Workers Vanguard No. 890
13 April 2007
Introducing Prometheus Research Series No. 6
In Honor of Three Women Leaders of the ICL
The Prometheus Research Library is proud to announce the publication of Prometheus Research Series No. 6, Selected Speeches and Writings in Honor of Three Women Leaders of the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist): Martha Phillips, Susan Adams, Elizabeth King Robertson. This bulletin in memory of three outstanding comrades is testimony to the highest human endeavor and political purpose: the struggle to forge a revolutionary, internationalist, proletarian vanguard to fight for new October Revolutions, the necessary first step toward liberating humanity through the creation of classless communist society.
The Prometheus Research Library is the central reference archive of the Spartacist League/U.S. Somewhat different in scope from previous publications in the Prometheus Research Series, which have focused on key historical documents and writings, this new publication adds dimension to the PRLs purpose to collect, preserve and make available the historical record of the international workers movement. In this purpose, there is an unbroken revolutionary continuity reaching back to Lenin and Trotskys Bolsheviks. The PRL staff and comrades who designed the bulletin were guided by a biographical tribute produced by the Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik) Central Committee Department for the Study of the History of the October Revolution and the RKP(b), In Memoriam to the Fighters of the Proletarian Revolution, Who Died in 1917-1921 (Moscow-Leningrad: Gosizdat, 1925). A graphical motif from the volume was recovered and reproduced on the dedication page of Prometheus Research Series No. 6.
Our 96-page bulletin, including 15 pages of photographs, may be ordered for $7.00 from Spartacist Publishing Company.
We reprint below the Introduction to PRS No. 6, by the Prometheus Research Library Staff.
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Martha Phillips, Susan Adams, and Elizabeth King Robertson were cherished comrades whose lives were tragically cut short when they were in their prime as revolutionary communist leaders. We remember them in this Prometheus Research Series bulletin because there is a great deal to be learned from their purposeful lives. Here, memory is a political act. Too often, eulogies tilt toward hagiographies, smoothing out foibles to elevate mortals to mythological stature. Saints dont lead proletarian socialist revolutions. Exceptional people dedicated to a political purpose do: people like Martha Phillips, Susan Adams, and Elizabeth King Robertson.
This bulletin includes only a selection from the international outpouring of speeches and letters about Martha Phillips, Susan Adams, and Elizabeth Robertson. A guide to further reading about them, and to articles written by them, is included as an appendix.
These three women were top cadre of the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist), i.e., the ICL. That they awakened to political consciousness through struggles against the American imperialist war in Vietnam, the struggle for black freedom, and for womens rights is not in itself so unusual for women of their generation. What is remarkable and atypical of their generation, however, is that they remained steadfast in their commitment to proletarian revolution, long after most radicals of that era made peace with the capitalist order and wrote off revolutionary politics as indiscretions of youth in heady times.
What Friedrich Engels said at the funeral of his comrade Karl Marx ably describes what animated Martha Phillips, Susan Adams, and Elizabeth Robertson:
For Marx was above all else a revolutionist. His real mission in life was to contribute, in one way or another, to the overthrow of capitalist society and of the state institutions which it had brought into being, to contribute to the liberation of the modern proletariat, which he was the first to make conscious of its own positions and its needs, conscious of the conditions of its emancipation. Fighting was his element.
The chronicle presented here of the lives of these women, as told through tributes by their closest comrades, is also a powerful and anecdotal narrative of the political history of the Spartacist League/ICL at crucial turning points in world history. All three women gave their utmost to build the Leninist-Trotskyist party necessary to lead the proletariat to victory. Our partys founding of a youth organization, establishment of trade-union fractions, our international extension, codifying Leninist organizational norms, training new cadre, selecting and testing a leadership were in no small measure the work of these three women.
The interrelation of the individual with objective forces in history is highlighted in the role these women played in the ICLs fight to defend and extend the October Revolution. Martha Phillips was a leader in the ICLs fight to reimplant the authentic history and program of Lenin and Trotskys Bolshevik Party in the Soviet Union. Martha was murdered at her post in Moscow in February 1992. The ICL waged an international campaign to press for an investigation into this heinous crime, but it remains unsolved.
Susan Adams, who played a leading role in the ICLs American section and then the French section, picked up the banner and continued the fight to build the nucleus of a Trotskyist party in Russia, after the capitalist counterrevolution had rolled back the gains of the October 1917 Russian Revolution. Trotsky described the Soviet Union under Stalinist rule as a degenerated workers state—despite the usurpation of political power by a bureaucracy, the economic benefits of collectivization of industry remained. The destruction of the Soviet Union was a huge blow to the international working class. Political consciousness was hurled back, while triumphant capitalist rulers push the lie that communism is dead. Susan Adams work is an affirmation that communism lives in the proletarian struggle against racist, capitalist exploitation around the world.
Our own party was not immune to the reactionary pressures of the political period. Elizabeth Robertson played a leading role in our struggle to reconstruct a badly damaged party, including through extraordinary, unsparing examination of her own role—a capacity rarely seen in any walk of life. In pushing herself, when she was already very ill, Lizzy set an example for political accountability of every party cadre. Her careful, thoughtful, well-researched work, codified in the ICLs international organizational rules and guidelines, is vital in the continual struggle to build a democratic-centralist international that Lenin and Trotsky would recognize as their own.
An examination of the lives and work of Martha Phillips, Susan Adams, and Elizabeth Robertson is rich in political lessons for all our comrades, and especially the youth, who carry a special responsibility in the party-wide struggle for revolutionary continuity. Trotsky addressed his remarks to the youth when assessing the meaning of the loss of his comrade Kote Tsintsadze:
The Communist parties in the West have not yet brought up fighters of Tsintsadzes type. This is their besetting weakness, determined by historical reasons but nonetheless a weakness. The Left Opposition in the Western countries is not an exception in this respect and it must well take note of it.
Especially for the Opposition youth, the example of Tsintsadze can and should serve as a lesson. Tsintsadze was the living negation of any kind of political careerism, that is, the inclination to sacrifice principles, ideas, and tasks of the cause for personal ends. This does not in the least rule out justified revolutionary ambition. No, political ambition plays a very important part in the struggle. But the revolutionary begins where personal ambition is fully and wholly subordinated to the service of a great idea, voluntarily submitting to and merging with it. Flirtation with ideas or dilettante dabbling with them for personal advantage is what Tsintsadze pitilessly condemned both through his life and his death. His was the ambition of unshakable revolutionary loyalty. It should serve as a lesson to the proletarian youth.
—At the Fresh Grave of Kote Tsintsadze,
7 January 1931
We believe Trotsky would have recognized these three women as comrades of the caliber of Kote Tsintsadze.