Workers Vanguard No. 56 (8 November 1974)
SL Goes Forward
Workers League Crumbles
Crisis Comes, Wohlforth Goes
Amidst the desultory fanfare of celebrating "Ten Years of the Bulletin," the Workers League slid its former leader of more than a decade, Tim Wohlforth, into oblivion without a word of lamentation, jubilation, or even excuse.
An apathetic audience of about 180 listened as the WL's October25 "Tenth Anniversary" public meeting in New York introduced Fred Mazelis as WL National Secretary, confirming the rumors that Wohlforth had been deposed as WL head. (We print below the text of our leaflet distributed at that meeting.)
The ouster of Wohlforth represents a tremendous setback for Healyism internationally. The Workers League is the oldest and largest Healyite colony, and Wohlforth had been its leader, pretentious propagandist and public spokesman from the outset. As befits the WL's razzle-dazzle operation, Wohlforth had at least a certain, albeit tawdry, presence. His replacement by the colorless and slimy Fred Mazelis is apparently a last-ditch attempt to stem the WL's hemorrhaging of its small core of cadre.
For years the WL sought to drive its young supporters to ever greater frenzies of work and self-sacrifice in executing an opportunist line with promises that The Crisis would catapult the WL's Potemkin Village into the big time. With unintentional irony, one young WL supporter told a WV reporter that the bureaucratic and sectarian Wohlforth finally had to go, now that The Crisis has come.
Whether Wohlforth will reappear in the course of some future WL gyration, opposition or palace coup, only time and possibly Healy can tell. But this much is clear: Wohlforth has no future in ostensibly socialist politics outside the Workers League. Even among the most demoralized of the degeneration products of Trotskyism, he is notorious as a demagogue and a fraud.
Only the consummate cynics of the WL would try to disappear their founding leader without one word of denunciation, self-criticism or comment. It might have been wiser, though, to have announced that poor Wohlforth had come down with a bad case of phlebitis.
The pages of Workers Vanguard, Spartacist and individual leaflets have over the years devoted sufficient attention to Tim Wohlforth and the Workers League. We have exposed the WL's shamefully opportunist and self-contradictory positions (most grotesquely, managing in one issue of the Bulletin to simultaneously hail the alleged turn of the corrupt black nationalist Newton wing of the Panthers to "dialectics" and [to support] the striking New York cops). We have exposed the WL's accompanying lies, dishonesty, duplicity and bombastic pretense, centered on the WL’s fake-popular "agitational" newspaper. We have exposed the WL's shameless disregard for the principle of workers democracy. The cynics who have made up the core of the WL either ignored or even agreed with these characterizations and shrugged them off with a "so what? that's how we're going to get ahead."
But the WL's attempt to adapt the usual practices of big-time bureaucratic and revisionist parties to the few hundreds in the WL has been a disaster, as indeed such a one-sided sellout must be. The WL is hopelessly cut off from recruiting militants from any part of the existing left, where everyone who cares knows the WL as a dirty word. The only source left for WL recruitment is raw, semi-political youth, whom the WL tries to turn from would-be socialists into corrupted WL cynics. But the real all-sided irrelevance and isolation of the WL from social or political struggles lead to enormous turnover, for the WL can deliver neither social struggle nor even any real payoff for corruption. So these often serious, if naive, youth just go away, embittered and anti-socialist. The internal life of the WL mirrors its publicly expressed fakery and scumminess. So except for the very narrow central clique, even the most cynical and degenerate WL cadres can only be the recipients of the same endless stupid abuse and lying which the WL tries to dump on the world at large. The political life of a WL member is indeed nasty, brutal and above all short. The WL's basic method of "short-cuts" in principle and endless demagogy is a losers' strategy.
The WL's creeping crisis of cadre loss appears to have reached Tim Wohlforth himself. The main story going around is that he has been deposed as central leader. For all we know he's still covertly the American boss, or perhaps the disappearance of his name in recent Bulletins reflects his expulsion. If the latter is the case this makes Wohlforth a three-time loser as central leader: in 1962 the Spartacist tendency took a majority in the then-common faction away from him; in 1964 his then-buddies, the Phillips state capitalist group, broke with him and took a majority with them; now three quarters of his cadre has walked out on him over the last 18 months, and Gerry Healy appears to have dumped him.
While Wohlforth has preened himself as a master theoretician, parading in his "The Struggle for Marxism in the U.S." as the first real American Marxist and proud author of the eccentric work "Theory of Structural Assimilation" (an embarassed WL disappeared that one several years ago), his main contribution has been to turn crucial aspects of Marxism – "theory," "method" and "dialectics" – into empty mystification in order to peddle political garbage.
The WL has always been a satellite of Gerry Healy's British group and is the product of steady pressure to conform to Healy's imaginings of what an American version of the British WRP ought to look like. Remember that the idiot opportunist WL line of a couple of years ago that "the road to the American working class is through the YSA" was admittedly dictated to the WL in Britain. The WL as it has become is, together with the interchangeable Australian and West German Healyite groups (the only other two visible Healyite groups outside Britain), the foreign face of the British Healy/Banda operation.
To blame Wohlforth and not Healy for the present sad state of the WL would be like blaming William Z. Foster and not Stalin for the crimes of the American CP, and in no case could an Earl Browder/Freddie Mazelis set things right.
Unlike the Healyite shambles, the international Spartacist tendency and its American section, the Spartacist League, have leaped forward, making great gains because of its fidelity to the Trotskyist program and its energetic assault upon crisis-ridden revisionists in a dozen countries. The Spartacist is published in four languages, while the SL/U.S. produces a bi-weekly Workers Vanguard on the road to becoming a weekly, a monthly Young Spartacus and the journal Women and Revolution. In the United States a communist cadre is being forged in the labor movement, through hard-hitting trade-union fractions, and elsewhere.
It is the Spartacist League, not the Workers League, which has been able to win revolutionary elements from Maoism, labor reformism, the SWP and its international bloc partners, and the left social democracy. While the WL press makes wild claims to having brought down Nixon and then warns of resulting iminent fascism which only the WL can stop, the SL and Spartacus Youth League have undertaken real campaigns and struggles: in solidarity with the British miners' strike; around the agricultural workers; stopping the loading of ships to Chile; for the jailing of Nixon; for strikes against anti-labor legislation; for mass united front demonstrations to defeat the racist anti-busing forces. This is why the Spartacist League is undergoing all-sided growth – geographical, among workers and into new industries, among black and student youth
Don't wait for cynicism and burnout, the sure fate of those who stay overlong with the Workers League: like many other fake "revolutionary" organizations, the ranks are better than the counterfeit cause they try loyally to serve. Look to the Spartacist League for Marxist leadership!
To those who cling to the demonstrated bankruptcy of the Workers League's opportunism and deceit, we can only say along with Trotsky: "To face reality squarely; not to seek the line of least resistance; to call things by their right names; to speak the truth to the masses, no matter how bitter it may be; not to fear obstacles; to be true in little things as in big ones; to base one's program on the logic of the class struggle; to be bold when the hour for action arrives – these are the rules of the Fourth International" (Transitional Program, 1938).