, in large part due to the interventions of their youngest comrades, the TBT local is now shrinking back down in size and everywhere else our membership continues to contract under the burden of a bureaucratic leadership. Contact sessions have consistently broken down after initially showing promise and there seems to be little expectation of winning over Toronto leftists to the group in the foreseeable future. Our performance during the G20 protests has only made our prospects worse.
“Some time ago, when it was indicated that the fusion talks with a group of contacts in Latin America were probably not going to work out because the contacts had demanded we do what our leadership described as “OCAP-type entry work” I was unsure if this was inevitable. As a rank and file member of the IBT I was never privy to any discussions with these comrades and news of our progress with them only came from our senior leaders who constantly portrayed them less as dedicated revolutionaries, and more as naïve children with silly ideas floating around in their heads, despite the fact that they were working under much harsher conditions than us. This is an even more bureaucratic repeat of the way our leadership botched similar fusion talks in the past.
“It is amazing how much the 9/5/81 resignation letter to the Spartacist League by HK , our most senior comrade, applies to our situation
“For about a year I have been moving toward the conclusion that distortions in the leadership of sections, locals, and fractions have developed and matured–at least in part from an internal life characterized by a defensive, hierarchical regime combined with a personalistic, Jesuitical method of internal argument and discussion. This process is advanced to the point where the S.L./S.Y.L. membership is increasingly composed of “true believers” or cynics. I suspect that the incidents of political and tactical incompetence in the S.L. are connected with this deterioration of internal life. I think the central leadership has consciously and cynically concluded that the membership of the S.L. is too weak politically and personally to allow even the slightest disagreement with the leadership. There is an implied arithmetical equation: disagreement with the leadership equals hostility to the leadership equals disloyalty equals betrayal. Carried further, these trends will see the S.L. come to resemble less a principled, proletarian combat organization than a theocratic, hierarchical, political cult.”
“When internal critics struggling to give criticism in order to better build the organization are branded as traitors and apolitical slanders are used to discredit them, honest revolutionaries cannot continue to remain silent…..
“If history repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce, then what do we say about the third and fourth time? At minimum there is an unhealthy pattern occurring that stretches back through the IBT and into the SL. Lifelong permanent leaders grow to dominate the organizations they create which they take down with them. This is a problem that cannot simply be remedied by creating a new copy of the old group.
“Sadly, our own outgrowth from Robertson’s school of party building has followed the same path as each subsequent challenger to Riley and Logan’s leadership fell away over the past decades. While Robertson had his style, his protégées carry on the tradition of manipulation and maneuvering in their own personal style of “informal sanctions” and behind the scenes maneuvers against opponents to retain control of the group. While Robertson’s group managed to partially break out of their marginalization in the early 1970s, our own group has not and almost 3 decades later our publications have been plagued with the same sort of publication infrequency and delay found in the early years of the Spartacist League as the leadership control and monopoly of even the most minor detail of organizational life has suffocated and stifled the ability of new comrades to learn and develop.
“It is far past due for every honest comrade to speak out against the organizational degeneration inside the International Bolshevik Tendency. I hope I will not be the last to do so.”
“Spy vs. Spy”
One element of the IBT’s degeneration which is touched on in Brandon’s letter has is rooted in the Spartacist League’s distorted understanding of revolutionary regroupment and fighting revisionism, based partially on a distorted and overgeneralized understanding of the “French Turn” experience. The orientation comes down to a scorched earth policy towards all other groups on the left.
“At a 15 April 2010 local meeting it was suggested that a comrade who roughly fit my own description in terms of my limited relationship with Sam “befriend” him on a social media site in order to monitor him and relay information back to the leadership.”
Our understanding of revolutionary regroupment is that along with fusions large elements of it will also include splits based on struggles for programmatic clarity. For the SL and IBT though, their practices have been well described by others, such as the Workers Power group,
“There are two distortions of the concept of a fighting propaganda group here. First, the fighting propaganda group is portrayed as a stage during which the main task is to “destroy” other groups. Note the choice of words. The Spartacists seek not to win leftward moving centrists to communism, but to destroy them. This perspective leads characteristically to politically disloyal manoeuvres and provocations.
“After the splits the splinters, 1961-1983”(1983)
The disloyal provocations involve, amongst other things, sending agents to infiltrate other organizations (as opposed to openly joining a muti-tendency group as in an entry) and using a variety of unprincipled deceptions to either gather information or disrupt and split ones opponent. Since unfortunately in periods of isolation, as described by Marx and Engels (1), such practices tend to flourish on the left, the IBT and the SL are not the only groups to do this. This leads to drawing organizational rather than programmatic lines as people on the left feel incapable of trusting each other and prevents discussions and debates from happening. It destroys rather than helps build possibilities for regroupment around the important programmatic questions. This develops into the spectacle s of different left groups relating to each other in a manner similar to the “Spy vs. Spy” comic strip in Mad Magazine. It also tends to get generalized as the leaderships of such groups inevitably use the same methods internally that they use externally to maintain control. This is also largely what happened inside the SL and IBT.
Brandon was principled enough to turn down such a dirty assignment. Others in the IBT have not been. A more publicized example of this in IBT history relates to the 1998 recruitment of Marxist Educational Group from Albany which was described with great fanfare. The report on its Second International Conference (with the section titled “Two, Three, Many MEGS!”) described it as
“In early 1998 the MEG contacted both the IBT and Internationalist group (led by the SL’s former editor Jan Norden). This led to a series of discussions both written and verbal, with groups focusing on the Russian question, the genral strike, and the history of the SL’s political degenration. Ultimately the comrades concluded that the IBT was the most consistent representative of the revolutionary programmatic heritage of the RT and early SL.
“Weathering the Storm”
1917 #21, 1999
Also in a special bulletin devoted to the Internationalist Group.
“Initially the MEG comrades thought that the IBT and IG merely disagreed over the precise chronology of the SL’s degeneration, but they gradually came to see that more substantive issues were involved.
Trotskyist Bulletin #6 September 1999
The problem with this innocent enough sounding description is that it was untrue. What really happened was that the MEG was first recruited to the IBT and then approached the IG pretending to be “independents” trying to investigate the differences between the IBT and IG. During the entire time Riley was bragging with glee about “playing Norden like a fiddle.” It is doubtful the IG was naïve enough not to know that is what the IBT was doing. It is also clear that whatever minute possibilities for fusions existed were destroyed by such “acute tactics.”
In the end it gave the IBT some good factional publicity about having an independent group choose the IBT after seriously investigating them and the IG. It was also partially true, except that they made that investigation and chose the IBT before approaching the IG as IBT agents pretending to be “independents.”
Such practices have previously been described by the SL when discussing Gerry Healy’s group as
“using their [members] loyalty to the professed ideals of socialism to make them complicit in crimes against their comrades and the comrades of other groups.’’
quoted in “The Robertson School of Party Building”
Those who make themselves complicit tie themselves that much more strongly to the one they are committing the crime for, in practice burning ones bridges to others on the left through such methods. It is not accidental Trotskyists have always had nothing but scorn for the GPU infiltrators the Stalinists used against them.
Mr. “Tactical Acuity” Strikes Again
The IBT report gives no explanation of why it lost perhaps its biggest regroupment opportunity in years in such an important country like Brazil, except for it somehow being connected to Samuel Trachtenberg being “troubled.” We would refer our readers to the Coletivo Lenin’s statement at the time for a thorough explanation of how after three years of being maneuverer and manipulated the CL finally saw through the IBT’s “acute tactics.”
Tragically in the aftermath of three years of working for a fusion with a group they had taken to be sincerely revolutionary but discovering otherwise, some CL members left the group while others who remained became demoralized and open to going along with a senior members conclusions that the IBT’s bureaucratism and dishonesty was rooted in its Trotskyism. A document of the majority faction which arose after the split with the IBT declared
“In the following chapters we will demonstrate that it is impossible to formulate a correct strategy for world revolution without a correct analysis of the decay of capitalism, and that this strategy is quite different from the strategies of small Trotskyist-Leninist groups which seek to struggle against the reformist misleaders by mobilizing the masses around transitional demands leading to the conequest of state power. We will also show why the Fourth International was not destroyed by Pabloite revisionism, but by its inability to overcome the Leninist legacy of basing ones strategy on imminent world revolution.”
“The Theory of Decay and the Crisis of the Third and Fourth International” (2011)
Once again the IBT succeeded in helping discredit Trotskyism with its practices.
Those members who were primarily responsible for writing the statement establishing fraternal relations with Revolutionary Regroupment, struggled against this degeneration and are now the Revolutionary Regroupment group in Brazil.
What the reports non-explanation does bring to mind is the previous time the IBT destroyed its regroupment opportunities in Latin America, once again due to IBT’s peerless leader Tom Riley’s uncontrollable penchant for exercising his “tactical acuity”. A similar dishonest head in the sand non-explanation was given in the IBT’s Fourth International Conference Report for its failure to recruit a group of promising Argentine comrades.
“A less public, but more significant, setback was our failure to successfully regroup with a small circle of Argentine comrades who appeared to be rather close to us programmatically. This is partly attributable to language difficulties, but a more important factor was a gap in political culture manifested in differences over the tasks and priorities of a micro-propaganda group. In retrospect, we concluded: “Given our capacities and very limited resources there is not obviously a lot more we could have done to advance this collaboration, but it represents a lost opportunity.”
“Swimming Against the Stream”
1917 #28, 2006
Actually there were no “differences over the tasks and priorities of a micro-propaganda group.” Since the Argentine group had by then gone out of existence the IBT felt safe in its blatant lying, expecting no one to contradict it. The real issues were less “political.”
The Argentine comrades who established relations with the IBT (and translated most of the IBT’s current Spanish language material) were ostensibly invited to participate in the IBT’s internal life though participation in its discussion list. This was to speed up the fusion process. What the IBT tactical geniuses never chose to inform them of was that the entire IBT membership was put under discipline not to respond to anything they wrote, rather the leadership would do it after conferring amongst themselves collectively. Supposedly these comrades were to be too stupid and clueless to notice that while other posts had IBTers quickly responding with comments, no one responded to their posts except Bill Logan several day later, after conferring with the rest of leadership and giving what read more as a formal collective statement than an informal response as everyone else on the list receieved. Those, such as Sam Trachtenberg, who noted the Argentine comrades growing dissatisfaction were reprimanded for responding and assured that the Argentine comrades had no clue as to what was going on, despite his pleads that they either be truly given full access to our internal life as promised or at least told the truth about the situation. As predicted, the Argentine comrades chose to suddenly announce their decision to break all relations with the IBT without giving any reason. What were they to say after all? If they gave the true reason they would be told nothing of the sort was happening and that they were being paranoid. That would have simply made the break really ugly and angry after such an insult to their intelligence. They instead chose to leave the situation with some dignity.
May we suggest to the few subjectively revolutionary elements around the IBT that this recent record indicates that rather than being “tactically acute” geniuses, the IBT leaders are actually tactical morons. That their bureaucratic “Spy vs. Spy” methods have effectively transformed what was at one time a promising group into bureaucratized sect organized this time around Tom Riley, rather than Jim Robertson, Gerry Healy, Jack Barnes or Bob Avakian etc. A leadership with such an organizationally criminal record deserves to be expelled and repudiated rather than uncritically championed (or even grudgingly tolerated for that matter). If in reality no mechanism (whatever the pure formalities) exist amongst what are now the mostly older, passive and depoliticized ranks for expelling them, it is time to rebuild. Revolutionary Regroupment is determined to do precisely that.
1) “I would also ask you to be rather discreet with all people connected with Bakunin. It is in all sects to stick together and intrigue. You may rest assured that any information you give them will immediately be passed on to Bakunin. It is one of his fundamental principles that keeping promises and the like are merely bourgeois prejudices, which a true revolutionary must treat with disdain to help along the cause. In Russia they say this openly. In Western Europe it is secret lore…
Engels to Cuno 1/24/72
Appendix: Cannon on Jay Lovestone
It was everybody’s opinion that Lovestone was unscrupulous in his ceaseless machinations and intrigues; and in my opinion everybody was right on that point, although the word “unscrupulous” somehow or other seems to be too mild a word to describe his operations. Lovestone was downright crooked, like Foster-but in a different way. Foster was in and of the workers’ movement and had a sense of responsibility to it; and he could be moderately honest when there was no need to cheat or lie. Foster’s crookedness was purposeful and utilitarian, nonchalantly resorted to in a pinch to serve an end. Lovestone, the sinister stranger in our midst, seemed to practice skulduggery maliciously, for its own sake.
It was a queer twist of fate that brought such a perverse character into a movement dedicated to the service of the noblest ideal of human relationships. Never was a man more destructively alien to the cause in which he sought a career; he was like an anarchistic cancer cell running wild in the party organism. The party has meaning and justification only as the conscious expression of the austere process of history in which the working class strives for emancipation, with all the strict moral obligations such a mission imposes on its members. But Lovestone seemed to see the party as an object of manipulation in a personal game he was playing, with an unnatural instinct to foul things up.
In this game, which he played with an almost pathological frenzy, he was not restrained by any recognized norms of conduct in human relations, to say nothing of the effects his methods might have on the morale and solidarity of the workers’ movement. For him the class struggle of the workers, with its awesome significance for the future of the human race, was at best an intellectual concept; the factional struggle for “control” of the party was the real thing, the real stuff of life. His chief enemy was always the factional opponent in the party rather than the capitalist class and the system of exploitation they represent.
Lovestone’s factional method and practice were systematic miseducation of the party; whispered gossip to set comrades against each other; misrepresentation and distortion of opponents’ positions; unrestrained demagogy and incitement of factional supporters until they didn’t know whether they were coming or going. He had other tricks, but they were all on the same order.
The party leaders’ opinions of each other in those days varied widely and were not always complimentary; but at bottom, despite the bitterness of the conflicts, I think they respected each other as comrades in a common cause, in spite of all. Lovestone, however, was distrusted and his devotion to the cause was widely doubted. In intimate circles Foster remarked more than once that if Lovestone were not a Jew, he would be the most likely candidate for leadership of a fascist movement. That was a fairly common opinion.