International Committee of the Fourth International
Fourth International 1991: Oppose imperialist war and colonialism!

The Spartacist Workers Party: Provocateurs against the Fourth International

This article by the Bund Sozialistischer Arbeiter originally appeared in their newspaper “Neue Arbeiterpresse” on November 23, 1990. The Stasi is the acronym of the East German secret police. The Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) is the new name of the East German Stalinist party, formerly titled the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED).

The Spartacist Workers Party of Germany (SpAD), which refers to itself as a “section of the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist),” has nothing in common with the Fourth International founded by Leon Trotsky in 1938. The aim and purpose of this group is nothing less than to discredit Trotskyism in the working class.

Whereas the Fourth International in its founding program designated “the overthrow of this same Thermidorian (Stalinist) bureaucracy” as “the chief political task in the USSR” (The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International, Labor Publications, p. 46), in the GDR the SpAD has specialized in defending the Stalinist power apparatus and its most dubious representatives.

It its election propaganda it supports the Stasi general of many years standing, Markus Wolf, and the PDS functionaries, Pohl and Langnitschke, who for years have been involved in monetary transactions and are presently in jail because of financial wheelings and dealings on behalf of the PDS. The SpAD glorifies the Red Army—which in 1953 crushed the workers uprising in the GDR, marched into Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968—as a “sentry against NATO and West German imperialism” and calls for “action by the workers united front to defend and honor our Soviet Army comrades and their families.”

As recently as this past December and January, the SpAD still appeared under its previous name as the “Spartacist Group,” but because of its notorious defense of the Stasi, the Vopo (the regular East German Stalinist police), the SED factory militia and the NVA (GDR’s National People’s Army), it had become known as the “Stasi” Party.

The support of the most despicable Stalinist crimes by the SpAD or by its West German predecessor, the “Trotskyist League of Germany” (Trotzkistische Liga Deutschlands or TLD), has a long history.

In 1979 the TLD enthusiastically welcomed the Red Army’s entry into Afghanistan. In 1981 it demanded the intervention of the Soviet Army into Poland against the Solidarity trade union and cheered the declaration of martial law by General Jaruzelski. “The counterrevolutionary course of Solidarity must be stopped!”, wrote the TLD newspaper, Spartakist, at that time. “Should the Kremlin Stalinists intervene militarily to stop it in their inevitably brutal, mindless manner, we will support them. And we assume responsibility for this in advance: No matter what idiocies and horrors they commit, we will not flinch from defending the smashing of Solidarity’s counterrevolution.”

The attempt by the SpAD to pass these pro-Stalinist policies off as Trotskyism is a political provocation aimed at discrediting the program of the Fourth International.

The Fourth International has always defended the nationalized property relations in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and declared its readiness to back these countries against imperialism in case of a military conflict. Right to this very day, that is its position. Nevertheless, it has never supported nor justified the crimes of the Stalinist bureaucracy against the working class. On the contrary. It has always stressed that the property relations in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and the social gains associated with these relations could only be defended if the working class overthrew the Stalinist bureaucracy through a political revolution and itself assumed power.

When the mass movement against the SED regime developed in the fall of 1989, the BSA fought to have the working class itself seize the initiative and overthrow the SED government. We constantly warned that Krenz, Modrow and Gysi, in collaboration with the parties of the “round table,” would turn the power over to the capitalists.

Hence, the SpAD accused us of “anticommunism” and fawned upon the PDS. The latter valued the services of the Spartacists and at Stalinist conferences placed information booths at their disposal. On January 3, 1990, the PDS allowed the Spartacists to speak to a mass demonstration at Gysi’s side in the Berlin district of Treptow.

Since then, the warnings of the BSA have been so dramatically confirmed that even the SpAD has had to change its position. In its latest media election announcement it stated: “Gorbachev and the PDS have sold out the GDR to the bourgeoisie of Auschwitz. Trailing behind, Gysi is now even delivering up his own party.”

But this has not in the least changed the SpAD’s pro-Stalinist course. In place of Gysi and Modrow, it has now taken Pohl, Langnitschke and Wolf to heart, Stalinists who are politically at one with Gysi and have merely arranged a division of labor among themselves.

The BSA, too, has condemned the state attacks on the PDS, not out of sympathy for this party and its leaders, but because the settling of accounts with them is the task of the working class and not of the bourgeois state.

The provocative role of the SpAD is expressed most clearly in its invectives against the Bund Sozialistischer Arbeiter, the German section of the International Committee of the Fourth International. As time goes on, these invectives become ever more hysterical.

These attacks have nothing in common with any kind of political polemic, as is customary and necessary within the workers movement. They are not based on political arguments, but on hysterical slanders, which are neither proven nor rationally based and are simply unintelligible to any thinking worker.

But the SpAD does not in any way direct its invectives against the BSA toward politically thinking workers; much more it aims them at unstable and demoralized elements from the middle class, who without asking further questions simply accept the absurd charges that the Trotskyists from the Bund Sozialistischer Arbeiter are “political bandits” who adhere to a “cult with a penchant for gangsterism and slander” and are prepared for “punchups and murder.” In this manner it seeks to revive the collapsed edifice of Stalinist lies about the Fourth International.

The hysterical language of the SpAD targets people who are in a mental state not unlike the schizophrenic would-be assassin of Lafontaine, Adelheid Streidel. [Oskar Lafontaine, the leader of the Social Democratic Party in the recent elections, was stabbed at a party rally last spring by Streidel, a deranged middle class woman who carefully prepared the attack]. It is an attempt to stir up a pogrom atmosphere against the International Committee of the Fourth International and its leading representatives.

The SpAD or its West German predecessor, the TLD, is the German extension of a US group called the Spartacist League. In the 1960s its leader, James Robertson, left the Socialist Workers Party, the former American section of the Fourth International.

At that time the International Committee of the Fourth International was conducting a political struggle against the degeneration of the SWP, which had joined the United Secretariat of Ernest Mandel and thrown overboard the program of the Fourth International. Robertson decided against any collaboration with the International Committee because the discipline of an international organization would have been a barrier to his own opportunist maneuvers in the US.

He shifted his political activities to the centers of the petty-bourgeois protest movement of the 1960s—the University of Berkeley in California and Greenwich Village in New York—out of which the Spartacist League recruited its members and which are still the principal areas of its activity. Today, in these former strongholds of the protest movement, one finds the crassest forms of demoralization and degeneration, which followed the collapse of the protest movement. The Spartacist League and its German offshoot, the SpAD, are the consummate political expression of this diseased milieu.

They long ago wrote off the possibility of mobilizing the working class as an independent political force on the basis of the program of the Fourth International and replaced it with a growing hostility to the working class—hence, its support for the Stalinist bureaucracy and its crimes.

Concealed behind its bloodcurdling, militant-sounding screams and hysteria lies stark panic. The election victory of the CDU in the Volkskammer election was for it tantamount to... the seizure of power by fascism, the establishment of a Fourth Reich. “Now,” proudly proclaims the SpAD, “we are fighting for workers resistance against the Fourth Reich.”

A member of the American Spartacist League, Noah Wolkenstein, who had been sent into the GDR to lend support to the SpAD, drew the ultimate conclusion from this appalling perspective and committed suicide. In their obituary, the Spartacist League and the SpAD expressed a sympathetic understanding for this act.

The unstable political character of the petty-bourgeois layers upon which the Spartacist League bases itself is expressed in the bizarre fluctuations of its political line. On the one side, it is obsessed by the danger of fascism and racism and—having no confidence in the mobilization of the working class—is continuously provoking punchups with small groups of Ku Klux Klansmen. Yet, when the notorious racist Bernhard Goetz shot four black youth in a New York City subway, the Spartacist League appeared on the scene as his defender. It was dangerous, they said, for “vulnerable looking white people” to ride the subways unarmed because of the presence of “marauding black youth.” Thus did the Spartacists defend lynch justice.

The main activity of the Spartacist League and its international offshoot has, since its founding, consisted of organizing political provocations against the International Committee of the Fourth International and the Workers League, which advocates the policies of the ICFI in the USA. If they continue to pose as Trotskyists, it is only to carry out these provocations more effectively.

In Germany the Spartacist League liquidated the TLD in 1985, arguing that it had degenerated into nationalism. Only after the wall fell in the fall of 1989 and after a powerful intervention by the BSA in the GDR did this tendency reemerge full-blown.

We alert all workers to this organization, whose petty-bourgeois hysteria and hostility to the working class offers an ideal medium for the machinations of provocateurs and police agents.