Workers Vanguard No. 1013

23 November 2012


Fifty Years of Struggle for Trotskyist Leadership

(Quote of the Week)

In March 1962, the document “In Defense of a Revolutionary Perspective” was submitted to the National Committee of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), leading to the crystallization of the Revolutionary Tendency (RT)—forerunner of the Spartacist League—as the authentic Trotskyist opposition within that party. The SWP leadership’s increasing congruence with the revisionist mutation of Trotskyism known as Pabloism was exemplified by its uncritical enthusing for the Castro-led Cuban Revolution, which overturned capitalist rule in spite of the fact that the working class played no role in that overturn nor in the government that resulted from it.

British Socialist Labour League leader Gerry Healy and his U.S. flunkey, Tim Wohlforth, engineered an unprincipled split in the RT in November 1962, denying that the SWP had undergone degeneration as a revolutionary party. A few years later, we definitively parted company with Healy and Wohlforth when they politically supported such non-proletarian forces as Mao’s Red Guards in China and the “Arab Revolution.”

The Pabloist current that dominated the Trotskyist movement in Europe following World War II posited that the revolutionary role of the proletariat and its vanguard had been replaced by a variety of petty-bourgeois forces. While initially mainly looking to Stalinist formations that would supposedly spawn “centuries” of deformed workers states, the Pabloites went on to tout anticolonial guerrilla struggle as the epicenter of world revolution. By 1963, the SWP majority extended this methodology to the black struggle in the U.S., abandoning attempts to win communist leadership while cheerleading for whatever black leaders were popular.

The document from which the paragraphs below are taken was submitted to the 1963 SWP convention by the RT, whose members were later bureaucratically expelled from the party. Many things have since changed in the world, notably the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union. But throughout the half century, our tendency has remained programmatically steadfast and achieved a modest but real extension of forces outside of the U.S. The positions outlined in these documents, which are contained in our Marxist Bulletin series, remain central to the perspectives of the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist).

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The essence of the debate within the Trotskyist movement is the question of the perspective of the proletariat and its revolutionary vanguard elements toward the existing petit-bourgeois leaderships of the labor movement, the deformed workers states, and the colonial revolution. The heart of the revolutionary perspective of Marxism is in the struggle for the independence of the workers as a class from all non-proletarian forces; the guiding political issue and theoretical criterion is workers’ democracy, of which the supreme expression is workers’ power. This applies to all countries where the proletariat has become capable of carrying on independent politics—only the forms in which the issue is posed vary from country to country. These forms, of course, determine the practical intervention of the Marxists....

The task of the international revolutionary-Marxist movement today is to re-establish its own real existence. To speak of the “conquest of the masses” as a general guideline internationally is a qualitative overstatement. The tasks before most Trotskyist sections and groups today flow from the need for political clarification in the struggle against revisionism, in the context of a level of work of a generally propagandistic and preparatory nature. An indispensable part of our preparation is the development and strengthening of roots within the broader working-class movement without which the Trotskyists would be condemned to sterile isolation or to political degeneration in the periods of rising class struggle and in either case unable to go forward in our historic task of leading the working class to power. Above all what can and must be done is the building of a world party firmly based on strong national sections, the assembling of a cadre of working-class militants won and tested in the process of the class struggle and on the firm basis of the revolutionary perspective of the Fourth International, the program to realize workers’ democracy—culminating in workers’ power.

— “Toward Rebirth of the Fourth International,” June 1963; reprinted in Marxist Bulletin No. 9, “Basic Documents of the Spartacist League”