On the Logan Show Trial – Appendix E (iii)
ICL vs. IBT on the Logan Question
Excerpted from “ICL vs. IBT,” Trotskyist Bulletin No. 5, 1996. The text in bold is reprinted from the ICL’s 1995 pamphlet “The International Bolshevik Tendency—What is it?” The regular text is the IBT’s reply to each paragraph.
Most recently, the IBT has embraced and exalted one Bill Logan. Logan was expelled at the ICL’s first international conference in 1979 for gross crimes against communist morality and its substrate, elemental human decency, after a thorough investigation by an international Control Commission and trial body. The charges against Logan were brought by the Central Committee of the Spartacist League of Australia and New Zealand (SL/ANZ) and they detailed at least 18 specific cases where Logan, using his position as national chairman of the remote Australian section and taking advantage of comrades’ devotion to our program and willingness to make sacrifices for the party, grossly interfered in the most intimate personal life decisions of comrades. Logan was found guilty on every count—and then some. He brutally separated couples by forcing the geographical transfer of comrades “for the good of the party.” He manipulated and forced comrades into entering into—and breaking off—sexual relationships. Most grotesquely, he tried to force one woman comrade to have an abortion, and when that failed, to give the baby up for adoption.
Bill Logan, the former leader of both the iSt’s Australian and British sections, was expelled at the group’s first international conference in 1979. In 1978 he had a falling-out with the New York-based leadership over financing of the British section. As a result, James Robertson decided to remove him as the national chair of the SL/B. The machinations required (one part Zinoviev and two parts Le Carré) are proudly recounted in two SL internal bulletins from January 1979, now publicly available (“On the Logan Regime, Part I: ‘Run, run, run…chop’” and “Part II: ‘What do you mean, overthrow?’”).
Under the regime headed by Logan in Australia, individual members were put under strong pressure to transfer from one place to another “for the good of the party.” Pressure of this sort was widespread in the iSt at the time, although probably greatest in the SL/ANZ, where the organization was hyper-active and badly overstretched. Many of the individuals involved suffered in their personal lives as a result. While no one was actually “forced” to transfer, it is true that the leadership routinely took “advantage of comrades’ devotion and willingness to make sacrifices for the party,” and the pressure exerted certainly constituted unwarranted intrusions into members’ personal lives. However, the charges that the SL/ANZ under Logan “forced comrades into entering into—and breaking off— sexual relationships” are simply untrue, except indirectly as a result of the pressure to carry out transfers.
The allegation that Bill Logan “tried to force one woman comrade to have an abortion, and when that failed, to give the baby up for adoption” is also a malicious invention. It is true that women in the SL/ANZ and the rest of the iSt at the time were pressured not to have children. No one was forced to have an abortion (or to give up his or her children), but the central leadership of the SL/US, including James Robertson, let everyone know that in their view female comrades who bore children were on their way out of politics. In pressuring women in the Australian group not to get pregnant, the SL/ANZ leadership was merely applying a policy that originated in the SL/US.
The case of the comrade who had considered giving up her child was well known throughout the iSt for years before anyone considered that anything was amiss. It was known by an international control commission that met in August and September 1974 to investigate certain incidents involving [John E.], a member of the SL/ANZ. Prominent members of the commission included “Fred” (Gerhard K., who became chair of the German section of the iSt but left within a few years), John Sharpe (then International Secretary of the iSt), and Dale Reissner (then chair of the SL/US Control Commission). James Robertson, while not formally a member of the commission, had lengthy private sessions with it.
In the course of his defense comrade [John E.] and a supporter of his in the German section made various allegations about bureaucratism and heavy-handedness in the SL/ANZ that were strikingly similar to those raised in 1979. These included an allegation (disputed by the SL/ANZ leadership) that a female comrade had been pressured to give up her child. Neither the control commission, which had before it considerable documentary material on the actual state of affairs in the Australian section, nor the international leadership saw any reason to comment.
Moreover, the father of the child was what was known as a “drinking buddy” of Robertson and lived in the same house in North London with him for a number of months in 1976. This was several years after the events in question (and the [John E.] commission investigation) but three years before the iSt leadership claimed to have first learned of the incident.
So long as Logan was in Australia, distant from international scrutiny and with a mainly inexperienced membership whom he made fearful of talking to comrades overseas and even to each other, his abuse of comrades—especially women comrades—did not come to light. It was only after Logan and his wife Adaire transferred to England in 1977 that it became apparent to the ICL leadership that something was wrong. After a sharp fight in London, Logan was removed as national chairman of the British section. Even then we thought Logan’s opposition to international collaboration and his bureaucratic mindset resulted perhaps from inexperience and insecurity. An attempt was made to integrate him into the international collective leadership in New York.
The question of how the Logan regime in Australia could have existed unnoticed for years as a supposed aberration within the iSt is a delicate one for Robertson’s apologists. In addition to the [John E.] commission investigation there were also a number of trips by leading comrades of the SL/US to the Australian section during the period in question. George Foster (deputy National Chairman of the SL/US) visited the SL/ANZ for about three weeks in April 1975. James Robertson visited for about ten days in late January 1976, during which there was a summer camp attended by all members. Chris Knox (member of the SL/US Political Bureau and the group’s Trade Union Director) visited in July and August 1976, and then returned in January 1977 in time for the annual summer camp, and to take over as national chairman of the section. Liz Gordon (National Secretary of the SL/US) visited for about ten days in January 1977 (including the summer camp). Difficulties with regard to personnel configurations, personal relationships, and proposed transfers were discussed with all these leading comrades.
All these leaders of the SL/US had personal friends in the section, indeed friends among those who are said to have been abused prior to and during the times of their respective visits. George Foster knew both Joel [Salant] and John Sheridan (both former alternate members of the SL/US Central Committee). [Salant] had transferred to the New Zealand Spartacist League in mid-1972— prior to any of the alleged crimes. He was a member of the SL/ANZ leadership throughout the period in question. Sheridan, a veteran cadre of the SL, transferred to Australia in 1974 and served on the SL/ANZ leadership from that time onward. James Robertson knew both these comrades well and said he regarded John Sheridan as a particularly good friend. Chris Knox knew both these comrades well. So did Liz Gordon, who also regarded Naoli C. (originally recruited as part of the Bolshevik Leninist Tendency from the Canadian affiliate of Ernest Mandel’s United Secretariat) as a special friend.
In addition there were other comrades from the SL/ US in the SL/ANZ during this period, perhaps less well-known to the international leadership, but all with connections in the SL/US: David R. (a young writer with links to the Boston and Chicago SL locals), Karen W. (an organizational administrator with links to the Boston and Cleveland locals), and Anna K., who had been active in SL-supported trade-union work in the Bay Area. It is simply not credible that so many experienced cadres could have remained insensible to the cover up that the leadership alleged some years later.
The 1982 “Declaration of an external tendency of the iSt” noted that:
“In fact the revelations of life in the SL/ANZ came as no surprise to the bulk of the senior cadres of the tendency, as the Logans [i.e., Logan and Hannah—ed.] had made no particular secret of most of their actions. [SL Deputy National Chairman George—ed.] Foster and other leading comrades had visited the Australian section in the midst of these horrors without noticing anything amiss. In fact Logan, the malevolent genius, was even supposed to have duped poor gullible Foster into helping him get rid of [John E.], his only internal critic. [The 1982 declaration confused the 1974 case of [John E.] (who had departed by the time Foster visited Australia) with the 1975 case of Keith [O.] But although the identities are switched, the account of what took place is accurate—ed.] Not only did Logan and Foster force [John E.] [actually Keith [O.]—ed.] out but they also got him to sign a confession which was to be used against him if he ever opened his mouth about life in the Australian section!
“During the Stalinist purge trials in Smolensk province there was a trial of the first secretary of the party in Belyi named Kovalev. During the trial ‘Questions from the floor pointed out that everyone approved of Kovalev at the time and asked why they [his accusers] had not said anything earlier. But one of Kovalev’s more sophisticated accusers claimed that he had been silent because Kovalev had, for four years, forbidden him to speak!’ (Robert Conquest, The Great Terror, Page 334). And so it was in Australia—Logan was somehow supposed to have prevented his victims…from communicating the ‘real story’ to the visiting international leadership. The truth is, of course, that Logan was not operating so very far outside the norms of the tendency at all, so there was nothing to report, particularly little that wasn’t known anyway.”
With Logan out of Australia and exposed in the less-remote British section as at least a highhanded bureaucrat, our Australian comrades came to realize that what they had been subjected to under his leadership was a violation of communist principles and proletarian morality.
The SL/ANZ members “came to realize” that there were problems with Logan’s methods only two years after he left Australia—but very shortly after he had been denounced by the central leadership as a bureaucrat. This realization was encouraged by the international leadership, which had apparently decided to be rid of Logan once and for all. Tactically this made sense. First, he was removed from his position of strength in Britain, where the core cadres in the group (who had high regard for comrade Logan’s capacities) had initially resisted New York’s moves against him. Logan’s loyalty to the organization, and his refusal to launch what he saw as an apolitical power struggle over his own personal status, led him to comply in his own removal. The political authority of the SL central leadership and the conviction among the cadres that any struggle over the question of “regime” must be an exercise in unprincipled, apolitical cliquism, facilitated Logan’s removal from the SL/B, just as it played a key role in the political capitulations of various other cadres in other iSt sections.
The testimony of Australian comrades to the trial body shocked and horrified all those in attendance at the conference, mandating Logan’s expulsion. Even the veteran Ceylonese Trotskyist Edmund Samarakkody— who sat on the Logan trial body and then used the trial as a convenient pretext to reject fusion with our tendency—found Logan guilty as charged and called him a “monster”. Samarakkody’s hollow insistence that other SL/ANZ leaders were culpable along with Logan—though every single one had been a victim of Logan at one time or another—was roundly rejected by the conference delegates.
The testimony of the SL/ANZ comrades was indeed highly emotional. Many of them no doubt believed that the SL/ANZ regime was a horrendous departure from the norms of the iSt. But if this was the case, how is it possible that the various experienced comrades from the SL/US who had transferred to the SL/ANZ had not noted anything particularly unusual about life in their new section? In fact, they did not find the regime in Australia qualitatively different from the one they had left. This point was noted by the External Tendency in its initial declaration:
“the nature of the abuse in his [Logan’s] Australian operation was only a linear extrapolation of the internal regime of Robertson’s American section. How else can one explain the fact that none of the SL/US cadres who lived under the Logan regime blew the whistle?”
Edmund Samarakkody was the only member of the trial body who was not a member of the iSt. His participation was a gamble for Robertson. Samarakkody had an international reputation on the left as a man of principle, and had he endorsed the indictment of Logan, it would have lent much credibility to the entire procedure. Yet, because of his long experience and relative immunity to the iSt’s intense internal organizational pressures, he could not be relied on to “go along”. His conclusions are summarized by SL National Secretary Liz Gordon in a 10 September 1979 letter sent to a pro-iSt member of the Samarakkody group:
“The conception pushed by the RWP delegation reports is that the iSt is some form of Stalinism or at best old-style Healyism. By extension, then, they lay claim to the iSt’s analysis of the Healy tendency in the 1960’s, when the atrocious ‘regime’ of the British SLL was out of step with its formally anti-revisionist line.”
In April 1980 the SL received a document by Samarakkody, in which he noted:
“One of the questions that came up for consideration was whether to give Logan the right to cross-examine the witnesses. On this issue excepting for myself, all the members felt that as Logan was clever and had some knowledge of the law, he would misuse this right and seek to upset witnesses by his questions and also try to lengthen proceedings. [The iSt members on the body reversed themselves after checking with Robertson—ed.]
. . .
“My interventions by way of cross-examination of both witnesses and Logan was to elicit the truth in regard to the allegations and charges. And as I expected, some questions put by me to some of the witnesses brought out and underlined the co-responsibility of other members of SL/ANZ leadership in regard to the actions of Logan that were the subject matter of the charges.
. . .
“I summarised my above views to the Logan Trial Body. I stated that in all circumstances of this case, while Logan was guilty of most or all the charges, as his motives were not personal gain and as together with Logan the Logan regime had to share responsibility in regard to the charges complained of, the punishment to be meted out to Logan be less than expulsion. “The reaction of the rest of the Trial Body was one of concerted opposition and rejection of my views. They sought to pose the question as one believing Logan or so many leading comrades some of whom were in the iSt leadership. “I pointed out that the posing of such a question was completely wrong. On the one hand Logan had admitted his guilt in regard to many of the actions complained of and that meant that those complaints against Logan were true, except that it was not Logan alone who was responsible for the acts and incidents complained against, that it was a question of the Logan-led regime being responsible in that regard. “The rest of the comrades of the Trial Body were almost in a rage and pointed out to me that I was saying what Logan said. My answer was that Logan’s explanation that his actions were based on decisions of the CC of SL/ANZ and was admitted as true by the comrades of SL/ANZ who gave evidence in the case.
. . .
“It appears to me in retrospect that the iSt delegation had taken this decision to attack me in the manner they did that night, not only because I was of the view that the punishment of Logan should be less than expulsion. Although my dissent did not prevent them from expelling Logan from the iSt it created other problems for them. “It appears clear from volume of documentation that the iSt had prior to the setting up of the Trial Body, had bureaucratically hatched a plot and carried out a coup d’etat against Logan and forced him to resign from the Chairman of the SL/B (6 October 1978). “What Logan had done for the iSt to call for his resignation is not altogether clear. In any event the iSt thereafter had decided to sack Logan from the International Spartacist Tendency. “It would appear that thereafter the iSt membership had been mobilised for the sacking of Logan. And this the iSt had decided to do in the grand style of a trial by an authoritative or a virtual international Trial Body. It would appear they expected to publicise this trial as a step forward in the Bolshevisation of the iSt. However, my dissent went counter to their aims and expectations in this regard. “Furthermore, the iSt leadership found my dissent threw responsibility for relevant acts complained of not on Logan alone but on the Logan-led regime and also in some respects was critical on the failure of the iSt leadership to take steps to correct the bureaucratic tendencies that were apparent in the SL/ANZ. “It would appear that for the SL/ANZ leadership and that of the iSt, it was a question of not permitting their authority to be weakened, which would be the case if they had allowed my dissent to be passed off lightly. “It was in this context that the iSt leadership threw caution to the winds to denounce me, attack the RWP, and abandon unity with the RWP.”
—“The Logan Case” by Edmund Samarakkody
As a result of Samarkkody’s intervention, Logan was granted the right to confront his accusers directly. Yet there remained several important irregularities in the trial procedure. In the first place, a climate of prejudice was created in the organization for months preceding the trial. SL chairman Robertson openly remarked of the charges against Logan that ‘we believe them.’ Logan was suspended from membership as soon as the charges were mooted. Adaire Hannah, his companion and de facto codefendant, remained on the IEC, but was denied access to that body’s correspondence and files.
On 2 April 1979 Logan wrote to the SL/ANZ requesting a copy of the specific charges. He did not in fact receive a copy (dated 16 August 1979) until very shortly before the first session of the trial body on 27 August 1979. He was thereby severely handicapped in preparing his defense. While the trial body had a legal staff at its disposal, Logan had no representation prior to or during the trial. He was not even advised of the order in which witnesses were to be called. It would be difficult for anyone confronted by such a complex set of questions to defend himself without assistance. This difficulty was compounded by not being advised in advance of the charges, and therefore being denied reasonable access to documents, as well as a reasonable opportunity to solicit relevant testimony.
Although the iSt helped pay the travel expenses of hostile witnesses, they denied such assistance to Logan’s companion and chief collaborator in Australia and Britain, Adaire Hannah. Hannah, the only witness prepared to testify on Logan’s behalf, was, by virtue of the arrangements of the iSt, resident in New York without a work permit, and without independent means. The leadership’s refusal to even loan her the money necessary to purchase a plane ticket to Britain (where the trial was held) meant that she was unable to attend.
The trial body had the power to make recommendations, but not decisions. Decision making power was formally vested in the international conference, to which the trial body reported. Yet the international conference did not have sufficient information on which to make a decision. Most of the attendees at the conference were excluded from the trial proceedings. None of the seven hundred-odd pages of documents produced for the trial body were available to delegates. Nor was any of the material written by Adaire Hannah or Bill Logan. The trial body in its presentation to the conference made no attempt to report on the facts of the case, nor even to summarize Logan’s defense. Members of the trial body acted in the conference as prosecutors rather than independent jurors. Logan was only admitted to address the conference after the vote to expel him had already taken place. Even then he was given only five minutes to speak.
While the SL leadership sanctimoniously intoned that Hannah was Logan’s chief victim, she was in fact on trial herself, and was expelled from the iSt on 31 August 1979, immediately after Logan’s expulsion, “by unanimous vote of the delegates at the international conference.” She was only notified of this in a letter dated 17 September 1979. In her reply to the iSt, dated 14 October 1979, Hannah wrote:
“I did not believe that you could have gone so far as to expel me without any trial, without any chance to defend myself, and without ever being given the slightest indication that there was a possibility of expulsion. My expulsion was carried out in a manner completely contrary to democratic organisational practices.
“Despite the fact that you neglected to tell me the grounds under which it was proposed to expel me beforehand I nevertheless hope that you will see the importance of at least telling me now, after the fact. Of course it will be clear to everyone, whatever your official grounds are, that I was in fact expelled for my association with Bill Logan and our refusal to lie about our political history.”
The iSt never replied.
The motion unanimously passed by the conference read:
Motion: “We find the charges of the Australian complainants to be true and correct. Bill Logan is a proven, massive liar and a sexual sociopath who manipulated the private lives of comrades for reasons of power politics and his own aberrant appetites and compulsions in the guise of Marxism. His crimes are against communist morality and its substrate elementary human decency.
“We make the following further charges:
1) Logan was responsible for systematic suppression of iSt and SL/ANZ documents.
2) The examination by the trial body of witnesses with first-hand evidence of Logan’s sexual manipulations in London fully confirmed the picture of Logan as a willful liar which emerged from the Australian testimony.
“We further find that the charge regarding ex-comrade Vicky A. was understated by the Australian comrades, and that in this matter Logan is guilty of inhuman torture of a mother, rendered suicidal in his attempt to destroy and take away her baby. “We find him guilty of the above as stated and therefore he cannot be and should never have been a member of a working-class organization and hereby recommend his expulsion from our tendency to the delegates of the international conference.”
After the conference we took the unusual step of releasing our internal discussion bulletins documenting the Logan case to major libraries in Australia and New Zealand, so that information about the man and his crimes would be generally available to the workers movement.
Most of the alleged “crimes” involved activities which were well known within the organization, and were standard operating procedure throughout the Spartacist tendency at the time. The frenzied work schedules and constant organizational crises, combined with frequent personnel transfers, naturally exacerbated the difficult personal situations of members of the SL/ANZ. Transfers, with the exception of compassionate transfers (which permitted members to accompany their companions), were generally justified on the grounds of maintaining or extending organizational perspectives. Whether or not there were really appropriate grounds for these transfers, they were not capricious. No one in the SL/US leadership (which was kept fully informed of all the moves through written reports, as well as informally through personal contacts) ever considered that there was anything irregular about the frequent personnel shifts in the SL/ANZ. During this period there were frequent mass transfers in the SL/US as well.
The most spectacular charge involved the case of the female comrade and her baby who, unbeknownst to the compassionate and caring iSt leadership in far-off New York, was supposed to have been the victim of “inhuman torture” at the hands of Bill Logan. These bogus allegations played a key role in whipping up hysteria at the 1979 trial—particularly among the less experienced iSt comrades. But all the activities of the SL/ANZ regime, including the incident supposedly involving “inhuman torture,” were well known to and approved by the Robertson leadership (see paragraph No. 46).
It is worth considering why the motion condemning comrade Logan was “unanimously passed by the conference.” No one abstained. No one chose not to vote. Everyone voted and they all voted the same way. According to the official ICL version, this was because there was total and unanimous agreement. Such votes were very rare in Trotsky’s organization, or in Lenin’s, but rather more common under Kim Il Sung and Joseph Stalin.
The unanimity of the vote masked a spectrum of opinion among the iSt delegates. Current IBT members who were present at the trial had very different perceptions at the time. Some were taken in by the whole business, and genuinely believed that Bill Logan was a monstrous sociopath. When the sun rose after an all-night session of the conference spent demonizing Logan, these comrades had no trouble voting to expel him. Others knew better. Some avoided attending the event. We know of a few cases of conference delegates whispering among themselves in private. Most of the middle and upper cadres of the iSt were aware that the essentials had been well known for years. They also knew that the “shocking” abuses in the SL/ANZ were closely paralleled in the SL/US itself.
At the same time, there was tremendous pressure from the leadership. It was clear that anyone prepared to defend a “sociopath” would also be purged. Those cadres who knew that the charges were being exaggerated and that, at the very least, the international leadership shared some measure of responsibility for what had gone on in its Australian section, rationalized voting for Logan’s expulsion on the grounds that it was at bottom a case of one bureaucrat being purged by his peers, which in fact it was. After all, they reasoned, nothing is perfect, and revolutionaries should not lightly abandon the world’s only revolutionary organization.
From its inception, the North American BT took up the defense of Bill Logan. The very first statement of the then-ET (“Declaration of an External Tendency of the iSt,” October 1982) claimed that though “Logan was undoubtedly guilty of running a grossly abusive regime,” it was the international leadership in New York (half a world away) that should take responsibility because they didn’t stop him sooner! According to this scurrilous account, Logan was really “drummed out” of our party because he had “a substantial and independent base in the membership.”
The 1982 Declaration of the ET did not so much defend Bill Logan as tell the truth about the circumstances that led to his expulsion. It also pointed out that: “The reason that the Logan question is such a highly charged issue for the [iSt] leadership is that it is in a certain sense a set of ‘emperor’s clothes.’”
This latter assertion is incredible. The only member of the entire tendency who defended Logan in 1979 was his wife, Adaire Hannah—his chief accomplice and also, pathetically, his most twisted victim. But back then the ET was clearly not disputing that Logan had done horrible harm to those he claimed to lead in the name of socialism. They admitted that “Logan was undoubtedly guilty of running a grossly abusive regime. It’s just that they didn’t care. After all it was “only” people who were members of the Spartacist tendency who were his victims.
It is true that Hannah was Logan’s only defender— which makes the leadership’s refusal to enable her to attend his trial (see paragraph 48b above) all the more scandalous. The decision to expel Hannah without notification, charges, trial or even subsequent explanation says a great deal about the iSt leadership’s commitment to due process in that period.
The ET position was perfectly congruent with the truth. The SL/ANZ leadership, headed by Logan, engaged in serious abuses of the membership. But the essential facts about the actions of the regime were known to and approved by the international leadership. The ET was also correct that the regime in the SL/ANZ was “only a linear extrapolation of” that of the contemporary SL/US upon which it was modelled.
The story changed substantially in 1990, when the BT and the German Gruppe IV Internationale (GIVI)— which despite political differences had been collaborating with each other for years—fused with each other. This fusion occurred a few months after the North American BT came together with the “Permanent Revolution Group” of New Zealand, whose leader and guru was none other than…Bill Logan. So the BT, an organization whose sole reason for existence is the lying claim that the ICL is a “cult,” fused with an organization led by a sociopath whom the ICL expelled precisely for his cult-like manipulation of comrades’ personal lives. This isn’t irony, it’s farce!
Contrary to the SL’s claim, our “story” has not changed. The ET never accepted the SL leadership’s account of “cult-like manipulation of comrades’ personal lives” by a “sociopath” in the SL/ANZ in the 1970s. In fact, it is the SL’s story that has changed. In the first (internal) polemic against the ET, Al Nelson, Robertson’s long-serving lieutenant, denounced the ET’s account of the Logan expulsion:
“But to even put the sexual sociopath Logan—who is unfit to be in the workers movement—in the relatively normal Marxist category of a ‘bureaucratic regime’ is itself a savage indictment of the ETs. But they go further and characterize his expulsion as a ‘Stalinist purge trial,’ thereby exonerating him of all his genuine crimes against our comrades. For people who profess such deep concern about the norms of party democracy nothing is too filthy to pick up as a factional club.”
—“Notes on the ‘External Tendency’”,
1 August 1983
Anyone comparing the treatment of the Logan purge in the account of the IBT fusions in 1917 No. 9 to the account in the ET’s 1982 declaration can see that they tell the same story.
Indeed the whole underpinning for the foundation of the “International” Bolshevik Tendency centered on alibiing Bill Logan. According to the IBT founding statement, “We Go Forward!” published in 1917 No. 9 (First Quarter 1991), the main subject of dispute/disagreement between ostensible Trotskyists from three different continents was not a programmatic question. The issue of how to fight the counter-revolution which was then galloping across East Europe and threatening the Soviet degenerated workers state was not addressed nor were the local perspectives and orientation of each group. Virtually the entire article on this fusion is devoted to the momentous historical question of… Bill Logan!
We advise all interested parties to read the article in question and draw their own conclusions. In discussing the political basis upon which the IBT was founded, the article recounts briefly the history of Trotskyism after Trotsky, and the historic significance of the Spartacist tendency and its predecessor, the Revolutionary Tendency.
Despite the SL’s concern that our fusion was without a sufficient programmatic foundation, the political basis of the fusions that united the three founding components of the IBT are clearly spelled out:
“Each group was committed to the revolutionary communist program promulgated by Marx and Engels, elaborated and put into practice by Lenin and Trotsky, codified by the first four Congresses of the Communist International, further developed by Trotsky’s Fourth International and defended by the Spartacist tendency prior to its descent into political banditry.”
—1917 No. 9
The Russian question was dealt with concretely: the article reiterated the Trotskyist program of military support to the Stalinists against counterrevolution, while taking no responsibility for any anti-proletarian acts of the bureaucrats. We also referred to our common agreement on such issues as Poland’s Solidarnosc, military support to the Soviets in Afghanistan, as well as our common analysis of the course of the Nicaraguan revolution and the collapse of the East German deformed workers’ state. Above all, the three founding components of the IBT were united by their common links to the revolutionary tradition of the RT/iSt and a shared commitment to ensure that this programmatic heritage survived the SL leadership’s political degeneration.
Given the historic importance of the iSt to the IBT, it is perhaps not so strange that we paid considerable attention to reaching an understanding of our common history, particularly of the course of the degeneration of the iSt. The 1917 article noted that various IBT members had, for example, sincerely believed the charges against comrade Logan (whose purge was the highest-profile expulsion in the history of the iSt). It was therefore appropriate to evaluate carefully and critically this episode and its significance in the context of the degeneration of the iSt. As the article noted:
“One majoritem in pre-fusion discussions was to separate the truth from the lies. This was necessary to clear the record and prevent the repetition of similar mistakes.”
It is now an article of faith for the IBT, and presumably a criteria of membership, even for those who weren’t at our 1979 conference and haven’t heard the evidence, to assert that Logan is innocent: “The allegations made at the 1979 trial, that Logan was an evil genius who routinely interfered in the sexual lives of members to gratify his bizarre sadistic urges, were never anything more than a malicious invention on the part of Robertson and his acolytes.” That’s a pretty hard pill to swallow for anyone who heard the anguished testimony of Logan’s victims at the 1979 conference, as did some IBTers who were then members of our organization. Some of them were even delegates to the conference and voted for Logan’s expulsion (the decision was unanimous). It is certainly not much of an advertisement for the revolutionary integrity of these IBTers that they sat through what they now claim was a vicious frame-up without raising even a question, much less a hint of protest.
Our position on the 1979 Logan expulsion is no more an “article of faith” than, for example, our position on Gerry Healy’s expulsion of James Robertson from the 1966 London Conference, Kay Ellens’ 1968 split from the SL, the SL’s 1978 “clone” purge or other episodes in the history of our movement. The SL leadership purports to be disturbed that IBT members “who weren’t at our 1979 conference and haven’t heard the evidence” should express an opinion. We have made all the evidence we possess available to our members. We are quite prepared to pay for copying the audio tapes of the 1979 iSt conference, so that our members will be able to hear the testimony presented there for themselves. Is the ICL prepared to make copies available? We suggest they do so—for such tapes will provide a much more comprehensive record of what took place than the iSt internal bulletins now available.
The IBT statement attempts to explain: “The matter was complicated by the fact that charges against Logan contained certain distorted and exaggerated elements of truth.” We are never told what, exactly, they consider to be true about the charges. The IBT admits that, under Logan’s leadership, “a commandist leadership style, a punishing work schedule and lack of consideration for members’ individual needs seriously marred the [SL/ANZ’s] internal life.” But Logan was not expelled for any of these things. He was expelled for acts—18 specific counts of harmful, hurtful, interference in the personal/sexual lives of comrades, forcing couples apart or making them stay together, and for forcing a comrade to give up her baby.
The SL/ANZ membership was driven harder and more intensely than that of any other iSt section, but the operation of the SL/ANZ in the 1970s was not qualitatively different from that of the SL/US at the time. The organization interfered in the personal lives of the comrades through inordinate pressure for transfers and through the extreme personal strains that resulted from the attempt to meet the leadership’s overly ambitious goals. The “punishing work schedule” in the SL/ANZ meant a “lack of consideration for members’ individual needs.” This can be attributed to the youth, inexperience, isolation and political insecurity of the SL/ANZ leadership (including Logan, Hannah and the in-transfers from the SL/US).
Yet the IBT acts like none of this ever happened. Instead, they argue that Logan was framed by a maliciously bureaucratic leadership in New York whose totalitarian powers were so vast as to convince virtually the entire membership of our remote Australian section to fabricate stories against him. And all that without even Stalin’s trappings of state power. One would think that such an organization could only be considered as completely counterposed to the liberating goals of international proletarian socialist revolution. Yet according to the BT at the time we expelled Logan our international tendency was still a revolutionary party!
The New York leadership cynically and maliciously manipulated the genuine grievances of the SL/ANZ membership to demonize Logan, who was one of the few individuals with personal authority and an independent base in the membership of the iSt. This expulsion was only one of a series of episodes that transformed the once-revolutionary Spartacist League into the pseudo-Trotskyist obedience cult it is today. It was a milestone in the degeneration of the iSt, but by itself was not the final and definitive proof that the core cadres of the Spartacist tendency lacked the capacity for self-correction.
Moreover, the new IBT “line” on Logan is at some variance with what Logan argued in his own defense in 1979. Then Logan claimed inexperience, ignorance and isolation as the basis for his actions: “My opportunities to assimilate the norms of the tendency have been very limited, and, for example, it seems clear to me now that I never developed a clear conception of what a couple was.” (!)
But now the IBT claims that everything Logan and Hannah did was approved by New York and that they were “the star pupils and most able practitioners of the Robertson school of party building.” This “Robertson made me do it” defense has a certain demented logic for the BT. It is, however, patently absurd on the face of it. Not even the IBT has ever asserted that the Spartacist leadership decrees which couples will be separated and which allowed to remain together, or pressures mothers into giving up their babies. But that’s exactly what Logan did. And is it an accident that such practices stopped in Australia as soon as he left the section?
At the time of his trial, comrade Logan did not, and perhaps could not, fully understand what was driving the SL leadership. Nonetheless, his comment does not seem to us to conflict with the observations we have made above. Comrades who were separated by the (voluntary) transfers did not claim to be couples; they were mostly very young and the ethos of the 1970s had not lent itself to the easy development of stable relationships. In fact it is clear that (despite the protestations of the leadership) the “norms of the tendency” at the time would not have treated such comrades as couples. However, it is clear that the movement of comrades between localities was an added barrier to the development of personal relationships, and it is also clear that comrade Logan was the central figure in a leadership that was so intent on driving the group forward, that it was quite prepared to do so at the expense of the personal needs of the members.
Within the iSt, the SL/ANZ under Logan and Hannah was held up as a model of how to build a national section from scratch. The 1976 iSt European summer camp scheduled a presentation by them on precisely this question (a presentation that was subsequently pre-empted). We have never asserted that Robertson made Logan “do it,” merely that life in the SL/ANZ was not so very different from the SL/US.
The SL brazenly asserts that:
“Not even the IBT has ever asserted that the Spartacist leadership decrees which couples will be separated and which allowed to remain together….”
The comrades really should do their homework more carefully. On page seven of “The Road to Jimstown,” our most comprehensive (and widely read) article on the history of the degeneration of the SL/US, we wrote:
“Stalin is reported to have told the Lovestoneites in Moscow in 1929 that ‘When you get back to America, nobody will stay with you except your wives.’ Robertson is more ambitious. Frequently in the course of SL purges, extraordinary efforts are directed at splitting couples and getting one to testify against the other. Conversely, those who refuse to split up with soon-to-be ex-comrades know that they will not long survive them in the organization.”
We wrote that because it is the simple truth and is well known by many who have had the pleasure of spending time in Jimstown.
A report from the Permanent Revolution Group (published as part of the Riker/Smith document collection reprinted in Hate Trotskyism, Hate the Spartacist League No. 8) gives evidence that Logan is up to his old tricks. This report positively describes a “communist criticism” session, in which “all comrades were expected to comment openly and frankly on the good and bad characteristics of other comrades.” At the end of this torment—which lasted three days—the organizer, who had a young baby, resigned for not showing enough “vigour and consistency”. Such “methods” were used for years to break critics and mold mindless hacks in Stalinist organizations, and they were also adopted by the moralists of the New Left. But they are antithetical to the training of critical Leninist cadres. And look who’s calling us a “cult”!
The PRG “commcrit” exercise in early 1993 was perfectly innocuous. The organization was overdue for adjustments to the division of labour, and one result of the exercise was the election of a new organizer. Having spent a number of years in this demanding post, the PRG organizer was interested in changing [her] role in the organization. There was no question of any loss of political authority.
Beyond such normal organizational adjustments, it was also necessary to address the fact that the political functioning of some comrades had begun to slip. There were various other symptoms of political demoralization and expressions of dissatisfaction which also had to be dealt with. These ranged from criticisms of the operation of the group as a whole and the performance of various members (particularly leading comrades) to calling into question the fundamental programmatic basis of the Marxist movement.
Initially the PRG executive had intended to raise its concerns with the functioning of various comrades as personnel points in the regular Wellington branch meeting. But it was subsequently proposed that the essential points could be made equally well if, instead of simply focusing on the shortcomings of a few, the discussion were broadened to include the functioning and political development of the group as a whole, from the leadership down to the most recent recruit.
The exercise, which was always projected as a “oneoff” event, took place over three branch meetings. While some comrades (including some leading comrades) found it a bit uncomfortable at points, everyone, including the (now ex-) comrades who had been the initial source of concern, felt that it was a positive experience and had helped to clear the air.
Commenting on the SL’s allegations that these meetings were about “breaking critics” and “molding mindless hacks,” comrade Marcus Hayes remarked:
“I can’t see any objection in principle, and the only ques tion to me then is: was the actual event in practice abusive and unhealthy? It’s entirely a contingent question…. “Concerns based on what the exercise might have been like in other circumstances, or what these things can sometimes turn into, etc., etc., in fact assume circumstances different from what we actually had, that is, something less than a healthy regime.”
By projecting their own internal life onto us, the SL scribes conjure up a truly nightmarish scenario. Their conviction that it must necessarily have been an abusive psychological torture session is presumably grounded in their own experience. In a similar fashion many ex-Communists concluded that Lenin’s democratic centralism led inexorably to Stalin’s gulag. But in politics the truth is always concrete.
That a person, particularly one who claims to be dedicated to fighting for a communist future for humanity, would find personal gratification in the overtly sadistic exercise of power over others is a concept that is foreign to most of us. Such characters are not unknown in both literature and history, and also can often be found in the administrative apparatus of oppressive class rule. But, needless to say, they have no place in the revolutionary Marxist movement.
For the ICL the trial and expulsion of Logan was simply a necessary measure of self-protection, for the organization and its individual members. No more, no less. But what can be said for the IBT which not only made the affirmation of Bill Logan’s good character a central premise of its formation as an “international” tendency but for whom the monster Logan is now their guiding light? The IBT is a political animal of a truly bizarre and dubious sort.
In the history of the left over the past few decades there are many stories of energetic and talented people (usually, but not always, men) with strong personalities and sizeable egos, who began as “dedicated fighters for the communist future” but, unable to fulfil their ambitious plans, and ground down by the pressures of isolation, eventually became demoralized and settled for the pleasures of being a big fish in a little pond. James Robertson (unlike Jack Barnes, Nahuel Moreno, Bob Avakian and dozens of other equivalent little lider maximos) at least has the distinction of having once made some important political contributions.
The suggestion that the expulsion of Bill Logan “was simply a necessary measure of self-protection for the organization” is only true insofar as Logan (who could not be relied upon automatically to endorse each and every instruction from the SL’s perfect master) represented at least a potential political threat. Logan’s prominence within the iSt, and his demonstrated leadership capacity (under his tenure the London Spartacist Group made the largest and most important cadre regroupment in the history of the iSt) led to Robertson’s attempt to bury him under a mountain of slander.
The question is not whether comrades were seriously mistreated in the SL/ANZ under the “Logan regime”. They were. But the commandism, hyper-activity and unreasonable personal pressures on members were aimed at accelerating the growth and influence of Spartacist politics in Australia. The SL/US leadership knew all the contours of the operation and backed the Logan/Hannah leadership on every occasion. Our contention is simply that any reasonable person who investigates the circumstances and weighs the evidence will conclude that Robertson’s “trial” was a hatchet-job.
Comrades Logan and Hannah made serious mistakes, but they have made an honest accounting of them. As we commented in our article announcing the creation of the IBT, “The most cogent refutation of the Spartacist slanders against Logan and Hannah…is their political record since their expulsion.” Despite their bitter experience in the iSt, they remained faithful to the historic program of Trotskyism, and were instrumental in forging the New Zealand section of the IBT on the basis of genuine democratic centralism.” The “party question” is an essential one for Leninists:
“From the origins of our tendency we have insisted that the organizational question is a political question of the first order for a revolutionary grouping. A revolutionary tendency need not always be correct—indeed it cannot always be correct—but it must always be correctible. Whether or not it is correctible is a function of the internal regime which prevails….
“A vibrant and democratic internal political life in a revolutionary organization is not a desirable option but a vital necessity. It is simultaneously the only mechanism for the correction of errors by the leadership and the only framework within which revolutionary cadres can be created. Groupings like the SL of the late 1970s, in which the leadership is able to appropriate an effective monopoly of political expression internally, in the interests of ‘efficiency’ (i.e., by short-circuiting the necessarily time-consuming and difficult process of settling political disputes through democratic internal struggle) prepare their own inevitable political degeneration.”
—1917 No. 1
Sometimes people who make mistakes are able to transcend them. Those who do, and who are prepared to make a serious contribution to building a real Leninist organization, are welcome to take their place in the IBT.
Forward to the Rebirth of the Fourth International!