Reply to Mikl et al
— Decker, Dorn, Breitman, Lichtenberg, 21 June 2018
It is with deep regret that we read your statement “Iran, nationalism and imperialism” (29 May 2018), which makes it very clear that you have developed some profound political differences with the tradition the IBT and its predecessor organizations were founded to preserve. The document comes after a long period of discussion over email, Skype and in person and we do not believe you take these positions lightly.
The differences have been most thoroughly discussed over the question of the Iranian Revolution of 1979, where you repudiate the iSt position of “Down with the Shah! No to the Mullahs! Workers to Power!” on the grounds that refusing to side with Khomeini and his followers against the Shah meant being “in the service of imperialism.” You make the serious accusations that the IBT’s position on this question “abandons Lenin on the national question” and “pretends to be anti-imperialist.” Your position of military support to the Khomeinites against the Pahlavi regime is essentially identical to that of the Pabloist United Secretariat and virtually every other ostensibly Trotskyist current, including Workers Power, the International Socialist Tendency, Grantites, Healyites, Lambertistes and Marcyites. Opposition to this is a key aspect of the anti-Pabloite heritage that we defend, and we have polemicized against the type of arguments you raise in many articles and documents over many years, including recent substantial contributions to this discussion on Iran 1979 and the current war in Syria.
Your difference on Iran in 1979, as you note, has wide-ranging implications—you now consider that we were mistaken in refusing to take sides in the Ukrainian upheaval in 2014, and that we have made a similar mistake in Syria where you advocate siding with the Baathist regime against their Islamist opponents. You have raised differences with our tradition on the national question, including agreement with some aspects of the ICL’s Hydra document, which repudiates the Leninist position on the national question the Spartacists used to uphold. You agree with the present-day ICL when they describe the previous revolutionary position (our position) as “chauvinist, anti-imperialist” and the SL in its revolutionary period (which included our founding comrades) as “a nasty racist organization”.
Our organization was founded on the basis of a nuanced analysis of the degeneration of the Spartacist League, in which elements of future degeneration were present during a period where it was qualitatively revolutionary and uniquely defended and developed revolutionary politics—on Iran 1979 and on the national question in particular, as well as issues of special oppression and trade union work based on the transitional program, to name but a few. You joined our organization in full knowledge of this heritage.
In recent discussions, senior members of the IBT have pointed to our Trotskyist Bulletin #3 as a key document distinguishing our politics from those of centrism/Pabloism and therefore very pertinent to this discussion. In fact, it answers many of the points you have made and we advise you study it carefully. Unfortunately, the logic of the positions outlined in your documents and discussion indicates that after studying TB3 you may find that there are other instances where our positions would be counterposed.
Your arguments are not new. As well as echoes of Pabloism, the Workers Power letter in TB3 and the Spartacists’ recent self-critique, we can also see substantial alignment with the (attached) 1980 statement by Libby Schaefer published in Intercontinental Press that we cited in our recent response to the ICL’s Hydra document. This statement codified Libby’s break from the iSt tradition to embrace that of Hansen/Mandel/Pablo.
We know and respect you as committed militants dedicated to the project of socialist transformation, so it is painful to watch you taking a similar path to embrace core elements of Pabloism. Comrades of the IBT have dedicated our political lives to upholding and continuing the revolutionary heritage of the RT/iSt, and you are not going to convince us to change our minds on issues that are so fundamental to that tradition. This opens up a wide political gulf between your politics and ours, one which seems ultimately impossible to sustain in a common organization.