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The Internationalist
January 2024

From the ICL-LFI Debate

In Defense of the Trotskyist Program

Partial view of audience and speakers at the debate between the International Communist League and the League for the Fourth International held in New York City on 13 January 2024.  (Internationalist photo)

On January 13, a debate titled “The Fight for the Fourth International Today” was held in New York City between the League for the Fourth International and the International Communist League. (The LFI’s U.S. section is the Internationalist Group; the ICL’s is the Spartacist League.) The event was attended by well over 200 people, of whom some 75 were supporters of the IG/LFI. The background to the debate was the ICL’s publication, in Spartacist No. 68 (September 2023), of “A Program for the Fourth International” based on a sweeping renunciation of the historic program and revolutionary continuity of the Spartacist tendency, which the “new” SL/ICL now dismisses as “Deformed at Birth.”

While explicitly admitting the unprincipled nature of the 1996 purge of longtime ICL cadres that led to the formation of the LFI, Spartacist 68 further deepened and widened the programmatic differences between the two organizations. The burning importance today of the programmatic issues involved was highlighted in correspondence with the ICL reproduced in our previous issue,1 and by our speakers at the January 13 debate.

Flier for ICL-LFI debate.

As for the born-again ICL, it seeks to “theorize” an increasingly explicit break from Trotskyism by rewriting the history of the Russian Revolution in order to gut its programmatic lessons, as we addressed during a section of the January 13 debate titled “Permanent Revolution.” In fighting in defense of the revolutionary program of Trotskyism that was upheld by the Spartacist tendency for three decades beginning with its inception in the early 1960s,2 the LFI fights for new October revolutions to open a socialist future for the workers and oppressed throughout the world.

Chaired by radical labor historian Bryan Palmer, widely acclaimed for his ongoing series of books on the life of U.S. Trotskyism’s founder James P. Cannon, the debate began (after a coin toss) with a presentation by ICL international secretary Perrault, followed by Abram Negrete for the LFI.

This was followed by brief rebuttals by the two presenters; a discussion period alternating supporters of the ICL, of the LFI, and of other organizations; and then summary remarks. A similar format was then followed in the “Permanent Revolution” section, in which Ana Milei, a member of the International Executive Committee of the ICL, spoke first, followed by Jan Norden for the LFI.

Below we print the remarks by comrades Negrete and Norden, slightly condensed for publication, with subheads and notes added by The Internationalist. A full video of the debate will be available at internationalist.org, and a pamphlet including these and other materials will be published soon.

Presentation by Abram Negrete

I wanted to thank Bryan for chairing today’s debate and also all of the people from both organizations who worked really hard on the technical and other arrangements.

I also wanted to thank comrade Perrault for helping to make my job up here somewhat easier – actually, a lot easier.

So the title of today’s debate, as you’re aware, is “The Fight for the Fourth International Today,” in other words, the World Party of Socialist Revolution, which was founded by Leon Trotsky and his co-thinkers in 1938 and was destroyed in 1951-53 by the revisionist current within the Fourth International that came to be known as “Pabloism,” after the then-International Secretary of the Fourth International, Michel Pablo.

The central thesis of the founding program of the Fourth International, The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International, known as the Transitional Program, is that the crisis of humanity is reduced to the crisis of revolutionary leadership. Interestingly, that thesis, and defending it or attacking it – or dismissing it, saying it was obsolete – was one of the early political disputes between us and the old ICL. Well, let’s call it the “middle-old” ICL or something like that, before the current “born-again” ICL. After our expulsion in 1996, early on, we had to defend, against a revisionist attack by the ICL, that concept at the heart of the Transitional Program. You can read about it in The Internationalist No. 5, in an article called “In Defense of the Transitional Program.”3

I think that if we look at the world today, we can certainly see that this thesis is as urgent as ever, and I would argue even more urgent. We have the war on Gaza, a genocidal war against the Palestinian people. And this is a U.S. war, a U.S./Israel genocidal war on Gaza, and it is proceeding every day. The fact that it is a U.S. war is of enormous importance and it’s something that the LFI emphasizes. The ICL? I’m not sure if they’ve ever even said that.

But in any case: our line is to defend Gaza and to defeat the U.S./Israel genocidal war and to bring out the power of the international working class. From here to Portland to Italy to Sydney and Melbourne and elsewhere, LFI comrades are part of the fight to defend the Palestinian people, to defeat the witch hunts against defenders of the Palestinian people and to stop the flow of arms to this genocidal war. We have been part of those mobilizations and out in the hallway, you can see a poster about the motions that our comrades in Portland, Oregon have initiated and that were passed for the stopping of arms shipments by construction workers unions on the basis of comrades’ struggle in the Painters union and elsewhere; for a break with the Democratic Party and the forging of a class-struggle workers party, a motion that was passed in the Painters union some years ago and has been the basis for much of their work.4

On the Ukraine war, as explained in The Internationalist, this went from the original nationalist war between two non-imperialist, capitalist states to a full-on U.S./NATO proxy war against Russia, which is a way station – as the imperialist military and political chiefs say –towards war against China. That war is aimed in large part against China, something that we also rarely, if ever, hear from the ICL. And this is part of a drive by U.S. imperialism, heading towards World War III. Only socialist revolution can stop that world war.5

Now, our position with regard to the Ukraine war: revolutionaries stand for the defeat of the imperialists and for the military defense of those targeted by them, Russia and the Chinese deformed workers state. You will have noticed that comrade Perrault said that the war in Ukraine is a proxy war between NATO and Russia. The ICL states correctly that Russia is not an imperialist country. It states correctly, obviously, that NATO is a military alliance of imperialist countries headed by the U.S. Not only that, it’s headed by a liberal party, the Democratic Party.

Despite this, the ICL refuses to defend the targets of that imperialist war. It takes a neutralist position, saying it’s a war between two “gangs of thugs.” A lot of liberals say that, in fact I think I hear that from liberals pretty much every day: just a gang of thugs on one side and just a gang of thugs on the other side. So apparently the defeat of Russia by the imperialists would be a matter of indifference.

Now we hear about this “unipolar world.” Well, in fact, after the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union there was considerable disunity amongst the imperialists. Perhaps not as much as foreseen in the prognosis of a memorandum from 1994 or a document from 1992,6 but there was something called the Yugoslavia War, you may have heard of it. There was the Iraq War – where there was not unity amongst the imperialists – and a whole bunch of other stuff.

But where you do get something approximating that picture is right now with the U.S./NATO imperialist war against Russia, in which the ICL refuses to defend the targets of the imperialist onslaught – and uses liberal verbiage to promote that position. All right, let’s move on, there’s a lot to say and not much time. We give no political support, obviously, to the bourgeois government of Putin, but we call for bringing out the power of the working class to stop the arms shipments to the imperialists’ proxies, the Ukraine government.

Now, on the basis of what program, based on historical experience, can the Fourth International be reforged? Comrade Perrault said, and I think correctly, that the question of which program is of great importance. So let me just say, and I said this at an SL forum: when I was recruited to the SL youth group in 1972-73, at that time the Socialist Workers Party claimed to be Trotskyist, and they called us – guess what? Three guesses, starts with an “s.” “Sectarians.” But they tooth and nail denied that they were abandoning Trotskyism. They had some very intelligent people, with writers – [SWP theorist] Joseph Hansen was very competent, and a bunch of others – who would contest it every time that we said, “You’re abandoning the Trotskyist program.”

Until in the early ’80s, after a study of the “revolutionary democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry” and after polemics on this by Doug Jenness and polemics on this by other leaders of the SWP, they came out in 1982 with a speech by Jack Barnes called “Their Trotsky and Ours,” where they said: You know what? We’re not Trotskyists. Trotskyism is ultra-left sectarianism. And that permanent revolution thing? No good. And guess what? We’ve discovered the importance of supporting the Freedom Charter in South Africa and the ANC.7 That was an important thing.

Now, with the Spartacist League and the ICL: we were expelled in 1996 on frame-up charges, right? [Turning to Perrault:] They were frame-up charges, right? Comrade Perrault says “Right, they were.” Thank you. Listen to that. In other words, what’s been said about us for 28 years was a lie. You understand that? But let’s move on from that. We said – year after year – and we documented the abandonment of one key position after another by the ICL. But they denied that they were abandoning the historic program of Spartacism.

Born-Again ICL vs. Historic Spartacist Program

Spartacist No. 68 (September 2023), in which the born-again SL/ICL renounces the historic Spartacist revolutionary Trotskyist program wholesale.

But now we have a new revelation. Does everybody have their Spartacist 68? [Holds it up.] I very much agree with comrade Perrault that it should be studied carefully – actually, very carefully. And here, what it says is: You know what? The Spartacist tendency was deformed from birth; we were wrong on just about everything, they say. As for your paper, the paper of one section or another [of the ICL], we renounce that paper back to the beginning, they say. They have junked and they’re in the process of junking, in a kaleidoscopic, dizzying way, one part of that program after another.

It’s far from over. I said at one of one of the ICL’s forums, in May: the members of the Spartacist League and the ICL do not know what their politics will be next week or next month or next year, because they’re changing so rapidly.

But in any event, that debate is over. The historic program of Spartacism is ours. They have renounced it, they say that it was a betrayal, they say it was a betrayal on one thing after another, they throw it into the garbage. But we maintain that the historic program of Spartacism is crucial and vital to reforging the Fourth International.

So that’s what the debate is about. Is the historic program of Spartacism – which was not the invention of some person in a fever dream, it was the distillation of decades of bloody struggles of the oppressed and the lessons of the past history of the Fourth International and the communist movement. Is the historic program of Spartacism fundamental to reforging the Fourth International? We say yes – and they say no. They say no.

Well, at least that’s out of the way.

So, what was the foundation of the Spartacist tendency? It came out of the Socialist Workers Party and something called the Revolutionary Tendency (RT), as most of the people here know. It was a group of young revolutionaries; some had been Shachtmanites,8 but the experience of the Hungarian Revolution [of 1956] taught them a thing or two. For example, on the “Russian Question.” And they came over to the Socialist Workers Party. So when the challenge of the Cuban Revolution arose, they were pretty well armed to have a revolutionary Marxist position, of militant defense of Cuba, but understanding that it was in the process of consolidating as a deformed workers state. And that a political revolution by the proletariat was necessary to open the road to socialism, to establish workers democracy based on workers soviets and a policy of revolutionary internationalism to expand the revolution. They rejected the suicidal strategy of guerrilla warfare.

And the Russian Question became key for the Spartacist tendency throughout its history. The Russian Question in the Soviet Union, the Russian Question in Vietnam, the Russian Question in Cuba, the Russian Question in Poland – which the ICL is now renouncing, what the Spartacist tendency had to say about Poland at the crucial moment of 1981 [when the U.S.-backed clerical-nationalist Solidarność movement was making a bid for power]. Openly.

Two: the black question in the United States, key to proletarian revolution – the specific nature of U.S. society, a society in which black oppression lies at the root of the origins of this society and at the heart of almost every political question in this society, every social question. The program of revolutionary integrationism, in opposition to false roads like black nationalism or following the liberal leadership, of the liberal pro-Democratic Party leaders of the official civil rights movement. The RT fought inside the Socialist Workers Party, to get the activists from the SWP down there [i.e., into the South] into the movement, to get them on the buses, get them into the streets with the program that we now synthesize as “black liberation through socialist revolution.”

This was enormously important for arming the Spartacist tendency in the future, not only on the black question and in the extremely important and historic mobilizations to stop the Ku Klux Klan, for example, in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere. But also on other questions of special oppression, like the woman question, the fight for women’s liberation through socialist revolution. And this led to one of the most important Marxist journals, in my opinion, of the postwar period, Women and Revolution.9 What’s your position on that journal? I’d like to hear. Do you renounce that as well? Somebody answer that question today, please. Because we consider W&R, until pretty close to the end of it, ours in the sense of part of our political legacy. What’s your line on that? It also was key to other questions of understanding the Leninist party as the “tribune of the people,” the tribune of the oppressed. This was key, for example, to the historic fusion with the former Lavender and Red Union, which changed its name to Red Flag Union, a gay revolutionary Marxist group.10

And then the struggle against Pabloism was the third, if you like, “whale” of the RT;11 the struggle against Pabloism, the struggle against the liquidation of the independent revolutionary Marxist party as the essential instrument for leading the proletariat and the oppressed to victory, and [against] the tailism of the existing leaderships by the liquidationist leaders of the [post-WWII] Fourth International.

Can people get their reading for today out, please? Spartacist 68 and “The LFI Chooses Sectarianism” (Spartacist supplement, 3 November 2023). [Shows cover of Spartacist No. 68.] So we read here, “A Program for the Fourth International,” and I’m like, wow! I kind of thought there was one already, the Transitional Program, but this ought to be interesting. I’d like to see what it has to say about the black question in the United States, for example, the citadel of world imperialism; about the struggle in the United States for black liberation, which was one of the pillars of the RT. Guess how much it has to say about that? Nothing. Please explain why. Why does the “Program for the Fourth International,” according to you, not mention the struggle for black liberation in the United States one time? Not once. Please explain.

Second question: the struggle against Pabloism. If you have to reforge the Fourth International, why is that? It took us a while to settle on that word, didn’t it, comrades who remember, and who want to remember. We had “rebirth of the Fourth International,” “reconstruct the Fourth International,” that didn’t work – I don’t have time to explain why – we came up with the somewhat exotic term “reforge.” But in any case, why? Not a word about it.

What about the Cuban Revolution and its lessons? Cuba is mentioned in a few lists of countries. The Cuban Revolution is mentioned in a photo caption, on page 42. Please open to page 42. You can do it too, you know, it’s yours. We’ve studied it. This is the only place that the Cuban Revolution is mentioned, in a photo caption, to make fun of the Spartacist tendency, [the photo and caption are placed next to the subhead] “Deformed at Birth.” Get it? You know, like a deformed workers state – isn’t that funny? That is the only time the Cuban Revolution is mentioned.

The Cuban Revolution is under threat right now. What’s your line? What is your line on the riots in Cuba in July 2021, in which counterrevolutionary instigators took advantage of economic crisis.13 Do you consider the question of defense of the Cuban Revolution in the here and now – not in “doctrinal abstractions” of orthodox “sectarians,” but now – do you consider it worthy of inclusion in what you call the “Program for the Fourth International”? If so, why is it not here? If not, please explain.

Bringing the Revolutionary Program into the Class Struggle

So I was having some trouble, quite a bit of trouble, actually, preparing for this debate for one reason, in one aspect. It was fun in a lot of ways. But how would one explain this to young people who want to figure out what is this all about?

When I was being recruited away from Guevarism, from Stalinism, in high school, me and my best friend, we used to get all the leftist papers and try to figure out what they were talking about – like, what the hell is this, I don’t understand this stuff. We had to read [Lenin’s] Two Tactics at an SL study group. The person who gave it might be here. There was a group in Two Tactics called Osvobozhdeniye – “what the hell is that?” What is the “revolutionary dictatorship,” etc. We read a little red [Spartacist] pamphlet called “Three Concepts of the Russian Revolution” by Leon Trotsky, which contrasts the “revolutionary democratic dictatorship [of the proletariat and peasantry]” formula of Lenin to the permanent revolution and to the Mensheviks. That was our main reading for one of the study groups of the SL/RCY study groups. [The Revolutionary Communist Youth was the Spartacist League’s youth section at that time.] But why, we wondered, were people arguing about such things? What did it mean in politics today? A lot of people probably wonder about that today.

So I was trying to think of some kind of analogy and I wasn’t doing so well. First I thought: this Spartacist 68, the new revelation and the new evangel, I guess, has a bunch of things to say, but they’re mainly about the ICL and how it screwed up in a whole lot of ways. And I was wondering, how would one explain this?

And a funny thing happened on the way to the forum – I mean, the debate. A guy came up to me, kind of a little guy, and he said, “Are you going to the debate?” I said, “I am.” And he said, “I don’t understand what is happening between your group and their group. Could you please explain?” And I thought I should try to boil it down somehow, so I came up with an analogy of a company that builds bridges and when asked, “Well, what’s your experience building bridges? Like, what’s your record, say for the past 30 years?” “Oh, all our bridges fell down, but now we’re very good at building bridges – we hope.” And I thought, no, that’s not such a good one, maybe you should use one with doctors, no, that’s not so good. So I thought: why not make it real?

Comrade Perrault is right and Bryan is right, they both said it or implied it: that this is going to be – it is already, but it will increasingly be – a turbulent period. There’s going to be a lot of struggles. So I thought: why not imagine that this audience consists of workers involved in a really hot struggle, who are getting fed up with their reformist leaders and looking for something like revolutionary leadership, and they are comparing the two organizations. And they say: Listen, we want some kind of radical leadership, but we want to know who is who and what is your experience, in the sense of not how old you are and how many years you’ve lived, but what is your record?

We would say: The LFI has fought seriously, consistently and systematically; we have written and we have fought in the class struggle to bring the revolutionary program of Trotskyism into the living class struggle.

Bringing the revolutionary program of Trotskyism into the living class struggle. Labor militants in Class Struggle Workers – Portland (CSWP), politically supported by the Internationalist Group, brought hundreds of trade-unionists and their supporters into the streets on 4 June 2017 (above) against a fascist mobilization protected by local, state and federal police. They also fight in the unions to break with the Democratic Parfty and for a class-struggle workers party. Since October 2023, they have won five Portland-area unions to pass motions against the U.S./Israeli genocidal war on Gaza and calling on unions to stop arms shipments to Israel. Click on photo to enlarge. (Internationalist photos)

They might say to us: Someone told us you lead some workers out in Portland. Is anybody from Portland here? Could you stand up? [A comrade from Portland stands up.] Thank you. You can talk to her and ask – we would say to these workers – she can tell you about the struggle to stop the fascists, Portland Labor Against the Fascists, and the role of class-struggle militants. [These workers might ask:] How was that connected to fighting against the union bureaucracy tying the Painters union and other unions to the bosses’ Democratic Party? What about the motions that were just passed in the Ironworkers and the Painters, not just saying that they stand for stopping the arms shipments, but calling on the labor movement to stop the arms shipments – how did that happen? What about the struggle to free Mumia Abu-Jamal, are there some lessons out there? Weren’t you guys (in the Painter’s union it’s mainly guys) in a pre-strike situation recently – what did you do about that? How is it connected to the struggle against the Democratic Party mayor? And what about when Portland was occupied by the feds, pretty much, and by “Teargas Ted” Wheeler, the Democratic Party mayor, during the mass upheaval against racist police terror after the racist murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and so many others?

There’s a poster display out there [in the hall], I invite you to see it.

The League for the Fourth International sparked the first workers strike action calling for freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal by education workers union (SEPE) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (upper left), on 23 April 1999, in coordination with ILWU shutdown of all U.S. West Coast ports the next day (upper right) as dock workers chanted, “An injury to one is an injury to all, Free Mumia Abu-Jamal.” The Internationalist Group/U.S. also played a key role in bringing about May Day 2008 West Coast port shutdown (lower right) to stop U.S. imperialist war on Afghanistan and Iraq. Click on image to enlarge. 

How about in Mexico, like in the Oaxaca struggles, the struggles over Ayotzinapa, and there’s a strike right now in Mexico City. How about that huge UNAM [National Autonomous University of Mexico] strike in 1999 to 2000? Bringing the Trotskyist program, the Transitional Program, into the class struggle – did you from the LFI have anything like that, in that huge strike at the largest university in Latin America, when the World Bank, a pillar of the liberal order indeed, ordered the Mexican government to impose tuition?

Is anybody here from Mexico? Can you stand up, please? [ICL member in audience laughs.] It’s real funny – because bringing the Transitional Program into that struggle meant sparking workers defense guards. Look it up in your Transitional Program, that’s the old program for the Fourth International, not this one. They [our comrades in Mexico] sparked, they caused to be organized workers defense guards, which defended the strike 24 hours a day when the army, in July of 1999, threatened to invade the largest university in Latin America. And as a result of that, UNAM is still free… You know, a very “sectarian” action.

Workers’ power in action. The Grupo Internacionalista called on the Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME) to form union guards when the army threatened to intervene to smash student strike to keep free education at the National University (UNAM) in July 1999. The union did, with around-the-clock defense guard (above) and threat to "throw the switch” and black out Mexico City if military came in. This held off suppression of the strike for months.  (Photo: Sindicato Mexicano de Electricistas)

Speaking of university strikes, how about the one here in New York, there was a big university strike about two years ago. Was anybody here in that strike? Stand up if you were. I’m serious, let’s see the “sectarians.” [More than a dozen supporters of the IG and Revolutionary Internationalist Youth stand up.] What did you fight for? Picket lines mean don’t cross. Is that part of the program? It’s very “abstract,” it’s an “abstract orthodox dogma.”13 Fighting for that against the DSA, your [the ICL’s] new friends, or hoped-for friends. “Revolutionaries in the DSA” – give me a break.14 It’s a faction of the imperialist government party, the war criminal party. Don’t tell me about revolutionaries in the party of genocide, the party of the Vietnam War and napalm and Hiroshima. If they had an ounce of revolutionary in them, they would not be in that organization. Opportunism – yes, we call it that.

But fighting against the DSA and the Democratic Party in that strike, which led to “Shut It Down” on December 8 [2021], where the picket line – the SL was there, the only thing they were doing, even when people were crashing through the picket line, literally, was trying to get people to take their nutty (that’s a polite word for it) lockdown leaflet. That was the only thing they did there. But as a result of [the “Shut It Down” picket line] that strike won. This is connected to the program.

What about the McCarthyite witch hunts right now against defenders of the Palestinian people? Anybody here been involved in the struggle against that? I’m going to ask you to stand up again. [Again, more than a dozen supporters of the IG and RIY stand up.] What about organizing immigrant workers, one of the most exploited and oppressed sectors of the proletariat in this city? What about Hot and Crusty, is the former vice president of the union here? Would you stand up? [Comrade stands up.] He was fired and he’s been fired many times for organizing unions, and he was part of the struggle at the Hot and Crusty [bakery/restaurant] to put into effect the slogan “Full Citizenship Rights for All Immigrants,” and to fight against the union bureaucracy which turns its back on them. Hot and Crusty, Bröd Kitchen, B&H, Cabricanecos, Liberato restaurant: in each of these, the youth organization and the IG have brought the comrades into it, to fight for the revolutionary program.15

The Internationalist Group and Trabajadores Internacionales Clasistas (TIC – Class Struggle International Workers) have fought to defend immigrants, mobilizing against anti-immigrant "war purge" (upper left) at the City University of New York (2001), in organizing union at Hot and Crusty bakery-restaurant (upper right) in 2012, over the 2014 kidnapping of 43 teacher college students in Ayotzinapa, Mexico (lower left), and forging immigrant worker communist cadres, like our comrade Fernando López (center top), who died in 1999. Lower right: TIC pamphlets on taxi workers and immigrants in the epicenter of the coronavirus epidemic (2020).  Click on image to enlarge. 

ICL: Again and Again, We Betrayed – Now Follow Us!

By the way, when our comrades were arrested in Mexico [in February 2000] in the UNAM strike, there was only one organization that had no one arrested. Three guesses. Yes, the ICL. Why? Three guesses. When the cops arrived on the campus to arrest 1,000 students, the ICL wasn’t there. What a surprise. Isn’t that a big surprise?

So these workers then want to know: What about the mass upsurge against the racist police murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor? Well, we collapsed, says the ICL. You mean you weren’t there at all? Did you publish something? No. Did you post something? No. Did you put out a leaflet? No. Why? Well, we’ll get to that in a second. One could go on. What about 9/11? We’ll talk about that later.

Then they say, well, what were you doing for the past 30 years? Well, it’s all in Spartacist: we were betraying. Wait a minute, you betrayed for 30 years? Yes, according to you. Seriously? What were you doing in your organization? Well, we were having a whole lot of turmoil and a lot of fights, lots and lots of fights, for 30 years, OK? What did those fights consist of? Oh, it doesn’t matter, it’s not very interesting. (I could go through them all, said comrade Perrault in a report which is published here, but they’re not very interesting.)16 They’re all basically meaningless. So what you’re talking about, you devoured yourselves for 30 years. Yes – now we’re back, OK? – they say. They were very busy.

After two years, they came out with Workers Vanguard. This is the first issue that came out, No. 1177 [17 March 2023].17 And in that issue, what did they do? They were very productive. They listed their betrayals: eight betrayals. Eight. On what? According to them, on the black question; according to them, on the trade-union question; according to them, on six other questions. And then they came out with another issue, which listed more betrayals. On what questions? On the woman question, for example, and other questions.

So if these workers then asked: You’re saying that you betrayed over and over and over again. How about on Haiti, when you supported the U.S. imperialist occupation? Why did that happen? Oh, we don’t really want to talk about that very much. We were wrong, the IG was right.18 But why did it happen? Hmm, maybe because of a memorandum that people voted for 25 years before that, the memorandum made us do it. And the reason why you betrayed on these other questions? Well, we were really like the IG, you know; both of us supported the same memorandum and the same tasks and perspectives document.

Now sometimes, tasks and perspectives documents and memorandums can have some good aspects of their prognoses and some not so accurate aspects. But the argument that this is the essential question and if you get your prognoses wrong, everything is garbage and your program is garbage, this is the argument that was used after World War II when Trotsky’s prognoses of the post-World War II period were largely not confirmed. In reality it was used by whom? It was used by the Goldman-Morrow faction in the Socialist Workers Party. And what was their program? “Democracy.” They said: “The Trotskyists must be the best fighters for democracy” – democracy – oh! – in general. In Spanish, the expression is that democracy “tiene nombre y apellido,” it has a first and last name: there’s bourgeois democracy, there’s proletarian democracy. But the Goldman-Morrow faction said democracy in general. The Cochran-Clarke [faction in 1952-53], during the Pablo fight, they also said that the prognoses of the SWP and Trotsky did not come true in some considerable part and therefore the program was off. Where was the program, the fundamental programmatic questions, determined by this?

The Truth About the ICL’s Brazil Betrayal

But back to the workers asking these questions: Your organization, they would say [to the ICL], gave rise to another organization. How did that happen? Well, we expelled them back in 1996. Why did you do that? You also organized some trials and stuff? Yeah, we did that; we’re investigating that. Well, what do you think about it? Well, it was unprincipled. The fight against them was unprincipled. Really? Why? Oh, because both they and us voted for the same memorandum. The memorandum made you do it? Why did it happen? I don’t know – maybe you could ask some of the people in this room who did it. Because they’re here.

What about the stuff in Brazil: is it true that what you did in Brazil was unprincipled? Yeah, it’s true. It’s true, isn’t it? [Turning to Perrault:] Is it true? Comrade Perrault is saying “yes,” and he’s written it. Well, why did it happen? Why did that happen? We’re not sure yet, but it was unprincipled. Why? Because both sides voted for the same document. Oh, did the comrades in Brazil vote for that document? No, they weren’t around at that time. They were busy organizing illegal strikes – well, they weren’t illegal anymore, but against the military and [in the early ’90s] they were in a centrist organization called Causa Operária.

What was going on when that struggle [in 1996] happened?19 Oh, that’s the past. We don’t want to talk about the past. We’re all about the “now.” What did you do when those comrades were attacked by the bourgeois state, which put out an order for the “search and seizure” of their documents, of their bulletin, of their union leaflet? What did you do? Did you defend them, or did you side with the other side? There is an answer to that.

One of the people involved in the ICL’s actions, that the ICL now says that we are correct to still be “outraged” about their actions in 1996 – Let me repeat that: that we are correct to still be outraged by their actions in Brazil.20 In other words, what they were saying for 28 years was a lie, what we were saying was true. “Oh, but that’s old history and besides, you’re a bunch of hidebound doctrinaires.” Oh really? Were there no consequences?

I’m going to do this now. Can you please bring me that poster? [Holds up poster with headline “Brazil: ICL Seeks to Sabotage Defense of Trotskyist Workers,” with photos and documents on the campaign to remove police from the Volta Redonda Municipal Workers Union and quotations from Workers Vanguard (2 January 1998) denouncing the Brazilian comrades’ defense campaign – see photo.]

Display board shows how, after a Brazilian court issued a “search and seizure” order for leaflets calling to remove police from municipal workers union in Volta Redonda, demanding names of union militants, SL criminally tried to stop international defense campaign, calling it a “cynical sham” and labeling black Trotskyist steel workers “dangerous hustlers.” Click on image to see enlarged display.  (Screenshot from video of ICL-LFI debate)

The bourgeois state, you’ve heard of it? It sent one of its agents to the offices of the comrades of the Liga Quarta-Internacionalista do Brasil, and they had a “search and seizure” order for every copy of their leaflet. This came from a suit which was demanding the names of all of the members of the trade-union committee, or caucus, and the order threatened, was associated with the threat to seize all of the belongings of the caucus and of the union president. And we organized an international defense campaign to try to get unions to support them. We’re talking about real people, we’re not talking about words on paper. Real people with names like Jorge Oliveira, the target of this suit, a black worker who worked 25 years as a railway man at the largest steel company in Latin America, which is not a doctrinal invention written on paper. It’s not about words on paper.

And what did the ICL say?

[This was an] “ação de busca e apreensão, an “action for search and seizure,” right? Unions around the world were signing up to defend them [the Brazilian comrades], in South Africa, in El Salvador and elsewhere, on the basis of our work. The ICL tried to stop people from defending them. Is that statement true? Yes, it is true. They called the defense campaign a “cynical sham.” And they called the comrades – taking words virtually verbatim from the pro-cop grouping in Volta Redonda headed by Artur Fernandes – they called them “dangerous hustlers.” You want to defend a “dangerous hustler” in a campaign which is a “cynical sham”?21 What’s your line on this? [Turning to Perrault.] What’s your line on this? Please respond.

Now these workers in this room [in the scenario of a group of workers posing questions], when confronted by the ICL, might very well say: Well, what do you have to say about that? And the ICL would probably say: That was a long time ago, we’re all about the “now.” You ready to follow us now? We betrayed, we betrayed this way, and this way, and this way, and this way, and this way, and this way – now follow us! Because since the first of September 2023, when this [Spartacist No. 68] was published, now it’s all OK. You ready to follow us? I don’t think so. Well, we’re investigating it. One certainly hopes so; one looks forward to seeing the results of those investigations.

They’re going to say, “But what about the program?” We’ve been talking about program. Program is real – when you fight for it.

Pushing the “Anti-Imperialist United Front”

But what about the revelations in here [Spartacist No. 68]? Why, according to them, was the Spartacist tendency “deformed” since birth? Jim Robertson, they say, did not understand the permanent revolution or the national question, and the “revisionist” and reactionary positions, etcetera, meant that the Spartacist tendency was deformed from birth. So, a kind suggestion: why don’t you change the name of your journal? Change it.

How is that? We’re going to hear about some of this in the second part of the debate. What is this all about? What does it come down to, as a pompous SLer used to like to say to me, “when the rubber hits the road”? It comes down to the “anti-imperialist united front.”

They have resuscitated something which even most Trotskyists are not particularly aware of, or would-be Trotskyists: the “anti-imperialist united front” from the Fourth Congress of the Comintern. And they’re determined to “defend” the Fourth Congress of the Comintern. We always used to say that we stand on the first four Congresses of the Communist International, with reservations on the fourth. The discussion on the workers government [slogan] was very confused, Zinoviev was all over the map.

And what about the “Theses on the Eastern Question” [from the Comintern’s Fourth Congress]? I used to hear about that a lot, from Guillermo Lora, head of the Bolivian POR. Why? Because he’s got a pamphlet (I can give it to you as a present) called “The Anti-Imperialist Front”: because he dug those theses up to justify his class-collaborationist Frente Revolucionario Antimperialista with the president – former president – of Bolivia.22

Because in the Trotskyist movement, the “Theses on the Orient” or “Eastern Question” (originally it was called by that term, “Theses on the Orient”) had not been mentioned at the First Congress [1938] of the Fourth International nor in its documents nor at the Second Congress [1946] nor in the documents of the SWP. But they were mentioned at the Third Congress, by a man called Michel Pablo. Why? In order to justify a political bloc with the nationalist party [in Bolivia].23

Well, we would never do something like that, might say the ICL, mightn’t they? Well, they might – but they don’t. To the contrary, they want an anti-imperialist front – and they say this, we asked it as a rhetorical question: Would the “anti-imperialist united front” include the president of Mexico? And they said: Why, yes, using a hypothetical – if in the future Mexico were attacked by the U.S., wouldn’t you be for a military bloc with AMLO [Mexico’s president Andrés Manuel López Obrador]?24

We would defend Mexico militarily against U.S. imperialism – of course we would. But what’s happening right now is that he [AMLO] is serving as the border guard for Yankee imperialism. And they rush to his political defense. And one of their main arguments, I found it quite comical. They said, well, he had half a million people at this rally. When I moved to Mexico in the spring of 1988, the president of Mexico, Miguel de la Madrid from the government party, the PRI [Institutional Revolutionary Party], had 1.3 million people at his May Day rally. He must have been an “anti-imperialist” – let’s make an “anti-imperialist united front” with him, now.

How about, is there anywhere in the world where the ICL calls for an anti-imperialist united front now? It would be nice if comrade Perrault would answer that, but I can give you at least part of an answer. They say that it was necessary to form an anti-imperialist united front with the government of Greece in 2015. They say that voting for the maneuver by SYRIZA, the bourgeois populist-nationalist government party of Greece, was necessary. We said no, this is a maneuver, we’re not going to participate in tricking the workers.25 They [SYRIZA] are going to capitulate immediately to the bankers and this is preparation for that. They [the ICL] said no, you've got to vote for it. Now retroactively they say, yeah and guess what: that was an anti-imperialist united front. And it was necessary to make “a common front” – with the government. With the government. So, more will be coming on that.

But what if they say, “Wait a minute,” some not yet up-to-speed SLer or ICLer might get up and say, “No, we’re talking about the original discussion at the Fourth Congress [of the Comintern, 1922]. We’re not talking about now.” Really? Trotsky said the real historical process invests terms with meaning, historically.

But let’s look back at it. This was the Fourth Congress, comrade Perrault. Safarov, leader of Comintern work among the peoples of the East, said in the discussion on the Theses on the Eastern Question (you can find it in John Riddell’s very valuable collection):26 he said, since “the colonial and national revolution is a bourgeois-democratic revolution,” a “bourgeois-democratic government in the backward countries provides support and great reassurance for our proletarian movement.” Now is that Stalin? Is that Stalinism? No, the whole struggle in real life in the Second Chinese Revolution of 1925-27, in which the Stalinists used the formula of the anti-imperialist united front, yielded a bloody result through which, indeed, despite your [the present-day ICL’s] denials, Leon Trotsky extended the theory of permanent revolution internationally.

This is why they [the ICL today] are doing all this stuff about the “revolutionary democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry.” All the theoretical revisionism and rewriting of the history of the Russian Revolution that they’re doing: it’s got a political purpose. Program does generate theory, you know. What you want guides what you do.

So how about the representative for Iran at the Fourth Congress discussion of those theses? He said – his name was Nikbin: “The Party,” in Iran, “is trying to create a general anti-imperialist alliance…. It has made an extensive proposal for a democratic” – that beloved word, democratic, the ICL is very much in love with that word democracy, democratic. And yes, we fight for democratic rights and in the countries of belated capitalist development, the bourgeois- democratic tasks can only be carried through by the dictatorship of the proletariat supported by and resting on the peasants. But he [Nikbin] says the party has a “proposal for a democratic bloc that is to include representatives of all the national and democratic groups…. [T]he bourgeois parties themselves are seeking a bloc with us,” said the representative for Iran.

"Anti-imperialist united front" of Chinese Communist Party with nationalist Guomindang (GMD) led to April 1927 Shanghai Massacre, which devastated CP and decapitated the militant workers movement. Above: Workers militias mobilized before entry of GMD troops into Shanghai, 27 March 1927. Below, right: communist beheaded in white terror ordered by GMD leader, Chiang Kai-shek, April 1927. (Photos: University of Bristol; public domain)

But what about China? The representative of the Chinese CP – this is at the Fourth Congress, and I’ll finish up with this. “Starting from the principle that an anti-imperialist front should be established to drive imperialism out of China,” said the representative of the Chinese Communist Party at the Fourth Comintern Congress discussion on the Theses that they [the ICL] uphold, “our party decided to achieve a united front with the national-revolutionary Guomindang party. This united front took the form that we joined this party.” And we know, don’t we, where that led.27

So let’s follow them! I don’t think so. Thank you.


After comrade Negrete’s presentation, ICL speaker Perrault had a rebuttal, which was followed by Negrete’s:

On liberalism, I would like to ask comrade Perrault to please define what the ICL means by the word. Please, because it’s used many, many times in their analysis. They use the term liberalism 51 times in Spartacist [No. 68]. They use liberal 87 times. A very large part of their program consists, apparently, of saying “liberal,” of saying the word “liberalism” many times, and telling people to break from it. Liberalism has a very strong power, almost mystical magical power to make people do stuff, according to them. It’s liberal idealism.

The picture that they present of the world in the post-Soviet period is remarkably similar to that of the “death of communism” triumphalists. Supposedly, apparently, after the destruction of the Soviet Union there was considerable peace, prosperity and the growth of productive forces. Hmm, OK.

Now there’s a bunch of stuff to say about this, but I would like to talk a bit about what they’re doing now – because they say “we’re tired of talking about the past and the self-referential stuff,” which is pretty interesting for an organization whose Program for the Fourth International, quote unquote, consists overwhelmingly of denouncing itself. Vote for us, we were deformed since birth! Jim Robertson, revisionist shmuck, according to them; it actually pisses me off.

But what about what they’re doing now? What about Palestine? Compare their leaflet to ours – compare “Only Death and Defeat with Hamas: A Revolutionary Road” – quote unquote – “for Palestine Liberation”: that’s the headline. It genuflects to the bourgeoisie and what it demands. Right at the beginning and repeatedly, just like after 9/11. And what ours has to say: “Defend the Palestinians Against U.S./Israel Genocidal War on Gaza! Drive the Zionists Out of the West Bank and Gaza! For International Workers Action Against the Attack on Gaza!” So please tell me how, here in the United States or in Europe or in most places, the key task is to dispel illusions in – Hamas?

The League for the Fourth International has fought since the very first days of the U.S./Israel genocidal war on Gaza in October 2023 for workers action against the slaughter and "hot cargo" arms to Israel. Clockwise from upper left: Mexico City, Portland, Berlin, New York City, Los Angeles. Click on image to enlarge.

Now what about Palestine, where, as the pompous SLer (who’s in the room here) used to say all the time, “the rubber hits the road.” They’ve got a very interesting statement from [the ICL’s] British paper, Workers Hammer. It says: “Trade unions must take concrete action to stop arms shipments to Israel” – yeah. That was on October 20, 2023. The next day, Workers Vanguard has a supplement on the strike of the auto workers. I remember – some of you do too, I’m sure – that in 1973, 2,000 Arab American auto workers walked out in a protest against Zionism. Dearborn, Michigan is a largely Arab American city – auto. What [does the WV supplement] say?

It says:

“Lots of workers are watching the horrors in Gaza and wondering what they can do. The main thing that workers can do to fight for Palestinian liberation is to win this strike!
[–“UAW: Let’s Win This for Real!” (21 October 2023), emphasis in original]

In 1973, Arab American auto workers staged a wildcat strike protesting UAW purchase of Israel bonds. Above: demonstration of nearly 2,000 outside Zionist dinner honoring union president Leonard Woodcock, 28 November 1973. Today UAW Arab Caucus calls on union leadership to stop manufacturing of weapons to send to Israel. In recent strike (October 2023), SL supplement says nothing about stopping arms, only calling to win the strike.  (Photo: University of Michigan Library Digital Collection)

Nothing about stopping arms shipments, nothing about fighting to stop arms shipments, nothing about convincing others to fight to stop arms shipments, nothing about calling for it – but win your strike, don’t be distracted by the genocide in Gaza, pursue your strike. Yes, they should win their strike, but to separate this in this way, and to tell the workers to do nothing, nothing, nothing – this is worse than economism.

The Internationalist Group and Revolutionary Internationalist Youth mobilized in the streets, combatting illusions in the Democratic Party during mass protests against racist police terror in the summer of 2020. The SL did nothing. Click on image to enlarge.

And lastly, what they’re doing now. A “revolutionary” program for black liberation, unlike BLM, which had liberal demands. True, and we exposed those demands systematically in our press, in our leaflets, in our speeches, in our signs, on the streets, in the meetings, in the unions. We did not collapse ignominiously, which is a capitulation to your own bourgeoisie. I don’t give a damn about how messed up you were in your organization, you couldn’t bring yourselves to put out one leaflet? Nobody should follow you. Your credit is zero.

But what do they call for in their campaign? “What’s necessary is a fight that will unite the broadest possible forces” – popular-front language. Take motions for opening the police archives, bring them “to your political officials who claim to represent you. We need to mobilize to bring pressure down on all the liberal and progressive politicians who claim to stand for workers and for black rights…. Opening the police archives is doable” – it’s a “doable” demand – “and, in fact, can be done by any politician in office that is really on the side of black people.”28

Want some liberalism? It’s right here. And what would happen if those archives were opened? Who’s going to choose the “hundred most heinous cases”? The cops? And you believe what’s in the cops’ archives? Don’t you know anything about what cops put in archives?

That’s what you’re doing today. You’re trying to spread liberal illusions. And you say that it’s “exposing them.” I heard that from the SWP, pretty much every day of the year. And all the other opportunists.


First of all, I wanted to just mention that among the things that the ICL says that it’s going to investigate, and that we are waiting to hear the results of, are the [1996] trials; the trial of comrade Socorro. and the trial that was going to be held of comrades Jan and Marjorie.29

I want to send greetings to comrade Socorro of the Internationalist Group, a founder of our organization, and to protest here yet again against the filthy trial which you staged against her. Some of you are here in this room. We want to know what was unprincipled about that trial. And if you say “everything,” that’s true, but you don’t get away with just that. And if it’s maybe ancient history to you, and not so important, perhaps that’s because you were on the dishing out end and not the receiving end.

Similarly, when comrade Vincent [an ICL leader who spoke during the discussion period] says that the ICL at least admits its mistakes. I call this the Boy Scout defense: Hey, everybody makes mistakes, but we admit it. You get merit badges for it. No. What I will say about that is, you’ve had a lot of practice, haven’t you? In terms of your so-called “mistakes.” But there’s one little problem. According to us, and according to you, they were not mistakes, they were betrayals. They were betrayals. Have you ever been on the receiving end of a betrayal – I mean, a political, social one in the class struggle. The comrade from Brazil just talked about what that was about. That was a real struggle. It was a struggle to bring the program of Trotskyism into practice.

Now, unbelievably, we heard here today that the so-called “real crime” was not that sort of thing, but failing to understand the documents – the power of the documents from 1992 and so on and so forth. This is the memorandum theory of history yet again. Well, the very powerful documents magically made you do one thing – and us do the other. You say, well they both voted for the documents and they’re both the same, the [ICL] and the IG/LFI are both the same. The IG fought and the LQB fought to throw the police out of the unionand you fought to stop it. You told them to stop. Why? “The memo made us do it.” Funny that this powerful memo made us do the opposite.

How about 9/11? [“How about it?” yells an ICL member from the audience.] We called to defeat U.S. imperialism.30 We marched in the streets with that slogan. We called for workers strikes against the war. Was that an abstract slogan? According to you it had no “resonance.” We took it onto the docks. We took it onto the docks as the Iraq War was ramping up. This is not an abstract, hidebound, theoretical orthodoxy. This is called the class struggle – and you said that our call for hot-cargoing was wrong.31 Yes, you did, look it up. And we’ve documented it. You want to talk about the bureaucracy? That was the line of Jim Spinosa, [who was] the head of the ILWU: Don’t stop the war matériel, it might cause problems for the union.

And we called for workers strikes against the war, and you and the rest of the opportunist left said that would never happen. But guess what? It did. On May Day 2008, all 29 ports were shut down on the West Coast. And you sneered at it, and, talk about “deformed,” you deformed and you fabricated, same damn thing that you did about the Mumia shutdown [of the ports] in 1999 – then you had to apologize and retract it, kind of, sort of.

But what about the one in Brazil that started it?32 The first workers action for Mumia’s freedom, the first labor shutdown for Mumia’s freedom. It’s not a page of paper, it’s a real action in the class struggle and it’s part of the program of revolutionary Marxism. That happened in Brazil. You have not written a single word about it since that time. Not one time, why do you think that is? Oh, because the “sectarians” carried it out. And the “anti-sectarians,” anti-sectarianly, don’t mention it. Because those are unmentionable, disposable people – disposable people on the receiving end, not of your “mistakes.” Everyone makes mistakes – trivial Boy Scout talking, I don’t mean the person, I mean the phrase. It was not a “mistake,” it was a betrayal.

And yes, when we called to defeat U.S. imperialism and we criticized you for dropping it, what did you say? A comrade referred to this. [Shows poster with quotations from Workers Vanguard, 26 October 2001.] No, we’re not going to let you forget it. You want to talk about “now”? Now is a product of history. You are a product of that history. You said that we were “playing the counterfeit card of anti-Americanism.” You said this in the weeks after 9/11, when “anti-Americanism” could land [someone] in prison. And there were roundups of immigrants all over the place and we went to the demonstrations to free them, which you did not, of course. (Well, you did go there, to denounce us, one time.)

And you said something else: “But the IG’s purpose is otherwise; it is playing to a different audience, one of ‘Third World’ nationalists for whom the ‘only good American is a dead American’.” That’s what you wrote about us. So you can say, well, we all make mistakes. This was not a “mistake,” and you’re doing the same kind of obeisance and genuflection to your own ruling class today, including over your leaflet on Palestine.

Why did this powerful memo make the two sides do opposite things? Because you ceased to be revolutionaries, through a process of degeneration, which has now culminated in you openly saying that the founding program of the tendency you still pretend to have some continuity with, somehow, was what? The old-timers are supposed to chew this up and swallow it. “The historic position of Spartacism turned the world upside down.”33 Interesting. Look at your Spartacist 68. The hammer’s upside down and backwards – they get a lot of things upside down and backwards – in their new logo. “Shaped by the delusion that the historic leader of our tendency, Jim Robertson, had a correct approach,” blah blah, “therefore it upheld many positions counterposed to permanent revolution.” It’s a “perversion of permanent revolution,” they say.

The old-timers are supposed to eat it, swallow it and regurgitate it. You have sold your birthright for a mess of pottage. The revisions are far from finished. The reason for this stuff about the “anti-imperialist united front” and supporting the language laws in Quebec and Catalonia and embracing the Freedom Charter and the rest of it is to take what remains of this organization very, very far, qualitatively far – who knows how far? – but it will be enormously far from what it set out to do.

And I’m very glad, let me just say, that the [SL’s] grotesque Neely leaflet34 was attacked [in the discussion], and quite horrified by the [SL supporter’s] response.

Forward to a real Fourth International – not a collection of rotten opportunist gimmicks.

Hands Off Trotsky’s Permanent Revolution!

Presentation by Jan Norden

So what we are discussing here today is how what we have called the born-again International Communist League and the Spartacist League in the United States have abandoned, renounced, denounced and vilified one key plank after another in the revolutionary Trotskyist program that the Spartacist tendency upheld against all manner of opportunists for three decades. We have explained before how the degeneration of the ICL reflected the wave of demoralization of the left set off by the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union, undermined by decades of Stalinist bureaucratic misrule, and of the bureaucratically deformed workers states of the East European Soviet bloc. With its new leadership, the ICL has now reached terminal degeneration, so that it renounces the very program on which it was founded.

As the ICL sank into passive propagandism, abstentionism and ultimately betrayal in the class struggle, capitulating to the bourgeoisie’s “death of communism” lie, those long-time cadres who it expelled in 1996 went on to found the Internationalist Group and two years later joined with comrades in Brazil, France and Mexico to form the League for the Fourth International. While the IG and LFI continue to fight for the revolutionary program the Spartacist tendency stood far, the latter-day ICL, for its part, went into a prolonged crisis, which continues to this day, repeatedly changing leaderships and programmatically gyrating like a top.

Beginning almost immediately after our expulsions, this latter-day ICL began revising and gutting its former program. We’ve already talked about the string of betrayals: abandoning Brazilian Trotskyist workers’ historic 1996 struggle to oust the police from the unions, abandoning the call for Puerto Rican independence, “anti-American” baiting the LFI for calling for the defeat of U.S. imperialism in Afghanistan, supporting the U.S. invasion of Haiti, and that’s only a small part of them. There is a common thread to all these betrayals, and it’s not disorientation because of the 1992 [ICL] conference document. It’s capitulation to U.S. imperialism, which continues today as they refuse to defend Russia in the face of the united imperialist proxy war over Ukraine. You claim that there has always been a unipolar imperialist world. Well, there has been at the present time, and what do you do? You refuse to defend the countries that are being attacked by that united imperialist offensive.

The born-again ICL in Spartacist No. 68 replaces the historic Trotskyist program of permanent revolution, upheld by the SL/ICL when it was the voice of genuine Trotskyism, with what is actually a stagist theory of “national liberation,” later for socialist revolution.

I want to reiterate that, because in discussing the question of permanent revolution, which is the topic of this debate, we are not having an academic discussion. What we have here are counterposed class programs, proletarian internationalist in the case of the LFI vs. bourgeois nationalist for the ICL. So Spartacist No. 68 came out at the beginning of September [2023], where the leaders of the ICL declare that the political organization they have taken over was “deformed at birth” on the central question of permanent revolution, supposedly because of “denial of revolutionary leadership of the national liberation struggle.” According to the new ICL, the Spartacist tendency was some kind of thalidomide baby, a caricature of Trotskyism that betrayed at every turn.

So what is Trotsky’s perspective of permanent revolution? This is not just a phrase about the revolution continuing indefinitely, but a theory based on his evaluation of the class forces in the first Russian Revolution of 1905, which then became the program of the Russian October Revolution of 1917, and which Trotsky later generalized to colonial, semicolonial and other countries of belated capitalist development under imperialist domination. In a nutshell, and I’m quoting here, “The theory of the Permanent Revolution, which is basic to our movement, declares that in the modern world the bourgeois-democratic revolution cannot be completed except through the victory and extension of the proletarian revolution.” I quote this summary because it comes from the 1963 document “Toward Rebirth of the Fourth International,” the founding document of the Spartacist tendency,35 which we in the LFI uphold and the reborn ICL will surely renounce, sooner or later, as it is incompatible with their present distortion and negation of permanent revolution.

The Spartacist tendency was founded on the authentic program of permanent revolution and upheld it against all the pseudo-Trotskyists like Michel Pablo and Ernest Mandel starting in the early 1950s, and a decade later joined by the leaders of the U.S. Socialist Workers Party who abandoned the fight for workers revolution led by a Bolshevik-Leninist vanguard, and instead tailed after non-proletarian forces. Today the ICL under new management – which pulled off what in the business world would be called a hostile takeover with the acquiescence of a demoralized Spartacist old guard – draws its arguments from the various pseudo-Trotskyists, but with an important difference: whereas the Pabloites, Mandelites and so on capitulated to bourgeois and petty-bourgeois nationalists and populists, this new crop of revisionists actually are “nation-building” nationalists masquerading in Trotskyist garb.

To carry out their cynical operation they have to resort to blatantly falsifying history. We saw this already in their 2017 “Hydra” document where in the name of defending oppressed nations they tried to present their advocacy of discriminatory, anti-democratic language laws as Leninism on the national question, when Lenin emphatically said the opposite, opposing official privileging of any language, including of the oppressed.

On permanent revolution, Spartacist 68 claims that “From 1905 to 1917, there was an essential identity between Trotsky’s permanent revolution and Lenin’s strategic line expressed in the formula of the ‘democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry’.” It claims that the different formulas were only “prognoses” and a “nuance,” and that by 1917 Lenin’s “algebraic” slogan was “outlived” and had to be substituted by the more “arithmetic” program of “all power to the Soviets.”  In other words, no big deal.

The attempt to pass this off as authentic Trotskyism is rank cynicism. Those of us who were won to Trotskyism away from the “revolutionary democratic dictatorship of the peasantry and the proletariat,” which we called in shorthand the “RDDPP,” anyone who went through that experience instantly spotted this ploy. In the correspondence leading up to this debate the LFI pointed out that in his 1905 pamphlet Two Tactics of the Social Democracy in the Democratic Revolution Lenin stated that his call was explicitly for a “democratic, not a socialist” regime, and how Trotsky in his 1939 essay on “Three Concepts of the Russian Revolution” contrasted his call for permanent revolution both to Lenin’s formula and that of the Mensheviks. So I suggest you can consult those sources.

As for the reborn ICL’s claim that Lenin’s coming over to the programmatic conclusion of Trotsky’s permanent revolution – namely to fight for workers revolution, for the dictatorship of the proletariat – was just a matter of replacing an outdated prognosis, Trotsky wrote at length in his 1930 History of the Russian Revolution, in Chapter 16 on “Rearming the Party about the tremendous struggle that took place after Lenin issued his 1917 “April Theses” calling for “all power to the soviets.” This was ferociously resisted by Kamenev, Stalin and the other “Old Bolsheviks” who clung to the old formula, which called for completing “the first stage of a bourgeois revolution.” The point is, had the program of a “democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry” not been defeated, there would have been no October Revolution! And that’s what you claim was essentially the same.

So the ICL under new management is lying about differences between Lenin’s program and Trotsky’s leading up to the 1917 Russian Revolution, and when people lie about big issues, it’s for a purpose. The purpose in this case is quite clear, underlined by their embrace of the call for an “anti-imperialist united front” – namely that they want to make political blocs with bourgeois nationalists, from the populist government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico – which they pretend is somehow anti-imperialist, when in fact AMLO is acting as a border guard for the U.S., both under Trump and now Biden – to the African National Congress which presides over the neo-apartheid regime on behalf of international capital. And they also want to make a political bloc, in the name of such a so-called “united front,” with [Greek prime minister Alexis] Tsipras and SYRIZA in Greece.36

The new crew at the helm of the ICL try to pretend that they are presenting the real deal even when they are transparently negating Trotsky’s program. Spartacist [68] talks, repeatedly, of “the core of permanent revolution: placing the struggle for national liberation at the center of revolutionary strategy for the neocolonial world.” In another place it says that “the experience of 1917, speaks to the fundamental core of permanent revolution, which is nothing other than the need for communist leadership of the democratic struggle, first and foremost national liberation.” So the essence of the 1917 Russian October Revolution was a democratic struggle for national liberation? What garbage! For what nation? The Russian nation, the Polish nation, the Finnish nation? And the experience of 1917 was essentially a “democratic struggle”? Whatever happened to the proletariat taking power?

The most striking case of a tendency that “revised” permanent revolution was that of the U.S. Socialist Workers Party. In late 1981, Doug Jenness, the editor of the SWP’s newspaper The Militant, published an article, “How Lenin Saw the Russian Revolution” essentially equating permanent revolution with Lenin’s RDDPP, the same sleight-of-hand the ICL is carrying out today. Ernest Mandel replied with a long article stressing the difference between Lenin’s formula from 1905, which foresaw the workers and peasants leading a bourgeois revolution, and Trotsky’s program pointing to workers revolution. Jenness responded with an even longer article in mid-1982 claiming that the October 1917 revolution was actually the RDDPP, not a workers revolution but a democratic revolution. And a few months later SWP leader Jack Barnes came out against permanent revolution altogether in his speech on “Their Trotsky and Ours.”

What was driving the SWP’s evolution was the desire to join with Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress in South Africa as the anti-apartheid movement was heating up. And we see the same with the ICL today. Like the SWP, the new ICL wants to push to implement the ANC’s Freedom Charter, which was a program for a bourgeois-democratic revolution, although with some fairly radical social measures.37  Incidentally, the Charter was written by supporters of the Stalinist South African Communist Party (SACP) whose watchword of a “national democratic revolution,” like Lenin’s RDDPP, did not go beyond the bounds of capitalism. And when the reborn ICL calls to implement the Freedom Charter, as their new South African paper does, that is in fact the position of the SACP and the ANC, whose maintenance of superexploitation of black labor was symbolized in the 2012 Marikana massacre [of mine workers]. But where Lenin, with his formula, was fighting for revolution against the bourgeoisie, the South African CP, which you are tailing, is essentially fighting to administer that neo-apartheid capitalist exploitation.

There is much more to be said about the ICL’s new “anti-imperialist” clothes in Mexico. Its call for a “united front” with the government of AMLO [Andrés Manuel López Obrador) and his MORENA party would stand in the way of the necessary struggle to break workers away from this nationalist, but in no way anti-imperialist, government, which is now trying to force the so-called “independent” unions back into the straitjacket of corporatist state control of labor. Once again, as in equating the RDDPP with permanent revolution, the ICL leaders justify this with a subterfuge, conflating Trotsky’s call for independent proletarian support for the expropriation of imperialist-owned oil companies with making a political bloc with the government of Lázaro Cárdenas [president of Mexico from 1934 to 1940], which Trotsky never called for. With its vague talk of national liberation and nation-building, the newborn ICL’s program would be a roadblock to revolution if it had any impact, which luckily it doesn’t. If anyone agreed with the line of El [Antiimperialista], the bourgeois name of their new paper, they would join AMLO’s MORENA party and push from within.

So here, there and just about everywhere, the line of the new ICL – which now repudiates just about everything the Spartacist tendency represented when it fought for the revolutionary program of Trotskyism – would have terrible consequences if carried out in the class struggle. Nowhere is this clearer than over Iran where they denounce the Spartacist tendency’s warnings against leftist support for the 1979 so-called “Islamic revolution.” They take a quotation out of context to pretend that we equated Khomeini with Hitler when its point was that there can be reactionary mass movements. There were some problems with the initial formulations on Iran before we settled on the call for “Down with the shah, no to the mullahs.” But we told the truth about the mullah regime, whereas Spartacist 68 pretends they were leading an anti-imperialist struggle.38

The then-revolutionary international Spartacist tendency warned in 1979 against leftists’ support to the theocratic regime of Ayatollah Khomeini that took power in Iran after the overthrow of the bloody imperialist puppet Shah Pahlavi. Shown here: leftist students being attacked by Khomeinite thugs in Tehran, April 1980. Tens of thousands were arrested, and thousands executed by the victorious mullahs. Today the born-again ICL, junking its past in the service of its new nationalist line, seeks to resuscitate illusions like those of the Iranian leftists and their backers who bowed before their executioners. 
(Photo: Reza / Sipa-Black Star)

That was in fact the line of almost the entire opportunist left, from “Islamic Marxists” to Stalinists to pseudo-Trotskyists. And many acted on this as leftists streamed back to Tehran after spending years in exile to escape the dreaded SAVAK, the secret police of the U.S.-backed dictatorship of Shah Pahlavi. But almost immediately there were extensive arrests of leftists, following by a wave of tens of thousands jailed in 1981, of whom hundreds, perhaps several thousand, were executed in 1988. The Stalinist Tudeh party, which had led striking oil workers into the arms of Khomeini, was rewarded by having its offices closed and its paper banned in 1979, with mass arrests of over 1,000 Tudeh members in 1982-83, with 45 of them executed as supposed Soviet spies.

Because the then-revolutionary Spartacist tendency was not taken in by the fool’s gold of bourgeois “anti-imperialism” and fought for workers revolution, we were able to warn against the impending slaughter, while the opportunists, as we wrote at the time, “bowed before their executioners.” And from the beginning, while politically opposing the “Islamic republic” we defended Iran against imperialist and Zionist attacks, threats and sanctions, including calling, as we do today, for Iran’s right to have nuclear weapons to deter and defend against the nuclear-armed U.S. and Israeli warmongers.

A couple of final comments: First, the new ICL leaders never knew the Spartacist tendency when it stood for genuine revolutionary Trotskyism – not that this would make a difference, as they are deeply wedded to their nationalist politics. The latter-day ICL they came to know had plenty of imperialist chauvinist aspects to their line – like declaring in Mexico, a U.S. semi-colony, that “the main enemy is at home.” This was never the position of the revolutionary ICL, and in fact that line was cooked up to go after the Internationalist Group in the U.S. and Grupo Internacionalista in Mexico.

Secondly, the Spartacist tendency and ICL, when they stood for revolutionary Trotskyism, told the truth to the masses and fought for proletarian revolution, while the born-again ICL tries to hoodwink them with vague talk of national liberation, copied from the Stalinists who were past masters in pushing this line in order to disguise their refusal to fight for socialist revolution. This was true from Latin America to South [Africa] and Vietnam, where almost the entire left called for national liberation while the SL called for “All Indochina Must Go Communist.” Perhaps you will want to reject that slogan as well, as being “sectarian.”39

Spartacist banner at April 1970 protest against the Vietnam War in Washington, D.C. How long until the “new ICL” renounces this call as well? (Photo: Spartacist)

Leninists and Trotskyists have always been sticklers for programmatic clarity. Seemingly small differences in political formulas can have enormous consequences in the class struggle. As we said earlier, the reborn ICL has done us, and the workers movement, a favor by making clear that they are not, in fact, the heirs of the Spartacist tendency that fought for revolutionary Trotskyism. They are its antithesis. The League for the Fourth International and its national sections today represent the revolutionary political continuity of authentic Trotskyism and Leninism. We have consistently put forward programs for revolutionary internationalist struggle, from picket lines mean don’t cross, to workers strikes against imperialist wars, to calling for defense of Gaza and the Palestinian Arab people coupled with the fight for an Arab-Hebrew Palestinian workers state in a socialist federation of the Middle East.

The new ICL, in contrast, is putting forward one gimmick after another, many a transparent call for class collaboration while others are just nonsensical. So when you see Spartacist on their publications, we counsel caveat emptor – buyer beware.

And in conclusion, let me say: Hands off Trotsky’s permanent revolution!


There’s a lot to say and I don’t have enough time. I do want to answer on the question of Greece. The struggle in Greece is not for national liberation, it’s for international socialist revolution together with all the countries in Europe. The Greek Civil War was fought on the program of national liberation by the Stalinists – when it should have been a struggle for international communist revolution – and that program, together with the Stalinists, prevented the struggle for a Balkan socialist federation at the time. There is no separate national bourgeoisie or comprador bourgeoisie in Greece. Greece is a sub-imperialist power. It controls much of the world’s shipping, it is a banking presence in Eastern Europe, and Alex Tsipras proved that there is no separation between the national bourgeoisie and the other bourgeoisies of the imperialist European Union.

On the [2015 Greek] referendum, this was known beforehand, it was perfectly obvious that this was a maneuver by Tsipras to get a “no” vote to bargain with the bankers, after which he would capitulate to them. We called for abstention because this was a ploy, this was a fraud, and you participated in that fraud. We did not just call for abstention, we called for workers action, for occupying the ports, for occupying the hospitals, for shutting down the railroads. That is workers action against the imperialist oppression of the Greek working people and all Greek people through their austerity program. What you did, is you tailed after the bourgeois nationalists.

Secondly, someone asked about communist leadership in the national liberation movement. We call for socialist revolution to resolve national oppression and the imperialist stranglehold. To pretend that you can have national liberation without socialist revolution is a fraud and a lie that you are hoodwinking people with. The speaker from the British section of the ICL said how can you expose the bourgeois nationalists if you don’t engage in united fronts. We intervene in the struggles against imperialist domination to expose the nationalists.

On the IBT’s [referring to the “International Bolshevik Tendency”] proposal for some kind of a conference, I would say simply, there is no family of Spartacism any more than there is a family of Trotskyism or a family of the left, and you’re not going to build a revolutionary party by a Spartacist family reunion but only by the intransigent struggle for the program that the Spartacist tendency was founded on, which the ICL has now renounced and which the two branches of the BT and IBT fled from at the start of the anti-Soviet Cold War. In terms of the comparison of the trial of Socorro with the trial of Bill Logan: Bill Logan was guilty as charged, Socorro was persecuted.

And on Malvinas, the support of the Argentine nationalist left to the military adventure of the generals is what sank the possibility of workers revolution in Argentina.40 There was a burgeoning workers movement at that time. The generals called their adventure in order to head it off. The left bought it. And then when it was defeated, a wave of defeatism seized Argentina. And it was because the left supported that war it was the bourgeoisie that profited from the fall of the junta. ■

  1. 1. See “Recent Correspondence Between the International Communist League and the League for the Fourth International,” The Internationalist No. 71, June-October 2023.<
  2. 2. See “In Defense of a Revolutionary Perspective” (1962), founding document of the Revolutionary Tendency of the Socialist Workers Party, republished in Marxist Bulletin No. 1 (1965) by the Spartacist group, established by RT members after their expulsion from the SWP.
  3. 3. See The Internationalist No. 5, April-May 1998.
  4. 4. See “Portland-Area Unions Call for Workers Action Against U.S./Israel War on Gaza” (December 2023) and “Portland, Oregon Painters Union Says: To Hell with the Bosses’ Parties – For a Class-Struggle Workers Party” (August 2016), internationalist.org.
  5. 5. See “U.S. Imperialism Hurtling Toward World War III,” The Internationalist No. 69-70, January-May 2023, and “Only Socialist Revolution Can Defeat U.S. Imperialism’s Drive to WWIII,” in Revolution No. 20, September 2023
  6. 6. This refers to Spartacist No. 68’s claims regarding “exceptional stability of the post-Soviet period” under “ultra-imperialism [sic], made in the USA”; that perspectives documents from 1992, 1994 and 1996 were the source of “every opportunist mistake or sectarian stupidity of the ICL in the last 30 years”; and that while we were “correct in denouncing some of the ICL’s most egregious betrayals,” the Internationalist Group/LFI was essentially the same as the ICL since supposedly “neither the IG nor the ICL had an answer to liberalism, the dominant ideology internationally and the main political obstacle they confronted in the workers movement.”
  7. 7. The Freedom Charter has been the bourgeois-democratic keystone for South Africa’s African National Congress since its adoption in 1955. After rightly refusing to spread illusions in the ANC’s program since the inception of Spartacist work in South Africa and years before, the ICL now states that “revolutionaries” must “fight for the working class to lead a struggle for the Freedom Charter’s implementation.” This was the program of pseudo-Trotskyist groupings orbiting around or embedded in the ANC, and it is the stated program of Stalinist reformists today. Tailing the governing party of South Africa’s neo-apartheid regime is part of the “new ICL’s” ever-extending embrace of bourgeois nationalism, publicly launched in 2017 with a bizarre self-denunciation titled “The Struggle Against the Chauvinist Hydra,” Spartacist, Summer 2017.
  8. 8. Max Shachtman (1904-72) was a leading member of the U.S. Trotskyist movement from 1928 until 1940, when he split from it in opposition to the Fourth International’s position on the “Russian Question” (unconditional military defense of the USSR against imperialism and counterrevolution; proletarian political revolution against the conservative Stalinist bureaucracy). Moving further rightwards over subsequent years, Shachtman’s decision to merge the remaining “Shachtmanites” into the Cold War Socialist Party of Norman Thomas was the last straw for activists such as James Robertson, Tim Wohlforth and Shane Mage, who were won over by the SWP, founding the Young Socialist newspaper in 1957 and then the SWP’s youth group, the Young Socialist Alliance.
  9. 9. Initiated by the Spartacist League in 1971, Women and Revolution was published until 1996. An archive of its 44 issues is available online at marxists.org/history/etol/newspape/w&r.
  10. 10. See Red Flag “Special Fusion Supplement” in Workers Vanguard No. 172, 8 September 1977.
  11. 11. The reference is to the Bolsheviks’ formulation, from 1905 to early 1917, of central programmatic demands in the form of “three militant slogans: Democratic Republic, Confiscation of the Landed Estates, Eight-Hour Working Day – colloquially called the three whales of Bolshevism, by analogy with those whales upon which according to an old popular fable the earth reposes” (Leon Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution [1930], “Rearming the Party”).
  12. 12. See “The Truth About Cuba Protests – Defend the Revolution Against U.S. Imperialism and Its Frontmen” and related articles, The Internationalist No. 64, July-September 2021.
  13. 13. Adhering to supposed abstract sectarian dogmas has been one of the present-day ICL’s central accusations against the LFI, including at the debate. The strike referred to here, in which CUNY Internationalist Clubs activists played an important role, is discussed in “Columbia Strike Wins, More Struggles Ahead” (Revolution No. 19, September 2022) and an Internationalist video at youtube.com/watch?v=E-DVQ5HISwU.
  14. 14. The SL’s Workers Vanguard (22 December 2023) launched an appeal to “revolutionaries inside the DSA” (Democratic Socialists of America). Referring to this in his presentation at the debate, ICL speaker Perrault remarked, “You don’t need to be a genius to know what [the LFI] will say: they’ll no doubt denounce us as opportunists….”
  15. 15. See, for example, “NYC: Immigrant Workers Rebel,” Revolution No. 12, March 2016; and “Cabricanecos: Indigenous Immigrant Workers Fight Deadly Conditions in NYC,” The Internationalist No. 67-68, May-October 2022.
  16. 16. “I could spend a lot of time going over all the different fights and party regimes between 1992 and 2017. But not only would this take forever, it would not be interesting or useful” (“Why the ICL Collapsed & How We Reforged It,” Spartacist No. 68, September 2023).
  17. 17. The previous issue, WV No. 1176, was dated 29 May 2020 (four days after the murder of George Floyd); thus it was actually almost three years until issue 1177 appeared. See “As U.S. Convulsed Over Racist Police Murder: SL Silence = Capitulation to the Democrats,” The Internationalist No. 61, September-October 2020.
  18. 18. See “Haiti Earthquake: Capitalism, Occupation and Revolution,” The Internationalist No. 31, Summer 2019.
  19. 19. The reference is to the struggle to expel police from the municipal workers union in Volta Redonda, Brazil’s “Steel City.” See Class Struggle and Repression in Volta Redonda, Brazil, Internationalist pamphlet, 1997.
  20. 20. “Comrade Norden is justified in still being outraged by the actions of the ICL in Brazil in 1996,” the ICL states in “The LFI Chooses Sectarianism,” 3 November 2023.
  21. 21. See “ICL Seeks to Sabotage Defense of Brazilian Trotskyist Workers” (30 January 1998), reproduced in Responses to ICL Smear Campaign Against Brazilian Trotskyists, Internationalist pamphlet, 2010. When asked, during an intermission in the debate, to explain the ICL’s actions in Brazil, Perrault publicly stated that “your bulletin does a pretty good job of explaining” this. In his summary during the debate, he said: “Brazil: You know what? What we did was despicable, I’m ashamed of it,” while making the ludicrously false claim that on Brazil the LFI evades the questions of black liberation, the popular front and the role of imperialism.
  22. 22. After the bloody August 1971 military coup led by right-wing general Hugo Banzer, Lora’s centrist Partido Obrero Revolucionario (Revolutionary Workers Party) put together the FRA, an “anti-imperialist” political bloc with the Bolivian Stalinists and a range of nationalist forces, including the deposed president, General Juan José Torres, whose regime had paved the way for the Banzer coup.
  23. 23. At the Fourth International’s Third Congress (1951), which was key in the emergence of the revisionist current that came to be known as Pabloism, the resolution on Latin America stated, regarding Bolivia’s Revolutionary Nationalist Movement (MNR), which the following year became the country’s ruling bourgeois party: “in the event of the mobilization of the masses under the preponderant impulsion or influence of the MNR, our section should support the movement with all its strength, should not abstain but on the contrary intervene energetically in it with the aim of pushing it as far as possible up to the seizure of power by the MNR on the basis of a progressive program of anti-imperialist united front” (Fourth International [New York], November-December 1951).
  24. 24. See “The LFI Chooses Sectarianism.”
  25. 25. This refers to the SYRIZA government’s July 2015 referendum ploy, calling to vote “no” to the European bankers’ blackmail in order to use this as a bargaining chip to slightly improve the terms of surrender and then capitulate to the Eurobankers’ austerity diktat a few days later. See articles in The Internationalist No. 41, September-October 2015.
  26. 26. John Riddell (ed.), Toward the United Front: Proceedings of the Fourth Congress of the Communist International, 1922 (2012).
  27. 27. The Chinese Communist Party’s entry into the bourgeois-nationalist Guomindang led to the April 1927 Shanghai Massacre that devastated the party and crushed China’s militant workers movement. See What Is Troskyism? The Stalin School of Falsification Revisited, Internationalist pamphlet, 2012.
  28. 28. “Open All Police Archives! A Proposal to Rebuild the Movement,” SL statement, 28 August 2023.
  29. 29. See From a Drift Toward Abstentionism to Desertion from the Class Struggle, July 1996.
  30. 30. In the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 attacks, as the U.S. ramped up for war, the IG/LFI called to “Defeat U.S. Imperialism! Defend Afghanistan and Iraq!” while the SL/ICL ditched this elementary Leninist call and denounced us for upholding it. See The Internationalist No. 12, Fall 2001.
  31. 31. On the Internationalist Group’s fight for longshore workers to refuse to refuse to handle war matériel, and the SL’s line echoing the union bureaucracy’s opposition to this, see Why We Call for Workers Strikes Against the War (And the Opportunists Don’t), Internationalist pamphlet, 2007.
  32. 32. See “May Day Strike Against the War Shuts Down All U.S. West Coast Ports,” The Internationalist No. 27, May-June 2008, “Brazil Education Workers Stop Work Demanding: Free Mumia Abu-Jamal!” (May 1999) and “Brazilian Workers Mobilize for Freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal,” The Internationalist No. 8, June 2000.
  33. 33. See Spartacist No. 68, passages under subhead “For the Anti-Imperialist United Front!” claiming that from its inception “the Spartacist tendency turned permanent revolution into its opposite.”
  34. 34. WV supplement (8 June 2023): “New York City Subway Killing: Neely No Angel, Penny No Hero.” The reference is to the denunciation of this leaflet by a speaker during the discussion period and an SL supporter’s reply heatedly defending it.
  35. 35. Published in Spartacist No. 1, February-March 1964.
  36. 36. See note 25 above.
  37. 37. In a statement on the May 29 South African elections, the ICL has now come out for voting for an outright bourgeois formation, the populist-nationalist Economic Freedom Fighters.
  38. 38. See “Iran and the Left: Why They Supported Islamic Reaction,” Workers Vanguard No. 229, 13 April 1979; and “Iran and Permanent Revolution,” Spartacist No. 33, Spring 1981 for further information on the deadly illusions in the mullah regime pushed by various pseudo-Trotskyists and other opportunist leftists.
  39. 39. Presenting the social revolution in Vietnam as if it were simply a bourgeois-democratic struggle for national liberation was characteristic of reformist groups like the SWP, to facilitate its alliances with Democratic liberals in the antiwar movement (while for groups like the Shachtmanite International Socialists it reflected virulent anticommunism).
  40. 40. In April 1982, the Argentine military dictatorship under General Leopoldo Galtieri, hoping to divert radicalizing workers’ struggles, launched a military adventure invading the Falkland/Malvinas islands in the South Atlantic. The sparsely populated islands, whose English inhabitants (there was virtually no Argentine population there) mainly lived off sheepherding, had been under British rule since 1833, while “recovering the Malvinas” has been a mainstay of Argentine nationalism for decades. Amid jingoistic hysteria in London and nationalist fervor in Buenos Aires, the two militaries fought a naval war in which the British overpowered the Argentine forces. In the conflict between imperialist Britain and Argentina, an intermediate capitalist power, did not affect the latter’s right to self-determination, the international Spartacist tendency called for a policy of revolutionary defeatism on both sides. See “Sink Thatcher! Sink the Junta!” Workers Vanguard No. 306, 28 May 1982. The support by the nationalist Argentine left for the junta’s ill-fated invasion meant that instead of the generals being overthrown by a workers uprising, popular outrage over the senseless slaughter and military corruption was capitalized on by the conservative bourgeois opposition led by the Radical Civic Union of Raúl Alfonsín, which came to office in the 1983 elections.