Spartacist English edition No. 62

Spring 2011

1960 Letter by James Robertson to SWP Political Committee

No to Public Silence on LSSP Betrayal

New York
August 8, 1960

To the Political Committee:

Dear Comrades,

I am addressing you on the matter of our party’s public silence concerning the recent and continuing betrayal of the Ceylonese working class and of the world Trotskyist movement by the Lanka Sama Samaja Party. I refer, of course, to that party’s entry into a “Popular Front” electoral pact with the Stalinist party and with the left bourgeois nationalist party represented by the widow Bandaranaike.

In raising this matter privately with several members of your body I was told that letters have been sent the Ceylonese and that your view is that for the present a greater advantage is to be gained by revolutionary Marxists in the LSSP through our remaining publicly silent. I must disagree and urge you to reconsider.

When I read in the NY Times of the electoral pact and then of the election and finally of the continued support by the LSSP to the new capitalist government, my concern over this classically social-democratic capitulation was mitigated by two thoughts: 1) first that the construction of a genuine Trotskyist party for the island could perhaps emerge out of the shambles, and 2) that now the blocks would really be put to Pablo, not over an obscure vote by his followers in a provincial British Labour Party meeting, but over a clear act of historic proportions by a major party, an act about which the central world organs of the FI would have to take a stand and on the grounds for or against elementary revolutionary principle.

But the silence in the Militant weakens both these hopes. Within Ceylon our silence, while it may temporarily continue our “respectability” in the mouths of the leaders, also places a terrible weapon in their hands against any militants they may have to contend with—“Even the Americans are only privately disturbed and are treating this as a matter between comrades.” And as for Pablo’s stature before the world movement, every day of delay allows him to say in effect: “You’re another maneuverer—subordinating principle to tactics.”

Comrades, that you condemn the Ceylonese ex-Trotskyists, I have no doubt; but your failure to raise this publicly and with great seriousness does the movement internationally a disservice.

With comradely greetings,
James Robertson