Speakers from the Floor

1st Independent Speaker:

OK, I’m speaking on behalf of the Internationalist Group and the League for the Fourth International. We have a debate here today between two organizations claiming to be revolutionary. On the one hand, we have the League for the Revolutionary Party, which claims to be Trotskyist, which is a clear contradiction down to the bone. What we heard today was repulsive, Shachtmanite, screaming anti-communism. They reject Trotsky’s analysis of the Soviet Union and Stalinism. Their policy overall is one of classless support to mass struggle and tailism. They tail after the anti-war movement. Their only objection to the Democratic Party politicians is they want to be up there on the platform with them. In the Near East they have blatant tailing after Arab nationalism. Their policy for the Hebrew workers in Israel is that they have the right to leave, contrary to anything that Trotskyism stands for.

In the trade unions, their policy amounts to tailing after out bureaucrats who cross the class line by suing the unions, and their member, their supporter, who was elected as a bureaucrat by giving so-called critical support to them. They do not recognize the class line in the union, they do not recognize it in the Soviet Union or Palestine. On the Russian question, they are marked by visceral anti-communism. Today they claim to defend Iraq and defeat U.S. imperialism, but on Afghanistan, when the Soviet Army intervened against the CIA-backed mullah-led forces, they washed their hands and said “a plague on both your houses.” The Trotskyists called for hailing the Red Army in Afghanistan. Nobody with an ounce of revolutionary fiber could take the anti-communist line that the LRP took. On the Soviet Union on World War II, they refuse to defend the Soviet Union. When Yeltsin came to power they stood with Yeltsin. This is an abomination. Their lineage goes right back to Max Shachtman, and whether they deny it or don’t deny it, it is clear to everyone that that’s exactly what they stand for.

The Spartacist League, on the other hand, is a different organization. They for three decades defended revolutionary Trotskyism. In particular, they opposed popular fronts in Chile, France, the U.S. They defended the Soviet Union against counter-revolution. But since the counter-revolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union, the Spartacist League and the ICL have made a sharp turn to the right. We say that we are Leninists and Trotskyists. Why do we say that? On Trotskyism, the central thesis of Trotskyism is that the crisis of humanity is reduced to the crisis of revolutionary leadership. The Spartacist League and ICL now reject that position. They say that predated the qualitative reverse in the consciousness of the working class; in other words it’s an outdated program. They now say that this backward consciousness of the working class has been used to justify a whole series of capitulations that the Spartacist League undertakes, withdrawing slogans because they say the working class is not ready for that. Leninism. What does Leninism stand for? For one thing, it stands for revolutionary defeatism in imperialist war. The Spartacist League now says it’s wrong to raise defeatism in this imperialist war because of military reasons, for technical reasons. It’s not military, it’s not technical, it’s political – that’s why they do this. For example, they say that it’s sufficient to call for class struggle at home. Except when there is class struggle at home, for example on the West Coast docks, and they had previously raised the demand, which we continued to raise, for hot-cargoing military cargo, they dropped the demand in the middle of the lockout when it was concretely posed. On the Leninist party, they revised the concept of the Leninist party, talking endlessly about patiently explaining, and not about organizing the working class and struggle. That is Luxemburgism, not Leninism. All of this goes back to Shachtmanism. You can read in our own leaflet there, where we analyze this, on defeatism they stand with Draper, on Puerto Rican independence they stand with Draper. Behind it all, it’s capitulation to their own bourgeoisie.

1st LRP Speaker:

The Spartacists’ approach to the united front relegates them to the sidelines and gives the pro-capitalist misleaders of the workers’ movement a free pass. As was very clear at the April 5th anti-war demonstration in Chicago, as well as in the recent New York transit struggle.

For Bolsheviks, the united front plays a dual role, it both unites and divides. We employ the tactic to build the largest possible actions in the immediate struggles of our class, while politically counterposing and exposing the pro-capitalist misleaders currently leading the movements, as well as their centrist and reformist lackeys. The only political agreement would we need with these people that we are entering into common action with, is that we all support the specific demand or demands of the action. That’s it. Therefore the united front is not based on a common political program, it’s based on unity in action, with the strictest counterposition of political program. However, this SL charges, the LRP promotes an alliance with the class enemy. This is ridiculous. We never demand a political bloc or a common political program with anyone, including the SL. We promote march separately, strike together.

In Chicago we played a leadership role in the April 5th coalition, where due to our repeated interventions, this committee did organize a common action around supportable demands. We fought against forging any common political program or propaganda. We fought, in short, for united front action against the war in Iraq. And at that demo, we were the only group who attacked the Democrats and the notion of Bush’s war, as the centrist ISO and others peddled. We exposed the role of hypocrisy of the U.N., we combatted pacifism by calling for the military defense of Iraq, and the defeat of U.S.-U.K. imperialism. We drew applause for raising the need for a general strike to stop the war, explaining that this begins with a political fight against the pro-Democratic union bureaucracy, something that the SL never does in the unions that it’s in. And we argued the need for revolutionary party leadership, and the socialist revolution to put an end to imperialist wars once and for all. We were the only organization on the stage to make these points. This is not left cover for liberals, this is political combat.

For the time being the misleaders and their centrist lackeys are going to be around. The job of revolutionaries is to expose them, in practice, to the broader masses who want to oppose imperialist war, but who yet don’t see the need for revolutionary leadership. This is the Leninist method. Yet the SL says this is wrong, we should have stayed with them at the marches, watching sheepishly, while on the April 5th stage, the pacifists and their socialist flunkies capitulate one after another to imperialism. Imperialism, the greatest threat to workers today.

Did Trotsky ask the Social Democrats in Germany for anything else except united action against fascism, the greatest threat to the working class in the ‘30’s? No. He excoriated the CP for their cowardly abstentionism, in not calling for a united front with the Social Democrats. He considered this to be the litmus test that proved the political bankruptcy of the Comintern, and this is the same litmus test that the SL repeatedly fails. In truth, the SL really wants a political bloc. They are demanding a higher level of political agreement, over and above the stated demands of the action.

This is no way to shatter illusions that our class has in the misleaders of the workers’ movement, it’s a way to enforce that. We are not afraid of standing on a stage or any union hall and put our Leninist method in the clearest possible relief to that of the pro-capitalist misleaders. However, the SL is, that’s why they refused to play a role on that stage, or in any union hall that they’re in, and instead they stand at the margins with their press. This is the behavior of declassed intellectuals, not Leninists, and this is not the leadership that our class so sorely needs.

1st SL Speaker:

I’m speaking for the Spartacist League. Well, today there’s a new generation of radicalized youth who hate the injustices and bloody wars of this racist imperialist class. Many of us were also part of such a generation who wanted to end brutal capitalism once and for all. I don’t know about this young person here, but we were fed up with the peace crawls with the Democrats, we were sick of this, and we wanted to fight and investigate Marxism and scientific socialism, and we wanted to make a workers’ revolution here in the U.S. and around the world.

In 1973 I was double recruited to the International Socialists and the Revolution Tendency of the IS, that became the Revolutionary Socialist League, predecessor of the LRP. The IS was a clique-ridden zoo of Shachtmanites, left-over superstars, sectoralists, feminists, workerists, and just a lot of young people. But organization flows from political program, and if you have a reformist program and have no intention of making a revolution, you will have bureaucratic organization. I was attracted to the RSL because I thought we were making a left turn, but I was mistaken. The RSL broke from nothing and they learned nothing. They continued, because of the essential question of the workers’ revolution in the 20th century – this is the key question for revolutionaries around the world – they continued to stand on the side of their historic mentor, Max Shachtman, and his renunciation of the defense of the Bolshevik revolution.

The first thing I read when I came around the SL was Trotsky’s In Defense of Marxism and The Struggle for a Proletarian Party, which of course was never given to me before then. And I read, on the critical fight in defense of the Russian revolution against the petty-bourgeois opposition who succumbed to the pressures of American chauvinism on the eve or World War II. The so-called struggle of the RSL-IS was a non-struggle. They resolved themselves on the same side as the old IS on every major question facing youth and working people of that day. Support of the U.S. Labor Department in the miners’ election, opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment, and opposition to the fight for racial integration, to name a few. And I was won to the principled politics of the Spartacist League.

What were the formative struggles of the Spartacist League and the International Communist League? Well, the Cuban revolution was an inspiration around the world. Cuba could only have happened because of the Russian revolution. We fought for unconditional military defense of the social gains of the Cuban revolution while giving no political support to the consolidating Stalinist bureaucracy. Capital was overthrown. That was obvious to everybody but the Shachtmanites and the Healyites at the time. But we said, without political power in the hands of the proletariat it could only be a deformed workers state. And we fought for revolutionary integrationism when everyone else was tailing black pseudo-nationalist rhetoric, or peaceful legalism, which always resolved itself in community control schemes and tailing after Democratic Party politicos. And we fought as a tendency in the Socialist Workers Party to send Trotskyist cadres to the South, to intervene in the civil rights movement, to put our money where our mouth was and build Southern locals.

And finally, we fought to construct international revolutionary leadership capable of leading the working class here and everywhere. That’s the party question. We fought against the liquidation of the Leninist vanguard party into the futile pursuit of every alien class force to make the revolution, petty-bourgeois nationalism, et cetera. And we fought for a party of professional revolutionaries, a disciplined combat party modeled after Lenin’s Bolsheviks. This is the crisis of this epoch, the crisis of leadership.

Now I want to say one thing about this book. It was the struggles of our forebears that we lay our revolutionary program today, on their struggles. And it was not a linear process. I encourage all you here today to come and purchase the Prometheus Research Library’s publication of The Dog Days: James B. Cannon Versus Max Shachtman.

2nd Independent Speaker:

Yeah, how you doin’, I’m Greg Butler, I’m from the Gangbox Construction Workers News Service. We’re a list-serve on the Yahoo Groups Network, and we are to my knowledge the only left-wing website that focuses on the construction industry in this city and in this country. Now I’m not a supporter of either one of these factions. I’m not even a follower of the Fourth International. However, I got to say, from having listened to the presentations from the two speakers over here, this guy over here, the gentleman speaking for the League of the Revolutionary Party, he put out five questions at the beginning of this discussion. The speaker over here for the Spartacist League, he didn’t answer one of them. You’re a very good speaker, very impressive, I feel like I’m in church. Very emotional, very intense, but, hey, you know? Did he answer the questions? No.

Beyond that, a couple of questions he raised. I’m going to start with the Black worker. Let me speak about my industry. As it is today, about half the people in my union – I’m a carpenter – are African-American or Latino or Asian. How did that happen? Did it happen because of some unity between Black and white workers? Not quite. It happened because coming out of the uprising, some of the Black workers in New York City in the 1960’s, people saw a contradiction: you had job sites in the middle of Black neighborhoods and everybody is white. Well, a group called the Progressive Labor Party fought and they put some of their people in that industry. And they led an organization called Fight Back and that’s formed the whole movement of a number of Black workers and Latino worker organizations which in our industry are collectively known as the coalition.

How did they integrate the industry? Did they integrate it by appeal to some abstract nice idea of Black-white unity? Not quite. It involved baseball bats and chains and large groups of Black workers going on the job sites and busting heads until such time as general contractors and subcontractors saw fit to integrate the industry. That’s why today you have someone like myself, someone this color, with this union card. That’s how it happened.

So basically, I think the Spartacist League, from what I read from some of the quotes up on the wall that the LRP put up about what the Spartacist League said, had to say about integration, and about what seems to me like tokenism, hey, the reality of the situation is that if white workers aren’t willing to join hands with Black workers – and to a large degree they’re not in my business, they still aren’t – Black workers have to struggle on their own. That’s an important reality. These folks recognize that, and I think they got a point.

On the other questions, the Zionism question, what struck me, both from this speaker over here and the other SL speakers, and some of the folks from the ICL, from the Internationalist Group, the Jan Norden people, from what they had to say about that, it struck me that they spent an awful lot of time following behind Zionism, and “Oh we gotta protect the rights of Hebrew workers.” Israel has a 750,000 man army. They have nuclear missiles in their F-16 fighter bombers. I think they do a very good job of protecting the so-called rights of the Hebrew workers. They do not need the left to do that for them, and I think the correct position is to support the people that are on the receiving end of Zionist militarism, that is to say the Palestinians. Basically that summarizes what I have to say on this question.

I think as far as on the debates of the merits of the question, I don’t necessarily agree with either one of these groups. However, I think the League for the Revolutionary Party made a lot of good points together that the Spartacist League, the speaker over here, really didn’t answer. You just kind of blew by them and started talking about Burnham this and Shachtman that and all these other things. However I really don’t think what they’re talking about is revolutionary. With that, I’m done, and thank you for your time.

2nd LRP Speaker:

Thank you Greg for your contribution. I want to repeat one of the questions that my comrade up on stage brought up that hasn’t been responded to, and that is the question of what the Spartacist League defends, which is self-determination, or as Lenin explained, the right to secession for, as they put it, the Hebrew-speaking people – in reality, Israeli Jews. All right? Now, the Spartacist League claims to support the right of return for Palestinian refugees. If that happened you would have seven million Palestinians and roughly 4.8 million Israeli Jews providing none of them fled to Brooklyn or Ukraine, where many of them originally came from. 4.8 million versus 7 million, who would be the majority, all right? So if you’re going to fight for working-class unity, if you’re going to fight for a united workers’ state, what kind of state would it be? A Palestinian state. If you stand for separating that, secession, then what you stand for is either land theft or apartheid. Let me repeat that question and just ask the Spartacist League to respond to it.

Now, with that kind of concession to imperialist chauvinism, how can the SL even hope to break Israeli workers from Zionism? They can’t. Lenin stressed, as a result of World War I Lenin learned, that imperialism is not simply a policy but a new epoch of capitalism. One of the key divisions in this epoch is the division of nations into oppressor and oppressed, which forms the essence of the imperialism. And he insisted that had to become a focal point of the revolutionary program. Now, the SL’s track record on this, on standing for the defense of oppressed nations and defeat of imperialist oppressors is very irregular, and in the case of Palestine and Israel it’s atrocious.

In fact, the SL’s initial position on the 1948 war, inherited from Max Shachtman and Hal Draper, was the defense of Israel. And they later changed that position when they determined that Israel wasn’t actually threatened in that war, but they said that if it had been they would have defended it anyway. This is in their 1974 article changing their position. [“Birth of the Zionist State: A Marxist Analysis”, Workers Vanguard 45.] What remains consistent for the SL is that Israel is something to be defended.

Israel is an imperialist power in its own right, though a small one. It has always had privileged access to international capital on favorable terms, and an aggressive expansionist drive. It simply could not survive as a colonial settler state in the Middle East without these features. Now, the Palestinians have been its immediate victims, as my comrade explained, but not the only ones. Now, there’s no doubt that the Arab states that fought against Israel in ‘48 and ‘67 had their own reactionary aims. They weren’t fighting for Palestinian self-determination. They wanted to oppress the Palestinians but in a different way. And that’s what’s crucial. Because if you’re a Palestinian revolutionary, who are you going to turn your guns against first? The imperialist aggressor who’s trying to drive you and the rest of your people off your land, so that you can live to fight another day? Or the local thug who wants to oppress you tomorrow?

The essence of revolutionary defensism, the correct revolutionary policy in terms of the war in Iraq, and the correct revolutionary policy in terms of the Arab-Israeli wars, is precisely turning your guns against the immediate danger in order to live to fight another day, and overthrow the capitalist oppressors. Now Israel, by playing this imperialist role, didn’t just slaughter Palestinians. They slaughtered thousands upon thousands of Egyptian and Syrian workers. This helped the rulers in those states consolidate their power, consolidate alliances with U.S. imperialism, which made the war on Iraq possible. So if any tendency in this room bears a measure of responsibility, it’s the SL.

2nd SL Speaker:

Since we’re asking questions, I’d like Comrade Richardson to answer a question in summary. Why don’t you raise the call, “All the United States is occupied territory?” Now, when Comrade Landy was still happily inside the social democratic IS, I had already been to a number of Spartacist actions in opposition to the Israeli state and in defense of the Palestinian people, including one that was attacked by the JDL just a few blocks from here, so let’s cut the demagogy and the dishonesty and talk politics.

We are for an international communist classless society. To that end, in Lenin’s words, “we are for the unity of the workers of all nations on the basis of class against class.” That means we are against all national privilege. That means we are for the right to self-determination for all nations. Now, in a case of interpenetrated peoples, I know the LRP believes that bourgeois democracy can accomplish wonders, but you cannot always get such democratic rights realized under capitalism. So no, the democratic right of self-determination of the Hebrews and the Palestinian Arabs cannot be satisfied under capitalism. Your conclusion is, one wins, the other loses. Our conclusion is international socialist revolution.

Now, you say we tell the Palestinians to wait. That’s not only dishonest, it’s stupid. We tell the Palestinians and everybody else the truth. Your struggle for national emancipation will only, can only, be realized within the framework of a socialist federation of the Near East, through a series of workers’ revolutions. Including a revolution made by the Hebrew speaking workers, who happen to be in the most technologically advanced country in the region.

And I’m glad Greg said something about the nukes, because the LRP, aside from the Zionist Ministry of Information, are about the only two entities in the world that don’t seem to acknowledge that Israel has several hundred nuclear weapons. So you want to deny them their national rights? Get those weapons. Now. The LRP says that Lenin opposed the right to self-determination for oppressor people. Show me. The LRP claims that Trotsky denied he was an assimiliationist. Show me. Lenin, in all of his writing, stood by what we stand by: no privileges for any one nation. Complete equality of nations. And unity, amalgamation, of the workers of all nations. Here’s what he said, vis a vis the LRP: “The pseudo-Marxist who heaps abuse upon a Marxist of another nation for being an assimilator is simply a nationalist philistine.” [“Critical Remarks on the National Question,” 1913.] And that’s what the LRP is, except it’s vicarious and cheap.

3rd Independent Speaker:

Well, you’d never know from the revolutionary phrase-mongering in this room that the Spartacist League is an organization that, when push comes to shove, ducks. Most recently, when the U.S. military was pounding Afghanistan, in a November 9, 2001 issue of Workers Vanguard, in a polemic with the Internationalist Group, they rejected, repudiated, the position of revolutionary defeatism, writing “the call for a U.S. military defeat is, at this time, illusory, and the purest hot air, and revolutionary phrase-mongering.”

We of the International Bolshevik Tendency think it is not only absolutely appropriate, but absolutely essential for American revolutionaries to openly call for the defeat of U.S. imperialism and colonial adventures like those in Afghanistan and Iraq. Genuine revolutionaries welcome defeat for imperialist interventions, and unlike the SL we don’t care how many casualties it takes in colonial intervention. As many as necessary to drive the imperialists out. Now, in 1983, when the U.S. Marines occupying Lebanon were blown up in their barracks, the SL called to save the Marines. What’s different this time? Why aren’t they calling to save the Marines now? Could it be that this war was incredibly unpopular with the U.S. working class? That some third to fifty percent of the population of the U.S. opposed it – is that what’s different this time?

Now of course we do not disagree with the SL’s attempts to debate the LRP on the Russian question. The defeat of the USSR has immeasurably strengthened and unchained U.S. imperialism. Those who were not ready to defend the Soviet Union are now confronted with the logical political consequences of their position. And if they don’t like the way the world looks today, then it’s time for them to rethink and change their program.

But I’m not just addressing the LRP here. Because where was the ICL standing in the last decisive battle for the defense of the USSR, in 1991? If as the ICL says in their announcement for this forum in Workers Vanguard, “those who cannot defend the gains of the past workers’ victories are incapable of conquering new ones.” And this underscores the question of where one stood when the defense of the Soviet Union was posed, and that is hardly an academic and historical question, but one that reveals in practice whether one stands on the side of the proletariat against the imperialist order.

Well that’s quite right. What then does the neutrality of the ICL in August of 1991 mean? Where a coup in opposition to counter-revolution took place and as the ICL itself later admitted, the degenerated Soviet workers state ceased to exist. It is also a question that I would pose to the comrades of the Internationalist Group, since Jan Norden was the editor of Workers Vanguard at the time, and since to our knowledge, in the 10 years since then, the IG has written nothing to reassess the position of what happened in August of 1991. Their abandonment of the USSR in a critical moment of 1991 is not unlike the Spartacist League’s adaptation to social patriotism, ranging from Lebanon to KAL 007 spy plane, to the destruction of the Challenger, to the most recent adventure in Afghanistan. The LRP labels this first-world chauvinism. We label it more precisely as a capitulation by the Spartacist League to U.S. social patriotism.

3rd LRP Speaker:

OK, I’m going to get back to some basics. The LRP calls for the defeat of imperialism in every battle against an oppressed nation, with not an ounce of political support for bourgeois nationalism. After September 11th, our propaganda was dedicated to convincing our fellow workers, American workers, of the need to call explicitly for the defeat of U.S. imperialism. This was not popular, but we did not flinch about this, and the same could not be said about the Spartacist League.

In the heat of the aftermath of September 11th, during the war in Afghanistan, the SL could not bring itself to explicitly call for U.S. defeat. And this was not an isolated accident, because as already mentioned, in Lebanon in 1983, their slogan was, “U.S. Marines Out, Alive!” A slogan for the Marines! Comrades, this is not revolutionary defeatism, to say the least. We say the right of self-determination for all oppressed nations is key to the fight against imperialism. They can say it, but they cannot mean it, because after all the oppressor nations, with their big Israeli tanks, have their self-determination rights, too.

And then comes the theory of interpenetrated peoples. Palestine, it’s a horror, but it’s not an isolated accident. When it comes to the Spartacist League, they also refuse to support self-determination on the same grounds for the Irish Catholics of Northern Ireland, saying, it would only reverse there terms of oppression. Where have we heard this before? They simply can’t recognize self-determination for oppressed nations consistently. In 1975, when Angolan workers did recognize the struggle for self-determination, and were siding with the MPLA, in 1975 the Spartacist League completely abstained at that time. [See Young Spartacus, September 1975, cited in Socialist Voice No. 1.] They couldn’t help the workers fight their battles, they couldn’t help them learn any lessons about class independence. There is not even the foundation for principles with this group. Excuse me, you want to fight imperialism? You have to be able to recognize it wherever it is.

Comrades, by the time of the betrayal in Spain, in 1937, Trotsky had said, “this has acted to definitively fix the counterrevolutionary character of Stalinism on the international arena.” [“The Lessons of Spain: The Last Warning,” The Spanish Revolution, p. 311.] But for the Spartacists, the Soviet Union was still capable of progressive acts, 50 years later. They could not see its imperialist role in propping up the world system. They could not predict its fatal economic crisis, they could welcome the Russian army to crush the Polish working class, which was a key class struggle which could have spread to worker’s uprisings against Stalinism across Eastern Europe.

And finally, what side to take between Argentina and Great Britain in the Malvinas War? No side. Well, they said at the time that Argentina was not an oppressed nation. Rather, Argentina is one of the intermediate capitalist states like East Europe between the wars, Portugal, Greece, or Israel today. [Workers Vanguard, June 11, 1982; cited in Socialist Voice No. 17.] Argentina, imperialist? Intermediate? Why not indeterminate? This was a military dictatorship which was backed by the U.S., which had inspired the whole Cold War notion of purging the internal enemy across Latin America. Losing political strength at home, the dictators sought to rally and even divert the working-class sentiment against imperialism by elevating the fight over the Malvinas. But as soon as Argentina staked a claim in British territory, real imperialist territory, the U.S. staunchly came to the side of Britain to ensure the crushing defeat of the Argentine military. Even the SL bastion, Russia, refused to use its U.N. veto. It was united imperialism against Argentina. We stand with Argentine workers and all oppressed against imperialism, then and now. The same cannot be said about the Spartacist League. The Spartacist League are really in the dark without the Stalinist Soviet Union to follow on all questions, it can only get worse, and I think it’s pretty scary.

3rd SL Speaker:

So I guess I’ll go back to some basics, too. I want to take up the question of black liberation in this country, which is linked to the fight against capitalist exploitation. Black people are segregated at the bottom of society, but they are integrated at the point of production. The destruction of this caste system – that is the achievement of integration and real social and economic equality – is the task of the integrated Leninist party uniting all sections of the working class. There will not be a black liberation apart from the struggle for proletarian revolution and the smashing of the racist, capitalist state. It is in the interests of the multi-racial working class to take up this fight.

So I’ll quote Matthew Richardson, who just said, “integration is a form of nationalism.” Historically, the fight against black oppression has demanded the right of integration, and the acceptance of separatism has been a result of accommodation to oppression and the renunciation of struggle. The civil rights movement was derailed into the Democratic Party while militants like the Black Panthers were destroyed by the state. That was especially because there wasn’t a revolutionary party at the time that could combine that struggle with the force of organized labor. Our program of revolutionary integrationism means fighting for all steps towards black equality. That includes our defense for busing in the ‘70’s and affirmative action today.

Lenin said, “our task is not to segregate nations, but to unite the workers of all nations.” The LRP looks to the black ghetto revolts because the don’t see the possibility of building a revolutionary party that is integrated and internationalist. They say that black people should not wait for white workers, and they lump the white workers with the racist ruling class. This objectively helps the bourgeoisie to keep the working class divided. They have renounced the fight to win black revolutionaries to a program of united class struggle, and they despair that you cannot overcome the obstacle of racism.

In contrast to the LRP, we actually seek to, and with some success, have mobilized the working class in defense of the oppressed. I’ll just cite an example. In October 1999, when the Klan threatened to march in New York City, we mobilized 8000 people, including trade unionists, students, and youth, to stop the Klan. While Al Sharpton, along with the International Socialist Organization and the Latino Officers Association, built a separate rally to tolerate the Klan. While these ostensible socialists built a platform for the capitalist politicians and their armed thugs of the state, a platform which was extended to the fascists themselves, the LRP denounced us. They didn’t like our polemic against the ISO for speaking at the Democratic Party rally with the Latino Officers Association. They said, “it is not unprincipled to stand on the same podium as Latino Officers at an anti-fascist protest.” They also said, “the task for communists was to challenge the LOA to break from the police force if they were serious about fighting the Klan.”

So when we organized workers independently of the government and political parties of capitalism, they joined with these forces and tried to win them away from their role in the state. Another fight, which demands the independent mobilization of the working class, is the fight to free Mumia Abu-Jamal. The frame-up of Jamal symbolizes what the barbaric racist death penalty is about. The LRP advances the call for a new trial in this case, echoing the liberal movement to restore faith in the system. Behind this call is the belief that the capitalist state can be reformed, and that the bourgeois courts can be pressured to be just. It promotes reliance on the forces of law and order, of the Democrats and Republicans, the very same forces that want to see Mumia dead. What this campaign does, in effect, is to demobilize workers and youth, and channels outrage into the bourgeois court system. It’s enough to point to the cases of Geronimo Pratt and Ruben ‘Hurricane’ Carter to see where this road leads. There is no justice in the bourgeois courts. The only way to liberate blacks is through a socialist revolution led by the multi-racial working class.

4th Independent Speaker:

I’m a member of Progressive Labor Party, but I’m speaking for myself, really. I’m speaking for myself. I have a comment and I have two questions. The first is to Greg about the Black rebellions, is that, this part of the question goes to the SL, is that the Black rebellions did accomplish some significant things in the ‘60’s. You mentioned the fight to integrate the construction workers union, as well as, we all know in Detroit in ‘67, where the 82nd Airborne Division of the Army, which would then go to Vietnam, was actually called back by LBJ to put down a rebellion in Detroit.

My question is, the SL, the LRP said that you guys said that these are defeatist, meaningless things. My question is, even though the leadership and the politics of these struggles are nationalist, it seems to me like – and I remember more the ‘92 rebellions following the racist acquittal of the cops that brutalized Rodney King in LA – that these were real powerful movements, that this was a real powerful struggle that scared the hell out of the bourgeoisie, and forced them to really throw all the smokescreen stuff of community policing and getting more Black cops, and really trying to quench the struggle and quench the real anti-racist anger of Blacks, and also white youth. My question is, is what the LRP is saying true, that you believe that these struggles are meaningless and don’t have revolutionary potential?

My question to the LRP is that – my family, some members of my family, my mom was born in Israel actually – some members of my family actually fled to Palestine during the Holocaust. My question is this. You claim that in the ‘48 war you took a side with the Arab bourgeoisie because they are anti-imperialist. How can the Arab bourgeoisie be anti-imperialist when the governments of Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, and pretty much every other Arab government in the Middle East was a puppet government of either the French imperialists or the British imperialists? That’s true. The monarchal fascists in Egypt, monarchal fascists in Iraq that were overthrown after the ‘48 war, these were puppet governments of British imperialism. How can they be anti-imperialist, and how can you say that Hebrew-speaking Jews, especially those that were forced to flee to Palestine by British imperialism, and were kicked out of Europe and forced to go to Palestine after the Holocaust, how can you say that these people are no different than the Afrikaaner fascists in South Africa? To me that’s ludicrous. Your position of all Israel is occupied territory is basically saying, these people don’t have a right to live.

4th LRP Speaker:

My name is Eric, I’m a supporter of the League for the Revolutionary Party, I’m a transit worker in this city, and I help put out a bulletin called Revolutionary Transit Worker. Revolutionary Transit Worker has appeared many times since January of 2001, and in every issue of well over a dozen issues, we have denounced the Democratic Party, denounced every union leader in the union who gave one inch to the Democratic Party. We have called for socialist revolution in every issue of Revolutionary Transit Worker. We openly called for the defeat of U.S. imperialism in Afghanistan, and in Iraq, at the height of the war, in Revolutionary Transit Worker. In Revolutionary Transit Worker we have denounced every bureaucrat who made any step whatever toward government intervention in unions, even when cloaked as a lawsuit against a union officer, and not officially against the union, because it is in their position as a union officer that the suit was filed, thus inviting government intervention in the unions.

And I would ask, in the time that we’ve been putting out Revolutionary Transit Worker, and in the previous time, when we were putting out League for the Revolutionary Party literature in the union, where was the Spartacist League, where were supporters of the Spartacist League at that time? What literature did they put out saying the same things? Saying these things that they claim to agree with? I can only think of one mass-distributed revolutionary bulletin of any kind, in Transport Workers Union Local 100 that said any such thing. Now, we don’t merely put out literature to denounce and to exhort and show who everybody bad is, and stand aside and say “well, we’ve said it, now we’ve exposed the bad guys.”

When the masses, wanting to struggle, see, they think, a way forward, in electing, in union elections, people whom they believe to be militant fighters, we could stand back and say nothing, could denounce, or we could say “these sellouts will show themselves to be sellouts in office.” Say that openly, and further say, “The workers are correct when they say that to get the old bureaucrats off their necks, will put them in a stronger position to struggle.” I would like to hear somebody say that to get the old bureaucrats who have just betrayed a strike in 1999, to get an entrenched bureaucrat off your back, either sets the workers backward, or does not advance their struggle.

In order to expose New Directions, to expose Roger Toussaint, we use the weapon of revolutionary criticism. I see at least one person here who told me that it was a bad idea to say, in screaming headlines, as we did in our literature, “Vote for New Directions and don’t trust them for a second.” The Spartacist League has an entirely different conception of critical support. To them it is a reward. All the reformists have to do is say, “Oh, I don’t stand for government intervention in the unions,” and you will see the Spartacist League flip over into support for them immediately, because that’s original sin, apparently. And these bureaucrats who will say that are no different, and no better, and more really against state intervention in union than any of these other bureaucrats.

4th SL Speaker:

I am a transit worker and a member of TWU Local 100, and I support the speaker of the Spartacist League. I speak to win advanced workers to class struggle program. Back in 1989 the LRP criticized New Directions. In 1994, an LRP leaflet called a New Directions lawsuit against the union leadership “criminal,” and went on to say that “they are fundamentally no different” from the old-guard bureaucrats. In 1998, the LRP called New Directions’ campaign into the union “reprehensible.” But in 2000, the LRP gave critical support to New Directions, and urged the membership to vote for Toussaint and the New Directions slate. The LRP helped boost New Directions into power. Where Toussaint immediately and predictably implemented a program of turning the union into a political machine for the democrats. Along with dragging the union through the capitalist courts, Toussaint’s many sellouts flow from that.

So what changed between 1989 and 2000? In 2000 the Willie James regime was weak and unpopular. Toussaint provided a more slick leadership, and New Directions, whose leadership included plenty of fake socialists, was popular. Workers had illusions in them. The LRP fed into these illusions. The LRP is incapable of taking a position that is unpopular. They say “revolutionaries cannot absolutely rule out that there may arise exceptional and extreme situations under which the courts in a union struggle may be necessary.”

Look at the history of the LRP’s predecessors. They gave critical support to Arnold Miller, who became president of the mine workers union in the early 1970’s, with the help of the labor department. So oppositions to suing the unions isn’t a principle for the LRP. And that means government-run elections and government control isn’t a matter of principle either. The government has no business running and regulating the mine workers, the Teamsters, the TWU, or any other union.

I see critical support as using bourgeois elections or trade union elections as based on program, and not on which candidate is popular. To merit critical support, a candidate must break in some real way from class collaboration and stand for the independence of labor. As soon as Toussaint and New Directions won, they continued courting the Democrats. Hillary Clinton, Schumer, and all the candidates for mayor. Toussaint even invited the head of the PBA to speak at union rallies. After 9/11, this president, who the LRP supporter voted for, put American flags on every union t-shirt and button, supported the war on terror, and preached national unity. I fight to win a base for class struggle by raising consciousness in my daily discussions with my workmates. Just recently I raised a motion in my union division, which was passed, in opposition to the U.S. government’s imperialist invasion, slaughter, and colonial occupation of Iraq. The motion calls for all U.S. armed forces out of Iraq and the Middle East, and emphasized the need for workers to defend Iraq. I did the same thing at several anti-war rallies alongside other TWUers.

5th Independent Speaker:

Antonio, supporter of the Internationalist Group. Today we hear both organizations talk about and quote Lenin and Trotsky. While everybody learned from Lenin that the central theme for revolutionaries is your attitude towards your own bourgeoisie, this is the big test of an imperialist war. An organization that capitulates to its own bourgeoisie cannot led the proletariat in a revolutionary struggle. This does not depend on the military strength of the other side. It is a basic principle of communism.

The whole basis of the LRP’s politics has been capitulation to U.S. imperialism. We know what Trotsky wrote about Shachtman. We know what Trotsky wrote about the defense of the Soviet Union. We know you come from Shachtman. Even thought you try to hide this. Your organization exists only because it opposed the position of Trotsky.

You joined imperialists in demanding Russians out of Afghanistan. And you pretend that was a national question. A national struggle. But in the real struggle against imperialism, against United States colonialism, you did not take the position that Lenin would, and Trotsky. You do not demand independence of Puerto Rico from the U.S. imperialists. Since the Spartacist League changed its line, today the LRP and the SL have the same position on Puerto Rican independence. What is this position? Capitulation to U.S. imperialism. We have seen the banners of the Spartacist League. You still carry against First Gulf War, and what they say? They say “defeat U.S. Imperialism.” Today they still fight against that line. You oppose fighting for the Longshore Workers to hot-cargo war material. And you even attack the Internationalist Group by saying the Internationalist Group supposedly plays the card of anti-Americanism. Anti-Americanism. How many times have I heard this from the U.S. government?

The last thing. The LRP wants to co-exist with the imperialist liberals, and the Spartacist League hailed Barbara Lee and Jesse Jackson talking about the sacred U.S. Constitution and the Statue of Liberty. For whom? Not for the workers. Not for the immigrant. Not for the real revolutionaries.

5th LRP Speaker:

I’m speaking for the LRP. We are the party of the international working class. We’re not outsiders, we’re not abstentionists. I say that because the Spartacist League defines itself as outside the working class. As declassed intellectuals, which really means middle class intellectuals infusing themselves into the class struggle. It’s not just words but practice.

One contemptible example. In 1945, when the Nazis were being chased out of Eastern Europe by the Soviet Army, the Polish workers rose up in revolution. They seized factories. They created worker’s councils. The Fourth International wrote that this was the beginning of the workers’ revolution. The Spartacist League, in looking back on that, said that’s “fatuous garbage,” that idea. That it was the Soviet Army that was making the social change. They said about the Polish workers, “what workers?” What contempt for the working class! What sheer contempt.

In Cambodia in 1975, in Indochina, when it was vital to defeat the imperialists, the Spartacists called the Cambodian result a workers’ state, the dictatorship of Pol Pot, with the king as the nominal president. The first thing that this so-called workers’ state did was slaughter the workers’ state. Then the Spartacist League called it a really deformed workers’ state, and finally they changed their mind and said it was not even a workers’ state. But did they ever apologize for what they had done, and urging the workers, telling the masses of Cambodia that this was their state? The state that was going to slaughter them? Contempt for the workers, contempt for the very idea of a workers’ state.

In China in 1979, the Spartacists called for the Soviet Union to nuke China. China was a “workers’ state.” [Calls of “Prove it!”] Yes, you always deny it, but it’s on the wall with the exact quote. [Workers Vanguard, March 2, 1979.] It’s on the wall. We will prove it. And don’t take my time off this. Such contempt for your own idea of what a workers’ state, that you would call on it to be nuked. Yes, China was invading Vietnam, but no one ever explained why workers’ states – so-called workers’ states – would be fighting workers’ states. Contempt for the workers, contempt for the working class, contempt for the idea of a workers’ state.

And we have heard it here. There is the usual litany of lies that the Spartacists tell about the LRP. That we are Shachtmanites, and Shachtman supported imperialism. We broke from Shachtman, absolutely, clearly, in 1973. We have a Shachtmanite heritage just as you do, because your leaders also broke from Shachtman at a certain period. But we have never supported American imperialism, we have never supported Western imperialism.

You say we backed Yeltsin like the imperialists did. We backed Yeltsin only as military support against the most immediate danger from the anti-working-class putsch. We supported Yeltsin in the same way that the Bolsheviks supported Kerensky. You say we supported the imperialists in Afghanistan. We did not support the imperialists in Afghanistan, we supported those fighting the imperialists in Afghanistan, and the Soviet – your speaker said that the Soviet Union came in at the beck and call of the Afghan government. Funny that they had to kill the Afghan government to do that.

You’ve shown contempt for the working class, contempt for their own workers’ states, contempt for the very idea of a workers’ state. The highest possible achievement of humanity, not just a technical category. Contempt for the listeners here with your lies. And no wonder. You say you are outside of the working class, and there you are telling the truth.

5th SL Speaker:

Hi, my name’s Anna of the Spartacist League. I want to take up a few of the points with regard to the anti-war movement. Now, on the question of defeat U.S. imperialism, we made very clear in every issue of our paper that we will support, we welcome any defeat of the U.S. Our point is, how is it going to happen? You can call on the Taliban to defeat the United States all you want. That’s not going to make very much difference to the imperialists. So our call is on the force that can actually defeat U.S. imperialism, which is called the American working class, the integrated working class.

But in order to make this happen, you have to fight against – politically fight against the leadership of that working class, the bureaucracy, not vote for them. The question, I’m not even going to address the various lies that the second IG speaker raised. One thing that I want to point out about the anti-war movement is that the LRP’s position on posing as if you can build an anti-war movement with all those opposed to the war really gives the lie to any revolutionary pretensions that they might have. The point is that to oppose the imperialist war, you have to oppose the system of capitalist imperialism which engenders war. And their bottom line is to accept a common movement with bourgeois forces. What they deny and obscure is that to bring in all of those opposed to war is to necessarily pander to elements of the bourgeoisie. Because to build the broadest possible movement against war can only mean courting liberals. It mean, you know, to oppose capitalist imperialism is a policy around this particular war, when in fact imperialism is a system.

Now, Lenin learned from the Social Democrats’ support to their own ruling classes in World War I, that a split from the reformists is the precondition for a proletarian victory, and this is one of the primary lessons of the Russian revolution and the fight to build the Bolshevik party. So Lenin recognized that unity with the opportunists who supported their own ruling class’s war aims, meant in fact to split the international proletariat. He wrote in 1915 that a split with them is essential in the interests of socialism, it’s the prime duty of revolutionaries, just as a split with the anti-Semites, et cetera, in the worker’s movement, was essential in helping speed the enlightenment of backward workers and draw them into the ranks of the Social Democratic party.

Lenin fought to bring revolutionary consciousness to the working class. And that is what the LRP renounces. They stand opposed to Lenin’s conception of the vanguard party, as the speaker from the LRP just demonstrated amply. Now, on the question of – so, in order to justify this, the LRP makes up their own definitions of the united front in order to justify any bloc with anybody. In fact, the united front was developed as a tactic by the Communist International precisely as a weapon for communist hegemony over the workers’ movement, not for its subordination to the class enemy. Now, these ongoing coalitions are not united fronts, but rather class collaborationist tools, regardless of who’s in the leadership. So, he says they should be ... you know, you can unite in common action around a specific demand.

Well, I’d like to know what that was, actually. Wasn’t Jesse Jackson involved with that demonstration? The demands are not mentioned clearly. And so the point is that our fight is in the tradition of Leninism, not lying that you can make such a movement into a revolutionary movement. And our interventions to the anti-war movement have been towards building a Leninist vanguard party that can bring exactly that revolutionary consciousness into the working class. They have the gall to quote Trotsky on In Defense of Marxism on the class composition of the party, saying that it was a struggle against petty-bourgeois politics in the party. That struggle was a struggle against renouncing defense of the Soviet Union. That was the content of those petty-bourgeois politics.

6th Independent Speaker:

I’m unaffiliated. I was just thinking, about halfway through one of the more dull Spartacist League interventions, I had a bit of an epiphany. Where I thought, since there’s so many leftist groups in the room this weekend, perhaps we could have a convention where we discuss joining all together and then entering all the world’s major religions. But then I thought that might be a bad idea. That’s a joke, by the way, if anybody’s read the book.

But seriously, folks, actually on a very serious note, I want to ask for a clarification of what the speaker from the Spartacist League said in his opening statements. It’s a bit of the habit of the SL to make insinuations or suggestions or hints towards various different left groups – in this case the LRP – that there might be something more sinister involved than just political questions, and I think there was a suggestion that, in the phrases that you used about the spirit of the State Department. I’d like that to be clarified please, and I think that all the other left groups in the room should demand a clarification of that. Whether or not you support or agree with or somewhere in between the LRP’s positions on things ...

In my opinion, I believe that the LRP is what the old Spartacist League would call “honest revisionist.” However, they’re honest revisionists, and they’re a decent group. No, I disagree with their politics but I do not think they are a sinister group. They are part of the working-class movement. They are part of the far left, and anything, any kind of insinuation that there’s something sinister should be denounced by every thinking leftist in this room.

6th LRP Speaker:

My name is Carlos Ramos and I’m a supporter of the LRP in Puerto Rico. Between 1988 and ‘92, I was a member of the SL New York City. I arrived for the first time in this country in 1967 and went to work immediately in a factory in Passaic, New Jersey. During the summer I joined with other workers and marched until we clashed with the arrogant racist mayor and his police. As a result we rioted during three days, at which time I was amazed at what power we had. But at the same time recognized that we needed something else to change our desperate conditions. I began a search that years later led me to the SL. When the next major explosion came it was Los Angeles in 1992. The SL was hostile to the revolt and that turned me off. They were frightened of it and abstained from providing Bolshevik leadership to the social explosion. This disillusioned me and I left in disgust.

Had I know their line on immigration I would have never joined them. An organization of oppressor nation nationalists. The SL is a nationally chauvinist group that equates the oppressor with the oppressed, and favors the existing unequal relation. An important point the LRP has been making. In the first World War Lenin and Trotsky sneered at social patriots defending overrun Belgium, an imperialist country. What is the SL afraid of? Immigrant workers do not threaten the working class of any small or large imperialist country. They threaten the ruling class by bringing their first-hand experience in class struggle and linking up with the working class, giving a strong combative impulse, and with the potential of joining their class brethren in socialist revolution.

The SL’s line is like Pat Buchanan’s. Masses of unclean, brown people will flood the U.S. and destroy the advanced industrial culture of this country. In a capitulation to bourgeois nationalism, they will be very happy if immigrant workers kept away from aristocratic jobs reserved for U.S.-born workers, abandon their languages and reduced the inflow to a minimum in order to preserve the oh-so-treasured national identity of the imperialist U.S. In a quote cited from the New York Post approvingly by the same Pat Buchanan, in the struggle for retaining the national identity of imperialist countries, does any nation have a moral right to preserve its identity? [New York Post, August 17, 1991; cited in Proletarian Revolution No. 41.] If your answer is yes, then we have the right to open up this issue and reevaluate our immigration law, without fear of the crippling charge of racism. Only the SL does not have the guts to openly call for quotas on immigration, which is the logic of their position.

On the other hand, authentic revolutionaries must defend the right of all immigrant workers to settle where they wish and work at a living wage, and they are obligated to fight against the capitalist attack on immigrant workers, with demands for jobs for all. Equal language and cultural rights, an end to all restrictions on immigrants and refugees, and not whimper about defending imperialist national identity. The self-determination of imperialist countries. Trotskyists today say the SL shows great American chauvinism.

6th SL Speaker:

We’ve gotten a lot of guff today about how the SL isn’t for the defeat of imperialism. This is really rich coming from the LRP. You couldn’t even be for the defeat of the Nazi imperialists by the Soviet Red Army. You weren’t for the defeat of American imperialism by China and North Korea, either. You were so afraid that the El Salvador rebels were tainted by Stalinist germs that you weren’t for their military victory. We give them military support – what does that mean, shoot the other side in the feet, not the head?

You don’t like us, the State Department? Sorry. But the State Department, Ronald Reagan, and the LRP all said the same thing about Afghanistan: “Red Army out.” That ain’t defeat of imperialism, baby. And as far as the BT and the International Group are concerned, you’re not so hot on Afghanistan either. The BT retrospectively dumped our slogan of “Hail Red Army in Afghanistan” in order to be at one with the anti-communist left in this country. Ditto the “ig” when they initiated an action at Hunter College during the war in Afghanistan, had not one word to say about Hail Red Army in Afghanistan. So nuts to you people and your defeat imperialism.

Now, the LRP. One is tempted to say of the LRP what Trotsky said of the renegade Shachtman, when he claimed to be a Trotskyist. “If this be Trotskyism, then I at least am no Trotskyist.” Trotsky didn’t believe in some kind of common front with Lech Walesa, the State Department, and the AFL-CIA to oppose Stalinism. Trotsky’s position – that you didn’t quote when you quoted from In Defense of Marxism, which was a handbook of a faction fight against people with your politics – was “the question of overthrowing the Soviet bureaucracy is for us subordinate to the question of preserving state property in the means of production in the USSR.” [“The USSR in War,” September 25, 1939.]

And furthermore, when the Red Army moved into Eastern Poland in 1939, Trotsky did not denounce this as Red Imperialism. He said, “Our general appraisal of the Kremlin and Communist International does not, however, alter the particular fact that the statification of property in the occupied territories is in itself a progressive measure.” [“The USSR in War,”.] And that has something to do with the formation of the post-World War II deformed workers states in Eastern Europe, as a result of the Red Army occupation.

Now ,there’s a long history of what we called the third camp, the LRP’s attempt to posture as somewhere in between the Soviet Union and capitalism. Only, our experience has been that every time conflict sharpened between the USSR and the imperialists, the third camp disappeared into the camp of imperialism. That was true of Max Shachtman, that was true of Tony Cliff, who flinched during the Korean War, and that was true of the LRP during Cold War Two.

Now, I wanted to make two more points. One, Afghanistan. Here’s a picture of a young woman in the 1980’s fighting in the militia when the Soviet Union was in the country. You can’t see it, she’s got a Kalashnikov. Do you know the difference between that and a woman in a head-to-toe veil? That was the difference between the two sides in the war in Afghanistan.

7th Independent Speaker:

My name is Steve, I’m not a member of either group. However, for many years I have had very great sympathy with many of the positions and politics of the Spartacist League. I want to comment only on one issue, OK? And as between the so-called League for the Revolutionary Party and the Spartacist League, in regard to their positions on the Israeli-Arab, Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I want to say that of course, I have made my choice. I support the position of the Spartacist League. But not unconditionally, and not on every point. What do I mean by that?

In brief, I also want to say that the Spartacist League in the past said, and they have repeated recently in recent articles in the Workers Vanguard, that in the past they did call retroactively for the support of the Haganah in the 1948 war. That was a correct position of the Spartacist League when they first expressed it, even though they changed it later, and it is still a correct position today. And they also called, in 1968, in the No. 11 of the Spartacist of March of 1968, in a long article about the Six Day War, for the signing of peace treaties between Israel and the Arab states. They later changed that position, but that was a correct position then and it remains a correct position. By the way, that was an implicit, or perhaps explicit recognition of the right of existence of the state of Israel.

And just two more comments and then I’ll finish. One is that I want to call on the Spartacist League to return to those positions, especially in view of the fact that the person who seemed to have a great influence on them changing their position on that was Yossi Rad or Yossi Schwartz, who subsequently left the organization. You correctly have stated that you came ... and he was wrong on a number of issues. So he was wrong on his position on these particular issues. And the last thing that I want to say is that, as I said, I have substantial sympathies with the SL, and as between the SL and the LRP I stated what my position is, stands on the Israeli-Arab conflict. However – on the ‘67 war, of course it was a very long article, and many things that were stated there I disagree with, but the point I already stated that I agreed.

The last thing is, that as is well known by comrades of the Spartacist League, I am a socialist Zionist, which many people – maybe all of the people in this room – will say is a contradiction in terms. So I’m saying, as between the LRP and the SL, I agree with the SL’s position but from my own independent point of view.

7th LRP Speaker:

Yeah, that’s Zionism for you. I’m Alex, I’m a supporter of the LRP, I’m also a hospital worker, I’m a union member, 1199. I want to talk a little bit more about the reality of the class struggle. As the fight in the class struggle, you get not from books but from struggle itself, and Greg showed this, and this is where Marxists get most of their experience. We pushed for two anti-war resolutions, one of these was passed, against the war in Afghanistan. We actively fought Dennis Rivera, the union president’s pro-imperialist, anti-war motion – supposedly anti-war motion. A leaflet of this is on our website, and other work that we did in the union is on our website as well.

Our struggle in 1199 is to win over workers by fighting for the biggest possible working-class unity right now, and fighting side-by-side with our fellow workers to expose the treacherous – treacherous – union leaders, and proposing an alternative. We draw lessons from these struggles, and explain to workers that so long as we do not have a revolutionary leadership to lead those struggles, current leaders will eventually betray, no matter how left they may sound. Without a revolutionary party program, left-running leaders must capitulate sooner or later to the demands of capitalism, for they have no solution.

We don’t just need a class struggle leadership, as the SL says in most of their papers, when a union struggle takes place. We need one that will struggle beyond the bounds of economic struggle. We have for years pointed out that the working class needs to fight economic and racist attacks in action, like with a general strike. These are revolutionary methods. For example, there’s leaflets all over the back of all of our work in propagandizing and even agitating, at certain points in the past, resolutions to fight; these are active fights within the union. Standing up, whether we’re being booed by thousands of workers, we still do it, until we convince them. We beat them on the head with the truth. The truth.

Our speaker has already addressed the Spartacist League’s disdain for the struggles of the oppressed, and this debate itself has exposed that. It’s so obvious. Oppressed struggles of our class have broken out in the form of riots, revolts of the oppressed, but the SL calls these spontaneous uprisings, caused by years of oppression and police violence, “aimless outbursts of frustrated violence, lumpen rage.” This is what the SL calls it. Riots may not be the way to overthrow the system, but they are expressions of rage against the system, that must be understood and analyzed by revolutionaries, not looked down on as the middle-class SL has done.

It is an outrage to label all people that live in poor, working-class neighborhoods as lumpen. I live there, I’ve lived in the Bronx, I’ve lived in Washington Heights all my life. I know for a fact that crime is rampant in all of these neighborhoods, and these are just basically working-class neighborhoods, poor working-class neighborhoods that are under siege. These struggles, led by Blacks in particular, those of the ‘60’s, were responsible for substantial gains, as some people have pointed out during the course of the talk.

In the case of Cincinnati, I don’t know if anybody recognizes the rebellion of 2001, we called for mass armed self-defense. The SL, in compliance with the integrationist policy, unrealistically called on the mostly white trade unions to stand at the head of the Black masses. [Workers Vanguard, April 27, 2001; cited in Proletarian Revoluion No. 63.] And you can’t ignore the racist reality of America, and hope that whites would just wake up and save the poor, defenseless blacks. It’s insulting and condescending. This view and others are tied to their privileged outlook of the world. When becoming a communist it is necessary to break away from the politics alien to the working class and the most oppressed layers within the working class. The SL has not achieved this in the least way. This disdain for the working class, it’s obvious.

7th SL Speaker:

In the LRP I just see disdain for the need of revolutionary leadership. I’m a transit member of Local 100, I support the speaker of the Spartacist League. Within the transport workers union, the fight to overcome racial divisions, the fight to overcome anti-immigrant bigotry is central. But for the LRP this is always secondary, tertiary, not even mentioned. As one of the brothers mentioned, for all the LRP’s continuous hollering about mass action and general strikes, when it comes down to breaking from class collaboration, taking up broader social and political issues, they take a dive and stick to what’s popular, again and again. I’m proud to have opposed both pro-capitalist, pro-Democratic, flag waving, chauvinist wings of the TWU bureaucracy, and it wasn’t popular to do so, it was necessary to do so.

Within the labor movement, as everyone comes to find out, the charge that you don’t do anything means ‘you don’t support me.’ In the LRP’s case, it meant we didn’t support New Directions and their bogus electoral support for them. So what do I do? In October ‘99, I helped mobilize dozens of my co-workers to come out and take on, to stop the Ku Klux Klan in this city. The LRP was on the other platform. When a workmate of mine was attacked by a racist supervisor, I helped mobilize over 100 coworkers to demand his immediate reinstatement, going up against the racism of not only the company, but the racist indifference of the TWU bureaucracy. Toussaint, who deep-sixed the race question time and time again. I don’t see the LRP bothering to complain about Toussaint on that score. Dozens of workers came with me to the private lines picket lines. I didn’t see the LRP there by the way.

I intervened against U.S. imperialism in Afghanistan, against cops and security guards in the union. I defend immigrant rights and fought to free the detainees. Most recently, when the company has been cracking down on three black Muslim sisters, bus operators out of the Flatbush depot, we’ve taken up the cause of their defense, rallying to them and explaining the need to fight against anti-Muslim bigotry in the post-9/11 period. This is what’s needed to build the kind of revolutionary leadership that’s a genuine alternative to the pro-capitalist labor bureaucracy, that can actually mobilize the strength of the multi-racial movement in this country behind the rebellions and the fights of all the oppressed.

8th Independent Speaker:

War is an inevitable feature of a world divided into armed states ruled by incredibly wealthy capitalists in fierce economic competition with one another. Putting an end to the threat of war once and for all requires that we get rid of the system that breeds it. Under certain circumstances, particular wars can be and have been stopped. We think that they cannot have been stopped without a full-fledged social revolution.

The Vietnam war provides an example of this. When U.S. losses in Vietnam are considered from a purely numerical viewpoint, they pale in comparison with the losses suffered by those against whom they fought. The U.S. had the material capability to continue waging war, but the will was lacking, due to a widespread spirit of rebellion amongst the fighting soldiers.

The recent anti-war movement against the war in Iraq is an example of a movement opposed to a particular imperialist war, but not for the most part opposed to the system that breeds it. We are specifically concerned with that movement. To the extent that they sincerely opposed the war, they were potential allies to the anti-imperialists. Having failed to stop the war in Iraq, most of the anti-war people are on the verge, or in the process of concluding that the only course of action left open is to support the Democrats to defeat Bush in the next election. In other words, shifting away from being a potential ally of the anti-imperialist, and re-cementing its relationship with a section of the ruling class.

What can be done with the anti-war movement? We put forward the idea that an election campaign, if carried out properly, might be the appropriate course of action. We think elections can provide useful platforms from which to appeal to the working class and to the armed forces to take matters into their own hands. When the aim is to pass legislation or to make executive decisions, however, then a campaign serves not the interests of the working class and of peace, but of the ruling class. We believe that if a campaign appeals to soldiers to rebel against their officers, and does so forcefully and energetically, then such a campaign would be a campaign of class struggle. A class struggle election campaign today would give anti-imperialists greater standing within the anti-war movement, to new advances that would cause that movement to be revived.

Just like to say, this is representing the views of AL Collective. We’re a very small collective from the Northeast. Although we are in the process of educating ourselves politically, we feel that it is appropriate for us to intervene in struggles over issues where we believe we can make a positive contribution. One of the distinguishing features of our membership is a positive outlook towards animal liberation. Thank you.

8th LRP Speaker:

The first comment I want to make about this debate, I want to really solidarize with what Greg said very early on about the fact that our speaker in the opening presentation posed five very clear questions that the Spartacist League in their opening response manifestly refused to answer in any way. My first reaction to those opening speeches was, the best way that we could reply was just to play a tape of our speech again. Really, everything that they said we had already answered in our opening speech.

In particular, I want to re-emphasize these questions: The Spartacist League has not explained how it is that Stalinism and Stalinist bureaucrats can create workers’ states, in explicit contradiction to everything that Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Trotsky ever said about the working class must create the workers’ revolution in order to create a workers’ state. They haven’t tried to answer that. They haven’t tried to defend or acknowledge their position which they took and we’ve quoted, that they were defending the national identity of nations when they opposed the demand to end all restrictions on immigration. They haven’t even addressed their position on immigration at all. Haven’t even acknowledged it. I don’t think one Spartacist speaker has come out and acknowledged the fact that they do not call for ending all immigration restrictions, and they haven’t tried to defend it or respond to it in any way. So we really need to be clear about that.

I want to respond to one thing which has come up in the course of the debate, which is the question of the anti-Klan rally in 1999, which the Spartacist League has addressed very dishonestly. In particular, a Spartacist speaker has quoted from our article about that rally quite dishonestly. Quoted the fact that we say “it is not unprincipled to stand on the same podium as Latino officers at an anti-fascist protest.” [Workers Vanguard’s Fabrications,” in Proletarian Revolution, No. 60.] What they leave out is the point we say right after that: “The point is to denounce the cops and their pro-capitalist and pro-Klan role from that podium, so that the protestors draw the right lesson. This is what the ISO deserves to be criticized for.” [Laughter.]

The Spartacists are laughing at this. Anyone here who is independent and capable of thinking critically, look at this: they’re laughing at going to an anti-Klan rally that thousands of angry anti-Klan workers are at, and denouncing people with pro-Democratic and pro-Klan positions. They’re laughing at that. They laugh at the fact that our comrade in Chicago fights for the right to speak at the podium, and when you have all of these reformist and pacifist and pro-Democratic Party speakers, he’s denouncing the Democratic Party, and calling for anti-imperialist struggle, calling for building a revolutionary party, calling for a general strike. And the Spartacist League is laughing at that, and saying no, you build a separate demonstration, a separate contingent, and that’s how you try to reach people.

That’s what the Spartacist League is laughing at that. Look at the way they’re reacting to this whole debate. Look at all the questions they haven’t answered, and draw your own conclusions about who the revolutionary working-class party is in this room.

8th SL Speaker:

In answer to one of your questions, every country where we have a section we are known for our fight for full citizenship rights for all immigrants. The LRP’s call for unlimited immigration, and before that for open borders, is basically a call on the imperialist nation-state to dissolve itself. Not unusual for a group that calls on the bourgeois state to provide full employment and even to expropriate itself. This is counterposed to Leninism, and Lenin specifically polemicized against “open the frontiers.” Behind the LRP’s line is the premise that the imperialist order can be made more democratic and egalitarian.

Now let’s cut this lying, chauvinist-bating crap. This is the supplement we put out when we organized our mobilization of 10,000 people in this city, centered on largely black trade unionists in this city. That’s the working class. This is not the work of chauvinists. We were the first group, and probably the only group that I know of, that organized a labor-centered mobilization to defend immigrants in this country after September 11th. Is this the act of chauvinists? No. This is the act of communists.

Now on this ghetto rebellion stuff, yes, there are spontaneous outbursts of rage, and yes, they are understandable, and from ‘64 on we’ve defended them. 1964, we stand with the ghetto masses, in defense, but recognize that this is not a program. 1964, we organized a defense rally when Harlem was under siege by the cops. Thousands in the Garment Center. We sought the labor defense of the ghetto masses, linking the ghetto to the factory floor where minority workers have real social power. Real social power. Not in the community. Look what happened in Detroit factories when DRUM left to do community work. Look at the neighborhoods where those ghetto rebellions happened. What was the outcome? Whole swaths of neighborhoods destroyed and never rebuilt. We care about the people that were killed and we care about those destroyed neighborhoods – not you.

What was the real gain of those rebellions? Black mayors, Democratic Party mayors in cities across the country. For the purpose of keeping a lid on struggle. One of those mayors, Wilson Goode, ordered the bombing of the MOVE family in 1985. We held a defense rally in their support. You came and spit on it. You called for pressuring the leaders. Sharpton, another would-be black mayor. This city was seething after the murder of Amadou Diallo. There were protests; Sharpton sought to get out there and put a lid on it. You sought to make Sharpton mobilize the masses, make Sharpton work. This is what we wrote: “Enough. The mass outrage against the cops does need an organized political expression, not one aimed at strengthening the hand of the Democrats, the political tool of the very capitalist rulers whose interest the cops serve and protect, but one which provides a proletarian class axis that can weld the social power of the multi-racial working class to the anger of the inner city through mass labor-centered protest against cop terror.” That’s what we stood for. You stood for pressuring Sharpton.

Abstention, lastly. Comrades addressed the anti-Klan mobilizations, our proud 17-year history in defense of Mumia Abu Jamal, protests in defense of immigrants. We revived an old international labor defense tradition of stipends to class-war prisoners, people behind bars who must never be forgotten by the working class. This is what the Spartacist League does, and our associated organizations the PDC and Labor/Black League for Social Defense.

9th Independent Speaker:

Yes, I would just like to make the point before I start that we called for a military victory of the Soviet army in Afghanistan. Since my comrade [from the IBT] did a pretty good job of tearing apart the SL, I will make a few comments on the LRP. Now, whether it’s the Russian question, the national question, or the question of imperialism, which is supposed to be the topic of today’s debate – though it seems that discussing a laundry list of 50 differences is what’s going on – it seems the common denominator for the LRP seems to be the replacement of petty-bourgeois moralism for Marxist precision and of class criterion.

By claiming that both the USSR and Israel are imperialist today, they make the most ridiculous equation to those that repeatedly claim they’re experts at Marxist theory, of equating imperialism with expansionism and national chauvinism, which existed way before capitalism even existed, in many different class societies. Soviet expansionism was motivated not by the drive for new markets, but military defense. While the Stalinists certainly participate in the national oppression of countries they occupy, which Trotskyists opposed, that is a very different phenomenon than imperialism. And certainly not what’s going on in Afghanistan. Israel is a country supported by imperialism, which is not to say that it is imperialist itself. It has an extremely weak economy which would completely collapse the second the U.S. stops its financial support. A schnorrer state, as the SL occasionally likes to say. Its expansionism is not a reflection of imperialist economic appetites, but rather its chauvinist, Zionist ideology.

And in relation to this, I ask the LRP comrades: if winning Israeli workers over to support Palestinian national rights is utopian, because of their privileged nature, than what about winning the relatively privileged U.S. workers to defend the significantly less privileged Afghans or Iraqis? Or what about working male workers to defend equality for female workers? Also not an easy thing to do. It’s extremely defeatist. It seems that the main difference between the LRP and its Stalinophobic Shachtmanite predecessors is a newly developed taste for vicarious third-world nationalism.

Now, the LRP vigorously protests at becoming called Shachtmanite, because it itself does not claim it’s Shachtmanite, yet it sees nothing wrong about claiming that all its opponents, such as us or the SL, are Pabloites, despite the fact that our origins is in that faction of the Trotskyist movement that opposed Pablo in the ‘50’s, which seems like a lot of hypocrisy to me.

And lastly, on the question of immigration. I think the comrades of the LRP are trying to manufacture differences that don’t exist, and I don’t think that’s a very good thing to do in a debate. You have enough differences that you shouldn’t have to do that. And as a last small technical point, I don’t think it’s very helpful when you call a debate on a particular topic and each side makes 50 different accusations about the other side, and then complains that the other side, in the small limited time allotted to speak does not answer all 50 accusations.

9th LRP Speaker:

My name is Sy Landy, I’m speaking for the LRP. Our comrade here, or several comrades, spoke, saying what good work they did in the transport workers union. When we brought up a motion to strike in 1999, where the hell were you? When we fought for a strike this year, in the transit workers union, where the hell were you? A strike in the transit workers union in New York would have shut down the imperialist capital of the world, and did more to stop the war against Iraq than all the demonstrations put together. Where the hell were you? When we argued and fought for a strike by the working class, and got immersed in the class struggle, where the hell were you? No place to be found.

You’re simply, your stuff, how you fight imperialism and oppose imperialism is bullshit. When the struggle is there of the actual, living working class, we are there, fighting. With all the opposition raged against us, and you are not to be seen. Not to be seen. You ought to be ashamed of yourself. [Laughter] And you laugh. They should be ashamed of themselves. When the struggle is there and workers are demanding leadership, you are not to be found. Chickenshit is your motto, and that’s the truth. Class struggle, indeed. Revolutionary party indeed.

A labor Zionist gets up here and says what nice folks you are. His position is not the same as yours, but he recognizes his comrades. In the struggle between the Palestinians, who are being murdered by the Israeli Zionists, your touching feeling for the equality of feelings of both sides, this makes you revolutionaries? It’s disgusting.

When the ghetto riots take place, Robertson, the leader of the Spartacist League says, they’re burning down their own drugstores so the Jews will come back and start them. And then you defend this in your newspaper by saying, Sy Landy couldn’t care less – they don’t have drugstores. [Workers Vanguard, October 20, 1978.]

Sy Landy needed the drug store, he lived in Detroit. And he cared a great deal because his neighbors were so proud of the riots that they took place in, because they won them jobs in the auto industry they could never get before. You don’t give a damn about that. Do you care about that? No, you don’t care about that. It was a demonstration on the basis of class solidarity and class explosion. If you care about the masses of the world, you should enthuse with the riots, enthuse with the fact that masses will come to the United States, yeah, and flood it.

9th SL Speaker:

I think that the last speaker was an embarrassment to his own organization. But just to quote him on “where the hell were you?”, let’s remember that where they were was electing the leadership of the TWU that sold out the strike and negotiated a rotten contract. They put them in office, and we fought against that.

Now, I also want to address the LRP’s assertion that you can be on the same platform with cops. Now look, the police do not represent simply a different point of view to be debated. They are the armed fist of the capitalist state. There is a class line there. That is not a united front, with the police. And just as you do not recognize the class line in the anti-KKK struggle in New York City, you tripped over it everywhere in the world throughout Cold War Two. So in a debate on the struggle against imperialist war, let’s be clear – in your own small, pathetic, cringing way, you helped create a world of unbridled U.S. imperialist slaughter around the world, by being on their side in every conflict through Cold War Two.

Now, the core premise of revolutionary Marxism is that the role of the revolutionary party is to bring revolutionary consciousness into the working class, without which you can have splendid, inspiring, self-sacrificing struggle, but you will not have an overturn of property relations and the construction of a socialist, egalitarian society, without revolutionary consciousness. There has been no shortage of struggle around the world. Look at how many have died in the fights, from Spain in the ‘30’s to Italy, Central America. So this issue of building a revolutionary party is more urgent now than ever.

What does the LRP have to say about this struggle for revolutionary consciousness? Right here in New York City, in a leaflet for a general strike to stop layoffs and budget cuts, the LRP says, “Just as pressure from the ranks has forced the union leaders to call this demonstration, workers can force the union leaders to carry out more necessary actions to build for a general strike. In the course of the struggle, it is necessary to prepare to replace the current union leaders if they refuse to respond to the demands of the ranks for a fightback.” [LRP leaflet, “For a General Strike to Stop Layoffs and Budget Cuts,” April 29, 2003.] Now, in other words, treacherous union tops in New York City, who supported Governor Pataki, who supported no strikes by the transit union – you’re calling on them to lead a general strike, which is supposed to pose the question of who is the master of the house in a society?

If this is your view, that consciousness develops spontaneously from the class struggle, and you have explicitly renounced Lenin’s What Is to Be Done? and denounced the Spartacist League as condescending, middle-class saviors, for taking up Lenin’s fight, then I have a suggestion for you. If revolutionary consciousness is spontaneously generated, why don’t you disband? Because there’s no need for you, then.

And I have an alternate proposal, which is that perhaps you and the Internationalist Group could fuse, because you actually have a lot more in common. I don’t have time to go into it with 30 seconds, but the revolutionary phrase-mongering from the Internationalist Group in cyberspace is a camouflage for their inability to combat the existing misleadership of the unions, or of the workers’ movement internationally, and that is the difference between them and us. We are in the unions fighting to build a class struggle leadership for the American proletariat, and fighting to build a revolutionary international that Lenin and Trotsky will recognize as their own.