Documents 3 to 17 and 19 to 24 originally published in Internal Bulletins of the SWP and the International Bulletins of the International Committee
Still no reply from you to our letters of August 10, 1953, of September 3, 1953, together with that informing you of the convening of the plenum at the end of November. I have before me a document by Morris: 'Remarks on the Rise and Fall of Stalinism,' which explains the delay. You are discussing amongst yourselves beforehand to arrive at a line which will be opposed to the IS document opening the discussion for the Fourth Congress. That is naturally your right. However, I can only regret the way in which this preparation of a faction (moreover not simply American but International) is being done against the line that you declared only yesterday was common to us.
I can only regret the combination of a simultaneous organizational and political attack you are preparing against 'Paris', and which will cause immense harm to our international movement. What reasons can explain this unbelievable about-face? This furious assault upon a common organizational and political achievement? Already Jerry, criminally encouraged by you, has sowed a terrible crisis in his section which will end who knows where, which will demoralize his weakest elements in every way, and which will now halt for a long period the extremely encouraging progress of recent times. The international as a whole has taken a constructive road since the Third World Congress everywhere realizing more or less important progress, full of confidence and optimism. Its leadership appeared more homogeneous and united than ever. You know all that very well, for you followed this evolution very closely, and witnessed it on many occasions in your own section. What has happened meantime?
The factional struggle amongst yourself which, far from being fomented by Paris, or more particularly by me, has deep roots in the American situation, the evolution and situation of your own organization in particular. You wanted the IS and myself personally to pledge ourselves basically to support you against the minority. When you saw that that was not possible, for no one here was ready to pronounce themselves on the political essence of this matter, since the political differences over the American situation in particular did not really appear clearly, you concluded that it was above all necessary to centre the struggle against 'Paris,' before returning again against your own minority and definitively settling accounts with it. What baffling logic!
But don't you understand that apart, I repeat, from the immense harm you will thus cause the international movement, cancelling all your positive work done up to now in this field, you will demoralize your own organization. For who will swallow so easily what you have already said and what you will be forced by the logic of your new road to say still further on the International, its leadership, its past and present line, its perspectives! For naturally, you will be led to revise all up and down the line'through and through,'to fundamentally oppose yourself against the Third World Congress, to take the opposite of everything you have said, written and done in these recent years.
It is essentially Bleibtreu and Tom who will appear to be right and it is upon them and their extreme positions that you will align yourself. Morris has already launched himself on that road. Hesitating at nothing, he wants to 're-Trotskyize Trotskyism,' and sets himself lightly to the task. Can you really read what he writes without becoming indignant at the manner in which he presents our thought, without deploring the lamentable confusion, without recalling the confusionist, sectarian and profoundly pessimistic writings of Bleibtreu, without even retailing the struggle with the right-wing in France, and even with Morrow. Here is a serious, responsible man, whom we had always respected who, without faltering, is now to write that we 'are revising and liquidating' Trotskyism as no one else has ever done. Here are his 'arguments':
We are revising the Trotskyist appraisal of the objective situation. We are revising the Trotskyist appraisal of the role of the party. We are exaggerating the objective revolutionary period which has issued from the Second World War, we profess an infantile and romantic optimism in that respect. We minimize the role of the revolutionary party and the Fourth International, and we are quite simply liquidating it in reality!
All this in reference to the document 'Rise and Decline,' which is not principally occupied either with the objective situation, the role of the party and the FI, but with a more precise subject: the past, present and future of Stalinism. Along with the 'Rise and Decline' we have presented another document bearing the title: 'To Construct Genuine Marxist-Revolutionary Parties, To thus assure the victory of the world socialist revolution.
A lengthy final section of this document which is moreover entirely occupied with these ideas is devoted to the more special role of the Fourth International (how to understand its functioning, its perspectives, etc.). However, Comrade Morris knows nothing about all that. Like so many others in the past, he wants to see repeated in each document, and on each page of each document, generalities and axioms which 'guarantee' the continuity of the tradition. Otherwise our severe censor is ready to cry scandal.
As for the so-called 'revision' of the objective character of the period we are living in which 'Rise and Decline' contains, it is the same as that of the Third World Congress and all the documents and analyses made since then by the International. I promise you that we will have a very lively discussion on this matter, since it is really fundamental. But to return to the 'Rise and Decline.'
Our censor has found that the citation from the Transitional Programme on the programme of the political revolution in the SU is amputated at its end. Why, asks the clever comrade Morris, it is not at all accidental, and he embroiders a whole novel of political explanation on this point for people who are both very honest and very intelligent in discussion. But the 'Rise and Decline' cites the Transitional Programme in respect to the programme of the political revolution, and not the means or the end, of this revolution. The means is revolutionary action of the masses, guided by the revolutionary party. The aim is the overthrow of the bureaucracy. All that is not the programme. And what is cited is above all the programme.
The two other ideas -- by what means to realize this programme, and for what end -- all that moreover is to be found in the text (very explicitly stated and underlined).
Another example of Comrade Morris' intelligent manner of cutting up the text and discovering its 'revisionism,' he isolated one phrase from the preface of the text which refers to the role of the FI in relation to the crisis of Stalinism. He extracts from that the entire role of the Fourth consists for us only in that. I repeat, an entire other text is devoted to this question, as well as an entire part at the end of 'Rise and Decline.' But the very essence of this text is, moreover, to show how much our task finds itself facilitated, etc., in the new conditions of disintegration beginning within Stalinism: this main obstacle on the road to the construction of genuine revolutionary parties and a new leadership. But in reality, what is involved with Morris is not a simple enterprise of a wrong interpretation of a text which is, moreover so clear. There is actually at bottom a profound divergence between us and him.
It consists in the manner of appraising the objective situation and its dialectical relations with the party. For us, the fundamental and determining thing is actually the objective conditions upon which in the last analysis there depends the possibility of creating, not small groups labeling themselves parties, but genuine revolutionary mass parties. For us, it is not the previous existence of such parties which determines whether a situation is pre-revolutionary or revolutionary, but the objective conditions of the capitalist regime. The party does not create this situation, it simply accelerates it if it exists, and intervenes as decisive element only to assure the victory of the masses fundamentally set into motion by the objective conditions.
On the other hand, the party, the decisive element from this viewpoint, is not created in a chemical retort, outside of a given objective setting, in no matter what objective conditions. Neither the study of the 'classics' nor any other similar means can supply a lack of favourable objective conditions. All that is so elementary, so often debated in the workers' movement, and in our own movement, that it is merely ridiculous to return to it and insist upon it. All that we are doing tends to the creation of genuine revolutionary mass parties, not in order to thus create revolutionary situations, but to accelerate their ripening, and above all, to have them culminate in the conquest of power, which is impossible without the party, etc. That is also likewise the meaning of the phrase in the Transitional Programme: 'Only the Party of the Fourth International is capable of leading the Soviet Masses to Insurrection.' That is to say, not to revolt, but to the revolution, in the sense of the conquest of power.
If we insist so much on the objective conditions and the revolutionary movement of the masses that these engender, if we have analyzed as we have done, the new period issuing from the Second World War, the new conditions of capitalist and imperialist domination, the new relation of global forces between the forces of the revolution in all its forms, and those of imperialism, that is only to set forth the favourable and real perspectives for the formation of revolutionary mass parties and of the Fourth International. To wish to overthrow this manner of viewing and setting forth the revolutionary character of the situation, above all, by the previous existence of such parties, is truly to be shut off in a blind alley, at bottom as idealistic and pessimistic as can be. Parisot and Morrow stuffed us with similar conceptions.
Morris reproaches us for our optimism which is fictitious in addition, according to him. It seems that we expect everything from the objective situation, etc. We expect the essential thing from the revolutionary movement of the masses, that is true, from the revolutionary potentialities of the class, which creates its vanguard, the party, in its struggle. The party is created in the struggles of the class, by the class. Any other conception of its construction is bookish, idealistic and sectarian.
As for what is or is not the present period, its relationship of forces, etc., we shall speak at length in the international discussion. We shall then see who is revising on this plane, and who is maintaining the line hitherto unanimously adopted. We will also see who minimizes the forces of the enemy or of the revolution, who is submitting to pressure, and what is its class nature, who sees in the Korean armistice only'important concessions to imperialism' and not the greatest defeat American imperialism has yet had, with what eyes we look at the SU today, the Chinese Revolution, the other anti-capitalist states, how this one and that appraises the new revolutionary potentialities in all these countries since Stalin's death, the mass movement in Western Europe and in the colonies, etc. We will see all that in detail.
Morris calls his contribution 'Re-Trotskyize Trotskyism.' He sets himself up as a defender of our traditions in the process of being 'revised and liquidated. You know as well as I what Lenin and Trotsky said a thousand times about the people 'of the old guard,' the 'Old Bolsheviks' stuck to their dear schemas, their formulas, their citations. The tradition of Leninism, of Trotskyism, of Marxism above all consists in the study of new realities, with a fresh and critical spirit, rid of all conservatism. That was true at all times in the past. It must be now an absolutely imperious need in an essentially new period, extremely dynamic, perpetually changing and so complex.
The solution of our problems is not to be found in any book of the 'classics.' It is to be found in the application of their method to current conditions, an application which demands a great intellectual effort, mastery of this method, and profound understanding of the actual facts of the situation. I am certain that the very great majority of our movement is now of such a disposition. It will never go backward. It will cast off scholasticism, conservatism of thought, sectarianism in all its forms, and it will go forward. The destiny of our movement is lighted up in a more promising and grandiose manner than ever. Despite all obstacles it will be achieved.
I write you all this without equivocation, as I feel it, for I am genuinely upset over what is happening amongst you, over your actions and your document. For I know what immense harm all that will provoke despite everything, in our ranks. For I cannot believe that you will march along this road up to the end. For your political thinking appeared to me to espouse the same lines as ours. For finally, I still want to believe that at least some among you will resist the fatal course which is being projected, and that you will stop it.
We hope that you will soon reply to us, among other matters on our request for a meeting. No one can understand so prolonged a silence, so strange at the very moment when there is being developed such an activity and elaboration and organization of an international faction.
Last updated 17.8.2003