Friday, May 29, 2009
Gerry Healy Presents "The Revolutionary Party"
Finding the billing of Socialist Labour League too modest for his pretensions to grandeur, Gerry Healy has proclaimed the advent of the Revolutionary Party. This transformation was accomplished at a rally in London on November 4 featuring the characteristic carnival atmosphere – the rock groups, the comic skits, the dancing girls – to which the SLL has increasingly resorted in order to divert attention from its record of political banditry.
According to the Workers League's Bulletin of 16 November "the great strength of the WRP [Workers Revolutionary Party – the SLL's new name] ... was shown in the completion of the $250,000 party-building fund." (Can the WL's recent request for discussions with the Socialist Workers Party be explained by the SWP's $400,000 party-building fund, supposedly indicating even greater strength?)
For Leninists, the proclamation that a revolutionary organization has become a party is a serious matter indicating an objective, qualitative change in the relationship of that organization to the class and to its existing leadership. Thus Lenin did not proclaim the Bolshevik faction as a party until the Prague Conference in 1912 when the fusion with the "pro-party" Mensheviks had stripped the reformists of their industrial proletarian base.
On a smaller scale, the American Trotskyists did not declare themselves a party until 1938, when they had won over the social-democratic youth group as well as the Socialist Party's best cadre and had acquired indisputable hegemony over those forces to the left of Stalinism. In contrast, the Healyite organization remains a propaganda group whose relationship to the British working class and left has remained essentially unchanged, though somewhat deteriorated over the past decade. Having devoted much energy to making nonsense of the Marxist concept of economic crisis, the Healyites will now devote themselves to making a mockery of the Leninist concept of the party.
Monday, May 25, 2009
"There is no crisis which can be, by itself, fatal to capitalism. The oscillations of the business cycle only create a situation in which it will be easier, or more difficult, for the proletariat to overthrow capitalism. The transition from a bourgeois society to a socialist society presupposes the activity of living men who are the makers of their own history. They do not make history by accident, or according to their caprice, but under the influence of objectively determined causes. However, their own actions – their initiative, audacity, devotion, and likewise their stupidity and cowardice – are necessary links in the chain of historical development."The article "Healy/Wohlforth and 'The Crisis'" (Workers Vanguard, 3 August 1973) must have touched sensitive nerves, for it provoked a rare polemic against the Spartacist League in the pages of the Healyite daily, Workers Press.
– L.D. Trotsky, "Once Again, Whither France?" March 1935
Perhaps feeling that the turgid ravings of its American acolyte, Tim Wohlforth, were incomprehensible to its readers, the Socialist Labour League (recently rechristened the Workers Revolutionary Party) assigned the task of refuting the SL to its chief monetary theorist, Peter Jeffries. In a mercifully brief (by Wohlforthian standards) polemic entitled "Cynics Who Scorn The Crisis" (Workers Press, 26 and 27 September 1973) Jeffries attempts to defend the International Committee's analysis of the "fundamental nature of the world monetary crisis."
As we shall show, Jeffries succeeds only in demonstrating the fundamental nature of the ignorance and dishonesty of the Healy/Wohlforth school of politics. Indeed, it is not until the end of his otherwise worthless article (which unfortunately must be dealt with for reasons of elementary political hygiene), that Comrade Jeffries manages to ask one useful question. Pointing out that the capitalists are compelled to "launch the most brutal attacks on the living Standards of the working class and their class organizations, " Jeffries shrieks:
"Tell us, Mr. Robertson, where has your group made any preparations in the working class for such events? Where, please, are your statements in which you warned the working class of such events?Unfortunately for Comrade Jeffries and the IC the record is clear. For example, just eight days after the Allende popular-front coalition gained a plurality in the Chilean elections we read in Workers Press (12 September 1970): "There must be a preparation for class action to defend Allende's victory and his election programs to meet this danger." And your cothinkers of the U.S. Workers League state: "There is only one road and that is the revolutionary road of the October Revolution... As a step in this understanding the workers must hold Allende to his promises...." (Bulletin, 21 September 1970). In contrast, shortly after the election of Allende we stated in our article "Chilean Popular Front" (Spartacist, November-December 1970):
"There are no such statements, because like all the revisionists, you hoped that the working class would remain firmly under the control of the Stalinist and reformist trade union leaders, leaderships under which they would be defeated."
"It is the most elementary duty for revolutionary Marxists to irreconcilably oppose the Popular Front in the election and to place absolutely no confidence in it in power. Any 'critical support' to the Allende coalition is class treason, paving the way for a bloody defeat for the Chilean working people when domestic reaction, abetted by international imperialism, is ready."Yes, Comrade Jeffries, the record is clear. Not only are you a liar, but your organization, the so-called International Committee, urged a policy of class treason on the Chilean working class, feeding its illusions in the Stalinists and Social Democrats. Today, faced with the murder of thousands of working people in Chile, which we warned was on the agenda, you can denounce the popular front. Hindsight is cheap indeed. But in the fall of 1970, when Allende had just won his electoral victory, when he was popular with the Chilean masses, you demanded that the Chilean workers should compel an essentially bourgeois, government to achieve socialism. No amount of bombast can erase this shameful crime from the record of the IC. Our political differences could not be more clearly posed. Who, Comrade Jeffries, is the revisionist?
'"The Crisis" and Political Banditry
Having thus disposed of Comrade Jeffries' question, we can turn to the bulk of his article. In doing so, it is useful to recall that we are engaged in a polemic with notorious political bandits. The salient feature of political banditry is the subordination of political principles and program to organizational appetites. Thus Wohlforth can court Huey Newton of the Black Panther Party and at the same time support the strike of the New York City police. Thus Gerry Healy, who in 1966 proclaimed Pabloism definitively destroyed and the IC to be the Fourth International, four years later comes to the United Secretariat with a proposal for common political discussion and common work hopefully to result in a "joint international conference": This subordination of principles to appetites is a primary characteristic of the Healy/ Wohlforth school of politics and explains many of their activities that might otherwise be perplexing.
But Healy and Wohlforth are not simply political bandits operating in a vacuum. They are political bandits masquerading as "Trotskyists." This affords them a certain left cover, but it also is something of a hindrance to their gross appetites. Consequently they are in need of a talisman which can subtly transmute Trotskyism into the fools' gold of opportunism. "The Crisis" plays the role of one such talisman for the priests of the IC. For under the objective impact of "The Crisis," it seems that trade-union demands become profoundly revolutionary. Thus Jeffries states:
"It is this sectarianism that leads Robertson to deny that the wages fight today is a political fight with directly revolutionary implications. For him, capitalism can still grant concessions, if only to limited sections of the working class. Here is but an expression of his denial of the depth of the capitalist crisis, of his middle-class belief in its continuing strength and stability."Under the impact of "the depth of the capitalist crisis" Jeffries renders the Transitional Program obsolete. Simple minimum reforms have come to have "directly revolutionary implications." What is behind this, of course, is the appetite of the Healy/Wohlforth gang to unite with the trade-union reformists – on the basis of simple trade unionism – and become their "left" advisers.
Furthermore, for Jeffries to deny that capitalism can grant concessions to limited sections of the working class is to deny the material basis for labor reformism, This is why Tim Wohlforth can with a perfectly straight face call upon the arch-reactionary George Meany to form a labor party. You see, there is no longer any basis for reformism – now it has directly revolutionary implications: Moreover, the argument that if trade-union demands cannot be objectively realized they are necessarily revolutionary can lead to dangerous utopian illusions. Why not assert that pacifism and parliamentarianism are objectively revolutionary since it is not possible to end war through disarmament or overthrow capitalism through electoral means?
It is, therefore, hardly surprising that Peter Jeffries should leap to the defense of "The Crisis' in so belligerent a manner. Stripped of the objective nature of "The Crisis," the Healyite opportunists would simply be naked.
What Type of Crisis?
Since Healy/Wohlforth are purposefully vague about the meaning of the term "crisis," a few questions are in order. By capitalism's crisis, Comrade Jeffries, do you mean the historical crisis of the entire capitalist order? Or are you referring to one of the cyclical crises of capitalism? Or don't you make any distinction between these two types of crisis?. In any case, our position is in essence that of Trotsky:
“However, the cyclical oscillations are inevitable; and, with capitalism in decline, they will continue as long as capitalism exists. And capitalism will continue until the proletarian revolution is achieved. This is the only correct answer to the question: 'Is this the final crisis of capitalism?'"Jeffries' article actually reaffirms one of our central accusations that for the Healyites the term "economic crisis" has no objective criteria, but is simply whatever and whenever they say it is. Jeffries writes: "Economic crises cannot be measured in terms of production indices. This is the shallow method of the capitalist commentator – and one shared by Robertson and his group.”
– "Once Again, Whither France?"
We assert that the Marxian concept of economic crisis refers precisely to a phase in the industrial cycle when expanding production turns to contraction with its attendant effects on prices, circulation and employment. "The reverse is true in a period of crisis. Circulation No. 1 contracts, prices fall, similarly wages, the number of employed laborers is reduced, the mass of transactions decreases" (Capital, Vol. III, Ch. 28). Whatever Jeffries means by the term "economic crisis' (in reality everything and nothing), Marx clearly defined it in terms of quantitative indices. But the high' priests of the IC never soil their hands by coming into contact with the raw data of the gross material world!
Having determined the essence of the SL's position, Jeffries proceeds, to. demonstrate the Spartacist League's "denial of the nature of the epoch in which we live as one of the decline and breakup of world capitalism...". He accomplishes this "demonstration" by grossly misquoting us. According to Jeffries:
"This is made explicit towards the end of his article when he tries to explain why capitalism did not restore the pre-1914 Gold Standard [Jeffries Stands in such awe of these words that he feels compelled to capitalize them] after the end of World War II."
That this did not occur after World War II was the result of the absolute economic and political hegemony of the U.S. in the capitalist world, a condition which lasted until the late 1960's,' says 'Workers Vanguard.' "What the Spartacists 'miss out' is that the restoration of the 1914 Gold Standard was made impossible by the historic decline of capitalism as a world system, seen above all in the loss of Russia, Eastern Europe and soon China. It was this, and not the power of US capital, which precluded a restoration of the relations of 19th century capitalism. But like all petty-bourgeois revisionists, Robertson can see only the strength of American capitalism and not its contradictions."
Jeffries' quote is taken completely out of context, rendering it utterly fraudulent. Here is the paragraph from which this mendacious quack so cleverly extracted his single sentence:
"After World War I, the qualitatively greater instability in the world economy, the strengthening of the labor movement and development of powerful revolutionary proletarian tendencies made domestic deflation to correct a balance of payments deficit too politically dangerous.... After World War I, the conflicts between the national bourgeoisies produced international financial anarchy because this condition enabled a national bourgeoisie to maintain or increase its share of world trade and capital at the expense of other nations through permanent borrowing, competitive devaluation and direct control over foreign exchange transactions. That this did not occur after World War II was the result of the absolute economic and political hegemony of the U.S. in the capitalist world, a condition which lasted until the late 1960's.... The endless crises of international finance are arenas of struggle between the imperialist powers over markets and spheres of exploitation. The decisive arena is war."The rest of Part I of “Cynics Who Scorn The Crisis" is simply a plodding struggle against this tottering straw man set up by Jeffries.
The question arises as to why Peter Jeffries is so dishonest as to distort our position in such a crude manner. Evidently, he feels free to ascribe the most fantastic positions to us, confident that the great majority of the readers of Workers Press will have no opportunity to read "Healy/Wohlforth and 'The Crisis'" in Workers Vanguard. Why not, Comrade Jeffries, assert that the Spartacist League is composed of strange green creatures who are agents of the Mikado? The method of the lie is not the method of Marxists, but the method of the bureaucratic usurpers of the October Revolution. By stooping to such methods you only indicate again the depth of the political degeneration of yourself and of the IC.
Monetarism and Crisis-Mongering
But finally, after all the lies and straw men, Jeffries gets around to defending the Healyite holy grail, "The Crisis," from the cynics, scoffers and scorners. It is a lie, he says, to accuse the IC of having a monetarist conception of the economic crisis:
"But we never said that this crisis was purely a monetary crisis. And Robertson can quote nothing from our many published statements which in any way give this impression. For us the monetary crisis was [sic] an acute expression of the capitalist crisis, the Crisis of capital accumulation, the content of which is, of course, the contradiction between the development of the productive forces and the restrictions imposed on this development under imperialism by the system of production for profit."Of course, no one can accuse Comrade Jeffries of saying that this crisis, "The Crisis," is purely monetary. Quite the contrary: Everything is lumped into one big super-crisis. However, readers of the Workers Press and Bulletin must be shocked by Jeffries' assertion that the IC merely regards the devaluation of the dollar as an "expression" among many other expressions of the contradiction of capitalism as a productive system. Why, then, is the definitive IC work on "the post-war economic crisis" entitled The Dollar Crisis? Why, then, does this same work state that the gold convertibility of the dollar caused the post-war "boom":
"The fact that after the Bretton Woods 1944 conference it [the ruling class] was forced to establish a series of agencies through which the economy was artificially stimulated by means of inflation was its recognition that the working class was too strong to be dealt with at that stage."Why, then, is the "greatest crisis ever" of capitalism projected because "nothing" can replace the dollar as an international medium of exchange:
"In no way could the implications of the crisis after August 1971 be likened to those of 1931. Despite the depth of the earlier crisis, it was one in which the world's major trading currency, sterling was replaced by another currency, the dollar. The blunt fact today is nothing can replace the dollar."No, no one could possibly have the impression that 'The Crisis" was rooted in the monetary system – unless he read the IC press!
- "Development of the Post-War Economic Crisis," Workers Press, 24 February 1973
Crisis Mongers Deny Social Chauvinism
Jeffries' polemic is as significant for what it does not deal with as for what it does. A central theme of our article was that the IC analysis denied that the economic contradictions of capitalism lead to inter-imperialist conflict with attempts by the national ruling classes to line up the labor movement behind them on the basis of social chauvinism:
"Despite its lip service to Lenin's 'Imperialism,' the SLL negates the Leninist-Trotskyist view of contemporary capitalism. Written during World War I, 'Imperialism' has two major themes. The first is that a decaying world economy intensifies inter-imperialist conflicts leading to a war over the division of world markets and spheres of exploitation. The second is that labor reformism necessarily leads to social-patriotic support for one's own imperialist bourgeoisie. In contrast to Lenin, the IC ignores the question of imperialist war and denies the possibility of labor reformism, even in its virulent social-chauvinist form."It is most interesting that Jeffries' reply has nothing to say on these questions.
To summarize, the main purpose of the IC's concept of 'The Crisis" is to assert that conventional trade-union struggles have become inherently revolutionary and the labor bureaucracy objectively revolutionary. The IC definition of an economic crisis is based on no objective criteria, but is completely subjective and arbitrary. The IC analysis is obscurantist monetarism completely at odds with Marx's analysis of circulation. And the IC in effect denies that the contradictions of capitalism as a productive system generate inter-imperialist conflict and war, giving rise to social-chauvinism as one of the most fundamental obstacles to revolutionary socialism within the working-class movement. Healy/Wohlforth capitulate to this as they consistently do to sundry other manifestations of reformism and bourgeois consciousness in the proletariat.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
Healy/Wohlforth and “The Crisis”
The socialist movement repeatedly throughout its history has had to struggle against the abandonment of Marxist principles by tendencies and individual leaders who were adapting to pressure from the bourgeoisie. Thus although the Communist Manifesto unambiguously declares that "the workers have no country," the reformist Social Democrats voted for national defense of their respective bourgeoisies in World War I. Without a determined struggle against this betrayal the workers movement could not go forward.
The abandonment of proletarian politics is usually accompanied by a "theoretical" justification, in the form of a new "discovery" which "corrects" or "brings up-to-date" central propositions of Marxism. This is what is meant by revisionism – an attempt to attack the substance of Marxism-Leninism without openly coming into conflict with its great authority. Therefore revisionism often takes the form of maintaining lip-service to traditional Marxist terminology but redefining (usually broadening) certain key concepts to insinuate a different political line. For example, the Socialist Workers Party has transformed Lenin's concept of "self determination" for oppressed nations into the thoroughly utopian-reformist concept of freedom from all forms of oppression through real or illusory separatism.
A central facet of the revisionism of Gerry Healy's "International Committee" and his U.S. satellite, Tim Wohlforth's Workers League, has been the redefinition of the term "crisis." The Marxist use of this term is fairly conventional -- meaning an abrupt change in a situation or a sharp transitional period. However, Marx, Lenin and Trotsky were always careful to distinguish different types of crises. There are for instance the epochal crisis of the capitalist order since World War I, a parliamentary crisis (e.g., Watergate), a crisis of class rule (e.g., Chile) or a revolutionary crisis (Russia in October 1917). For a Marxist, an economic crisis has a precise and limited meaning. It is that phase in the business cycle between the boom and the bust, between expanding and declining production, and is accompanied by mass layoffs, widespread bankruptcies and the contraction of money and credit
Contrary to the fantasies of the proponents of Kondratieff long waves (Mandel) or a post-war boom which according to different versions lasted from 15 to 27 years (Healy), the phases of the business cycle are limited in duration. This is doubly true of the transitional, crisis phase. In the entire four volumes of Capital, Marx never mentions a crisis involving more than two years. Of course, depressed conditions can last many years. However, in contrast to the IC, Marx clearly distinguishes a "crisis" from "stagnation." ("In the period of stagnation following a crisis, circulation is smallest...." Capital, Vol. III, Ch. 33). The concept of a fifteen-year-old never-ending economic crisis is a fundamental revision of Marxism
Where Marxists are careful to distinguish the different types of crises, the IC amalgamates everything into one omnipresent super-crisis. The Watergate scandal, resurgent Peronism in Argentina, the rising price of gold, Heath's economic policies in Britain, are all an expression of The Crisis. Moreover, this cataclysmic event is also The Worst Crisis Ever:
"The latest moves by the Nixon administration in devaluing the dollar mark a rapid acceleration of the capitalist system towards a breakdown and crisis deeper than at any time in its history..."In no way could the implications of the crisis after August 1971 be likened to those of 1931. Despite the depth of the earlier crisis, it was one in which the world's major trading currency, sterling was replaced by another currency, the dollar. The blunt fact today is that nothing can replace the dollar." [emphasis in original]
-- "Development of the Post-War Economic Crisis - Draft Resolution of the Socialist Labour League,"
– Workers Press, 24 February 1973
Crisis Magic: Trade-Union Reformism Becomes Revolutionary
The consequences of the IC's crisis-mongering are starkly revealed in a recent polemic by the Workers League against the Spartacist League on the question of whether ;wage demands by themselves are revolutionary. According to the WL:
"But the fact is that the fundamental contradiction within capitalism, suppressed for an entire historical period through wild inflation, is radically transforming the relations between classes....-- Bulletin, 16 April 1973
"This is why simple trade union demands are so profoundly revolutionary today."
Moreover, since the capitalists do not confront the working class in a unified way, they can always temporarily improve the conditions of certain groups of workers at the expense of others and then try to reverse the process. For example,- even during the Great Depression those workers who remained employed and were relatively insulated from the market (e.g., government employees) had their real wages rise, as prices fell faster than their money wages. Communists must fight against reformist illusions in the workers movement under all political and economic conditions. In a period of actual economic crisis in the Marxist sense, to limit the struggle to reform demands, thereby failing to raise the consciousness of the masses to the understanding of the need to fight the entire capitalist system, means preparing even worse defeats.
The most important way in which capitalists play off different sections of the working class is along national lines. In recent years this was manifested in the systematic effort by bourgeois politicians and the labor bureaucracy to build support for the Vietnam war. With the end of the U.S.' post-World War II imperialist hegemony, codified in Nixon's August 1971 wage freeze/devaluation measures, the heightened inter-imperialist rivalry has led to a wave of social-chauvinist economic protectionism in the labor movement. During this period, the Spartacist League has been unique on the American left in consistently raisng the need for a class opposition to the Vietnam war and economic protectionism in its trade union work. In marked contrast, the Workers League, precisely by asserting the objective impossibility of reformism, has adapted to the social-patriotic union bureaucracy. In 1968 the WL set up Trade Unionists for a Labor Party whose program did not even mention the Vietnam war; in 1972 these pseudo-Trotskyists hailed Buy-American, No-Strike I.W. Abel's right-wing opposition to McGovern as a step toward a labor party.
The Jeremiah Theory of the Proletarian Vanguard
It seems that Healy/Wohlforth (together with Lyn Marcus) believe that the essential qualification for proletarian leadership is the same as that for an astrologer or religious mystic - the ability to miraculously foretell the future. And like successful astrologers, Healy/Wohlforth/Marcus are careful to couch their prophesies in obscure formulations which allow them to claim vindication no matter what happens. This fortune-teller blueprint for building a communist vanguard consists of: (1) asserting that the final crisis will appear imminently; (2) redefining the term "crisis" to render it meaningless; (3) then proclaiming at what appears to be an auspicious moment that the crisis is now occurring; and finally (4) asserting the right to lead the working class on the basis of credentials as a successful crystal-ball gazer.
These intreped "revolutionary" prognosticators will doubtless reply that their wisdom is based on Marxist science (or in the case of Marcus, on superhuman powers of "creative mentation"). But what kind of Marxism is it that announces week-in and week-out for the last twelve years that The Crisis is imminent or already here; that talks of a period of boom (during which the law of value was denied) lasting either until 1961, 1968 or, in the most recent version, until 1971; and that consistently refuses to print any concrete economic statistics of the real evolution of production to back up their ravings? There is only one way a communist organization can genuinely prepare for a revolutionary crisis, regardless of the factors which precipitate it. This is by establishing its cadre as recognized leaders in the labor movement and mass organizations of the oppressed on the basis of a revolutionary program. But this is precisely what the IC and Labor Committee do not do. According to their method one does not need a party whose cadre have won authority in the labor movement. All one needs is a genius-leader and effective publicity gimmicks.
A hallmark of Pabloism is the view that the changed objective conditions (The Crisis) will solve the tasks of the proletarian vanguard. Thus the perspectives document of the European majority of the so-called "United Secretariat" comments that recent changes in economic conditions place revolution on the order of the day (as opposed to earlier, when, presumably, it was not).
"The socialist revolution is once again on the agenda in Europe, not just in a broad historical perspective (in this sense, it has been on the agenda since 1914), but even from a conjunctural point of view."Similarly, in the recent statement of Healy's Socialist Labour League on The Crisis reprinted in the WL pamphlet, "The Dollar Crisis" (1973) we read:
- "The Building of Revolutionary Parties in Capitalist Europe," 1972
"The building of a mass revolutionary party i.e. no longer a propaganda demand, as it has always been for the revisionists. It is the urgent burning question of the hour."The building of a revolutionary party is never a demand, propagandistic or otherwise. Who is it to be demanded of -the bourgeoisie, the labor bureaucracy, the entire working class? The creation of a mass revolutionary party is the result of the lengthy struggle to root an organized communist cadre in the workers movement. If a revolutionary situation occurs when the communist vanguard does not yet have significant authority in the proletariat, that revolution will fail and no amount of wishful thinking, hysterical posturing or gimmicks can change that. The Healyites believe in every kind of crisis except the decisive one -- the crisis of proletarian leadership.
Economic Analysis as Subjective Idealism
In the article "Myth of Neo-Capitalism" (RCY Newsletter, No. 10, January-February 1972) we wrote:
"All theories of fundamental post-war capitalist change assume that postwar capitalism has performed extraordinarily well. This exceptional performance can only be explained if major structural reforms have taken place. Bourgeois and revisionist theorists then search for the structural changes behind this otherwise inexplicable boom – Keynesian-type stabilization policy, capitalist planning, increased government expenditure, the permanent arms economy, etc. The first, and in some ways most important, myth of neo-capitalism is the post-war boom.The IC accepts the essential theoretical premise of neo-capitalism. This is that after World War II, the advanced capitalist countries enjoyed a lengthy, extraordinary economic boom as a result of some form of state activity.
"The fact that after the Bretton Woods 1944 conference it [the ruling class] was forced to establish a series of agencies through which the economy was artificially stimulated by means of inflation was its recognition that the working class was too strong to be dealt with at that stage."This credit-inflation boom is nothing other than a monetarist variant of the theory of neo-capitalism. This is now clearly demonstrated by the fact that just when the Healyites declare the boom has generated the definitive crisis, the Mandelites have also declared the end of neo-capitalist expansion; ("For the first time since the Second World War, attempts to reduce these crises of over-production through stepped-up inflation ran into obstacles...." ["The Building of Revolutionary Parties in Capitalist Europe"]). Healy and Mandel have reinvented the famous Bukharin-Stalin "period" analysis - the "Second Period" of absolute capitalist stabilization is followed by the "Third Period" of terminal economic collapse and immediate revolutionary situations everywhere.
-- "The Dollar Crisis"
Common to all these final-crisis enthusiasts is the desire to give a pseudo-Marxist explanation to their impressionistically-derived organizational ambitions. Thus in the articles "Myth of Neo-Capitalism" and "Boom Heads Toward Bust" (Workers Vanguard No. 25, 20 July 1973) we scientifically demonstrated that the 1950's was definitely not a period of exceptional capitalist prosperity. For the U.S., 1953-61 was the second worst economic period in this century, with three recessions, a per capita growth rate of only one percent a year and an average unemployment rate of over five percent. In addition to the U.S., France and Japan had distinctly higher growth rates in the 1960's than in the 1950's, while Britain stagnated at the same rate in both decades. The IC theorists have never produced a single statistic to demonstrate that the 1950's was a boom period because it simply was not.
Instead, Wohlforth counters our concrete refutation of their thesis with the following incredibly un-Marxist argument: "To deny the boom of the 1950's is simply a way to assert that today is the same as the 1950's, that ft requires no more of the revolutionary than was possible to do in the 1950's" (Bulletin, 9 July 1973). The state of production is here deduced from a subjective evaluation of organizational prospects: We think we can do much better now than in the 1950's, says Wohlforth. Therefore, there must have been a boom in the 1950's and a great crisis now. Marxists have a term for this method of reasoning. It is called subjective idealism. If Wohlforth thinks he can fly now but could not in the 1950's, do we then conclude that he was a human then and a pigeon now?
Behind Wohlforth's impressionistic idealism there is an element of truth. The organizational perspectives for Trotskyists are more favorable now than in the 1950's. The reason, however, is not the end of the mythical boom. Rather the relative quiescence of the workers movement in the major advanced countries in the 1950's was the result of demoralization produced by recent defeats engineered by the solidly entrenched Stalinist bureaucracies and conditioned by the direct military might of U.S. imperialism. Now a new generation is coming to the fore, uncowed by past defeats, but also unaware of the crucial lessons of the past betrayals. A crucial task of the Trotskyist vanguard is to bring to the new generation of militants the knowledge of these lessons. It will not accomplish this by constantly screaming "Crisis:" but rather through struggling for the program of permanent revolution which represents the distillation of this past history.
Marxism vs. Monetarism
As a supposedly definitive statement, the WL pamphlet "The Dollar Crisis" is most peculiar. Supposedly analyzing the "post-war economic crisis," it contains virtually no statistics on production, labor input, wages or profits. Despite Peter Jeffries' two theoretical appendices, the central document is journalistic and makes no attempt to present the analysis within the Marxist theoretical framework or even terminology. Particularly peculiar in a supposedly Marxist work, there is no treatment of the changing conditions for the buying and selling of labor power (the labor market) -- the point of intersection between the organized working class and capitalism as a system of production. Thus while the Profumo scandal is mentioned, the absolutely strategic importance of cheap foreign labor for the West European economy is not!
However, the strangest fact of all is that there is no detailed, theoretical analysis of the pamphlet's central theme – how the expansion of money and credit could stimulate a prolonged period of expanded production. The term "Bretton Woods agreement" is used like abracadabra as if it were obvious that the gold-convertability of the dollar could generate an international economic boom. A brief, clear explanation of the IC analysis appears to the following: There exists a fixed relation between the supply of money and total circulation and, therefore, production. By setting up a dollar-backed reserve currency system in 1944, the world bourgeoisie temporarily created a kind of pseudo-money. The expansion of dollar capital caused an economic boom which lasted until the late 1950's in some IC versions, and until 1971 in others. In any case, with the dollar devaluation in 1971, world production must contract to the point where it can be circulated by gold alone. This contraction creates the conditions for immediate proletarian revolution or the universal victory of fascism.
There is an important bourgeois economic school which, like the IC, regards the stock of money as the active, causal element in determining the general level of production. Running from J.B. Say and the British Currency School in the nineteenth century to Milton Friedman today, it is called the quantity theory of money. This theory holds that there is a fixed relationship between the stock of primary money (gold) and the flow of money expenditures. Until Lyn Marcus and Peter Jeffries, all erstwhile Marxists regarded the quantity theory of money as one of the most reactionary-utopian schools of bourgeois. economics, since it asserts that the bourgeois state can control the level of economic activity through its traditional control over bank reserves, or that total production is limited by the physical supply of gold, a kind of bullionist Malthusianism.
Jeffries is no doubt aware of Marx's attitude toward the quantity theory of money so he doesn't explicitly identify it as the basis of the IC analysis. However, the assertion of a fixed relation between the stock of monetary gold and production is the basis of the IC analysis.
"With gold now supporting perhaps only 10 per cent of the value of world trade, the implications of the crisis must be a collapse of much of the other 90 per cent.... Here again, however, the limits to the expansion of credit (which the revisionists such as Mandel saw as the means of indefinite capitalist expansion) are strictly limited by the available money supply."
– "The Dollar Crisis"
A good deal of Marx's writings on money, particularly in Volume III of Capital, is a direct attack on the quantity theory of money. Marx asserted that the money supply adjusted to the demands of industrial and commercial capital through changes in the amount of credit and the velocity, of circulation. In the following passage Marx explicitly attacks the notion that the stock of monetary gold or level of bank reserves can determine production. We could cite fifty similar passages.
"So long as the condition of business is such, that the returns on the loans given come in regularly and credit remains unshaken, the expansion and contraction of the currency depends simply on the requirements of the industrialists and merchants. Since gold does not enter into consideration in the wholesale trade, at least in England, and the circulation of gold aside from the fluctuations with the seasons, may be regarded as a rather constant magnitude for a long time, the circulation of the notes of the Bank of England forms a sufficiently accurate measure of these changes. In a period of stagnation following a crisis circulation is smallest, with the recovery of demand comes also a greater demand for currency, which increases with the rising prosperity; the quantity of currency reaches its culminating point in the period of overtension and overspeculation...." [our emphasis]The availability of loanable money capital cannot stimulate production if expanded output is considered insufficiently profitable. As Marx observed:
– Capital, Vol. III, Ch. 33
"Not every augmentation of loanable capital indicates a real accumulation of capital or expansion of re-production. This becomes most evident in the phase of the industrial cycle following immediately after a crisis, when loanable capital lies idle in great masses.”The highest level of excess bank reserves (an index of the difference between actual bank loans and legally authorized lending capacity) in U.S. history occurred in the late 1930's, when interest rates were also abnormally low: if what is needed to bring the economy out of stagnation is simply an infusion of more money, a la Keynes and Healy, why was this available money not used to immediately end the depression instead of letting it drag on until World War II? Precisely because it is the rate of profit and not the supply of money which is the immediate determinant of the level of production. The credit expansion of the New Deal policies was a total failure. Conversely, the "shortage” of money and credit during a crisis is not because the stock of gold is too small in relation to total circulation. It is because financiers are hoarding money since they do not think loans can be repaid under conditions of rapidly contracting production and falling commodity prices.
– Capital, Vol. III, Ch. 30
The Role of Credit
"Under capitalism, however, expanded production tends increasingly to obstruct itself and to turn into stagnation, increasing misery and decay....Its cause lies in the contradiction between expanded social production and the largely fictitious values associated with individual property-titles in the means of production and other income-producing property forms."Wohlforth is not so blatant in his revisions of Marx as is the guru of the NCLC. So in his current series on "What is Spartacist Today?" he spends part four in attacking the SL for allegedly ignoring the question of circulation, listing several quotes from Marx which point out how th ecrisis o f overproduction is expressed in the process of circulation. But Wohlforth is saddled with an insurmaountable difficulty: namely that the IC monetary crisis theory is rooted in circulation, not production, and is precisely the kind of monetarist theory Marx polemicized against in Vol. III, Part 5 of Capital. So in the next installment we discover that crises in Marx's time were, it is true, production crises but now things are different:
-- "Economism or Socialism, Part II," The Campaigner, October 1970
"Marx wrote of [capitalism] under conditions in which it was still capable of expansion of the productive forces of mankind. Crises in his period were more limited in impact and largely of a commodity or commercial nature. Today the overall expansion of capital with its corresponding change in the organic composition of capital producing a falling rate of profit means that capitalism has reached its general historical limit...Thus, you see, today the crisis takes place in circulation, today it is possible to solve the economic crises of overproduction by artificially creating credit! Keynesianism works according to Wohlforth, although only "momentarily." On the other hand, according to the 28 May Bulletin, Wohlforth's Hegelian "moment" when the law of value was "denied" lasted for "27 years"! Even more explicitly, the "Dollar Crisis" pamphlet exclaims: "The capitalist system, in any case is not fundamentally a crisis of commodity over-production, but one involving the over-production of capital." Wohlforth just can't keep that Marcus ghost hidden in the closet! As if in anticipation, Marx entitled one of the sections of chapter 17 of the Theories of Surplus Value "Absurd Denial of the Overproduction of Commodities, Accompanied by a Recognition of the Over-Abundance of Capital." But then, of course, that was in his day. As far as the substance of the matter is concerned, commodities are capital and capital in turn takes the form of commodities and even money at different points in the process of circulation. And the triumph of finance capital over manufacturing spoken of by Lenin was achieved by the absorption of the latter by the former. The opposition of financieal and manufacturing capital is a myth of Stalinism conconcted to justify the theory of a people's front with the "progressive" capitalists against the reactionary, unproductive sector, variously known as the Robber Barons, the 200 Families or Wall Street.
"This is also why questions of the monetary system and credit become so vital as well. As Lenin explained, the epoch of imperialism is a period in which finance capital triumphs over manufacturing capital...
"If forms of credit, of extended credit, are entered into this process both through bank loans and through the production of paper currency quite out of proportion to the money (gold) backing of the currency, then we can immediately see how the problem of overproduction can be momentarily overcome and along with the problems related to the falling rate of profit..."
-- Bulletin, 23 July 1973
Not the Credit System, But the National State
Although the IC keeps insisting that the present crisis is insoluble, if their analysis was correct there could ba an easy solution. If world trade must collapse because the value of monetary gold is too small to circulate it, all that is necessary is to raise the price of gold. And this is precisely what is now happening. Within a year, most governments will probably be buying and selling gold on the open market. When this happens, the IC will have to come up with another explanation for the final crisis.
In general, the Dollar Crisis raises an obvious question which it does not answer. Why didn't the ruling class restore the pre-1914 gold standard after World War I, or World War II, or why don't they do so now? Under the pre-1914 gold standard the only way a national bourgeoisie could improve its international competitiveness was by lowering th edomestic price level. This, in turn, could only be brought about through unemployment, cutting money wages and temporarily sacrificing profits. Under nineteenth century comditions of generally expanding world production and a weak labor movement, the advanced capitalist countries were prepared to play by the gold-standard rules of the game. But backward capitalist countries (e.g., Argentina) did not adhere to the gold standard even in the nineteenth century.
After World War I the qualitatively greater instability in the world economy, the strengthening of the labor movement and development of powerful revolutionary proletarian tendencies made domestic deflation to correct a balance of payments too politically dangerous. Significantly, the only contemporary bourgeois political tendency which even contemplated a return to the pre-1914 gold standard was semi-bonapartist French Gaullism in the early 1960s'. After World War I, the conflicts between the national bourgeoisies produced international financial anarchy because this condition enabled a national bourgeoieise to mantain or incras its share of world trade and capital at the expense of other nations through permanent borrowing, competitive devaluation and direct control over foreign exchange transactions. That this did not occur after World War II was the result of the absolute economic and political hegemony of the U.S. in the capitalist world, a condition which lasted until the late 1960's. Even today the U.S. produces roughly 45 percent of total goods and services of capitalist countries, and its still considerable power has enabled it to force upward valuations of its major competitors' currencies (Japan, Germany). The endless crises of international finance are arenas of struggle between the imperialist powers over markets and spheres of exploitation. The decisive arena is war.
Despite its lip service to Lenin's "Imperialism," the SLL negates the Leninist-Trotskyist view of contemporary capitalism. Written during World War I, "Imperialism" has two major themes. The first is that a decaying world economy intensifies inter-imperialist conflicts leading to a war over the division of world markets and spheres of exploitation. The second is that labor reformism necessarily leads to social-patriotic support for one's own imperialist bourgeoisie. In contrast to Lenin, the IC ignores the question of imperialist war and denies the possibility of labor reformism, even in its virulent social-chauvinist form. Instead what is projected is a uniform world economic collapse whose result could be the international victory of fascism:
"Either the working class, under the leadership of the revolutionary party, takes the power and puts an end to capitalist anarchy, or the ruling class will be forced to impose brutal dictatorship on the European, Japanese and American working class."Such a view dangerously miscomprehends the nature of fascism. A fascist bourgeoisie is not content merely to intensify the exploitation of its own working class. Fascism is, above all, the mobilization of the masses for imperialist war. Fascists come to power by proclaiming that the "people" need a "strong leadership" to defend them against their national enemies. It is precisely by social chauvinist demagogy that fascism attains its mass base and disorients and splits the workers movement. After Hitler came to power, the German Social Democrats announced their support for Nazi foreign policy. Labor reformism prepares the way for fascism through its social chauvinist policies. Because the IC rejects the centrality of the struggle against social-chauvinism and labor reformism in this epoch, the politics of international Healyism are essentially economist – which because they fail to go beyond the limits of capitalism ultimately lead to outright support for the bourgeoisie. Healy/Wohlforth have not yet had their 4 August 1914 (the day the German Social Democrats voted for war credits), but they have one in their future. It is only a question of time.
– "The Dollar Crisis"
Healyism and Pabloism Drift Together
For the past several years we have called attention to the rightward degeneration of international Healyism, and its increasing adoption of Pabloist methodology. The parallelism of the IC and USec Majority's present economic analysis and particularly the organizational perspectives they draw from it further strengthens this view. It is now clear that Mandel's neo-capitalism and the Healyites' credit-inflation boom were objectivist explanations for the organizational stagnation of the erstwhile Trotskyist movement in the 1950’s-early 1960's. Likewise, their present catastrophic economic analysis is an objectivist projection of their get-rich-quick organizational ambitions. These ambitions are simultaneously associated with both sectarian posturing and adventurism and with opportunist tailism. On the one hand, we have the Healyites boy-scout-type hikes against unemployment and ever more-frequent press or the USec's experimentation with guerilla terrorism in Latin America and confrontation with the police in France. On the other hand we have the WL's campaign to pressure the Meanyite union bureaucracy into building a reformist labor party and the Ligue Communiste's and the WL's support to the French popular front, the Union of the Left. What sectarian posturing, adventurism and tailism have in common is that they are apparent short cuts to building a mass party
The Spartacist League does not pretend to be able to foretell the pattern of future economic cycles and their precise effect on the international class struggle. On the value of such predictions, we can do no better than to quote comrade Lenin
"We cannot tell-no one can tell in advance how soon a real proletarian revolution will flare up there, and what immediate cause will most serve to rouse, kindle and impel into struggle the very wide masses, who are still dormant.” [emphasis-in original]We assert that in this epoch of the death agony of capitalism many revolutionary situations will occur. They can only be resolved in favor of socialism if led by a revolutionary proletarian party. And the only way to successfully prepare for a revolutionary situation is a constant struggle to establish a cadre as recognized leaders in the labor movement and mass organizations of the oppressed on the basis of the Transitional Program.
– "Left Wing Communism, An Infantile Disorder," 1920
Ho “Assimilates the Permanent Revolution”
In their rush to capitulate to the heroes of the petty-bourgeois radical milieu, the fake-Trotskyists of the “United Secretariat” and the “International Committee” must gloss over the real history of Stalinism in Vietnam.
The USec of Frank, Mandel and Hansen is the direct descendent of the Pabloist International Secretariat, which in the early 1950’s formulated the “theory” that the world was divided into two camps, the imperialists and the Stalinists; because of the sharp character of the impending conflicts, the Stalinists would be forced against their will to defend the interests of the proletariat. Pablo’s conclusion: The Trotskyists should dissolve their movement in favor of “deep entry” into the Stalinist parties.
In the early 1960’s the U.S. Socialist Workers Party came over to Pabloism with its theory that Fidel Castro was an “unconscious Marxist” and thus the SWP’s function was to be merely a cheering section for Castroism, recapitulating the European Pabloists’ capitulation to the Algerian nationalists. The common thread of Pabloism is the belief that one or another non-proletarian force (the Stalinist bureaucracy, students, peasant guerillas, etc.) will carry out the revolution, thereby rendering superfluous or at least secondary the leading role of the Trotskyist party.
What this means in the case of Vietnam can be seen from a recent book by Pierre Rousset, a leading member of the French USec, on Le Parti Communiste Vietnamien. The book’s central thesis is that:
“... the Vietnamese leadership as a whole has assimilated the decisive implications of the permanent revolution for colonial and semi-colonial countries.” [emphasis inAs we have shown, Ho Chi Minh’s policies of vacillation and betrayal were in direct counterposition to revolutionary Trotskyism and in fact required the massacre of thousands of supporters of the Fourth International. How does this revisionist explain the extermination of the Vietnamese Trotskyists?
“These assassinations, about which historians of the Indochinese CP don’t speak, in their writings in French at least, show at least two things: the width of the political gulf which then separated the Trotskyist groups from the Indochinese CP [one would hope so!], the former probably underestimating the importance of the national question in the revolutionary mobilization of the masses, the latter profoundly underestimating the social question in the colonial revolution, including at the outset.”In short, for the Pabloists there is not only no need to be a Trotskyist in Vietnam, since the North Vietnamese and NLF leadership has absorbed the lessons of the permanent revolution; but in addition, the ideological conflict between Stalinism and Trotskyism in Vietnam was entirely unnecessary, since there was a little bit of truth on both sides. The murders? Just an unfortunate mistake.
[-- Pierre Rousset, Le parti communiste vietnamien, Paris, 1973, p. 44.]
Healy and “People’s War”
The position of the USec at least has the virtue of reflecting a consistent long-standing policy: the open abandonment of the Transitional Program and rejection of the essential lessons of Trotskyism. It is noteworthy that the Socialist Labour League (Britain) and its fake “International Committee,” which claim to be fighting Pabloism, and which criticize sharply Hansen’s phrase about Castro being an “unconscious Marxist,” take precisely the same position regarding the Vietnamese Stalinists as the USec. In their obituary of Ho we read:
“There can be no doubt that he [Ho Chi Minh] contained within himself and came to personify, all the anti-imperialist hatred and fighting spirit of the colonial peoples....Rather than an “unconscious Marxist” (à la USec), we find here Ho Chi Minh the “instinctive” Marxist. A distinction without a difference, if ever there was one! Elsewhere the Healyites elaborated:
“Like Mao Tse-tung, Ho instinctively yearned to do battle with imperialism and the internal forces of reaction within his native country.”
--[Newsline, September 9, 1969]
And just what was this strategy?
“It is indisputably true to say that, on the basis of the Vietnamese experience, guns combined with the courage and endurance of individual guerrilleros would have meant little or nothing if Ho Chi Minh and other leaders were unable to analyse the principal and secondary conditions within Vietnam as well as between Vietnam and imperialism and on that basis outline a strategy for the conquest of power.”
[-- Newsline, September 9, 1969]
“It [Vietnam] demonstrates the transcendental power and resilience of a protracted peoples war led and organized by a party based on the working class and the poor peasantry and inspired by the example of the October revolution [!].”And the Vietnamese Trotskyists, murdered by these “instinctive” Marxists—what of them?
[-- “The Vietnamese Revolution and the Fourth International.” Fourth International, February 1968.]
Well, here it seems that Ho was a little naughty, for which the SLL slaps his hand in reprobation:
"We do not forget these crimes committed against our movement by Ho Chi Minh, any more than we seek to play down his very real contribution to the struggle against world imperialism.”But at the very moment that Ho massacred the Trotskyists, he was according to the Healyites lined up against world Stalinism itself!
“Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Minh were on one side of the barricades, Thorez, Stalin and French imperialism on the other.”So you see, it is all here: The unconscious (or instinctive) Marxism, the assimilation of the lessons of the permanent revolution, the understanding attitude toward the murders of the Vietnamese Trotskyists. And it is no isolated case. Healy’s famous “method” also allows him to support the Red Guards, Mao Tse-tung, the “Arab Revolution” and Indira Gandhi as supposed fighters against imperialism.
[--Newsline, 9 September 1969]
Although Healy uses “theory” and “method” primarily as a smokescreen to hide his abandonment of fundamental Marxist principles, there is in fact a method to the madness. The thread which unites these various positions is the same objectivism which is implicit in Pabloism: Since the sweep of the revolutionary wave (the objective forces) is so all-embracing, the struggle for the program of permanent revolution, the organization of the Trotskyist vanguard party, the struggle to rebuild the Fourth International—all this is secondary and ultimately expendable.
SL and the Vietnamese Trotskyists
In contrast, the Spartacist League continues to uphold the struggle and the memory of the Vietnamese Trotskyists, while recognizing and seeking to learn from their mistakes. This is no secondary or sentimental question. We have seen how the scandalous abandonment of the theory of permanent revolution on the part of the IC and USec leads them to solidarize themselves with the Stalinists against the Trotskyists in Vietnam, going so far as to apologize for the murder of the latter. The practical consequences of Pabloism are liquidation of the revolution and annihilation of the revolutionaries.
The Spartacist League has consistently, throughout its history, called for military defense of the NLF/DRV, including in times or places where this has not been a popular demand. We have demanded that Russia and China provide adequate military aid to the Vietnamese. Alone of all the tendencies of the U.S. left we raise the question of the war in our trade-union work, calling for immediate U.S. withdrawal and labor strikes against the war. At the same time, as Trotskyists we hold high the banner of permanent revolution and expose the repeated betrayals of the Vietnamese Stalinists. Likewise we analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the Vietnamese Trotskyists in order, in the words of the Transitional Program, “to speak the truth to the masses, no matter how bitter it may be.” Only in this manner, by openly struggling for the program of revolutionary Marxism, can the Fourth International be reborn.
Friday, May 8, 2009
NYC Workers League Class Series
Wohlforth Embraces Pabloism
This is the second of two WV articles dealing with the issues raised in the recent Workers League public class series in New York City.
The Workers League's pretensions to internationalism and the continuity of the Fourth International are just as phony as the pseudo-dialectics which Wohlforth prates about in order to obscure any consideration of program. Thus the WL systematically betrays the program of the Fl by, among other things, its constant chasing after militant-talking Stalinists (Mao Tse tung or Ho Chi Minh) and leftist nationalists (such as Huey Newton), its "critical" support for aspiring labor fakers (Morrissey in the NMU), its adaptation to even the most reactionary elements of the labor bureaucracy (Meany and Abel) and its refusal to fight in the unions for solidarity with the Vietnamese revolution. Now it abandons the Transitional Program explicitly with the line that wage demands are inherently revolutionary, and transitional demands therefore unnecessary and sectarian.
But even organizationally, the “internationalism" of the WL is a fiction. Wohlforth equates internationalism with abject subservience to the Socialist Labour League of Gerry Healy, in much the same manner as Earl Browder's Communist Party slavishly capitulated before every twist and turn ordered by Stalin. The Healyite "International Committee" has always been an empty form without content - a rotten bloc between the British SLL and the French Organisation Communiste Internationaliste in which each pursued its own policies (often sharply at variance with one another) and divided up the rest of the world as spheres of influence (Healy getting the English-speaking countries, while the OCI received the rest of Europe and South America).
A carefully preserved secret until 1966 was the fact that there was no discipline in the International Committee, the only basis for decision-making being unanimity. Thus the repeated demands by Healy from 1962 to 1966 that the Spartacist tendency subordinate itself to "international discipline" (which in every case we stated we would do, while refusing to sign, as was the fashion of the Stalintern, documents which amounted to a repudiation of our positions or else simply apolitical demonstrations of servility) were nothing but the capricious whim of a would-be petty dictator. In the fifth class Wohlforth explained this fraud by saying, well, nobody's perfect. But to speak of a federated international bloc as the "International" is no less absurd than to profess that a federated national grouping which does not "yet" have democratic centralism can be a vanguard party. At the class on Spartacist Wohlforth denounced SL National Chairman James Robertson for alleged "anti-internationalism" because at the 1966 IC Conference Robertson had unwittingly violated an unannounced conference "rule" by missing a session. Wohlforth's demagoguery only revealed the WL's boundless hypocrisy, for the SL had just distributed to the class participants material showing that Wohlforth himself – in direct violation of a categorical instruction from Healy – did not bother to attend the conference at all.
Behind the question of organizational structure (itself a crucial programmatic aspect of Leninism) stands the question of the very nature of the IC as an unprincipled political bloc. For years the SLL and OCI held sharply counterposed positions on central questions – even on the very nature of the party. Thus the OCI has maintained that the basis of the party is program, while to the SLL, the basis of the party is "Marxist philosophy." Similarly, the OCI held the view that the Fourth International had been destroyed by revisionism and needed to be reconstructed, while the SLL proclaimed that the IC is the Fourth International. Nor was there agreement on issues such as the 1967 Arab-Israeli war (over which the OCI took a revolutionary defeatist position for both sides while the SLL supported the "Arab Revolution"), or the united front (which the SLL sees as a tactic while the OCI supports a "strategic united front").
In his presentation at the seventh class (on the split with the OCI) Wohlforth presented an elaborate fairy-tale history of the IC, explaining that there were, of course, differences, but they had to be discussed instead of precipitously splitting. As revealed by documents published by the SLL and OCI after the split, the actual "discussion" in the IC had the character of two ships passing in the night.
A perfect example was the true story of the “split in the IC at the Essen youth conference." According to the WL/SLL the prime sin of the OCI, its failure to recognize the absolute centrality of the struggle for dialectics, was revealed by the OCI's document for the June 1970 London pre-conference of the IC. However, that document was published in late 1969, yet nine months later the SLL had no alternative to offer to the meeting; it also refused to vote on the document. Another twelve months pass and the SLL delegation arrives at the Essen youth conference to be faced with an OCI-written document which had the same line as the previous one; in the meantime, of course, Healy and Co. sill had not produced an answer. But this was apparently too much, so in typical Healyite fashion the English delegation offered an amendment-ultimatum on "dialectics" which was voted down by the French-dominated delegates assembly. The SLL now maintains that this is when the IC really split. However, at the time the SLL delegation not only did not take their amendment onto the floor of the conference to fight it out, but they then went on to give the conference enthusiastic coverage in their press; the "already split" IC continued to appear in the pages of the Bulletin as the continuity of the Fl.
OCI Centrists and SLL Political Bandits
The formal split came when the OCI handed Healy a nice factional club by supporting the centrist policies of the Partido Obrero Revolucionario, which in the 1971 Bolivian events took a line similar to that of the POUM during the Spanish civil war. To avoid being tarred with the same brush Wohlforth claimed that Lora [head of the POR] had never been in the International Committee and he never would have been admitted to it without a full discussion on his political history. But, as an SL spokesman pointed out at the class, the Healyites themselves had been very happy to take credit for the influential POR as recently as one month before the military coup (see the uncritical article which hailed the POR as "the Bolivian section of the International Committee" in the Bulletin of 19 July 1971)!
At the time of the split, Healy was able to capitalize on the OCI's centrist positions of support for the POR and a "strategic united front" in order to pose as the principled left wing of the IC. But the history of the SLL and WL reveals that they have wallowed in every opportunist deviation for which they now denounce the OCI. Thus, while the OCI accommodated to the French Stalinists by calling for votes to the CP in the recent elections (in spite of the fact that the CP was part of a popular front),the Workers League flatly supported the pop front: "The illusions of the workers can only be exposed by first electing the Left Union in the second round... " (Bulletin, 12 March 1973).
The SLL/WL's 'left" criticisms of the OCI are fraudulent. But no less fraudulent are the Healyites' pretensions to anti-revisionism. The SLL/WL posture toward the Pabloists has always been that of an estranged spouse alternating vituperation with reconciliation. Thus the 20 July 1970 Bulletin reported Healy's overtures to the United Secretariat with a proposal for political discussions and common work, hopefully to result in a "joint international conference" between the IC and the Pabloists. An internal WL directive dated 15 March 1970 earnestly explained the need to tone down criticisms of the SWP/YSA 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."The whole thrust of the Healyite overture was to legitimatize the Pabloist cabal of Mandel, Frank, Hansen and Co. at precisely the moment that the USec was becoming markedly unstable and left currents were beginning to develop in several sections. The symbiosis between the USec Pabloists and the IC "inverted Pabloists" was clearly revealed here again, and the USec leadership was enabled to adopt a "principled" facade by turning the Healyites down.
When the OCI and SLL came to a parting of ways in 1971, this finally stripped naked the facade of internationalism of the "International Committee." A true International is composed of tendencies which are defined by program, not geography. (Even in the badly degenerated Socialist Workers Party, whose international ties to the IC had long been merely formal, the motion toward reunification with the Pabloists caused enough concern among some elements to precipitate the formation of an anti-Pabloist faction.) But the 1971 IC split had no ramifications in either of the leading national organizations: Apparently the entire SLL was in agreement with the "British line" and the entire OCI with the "French line."
Cuba and Inverted Pabloism
The WL class series was an instructive lesson in the methodology of Pabloism. The class on Cuba demonstrated Wohlforth's total confusion about the process of the Cuban revolution which, under petty-bourgeois nationalist leadership, uprooted capitalist property relations and established a deformed workers state. Duplicating in its essentials the Chinese revolution, Cuba illuminated the problem which had faced orthodox Trotskyists following World War II: how could capitalism have been overturned in Eastern Europe, and then China, without proletarian revolutions under Trotskyist leadership? Did this mean our evaluation of Stalinism was wrong? Unable to creatively extend orthodoxy to explain these transformations, the postwar Trotskyist movement's inability to solve this problem opened the road to a revisionist answer: Pablo's 1951 theory that under the pressure of a new objective reality Stalinism could become revolutionary, and thus the Trotskyists had no further function except as a pressure group to aid this. "blunted instrument" to realize its new-found revolutionary potential.
The orthodox Trotskyists could only reply by pointing in horror at the necessary consequence: if Pablo's theory were , correct, the very founding of the Fourth International was a mistake. Seeking to resist Pablo's liquidationist conclusions, they sought to deny reality until it overwhelmed them (the SWP did not officially characterize China as a deformed workers state until 1955). The response of the Healy tendency to the Cuban revolution was the same: according to the WL/SLL, Cuba is still a capitalist state.
Spartacist spokesmen at the class pointed out that this response accepts the method of Pabloism while seeking to reject its conclusions. At the heart of both is the acceptance of the deformed workers states as being only quantitatively different from healthy workers states. Thus the SWP justified its uncritical accommodation to Castro, saying Lenin's Russia was a very good workers state; Stalin's Russia was a very bad workers state; Castro's Cuba is a pretty good workers state (getting better all the time), and after all, so long as it's a workers state, that's good enough. Healy argues that if a petty-bourgeois leadership could establish a deformed workers state (which, for him, is just another workers state) then the Transitional Program is wrong in claiming that a Trotskyist working class leadership is necessary for successful proletarian revolution: therefore, Cuba is not a workers state.
Confronted with this analysis, Wohlforth vehemently insisted that indeed there "is no qualitative difference" between a healthy and deformed workers state. In this one statement, Wohlforth reveals his fundamental kinship with the Pabloists and sweeps aside the achievement of Trotsky in recognizing in 1933 that a qualitative change had taken place as a result of the Stalinist degeneration of the Soviet Union and the Third International. The consolidation of power in the hands of a petty-bourgeois stratum (the bureaucracy) made necessary a new international party to struggle for political revolution in the Soviet Union as well as for social revolution against capitalism.
As one could expect by now from the fabled Healyite "dialectics,” the SL's position (that Cuba is a deformed workers state) was termed by Wohlforth (who considers Cuba to be capitalist) as "Shachtmanism"! Anyone with the slightest familiarity with the positions of Shachtman (who split from Trotskyism in denying that Russia was a degenerated workers state) can easily understand the absurdity of such an accusation.
Vietnam: Pabloism and Social Patriotism
Healy/Wohlforth's contortions over Cuba are nothing, however, in comparison with the blatant and disgusting Pabloism of the WL on the question of Vietnam. In a positively obscene laudatory obituary (Bulletin, 22 September 1969) for Ho Chi Minh, the murderer of the Indochinese Trotskyists, the WL refers to him as an "instinctive" fighter against imperialism (akin to Hansen's description of Castro as a "natural" Marxist). Some of the articles of the Healy/ Wohlforth tendency on Vietnam could be set side by side with those of the arch-Pabloist Ligue Communiste and even a careful reader would have trouble figuring out which was which(for example, the reference to the "transcendental power" of "peoples war" in the February 1968 Fourth International).
Wohlforth's class presentation on Vietnam was a textbook example of Pabloist method. To begin with, the Vietnam struggle of the 1960's was essentially a "movement of the colonial peoples under Stalinist leadership." It was under Stalinist leadership, but "for 20 years Stalinism could not compromise the movement as it wished to"! And, of course, there are different wings of the Stalinists and "the North Vietnamese have time and time again come into conflict with the Soviets; the latest time was last December." To top it all off was a little bit of spicy orthodoxy, claiming that "our position is for victory of the NLF against the U.S. imperialists."
Wohlforth pointed out the fundamental unity of the WL position on Vietnam and its support for the "Arab revolution" and for the bourgeois Indian army in the 1971 war with Pakistan over Bangla Desh. (At the time, the Bulletin, 20 December 1971, gave "critical" support to Indira Gandhi. In the class Wohlforth revealed what "critical" support means to the WL, saying "we were 1,000 percent for the victory of the Indian army.") He also emphasized several times that "the colonial revolution is not simply a workers revolution."
To begin with, the term "colonial revolution" has been given circulation in the "Trotskyist" movement by the Pabloists who, with their theory of "epicenters" and "blunted instruments," wish to deny the world-wide unity of the permanent revolution. Trotskyists do not call for a "colonial" revolution,” Brother Wohlforth, but for a proletarian (yes, workers!) revolution in the backward countries (such as Russia), leaning on the peasantry, to successfully carry through even the democratic tasks of national liberation and agrarian revolution. Like the Pabloists of the United Secretariat the WL used the label "colonial" revolution to justify political support to various left-talking nationalists.
The "method" of the Healyite Workers League is thus ultimately that of Pabloism. No longer believing in the possibility of proletarian revolution under Trotskyist leadership, the Pabloists seek to construct a rationale for tailing non-proletarian strata (e.g., petty-bourgeois nationalist movements, "left" Stalinists, out-bureaucrats in the unions), on the grounds that the "objective situation" compels even a "blunted instrument" (e.g., the Stalinist NLF in Vietnam) to make the revolution. In contrast to those "purists" or "sectarians" who insist that only the proletariat, under Trotskyist leadership, can create a healthy workers state and open the road to socialism, the WL in truly Pabloist fashion embraces the most “left" of what is, instead of undertaking the arduous task of building the Trotskyist party, the embodiment of the Transitional Program of the Fourth International.
To Wohlforth's apology for the Vietnamese Stalinists, SL supporters at the fifth class counterposed the Trotskyist position of unconditional defense of the deformed workers states against imperialism and political revolution against the bureaucratic misleadership which sabotages that defense and the further progress of the socialist revolution. To this Lucy St. John, editor of the Bulletin, counting on the ignorance or cynicism of WL members, made the fantastic charge that "Spartacist refuses to call for military defense of the Vietnamese workers." On the basis of this flat lie, WL supporters proceeded to accuse the SL of "Shachtmanism" on Vietnam. In the fashion of all Stalinist apologists, the WL seeks to link authentic Trotskyism with those, like Shachtman, whose anti-Stalinism proceeds from their motion toward reconciliation with the bourgeoisie.
Anyone remotely familiar with the history of the Spartacist League knows that the SL has consistently fought for military defense of the Vietnamese revolution, for the exclusion of the bourgeoisie from the antiwar movement and for working-class strike action against the war. The SL is the only tendency which has consistently raised the Vietnam war in its trade-union work, calling for immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces and solidarity with the Vietnamese revolution. In contrast, the WL has time after time capitulated on the defense of the Vietnamese revolution in order to pursue its opportunist appetites.
SL speakers at the class on Vietnam cited as examples the 1971 program of the WL youth group (Young Socialists) which did not mention this demand; the refusal of the WL's short-lived "Trade Unionists for a Labor Party" front group to include any mention of the war or racial oppression in its program (Bulletin, 18 December 1967); the WL's support for U.S. Senator Vance Hartke and the SWP in the brutal physical expulsion of SL and Progressive Labor supporters who were demanding the ousting of the bourgeoisie from the July 1971 NPAC conference.
At the fourth class the SL distributed to those attending copies of a 1965 leaflet signed by Tim Wohlforth (along with all the pacifist social-patriots, Stalinists, SWP, PL, etc.) which demanded simply "Stop the War in Vietnam Now!" and continued:
…The war in Vietnam is not necessary for national security. The United States is the richest, most powerful, most heavily armed nation in the world. A continuation of the conflict cannot enhance the honor of the American people...." [emphasis in original]Meany as "Blunted Instrument"
It is in its policies toward the union movement that the Workers League has demonstrated in the grossest fashion its fundamentally Pabloist method. The WL has always conceived of its role as that of a left pressure on the existing Meanyite bureaucracy, which the WL claimed would be forced to build a labor party by the mounting unrest in the union ranks. Wohlforth has heralded every cynical and empty "labor party" threat by the bureaucrats, deliberately masking the fact that these statements were designed as back-handed support to Nixon by a labor bureaucracy so reactionary that it could not swallow the 'radical' McGovern.
For example, the 17 July 1972 Bulletin front-page banner headline proclaimed, 'AFL-CIO Tops Threaten Labor Party at Miami.' The 25 September 1972 Bulletin front page crowed "Steel Convention Lambasts Democrats" and triumphantly hailed Meany's overture to Nixon as if it were a step toward a break with bourgeois politics in favor of a workers party:
"Meany made it even more clear than before that the fundamental question was not just McGovern but was indeed the support of labor for the Democrats which has gone on for some 36 years and today is at the breaking point."One issue of the Bulletin featured a cartoon showing a locomotive (the working class) driven by an uneasy Meany rolling over the capitalists. The implication is clear: Meany is, the 'blunted instrument" who can be pushed, unwillingly to be sure, into leading the workers against the class enemy. This cartoon is the epitome of Pabloism. Reflecting the objectivism which lies at the heart of the Healyite method, this cartoon denies Trotsky's statement that the crisis of humanity is reduced to the crisis of revolutionary leadership, instead investing the present leaders of the class with the power to fight for the workers' interests. The crisis of leadership becomes irrelevant.
In order to climb in bed with the labor bureaucrats the WL has always pursued the most shameless economist policies in its relatively sparse trade-union work. Hence the constant calls for a labor party formed by the bureaucrats (and based on the bureaucrats ' anti-communist program); hence the deliberate omission of the war and race, questions from the 1967 TULP program; hence the "critical support" to out-bureaucrats like Hill of the SSEU and Morrissey of the NMU.
A highlight of the class series was the intervention by members of the Militant-Solidarity Caucus of the NMU who pointed out that the WL's real appetites were revealed by the Bulletin's support to Morrissey, whose entire program consists of vague promises of democracy and a policy of suing the union in the capitalist courts (which the WL claims to oppose). In contrast to Morrissey, the M-SC is based on a full program which includes the demand for a labor party to fight for a workers government and international class solidarity with the Vietnamese revolution. Also unlike Morrissey, the M-SC has waged a determined fight against the discriminatory job-trusting "group system," called for building an international union instead of protectionist legislation and campaigned for the release of WL supporter Juan Farinas (who was jailed after a frame-up conviction for "draft evasion"). In a classic statement of the totally reactionary implications of WL policies in the unions, Wohlforth remarked at the fifth class:
“Our policy in the NMU, in the Mine-workers, in the SSEU, is to support left bureaucratic layers in the elections, and then criticize them. We support Morrissey 100 percent in the elections and criticize him down the line.... The Militant-Solidarity Caucus is just a showpiece and goes against the movement of the working class.... Morrissey is just a bastard:-but he's an out-bastard: We will support the out-bastards against the in-bastards every time, just as long as we get a little room to breathe in the unions."So, according to Wohlforth, the demand for a labor party, the struggle against the special oppression of youth through the “group system, even defense of the WL cause celebre Farinas – all this "goes against the movement of the working class." To grasp the incredible cynicism of the WL, one need only recall that Wohlforth referred to the 1971 NYC police strike as an. expression of the movement of the working class. That is the result of WL Pabloism: support for cops and bureaucrats and opposition to real class-struggle politics:
The "Final" Crisis
Behind Wohlforth's rejection of Trotskyist trade-union work as an “empty showpiece" lies his unsated appetite for a 'left" section of the trade-union bureaucracy to tail-end. (Similarly Healy, who claims to have broken with Pabloism in 1953, has never repudiated his policies of the 1940's and I950's, when he was deeply submerged in the "Labour left' in a classic example of Pabloist "entrism sui generis" which lasted more than a decade.) In order to fulfill this appetite Wohlforth must, however, have something to bargain with, and this means building a movement with at least some pretense to revolutionary aspirations. Such a movement will inevitably be composed of human beings, and Wohlforth must therefore reckon with the possibility that at least occasionally some of his followers will feel the need to explain to themselves the bizarre flip-flops in WL policies. To handle this "unfortunate" eventuality one needs a "theory" which explains why selling out the rank and file to the bureaucrats is really an "expression of the movement of the working class." This is the purpose of the crisis-mongering of the Workers League.
The essence of the Healyite "economic analysis" is the contention that the “post-war boom" has been brought to an end by the international financial crisis: Since gold reserves can only cover at best around 10 percent of the value of world trade, the capitalist system must inevitably collapse. In other words, we have here the keystone to all objectivist theories -- the final crisis. Exaggerated? Let the SLL/WL speak for themselves:
If such a crisis is so severe that it can destroy the economic base of capitalism, the bourgeoisie will be inexorably driven to fascism while the labor bureaucrats (in the WL's cloud-cuckoo-land of economic determinism) must therefore fight for the interests of the working class.
"Ever since 1914 the capitalist system has been gripped by contradictions that could only be solved by slump or war. Now its corpse – bloated by the postwar inflation-has burst. And the system is turning to dust.... "
-- "Capitalism Hits the Dust as Nixon Puts the Boot In," Workers Press, 15 February 1973
"The latest moves by the Nixon administration in devaluing the dollar mark a rapid acceleration of the capitalist system towards a breakdown and crisis deeper than at any time in its history." [emphasis in original] "Development of the Post-War Economic Crisis -- Draft Resolution of the Socialist Labour League." Workers Press, 24 February 1973
"The most frantic gold rush in modern history... is a warning to the working class that the latest dollar devaluation is a direct prelude to the complete collapse of the world economic system." [emphasis in original] "Gold Price Soars to New Heights," Bulletin, 5 March 1973
"The next Nixon government will not compromise with the working class as past administrations – including his own – have. Rather, he plans to run the equivalent of a war-time government that will confront the working class head-on, seek to smash its unions and living conditions, and establish a naked dictatorship that will whip American workers into submission.Thus, you see, it is all right to call on the arch-reactionaries Meany, Abel or Van Arsdale to form a labor party, since the terminal crisis makes a decisive collision "unavoidable." And, of course, what need is there for the Transitional Program, since even "simple trade union demands are today so profoundly revolutionary" (Bulletin, 16 April 1973)?
"These remarks by Nixon must be seen in the light of the deepening economic crisis which has destroyed the basis for compromise. There is no way that a decisive collision between the government and the working class can be avoided.”
-Bulletin, 4 December 1972
In contrast with the SL, which sees recurring cycles of booms and crises in a world capitalist system that has been decaying at least since 1914, Wohlforth proudly proclaims that his tendency has recognized the imminence of The Crisis "since 1962." The absurdity of this stance is obvious: even if the world capitalist economy were to collapse tomorrow into the worst depression of all time, to take credit for prescience on the grounds that one has spent the last eleven years predicting its imminent arrival is akin to crying all week that Monday is coming and then patting oneself on the back when it finally arrives. Periodic crises are inevitable for the bourgeois order, and at some point the WL's crisis-mongering will undoubtedly intersect reality.
However, so far Wohlforth shows a remarkably poor sense of timing: The post-war boom is supposed to have lasted until 1961, ending around the time of the Belgian general strike. But even Mandel, author of the Pabloist theory of "neo-capitalism," recognizes recessions in 1948-49, 1953-54, 1957-58 and 1960-61. And in the U.S. 1962 marked the beginning of a massive capital investment boom (investment increased an average of 11 percent per year during 1962-66)! Currently the WL claims we are in the midst of the worst crisis ever, which has driven the profit rate to 'below the level of zero percent" (Bulletin, 12 February 1973), when in fact we are in the middle-to-late stages of a boom which sent profits up more than 25 percent during the first quarter of 1973.
Healy's Cross of Gold
One of the more peculiar aspects of the Healyite economic theories is the explanation of "The Crisis" as being caused by the insufficient supply of gold, thereby placing the SLL/WL in a long line of monetary quacks, beginning with Proudhon and running through William Jennings Bryan, de Gaulle and Lyn Marcus. According to the SLL:
"While prices, stimulated by government inflationary policies, have risen five or six times on their pre-war level, gold, was held down in price for 37 years.
"It is in this crisis that gold is enacting its revenge for all these years in which the Keynesians tried to tamper with the law of value....
"Without gold, products cannot enter circulation and become commodities. The rush into gold and the flight from all forms of paper-the feature which now overshadows everything In the crisis-means a collapse of commodity production for the world market.... "
-"The Dollar Crisis" (Bulletin pamphlet, 1973), p. 23
This approach is totally counterposed to Marxist economic science. As an SL supporter pointed out in the sixth class, Marx insisted that the basis of economic crises was in capitalist production, not circulation. The root cause of all crises is that capital expands faster than the surplus value that it generates (i.e., the rate of profit falls). Marx dismissed credit theories of crisis out of hand:
"In investigating why the general possibility of crisis turns into a real crisis... it is therefore quite superfluous to concern oneself with the forms of crisis which arise out of the development of money as means of payment.” [emphasis in original]Perhaps the most striking departure from Marxism by Healyite economic theory is the argument that inflation has (only temporarily, of course) suspended the law of value. According to the SLL's monetary "expert" Peter Jeffries, "The operation of the law of value has... been 'suspended' or 'avoided' throughout much of the boom period" (Newsletter, 30 March 1968). In the first place, there was no such "post-war boom" in the sense of a qualitatively different period (if the law of value was "denied" for "27 years," as the 28 May Bulletin alleges, that certainly would be a qualitative change). Following World War II we have experienced a period of succeeding booms and recessions, with overall growth rates for the major capitalist nations which were well within (and sometimes below) historical norms.
- Theories of Surplus Value, Ch. 17
Equally important, the idea of a post-war boom period is the cornerstone of the Mandelian theory of "neo-capitalism." Like Mandel, the SLL/WL links this "boom" to inflation caused by government deficit spending, i.e., Keynesianism; and like Mandel, Healy/Wohlforth believe that this is/was a period in which the bourgeoisie is successfully able to grant reforms substantially benefitting the working class. Trotsky insisted this was impossible during the epoch of decaying capitalism, and concluded that reform demands were inadequate and had to be replaced with transitional demands which point to the only real solution for the working class, socialist revolution. For Mandel and Healy/Wohlforth it was not only the law of value which was suspended in the neo-reformist period of the "boom" – it was also the Transitional Program. (And now, with the 'final crisis' at band, transitional demands are likewise unnecessary, since wage demands are revolutionary according to the WL.)
The Crisis of Leadership
The post-war stabilization of capitalism was not, as the WL claims, the result of the Bretton Woods monetary agreement of 1944, but rather the product of the tremendous destruction of capital accomplished by World War II and the defeat, due to the absence of revolutionary leadership, of the general strikes and revolutionary upheavals which swept the European working class after the war. These upheavals could have meant the end, not only of a period of stabilization, but of capitalism itself. They were defeated because of the betrayals of the Stalinists (and the Pabloists). Thus the question of economic stability in the imperialist epoch is fundamentally a political question, or as Trotsky put it, the fundamental crisis in this epoch. lt is the crisis of proletarian leadership.
In Trotsky's "Report on the World Economic Crisis and the New Tasks of the Communist International" to the Third Congress of the CI, he began not with the expansion of credit (which accompanies every boom), but with the defeats of the European revolution which laid the basis for a temporary period of capitalist recovery. As for the myth of the "final crisis," in the same Speech Trotsky comments:
"So long as capitalism is not overthrown by the proletarian revolution, it will continue to live in cycles, swinging up and down. Crises and booms were inherent in capitalism at its very birth; they will accompany it to its grave....
"It might be asked whether the great struggles over wages... will automatically lead to the world revolution, to the final civil war and the conquest of political power.... We have no automatic guarantees of development."
After the Congress, Trotsky wrote concerning the controversy with the proponents of the "theory of the offensive":
"There was a rather indefinite grouping whose contention it was that the commercial and industrial crisis – and it was extremely acute – …constituted the final crisis of capitalist society, and that this final crisis of capitalists society would inexorably worsen right up to the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat. This conception of the revolution is completely non-Marxist, non-scientific, mechanistic."
-The First Five Years of the Communist International, Vol. II, p. 60
In contrast to the monetary crank theories of the SLL/WL, and in answer to Wohlforth's absurd charge that the SL does not recognize any changes since 1914, at the sixth class Spartacist League National Chairman James Robertson read the opening paragraph of the current SL perspectives document as an example of a Marxist evaluation of the current period:
"1. The tasks facing the Spartacist League and the capacity of the SL as a revolutionary Marxist organization have both been qualitatively transformed through an interacting process. The crisis and breakdown of the post-World War II configuration of the world capitalist system, dominated by American imperialism, has been marked by the catastrophic consequences of the American involvement in Vietnam, the French general strike of 1968 and the definitive collapse of the 'American century' with Nixon's new fiscal and economic policies, which mark the forced abdication by the U.S. of the role of world policeman and the reversion of American imperialism to merely the strongest of several competing units. These developments have of course also been conditioned and paralleled by the political decomposition of the deformed workers state bloc, above all the Russia/China split."Philosophical Objectivism and Political Opportunism
– "Memorandum to the CC on the Transformation of the SL," Marxist Bulletin No. 9, Part III
The most striking characteristic of the Workers League since its very inception as a tendency has been its constant shifting of positions. When talk is cheap the WL affects a principled Trotskyist stand, but when it smells a chance for an opportunist link-up then principles are thrown out the window (or, more accurately, shelved to be used again next month) as they rush to support the existing more powerful forces – Healy, SWP majority, black nationalism, the labor bureaucracy, French popular front, etc. It is the constant gyrating that we refer to in calling them "political bandits."
Yet beneath the grotesque zig-zags, an underlying method can be discerned. It was the exposition of this method that highlighted the recent NYC class series. After hours of obfuscating verbiage about an abstract "fight for dialectics" (the purpose of which is to avoid any consideration of program), Wohlforth felt constrained to demonstrate the consistency of supporting Mao Tse tung, Ho Chi Minh, Mujibur Hallman, Huey Newton, Stanley Hill and James Morrissey and `ignoring the Transitional Program in the trade unions. In doing so he revealed the heart of Healyite "theory" as philosophical objectivism, the belief that the overwhelming economic crisis eliminates the crisis of leadership: wages are a revolutionary issue and Meany/Abel are an adequate leadership.
It is this objectivism that permits Wohlforth to give political support to, for instance, the Vietnamese Stalinists with the justification that "objective conditions" have "forced [them] into a fight with imperialism under conditions where there can be no compromise"[emphasis in original] (Bulletin, 14 May 1973).
As Pablo in the early 1950's launched his campaign to liquidate the Trotskyist movement into the Stalinist parties; he made clear the role of philosophical objectivism as the fundamental justification for the abandonment of the principles and program of the Fourth International. The "Theses on International Perspectives" of the "Third Congress of the FI" (1951) states:
"The objective conditions determine in the long run the character and dynamic of the mass movement which, taken to a certain level, can overcome all the subjective obstacles in the path of the revolution. This conception continues to be the base of our revolutionary optimism and clarifies our attitude towards the Communist parties."It is this theory which is characteristic of Pabloism in all its variants. But Pabloism itself is only a "theoretical" justification for something far more fundamental: the abject fear of the petty bourgeois faced with the task of leading the proletariat in struggle for socialist revolution, and the resulting overpowering desire to find shelter in the warm embrace of the traditional leaders of the working class, the agents of the bourgeoisie and the most direct expression of what is, as opposed to what will be.
- Quatrieme International, August-September 1951