Written: 15 October, 1955
Source: The Struggle to Reunify the Fourth International Volume I: The First Parity Commission and Peng Shuzi’s “Pabloism Reviewed”. Published as part of the Education for Socialists series of bulletins by the (US) Socialist Workers Party
Transcription/Proofing: David Walters and Andy Pollack
HTML Markup: David Walters
Public Domain: Peng Shuzi Internet Archive 2005. This work is completely free to copy and distribute. Please cite the Marxists Internet’s Peng Shuzi Internet Archive if the contents herein are reproduced
[Transcribers note: This letter is part of a series of correspondence between Peng Shuzi and other leaders of the Fourth International. The letters deals with the political crisis in the Fourth International that started with the expulsion of the majority of the French Section of the Fourth International by the leader of the then unified Fourth International, Michel Pablo. The series of letters dealing with this and other issues affecting the internal situation inside the Fourth International are part of the document cited in the pubishing information above.]
1. It was completely correct when we accepted the proposal of the Ceylonese section to form the Parity Commission at that time, and it is still correct and necessary today to engage in a common and general discussion with the Ceylonese section and all Trotskyist militants and organisations influenced by Pabloites in order to thoroughly crush Pabloism and in the attempt of reunification of all Trotskyists.
2. If the Parity Commission has never played a role or even played a negative role in the past, it is mainly due to the fact that we, on our part, had not submitted in time to this commission documents for discussion to be distributed in all organisations influenced by the Pabloites, so as to fetch further blows on Pabloism.
3. Now as our principal documents are ready, we should put into practice our promise and send them at once to the Parity Commission and through it to all organisations of the IS for discussion.
4. If we have no confidence in the IS delegation to the first meeting of the Parity Commission, we must write without delay to the Ceylonese section, asking it to send its representative to participate in the work of this commission, and propose concretely to the commission the tasks of the commission, and particularly the conditions relating to the preparation of a common discussion.
5. Only in the event of a refusal on the part of the Ceylonese section to send their representative, and the rejection on the part of the IS delegation in the commission regarding the necessary conditions proposed by us then shall we have sufficient reason to condemn the commission as a nuisance to the common discussion and reunification of all Trotskyists and to declare withdrawing from it. Only then the responsibility of damaging the Parity Commission will not be on our side but the Pabloites.
6. To withdraw from the commission today without any justification but simply in recognising a mistake committed by ourselves in accepting the commisssion at the beginning is not only a most lightminded and irresponsible conduct but will necessarily provoke the extreme discontent and resentment in the Ceylonese section and among all rank and file militants under Pabloite influence.
This will only help Pablo to consolidate his position in the IS and to continue spreading his revisionist and liquidationist ideas in the name of the Fl to deceive masses, and will inevitably result in uncalculable damage and loss to our movement.
10. “Your Section formally proposed to withdraw from the Parity Commission”: letter from Peng Shuzi to Gerry Healy (December 15, 1955)
Dear Comrade Burns [Healy],
I am sending you here a copy of the reply by Tilak [Goonewardene] to my letter which was proposed by you and agreed upon on our last meeting. The LSSP considers that the responsibility of the failure of the Parity Commission lies on the IC, because we have been unwilling to proceed with its tasks. Consequently, they feel it is not worth their sacrifice of sending a representative here. This implies, it seems to me, that they are ready to make this sacrifice if on our part we are sincere in proceeding with the function of the Parity Commission.
In view of the position adopted by the majority of the IC last meeting, I feel it is rather difficult for me to answer this letter and to continue discussing with them (though it seems that they hope to discuss with me on this question by giving me an address of direct correspondence). Therefore, while sending you the copy of T’s letter, I deem necessary to express my opinion and hope you will reconsider this question of great importance to us.
The reproach the LSSP made on us being responsible for the failure of the Parity Commission is in my opinion true to the fact. At the beginning when Bloch, etc. opposed obstinately to the Parity Commission and tried to hinder it, it was on the firm insistence of all other members, particularly yours, that we adopted the resolution of acceptance of the proposal of the LSSP and of sending our representatives to this Commission. But since the first meeting of this commission last November, the IC has adopted a completely passive and negligent attitude. Finally, your Section formally proposed to withdraw from the Parity Commission which led to the majority resolution on the last IC meeting. All this sufficiently proves that the judgement of the Ceylon party is irrefutable.
Well, you stressed on the last meeting that we committed a great mistake in accepting the proposal of constituting the Commission in the very beginning, without taking note of the warnings of some comrades, that is, the warnings made by Bloch and his group. But I am obliged to call your attention once again on the following facts:
A. The negotiation and discussion with the Ceylon representatives for the formation of a Parity Commission were carried on by the English comrades and especially by yourself. I believe that when you negotiated with the Ceylon representatives on such an important question, you had seriously considered it. In truth, after the Pabloite June conference, it was entirely correct and necessary that you negotiated with the Ceylon representatives and agreed with them to constitute the Parity Commission so as to fetch further blows on Pabloism, to win over all Trotskyists under the influence of the IS, particularly the Ceylon Trotskyists. This was then precisely the continuation of the position adopted by Comrade Cannon in his letter to Tilak.
B. During the discussion on the question of the Parity Commission which took place on the IC meeting last August when the French representatives expressed violent objections, you retorted with some vehemence, and you proposed to the IC to accept the constitution of the Parity Commission with same resolution. There is no need to say that I approved resolutely your position.
C. After this IC meeting of August last, Bloch and other French comrades adopted an attitude of postponing and preventing the actual realization of this Commission. To this, you reproached seriously on the IC meeting of last November, you drafted a resolution limiting and defining the tasks of the Commission, and proposed to present representatives of the IC to this Commission. When Bloch and his comrades refused to send their delegate to the Commission, you did even propose dismissal of Bloch from his function as secretary of the IC. Until on the meeting held June this year, when Bloch presented a letter from an Italian comrade opposing to the Parity Commission, you still defended your position, and attacked the Lambert group of being unloyal and unscrupulous in the attempt of moving the Italian comrade to approve their position by fractional work.
From the above-stated facts, and after going through such serious discussions and violent controversies, I can hardly believe that you committed a mistake due to lightmindedness and lack of reflection when you made the decision of accepting the Ceylon proposal.
Your reproaching the Ceylon party their weaknesses on the last meeting really surprised me. Because not long ago, especially since our meeting last August, when Bloch and his comrades calumniated the LSSP (they based their judgement on the report of their party members on their return from a voyage to Ceylon), your section was extremely indignant, and you defended the Ceylon party. Within not even a year’s time, you have adopted the attitude of these French comrades towards the LSSP, against which you were then opposed!
As I remarked on the last meeting: despite of certain weaknesses manifested by the LSSP (in fact, each section has its own weaknesses, and no perfectness does exist), her merits far surpass her failures. She has not only politically maintained the Trotskyist traditional position, but is the only section in our movement which has a true mass base and has effectively led nationwide mass movement. Precisely so, it has won prestige among all Trotskyists in the world, particularly the comrades in the Orient. Our main task should be encouragement and help towards her (without omitting any correct criticism), and attempting to collaborate closely with her, for the development of the Trotskyist movement in the Orient. We must also note particularly that there exist today a very favorable situation in India for the development of Trotskyist movement thanks to Stalinists’ capitulation to the national bourgeoisie. Hence it is more necessary than ever to seek close cooperation on our part with the LSSP to facilitate the spreading of the Trotskyist movement in India. Moreover, I have to point out that as you are placed in the metropole of the British imperialism, you have to pay special attention to the Trotskyists who reside in those colonial or semi-colonial countries, formerly or at present, such as Ceylon and India, to seek sincerely their close collaboration in the common effort of overthrowing the common enemy—the imperialists.
However, in order to win close cooperation with the LSSP, we are to adopt a correct position by convincing her with facts instead of condemning its weaknesses or adopting a sectarian attitude. From this standpoint, I think you were completely correct in your previous attempt of negotiating with the Ceylon representatives and in accepting their proposal on the Parity Commission. And only this position can make them feel at ease, that is to say, can convince them that we are extremely sincere in seeking their collaboration for the interests of the whole movement. Now I am obliged to say that your recent position on this same question will not only fail to convince but on the contrary will provoke resentment. Tilak’s reply to my letter is undeniably an evidence.
As to the reasons and necessity of continuing the function of the Parity Commission, since I have repeatedly expressed my opinion at the IC meetings, and I am enclosing a copy of my last letter to Smith [Dobbs], there is no need to state them again here.
In any case, I believe that our withdrawal from the Parity Commission at present will not only result in extreme indignation and resentment in the Ceylon party and among all Trotskyists under Pabloite influence, to perpetuate the split and division of our movement for a long time to come, but will objectively help Pablo to consolidate once again his position in the IS, to continue deceiving comrades and masses to the detriment of the Trotskyist movement. Therefore, I request you imperatively to reconsider on this question.
On the last IC meeting, it was decided that the resolution on this question would be published only after having consulted the opinions of the New Zealand [US.] and Chinese Sections. This is a cautious and reasonable complementary measure. But there are still the comrades of other sections or groups, like Iceland [Canada], to whom we should also inquire their opinions. Besides, I must inform you one more fact: on the conference held by our Italian group this August, the overwhelming majority passed a resolution approving the continuation of the Parity Commission. But the Comrade Bloch who assisted [attended] this conference did not say a word about this decision. It is evidently to conceal deliberately a news unfavorable to themselves. This kind of conduct has to be discussed and examined.
My concrete proposal is as follows: the publication of the resolution concerning the Parity Commission on the last meeting to be postponed, meantime to consult the final opinions of the sections of New Zealand, Iceland, etc. as rapidly as possible, and this resolution to be presented for rediscussion and final decision on the next IC meeting. As about the Chinese Section, owing to recent incident with their address for correspondence, I have not succeeded to transmit the IC resolution in time for discussion. But I believe that they are not willing to put themselves in the state of opposition against the Ceylon party and other Trotskyists in the sections of the IS.
Basing on the painful experiences and lessons resulting from my two years’ participation in the IS, I have now the deep feeling that it is necessary that we adopt extremely cautious and serious attitude on important problems, that we obey strictly the principle of democratic centralism and necessary organizational procedures, in order to reestablish the good tradition of our movement.
I have great respect for you and the achievements of your work in your own country, and I hope that you will create the same good results on international scale. This is also your responsibility in your present position.