On the Logan Show Trial
ICL Dossier: Robertson Scores ‘Own Goal’
On the Logan Show Trial
The International Communist League (ICL—formerly the international Spartacist tendency [iSt]) has recently published a 199-page, densely-typeset “dossier” consisting of “Documentary Evidence and Testimony in the August 1979 Trial and Expulsion of Bill Logan from the international Spartacist tendency for Crimes Against Communist Morality and Elementary Human Decency.” In the 1970s Bill Logan and his partner Adaire Hannah led the Spartacist groups in Australia and Britain. Since 1990 both have been members of the International Bolshevik Tendency (IBT).
The Logan expulsion was an important episode in the devolution of the Spartacist tendency from Trotskyism to political banditry. We have no reason to revise our assessment of a quarter century ago:
The ICL’s “dossier” provides considerable detail on how the Spartacist League of Australia and New Zealand (SL/ANZ) operated three decades ago. The regime in the SL/ANZ did things that would not be tolerated in the IBT today, but it was not qualitatively worse than the other sections of the iSt at the time. This is why no one who transferred to the SL/ANZ from Canada or the U.S. found things to be all that different.
There is something rather peculiar about the ICL’s current fixation on treating mistakes, abuses and bureaucratic excesses committed over 30 years ago by a couple of inexperienced, isolated and extremely dedicated young revolutionaries as being of world-historic significance. It is particularly odd as Bill and Adaire have long since recognized and repudiated their errors, and have spent the past 20-odd years building an organization that operates in a very different fashion. There is much that they did in Australia in the 1970s that we do not defend, but we recognize that their actions were motivated by a desire to forge a viable revolutionary party as rapidly as possible.
The ICL leadership views their mistakes entirely differently, and insists that the Logan regime was not merely abusive and bureaucratic, but was in fact some sort of satanic machine operated by a “sexual sociopath.” In politics, as in other fields, sex sells, but as those who read through the ICL’s compendium will discover, there is very little sex per se in the entire story. There was, however, a definite whiff of homophobia in the motion motivating Bill’s expulsion which charged him with disrupting “the private lives of comrades for reasons of power politics and his own aberrant appetites and compulsions in the guise of Marxism.” [Logan Dossier Volume I, (LD I) p18]
Adaire and Bill, after building the Australian section of the iSt, were transferred to Britain in early 1977, where they headed a team of cadres which achieved the largest regroupment in the history of the Spartacist tendency. In October 1978, Jim Robertson, the central leader of the tendency, engineered their removal as national secretary and national chairman of the Spartacist League of Britain and packed them off to New York where they were given administrative assignments. A few months later, in January 1979, SL/ANZ members came forward with an avalanche of complaints about their former leaders. SL/U.S. honcho Reuben Samuels’ phone call to the iSt’s International Secretariat reporting this development began with the announcement that he could now confirm the leadership’s long-standing suspicion that Bill was a latent homosexual. This was a reference to a short-lived consensual threesome involving Bill, Marie H. and Dave R. (who was appointed as prosecutor at Logan’s 1979 show trial). It is also hard to miss the homophobic taint in the following remark by Jim Robertson, the architect of the whole stitch-up:
“Robertson: [….] I’ve not had much contact with comrade Logan—for what appears to be the centrality of what— what makes and made Logan run. And it’s sex of a particularly perverted and arid sort. Sexual power. But it’s a negative power. He didn’t want to ball chicks.” [LD II, p82]
Jim Robertson has a lot at stake in selling the idea that Bill Logan is someone who is uniquely evil. As we observed in our 1982 document:
“The reason that the Logan question is such a highly charged issue for the [Spartacist] leadership is that it is in a certain sense a set of ‘emperor’s clothes.’ Logan’s was indeed a brutish regime but no one of normal intelligence and not subject to the enormous internal pressure of the organization could take seriously the proposition that New York knew nothing about it.”
If indeed the leadership of the SL/U.S. was aware of what was going on in the SL/ANZ, they obviously shared responsibility for it. Though selected for the express purpose of vilifying comrade Logan, the ICL’s recent compilation in fact provides plenty of evidence that the international leadership in general, and comrade Robertson in particular, was fully informed of everything important that took place in Australia while Adaire and Bill ran the show.
The Vicky Question
The core of the case against Bill focused on the case of Vicky, a young woman who became pregnant in November 1972 shortly after joining the Spartacist League in New Zealand. Yet the materials in the ICL dossier do not sustain the sensational accusation that he was “guilty of inhuman torture of a mother, rendered suicidal in his attempt to destroy and take away her baby.”
In December 1972, when Vicky discovered she was pregnant, she was living with her husband, David Strachan, who was a graduate student in Melbourne, Australia. At the time, Adaire was also living in Melbourne, while Bill, Joel Salant (a former New York organizer of the SL/U.S. who had been sent to New Zealand to help build the group) and the rest of the organization were still in Wellington, New Zealand, preparing to move to Australia.
Vicky had medical complications early in her pregnancy. Her doctor prescribed medication to prevent her from undergoing a spontaneous abortion (or miscarriage). Adaire and David strongly advised Vicky to forgo the medicine, and simply allow nature to take its course. Vicky rejected their advice. Bill learned of Vicky’s situation in a 2 January 1973 letter from Adaire in which she reported: “Both Dave & I said not to take the [prescribed] tablets but to rest up—this irritated Vicky.” [LD I, p31]
There was at least one telephone call between Wellington and Melbourne prior to the next letter from Adaire (dated 8 January 1973), which mentioned that three days earlier Vicky reported “that the doctor informed her that she would have to be very careful, rest up, until she was three months pregnant in order to keep the baby.” This implies that Adaire and David had abandoned their attempt to convince Vicky not to continue her pregnancy. The letter also mentions “Bill’s proposal that she [Vicky] go to New York immediately.” (At the time there were two young women in the New York SL, Nancy R. and Toni R., who had very young children.) The inexperienced New Zealand leadership, who were eager to have as many of their members as possible get some exposure to the American group, apparently thought that Vicky would do better in New York than in Melbourne.
When it proved impractical for Vicky to travel to New York, it was decided that her husband David would instead. This is cited as one of Bill’s supposed crimes:
“In the middle of this difficult pregnancy, Logan separated Vicky from her husband by sending him off for a lengthy trip to the U.S. The ‘Minutes of Melbourne Local Meeting,’ 8 March 1973 (Document 4), report that this travel was “not in recognition of his activity in the local but a response to personnel problems.” [LD I, p8]
The “personnel problems” of the SL/ANZ were essentially that most of its members lacked significant political experience, a deficiency which could be remedied by sending the more promising ones for stints in the SL/U.S. However, there were no funds to pay for David’s flight. On 6 March 1973, Bill wrote to Jim Robertson to finalize details regarding payment for David’s projected trip, as the SL/ANZ could not afford “to pay a penny.” [LD I, p57, reprinted below as Appendix A] Bill’s letter made it clear that the American leadership had agreed that David should make the trip. The plan was for him to return prior to the birth of his child, as it was thought that he would be unable to leave afterward. Bill also suggested that it would be good for Vicky and David to “develop independent[ly]” of each other. Whether this was wise or appropriate, Bill’s letter to Jim makes it very clear that there was no attempt to hide anything about Vicky, her baby or her relationship with her husband from the SL/U.S. leadership.
Joel’s April 1979 document “The 100 Percent Regime”— the first major statement of the case against Bill by a key participant—cast Adaire, not Bill, as the initiator of the campaign to convince Vicky to terminate her pregnancy:
“Shortly after Adaire arrived in Melbourne it became known that Vicky was pregnant. Adaire launched a struggle to try and convince Vicky to have an abortion. Although Vicky was aware at some level that a child would be a political liability, after some wavering, she decided against having an abortion.” [LD I, p52]
When he wrote his document, Joel presumed that Bill and Adaire would be held jointly responsible for what happened in the SL/ANZ. However, by the time of the August 1979 trial, everyone was aware that Bill was to take all the blame. Joel’s version of events changed accordingly. When asked if he had anything to add to the “big points in your document,” Joel immediately responded:
“I just want to underline the fact that it was comrade Logan from the start in New Zealand who, when we found out of Vicky’s pregnancy, who seized the initiative in attempting to fight to have that child aborted.” [LD II, p41]
This accusation, the keystone of the entire case against Bill, contradicts Joel’s earlier statement that Adaire had “launched the struggle to try and convince Vicky to have an abortion.” It is also not corroborated by the account of any of the other participants. In her 31 May 1979 reply to Joel, Adaire acknowledged her responsibility for pushing Vicky to abandon her pregnancy:
“It is true that I was very hard on Vicky regarding the abortion question but it is simply a lie to claim that we did not accept her decision to have the child once the decision was final. (Also comrade [Joel Salant] was well aware from my reports and telephone conversations of what I was doing regarding the baby question and he raised not one objection.)” [LD I, p61]
In his testimony David stated that he and Adaire had pressured Vicky to terminate the pregnancy:
“David S.: When Vicky became pregnant—I knew she was pregnant at the time when there were simply Adaire, myself and Vicky in Melbourne as members—I was—I was—I—I personally was not very pleased that she—that she was pregnant and there was some, there was some dis cussion about what she was going to do. And there was pressure—there was considerable pressure put on both by myself and Adaire about having an abortion, which at one point she sort of vacillated towards having and then said she didn’t—that she decided not to have it.” [LD II, p32]
David adjusted his account slightly when he told the tribunal that he had been “instructed” to do this (presumably by Adaire). However, given his admission that he was unenthusiastic about having a child, it seems very unlikely that he was acting under duress. Even the 16 August 1979 indictment put forward by the SL/ANZ Central Committee specified: “The campaign to force Vicky A to get an abortion and failing that, to foster her child (1973), using personal, social and organisational pressure” had been “initiated and largely implemented by Adaire Hannah, who shares with Logan primary responsibility for it.” [LD I, p26]
Yet the introduction to the ICL’s “dossier” attacks Bill for suggesting that Adaire, not he, had been chiefly responsible for Vicky’s treatment:
“And Logan did not condescend to even mention Vicky in any of the pretrial documents signed solely by him. Instead he left it to his wife to bear the burden of the defense. Forced to address the Vicky case at the trial, Logan acknowledged that what was done to Vicky was an atrocity, while again shunting responsibility onto his absent wife. In fact, the trial body found that the responsibility rested centrally with Logan.” [LD I, p9]
We will address the question of Adaire’s absence from the trial later. At this point, we note only that while the trial body did indeed find that “responsibility rested centrally with Logan” for pressuring Vicky not to go through with her pregnancy, the evidence presented to it (including the materials selected for inclusion in the “dossier”) did not support this conclusion. On the contrary, the partial trial transcript released by the ICL leadership indicates that Bill intervened (after consultation with Joel) to suggest that pressure should be eased on Vicky:
Later in the day, George C. (the highest ranking SL/U.S. member of the tribunal) asked Bill how he had responded to Adaire’s 2 January 1973 letter reporting that she and David were pushing Vicky not to take her medicine:
But the next day, Joel acknowledged that such a conversation had indeed occurred:
“Joel S.: Yesterday comrade Logan asked me if I knew of a phone call that was made to Australia in regard to that and I said yes. He then asked if the—what he said in the phone call was that Adaire should pull off. I said no. Now, I should not have been, I should not have made a flat denial to that. The background to this is that when we received the letters, we discussed the matter, and one of the things that I said, when we were looking over the letters that were being discussed, was that this direct pressure was not going to work in getting the abortion that we wanted Vicky to have and in that regard—and that in this regard we ought to change tactics, and Logan agreed, and that it had to be based really on her political consciousness and that was the nature of the content of the phone conversation to the best of my knowledge.” [LD II, p52]
This hardly fits the claim that Bill played a central role in attempting to “force” Vicky to terminate her pregnancy. Nor does Joel’s recollection that he made a suggestion, and Bill agreed to it, correspond to a scenario of everyone mindlessly bending to Bill on every question (a necessary corollary to the proposition that he alone bears responsibility for every abuse by the SL/ANZ regime).
James Robertson: ‘I was running around saying “goddamned babies”’
For the purposes of vilifying Logan, the SL/U.S. leadership claimed to be appalled at the “inhuman” abuse of this young mother whose baby was seen as a “giant pain,” which is how Jim described his view of the child at the time. [LD II, p65] A negative attitude toward children was by no means exclusive to the Australian group, as those who were in the Spartacist tendency in that period can attest. This is even evident from the materials included in the “dossier.” In Joel’s condemnation of Bill, for example, he wrote:
“What made the Logan/Hannah regime a caricature of Spartacism and sometimes worse was that it usually began with a correct point, for instance, babies are not good for the revolutionary party, and then carried it to an extreme for one reason or another, usually creating the rationale of organisational necessity and there was no internal corrective.” [LD I, p56]
At one point in the trial, Bill asked Jim Robertson whether, during his visit to New York in 1972, they had discussed how to handle members having babies:
“Robertson: Then there is no necessary reason that this would have come up—except that I—except I recall that we generally had rather full, extensive and informal discussion, and I was in some state of trauma. It’s likely, but by no means inevitable that we would have discussed such a thing because I was running around saying ‘goddamned babies.’” [LD II, p67]
In an April 1972 letter on the question of members having children, Nancy R. observed:
“Furthermore, the SL does not ‘demand such a sacrifice as having no children.’ Most party members do discourage it, but the official position of the party is that having children is a personal decision.” [LD I, p30]
Joel’s off-hand observation that “babies are not good for the revolutionary party” and Jim’s expostulations regarding “goddamned babies” exemplify attitudes that prospective parents might indeed have found discouraging.
There is no question that Vicky was subjected to entirely illegitimate pressure to give up her baby, but as the ICL “dossier” documents, this was well known to the iSt leadership in New York. In his 30 November 1977 letter to the SL/ANZ, for example, John Sharpe, the iSt’s International Secretary, wrote:
“My understanding of the origins of the Vicki [sic] question, at least as far as the party is concerned—having her baby when David was away, her fundamental ambiguity over a long period of time about giving it up, the strong and protracted pressures on her to give it up—would indicate that that problem has existed for years. In hindsight, we may have put a pressure on her that she cannot handle, namely to choose between the organization and her kid.” [LD I, p47]
This is of course the simple truth, and Sharpe’s letter alone provides irrefutable evidence that the New York leadership was well aware of Vicky’s treatment long before the January 1979 Australian summer camp. In his reply to Sharpe, David observed: “Certainly the longstanding wisdom in this organisation has been that politics and the kid [i.e., his son] have been counterposed for Vicky.” David’s letter confirms that this policy remained in effect after Bill and Adaire had left Australia:
“the organisation did have a hard position that it was a choice [for Vicky] between the child and politics, and this was conveyed in the last ‘good discussion’ Chris [the SL/ U.S. cadre who replaced Bill as the SL/ANZ national chairman] had with her before the OPM.” [LD I, p49]
1974 Commission On John E.: A Smoking Gun
Sharpe’s observations regarding the “Vicky question” were informed in part, no doubt, by his participation in the 1974 international control commission established to look into, among other things, complaints by John E. against the Logan/Hannah regime. Jim Robertson, while not formally a member of the commission, had lengthy private sessions with it and was privy to all documents submitted to it.
John E. asserted that the leadership of the iSt, and particularly the SL/ANZ, meddled too much in the personal affairs of the members. In a discussion in the Sydney local on 21 July 1974, John E. cited the mistreatment of Vicky as an example of this. The 1974 commission has always been an awkward thing for Robertson et al to explain, as its existence refutes the claim that the international leadership had no knowledge of the nature of the regime in Australia, and of Vicky’s treatment in particular, prior to the anguished outpourings of the membership at the January 1979 SL/ ANZ summer camp.
In her testimony to the trial body in August 1979, Marie H., evidently acting on her own initiative, introduced the fact that John E. had complained of Vicky’s treatment five years earlier, and read excerpts of documents from the 1974 commission:
Marie’s intent was to strengthen the case against Bill, but the introduction of this material created a major problem for the prosecution, because the passages she read proved that, at least by August 1974, the top leadership of the Spartacist tendency had been made aware of the essential facts concerning Vicky. Immediately following the passage in the document quoted by Marie, Bill had gone on to pose the question of fostering Vicky’s child on the level of general principle:
“If the same choice were before him, John would have found it more important to bring up his own child than to make a revolution. As he said to Vicky on the night of Saturday 20 July ‘I’d never allow any child of mine to be adopted.’ The comrade had attempted to make an idealistic distinction between politics and some particular intimate personal sphere in which the party has no business whatever.”
Bill openly admitted that the SL/ANZ leadership “put more pressure on comrades than is usually desirable” to move from one place to another and to otherwise subordinate their “personal needs” to the requirements of the organization. He recounted how in a private discussion with John E. on 18 July 1974: “
I carefully explained to him how, where a comrade’s personal needs intersected those of the party they became legitimate subjects for the interests of the party, but that in situations in which it is desirable that personal needs be subordinated it is far better to rely on the consciousness of members than on discipline. Thus we quite frequently try to argue a comrade into moving from one city to another, but unless he were a member of the Central Committee we would not order him to move. I explained to him that in view of our conjunctural difficulties we unfortunately have to put more pressure on comrades than is usually desirable, and I then asked John what had caused him to develop this criticism of the Spartacist League leadership, and to give examples of how we had illegitimately interfered in the personal lives of other comrades. He answered only after fully five minutes of evasions such as ‘It is what I have observed’ but finally came out with the same example as he did later, at the Local meeting on Sunday July 21, when it was so effectively rebutted by Vicky. He said she should not have been forced to give up her baby to foster parents.”
This document (excerpted below as Appendix Bi) was circulated within the leadership of the Spartacist tendency and is cited on pages 6 and 12 of the September 1974 “International Control Commission Report on John E.” It reveals that the sanctimonious claims by Jim Robertson and the rest of the iSt leaders to have been completely unaware of how things operated in far-off Australia are completely disingenuous. This is likely why it was not selected for inclusion in the ICL’s “dossier.”
At the trial, when Bill sought to pursue the question of the documents presented to the 1974 commission, only Edmund Samarakkody (the veteran Sri Lankan Trotskyist who was the only non-iSt member on the tribunal) showed any interest:
Samarakkody recognized the significance of the fact that John E. had attempted to expose “the whole campaign” against Vicky in 1974:
In an attempt to muddy the water, the ICL, in the introduction to its “Logan Dossier,” dismisses the whole affair on the grounds that John E.’s document was not submitted to the commission until after it had concluded its hearings, and that at that point he had repudiated most of the accusations contained in it:
“This is the BT school of falsification: a retracted document submitted by a confessed liar after the International Control Commission had met is the BT’s proof positive that what Logan did to Vicky ‘was well known throughout the iSt for years’!” [LD I, p15]
It is a matter of fact that John E. had criticized “what Logan did to Vicky” at a Sydney local meeting on 21 July 1974 and that Bill’s written response, dated 4 August 1974, which openly defended his regime’s treatment of Vicky, as well as its policy regarding leadership interference in the personal lives of the members, was circulated to leading members of the iSt, including Jim Robertson. Jim’s claim that four years later he had been shocked to find out about Vicky and other abuses in the SL/ANZ is therefore simply not credible.
Samarakkody’s attempts to explore this contradiction during the trial elicited awkward denials by Jim that he knew of the existence of the documents Marie cited:
Jim also stonewalled Samarakkody’s second attempt to get him to admit familiarity with John E.’s case, and denied seeing any documents or even being aware that Vicky’s situation had been discussed:
Comrade Robertson was not being candid here. Of course he was in a difficult spot. While he had certainly seen Bill’s 4 August 1974 document (which Marie had cited earlier in the proceedings) as well as John E.’s document, to have admitted as much would have meant accepting some responsibility for the treatment of Vicky.
What if Jim had been asked if he recalled Bill’s letter to him of 6 March 1973 (which Joel appended to his April 1979 document—see Appendix A) describing Vicky as a subjective and not particularly political person who though “pregnant ‘by mistake,’” was so stubborn that: “It proved impossible to get her to have an abortion”? Would Jim have denied seeing that as well? Possibly, because otherwise his claim to have been unaware that any pressure was put on Vicky regarding an abortion would not stand up. The letter also contained the following passage:
“Dave and Vicky—I believe that Vicky does want to be political in a sense—have agreed that the only solution is for David to spend a period between now and the birth of the child (August) with the SLUS. This will allow both to develop independent of the other—Vicky in the party Barracks, which will shock her languid petty-bourgeois lifestyle. Most importantly it should give Dave a training which prepares him very well for work here.” [LD I, p57]
The ambitious 24-year-old SL/ANZ leader concluded his report with the following puerile suggestion:
“Have you every thought of insisting that all members be put in chastity belts. The National Chairman should hold the keys.”
Whatever else can be said about it, this letter makes it crystal clear that Bill was not trying to hide anything from his mentor in New York.
If Robertson was appalled by the information that his acolytes had attempted to get a young comrade to have an abortion rather than bear a child, he said nothing about it. Nor did he object to the idea of separating a young couple for months prior to the birth of their first child, in order to accelerate their “independent” political development. Even the proposal to send this young pregnant woman to the “party Barracks” for “shock” treatment did not set off any alarm bells apparently.
But if the SL’s founder/leader did not see much wrong with any of this, some of the SL’s Australian opponents apparently took a different view, another awkward fact that came out during the proceedings:
In fact nothing “emerged,” slowly or otherwise, about Vicky’s situation during the five years that elapsed between the time of the John E. commission in 1974 and Bill’s trial in 1979. All that changed was the official attitude toward the Logan regime—which is why charges previously dismissed as scurrilous Menshevik attacks on the party were suddenly embraced as accurate descriptions of “the real Vicky situation.”
This new posture naturally required an explanation of why the international leadership took so long to recognize the problems in Australia, particularly as various leading comrades, including Jim Robertson himself, had visited the SL/ANZ and retained personal connections with some of its members. In 1996, in rebutting the claim that the SL/U.S. leadership could not possibly have known what was going on in Australia, we pointed out that “[David S.] the father of the child was what was known as a ‘drinking buddy’ of Robertson and lived in the same house in North London with him for a number of months in 1976” (see Appendix Eiii). The ICL replied in the introduction to its “dossier”:
“What does it matter who David S. talked to or drank with? Until comrades at the January 1979 SL/ANZ conference began comparing personal experiences and putting together a picture of what Logan had done to them, David S. had no reason to see what happened to his wife during and after her pregnancy as anything other than a personal tragedy.” [LD I, p15]
If David had ample opportunity to talk and drink with Jim, then it cannot be true that for years Adaire and Bill prevented the members of the SL/ANZ from communicating the real story to the international leadership.
Sensible people may also wonder why it took David five years to “put together a picture” of what had happened to his wife and child when he had been intimately involved at every step. The explanation is that David thought that nothing particularly remarkable (within the framework of the iSt) had occurred. Anyone in the SL/ANZ who had witnessed the response John E. received when he tried to raise the “Vicky question” could only conclude that everything was kosher as far as the SL/U.S. leadership was concerned.
Of course, the “picture of what Logan had done” changed when Bill and Adaire were toppled in London and sent to New York in disgrace. Suddenly everything changed—the regime which had been “100 percent” good was soon discovered to have been almost “100 percent” bad. While the claim that the central leadership of the iSt had no idea what had been going on in Australia was preposterous, it was essential to explaining the Logan regime as the expression of a uniquely evil personality, rather than an “outback” replica of Robertson’s own operation.
At the trial Jim recounted how, during his January 1976 visit to a SL/ANZ summer camp, he had arranged a private meeting with Vicky:
“On my own initiative, because I’d known David S. a long time, and I was curious and a little perplexed, I asked for and I was given an interview with comrade Vicky for fifteen or twenty minutes. That was the only initiative [to talk to SL/ANZ members] on my part.” [LD II, p71]
After they “talked to no particular point” for a bit, Vicky left. Presumably Jim’s curiosity about her situation was satisfied. Bill asked Jim why he had not taken the opportunity to talk to more comrades:
“Robertson: Well, I walked around, but they all seemed to be playing hard contact body sports and that was it. And I thought maybe I’m—I’m out of phase with the culture of these people. You know? I was in a strange place among people I didn’t know. I did not want to be obtrusive….I was not at ease. And so I was reserved, waiting for initiatives from—from other people or a least some understanding of how to proceed.” [LD II, pp71-72]
Robertson’s then companion, Barbara, had earlier testified that after returning from Australia Jim had stressed three things. The first was that he “complained bitterly that he had been isolated in his room for long periods of time.” [LD II, p71] Secondly, he reported that one evening Karen W., a recent in-transfer from the SL/U.S., “just happened to drop by and they talked for a long time, and that he was very grateful for this kind of contact with a comrade.”
Earlier in his testimony, Jim reported being displeased when Adaire ignored his suggestion that lodgings at the summer camp be re-jigged to put him together with Karen W.
“…I was given the VIP treatment of being left all by myself in a—in a room that held eight bunks and I was quite lonely and nobody talked to me and I am moderately shy. I had come out with Karen W. and I remember asking Adaire: Well, maybe since she moved here too, she could share the eight bunks with me? That was looked down upon askance. But I was lonely.” [LD II, p63]
He reiterated this complaint again later:
“I asked—I don’t know whether it was you [Bill] and Adaire or—or Adaire because I only remember her reaction. I said maybe Karen W____, who’s also new here, could be put in my room at night. And Adaire suggested sexual sacrilege at the thought. So I dropped that fast.” [LD II, p71]
Had Bill, rather than Jim, been the one to ask that an attractive young person be “put in my room at night” it would undoubtedly have been cited as an example of sexual manipulation and abuse of authority, if not psycho-pathology or something worse. But as it was Jim, nothing was said.
Thirdly, Barbara recalled Jim musing about the behavior of John Sheridan, one of three full members of the SL/ANZ central committee, along with Adaire and Bill:
“And the third thing was at intervals he would wonder about Sheridan, comrade Sheridan, because he—he had known comrade Sheridan quite well and wondered what was wrong, why John hadn’t talked to him, why—why they hadn’t been able to sit down and have a drink and talk together.” [LD II, p71]
Why indeed? Had Jim been too shy to initiate a conversation with comrade Sheridan, a long-time SL/U.S. member?
Was John too preoccupied with “hard contact body sports” to talk to Jim? Fortunately, the two of them had a chance to catch up while Sheridan stayed in Robertson’s New York flat:
This was doubtless the point Sheridan wished to make. But in fact his testimony amounted to an admission that, as a mature political person who had been a member of the SL/U.S. central committee before moving to Australia, he had been an integral component of a regime that regularly engaged in what he later described as “sexual manipulation” and “criminal abuse of young new comrades.” [LD I, p70] Moreover, despite the fact that such practices supposedly stood in stark contrast to everything he had learned from his years in the American section, he was not “conscious” that there was anything wrong in the SL/ANZ until the New York leadership turned against Logan and Hannah. At that point, along with everyone else, he suddenly became “conscious” that things in the SL/ANZ had been very bad for many years.
To show what a bad fellow Bill was, Jim told the tribunal a story about how in the summer of 1977 he had been “harassed” by Bill into talking his “old friend” Patrick S. out of reconciling with his wife Denise. After drinking some brandy together, Jim asked Patrick what was going on:
“He said ‘I love to f—k her.’ And I said, ‘Then, she’s coming back. But she’s Irish, she’ll give you babies, lad. Why don’t you get your tubes tied?’ And that was all. And then we killed the rest of the bottle. And I reported whatever to Logan, and I said, ‘Well, they’re gonna do what they’re gonna do.”
Had it been Bill advising Patrick to get his “tubes tied” to avoid being saddled with Irish babies, this conversation might well have been cited as an example of improper meddling in the personal lives of comrades and/or ethnic stereotyping. But as it was Jim, not Bill, offering the advice it was passed over in silence. As Jim explained it, he did not regard Patrick’s projected reunion with his wife as comparable to driving a car over a cliff, because:
“they had a marital separation, and I didn’t see anything wrong with her, except I was worried about the babies that Irish girls tend to generate. Nothing else.” [LD II, p75]
When Bill subsequently questioned Jim about whether he had in fact expressed any intent to prevent Patrick and his wife from reuniting, Jim’s response suggested that this was not what had really bothered him about the discussion:
It seems that Jim was less concerned about the possibility that Bill was meddling in Patrick’s personal business than about pecking order, i.e., the British National Chairman was displaying insufficient deference to the American National Chairman. The comment about “rope” clearly suggests that Robertson was already intending to depose Logan.
A Tilted Trial
While there was some attempt to give the proceedings a veneer of propriety, a tilt was evident from the beginning. Initially the trial body had not wanted to allow Bill the right to question witnesses. This was changed when Samarakkody objected. In our 1996 response to the ICL on the question (see Appendix Eiii), we outlined some of the other irregularities:
On the first day of his trial, Bill was surprised to learn that the prosecution would begin immediately calling witnesses, as he had been informed that the session would be devoted solely to opening statements, and had prepared accordingly:
The tribunal even denied Bill’s request to be allowed to read his prepared statement.
On the last day Bill was informed that his opportunity to address the tribunal would occur immediately after the prosecution’s final witnesses testified, but he was not told who they would be:
While the ICL “dossier” includes the prosecution’s summary, it omits both Bill’s final remarks and those of Edmund Samarakkody, who partially dissented from the majority’s conclusions. Another significant omission from the transcript is the testimony of John Sheridan, the former SL/U.S. central committee member and the most senior member of the SL/ANZ after Bill and Adaire.
Perhaps the most important omission from the trial transcript is Helene B.’s indictment of Adaire. Adaire had devoted her entire adult life to building the Spartacist tendency and remained a member of the group’s International Executive Committee until she was expelled (in absentia) without either being notified of the charges against her or being given any opportunity to defend herself. The way that Adaire was treated by the Spartacist leadership was shabby even by the standards of Bill’s show trial, as we noted in 1996:
“Although the iSt helped pay the travel expenses of hostile witnesses, they denied such assistance to Logan’s compan ion and chief collaborator in Australia and Britain, Adaire Hannah. Hannah, the only witness prepared to testify on Logan’s behalf, was, by virtue of the arrangements of the iSt, resident in New York without a work permit, and with out independent means. The leadership’s refusal to even loan her the money necessary to purchase a plane ticket to Britain (where the trial was held) meant that she was unable to attend.”
The introduction to the ICL “dossier” responds by blaming the victim:
“On several occasions in the days and weeks before the trial, the Logans had assured the international leadership that they were able to purchase airline tickets with their available funds and would both be present at the trial, including in a written statement signed by both (see ‘Letter by Hannah and Logan to International Secretariat,’ 28 July 1979 [Document 38]). The international leadership first learned that Hannah would not be at the trial only after Logan had already arrived in London! Yet the BT later asserted that we prevented Hannah from testifying because we hadn’t paid her way (‘We Go Forward!’ p. 5). In fact, it was very convenient to Logan that his chief lieutenant, the blunt, outspoken Hannah, was not at the trial.” [LD I, p14]
In fact it was not particularly “convenient” for Bill to be completely isolated, without a single person to talk to or a single witness who was prepared to say a word on his behalf. In the letter reprinted in the ICL “dossier” [LD I, p99] Adaire and Bill stated that they intended to attend the trial despite “the party being unwilling to give any assistance to comrade Hannah” and only offering to pay for half of Bill’s flight. To make this possible they requested some “lenience” on the cost of lodging at the conference. When the iSt leadership ignored this extremely modest request, Adaire simply could not afford to go. Jim Robertson professed to sympathize with Adaire and twice told the tribunal “I have resisted her being a co-defendant,” [LD II, p78] but he did not object to expelling her once the tribunal majority reached its foregone conclusion.
To avoid confusing the delegates, who had the formal responsibility for deciding Bill’s fate, the tribunal, which addressed the conference at dawn at the end of a marathon all-night session, reported none of the facts upon which its recommendation to expel Bill was based, nor made any attempt to summarize the points he raised in his defense. Bill was not permitted to address the conference until the delegates had already voted to expel him. Even then he was given a mere five minutes to plead his case.
Adaire, though expelled on 31 August 1979, along with Bill, was not informed for several weeks. In response she wrote:
“I did not believe that you could have gone so far as to expel me without any trial, without any chance to defend myself, and without ever being given the slightest indication that there was a possibility of expulsion. My expulsion was carried out in a manner completely contrary to democratic organisational practices.”
In “‘Australian Methods’ and the Logan/Hannah Regime,” John Sheridan reflected on some of the circumstances that had produced the problems in the SL/ANZ:
“One element was the barracks. It [was] objectively a situation where comrades personal living arrangements mingled with and eventually merged with the organisa-tion—’the personal became political’ in the worst kind of way….It has more the character of setting up the organisation as a substitute parent and then complaining about ‘institutionalisation’ and the organisation being forced to have excessive concern for the comrades personal needs. At the same time, the barracks existence creates a barrier between the organisation and the real world—you have to move in to join and everything revolves around internal matters. The world outside becomes distant and peripheral to your existence.” [LD I, p73]
This is undoubtedly true. But the “barracks” itself had a context, as Bill outlined in a document he wrote in 1989 as part of the discussions that resulted in the fusion of the New Zealand Permanent Revolution Group and the North American Bolshevik Tendency:
In his 1979 document, Dave R. had described the mindset of the SL/ANZ’s leader in broadly similar terms:
“His [Logan’s] absurdly optimistic projections in the ear lier years—most notoriously his ‘50 members in a year’ in 1974—reflected more than inexperience. He wanted to be an influence in the world fast, but without simply junking the program as he understood it because he really believed the program was the road to influence. So he was constantly trying to accelerate with little regard for the long-term toll on the comrades. He prided himself on his ability to manoeuvre not only internally to ‘accelerate cadre development,’ but also externally, sometimes at the expense of the program.” [LD I, p78]
Dave R. explained how couples, or proto-couples, were frequently pressured to accept transfers that meant separation:
“As with many of the couple-splitting transfers, the suppression on the part of the comrades concerned of personal objections was largely the result of exploiting political loyalty. We were ashamed to oppose transfers on selfish grounds, and Bill and Adaire encouraged this attitude.” [LD I, p83]
In other instances, comrades were pushed to maintain relationships that were seen as valuable to the organization, as in the case of Dave R.’s relationship with Marie. Again there was no attempt to conceal this from the international leadership. In a 17 July 1976 report to the iSt’s International Secretariat in New York, Chris K. (at that time a member of the political bureau of the SL/U.S.) observed that Marie:
“is presently being dragged down by her relationship with [Dave R.], which has been difficult lately and which she wants to break off anyway. She shows tremendous party loyalty in being willing to continue living with the guy until Bill returns in the interest of his stability.”
Dave R. described the SL/ANZ in the early years as operating with a “siege mentality”:
“In Logan’s case the siege mentality meant that it was crucial to exploit every available ‘lever’ for ‘accelerating development’ even if this meant trifling with the lives of comrades.” [LD I, p79]
The “barracks,” which was no secret within the Spartacist tendency, was probably the most extreme manifestation of this “siege mentality.” Set up in an attempt to artificially accelerate the group’s development, the operation of the barracks, as John Sheridan observed, played an important role in shaping what the SL/ANZ became:
Keith O. was a highly political young militant recruited, like John E., from the Communist League, the Australian followers of Ernest Mandel. During a slate discussion at a March 1975 SL/ANZ national conference, he suggested that Bill enjoyed “wheeling and dealing” which he had learned as a youth during his time in New Zealand’s bourgeois National Party. This was disputed and before long extrapolated into a major challenge to the regime that had to be put down firmly. When George Foster, the deputy national chairman of the SL/U.S., visited Australia a few weeks later, he took an active role in “smashing” Keith, as John Sheridan testified during Bill’s trial:
“John S.: ….It was later that comrade Foster came down to Melbourne for a week. It was a very active period. We were in the middle of the LaTrobe campus strike. Logan came down with comrade Foster. We had a series of, I believe in five days, something like four meetings on the Keith O. question….” [LD II, p66]
In his 21 April 1975 report to New York, George described how “Bill ran the OC [Melbourne Organizing Committee] through a series of four nightly meetings, i.e., a prolonged ‘consciousness raising’ session” at the conclusion of which Keith “decided to completely withdraw his accusations against Bill.” [LD I, p39] George reported how Keith was affected: “right now he’s a pretty damaged piece of goods—intensely subjective, personally withdrawn, yet very capable.” Perhaps, Foster suggested optimistically, he “could be retreaded” at some point in the future.
It was hardly a coincidence that the SL/ANZ members who raised significant objections to the Logan regime, John E. and Keith O., were also the only ones with substantial political experience in an ostensibly Trotskyist group prior to joining the iSt. The half dozen Spartacist cadres who moved to Australia from North America did not raise similar objections because they found that things in the SL/ANZ under the Logan regime were not a great deal different than what they had been used to under Robertson. The Australian ranks were quite aware that the pulverization of John E. and Keith O. had been explicitly sanctioned by the international leadership—the commission of leading members that looked into John E.’s complaints found them to be without substance, and Foster personally participated in the “consciousness-raising” sessions that trashed Keith.
The Logan regime was indeed inordinately sensitive to challenges to the “authority” of the leadership, and any hint of criticism was seen as an intolerable affront. John Sheridan’s accusation that in the SL/ANZ “any difference had to be a regime fight, those who had differences had to be smashed—completely, totally, utterly” was true enough. But in this, again, the Logan regime was merely replicating Robertson’s SL/U.S. which, as we noted in our 1985 document “The Road to Jimstown,” had itself gradually come to function like Gerry Healy’s British Socialist Labour League:
Our 1985 account of “obedience training” in “Jimstown” described what happened to Keith O. when he dared to offer a fairly minor criticism:
As we noted in “Willful Blindness,” 1917 No. 20, it is not by accident that the comrades of the Internationalist Group, who exited the SL in 1996 more than a decade later, described this phenomenon in virtually identical terms.
Dave R.’s June 1979 document, “On the Logan Regime in Australia,” reports a conversation he had with Bill on the question of who needs to be “smashed” and who does not:
“As Bill said at one point, he would never ‘need to smash’ me because I cut myself down. Those who did ‘need to be smashed’ found themselves not merely reminded of their faults during the usual agonizing, breast-beating, slate discussions but under constant attack in artificially inflated fights and confrontations. Because I didn’t need to be smashed and was valuable to the regime I was built up as a great theoretician and writer and ‘protected’….” [LD I, p78]
The reason that Bill was on trial had nothing to do with the fact that SL/ANZ members had been bullied and smashed, nor the lurid allegations that he was a “sexual sociopath” and a “baby-killer” [LD II, p73] (a particularly nasty slander that Robertson could have lifted from a “Right to Life” tract). Bill’s transfer from Robertson’s “never need to smash” to “needs to be smashed” column originated when Robertson learned that in 1974, in a discussion with Y. Rad who expressed dismay at the overwhelming weight of the iSt’s American section, Bill countered with the entirely hypothetical suggestion that he and Rad together might, at some future point, represent a bloc that could credibly challenge an erroneous position advanced by the American leadership. Robertson chose to interpret this as a proposal for a “bloc against the party”—something that Bill vehemently denied. (A related allegation was made concerning a report by Rad’s companion, Libby S., of a comment by Steve Green, the SL’s highly competent Chicago organizer, who had served as the iSt’s senior European representative in 1975.)
Rad and Libby quit before there was any formal investigation of either comment, but in her August 1976 post-resignation statement, Libby provided an entirely plausible account of both discussions (see Appendix Di). In response to this document Bill filed a deposition, dated 7 December 1976 (see Appendix Dii), which obviously failed to placate Robertson, whose paranoid fixation with guaranteeing his own permanent, absolute and unquestioned supremacy within the group took precedence over every other consideration (and is largely responsible for the current decrepit state of the ICL).
The ICL is roughly correct in summarizing our view as: “Robertson rigged bogus charges in order to frame up Logan.” [LD I, p14] We reject the claim that Bill Logan during his time in the SL/ANZ was some sort of all-round evil genius, when in fact he was merely Jim Robertson’s understudy. But we have never denied that many of the complaints raised by the SL/ANZ membership were legitimate, or substantially legitimate. The claim that Jim Robertson and his circle had no idea what was going on in Australia is indeed “bogus” as we have demonstrated above. The motivation for the show trial that was supposed to destroy Bill Logan was unrelated to the formal charges brought against him. His real crime was “hubris,” i.e., reserving the right to perhaps some day, on some political question, disagree with his mentor, the founder/leader of the Spartacist League.
Posted: February 2008