Spartacist Principles Betrayed
The social-pacifist position taken by Workers Vanguard in relation to the United States presence in Lebanon (WV number 341, 4 November 1983) marks the international Spartacist tendency’s qualitative break from the programme of revolution.
A revolutionary class cannot but wish for the defeat of its own government in a reactionary war, and cannot fail to see that the latter’s military reverses must facilitate its overthrow. (Lenin, “Socialism and War”, August l9l5, Collected Works, Vol 2l, p.3l5.)
We are for the defeat of American forces – and all other imperialist forces – in the Near East, in Central America, and anywhere else that is on the agenda.
The only consistent fight against imperialism is the struggle of the proletariat under the leadership of the vanguard revolutionary party. But we are for the defeat of imperialism in the real and actual battles in which it is involved. We do not require imperialists to be defeated only by consistent anti-imperialists. We are in fact defeatists even in wars between different imperialist camps – in those cases defeatists on both sides. We are certainly for the defeat of American imperialism – and French – in Lebanon. Bolsheviks welcome the destruction of the imperialist headquarters in Beirut.
There is an attempt to justify the Spartacist position with the proposition that nobody in Lebanon who is opposed to the United States is “really” opposed to imperialism. Some people in Lebanon back French imperialism and everybody wants help from some imperialist power or another. To sustain this point Workers Vanguard has in its analysis suppressed the fact that the French headquarters was destroyed in the same operation that got the American headquarters.
We do not, of course, have any side in the prevailing sectarian and communal warfare in Lebanon. There is no known Lebanese grouping offering any solution to that country’s problems. We know of no force that can be given the slightest political support. The real solution to the Lebanese mess lies through the building of a multi-communal Trotskyist vanguard party. It cannot be denied that in the absence of such a party the defeat of United States forces would result in “new conflicts and deals among the myriad feudalists and warlords of Lebanon”. But such conflicts and deals will do less damage to the people of Lebanon than the imperialist military presence.
Workers Vanguard‘s logic on Lebanon could be applied to Ireland, too. As in Lebanon nobody is fighting the disembodied essence of imperialism. The IRA cannot be given any political support, and it certainly jockeys for the support of US imperialism. It does not fight for a social revolution. The departure of the British might well lead to a new round of sectarian violence. But we are on the side of the IRA militarily, against the British. We are for the defeat of the British. We want them out of Ireland, dead or alive.
On Grenada, Workers Vanguard knows very well that, short of massive working-class mobilisation in the United States, “The Yankee shark will succeed in swallowing the Caribbean sardine….” There is unfortunately very little likelihood that a specially-large number of Americans will leave Grenada dead, so it is actually rather cheap to say “US out of Grenada, Dead or Alive!” And it is criminally cynical when this slogan sits directly below “Marines out of Lebanon, Now, Alive!” because there is some chance in Lebanon they will actually be killed.
That is what the Spartacist leadership wishes to avoid. The Spartacist League is moving towards the role of safety advisers to the armies of imperialism, to protect them from unnecessary defeat.
Workers Vanguard notes “…the widespread anti-government outrage felt by the American masses at Reagan’s squandering of life in the Lebanon `quagmire’….” Pacifist sentiments in the proletarian masses certainly must not be treated with the sectarian contempt which has sometimes characterised Spartacist tactics. However, The Transitional Program‘s call to distinguish between pacifism as a “screen for imperialism” and pacifism as a “confused expression of distrust in imperialism” is in no way an injunction to revolutionaries to capitulate to the latter, to adopt as their own the slogans of pacifism. When sophisticated politicos become pacifists it is always as a screen for imperialism.
The Spartacist League’s new politics are apparently inspired by an appetite for some layer of the American population in which there is at present a sentiment of confused pacifism, a pacifism which is – or might be – stimulated by the horror with which the news of 239 American deaths in the Beirut explosion was received in the USA – “…the largest number of US troops killed in a single day since the height of the Tet offensive in Vietnam.”
The Beirut explosion must seem of very great importance in the United States, and without the guiding hand of a genuine democratic centralist international to correct them, the American leadership has, under pressures or in pursuit of opportunities stemming from within their own national milieu, thrown out the revolutionary defeatist principles of Bolshevism.
This nationally rooted disorientation has led also to a confusion between the relative importance of the blast in Lebanon on the one hand and the invasion of Grenada on the other. The central significance of the invasion of Grenada is not as simply a diversion from the Lebanon thing. When it actually came down to it the defence of the Soviet Union turned out to begin with the defence of radical nationalist Grenada. And at the crucial moment, when the United States engaged in the most spectacular and clear-cut example of imperialist aggression for many years, when energies should have been put into mobilising in defence of Grenada, the Spartacist League of the United States was more interested in preserving the armed forces of the US in Lebanon.
Certainly nationally generated appetites and misconceptions play a part, but in the fundamental question, in the betrayal of the Leninist principle of revolutionary defeatism, the Spartacist leadership has not made a mistake. Let it be clear, in this they know exactly what they have done, and they have sought to cover their betrayal in specious argument and careful quotation.
FOR THE DEFEAT OF IMPERIALISM – FROM THE NEAR EAST, TO IRELAND, THE CARIBBEAN AND NEW CALEDONIA!
REBUILD THE SPARTACIST TENDENCY!
BREAK FROM THE ROBERTSON-FOSTER-NELSON LEADERSHIP!
FOR THE WORLD PARTY OF SOCIALIST REVOLUTION!
Bill Logan member, Spartacist League of New Zealand, 1970-
founding National Chairman, Spartacist League of Australia & New Zealand
founding National Chairman, Spartacist League of Britain founding member of the International Executive Committee of the international Spartacist tendency
expelled from the iSt for “gross moral turpitude”, 1979
member, Spartacist League of New Zealand, 1970-
founding National Secretary, Spartacist League of Australia & New Zealand
founding National Secretary, Spartacist League of Britain founding member of the International Executive Committee of the international Spartacist tendency
dropped from the iSt for no stated cause, 1979
l7 November 1983