Saturday, May 2, 2009

Third Period Healyism (1971)

Workers Vanguard No. 3 (December 1971)

Third Period Healyism:


The SLL-WL, seeking to make factional capital of the disastrous policy of the Bolivian POR, adopted a sectarian posture which only mud-the waters and sows confusion before serious is seeking to understand the crucial lesof the Bolivian defeat. Prominent among the Healyite charges of class treason heaped upon Guillermo Lora of the Bolivian POR was this from Wohlorth in his 30 August Bulletin:

"Together with the Stalinists the POR supported the position of threatening a general strike and military action in defense of Torres!" [emphasis in original]
Such is Wohlforth's conception of treachery against the working class. The most charitable interpretation is that Cde. Wohiforth was sorely pressed for time in grinding out turgid copy for the weekly Bulletin. More likely, Wohlforth didn't know that he had scrapped a basic Leninist tactic for defeating counterrevolution and making proletarian revolution. In his self-proclaimed fight for the continuity of the Fourth International, Wohlforth would do well to re-establish continuity with the views of Trotsky:

The party came to the October uprising.... through a series of stages. At the time of the April 1917 demonstration, a section of the Bolsheviks brought out the slogan: 'Down with the provisional government!' The Central Committee immediately straightened out the ultraleftists. Of course we should popularize the necessity of overthrowing the provisional government; but to call the workers into the streets under that slogan-this we cannot do, for we ourselves are a minority in the working class. If we overthrow the provisional government under these conditions, we will not be able to take its place, and consequently we will help the counterrevolution. We must patiently explain to the masses the antipopular character of this government, before the hour for its overthrow has struck, Such was the position of the party....

"Two months later, Kornilov rose against the provisional government. In the struggle against Kornilov, the Bolsheviks occupied the frontline positions. Lenin was then in hiding. Thousands of Bolsheviks were in the jails. The workers, soldiers, and sailors demanded the liberation of their leaders and of the Bolsheviks in general. The provisional government refused. Should not the Central Committee of the Bolsheviks have addressed an ultimatum to the government of Kerensky?-free the Bolsheviks immediately and withdraw the disgraceful accusation of service to the Hohenzollerns - and, in the event of Kerensky's refusal, have refused to fight against Kornilov? This is probably how the Central Committee of Thaelmann-Remmele-Neumann would have acted. But this is not how the Central Committee of the Bolsheviks acted. Lenin wrote at the time: 'It would have been the most profound error to think that the revolutionary proletariat is capable, so to speak, out of "revenge" upon the SRs and Mensheviks for their support of the crushing of the Bolsheviks, the assassinations on the front, and the disarming of the workers, of "refusing" to support them against the counterrevolution, Such a way of putting the question would have meant, first of all, the carrying over of petty-bourgeois conceptions of morality into the proletariat (because for the good of the cause the proletariat will always support not only the vacillating petty bourgeoisie but also the big bourgeoisie); in the second place, it would have been-and this is most important-a petty-bourgeois attempt to cast a shadow, by "moralizing," over the political essence of the matter....

"It is precisely this 'petty-bourgeois moralizing' which Thaelmann & Co. engage in when, in justification of their own turn, they begin to enumerate the countless infamies committed by the leaders of the Social Democracy."
("Against National Communism," reprinted in The Struggle Against Fascism in

Wohlforth is counting - not for the first time - on the ignorance of his supporters. He hopes that his own "petty-bourgeois moralizing," cataloguing the horrors of bourgeois regimes and the crimes of the reformists who participate in them, will cover his inability to handle them. Trotsky's devastating critique of the policies of the Stalinists and ultra-lefts in pre-Hitler Germany, "conducting politics with blown-out lanterns," applies with equal precision to the "Trotskyist" Wohlforth. More from The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany:

“One might have said, 'For Bolsheviks, Kornilovism begins only with Kornilov. But isn't Kerensky a Kornilovite? Isn't he crushing the peasants by means of punitive expeditions? Doesn't he organize lockouts? Doesn't Lenin have to hide underground? And all this we must put up with?'

"... I can't think of a single Bolshevik rash enough to have advanced such arguments. But were he to be
found, he would have been answered something after this fashion. We accuse Kerensky of preparing for and facilitating the coming of Kornilov to power. But does this relieve us of the duty of rushing to repeal Kornilov's attack? We accuse the gatekeeper of leaving the gates ajar for the bandit. But must we therefore shrug our shoulders and let the gates go hang?' Since, thanks to the toleration of the Social Democracy, Bruening's government has been able to push the proletariat up to its knees in capitulation to fascism, you arrive at the conclusion that up to the knees, up to the waist, or over the head-isn't it all one thing? No, there is some difference, Whoever is up to his knees in a quagmire can still drag himself out. Whoever is in over his head, for him there is no returning."

For the Smarter Ones

On "critical support" advocated by Lenin "as a rope supports a hanged man," Wohlforth says:

"Is it necessary to point out that Lenin was referring to support to social democratic parties and not to bourgeois governments and certainly not to military dictators?"

Correct, But Lenin was referring to political support, not military defense against counterrevolution – which is at issue in the "military action in defense of Torres" for which Wohlforth condemns Lora. Leninists defend the policy of fighting militarily alongside Stalinist, social-democratic, and even bourgeois forces against fascist or rightest military uprising, while maintaining the complete independence of the working-class movement. That is the whole lesson of the Kornilov affair, and of the policy Trotsky urged to save the German workers from Nazism. But Wohlforth apparently cannot understand the difference between a policy of unified military defense with political independence and military defense with political capitulation to alien classes and class collaborators.

Further, Wohlforth's acknowledgement of Lenin's policy of critical political support to reformist working-class parties-which is not the issue in the case of military defense of the bourgeois Torres regime against the right – is peculiar in its own way, since Wohlforth (in sharp contrast to his past positions) is recently on record as refusing to engage in united front political action with Stalinists, particularly Maoists. Are the Stalinists worse than the social democrats, Cde. Wohlforth? If you claim they are, you are in your haste to score cynical factional points embracing a "method" which Trotsky ceaselessly fought against: Stalinophobia. Wohlforth's position against any common action with Stalinists is blind sectarianism, the obverse of the U. Sec. capitulation to such currents, reminiscent of Stalin's own "Theory of Social Fascism" according to which the Communists were ordered to avoid any common action with the Social Democrats, who were held to be as bad as the Nazis. When will the Healyites openly label their current position the “Theory of Social Stalinism" or "Third Period Healyism"?

The POR must, through unsparing criticism of their own history and scrapping the centrist program leadership which led to the defeats in 1953 and 1971, discover the Leninist road to power (see article on page 3, "Centrist Debacle in Bolivia"), They can expect no help from the Healyites shouting their Leninist orthodoxy and "continuity" to cover their limitless opportunism, blind sectarianism and ignorance.