Reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 807, 1 August 2003.
In publishing the exchange with the International Bolshevik Tendency (BT) in WV No. 806 (4 July), the editor and other comrades centrally responsible for the production of the paper did not inform comrade James Robertson of the BT’s scurrilous, lying smear of him as a “chauvinist” in a “P.S.” to a letter ostensibly on the Kurds. Instead we unilaterally decided to excise the “P.S.” On July 4, the BT surfaced with the “P.S.” in the form of a leaflet at the Socialist Workers Party’s “Marxism” event in London, sneering that WV “implicitly accepts” their vile accusations. No we don’t! We excised the “P.S.” because it was a contemptible lie, but in so doing fell into the BT’s trap and implied guilt with our evasive silence. Behind this lay a bloodless conception of politics taking as good coin the BT’s screed on the Kurds, which was nothing other than a wrapper for a poison pill.
The BT’s 4 July leaflet proves that their provocative “P.S.” was the whole point of their letter. We should have known. The BT could not care less about the Kurds or any other oppressed people. From its inception, the BT has been a dubious outfit with a hostile obsession for the Spartacist League and in particular its founding co-leader, Jim Robertson.
Slanders against leaders of the communist movement are nothing new. They are the stock in trade of opponents of revolutionary Marxism to set up entire organizations for hostile attack and state repression. The method is: kill an organization by chopping off its head.
The Editorial Board’s actions flouted the democratic-centralist norms on which the Spartacist League and International Communist League operate. Comrade Robertson is a member of the Editorial Board and Spartacist League National Chairman, and was personally the target of the BT slander. Yet he was never sent a copy of the BT letter including the “P.S.” Beyond stupid, arrogant and uncomradely, this break in collaboration was an attack on our own revolutionary continuity. The Spartacist League is, and has been from its inception, an organization that says what is, without bowing to petty-bourgeois sensibilities. The actions of the Editorial Board could be borrowed from the practices of centrism, i.e., a divergence between what we stand for and what we do.
Our Declaration of Principles adopted at the 1966 founding conference of the Spartacist League/U.S. cites Trotsky’s injunction: “To face reality squarely; not to seek the line of least resistance; to call things by their right names; to speak the truth to the masses, no matter how bitter it may be; not to fear obstacles; to be true in little things as in big ones; to base one’s program on the logic of the class struggle; to be bold when the hour for action arrives—these are the rules of the Fourth International.” Consistent with this purpose, we publicly acknowledge the disservice we have done to our party, to comrade Robertson, and to our readers.