IBT Exchange With ICL
On Revolutionary Regroupment
On 3 November 2007, the International Bolshevik Tendency (IBT) held a public meeting in Toronto to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the October Revolution. Guest speaker Bryan Palmer, James P. Cannons biographer, addressed a crowd of 60 on the topic of The Russian Revolution and the North American Left. Among those in attendance were supporters of the New Democratic Party, Socialist Action, Socialist Equality Party, Socialist Project, and the Trotskyist League (TLaka Spartacists), as well as a representative of Upping the Anti, a semi-anarchist publication.
During the discussion period, several Spartacist speakers disputed the idea that any significant revolutionary re-groupment is possible today. Tynan M., declared, in the 1960s through to the 1990s, we Spartacists pursued regroupments with organizations around the world claiming to be Trotskyist but what we discovered was that we were the only organization in the world that stood on the program and principles of Trotskyism. John Masters, the TLs senior figure, added:
The possibility of regrouping the genuine revolutionary forces in the period roughly 1919 to 1921 was decisively shaped by a huge epochal victory for the proletariatthe Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. There have been other epochal or major events which, while not of the same scale, have posed the possibility of major regroupment of genuine revolutionary forces. For example, May 68 in France shook the left. In a different way, the Khrushchev revelations and the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 shook big parts of the left. There were possibilities, things opened there. But lets face it: the destruction of the Soviet Union in 1991 is what shaped the current period and it is a disastrous defeat that has produced demoralization, disillusionment, heavily into the working class. And Im sorry, fragmented isnt the point: the vast majority of the left, including self-professed Marxists, supported counterrevolution. There is no basis for any substantive revolutionary regroupment there. Thats not to say there isnt a basis for winning individuals or even small groupings here or there. But what we are faced with in this period I think is a very different taskit is fundamentally upholding the principles of revolutionary Marxism, including learning the lessons of history and not pretending to blur over things .
While comrade Masters is quite right that epochal victories are usually required before massive political realignments occur within the workers movement, some very important regroupments have taken place in periods of generally rightward motion. The handful of socialists of the Zimmerwald Left, who met in September 1915 in Switzerland to raise the banner of proletarian internationalism in the midst of a barbaric world war, took a very important step on the road to a new, revolutionary socialist international. In the aftermath of the Nazi victory in 1933one of the most severe defeats ever suffered by the international working classLeon Trotsky actively sought to regroup the best militants from various small splits from social democracy and the Stalinized Communist International. During the McCarthyite 1950s in the United States, the then-Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party made a small, but significant, regroupment when a few young revolutionaries (including James Robertson, Shane Mage and Tim Wohlforth) broke with Max Shachtmans rightward-moving Independent Socialist League.
There is abundant evidence that millions of people around the world are eager to fight capitalist oppression. Some of them join various ostensibly socialist organizations. The job of revolutionaries is to win the best militants to the program of genuine Marxism, i.e., Trotskyism.
Comrade Samuel Trachtenberg, speaking for the IBT, responded to Masters as follows:
Published: 1917 No.30 (April 2008)