RECONSTRUCT THE FOURTH INTERNATIONAL!
The "International Committee," which for nearly two decades proclaimed itself the embodiment of authentic revolutionary Trotskyism opposed to the Pabloist revisionism of the "United Secretariat," has now crumbled under the weight of years of gross political deception perpetrated against the international Trotskyist movement. The IC combination sought to present itself as a political tendency but was in fact a rotten bloc between the political bandits of the Socialist Labour League of Britain and the left centrists of the Organisation Communiste Internationaliste of France. Years of jockeying for hegemony within the IC while seeking to preserve the criminal fiction of basic programmatic agreement came to ahead as the OCI increasingly gained the whip hand, especially by the affiliation to the IC of the Partido Obrero Revolucionario of Bolivia, which was lined up from the first with the OCI against the SLL. The IC has finally broken apart completely in open rupture, with the OCI-POR on one side and the SLL (and its U.S. sycophants, the Workers League) on the other. The split in the IC -- together with the increasingly strained relations within its major international competitor, the United Secretariat -- represents the fragmentation into chaotic chunks of the organizational configurations of ostensible Trotskyism which haveexisted essentially since 1953.
The SLL-OCI split is at once inevitable, unprincipled and opportune. Its inevitability was obvious to anyone familiar with the wide political distance separating Gerry Healy's SLL from the OCI of Pierre Lambert, joined in agreement not to disagree. The internationalist masquerade thinly concealed the reality of an unprincipled bloc between two power centers with keen competing appetites for satellites. The split, accomplished by a calculated SLL-WL provocation over the issue of the policies of Guillermo Lora's POR of Bolivia, is as unprincipled as was the erstwhile posture of unity. The split can be of great objective assistance in rebuilding the Fourth International of Leon Trotsky, by breaking unprincipled combinations as a prerequisite for political clarification and internal political struggle within national groupings previously insulated by the comforting assurance of "internationalism" (i. e. membership in one of the unprincipled international blocs).
But the rebuilding of the Fourth International does not proceed automatically from the collapse of the ersatz, revisionist and centrist conglomerations. The possibilities for revolutionary regroupment in authentic democratic centralist international tendencies defined by programmatic cohesion are sharply enhanced in the present period of heightened class struggle and growing instability in the imperialist world order; but the dangers of new unprincipled combinations built upon congruent appetite rather than principle likewise increase; only a vigorous fight by the revolutionary Trotskyists can prevent the creation ofsome new centrist swamp to trap and disillusion militants and breed revisionist confusion.
The IC split Was precipitated by the British and U. S. Healyites' public attack on the policies pursued in Bolivia by the POR in the events which culminated in the August rightist military coup, The denunciation, appearing in the U.S. for the first time in the 30 August issue of the WL Bulletin, was a device for accomplishing quickly the desired break with the increasingly powerful OCI wing. By 8 November the Bulletin was able to print documents confirming the split, with the SLL-WL and smaller associates claiming to be the majority.
According to the Healyites, however, the "real" issue is not Bolivia. Bolivia's a "smokescreen''; the real issue is Essen, the youth conference called by the OCI in July 1971, during which the two centers of the same "international" voted against each other's motions. In a sense Healy is right -- for reasons which hardly, redound to his credit! Healy, accustomed to the organizational whip hand in the IC, was understandably chagrined to find himself opposed and outvoted by the OCI supporters; perhaps the unkindest cut of all was the presence (afterwards apologized for by the French) of a Spartacist League observer. Having lost organizational control, the Healyites determined upon a split, and chose to strike anorthodox Leninist pose over Bolivia as an excuse for a precipitous break. No, Bolivia was not the"real" issue, Comrade Healy; that it was not is shown by your own egregious opportunism over popular frontism in Ceylon and Chile, as documented below. It was only when the POR's policies came to their inevitably disastrous fruition in a rightist coup, and when the SLL-WL needed a factional stick to beat the OCI-POR, that the Healyite bandits rediscovered Trotskyism for Bolivia. In this they are strikingly reminiscentof their supposed polar opposites, the Hansen-SWP wing of the United Secretariat, which suddenly remembered Leninist orthodoxy in order to polemicize against the petty-bourgeois guerrillaist adventurism of Mandel-Maitan.
Will the Real IC Please Stand Up?
That the main impetus for the split was a power fight can be seen in the hilarious gyrations of Tim Wohlforth and his Workers League over the POR -- not over its politics, but over the question of its putative IC membership. In the 19 July Bulletin the POR, then riding high, was described simply as the "Bolivian section of the International Committee." By 30 August the connection between the POR and the IC had been disappeared:
"...Lora was carrying forward a political course begun over a decade ago, from which he has consistently refused to veer. At every point this course has received support within the Fourth International or forces claiming to represent the Fourth International.... "
If the reader knew who the suddenly organizationally anonymous Lora was -- well, okay. If not, Wohlforth wasn't telling.
The United Secretariat's Intercontinental Press was, of course, delighted to be able to point out that the man Wohlforth was denouncing was a member of Wohlforth's own IC. On 4 October the Bulletin attempted to reply to the charges of unprincipled combinationism and sectarianism, but did not deny the POR 's affiliation although such a denial would have been the most effective answer to the attack. But the 24 October SLL-WL statement declares that the POR "is not a section of the International Committee." The OCI has consistently claimed that it is. The treatment of this question -- at first boasting of the link with the influential POR, then ignoring the connection, then not denying it when asserted by the United Secretariat, then denying it later when a Healyite "majority" in the split is needed -- not only casts doubt on the present SLL-WL claim but, much more importantly, illustrates the utter hollowness of the IC pretense of Leninist internationalism. A prerequisite for any genuine organization, obviously, is knowing who is in it! Nothing illustrates more clearly the rottenness of the IC -- bordering on organizational non-existence, which claimed to be an international (and the Fourth International, at that) -- than its inability to agree on its own membership.
In fact, the IC never even managed to agree on its own name. According to the SLL, it was "the IC of the Fourth International"; the OCI has always called it "the IC for the reconstruction of the Fourth International." Two fundamentally different evaluations of the very nature of the IC were expressed in these difference over nomencllture: the British held the IC to be the simple, linear political and organizational continuity of the international founded by Trotsky; the French insisted that the international had been destroyed by Pabloist revisionism and the central international task of Trotskyists was to wage a struggle for its rebuilding. This difference was debated the 1966 London IC Conference and an internal exchange occurred between the SLL and OCI on this question in 1967; yet both wings continued insist that their adherence to "the IC" was a priori proof of their internationalism (one might paraphrase "the IC position" as: the Fourth international no longer exists and we are it!). The SL position is merely another example of its much vaunted "method" -- the creation of cynical, shabby Potemkin villages by which it seeks to dupe its followers -- in this case simply sidestepping the struggle to rebuild the Fourth International by a dogmatic and sectarian assertion that the task was completed in the form of the IC. And the French were content to coexist with the Healyites despite their numerous differences, the least of which was what their common organization was and who was in it!
The IC: Rotten Bloc
Healy and Wohlforth are now seeking to create an orthodox Leninist image for themselves against their picture of the OCI as unprincipled centrist maneuverers. But the mask keeps tearing, revealing the ugly features of an organization qualitatively worse than the grossly defective OCI/POR. For on every issue on which they indict the Lambertistes, the SLL-WL have in their readily verifiable history swung far to the right of their former bloc partners, in response to the most trivial appetites, ignoring even the limitations on opportunism observed by intelligent reformists in pursuit of the "main chance." The OCI is a serious political current with a persistently centrist thrust-i. e. an opportunist practice; the SLL-WL are both hilariously sectarian and egregiously opportunist.
The chief opportunist sin of the OCI is precisely the one with which the Healyites will never charge them: their service for years in shoring up Healy's claims to internationalism. The grave charges which both sides are now flinging at on another include not only sharp differences over current and recent issues, but positions of years' duration -- public positions of the competing wings when both sides claimed adherence to the same IC as proof of their internationalism! The main SLL-WL statement, dated 24 October, denounces the OCI for supporting a wing of the Algerian nationalist bourgeoisie, the MNA, in the 1950's; the 19 September OCI statement included a veiled attack on the Healyites ("those who attack the POR... are the same people who... ") for having "characterized Ho Chi Minh as a revolutionary" and having "subordinated the Palestinian resistance to Nasser, then to the petty-bourgeois leaders of the Palestine resistance."
We ask the OCI: If these things disturb you now, how is it that you remained in an international bloc -- which you foisted off on the word movement as a political tendency -- with Healy and Wohlforth who shouted from the housetops their capitulation to Vietnamese Stalinism and Arab nationalism? The Bulletin's laudatory obituary of Ho Chi Minh, which painted hint as a sincere revolutionary betrayed by Stalin, glossing over his own role in the repeated Stalinist sellouts and the murder of Trotskyists, was no more than a vulgar but consistent extension of the SLL-WL's years-long policy of critical (and sometimes not-so-critical) political support, rather than principled military support against imperialism, to the NLF. This position was of a piece with the Healyites' shameless enthusing over Mao's "Red Guards" in the 1968 "Cultural Revolution" intra-bureaucratic fight, treating Mao's mobilization of the student youth (and the army) as a surrogate political revolution in China. The SLL-WL's campaign of political support to the so-called "Arab Revolution" -- i.e., the Arab governments' move to deflect the aspirations of the Arab working masses for social revolution into wars against Zionist Israel -- was in flat contradiction to the OCI line of revolutionary defeatism for both sides; where was the OCI outcry then? It is not enough to have published your own positions while for years lending your weight to the cynical fiction at the IC was a disciplined international. Such unprincipled combinationism contradicts the OCI's pious assertions of its commitment to struggle "for the reconstruction of the Fourth International."
OCI and NSA
The conduct of the. OCI at their Essen youth conference on 3-4 July demonstrates that on the question of the relationship between the youth and the working class the Lambertistes' rightist course places them on common ground with the past and present practice of the Healyites. Under guidance of the OCI and its youth affiliate, the Alliance des Jeunes pour le Socialisme, the call was put forward for "the Revolutionary Youth International":
"Youth wants to live, in hope and freedom, and in order to live it must struggle. Youth aspires to life, youth needs exhilarating perspectives. Bureaucrats and bourgeois offer only a sordid life, unemployment, misery, failure, war and suffering. "A main slogan of the conference was "Long live the struggle of the youth against the Stalinist bureauracy and imperialism!" The posing of the struggle against Stalinism and capitalism as equivalent reflects not only a persistent tendency the OCI's part to fail to distinguish political revolution in the Sino-Soviet states from social revolution in the capitalist states, but also a capitulation to current moods among petty-bourgeois radical youth, The conference and the propaganda surrounding it constituted an adaptation to youth vanguardism; the very concept of a "youth international," unless it is indissolubly linked with and politically subordinated to an international proletarian party, can only be at best an illusion, and at worst a capitulation to anti-Leninism. "The youth" are not a class: proletarian youth are generally one of the most militant sectors of their class; student youth are the most volatile sector of the petty-bourgeoisie, many of whom can be won over to a proletarian revolutionary perspective but only by becoming in effect traitors to their own future class interests. Thus the youth movement must be linked -- in conception, program and organization -- to the revolutionary party, which is firmly rooted in the working class and encompasses the historical and living experi ence of previous generations of proletarian militants. In short, a "revolutionary youth international" cannot be independent of the vanguard party and it cannot be anything less than Trotskyist. The OCl line over the Essen conference is an accommodation to youth vanguardist and spontaneist moods in the petty-bourgeois student milieu.
Moreover, at Essen the Lambertistes were openly courting the Spanish POUM and even the U.S. NSA. (The NSA was in the past disgraced by the receipt of CIA funds. In projecting the NSA as a likely seedbed for the U.S. revolution, the OCI has compounded its opportunist appetites by gross ignorance.) While chasing after rightist elements, the OCI committed a gross violation of workers' democracy by forcibly preventing an oppositional Trotskyist tendency, the International Communists of Germany (IKD), from distributing outside the hall a leaflet criticizing the OCI's refusal to base the "revolutionary youth international" on an explicitly Trotskyist program. Although it lacks the Healyites' world-wide reputation for thuggery, the OCI shares with the SLL-WL the reprehensible position that the use of force and recourse to the capitalist state are legitimate means for settling disputes within the workers' movement.
The Healyites in effect boycotted the Essen conference -- they sent a delegation of perhaps two dozen headed by Cliff Slaughter (by way of Contrast, the SLL-WL demands that virtually the entire WL membership turn out for yearly rallies in England) -- while bringing in an "orthodox" motion that the youth international must base itself on revolutionary theory, the Fourth International and the IC, which the Lambertistes voted down.
Healy and YSA
That the Healyite opposition to the OCI's pollcies at Essen was a provocation empty of principle is shown by the SLL-WL conduct of many years' standing. The abysmal political level of Healy's own model youth operation, the Young Socialists, is well known and exposes his new-found concern for the importance of Marxist theory among the youth as a fraud from start to finish. The WL's several ill-fated attempts to build a youth group in the U.S. have been notable for their singular absence of anything resembling Trotskyist politics; having once launched a short-lived youth group called "Revolt" whose program was determined by what the WL thought would be most attractive to Maoist street confrontationists, the Wohlforthites' most recent exploit is a call for "a Conference of Revolutionary Youth" based on an economist "Program for Youth to Fight Back" whose section on the Vietnam war does not even mention military support to the NLF against U. S. imperialism.
The Healyites now denounce the OCI for its appetites toward the NSA, but their own orientation for the U.S. is no better. An internal WL Political committee directive dated 15 March 1970 earnestly explained the need to tone. down criticisms of the SWP's Young Socialist Alliance because:
'The perspectives document agreed to in England' proposed that the road to the American working class is through the YSA and it meant just that."
One wonders what the SWP oppositionists, rebuffed in their campaign to make the SWP adopt even the most rudimentary working-class orientation, would think of this apparent affirmation of the YSA's proletarian credentials!
the Healyites' chase after the Pabloists -- perhaps motivated by the awareness that their own international rotten bloc was coming unstuck --reached its high point in the summer of 1970 when, on Healy's ' initiative, they approached the United Secretariat leadership with a proposal for private discussions toward the aim of joint work and the holding of a joint international conference: The overture, which had the effect of shoring up the Pabloists' Trotskyist pretensions at precisely the time when they were experiencing significant left splits in several countries, was spurned by the United Secretariat as Joe Hansen, lavishly covering himself in orthodoxy, explained that such discussions without a firm basis in a deepening programmatic agreement would not be principled, The incident illustrated the symbiotic relationship between the IC and the Pabloists, each episodically making the other look good by comparison.
From Red Guards to Stalinophobia
At the national convention of the SW P's antiwar front group last July the Wohlforthites pledged their physical support to the group's sponsorship of bourgeois speakers in the anti-war movement and joined the SWP goon squad in beating and evicting the militants, including supporters of the Spartacist League, who were vociferously protesting the presence of a U. S. senator. The slogan under which they justified this capitulation to popular frontism to their membership was "Stalinism vs. Trotskyism" --which in this case meant excluding the (ex-Maoist, now theoretically state capitalist) Progressive Labor and the (Trotskyist) Spartacist League, in the service of the (ex-Trotskyist) SWP and the (pro-Moscow) Communist Party. (This convenient. Stalinophobic pose rests very uneasily on the WL, which enthused over the "Red Guards" maneuver and the Stalinist NLF and in its frenzy of appetite toward PL once went so far as to justify an incident of gross PL violence against SWPers.) Now Wohlforth -- who, at the time of the 24 April anti-war demonstration categorically ruled out seeking a united front, based on a class line against the war, with left-wing Stalinists ("In any event we will not have joint actions with Maoists") -- is castigating the OCI for... Stalinophobia!
Where will the components of the former IC go from here? The Healyites, endlessly veering from egregious sectarianism to blatant opportunism, have never shown themselves loath to abandon any and every one of the ostensible principles in pursuit of new allies, dupes or masters. The OCI, in the past more stable in maintaining connection with a fundamental class line, but now loosed from its IC moorings by a rotten split -- in which it cast itself as a left cover for the POR debacle -- and launched on a youth vanguardist capitulation, may find itself moving further to the right than most of its cadres ever dreamed. The only' perspective which can open the road to authentic Trotskyism for these militants is intransigent internal struggle. Only by a ruthless examination of the IC split and its roots in unprincipled combinationism can the struggle for the rebirth of the Fourth International go forward!