Originally published in Britain in Workers Press, August 29, 1973
For a discussion on the problems of the Fourth International
THE LEADERSHIP Of the Socialist Workers' Party (USA) has chosen to open a public written discussion on the political questions underlying the split in the Fourth International which took place in 1953.
They have done this in the framework of the preparations of the Pabloite 'Unified Secretariat' for its long-postponed world conference, now due towards the end of 1973.
What is noteworthy is that the SWP leaders present themselves as the champions of the split from Pablo revisionism; the defenders of Trotskyist principle and programme against all capitulation to Stalinism.
In November 1953, the SWP published its 'Open Letter' to the world Trotskyist movement. This denounced Pablo and Pabloism; and in consequence the 'International Committee of the Fourth International' was formed, politically and organizationally independent of the Pabloite 'International Secretariat'. Ten years later, in 1963, the SWP went back to the Pabloites and dropped completely its association with the International Committee, and the 'Unified Secretariat' became the new name for the revisionist centre.
(Because of the reactionary Voorhis Act, the SWP could never actually affiliate to an international body).
In the period leading up to the 1963 'reunification', the SWP was characterized above all else by refusal to discuss the fundamental theoretical questions which had split the movement in 1953.
Now, ten years later, the sections of the 'Unified Secretariat' and their supporters, the SWP, are deeply divided on all political questions of strategy and tactics, yet none of them is able to return to the basic principles of Trotskyism. The SWP finds itself in the minority internationally, and is now trying desperately to present itself as the defender of 'orthodox Trotskyism'.
Such is the enormous pressure of class forces as decisive revolutionary clashes loom up in all the major capitalist countries, that the revisionists are forced to return to the 'split' questions which they arrogantly swept aside as 'divisive' in 1963.
The first thing which must be said is that an enormous historical responsibility rests particularly on the SWP itself for having covered up these questions and disorientated all those militants who mistook Pabloite revisionism for Trotskyism.
The SWP leadership does not raise these questions again out of any concern for principle, but only because it has itself opportunistically degenerated even further in the last ten years. Its adaptation to the petty-bourgeois 'left' in the United States now makes it hostile to even the most tenuous and formal international connections.
Joseph Hansen and his collaborators in the SWP leadership are preparing, with the discussion they have belatedly initiated, to free themselves for their own narrow, national, opportunist adaptation. For this reason, their presentation of the historical questions is completely distorted, in order pragmatically to suit the immediate 'practical' purposes of the SWP.
The first articles published in this discussion  make it essential immediately to refute the lies of the SWP on this history. It is absolutely necessary that an international discussion be opened up, in the defence of Trotskyism against Stalinism and revisionism. But this can be done only on the basis of historical objectivity, with all the problems and all the documents brought into the open and faced up to honestly. This method is the absolute prerequisite of the theoretical re-arming of the Fourth International. It is the opposite of the method of the SWP.
Contrary to the claim of the SWP spokesman, it must be said, quite unequivocally, that Pabloite liquidationism, denounced correctly by James Cannon and the SWP in November 1953, had long been developing inside the Fourth International.
Throughout the post-war period to 1953 the SWP was the leading sympathizing section of the Fourth International and had the major political responsibility for the development of the movement. There can be no facing up to the real questions except on the basis of recognizing and analysing this refusal of theoretical and political responsibility and its disastrous consequences.
The political reality is that the SWP capitulated to the problems of permanent contact with the European sections. Good pragmatists, they pursued their work in the United States, and accepted Pablo as the European and international leader. Pablo pursued his own revisionist course, building up his administrative machine and relying confidently on the inability and unwillingness of the SWP to examine or criticize the revisionist concepts which he smuggled into the theory and perspectives of the movement.
To blame this development on the difficulties of obtaining passports or the misdeeds of the SWP's representatives in Europe is to reduce great historical questions to the level of petty, organizational details. The task facing revolutionists was to overcome these problems. The SWP politically turned against Pabloism in 1953 only when Pablo's methods threatened the internal regime of the SWP.
The 'Open Letter' of 1953 was absolutely necessary and correct. It opened up the possibility of really probing the depths of Pablo's revisionism and orienting the revolutionary movement, through that theoretical snuggle, to the political tasks of the period opened up by the East German uprising and the French General Strike of 1953. The sections of the International Committee today still endorse completely the politics of the 'Open Letter', as they did in 1953.
The split precipitated by the 'Open Letter' (a split made necessary by Pablo's revisionism and its organizational consequences) caused considerable confusion in the world Trotskyist movement, and still does. At the time, the Fourth World Congress of the FI (1954) was pending. What was immediately and vitally necessary was political clarification of the questions underlying the split. This was necessary not at all to cover over the split, but to learn from its necessity. Today, the SWP tries to suggest that they did not really want a split. But their 'Open Letter' concludes as follows: 'The lines of cleavage between Pablo's revisionism and orthodox Trotskyism are so deep that no compromise is possible either politically or organizationally ... The political issues have broken through the manoeuvres and the fight is now a showdown'.
Next, the new SWP discussion material rewrites history to make the SWP the protagonist of political discussion for clarification of the split right from 1954, and to portray the Socialist Labour League in particular as the obstacle to any discussion or any principled reunification. This is a lie, as the facts show.
In the spring of 1954 the International Committee sections in Europe unanimously proposed to the SWP that discussion be opened up with the Pabloites in order to struggle for the clarification of all those cadres shocked and surprised by the split. This would have meant a discussion of all the major political and theoretical questions facing the movement.
This proposal was made in the first place by Comrade G. Healy. When the IC accepted it and submitted it to the SWP, it was rejected by the SWP Political Committee and this decision conveyed to the IC in a letter of Farrell Dobbs, SWP national secretary.
The discussion could certainly have proceeded at that time, and was absolutely necessary. The reference to difficulty of travel and passports because of the aftermath of the McCarthy witch-hunt is nothing but an evasion, just as it was for the period before 1953. Year after year, the SWP allowed the split to continue without the theoretical clarification which would have resulted in great gains for the movement.
In essence, the SWP in this way showed its contempt for internationalism.
This was proved in 1957. After having rejected the IC's proposal for principled international discussion in 1954, the SWP, through Cannon, made its overtures in a letter to Leslie Goonewardene of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (Ceylon), without the knowledge of the International Committee.
It was only the insistence of the other IC members which compelled Cannon to abandon this attempt at an unprincipled compromise. In any case, the Pabloites rejected the proposal for discussion. The SWP leadership is well aware of this sequence of events, every detail of which was sharply brought home to Farrell Dobbs, SWP secretary, on the occasion of the IC's first International Conference in Britain in 1958.
In this way it became clear to the SWP at a very early stage that they could not treat the IC in the same way as they had handled their relationship with Pablo and the International Secretariat in the period 1945-1953. The IC sections, striving always to learn the basic theoretical lessons of revisionism and the split, established a method of political work which came into direct conflict with the narrow national requirements of the SWP.
It is certain that after Dobbs' 1958 trip to Europe, all the international work of the SWP was used for behind-the-scenes approaches to the Pabloites, while all the time professing solidarity with the IC. Cannon and the SWP tried to justify their 'unity' approaches with the claim that the Pabloites' reaction to the Hungarian Revolution(l956) brought them back to essential Trotskyist positions. In actual fact Pablo and Mandel advanced a programme which excluded the political revolution.
The reality was that the SWP was itself going rapidly back to Pabloite positions, and not the reverse. In January 1961, the SLL Central Committee addressed a letter to the National Committee of the SWP, drawing attention to the formulations in their publications which had a perspective of self-reform of the Stalinist bureaucracy. Above all, the SLL Central Committee analysed the complete abandonment by Pabloism of the building of independent revolutionary parties.
The letter called for the immediate setting up of an international internal discussion bulletin and the preparation of a Congress of IC sections as the prerequisite for any discussion on unity at that stage.
The SWP rejected this discussion, engaging instead in its independent relations with Ernest Mandel and Pierre Frank of the Pabloites, conducted through S.T. Peng. From this time they consistently avoided any principled discussion of the fundamental questions. And when the negotiations for unity came out into the open, they were explicitly accompanied by a commitment not to discuss the fundamental questions of the 1953 split.
When the International Committee, on the Socialist Labour League's proposal, then put forward the setting up of a 'parity committee' of the IC and the Pabloite Secretariat, the SWP accepted this, but simply used it as a cover for their own behind the scenes 'unity' negotiations with the Pabloites.
It is simply a lie to present the situation, as the SWP now does, as if the IC opposed unification of the world Trotskyist movement. Mandel functioned on the 'parity committee' for the Pabloites, and there was an agreed preparation of discussion documents and of procedure for their circulation in the sections. The SWP deliberately acted to avoid any circulation of these documents in their own ranks and sought only a way of effecting a premature 'unification' which avoided the discussion.
It was for this reason that the SWP, having reluctantly agreed to an IC Conference before any proposal of a unification Conference, broke this agreement and prepared the 'reunification' Conference of 1963 without the IC majority. The SWP feared one thing above all: discussion of the fundamentals of revisionism as the real preparation for a principled unification.
Hansen also knows very well that on September 27, 1963, after the IC International Conference, the IC wrote to the Pabloite Secretariat saying that 'everything must be done to encourage the closest working relations under conditions whereby a principled unification of the movement could be achieved'. Among the proposals made to this end were:
1. That a world congress of the forces of the IC and the International Secretariat [Pabloitesj should be convened during the autumn of 1964...
4. ' ... that this discussion must take place in all sections, not only in the leaderships, but in the ranks ...
The SWP, which now tries to put itself forward as the defender of principles, and to caricature us as opponents of unity, went along and encouraged the Pabloite Secretariat in rejecting these proposals.
Again, in 1970, when Comrade Healy, acting on a decision of the IC, approached the Unified Secretariat for discussion of all the outstanding questions in the world movement, the SWP, together with the Unified Secretariat, completely opposed this approach. They are politically consistent only in their permanent rejection of any principled discussion.
The real truth about the present attempt to raise once again the 1953 questions is very clear. The SWP went into the 1963 'reunification' with the rationalization that the old Pabloite liquidationism was gone, and it was possible to build the Trotskyist movement.
Instead, they are faced with the exact situation predicted in 1963 by the IC. The SWP, through its support of the 1963 'reunification', has played a foremost part in misdirecting a whole generation of the cadres of the SWP and the Pabloite sections. It is above all their rejection of political and theoretical discussion of the basic questions which has done this.
In point of fact, all the youth in the Unified Secretariat sections who tried to come to Trotskyism have been driven by the SWP into the arms of Pabloism. The SWP is as guilty as the whole Unified Secretariat for the 1964 betrayal in Ceylon and every other Pabloite capitulation to the bourgeoisie.
If the SWP now likes to come forward, spuriously as the defender of orthodox Trotskyism, against the anti-Marxist line of Mandel, Frank and Maitan, this is the grossest deception. It is the SWP itself, with its opposition to any fundamental discussion in the world movement, which has provided the political basis for the revisionist majority and all its betrayals. The SWP's criticism of Mandel and Frank is a criticism by a party which is moving rapidly to the right.
The International Committee resolves to charge its secretariat with the responsibility of preparing immediately the complete documentation of the relations between Pabloite revisionism, the SWP and the IC since the years immediately preceding the 1963 split, and publishing forthwith the edited documents for international discussion.
The IC, noting that the crisis in the 'Unified Secretariat' has driven the SWP, in its own distorted way, to open up the questions of 1953, challenges the SWP and the 'Unified Secretariat' to a full investigation and public discussion to establish the historical truth of this whole period.
 Education for Socialists (SWP) June 1973.
Last updated 18.10.2003