Correspondence With Liborio Justo
Buenos Aires, 20th August 1964
c/o The Citadel Press
222 Park Avenue south
New York, 3
Dear Albert Weisbord
Recently I saw in one of Buenos Aires books stores, one book of you and take the opportunity of writing you after more of twenty years without any news about you. Still are you for social revolution? Did you traveled to Argentina to write that book?
In one book of mine, written in 1959, I name you and your oppinion on Leon Trotsky. Its title is: “Leon Trotsky and Wall Street, How the leader of the Fourth International put himself to the service of the Yanqui Imperialism in Mexico” I make an analisis of the positions of Trotsky about the Countries of Latin America and blame him of treason to its Revolutions. I can send you a copy. I stand for the Fifth International.
Hoping to hear from you soon (Excuse my bad english)
My address is:
Casilla de Correo 4824
Buenos Aires, September 6, 1964
5312 S. Blackstone Ave.
Dear Albert Weisbord
It is not easy for me to explain my mind in correct English, but I hope you’ll understand me, Any doubt, please let me know it. (By the way, are you able to read Spanish?)
I don’t meant that you blamed Trotsky as agent of Wall Street. I quote what you wrote against him thirty years ago in “Class Struggle". Am I that accuse Trotsky to renounce social revolution in Latin America when he stayed in Mexico in order to keep the chance to remain in that country. This he did in clear alliance with U.S. Imperialism. And I prove it.
I’m really astonished about the people that you met in Argentina. Of course nor Rondamina nor Pifarre are friends of mine. I even don’t know them, the latter nor by name. Vandor is just a tool of the American Interests that stand behind the petroleum agreements with Frondizi and Frigario. He is a Peronist and the worse kind of union bureaucrat. Never reads books, for he prefers to read bank checks.
Please forgive me if I disagree with you about the Fourth International. It has existed and exist as an centrist movement that we must fight and expose, as the Trotskyist movement in a whole. Its role In the Bolivian revolution of 1952, was very important to show what not to do in the Latin American road of liberation. I’m working on a book about it for contrary to your opinion, I think that the critic of Trotsky and Trotskyism—not only of Stalinism—is the most important labor in these countries. That is what I’m doing. And that is why I stand for the Fifth International.
I regret very much to have not meeted you when you visited Argentina two years ago, because I keep the best reminiscences of you and of your writings and conferences in New York, in 1934. But it seems to me that you are not now the same fiery fighter that you used to be. Have you still any group? Or planning to frame one in the future?
Hope to hear from you soon.
I’m sending you my book “Leon Trotsky and Wall Street”, which appeared under my pen name Quebracho, and where I’ve signalled the quotations of you. If it is possible for you to read it please send me yours opinion.
September 9, 1964
Dear Liborio Justo
Thank you for sending me your book which I shall read carefully. Si quiere Vd escribir en al idioma castellano, seria bueno, tembien. I would like you to read my Latin American Actuality and then tell me whether you do not think it possible to get a Spanish (and/or Portuguese) translation and edition. Under separate cover I am sending you a copy of my pamphlet “Critique of the Draft Program of the CPSU.” Sometime later I shall send you a copy of my Critique of the Second Declaration of Habana.
When I arrived in Buenos Aires two years ago I went to the Socialist Party to find out how I could contact you in the belief that you were the son of the founder and leader of that Party. Both Pifarre and Rondanino gave me to understand they knew you well. Pifarre had an office at Rosario 294, B.A. and Rondanino lived at Pueyrredon 391, B.A. If you do not know them then some one ought to see them to get some explanation of their conduct.
As for Vandor, were he to run for political office at the head of the Argentine Labor Party (a Party composed of the trade union basically) on a program that would include, say, most of the points brought out by Framini in 1962 but with special emphasis an the complete elimination of the power of the military, to intervene in political affairs by drastic reduction of the military budget, by termination of the conscription, by arousing the soldiers against their officers. etc, etc., this would be a great step forward, since such a Party could be a bridge towards the formation of a real political revolutionary organization.
Of course the present Trotskyist organizations are not proletarian revolutionary ones but, except for a very few countries (Bolivia, Ceylon) they are not significant. Where they do play any significant role they should be exposed but the main fire should not be against that degenerated miserable sect. Keep in mind that the so-called Trotskyist’s of today might very well have been repudiated by Trotsky himself. He tolerated such types because they printed his opinions and disseminated them throughout the world and a man in Trotsky’s position did not have much choice. Basically, the critique of Trotsky against Stalinism was correct internationalism.
The Fourth International really never functioned. It was a mere caricature of an international center and existed primarily as a publishing house for Trotsky’s works. As a matter of fact it is just playing with words to call for a Fourth, a Fifth, or a Sixth. etc., International . The Third was murdered by Stalin; the Fourth was still-born; the fifth??? Why bother with numbers? What count are the principles, program, policies and practices of the revolutionary organization.
Khrushchevism (Stalinism still further vulgarized and nationalized) is a far more powerful poisoner and betrayer of the workers and stands today the worst enemy to be fought in the international arena. Cuba shows that if a revolutionary force is to defeat its opponents, It must by-pass and render futile the Communist Party of Khrushchev. The efforts of Asian toilers led by Buddhist trained intellectuals can be of value only if they upset the Khrushchevists enough to cause the European workers and those similarly industrialized to take the next necessary steps.
I do not have any group. nor do I plan to form one in the near future. How about yourself? What have you been doing since we last saw you in New York In the 1930’s? If you have other writings I would be interested to see them. In 1937 a two volume work of mine “The Conquest of Power” was published. Did you ever see it?
September 29, 1964
I have received your letter and I understand now what is your position today, I see that in 1934 you were a critic of Trotsky and now you are a Trotskyist. Let me to desagree enterely whith that actitude. I consider that the critique of Trotsky against Stalinism was correct internationalism, as you say. But we cannot remain in a position of critique of Stalinism, but to find a correct way to interpret the worlds affairs and to proletarian revolution. And the way of Trotsky is basicaly wrong In Latin America. And internationaly too. To persist in 1964 in this critique of Stalinism is just the same as to have persisted in 1934 in the critique of Socialdemocratism. If you can read the book that I send you you’ll find my reasons.
I’m not the son of the founder of the Socialist Party, but just a relative. I’m the son of general A.P Justo, former president of Argentina, now deseced.
I’m sending you by maritime mail others books of mine, that will let you know what was I doing these last years, and an analisis of Argentina history to explain our own development. As Marx and Engels, I was unsuccessful in leading the social revolution myself, because objetive conditions were not ripe. But now I’m devoted to a theorical work that will help the new generations in its way to social revolution, not only in Argentina, but in the whole of Latin America througth a correct marxist-leninist way, whithout any foreign interference in it. I mean, whithout orders from Moscow, Paris, New York or Peking.
Of course I know your book “The Conquest of Power". You sent it to me when it appeared. In my oppinion is a obsolete magnifficent work. Your last book is different. It seems to me that for a foreigner is very difficult to say anything interesting in politics to the vanguard Intellectuals and labor leaders. I’m one of the first, and when I saw the book I din’t consider convenient to buy it because is to expensive in argentine money and, throught a rapid reading, I din’t find justification for that expense. That’s too why I consider very difficult to got an spanish edition of it. Futhermore, what you say of Vandor and Framini in your letter shows me that you are absolutely wrong in your appreciation of Argentine politics. They do not belong to a Labor Party, that not exist now in this country, but to the paronist Justicialista Party, a demagogic instrument of the American imperialism.
After reading the book I sent to you, let me know your oppinion, and I hope that we’ll remain in postal relation, although is evident that we desagree basicaly. I hope to receive your Critique of the Second Declaration of Habana. Is there in U.S. any intelectual or any group that is in my position in regard of Trotsky? And, in regard of Trotskyism? I receive regularly the Cannon’s publications.
October 2, 1964
Dear Liborio Justo
I have Just finished reading your book Leon Trotsky and Wall Street. It seems to me that in much of the book you write in a subjective manner and fail to evaluate certain factors properly.
1. You write that Trotsky was originally a centrist and, except for periods when he was with Lenin, remained essentially a centrist. You fail to consider adequately the following:
a. Whenever any Marxist analyzes incorrectly any given situation, to that extent he is not a dialectical materialist but an Idealist, and as such in one way or another plays into the hands of his class enemy. Since a Marxist is but human and the analyzed events extraordinarily complicated, at times even the best Marxist makes mistakes and is in that case not a Marxist but an opportunist (or as he might be called in certain frames of reference, a centrist). Do you think Marx, or Engels, or Lenin were always Marxist and never made mistakes? Of course not, although one would never learn from your book that such might be the case. You put these people on pedestals as though they were Gods (with the exception of your reference to some of Engels words on Latin America, in which however, he may have been referring to the Latin American ruling classes when he called them lazy and not to the masses of people as a whole). The fact is Marxists may correctly give a general estimate of what is to be done but in any given concrete set of circumstances may analyze the data incorrectly and judge unrealistically. Let me give five examples.
1) Engels. It was the opinion of Engels that after 1848 the street fight behind barricades was passe. This was a premature judgment which I criticize (page 755 of my Conquest of Power). Opportunist socialists seized Engels’ remarks; to declare Engels did not believe revolutionary methods should be used any more.
2) Marx. In regard to Czechoslovakia Marx was clearly of the opinion this was a Slavic enclave having intrinsically no future or historical progressiveness. Whatever was progressive with the Czechs or Slovaks had come from Germany and there was no reason for them to insist on national Independence—all according to Marx and this under capitalism!
3) Engels. In the late 19th century, Engels also believed that the German socialists, while resisting a war of invasion by Russian Czarism, would at the same time make it impossible for the German capitalists to control the war and would themselves take over power.
4) Lenin. In Lenin’s Letter to the American Workers, widely distributed in the U.S.A. there is a completely distorted and opportunist picture of the American Revolution which helped cause immeasurable theoretical harm. For a detailed critique I refer you to my Conquest of Power.
5) Lenin. Consider the monstrous error of Lenin placing Stalin as Executive Secretary of the Bolshevik organization: Could there have been a more heinous mistake than that? It was certainly far worse than Trotsky using Cannon or the other nincompoops he did.
Thus we come to the conclusion that if we wish to weigh the politically scientific stature of given revolutionaries, if we desire to evaluate them so as to state whether they are Marxists, we have to evaluate ALL the actions and positions taken by such persons in the light of the concrete given situations they faced. From that point of view, of course Marx, Engels, and Lenin were Marxists. The errors they committed are relatively very small in comparison with their positive achievements.
b. Terms such as “centrists” or “Bolsheviks” are correctly used only under given historical conditions and can not be employed as generic terms covering all times and places. Consider: were there really any scientific socialists or communists in the days of Marx and Engels, outside of these very persons? How shall we evaluate Bebel, Kautsky, Wm.Liebknecht, La Fargue, Jaurex, Plechanov, and others? Some of these people Engels praised and yet we know that most of them were never really tested in revolution and war and those that were so tested failed to meet the test. But in those days when the unskilled masses were mostly inarticulate and ignorant, the important matter was to spread Marxist science and program and this, in the main, was done. It was only when these programs came to be put into action that it was found the individuals who wrote them did not understand them, and that they had been written as empty phrases not to be carried out. And yet, if the principal work of the 1st International was the creation of a basic program, and that of the 2nd International was the creation of mass working class organizations, if this was the only level that workers under capitalism could create at that time, then Bebel, Jaurez, and Plechanov played progressive roles not to be dismissed by contemptuous terms of “opportunist” and “centrist”, etc.
The term “centrist” could properly be used only when the time had become ripe for actual world proletarian revolutions. Then the term “opportunist” could properly be applied to those who vigorously combated the proletarian revolution under the distorted phrases of Marxism, while the term “centrist” could be applied to those who seemingly went along with revolutionary programs only to find excuses why such programs were not to be realized and fought for.
Outside of Lenin, were any of the Bolshevik leaders Marxist? Lenin had to fight the leaders of his own group every inch of the way and sometimes made open deals with the Mensheviks and others against the other leaders of his own group. And consider what happened to that party eventually after the death of Lenin? It might be truthfully considered that without Lenin and Trotsky the entire Bolshevik leadership was in essence only a centrist leadership, later a bureaucratic centrist leadership, and never reached the level of Leninism. After all, consider the fact that the highest level reached in Russia was not the dictatorship of the proletariat, but the dictatorship of the workers and peasants under the leadership of the proletariat while Lenin was still alive but which proletarian leadership was soon enough destroyed when Lenin died.
Trotsky was, indeed, more of a Leninist than any other leader of the Bolsheviks outside of Lenin himself, that is, when we consider his life as a whole. But why should we speak of Leninism as though it were on the same plane as Marxism? Lenin’s economic and philosophic work does not at all compare with that of Marx. His political work was to succeed in solving problems affecting but one portion of the world. Revolutions elsewhere might call for other dialectical considerations, other priorities and judgments and who knows, were Lenin heading an International movement directing such revolutions elsewhere, whether he would not have made monumental mistakes because he would be generalizing from the purely Russian experiences of his successful revolution? It is one thing to reach the level of the dictatorship of the workers and poor peasants (two classes), it is another to reach the level of the dictatorship of the proletariat (one triumphant class). It is one thing to solve the revolutionary problems of a Russia (weakest link in the imperialist chain) It is another to solve the revolutionary problems of the U.S.A. the strongest link.
Looking at Trotsky’s life as a whole, how can we deny him the stature of a revolutionary Marxist, despite his errors and limitations? He did not have Lenin’s guidance when he acted as a revolutionary before his first arrest and exile to Siberia. He did not have Lenin’s guidance when he became first President of the First Soviet in St. Petersburg in 1905 and carried out a glorious revolutionary role. He did not have Lenin’s guidance when he wrote that splendid History of the 1905 Revolution. He did not have Lenin’s guidance when he helped formulate the theory of permanent revolution toward which Lenin himself came to approach. When he and Lenin worked together just before and during the October Revolution was there not the greatest and closest communion between them? Does Lenin’s solemn final appraisal of Trotsky mean nothing to you?
2. You make far too much of the personal traits of Trotsky and you prejudge these traits by insufficient and distorted evidence. You carefully select your quotations and make them appear as though they were unanimously of the same opinion and that opinion is yours. Did you ransack the whole literature so as to see what others, not merely the few people mentioned by you had also said about him. What kind of scholarship permits you to believe that these off-hand casual remarks made by people with their own axes to grind, have great value?
You seem to think Trotsky was a vainglorious egoist but how is your opinion reconciled with the stated opinion of Trotsky himself that the Russian Revolution would have succeeded even had he not been there, provided Lenin had been there; that without Lenin the real centrists who composed the leadership of the Bolsheviks outside of Lenin would have succeeded in stifling that revolution by defeating him (Trotsky) as early as May, 1917?
You appear to believe it is a great crime to be able to evaluate oneself objectively and to understand the role one is playing in history. Not only Trotsky but Marx and Lenin also knew how to do this. You make much ado about “modesty’ insinuating that Trotsky showed lack of modesty (unlike Marx or Lenin) in his estimation of his own role, but, in my opinion, your conclusion is absolutely not correct. And what do you know about how Marx or Lenin really displayed themselves? We have pictures of them by their friends but not so many by their personal enemies and we have far too little evidence to go by. Nor does the whole subject really matter! Was Marx really a man soured by liver trouble, a whining beggar who lived a parasitic life at the expense of his friend? Did Lenin show mean and jealous reactions in his personal life? Was Trotsky a man who strutted around like a Napoleon? You act like a petty bourgeois “psychologist” to bother with this nonsense. In the light of the enormous objective work that has to be done the revolutionary struggle burns out petty bourgeois traits or renders them relatively secondary. If these petty bourgeois traits warp the judgment of revolutionary leaders, they will be revealed in their political policies and it is the latter which matter and which are to be analyzed.
3. You collect all the errors of Trotsky that the criminals Stalin, Zinoviev and Kamenev raised exaggeratedly against him and the various Polemics Lenin had against him, but you do not give a whole picture of the situation. You do not show the various achievements of Trotsky and the many times he was correct. For example to show your subjectivity, you quote Stalin’s statement that everything Trotsky did as Red Army Commander was under the direction of the Central Committee, when the truth of the matter was that no one in the entire Central Committee would have known how to give Trotsky any advice, that Stalin himself had been trained as an orthodox priest and had been, without any doubt, a secret agent of the Czar at one time. That the miserable Zinoviev and Kamanov would not know the front end of a rifle from the butt, in probability, and that in essence Trotsky took upon himself not the mere “administration” of the war, but its entire political leadership in the widest sense, Lenin himself giving Trotsky carte blanche in that respect.
4. But your principal error lies in the very essence of the theses of your book namely that Trotsky was an open, deliberate agent of Wall Street. So, finally, you sink to the level of Stalin and Co. that made out Trotsky to be an open, deliberate agent of Hitler. Did you select this sensational book title merely to sell your book? Were you specially smarting under some subjective resentment against Trotsky not disclosed? Are you some agent of Mao Tse-tung who has his own fish to fry to make Trotsky a terrible dog as he borrows ideas from Trotsky in calling on workers to make the revolution “permanent"? Let us examine the evidence you furnish.
a. Trotsky could not have been invited to Mexico without the secret connivance of U.S. Imperialism—you say. This is too simple. You give no evidence but just mouth a guess. U.S. Imperialism does not always have its own way in every respect since there are many other forces to consider in any given instance. If the U.S. wanted Trotsky so badly why did it not allow him to enter the U.S. itself (you should have raised this problem and then answered it. You might have answered by stating at that time Roosevelt was making a very successful deal with Stalin and did not wish to disturb this deal which eventually was to lead to joint action by the U.S and the S.U. against Hitler). But why Mexico and not Cuba or Uruguay or Chile? And why did it have to be during the regime of Lazaro Cardenas, the President relatively least yielding to U.S. influences? Could not Mexico also have been acting on its own? Was there no remembrance of U.S. invasions under General Pershing? Were there not great masses of Mexicans who know of Trotsky’s great revolutionary role in Russia and could this not be one of the reasons for the friendly reception given Trotsky on landing? Does not Mexico stand up now against the U.S. In the case of Cuban recognition even under a presidential regime far to the right of Cardenas? What sonorous phrases you throw around!
b. You state in return for asylum in Mexico Trotsky made a pledge not to interfere with Mexican or Western Hemisphere politics. This is no discovery of yours but was made public at the time. If he had not made this pledge he could have been returned to Russia to be murdered. Now in Mexico Trotsky could be reached by world revolutionaries and consulted with. He did not have to keep his word literally in every respect and was not supposed to. When revolutionaries came to him for political aid he did not fail to give them his views. You yourself show how he interfered in the factional fighting of the U.S. group.
c. What you fail to see is what Trotsky himself saw very well, namely, that his following was completely worthless and had only one historic function to perform, namely to publish and distribute his programmatic and analytical writings. This is the only thing that has saved the worthless Cannons and Shachtmans from oblivion.
d. You say U.S. Imperialist forces used the works of Trotsky to fight Stalin. That is not Trotsky’s fault. While any criticism against Stalin might be used by capitalism, in the long run Trotsky’s critique would be of great help to the proletariat. Marx criticized the Gotha program of the German Party, did this make him a conscious agent of German capitalism? Marx’s “Capital” was first translated by Russian bourgeois economists, did this make him a conscious agent of Czarism? Engels criticized the English trade union movement, did this make him an agent of British imperialism, etc. What sort of nonsense is this? Naturally, the big question is, was Trotsky telling the truth and not whether the enemies of Stalin could use or distort this truth. On this question you don’t pass judgment. On the contrary, you seem to think telling the truth is the equivalent of phrase mongering because you call Trotsky a maker of sonorous phrases even when he told the truth.
e. What is more important even than your irresponsible charges is your subjective methodology. It is one thing to say a revolutionist is incorrect and thus in some respect even a counter-revolutionary; it is quite another thing to say that because a revolutionary is incorrect he stands exposed as a paid or conscious agent of the enemy. Such irresponsible analysis, such wild name calling and unproved mouthings indeed is a sign of petty bourgeois hysteria and not responsible Marxism.
Weisbord never joined any Trotsky group because he conceived U.S. revolutionists had a better role to play then distributing the words of Trotsky. His group left such work to the Cannons and Shachtmans who could do nothing else. This you could also have done. Instead you, yourself, made a real unprincipled deal as you reveal in your book. You say you returned to Argentina as a friend of the Weisbord group. You could at least have translated his book “The Conquest of Power” into a very much needed Spanish edition (as the POUM in Spain were going to do before their defeat by Franco). Instead you joined the very worthless Trotsky groups that you could not stomach when you were with Weisbord and when you joined you had to keep your reservations unacted upon although Weisbord had denounced the unprincipled centrist character of the Trotsky groups and had broken with Trotsky’s liquidationism.
One gets a sneaking suspicion from your letter that you jump to conclusions without sufficient discrimination and care and are entirely too pontifical. You write to Weisbord that it seems to you he a not the same “fiery fighter” he used to be. What kind of a petty-bourgeois critique is this. The important matter should be whether Weisbord is a Marxist or not, not whether he is “fiery” or not. And on what evidence do you reach this conclusion from his first very neutral letter?
From all this it can be anticipated that you will also judge his Latin American Actuality without a full and complete reading of the book. You may even be so full of Latin American “Hidalgoism” as to say: What can this person in Yanqui land tell us of Latin America? he is only a paid agent of Yanqui Imperialism” etc. etc. If these are the thoughts you have you can rest assured that the present correspondence will soon come to an end.