Trotskyist Bulletin No. 4

Trotskyism vs. Pabloism

Nicaragua & the Permanent Revoution




Rejoinder to Andrew R., The United Secretariat: An Anti-Trotskyist Fraud

The "Reply to Neil H." by comrade Andrew R. of Socialist Challenge/Gauche Socialiste (SC/GS) vividly confirms Trotsky’s quip that, "Renegades are always distinguished by short memories or assume that other people have short memories."1 If a revolutionary party is the memory of the working class, SC seems to be suffering from amnesia. In his enthusiasm to defend the political program of his mentors in the United Secretariat (USec), Andrew lapses into sloppy formulations, factual errors and even a few of the "self-serving fabrications," which he incorrectly ascribes to my open letter.

Andrew suggests that in leaving SC, I manifested symptoms of "a serious case of disorientation" which has left me unable to "comprehend the dynamic of international class struggle and the balance of forces on a world scale precisely as they enter into a decisive and open contradiction." This "inability" is presented as an "unenviable mastery of sectarian dogmatism" and "sterile reasoning."

In spite of the author’s strident polemical tone, his reply manifests most of the characteristic features of the form of political revisionism known in the Trotskyist movement as "Pabloism." Pabloism is not some sort of political bogeyman as members of the USec pretend – it is an anti-revolutionary methodology which abandons the task of building revolutionary vanguard parties in favor of adaptation to the present consciousness of the masses. This typically manifests itself in the discovery of a "dynamic" in various non-proletarian forces which qualifies them as vehicles for socialist transformation. While Andrew claims that the mark of a sectarian is a failure to "recognize the actuality of a proletarian revolution as it is occurring," he and his organization possess the dubious talent of recognizing virtually every radical movement as incipiently revolutionary. In hindsight, many manifestations of the supposedly eternally unfolding "objective revolutionary dynamic" (e.g., Ayatollah Khomeini’s reactionary theocratic movement in Iran), have become embarrassments to be quietly forgotten, or even criticized in some retrospective "balance sheet."

The Russian Revolution of October 1917 has thus far been the only successful proletarian revolution; i.e., the only revolution in which the proletariat played the predominant political/military role in the seizure of power. The other examples cited by Andrew were not proletarian revolutions, but rather social revolutions led either by radical petty-bourgeois insurrectionaries (Cuba) or by peasant-based Stalinist guerrilla armies (Yugoslavia, China). These revolutions resulted in the creation of deformed workers states; states in which the working class does not and has never wielded political power, but which are nonetheless based on working-class (collectivized) property.

The USec’s liquidationism can be seen in both China and Vietnam. In 1953 the Chinese Trotskyists who opposed the characterization of Mao’s party as centrist and resisted instructions to dissolve into it, were denounced by Ernest Germain (aka Mandel) as "hopeless sectarians."2 Likewise, the Bolshevik-Leninist Group of Vietnam (BLVG), a section of the International since 1947, sent an appeal to the USec’s Tenth World Congress in 1974 which was never published. This was doubtless because the appeal correctly attacked the USec for "prettying up the VCP [Vietnamese Communist Party] to the point of labelling it a Revolutionary Party,"3 and covering up the murder of the Vietnamese Trotskyists in 1945. For Mandel et al, who at that time were enthusing about the VCP, the BLVG members were an embarrassment.

While the impulse to capitulate to the "revolutionary process" is a constant for all wings of the USec, the forces to which they adapt are often sharply counterposed. It is little more than a decade since the Mandelite International Majority Tendency (IMT) and the Hansen-led Leninist-Trotskyist Faction (LTF) exchanged insults from opposite sides of the barricades in Portugal. In August 1975, the LTF was alibing the burning of Communist Party offices by the CIA-funded Socialist Party at the head of rightist mobs. The Mandel wing, on the other hand, had its co-thinkers join a so-called "revolutionary united front" brokered by the bourgeois Armed Forces Movement, which offered its support to the program of General Goncalves who was then the head of the bourgeois government!

Why Nicaragua is Not a Workers State

The disgraceful tailism exhibited by the USec so often in the past is evident today in its attitude toward Nicaragua. Andrew chastises me for rejecting the "revolutionary workers state in Nicaragua." In fact, Nicaragua is not a workers state, as the USec itself recognized at least until 1980. But popularity is the ultimate criteria for opportunists. By the time of its Twelfth World Congress in 1985, the USec publicly criticized itself for failing to understand "the character and trajectory of the FSLN" and announced that Nicaragua had indeed been a worker state since 1979.4

In his defense of the Sandinistas as "revolutionary Marxists" (which leaves aside the USec’s previous characterization of the FSLN as popular-frontist), Andrew displays an acute ignorance of fundamental aspects of Leninism, in particular the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat. The passages which he cites from Lenin’s Left Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder retain all their validity as advice on tactics. But Andrew omits the context in which the advice was given: the defense of the dictatorship of the proletariat – a state which has as its economic basis the expropriation of the capitalists and the nationalization of the means of production. In his "Theses and Report on Bourgeois Democracy and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat," Lenin states quite clearly:

"History teaches us that no oppressed class ever did, or could, achieve power without going through a period of dictatorship, i.e., the conquest of political power and forcible suppression of the resistance always offered by the exploiters...."5

But, far from suppressing the exploiters, the FSLN is proclaiming its support for the "democratization" demanded by the contras and their capitalist backers. This, among other things, includes the "right" of La Prensa, the CIA-funded organ of counterrevolution, to publish a daily paper in Managua. As against this policy Lenin asserted:

"The first thing to do to win real equality and genuine democracy for the working people, for the workers and peasants, is to deprive capital of the possibility of hiring writers, buying up publishing houses, and bribing newspapers. And to do that the capitalists and exploiters have to be overthrown and their resistance suppressed."6

But in Nicaragua, the capitalists and the exploiters have not been overthrown or suppressed. They retain an effective stranglehold over the economy, which they have used to undermine production and thereby destabilize the populist Sandinista regime. Proletarian property forms do not exist in Nicaragua, and it seems increasingly unlikely that the FSLN will ever attempt to try to establish them. Instead of overthrowing the rule of capital, the Sandinistas want to reconcile the exploiters and their victims. It is absurd therefore for Andrew to defend the FSLN strategy of conciliation with the Nicaraguan capitalists with quotes from Lenin on using "any conflict of interest between the bourgeoisie of the various countries and among the various groups or types of bourgeoisie within the various countries." Of course a revolutionary workers leadership must be prepared to make tactical maneuvers, like the Bolsheviks did in 1922 with the Treaty of Rapallo which broke the imperialist quarantine. In some cases, like the Dreyfus affair, or the current dispute over the decriminalization of abortion in Canada, it is vital that revolutionaries intervene in conflicts between different sections of the bourgeoisie, but comrade Andrew will not find Lenin arguing for the "democratic rights" of the bourgeoisie to agitate for counterrevolution, or for their "right" to own and control the means of production—and these are the questions posed in Nicaragua.

Andrew argues that the Sandinistas have "never stood above or outside the internal class struggle" but have added to and developed "greater self-activity and self-organization of the Nicaraguan masses in their own interests." He is silent about the recurrent bans on strikes and the periodic suppression of the newspapers of the ex-Maoist Marxist-Leninist Party of Nicaragua and the Morenoite Revolutionary Workers Party (PRT), both of which have advocated more aggressive measures against the Nicaraguan bourgeoisie than the FSLN has undertaken.

Andrew apparently believes that if a regime is popular, like that of the FSLN, it cannot be bonapartist. The Sandinistas came to power in Nicaragua following the July 1979 insurrection which overthrew Somoza and smashed the old bourgeois state. Since that point, the Sandinistas have balanced between preserving the property of the Nicaraguan capitalists and meeting the completely counterposed needs of the Nicaraguan workers and peasants who make up the FSLN’s popular base. This is bonapartism.

Marxists regard workers councils or "Soviets" as the highest form of workers’ democracy. Such councils, according to Marx and Lenin, would be composed of directly elected and recallable delegates and would unite workers and poor peasants, thus constituting an organizational framework for the workers to impose their own class interests. Such councils do not exist in Nicaragua and mass rallies which roar approval for FSLN policies cannot take their place.

This recalls Cuba, where the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), led by Joseph Hansen, hailed the Castro regime as a healthy workers state despite the fact that it was "lacking as yet the forms of democratic proletarian rule."7 Now, almost three decades later, these "forms" are still "lacking." Contrary to the rose-colored picture Andrew and Socialist Challenge present, the FSLN’s class-collaborationist policies have been a disaster and have put the Nicaraguan revolution in mortal danger.

On Tactics and "Mass Movements"

Andrew correctly points out that communist mass movements "will not materialize out of thin air." He argues that revolutionaries must participate in independent mass movements, build them, and fight for socialist politics in them. This is all unobjectionable—but it is also at variance to the political practice of SC.

In the first place, the only mass movement worthy of the name in North America today is the trade-union movement in which SC has only very limited activity. And in the union in which Barry W., SC’s leader, is active, the Ontario Public Employees Union (OPSEU), he has a shameful record of association with at least one prison guard. In fact, Barry even invited this screw to speak at a Central America solidarity meeting in March 1986 as a trade-union militant, something which should provide a bit of an embarrassment today with SC’s recent involvement in "Prison Justice Day." To my knowledge SC/GS as an organization still does not uphold the elementary Marxist proposition that it is necessary to drive screws and cops out of the union movement.

In the women’s movement and other areas of intervention, SC’s policies are virtually indistinguishable from the liberal reformists of the milieu. Instead of attempting to win the best elements of these movements to a Marxist worldview, SC spends its time acting as the uncritical "best builders" of these reformist coalitions. There is a more or less explicit two-stage theory which operates here. Now, when the movements are small and marginal, it is necessary to build them on a reformist/minimalist political basis. Only later (i.e., never) will it be appropriate to argue for Marxism. Thus all the so-called mass movements which SC supports and "builds" remain quite "independent" from revolutionary politics.

The fruits of SC’s adaptationist method are best illustrated in the Toronto Anti-intervention Coalition (TAIC), a "mass movement" given birth to and sustained by SC, in which the USec supporters willingly limit themselves to politics agreeable to their liberal bloc partners (when they can find them). An information leaflet published by TAIC in 1985 claimed that, "Social Justice not Communism is the issue" in Central America. For Marxists, there is no counterposition between communism and social justice—social justice in Central America will not be achieved without socialist revolution. The struggle for communism, i.e., the perspective of Permanent Revolution is the issue in Latin America for anyone purporting to be a Trotskyist, but apparently not for SC/GS. In the same leaflet, under the heading "Why Should Canadians Care?" we learn, "Canadians have a long-standing tradition of support for democratic principles of ‘respect for international law,’ ‘self-determination’ and ‘non-intervention’." This statement represents unadulterated social-patriotism. For most of its existence (with the exception of the brief united-front period under the influence of the Bolshevik Tendency), the TAIC has pushed a rotten combination of Canadian nationalism, pacifism and reformism.

SC members who endorse, as a "tactic," the idea of pressuring the Canadian government to end its "complicity" and to "genuinely benefit the majority of the people" in Nicaragua8 as proposed by cde. Weisleder can rationalize this to themselves in one of two ways. They can either believe the reformist tripe they put forward (thereby consciously renouncing any claim to be "revolutionaries") or they can think that it is a smart tactic to say things that they know to be false in the interests of "building the mass movement." Trotsky addressed this kind of opportunism when he wrote, "no ‘tactical’ considerations can condone fraternization and embraces with political fakers and traitors in the eyes of the workers."9

SC claims to fight for socialist politics within the social-democratic New Democratic Party (NDP), but in reality, the bottom line is always "Vote NDP." When confronted with a mass reformist or Stalinist party, the task of revolutionary Marxists is to attempt to split the working-class base away from its reformist leadership by exposing the class treachery of these leaderships. Critical support, conditional non-support, the united front, and entrism are all tactics which, depending on the circumstances, may be appropriate. SC however has turned "critical" support into its opposite—a call for an NDP government disguised with a few figleaf criticisms—thus gutting the tactic of any revolutionary content. Rather than split the NDP, SC only wants to build it. Consider the editorial in the April 1988 issue of Socialist Challenge: "An NDP vote is progressive because it represents an elementary act of class independence. A coalition government could [emphasis added] rob the NDP vote of this progressive character of a break with the bourgeoisie."10 For SC, the NDP could be in a coalition with one of the big business parties and still be worthy of electoral support! This was the group’s policy during the 1987 Ontario elections, when the NDP ran on its record of class-collaboration with the Liberals. Ed Broadbent has announced that he intends to run on the same basis in the upcoming federal elections. Under such circumstances, the contradiction between the party’s working-class base and its bourgeois program is effectively suppressed. A vote for the NDP on these terms becomes in effect a vote for coalitionism—that is, a vote against independent working-class politics. Only if the NDP candidates were prepared to state in advance that they would vote no confidence in the Liberals, could any kind of critical support be considered. But last fall as Bob Rae proclaimed his intention to form another coalition with the Liberals if he got a chance, SC held a forum entitled "For an NDP Government: How, Why and Then What?"

Trotsky’s attitude to the type of relationship SC has with the NDP is contained in his comment on a centrist group in France in the 1930’s:

"Those who say ‘we will forego telling the masses the truth about the latest social-patriotic treachery so as not to be expelled from the party led by the social patriots’ become the witting accomplices of these traitors. By claiming to speak in the name of Marxism they reveal what contemptible scoundrels they are."11

Cde. Andrew thinks he is being very clever to ask how it is possible for SC/GS to capitulate to the English-chauvinist NDP and to Quebec nationalism simultaneously. He might ask himself how SC/GS’s predecessor, the Revolutionary Workers League (RWL), managed it? In 1980, while engaged in NDP work qualitatively no different from SC’s, the RWL voted political confidence in the petty-bourgeois Parti Quebecois when it decided to retroactively endorse the PQ’s bogus referendum on sovereignty association.

SC/GS’s position on the national question is completely contrary to Lenin’s. Revolutionaries in English Canada must uphold Quebec’s right to self-determination, up to and including the right to separate, while recalling Lenin’s injunction that, "The national programme of working-class democracy is: absolutely no privileges for any one nation or any one language."12 Bill 101, which SC/GS vociferously endorses, offers such privileges to the French language in Quebec. Leninists therefore must oppose it.

Iran: USec Hails Islamic Reaction

In reply to the three disastrous applications of USec policy which are cited in my open letter (Iran, Afghanistan and Poland), Andrew responds with indignant accusations that I am "distorting the historical record" and indulging in "self-serving fabrications." For all his bluster, Andrew is apparently either too lazy to look up what his organization wrote at the time about the events in question, or he is deliberately misrepresenting the USec’s positions. It is therefore necessary to set the historical record straight.

Andrew denies the USec "criminally tailed Khomeini," but does not state what position it took at the time. In 1978-79 as the "Islamic Revolution" took place, most of SC/GS’s leaders were members of the RWL. Here is how the RWL’s newspaper, Socialist Voice, defended Khomeini against criticisms that he was a reactionary:

"Khomeini has been portrayed as arch-reactionary [!] But what are his views? He has called for the toppling of the regime by strikes and demonstrations. He has called on the ranks of the army to join the revolt. He has ordered the religious hierarchy to donate 50% of their tithes to the striking workers. He has publicly indicated he places ‘no value on agreements that are against the welfare of our nation’."
—Alan Russet, Socialist Voice, January 15, 1979

Even after the fact, the USec continued to claim that Khomeini’s victory opened a "process of permanent revolution in Iran."13 By characterizing the revolutionary position of the Spartacist League—"Down with the Shah, Down with Mullahs, For Workers Revolution in Iran"—as pro-imperialist,14 the USec demonstrated just how far its pursuit of popularity had taken it from Trotskyism.

Despite the occasional reference to the eventual desirability of a workers government in Iran, the real attitude of the USec and its Iranian affiliate, the HKS, was revealed by the decision to participate in the August 1979 elections to the Assembly of Experts. At this point Khomeini’s terrorist "Revolutionary Guards" were viciously attacking women’s and leftist organizations. In this context, imagine "Trotskyists" debating with mullahs over "correct" interpretations of the Koran! In the end, three of the eighteen HKS candidates boycotted the elections.

Andrew blithely defends this capitulation with the claim that the USec stood by the Iranians’ "right to overthrow the Shah, or any other government imposed by imperialism." By this sleight of hand, which implicitly equates opposition to the Shah with support to the mass movement for an "Islamic Republic," Khomeini is transformed from an arch-reactionary to an anti-imperialist. But there is no necessary conflict between imperialism and Islamic fundamentalism. Khomeini’s ability to hegemonize the anti-Shah movement was at the expense of the Iranian left, which overwhelmingly capitulated to his popularity and joined in the chanting of "allah akbar!"

The USec press did not advance the perspective of a struggle against the mullahs or even raise the simple question of separation of church and state until after Khomeini had triumphed and the widespread illusions in him had begun to evaporate."15 For example, in a document entitled "The Unfolding Revolution in Iran," there is a subsection entitled "Tasks of the Iranian Trotskyists," which in the context of a growing theocratic mass movement entirely ignores the whole question of whether or not the state should be secular! The USec found it impossible to believe that the "dynamic" of Khomeini’s mass movement could have a reactionary character. But that was precisely the essence of the movement in Iran. By refusing to warn the working class of, and instead participating in, Khomeini’s mass movement, the USec shares responsibility for the bloody victory of his reactionary regime.

Afghanistan: USec Capitulates to Anti-Sovietism

The reactionary character of Islamic fundamentalism is also evident in Afghanistan. In this situation however, the Russian question plays a key role. Andrew claims, "in 1980 the F.I. condemned the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan...and called for immediate Soviet withdrawal." In fact, when the USec met in January 1980, it "criticized the [Soviet] intervention, but rejected the call for withdrawal of the Soviet troops...[and] only a small minority came out for withdrawal."16 It was not until May 1981 that the USec openly advocated Soviet withdrawal.

The USec does not wish military victory for the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. International Viewpoint’s latest (July 11) pronouncement on the question demands that the Soviet troops withdraw while simultaneously claiming to oppose a victory by the Mujahadeen: "We are firmly for the defeat of the reactionary forces...." and "...we are for the withdrawal of Moscow’s troops, even if this leads to a collapse of the Kabul regime." This is justified with the Menshevik argument that the present social conditions in Afghanistan do not permit the introduction of the reforms which the Peoples Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) proposed, and that it is therefore necessary to await the development of more propitious circumstances, rather than have more advanced social conditions imposed by the Soviets at gunpoint. Thus the USec stakes out its place in the imaginary "Third Camp" of Tony Cliff et al.

Trotsky did not share the USec’s attitude toward the Stalinists’ intervention among peoples in the backward parts of Central Asia. In The Revolution Betrayed he wrote that the bureaucracy "is laying down a bridge for them to the elementary benefits of bourgeois, and in part even pre-bourgeois, culture."17 This is perfectly consistent with a dialectical understanding of the Stalinist bureaucracy as a fundamentally counterrevolutionary caste sitting atop the gains of the October Revolution, which must occasionally take steps to defend those gains.

Because Afghanistan is such a backward society, in the foreseeable future real social progress would require some kind of external intervention. In 1978 only 35,000 of a population of 15 million were employed in manufacturing. For every 20,000 people, there was one doctor. Women were forced to wear the stifling chador and were treated as chattel. Fifty percent of all children died of disease before the age of five and life expectancy for the population as a whole was forty years. The Soviet intervention in 1979 was intended to prop up the radical petty-bourgeois, pro-Soviet PDPA government, in its struggle against a fundamentalist backlash. The PDPA had attempted to cancel agricultural debt for poor peasants while promoting land distribution, improve the status of women, and raise literacy from 10% to 50% in four years.18 The Soviet intervention posed the possibility of significant social progress for this extremely backward country through economic assimilation by the USSR.

The USec’s anti-Sovietism is revealed by Andrew’s repeated use of the Cold War phraseology "Soviet invasion." Forty years earlier, the "Soviet invasion" of "poor little Finland" sparked an identical response from a petty-bourgeois layer led by Burnham and Shachtman within Trotsky’s Fourth International. As in 1939, the refusal to side with the USSR militarily when it engages in a particular military struggle with a particular capitalist or imperialist antagonist reveals an inclination to reject the defense of the USSR altogether. The strength of overt anti-Sovietism in SC/GS was indicated by the fact that an amendment to the statement of principles at the fusion conference last May characterizing the Soviet Union as co-culprit with U.S. imperialism in the arms race, very nearly carried!

Solidarnosc and the Politics of Clerical Nationalism

Andrew accuses me of "willful distortion" on Solidarnosc and states point blank that the USec has never hailed clerical reaction anywhere. But facts are stubborn things. The truth is the USec hailed Solidarnosc even after it had definitively identified itself as a pro-capitalist and overtly clerical-nationalist formation. Instead of judging mass movements like Solidarnosc by their leadership, social composition and program, the USec uses an imaginary revolutionary "dynamic" projected from the illusions of the base as its criteria. It is therefore hardly surprising that the USec has a miserable track record.

Andrew suggests that the "illusions of some Solidarnosc leaders in Reagan or John Paul II are not surprising." Lech Walesa et al have no "illusions" in Reagan or John Paul II—they have a common program: to free Poland from the tyranny of a planned economy and be rid of the atheistic Stalinist regime imposed by the Soviets after the war. The critical question in Poland, which Andrew completely ignores, is how to dispel the illusions of the Polish working class in the capitalist-restorationist leadership of Solidarnosc. The "left-wing" at the 1981 Solidarnosc congress recently re-established itself as the Polish Socialist Party (PPS). In a statement issued by the PPS, we find the highly significant passage, "we do not hide the fact that today the social teachings of the Catholic Church, and above all the teachings of John Paul II, are closer to us than Marxism."19 The PPS has a long history in Poland. It is not the party of Leo Jogiches and Rosa Luxemburg—that was the SDKPiL. The PPS was, and still is, an anti-communist Polish nationalist formation. It was the party of Josef Pilsudski, the reactionary ruler of inter-war Poland who is today revered as a national hero by Solidarnosc.

The right wing of Solidarnosc, the Committee for an Independent Poland (KPN), led by Leszek Moczulski, was described by one observer as possessing "reactionary Catholic anti-communist nationalism of an anti-semitic and strongly authoritarian character."20 The same Solidarnosc congress in 1981 which dropped all favorable references to socialism from its program, also demanded the release of counterrevolutionary KPN prisoners.

The program adopted at the 1981 congress was the result of an extensive and democratic debate. It was also as one commentator dryly observed, "the transitional program for counterrevolution." Had there been a Trotskyist organization in Poland at the time, it would have fought to split the working-class base from the pro-capitalist elements which dominated Solidarnosc. The USec knows as well as anyone that there was no such current at the congress. In the absence of a revolutionary organization with the capacity to defeat Walesa et al politically, in the inevitable showdown between Solidarnosc and the regime, Trotskyists must militarily bloc with the Stalinists against the forces of capitalist restoration. Not because the PUWP has any solutions to the crisis of Polish society—indeed the decades of rule by the Stalinist bureaucracy is the cause of the problem—but because in December 1981 they were the only obstacle to Solidarnosc’s counterrevolution. (We might note that Andrew’s "revolutionary Marxist" Sandinistas supported the crackdown against Solidarnosc—but raised no serious criticisms of the regime. What does he make of that?)

Andrew argues that the logic of the Trotskyist position means that "the hierarchy of the Catholic Church" should have been invited to participate in any military bloc to stop Solidarnosc! Does Andrew believe that like the Stalinist bureaucracy, the Catholic Church has a dual role, and that it derives privileges from the preservation of proletarian property forms? The Church uneasily co-exists with the Stalinists in Poland (as it does with the Sandinistas in Nicaragua), but it is fundamentally committed to the preservation of the capitalist world order, and is vitally interested in uprooting any and all variants of secular radicalism or atheistic Marxism.

As Trotskyists, we do not in general favor police suppression of ideological dissidents in the deformed workers states—but the suppression of active counterrevolutionaries is another matter. As defenders of working-class property forms, we pose the question as Trotsky did:

"We must not lose sight for a single moment of the fact that the question of overthrowing the Soviet bureaucracy is for us subordinate to the question of preserving state property in the means of production in the USSR; that the question of preserving state property in the means of production in the USSR is subordinate for us to the question of the world proletarian revolution.21

. . .

Andrew indicates that SC/GS is "now obliged to take steps to correct the weaknesses of [its] internal education program." As the former education director of the Toronto branch, I concur. I’m sure the comrades of SC/GS could learn a great deal by a study of the history of the 1951-1953 split over the question of Pabloite revisionism which destroyed the Fourth International. One important document from 1951, entitled "Where Are We Going?" by Michel Pablo, neatly captures the USec’s method with the claim that, "The objective process is in the final analysis the sole determining factor, overriding all obstacles of a subjective order."

Pablo/Mandel’s International Secretariat, and from 1963 the United Secretariat, has worshipped at the altar of the "objective process" for more than 35 years. Andrew is perfectly correct that the building of a revolutionary organization is not for everybody—the leaders of the USec are a case in point. From the armchair guerrillaism of the 1960’s, to tailing the European popular fronts in the 1970’s, to prostrating themselves before the anti-communists in Solidarnosc, Mandel & Co. have shown that they lack the political backbone to pursue this difficult, but urgently important task. In its endless pursuit of get-rich-quick schemes, the USec has repeatedly demonstrated that, in revolutionary politics, short-cuts make for long delays.

The struggle within the socialist movement between those who understand the critical importance of the subjective factor, and those who trust in the onrushing dynamic, considerably predates the split in the Fourth International. It was also a key factor in the factional division in the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party. Like the USec, the Mensheviks viewed the victory of socialism as a semi-automatic process and saw their role as mere facilitators of the inevitable historic "process." Lenin and the Bolsheviks, by contrast, from the beginning understood the centrality of the struggle for program as an essential precondition for workers power. In Trotsky’s words:

"Marxists...are not fatalists. They do not unload upon the ‘historical process’ those very tasks which the historical process has posed before them. The initiative of a conscious minority, the scientific program, the bold and ceaseless agitation in the name of clearly formulated aims, merciless criticism of all ambiguity—those are some of the most important factors for the victory of the proletariat. Without a fused and steeled revolutionary party a socialist revolution is inconceivable."22

Neil Henderson
8 August 1988

  1. Leon Trotsky, "A Wretched Document," Writings 1929, New York, 1975, p. 202
  2. Ernest Mandel, quoted in Education for Socialists, International Committee Documents, 1951-1954, V. 3, p. 171, Letter by Peng shu-tse to James P. Cannon, December 30, 1953
  3. "Appeal of the Bolshevik-Leninist Group of Vietnam," Stalinism & Trotskyism in Vietnam, Spartacist pamphlet, New York, 1976, p. 54
  4. "The Central American Revolution," International Viewpoint (IV), 1985 special edition, p. 110
  5. V.I. Lenin, "Theses and Report on Bourgeois Democracy and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat," Founding of the Communist International, ed. John Riddell, New York, 1987, p. 150
  6. ibid, p. 153
  7. Joseph Hansen, "Draft Theses on the Cuban Revolution," Dynamics of the Cuban Revolution, New York, 1978, p. 75
  8. Barry Weisleder, "A Victory and a Danger," Socialist Challenge, V. 3, #l, April 1988
  9. Leon Trotsky, "The SAP, the ICL and the Fourth International," Writings 1933-1934, New York, 1975, p. 204
  10. Socialist Challenge, ibid, p. 5
  11. Leon Trotsky, "No Evasions on the Independent Party," Crisis of the French Section 1935-36, New York, 1977, p. 51
  12. V.I. Lenin, "Critical Remarks on the National Question," Questions of National Policy and Proletarian Internationalism, Moscow, 1977, p. 15
  13. "The Third Iranian Revolution Has Begun," (Statement of the Fourth International), Intercontinental Press (IP), May 7, 1979, p. 452
  14. David Frankel, "How U.S. Left Responded to War Drive Against Iran," IP, December 17, 1979, p. 1242
  15. "The Unfolding Revolution in Iran," subsection "Tasks of the Iranian Trotskyists," IP, November 20, 1978, p. 1278
  16. International Viewpoint, April 6, 1987, p. 22
  17. Leon Trotsky, The Revolution Betrayed, New York, 1983, p. 171
  18. Fred Halliday, "War and Revolution in Afghanistan," New Left Review, No. 119, Jan.-Feb. 1980, p. 23-24
  19. "Political Statement of the PPS," International Viewpoint, No. 157, March 21, 1988, p. 13
  20. Oliver MacDonald, "The Polish Vortex," New Left Review, No. 139, May-June 1983, p. 28-29
  21. Leon Trotsky, In Defense of Marxism, New York, 1981, p. 21
  22. Leon Trotsky, "Open Letter for the Fourth International," Writings 1935-36, New York, 1977, p. 27




Posted: October 2003