Well comrades, since there were quite a few comrades who weren’t at the first forum which led into this, the first educational, I should say a few words on how we come to deal with the question we’re going to deal with—it’s not exactly the most burning issue before the world proletarian revolution—at any rate, we had an internal educational here about four weeks ago, which was a rather complex one, and I will just try and summarize it, and which led to this topic.
The topic was, the nature of our internationalism; the internationalism of revolutionary socialists, and its pivotal character in the program of the League for Socialist Action/Ligue Socialiste Ouvriere; and I referred in the course of the talk to a leaflet that had been distributed at the Forum here a couple of Friday nights before by a group of persons who call themselves Trotskyists and who are organizing a conference in Montreal in the next week or so that was going in some way to determine the organization of a Canadian section of the 4th International. And so I talked about what that group was. That group was you might say the nucleus—I hope its an abortion—(laughs from audience) of a Canadian section of the Healyite International. And in the course of that talk, I had to say a few words about the origin of this group which has now appeared on the Canadian scene.
And of course we also discussed the latest development of that group, of the “International Committee of the 4th International,” so-called, which has taken place, that has resulted in the expulsion of the Lambert group, the French wing of the International Committee, by Healy, from the I.C. for revisionism, and its support of the Lora group—in Spanish, the POR, the “Revolutionary Workers Party” of Bolivia. Well, that’s a little background. From there it opened up into a report from where the discussion that is taking place in our world movement is, at present.
So, the comrades thought that we should have a discussion about some of the detailed examination of the division that took place in the world movement in 1953, out of which came, in a devious way, the International Committee, that’s got a wing now in Montreal and that is calling itself the Canadian Trotskyist movement. I would like to say a few words of a general character first though, before I take up this experience, because I didn’t want to repeat dates and roles of various individuals—much of it is sort of lost in history—I want to comment on what I consider are the more important experiences.
Well you know often in our movement we talk about building a team leadership—a group of revolutionaries, male and female, who know how to work together, know how to build a movement in an effective way. That’s something we aspire to establish in our movement—in the branches, the locals, and in the central leadership too—to build a team leadership. We want to realize it consciously, we want to gear ourselves to overcome any centripetal or centrifugal tendencies that might exist in the movement—cliquism, personal relations that establish cliquism, or (personal) conflicts, we want to build a team leadership. Well you can begin to realize it consciously by being aware of some of the problems in general; but really such a leadership can only be built in the process of common experiences—real experiences. For instance when we try and do it consciously, of course we try to examine someone’s previous experiences—the experiences of some individuals among us. So in reality that proves that a team leadership can be forged only through the process of a common experience in the building of the revolutionary vanguard.
In a team leadership, in the leadership of a serious revolutionary vanguard group, there has to be an extensive area of agreement on the essentials of the program, naturally, everybody understands that, but there also has to be an extensive area of agreement on the strategy and tactics of the movement—to realize that program, to build flesh and blood around the program. And there has to be a capacity among the components of this leadership to sort out the relative weight of things—how to function, how to operate. Really, that’s the importance of history in the movement, I think; when the comrades often press me about writing the history of the Canadian movement, I understand that that’s what they want; they want to know—what is the collective experience of our movement.
Not just where we come from, in an academic way, but they want to know what the experience of this team is. Now of course the team’s got wide gaps of experience—wide gaps of experience not only in the revolutionary socialist movement, (but also) in the class movement, you know, through age and a whole series of factors. Many women have been deprived of it because only now many women are entering in, in an effective way, into the struggle. So I assume that’s what we mean about studying the history of the movement. We want to know what the collective consciousness, the collective experience, of this operation is here; in this case, the Toronto branch, or the total of the movement. What is its collective experience; what is its tradition?
Even with the common program, which I think we have substantially here, to varying degrees of assimilation but we all have a fairly clear concept of the program; even with that, a cadre can really only be built—and that’s what we want this movement to be, a cadre movement—can only be built on the basis of common experience. Well, you get this experience by advancing your program against the capitalist class, fighting for your ideas against the main enemy—the enemy which is trying to split you up, that’s trying to block you from promoting your views effectively and on behalf of the class, the working class—and in the common experience of taking on, in combat, in struggle, with those who are contending with us for the leadership of the working class. You can only develop that experience too, a real serious experience, on the basis of having that type of struggle in your background—taking on the NDP leadership, taking on the Canadian Maoists, their various stripes, taking on the Canadian Liberation Movement, the Waffle, all other forces—that’s necessary, to develop a common experience. And of course a common experience in building the party is necessary—but they’re all sort of interlocked. There has to be a relationship of mutual respect and confidence that can only come through a common experience in a cadre. So the history of the movement is that common experience.
Well, this year we are celebrating ten years of the LSA/LSO. But as you know the movement started earlier than that and at Waterloo we talked about the 50th anniversary of our movement. (. . . ) Well, I just threw out a few pages here because I see I am taking up too much time.
The revolutionary vanguard party is built not only through the molecular process of individual recruits—that’s the experience most of us have come through—the movement has had over the past couple of years a steady recruitment of new elements who have come into an operation—an operation that is already structured, has a leadership, has established personalities, and everybody comes with a much more limited experience, and they come to pick up that experience. And that’s one method of development of the revolutionary vanguard. But it also comes to birth, and to strength, and to power, which is our projection of course, in the leadership of the working class, through a combined process, of divisions, of splits, and of unifications. They are part of the life of a revolutionary movement. Splits are part of the life of a revolutionary movement. Intense differences develop, and lead to schisms in the movement, and also unifications—they’re part of the process of the building and development of a movement.
No revolutionary vanguard party in our mind can ever be built by the slow process of accruing—the molecular process of adding this person and that person. For instance there are other forces contending with us for the leadership of the proletariat in this country. Well, there is going to be a split in the NDP, that’s for sure; there’s going to be splits or unfortunately, it looks like there is going to be a dissipation of the Communist Party cadre—a continual dissipation of them. But there are going to be this type of experiences with regards to other formations, and I think we can be sure that there are going to be splits and unifications in our own movement. Now, we’re not looking for such an experience—a split, we’re not looking for such a split. We have a concept of loyalty to our movement, and the importance of the movement, and the importance of ideas, and the importance of the achievements of the movement so far. But the history of the movement is a history, in some senses, of splits.
And what the comrades want to talk about is the 1953 split which was part of the last educational. This was the most sensational split, you might say, that’s taken place in our world movement in many decades. I heard about it myself by reading pages of the (US-SWP) Militant. One day the Militant came to our office, on Elm Street at that time, and it contained a public announcement by comrade Cannon and the leadership of the SWP—that they had launched an international tendency, and they were appealing to all sections of the Fourth International to examine their appeal. Their appeal was in a sense a projection of war—political war of course—against the current that (was led by) the then leaders of the international movement, particularly around one Michel Pablo, who was the International Secretary.
The general charge made by the SWP in this public statement in the Militant was that Pablo had launched a drastic series of revisions against our program—by now you know the term “Pabloite revisionism” that Healy and others used so much. They accuse us of being Pabloite revisionists, although the SWP, later with our support, launched the first struggle against what was called “Pabloite revisionism.” That was the revision of our program. Also, it was a struggle launched against organizational manipulation of the movement, against the dissipation of cadre.
Now I dealt with this in a document that was presented to the 1969 convention—in that orange-colored document that contains all the documents of the convention of 1969. That document was called “Our orientation to the NDP, the strategy and its tactical application.” And in that document I took up to a fair extent, one aspect of Pablo’s concepts that was insinuated into the movement—(Pablo had) not openly declared and projected (this concept) into the movement, so that there could be a rounded and open, and honest discussion and exchange of experiences, and then a decision by the movement—(so) I took up (this) aspect of Pablo’s revisionism, and this was the concept of entrism. This document deals with entrism, so it takes up that one aspect of Pablo’s views. Pablo, around the same time as the Canadian movement was making an entry into the CCF, in 1952, projected a concept of entrism, a little different than ours at the time. We were just talking about the tasks in Canada, and we made a very detailed and very concrete analysis of the nature of the NDP—the CCF at that time, pardon me—and what our objective was, and why we should move towards entrism. That document became sort of notorious because it was picked up by the CCF and widely circulated in the CCF (. . . )
At any rate, we thought it was a document of high security, because we wanted to talk among ourselves about what we were going to do with regards to the CCF. And we prepared for an entry in 1952. Our analysis was based on a specific analysis of the situation in Canada—well, of course, not abstracted out of the world, but it was a very concrete examination of the realities before us, in our work to build the revolutionary vanguard in this country. But Pablo had another concept in his entrism—he called it “entry ‘sui generis’” which means entrism of a unique type, a particular type—he just added that on; nobody really knew what that meant, except it wasn’t exactly the entrism that Trotsky had projected earlier, which I dealt with in that document, and the comrades should read it because I can’t take it all up.
At any rate his concept of entry was entry as an international strategy—sounds a little familiar when I saw it—(here Ross may be referring to the then current debate in the Fourth International over it’s European leadership proposing guerrilla warfare in Latin America as a continental strategy, and not a tactic --ed.) He wasn’t content with making an analysis of a specific situation, you know, in this country or that country—but as a strategic concept, entrism, primarily in Europe of course because it was there that the mass reformist or mass social-democratic parties (existed); but I remember when I wrote that document Pablo sent us a particular communication, a personal communication, saying that he thought the document was a very well-conceived document; and that he was 100% in support of our entrism—In Canada. But his concept of entrism was somewhat different than ours, as subsequent events proved.
For instance, in that document, that I referred to, the document that was adopted at the 1969 convention, I summarized this aspect of the dispute in 1953. I summarized it in this way: that two leading comrades in the Canadian movement started to give a different interpretation of entrism—an interpretation that we had never had in our own thinking in our decision to carry out entrism—it was this entrism as a strategic concept. It was summarized by four points: one, they said—this is the Canadian Pabloites—they said that the third world war is on us, now, immediately, in a very short term projection. It is inevitable, and its very very close upon us; and so therefore, two: the present alignments that now exist within the working class movement—in France, the Communist Party is the mass party of the working class, in Britain the British Labour Party, and in Canada I assume, the CCF—these alignments are those in which the workers are going to remain in, as they go into the war, as the world goes into the third world war. (Therefore, Pablo concluded,) all Trotskyists must enter these organizations, everywhere—this was the broad strategical concept (by dissolving all independent Trotskyist organizations -ed.) Out of the impact of this world war, which we also knew was going to be a nuclear war, out of this holocaust would come and realignment of forces, and a revolutionary party would be forged with the Trotskyists playing a key role in this process—that`s how it was presented.Now of course that immediately projected that way among the comrades to some serious questioning, by the Canadian comrades. Well, for instance, how can you be sure what the timetable of the third world war is? Can nothing stop it—is it just an established fact? Are there no forces or other factors which might intervene? So this was questioned, as I reported in that document. We questioned whether the timetable was accurate—that would be quite important you see, if the war is right on you, then of course what comes upon you is a whole series of decisions, but if a series of events can unfold, and the war is postponed even though you may say, yes, it is inevitable; so some new alignments can take place. Just from that, the process of time being available—as a matter of fact a whole series of events could take place that could alter the superiority in France of the Communist Party, or the hegemony of the Labour Party in Great Britain; a whole series of events could take place. There could be a series of crises, with new opportunities and openings for the Trotskyists. So those were important reservations that any serious person would make, and those were made by leading comrades in our movement, against those who supported Pablo`s entry “sui generis” in the Canadian section.
We were also told in passing of course that this concept of entry “sui generis," although we didn`t know it, was firmly embedded in a series of documents that we had adopted at a World Congress a few years before. Quite firmly embedded, but nobody knew it at the time but we were now told it was there, had been in there, and now we had to abide by it. And we didn`t accept that idea. This was the one aspect that I dealt with in the document around our experience with the big schism that broke out in the world movement in 1953. That was only one aspect of it; it was highly relevant to the discussion on our orientation to the CCF of course, and it would be quite a key and fundamental difference; if there was a difference in the world movement on this concept of entry “sui generis.” However this was not the most common basis of the split, a division in the world movement. As a matter of fact it took on a whole series of aspects. As I said, we heard about it in the (US-SWP) Militant, but of course obviously there had been a process at work prior to that, in the American party primarily. And there had been developing an understanding of what this process was in the American party, among the Vancouver comrades. For instance, when the announcement came in the Militant we were completely unprepared for it in the centre but the Vancouver comrades were well tuned for it, apparently they had a continuing connection with the SWP through Seattle, and they were following a dispute that was taking place in the American party. And that was part of the international dispute.
I want to develop some other aspects of it—comrade Peng, whose statement I came across—here`s how he characterized that dispute: it split the world movement down the middle. He said that this was really unprecedented in the history of our international movement, and it is an action of a revolutionary nature. This action has become necessary not only to crush Pablo`s attempt at usurpation, but also to gain time in which to rescue the movement. Comrade Morris Stein, then organization secretary of the SWP said: this amounts to the resurrection of Trotskyism. So, this is how they visualized this schism that split the movement apart, into two tendencies that didn`t come back together again for ten years. So, a few words about this. Well, it was broader than just entrism and as I say this didn`t figure in the American thinking of the question at all. It had a very concrete application. It developed around, in the American thinking, and in the international experience, around some other points that were part of this world strategy that Pablo put forward of the coming world showdown. For instance, it revealed itself in the American dispute and subsequently in a draft resolution of the International Secretariat called “The rise and decline of Stalinism,” it revealed itself with the concept that Stalinism could no longer betray. That concept was projected and insinuated in a series of documents of the world movement; that the relationship of world forces had now developed on such a scale, knowing of course that Stalinism is the result of the decay and isolation and the degeneration of the Revolution primarily, with the upsurge of the revolutionary process; this concept that Stalinism could no longer betray was injected into our movement. And of course you can see that this would have some considerable effect on persons who had entered into the Communist Party of France—that Stalinism can no longer betray. It even projected the concept, in this dispute, put forward by Pabloite supporters, particularly George Clarke, who is known to some comrades—a leading American comrade; he wrote a document in which he projected the idea of self-reform of the Soviet bureaucracy—not only could it not betray, due to revolutionary pressures on a broad scale, but in the Soviet Union itself, the bureaucracy was in the process of self-reform. And of course, that dumped the whole concept of political revolution, which had been an integral part of Trotskyist program.
Now that led into an evaluation of the East German uprising. As perhaps you know, the first big sign of the developing political revolution in soviet areas, took place in 1953—in Germany, when the German working class burst out in a violent struggle and led a big attack against the bureaucracy of the East German Communist Party and against the Soviet Union which of course sent its army in to quash the struggle. That’s what Jacquie referred to the forum the other night on Brecht’s play, with the plebeians rehearsing the uprising; she was referring to the ‘53 uprising. Well, in a document that came out of the world leadership dealing with the East German uprising, to everyone’s surprise they found that there was no concept of a free and independent socialist Germany projected. As a matter of fact there was a call for entry into the Communist Parties in the Soviet areas, at the very time that these CPs were being unsprung, and of course many of the leaders of these Communist Parties were being (eliminated)—some of them were shot down—by workers in the uprising. Some of them (the CP leaders) joined the struggle, but the party was sprung apart. And here was a situation where the international documents came to our attention without projecting the classical concepts of our movement when we thought that the general experiences of this period were re-affirming in the most powerful way, our concept of the political revolution (in the “ workers’ states,” as our movement characterized the satellite states, the Soviet Union and China -ed..) What was the East German revolution if it wasn’t the political revolution? What did it tell us about the Communist Parties—they were standing athwart the most elementary strivings of the masses and were instruments of the bureaucracy even though elements had sprung away from these parties.
Then there was another big experience, the big general strike in France and the other thing that was noted by some of the French comrades was the failure of the international leaders’ documents on this strike to not attack the Stalinists, which of course was a leading factor, just as it was in the 1968 betrayal of the general strike—well it was a leading factor in the strike of 1953 as the mass party in the mass industrial proletariat. And there were no formulations or line in those documents which attacked the Stalinists and their treacherous role in the struggle. So you can see that there was a revision of a whole series of our concepts, and they were summed up perhaps most clearly by comrade George Clarke who was the leader of the tendency in the SWP in a speech in which he developed the theme that we had to junk the “old Trotskyism.” Well of course the old Trotskyists weren’t prepared to junk the old Trotskyism, which they thought was being vindicated all down the line, and it was a big challenge for us to take advantage of the difficulties of the Soviet bureaucracy, to lay the basis for the political revolution and to build the revolutionary vanguard in France and to expunge from our program any projections of the concept of self-reform of the Soviet bureaucracy.
There was of course along with this an attack against Pablo’s usurpation of his position and authority in the International. Pablo developed the idea that the International Secretariat, which is a sub-committee of the World Congress, the International Executive Committee, that it had (an authority) that was higher than the national (authority) of sections. He developed this concept, through a series of incidents, and I will just mention a couple of them. Okay, well, the leading comrade in the British Section at that time was Comrade Healy. Healy developed some differences with an important document at the International Secretariat and he was instructed to carry the line of the IS where he was voted down and not reveal his own position before his own national section, of which he was Executive Secretary. He was told that the authority of the IS had higher priority than the commitment of the comrade to the national section, and he was to suppress his own views in the (British) international section as he was a member of the IS. And we didn’t buy that—nobody in the world movement bought that. There was also another experience that came to our attention later—we didn’t know what it was at first—but two years earlier, in January 1952, Pablo transformed the leadership of the French section, from a majority into a minority. He imposed what we would call in the union movement a “trusteeship,” in the French section. There was a majority that was in the leadership of the French section, and Pablo attended a Plenum of the Executive Committee of the French party and he announced the suspension of the 16 majority members of this Executive Committee—just announced the suspension and put the minority in control. This caused a considerable ruckus in the international because he had done this without even the agreement of the IS. When it was brought up in the IS, and Pablo developed another device whereby he developed a parity concept in a retreat to the opposition, and put Comrade Germaine, who had protested this, as an arbiter, between the contending forces. At the time the American comrades who were apparently acquainted with this development through their representative in the IS, who did not understand what was involved and thought it was some kind of incapacity of certain persons to work together. But in the light of subsequent events, he revised his opinion, and the French comrades revealed what had happened in their own section.
Well Pablo did somewhat the same thing in the Canadian Section, and that’s documented in the orange-covered Bulletin. It involved the Canadian comrades who supported Pablo—they were in the minority. They claimed about 35% but they had (. . . ) a much smaller minority than that. But Pablo declared that anybody who in any way supported the SWP “Open Letter” were persons (who were declared) suspended from posts in their sections and from their posts on the IEC. And this involved myself, and it involved Reg Bullock; and this process would have transformed the minority in the Canadian Section into a majority. Now the comrades who supported Pablo in Canada agree with (this) but did not think that it was a practical proposition, and so it was not carried out in Canada in any way. Well, I dealt with that in greater detail in that document.
At any rate, this difference had broader implications than what I have dealt with in the document, particularly in our orientation to the CCF; it involved our whole concept of the International; it involved the basic thrust of our program along with our concept of entrism. And that difference was so profound that there was no basis for collaboration. In essence it was a split: while the American comrades launched “the International Committee” (IC) and got the support of the Canadian leadership, the British, the French, the Swiss, the Danish and I forget—one or two others—with the Ceylonese comrades wavering in between, and declared themselves a tendency that way, the division was so sharp that there was no collaboration. Pablo recognized his supporters in the Canadian Section as the representatives at a subsequent congress of what he called the Fourth International, and that explains to you why when we talk about the congresses (of the FI), we refer to the So-and-so year Congress of the FI we end up by putting into brackets “So and so year congress Since Reunification” since there is a tendency of important parts of the world movement not to recognize the congresses which took place in the interim between the split and re-unification, 1953 to1963.
Well, it so happened that Pablo’s projections proved disastrously wrong, for his theory. The war did not come, his timetable was off, and of course in the document re-evaluating entrism, which was not adopted by the last world congress but was only published afterwards, as a re-evaluation of entrism on a European scale—Comrades Mandel (Germaine) and Pierre Frank—these comrades wrote a joint document in which they comment on this erroneous projection—the war didn’t come and of course we had a whole series of new revolutionary opportunities, and in the document that deals with entrism we dealt with them, and the challenges that confronted our movement; why we terminated our entrism, why with the new challenges before us we had to (stand clear) of the entrist tactic and retain our orientation, though, to the NDP.
For instance one of them was the Cuban Revolution and the rise of the Black struggle in the United States, and of course the ongoing crisis of Stalinism not just in East Germany but everywhere; the development of powerful forces of opposition in Hungary and now of course in Czechoslovakia, which has transformed the situation in many countries with regards to the elements of the revolutionary leadership. For instance the Communist Party of Canada has gone through a whole series of crises on the basis of the crisis of international Stalinism, particularly the crisis of the Soviet bureaucracy, and its extension into other sectors of the Soviet areas. So there is the crisis of the old political forces, and new revolutionary forces came onto the arena, particularly Cuba, of course. So the projection of Pablo proved erroneous and it so happened there developed a split in the formations of the United Secretariat forces (of the F.I. -ed.) that is, the Pabloite wing of Trotskyism, developed a wide split. For instance, when I went to Europe (1962 -ed.) already there were broader and more substantial bases of agreement—on the evaluation of Stalinism and a whole series of things—and we came to the conclusion that there were no real substantial differences and that it was the primary responsibility of all Trotskyists to overcome the disunity in order to face the new opportunities. When I went to Europe I found the Pablo forces had undergone a big split—they didn’t tell us at the time, from their side—they very honestly and genuinely met the challenge of reunification. I made a quick tour of the major sections in Europe and I learned very quickly that Pablo was out of the international leadership of the United Secretariat forces; that he had lost his influence; that a new leadership was being structured, primarily around Livio Maitan, Ernest Mandel and Pierre Frank who had not been the key persons in that team operation—and Pabloism was already an isolated current in the United Secretariat forces... and there had been wide divisions that had already developed in various sections over some of the experiences they had had, and of course, and the main factors that brought those comrades to the realization of the need for reunification was the new wave of radicalization which started to hit our movement and give us new opportunities. So the reunification was consummated on the basis of the subsequent experiences which proved Pablo’s contentions wrong and laid the political basis for the movement as it is now constituted.
(Applause, followed by an announcement for one half hour period for questions; what follows are two contributions, inaudible, by Myer Shapiro and Vern Olson)
I won’t comment on Vern’s contribution, which I agree with... Well Myer is referring to the best, most rounded experience we have had in the Canadian movement, with the formation of an unprincipled combination, I think, and it is dealt with in the orange document; its around what is called the “Rose Group” in the Canadian movement—this is a group of comrades pretty well limited to Toronto; which started to form in the Toronto Branch and which was very difficult for anyone to understand what it’s basis was—it disagreed with everything—everything in the movement. The more petty the thing was, the more violent the disagreement was. I remember once we worked our rears off to paint the place, (the headquarters), and when one of the leading comrades of the tendency came in, I asked him what he thought of the job, expecting a positive response and he turned around and said “who determined the color!” So I was sort of put off, you know. At any rate we had this tendency which started to develop in the movement and it became a bit of a force in the branch. We didn’t know how to cope with it—it was a worrisome thing—it led to all kinds of uneasiness among comrades in the Toronto branch. Ultimately I tried to define it, in the interests of the movement. I said “you’re a tendency really, you don’t call yourself one, and I am going to try to define what you are.” I tried to characterize them: they were soft on Stalinism, and they were hard on reformism, on the CCF, which we were entered into at that time. They were opposed in essence to entry. Ultimately, when we passed the position of entrism, they split. We formally took the position of entrism; formally—you see before then we sent comrades (into the CCF) to get experience in this situation—but when we formally adopted a position of entrism they split from the movement, showing that my general evaluation of the tendency was correct, what this tendency represented.
So this current went its own way for a short period, became unionist (syndicalist, centered solely on non-political union work -ed.), minimized the importance of the CCF and maximized the union movement. If you look through the documents, you will see some discussions around the U.E. (Stalinist-led United Electrical Workers Union -ed.) and other (union) experiences of that time, and the big factional disputes about the line of the paper (the Workers’ Vanguard) on some aspects of unionism. They were the hotshots on unionism and they rejected the CCF. So when we took the entry they split away from the movement. But then, that wasn’t the end of them, because the Pabloite group very shortly formed a bloc with them, while they were out of the movement and opposed to the movement, the Pabloite current that developed in the movement formed a bloc with them. It’s related in that document, a rather sordid thing in which these comrades immediately became the vehicle which the Pabloites demanded be allowed into the movement four days or so before the convention. They wanted to establish them as legitimate Trotskyists, who would have a deciding position in the coming convention, while these persons had not been part of the movement in any way whatsoever�