Saturday, May 2, 2009

NPAC: Fake Trotskyists Aid SWP in Betrayal (1971)

Workers Action No. 10 (September 1971)

NPAC: Fake Trotskyists Aid SWP in Pop Front Betrayal

The Workers League has rendered all forms anti-Trotskyism an invaluable service by its conduct at the NPAC Conference. Many would-be revolutionary youth honestly believe that Trotskyism equals class-collaboration. That they believe this is only partly due to decades of Stalinist slander. In recent years the prime responsibility rests squarely on the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), particularly its conduct in the anti-war movement. It no longer requires any Moscow TriaIs-style slander to convince radicals of what now is the truth: that today the leading self-proclaimed "Trotskyist" organization is class-collaborationist to the core, and has behaved so the anti-war movement since 1965. The Workers League's contribution to this has been to enhance the credibility of the SWP leadership as "Trotskyist," calling for unity discussions, joint commemoration of the anniversary of Trotsky's death, etc. They have pursued these overtures for the past year. But at the NPAC conference, they moved a step further: they assisted the SWP marshals in the beating and political exclusion of Progressive Labor, SDS, and the Spartacist League for their shouting down of Senator Vance Hartke and Victor Reuther! Wohlforth further commended the marshals for their behavior, promising the physical support of the WL again whenever necessary. This in the name of Trotskyism! What is an anti-war militant to think when he is beaten by not one but two "Trotskyist" organizations (one claiming to be in the forefront of anti-revisionist struggle) for his shouting down a leading capitalist politician and a red-baiting labor bureaucrat? And thus anti-Trotskyism appears logical to militants who have been beaten, in the name of "Trotskyism, " for disrupting bourgeois speakers.

SWP Degeneration

The Workers League's present bloc is sealed in blood at a time of a qualitative degeneration of the SWP. For years, the SWP, despite its deep revisionism, has clung to non-violence within the movement. Its role in the anti-war movement was one of deception and manipulation aimed to prevent any turn toward the working class which would upset its bourgeois allies. Yet the NPAC Conference was the first time it attempted to silence left opposition with brute force. Until NPAC SWP, even in extreme political degeneration remembered – if only by reflex – some of the lessons from years in which it was built as a revolutionary party, defending itself against continual Stalinist hooligan attacks. Now the SWP has finally capitulated fully to the non-proletarian organizational methods which appropriate to its non-proletarian politics: gangsterism against left criticism. The Workers League must have found its role alongside the SWP marshals congenial, since the WL and its mentor, Gerry Healy's SLL in Britain, practiced and publicly defended violence against their opponents for years (See WA #9, Government Goons, and 'Left-Wing' Hypocrisy").

PL: Proletarian impulse

Stalinism, like all varieties of revisionism, is at bottom class-collaboration. Despite the Trotskyist label, the SWP today stands much further from the class program of Leninism than ex-Stalinist Progressive Labor. This should not be so difficuIt for the Workers League to understand; in the 1930's, sections of social-democratic parties were far to the left of the degenerated "Communist” parties, and Trotskyists responded to them accordingly.

Progressive Labor is not a Trotskyist organization – in either origins or program. While proceeding from revolutionary proletarian impulse (unlike the SWP), impressionistic confusion and sectarianism abound in PL's analysis and methods. PL equates Victor Reuther and his ilk with Senator Hartke and the capitalist class to a "boss" is a "boss." We disagree. We maintain that Victor Reuther is not a part of the capitalist class, but rather an arch-enemy within the working-class movement. To PL, our position may seem to be a semantic quibble, but it flows from important political differences – for example, the recognition that a labor union is not simply a bosses' organization like for example the Democratic Party, We did believe that Reuther had a right to speak at the conference – and also the "right" to be denounced and heckled. But he had no more right than any other worker or anti-war activist to a privileged presentation of his views as an "official" spokesman for "his" class.

The marshals had PL-SDS beaten and excluded not for a gangster attack on the conference, but because they successfully embarrassed the SWP's prize "anti-war" Senator and heckled its prize labor bureaucrat. Under these circumstances, it was an elementary duty to defend PL-SDS against expulsion. To have aided the marshals, as the WL did, or have remained "neutral" (the course of the IS and Labor Committee) would have enabled the SL as a body to attend the next day's plenary session, but any points we could have made after such a betrayal would have been meaningless. Spartacist was indeed denied entrance as a body on the next day. The SL joined PL-SDS in picketing the meeting in protest against the exclusions. We did not support or participate in the adventurist attempt later on Saturday to force entrance into the meeting – during which a number of PL-SDS supporters were severely injured by the large contingent of police called by NPAC.

Workers League Lies

The account of the Conference printed in the July 12 Bulletin is shot through with contradictions and plain lies as the WL attempts to demonstrate some principled basis for its pact of blood with the class-collaborationist SWP.

The Bulletin begins its obfuscation of the events of the Conference with its account of one of the first incidents:

"The SDS speaker said speakers like Hartke and union bureaucrats 'will sell us out' and 'what we need is a student-workers alliance. They've got the money and we don't need them.' Their alternative was to build student struggles around ROTC and strike support for workers. 'The Spartacist League which is working in SDS presented almost an identical motion."

Now, what the Spartacist League proposed – by reading a motion from the floor, which was never recognized by the chair or voted – was that ruling class politicians like Hartke be summarily excluded from the Conference, and that the Conference dispense with the "keynote speeches" and immediately begin floor discussion. Nothing about ROTC. Nothing about a student-worker alliance, a PL strategy for narrow campus struggles which Spartacist has criticized since it was first propounded. The WL, of course, presented no motion at all, remaining perfectly quiet and proper throughout Hartke's speech.

Regarding the Saturday discussion of the marshals' actions in beating and excluding the protesters, the Bulletin reads:

"Wohlforth reaffirmed the Workers League position to defend the SWP any where at any time against Stalinist hooligan attacks."

Well and good. Now Wohlforth merely has to show where the "Stalinist hooligan attacks" occurred at the Friday night meeting at which the expulsions took place. This is done nowhere in the two articles devoted to the Conference. This is because the only Stalinist violence which took place that night was the attack by the marshals, led by SWPer Fred Halstead, on the tendencies which were militantly demonstrating their opposition to the Pop Front!

Workers league Evades

The Bulletin continues:

"...a hysterical Carol LaRouche (Labor Committee) demanded that the convention go on record to repudiate a statement by Hartke at a news conference that 'PL is just as responsible for the war as Nixon.' This motion was not a principled one but was a maneuver to force the SWP to vote with them and PL/SDS. Coming at the time it did it was aimed at diverting the discussion from Stalinism and giving a cover to PL... Harry Ring, seeking to get around this situation, actually ended up putting forward a motion in the anti-war movement which took a clear class stand on the war. He stated: 'If Hartke said this I want to disassociate myself from it. But this would tend to destroy the coalition.' He proposed the following motion: 'To repudiate any declarations that PL is responsible for the war. It is Nixon and the class that he represents who are responsible for the war.' A few minutes later he attempted to change the motion to eliminate the phrase 'and his class' ... "

The fate of these motions is important, and it indicates that the Bulletin glosses over what actually took place. A vote was taken on the Labor Committee motion, more or less ignoring Ring's motion, and it failed, with the WL abstaining. This left the SWP in a terrible position. The SWP-NPAC voting cattle, following out the "line" of Hooray for Hartke, Down With PL, had committed the organization to a position that was not only blatantly anti-communist, but so idiotic that it would be a laughing stock among even pro-imperialist liberals. Wohlforth, glorying in the role of SWP left cover, rushed to the microphone to bail the SWP out, by reintroducing the Ring motion which was intended (although the SWP floor leaders were too slow to pick it up) to separate the SWP from Hartke's ridiculous statement without mentioning Hartke, which would have threatened the Pop Front which the SWP had at all costs to preserve. The Ring motion was then, of course, passed, with nobody much 'knowing or caring whether the phrase "Nixon and his class" was in or out. Because, whatever the Bulletin would like to pretend, it mattered very little; what difference does it make if "Nixon and his class" are criticized once it has been made clear by deeds that any attempt to break the anti-war movement from the living embodiments of that class will be beaten back by any means necessary, including violence.

Wohlforth Discovers a Principle

By Sunday the WL had swallowed Harry Ring, the SWP goons, Senator Hartke, Victor Reuther, and a host of lesser liberal lights and labor fakers. What they could not stomach - the only thing in the entire brutal liberal-dominated Conference - was the refusal of the chair on Sunday afternoon to let the WL motion stand for a vote. Then, and only then, Wohlforth discovered "principles," pulled up his political pants, and walked out!

One of the Bulletin NPAC articles concludes regarding breaking with Stalinist class-collaboration:

"The SWP can make such a break if its leadership chooses to do so. The Workers League will of course give it every assistance despite continuing differences on many fundamental positions if it will even begin to take such a course."

Since the WL did, in fact, give the SWP "every assistance" until it rejected the WL's own motion for consideration, we must assume the SWP's behavior up to that point is Wohlforth's idea of beginning of a working-class turn – Hartke, goons, CIA-trained labor traitors and all.

On the face of it, the WL's grovelling pledge is absurd. "The SWP can make such a break" – how? – "if its leadership chooses to do so." The statement applies, with equal profundity to any organization. Why is a reformist organization reformist? Because its leadership chooses to be so. When will it move to revolutionary proletarian politics? When its leadership chooses to do so. The SWP leaders must consider Wohlforth's appeal hilarious, if not very alluring.

Unmentioned by the Bulletin, of course, is the WL line on the April 24th march in Washington. There the WL denounced "anyone who brings one body in front of the platform" as a class-collaborator. The difference between April 24 and the NPAC conference? At April 24th the WL held a separate rally. At the NPAC conference they sat in the meeting and supported its leaders. That's the difference.

The CIA's Man Arrives: "A Very Positive Development"

Consistent with the WL's, chosen role as at. torneys for the SWP, the Bulletin tries to provide a political jusication, in pseudo-class terms, for the SWP. The core of the position is this:

"Clearly the position of the disrupters was that Reuther and Meany were the same and that Reuther as well had no business at the conference. But Reuther is a leader of one of the largest working class organizations, trade unions, in the United State. He not only has the right to be at such a peace conference; his presence at such a conference is a very positive development.

"It is true that Victor Reuther is a labor bureaucrat and as such is aligned with the bourgeoisie politically and in other ways... . But he is at the same time part of the leadership of a trade union. His presence at the conference is a reflection of the movement of the working class against the war....

"The action of PL-SDS-Spartacist represents a petty-bourgeois revolutionism which is completely hysterical in character and totally hostile to the working class...."

There are so many things wrong with these few sentences that it is difficult to know where to start; they add up to the most powerful example of why we consider the WL, in fundamentals, to be similar to the condition known as gonorrhea.

To begin with, the anti-collaborators were not disrupters according to the criteria established by workers' democratic standards, and it is significant that of all the groups at the Conference, only the WL and SWP held that they were.

As explained earlier, Spartacist never held that Reuther and Hartke were "the same," and the WL well knows it. Reuther is "only," in DeLeon's excellent phrase, the "labor lieutenant of capital" within the labor movement, while Hartke is a direct representative of capitalism. PL sees no difference at all, and put out a leaflet attacking us for this conception (it is instructive that PL seems to be capable of understanding our position, but not so the WL!). The Spartacist leaflet produced Friday night and distributed heavily for the next two days carried a long paragraph explaining this. From the WL vantage point of sucking up to labor bureaucrats, however, it is no wonder they chose to obfuscate our position; they hope no one will think to ask them: admitting the legitimate class distinction between Reuther and Hartke, then, why didn't the WL boo Hartke?

Actually, Reuther has been quite slow getting onto the "peace" bandwagon; the CP, through its various connections, fronts, etc. has been holding conferences of "progressive," "anti-war" labor bureaucrats for years. Far from being something new, such maneuvers are hoary with old age. Sellout bureaucrats like Reuther or DC37's Victor Gotbaum go to those jamborees as a cheap way of expunging a little tarnish from the necessary "progressive" image, then use this outside constituency to consolidate and strengthen their roles inside the union structure to further isolate and smash militant oppositionists in their own unions!

The Bulletin writes:

"It is easy to shout Reuther down; it is another thing to replace him and Woodcock and the rest of them as a leadership of the UAW. That task requires a long struggle during which the Reuthers and Woodcocks are exposed time and time again in the course of actions,"

Fine. But what was Spartacist doing at NPAC, but making an effort to expose Reuther by shouting "Labor Strikes Against the War" – the one tactic in which labor can act independently of capitalist politics and bring its real strength to bear against the war. This demand is the one thing that Reuther and his ilk will not call for, for it would show that labor has had it in its power for years to bring Yankee imperialism to its knees, and has not done it precisely because of the ties of the Reuthers, Gotbaums, etc. to their capitalist masters. And what was the WL doing at NPAC? Their silence as Spartacist chanted its slogan was deafening; the WL main motion to the Conference, despite its call for a labor party, was notable by its lack of mention of the struggle within the working-class movement against the labor bureaucrats who keep labor impotent in anti-War struggles and tied to the capitalist political parties.

There is more. The Bulletin's description of Reuther is so carefully abstract that it could fit almost any labor bureaucrat over the past twenty-five years. Is Reuther then just any run-of-the-mill faker with an ossified heart of gold? An SDS leaflet handed out at the Conference gives a more accurate description of the man: a chief witch-hunter of all "reds" and militants in the unions in the late 1940's; a chief prop of the CIA-funded American Institute for Free Labor Development, which worked to set up anti-communist union leaders in Latin America; for 11 years a collaborator with Jay Lovestone, the CIA's man in the AFL-CIO International Union Department! It is the presence of this man which the Bulletin hails as "a very positive development;" presumably justifying its front-page headline, "Working Class Breaks Through at NPAC Conference."

the WL's attempt to present the "disruption" by Spartacist and PL-SDS as a frenzied attack by the hysterical petty-bourgeoisie on the labor movement (in other words, as the petty-bourgeois radicalism which can become a basis for fascism) is a miserable failure, revealing only the utter shamelessness of the WL in its ever-recurring attempts to suck up to the treacherous misleaderships of the anti-war and labor movements.