FOR several years Gerry Healy has been waging a persistent campaign against the Socialist Workers party and, since the Reunification Congress of the Fourth International, against the majority of the world Trotskyist movement. In recent months, the general secretary of the Socialist Labour League has stepped up his attacks, devoting considerable space in his press to this subject which seems to have become an obsession with him.
To be the target of an attack is nothing new for the SWP or the Fourth International. It has constituted part of the normal education of the cadres of Trotskyism since the beginning. In the same way, the attacks are normally answered, if politically warranted, or if something can be learned from it. Healy’s campaign, offering a rather stodgy brand of ultraleftism, happens to be of little intrinsic interest. Nevertheless the position he has been pressing of late on the Cuban Revolution could do injury in the colonial world, particularly Latin America, if the impression should gain ground that it corresponds in any way to the views of the Fourth International or the Socialist Workers party. It has thus become necessary, for prophylactic reasons, to deal with the challenge.
First of all, we will indicate the background. A split occurred in the world Trotskyist movement in 1953-54 over organizational and political issues. Two international factions emerged, one centered around the International Secretariat, the other around the International Committee. The latter had the support of the Socialist Workers party and the British Trotskyist grouping headed by Gerry Healy. By 1957 it became evident that the political differences between the IS and the IC were narrowing. James P. Cannon, the founder of the American Trotskyist movement and one of Trotsky’s closest collaborators in the Fourth International took the initiative to try to bring the two sides together. The effort fell through. Within both the IC and the IS, opinion nevertheless grew that unification had become possible on the basis of the common positions held by both sides. Healy opposed this view although he was rather reticent about advancing it, confining himself by and large to quietly encouraging in the SLL a belief that the differences were widening. At the same time he sought to give the impression that he would go along with efforts to reunify the movement, if that was what the majority wanted. Under Healy’s influence, however, delays and a remarkable dragging of feet featured these efforts until 1962 when the IC made an abrupt turn in the direction of reunification by proposing that a “Parity Committee” be set up between the IC and the IS. This was accepted by the IS and such a committee was actually formed. A major hurdle to reunification had been overcome.
The Parity Committee functioned usefully, doing much to prepare the next step; i.e., healing the ten-year-old breach and reuniting the bulk of the world Trotskyist movement on the basis of a principled program. At the crucial point, however, Healy refused to proceed. He sought to postpone final action for at least another year, if not indefinitely, alleging the need for more “discussion.” The majority of the IC refused to be held back by any more delaying or procrastinating maneuvers. The upshot was to send observers to the Seventh World Congress organized by the IS.
The minority of the IC, headed by Healy, were invited to send a full delegation of their own. They turned down the invitation, refusing to send even a single observer. The majority of the IC then participated in a Reunification Congress. Posts in the top bodies of the Fourth International were provided for all sections of both the IS and IC. These actions were then left open to ratification. The International Secretariat ratified as a whole at once. The various sections of the International Committee ratified one by one, beginning with the Chinese.
As the Fourth International reunited, Healy proclaimed the “continuation” of the International Committee. Outside of the Socialist Labour League, the only support came from scattered individuals and the La Verite grouping in France.
In justification of his position, the head of the SLL has worked out an elaborate rationalization. According to this, the entire world Trotskyist movement—saving himself and his supporters—has degenerated. The prime evidence of the decay is the healing of the ten-year split. As Healy sees it, the Socialist Workers party “betrayed,” going over to “Pabloism.”
The explanation offered by Healy for the “degeneration” is even given a “sociological” basis. The Socialist Workers party has “succumbed” to a bad environment; namely, the years of prosperity and witch-hunting in the United States. The leadership of the SWP, the rationalization continues, was unable to effectively counteract the unfavorable atmosphere because of incapacity to develop theory. Thus the SWP became prey to the allegedly centrist views of the International Secretariat. Hence its position in favor of reunification of the Fourth International.
The gaps, holes and inconsistencies in this view are rather striking. For instance, Healy holds that it was not just the SWP leadership that failed to develop theory; the Fourth International as a whole failed. How is this to be accounted for in areas like Europe, Asia and Latin America where sociological conditions are quite different from those in the U.S.? Most pertinent of all, what about Healy himself?
In the theoretical life of the world Trotskyist movement, his record is not outstanding. In the struggle with the petty-bourgeois opposition led by Shachtman and Burnham in 1939-40, he played no role whatsoever. During the analysis of the character of the East European countries in 1948-50, he abstained. During the discussion of the character of China and the Chinese Revolution in 1950-54, he remained silent. These were the great landmarks in the development of theory in the Fourth International after it was founded, as universally recognized by all sections and all tendencies, whatever their evaluations of other issues or differences. We do not hold it against Healy that he failed to make a contribution in this field. He contributed in other ways, primarily as an organizer and agitator, where his talents lie. These fields are important, at certain stages even decisive, in the development of a revolutionary movement. So long as Healy remained part of a rounded-out team, he did very effective work. But if failure to develop theory paves the way for degeneration in practice, as Healy holds, where is the evidence for this in his own case? Perhaps it is his current excursion into the field of theory?
Healy’s claim that our movement, following Trotsky’s death, failed to develop theory, carries grave implications concerning the direction of his course. No leader of the Trotskyist movement contends that the Fourth International has registered major organizational successes outside of proving itself capable of surviving despite the most powerful foes, ranging from Stalin, right through Roosevelt and Churchill, to Hitler. The Fourth International has grown and has spread Trotskyist ideas in many areas; it has yet to lead a revolution. Outside of Healy, however, no Trotskyist leader denies that the movement has been able to keep abreast of world events politically and to record significant achievements in theory. In fact, in arguing against pessimists and skeptics who seek to make much of the organizational weakness of the movement, the Fourth International has been able to point to its strength in the theoretical field and to its record in analyzing world events and trends. By revising his opinion about this, Healy lays the ground for concluding that the Trotskyist movement failed in both fields. What then remains?
By his recent exertions in the field of theory, Healy is evidently trying to make up for much lost time. At the last moment, he will succeed where all the others have failed. By his feat he will salvage whatever is salvageable in the wreck (“reorganizing” the Fourth International, as he puts it diplomatically). A laudable ambition, but one that carries an unhappy implication. What worth is there in the program of Trotskyism, if, in a quarter of a century it could not produce anything at all in the way of a movement in either theory or practice except one lone leader, even one as remarkable as Healy? But this last minute effort at rescuing the movement founded by Trotsky likewise appears doomed. Instead of going ahead and making some solid contributions—these would win acclaim from all sides—Healy wastes time complaining about the “unwillingness” of leaders of the Socialist Workers party to engage with him in a dispute. What does he expect, if, as he claims, they are bankrupt? And why does he act as if his hands were tied by their alleged refusal? Can’t he develop theory, after all, unless the SWP leaders pitch in? The blind alley has no exit.
It is true, of course, that leaders of the SWP have displayed reluctance to engage in a “discussion” match with Healy. Perhaps the memory of old ties fed an illusory hope that the spectacle might somehow be avoided. But, it seems, there is no choice.
OUR first problem is Healy’s tendency to view ideological differences in personal terms. A good example is provided by the attack levelled in the October 10 Newsletter against Peng Shu-tse. Comrade Peng wrote an Open Letter to Healy (published in the fall 1964 International Socialist Review) the purpose of which was to call public attention to a series of misstatements made in the June 20 and June 27 issues of the Newsletter concerning the position of the United Secretariat in Ceylon. The Newsletter claimed that the United Secretariat supported a capitulatory center wing in the Lanka Sama Samaja party. The truth is that it supported the left wing against the right wing headed by Dr. N. M. Perera. In addition to straightening out the record on these points, Comrade Peng called attention to errors of an ideological nature made by Healy, ranging from his attitude toward Messali Hadj and Aneurin Bevan to the character of the Cuban state. Peng accused Healy of seeking factional advantage in the Ceylonese situation.
The response of the Newsletter was to call Peng Shu-tse “a kind of political house dog.” This was expanded: “He barks at opponents when he is told to and wags his tail in a disgruntled sort of way when asked to be quiet.” Further: “It is so long since Peng Shu-tse has been an active member of an organized revolutionary party that he has completely lost touch with reality. Trotsky used to describe such people as ’irremovable senators’.” All this is put in bold face.
The tone thus set, the rest of the “reply” consists of accusing Peng of acting “as a kind of double agent” in the International Committee, of writing articles “vaguely critical of Pabloism, whilst still managing behind the scenes, to retain his toehold in the Pabloite camp.” (The truth is that Comrade Peng was among the first to note the narrowing of political differences between the two camps, while the International Secretariat mistakenly considered him to hold quite divergent views on some key points.) The rest of the reply is a heavy-handed attempt to meet Comrade Peng’s challenge, made in passing, to show in what way in the past they favored the left wing in the LSSP. This is evidently intended for consumption among the ranks of the Socialist Labour League; since the Ceylonese Trotskyists rebuffed Healy’s pretensions.
The five-column article was followed by a second installment. In this, Peng’s reference to Healy’s attitude toward Bevan and Messali Hadj is selected as the target for a broadside.
First of all, Messali Hadj is put to the side for the time being. That’s a touchy subject; Bevan is the one to concentrate on! The tactic followed in relation to the late left-wing leader in the British Labour party is presented in the best possible light, the phase of support, according to the author, being kept within reasonable bounds. The strongest proof offered for this is the following: “During the years of Bevanism we enjoyed the close co-operation of the SWP leaders, who knew very well what was our attitude towards Bevan and supported us fully on this.”
The Newsletter is soliciting the right people for a testimonial, and we are pleased to be called in as expert witnesses. Peng, as a member first of the International Secretariat and then the International Committee until it finally participated in the Reunification Congress, had an excellent opportunity during the years in this leading position to become very well acquainted with Healy and he reached certain conclusions that deserve to be taken into account. The author of the Newsletter article, who was evidently working under strong pressure to put up the best possible defense of Healy’s record, offers as an exhibit, in opposition to Peng’s observations, the line followed by the movement as a whole in the case of Bevan. In those days, Healy, to his credit, was responsive to the opinions of others, including Comrade Peng. Under the stabilizing influence of the international movement, the British organization was able to steer a reasonably steady course between the rocks of ultra-leftism and opportunism.
But to get back to the issue. Comrade Peng had his own impression as to whether or not Healy at certain moments placed undue hopes in Bevan and Messali Hadj but he did not demand that his judgment be taken as definitive. What Comrade Peng said was the following: “As to whether or not your attitude toward Bevan was right or wrong, you never offered any explanations either to the working class or to the members of your own group!” In other words, Peng said in his Open Letter to Healy, even if you were right, you should have given an explanation for your turns. Peng is correct in this; arbitrary turns do not educate the membership or sympathizing circles. But Peng’s point is not answered; it is avoided.
Likewise avoided are Peng’s main points, particularly his stated reason for the Open Letter—the falsifications in the Newsletter concerning the position of the United Secretariat of the Fourth International in the Ceylonese situation, and Healy’s hope to split the ranks of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (Revolutionary Section). What the experts on the Newsletter did was to comb through Peng’s Open Letter and single out what they considered to be the easiest line of attack. This, they decided, was the reference to Bevan. They then played this up big in the Newsletter so that their deliberate failure to answer Peng’s charges about the falsifications in the Newsletter and Healy’s factional ax grinding in Ceylon might be lost sight of in a gushing discharge of printer’s ink. The method, made famous by the squid, speaks volumes about the way issues are “clarified” in the Socialist Labour League.
A third article in this series appeared in the October 31 issue. By this time the author apparently felt that his audience was sufficiently softened up and the main issues clouded enough to bring in Messali Hadj, former leader of the Algerian nationalist struggle, once praised by Healy as “a living symbol of this struggle.” The delicate matter was deftly wrapped up and disposed of by reference to the bloody factional fighting that broke out at one stage in the Algerian nationalist movement. Leaders were killed who had “exercised a very powerful restraining left-wing [!] influence on Messali Hadj.” Thus is Peng’s reference taken care of and along with it the extravagant literature picturing Messali Hadj—before his betrayal—as the “living symbol” of the Algerian Revolution.
What of the charges levelled by Peng Shu-tse about falsifications in the Newsletter concerning the position of the United Secretariat of the Fourth International in Ceylon and Healy’s hope to split the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (Revolutionary Section) ? Not a word in reply after three issues of the Newsletter devoted to Comrade Peng’s short Open Letter. Not a single word! The crowning touch is a charge that Peng “runs away” from an “international discussion.” That blast of hot air came from the jet engines as the author took off for parts unknown. To make it really good he challenged the “leadership of the Socialist Workers Party” and all “the organisations affiliated to the Pabloite centre” to stop running away like Peng Shu-tse and start “discussing.”
If the author is really serious about asking for a “serious international discussion” as a “principled” matter, “not a tactical one,” he could not begin better than by publishing a frontpage box in simple plain black ink with a suitable heavy black border rectifying the falsifications published by Healy. We know of no better way by which the Newsletter might seek to begin to overcome the painful impression created by its revolting personal abuse of Comrade Peng Shu-tse and its scandalous evasion up to now of the questions he raised.
To savor the full impact of the type of reply to which the Newsletter resorted, it is necessary to know something about Peng Shu-tse. He was one of the founding members of the Chinese Communist party. In 1920 at the age of 23, a young school teacher from the same province as Mao Tse-tung, he constituted part of the group that first responded in China to the October 1917 revolution. As one of the most promising youth he was selected to go to Moscow in 1921 for special training. He attended the Communist University of the Toilers of the East, staying in Moscow until after the Fifth Congress of the Comintern in 1924. He thus learned his theory in the Soviet Union in the time of Lenin and Trotsky when a premium was placed on integrity and loyalty to principles and independence of mind.
Back in Shanghai, he became a member of the staff of The Guide Weekly, the official organ of the Communist party. He was named editor of New Youth, the famous quarterly launched by Chen Tu-hsiu in 1915 which became the theoretical organ of the Communist party. In January 1925 he was elected to the Central Committee and made a member of the five-man Standing Committee (the Political Bureau) where he served as head of the Propaganda Board and thus as editor of both the New Youth and The Guide Weekly. This was his position when the Second Chinese Revolution broke out.
In May 1927 he was transferred to Peking due to differences troubling the leadership over the line to be followed as the revolution reached its height. He was among those leaders most uneasy over the advice and instructions coming from Moscow (under Stalin’s influence) which led to the defeat of the revolution. In the spring of 1929, two documents written by Leon Trotsky were brought to China by three students. They gave Peng his first real insight into what had happened. He showed the documents to Chen Tu-hsiu, who was China’s most famous Communist figure at the time. The two decided to oppose Stalinism. One of their first acts was to send a letter to the Central Committee asking for correction of the line of ultraleft adventurism. They asked for the publication of Trotsky’s documents within the party and the opening of an internal discussion. For this the Central Committee expelled them on direct orders from Moscow; and on November 10, 1929, they formally constituted the Chinese sector of the international Trotskyist Left Opposition. During the years of ferocious repression under Chian Kai-shek, they worked in the underground, organizing the workers in the cities.
In 1932 Peng and Chen were arrested. Chiang Kai-shek did not dare to murder them as he did so many others—they were too well known. For five years the two were held behind bars in the dungeons of the bloody dictator, finally being released in 1937 along with other political prisoners in face of the military advance of Japanese imperialism.
The older Chen Tu-hsiu had begun to show the effect of the years of terror and repression. A rift developed between the two leaders. Peng returned to Shanghai where he resumed his tasks in the underground among the workers.
With the unforseen turn taken by the Chinese Revolution—an advance by the peasants and the development of the Revolution from the countryside to the city, the wing of the movement headed by Mao Tse-tung came to the fore. Their attitude toward the Trotskyists was determined by their training in the school of Stalinism. They imprisoned or killed the Trotskyists no matter what their record or how willing they showed themselves to be in carrying out the tasks of the Revolution. Peng Shu-tse had to leave his native country and direct participation in the revolution for which he and his wife, Pi-lan, a well-known woman leader and Communist writer, had sacrificed so much.
Peng is a heroic figure, one of the iron Communists whose selfless devotion in the difficult years made possible the success of the Chinese Revolution. He sees clearly and deeply as was demonstrated by the fact that he was among the few in this world who correctly estimated the true import of the “Great Leap Forward”—not afterward but when it was launched. The world Trotskyist movement can feel proud that such a figure stands in its ranks, still an active participant in today’s titanic international class struggle.
This is the pioneer Trotskyist whom the Newsletter slanderously labels a “house dog” and, at the end of the article in the October 17 issue, a “political degenerate.”
And what is the record of the author who uses such language?
The author does not happen to be Gerry Healy to whom Peng addressed his Open Letter. The author is someone named “Frank Williams.” Who he is, I don’t know. Perhaps Healy will provide us with his record in a coming issue of the Newsletter. Otherwise, we will never be able to tell where he acquired the abominable arrogance so reminiscent of white imperialist overlords and “old China hands.” And we will not know why Healy thought it desirable to have such a person speak for him instead of answering the Open Letter himself.
The “Frank Williams” contribution is no isolated instance. Healy appears to breed similar poison-pen practitioners in the top leadership of the Socialist Labour League. Thus the July 25 Newsletter published a long article on the front page about Pierre Frank, a member of the United Secretariat, “who recently visited Ceylon.”
The article presents material from a dispute in the French Trotskyist organization in 1934-35—thirty years ago!—in which Trotsky said some sharp things about his young disciple. As further “exposure,” the Newsletter reveals that Pierre Frank came to England in 1939 “to organise a struggle against Trotsky and the International Secretariat” and that some months after the outbreak of World War II he was “interned for a short period in the Isle of Man as an alien.”
This “alien” was later “released” by the “police” and he “worked in Britain for the duration of the war.”
The purpose of this information, taken out of the dossiers Healy keeps, was to quote from a telegram sent by Trotsky in 1935, reading: “Frank letter reveals centrist demoralisation stop consider rupture preferable to concessions.” From a letter written by Trotsky shortly thereafter, the Newsletter publishes the accusation that “Molinier and Frank . . . are capitulating to the social-patriotic wave.”
Whether or not Trotsky exaggerated, the Newsletter article itself indicates that whatever the differences of that time might have been, they were resolved at least eighteen years ago. But this is dismissed by the Newsletter and we are given the conclusion: “Right from the early ’30s Frank was always ’a demoralised centrist’. He was regarded by Trotsky as a demoralised centrist and he continues so to this day.” The placard is then hung on his neck: “political imposter.”
The occasion for this attack was a trip by Healy to Ceylon last June at the same time as Pierre Frank. Healy demanded admission to a conference of the Lanka Sama Samaja party which was then being held. The presidium, composed of representatives of the left, center, and right wings, unanimously turned Healy down—without consulting Pierre Frank. Pierre Frank, of course, was seated as the official representative of the Fourth International and backed the left wing against the right-wing capitulators and the centrists who trailed after them. When Healy wrote up the story, he charged in the June 20 Newsletter that Pierre Frank had “joined hands with the coalition renegades and urged that Healy’s application be rejected.” Healy also said that the United Secretariat had backed the center grouping. Pierre Frank answered these falsifications in an article carried by the July 17 World Outlook. In the same reply he referred to Healy’s ultraleftism on the British political scene.
Instead of retracting the falsifications (the same one that aroused Peng Shu-tse), or trying to answer Pierre Frank on a political level, the Newsletter theoreticians dug through the files for thirty years until they found what Trotsky said in 1935. Or perhaps they had discovered it earlier and were reserving it for just such an emergency. In any case, what Trotsky said thirty years ago exactly fitted Healy’s—and not Pierre Frank’s—trip to Ceylon in 1964. Thus the crushing rejoinder to Pierre Frank: You are a “political imposter.”
What are the facts? Pierre Frank’s radical record begins as a teen-ager in Paris expelled from school because of his radical political views. A few years later, in 1923 or 1924 he joined the Communist party. In 1929 he was one of a group of Communists who sent a representative to see Trotsky when the Bolshevik leader was exiled to Prinkipo. Under Trotsky’s guidance, he helped found the Left Opposition in France. By 1931 he was elected to the International Secretariat and in 1932 became one of Trotsky’s secretaries in Prinkipo. He was with Trotsky for about a year, going with him on his famous Copenhagen trip. A month or so before Trotsky moved to exile in France, Pierre Frank returned to help make the preparations.
Shortly after that he became involved, together with Raymond Mo-linier, another French Trotskyist leader, in one of the numerous internal struggles that have been a standing problem throughout the history of the French section and which ended many times in splits. This was the period which Healy selected to dig for quotations.
But during this period of separation on factional lines, Trotsky never changed his fundamental appreciation of his French disciple. In the December 30, 1936, entry in his diary, written aboard the Norwegian tanker Ruth on the way to Mexico, Trotsky includes him among “my French political friends” who took a letter to the Soviet ambassador in Paris. In The Case of Leon Trotsky (the verbatim record of Trotsky’s testimony before the John Dewey Commission in 1937), he again mentions Pierre Frank as a “French friend.” At the Founding Conference of the Fourth International in 1938, which was held under Trotsky’s guidance, a motion was passed approving immediate acceptance of the French comrades without any delay, the only exception being Molinier and even here the door was left open under certain conditions. If the French group accepted the resolution, it was declared, no disciplinary measures would be taken against any comrade on the basis of the past dispute.
There is more to come, as we shall see, but let us turn for the moment to another item in Healy’s “exposure.” Why did Pierre Frank visit England in 1939? Was it “to organize a struggle against Trotsky” as a kind of anticipation of what he allegedly did to Healy during a visit to Ceylon twenty-five years later? Here, again, are the facts:
In France, under the Daladier regime, as the curtain rose on World War II, Pierre Frank was sentenced to ten years in prison for “defeatist” activities against the French imperialist army. Molinier also received a heavy sentence. Had the two not succeeded in escaping, they would most surely have been murdered under the Nazi occupation as occurred with other Trotskyist leaders in Europe during the war.
As a political refugee in England, Pierre Frank was accorded all the “courtesies” to be expected from British democracy in such circumstances. He was arrested in October 1940, charged with not registering as an “alien,” and sentenced to six months at hard labor. After being grilled on his “Trotskyist views,” he was ordered deported. But since France was under German occupation, the British authorities decided to send him to one of their own concentration camps. There he was kept under lock and key until the end of 1943. Upon being released, he resumed his Trotskyist political activities where he had left off. Among others with whom he worked in England was Gerry Healy, who by this time had joined the Fourth International. Only after the war was Pierre Frank able to return to France.
Let us go back now to his relations with Trotsky and the Fourth International: Molinier succeeded in joining Pierre Frank in London in the spring of 1940. In May of that year, Stalinist assassins machine-gunned Trotsky’s bedroom in Coyoacan, Mexico. Trotsky, his wife Natalia and their grandson managed to escape death, although one of the guards was kidnapped and murdered by the Stalinists. Upon reading the headlines, Frank and Molinier at once wrote a letter to Trotsky, expressing their solidarity. They indicated that they had drawn certain lessons in the light of the tragic events of the day and they asked about the possibility of a reconciliation.
Trotsky answered them in a letter dated July 1, 1940. He proceeded cautiously, as he was evidently not sure about the actual state of things in the French organization or possibly he was not certain where everyone stood in relation to the struggle with the petty-bourgeois opposition headed by Burnham and Shatchtman which had just come to a head in the Fourth International. Trotsky stated that it was not clear to him from the letter he had received from them whether it was proposed that a reconciliation be made on the basis of loyally accepting international discipline. If discipline was accepted, said Trotsky, using the guarded allusions required by the times, “a sincere reconciliation would present no difficulty and I would be happy to open direct conversations with your father [the International] on the question; but only under these conditions. I hope you will believe that in acting in this way, I am guided exclusively by your interests and those of our family [movement] as a whole, with my best wishes, your uncle Leon.”
Frank and Molinier responded with a letter dated August 5, 1940, assuring Trotsky that they considered unity “imperative“; and they went the whole way, pledging to Trotsky that “we accept the rights and the duties as defined in your letter of July 1, without any reservations and without any equivocation.” As to the practical side of ending the split in the French movement, they left this up to the International and they added that they had no doubt what the effect of Trotsky’s advice would be there.
They never received an answer. On August 19 a Stalinist assassin drove a pick-ax into the brain of their teacher, comrade and friend.
A little later Molinier made his way to Latin America. Pierre Frank, as we have seen, was invited to enjoy the hospitality of Churchill’s government for “a short period in the Isle of Man as an alien.” (The letter to Trotsky was forwarded, however, to the International Secretariat and they sent Pierre Frank a favorable response which was delivered to him in jail.)
We have still not finished with the facts. In 1944 a European Conference of sections of the Fourth International was held in defiance of the Nazi occupation. This gathering approved the unification of the two French groups, including Frank and Molinier, both of whom were still in exile. In 1946 at the first World Conference after the war, Pierre Frank was there as a representative of the French section. He was elected to the International Secretariat, an action that Healy approved, so far as we have been able to ascertain.
A little more patience and we come to the end of this lesson on how to deepen theory by rummaging around in a dossier. The “exposure” of Pierre Frank printed on the front page of the Newsletter is not signed by Healy. It appears over an anonymous signature, “A Statement by the Political Committee of the SLL.” Who are the members of this body? What are their credentials? How long have they been in the movement? Did they, too, enjoy vacations on the Isle of Man as Churchill’s guests during the war and thus get to know Pierre Frank?
The information is not divulged. A surreptitious conclave of unknown composition meets, constitutes itself into a kangaroo court, peers at various items laid on the table by an unnamed prosecuting attorney, and arrives at its ineluctable verdict: “political imposter.” This is then published as the decision of the most authoritative body in the Socialist Labour League. The victim has been taught a stern lesson in what a mortal sin it is to complain about falsifications in current issues of their newspaper.
One wonders what kind of atmosphere reigns in the Socialist Labour League under such a Political Committee.
If it is necessary to go back thirty years to understand the full meaning of the current dispute, why was this particular incident chosen? Wouldn’t it have been much more useful and to the point to compare Healy’s charge that the SWP has degenerated politically with the similar charges made by the ultraleftist Hugo Oehler thirty years ago? An instructive comparative study might be made of Oehler’s articles about the “centrism” and “betrayals” of James P. Cannon to the centrists in 1934-35 and similar articles sponsored by Healy about the founder of the American Trotskyist movement thirty years later. Young comrades could learn something from that.
A single example like this one provided publicly by Healy’s Political Committee is enough to induce a cold chill at what it reveals about the educational methods in the Socialist Labour League.
Still another example indicates that we are dealing with methods that have become accepted practice among leaders of the Socialist Labour League. The summer issue of Labour Review carries an editorial entitled “Ceylon and the Fourth International.” This pristine gem contains the following paragraph:
“James P. Cannon, one of the closest collaborators of Trotsky, is just as guilty for what happened in Ceylon as Pablo. He adamantly refused to discuss with the Socialist Labour League and the organizations of the [International?] Committee of the Fourth International the major political differences which have now been revealed through the agency of Mrs. Bandaranaike’s coalition government. Cannon has betrayed everything that Trotsky fought for. His shameful silence is the silence of an opportunist coward who in the final years of his life rallies to the assistance of a clique of renegades who have destroyed a large portion of Trotsky’s Fourth International.”
Along with such delectable morsels the charge is again levelled that the reunified Fourth International is guilty of “revisionism“; that it “encouraged the capitulation in Ceylon.” The epithet “open agents of imperialism” is used for the first time, so far as I am aware, in Healyite polemics against the Trotskyist movement. It is emphasized to show that it is deliberate. “All those leaders associated with this betrayal are, we repeat, the tools of imperialism.“ As the paragraph cited above indicates, Cannon, the founder of the American Trotskyist movement, before that a founder of the American Communist party, one of the key figures directly linking world Trotskyism with Leninism, who saw the objective need to end the split in the Fourth International seven years ago, not least of all because of what could happen in Ceylon, is charged with guilt for what did happen in Ceylon. The proof that is offered by Healy’s Labour Review is guilt by association and—by silence. (Read the charge again: “just as guilty” because he “rallies to the assistance of . . .” by maintaining “shameful silence . . .“)
One can imagine the sense of outrage felt by Cannon. An “opportunist coward“! The target of innumerable opponents since 1910, thrown into the ring with some of the toughest brass-knuckle artists in the trade, only to end up pinked by a cork from a pop gun. Let Comrade Cannon learn that in the Socialist Labour League, under Healy’s regime, you are equally guilty whether you boldly speak your mind like Peng Shu-tse, whether you take a trip to Ceylon like Pierre Frank, or whether, choosing the course of “cowardly opportunism,” you just continue reading your newspaper.
And who are the doughty warriors now enlisted in Healy’s army of detractors of James P. Cannon? Healy’s magazine has two editors, Tom Kemp and Cliff Slaughter. They bear responsibility for the editorial. Both of them were British Stalinist intellectuals until 1956. In that year, they acquired their wisdom from Khrushchev at the Twentieth Congress of the Communist party of the Soviet Union. They were among a sizeable group in England who found their way to the Trotskyist movement. This was to their credit. It is also to their credit that they stayed when others who came at that time proved less firm—or, if we are now to believe their tales, had weaker stomachs. But to this day they are apparently convinced that at least part of their training in the Stalinist movement was invaluable. They cling, for instance, to the scientific terminology that every Stalinist theoretician must master. “Political house dog,” “political degenerate,” “political imposter,” “open agents of imperialism,” “clique of renegades,” “opportunist coward” are some of the more restrained examples of the edifying art of Stalinist polemic. Perhaps Kemp and Slaughter still cherish this dubious acquisition because they met with no rebuff while perfecting this art in the SLL. On the level of “theory” they find a common meeting ground with their new leader.
As a matter of curiosity we wonder what kept Tom Kemp and Cliff Slaughter in the Stalinist movement until Khrushchev roused them from their dogmatic slumbers? We rule out, of course, the possibility that they might have been motivated by opportunism or cowardice. This leaves either ignorance or stupidity. Neither of these are dishonorable but why, then, their intellectual pretensions? We should like to hear their answer so that we can judge in the present “discussion” whether we are dealing with basic flaws in character or simply bad habits. We trust we are not accused of unfairly raking up the unsavory school in which they received their political training. As they are well aware, we long sought to avoid having to beard them in public on their theoretical level. If we do so now, it is in large part because of their own insistent demands and the evidence that they still employ the methods they learned there.
Having waded in hip boots through all this muck we reach the solid ground of Healy’s vaunted theory. Will it prove worth the effort? The gist of the matter can be put very briefly.
The big advances in the field of theory made by the world Trotskyist movement are primarily reflections of the extension of the October Revolution. Four main facts have had to be accounted for. First, successful revolutions have not yet occurred in the advanced imperialist countries. Secondly, revolutions have smashed through to power only in areas where capitalism was weakest. Thirdly, up to now the revolutions in these areas have succeeded without the working class taking the open direct lead from the beginning. Fourthly, this has occurred without the prior formation of revolutionary-socialist Leninist-type parties. The latter two facts raised a number of difficulties in theory which were solved only after deep consideration and long discussion.
The first extension of the October Revolution occurred in Eastern Europe (including Yugoslavia) after the victory of the Soviet Union in World War II, the advance of its armed forces beyond the Soviet border, and the Kremlin’s subsequent decision to carry out an overturn in property relations. (In Yugoslavia a genuine revolution was the main driving force albeit under an opportunist leadership.) These developments were reflected in the theory of “deformed” workers states—new workers states bearing the imprint of both the property forms that came out of the October 1917 Revolution and its subsequent Stalinist degeneration.
The next big advance in theory reflected the victory of the Chinese Revolution. In this the role of the Soviet Union was not quite so direct. In addition, quite new things appeared—the positive role of guerrilla warfare (already anticipated in Yugoslavia), the capacity of a peasantry to create an organized armed force, the advance of a revolution from the countryside to the cities. The main theoretical conclusions reached in Eastern Europe applied in China but with differences because of the new features.
The theoretical conclusions in relation to China were generally accepted in the movement only after repeated re-testing of basic positions. The inferences were considerable due to China’s size, her population, the potential of the country as a world power and the influence its example would have. If some differences still remain over China and new ones have appeared, they do not concern the basic appraisal of China as a workers state. In any case, up to this point, Healy, as we have indicated earlier, offered neither contributions of his own nor objections to the theoretical conclusions of others.
The next great landmark was the Cuban Revolution. From the viewpoint of theory its major importance was the confirmation it provided to the main conclusions in the previous analyses. The confirmation was most brilliant. The line of theory- now stands unbroken from its begining in 1939-40. Most heartening of all from a political point of view was the appearance in Cuba of a leadership whose origin was completely outside the Communist movement but which evolved in the course of the revolution itself toward Marxist positions. Thus dawned the bright perspective for which the Trotskyist movement had struggled since its inception against the conservatism of both the Stalinist and Social-Democratic bureaucracies. Theory now proclaims that the Cuban Revolution, the first socialist revolution in the Western Hemisphere, is the harbinger of a great new wave of revolutions that will end with world capitalism going down in its main centers.
It was at this point that Healy raised a finger: “I object.”
Healy’s objection insofar as he has been able to reduce it to rational statement is as follows: According to Marxist theory it is impossible to have a successful revolution without prior organization of a Trotskyist party; whoever says otherwise is a revisionist.
To the request to look at the Cuban Revolution, Healy again objects: “That’s being empirical.”
When asked about China, Yugoslavia, Eastern Europe, and ultimately the character of the state in the USSR as analyzed by Trotsky, our deepener of theory, whose press is so loquacious when it comes to “discussing” the character of James P. Cannon, Peng Shu-tse and Pierre Frank, finds that the best principle is to keep a firm grip on his tongue.
The meaning of the demand that he study the continuity of the theory is apparently not grasped by him although his French supporters appeared for a time to have caught a glimmering; they promised to go back to the origin-of the concepts that found confirmation in Cuba. Not much has come of this promise, however.
As for the chief theoretician of the SLL, he has simply sought other points of difference such as estimates of the relative weight of the revolution in colonial and imperialist countries and whether or not it is a fact that for a time the .main arena of revolutionary activity has been the colonial world (Healy denies it). In these endeavors it can scarcely be said that he has come up with any stunning successes.
The Cuban Revolution thus offers Healy no theoretical problem and is indeed of little theoretical interest to him. Since no Trotskyist party was organized in Cuba prior to the Revolution, obviously no successful revolution could occur there. It is just as obvious to Healy, for the same reason, that there was no overturn in property relations in Cuba. The Cuban state remains “capitalist” and Castro is just another “Chiang Kai-shek.” (This is really Healy’s position!) Anyone who expostulates, pointing to the destruction of the capitalist and big landholding classes, to the extensive nationalizations, the beginnings of genuine planned economy and the many social and economic gains of the workers and peasants such as the agrarian reform is denounced by Healy as an “empiricist.” An even gamier label may be awarded as we have seen. Healy fails completely to see why the Cuban Revolution is of primary theoretical importance for the whole Trotskyist position on the question of the nature of the workers state, including Trotsky’s position on the USSR.
He fails to see why the Cuban Revolution is much more dramatic evidence of the true balance of world forces than were the overturns in Eastern Europe or even the Chinese Revolution, the theoretical appreciation of which Healy did not question.
But without the direct inspiration and guidance of a Trotskyist party in Cuba, how could a revolution win there? The answer is that given the development of class forces to the point of explosion inside Cuba, the revolutionary-minded leadership at hand proved capable of drawing inspiration from the example of the Chinese Revolution (ultimately the October Revolution) and of learning key lessons from revolutionary experience in Latin America (Guatemala and Bolivia as well as Cuba’s own revolutionary past). They built a tightly disciplined grouping of armed partisans who, in the course of struggle, became conscious revolutionists. With this they were already well on the way to Marxism. Beginning as rebels, they became revolutionists and eventually socialists. An empirical path, but still a path! In addition, the mere existence of the Soviet Union and China as world powers affected the perspective in Cuba because of the aid, either indirect or direct, that could be obtained. The Cuban Revolution echoed the October 1917 Revolution in Russia, as the Cuban leaders themselves admitted when they stood back and began sizing up what they had accomplished. Looked at from another angle, the Cuban Revolution revealed that world capitalism is much weaker than its appearance indicates. It is far gone in its death agony. Even tiny Cuba could “get away” with it!
In contrast to Healy, who sees only another dreary “betrayal,” the Fourth International drew fresh inspiration from the Cuban Revolution. Healy came to the conclusion that it was necessary to perpetuate and deepen the split in the world Trotskyist movement. The majority of both the International Secretariat and the International Committee and the Socialist Workers party took it as fresh evidence for the need to close ranks, to subordinate secondary differences, and to unite on the basis of a principled program, the better to take advantage of the new opportunities.
That is where the differences stand today on the theoretical level. They will remain right there until Healy grasps the import of the challenge to examine the grounding of the Trotskyist position on Cuba, in our prior positions on China, Yugoslavia, Eastern Europe, and the Soviet Union.
THEORY is tested in practice. And while a broad theory may not appear to have immediate consequences this can prove to be a most deceptive appearance. In the case of Healy his theory led to the separation of the Socialist Labour League from the Cuban Revolution and, indeed, the whole Latin-American revolution.
This is due to the fact that Healy’s theory blocks the SLL from finding practical ways of offering concrete support to the Cuban Revolution. It is true that you will occasionally find a phrase in the Healyite press declaring “support” for the Cuban Revolution. However, it is not clear just what Cuban Revolution is meant, the one that conquered in 1959 and led to establishment of a workers state in 1960, or a future revolution that finally meets Healyite specifications. If they are talking about the present Revolution, their “support” amounts to little more than a stock sentence added once in a while to an article condemning the Cuban government—if the editor doesn’t forget.
On the basis of his new thinking, it is true, Healy can claim that the best possible “support” is the criticism he occasionally provides. Revolutionary criticism is a good thing if it is correct and makes a genuine contribution to better understanding of the revolutionary process and defense of its interests. We are all for that. But this is not the nature of what Healy has chosen to offer.
A recent example was the full-page attack in the July 18 Newsletter entitled “Bankrupt middle-class programme leads Castro into US Hands.” This article was based on extensive quotations from an interview conducted by Richard Eder and published in the July 6 New York Times.
In order to better evaluate the Newsletter’s contribution to “clarification” on the subject of the Cuban Revolution, the timing should be noted. During June and July U.S. imperialism was driving its hemispheric campaign toward a paroxysm of hatred for the courageous regime that dared to defy the nuclear goliath and defend the little country’s sovereignty and socialist achievements. The pressure was on in the Organization of American States to condemn the Cuban leaders on charges of seeking to extend the revolution across the Caribbean to Venezuela. The motion that was finally passed July 26 actually reads, “the Republic of Venezuela has been the target of a series of actions sponsored and directed by the Government of Cuba, openly intended to subvert Venezuelan institutions and to overthrow the democratic government of Venezuela through terrorism, sabotage, assault, and guerrilla warfare.”
The motion called on every country belonging to the OAS to “suspend all trade” except a few items for “humanitarian reasons“; to “suspend all sea transportation” to Cuba except what might be necessary to transport-the “humanitarian” items; and warned the Cuban government that if it persisted in its revolutionary course it could signify “individual or collective self-defense, which could go so far as resort to armed force . . .”
The lynch campaign covered the front pages of the entire capitalist press from Point Barrow to Patagonia. Day and night the hate-Cuba propaganda pounded the American public over radio and TV. This was the time chosen by Healy to add his bit: “Moves by Fidel Castro to offer an ’Alliance for Progress’ to the United States reveals the absolute bankruptcy of his petty-bourgeois ideology . . . deal . . . lays bare the complete betrayal of the Cuban people by the Soviet bureaucracy . . . blind-alley into which the Cuban leaders have empirically led the Cuban people . . . slow disintegration of a once-popular rebellion . . . ideas of the revisionists in Europe and America have been proved demon-strably false by events in Cuba.”
And on what factual basis does this well-timed “exposure” of Castro rest? An interview by New York Times correspondent Richard Eder. The accuracy of this interview was questioned on all sides at the time by supporters of the Cuban Revolution. In Paris, World Outlook wrote for instance that the “offer” which Eder claimed Castro made to “withhold material support from Latin-American revolutionary movements if the United States and its hemispheric allies would cease their material support of subversive activity against Cuba” is “quite contrary to the line Castro and his government have followed.” World Outlook pointed out that the official Spanish version of the interview said nothing about any such offer. Inquiries made in Havana by other supporters of the Cuban Revolution soon established that either Eder had not understood Castro, had garbled what he said, or it had been garbled or falsified in the office of the New York Times.
Yet on the basis of this garbled interview or deliberate falsification, printed during a ferocious imperialist lynch campaign against Cuba, Healy’s Newsletter dared to shriek “betrayal” and devote an entire page to “exposing” the “absolute bankruptcy” of Castro’s “petty-bourgeois ideology“! A little closer look at this masterpiece of Healyite “theory” will prove enlightening.
“Castro proposed to halt all material aid to Latin American revolutionaries,” says the Newsletter, excitedly repeating the falsification in Eder’s interview.
“This was part of a whole series of proposals whose end result would be the re-integration of Cuba into the capitalist world market.” The “end result” is not Castro talking. It is the Newsletter’s own little contribution; or, if you wish, the author’s contribution. The author is “Ed Stil-well.” We never heard of him but let us suppose that he is a new writer, who, by way of encouragement in starting out in the four-page Newsletter, was told to go ahead and take all of page two.
Slanted reporting of the garbled or falsified interview continues. “This pattern should be clear enough,” says Stilwell. “Castro is proposing first of all to turn his back on the struggling masses of Latin America if the United States will guarantee the security of his regime.” That’s not Castroism in Cuba or anywhere else in Latin America; it’s just pure Healyism in distant London.
We finally reach a paragraph that touches Healy’s theoretical position:
“These steps, without a single denationalization, will mean the complete integration of the Cuban economy into the world capitalist economy and furthermore its integration as a subordinate, colonial, dependent section of this world economy.”
Such an economy, we are told, “will have even less weight” than the nationalized coal industry in Great Britain’s economy. And just as the nationalized coal industry “supplies cheaply an important raw material for Britain’s giant capitalist establishments, so a nationalized economy in Cuba will supply an important raw material, sugar, for the American capitalists of the North.” This platter of coal dust, served up with a sugar frosting, goes for theoretical reasoning in the Socialist Labour League. Let us extend the analogy. All of British industry, banking and transport, might be nationalized; key sectors of the land, too; the British bourgeoisie graciously given exit visas to go to Boston the way the Cuban bourgeoisie went to Miami; a planned economy might be begun; a whole series of gains for the masses instituted, such as cutting rents in half; the economic orientation of the country shifted into the Soviet bloc; the government that came to power in a great popular revolution leading to the destruction of the old army, police, and state apparatus could call itself Marxist-Leninist and begin intensive mass education, using the works of Marx and Lenin as texts; and still at 186 Clapham High it would be said this is only “bourgeois nationalism,” the proof being that if trade relations were resumed with the capitalist USA then all the nationalizations in Britain would have no more significance than municipal ownership of the subway system in New York.
As can be seen, the dish of British coal and Cuban sugar tends to end up as an intestinal obstruction. Reasoning by analogy has its dangers. Yet with such methods the leaders of the Socialist Labour League determine their policies in relation to the Cuban Revolution. Read further:
“It is becoming increasingly clear that the Cuban Revolution, though the most radical colonial revolution of the last decade, has not brought about a definitive break with world capitalism and in no sense has a workers’ state been established.”
Continue reading: “Castro now admits this if one looks a little deeper than the radical rhetoric which he uses in common with other bourgeois nationalists like Ben Bella and Nkrumah.”
The publishers of the Newsletter have indeed sucked a great deal of journalistic pap from Eder’s thumb. Note the twists and turns and loaded language: “Castro admits” . . . “admits“? “if” one pays no attention to what he says. And Castro, Ben Bella and Nkrumah constitute one reactionary crew of demagogues, all three being just “bourgeois nationalists.” Yes, “bourgeois” was the word chosen by the theoreticians of the London Newsletter.
Let’s proceed a bit more deeply into the statements offered as theoretical analysis of the Cuban Revolution: “These steps . . . will mean.” The tense is in the future. If a number of steps are carried out, sometime in the future, this will then mean that the Cuban Economy will be integrated . . . completely . . . and “will supply” the U.S. with cheap sugar; therefore the Cuban Revolution has not “brought” about a definitive break with “world” capitalism and “in no sense” has a workers state “been established.” The tense has suddenly shifted to the past. A prediction establishes a past condition, operating retroactively before it is confirmed. Healy, we are compelled to admit, has developed Marxist theory to new and quite unforeseen heights.
Trade relations with the capitalist world market are presented as decisive in determining the character of a workers state. All the criteria used up to now by Trotsky and the world Trotskyist movement have been dumped. The criteria of a popular revolution (or Soviet control), of the destruction of bourgeois rule and bourgeois property relations, the nationalization of property and the establishment of a state monopoly of foreign trade and then a planned economy have all been discarded by the Newsletter’s “Marxist” contributor. Everything now hinges on Cuba’s relation to the world market. But why confine this to Cuba? What about Yugoslavia? What about the Paris Commune? And in the case of the Soviet Union . . . was it the reduction of ties with the world market that made it a workers state? (As the first workers state it could not shift to relations with a Soviet bloc.)
The most ridiculous part of the analysis is that if only this single revisionist criterion were applied, Cuba would have to be called a workers state today. It’s principal economic relations are with the Soviet bloc. Therefore if the Healyite formula is correct, Cuba became a workers state when the U.S. established its economic blockade and forced Cuba to carry on the bulk of its trade with the Soviet bloc. By the same logic it will remain a workers state until such time as those trade relations actually come to an end.
At this point we could say that if this Healyite theoretician really believed his own theory, it would be possible to make a political bloc with him in defense of the Cuban workers state. We know that Eder’s interview was either garbled or falsified and in any case the alleged “offer” by Castro was rejected by the State Department the very day after the interview was printed. Thus, if the criterion is valid, Cuba will remain a workers state for some time unless it is crushed by the U.S. or undergoes such prolonged isolation that it eventually completely degenerates, a possibility that appears little likely in the world of today. So why not join in common efforts to keep the Cuban workers state safely trading with the Soviet bloc? The trouble is that our author is too unstable and too illogical. He doesn’t stick with the revisionist criterion he has advanced, he won’t hold to its logic. He is motivated by other considerations. To confirm Healy’s line, the Cuban government must “betray“—yesterday, today, tomorrow, continuously, all the time.
And so Stilwell, this scintillating new addition to the Newsletter’s staff, continues on the theme of Castro having “turned to the capitalist camp.” (How can a bourgeois nationalist turn to the capitalist camp? Was he then in some other camp?) “Castro’s policy was thus a sort of peaceful co-existence with a vengeance.” Even “partial support for limited revolutions was not to last for long.” The proof advanced by the author for this remarkable assertion is none other than Venezuela, the very country that was being used by Washington to spearhead the campaign against Cuba while Stilwell was working on his contribution for the Newsletter. In this way we are offered the sharpest possible contradiction between Healy’s estimate of Castro and that of the imperialists.
We cite as evidence of the imperialist estimate, two paragraphs from the editorial which appeared in the New York Times of July 27, the day after the OAS passed its counterrevolutionary resolution.
“The real issue in the much-feared subversion of Latin America by Marxist-Leninist Cuba is not a physical one,” say the editors. “Premier Castro is not in a position to arm any Latin-American opposition effectively even if he wanted to, and his Communism has been a disillusionment, not an appeal, in the hemisphere.
“The 26th of July celebrations underline Dr. Castro’s effectiveness as a subversive agent. It is the fact that he and his regime survive after more than five and a half years of turmoil, economic collapse, the exodus of a great number of middle-class and professional elements, and after everything that the United States could do to him short of a military invasion, which gives him his greatest impact on Latin America. So long as he remains a towering figure on the hemispheric scene—hated, feared and despised by many; loved and admired by some—he will be a grave danger to Latin America and, because of his connections with Russia, to the United States.”
Healy’s toying with Trotskyist theory presents him, as one of the rewards, with an impenetrable mystery. His revisionist conclusions block any rational understanding of the course of American imperialism in relation to Cuba and the rest of Latin America. Thus, to refer again to the “clarifying” article on Cuba in the July 18 Newsletter, we read:
“There is, of course, some question as to the attitude of the United States towards these developments. On the surface, the US stance seems to completely preclude any kind of coming to terms with Cuba—even though this would obviously lie in the best interests of US imperialism.”
Contrary to the Newsletter there was no question about the U.S. attitude. It was restated by the State Department the day after the Eder interview. Two issues are “not negotiable,” a State Department spokesman told the press. One is “Castro’s promotion of subversion elsewhere in the hemisphere” and the other is his “ties of dependency with the Soviet Union . . .”
Our Newsletter pundit, however, knows better. To him it’s obvious where the “best interests of US imperialism” lie. He speculates that similar “intelligence” is “not totally excluded” among the U.S. rulers and that after the election Johnson might “be in a position to carry out some international wheeling and dealing that would make Kennedy look like a conservative.” The implication is that Johnson might just pick up that “offer” reported in Eder’s garbled or falsified report.
We would remind the publishers of the Newsletter that the liberal Kennedy sponsored the armed invasion of Cuba that ended in defeat at Playa Giron. As for the potentially still more liberal Johnson (as the Newsletter sees him), he discarded even the shreds of Kennedy’s “Alliance for Progress,” sponsored a counterrevolution in Brazil last April, and did not hesitate during his campaign to order the bombing in the Gulf of Tonkin. In the term of office now before him, Cuba will remain one of his main targets—as it was for Eisenhower and Kennedy. The truth is, as a rudimentary class analysis should show anyone, it is “obviously” in the best interests of American imperialism to crush the Cuban Revolution, thus counteracting the example it has set and teaching the rebellious Latin American colonial slaves a fearful lesson. Under present circumstances, the Cubans have every reason for their alertness, their nervousness, and their repeated warnings about Washington’s intentions. If American imperialism does not move in a sudden violent way to crush Cuba it is because the Wall Street brain-trust calculates that the overall relationship of class forces on a world scale is not propitious for the operation. If, under certain circumstances, they should be compelled to “recognize” the Cuban Revolution as Henry Ford finally had to recognize the Auto Workers union, it would be due to a new change in the relationship of class forces, further weakening the American position. With the counterrevolutionary victory for American imperialism in Brazil last April, the immediate perspectives for Cuba darkened. The chances for another military thrust under Pentagon auspices rose. But that does not mean another attack is inevitable. The combined strength of the Soviet Union, the East European countries, the swiftly rising power of China, the newly freed colonial countries like Algeria, and solidarity with the Cuban Revolution—which remains a mighty force in Latin America, and even inside the United States, Canada, Great Britain and Europe—can compel American imperialism to procrastinate, to postpone the military showdown it would like to undertake just as it has procrastinated and postponed its timetable for World War III. If this can be accomplished it will be a tremendous victory for the Cuban Revolution and for the socialist revolution on a world scale. It is a realizable goal.
Healy sees otherwise. His stand on the Cuban Revolution has taken him farther and farther away from the world Trotskyist movement.
“The recent events in Cuba,” the Newsletter claims in its assessment of the garbled or falsified Eder interview, “have confirmed irrefutably that no petty-bourgeois leadership and party can establish a workers’ state. The working class in Cuba have neither power—nor the semblance of it—the militia, the agrarian reform and the nationalizations notwithstanding.”
In other words, we are told, there is no workers state in Cuba today and no hope of establishing one so long as the Castro government remains in power. Healy has ruled out consideration of the Castro regime as even a Workers and Peasants Government, the possibility of which was forecast and discussed by the Communist International in Lenin’s time and referred to again by Trotsky in the Transitional Program. Incapacity to distinguish shadings, incapacity to appreciate their importance, readiness to brush them aside, are quite characteristic of ultraleftism.
What conclusions do the SLL revisionists of Trotskyist theory draw from this?
“Cuba can and will be defined as a workers’ state only when a revolutionary party based on the programme of the Fourth International has successfully overthrown the capitalist state—at present represented by the bonapartist dictatorship of Castro—and replaced it by the dictatorship of the working class.”
Note that. Stilwell can and will define Cuba as a workers state “only when a revolutionary party ...” And what happened to the criterion brought down with such authority earlier in the same article, according to which a country’s relations with the world market are absolutely decisive in determining the class character of the state? Tossed in the wastebasket. That, we might say, is where it belongs. The framework of Healyite theory is not sturdy enough for any other use.
If Healy succeeds in overthrowing the Castro government, what economic and social program will he put into effect? Does he propose to undertake an agrarian reform, the expropriation of the bourgeoisie, extensive nationalizations, the institution of planned economy—in brief, the measures already carried out under Castro? Will he mobilize the youth to end the illiteracy already ended under Castro? Will he smash Batista’s army, police and state by leading a true armed insurrection from Pico Turquino? If the economic and social overturn accomplished under Castro was only the “radical rhetoric” of a “bourgeois nationalist,” a “Chiang Kai-shek,” what kind of “radical rhetoric” does Healy propose? It would be well for him to inform the Cuban proletariat—peasants, too—more specifically about how he proposes to accomplish what has already been accomplished before he sets out from the London docks in a British Granma.
Is Healy, then, incapable of anything but the most barren ultraleft-ist course? Not at all. In the case of Bevan, he was, with the help of the international movement, able to avoid shipwreck. The leaders of the Socialist Workers party can testify to this, and they are expert witnesses, as we know from the Newsletter itself. It is just that now, having cut off his international ties, Healy gives way to moods he has probably long resented curbing. He is on an ultraleft binge.
The evidence could not be clearer. The Newsletter reveals in its pseudo reply to Comrade Peng that Healy was capable of offering critical support to Bevan—when Bevan was moving to the left. But did Bevan ever move as far to the left as Castro? Take a look at the record. In contrast to the genuine revolutionist Castro, what was Bevan? A “fake left,” as the Newsletter might say. Now if Healy could at one time offer critical support to the fake left Bevan—and it was correct to do so at a certain stage—yet today refuses to offer critical support to a truly revolutionary figure like Castro, it is possible to draw only one logical conclusion: Healy has changed. His politics are no longer the same. He is now on an ultraleft binge. Today Healy will not offer critical support to a government that has carried out a genuine socialist revolution—even when it is suffering an economic blockade, diplomatic assault, and the standing threat of military aggression organized by the world’s mightiest imperialist power. He calls for the beleaguered government to be overthrown as “capitalist.”
The true situation is this: Neither the Socialist Workers party nor the majority of the world Trotskyist movement have given up the fundamental political course they have followed since the Fourth International was founded. The main sectors of the movement independently reached the same basic conclusions on a new major world event, the Cuban Revolution. For whatever reasons, Healy proved incapable of keeping up. He suffered the most unhappy fate that can befall a revolutionist. He was unable to recognize a revolution when he saw one. The events in Cuba, in the whole colonial world, were beyond him.
His comrades and friends, even at the cost of some abuse, allowed him a couple of years to discover that his position was untenable and that wisdom called for a retreat. He chose the opposite course. The result was that he ended up in a minority in the International Committee. When the majority decided that it was time to go ahead, that it was a necessity to proceed with the unification of the world Trotskyist movement, Healy broke ranks. Instead of joining in the Reunification Congress and abiding by the rules of democratic centralism, which would have permitted him to present his point of view inside the movement, he decided to take his case to the public.
In the process he deepened his errors. He began floundering. On the eve of the British elections, readers of the Newsletter must have been hard put to determine who was the main enemy, the Tories, Pablo, James P. Cannon, Harold Wilson or Peng Shu-tse. (From the ultraleft viewpoint, of course, there wasn’t much difference, the whole world outside of the Healyites being one reactionary mass.) Much worse than the ridiculous figure Healy made of himself with his display of unbridled factionalism was such an error as finding himself issuing a private declaration of war on the beleaguered Castro government at the very moment the Johnson administration was ramming through its warmongering OAS resolution.
During the period leading up to the Reunification Congress, the Chilean Section of the International Committee warned Healy that his position on the Cuban Revolution would signify political hara kiri for anyone who clung to it. They pleaded with him to reconsider. Healy paid no attention. The inevitable has now occurred. So far as the Latin-American revolution is concerned, Healy committed hara kiri publicly in the pages of the July 18 Newsletter.
Even in Great Britain, if I am not misinformed, such a mishap is considered bad for one’s political health.
1. The dismal ideological level, however, is offset by the pastel inks used to stimulate reader interest in the Newsletter, weekly journal of the Socialist Labour League. After sampling the greens, blues and yellows, I find the lipstick pinks most intriguing.
2. For the programmatic documents on which the reunification was based see Fourth International, No. 17; Quatrieme Internationale, No. 19; or Cuarta International, No. 2.
3. Michel Pablo, while greeting the reunification, held views on a number of points conflicting with the position of the reunified movement, his main stated difference concerning evaluation of the Sino-Soviet conflict (against critical support of the Chinese side). He registered his differences at the time of the Reunification Congress where his tendency represented a small minority. After the reunification, he developed further differences, the most serious being on the application of democratic centralism. He argues that the norm for this period should be the “coexistence” of groupings. Acting in line with this position, he has gone so far as to issue his own public faction organ and is at present suspended from leadership in the Fourth International. Like Healy on this point, he finds the rules of democratic centralism fine in theory but not something to be observed in practice ... so long as he remains in a minority.
4. Healy has changed the name of his theoretical magazine to Fourth International, apparently for the sake of adding to the confusion created by the ultraleftist J. Posadas who split from the Fourth International in 1962. Posadas issues publications that have duplicated those of the Fourth International down to the typography, but filled of course with his own material, mostly transcripts of his speeches. Posadas calls his grouping of isolated individuals in various countries the “Fourth International” and uses the name “International Secretariat” the way Healy uses “International Committee.”
5. In the October 31 Newsletter Frank Williams writes: “The Pabloites have no answer to our criticisms, so they proceed to denounce us as agents of Wall Street imperialism.” The author, of course, may argue that by “Pabloites” he means a perfectly definite category in his own head—where the alleged denunciations also exist. In the context of the article the reference could, unfortunately, be taken to mean the United Secretariat of the Fourth International or leaders of the Socialist Workers party. None of these, to my knowledge, have ever labelled the Healyites “agents of imperialism,” since all of them are perfectly aware that the correct label is “ultraleftists” and all of them know the importance to Marxism of accuracy in terminology. Perhaps Williams is suffering from a bad conscience ... if something more deliberate is not involved
6. As a recent example of how the Healyite school operates, we offer the November 7, 1964, issue of the Newsletter. The following item, on a background of tomato red, appears on page 3 as an insertion in a six-column article concerning the scandalous deal between the heads of the Ceylonese and Indian governments to deport 675,000 Indian residents now in Ceylon:
“On July 1 last year, the Unified Secretariat of the Fourth International wrote from the Pabloite centre in Paris to Leslie Goonewardene, Secretary of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party, saying: ’We recognize there is nothing wrong in the principle of negotiations between India and Ceylon on the subject’ [the citizenship rights of Tamil workers]. The present agreement is a result of the revisionist policies of the Unified Secretariat who have once again betrayed workers in Ceylon. Once again members of the Unified Secretariat stand exposed and conedemned [sic] as traitors to the working class.”
This is exactly the way the box was printed, with the exception of the “sic” which we added. Note the charge that the shameful agreement negotiated by the Ceylonese prime minister “is a result of the revisionist policies of the Unified Secretariat who have once again betrayed . . .” In the Healyite brain, the “Pabloite centre” wields almost demoniac powers as can be seen in the state relations of some countries.
The following is the actual text of the pertinent part of the July 1 letter written to the then official secretary of the Ceylonese section of the Fourth International:
“The Unified Secretariat concretely proposes that an additional clause be inserted in point 14 (a) to make it clear that the party stands for equal opportunity for the Tamil language in relations between citizens and the Central Administration.
“Concerning point 14 (b) we think that in order to avoid any ambiguity it must be made clear that the option of deciding the citizenship rights of persons of Indian origin should not be left ultimately to the goodwill of the government of India, but to the people directly concerned, although we recognize of course that there is nothing wrong in the principle of negotiations between India and Ceylon on the subject.
“Apart from these formulations, the main question in our opinion is the necessity to associate with the united front the plantation workers who represent the bulk of the agricultural workers in Ceylon. As these workers are not organised in any working class political party, the association can be ensured only through a collaboration with their trade unions, the DWC and CWC.”
By cutting eighteen words out of a sentence in one of the above paragraphs and providing their own “explanation” of the meaning of the phrase thus separated from its context, our “theoreticians” are able to “prove” that the “Pabloite centre” stood for the exact opposite of what it actually stood for. The monstrousness of what they did—its deliberateness—can be judged by simply reading the original sentence.
What compels the leadership of the SLL to resort to such falsifications? Do they really think they can get away with “discussion” of this character simply because their victims are likely to throw up their hands at the appalling work required to reply? Whatever their reasoning may be, these methods clearly have nothing whatsoever in common with Trotskyism.
7. Castro said, diplomatically, that he had been “misunderstood.” By way of rectification, the New York Times under a July 27 dateline from Santiago de Cuba quoted from a speech made by Castro the previous day in which he made a specific denial. Here are some key sentences which we have translated from the text of the speech:
“But in one of the questions, he asked me: ’And the question of aid from Cuba to the revolutionary movement, in Latin America, is that negotiable?’ Well, I thought that the question referred to this aid that they say we are giving to revolutionary movements in Latin America; and I didn’t say yes or no. In other words, I didn’t say whether we have been helping them or not helping them. I limited myself to answering his question. And I told him: ’Look, aid to the revolutionary movements can’t be negotiated, it can’t be negotiated’—I told him [Applause]. ’If you ask me another question, that is, if you ask me if our country is capable of living up to international norms, I would then say, yes; but we are not going to negotiate solidarity. This would not be worthy of revolutionists; and if we happen to give some aid or ask for some aid, it’s not in order to negotiate on the basis of such aid, no.”
The July 31 issue of World Outlook, published the pertinent extracts from the Spanish text of the interview, quoted the rectification published by the New York Times and specifically called attention to the blunder of the Newsletter in utilizing the Eder interview as the basis for its one-page spread in the July 18 issue. To this day the Newsletter has not seen fit to print a rectification.