Monday, June 8, 2009

Healy “Assimilates” Angola (1976)

Workers Vanguard No. 102 (26 March 1976)

Editorial Note

Healy “Assimilates” Angola

For almost a decade Gerry Healy's so-called “International Committee of the Fourth International” (IC) has combined ritual denunciations of Pabloist revisionism with opportunist tailing after various non-proletarian forces, from Nasser’s “Arab Revolution” to Mao's Red Guards. The latest recipient of the Healyites’ cynical hosannas has been the People’ Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). The MPLA, we are told, is “a mass movement of the Angolan working class and peasantry which is inseparably linked to the new stage of revolutionary struggles that has opened up in every country.” Its victory, gushed the newspaper of the IC's American supporters, would “take forward the world socialist revolution” (Bulletin, 28 November 1975).

For those of his followers who might have been confused by the IC’s alternately “critical” and “unconditional” (but always rhapsodic) support of the MPLA, Gerry Healy recently put his distorted parody of dialectics to work cooking up a bizarre explanation (“SWP: Apologist and Defender of Imperialism,” Bulletin, 5 March). The IC uses as a foil the Socialist Workers Party's neutrality in the civil war between the Soviet/Cuban-backed MPLA and the CIA/ South Africa/ Portuguese colonialist/ FNLA/UNITA bloc, in order to put forward an anti-Leninist position of political (as opposed to military) support for the petty-bourgeois nationalist People's Movement.

This incredibly muddled IC “Statement” strings together lengthy quotations from a hodgepodge of sources to advance two self-contradictory arguments for politically backing the MPLA: that bourgeois nation-building is historically progressive and (at least implicitly) that an MPLA regime in Angola will result in the creation of a deformed workers state.

While making some ritual genuflections in the direction of “independence of the working class,” the polemic's main thrust is to build political confidence in the MPLA which, we are told, is the “only authentic bourgeois nationalist movement in Angola,” has “called for a fight to the finish” against the U.S. and South Africa, struggles against tribalism and “reactionary separatism” and is backed by “the majority of the independent African nations.” Moreover, its struggle “is an historically progressive struggle involving the Angolan nation and not just the bourgeoisie against U.S. imperialism.” To build this case, the IC must deny that the other groups had ever fought the Portuguese and must ignore the MPLA's record of collaboration with the Portuguese military, its narrow and partially tribally circumscribed base of support among the Angolan peoples and its demonstrated willingness to smash the nascent organizations of the working class.

The MPLA is described as if it were an emergent bourgeois class building a nation in the epoch of capitalist expansion. In fact, the national boundaries the MPLA-led People's Republic of Angola (and the IC) defends are but the arbitrary divisions imposed on the African continent by plundering imperialist powers. The Healyites – who demonstrated their abject insensitivity to national oppression when they “critically supported” the Nigerian government's genocidal slaughter of the Ibo (Biafran) people in 1967 – now pass over in silence the division of the Bakongo people between northern Angola and Zaire in order to present the MPLA as about to resolve the national question.

The IC's enthusiasm for bourgeois nation-building is a back-handed acceptance of the Menshevist/ Stalinist “theory of stages”: “first” the bourgeoisie kicks out imperialism and establishes capitalist democracy, “later” the proletariat conquers state power and institutes socialism. In one article, the American Healyites explicitly lay out the stagist conception behind their effusive outpourings for the People's Movement: “We support unconditionally the MPLA's fight for national liberation and independence and recognize that it is only through this necessary struggle that the conditions can be created for a new stage of class struggle in all the African countries” (Bulletin, 30 January).

One of Trotsky's crucial extensions of Leninism was the theory of permanent revolution, which explained that in the epoch of imperialist decay the unresolved bourgeois-democratic tasks of the underdeveloped countries could not be undertaken by a weak capitalist class, which is inevitably subservient to imperialism. Trotsky insisted that only the proletariat, in the process of consolidating the victorious socialist revolution, could seriously address the unsolved bourgeois-democratic tasks (including the elimination of national oppression) in the context of proletarian property relations. Thus the Healyites, in jumping on the MPLA bandwagon, once again leave their pretended Trotskyism behind.

The IC “Statement” simultaneously dishes out another unsavory mess from Healy's greasy spoon: the proposition that an MPLA victory equals the destruction of capitalism and the constitution of a deformed workers state. This argument is advanced through some inapplicable historical analogies and a string of quotations whose purpose in this article would otherwise be perfectly inexplicable.

The 1C “completely opposes the SWP's opportunism and follows Trotsky's position of defending any extension of the nationalized property relations of the Soviet Union to other territories, while condemning, as in Czechoslovakia in 1968, the suppression of dissident opinion in the CP and the working class.” These admirable sentiments are followed by no less than twenty paragraphs from Trotsky's lucid polemic, In Defense of Marxism, explaining that the Russian bureaucracy would be compelled to destroy capitalist property relations in eastern Poland before incorporating the territory into the USSR.

What is the application of Trotsky's analysis of Poland at the time of the Second World War to the situation in Angola today? Like Henry Kissinger, Healy seems to believe that Soviet weaponry equals the uprooting of capitalist property relations. This same “method” was the main theoretical vehicle whereby a revisionist current in the Fourth International, led by one Michel Pablo, in the 1950's turned the majority of the Trotskyist world movement toward centrist accommodation to Stalinism and other petty-bourgeois forces. Pablo propounded a “new world reality” in which the power bloc led by the USSR would against its will become the ally of all progressive movements, which would thereby find themselves swept along by the onrushing “world revolution” and compelled to establish deformed workers states.

The only possible conclusion from the IC's rhetoric about “defending any extension of the nationalized property relations of the Soviet Union to other territories” is that Healy & Co. believe that what is taking place is the transformation of Angola into a deformed workers state (presumably by a process of “structural assimilation”). One hilarious little wrinkle is that the Healyites presumably still hold to their idiot position that Cuba – whose troops in Angola are presumably doing the “extending of nationalized property relations” – is a capitalist state.

The implication that Angola is becoming a deformed workers state is a characteristic Healyite gyration. Even before its headlong degeneration into outright political banditry, the Healy tendency showed itself unable to oppose the Pabloists’ political accommodation to Stalinism by anything other than an alternation between know-nothing anti-Pabloism (Cuba) and archtypically Pabloist softness toward militant Stalinist guerrillaism (Vietnam).

The current Angola polemic, whose main purpose seems to be to provide copy to fill the dreary pages of the Bulletin, also somehow manages to incorporate the IC's latest hobby horse – a slanderous campaign against the SWP’s Joseph Hansen and George Novack as “accomplices of the GPU” in the 1940 Trotsky assassination:
“The SWP's veiled support for the CIA-financed organizations and their overt hostility to the MPLA is inseparably tied up with the gross betrayal of Trotskyism which is expressed in the refusal of SWP leaders Novack and Hansen to answer any of the charges made against them by the International Committee of the Fourth International on the question of security and the Fourth International. Their consistent refusal to do anything to rid the movement of the stigma of GPU intrigue and provocation today renders them just as vulnerable to the pressure of the CIA.
The IC makes unsupportable charges, echoing the Stalinists, that SWP leaders were implicated in the GPU's murder of Trotsky, and then brazenly bemoans “the stigma” which Healy himself is working wildly to create! In the delirium tremens of the disintegrating IC, the reformist leadership of the SWP has become a kind of collective Herbert Philbrick, “leading three lives”: as ostensible socialists, GPU agents and now witting CIA pawns. The SWP's degeneration is “explained” by the absurd comparison to a double agent who, having allegedly been an “accomplice” for the KGB, thereby becomes “easy pickings” for the CIA.

Substituting cop-baiting for political struggle, the IC is an invaluable tool for the SWP leadership in seeking to reassure its ranks that consistent reformism provides a far more secure political niche than the wild-eyed incoherence of Healy's “anti-Pabloists.” The international Spartacist tendency has uniquely put forward the policy of warning the working class against placing any political confidence in the strikebreaking MPLA, while giving military support to the latter against imperialist-led attack. As the last South African troops withdraw and the bourgeois People's Republic of Angola consolidates its position, the defense of the Angolan workers against their new capitalist rulers becomes more urgent than ever. Yet the IC continues to praise the “revolutionary” MPLA.

As the IC digs itself deeper into the grave of irrelevance, the growth and programmatic cohesiveness of the international Spartacist tendency uniquely demonstrate that principled struggle against Pabloist revisionism is the means for the reforging of the Fourth International.