For two decades Workers Vanguard (WV, newspaper of the Spartacist League/U.S.) has periodically employed gross exaggerations, deliberate misrepresentations and outright falsifications in polemical attacks on other leftists. The typical response of the SL leadership to criticism of such practices is to simply brazen it out. However, on 9 November WV published what is to our knowledge their first forthright retraction.
The 12 October issue of WV falsely claimed that the International Bolshevik Tendency considered that all those killed in the 11 September attack on the Pentagon "deserved to die." We do not ascribe such a motive to the SL, but had the shoe been on the other foot, WV would undoubtedly have squealed that they were being set up for state repression.
Our response to the SL was posted on our web site on 21 October. The 9 November issue of WV published a letter from us (which contained two typos that were not in the original) along with the following retraction:
"The statement in our article...that International Bolshevik Tendency (IBT) members argued that 'all those killed in the attack on the Pentagon "deserved to die"' was a distortion of a report from our Canadian comrades, which we retract."
To save face, the SL leadership attached to their retraction a laundry list of allegations, mostly drawn from their 1995 pamphlet, "What is the IBT?", which is advertised alongside the article. We do not intend to reply to these charges here as we have reprinted their pamphlet in its entirety along with a detailed response to each and every accusation (see Trotskyist Bulletin No. 5, ICL vs. IBT - zipped 1.36mb)
We do, however, wish to address the SL's claim that, "the IBT amnesties the 'war is not the answer' reformists in the U.S." In our 21 October posting we characterized this allegation, like the misrepresentation of our position on the Pentagon attack, as a "malicious invention without any basis in fact." The SL replied:
"On the contrary, our characterization is absolutely true. Neither in its 18 September statement nor in the 21 October cyberspace reply to us (which, to our knowledge, are the only pieces of propaganda the IBT has produced since September 11) does the IBT mention, let alone criticize, the social-patriotism of the reformist left, whose various 'anti-war' coalitions are based on bleating appeals to the imperialist ruling class for peace."
Our 18 September statement attacks the reformist left for siding with the Afghan mujahedin during the 1980s, rather than the Soviet Army, but it does not criticize the social-pacifism of the various "peace" coalitions. This is because, when we drafted our 18 September statement, we were unaware of the existence of any of these "coalitions." The SL Political Bureau's statement of 12 September also fails to "mention, let alone criticize" any of these formations for the same reason.
In fact, our position on the "peace" movement is well known--both to the ICL and the rest of the left. At every demonstration we have attended, from San Francisco to Wellington to Kiev, we have counterposed forthright Afghan defensism to the social-pacifism of the "Stop the War" crowd. In London, on 28 October, at a large meeting called to vote on a basis of unity for the "Stop the War" coalition, our comrades distributed hundreds of flyers advocating an Afghan defensist position. Our British comrades also published a leaflet, dated 5 November, criticizing the centrist Workers Power group for refusing to fight for the Afghan defensist position it claims to hold.
In Toronto, two members of the Trotskyist League (TL, the SL's Canadian affiliate) attended an IBT "Hands Off Afghanistan" public meeting on 6 November where we argued our unambiguously Afghan defensist position and criticized the social-pacifists' call to "Stop the War." A few weeks earlier, on 28 September, when Tariq Ali spoke in Toronto, several TLers heard us intervene to point out that while Marxists mourn the civilian victims of 11 September, we shed no tears for the Pentagon brass. This was met with boos from the social-pacifists in the crowd and applause from the anti-imperialist elements. We also stated that socialists had a duty to defend Afghanistan and exposed Ali's refusal to do so.
After this meeting, we asked the TL comrades why the Spartacist League had failed to distinguish between the Pentagon and World Trade Center in its 12 September statement. We suggested that this might be connected to the SL's social-patriotic concerns about saving the U.S. Marines in Lebanon in 1983. The TLers assured us that their organization agreed with us on the Pentagon, and we replied that we would in that case expect to see this omission made good in the next issue of WV. A "distorted" version of this conversation apparently provided the basis for the 12 October WV article which did indeed correct the SL's original omission of the Pentagon, while also misrepresenting our position.
Given all this, for WV to pretend to be unaware of our consistent opposition to "the social-patriotism of the reformist left" is absurd. The SL leadership's insistence, without a shred of evidence, that we have somehow been "amnestying" the reformists, only demonstrates the depths of their profound cynicism.