The following is a reconstruction, from notes, of an intervention by Samuel T. at a meeting sponsored by the Internationalist Group (IG) at Hunter College in New York on 17 September. The meeting, called to discuss the issue of the pending U.S. attack on Iraq, is the first public forum held by the Internationalist Group in New York since its break from the Spartacist League in the mid-1990s. In addition to IG comrades and unaffiliated students, five members of the SL were in attendance. There was considerable discussion of the SL’s opposition to calling for the defeat of the U.S. led coalition in Afghanistan last year (for our view on this issue see: “Where Is the ICL Going?” in 1917 No. 24). In the past the SL has frequently accused the IG of echoing criticisms originally put forward by the International Bolshevik Tendency.

“I’m speaking for the International Bolshevik Tendency. I agree with a lot of Comrade Norden’s presentation. The IG and IBT are two of very few groups in the left that militantly called for defeating U.S. imperialism in Afghanistan and we are likely to be among only a few that do so again when the U.S. attacks Iraq. We also happen to agree with the IG’s criticisms of the Spartacist League on these and other points. Much of this is explained by our common origins in the Spartacist League, our founding members being driven out in the early 80's, the IG’s in the mid-90's.

“Whether the younger IG comrades realize this or not though, the SL is substantially right when it asserts that the IG is doing little more than repeating criticisms we made of the SL for 15 years prior to its existence, whether the issue involved was adapting to the Democrats, its bureaucratic internal regime or betraying principles in response to fear of the bourgeoisie. (We saw this in Afghanistan recently; also with the SL’s demand that the Brazilian LFI comrades abandon the fight to keep the cops out of their union, i.e., ‘pull their hands out of the boiling water’; and also when the SL refused to support driving the U.S. Marines out of Lebanon in 1983 by any means necessary, one of our first political fights with them.)

“The 1960's anti-war movement has been discussed. At the time the SL had a heavy orientation towards recruiting from a Stalinist group called Progressive Labor Party. PL was at the time in the process of renouncing various positions it inherited from its Stalinist heritage, (such as the popular front [multi-class alliance], adaptation to bourgeois nationalist forces in the Third World, a ‘stageist’ theory of revolution, etc.) without ever going to the root of the problem. PL refused to consider that Trotsky was making the same criticisms more coherently decades earlier. The then-revolutionary SL aptly characterized their politics ‘Trotskyism with a pre-frontal lobotomy.’

“It seems to me the IG is attempting to do something similar today in their stance of trying to find some middle ground between echoing the IBT’s correct historical criticisms and still defending many of the positions of the degenerating SL—‘Trotskyism with a pre-frontal lobotomy Part II” if you will.

“We urge IG comrades to study this history and discuss it with us, for without understanding the history of the SL’s degeneration, the IG, like PL, will be doomed to perpetual confusion and repetition of past errors.”

[PL ultimately “resolved” the contradiction between renouncing reformism while clinging to Stalin with the discovery that Stalin’s mistake was that he sought to build “Socialism in One Country.” According to PL, everything would have turned out well had he instead set as his goal.... “Communism” in one country, where “Communism means the Party leads society” (What We Fight For--PL). The IG leaders are too sophisticated for such stupidities, but if they refuse to critically re-examine their own history they must inevitably end up making further departures from Trotskyism.]

Posted: 23 September 2002