THE DEGENERATE FRAGMENTS OF THE FOURTH INTERNATIONAL 1953-1963: REPLY TO WORKERS POWER’S 3RD DOCUMENT IN THEIR 1983 SERIES ‘ON THE DEATH AGONY OF THE FOURTH INTERNATIONAL’ [1]

15/12/2013 by socialistfight

THE DEGENERATE FRAGMENTS OF THE FOURTH INTERNATIONAL 1953-1963

REPLY TO WORKERS POWER’S 3
RD DOCUMENT  IN THEIR 1983 SERIES ‘ON THE DEATH AGONY OF THE FOURTH INTERNATIONAL’ [1]

LAURENCE HUMPHRIES 1953 marks the period of the  Fourth International  when two tendencies emerged The International Committee comprising the Socialist Workers Party Led by James P Cannon , The Socialist Labour League in Britain led by Gerry Healy , The PCI led by Pierre Lambert and assorted groups in Switzerland and other European countries. The SWP had refused to discuss differences with the British section and slowly but surely they moved back into the orbit of Pablo Mandel and Maitan from the International Secretariat. After reunification the Organisation would be called the USFI.

Workers Power details the developments that took place between 1953-1963. First was the Uprising in the German Democratic Republic. The attitude of the IS was referred to as “The rise, decline and fall of Stalinism” [1]. It is also stated that Yugoslavia and the Chinese Communist Parties led victorious revolution. This showed that the Pablo led International still adapted to Stalinism; Pablo had advocated a (Sui Generis) entry into Stalinist Parties which could only lead to embracing Stalinism and reject the building of Trotskyist Parties in the International.   The secret Speech made By Khrushchev denouncing the crimes of Stalin only ensured that the IS were right in their assessment of Stalinism, which in turn rejected everything that Trotsky and the Fourth International had fought for. “Trotskyist Groups in China, Vietnam and Cuba were ignored” [2].

The Algerian Revolution posed problems for the IS leadership of Mandel, frank and Maitan. They would now argue that the Epicentre of evolution was now in the Colonial world and not in the advanced Metropolitan Countries.   “The SWP who were pushing for reunification on an empirical basis rejected discussing with the British SLL. Healy accused them of an Idealist current in American philosophy labelled “Pragmatism”.  “The SWP could not ignore developments in Cuba and they could only analyse relations by using the method that had been used for Yugoslavia i.e. Pablo’s Method” [3]. As LFI notes “Pablo was weakened by the defection of his Latin American Lieutenant Posadas in 1962. Pablo did not survive the 1963 reunification leaving the USFI the following year” [4].

The degeneration of the IS continued with quick rapidity, basing itself on pure appearance and mechanical thought they revised the most basic tenents of Trotskyism. “The dynamics of World Revolution solemnly writes of the Industrial Factory workers as not the main strength of the proletariat which is now seen as Miners ,Plantation hands, Agricultural workers and the largely unemployed” [5].

The LFI in passing completely writes off the role of the LSSP, one of the biggest Trotskyist parties in the World and just states that the LSSP represents a Social Democratic force from a Leninist party without analysing their History or politics. The LFI  rather brazenly critises the USFI of opportunism and Centrism accusing the USFI of adaption to movements  which had nothing to do with proletarian movements , the LFI like the IS has also  embraced the Women’s movement and developed a theory of a new vanguard of mass character like Students and the youth rejecting the advanced working class. An adaption to the New Left Gurus of Western Marxism like Herbert Marcuse who completely revised Marxism and substituted the epicentre of Revolution including students and the Middle class petit bourgeois elements.

The LFI now decides that the International committee had nothing to offer during this period. The LFI rejects History by stating that “neither The IC nor its principled components constituted a revolutionary opposition to the Pablo led IS” [6]. In fact the IC was a tradition and it did fight the adaption to Stalinism by the IS, to say as the LFI says “The IC tradition was a myth” [7] is pure idealism and the LFI continues down the road of Idealism by saying “no major documents of the IC were produced in 1953 or for a long time after” [8]. The IC produced 7 volumes of a History of Trotskyism Versus Revisionism written and published by the IC by New Park Publications. There is a whole number of letters written between the Leaders of the IC that were not published but there is a record and sections of that record can be accessed at www.markist.org .   Bill Hunter a long standing member of the British section wrote under the pseudonym of Bill Sinclair an account in 1957 “Under a Stolen Flag”  “To all those who point to this non-existent tradition as the continuity of Trotskyism we throw back the question in what documents , theses and positions” [9].

The great difficulty with the LFI document is that it generalises much of its commentary on a programmatic basis. Like all centrists it is unable to fully understand Dialectics or Dialectical development. Everything is reduced to subjective appearances. I am now going to consider the role of the LSSP in Ceylon one of the biggest sections of the FI. The founders of the LSSP Colin de Silva, Philip Gunawardena, Leslie Goonewardene and N MPereira were studying in London and became attracted to Trotskyism. They were in contact with British Trotskyists. They founded the LSSP in 1935 which also included Stalinist sympathisers, The LFI is correct to point out that the LSSP was not a Leninist Party; it could be referred as anti-colonial party.  In my document of the History of British Trotskyism I make reference to them. The comrades returned to Ceylon now Sri Lanka and set about building and recruiting workers to the LSSP. At the time in Ceylon there was no Communist party and the T Group as they were called were thrust into the leadership. The LSSP took no stand on Trotsky and his fight against Stalinists in the Left Opposition “Selina Pereira was sent to Britain and America to make contact with the Trotskyist leaders in Europe” [10]. The Stalinists soon left the LSSP when the T Group embraced Trotsky’s ‘Permanent revolution’. The Stalinists joined and helped to form the United Socialist Party in 1940 and the Communist Party of Ceylon was founded in 1943. The LSSP merged and helped to form the Bolshevik Leninist Party of India in 1942 which was a great step forward in uniting Trotskyists in one organisation in the sub-continent. The fall of Paris during the Second World War led to the arrest Pereira, de Silva, Samarkody and Gunawardene. The original T Group now succumbed to opportunism and a faction fight developed inside the BLPI. The BLPI leaders emerged from prison as open opportunists and reverted to the pre-war name of LSSP. The BLPI adapted to Nationalism and opportunism and entered the Socialist Party of India. The LSSP never supported the Open letter of 1953 and hovered supporting the IS position. When the decision to enter the Bandarike Government was taken at an LSSP congress Pierre Frank a member of the Mandelite IS was allowed into the Congress whereas Gerry Healy was prevented and campaigned outside. The LSSP split as De Silva and Pereira and Gunawardene became government ministers and became the LSSP (L), led by Edmund Samarakody and Bala Tampoe. The struggle to establish an IC section representing genuine Trotskyism was successful and the Revolutionary Communist League was founded in 1968 .It is now a section of David North’s WSWS. As the LFI correctly analyses the LSSP succumbed to opportunism, an adaption to Stalinism.  , but there is no mention of this development, because the political direction of the IS was to ‘The Epi centre of Colonial Revolution’ Mandel Frank and Maitan now argued for an adaption to Bourgeois Nationalism represented by Ben Bella in Algeria and Castro in Cuba.

The LFI document although discussing the role of the FI from 1953-1963 insists on dragging events post 1963.   I will answer these questions in my reply to their fourth Document ‘After the splits the splinters’.

I now want to concentrate on the IC’s role during and before Reunification and the split of the FI into the IS and IC. I have mentioned that the LFI who proceed on appearances and a totally subjective method decided in 1983, that there was no continuity and that the IC tradition is a myth. After the Open letter of 1953 which was issued by the SWP and supported by the British SLL and the French PCI and other smaller sections in Switzerland and Australia . The IC at the time represented a principled opposition against the liquidation of Trotskyism either into Stalinist Parties as advocated by Pablo in 1948 or into craven support for Bourgeois Nationalism, particularly in Countries like Algeria, Bolivia and later Cuba. The IS represented a rejection of the Marxist method, its adherence to any petit bourgeois  or radical movement to fit into Frank’s theory that the Epi-centre of revolution was not in the Advanced Metropolitan countries but in the Semi colonial countries . Mandel, Frank and Maitan tried to use Trotsky’s permanent Revolution as an authority in this fundamental attack on Marxism.

Pablo had sought to attack the American, British and French Sections by using Bureaucratic means Cochran/Clarke faction in the SWP, Lawrence in the British section and the expulsion of the majority in the PCI including Lambert and Bleitreau-Fabre. I have analysed this in my earlier Document ‘How the epigones destroyed Trotsky’s International’ and “Addendum, the Crisis in the French section”.

Again the LFI continues in its subjective method to show that the IC were no different from the IS, and their conclusion of course is that both the SWP and the SLL were Organisations led by leaders like Healy and Cannon who talked “endlessly of the cult of Pablo” [11]. Their conclusion of course was there was no such thing as ‘Pabloism’ and was invented by Healy and Cannon as some sort of diversion to set up a separate Organisation on a sectarian basis. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you study the documents from the period .You can access them from www.marxists.org you will find that there was continual amount of correspondence being written between the various sections. Many of the letters talk of possible rapprochement between the IS and the IC.

The problem at the time was the wavering position of the LSSP between both the IS and the IC. Healy in a letter to Farrell Dobbs of the SWP   “Ceylon is a special case, win them to our side” [12]. Dobbs in a letter to Bloch of the French section explains the nature of Pablo’s method “The split was brought about by Pablo; it was brought about by underhand methods of deceit and subterfuge or outright brutality” [13].

There was mention of a Parity committee and Peng Shuzi of the Chinese section made some useful contributions particularly on the main basis of Pabloism when Pablo had declared ‘Centuries of deformed workers states’. The IS had welcomed the Chinese Revolution but while many Chinese Trotskyists were being arrested , murdered and brutally beaten up no action was taken by Pablo or the IS leadership to defend or assist Chinese Trotskyists who were being treated in this way. When a Chinese Trotskyist came to Paris and asked Pablo for help it is reported that Pablo hid the letter in a desk drawer and never revealed its contents. As Peng writes  “From the end of 1952 to the beginning of 1953 Mao’s government arrested several hundred Trotskyists five who were lucky to escape wrote an appeal for Emergency aid, the letter was transmitted to Pablo by Peng. Pablo put it in a drawer, he was afraid that this appeal would upset his idealisation of the Mao regime”.  [14].

A major document had been drawn up by the IEC plenum “World situation after Stalin’s death in May 1953.   Healy criticised the document as being too optimistic   “No criticism was allowed of any document drafted by the IS and support for any opinion different from Pablo’s revisionism would encounter reprisals”. [15].

In their faction Fight with the Cannon Majority in 1954 the Cochranites were quite open in their adaption to Stalinism and the open liquidation of Trotskyism.  The struggle against the Pabloites in the SWP showed their liquidationist method. “Since the revolutionary parties of tomorrow will not be Trotskyist then what are the Trotskyists to do, The Cohchranites finally advise then to abandon the whole tradition of Trotskyism, the only thing that remains unsaid is dissolve and liquidate all Trotskyist independent parties and organisations in the Fourth International”.[16]. Both Cochran and Clarke were to follow this advice to the letter; they drifted very quickly towards Stalinism and the Reactionary Trade Union Bureaucracy. Cochran would remain a thorougoing impressionist and Bureaucrat. In 1961 there developed inside the SWP a faction called the Revolutionary Tendency who fought against the Reunification by the Cannon Majority with the Mandelite organisation. This tendency allied itself with the IC. It was led by James Robertson and Tim Wohlforth. Robertson would become the Leader of the International Communist League (The Spartacist Tendency) and Wohlforth would become the National Secretary and Leader of the Workers League, a Sympathising section of the IC in the United States.

The LFI makes reference to Healy’s categorisation of Cuba as a State capitalist regime who opposed Joseph Hansen who was now responsible for matters in the SWP after Cannon’s retirement. They followed the same path as Pablo and his liquidation of Trotskyist Parties into Stalinism. Hansen was to give uncritical support to Castro and his government and like Pablo with reference to China, Algeria and Yugoslavia they were to oppose the development of Trotskyist organisations in these Countries. Healy and the rest of the IC were to follow this path with their open craven support of Khomeini, Arafat, Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein. This I will discuss in my final response to the Workers Power Document. Much of the problem with the Workers power document is that after splitting the document into chronological sections they insist on discussing issues that are not relevant to the period under discussion. The development of the Spartacist Tendency is given short shrift as is the major contribution of Tim Wohlforth who made a major contribution. Healy always denigrated the role of Wohlforth and the Workers League in their development, constantly accusing them of philosophical errors primarily pragmatism .Healy was to drift into empiricism and Sensationalism. I would refer Comrades to the excellent document by David Bruce “A Charlatan Exposed” an indictment of Healy’s Philosophical method.

Like the discussion on Yugoslavia the Spartacist Tendency has provided the necessary information on the discussion on Cuba and this is to be welcomed, notwithstanding their very sectarian and Stalinist positions on World Questions today.

Wolhforth begins his analysis of Cuba which is a restatement of the Marxist method. It is thoroughly dialectical and it is Wolhforth who made the major contribution on Cuba not Healy.

“It is precisely because the Castro government is clearly not a Workers government that it is so important not to label the state a Workers State” [17]. Analysing the Cuban Revolution Wolhforth uses Trotsky’s method. “The Cuban Revolution was carried through by a radical petit bourgeois nationalist group whose primary social base was petit bourgeois class –the Peasantry” [18].

Wolhforth then goes on to describe the differences between Workers states and deformed Workers states. This is the Trotskyist method, to proceed in a dialectical way, analysing the base and the superstructure and their relationships to one another, not like Hansen and Later Healy to proceed on appearance and impressionism.   “The deformed Workers states is characterised by the rule of an uncontrolled petit bourgeois Bureaucracy which suppresses the Working class and which has a counter revolutionary outlook”. [19].

Comparing the political formations of China Yugoslavia and North Korea Wolhforth establishes the differences between Deformed Workers states and Workers states like the USSR. “This similarity to a capitalist state which necessitates a political Revolution to destroy this state apparatus and in its place erects a truly soviet state apparatus” [20].

I have quoted extensively from Wohlforths contribution to show how Wolhforth using the Marxist and dialectical method was able to show how Trotskyists should analyse these states in order to carry out the Political Revolution.

Wolhforth’s most important conclusion I leave to the end. “Cuba is the first deformed workers state to be formed not under a Stalinist Leadership, Mao’s CCP reflects in my opinion the essential identity in nature of the CCP and M-26th Movement. Both parties were essentially petit-bourgeois formations in their class nature of their leaderships, their memberships, their mass base and their Ideology”. [21].

Of course the LFI has nothing to say on this questions .Their tendency is always superficial and generalised attempting to score political points. At the end of my final Document I will trace the Historical development of the Workers Power Group the British section of the LFI.

The question of the Role of Healy during the period of the Group and Socialist Outlook, the foundation of the Socialist Labour League , the All Trades Union Alliance and its role in Rank and File activity I have dealt with in my WIL.doc document replying to Richard Price. I will ensure that Comrades in the LCFI and the RCIT will have the chance to read both documents. Their comments post 1963 I will deal with in my reply to their Document “After the splits the Splinters 1961-1983”. This is a lengthy period to consider and will nesscitate a much longer document.

ENDNOTES

  1. http://www.lfi.org/documents/1983
  2. http://www.marxists.org/documents/stpeng
  3. http://www.lfi.org/documents/1983
  4. Ibid
  5. Ibid
  6. Ibid
  7. Ibid
  8. Ibid
  9. http://www.marxists.org/documents/whunter/stolenflag
  10. http://www.wsws.org/documents/historyofthesepinsrilanka
  11. http://www.lfi.org/documents/1983
  12. http://www.marxists.org/letterghtofd
  13. Ibid
  14. Ibid
  15. Ibid
  16. Ibid
  17. http://www.marxists.org/wolhforth/marxistbulletinno8
  18. Ibid
  19. Ibid
  20. Ibid
  21. ibid

WRP Explosion

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