Bulletin of the External Tendency of the iSt 2
FOR THE REBIRTH OF THE FOURTH INTERNATIONAL!
Labor Donated January, 1984
“THOUGH COWARDS FLINCH…”
The following mailgram was sent [11 November 1983] to the SL/US by the External Tendency of the iSt over the SL’s cowardly social-patriotic call for saving the lives of the US Marines.
Western Union Mailgram
This is a confirmation copy of the following message:
For Bolshevik opposition to shameful social patriotic concern for the lives of imperialist Marines in Lebanon. Drive them out. Statement to follow.
External Tendency of the iSt
Table Of Contents
This publication also contained the following items that were republished in:
- Trotskyist Bulletin No. 1
- Correspondence With Robertson
- A Textbook Example
- iSt Betrays Indochinese Trotskyist Heritage
- Trotskyist Bulletin No. 2
- A Loss of Nerve, and A Loss of Will
- Reuben’s Tangled Web
Spartacist Canada’s Anti-Working Class Idiocy
In the midst of this fall’s massive labor struggles against the vicious union-busting attack of British Columbia’s Social Credit government, Spartacist Canada announced that “the social attitudes of even the most militant sectors of the English-speaking working class [in Canada] resemble nothing so much as those of the most unregenerate Southern redneck” (SC No. 59, Fall 1983). Roughly translated this means that B.C. union militants, like the one pictured above, can be equated with the racist scum who compose the social base of the Ku Klux Klan. Even Bernadine Dohrn and Mark Rudd didn’t go that far in “You Don’t Need a Weatherman….” We can only wonder how SC viewed the B.C. public sector unions’ recent confrontation with the right-wing Socreds: a supportable labor struggle sold out by bureaucrats or a reactionary mobilization nipped in the bud?
On the surface the SC statement is just blatant idiocy. Of course the proletariat, even its most combative sectors, is tainted by the reactionary social prejudices engendered by bourgeois society. The SL, in contrast to Weathermen, historically maintained that “most white workers are neither active racists nor thorough-going integrationists” (“Racial Oppression and Working-Class Politics,” December 1969). To equate “the most militant” workers with “the most unregenerate Southern redneck[s]” is to effectively write off the working class.
Nor can we assume that this position is just the result of sloppy copy checking. Jane Clancy, the current editor of Spartacist Canada, told cde. Riley of the ET that she took personal responsibility for writing the sentence in question and pointed to the recent growth of the Klan in B.C. as “proof.” Apparently some comrades now have trouble distinguishing between those who want to build picket lines and those who want to smash them!
Program determines theory, as James Robertson remarked to Tim Wohlforth some years ago. We can hardly help but think that this new “theory” may have its origins in the recent collapse of the TLC’s Vancouver branch. If the best working class militants are incurable rednecks, then one could hardly blame the TLC for failing to recruit any of them. Consequently (according to this “sour grapes” rationalization) the TLC’s only alternative was to liquidate its Vancouver local.
Spartacist Canada has traditionally been the least sophisticated English-language [iSt publication. On one level, the anti-working class idiocy printed in Spartacist Canada only demonstrates once again the veracity of Stalin’s most profound insight about political life: paper will take anything written on it. But it also reflects, in a particularly crude form, the rationale for the iSt’s leadership turn away from its historic strategy of building caucuses based on the transitional program to fight for the leadership in the North American trade unions.
Militant Caucus’ Third Period Tactics
When Reagan announced massive military maneuvers in the Caribbean last July, he was directly threatening Cuba, Nicaragua, Salvadoran leftists and, as we have seen, Grenada. In response longshore militant Fredric Addison and ET supporter, Howard Keylor, addressed an appeal (reprinted below) to the Longshore/Warehouse Militant Caucus of the ILWU for a united front agitational campaign to bring about a 24-hour port shutdown in the Bay Area.
The two militants’ proposal was squarely in the best tradition of the Militant Caucus of the 1970s. As such it stood in stark contrast to the MC’s substitutionalist picket of the El Salvador-bound Lafayette last March. In the weeks prior to the Lafayette picket, while the MC was getting signatures on the call for a 24-hour port shutdown, Addison and Keylor became increasingly uneasy at what appeared to be a paper campaign. They were both aware that the successful boycotts of Chilean and South African cargo initiated by the Militant Caucus in the seventies only came after months of work. The 1974 Chile Boycott Committee was a genuine united front, involving a number of non-Militant Caucus clerks, longshoremen and warehousemen. Through patient propaganda the committee eventually won the majority of the waterfront membership to the need to force the action in spite of the officers. Addison repeatedly urged Gow to turn the petition campaign into such a genuine united front. The Militant Caucus ignored this appeal and went ahead with their disastrously unsuccessful picket of the Lafayette.
So poorly was the Lafayette picket built that Keylor didn’t even learn of it until it was over. In fact, not a single member of Local 10 (besides Stan Gow) participated in the ineffectual stunt. Hundreds of longshoremen streamed through it to work, and the local bureaucrats used it as an excuse to later haul Stan up on trial. What’s more, the MC’s foolish and counterproductive adventurism created a climate in Local 10 which made it more difficult to build solidarity action.
Hoping that the MC had learned something from the failure of their “go-it-alone” tactics, in their 21 July letter Addison and Keylor once more proposed the same united front approach that had been successful in the past. The MC never replied to Addison (who is black), but three weeks later sent the letter reprinted below to Keylor. This compendium of slander, lies and omissions was designed to evade the fact that the MC campaign for a 24-hour port shutdown was sabotaged by their own lone-wolf grandstanding.
The isolated and foolhardy stunt at the Lafayette made Stan a target for Local 10 officers who were looking for some excuse to cover up their own unwillingness to take action against Reagan. The successful defense of Stan (in which Addison and Keylor played a key role) does not vindicate the original mistake.
The fundamental dishonesty of Woolston’s “reply” to Keylor is revealed by the fact that the letter was never circulated in the local. Even those longshoremen who had worked with the MC in past campaigns weren’t shown it. Of course, there is a good reason for that. Those workers would have seen through the MC’s self-serving lies and hypocricies immediately. One worker who was a long-time co-worker of Stan’s and who heard Gow and Addison arguing about the letter in the union hall asked to see it. Addison showed it to him and his response was that it was probably a provocation designed to discredit the members of the Militant Caucus and the Spartacist League which they support! Of course Addison told him it wasn’t — it was only a dishonest attempt to cover up their own stupidity. But the results are the same.
There are a few charges raised in Woolston’s letter that we won’t go into here. We touch on the question of the ILWU Local 40 case (a.k.a. the “Gibson case”) in another article in this issue on the Labor/Black Struggle Leagues and anti-union court suits. Keylor and Addison have also both dealt with this question in the Militant Longshoreman. Woolston’s slanders regarding Keylor’s role in Stan’s defense, as well as the significance of the important defensive victory won in last June’s port shutdown against Levin Terminals, are both taken up in the first issue of the Bulletin of the ET.
Some points of fact about the other charges: firstly, after the Militant Caucus’ adventure, not only Keylor, but Addison and other signers of the petition, criticized the MC’s sabotage of their own campaign for a port shutdown.
Secondly, Woolston deliberately sets up a strawman by pretending that Addison and Keylor’s call for a “united agitational front” is equivalent to a “political ‘front’ with the sellout officers” who the MC characterized at the trial as “pro-imperialist lackeys of Reagan” and “CIA lovers.” (Ironically these are the same officers from whom they successfully solicited support for last year’s Washington D.C. anti-Klan action and more recently for Lauren and Ray’s defense.)
Thirdly, Woolston seems to be arguing that a political strike of waterfront workers against Reagan’s threat to Cuba, Nicaragua and the Salvadoran leftists would be unprincipled unless it took place under the slogan “Military Victory for Salvadoran Leftists.” Only sectarians can oppose united front strike action by workers against their “own” imperialist government’s threats to crush the Cuban deformed workers state, petty-bourgeois radical Sandinistas in Nicaragua and the insurgent leftists of El Salvador.
It looks as if the MC and its SL supporters have given up on the perspective of winning workers to class-solidarity actions and are substituting dead-end stunts (coyly referred to as “militant trade unionism” in WV No. 342’s attack on the ET). The flip side of PL-style adventurism is the PL-style abstentionism that characterized the Militant Caucus’ response to the important Richmond strike last June.
Those who cease to believe in the potential to win the working class to class-struggle policies can easily reject the tactic of the united front. To justify such a policy of sectarian defeatism they are often compelled to lie and slander their Bolshevik critics. That’s what Woolston’s letter and his more recent thuggery at the December 3 San Francisco Greyhound mass picket are all about.
The tradition of the Militant Caucus of the 1970s is represented today only in Militant Longshoreman.
July 21, 1983
Brothers and Sisters:
The U.S. government announcement of military maneuvers in the Caribbean within a month poses a direct military threat to Cuba, Nicaragua, and the leftist rebels in El Salvador.
We propose a united front agitational campaign for a 24-hour port shutdown to oppose Reagan’s war mobilization and in solidarity with Central American leftists, calling on the rest of the coast to join us. The high morale in Local 10 stemming from the recent victorious port shutdown in combination with the opposition to the bloody El Salvadoran junta, at least passively shown by the membership’s acquittal of Stan Gow, makes this a particularly opportune moment for such a united agitational front.
August 9, 1983
To: Howard Keylor
We reject your proposal as an unserious, politically dishonest, cynical factional maneuver. Its only purpose is to confuse the issue and to conceal from the membership the fact that you have from the beginning opposed our campaign for a port shutdown to stop Reagan’s escalation of military aid to the Salvadoran junta.
In March you reluctantly signed the call for “Labor Action to Stop Reagan’s War in El Salvador” only because other longshoremen told you to. You stated then, it would “never happen” unless it was sanctioned by Herman, Carr, Bancroft and Co., Reagan’s and Kirkpatrick’s pro-imperialist lackeys on the waterfront. In the last 5 months you have played no role whatsoever in that campaign.
The Militant Caucus’ position and the stated motivation of that call is for the military victory of the leftist rebels in the civil war against the bloody Salvadoran junta. You instead are merely for “solidarity with Central American leftists.” “Solidarity” is the same deliberately vague term used by the local and International officers and others who oppose military victory in favor of a “negotiated” sell-out. We take a side in that civil war.
You told numerous people that picketing the Salvador-bound Lafayette and the South African-bound Nedlloyd Kimberley were ineffectual “wildcats” doomed to failure because they weren’t sanctioned by the officers, and therefore you boycotted both. After the officers brought Stan up on charges you said he had deliberately set himself up for a trial. Your leaflet “defending” Stan, resulting from your “independent investigation” had more hooks in it than a rock fish rig. It boiled down to this: since no one honored the picket line and nobody except Stan lost any money; since no ships were stopped and since Stan did it on “his own time,” the local should avoid a “costly trial.” That’s nothing but an underhanded way of saying if the action had been successful Stan should have been found “guilty.” In other words you tried to do a job on Stan because you oppose what he and others did.
You write in your phoney red-baiting newsletter that Stan had “isolated” himself by his principled positions and actions. So when the Local 10 membership defended Stan and handed the officers a smashing defeat, you were, by several accounts, stunned and infuriated. He was right, you were wrong.
You say there is “high morale” in Local 10 because of what you refer to as the “victorious port shutdown.” By supporting that union-busting settlement as a “victory” you act as a mouthpiece for Herman, Carr, and Bancroft against the membership.
We think your call for a “united agitational front” is in reality a call for a political “front” with the sellout officers, the same way you have fronted for the racist practices of the officers of Local 40. Tell us who your friends are and we’ll tell you what you are.
You are free to support our continuing activities for a 24-hour port shutdown. However, we know this is highly unlikely given your recent backstabbing actions. If this urgent political strike against the government’s efforts to crush the revolution in El Salvador is to succeed, it will be inspite of the efforts of you and the pro—imperialist officers with whom you have been seeking “coastwide unity.”
for the Militant Caucus
Cleveland CWA Endorses Lauren and Ray Defense
On October 19, Andrew Bonthius raised the following motion at the membership meeting of CWA Local 4304 in Cleveland.
“That CWA Local 4304 endorse the demands of the Phone Strikers Defense Committee, which are: (1) That Lauren Mozee and Ray Palmiero be reinstated at their jobs with full back pay. (2) That amnesty be granted to all victimized phone strikers. (3) That all charges against Lauren Mozee and Ray Palmiero and all other phone strikers be dropped. And that copies of this motion be sent to the following: John J. Meehan, County District Attorney and Ted Saenger, President, Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Co.”
After describing the picket line incident and the charges pending against the two militants, Bonthius informed the members present that District 9 had posted bail for Lauren and Ray and was also providing lawyers for their defense. One pro-company steward rose to attack the motion by lamely questioning why the membership did not hear about the PSDC from the officers. The embarrassed and surprised local officers agreed that they had no knowledge of the arrests or the existence of the defense committee. Another member rose to speak in favor of the motion and urged others to support it. When it came to a vote, the motion passed with only one dissenter. A second motion by Bonthius to send $100 to the defense committee was narrowly defeated.
A few days after the meeting, Local 4304 President, Ed Hunka, called union officials in California. In response they sent him a copy of a letter to District 11 (Southern California) local presidents from district Vice-President W.C. Demers. The letter suggested that the attempts by the Militant Action Caucus to establish a Phone Strikers Defense Committee should be “foil[ed].” Demers went further and in a classic piece of McCarthyism stated that the MAC’s “motives have been and continue to be suspect.”
At the November membership meeting Hunka read Demer’s slimey letter and advised the members present to “take it under consideration.” During that meeting Bonthius once again put forward the motion for the $100 donation from the local. In motivating his motion he explained the CWA Defense Fund regulations and attacked the Demers’ letter as part of a campaign by the CWA brass to sabotage the defense of two militants who are part of a political opposition to the International leadership. After some discussion the membership voted to send the $100 to Lauren and Ray.
Three days after the invasion of Grenada, 1,500 Toronto leftists held a lively demonstration in front of the U.S. Consulate. ET members marched with the Trotskyist League of Canada in a contingent of about fifteen. The ET placards demanded: “U.S. Troops Out of Grenada!—No Commonwealth ‘Peacekeepers’!,” “Defend Cuba, USSR, Nicaragua!” and “Smash Canadian/U.S. Imperialism in the Caribbean and Central America!”
In addition to raising slogans parallel to ours, the TLC comrades raised slogans linking the invasion of Grenada with Reagan’s deepening difficulties in the Lebanon quagmire. Most of the chants initiated by the TLC comrades were enthusiastically taken up by ET participants.
There were two, however, which were simply unsupportable for Trotskyists. When the comrades of the TLC began to chant: “Vietnam was a Victory: Two, Three, Many Vietnams!” (i.e., “Two, Three, Many Deformed Workers States!”) we began to wonder if we were marching with a United Secretariat Majority contingent circa 1973. This Pabloite slip reflected a combination of the political inexperience of the TLCers leading the contingent and the iSt’s current political drift. It was quickly corrected by the intervention of the ET comrades who counterposed “Two, Three, Many Defeats for Imperialism!”
Far worse, however, was the second unsupportable slogan—the now-familiar “Marines Out of Lebanon, Now, Alive!” At the march the ET comrades counterposed “Dead, or Alive!” every time this pro-imperialist slogan was raised. The TLC comrades were not willing to accept our correction to their disgusting chant, although to their credit, several of them were visibly embarrassed by it.
A Strategy to Win
15 December—We reprint below Militant Longshoreman No. 6 which was distributed both at the Greyhound strikers’ mass picket in San Francisco on 3 December and inside the ILWU. Due to a transcription error, “Prepare for a General Strike,” which was intended to be a superheadline, was made the main headline. This gives an incorrect emphasis in a leaflet whose text posed the issues and tactics correctly. The key now is to organize the continuing, random and largely leaderless participation of ATU and non-ATU union members on the picket lines to sustain mass picketing to shut down Greyhound. “If,” as the Militant Longshoreman notes correctly, “Feinstein’s cops attack the pickets, the whole city should be shut down. Nationally, a San Francisco general strike could spark a needed solidarity strike of all the transport unions to support the ATU.”
At the December 3rd events, the SL carried signs and led chants focussing primarily on “picket lines mean don’t cross.” While formally correct, in a situation where all the major unions involved are honoring the picket lines—with the disgusting exception of the UAW in Detroit—this represents a tactical skew. The real issue now is mass pickets to stop the scab buses. While ET supporters carried a sign at the mass pickets on 3 and 10 December saying “Anti-Soviet War Drive Abroad Means Union Busting at Home!,” the SL carried no such signs to our knowledge. This is noteworthy from an organization which accuses its critics of wanting to accommodate to the bureaucracy, in part by taking a dive on the Russian question. Another ET sign said “Prepare for a General Strike Against Feinstein’s Cops’ Strikebreaking” and “Break With Feinstein’s Democrats—Build a Workers Party” and the Militant Longshoreman emphasized her strikebreaking role in the ILWU as part of our active fight in longshore to mobilize support for the strike. But not one SL sign that we saw mentioned Feinstein’s strikebreaking! From an organization which once rightfully prided itself on its no-holds-barred opposition to her strikebreaking, this omission is noteworthy.
MILITANT LONGSHOREMAN ISSUE No. 6, December 3, 1983
“BUILD AFL-CIO, IBT, ILWU MASS PICKETS TO SHUT DOWN GREYHOUND!”
“PREPARE FOR A GENERAL STRIKE!”
The Greyhound strike is now at a turning point. The ATU membership’s second massive rejection of the 25% takeaway contract means that Greyhound’s initial strategy failed. Greyhound expected that by hiring some scabs and getting 10% of the runs going, the union members would be scared into going back to work. Less than 2% have succumbed to the pressure. The strike remains strong.
Greyhound’s new announcement that it will attempt to resume full service can mean only one thing: it intends to break the strike physically, not only with scabs but with cops.
The only reason any buses are rolling in San Francisco now is because Feinstein’s cops attacked the picket line the first day of the strike. They made it clear that any further attempts to stop the buses would be met with more arrests and beatings. ILWU International President, Herman, together with the AFL-CIO Central Labor Council and the Teamsters’ leaders arranged a “truce” with Feinstein which was completely against the strikers: no cops will be around so long as the union doesn’t try to stop the buses! As Greyhound hires more scabs, this “truce” will mean that the trickle of scab buses will become a stream and then a river.
The holes in the picket lines must be plugged. The cops must be faced down and backed off. Labor has the power: there are tens of thousands of union members in San Francisco alone. Every day mass pickets, a thousand strong, should surround and shut down the Greyhound terminal. Members of all unions, particularly transport workers from AC Transit, Muni, BART, the Teamsters, longshoremen and the railroads, should organize to beef-up the ATU picket lines.
Every worker has a stake in the strike. It is the most important attack on labor nationally since Reagan busted PATCO. The destruction of PATCO was a big step in Reagan’s drive to force down the standard of living of U.S. workers in order to make them pay for his anti-Soviet war drive. Since PATCO’s defeat, the airlines have attacked the airline unions one by one, rolling back wages and benefits, and, at Continental, firing everyone. If the machinists, flight attendants, baggage handlers, teamsters, etc. had stuck together—if they had ignored and thrown out the union officers who ordered them to cross each others’ picket lines—PATCO would still exist today and the airline unions wouldn’t be in a mess.
Labor must not be divided—together, the unions have the power to defeat Feinstein and the other Democratic mayors and Republican governors who have ordered cop attacks on the strikers—from Boston to Philadelphia to Tucson. Feinstein is an enemy of labor. From PROP. L in 1974, to the defeated City Workers strike in 1976 and ever since, she has been in the forefront of anti-union attacks. But Feinstein has twice been beaten by forces with far less strength than the unions. When Dan White was let off with manslaughter in 1978, her cops stood by, vastly outnumbered by gays vividly demonstrating their anger. In 1980, when the Nazis tried to celebrate Hitler’s birthday at San Francisco city hall, a coalition of unionists, blacks, Latins, Jews, gays and socialists, initiated by the Spartacist League, announced that they would mobilize thousands strong to run the Nazis out—and Feinstein suddenly changed her mind about providing five hundred blue-uniformed stormtroopers to protect the Hitlerites. Feinstein, like most northern Democratic politicians, is dependent on working class and minority votes to keep in office and is therefore susceptible to mass pressure.
The ILWU, AFL-CIO and Teamster leaders won’t take the necessary action. Right now they are honoring each others’ picket lines. They realize that if too many more unions are smashed they won’t have the dues base to pay their businessmen’s salaries nor the political leverage to get themselves appointed to city and county jobs. But they’ll make a deal at the strikers’ expense at a moment’s notice. They caved into Moscone, Feinstein & Co. in ‘76. First, they threatened a general strike. Then they ran like scared rats. Now they are at it again. Two weeks ago—November 17—Jimmy Herman called longshore Local 10 officers to get their agreement to participate in a one-day general strike to support the Greyhound strikers. Armed with Local 10’s (and probably other unions’) agreement, Herman, the AFL-CIO and Teamster leaders marched into Feinstein’s office. They “won” a “truce” which keeps the scab buses going and they got the much-publicized Feinstein letter to Reaganite Deukmejian. The tokenism of this threat was proved when Addison and Keylor put a motion on the floor to mobilize longshoremen to the Greyhound picket lines and the Local 10 officers ruled it out of order. Had Herman & Co. forgotten where plumbers’ union leader Mazzola’s weakness ended him in 1976? Right smack in Feinstein’s jail!
The ILWU’S recent strike in Richmond shows there’s another way—the way to win. When Levin Terminals tried to bring in outside labor to steal our jobs; when the international officers ruled our strike illegal and our business—unionist local officers vacillated—we massed more than 1,200 strong in Richmond. Our union backed off the notorious Richmond killer cops. In solidarity, we shut down all Bay Area ports despite our contract which said we couldn’t. Our action beat the injunction, stopped the union-busting, won a union contract, and stopped Levin’s bid to take the auto work, container and break bulk cargo from longshoremen.
That’s what’s needed with Greyhound. If Feinstein’s cops attack the pickets, the whole city should be shut down. Nationally, a San Francisco general strike could spark a needed solidarity strike of all the transport unions to support the ATU.
The San Francisco general strike could bring the unemployed to our side by fighting for a shorter work week at no loss in pay to create jobs and by demanding full restoration of all cuts in city, county and state medical and welfare payments.
The way to maximize the chance of winning a general strike is to elect a strike committee representing all unions. This centralized strike committee would run the strike, oust the timid pro-capitalist labor bureaucrats and smash the alliance with the capitalist Democratic party.
A Significant Omission
In Militant Longshoreman No. 4 (7 January 1982) ET supporter Howard Keylor said of Stan Gow: “Stan flip-flopped on the Gibson case where he refused to support Local 10 contributing our share of the money when the case was finally settled. This anti-union position was a reversal of the Militant Caucus’ position of defending all locals against court suits while fighting to end discrimination through union action. Stan’s ‘neutrality’ in this case clearly implies that the racist capitalist government can be relied on to protect minority rights.” Coincidentally, the same day, Stan issued Longshore Militant No. 56 which in its five point program conspicuously, and for the first time, omitted a “no court suits against the unions” position.
One week later, in response to Keylor’s publication, Longshore Warehouse Militant No. 17 was issued. In it Gow reaffirmed his opposition to sharing in the costs of the Gibson case on the grounds that the particular ILWU local involved was guilty of open “racist practices.” Nonetheless, Gow claimed “I and the Militant Caucus are absolutely opposed to suing the union.”
Nearly a year has passed since this exchange. In our document of 25 June in opposition to the developing liquidation of the SL’s trade-union fractions and the qualitative transformation of the union caucuses, we again asserted the SL was abandoning its historic principled opposition to suing the unions. In this document we asserted that the Labor/Black Struggle Leagues (LBSL) were becoming the main transitional organizations of the SL/SYL, and were being incorrectly counterposed to trade-union caucuses.
While the SL/SYL has not yet itself sued a union, the formal publication of the program of the Labor/Black League for Social Defense in Oakland goes a long way toward confirming our worst hypothesis. The ten point program conspicuously omits opposition to court suits against unions. This cannot be an accident. The SL has always been the first to raise the issue in black work, precisely because it understands that blacks have long been discriminated against by the chauvinist, pro-capitalist labor bureaucracy and therefore may tend to see the unions as much as the corporations as the source of discrimination. Seeing no alternative and not understanding the fundamental class difference between the unions under pro-bourgeois leadership and the bourgeois state itself, black workers have frequently turned to the courts for relief. In the l960s and l970s, many black nationalists made a practice of suing the unions because they believed the white section of the working class was simply part of the enemy.
Despairing of a proletarian revolution, substituting the LBSLs for union-centred, class-struggle caucuses, seeking a shortcut to mass influence and a 70% black party, the SL/US’ leadership is moving toward accommodating backward consciousness. It is giving in to the sectoralism toward, which hitherto, it has been the most eloquent and effective opponent. Until now it has used the transitional program and the Leninist understanding of special oppression as the basis on which to unite the whole class.
The “draft” program of the LBLSD issued on 5 August 1983 (for internal circulation only) only included nine points. It not only was silent on court suits but on the issue of women’s rights as well! The final published version of 24 August added a new point 4: “Fight for women’s rights! Free abortion on demand, free quality 24-hour childcare! Equal pay for equal work!” Clearly, those in the SL leadership who did the final review decided that a “women’s point” must be added but that “no court suits against the unions” should stay out.
Comrades of the Political Bureau, SL/US:
On December 3, 1983, while participating in a mass picket of a thousand to stop police scab-herding of Greyhound buses in San Francisco, Bob Mandel was verbally slandered and physically attacked. His attackers were neither cops nor scabs but two well-known supporters of the Spartacist League. One was Peter Woolston, head of what remains of the Militant Caucus in the ILWU. The other was Richard Bradley, formerly a Spartacist candidate for the SF Board of Supervisors.
Mandel had just said “hello” to Martha Phillips, his ex-companion and also formerly a Spartacist candidate for election in Oakland. She responded with a series of political attacks. Woolston immediately approached Mandel from the front while Bradley placed himself behind Mandel. When Mandel quietly responded to Phillips’ points by raising the SL/US’ social-patriotic position on the Marines in Lebanon, Woolston began to shout. He yelled that Mandel was a member of a racist organization which defended Nazis; one of whose members didn’t care about Jews in German concentration camps, only social democrats; and another of whose members is a fink. When Mandel quietly responded, “What about Lebanon? What about the FMLN flags?” Woolston shouted, “I don’t care” and began to shove Mandel repeatedly in the chest with his forearm. Each time Woolston yelled about racists, finks, or Nazi-lovers, Bradley said, “Yeah Mandel, yeah, Mandel” and shoved his elbow into Mandel’s kidneys.
Closely observing the scene from Mandel’s left and no more than 7 feet away, were George Foster and Al Nelson. They made no attempt to stop the physical assault and verbal provocations, demonstrating that these were not isolated actions of disoriented supporters, but organizational policy.
Woolston only began to back away when Mandel raised his own voice, pointed at the line of cops 100 feet away, and said repeatedly, “That’s where the scabs are Peter, pay attention to them. Remember, Peter, those are the scabs.” At the same time, a female union militant approached to say that it was shameful that leftists were fighting among themselves with the cops so close and when they should be uniting against the scabs. Woolston and Bradley slipped quietly away while Phillips glowered.
Earlier in the day at the strike-support rally in front of San Francisco City Hall, SL supporter Eva engaged in another provocation. Approaching Ursula, Eva loudly and repeatedly accused her of defending a Hitler-lover who wore a swastika and sang the “Deutschlandlied.” Ursula at first denounced these slanders but finally turned away, thereby preventing an altercation in front of a group of curious leftist onlookers, attracted by the “Nazi-lover” accusations and the accents. Eva’s actions jeopardized both Ursula’s and her own security status. Later, Eva approached Howard Keylor and loudly accused him of being a racist. Unbeknownst to her, the individual for whose benefit she was slandering Keylor, is a longshoreman and a thirty-year friend of his. The longshoreman just laughed at her.
The SL leadership had a clear strategy that day it: hoped to use the tension of the military confrontation with the scabs and cops to provoke an incident in which to bloody Robertson-Foster-Nelson & Co.’s critics. Clearly, the SL’s loud and repeated slanders were intended to finger Mandel (as well as Ursula and Keylor) to the angry pickets in the hopes a beating—not necessarily done by the SL itself—would ensue.
WV No. 343 features pictures of pickets nationwide doing battle with the cops. But in the Bay Area on December 3 the SL was more interested in roughing up their ex-supporters than in giving battle to the class enemy. These are classic Stalinist tactics. During both the Spanish and Greek civil wars, the Stalinists used the cover of battle to eliminate their Trotskyist (and anarchist) opponents.
This is at least the third such incident involving iSt provocations against former supporters. First came the accusation to Turkish leftists in Germany that ex-TLD CCer, Uli Sandler, was a “proto-fascist.” Much more recently, in October 1983, during an attempted Nazi pogrom against the Turkish quarter in Kreuzberg in Berlin, the TLD provocatively accused members of the Gruppe IV Internationale (mostly former TLDers) of being indistinguishable from the Nazis and having swastika helmets at home. In each incident serious injury and even death could have resulted to the victims of iSt slander.
We strongly protest and condemn the slanders and physical violence directed at Mandel. This is a breach of workers democracy. We demand that all such provocations and attacks cease immediately. Stalinist-Healyite gangsterism serves only to undermine the necessary workers united front at the moment when unionists from Greyhound strikers to Mozee and Palmeiro, and in Canada, Mares and Schneider, are under bourgeois attack.
Historically, gangsterism has been used by left organizations only when they have no answer to political criticisms and/or to distract from internal crises. We note that the December 3 incident came hard on the heels of the ET’s intervention into the debate currently occuring inside the iSt over the SL/US leadership’s social-patriotic concern for the lives of the Marines in Lebanon.
On November 19, Harlan and Jensen, supporters of the ET, distributed its November 12th statement “A Loss of Nerve, and a Loss of Will” at the Oakland SL office. Cde. Douglas, among others, suggested that the logic of the ET’s position was that it rejoin the iSt. Comrade Jensen reminded Douglas that in the leaflet entitled “It is Desperately Necessary to Fight” of October 1982 (as well as in the first issue of the ET Bulletin) ET stated that “we would rejoin the organization if guaranteed mutually agreed upon minority rights.” She pointed out that this continues to be the ET’s position.
A scant two weeks later, SL supporters with the open approval of the leadership, publicly characterized the ET in such a fashion as to place us outside the workers movement. The SL leadership is attempting to draw a bloodline between the SL membership, some of whom are challenging the developing social-patriotism, and the ET’s supporters.
External Tendency of the iSt
December 14, 1983
The following motion in defense of the two anti-fascist postal militants in Toronto, was put forward at the November meeting of the University of Toronto library workers union by an ET supporter. The local executive earlier unanimously voted not to endorse or contribute to the defense campaign. In the days preceding the meeting, our supporter lobbied the executive members and lined-up people to come to the meeting. He also circulated a personal appeal for funds and support to members of his department, two of whom contributed to the defense fund and several of whom turned out for the meeting. At the general membership meeting he spoke vigorously in favor of the motion. Several other workers also spoke in favor. After a sharp debate with an executive member who supports the Stalinist Canadian Party of Labour, the vote was taken. With the exception of the Stalinist, the executive members were too embarassed to vote against the motion so they abstained and as a result it carried.
Whereas the Ku Klux Klan is a racist and fascist organization with a long history of murder and terror directed against trade unionists, leftists, women’s liberationists, gays and particularly racial minorities;
and whereas William Lau Richardson and his crony George Graham are known members and supporters of the KKK and/or other fascist organizations (Richardson is the self-proclaimed “intelligence director” for the KKK in Toronto);
and whereas Richardson has a history of ten years of strikebreaking, scabbing, bomb-planting and other acts of terror around Toronto;
and whereas two postal union militants face criminal charges for defending themselves against these labor-hating, racist creeps on October 1;
Therefore be it resolved that CUPE 1230 endorse the demand of the Committee to Defend Anti-Fascist Unionists: “Drop the Charges Against Paul Schneider and Mike Mares!” and contribute $50.00 to the Committee (P.O. Box 463, Station E, Toronto).
16 November 1983
We Go Forward!
Since the founding of the External Tendency in October 1982, the organizational and political degeneration of the iSt has continued apace. At the second conference of the ET last September, we reaffirmed that the fight against the corrosion of the revolutionary integrity of the Spartacist tendency is our key task. While we are, as yet, far from achieving our goal of crystallizing a Bolshevik opposition to the increasingly revisionist and disoriented Robertson regime, we have made perceptible progress in the last year. Our enhanced (although still very modest) capacity to intervene in the iSt, and thus aid in reversing its present drift away from Trotskyism, allowed us to more concretely elaborate our perspectives and priorities at the conference.
The problems arising from the organizational birth pains of a small and geographically widely dispersed tendency were largely thrashed out at the conference. Organizational rules and guidelines (modelled on the best traditions of the SL/US and the revolutionary SWP) were adopted. A pledge schedule was also adopted, which, in the words of the draft tasks and perspectives document, is “sufficiently steep to allow us to be an effective tendency, while still allowing our members to retain enough of their earnings to live decently, go on holidays, go to the movies and do all the other things which permit people to survive for decades as a cadre.”
One of the most important events at the conference was the election of a leadership to oversee the work of the tendency as a whole. The conference also elected an editorial board to take responsibility for publishing the Bulletin of the ET and a trade-union commission to direct our work in the unions.
We remain committed to a perspective of focusing our efforts on a political struggle with the historic leadership of the iSt. Nonetheless, we must also be prepared to seize transient opportunities for hard Trotskyist regroupment with other individuals or groupings which we may encounter in the course of our work. This was underlined by the recruitment of a layer of valuable new members at the conference. Several of these comrades possess considerable prior political experience, as was evident from their participation in the discussions.
We are also acutely aware of our increasing responsibility (due to the abdication of the SL/US) for continuing exemplary Trotskyist trade-union work in North America. Although we can only undertake this work on a very small scale at this time, we have a considerable wealth of experience in this critical arena which will permit us to do much more as we grow. The recruitment of several more experienced trade-union cadres could greatly accelerate this perspective.
We are currently presented with more opportunities than we can take advantage of. However, even given our extremely limited capacities, we must aggressively pursue possibilities for recruitment and regroupment internationally. This will necessarily center on present or former members of the iSt. We are only too aware of the long and difficult struggle which the SL/US waged to break out of its national isolation. (This record stands in stark contrast to its turn away from international work in recent years.) We are fortunate, because of the international breakthroughs made in the 1970s, to be in touch with a spectrum of former iSt cadres outside of North America. Some, unfortunately, are finished as Trotskyists. But many others are not. We must attempt to regroup as many of these valuable cadres as possible as part of our fight for the rebirth of the Fourth International.
At this moment our tasks far outweigh our limited human and financial resources. Yet as revolutionists we are accustomed to starting from where we are and seriously, carefully and patiently working toward what we must become. For we are the last, best hope for the preservation of the Trotskyist heritage of the international Spartacist tendency.
Reprinted below is a section from our draft tasks and perspectives document.
We are committed to holding fast to the program of orthodox Trotskyism while its historic defenders degenerate into sometime practitioners of Healyite Big Lies; pseudo-political personalist slanders, and open and “secret” departures from the program which they have maintained for two decades. We can be confident that our fidelity to this program will bring us adherents and collaborators over time who will augment our present forces in all departments. We must be patient and be prepared to take a long view of the struggle which we have embarked on. We know that even the central cadres of the iSt, who are so important to our long-term perspective, are affected by the ebbing of revolutionary will on the part of the tendency’s historic leadership.
Our very existence, particularly if we are successful in recruiting a sizable number of the cadres who presently indicate interest in us, will inevitably exert a pull on a section of the political leadership as they watch their organization transform itself into something other than what it has historically been. The top cadres of the SL/US are hard, but the leadership is not monolithic. The destructive purges and witchhunts have made their mark on it as well. Whether or not we are able to offer them the viable prospect of a grouping which can carry forward the best traditions of the SL will have a significant affect on their estimation of the possibility of a successful outcome to a struggle against the degeneration of the present leadership.
…We have shown that when they clearly and unambiguously depart from their own professed program, they can be had. Successfully challenging such departures politically is immensely important in our struggle to win a section of the cadres to a perspective of waging a fight within the tendency for a return to “normalcy”.
To a limited extent Robertson’s response to our criticism on the Yuri Andropov Brigade can only demonstrate to them that the Emperor’s wardrobe is getting a bit threadbare in spots. JR is a very erudite man with a sophisticated political mind but even he can’t make a convincing case that the world is flat.
ET Backs SL’s Moonie Suit
December 2, 1983
Enclosed is a cheque for $25.00 as a contribution toward your libel suit against the Moonies. We wish you every success in this fight to defend yourselves against their dangerous slanders. We find ourselves in agreement, in the abstract, with your observations regarding “lies that kill.” In this connection we hope that you may have cause to reflect on the possible consequences of your disgusting slander of Uli Sandler, a former member of the central committee of your German sister group, who you falsely labelled a “proto-fascist.”
Sandler is not the only victim of an iSt “Big Lie.” We ourselves have been the targets of many such charges. Last year, for instance, when we called on the Israeli workers to strike against their capitalist masters’ Lebanese invasion and for the conscripts in the army to “Turn the Guns Around,” we were slandered as “Zionists.”
One of the problems with the Big Lie (from the point of view of its practitioners) is that it doesn’t always work. When Stan Gow, an SL-supporter in the ILWU, called our supporter, Howard Keylor, a “fink” (i.e., stool pigeon), the characterization did far more damage to Gow’s credibility than to Keylor’s. Similarly, when Brother Peter Wooley [Woolston] alleged that Keylor and Fred Addison had attempted to advise the bureaucrats how better to purge Gow in their leaflet defending Gow, it wasn’t Addison and Keylor who were discredited. One of Stan’s friends in the union who has been around for a while, suggested when he saw the letter that it could be part of a plot by sinister forces to discredit the SL and its supporters in the union. He had a point—the results were the same.
So the Big Lie in politics can be a two-edged sword. We certainly hope the Moonies get lacerated with theirs. But we warn you, comrades of the Spartacist League, that only the truth is revolutionary. Beware the Wohlforthian “revolutionary” lie.
External Tendency of the iSt
We were pleased to read in Workers Vanguard No. 342 (18 November) that we played “a certain role in the discussion” at the Seventh National Conference of the SL/US. It is also gratifying to learn that our publications have “been of particular pedagogical utility” for the comrades of the iSt. That is, after all, why we publish them. Like the Revolutionary Tendency in the SWP, we must inevitably play the role of a foil for the leadership as it moves to the right. Comrades who can really learn to hate what we represent thereby prove their ability to “make the turn” away from the SL’s orthodox Trotskyist past.
Our comp crew is basking in the knowledge that WV found the first issue of the Bulletin of the ET “neatly produced.” We regret that the comrades of the leadership found the contents so “dull.” Other comrades found them more interesting. We were also vaguely amused to read WV’s speculation that our bulletin was “probably edited by the ET to emphasize ‘loyal’-sounding and ‘political’ attacks” instead of the “venomous subjectivism” which would presumably be easier to deal with. (Since when has the SL leadership found political attacks dull, anyway?) In fact, as we stated in our introduction to the Bulletin, the material we publish is intended to “criticize what must be criticized, correct ‘disinformation’ when it appears and [to] counterpose Trotskyist politics to the accelerating political departures exhibited by the SL today.” The absence of “venomous subjectivism” was neither a fortuitous accident nor a result of clever editing—it flows inevitably from our authentic Trotskyism, and accurately reflects our real aims and objectives.
We regard our intervention at the conference as a smashing success. From our hospitality suite (conveniently located on the corridor between the main conference hall and the registration room), we distributed over 200 copies of the first issue of this publication. This, in our judgement, was by far the most important item produced for the conference. It better enables the cadre to identify and track the leadership’s developing political degeneration.
If there was an “anti-climax” to our intervention, it was for those comrades who travelled thousands of miles to “seek discussion with the several hundred SL supporters” only to find that most of them were so “profile conscious” that they were reluctant to be seen talking to us! We understand, however, the anxiety that many members may have felt in engaging in political discussion and debate with us under the nose of the leadership.
We were particularly disappointed in the leadership’s refusal (with the exception of ex-leader, and soon-to-be re-recruit, Sharpe) to engage in political combat at the conference. But of course, they knew they had a lot to lose. If there are any iSt supporters who we inadvertently missed at the conference, we urge them to get in touch with us (see our local directory). We are always eager for political discussion with the comrades of the iSt.
According to WV we represent “a kind of crystallization of whatever is backward and wrong in the SL.” The grain of truth in this statement is that we do represent the alternative for those who aren’t ready to ditch the politics they were recruited to. Comrades who don’t want to abandon the strategic orientation of fighting for leadership in the working class on the basis of the transitional program, who believe that a Bolshevik regime must be characterized by internal democracy, and who can’t swallow the turn toward saving the precious lives of the U.S. Marine Corps, belong with us politically. The fact that the leadership of the iSt now sees these positions as “backward and wrong” provides an index of how far they have gone awry.
ET at SL/US Conference
December 12, 1983
I read with shock the following “description” of the External Tendency’s presence at the SL’s national conference in WV No. 342: “They made a perfunctory distribution of their bulletin and took off, ignoring the prize opportunity to seek discussion with several hundred SL supporters gathered for the intense political process of a national conference.” What a childish, whining lie!
I accompanied the ET comrades to the conference site and remained with them all day as an observer. Let me translate between the above fantasy and actual events.
For “perfunctory distribution,” read, “the ET rented a room next door to the SL’s registration room. The room contained a literature table and was intended to allow discussions which could not necessarily be held in the halls for security reasons. ETers manned this room and circulated among SLers in the halls from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.”
For “ignoring the prize opportunity to seek discussion,” read, “virtually every SL comrade was approached by at least one ETer with documents and an invitation to stop by the literature room. If most of them chose to take the documents and run, that reflects on the SL, not the ET.”
From the outset the ET comrades made every effort to maintain SL security. Comrades Edwards, Riley and Jensen approached the SL’s security team immediately on arriving to make it clear that (a) the ET intended to protect SL security and (b) the ET intended to defend its right to distribute literature and to hold discussions with SL comrades. The SL representatives placed an odd restriction on where the ET should distribute, aside from outside its own literature room: in the hotel lobby—extremely public, rendering discussion almost impossible—rather than by the conference room where discussion could have been less restricted and where comrades could have participated without jeopardizing security. Rather than a confrontation of these odd terms, since SL security wasn’t very security conscious about arguing loudly outside the hospitality suite of some quite unrelated group, the ET agreed.
Language is funny—the ET saturated the conference with their literature and attempted to intersect every SL comrade and supporter by every means left open to them. The SL labels this perfunctory—what then would they have considered serious? Perhaps they hoped the ET would overstep their lines and let them pick a fight so everyone could get thrown out by the building management?
“Reorganize, Resume the Strike”
The following leaflet, entitled “We Have a Chance to Teach the Company a Real Lesson! Vote No! Reorganize! Resume the Strike!,” was issued to phoneworkers by Andrew Bonthius, a supporter of the External Tendency in Cleveland, during the week of September 19 while contract balloting was taking place. Some 450 copies were distributed to union members at five different Bell facilities. Discussion and feedback on the leaflet from fellow workers was most positive.
Several important lessons should be learned from our three-week-long strike. The first is that we do not have to accept givebacks. The second is that a strike against AT&T and the Bell System can be effective. The third is that Watts and the International officers do not represent our interests.
The company thought it could shove it to us by forcing a strike. In fact, it was virtually a lock-out. The company even refused to meet the union at the bargaining table in the final hours, holding firm to its outrageous giveback demands.
The company figured it would ride the concessions wave and that we were too scared for our jobs to stay out for any length of time. It knew that the CWA had never waged an effective national strike and was betting we wouldn’t this time either. It opened its attack on us by demanding the new Service Assistant title at 65% of craft pay, a cap on the COLA at 4% and a 20-25% takeback of our medical benefits. Glen Watts and the International Executive Board, believing as they do in the partnership of labor and capital, were caught off guard with the company’s frontal assault on the union. So, under great pressure from below and to protect their own political position, the International pulled us out with no preparation and almost no information.
Three weeks later the tables had turned on the company and it had withdrawn its concessions demands. Why did this happen? Three factors made the company retreat and they could still be the basis for a victory over the company. First, pressures mounted as the company lost key contracts to competitors as reported in an 8/19/83 Los Angeles Times article. By the second week of the strike, an 8/17/83 Wall Street Journal article reported that “the telecommunications industry is getting itchy about the AT&T strike” and that “industry executives and analysts are growing worried that the walkout could be protracted in which case things could get critical.” The same article reported that the shares of two telecommunications companies, Rolm and Timeplex, dropped points on the New York Stock Exchange. The boasts of some industry officials that AT&T had nothing to lose by a long strike proved to be a lot of hot air.
Second, divestiture, by which the company plans to make millions, was seriously disrupted. And third, the bottom line, was that it could not maintain the system or install new equipment without us. The company, its competitors and Wall Street all knew it. So, the company had to switch gears, sit down to negotiate without takeback demands, and conclude a settlement.
The International’s Role
Rather than using this favorable conjuncture to win what we need, ever loyal and concerned for the company’s profits, Watts pulled the company’s chestnuts out of the fire and signed another rotten deal for us.
Certain steps had been taken which could have laid the basis for solid union action. In contrast to 1971, when a major New York local was left hanging out to dry for six months, this time the official union policy was that no local goes back until all local contracts were settled and that the different unions would honor each others’ picket lines. However, seeking to prevent any serious attempts to improve the contract at a local level, Watts put his own three-day cap on local negotiations. To the credit of all locals nationwide, they held out until all the locals had contracts, considerably beyond Watts’ deadline. With local bargaining finally concluded, he herded us back to work the same way he took us out—in the dark, with as little information as possible—denying us even the democratic right to vote on the contract before going back to work.
Nationwide the membership had rallied itself, in spite of the International, against the company, the courts and the cops who were out in force to harass, beat up and arrest us. Around the country, in the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, New Jersey and right here in Cleveland and Brecksville, Ohio, pickets were struck by scab-driven vehicles, threatened with guns and arrested on trumped-up charges simply for being union and picketing. But this should not surprise us. Working people have always had to face this kind of treatment, even long jail terms and death, just to form their unions and protect their rights. We should all remember and implement the old trade union motto: “an injury to one is an injury to all.” We must demand full amnesty for all union members who face charges, suspension, firing and jail as a result of the strike. They must have the full backing of the union and its defense fund. No contract should be finalized until full amnesty, nationwide, is won.
What’s Wrong with the Settlement
Watts and his crew ballyhooed for months about “job security” and are now telling us we have it in this contract. They make much of the “retraining program” which provides training on our own time, without pay and with no job guaranteed. They brush over the fact that articles l9A and l9B remain in the contract. These articles formalize the company’s right to layoff, downgrade and force-transfer employees. This contract is basically a rehash of the 1980 sellout with a few questionable improvements thrown in. As with previous contracts, none of our jobs are safe! We are losing thousands of jobs annually through automation and this contract does absolutely nothing to stop the trend.
Some employees in Cleveland have already officially been notified of being downgraded. We can expect other announcements to follow. On one of the most important items, contracting out, again, nothing was done to stop it at a local or national level. Locally the company has told the union that it would like to eliminate all house service attendants by private contractors. While it is important that no new givebacks were made and this will have a positive effect on the labor movement as a whole, it is not enough when we still have no job security.
If this weren’t bad enough, just look at the paltry wage and COLA articles. Only top rate workers get the 8.5% wage hike spread over three years. Many other workers, as usual the lower paid ones, will get much less. Some will get as little as $2.50/week increase! So much for the “big” wage increase (7.0% in the first year) the International said it would go after. And what about the 100% COLA it promised to go after? Instead we have the same old COLA formula which guarantees that on each dollar of inflation we fall at least a quarter behind. From a company that made $7.2 billion in 1982 and similar profits in the first quarter of 1983, this is a slap in the face. Any way you cut it, our real wages are drastically down and this contract only helps keep us behind all the more.
Working conditions throughout the company remain intolerable. This contract leaves us with the usual excessive supervision and a grievance procedure that is increasingly eroded by the insidious QWL program. In fact, the QWL scheme has now been expanded to include some phoney Common Interest Forum (CIF) that is supposed to “provide a framework for early communication and discussion on business developments of mutual concern…enhance employment security…improve understanding and avoid unnecessary disputes.” Who the hell do they think they’re fooling. Did we or did we not just come through a three-week strike where the company tried to stick it to us!? QWL and the CIF are a dangerous farce that must be dumped. We need the local right to strike over grievances, safety, firings, disciplinary issues, etc., in order to settle our disputes with the company.
What We Need
A good contract would include at least the following: real job security by stopping all downgrades, forced transfers and layoffs, and a shorter work week with no loss in pay (which would create jobs for those thousands who’ve already been laid-off); a hefty wage increase for all employees, especially the lower paid ones, to make up for loss in real wages; a full (100%) COLA including pensioner; no contracting out; abolishing absence control and providing full paid sick days/leave for all; the local right to strike over grievances; dumping the company’s QWL union-busting scheme.
How To Get It
Brothers and sisters, why should we let Watts and Co. snatch victory from our hands? The Teamster members just told their International President to go to hell with his proposed sellout—so can we! AT&T and the seven BOCs are working feverishly to meet the government-ordered January 1 divestiture deadline. We have them over a barrel. Let’s take advantage of it to win, and win big.
VOTE NO on the contract. At least one major local in New York and one in the Los Angeles area are organizing to vote NO. Let’s join them and then reorganize and resume the strike nationally.
At the August 17th Local 4304 meeting, I outlined some basic steps for union victory: first, we need locally elected, nationally coordinated strike committees which would take control away from Watts and his supporters; the strike committee would publish nationally a daily strike newspaper, ending the information blackout and rallying our forces; second, to assure membership control, we need weekly membership meetings; third, we need mass picket lines to keep out management and other scabs, to shut the company down tight; fourth, we cannot let the courts dictate our strike policy. Injunctions cannot be permitted to cripple our picket lines.
An effective leadership would have to recognize that just as the union has no common interests with the company, so it has no common interests with the strikebreaking government whose Republican and Democratic parties are both dedicated enemies of labor—enemies of labor in the U.S. and throughout the world—as expressed by their rabid anti-Soviet hysteria which has brought us to the brink of nuclear annihilation.
ET Marches for Defense of the Soviet Union
On October 22 a spirited contingent of External Tendency supporters marched in Toronto alongside 20,000 other participants in a demonstration against the testing and deployment of the cruise missile. Our contingent sharply counterposed the Soviet defensist, class-struggle road to the nationalist/pacifist babble of the demonstration’s organizers. Many of our chants received a positive response from the several hundred Latin American leftists who we marched beside. A particularly popular one was: “Now is the Time, Labor Must Act—For Strikes to Smash the Cruise Test Pact!”
Our participation in the demonstration intersected a growing popular awareness that the “peace movement” is impotent to block NATO’s drive to World War III. While some throw up their hands in despair at this realization, many others are genuinely seeking an effective political response. Over the course of the demonstration, at least twenty individuals approached members of our contingent to congratulate us for our forthright Soviet defensism and/or to discuss the Leninist alternative to bourgeois pacifism. One young couple asked if they could photograph each other holding aloft one of our signs which called for defending the USSR. Our leaflet was favorably received by a sizeable section of the crowd. We were particularly gratified by those who took the trouble to write to us in the weeks following the demonstration.
At least until recently the Trotskyist League of Canada has tended to equate the “Refuse the Cruise” demonstrations in Canada (and presumably also in Western Europe) with the Democratic Party’s “nuclear freeze” movement in the U.S. This incorrect analysis put the TLC on the sidelines of the demonstration with an intervention that centred solely on newspaper sales. During the march a Spartacist Canada salesperson approached our contingent and informed us that the TLC would never be caught marching on such a “pro-NATO” demonstration. (Interestingly enough, there was a “pro-NATO” counter-demonstration held that same day sponsored by the fascists and other miscellaneous right-wing scum which had to be cordoned off by a line of cops.) Perhaps our intervention has caused the TLC to reconsider its position. In any case, none of the TLCers whom we have questioned since have been able to point to any principled reason for their non-participation.
Reprinted below is the leaflet entitled “No Cruise! No Pershing! Defend the USSR! Down With the Anti-Soviet War Drive!” which we distributed at the demonstration.
“The world is teetering on the brink of disaster and atomic war” according to Pierre Trudeau (Globe and Mail, 5 Oct.). But that observation doesn’t affect his decision to push ahead the testing of the first-strike cruise missile. That’s all part of “doing his bit” for NATO. And, of course, NATO is pretty busy right now with preparations for the “protracted nuclear war” that Reagan and the brass hats at the Pentagon keep talking about.
Military plots aimed at the Soviet Union are nothing new—reversing the outcome of the October Revolution has been a key strategic goal of every major capitalist power since 1917. The current NATO alliance is just an updated (and expanded) version of the imperialist entente which intervened in the Russian civil war of 1918-20 on the side of the Czarist White Guards. By 1921 the Red Army, led by Leon Trotsky, had crushed the imperialist intervention and the whites. The young worker state had won a breathing space.
Today, once again, the capitalist states of the world, led by the crazed reactionary in the White House, have launched a crusade against Russia. But it is not just Reagan—the U.S. capitalist class as a whole has a bi-partisan consensus on the aggressive military program aimed at “rolling back communism.” Before Reagan, it was Democrat Jimmy Carter, whose cynical “human rights” moralism paved the way for a vastly expanded nuclear armament program. The proponents of a nuclear weapons “freeze” in the Democratic Party are part of this consensus—they simply have a difference over how to allocate the U.S. military budget to get the most bang for the buck.
Pacifists Flank Reagan/Trudeau’s War Drive
Every war drive in modern history has been flanked by a gaggle of flabby middle-class preachers, professors and vegetarians peddling what Leon Trotsky called “the narcotic and debilitating illusions of pacifism.” This one is no exception. The forlorn bleatings of bourgeois pacifists like E.P. Thompson of the British Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament about how the crisis of “exterminism” has transcended the class struggle are just so much drivel. Nothing transcends the class struggle—the “arms race” is a class issue. It is a race between the rapacious capitalist powers seeking to reconquer the third of the world that has been lost to the “free market” and the essentially conservative Stalinist bureaucrats in Moscow who are trying to maintain a rough military parity, thereby lessening the chances that imperialism will dare to attempt a pre-emptive first strike.
Calls for “disarmament” of the capitalist states are utopian idiocy. Occasionally the capitalists are willing to negotiate some limited arms control—but inevitably it is for short-term tactical purposes. According to Henry Kissinger, for instance, the 1972 SALT I agreement was negotiated to retard Soviet weapon deployment long enough for the U.S. to reopen the missile gap which the Russians had been able to close due to American involvement in Vietnam.
Today in the U.S. (and in its northern junior partner) there is a bourgeois consensus on boosting military expenditures despite the long-term damage to industrial capacity and overall economic health. Why? Under capitalism military goods are not manufactured to soak up excess capital nor to counterbalance cyclical fluctuations in the economy—they are constructed to be used. A decision has been made that the solution to the disintegration of the capitalist world order (and particularly to American hegemony within it) lies not in economic rationalization, but through political/military pressure to restore capitalism in the Soviet Union—up to and including Reagan’s “winnable” World War III. The vast opportunities for profitable investment (and outright looting) which would be available to the victors of such a war would ensure plenty of real growth for the metropolitan capitalist heartland—as well as a carte blanche to mop up Cuba, Vietnam, and the rest of the non-capitalist world.
The only thing which has thus far stayed Reagan’s hand is the military capacity of the Soviets to stand up to NATO’s nuclear blackmail. One of the key factors that restrained the U.S. from nuking Hanoi in the 1960s was the possibility that it could result in Soviet retaliation. Anyone who was happy to see the Vietnamese tanks finally roll into Saigon in 1975 must recognize that the existence of the Soviet nuclear shield contributed to that victory. Likewise, the only reason that Cuba has survived for a quarter of a century just 90 miles from Florida has been its connection with Russia. Class-conscious workers no more want to see the Soviet Union disarmed than to see the heroic South African guerillas or the fighters of the Salvadorean FMLN disarmed. The SS-20 cannot be equated with the MX, Pershing 2 or the cruise—there is a class line between them.
All of the various self-proclaimed socialists and “revolutionaries” [like the International Socialists and the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist)] who call for Canadian neutrality and equate the Soviets and the U.S., join the camp of pro-imperialist pacifism and social-chauvinism. Ed Broadbent and Dennis McDermott also verbally oppose testing and deploying the cruise—and are both also fiercely anti-Soviet.
In Europe, particularly in West Germany, there are substantial sections of the capitalist class which fear that Reagan may use their nation-state as the battlefield for his O.K. Corral nuclear shoot-out with the Soviets. They don’t find the prospect of being the ruling class of a smoldering irradiated wasteland to be a pleasant one. Like the NDP, they are strongly pro-NATO patriots. They share Reagan’s strategic goal of “prevailing against communism,” but they prefer to do so by trying to undermine the Eastern bloc states economically and politically and by promoting internal Solidarnosc-style capitalist restorationist forces.
The social-democratic nationalists of the NDP like to ascribe Canada’s inability to play a more significant role in the current round of war preparations to some sort of moral grandeur. In fact, it simply reflects Canada’s status as a third-rate imperialist power with a fifth-rate military apparatus. When the U.S. and their South Korean allies sent a couple of hundred innocent people to their deaths aboard the 007 spy-plane over sensitive Soviet military installations, Ed
Broadbent was screaming just as loud as right-wing Tory, John Gamble, for retribution. Anti-Sovietism equals pro-imperialism in every case.
The Soviet Union today is no workers paradise. Like the North American labor movement, it is ruled over by a stratum of corrupt, parasitic bureaucrats who use their privileged social position for their own benefit at the expense of the Soviet and world working class. Andropov & Co. seek to use their influence in the international working class as a bargaining chip in a futile attempt to placate the imperialists’ insatiable desire to “roll back communism.” Trotskyists—the only real communists—call for ousting the Stalinist usurpers through workers political revolution to restore political power to the proletariat in order to renew the struggle for world revolution.
For Labor Strikes Against the Anti-Soviet War Drive!
The trade-union brass in North America has been busy promoting the “hate Russia” war mentality in the unions. On the west coast of the U.S., the International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union refused to work Soviet cargo ships in the aftermath of the Korean 007 spy-flight furor. Dockers in Mexico and Canada rejected this reactionary boycott. But this is not enough. The fight against Reagan/Trudeau’s war drive is a political issue of the first importance for working people everywhere. The key to a successful struggle against the war preparations lies in mobilizing the enormous power of the labor movement politically—not in legal manoeuvres and pacifist parades. Political strikes against cruise testing in Canada could block the tests. They would also serve as a powerful impetus for the American and West European labor movements to conduct similar strikes against the deployment of NATO’s sinister new weaponry in Europe.
The current deployment of new NATO weaponry brings us all that much closer to World War III—a war that Leon Trotsky predicted would be the “tomb of civilization.” With Pershing 2 missiles only 6 to 8 minutes from their targets, the Soviets are left with no option but to launch on warning—”use it or lose it.” World War III would be an insanity—but that is no guarantee that it won’t happen. It will —unless the social system which has already produced two world wars this century is uprooted and replaced with a rational, socialist world order. The stark alternatives facing humanity living in the shadow of a nuclear armageddon are but two: socialism or a grisly, irradiated end to human culture. War or revolution.
The threat of nuclear annihilation cannot be averted by human daisy-chains around airfields, petitions and peace crawls. War can only be ended through the victorious outcome of socialist uprisings by the masses of the exploited and oppressed in the imperialist nations, led by Trotskyist vanguard parties.
“Our slogan must be: The arming of the proletariat in order to defeat, expropriate, and disarm the bourgeoisie….Only after the proletariat has disarmed the bourgeoisie can it consign all weapons to the scrap heap without betraying its world-historical mission.”
Not a Penny, Not a Man for the Imperialist War Machine!
Smash NATO/NORAD! Defend the U.S.S.R.!
The Main Enemy is at Home! Only Workers Revolution Can End War!
For the Rebirth of the Fourth International!
October 22, 1983