Arquivos da categoria: Historical Documents

Soon (In 48 Years’ Time)

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! Continuar lendo

Letter to the IG on the Ukraine Scandal

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

Dear comrades

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

Cast List
from the IBT web site

Reformism vs. Reformism in the CPUSA

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.

Northites Inc.

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 [2007] 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 SLP

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.

2. Ireland

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.

3. Europe

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.

4. International

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.

5. Anti-racism

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.

6. Women

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.

8. Economics

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.

Israel Out of the Occupied Territories!

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!

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.

Bob Edwards
Ursula Jensen
Howard Harlan
Lisa Sommers

October 1982

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

Material on the Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal

Contents

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
Bolshevik Tendency
PO Box 385
Cooper Station
New York, NY 10276

Governor Tom Ridge
225 Capitol Building
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
17120
Fax: 717-772-3155

Governor Ridge:

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,

James Cullen

Ron Miller

**********

Letter to Workers Vanguard

Sectarian Stupidity Will Not Free Mumia

[Copied from http://www.bolshevik.org/Leaflets/Letter%20to%20WV%20Mumia.html ]

New York,

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,

David Eastman

**********

Open Letter to Workers Vanguard

Disagreeable Sectarians

[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

Comrades:

 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?

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.’ [1] (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,’ [2] 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. [3] 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. [4]

—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. [5] 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) [6] 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). [7] ‘… 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. [8]

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.

Thus:

(1) The birth of the Chinese revolution was the beginning of the end of the Chinese CP’s ‘Stalinism.’ [9]

(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. [10] 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. [11]

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 [12] 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. [13] 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 [14] 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 [15],” 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.

Footnotes

[1] 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.)

[2] 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.

[3] ‘…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.)

[4] 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.

[5] “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.

[6] 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)

[7] 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.

[8] 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.)

[9] 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.

[10] 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.

[11] 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.

[12] 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.

[13] ‘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.)

[14] 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.’

[15] A reading of Hasten’s amendment to the World Congress is instructive: it is a timid outline of ‘Where Are We Going?”

State Repression & the Left

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 [1875] 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 [1891] 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.’”

—Ibid.

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.’”

—Ibid.

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.”

—Ibid.

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.”
—Ibid.

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.”
—Ibid.

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.’”

—Ibid.

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.”

—Ibid.

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.”

Cannon responded:

“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.”

—Ibid.

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.”
—Ibid.

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!” 

Socialism in One City

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!

Critical Electoral Support to the SpAD

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
Gruppe Spartakus
German Section of the International Bolshevik Tendency

Militant Longshoreman No. 3

Militant Longshoreman

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.

Guest Editorial

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.

Fredric Addison

Militant Longshoreman No. 18

Militant Longshoreman

No. 18    February 6, 1987

Industrial Docks — A Knife Our Throats

When the Coast Longshore Caucus meets in April the delegates will be faced with defending the union against take-aways and concessions. Even if we are successful in stopping PMA’s appetite for more profits and more control over longshoremen, the greatest threat to our jobs, welfare benefits and pensions is from the non-PMA industrial docks. Nonunion shipping lines, tug and barge operations have already cut into West Coast maritime unions control of the waterfront. Thee outfits have an appetite to move into longshore operations replacing union conditions with labor costs, 1/2 to 1/3 of standard ILWU contracts.

On the Gulf Coast new industrial docks, floating docks and barges have taken a large chunk of ILA longshore work. Half the ILA longshoremen in the Houston local work for non-union companies at grossly sub-standard conditions.

Levin Again Threatens Longshore

Here at Richmond Paar 5 (Yard 1) Levin Terminals now has a completely non-ILWU operation on scrap iron: no linemen, not even the few turn around jobs we get on the bulk cargoes. None of Levin’s workers are even covered by the sub-standard Laborers Union and Operating Engineers contracts they had three years ago when we put up mass pickets at the gate. Our tenuous toe-hold at Richmond Yard 1 can only tempt Levin into another confrontation uith the ILWU to totally get rid of us and move into autos, barges, break bulk cargo, and containers with no longshoremen working. Levin’s non-union bulk operations have already destroyed most of the Longshore covered bulk jobs in Stockton, Sacramento and Redwood City.

The International officers have no answer to this threat. When a huge non-union barge operation opened up in Puget Sound several years ago the ILWU members were limited to months of informational picketing.

Organize the Unorganized

There is only one answer – organize! Only a massive joint ILWU, AFL-CIO, Teamster organizing campaign to organize all waterfront cargo-handling operations and barge traffic can stop the certain weakening and destruction of maritime union conditions on the West Coast. But a massive organizing campaign can only take place if workers get rid of the fearful, ossified leadership of the unions and replace them with a leadership that isn’t afraid of old-fashioned class struggle.

Crowley Moves to Break IBU-ILWU

When the Inland Boatmens’ Union (IBU) affiliated to the ILWU that gave us an important tool to defend longshore and to organize industrial docks, As we described in the last Militant Longshoreman the heart of the IBU is threatened by Crowley Maritime whose demands for 50% take-aways and elimination of the hiring hall puts, the existence of the union at stake. 13 contracts are up for renegotiation including the important Alaska barge trade. If the IBU is smashed the Longshore contracts with Crowley and even the  existence of the Alaskan Longshore locals are threatened. Crowley has already been successful over the past few years in forcing the Longshore Division to accept sub-standard contracts.

The strike deadline is approaching. There are indications that Crowley is trying to split up the IBU front and force one or more regions into separate negotiations and separate strikes. Even more alarming is that the ILWU International and IBU top-leadership have tried to discredit and defeat demands from the IBU locals for a united coastwise strike to defeat Crowley’s union busting. Herman and IBU President Liddle’s fear of an all-out confrontation with Crowley could lead them to seperate negotiations by region or even contract by contract. That “strategy” can only result in a disastrous defeat for the IBU.

For A Coastwide Strike Against Crowley!
For Mass Pickets to Stop Scabbing!

A militant coastwise strike backed up by mass ILWU pickets to defeat scabbing would be a signal to PMA not to try take-aways, and could discourage terminals and shippers from trying to set up non-union longshore operations undermining our jurisdiction on the waterfront. While Local 10 has very good relations with the IBU there are alarming signs of a crack in ILWU solidarity. A few days ago a tug manned by scabs pulled into C & H Sugar at Crocker. The IBU had a picket boat out on the water and was prepared to put up pickets at the plant gate to stop the barge from docking. Longshore maintenance won at C & H were prepared to observe the pickets but Local 6 President Al Lannon refused to commit the warehousemen not to cross IBU picket lines! This is the same Al Lannon who as a Local 6 B.A. tried to raid longshore work in Redwood City some years ago. Only if the full strength of the ILWU is brought out to man mass picket lines and stop scabbing can Crowley be stopped from breaking the back of the IBU.

Militant Longshoreman No 12

Militant Longshoreman

No #12  November 30, 1984

Brothers and Sisters:

Our boycott of the South African cargo aboard the Nedlloyd Kimberley is growing in support and media coverage every day. The rank and file of Local 10 who are refusing to unload this cargo are setting an example for trade unionists across America. We are offering concrete support to the heroic struggles of the black trade unionists battling the racist apartheid regime in South Africa.

I am a nember of the longshore comittee in support of the South African boycott, which is coordinating the action. The members of this committee all have our own ideas on many different subjects. But we all support the action, and agree that the South African cargo at the Nedlloyd Kimberley should not be unloaded. I know that many brothers have great respect for Martin Luther King who was quoted in a leaflet issued in the name of the comiittee. Personally I do not endorse his political ideas or his Christian pacifism.. I believe in the power of the working class organized to fight for its own interests, for the abolition of racism and all forms of oppression and exploitation, and for the establishment of a workers government. Nonetheless, despite my differences with other members of the committee on Dr. King and other questions, I intend to continue to work with the committee to build this fight and spread it coastwise.

I urge all Local 10 members to stand solid behind this action, come hell or high water. We can beat court injunctions as we showed with the mass pickets at Levin in Richmond last year. At that time the local and international bureaucrats unsuccessfully tried to block our action. Despite them, we won a defensive victory for Local 10. As soon as an injunction comes down many of those who today halfheartedly support this boycott will want to deep six the action. We must be ready for that, as we were in Richmond in 1983. Our anti-apartheid boycott is an issue which has tremendous appeal in the black conmunity,among working people and indeed all decent people. It can grow — we can win!

COME TO PIER 80, EVERY DAY, AT 7:30 AM and 6:30 PM!
STAND FAST!
DEFY ALL INJUNCTIONS!

The I.W.W.

The I.W.W.

by James P. Cannon

[First printed in Fourth International, Summer 1955. Coped from http://www.marxists.org/archive/cannon/works/1955/iww.htm ]

The Bold Design

When the Founding Convention of the IWW — the Industrial Workers of the World — assembled in Chicago in June, 1905, the general strike movement initiating the first Russian revolution was already under way, and its reverberations were heard in the convention hall. The two events coincided to give the world a preview of its future. The leaders at Chicago hailed the Russian revolution as their own. The two simultaneous actions, arising independently with half a world between them, signalized the opening of a revolutionary century. They were the anticipations of things to come.

The defeated Russian revolution of 1905 prepared the way for the victorious revolution of 1917. It was the “dress rehearsal,” as Lenin said, and that evaluation is now universally recognized. The Founding Convention of the IWW was also a rehearsal; and it may well stand out in the final account as no less important than the Russian action at the same time.

The founders of the IWW were indubitably the original inspirers and prime movers of the modern industrial unions in the mass production industries. That is commonly admitted already, and that’s a lot. But even such a recognition of the IWW, as the precursor of the present CIO, falls far short of a full estimate of its historic significance. The CIO movement, at its present stage of development, is only a small down payment on the demands presented to the future by the pioneers who assembled at the 1905 Convention to start the IWW on its way.

The Founding Convention of the IWW brought together on a common platform the three giants among our ancestors — Debs, Haywood and De Leon. They came from different backgrounds and fields of activity, and they soon parted company again. But the things they said and did, that one time they teamed up to set a new movement on foot, could not be undone. They wrote a Charter for the American working class which has already inspired and influenced more than one generation of labor militants. And in its main essentials it will influence other generations yet to come.

They were big men, and they all grew taller when they stood together. They were distinguished from their contemporaries, as from the trade — union leaders of today, by the immensity of their ambition which transcended personal concerns, by their. far — reaching vision of a world to be remade by the power of the organized workers, and by their total commitment to that endeavor.

The great majority of the other delegates who answered the call to the Founding Convention of the IWW were people of the same quality. They were the non — conformists, the stiff-necked irreconcilables, at war with capitalist society. Radicals, rebels and revolutionists started the IWW, as they have started every other progressive movement in the history of this country.

In these days when labor leaders try their best to talk like probationary members of the Junior Chamber of Commerce, it is refreshing to turn back to the reports of men who spoke a different language. Debs, Haywood and De Leon, and those who stood with them, did not believe in the partnership of capital and labor, as preached by Gompers and Co. at the time. Such talk, they said in the famous “Preamble” to the Constitution of the IWW, “misleads the workers.” They spoke out in advance against the idea of the permanent “co — existence” of labor unions and the private ownership of industry, as championed by the CIO leaders of the present time.

The men who founded the IWW were pioneer industrial unionists, and the great industrial unions of today stem directly from them. But they aimed far beyond industrial unionism as a bargaining agency recognizing the private ownership of industry as right and unchangeable. They saw the relations of capital and labor as a state of war.

Brissenden puts their main idea in a nutshell in his factually correct history of the movement: “The idea of the class conflict was really the bottom notion or ‘first cause’ of the IWW. The industrial union type was adopted because it would make it possible to wage this class war under more favorable conditions.” (The I.W.W: A Study of American Syndicalism, by Paul Frederick Brissenden, p. 108.)

The founders of the IWW regarded the organization of industrial unions as a means to an end; and the end they had in view was the overthrow of capitalism and its replacement by a new social order. This, the heart and soul of their program, still awaits its vindication in the revolution of the American workers. And the revolution, when it arrives, will not neglect to acknowledge its anticipation at the Founding Convention of the IWW. For nothing less than the revolutionary goal of the workers’ struggle was openly proclaimed there 50 years ago.

The bold design was drawn by Bill Haywood, General Secretary of the Western Federation of Miners, who presided at the Founding Convention of the IWW. In his opening remarks, calling the convention to order, he said:

“This is the Continental Congress of the working class. We are here to confederate the workers of this country into a working class movement that shall have for its purpose the emancipation of the working class from the slave bondage of capitalism.” (Proceedings of the First Convention of the Industrial Workers of the World, p. 1)

The trade unions today are beginning to catch up with the idea that Negroes are human beings, that they have a right to make a living and belong to a union. The IWW was 50 years ahead of them on this question, as on many others. Many of the old Gompers unions were lily-white job trusts, barring Negroes from membership and the right to employment in their jurisdictions. Haywood, in his opening speech, indignantly denounced the policy of those unions “affiliated with the A. F. of L., which in their constitution and by-laws prohibit the initiation of or conferring the obligation on a colored man.” He followed, in his speech at the public ratification meeting, with the declaration that the newly-launched organization “recognizes neither race, creed, color, sex or previous condition of servitude.” (Proceedings, p. 575.)

And he wound up with the prophetic suggestion that the American workers take the Russian path. He said he hoped to see the new movement “grow throughout this country until it takes in a great majority of the working people, and that those working people will rise in revolt against the capitalist system as the working class in Russia are doing today.” (Proceedings, p. 580.)

Debs said: “The supreme need of the hour is a sound, revolutionary working class organization … It must express the class struggle. It must recognize the class lines. It must, of course, be class conscious. It must be totally uncompromising. It must be an organization of the rank and file.” (Proceedings, pp. 144, 146.)

De Leon, for his part, said: “I have had but one foe — and that foe is the capitalist class … The ideal is the overthrow of the capitalist class.” (Proceedings, pp. 147, 149.)

De Leon, the thinker, was already projecting his thought beyond the overthrow of capitalism to “the form of the governmental administration of the Republic of Labor.” In a post-convention speech at Minneapolis on “The Preamble of the I.W.W.’’, he said that the industries, “regardless of former political boundaries, will be the constituencies of that new central authority the rough scaffolding of which was raised last week in Chicago. Where the General Executive Board of the Industrial Workers of the World will sit there will be the nation’s capital.” (Socialist Reconstruction of Society, by Daniel De Leon.)

The speeches of the others, and the official statement adopted by the Convention in the Preamble to the Constitution, followed the same line. The Preamble began with the flat affirmation of the class struggle: “The working class and the employing class have nothing in common.” Following that it said: “Between these two classes a struggle must go on until all the workers come together on the political, as well as on the industrial field, and take and hold” the industries of the country.

These were the most uncompromising, the most unambiguous declarations of revolutionary intention ever issued in this country up to that time. The goal of socialism had been previously envisioned by others. But at the Founding Convention of the IWW the idea that it was to be realized through a struggle for power, and that the Power of the workers must be organized, was clearly formulated and nailed down.

The men of 1905 spoke truer than they knew, if only as anticipators of a historical work which still awaits its completion by others. Between that date of origin and the beginning of its decline after the First World War, the IWW wrote an inerasable record in action. But its place as a great progressive factor in American history is securely fixed by the brave and far-seeing pronouncements of its founding convention alone. The ideas were the seed of the action.

The IWW had its own forebears, for the revolutionary labor movement is an unbroken continuum. Behind the convention assembled in Chicago fifty years ago stood the Knights of Labor; the eight-hour movement led by the Haymarket martyrs; the great industrial union strike of the American Railway Union; the stormy battles of the Western Federation of Miners; and the two socialist political organizations — the old Socialist Labor Party and the newly-formed Socialist Party.

All these preceding endeavors were tributary to the first convention of the IWW, and were represented there by participants. Lucy Parsons, the widow and comrade-in-arms of the noble martyr, was a delegate, as was Mother Jones, the revered leader of the miners, the symbol of their hope and courage in trial and tribulation.

These earlier movements and struggles, rich and tragic experiences, had prepared the way for the Founding Convention of the IWW. But Debs was not far wrong when he said, in a speech a few months later: “The revolutionary movement of the working class will date from the year 1905, from the organization of the Industrial Workers of the World.” (Writings and Speeches of Eugene V. Debs, p. 226.)

An Organization of Revolutionists

The IWW set out to be an industrial union movement uniting all workers, regardless of any differences between them, on the simple proposition that all unions start with the defense of their immediate interests against the employers. As an industrial union, the IWW in its heyday led some memorable battles on the economic field, and set a pattern of organization and militant strike strategy for the later great struggles to build the CIO.

The CIO became possible only after and because the IWW had championed and popularized the program of industrial unionism in word and deed. That alone — the teaching and the example in the field of unionism — would be sufficient to establish the historical significance of the IWW as the initiator, the forerunner of the modern industrial unions, and thereby to justify a thousand times over all the effort and sacrifice put into it by so many people.

But the IWW was more than a union. It was also — at the same time — a revolutionary organization whose simple and powerful ideas inspired and activated the best young militants of its time, the flower of a radical generation. That, above all, is what clothes the name of the IWW in glory.

The true character of the IWW as a revolutionary organization was convincingly demonstrated in its first formative year, in the internal conflict which resulted in a split at its second convention. This split occurred over questions which are normally the concern of political parties rather than of unions. Charles 0. Sherman, the first general president of the IWW, was an exponent of the industrial-union form of organization. But that apparently was as far as he wanted to go, and it wasn’t far enough for those who took the revolutionary pronouncements of the First Convention seriously. They were not satisfied with lip service to larger principles.

When the Second Convention of the IWW assembled in Chicago in September, 1906, Haywood was in jail in Idaho awaiting trial for his life; and Debs, never a man for factionalism, was standing aside. Vincent St. John, himself a prominent figure in the Western Federation of Miners, and a member of its delegation to the Second Convention of the IWW, came forward as the leader of the anti-Sherman forces, in alliance with De Leon.

As is customary in factional fights, all kinds of secondary charges were thrown about. But St. John stated the real issue motivating him and his supporters in his own invariably forthright manner. This resolute man was on the warpath at the Second Convention because, as he said:

“The administration of the I. W. W. was in the hands of men who were not in accord with the revolutionary program of the organization … The struggle for control of the organization formed the second convention into two camps. The majority vote of the convention was in the revolutionary camp. The reactionary camp, having the Chairman, used obstructive tactics in their effort to gain control of the convention . . . The revolutionists cut this knot by abolishing the office of President and electing a chairman from among the revolutionists.” (The I.W.W: History, Structure and Method, by Vincent St. John.)

That action precipitated the split and consigned Sherman to a niche in history as a unique figure. He was the first, and is so far the only, union president on record to get dumped because he was not a revolutionist. There will be others, but Sherman’s name will live in history as the prototype.

This split at the Second Convention also resulted in the disaffiliation of the Western Federation of Miners, the only strongly organized union the IWW had had to start with. The other members of the WFM delegation, already turning to conservatism, supported Sherman in the split. But St. John, as was his nature and consistent practice, took his stand on principle.

Faced with a choice of affiliation between the widely advertised and well-heeled WFM, of which he was a paid officer, and the poverty-stricken, still obscure IWW, with its program and its principles, he unhesitatingly chose the latter. For him, as for all the others who counted in making IWW history, personal interests and questions of bread and butter unionism were secondary. The first allegiance was to revolutionary principle.

Sherman and his supporters, with the help of the police, seized the headquarters and held on to the funds of the organization, such as they were. St. John remarked that the newly elected officials “were obliged to begin work after the Second Convention without the equipment of so much as a postage stamp.” (Brissenden, p. 144.) The new administration under the leadership of St. John, who was thereafter to be the dominating influence in the organization for the next decade, had to start from scratch with very little in the way of tangible assets except the program and the ideal.

That, plus the indomitable spirit of Vincent St. John, proved to be enough to hold the shattered organization together. The Sherman faction, supported by the Western Federation of Miners, set up a rival organization. But it didn’t last long. The St. John wing prevailed in the post-convention conflict and proved itself to be the true IWW. But in the ensuing years it existed primarily, not as a mass industrial union of workers fighting for limited economic demands, but as a revolutionary organization proclaiming an all-out fight against the capitalist system.

As such, the IWW attracted a remarkable selection of young revolutionary militants to its banner. As a union, the organization led many strikes which swelled the membership momentarily. But after the strikes were over, whether won or lost, stable union organization was not maintained. After every strike, the membership settled down again to the die-hard cadre united on principle.

The Duality of the IWW

The IWW borrowed something from Marxism; quite a bit, in fact. Its two principal weapons — the doctrine of the class struggle and the idea that the workers must accomplish their own emancipation through their own organized power — came from this mighty arsenal. But for all that, the IWW was a genuinely indigenous product of its American environment, and its theory and practice ought to be considered against the background of the class struggle as it had developed up to that time in this country.

The experience of the American working class, which did not yet recognize itself as a distinct class, had been limited; and the generalizing thought, even of its best representatives, was correspondingly incomplete. The class struggle was active enough, but it had not yet developed beyond its primary stages. Conflicts had generally taken the form of localized guerrilla skirmishes, savagely conducted on both sides, between separate groups of workers and employers. The political power brought to bear on the side of the employers was mainly that of local authorities.

Federal troops had broken the ARU strike of the railroaders in ‘94 — “the Debs Rebellion,” as the hysterical press described it — and had also been called out against the metal miners in the West. But these were exceptional cases. The intervention of the federal government, as the executive committee of all the capitalists — the constant and predominant factor in capital-labor relations in modern times — was rarely seen in the local and sectional conflicts half a century ago. The workers generally made a distinction between local and federal authorities, in favor of the latter — as do the great majority, in a delayed hangover from earlier times, even to this day.

The all-embracing struggle of all the workers as a class, against the capitalist class as a whole, with political power in the nation as the necessary goal of the struggle, was not yet discernible to many when the IWW made its entrance in 1905. The pronouncements of the founders of the IWW, and all the subsequent actions proceeding from them, should be read in that light. The restricted and limited scope of the class struggle in America up to that time, from which their program was derived, makes their prevision of 50 years ago stand out as all the more remarkable.

In the situation of that time, with the class struggle of the workers still in its most elementary stages, and many of its complications and complexities not yet disclosed in action, the leaders of the IWW foresaw the revolutionary goal of the working class and aimed at one single, over-all formula for the organization of the struggle. Putting everything under one head, they undertook to build an organization which, as Vincent St. John, its chief leader and inspirer after the Second Convention, expressed it, would be “all-sufficient for the workers’ needs.” One Big Union would do it all. There was an appealing power in the simplicity of this formula, but also a weakness — a contradiction — which experience was to reveal.

One of the most important contradictions of the IWW, implanted at its first convention and never resolved, was the dual role it assigned to itself. Not the least of the reasons for the eventual failure of the IWW — as an organization — was its attempt to be both a union of all workers and a propaganda society of selected revolutionists — in essence a revolutionary party. Two different tasks and functions, which, at a certain stage of development, require separate and distinct organizations, were assumed by the IWW alone; and this duality hampered its effectiveness in both fields. All that, and many other things, are clearer now than they were then to the leading militants of the IWW — or anyone else in this country.

The IWW announced itself as an all-inclusive union; and any worker ready for organization on an everyday union basis was invited to join, regardless of his views and opinions on any other question. In a number of instances, in times of organization campaigns and strikes in separate localities, such all-inclusive membership was attained, if only for brief periods. But that did not prevent the IWW agitators from preaching the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism in every strike meeting.

The strike meetings of the IWW were in truth “schools for socialism.” The immediate issues of the strike were the take-off point for an exposition of the principle of the class struggle, for a full-scale indictment of the capitalist system all up and down the line, and the projection of a new social order of the free and equal.

The professed “non-political” policy of the IWW doesn’t stand up very well against its actual record in action. The main burden of its energies was devoted to agitation and propaganda — in soap-box speeches, press, pamphlets and songbooks — against the existing Social order; to defense campaigns in behalf of imprisoned workers; and to free-speech fights in numerous localities. All these activities were in the main, and in the proper meaning of the term, Political.

The IWW at all times, even during strikes embracing masses of church-going, ordinarily conservative workers, acted as an organization of revolutionists. The “real IWW’s,” the year-round activists, were nicknamed Wobblies — just when and why nobody knows — and the criterion of the Wobbly was his stand on the principle of the class struggle and its revolutionary goal; and his readiness to commit his whole life to it.

In truth, the IWW in its time of glory was neither a union nor a party in the full meaning of these terms, but something of both, with some parts missing. It was an uncompleted anticipation of a Bolshevik party, lacking its rounded-out theory, and a projection of the revolutionary industrial unions of the future, minus the necessary mass membership. It was the IWW.

Vincent St. John

The second split of the IWW, which broke off De Leon and SLP elements at the Fourth (1908) Convention, likewise occurred over a doctrinal question. The issue this time was “political action” or, more correctly, conflicting conceptions of working class action in the class struggle which — properly understood — is essentially political.

The real purpose of the split was to free the IWW from the Socialist Labor Party’s ultra-legalistic, narrowly restricted and doctrinaire conception of “political action” at the ballot box; and to clear the way for the St. John conception of overthrowing capitalism by the “direct action” of the organized workers. This, by a definition which was certainly arbitrary and inexact, was declared to be completely “non-political.”

In a negative gesture, the 1908 Convention merely threw the “political clause” out of the Preamble. Later, going overboard, the IWW explicitly disavowed “politics” altogether, and political parties along with it. The origin of this trend is commonly attributed to the influence of French syndicalism. That is erroneous; although the IWW later imported some phrasemongering anti-political radicalism from Europe, to its detriment. Brissenden is correct when he says:

“The main ideas of I.W.W.-ism — certainly of the I.W.W.-ism of the first few years after 1905 — were of American origin, not French, as is commonly supposed. These sentiments were brewing in France, it is true, in the early nineties, but they were brewing also in this country and the American brew was essentially different from the French. It was only after 1908 that the syndicalisme révolutionnaire of France had any direct influence on the revolutionary industrial unionist movement here.” (Brissenden, p. 53.)

The IWW brand of syndicalism, which its proponents insisted on calling “industrialism,” never acknowledged French origination, and had no reason to. The IWW doctrine was sui generis, a native product of the American soil. And so was its chief author, Vincent St. John. St. John, as all the old-timers knew, was the man most responsible for shaping the character of the IWW in its heroic days. His public reputation was dimmed beside the glittering name of Bill Haywood, and this has misled the casual student of IWW history. But Vincent St. John was the organizer and leader of the cadres.

Haywood himself was a great man, worthy of his fame. He presided at the Founding Convention, and his magnificent utterances there have already been quoted in the introductory paragraphs of this article. The “Big Fellow” conducted himself as a hero of labor in his celebrated trial in Idaho, and again called himself thunderously to public attention in the great IWW strikes at Lawrence, Paterson and Akron. In 1914 he took over from St. John the office of General Secretary of the IWW, and thereafter stood at its head through all the storms of the war and the persecution. There is historical justice in the public identification of Bill Haywood’s name with that of the IWW, as its personification.

But in the years 1906-1914, the years when the character of the IWW was fixed, and its basic cadres assembled, it was Vincent St. John who led the movement and directed all its operations. The story of the IWW would not be complete and would not be true if this chapter were omitted.

St. John, like Haywood, was a miner, a self-educated man who had come up to national prominence the hard way, out of the violent class battles of the western mining war. If “The Saint,” as all his friends called him, borrowed something from the writings of others, and foreigners at that, he was scarcely aware of it. He was not a man of books; his school was his own experience and observation, and his creed was action.

He had learned what he knew, which was quite a lot, mainly from life and his dealings with people, and he drew his conclusions from that.

This empiricism was his strength and his weakness. As an executive leader in practical situations he was superb, full of ideas — “enough to patch hell a mile” — and ready for action to apply them. In action he favored the quick, drastic decision, the short cut. This propensity had yielded rich results in his work as a field leader of the Western Federation of Miners. He was widely renowned, in the western mining camps and his power was recognized by friend and foe. Brissenden quotes a typical report about him by a mine-owners’ detective agency in 1906:

“St. John has given the mine owners of the [Colorado mining] district more trouble in the past year than any twenty men up there. If left undisturbed he would have the entire district organized in another year.”

In dealing with people — “handling men,” as they used to say — Vincent St. John had no equal that I ever knew. He “sized up” men with a quick insight, compounded of simplicity and guile, spotting and sifting out the phonies and the dabblers — you had to be serious to get along with The Saint — and putting the others to work in his school of learning by doing, and getting the best out of them.

“Experience,” “decision” and “action” were the key words in St. John’s criteria. He thought a man was what he did. It was commonplace for him to pass approving judgment on an organizer with the remark, “He has had plenty of experience,” or “He’ll be all right when he gets more experience.” And once I heard him say, with a certain reservation, of another who was regarded as a corner in the organization: “He’s a good speaker, but I don’t know how much decision he has.” In his vocabulary “experience” meant tests under fire. “Decision’ meant the capacity to think and act at the same time; to do what had to be done right off the bat, with no “philosophizing” or fooling around.

St. John’s positive qualities as a man of decision and action were contagious; like attracted like and he created an organization in his own image. He was not a back-slapper but a leader, with the reserve that befits a leader, and he didn’t win men by argument alone. In fact, he was a man of few words. The Saint lived his ideas and methods. He radiated sincerity and integrity, and unselfishness free from taint or ostentation. The air was clean in his presence.

The young men who fought under his command — a notable cadre in their time — swore by The Saint. They trusted him. They felt that he was their friend, that he cared for them and that they could always get a square deal from him, or a little better, as long as they were on the square with the organization. John S. Gambs, in his book, The Decline of the I.W.W, a postscript to Brissenden’s history, remarks: “I have heard it said that St. John, among outstanding leaders, was the best loved and most completely trusted official the I. W. W. have ever had.” He heard it right.

The IWW, as it evolved under the influence of St. John, scornfully rejected the narrow concept of “political action” as limited to parliamentary procedures. St. John understood the class struggle as a ruthless struggle for power. Nothing less and no other way would do; he was as sure of that as Lenin was. He judged socialist “politics” and political parties by the two examples before his eyes — the Socialist Party bossed by Berger and Hillquit and the Socialist Labor Party of De Leon — and he didn’t like either of them.

That attitude was certainly right as far as it went. Berger was a small-bore socialist opportunist; and Hillquit, although slicker and more sophisticated, wasn’t much better. He merely supplied a little radical phraseology to shield the cruder Bergerism from the attacks of the left.

De Leon, of course, was far superior to these pretentious pygmies; he towered above them. But De Leon, with all his great merits and capacities; with his exemplary selflessness and his complete and unconditional dedication to the workers’ cause; with the enemies he made, for which he is entitled to our love and admiration — with all that, De Leon was sectarian in his tactics, and his conception of political action was rigidly formalistic, and rendered sterile by legalistic fetishism.

In my opinion, St. John was completely right in his hostility to Berger-Hillquit, and more than half right in his break with De Leon. His objections to the parliamentary reformism of Berger-Hillquit and the ultra-legalism of the SLP contained much that must now be recognized as sound and correct. The error was in the universal opposition, based on these poor and limited examples, to all “politics” and all political parties. The flaw in his conceptions was in their incompleteness, which left them open, first to exaggeration and then to a false turn.

St. John’s cultivated bent to learn from his own limited and localized experience and observations in life rather than from books, and to aim at simple solutions in direct action, deprived him of the benefits of a more comprehensive theory generalized by others from the world-wide experiences of the class struggle. And this was true in general of the IWW as a movement. Over-simplification placed some crippling limitations on its general conceptions which, in their eventual development, in situations that were far from simple, were to prove fatal for the IWW. But this took time. It took the First World War and the Russian Revolution to reveal in full scope the incompleteness of the governing thought of the IWW.

The Long Detour

The IWW’s disdain for parliamentarism, which came to be interpreted as a rejection of all “politics” and political organizations, was not impressed on a body of members with blank minds. The main activities of the IWW, in fields imposed upon it by the conditions of the time, almost automatically yielded recruits whose own tendencies and predilections had been shaped along the same lines by their own experiences.

The IWW plan of organization was made to order for modern mass production industry in the eastern half of the country, where the main power of the workers was concentrated. But the power of the exploiting class was concentrated there too, and organizing the workers against the entrenched corporations was easier said than done.

The IWW program of revolution was designed above all to express the implicit tendency of the main mass of the basic proletariat in the trustified industries of the East. The chance for a wage worker to change his class status and become an independent proprietor or a small farmer was far less alluring there than on the western frontier, where such class transmigrations still could, and in many cases actually did, take place. If the logic of the class struggle had worked out formally — as it always does in due time — those workers in the industrial centers east of the Mississippi should have been the most class conscious and the most receptive to the IWW appeal.

But that’s not the way things worked out in practice in the time when the IWW was making its strongest efforts. The organization never succeeded in establishing stable unions among the workers in modern machine industry in the industrially developed East. On the contrary, its predominant activity expanded along the lines of least resistance on the peripheral western fringes of the country, which at that time were still under construction. The IWW found a readier response to its appeal and recruited its main cadres among the marginal and migratory workers in that region.

This apparent anomaly — which is really nothing more than the time lag between reality and consciousness — has been seen many times in international experience. Those workers most prepared for socialism by industrial development are not always the first to recognize it.

The revolutionary movement recruits first, not where it chooses but where it can, and uses the first recruits as the cadres of the organization and the carriers of the doctrine. Marxist socialism, the logical and necessary answer to developed capitalism, got its poorest start and was longest delayed in England, the pre-eminent center of world capitalism in the time of Marx and Engels, while it flourished in Germany before its great industrialization. The same Marxism, as developed by Lenin in the actual struggle for power — under the nickname of Bolshevism — is the program par excellence for America, the most advanced capitalist country; but it scored its first victory in industrially backward Russia.

The economic factor eventually predominates, and the class struggle runs its logical course everywhere — but only in the long run, not in a straight line. The class struggle of the workers in all its manifestations, from the most elementary action of a union organization up to the revolution, breaks the chain of capitalist resistance at the weakest link.

So it was in the case of the IWW. Simply having the right form of organization did not provide the IWW with the key to quick victory in the trustified industries. The founders, at the 1905 Convention, had noted and emphasized the helplessness of obsolete craft unionism in this field; that was their stated motivation for proposing the industrial union form of organization. But, for a long time, the same concentrated power that had broken up the old craft unions in modern industry was also strong enough to prevent their replacement by new unions in the industrial form.

The meager success of the IWW in establishing revolutionary industrial unions in their natural habitat was not due to lack of effort. Time and again the IWW tried to crack the trustified industries, including steel, but was beaten back every time. All the heroic attempts of the IWW to organize in this field were isolated and broken up at the start.

The employers fought the new unionism in dead earnest. Against the program of the IWW and its little band of agitators, they brought up the heavy guns of their financial resources; public opinion moulded in their favor by press and pulpit; their private armies of labor spies and thugs; and, always and everywhere, the police power of that “political state” which the IWW didn’t want to recognize.

In all the most militant years of the IWW the best it could accomplish in modern mass production industry were localized strikes, nearly all of which were defeated. The victorious Lawrence textile strike of 1912, which established the national fame of the IWW, was the glorious exception. But no stable and permanent union organization was ever maintained anywhere in the East for any length of time — not even in Lawrence.

From the formulation of the industrial union program of the IWW at the 1905 Convention to its eventual realization in life in the mass production industries, there was a long rough road with a wide detour. It took 30 years of propaganda and trial-and-error effort, and then a mass upheaval of volcanic power generated by an unprecedented economic crisis, before the fortresses of mass production industry could be stormed and conquered by industrial unionism. But the time for such an invincible mass revolt had not yet come when the IWW first sounded the call and launched its pioneering campaigns.

Meantime, defeated and repulsed in the industrialized East, where the workers were not yet ready for organization and the corporations were more than ready to prevent it, the IWW found its best response and concentrated its main activity in the West. It scored some successes and built up an organization primarily among the seasonal and migratory workers there.

The Wobblies as They Were

There was no such thing as “full employment” in the time of the IWW. The economic cycle ran its normal ten-year course, with its periodic crises and depressions, producing a surplus labor army squeezed out of industry in the East. Unemployment rose and fell with the turns of the cycle, but was always a permanent feature of the times. An economic crisis in 1907 and a serious depression in 1913-1914 swelled the army of the jobless.

Many of the unemployed workers, especially the young, took to the road, as those of another generation were to do again in the Thirties. The developing West had need of a floating labor force, and the supply drifted toward the demand. A large part of the mobile labor population in the West at that time, perhaps a majority, originated in the eastern half of the continent. Their conditions of life were pretty rough.

They were not the most decisive section of the working class; that resided, then as now, in the industrial centers of the eastern half of the continent. But these migrants, wherever they came from, responded most readily to the IWW program for a drastic change in the social order.

The IWW was right at home among footloose workers who found casual employment in the harvest fields — traveling by freight train to follow the ripening of the grain, then back by freight train again to the transportation centers for any kind of work they could find there; railroad construction workers, shipping out for temporary jobs and then shipping back to the cities into unemployment again; lumberjacks, metal miners, seamen, etc., who lived in insecurity and worked, when they worked, under the harshest, most primitive conditions.

This narrow stratum of the unsettled and least privileged workers came to make up the bulk of the membership of the IWW. It was often said among the Wobblies, only half facetiously, that the name of their organization, “Industrial Workers of the World,” should be changed to ‘Migratory Workers of the World.”

The American political system offered no place for the participation of this floating labor force of the expanding West. Very little provision of any kind was made for them. They were overlooked in the whole scheme of things. They lacked the residential qualifications to vote in elections and enjoyed few of the rights of political democracy accorded to settled citizens with a stake in their community. They were the dispossessed, the homeless outcasts, without roots or a stake any place in society, and with nothing to lose.

Since they had no right to vote anyway, it took little argument to persuade them that “political action” — at the ballot box was a delusion and a snare. They had already been convinced, by their own harsh experiences, that it would take more than paper ballots to induce the exploiters to surrender their swollen privileges. The IWW, with its bold and sweeping program of revolution by direct action, spoke their language and they heard it gladly.

The IWW became for them their one all-sufficient organization — their union and their party; their social center; their home; their family; their school; and in a manner of speaking, their religion, without the supernatural trimmings — the faith they lived by. Some of Joe Hill’s finest songs, it should be remembered, were derisive parodies of the religious hymns of the IWW’s rivals in the fight for the souls of the migratory workers milling around in the congested Skid Row sections of the western and mid-western cities.

These were not the derelicts who populate the present day version of the old Skid Row. For the greater part, they were the young and venturesome, who had been forced out of the main industries in more settled communities, or had wandered away from them in search of opportunity and adventure. They had been badly bruised and beaten, but not conquered. They had the courage and the will to fight for an alleviation of their own harsh conditions.

But when they enlisted in the IWW it meant far more to them than joining a union to promote a picayune program of immediate personal needs. The IWW proclaimed that by solidarity they could win everything. It gave them a vision of a new world and inspired them to fight for the general good of the whole working class.

These footloose workers, recruited by the propaganda and action of the IWW, became the carriers of its great, profoundly simple message wherever they traveled — the message expressed in the magic words: Solidarity, Workers’ Power, One Big Union and Workers’ Emancipation. Wherever they went, they affirmed their conviction that “there is power in a band of working men,” as stated in the singing words of Joe Hill — “a power that must rule in every land.”

They felt themselves to be — as indeed they were — the advance guard of an emancipating army. But it was an advance guard separated from the main body of troops in concentrated industry, separated and encircled, and compelled to wage guerrilla actions while awaiting reinforcements from the main army of the proletariat in the East. It was a singing movement, with confidence in its mission. When the Wobblies sang out the swelling chorus of “Hold the Fort,” they “heard the bugles blow” and really believed that “by our union we shall triumph over every foe.”

Recruits enlisted in the main from this milieu soon came to make up the main cadres of the IWW; to provide its shock troops in all Its battles, East and West; and to impress their own specific ideology upon it — the ideology which was in part ‘he developed result of their own experiences, and in part derived from teachings of the IWW. These teachings seemed to formulate and systematize their own tendencies. That’s why they accepted them so readily.

Many a worker recruited to the IWW under those conditions was soon on the move again, carrying his red card and his newly found convictions with him and transmitting them to others. All the progressive and radical sections of the labor movement were heavily influenced by the IWW in the years preceding the First World War.

The left-wing socialists were ardent sympathizers of the IWW, and quite a few of them were members. The same was true in large measure of the more militant trade unionists in the AFL. “Two-card men” were fairly numerous — those who belonged to the AFL unions for bread and butter reasons and carried the “red card” of the IWW for the sake of principle.

The IWW struck a spark in the heart of youth as no other movement in this country, before or since, has done. Young idealists from “the winds’ four quarters” came to the IWW and gave it all they had. The movement had its gifted strike leaders, organizers and orators, its poets and its martyrs.

By the accumulated weight of its unceasing propagandistic efforts, and by the influence of its heroic actions on many occasions which were sensationally publicized, the IWW eventually permeated a whole generation of American radicals, of all shades and affiliations, with its concept of industrial unionism as the best form for the organization of workers’ power and its program for a revolutionary settlement of the class struggle.

It was a long way from the pioneer crusade of the IWW among the dispossessed migratory workers on the western frontier, in the second decade of our century, to the invincible picket lines and sit-down strikes of the mass production workers in the eastern centers of concentrated industry, in the Thirties. A long way and not a straight one. But that’s the route over which the message of industrial unionism eventually reached those places where it was most applicable and could eventually explode with the greatest power.

The Turning Point

The whole record of the IWW — or at any rate, the best part of it, the positive revolutionary part — was all written in propaganda and action in its first 15 years. That is the enduring story. The rest is anti-climax.

The turning point came with the entrance of the United States into the First World War in the spring of 1917, and the Russian Revolution in the same year. Then “politics,” which the IWW had disavowed and cast out, came back and broke down the door.

These two events — again coinciding in Russia and America, as in 1905 — demonstrated that “political action” was not merely a matter of the ballot box, subordinate to the direct conflict of the unions and employers on the economic field, but the very essence of the class struggle. In opposing actions of two different classes the “political state,” which the IWW had thought to ignore, was revealed as the centralized power of the ruling class; and the holding of the state power showed in each case which class was really ruling.

From one side, this was shown when the Federal Government of the United States intervened directly to break up the concentration points of the IWW by wholesale arrests of its activists. The “political action” of the capitalist state broke the back of the IWW as a union. The IWW was compelled to transform its principal activities into those of a defense organization, striving by legal methods and propaganda, to protect the political and civil rights of its members against the depredations of the capitalist state power.

From the other side, the same determining role of political action was demonstrated positively by the Russian Revolution. The Russian workers took the state power into their own hands and used that power to expropriate the capitalists and suppress all attempts at counter-revolution. That, in fact, was the first stage of the Revolution, the pre-condition for all that was to follow. Moreover, the organizing and directing center of the victorious Revolution had turned out to be, not an all-inclusive union, but a party of selected revolutionists united by a program and bound by discipline.

The time had come for the IWW to remember Haywood’s prophetic injunction at the Founding Convention in 1905: that the American workers should look to Russia and follow the Russian example. By war and revolution, the most imperative of all authorities, the IWW was put on notice to bring its theoretical conceptions up to date; to think and learn, and change a little.

First indications were that this would be done; the Bolshevik victory was hailed with enthusiasm by the members of the IWW. In their first reaction, it is safe to say, they saw in it the completion and vindication of their own endeavors. But this first impulse was not followed through.

Some of the leading Wobblies, including Haywood himself, tried to learn the lessons of the war and the Russian Revolution and to adjust their thinking to them. But the big majority, after several years of wavering, went the other way. That sealed the doom of the IWW. Its tragic failure to look, listen and learn from the two great events condemned it to defeat and decay.

The governing role of theory here asserted itself supremely, and in short order. While the IWW was settling down in ossification, converting its uncompleted conceptions about the real meaning of political action and political parties into a sterile anti-political dogma, the thinking of others was catching up with reality, with the great new things happening in the world. The others, the young left-wing socialists, soon to call themselves Communists, lacked the battle-tested cadres of the IWW. But they had the correct program. That proved to be decisive.

The newly formed Communist Party soon outstripped the IWW and left it on the sidelines. It was all decided within the space of two or three years. By the time of its fifteenth anniversary in 1920 the IWW had already entered the irreversible road of decline. Its strength was spent. Most of its cadres, the precious human material selected and sifted out in heroic struggle, went down with the organization. They had borne persecution admirably, but the problems raised by it, and by all the great new events, overwhelmed them. The best militants fell into inactivity and then dropped out. The second-raters took over and completed the wreck and the ruin.

The failure of the main cadres of the IWW to become integrated in the new movement for the Communist Party in this country, inspired by the Russian Revolution, was a historical miscarriage which might have been prevented.

In action the IWW had been the most militant, the most revolutionary section of the workers’ vanguard in this country. The IWW, while calling itself a union, was much nearer to Lenin’s conception of a party of professional revolutionists than any other organization calling itself a party at that time. In their practice, and partly also in their theory, the Wobblies were closer to Lenin’s Bolsheviks than any other group in this country.

There should have been a fusion. But, in a fast-moving situation, a number of untoward circumstances, combined with the inadequacy of the American communist leadership, barred the way.

The failure of the IWW to find a place in the new movement assembling under the banner of the Russian Revolution, was not the fault of the Russians. They recognized the IWW as a rightful part of the movement they represented and made repeated attempts to include it in the new unification of forces. The first manifesto of the Communist International specified the American IWW as one of the organizations invited to join. Later, in 1920, the Executive Committee of the Communist International addressed a special Open Letter to the IWW, inviting its cooperation.

The letter explained, in the tone of brothers speaking to brothers, that the revolutionary parliamentarism of the Communist International had nothing in common with the ballotbox fetishism and piddling reformism of the right-wing socialists. Haywood says of that letter: “After I had finished reading it I called Ralph Chaplin over to my desk and said to him: ‘Here is what we have been dreaming about; here is the I.W.W. all feathered out!’” (Bill Haywood’s Book, p. 360.)

In war-time France Trotsky had found his best friends and closest collaborators in the fight against the war among the syndicalists. After the Russian Revolution, in a notable series of letters, published later as a pamphlet, he urged them to join forces with the communists. The theses adopted by the Communist International at its Second Congress recognized the progressive and revolutionary side of pre-war syndicalism, and said it represented a step forward from the ideology of the Second International. The theses attempted to explain at the same time, in the most patient and friendly manner, the errors and limitations of syndicalism on the question of the revolutionary party and its role.

Perhaps the chief circumstance operating against a patient and fruitful discussion, and an orderly transition of the IWW to the higher ground of Bolshevism, was the furious persecution of the IWW at the time. When the Russian Revolution erupted in the victory in November, 1917, hundreds of the IWW activists were held in jail under excessive bail, awaiting trial. Following their conviction a year later, they were sentenced to long terms in the Federal Penitentiary.

This inprisonment cut them off from contact with the great new events, and operated against the free exchange of ideas which might have resulted in an agreement and fusion with the dynamically developing left-wing socialist movement headed toward the new Communist Party. The IWW as an organization was compelled to divert its entire activities into its campaign to provide legal defense for its victimized members. The members of the organization had little time or thought for other things, including the one all-important thing — the assimilation of the lessons of the war and the Russian Revolution.

Despite that, a number of IWW men heard the new word from Russia and followed it. They recognized in Bolshevism the rounding out and completion of their own revolutionary conceptions, and joined the Communist Party. Haywood expressed their trend of thought succinctly, in an interview with Max Eastman, published in The Liberator, April, 1921.

“’I feel as if I’d always been there,’ he said to me. ‘You remember I used to say that all we needed was fifty thousand real I.W.W.’s, and then about a million members to back them up? Well, isn’t that a similar idea? At least I always realized that the essential thing was to have an organization of those who know.’”

As class-conscious men of action, the Wobblies, “the real IWW’s,” had always worked together as a body to influence the larger mass. Their practice contained the essential idea of the Leninist conception of the relation between the party and the class. The Bolsheviks, being men of theory in all their action, formulated it more precisely and developed it to its logical conclusion in the organization of those class-conscious elements into a party of their own.

All that seemed clear to me at the time, and I had great hopes that at least a large section of the Wobblies would recognize it. I did all I could to convince them. I made especially persistent efforts to convince Vincent St. John himself, and almost succeeded; I didn’t know how close I had come until later, when it was too late.

When he was released from the Federal Penitentiary at Leavenworth on bond — I think it was in the early part of 1919 — The Saint stopped over in Kansas City and visited me. We talked about the Russian Revolution night and day. I believe he was as sympathetic at that time as I was. The revolution was an action — and that’s what he believed in. But he had not yet begun to grapple with the idea that the Russian way would be applicable to this country, and that the IWW would have to recognize it.

His hostility to a “party” and “politicians,” based on what he had seen of such things in this country, was the fixed obstacle. I noted, however, that he did not argue back, but mainly listened to what I had to say. A year or so later we had several other discussions in New York, when he was still out on bail before he was returned to prison in the fall of 1921. We talked a great deal on those occasions; or rather, I did, and The Saint listened.

In addition to my proselytizing zeal for communism in those days, I had a strong personal motivation for trying to win over Vincent St. John to the new movement. Coming from the syndicalistic background of the IWW, with its strong anti-intellectual emphasis, I had been plunged up to my neck in the internal struggles of the young Communist Party and association with its leading people. They were nearly all young intellectuals, without any experience or feel for the mass movement and the “direct action” of the class struggle. I was not very much at home in that milieu; I was lonesome for people of my own kind.

I had overcome my own “anti-intellectualism” to a considerable extent; but I knew for sure that the Communist Party would never find its way to the mass movement of the workers with a purely intellectualistic leadership. I was looking for reinforcements for a proletarian counter-balance on the other side, and I thought that if I could win over St. John it would make a big difference. In fact, I knew it.

I remember the occasion when I made the final effort with The Saint. The two of us went together to have dinner and spend the night as guests of Carlo Tresca and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn at their cottage on Staten Island beach. We spent very little time looking at the ocean, although that was the first time I had ever seen it. All through the dinner hour, and nearly all through the night, we discussed my thesis that the future belonged to the Communist Party; and that the IWW militants should not abandon the new party to the intellectuals, but come into it and help to shape its proletarian character.

As in the previous discussions, I did practically all the talking. The Saint listened, as did the others. There was no definite conclusion to the long discussion; neither expressed rejection nor acceptance of my proposals. But I began to feel worn-out with the effort and let it go at that.

A short time later St. John returned to Chicago. The officials in charge of the IWW center there were hostile to communism and were embroiled in some bitter quarrels with a pro-communist IWW group in Chicago. I don’t know what the immediate occasion was, but St. John was drawn into the conflict and took a stand with the anti-communist group. Then, as was natural for him in any kind of a crisis, once he had made up his mind he took charge of the situation and began to steer the organization definitely away from cooperation with the communists.

Years later — in 1926 — when Elizabeth Gurley Flynn herself finally came over to the Communist Party and was working with us in the International Labor Defense, she recalled that night’s discussion on Staten Island and said: “Did you know you almost convinced The Saint that night? If you had tried a little harder you might have won him over.” I hadn’t known it; and when she told me that, I was deeply sorry that I had not tried just “a little harder.”

The Saint was crowding 50 at that time, and jail and prison had taken their toll. He was a bit tired, and he may have felt that it was too late to start over again in a new field where he, like all of us, had much to learn. Whatever the reason for the failure, I still look back on it regretfully. Vincent St. John, and the IWW militants he would have brought along, could have made a big difference in everything that went on in the CP in the Twenties.

The Heritage

The eventual failure of the IWW to remain true to its original self, and to claim its own heritage, does not invalidate its great contributions in propaganda and action to the revolutionary movement which succeeds it. The IWW in its best days was more right than wrong, and all that was right remains the permanent acquisition of the American workers. Even some of the IWW propositions which seemed to be wrong — only because the times were not ripe for their full realization — will rind their vindication in the coming period.

The IWW’s conception of a Republic of Labor, based on occupational representation, replacing the present political state with its territorial form of representation, was a remarkable prevision of the course of development which must necessarily follow from the victory of the workers in this country. This new and different form of social organization was projected at the Founding Convention of the IWW even before the Russian Bolsheviks had recognized the Workers’ Councils, which had arisen spontaneously in the 1905 Revolution, as the future governmental form.

The IWW program of industrial unionism was certainly right, although it came too early for fulfillment under the IWW banner. This has already been proved to the hilt in the emergence and consolidation of the CIO.

The IWW theory of revolutionary unionism likewise came too early for general acceptance in the epoch of ascending capitalism in this country. It could not be realized on a wide scale in the time of the IWW. But re rmist unions, in the present epoch of imperialist decay, have already become anachronistic and are confronted with an ultimatum from history to change their character or cease to be.

The mass industrial unions of workers, by the fact of their existence, instinctively strive toward socialism. With a capitalist minded leadership, they are a house divided against itself, half slave and half free. That cannot stand. The stage is being set for the transformation of the reformist unions into revolutionary unions, as they were projected by the IWW half a century ago.

The great contradiction of the labor movement today is the disparity between the mass unions with their organized millions and the revolutionary party which still remains only a nucleus, and their separation from each other. The unity of the vanguard and the class, which the IWW tried to achieve in one organization, was shattered because the time was not ripe and the formula was inadequate. The time is now approaching when this antithetic separation must give way to a new synthesis.

This synthesis — the unity of the class and the socialist vanguard — will be arrived at in the coming period in a different way from that attempted by the IWW. It will not be accomplished by a single organization. The building of a separate party organization of the socialist vanguard is the key to the resolution of the present contradiction of the labor movement. This will not be a barrier to working class unity but the necessary condition for it.

The working class can be really united only when it becomes a class for itself, consciously righting the exploiters as a class. The ruling bureaucrats, who preach and practice class collaboration, constitute in effect a pro-capitalist party in the trade unions. The party of the socialist vanguard represents the consciousness of the class. Its organization signifies not a split of the class movement of the workers, but a division of labor within it, to facilitate and effectuate its unification on a revolutionary basis; that is, as a class for itself.

As an organization of revolutionists, united not simply by the immediate economic interests which bind all workers together in a union, but by doctrine and program, the IWW was in practice, if not in theory, far ahead of other experiments along this line in its time, even though the IWW called itself a union and others called themselves parties.

That was the IWW’s greatest contribution to the American labor movement — in the present stage of its development and in those to come. Its unfading claim to grateful remembrance will rest in the last analysis on the pioneering role it played as the first great anticipation of the revolutionary party which the vanguard of the American workers will fashion to organize and lead their emancipating revolution.

This conception of an organization of revolutionists has to be completed and rounded out, and recognized as the most essential, the most powerful of all designs in the epoch of imperialist decline and decay, which can be brought to an end only by a victorious workers’ revolution. The American revolution, more than any other, will require a separate, special organization of the revolutionary vanguard. And it must call itself by its right name, a party.

The experimental efforts of the IWW along this line remain part of the permanent capital of those who are undertaking to build such a party. They will not discard or discount the value of their inheritance from the old IWW; but they will also supplement it by the experience and thought of others beyond our borders.

The coming generation, which will have the task of bringing the class struggle to its conclusion — fulfilling the “historic mission of the working class,” as the “Preamble” described it — will take much from the old leaders of the IWW — Debs, Haywood, De Leon and St. John, and will glorify their names. But in assimilating all the huge experiences since their time, they will borrow even more heavily from the men who generalized these experiences into a guiding theory. The Americans will go to school to the Russians, as the Russians went to school to the Germans, Marx and Engels.

Haywood’s advice at the Founding Convention of the IWW still holds good. The Russian way is the way to our American future, to the future of the whole world. The greatest thinkers of the international movement since Marx and Engels, and also the greatest men of action, were the Russian Bolsheviks. The Russian Revolution is there to prove it, ruling out all argument. That revolution still stands as the example; all the perversions and betrayals of Stalinism cannot change that.

The Russian Bolsheviks — Lenin and Trotsky in the first place — have inspired every forward step taken by the revolutionary vanguard in this country since 1917. And it is to them that the American workers will turn for guidance in the next stages of their evolving struggle for emancipation. The fusion of their “Russian” ideas with the inheritance of the IWW is the American workers’ prescription for victory.

Los Angeles, June, 1955.

For a Socialist Federation of the Near East!

Zionist Cops Murder Arab Strikers

For a Socialist Federation of the Near East!

[reprinted from Workers Vanguard #105, 16 April 1976]

APRIL 12–The March 30 general strike in the Galilee, initiated by the Communist Party of Israel (Rakah) to protest Zionist plans for the confiscation of 5,000 acres of Arab land for new Jewish settlements, was viciously repressed. Newspaper headlines around the world announced that six Arabs had been killed, while 50 others were seriously injured and 300 arrested.

One of those murdered was a 15-year-old boy shot dead near Kfar Kana. For no other reason than malicious terrorizing, the home of Zayad Tewflik, the Rakah mayor of Nazareth was ransacked by Israeli troops. (Nazareth is the largest Arab town in Israel.)

To the north, in the town of Sakhnin, three men were murdered. Some 10,000 mourners from 36 villages and towns attended their funeral the following day. With raised fists they chanted, “With spirit and blood, we shall free Galilee!” After ten years of supposed civilian administration, military occupation has now returned to Galilee. The whole world is reminded that Arab Galilee (part of Israel since its birth), just as the Arab West Bank (which was conquered in the 1967 “Six Day War”), is “occupied territory.”

Israeli Settlements on the West Bank

A major caused the protest in Galileo was Zionist confiscation of Arab land (see “Blow-up in the Near East,” WV No. 102, 26 March 1976). In the West Bank this often takes the form of “spontaneous” settlements established by ultra-Orthodox Jews. With consum¬mate hypocrisy–believed by no one–Israel formally disclaims annexationist appetites toward the West Bank and makes token protests about the settlements. However, once a settlement is established, the Israeli government is quite obliging with material and military aid.

The only real difference within the government is whether to absorb the entire West Bank–the position of the National Religious Party (NRP) and defense minister Peres–or simply to annex a strategic strip along the bank of the Jordan River (the 1967 Allon Plan, named after the current foreign minister). The self-proclaimed “left-wing” Zionists of Mapam, who on paper oppose all annexation, threaten to leave the government if the settlements are not removed. The ultra-Orthodox NRP, in turn, threatens to leave the government if the settlements are not fully supported. As usual, the main government party. Mapai, to which both Peres and Alton belong, gives in to the NRP, while the Mapam, also as usual, capitulates to the Mapai. Thus the fragile coalition government survives and the settlements multiply. Already there are a total of 55, with 8,000 inhabitants.

One of the earliest was Kiryat Arba near Hebron. In 1968 a rabbi rented rooms in the area, ostensibly for Passover services. But the rabbi and his followers remained after Passover, defying expulsion orders. After a phony “confrontation” with the Zionist government, they were “temporarily” housed in an army camp and then provided with building materials. Now Kiryat Arba is an established community which numbers 1,500 on the outskirts of Hebron.

Kiryat Arba settlers periodically go into the neighboring Arab town and terrorize its inhabitants, often with weapons supplied by the Israeli army and attack dogs. (To be attacked by dogs is a special humiliation for Muslims.) Consequently, Arab protests have been particularly bitter in Hebron. A recent account by the Jerusalem Post (23 March) highlights the collaboration between settlers and the Israeli army:

“Kiryat Arba settlers went into Hebron, chased Arab stone throwers through alleys, beat them up and handed 50 over to the military government. Army and police commanders had put the settlers in charge of quarters and commanders gave them 3,000 bullets which they still had.”

The same issue of the Jerusalem Post also reported that Kiryat Arba leader rabbi Moshe Levinger went on television to tell the settlers to “shoot to hit” if they were attacked by Arabs while patrolling Hebron.

Ironically, Hebron’s mayor. Sheikh Mohammed Alt Jaabari, is often praised by the Zionists for his subservience to the Israeli military administration. The escalation of Israeli repression took place on the eve of elections for West Bank mayors and town councils on April 12. Even though Arabs are prohibited from forming political organizations or disseminating propaganda which can be given a pro-Communist or pro-nationalist interpretation, many candidates are identified with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) or Rakah. Israeli authorities awarded Sheikh Jaabari for his collaboration by deporting his only opponent, Dr. Ahmad Hamzi, who is associated with pro-PLO and pro-Rakah intellectuals. Yet despite the Zionist terror, partially intended to manipulate the elections, many favorites of the military governors are expected to lose to left-wing candidates.

1929 Riots and 1936 General Strike

The recent rebellion in the West Bank is far from the first time that Arabs and Jews have clashed in this area. The ultra-Orthodox community at Kiryat Arba is motivated in large part by a desire for revenge for the brutal massacre of Jews during 1929 communal riots in Hebron. The fact that the current wave of struggles was set off by a dispute over the Aqsa mosque (which is also Temple Mount, and simultaneously considered a holy place by both Muslims and Jews), reinforces the importance of the 1929 riots in Palestine as an emotional factor in the present clashes.

The 1929 riots began with a conflict between Orthodox Jews and the British colonial administration over the “Wailing Wall,” a Jewish religious monument allegedly built with stones from the Temple of Solomon and located at the base of the Temple Mount in the predominantly Arab “Old City” of Jerusalem. (The worshippers put up a screen to separate males and females, and the British commissioner, unfamiliar with Jewish custom, ordered troops to remove it.) The Muslim religious leader of Jerusalem, the notorious grand mufti al-Haj Amin al-Husseini, got wind of this tiff and proposed to the receptive British district commissioner that the area in front of the Wailing Wall be made into an open thoroughfare. The extreme right-wing Zionist group Betar then held a provocative march to the wall, where it raised the Zionist flag. The grand mufti, in turn, inflamed the Muslim community by accusing the Zionists of wanting to seize the entire Temple Mount and circulating pictures with the Zionist flag raised over the Aqsa mosque.

Tension increased between the Muslim and Jewish communities in Jerusalem, and on 23 August 1929 Muslims poured down from Aqsa mosque, attacking Jewish quarters. The communal violence spread throughout Palestine, leaving 133 Jews and 119 Arabs murdered. The most brutal massacre occurred in Hebron:

“There was a Jewish population of over 700 people, an ancient community centered on a Talmudical college. Armed bands intent on slaughter reached Hebron on the 24th [of August]. The police were Arab and they stood passively by while their fellow Moslems moved into town…. There was an inn in town where some Jews had fled for their safety. The Arabs killed and dismembered 23 of them with daggers and axes in an upper room so that according to a witness, blood ran down the stairs and soaked through the ceiling and splashed onto the floor beneath…. In all the Moslems killed 60 Jews including children and wounded as many.”

–Christopher Sykes, Crossroads to Israel, 1973

Behind the 1929 riots was not simply inflamed religious fanaticism, but genuine grievances of the Arab peasantry, orfellahin. Land purchases by the Jewish National Fund dispossessed them and drove the landless Arabs into the cities, where they joined the ranks of the unemployed. The Shaw Commission, conducting an investigation of the causes of the 1929 riots, concluded that, “there is no alternative land to which persons evicted can remove. In consequence a landless and discontented class is being created…. Palestine cannot support a larger agricultural population than it at present carries unless methods of farming undergo radical change” (cited in Abu Lughod, TheTransformation of Palestine. 1971)

Of course, in order for the “methods of farming to undergo radical change,” feudalistic Palestinian Arab landlords like the Husseinis would have to be swept away through an agrarian revolution which would directly challenge British colonialism and capitalist property relations.

In 1929 the social discontent of the fellahin was manipulated by their direct oppressors, the Palestinian landlords who, like the grand mufti, were often religious leaders as well and distorted into pogroms and communal violence.

But the six-month-long 1936 general strike and subsequent rebellions and guerrilla warfare which lasted until the fall of 1938, while led by feudal families like the Husseinis, were genuinely anti-imperialist in character and akin to the recent demonstrations and strikes in the West Bank and Galilee. The 1936 strike was launched around three demands: 1) self-government, 2) prohibition of Arab land sales to Jews and 3) immediate cessation of Jewish immigration until the absorptive capacity of the country could be determined and immigration policies established. Since Jews were a minority in mandate Palestine, the Zionists always opposed any step away from British colonial administration toward self-government and independence.

U.S. “Tilts,” Israel Isolated

The stage for the current wave of Arab protests in Israel and the occupied territories was set by the 1947-48 partition of Palestine. In a 27 November 1947 United Nations resolution, the British mandate territory of Palestine (the result of an earlier imperialist partition of the remains of the Ottoman empire, carried out by the U N’s forerun¬ner, the League of Nations) was carved into Jewish and Arab sections. Even though the 600,000 Jewish inhabitants constituted only one third of the population and owned only 6 percent of the land, they received 55 percent of the territory, including the best agricultural districts.

They were also left with a large Arab minority of 400,000. Arab Palestine had been located mainly in the Galilee and the West Bank, the same areas in which mass anti-Zionist demonstrations and strikes have recently taken place. A myth assiduously propagated by Israeli apologists holds that these Arabs have equal rights with Jews. Yet the Arab territory annexed by Israel in 1948 was ruled under a military administration until 1966.

Now once again the “Palestinian Question” has been raised in the United Nations for another impotent debate–this time in the “central committee” of that august den of thieves, the Security Council. This time the “debate” centers around Zionist repression in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. In the past, the Israeli delegate has traditionally relied on the United States to run interference for Israel against the “Third World” majority. In recent years, however, U.S. support for Israel has been far from automatic and unconditional.

The last Security Council debate on the Near East was boycotted by Israel because the PLO had been invited. Israel claimed it could not sit at the same table with the PLO because the latter calls for a “democratic, secular Palestine.” This would entail the destruction of Israel, although denying the national rights of the Hebrew people: the Israeli state is neither democratic nor secular, and was created through the dispersal of the Palestinian people. This time, though, the Israeli delegates are present with the PLO.

In the Security Council debate on the West Bank the U.S. envoy condemned Israeli settlements in the occupied territories: “Indeed, the presence of these settlements is seen by my Govern¬ment as an obstacle to the success of the negotiations for a just and final peace between Israel and its neighbors.” Meanwhile, U.S. television networks have for once given generally accurate coverage of the behavior of the Israeli army during the Galilee general strike, coverage which was therefore highly unfavorable to Israel. Both the diplomats and the capitalist media are preparing U.S. public opinion for demanding concessions from Israel on the West Bank.

It is an important historical fact that the U.S. bourgeoisie did not unconditionally support the outcome of the 1967 war, nor is it now satisfied with the spoils of the Israeli victory: Zionist occupation of the Sinai, Golan Heights and the West Bank. While the United States is the principal patron of Israel, American imperialism is primarily interested in securing safe, cheap and preferably exclusive access to raw materials in general, and Near East oil in particular. The U.S. wants politically stable, pro-imperialist capitalist regimes in the Near East. It cares less whether that political stability is based on Koran-thumping sheiks or radical-sounding Arab nationalist colonels.

The political stability of all the reactionary Arab regimes is interdependent with the survival of a state of cold war with Israel and therefore with the survival of the Zionist state in order to deflect the discontent of the impoverished Arab masses into a jihad (holy war) against Zionism. Likewise, in order to maintain a state of siege mentality, treating any fundamental political opposition as treason, Israeli rulers are dependent upon the reactionary Arab regimes and their occasional threats to “drive the Jews into the sea.”

By discrediting several Arab regimes and bringing more than one million embittered Palestinian Arabs under Israeli military administration, the Six Day War directly threatened this fragile political stability. For example, the large influx of Palestinian refugees following the 1967 war led to major civil wars in Jordan (1970-71) and currently in Lebanon. American policy toward the occupied territories continues to be based on the 1967 Security Council Resolution 242, reaffirmed by the (U.S. secretary of state) Rogers Plan of 1970, which calls for Israel to give up most, if not all, of the occupied territories in exchange for Arab political recognition and a peace treaty.

Since the U.S. cannot simply force an immediate and unilateral Zionist withdrawal from the occupied territories without creating a major political crisis in Israel, Rogers’ successor Henry Kissinger engages in what has become known as the “step by step approach,” in which a “piece of land” is exchanged for a “piece of peace.” Now, especially in the aftermath of major Palestinian Arab strikes and demonstrations, U.S. diplomatic interest has shifted to the West Bank.

Smash Zionist Terror!

Israel is increasingly isolated, but this has had a contradictory impact on Israeli workers. On the one hand, there is a genuine sense of demoralization; for the first time since the 1948 war, many Israelis now question whether the Zionist state can survive. Further, the working population is being subjected to economic pounding from every side: military appropriations continue to rise; in early March the government announced a 25 percent rise in bus fares and the price of many basic foods; taxes have been increased, and the Israeli pound was devalued again.

Economic struggles on the part of the Israeli working class have become frequent. Last month there was a major walkout of civil servants, for instance. Nonetheless, a growing sense of isolation combined with economic discontent will not automatically lead Israeli workers to challenge their Zionist rulers. In the absence of a revolutionary leadership the growing political isolation simply reinforces a besieged fortress mentality, of which the Kiryat Arba settlers are only the most pathological and extreme expression.

Israel has no future in the Near East. As a weak ally of U.S. imperialism it will be sacrificed if Israel’s survival gets in the way of larger American capitalist interests. The U.S. is already busy arming both sides for the next Arab-Israeli war, which may rapidly escalate into a nuclear or even global confrontation.

The Israeli working class has a future only if it places at its head a revolutionary party which champions not only its economic and social grievances, which are many, but also links the economic struggles to the heroic Arab demonstrations and strikes in Galilee and on the West Bank. Such a Marxist party would champion the right to self-determination for the Palestinians, while not denying the national rights of the Hebrew people.

However, if the Israeli working class is to have a future it cannot exercise its national rights at the expense of the Palestinians; it cannot express them through the Zionist state of Israel, even such a Zionist state as would conform to the Rakah/Mapam/PLO dream and accept a Palestinian mini-state in the West Bank and Gaza strip. The right to self-determination for Palestinians and Hebrews can only be democratically resolved within the framework of a bi-national proletarian dictatorship on both sides of the Jordan River, as part of a socialist federation of the Near East.

Militant Longshoreman No. 20

Militant Longshoreman

No. 20,  March 24, 1987

Crowley Scabs Flee Port Of Redwood City

Last Friday the ILWU temporarily stopped a major attack on ILWU jurisdiction by Crowley. It all came together when Crowley, the largest tug and barge company in the world, brought three struck Hawaii Marine Lines barges into the port of Redwood City. At about 7:00 AM scabs began discharging containers from–one of the barges using Sheedy Drayage Company cranes, hysters and tractors. IBU-ILWU pickets stopped a line of trucks and two additional hysters from entering the port in spite of Redwood City Police harassment. After the word reached San Francisco Walking Bosses, Clerks, Longshoremen and Ship Scalers left every job in the Bay Area and headed for Redwood City. When several hundred ILWU members headed down the road toward the pier the scabs took off running and abandoned the barge. Not one container has left the port! For weeks these struck barges have been towed up and down the coast like the Flying Dutchman, while Crowley’s customers have been crying for their cargo.

Crowley Targets Longshore For Union Busting!

Since Crowley forced the IBU-ILWU into a strike to defend their jobs, we’ve been warning longshoremen that Crowley is laying the basis to break ILWU longshore jurisdiction on the West Coast. We didn’t expect the direct attack to come so soon, although we had a hint about two months ago. At that time a port of Redwood City official told our officers that if Levin’s non-union scrap iron operation at Richmond continued to underbid them, that the port of Redwood City would consider going non-union. Saturday the port got a Superior Court injunction limiting pickets to two at each gate. Crowley is now in Federal Court to get an injunction declaring our refusal to work the struck barges sitting at piers up and down the coast a *secondary boycott”. He figures that the Feds will overturn our picket line language that prevents PMA from making us scab on our own ILWU brothers.

Longshore Jurisdiction and Jobs At Stake!

If Crowley, the port of Redwood City, and Sheedy Drayage Company (now the first scab Stevedoring Company in California), succeed in unloading the barges and trucking off the cargo, the port of Redwood City will soon be booming with barges and ships loaded with autos, steel, containers, lumber etc., none of it worked by ILWU longshoremen. This non-union cancer will spread rapidly to Richmond, Selby, Pittsburg, Antioch and points north and south. Unless we stand fast here, it’s all over but the tears and 53 years of proud unionism will be history. We can end up like ILA longshoremen in New Orleans half of whom hang around the non-union piers hoping to pick up a days work at half the wages they were earning under ILA contracts.

There will be shrill voices raised (especially from Franklin Street), that we can’t win, that the police will bust heads, that the courts will seize our funds, that each longshoreman will have his savings seized, and that our noble leaders will be jailed if we refuse to surrender our jobs meekly. We can win only if we are prepared to fight to establish and defend our gains of the past 53 years as our brothers fought to establish our union in 1934. It’s not just the organized labor movement that is watching this battle and can be brought in to man our picket lines and stop Crowley cold. Millions of workers who yearn for job security and livable wages can be inspired by our successful battle that they too can hope to win union conditions and wages.

Fight or Roll Over Dead
No Middle Ground!

At the risk of sounding repetitious: We have to watch out that we’re not misled by our International officers and their week-kneed hangers-on in our local. Just last St. Patrick’s Day International officers Jimmy Herman, Rudy Rubio, Curtis McClain, Regional Director Leroy King and IBU President Don Liddle decended on the San Francisco IBU to tell them that they had no right to make any decisions on how to run their own strike. Herman shouted from the podium that the International officers and the top officers of the IBU would make all the decisions, and that he would order the IBU picket lines pulled down and would order longshoremen and clerks to discharge pineapples and personal effects of military personnel from those struck Crowley barges. When angry rank-and-filers loudly objected to Herman’s strikebreaking he charged threateningly forward into the crowd of angry boatmen and tankermen – loudly defended by our own Local 10 Secretary Treasurer Tommy Clark. The next day it turned out that all the tears over ‘perishable’ food was just an excuse to emasculate the IBU rank and file. There was no perishable cargo aboard the barges – just canned pineapple.

There is no place to hide – either we do what we have to do to defend our jobs, or roll over dead! Either we stop Crowley at Redwood City, or our union will be gutted by the union busters. That means we have to be.prepared to defy court orders!

Stand Our Ground!
Mass Pickets At Redwood City to Stop Scab Longshore Operations and Defeat Injunctions!

CORRECTION: In the rush of production the date on the last MILITANT LONGSHOREMAN No. 19 was incorrectly typed “February”; it should have read “March 13, 1987”.

I never claimed to be perfect, The Editor.

IG: Trotskyism with a Pre-Frontal Lobotomy

Internationalist Group:

“Trotskyism With a Pre-Frontal Lobotomy” Revisited

[First posted online on 9/23/02 at http://www.bolshevik.org/Leaflets/IG_Iraq_forum.html ]

The following is a reconstruction, from notes, of an intervention by Samuel T. [Trachtenberg] at a meeting sponsored by the Internationalist Group (IG) at Hunter College in New York on 17 September. The meeting, called to discuss the issue of the pending U.S. attack on Iraq, is the first public forum held by the Internationalist Group in New York since its break from the Spartacist League in the mid-1990s. In addition to IG comrades and unaffiliated students, five members of the SL were in attendance. There was considerable discussion of the SL’s opposition to calling for the defeat of the U.S. led coalition in Afghanistan last year (for our view on this issue see: “Where Is the ICL Going?” in 1917 No. 24). In the past the SL has frequently accused the IG of echoing criticisms originally put forward by the International Bolshevik Tendency.

“I’m speaking for the International Bolshevik Tendency. I agree with a lot of Comrade Norden’s presentation. The IG and IBT are two of very few groups in the left that militantly called for defeating U.S. imperialism in Afghanistan and we are likely to be among only a few that do so again when the U.S. attacks Iraq. We also happen to agree with the IG’s criticisms of the Spartacist League on these and other points. Much of this is explained by our common origins in the Spartacist League, our founding members being driven out in the early 80’s, the IG’s in the mid-90’s.

“Whether the younger IG comrades realize this or not though, the SL is substantially right when it asserts that the IG is doing little more than repeating criticisms we made of the SL for 15 years prior to its existence, whether the issue involved was adapting to the Democrats, its bureaucratic internal regime or betraying principles in response to fear of the bourgeoisie. (We saw this in Afghanistan recently; also with the SL’s demand that the Brazilian LFI comrades abandon the fight to keep the cops out of their union, i.e., ‘pull their hands out of the boiling water’; and also when the SL refused to support driving the U.S. Marines out of Lebanon in 1983 by any means necessary, one of our first political fights with them.)

“The 1960’s anti-war movement has been discussed. At the time the SL had a heavy orientation towards recruiting from a Stalinist group called Progressive Labor Party. PL was at the time in the process of renouncing various positions it inherited from its Stalinist heritage, (such as the popular front [multi-class alliance], adaptation to bourgeois nationalist forces in the Third World, a ‘stageist’ theory of revolution, etc.) without ever going to the root of the problem. PL refused to consider that Trotsky was making the same criticisms more coherently decades earlier. The then-revolutionary SL aptly characterized their politics ‘Trotskyism with a pre-frontal lobotomy.’

“It seems to me the IG is attempting to do something similar today in their stance of trying to find some middle ground between echoing the IBT’s correct historical criticisms and still defending many of the positions of the degenerating SL—‘Trotskyism with a pre-frontal lobotomy Part II” if you will.

“We urge IG comrades to study this history and discuss it with us, for without understanding the history of the SL’s degeneration, the IG, like PL, will be doomed to perpetual confusion and repetition of past errors.”

[PL ultimately “resolved” the contradiction between renouncing reformism while clinging to Stalin with the discovery that Stalin’s mistake was that he sought to build “Socialism in One Country.” According to PL, everything would have turned out well had he instead set as his goal…. “Communism” in one country, where “Communism means the Party leads society” (What We Fight For–PL). The IG leaders are too sophisticated for such stupidities, but if they refuse to critically re-examine their own history they must inevitably end up making further departures from Trotskyism.]

Militant Longshoreman No 11

Militant Longshoreman

No #11  November 27, 1984

SOUTH ‘AFRICAN CARGO STOPPED COLD!
LET’S KEEP IT THAT WAY!
EXTEND THE BOYCOTT!

Since Saturday morning Bay Area longshoremen have refused to unload South African cargo at Pier 80. This boycott of cargo to and from South Africa stands in militant solidarity with the struggle of South African blacks against the murderous, apartheid regime and in support of the powerful stay-away strikes waged by the black trade unions. In support of the courageous actions of Local 10 members, hundreds of people from labor, socialist and community organizations demonstrated at Pier 80 in our support and got largely favorable TV coverage for our action.

Saturday morning the gangs for the Nedlloyd Kimberley were not filled, so the ship was not worked at all. Saturday night the gangs discharged Australian cargo but when they got to the South African cargo the brothers and sisters refused to work It. They were fired for “failure to work as directed”.

Monday the PMA demanded that the union be found guilty of an “illegal work stoppage”. Instead, the arbitrator ruled against the men who refused to handle the cargo for reasons of consciousness. Nothing is left on the ship except South African cargo and every longshoreman dispatched has refused to handle it.

The employer has now two choices: either to pursue the arbitration procedure and then seek a court injunction to try to force us to work the cargo or to move the ship on to another port.

If the courts issue an injunction we should singly ignore it. An injunction is just a piece of paper. Our brothers and sisters in South Africa almost daily stand up to anrty and police bullets, beatings, arrests, mass firings, and deportations. The capitalist courts are our enemies as they’ve proven again and again when we are dragged into court as in the Gibson and Golden cases. In the case of South African cargo, with the Reagan regime closely and openly allied to the apartheid butchers, a judge can easily be found to order us to work the cargo.

But we proved during the Levin strike in Richumd that injunctions can be beaten. When the employer hired non-ILWU labor to steal our jobs, we responded to the injunction and to the presence of Richmond’s racist killer cops with mass pickets and by shutting down every ship in the Bay Area. The employer backed down and the injunction was quickly forgotten.

If Nedlloyd moves the Kimberley on to another port, Local 10 should immediately request that the other ILM locals honor and join our action by refusing to work the South African cargo. They joined us during the week long cargo boycott in 1977 in support of the Soweto uprising. And our action could also inspire solidarity from the heavily black East Coast ILA.

We should also request the groups, which demonstrated in our support at Pier 80, build similar demonstrations up and down the coast wherever the Nedlloyd Kimberley puts in.

So far, International President Herman has given us no real support. There is no middle ground. Either Brother Herman supports our courageous and principled stand or he is giving ground to Reagan, and the system of apartheid which Reagan supports. Our membership should demand Jimmy Herman’s public support.

Our act, like that of Australian maritime workers who have refused to work ships bound for South Africa, is a powerful demonstration of internationalism. It is concrete acts of solidarity like this, not ineffectual divestmeant, schemes,which can aid the South African working class in smashing apartheid and establishing a black-centered workers government.

Labor’s ability to wage solidarity strikes is a powerful political weapon. If U.S. unions had struck against the Vietnam war, the U.S. government would have been forced to withdraw much earlier. From continuing actions in support of the South African masses, to a general strike in defense of San Francisco restaurant workers as requested by Local 2, to a coastwise port shut down if Reagan invades Nicaragua; these are actions which by defending all workers will give us strength and make a reality the ILWU motto “An Injury to One Is An Injury to All