BT contribution to the first session of the IG/SL debate (13 January 2024)

Tom Riley speaking for the Bolshevik Tendency: today’s event is significant because, as we wrote in “The Road to Jimstown”:

“The Spartacist League was not just one left grouping among many—it was the crystallization of the left-wing opposition to the political destruction by Pabloite revisionism of the revolutionary Socialist Workers Party (SWP)—a party built by James P. Cannon and trained by Leon Trotsky….”

The qualitative superiority of the RT/SL over every other current claiming the mantle of Trotskyism was demonstrated first by its correct analysis of the Cuban Revolution and subsequently confirmed by its positions on many other crucial programmatic questions through the 1960s and 70s. But something went seriously awry with the SL—and it is vital to identify what went wrong and how it happened.

We think the “Montreal Collective” is mistaken in seeing the RT as programmatically flawed from the beginning and also very wrong to reject the SL’s important contributions on the national question (as we outlined in “In Defense of [Seymour’s] Marxism”). The IG has correctly criticized the SL’s historical pessimism, scholastic passivity and introversion after the August 1991 triumph of capitalist counterrevolution in the Soviet Union. But the IG is wrong to pretend that all was well in the House of Robertson prior to 1996.

The leaflet we distributed today highlights some of the more egregious examples of the SL’s political degeneration over the course of the 1980s. Some of these grew out of a desire to avoid the wrath of the US ruling class, like Farrell Dobbs in 1963 with his cringing letter of condolence to Jackie Kennedy. There were also significant deviations on the “Russian question,” ranging from the Stalinophilic adulation of Yuri Andropov (who oversaw the crushing of the 1956 Hungarian workers’ political revolution) to flinching when Soviet defensism was acutely posed, as in the case of the termination of the KAL 007 spy flight in 1983.

There is also the issue of moral corrosion. The IG was indeed framed-up in 1996. But there were a lot of earlier ones including ours in Toronto and before that Bill Logan in 1979. Another manifestation of which was the resort to slander. The Healyites, who denounced the SL as “the fingerman for the world capitalists” (1) in 1968 went on to brand Joe Hansen a GPU agent. Today, the SL can take an important step forward by retracting the calumnies against both IG and BT comrades as “provocateurs.” You know that was wrong; if you tell the simple truth you will be setting a good example for the IG, which should also repudiate the slanders published in WV when it was edited by Jan Norden. A rigorous and serious discussion of our common political history is not only long overdue but also essential for forging the revolutionary cadres of the future.