This article was originally published in three installments in the Bulletin newspaper, on March 11, 14, and 18, 1986.
The anti-Trotskyist renegades of the Workers Revolutionary Party (Banda-Slaughter group) have immediately won the support of the Socialist Workers Party, which devotes several pages of the latest edition of Intercontinental Press, dated March 10, 1986, to reprinting the articles which first appeared in the News Line on February 7 denouncing the International Committee of the Fourth International.
For 20 years Intercontinental Press, founded by the late Joseph Hansen in the aftermath of the SWP’s break with the International Committee, has functioned as the principal international organ of anti-Trotskyist distortions, misinformation and political provocation.
In the mid-1970s, it promoted the US State Department line on Angola—opposing the struggle led by the MPLA to unite the country and justifying the receipt of CIA cash by Holden Roberto.
Not long after, in the 1970s, Hansen personally recruited a notorious Nicaraguan traitor and agent of Somoza, Fausto Amador, to write for Intercontinental Press as its principal Central American correspondent—despite the protests of the Pabloite organizations in Europe. These are but two examples of the provocative role of this journal in the international socialist and anti-imperialist movement.
In all those years, Intercontinental Press continuously vilified the International Committee and the British Trotskyists in the WRP and its predecessor, the Socialist Labour League. But now, in the aftermath of their break with the International Committee, Banda and Slaughter are given a warm welcome by Intercontinental Press.
The SWP reserves its greatest praise for the WRP renegades’ denunciation of Security and the Fourth International, the decade-long investigation conducted by the International Committee into the circumstances surrounding the assassination of Leon Trotsky in August 1940 and the penetration of the SWP by agents of Stalinism and imperialism.
This investigation established, on the basis of documents and sworn testimony, that Hansen, the long-time leader of the SWP, was unquestionably an agent of the US government.
Doug Jenness, one of 12 ex-students from Carleton College who mysteriously entered the SWP and rose rapidly into its leadership, declares in Intercontinental Press, “A staggering blow has been dealt” to Security and the Fourth International by the attack launched by the WRP renegades—especially the statement written by M. Banda entitled, “27 Reasons Why the International Committee Should Be Buried Forthwith.”
This document was written by Banda shortly after he deserted his post as general secretary of the Workers Revolutionary Party and traveled to Sri Lanka for an open-ended vacation. Armed with an eclectic selection of old party documents, he set about revising the entire history of the Fourth International, with the aim of proving that it should never have existed.
On the basis of this thesis, Banda has now entered into negotiations with the Lanka Sama Samaja Party, which took the politics of Pabloism to its logical conclusion and entered a bourgeois coalition government in 1964.
Having been recently invited to rejoin the LSSP, with which he broke politically in the early 1950s, Banda is presently in the process of repudiating the proletarian revolution and affiliating with a party of the capitalist state.
That portion of Banda’s statement which deals with Security and the Fourth International has been reprinted in Intercontinental Press. What Jenness does not tell his readers is that Banda’s attack on the International Committee’s Security investigation appears as the summation of his vitriolic denunciation of James P. Cannon, founder of the SWP.
His attempt to demonstrate that Cannon was an unprincipled and cowardly scoundrel is central to Banda’s neo-Stalinist thesis that the Fourth International has been, since the day of Trotsky’s assassination if not earlier, a politically degenerate organization, led by charlatans and mountebanks, incapable of taking a correct position on any question facing the working class.
Banda denounces Cannon’s “disgusting accommodation to Norman Thomas” and charges that the SWP refused “to consider the US Communist Party as a legitimate part of the working class.”
Banda goes on to proclaim that the historic Minneapolis Smith Act trial of 1941, in which Cannon and 17 other SWP leaders were convicted of sedition for opposing US imperialism, constituted “the greatest betrayal of Trotskyism” and exposed “Cannon’s political cowardice and capitulation to backward sections of the US working class ...” Big words from Mr. Banda who, as he was wont to admit, “never heard a shot fired in anger or sorrow.”
That is not all. He asserts that “The enormous influence of the SWP in the FI proved fatal,” largely because Cannon “had made a fetishistic dogma out of Trotskyism.”
Proof of Cannon’s bankruptcy, according to the hind-sighted Banda, was the SWP leader’s famous American Thesis of 1946 “which was a continuation of his national-defensist orientation covered up in seemingly revolutionary terms.” As a result of this supposed nationalism, “Cannon and the SWP abandoned even the pretense of building the Fourth International by 1950.”
Furthermore, in order to support his claim that the International Committee was politically contaminated by the decisive role played by Cannon in its formation, Banda claims that during the period leading up to the split with Pablo, “Cannon was adapting to the left Democrats in the US and keeping a shameless and inscrutable silence on the Rosenberg executions.”
Like everything else written by Banda, who attempts to tailor history in accordance with his immediate factional needs, this is an obscene libel.
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed on June 19, 1953. In the issue of The Militant dated June 1, 1953, the front-page headline read “Witch Hunters Push Doomed Couple Toward Death Chair.” Denouncing the “cowardly silence of the labor officials,” the SWP called upon “trade unionists throughout the nation to demand action from their union organizations and officials.”
“It is not too late to save the Rosenbergs,” The Militant declared, “Everything must be done to stop the hand of the executioner.”
In the next issue, dated June 8, 1953, the headline of The Militant read “Demand Witch-Burners Halt Legal Murder of Rosenbergs.” The front page also carried an editorial entitled, “Labor Must Fight This Injustice.”
One week later, in the issue of June 15, 1953, the frontpage headline read, “Last Ditch Clemency Fight in Rosenberg Case—World Protest Rises In Effort To Save Couple.” The front page also carried an official appeal from the SWP for clemency, signed by its national secretary, Farrell Dobbs.
In its next issue, dated June 22, 1953 and printed hours before the execution, The Militant front-page headline read, “Government Demands Blood, Court Dooms the Rosenbergs.” The front page also carried an article reporting an SWP rally in defense of the Rosenbergs.
Finally, in its issue of June 29, 1953, the front-page article is headlined, “Revulsion Sweeps World At Murder of Rosenbergs.”
Significantly, Jenness makes no reference whatsoever to Banda’s wild distortions of the historical record and his conscious lies about the role of Cannon in the leadership of the Fourth International and the SWP. He is totally uninterested in defending what was principled and correct in the history of the SWP. When it comes to covering up for Hansen, Jenness and his co-leaders are willing to accept help from any source, no matter how discredited it is.
Banda’s article confirms a political law: all those who break with Trotskyism immediately align themselves with Hansen. For such renegades the denunciation of Security and the Fourth International is an obligatory ritual.
Banda declares, “No one who honors Trotsky’s impeccable and scrupulous regard for absolutely verifiable facts and irrefutable evidence will have anything more to do with this monstrous frame-up...”
We have already provided an especially revealing example of Banda’s somewhat less than impeccable attitude towards facts and evidence. But let us note that prior to writing these lines in January 1986, Banda had never once questioned either the political legitimacy of Security and the Fourth International or the validity of its conclusions.
Quite the opposite: he was, along with Cliff Slaughter, one of the principal protagonists of the investigation. In the course of a decade, he personally reviewed and analyzed virtually all the evidence gathered in the United States.
We could quote from countless articles and speeches in which Banda passionately defended the investigation conducted by the International Committee, which he now denounces as a “damnable fantasy,” “a manic witchhunt, a desperate forensic diversion,” etc. Only nine years ago, in January 1977, Banda had this to say about a London gathering of revisionists called to denounce the Security and the Fourth International investigation.
“Those acquainted with the history of the struggle against revisionism will find difficulty in suppressing a spontaneous desire to retch at the temerity of the organizers who defend the criminal activities of the GPU and their accomplices under the banner of a bogus ‘workers democracy’.”
Defending the necessity of the investigation into Security and the Fourth International, he explained that
“the exposure of Stalin’s crimes and complicity of the revisionists in the coverup of these crimes is central to this preparation of a new cadre of revolutionaries.
“Those who oppose this task in whatever form are serving the interests of counterrevolutionary Stalinism. We have been warned.
“The voice is the voice of Lambert, Mandel and Novack—but the face is the face of Marchais, Berlinguer, McLennan—and Stalin!”
Under the influence of objective events, a political leader is often compelled to review and reconsider many things.
But the innocence or guilt of Hansen, unlike questions of perspective and program, is determined by documents and evidence whose intrinsic significance is not altered by changes in the political and economic conjuncture. In his denunciation of Security and the Fourth International, Banda does not explain what facts pertaining to the investigation led him to change his mind. He does not challenge the authenticity of the documents which established Hansen’s collaboration with the state. He does not even raise new questions about evidence.
There exists no logical transition from one position to another—no intellectual process of doubting, questioning and re-examining. Banda simply leaps from one position—in defense of Security and the Fourth International and its conclusions—to its polar opposite.
No worker will take the present statements of such a man seriously and accept his credentials as an objective and impartial witness. It is obvious to everyone that his denunciation of Security and the Fourth International is dictated by nothing more than the most base and subjective considerations.
Having changed his politics, entered into new political alliances, repudiated Trotskyism, and become an opponent of the International Committee, Banda now finds that the exposure of Hansen’s collaboration with the FBI cuts across his own immediate political needs.
Attempting to justify his assault against Security and the Fourth International, Banda declares that it is “based entirely on circumstantial evidence and political innuendo.” This is aimed against the lawsuit initiated by Alan Gelfand against the US government and the Socialist Workers Party, which produced a massive amount of evidence which substantiated the allegations of the International Committee against Hansen. The relief sought by Gelfand through this lawsuit was that the US government be compelled to identify its agents and remove them from the leadership of the SWP.
It is obvious that Banda does not understand the significance of circumstantial evidence and its relation to direct evidence. The source of this failure lies not in a lack of familiarity with the nature of bourgeois law—that could be forgiven—but in a general disinterest in the dialectical nature of thought and the objective forms of its development. Not only the verdicts of jurors but a great portion of the knowledge developed by science relies heavily on circumstantial evidence.
From the gradual dipping of a ship’s mast below the horizon, Columbus inferred the curvature of the earth. The direct evidence to support this conclusion, with which the science of the time almost unanimously concurred, came much later. From more complex circumstantial evidence Einstein inferred the relativity of space and time.
In the more narrow and prosaic sphere of juridical conclusions, the legal concepts of circumstantial and direct evidence are not mutually exclusive but dialectically interconnected. A single piece of evidence may be both direct and circumstantial, depending upon the context within which it is presented. The development of a circumstantial case requires the integration of many small but interrelated pieces of direct evidence.
It is true that Hansen did not leave behind a death-bed confession, and the US government refused Gelfand’s demand for a release of its files. Thus, there is no ultimate direct evidence—at least none that is presently in the public domain—that Hansen was an agent. But there exists a powerful circumstantial case that he was, based on scores of pieces of direct evidence.
Let us take an example from the case to illustrate the relation between circumstantial and direct evidence.
At his deposition in 1982, SWP National Secretary Jack Barnes confirmed that Hansen met with the FBI Special Agent B.E. Sackett in 1940.
Prior to this admission, the charge that Hansen had met secretly with the FBI was supported by inferences drawn circumstantially from small pieces of direct evidence: that is, letters from the American Consul in Mexico City informing the US State Department that Hansen wanted to establish a “confidential” contact “to whom information can be imparted with impunity”; letters from the US State Department to the Mexico City Embassy informing them that arrangements to provide Hansen with a contact had been made; letters from the US Consul to Hansen giving the name of the agent he was to contact in New York; a letter from FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover to Sackett advising him on how to deal with Hansen; a letter from Hansen to his contact in the Mexico City Embassy informing him that he “shall visit him [Sackett] shortly.”
From these pieces of direct evidence there emerged a very persuasive “circumstantial” case that Hansen met with Sackett in New York. However, the first piece of “direct” evidence that the meeting did, in fact, take place came when Barnes said so under oath—a very damaging admission which he attempted to retract one year later during the actual trial of the Gelfand case.
Moreover, there is a compelling circumstantial case that Hansen’s meetings with the FBI were not authorized by the Socialist Workers Party. But the content of this circumstantial case is highly damaging direct evidence, that is, the sworn testimony of SWP leaders who denied having any knowledge of meetings between Hansen and the FBI.
Farrell Dobbs, a member of the SWP Political Committee in 1940, was questioned under oath on this matter on April 11, 1982:
Q: Did you know that in 1940 Mr. Hansen had face to face meetings with the FBI in New York City?
A: I did not.
Q: Have you ever heard that before?
A: I have no knowledge of such a thing ever happening and no reason to believe that it did.
Q: Why do you believe that it didn’t happen?
A: Because I have no reason to believe it did.
Two weeks earlier, on March 25, 1982, Felix Morrow, author of the classic Trotskyist work Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Spain and a member of the SWP Political Committee in 1940, testified as follows:
Q: Did the Political Committee authorize anyone to meet with the FBI or the State Department or the US government?
A: I don’t recall anything such as that. I don’t recall it at the time.
Q: Is that a fact of some significance? Would that be something that, let’s say, would be noted in the minutes or—
A: Of course it would. If anyone of us would be turning up at the FBI we would certainly have made a record of it.
Q: Why is that?
A: For self-protection.
Q: Would it be suspicious if, let’s say, government documents confirmed that a member of the party had met with the FBI and -
A: There was no record of it. That’s right, that would be suspicious.
In their questioning of one of Barnes’s closest collaborators, Larry Seigle, Gelfand’s attorneys established that the present-day leadership of the SWP claimed never to have asked Hansen before his death in 1979 whether he had met with the FBI; and that it therefore had no factual basis to support its claims that the allegations made by the International Committee were slanderous.
Q: Did Mr. Hansen contact the FBI in New York City?
A: I don’t know if he did or did not. But he intended to, from this letter.
Q: Did the Political Committee know whether or not Mr. Hansen had met with Mr. Sackett during 1940 in New York City?
Q: Did anyone, to your knowledge, ask him whether or not he had met with Mr. Sackett?
A: Of course not.
Q: Why do you say of course not?
A: It wasn’t important.
Placed in its proper context, the direct evidence that Hansen held unauthorized and clandestine meetings with the FBI—evidence which contradicted his denials in 1975-76—comprises a highly damaging circumstantial case that his actions in 1940 were that of an informer.
For the sake of argument—deliberately ignoring all that he has said and written in the past—let us concede Banda’s right to reject this conclusion. He writes that even if Hansen’s meetings with the FBI were unauthorized, “It doesn’t prove Hansen was guilty.”
But this argument merely demonstrates that Banda now accepts as legitimate, clandestine meetings between a member of a revolutionary party and the police and intelligence agencies of US imperialism, behind the back of the party. It does not, however, diminish the significance of the direct and circumstantial evidence marshalled by the International Committee against Hansen.
Banda does not answer the evidence; he merely brushes it aside. “The letters on Hansen prove nothing,” he writes, as if that settles the matter.
Indeed, for his own conclusions, which are dictated by immediate factional needs, Banda employs a rather loose standard of evidence. While Banda dismisses the damning sworn testimony and documentary evidence against Hansen as “innuendo,” he writes, “It is entirely possible, nay probable, that Trotsky did advise Hansen ... to contact the FBI.” But what is the actual content of this “entirely possible, nay probable”?
On what objective evidence, direct or circumstantial, does Banda base this conclusion? From what concrete historical facts does Banda adduce his rhetorical “nay probable”? Does he know of other incidents when leaders of the Trotskyist movement met secretly with the FBI? Indeed, it is highly improbable that such meetings could take place; and, if we accept the norms which exist within the Trotskyist movement—which is our point of departure and the basis of our judgments—it is impossible.
Another major element of the International Committee’s case against Hansen was his and the SWP’s unswerving defense of Sylvia Franklin (nee Callen), the GPU agent who penetrated the party’s national office and served as James P. Cannon’s personal secretary from 1938 to 1947.
Security and the Fourth International also focused on the coverup of Mark Zborowski, the Stalinist agent who was responsible for the assassination of Trotsky’s son Leon Sedov and three other leading Trotskyists in 1937-38.
But Banda simply writes—just a few more drops of ink—“The IC proved nothing which we didn’t already know about Sylvia Callen or Zborowski.”
Let us review what Banda wrote on this very subject nine years ago, in a letter to Jack Barnes dated January 4, 1977:
“We propose the immediate setting up of a parity commission with three from the International Committee and three from the ‘Unified Secretariat’ or a committee of prominent figures from the international labor movement mutually agreed upon.
“We shall present to this inquiry all the evidence that has been collected since the International Committee began its investigation into ‘Security and the Fourth International’ in May 1975.
“This proved irrefutably that Joseph Hansen and George Novack of the Socialist Workers Party (USA) have followed a deliberate policy of covering up for the GPU, the secret police of the Soviet bureaucracy, for the past 36 years.
“They have shielded and come to the defense of known GPU agents like Sylvia Callen, alias Caldwell, who became James P. Cannon’s personal secretary and office manager of the SWP national headquarters in New York. The SWP leadership held a bogus Control Commission in 1950 which rigged a report completely clearing her. On November 29, 1960, she was named as a co-conspirator in the Robert Soblen spy ring in a Federal Grand Jury indictment.
“To this day she is lauded by the Hansen-Novack clique as an ‘exemplary comrade’. Reba Hansen wrote in 1975: ‘Her (Sylvia Callen’s) devotion to the movement and her readiness to put in long hours of hard work inspired all of us. Sylvia and I became close collaborators and good personal friends. She was a warm human being’. (James P. Cannon As We Knew Him, Pathfinder, 1976)
“They have covered up for other agents like Mark Zborowski, who masterminded the murder of Trotsky’s son, Leon Sedov, before being brought to the United States in 1971 with the help of Novack.
“They have opposed any investigation into the GPU’s murderous activities against the Trotskyist movement—including its penetration of Trotsky’s household in Coyoacan and the assassination of the founder of the Fourth International on August 20, 1940.
“For these reasons the International Committee indicted Hansen and Novack as accomplices of the GPU on January 1, 1976, and called for a commission of inquiry to investigate.”
When Banda wrote those lines. Security and the Fourth International was still in its early stages of development. The most damaging evidence was still to be uncovered. On its face, Banda’s assertion that, “The IC proved nothing which we didn’t already know about Sylvia Callen or Zborowski” is absurd, because until the Security investigation was initiated in 1975, virtually nothing was known about them at all.
Moreover, it was the initial discovery of the first pieces of evidence relating to Callen that produced Hansen’s extraordinary outburst in defense of Cannon’s secretary. Let us recall what he wrote:
“Sylvia Caldwell (that was her party name) worked very hard in her rather difficult assignment of managing the national office of the Socialist Workers Party, which included helping Cannon in a secretarial capacity. In fact all the comrades who shared these often irksome chores with her regarded her as exemplary. They burned as much as she did over the foul slander spread by Budenz.”
Hansen declared that the “frameup” of Caldwell “was required by the imperative need to ‘prove’ that Healy Thought is truly sane and in consonance with reality.”
Between 1977 and 1983, the International Committee assembled a massive case proving that Budenz’s allegations were true and that Hansen and the SWP leadership were covering up for her role in the GPU network that organized the assassination of Leon Trotsky.
The ICFI gathered crucial details relating to her personal and political background: that she was a member of the Stalinist National Student League while attending the University of Wisconsin and that she married a leading Stalinist activist on the campus, Zalmond David Franklin—thus substantiating details that had been provided by Budenz in his book, Men Without Faces. This last detail was of fundamental importance because Caldwell-Callen-Franklin had presented herself to the SWP as an unmarried woman.
In September 1981, the 67-year-old Sylvia Doxsee (the latest identity of Franklin) was subpoenaed and her deposition was taken in Chicago. In the course of four hours, she claimed loss of memory more than 230 times.
In April 1982 Farrell Dobbs, a member of the control commission that looked into the allegations, exposed the paltry and inconclusive character of the investigation carried out by the SWP. His testimony under oath established that no serious effort was made by the control commission to establish whether or not Budenz’s allegations were true.
Q: Did she testify as to her marriage to Zalmond David Franklin?
A: We didn’t question her about her marriage. We weren’t concerned about her personal life. It was her own private business.
Q: Did she say her married name was Franklin when she testified?
A: I told you that so far as I can recollect, we didn’t ask her anything about her marriage.
Q: Did you ask her whether or not she was married?
A: I don’t believe we did. I don’t think we would have. I don’t see how it would have been germaine. I don’t believe we did.
Q: Did you take notes during her testimony?
A: I don’t believe so.
Q: Was anybody taking notes?
A: Not that I know of. I don’t think there was any record at all.
Contrast Dobbs’s testimony with a 1966 letter, supposedly written by Cannon and constantly cited by Hansen to “prove” Franklin’s innocence:
“In another case, a rumor circulated by the Shachtmanites and others outside the party against the integrity of a National Office secretarial worker was thoroughly investigated by the Control Commission which, after taking stenographic testimony from all available sources, declared the rumors unfounded and cleared the accused party member to continue her work.”
As the International Committee gathered more and more information establishing the truth of Budenz’s allegations against Franklin, the more important became the question of the SWP’s vehement insistence on her innocence as well as their desperate efforts to prevent the facts from coming out.
In January 1983, at a federal court hearing in New York City, SWP attorneys pleaded with the judge to deny Gelfand’s motion for the release of Sylvia Franklin’s testimony before grand juries in 1954 and 1958.
On March 9, 1983, with the final decision on the release of the transcripts still pending, Barnes, testifying at the Gelfand trial, made this unrestrained tribute to Franklin:
“Her whole comportment not only when she was in the movement but everything that’s happened since she left indicates that she is exactly what she was: a loyal, hardworking, and model member of our movement ... My opinion today is she is one of my heroes after the harassment and what she’s been through in the last couple of years. I would even feel more strongly about her, her character, than I did then.”
Little more than one hour later, the Franklin grand jury transcripts were released. Her testimony confirmed that she was a spy inside the Socialist Workers Party. We quote from the transcript of June 18, 1958:
Q: If I can make a little resume here, Miss Doxsee, you say then that you joined the Young Communist League in the middle thirties, but after you joined the Young Communist League and at the suggestion from someone from the Communist Party you joined an organization that was part of the Socialist Workers organization. Is that right?
A: I think that’s it.
Q: Then ultimately you entered the office of lames Cannon and became his secretary?
Q: Now, during the time that you were working in Mr. Cannon’s office, did you ever discuss anything that you learned there with anybody else?
Q: Do you recall who it was that you discussed that with?
A: Well, I used to go to my former husband’s apartment, Zalmond’s apartment.
Q: Did you meet anyone there?
A: I met—not every time I went up there—but I had met a man I called Jack. I don’t know his name.
Q: When you did meet this man Jack in the apartment of your ex-husband, did you give him anything? Did you speak to him?
A: Well, I remember typing reports and bringing—1 remember one thing I used to bring. I remember definitely, copies of political committee meetings that were mimeographed, I used to mimeograph. I always remember getting a copy and I must have brought it, I remember.
Q: Now, you described the mimeographed material which you gave, can you recall the contents of the material that you typed?
A: Well, I remember I used to just type up—it was mostly during the faction fights in the party and political committee meetings, who was fighting with who, and then if there was correspondence from Leon Trotsky that I saw, I would try to remember what was in the letters and write that all out, who’s going with who and that kind of thing, personal things like that, I remember, how much money they had—I knew, you know, bank balances and stuff like that.
These transcripts confirmed everything which Budenz had written in his book Men Without Faces and testified to in his affidavit of 1950. Only one question remained unanswered: Why had Hansen and the SWP leaders insisted, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that Sylvia Caldwell had been an “exemplary” comrade?
The release of these transcripts coincided with another astonishing revelation: that Louis Budenz had also identified Joseph Hansen as a GPU agent! For the first time, the underlying significance of the seemingly incomprehensible insistence of Hansen and the SWP on the innocence of Franklin and their unrelenting denunciations of Budenz (despite the fact that prior to Budenz’s exposure of Franklin in 1947, his statements relating to the role of the GPU in the assassination of Trotsky were given front-page coverage in The Militant) became clear: for Hansen and the SWP to acknowledge the validity of Budenz’s denunciation of Franklin would mean to accept the validity of the same charges against Hansen.
This conclusion is all the more compelling in light of the fact that the SWP continued to defend Franklin even after the release of the grand jury transcripts, while confirming that Budenz had indeed named Hansen and other SWP leaders as GPU agents.
Banda now writes: “It is incredible that North should now point to Budenz’s testimony that Hansen was a GPU agent. Applying North’s own rotten yardstick how are we not to presume that Budenz was doing this as part of his own filthy deal with FBI and State Department?”
Banda has chosen to ignore one salient detail: Unlike his exposure of Franklin, Budenz’s identification of Hansen was never made public! This fact became known only after Gelfand’s attorneys obtained, on the eve of the trial, a letter written by one of Hansen’s closest personal associates, Vaughn T. O’Brien.
Hansen knew that he had been identified as a GPU agent by Budenz (a fact which he never revealed in all his replies to Security and the Fourth International). But neither Budenz nor the FBI chose to go public against Hansen.
If one accepts the position of the SWP, i.e., that Budenz was simply a lying stoolpigeon seeking to disrupt the organization, it would follow logically that the information supplied by Budenz to the FBI about Hansen—a far more public figure in the SWP than Franklin—would have been made known. It would have been used to witchhunt the SWP.
Why, then, did the fact that Budenz had identified Hansen as a GPU agent remain concealed until March 1983? In this case, the answer seems to lie in the filthy deal with the FBI and the State Department made by Hansen himself in 1940.
Let us turn to the information uncovered in relation to Mark Zborowski. Virtually nothing had been written within the Trotskyist movement about the activities of this murderous provocateur until Security and the Fourth International.
The SWP did not cover his 1958 trial in New York City nor that of Soblen in 1961, where details of Zborowski’s career inside the Fourth International were exposed. In August 1975 the International Committee located and photographed Zborowski in San Francisco, where he was working on the staff of the Mount Zion Medical Center. (Not one other organization claiming to be Trotskyist reproduced these photographs.)
In February 1982, Gelfand’s attorneys subpoenaed Zborowski and set a date for his deposition. The opportunity now existed to question the man who had played a key role in the assassination of Leon Sedov, Erwin Wolf, Rudolf Klement and Ignace Reiss. However, the Socialist Workers Party instructed its attorneys to file a motion aimed at quashing the subpoena!
At his deposition in March 1982, Barnes was questioned about the SWP’s defense of Zborowski:
Q: Is it your job to protect GPU agents?
A: It is my job to protect the rights of American citizens by fighting and working through the movement and defending the rights of our party, when they come under attack.
Q: Are the rights of your party coming under attack when investigations are conducted, within the confines of the law, into the activities of the GPU within your movement?
A: When individuals are harassed by organizations whose sole purpose is to harass them their rights are affected. You referred to Mr. Zborowski earlier. He is a person who stated, under oath, associations with agencies alien to our movement. Even Mr. Zborowski has the same rights as any other citizen in this country.
Several weeks later, Felix Morrow testified during his deposition that Zborowski “was a very important GPU agent who did untold damage..” When he was asked what he thought of the SWP’s attempt to obtain a protective order to stop the deposition of Zborowski, Morrow replied: “I find that incomprehensible, astonishing.”
The fight for Zborowski’s deposition continued throughout the year. The SWP’s motion for a protective order failed. Zborowski appeared for his deposition in April 1982 but refused to answer any questions by citing the Fifth Amendment.
The efforts to force his testimony reached their climax in the autumn and winter of 1982. By this time, the SWP was collaborating directly with Zborowski’s attorney to stop the deposition.
Parts of Zborowski’s legal papers were written by the SWP’s attorneys. In January 1983, a federal magistrate quashed the deposition order, accepting Zborowski’s claim that any testimony he might give that led to the exposure of government agents inside the SWP would violate the statutes of the brand-new Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982.
In 1976 the International Committee originally indicted Hansen and Novack as accomplices of the GPU, specifically citing their role in the coverup of the activities of Sylvia Franklin and Mark Zborowski. This created an uproar amongst revisionists all over the world, who denounced this indictment as a “shameless frame-up.”
But by 1982-83, as the Gelfand case moved toward trial, these charges were actually materialized in the practice of the SWP—in their efforts to prevent the release of the grand jury testimony of Franklin and their active collaboration with Zborowski to stop his deposition.
“As for North’s amazing revelation that the entire leadership of the present SWP was recruited from the same Mid-Western college, I can only retort: So what?”
If that, indeed, is Banda’s “only retort,” he has answered nothing at all. He is simply demonstrating his indifference to all the evidence which substantiates the allegations made by the International Committee against the leadership of the SWP.
In the context of the overwhelming evidence implicating Hansen as a US government agent, the discovery by the International Committee in 1979 that Hansen’s successors in the leadership of the Socialist Workers Party consist almost entirely of ex-students from small Carleton College in North-field, Minnesota was certainly an “amazing revelation.”
Anyone who is familiar with the history of the Trotskyist movement in the United States and understands the protracted and complex process of assembling a revolutionary cadre in the center of world imperialism would consider it highly implausible that one small school in the upper Midwest, catering to a largely middle-class student body, would provide virtually the whole leadership of what claims to be a Marxist organization.
Making this scenario even more improbable is the fact that during the period, some 25 years ago, when the influx of Carleton students into the SWP and the Young Socialist Alliance began, there existed no functioning party branch in Northfield, and the Minneapolis branch of the SWP, 30 miles away, did not conduct political work on the campus.
And yet Carleton was to produce the following roster of SWP leaders: Jack Barnes ‘61, Betsy Stone ‘61, Mary-Alice Waters ‘63, John Benson ‘63, Dan Styron ‘63, Doug Jenness ‘64, Paul Eidsvik ‘64, Caroline Lund ‘66, Larry Seigle ‘66, Margaret Brundy ‘66, Barbara Matson ‘66 and Cindy Jaquith ‘69.
Virtually all these individuals, beginning with Barnes, hailed from conservative, church-going and Republican families. Indeed, in 1960, just a few months before his sudden conversion to communism, Barnes favored the election of Richard Nixon over his Democratic opponent for the presidency, John Kennedy.
That was just one of many incongruities: Barnes’s trip to Cuba, which supposedly produced the transformation of his world outlook, was financed by the Ford Foundation. As for his present-day colleague, Doug Jenness, a document discovered in his college file revealed that he privately funnelled information to campus authorities about students’ political activities.
In 1981, when the International Committee conducted its last comprehensive analysis of the SWP leadership, it found that out of 16 members of the Political Committee, 7 attended Carleton College. The key positions in the party were all held by Carleton alumni. Barnes was national secretary, Waters was editor of Intercontinental Press, Jaquith was editor of The Militant, and Seigle was in charge of all the legal affairs of the organization. A few changes have taken place since then: Jenness has taken over Waters’s job as editor of Intercontinental Press.
The top-floor entrance of the Carleton group into the SWP came at a time of critical political changes in the organization. The SWP, under the leadership of Joseph Hansen, was in the process of breaking with the International Committee of the Fourth International. Its orientation toward the European revisionists led by Pablo and Mandel was opposed by the majority of the YSA National Committee, then led by Tim Wohlforth.
Hansen initiated a campaign to remove the pro-IC leadership of the YSA; and, beginning with Barnes and Stone, the Carleton group played a key role in this operation. The International Committee uncovered evidence that Barnes was in possession of internal SWP documents relating to the dispute over the class nature of the Cuban state even before joining the YSA. Within a few weeks of joining the organization, he was attending a national plenum of the YSA National Committee and was soon playing an active role in the fight to remove Wohlforth from the leadership.
Moreover, the International Committee investigated the extremely dubious origins of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC), which served as the medium through which the Carleton group initially entered the Socialist Workers Party. The IC uncovered a previously unknown connection between the formation of this organization in April 1960—through the behind-the-scenes activities of a wealthy New Jersey contractor named Alan Sagner with important connections inside the Democratic Party—and a sudden change in the political line of the SWP in relation to Cuba.
As government documents which emerged in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal established, the early 1960s was a period of intensive government surveillance and infiltration of the Socialist Workers Party. Between 1961 and 1974, approximately 1,600 agents and informants were either inside or providing information about the SWP.
In the course of the Gelfand case, it was clearly established that the aging SWP leadership was utterly indifferent to questions relating to the security of the organization. FBI agents were able to walk in and out of the offices to perform “black bag” operations at will. During his deposition in April 1982, the late Farrell Dobbs was questioned about the state of security inside the organization.
Q: Did the SWP have a night watchman in the National Office during the late ‘50s, early ‘60s?
A: No, we didn’t.
Q: Did it have a burglar alarm?
Q: Did you have a combination safe?
A: I don’t remember whether we did or not.
Q: Were the files locked at night?
A: Possibly some, possibly not.
The political naivete of the leadership made the SWP easy game for the FBI.
Q: Were any measures taken to protect sensitive documents?
A: Against something that we didn’t know was going on? We were proceeding on the basis we still had some constitutional rights in this country.
MS. WINTER (SWP Attorney): I object to the question and direct—
A: Because we’re citizens. We’re supposed to have them.
According to the testimony of Barnes, Dobbs was one of the two party leaders with whom he worked closest and who had the greatest impact on his political development. The other was Joseph Hansen.
Though it was Dobbs who nominated Barnes to be his successor as SWP national secretary, he seems to have known virtually nothing about him.
When asked whether he knew that a large section of the party leadership had attended Carleton College, Dobbs replied: “I had no reason to inquire just precisely who came from Carleton College. I worked with whoever I worked with in the movement on the basis of their presence there. If you say they all came from Carleton College and you have knowledge of that, I have no way to quarrel with you about it.”
Q: Did anybody from the Minneapolis branch report to you as national secretary during, let’s say, the years ‘60 to ‘63 or ‘64 that there was a large number of students who were promising who were coming into the movement?
A: I don’t remember that, and I’m not at all sure there would have been a report to me, because, in general, the students that came into the party—or into the movement, rather, at that time first came into the Young Socialist Alliance and then, at one or another time, some among them came into the party. I don’t remember anyone ever giving me an explicit report as the national secretary about the student youth at Carleton.
Q: Did Mr. Barnes work in the trade union movement?
A: Not that I know of. He may have, but I don’t have any knowledge of it.
Q: Did he come into extensive contact with workers?
A: I suppose he came into contact with some, but I have no way of knowing whether it was limited or extensive. In the course of things, he would come into contact with some workers working within the party. How extensive it was, I don’t know.
Q: Do you know whether Mr. Barnes was during this period of time able to communicate well with workers?
A: He’s an articulate person.
Q: Was he able to obtain the respect of workers?
A: I have no idea.
Q: What working class struggles has Mr. Barnes been involved in?
A: I can’t give you direct knowledge of any such matter.
Q: What were the qualities exhibited by Mr. Barnes which caused him to be the individual selected out to be your successor?
A: I don’t know the reasons for the individuals. I only know that the membership felt that they had—that he had leadership qualities and he was elected to one or another leadership posts on the basis through the processes that I just described to you.
Q: Well, as national secretary, you were able to observe—
A: I didn’t go around and ask each individual member what was their thinking about what views they expressed.
The long and short of Dobbs’s reply was that he could not provide any specific explanation for the elevation of Barnes or any of his associates from Carleton College into the leadership of the SWP.
However “circumstantial” this evidence may be, it lends powerful support to the allegations made by the International Committee—with which Banda and Slaughter until only recently concurred—that the Carleton group was inserted into the leadership of the SWP through the machinations of the US government.
For those who evaluate the evidence politically, there is no legitimate explanation for the inability of Dobbs to provide a serious explanation for his decision to support the elevation of Barnes into the leadership of the SWP. Despite his age, Dobbs was in full possession of his mental faculties in 1982—as his published historical writings from this last period of his life prove. It is obvious from his testimony, however, that from the mid-1960s on, Dobbs was nothing but a political figurehead and had no knowledge of what was going on inside the SWP leadership. He nominated Barnes as his successor because he was told to... by Joseph Hansen.
Banda is familiar with all this evidence, but does not bother to deal with it. We are supposed to be satisfied with his hollow, “So what?”
He does, however, ask, “Where is the concrete evidence of their work for the FBI?” and, he warns, “Put up or shut up, North!”
Banda is as forgetful as he is provocative. He himself answered this question a long time ago. In 1976, when the International Committee’s investigation was still in its infancy, Banda wrote a lengthy analysis of the SWP’s position on the Angolan Revolution which he entitled, SWP: Apologist and Defender of Imperialism. This was a devastating exposure of the SWPs opposition to the victory of the MPLA, its support for the counterrevolutionary forces of Savimbi’s UNITA and Roberto’s FNLA, and its justification of the latter organization’s receipt of CIA cash. Banda wrote:
“The SWP’s veiled support for the CIA-financed organizations and their overt hostility to the MPLA is inseparably tied up with the gross betrayal of Trotskyism which is expressed in the refusal of SWP leaders Novack and Hansen to answer any of the charges made against them by the International Committee of the Fourth International on the question of Security and the Fourth International. Their consistent refusal to do anything to rid the movement of the stigma of GPU intrigue and provocation today renders them just as vulnerable to the pressure of the CIA.
“This group’s degeneration into chauvinism and anti-communism is now almost complete with its abandonment of the national liberation struggle in Angola. This reveals a group of middle class skeptics which is being rapidly transformed—like the late Shachtman—into a counterrevolutionary agency of the State Department.”
This analysis is especially relevant in as much as Banda relies primarily on political criteria to characterize the SWP as an agency of US imperialism. Even a decade ago, Banda was prepared to draw this damning conclusion based on a political analysis of the SWP’s reactionary attitude toward the national liberation struggles of the Angolan people. For what reason, then, does he feign horror at the International Committee’s factual substantiation of a political analysis which he made in 1976?
Banda demonstrated that the politics of the SWP served the interests of the US State Department; and in so doing drew the attention of the International Committee and the advanced workers to the insidious role played by Hansen’s Intercontinental Press.
The role of Hansen’s Intercontinental Press as a journalistic “socialist” cover for the infiltration of agents into the national liberation movements was exposed in 1979 with the publication of documents relating to the affair of Fausto Amador. This individual, a renegade from the Sandinista movement and an agent of Anastasio Somoza, was deliberately promoted by Hansen and Barnes into the leadership of the revisionist United Secretariat and appointed chief correspondent for Intercontinental Press in Central America.
When Amador’s appointment was first announced in June 1977, in a six-page-long interview in Intercontinental Press, an angry protest was filed by Pabloite leader Livio Maitan, who wrote:
“I think that just reading this document must have raised questions in the minds of more than a few comrades about the kind of character to whom you give so much space.”
Only three months before this interview appeared, the United Secretariat had rejected the attempts by the SWP leadership to recognize Amador as a member. The European Pabloites passed a resolution stating that they considered “that the actions of Amador in 1969-73 objectively aided the Nicaraguan dictatorship in its struggles against the Nicaraguan people.”
Hansen and his cohorts in the SWP leadership would not back down. Immense pressure was applied against the United Secretariat and its supporters in Latin America. In Colombia, where the majority of the Pabloite organization resisted the United Secretariat’s demand that it submit to the SWP’s dictates on Amador, Hansen, according to Nahuel Moreno, “attempted to threaten, intimidate and blackmail us.” Finally, the SWP got its way—thus inflicting enormous damage to the credibility of Trotskyism in Central America.
During the coming year, in the midst of the most ferocious battles against the Somoza regime, Intercontinental Press carried numerous articles by Amador denouncing the Sandinistas and demanding that they call off the armed struggle. Just two months before the fall of Somoza, Amador denounced the offensive. He declared that “the masses’ will to struggle has been broken,” accused the FSLN of an “emotionalism” that “obscures political clarity,” and stated that it is “necessary to resist such disastrous and suicidal conceptions.”
After the victory of the Sandinistas in July 1979, the name of Fausto Amador disappeared from the pages of Intercontinental Press.
When Mary-Alice Waters was questioned about the SWP leadership’s relationship with Amador during her deposition by Gelfand’s attorneys in November 1982, she gave vague and misleading answers.
Q: Is he affiliated with “Intercontinental Press”?
Q: Has he ever been affiliated with “Intercontinental Press”?
Q: When was the last time you saw Mr. Amador?
A: I don’t recall. Several years ago.
Q: Does he still contribute articles to “Intercontinental Press”?
A: No, he does not.
Q: Is he still in contact with the SWP?
A: I—No, he is not.
Q: Have you ever heard that Mr. Amador was employed or affiliated with the Somoza regime prior to its overthrow by the Sandinistas?
Q: Particularly had you heard that he was employed by the Nicaraguan Consulate in Belgium?
A: Yes, I have heard that.
Q: Do you know whether or not that is true?
A: I think there was an article that was published in “Intercontinental Press” many years ago in which Fausto Amador answered some of those allegations. I do not recall the exact content of that article. I know he answered all those allegations.
Q: Do you have any information as to what the opinion of the FSLN is of Mr. Amador?
A: No, I do not.
Even more vividly than in Angola, the case of Fausto Amador exposed the conscious intervention of the SWP leadership in behalf of US imperialism against an on-going revolution. Following the victory of the Sandinistas, Amador was abandoned but new Intercontinental Press correspondents were flooded into Managua.
In the course of its investigation, the International Committee cited another example of the SWP leadership first promoting and then covering up for the activities of agents within the workers’ movement—the case of Ed Heisler.
He had entered the SWP around the same time as Barnes, in mid-1961. Like Barnes, his initial contact with the SWP came through the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. He became a key leader of the SWP; and used his positions to provide the FBI with information contained in several thousand pages of reports.
In June 1980, Heisler voluntarily admitted his role as an FBI informer in a letter to Barnes. However, in front of its membership, the SWP leadership played down the importance of Heisler’s work for the FBI. Larry Seigle declared in a report that it “is an illusion” to feel “as though you have just been dealt a blow.” No objective evaluation was presented of the damage that had been done by Heisler.
Quite the opposite. Barnes and his associates attempted to play down the importance of Heisler’s activities.
In December 1980 Gelfand’s attorneys obtained Heisler’s deposition. Here is how this self-confessed agent described his activities inside the SWP:
“In the early 1970s I remained very active in the UTU union, had various assignments, carried out various tasks as a member of the Socialist Workers Party. In 1974 my major activity was that as the Socialist Workers Party candidate for US Senator in Illinois. From early 1975 until 1976 I was the national chairperson for the Socialist Workers Party Presidential Campaign. I also wrote for The Militant newspaper.
“In 1977 I continued to work in the National Office of the Socialist Workers Party. My primary area of work was trade union. From 1975 until my recent expulsion from the Socialist Workers Party, I was a member of the Socialist Workers Party National Committee. In 1977 I was a member of the SWP Political Committee, a member of the Administrative Secretariat, a subcommittee of the Political Committee, a secretary of the SWP National Trade Union Steering Committee. That was in 1977.”
And yet when Barnes was deposed in March 1982, he stated under oath that Heisler “was not a central leader at any time.”
When challenged to justify this claim in light of Heisler’s membership on the Administrative Secretariat of the SWP’s Political Committee, Barnes acted as if it was of no significance.
Q: When Mr. Heisler was a member of the Administrative Secretariat, how many members were on it, roughly?
A: I don’t know.
Q: Were you on it?
A: No, I was not. I don’t think.
Q: You wouldn’t call it a high leadership body in the SWP?
A: No, it has no executive or political decision making powers whatsoever.
In the course of Seigle’s deposition, he also downgraded the importance of the Administrative Secretariat and denied that he had been a member.
However, SWP records revealed that both Seigle and Barnes were members of this subcommittee which made key decisions relating to the work of the Political Committee, such as determining its agenda.
The attempt to minimize the significance of Heisler was related to other crucial information uncovered by the International Committee. Jack Barnes worked extremely closely with Heisler for nearly 20 years and played a central role in his elevation into leadership posts. This relationship is given a sinister coloration by the fact that Heisler’s elevation was strenuously opposed by the leaders of his branch in Milwaukee. In 1963 they implicated Heisler in events surrounding the theft of party funds and accused him of indiscipline.
Barnes played a crucial role in defending Heisler and turning the tables on the Milwaukee branch leadership, which included an outstanding veteran leader with more than 20 years standing in the SWP, the late James Boulton.
Not long afterwards, Heisler moved to Chicago and lived for a while in Jack Barnes’s apartment—a documented fact which the SWP national secretary falsely denied during his deposition.
In light of the historical record, the following exchange between Gelfand’s attorney and Larry Seigle is especially illuminating:
Q: Was the Control Commission convened to investigate the Heisler affair?
Q: Has the Heisler affair initiated any investigation into security procedures within the SWP?
Q: Have people who were in close contact with Heisler over the years been requested to furnish written statements on contacts between them and this informer?
A: No. That would be silly.
Q: Why would that be silly, Mr. Seigle?
A: Because there would be no reason to do so. It would be a waste of time. It would be the action of a cult group or a police agency, not a political party.
The truth is that it was not done because it would have exposed the promotion and protection of agents within the central leadership of the SWP, where they are provided with positions of authority and impressive “socialist” credentials to facilitate their intelligence-gathering operations against the labor movement.
After Heisler’s exposure, the SWP made no effort to notify the trade unions in which Heisler had been especially active—such as the United Transportation Union. It even continued to publicize and sell a pamphlet on “union democracy” written by Heisler. This—I submit—is just one example of the SWP leadership’s work for the FBI. In the final part of this series we will provide an even more compelling proof: its complete destruction of any semblance of party democracy and its systematic purge of all Trotskyists from the SWP.
There is one other argument that Banda advances against Security and the Fourth International. “Never in the history of intelligence work of state bodies has any agent devoted the whole of his life —as Hansen did—to building a reformist party. That is not the style of the GPU or FBI. Hansen lived and died a revisionist. A GPU agent—never!”
We do not know from what historical or biographical investigations Banda derived this cheap, pseudo-psychological “insight.” Unable and unwilling to deal with facts, Banda palms off his personal speculations as if they had the weight of historical law when it is obvious that they do not even correspond to the elementary realities of politics.
While working from different starting points and perspectives, both American imperialism and the Soviet bureaucracy devote considerable expense and energy to constructing reformist organizations. In the case of the CIA, they sponsor the creation of political parties and trade union organizations whose reformist programs strive to place limits on the anti-imperialist struggles of the working class.
We merely note this political fact of life to underscore the stupidity of Banda’s argument. But aside from this, his point is meaningless in the present context. It hinges on one crucial distortion: the definition of Joseph Hansen as the builder of a reformist party rather than the destroyer of Trotskyist organizations!
To speak of Hansen as a man who “devoted the whole of his life” to building a reformist party—as if he were Norman Thomas—is to insult the intelligence of Trotskyists throughout the world. If Hansen set out to build a reformist party, why did he join the Socialist Workers Party in the first place?
As Banda knows, Hansen was politically responsible for the virtual liquidation of the Trotskyist movement throughout Latin America. His campaign of lies and disinformation directed against the International Committee, aimed at poisoning the political atmosphere within the world Trotskyist movement, contributed to the disorientation of Latin American Trotskyists and led directly to the bloody political catastrophes of the late ‘60s and ‘70s in Bolivia, Argentina and Chile.
In the United States Jack Barnes and his Carleton associates have completed the job for which Hansen recruited and trained them: the political and organizational destruction of the SWP as a Trotskyist party. The complete repudiation of the programmatic foundations of the SWP has been accompanied by a ruthless and thorough-going purge, carried out between 1981 and 1984, of anyone within the organization who claimed any residual allegiance to the ideas of Leon Trotsky and his conception of the Fourth International as the revolutionary vanguard of the working class.
The stamping out of any traces of Trotskyism within the SWP took place under conditions in which no form of democratic discussion was permitted. Hundreds of SWP members, many of them party cadre with decades of experience within the Trotskyist movement—including founding members of the SWP, were framed up on preposterous charges and thrown out of the organization.
In a letter written by Frank Lovell, a party member for more than 40 years, in March 1983 to the SWP National Committee, he complained, “In the months since the December 1982 NC meeting, there have been a greater number of trials in the party than during any similar time span in the 45-year history of the SWP.”
In September 1983 four suspended members of the National Committee of the SWP, including Lovell, sent a statement to the Pabloite United Secretariat in which they described the situation existing inside the SWP:
“Since the August 1981 convention of the US Socialist Workers Party, the current party leadership has been carrying out a revisionist course which threatens to destroy that organization as a revolutionary party. The open repudiation of the historic program of Trotskyism, in particular, the attack on the theory of permanent revolution, has been imposed on the membership in a step-by-step process—through the pages of the party’s press and other public activities, as well as through an internal ‘education’ campaign of anti-Trotskyist classes, educational conferences and speeches.
“The content of Jack Barnes’s public 1982 YSA convention speech, published in the inaugural issue of ‘New International’ six months after it was delivered; and the editorial attack on Ernest Mandel’s defense of our program in the August 6, 1983 issue of ‘Intercontinental Press’ (Mandel’s article was also published months after it was submitted) are the clearest and most recent expressions of the programmatic break with the Fourth International and with our Trotskyist heritage. These are policies promoted by the entire leadership, its editorial boards, and all party institutions. They are not simply the opinions of a few individual SWP leaders.
“The promotion of this new theoretical line of the Barnes leadership (actually a rehash of old slanders against Trotsky and Trotskyism, long ago thoroughly refuted) has been accomplished without any discussion or vote inside the party. This is true despite repeated requests by many comrades for such a discussion. Even when opening a discussion was constitutionally mandated for the regular pre-convention period, the leadership postponed it—first for three months, replacing it with an educational conference, and then for an entire year.
“Only spurious reasons were presented for this. The muzzling of the opposition through this process clearly reveals the complete unwillingness of the current majority leadership to allow any serious consideration of these questions by the party ranks, and exposes their lack of confidence in their ability to defend these policies before the membership.
“In order to assure that no discussion of these anti-Trotskyist, liquidationist policies will take place a massive slander campaign against the opposition, and an unprecedented wave of expulsions of party members with opposition viewpoints has been implemented. The right to internal party groupings (tendencies and factions) was suppressed. (Party members have even been denied the right to participate in an organized way in the pre-World Congress discussion of the Fourth International, in direct violation of the statutes of that organization.)
“The erosion of internal democracy reached a new level at the August 1983 National Committee meeting with the unprecedented suspension on the eve of the meeting of the four minority NC members so that they could not attend, and then their suspension—in fact their de facto expulsion—from the party itself, in an attempt to isolate them from party members.
“The opposition leaders were falsely accused of being responsible for the crisis in the party, which has in fact been created by the policies of the majority itself. Since the suspension of the NC members, the thinly disguised purge of other party members in disagreement with the central leadership has been accelerated.
“The expulsions, the ban on tendencies and factions, and the twice-postponed convention are merely the organizational manifestation of the anti-Trotskyist political course which the current SWP leadership has embarked upon.”
The list of those expelled from the SWP includes virtually every member with ties to the Cannon era, including Harry De Boer, one of the 18 party leaders sent to jail during World War II; George and Dorothy Breitman, founding members of the SWP; Jimmy Kutcher, the central figure in the celebrated Case of the Legless Veteran; Jake Cooper, one of Trotsky’s guards in Coyoacan; and George Lavan Weissman, editor of The Militant during the 1950s and founding member of the SWP.
Jimmy Kutcher, a 71-year-old paraplegic, was expelled from the SWP on the incredible charge of “violence.” While sitting in his wheelchair during a branch meeting, Kutcher found his view of the speaker obstructed by another member, Berta L. He touched her on the back in order to attract her attention and asked her to move. This was observed by one of Barnes’s lackeys who then filed charges against Kutcher, accusing him of having “punched” Berta L., an allegation strenuously denied by the supposed victim of this “attack.”
Kutcher wrote, “I can’t convey how shocked I was on August 21 when McBride filed his charges against me at the Manhattan branch meeting. It was like a nightmare. ... I couldn’t explain what had happened, I couldn’t believe what had happened, I didn’t know what to do.
“What was happening to the party? Did the EC (Executive Committee) really believe the McBride fantasy? Would the members of the branch? I turned hot with anger, feeling under intolerable pressure, isolated, helpless, humiliated and in despair.”
Extremely distraught, Kutcher requested that he be allowed to be assisted by another member during a meeting called by the SWP investigating committee. This was summarily denied. He then asked that the meeting of the investigating committee be postponed for a week. This was denied as well.
“I had the same feeling many years ago when the government was persecuting me,” Kutcher wrote, “but at least some of the time the government witchhunters pretended I had some rights, including the right to ask for a postponement when there was a legitimate reason for doing so.”
Kutcher’s trial was a farce as it was based on entirely false evidence.
“Members on trial have the right to honest reports by the leadership,” Kutcher wrote. “The members sitting in judgment at my trial and I were both cheated out of our rights by a lying leadership. ... For the second time in my life I was being declared a security risk.
“The first time was in 1948 when the government fired me from my clerical job with the Veterans Administration, not on the basis of anything I had done (other than belonging to the SWP) but on the basis of a bureaucratic decision, without a trial, that I might do something threatening security. Now the EC was taking similar action against me, without the slightest evidence in the world that I would ever do anything to harm the interests or security of the party I have supported and tried to build most of my life.”
Kutcher’s document is but one among dozens which record the complete obliteration of any form of democratic centralism within the SWP. An unchallengeable political dictatorship exists within the SWP, in which absolute control is exercised by the Carleton group and their hand-picked cronies.
In another document, dated July 13, 1983, Milt Alvin, a 50-year veteran of the Trotskyist movement and founding member of the SWP, denounced the obliteration of all forms of internal party democracy by the “secret faction” grouped around Barnes.
“During the last year the revisionists have spent their time in an orgy of illegal and factional expulsions of members for the slightest reason they could dream up. Members and whole branches have been denied their democratic rights by arbitrary transfers of comrades in and out in order to create artificial majorities, as in San Francisco. ... All those who have been expelled so far have been guilty of nothing at all, except in the twisted logic of the revisionists. The recent expulsions of Carol S. and Ann M. in the Bay Area, on the most flimsy grounds, not involving violations of discipline or disloyalty, are a disgrace. The expulsion of Dianne F., a member of the Pittsburgh branch, of Michael S. of New York, Ann T. of the Iron Range and Don and Mojgan M. of the Bay Area, not one of whom was guilty of disloyalty, indicates an about-face from the way our party used to be.
“In order to carry out some of these expulsions certain comrades, who used to enjoy a good reputation in the party, who were effective workers in the cause of socialism, have been converted into stool pigeons spying upon comrades marked for expulsion and helping to entrap them with innocent-sounding questions. In one case, Comrade Peter В., who had received a document from Mike S., turned it over to the leadership who promptly proceeded to expel Mike. Just for mailing a document to someone he thought was a friend.
“Carol S. was expelled for asking a comrade in the presence of a member of the YSA if he had heard that his stepmother, Dianne F., had been expelled—that’s all! ... Anyone can see that it is the aim of the secret faction to eliminate from the party, in any way, every critic of its policies. That much is obvious...
“The secret faction functions under a cover of legality provided by a party body of one kind or another, such as the political committee, secretariat or organizational bureau. In -this way, those who belong to it can meet, discuss and make decisions in what appears to be a normal and legal way. Only completely naive people will believe that the various revisions that have taken place in the party were spontaneous revelations that occurred to one or more members of the faction.
“These decisions are arrived at beforehand in secret meetings where all kinds of plots are hatched, including those that involve expulsions of comrades from the party for ridiculously flimsy reasons. Only people who are ready to believe anything can have confidence in the ‘legality’ of the way the secret faction functions. Anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear will understand that it is impossible to carry on the kind of campaign of liquidation of virtually all our ideas without secret meetings on the part of the revisionists.” (Emphasis added)
Alvin’s points were absolutely correct, but he didn’t go far enough. One more question must be posed: what legitimate explanation exists for the complete unanimity among the members of the Carleton clique on the total repudiation of the SWP’s historic connection with Trotskyism?
If one were to assume that their political credentials are in order, it would mean that the Carleton students joined the SWP because they were won to Trotskyism—which, in the early 1960s, the SWP claimed to represent. How, then, is it possible, that all these ex-Carleton students, simultaneously, arrived at the decision that the theory of permanent revolution must be repudiated and Trotskyism abandoned?
Milt Alvin did not last very long after writing this document. In August 1983, he filed charges against Jack Barnes and Mary-Alice Waters, accusing them of conspiring to steal $5,000 that had been willed to him by the late Tom Kerry, a founding member of the SWP.
In his last will and testament, executed May 13, 1982, Kerry specified that this money, intended for Alvin and his wife, was being held by Barnes in New York. Apparently worried that Barnes and Waters would not observe the terms of his will and would attempt to keep his money, Kerry wrote to another old comrade, Sarah L., “One thing is certain: Barnes is no heir of mine.”
Following Kerry’s death in February 1983, Alvin wasn’t able to get the money. Barnes and Waters claimed it belonged to the SWP. After Alvin brought charges against them, the SWP convoked its Control Commission. The results were predictable: it recommended the expulsion of Alvin.
Despite all the expulsions, which have decimated the membership of the SWP, the purge has not affected a single member of this Carleton group. Over a period of 20 years—an entire epoch in the history of the socialist movement—the Carleton students stick together.
The biographies of the radicals of the 1960s provide an astonishing record of the most unexpected transformations. But none of this is reflected in the central Carleton-based leadership of the SWP. Despite the repeated upheavals in the political line of the SWP, the unanimity of the Carleton group is preserved.
There is no record of any differences on questions of program or tactics within their ranks. This is compelling political proof that the Carleton group observes an internal discipline, independent of the SWP and its official program. Significantly, while the purge has wiped out virtually the entire older generation of surviving SWP leaders, there are two individuals who remain allied with Barnes—George Novack and Hansen’s widow, Reba. While the purges were at their height, Reba Hansen returned to New York to work as Barnes’s personal secretary.
Furthermore, the totalitarian regime which exists within the SWP is itself another substantiation of the charges made by the International Committee. During the Gelfand case, in an attempt to refute the charge that the SWP is controlled by agents, Barnes submitted an affidavit in which he declared:
“The SWP’s structure and organizational principles, outlined above, ensure that the Party’s policies and program are determined, upheld and implemented by democratically elected leadership bodies and a thoroughly informed membership. Every individual member is subordinated to the decisions of the membership. Thus, it would be impossible for an informer or group of informers to seize ‘control’ of the Party unbeknownst to the membership.” (Emphasis added)
The very conditions which Barnes cited as guarantees against the takeover of the SWP by the government are manifestly nonexistent inside the SWP. In his deposition taken by Gelfand’s attorneys in March 1982, Barnes provided a revealing insight into the complete extinction of democratic rights within the SWP:
Q: Isn’t the basis of democracy having a fully informed electorate, a fully informed party, a fully informed rank-and-file?
Q: But you choose which facts to tell the rank-and-file and which facts to withhold from them, don’t you, Mr. Barnes?
Q: But is there any reason why information available to Mr. Hansen, to the US government, should be withheld from the Socialist Workers Party members?
A: There is no reason to have any different criteria for this than any other information. If it serves the needs of the movement, it can be organized and printed. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.
Q: Mr. Barnes, are there reasons to keep information that you have, that Mr. Hansen has, and that the government has, from loyal party members?
A: The decision as to what information to release and when is a democratic decision made by the elected body of the Party.
The “elected body” is none other than Jack Barnes. He decides what the membership should or should not know about contacts between SWP leaders and the US Government!
Q: Do you have the right to withhold these facts from membership of your Party?
A: That’s correct.
Q: Do you have the right to withhold these facts from the workers’ movement?
Q: Do you have a right to withhold these facts from the Fourth International?
Q: Do you have the right to withhold these facts from members of the National Committee?
The SWP is an organization whose leaders are totally uncontrolled by any democratic constraints. The membership is told only what the leadership wants to tell them. The leadership even reserves for itself the right to meet secretly with the FBI, as Larry Seigle, one of Barnes’s closest Carleton associates, made clear in his court testimony during the trial of Gelfand’s lawsuit:
Q: Is there a policy about unknown contacts between Socialist Workers Party members and the government wherein Socialist Workers' Party members furnish information, internal information about the SWP to the government? Is there a policy in your party about that, Mr. Seigle?
A: Unknown to whom?
Q: Let’s say unknown to the political comntittee.
A: It would depend.
Q: On what would that depend?
A: On the circumstances.
Since the purge of all known and suspected Trotskyist sympathizers inside the SWP—a process which involved the elimination of scores of cadre—the Carleton group is now free to pursue policies which line up almost entirely with that of the “liberal” sections of the State Department.
This is most graphically illustrated on the question of South Africa, where the SWP has come out openly as opponents of any socialist perspectives—insisting that the working class must be subordinated to the bourgeois reformist leadership of the African National Congress and that there cannot be any struggle for a socialist program.
Insisting that “a mass revolutionary movement in South Africa today cannot and will not be built around a socialist program,” Barnes writes that “all blueprints for a socialist state are sectarian schemes.” Emphasizing the categorical opposition of the SWP to the struggle for socialist policies, Barnes declares: “What is on the agenda in South Africa is a bourgeois-democratic revolution, not the democratic stage of the socialist revolution.”
Declaring that “The South African revolution today is not an anticapitalist revolution,” the SWP states that the overthrow of apartheid means nothing more than opening the country for an extended period of capitalist development—in which large sections of the proletariat shall be returned to rural areas and converted into peasant capitalists! “A task of the alliance of workers and peasants in South Africa is to conquer the right of proletarians who want to be farmers, to become farmers.”
This perspective cannot be described as “Pabloite.” It does not fall within the broadest definition of revisionism. Rather, it is a consciously-conceived right-wing program that strongly resembles the “agrarian reform” policies traditionally advocated by such imperialist agencies as the AIFLD. It is the oldest of counterrevolutionary strategies: the creation of a prosperous land-owning class of peasant capitalists who can be used as a foil against the socialist proletariat.
Here we see the direct product of the purge of all class-conscious socialists from the SWP. The Carleton group—having freed their New York-based apparatus from any form of party control—is free to pursue a policy that directly serves the interests of the State Department.
In 1976, based on an analysis of its position on Angola, Banda was prepared to denounce the SWP as an agency of imperialism. Does he believe that its position on South Africa has invalidated that appraisal?
In the course of the past decade, the International Committee of the Fourth International assembled a massive case to substantiate all its allegations against Hansen and the SWP leadership. What we have presented above is only a brief outline of the evidence. At no time has this case been answered.
In denouncing Security and the Fourth International, Michael Banda is leaving his political calling card with the SWP and the agents of the bourgeoisie in the workers’ movement. Of course, he is now hailed by the Carleton group. “By renouncing the Healyite agent-baiting campaign,” writes Intercontinental Press, “these WRP leaders have taken the first, necessary step toward having their views taken seriously as a legitimate part of the political debates that are occurring among revolutionists today.”
This comment says as much about the SWP as it does about Banda. If, as Banda’s attack on Security implies, he has been a conscious instrument of a slander campaign for the past decade, how could the views of such an individual ever again be considered “a legitimate part” of political debates, let alone taken seriously?
Only the foulest organization, whose actions are ruled by expediency and police cynicism, would welcome an alliance with a man like Banda—who has forfeited every claim on the credibility of the working class.
Security and the Fourth International has not been undermined by Banda’s attack. Every class conscious worker will recognize that this latest denunciation is the by-product of Banda’s break with Trotskyism and with the whole perspective of revolutionary socialism. They will see that his attack is directed against not the facts but rather the principled political foundation of the case: the struggle of the Trotskyist movement against all the agencies of imperialism.
As is demonstrated by his discussions with the LSSP, a party of the capitalist state in Sri Lanka, Banda is now in the process of crossing class lines. In this sense, his claim that Hansen’s secret meetings with the FBI “prove nothing either” is really a justification for relations with the capitalist state.
Having revised his views on the significance of Hansen’s relations with the FBI in 1940, he will soon announce that he has revised his views on the entry of the LSSP into the Bandaranaike coalition in 1964 and on its participation in the suppression of the J VP uprising in 1971. In politics, he who says “A” must also say “B.”
When the Security and the Fourth International investigation was initiated in May 1975, its purpose was not to expose Hansen or anyone else as an agent. There was no way of knowing that incriminating documents would be discovered or that Hansen would publicly defend GPU agents.
Rather, the investigation began with the aim of reminding Trotskyists and advanced workers throughout the world of the bloody crimes which had been committed by imperialism and Stalinism against the revolutionary movement during the 1930s and 1940s.
Within this context, the assassination of Trotsky was an epochal event of world historical significance. The assimilation of the political lessons of that crime is as necessary today as it was to the Trotskyists in 1940.
The leopards of counterrevolution never change their spots. Indeed, as it confronts the rising tide of working class struggles internationally, imperialism, assisted by the Stalinist bureaucracy, will lash out savagely against those who fight for the mobilization of the masses against the capitalist state on the basis of a revolutionary socialist program. Those who oppose the exposure of the agents of imperialism and Stalinism serve only the interests of the counterrevolution.
As a long-time colleague of Michael Banda and another ex-revolutionist, Cliff Slaughter, put it not so long ago:
“Security is not only an organizational question, but above all a fundamental political question of the struggle of the world party of socialist revolution against the capitalist state, against the intelligence and repressive agencies of the imperialist powers and against the Stalinist bureaucracy, the main counterrevolutionary force in the world arena, dedicated since its inception to the liquidation of the Fourth International.
“The training of revolutionary cadres for the revolutionary struggles of today cannot be carried out without a relentless fight to establish the historical continuity of Trotsky’s life and death battles against the Stalinist bureaucracy.”
Banda and Slaughter are gone—“Two men overboard”—but that life-and-death struggle continues, led by the International Committee of the Fourth International and the Workers League.