Leninism & Nationalism
Spartacist League embraces Pabloite Hydra
In 2017, the once Trotskyist Spartacist League (SL) published a lengthy article entitled “The Struggle Against the Chauvinist Hydra,” (Spartacist, No. 65) which capped decades of revisionist departures from its revolutionary past with a wholesale renunciation of Leninism on the national question. The Spartacists had historically been sharply critical of their pseudo-Trotskyist competitors’ political adaptation to the supposed “revolutionary” dynamic of petty-bourgeois nationalism. At a 14 March 1977 public forum in New York, James Robertson, the SL’s recently deceased founder/leader, observed:
“Life is complicated, comrades. In the past generation, in the attempt to defend the just struggles of oppressed peoples, there’s been a tendency to lose the context in which, for proletarian revolutionary Marxists, that struggle must be undertaken. What we are seeking to do is to defend the core of revolutionary Marxism, the proletarian solution, against those who would simply embrace the ‘good’ nation against the ‘bad’ nation.”
—Spartacist No. 24, Autumn 1977
The Hydra document represents a complete repudiation of this approach in favor of “embrac[ing] the ‘good’ nation against the ‘bad’ nation.” The revolutionary SL of the 1960s and 70s, according to the Hydra account, was guilty of a “perversion of Leninism on the national question, particularly in relation to oppressed nations within multinational states.” This newly-discovered deviation was attributed to Joseph Seymour, the SL’s leading theorist, and two of his most valuable contributions on the national question were explicitly repudiated. We have reprinted them below.
The two main documents in this pamphlet were written by Tom Riley of the Bolshevik Tendency (BT). The first, entitled “In Defense of (Seymour’s) Marxism,” which originally appeared in 1917 No. 40, addressed the “theoretical” arguments advanced in the Hydra document. Riley’s second contribution, “From Trotskyism to Neo-Pabloism,” was first posted in February 2018 on the website of the International Bolshevik Tendency (from which the BT separated in October 2018). This document dissects the multiple factual errors and political distortions that make up the Hydra document’s grotesque and incoherent revisionist account of Spartacist history. Riley has written a number of related articles, including “Whatever Happened to the Spartacist League?” (2005) and “Sclerotic Spartacists Unravel” (2010), which trace the chronology of the Spartacist League’s abandonment of its once pristine Trotskyist program in some detail.