Spartacusbund Expels Left Opposition: Trotskyist Faction Fuses with TLD
Spartacist No. 23, Spring 1977
Reprinted below is the founding document of the Trotskyist Fraction (TF) of the German Spartacusbund. When confronted by a principled Trotskyist opposition at their sixth national conference in January 1977, the Spartacusbund centrists bureaucratically expelled the TF solely for refusing to repudiate its political positions and to “recognize completely the authority of the past and future leadership of the Spartacusbund” (see “Trotskyist Faction Expelled by Spartacusbund,” Workers Vanguard No. 142, 28 January 1977).
Originating as a left split from the German section of the United Secretariat (USec) in 1969-70 the Spartacusbund never definitively broke with central tenets and traditions of Pabloist revisionism, despite its short-lived binge of self-criticism and left-sounding anti-Pabloism begun at the fifth national conference in August 1975. Foundering in centrist disorientation, and increasingly beset by severe demoralization (losing half its membership during the past year), the disintegrating Spartacusbund in March 1976 cast its lot with the so-called “Necessary International Initiative” (NII), a left-of-the-USec rotten bloc brokered by the Italian Frazione Marxista Rivoluzionaria (now renamed Lega Comunista) and also including the Austrian Internationale Kommunistische Liga and the British International Communist League.
As the TF document demonstrates, the NII conglomerate has little in common beyond similar appetites for opportunist maneuvers with the USec and mutual antipathy for the authentic Trotskyism upheld by the international Spartacist tendency. Although at odds with one another over a range of crucial issues the centrist groups lashed together in the NII share a Pabloist methodology which finds its fullest expression in their rejection of the Transitional Program; the NII document claims that both the Fourth International and the Trotskyist program were “destroyed” during World War II and consequently must be “reconstructed” anew.
Following their expulsion from the Spartacusbund the comrades of the TF began extensive political discussions with the Trotzkistische Liga Deutschlands, German section of the international Spartacist tendency. At the beginning of February 1977 the two organizations fused.
The Fifth National Conference stated: “The Spartacusbund must break radically with its nationally limited past….” This desire to break with the “national Trotskyism” of the early Spartacusbund (and of the KJO [Kommunistischen Jungendorganisation] and BL [Spartacus/ Bolschewiki-Leninisten]) was a positive impulse–as was the stated wish to put an end to the “practice of unprincipled propaganda blocs” and to “politics beneath the level of the Transitional Program,” which also found expression in the “Resolution of the Fifth NC” (Spartacus No. 19, August 1975).
Such a break with the practice of the past was and is particularly pressing in view of genuine possibilities for a Trotskyist regroupment on an international scale. In the period after the Tenth World Congress there occurred a number of “cold” splits, after effects of the Chilean defeat, between the European-led majority of the USec [United Secretariat of the Fourth International–USFI] and the SWP [Socialist Workers Party]-led minority (Argentina, Australia, Canada, USA, etc.). In addition, the international “Third Tendency” for the most part dissolved: elements of it have capitulated to the majority (as with the Kompass tendency in the GIM [Gruppe Internationale Marxisten]), have gone over to the SWP faction (parts of “Tendency Four” in the LCR [Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire] and parts of the Italian FMR [Frazione Marxista Rivoluzionaria]) or have either split or been expelled (the Roberto wing of the FMR, etc.). Finally, groupings from the USec have gone over to the iSt, as with a wing of the FMR, several groupings from the LCR, etc.
At present the opportunities for programmatic regroupment are perhaps even more favorable than last year. The Maoist Stalinists have been plunged into a process of political fermentation by the events in China and are obviously beginning to fragment. In the course of the year the SWP-PST [Partido Socialista de los Trabajadores] bloc has broken up and the general crisis of the USec has intensified (Mandel announces his willingness to put aside “labels” like the “Fourth International” should his revisionist appetites demand this). Since its support for Mitterrand in 1974, the OCI [Organisation Communiste Internationaliste] has been moving rapidly to the right: it is casting amorous eyes at the SWP, publishes its weekly paper Informations Ouvrières not as a party organ but rather as a “free tribune of class struggle” and is increasingly incapable of drawing the class line in its solidarity campaigns for those being politically persecuted in East Europe (the reformist IAK [Internationale Arbeiter Korrespondenz], without a tradition and base, merely presents the opportunist tendencies of the Lambertistes in a particularly crass form). The Healyites are sinking lower than ever before with their gangster tactics, their slanders of Hansen and Novack, their celebration of Libyan “socialism,” and the fact that they have been able to set up their national office in Essen can be ascribed only to the pitiful weakness of the Spartacusbund.
This situation requires an international tactic of aggressive political confrontation with ostensibly Trotskyist groups. But the NII [Necessary International Initiative] is by no means an “instrument” of such policies, rather it constitutes a barrier to programmatic regroupment. The NII is neither an open forum for discussion nor a democratic-centralist international tendency. Since its formation the NII has been carrying out common propagandistic work (Portugal) and includes a mutual “non-aggression pact”–the questions where there are political differences are passed over in silence to outsiders (and to a large extent internally as well). The call for discussion at the conclusion of the NII [document] expresses its character as a rotten bloc: “all those who accept the spirit of this general statement should participate.” It is not program which is the basis of participation, but rather a feeling of mutual ties–not excluding state capitalists, for example, though it does exclude elements which stand on Trotsky’s Transitional Program.
The NII is a confused conglomeration of left-Pabloist groups which have gotten together on the basis of standing somewhere to the left of the USec majority and to the right of the iSt. What truly unites the NII (as opposed to Bender’s scholastic exegeses of its “spirit”) is: 1. rejection of the Transitional Program of 1938 as the program of the imperialist epoch; 2. a defeatist position on the split in the Fourth International in 1952-54; 3. support for petty-bourgeois nationalists (for example, in Angola: “For the Victory of the MPLA,” Spartacus No. 22; Lebanon, Palestine); 4. electoral support to workers parties in popular fronts (Chile in 1970, France in 1973/74, Pato in Portugal, the “historic compromise” in Italy).
The superfluous character of the NII becomes evident in its contradictory stance toward the USec. Whereas the Spartacusbund declared at the time of the Fifth NC that it wanted to smash the USec politically, Roberto wanted (wants?) to reform it. In any case he weeps bitter tears for the dead and gone “Third Tendency” of the USec (report on the meeting of the Joint Commission of the NII on 2 November 1976 in Paris, p. 1). The position of the Matgamna group (I-CL [International-Communist League]) toward the USec is downright impenetrable–after years of “critical support” to the USec its present position is: “The I-CL continues to believe that the USFI is the main stream that has emerged from the communist tendency personified by Leon Trotsky” (“The I-CL and the Fourth International,” p. 6).
OUT OF THE ROTTEN NII BLOC, THE NII IS A BARRIER WHICH MUST BE SMASHED!
The Trotskyist Faction fights for a policy of aggressive regroupment on the basis of a clear Trotskyist program. In basing our politics on the decisions of the first four Congresses of the Comintern and on the founding documents of the Fourth International, we recognize the further programmatic development of the proletarian world revolution on principled bases–an historical development proceeding from the revolutionary phases of the international world parties of the proletariat.
This statement is directed at all Trotskyist elements in the Spartacusbund. By our analyses we shall demonstrate to these comrades that the defeats of the Spartacusbund, in particular in respect to its present main task, the construction of the party of proletarian world revolution, are not tactical/episodic but rather derive from its programmatic confusion, from its understanding of programmatic particularism, which continue to unambiguously stamp it as a centrist organization from a typical mold.
Clarity in the following points is central to a Trotskyist orientation:
I. The Transitional Program is the program of proletarian world revolution in our epoch. The document springs from the Marxist methodology in analyzing the present historical period. Hence the basic conclusions stemming from it have a necessary political and organizational form and constitute the foundations of our strategy and tactics.
We thus reject all suggestions which take the “destruction” of the program of the Fourth International as the basis for political work and which therefore must inevitably lead to a revision of the Trotskyist program. The organizations of the NII, which are by no means of one mind as to when the Transitional Program became inadequate and how it is to be “reconstructed,” express only their common revisionist appetites when they adopt this position.
II. On the one hand the “popular front,” on the other fascism–these are the last means of imperialism against proletarian revolution. The program and politics of such a coalition government are never anything but bourgeois through and through. We thus reject all tactical maneuvering vis-à-vis such coalitions, precisely because the class line passes not through but rather outside “popular fronts.”
We explicitly reject every form of electoral support for parties or groups taking part in, or directly working toward, a “popular front.” Only a break with the bourgeois “allies” may make such critical support for reformist or revisionist workers organizations possible. The FMR (Roberto)’s electoral support (“Vote red,” printed without criticism in Spartacus No. 29) for the “repulsive class collaboration of the PCI [Communist Party of Italy]” (ibid.) is merely the last in a long series of capitulations vis-à-vis pop fronts. The dividing line between Bolshevism and Menshevism is, as Trotsky wrote, drawn by one’s attitude toward popular fronts.
III. The social-democratic and Stalinist parties are in their essence simultaneously bourgeois and proletarian. These parties are particularly characterized by the antagonism between the proletarian class and a traditional leadership, between the working-class rank and file and the worker bureaucracy. Hence the Stalinist, as well as the social-democratic, parties are currents in the workers movement with a twofold character. They are simultaneously bourgeois and workers parties–or in Lenin’s words, “bourgeois workers parties.”
The additional ties of Stalinist parties to the “worker bureaucracies” of the deformed or degenerated workers states do not in principle alter the quality of this definition, since these bonapartist bureaucracies are channels for bourgeois influence on the workers movement (the Stalinist parties’ severing of ties with these state bureaucracies–as in Spain, France and Italy–is expressed as a process of their transformation into national reformist parties). On no point are the positions of the NII groups more contradictory than on the question of reformism. Though the Spartacusbund (see Tanas, Ergebnisse und Perspektiven No. 2) made a qualitative distinction between the SPD [Social Democratic Party of Germany] as a “bourgeois” party (“based on support by the workers”) and Stalinist workers parties, this position is contradicted by their being qualitatively equated in the NII [document] (which speaks of the “counterrevolutionary role of reformist parties¼ , [whether] Stalinist or social-democratic”). The I-CL practices entrism in the Labour Party and gave “critical support” to Anthony Benn (as a “Labour left”) in the election of the BLP’s new candidate for prime minister.
IV. We use the slogan of the workers government in the sense in which it was understood by the Bolsheviks in 1917 and by the Fourth International in its founding documents. Accordingly it is an anti-bourgeois, anti-capitalist slogan, in which the need for the proletariat to seize power by its own means is unambiguously expressed. All the slogans of the Transitional Program, i.e., our entire revolutionary strategy and tactics, give the slogan of the workers government only one single concrete meaning, namely, as the popular term for the dictatorship of the proletariat.
The Spartacusbund’s fatal misunderstanding of this slogan emerges most brutally in its demand for Spain, where a (PCE/PSOE [Communist Party/Socialist Party]) “workers government” brought to power by a general strike is supposed to convene a Constituent Assembly (Spartacus No. 23). This slogan is identical with the demand that the working class should, after a successful uprising, hand over power to the “democratic” counterrevolution (and offers a close analogy to events in Germany in 1918-19, where an uprising placed power in the hands of the Ebert-Scheidemann “workers government”–as the Spartacusbund understands the term–which then, after smashing the revolutionary workers movement, proceeded to convene the National Assembly).
V. The Trotskyist Faction supports the right of all nations to national self-determination. But in so doing there can be no question of politically supporting petty-bourgeois nationalist liberation movements; instead one must carry out the military struggle against repressive imperialist measures in common with them–under one’s own flag. In no case do we give our military support in order to play off a “more progressive” nationalist movement against other petty-bourgeois nationalist groups or even to assist them to power through our military support.
Concerning military support against imperialist conquest, we are in every case guided by the viewpoint that in the last analysis the working class can come to power only when it has dealt with its own bourgeoisie. The recognition that the petty-bourgeois nationalist leaders of today–if victorious–are the national bourgeoisie of tomorrow excludes our support for one bourgeois-nationalist faction against another, since the sole question is who will stabilize a bourgeois-nationalist regime. From the standpoint of the historical interests of the working class every nationalism is reactionary.
VI. The organizational form of a Trotskyist party is inseparably linked to its programmatic clarity and consists in practicing democratic centralism in line with the Bolshevik-Leninist conception (codified in the Resolution on the Organization Question of the Third World Congress of the Comintern); hence it must be recognized from the beginning as a principle to be applied internationally. The principle of democratic centralism means the most complete freedom of discussion internally, along with a complete unity of action externally. We decisively reject using “external freedom of criticism” to appeal to backward elements of the working class standing outside the Marxist organization in order to mobilize these elements against other sections of the Marxist Vanguard.
VII. We recognize that a currently embryonic party organization must necessarily constitute itself in the form of a “fighting propaganda group” in order, by destroying ostensibly revolutionary organizations, to initiate and/or drive forward a regroupment process in order thereby to build up one’s own organization.
In doing so the character of this work must always be regarded as exemplary, rejecting out of hand any voluntaristic notion of intervening as a propaganda group into all the daily struggles of the working class, inasmuch as this would lead to dissipating one’s own forces and to liquidating the program.
VIII. The Trotskyist Faction advocates the principle of the united front tactic, according to which complete freedom of criticism must be preserved in each action carried out jointly with other organizations. We reject every form of common propaganda with other organizations. We consistently apply the principle of unity in a given action, which must have a short term and practical goal corresponding to the method of “march separately, strike together.” Both the bloc with Quicuchi [leader of a small Angolan group much touted by the Spartacusbund] and the common struggle of all workers organizations “against the police state and repression” (defensive-offensive alliance) contradict this Leninist concept and imply a common understanding of the strategy and tactics of proletarian class defense.
IX. Implanting the organization in the working class through factory and trade-union work must be carried out without any restrictions at the programmatic level and, at the present stage of constructing the party, can be carried out only in an exemplary fashion if one is not to succumb to the impressionist pressure of possible resulting social relationships, such as wishing to lead or initiate struggles in a given plant or trade union without having constructed a leadership there as the instrument of the party.
“Communists always and everywhere advocate the historical tasks of the proletariat as opposed to all particular interests, under some circumstances even without, or in opposition to, large sections of the working class and its organizations.”
–Resolution of the Fifth National Congress of the Spartacusbund
The Trotskyist Faction is fighting for support to the above platform, the dividing line between revolutionary Trotskyism and Menshevism.
Berlin, 14 December 1976