David North
The Heritage We Defend

The British Trotskyists Oppose Unprincipled Unity

The SWP’s decision in March 1957 to seriously consider reunification with the Pabloites, based on “concrete” agreements on immediate goals and tasks, without any discussion on the political differences which had produced the split in 1953, encountered opposition from the British section of the International Committee, led by Gerry Healy. In a letter to Tom Kerry, a leading SWP member, April 11, 1957, Healy indicated that he was prepared to go along with a proposal for discussions with the Pabloites to test their “unity-mongering,” but he warned, “The basic methodological differences between ourselves and Pablo remain and have not been eradicated despite the favourable objective situation. We should be completely clear on this score, and under no circumstances seek to minimise them. That could lead to serious miseducation.”[1]

Several weeks later, on May 10, 1957, Healy wrote a detailed letter to Cannon in which he explained his concerns over a purely organizational approach to the question of reunification:

We do not see, and I am sure that you will agree, any reasons why our people should be stampeded into hasty conclusions. Because of our failure to appreciate the thoroughly revisionist character of the Third World Congress decision, we paid a heavy price, which resulted in the disruption of the French section, and a situation where in 1953 we found ourselves trapped inside Pablo’s organizational set-up which in turn forced us to move swiftly and issue the “Open Letter.” We know now that not everybody was ready for this sharp break and again we had to pay a price which would undoubtedly have been less, on an international scale, had we alerted ourselves in time to the revisionism personified by Pablo-Germain and Co. It would be very wrong now if we were to get caught up in the exchange of organizational proposals no matter how well they are drafted on our side, and overlook the very deep-going political differences that exist. …

Recently we have been reviewing the internal documents of our world movement since the end of the war, and it is quite clear that an objective study of that period is extremely important for the education of our cadres in the future. Pablo and Germain’s double talk have had some terrible effects in the miseducation of our comrades on the continent, and this cannot be put right simply by declaring that the objective situation since the Twentieth Congress is very much in our favor. The Marxist education of our cadres has to take into account how Pablo and his tendency developed just as you were able to do in the books dealing with the struggle against Shachtman and Burnham. The objective situation is not sufficient by itself to do this. All sorts of tendencies ranging between opportunism and sectarianism are now raising their heads amongst those who are leaving the CP. Whilst a united Trotskyist movement could be an important rallying center, nevertheless if its basis rests upon lack of clarity and slurred over differences, a new crop of disastrous splits may well develop once again, even though we are working in a favorable objective situation. …

We think therefore that the International Committee must theoretically prepare itself without any organizational hindrances. Even if Pablo and Co. accept every one of your points, members of the IC have the duty and responsibility to complete the preparation of their documents on world perspectives and to submit them for the discussion. A World Congress should not be rushed without adequate political preparation. Whilst this should be done in an objective fashion, everybody should have the right to speak out and get things clear. This does not mean giving way to bull-headed factionalism, but facts are facts, and you cannot get around political differences by tactical plausibilities. Progress internationally can develop only from a firm political foundation. The British Section will never agree to anything which may cut across essential clarification. We have had our basinful of that sort of thing over Lawrence when Pablo and Clarke were jointly managing the Paris office. Time and again we hushed things up about his pro-Stalinist behaviour as editor of the “Socialist Outlook,” on a request from the Pablo center. “Don’t be too harsh with the comrade,” they said, “he is sensitive, well-meaning, but a little confused.” In the interests of unity we listened and by God we paid a bitter price. The “sensitive” Pablo lamb turned out to be a raging Stalinist lion when the class pressures forced him on, and he almost disrupted the entire patient work of seven years. Ironically enough, this same Lawrence who fully supported the Soviet intervention in Hungary is now preparing to get thrown out of the Labour Party and join the Communist Party, when every self-respecting militant is preparing to leave it. …

The strengthening of our cadres is decisive in this present period and this can only be done in a thoroughgoing education around the problems of revisionism. That is the most important conscious role which our movement has to play. …

We realize in writing all this to you that, to use an English phrase, we are “carrying coals to Newcastle.” The movement here has been largely educated on the rich experiences of the SWP in its long struggle for principles. We would like to believe today we are reaching a position where we can help our American comrades as a result of the favorable conditions under which we work. Since the Pablo split we have gone forward as never before in our history. The sharpening of our principles which was a direct gain from the split greatly helped us and politically tuned up our movement so that it was able to take full advantage of the Twentieth Congress.[2]

Were Healy to review this letter today, he would probably not recognize himself as its author. The struggle against Pabloism has long ceased to preoccupy him: after all, according to Healy, that is only of concern to “propagandists,” “pure socialists,” “Trotskyite groupos,” etc. He now considers the defense of program and principles “reactionary.” Nothing matters except his own “dialectical” cognition, as Healy fraudulently describes what is, in fact, nothing else but the standard mixture of intuition and cunning which guides the political work of every pragmatic opportunist.

But in May 1957, Healy was a Trotskyist who understood that the building of a revolutionary party proceeded through the unrelenting theoretical, political and organizational struggle against revisionism.

The SWP leaders sensed a political threat in Healy’s position. But attempting to persuade him to support their reunification movement, they made their own opportunism more explicit. On June 27, 1957, Farrell Dobbs wrote to Healy:

We can easily lose the advantage of a favorable objective situation if we were to behave in a narrow factional manner, or if we gave cause for anybody to charge that we are behaving in such a manner. The Pabloite appeal for unity must therefore be answered so as to leave no doubt that we favor unity. This is especially important when unity appears plausible and realistic, and when a continued split becomes more and more difficult to justify. The very fact that the press of the two tendencies speak in similar terms about the major world events leaves no other course for us but to say in no uncertain terms, “Yes, we are for unity.”…

A unification would not at all mean the abandonment of the conquests of the split of 1953 which were in the main positive. It enabled us to overcome the liquidationist tendency with the least cost. It exposed Pabloism, its political line and organizational methods. It facilitated the consolidation of our tendency and the elaboration of our own political line on the major world problems in a series of documents written in the manner and tradition of orthodox Trotskyism. None of these gains will be abandoned in a unification. They remain the tools with which we operate. Unity would only mean another form of struggle for the same ideas which had previously led to a split. It would not mean acceptance of any of the Pabloite documents either of the Third or the Fourth Congresses. All these documents, including our own, are part of the record. So is the world reality these documents were supposed to depict. We believe the record is favorable to our tendency.

A discussion at the present time of this record would appear sterile because it would deal with events which have receded into history and given way to new events which need examination and analysis. If the differences between the tendencies are to come to the fore once again, it is far better that they be based on new events and situations. The new people in the movement will more easily understand such disputes and the old ones will be freed from the need of self-justification and be able to reorient themselves more easily. Those who have gone through the split do not need such a discussion at this time. They had it when it had real meaning. Those who did not experience the split would only see in such a discussion a sectarian withdrawal from the world as it is today.[3]

For the first time, the SWP had made the connection between “sectarianism” and the struggle against Pabloism. But Healy was not intimidated and rejected Dobbs’ arguments in a letter July 2, 1957:

A big majority of our members have been recruited since the split in 1953. They are in the main first-class people who are very interested in the history of our movement. We have not neglected this and recently we have stepped up the educational aspect of this work. It is not our experience that the history of the Pablo question appears sterile to newcomers. Provided it is presented properly, it can be a great source of concrete educational value.[4]

The seriousness of the difference between the position of the SWP, which clearly was prepared to shelve any consideration of the fundamental questions that provoked the split in favor of a specious reunification, and that of Healy, was made explicit in the resolution, entitled “The Situation in the World Trotskyist Movement,” passed by the Thirteenth Congress of the British Section in June 1957:

(1) The 13th Congress of the British Section of the Fourth International considers that the International unification of tendencies claiming to be Trotskyist, with the International Committee of the Fourth International (orthodox Trotskyists), must be based upon fundamental agreement on the principles and programme of the Fourth International as elaborated by the late Leon Trotsky and the 1938 Founding Conference of the Fourth International. This means rejection of all forms of revisionism of the State Capitalist, Shachtmanite, and Pabloite-Deutscher varieties, and the acceptance of the principle that it is necessary to build sections of the Fourth International in all countries in the world dedicated respectively to the overthrow of Imperialism, and the political revolution against the Stalinist bureaucracies. Any form of organizational unity without basic political agreement would only lead to a further series of splits which would greatly hamper our international growth and development.

(2) Congress therefore recognizes that the attainment of unity must of necessity allow adequate time for discussion of the differences that exist, leading to the preparation of a world congress. It charges the incoming National Committee with the task of making a written analysis of the post-war political positions of our world movement and the elaboration of a basic document on world perspectives in collaboration with the sections affiliated to the International Committee.

(3) Congress maintains that the immediate practical side of a political unification must be taken in stages. It proposes to the International Committee that a parity committee consisting of the International Committee and Pablo representatives should draw up a memorandum of agreement on the issues where there is basic agreement. This joint body should constitute the leadership of the world movement and its primary task would be to prepare the Fourth World Congress of Unification. It would recommend to this congress that for the next period the International leadership be a parity leadership on all committees which would lead by persuading individuals and sections rather than by invoking the discipline of statutes. Only in this way will possibilities of principled unity of the Fourth International be realized.[5]

This proposal refutes the slanders peddled later on by Hansen that the British Trotskyists were opposed to unification. Healy was prepared to accept reunification on the basis of a thorough discussion of the fundamental questions confronting the world Trotskyist movement, which inevitably would have to deal with the differences which had given rise to the 1953 split.

Despite the outward appearance of formal cordiality in their letters, the British and the SWP were proceeding on the basis of opposed conceptions and heading in entirely different directions. What was at issue was not a dispute over tactics.

As we have already shown, the international policy of the SWP was the organic expression of its capitulation to the pressures of hostile class forces within the United States. The SWP—moving further and further away from the proletarian orientation upon which the party had been based—was already well on the way to becoming, via regroupment, a petty-bourgeois party of protest and social reform.

Its leaders instinctively felt the conflict between the demands of its regroupment work in the United States, based as it was on unprincipled accommodations to liberals, Stalinists and petty-bourgeois democrats of all varieties, and the implacable political and theoretical requirements of the international struggle against Pabloism. For the SWP to denounce Pabloism meant to denounce the very policies it was pursuing in the United States.

Cannon’s angry outburst in a July 1957 letter to Tom Kerry against what he termed “the factional ultimatism of the British” meant that the SWP leaders now viewed the determination of their closest allies in the International Committee to prosecute the struggle against Pabloism as an obstacle to the political relations which they were cultivating in the United States.

The political content of Healy’s so-called factional ultimatism was the powerful combination of unrelenting revolutionary activity inside the trade unions and Labour Party, with an intensive intervention into the Stalinist crisis on the basis of a defense of the historical, programmatic and theoretical heritage of Trotskyism. This assessment can be substantiated if we examine the development of the British section. Unfortunately, this requires that we return to the rantings of the wretched Michael Banda. Like all apostates, he harbors an almost neurotic hatred of his own past.

In his “27 Reasons,” Banda presents an account of the history of the British section in the second half of the 1950s which is as politically incoherent as it is dishonest. Prevented by his envenomed subjectivism from acknowledging the great advances that were made during that crucial period by the British Trotskyists, to which he made no small contribution, Banda writes:

Far from having a revolutionary orientation the SLL became a new adaptation to the wretched syndicalism of Brian Behan, Pennington, et al. Healy made a virtue out of necessity by turning to the ex-CPers coming out of the 1956–57 crisis of Stalinism, but he had no perspectives either for the IC or the SLL. A careful study of the 1957 to 1960 literature (Newsletter and Labour Review) will bring out the unmistakable syndicalist trend of the SLL which was pragmatically combined with articles from Cdes Slaughter, Kemp and others on Marxism.

Banda’s thumbnail sketch of this critical period in the development of the Trotskyist movement is not even based on a correct chronology of events. The Socialist Labour League was not founded until February 1959, and it was the direct product of the powerful and unrelenting three-year offensive against Stalinism that was mounted by the British Trotskyists almost from the moment Khrushchev’s “secret speech” became known.

Banda’s snide reference to Healy’s decisive role in turning what was in early 1956 the very small forces of British Trotskyism, then known as the Group, toward the crisis of Stalinism, is simply absurd. To recognize historical necessity is, as far as Marxists are concerned, a political virtue.

It is to Healy’s great credit as a revolutionary that he organized the intervention among Stalinist workers and intellectuals in 1956–57. The fact that he did so—recruiting such people as Peter Fryer, Cliff Slaughter and Tom Kemp in the process—is, in itself, a refutation of Banda’s charge that Healy “had no perspectives either for the IC or the SLL.” The real essence of Banda’s charge is that he has repudiated the perspective that guided Healy’s and his own work during that period: the building of the Fourth International.

As for his reference to Healy’s supposed “adaptation to the wretched syndicalism of Brian Behan, Pennington, et al.,” every time Banda refers to any sort of revolutionary activity inside the trade unions, he speaks only of “syndicalism” or “backward syndicalists.” He is exposing only his own contempt for the workers’ movement, not the supposedly incorrect policies of Healy in the Labour and trade union movement.

Moreover, Banda feels obliged to denounce the Marxist orientation to the working class fought for by Healy as “wretched syndicalism” because he seeks, as always, to conceal the class questions underlying all conflicts inside the Trotskyist movement.

The fact that the British Trotskyists were so deeply involved in the day-to-day struggles of the working class was no small factor in the development of their conflict with the Socialist Workers Party. The Trotskyist “Group” was carrying out intensive activity within the Labour Party and among the most militant sections of workers—for example among the members of the “blue union” (National Amalgamated Stevedores and Dockers) fighting the right-wing leadership of the T&GWU.

The Newsletter, founded in 1957 out of the intervention of the Trotskyists in the crisis of British Stalinism, served as a powerful weapon for Marxism inside the working class, and became a real force among advanced workers fighting against the treachery of the Gaitskell leadership of the Labour Party. Its campaigns attracted a broad following among militants and aroused the fury of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and Labourite bureaucracy. The well-known Rank and File conferences organized by the Newsletter were attended by hundreds of workers. Precisely because the British Trotskyists, unlike the SWP, were oriented in their practice toward the struggle for Marxism in the working class and were fighting to construct a revolutionary alternative to the social democracy and its Stalinist accomplices, they were hostile to any political and theoretical compromises with Pabloism.

The contrast between the orientation of the British Trotskyists and that of the SWP was most clearly defined in their very different response to the crisis within the Stalinist movement.

While the SWP’s regroupment policy led quickly, in practice, to an abandonment of its independent Trotskyist identity in order to win friends among the broad petty-bourgeois milieu of ex-Stalinists and semi-Stalinists, the British Trotskyists launched a powerful offensive for the ideas of the Fourth International. While seeking the broadest discussion among all those forces, workers and intellectuals, affected by the Stalinist crisis, Healy’s organization did not make unprincipled compromises in order to make itself acceptable. Thus, while the SWP came to view the struggle against Pabloism as an embarrassment and millstone around its neck, the British saw it as the theoretical spearhead of its offensive against Stalinism.

One has only to examine the Labour Review, founded in January 1957, to see the vast difference between the work of the British and that of the SWP. In its inaugural issue, Labour Review welcomed the intellectual ferment created by the explosion in the Stalinist movement:

From now on, the normal development of Marxist ideas is no longer held up, artificially, by bureaucratic dykes. Millions of workers and intellectuals, in every country, from Russia to the U.S.A., are stepping forward into struggle. They demand to know, because they need to know, the past history of their movement. These young people want to think, to learn, to use their political initiative. Bureaucratic “bans” and “cults” repel them. Our duty is to help them find the answers. Labour Review therefore takes issue both with the open Fabian enemies of Marxism and with the Stalinist hacks who have so grievously soiled its reputation.

It will amongst other things be necessary to discuss the Fabian dreams about capitalism enjoying a new lease of life, thanks to Keynes, or to partial nationalisation, or to “new” colonial constitutions, or to the bounty of U.S. imperialism.

Parallel with the discussion of Fabianism we shall deal with the Stalinist variety of “peaceful co-existence” with capitalism and its feeble though repulsive offspring—the British Communist Party’s programme, The British Road to Socialism. Where did Stalinism come from, and why? Was its rise inevitable? Does the dictatorship of the proletariat really mean an odious and murderous tyranny? Does Democratic Centralism really mean the autocracy of a clique of full-time officials? These are some of the questions we shall try to answer in the coming months.

When we discuss the futility of the Fabian policies, we shall also need to examine the reasons for Hitler’s defeat of the German working class, to examine the causes of failure of the French and Spanish Popular Front Governments. We shall try to show the connections between the slogan “Socialism in a Single Country” and these disasters for the international working class movement and also how it led on to the Moscow Trials, the Stalin-Hitler Pact, the Yalta carve-up of Europe and finally to the mass slaughter of workers and peasants in the satellite countries of Eastern Europe. We shall rescue from the obscurity with which Stalin surrounded the writings of Lenin on the character and future prospects of the Russian Revolution and shall publish some of the works of Trotsky, Lenin’s comrade in arms in the Russian Revolution, which have direct relevance to problems of today.

Labour Review accordingly invites the collaboration of all serious students of the socialist movement. We shall open our pages widely to them. We count especially on establishing close fraternal relations with the developing Socialist movements of Asia and Africa. Labour Review however will be no mere discussion forum. It will be fashioned as a weapon in the struggle against capitalist ideas wherever they find expression in the Labour movement. It will be objective and yet partisan; it will defend the great principles of genuine Communism, as expounded by Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky, from both the Fabians and the Stalinists who have consistently misrepresented them.[6]

The first issue of Labour Review aroused controversy. Among the criticisms directed against the new magazine was the charge of “sectarianism,” by which the critics meant Labour Review’s clear identification with Trotskyism, although its pages were open to those who represented different political tendencies. In its second issue, Labour Review replied in terms that simply could not be found in those publications produced by the SWP during the same period:

To return to this matter of Trotskyism. We appreciate the point of view of many members and ex-members of the Communist Party that whether or not Trotsky gave the best possible scientific explanation of events in the socialist movement during the last thirty years is a matter for debate and discussion. Trotsky and his followers have offered a serious analysis of the recent history of the socialist movement. Their writings represent an attempt, in a period of revolutionary retreat, to continue, after Lenin’s death, the Marxist tradition in social science. They have produced a rich body of literature and ideas worthy of serious study by any literate socialist today on the application of Marxist, scientific methods of analysis to the problems of the international socialist movement.

More than this, the importance of “Trotskyism” for the great debate following the Kruschev speech, is that it represents the only attempt so far made from the point of view of Marxism to explain the Stalinist degeneration of the Soviet Union and at estimating the significance of the conflict between the progressive character of nationalized property in the U.S.S.R. and the reactionary character of the bureaucracy which rules that country. Trotskyism is, to date, the only explanation of why the working class in the world needs to defend the U.S.S.R. from imperialist attacks, whilst also helping the Russian workers to get rid of the bureaucracy which autocratically rules them. It was Trotsky who insisted that the bureaucracy would not voluntarily give up its privileges or liberalise itself as a result of mass pressure. He maintained over and over again that it must be overthrown by the revolutionary working class led by a Marxist leadership. Hungary showed how right Trotsky had been on this point. Nor, as far as we can see, have any recent events in the U.S.S.R. itself done anything but confirm the correctness of his analysis.

Likewise the present crisis in the Communist Parties outside the Soviet Union is further proof that the bureaucrats who control these parties, no matter what their difficulties may be as a result of Kruschev’s speech, are absolutely incapable of transforming them into genuine revolutionary parties. These parties, like the Soviet bureaucracy whom they represent, can never adopt revolutionary policies. That is why they are now split into a number of factions each engaged in a bitter struggle with the bureaucrats.

Trotsky’s was the only Marxist theory, deriving its inspiration from Lenin, to expose and explain the facts that Kruschev later revealed—at a time when Communists and false “friends” of the U.S.S.R. were selling their political souls to Stalin. For this reason, Trotsky’s theoretical explanation of the phenomenon of Stalinism stands until someone produces a better explanation. For all Marxists today are asking for a more scientific explanation of Stalinism than Kruschev’s “devil cult” or Mao Tse-Tung’s eclectic catalogue of “mistakes” and “achievements.”

Some people say that there is a danger of involving the British socialist movement in 1957 in a discussion on the relative merits of one side or another engaged in a sterile, obscure, political controversy, between two sects of the Russian Communist Party conducted in far-away Russia, way back in the 1920s and so diverting our attention from the urgent problems of Britain today. Unfortunately for our native empiricists, the truth is that, one way or another, and whether we like it or not, the future of socialism in any part of the world today is bound up, inextricably, with the Russian Revolution of 1917 and its outcome. We cannot escape its presence however we may try. The “Russian question” remains the key for Marxists who wish to derive a correct theory for the socialist movement in Britain today. …

Labour Review’s aim, in a word, is to develop Marxism, not to revise it—two different things, as Lenin showed to his generation.[7]

There is one other decisive difference in the manner in which the British and the Americans approached the crisis inside the Stalinist organizations. The regroupment line of the SWP was unconnected to—and, in fact, signified the abandonment of—the development of revolutionary perspectives for the conquest of power by the American working class.

An aspect of this was the SWP’s failure to make any objective analysis of the specific and new forms assumed by the crisis of American and world capitalism in the postwar period. Under conditions where, to the untrained eye, the position of capitalism appeared impregnable, Marxists had the responsibility to reveal the contradictions that were building to a renewal of the crisis and a new upsurge of the class struggle.

This theoretical work was all the more necessary to combat those tendencies that were, under the cover of regroupment, working might and main for the repudiation of the SWP’s traditional “proletarian orientation,” insisting that there existed no serious opportunities for party work outside the middle-class milieu of protest politics.

It is, of course, true that the SWP worked under relatively unfavorable conditions. But the material possibilities for overcoming the isolation were developing out of the contradictions of the capitalist system and the struggles of the working class. This was concretely demonstrated in 1959 with the massive 116-day national steel strike.

The depth of the differences which had arisen between the SWP and the British were revealed in the Americans’ response to a conference of the International Committee that was held in Leeds in June 1958. It was attended by Farrell Dobbs, who was in the midst of a lengthy trip through Europe. The conference passed a resolution that summed up the principles upon which the struggle against Pabloism had been based. It emphatically rejected “all conceptions that mass pressure can resolve the question of leadership by forcing reform of the bureaucratic apparatus” in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.[8]

The resolution also advanced a conception of regroupment that was diametrically opposed to that of the SWP, insisting that the revolutionary movement’s “regroupment of forces which are moving in a revolutionary direction is coupled with an ideological offensive against Stalinism, social democracy, centrism, trade union bureaucracy and the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois leaderships of national movements in colonial and semi-colonial countries.”[9]

When the SWP leadership in New York received this resolution, it instructed Dobbs to break off his European tour and return to the United States. In a letter to Dobbs August 18, 1958, Tom Kerry made no secret of his dissatisfaction with the outcome of the IC conference and Dobbs’ participation in it. Accusing Dobbs of acting contrary to the instructions he had been given prior to his departure for Europe, Kerry reminded him, “When we first received the announcement that the IC was calling a congress for June 1958 we interposed the objection that such a project would be too pretentious and not representative of the tasks and perspectives required by the orthodox Trotskyist tendency at this stage of its development.”[10]

Kerry argued that the work of the IC should have been limited to a discussion on regroupment, presumably of the liquidationist sort being carried out by the SWP, and reunification with the Pabloites. Instead, Kerry complained bitterly:

What we deduce from the character of the documents [adopted at the Leeds conference] is that they involve a projection of the discussion around the 1953 issues which have been long superseded by events upon which there has been essential political agreement with the one important exception of the nature of the international organization and its function at this stage of development of the world Trotskyist movement.

We thought we had arrived at general agreement that a discussion today involving the issues of 1953—with the exception, of course, of the “organization question”—would not only be futile, but would be calculated to exacerbate the existing division in the world movement and make a reunification virtually impossible. In light of the struggle for regroupment it appeared to us that such a discussion could only complicate and vitiate the regroupment work, especially in those areas where our tendency directly confronts the organized Pabloite groupings. …

Nearly six months have elapsed since your departure. There are undoubtedly many things in your experience since you left the country of which we are completely unaware. At the same time, many things have occurred here which cannot be adequately discussed through the medium of written correspondence. …

From the contents of this letter you can perceive that there are obvious misunderstandings and perhaps even some differences on the important question of the tasks and perspectives. What Jim’s thoughts are we do not know as we have not heard from him on the matters discussed in this communication.[11]

Kerry’s arguments were cynical and self-contradictory. If there existed substantial agreement between the International Committee and the International Secretariat, then why was it so dangerous to discuss the political differences which had arisen in 1953? The anger with which Kerry reacted to the IC resolution meant that he understood very well that the pretense of political “agreement” would be exposed the moment fundamental questions relating to the historical perspectives of the Fourth International were raised with the Pabloites.

In retrospect, the significance of Kerry’s cryptic reference to “many things have occurred here which cannot be adequately discussed through the medium of written correspondence” is fairly obvious. That was the period when the SWP was in the thick of its unprincipled electoral coalition with the middle-class supporters of the “independent socialist” campaign. Undoubtedly, Kerry found it difficult to commit to paper a full description of all the political skulduggery that went on behind the scenes as the SWP maneuvered and junked its Trotskyist heritage.

Dobbs made this letter available to Healy, and in his reply, the latter told Kerry that

it is difficult to see how one can forget about what happened in 1953. Was it all a misunderstanding or were there serious political differences between ourselves and Pablo? You go so far as to suggest that these have been removed, but we think that you are misinformed on this point and have not sufficiently studied the Pablo documents since that time.

No matter how much we may wish to avoid an abstract discussion over 1953, it is impossible to imagine how a discussion on contemporary issues would not give rise, sooner or later, to references to 1953. …

The Leeds conference has decided to consolidate the forces of orthodox Trotskyism by preparing a serious discussion on the problems of our movement. What is wrong with this approach? Would this not be a necessary and fundamental part of any principled process of reunification? … The International Committee will seize upon every opportunity to obtain a principled unification and we feel that the decisions of the Leeds conference should have your wholehearted support. We feel also that the problem of reunification must be recognized as a political problem involving clarification of contemporary perspectives and methods.[12]

On this principled basis, the British Trotskyists assumed the leadership of the struggle to build the Fourth International, now that the SWP leadership was clearly abdicating that responsibility through abject capitulation to revisionism.


National Education Department Socialist Workers Party, Education for Socialists: The Struggle to Reunify the Fourth International (1954–63), vol. 3, July 1978, p. 31.


Ibid., pp. 32–34.


Ibid., p. 37.


Ibid., p. 38.


Ibid., p. 36.


Labour Review, vol. 2, no. 1, January 1957, pp. 2–3.


Ibid., vol. 2, no. 2, pp. 35–36.


National Education Department Socialist Workers Party, Education for Socialists: The Struggle to Reunify the Fourth International (1954–63), vol. 4, November 1978, p. 9.




Ibid., p. 11.


Ibid., pp. 11–12.


Ibid., pp. 12–13.