Saturday, December 17, 2011

Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By-In Honor Of The Frontline Defenders Of This “Occupy” Site Arrested For Standing In Solidarity-Drop All The Charges!-Bob Marley’s “Get Up, Stand Up!”

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of Bob Marley performing his classic song of struggle, Get Up, Stand Up.

An Injury To One Is An Injury To All!-Defend All The Occupation Sites And All The Occupiers! Drop All Charges Against All Protesters Everywhere!

Fight-Don’t Starve-We Created The Wealth, Let's Take It Back! Labor And The Oppressed Must Rule!
A Five-Point Program As Talking Points

*Jobs For All Now!-“30 For 40”- A historic demand of the labor movement. Thirty hours work for forty hours pay to spread the available work around. Organize the unorganized- Organize the South- Organize Wal-mart- Defend the right for public and private workers to unionize.

* Defend the working classes! No union dues for Democratic (or the stray Republican) candidates. Spent the dough on organizing the unorganized and other labor-specific causes (example, the November, 2011 anti-union recall referendum in Ohio).

*End the endless wars!- Immediate, Unconditional Withdrawal Of All U.S./Allied Troops (And Mercenaries) From Afghanistan! Hands Off Pakistan! Hands Off Iran! Hands Off The World!

*Fight for a social agenda for working people!. Quality Healthcare For All! Nationalize the colleges and universities under student-teacher-campus worker control! Forgive student debt! Stop housing foreclosures!

*We created the wealth, let’s take it back. Take the struggle for our daily bread off the historic agenda. Build a workers party that fights for a workers government to unite all the oppressed. Labor and the oppressed must rule!
Markin comment:

In this series, presented under the headline Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By, I will post some songs that I think will help us get through the “dog days” of the struggle for our communist future. I do not vouch for the political thrust of the songs; for the most part they are done by pacifists, social democrats, hell, even just plain old ordinary democrats. And, occasionally, a communist, although hard communist musicians have historically been scarce on the ground. Thus, here we have a regular "popular front" on the music scene. While this would not be acceptable for our political prospects, it will suffice for our purposes here.
Markin comment October 26, 2011, updated December 17, 2011:

This having to send solidarity messages almost daily is getting too redundant, way too redundant. Forget this notion of each occupation site being a separate operation. We had better unite to fight nationally (and internationally) or they (and you know who the "they" is) will pick us off one by one like they are doing now. It is the same struggle, same fight! An injury to one is an injury to all!
Bob Marley Get Up, Stand Up Lyrics

Get up, stand up: stand up for your rights!
Get up, stand up: stand up for your rights!
Get up, stand up: stand up for your rights!
Get up, stand up: don't give up the fight!

Preacher man, don't tell me,
Heaven is under the earth.
I know you don't know
What life is really worth.
It's not all that glitters is gold;
'Alf the story has never been told:
So now you see the light, eh!
Stand up for your rights. come on!

Get up, stand up: stand up for your rights!
Get up, stand up: don't give up the fight!
Get up, stand up: stand up for your rights!
Get up, stand up: don't give up the fight!

Most people think,
Great god will come from the skies,
Take away everything
And make everybody feel high.
But if you know what life is worth,
You will look for yours on earth:
And now you see the light,
You stand up for your rights. jah!
[ Lyrics from: ]
Get up, stand up! (jah, jah! )
Stand up for your rights! (oh-hoo! )
Get up, stand up! (get up, stand up! )
Don't give up the fight! (life is your right! )
Get up, stand up! (so we can't give up the fight! )
Stand up for your rights! (lord, lord! )
Get up, stand up! (keep on struggling on! )
Don't give up the fight! (yeah! )

We sick an' tired of-a your ism-skism game -
Dyin' 'n' goin' to heaven in-a Jesus' name, lord.
We know when we understand:
Almighty god is a living man.
You can fool some people sometimes,
But you can't fool all the people all the time.
So now we see the light (what you gonna do?),
We gonna stand up for our rights! (yeah, yeah, yeah! )

So you better:
Get up, stand up! (in the morning! git it up! )
Stand up for your rights! (stand up for our rights! )
Get up, stand up!
Don't give up the fight! (don't give it up, don't give it up! )
Get up, stand up! (get up, stand up! )
Stand up for your rights! (get up, stand up! )
Get up, stand up! (... )
Don't give up the fight! (get up, stand up! )
Get up, stand up! (... )
Stand up for your rights!
Get up, stand up!
Don't give up the fight! /fadeout/

Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By-In Honor Of The Frontline Defenders Of This “Occupy” Site Arrested For Standing In Solidarity-Drop All The Charges!-From Our Forebears The Diggers Of The English Revolution-“The World Turned Upside Down”

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of Billy Bragg (Known In This Space As Narrator Of Woody Guthrie And His Guitar: The Machine Kills Fascists )performing The World Turned Upside Down.
An Injury To One Is An Injury To All!-Defend All The Occupation Sites And All The Occupiers! Drop All Charges Against All Protesters Everywhere!

Fight-Don’t Starve-We Created The Wealth, Let's Take It Back! Labor And The Oppressed Must Rule!
A Five-Point Program As Talking Points

*Jobs For All Now!-“30 For 40”- A historic demand of the labor movement. Thirty hours work for forty hours pay to spread the available work around. Organize the unorganized- Organize the South- Organize Wal-mart- Defend the right for public and private workers to unionize.

* Defend the working classes! No union dues for Democratic (or the stray Republican) candidates. Spent the dough on organizing the unorganized and other labor-specific causes (example, the November, 2011 anti-union recall referendum in Ohio).

*End the endless wars!- Immediate, Unconditional Withdrawal Of All U.S./Allied Troops (And Mercenaries) From Afghanistan! Hands Off Pakistan! Hands Off Iran! Hands Off The World!

*Fight for a social agenda for working people!. Quality Healthcare For All! Nationalize the colleges and universities under student-teacher-campus worker control! Forgive student debt! Stop housing foreclosures!

*We created the wealth, let’s take it back. Take the struggle for our daily bread off the historic agenda. Build a workers party that fights for a workers government to unite all the oppressed. Labor and the oppressed must rule!
Markin comment:

In this series, presented under the headline Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By, I will post some songs that I think will help us get through the “dog days” of the struggle for our communist future. I do not vouch for the political thrust of the songs; for the most part they are done by pacifists, social democrats, hell, even just plain old ordinary democrats. And, occasionally, a communist, although hard communist musicians have historically been scarce on the ground. Thus, here we have a regular "popular front" on the music scene. While this would not be acceptable for our political prospects, it will suffice for our purposes here.


If John Milton was the literary muse of the English Revolution then the Diggers and their leader, Gerrard Winstanley, were the political muses.

The World Turned Upside Down

We will not worship the God they serve, a God of greed who feeds the rich while poor folk starve.
In 1649 to St. George's Hill
A ragged band they called the Diggers came to show the people's
They defied the landlords, they defied the laws
They were the dispossessed reclaiming what was theirs.
We come in peace, they said, to dig and sow
We come to work the lands in common and make the waste
ground grow

This earth divided we will make whole
So it may be a common treasury for all "**
The sin of property we do disdain
No man has any right to buy or sell the earth for private gain

By theft and murder they took the land
Now everywhere the walls spring up at their command
They make the laws to chain us well
The clergy dazzle us with heaven, or they damn us into hell

We will not worship the God they serve,
a God of greed who feeds the rich while poor folk starve
We work and eat together, we need no swords
We will not bow to masters, nor pay rent to the lords

Still we are free, though we are poor
Ye Diggers all, stand up for glory, stand up now!
From the men of property the orders came
They sent the hired men and troopers to wipe out the Diggers'

Tear down their cottages, destroy their corn
They were dispersed - only the vision lingers on
Ye poor take courage, ye rich take care
This earth was made a common treasury for everyone to share
All things in common, all people one
They came in peace - the order came to cut them down


The Latest From “The International Marxist Tendency” Website-Trotsky and the struggle for a Revolutionary International (1933-1946) – Part One And Two

Click on to the headline to link to the latest from the International Marxist Tendency website.

Markin comment:

More often than not I disagree with the line of the IMT or its analysis(mainly I do not believe their political analysis leads to adequate programmatically-based conclusions, revolutionary conclusions in any case), nevertheless, they provide interesting material, especially from areas, “third world” areas, where it is hard to get any kind of information (for our purposes). Read the material from this site.
Trotsky and the struggle for a Revolutionary International (1933-1946) – Part One
Written by Patrick Larsen
Tuesday, 22 November 2011

The figure of Leon Trotsky has created a new wave of interest among historians and writers of all types. Recently two new books about the Russian revolutionary have appeared; the first being the work of U.S. Professor Robert Service and the second of Bertrand M. Patenaude, a historian at California University. Both of them belong to that class of commercial literature typical of the bourgeoisie, full of factual errors, which tries to present Trotsky as an authoritarian politician who only lost to Stalin because he lacked tactical skills.

Another work, much more sympathetic in its style and its content, is the new novel by Leonardo Padura, “The man who loved dogs”. It tells the stories of Trotsky and his assassin, Ramón Mercader, both stories projected on the life of Iván, a Cuban who represents the post-revolutionary generation on the island.

We have dealt with this important contribution elsewhere. But although it has great value in reclaiming the general legacy of Trotsky, it does indeed contain some mistakes in the appreciation that the author has of aspects of Trotsky's political activity.

The main reason is that the majority of facts about his life which are presented in the book have been taken by Padura from Isaac Deutscher's trilogy – The Prophet Unarmed, The Prophet Armed and The Prophet Outcast. This biography, although it contains some interesting facts, has the major disadvantage of having been written by a person who lacked a firm comprehension of the method of Trotsky. He therefore fell into a whole number of misinterpretations of key elements of his life, especially concerning the last phase of it.

What all these books have in common is the absence of a serious analysis of Trotsky's attempt to found a new revolutionary international, the Fourth International. All of them regard it with a certain suspicion, emphasizing its reduced numbers, its isolation from the working masses and the splits which took place in the movement.

While most of Trotsky's biographers were full of praise for his great literary works such as My life or the History of the Russian Revolution they never understood why the creator of the Red Army spent countless hours of his last years writing letters, critiques, manifestos and programmes which only reached a handful of people and in many cases dealt with practical questions in the day-to-day work.

In our opinion this great flaw was mainly due to the fact that all of these writers were intellectuals on the margins of the workers' movement. They did not have the knowledge or the experience of a participant and consequently their books were not written with the methodology of a revolutionary militant.

However, when one reads the hundreds of letters that Trotsky wrote to create and train a new Marxist leadership, and when one studies the activity of his followers during the Second World War, it is impossible not to be impressed, faced with the magnitude of the lessons that this epoch contains for the future.

The objective of this article is, on the one hand, to serve as an introduction to the reading of Trotsky's last writings, and on the other hand also to extract the principal lessons of the attempt to create a Fourth International. For reasons of space, we cannot go into a detailed analysis of the subsequent history of Trotskyism and we will therefore limit ourselves to give an overview of the main reasons for the decline of the Fourth International after the end of WW2. For a more complete history, we recommend the work of Ted Grant: History of British Trotskyism, The origins of the collapse of the Fourth International by Fred Weston and The theoretical origins of the degeneration of the Fourth - Interview with Ted Grant.

In the work of researching the material for this article, it has been necessary to reclaim the real Trotsky, buried under a mountain of distortions and manipulations. By saying this we are not only referring to the monstrous lies of Stalinism nor only to the caricature presented by the bourgeois historians. We also refer to the “theoreticians” of the small self-styled Trotskyist sects, who have hijacked the name of the great revolutionary.

Always fond of internal rows and personal antagonisms, these gentlemen always had a modus operandi, a style and a life completely separated from the real mass movement. Their hysterical denunciations and their schematic views never allowed them to enter into contact with the living workers' movement and consequently they gave a very bad name to Trotskyism; something which has alienated many workers and made them refuse to collaborate with the 4th International and its subsequent fractions.

Trotsky himself, who had a profound knowledge of the psychology of the masses, did everything to throw out sectarianism and educate the cadres in the Bolshevik method of winning the majority. In this article we will show how he made several attempts to push his followers towards the mass organizations, not only to influence them, but also to constantly renovate his own movement, give it new life blood and break with the vicious circle of the small-group environment.

“The most important work of my life”
It was in the year of 1933 that Trotsky came to the conclusion that a new revolutionary international was necessary. Before this, he had maintained the position of building an opposition within the official Communist Parties in order to fight for a genuine Marxist programme. But it was a huge political event which made Trotsky change his mind: the catastrophe in Germany, where the crazy “theory” of the Third Period and the consequent refusal to form a united front with the Social Democrats, whom they called “social-fascists”, which opened the gates for Hitler to come to power.

From that moment on, Trotsky came to the conclusion that the Party and the International not only had been incapable of taking a correct stance in the decisive moments. They had also been organically incapable of learning from their mistakes and they had proclaimed the big defeat of the German working class as if it was a victory (“After Hitler, our turn!”). He therefore thought that such an organization was doomed and could not be reconquered as an instrument for the proletarian revolution.

Contrary to his biographers, Lev Davidovich considered that the task of forging this new International was the “greatest work of his life”. In 1935, in one of his lesser-known works, Diary in Exile, he wrote the following:

"And still I think that the work in which I am engaged now, despite its extremely insufficient and fragmentary nature, is the most important work of my life—more important than 1917, more important than the period of the Civil War or any other.

“For the sake of clarity I would put it this way. Had I not been present in 1917 in Petersburg, the October Revolution would still have taken place—on the condition that Lenin was present and in command. If neither Lenin nor I had been present in Petersburg, there would have been no October Revolution: the leadership of the Bolshevik Party would have prevented it from occurring—of this I have not the slightest doubt! If Lenin had not been in Petersburg, I doubt whether I could have managed to conquer the resistance of the Bolshevik leaders. The struggle with ‘Trotskyism’ (i.e., with the proletarian revolution) would have commenced in May, 1917, and the outcome of the revolution would have been in question. But I repeat, granted the presence of Lenin the October Revolution would have been victorious anyway. The same could by and large be said of the Civil War, although in its first period, especially at the time of the fall of Simbirsk and Kazan, Lenin wavered and was beset by doubts. But this was undoubtedly a passing mood which he probably never even admitted to anyone but me.”

“Thus I cannot speak of the ‘indispensability’ of my work, even about the period from 1917 to 1921. But now my work is ‘indispensable’ in the full sense of the word. There is no arrogance in this claim at all. The collapse of the two Internationals has posed a problem which none of the leaders of these Internationals is at all equipped to solve. The vicissitudes of my personal fate have confronted me with this problem and armed me with important experience in dealing with it. There is now no one except me to carry out the mission of arming a new generation with the revolutionary method over the heads of the leaders of the Second and Third International. And I am in a complete agreement with Lenin (or rather Turgenev) that the worst vice is to be more than 55 years old! I need at least about five more years of uninterrupted work to ensure the succession."[i]

The first steps: The bloc of the four
According to Trotsky, the new international would of course not fall from the sky from one day to another, but would be the result of a process of formation. It would include different sectors of the workers' movement who had arrived at the same conclusion or were drawing close to it. The degeneration of the Third (Communist) International and the bankruptcy of the Second International, in the context of the rise of fascism and the worst crisis in the history of capitalism created a vacuum on the political scene.

It was in such a situation that Trotsky received with great enthusiasm the news of the formation and the rapid turn to the left of the ILP, the Independent Labour Party of Great Britain. The leaders of the ILP were even for a short time flirting with the idea of setting up a new revolutionary international, although they subsequently abandoned that position. Other organizations, especially left-wing splits from the Socialist parties in Europe, were coming closer to the very same conclusion.

The followers of Trotsky, the Bolshevik-Leninists, participated in that debate and in the conference which was held by fourteen labour organizations and parties in Paris in August of 1933. This meeting had certain similarities with the conference of Zimmerwald in 1915, which, in spite of the enormous theoretical confusion, organized those who opposed the First World War. Just as in Zimmerwald, in the Paris conference a left and a rightwing appeared. The adherents of the left were four organizations who came out signing a declaration for a new International. These included, apart from the International Left Opposition, the SAP of Germany and two Dutch organizations, the RSP and the OSP.

This initiative, in spite of the programmatical limitations and the subsequent disagreements, showed how Trotsky was absolutely willing to collaborate with other groups, even with people who came from other traditions within the workers' movement. He was never afraid of an open and honest discussion with groups or individuals who were moving in the direction of Bolshevism. However, at the same time he insisted on transparency and honesty on the part of his allies and reserved the right to always put forward his own position:

“Revolutionary irreconcilability consists not in demanding our “leadership” be recognized a priori, not in presenting our allies at every occasion with ultimatums and threatening with a break, with the removal of signatures, etc. We leave such methods on one hand, to the Stalinist bureaucrats, on the other to some impatient allies. We realize full well that disagreements between us and our allies will arise more than once. But we hope, more than that, we are convinced, that the march of events will reveal in deeds the impossibility of participating simultaneously in the principled bloc of four and in the unprincipled bloc of the majority. Without resorting to any unbecoming “ultimatums”, we claim however our full right not only to raise our banners but also to state openly to our allies our opinions regarding what we consider to be their mistakes. We expect from them the same frankness. Our alliance will thus be strengthened."

The French Turn
Trotsky was completely conscious of the weakness of his forces, not only from a numerical point of view, but also from the point of view of the lack of political experience of his followers. In one of the discussions he had with a visitor in his house in April of 1939 he explained it in these terms:

“We have comrades who came to us, as Naville and others, 15 or 16 or more years ago when they were young boys. Now they are mature people and their whole conscious life they have had only blows, defeats and terrible defeats on an international scale and they are more or less acquainted with this situation. They appreciate very highly the correctness of their conceptions and they can analyze, but they never had the capacity to penetrate, to work with the masses and they have not acquired it.”[ii]

This was one of the main reasons why he began to recommend a sharp turn towards the Socialist parties, and especially their youth organizations, beginning in France. In his opinion, the Trotskyists should enter these organizations to win the best proletarian elements. This tactic, which was later referred to as “entryism”, was not only about getting a numerical growth in terms of militants, but also about giving new life to the internal regimes of the Trotskyist groups.

This was a vital point for the educating of Marxist cadres in the harsh school of the class struggle. From the Old Man's point of view, it was not sufficient merely to comment on the life of a party from the perspective of an external observer. On the contrary, it was crucial to converge with the masses in revolutionary action, fighting shoulder to shoulder with the left against the right:

“It is not enough for a revolutionist to have correct ideas. Let us not forget that correct ideas have already been set down in Capital and The Communist Manifesto. But that has not prevented false ideas from being broadcast. It is the task of the revolutionary party to weld together the ideas with the mass labour movement. Only in this manner can an idea become a driving force.

“A revolutionary organization does not mean a paper and its readers. One can write and read revolutionary articles day in and day out and still remain in reality outside of the revolutionary movement. One can give the labour organizations good advice from the sidelines. That is something. But that still does not make a revolutionary organization.(...)

“In relation to the Socialist Party, the League has shown not only insufficient initiative but also a hidebound sectarianism. Instead of taking for its task the creation of a faction inside the SFIO just as soon as the crisis in the latter became obvious, the League demanded that every Socialist become convinced of the correctness of our ideas and leave his mass organization to join the group of La Verite readers. In order to create an internal faction, it was necessary to pursue the mass movement, to adapt oneself to the environment, to carry on a menial daily work. Precisely in this very decisive field the League has not been able to make any progress up to the present – with very few exceptions. A great deal of valuable time was allowed to be lost. (...)

“The criticism, the ideas, the slogans of the League are in general correct, but in this present period particularly inadequate. The revolutionary ideas must be transformed into life itself every day through the experiences of the masses themselves. But how can the League explain this to them when it is itself cut off from the experience of the masses? It is necessary to add: several comrades do not even see the need of this experience. It seems to them to be sufficient to form an opinion on the basis of newspaper accounts they read and then give it expression in an article or in a talk. Yet if the most correct ideas do not reflect directly the ideas and actions of the mass, they will escape the attention of the masses altogether” (Trotsky, The League Faced with a Turn, June 1934[iii])

Afterwards, Trotsky made the same recommendations for his followers in England concerning the ILP and in the United States concerning the Socialist Party. In many cases his followers received the advice with a lot of conservatism and opposed entering the organizations in question, or in some cases only a handful entered and did so too late to influence the left-wing tendencies that were developing in the rank and file of the Socialist parties.

Trotsky and the Spanish Revolution
The country where this refusal on the part of Trotsky's comrades to accept his advice generated most controversy was Spain. The study of Trotsky's position in regard to the Spanish Revolution could merit a whole article or a book apart[iv], but in this occasion we will limit ourselves to the most important lessons.

Since the proclamation of the Second Republic in April of 1931, Spain had lived through a revolution of enormous dimensions in all spheres of social and political life. The subsequent incapacity of the republican-socialist government to keep its promises, especially the agrarian reform which would have benefitted the poor and exploited peasants, led to the electoral defeat of the left in the elections of November 1933. What followed afterwards is known as the “bienio negro” (the two black years).

The heroic resistance on the part of the workers, when faced with the entry of the ultra-right-wing CEDA party in 1934, represented the beginning of the armed insurrection and the proletarian commune in Asturias. This experiment was only cut across by the ferocious repression on the part of the army, led by general Franco. This was the very same officer who led a new coup d'etat in July of 1936 with the aim of destroying the revolution once and for all. But the brave workers of Catalonia and in other parts of Spain rose up and prevented a Fascist victory. In effect they made themselves the masters of Barcelona and other parts of Spain. Thus the Spanish civil war commenced in July 1936 and lasted for three years, up until Franco's final victory in April of 1939.

This was the context in which Trotsky tried to build a revolutionary party which could play the same role as the Bolshevik Party had played in Russia in 1917. A victory for the revolution in Spain would have acted as a real earthquake, which in turn would have changed the whole balance of forces internationally. That is why the amount of attention which Trotsky paid in dealing with the Spanish revolution, (something that the majority of his biographers ignore), is completely justified.

From 1930 onwards, one of his old friends, his former secretary, Andreu Nin, had been living in Spain. Nin was a relatively experienced cadre who had been many years in the Soviet Union, working as the President of the Profintern, the Federation of red trade-unions. From his arrival in Spain, he began to correspond with Trotsky about the problems of the revolution and the tasks of the Spanish communists. Nin began to develop more and more differences with the Old Man. While the former wanted a fusion with the right-wing-Communist group of Joaquín Maurin on an eclectic programme, Trotsky insisted on maintaining ideological clarity and discipline.

In the course of the year 1934, the same phenomenon of radicalization of the Socialist Youth which had been seen in France was repeated in Spain. The Spanish Socialist Youth even reached a point where they invited the Trotskyists to enter the Socialist Party in order to “bolshevize” it[v]. The main leader of the Socialist Party left, Largo Caballero, who organized his followers around the paper Claridad, spoke in favour of the “dictatorship of the proletariat” and quoted the writings of Lenin on more than one occasion. But instead of grasping this historic opportunity, Nin and his friends opposed Trotsky's call to enter the PSOE and the FSJ. The Stalinists were more intelligent and they managed to make a fusion between their own miniscule youth organization and the Socialist Youth, thus conquering a solid base in the working class youth.

The fusion of Nin's group (Izquierda Comunista) with Maurin's Catalan group (The BOC), led to the formation of the POUM (The Workers' Party for Marxist Unification). Although it was very much accused of being Trotskyist by the Stalinists and although its members showed a lot of courage during the civil war (including Nin himself who was brutally tortured and murdered by the Stalinists), the POUM was never a Trotskyist party. Instead of carrying out the revolution from below, building the power of the workers' and peasant committees, it vacillated between reformism and revolution.

It recognized the legitimacy of the Catalan bourgeois government, the Generalitat, and even entered it with Nin as Minister of Justice. They accepted the dissolution of the militias and the disarmament, something which the government was promoting with the excuse of creating a single professional army. The leaders of the POUM also decided to call upon its militants to abandon the barricades during the famous May Days in Barcelona in 1937, when the Stalinists attempted to destroy workers’ control in the Telephone Exchange.

All these actions were severely condemned by Trotsky who in the last instance explained the defeat of the Spanish Revolution by the lack of a genuine revolutionary party. In his brilliant, unfinished article Class, Party and Leadership, he pointed out that the destruction of the Spanish Revolution was in no way due to a “low level of consciousness” on the part of the working class, but rather due to the betrayal of the leaders:

“The workers’ line of march at all times cut a certain angle to the line of the leadership. And at the most critical moments this angle became 180 degrees. The leadership then helped directly or indirectly to subdue the workers by armed force. In May 1937 the workers of Catalonia rose not only without their own leadership but against it(...)

“The proletariat may “tolerate” for a long time a leadership that has already suffered a complete inner degeneration but has not as yet had the opportunity to express this degeneration amid great events. A great historic shock is necessary to reveal sharply the contradiction between the leadership and the class. The mightiest historical shocks are wars and revolutions. Precisely for this reason the working class is often caught unawares by war and revolution. But even in cases where the old leadership has revealed its internal corruption, the class cannot improvise immediately a new leadership, especially if it has not inherited from the previous period strong revolutionary cadres capable of utilizing the collapse of the old leading party.(...)

“Victory is not at all the ripe fruit of the proletariat’s “maturity.” Victory is a strategical task. It is necessary to utilize the favourable conditions of a revolutionary crisis in order to mobilize the masses; taking as a starting point the given level of their ‘maturity’ it is necessary to propel them forward, teach them to understand that the enemy is by no means omnipotent, that it is torn asunder with contradictions, that behind the imposing facade panic prevails. Had the Bolshevik party failed to carry out this work, there couldn’t even be talk of the victory of the proletarian revolution. The Soviets would have been crushed by the counter-revolution and the little sages of all countries would have written articles and books on the keynote that only uprooted visionaries could dream in Russia of the dictatorship of the proletariat, so small numerically and so immature. [vi]

Incredibly, these very same arguments about a so-called “immaturity” and “low level of consciousness of the masses” are used by reformists in relation to the Venezuelan revolution today. Their aim is to hide their own incapability of completing the revolution by expropriating the capitalists, the bankers and the landlords.

Just as in Spain, in Venezuela the central problem is the lack of a real Marxist leadership which can guide the revolution. And as in Spain, the activity of the Venezuelan masses was also 180 degrees in contradiction with the activities of the reformist ministers during the 11, 12th and 13th of April 2002. While the latter were in hiding or fleeing from the coup d'etát, the masses courageously opposed the coup, taking the control of the streets and fraternizing with the revolutionary elements in the army.

But precisely as with the Spanish revolution, in Venezuela the revolution is running the risk of a defeat, because there is no mass Marxist leadership to drive all the energy of the masses towards the taking of power.

The debates with the leaders of the American SWP:The method of transitional demands
The largest party of Trotsky's movement was without doubt the American Socialist Workers' Party. Its leaders had followed his advice and in a short space of time they had managed to make a successful fusion with the centrist party of A.J. Muste (The American Workers' Party), in reality with the purpose of winning the followers of the AWP over to Trotskyism, without allowing any political concessions. Afterwards they had entered the Socialist Party and effectively won over its youth organization, the Young Peoples' Socialist League. They had also managed to conquer important positions, as the one in Minneapolis, where they led the famous Teamsters Strike in 1934. The SWP had a membership of around 2,000 towards the end of the 30s.

However, Trotsky was completely aware of the theoretical shortcomings of the SWP leaders. He tried to prepare them for the great events that lay ahead by providing them with an insight to the dialectical method of analysis and a militant attitude towards the intervention in the mass movement. During 1938 and 1939 he held various discussions, with Cannon, Shactmann, Vincent Dunne, Joseph Hansen and other leaders of the American party.

The debates lasted for whole days at a time and had a widespread character, not just dealing with the particular problems of the practical work in the United States, but also about general problems of revolutionary tactics and strategy. The notes taken from the discussions were subsequently published and they constitute a real goldmine of lessons for revolutionary work.

The main point which ran through all the discussions was the method with which one could connect with the most active layers of the masses and consequently, the transitional demands to win them over. At that time, there was an increasing mood in favour of united proletarian action, but the class lacked a party on a national level.

Reflecting this mood, the LNPL (Labour's Non-Partisan League) was launched as a political instrument of the workers. However, the LNPL was launched by trade union leaders who merely wanted it to restrict it as being an office under their bureaucratic control which would recommend the vote for the bourgeois candidate Roosevelt. The SWP leaders were doubtful as to whether they should participate in the LNPL but Trotsky insisted on the struggle for “a policy which enables the trade unions to put their weight on the balance”.

He explained that it was necessary to counter-pose revolutionary demands to those of the reformists within the LNPL, in a concrete and audacious manner which could be understood by the workers:

“We are for a party, for an independent party of the toiling masses who will take power in the state. We must concretize it—we are for the creation of factory committees, for workers’ control of industry through the factory committees. All these questions are now pending in the air. They speak of technocracy, and put forward the slogan of ‘production for use.’ We oppose this charlatan formula and advance the workers’ control of production through the factory committees. (...)

“We say, the factory committees should see the books. This program we must develop parallel with the idea of a labour party in the unions, and workers’ militia. Otherwise it is an abstraction and an abstraction is a weapon in the hands of the opposing class. (...)

“Naturally we must make our first step in such a way as to accumulate experience for practical work, not to engage in abstract formulas, but develop a concrete program of action and demands in the sense that this transitional program issues from the conditions of capitalist society today, but immediately leads over the limits of capitalism (...)

“Then we also have the possibility of spreading the slogans of our transitional program and see the reaction of the masses. We will see what slogans should be selected, what slogans abandoned, but if we give up our slogans before the experience, before seeing the reaction of the masses, then we can never advance. .”[vii]

Faced with the scepticism, especially on the part of Shactmann, Trotsky pointed out that the slogan for a workers' militia was a necessity inherent in the concrete situation of the United States, even though this country was very far away and the threat of fascism seemed quite distant. He underlined that on the one hand the events of Europe would have a huge impact on the consciousness of the North American workers and on the other hand that the workers' militia could be proposed in a concrete way to protect shop stewards and picket lines from scabs and the bosses’ armed gangs.

Another controversial point was about the Ludlow amendment, by a bourgeois member of congress proposing a referendum on the participation of the United States in the Second World War. The schematic and abstract way of thinking of the SWP leaders had led the party to reject every attempt of using this slogan in favour of the referendum.

Trotsky opposed himself directly to Cannon and his colleagues and gave them an important lesson on how to tackle the question of democratic demands and connect them with the struggle for socialism. In the first place he explained that, until you can overthrow the bourgeois democracy, you have to take advantage of the means that it gives to you (regardless of how limited these are), in order to mobilize the masses in favour of your programme.

Of course he did not for one instance believe that a referendum could stop the outbreak of the war, nor decide whether the United States would take part in it or not. But Trotsky maintained that “We cannot dissipate the illusions [of the masses] a priori, only in the course of the struggle”. He added that it was crucial to say openly to the masses that the revolutionaries would fight side by side with their class brothers and sisters in favour of this referendum proposed by Ludlow, showing in practice that he wasn't really interested in realizing it, and that the working class could only trust its own forces in order to achieve such a referendum.

The words of Trotsky about the Ludlow amendment could perfectly have been written yesterday about the democratic demands in Tunisia and Egypt, where millions are struggling against the remnants of the dictatorships of Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak. It is a good answer to all those sectarian elements who reject the necessity of giving support to democratic demands, among them for a Constituent Assembly.

In all these discussions we can observe the dialectical method of Trotsky in contrast with the mechanical ideas of sectarianism.


[i] Trotsky, Diary In Exile, pp. 53-4

[ii] Writings of Leon Trotsky, : Fighting against the stream. 1939.:

[iii] Writings of Leon Trotsky: The league faced with a turn, June 1934

[iv] Among the writings that analyze Trotsky's position on the Spanish Revolution, I would like to highlight the introduction written by Pierre Broué to the Spanish edition of his works on Spain (available online here: ) and also the article by Juan Manuel Municio, “Trotsky, La izquierda comunista y el POUM” published in Marxismo Hoy No. 2, 1995.

[v] For a more detailed historical analysis of the development of the Spanish Socialist Youth, I recommend the following work: Pierre Broué: The Spanish Socialist Youth (When Carillo was a leftist), published in Revolutionary History, 2007:

[vi] Writings of Leon Trotsky: The class, the party and the leadership. 1940. :

[vii] Writings of Leon Trotsky: On the Labor Party Question in the United States, 1938:
Trotsky and the struggle for a revolutionary international (1933-1946) – Part Two
Written by Patrick Larsen
Thursday, 15 December 2011

In the 1930s Trotsky had to put up an energetic struggle to convince the various national sections of his movement of the necessity of an International, in the real sense of the word.

The persecution of the revolutionaries
In the history of the destiny of revolutionaries throughout the world, it is impossible to find a life with more pain and suffering than Trotsky's. He had already suffered several losses in his family, among them his daughter Zina, who committed suicide in Berlin in 1933 after having had her Soviet citizenship removed and thus being unable to see her husband and child again.

However, the most painful loss for Trotsky was that of his son León Sedov, who was assassinated by the Stalinists in a Paris hospital in February of 1938. Sedov was not just Trotsky's son but had also worked as his secretary, giving indispensable assistance in the collection of facts and sources for the books of the Old Man. Sedov had stayed in Berlin and subsequently in Paris, where he had organized the International Secretariat of the movement and also maintained the publication of the Bulletin of the Russian Left Opposition, which he managed to smuggle into the USSR through a clandestine network of supporters.

Sedov was a brilliant organizer and his death left an enormous vacuum in the movement[i]. The young Rudolf Klement took over his responsibility in the work at the International Secretariat, but the GPU – Stalin's secret police – was following his footsteps. In the end he was kidnapped by that intelligence service in July of the same year, 1938, and his body was found, headless, in the river a couple of weeks later.

The French historian Jean-Jacques Marie, in his recent Trotsky biography (Revolutionary without borders), quotes a secret document from the now opened GPU archives, which revealed that they estimated that the assassination of Klement would be a “severe blow” for Trotsky and his closest collaborators, because they had not only been able to kill the young secretary but also steal the archives of the Fourth International, including all the contacts and addresses of its international network.

Many other collaborators of Trotsky were assassinated by the GPU between 1936 and 1938: Hans Martin Freund (known as Moulin) and Ernest Wolf were both kidnapped and killed during the Spanish civil war. Ignace Reiss, an agent of the GPU who had deserted and embraced the Fourth International, was found shot in a car in a rural area of Switzerland in 1937.

Even the other of son of Trotsky, Sergei, who held no interest in politics and had stayed in the USSR, was deported and executed on Stalin's orders in 1937. Walter Held, a German Trotskyist who had for a time functioned as the Old Man's secretary in Norway, tried to travel to the U.S. through the Soviet Union by train, but was arrested and shot, apparently in 1941.

However, the greatest massacre against Trotsky's followers took place in the Gulag camps in Siberia, in Vorkuta and Kolomya, where thousands of Trotskyists were killed by Stalin’s henchmen. Even until the last moments they maintained their revolutionary spirit, organizing a hunger strike to protest against the terrible conditions of the political prisoners. Witnesses saw them singing the Internationale when they were taken out to the execution squads[ii].

Internationalism as a principle
In the 1930s Lev Davidovich had to put up an energetic struggle to convince the various national sections of his movement of the necessity of an International, in the real sense of the word. All the conflicts with the groups of Andreu Nin in Spain – and later Molinier in France, Sneevliet in Holland and Vereecken in Belgium – had their origins in the narrow-minded national outlook and the provincial and opportunist mentality of the main leaders of those groups.

Lenin, Trotsky and the other Bolshevik leaders had the great advantage of having got to know the international labour movement in person during their exiles in several countries. Trotsky spoke German and French fluently and also gained a certain level of English in the last period of his life. But even more decisive than that was his profound knowledge of the general characteristics of the class struggle on an international level, of the question of oppressed nationalities and of the effects of imperialist domination.

It is no coincidence that Trotsky also criticized the American SWP leaders for not giving sufficient attention to the international questions. In various letters and in the discussions he had with them during 1939-40, he underlined three aspects:

In the first place he considered it the fundamental duty of any Bolshevik-Leninist group in an imperialist country to condemn in an energetic way the foreign policy of the country and help the working class in the colonial countries. In the case of the SWP, Trotsky believed that the party had not done what was necessary in relation to Latin America and that it should write more frequently about this theme in its press and translate the articles into Spanish and distribute them south of the border.

Secondly, Trotsky complained about the lack of serious work among the racial minorities in the United States, particularly among the black workers. He proposed that the American party should make a special effort to reach the most oppressed layers of the proletariat and that its struggles should be reflected in the Socialist Appeal. Furthermore, he underlined that the transitional programme should adapt itself to the black minority in the United States, including demands for civil and democratic rights.[iii]

Trotsky’s third criticism was that the leaders of the SWP did not have a real internationalist approach. In one letter after the other, the Old Man tried to pressurize Cannon and Shactmann to take on the responsibility of building the Fourth International in a serious manner. He demanded that they make political trips to give advice and exchange experience with the other sections of the international, particularly in France, where the political situation was very tense and explosive in the years leading up to the outbreak of WW2.

It is interesting to note how Trotsky's opponents always complained of his supposedly “authoritarian style” and his “interventions into the national issues” of the groups in question. They always hid their own lack of arguments under the accusations of “bad proceedings” or the “arrogant attitude” of the old Bolshevik leader. On other occasions they denounced a supposed “personality cult” around Trotsky, yet another trick to avoid discussing the real issues at stake.

The attitude towards the anti-imperialist struggle in Latin America
The writings of Lev Davidovich on Latin America are particularly interesting. In another detailed analysis we have dealt with the main lessons in those texts. The attitude of Trotsky towards the most advanced representatives of the revolutionary-democratic movement, and specifically towards Lázaro Cárdenas (the then president of Mexico), is very significant. The latter was of course not a Marxist, but there cannot be any doubt about his honesty and political stance in the anti-imperialist struggle.

It was not a coincidence that Mexico was the only country prepared to put an end to what Trotsky had called “The planet without a visa”. President Cárdenas was the leader of a Nationalist project which tried to liberate Mexico from Imperialist stranglehold. It was exactly for this reason that it had the sufficient independence which allowed them to receive the world's most persecuted man. Even Norway, supposedly free and ruled by the social-democrats, had bent down after the Stalinist pressure and had recalled the right to asylum.

While some of his Mexican supporters, led by a man named Fernando Galicia, constantly denounced the Mexican government, Trotsky himself advocated the maintenance of friendly relations and defended unconditionally the actions of the Mexican government which were directed against the imperialist dominance of Great Britain and the United States.

In order to prevent confusion about the position of the Fourth International, Trotsky and the Panamerican Bureau were forced to expel Galicia and his followers who were compromising the work heavily with their sectarian approach towards Cárdena's movement.

When president Cárdenas announced the nationalization of the oil, British Imperialism naturally organized a violent campaign against this measure, basing itself on groups of intellectuals and the so-called “defence of international law”. Trotsky replied with firmness and demanded that the British Labour Party take a stand in favour of the working class in the colonial world. In an article called México and Imperialism, written just after the nationalization, he expounded his position:

“Without succumbing to illusions and without fear of slander, the advanced workers will completely support the Mexican people in their struggle against the imperialists. The expropriation of oil is neither socialism nor communism. But it is a highly progressive measure of national self-defense. Marx did not, of course, consider Abraham Lincoln a communist; this did not, however, prevent Marx from entertaining the deepest sympathy for the struggle that Lincoln headed. The First International sent the Civil War president a message of greeting, and Lincoln in his answer greatly appreciated this moral support.

“The international proletariat has no reason to identify its program with the program of the Mexican government. Revolutionists have no need of changing colour, adapting themselves, and rendering flattery in the manner of the GPU school of courtiers, who in a moment of danger will sell out and betray the weaker side. Without giving up its own identity, every honest working class organization of the entire world, and first of all in Great Britain, is duty-bound – to take an irreconcilable position against the imperialist robbers, their diplomacy, their press, and their fascist hirelings. The cause of Mexico, like the cause of Spain, like the cause of China, is the cause of the international working class. The struggle over Mexican oil is only one of the advance-line skirmishes of future battles between the oppressors and the oppressed. ”[iv]

How relevant are these words for Venezuela today! When the International Marxist Tendency defended the Bolivarian revolution unconditionally, faced with the failed coup d'état of April 2002 and the bosses’ lockout which occurred in December of the same year, many so-called “Trotskyists” attacked us and denounced us as “traitors” of the working class. When Alan Woods, leader of the IMT, met with Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez on several occasions, all the sectarian groups called him an opportunist. But they forget this attitude of Trotsky who was never afraid of a discussion and a dialogue with the best representatives of the revolutionary-democratic movement.

There are even some historians who say that Trotsky met personally with Cárdenas to discuss politics. This has not been proved decisively. Others argue that the political collaboration between the two took place through the general of the Mexican Army, Francisco J. Mújica.[v] However, the most important thing to underline is that Lev Davidovich held a position of critical support faced with the anti-imperialist actions of the Mexican government. In this moment, when the state-owned Venezuelan oil-company PDVSA is being sanctioned by the North American Imperialists, it is clear that we as revolutionaries should adopt the same position as in 1938: “Irreconcilable opposition to against the imperialist robbers, their diplomacy, their press, and their fascist hirelings”.

The founding congress of the Fourth International

Apart from replying to the outrageous lies in the Second Moscow Trial, Trotsky used most of his time in the first half of 1938 for the political preparation of the Founding Congress of the Fourth International. It was finally held in the house of Alfred Rosmer, in Périgny, close to Paris.

Twenty-three delegates of national sections met under severely adverse circumstances. Because of security measures, the congress could only last for one day. However that did not prevent Stalin from being directly represented among the delegates; the “representative of the Russian section” was Etienne (Zobowski), who in reality was a GPU agent infiltrated into the ranks of the Fourth International. Fortunately, they did not give him indications about the meeting place until the last moment, a measure which prevented a violent persecution of the congress on the part of the Stalinists.

The main document at the congress was the Transitional Programme, which is still an invaluable guide for revolutionaries to this day. But the document, drafted by Trotsky, contained several elements which created controversy with some of the congress delegates. For example Trotsky's position on the Second World War, in which he tried to connect with the anti-fascist sentiment of the masses, even recognizing the “fatherland”-sentiment among workers.

We see in this the seed to the famous Proletarian Military Policy, which the Old Man developed the following year; a theme we will touch upon in the next part. However, according to the reports available from the congress[vi], many delegates, including David Rousset, Joánnes Bardin [Boitel], George Vitsoris [Busson] and Michel Raptis Pablo [Speros], were completely opposed to Trotsky's position and accused it of being an adaptation to social-chauvinism. The majority did approve the original formulations and thus the international, at least officially, defended Trotsky's policy on the war.

There were people at the congress – the Polish delegates – and later on also many historians and intellectual commentators who rejected the founding of the Fourth International, arguing that it “had no mass base” and that the whole enterprise was doomed to failure from the outset. Trotsky responded in the following way, emphasizing the necessity of preserving the Marxist doctrine in spite of all obstacles:

“Sceptics ask: But has the moment for the creation of the Fourth International yet arrived? It is impossible, they say, to create an International “artificially”; it can arise only out of great events, etc., etc. All of these objections merely show that sceptics are no good for the building of a new International. They are good for scarcely anything at all.

“The Fourth International has already arisen out of great events: the greatest defeats of the proletariat in history. The cause for these defeats is to be found in the degeneration and perfidy of the old leadership. The class struggle does not tolerate an interruption. The Third International, following the Second, is dead for purposes of revolution. Long live the Fourth International!

“But has the time yet arrived to proclaim its creation? ... the sceptics are not quieted down. The Fourth International, we answer, has no need of being “proclaimed.” It exists and it fights. It is weak? Yes, its ranks are not numerous because it is still young. They are as yet chiefly cadres. But these cadres are pledges for the future. Outside these cadres there does not exist a single revolutionary current on this planet really meriting the name. If our international be still weak in numbers, it is strong in doctrine, program, tradition, in the incomparable tempering of its cadres. Who does not perceive this today, let him in the meantime stand aside. Tomorrow it will become more evident.”[vii]

And he underlined the significance of the founding congress:

“WHEN THESE LINES APPEAR in the press, the Conference of the Fourth International will probably have concluded its labours. The calling of this Conference is a major achievement. The irreconcilable revolutionary tendency, subjected to such persecutions as no other political tendency in world history has in all likelihood suffered, has again given proof of its power. Surmounting all obstacles, it has under the blows of its almighty enemies convened its International Conference. This fact constitutes unimpeachable evidence of the profound viability and unwavering perseverance of the international Bolshevik-Leninists. The very possibility of a successful Conference was first of all assured by the spirit of revolutionary internationalism which imbues all our sections. As a matter of fact, it is necessary to place extremely great value upon the international ties of the proletarian vanguard in order to gather together the international revolutionary staff at the present time when Europe and the entire world live in the expectation of the approaching war. The fumes of national hatreds and racial persecutions compose today the political atmosphere of our planet.”[viii]

Crisis in the SWP: Trotsky and the split of 1940
Another point which had created a big polemic in the Founding Congress and also in the period leading up to it was the Russian question. In his brilliant book, The Revolution Betrayed, Trotsky had explained the character of the Soviet Union, defining it as a degenerated workers' state – led by a bureaucratic caste which had taken over the workers' state and the planned economy. He had rejected every pretension of defining the Stalinist bureaucracy as a new class, as he pointed out that the power and privileges of the bureaucracy were upheld by the state-ownership of the means of production and not a capitalist economy based on private property.

From the beginning there were militants in the Trotskyist movement who did not share this view. In the United States, Burnham – an intellectual who had joined the movement through the fusion with the party of Muste, the AWP – tried to develop another theory, first defining the Soviet state as “bureaucratic collectivism”. The key point in his analysis was that the Stalinist bureaucracy had transformed itself into a new social class and that a political revolution was not sufficient in Russia; a social one was needed as well.

Craipeau, one of the leaders of the French section, defended similar ideas in the Founding Congress. The arguments of these militants were very much influenced by moral indignation, faced with the crimes of Stalinism. But Trotsky, who suffered the consequences of the terror more than anybody else, insisted on maintaining a sober and materialist analysis of the phenomenon of Stalinism.

In September 1939 – partially as a result of the pact between Stalin and Hitler and of the Soviet occupation of Finland – a minority in the SWP, led by Shactmann, Burnham and Abern, began to change their opinion on the Russian question. The majority led by James Cannon took the same position as Trotsky. The question in debate had a political and a practical significance in the world situation, as the members of the minority were drawing the conclusion that it was not a duty to defend the Soviet Union unconditionally in the war against the imperialist powers.

The contributions of Trotsky in this debate have a great value, not only because they shed light on the Russian question, but also because they explain the method of dialectical materialism. The collection of letters and articles in the discussion were subsequently published under the title “In defense of Marxism”. However, it is necessary to analyse this book cautiously, as there have been many misinterpretations of it over the years.

A careful reading of the book shows that Trotsky was not at all interested in a split with the whole minority faction of the SWP. He tried to separate the best elements in that group from the openly anti-Marxist elements like Burnham. Trotsky knew that the opposition represented around forty per cent of the American party, including the majority among the youth.

In one letter after the other he invited a comradely discussion and he even proposed that Shachtman travel to Mexico to discuss with him.[ix] What many biographers do not understand about Trotsky, just as they don't understand Lenin's approach to Martov, is how he always tried to work with collaborators and did everything possible to save them from political degeneration. In another letter which Trotsky wrote to Wright (another leader of the majority), he pointed out that a split was not at all desirable:

“You have not the slightest interest in a split, even if the opposition should become, accidentally, a majority at the next convention. You have not the slightest reason to give the heterogeneous and unbalanced army of the opposition a pretext for a split. Even as an eventual minority, you should in my opinion remain disciplined and loyal towards the party as a whole. It is extremely important for the education in genuine party patriotism, about the necessity of which Cannon wrote me one time very correctly.

“A majority composed of this opposition would not last more than a few months. Then the proletarian tendency of the party will again become the majority with tremendously increased authority. Be extremely firm but don’t lose your nerve – this applies now more than ever to the strategy of the proletarian wing of the party.”[x]

In another letter to Joseph Hansen (also from the majority) he explained the necessity of proposing common guarantees for the minority in the future:

“I believe we must answer them approximately as follows:

“‘You are already afraid of our future repressions? We propose to you mutual guarantees for the future minority, independently of who might be this minority, you or we. These guarantees could be formulated in four points: (1) No prohibition of factions; (2) No other restrictions on factional activity than those dictated by the necessity for common action; (3) The official publications must represent, of course, the line established by the new convention; (4) The future minority can have, if it wishes, an internal bulletin destined for party members, or a common discussion bulletin with the majority.’

“The continuation of discussion bulletins immediately after a long discussion and a convention is, of course, not a rule but an exception, a rather deplorable one. But we are not bureaucrats at all. We don’t have immutable rules. We are dialecticians also in the organizational field. If we have in the party an important minority which is dissatisfied with the decisions of the convention, it is incomparably more preferable to legalize the discussion after the convention than to have a split.

“We can go, if necessary, even further and propose to them to publish, under the supervision of the new National Committee, special discussion symposiums, not only for party members, but for the public in general. We should go as far as possible in this respect in order to disarm their at least premature complaints and handicap them in provoking a split.

“For my part I believe that the prolongation of the discussion, if it is channelized by the good will of both sides, can only serve in the present conditions the education of the party. I believe that the majority should make these propositions officially in the National Committee in a written form. Whatever might be their answer, the party could only win.”[xi]

Even one of his last articles, dated February 21st of 1940 - when the leaders of the opposition had announced the possibility of a split - was entitled “Back to the Party!”, calling upon the minority to stop the breakaway.

Unfortunately, Cannon did not possess the same method as Trotsky and it is an undeniable fact that his behaviour pushed many valuable militants, especially in the youth, towards a split. The final departure of Shactmann's group in April 1940 cost nearly 40 per cent of the total membership.

Incredibly, this particular book – In Defense of Marxism – has been misinterpreted in one extreme or the other. Some tendencies have been obsessed with the parts where Trotsky, correctly, argue against the petit-bourgeois concept that the minority had of democracy in a revolutionary party. These people take quotations completely out of context, in an attempt to silence all debate inside a revolutionary organization. On the other extreme we find people with certain anarchist and opportunist tendencies who put all emphasis in the complete freedom of discussion.

What both groups forget is the dialectical method. Trotsky stressed, in a previous letter, how centralism and democracy always find themselves in different positions and degrees, adjusting themselves to the moment and the concrete necessity of the revolutionary organization:

“Democracy and centralism do not at all find themselves in an invariable ratio to one another. Everything depends on the concrete circumstances, on the political situation in the country, on the strength of the party and its experience, on the general level of its members, on the authority the leadership has succeeded in winning. Before a conference, when the problem is one of formulating a political line for the next period, democracy triumphs over centralism.

“When the problem is political action, centralism subordinates democracy to itself. Democracy again asserts its rights when the party feels the need to examine critically its own actions. The equilibrium between democracy and centralism establishes itself in the actual struggle, at moments it is violated and then again re-established. The maturity of each member of the party expresses itself particularly in the fact that he does not demand from the party regime more than it can give. The person who defines his attitude to the party by the individual fillips that he gets on the nose is a poor revolutionist.

“It is necessary, of course, to fight against every individual mistake of the leadership, every injustice, and the like. But it is necessary to assess these “injustices” and “mistakes” not in themselves but in connection with the general development of the party both on a national and international scale.

“A correct judgement and a feeling for proportion in politics is an extremely important thing.”[xii]


[i] For a comprehensive biography of Leon Sedov, see: Pierre Broué: Fils de Trotsky, Victime de Staline, Atelier, 1993. Some of the chapters are also available in Revolutionary History, 2007

[ii] A detailed explanation of this is given in Pierre Broué: Comunistas contra Stalin, Editorial SEPHA, 2008. English readers may also consult the following eyewitness report:

[iii] The main writings and discussions with Trotsky on the black question have been published in English: Leon Trotsky on Black Nationalism and Self-Determination, Pathfinder Press, New York, 1978.

[iv] LDT: Mexico and British Imperialism. 1938:

[v] For an explanation of this theory, see an article in the Mexican paper La Jornada: La Jornada:

[vi] Reports from the Founding Congress of the Fourth International are available in Spanish as appendix to León Trotsky: El programa de transición y la fundación de la Cuarta Internacional, CEIP, Buenos Aires, 2008, pages 311-332 and in the CD-ROM appendix.

[vii] LDT: The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International - The Transitional Program:

[viii] LDT: A Great Achievement. 1938:

[ix] LDT: A Letter to Max Shachtman, December 20, 1939:

[x] LDT: A Letter to John G. Wright, December 19, 1939:

[xi] LDT: A Letter to Joseph Hansen. January 18, 1940:

[xii] LDT: On Democratic Centralism and the Regime. December 1937:

From The Pages Of Workers Vanguard-From The Pen Of Leon Trotsky-For a Workers Europe!

Click on the headline to link to the International Communist League (ICL) website.

Workers Vanguard No. 992
9 December 2011

For a Workers Europe!

(Quote of the Week)

The crisis racking the EU shows that a united Europe under capitalism is a chimera. In a February 1926 speech, one of his last addresses to Soviet workers before his expulsion from the Communist Party by Stalin in November 1927, Leon Trotsky stressed that only the proletarian overthrow of capitalist rule could achieve the genuine unification and economic integration of Europe. Trotsky projected that a Europe under workers rule, allied with the Soviet Union and a liberated Asia, would be a bulwark against capitalist America, which had become the world’s dominant imperialist force, while also serving as a springboard for workers rule in the U.S.

The proletarian revolution signifies the unification of Europe. Bourgeois economists, pacifists, business sharpers, day-dreamers and mere bourgeois babblers are not averse nowadays to talk about a United States of Europe. But that task is beyond the strength of the European bourgeoisie which is utterly corroded by contradictions. Europe can be unified only by the victorious European proletariat. No matter where the revolution may first break out, and no matter what the tempo of its development may be, the economic unification of Europe is the first indispensable condition for its socialist reconstruction. Back in 1923 the Communist International proclaimed that it is necessary to drive out those who have partitioned Europe, take power in partitioned Europe in order to unify it, in order to create the Socialist United States of Europe.

Revolutionary Europe will clear a road for herself to raw materials, to food products; she will know how to get help from the peasantry. We ourselves have grown sufficiently strong to be able to extend some help to revolutionary Europe during the most difficult months. Over and above this, we will provide for Europe an excellent bridge to Asia. Proletarian England, shoulder to shoulder with the peoples of India, will insure the independence of that country. But this does not mean that England will lose the possibility of a close economic collaboration with India. Free India will have need of European technology and culture; Europe will have need of the products of India. The Soviet United States of Europe, together with our Soviet Union, will serve as the mightiest of magnets for the peoples of Asia, who will gravitate toward the establishment of the closest economic and political ties with proletarian Europe.

—Leon Trotsky, “Europe and America” (Fourth International, May 1943)

The Latest From The “Occupy Oakland” Website-This Is Class War-We Say No More- Take The Offensive- Make The “Occupy” Movement Streets Labor’s Streets-Defend The Oakland Commune!

Click on the headline to link to Occupy Oakland website for the latest from the Bay Area vanguard battleground in the struggle for social justice.
An Injury To One Is An Injury To All!-Defend All The Occupation Sites And All The Occupiers! Drop All Charges Against All Protesters Everywhere!
Fight-Don’t Starve-We Created The Wealth, Let's Take It Back! Labor And The Oppressed Must Rule!
A Five-Point Program As Talking Points

*Jobs For All Now!-“30 For 40”- A historic demand of the labor movement. Thirty hours work for forty hours pay to spread the available work around. Organize the unorganized- Organize the South- Organize Wal-mart- Defend the right for public and private workers to unionize.

* Defend the working classes! No union dues for Democratic (or the stray Republican) candidates. Spent the dough on organizing the unorganized and other labor-specific causes (example, the November, 2011 anti-union recall referendum in Ohio).

*End the endless wars!- Immediate, Unconditional Withdrawal Of All U.S./Allied Troops (And Mercenaries) From Afghanistan! Hands Off Pakistan! Hands Off Iran! Hands Off The World!

*Fight for a social agenda for working people!. Quality Healthcare For All! Nationalize the colleges and universities under student-teacher-campus worker control! Forgive student debt! Stop housing foreclosures!

*We created the wealth, let’s take it back. Take the struggle for our daily bread off the historic agenda. Build a workers party that fights for a workers government to unite all the oppressed. Labor and the oppressed must rule!

From The “West Coast Port Shutdown” Website-This Is Class War, We Say No More!-Defend The Longshoremen’s Unions!-Defend All Our Unions- Take The Offensive

Click on the headline to link to the West Coast Port Shutdown website.

Markin comment December 13, 2011:

We know that we are only at the very start of an upsurge in the labor movement as witness the stellar exemplary actions by the West Coast activists. As I have pointed out in my remarks below this is the way forward as we struggle against the ruling class for a different more society. Not everything went as well, or as well-attended, as expected including our rally in solidarity in Boston but we are still exhibiting growing pains in the post-encampment era.
Remarks prepared for the Speak Out in defense of Occupy Boston, Occupy West Coast and in solidarity with the West Coast Port Shutdown action at Boston City Hall Plaza, December 12, 2011:

I will read from prepared notes. Let me explain why. In the old days, my old street corner agitator days, I could whip up a speech off the top of my head. But of late, before the fresh breeze of the Occupy movement blew across the Boston waterfront, I was more used to sitting at tables in small, over-heated rooms. Or participating in small marches, rallies, and vigils where such oratorical skills were not in much demand. But let me get to my main point.

Sisters and brothers, brothers and sisters, no question, no question at all that the recent police occupation at Dewey Square was a big defeat, a big if temporary defeat, for our struggle for freedom of expression and assembly in the public square. In response, over the past few days not a few younger or newer activists, not used to the ebb and flow of the political struggle, the class struggle, have been disheartened and expressed a sense of defeat.

Today though I bring you glad tidings. The sleeping giant of the labor movement has begun to stir. The long night of despair and disorientation is beginning to lift. At the beginning of this year when the struggle of the public workers unions in Wisconsin heated up I, among others, proposed a general strike and solidarity rallies in order to beat back the anti-labor attacks. We were written off as mad men and women, old-time leftists gone off their rockers. General strike, shut down, no, that was okay for those Greek workers who seemed to strike every other day, or those French workers who struck every day. In America, never. And then came the mass actions in Wisconsin, the shut down of the Port Of Oakland on November 2nd, and today’s actions. Now we can quibble over whether such events are real general strikes or not but now the language of general strike and shutdown is firmly etched on labor’s political agenda.

The old Polish socialist scholar, Isaac Deutscher, once remarked back in the 1960s heyday of the anti-Vietnam War movement that he would give up all the endless marches, rallies and vigils for one dock strike against the war. He was right. We have to hit the war-mongers, the capitalists where it hurts-their profits and power. And today’s West Coast actions are proof of that proposition. If the age of the Occupy encampment has passed so too has the age of endless marches, rallies and vigils. They certainly have their place but now we must take the offensive. Now every action must be thought out to measure the effect on breaking the power of the one percent.

I had, several weeks ago, proposed to various people that we shut down the Port of Boston today in solidarity with the West Coast. That proposal was premature considering the situation in the Boston movement. But someday, someday soon, we too will be marching to shut down the port. To shut down GE in Lynn. To shut down the Bank of America. To shut down their government. And maybe not to just shut them down for a day either. I will leave you with this thought. We created the wealth-let’s take it back. Working people and their allies must rule!
An Injury To One Is An Injury To All!-Defend All The Occupation Sites And All The Occupiers! Drop All Charges Against All Protesters Everywhere!

Fight-Don’t Starve-We Created The Wealth, Let's Take It Back! Labor And The Oppressed Must Rule!
A Five-Point Program As Talking Points

*Jobs For All Now!-“30 For 40”- A historic demand of the labor movement. Thirty hours work for forty hours pay to spread the available work around. Organize the unorganized- Organize the South- Organize Wal-mart- Defend the right for public and private workers to unionize.

* Defend the working classes! No union dues for Democratic (or the stray Republican) candidates. Spent the dough on organizing the unorganized and other labor-specific causes (example, the November, 2011 anti-union recall referendum in Ohio).

*End the endless wars!- Immediate, Unconditional Withdrawal Of All U.S./Allied Troops (And Mercenaries) From Afghanistan! Hands Off Pakistan! Hands Off Iran! Hands Off The World!

*Fight for a social agenda for working people!. Quality Healthcare For All! Nationalize the colleges and universities under student-teacher-campus worker control! Forgive student debt! Stop housing foreclosures!

*We created the wealth, let’s take it back. Take the struggle for our daily bread off the historic agenda. Build a workers party that fights for a workers government to unite all the oppressed. Labor and the oppressed must rule!

From The Partisan Defense Committee-The 26th Holiday Appeal In Support Of Class-War Prisoners-Free Mumia Abu-Jamal, Free Leonard Peltier, Free Lynne Stewart And Her Co-Workers-Free The Remaining Ohio 7 Prisoners!

Click on the headline to link to the Partisan Defense Committee website.

Reposted from the American Left History blog, dated December 1, 2010.

Markin comment:

I like to think of myself as a fervent supporter of the Partisan Defense Committee, an organization committed to social and political defense cases and causes in the interests of the working class and, at this time of the year, to raising funds to support the class-war prisoners’ stipend program. Normally I do not need any prompting in the matter. This year, however, in light of the addition of Attorney Lynne Stewart (yes, I know, she has been disbarred but that does not make her less of a people’s attorney in my eyes) to the stipend program, I read the 25th Anniversary Appeal article in Workers Vanguard No. 969 where I was startled to note how many of the names, organizations, and political philosophies mentioned there hark back to my own radical coming of age, and the need for class struggle defense in the late 1960s (although I may not have used that exact term at the time).

That recognition included names like black liberation fighter George Jackson, present class-war prisoner Hugo Pinell’s San Quentin Six comrade; the Black Panthers, as represented here by two of the Omaha Three (Poindexter and wa Langa), in their better days and in the days when we needed, desperately needed, to fight for their defense in places from Oakland to New Haven; the struggle, the fierce struggle, against the death penalty as represented in Mumia’s case today; the Ohio 7 and the Weather Underground who, rightly or wrongly, were committed to building a second front against American imperialism, and who most of the left, the respectable left, abandoned; and, of course, Leonard Peltier and the Native American struggles from Pine Ridge to the Southwest. It has been a long time and victories few. I could go on but you get the point.

That point also includes the hard fact that we have paid a high price, a very high price, for not winning back in the late 1960s and early 1970s when we last had this capitalist imperialist society on the ropes. Maybe it was political immaturity, maybe it was cranky theory, maybe it was elitism, hell, maybe it was just old-fashioned hubris but we let them off the hook. And have had to fight forty years of rear-guard “culture wars” since just to keep from falling further behind.

And the class-war prisoners, our class-war prisoners, have had to face their “justice” and their prisons. That lesson should be etched in the memory of every pro-working class militant today. And this, as well, as a quick glance at the news these days should make every liberation fighter realize; the difference between being on one side of that prison wall and the other is a very close thing when the bourgeois decides to pull the hammer down. The support of class-war prisoners is thus not charity, as International Labor Defense founder James P. Cannon noted back in the 1920s, but a duty of those fighters outside the walls. Today I do my duty, and gladly.

Workers Vanguard No. 991 25 November 2011

Free the Class-War Prisoners!
26th Annual PDC Holiday Appeal
An Injury to One Is an Injury to All!
(Class-Struggle Defense Notes)

The holiday season is once again upon us. Any day now, we’ll be assaulted 24/7 with commercials hawking the latest PlayStations, full-page newspaper ads featuring Christmas lingerie and jewelry, sitcoms with oafish dads sporting hideous Christmas ties and endless broadcasts of the movie about the Midwestern banker who, thanks to his guardian angel Clarence, discovers that “It’s a Wonderful Life.” For most, this year’s holidays mean that the bosses are in the Bahamas sucking up single malt scotch while paychecks are replaced with pink slips and the Santa shimmying down the chimney is a marshal serving a foreclosure notice. At the same time, poor families debate whether the small bit of money set aside for the holidays will be spent on presents or a bus ticket to visit their loved ones behind bars.

For us, this time of year is an occasion to redouble our commitment to those among the inhabitants of America’s vast network of prisons who were singled out for standing up to racist capitalist oppression—the class-war prisoners. Twenty-six years ago, the Partisan Defense Committee revived the program of the early International Labor Defense (ILD) under its secretary, James P. Cannon, of sending stipends to the class-war prisoners—irrespective of their political views or affiliations. As Cannon wrote:

“In one sense of the word the whole of capitalist society is a prison. For the great mass of people who do the hard, useful work there is no such word as freedom. They come and go at the order of a few. Their lives are regulated according to the needs and wishes of a few. A censorship is put upon their words and deeds. The fruits of their labor are taken from them. And if, by chance, they have the instinct and spirit to rebel, if they take their place in the vanguard of the fight for justice, the prisons are waiting.”
—James P. Cannon, “The Cause that Passes Through a Prison” (Labor Defender, September 1926)

We provide monthly stipends to 16 class-war prisoners and holiday gifts for them and their families. The $25 monthly stipends help ease a little bit the horrors of “life” in capitalist dungeons. More importantly, they are a necessary expression of solidarity with these prisoners—a message that they are not forgotten.

Since we initiated this program in 1986, we have provided stipends to over 30 class-war prisoners around the world. Among the first was former Black Panther leader Geronimo ji Jaga (Pratt), who spent 27 years in prison, for a crime that the state authorities knew that he did not commit, before being released in 1997. Geronimo died in June, an untimely death undoubtedly linked to his many years in prison.

Most of the class-war prisoners who receive PDC stipends have already spent decades in prison, and the capitalist rulers are determined not only to see them die behind bars but also to repeatedly subject them to harassment and degradation. American Indian Movement leader Leonard Peltier wrote us about his recent transfer to a prison in Florida far from his family and supporters, where the authorities placed him in a cell with a skinhead sporting on his back a tattoo of a KKK nightrider!

For those behind bars, the human tragedies that befall us all are made ever more acute by the enforced separation from family and friends. Jaan Laaman recently informed us of the death of his son Rick. Earlier this year, death row political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal lost his sister, Lydia Barashango, who was a tireless activist in Mumia’s fight for freedom. Mumia also had the bittersweet experience of seeing his son, Jamal Hart, railroaded to prison on bogus gun-possession charges in retaliation for speaking out on his father’s behalf, finally released from prison after serving every single day of his 15 and a half year sentence.

Persecution of those imprisoned for their political views and actions has not only continued unabated, but Obama and his top cop, Attorney General Eric Holder, are making reservations for many more to join those already behind bars. The Obama administration has expanded the repressive measures adopted during the Clinton/Bush years that are being wielded against those who propelled him into office—labor, blacks, immigrants and liberal youth. Obama has used the “anti-terror” laws to target leftist supporters of Latin American guerrillas and oppressed Palestinians, far surpassed the Bush regime in deporting immigrants and carried out the assassination abroad of an American citizen without even the pretense of charges or a trial.

The struggle to free the class-war prisoners is critical to educating a new generation of fighters against exploitation and oppression—a schooling centered on the role of the capitalist state, comprising the military, cops, courts and prisons. In recent weeks, the young activists of the “Occupy” protests have been on the receiving end of pepper spray, tear gas and police truncheons, with thousands arrested—a small taste not only of the daily hell of life for black people in this country but also what the bosses’ government unleashes against workers when they engage in class struggle. This was seen in the brutal cop attacks and arrests this September of over 130 leaders, members and supporters of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) in Longview, Washington. In its battle with the giant union-busting EGT grain exporter, the union has engaged in the kind of militant labor actions that built this country’s industrial unions. A defeat in Longview would be a body blow against the ILWU as a whole.

The 16 class-war prisoners receiving stipends from the PDC are listed below:
Mumia Abu-Jamal is a former Black Panther Party spokesman, a well-known supporter of the MOVE organization and an award-winning journalist known as “the voice of the voiceless.” This year the Philadelphia district attorney’s office unsuccessfully petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate the death penalty for this class-war prisoner. The D.A. now has until mid April to convene a new sentencing hearing, the sole purpose of which would be to determine whether Mumia is to be again sentenced to death or will rot in prison for life.

This December marks the 30th anniversary of Mumia’s arrest for a killing that the cops know he did not commit. Mumia was framed up for the 1981 killing of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner and sentenced to death explicitly for his political views. Mountains of documentation proving Mumia’s innocence, including the sworn confession of Arnold Beverly that he, not Mumia, shot and killed Faulkner, have been submitted to the courts. But from top to bottom, the courts have repeatedly refused to hear this overwhelming evidence.
While others plead with the current U.S. president and his attorney general to “investigate” violations of Mumia’s “civil rights,” the PDC says that Mumia’s fate cannot be left in the hands of the government of the capitalists. The racist rulers hate Mumia because they see in him the spectre of black revolt. The stakes are high and the situation is grim, but any real fight for Mumia’s freedom must be based on class-struggle opposition to the capitalist rulers, who have entombed this innocent black man for more than half his life.

Leonard Peltier is an internationally renowned class-war prisoner. Peltier’s incarceration for his activism in the American Indian Movement has come to symbolize this country’s racist repression of its native peoples, the survivors of centuries of genocidal oppression. Peltier’s frame-up trial, for the 1975 deaths of two marauding FBI agents in what had become a war zone on the South Dakota Pine Ridge Reservation, shows what capitalist “justice” is all about. Although the lead government attorney has admitted, “We can’t prove who shot those agents,” and the courts have acknowledged blatant prosecutorial misconduct, the 67-year-old Peltier is still locked away. This year, Peltier, who suffers from multiple serious medical conditions, was thrown into solitary confinement and then transferred to Florida, far from his family. He is not scheduled to be reconsidered for parole for another 13 years.

Eight MOVE members—Chuck Africa, Michael Africa, Debbie Africa, Janet Africa, Janine Africa, Delbert Africa, Eddie Africa and Phil Africa—are in their 34th year in prison. They were sentenced to 30 to 100 years after the 8 August 1978 siege of their Philadelphia home by over 600 heavily armed cops, having been falsely convicted of killing a police officer who died in the cops’ own cross fire. In 1985, eleven of their MOVE family members, including five children, were massacred by Philly cops in collaboration with the Feds. After more than three decades of unjust incarceration, most of these innocent prisoners had parole hearings this year, but none were released.

Lynne Stewart is a radical lawyer incarcerated for defending her client, a blind Egyptian cleric imprisoned for an alleged plot to blow up New York City landmarks in the early 1990s. Last year, she was resentenced to ten years, more than quadrupling her earlier sentence, in a loud affirmation by the Obama administration that there will be no let-up in the massive attack on democratic rights under the “war on terror.” Stewart, now over 72 years old and suffering from breast cancer, is known for her defense of Black Panthers, radical leftists and others reviled by the capitalist state.

Jaan Laaman and Thomas Manning are the two remaining anti-imperialist activists known as the Ohio 7 still in prison, convicted for their roles in a radical group that took credit for bank “expropriations” and bombings of symbols of U.S. imperialism, such as military and corporate offices, in the late 1970s and ’80s. Before their arrests in 1984 and 1985, the Ohio 7 were targets of massive manhunts. Their children were kidnapped at gunpoint by the Feds.

The Ohio 7’s politics were once shared by thousands of radicals during the Vietnam antiwar movement and by New Leftists who wrote off the possibility of winning the working class to a revolutionary program and saw themselves as an auxiliary of Third World liberation movements. But, like the Weathermen before them, the Ohio 7 were spurned by the “respectable” left. From a proletarian standpoint, the actions of these leftist activists against imperialism and racist injustice are not a crime. They should not have served a day in prison.

Ed Poindexter and Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa are former Black Panther supporters and leaders of the Omaha, Nebraska, National Committee to Combat Fascism. They were victims of the FBI’s deadly COINTELPRO operation under which 38 Black Panther Party members were killed and hundreds more imprisoned on frame-up charges. Poindexter and Mondo were railroaded to prison and sentenced to life for a 1970 explosion that killed a cop, and they have now served more than 40 years in jail. Nebraska courts have repeatedly denied Poindexter and Mondo new trials despite the fact that a crucial piece of evidence excluded from the original trial, a 911 audio tape long suppressed by the FBI, proved that testimony of the state’s key witness was perjured.

Hugo Pinell, the last of the San Quentin 6 still in prison, has been in solitary isolation for more than four decades. He was a militant anti-racist leader of prison rights organizing along with George Jackson, his comrade and mentor, who was gunned down by prison guards in 1971. Despite numerous letters of support and no disciplinary write-ups for over 28 years, Pinell was again denied parole in 2009. Now in his 60s, Pinell continues to serve a life sentence at the notorious torture chamber, Pelican Bay Security Housing Unit in California, a focal point for two recent hunger strikes against grotesquely inhuman conditions.

Contribute now! All proceeds from the Holiday Appeals will go to the Class-War Prisoners Stipend Fund. This is not charity but an elementary act of solidarity with those imprisoned for their opposition to racist capitalism and imperialist depredations. Send your contributions to: PDC, P.O. Box 99, Canal Street Station, New York, NY 10013; (212) 406-4252.

The Latest From The Private Bradley Manning Support Network-Free Bradley Manning Now! All Out In Support of Bradley’s Pre-Trial Hearing On December 16th Vigil &17th March And Rally At Fort Meade, Maryland

Click on the headline to link to the Private Bradley Manning Support Network for the lates information in his case.

From the American Left History blog, dated March 17, 2011

Why I Will Be Standing In Solidarity With Private Bradley Manning At Quantico, Virginia On Sunday March 20th At 2:00 PM- A Personal Note From An Ex-Soldier Political Prisoner

Markin comment:

Of course I will be standing at the front gate to the Quantico Marine Base on March 20th because I stand in solidarity with the actions of Private Bradley Manning in bringing to light, just a little light, some of the nefarious doings of this government, Bush-like or Obamian. If he did such acts. I sleep just a shade bit easier these days knowing that Private Manning (or someone) exposed what we all knew, or should have known- the Iraq war and the Afghan war justification rested on a house of card. American imperialism’s house of cards, but cards nevertheless.

Of course I will be standing at the front gate to the Quantico Marine Base on March 20th because I am outraged by the treatment of Private Manning meted to a presumably innocent man by a government who alleges itself to be some “beacon” of the civilized world. The military has gotten more devious although not smarter since I was soldier in their crosshairs over forty years ago. Allegedly Private Manning might become so distraught over his alleged actions that he requires extraordinary protections. He is assumed, in the Catch-22 logic of the military, to be something of a suicide risk on the basis of bringing some fresh air to the nefarious doings of the international imperialist order. Be serious. I, however, noticed no "spike” in suicide rates among the world’s diplomatic community once they were exposed, a place where such activities might have been expected once it was observed in public that most of these persons could barely tie their own shoes.

Now the two reasons above are more than sufficient reasons for my standing at the front gate to the Quantico Marine Base on March 20th although they, in themselves, are only the appropriate reasons that any progressive thinking person would need to show up and shout to the high heavens for Private Manning’s freedom. I have an addition reason though, a very pressing personal reason. As mentioned above I too was in the military’s crosshairs as a soldier during the height of the Vietnam War. I will not go into the details of that episode, this comment after all is about soldier Manning, other than that I spent my own time in an Army stockade for, let’s put it this way, working on the principle of “what if they gave a war and nobody came.” Forty years later I am still working off that principle, and gladly. But here is the real point. During that time I had outside support, outside civilian support, that rallied on several occasions outside the military base where I was confined. Believe me that knowledge helped me through the tough days inside. So on March 20th I am just, as I have been able to on too few other occasions over years, paying my dues for that long ago support. You, brother, are a true winter soldier.

Private Manning I hope that you will hear us, or hear about our rally in your defense. Better yet, everybody who read this join us and make sure that he can hear us loud and clear. And let us shout to those high heavens mentioned above-Free Private Bradley Manning Now!
And, of course, I will be standing in support of Private Manning December 17th.
Army schedules Dec. 16 pretrial hearing for PFC Bradley Manning
November 21, 2011.

Bradley Manning Support Network.

Today the United States Army scheduled an Article 32 pretrial hearing for PFC Bradley Manning, the Army intelligence specialist accused of releasing classified material to WikiLeaks. The pretrial hearing will commence on December 16 at Fort Meade, Maryland. (Army News Release PDF)

This will be PFC Manning’s first appearance before a court and the first time he will face his accusers after 17 months in confinement. In a blog post this morning, Manning’s lead counsel, David Coombs, notified supporters that the pretrial phase is scheduled to last five days.

Here is the full text of his update:

“The Article 32 hearing for PFC Bradley Manning will begin on December 16, 2011 at Fort Meade, Maryland. The hearing is expected to last approximately five days. With the exception of those limited times where classified information is being discussed, the hearing will be open to the public.

The primary purpose of the Article 32 hearing is to evaluate the relative strengths and weaknesses of the government’s case as well as to provide the defense with an opportunity to obtain pretrial discovery. The defense is entitled to call witnesses during the hearing and to also cross examine the government’s witnesses. Each witness who testifies is placed under oath; their testimony can therefore be used during the trial for impeachment purposes or as prior testimony should the witness become unavailable.

Our office is committed to providing the best representation for PFC Manning during this upcoming hearing. Achieving this goal is the sole focus of the lawyers, experts, and administrative staff working on this case. Given our focus, we will not be granting any media interviews or responding to any media inquiries. However, recognizing the public’s interest and the growing support for PFC Manning, we will be issuing regular public releases. The goal of these releases is to keep PFC Manning’s supporters informed and to assist the media in providing accurate information about this case.”

Supporters will be present outside Fort Meade when he arrives on December 16 and as part of a day of action on his 24th birthday, December 17.

“The charges against Bradley Manning are an indictment of our government’s obsession with secrecy,” said Daniel Ellsberg, who released the Pentagon Papers and accelerated the end of hostilities in Vietnam forty years ago. “Manning is accused of revealing illegal activities by our government and its corporate partners that must be brought to the attention of the American people. The Obama administration lacks the courage to confront the crimes and injustices that now stand exposed.”

Manning’s supporters assert that the information he is accused of making public was wrongly and illegally classified, and that whoever leaked the information should be protected as a whistle-blower. The WikiLeaks revelations include the “Collateral Murder” video, which shows the killing of Iraqi civilians and Reuters journalists, as well as diplomatic cables that have embarrassed governments and corporations around the world. Another cable related to the cover-up of a war crime contributed to the early exit of troops from Iraq by the end of this year.

PFC Manning’s confinement conditions drew strong reactions and protests from legal scholars, politicians, and human rights advocates from around the world. He was confined for ten months at a Quantico Marine base, where he faced extreme conditions in which he was forced to stand naked and was kept in isolation. P.J. Crowley, then-spokesperson for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was forced to resign after he called Manning’s treatment “ridiculous, counterproductive and stupid.” Juan Mendez, the United Nations’ rapporteur on torture, still seeks to meet with Manning, unmonitored, as part of an official investigation of evidence of abuse.

The Bradley Manning Support Network will continue to provide updates as they become available.
Vigil for Bradley, attend the pre-trial hearing


Fort Meade Main Gate
Maryland 175 & Reece Rd
Fort Meade, MD 21113 (map)

Rally for Bradley at Fort Meade leaflet PDF

VIGIL (or attend the hearing)
Friday, December 16th, 8am to 5pm

Saturday, December 17th, Noon to 3pm

The Fort Meade Main Gate is located in Odenton, Maryland, 25 miles northeast of Washington DC, between Washington DC and Baltimore, Maryland.

After a rally and vigil, supporters will march via the sidewalk along MD 175/Rouse Pkwy/Annapolis Rd, one mile, to Maryland 175 & Llewellyn Ave (the military court room is located on Llewellyn Ave one mile from the gate). Afterwards, we’ll march back to the main gate.

Shuttle van will be made available from the Odenton MARC train station, located on the MARC Penn Line between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, MD. It is 2.5 miles from the Fort Meade Main Gate. The station is on Amtrak’s high-speed Northeast Corridor; however, Amtrak does not stop at this station.

From Washington, DC: Go to MD-295 N towards BALTIMORE to US 175 EAST. Follow 175 EAST until you come to the Reece Road intersection (there is a traffic light). From Baltimore, MD: Go to MD-295 S towards WASHINGTON to US 175 EAST. Follow 175 EAST until you come to the Reece Road intersection (there is a traffic light).

Those wishing to attend the proceedings should go to the Visitor Control Center (near the intersection of Maryland 175 & Reece Rd, Fort Meade, MD 21113) when it opens at 7:30am (and certainly no later than 8:15am). All other gates are for military I.D. card holders only.

You do not need to pre-register. Each person will need a valid state or federal photo ID such as a driver’s license or state photo ID card.

Anyone driving on to Fort Meade will be required to submit their driver’s license, vehicle registration, and printed (not digital) proof of insurance. Your vehicle will be subject to search. Consider walking on base if there are any questions at all regarding your vehicle and paperwork.

The proceedings are likely to start at 9am daily at the Magistrate Court, 4432 Llewellyn Ave, Fort Meade, MD 20755. The court room is 1.5 miles from the Visitor Control Center. The pre-trial hearing will break from Friday, December 23 until January 2 if needed.

Contact the Fort Meade Public Affairs office for information at 301-677-1361

Contact Courage to Resist at 510-488-3559