Ernest Mandel

Speech at London Rally to Condemn Healyite Frame-up Campaign

(January 1977)

From Intercontinental Press, Vol. 15 No. 4, 7 February 1977, pp. 100–102.
Transcribed by Joe Auciello.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Comrades, why are we here tonight? We are not here tonight to defend Comrade George Novack and Comrade Joseph Hansen, because friends and comrades like these two who have been active in the revolutionary movement and devoted to Trotskyism for forty years do not need to be defended against vile slander.

The News Line of January 1, 1977, tells us why we are here – why all of you are here. We are here “with the express intention of protecting the GPU.” Not even with the objective intention, with the express intention. All the people sitting here: Here are 1,500 defenders of the GPU – that’s why we are here.

If he wasn’t such a little rascal, one could feel sorry for Comrade Gerry Healy for saying such stupid things that immediately boomerang against himself. One could be sorry for him, to see how he has been caught in the objective dialectics of a little sectarian bureaucrat who absolutely subordinates the interests of the working class, the interests of the world revolution, the interests of socialism [applause], to the interests of an inefficient, inaccurate, and meaningless little sect which has talked itself out of the class struggle in Britain and internationally. I say one could feel sorry for him, because he has, after all, devoted his life to building that revolutionary movement, and when he has to cover up his failures with lies and slanders, one could feel sorry for him, I repeat, if he wasn’t such a little rascal.

One must see the logic of this business which he has set in motion: first calling one person an agent of the Soviet police, then calling 1,000 persons agents of the police, then reducing the class struggle to police infiltration and operations of agents. Because in this very same article, you find unbelievable things. You find that we are all here together, not in order to participate in the class struggle ... the class struggle of whom? – the class struggle of the workers of Europe and Latin America against the CIA! The class struggle is not any more conducted against the capitalist class; the class struggle is not any more conducted between social forces – No! the class struggle is now all against agents and infiltrators!

I tell you, anybody who would have told Comrade Healy ten years ago that he would fall to that Stalinist depth of reducing the class struggle to a struggle against spies and agents, anybody who would have told that to Healy ten years ago would have received the answer which he would have merited.

And you can only feel sorry for people who have so little control over their own development, who know so little about what is happening to themselves that by the accumulation of the logic of sectarian mistakes they can degenerate and fall so deeply as to deform and desecrate Marxism in the way in which Healy is doing today. So I say we are here neither to defend Comrades Hansen and Novack, nor to defend the GPU; it’s too stupid to discuss that.

No. We are here to defend the Fourth International. To show solidarity with Comrade Hansen and Comrade Novack. We are here to defend the Fourth International. And it needs to be defended, against the slanders of Healy, because we have to understand what this fool has done. Again I say “this fool,” because this boomerangs against himself and his own organization as long as he continues – for reasons which are unclear – to call himself a Trotskyist.

What have been the allegations of our main enemies for years and decades against the Fourth International, against the world Trotskyist movement? It has been that ours is a movement infiltrated and manipulated by agents and spies. That was the main thesis of Stalinism, that was the main thesis of the Soviet bureaucracy – that the Trotskyist movement is not a genuine part of the international working class; is not a genuine part of the international labor movement, but a movement manipulated by spies and by infiltrators. And what has been the main thesis of international imperialism, what has been the main thesis of the bourgeoisie? Look at the Congressional Record in the United States, look at the press campaigns of the bourgeoisie against the Fourth International: They say that it is a movement manipulated by terrorist agents, infiltrators, and spies. And for years, and for decades, as long as our movement was weak, as long as our voice was weak, and our enemies spoke with very powerful material force, in a united voice, many people believed them, including many people inside the working class.

Today, things have changed. Today, we are much stronger, and our enemies are much weaker and much more divided than before. And especially, today, we are deeply rooted in the working class, we are deeply rooted in the toiling and fighting masses in so many countries that nobody can believe this type of business any more.

And it is at such a moment, it is at the moment of this big historical turn, when we have become recognized and accepted as a genuine part of the working class in the international working class movement, that such a fool comes around and says, No! Start to look for agents under your bed because they have agents everywhere under your bed. And he says this hall is full of agents – you can read it in his newspaper – agents of the GPU and agents of the CIA are sitting here and rubbing shoulders with each other, and that it is here like that, and it is in every cell meeting like that, and it’s in every national meeting like that. That’s what this fool is saying – giving aid and comfort to all the slanders and all the attacks which for such a long period have been conducted against our movement.

I say, what Hitler and Stalin couldn’t get away with – when these mass murderers couldn’t destroy our movement, a tin-pot tyrant like Gerry Healy is not going to destroy us or stop us in the building of the Fourth International. [applause]

Why is it not possible to have any serious group of workers in the world today accept that we are a movement full of agents, full of spies, full of infiltrators, manipulated by outside forces? Because people, as I said before, thanks to our principled activity, thanks to our activities in the service of the working class and in the service of the revolution, know us now, and they know us by the thousands, and they know what we are, and nobody is going to tell them anything else than what they themselves know in the living class struggle of the different countries.

I’ll just take a few examples from the last weeks to show what the Fourth International is today, and to show how the international working class, and how the international labor movement looks upon the Fourth International.

A young comrade of ours, hardly twenty years old, was arrested in Peru, brutally tortured, and murdered by the police. Fifteen trade unions – fifteen trade unions – spoke out within twenty-four hours in his defense. Do you think you will convince the Peruvian workers that the Trotskyist movement is a movement infiltrated and manipulated by agents of the GPU, and of the CIA, when they see and do such things?

In Pakistan, Comrade Tariq Ali, who is sitting here, was prevented from leaving the country. Immediately there was a telegram sent, of MPs of the British labor movement; there was a movement started in France by leaders of the labor movement to force President Bhutto to get Comrade Tariq out of that prison in Pakistan, and he got out.

We have had in France – I must give the due to whom we have to give the due – a powerful mobilization of left working-class forces in which the comrades of the OCI have played an excellent, an exemplary, role; to get one of the representatives of the left-wing opposition in the Soviet Union – not Solzhenitsyn, not the reactionaries, not the semi-fascists, but a representative of the left-wing opposition in the Soviet Union, Comrade Plyushch, got out of the grasp of the Soviet bureaucracy. And we got him out! [applause]

And the most important, and most inspiring example of all, four weeks ago 154 comrades of the Basque conference of our Spanish organization were arrested at the end of their meeting. Within twenty-four hours, five factories went on strike to get these comrades out. In this united action about every single one of the working-class organizations of the Basque country was represented, and we got every single one of the 154 comrades out before the week was over! That’s the Fourth International today! [applause]

Do you think that slandering our movement, slandering the leaders of our movement, slandering the public representatives of our movement, is going to stop this business which is the business of the rise of a new revolutionary vanguard, which is the business of building a revolutionary party, which expresses objectively the rise of world revolution today? You think you’re going to stop us by slandering? You are just a fool when you think so! Look at this meeting, and look at the reality of the Fourth International today, and you will see what results you will get: zero point zero!

And why couldn’t you stop us, and why can’t you stop us, and why can nobody stop us, on that road? Because we have followed a very simple, a very consistent, and a very, very, very difficult way, in which we have had to build our movement against terrible odds. But that’s the only road which will repay in the long run. We have followed the road of just sticking to confidence in the working class; confidence in the class struggle; participating in the class struggle, participating in mass action, educating our members and educating the working class in relentless and irreconcilable struggle against every form of exploitation and oppression in the world. That’s what the program of socialism is all about, that’s what the program of Marxism is all about, and that’s what is indestructible.

When you have a correct program, when you follow the line of that program, when you tell the truth to the workers, when you don’t hide anything from them, when you don’t use slanders, when you don’t use false accusations, when you don’t see spies when there are social forces in operation, then in the long run you must win, inasmuch as you have confidence that the working class will continue to fight, that world revolution will continue to rise, that capitalism is unavoidably crisis-ridden, and will be overthrown, that the Soviet bureaucracy and all other conservative forces inside the labor movement cannot stop this movement of history in the long run. By striking out along this line, we could resist, successfully, I repeat, terrible odds – because the slanders of Stalin, and the murders committed by Stalin and Hitler, were far graver than the slanders of Thomas Gerald Healy. We could resist them, and we could transmit the heritage to a new generation – a new generation that is today ten times stronger in numbers than the older ones, in which Healy, myself, and all the other people who are sitting on this platform participated. That was a united Trotskyist movement. But a united Trotskyist movement which was, I repeat, ten times weaker in number, and immeasurably weaker in influence and in activity than the Fourth International is today.

By sticking to this principled line, by sticking to this simple line, by not looking for some miracle solution, by not looking for some shortcuts, by not trying to do more than you can do with the forces which you have, buy by doing whatever you can with these forces on the basis of your program, and on the basis of the unfolding class struggle, we have come out of that tunnel, and today we have a movement much stronger, much more influential, in a better position and much more capable of gaining results through our intervention in the class struggle than we ever had before. And we will continue to build the Fourth International, and we will continue to build revolutionary parties by that method because that’s the only method which gives results in the long run. And we are dedicated – we dedicate our members and we dedicate the vanguard of the working class – to that method. That means a method which fights with politics, which fights with the weapons of the class struggle, and not of science fiction or of the spy scare; which fights not with witch-hunts but by means of the working-class struggle, mass struggle – that’s the weapon with which to build the revolutionary party; and that’s also our weapon against imperialism and against the Soviet bureaucracy.

And I would add: we should keep our sense of proportion, as Comrade Tariq said when he opened this meeting. We should use that method towards the Workers Revolutionary Party, too. We should not be sectarian against the sectarians. It’s meaningless and it would be worthless to our own cause. We should understand that whatever be the madness that inspires their present slanderous course, at the slightest sign they would show, at the slightest sign we could force them to show, to return to reason, we would treat them like we have to treat every other tendency of the revolutionary left, every other tendency of the revolutionary wing of the international labor movement, as potential allies, and potential members today in big mass revolutionary parties which we want to build, and for which many, many participants will have to come from many, many different political tendency and factional origins. [applause]

And when I say we have to keep our sense of proportion, and we have to apply the same classical methods of working-class policy, of working-class tactics and of working-class strategy, to all the problems that concern us this evening, we have to understand that in the fight against Stalinism at this stage, at this peculiar, particular stage, which is an extremely important stage, especially in Western Europe, we have today exceptionally powerful weapons to conduct a political campaign, to which I invite all comrades present here, of all different tendencies, factions, and organizations, to participate and come together to conduct this fight.

Whatever one may think about all the intricacies of so-called Euro-Communism, of which we are of course no friends whatsoever, no apologists – which we don’t cover up – it is a new stage in the reformist degeneration of these parties, preparation for the deeply counterrevolutionary role of these parties in the coming revolutionary struggles in southern Europe. We have to understand one thing, in addition to all these aspects – that they have introduced new and tremendously vulnerable elements of division inside the world Stalinist movement, which can today have very big effects in favor of Trotskyism.

And I would therefore propose to the tendencies, factions, and organizations which are present: Let us conduct a common political campaign, to ask from the Italian Communist party, from the French Communist party, from the Spanish Communist party, from the Belgian Communist party, from the British Communist party, that they immediately, openly and publicly, rehabilitate all victims of Stalin, all the victims of the Moscow Trials, and that the Spanish Communist party in particular draw the logical conclusion from this rehabilitation and immediately expel the vile murderer of Leon Trotsky from its ranks. [applause] Such a propaganda campaign today will perhaps not uncover some secret spy device which caused the assassination of 1940, but is instead a political campaign which will hit the Soviet bureaucracy, which will hit international Stalinism ten thousand times more deeply, more profoundly than any of these spy inquiries. And it is especially a political campaign which will have an effect in the working class of France, in the working class of Italy, in the working class of Spain, in the working class of Portugal, which will make it easier to fight class collaboration and betrayal of the revolutions which are mounting there; which will widen the scope of workers democracy in the unions and the factories of these countries, which will make it easier for the revolutionaries in these countries – and there are already thousands of them – to fight against what remains of the poison of Stalinism today in the working-class movement, in the Communist parties, and in the trade-union organizations of these countries.

That is a fight worthy of Trotskyism, that is a fight worthy of the Fourth International, that is a fight which is in the great tradition of revolutionary Marxism, for which we stand in the great tradition of defense of workers democracy, which we must defend relentlessly, unconditionally, and without reservation if we are to be principled in every country, in every case, and against everybody who questions them. [prolonged applause, foot-stamping, etc.]

Last updated on 3.7.2013