Documents 3 to 17 and 19 to 24 originally published in Internal Bulletins of the SWP and the International Bulletins of the International Committee
Received yours of July 9, post-marked N.Y. July 14, as well as Barr report of June 22 and Manuel circular of June 17. While I am at it, I might also acknowledge a letter from Smith, on other matters, dated June 26, and on which I have nothing to comment that I have not said already.
It is unfortunate that my letter was lying around so long, since a good deal of time has been lost. I will try, for my part, to make up for the time lost.
Regarding the IS, I sent no report for the following reasons: The main business was two big preparatory documents, on 'Stalinism' and on 'Our Integration into the Real Mass Movement' -- the lines of which and the import for your struggle is probably as clear to you as to me, I expect that you receive copies, although I am disturbed to see no mention of them in your letter. Burns wrote Barr, I believe, on the importance of urging postponement of consideration and decision on these, as well as for your comment. Secondly, on your struggle, there was officially only the letter welcoming the Plenum settlement and no further attempt at intervention. Thirdly, the rest was a series of impressions Burns conveyed to me -- he had taken no notes -- which it is difficult to relay second-hand. I had hoped he would write himself. He did write, and his letters should be in your hands by now. But, just to make sure you get as much information on this as I have, I will give you everything I have from notes at hand. This is all the more necessary now because of the apparent flare-up of your struggle.
I did not want to rush with Burns' impressions regarding the attitude displayed to him, and indirectly to you, because of the unity sentiment prevailing, and on which you were quite definite. I did not want to be a disturbing influence, so to speak. I looked upon your settlement as really part and parcel of a settlement with Jerome, because to me Livingstone is closely associated with the latter, as I explained in my last letter. Here are the impressions:
Burns was received with hostility, put on the carpet for 'Trying to line up' his group behind you. All except Ernest engaged in this. Frank went so far in attacking your group that Jerome had to restrain him. Formally, however, they decided to go no further than the letter they sent you. In Burns' opinion, and of course in mine all along, his open break with them in May stopped them from intervening then; and this, coupled with your firm majority at the Plenum, accounts for the retreat Jerome and Livingstone have beaten.
In this connection, there are indications that Jerome has shifted his ground and is now intervening in Burns' group in order to remedy his previously weak position on this side, so to speak. He is attempting to act through J. L. [John Lawrence]. The latter has raised big objections to an article on Stalin written by Burton (along the same lines politically as in page 8 of Barr's June 22 report) as 'against the general line' and proposed to keep it out of the review, substituting for it the Clarke effort in your magazine. In Burns' opinion this is but part of a campaign that is being attempted here by Jerome. There are any number of other, minor indications, among them a headline smuggled into the weekly without consultation. Needless to say, Burns and his friends are on the alert and confident that they can handle the situation.
The flare-up on your side may quite possibly coincide with this development over here.
Further on the meeting: There is a first rate crisis in L. Roy's group [Ceylon], danger of large defection to Stalinism. They propose to send one of the two central people. Jerome himself proposes to go to handle the major opportunity which has arisen after April 1952 [Bolivian revolution]. Burns and I both have our misgivings about such trips, and in our opinion they indicate a state of mind which certainly is not very sober, to say the least.
On the two documents mentioned there was no full discussion but a tendency to bring pressure to get them passed speedily.
That is about all, on impressions. Next time, I hope, Burns will note things more carefully. The next session is July 22-23, but may be postponed again.
The important thing, however, are the documents. Each contains concessions meant for you, that is obvious. In a certain sense, there is a reversion to the X Plenum here. But the basic line remains the same one-sided affair, which sees only favourable developments and no dangers. Our pre-congress contribution to the discussion, which Livingstone burned but which has since been published by him, is taken little notice of. In my opinion, the line is much closer to the 'revelations' of Isaac Deutscher than to what Clarke fulminates against the 'Old Testament' of Trotskyism. (This new remark of Clarke's is not surprising to me -- I remember fighting against a phrase of his in a draft resolution I fought, to the effect that 'Titoism is the hope of humanity.' Both reveal a trend. I am afraid it is not confined to him alone.)
Naturally, there are a lot of good ideas in both documents that we can agree with. We can even agree 'in general' with the conception of the'Stalinism' draft. But there are a few specific ideas which I cannot accept. I call your attention to Par. 15, which notes frankly a departure from our traditional concept of the struggle to come in the USSR. This poses the question as to which of two basic concepts we have to give up: Either that Stalinism (the bureaucracy) is an obsolescent, reactionary social force, or that obsolescent forces before they leave the historical scene make common cause with all that is reactionary in society? Par. 20 -- which reiterates the impossibility of a compromise with imperialism. Par. 21, which says 'the socialist regeneration of the USSR almost as much as the socialist revolution in the USA will decide the world victory of socialism -- what does that mean, in what sense does that hold? Par. 23, which is quite correct, but looks at the process as automatic. The wave of pacifism and its relation to the agitation for four-power talks is simply ignored, etc., etc.
In the other document, aside from ambiguity about secondary tactics which can at times become primary, there are the same old attempts at specific directives here, there and everywhere. Supercentralization shows its head here unmistakably. Burns has suggested that perhaps a section on the role and limitations of the leadership would be more appropriate.
I am writing this hastily and perhaps leaning more on impressions than I should. But I do not want to delay sending this off for a more thought-out comment. I have a reply to Frankel, which I have not sent on to you because I wanted to see first the tone of the literary discussion and adjust that to it. Perhaps I shall try to bring it up to date and send it now.
I had hoped that the development of events would bring us closer again. But up to now this is not the case. Neither the great, stirring rising in East Germany nor the crack in the bureaucracy revealed by the Beria disgrace has so far done so. But events show that our traditional concepts are absolutely correct and indispensible in judging the new developments -- which, of course, we must not fail to recognize. We have every right to remain firm.
Practically, it is necessary to develop a common line in closest co-operation, both politically and organizationally. I am anxious to hear your views on this.
I may be out of town for two weeks after next week, so write to Burns directly in that time.
P.S. You can forget my remark about Burns' reaction to your caucus speech. It was merely a matter of looking for recognition that his group has grown. It may interest you to know that just the other day he said that he regards his group as part and parcel of yours, historically as well as politically. Also, there is no question but that the attitude to Stalinism is the same for them as for you. No one has expressed any difference on your resolution on this here.
P.P.S. There was also some talk at the meeting about the Bleibtreu group coming back, negotiations, etc.
Last updated 17.8.2003