The revolutionary tradition of the Fourth International and the centrist tradition of its Epigones Gerry Healy and the ”International Committee” – A Reply from the RCIT to ”Socialist Fight”
By Michael Pröbsting, Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), October 2013, www.thecommunists.net
The British group Socialist Fight, which is part of the Liaison Committee for the Fourth International (together with the LC in Brazil and the TMB in Argentina) has published a polemic against our analysis of the degeneration of the Fourth International after World War II. (1)
The subject of this document, written by comrade Laurence Humphries, is an important book for our movement called The Death Agony of the Fourth International, which our predecessor organization Workers Power (Britain) published in 1983. (2)
We appreciate comrade Humphries’ contribution for two reasons. First it is a welcome contribution if an organization, which claims to stand in the tradition of Trotsky, deals with the history of the Fourth International. This, in itself, is not a taken-for-granted in times like the present in which the degeneration of pseudo-Trotskyism has reached such low levels that hardly any of these epigones bother to show any interests in the history of our movement. While we do not agree with the positions of Socialist Fight, we appreciate their interest in the subject of the post-WWII development of the Fourth International.
Secondly we welcome comrade Humphries’ contribution because it helps to clarify the programmatic differences between the LCFI and the RCIT which we consider to be differences between centrism and Bolshevism.
Unfortunately, there is nothing positive to add to these comments. The SF/LCFI document is politically and theoretically wrong. Despite some mild criticism, it praises the thoroughly centrist tradition of Gerry Healy and claims that he as well as his partners in the so-called ”International Committee” in the years after 1953 – Pierre Lambert, James P. Cannon, Nahuel Moreno, etc. – represent the revolutionary continuity of the Trotsky’s Fourth International. As such, the SF/LCFI concludes at the end of its document: “Workers Power has characterised the split in 1953 as a centrist split and did not break with Pablo’s method. WP are wrong theoretically. In 1953 the opposition to Pablo did fight. (…) The 1953 split was a principled defence of Trotskyism against liquidation and revisionism and was therefore a definite continuity of Trotskyism.”
In fact, as we will demonstrate below, Healy and the ”International Committee” were rather a centrist current – in rivalry with the other centrist split of the Fourth International (the so-called ”International Secretariat” of Michel Pablo and Ernest Mandel) – which did not restore the revolutionary continuity of Trotsky’s Fourth International. The document proves once more that central leaders of Socialist Fight – and thus the LCFI – who have been members of Healy’s organization in the past (most prominently Gerry Downing, the central leader of the SF/LCFI) still adhere to this rotten tradition. Healy’s pupils fail to break with their master.
In addition the SF/LCFI document also distorts the history of the Fourth International and confuses simple facts as well as the arguments of its opponents. It simply lacks any serious dealing with the subject as we will show.
I. Incessant Confusion of Facts and Positions
The lack of seriousness on behalf of the SF/LCFI starts already with the fact that nearly 30% of the document is a largely concealed copy-and-paste job. The author has simply incorporated, literally, sentence-for-sentence and paragraph-for-paragraph large chunks of another study to which he refers only once. With the exception of one paragraph, he presents this material as his own. The study, from which the SF/LCFI plagiarizes so extensively, is called “The Rise and Fall of Gerry Healy” written by Bob Pitt, a former member of Healy’s WRP, in 1989. (3) Naturally there is nothing wrong in quoting from other publication. Quite the contrary, this assists the reader in studying original sources and in better checking the facts. However, this is, of course, not possible if an author conceals the source of nearly a third of his document which was simply copied and pasted.
In the real world, any scientist or scholar who presents the insights of others as his or her own, is immediately dismissed. In politics, we have no other sanction than contempt for such shameful tricks. Why did the LCFI conceal its extensive copying? Maybe because the original study is not only much better researched, but is a superior political analysis of the rotten tradition of Gerry Healy?!
Unsurprisingly, this vast copy-and-paste job gives the SF/LCFI a certain contradictory character since the paragraphs stolen from Bob Pitt usually contain more critical notes on Healy’s “achievements” than the paragraphs written by the SF/LCFI itself.
The LCFI could have at least minimized the damage if it would have copied more of Bob Pitt’s study and not cut out his insightful and fundamental criticism of the bankrupt tradition of Gerry Healy. But, unfortunately, the LCFI cut out precisely those critical sentences and parts of sentences which denounce the rotten methods of Gerry Healy in the paragraphs it integrated into its own article.
The disorganized and disorientated but still revolutionary Fourth International during World War II and its collapse into centrism in 1948-1951
However, this is definitely not the only defect of the LCFI document. The first few paragraphs of the document are representative for the whole article. The article starts as follows: “The Fourth International during the war years of 1940-1945 prepared for Trotsky’s prognosis on the future of Imperialism and the tasks of the Fourth International. WP maintains that the struggle inside the Fourth International that wars and revolutions were Imminent was correct. WP have argued that the FI was not a continuity during this period and neither tendency represented a serious left opposition and therefore does not constitute a continuity of Trotskyism.”
In fact, our tendency maintains quite the opposite. WP(B)/RCIT reject the opinion that the Fourth International in the war years of 1940-1945 did not represent the continuity of Trotskyism. What we say is that it was severely weakened and disorganized in this period and that it made a number of errors. It stopped following the tradition of authentic Trotskyism when it programmatically adapted to Stalinism, in particularly its Yugoslavian version, Titoism. This did however not take place, as the LCFI wrongly ascribes to us, in 1940-1945 but in 1948-1951. We made this plainly clear in our book and it is astonishing how the LCFI could miss that:
“In 1951 the centrist positions of the Third World Congress on Stalinism, on Yugoslavia, and general perspectives (the impending "civil war" perspective) proved, beyond doubt, that a programmatic collapse of the Fourth International had taken place. The fact that no section voted against the Yugoslav resolution - the cornerstone of all the errors - is a fact of enormous significance.
The FI as a whole h