Socialist Equality Party (UK)
The Historical and International Foundations of the Socialist Equality Party (Britain)

Haston/Grant and the Morrow/Goldman faction

67. The political complexities of the war and its aftermath posed critical issues of revolutionary perspective. The rapidly changing situation was to produce a protracted crisis in the Fourth International. Differences raised by Felix Morrow and Albert Goldman in the US, with the support of Haston and Grant in Britain, regarding the tempo of revolutionary developments were, over time, to reveal themselves as only the initial manifestation of a growing scepticism towards the historical perspective of the Trotskyist movement.

68. Pointing to the prospect of an economic upturn in the US and the strengthened position of the Stalinist and social democratic parties in Europe, Morrow argued that the Fourth International should confine itself to agitation around democratic demands. With Morrow and Goldman virtually isolated in the SWP, Haston and Grant intervened in their defence. The basis of their support for Morrow was made explicit by Grant, who argued that, whereas Trotsky had predicted the emergence of a mass revolutionary movement against Stalinism and imperialism, capitalism had not been overthrown and the Soviet bureaucracy had extended its rule over Eastern Europe. This served to “falsify the original wartime perspective of the movement,” he wrote.

69. It was Grant’s assertion that Trotsky had provided a guarantee about the course of developments that was false. In April 1940, Trotsky had written:

“Every historical prognosis is always conditional, and the more concrete the prognosis, the more conditional it is. A prognosis is not a promissory note which can be cashed on a given date. Prognosis outlines only the definite trends of the development. But along with these trends a different order of forces and tendencies operate, which at a certain moment begin to predominate. All those who seek exact predictions of concrete events should consult the astrologists. Marxist prognosis aids only in orientation.”[1]

70. A revolutionary perspective does not involve asserting that it is possible for the working class to take power at any given moment. It is a historical prognosis, grounded on an understanding of the character of the epoch as one of imperialist decay, leading to wars and revolutions. Moreover, the “final” downfall of capitalism is always conditional upon the construction of a revolutionary internationalist party. As the founding manifesto of the Fourth International stated:

“The capitalist world has no way out, unless a prolonged death agony is so considered. It is necessary to prepare for long years, if not decades, of wars, uprisings, brief interludes of truce, new wars, and new uprisings. A young revolutionary party must base itself on this perspective. History will provide it with enough opportunities and possibilities to test itself, to accumulate experience, and to mature. The swifter the ranks of the vanguard are fused the more the epoch of bloody convulsions will be shortened, the less destruction will our planet suffer. But the great historical problem will not be solved in any case until the revolutionary party stands at the head of the proletariat.”[2]


Leon Trotsky, In Defence of Marxism (1982), New Park Publications, pp. 218-219.


Leon Trotsky The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth InternationalThe Transitional Program (1981), Labor Publications.