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Trotskyism Today – An Evaluation of a Series

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We reproduce here an important 6-part critical series by the US Trotskyist Harry Turner published in 1970-71 in the Vanguard Newsletter.  It is a critique of the US Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP) and some of the organisations that split from it and in particular the petty bourgeois ’empiricist’ method of the Spartacist League led by James Robertson that led to the ‘suspension’ of a minority around Turner on differences over united front work to unite Black and White workers.


Trotskyism Today – An Evaluation of a Series

by Harry Turner

Vanguard Newsletter, Vol 2 No 8 September 1970



What Is Spartacist?, the six-part series by Tim Wohlforth, which appeared in the Workers Leagues’s Bulletin between June 22 and August 10, 1970, purports to be a Marxist examination, not only of the Spartacist League but also, of its “graduates”. Included among the latter is one, Harry Turner, an editor of Vanguard Newsletter.

We can agree with Comrade Wohlforth that the Marxist method requires that phenomena be apprehended in its development to be adequately understood. But this means that all other interacting phenomena must be afforded a similar treatment, and above all, that a genuinely conscientious appraisal be undertaken.

Quite obviously, the scientific detachment of an observer from Sirius can hardly be expected in social phenomena from participants, let alone partisans. However, the great Marxists have set their followers an example in this respect as in others, in combining the most passionate devotion to the cause of the working class with the most scrupulous treatment of the factual materials with which they dealt.

We intend to follow them in this respect as well in evaluating the What Is Spartacist? series, in examining the record of individuals and groups who came to the fore as oppositional elements in the rapidly degenerating Socialist Workers Party and in their subsequent evolution.

Wohlforth attempts to prove his central thesis in this series, that the disintegration products of the SWP – all with the exception of Wohlforth and his tendency –rejected proletarian internationalism, and thereby, became enemies of the Leninist vanguard party, as a result of their pragmatic adaptation to surface phenomena. Wohlforth, it seems, was spared this fate, because of his mastery of Marxist “method”!

As evidence, Wohlforth quotes extensively from materials made available by the Spartacist League, his own voluminous correspondence with Gerry Healy, the national secretary of the Socialist Labour League and secretary of the International Committee of the Fourth International, the documents of the SLL and IC, and also from letters sent to Gerry Healy by this writer.

Our series will also attempt to prove a thesis, namely, that the “graduates” of the SWP, including Wohlforth, and even before “graduation”, from 1962 on, in one degree or another, operated in a manner harmful to the construction of a Leninist vanguard party in this country, and that the current practices of both the WL and SL in particular, act as obstacles to its construction.

We will also have occasion to refer to documents and to produce extracts of our correspondence to support our thesis – including those parts of a letter to Gerry Healy which Wohlforth carefully overlooked.

As Marxists, we understand that the ideological superstructure –not immediately, not directly, but in the final analysis –is dependent on the economic base, and that serious political struggles, even within a small organization, reflect this base and the resultant movement of social classes. We also understand with Marx that the “character of the people who first head the movement” play an important role in accelerating or delaying developments.

As Marxists, we recognize that the negative practices of the SWP “graduates” are not simply the “evil” work of “evil” men. Underlying all the errors of revolutionists and would-be-revolutionists, including those resulting from the erratic behavior and subjectivism of individual leaders, we see the action of economic-political law.

The defeats of the European and world working class in the post World War II period by capitalism aided by Stalinism, produced the revisionist theories of a Michel Pablo and the immediate or subsequent capitulation to his conceptions by a large part of the world Trotskyist movement. Abandoning attempts to build an international working class vanguard party, they sought for short-cuts to socialism in adaptations to one or another variety of Stalinism and “Third World”-ism.

The harmful practices of those “graduates” who “oppose” Pabloism must also be understood in the context of an as-yet politically backward working class, in the absence of a real working class movement which they would be bound to respect, and in their inability to produce a coherent and consistent strategy and tactics to deal with the sharpening crisis of world capitalism, to the extent that they even recognize its existence.

Wohlforth has admitted in this series that the WL made errors in the past, e.g., that it had held “a confused position on the question of Black Nationalism”, which has since been corrected, so that it now “ruthlessly fights each and every manifestation of black nationalism “. However, Wohlforth not only fails to explore the roots of this error, in this or any other series, to our knowledge, he also delicately refrains from elaborating further on the other “mistakes” to which he admits.

Lenin in Left Wing Communism states that:

“a political party’s attitude toward its own mistakes is one of the most important and surest ways of judging how earnest the party is, and how it fulfils in practice its obligations toward its class and the working people. Frankly acknowledging a mistake, ascertaining the reasons for it, analyzing the conditions that have let up to it, and thrashing out the means of its rectification, that is the hallmark of a serious party…”

Using Lenin’s criterion, we intend to demonstrate that neither the WL nor the SL can be considered “serious”, in Lenin’s meaning of the term.

The infrequent Spartacist, in its August-September issue, has printed a shrill reply to the What is Spartacist? series, entitled The Wohlforth League: Counterfeit Trotskyists. Adopting the maxim that the best defense is a good offense, the SL has let loose a welter of accusations and grievances against Wohlforth and the WL. It is unable, however to undertake an objective examination of the WL’s failings because, despite its pretensions that it is the embodiment of “authentic Trotskyism”, it is not a serious organization in any sense of that word. Its hastily written lawyer’s brief is concerned to cover over its own sins of commission and omission. Its continued existence as an organization can be attributed, not to its own laggard efforts but rather, to the blunders which the WL has made and continues to make – as we intend to demonstrate.

The Left Opposition in the SWP

The Cuban revolution, which brought to power a new Bonapartist formation headed by Fidel Castro, which we understand as having resulted in a deformed workers’ state, a state not qualitatively differing from the Soviet, Eastern European or Chinese varieties, was seen by the SWP leadership as the distilled essence of a proletarian revolution –consummated without the proletarian party, without the active participation not to speak of leadership of the proletariat, and without the organs of working class rule, the Soviets –that it was at least the equal of, if it did not surpass, the October Revolution led by the Bolshevik party.

In his first instalment, Wohlforth correctly indicates –and in fact, the series makes a number of valid points and presents some useful information, which we intend to credit in due course –that the left minority faction in the SWP initially arose in opposition to the opportunist direction by the party majority on Cuba.

He then refers to the documentary evidence to show that the IC leadership had understood earlier and had helped the minority in the SWP to understand that the opportunist adaptation to the new Cuban bureaucracy by the SWP majority was but an expression of its fundamental theoretical and political degeneration, was “an expression of a whole international perspective and method known as Pabloism”.

Wohlforth attacks the Robertson concept1on, which appeared as late as January 1965, in an introduction to a reprint of the minority document of 1962 In Defence of a Revolutionary Perspective that the SWP leadership first took an opportunist position on Cuba, and then generalized their opportunism into an opportunist international perspective.

This writer only became involved in the struggle for revolutionary politics in the SWP after the split of the original minority into the “Revolutionary Tendency” of Robertson and the “Reorganized Minority Tendency” of Wohlforth. However, there seems to be no reason for not crediting Wohlforth’s version of the sequence of development which produced the SWP minority and its basic agreement with the IC.

We must take issue, however, with Wohlforth’s underlying simplistic psychological assumption, that the erroneous views of Robertson in this respect are significant as an expression of a national deviation which “explains” his and “his friends” subsequent “rejection of internationalism”. And in fact, despite his use of the term “interlocking” to describe the questions of Pabloism and Cuba, Wohlforth’s presentation betrays his own inability to understand that the SWP’ s adaptation to the Castro Bonapartist formation was not only an “expression” of its Pabloist “perspective and method”, but that Cuba represented that added factor which transformed quantity to quality, which caused an already weakened and disoriented organism to succumb to Pabloism.

Despite Wohlforth’s stress on Marxist “method”, as the fundamental attribute which distinguishes the WL from the SL and other pragmatists, in reality, he and Robertson have in common a basic incapacity for dialectical thought, and an eclecticism –in some cases clearly expressed, in others, cleverly masked as “authentic Marxism”, and to adaptations which betray the fact that neither are as far from the Pabloism which they condemn as they would like others to believe.


TROTSKYISM TODAY Part 2, by Harry Turner

Vanguard Newsletter Vol 2 No 9 October 1970


Split in the SWP Left Tendency

Is it worthwhile “bothering” about “ancient” factional and organizational “squabbles”within the SWP and other ostensibly revolutionary organizations?

We believe that an examination of the interacting objective and subjective factors can provide Marxists with useful lessons in the struggle for the Leninist and Trotskyist vanguard party –and not least, in illuminating personalities who present themselves today as leaders.

Illusions in self-appointed, incompetent and opportunist leaders and their policies, can prove an insuperable barrier for the working class, in spite of the most promising revolutionary opportunities. Our series, therefore, performs a needed political hygienic function. Those who try to conceal past “mistakes”, to distort the truth to promote their “revolutionary” organizations, are in reality, expressing an elitist attitude which can only negate real socialist consciousness in the working class.

From this standpoint, a revolutionary socialist is bound to treat the views of opponents with complete scrupulosity. It is impermissible to abstract phrases from context to give them a meaning contrary to their author’s intention, or to deliberately omit passages from quotations which have an important bearing on the matter in question.

Part 5 of Wohlforth’s series, “What Is Spartacist?”, quotes at length from the letter written to Gerry Healy by this writer on Jan. 10, 1969. The same letter was also referred to by James Robertson in an exchange Vanguard Newsletter printed in its February 1970 issue. As we demonstrated then, Robertson quoted a sentence “out of context in an attempt at identifying the WL’s views on the Negro question as our own”.

But Wohlforth also violated the integrity of the letter by giving his readers no inkling that between the paragraphs quoted, other paragraphs, perhaps not to his liking were also present. Thus, while quoting our affirmation that a “re-assessment … requires… a close look at two turning points, the original split [in the SWP]… in 1962, and the exclusion of Robertson at the London Conference of the IC in 1966…”, he omits any indication of an intervening paragraph in which we informed Healy of our objection “to certain of the tactics used by the Wohlforth group against the Robertson group”, while both were still in the SWP.

Again after citing our finding that Robertson bore the major responsibility for the “original split… in 1962”, and his “exclusion…in 1966”, no reference is made to a short paragraph which informed Healy of our objection to “the forms chosen to disclose Robertson’s essence” in 1962 and 1966.

The tone of the letter also reflected the circumstances in which it was written. At the time, we were still exchanging political views with the leaders and members of the WL, in attempting to convince them of the validity of our positions, and in particular, that a Leninist party could not be built in the US through passive adaptation to white chauvinism. We worded our letter to Healy diplomatically, but also registered our organizational and political agreements and disagreements with the WL and SLL.

As our examination of intra-tendency and later struggles will show, petty-bourgeois egoism, malice and heavy-handedness can play a disastrous role in politics, in this instance on the vital question of the construction of a Leninist vanguard party in the US, in the cornerstone of world imperialism.

In our “re-assessment” of the split in the left tendency, we stated that Robertson’s differences with the IC were not of a character which required him to break with it. One could infer from the eagerness of the Spartacist League to make the records which bear on the split, available in “Marxist” bulletins, that Robertson is motivated by a masochistic need, if it were also not evident that he is either unaware of or believes that his protestations mask the clear evidence that his entire course led to a break with the IC.

All the bleating by Robertson and his friends about violations of tendency democracy, cannot conceal the fact, except to political unsophisticates –a fact which emerges from the correspondence and documents which the SL itself circulates –that they were unwilling to subordinate their oversized egos to the needs of the international movement.

Both Wohlforth, despite an occasional extravagance, and Gerry Healy, on the contrary, emerge as the principled parties, who whatever personal factors were involved were concerned to conduct a serious struggle for revolutionary politics within the SWP as a vital part of the world Trotskyist movement.

The internal perspectives document by Robertson and Ireland, The Centrism of the SWP and the Tasks of the Minority which precipitated the break with the IC, has not a word to say about the relationship and responsibility of the tendency to an internationally organized struggle. Its focus is myopic and narrow. Its tactics are limited to the immediate tasks of the tendency within a national framework. Not an inkling exists that the tendency in the US, comprising a few dozen members at best, was directly connected to parties, to the SLL in England and to the then-named ‘Organisation Communiste Internationaliste’ (OCI), which represented thousands of Trotskyists in their own sections, and who in addition; had the responsibility for organizing a struggle in the other national sections of the world movement.

Instead of attacking the Robertson-Ireland document for its narrow parochialism however, Wohlforth’s answer was restricted to the same national framework. He instead attempted to find a class basis for the sharpening differences through a specious argument about the working class nature of the SWP cadre, which had by then become badly attenuated. The class basis did exist, but Wohlforth did not present it at that time.

Robertson gave expression to the moods of petty-bourgeois impatience and instability, of personal rancor and pique in the face of the unprincipled organizational methods of the majority. He was able to win most of the tendency to his side in the struggle because of its poor composition, its high proportion of student-intellectuals. Unfortunately, the tactics pursued by Wohlforth and Healy, not only failed to expose Robertson’s “essence” but instead played into his hands.

Quantity had already been transformed into quality, reluctant, though Wohlforth and the IC leadership were to recognize that fact. The SWP leadership, which had shown unmistakable signs of the Pabloite infection earlier, despite its continued recitation of “orthodox” Trotskyist formuli, had succumbed to the disease with the Cuban revolution. Wohlforth and Healy only strengthened Robertson within the tendency by not recognizing the fact that the leadership was “centrist”, that its direction was increasingly opportunist, by trying to preserve illusions that a section of the leadership, “the Center”, might still be won for revolutionary politics, when every new development proved the opposite. This unclarity, the reluctance to “make premature characterisations of the Center”, which was justified on both tactical and political grounds, also resulted in an ambivalent attitude toward the leadership by Wohlforth, which Robertson could attack with justification as “conciliatory”.

However, the struggle within the SWP and on the international plane required, along with a clear understanding of the nature of the leadership, a serious struggle to win the membership. It was necessary to combat the growing intransigence of Robertson and his coterie, which their tactics in the SWP and its youth organization reflected, in posing the tendency against the organization, instead of as an alternative leadership for it.

The increasingly unrestrained factionalism which’ could and did result in actions which the SWP majority might have utilized against the national and international tendency, was in fact a “split perspective” even if those who held it were only “partially aware of, or not aware at all”, as Wohlforth stated. (Toward the Working Class, 10-2-62)

The controversial conditions in the statement prepared by the IC, “written by comrade Healy himself, acting in consultation with other comrades of the British SLL and also of the French 1C group”, were the following: that the tendency center its fire on the “right wing” in the SWP while making no concessions to “the center…”, that it effect a united front where possible with the center elements against the right … recognise the SWP as the main instrument for realization of socialism in the United States …” and work as “loyal party members…” , as “people who are responsible for their party…”, that is, not make “premature characterisations of the leadership of the SWP accept of those groups such as Weiss and Swabeck…”, that the majority “not be described as a finished centrist tendency in the same way as the Pabloites…”, and that tendency members must “accept these conditions” to remain “members of the tendency”.

True, the IC statement contained political formulations with which Robertson could not agree. However, he was not asked to agree, but to accept the conditions. As Robertson well knows, the members of the party of Lenin, and Trotsky were never required to agree with all provisions, but were required to accept the program and carry it out.

Robertson and his friends reacted as petty-bourgeois nationalists. Their complaint, in essence, was that “outsiders” were dictating to the “insiders”, who alone had the right to decide on matters which concerned their “turf”.

Would acceptance of the IC’s conditions have ruined the struggle within the SWP for the international revolutionary party, let alone, have constituted a betrayal of principle? Neither the one or the other. They contained illusions about the nature of the “Center”. Some formulations were erroneous. But acceptance only meant delaying the inevitable confrontation between tendency and party organization. Valuable time might have been gained to enable the tendency to win SWP members for revolutionary policies. Had Robertson been concerned with advancing the principled struggle instead of his ego, he would have accepted the conditions, convinced his co-thinkers to do the same, and as a minority within the international tendency fought for better policies.

Instead, and as our letter to Healy pointed out;

“By splitting with the IC, he did, in fact, as you have stated, strengthen the SWP revisionists, who were able to out-maneuver a disunited left opposition, and close off the minds of many of those in the SWP, who might have been reached by us. In addition, many waverers, who might have been held by a united left opposition, became confused and demoralized, and gave up the struggle entirely.”

But what of the “forms” which Healy chose? By attempting to resolve the political question in an organizational manner, in the form of a statement which the tendency had not helped prepare, and which could not be altered, Healy presented Robertson with an ideal weapon, which he used for his own organizational purposes, and to obscure the real nature of the disagreement.

Unfortunately, we will often see utilization of narrow organizational approaches to solve political tasks.

Several months after the split in the tendency, Wohlforth’s illusions about the SWP leadership were to be expressed in an anti-Robertson organizational maneuver which served only to discredit Wohlforth.


TROTSKYISM TODAY Part 3 – by Harry Turner

 Vanguard Newsletter, Vol 2 No 10 November 1970


The Birth of Spartacist and the Workers League

Organizations can appear to be very revolutionary when judged by their words, by their, perhaps, frequent bows to Marxist “orthodoxy” to the politically naive. It is only over time and under test, throughout an entire range of struggles, that the essential political characteristics of organizations and their leaderships become clearly delineated.

Our post mortem on the recent series by the Workers League’s (WL) Tim Wohlforth, What Is Spartacist?, has as its purpose the drawing up of a balance sheet on two left “alternatives” to the Socialist Workers Party, the Spartacist and WL –as well as other formations in passing –to support our contention that their leaders, both Robertson and Wohlforth, have acted as obstacles to the construction of a revolutionary Marxist, i.e., a Leninist and Trotskyist working class vanguard party.

In our second instalment in October, we stated that the 1962 split in the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) left tendency had been caused by the refusal of “Robertson and his friends … to subordinate their oversized egos to the needs of the International movement”. We also observed that Wohlforth’s “ambivalent attitude towards the [SWP] leadership” was to be “expressed in an anti-Robertson manoeuvre which served only to discredit Wohlforth”.

As was its custom, the SWP had set a two month discussion period in preparation for the crucial convention held during July 1963, which would mark its final rupture with “orthodox” Trotskyism” by its political re-unification with the Pabloist International Secretariat, thereafter known as the United Secretariat.

The intense struggle over program and leadership was reflected in the sheer volume of internal discussion bulletins which were published. Every tendency and assorted independent individuals , not only on the impending re-unification with the Pabloists, but also on the specific political issues to which political re-unification was connected, e.g. the “Russian” question which now also included China, Eastern Europe, Cuba, the “American” question, which the majority was able to consider apart from the “Negro” question in metaphysical fashion.

The “Reorganised Minority Tendency” (RMT) under Wohlforth’s leadership was, of course, legitimately concerned to present its and the International Committee’s (IC) political views. It was also required to make clear the basis for its separation from the other “anti-Pabloist” tendency, the “Revolutionary Tendency” (RT), under the leadership of Robertson. While the separate existence of the two groups had produced divergent positions on a number of important questions, neither had become sufficiently differentiated in the eyes of the rank and file of the party. Moreover the majority utilized the split to attack both groups for unprincipled factionalism.

But Wohlforth’s illusions in the “center”, his reluctance to make a “premature characterisation” of the Dobbs-Kerry leadership as a “finished centrist tendency” led him into taking a serious political mis-step, in attempting to carry through this responsibility.

Just prior to the closing date for submission of documents, Wohlforth produced his explanation for the left minority split, entitled Party and Class. Repeating all the rationalizations for continuing to view the SWP as still “revolutionary”, he re-affirmed the loyalty of his tendency to it, its concern to avoid all factional confrontations in the interest of a thorough political discussion of outstanding issues, and then proceeded to indict the Robertson tendency for having “written off the party as a whole”, for having “displayed no serious interest in the work of our party”, for seeking “to retreat into the comfortable ‘study circle’…”, and for rapidly evolving “at that time…in the direction of a split from the party”. As evidence for the validity of this statement, he appended two of his internal tendency documents and the letter of a supporter, Albert Philips. But these appendices not only referred to the specific internal tendency documents which had been written by Robertson- Ireland and Harper, but interpreted their contents in a manner which could not fail to provide the SWP majority, should it desire it, with the grounds for organization proceedings against them, e.g.:

“A tendency which rejects party discipline (even if only partially) and party building, which seeks to sneak people into the party, which functions in part as an independent entity, which carries on an organization faction war within the party, which, in violation of party statutes includes non-party members, which is so deeply alienated and isolated from the party ranks that it has in fact already split in content if not yet in form –such a tendency is going down a road which must lead to a split from the party.” (Toward the Working Class).

This writer, having considered the positions of both tendencies for some months, had by then decided to join forces with Robertson after achieving political agreement with him on Cuba as a deformed workers’ state, and on organizational approaches towards Progressive Labor, which had broken from the Communist Party to its left. An important factor in this writer’s decision was his conclusion that Robertson’s open hostility towards the leadership was more forthright and logical than the ambiguous-seeming position of Wohlforth.

Robertson had only managed to learn about the Wohlforth document as it was being produced. In a last minute attempt to prevent its publication, he called upon this writer to appeal to Wohlforth to withdraw it. Wohlforth, however, refused on the ground that it was no longer possible, that the document was already known to the leadership. He also refused to entertain the possibility that his document would result in disciplinary proceedings against the Robertson tendency, and insisted that the SWP leadership had never expelled anyone for thoughts, only for specific actions.

Robertson has accused Wohlforth of having ‘finked’ on the RT in an effort at having its leadership expelled. The latter was, of course, concerned to destroy the former politically, hoped to discredit his tendency in the eyes of the SWP membership, and to establish his own as a “loyal” opposition. While personal malice was, perhaps, involved, it is possible to understand Wohlforth’s action as based on the mistaken belief that the still “revolutionary” SWP would not resort to organizational measures solely on the strength of his documents.

The Party and Class document also made clear that the RMT would have sought “political collaboration between the tendencies”, would not have sought to discredit Robertson and his followers, if his tendency has supported its resolution on the “American” question for a turn to the working class, instead of amending the majority document “to continue ‘propaganda work’”.

As we have shown, Wohlforth and the IC had retained illusions that the SWP was still the “main instrument for the realization of socialism” in the US. This underestimation of the ravages of the Pabloite infection also expressed itself in the document, The Decline of American Imperialism and the Tasks of the SWP, which the RMT had presented two months prior to its Party and Class document. Its simplistic theme was that, like Antaeus and mother Earth, the SWP could be revitalized, would regain its revolutionary elan, by restoring its contact with the working class.

But Wohlforth had miscalculated. The RMT did not enjoy a rush of new membership support from the explosion of his “bombshell”. Robertson has been able to submit the refutation of the RT, Discipline and Truth, in time for its publication as an internal discussion document, in which Wohlforth’s statements were branded as “lies” concocted to promote the expulsion of the RT. Appropriate quotations from correspondence and from the Robertson-Ireland and Harper documents were used to “refute” Wohlforth’s interpretations, and to put a better color on some of the more awkward phrases to which he had referred.

The last business of the Convention, the election of the National Committee by the delegates, saw Wohlforth deprived of his seat because of his “disloyal” association with Healy’s SLL.

Prior to the Convention, the Political Committee of the SWP had moved against the RT leadership by demanding the Robertson-Ireland and Harper documents in question.   After the Convention it convened a Control Commission to investigate the RT leadership, suspended, and then in January 1964, expelled Robertson, Ireland, Harper, Mage and White from the SWP. Shortly thereafter, the first issue of Spartacist was published. Its appearance precipitated charges against and the expulsion of the remaining members of the RT, including this writer, from all local organizations of the SWP in which the majority exercised control.

The high-handed procedures of the SWP majority against the RT–suspensions and expulsions for “bad” thoughts, for the expression of opinion within a tendency, without proof of overt violations of party discipline, and, in the cases of Geoffrey White and Shane Mage, without even the evidence of “disloyal” thoughts –had brought the RT a groundswell of sympathy from many members. Protests began to pour in from individuals and even entire local organizations of the SWP. Other tendencies, including the RMT, also joined the chorus of opposition.

Many of the protesters were without sympathy for the political positions of the RT. Some even had essential political agreement with the majority, and had simply become disturbed over the abrogation of the rights of the RT. Some, at odds with the majority on one or other question, feared the precedent that was being established. But others, seeing the heavy bureaucratic hand of the leadership in action, also began to give sympathetic ear to the political views of the RT.

Wohlforth and the RMT were, however, isolated, distrusted and scorned by all sides. Sympathizers with the majority did not accept Wohlforth’s “charges” against Robertson as a manifestation of “loyalty”, and still considered him to be the creature of Gerry Healy. The newly aroused members on the other hand, gave credence to Robertson’s vilifications that Wohlforth had acted as a “fink”, had deliberately “framed up” the RT for his own Machiavellian purposes.

In addition, in focussing attention on the organizational side of politics, in attempting to destroy the RT with sensational appendices, Wohlforth inevitably detracted from what he had declared to be the central question of Party and Class, the program which the RMT had issued on the “American” question, although, perhaps, somewhat overambitious for a small party, was a fundamentally correct orientation for a serious revolutionary movement. It mistook the tempo of economic development and looked for a “crisis of growing stagnation” at a time when capitalism was achieving a new “prosperity”. It is now dated in its emphasis on the Southern civil rights movement. However, it did direct itself to the growing domestic and international contradictions of capitalism, which have, since 1967-68, shaken world capitalism.

At the time, and to many SWP members, including this writer, the majority criticism with which Robertson concurred, that the RMT was proposing a “Don Quixote” perspective which invited the SWP to “charge simultaneously into all sides of the mass movement”, seemed valid. Robertson’s more modest proposals for directing the SWP’s “general propaganda offensive” along “class lines” were closer to the majority document, Preparing for the Next Wave of Radicalization in the US. But both the RT and the SWP majority viewed the economic “reality” in empirical fashion. The former continued to respond to it in the propagandist style which it had learned in the period of the SWP’s deterioration. The latter abandoned even these feeble approaches to the working class for the new opportunities which saw it tail-ending Black nationalism and Cuban Bonapartism.

Viewed today, the RMT proposals that the SWP make work in the trade unions, among the workers who were beginning to move into struggle, not only against their employers, but also against the trade union bureaucrats, and to win Black and Spanish speaking workers on this basis, seems eminently reasonable.

The opposition of two themes –between the activity of a revolutionary Marxist organization directed toward the working class, which Wohlforth had emphasized in his document on the “American” question, and the “propagandist” orientation of Robertson, directed toward “selected” arenas for “exemplary” purposes –had been buried in a cloud of organizational manoeuvring, but the struggle between the two concepts of organization would be posed again and again, between the Workers League, formerly ACFI, and the SL, as well as within the latter organization.

Ironically, the WL was to abandon its earlier appreciation of the Black and other specially oppressed minorities as the key to the building of a working class base, for a passive adaptation to the chauvinist outlook of white workers, which it would cover with the abstract and sterile slogan “Fight Racism”.

With equal irony, the SL was to adopt the understanding that this writer had proposed in a Memorandum on the Negro Struggle, that it focus its activities on the construction of rank and file caucuses in the trade unions, on a program to unite the racially divided working class in the struggle against special oppression in its own immediate and fundamental interests –but only as a ploy with which to attract Student radicals. It was to abandon it in short order, and in the process, eliminate those who sought to implement it.

A few months after the expulsion of the RT members, Wohlforth’s RMT, minus those of its supporters who saw the Soviet Union as “state capitalist”, was suspended from SWP membership for attempting to force a discussion of the Ceylonese situation. The bulk of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP), which had maintained close ties over an eighteen year period with leaders now in the United Secretariat, had joined the “popular front” government coalition headed by the bourgeois Sri Lanka Freedom Party of Mrs. Bandaranaike.

Upon its suspension, the RMT immediately declared itself to be the “American Committee for the Fourth International’ (ACFI) and began to publish the Bulletin of International Soc1alism.

As in the case of the early American Communist movement, the “Trotskyist” “alternative” to the revisionist betrayal of revolutionary Marxism had issued forth as two separate organizations. However, history, as Marx has observed, recurs, “the first time as tragedy, the second as farce”.


TROTSKYISM TODAY (Part IV) – by Harry Turner

Vanguard Newsletter Vol. 2 No. 11 December 1970


Spartacist and ACFI “Unity” Negotiations

Two organizations cannot occupy the same political space for long. Either their political correspondence increases and finds its organizational expression in unity, or else their politics diverge as objective circumstances act on and are acted upon by each organization in accordance with its own nature. In the case of the Spartacist group and the American Committee for the Fourth International (ACFI), first one and then the other took place. Unity negotiations were followed by a final breech and a divergent development.

The Spartacist group’s expulsion from the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) several months prior to ACFI gave it a distinct advantage over the latter. As the only organisation to the left of the SWP, as the putative bearer of the revolutionary banner of Marxism which the SWP had abandoned , it began to attract new forces toward it, primarily from the student milieu together with sympathetic periphery of ex-members and sympathizers of the SWP. It managed to recruit in this period several members of the American Socialist Organizing Committee (ASOC), the left-wing faction of the Young People’s Socialist League (YPSL), the youth organization of the Socialist Party-Social Democratic Federation (SP-SDF).

Shortly after the suspension of the members of the Reorganized Minority Tendency (RMT) from the SWP and its emergence as ACFI in the summer of 1964, the Spartacist group’s James Robertson proposed that, as both had political agreement on essential questions, their two groups unite. Proceeding at a languid and desultory pace, initially through literary exchanges, and then through 8 meetings between their leading representatives, unity negotiations had reached a dead end by October 1965.

An examination of Marxist Bulletin No. 3, Part IV, published by the Spartacist League (SL), of the minutes of these sessions and its preface, should prove illuminating to an objective observer. The SL, in attempting to use the minutes to justify its own behavior, only succeeds in proving that both leaderships were more concerned with organizational manipulation and control of the fused organization, should it ever come into being, than with their responsibility for building a viable section of the Trotskyist movement in the US.

As though taking part in a quadrille, first Spartacist comes forth aggressively as the wooer with ACFI in retreat. Then the reversal, ACFI becomes the ardent swain with Spartacist in the role of reluctant partner. At intermission, the two parties are found in a mutually uneasy and distasteful embrace. The steps of the dance are related only to the narrowest organizational aspect of politics. The existing political differences which are raised, are not the real focus of the negotiations, but are only advanced as a defensive reflex, and largely to achieve leverage on the “important” question –who will swallow whom.

As a result of the initial successes of the Spartacist group, Robertson was convinced that his organization, at that time, perhaps, four times as large as ACFI, could successfully digest the latter. Wohlforth, fearful that ACFI might well be the eaten and not the eater, at first wants only an exhaustive literary discussion on all outstanding political and organizational questions. Only later does he agree to meetings of the leaderships. But he then proceeds to demand immediate organizational collaboration and fraternization at all levels before his organization will decide whether or not unification is desirable.

Robertson, fearing that Wohlforth and ACFI might lead some of his new flock astray, counters by insisting that Wohlforth first make a commitment that unity is “possible or principled”. Having received it at the 5th session, he then demands that ACFI accept the onus for the split in 1962, as the central question, without which, unity will not take place. Robertson has, evidently decided by then that the kind of unity which he had in mind was not possible, that ACFI and its talent, and especially Wohlforth’s literary ability would not be at the disposal of an organization which he, Robertson would dominate.

The character of the leaders of organizations, can play, as Marx has pointed out, an important role in accelerating or delaying developments. This subjective factor, will and should have a certain weight in negotiations between organizations. But revolutionary Marxists, scientific socialists, begin not from subjective considerations, but from the objective tasks with which the movement is faced, and to which the subjective factors are, in the final analysis, subordinate. For serious Marxists, the vital considerations are the perspective with which the organisation proposes to function, and the program that it elaborates, the strategy and tactics which it develops in relation to both the objective situation and the prevailing level of working class consciousness.

It was at this point that the International Committee of the Fourth International (IC) intervened to remind both groups of the vital importance that the construction of a revolutionary vanguard party in the US would have for the international revolutionary struggle. As both Spartacist and ACFI had expressed agreement with its international perspectives and program, the IC called upon both groups to work toward agreement on American perspectives as the basis for unity.

Shortly thereafter, at a meeting in Montreal, the delegations from the Spartacist group and ACFI, at first independently and then conjointly, met with Gerry Healy, the national secretary of the Socialist Labour League (SLL) and secretary of the IC, and agreed to work for a consummation of the unity after the London Conference of the IC in April 1966, and to prepare an American perspectives document for presentation at the conference.

But not without a struggle. Robertson wanted a written guarantee that the IC would not again “interfere” in the internal affairs of the American section, as in 1962, and was ready to break off negotiations unless he received it.

Gerry Healy, of course, understood that Robertson, in the name of democratic centralism was demanding, in effect, a federative relationship with the international movement, of the type that the SWP had achieved in the post-war period, in which each national movement conducted its own “business” without having to account for its activities to the international –in essence, a reversion to the national practices of the Second International. Healy was, quite properly, opposed to any such understanding.

A national section of the international movement must, of course, develop leadership with the capacity to determine correct strategy and tactics, not apart from the international movement, but as an integral and essential part of it. These sections bear the direct responsibility for constructing a working class vanguard party which, as a result of its deep roots and intimate knowledge of the concrete conditions of struggle, can initiate and respond correctly to them. Obviously, for an international movement of this kind, there can be no question of giving and taking “orders”.

At the same time, the international party of the world proletariat must operate on the principle of democratic centralism. It has, not only the right but the duty to intervene, to criticize the work of the national sections, to point out opportunistic and/or sectarian errors in the work, and to demand that their politics be congruent with those of the international movement.

The weakness of any of its parts is, of course, a weakness of the international as a whole. The success of any of its sections strengthens all sections. The revolutionary break-through, the socialist revolution, especially in one of the advanced countries, would shortly place the socialist revolution on the agenda in all capitalist countries, and the political revolution as well in the degenerate and deformed workers’ states.

Unknown to Healy and ACFI, Robertson’s intransigence had divided the Spartacist delegation. While all its delegates, at that time, accepted Robertson’s petty bourgeois nationalist position that Healy’s intervention in 1962, violated their national rights, two of them, Geoffrey White and this writer, had insisted that the unity of revolutionary Marxists on the basis of the existing fundamental political agreement into a nucleus of a Leninist vanguard party was a far more important question that formal guarantees of independence.

However, this division never came to a head because Healy proposed a formulation with which all could agree, that, both groups based themselves on the “decisions of the first Four Congresses of the Communist International”, on the work of the “Founding Conference of the Fourth International”, and on the IC international perspectives document; and that, on this basis, “tactical disagreements on work” in the US “would not be an obstacle to unity”. The IC reserved the “right to make its political position…known to the delegates at the Unification Conference…”. “Discussion on all past differences” was to be suspended until after unity had been consummated, when it would be continued in literary form.

The owl of Minerva flies at dusk. In retrospect, it was, obviously, a mistake not to have fought out the question of 1962 at Montreal, together with the issue of a working class orientation for the united organization as against the Robertson propagandist approach.   While Robertson would, probably, have convinced the majority of his delegation to break off negotiations, a fissure would, in all likelihood, have been opened in the ranks. His real petty bourgeois nature would have been revealed to, at least, a section of his membership, and the basis would have been prepared for a healthier unity with some of the Spartacist group later on.

It was only much later, after Robertson had called for a halt to the turn toward the trade unions and toward the construction of a network of rank and file caucuses on a program to unite the racially divided workers in struggle against special oppression, that this writer began to understand the real meaning of his emphasis on the role of the SL as a propaganda group.

The propaganda group label was not merely a sober recognition of the “realities”, but the expression of a pragmatic outlook, which ignored the growing crisis of American and world capitalism. Robertson was without a cohesive perspective for building a revolutionary party, and was proposing a type and level of activity which seemed to him “sensible” and also, of course, comfortable, i.e. work to which he was suited, work with the petty bourgeois strata.

Shortly before the London conference, Wohlforth attacked the “rough” draft which Robertson had presented at the last moment to a joint meeting of the Spartacists and the ACFI, on the floor and later in writing, for not providing “the basis for a proper perspective for the fused movement”, for being without a “perspective on the development of the class struggle” in the US, nor of posing “any strategic orientation around which a fused movement could be built”. Wohlforth was then roundly attacked for attempting to prevent unity. He had, however, only spoken the truth.

At the London Conference, Robertson was again to demonstrate that his primary concern was not the construction of a section of the party of the international socialist revolution, but rather, in building a petty-bourgeois personality cult.


TROTSKYISM TODAY, part 5 by Harry Turner

Vanguard Newsletter, Vol. 3 no. 2, February 1971.


The 1966 IC London Conference and Its Aftermath

Its participants expected that the April 1966 London Conference of, the International Committee (IC,) of the Fourth International would record the reconstruction of a center of international revolutionary Marxism. Instead its proceedings became a source of malicious glee and heartfelt relief to the enemies of Trotskyism, in general, and to the revisionists of Trotskyism in the United Secretariat of the Fourth International, in particular, as Joseph Hansen bears witness in his preface to the pamphlet, Healy “Reconstructs” the Fourth International.

The bulk of this pamphlet’s contents, containing the contents of correspondence of members of Spartacist, the American Committee for the Fourth International (ACFI) and Gerry Healy, the secretary of the IC, had been leaked to the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) through a sympathizer by the leader of Spartacist, James Robertson. After its publication, the pamphlet became a “best-seller”, not only with the SWP but also, with the Spartacist League. Robertson was indeed, as delighted to follow the lead of Hansen in treating the Conference as a hilarious farce, as he was in utilizing Hansen’s agile pen in defending his behavior at that Conference.

The pamphlet also contained a letter by this writer and Robert Sherwood dated April 10, 1966, to Gerry Healy in response to one of his. In it, Robertson’s conduct at the Conference was hotly defended, and Healy’s – in the case of both Voix Ouvrier and Robertson – attacked. By January 10, 1969, this writer had concluded that this, “defence of Robertson…was entirely in error”.

Joseph Hansen, Robertson’s self-appointed defense counsel, is aghast that an “exhausted” Robertson, who is “near collapse”, can be summarily ordered to return to a session of the Conference. What abominable bureaucratic brutality! But, a careful examination of all the facts in the Robertson affair presents an entirely different picture. Robertson, whatever his state of health prior to the Conference, was tired, and with good reason. He had lost a night’s sleep in a last minute effort at whipping together a draft document which was to be the basis on which the Spartacist and ACFI groups were to be united, and which he should have completed months earlier. But that doesn’t end the matter.

On the third day of the Conference Robertson had presented his divergent views, including his position on Cuba, for the first time before a world gathering of co-thinkers. But he, evidently, did not consider it worthwhile to stay for the afternoon session, in which delegates were able to react to the report and exchange views. No! Robertson decided this would be the ideal time for a nap! When awakened by another Spartacist delegate with a request to attend the Conference session, he bluntly refused to bestir himself and returned to sleep.

Is it any wonder then, that his demeanour was found to be arrogant and disrespectful to the Conference! Ah! But there were other delegates from Spartacist, reported one of its delegates, Rose J. Let us examine them.

In addition to Rose J., the other delegates were Liz G. and Mark T. Liz G. was a young college student, at that time without a responsible position in the organization. Mark T. was a relative newcomer to the organization, who was functioning as an alternative delegate only because he happened to be England attending graduate school. Rose J. had been a politically inactive member of Spartacist for some time. She had attended the Conference as a delegate, only because it suited her plans while on a prolonged visit to the European continent.

Gerry Healy’s remark in his letter to Turner and Sherwood that the, “relations within the delegates resembled that of a clique”, was an apt characterization of the group.

Without Robertson’s presence, the delegates from other sections who wished to respond to Spartacist’s positions, would have been, in effect, talking to themselves, and Robertson, who is not burdened with false modesty, was well aware of it. Although “tired”, he was certainly in good enough health to have attended the afternoon session, if he had felt it “worthwhile”.

We, at home, were dumbfounded by news of Robertson’s expulsion from the Conference. It was the last thing we expected.

With the prospects for unity with the ACFI gone glimmering, one could have expected that Robertson, on returning home, would have first called a meeting of the Spartacist Regional Editorial Board (REB) – in reality the political committee of the national organization –to give it an account of his activities, and to plan future strategy. After all, Spartacist prided itself on being a “democratic centralist” organization! But no! Robertson called a special meeting of the NYC local organization to hear his report.

In the course of a 5-part report, lasting almost 3 hours, the audience was also informed of an incident, of which his attorney, Joseph Hansen, had not been told. It seems that just prior to his expulsion, Robertson and the rest of the Spartacist delegation, had been called to a special meeting with Healy and Mike Banda of the Socialist Labour League (SLL). They had, at the time, offered to “work something out”. It was Robertson who refused to consider a rapprochement, who “just wanted to get out of there”. Somewhat amazed, and not quite certain that I had heard him correctly, I cross-questioned him and was again informed that it was, indeed, Robertson who had made the decision to break-off relations with the IC. Only after that, did Healy call for his expulsion from the Conference.

Thus, a vitally needed unity of revolutionary Marxists in the US was sacrificed, and a black eye handed to a world conference of Trotskyists, with whom Spartacist was in essential agreement, all because Robertson had decided that he would not be comfortable in the same international with Healy or anyone else with authority, who was able to see through his pretensions as a “revolutionary leader”. I was then that I moved the following three-part resolution that was defeated by a vote of 14 to 1:

“(1) To criticize Cde Robertson for withholding a suitable apology for not attending a session of the IC Conference –and apology which would have been of a principled character.

(2) To requires the REB to reopen unity with the SLL and ACFI immediately on the basis of political agreement between the groups and on the basis that a break with the SLL and ACFI would be harmful nationally and internationally.

(3) To request the REB to place an account of the Conference and differences in “Spartacist” and other published material in the mildest manner possible and indicating confidence that the misunderstanding will be bridged and unity consummated in the spirit of the re-opened unity negotiations.

I was convinced at the time that Robertson and Healy were equally responsible to blame for the jettisoned unity, which might well have heralded the re-birth of a strong revolutionary Marxist organization in the US, with all that it entailed internationally. Under the circumstances, I saw no alternative to remaining in Spartacist, and attempting to build that organization into the working class vanguard party which the American and international working class required. It was almost two-and- a- half years later, that if finally became quite clear that Robertson had no intention of building such a revolutionary party. Robertson’s perspective was limited to the acquisition of a small student personality cult.

But the “form” which Gerry Healy had chosen to expose Robertson’s “essence” had again, as in 1962, given him an organization cover. Then, it was the unalterable statement, which could not be voted upon, but only signed. Now, it was an “apology” by Robertson for his arrogant attitude towards the Conference.

In addition, the organizational manoeuvring with Voix Ouvriere, who should not have been invited to the Conference, in the first place, given the existing political differences, also tended to provide Robertson with useful organizational camouflage.

Had the unity gone through, would “Robertson have had the charter…with which he could do as he pleased…excluding the politics of the international except those aspects with which he had particular agreement”, as Healy believed?

Perhaps, but then the battle would have taken place on clear political issues. In the process of seeing how Robertson worked to carry out the “politics of the international”, a great deal more would have been learned about his personality and his close associates, some of whom were serious about building a section of an international working class vanguard party in the US.

The founding conference of the Spartacist League (SL), which was held September 1966 in Chicago, was able to record a membership of more than 80. A tiny number, true, when compared with the thousands in the US Communist Party, but not quite so insignificant, even when compared with the SWP at that time.

However, the SL was a basically unhealthy organism, whose decay was inevitable and soon to accelerate. Its self-identification as a not-yet viable “propaganda group” revealed a lack of perspective, which was most “visible” in its erratic press.

From that point onward, the SL began to fall apart as, first individuals, and then groups, became convinced that despite its correct political positions, it had no future as a revolutionary organization.

A year after the founding conference Robertson was to seize eagerly on the Memorandum on the Negro Struggle, which had been submitted by this writer in an attempt to shore up the organization.


TROTSKYISM TODAY Part 6, by Harry Turner

Vanguard Newsletter Vol 3 No 4 April 1971


The Split in the Spartacist League

By the fall of 1967, the Spartacist League (SL) was displaying increased symptoms on an incipient crisis. A marked disorientation was becoming evident in diminished activity and initiative in the local organisations, and in a falling membership.

The lack of perspective demonstrated in the organizations self-description as a not-yet viable “splinter propaganda group”, and by its infrequently and irregularly published organ was, by then, beginning to unleash centrifugal forces within it.

James Robertson, the National Chairman and then-editor of Spartacist, who was responsible for both the designation and publishing policy, supported the Memorandum on the Negro Struggle, which this writer had submitted, as a timely and badly needed morale booster for the organization. Although it did, initially, serve that purpose, the crisis was only postponed for a few months. The Memorandum was then to help bring it to boil with redoubled force.

This writer has been surprised at the ease with which the Memorandum has been accepted, but also perturbed at the almost complete lack of discussion by the SL’s political bureau. Not one of its members has examined the Memorandum critically, argued its merits and limitations, tried to concretely determine its applicability or to suggest improvements. Instead the “leading” body of the SL gave it a bland and unanimous acceptance. A dispirited and passive plenary session of the “central committee”, held at the end of 1967, was also to adopt the Memorandum in the same manner, uncritically and unanimously.

The basic strategic and tactical orientation of the Memorandum has stood the test of time, has demonstrated its validity, although some secondary aspects of its program have required modification in the light of developments since 1967.

Both the pragmatic and dogmatic “Marxists” discard Marxist theory as a “guide to action”. The dogmatist turns the body of philosophical, economic and historic knowledge into a set of rigid formuli, into a religious exercise. The pragmatist rejects “religion”, and operates eclectically: whatever “works” is good. But without a unifying theoretical conception which takes into account development, that which “works” at one moment, turns into its opposite at the next.

The Memorandum attempted to provide the SL with an integral and coherent perspective for the building of the revolutionary socialist party, which unites Marxist theory and practice of the past to present reality viewed dialectically.

By the end of 1967 it was becoming increasingly clear that the post World War II expansion of world capitalism was ending. The ruling class therefore could be expected to shore up the falling rate and mass of profit through an attack on workers’ wages and working conditions, and by shifting the “burden of the Vietnam war onto their backs”. It would find it necessary to outlaw “the right to strike in major industries”.

To defend its standards, the working class would be required to go beyond the economic, “to an all encompassing struggle which includes the political plane.”

In his discussions on the Transitional Program, Trotsky made the point that:

“The idea of a fixed class of unemployed, a class of pariahs…is absolutely the psychological preparation for fascism”.

A fascist development in the racially divided US, he felt, “will be the most terrible of all.” Trotsky had always emphasised the centrality of the Negro question to the building of a working class party in the US. It was with this same understanding that the Memorandum posed the need for a turn to the trade unions, as a major focus for the SL, in becoming the Leninist and Trotskyist vanguard party.

It was at the point of production that Black and White workers could become aware that “unity against the class enemy” is both possible and necessary.

In essence the Memorandum proposed building a transitional organisation in the trade unions, which would base itself on a transitional program, in which the struggle against special oppression was posed in the immediate interests of all workers.

The road into the ghettos was seen as beginning in the work-place, with the Black workers who had been won to a class and socialist outlook. They would conduct the fight for jobs, housing and education in the ghettos in a class, a revolutionary socialist basis. They would also fight for labor candidates and an independent Labor party in the ghettos, united to the national Labor party based on the unions.

The Memorandum aimed at first attracting “the most oppressed and discriminated…the most dynamic milieu of the working class”, in Trotsky’s words, and, therefore, recommended rank and file caucuses –inaptly named “civil rights” caucuses –be initiated in those trade unions with a high proportion of Black and Spanish-speaking workers.

That the workers from these minorities, and the young workers in particular, are the most radicalised sectors of the class, has been made abundantly clear. The appearance of the Black Panther party, followed by the Young Lords –although on a confused program of reformism, guerrillaism and socialism –their support among the Black and Puerto Rico peoples, in spite of police frame-ups and murders, testifies to the revolutionary potential which is present in these “most oppressed” layers of the working class.

But despite their militancy, Black and Spanish-speaking workers cannot achieve a working class identification, cannot be won to Marxian socialism, unless their experience the solidarity of white workers, expressed in the struggle against their special oppression.

In his conversation with Swabeck in 1933, although Trotsky posed a possible national development, he emphasised just this concept: the need for revolutionists to carry on “an uncompromising, merciless struggle” against the “colossal prejudices of the white workers.”

In waging an “uncompromising” struggle against white chauvinism, the revolutionists would, at the same time, cut the ground from under Black nationalism. As the white workers became aware that racial discrimination played into the hands of the bosses; that any “advantage” that white workers received over Black workers, was paid for by the lowing of wages and conditions for the class as a whole i.e., their wages and conditions; as they reached the understanding under the compulsion of necessity, and through the work of the revolutionists, that only a class solution, could end unemployment and exploitation; and conducted a class fight against special oppression in “their” own interests, then the Black nationalist reactionary utopia of “communities” exploited by their own Black capitalists would have little appeal to the Black workers.

It was this conception that would guide revolutionaries in the rank and file caucuses.

Having achieved a base in unions with a high concentration of minority workers, the Memorandum projected and expansion of the caucuses from individual shop and union, into “inter-union” and “regional and national” networks of caucuses. The resulting national organization was seen as the analogue of the ‘Trade Union Educational League’ (TUEL) which the American Communist Party had promoted in the early ‘20s. That organization had campaigned inside the AFL on a program which included the call for industrial unionism, a labor party and a fight against racial discrimination.

The TUEL had scored initial successes until the labor bureaucracy attacked it as a “dual union”. In 1929 when it could have taken the leadership, it was transformed into the Trade Union Unity League (TUUL). It then initiated a real dual union policy, and withdrew its forces from the AFL, under the spur of Stalin’s ultra-left turn.

The rank and file caucuses would not only provide a base for recruitment into the revolutionary party, but also an alternative leadership for organized workers. At a revolutionary moment, the caucuses would become the factory committees, the workers’ councils –“Soviets” –organs of “dual power.”

But the SL was merely a student-oriented personality cult around Robertson. It was incapable of adopting, let alone realising this perspective. The SL paraded itself as the “proletarian tendency” –but alas, only to students! It had concentrated for 4 years, at that time, on the professionals in NYC’s Social Service Employees Union –which drew non-specializing college graduates –without recruiting a single solitary soul. But Robertson used the defection of the SL’s 2 hospital workers to justify an end to the concentration in the hospitals, after 3 months! –as if more SL members should not have been sent in!

In the ensuing struggle, Robertson and his coterie were to thoroughly expose themselves as a fairly common variety of petty-bourgeois radical academic circle.

The SL “splinter propagandist group” would be burnt-out by the trade union concentration demanded by the minority –and besides, the forces could not be spared from the campuses. Black workers did not possess a “weltanshaung” and could not be recruited to a “splinter propaganda group”. The SL should concentrate in unions whose members “are more like us”. The Black and Spanish-speaking workers are not super-exploited, but even if they are, it doesn’t matter! Cleaver should “mobilize the Black masses”, not a “splinter propagandist group” like the SL!

With the premature departure of a section of the minority from the SL, the internal struggle was decided. Robertson proved himself particularly adept at using even cruder bureaucratic tactics to force the remaining minority out of the SL, that the SWP had used against the Spartacist forces. As we stated in the initial issue of Vanguard Newsletter:

“The ebb in the revolutionary socialist movement, as seen by the fractionation into smaller circles, will, in the coming period, be reversed, as objective circumstances make clear the programmatic basis for its reconstruction.”

All the indications are that the revolutionary “flood” is now beginning, which will see the reconstruction of the world party of Lenin and Trotsky. It is to this task that Vanguard Newsletter is dedicated.






Written by raved

January 2, 2015 at 8:24 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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