On the Continuity of Trotskyism: Programme vs. Struggle? No, Programme via Struggle! By Gerry Downing

25/10/2013 by socialistfight

New2ForPostsOn the Continuity of Trotskyism: Programme vs. Struggle? No, Programme via Struggle!

By Gerry Downing, 29 November 2011

The following quote could have been written at anytime in the post war history of Trotskyism. It neither guarantees the orthodoxy of the authors not the success of their endeavours. It could describe either an unprincipled lash-up or a principled fight for revolutionary Trotskyism. But it does speak of struggle on a programmatic basis similar to the one we are engaged upon now.

“The process of winning political hegemony for revolutionary Marxism in the upsurge will involve a range of tactics and organisational forms. But we must be clear on our goal: to build revolutionary Marxist, that is, mass Trotskyist parties in every country as sections of the Fourth International. One important aspect of the struggle to build the Fourth International is attempting to unify the world Trotskyist movement — the political forces that affirm the Transitional Program and identify with the Trotskyist tradition. If we achieved this, we could qualitatively increase our impact in the workers’ movement and clarify and resolve our differences in the framework of international democratic centralism. Our International needs to promote a process of political clarification and organisational reunification of the world Trotskyist movement. To build the Fourth International as a real World Party of Socialist Revolution — this is the core of the problem we face. To take advantage of the contradictions in the present, undeniably difficult situation to advance the struggle to build the Fourth International — this is the decision we must make.”[1]

We might mention this Wiki article on the life of Jock Haston which shows the struggle for Trotskyism was waged by many:

With the turn of the war against the Nazis the RCP was at pains to look for any signs of the coming revolutionary upheavals that were expected in line with the perspectives of the Fourth International as outlined in the famous Transitional programme. The leading theoretician of the RCP, Ted Grant, was therefore far seeing when he sought to tailor the political demands of the movement to the actual movement rather than succumbing to a rosy view of events. This realistic view of events was also prompted by the agreement of the RCP leadership with the documents of the Goldman-Morrow-Heijenoort minority in the American Socialist Workers Party.

Therefore when in 1946 Haston led a delegation of the RCP to a conference of some of the sections of the Fourth International in Paris it is surprising that he moved that the conference be considered as a Congress of the movement. This was in part motivated by the opposition of the RCP to the demoralisation of the German comrades of the International Communists of Germany (IKD).

More important, politically, were the amendments that Haston wrote, along with Bill Hunter, to the resolutions of the FI leadership put forward at the meeting. In contrast to the FI leadership the RCP amendments recognise that Stalinism had emerged from the war strengthened and that an economic crisis was unlikely in the near future. Therefore it was argued political demands and expectations had to recognise these changes and not pose revolutionary tasks in the absence of a revolutionary situation. The FI majority around Ernest Mandel and Michel Pablo, backed by the SWP in the United States, prevailed however.

The dispute with the leadership of the FI deepened with time and became centred on three interlinked questions. Firstly there was the role of Stalinism in Eastern Europe where the RCP took a different position to the FI in particular when the latter began to support the split of Josip Broz Tito in Yugoslavia from the USSR the RCP became very critical. This criticism being expressed in documents written by Haston. Secondly there was the question of economic perspectives and the growing tendency of the Labour party government of Clement Attlee to take various industries into state ownership as was also happening in Eastern Europe. Again it was Haston who opposed the idea that state ownership could be equated with any form of socialism in the pages of Socialist Appeal.[2]

Did the Fourth International die in 1943?

The Fourth International degenerated and died as a revolutionary organisation, we are told by Comrade Jim, in the period 1943 to 1951. This is the conclusion drawn by James Robertson at the Third World Congress of the Fourth International in 1966 in London (he was bureaucratically expelled from the conference essentially for this speech on the initiative of Gerry Healy and Mike Banda),

“The pressure which produced Pabloism began in 1943, following the failure of Leon Trotsky’s perspective of the break-up of the Soviet bureaucracy and of new October revolutions in the aftermath of the war: this failure resulted from the inability to forge revolutionary parties. After 1950, Pabloism dominated the F.I.; only when the fruits of Pabloism were clear did a section of the F.I. pull back. In our opinion, the “orthodox” movement has still to face up to the new theoretical problems which rendered it susceptible to Pabloism in 1943-50 and gave rise to a ragged, partial split in 1952-54.”[3]

On one level there is a great deal of truth in this assertion, serious problems beset the Fourth International during the war, the US SWP was clearly falling victim to national isolation, but is very wrong to speak of “the failure of Leon Trotsky’s perspective of the break-up of the Soviet bureaucracy and of new October revolutions in the aftermath of the war”. Trotsky’s perspectives were those of revolutionary struggle. The Trotskyist fought those struggles heroically as outlined below. We cannot speak of the “failure of perspectives” in this manner as if was wrong to have these perspectives in the first place and what happened was inevitable. It was not. But problems there were as IDOT No. 1 points out:

“In WWII a very powerful wave of national chauvinism swept the US including the working class. This assisted in the Trial and jailing of the 18 Trotskyist leaders, including Cannon. Cannon’s failure to defend revolutionary defeatism in that trial was a crucial victory for the state. Grandizo Munis was correct on this, even if he clearly attacked from an ultra-left perspective. This national isolationism grew until it produced the 1946 American Theses[4] and Cannon’s The Coming American Revolution[5] – which was both objectivist and chauvinist at the same time.”[6]

We now know that the SWP was heavily infiltrated by state agents at that time, whilst repudiating the Healyite Security and the Fourth International slander campaign against Joe Hansen and George Novak, nevertheless as IDOT No. 1 points out,

“Sylvia Callen Franklin was a GPU spy in the SWP and passed on internal documents. Floyd Cleveland Miller organised the assassination of Trotskyist seamen on the WWII convoys, having infiltrated the movement and there were others, like the Dallins and Robert Sheldon Hart who had a case to answer.”[7]

More to the Fourth International than the US SWP

But there was more to the Fourth International than the US SWP. There was the political and ideological disruption caused by lack of an International during WWII but we maintain that the proceedings of the Second World Congress in 1948 went a long way to overcoming that disruption and its resolutions and proceedings are still within the norms of revolutionary Trotskyism. This is shown particularly in the clear manner in which it tackled and fought out internal problems in constituent national parties, like any real functioning International must. But as it points out:

“Comrade Trotsky, the founder, leader and inspirer of the International, was among the first to be murdered by Stalin after the outbreak of the war. Later the Stalinist gangsters claimed other victims. In Greece they killed over one hundred Trotskyist, included among them the most qualified leaders of the movement. In Indochina they disposed of Tha-Tu-Thau and numerous others. They killed Blasco, the Italian Trotskyist leader who could have rendered inestimable service in the construction of the Italian party.

The Gestapo, wherever it had control, hounded the Trotskyist militants and submitted them to fierce torture and annihilation. Only a handful of the German Trotskyist survived the concentration camps. The Austrian Trotskyist lost some of their major cadres after they were placed on trial by the Nazis and condemned to death. The Czechoslovak Trotskyist lost about a dozen of their cadre elements. The Polish section was wiped out almost in its entirety. The French, Belgian, the Dutch organizations lost the most experienced leaders and many militants.

The Anglo-American imperialists who fought the war ostensibly in the name of democracy and against fascism did not feel in the least restrained in persecuting the Trotskyist. The leaders of the American Trotskyist were thrown into prison for over a year. The British Trotskyist suffered a similar fate. But they were especially ruthless in the colonial countries. The leaders and many members of the Indian party spent the war years in jail without indictment, trial or any definite term. The Chinese Trotskyist were submitted to the triple brutalities of the Japanese imperialists, Chiang Kai-shek’s hangmen and the Stalinists. Even Switzerland, the ideal country of bourgeois democracy, which remained neutral in the war, would not allow the Trotskyist to function freely and jailed its leading spokesmen.” [8]

The details were not known to the 1948 Congress but here is what happened to the French Trotskyists in 1944 (one year after Trotskyism had supposedly ‘collapsed’):

“The Paris region was organised as two branches. But the heart of the organisation was in Brittany, both around Nantes and in particular around Brest where the soldiers provided the party with Ausweis [identity cards] and weapons. In Brest the organisation had about fifty soldiers on average despite some people being posted elsewhere. Contacts were established in Toulon, Valence, La Rochelle and at Conches aerodrome. Links were established with the German Trotskyist organisation, most importantly in the port of Hamburg, in Lübeck and in Rostock. Victor [a German Trotskyist, whose real name was Widelin] was responsible for these contacts. Arbeiter und Soldat was also distributed in garrisons in Italy. On 7 October 18 Fourth International Committees activists in Brittany were arrested, along with much of the Paris organisation. In total around fifty French activists were rounded up, and many of them were tortured, executed or sent to concentration camps. Similarly, as many as fifty Der Arbeiter soldier comrades were put to death, and their paper never reappeared.” The full contents of their press are available here thanks to David Broader, an AWL member at the time. We maintain those journals constitute an heroic struggle for Trotskyism; [9]

How the 1948 Second Congress fought

Here is how the 1948 Second Congress fought out the question of opportunism and sectarianism: “In summarizing the long intensive discussion, we see despite the various divergent tendencies, two main currents:

(a) The traditional Trotskyist current which forms the overwhelming majority of the functioning sections. This current retains its analysis of the fundamental crisis of capitalism in our epoch. This crisis has only been aggravated by the consequences of the war. It retains its perspectives of the socialist revolution, having confidence in the revolutionary capacities of the proletariat, in its ability to liberate itself from the grip of Stalinism. It places the main emphasis on the transformation of our organizations from propaganda groups into genuine mass parties, a transformation which is not only necessary, but for the first time also feasible.

(b) Opposed to this is the current which lays stress on the retreat of the socialist revolution, on the forces of historic retrogression, the sinking into barbarism, the incapacity of the proletariat, its degeneration, its profound contamination with Stalinism. They are impressed, on the contrary, by every “success” of capitalism, by its “stabilization.” They look with scepticism on the future of the International and they denigrate its work and achievements. This revisionist current is profoundly defeatist in relation to the perspectives of the proletarian revolution. This current embraces principally the KDI and the Workers Party.

The line of this tendency would sterilize and paralyze the struggle of the International to sink roots into the mass movement.” [10]

Robertson’s speech at the 1966 conference was, as the citation above shows, far closer to the truth than Healy and Lambert. They simply wanted to establish a bogus line of continuity running through the International Committee 1953 split to avoid the questions of their own past errors and opportunism. Here is some more of Robertson’s 1966 speech,

“We take issue with the notion that the present crisis of capitalism is so sharp and deep that Trotskyist revisionism is needed to tame the workers, in a way comparable to the degeneration of the Second and Third Internationals. Such an erroneous estimation would have as its point of departure an enormous overestimation of our present significance, and would accordingly be disorienting.

We had better concentrate upon what Lenin said concerning the various, ubiquitous crises which beset imperialism (a system essentially in crisis since before 1914); Lenin pointed out that there is no impossible situation for the bourgeoisie, it is necessary to throw them out. Otherwise, “crises” are all in a day’s work for the mechanisms and agencies of imperialism in muddling through from one year to the next. Just now, in fact, their task is easier, after the terrible shattering of the Indonesian workers’ movement; add to this the other reversals which expose the revisionists’ dependence on petty-bourgeois and bureaucratic strata, like the softening of the USSR, the isolation of China, India brought to heel, Africa neatly stabilized, and Castro a captive of Russia and the U.S…

Many statements and positions of the I.C. show theoretical weakness or confusion on this question. Thus, the l.C. Statement on the fall of Ben Bella declared: “Where the state takes a bonapartist form on behalf of a weak bourgeoisie, as in Algeria or Cuba, then the type of ‘revolt’ occurring on June 19-20 in Algiers is on the agenda.” –Newsletter, 26 June 1965.

While the nationalization in Algeria now amounts to some 15 per cent of the economy, the Cuban economy is, in essence, entirely nationalized; China probably has more vestiges of its bourgeoisie. If the Cuban bourgeoisie is indeed “weak,” as the I.C. affirms, one can only observe that it must be tired from its long swim to Miami, Florida.” [11]

However there was substance also in the charges laid against Robertson in that 1966 Congress by Healy and Banda. They charged Robertson with a US national orientation, and subsequent history has shown the truth of that assertion, and they charged him with a propagandist orientation because of his assertion of the need for a Fighting Propaganda Group,

“The Spartacist draft theses state: “The tactical aim of the SL in the next period is to build a sufficiently large propaganda group capable of agitational intervention in every social struggle in the U.S. as a necessary step in the building of the revolutionary party. For this intervention we seek an increase in our forces to at least tenfold. From our small force of around 100 we move toward our goal in three parallel lines of activity: splits and fusions with other groups, direct involvement in mass struggle, and the strengthening and education of our organization.” [12]

This, Healy claimed represented not an orientation to the working class in struggle but a deep scepticism of the working class and its potential to make revolution and a petty bourgeois orientation to other self-proclaimed Trotskyist groups which became a substitute for the class struggle in later years. They have now become parasites on all the other claimants to Trotskyism. This criticism was basically correct, leaving aside the constant ‘impeding catastrophe’ method of mobilising members Healy had which we will come to later. As the IDOT No 1 observed of the IBT and the Spart family in general,

“You have “disappeared” the rest of the subjectively revolutionary Trotskyists internationally, the rest of the subjectively revolutionists of any colour outside the “Family” and with them the entire historical experience of the fight by other forces for Trotskyism internationally, however inadequate that might have been and with them has gone the working class and its revolutionary potential. The healthy revolutionary elements outside of your own ranks must now be reduced to a few dozen at most, in the eyes of the three opposing sectarian “Family” groups.” [13]

Now we will look at the history of the British Trotskyist movement and the IC tradition in Britain as set out in 1989 by Tony Gard, a former member who went on to join Thornett’s WSL and later founded the Revolutionary Internationalist League, British section of the International Trotskyist Committee (ITC), the international  remnants after the 1982 split with the WSL).[14]

The origins and Development of the International Committee Section in Britain

The Workers Socialist League was formed in 1974 as a result of the expulsion by the Workers Revolutionary Party (WRP) of the Oxford based opposition led by Alan T., Tony R., and John L.. While there has been considerable discussion in TILC (The Trotskyist International Liaison Committee, the International formed by the WSL) and in the ITC and elsewhere on the history of the Socialist Labour League/ Workers Revolutionary Party in the context of the crisis of the Fourth International, a summary of the main points pertinent to the development of the Workers Socialist League is necessary.

(a.) The formation of the Revolutionary Communist Party in 1944 reflected (to a certain extent) a sectarian response to the Labour Party class collaboration (the coalition government, etc.) and to the lack of any real Labour Party activity during the war. The problems this created became marked with the end of the war and the revival of Labour Party political life in 1945 and thereafter. Subsequently, Healy led an opposition calling for entry into the Labour Party, but it was essentially an opportunist response to the strength of social democracy and the weakness of Trotskyist forces. These developments took place in a very difficult period for the Fourth International. The Stalinist purges, the assassination of Trotsky, the war, and the Nazi occupation of much of Europe had severely depleted its forces and disrupted its functioning internationally.

It had, nevertheless, come through the war and into the postwar world as a revolutionary international. However, the strength, politically, of Stalinism and the expansion of the Stalinist bureaucracy’s area of control, the beginnings of the restabilisation of capitalism under US hegemony, and the Cold War posed enormous problems for Trotskyists, led in some cases to physical liquidation and generally to their isolation from the masses. Healy’s split from the RCP on the basis of Labour Party entry and the consequent collapse of the RCP was the application in British conditions of the liquidationist course taken by the Fourth International under its International Secretary, Michel Pablo, as it sought short cuts out of its isolation and looked to larger forces that could in some way be substituted for building Trotskyist parties.

(b.) Healy’s group, The Club, practised a liquidationist form of entrism in the period 1948 to 1956 and to some extent down to 1958. It was an early example of Trotskyists’ attempting to create themselves as a centrist current in the Labour Party when one does not exist and adapting to the bureaucratic leaders of left reformist currents when these emerge. The principal vehicle for The Club’s politics was the journal Socialist Outlook. When this was banned, the arguments of Labour Party legality were accepted without a struggle, and The Club became part of the Tribune tendency.

(c.) In the late 1940s and early 1950s, The Club completely supported the policies of Pablo’s International Secretariat. It endorsed the increasingly confused and ultimately revisionist response to developments in postwar Stalinism including the view that Tito’s nationalist Stalinism in Yugoslavia was a form of centrism. Subsequently there was no attempt to re-examine the lessons of this episode.

(d.) The 1953 split was a response to the effects on national sections of Pablo’s generalisation of his liquidationist orientation to Stalinism. For The Club this meant a clash of liquidationisms Pablo’s liquidation into Stalinism vs. Healy’s liquidation into social democracy. Both sides of the split (Pablo’s International Secretariat and the International Committee of Cannon, Healy, and Lambert) were part of the Fourth International’s centrist degeneration. There were positive aspects to the International Committee’s stand for the political independence of Trotskyists from Stalinism. Nevertheless, the International Committee remained trapped within national Trotskyist responses and thus never conducted an examination of the postwar Fourth International and carried over from Pabloism the objectivist method which, for instance, The Club applied in its Labour Party work.

(e.) The contradictory character of Trotskyist-centrism, and specifically of the International Committee split, was illustrated by The Club’s generally principled and quite successful intervention into the Communist Party’s crisis in 1956. This did not, however, mean a break with Labour Party liquidationist politics, as the politics of the 1958 Rank-and-file Conference indicated. However, it did provide a basis for the “left turn” with the formation of the Socialist Labour League as a public Trotskyist organisation (while continuing to work in the Labour Party) in 1959.

(f.) This “left turn” is particularly important for us, since from its contradictions developed the political tendency identified with Alan T. This turn did not represent a break with past methods or any political reassessment. The conjunctural basis of the turn consisted of the following elements:
1) the enlargement of the group as a result of its intervention in the Communist Party in 1956/1957;
2) the overall decline of the Labour left and the difficulties in Labour Party work created by the witch-hunt;
3) the growth of shop-floor militancy on the wages front, as shop stewards committees led largely unofficial strikes to improve living standards independently of the bureaucrats under conditions of full employment and to a much lesser extent, the rapid growth of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament as a mass movement outside the Labour Party but having close connections with the Labour and trade union left. Subsequently these developments were extended by the turn to youth in the early 1960s, as the Labour Party set up a national youth movement, the Young Socialists, in the wake of its third successive general election defeat, at a time of growing militancy among working-class youth. As a result, the Socialist Labour League (SLL) drew to itself (and to Trotskyism, despite its distortions), an important layer of student and working-class youth and a smaller but significant layer of industrial militants.

(g.) However, the general objectivist method was retained and applied to the process of economic crisis and class struggle. From liquidationism Healy’s forces lurched increasingly to sectarianism, especially after the break/ expulsion of the Young Socialists from the Labour Party around the time of the 1964 general election. Objectivism and sectarianism were combined in an increasingly prominent catastrophism; the theory of an impending capitalist economic collapse which sees the working class break from reformism. At the same time, the elements of confusion on Stalinism continued and were reinforced by the way the Socialist Labour League reacted to the Castroism of the US Socialist Workers Party (which was the basis for the International Secretariat-SWP reunification that formed the United Secretariat of the Fourth International [USFI] in 1963) by asserting that Cuba remained capitalist. On the other hand, the Healyites were to show their own sort of accommodation to the Maoist Red Guards in China and to the successes of the Vietnamese Stalinist bureaucracy against US imperialism. They also retained their basic confusion on social democracy, a confusion embodied in the call for a Labour government on socialist policies.

(h.) The other side of the SLL’s objectivism was its failure to fight for the Transitional Programme. At best its use of transitional demands and the education of its cadres in the significance and method of the Transitional Programme were erratic. Increasingly the Transitional Programme simply disappeared from the League’s practice. To some extent, this point is made by John L. in an article, “Lessons of Our History”, published in the WSL’s newspaper Socialist Press in 1975 (see issue no. 18, 1 October 1975). In this article which compares most favourably as a serious piece of political argument with the superficial journalistic hack work John L. is currently churning out the abstract sectarianism of the 1974 WRP election manifesto with its ‘maximum demand’ calls for nationalisation, socialist policies, etc., is contrasted with the use of transitional demands in the 1965 SLL election manifesto.

The contrast is correctly drawn, and John L.’s arguments on transitional demands and against Healy’s 1970s sectarianism are well made, but this article illustrates some of the confusions the WSL inherit. In general, it gives uncritical support to the Socialist Labour League of the mid-1960s and traces its abandonment of the Transitional Programme from 1967 to 1974. It does not look at the strengths and weaknesses of the SLL in the early 1960s to mid-1960s in the context of its history as a whole, its previous as well as its subsequent development. Thus, though a rather routine reference to objectivism affecting both sides of the 1953 split is made at the end of the article, John L.’s general view is the same as Alan T.’s in The Battle for Trotskyism: the sectarian turn of the late 1960s and 1970s resulted from the impatience of previously isolated revolutionaries faced by a massive upsurge in the level of struggle worldwide.

(i.) Even during this supposedly best period, the SLL remained trapped by national Trotskyism, as did the French Organisation Communiste Internationaliste (OCI; the only other section of any size in the International Committee after 1963). Indeed, federalism and national Trotskyism were confirmed by the International Committee’s 1966 World Congress. This prevented the development of international democratic centralism and thus prevented also any international struggle against the weaknesses of the national sections. The International Committee continued as a mere bloc of the SLL and the OCI: the mutual nonaggression pact between them was the basis for their split in 1971, after which the International Committee was merely the SLL/ WRP and its satellite clones.

(j.) Thus, by the late 1960s and early 1970s sectarianism and catastrophism were rampant and increasingly bizarre. These features facilitated the growth of other centrist such as International Socialists/Socialist Workers Party (IS/SWP) and the Trotskyist-centrist International Marxist Group (IMG) British section of the USFI. Neither of these could offer any political alternative to the SLL/WRP. On a number of points (the class nature of the Soviet Union, the leading role of the working class in the revolution) the SLL/WRP was correct over against the IS/SWP and IMG. However, they were able to expand because of the sectarianism of the SLL/WRP, for instance towards the student based movement against the Vietnam War. (Incidentally, the growth of Militant, though less spectacular in this period, was facilitated by the sectarianism of the SLL/WRP, IMG, and IS/SWP on the Labour Party.)

The turn to philosophy (that is, Healy’s idiosyncratic idealism) in the early 1970s served to create a wall between the SLL membership and the real world, with the former dominated by an increasingly brutal internal regime. The transformation of the SLL into a cult was complete. These features help to explain the failure to develop any internal oppositional struggle. Alan T.’s opposition was in reality a belated resistance emerging in conditions where internal discussion, clarification, and struggle were completely impossible.

(k.) Finally, it is necessary to make a general point on the particular characteristics of the objectivism of the International Committee tradition, represented by the SLL/ WRP, since it has an important bearing on the subsequent development of the WSL. This has, in fact, been touched on, in points g and j above. All objectivism represents a denial of the role of revolutionary consciousness, thus of the struggle to build Trotskyist parties as the conscious revolutionary leadership of the working class, through a fight for Trotskyist politics and intervention in the class struggle based on the Transitional Programme. Objectivism substitutes a notion of revolutionary consciousness in some sense or other evolving as part of the objective process. This always involves a rejection of the political independence of the working class from bourgeois ideology and petty-bourgeois ideology (the latter, of course, representing no political independence from the bourgeoisie). This understanding of objectivism was established long ago in the communist movement. It is in fact the core of Lenin’s argument in “What Is To Be Done?”


Nevertheless, objectivism has been the theoretical basis of the centrist degeneration and consequent crisis of the Fourth International. It has led to the tail-ending of one movement or process after another (the attitude to Titoism in Yugoslavia in the late 1940s and early 1950s being the first clear example of this method). However, there have tended to be some differences between the objectivism followed by those forces which were part of the International Secretariat following the 1953 split and those which were part of the International Committee. The former have tended to adapt to petty-bourgeois forces and tendencies of nationalist or Stalinist origin: the FLN in the Algerian War of the 1950s, Castroism in Cuba, the student movement in Europe and North America in the 1960s and early 1970s, guerrillaism in Latin America during the same period, Sandinism in Nicaragua.

The latter have tended to adapt to the objective movement of the working class. The spontaneous struggles of workers and movements in the trade unions have been seen as the forward movement of workers breaking from reformism. This has led to syndicalist and economist adaptations of Marxism to the present level of consciousness of Rank-and-file movements in the trade unions. It has generally been clothed in the guise of orthodoxy an attack on the adaptation of the International Secretariat/USFI currents to petty-bourgeois movements.

While much of that criticism was correct, the orthodoxy itself was poisoned. Fundamentally, it represented a legitimation of the equally revisionist workerism of the International Committee tradition. One particularly important aspect of this form of objectivism has been the attitude of the International Committee currents to the movements of the specially oppressed. At best this has been a nod in the direction of democratic rights for example, on abortion at worst outright hostility for example, to lesbians and gay men.

Movements of the specially oppressed were universally attacked as petty-bourgeois, single issue politics, and a diversion from the class struggle. None of this represented in reality any more of a struggle for the political independence of the working class than the International Secretariat/USFI’s forms of objectivism. As the attitude to the specially oppressed shows, it has left workers open to and even reinforced reactionary bourgeois ideology. It has reflected an accommodation to the prejudices of the more conservative, more privileged layers of the working class.

In the SLL/WRP these tendencies were reflected in adaptation to the rank-and-file militancy of the shop stewards movements in the 1960s and early 1970s and were reinforced hand-in-hand with its increasingly sectarian, catastrophist turn. Indeed, there was a direct link between the objective process of workers’ struggles as conceived by the SLL/ WRP and catastrophism – the crisis and collapse of the capitalist economy pushing the working class further to the left and forcing it to break with reformism. However, this did not immunise the SLL/WRP or any other International Committee currents, from the very same accommodation to bourgeois or petty-bourgeois forces that they attacked in the International Secretariat/USFI, so that the WRP was to display an uncritical worship of Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein, and Yasser Arafat unsurpassed by anything in the history of Pabloism.”[15] We contend that this record is merely a British-oriented record of what has been a post war struggle for Trotskyism worldwide.

Part of that struggle also was the 1985 split in the Workers Revolutionary party and also the current regroupment process. It is correct to assert that there was a programmatic break with Trotskyism in this period. As Tony Gard outlines above this was based on fatalism and objectivism by the small forces that emerged from WWII. We may disagree on whether this happened in 1943 or in 1951-3. I favour the latter because of the political strength of the 1948 Second World Congress but agreement on that is not necessary in my view. However like Tony Gard I believe it is wrong to place an equals sign between the IS and IC in 1953. Despite all the problems of those years a fight against Pablo and what he represented, inadequate, one sided and without any real reassessment of what led to the liquidationist tendency though it was, had many positive aspects to it and must be retrospectively critically supported today. We should not just designate them as two equally degenerate centrists groups because this ignores a real struggle which did produce real gains for Trotskyism in Brittan and internationally after Khrushchev’s secret speech in 1956. This does not deny real contributions to Trotskyism in the IS/USFI tradition, we speak here of tendencies, not iron laws of history.


[1] Building the Fourth International and mass Trotskyist parties in every country, Submitted by Chris Edwards and Alex Acheson (Britain), Jette Kromann and Inge Sorensen (Denmark) To the Discussion for the XIV World Congress 14 February 1995.

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jock_Haston

[3] Spartacist Statement to International Conference, http://www.bolshevik.org/history/ICL/Tr2-icco.htm

[4] Theses on the American Revolution, James P. Cannon http://www.marxists.org/archive/cannon/works/1946/thesis.htm

[5] James P. Cannon, The Coming American Revolution, Nov 1946, http://www.marxists.org/archive/cannon/works/1946/comamrev.htm

[6] IDOT No 1, http://www.scribd.com/doc/24552193/In-Defenceof-Trotskyism-No-1

[7] Ibid.

[8] Report on the Fourth International since the Outbreak of War, 1939-48, Written: December 1948 and January 1949, http://www.marxists.org/history/etol/document/fi/1938-1949/fi-2ndcongress/1948-congress01.htm

[9] Arbeiter Und Soldat, Worker and Soldier, The entire contents of Arbeiter Und Soldat here on the ETOL are the result of the efforts of David Broder, who put them up on the Alliance for Workers Liberty website. Broder translated the entire surviving contents of Arbeiter Und Soldat from the German. http://www.marxists.org/history/etol/newspape/soldat/index.htm

[9] IDOT No 1.

[10] Report on the Fourth International.

[11] Spartacist 1966 Statement.

[12] Ibid.

[13] IDOT No 1.

[14] The WSL was founded in 1975 with a leadership grouped around Alan Thornett, Tony Richardson and John Lister, expelled from the WRP in 1974. Terry Eagleton was a well-known member. It inherited much of its politics from the WRP but fought successfully to break from this on Ireland, the woman question and gay and lesbian liberation. The group also concluded that Cuba had been a deformed workers state since the revolution of 1959. It published the weekly paper Socialist Press and a number of issues of the theoretical journal Trotskyism Today.

[15] Trotskyist History No 1 September 1993, What Happened to the Workers’ Socialist League? http://www.scribd.com/doc/19117508/Trotskyist-History-No-13-banner-links_01

WRP Explosion

WRP Explosion

WRP Explosion

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