Why Does the ASA Exclude Trotskyists?


One of the most obvious political lessons of the LCUC strike for union militants is the role of the state and in particular of the "armed bodies of men" which are at its core. You don’t have to have read a lot of Marx to notice that the cops always intervene on the side of the scabs and the bosses in any labor dispute. It was only by being prepared to stop the scabs and stand up to the cops that the LCUC ranks managed to defend their jobs and prevent the worst incursions on their living standards and working conditions. This is something which CUPW militants should keep in mind for their upcoming confrontation with the vicious union-busters running Canada Post.

The question of the state’s hired thugs and their relation to the labor movement is one that goes back a long way. In "What Next," written in 1932, Leon Trotsky remarked that "The worker who becomes a policeman in the service of the capitalist state, is a bourgeois cop, not a worker." This was not an original idea—ever since the working class has begun to organize it has had to contend with the hired guns of the capitalists.

One of the traditional demands of socialists in the labor movement has therefore been for the exclusion of cops and screws (prison guards) from the organizations of the working class. The trade union movement is no place for the capitalist goons whose highest responsibility is to defend the inequitable and exploitative system against its victims!

But it seems that Barry Weisleder, leader of the Alliance for Socialist Action (ASA) which is sponsoring tonight’s meeting, has a different idea. As a sometime minor office-holder in the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), he has developed a rather cozy relationship with some of the jail guards who have unfortunately been allowed to join that union. In March 1986 comrade Barry even chaired a meeting at which one of these screws was the featured speaker! The guard, a certain John Osborne, delivered a report on trade union solidarity with Central America.

A couple of months later at an ASA public forum on Latin America, a representative of the Bolshevik Tendency (BT) pointed out that it was grossly contradictory for Barry to represent himself as a Trotskyist and yet be involved in providing a platform for a screw, just as it would be if he were chumming around with a cop. A murmur of shock and disbelief rippled through the audience. The ASA said not a word in response. We got their answer the next week when a letter arrived announcing that henceforth members and supporters of the BT were banned from all ASA "public" events. We had abided by all the rules of the meeting, had only spoken when called on etc., etc. The ASA leadership is engaged in a policy of blatant political exclusion.

Unable to defend their actions, the ASA leaders attempt to silence their critics. Barry Weisleder seems to think that this is the "smart" way to operate politically. He figures that if he can prevent people new to the socialist movement from being exposed to other points of view, then they will be more liable to join the ASA. But the socialist movement must be built on rational understanding and political consciousness. Marx, Lenin, Luxemburg, Trotsky and all the great leaders of the socialist movement had no fear of political debate. They thought that letting people hear both sides of a dispute would strengthen, not weaken the movement. The ASA leadership’s undemocratic and politically cowardly exclusionist tactics are not those of the revolutionary left but of the union bureaucrats, anti-communist social democrats and Stalinists.

Most people who are interested in revolutionary politics already know that a socialist movement can’t be built by orienting to cops and screws. Even the opportunists of the ASA leadership seem to recognize that it is something that they should be ashamed of. But their answer is neither to repudiate their betrayal of socialist principle nor to try to defend it, but rather to try to suppress the criticism. A group as small as the ASA which already feels the need to stoop to such anti-democratic techniques effectively declares its own political bankruptcy. We of the Bolshevik Tendency know that the truth is revolutionary, and unlike the ASA, we have nothing to fear from the truth. The Trotskyist party which will lead the North American working class in overthrowing the irrational system of capitalism will not be built by people who fear debate and love screws!




16 July 1987

Posted: 12 December 2004