Friday, July 3, 2009

Joe Hansen is an Honest Revisionist (1977)

Workers Vanguard No. 141 (21 January 1977)

“Hypocrisy is the Homage that Vice Pays to Virtue”

Joe Hansen is an Honest Revisionist

We reprint below a leaflet distributed by London supporters of the international Spartacist tendency at a January 14 meeting to protest Healyite slanders of SWP leaders Joseph Hansen and George Novack.

Considering the notorious scoundrels who mainly comprise the speakers tonight, this is not a company that we of the international Spartacist tendency (iSt) would freely choose to be among. But Trotsky has taught us that if the issue is just, one can unite with “the devil and his granddam” (taking due account of the old folk saying that “when you sup with the devil, use a long spoon”). But the ostensible purpose of this meeting – to protest and expose the infamous slanders against Joseph Hansen and George Novack of the American Socialist Workers Party (SWP) by Gerry Healy and his Workers Revolutionary Party – is at most only one of its purposes. For the speakers have another, overriding common denominator: they are all, to a man, revisionists and destroyers of the Trotskyist movement, not merely guaranteed to be oh-so-diplomatic about one another's betrayals of Marxism, but actively in pursuit of new combinations and configurations of revisionism (the stresses of an internationally rising line of class struggle having deeply undermined their old alignments).

It is only abstractly nauseating to think of speaking from the same platform as e.g., a Pierre Lambert, whose organization continues to practice endless physical violence against the “Vargaites” in the streets of Paris; or a servile Tim Wohlforth; now speaking for the shamelessly reformist SWP, who has spent fifteen years as a leading practitioner of Healyite slander and violence; or, above all, a Michel Pablo (sometime arch-enemy,of the former two), who personally has done quite as much as any other living human being to destroy the Trotskyist movement from within and turn “Trotskyism” into a cesspool.

Nonetheless a meeting “for workers democracy” and “against frame-ups and slanders” – even including such elements as these – could be a good thing, only providing that it was an honest meeting with full freedom of criticism.

Unfortunately, as the speakers’ list guarantees, this is not the case here. It is the omissions which tell the story. For example, when Hansen’s Intercontinental Press (6 September 1976) published the statement “A Shameless Frame-Up” signed by a long list of individuals and organizations, IP in its informational breakdown identified from among the hundreds of signers sixteen as “internationally known Trotskyists.” Of these, eleven were supporters of the United Secretariat (USec), two were from the Organisation Communiste Internationaliste (OCI) of Pierre Lambert, two were from Lutte Ouvriere and one was from the iSt. But only some of the USec leaders, and Lambert from the presently ingratiating OCI, and that master of intrigue, Pablo himself, are to speak tonight. Particularly objectionable to the meeting’s sponsors would be a spokesman of the iSt – the group which at the level of workers democracy campaigned earliest against the Healyite slanders (picketing with our slogan “Who Gave Healy His Security Clearance?”) and which helped initiate the impartial Commission of Inquiry into the affair of the highly dubious Varga vs. the slanderous OCI.

It is not enough to describe Healy, as Hansen does, as a paranoid. The conduct of Healy’s organization demands political explanation. The Healyite combination of crude opportunism and fake-Trotskyist “orthodoxy” has repeatedly lost out to the slicker USec, whose internally warring wings are led by Joseph Hansen and Ernest Mandel. In his slander campaign, Healy no doubt thinks he has gone V. I. Lenin one better. Lenin exposed Karl Kautsky as a revisionist through careful and savage analysis. It would therefore have been inconceivable for Lenin, as a Marxist, to have substituted the false and gratuitous – and so simplifying – accusation that Kautsky was an agent of the Kaiser. Healy cannot follow this principled course toward the USec revisionists, for comparable analysis would indict his own conduct. He resorts to contemptible slander which merely brings ostensible “anti-revisionism” into disrepute. As always, Healy is the horrible example which Hansen feeds off, for his own purposes – in this case, an unprincipled attempted international “regroupment” parading as a rally for workers democracy.

The real political issues which place all these squabbling slander-mongering, violence-prone elements at one pole and the iSt at the other are currently posed by two decisive considerations: the popular front and the Fourth International. Of course, as in the 1930's when the centrist London Bureau zig-zagged through the no-man’s-land between Trotskyism and the mass reformist parties, so today one finds more leftist ephemeral groupings which seek to straddle between a revolutionary course and the accommodationism common to all tonight’s speakers. The overriding characteristic of these groups is negative: not to stand for a common and coherent international program, but to posture against those (such as tonight’s speakers) whose betrayals have become too overt. Thus for example there is the “Necessary International Initiative” bloc (including one Roberto from Italy, Sean Matgamna’s recently split International Communist League, the disintegrating German Spartacusbund and maybe somebody else).

Their tendency to themselves capitulate under pressure to popular frontism aside, they have hardly a point in common among their component factions and individuals except their objection to the manifest revisionism of the USec (and to the “sectarian” intransigence of the iSt).

With the renewal internationally of massive proletarian unrest, the popular front is again in the air. And all revisionists must try, in their own ways, to accommodate on the central question of class collaboration and, with their “new mass vanguards” or self-serving descriptions of mass reformist parties as simply “workers parties,” to pave the way for new betrayals.

The 1930s centrists of the London Bureau, which Trotsky condemned, had to verbally separate themselves from the popular front rather more than such types do today:
“The Popular Front practised by the Second and Third Internationals is a form of class collaboration between the proletariat and the Liberal bourgeoisie (and the petty bourgeoisie which depends on this latter) on a capitalist basis which subordinates and sacrifices the class interests of the proletariat and the petty bourgeoisie to those of monopoly Capitalism.... In consequence, the Revolutionary Socialist Movement rejects the Popular Front as being absolutely contrary to the historic interests of the working class. To Capitalism we must oppose Socialism! To the Popular Front we must oppose the United Workers Front.”
– Resolution adopted at the"Revolutionary Socialist Congress" of the
London Bureau, February 1938
Thus despite their anti-Trotskyist obliteration of the necessity of the proletarian vanguard party, the London Bureau was perforce compelled to make a categoric class counterposition to the popular front and did not expect the Stalinist and reformist parties to somehow turn into their opposites. But instead of, and in opposition to, the Trotskyists’ hard, bleak struggle for the Fourth International, those centrists counterposed to reformism their innocuous and impotent phantom, “the Revolutionary Socialist Movement.” This is why the organizations of the London Bureau, 'though nominally disposing of forces one hundred times that of the Trotskyists, are a barely known historical footnote whose descendents must masquerade today as Trotskyists.

The hard lessons of the victorious October Revolution retain their full force on our planet. Lenin and Trotsky did not enter or tail the provisional government of socialists and liberals – they overthrew it on the basis of soviet power.. The international Spartacist tendency stands today with Lenin's Third and Trotsky's Fourth International in insisting not only that the issue of state power is class against class, but that without the struggle to create a programmatically united and disciplined Fourth International the workers are left to wander into the new traps of capital – and, as in the 1930's, with the assistance of their revisionist would-be “leaders.”

[Authorized text] 14 January 1977

international Spartacist tendency
Organizacion Trotskista Revolucionaria de Chile
Trotskyist Faction (expelled) of the Spartacusbund (Germany)
London Spartacist Group BCM Box 4272 London WCIV 6XX England