From International Socialist Review, Vol.21 No.2, Spring 1960, pp.49-53.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).
AFTER six years of publication, the American Socialist, a monthly magazine which made considerable impression in radical and student circles when it first appeared, announced December 1959, “This is our last issue.” In a statement to their readers the editors admitted that the decision to close up shop “stems from more than just financial difficulties.”
What then were their political reasons? The editors of the American Socialist felt that the promise of a favorable regroupment among radical forces in the US had not been realized. In the absence of a radical upsurge, they explained, they never thought that a regroupment would result in a new socialist party. But they did hope “that it might be possible to start a modest educational society outlining a body of ideas and approaches for a New Left if enough of the old radicals took the cure, rid themselves of their past misconceptions, derelictions, and bad habits, and grew up to understand the requirements of the epoch.” This was an illusion, they conclude,
“In retrospect, we can see that the regroupment discussion of several years ago had no chance. The decay had gone too far, and the atmosphere in the country was too forbidding to encourage a new beginning.”
So what should be done now? The prospects appear dispiriting.
“There are a number of possibilities open to us to overcome our difficulties, but these add up to converting ourselves into still another messianic sectlet. We have rejected such a course in the past and we do so now.”
Has the American Socialist then nothing further to say? It seems not.
“We have already exceeded the life-span for non-institutional ‘little magazines’ in this country and the time has now clearly come to close up this particular venture.”
What of other publications or other currents in the radical movement? Should readers of the American Socialist turn to any of these? The editors seem embarrassed. They say that the socialist movement must make “fresh investigations” into many questions including “a number of classic socialist assumptions [not identified]. But we never believed – we do not believe now – that the Kremlin or the State Department were the best mentors, overtly or covertly, wholly or partially, for these researches.” Interpreting this Aesopian language, we take this as advice to stay away from both the Communist party and the Socialist Party-Social Democratic Federation.
What of the Socialist Workers party and the Trotskyist movement generally? You would never guess from reading the American Socialist that editors Bert Cochran, Harry Braverman and J. Geller had spent the greater part of their adult life in the Trotskyist movement, breaking from it only in 1954. Do they finally draw some kind of balance sheet on this experience in the final issue of the magazine they founded? No. They conclude their experiment as they began it – without an explanation, without a programmatic accounting. Like fleeting, ghostlike birds of passage one could say of them: “From nothing, through nothing, to nothing.”
Cochran, Braverman and Geller thus end their magazine experiment with ideological bankruptcy. Although they gratuitously include the whole socialist movement in this, they are really only speaking for themselves. To indict the movement as a whole, it is necessary to do more than assert; it is necessary to discuss points of disagreement, to attempt to prove one’s contentions. In other words, it is necessary to engage in ideological struggle.
But this is exactly what the three editors have always refused to do, avoiding controversy by assuming a blase manner: It is all too, too wearisome to squabble about ancient issues that interest no one but devotees of sectlets.
With all its appeal for the tired and the demoralized, such posturing signifies the abandonment not simply of Marxism but of all science, all method and all efforts to test contending programs in the laboratory of experience.
Is this criticism too harsh? In defense of Cochran, Braverman and Geller it can be argued that in their final statement they profess optimism about the prospects of the sixties.
“From a number of signs,” they say, “it would appear that the tensions which have built up in our society will lead to a new burst of political creativity in the coming decade.”
We agree with that forecast. But for Marxists the next question is how should we prepare for the new upsurge? How can we help transmit to the young socialists of the sixties the precious lessons of more than a century of Marxism? Don’t such tasks call for organized Marxist activity, even if it is reduced to the bare essential of running a mimeograph?
The editorial trio apparently thought of this – and excluded it:
“Of course, the Left is by now too shrunken to permit any continuity between the movements of the thirties and any manifestations in the sixties.” (Our emphasis.)
What does this mean? If there is no possibility of any continuity between the radical movement of the thirties and the coming movement of the sixties, then the next generation, which will undoubtedly be called upon to solve fateful problems, will be left, hanging by itself; it will be excluded from the benefits of learning from the-experience of the generation of the thirties, in both their positive and negative aspects.
THEY are condemned to start from scratch in considering such mighty questions as the failure of the working class parties to stop the rise of fascism in Europe; the failure of the labor movement to prevent World War II; the liquidation of the revolutionary-socialist parties into class-collaborationist popular fronts in Europe; the rise of a bureaucratic dictatorial regime in the Soviet Union; the stifling of all independence and revolutionary integrity of the Communist parties of the world by the Kremlin; the successive betrayals of reformist Social Democracy; the decimation of radicalism in America due to supporting capitalist parties; the defeat of the militant and radical wing of the American trade-union movement and the rise of the present labor bureaucracy ...
If the Marxist movement today does not do everything in its power to transmit such lessons, then it is indeed bankrupt. And if one argues that there’s nothing wrong with Marxism but no humans in this country exist capable of giving continuity to its body of thought, as Cochran does, it comes to the same thing. A theory that resembles some “truth” of the spirit world, unconnected with any living tendency, is hardly a useful guide to action.
WHY accept such a nihilistic diagnosis? It is not related to social reality but to emotional collapse. The editors express despair at the incapacity of the “old radicals” to rid themselves of their past “misconceptions, derelictions, and bad habits,” their inability to grow up “to understand the requirements of the epoch.” Wouldn’t a Marxist begin by explaining such phenomena in order to overcome them? Precisely what were these “misconceptions, derelictions and bad habits?” In what way did the old generation fail to understand the “requirements of the epoch"? And what are these requirements?
The American radical movement showed great promise at the beginning of the century; it became a powerful force among industrial workers in the thirties; then it suffered rout and demoralization in the fifties. How did the misconceptions and derelictions (not to speak of bad habits) lead to this? Aren’t the youth entitled to this wisdom?
If the movement of the coming decade is to succeed where the movement of the thirties failed, such questions must be answered by the Marxists. This will be demanded by young militants who will enter the ranks in the years to come.
For the knowledge-hungry youth turning to socialism this work of Marxism provides indispensable answers to their urgent questions. But the youth will not find even a hint to the answers in the American Socialist. The editors abandoned their project, bitterly skeptical, disillusioned, without anything to say to the future.
If this were merely the default of a few individuals, the subject would hardly be worth pursuing. But there is much more involved. Important lessons can be learned from the evolution of the group that launched the American Socialist. This evolution is itself a part, of the story of the decline of the American radicalism in the fifties. To understand the main features of this group and what made them act as they did is therefore part of the preparation for the future we have been talking about.
In essence Cochran and his followers broke from the Socialist Workers Party in 1954 over the concept and role of a Leninist party.
The American Trotskyist movement was founded in 1928 as part of the international struggle begun by Lenin and Trotsky against the rise of Stalinism. The bureaucratic caste that arose in the Soviet Union displaced democratic workers rule. In other countries the Communist parties were reduced to servile appendages of the Kremlin. Consequently, they were unable to measure up to their tasks in one revolutionary situation after another.
The Leninist tendency, led by Leon Trotsky, carried on the chore of expounding the theories of Marxism and Leninism against the systematic revisionism of the Stalinists and their unending falsification, slander, frame-ups, and murder. In every crucial situation in the world the cadre of Leninists, called “Trotskyists” by the Soviet bureaucrats, fought for revolutionary-socialist policies and painstakingly analyzed the causes of the defeats resulting from the Stalinization of the Communist parties.
This work was carried on first by the Left Opposition, which sought to reform the Communist parties, and then the Fourth International, which was founded after the Third International and the Communist parties adhering to it had lost all elementary revolutionary reflexes. The historical significance of this was the maintenance of the continuity of Marxism throuahout the period of Stalinist reaction. The new generation that came to radicalism found intact the most advanced scientific theory of the class struggle. Without this, Stalinism would have succeeded not only in blighting the first workers state with a police regime and in wrecking many promising revolutionary opportunities, but in burying the socialist “memory” of the working class for decades to come.
THE single most important precept of Marxism rescued from Stalinist revisionism is the need for an independent party of the working class. Lenin devoted his life to advancing and refining this principle, bequeathing a rich legacy to subsequent generations. Lenin’s key thought was that the party is the concrete manifestation of the program and the indispensable agency for giving it life. Marxism would be palatable to many dilettantes and dabblers in radicalism if it weren’t so insistent upon converting its program into an organized working-class political struggle against the parties of the rich and the middle class.
The American Trotskyist movement from the outset fought for this Leninist view. In 1940 a petty-bourgeois opposition, reflecting the pressure of the oncoming war, sought to persuade the party to give up unconditional defense of the Soviet Union. The debate then also turned on the Leninist concept of the party. The anti-Leninist faction headed by James Burnham and Max Shachtman felt itself “imprisoned” the moment it sought to reduce key principles to mere phrases – good for times of peace but not so good in war.
Cochran and the other editors of the American Socialist were reared in the Leninist school and played a considerable role in building the Socialist Workers party and defending its basic principles. They were an integral part of the Trotskyist cadre shaped in hard struggles such as the one against the Shachtman-Burnham deserters. Their break, beginning in 1952, with the program, theory and tradition of the SWP understandably resulted in a severe internal struggle.
The Cochran group did not, of course, commence with an open declaration against Marxism and against the Leninist concept of the party. As Rosa Luxemburg observed in 1899 in her instructive essay against the reformist revisionism of Eduard Bernstein:
“To expect an opposition against scientific socialism, at its very beginning, to express itself clearly, fully and to the last consequence on the subject of its real content; to expect it to deny openly and bluntly the theoretic basis of Social Democracy [Marxism] – would amount to underrating the power of scientific socialism. Today he who wants to pass as a socialist, and at the same time would declare war on Marxian doctrine, the most stupendous product of the human mind in the century, must begin with involuntary esteem for Marx. He must begin by acknowledging himself to be his disciple, by seeking in Marx’s own teachings the points of support for an attack on the latter, while he represents this attack as a further development of Marxian doctrine. On this account, we must, unconcerned by its outer forms, pick out the sheathed kernel of Bernstein’s theory.” (Reform or Revolution?)
The revisionists of the Cochran group ran true to form in this respect. For some time they held to ambiguous formulas with double meanings which could be read different ways by different people. In the Socialist Workers party a minority is guaranteed full opportunity to present its views but the Cochranites were slow to spell out their thinking.
When they finally made their position more or less clear it went as follows: Trotskyism was all right in its time but the events of the postwar world have upset the old Trotskyist conceptions. The Stalinists were able to lead a revolution in China, they argued. In Eastern Europe the Kremlin initiated a bureaucratically rigged social revolution. With Stalin’s death, Malenkov and the other heirs of the dictator turned toward democratic reforms. Here in the US the Reuther wing of the labor officialdom is to the left of the workers in some respects. Now if revolutions, however distorted, can be led by Stalinists and without a Marxist program, and some labor bureaucrats are quite leftist, who are we to say that it can’t happen that way right here in America? Then what’s the point of insisting on the need for a Leninist combat party? Why make sacrifices for socialist ideals? Why go through the ordeal of election campaigns with limited forces? Why put time and energy in party-building projects?
To understand this mood it is helpful to recall the social pressures at the time. The Korean War was still on. The McCarthyite witch hunt was mounting in fury. The trade-union bureaucracy had been transformed into a direct agency of the cold war and was collaborating with the FBI in hounding radicals out of the plants and unions. Less dramatic, perhaps, but profoundly important in its effects was the transformation taking place in what had formerly been the most militant and advanced section of the American working class.
A DOZEN years of war and armaments boom substantially changed the economic position and political outlook of the militant industrial workers of the thirties. This was supplemented by the cold-war hysteria. The normal influx of youth into the radical movement was reduced to a trickle. These were rough years for a revolutionary party, rough on the nerves, rough on staying power and on the composition of the membership. The Cochran faction in the last analysis reflected this heavy pressure by falling into a mood of despondency and inclination to give up what seemed like a lost cause.
It might appear that the developments of this period elsewhere in the world should have offset the pressures bearing down on American radicals. The Chinese revolution had gained a sweeping victory against imperialism and its native supporters; in Korea its forces had held back the world’s most powerful imperialist army; in Eastern Europe capitalism had been replaced by workers states even if via military-bureaucratic action and without the independent revolutionary struggle of the masses. In Western Europe powerful mass Communist and Socialist parties and trade unions still existed although capitalism had succeeded in regaining relative stability. Situations like the general strike in France in the summer of 1933 indicated the workers’ urge to struggle.
Yet, through doctrinaire reasoning, the Cochran group responded to these encouraging international developments in a pessimistic and demoralized way. Instead of seeing in these world revolutionary advances, whatever their form, a source of fresh confidence and inspiration, a vertification of the theory of Marxism, they became disoriented. The revolutionary advances took place without first settling accounts with Stalinism. Therefore, they argued, Trotskyism (or “the old Trotskyism”) had to be “junked” and everything rethought from the beginning. As if Marxist analysis could be reduced to a simple logical sequence and its power judged on how perfectly this sequence fitted the actual history of the destruction of Stalinism!
Instead of seeing the revolutionary advances as a premise for further progress of the international socialist movement and therefore as a prelude to the most profound crisis of Stalinism, they took the momentary appearance for the whole reality. The Communist parties in China, Yugoslavia, etc., stood at the head of the movement, they reasoned. Therefore, this brought into question the need for Leninist-type revolutionary parties in bringing about a successful revolutionary change.
The consequences of such reasoning – or, better, such emotional reaction – could not but be devastating to a disheartened group in the US. If Stalinism, or labor bureaucracies in general, can act as the prime agencies of social change, why bother to build a Leninist party in the US? Every effort involving party building became intolerably burdensome to them.
A section of the Cochran group was composed of trade unionists who had experienced in their own way some wear and tear. Beginning as militants devoted to the socialist cause, these unionists had become isolated and softened with prosperity until they came to feel that nothing “real” or tangible was left in the Marxist program. They were ripe for systematic adaptation to the “reality” in the labor movement; that is, to the powerful bureaucratic machines that proscribe organized socialist activity.
In this the Cochran group was hardly guilty of innovation. During the rise of the CIO almost every section of the radical movement was ridden with the opportunist disease of finding new virtues in the labor bureaucracy or the equally fatal sectarian disease of “rejecting” the CIO because it was headed by the bureaucracy. The American Trotskyist movement, however, retained its Marxist balance. It stressed the dual character of the development – the enormous progressive significance of the appearance of industrial unionism and the new ground for struggle it gave against the regrouped and reinforced labor bureaucracy. The Trotskyists saw the CIO as the auspicious beginning of the mass radicalization of the American workers, requiring more than ever a revolutionary left wing and continuous struggle against the capitalist-minded labor bureaucracy.
The Cochran group was familiar with this. Some of them were organizers during the rise of the CIO. But they seemed to suffer from amnesia. They looked at world phenomenon comparable in its main lines to their own experience as if it were utterly without precedent. This reaction to the big world events, which was really a way of caving in to isolation and prosperity-reaction resulted in a pell mell flight from Marxism, a new and awed attitude towards entrenched bureaucracies and a general throwing overboard of principles, program and – above all – “tradition.”
Unfortunately, this is still not the whole story. Marxists are capable of withstanding pressures greater than these. To suffer such precipitous collapse one more impulsion was required: authoritative backing from within the Trotskyist movement itself. This they received from a most unexpected source, a source that should have remained firmly against them, the group in the European Trotskyist movement in charge of the International Secretariat of the Fourth International.
This was an important test of the world Trotskyist movement since the assassination of its founder. The challenge of the Cochran group to the basic ideas of Trotskyism raised a question of international importance: does the Trotskyist movement represent the continuity of Leninism? Were the cadres assembled by Trotsky capable of carrying on the work after his death? History has answered these questions in the affirmative, we believe, but the answers were not given without struggles.
In response to the new world developments since World War II, the group of Trotskyists entrusted with the grave responsibility of co-ordinating the international efforts of the Trotskyist movement, began to see “new features” in Stalinism, not in the sense of its decay but in its possibly playing a progressive role under certain circumstances. Ordinarily such new opinions in the Fourth International and organizations like the Socialist Workers party which sympathize with it are submitted to rigorous and fully democratic discussion. In the process differences are generally resolved without too much difficulty. However, the incipient conciliationism towards Stalinism displayed by this European Trotskyist group, which was headed by Michel Pablo, greatly encouraged such groups as the Cochranites. On top of this Pablo used his formal authority as secretary to encourage and inspire the Cochran group to more vigorous action along the course it had taken.
UNDOUBTEDLY Pablo regarded Cochran with some hopes in 1954 as a possible American protagonist. Cochran, however, wasn’t interested in any subtle revisions of the Trotskyist program, once he had launched his faction on a course of split. He wasn’t interested in conciliation with Stalinism. As subsequent events showed, Cochran was moving away from Marxism without any intention of taking it stage by stage in the manner described by Rosa Luxemburg. But while he was forming his faction he was not averse to using the authority of Pablo for the moment to pick up support from Trotskyist workers in the US intensely devoted to the concept of internationalism. In fact, he couldn’t have taken many of them with him in his break from the Socialist Workers party without this assistance from Pablo. Under fire from the SWP majority, Cochran needed the cover and direct assistance supplied by Pablo.
This is the bitter truth about what happened. It is a tragic irony that immediately after the split, the Cochran group was designated by the Pablo leadership as the “official Trotskyists” in the United States. This probably gave the Cochran group some amusement. They shortly explained to their European allies that they hadn’t the slightest intention of playing such a game and in fact weren’t much interested in further correspondence.
While we are on the point, we might add that Pablo’s role in encouraging this kind of a split-off from the Marxist movement in the US was reproduced in both France and England. The startling shift of the Lawrence group in England and the Mestre group in France from Trotskyism to Stalinism demonstrated that when a revisionist tendency is in flight from revolutionary socialism, it is unwise to take surface adherence to the phrases of Marxism for good coin. And it is fatal to provide such groups with the cover of subtle arguments to facilitate their transition to the camp of anti-Marxism, as Pablo did.
Pablo and his group did not follow Cochran. Undoubtedly they were even surprised by its “sudden” evolution to anti-Trotskyism. This did not say much for the capacity of these leaders to forsee and to prepare – and not to persist in repeating the same mistake because of prestige considerations.
Six months following the split of the Cochran group from the SWP, Harry Braverman, one of its leaders, summed up its “achievements” in a speech published in the June 1954 Educator, a mimeographed publication. Braverman said:
“We carried through the split and re-formed our ranks in excellent order. We remained just about 100% solid.”
The major accomplishment, according to Braverman, in addition to the launching of the American Socialist was “the decision not to conduct a polemic with the SWP.”
This curious accomplishment meant a refusal to explain to militant workers, or anyone else, why they left the SWP, what the issues in dispute were, and on what program they now stood. The reason Braverman gave for such a suicidal political course was that
“.. the Trotskyist movement had wasted away so badly that there was absolutely no periphery – I repeat and underline – absolutely no circle of sympathetic opinion before whom we had to wrestle with them. Second, the point of view against which we would be polemicizing is not a natural growth representing a trend of opinion in the US, but a hothouse product of sectarianism, and as such entirely without interest for any part of American labor or radical circles, and by that I mean any part ...”
The empirical facts provided some justification for Braverman’s explanation of why the American Socialist group decided to make an anonymous entry on the stage of radical publications. His description of the SWP periphery at that time is not greatly exaggerated. Nevertheless, the decision was a fatal mistake and expressed in its way the basic defect of the group which foredoomed it to impotence.
Any political group which conceals its programmatic origins (for whatever reason, be it “shrewd” tactical duplicity, or the claim that no one is interested) has broken with the most elementary requirements of Marxism. Once the discipline of programmatic accounting is tossed aside, a group becomes highly vulnerable to impressionism, moods-of-the-moment, personal caprice and arbitrary regimes.
Laboratory proof of this is offered by the experience of the American Socialist group. Having launched themselves as a group solidly agreed on acting like political amnesiacs unable to remember where they came from, the “100% solid” very soon discovered they had disagreements. Did they then engage in a serious internal discussion allowing each point of view full rights of expression, as they were accustomed to in the SWP? Of course not! That would have been reverting to the habits of sectarianism. Instead Cochran simply struck the names of the dissident editors, including George Clarke and Mike Zaslow, off the masthead, and threw a large majority of the New York membership out of the organization. That’s living, nonsectarian politics! This split, too, was not reported or explained to anyone.
The Socialist Workers Party, meanwhile, repaired the breach left by the desertion. Younger members moved forward into positions of responsibility and leadership. A few retrenchments had to be made but all the party institutions were saved. Despite the witch hunt, new recruits joined. By 1956 the party was able to swing into the presidential election campaign in effective fashion.
In that same year came a test that was to prove decisive in the further development of both the American Socialist group and the Socialist Workers Party, if not every tendency in the American radical movement. This was the regroupment opportunity.
The faction led by Cochran made much of its eagerness to influence the radical movement and its know-how in accomplishing this aim in contrast to the “old” Trotskyists who were much too rigid, inflexible and altogether too dead to play any role in this. However, when the great shakeup of the American radical movement came, following Khrushchev’s famous revelations and smashing of the Stalin cult, it was the SWP that moved into the crisis, mapped out a flexible policy, began joint discussions and common actions and – this is now admitted by the SWP’s worst enemies – emerged from the regroupment process as the only gainer in relation to either the radical movement or new forces.
The capacity of a Marxist movement to inspire a new generation of radical youth is a decisive measure of its freshness, vigor and determination. Beginning with 1956 it was the SWP alone of all the radical groups that attracted a dynamic youth movement genuinely interested in revolutionary socialist politics and participation in the struggles of young people both North and South, Negro and white.
THE American Socialist group, in contrast, displayed the obverse side of organic opportunism during the regroupment period; namely, sectarian aloofness, snobbishness, a you-come-to-us-or-else attitude, and, finally, an Olympian pronouncement on the eve of the big shakeup that everyone’s bankruptcy barred anything coming of the whole turmoil. The Cochran group proved utterly incapable of building a youth following – and it must be admitted that if good journalism is sufficient they had every chance to succeed at it. The American Socialist was well written and well illustrated. It published informative articles that took a general socialist point of view. But it had no theoretically grounded program and therefore no plan to organize a serious movement. Thus it could not really inspire new converts to socialism to work for the goals that inspired past generations of socialists.
In the same conference, six months following their split, the Cochran group adopted a resolution, Our Orientation. (This was never publicly distributed.)
“Our purpose,” the resolution reads, “is to bring our ideas into the mass movement, and to gradually raise the consciousness of the ranks to the historic tasks. But the last thing in the world we should attempt is to inculcate the ranks with the necessity of adopting our specific traditions, and impressing upon them the truth of all the evaluations and proposals broached by Trotsky from 1923 on.”
All this sounds very broadminded and realistic. In the atmosphere of the prosperity-crazed, McCarthyized, hysteria-ridden US it gave the impression of having one’s feet planted solidly a good distance from immature sectarian nonsense. On closer examination you get a different impression. After all, what are these “evaluations and proposals broached by Trotsky from 1923 on"? They happen to be nothing less than the systematic exposition of the Marxist class-struggle policy for every situation of major importance in the international workers’ movement for more than a quarter of a century. They happen to be also the Marxist evaluation of the causes for some major catastrophes such as the working class falling victim to fascism, to pauperizing depressions, and a second world war.
All this is dismissed as simply outward trappings, inner-group jargon, family circle memories and old grudges lingering from ancient factional squabbles! But in the regroupment test this absence of theory proved fatal. On the other hand the doctrines, methods and theory to which the SWP adhered gave another indication of how practical they really are.
In their despairing Statement to Readers, the editors of American Socialist dolefully express the feeling that what is happening in the radical movement across the Atlantic in Britain is much superior to what is happening in the US.
“What has been done in Britain in the past two years,” they say, “was not and could not be duplicated here.”
We don’t know specifically what the editors regard as hopeful in Britain. But they are right in concluding that real progress is being made there. This, however, is a result of following the very course they turned their backs on. In Britain during the past two years a major group of highly qualified intellectuals and workers in the mass movement broke away from the Communist party. The break was programmatic, entailing thorough review and study of the very “Stalin-Trotsky dispute” which Cochran and his collaborators put in the same category as the Dempsey-Tunney fight. Among those in Britain who have broken definitively with Stalinism there has been impressive ideological ferment. A significant group, having studied the programmatic issues to the end, turned toward fusion with the British Trotskyists. This resulted in formation of the Socialist Labor League, a group within the Labor party and the unions dedicated to advancing the Marxist view.
As an organizing center of both class-struggle action by militant unionists and theoretical struggle for Marxism, the SLL has been selected as a target for witch-hunting. The British capitalist press and the right-wing trade-union bureaucrats are displaying the keenest alarm over the fact that the SLL has become an inspiring and attractive force for radical youth, for trade-union militants, for the entire left wing in the Labor party. The SLL is in the forefront of every struggle to unite workers, students and intellectuals in the fight against British imperialism, for withdrawing British troops from every part of the world, for ending the H-bomb tests, strengthening the socialist program of the Labor party and defeating the right wing’s attempt to scuttle the party’s stand in favor of public ownership.
The SLL is taking the lead in the fight for full democracy in the unions, the Labor party and in every aspect of British life. The SLL has shown its fighting mettle in beating back racist attempts to whip up a lynch movement against Negro workers in London.
Where did this magnificent movement come from? It is obviously without a trace of sectarianism or disdainful aloofness from the actual movement and life of the working class. It is popular, energetic and colorful in its public appeal.
The real secret of the strength of the SLL is in its concern for the theoretical basis of socialism, its “pre-occupation,” if you please, with the “old disputes” and its rejection of every attempt at light-minded improvisation in the field of principle. This is true of the SLL and its leadership as a whole, both those who came recently from the Communist party as well as the older Trotskyist cadre.
The British Trotskyists prepared for the opening of the kind of opportunities prevalent in their country today and that will surely confront us in the US tomorrow, by struggling against their own Cochran faction, the Lawrence group, back in 1953. They faced the same problem as the American Trotskyists in coping with destructive factional intervention on the part of Pablo. They, too, had to overcome the effects of a split that was unnecessarily deep due to Pablo’s influence. Their success in overcoming the internal dispute in a principled way, in strict accordance with Leninist tradition, is what prepared them to play their magnificent role today. 
Historically England “mirrors” the future of the United States. Marxists have long felt that the American trade unions will eventually follow the British example and organize a Labor party. The differences between the US and Britain assure that such a development will most likely occur at a far swifter tempo and depth in this country than it did across the Atlantic. We hope that when this time arrives – and it can be relatively soon – the Socialist Workers party will prove itself capable of living up to the Marxist traditions as well as the British Trotskyists have. To put such ventures as the American Socialist under the microscope, as we have tried to do in this post-mortem, is part of the necessary preparation.
1. Pablo has not displayed precociousness in learning. He has persisted in sniping at the British Trotskyists despite all their successes, as if he were still fighting the battle of 1953-54 and had hopes of turning up another Cochran. In the witch-hunting attack on the Socialist Labor League, Pablo has failed, up to this time at least, to take a public stand in defense of the victims. This was not due to lack of time, for he has busied himself with getting in touch with the few intellectuals who buckled under the pressure. He has even gone so far as to defend members of the Labor party who took an equivocal stand on the witch-hunt attack against the Socialist Labor League. It is difficult to see what advantage he sees in this for his faction in the Fourth International. It would seem more practical, and certainly a lot more principled, for a leading member of the Fourth International, whatever faction he belongs to, to make clear which side of the picket line he stands on, above all where Trotskyism is the principal target.
Last updated: 28.1.2006