Révolution Socialiste|| |
Statement of the International Executive Committee of the International
Communist League (Fourth Internationalist)
Our Position on Haiti
Capitulation to U.S.
its articles on the Haitian earthquake, Workers Vanguard, the newspaper
of the Spartacist League/U.S., committed a betrayal of the fundamental
principle of opposition to one’s “own” imperialist rulers. In addition to
justifying the U.S. imperialist troops as essential to the aid effort, these
articles polemicized against the principled and correct position of demanding
the immediate withdrawal of the troops. This line was carried in a number of
presses in other ICL sections, becoming the de facto line of the International
Communist League. Without a public accounting and correction, we would be far
down the road to our destruction as a revolutionary party. From the
beginning the only revolutionary internationalist position was to demand that
all U.S./UN troops get out of Haiti!
our article in WV No. 951 (29 January), repeated in subsequent issues of
the newspaper, we baldly stated:
U.S. military is the only force on the ground with the capacity—e.g., trucks,
planes, ships—to organize the transport of what food, water, medical and other
supplies are getting to Haiti’s
population. And they’re doing it in the typical piggish U.S.
imperialist manner. We have always opposed U.S.
and UN occupations in Haiti
and everywhere—and it may become necessary to call for U.S./UN out of Haiti in the
near future—but we are not going to call for an end to such aid as the
desperate Haitian masses can get their hands on.”
International Executive Committee of the ICL repudiates this betrayal of our
revolutionary program. As stated in the SL/U.S. Programmatic Statement: “We unconditionally
oppose all U.S. military intervention—and U.S. military bases—abroad, and
defend the colonial, semicolonial and other smaller, less developed countries
in the face of U.S./UN attack and embargo.”
in very belatedly raising the call for “All U.S./UN Troops Out of Haiti Now!”
in WV No. 955 (26 March), we continued to evade and reject the principle
of opposition to the U.S.
imperialist occupation of neocolonial Haiti. Moreover this article
stated: “As we made clear in our article, ‘Haiti Earthquake Horror:
Imperialism, Racism and Starvation’ (WV No. 951, 29 January), while we
were not for the U.S. military going into Haiti, neither were we going to
demand, in the immediate aftermath of that horrific natural disaster, the
immediate withdrawal of any forces that were supplying such aid as was reaching
the Haitian masses.” In fact, our earlier article had not clearly stated that
we were not for the U.S.
troops going in nor did it even call the U.S. military takeover what it was.
U.S. military invasion was
designed to provide a “humanitarian” face-lift to bloody U.S. imperialism and was aimed at securing U.S. military control in Haiti and reasserting American imperialist
domination over the Caribbean, including against imperialist rivals like France. In
failing to oppose the invasion, we also ignored the particular danger this
posed to the Cuban deformed workers state (as well as to the bourgeois
nationalist-populist regime of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela). We accepted Washington’s line that the provision of aid was
inextricably linked to the U.S.
military takeover and thus helped to sell the myth peddled by the Democratic
Party Obama administration that this was a “humanitarian” mission. Our
statement that “it may become necessary to call for U.S./UN out
of Haiti in the near future”
(emphasis added) amounted to giving conditional support to U.S. military
intervention. As one leading party comrade argued, the only difference between
the position we took and August 4, 1914, when the German Social Democrats voted
war credits to the German imperialist rulers at the outset of the First World
War, is that this was not a war.
we gutted the revolutionary internationalist essence of Trotsky’s theory of
permanent revolution linking the fight for social and national liberation to
the struggle for proletarian state power both in neocolonial and in more
advanced countries. This means educating the proletariat in North America, and
internationally, that its class interests lie in actively championing the fight
against the imperialist domination of Haiti. Instead our articles did the
opposite, promoting illusions in U.S. imperialist “democracy” as the
savior of the Haitian people. We all but echoed Barack Obama as he dispatched
imperialist combat troops, including elements of the 82nd Airborne Division and
a Marine expeditionary unit. One doubts that we could so easily have taken such
a position if the Republican Bush administration were still in the White House.
its latest article, “SL Twists and Turns on Haiti” (Internationalist, 9
April), the centrist Internationalist Group (IG) writes: “While support to
imperialist occupation is a small step for reformists, who only seek to modify
imperialist policies rather than to bring down the imperialist
system, in the case of the SL/ICL it should be harder to digest.” Indeed it is.
For its part, the IG treated the earthquake as an opening for revolution in
Haiti, asserting: “This small but militant proletariat can place itself at the
head of the impoverished urban and rural masses seeking to organize their own
power, particularly at present where the machinery of the capitalist state is
largely reduced to rubble and a few marauding bands of police” (“Haiti: Workers
Solidarity, Yes! Imperialist Occupation, No!” Internationalist, 20
of simply exposing the IG’s Third Worldist fantasies, we concentrated in our
polemics on zealous apologies for the U.S. imperialist military
intervention, a position to the right of the IG. These centrist apologists for Third World nationalism quite correctly characterized our
position as “social imperialist”—socialist in words, support for imperialism in
deeds. This is a bitter pill to swallow. Only through a savage indictment of
our line can we avoid the alternative of going down the road that led the
founders of the IG to defect from our organization in the pursuit of forces
other than the proletariat. In their case, this has ranged from remnants of the
Stalinist bureaucracy that sold out to imperialist counterrevolution in the DDR
to Latin American nationalists and left-talking trade-union bureaucrats.
the context of polemics with the IG, Workers Vanguard misused the
authority of the revolutionary leader Leon Trotsky in order to alibi support to
an imperialist occupation. In his 1938 article “Learn to Think,” Trotsky argued
that one should not always put a minus where the bourgeoisie puts a plus. He
was referring not to a military occupation force but to instances where an
imperialist government might send military aid to
anti-colonialist fighters. Moreover, Trotsky’s reference in this article to
workers fraternizing with an army called in to fight a fire manifestly did not
refer to a situation like Haiti
imperialist troops were invading a neocolonial country, an act which Leninists
unconditionally oppose on principle.
neither do revolutionaries foster illusions in such non-military aid as
capitalist governments may provide. In responding to the U.S. imperialist invasion of Haiti following the earthquake, we would have
done well to look to the position of our Australian section in 2005 responding
to the imperialist “aid” intervention in Indonesia,
specifically the secessionist province
of Aceh, following the
tsunami. Demanding “Australian/all imperialist military/cops get out of Aceh
now!” an article in Australasian Spartacist titled “Australian
Imperialists Seize on Tsunami Catastrophe” (No. 190, Autumn 2005) indicted
imperialist aid programs. The article pointed out that “whatever short-term
benefit a part of them may provide to a small number of oppressed people,” such
aid is “always aimed at reinforcing neocolonial subjugation of the Third World masses.”
“Politics of the Possible”
the time of our tendency’s inception as a left opposition within the Socialist
Workers Party (SWP) in the early 1960s, we have recognized that national
isolation must in short order destroy any subjectively revolutionary formation,
not least one subjected to the pressures of operating in the heartland of world
imperialism, the United States. Genuine proletarian internationalism means
disciplined international collaboration, without which we cannot successfully
counter the powerful pull of nationalist opportunism.
handmaiden to our embellishment of U.S. imperialist intervention was
the abrogation of international democratic centralism. The role of propaganda
as the scaffolding of a revolutionary party is to publish the line of the
party as decided through discussion and motions by the party leadership.
Prior to going into print opposing the call for “troops out of Haiti” in WV No.
951, the SL/U.S. Political Bureau and the International Secretariat (the
resident administrative body of the IEC) abdicated responsibility by not
holding an organized discussion and vote, instead setting our line through
informal consultation. However, once the line was published in Workers
Vanguard it was picked up by many of the ICL’s other sectional presses,
indicating that there was little initial disagreement.
meeting of the I.S. on March 18 did at last vote to call for the immediate
withdrawal of U.S.
and United Nations troops. However, the motions adopted at that meeting, which
became the basis for the article in WV No. 955, reaffirmed that “we were
correct in not calling for the withdrawal of U.S. troops in the immediate
aftermath of the earthquake.” In stating that “the particular exceptional
circumstances that obtained two months ago no longer exist,” the motions also
continued to insist that conditional defense of the U.S. military invasion was correct
in the immediate conjuncture of a natural disaster. Moreover, while criticizing
the formulation that the U.S.
military was the only force on the ground with the wherewithal to deliver aid,
the I.S. motions did not mandate a public correction of this statement. This
kind of dishonesty was condemned by James P. Cannon, founder of American
Trotskyism. In addressing a situation where the Trotskyist SWP at its 1954
convention needed to acknowledge mistakes, he noted: “You know, the Stalinists
make more changes, and more rapid and drastic changes, than any other party in
history. But they never say: ‘We made a mistake.’ They always say: ‘The
situation has changed.’ We should be more precise and more honest.”
often takes the guise of “realism” and “expediency.” Looking to come up with a
“concrete solution” in a situation where there was no such solution from a
proletarian revolutionary vantage point, we capitulated. What our small
revolutionary party had to put forward was a proletarian internationalist
perspective for the liberation of Haiti, above all through opposition
to our “own” imperialist rulers. In the immediate situation, the only concrete
expression of such a program was negative—to demand that any and all Haitian
refugees be allowed into the U.S.
with full citizenship rights, to oppose any deportations of Haitians who had
made it here and above all to demand all U.S./UN troops out.
articles distorted reality in order to justify the American military presence. We
correctly criticized the reformists for spreading illusions in the imperialist
governments by demanding that they provide “aid, not troops” but our own
response was worse. Our articles presented U.S.
military intervention as the only “realistic” way for the Haitian masses to get
“aid” and claimed demagogically that withdrawal of U.S. combat troops “would result in
mass death through starvation.” This was to treat the question not from the
standpoint of Marxist program, but through the liberal lens of “disaster relief.”
Michael Harrington—the former leader of the Democratic Socialists of America
and adviser to the “war on poverty” programs of Lyndon B. Johnson’s Democratic
Party administration—captured the core of such a social-democratic worldview
with the expression, “the left wing of the possible.”
“politics of the possible” is a palpable pressure in the period of post-Soviet
reaction, where revolution—or even, particularly in the U.S., militant
class struggle—appears remote and there is an overwhelming absence of resonance
for our political views. There is a yawning abyss between what we stand for and
the consciousness of the working class and young radicals, even those who claim
to be socialist. As we have noted, it has been very difficult to maintain our
revolutionary continuity and very easy to have it destroyed.
Fight to Maintain a Revolutionary Perspective
fighting against the Cochranite opposition in the then-revolutionary American
Socialist Workers Party in the early 1950s, James P. Cannon argued:
revolutionary movement, under the best conditions, is a hard fight, and it
wears out a lot of human material. Not for nothing has it been said a thousand
times in the past: ‘The revolution is a devourer of men.’ The movement in this,
the richest and most conservative country in the world, is perhaps the most
voracious of all.
is not easy to persist in the struggle, to hold on, to stay tough and fight it
out year after year without victory; and even, in times such as the present,
without tangible progress. That requires theoretical conviction and historical
perspective as well as character. And, in addition to that, it requires
association with others in a common party.”
“Trade Unionists and Revolutionists,” 11 May 1953
example of the degeneration of the SWP from a revolutionary party through
centrism to abject reformism is instructive. The party endured more than a
decade of stagnation and isolation during the anti-Communist witchhunt. Seeing
their role reduced essentially to a holding operation in the citadel of U.S.
imperialism, aging party cadre like those in the Cochran wing gave up on a
revolutionary perspective. The SWP majority under Cannon and Farrell Dobbs
fought to preserve the revolutionary continuity of Trotskyism against this liquidationism.
But they themselves were not immune from the deforming pressures that led the
Cochranites to split.
years later, in 1957, the SWP supported the introduction of federal troops into
Little Rock, Arkansas—the end result of which was the crushing of local black
self-defense efforts against the howling racist mobs fighting school
integration. Painting U.S. troops as reliable defenders of black people
engendered significant opposition within the party in the 1950s, particularly
from Richard Fraser whose program of revolutionary integrationism as the road
to black freedom in the U.S. we take as our own. But the wrong line was never
corrected and the view of the U.S.
imperialist army as the only “realistic” force to defend civil rights protesters
in the Jim Crow South against racist terror deepened. By 1964 the SWP had
adopted the grotesque campaign slogan, “Withdraw the Troops from Viet Nam and Send Them to Mississippi!” By 1965, the SWP had thrown
overboard the last remnant of a revolutionary opposition to imperialism,
promoting the reformist lie that a classless peace movement could stop U.S.
imperialism’s dirty war against the Vietnamese workers and peasants.
young SWP cadre in the Revolutionary Tendency who fought the party’s degeneration
were the founding leaders of our organization. Recognizing where the SWP went,
and holding it up as a mirror of where we could go without correcting our
mistakes and the outright betrayal of our revolutionary internationalist
program in response to the Haiti earthquake, is part of the fight to preserve
this continuity with Cannon’s revolutionary party that extends back to Lenin
and Trotsky’s Bolsheviks.
the ability to make such a correction is hardly cause for celebration. It
merely lays the basis for political rectification. We crossed the class line
and the urgent necessity is to reassert and struggle to maintain the
proletarian internationalist program of Leninism.
—27 April 2010