Workers Vanguard No. 184 (2 December 1977)
Ex WLer Joins Spartacist League
Life in the Healyite Snake Pit
I am in agreement with the program of the Spartacist League/U.S. and therefore would like to submit this application for membership in the party. More than seven years ago I came to the understanding that communism represented the force capable of freeing mankind from the various forms of oppression under which it lives. The succeeding years found me seeking to translate my aspirations for revolutionary change into practical activity.
The path to the Spartacist League [SL], the embodiment of the Leninist program, was unfortunately not direct and I took a detour called the Workers League [WL] from 1971 to 1974. Prior to joining the WL, I had had some contact with the SWP [Socialist Workers Party], and read some of Trotsky's books, and considered myself a Trotskyist.
It was the Workers League's espousal of Trotskyist orthodoxy, in particular, that attracted me to the organization. My involvement in the anti-war protests and Black Students Union during my high school days had taught me to despise liberal pacifism and black nationalism, both defended by the SWP, as roadblocks to the development of a communist world outlook. The WL intersected my revulsion towards SWP's reformism by calling for the victory of the NLF and maintaining a knee-jerk reaction against nationalism. With its anti-Pabloist pretensions, the WL seemed to carry the authority held by the leaders of the October Revolution. At a time when many New Leftists still claimed the working class was hopelessly reactionary, the WL's workerist orientation seemed like a defense of principle.
Life in the Workers League was a continual zigzag between socialist posturing and adaptation to the most blatant backwardness in the working class. At Stanford we peddled our “maximum” program to the students. We screamed to them that capitalism's collapse and fascism were imminent, placing the socialist revolution immediately on the agenda. In East Palo Alto the Young Socialists recruited black lumpen youth who had no political understanding. TUALP, the WL's trade-union front, restricted its program to demanding higher wages.
This opportunist practice found a political rationalization in the crisis theory. This asserted that the acute crisis of capitalism made even minimal demands revolutionary. The inexorable march of the class struggle would force the trade union bureaucrats to build a labor party and take up revolutionary demands. In effect, the WL negated the task of revolutionists in the trade unions: breaking the grip of the bureaucrats and constructing an alternative class-struggle leadership.
My three years in the Workers League saw a revolving door of members, the trampling of democratic centralism by Healy's lackeys, and the cultivation of many anti-communist youth who became disillusioned by the WL's deception and manipulation. They were recruited on the basis of dances and basketball games and were tired of having “politics” jammed down their throats. I received a bloody nose from a Young Socialist twice my size while trying to defend another comrade from attack.
After the summer camp I decided to leave the WL. Wohlforth had been deposed and I saw the organization making no serious attempt to assess how it got itself on such a disastrous course. I sensed something was vitally wrong with the organization. But because I lacked political development, I felt ill-equipped to carry out a factional struggle. So outside the WL I read and thought.
The WRP's [Workers Revolutionary Party - the British Healyite organization] expulsion of the Thornett group broadened my understanding of Healy to a certain degree. Attracted to the WSL [Workers Socialist League - founded by Alan Thornett and others expelled by Healy from the WRP in 1974] politics, I joined the American fraternal group - the Socialist League (Democratic Centralist). After a month I resigned, realising that the SL(DC) had not fundamentally broken from Healyism. This circle continues the WL's mass posturing and unashamedly demands a reformist labor party.
Separating the League from every other leftist tendency is its granite adherence to the program. With this program as its core, the SL has assembled an impressive group of cadres. In the WL debate over “mass work” versus the regroupment tactic, the SL has proven its line correct by its ability to assimilate several political generations in one party.