from Spartacist No. 6, June-July 1966
The unity between the American Committee for the Fourth International and Spartacist has been smashed. The Trotskyist movement internationally and in the U.S. is being seriously disorganized by G. Healy and M. Banda, leaders of the British Socialist Labour League. The Healy group dominates the International Committee of the Fourth International, whose forces, including ourselves, we deem the essential political repository in this period of authentic revolutionary Marxism, i.e., Trotskyism.
The current wrecking campaign being pushed in the columns of the ACFI Bulletin and elsewhere represents a 180-degree turn away from the principled fusion line advanced by Healy at the October 1965, Montreal conference. Then Healy insisted, with our full concurrence, that the three-year-long unjustified (and, unprincipled division) between Spartacist and ACFI must be brought promptly to an end; ACFI-Spartacist fusion, he then insisted, was an absolute pre-condition for building the Trotskyist movement in the U.S.
Now, in the wake of the April London I.C. Conference (reported on in this issue) Healy, without offering any serious political pretext for his actions, has diverted the energies of the I.C. away from building an international to conducting a campaign of petty internecine warfare against those with whom, up to April, he proposed to unify. By his own criteria of last October, Healy has set out to wreck the revolutionary movement in the United States.
This compels Spartacist to evaluate this Healy with whom we have been in political solidarity since 1961. We must redefine our tasks in the light of this recent development.
The issue which Healy cites to justify his strange actions is that Spartacist editor, Robertson, refused to denounce himself before the Conference as “a petty bourgeois American chauvinist.”
This incident proves, according to Healy, the political and organizational character of the entire Spartacist organization!
Now, the Bulletin and particularly Healy’s voluminous personal correspondence to Spartacist and ACFI members, are filled with all sorts of charges against Spartacist. Most of these charges, it is interesting to note, are identical with objections to unification raised by Wohlforth at Montreal, where Healy denounced Wohlforth as a “non-Marxist” for his approach to Spartacist on just these grounds. Now, Healy reverts to this same “non-Marxist” nonsense–on the pretext that Robertson suddenly revealed his “true nature” in London.
The Actual Issues
There is a consistent political issue underneath Healy’s surface irrationalities. It was only with considerable negotiation that the Spartacist delegation at Montreal won the following concession from Healy: “Tactical disagreements on work in the U.S. will not be an obstacle to unity provided decisions do not contravene the basic documents of the world movement.” Healy reluctantly agreed to the right of national sections to make their own tactical decisions, a right whose importance is demonstrated by the degeneration of the Comintern under Stalin: national leaderships reduced to incompetent, Kremlin-servile hacks devoid of revolutionary capacity.
Since Wohlforth had completely discredited himself at the joint ACFI-Spartacist New York membership meeting on the eve of the April Conference, Healy could no longer proceed on the (always false) assumption that a cohesive ACFI fraction under Wohlforth would simply march into and take over the “loose, activist” Spartacist organization. This weakening of Wohlforth’s position was aggravated by the latter’s political break with ACFI’s proclaimed theoretical leader, L. Marcus, at the same time. If fusion were carried out, Wohlforth would enter Spartacist as representative of a doubly-isolated faction; Healy was faced with the prospect of an American section led by a bloc which would resist Healy’s Cominternist practices. Under the circumstances, Healy could not accept fusion unless Robertson servilely degraded himself at the conference. Healy doesn’t want any section in the I.C. that Healy himself does not control down to the last nut and bolt.
What This Means
A section of Spartacist then forming the SWP Revolutionary Tendency had a similar experience with Healy in 1962. Healy insisted that the R.T. bloc with the Dobbs leadership of the SWP as a still genuinely revolutionary tendency, against Hansen, Weiss and Warde. R.T. leaders were given an ultimatum to sign such an agreement without discussion, vote or appeal. At that time the R.T. wrote: “One of the most serious implications of the mode of intervention of the SLL-IC is the question mark it places over the capacity of these comrades to rebuild the Fourth International on a solid basis. We must reserve final judgment until more of the circumstances are clear.”
The circumstances are now quite clear. Healy and Banda, free-swinging figures in control of the SLL party machinery, have, for the moment, an organizational hammerlock on the I.C. They have used their hammerlock at the recent conference to drive out a number of candidate and observer sections and thus dissipate an historic opportunity for refounding Trotsky’s Fourth International. The Healy-Banda machine itself is now aptly characterized as “fake Leninist,” a tendency whose real political character is displayed by its “clever” machine politics. That is to say, the experience of the Conference, taken together with other evidence from the history of the SLL, demonstrates that the Healy-Banda machine subordinates real political issues of agreement and disagreement to the exigencies of organizational issues and personal prestige politics. That organizational tendency is itself a political issue of the first order.
Turn to SWP?
In late 1962, Healy broke with the R.T. for characterizing the SWP leadership as centrist. Barely half a year later, after his opportunistic maneuver had failed, Healy began describing that same SWP leadership as total betrayers of Trotskyism without redeeming quality. Now, in the wake of the new split with Spartacist, Healy again makes certain moves toward a new maneuver with that same SWP leadership. In a letter to two Spartacist members, he justifies the split on the grounds that unification “would have strengthened the anti-internationalist trend of the SWP.” Then, in the 21 May Newsletter, after over six months’ intensive denunciation of the SWP’s Anti-War line in the Newsletter and Bulletin, Healy comments on the killing of a Detroit YSAer by a deranged person by praising the anti-war struggle of the SWP! In any case, the smashing of ACFI-Spartacist fusion is a gift to the revisionist SWP.
We refrained from advancing conclusive judgments of ACFI until recently. The recent experience, added to our intimate acquaintance with Wohlforth and his circle over many years, brought us to the conclusion that he represents a literary left-centrist tendency. This was graphically revealed at the time of the NYC October 16 Peace Parade. Then while the Bulletin was correctly attacking the popular-front nature of the Parade Committee, at the same time the ACFI membership was marching under the discipline of that committee, and refused to carry any slogans other than the officially approved “Stop the War in Vietnam Now.”
However, the ACFI with which we proposed to fuse consisted of more than the original eight members of Wohlforth’s SWP sectlet. Both experienced and new Marxists had been drawn to ACFI on the basis of the I.C.’s political program. ACFI’s greatest rate of growth occurred on the basis of its perspective of fusion with Spartacist. Now, since Wohlforth first called fusion off in an outburst at the March 20th joint membership meeting, over a quarter of ACFI’s nearly forty members has dropped from the organization or joined with L. Marcus and Carol Lawrence in carrying out fusion with Spartacist. Of those who remain in ACFI, a majority are simply unwilling to break with Healy’s “junior Comintern,” despite their contempt for the Wohlforth leadership clique; how many hang on remains to be seen.
We Go Ahead
We firmly believe that real politics shapes the direction of organizations far more decisively than organizational and personal issues. At the same time the latter interact with and are therefore a part of real politics. It is from that that we draw the lessons of the April Conference and define our tasks flowing from it.
We draw appropriate political conclusions from the organizational wrecking practices of Healy and Wohlforth. However, we do not close the door to them, much less to all those forces within the I.C. who are their victims. Yet, from Healy and Wohlforth, in particular, we will need evidence of an inner-revolution before collaboration would be possible. So long as they remain on their present bankrupt course, we are locked in an implacable struggle to cleanse the revolutionary movement of their poisonous influence.
In our final statement to the I.C. Conference, with expulsion but minutes away in a grotesque, petty frame-up that gives the real measure of the Healy clique, we said: “If the comrades go ahead to exclude us from this Conference, we ask only what we have asked before–study our documents, including our present draft on U.S. work before you now, and our work over the next months and years. We will do the same, and a unification of the proper Trotskyist forces will be achieved, despite this tragic setback.”
In addition to extending our international ties and functioning as a conscious detachment of the world movement within the U.S., we have the duty to go on to build a strong American section rooted in the class struggle and to push forward our understanding through the inner-struggle confrontation between our acquired lessons from yesterday and the endless new challenges that are inherent in social life. We shall go forward, let our enemies beware!