Saturday, May 9, 2009

Vietnam: Pabloism & the 'ICFI' (1973)

Excerpted from Spartacist Pamphlet "Stalinism & Bolshevism in Vietnam" (1973)

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 in
As 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.”
[-- Pierre Rousset, Le parti communiste vietnamien, Paris, 1973, p. 44.]
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.

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....
“Like Mao Tse-tung, Ho instinctively yearned
to do battle with imperialism and the internal forces of reaction within his native country.”
September 9, 1969]
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:

“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]

And just what was this strategy?
“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 [!].”
[-- “The Vietnamese Revolution and the Fourth International.” Fourth International, February 1968.]
And the Vietnamese Trotskyists, murdered by these “instinctive” Marxists—what of them?

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.
[--Newsline, 9 September 1969]
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.

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.