Farrell Dobbs

“It would be dangerous to maneuver with the question of unity”

January 30, 1956

Written: January 30, 1956
Source: Education for Socialist Bulletin The Struggle to Reunify the Fourth International (1954-1963), Volume I: The First Parity Commission and Peng Shu-ste’s “Pabloism Reviewed” page 12. May 1977
Transcription\HTML Markup: David Walters

Dear Comrade Peng,

We have carefully reviewed the whole Parity Committee question, giving careful attention to the views expressed in your letters on the subject. In this letter we will undertake to convey our thoughts on the specific points you have raised and express our opinion about the general situation in the struggle against Pabloism.

We note that the LSSP continues to press for a Parity Committee to organize a discussion and prepare a unity conference. Assuming a fake pose as unifiers, the Pabloites are pressing the issue and seeking to brand the IC as “splitters” for not accommodating them on the Parity

Committee demand. The LSSP has aided the Pabloite demagogy by censuring the IC for its attitude on the Parity Committee question and has indicated that it will continue to stand aloof from the political struggle. The orthodox Trotskyists in Italy and a few others have expressed a desire for a general discussion through a Parity Committee because they think it will help them fight Pabloism in their situations.

You express the view that in these circumstances we should not delay discussions with the Pabloite ranks; that we must show a sincere effort toward reunification and a readiness for general political discussion; that we should submit our documents through the Parity Committee and ask the LSSP to send a representative to it.

Under the present circumstances a Parity Committee would be generally viewed as an instrument having the essential function of helping to prepare unity. In weighing the question of possible resort to such a device, it therefore appears necessary to think through to the end the possibilities for a principled unification and with whom.

Naturally the IC should work to win the support of orthodox Trotskyists who remain entrapped by Pablo. But it would be dangerous to maneuver with the question of unity in order to save a few people who have gotten left behind for a while at the present stage of the political showdown with the Pabloites. Real unity is conceivable only with those who are ready to make a clean and open break with Pabloism organizationally as well as political-ly. It would be a mistake to think that formal discussion through a Parity Committee will enable them to solve the contradiction between their political opinions and their organizational affiliations.

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 demo-cratic discussion inside the movement; gagging leading comrades in the executive bodies and in the sections; and carrying through minority-provoked splits and bureaucrat-ic expulsions.

The major sections have been rallied around the International Committee to defend and apply the funda-mental Trotskyist program in irreconcilable opposition to all revisionism. 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.

The key task remains one of political demarcation from Pabloism beginning with a thoroughgoing discussion among the IC supporters. Our first objective must be to arrive at common political positions based on Trotskyist principles. There can be no organizational shortcuts or alliances which tend to contradict the fundamental political needs of the situation. This stricture applies not only with regard to the struggle against Pabloism, but also in relation to the conciliators and even within the IC itself.

You express the apprehension that withdrawal from the Parity Committee will create the impression that the IC takes a sectarian attitude. Implied here is the concept of unity with reference to mass action. But there is a profound distinction between the unity of different tendencies in mass action and the concept of programmat-ic unity in a vanguard party.

What function would a Parity Committee have? We do not propose to organize a common congress with the revisionists. We want no common executive body with the Pabloites. There is nothing to negotiate regarding the character and scope of the political discussion. Our documents are intended first to elaborate a common platform among the orthodox Trotskyists. A Parity Committee could do nothing more than exchange docu-ments with the Pabloites and it is not needed for that. When and as it may become desirable, documents can easily be passed back and forth by a simple act of exchange without a special apparatus for that purpose.

It is not merely a matter of the Parity Committee being unnecessary. We are firmly convinced that acceptance of the Parity Committee idea in the first place was a mistake for which we must assume our full share of responsibility. Illusions and misconceptions were created. The Parity Committee became an obstacle to the fundamental objectives of political differentiation from the Pabloites and political reunification of the orthodox Trotskyists which must precede any organizational measures.

The Parity Committee actually gets in the way of influencing the orthodox Trotskyists who remain ensnared by Pablo and lends weight to the notion that they can avoid a definitive break with Pabloism. It connotes a trend toward reunification when the task of political clarifica-tion is far from completed. It opens the way to new Pabloite maneuvers and helps sow new political confusion.

We think it would be a mistake to adapt our tactical course to the policies of the LSSP. They are straddling in the international political struggle. Their course aids Pablo tactically and adds to the political confusion. It represents a political default on their part.

At the rump congress the LSSP voted for Pablo’s main resolution as amended by the incorporation of their criticisms of it. This was a disorienting political compro-mise that contradicts the struggle for a principled political line based on Trotskyist fundamentals. They have evaded forthright repudiation of Pabloism and now stand aloof from the political struggle awaiting the “documents of both sides".

It is not simply through a misunderstanding that the comrades of the LSSP take a vacillating position as conciliators. Their tactics appear to flow from a policy of national opportunism. We think it best to drop all maneuvers with them and firmly characterize their error. At the same time we should continue to send the LSSP our documents.

An examination of the reasons for their conciliationist attitude will only underline the need for us to stand firm against their conciliationist approach. They have had no Pabloite faction to deal with. Hence they have not had your and our direct internal experience which helped so much to fully perceive the Pabloite danger. They are generally remote from the international factional struggle and they are preoccupied with the problems of their own mass movement. They manifest a desire to be left alone while some form of modus vivendi is worked out between Pablo and the IC that would at least postponed a show-down.

We think the LSSP will take a forthright political stand only to the extent they are given no room to maneuver. Hence, the Parity Committee becomes not an aid but a hindrance to winning them to unqualified support of the IC. We fully share your desire to collaborate with them to develop the Trotskyist movement in the Orient. But if our ultimate political objectives are to be realized, that collaboration must be based on a principled political line and a corresponding general organizational course.

We noted with interest your report that the Frank group has concluded that Pablo’s line on Stalinism is incorrect. Insofar as the Frank group may have revised their Pabloite positions and returned toward the orthodox Trotskyist view, they should be ready to say so openly. If they did that, it would be a contribution toward an ultimate political solution in France. There as elsewhere we think the IC should stand firmly on the position that it will unite only with orthodox Trotskyists.

Important as it is to take political advantage of the ferment in the French Stalinist ranks, as you have stressed, it is even more important to have a clear, correct political line for this work which must be shaped in the discussion among the IC supporters. To overleap the IC discussion through a Parity Committee tactic would in our opinion merely compound confusion in the French situa-tion and still further reduce our chances of doing effective work among the Stalinists.

For all the reasons stated, we see no useful function for a Parity Committee at the present time. We think it would actually do.... We propose instead the following general course of procedure:

l. Clarify and consolidate our political positions through a full and free exchange of views among the co-thinkers associated with the IC.

2. As a definitive line is hammered out in the IC, seek to win the orthodox Trotskyists still entrapped by Pablo, getting our documents to them through general publica-tion and by direct contact where feasible.

3. Work toward the unification of all orthodox Trotsky-ists based on: common political positions and correct organizational relations; repudiation of the Pabloite revisionist policies and organizational methods.

We hope to have ready soon the introductory section of the international resolution sketching out the general political line of the draft resolution as a whole. Meantime we would appreciate your comments on the three sections dealing with China, the colonial bourgeoisie, and the Soviet Union, already submitted for discussion in the IC.

Smith [Dobbs]