We have transcribed all the statements by the two main speakers and the speakers from the floor. The “independent” speakers are those who did not represent either the LRP or the SL. We have identified only those who identified themselves.
For ease in reading, we have added paragraphing and a few subheads. Wherever possible, we have added references [in brackets] to articles and books cited by the speakers. We have also bracketed interjections from the floor, as well as obvious corrections and occasional words added for clarification. It is possible that some words that were not clearly spoken or clearly recorded have been mistranscribed, but we do not think that any such possible errors have political significance.
League for the Revolutionary Party Presentation by Matthew Richardson
Thanks, everybody, for coming. A debate on how to fight imperialist war is obviously urgent. The September 11 terrorist attacks have given the United States cover for going on a murderous offensive across the world. We’ve seen it invade and occupy first Afghanistan and now Iraq. We’ve also seen Israel, with United States backing, brutally escalate its war against the Palestinian people.
Genuine working-class revolutionary Marxism alone can make sense of these events. It can show the way to put an end to them and build a world of freedom and abundance for all. Marxism explains that these events are the expression of the single, fundamental struggle that is driving world history: the struggle between the working class and oppressed peoples of the world on the one hand, and the capitalists who exploit and repress them on the other.
Cutting across the class division of the capitalist world is the division between the handful of great imperialist powers and the so-called "third world” of dominated and superexploited neo-colonies. Imperialism is the key to capitalism’s survival. By super-exploiting the neo-colonies, it’s able to afford to maintain a privileged middle class as a buffer between the working class and the capitalists. And in particular it’s able to afford to grant concessions and create a privileged aristocracy of the working class as a conservative barrier to revolutionary struggles. These divisions are reinforced and intensified by racist and national oppression within the imperialist countries.
Capitalism is now sinking toward another world depression. This drives the imperialists to intensify their exploitation of the neo-colonial world, meaning increased military aggression against them and enslavement of them, and intensified rivalries between the imperialists over the spoils, as well. And the imperialist ruling classes have to escalate their attacks on the working class, and that means intensifying racism as well, to divide and keep the working class down.
Working-class communist revolution to overthrow imperialist capitalism is the only answer. Time and again the working class has risen in struggle to challenge capitalism, but only in Russia in the 1917 revolution did it succeed in overthrowing capitalism and building a worker’s state, because only in Russia was there a revolutionary party ready to lead the workers away from compromise and to seizing power, and that party was the Bolsheviks. Every other time the masses have risen up in struggle against capitalism, they have been misled, to catastrophic defeat, often by parties calling themselves socialists.
And so we arrive at today’s debate. Radical workers looking for a revolutionary alternative are immediately confronted by a sea of different groups, all claiming to be revolutionary Marxists, and it can be very off-putting. There’s no alternative but to studying Marxism, studying the program and histories of the various groups, and seeing which offers a really revolutionary way forward. And with this debate I hope we’ll be able to clarify the differences between the League for the Revolutionary Party and the Spartacist League.
The Question of Stalinism
Now, if all I had to do today was present the LRP’s view of how to fight imperialist war, I would concentrate on the struggles of the workers and the oppressed against the capitalists. But this is a debate, and I’ve got to start with the Spartacists’ world view, which begins and ends not with the working class but with Stalinism and the fate of the Stalinist states, particularly Stalinist Russia. Be patient – it’ll pay off. Once I’ve dealt with Stalinism, I’ll turn to the significance of those politics in the struggle against imperialism, as well as the struggle against nationalism and racism here in the US, and end by comparing our two groups’ records in the class struggle here.
The differences between the LRP and the Spartacists on Stalinism could not be greater. We regard the Soviet Union as not just a capitalist state after the late 1930’s, but an imperialist one. The Spartacists, on the other hand, continue to regard Stalinism as not counter-revolutionary, but capable of being revolutionary in creating workers’ states across Eastern Europe, China, and elsewhere. While we understood Stalinism to be a fundamentally counter-revolutionary defender of imperialism, the Spartacists regarded the Stalinist states as anti-imperialist bastions.
Trotsky taught that Stalinism after the mid-’30’s, was “thoroughly reactionary,” and “the chief obstacle on the road to world revolution.” [“The USSR in War,” In Defense of Marxism, p.19.] He condemned the assertion that, in his opinion, a bureaucratic revolution of the proletariat, that is by the Stalinists, is possible. He condemned it. He condemned it as “not only incorrect, but disloyal.” [In Defense of Marxism, p. 130.]
Trotsky argued that the Stalinist bureaucracy was not a new ruling class, but a very weak caste parasitically sitting atop the degenerating workers’ state that would not survive very long at all. But Stalinism not only strengthened its role in the Soviet Union, but survived World War II and extended its empire after the war. It was necessary for revolutionaries to recognize that Trotsky had clearly been wrong in underestimating the strength of Stalinism, and explain why.
The explanation is that Stalinism had transformed itself into a new ruling class. That social counter-revolution that finally smashed the workers’ state was completed with the great purges of the late 1930’s, when the Stalinists jailed and killed every last living connection with the October Revolution. They had established themselves as a state capitalist ruling class. Our theory of Stalinism predicted that the Stalinists would try to bourgeoisify and privatize their economies, and that they would fail. The LRP is the only socialist group in the world that predicted the collapse of Stalinism. The Spartacists, in contrast, saw Stalinism as strong, and having achieved greater advances against capitalism than the worker state did under Lenin. [Why the USSR Is Not Capitalist pamphlet, p. 90.] They were one hundred percent wrong.
Our theory of Stalinism and program of struggle against it is the only way to remain loyal to Trotsky’s struggle against Stalinism, the only way to fight to defend worker’s gains in the Stalinist countries, and the only way to fight imperialism.
Now at the end of the Second World War, the workers of Eastern Europe rose up in struggle. When the Stalinist army came in, the first thing they did was brutally end these results, and formed popular front governments with local bourgeois forces. Only later, after crushing the workers, did they nationalize the economies, and still they kept the pro-bourgeois, the bourgeois forces in their government, and they said they did not create workers’ states. They created people’s democracies. It was up for others to claim for them that they created workers’ states without even knowing it and meaning to.
To suggest that the Stalinists created workers’ states not only meant that Stalinism could be revolutionary, it also meant that the working class was not necessary to overthrow capitalism. Indeed the working class could be crushed and still considered to be holding state power and have seized it. It also meant that popular fronts with bourgeois forces could make that revolution. These conclusions were eventually adopted by the leaders of the degenerating Trotskyist movement. The Spartacists embrace all of these anti-Marxist ideas and have provided some of their worst expressions.
In the massive working-class struggles against Stalinism in Eastern Europe, the Spartacists lately found themselves on the side of counter-revolution. The biggest of these struggles was the strike wave of the Polish working class in 1980 and ‘81, which occupied factories and established workers councils. The Spartacists from the start slandered the workers, the hungry exploited Polish workers, as lazy, and “demanding the biggest free lunch the world has ever seen.” [Workers Vanguard, September 5, 1980.]
Seeing that the workers’ reformist leaders embraced the Catholic Church and were receiving aid from the CIA, they attributed these counter-revolutionary aims to the workers as a whole. They didn’t notice that the church and the CIA were backing the Solidarnosc leaders because they were doing all they could to prevent the workers’ struggles from threatening the Stalinist states. Soon the Spartacists were calling for the Soviet Union to invade to crush the workers. I don’t need to quote it, they brag about it. The Wall Street Journal at the very same time called for a Stalinist military crackdown as well. [December 16, 1981, cited in Socialist Voice No. 16.] Why? Because the imperialists knew that the Stalinist states were not their enemy, but the working class was their enemy. Both the Spartacist League and Wall Street called for counter-revolution.
Under General Jaruzelski, the Stalinists in Poland tried to privatize industries, and the workers rose up to defend nationalized property. You could defend the workers’ gains only by supporting the workers’ struggles against the Stalinist states without any political support to the misleaders. But the Spartacists supported the Stalinists against the workers.
In 1989, our line of supporting the workers’ struggles against the Stalinist state and warning that Solidarnosc leaders would betray the struggle proved one hundred percent right – when Jaruzelski formed a coalition government with the Solidarnosc leaders in order to carry out the bourgeois reforms that the Stalinists had failed to do themselves, alone. The Spartacist League, who hailed Jaruzelski’s crackdown, shares responsibility for these attacks on the working class, along with all of those who hailed the Walesa leadership of Solidarnosc.
Let’s turn to an example now of Stalinism and the Spartacist League, which they claim was a big battle against imperialism for the Stalinists. In 1978 there was a bourgeois democratic revolution in Afghanistan, it’s one of their favorite examples. The government that was established implemented a number of very important reforms aimed against the brutal oppression of women, in particular, in Afghanistan. The Islamic mullahs, in response, organized counter-revolutionary forces backed by U.S. imperialism. In 1979 the Soviets invaded. The SL boasts that they hailed the “Red Army” in Afghanistan to do what they had to do.
But the facts speak to the fact that the Stalinists invaded to stop the revolution. In time honored Stalinist fashion, the Soviet Army moved in to bring the revolution to a halt. The first thing the Stalinists did was overthrow the revolutionary government and kill off the forces that really wanted to fight the mullahs. They installed their own man, Babrak Karmal, with instructions to try and cut a deal with the Islamic reactionaries. Karmal immediately called on the mullahs to support his government, promising “respect for our family, peoples, and national traditions.” [“Afghanistan and Pseudo-Trotskyism,” Socialist Voice No. 9.] Code words for the barbarous oppression of women and ethnic minorities in Afghanistan, that the revolution had at one time fought. Following Moscow’s orders, Karmal added to his cabinet three men from the pre-revolutionary monarchist government. To symbolize this he brought down the red flag of the Afghan revolution, added green to it, and a picture of the Koran, and brought it back up the flag pole. You can see a picture of Karmal in one of our publications addressing the first conference of Mullahs in Afghanistan. [LRP vs. SL pamphlet.]
The LRP is the only socialist group in the world that we know of that called for the defeat of both the counter-revolutionary [imperialist]-backed Islamists, and for the defeat of counter-revolutionary Stalinist invaders. The real solution was to take the revolution forward against the monarchists and mullahs, which could have ignited new mass struggles in the region.
The Spartacists hailed the Stalinists, who killed off the one force that really wanted to fight the Islamic reactionaries, and thereby doomed Afghanistan to their eventual triumph. Because the LRP called for the defeat of the Soviets, the Spartacists say we supported the mullahs, and it’s an obvious lie since we called for the mullahs’ defeat, too. But by hailing the Stalinist invaders, who overthrew the anti-Islamist government, killed the main anti-Islamist fighters, and hopelessly tried to bring in as many mullahs into the government as possible – if anyone in this room gave any kind of support, of any kind, to mullahs in Afghanistan, it was the Spartacist League.
Supporting the Stalinist states meant that the Spartacists couldn’t defend workers’ gains inside the Stalinist states, defended the Soviet imperialist oppression of its semi-colonies from Ukraine to Poland, and supported the Stalinist crushing of anti-imperialist struggles around the world. Only by understanding the Stalinist states as capitalist, and the Soviet Union in particular as imperialist, as the LRP did, could a really revolutionary way forward be proposed for the mass struggle.
The Struggle Against Imperialism
Now let’s turn to the general struggle against imperialism. If international workers’ socialist revolution is the only solution to imperialism, uniting the workers of the oppressor and oppressed countries is obviously decisive. And as Lenin and Trotsky argued, the only way for revolutionaries to do that, achieve that, is to fight uncompromisingly for the rights of the oppressed.
One key principle in this fight, established by Lenin and the Bolsheviks, is defending any oppressed nation when it is under attack by imperialism. Giving military, but not political support to nationalist forces confronting imperialism, and fighting for the defeat of imperialism. On behalf of the League for the Revolutionary Party, I can proudly say that in every such conflict we stood for the defense of the victims of imperialism, and for the defeat of the U.S. imperialists, or whichever imperialists were attacking, and we said so openly.
The same can’t be said for the Spartacist League. I could give many examples: Angola in 1975. When Britain went to war with Argentina over the Malvinas Islands in 1982 and the Spartacist League refused to call for the defeat of British imperialism. Lebanon in 1983. There are many examples. But I want to concentrate on what is another example, the worst example of the Spartacists’ capitulations to imperialism.
Essential to the fight against all forms of nationalism and for internationalism is the fight for the right to self-determination of the oppressed nations. Which means the right to secede from the state that rules over it and create their own independent state. For Lenin and Trotsky, this democratic right was subordinate to and served the goal of international socialist revolution. For them it was not a question of equal rights, the way liberals view the world, but rather a fight of the oppressed against imperialism.
The Spartacist League interprets self-determination the same way liberals do: it’s a right that both oppressor and oppressed can’t have at the same time, then the oppressed must give up their rights. Thus the Spartacists oppose self-determination of Catholics in Northern Ireland and their demand for a united Ireland, out of concern for the British-backed racist Protestants. But the most outrageous example is the fact that the Spartacist League, in effect, denies the right of self-determination to the oppressed Palestinian people.
The Palestinian national leadership has capitulated to imperialism and Zionism, recognized Israel’s right to exist on land stolen from the Palestinians, and demanded the Palestinians accept life in a tiny Bantustan. Revolutionaries maintain the Palestinian liberation slogan, that all Israel is occupied territory, and fight for Arab workers’ revolution to overthrow the Israeli state and establish a Palestinian workers’ state. In that state, Israeli Jews will be free to live, and free to live free of discrimination of any sort, and even given cultural rights. But they will have to accept the rule of the majority: The Palestinians. And relinquish any control of the land that they stole.
The Spartacists, on the other hand, defend Israel’s right to exist. But this means either that the Israelis have a right to keep land stolen from the Palestinians, or if the Palestinians are allowed to return to their stolen lands, and thus outnumber the Israelis everywhere, Israelis will be allowed minority, apartheid rule over the Palestinian majority. It’s that simple. In Proletarian Revolution No. 64, we issued a challenge to the Spartacist League. “It’s time for the Spartacist League to put up or shut up. Are you for Israeli minority apartheid rule, or Israeli ethnic cleansing? It must be one or the other.” The Spartacists have still not answered us, and nobody should let the Spartacists leave the stage and the debate today without answering the question: one or the other.
Today the Spartacists chant, “Defend the Palestinians, take a side, stop Israeli genocide!” But when Israel was at its most genocidal, in its war of 1948 that led to Israel’s creation on the basis of ethnic cleaning of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their land, and in the war of 1967, in which Israel seized the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights, and one million Palestinians came under Israeli rule, the Spartacists refused to take a side.
The Spartacists argue that their position is in line with Lenin and Trotsky’s teachings on the question, and can indeed find dozens of quotes explaining that all nations must have the right to self-determination. Now, what do the Spartacists think that Lenin feared? Did he fear the Ukraine might rule Russia or that Puerto Rico might rule the U.S. one day? Let’s get real.
Lenin only wrote that way because he did not live in the age of apartheid in South Africa, or in Israel. Trotsky did not live to see Israel, but he did live to see the development of South Africa. He was asked what the solution was. He didn’t say a word about the rights of the white oppressors. The quote from Trotsky is actually reproduced in the current issue of Workers Vanguard in a letter that was written to them, so I don’t need to read out the quote, I can just summarize it. He was for a black republic. He said that because the overwhelming number of workers in South Africa are black, it’s only natural because they’re the majority that it’ll be a black republic. And that doesn’t mean that they’re for driving the whites out. They’ll offer a comradely hand to the white workers in building that state. And that we shouldn’t be troubled that it will be a black state, we should be proud and celebrate the fact that we are for the liberation of all of the oppressed. Precisely what we say about Palestine today.
Trotsky also addressed the question of Lenin’s attitude towards the right of oppressor nations. In a discussion of Lenin’s attitude toward Ukrainian self-determination, he said, “The right to self-determination, i.e., to separation, Lenin extended to Poles and Ukrainians alike. He did not recognize aristocratic nations. So any tendency to be silent about or to put off the problem of an oppressed nationalist, Lenin related as he did to expressions of Great-Russian chauvinism.” [“On the Independence of Ukraine and Sectarian Muddleheads,” Writings 1938-39, pp.301 2.]
Let those words ring in the ears of every Spartacist today. Lenin did not recognize the rights of aristocratic nations, and any tendency to put off the rights of the oppressed, he condemned as great-power chauvinism.
Finally, no discussion of the fight against the imperialist rights and the differences between the LRP and the Spartacists would be complete without reference to the imperialist right – supposed right – to racist restrictions on immigration. Revolutionaries fight for an end to all restrictions on immigration, and not to give an inch to the chauvinist hysteria about immigrants from the “third world” flooding the imperialist nations. The Spartacists on the other hand defend the rights of immigrants for full citizenship rights if they manage to get here. But as for the fight to end all of the restrictions that prevent them from getting here in the first place, they’re not opposed to them. They say they don’t want to create any illusions about reforming the state, but their real concern is to adapt to imperialist chauvinism.
Workers Vanguard has explained repeatedly, “On a sufficiently large scale, immigration flow could wipe out the national identity of the recipient countries. ... Unlimited immigration as a principle is incompatible with the right of national self-determination.” [Workers Vanguard, January 18, 1974.]
Do we really need to remind the Spartacists of the words of the Communist Manifesto? That the working men have no country? What’s most outrageous is actually that it’s being done in Lenin’s name. Lenin wrote a letter to American socialists, and this is what he had to say. “Socialists in America . .. who are not against any restrictions of immigration ... are in reality jingoes.” [“Letter To The Secretary Of The Socialist Propaganda League,” Collected Works, Vol. 21, pp. 423 428, 1915.]
Jingoes. Great-power chauvinists. Tragically, that’s what the Spartacist League is, and no wonder they can’t fight imperialism.
The Struggle Against Racism
The same need to superexploit and divide the working class that drives the imperialist oppression abroad drives its racist oppression at home. By dividing the working class and pitting white workers against Black and getting white workers’ privileges based on that oppression, the capitalists are able to keep down the whole working class. Racism is essential to capitalism’s survival, and can only be smashed with the overthrow of capitalism.
But how can revolutionaries unite the working class across the racial divide? The LRP says that while Black people are not a nation in this country, capitalism has forced them to live as an oppressed race caste. The same Leninist method, though, of the fight for internationalism, applies. We are working-class interracialists. We fight to unite the working class by defending the right of Black people to choose a united struggle with whites. Because they have been betrayed, not just by white capitalist America, but have been betrayed by white-dominated unions in particular, many Black people don’t trust the idea of a united struggle, or think that it’s a nice idea but won’t happen. We fight for a united struggle, of Black and white workers, wherever possible. But for as long as Black people, as long as Latinos, immigrants in any particular situation, choose to build their own organizations and lead their own independent struggles, we defend their right to make the choice. And aim to show how this struggle can offer leadership to white workers, win them to supporting the struggle. Show workers of color that their enemy is the capitalist and their ally is the white workers, and forge a united interracial working-class struggle in this way.
This approach is desperately needed today. Black people everywhere face attacks from police, and many face KKK style attacks as well. Yet the white working class remains largely indifferent. Most white workers oppose such attacks but they don’t do anything about it. Nobody, for example, could witness the mass protests against the torture of Abner Louima and then the shooting of Amadou Diallo and not notice how few whites participated.
A united working-class struggle and united armed defense of Black people against police brutality and KKK style assaults is the strongest and most preferable answer, clearly. But it’s not going to happen any time soon, and it would be criminal to tell Black people to pin their hopes on an interracial defense that won’t come in time to save them. So we often advocate the formation of Black self-defense groups. At the same time we fight the unions and other mass organizations and challenge their current misleaders to mobilize a broader defense effort in our ongoing effort to raise the consciousness off all workers in the struggle.
The betrayal of the Black liberation struggle by white dominated organizations has meant in the past, and will likely mean in the future, that when some atrocity makes starkly clear the intolerable level of racist oppression in this country, the masses of Black workers and poor will not turn to the unions, and without alternative organizations will explode in disorganized, riotous rebellions. This is what happened in the ‘60’s and since. Then it will prove decisive for revolutionaries not to abstain from those struggles or dismiss them, but rather participate in them with a strategy for them to become as organized as possible. Target the ruling class as much as possible and raise uncompromising demands, not just against racism but in the interests of the whole working class, and thus lead towards united struggle.
Now, the Spartacists advocate what they call revolutionary integrationism. When in general, integrationism is advocated in America, the key question is, who is supposed to integrate, and what are they supposed to integrate into? The answer is always that Black people have to dispense with their own identity, culture, and organizations, and assimilate into the dominant, white, nationalist society. Thus integration is just another form of American nationalism. Black people have tried every possible way to be accepted by America, and white capitalist America has rejected them every time. Thus as Black people have grown in militancy and consciousness through the course of the struggle, they rejected integrationism every time.
When it comes to Spartacists, I think their defense of the national identity of imperialist countries should leave no doubt as to who they think should do the integrating, and what they should integrate into. It can only mean that Black people should subordinate themselves to white America and assimilate into it.
One of the people the Spartacists cite as an inspiration for their integrationist position in America is the American Trotskyist Arne Swabeck. Swabeck met with Trotsky and presented his position. Trotsky was ignorant of a great deal about the nature of Black people’s oppression in this country, but he responded on the basis of his general method, and this is what he had to say: “I have never studied this question. In my remarks I proceed from the general considerations. I base myself upon the arguments brought forward by the American comrades. I find them insufficient and consider them a certain concession to the point of view of American chauvinism, which seems to me very dangerous.” [Leon Trotsky on Black Nationalism and Self Determination; see “Leon Trotsky, The Negro Question in America.”]
History has proven how right Trotsky was. The Spartacists were predictably disoriented by the Black masses’ rejection of integrationism in the course of the 1960’s struggles, and were contemptuous of the great ghetto rebellions which were its expression. In 1972 Workers Vanguard condemned those who didn’t recognize “the ghetto outbursts for what in fact they were: the final spasms of frustration and fury in the wake of a movement which had raised great hopes and activated enormous energy only to accomplish nothing. The ghetto uprisings did not give the Black masses a sense of their own power. They did just the opposite. During the rioting it was Black-owned homes that were burned down and the cops who went on a killing rampage.” [Workers Vanguard, January 1972, reprinted in Marxist Bulletin No. 5, Revised Edition, p. 34]
Crap. The ghetto rebellions were an awesome display of the power of the Black masses. They encouraged Black workers to even greater struggles. Yes, they were anarchic. Yes, there were destructive acts. But there were many political acts, as well. Black people fought the police and the National Guard. They attacked police stations, government buildings, big businesses, symbols of capitalism. It’s true that the passive, integrationist-led civil rights movement won little. It is a lie to say that the ghetto rebellions, which forced the government to rush through civil rights legislation and forced the capitalists to open up jobs and opportunities for education that never existed before for Blacks — the ghetto rebellions achieved gains. Importantly, for example, in Detroit, the rebellion forced auto and other bosses to offer jobs to large numbers of Black people for the first time. Those Black workers, already radicalized by the rebellions, went on to form the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement, and the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, and lead wildcat strikes which white workers followed. Some final spasm that accomplished nothing and left Black people feeling more powerless than ever!
The Spartacist League’s integrationism leaves them to dismiss the high points of Black workers’ struggles in the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s. This is a window to how the Spartacists will respond to similar upheavals in the future. We’re never going to stop imperialist war and overthrow capitalism if we don’t forge interracial working-class unity, and Spartacist integrationism is a barrier to that.
The Class Struggle Today
Now let’s finally turn to the immediate class struggle. For revolutionaries who want to see workers’ immediate struggles grow and turn into a revolutionary challenge, there’s a problem. The workers are led by pro-capitalist reformist leaders. Pressure from the masses may force these leaders to organize struggles, but they hold back and betray the workers in the interests of the system.
Lenin and Trotsky dismissed the idea that revolutionaries should stand on the sidelines and lecture the workers. They said that was abstentionist sectarianism. They argued that revolutionaries should participate in those struggles, warning the workers that their leaders would betray them, and prove it based on the workers’ own experience of the struggle.
Let’s compare our approaches. Nothing would have dealt a blow to Washington’s war drive against Iraq than a strike shutting down the capital of world imperialism. That’s what almost happened last December, when transit workers voted unanimously to strike. With only one comrade in the union, the LRP had a huge impact. We produce a regular bulletin for transit workers which advocates militant struggle against the bosses, unfailingly attacks the pro-capitalist leaders of the union, and promotes revolutionary internationalist politics. We were instrumental in building the strike movement among transit workers, first in ‘99, where thousands of workers voted unanimously for our motion to strike, only to be betrayed by the union’s leaders. In this last campaign we were again decisive in building the strike movement, which culminated in mass meetings in December. There we circulated over 10,000 copies of leaflets – warning workers that their new leader, Roger Toussaint, would betray them – and just as many copies of a motion to strike.
Toussaint managed to sell out the struggle. But what was the Spartacists, who have actually have more supporters in the union, what was their alternative approach? What did they do in those decisive mass meetings? The answer is, they did nothing. No leaflet, no motion. Nada. Some Spartacists sold their newspaper outside, and when asked whether they were in favor of the workers voting for a strike, they tried to change the subject. They wouldn’t even say whether they were for a strike or not. Inside, the Spartacists did nothing, and said nothing.
In fact, this is Spartacist policy. Pick up a copy of Workers Vanguard, pick up every copy for the last ten years, and try to find how many references you can find of Spartacists fighting for just a strike in a union. They just stand on the sidelines and lecture. They do nothing in the real class struggle these days.
Challenges to the Spartacists
This is what Spartacism has come to. The fact is that Spartacists pinned their hopes on Stalinism, and the collapse of Stalinism has left them defeated and demoralized. They sent as many supporters as they could to Russia and East Germany in 1989 to rally the workers in defense of the Stalinist states, even in defense of the Berlin Wall, and invested huge amounts of money to fund the effort, only to find that the working class rejected their ideas. They came back with nothing. Since then they’ve retreated from participating in the class struggle. After all, if the working class is so stupid, to not know its in power, and actually helps overthrow itself, what hope is there for them? Today they live in their newspaper offices, try to sell their paper at protests, attack left opponents and do nothing in the real class struggle.
Stalinism has collapsed, and the Spartacist League is in the process of collapsing, too. Some of the wreckage, in the form of the splits, like the Bolshevik Tendency and the Internationalist Group, are here today. The Spartacists sat on the Berlin Wall and the Spartacists had a very great fall. And all the king’s horses and all the king’s men — well, you know how it ends. The Spartacists, including the splits which they represent, which say they represent the best traditions of Spartacism, they’re all doomed.
Let me finish with a few questions.
One: Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Trotsky all said that only the working class could overthrow capitalism and build workers’ states. Trotsky said Stalinism was counter-revolutionary and that anyone who said he thought it could play a revolutionary role was dishonest and disloyal. So how in their name could you say that Stalinism created workers’ states?
Two: we have proven that as far as Trotsky was concerned, neither he nor Lenin defended the rights of aristocratic, imperialist nations and condemned any putting off of the rights of the oppressed as great power chauvinism. So explain to us how you can defend imperialist Israel’s existence on Palestinian land in the name of Lenin and Trotsky. And for the sake of clarity again, since Israel can only exist by either keeping Palestinians’ land, or by allowing Palestinians to return to their land but denying them the right to vote, what are you for? Colonialist land theft or apartheid?
Three: Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Trotsky said that the workers have no country. So how in their name can you defend the national identity of imperialist countries?
Four: Lenin said that any American socialist who supports any restrictions on immigration is a jingo chauvinist. So how can you be prepared to support such restrictions in his name?
Five: Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Trotsky all believed that revolutionaries are militant fighters in the class struggle. So how in their name can you refuse to be active in the unions where you have supporters?
Please, don’t try to leave this debate without answering these questions, and don’t try to write about this debate in your newspaper without recording these questions and the answers to them. The microphone is yours.