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Farrell Dobbs

Letter to Gerry Healy

December 8, 1954

“The problem is not one of unification”

Written: December 8, 1954
Source: Education for Socialist Bulletin…
Transcription\HTML Markup: David Walters

Dear Burns [Healy],

We have just concluded a most fruitful convention which gave an inspiring demonstration of high morale in the ranks despite the witch-hunt pressures and from which the party emerged with a class-struggle line realistically applied to the present conditions.

A redraft of the political resolution, prepared after the recent national elections, will be sent to you under separate cover. The convention adopted the general line of the redraft as definitive in determining the line of the press and the policy in branch activities. However, the redraft will now be submitted, with some editing to further discussion in the party, after which the Plenum of the NC will adopt a final definitive draft by authorization of the convention.

The convention formally expelled the splitters and unanimously approved the Open Letter published by the Nov. 1953 Plenum as well as the subsequent general course of the leadership in the struggle against Pabloism. In a discussion among the leading comrades right after the convention, we took up the current problems in that struggle and decided to send this letter to you personally setting forth our general views.

Looking back upon recent events we now feel we made a mistake in orienting toward establishment of a parity commission with the Pabloites no matter on how limited a basis. Illusions can be created that become an obstacle to the realization of our fundamental objectives.

Beginning with the Open Letter, the forces rallied around the International Committee have denounced Pabloism as a revisionist-liquidationist tendency guilty of: junking the Transitional Program; renouncing the inevitability of political revolution against the Stalinist bureaucracy and visualizing its self-reform; covering up Stalinist betrayals; adopting a conciliatory attitude toward alien political tendencies generally; liquidating the movement through “deep” entry tactics; organizing a secret personal faction; suppressing democratic discussion inside the movement; gagging leading comrades in the executive bodies and in the sections; carrying through minority-provoked splits and bureaucratic expulsions—all as part of a conspiracy to achieve these revisionist-liquidationist aims through a minority coup d’etat at a rump congress.

The Open Letter and then the International Committee itself added to this general denunciation the demand that the Pabloite usurpers be removed from the central apparatus in order to restore internal democracy in the world movement. Full democratic discussion was called for on all issues in dispute before the necessary decisions are made at a democratically organized congress.

It is on this line that the major sections have been rallied around the International Committee with the consistent demand that Pablo and Pabloism must go. The split with Pabloism is therefore already definitive and what remains is a mopping-up operation to save whatever confused elements we can, accepting unity only with those elements who are prepared to break definitively with everything Pabloism stands for. Thus, in the most basic sense the problem is not one of unification. Our task is to consolidate the forces that have broken with Pablo and carry the split deeper into the Pabloite ranks.

Organization of a common congress with the Pabloites is not in any sense a task of the parity commission. We agreed to the commission in the first place only to help the Ceylonese comrades find a tactical bridge toward full support of the Trotskyist forces. We had no idea of a congress of any kind until the groundwork has been fully laid for its complete rejection of Pabloism and the projection of a Trotskyist perspective. Consequently there can be no basis for discussion with the Pabloites of any organizational matters or any questions of formal authority.

At most the parity commission could merely organize a discussion and it isn’t actually needed even for that. Our task is precisely the one defined at the latest meeting of the IC—to pass immediately to the preparation of our own documents for the Fourth Congress. In doing so we will naturally run our own discussion and the documents the IC finally elaborates through its own discussion will definitely be the authentic documents of the Fourth Congress.

The notion of a parity commission serves at most as simply a device for marking time before the definitive split with Pabloism is made openly in the fullest formal sense. Time is on our side in the task of clarifying the confused and hesitant elements who remain identified to some degree with the Pabloite formal structure. The gratifying developments you report in Germany and Italy underline this fact. But we must be careful not to feed any illusions among the Ceylonese, Germans, Italians or others that there can be any long cohabitation with the Pabloites. These comrades must not get the idea that they can avoid a clean break with Pabloism with the expectation that we will be coming back into the old setup on the basis of a modus vivendi with Pablo.

If our approach to the parity commission question gives any wrong impressions on this score it would impede the full mobilization of the real Trotskyist forces. Judging from the eagerness with which the Pabloites are pushing for a quick session of the commission, they sense this very fact and are anxious to use the parity commission device to sow new confusion and promote new illusions. We therefore think it necessary to slow down a great deal on the commission action and stall off even a preliminary meeting indefinitely while we take plenty of time to work out our own perspectives and fully develop our own strategic and tactical course. Since the parity commission must in any case be strictly limited to the exchange of discussion material and nothing more, there is no need for haste in arranging a meeting and plenty of good reasons that can be advanced for delaying it.

Our platform permits no common executive body with the Pabloites. It requires just the opposite since our stress is on the consolidation of the Trotskyist forces and a definitive separation from Pabloism. Hence nothing of an executive character gives any urgency to a parity commis-sion meeting. Our documents will not be designed for “common” discussion with the Pabloites but for clarification of the Trotskyists and the elaboration of the Trotskyist platform. We have nothing to negotiate with the Pabloites concerning the character and scope of discussion material. In fact we take a dubious view even of the proposed IC demand to have our own spokesmen in Pablo-dominated sections. That stipulation would work both ways and we don’t really need it, certainly not nearly as much as the Pabloites do. Thus all the parity commission can really do is exchange documents and there would be no point to a hasty meeting merely to agree that this would be done later on. And the IC will not be in a position to submit any documents to a parity commission until they have been thoroughly discussed among the IC supporters and approved by them.

We fully agree with the decision of the International Committee to concentrate now on the preparation of the basic discussion material intended to fully clarify our own forces and rally the confused elements to our side. We will undertake the drafting of a document on “World Perspectives” as the IC has requested but it will not be possible for us to promise it by Dec. 30 as suggested. While we have no intention of delaying the project, we do think it important that we be allowed whatever time will be found necessary to do a workman-like job on the draft. If you agree with us that there is no need for a forced pace in preparing the IC documents, we assume you will also agree to our undertaking the assignment on a necessarily elastic time schedule.

In addition to the discussion material already projected by the IC we believe a thorough analysis of the structure and functioning of the world movement along realistic democratic-centralist lines will be needed. In the so-called “unity” resolution of the rump congress, Pablo still harps on his pet theme of a “centralized world party.” We must spell out not only our rejection of Pablo’s false organizational line but also what we want the organizational norms to be as required by the realities of the movement. Considerable discussion will first be required among ourselves on this general subject and we plan to write further about it later on.

We shall look forward to further direct consultation with you on the points we have raised in this letter and on the manner in which these views should be introduced among our co-thinkers.

Comradely, Smith [Dobbs]

[Postscript Omitted]