All That Glitters…
Young Militant Chooses IBT over ICL
Reprinted below is an application to the IBT, submitted in September 2003, from a youth in Toronto.
Over the past eight months I have carefully compared the politics of the IBT [International Bolshevik Tendency] with that of the International Communist League [ICL], have attended public events (demonstrations, forums, etc.) with comrades from the IBT, and have participated in the internal political life of the tendency. In sum, I have come to identify the IBT as, uniquely on the left, the one political group which operates according to the principles of democratic centralism and whose program is authentically Trotskyist.
I first encountered the organized “left” as a fourteen-year-old, grade nine student in September 1998. The Trotskyist League had set up a literature table in front of Robarts Library at U of T [University of Toronto] and, impressed more by their low price rather than their politics, I bought copies of Workers Vanguard [WV] and Spartacist Canada [SC]. As an avid (though largely penniless) reader, the $3 cost of a Spartacist Canada subscription was most appealing, and I immediately subscribed. I would wait a few months to obtain a subscription to WV, as the US $10 subscription fee seemed a bit steep.
Needless to say, I began reading socialist press at a very “low level” of political consciousness. In retrospect, I was vaguely a liberal when I started to read SC and WV. While I was interested in bourgeois politics and world events, I lacked any conception of Marxism and socialism. Terms such as “socialism,” “communism,” “proletariat,” “bourgeoisie,” etc. were completely alien to me, and the dictionary became an indispensable tool in deciphering the articles of WV. Nevertheless, I quickly assimilated basic ideas of Marxism and Leninism through regular reading of SC and WV, and by my fifteenth birthday I had become a self-professed communist. My interest in science and natural history had already compelled me to reject religious obscurantism, and I was hungry for a method of explaining the social world of history and politics. Marxism’s tremendous appeal for me was its explanatory power. With Marxism as a tool, the social world in its entirety could be explained: the origins of racism, sexism, and homophobia; homelessness, poverty, and unemployment as endemic to the capitalist system; combined and uneven development as the source of the misery and underdevelopment of the “Third World.” Moreover, Marxism was attractive because it offered a way out: a guide to action and a program for changing the world.
After identifying with Marxist politics, I sought out a variety of written works about or pertaining to socialism: the Marxist classics, introductory works on socialism, the October Revolution, etc., as well as the publications of a variety of OROs [ostensibly revolutionary organizations] and OTOs [ostensibly Trotskyist organizations]. I read (and subscribed to) Socialist Worker, New Socialist, People’s Voice, and The Militant, and read the literature of Maoist and anarchist/ syndicalist groups via the internet. The publications of the Spartacist League always impressed me with the clarity of their analysis and the intelligence of their program, an impression that was deepened as I read the muddled, confused, and opportunistic politics of the SL’s political competitors. During this time I also identified with the politics of the International Socialists, but the idiocy of the Cliffite “theory” of “state capitalism” and their open capitulation to Canadian nationalism (plugs in Socialist Worker for Maude Barlow’s Council of Canadians) put them increasingly at odds, in my mind, with revolutionary Leninism. Thus, by the age of seventeen I had come to view the Spartacist League’s political tradition as the very best on offer from the myriad of ostensibly socialist groups that I had investigated.
Since first becoming aware of Marxist politics and socialist history, I have wanted to join and become politically involved with a revolutionary organization. One of the reasons I chose Toronto as a place to attend university was its status (along with Montreal) as one of the primary centers of leftist politics in Canada. I therefore initiated contact with the Trotskyist League at an anti-war-in-Iraq demo in late January 2003. Having dismissed most other centrist and reformist pretenders to the mantle of Trotskyism, but still interested in those groups which claimed a Spartacist tradition, I spoke with comrades A. and J. five days later at a New Socialist Group forum.
For approximately the next month and a half I met regularly with contacts from both the IBT and the TL. This was a very illuminating period, as I carefully considered the political positions of both groups and became acquainted with the ability (and capacity) of each group for calm discussion and reasoned debate. The IBT’s intelligent polemics with the SL on its social-patriotic flinches over Lebanon and KAL 007, as well as the exchange on the Yuri Andropov brigade, made it clear in my mind that the IBT was more than simply another traveler in the “anti-Spartacist swamp.” Learning of the SL’s shameful behavior during the hot-cargoing of South African goods in 1984, and of the ICL’s confusionist and contradictory position on the events of August 1991 in the USSR, further separated the ICL/TL from what I considered to be a real revolutionary group. Still, there were questions that I had to consider for some time before agreeing with the IBT, particularly Quebec. I read (and re-read) the documents of both the IBT and the TL concerning the Quebec national question before finally coming into fundamental agreement with the IBT.
My final break with the Trotskyist League was not easy for me, but was also something that I had come to see as inevitable. Since I began reading WV I had viewed the ICL/TL as the revolutionary group, with a clarity of analysis and a correctness of program unrivaled by its political opponents. But the TL that I encountered in face-to-face discussion was much different than the TL I had envisioned after four years of reading SC and WV. I was dismayed by the TL’s inability to answer, calmly, politically, and without hysterics, the political charges leveled at it by the IBT. When I refused to agree with my TL contacts’ interpretation of “SL’s Cop-Baiting Celebrity” [an article in 1917 No. 1], I was denounced as a “racist,” “Anglo-chauvinist,” and a number of other liberal-guilt smears in a hysterical “freak-out” session. This event forever severed, in my mind, the TL from any claim to revolutionary Marxism. This idiotic behavior was in stark contrast to the discussions I had with [an IBT comrade who] remarked that a good political group tends to raise the intelligence of all its members, while a poor political tendency, prone to leader-worship, hysterics and lies, tends to lower the intelligence of its members. Indeed it does.
I am a socialist not least because I have come to realize that the profound social problems engendered by a decaying capitalism cannot be solved short of socialist revolution….I therefore submit this application for membership in the IBT.