Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

April 7, 2010

History of the Marxist Internationals (part 6, Trotskyist collapse)

Filed under: history of the Marxist internationals,revolutionary organizing — louisproyect @ 5:42 pm

As anybody familiar with the revolutionary left will know, the Fourth International is a brand name that has been adopted by many different retailers. From its very beginning, the movement tended to cultivate various leaders who adopted the style of Leon Trotsky, a brilliant thinker who was far better at exposing the crimes, sins and peccadilloes of his ideological adversaries than uniting diverse anti-capitalist individuals and groups into a cohesive movement.

By contrast, Lenin was much better at wielding together diverse elements into a fighting movement. Despite his reputation for being a go-for-the-jugular polemicist, Lenin was far less interested in drawing sharp ideological distinctions than Trotsky. Consider the role of Iskra, for example. Lenin proposed the need for a newspaper that could unite socialists across Russia at the “What is to be Done” conference. In other words, if you were for socialism, you belonged in the social democratic party that was still gestating. Once that party was formed, there were few expulsions—arguably only one: Bogdanov, whose philosophical peregrinations threatened to undermine the basic theoretical foundations of the Russian party. Furthermore, it is probably a mistake to view the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks as hardened opponents. Despite the frequent polemics against the Mensheviks, Lenin was always exploring ways to mend the rift between the two factions.

The ideological basis for the Fourth International, as I explained in my last post, was the platform of the Left Opposition. In my view, Leon Trotsky would have been far more successful if he had struggled to build a world movement on a much broader basis, namely for workers democracy in the USSR, political independence from the bourgeoisie, etc. This might have meant having a much more forgiving attitude toward the centrists, who were willing to go along with Trotsky on 80 percent of his program. Indeed, the history of the Bolshevik Party reveals a kind of ideological diversity that attempts to “improve” it both in the Comintern and the Fourth International proved futile. The reason for this is simple. Just as there are various levels of consciousness in the working class, there will also be various levels in its organized political expressions. That is the reality of politics. Attempts to circumvent this reality will always end up in sect formations, as Hal Draper so eloquently put it:

What characterizes the classic sect was best defined by Marx himself: it counterposes its sect criterion of programmatic points against the real movement of the workers in the class struggle, which may not measure up to its high demands. The touchstone of support (the “point d’honneur,” in Marx’s words) is conformity with the sect’s current shibboleths – whatever they may be, including programmatic points good in themselves. The approach pointed by Marx was different: without giving up or concealing one’s own programmatic politics in the slightest degree, the real Marxist looks to the lines of struggle calculated to move decisive sectors of the class into action – into movement against the established powers of the system (state and bourgeoisie and their agents, including their labor lieutenants inside the workers’ movement). And for Marx, it is this reality of social (class) collision which will work to elevate the class’s consciousness to the level of the socialist movement’s program.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle to building an inclusive movement was the record of a struggle in the American section of the Fourth International that supposedly exhibited Leon Trotsky at his best, namely the faction fight with Max Shachtman, James Burnham and Martin Abern. With the notion that their “petty bourgeois” methodology was opposed to the “proletarian” Cannon faction, amounting to a scratch that could lead to gangrene, you get the debating style that has marked Trotskyism until the current day.

The first major episode of gangrene prevention took place in 1953 when the Fourth International split over the role of “Pabloism”. Greek Trotskyist and FI leader Michael Raptis, who used the party name Pablo, had decided that the Cold War would transform the CP’s into imperfect revolutionary instruments. And, as such, they would be the proper place for Trotskyists to operate in a “deep entry” mode. When the majority of the French section dug in its heels to oppose this tactic, the leadership was replaced by a minority that favored it.

This abuse as well as a certain amount of Stalinophobia from James P. Cannon, the American Trotskyist leader, and his allies led to a split. Cannon, Gerry Healy from the British section, and Pierre Lambert, the purged French majority leader, formed the International Committee while Ernest Mandel led a so-called International Secretariat committed to one degree or another to Pablo’s perspective.

Despite the IC’s characterization of Michael Raptis as some kind of Satan, he played an important role in solidarizing with the Algerian revolution as the wiki on Pablo notes:

He was personally closely involved in supporting the Algerian national liberation struggle against France, which led to imprisonment in Holland in connection with counterfeit money and gun-smuggling activities. A campaign for his release was launched by Jean-Paul Sartre. In 1961 Pablo was finally sentenced to 15 months imprisonment, and liberated at the end of his trial. He took refuge in Morocco. After the victory of the Algerian revolution, he became a minister in the FLN government.

To the credit of the American Trotskyists and the Ernest Mandel leadership, they realized that their shared support of Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution compelled them to reunite in 1963. Gerry Healy and Pierre Lambert would have no part of this, however. Healy regarded Fidel Castro as a bourgeois nationalist and denied that capitalism had ever been overturned. Lambert was more prone to analyze Cuba in terms of the workers having failed to take power but I admit to not remembering the fine points of such arcane disputations from my misspent youth.

When I joined the Trotskyist movement in 1967, a mere four years after the reunification, the “betrayal” was still fresh in the minds of two small groups led by American supporters of the IC. One group, called the Workers League, was led by Tim Wolforth and had won the approval of Gerry Healy as his official American satellite. The other, called the Spartacist League, was led by James Robertson, a bizarre cult figure who I have never had the pleasure of seeing in public. Both of these groups were obsessed with “Pabloite revisionism” and would show up at public meetings of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) or at antiwar conferences to harangue the apple-cheeked student activists about Pablo’s betrayals. Today, Tim Wolforth is something of a Eustonite liberal while Robertson remains as elusive as ever.

For the first five years or so I was in the SWP, everything seemed to be going swimmingly well in our world movement although from time to time I got the sense that the Mandel wing of the movement was just a bit off. I remember when the SWP organized a class on party history back in 1968, with all the big guns like Farrell Dobbs lecturing us on how wonderful we were. During a break, I was chatting with Judy White, a party functionary, about this and that and she volunteered that the party was anxious to train new members like me or else we might end up like the Europeans. It all sounded like a parent advising a child on the need to brush one’s teeth three times a day.

Despite this, the major emphasis was on the importance of unity especially in light of the prominent role of the French Trotskyists in the May-June events of 1968. The LCR, which would eventually fold itself into the NPA, seemed to be everywhere on the barricades and Alain Krivine emerged as a key student leader. Within the year, the SWP would be on the barricades in Berkeley during the People’s Park struggle. Peter Camejo, who played a key role in the struggle, gave talks around the country making an explicit link between Berkeley and France. Revolution, as Max Elbaum would put it, was in the air.

Not only was revolution in the air, there was a lot of ultraleftism as well. From making barricades, the next step for many leftists was picking up the gun. Urban guerrilla warfare became an epidemic worldwide, including Argentina where two factions of the Trotskyist movement emerged. One was led by Nahuel Moreno, a veteran of the Trotskyist movement who had opposed Pablo. It was oriented to trade union struggles and the mass movement. The other faction was involved with armed actions, particularly hijacking of trucks whose goods were dispensed in poor and working-class neighborhoods a la Robin Hood. Moreno eventually broke completely with the guerrillas and formed a new group called the SWP. At the time we were convinced that Moreno was “one of us” in the spirit of Judy White’s warnings.

Joseph Hansen, a veteran of the SWP who was Trotsky’s bodyguard and generally very astute, wrote a defense of our mass movement orientation titled In Defense of the Leninist Strategy Of Party Building in 1971 that became our main rallying cry against the urban guerrilla warfare orientation of Ernest Mandel and his supporters. It is very much worth reading, even if the “party building” amounts to the kind of clumsy “vanguard” approach I now reject. Joe Hansen was a terrific writer who taught me a lot. He is especially good on the virus of ultraleftism that had infected the left, including Robin Blackburn who at the time was a member of the British section along with Tariq Ali and the late Peter Gowans. Hansen refers to Blackburn in his customarily dry but devastating fashion:

Blackburn mentions specific cases of bombings ascribable to those who have presumably opted for outright civil war. He includes in his survey the following: “At the end of last year Hoover of the F.B.I. announced that he had discovered a collective, comprising almost entirely of priests and nuns, with a plan to kidnap a White House official to be exchanged for a bombing halt in IndoChina.”

(Blackburn is referring to the Daniel and Philip Berrigan frame-up case. He fails to mention that the two pacifist priests, speaking from their prison cells in Danbury, Connecticut, where they were alleged to have masterminded the plot, branded the charges as fabrications.)

Not long after Hansen had written this article, the honeymoon between Moreno and the Americans would be over. Despite some initial confusion over the Sandinistas, the SWP would decide that it was a movement worth supporting. Moreno, on the other hand, regarded them as bourgeois nationalists in the manner in which Healy and Lambert regarded Castro. So deep was his hostility that the Sandinistas decided to expel Moreno’s supporters from Nicaragua after refusing to accept the government as legitimate. Old habits die hard apparently.

Within a year or so, Moreno had set up his own Fourth International. Now there were three contestants vying for the right to be regarded as the authentic heir of Leon Trotsky.

Just around the time that Moreno was launching out on his own, the leader of the SWP, a character named Jack Barnes, decided that a kind of Fifth International was taking shape, although he never referred to it as such. Enamored of the FSLN, the FMLN in El Salvador, the New Jewel Movement in Grenada and the African National Congress, Barnes decided that the traditional Trotskyist project was defunct.

Oddly enough, this bid to connect with living and dynamic movements (at least in this period in history) was at odds with the SWP’s rapid transformation into a sect-cult. The new orientation to groups outside the Trotskyist movement was accompanied by the party’s self-isolation from arguably the counterparts of such groups inside the United States, as well as the mass movement in general. As part of the “turn toward industry”, the SWP decided that all of the movements it had once participated in could only be found within the trade unions. So, for example, the principal agency of opposition to Reagan’s wars in Central America would be the AFL-CIO, even if there was no evidence that the unions were ready to move. So the end result was abstention from the real movement that included Catholic nuns and computer programmers in its ranks rather than steelworkers or truck drivers.

For obvious reasons, the SWP could not sustain the illusion that a new international could be made up of itself and groups like the FSLN, which had imploded under the impact of US war and economic blockade. The SWP itself would begin to implode under the impact of the helmsman’s bizarre workerist schemas. It has set up its own international movement in recent years consisting of itself and tiny satellite groups in places like New Zealand that sell the SWP’s newspaper. On his worst days, I doubt that Pablo could have come up with something more grotesque.

Except for the Peter Taaffe, Alan Woods and Alex Callinicos led formations out of Britain, there are few claimants to the crown of Leon Trotsky’s successor. While Callinicos never would have staked out such a claim in ideological terms, there is clear evidence that the kinds of heavy-handed democratic centralism that proved to be the undoing of so many Fourth International groupings hampers the influence of his own state capitalist movement. When the American ISO developed fairly minor differences with Callinicos, they were expelled from the world organization. With respect to Taaffe and Woods, rival claimants to the Militant Tendency’s ideological legacy, there are few signs that they are ready to break with the Fourth International model.

That will have to be left up to new forces, particularly those responding to Hugo Chavez’s call for a Fifth International, the subject of my final post in this series.


  1. Many years back I met James Robertson. He’s where the Sparts get their shoutiness from.

    Anyway you don’t really spend much time tracking the “state cap” wing of Trotskyism here (and I’m not really talking “classic” period Shachtmanism). Is it accurate to say you think the Russian question is much less important in the post-Communist era?

    Comment by ish — April 8, 2010 @ 12:08 am

  2. Is it accurate to say you think the Russian question is much less important in the post-Communist era?

    Except when it comes to Cuba. It is really too bad that the ISO harps on this question so much. It prevents people who have not been indoctrinated in that theory from joining. The left in the USA would be much stronger if the ISO had 10,000 members even if it was precluded from becoming qualitatively bigger by its vanguardist conceptions.

    Comment by louisproyect — April 8, 2010 @ 12:21 am

  3. The ISO, when it speaks about Cuba at all, is implacably opposed to the Cuban revolution and its leadership. Whatever criticisms the ISO has of life in the United States, they want their audience and membership to know there is NOTHING positive about Cuba in any way, shape or form. They are not alone in thinking this way, of course.

    Today it hardly matters what anyone’s “position” is on the “Russian Question” since it’s a matter for historical conjecture and speculation. Russia has reverted to capitalism. How and why is interesting to discuss, but the process is over.

    The proposal to form a Fifth International poses the question of what happened to the previous ones, two of which continue to exist today. One is a party which administers capitalism in a number of countries. The other is composed mostly of modest propaganda groupings, mostly in advanced capitalist countries.

    Given the centrality of the Cuban revolution in these discussions, and in Latin America as a whole, it’s notable that there has been no mention of the proposed Fifth International anywhere in the Cuban media. While the Cubans and the Chavez leadership in Venezuela are very closely aligned, the political situations confronting the two, both at home and internationally couldn’t be more different.

    The capitalist mode of production was almost completely abolished in 1960, and the old capitalist state apparatus had collapsed when Batista’s forces were defeated and he and his closest collaborators left the country. The Revolution has managed to survive a raft of radical changes, but it’s been scarred by these experiences.

    Chavez has a revolutionary anti-capitalist vocabulary, but the country remains fundamentally capitalist. The Cuban capitalist class left the island in the early 1960s while the Venezuelan capitalist class remains inside Venezuela fighting by any means it can develop against the Bolivarian process.

    Cuba is beginning a new process of internal disussion, debate and change, as indicated in the remarkably blunt and forthright presentation Raul Castro made a few days ago at the meeting of the Young Communist League.

    Perhaps this explains the absence of any mention, even of news reports in the island’s media, of the proposed Fifth International. Those interested in Cuba and why they seem to have their hands and plate full might check out Raul Castro’s fascinating report:

    Comment by Walter Lippmann — April 8, 2010 @ 12:40 am

  4. The ISO’s opportunist grovelling after Obama’s “mass movement” for the past two years, not its alleged “vanguard conceptions,” pose a far greater problem insofar as building the far left goes than their fealty to Tonby Cliff’s crack-pot theory of “state capitalism.” Then again, what does it say about an American “socialist” group that displays more hostility to Fidel Castro than to Barack Obama?

    As for the non or anti-vanguardist group par excellance, Solidarity, it still can’t even put out a newspaper, even though it has been in business since the middle 1980s and it has far more experienced cadre from the 1960s and 70s SWP and IS than the ISO ever had. They were probably the only left group that didn’t grow during the anti-gloablization and anti-war movements. But, then again, they probably didn’t even try, since that would have been too “vanguardist” to begin with.

    Comment by MN Roy — April 8, 2010 @ 12:40 am

  5. As for the non or anti-vanguardist group par excellance, Solidarity, it still can’t even put out a newspaper

    Roy, what a silly comment. They have put out a monthly magazine the entire time, consuming admittedly a forest the size of Westchester County but that is a topic for another discussion.

    Comment by louisproyect — April 8, 2010 @ 12:48 am

  6. People should understand that Walter Lippmann is not very interested in building the socialist movement in the USA but rather rating groups on their stance toward Cuba. From that perspective, the American SWP get 4 stars while the ISO gets perhaps 1. This is utterly ridiculous. Peter Camejo, who was an outstanding defender of the Cuban revolution his entire life, worked closely with the ISO and did not hold their views on Cuba against them. The American SWP, as I have pointed out on numerous occasions, is a brain-dead cult no matter how many articles they write about Cuba.

    Comment by louisproyect — April 8, 2010 @ 12:52 am

  7. My vitrolics againstthe ISO made me forget to mention that I actually saw and heard Jim Robertson speak in public at a Spart “educational” conference in 1981 at the Barbizon Hotel in Midtown…the same one Tom Hanks was supposed to live in (disguised as a woman) on the “Bosum Buddies” TV show.

    He spoke from the floor during the discussion period about the 1905 Russian Revolution…attacking some Tsarist admiral for losing a key naval battle to the Japanese and complaining that the Tsar didn’t have him shot for treason! Coincidentally that was the same year that the Sparts came out for crushing the Polish workers…even before their heroes in the Stalinist bureaucracy did!

    Later in the early 1990s, when I was a member of the Fourth Internationalist Tendency, I was told by one of my comrades, that none other than Robertson himself, accomapnied by a pair of burly bodyguards, was prowling the halls of the New School before a forum on Trotsky that we were holding there. Since neither he nor his entourage attended the meeting, I assume they were either in pursuit of booze or women, two of the great leaders loves and/or lusts. Can’t wait until his ghost-written memoirs come out, they’ll certainly make for entertaining reading!

    Comment by MN Roy — April 8, 2010 @ 12:56 am

  8. Bi-monthly, and while it does, on occasion, carry more interesting articles than the ISR does, it’s hardly a means by which the group intervenes politically…which is, of course, the last thing they would want to do. Any way, it’s just indicative of the way that they operate politically. Hence their failure to attract any one, outside of disillusioned burn-outs from the “vanguard” groups.

    Comment by MN Roy — April 8, 2010 @ 1:02 am

  9. it’s hardly a means by which the group intervenes politically

    I think it is a good idea for the left to stop thinking in terms of “intervention”. If you look up the word in Webster’s, it means “interference”. This was exactly how the SWP operated and it has to come to an end.

    Comment by louisproyect — April 8, 2010 @ 1:06 am

  10. Then why even bother constituting a “group,” let alone aspire to build some, or any for that matter, kind of “party?” Why even bother coming together in any kind of “political” organization at all? Just to cheer on any thing that moves…like the Castro or Chavez fan clubs that you correctly critique…or, perhaps, help “build movements” so that a Leslie Cagan, who knows eaxctly what she wants (and is willing to organize to get it as well) can lead them into the Democratic party.

    Most of the world doesn’t know…or care, how the SWP operated in the 1960s and 70s, let alone think that it was the defining experience for the workers movement or the left. Groups like Solidarity represent an over-reaction to the mistakes and excesses of that period. They tend to toss out the whole “Leninist-Trotskyist” (and I use these terms for lack of a better one) baby with the Barnes bath water.

    And just what have they come up with to replace it? Little more than the all-inclusiveness of the Second International…minus the masses who made up the “party of the whole class.” Small wonder Kautsky is making a comeback amongst some of the left academics and even sect spokesmen in England.

    Comment by MN Roy — April 8, 2010 @ 1:56 am

  11. Roy, people toss out the “Leninist-Trotskyist” model because it breeds megalomaniacs and jackasses as should be obvious from my post. In fact, I left out a lot of the more disgusting aspects to this story to conserve space, including Posada’s call for preemptive nuclear warfare and Gerry Healy’s accusations that Tim Wolforth and Joe Hansen were CIA agents. I get the impression that your participation in the FIT did not last that long, so I am not sure whether you understand what it really means to be part of such an organization. In fact, it can be argued that FIT was just a collection of ex-SWP’er more than anything else. I doubt membership in the FIT involved the kind of onerous tasks such as plant-gate sales and the financial tithes extracted from the membership. You are idealizing an experience I found a total nightmare.

    Comment by louisproyect — April 8, 2010 @ 2:13 am

  12. You’re right the ex-SWPers in the FIT, what ever their other faults may have been, didn’t create a “nightmare” experience. Unlike their rivals in Socialist Action they learned something from their “nightmare” in the middle 1980s.

    However, your “nightmare,” as bad as it may have been for you, was hardly the definitive experience of the workers movement or the left. No one put a gun to the back of your neck in the cellar of a prison. You could have gotten up and walked out at any time…or fought back like the POT or the IT did. If generalizing from the Bolshevik experience is supposed to be a mistake, then what does generalizing from the SWP constitute?

    And let’s not forget that those SWPers who resisted Barnes (and Hanson, for that matter) in the POT and the IT had a lot wosre of a nightmare than those who went along with them.

    Finally, as you know, I am well aware of the absurdities that the various Trot gurus have been responsible for. What gets me is that you overlook the wretched positions that groups like Solidarity (or even the ISO) take (positions that you have vehemently opposed) because they share your over-riding obsession with 60s and 70s SWP stuff.

    Any way, I’m leaving work now, so you can get the last word in…for today. No hard feelings.

    Comment by MN Roy — April 8, 2010 @ 3:02 am

  13. Just dump Trotskyism and even “Leninism” altogether and go for the Kautsky Revival and Second Internationalism, only be clear on these things:

    1) “Socialism” vs. the lower phase of the communist mode of production (Paul Cockshott)
    2) Updating Greek demokratia (especially re. not having elections of persons at all, also Paul Cockshott)
    3) The class nature of the state
    4) Mature approaches to bureaucracy as a double-edged sword, hence real parties being real movements and vice versa with “alternative culture” bodies
    5) Pan-nationalism, inter-nationalism, and trans-nationalism

    Comment by Jacob Richter — April 8, 2010 @ 4:15 am

  14. 6) Being against governmental coalitionism (which compromises class independence) and “action-ism” (including mass strike fetishes a la 1968), which goes hand in hand with Revolutionary Centrism’s Point #4 above

    Comment by Jacob Richter — April 8, 2010 @ 4:18 am

  15. “It all sounded like a parent advising a child on the need to brush one’s teeth three times a day.”

    So much of the vanguardist left have acted like that with new members. This is one aspect of the practice of inoculation that accompanies recruiting. New members are first “inoculated” against rival groups with a bit of ominous sounding jargon about the rivals being Stalinists, revisionists, undemocratic or whatever. It is a sad shortcut to explaining the differences on the left and only reinforces the stupid divisions we suffer.

    As Liam MacUaid puts it
    “Drummed into every fresh faced revolutionary neophyte is the conviction that the only meaningful measure of success is how big YOUR group is, how many front organisations it can run simultaneously and how many papers it sells at demonstrations. It’s predicated on two ideas. The first is that only one current can have the monopoly on wisdom. The second is that the key for a successful revolutionary transformation is persuading everyone else to accept the first idea.”

    Comment by Ben Courtice — April 8, 2010 @ 7:38 am

  16. This post highlights the fact that Lenin was equally pragmatic and principled. He could ridicule Trotsky’s position one day and welcome him into the ranks of the Bolsheviks the next. Trotsky and many of his followers in the 4th International, on the other hand, would ridicule someone’s position and force the issue to the point of expulsions, splits, and so on. I think there is something to be said about the absurdity of tiny little grouplets scattered about the world debating, voting, and acting as if they are national sections of a united democratic centralist International a la the mass workers’ parties of the early Comintern as if the fate of the world revolution hung in the balance depending on the outcome of a debate on Argentina, the class nature of the USSR, the invasion of Finland, etc.

    I appreciate these posts even though I come from a “different tradition,” so to speak. In general, I’ve learned that labels (Trotskyist, Cliffite, Stalinist, Maoist, Pabloist) often get in the way more than they help clarify since everyone has their own preconceptions about what these labels mean. It’s important to focus on the core issues, ideas, and political practice, and debate these things out on those terms without being so quick to label someone a capitalist roader, counter-revolutionary, petty-bourgeois, or what have you.

    Comment by Binh — April 8, 2010 @ 3:22 pm

  17. All this stuff about Jim Robertson is really silly. I was in the SL for several years a long time ago. If it was a cult around Robertson, someone forgot to inform the members. I saw Robertson speak several times. He was not bizarre, although he clearly has a moderately perverse sense of humor and he loves to be provocative. And the “support” to the “crushing of the Polish workers” means to you opposition to Solidarity? My god, after the role they played in the counterrevolution in Poland and Eastern Europe and their connections to the CIA, you still support them? The SL analysis of who they were was spot on. While we are talking about it, do you still suppport the Iranian “revolution”? Is the Chador still a symbol of anti-imperialism?

    Comment by dyourman — April 8, 2010 @ 9:04 pm

  18. Louis

    You are just to kind to the SWP, their demise started long before the timeline you give.

    1938 is more like it, comrade Trotsky wrote a whole book about it “In Defence of Marxism”, Cannon’s heavy handed ways towards the British section, the mistakes in how they guarded Trotsky during the assassination attempts in Mexico (Estaban Volkov and Natalia Sedova never forgave them for it and resigned over their lack of defense of comrade Trotsky at the Nuremburg Trials),the misinterpation of the world and Europe after World War 2, the abandonment of the traditonal Marxism on Palestine/Israel and the Jewish Question in 1971,the FBI penatration, the Barnes groupings could be a whole book and discarding of the theory of “Permanent Revolution”

    I mean the list of degeneration could go on forever and it mostly happened even before you joined…before you so called enlightenment.You did not look at the facts beforehand.

    Yea,you let them off pretty easy.

    Comment by Cort Greene — April 8, 2010 @ 9:35 pm

  19. Greene: “Estaban Volkov and Natalia Sedova never forgave them for it and resigned over their lack of defense of comrade Trotsky at the Nuremburg Trials.”

    Are you fucking kidding?

    Comment by John B. — April 9, 2010 @ 1:46 am

  20. I’ve been a supporter of the Woods faction for several years now due in large part to its critical support to the Venezuelan revolution and Chavez’call for a 5th International the very lack of sectarian bickering that appear in the organization’s press, the organization’s critical stance towards its own history etc. Occasionally there are ruptures within our ranks but they don’t become the topic of public discussions or personal hate week, and I think that Alan Woods, despite all his reputation for being an egoist, works pretty steadily at staying outside of that crap. We try to work in the mass movements we find, we present our point of view consistently but we try to keep our focus on the labor movement that exists, even as we orient towards marxist theory. Our supporters contribute to blogs like this one, but we don’t split hairs with people over the fine points of trotskyist history that Louis raises since it is clear that that’s not what this space is for.

    Obviously there have been chapters in our past that we’re not particularly proud of, but I don’t think we go out of our way to hide them from anybody. But, after years in the “democratic” party, and having tried to work in the Labor Party, the Greens, the Black Radical Congress, the Maoists (RCP and League of Revolutionary Struggle) and at least half a dozen trotskyist sects including the ISO during 3 different periods of my life, I’ve found the IMT to be a political grouping that is best at maintaining its focus on the independent socialist leadership of the working class, I actually enjoy the folks I’ve met through the organization, and they’re politically sober enough for me without losing hold of the idea and practice of revolutionary worker democracy.

    I don’t want to take up bandwidth debating the matter with anyone, but will be interested in seeing what Louis brings to the table in connection with the history of our tendency, which is among those that have endorsed Chavez’ call for a 5th international, which Louis says his next installment will be about.

    Comment by Michael Hureaux — April 9, 2010 @ 5:57 pm

  21. I’ve noticed lately that the SWP is quietly dropping the “Workers and farmers government” moniker in it’s propagnada, and returning to the “Dictatorship of the Proletariat”. No big insight from me, just an observation.

    Comment by Dave — April 9, 2010 @ 8:53 pm

  22. Michael is just being bizarre given the very public self-destruction of the IMT currently under way. Members are being expelled left and right. I happen to disagree with Louis, but it’s quite funny when characters from various tiny international groupings somehow conclude that these posts are a recruiting opportunity.

    Comment by christian h. — April 10, 2010 @ 5:51 am

  23. Christian H., I was making no effort to recruit, and couldnt’ care less what you think about the internal life of an organization you don’t want to be part of to begin with. Go soak your head.

    Comment by Michael Hureaux — April 10, 2010 @ 4:43 pm

  24. It’s really insulting to have it insinuated. I and many others who are members of WIL have posted at this blog for years, and you’d be hard pressed to find even a SINGLE instance from any of us where we were attempting to recruit for the IMT. We come here, we audit, we exchange ideas on everything else and learn like everyone else here. What you said is total bullshit, Christian. Total Bullshit. I want an apology.

    Comment by Michael Hureaux — April 10, 2010 @ 5:05 pm

  25. Michael is totally right. I have never seen the slightest sign of him proselytizing here. People generally don’t bother posting here with any kind of agenda, thank goodness.

    Comment by louisproyect — April 10, 2010 @ 5:16 pm

  26. Okay, I apologize. Your claims of how the IMT is superior to numerous other groups are not intended to recruit. Got it.

    Comment by christian h. — April 11, 2010 @ 12:11 am

  27. Christian: get off my ass.

    Comment by Michael hureaux — April 11, 2010 @ 1:12 am

  28. So how the SWP guarded or failed to guard Trotsky as bodyguards is a question of political degeneration? Am I reading that right?

    Here’s her last statement resigning from the 4th International. I see many things I agree with as a state-cap, but nothing about Nuremburg:

    Comment by Binh — April 12, 2010 @ 8:06 pm

  29. I worked with James Robertson when we were both technicians at INCO in Bayonne NJ. He introduced me, a working class Jersey City 19 year old going to night school, to the Spartacist League and I worked with them for a few years. It was no cult. As a psychologist who has studied cults, the league was not even close to being one. James was a true intellectual, he loved to debate and his paranoia was genuine given the fact that the CIA were at every meeting large and small and all out phones were tapped

    Comment by czander — March 28, 2011 @ 7:11 pm

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