Saturday, January 08, 2011

*Those Who Fought For Our Communist Future Are Kindred Spirits- Honor Vietnamese Trotskyist Leader Ta Thu Thau

Markin comment:

Every January, as readers of this blog are now, hopefully, familiar with the international communist movement honors the 3 Ls-Lenin, Luxemburg and Liebknecht, fallen leaders of the early 20th century communist movement who died in this month (and whose untimely deaths left a huge, irreplaceable gap in the international leadership of that time). January is thus a time for us to reflect on the roots of our movement and those who brought us along this far. In order to give a fuller measure of honor to our fallen forbears this January, and in future Januarys, this space will honor others who have contributed in some way to the struggle for our communist future. That future classless society, however, will be the true memorial to their sacrifices.

Note on inclusion: As in other series on this site (“Labor’s Untold Story”, “Leaders Of The Bolshevik Revolution”, etc.) this year’s honorees do not exhaust the list of every possible communist worthy of the name. Nor, in fact, is the list limited to Bolshevik-style communists. There will be names included from other traditions (like anarchism, social democracy, the Diggers, Levellers, Jacobins, etc.) whose efforts contributed to the international struggle. Also, as was true of previous series this year’s efforts are no more than an introduction to these heroes of the class struggle. Future years will see more detailed information on each entry, particularly about many of the lesser known figures. Better yet, the reader can pick up the ball and run with it if he or she has more knowledge about the particular exploits of some communist militant, or to include a missing one.


Ta Thu Thau
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Ta Thu ThauTạ Thu Thâu (May 6, 1906–September 1945) was a Vietnamese Trotskyist and the leader of the Fourth International in Vietnam.

Contents [hide]
1 Early life
2 Political career
3 Assassination
4 Sources
5 See also
6 External links

[edit] Early life
Ta Thu Thau was born in a small hamlet in Tan Binh, 17 km (11 mi) south of Long Xuyen, the capital of An Giang Province in Southern Vietnam. His family were poor and leading a semi-peasant lifestyle. His father was an itinerant village carpenter and when his family was established in Long Xuyen, Ta Thu Thau went to primary school, and by working as a servant during holiday periods was able to continue his studies further. He was a brilliant student who went to France for university studies in 1927. Like many of his generation he lived a time when Vietnamese revolutionary nationalism was passing over to Marxism and communism.

[edit] Political career
Arrested during a protest demonstration against the execution of the Yen Bay rebels in front of the Elysee Palace on 22 May 1930, he was arrested and expelled back to Vietnam. Several left opposition groups were formed - the Communist League in Western Saigon in May 1931, Left Opposition and Indochinese Communism. These groups united and Ta Thu Thau was acknowledged as the most notable leader of the Trotskyists in Vietnam. In 1932 the French Colonial authorities arrested many members of the Stalinist Indochinese Communist Party and the Trotskyists. All left-wing activity in Indochina was clandestine.

However, in 1933 the Saigon Trotskyists and Stalinists formed an electoral bloc for the elections to the Saigon Municipal Council. The joint 'workers slate' was successful and the Trotskyists Tran Van Thach and Stalinist Nguyen Van Tao scored the highest votes. Though struck down by the Colonial authorities, this success indicated the growing popularity of the revolutionary groups. The other main activity of the united front was the publication of the legal newspaper La Lutte (newspaper). The united front split in 1937 over the issue of the 'popular front' policy of the Comintern and under pressure from the Stalinist Comintern via the French Communist Party.

La Lutte became an openly Trotskyist paper and in 1939, the Trotskyist candidates, Ta Thu Thau, Tran Van Thach and Phan Van Hum scored 80% of the vote, defeating three constitutionalists, two Stalinists and numerous independents. The Indochinese Communist Party vote in this election was one per cent. The Saigon Stalinists split, and so did the Trotskyists. When the Hitler-Stalin Pact was signed in the summer of 1939, the French authorities declared the Communist Party illegal and in Indochina, all the Communists and the Trotskyists leaders were rounded up. The revolutionary movement was decimated. With more support from farmers, the Stalinists managed to continue their underground activity in the countryside and began rebuild. The Trotskyists, reliant on working-class support in the cities, were virtually eliminated as a political force. Ta Thu Thau was arrested and incarcerated in Poulo-Condore during the war.

[edit] Assassination
After the end of World War II, Ta Thu Thau reconstituted the 'La Lutte' ('The Struggle') group and became the foremost leader of Vietnamese Trotskyism, but in the events of the August Revolution of 1945, and under the impact of the re-establishment of French colonial rule and repression from the Communist led Viet Minh, his political current lost any significant influence. Ta Thu Thau, along with other prominent Trotskyists and nationalists, was assassinated by the Viet Minh in 1945.

[edit] Sources
Richardson, A.(Ed.) (2003) The Revolution Defamed: A documentary history of Vietnamese Trotskyism, London: Socialist Platform Ltd.
Hemery, D. (1974) Révolutionnaires Vietnamiens et Pouvoir Colonial en Indochine: Communistes, trotskystes, nationalistes à Saigon de 1932 à 1937,Paris: François Maspero.
Hammer, E. (1954) The Struggle for Indochina, Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.
I. Milton Sacks, 'Marxism in Vietnam' [Chapter 4] in Trager, F.(1959) Marxism in South-East Asia, Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.
Anh Van and Jacqueline Roussel (1947) National Movements and Class Struggle in Vietnam, London: New Park Publications [English translation 1987].
Bà Phuong-Lan[Bui-The-My](1974) Nhà Cách Mang:Ta Thu Thâu, Saigon: Nhà Sách KHAI-TRĺ [in Vietnamese].
Ngo Van (1995) Revolutionaries they could not break: The fight for the Fourth international in Indochina 1930-1945, London: Index Books.
Huynh kim Khánh (1982) Vietnamese Communism 1925-1945, London: Cornell University Press.
[edit] See also
Vietnamese Trotskyism
International Communist League (Vietnam)
[edit] External links
A Short biographical article by Ngo Van Xuyet
An article on La Lutte
Loren Gouldner on Ngo Van and the trotskyist movement in the 1930s

From The Lenin Internet Archives- Lenin And The Fight Against Imperialist War (1914-1917)-The Tasks of Revolutionary Social-Democracy in the European War (1914)

Markin comment:

It would seem almost unnecessary to comment on Lenin’s Bolshevik positions on imperialist war, as exemplified by his analysis of the war that he actually had to fight against, World War I. Those positions reflected his understanding that with that war the nature of capitalism had changed, definitively, from a progressive step for humankind to just a squalid, never-ending struggle among “thieves” for control of the world’s resources. It would have seemed almost unnecessary to mention this, that is, for earlier leftist generations who were familiar with his various slogans centrally-“the main enemy is at home” (adapted from German revolutionary Karl Liebknecht-“not one penny, not one man for the imperialist war”- “turn the guns the other way” (toward your own rulers)-and, specific to Bolsheviks- “fight for a new workers international, the Third International” (to replace bankrupt Second International).

Now, especially after the past several anti-war rallies that I have attended, I am not sure who among the attendees is familiar with his work. With all the pacifist, stop war in general, peace now, let all men and women be brothers and sisters rhetoric ringing in my ears I have to assume not. More importantly, I do not see such slogans (or anything close to them) emblazoned on any banners lately. Thus, in a month when we of the international communist movement honor Lenin anyway (along with the aforementioned Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, the Rose of the revolution) this series will try to familiarize those who seek a better struggle against imperialist war than is being presented now with “red” anti-war positions.
V. I. Lenin
The Tasks of Revolutionary Social-Democracy in the European War[1]

Written: Written not later than August 24 (September 6), 1914
Published: The introduction The Russian Social-Democrats on the European War is published for the first time. The theses (resolution) were first published in full in 1929 in the second and third editions of the works of V. I. Lenin, Volume 18. The introduction is published according to the manuscript; the theses (resolution) according to a copy made by N. K. Krupskaya.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [197[4]], Moscow, Volume 21, pages 15-19.
Transcription\Markup: D. Walters and R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive 2002 (2005). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
Other Formats: Text • README

Reports have reached us from most reliable sources, regarding a conference recently held by leaders of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, on the question of the European war. The conference was not of a wholly official nature, since the Central Committee of the R.S.D.L.P. has as yet been unable to gather, as a result of the numerous arrests and unprecedented persecution by the tsarist government. We do, however, have precise information that the conference gave expression to views held by the most influential circles of the R.S.D.L.P.

The conference adopted the following resolution, whose full text we are quoting below as a document:

Resolution Of A Group Of Social-Democrats
1.The European and world war has the clearly defined character of a bourgeois, imperialist and dynastic war. A struggle for markets and for freedom to loot foreign countries, a striving to suppress the revolutionary movement of the proletariat and democracy in the individual countries, a desire to deceive, disunite, and slaughter the proletarians of all countries by setting the wage slaves of one nation against those of another so as to benefit the bourgeoisie—these are the only real content and significance of the war.

2.The conduct of the leaders of the German Social-Democratic Party, the strongest and the most influential in the Second International (1889-1914), a party which has voted for war credits and repeated the bourgeois-chauvinist phrases of the Prussian Junkers and the bourgeoisie, is sheer betrayal of socialism. Under no circumstances can the conduct of the leaders of the German Social-Democratic Party be condoned, even if we assume that the party was absolutely weak and had temporarily to bow to the will of the bourgeois majority of the nation. This party has in fact adopted a national-liberal policy.

3.The conduct of the Belgian and French Social-Democratic party leaders, who have betrayed socialism by entering bourgeois governments,[2] is just as reprehensible.

4.The betrayal of socialism by most leaders of the Second International (1889-1914) signifies the ideological and political bankruptcy of the International. This collapse has been mainly caused by the actual prevalence in it of petty-bourgeois opportunism, the bourgeois nature and the danger of which have long been indicated by the finest representatives of the revolutionary proletariat of all countries. The opportunists had long been preparing to wreck the Second International by denying the socialist revolution and substituting bourgeois reformism in its stead, by rejecting the class struggle with its inevitable conversion at certain moments into civil war, and by preaching class collaboration; by preaching bourgeois chauvinism under the guise of patriotism and the defence of the fatherland, and ignoring or rejecting the fundamental truth of socialism, long ago set forth in the Communist Manifesto, that the workingmen have no country; by confining themselves, in the struggle against militarism, to a sentimental philistine point of view, instead of recognising the need for a revolutionary war by the proletarians of all countries, against the bourgeoisie of all countries; by making a fetish of the necessary utilisation of bourgeois parliamentarianism and bourgeois legality, and forgetting that illegal forms of organisation and agitation are imperative at times of crises. One of the organs of international opportunism, Sozialistische Monatshefte,[3] which has long taken a national liberal stand, is very properly celebrating its victory over European socialism. The so-called Centre of the German and other Social-Democratic parties has in actual fact faint heartedly capitulated to the opportunists. It must be the task of the future International resolutely and irrevocably to rid itself of this bourgeois trend in socialism.

5.With reference to the bourgeois and chauvinist sophisms being used by the bourgeois parties and the governments of the two chief rival nations of the Continent—the German and the French—to fool the masses most effectively, and being copied by both the overt and covert socialist opportunists, who are slavishly following in the wake of the bourgeoisie, one must particularly note and brand the following:

When the German bourgeois refer to the defence of the fatherland and to the struggle against tsarism, and insist on the freedom of cultural and national development, they are lying, because it has always been the policy of Prussian Junkerdom, headed by Wilhelm II, and the big bourgeoisie of Germany, to defend the tsarist monarchy; whatever the outcome of the war, they are sure to try to bolster it. They are lying because, in actual fact, the Austrian bourgeoisie have launched a robber campaign against Serbia, and the German bourgeoisie are oppressing Danes, Poles, and Frenchmen (in Alsace-Lorraine); they are waging a war of aggression against Belgium and France so as to loot the richer and freer countries; they have organised an offensive at a moment which seemed best for the use of the latest improvements in military matériel, and on the eve of the introduction of the so-called big military programme in Russia.

Similarly, when the French bourgeois refer to the defence of the fatherland, etc., they are lying, because in actual fact they are defending countries that are backward in capitalist technology and are developing more slowly, and because they spend thousands of millions to hire Russian tsarism’s Black-Hundred[4] gangs for a war of aggression, i.e., the looting of Austrian and German lands.

Neither of the two belligerent groups of nations is second to the other in cruelty and atrocities in warfare.

6.It is the first and foremost task of Russian Social-Democrats to wage a ruthless and all-out struggle against Great-Russian and tsarist-monarchist chauvinism, and against the sophisms used by the Russian liberals, Cadets,[5] a section of the Narodniks, and other bourgeois parties, in defence of that chauvinism. From the viewpoint of the working class and the toiling masses of all the peoples of Russia, the defeat of the tsarist monarchy and its army, which oppress Poland, the Ukraine, and many other peoples of Russia, and foment hatred among the peoples so as to increase Great-Russian oppression of the other nationalities, and consolidate the reactionary and barbarous government of the tsar’s monarchy, would be the lesser evil by far.

7.The following must now be the slogans of Social-Democracy:

First, all-embracing propaganda, involving the army and the theatre of hostilities as well, for the socialist revolution and the need to use weapons, not against their brothers, the wage slaves in other countries, but against the reactionary and bourgeois governments and parties of all countries; the urgent necessity of organising illegal nuclei and groups in the armies of all nations, to conduct such propaganda. in all languages; a merciless struggle against the chauvinism and “patriotism” of the philistines and bourgeoisie of all countries without exception. In the struggle against the leaders of the present International, who have betrayed socialism, it is imperative to appeal to the revolutionary consciousness of the working masses, who bear the entire burden of the war and are in most cases hostile to opportunism and chauvinism.

Secondly, as an immediate slogan, propaganda for republics in (Germany, Poland, Russia, and other countries, and for the transforming of all the separate states of Europe into a republican United States of Europe.[6]

Thirdly and particularly, a struggle against the tsarist monarchy and Great-Russian, Pan-Slavist chauvinism, and advocacy of a revolution in Russia, as well as of the liberation of and self-determination for nationalities oppressed by Russia, coupled with the immediate slogans of a democratic republic, the confiscation of the landed estates, and an eight-hour working day.

A group of Social-Democrats, members of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party

[1] These theses on the war were drawn up by Lenin not later than August 24 (September 6), 1914 after he had come to Berne from Poronin (Galicia). They were discussed at a meeting of the Bolshevik group in Berne on August 24-26 (September 6-8). Approved by the group, the theses were circulated among Bolshevik groups abroad. To throw the police off the scent, the copy of the theses made out by N. K. Krupskaya, carried the inscription: “Copy of the manifesto issued in Denmark. ”

The theses were smuggled into Russia for discussion by the Russian section of the Central Committee, Party organisations and the Bolshevik Duma group.

Through Swiss Social-Democrats the theses were submitted to the conference of the Swiss and Italian Socialists held in Lugano on September 27, 1914. Many of the ideas contained in the theses were incorporated in the conference’s resolution.

On learning of the approval of the theses in Russia, Lenin used them as a basis for writing the manifesto of the R.S.D.L.P. Central Committee “The War and Russian Social-Democracy ”(see this volume, pp. 25-34).

The introduction to the theses (“The Russian Social-Democrats on the European War”, which was written on a separate sheet) was discovered only later, and was first published in the 4th Russian edition of Lenin’s Collected Works.

[2] Among those who joined the bourgeois government of Belgium was Vandervelde, and in France Jules Guesde, Marcel Sembat and Albert Thomas.

[3] Sozialistische Monatshefte (Socialist Monthly )—the principal organ of the German opportunists, and one of the organs of international opportunism. It was published in Berlin from 1897 to 1933. During the First World War it took a social-chauvinist stand.

[4] The Black Hundreds—monarchist gangs formed by the tsarist police to fight the revolutionary movement. They murdered revolutionaries, assaulted progressive intellectuals and organised pogroms.

[5] Cadets—members of the Constitutional-Democratic Party, the leading party of the liberal-monarchist bourgeoisie in Russia. Founded in 1905, the party represented the bourgeoisie, Zemstvo landowner leaders and bourgeois intellectuals. Prominent among its members were Milyukov, Muromtsev, Maklakov, Shingaryov, Struve, and Rodichev.

The Cadets were active in Russia’s war preparations. They stood solidly behind the tsarist government’s predatory designs, hoping to batten on war contracts, strengthen the bourgeoisie’s positions, and suppress the revolutionary movement in the country.

With the outbreak of the war the Cadets advanced the slogan of “War to the victorious end! ”When, in 1915, the tsarist forces suffered a defeat at the front, which led to the aggravation of the revolutionary crisis, the Cadet members of the State Duma, headed by Milyukov, and the other representatives of the bourgeoisie and the landowners formed a “Progressist ”bloc aimed at checking the revolution, preserving the monarchy and bringing the war to a “victorious end”. The Cadets actively helped to set up war-industries committees.

[6] See Lenin’s articles “On the Slogan for a United States of Europe” and “On the Slogan for a United States of Europe. Editorial Comment by Sotsial-Demokrat on the Manifesto on War Issued by the Central Committee of the R.S.D.L.P.” (see this volume, pp. 339-43, 344).

Dancer's Corner- The Work of Isadora Duncan

Click on the headline to link ot a YouTube film clip on Isadora Duncan

Isadora Duncan (1878-1927)
by Samuel Dickson

The San Francisco part of this story came to me in bits, like the insignificant pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that have no particular import in themselves, but which, when placed in their proper positions in the over-all design, make a fascinating picture.

I found the first small piece in a book on old San Francisco. The year was 1878, and the item tells of the home of Joseph Duncan, a suave and cultured gentleman who was a cashier of the Bank of California and whose fortune crashed with William Ralston's. He was known as a connoisseur of the arts, and was often asked to select paintings and marbles for the palaces of his friends who knew little about them. His own home at Geary and Taylor Streets held many treasures. At one corner now stands a drugstore, at another a grocery and fruit store, at another the Bellevue Hotel, and the Clift Hotel on the fourth. In 1878 Joseph Duncan's home of art treasures occupied one of those corners. I'm under the impression that it stood at the northwest corner where the drugstore now stands. But it was shortly, after 1878 that the home was broken up and scandal and divorce resulted. Mrs. Duncan was a virtuous, high-principled Victorian lady. Joseph, the poet– a very good poet, too– the dreamer, the connoisseur of arts, had lost his heart to a spinster lady. on Russian Hill, and Mrs. Duncan divorced him.

The Duncans had several children and very little money, and that made the scandal more tragic. Joseph Duncan had been a brute and a scoundrel, and Mrs. Duncan virtuously spent many years telling the children what a scoundrel their father was. However, one of the children mat Papa some years later and found him a charming, cultured gentleman of appealing personality. But that all came later.

The second small piece in the jigsaw puzzle was a personal experience of mine that happened a few months less than fifty years after the scandal at the corner of Geary and Taylor Streets. It was the summer of 1927. I had been invited to a soiree– no other word describes the function– in a home out on Pacific Avenue. There were long-haired artists; there were hungry musicians; there were starving poets; and I, who belonged to none of those classes, joined the shrilling throng. It was the hour between sunset and darkness. Most of the guests congregated around a grand piano while a lady of mature years with a page-boy bob explained that she had never studied music or learned to play the piano, but in a dream had been inspired to go to the keyboard, and play. She now sit at the keyboard and played the most amazing music I had ever heard, while most of the guests congregated around her and sighed and clasped their hands. I sat on a small stool at Ina Coolbrith's feet.

Ina Coolbrith, the poet laureate of California, was very old. That was last year of her long life. She was a gentle, sweet-faced old lady, as old-fashioned and old-world as a miniature painted on ivory. She wore a simple, black silk dress, an old brooch at her throat, and her mantilla falling over her thin white hair. She told me of the men and women she had known when San Francisco was young. Her friends had been legion. Many of them had achieved greatness and died, and only Ina Coolbrith remained, a link between the Golden Dawn and the San Francisco of 1927.

Her friends had been Mark Twain, Bret Harte, Charles Warren Stoddard, Robert Louis Stevenson, Joaquin Miller, Harr Wagner, and Jack London, and they all had loved her. She told me about them quite simply as though their love was her rightful heritage. And there was one other. He was a poet, a dreamer, a musician, and a connoisseur of the arts! She had been the one great love of his life. His name was Joseph Duncan. Joseph Duncan was long since dead and she, the poet laureate, went on, dreaming in the memories of the departed years. Joseph Duncan! He had been so gentle, so great an idealist, and so fine a poet! What if he was a cashier in a bank; even a bank cashier could dream of sonnets. But he was dead and the pages of his story were closed. Yet it was not really ended, for he lived on in his children. There were four of them, and Ina Coolbrith had learned to know and love one of them well. Her name was Isadora Duncan.

As I stated before, that is the second bit in the pattern of the jigsaw puzzle. Now, before we come to the story of Isadora Duncan—for after all, this is her story—there is one more small piece in the puzzle pattern. It happened only a year or so ago. I went to see The Lute Song, one of the Theatre Guild productions at the Curran Theatre, and in that lovely pageantry one of the characters was an old blind father.

He was led across the stage, his steps faltering, as the blind should be led. But this wasn't acting; He was in fact blind, He was Raymond, one of children of Joseph Duncan.

There are the bits in the pattern. It was in Oakland, a few years after the scandal at Geary and Taylor Streets, that Ina Coolbrith met the child, Isadora. She came to the Oakland Public Library, as a few years later Jack London was to come, to ask the library lady, Miss Coolbrith, for a book to read. Just as Ina Coolbrith was to guide Jack London's reading some time later, so she guided and shaped the mind of the small daughter of Joseph Duncan.

Isadora was a quaint child, a strange mixture of practical common sense and worldly sophistication, and she was a dreamer like her father. The child loved poetry, beauty, and rhythm, and she hated reality. She was, in fact, a rebel. Her childhood had been an unhappy one. There was strife and divorce, with her mother's insistence that her father, Joseph, was a demon in human garb. Then there was her mother's disavowal of the religion in which she had been raised, and her espousal of the atheism of Robert Ingersoll. These were the unhealthy shapers of Isadora's childhood. Of course, when she eventually met her father, she found him a charming, lovable poet, and that heightened the confusion in her mind. Passing years tend to soften the intolerance of childhood, but Isadora Duncan never lost her contempt for the institution of marriage as she had seen it. When she was twelve years old she made a solemn vow that she would welcome love when it came, but she would never marry.

After the divorce, Mrs. Duncan found a small, drab home in Oakland for her brood of four children. The constant poverty in which they lived was softened by the wealth of poetry and music that Mrs. Duncan brought into the home, molding the lives of her small offspring. The four of them loved to sing, loved to play-act, and above all, loved to dance. Somewhere I have read that Isadora Duncan gave no thought to becoming a dancer until she had gone to Europe. This was an absurd distortion of fact. Isadora Duncan danced as soon as she could walk. The children read every book, good or bad, that chance flung in their path, and when chance was busy with other people's problems, Isadora went to the Public Library. There she met Ina Coolbrith. Ina possessed a rare talent. She not only created beauty, but she had the gift, as well, of inspiring the creative instinct in others. Isadora was an eager pupil. Her reading carried her back to the classical culture of ancient Greece, and the natural, unaffected, spontaneous Grecian art became her inspiration and dream. Toe-dancing, social gymnastics, was to be scorned. She demanded, from the very beginning, self-expression unrestrained by rule and custom.

When she was fourteen years old, pupils, children of neighbors, came to her to be taught to dance. The Oakland classes grew and then there were classes across the bay in San Francisco. Every day Isadora and her sister, Elizabeth, took the ferryboat to San Francisco and then walked from the Ferry building to Sutter and Van Ness Avenue. There, in the old home they had rented—the Castle mansion—they taught the young hopefuls of San Francisco society forms of the dance that were fifty years ahead of their time. Charles Caldwell Dobie, speaking of those days, said that he visited the old Castle mansion after the school had seen its last days, and found the hardwood mantels chopped away. Possibly surmises Dobie, it was used for kindling wood to keep the Duncan sisters and their pupils warm during their days of poverty.

But Isadora didn't like poverty and she didn't like restrictions. There were distant horizons awaiting her. She read about them in her books, the faraway places that call to all imbued with the creative instinct. Any place would do as long as it was "away." She induced her mother to take her to Chicago. What matter that the family purse was, as always, almost empty? Funds were found and, armed with a wealth of enthusiasm, mother and daughter started out.

The Eastern theatrical managers saw the girl dance, praised her, told her it was all very lovely. But, after all, that wasn't the accepted way to dance; it wasn't the way of the theater. No, it would never do. She'd better go home to San Francisco and be a schoolteacher! Their funds were gone, so they pawned their jewelry. They ripped a bit of old Irish lace from Isadora's dress and sold it. Finally, starvation, not a threat but an actuality, faced them, and then Isadora received an engagement. At last, she was to dance– to dance in a music hall. In a fogged atmosphere of stale beer and tobacco smoke the girl appeared, a breath of ancient Greece. Her audience chewed on its cigars. They found it all a little uncomfortable. This certainly wasn't what they'd come to see! In short, they wished she'd get through so the next act could appear.

But in the audience one night sat a dreamer like herself. He was Augustin Daly, the theatrical producer. He saw what none of the others had seen– the vision, the ideal, and the dream behind the dancing of the girl. He cast her as one of Titania's dancing fairies in his production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. He gave her small part in pantomimes. Perhaps she couldn't force her audience to understand the beauty of simplicity, but at least this gave her the opportunity to dance, and to eat.

Her brothers and sisters were sent for, and the family settled to New York. One night Isadora danced to the music of Ethelbert Nevin; Nevin was in the audience, entranced. He arranged for concerts for her and suddenly blasé New York. hailed a new star, a child with the wisdom of the ages and the simple innocence of the sheep that grazed on the Athenian hills. Society accepted her. She danced for the four hundred in Newport's exclusive salons. They made much of her, but just as swiftly they dropped her. And again the family purse was empty.

Once again the lodestone of distant horizons beckoned. What did it matter that the family had no money? They would go to London. After Isadora had borrowed right and left from her former friends of Newport society, the Duncans sailed.

In London, a few engagements brought a few dollars, but the few dollars weren't enough to fill the young hungry stomachs. Then one night Isadora and one of her brothers were dancing in their Grecian veils in the small garden of a tiny house in Kensington Gardens. They danced by the light of the stars and their only audience was their own shadows. Quite unexpectedly, a beautiful lady came and stood watching them and was amazed. When they had finished their dance she swooped down upon them and took them to her own home. She was Mrs. Patrick Campbell, the idol of the London stage. She played for them and they danced for her; she. sobbed dramatic tears, and introduced them to London society.

The meeting with Mrs. Pat Campbell was the turning point in the story of Isadora Duncan. Mrs. Campbell introduced them to London society acclaimed them, and British royalty honored them. Life became busy, hectic, and full to overflowing with triumphs– and setbacks, Duncan, the dancer, had arrived, but the girl, Isadora, was still a rebel against customs and traditions– and marriage.

She danced in Paris and was cheered. she danced in Berlin, and the art-loving Germans went mad with enthusiasm. The artists and students of Munich idolized her. The story is told of the night that, unharnessing her horses, they dragged her carriage through the streets of Munich in a rain of flowers. They carried her into their cafe, lifted her onto a table, and she danced for them. Life was gorgeous. But always at the back of her persistent mind was her dream, Some day she would dance in the land of ancient culture where the Athenian maidens had made the dance a religion. Some day she would bring back the beauty of classical simplicity to the people of the nineteenth century. What if she did dance in scant veils that showed the honest beauty of her form? There could be no evil in honest beauty. Europe cheered her and virtuous old wives condemned her. Isadora went to Athens and took her mother, brothers, and sister with her. And on a green hill that faced the Acropolis, she made a solemn vow that here she would build a temple to art.

In the Athenian hills Isadora gathered a class of small Grecian boys about her. She taught them the dances of ancient Byzantium, as well as Greek choruses and songs. bare-legged, with sandaled feet and flowing draperies, the Duncans danced from village to village, and the world called them mad. A year passed, and their purse was empty. Bidding a tearful farewell to the peasants who had learned to love the lady on Kopanos Hill, Isadora and her kin returned to modern civilization and Vienna.

Vienna took her to its gay heart, and success and wealth returned. But now Isadora Duncan learned that life without the fullness of love was incomplete. Then, in Berlin, in 1905, she met Gordon Craig, the colorful, handsome, glamorous son of Ellen Terry. This was the great love; this was life at its highest. The world sighed, and giggled, and was delighted. Isadora was perfectly happy. A baby was born, and they named her Deirdre. Isadora adored her.

New friends came to join the strange household. Eleanor Duse, her life shattered by the tragedy of her romance with D'Annunzio, took them to Italy to aid her in the production of an Ibsen drama. Isadora danced her dances of the Athenian hills in Rome. But now a new ambition and dream was born. She would train choruses, and build her greatest ballet around the music of Beethoven's immortal Ninth Symphony.

She came to the United States and danced to the music of Walter Damrosch's orchestra. America was shocked, and delighted. Of course, everyone had a body, but one didn't acknowledge the fact. Even modest ankles weren't to be exposed. That nonsense was ended by an edict from no less a wielder of strong opinion than Teddy Roosevelt. "Isadora Duncan," he proclaimed, "seems to me as innocent as a child dancing through the garden in the morning sunshine and picking the beautiful flowers of her fantasy." So the master politician became poet, and Isadora danced and was forgiven her sins.

She built a school where she taught young girls the beauty of the dance. She was the priestess of the dance, and in that role did more to return it to its ancient glory than any other single man or woman in the world's history of terpsichore.

Then, one night in Paris, Isadora Duncan danced to the haunting melody of Chopin's "Funeral March," and a vision of tragedy came to her. She danced with eyes closed and saw her two children threatened by evil. She danced as though in a trance, and her audience sat, thrilled, chilled, and breathless. It was terrible and it was beautiful. A few days passed and the father of her son stood before her. His lips were dry and his eyes were haggard. He told of the death of her two children.

Life was dead; dreams were dead; the world was empty. Isadora Duncan, the rebel, had won her rebellion and lost all that was worth the fight. She felt she would never dance again. But she did dance. In her tragedy she had become a giantess, and life does not or cannot stand still. She won new triumphs, found new loves, and achieved new furors. She faced new tragedy in 1914 when, under the shadow of the dawn of the first World War, another baby was born—dead. Still she danced, and still she continued to teach her girls. She danced her Ninth Symphony to an audience that sat as though in the presence of a creature divine. Her greatest creative dream had become a reality.

Isadora Duncan, the little girl of Geary and Taylor Streets in San Francisco, died in 1927. A veil caught in the wheel of her automobile. There was the grinding of brakes—and then darkness. She died tragically, horribly, and the world was upset for a few hours and then went about its business. But those who had loved her and who knew her dream of beauty mourned her passing of a human creature who had been an honest builder of dreams. She had done more for the art of the dance than any other man or woman in history. And above all else, she had been the honest daughter of her poet father.

Isadora Duncan photograph by Arnold Genthe

Samuel Dickson was a prolific magazine writer in the 1920's and early 30's, and became an NBC feature writer in the late 1930's. He wrote the NBC-KPO/KNBC series "This is Your Home," sponsored by W. and J. Sloane, then one of San Francisco's leading furniture stores. The series was narrated by NBC-KPO/KNBC (now KNBR) announcer Budd Heyde, and broadcast during the late 1940's and into the 1950's at 10:30 Sunday mornings. This Isadora Duncan chapter was originally one of the KPO/KNBC radio scripts, later printed in "San Francisco Kaleidoscope," Stanford University Press, 1949.
Budd Heyde can be heard on this 78-RPM promotional phonograph recording made for W. and J. Sloane sometime during the late-1940s.

Friday, January 07, 2011

From "Real Clear Politics"- Congresswoman Woolsey On Afghanistan- Ouch! Obama

Click on the headline to link to Real Clear Politics- Congresswoman Woolsey On Afghanistan- Ouch! Obama

Markin comment:

Even a few congressman are starting to get the real deal in Afghanistan. Listen up! But to be on the safe side Obama- Troops Out Now!- Not One Penny, Not One Person For The Wars!

*Those Who Fought For Our Communist Future Are Kindred Spirits- "The Best Type of Bolshevik"-Early Bolshevik Organizer Jacob Sverdlov

Click on the headline to link to a Wikipedia entry for early Bolshevik organizer Jacob Sverdlov.

Every January, as readers of this blog are now, hopefully, familiar with the international communist movement honors the 3 Ls-Lenin, Luxemburg and Liebknecht, fallen leaders of the early 20th century communist movement who died in this month (and whose untimely deaths left a huge, irreplaceable gap in the international leadership of that time). January is thus a time for us to reflect on the roots of our movement and those who brought us along this far. In order to give a fuller measure of honor to our fallen forbears this January, and in future Januarys, this space will honor others who have contributed in some way to the struggle for our communist future. That future classless society, however, will be the true memorial to their sacrifices.

Note on inclusion: As in other series on this site (“Labor’s Untold Story”, “Leaders Of The Bolshevik Revolution”, etc.) this year’s honorees do not exhaust the list of every possible communist worthy of the name. Nor, in fact, is the list limited to Bolshevik-style communists. There will be names included from other traditions (like anarchism, social democracy, the Diggers, Levellers, Jacobins, etc.) whose efforts contributed to the international struggle. Also, as was true of previous series this year’s efforts are no more than an introduction to these heroes of the class struggle. Future years will see more detailed information on each entry, particularly about many of the lesser known figures. Better yet, the reader can pick up the ball and run with it if he or she has more knowledge about the particular exploits of some communist militant, or to include a missing one.
Markin comment on this article:

Yes, one needs Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky, or their modern day equivalents, to make international working class revolution. No question. We can quibble about the relationship, guided by a Marxist interpretation of historical materialism, between the weight of role of individual heroic figures and the objective historic forces in making those revolutions - the so-called “indispensable individual” question. What we cannot quibble about is that it is necessary to flesh out that revolutionary leadership with talented cadre with, perhaps, more limited but essential skills as with the case of this entry’s honoree, organizer Jacob Sverlov. You cannot make a revolution without him. Also no question.

Trotsky noted, in a political obituary for a fallen Russian Left Oppositionist brought low by Stalinist repression in the late 1920s, that the West had no produced the type of revolutionary forged by the anvils of the Russian revolutionary process of his time. And it is even harder to disagree with him some eighty years, many defeats, and a serious decline in socialist political consciousness later. But we had better. And pronto. Meanwhile Jacob Sverlov can serve as an exemplar.
"The Best Type of Bolshevik"- Leon Trotsky-from Young Spartacus, 1980

We reprint below an appraisal by Leon Trotsky of Yakov Sverdlov, a member of the Bolshevik Central Committee during the October Revolu¬tion. Renowned for his outstanding organizational capacities, Sverdlov held the post of Chairman of the All-Union Soviet Executive Committee after the revolution until his death.

The following passage was written in 1927 and is presented here as it appeared in Fourth International, November 1946.

Up to the spring of 1919 the chief organizer of the Party had been Sverd¬lov. He did not have the name of General Secretary, a name which was then not yet invented, but he was that in reality. Sverdlov died at the age of 34 in March 1919, from the so-called Spanish fever. In the spread of the civil war and the epidemic, mowing people down right and left, the Party hardly realized the weight of this loss. In two funeral speeches Lenin gave an appraisal of Sverdlov which throws a reflected but very clear light also upon his later relations with Stalin. "In the course of our revolution, in its victories," Lenin said, "it fell to Sverdlov to express more fully and more wholly than anybody else the very essence of the proletarian revolution." Sverdlov was "before all and above all an organizer." From a modest underground worker, neither theoretician nor writer, there grew up in a short time "an organizer who acquired irreproachable authority, an organizer of the whole Soviet power in Russia, and an organizer of the work of the Party unique in his understanding." Lenin had no taste for the exaggerations of anniversary or funeral panegyrics.

His appraisal of Sverdlov was same time a characterization of the task of the organizer: "Only thanks to thi fact that we had such an organizer as Sverdlov were we able in war times to work as though we had not one single conflict worth speaking of."

So it was in fact. In conversation: with Lenin in those days we remarked more than once, and with ever rendwecSverdlov. The secret of his art was simple: to be guided by the interests of the cause and that only. No one of the Party workers had any fear of intrigues creeping down from the Party staff. The basis of this authority of Sverdlov's was loyalty.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Not Ready For Prime Time Class Struggle- Park The Car In Harvard Yard- William Martin’s “Harvard Yard”- A Book Review

Book Review

Harvard Yard, William Martin, Warner Books, New York, 2004

I like a good historical novel as well as the next person but I would not ordinarily read one on the trials and tribulations of college life, even if it is a premier Ivy League college and elite training ground providing the administrative apparatus for the American ruling class, august Harvard University. Except that Harvard University has been a scene of many of my personal political struggles, conferences, debates, marches, demonstrations, and the like, over a long political life. I know where the bodies are buried. So on the advice of someone I respect (who also told me that it was also an informative short course on the history of the university, and it is) I delved into the thing. And I am not sorry I did, although the plot line seemed thin by the end and did not justify the length.

Referring to that plot line it’s about the bird, stupid, (oops, wrong story) no it’s about a book, although not just any book but a play, a sequel to Love’s Lost Labors, supposedly written by one William Shakespeare who gave it to John Harvard in the early 1600s. And from there the adventure takes off as dear John goes to America to bring his talents to that well-known theater-is-the-devil’s-playground Puritan outpost, the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Cambridge branch. The fate of the book/play is enmeshed with the tenor of various times (up the near present) from extreme religious intolerance early on to the 1969 Harvard radical minute when the staid decorum of the place went askew and a time that alumni on all sides are still talking about (or talking down and/or around).

Of course, since this is after all a novel, the missing book has to have pursuers, good and evil. On the good side is main character and Harvard alum, rare book seller Peter Fallon (last seen in the Martin novel Back Bay trying to find a rare Paul Revere tea set, apparently the struggle for old stuff never ends), whose efforts rile up many partisans on the other side who wish to find the book merely to sell it to the highest bidder rather than add one more book to the Harvard huge stockpile (some good old boy Harvard alums in the mix, as well, if you can believe that). By the end this now almost four hundred year span as it unravels the mystery of the location of the precious book, however, is just too long a time to keep our undivided attention especially as the plot gets more convoluted as we get closer to the present. Still it was nice to read about those bad boys, the 18th century Mather clerical boys, Increase and Cotton, the Harvard boys who fought for the republic in the American Revolution, and especially those Harvard Unionist boys who laid down their heads for the Republic during the Civil War. Memorial Hall is a fitting tribute to those last named deeds.

*Not Ready For Prime Time Class Struggle- Chloe- A Film Review

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of a movie trailer for Chloe.

DVD Review

Chloe, Liam Neelson, Julianne Moore, Amanda Seyfied, 2009

No, I am not reviewing this film, Chloe, based on the story line of this rather mundane (and theme done before) psychological thriller (maybe) about an upper class American family (slightly dysfunctional, of course) who when doctor mom gets “signals” that professor dad is cheating on her in his (and her) old age (40-50 something, okay) who gets catch up in the thrall of what is euphemistically called a high end escort (a.k.a. “hooker”, call girl, etc.). That’s enough detail about the plot.

What really interests me about this film is the sub-theme, the inter-generation lesbian theme that is rather graphic in its depiction. Here escort Chloe, through a series of machinations, beds doctor mom. And old lady doctor mom (and Chloe) likes it. Now the only reason that that theme resonates with me right now is that I have recently read Lillian Hellman’s play The Children’s Hour and seen the film (the 1961 version under that same name). That play and film with a very different plot line nevertheless deals rather more obliquely with lesbianism, almost as if it dare not speak its name (and it doesn’t in the first film version of Hellman’s play, These Three). So what makes Chloe of interest is as an example of how far, at least cinematically, we have come from the days when such topics, especially the “hot button” one of inter-generation sex, hetero, lesbian or otherwise, were relegated to underground movie houses or private viewings.

*Poet's Corner- Vladimir Mayakovsky's "Conversation with Comrade Lenin" and Other Poems From Early Soviet Days

Markin comment:

Mayakovsky marched with the Bolshevik Revolution as long as he could, considering the futuristic school poetic traditions that he came from, but the days of Stalin were not good day for free-lance, free-wheeling poets, or any one else for that matter. Old Mayakovsky still "speaks" to me about the glory days of the revolution.
Vladimir Mayakovsky 1929
with Comrade Lenin

Source: 20th Century Russian Literature.

Awhirl with events,
packed with jobs one too many,
the day slowly sinks
as the night shadows fall.
There are two in the room:
and Lenin-
a photograph
on the whiteness of wall.

The stubble slides upward
above his lip
as his mouth
jerks open in speech.
The tense
creases of brow
hold thought
in their grip,
immense brow
matched by thought immense.
A forest of flags,
raised-up hands thick as grass...
Thousands are marching
beneath him...
alight with joy,
I rise from my place,
eager to see him,
hail him,
report to him!
“Comrade Lenin,
I report to you -
(not a dictate of office,
the heart’s prompting alone)

This hellish work
that we’re out to do

will be done
and is already being done.
We feed and we clothe
and give light to the needy,

the quotas
for coal
and for iron
but there is
any amount
of bleeding
and rubbish
around us still.

Without you,
there’s many
have got out of hand,

all the sparring
and squabbling
does one in.
There’s scum
in plenty
hounding our land,

outside the borders
and also

Try to
count ’em
tab ’em -
it’s no go,

there’s all kinds,
and they’re
thick as nettles:
red tapists,
down the row,
They strut around
as peacocks,
badges and fountain pens
studding their chests.
We’ll lick the lot of ’em-
to lick ’em
is no easy job
at the very best.
On snow-covered lands
and on stubbly fields,
in smoky plants
and on factory sites,
with you in our hearts,
Comrade Lenin,
we build,
we think,
we breathe,
we live,
and we fight!”
Awhirl with events,
packed with jobs one too many,
the day slowly sinks
as the night shadows fall.
There are two in the room:
and Lenin -
a photograph
on the whiteness of wall.

Vladimir Mayakovsky 1930
At the Top of My voice
First Prelude to the Poem

Source: The bedbug and Selected poetry, translated by Max Hayward and George Reavey. Meridian Books, New York, 1960;
Transcribed: by Mitch Abidor.

My most respected
comrades of posterity!
Rummaging among
these days’
petrified crap,
exploring the twilight of our times,
will inquire about me too.

And, possibly, your scholars
will declare,
with their erudition overwhelming
a swarm of problems;
once there lived
a certain champion of boiled water,
and inveterate enemy of raw water.

take off your bicycle glasses!
I myself will expound
those times
and myself.

I, a latrine cleaner
and water carrier,
by the revolution
mobilized and drafted,
went off to the front
from the aristocratic gardens
of poetry -
the capricious wench
She planted a delicious garden,
the daughter,
and meadow.

Myself a garden I did plant,
myself with water sprinkled it.
some pour their verse from water cans;
others spit water
from their mouth -
the curly Macks,
the clever jacks -
but what the hell’s it all about!
There’s no damming al this up -
beneath the walls they mandoline:
“Tara-tina, tara-tine,
It’s no great honor, then,
for my monuments
to rise from such roses
above the public squares,
where consumption coughs,
where whores, hooligans and syphilis

in my teeth too,
and I’d rather
romances for you -
more profit in it
and more charm.

But I
setting my heel
on the throat
of my own song.
comrades of posterity,
to the agitator
the rabble-rouser.

the torrents of poetry,
I’ll skip
the volumes of lyrics;
as one alive,
I’ll address the living.
I’ll join you
in the far communist future,
I who am
no Esenin super-hero.

My verse will reach you
across the peaks of ages,
over the heads
of governments and poets.

My verse
will reach you
not as an arrow
in a cupid-lyred chase,
not as worn penny
Reaches a numismatist,
not as the light of dead stars reaches you.

My verse
by labor
will break the mountain chain of years,
and will present itself
as an aqueduct,
by slaves of Rome
enters into our days.

When in mounds of books,
where verse lies buried,
you discover by chance the iron filings of lines,
touch them
with respect,
as you would
some antique
yet awesome weapon.

It’s no habit of mine
to caress
the ear
with words;
a maiden’s ear
will not crimson
when flicked by smut.

In parade deploying
the armies of my pages,
I shall inspect
the regiments in line.

Heavy as lead,
my verses at attention stand,
ready for death
and for immortal fame.

The poems are rigid,
pressing muzzle
to muzzle their gaping
pointed titles.

The favorite
of all the armed forces
the cavalry of witticisms
to launch a wild hallooing charge,
reins its chargers still,
the pointed lances of the rhymes.
and all
these troops armed to the teeth,
which have flashed by
victoriously for twenty years,
all these,
to their very last page,
I present to you,
the planet’s proletarian.

The enemy
of the massed working class
is my enemy too
inveterate and of long standing.

Years of trial
and days of hunger
ordered us
to march
under the red flag.

We opened
each volume
of Marx
as we would open
the shutters
in our own house;
but we did not have to read
to make up our minds
which side to join,
which side to fight on.

Our dialectics
were not learned
from Hegel.
In the roar of battle
it erupted into verse,
under fire,
the bourgeois decamped
as once we ourselves
had fled
from them.
Let fame
after genius
like an inconsolable widow
to a funeral march -
die then, my verse,
die like a common soldier,
like our men
who nameless died attacking!
I don’t care a spit
for tons of bronze;
I don’t care a spit
for slimy marble.
We’re men of kind,
we’ll come to terms about our fame;
let our
common monument be
in battle.
Men of posterity
examine the flotsam of dictionaries:
out of Lethe
will bob up
the debris of such words
as “prostitution,”
For you,
who are now
healthy and agile,
the poet
with the rough tongue
of his posters,
has licked away consumptives’ spittle.
With the tail of my years behind me,
I begin to resemble
those monsters,
excavated dinosaurs.
Comrade life,
let us
march faster,
faster through what’s left
of the five-year plan.
My verse
has brought me
no rubles to spare:
no craftsmen have made
mahogany chairs for my house.
In all conscience,
I need nothing
a freshly laundered shirt.
When I appear
before the CCC
of the coming
bright years,
by way of my Bolshevik party card,
I’ll raise
above the heads
of a gang of self-seeking
poets and rogues,
all the hundred volumes
of my
communist-committed books.

Vladimir Mayakovsky 1929
My Soviet Passport

Source: Sputnik no.12/1982, translated by Herbert Marshall;
Transcribed: by Liviu Iacob.

I'd tear
like a wolf
at bureaucracy.
For mandates
my respect's but the slightest.
To the devil himself
I'd chuck without mercy
every red-taped paper.
But this ...
Down the long front
of coupés and cabins
File the officials
They gather up passports
and I give in
My own vermilion booklet.
For one kind of passport -
smiling lips part
For others -
an attitude scornful.
They take
with respect, for instance,
the passport
From a sleeping-car
English Lionel.
The good fellows eyes
almost slip like pips
bowing as low as men can,
they take,
as if they were taking a tip,
the passport
from an American.
At the Polish,
they dolefully blink and wheeze
in dumb
police elephantism -
where are they from,
and what are these
geographical novelties?
And without a turn
of their cabbage heads,
their feelings
hidden in lower regions,
they take without blinking,
the passports from Swedes
and various
old Norwegians.
Then sudden
as if their mouths were
those gentlemen almost
Those very official gentlemen
that red-skinned passport
of mine.
like a bomb
take - like a hedgehog,
like a razor
double-edge stropped,
take -
like a rattlesnake huge and long
with at least
20 fangs
The porter's eyes
give a significant flick
(I'll carry your baggage
for nix,
mon ami...)
The gendarmes enquiringly
look at the tec,
the tec, -
at the gendarmerie.
With what delight
that gendarme caste
would have me
strung-up and whipped raw
because I hold
in my hands
my red Soviet passport.
I'd tear
like a wolf
at bureaucracy.
For mandates
my respect's but the slightest.
To the devil himself
I'd chuck
without mercy
every red-taped paper,
But this ...
I pull out
of my wide trouser-pockets
of a priceless cargo.
You now:
read this
and envy,
I'm a citizen
of the Soviet Socialist Union!
Vladimir Mayakovsky 1930
Past One O’Clock ...

Source: The Bedbug and selected poetry, translated by Max Hayward and George Reavey. Meridian Books, New York, 1960;
Transcribed: by Mitch Abidor.

This poem was found among Mayakovsky’s papers after his suicide on April 14, 1930. He had used the middle section, with slight changes, as an epilogue to his suicide note.

Past one o’clock. You must have gone to bed.
The Milky Way streams silver through the night.
I’m in no hurry; with lightning telegrams
I have no cause to wake or trouble you.
And, as they say, the incident is closed.
Love’s boat has smashed against the daily grind.
Now you and I are quits. Why bother then
To balance mutual sorrows, pains, and hurts.
Behold what quiet settles on the world.
Night wraps the sky in tribute from the stars.
In hours like these, one rises to address
The ages, history, and all creation.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

From The Archives Of The Spartacist League (U.S.)- Yugoslavia, East Europe and the Fourth International:

Markin comment:
In October 2010 I started what I anticipate will be an on-going series, From The Archives Of The Socialist Workers Party (America), starting date October 2, 2010, where I will place documents from, and make comments on, various aspects of the early days of the James P. Cannon-led Socialist Worker Party in America. As I noted in the introduction to that series Marxism, no less than other political traditions, and perhaps more than most, places great emphasis on roots, the building blocks of current society and its political organizations. Nowhere is the notion of roots more prevalent in the Marxist movement that in the tracing of organizational and political links back to the founders, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, the Communist Manifesto, and the Communist League.

After mentioning the thread of international linkage through various organizations from the First to the Fourth International I also noted that on the national terrain in the Trotskyist movement, and here I was speaking of America where the Marxist roots are much more attenuated than elsewhere, we look to Daniel DeLeon’s Socialist Labor League, Eugene V. Debs' Socialist Party( mainly its left-wing, not its socialism for dentists wing), the Wobblies (IWW, Industrial Workers Of The World), the early Bolshevik-influenced Communist Party and the various formations that led up to the Socialist Workers Party, the section that Leon Trotsky’s relied on most while he was alive. Further, I noted that beyond the SWP that there were several directions to go in but that those earlier lines were the bedrock of revolutionary Marxist continuity, at least through the 1960s.

I am continuing today  what I also anticipate will be an on-going series about one of those strands past the 1960s when the SWP lost it revolutionary appetite, what was then the Revolutionary Tendency (RT) and what is now the Spartacist League (SL/U.S.), the U.S. section of the International Communist League (ICL). I intend to post materials from other strands but there are several reasons for starting with the SL/U.S. A main one, as the document below will make clear, is that the origin core of that organization fought, unsuccessfully in the end, to struggle from the inside (an important point) to turn the SWP back on a revolutionary course, as they saw it. Moreover, a number of the other organizations that I will cover later trace their origins to the SL, including the very helpful source for posting this material, the International Bolshevik Tendency.

However as I noted in posting a document from Spartacist, the theoretical journal of ICL posted via the International Bolshevik Tendency website that is not the main reason I am starting with the SL/U.S. Although I am not a political supporter of either organization in the accepted Leninist sense of that term, more often than not, and at times and on certain questions very much more often than not, my own political views and those of the International Communist League coincide. I am also, and I make no bones about it, a fervent supporter of the Partisan Defense Committee, a social and legal defense organization linked to the ICL and committed, in the traditions of the IWW, the early International Labor Defense-legal defense arm of the Communist International, and the early defense work of the American Socialist Workers Party, to the struggles for freedom of all class-war prisoners and defense of other related social struggles.
Markin comment on this article:

As has been detailed in other pieces in this space about the fate of the cadre of the Fourth International, including the leading figure, Leon Trotsky, assassinated by a Stalinist agent in Mexico in 1940, that organization was decimated by various forces by the end of World War II and left it without strong theoretical leadership the post-war period. Not strong enough at a time when the seemingly improbable situation developed where non-Leninist (in the early Bolshevik sense) parties were leading overturns of capitalist regimes from Eastern Europe to Asia. This inability to sift through the historic facts was most forcefully felt in the immediate case of Yugoslavia. But, frankly, the post- World War II methodological problems still haunt those of us who stand on the history of the Fourth International, mainly today around the question of whether China is capitalist or not. That makes this pamphlet worthwhile reading to order to try to sort that problem out.
Yugoslavia, East Europe and the Fourth International:
The Evolution of Pabloist Liquidationism
Editorial Note

Written: 1993
Source: Prometheus Research Library, Prometheus Research Series No. 4, New York, 1993
Transcription/Markup/Proofing: John Heckman.
Public Domain: Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line 2007/Prometheus Research Library. You can freely copy, display and otherwise distribute this work. Please credit the Marxists Internet Archive & Prometheus Research Library as your source, include the url to this work, and note the transcribers & editors above.

“Yugoslavia, East Europe and the Fourth International: The Evolution of Pabloist Liquidationism” was originally prepared as a contribution to discussions between the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist) and the Partido Bolchevique por la Cuarta Internacional (PBCI) of Argentina. It was published in the ICL’s International Discussion Bulletin No. 30 (October 1992) as part of the discussion for the Second International Conference of the ICL, which was held in the late autumn of 1992.

At the ICL conference, a panel discussion on “The Fourth International and the Fight for the Continuity of Trotskyism” examined the rise of the revisionist current led by Michel Pablo which destroyed the Fourth International in the early 1950s. Comrade Jan Norden, a member of the Central Committee of the Spartacist League/U.S. and of the International Executive Committee of the ICL, traced the evolution of Pabloism in the flawed response of the Fourth International to the Yugoslav Revolution and the 1948 Tito-Stalin split, while other panelists examined the influence of the Algerian independence struggle on the development of Pabloism in France, and the history of liquidation of the German Pabloists into the Social Democracy in the 1950s. The conference mandated the early publication of Norden’s document, which represents a significant extension of our 1972 Spartacist article “Genesis of Pabloism.” “Yugoslavia, East Europe and the Fourth International: The Evolution of Pabloist Liquidationism” assumes a knowledge of “Genesis of Pabloism,” which is included in this bulletin.

Based on the discussion at the ICL conference and in preparation for its publication as Prometheus Research Series No. 4, “Yugoslavia, East Europe and the Fourth International: The Evolution of Pabloist Liquidationism” has been revised and portions of an 8 August 1992 letter to the PBCI incorporated into it. The notes have been expanded to reflect the extensive documentation assembled from French- and English-language publications of the Fourth International, as well as from archival sources. We are not able to reprint in this bulletin a representative selection of the documentary record cited. We have included a few items from the early period immediately following the June 1948 announcement of the Tito-Stalin split, because most of these are not readily available in existing document collections.

We publish the International Secretariat’s initial circular to all sections of the Fourth International on the “Tito affair,” as well as the two “Open Letters” which the International Secretariat addressed to the Yugoslav Communist Party in July 1948. The leaderships of both the French and British sections of the Fourth International opposed the accommodation to Tito reflected in these Open Letters. We publish one document from each of these oppositional currents: a resolution adopted by the Fifth Congress of the French Parti Communiste Internationaliste, held in July 1948, and a letter by British Revolutionary Communist Party leader Jock Haston to the International Executive Committee, undated but written some time in the late summer of 1948.

Those who wish to pursue further study of the documentary record are directed to the many sources cited in the text. In the 1970s the American Socialist Workers Party reproduced many of the most important documents from the history of the Fourth International in its Education for Socialists pamphlet series, which is still in print; many documents reprinted in the Education for Socialists series are cited in the notes. Much documentation is available in French in the four-volume series edited by Rodolphe Prager, Les congrès de la IVe Internationale (manifestes, thèses, résolutions), published in the 1980s by La Brèche-PEC. Where a French-language source is cited in this bulletin, the English translation was provided by the library staff.

Prometheus Research Library
March 1993
Yugoslavia, East Europe and the Fourth International:
The Evolution of Pabloist Liquidationism
by Jan Norden
August 1992 (revised March 1993)


Written: 1993
Source: Prometheus Research Library, Prometheus Research Series No. 4, New York, 1993
Transcription/Markup/Proofing: John Heckman.
Public Domain: Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line 2007/Prometheus Research Library. You can freely copy, display and otherwise distribute this work. Please credit the Marxists Internet Archive & Prometheus Research Library as your source, include the url to this work, and note the transcribers & editors above.


On the eve of the Second World War, Leon Trotsky wrote in the 1938 founding document of the Fourth International:

All talk to the effect that historical conditions have not yet “ripened” for socialism is the product of ignorance or conscious deception. The objective prerequisites for the proletarian revolution have not only “ripened”; they have begun to get somewhat rotten. Without a socialist revolution, in the next historical period at that, a catastrophe threatens the whole culture of mankind. It is now the turn of the proletariat, i.e., chiefly of its revolutionary vanguard. The historical crisis of mankind is reduced to the crisis of the revolutionary leadership.[1]

The second imperialist world conflagration was certainly such a catastrophe threatening to engulf all of mankind. The outcome of that war, centrally the defeat of Nazi Germany by the Soviet Red Army and the imperialist hegemony of the United States, set the international framework in which class struggles were waged for the next four and a half decades.

In the last several years, we have witnessed the spreading collapse of Stalinist regimes from East Europe to the Soviet Union. This, too, was long ago predicted by Trotsky, who insisted that in the absence of socialist revolution in the imperialist centers and proletarian political revolution in the USSR to oust the parasitic Stalinist bureaucracy, the Soviet workers state faced destruction at the hands of economically more powerful imperialism. But the effects on the workers and oppressed of the world of the destruction of these bureaucratically degenerated (in the case of the Soviet Union) and deformed workers states are no less devastating for having been foreseen long ago. Capitalism continues to decay, and the treacherous misleaders of the working class continue to betray, paralyzing the workers in the face of a worldwide counterrevolutionary offensive. Today, no less than when Trotsky wrote half a century ago, “the crisis of the proletarian leadership, having become the crisis in mankind’s culture, can be resolved only by the Fourth International.”[2]

Yet the Fourth International itself was destroyed as the world party of socialist revolution some 40 years ago, at the hands of a liquidationist current headed by Michel Pablo (Raptis). The Pabloists abandoned the fight for an independent Leninist-Trotskyist vanguard of the proletariat and instead chased after the Stalinists and a host of other petty-bourgeois and even bourgeois misleaders, justifying their capitulation by relying on the pressure of the supposed “objective revolutionary process.” The Spartacist tendency, now the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist), has fought from its inception for the rebirth of the Fourth International through the political defeat of Pabloism by authentic Trotskyism. That requires a study of its origins and development, which we have addressed in numerous documents and in “Genesis of Pabloism.”[3] The first appearance of the Pabloist revisionist current (though elements of it can be found earlier) came over the Tito-Stalin split in 1948, when the leadership of the Fourth International embraced the dissident Stalinist regime in Tito’s Yugoslavia.

For many years, those who laid claim to the heritage of the anti-Pablo forces grouped in the International Committee (IC), notably Pierre Lambert in France and Gerry Healy in Britain, virtually ignored the Yugoslav affair because of their own complicity. Thus in his 1966 pamphlet dedicated to justifying the expulsion of Spartacist from the London “International Committee” conference, Healy introduces Pabloism with the laconic comment: “Then, in 1951, came Pablo, at that time Secretary of the International, with his theory that because of the imminence of the third world war, the Stalinist parties could, under the impact of this war, transform themselves into revolutionary parties.”[4] Pablo’s theory apparently dropped from the sky.

On the other hand, a number of small centrist groups, which split off from the larger by-products of the explosion of the Fourth International, have declared that it was the FI’s capitulatory line on Tito that marked its definitive political degeneration. The result, and indeed the purpose, of this is to turn the 1951-53 fight against Pabloism into an aftereffect, in order to declare both sides bankrupt, the Fourth International politically degenerated, and the revolutionary continuity broken. This, in turn, frees the born-yesterday centrists to pursue their eclectic, anti-internationalist lashups with abandon, combining and recombining with other denizens of the pseudo-Trotskyist swamp, while conveniently amnestying their own revisionist history. Hence the British Workers Power group claims:

The historical continuity of Trotskyism was shattered....The opposition in America, Britain and France that did emerge in 1952-3 was subjectively committed to opposing Pablo. However, they have to be judged not by their impulse but by their politics. Their “orthodoxy” was both sterile and based on postwar revisionism, prompted by the Yugoslav events. It was not authentic Trotskyism. Thus we cannot view either component of the 1953 split as the “continuators” of Trotskyism. Both were centrist.[5]

In contrast, we have sharply criticized the errors and failures of those, particularly in the American Socialist Workers Party (SWP), who opposed Pabloism, as we take their side in this crucial fight for the survival of Trotskyism. Key to reforging the Fourth International, we wrote two decades ago, “is an understanding of the characteristics and causes of Pabloist revisionism and the flawed response of the anti-Pabloists who fought, too little and too late, on national terrain while in practice abandoning the world movement.”[6] But while recognizing the inroads of opportunism over the Yugoslav affair, we emphasized:

It is crucial that the organizational weakness, lack of deep roots in the proletariat and theoretical incapacity and disorientation which were the precondition for the revisionist degeneration of the Fourth International not be simply equated with the consolidation and victory of that revisionism. Despite grave political errors, the Fourth International in the immediate post-war period was still revolutionary. The SWP and the International clung to sterile orthodoxy as a talisman to ward off non-revolutionary conclusions from world events which they could no longer comprehend....Pabloism was more than a symmetrical false theory, more than simply an impressionistic over-reaction against orthodoxy; it was a theoretical justification for a non-revolutionary impulse based on giving up a perspective for the construction of a proletarian vanguard in the advanced or the colonial countries.[7]

As we will show in what follows, based on an examination of the public and internal materials of the Fourth International, those who write off the FI over Yugoslavia are in fact renouncing the struggle for the Trotskyist world party and its program, the Bolshevism of today.

The “Tito Affair” Explodes
The Fourth International had indeed been confused by the fact that Stalinism emerged from World War II greatly strengthened, contrary to Trotsky’s prognosis. In Italy and Greece there were attempted revolutions, in France, Belgium and elsewhere there were great strike waves, but the Stalinists managed to douse these fires and thus save the bourgeoisie. Meanwhile, the Kremlin’s sway had been extended through the Red Army’s defeat of Hitler’s Germany. The resolution on “The USSR and Stalinism” at the Second World Congress of the Fourth International (1948) declared categorically about East Europe, “In the ‘buffer’ countries [‘glacis’ in French] the state remains bourgeois.” It listed seven factors determining the “capitalist nature of the economy” in East Europe, and ruled that “on so large a scale as half of Europe, structural assimilation [to the Soviet Union] of the ‘buffer’ countries was impossible,” in part because destruction of the bourgeois states “can take place only as a result of the revolutionary mobilization of the masses.”[8]

This was in April 1948, two months after the so-called “Prague coup” which was the benchmark for the Stalinist consolidation of power throughout East Europe. The revolutionary upsurge of the masses at the end of World War II had been suppressed in the interests of the pact with the “democratic” imperialists at Yalta and in agreement with the local bourgeoisies. But the American Marshall Plan in 1947 made it impossible for the “buffer zone” states in the Soviet sphere of influence to be maintained except by expropriating the bourgeoisie. In industrialized Czechoslovakia, with its traditionally strong Communist Party, this was accompanied by a bureaucratically controlled mobilization of the masses. In much of the rest of East Europe it was carried out in a completely “cold” manner by a police purge of the bourgeois parties (the Stalinists having everywhere controlled the political police since 1945). Within a year, the East European bourgeoisies had been liquidated economically and purged from the state apparatus except for purely symbolic tokens. At the time of the FI’s Second World Congress, the “people’s democracies” were bureaucratically deformed workers states in the process of consolidation.

With its disorienting position on the class nature of East Europe, the Fourth International was thrown into tremendous confusion by the bombshell of Stalin’s excommunication of Tito in the “Communist Information Bureau” (Cominform) communiqué of 28 June 1948. For the first time, an entire Communist party, and moreover one holding state power, was no longer under Kremlin control. The Cominform statement bandied about the spectre of Trotskyism, declaring that “slanderous propaganda about the ‘degeneration’ of the CPSU (B), about the ‘degeneration’ of the USSR, and so on, borrowed from the arsenal of counter-revolutionary Trotskyism, is current within the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia.”[9]

What did this signify? It is important to recall that this was the first time that a national Stalinist party had actually broken with the Kremlin, and thus a certain amount of disorientation was to be expected. For the Fourth International, this represented both a significant opportunity and a theoretical predicament. An opportunity, because many Communist Party members in East and West Europe would find it hard to swallow the overnight transformation of Tito from hero of the anti-Nazi Partisan struggle and shining star of the Cominform (whose HQ had been placed in Belgrade) to “Hitlero-Trotskyite” and even “fascist beast at bay.” A theoretical quandary, because Yugoslavia was supposed to be capitalist. Over the next three years, the International Secretariat (I.S.), the International Executive Committee (IEC) and the Third World Congress of the Fourth International declared that the Yugoslav Communist Party (YCP) had “ceased to be a Stalinist party,” but rather was centrist and indeed “left-centrist” evolving toward revolutionary.[10]

The leadership of the FI assumed that any split from Stalin had to be to the left. Yet, as Stalinism was based on the nationalist dogma of building “socialism in one country,” Trotsky had long foreseen the possibility of competing Stalinist nationalisms. Thus in his 1928 critique of the Stalin-Bukharin draft program of the Comintern, Trotsky wrote: “If it is at all possible to realize socialism in one country, then one can believe in that theory not only after but also before the conquest of power.”[11] And after the 1938 Munich pact, he added:

Ten years ago it was predicted that the theory of socialism in one country must inevitably lead to the growth of nationalist tendencies in the sections of the Comintern....Today, we can predict with assurance the inception of a new stage. The growth of imperialist antagonisms, the obvious proximity of the war danger, and the equally obvious isolation of the USSR must unavoidably strengthen the centrifugal nationalist tendencies within the Comintern....Henceforth the Communo-chauvinists will have to worry about their own hides, whose interests by no means always coincide with the “defense of the USSR.”[12]

The Fourth International’s line of tailing after Tito was certainly the starting point for Pabloism, which became a full-fledged revisionist program ultimately explicitly liquidating the raison d’être of the Fourth International as the indispensable independent proletarian vanguard of the working class. Already in the first of two open letters sent to the Yugoslav Communist Party in July 1948, the International Secretariat led by Michel Pablo referred to the YCP as a “revolutionary workers party.”[13] The second letter ended with the call: “Yugoslav Communists, let us unite our efforts for a new Leninist International!”[14]

There was turmoil and serious political disorientation over Yugoslavia throughout the Fourth International. But it would be a mistake to think that when the leaders and cadres of the FI picked up their morning papers on 29 June 1948, they were suddenly stricken with irremediable revisionism. In fact, the declarations of the FI are not at all uniformly opportunist. Thus a 30 June 1948 circular by the International Secretariat, “To the Leadership of All Sections,” notes:

Yugoslavia is the only country of the glacis where the government had not been imposed by the entry of the Red Army and the Soviet occupation, but which had been brought to power by the revolutionary movement of the masses.

Tito personally is a bureaucrat to the hilt, past master in the bureaucratic and GPU Kremlin machine....The reply of the Yugoslav party enables us, naturally without solidarising with it or Tito, to attack the resolution of the Cominform.[15]

The circular urged FI leaders to “follow with great interest but also with caution the evolution of the Moscow-Belgrade conflict.” Yet the initial “Open Letter to the Communist Party of Yugoslavia” issued the next day (1 July) did politically “solidarize” with the YCP leaders, calling on them to “Keep up your fight! Deepen the significance of your struggle with Moscow and its international machine!...Long Live the Yugoslav Socialist Revolution!” And by July 13, the I.S. had thrown caution to the wind in its second open letter, calling on the YCP to become the “mobilization point” for the “mass of revolutionary workers.”

The first two open letters on Yugoslavia by the International Secretariat could not have involved much consultation with the American SWP, which was initially a good deal less enthusiastic about Tito, as will be shown below. A third open letter from the I.S., dated September 1948, pulled back. In the meantime, the Yugoslav CP had held its Fifth Congress (July 1948), which took a purely defensive posture, and at the end of Tito’s report all those attending arose chanting, “Stalin-Tito!”[16] At the congress, in response to the Cominform charges, Tito boasted that he knew how to handle “Trotskyist-fascists.” The YCP’s paper Borba (4 July 1948) reported: “A handful of Trotskyists, who showed their true faces in the war as collaborators and agents of the invaders, ended shamefully before the People’s Courts.”[17] This may have given pause to those Trotskyists who were eagerly embracing the Yugoslav leader.

Thus the new I.S. letter to the YCP noted that “Your leaders and delegates at the Congress have reaffirmed the position, long held by your party, to the effect that Yugoslavia is already a country where socialism is being built and that it is possible to do this.” The letter polemicized against the Stalinist conceptions of “socialism in one country” and a “monolithic” party. It urged “Yugoslav Communists” to “institute a real regime of proletarian democracy in the party and in the country!” and to “call for the real proletarian revolution in other countries of Eastern Europe! And of all of Europe and the world!”[18]

After the initial rush of enthusiasm for Tito by the FI’s International Secretariat, there was nervousness over the implications. A resolution on Yugoslavia at the Sixth Plenum of the IEC, in October 1948, was relatively restrained. Yet it described “Tito and the leadership of the Yugoslav Communist Party” as representing, “thus far, the bureaucratic deformation of a plebeian, anti-capitalist revolutionary current,” and declared that “from the moment that there is a conflict and break between a Communist party and the Kremlin, this party ceases to be a Stalinist party like the rest.”[19] These conclusions opened a breach in the Trotskyist program through which opportunists could drive a truck, and they did.

For a time, the positions taken by the Fourth International were notable mainly for their rampant confusion. Thus the IEC resolution adopted at the Seventh Plenum (April 1949) goes through a tortuous argumentation, calling the East European states a “hybrid transitional society in the process of transformation, with features that are as yet so fluid and lacking precision that it is extremely difficult to summarize its fundamental nature in a concise formula.” Opting for a “definition by description,” the resolution details a long list of factors, finally declaring the buffer zone countries to be “capitalist countries on the road toward structural assimilation with the USSR.” But the resolution quickly adds that this “does not at all imply that the bourgeoisie is in power as the dominant class in these countries”; indeed, a “military-political overturn” had “eliminated the big bourgeoisie and the bulk of the middle bourgeoisie.”[20]

A capitalist country in which the bourgeoisie is not the ruling class, and indeed has been largely “eliminated” as a political and economic force! As Max Shachtman once wrote (speaking of the American CP’s talk of a “labor party” that would be neither reformist nor revolutionary), such a phenomenon “has never been and never will be seen by God or man or beast or the elfin folk who see pretty near everything.”[21]

Only the elimination of borders, literally incorporating East Europe into the Soviet Union and making planning possible, would be a sure sign marking a qualitative social transformation, according to the IEC’s Seventh Plenum. On the other hand, the plenum noted that in Yugoslavia, unlike in the rest of East Europe, the bourgeoisie had largely been liquidated and the bourgeois state apparatus destroyed as a result of the Partisan struggle. The IEC took note of the possibility of “a real differentiation in the workers’ movement following the Tito crisis, despite the undeniable existence of a police regime in this country.”[22] While the IEC hesitated to make the leap, Pablo insisted that the analysis presented “should logically lead to the conclusion that Yugoslavia has ceased to be a capitalist country.”[23] The plenum formally opened up a discussion in the International on the Yugoslav question.

But as Stalin’s anti-Yugoslav offensive mounted, particularly with the Rajk trial in Hungary and similar purges throughout East Europe, Tito and his associates, their backs to the wall, began talking of “bureaucratic degeneration” in the Soviet Union, founding Titoist parties in Germany and Italy and a pro-Tito trade-union current in France. YCP theoretician Moshe Piyade wrote in the Belgrade party daily Borba (6 October 1949), “Since that very day when they proclaimed that Trotskyism was no longer a tendency in the international workers movement and had become an agency of fascism,” henceforth “there remains only physical extermination and the burning of heretics, all discussion being excluded.”[24] The leaders of the FI jumped on these openings, producing paroxysms of praise, sending work brigades and trade-union delegations to Yugoslavia, publishing articles and interviews, and distributing books by YCP leaders.

At its Eighth Plenum (April 1950), the IEC fulsomely hailed “the progressive evolution of the Yugoslav CP,” which “surpasses the most optimistic forecasts,” and stressed “the depth of the revolutionary movement which bore this party to power and the remarkable qualities of its leading cadres”! This supposedly confirmed “the declaration made by our International upon the outbreak of the Yugoslav affair that the rupture of a Stalinist party with the Kremlin necessarily involves a differentiation from Stalinism, which under certain conditions can be highly progressive.”[25] A separate resolution declared that despite continuing differences over the stages of development of the Yugoslav Revolution, with “the victory of the proletarian revolution in Yugoslavia, a workers’ state and a regime of the proletarian dictatorship exists in this country.”[26] Yet what took place in Yugoslavia was not a proletarian revolution but a peasant-based revolution militarily organized by a Stalinist party, the majority of whose members were peasants, giving rise to a bureaucratically deformed workers state.

So whereas in April 1949 the IEC referred to “the undeniable existence of a police regime,” in April 1950 it saw in the evolution of the Yugoslav CP “an ever more clear and powerful affirmation (in the field of ideas and of the political and economic organization of the country) of the highly democratic essence of the dictatorship of the proletariat.”[27] Indeed, while the IEC admitted that “bureaucratic deformations continue” in Yugoslavia, it declared that “a serious struggle is being conducted by the Yugoslav Communists against these deformations.”[28] In addition to this remarkably clean bill of health for the Yugoslav workers state (in effect, no worse than the Soviet Union under Lenin ca. 1920-21), the Fourth International leadership saw a rosy future ahead for it:

To the degree that the Yugoslav CP persists along this road and, by ridding itself of the last ideological vestiges of Stalinism, it will renew the organic bonds between the unfolding Yugoslav and world revolutions, that will entail the regrouping of revolutionary forces on an international scale and it will become the most powerful springboard from which to launch the decisive assault against Stalinism in its crisis.[29]

The task the IEC laid out, therefore, was “to surround the Yugoslav revolution with a widespread and active sympathy by the international revolutionary vanguard and the conscious segment of the working class,” as well as to promote and regroup “the new Communist opposition” in the CPs “stimulated precisely by the Yugoslav example.”[30]

Belgrade’s “Right Turn” Over Korea
But at the same time that Tito & Co. were denouncing “bureaucracy” at home and in the Soviet Union, the imperialists were turning the screws on Yugoslavia. And then came the decisive event in the evolution of the Yugoslav affair: the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950. For a time, the YCP tops had sought to maneuver between the Kremlin and imperialism, but now that the issue of war was posed there was no escaping. Belgrade at first tried to take a waffling line of neutrality, speaking in the UN against labeling North Korea the aggressor and voting against the sanctions that gave a UN cover to the American expeditionary force in Korea.[31] But Yugoslavia eventually caved in to Washington, criminally abstaining on the resolution authorizing General MacArthur to cross the 38th parallel into North Korea, and then opposing the resulting Chinese intervention and voting against the Chinese resolution demanding U.S. withdrawal from Korea.

The Fourth International responded with articles such as “Yugoslav Foreign Policy Continues Drift to Right.”[32] A November 1950 appeal by the FI’s International Secretariat declared, “proletarian Yugoslavia appears to be abandoning its independent policy and seems to be lining up with the imperialist bloc led by Washington,” and called for an end to “the prostration of the Yugoslav Revolution before imperialism.”[33] A series of circulars by the I.S. noted “widespread illusions [among the Yugoslavs] concerning the role of the UN” (June 1950), then a “combination of a leftist course internally and a course which has shifted to the right internationally” (September 1950), and finally a series of positions “which can no longer be considered errors resulting from political confusion, but must be regarded as the expression of a new course taken by the leadership of the YCP tending to associate it with the imperialist bloc” (November 1950). The final circular concluded that “we don’t call yet for the constitution of an opposition tendency,” but rather called on the YCP as a whole to renounce its policy toward Korea.[34]

At the end of November 1950, the FI International Executive Committee held its Ninth Plenum and passed a resolution which was then adopted, with very few modifications, by the Third World Congress of the Fourth International in August 1951. This was the last major statement by the FI on Yugoslavia. The IEC resolution declared that there was a “Yugoslav proletarian revolution” (whose conquests were “generalized and legally consolidated in 1945-46”), and held that with the break from Stalin the YCP “ceased to be a Stalinist party in the full meaning of the word.” The resolution claimed that in Yugoslavia “Stalinism no longer exists today as an effective factor in the workers’ movement,” and went even further to assert: “The dynamics of the Yugoslav revolution confirms the theory of the permanent revolution on all points.”[35]

What about Trotsky’s insistence that “the realization of the revolutionary alliance between the proletariat and the peasantry is conceivable only under the political leadership of the proletarian vanguard, organized in the Communist Party”?[36] The need for an independent, Bolshevik-internationalist vanguard party, the key to Trotsky’s program, was not mentioned, for the simple reason that this task had been ceded to the Stalinist YCP under Tito. The Workers Power obituary on the Fourth International claims that:

In 1951 the centrist positions of the Third World Congress on Stalinism, on Yugoslavia, and general perspectives (the impending “civil war” perspective) proved, beyond doubt, that a programmatic collapse of the Fourth International had taken place. The fact that no section voted against the Yugoslav resolution—the cornerstone of all the errors—is a fact of enormous significance. The FI as a whole had collapsed into centrism.[37]

In reality, while reflecting the deep inroads Pabloism had already made, the IEC resolution on Yugoslavia adopted by the Third World Congress was not quite so seamlessly opportunist as Workers Power would have it. Reflecting mounting disenchantment with the Tito regime, the resolution notes that the “right turn in Yugoslav foreign policy” over the Korean War had “in part vitiated the effects of the Yugoslav affair on the international crisis of Stalinism.” It also vowed to make “frank and uncompromising criticism of all the political errors and opportunist deviations on the part of the CPY.” In one of its few amendments to the IEC resolution, the Third World Congress insisted that these criticisms “should tend to impel the Yugoslav communists to replace their present opportunist leadership by a revolutionary leadership.”[38]

Moreover, the Third World Congress resolution on international perspectives declared that “we shall work for the creation of a Bolshevik tendency in the YCP, against the policy of surrender and capitulation of the leadership, and for its replacement.”[39] So by August 1951 the Fourth International was calling, softly, for the ouster of the Tito leadership. The report on Yugoslavia to the congress by Harold Livingstone (George Clarke) was harder. While saying that “the Yugoslav revolution is not dead,” it declared “its progressive influence on the world labor movement—in deepening the crisis of Stalinism and in giving new impetus to the forces of revolutionary Marxism—is now a thing of the past.”[40]

While Clarke said that “we do not put a cross on the Yugoslav revolution,” in fact Yugoslavia hardly appeared after that in the press or statements of the Fourth International up to the split in 1953. An article reporting on the Third World Congress wrote of Yugoslavia that “the events which have occurred since mid-1950 have demonstrated all the profound opportunism of a leadership nurtured within the Stalinist camp, and the extreme danger this opportunism constituted for the preservation of the revolutionary gains.”[41] And an article by Pablo summed up:

After a brief left-centrist period which followed their break with the Kremlin, the Yugoslav leadership in their attempt to safeguard the regime with the money, the military and diplomatic guarantees of Western “democratic imperialism,” has been liquidating the proletarian power in Yugoslavia bit by bit and preparing its total demise....It is now more necessary than ever that the revolutionary Marxists of the Yugoslav Communist Party organize into a Leninist tendency and align themselves against the treacherous policies of their leaders.[42]

For all of 1952 we found not one article on Yugoslavia in Quatrième Internationale, the press of the French Parti Communiste Internationaliste, or the press of the American SWP; for 1953 we found only one.[43] Having been burned by their handling of the Tito affair, the FI leaders dropped it like a hot potato. They backed away from the Belgrade regime, but there was no reckoning with the theoretical and programmatic questions Yugoslavia had posed for the Fourth International. In early 1953, SWP leader Joseph Hansen could say: “Our co-thinkers now call for a political revolution in Yugoslavia such as we advocate against the Kremlin. This means that the Tito regime is judged to be politically counter-revolutionary.”[44] But what happened to the earlier appraisal of the Tito regime as “left-centrist” and the “remarkable qualities of its leading cadres”? This was essentially swept under the rug.

At the time of the split with Pablo in November 1953, the document by the SWP plenum published under the title “Against Pabloist Revisionism” had only this to say:

Yugoslavia and China show that under certain exceptional conditions the leadership of a Stalinist party, caught between extermination by the counter-revolution and an extremely powerful revolutionary offensive of the masses, can push forward to power....But it would be unwarranted to generalize too broadly and hastily on this point. It should be remembered that while the Yugoslavs marched to power, the CP’s in other countries remained subordinate to the Kremlin and facilitated the work of the counter-revolution. Two Communist parties, the Yugoslav and Chinese, met the test in one way; the others in a directly opposite manner.

The specific conditions which forced the Yugoslav and Chinese CP’s onto the revolutionary road must be analyzed and understood.[45]

While the FI reaffirmed the need for a new revolutionary leadership of the proletariat, the study of the implications of the Yugoslav and Chinese revolutions did not take place. It took until 1955 for the SWP to characterize China as a deformed workers state, and even then it placed the qualitative transformation in 1951-53, when as a result of the Korean War (most of) the capitalists were expropriated, rather than in 1949 when the revolution took place.[46] This was continuing the same methodology which had led to enormous confusion over East Europe. Yet the May 1957 SWP convention declared that “the Titoites have demonstrated throughout that they are in no sense to the left of the Soviet bureaucracy.”[47] And an SWP resolution on the Hungarian Revolution said of Tito’s support for Moscow, “When the cards were down, the fact that Tito represents simply a variety of Stalinism proved decisive—despite his differences with Khrushchev & Co.”[48] The fact that these issues were dealt with only empirically and the theoretical questions raised by the deformed workers states after WWII were never fought out was a major failure of the anti-Pabloists. This was later to feed into the SWP’s capitulation to Pablo/Mandel over Algeria and Cuba, facilitating the formation of the Mandelite “United Secretariat” (USec) characterized by its perennial search for “new vanguards.”

Who Opposed FI Capitulation to Tito?
But to recognize and criticize these weaknesses and failures, as we more than any other tendency have done, is far from dismissing the struggle against Pabloism. Those who use the Yugoslav affair in order to equate pro-and anti-Pablo groupings in the Fourth International, who talk of the definitive degeneration and political collapse of the FI during 1948-51, are throwing up a smokescreen to obliterate what the fight during 1951-53 was all about: the continuity of Trotskyism. To accomplish this they simply disappear all opposition to the tailing after Tito pushed by Pablo and adopted by the I.S./IEC. Thus Workers Power writes:

As the FI leadership’s world view became increasingly at variance with reality, so their orthodoxy became ever more fragile. All that was needed to dislodge the FI from the orthodox positions it held until 1948 was a sharp twist in world events.

That twist in events came almost immediately after the 1948 Congress. In the summer of 1948 the Tito-Stalin split was made public....Out of the Yugoslav events the FI developed centrist conclusions and positions....Pablo’s positions on Yugoslavia were adopted by the FI at its Third World Congress in 1951. They were subscribed to by all the major sections and leading figures of the FI.[49]

This picture of a uniform capitulation to Pablo is utterly false. To understand the real development of Pabloism it’s necessary to look at the opposition that did arise over the Yugoslav affair, and its weaknesses.

Naturally, from outside the FI there was criticism from Max Shachtman’s Workers Party. Workers Party leader Hal Draper wrote of the “galloping political degeneration” of the FI, concluding: “The Stalinotropism of the Fourth International leadership is flowering.”[50] A similar tone was struck by the “Revolutionary Faction of the Mexican Section of the Fourth International.” Its “Critique of the ‘Open Letter’ of the I.S. to the Yugoslav CP” accuses the I.S. of “a grave opportunist deviation” as it “places Tito and the Yugoslav ‘Communist’ Party to the left of Stalin, thereby creating illusions about a future revolutionary role of a party that despite everything continues to be Stalinist.”[51] True enough, but in the very next sentence, it lets the cat out of the bag, declaring, “in the USSR there is no workers state, however degenerated they portray it to us, but rather state capitalism.”

Somewhat later, in May 1951, Natalia Sedova Trotsky wrote to the American SWP, breaking all ties with the Fourth International to protest its stands on Yugoslavia, East Europe and the Soviet Union. She declared that “your entire press is now devoted to an inexcusable idealization of the Titoist bureaucracy,” which “is only a replica, in a new form, of the old Stalinist bureaucracy.” She rightly noted that “It is absurd to believe or to teach that the revolutionary leadership of the Yugoslav people will develop out of this bureaucracy or in any way other than in the course of struggle against it.” Yet while she was able to take to task the SWP and the FI for their opportunist line on Yugoslavia, her starting point was the declaration that “Stalinism and the Stalinist state have nothing whatever in common with a workers’ state or with socialism.”[52] Natalia rejected Trotsky’s policy of unconditional defense of the Soviet Union, claiming it had become capitalist. Thus she refused to support the Soviet Union and North Korea (“the armies of Stalinism”) against U.S. imperialism in the Korean War.

So the purveyors of the thesis that the Soviet Union was a new exploitative class society, whether “bureaucratic collectivist” (Shachtman) or “state capitalist,” accused the I.S. of selling out to Stalinism. Of course, they wrote off the whole affair as a squabble between two bureaucrats. “Go to it, bandits! Deepen the rift between you!” wrote Shachtman,[53] while Draper declared that “the conflict between the Yugo and the Commissar is over who is to benefit from the exploitation of the masses.”[54] This is hardly surprising: their line was crystallized Stalinophobia. Thus Shachtman vituperated against “Stalinist imperialism,” while Draper opposed the Yugoslav call for a Balkan federation in denouncing “Yugoslav sub-imperialism.” Ultimately Shachtman’s line would take him from the mythical “Third Camp,” to pro-imperialist “neutrality” in the Korean War, to direct support for imperialism at the time of the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba and in the Vietnam War.

(Parenthetically, any honest believer in “state capitalism” should have realized the falsity of this construct by the time of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, when the Stalinist bureaucracy acted not as an exploiting class, which would have defended its property and class interests to the bloody end, but rather as a fragile, parasitic layer which quickly shattered, with whole sections going over to the insurrectionary workers. Today, as imperialist pimps, the “state caps” are enjoying the collapse of Stalinism. But if there were any shame among revisionists, by rights Tony Cliff et al. ought to be embarrassed into nonexistence by the stark revelation of the fallacy of their schema. If it’s only the change from one form of capitalism to another, then why the mass bloodletting in Yugoslavia, mass hunger in Poland, mass unemployment in East Germany, not to mention the emboldening of world imperialism for, e.g., the mass slaughter in Iraq?)

But there was plenty of unease over the Fourth International’s line on Yugoslavia from those who saw themselves as orthodox Trotskyists. The American SWP took a distinctly different tack at first from that of the I.S. An initial editorial in the Militant declared, “All that Tito and his clique are striving to defend are their own material interests, their power and privileges. All they ask is to be permitted to rule in Yugoslavia as Stalin rules in Russia.”[55] In the same issue John G. Wright, a leading SWP cadre, sounded almost like Shachtman: “The Dictator-in-Chief in the Kremlin has decided to veto the Little Dictator in Yugoslavia.”[56] This soon changed. Directly contradicting Wright’s rather Stalinophobic articles, Joseph Hansen declared: “Far more is involved than the fight between a big dictator and a little dictator. The struggle initiated by Tito...may well become the starting point for new, large-scale regroupments and developments in the international working class movement.”[57] That was quite true.

A 3 August 1948 statement by the Political Committee of the SWP was not nearly so effusively capitulatory as the I.S. Open Letter of July 13. Nevertheless, the SWP statement was marked by the objectivism which was characteristic of much of the FI’s writings on Yugoslavia:

The course of events will work in favor of the revolutionists....The logic of the Stalin-Tito struggle is such that it is bound to impel the militants in Yugoslavia and elsewhere—not to the right but to the left. This will happen independently of whether Tito himself moves to the right, or whether he seeks to straddle the fence somewhere between the Kremlin and imperialism.[58]

Over the next year and a half, the SWP continued to keep some distance from the Tito regime. Thus in November 1948 Joseph Hansen wrote an article, “Tito Flounders with Stalin’s ‘Theory’ of Building ‘Socialism’ in One Country.”[59] Nine months later a Militant editorial commented: “Thus far Tito has been fighting the Kremlin with measures and weapons borrowed almost exclusively from the arsenal of Stalinism,” to wit, the false claim of “building socialism” in one country, making deals with imperialism and “bureaucratic police measures” internally.[60] However, in late 1949 the SWP began to shift when a National Committee statement declared: “Stalinist in origin and ideology, the Tito leadership has nevertheless been compelled by the logic of the struggle to question some of the fundamental premises on which Stalinism rests....The Yugoslav struggle has given rise to a new form of centrism, a tendency between Stalinist reformism and revolutionary Marxism.”[61]

By the spring of 1950, the SWP had become positively euphoric over Tito. James P. Cannon sent a telegram to the YCP Central Committee hailing the latter’s May Day manifesto: “workers everywhere will acclaim your appeal to defend Yugoslavia and restore revolutionary movement to Leninism as opposed to Stalinism and Social Democracy.”[62] An article in the same Militant proclaimed, “Above all, the Yugoslav manifesto indicates that the final crisis of world Stalinism is at hand.”[63] (This paean was occasioned by a single reference in the YCP manifesto to “the struggle against the revision of Marxism and Leninism.”) Two months later, the Militant headlined “Tito Denounces Bureaucracy as Foe of Socialism,” and editorialized that Tito’s June 27 speech denouncing the “huge, bureaucratic, centralistic apparatus” in the USSR and attacking Stalin by name was “a great mile stone in the development of the international working class and socialist movement.”[64]

But as Belgrade lined up with imperialism over the Korean War, the SWP’s enthusiasm quickly cooled. From November 1950 to January 1951 the Militant published an eleven-part cautionary series by Ernest Mandel, who at the time wrote under the name Ernest Germain, titled “Yugoslavia Seen with Open Eyes.” This was followed by another four-part series by John G. Wright on “Yugoslavia’s Foreign Policy.” Wright accused the Yugoslav leaders of “more and more tending” to “trade away their democratic and socialist principles in exchange for material and military aid” from the imperialist West.[65] “What blinds the Yugoslav Communists is that their own leaders themselves still cling to the illusory reactionary goal of building socialism within the confines of Yugoslavia, just as they keep clinging to the Stalinist conception of a ‘monolithic’ party,” Wright concluded.[66]

The policy of the French Parti Communiste Internationaliste (PCI) on Yugoslavia was broadly similar to that of the American SWP, although the swings were more pronounced since the issue was much more immediate in Europe. At the Fifth Congress of the PCI in July 1948, the majority led by Jacques Privas (Jacques Grimblatt), Michèle Mestre, Pierre Lambert, and Marcel Marin (Marcel Gibelin) passed a motion directly opposing the I.S. Open Letter of July 13 “for idealizing Tito and the Yugoslav CP,” while making clear their intention to abide by international discipline.[67] The PCI motion insisted that the Tito-Stalin split was part of the general crisis of Stalinism in the buffer zone, which it attributed to “exploitation” of these countries by the Kremlin. The I.S. was supported by a minority led by Pierre Frank and Marcel Favre-Bleibtreu. At a PCI Central Committee meeting in late 1948, Bleibtreu and Frank fulsomely supported the Yugoslavia motion adopted by the October 1948 IEC plenum, insisting in particular that the YCP had ceased to be “a Stalinist party like the rest.” The majority of the PCI Central Committee, while viewing the relatively restrained IEC motion as a step in the right direction, still insisted that the IEC disavow Pablo’s August 1948 article, “The Yugoslav Affair,” as well as the Open Letter formulations which idealized Tito.[68]

On the other hand, during 1950, the French PCI practically became a publicity agency for the Yugoslavs. A January report on the PCI’s Sixth Congress declared that “above all the defense of Yugoslavia is the defense of a proletarian revolution”:

The reporter [Bleibtreu] fought the doubts and hesitations which threaten to weaken the intervention of the party. He showed:

—that it is wrong to speak of a Yugoslav bureaucratic caste of the same nature as the Russian bureaucracy;

—that it is wrong to accept the idea that the YCP has capitulated or is in the process of capitulating to imperialism. No vote of Yugoslavia in the UN, no trade agreement can justify such a claim.[69]

The resolution “Hands Off the Yugoslav Revolution” voted by the congress declared that the Yugoslav CP had “return[ed] to Leninism on a series of important strategic questions.” It characterized the YCP as representing “left-centrism in the process of evolving,” citing factors “which objectively push the YCP onto the road of the revolutionary program.”[70]

The PCI regularly advertised works by Yugoslav leaders such as Milovan Djilas and Edvard Kardelj (People’s Democracy in Yugoslavia) and urged readers to tune in to the broadcasts of Radio Belgrade. A headline proclaimed “The Magnificent Election Campaign of the YCP,” while the article declared: “The YCP and the Fourth International are hated for the same reason: because they express the greatest force of our epoch, the force of the proletarian revolution, the invincible strength of the working people of all countries.”[71] On May Day 1950 a French delegation visited Belgrade; PCI leader Pierre Lambert reported, “I believe that I saw in Yugoslavia a dictatorship of the proletariat, led by a party which passionately seeks to combat bureaucracy and impose workers democracy”! (At the same time he reported that typical slogans carried in the demonstration were “Tito, Central Committee, Party, Yugoslav Peoples,” and “Tito Is with Us, We Are with Tito.”)[72]

The PCI held meetings in defense of Yugoslavia which had to be physically defended against Stalinist attacks. It also took the lead in sending youth work brigades (called the Jean Jaurès Brigades after the French Socialist leader) and trade-union delegations to Yugoslavia, which eventually totaled some 2,000 young workers. La Vérité bombastically headlined the report of one delegation, “Those Who Have Seen the Truth in Yugoslavia Say It: YES, This Is a State Where Socialism Is Being Built, This Is the Dictatorship of the Proletariat.” Denouncing reactionary and Stalinist accounts of a “police state” in Yugoslavia, the article declared, “This state is a WORKERS STATE, resolutely engaged on the road of SOCIALIST DEMOCRACY.” However, elsewhere in the reportage, La Vérité admitted that “the French delegation was struck by...a certain bureaucratic plethora,” and “a certain insufficiency of political life and discussion” in the ranks of the Yugoslav party and trade unions.[73]

Eventually, the Tito regime’s capitulation to imperialism over the Korean War could no longer be ignored. In December 1950 La Vérité candidly expressed the sense of disillusionment among the PCI ranks, particularly the youth who had enthusiastically joined the work brigades: “All this is extremely painful for the revolutionary friends of Yugoslavia who have hoped that its leaders would really keep their promises to consistently defend Marxism-Leninism against Stalinist revisionism.”[74] The trade-union grouping led by Lambert around the journal L’Unité, in which PCI militants cooperated with pro-Tito elements and which was reputedly financed by the Yugoslav government,[75] eventually fell apart.

In “Genesis of Pabloism,” we wrote that “Virtually without exception the Fourth International was disoriented by the Yugoslav revolution.”[76] With the documentation now available to us, we can say that this is not entirely true. The British Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) at least understood that capitalism had been abolished, not only in Yugoslavia but in the other countries of East Europe as well, and opposed the capitulation to Tito. Yet the RCP’s line was dismissed out of hand, not only by Pablo but also by the SWP, and, most importantly, almost none of its documents were widely disseminated in the FI. At the April 1948 Second World Congress, the RCP submitted amendments to the resolution on the USSR and Stalinism in which they opposed the description of the East European states as capitalist, noting instead:

a) The basic overturn of capitalist property relations has already been, or is in the process of being completed. b) The capitalist control of the government and the apparatus of the state has been, or is in the process of being destroyed. c) This process of assimilation is the necessary and inevitable product of the class character of the Russian economy, and of the preponderance of the Russian state as the dominant military and political force in the existing relations of world powers on the one hand, and the balance of power between the Stalinist and working class organisations and the remnants of the ruling class, on the other.[77]

At the same time, the RCP was careful to underline that “the destruction of capitalism in these countries must not be taken as a model for the general overthrow of capitalism, nor does it prove that capitalism can be destroyed in Western Europe coldly, by terror from above.”[78]

So unlike the rest of the International, the British RCP did not face a theoretical quandary in dealing with the Tito-Stalin split. RCP leaders Jock Haston and Ted Grant, in a July 1948 article, noted that this “marks a new stage in the development of international Stalinism which must be closely followed by revolutionary and militant workers,” but they cautioned: “One thing we know, Tito is no Trotskyist. Organisationally and ideologically he is the enemy of Trotskyism.” Their article concluded:

All socialists will give critical support to the movement in Yugoslavia to federate with Bulgaria and to gain freedom from direct Moscow domination. At the same time, the workers in Yugoslavia and these countries will fight for the installation of genuine workers’ democracy....This is impossible under the present Tito regime. For an Independent Socialist Soviet Yugoslavia within an Independent Socialist Soviet Balkans. This can only be part of the struggle for the overthrow of the Capitalist Governments in Europe and the installation of Workers’ Democracy in Russia.[79]

A powerful letter to the International Executive Committee by Jock Haston, “on behalf of the Central Committee, RCP,” undated but probably written in late summer 1948, criticized the Open Letters of the I.S., noting that while they exposed the bureaucratic expulsion of the YCP from the Cominform, this “must not mean that we become lawyers for the YCP leadership, or create even the least illusion that they do not still remain, despite the break with Stalin, Stalinists in method and training.” Haston criticized the Open Letters for failing to fulfill these conditions and appearing to be “based on the perspective that the leaders of the YCP can be won over to the Fourth International.” While individuals may change, Tito et al. “themselves rest on a Stalinist bureaucratic regime in Yugoslavia.” Thus, “by their silence on fundamental aspects of the regime in Yugoslavia and YCP policy, the letters strike an opportunist note.” Haston’s letter contained the essentials of a Trotskyist position on Yugoslavia:

Tito is attempting, and will attempt, to follow an independent course between Moscow and Washington, without altering the bureaucratic machine or turning to proletarian internationalism. A bureaucratic regime, resting as it does mainly on the peasantry, can have no independent perspective between the Soviet Union and American imperialism. The main emphasis of the [I.S.] letters should have been to show the necessity for a radical break with the present policy of the YCP, the introduction of soviet democracy within the party and the country, coupled with a policy of proletarian internationalism....

It is impermissible to slur over the nature of the YCP, its identity on fundamental points with other Stalinist parties. Such a slurring over can only disorientate Stalinist workers. Yet every attempt is made by the I.S. to narrow the gulf that separates the policy of the YCP from Bolshevik-Leninism....

It is true that the Yugoslav Stalinists settled, with some success, the national problem inside their own country. It was their programme with regard to this question that enabled them to win over members of the quisling armies. But the comrades must be aware that the propaganda of the YCP towards Germany was of the same chauvinistic character as that of the Russian and other Stalinist parties....The I.S. mentions Togliatti’s chauvinism, and Thorez’ nationalist hysteria, and leaves the impression of a favourable comparison between the policy of other Stalinist parties and that of the YCP. We cannot be silent on the YCP’s chauvinistic campaign around Trieste, their attitude towards reparations, their uncritical support for the Russian bureaucracy’s demand for reparations from the German people. It is necessary to take up these questions so that it shall be clear precisely what the gulf is between a nationalist and an internationalist policy, and precisely what it is that Yugoslav militants must struggle against.[80]

Haston also nailed the I.S. on the glaring contradiction between the latter’s defense of Yugoslavia, which the FI’s Second World Congress two months earlier labeled a capitalist state, against the Soviet degenerated workers state led by Stalin:

The World Congress majority adopted a position that the buffer countries, including Yugoslavia, were capitalist countries. It rejected the resolution of the RCP that these economies were being brought into line with that of the Soviet Union and could not be characterised as capitalist. The amendment of the British party to the section “The USSR and Stalinism” was defeated. But it is evident from these letters that the I.S. has been forced by events to proceed from the standpoint of the British party, that the productive and political relations in Yugoslavia are basically identical with those of the Soviet Union.[81]

Haston appealed to the International Executive Committee to “reject the orientation in the Open Letter” and, in order to correct the damage done, to reopen the discussion on the buffer zone. At the IEC’s Seventh Plenum in April 1949 (which voted the “definition-description” of the buffer zone as still capitalist), the representatives of the RCP introduced the substance of their Second World Congress amendments as a countermotion.[82] It was not until the IEC’s Eighth Plenum in April 1950 that the Fourth International characterized Yugoslavia as a workers state, and only at the Ninth Plenum in December of that year did it finally declare that capitalism had been overthrown in the “buffer zone countries.”

If, as we have written, the American SWP leadership’s approach to East Europe amounted to a “wooden orthodoxy,” insistently ignoring reality until finally forced by events to recognize it (but failing to draw the theoretical lessons), the Haston/Grant leadership of the British RCP tended toward empiricism. They recognized that events in Europe had not conformed to Trotsky’s prognosis, particularly following the defeat of the Italian workers uprising in 1944-45; but on this basis they declared a phase of “bourgeois ‘democratic’ counter-revolution.” Haston/Grant had supported the rightist Goldman-Morrow tendency in the SWP, which put forward a “democratic” minimum program for constituent assemblies as opposed to a fight for soviets. Seeing the British Labour government elected in 1945 carrying out more extensive nationalizations than had been expected, Haston speculated in 1946 about a worldwide trend to “state capitalism” and began questioning the character of the Soviet state. But in a sign of political vitality, the discussion which followed in the RCP produced a corrective and a switching of positions.

Tony Cliff, who had arrived in Britain from Palestine in late 1946, was assigned by the I.S. to argue against Haston in favor of the Trotskyist characterization of the Soviet Union as a degenerated workers state. But Cliff then went over to “state capitalism” and in 1948 published his book, Russia: A Marxist Analysis. In contrast, in the course of restudying the question, going back to Capital and the works of Lenin and Trotsky, the Haston/Grant leadership came back to the original Trotskyist position. As a result of this study and under the impact of events in East Europe, the RCP leaders were able to adopt a coherent position on the “buffer zone” and Yugoslavia which, at least on paper, neither denied reality nor gave up the struggle for the Trotskyist program. And they were able to do so with a trenchant analysis that could have armed the International for future events. Thus a 25 June 1949 letter of the RCP to the I.S. stated: “We cannot fail to comment here that your uncritical letter to the Yugoslav Communist Party precisely lends weight to the point of view that Tito is an ‘unconscious Trotskyist’.”[83] A decade and a half later, the founding document of the United Secretariat, which brought the SWP together with the main forces of the European Pabloists, approvingly cited radical journalist I.F. Stone’s observation of the Fidelistas in Cuba: “the revolutionists there are ‘unconscious’ Trotskyists.”[84]

But at the same time, Haston and Grant were under constant attack by the I.S., which was supporting the RCP minority led by Gerry Healy. Cannon supported Pablo in Paris, and Healy was Cannon and Pablo’s man in London. As early as August 1945, Healy, instigated by Pierre Frank, was calling for the British section to enter the Labour Party. In June 1946, the IEC was pushing the RCP to put most of its forces into the Labour Party “with the object of patiently building up an organised Left Wing”—a foretaste of Pablo’s later call for “entrism sui generis” (of a distinct type), whose purpose was not to polarize an existing left wing but to bury the Trotskyists in this reformist party “for a long time.” The RCP majority opposed this liquidationist line. In September 1946 the IEC supported Healy when he threatened to split the RCP in order to enter the Labour Party, and they recognized two British organizations, the Haston/Grant RCP and Healy’s entrist group.

This heavy-handed treatment was repeated again in 1949, when Haston/Grant finally capitulated to the pressure and agreed to enter the Labour Party. To get around the fact that Haston/Grant still had the larger forces, Healy demanded (and the I.S. backed him) that he have a majority on the leading bodies of the fused group until an election the next year! As occurred with the French in 1951-52, liquidationist politics went hand in hand with a bureaucratic internal regime. In the end, the result was the destruction of the RCP, in which the FI’s wrong position on Yugoslavia was an important element.

Continue on...


1 Leon Trotsky, The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International (the Transitional Program), reprinted in The Transitional Program for Socialist Revolution, 3rd ed. (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1977), 112.

2 Ibid., 113.

3 “Genesis of Pabloism” was originally published in Spartacist (English edition) No. 21, Fall 1972.

4 Gerry Healy, Problems of the Fourth International (1966), 274.

5 Workers Power, The Death Agony of the Fourth International and the Tasks of Trotskyists Today (London: Workers Power and Irish Workers Group, 1983) (hereafter referred to as Death Agony), 36.

6 “Genesis of Pabloism.”

7 “Genesis of Pabloism.” At the time we wrote “Genesis of Pabloism,” our documentation consisted largely of the internal bulletins of the American Socialist Workers Party. The present article draws as well on materials from the holdings of the Prometheus Research Library (New York), and from CERMTRI, the Centre d’Etudes et de Récherches sur les Mouvements Trotskyste et Révolutionnaires Internationaux (Paris).

8 “The USSR and Stalinism,” Fourth International, June 1948, 118-19. The theses are also available in French as “L’URSS et le stalinisme (thèses),” in R. Prager, ed., Les congrès de la IVe Internationale (hereafter referred to as LCQI), Vol. 3, Bouleversements et crises de l’après-guerre (1946-1950) (Montreuil: Editions La Brèche-PEC, 1988), 155-201.

9 The Soviet-Yugoslav Dispute (London: Royal Institute of International Affairs, 1948), 62.

10 “Resolution on the Yugoslav Revolution and the Fourth International,” SWP International Information Bulletin, January 1951, 16-18. This resolution is also available in French as “Résolution sur la révolution yougoslave et la IVe Internationale,” LCQI, Vol. 4, Menace de la troisième guerre mondiale et tournant politique (1950-1952) (Montreuil: Editions La Brèche-PEC, 1989), 249-60.

11 Leon Trotsky, The Third International After Lenin (New York: Pioneer Publishers, 1936), 72.

12 Leon Trotsky, “A Fresh Lesson,” Writings of Leon Trotsky (1938-39), 2nd ed. (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1974), 71.

13 “An Open Letter to the Communist Party of Yugoslavia” (1 July 1948), Militant, 26 July 1948.

14 “An Open Letter to the Congress, Central Committee and Members of the Yugoslav Communist Party” (13 July 1948), Fourth International, August 1948. This letter is also available in French as “Lettre ouverte au congrès, au comité central et aux members du Parti communiste yougoslave,” LCQI, Vol. 3, 394. The English translation significantly distorted the last quote to read, “Yugoslav Communists Unite for a New Leninist International!”

15 This circular exists in the archives of Natalia Sedova Trotsky at the Leon Trotsky Museum in Coyoacán, Mexico; a photocopy is in the holdings of the Prometheus Research Library.

16 Josip Broz Tito, Rapport politique du Comité Central presenté au Cinquième Congrès du Parti Communiste de Yougoslavie (Le Livre Yougoslave, 1948), 156.

17 Cited in Tony Cliff, “On the Class Nature of the ‘People’s Democracies’,” The Origins of the International Socialists (London: Pluto Press, 1971), 44.

18 This third open letter, dated September 1948, was published in the Militant, 20 September 1948.

19 “Résolution sur la Yougoslavie et la crise du stalinisme,” LCQI, Vol. 3, 421-22.

20 “Evolution of the Buffer Countries,” SWP International Information Bulletin, June 1949, reprinted in SWP Education for Socialists, “Class, Party and State and the Eastern European Revolution” (November 1969) (hereafter referred to as CPSEER). The material quoted appears on pages 13-14 of CPSEER.

21 Max Shachtman, “The Problem of the Labor Party,” New International, March 1935, 37.

22 “Evolution of the Buffer Countries,” op. cit., 15.

23 “Déclaration du camarade Jérôme [Pablo]” on “Résolution sur l’évolution des pays du ‘glacis’,” LCQI, Vol. 3, 439.

24 Quoted in Michel Pablo, “Evolution of Yugoslav Centrism,” Fourth International, November 1949, 296.

25 “Resolution on the Crisis of Stalinism and the Developments of the Yugoslav Revolution,” SWP International Information Bulletin, September 1950, 5.

26 “Resolutions on the Class Nature of Yugoslavia,” SWP International Information Bulletin, September 1950, 8.

27 “Resolution on the Crisis of Stalinism and the Developments of the Yugoslav Revolution,” op. cit., 5.

28 “Resolutions on the Class Nature of Yugoslavia,” op. cit., 8.

29 “Resolution on the Crisis of Stalinism and the Developments of the Yugoslav Revolution,” op. cit., 5-6.

30 Ibid., 6-7.

31 I.F. Stone, The Hidden History of the Korean War (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1988 [1952]).

32 Militant, 13 November 1950.

33 “Assiégée par le Kremlin, la Yougoslavie est sous le chantage de l’impérialisme,” La Vérité No. 261, second half of November 1950.

34 All these circulars were quoted in “Circulaire du S.I.: à toutes les sections de la IVe Internationale,” 15 November 1950, Supplement No. 158 to La Vérité No. 260, second half of November 1950.

35 “Resolution on the Yugoslav Revolution and the Fourth International,” op. cit., 13-14, 16.

36 Leon Trotsky, The Permanent Revolution (1929), reprinted in The Permanent Revolution and Results and Prospects, 3rd ed. (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1969), 277.

37 Workers Power, Death Agony, 35.

38 “The Yugoslav Revolution,” Fourth International, November-December 1951, reprinted in CPSEER, 59-60.

39 “La lutte contre la guerre impérialiste et pour la victoire de la révolution socialiste mondiale (résolution sur la situation et les tâches),” LCQI, Vol. 4, 183.

40 Harold Livingstone (George Clarke), “Report to the Congress—Yugoslavia: Review and Outlook,” Fourth International, November-December 1951, 177-83.

41 “Les transformations sociales en Europe orientale,” La Vérité No. 283, 25 October-7 November 1951.

42 “Tito Regime Adjusts Its Policies to Suit Aims of U.S. Imperialism,” Militant, 12 November 1951.

43 Gérard Bloch, “Contre-réforme agraire en Yougoslavie,” La Vérité No. 316, 12-15 June 1953.

44 Joseph Hansen, “What the New York Discussion Has Revealed,” SWP Discussion Bulletin, Vol. XV, No. 4, February 1953, reprinted in SWP Education for Socialists, “International Committee Documents, 1951-1954” (March 1974) (hereafter referred to as IC Documents), Vol. 1, 38.

45 “Against Pabloist Revisionism,” Fourth International, September-October 1953, reprinted in IC Documents, Vol. 3, 147.

46 “The Third Chinese Revolution and Its Aftermath” (resolution adopted by the 1955 SWP convention), SWP Discussion Bulletin A-31, October 1955, reprinted in SWP Education for Socialists, “The Chinese Revolution and Its Development” (November 1969), 3-10.

47 “The Soviet Union Today,” SWP Discussion Bulletin A-33, December 1955, reprinted in SWP Education for Socialists, “‘De-Stalinization,’ the Hungarian Revolution and World Trotskyism” (February 1978) (hereafter referred to as De-Stalinization), 21.

48 “The Hungarian Revolution and the Crisis of Stalinism” (January 1957), reprinted in De-Stalinization, 38.

49 Workers Power, Death Agony, 28-29.

50 Hal Draper, “‘Comrade’ Tito and the 4th International: Left-Wing Stalinism—A Senile Disorder,” New International, September 1948, 208, 212.

51 Fracción Revolucionaria de la Sección Mexicana de la IV Internacional, “Crítica a la ‘Carta Abierta’ del Secretariado Internacional al PC Yugoeslavo,” Boletín Interno, September 1948, 17-18.

52 “Text of Letter to SWP from Natalia Trotsky,” Militant, 4 June 1951.

53 Max Shachtman, “Tito Versus Stalin,” New International, August 1948, 178.

54 Hal Draper, “The Economic Drive Behind Tito,” New International, October 1948, 230-31.

55 “Meaning of the Yugoslav Crisis,” Militant, 5 July 1948.

56 John G. Wright, “Public Break with Tito Highlights Kremlin Crisis,” Militant, 5 July 1948.

57 Joseph Hansen, “Tito-Stalin Conflict,” Militant, 6 September 1948.

58 SWP Political Committee, “Yugoslav Events and the World Crisis of Stalinism,” Fourth International, August 1948, 175.

59 Joseph Hansen, “Tito Flounders with Stalin’s ‘Theory’ of Building ‘Socialism’ in One Country,” Militant, 29 November 1948.

60 “Yugoslavia and the Kremlin,” Militant, 15 August 1949.

61 “The Tito-Stalin Conflict,” Fourth International, October 1949, 262-63.

62 “Yugoslav May Day Manifesto Hailed by SWP Leader,” Militant, 8 May 1950.

63 “Yugoslavs Issue Appeal for Return to Leninist Principles,” Militant, 8 May 1950.

64 “Tito’s June 27 Speech,” Militant, 10 July 1950.

65 John G. Wright, “Yugoslavia’s Foreign Policy,” Militant, 5 March 1951.

66 John G. Wright, “Stalin’s ‘Socialism in One Country’,” Militant, 26 March 1951.

67 Jacques Privas and Marcel Marin, “Résolution Privas-Marin sur la crise yougoslave,” La vie du parti No. 1 (PCI internal bulletin), August 1948.

68 Partial minutes of this Central Committee meeting were published in La vie du parti No. 5 (supplement to La Vérité No. 229), February 1949. Pablo’s article, written in August 1948 and published in Fourth International, December 1948, described the YCP as leading a mass movement with “distinct revolutionary tendencies.”

69 “Le rapport sur la défense de la Yougoslavie,” La Vérité No. 246, second half of January 1950.

70 “Bas les pattes devant la révolution yougoslave, résolution du VIe congrès du PCI,” La Vérité No. 247, first half of February 1950.

71 “La magnifique campagne électorale du PCY,” La Vérité No. 251, first half of April 1950.

72 Pierre Lambert, “1er Mai à Belgrade,” La Vérité No. 254, second half of May 1950.

73 “Ceux qui ont vu la vérité en Yougoslavie la disent: OUI c’est un état où se construit le socialisme, c’est la dictature du prolétariat,” La Vérité No. 258, first half of October 1950.

74 “La Yougoslavie sur la voie glissante,” La Vérité No. 263, second half of December 1950.

75 Michel Lequenne, “A propos de la crise et de la scission de la section française (1951-1952),” LCQI, Vol. 4, 487, reports of L’Unité that “its material existence largely depended on Yugoslav financial support.”

76 “Genesis of Pabloism.”

77 “RCP Amendments to the Thesis on Russia and Eastern Europe,” Spring 1948. A photocopy of this document, from the archives of Sam Bornstein, is in the collection of the Prometheus Research Library. The French version was published as “Amendements soumis par le RCP de Grande-Bretagne,” LCQI, Vol. 3, 204-5. These amendments were not printed in the SWP internal bulletins.

78 Ibid.

79 Ted Grant and Jock Haston, “Yugoslavs Too Independent: Campaign Commences to Liquidate Tito,” Socialist Appeal, July 1948, reprinted in Behind the Stalin-Tito Clash: Trotskyist Analysis (Revolutionary Communist Party, 1948), 5-11.

80 Jock Haston (on behalf of the Central Committee, RCP), “Letter on Yugoslavia Sent to the IEC by the RCP (Britain)” (n.d., late summer 1948). The material quoted appears on pages 64-65. This letter was not printed in the SWP internal bulletins; it was published in a 1991 special supplement of Workers News, “The Fourth International and Yugoslavia (1948-50),” by the British Workers International League.

81 Ibid.

82 “Contre-résolution présentée par les 2 cam. représentants du RCP (anglais),” La vie du parti, special issue (supplement to La Vérité No. 236), second half of June 1949, 15-16. Again, this countermotion was not published in the SWP internal bulletins, although other dissident motions at the Seventh Plenum were.

83 Cited in Sam Bornstein and Al Richardson, The War and the International: A History of the Trotskyist Movement in Britain 1937-1949 (1986), 219.

84 “Dynamics of World Revolution Today” (June 1963), International Socialist Review, Fall 1963, 129.