Friday, July 10, 2009

Confessions of a Rubber Stamp (1977)

Workers Vanguard No. 145 (18 February 1977)

Confessions of a Rubber Stamp

On January 14 a host of ostensibly Trotskyist dignitaries got together in a London public meeting to denounce Gerry Healy, the self-styled “anti-revisionist” whose Stalinist-style organizational practices have made him notorious as a gangster and slanderer. The meeting's ostensible purpose was to protest Healy's despicable slander campaign to smear the American SWP's Joseph Hansen and George Novack as “accomplices” of the Stalinist secret police in the assassination of Leon Trotsky (see “Fake Trotskyist Family Reunion,” WV No. 141, 21 January). The meeting's real purpose was to buttress the assembled revisionists' pretensions to Trotskyism, using Healy as a convenient foil. The hypocrisy of the participants' avowed concern for “workers democracy” was demonstrated when the meeting refused to grant Healy the floor to reply to his attackers.

But surely the most shameless of all the hypocrites was Tim Wohlforth, who for some dozen years headed Healy's American satellite. As Healy's chosen instrument, Wohlforth happily emulated every corrupt trick in Healy's book, sanctimoniously parting about the “Marxist method” while arrogantly intimidating any and all opposition to his high-handed tinpot despotism and cynical opportunism. He flinched from nothing in his master's service, until at last a denunciation of himself stuck in his throat.

Wohlforth's testimonial to the crimes of Healy was truly heart-rending:
I got up in the middle of the meeting and said I disagreed with the proceedings. Which was the hardest thing that I have ever said in my life because of the atmosphere. And yet, and any of you here who have ever been in the Socialist Labour League could understand this, and yet I ended up, as those who have been in the Socialist Labour League have done and still do, I ended up voting against my convictions!
"I voted for my own removal; Nancy Fields voted for her own suspension. And then, two minutes out of that meeting, we went back to our cabin with Comrade Slaughter and we told him we disagreed with the way we voted. We just could not say it in front of such a meeting in such an atmosphere.” [emphasis in original]
- Intercontinental Press, 7 February
Heaylite methods are indeed brutal and debasing. But we would like to remind Wohlforth that, despite the intimidating “atmosphere” which is a hallmark of the Healy-Wohlforth school, there is an alternative to sniveling self-denunciation.

In London in 1966, at a conference of Healy's “Inernational Committee,” Healy - an an attempt to guarantee a totally subservient puppet organization in the U.S. - launched a bureaucratic attack on James Robertson, the spokesman for the Spartacist delegation to the conference, for missing a session due to exhaustion and illness. One contemporary account described the incident:
“(1) He was charged with being absent from a session.
“(2) He admitted his guilt.
“(3) A motion was passed demanding that he apologize and admit having committed a 'petty bourgeois act.'
“(5) The escalation proceeded. Healy, according to Rose J., scored Robertson's absence and his refusal to vote for his condemnation, characterizing it as a 'petty bourgeois, reactionary act expressing the chauvinism of American imperialism, etc.'
“(6) Robertson was threatened with expulsion if he did not voice approval of the motion branding him with the alleged class nature of his crime.
“(7) The dazed man still said, no.
“(8) He was expelled.
- “Healy 'Reconstructs' the Fourth International"
The author of these words was none other than Joseph Hansen, who has now gathered into his revisionist fold the very same Wohlforth who in 1966 joyously echoed the slanderous call of his master's voice to lock up his cherished franchise as the head of American Healyism.

For loathsome creatures of the Wohlforth ilk, there was never any choice but to vote “against my convictions,” pleading the “atmosphere” in extenuation. For the principled Leninist politicians of the Spartacist tendency, there was never any choice but to uphold our convictions, in the terrain of organizational pratice as in the terrain of program. Wohlforth was, in Hansen's own words, “a rubber stamp for a Healy.” True enough. And depite a decade of denouncing Hansen's revisionism, look whose rubber stamp Wohlforth is now!