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On Cliff Slaughter’s Article,

On Cliff Slaughter’s Article,

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Published by Gerald J Downing
Laffonts reoly in 1987 to Cliff Slaughters assertion than the workers states had a dual nature.
Laffonts reoly in 1987 to Cliff Slaughters assertion than the workers states had a dual nature.

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Published by: Gerald J Downing on Dec 07, 2009
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05/11/2014

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On Cliff Slaughter’s Article,
1. The Sectarians and the Dialectic
by Gérard Laffont (Daniel Assouline), of the Fourth International (Rebuilt)
A Sectarian Method in the Discussion
An initial remark that Comrade Slaughters article evokes concerns its method, its way of discussing, which is in reality a way of avoiding fundamental discussion. It begins with an attempt,typically sectarian, to disqualify the opponent from the start.Let us recall the beginning of the discussion or, more exactly, what I said in my article “The ClassNature of the Bureaucracy” that provoked this astonishing response from Cde Slaughter. Thecomrade speaks of an “attack” that I made on him, taking off from a sentence in his interventionduring the meeting in London, last October 23. First, it is necessary to be understood on the exactmeaning of the term “attack” when we (the party to which belong, whose name is the FourthInternational – rebuilt) discuss within the vanguard, when we polemicise with other currents or withpolitical opponents, we practice only one kind of “attack”; political criticism, debate on ideas, apolemic with the
expressed 
and verifiable positions of those with whom we are discussing. This isnot Cde Slaughter’s method, as will be seen.But even the tem “attack” is understood in the sense that we give it in our practice (this also isverifiable), the mere reading of my article will make it clear that this word very badly fits myremarks concerning the sentence in question of Cde Slaughter. Clearly, this sentence in itself doesnot provide anything to criticize. (It is completely different with what Cde Slaughter says
now
in hisresponse.) As to the theory of the “dual nature” of the Stalinist bureaucracy being a fraud, as thecomrade says, there has never been for us the shadow of a doubt. That this bureaucracy has afundamentally counter-revolutionary nature, that it ceaselessly sacrifices the interests of the worldrevolution on the altar of the defence of its own parasitic caste privileges, still less. These arefundamental theses, confirmed by all historic experience, which are at the very basis of theconstitution of the Fourth International.My remarks on the confusion that Cde Slaughter might introduce (and which l maintain) did notconcern the general
correctness
of his words, but their general character (the fact that theyremained general) in a very concrete context. Let us see!
Cde Slaughter spoke on the same platform as did a representative of the Pabloite “United Secretariat 
”. Mandel himself had justwritten to Workers Press to defend the behaviour of the current he leads in regard to theHungarian Revolution of 1956. In these conditions, and when one claims to be defending theprogram of the Fourth international in the light of this historic experience can one rest content witha vague allusion to a mysterious “theory” without saying who defends it, toward what end, norwhat importance it has for the vanguard?And that is what reproached Cde Slaughter with. And that is why, with quotations from Mandel tosupport me. I explained what the Pabloite theory of the "dual nature" of the Stalinist bureaucracyconsists of, the capitulatory attitude that this ‘theory‘ reveals and what Trotskyism counterposes,on this decisive terrain, to the revisionism of Mandel’s United Secretariat.And understand well; I am in no way reproaching Cde Slaughter (or the WRP) for speaking on thesame platform as a representative of the Pabloite current, but for speaking so vaguely. Everyoneknows that we are partisans of unity in action, on all possible terrains of the class struggle,between the different tendencies of the vanguard. We are very sincerely pleased with the fact thatthe WRP succeeded in organizing in unity a discussion on the Hungarian Revolution on theoccasion of its thirtieth anniversary. But once in the debate it is necessary to debate. Or not? It isonly the sectarians who oppose unity in action under the pretext of ideological disagreements. Butit is also a characteristic of sectarians (or rather, the other side of their incapacity to debate ideaswith opponents} to beg the question, to shut up about or to erase political differences when thetime comes for them to make unity.And l hope that Cde Slaughter will not retort to me that it is necessary to know how to act correctlyin discussion, if one wishes to do everything possible to achieve unity of action! We think that it isnecessary to do so in general, unity of action or not.
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But let us say that there was another reason, developed in my article, why I emphasized thecompletely insufficient character tin a discussion, which like the one in London was supposed totake up the lessons of 1955 and the problems of the political revolution) of Cde Slaughter’s
remarks
. Our former comrade, the Hungarian revolutionary Michel Varga, was one of the mayorinvited speakers (for the WRP, doubtless the major one) at this meeting. I pointed out that, underthe same general formulations that Cde Slaughter used the group that Michel Varga represents,the GOCQl (Groupe d'Opposition et de Continuite de la Quatrieme lnternationale – Opposition andContinuity Group of the Fourth Interactional Trans.), has developed a whole series of conceptionsand political positions that are, in our opinion, profoundly erroneous contrary to the programme of the Fourth international, close in many ways to Shachtmanism, etc.In doing so I was in no way placing in doubt the validity of the formulations used by Cde Slaughter.I was trying to show that one cannot
remain
on that level in order to arm the vanguard andcontribute to building parties of the Fourth international: neither in relation to the complexity of theproblems posed by the political revolution (from the Hungarian uprising of 1956 up to the presentcrisis in the USSR, passing through the Polish Revolution of 1980-1981), nor in relation to thediversity of positions that exist among the different currents that claim this revolution for their own(including the Pabloite current).Especially that, since 1965, there have been developments in the political revolution, that
Trotskyist 
sections were established by the International Committee; and that, in particular, in thecourse of the Polish Revolution that began in 1980, one of these sections, the RevolutionaryWorkers League of Poland (Polish initials, RLRP – Trans.), fought to build a Trotskyist party; thatthat happened for the first time since the beginning of the crisis of the Fourth International (sincethe beginning of the 1950s); and that the political problems encountered in this practical light ledto a differentiation of Michel Varga‘s current from ours, the Fourth international rebuilt; that arepresentative of our current, the Polish Trotskyist Stefan Bekier, well known in the WRP, had beeninvited to the London meeting but had not been able to express himself fully; and that, in everycase, these political problems were perfectly well known by Cde Slaughter. In this context, myremark was only a friendly incitation to say more about it, in order for the discussions amongstcurrents claiming to be Trotskyists to go forward.Naturally Cde Slaughter has a perfect right to disagree with our positions and to agree with MichelVarga. I maintain, however, that there is not a real political agreement, one of ideas, between CdeSlaughter and Michel Varga but that rather there is a bloc, sealed to be sure by political interests incommon, but in no way by an authentic community of views and principles. That is why CdeSlaughter “defends” Michel Varga...without going into the discussion that we are carrying on – andwhich my article made – with the political positions of Michel Varga. In other words, Slaughter“defends” Varga...without setting foot on the only ground on which we "attack” this person. Or,more exactly, in doing so with a great deal of prudence, remaining as abstract as possible,avoiding "prickly” subjects like the attitude toward Gorbachev’s “reforms”.Cde Slaughters pretence that l used a sentence of his to unleash my ‘attack' on Michel Varga is,very simply, ridiculous. Cde Slaughter is, l believe, the first British reader of 
Nouvelle Etape
("ANew Stage” – Trans.), a pamphlet that while assembled and signed by me constitutes a collectivework of my party, which is largely devoted to explaining our differences with Michel Varga. Wecertainly did not wait for a sentence from Cde Slaughter to polemicise with Michel Varga. And wehave always done this in the way we do things: that is, by discussing what Michel Varga wrote, andby drawing the conclusions of what he wrote
 publicly 
. We maintain that this is the method of theMarxists.A Little Decency!Cde Slaughter, in contrast, has recourse, right from the start of his article to other pettyarguments. Thus, alter having announced that an “attack” is underway, the comrade tells us that“this is not the first time that Slaughter and Varga have been attacked together”; already in 1966,in the time of the international Committee, they were attacked and accused of factionalism. The“attackers", solemnly concludes Cde Slaughter, were Healy, Banda and Lambert. And there l am inthe company of hardly recommendable people, right? Alter having so “classified” me CdeSlaughter is going to discuss with his latest, in terms of date, “attacker”. But, as everyone knows in
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advance, it is only a question of the latest offspring of a long lineage of people of well-knownmethods, whose course is likewise known.A little decency, Cde Slaughter, a little decency! It turns out that in the 1965 discussion, in ouropinion Healy, Lambert and Banda were right politically, at bottom against Slaughter and Varga.But that is of little moment. Let us admit that the accusation of "factionalism” was completelyunfounded, that what was going on was a defensive, nervous, sectarian reaction of a leadership –the International Committees – that had plenty of political inadequacies. Cde Slaughter willrecognize all the same that this particular “attack” was of a different nature, qualitatively different(it is very much a question here of the dialectic), from other “attack “made not once, but for yearsby Healy and Banda in company with Cde Slaughter. We are especially thinking of the sadlyfamous “security campaign”. And there the term “attack” seems to us too weak and too neutral.We prefer the more exact one of cop slander One must not mix the things up.It turns out also that after the unilateral break by Healy (followed by Banda and Slaughter) withLambert, Varga, Lora and ourselves, the crisis of the International Committee was sharplyaccelerated. After the dissolution of the International Committee by the OCI leadership andconcretely since 1973 we fought against the violent slander campaign launched by the leaders of the OCI against our comrade Michel Varga with him – and now without him – we have not stoppedwaging the struggle against this campaign. Where was Cde Slaughter during the most difficultyears of this battle? There was, moreover, no lack of opportunities for him to give witness to hissolidarity with Michel Varga. It is true. that at the beginning of Lambert‘s campaign theInternational Committee (in a statement published in Workers Press on October 5. 1973)denounced the slanders made against Michel Varga. (2) But we know of no particular efforts byCde Slaughter for his organization to take any active part in the struggle against these slanders wedo know, on the other hand, once the leadership of the International Committee was in its turnengaged in a slander-campaign against the leaders of the American SWP, the conduct of CdeSlaughter, addressing himself by letter to Michel Varga to propose a bargain with him: defenceagainst Lambert’s attacks in exchange for support in the international Committee’s ‘securitycampaign. Perhaps Cde Slaughter would like to forget this episode, certainly not very 'glorious’ forsomeone who wants to give us lessons in principles!And for all these reasons, Cde Slaughter would be well advised to show a little more modesty. Cliff Slaughter probably learned the method that consists of disqualifying a political opponent at theside of Healy and Banda. It is certainly not Lenin’s. And, as master thinker, we prefer him to the oldcomrades of Cde Slaughter, who seems not to have broken with all their ways. It would be reallysad if the whole balance sheet of the WRP on the Healyite leadership came down to denouncingHealy‘s 'sexual abuses.‘ We have always thought that the clarification of the course and of theroots, fundamentally of the sectarianism that carne to dominate the whole life of the WRP (arid onthe basis of which Healy was able to lead and to do as he did) was much more important for thefuture of this party than denouncing the behaviour of an individual. You have to get to the bottomof the problems it you want to solve them. I do not doubt for a minute the virtue of Cde Slaughter.But, on the political level, he too has permitted himself some abuses. And his polemical method isstrongly redolent of Healyism.l would not have gone on in this way about my “attack” did I not think that his method stems fromthis mater political problem that concerns the WRP as a party and, more broadly, the vanguard.And if Cde Slaughter, instead of discussing in a normal way the political disagreements that mightput us at odds, had not tried to assert his moral and political authority as a revolutionary leader bytrying to discredit his opponent (in the event me) and, much more serious, by playing so lightlywith history – of his party and mine.Discussing the bureaucracy and on the problems of the political revolution, one sees that CdeSlaughter replaces dialectical thinking with the art of prestidigitation.
The Origin of the Discussion
 The polemic that Slaughter wages is
false
, to the extent that he denounces positions that are notours and that, while knowing this perfectly well (differently from those reading him), he attributesto us. The discussion, however. is possible, although a little more difficult, to the extent that Cde
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