Socialist Equality Party (United States)
The Historical and International Foundations of the Socialist Equality Party (United States)

The Workers League After Wohlforth

The political desertion of Wohlforth marked a decisive turning point in the development of the Workers League as a Trotskyist organization. Wohlforth’s resignation and subsequent repudiation of his own political history expressed not only personal weaknesses. It epitomized specific traits of American petty-bourgeois radicalism—in particular, its contempt for theoretical consistency and a pragmatic disdain for history. The Workers League recognized that the crisis through which it had passed in 1973-74 required more than a criticism of Wohlforth’s errors. Thus, in response to Wohlforth’s resignation and his denunciation of the ICFI, the Workers League initiated an extensive review of the history of the Fourth International. It was precisely the emphasis on the historical experience of the Trotskyist movement, within the context of the objective development of world capitalism and the international class struggle, that emerged as the essential and distinctive characteristic of the Workers League. The development of Marxist perspective and the strategic orientation to the working class, it repeatedly stressed, was only possible to the extent that the full weight of the historical experience of the Marxist movement was brought to bear in the analysis of contemporary socio-economic processes. In its perspective resolution of November 1978, the Workers League stated:

The foundation for revolutionary practice, the indispensable basis for any real orientation to the working class from the standpoint of the struggle for power, is the thorough assimilation of the entire body of historical experiences through which the International Committee has passed since 1953. The training of Trotskyist cadre is only possible in the struggle to base every aspect and detail of the party’s political work on the historical conquests of the International Committee, derived from the battle against revisionism.[1]

The document explained the relationship between this conscious and continuous reworking of the historical experience of the Trotskyist movement and both the theoretical struggle against pragmatism and the practical orientation of the party to the working class:

There can be no real turn to the working class outside of the conscious struggle to preserve the lines of historical continuity between the present struggles of the working class and the revolutionary party as a unity of opposites and the whole content of the objective historical experiences of the class and the development of Bolshevism. It is only from the standpoint of the struggle to base the whole work of the Party on the historical gains of the struggle against revisionism, and the immense political and theoretical capital that is the heritage left behind by Trotsky to the Fourth International, that the fight against pragmatism within the ranks of the Party and, therefore, in the working class itself, can be seriously mounted. As soon as the struggle against pragmatism is detached from the fight to maintain the direct historical connections between the daily practice of the cadres and the whole body of historical experiences through which the Trotskyist movement has passed, it degenerates into the most impotent forms of verbal jousting. Or, to put it more accurately, it becomes simply another variety of pragmatism itself.[2]


The World Economic-Political Crisis of Capitalism and the Death Agony of US Imperialism (New York: Labor Publications, 1979), p. 30.


Ibid., p. 36.