Thursday, April 30, 2009

Healy at Liege and Peking (1967)

Spartacist No. 10 (May-June 1967)

Healy at Liège and Peking

Capitulating to the Maoist version of Stalinism, the Healy-Banda leadership has taken the Socialist Labour League through a qualitative step in its degeneration. A recent headline in the SLL Newsletter (14 Jan. 1967) calls for: “Conditional support of ‘Red Guards’ – the duty of every revolutionist.” The article, written by Banda, reveals exactly what the SLL support some section of the Chinese bureaucracy striving, against a less verbally “militant” section, to strengthen its own bureaucratic rule. Although Banda, like Mao, spouts the verbiage of “working class” and “proletarian revolution,” he cannot help but reveal his betrayal of working-class aims.

Banda manages a gentle criticism of the SLL’s newfound “revolutionary” hero:
There is little doubt that in this struggle the opposition has been aided,
involuntarily, by some of the extravagant, improbable and Utopian ideas of Mao
Tse Tung; by his refusal to repudiate Stalin, his support of the Soviet
intervention in Hungary, his acceptance of ‘socialism in a single country’ and
his hare-brained schemes of ‘backyard furnaces’ and 100 percent communism. No
doubt excesses will be committed in the present campaign.”
But he insists that “the choice is clear and unavoidable,” a choice for Mao and the Red Guards.

For a Trotskyist to label these as “excesses”, etc. is a gross betrayal of the very foundations of Trotskyism. In creating the Fourth International, Trotsky fought to prevent Stalinism from destroying the Marxist program – but Banda, a “reconstructor” of the FI, is ready to dump this program, if only Chairman Mao will let the SLL jump onto his Stalinist, merry-go-round.

Instant Stalinism

Needless to say, Healy’s devotees, the American Workers League, formerly ACFI, junked their original correct interpretation of the events in China as don as the SLL Newsletter printed Banda’s pledge as a left Maoist. The Wohlforthites had originally analyzed the purpose of the “Red Guard Frenzy” as, a bureaucratic attack on all opponents:
“The mobilization of the Red Guard is thus aimed at both the right and the
incipient left. . . . By appealing to nationalism, just as Stalin did, the CCP
leadership hopes to divert the attention of the masses from their growing
They saw the end result of this “frenzy” as anti-proletarian:

The smashing of ‘Western’ art, the destruction of all evidence of improvements
in the living standards of the masses, all in the name of the ‘great proletarian
cultural revolution,’ are completely reactionary moves, and cannot fail to
alienate, advanced workers all over the world
.” (Bulletin, 26 Sept. 1966.)
Since the sneaky Wohlforth discreetly avoids any mention of this earlier position, we must attempt to discover, in his later, SLL-influenced analysis, reasons for this sudden shift: “But Mao’s line has not been one of capitulation to imperialism either. It is essentially for this reason that we give him our support” (30 Jan. 1967). However, this centrist sophistry cannot explain away ACFI’s correct analysis of 26 September:
But the fact is that the Chinese have been long on words and very short on
deeds. It is not that we advise responding to every imperialist provocation. But
the Chinese have not ‘drawn the line anywhere. . . . We can almost see the glee
of the imperialists over the genuine appeasement with which their provocations
have been met
Wohlforth, is it possible that your vaunted “Marxist method” led you to reverse your position on 30 January because the SLL had, only two weeks earlier, printed its very first analysis of the events in China – an analysis diametrically opposed to the first Bulletin handling of these same events? Could it be that your vaunted “method” consists of the air mail post between London and New York and that it leads you into political falsification? Such “method” has nothing in common with Marxism – it is a disgusting embodiment of sheer opportunism and theoretical bankruptcy.

SLL Capitulation Expected

The SLL’s capitulation, unwelcome as it is to those attempting to rebuild the FI, comes as no surprise to those, like the Spartacist League, who have had to fight against Healy’s bureaucratic Cominternist organizational maneuvers. If the politics of a group such as the SLL remain formally “correct” while the organizational practices of its leading clique increasingly degenerate into Stalinist gangsterism, this contradiction must inevitably set up a tension urgently in need of resolution: either the rotting leadership must be thrown out or the political life of the organization will be increasingly contaminated. The sectarian provocation committed at Liège in October 1966 by the Healy-Banda-protégés, the British Young Socialists (YS), indicated that this second alternative was being realized.

Liège Sectarians

The Liège demonstration was called by the Jeunes Gardes Socialistes of Belgium (JGS), a youth group influenced by the Pabloist United Secretariat (USec). The demonstration of European socialist and communist youth groups had two objectives: for immediate and unconditional withdrawal of American troops from Viet Nam and against the imperialist NATO alliance. The YS appeared at the anti-imperialist demonstration carrying a banner in support of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. When the Stalinist Belgian Communist Youth (BCY) were confronted by this banner the group withdrew, although the BCY ranks had originally overridden their leadership to force participation in the demonstration.

The reason for this provocation is clear. The YS discovered that the USec had taken the initiative in working with some young Stalinists who might be pulled away from their leadership. The Healyites’ solution to such a challenge was to disrupt this working arrangement with a slogan designed not to educate the Stalinists but to drive them away. Thus the Healyites revealed their inability to politically confront an opponent, to prove through struggle and debate the correctness of their positions and to win over advanced elements from other groups. Instead they offered only a show of sectarian “revolutionary” activity.

However, the Healyites were not the only unprincipled participants at Liège. The USec advanced a defense of their Liège role which by its denial of the vital right to criticize others in a common action is reformist and anti-Trotskyist. Pierre Le Greve defended the USec forces, maintaining:

The principle should have been recalled that it is impermissible in a united
front demonstration for certain participants to arrogate to themselves the right
to impose slogans which a participating tendency considers inadmissible.”

(Quoted in World Outlook, 27 Jan. 1967)
Trotsky might just as easily have been describing the rotten politics of Healy’s sectarianism and the USec opportunism when, in 1932, he wrote:
The mistakes made in the policy of the united front fall into two categories.
In most cases the leading organs of the Communist party approached the
reformists with an offer of joining in a common struggle for radical slogans
which were alien to the situation and which found no response in the masses.
These proposals partook of the nature of blank shots. . . . The second type of
perversion bore a much more fatal character. In the hands of the Stalinist
bureaucracy, the policy of the united front became a hue and cry after allies at
the cost of sacrificing the independence of the party.”
(What Next?)
Healy Wiggles

Several months after the demonstration Healy attempted a theoretical explanation of what had happened at Liège. This pseudo-Trotskyist claims that there could have been no united front because the groups confronting the YS at Liège do not have the “principled positions” Trotsky had. As proof, he offers up the reformist sins of their leaders! (Newsletter, 7 Jan, 1967.)

Insistence on this type of “principle” helps only to maintain the divisions within the workers’ movement. A united front is designed precisely because significant sections of the working class are still controlled by reformist leaderships – its aim is to help free them from that control. Trotsky called in the 1930s for the German CP (KPD) to form a united front with the Social Democrats against a fascist threat to the working class. The Stalinist KPD leadership refused, for reasons similar to Healy’s, to work with the “unprincipled” SPD leadership.

More Falsification

His insistence on such “principle” is not Healy’s only falsification of Trotskyist positions. In the manner of a Catholic priest, he also quotes Trotsky’s descriptions of historically specific conditions in Germany as though those were absolute, general definitions – in order to prove that there could have been no united front at Liège because a united front must in all cases be com posed of “a mass communist party and a mass reformist organization representing millions of members.”

Certainly, there were no “mass” organizations at Liège. But there were some 4000 militant socialist youth, who, through principled tactics, could be the path to a mass revolutionary party on the morrow. Only if the Trotskyist parties struggle – along with sections of the working class – whether on issues such as industry attempts to freeze wages, government attempts to destroy independent union or the imperialist attack on the Viet Nam revolution – can the class vanguard be pulled away from its reformist leaders and prepared for the development of soviets, the united front in its highest form. In such struggles the real communists (Trotskyists) must prove their willingness to fight and the correctness of their programmatic positions.

Fear of Struggle

The Healyites’ provocation at Liège destroyed the possibility of an educational struggle designed to set those wavering Stalinist youth against their reformist leadership. (Their criminality is similar to that of the German CP in the early ‘30s, when it raised abstractly correct slogans on the order of “Down with the Social Democratic Murderers of Luxemburg and Liebknecht,” thus driving the SPD workers back into the arms of their leaders.) A sharp, educational and anti-Stalinist basis for struggle would have been the slogan which the Spartacist League raises when with Stalinist youth in anti-war actions: “No New 1954 Geneva Sellout of Viet Nam by USSR-China!” The BCY youth were prepared, by their participation in a united front in defense of the Vietnamese ‘ Revolution, to be brought, by the implications of such a slogan, into opposition to their own sell-out leaders. But the Hungarian Revolution slogan was a deliberate provocation, entirely outside the framework of the Liège issues.

The SLL at one time was able to wage a struggle against the revisionists through an entry into the British Labour Party youth organization, the SLL won a significant section of that youth to the Trotskyist program. But the leadership has now “reduced the SLL and its International Committee to the position of maintaining itself in a bureaucratic fashion, attempting, through the use of ultra-left, pseudo- revolutionary intransigence, or of opportunist khvostism toward Mao – a Stalinist with élan – to create the illusion of serious struggle. Their ultraleftism (“an infantile disorder,” Lenin called it) is the complementary face of their adaptation to Mao. Both the opportunism and the ultra-leftism give the SLL the impression of struggle and shield its members from feeling the necessity to actually struggle for hegemony of the working class.

SLL as Maoist

The severity of the SLL’s political degeneration can best be seen in its opportunist handling of two theoretical questions concerning China: the source of bureaucracy in a workers state and the means for eliminating that bureaucracy. Their positions on these questions are ‘ best summed up in Banda’s own words. The source of the bureaucracy, according to this ignoramus, is purely subjective:

Softened by an easy life, accustomed to their creature comforts, dazzled by the
privileges of their cousins in the USSR and yearning for ‘tranquility’ and an
end to struggle s and sacrifice, these people want an end to the Sino-Soviet
conflict and the conclusion of a compromise with U.S. imperialism
.” (Newsletter,
14 Jan. 1967.)
Equally subjective is the “cure” for bureaucracy: “The best elements led by Mao and Lin Piao have been forced to go outside the framework of the Party and call on the youth and the working class to intervene,” (21 Jan. 1967) and

“… it is the youth who constitute the main attack in the movement against
bureaucracy. The youth instinctively hate bureaucracy, they detest this type of
party which stifles criticism and creative thought, and it is against this that
the youth react.”
(28 Jan. 1967.)
Because, the SLL has emphasized subjective conditions as essential in the development of such a bureaucratic crisis, they have confused one section of that bureaucracy (i.e., “the best elements led by Mao and Lin Piao”) with the workers state itself and thence drawn the conclusion, that a criticism of Mao and his Red Guards is a counterrevolutionary attack on the Chinese Revolution.

SLL as Stalinist

In other words, these “Trotskyists” have put themselves in the curious position of those Stalinists of the 1930s who responded to Trotsky’s criticisms of Stalin by labelling Trotsky a “completely ruined fascist and counterrevolutionary.” A striking comparison emerges between today and the Third Period, when those “friends of Soviet Russia” mistook Stalin’s words for revolutionary deeds and therefore construed Trotsky’s criticisms as proof of his counterrevolutionary intentions. So today the SLL and ACFI, friends of Mao’s Peoples Republic, take as proof of Mao’s “revolutionary sincerity,” his phrase mongering and sectarian abhorrence of any “deals with the Russian bureaucracy – even the demand for a common front in aid of the Vietnamese revolution.

These “Trotskyists” of the SLL might just as well listen to the words of Mao’s forebear, an equally “sincere” man:

The second question concerns the task of combating bureaucracy, of organizing
mass criticism of our shortcomings, of organizing mass control from below. One
of the most bitter enemies of our progress is bureaucracy. ... The Communist
bureaucrat is the most dangerous type of bureaucrat. Why? Because his
bureaucracy is masked by the title of Party member. And unfortunately we have
quite a number of such Communist bureaucrats. .. How is this evil to be
combated? I think that there is not, nor can there be, any other way of
combating this evil than by organizing control by the Party masses from below,
and implanting inner-Party democracy. What objections can there be to rousing
the fury of the Party masses against the corrupt elements and allowing them to
throw these elements out
These words were delivered by Stalin to the Eighth All-Union Congress of the “Leninist” Young Communist League, 16 May 1928.

Trotsky on Bureaucracy

In contrast to these empiricists who seek to locate the trouble essentially in the desire for “privileges” of corrupt bureaucrats, Trotsky analyzed the historical conditions for both the cause of and relief from bureaucracy:
In other words, the source of bureaucratism resides in the growing
concentration of the attention and the forces of the party upon the governmental
institutions and apparatuses, and in the slowness of the development of
industry.... It is unworthy of a Marxist to consider that bureaucratism is only
the aggregate of, the bad habits of office holders. Bureaucratism is a social
phenomenon in that it is a definite system of administration of men and things.
Its profound causes lie in the heterogeneity of society, the differences between
the daily, and the fundamental interests of various groups of the population.
Bureaucratism is complicated by the fact of the lack of culture of the broad
masses… . The struggle against the bureaucratism of the state apparatus is an
exceptionally important but prolonged task, one that runs more or less parallel
to our other fundamental tasks: economic reconstruction and the elevation of the
cultural level of the masses… In the last analysis, the question will be
resolved by two great factors of international importance: the course of the
revolution in Europe and the rapidity of our economic development
.” (The New
, 1923.)
Trotsky emphasized in addition the need for greater dependence on the Soviets and on the working-class cadres within the party in order to hold down the growth of bureaucracy.

Chinese Bureaucracy

Today this basic historical analysis defines the situation in China, a situation intensified because there is not now, nor has there ever been, workers control in China. The roots of bureaucracy – low economic development and lack of aid from the international proletariat – now threaten the workers state and thereby the position of the bureaucracy itself. Forced by objective conditions, the leading section of the bureaucracy has reacted cynically to its own bureaucratic existence and dully, belatedly and empirically to its economic and social causes. The Mao-Lin Piao faction has labeled everyone else in sight a bureaucrat, assuming with the gall appropriate only to top bureaucrats that their own crimes won’t be noticed, hoping that such labels and the Thought of Mao Tsetung will scare away the results of bureaucracy.” To the economic and ‘international factors which threaten the Chinese workers state (and cause bureaucracy), the Maoists have reacted in fits and starts, zigs, then zags. From the alliance with the national bourgeoisie in 1949, to the nationalization of private industry in 1953, to the Great Leap Forward, of 1958-59, to the re-institution of private peasant holdings in 1961, to the present introduction of army units into the fields and factories, Mao has been attempting bureaucratically to “aid” the objective economic needs of the Chinese workers state. From their betrayal of the Vietnamese revolution in the 1954 Geneva Accords, to their decision to develop a nuclear striking force, to their alliance with “progressive” bourgeois governments like Pakistan and Indonesia, to their present verbal denunciation of imperialists and revisionists, the Maoists have reacted empirically to the problems confronting any revolution sealed off in one country.

For an imperialistically retarded and deformed country like China, industrialization necessarily requires sacrifice from the population. If the state is to avoid struggles such as the one falsely posed by the Maoists as “economism,” the sacrifice must be decided upon by the workers through their own organs of power. Furthermore, such sacrifice, even when decided upon by the workers themselves, can only be a holding operation, awaiting aid from victorious revolutions in more advanced countries – revolutions which themselves will be vastly accelerated by the experience, example and aid of a Chinese proletariat ruling in its own right.

Workers Control

The Maoists, of course, have tried every maneuver they could envision: student youth, red prayer books and military enforcement of production allotments. But they have fearfully avoided workers control, the only alternative which could promise to extend the revolution. The reason for their fear is understandable: workers control would have as one of its immediate outcomes – the ousting of the whole bureaucracy, including Mao himself.

Thus, Mao represents another extension of the criminal usurpation of Stalinism. The actions of the Maoists ultimately constitute the main internal danger to the Chinese Revolution. Because they disrupt the economy through bureaucratic mismanagement and waste, disrupt other revolutions and attack the Chinese proletariat, the Maoists objectively aid the attacks of U.S. imperialism on the Chinese revolution.

Thus aid to the Chinese revolution signifies in addition to military defense against imperialist attack, ruthless criticism of this Bonapartist clique at the head of the Chinese workers state and the call for its removal through a political revolution of the workers, given direction by a Marxist-Leninist vanguard party. The Russian leadership now threatens to betray the other workers states in exchange for a “friendly” deal with the imperialists. Aid to China thus signifies a similar call for removal of the Russian bureaucracy. Only in these ways can the Chinese workers state be strengthened and its industrialization safeguarded against the constant aggression posed by world, imperialism.

This is the program the Fl called for in Russia and it is the program all Trotskyists should call for today for China. But clearly it is not the program of the SLL. To this day the Healy group has never been able to explain how the class forces involved in the Chinese revolution led to a deformed workers state – a characterization which they simply borrowed from others. Never having understood the historical developments, they now see the bureaucrats as able to wage a fight against themselves. This pseudo-Trotskyist SLL excuses Mao’s overall bureaucratic character and applauds his “progressive” line or his “best element” quality, both necessary aspects of Stalinist rule.

Liquidationism Next

In other words these applauding ex-Trotskyists have abandoned any proletarian perspective in the Chinese workers state for the “privilege” of supporting a section of the leading bureaucracy which has helped deform the state. At the same time they have not yet degenerated to Pablo’s position which dismisses the need for a Leninist party. The SLL still calls for the formation of a section of the FI in China. But on what base? – on the Red Guards, “the force upon which the Fourth International will surely be built”! (Newsletter, 4 Feb. 19667). In other words, they wish to be “revolutionary advisers” to Mao, to do what this “hero” is doing, only to do it a “little bit better.” They resemble the SWP in its fatherly advice to “Fidel” and Juan Posadas in his hysterical empathizing with the complete menagerie of such heroes.

This kind of centrist verbal cover was not sufficient to prevent Pablo from following the logic of capitulation through to the eventual destruction of his party. Unless Healy is ousted by those elements in the SLL and IC which want a perspective of international struggle, the SLL and IC will follow a course similar to that of the USec and Posadist groups and will end up liquidating the party as did Pablo.

Open Political Struggle

Healy generalized his sectarian wrecking tactics at Liège to a denial of the Leninist struggle for the united front in action; i.e., the Healyites have lost the possibility of building a revolutionary party in the face of mass Stalinist or reformist parties. Healy’s prior theoretically rudderless response to the Chinese revolution has led to his pathetic inability to distinguish a political revolution against the Stalinist bureaucracy from the massive purge the Maoists are now unfolding. From theoretical weakness it proved a short step for opportunist elements like Banda to push the SLL into giving essential political support to this purge under the slogan, “Defend the Red Guards.” These departures by the Healy group from revolutionary politics signal the transformation of the unclarified civil war between Healy-Banda-Wohlforth and ourselves into a clear-cut political struggle between counterposed tendencies.