David North
The Heritage We Defend

After the Split

After the 1963 reunification, the SWP and its revisionist allies in Europe all set out to dismiss the 1953 split as an unfortunate misunderstanding that should never have happened. Joseph Hansen, in 1962, lamented the “unconscionable eight years”[1] of the split. The very existence of Pabloism as a definite international revisionist tendency was denied. Insofar as the term “Pabloism” had any political meaning for the SWP, it stood merely for unpleasant bureaucratic methods in the sphere of international organization.

The SWP sought to conceal the objective political significance of the change in its own political attitude toward Pabloism. In 1953, it had organized an international split against the Pabloite-controlled International Secretariat. In 1963, the SWP forced through a reunification with those it had vehemently denounced as revisionists, and broke with the International Committee.

An analysis of the crucial decade which followed the “Open Letter” establishes that the reunification of 1963 was the end product of the capitulation of Cannon and the Socialist Workers Party to the pressures of American imperialism. The transformation of the SWP from a party of social revolution into a party of social reform—infested, moreover, by agents of the capitalist state in its central leadership—was the essential content of the process recorded in its repudiation of the principles for which it had fought in 1953. The reunification marked the end of the twenty-five-year existence of the SWP as a Trotskyist party.

Banda avoids an objective study of the 1953–63 period because it goes right to the heart of the crucial question of historical continuity. To trace the degeneration of the SWP and the opposition to it which arose inside the International Committee is to examine how Trotskyism was defended and developed in the struggle against revisionism, that is, in battle against the social, political and ideological forms of the pressures exerted by imperialism upon the Fourth International. Such a study proves that in its struggle against the unprincipled reunification proposed by the SWP, the International Committee defended the historic interests of the international working class.

Such an examination of the struggles of the Fourth International as an objective part of the international class struggle is of no interest to Banda. Rather, his method is always subjective. To deny the historic significance of the “Open Letter,” he denounces the supposed crimes of Cannon before 1953, which, as we have seen, are based on malicious lies and fabrications. To deny the historic implications of the struggle waged against the reunification, Banda fastens upon the errors made by Healy in relation to Algeria in 1955–57. In addition to a bit of dishonest self-promotion, the Algerian events are cited by Banda to prove that there existed no real differences between the SWP and the British and French Trotskyists; rather, they were all part of the same politically degenerate international movement that had been decaying from almost the very moment that Trotsky founded the Fourth International in 1938. Whatever the importance of these errors on the Algerian struggle for the biography of Healy and the general historical record, they do not alter the objective revolutionary content of the struggle against the SWP’s betrayal of Trotskyism.[2]

In order to minimize the significance of the SWP abandonment of the struggle against Pabloism, Banda suggests that the “Open Letter” was a minor incident that was immediately forgotten by Cannon: “True to form Cannon, having established his own freedom to manoeuvre with the labour bureaucracy and having disposed of the Cochranite nuisance, was now prepared to do business with Pablo on the basis of a common stand on the Hungarian Revolution and a watering down of the program of political revolution in the USSR.”

It is not necessary to repeat our exposure of Banda’s lie that in the struggle against Cochran-Clarke, Cannon represented the American trade union bureaucracy. What we would like to point out, instead, is that between the “Open Letter” and the Hungarian Revolution a period of no less than three years elapsed during which the SWP consistently and irreconcilably, in all its public statements and in correspondence within the Fourth International, denounced Pabloism and opposed all political relations with its representatives. In brushing this fact aside, Banda joins all the centrists and revisionists who, like the SWP, prefer to treat the 1953 split as a sort of nonevent.

The SWP placed for a period of more than three years enormous stress on the significance of the struggle against Pabloism. Considering all that the SWP leaders had written on the subject between 1953 and 1956, the British section of the IC was entirely correct to see the SWP’s sudden change in attitude toward the prospects for reunification with the Pabloites as a profoundly disquieting development.

In the early months of 1954, Cannon continued the political offensive against the Pabloites, defining the political and historical significance of the split. On March 1, 1954, he wrote to George Breitman:

Our objective is fundamentally different from Germain’s. In the last resort, it traces back to a different theory of the role of the revolutionary vanguard, and its relation to other tendencies in the labor movement. Germain thinks he is orthodox on this question—he even wrote an article about it in Quatrième Internationale—but in practice he compromises the theory. We alone are unconditional adherents of the Lenin-Trotsky theory of the party of the conscious vanguard and its role as leader of the revolutionary struggle. This theory acquires burning actuality and dominates all others in the present epoch.

The problem of leadership now is not limited to spontaneous manifestations of the class struggle in a long drawn-out process, nor even to the conquest of power in this or that country where capitalism is especially weak. It is a question of the development of the international revolution and the socialist transformation of society. To admit that this can happen automatically is, in effect, to abandon Marxism altogether. No, it can only be a conscious operation, and it imperatively requires the leadership of the Marxist party which represents the conscious element in the historic process. No other party will do. No other tendency in the labor movement can be recognized as a satisfactory substitute. For that reason, our attitude towards all other parties and tendencies is irreconcilably hostile.

If the relation of forces requires the adaptation of the cadres of the vanguard to organizations dominated at the moment by such hostile tendencies—Stalinist, Social Democratic, centrist—then such adaptation must be regarded at all times as a tactical adaptation, to facilitate the struggle against them; never to effect a reconciliation with them; never to ascribe to them the decisive historical role, with the Marxists assigned to the minor chore of giving friendly advice and “loyal” criticism, in the manner of the Pabloite comments on the French General Strike.

* * *

Germain doesn’t know it, but at bottom our differences with him are the same as our differences with Shachtman and Pablo in this domain. Germain offers us an “entrist” policy; he wants us to content ourselves with the position of a critical opposition in a Pabloite International, just as Pablo, implicitly, would reduce the Fourth International to the role of a critical wing of Stalinism, and as Shachtman explicitly advises the revolutionary vanguard to be satisfied with the ignoble destiny of a “loyal opposition”—the formulation is Shachtman’s—to the Social Democracy. …

The Fourth International, in the present stage of its evolution and development, is not a mass organization in which different and even antagonistic tendencies could accommodate themselves to each other for a long time, while the struggle continues for the allegiance of the masses in its ranks. The Fourth International today is a cadre organization. Its striking power and historical justification derive from its program and its ideological homogeneity. Pabloism is not a mass movement to be penetrated and influenced, but a revisionist tendency which discredits the Fourth International and disrupts its cadres. The revolutionary task is not to “live with” this tendency—which, moreover, is a minority tendency—but to blow it up.

As I visualize the next stage of our strategy, it should proceed from the uncompromising determination to annihilate Pabloism politically and organizationally. This will take time, and we should adjust our thinking to a drawn-out struggle along three lines, in the following order of importance.

First: to consolidate and re-educate the cadres already supporting the International Committee.

Second: to secure the organizational alignment with the International Committee of those sections already in substantial political agreement with us, or still undecided.

Third: to consolidate minorities in those sections whose top leadership is already corrupted by Pabloism, and arm them for an irreconcilable struggle.

I attach the greatest importance to the first point: The consolidation and ideological hardening of the ranks of the orthodox cadre. As I see it, the polemical material we are turning out is intended mainly for their benefit, to involve them in the discussion and assist them to move forward with us consciously at every step. We should look back to the early days of our movement and recall that our voluminous polemics against the Stalinists were not merely a debate with them; they were the means whereby our own basic cadres were educated and consolidated.

We should deliberately aim to accomplish the same results again this time on a higher level. This is very important for us in the SWP, for it is obvious that our party is being rebuilt from the bottom up in the course of this discussion. It is ten times more important for such organizations as the Canadian and the British, and others who are obliged by circumstances to follow a policy of “deep entry.”[3]

Cannon, clearly recognizing that the emergence of Pabloite revisionism reflected the pressure of imperialism upon the entire Fourth International and that liquidationism was a real danger even within those sections who were identified as “orthodox” Trotskyists, repeatedly stressed the necessity for a thoroughgoing reeducation of the rank and file in the struggle against revisionism. He not only called for “merciless polemics against the Pabloites,” but also warned that these literary attacks “will be partly wasted if the polemical material is confined only to the leading circles and is not widely distributed in the ranks, and studied and discussed by them. Otherwise, Pabloism, the end result of which can only be a liquidation of the Trotskyist cadres, could eventually gain the victory by default, even though the cadres formally renounce the Pabloite faction.”[4]

On April 24, 1954, in a letter to Dobbs, Cannon stepped up the offensive against the Pabloites. Commenting on the attitude taken by the Pabloites toward elections in Indochina and the admission of China into the UN, Cannon wrote:

What struck me in the eye, on reading this Pabloite declaration, is that here for the first time they have openly thrown aside the Trotskyist program of revolutionary internationalism in favor of the pacifist diplomatic formulas of the Stalinists. This is not a mistake or an oversight but a calculated betrayal of our program, published in the name of the Fourth International.

Here Pabloism takes off the mask and shows its real face. And all those who want to see, can see the reason why they chose this occasion for self-revelation. The same April 9 session of the Pabloite IS, which issued this infamous declaration, made the decision to formalize the split with the Trotskyists who remain faithful to the program of revolutionary internationalism. The two actions fit together. The Pabloites had to cut the last thread connecting them with the Trotskyists before they felt free to dispense with diplomatic formulations and openly reveal their real program.

We will see more of this from now on, and everything will become clear to everybody. Our interest on the international field henceforth is not to haggle over organizational formalities and technicalities with the Pabloite scoundrels, but to consolidate the forces of international Trotskyism in the struggle to defend the program of the Fourth International and to cleanse its banner of the Stalinist filth splotched upon it by the Pabloite gang. …

All questions of organizational formalities and technicalities, whether right or wrong in any given instance, which previously may have been a fit subject for discussion among the forces of orthodox Trotskyism, are washed out and worthless now. Nothing counts from now on but the lines of political principle which divide the Trotskyists from Stalinist agents and apologists. The realignment of the international movement can only take place on that basis. This is the real state of affairs and we must proceed from it. Nothing else matters now.[5]

Following the split, there were discussions within the International Committee over how to prosecute the struggle against the Pabloites most effectively. Cannon, correctly, placed the central emphasis on the need to consolidate the ranks of the orthodox Trotskyists on the basis of an unrelenting political and theoretical struggle against the revisionists. He ruled out political or organizational concessions in the name of a specious unity; and looked askance at proposals for further discussions with the revisionists that threatened to undercut the essential political struggle.

There was a another element in the political equation that complicated the struggle against the Pabloites. The Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP), the Ceylonese section of the Fourth International, had opposed the split on what appeared to be purely organizational grounds. Making use of a ploy that is the stock-in-trade of centrists, it claimed to be totally opposed to Pablo’s revisions of the Trotskyist program, but argued that the issuing of the “Open Letter” was a mistake. The subsequent evolution of the LSSP would eventually expose the reactionary political outlook which motivated their objections to the split. In fact, the LSSP leaders did not want any struggle waged against centrism inside the Fourth International for the simple reason that it would inevitably cut across the opportunist line they were developing in Ceylon.

The attitude of the LSSP made the position of the orthodox Trotskyists more difficult. Their opposition to the split bolstered Pablo, and their claims to be opposed to his line cynically encouraged false hopes that the LSSP could be won over to the “orthodox Trotskyists” once the political issues were made clear. Before the two-faced game of the LSSP was finally exposed, a great deal of energy was unnecessarily expended attempting to satisfy the organizational sensibilities of the Ceylonese. This is how the issue of a parity committee arose for the first time in 1954. The LSSP argued for the creation of an organizational medium through which the consummation of an irrevocable split could be avoided and a world congress of all factions held.

In February 1954, Cannon informed the LSSP that he did not believe that a world congress could heal a split provoked by irreconcilable political differences. He opposed the conception that the Fourth International could exist as an all-inclusive umbrella organization for disparate organizations. But Cannon did not reject the LSSP proposals outright. Following the publication of the LSSP’s critique of Pablo’s “Rise and Decline of Stalinism”—in which the Ceylonese acknowledged that the Pabloites’ “single governing concept … not only leads to a fundamental revision of the positions of Trotskyism in regard to Stalinism but also denies to the Trotskyist movement all justification for its continued existence”—Cannon was persuaded that the Ceylonese party might be won over to the International Committee.

He reconsidered the LSSP’s proposal for the formation of a parity committee in which formal exchanges between the International Secretariat and the IC could be organized in preparation for a unified Fourth World Congress. But he warned Leslie Goonewardene in a letter dated May 12, 1954 that “all attempts to begin a reunification process on the organizational level, without a full clarification of the political questions involved, and without a real will on both sides to effect unification despite political differences, clearly established and recognized, have ended in failure.”[6]

The Pabloites went ahead, despite the formal opposition of the LSSP, with their plans for an independent Fourth World Congress. This simply confirmed the irrevocable nature of the split. Nevertheless, the LSSP continued to press for a parity committee. During the summer of 1954, Colvin De Silva and Goonewardene met with Healy in London and convinced him to accept their proposal.

Healy had not yet seen through the duplicity of the LSSP and, in a letter written jointly with Sam Gordon, dated July 8, 1954, urged Cannon to accept the parity committee proposal of the Ceylonese:

They asked us to do this [accept their proposal for the formation of a parity commission] “to help them organize the fight” (their literal words). While maintaining their formal connections with Pablo they unquestionably see as their perspective, collaboration with us.

After considerable thought we don’t see what else we can reasonably do except propose acceptance of their proposition to the IC. What could we possibly lose by agreeing? We obligate ourselves to nothing except to meet. We reserve our complete freedom of action. The only thing we do is to provide a vehicle which enables us to have a formal link with the Ceylonese, which they very much want, and which is their prime consideration in the immediate sense.[7]

In a letter to Cannon July 14, 1954, Dobbs urged him to accept the LSSP proposals as advised in the above letter by Healy and Gordon, despite the fact that Pablo had gone ahead with his bogus Fourth Congress.

We now face the question: Shall we insist that the act of proclaiming the “Fourth Congress” consummates a definitive split, or shall we accept the Ceylonese proposal to form a parity commission for the organization of a joint discussion and preparation of a joint conference?…

We would be wholly justified in taking a stand that the decision of the rump gathering to proclaim itself the “Fourth Congress” had made the split definitive. However, if we were to refuse on this ground to have any relations with those elements at the rump congress who are subject to attraction by the IC, we would be setting up organizational barriers that would help keep them in Pablo’s revisionist-liquidationist net.[8]

Cannon reluctantly accepted the proposal, but within a few months, he reversed himself, arguing against any organizational initiatives that might suggest a turn toward the reunification of the Trotskyists and Pabloites. In a letter to Healy December 8, 1954, Dobbs wrote:

Looking back upon recent events we now feel we made a mistake in orienting toward establishment of a parity commission with the Pabloites no matter on how limited a basis. Illusions can be created that become an obstacle to the realization of our fundamental objectives.

Beginning with the Open Letter, the forces rallied around the International Committee have denounced Pabloism as a revisionist-liquidationist tendency guilty of: junking the Transitional Program; renouncing the inevitability of political revolution against the Stalinist bureaucracy and visualizing its self-reform; covering up Stalinist betrayals; adopting a conciliatory attitude toward alien political tendencies generally; liquidating the movement through “deep” entry tactics; organizing a secret personal faction; suppressing democratic discussion inside the movement; gagging leading comrades in the executive bodies and in the sections; carrying through minority-provoked splits and bureaucratic expulsions—all as part of a conspiracy to achieve these revisionist-liquidationist aims through a minority coup d’etat at a rump congress.[9]

In later years, the SWP would treat the split as if it had all been a mistake, but Dobbs’ letter, written more than one year after the split, shows the stress that the SWP initially placed on the struggle against Pabloism.

The split with Pabloism is therefore already definitive and what remains is a mopping-up operation to save whatever confused elements we can, accepting unity only with those elements who are prepared to break definitively with everything Pabloism stands for. Thus, in the most basic sense the problem is not one of unification. Our task is to consolidate the forces that have broken with Pablo and carry the split deeper into the Pabloite ranks.[10]

Dobbs’ conclusive judgment on the finality of the split was premature, as events were later to demonstrate. Moreover, there is reason to believe that Cannon’s sudden objection to the parity commission may well have been at least partly motivated by the realization that the ranks of the SWP were not as homogeneous as he had claimed in his correspondence. It is more than likely that Cannon suspected that a protracted discussion on the nature of Pabloism would expose the existence of potent revisionist tendencies inside the SWP leadership. There existed the danger, therefore, that any sort of organizational relations with the International Secretariat would provide Pablo with yet another opportunity to fish for supporters inside the troubled waters of the SWP.

Certainly, the split did not resolve the political problems that had been revealed in the earlier reluctance of many SWP leaders, such as Dobbs, to accept the necessity of a fight against the Cochranites. By late 1954, there were already ominous signals of a deepening political crisis within the SWP. Nevertheless, whatever the ulterior motives of Cannon and other leaders, their analysis of Pabloism was absolutely correct and their general conclusions were wholly justified.

The notion of a parity commission serves at most as simply a device for marking time before the definitive split with Pabloism is made openly in the fullest formal sense. Time is on our side in the task of clarifying the confused and hesitant elements who remain identified to some degree with the Pabloite formal structure. The gratifying developments you report in Germany and Italy underline this fact. But we must be careful not to feed any illusions among the Ceylonese, Germans, Italians or others that there can be any long cohabitation with the Pabloites. These comrades must not get the idea that they can avoid a clean break with Pabloism with the expectation that we will be coming back into the old setup on the basis of a modus vivendi with Pablo. …

Our platform permits no common executive body with the Pabloites. It requires just the opposite since our stress is on the consolidation of the Trotskyist forces and a definitive separation from Pabloism. Hence nothing of an executive character gives any urgency to a parity commission meeting. Our documents will not be designed for “common” discussion with the Pabloites but for clarification of the Trotskyists and the elaboration of the Trotskyist platform. We have nothing to negotiate with the Pabloites concerning the character and scope of discussion material.[11]

In his reply to Dobbs, December 16, 1954, Healy argued for the continuation of the parity commission, noting,

The Pabloite ranks still contain some very important elements whom we do not desire to see demoralized as a result of the impasse of Pabloism. …

The Ceylonese are an essential part of our world movement as well as the Bolivians and Latin Americans, and they remain inside Pablo’s organization. In my opinion, some of them (Ceylonese) are very close to us and must be won to orthodox Trotskyism. That is an urgent and inescapable task. It is also a reason which leads me to conclude that the fight is by no means over, and that we cannot rely on time alone for the very good reason that an international stalemate has existed now since June. The international movement to-day has no overall political perspective.[12]

Though Healy soon withdrew his objections, the SWP leadership strongly argued against the idea that the ICFI should accept a parity committee in order to placate the Ceylonese. In a letter to IC Secretary Gerard Bloch February 12, 1955, Dobbs wrote:

Some tactical differences have manifested themselves on the best way to deal with the Ceylonese and other conciliators. We believe, however, that those differences are largely episodic and are mostly due to misunderstanding.

How shall we treat this problem of the conciliators? Their only concern is to avoid taking a clear stand and they think they can do it by working out a formula for a modus vivendi between the Trotskyists and the Pabloites. But there is no such modus vivendi possible. The organizations affiliated with the IC have categorically rejected Pabloite political and organizational methods. They had first-hand experience in bitter, irreconcilable struggle and splits with Pablo’s agents in their own ranks.

They are fully aware of the great harm Pabloism has done to the world movement and are in no mood to soften up on this question.

The truth is that if we had thought out the parity committee question to the end when the proposal was first made, it would have been rejected at that time. There are many reasons for rejecting this proposal, but not the least of them is that it should have been rejected for the good of the Ceylonese. The best way to deal with the Ceylonese is to make them realize beyond a doubt that there is no room for maneuvers between the Trotskyists and the Pabloites. From this point of view, the parity committee is not an aid but a hindrance in winning the Ceylonese to unqualified support of the IC.[13]

During the months that followed, the most persistent advocate of the parity committee and other unity tactics was the Chinese Trotskyist, Peng Shu-tse, who was the captive of the illusion that Pabloism was merely a passing illness within the Fourth International. Despite the strong criticisms Peng had made of Pabloism, he underestimated the danger it represented. The refusal of various sections to break with Pabloism was seen by Peng as an unfortunate mistake that could be easily rectified if only the ICFI accepted a parity commission. His illusions were revealed in a letter he wrote to Farrell Dobbs on September 8, 1955:

The LSSP is completely a Trotskyist party politically. (Moreover it is a party in our movement which really has a mass base.) This fact is acknowledged by all. The reason that they still remain in the IS is only that they are confined by formalism organizationally, but they earnestly desire to have a general discussion through the parity committee in order to sweep away Pablo’s revisionism and reunify all the Trotskyists. Until now the Indian Trotskyists have not yet expressed their attitude, but because of the traditionally close connection they have with the LSSP, it probably is under the influence of the latter.[14]

Peng’s confidence in the LSSP, which was bound up with his failure to understand the class roots of Pabloism, was expressed even more sharply in a letter to Healy December 15, 1955, in which he objected to the British leader’s criticism of the Ceylonese movement. The LSSP, he insisted,

has not only politically maintained the Trotskyist traditional position, but is the only section in our movement which has a true mass base and has effectively led nationwide mass movement. Precisely so, it has won prestige among all Trotskyists in the world, particularly the comrades in the Orient. Our main task should be encouragement and help towards her (without omitting any correct criticism), and attempting to collaborate closely with her, for the development of the Trotskyist movement in the Orient.[15]

In a letter dated January 30, 1956, Dobbs replied harshly to Peng’s lawyer-like appeals on behalf of the LSSP:

We note that the LSSP continues to press for a Parity Committee to organize a discussion and prepare a unity conference. Assuming a fake pose as unifiers, the Pabloites are pressing the issue and seeking to brand the IC as “splitters” for not accommodating them on the Parity Committee demand. The LSSP has aided the Pabloite demagogy by censuring the IC for its attitude on the Parity Committee question and has indicated that it will continue to stand aloof from the political struggle. …

Naturally the IC should work to win the support of orthodox Trotskyists who remain entrapped by Pablo. But it would be dangerous to maneuver with the question of unity in order to save a few people who have gotten left behind for a while at the present stage of the political showdown with the Pabloites. Real unity is conceivable only with those who are ready to make a clean and open break with Pabloism organizationally as well as politically. It would be a mistake to think that formal discussion through a Parity Committee will enable them to solve the contradiction between their political opinions and their organizational affiliations. …

The Parity Committee actually gets in the way of influencing the orthodox Trotskyists who remain ensnared by Pablo and lends weight to the notion that they can avoid a definitive break with Pabloism. It connotes a trend toward reunification when the task of political clarification is far from completed. It opens the way to new Pabloite maneuvers and helps sow new political confusion.

We think it would be a mistake to adapt our tactical course to the policies of the LSSP. They are straddling in the international political struggle. Their course aids Pablo tactically and adds to the political confusion. It represents a political default on their part.

At the rump congress the LSSP voted for Pablo’s main resolution as amended by the incorporation of their criticisms of it. This was a disorienting political compromise that contradicts the struggle for a principled political line based on Trotskyist fundamentals. They have evaded forthright repudiation of Pabloism and now stand aloof from the political struggle awaiting the “documents of both sides.”

It is not simply through a misunderstanding that the comrades of the LSSP take a vacillating position as conciliators. Their tactics appear to flow from a policy of national opportunism. We think it best to drop all maneuvers with them and firmly characterize their error. At the same time we should continue to send the LSSP our documents.

An examination of the reasons for their conciliationist attitude will only underline the need for us to stand firm against their conciliationist approach. They have had no Pabloite faction to deal with. Hence they have not had your and our direct internal experience which helped so much to fully perceive the Pabloite danger. They are generally remote from the international factional struggle and they are preoccupied with the problems of their own mass movement. They manifest a desire to be left alone while some form of modus vivendi is worked out between Pablo and the IC that would at least postpone a showdown.

We think the LSSP will take a forthright political stand only to the extent they are given no room to maneuver. Hence, the Parity Committee becomes not an aid but a hindrance to winning them to unqualified support of the IC. We fully share your desire to collaborate with them to develop the Trotskyist movement in the Orient. But if our ultimate political objectives are to be realized, that collaboration must be based on a principled political line and a corresponding general organizational course.[16]

Dobbs rejected Peng’s argument that ferment in the ranks of the French Communist Party was a reason to find an organizational solution to the problem of Pabloite revisionism.

Important as it is to take political advantage of the ferment in the French Stalinist ranks, as you have stressed, it is even more important to have a clear, correct political line for this work which must be shaped in the discussion among the IC supporters. To overleap the IC discussion through a Parity Committee tactic would in our opinion merely compound confusion in the French situation and still further reduce our chances of doing effective work among the Stalinists.

For all the reasons stated, we see no useful function for a Parity Committee at the present time. We think it would actually do harm. We propose instead the following general course of procedure:

1. Clarify and consolidate our political positions through a full and free exchange of views among the co-thinkers associated with the IC.

2. As a definitive line is hammered out in the IC, seek to win the orthodox Trotskyists still entrapped by Pablo, getting our documents to them through general publication and by direct contact where feasible.

3. Work toward the unification of all orthodox Trotskyists based on: common political positions and correct organizational relations; repudiation of the Pabloite revisionist policies and organizational methods.[17]

These letters underscore the magnitude of the political change that was indicated in March 1957 when Cannon, in reply to yet another epistle from L. Goonewardene, suggested for the first time that the SWP might agree to an organizational settlement of the split without a political resolution of the issues which had given rise to the 1953 struggle. For more than three years, the SWP had insisted upon the irrevocable nature of the break with Pabloism, maintained that the lessons of the split constituted the foundation for the reeducation of the entire international cadre, and declared repeatedly that no compromise with the revisionists was possible. And yet, without prior discussion within the IC, the SWP suddenly changed its position. The British section of the ICFI, which had withdrawn its support for a parity committee in 1954 at the behest of Cannon and Dobbs, was entirely justified in viewing the SWP’s overtures to the LSSP and the Pabloites with alarm.

To understand the significance of this shift, it is necessary to examine more carefully what had been taking place within the SWP between 1954 and 1957. Only in this way can the relation between the class struggle in the United States, the political degeneration of the SWP, and the drive toward an unprincipled reunification be concretely understood.


Cliff Slaughter, ed., Trotskyism Versus Revisionism: A Documentary History (London: New Park Publications, 1974), vol. 4, The International Committee Against Liquidationism, p. 20.


Banda claims that he waged a bitter struggle against Healy’s adaptation to Messali Haj, leader of the MNA, in the mid-1950s. He writes tormentedly of having been assigned to write an article in the Labour Review in support of the MNA. “On refusing to do so [I] was instructed by Healy and the editorial board of Labour Review, by a vote of 20–1, to do so. I will confess it was one of the most shameful episodes in my political career.”

Banda’s memory is once again playing tricks on him. There is absolutely no trace of the shame of which he now speaks in the Labour Review article to which he refers. Written in 1958 (not 1957!), Banda’s article was a carefully documented analysis of the class forces represented by the different tendencies within the Algerian national movement. He traced the historical origins of both the MNA and the FLN, documenting the long association of Messali Haj with the French and Algerian workers’ movement. It also reviewed the checkered history of the FLN. The article made political concessions to the MNA, and failed to anticipate its subsequent betrayal of the national struggle. However, the crimes of the MNA do not change the class nature of the FLN and its own subordination of the national movement to the interests of the Algerian bourgeoisie. While stating that the MNA was not a socialist party, Banda’s article mistakenly referred to the MNA as the “precursor of a revolutionary party” (March-April 1958, p. 44). Its conclusion, however, did state: “This much is certain. The future of Algeria does not rest with the FLN and its apologists but with the working class and the landless peasantry. Only they can carry through the political and economic liberation of this martyred land.

“The tasks of Marxists is not to apologize for and defend the accomplished fact but to hasten the day when the Algerian working class through its independent organizations will rise up as the true protagonist of Algerian freedom” (Ibid.).

What Banda really rejects in that article is not the confidence extended to Massali Hadj, but its defense of the role of the Algerian proletariat.


National Education Department Socialist Workers Party, Towards a History of the Fourth International, June 1973, part 3, vol. 4, pp. 218–219.


Ibid., p. 219.


Ibid., pp. 233–234.


Ibid., p. 242.


Ibid., p. 244.


Ibid., p. 245.


National Education Department Socialist Workers Party, Education for Socialists: The Struggle to Reunify the Fourth International (1954–1963), vol. 1, May 1977, p. 6.






Ibid., p. 7.


Ibid., p. 8.


Ibid., p. 11.


Ibid., p. 17.


Ibid., pp. 18–19.


Ibid., p. 20.