In October 1985 the Workers Revolutionary Party of Britain, then the oldest and founding section of the International Committee of the Fourth International, was staggered by an organizational crisis without precedent in the history of the Trotskyist movement. History suddenly demanded payment on a huge backlog of political betrayals that had been accumulated by the leaders of the WRP—G. Healy, M. Banda and C. Slaughter—over the previous decade. Years of unrestrained opportunism had so deeply undermined the political and moral foundations of the WRP that it no longer possessed the slightest powers of resistance against the immense class pressures exerted by British imperialism. By October 1985 the WRP had ceased to be, in any acceptable sense of the word, a Trotskyist party.
It is precisely for this reason that the crisis within the WRP erupted in the form of a dirty scandal that sparked a vicious organizational dispute and power struggle among different factions inside the leadership of the party. Neither of the two principal factions—that led by Healy on the one side and by Banda and Slaughter on the other—could present a Trotskyist program upon which to rally supporters. Nor could they explain the political differences which had given rise to the savage factional struggle. Healy rallied his supporters on the basis of nothing more than his “personal authority.” Banda and Slaughter unfurled the dubious banner of “revolutionary morality.” One week after the split, Banda wrote that no “tactical and programmatic issues” were at stake. Rather, the split within the WRP was over “the relation between the sexes in the party.”
During the month of October 1985, only the International Committee was able to reveal the real political issues involved in the crisis and advance a Marxist alternative to the unprincipled factionalism of the WRP leaders. This was not an accident. During the three years which directly' preceded the collapse of the WRP, an opposition to the British section’s opportunist line emerged within the International Committee. Basing itself on the programmatic foundations of Trotskyism and the long struggle waged by the International Committee against Pabloite revisionism, the Workers League of the United States challenged the WRP’s retreat from the principles which its leaders had once defended and developed. It analyzed the WRP leaders’ falsification of dialectical materialism and rejection of historical materialism, and opposed their repudiation of the theory of permanent revolution—the strategical foundation of the program of world socialist revolution.
Between 1982 and 1985, through gross violations of democratic centralism, the WRP had blocked an international discussion of the criticisms made by the Workers League. Several sections were not informed of the differences raised by the Workers League. Not one of its documents was circulated within the International Committee for discussion. Within the ranks of the national sections, including the WRP, there was no knowledge at all of the existence of the criticisms that had been made by David North, national secretary of the Workers League. The delegates of three sections of the ICFI were not even informed of the 1984 meeting at which North presented his comprehensive report. Healy, Banda and Slaughter went even further than Pablo in attempting to stifle discussion. Whereas Pablo had sought to confine discussion of differences to the leading committees of the Fourth International, the WRP leaders demanded a total suppression of discussion. Under threat of an immediate and total rupture of all fraternal relations between the International Committee and the Workers League, North was forced to withdraw the criticisms he had made.
But once the crisis erupted within the WRP, the opportunity arose for the first time for the sections of the ICFI to study the documents produced by the Workers League, and its Trotskyist program rapidly won the support of a decisive majority in the International Committee—the Revolutionary Communist League of Sri Lanka, the Bund Socialistischer Arbeiter of West Germany, the Socialist Labour League of Australia, and the Liga Comunista of Peru, which, for a brief time, sided with the ICFI majority.
The delegates representing the above sections and those of the Workers League (who are barred from membership in the ICFI due to the reactionary Voorhis Act), having arrived at a firm agreement on basic Trotskyist principles, decided to intervene in the crisis of the WRP. First, they examined the overwhelming factual evidence that Healy had used his political authority to force numerous female comrades inside the WRP and ICFI to have sex with him. Because of this monstrous abuse of authority—which caused the political destruction of valuable cadre, opened the movement to serious provocations and undermined its security, and violated communist ethics—the ICFI delegates drafted a resolution endorsing the expulsion of Healy carried out on October 19, 1985 by the WRP Central Committee.
At the same time, the ICFI delegates agreed that Healy’s supporters on the WRP Central Committee had to be allowed full minority rights and that conditions had to be created for a thoroughgoing discussion of the differences. Thus, on October 25, 1985, the International Committee presented a resolution calling upon both factions to accept the authority of the ICFI and its proposals for the resolution of the inner-party crisis. The resolution presented by the International Committee stated:
“Political differences should be neither suppressed nor concealed. They exist and must be openly and fully discussed in a party united under the leadership of the ICFI and the Central Committee of the WRP. In this way the cadre of the WRP and the entire international movement can be educated and the present crisis overcome in a way which will bring gains for the ICFI as a whole.”
With the support of the WRP delegates to the IC, which included Banda and Slaughter, this resolution was unanimously adopted. The ICFI then contacted a representative of the WRP minority and asked for a meeting to put forward the same proposal. This offer was rejected out of hand on the ground that only Healy, whom the minority now referred to as the “historic founder- leader,” had the authority to call a meeting of the ICFI.
This astonishing position, based on a petty bourgeois “fuhrer principle,” was also adopted by two sections of the ICFI which had refused to attend the meeting of October 25—the Workers Internationalist League (WIL) of Greece and the Liga Obrera Comunista (LOC) of Spain. The WIL secretary, Savas Michael, categorically rejected all appeals from the ICFI to attend the meeting and explain his objections to the position of the majority. Instead, in consultation with Healy, Michael met secretly with LOC Secretary Romero in Barcelona on October 21, and then wrote a “communique” which declared a split with the ICFI on the following basis:
“We do not accept the expulsion of the most world- known leader of the International, Comrade Gerry Healy, behind the backs of the International.
“We are calling Comrade Gerry Healy as the historical leader of this movement and as the leader of the Tenth World Congress as well as the most outstanding fighter for its perspectives to call an emergency meeting of the Fourth International and we will not recognize any other factional meeting called fraudulently in the name of the ICFI.”
It was the responsibility of the WIL and the LOC to attend the October 25 meeting of the ICFI and fight for their positions. They could have opposed the resolutions—including the expulsion of Healy—and even demanded minority rights and called for the convening of an extraordinary world congress. Instead, they claimed that the exclusive right to call a meeting of the ICFI rested with one man who, aside from the fact that he had been expelled by a two-thirds majority of the WRP Central Committee in accordance with its constitution, held no official position in the ICFI. Nevertheless, the WIL and LOC demanded that the ICFI treat Healy as if he were an Egyptian pharoah and accord him powers that were unknown to any figure in the history of the Marxist movement—from the time of Marx himself.
The fact that Michael advanced this outrageous position proved that he was totally ignorant of the basic organizational principles of the Fourth International. His position was that of an arrogant Greek petty bourgeois nationalist, and his behavior reproduced the very worst features of the Greek Trotskyist movement that Trotsky had condemned 50 years ago. Denouncing the hostility of Witte (Poliopoulis) to the authority of the International organization, Trotsky wrote: “In France, in fact, Comrade Witte defended the right of every member not to submit to the discipline of his organization, the right of a member of the IS (International Secretariat) to carry on a policy behind the back of the Secretariat directed against the Secretariat itself, the right of the minority of the organization not to submit to the decision of the overwhelming majority of the conference—in a word, the worst principles of individualism and anarchism.” (The Writings of Leon Trotsky 1933-34, Pathfinder, p. 281)
We should add, for the sake of the memory of Witte, that S. Michael resembles the old fighter only in so far as he repeats his worst mistakes.
The fact that an unprincipled minority, loyal only to a personality cult, existed inside the International Committee was bound up with the degeneration of the WRP leadership. The abandonment of the international struggle against revisionism from the early 1970s on permitted the infiltration and growth of petty bourgeois elements into the ranks of the ICFI. By 1985 the International Committee was no longer a politically homogeneous organization.
On November 9, 1985, the International Committee appealed to the WIL to end its unprincipled boycott and place its political differences before the world organization:
“By refusing to attend the October 25 meeting of the highest body of our movement between World Congresses, the IC, the WIL delegates have arbitrarily denied members of the Greek section their right to be informed of the position of the other IC sections on the crisis in the WRP. Such a rejection of the internationalist principles on which our movement is based is essentially nationalism, expressing the pressure of the class enemy. At the same time, the action of the WIL delegates has denied the right of the ICFI and its sections to hear and discuss the views of our Greek comrades. If the WIL delegates considered that the other sections were being led into a trap or maneuver then their duty was to make these views known....
“The anti-internationalism which led to the refusal to attend the October 25 IC meeting must be rejected. If not, the WIL faces destruction as a Trotskyist party. The WIL is on the brink of announcing the ‘transformation of the League into the revolutionary party.’ Comrade Savas and the CC know that there are gigantic destructive dangers in founding a party on the unprincipled foundation of a break with internationalism. The very best interpretation that can be placed on Comrade Savas and the Greek CC’s break from the IC is that they fear disruption of their work for the transformation into a party. Such a position, politically, means that internationalism, the foundation of our movement in every country, is rejected in favor of immediate national concerns as perceived by the WIL leadership.
“A party formed on this basis could never be a section of the world party of socialist revolution, the Fourth International. It would attract all those petty bourgeois elements who reject our internationalist foundations. We urge you with all the force at our command to turn back from the path upon which you have embarked, to return immediately to the IC, and to conduct the work of founding the revolutionary party in Greece on this, the only principled basis.”
The WIL ignored this appeal and went ahead several weeks later to form its nationalist Greek “Workers Revolutionary” party.
Shortly thereafter, Banda and Slaughter decided to overthrow the October 25 resolution and break with the ICFI. It had become clear to them that the ICFI was not going to allow the WRP to resume the nationalist- opportunist policies which had prevailed prior to October. In December the interim report that had been prepared by an International Control Commission, set up with the agreement of the WRP on October 25, established that the WRP had entered, behind the back of the International Committee, into mercenary relations with reactionary and nonproletarian forces and was responsible for direct betrayals of the working class. Because these actions were based on an anti-Trotskyist line for which not only Healy but the entire leadership of the WRP had been responsible, the International Committee voted, on December 16, 1985, to suspend the British section.
In doing so, it made clear in a special resolution dated December 17, 1985 that the WRP’s membership would be restored if its leadership worked to “reassert the basic principles of internationalism within the WRP.” This resolution, which cited the first four congresses of the Third International (1919-1922), the Platform of the Left Opposition (1927), the Transitional Program (1938), the “Open Letter” (1953), and the anti-reunification documents (1961-63), was rejected by three out of the four WRP delegates on the ICFI. Only the leader of a minority tendency within the WRP that had been formed to defend internationalism in the British section and preserve its membership in the International Committee voted to support the resolution. The practical meaning of the WRP delegation’s rejection of the resolution was that its majority had decided to break politically with Trotskyism.
This resolution had been supported by the Peruvian delegate from the Liga Comunista, L. Mendoza. However, upon returning to Peru she changed her mind and came out against the suspension. Thus began a campaign of vitriolic attacks upon Trotskyism which eventually led to a complete break in political relations with the ICFI.
As for the WRP, it officially repudiated the October 25 resolution on January 26, 1986 and declared that it no longer accepted the political authority of the ICFI. Two weeks later, it consummated its split with the ICFI by publishing a public attack and calling upon police to bar the WRP minority supporters of the international movement from attending the scheduled Eighth Congress.
One year after the crucial October events which produced the greatest upheaval in the Trotskyist movement since the split with Pablo in October-November 1953, it is necessary to trace the political evolution of those tendencies which broke with the ICFI. Only in this way is it possible to understand the real class and political forces which underlay the series of splits. Such a study proves beyond a shadow of doubt the right-wing political trajectory of all those forces which broke with the International Committee. The main orientation of all the anti-ICFI tendencies is toward an out and out capitulation to Stalinism and Social Democracy, the repudiation of the political independence of the working class, and ever more pronounced orientation toward participation in popular front alliances with sections of the bourgeoisie.
S. Michael’s ‘New Era’
In January 1986, Savas Michael justified his break from the International Committee by proclaiming “A New Era for the Fourth International” which would be free from “abstract propagandism” and “the practices of the period of defeats and isolation of Trotskyism.” Now let us study more concretely the practices of the “New Era” proclaimed by the renegades.
In May 1986 representatives of Healy’s rump edition of the WRP, the Greek WRP and the Spanish LOC met in London to hold a meeting of what they call the “International Committee of the Fourth International.” The fact that they have refused to relinquish the name of an organization whose political authority and discipline they have rejected is part of their attempt to perpetrate a political fraud on the international workers’ movement. A legitimate tendency which loses its majority seeks to regain the leadership by advancing its program and seeking to convince the membership of its correctness. If it concludes that such a course of action is futile because the organization has become so rotten that there no longer exists the possibility of reforming it, as Lenin decided in relation to the Second International in 1914 and as Trotsky decided in relation to the Third International in 1933, then they openly call for the building of a new international organization. They explain the reason for the collapse of the old organization and do everything in their power to publicly disassociate themselves from it. As Lenin said, they put on a clean shirt.
Healy’s procedure is entirely different. He has no program to present to the international working class. At the same time, he has repudiated all the principles upon which the founding of the International Committee in 1953 was based. He knows, however, that the traditions with which the ICFI is identified still command authority among advanced workers throughout the world. Therefore, like a cheap imposter, he tries to pass himself off as the International Committee, hoping to fool people who have not heard about the split. Healy is well-versed in this type of charlatanry. In order to give himself a reputation as a profound dialectician, Healy regularly resorted—as the International Committee has already documented—to the worst form of intellectual fraud, plagiarism. He habitually attempted to palm off as his own original ideas large passages lifted without citation from obscure English-language editions of little-known Soviet texts on philosophy. Those familiar with the writings of Marx and Engels will know that for them there existed no creature more loathesome than the plagiarist. A man who is capable of plagiarism has no problem stealing the name of an organization. But truth and reliable information are the occupational hazards of all imposters, and no matter how frequently they change their addresses, their real identities eventually become known. Thus, the International Committee believes that Healy’s con-game will eventually run its course and he himself will recognize the need for a new angle.
The meeting of Healy’s “International Committee”—which was held in the kitchen of Vanessa Redgrave’s London mansion—resulted in a series of crucial decisions being taken for its two foreign affiliates. We now propose to study the political line implemented by the Greek WRP and the Spanish LOC after the May meeting.
In October and November of 1985, the International Committee warned that the Greek section’s break from the ICFI was an attempt to free itself from international control in the interest of pursuing a line of national opportunism in Greece. This warning has now been confirmed. With Healy’s blessing S. Michael has embarked on a political course that is leading inexorably toward direct participation in a popular front.
A study of the events underlying this development makes clear that Michael’s decision to break from the ICFI was not determined by loyalty to Healy—there is, after all, no honor among thieves—but by national considerations. He viewed the crisis inside the WRP as a means of breaking free of any international control over the activities of his organization in Greece. His calculations were, without any doubt, directly influenced by what he saw as opportunities arising on the Greek scene. It is for this reason that he responded with great hostility to the IC’s suggestion—which would have been adopted as a matter of course by any genuine Marxist organization—that he postpone the transformation of the WIL into a party until the political issues involved in the crisis in the British section were clarified.
Michael, however, was entirely preoccupied by pragmatic considerations arising from immediate events in Greece. The October crisis inside the British WRP coincided with the introduction of austerity measures by the bourgeois PASOK government of Andreas Papandreou. This produced a crisis inside the PASOK- controlled trade unions. A section of dissident PASOK labor bureaucrats combined with the Stalinists to win the majority in the General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE). Papandreou responded by organizing the expulsion of dissident PASOK union leaders. When the latter fought back, the courts intervened against the dissident PASOK officials to keep Papandreou’s crony, George Raftopoulos, in control of the GSEE even though he had been outvoted.
Those who had been expelled by PASOK and denied control of the GSEE then officially broke with PASOK to form an “independent” trade union political organization, the SSEK. The formation of SSEK did not signify a principled break from its capitalist parent organization. In semi-backward countries such as Greece where a section of the trade union movement is controlled by capitalist parties, it is not unusual for all sorts of organizational splits to take place as union bureaucrats seek to distance themselves from the unpopular policies of their friends in the government. In the case of the SSEK, it is dominated by longtime and unrepentant Papandreou henchmen whose control over their trade unions was suddenly threatened by the reaction of the working class to the austerity policies. Seeking to maintain their authority within the labor movement, they were forced to protest against Papandreou’s policies. This set into motion a conflict which led to the split and the formation of SSEK.
Given the SSEK leaders’ long affiliation with PASOK, it would be impermissible for Trotskyists to extend to the SSEK leaders the slightest political confidence. No credibility whatsoever would be given to their claim that they had broken with PASOK in anything but a petty organizational sense. Trotskyists would continue to characterize such leaders as agents of bourgeois politics and warn workers against any illusions in the ability of these bureaucrats to fight PASOK. Insofar as the SSEK represents a section of unionized workers breaking from the political domination of PASOK, it would be necessary to deepen that split in order to win the workers to a genuine revolutionary program. But that could be done only by giving no quarter to the semi-PASOK populist outlook of the SSEK leaders. S. Michael and the Greek WRP took a very different path: one of uncritical adulation of and unprincipled unity with the SSEK.
Following the May meeting in London, Michael returned to Athens to seek the formation of a bloc with the SSEK and the Stalinists in the autumn municipal elections. In June the WRP entered into negotiations to form a united “broad left” anti-PASOK slate with the SSEK and the Stalinists on the basis of a minimum program.
The July 5 issue of Socialist Change, the newspaper of the WRP, reported that there had been a second discussion of parties and movements in Piraeus “which have the objective of forming a United Front coalition policy for the municipal elections....” Participating in this meeting were a section of the SSEK, the WRP, the Peasant Party of Greece (AKE), the Municipal Movement “Piraeus Resistance” (CP), the “Initiating Committee” of former members and cadres of PASOK in the Piraeus province, and two other groups. This meeting issued a joint declaration which the WRP signed—an utterly demagogic statement whose only purpose was to defraud the working class. It proclaimed, “The municipal elections of ‘86 can become a starting point of a new epoch for this city, for this municipality.”
The term “united front” is utterly bogus. In the first place, the united front is a fighting agreement between the mass revolutionary party and other mass working class organizations for the realization of specific and carefully defined tasks, such as the formation and coordination of defense squads against fascist forces. It implies no political compromise with opponent tendencies nor the mixing up of banners. For this very reason, the application of the term united front to an electoral agreement is a contradiction in terms. A revolutionary party conducts its election campaigns on the basis of its full program and in irreconcilable opposition to that of all other parties. In the second place, the united front is based on the ruthless exclusion of all bourgeois parties. On both counts, Michael’s “electoral bloc” is a miserable caricature of the united front tactic: it is based on a burial of political differences and it includes bourgeois parties, most notably, the Peasant Party of Greece.
What the WRP advanced was, in fact, a popular front, that is, a political coalition between working class and bourgeois parties on the basis, inevitably, of a capitalist program. Aside from the fact that this coalition included bourgeois organizations, an electoral bloc with the Stalinists is an embryonic form of popular frontism, because the program of the Stalinists is based on class collaborationism. To share a common programmatic platform with the Stalinists is to endorse the perspective of “peaceful coexistence” between the classes. Moreover, the shameful adaptation of the Greek WRP to the Stalinists is shown in the text of the joint statement signed by the WRP, which proclaimed that “we who have signed this text have the confidence that a broad collaboration of the progressive and left forces of Piraeus can become the key which will give to our municipality a capable and fighting municipal authority, which together with the people of Piraeus will struggle for a new political agreement for the people’s interest.”
Every word amounts to a betrayal of Marxism and treason against the working class. This is parliamentary cretinism in its most sinister form. Out of the capitalist state S. Michael pledges to forge a “fighting municipal authority”—fighting, we should ask, against whom? The statement goes on:
“Far from small-party expediencies and supporting discussion for its own sake, we are disposed to find the points which unite us and indicate another policy for the people of Piraeus.” Here we see the real meaning of S. Michael’s proclamation of a “New Era for the Fourth International” and his denunciation of “the practices of the period of defeats and isolation of Trotskyism.” Revolutionary principles such as the defense of the political independence of the working class and opposition to class collaborationism is now scorned as “small- party expediencies and supporting discussion for its own sake”!
Urging “wide collaboration” among disparate organizations, the statement concludes with an “appeal to all the progressive and left forces of Piraeus to make a fight for a united front coalition in the Piraeus municipality.”
In the same issue, the WRP published its own specific proposals for the formation of this “united coalition” against “government candidates and the candidates of the Right party of the ruling class” which simply called for struggle against “unemployment, inflation and the cuts in social expenditures, police violence, the bases and port facilities for the imperialist armies and fleets of the USA and NATO, and the danger of imperialist war.” The struggle for this minimum program, the WRP wrote, “can be developed only by developing at the same time the forms of organization and mobilization of the workers for socialism.” This passing reference to socialism is a fraud, for the WRP made clear that this proposal for the formation of a united coalition on this miserable minimum program is its long-term strategy: “Entirely on this basis, we regard it as possible and necessary to continue the common action for common objectives even after the municipal elections.”
The next issue of Socialist Change dated July 9, carried an extremely flattering and politically dishonest account of the first congress of the SSEK entitled, “Cutting Bridges to PASOK.” It was written by Theodoris Koutsoubos, who was known to stand on the extreme right wing of the WIL—which was quite a formidable achievement in the former Greek section. His article began:
“Nine months from their split from PASOK and five months from the founding of the SSEK as an independent political trade union movement, the trade unionists who fought against the austerity measures of last October confirmed ... that there is no road back to the government party.”
This was a wildly exaggerated and unsupportable claim, for it is in the nature of the SSEK leadership to see its present “independent” course as a temporary maneuver aimed at placing pressure on Papandreou and winning back its old positions inside PASOK. Moreover, the political resolution passed by the SSEK at its first congress could leave no doubt that this organization has not broken politically with the petty bourgeois populism of PASOK and that it does not directly challenge the PASOK regime. Its central plank is based on the magical powers of local self-government “as a democratic institution and cell of popular participation and power.” The SSEK resolution declared that:
“The institution of Local Self-Government can really function and be developed to the degree that the popular workers’ movement fights, especially now, for the exposure of the demagogic policy of the Right and the rejection of the government policy of austerity and authoritarianism, the completion of which creates the danger of destruction of hard-won democratic rights.”
The SSEK then called for an alignment of “political parties and movements which have a relation to the working class”—insisting that a broad electoral front must be established to avoid “a barren adding up of parties which can finish with scattering their campaign for votes.” It declared that “the broad joining together of all the left progressive forces around a program with a clearly defined positive progressive orientation is indispensable.”
As any Marxist would recognize, this “positive progressive orientation” has nothing whatsoever to do with socialism. After some populist-style phrase-mongering (“The conquest of economic self-empowering of Local Self-Government without additional burdens on the people ... the definition and official adoption of a real progressive code for Local Self-Government”), the central concern of the SSEK was revealed with its call “for the revision of the practical income policy” and “the restoration of legal norms in the GSEE....” In other words, the PASOK bureaucrats were demanding the return of their jobs and former authority in PASOK.
In that same issue, Socialist Change carried another comment by Koutsoubos in which he lavished praise upon the SSEK resolution, which, he claimed, “places the struggle in the municipal elections entirely on the ground of the capitalist-worker class struggle.” He proclaimed, “The movement of the SSEK is to the left, from the bourgeois populism of PASOK to the revolutionary working class and Marxism.” This was nothing but a bare-faced lie. He could not avoid admitting that the SSEK’s conception of Local Self-Government “is a reformist self-delusion,” but for this Koutsoubos had a ready-made Healy-style excuse: “Naturally they bring with them all the confusion of the populism of PASOK which is intensified as they come up against especially the Stalinists.”
One week later, in its issue of July 19, Socialist Change reported on yet a further meeting held on “the formation of a common political platform on the basis of which will be proposed a mayoral candidate deemed commonly acceptable for a united coalition for the municipal elections in Piraeus.” Commenting on the progress of the electoral horse-trading, Socialist Change reported that:
“The WRP maintains that on the basis of a minimum political agreement (which it appears to be possible to maintain) the mayoral candidate must be a person who has expressed and supported this political agreement in his activity up until now personally in Piraeus.
“This in the view of the WRP constitutes a guarantee that there would be an agreement of the left forces to seriously define the mayoral candidate, as only thus could it present a political alternative against the government candidate and a strong joining together against the threat of the Right.”
In other words, after the WRP had accepted the formation of an electoral bloc with Stalinist, bourgeois and petty bourgeois organizations on a “minimum” petty bourgeois program, the only problem which remained was the identity of the candidate. Such is the degradation of Marxism inside the Greek WRP that it proclaimed the substitution of personality traits for political program as the basis for an election agreement.
On this “personality” question, there arose a conflict with the Stalinists, who were proposing that the “left bloc” slate be headed by a wealthy bourgeois and well-known boss. This was opposed by the WRP on the following grounds:
“If the political personality of the mayor nullified, objectively, the minimum political agreement, this would transform it from an official declaration into a piece of paper, and block the unleashing of the left forces from the influence of collaboration with the government, as well as the wider layers of workers, who are only held in check in support of the vote for Papaspuros, by the threat of the return of the Right.”
Here, the rottenness of the whole enterprise is exposed. The WRP’s sole concern, at this point, was to have a candidate who would enable Michael to sell the “minimum political agreement” to the membership of his organization and the working class. For this reason, the WRP proposed:
“1. The candidacy of Ath. Katsaphados, who by his resignation from PASOK showed the resistance of layers within PASOK and more generally the resistance of the working class and laborers against the measures of October.
“It gives moreover the possibility to win broader forces of workers to accept the political orientation of the minimum political platform of agreement.
“2. As an alternative proposal to Ath. Katsaphados, we propose to seek a candidate from the trade union cadre such as those originating from PASOK or from a cadre of the CP who has been distinguished in the struggles of the working class against the policy of the government, especially the last eight months.”
Such stringent criteria! Michael demanded only an honest candidate who has not carried out a major betrayal of the working class for at least eight months! This statement proves that the WRP no longer considers, if its leaders ever did, the Communist Party to be a counterrevolutionary organization. The political emphasis placed by Michael on the attitude of Stalinists and SSEK leaders to PASOK during the period since October means that the WRP’s appraisal of the political tendencies is based on considerations of a conjunctural, rather than a principled, character. The attitude of Trotskyists to Stalinism is determined not by the episodic fluctuations in its political line, which reflect the pressure of circumstances, but by a historical appraisal of its role in the international workers’ movement.
In its issue of July 26, Socialist Change declared that “the question of the United Front of the Left acquires the greatest timeliness and the warmest response among the masses. The municipal elections give the opportunity to show the movement toward the United Front, with extensive agitation and discussion on what should be the common collaboration and campaign of all the left parties, organizations and movements against the candidates of the government and the Right.”
Here we see the political logic of popular frontism in its essential form: the subordination of the working class and its vanguard to the unity of everybody, on the basis of a minimum and procapitalist program, against the big bad “Right.”
During the month of August, S. Michael’s experiment in municipal realpolitik began to run into problems. The Stalinists and ex-PASOK bureaucrats had by then taken the measure of this small-time hustler and moved to cut him out of the deal. Just as Michael was taking his bows as the architect of the Piraeus “United Left Bloc,” he received a sharp kick in the backside.
After protracted negotiations, the WRP, SSEK and the Stalinists accepted the candidacy of Marios Nikolinakos. However, the CP continued to press for the inclusion of a major right-wing bourgeois party, KODISO, in the electoral front. Without consulting S. Michael, the SSEK and Stalinists issued a public statement announcing a new electoral platform which would enable KODISO and other right-wing parties to join the bloc. When the WRP called on the SSEK and CP to reconsider this action, they simply ignored its appeal. In the issue of Socialist Change dated August 30, the WRP complained that it “was not invited to the meeting of the coordinating committee” and protested the “coup-like exclusion of the WRP.”
Thus, for the second time in a year, Savas Michael was claiming to have been the target of a “coup.” In the first instance, by the International Committee; in the second, by the SSEK and Stalinists. There was a significant difference, however, in his attitude to the two groups of “plotters.” S. Michael refused all appeals by his comrades in the ICFI to attend its meetings, declaring that he would not permit himself to fall into a trap. However, when the bourgeoisie and the Stalinists organized a trap for him, S. Michael showed no reluctance to walk straight into it. And in the end, he disgraced his organization by pathetically banging on the doors of the meeting place where the Stalinists and SSEK bureaucrats were gathered, begging to be allowed inside.
In its issue of September 6, the WRP made an utterly degrading admission of its political bankruptcy, publicly announcing, “The united front collaboration of the left forces in Piraeus, which inspired many hopes among working people, has been led into a fiasco.” Beating its breast, the WRP complained that it “undertook every possible effort to reach a united front collaboration.... However, on the main responsibility of the CP, but also of the leaders of the SSEK (former trade union leaders of PASOK), the left coalition collapsed.”
Of course, there was no explanation of why the WRP’s evaluation of the SSEK—which was supposedly moving to Marxism—had been so wrong. Instead, the WRP tried to hide its own responsibility for misleading the working class by belatedly denouncing M. Nikolinakos—whom it had been supporting just one week earlier—for having “theoretically justified the barbaric government against the public sector were ‘abusing’ the right to strike.”
With brazen cynicism, the WRP two-month experience in the second largest municipality of the country throws a ‘spotlight’ over the policy which is played at the expense of the workers, in the municipal election, on the part of the government, the New Democracy, the CP and the political forces around them.”
But among those forces was to be found S. Michael and the WRP. It was in order to carry out this type of sordid petty bourgeois maneuvering that Michael split from the ICFI. In October 1985, S. Michael claimed that he was opposing the ICFI majority in order to defend the decisions of the Tenth World Congress. But in that congress, for all its ultraleft stupidities, there was no decision that would provide justification for the popular front policies of the Greek WRP. Moreover, at the Tenth Congress in January 1985, Michael had been specifically denounced, with complete justification, for his conciliatory attitude toward the Greek Stalinists. But within a year of the split, Michael—the great defender of the Tenth Congress—was crawling on his belly in front of the Stalinists.
The evolution of the Greek WRP is a crushing political indictment of Healy, who organized a split from the ICFI in alliance with the most right-wing elements within it. Everyone can now see the real lineup of class forces represented in the opposing sides of the split. The explosiveness of the events of the past year expressed the depth of the class divisions inside the ICFI. This political fact finds further confirmation as we examine the evolution of the Spanish LOC.
From Infantile Ultraleftism to Senile Opportunism
The Spanish Liga Obrera Comunista joined the Greek section in splitting with the International Committee in October 1985. It based its action on a cultist faith in the personal infallibility and unchallengeable authority of the so-called founder-leader G. Healy. In light of the fact that the LOC’s secretary was among those who were personally connected with Healy, the refusal of M.D. Romero to attend the ICFI meeting was an example of utter political irresponsibility: the subordination of the interests of the working class to private concerns.
For three years prior to the split, Romero had applied to the Spanish situation the adventurist line devised by the WRP, which insisted that in all countries ruled by Social Democratic governments the sections of the ICFI must call for their immediate overthrow. The fact that the ICFI did not have in any country—least of all Spain—a party that exercised decisive influence over any substantial section of the working class was not even taken into account in the formulation of the line. Moreover, even though the likely result of such a policy in most countries would be the replacement of the Social Democrats with a government based directly on right- wing capitalist parties, the ICFI sections were instructed to carry out this insane ultraleft and adventurist policy. In the case of Spain, the line of the LOC simply played into the hands of the bourgeois-Francoite parties.
More than 50 years ago, Trotsky had warned against stupid ultra- leftism in his celebrated article, “Ten Commandments of the Spanish Communist.” His “fourth commandment” read: “The communist workers today constitute a small minority in the country. They cannot aspire to power immediately. At the present moment, they cannot set themselves as a practical task the violent overthrow of the republican-Socialist government. Any attempt of this sort would be a catastrophic adventure. The masses of workers, soldiers, and peasants must pass through the stage of Socialist-republican illusions in order to rid themselves of these illusions all the more radically and conclusively, so that they are not trapped by phrases, can look the facts straight in the face, and stubbornly prepare the second revolution, the proletarian revolution.” (The Spanish Revolution (1931-39), Pathfinder, pp. 103-04)
If Romero had bothered to read this article, she would have understood the entirely false foundation of the LOC’s political line. Unfortunately, Romero, having been assured by Healy that “the practice of cognition” is a theoretical master key that renders reading and studying unnecessary, is as ignorant of this article as she is of every other basic text of Marxism. In fact, at the celebrated Tenth Congress of the ICFI, Romero made a virtuoso display of her grasp of the Spanish situation when she declared, in reply to a question, that there existed no fundamental antagonism between the policies of the LOC and that of the Catalan bourgeois nationalist parties.
In the aftermath of the split, the LOC continued to call for the bringing down of the Spanish Socialist Party government of Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez. The group’s entire strategy and tactics was reduced to the line of “organize a general strike to bring down the PSOE government and replace it with a workers’ and peasants’ government.”
Even if some astonishing turn of events suddenly swept the Liga Comunista to power, this “miracle” would prove a very mixed blessing, inasmuch as the task of directing the Spanish revolution would fall upon the shoulders of no more than a dozen people—and that is a generous calculation! Not even old Blanqui was so audacious. It is therefore not surprising that the Liga Obrera Comunista has never explained who is to form this “workers’ and peasants’ government” after the working class has brought down Gonzalez with a general strike.
The real content of this political line has been and remains a combination of ignorance, charlatanry and gross opportunism. It exhibits not the slightest concern for elaborating a genuine Marxist strategy and program for winning the vanguard of the working class.
The slogan of the general strike and the workers’ and peasants’ government—divorced from any strategy or tactics to mobilize the working class and its unions against the government of Gonzalez—amounted to tacit support for this government, as soon became clear.
This hollow ultra-leftist slogan was maintained throughout the period leading up to the nationwide referendum on Spain’s entry into the NATO imperialist alliance, during which the PSOE was badly split over Gonzalez’s support for NATO (January to March 1986). The working-class base of the party voted against the government and both the Socialist-led UGT union federation and the party’s youth organization refused to support the government’s campaign for a yes vote.
The LOC’s infantile sectarianism failed to give any alternative to the Socialist and Communist party workers, provided a cover for the left-talking elements in Spanish Social Democracy and Stalinism who verbally opposed Gonzalez and turned the LOC into nothing more than the tail of the petty bourgeois pacifist protest movement.
Trotsky’s maxim that a sectarian is nothing more than an opportunist frightened of his own opportunism has nowhere been more clearly borne out than in the subsequent development of the LOC.
At the end of April, the Gonzalez government called national elections. The LOC participated with a slate of candidates in Barcelona. While 30 people were listed on its slate, no more than 5 or 6 ever appeared at the group’s public meetings, making it clear that the majority of its candidates were not members or even active supporters of the LOC, but were simply signed up on the most minimal and opportunist basis.
With the first statement of its central committee, the Spanish Healyites made it clear that the election campaign was a vehicle for continuing their bankrupt ultraleft line of bringing down the Gonzalez government:
“For the PSOE, the calling of elections is one more step down this road: to obtain a new blank check to prolong its stay in power and carry out the requirements of the bourgeoisie and imperialism.
“To obtain the reelection of the PSOE, the PSOE will not be fighting alone, rather the AP [the main party of the right] has already announced that it will not develop a campaign of excessive attacks on the PSOE. The bourgeoisie and imperialism needs the PSOE in power again and for this it will massively use all the resources of the state apparatus, from repression, the media, the judicial and bureaucratic apparatus, etc....”
Outside of calling for a vote for the LOC candidates in Barcelona, neither the central committee statement nor an election manifesto published in the same issue put forward any policy for the Spanish working class in the coming election.
But barely three weeks after this statement warning that the PSOE was being supported by the imperialists, the capitalists and the right-wing parties in order to bring in an even more “bonapartist” regime, the May 27 issue of the LOC’s paper, Prensa Obrera, carried a call for a vote for the PSOE!
A signed article by the group’s national secretary, M.D. Romero, declared the necessity for a “class vote ... for the parties of the working class, rejecting nonetheless their programs of collaboration and submission to the ruling class and demanding that they adopt an independent and proletarian program which corresponds to the needs of the working class.”
The article concluded with an explicit call for a vote for the PSOE and for those Stalinist parties which had not enlisted in the United Left popular front coalition and declared: “Only a class vote by the working class will keep the right out of power.”
This shift in line was followed by still another statement in the June 3 issue of Prensa Obrera, this time under the title of Healy’s bogus “ICFI,” on “The tactics of the LOC in the coming elections in Spain.”
The statement declared: “We vote together with all those workers who, in the struggle against the bourgeoisie, the right and fascism, voted in the past and will vote in June for the Socialists.”
Healy’s statement referred to this policy as an “electoral united front” and explicitly rejected the previously stated policy of the LOC for a vote for those Stalinists who were running independently of the popular front coalition.
The meaning of these statements was unmistakable. Behind the ultraleft rhetoric, the Healyites had developed a clearly formed adaptation to Social Democracy. While the Leninist united front tactic was aimed at winning the masses from Social Democracy, the anti-Marxist “electoral united front” proposed by Healy had nothing to offer except reinforcing the grip of reformism in the Spanish proletariat.
Healy intervened to block the LOC’s call for a vote for the Communist Party, which despite its many splits has dominated the leadership of the industrial proletariat, precisely in order to achieve “unity against the right” in the elections; i.e., not to split the vote for the PSOE. This rejection of a vote for the Stalinists did not flow from a rejection of popular frontism; but rather from a desire to apply it through the exclusive medium of the Socialist Party. This became unmistakably clear after the elections were held on June 22. The PSOE retained its majority, albeit with a loss of 1.2 million votes from its 1982 figures.
In its first statement on the election results, which appeared in the June 26 issue of Prensa Obrera, the LOC called for “No confidence in the new government.” Denouncing the right-wing measures of the Gonzalez regime, editor Ferran Puig declared that “our call is not to subordinate yourself to the results of the bourgeois elections. These elections have been organized by the PSOE government with the sole objective of obtaining a new mandate to be able to apply this policy.”
The statement went on: “It is not a question of ‘pressuring’ the new government, which is just as irreformable as the last, it is a question of its overthrow by the working class....”
This apparent return to the old line was then followed by a series of grossly opportunist statements which completely unmask the right-wing essence of Romero’s ultraleft verbiage.
In a central committee statement on the election results, published on July 11, the LOC hailed the victory for the PSOE, declaring, “The class action of the working class in these elections and the class consciousness which has guided this action is a lesson in the proletarian policy of independence of the proletariat in respect to the ruling class....”
This formula is theoretically absurd from beginning to end. To claim that a vote for the Spanish Social Democracy represents “class consciousness” guiding a “policy of independence of the proletariat” is to falsify the character of Social Democracy in an utterly opportunist manner. Marxists define the PSOE as a bourgeois workers’ party. Moreover, Spanish Social Democracy has traditionally cultivated a large base in the urban petty bourgeoisie. It has for more than a half century served as an essential prop of bourgeois rule and played a decisive role in the victory of Franco. The “independence of the proletariat” cannot be expressed through the PSOE, but only in struggle against it. By painting the election results in bright colors and glorifying the PSOE vote, the LOC complements, rather than contradicts, its previous ultraleft line. In both instances, it dismisses the central problem in the political development of the Spanish proletariat—the continued domination of reformist ideas, politics and methods in the post-Franco period. The Spanish working class has not broken with its parliamentary illusions in Social Democracy, notwithstanding the wildly idealist claims of the LOC to the contrary.
While the LOC received barely 1,000 votes for its candidates in Barcelona, it nonetheless claimed that the mass vote for the PSOE was carried out by a working class acting directly on its policies. What a farcical case of self-delusion! For three years the LOC conducted its political work on the basis of a political line diametrically opposed to that which it pursued in the final three weeks before the elections. And yet, when the overwhelming majority of the working class voted for the PSOE, thus proving that it has not yet broken from the Social Democrats, the LOC claimed credit for the decision of the Spanish proletariat. Its smug self-satisfaction is doubly uncalled for, inasmuch as the Spanish proletariat instinctively recognized what the LOC leaders were blind to for the last three years: that opposition to the PSOE must not become the vehicle for the return of the right wing to power.
A Marxist party, while applauding the instinctive class solidarity of the Spanish proletariat, would nevertheless feel duty bound to warn against the very real dangers revealed in the election results. This means not only noting the continued domination of the PSOE, but also the signs of frustration among sections of workers who, while opposing the treachery of Gonzalez, see no alternative to the socialists and slip into apathy. Romero would, if she were a Trotskyist, have pondered the political significance of the fact that the number of votes lost by the PSOE is approximately 1,000 times larger than the vote for the LOC. Instead, she offered the most treacherous sophistries to justify capitulation to the PSOE. In an article which appeared in the July 7 issue, Romero declared: “The vote for the PSOE is not a vote of confidence nor utopian illusions, it is a tactical vote, while it impedes the advance of the right, to give time to resolve the problems in the heart of the workers’ movement with respect to revolutionary organization of the class to confront the class war which we are inevitably and irreversibly approaching.”
She added, “The reelection of the PSOE with an overwhelming majority and the loss of votes by the Popular Coalition (the bourgeois rightist parties) demonstrates that the vote continues to be cast on the priority in Spain of finishing with the vestiges of fascism....”
Romero also denounced violently those workers who abstained in the elections out of opposition to the policies of the PSOE:
“These sectors do not represent ... the vanguard of the working class nor its most conscious layers, but on the contrary, sections which ... renounced the struggle and give it up for lost beforehand.
“... the content of renunciation before the ruling class of this position appears very clear when we consider the danger of a return of the right to power if the abstention were to spread. It means nothing else but to hold back and abandon the struggle against the right.
“The idea behind the abstention is the most intense and dangerous individualism which considers that as the PSOE has not given favorable results and not seeing another alternative renounces its vote....”
What disgusting petty bourgeois arrogance! In the tone of a PSOE bureaucrat, she scolded workers for failing to fall into line behind Gonzalez—despite the fact that the LOC spent the last three years telling workers to bring down the “bonapartist dictatorship” of Felipe Gonzalez. She blames the workers, not the PSOE, for the abstentions, and it does not even occur to her that among the abstaining workers are many who have not the slightest confidence in the capacity of the PSOE to resist the restoration of fascism.
Moreover, if Romero considers the vote for the PSOE as the only “class vote”—one which vindicates the line of the LOC—then this means that Romero does not truly consider her organization to be the genuine representative of the Spanish proletariat. Rather, she must view the LOC as nothing more than an appendage of the existing mass organizations, which exists to provide them with occasional advice. She even chastised those revisionist organizations “who stood candidates in the elections [and] consider that only the votes they gained express the class consciousness of the working class.” Apparently, the revisionists have a higher opinion of their organizations than Romero has of hers—and perhaps with good cause. At any rate, a “revolutionary party” that does not believe that it represents the most conscious section of the proletariat renounces its right to exist.
Finally, Romero concluded: “Once again our method is not to begin with ourselves and our own results in order to convert them into an absolute, but rather to begin with the class struggle, its development, and the action of the class, and not with the weaknesses in consciousness of those who make it up. Only in this way can a real and revolutionary orientation emerge for our practice and that of the class. To continue the struggle against the bourgeois right until the end and organize the working class for this. That is the only revolutionary perspective which emerges from these elections.”
This is a justification for outright betrayal of the working class. The first part of the statement, once stripped of its semimystical wrappings, means simply that the LOC is rejecting the fight for a Marxist program in opposition to the existing reformist consciousness of the working class, and that it has no intention of overcoming the contradiction between the maturity of the objective situation and the immaturity of the consciousness of the proletariat. Romero states explicitly that the perspective of the LOC emerges from the “action of the class”—which is presently dominated by the PSOE—and not from the objective situation, scientifically analyzed by Marxists and translated into a revolutionary program.
The direct political product of this “theory” is a shameless capitulation to the PSOE and popular frontism. When Romero proclaims that the “only revolutionary perspective which emerges from these elections” is “to continue the struggle against the bourgeois right until the end,” she is simply parroting the line of the PSOE. Not only Romero but Gonzalez and even Juan Carlos (for the moment) are for a struggle against the “bourgeois right.” However, the decisive question for the future of the proletariat is the struggle against the “bourgeois left,” which is presently represented above all by the PSOE. As for her call for a struggle against the right “until the end” (“hasta el final”), this is the type of cowardly demagogy of which the Spanish proletariat has had its fill. In reality, this phrase is nothing but a pledge of undying devotion to the PSOE—“hasta el final.”
While all this is being written, the LOC continued to call for the immediate overthrow of the “bonapartist” regime! Thus, the LOC has the dubious distinction of advancing two conflicting policies which are both wrong. To those who find it difficult to understand how one organization could combine what appears to be two irreconcilably opposed policies, we recommend not only a study of Marxian dialectics but also Cervantes’s great masterpiece. The petty bourgeois radical finds his archetype in Sancho Panza, who now and then would attempt to conceal his organic confusion and cowardice with menacing gestures and shouting—but frightening no one except Quixote’s horse, Rocinante.
One year after the split, it is clear that Healy’s line in Spain as elsewhere is completely anti-Marxist and points the way to disastrous defeats for the working class. It was to carry out this line that Romero and the LOC deserted the International Committee of the Fourth International.
The real lesson of the Spanish elections is the necessity of confronting the contradiction between the economic and political crisis on the one hand and the continuing domination of reformist consciousness in the working class on the other. This requires exposing both the Social Democrats and the Stalinists before the masses through the advancing of a clear program of transitional demands leading the working class to the necessity of overthrowing the bourgeois regime and establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat. In this process, and in irreconcilable hostility to this reactionary petty bourgeois tendency, a genuine Trotskyist party will be built in Spain.
Conciliation to Stalinism
The International Committee has already established that a central feature of the political degeneration of the Workers Revolutionary Party was its increasingly conciliatory attitude toward Stalinism. Even before Healy mounted in 1983 a bizarre campaign in defense of the “right” of the McLennan faction of the CPGB to determine the line of the Stalinists’ daily newspaper, the WRP had been making overtures to the Moscow bureaucracy under the cover of “defending” dialectics. Encouraging a wholly uncritical attitude toward the works of Soviet academics, Healy moved more and more openly toward the position that the analysis of the Stalinist bureaucracy should proceed from an entirely new criterion: its patronage of monographs on dialectics!
Since the split the Healy tendency has all but abandoned the Trotskyist program of political revolution and become cheerleader for the Soviet bureaucracy led by Gorbachev and the Chinese bureaucracy led by Deng. The Soviet bureaucracy is now eulogized in terms not heard inside the Trotskyist movement since the hey-day of Michel Pablo.
The August issue of Healy’s “theoretical” journal, Marxist Review included an editorial which made a lying reference to “the abolition of censorship in the Soviet Union” and encouraged gross illusions about the real political significance of “the election of a former victim and life-long opponent of Stalin, Karpov, to the secretaryship of the Writers’ Union.” (p. 3) It then declared:
“Gorbachev’s recent speech in Khabarovsk in the far east of the USSR, July 31, is the most dramatic confirmation that these events were in no way episodic. In line after line of speech (many of them shortened, altered, or cut altogether by TASS news agency), [What happened to the abolition of censorship announced in the preceding paragraph?] Gorbachev directs his attack at a section of the bureaucracy of the CPSU.
“Both these developments are unmistakably the product of the political revolution in the Soviet Union which is now well under way.” (p. 3)
Every word is a falsification of reality and betrayal of Trotskyism. The desperate palliative measures taken by the bureaucracy to appease a section of the intelligentsia while it intensifies its attack on the Soviet working class with constant demands for increased productivity is proclaimed the beginning of the political revolution! Not a word is said about the unprecedented level of behind-the-scenes collaboration between the Soviet bureaucracy and world imperialism. The word counterrevolutionary is not employed to describe Gorbachev, the oily spokesman of the hordes of bureaucratic “yuppies” for whom “liberalization” means the possibility that the right of inheritance will eventually be established in the Soviet Union.
In what amounts to a complete repudiation of Trotsky’s well-known views, Healy proclaimed: “Today the state property relations of the Soviet Union are the decisive material force in the development of the world revolution and the political revolution itself.” If this is true “today,” was it also true in Trotsky’s time? If not—and Trotsky never suggested such a thing—then at what point in the economic development of the USSR did it become true? Generally, Healy does not trouble himself with such concrete questions. At any rate, the theory that the state property relations in the USSR (which are not socialist relations) are the decisive material force in the development of the world revolution is an apology for the policy of “socialism in one country”—the ideological foundation of Stalinism. In the period of the greatest development of Soviet industry, the bureaucracy habitually cited statistics to support its claim that the USSR would “outstrip” the capitalist world. Trotsky always rejected such a one-sided use of statistics. He insisted that the Soviet Union could not through its own resources overcome the historical legacy of backwardness and surpass the capitalist world.
Trotsky’s strategy was based on the understanding that the fate of the USSR rested with the revolutionary victories of the international working class, above all in the most advanced capitalist countries. He explicitly warned that the overthrow of the state property relations was inevitable without the extension of the socialist revolution into Western Europe and the United States. Thus, “the decisive material force in the development of world revolution” is not Soviet industry—which still lags way behind that of the major capitalist powers—but the international proletariat.
As for the claim that the political revolution arises spontaneously out of the development of the state property relations, this is no less a revision of Trotsky’s views and those which have been historically defended by the International Committee. First of all, the development of the productive forces is strangled by the existence of the bureaucratic caste. Insofar as the productive forces expand and strengthen the Soviet working class, this does not produce a corresponding decline in the influence and rapacity of the bureaucracy. Rather, the antagonism between the proletariat and the bureaucracy intensifies and paves the way for tremendous social explosions.
In examining the development of the social contradictions within the Soviet Union, Healy “forgets” that these do not develop in a test tube, but in a hostile international environment that is still dominated by the capitalist mode of production. The Soviet bureaucracy is an agency of world imperialism and is constantly forging new political and economic ties with the capitalist states. Moreover, alongside the bureaucracy there exists a peasantry which is not historically reconciled to the socialization of property relations and which, under certain conditions, can very rapidly provide a fertile milieu for the redevelopment of capitalist relations. All these factors are ignored by Healy.
Above all, Healy leaves out the most decisive question of all: the building of a Trotskyist party of the Soviet working class. This, more than anything else, exposes his repudiation of the political revolution. There is no longer any need for a conscious leadership to guide the struggles of the Soviet working class. But if the experience of Poland’s Solidarnosc movement proved anything, it is that without a Trotskyist leadership the proletariat cannot overthrow the bureaucracy. But Healy has no interest whatever in studying the historical experiences of the working class in the USSR and Eastern Europe. His “political revolution” is a disembodied abstraction—there is no reference to the Soviet working class, let alone an attempt to discern and analyze the political, social and ideological forms through which its movement toward revolution is expressed. And yet Healy declares, in matter-of-fact style, that the political revolution in the USSR “is now well under way.”
Healy’s toadying to the Soviet bureaucracy was surpassed by S. Michael’s toadying to the Chinese bureaucracy. The September issue of Marxist Review reprinted an article which had been originally published in the May-June issue of the Greek WRP’s Revolutionary Marxist Review. Improvising on a theme developed by Healy over the previous decade, Michael made the following assertion:
“The demand of the Chinese intelligentsia for a return to Lenin and his struggle during the last years of his life against the bureaucracy reaches the most fundamental level: that of the method and the philosophy of Marxism. ‘Back to Lenin’ means, above all, ‘Back to materialist dialectics’.” (p. 32)
For Michael, the “return to Lenin” has reached its “most fundamental level” entirely outside of the working class and apart from the development of Trotskyism. The “return to Lenin” does not mean, as far as Michael is concerned, the return to the theory of permanent revolution, the critique of Mao’s “two-stage” theory, and the analysis of the social basis of the bureaucracy. All this is replaced with an empty abstraction devoid of any social and political content: “Back to materialist dialectics.”
His uncritical attitude toward the Chinese intelligentsia amounts to treachery toward the working class. Under conditions in which the Deng leadership is making far-ranging concessions to imperialism and allowing unprecedented opportunities for the penetration of foreign capital, large sections of the intelligentsia will inevitably give voice to the aspirations of the petty bourgeoisie for increased material privileges. That is dismissed with a wave of Michael’s flabby hand. He simply proclaimed that “the revival of the struggle for Marxist philosophy is the ideological shadow of the political revolution.” (p. 33)
The real evidence of the growth of restorationist tendencies was dismissed with smug complacency:
“The eternal sceptics and apologists of capitalism rushed to give the funeral oration for the Chinese Revolution and to form a forged picture of Peoples’ China consisting only of the smiles of pragmatist Deng, Coca-Cola ads and Pierre Cardin latest fashion models. Without underestimating the right-wing restorationist dangers [!], we view with confidence these recent developments, the potential of the socialist revolution that are demonstrated simultaneously in China and the Soviet Union.” (p. 33)
For Michael and Healy, dialectical materialism is completely unrelated to the development of a Trotskyist perspective for the building of mass revolutionary parties of the Soviet and Chinese proletariat. That, as far as they are concerned, belongs to the “past” era of “propagandism” and “defeats.” Where Pablo once searched for holdouts of Marxism in every nook and cranny of the Soviet bureaucracy, Michael and Healy find it in the Russian and Chinese middle class. But what they are really looking for is a bridge to closer ties to the Stalinist bureaucracies, as was made clear in the final paragraph of Michael’s article:
“Some of the best allies of the International Committee are certainly in Peking and Shanghai, as well as in Moscow and Leningrad.” (p. 33)
No Trotskyist would be capable of writing such an abomination. Insofar as he wrote of the friends of the Fourth International in the USSR and Peoples’ Republic, he would do so only in reference to the proletariat. But Healy and Michael are fishing for new allies within the bureaucracy.
Before this line could be implemented, Healy and Michael had to break with the International Committee. If there remain in the Greek WRP any genuine Trotskyists who still remember the horrific crimes committed by Stalinism against the Greek working class and who understand the no less counterrevolutionary role it will seek to play in the decisive struggles that lie ahead, they will realize that it is their sworn duty to repudiate the policies of the traitor Michael, and fight to restore the links between revolutionists in Greece and the International Committee.
The Putrefaction of the WRP (Slaughterites)
We now turn to the Slaughter-Banda wing of the WRP since its split with the International Committee in February 1986. Its break with the IC was carried out on the basis of a document written by Banda entitled “27 Reasons Why the International Committee Should Be Buried Forthwith and the Fourth International Built.”
This document, which amounted to a libel against the entire history of the Trotskyist movement, was utilized to whip the WRP membership into a frenzy against the International Committee. The WRP’s bogus Eighth Congress, from which all members of the official minority were, with the aid of police, excluded and then expelled, passed a resolution denouncing the International Committee as an “anticommunist” organization.
Not long after, following a bitter struggle over who controlled the considerable assets of the WRP—much of which had been purchased by money raised outside of Britain by the sections of the International Committee—the Banda brothers were expelled by the Slaughter- Pirani faction. No political account of this split was given to the working class. The silence of the WRP on the fight with Banda was in sharp contrast to the repeated public attacks on the ICFI which appeared in the pages of 'Workers Press even prior to the split in February.
For the WRP, its split with the International Committee was carried out as part of a calculated decision to eliminate any Trotskyist opposition to its plans for complete liquidation into the middle-class camp of centrism and Social Democracy. Since February the political line of the WRP varies only in minor and secondary details from that of the extended family of “left” groups working in the shadow of Social Democracy and the trade union bureaucracy.
Writing rhapsodically about the development of the WRP between October 1985 and February 1986—as it was completing its break from Trotskyism—Bill Hunter, one of the old centrists now leading the organization, wrote: “A great development in thinking is taking place in our Party as a result of the reality of struggle. It is the split which has brought every comrade to thinking on basic problems.”
It is now possible to evaluate the outcome of this “great development” of thought.
Since the split with the International Committee, the WRP has transformed its Workers Press into a public bulletin board in which every revisionist and Stalinist group is welcome to post their anti-Trotskyist notices. No attack on Trotskyism is too grotesque to be rejected. Every week brings forth a new denunciation. In the issue of July 26, there is a letter from one Geoff Barr, who, in the course of a wild misrepresentation of the well-known difference between Lenin and Trotsky on the trade union question in the Soviet Union, claims: “The position of the WRP under Healy was closer to Trotsky’s in the 1920-21 trades unions debate than to Lenin’s.”
In its issue of August 2, the pages of the Workers Press were thrown open to a Stalinist group, members of the British Communist Party, who publish a misnamed rag called The Leninist. These reactionaries took the opportunity to denounce Trotskyism for its “manifest irrelevancy”—a product of its refusal to recognize the Stalinist parties all over the world as the revolutionary vanguard of the working class. Denouncing Trotsky’s break with the Comintern in 1933, The Leninist declared:
“The new orientation toward the construction of a ‘Fourth International’ was in fact a defeatist desertion of the advanced section of the proletariat, organized then, as now, mainly within the communist parties.”
The letter went on to leave unanswered the question “Whether the killing of Trotskyists is justifiable or not....”
On the opposite page of the same issue, there was a letter from one Tom Cowen, who wrote:
“It is the illusory concept that Trotskyism is a Revolutionary Marxist tendency that has decapitated the revolutionary working-class leadership and turned potential class leaders into tail-ending the agents of capital and abettors of the leadership crisis.”
In the issue of August 23, Cyril Smith—one of Healy’s long-time academic toadies and another born-again “revolutionary moralist”—openly attacked Trotsky’s conception of the political revolution. In an article commemorating the thirtieth anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution, Smith had this to say about the position taken by the International Committee in 1956:
“I think we were limited by our resources, both theoretical and material, to defending the positions of Trotsky of two decades earlier.
“We struggled to force the new world of the 1950s into the theoretical framework of the 1930s....
“We were always too easily satisfied with having the theory that was ‘correct’ in Trotsky’s day, instead of doing what he himself had done, fighting at every stage to take this theory forward.”
In the issue of September 13, 1986, Smith announced his “wholehearted” repudiation of the three-decade-long struggle of the Trotskyist movement against revisionism:
“I think that the term ‘revisionist,’ once a term with scientific significance for Marxists, has now become just a term of abuse.
“We should stop using the designation ‘Pabloite’ in talking about the organizations associated with the United Secretariat. It can only foul up the discussion.
“The characterization of Cuba as some kind of bourgeois state (we never really explained just what kind) is nonsense.”
As in all these pronouncements—in which the WRP renegades renounce views which they defended for decades—no attempt is made to explain how they arrived at these new positions, or rather, at the positions held by revisionists for years. There is no original research, let alone an analysis of the history of the theoretical disputes within the Trotskyist movement. But for Smith and his fellow renegades, it is not a question of developing Marxist theory and fighting to arm the working class with a revolutionary program; it is, rather, a question of ingratiating themselves with the middle class radicals who live on the crumbs provided by the “left” Social Democrats.
This is proven by the political line pursued by the WRP within Britain. In a lengthy “Manifesto” published in the June 26 issue of Workers Press, this utterly nationalist document never once characterized either Stalinism or Social Democracy as counterrevolutionary. The Social Democrats are merely “reformists”—not the custodians of British imperialism. The extent of the WRP’s opposition to Social Democracy and Stalinism was spelled out in a passage of the “Manifesto” dealing with the WRP’s attitude toward a future Labour government:
“But we warn the reformists and Stalinists in advance: when such a government comes into conflict with the working class, as it will, we will give it no support.”
Significantly, it does not say anything about mobilizing the working class against the policies of a Social Democratic regime and replacing it with a workers’ government—nor does it speak about the necessity of establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat. These omissions are no small matter. They are an expression of the political conditioning of the WRP for the role for which it is being groomed: that of a left cover for a new Social Democratic government. Its split with the International Committee was necessary to completely free itself from Trotskyist “interference” in the elaboration of its left-reformist national line.
Its repudiation of the struggle against revisionism is the essential expression of its rejection of a struggle to mobilize the working class independently of all the political agencies of imperialism. Twenty years ago, Cliff Slaughter explained very well the historical implications of such a retreat: “Without a struggle against revisionism, constantly renewing and developing the materialist and dialectical foundations of Marxism and the party’s programme, any movement is in danger of falling victim to the responses of the left petty bourgeoisie instead of developing an independent programme for the masses who are impelled into struggle with the deepening crisis of capitalism, joined in our day with the mortal crisis of the Stalinist bureaucracy.” (Introduction to New Park edition of In Defence of Marxism, p. xiii)
Under the prevailing conditions in Britain, the full implications of the WRP’s betrayal of Trotskyism are still to be seen. But an examination of the policies of the one section of the ICFI that went along with Slaughter provides a living demonstration that his line, no less than that of Healy, leads inevitably to popular frontism.
The Betrayal of the Liga Comunista
Within six months of its split with the ICFI, the Peruvian Liga Comunista has broken definitively with Trotskyism, liquidated its own party organization and moved rapidly into the arms of the petty bourgeois centrists and the national bourgeoisie.
After initially supporting the International Committee in the suspension of the Workers Revolutionary Party in December 1985, the clique leading the LC, responding to the class pressures exerted by petty bourgeois nationalism on their section and repelled by the proletarian line of the IC, quickly reversed its position and moved to provoke a split.
By March 1986, the Peruvian renegades, having aligned themselves with the Banda-Slaughter faction, published a magazine containing Banda’s infamous “27 Reasons Why the IC Should Be Buried,” together with their own documents renouncing Trotskyism.
These included a vitriolic attack on the entire history of the Trotskyist movement by the theoretical leader of the group, Jose B., who concluded that the class basis of the Fourth International in the proletariat was the source of its alleged isolation from the masses: “Evidently it is a case of a movement rooted in social forces totally adverse to the social forces which are objectively revolutionary. Therefore it must be objectively destroyed.”
This was combined with the open repudiation of Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution. The working class in the advanced capitalist countries, and the United States in particular, was presented as an essentially counterrevolutionary force, in “alliance” with its own bourgeoisie and the beneficiary of the imperialist domination of the semi-colonial countries.
Faced point blank with the responsibility for building a proletarian revolutionary party independent of the fraudulent “anti-imperialism” of the ruling Apra party of President Alan Garcia and the peasant guerrillaism of the Maoist Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) movement, and in implacable struggle against all those centrists and revisionists who seek to dilute the revolutionary class line of the proletariat, the Liga Comunista leadership turned tail and capitulated to these very forces. Not surprisingly, this has been accompanied by a torrent of slanders and lies against the International Committee.
Published in the same issue of Comunismo were the finished anti-Trotskyist perspectives of the Peruvian renegades. This document, entitled “Class Struggle in Peru,” described the bourgeois government of Garcia as representing the “confluence” of “the three great classes that make up Peruvian society: the proletariat, the peasantry, and finally the native bourgeoisie, specifically those sectors linked to the internal market or so-called nontraditional exports.”
Rejecting the most basic tenets of permanent revolution, the Liga Comunista portrayed the corrupt Peruvian bourgeoisie as caught between “the sword of imperialism and the wall of workers’ and peasants’ demands,” denying its essential role as an instrument of imperialism and justifying a miserable variation of the Menshevik, Stalinist and Maoist formulations dictating the subordination of the working class to the bourgeoisie.
The Liga Comunista renegades presented their own formula for this subordination, equating the working class and the peasantry and calling for “the political independence and alliance of both classes.” This anti-Marxist gibberish is a crude rehash of the “workers’ and peasants’ parties” and the “bloc of four classes” used by the Stalinists to subject the working class to bourgeois and petty bourgeois leaderships—Apra and Shining Path in the case of Peru.
Little more than a year ago, the Liga Comunista leadership, in a slavish emulation of Healy’s charlatanry, was denouncing Sendero Luminoso as a reactionary movement based on its alleged misuse of the philosophical category of Contradiction. With the aid of pseudo-dialectical incantations, the Liga Comunista completely dismissed the legitimacy of the peasant struggle and made the swinish allegation that Sendero Luminoso had “imposed” armed struggle in the countryside. Now it has swung full circle to glorifying the peasant guerrillas, and promoting their armed actions in the countryside as a substitute for the independent organization and mobilization of the Peruvian working class on the basis of a Marxist program.
What is common to both positions, however, is the failure of the Peruvian renegades to make any class analysis of the peasant movement. It totally ignores the fundamentally different class nature of the democratic struggle in the countryside and that of the proletariat—a distinction upon which Lenin always insisted and which he made the axis of the Bolshevik Party’s struggle against such petty bourgeois tendencies as the Social Revolutionaries. In the first instance the Liga Comunista completely abstained from the responsibility of the proletarian revolutionary party to forge the alliance between the proletariat and the poor peasantry based on the class independence and leading role of the proletariat. In the second, it completely abandons this class independence and surrenders the leading role to Sendero Luminoso.
For Marxists, the peasant struggle is part of the democratic revolution. The Liga Comunista’s attitude towards Sendero Luminoso is part and parcel of its liquidation of the proletarian revolution into petty bourgeois democracy.
Within barely three months of the Liga Comunista’s discovery of the “confluence” of class interests in the Garcia government, this regime launched one of the bloodiest massacres in the country’s history, murdering at least 270 political prisoners in the penitentiaries at Fronton, Lurigancho and Callao.
In a panicked reaction to this development, the Liga Comunista joined with its new-found allies—the Peruvian followers of the notorious Argentine Pabloite liquidationist, Nahuel Moreno—in issuing a joint statement calling for a popular front against “fascist barbarism.”
This joint statement failed to advance a single class demand or any program for the mobilization of the working class and the preparation of the socialist revolution in Peru. Instead, it called for the “unity” of various leftist parties and the convening of a “National Popular Assembly to place the government on political trial and to vote for a National Plan of Struggle to hold back fascist barbarism.”
The statement attributed the government’s swing to the right not to the objective crisis of world capitalism and its impact on class relations in Peru, but rather to “the blind alley in which the government and the bourgeoisie is trapped as a product of its total capitulation to imperialism.” This formulation, combined with the statement’s failure to raise a single call for bringing down the Apra government, attempts to lull the masses into the perspective that the present course of the Apra regime can be reversed if the government is pressured into a change in economic policy.
This same position was spelled out even more clearly in the Liga Comunista’s own statement on the June 18 massacres, entitled “The Militarization and Crisis of Aprista Bourgeois Nationalism.”
The renegades declared, “What determines this attitude of the Aprista government is its incapacity to solve the country’s economic crisis, through a bourgeois nationalist program which is limited to trying to renegotiate the terms of imperialist domination and bases itself on the defense of private property and capitalist production.”
In what followed, the renegades repeated no less than four times that the fundamental problem in Peru is “the inability of the Apra government to solve the economic crisis.” This conception is totally anti-Marxist and suggests that some other force—perhaps Sendero Luminoso or the United Left, or even the Liga Comunista itself—will be able to “solve the economic crisis.” This is a perspective based entirely on reformism and nationalism and is totally opposed to that of proletarian revolution.
For the Trotskyist movement it is not a conjunctural question of whether this or that bourgeois government can “solve” the economic crisis—a utopian goal in any case as this crisis is simply the expression of Peru’s oppression by world imperialism. Rather it is a basic strategic principle of revolutionary Marxism based on the organic inability of the national bourgeoisie to complete the democratic revolution, an essential part of which is the freeing of the oppressed nation from the yoke of imperialism. This democratic revolution can only be carried out under the leadership of the proletariat, going over to the dictatorship of the proletariat.
The Liga Comunista itself was founded on this principle under the leadership of its first national secretary, Comrade Sergio. It began its struggle under conditions of the “nationalist” military regime of Gen. Velasco, which was at that time employing “anti-imperialist rhetoric” and carrying out various reforms and nationalizations. These, however, did not determine the party’s line. It was based on the fundamental perspective of the bankruptcy of the national bourgeoisie and the struggle for the political independence of the working class. This struggle, which was met with the deportation of Sergio and the repression of the Peruvian section, has been totally rejected by the renegades now leading the Liga Comunista.
Underlying their current perspective is the complete rejection of Trotsky’s analysis of the role of the national bourgeoisie. While the Liga Comunista places the greatest emphasis on this class’s alleged “anti-imperialism,” Trotsky, analyzing the Chinese bourgeoisie—which, it should be recalled, was engaged in a war of national independence—took the opposite standpoint:
“Installed within the Kuomintang and its leadership, the bourgeoisie has been essentially an instrument of the comprador and imperialism. It can remain in the camp of the national war only because of the weakness of the worker and peasant masses, the lack of development of the class struggle, the docility of the Kuomintang in the hands of the bourgeoisie and the lack of independence of the Chinese Communist Party.
“It is a gross mistake to think that imperialism mechanically welds together all the classes of China from without ... the revolutionary struggle against imperialism does not weaken but strengthens the political differentiation of the classes. Imperialism is a highly powerful force in the internal relations of China. The main source of this force is not the warships in the waters of the Yangtse Kiang—they are only auxiliaries—but the economic bonds between foreign capital and the native bourgeoisie ... everything that brings the oppressed and exploited toilers to their feet inevitably pushes the national bourgeoisie into open bloc with the imperialists. The class struggle between the bourgeoisie and the masses of workers and peasants is not weakened, but on the contrary, is sharpened by imperialist oppression, to the point of bloody civil war at every serious conflict.” (Trotsky, Problems of the Chinese Revolution, New Park, pp. 4-5)
With their renunciation of Trotskyism, the renegade leadership of the Liga Comunista has abandoned precisely these lessons of Marxism. While Trotsky speaks of the “inevitability” of the class struggle pushing the national bourgeoisie into alliance with imperialism and sharpening the conflict to the point of civil war, the Liga Comunista saw nothing but the “confluence” of classes until the prison massacres began. Then it made a panicked turn towards the popular front against fascism.
This prostration before the Apra government was joined with a cringing appeal to the Stalinist leadership of the United Left, the popular front parliamentary opposition. The statement chided the Stalinists for having broken “the unity of the popular movement” and urged them to reestablish it by “throwing aside all forms of sectarianism and hegemonism which hold back the task and give precious time to the enemy.” This last statement was nothing short of a loyalty oath by the Liga Comunista to the Peruvian popular front. The renunciation of “sectarianism and hegemonism” in this context is an open pledge of support to Stalinism’s and bourgeois nationalism’s political and ideological domination of the working class.
In their own statement, the Liga Comunista criticized the Stalinist-led United Left for having “never struggled in the electoral field for revolutionary perspectives.” This presumably is what the Liga Comunista is itself now doing by running on the electoral slate of the Morenoites. The essence of this struggle “in the electoral field for revolutionary perspectives” is that it is aimed not at mobilizing the independent strength of the working class against the national bourgeoisie, but just the opposite. By advancing a policy for pushing the regime to the left and “halting the militarization,” the popular front election campaign is designed precisely to tie the proletariat to the national bourgeoisie.
In carrying out this counterrevolutionary policy, the Liga Comunista has found the most able assistant in the form of the PST, the Peruvian Morenoites.
In Argentina, Moreno’s Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) is part of the “People’s Front,” Frepu, an electoral bloc with the Stalinists of the Argentine Communist Party.
This is only the latest in a series of unprincipled blocs and political adventures which, since his break with Trotskyism, have marked Moreno as the most notorious opportunist on the South American continent.
Allied with the American SWP’s Joseph Hansen in the unprincipled reunification with the Pabloite revisionists in 1963, Moreno throughout this period followed a line of complete subordination to Gen. Juan Peron, whose image appeared on the masthead of the group’s newspaper.
Embracing Castroism and Maoism at a later stage, he explicitly renounced the Trotskyist theory of permanent revolution declaring, “The dogma that the only class which can accomplish the democratic tasks is the working class is false.”
This perspective was taken into practice by the Morenoites who played a key role in disarming the working class and paving the way for the 1976 military coup and the bloodbath which followed. Repeatedly during the period leading up to the military’s seizure of power, the Morenoites joined with the Stalinists, bourgeois parties and the Peronist government itself in declaring their allegiance to “constitutional stability.” With the Argentine bourgeoisie and its military preparing to drown the revolution in blood, the Morenoites directed their full efforts to tying the working class to the rotting shell of bourgeois democracy, thereby sabotaging an independent struggle for power which alone could have defeated the counterrevolution.
Now in Peru, the Liga Comunista has united with the Morenoites on just such a platform for the betrayal of the Peruvian working class.
This treacherous policy provides the clearest exposure of the real politics of Cliff Slaughter, the renegade former secretary of the IC. While Slaughter has refused since the split to reveal his political agenda to anyone, the squalid maneuvers of the Liga Comunista are the direct outcome of Slaughter’s international operations.
Having received the anti-Trotskyist documents of the Liga Comunista, Slaughter rushed to Peru to seize the opportunity to further his operations against the International Committee.
It was under Slaughter’s direction that the Liga Comunista entered into its rotten alliance with the Morenoites as the vehicle for its capitulation to the popular front. The line introduced in Lima provides a direct insight into Slaughter’s policy for the liquidation of the Trotskyist movement in Britain and internationally. As for the Liga Comunista, it has continued traveling down the same road of opportunist liquidationism and capitulation to the national bourgeoisie upon which it embarked under the leadership of Healy. Having briefly aligned itself with the IC against the Healy-Banda- Slaughter renegades, the Liga Comunista leadership rapidly concluded they were on the wrong side of the barricades and jumped back to the positions of class collaboration with which Healy had tried to smash the International Committee.
The crisis which erupted in October 1985 set into motion a sequence of events which led inexorably to an irrevocable political split between the International Committee of the Fourth International and all factions associated with the Healy-Banda-Slaughter leadership of the Workers Revolutionary Party. The upheaval within the WRP found an echo within the International Committee itself as three sections deserted. In the course of just one year, the essential class lines of the split have become clear. The fundamental political meaning of the split is revealed in one remarkable fact: not one of the groups that have broken from the ICFI has accused the International Committee of breaking with Trotskyism. Quite the opposite: in one form or another, they denounce us for refusing to repudiate the principles upon which the Trotskyist movement is based. Healy’s faction attacks the International Committee of the Fourth International for upholding “pure socialism.” For all his frantic attacks on the IC, he has not produced a single article which even asserts—let alone proves—that the International Committee has departed from the basic teaching of Leon Trotsky.
Nor has Slaughter’s faction accused the International Committee of betraying Trotskyism. At the third session of its notorious Eighth Congress, the WRP passed a resolution which admitted that its split from the ICFI was carried out on totally unprincipled grounds. It repudiated the “demagogic denunciations” of the original splitting resolution, which had declared that the WRP “rejects the tradition of the ICFI as anticommunist.” It admitted that the split had been provoked by those forces within the WRP who “feared a discussion on their own rotten politics.”
Of course, there was nothing principled about this retraction—which was nothing more than a factional maneuver whose purpose, according to internal documents of the WRP, was to find a means of isolating the Workers League and splitting the International Committee. Moreover, the retraction did not bring to an end, as we have seen, the weekly renunciation of Trotskyist principles in the pages of Workers Press.
The Slaughter faction of the WRP has, with just one exception, made no analysis of the political lines of the IC sections in order to justify their split. They have not attempted to prove that the Workers League in the United States, the BSA in West Germany, the ICP in Britain, or the SLL in Australia are following an incorrect political line which is contrary to the interests of the working class in the countries in which they work. Nor do they advocate an alternative line.
However, the WRP has made an evaluation of the work of one section of the International Committee. In a long-delayed statement calling for the release of members of the Revolutionary Communist League imprisoned in Sri Lanka—nearly two months after their arrests—the WRP Central Committee declared:
“The Trotskyists of the RCL have constantly been subject to savage repression, above all because of their opposition to the class collaborationist leadership of the Sri Lankan workers’ movement and their intransigent stand in support of the self-determination of the Tamil nation.” (Workers Press, September 20, 1986)
An astonishing statement! If there is any country in the world where the political nature of an organization claiming to be revolutionary is being put to the test, it is in Sri Lanka—where the government is waging a war of extermination against the Tamil nation and subjecting all those who defend its right to self-determination to brutal repression. Under these conditions, the International Committee is conducting exemplary revolutionary work on the basis of a Trotskyist program. The political line of the RCL is the direct product of the struggle against Pabloite revisionism whose counterrevolutionary role is exemplified in the politics of the LSSP (which the WRP refers to as “the class collaborationist leadership of the Sri Lankan workers’ movement”).
Moreover, as the ICFI has now documented, the RCL’s program was worked out in opposition to the line of Healy, Banda and Slaughter who, between 1972 and 1979, forbad the Sri Lankan Trotskyists from defending the right of the Tamils to self-determination.
The WRP’s eulogy of the RCL is final proof of its own national opportunism. We ask the question: if the RCL is a revolutionary party, why then did the WRP split from the International Committee? Trotsky had refused to split from the Communist International as long as there existed the possibility that a change in its line could bring the working class in Germany to power. He even waited to see whether there existed in the Communist International any tendency that would rebel against the betrayal of 1933.
But the WRP carried out a split from its international organization while one of its sections was engaged in a life and death struggle of world historic significance. For any genuine revolutionist, the events in Sri Lanka would have been seen as the cutting edge of political differences. If the ICFI had been built on rotten foundations or had become a degenerate organization, this would have inevitably found its sharpest expression in a country in the throes of a revolutionary crisis. Not only would the WRP have been obliged to expose the mistakes of the ICFI in Sri Lanka, it would have avoided any split as long as there existed the possibility to change the line and prevent the defeat of the workers and peasants in a semi-colonial country with the oldest Trotskyist traditions.
But for the WRP to split under these conditions—especially when it now admits that the ICFI is carrying out a revolutionary line—amounts to desertion under fire from the class struggle.
It expresses, moreover, the worst form of British chauvinism. Expressing the arrogance of the middle class and privileged sections of the labor movement who basked in the reflected glory of the British Empire, the WRP renegades are utterly unconcerned about the fate of the colonial peoples. All their factional maneuvering was based wholly upon national considerations. In fact, they wanted nothing to do with Sri Lanka because it raised embarrassing questions which threatened to cut across their regroupment line in Britain.
If the struggle conducted by the ICFI against Pabloism in Sri Lanka has proved to be the foundation for the development of a revolutionary program, how then can the WRP presently explain its repudiation of the “Open Letter” of 1953 and the struggle against reunification in 1961-63? What is to become of little Cyril Smith’s declaration that the term “revisionist” has no scientific meaning when its practical significance can be counted in the number of corpses thrown into Sri Lanka’s Kelani River, polluted with blood, after the LSSP-supported military suppression of the 1971 peasant uprising, and in the countless victims of the anti-Tamil war? At the very time when Smith is writing that the term “Pabloite” should no longer be used, Colvin R. DeSilva, the most important opponent of J.P. Cannon’s “Open Letter” and the principal architect of the subsequent reunification, has emerged as a national guru of Sinhala racism and the chief ideological mentor of the Sri Lankan bourgeoisie.
The split in the ICFI was historically necessary and it took place over the most fundamental programmatic issues. Since the split, the International Committee has carried out a level of consistent theoretical work on a scale unequalled since 1964. It has transformed the International Committee into a genuine theoretical center of an international socialist organization, working patiently to restore programmatic and ideological unity within the world movement. Carefully studying the political problems which arise in the work of its national sections, it works collectively to develop their perspectives and render the necessary political and organizational assistance. For the first time in more than a decade, the principles of Trotskyism can be discussed, debated and developed inside the International Committee. Its resolutions are published for study and discussion in every party branch throughout the world movement.
The International Committee is consciously recreating the type of world organization that Trotsky fought to build. Precisely because the ICFI is politically grounded in the programmatic traditions of the Fourth International, democratic centralism now flourishes. The factional deviousness, unprincipled maneuvering and suppression of differences which are the hallmark of all centrist organizations shall never be tolerated by the sections affiliated with the International Committee. Our opponents can accuse us only of remaining loyal to the banner of Trotskyism and we willingly plead guilty to the charge.