Bolshevik Tendency letter to Trotskyist League of Canada
The following letter was dated 2 April 1989
We were pleased to note at your forum last night that, after almost five years, you have finally abandoned your policy of physically excluding our supporters from the informal discussions at the conclusion of your public meetings. This undemocratic and completely unjustified practice, which began in June 1984 and continued until your public class of 8 March this year, served as an impediment to the free flow of ideas which is an essential part of the development of a genuine revolutionary movement.
Of course we understand that our political differences, including on the organizational question, remain as profound as ever. Nonetheless, we welcome your abandonment of this exclusion policy as a step in the direction of dealing with the disagreements between our two organizations politically.
We appreciate the necessity of the heightened security measures which you took in light of the threats of attack on the meeting. We understand that you contacted various people in the left to request assistance in defending your meeting. As we told the comrade in charge of your security squad, we were quite prepared to help. If you consider it necessary, please do not hesitate to contact us for this purpose in future.
We found the meeting quite interesting politically, particularly the discussion on the relative merits of your slogan “Hail Red Army in Afghanistan!” versus ours of “Military Victory to the Soviet Army.” As you know, we consider your slogan seriously flawed because “hailing” the Soviet intervention amounted to an unambiguous endorsement of the Kremlin’s policies and did not alert the workers to the very real possibility, from the first, of Stalinist treachery.
In her summary, comrade Miriam, who gave the main presentation for the TL, took the profoundly anti-Trotskyist programmatic logic implicit in this slogan to new depths. She stated that there was always a possibility of betrayal but argued that in major social struggles there is always a potential for betrayal and that specifically, “the potential for betrayal was also there in the Russian Revolution”!
We were dumbfounded to hear an authoritative Spartacist spokesperson put on an equal plane the possibility of “betrayal” by the Bolshevik Party of Lenin and Trotsky in 1917 and Brezhnev’s corrupt Stalinist bureaucracy sixty-odd years later. We presume that you disown responsibility for this remark—but it is an example of the confusion created even among your own cadres by blurring the bloodline between Stalinism and Trotskyism.
Comrade Miriam also suggested that the idea of sending Trotskyist brigades to Vietnam during the war could have been “considered.” We would advise anyone considering such a proposal to first read “Trotskyism and Stalinism in Vietnam,” an excellent pamphlet containing materials produced by the Spartacist League in 1973, when it was still an authentically Trotskyist organization. The reason that there was virtually no indigenous Vietnamese Trotskyist movement at the time of the Vietnam war was because it had been physically liquidated by Ho Chi Minh, leader of the Vietnamese Stalinists, for the “crime” of leading tens of thousands of workers in the 1945 Saigon uprising. The conclusion drawn in the article which appeared in the 25 May 1973 issue of Workers Vanguard parallels our approach to Afghanistan:
In our letter of 16 March we pointed out that had the Partisan Defense Committee’s hypothetical Afghan “brigade” ever been a serious proposal, instead of a cheap publicity stunt, it could have proved extremely dangerous for “Trotskyists” to have placed themselves under the “control and direction” of Najibullah, whose organization has a history of bloody purges of its own dissenting members. Miriam’s response to this once again revealed the anti-Trotskyist logic implicit in “hailing” the Stalinists. She drew a parallel from the 1920 Russo-Polish war when Stalin, who did not want to be under the military discipline of Trotsky and Tukhachevsky, ignored their instructions and went south to Lvov. “And look what happened there” said Miriam, referring to the defeat of the Red Army at the battle of the Vistula. Unlike the undisciplined Stalin, the PDC presumably intended to closely adhere to any instructions it received. But once again Miriam was equating a Stalinist (Najibullah, the PDC’s hypothetical commander) with Trotsky and Tukhachevsky, the Bolshevik military leadership.
There is a connection between all these mistakes. “Hailing” the policies of the Stalinist rulers in the Kremlin is politically counterposed to Trotsky’s conception of them as a treacherous and profoundly conservative caste—a parasitic growth on the proletarian property forms. Instead of correcting your original mistaken formulation over Afghanistan now that it is obvious that the Kremlin bureaucrats have betrayed, you insist that you were right all along. And so comrade Miriam, grasping for arguments to justify this, draws a parallel between Lenin and Trotsky’s party on the one hand and the Brezhnev and Najibullah leadership on the other as leaders with the potential for betrayal, but whose military discipline should nonetheless be upheld. This is not Trotskyism.