Kneeling Before the Body of General Wolfe on the Plains of Abraham
Reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 827, 28 May 2004.
12 March 2004
To the editor:
The 5 March 2004 issue of Workers Vanguard (WV) contains a useful report on the recent hot cargoing of parts shipped on Canadian National (CN) trains by members of the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) at Fords Southern Ontario plants in Oakville, St. Thomas and Windsor. They took this action in solidarity with their fellow CAW members who are on strike against CN. The 24 February issue of the unions Railfax wrote: Special thanks go out to CAW auto workers who placed themselves at risk yesterday in order to support their striking brothers and sisters at CN Rail. As WV correctly observed, these courageous unionists showed the kind of militant solidarity thats needed to win labors battles. The capitalist media has largely ignored this action, presumably because they dont want any repetitions.
The same issue of Railfax also reported that, CN moved over the weekend to secure injunctions in Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal. These injunctions were aimed at crippling the strike, but at least in Montreal the workers took no notice. According to a 5 March report on the Montreal website of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (montreal.cbc.ca) 75 CAW pickets blocked the entrance to the rail yards in St. Laurent for several hours and prevented trucks from entering. Eventually the riot squad appeared and attacked the workers, one of whom complained: We have a right to go on strike, we have the right to be here, but the police are beating the shit out of us to make sure that we leave.
The fact that militant workers in both English Canada and Quebec have been prepared to defy bourgeois legality in the course of this strike seems to us a good reason for you to reconsider the proposition that: The recognition by the workers of each nation that their respective capitalist rulersnot each other are the enemy can only come through an independent Quebec (Spartacist Canada, September-October 1995). The fact is that the current CN strike fits the same pattern of joint struggle by Anglo Canadian and Quebecois workers that we have seen in strikes by rail, postal and civil service workers over the past several decades. There is no question that the Anglo-chauvinism, social-democratic reformism and petty-bourgeois Quebec nationalism pushed by the labor bureaucrats represent important obstacles to the development of a class-conscious workers movement and must be vigorously combated. But the fact is, the current rail strike parallels previous ones (including the one featured on the front page of WV No. 28, 14 September 1973) in that workers on both sides of the national divide are engaged in common struggle against a common enemy.
As you know, we uphold the position initially developed by the international Spartacist tendency (iSt) in the mid-1970s in contradistinction to various ostensibly Trotskyist organizations which invested petty-bourgeois Quebecois nationalism with some inherently revolutionary dynamic. The iSt position combined a resolute defense of the inalienable right of the Quebecois to separate and form their own state with an advocacy of common working-class struggle across national lines. Contrary to the allegations of the Pabloites, there was no shred of Anglo-chauvinism in this position. The current rail strike demonstrates that the perspective of bi-national class struggle remains a valid one.
As we sought to explain in Trotskyist Bulletin No. 7, the link between the historically more militant Quebecois working class and their English-Canadian sisters and brothers (and through them the powerful U.S. proletariat) is a potentially highly significant factor in the development of revolutionary consciousness within the North American working class. We urge the comrades of the International Communist League, on the basis of this most recent experience, to reassess your organizations position and reject the pessimistic estimation that joint class struggle is not possible prior to the establishment of an independent capitalist Quebec.
Bolshevik Greetings, J. Decker, for the International Bolshevik Tendency
Since its creation more than 20 years ago by a handful of embittered ex-members, the group now calling itself the International Bolshevik Tendency (BT) has reviled our organization as a maniacal political bandit obedience cult. Just a couple of months before we received the above letter, the BTs German adherents came out with an issue of their occasional press, Bolschewik (January 2004), which was heavily devoted to regurgitating the BTs slander of the International Communist League and our German section, the Spartakist Workers Party (SpAD), for vulgar chauvinism against the Kurds. Now the Canadian BT sends us this oh-so-comradely letter addressing us as serious socialists. The BT has twocounterposedlines on the ICL. This is an acute and grotesque contradiction.
The BT salutes Workers Vanguard for its coverage of actions taken by members of the Canadian Auto Workers. Because workers in both English Canada and Quebec have engaged in struggle, the BT beseeches us to reconsider our position and join them in opposing independence for Quebec. No thanks. We leave to the BT the distinction of being the socialists officially invited to a Montreal Canadian unity rally on the eve of a 1995 referendum on Quebec sovereignty. Its no accident the BT was invited to this We love Canada rally organized by top business leadersbecause the BTs leaflet on the referendum (issued only in English!) also called on Quebec workers to vote No to independence. When the BTs only Québécois member quit, he protested their de facto bloc with the Canadian bourgeoisie.
The BT glibly claims to uphold our initial position combining resolute defense of the inalienable right of the Quebecois to separate and form their own state with an advocacy of common working-class struggle across national lines. Hardly. In the first ten years of its existence, the BT wrote all of one sentence about Quebec (and we really had to hunt for it!). In contrast, from its very beginnings our Canadian section, the Trotskyist League/Ligue Trotskyste, actively championed Quebecs right to independence.
However, by 1995 we recognized that it had become necessary not only to defend Quebecs right to secede but to advocate its independence. We concluded that our previous perceptionthat national antagonisms had not yet become so intense as to make independence the only means of cutting through themwas at best based on a superficial appreciation of the evolution of a self-conscious Quebec nation and the class struggle within it. This reappraisal was the result of extensive international discussion, study and our experience of intervention in the struggles of the working class in Quebec and English Canada. A motion adopted by the Central Committee of the TL/LT in July of that year noted:
For Leninists, the advocacy of an independent Quebec is the means to get this question off the agenda, particularly to combat the orgy of Anglo chauvinism in English Canada, but also to foil the aims of the bourgeois nationalists in Quebec who seek to tie the historically combative Québécois proletariat to their coattails. This is the only road to bringing to the fore the real social contradictions between the working class and their own bourgeoisie in either nation, and thereby laying a genuine basis for common class struggle in the future.
We recognized that if we had not changed our position we would have been finished as a Marxist organization in Canada. But the BT was never premised on the Marxist fight to win the proletariat to the cause of international socialist revolution. Its arid appeals to bi-national class struggle are merely an echo of the Anglo-chauvinist union bureaucrats who also argue that independence for Quebec would be harmful to labor solidarity.
From the BTs letter, one would have no idea that the CN strike occurred amid the biggest outburst of anti-Québécois chauvinism in the last 15 years. This in turn is fueling a predictable rise in pro-independence sentiment in Quebec, with polls showing support for sovereignty back up to 47 percent. Most Quebec unions are quite separate from those in English Canada. Even the CN strikeone of all too few examples of common labor struggletestified to the depths of the national divide: in English Canada, picket lines were festooned with the Maple Leaf flag; in Quebec, with the fleur-de-lys.
The ruling Liberals funneling of millions in government funds to friendly advertising agencies in Quebec has produced an uproar in English Canada. When New York TV talk show host Conan OBrien brought his Late Night show to Toronto, the mere mention of the word Quebec brought a chorus of boos from the audience. The tabloid Toronto Sun made a virtual anthem of OBriens sick jokeYoure French and Canadian? Then you must be obnoxious and dumb!after it elicited guffaws of approval from his studio audience. In Quebec, anglophones in bourgeois Westmount and the middle-class suburbs on Montreals West Island are agitating to withdraw from the largely French-speaking city and re-establish separate, privileged enclaves. Recent revelations that the federal government was ready to send troops to Quebec if the 1995 sovereignty referendum had carried underline again how the forcible retention of Quebec in a united country is a cornerstone of capitalist Canada (see Anglo-Chauvinist Provocations on the Rise: Independence for Quebec! Spartacist Canada No. 139, Winter 2003/2004). The BT makes no mention of any of this.
A Persilschein for the Father Confessor?
One can assume from the BTs letter that they are sufficiently concerned that we have caught them out on their Maple Leaf chauvinism as to sense they cannot approach us as a deranged cult over the Quebec question without inflicting further damage to themselves. On the other hand, their German branch continues the BTs slander campaign against us for great power chauvinism supposedly directed against the Kurds, with some new embellishments as absurd as they are disgusting. Run under a large picture of cops arresting a Kurdish protester in Berlin, their chauvinist-baiting diatribe is designed to convey a not-so-subtle amalgam between our comrades and the racist oppressors of the Kurds. Particularly in a country with a large Kurdish population, this is a blatant appeal that we should be dealt with as enemies of the Kurdish people. And this poison is spewed by an outfit that stridently opposes the Kurds exercise of their right to self-determination in an independent Kurdistan and whose own revolting indifference to the oppression of the Kurdish people is captured in its headline, Polemics with SpAD/ICL: With Love from Absurdistan.
We already shredded this chauvinist-baiting Big Lie last year, documenting the BTs role as a walking provocation against the ICL and exposing the manipulative sociopath, Bill Logan, it embraces as its leader (see BT: Renegades for Hire, WV No. 807, 1 August 2003 and BT: A Walking Provocation, WV No. 808, 29 August 2003). We do so not simply for purposes of elementary political sanitation, but because a new generation of leftists must be made aware that the likes of Logan have no place in the workers movement. It was for similar reasons that we took the unusual step of publicly releasing our three internal bulletins On the Logan Regime after we expelled him from our international organization (then the international Spartacist tendency) in 1979.
In late 1978, there was a fight to remove Logan as national chairman of our British section, where he had been running a brutal and nasty regime. The exposure of Logans sadistic manipulation of comrades in Britain led to further charges against him from his former victims in the more isolated Australian section. The Spartacist League of Australia and New Zealand Central Committee charged Logan with systematic and conscious violations of communist morality during his tenure as national chairman of the SLANZ between the years of 1972 and 1977 and with repeated, conscious intervention into comrades personal lives as part of a pattern of calculated personal and sexual manipulation, passing off intimate managing of comrades personal lives as a legitimate and central function of the national chairman (see On the Logan Regime Part III, International Information Bulletin No. 16, November 1983). The charges itemized 18 specific counts, including six attempts to bring about certain sexual configurations and/or create couples through direct intervention and three attempts to break up certain couples through organisational/personal pressure and administrative measures. Finally, Logan was charged with The campaign to force Vicky A to get an abortion and failing that, to foster her child (1973), using personal, social and organisational pressure.
Following a trial at our First International Conference in 1979, Logan was expelled by a unanimous voteincluding those future BT members presentas a proven, massive liar and a sexual sociopath who manipulated the private lives of comrades for reasons of power politics and his own aberrant appetites and compulsions in the guise of Marxism. In the case of Vicky A., the trial body found Logan guilty of inhuman torture of a mother, rendered suicidal in his attempt to destroy and take away her baby.
These credentials were good enough for those who formed the BT, having dribbled out of our party in flight from our hard Soviet-defensist communist politics in the face of renewed Cold War in the early 1980s, to embrace the same Logan they had earlier voted to expel. In 1990, Logan (who had resurfaced as head of the New Zealand Permanent Revolution Group) emerged quite openly as the líder maximo of what was now proclaimed to be an international tendency. Last summer, nearly 25 years after we had expelled Logan, the BT came up with a quote ripped entirely out of context from one of our publicly available internal bulletins to slander us for vulgar chauvinism.
The quote was taken from a 1978 report by SL/U.S. National Chairman James Robertson, a founder of our international tendency, to our New York local on the fight to remove the Logan regime in Britain. In his report, Robertson criticized another leading comrade, Reuben Samuels, for absenting himself from this fight: Criticism of Reuben: the whole time, where was Reuben? He was off in the library, studying about the Turds for his class. Samuels had been brought to Britain to give an educational on the Kurdish question at the urging of comrade Robertson and the rest of our international leadership, a task of particular importance at the time given the recruitment of Turkish comrades to our British section. But when Samuels got to London what was posed was not a class but a hard political fight to defend our party against Logan, who viciously manipulated the internalized oppression of minority and women comrades. Samuels was later flown back to Britain a second time to give his class on the fight against Kurdish oppressionsome chauvinism!
More than a hundred opinionated, argumentative young communists of many different ethnic backgrounds heard Robertsons presentation. They understood it for what it was: a powerful indictment of the all-sided oppression of capitalist class society, and a record of the struggle against a sick character who tried to destroy comrades. In ripping apart the BTs attempt to paint our membership as merely obedient tools, fools and perhaps racists themselves, we noted of the BTs lies: They cant manage to mention that the quotation from comrade Robertson that they pulled out and twisted beyond recognition comes from a bulletin titled On the Logan Regime Part I. How come? Why has Logan become the equivalent of that empty space on retouched photos? What is the BT hiding? (WV No. 807, 1 August 2003).
Evidently, the BT left it to their German section to produce the requisite Persilschein (the De-Nazification Certificate issued to rehabilitated Third Reich war criminals at the end of World War II) for Logan. To this end, the German group dredges up some garbage alibis for Logan that had been gathering dust in a 1996 BT pamphlet titled ICL vs. IBT (which pamphlet coincidentally got posted on the BTs Web site in June 2003, just as it launched its latest smear campaign against us). Logan was just following orders, pleads the article in Bolschewik, claiming that he simply made political mistakes...fully within the norms of the iSt in other places:
Everywhere in the iSt women were pressured not to have children. The leadership of the iSt, including James Robertson himself, let it be known that women who had children were, in his opinion, on their way out of politics. It was thus standard in the iSt to pressure women to decide against children and for the party. Nothing else happened in the SL/ANZ under Bill Logan.
This is a lie as breathtaking as it is grotesque. The norm in our party, well known to Logan, was expressed in an exchange published in a 1972 SL/U.S. pre-conference bulletin (Internal Discussion Bulletin No. 20, Comradely Greetings to the Delegates of the Third National Conference of the SL/US (and to comrades Bill, Adaire, Joel and Gene who are away), November 1972). Responding to a misplaced concern by a prospective recruit over whether parents can function as disciplined communists, a woman comrade wrote: I can think of no examples among the parent-comrades in the SL (there are several) myself included, who are parents first and communists second.... If a comrade (with a child) is carrying out the work required of party membership his contribution is as meaningful as anyone elses. She added, Its not the partys job to monitor personal relationships. This was very much not the norm under Logan in Australia.
At the very meeting in New York where Robertson gave his report on the fight against Logan in Britain, a comrade who had returned some time earlier from a year as treasurer in our Australian section gave some sense of what would soon come out about Logans tenure in Australia. She recalled how horrified she was to learn that the Logan regime had devised financial rules that allowed deductions from party contributions for a vasectomy but not for the upkeep of a child. In short, she recounted, without making a membership rule in the organization which said that if you have a baby youll be expelled, they said if you have a baby you will be driven out because you will not be able to survive.
Again relying on the BTs 1996 pamphlet, the Bolschewik article also invokes Edmund Samarakkody, a longtime Sri Lankan Trotskyist with whom we had sought to fuse at the 1979 conference and who served on the trial body, intoning that Logan never strove for personal advantagesas Edmund Samarakkody confirmed. Jack the Rippers murder of prostitutes in London didnt bring him any demonstrable personal advantage either! While Samarakkody had his own reasons for provoking a break in political relations with us at the 1979 conference, he is not quite the witness for the defense the BT would have him be. In his minority report of the trial body to the conference (also published in On the Logan Regime Part III), Samarakkody concluded: I have not exonerated Logan, that monster. I have placed this monstrosity in the proper context. You can totally disagree with me; you can tear this and put it in the wastepaper basket. But please do not think that I functioned in the trial body as the attorney of that monster.
As befits its arrogant, elitist contempt for the struggles of the oppressed, the BT partakes of a Great Man theory of history. According to the BT, it was Robertson who had decided to topple the Logan regime (The Truth Hurts, 8 August 2003 Internet posting). Logan, as a truly Great Man, cannot conceive of having been humbled, humiliated and brought down by anything other than the whim of a supposed cult leader. The fight in Britain had undermined Logans grip over the comrades he had tormented in Australia and unleashed a torrent of painful testimony. It was these comradeslargely young and inexperienced but extremely dedicatedwho demanded Logans head.
Even before his expulsion, Logan spread lies to those outside our organization that he had been subjected to threats of violence. In an obituary in the BTs 1917 (1998) on Myra Tanner Weiss, a veteran of the early American Trotskyist movement, Logan is quoted openly admitting that he violated our democratic-centralist discipline while a suspended member awaiting trial. Claiming to perceive a threat to use physical violence against me after my expulsion, Logan continued, I broke the discipline of the Spartacist tendency. I looked up Myra in the telephone book, gave her a call, and made arrangements to have a talk with her. Whether Logan was simply being provocative or undergoing paranoid delusions, projecting from his depraved grooving on inflicting misery on others, his imputations of violence could only serve to harm and defame us.
Nor has Logan changed his sadistic spots, as was made clear some years ago when some defectors from the BT and Logans Permanent Revolution Group (PRG) published materials regarding Logans practices of Communist Criticism in his own New Zealand fief. In the minutes of a 19 January 1993 PRG membership meeting, Logan described this Com Crit as putting each member in the hot seat in turn, to be the subject of three rounds of analysis. After three days of such meetings, an organizer with a child finally resigned, confessing in a 19 February 1993 report to not showing enough vigour and consistency because of changed personal circumstancesI now have a demanding job and also a young babyand so I have less time for politics (reproduced in Hate Trotskyism, Hate the Spartacist League No. 8, The Bolshevik Tendency: From the Snake Pit of Anti-Spartacism, July 1993).
Now Logan advertises his services as a professional counsellor, narrative therapist and celebrant on his Web site (bl.co.nz). The man who tried to force a young woman communist to have an abortion now provides sample texts for funerals for babies and boasts, Ive done ceremonies for Hindus and atheists, Christians and Buddhists, followers of Khrishnamurthy and Christian Science.
Under the heading Ceremony & Celebrancy, Logan intones: Ceremony is important to our lives, from the dinner table to a coronation or presidential inaugurationperhaps hes angling to be a celebrant at the coronation of the next HRH (His/Her Royal Highness). On his Web site, Logan speaks of the Anglican and Presbyterian influences of my childhood. Far from being inspired by Marx, Lenin and Trotsky, Logan does not even look to the left wing of Protestantism during the English Revolution under Oliver Cromwell, but to the Presbyterian right wing and the monarchist Anglicans! That this man is the veritable high priest of a putatively Marxist organization should tell you just about all you need to know about the BT.
Garbage Doesnt Walk by Itself
The BT is not so much a political opponent as a sinister threat of provocation. In 1983, the BT (then calling itself the External Tendency) launched an international campaign labeling us as violent, lying that we had assaulted one of their membersjust as we were engaged in a serious legal fight against the FBI for targeting our organization as violent! Some years later (and numerous sinister incidents in between), the Wall Street Journal tried to undercut a growing international protest movement in defense of black death row political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal in 1995, using the BT as an authority for smears to depict the Partisan Defense Committeethe central organization that had been fighting for others to take up Jamals caseas associated with a crazed cult. The Journal (16 June 1995) wrote: The Spartacists are led by a man named James Robertson, prompting the International Bolshevik Tendency, a group of former Spartacists, to deride their old party as Jimstown, a takeoff on Jonestown in Guyana, the jungle site of mass suicide. This mouthpiece for the American ruling class certainly got the point of the BTs lurid smear of our party as an obedience cult and its allusion to the notorious 1978 mass suicide by an evangelical religious cult.
The BTs politics, such as they are, are fully in keeping with its hoary darkness at noon depiction of our communist organization as a Stalin-style gulag and personality cult. So central and intertwined are social-democratic anti-Communism and a hostile obsession with us to the BTs existence that, by its own admission, the focal point of the German groups fusion with the tiny Gruppe Leo Trotzki in 2002 was shared hostility to any possibility of a revolutionary outcome in East Germany in 1989-90 and to the one organization that fought to realize this, the ICL. As hundreds of thousands of workers took to the streets of East Germany to demand a genuinely egalitarian socialist society, we mobilized our resources internationally in the effort to provide Trotskyist leadership to that incipient political revolution and to fight for revolutionary reunificationfor a red Germany of workers councils. We didnt prevail but we fought!
The BTs intervention into those revolutionary events was to smear the ICL as a bureaucratic cult akin to the Stalinists and, in an article headlined Robertsonites in Wonderland, to sneer that we had invented an imaginary political revolution (1917, Third Quarter 1991). Only those in thrall to the anti-Communist myth that Stalinist totalitarianism had rendered the workers in the bureaucratically deformed workers states mindless automatons incapable of struggle could so blithely dismiss any outcome other than capitalist counterrevolution.
The BTs abiding complaint (retailed again in the latest Bolschewik) is that we did not offer to provide a platform for the Social Democratic Party (SPD) at the 250,000-strong united-front protest in East Berlins Treptow Park on 3 January 1990. That united front, initiated by us and taken up by the ruling Stalinist party, was called to protest the fascist desecration of a memorial to Soviet soldiers who died liberating Germany from Hitlers Nazis and was premised on defense of the workers states. What place did the openly counterrevolutionary SPD have at such a protest?!
More recently, the BT has extended its embrace of counterrevolution to take in not only the German SPD but the CIAs favored god-king, the Tibetan Dalai Lama, arguing in the latest issue of 1917 (2004): By agreeing that the Tibetans or Uighur have the right to control their own domestic affairs, a revolutionary government in China would signal its willingness to coexist with Tibets traditional ruling caste and Xinjiangs mullahs as long as they retain popular support. Where the Beijing Stalinist bureaucracy promotes one country, two systems in maintaining Hong Kong as a capitalist enclave, the BT goes the extra mileto coexist with feudalism!or, in other words, one country, three systems. Such respect for the devotion of benighted peoples to their religious leaders has much in common with images purveyed by apologists for class and race oppression of an earlier eraincluding reactionary stereotypes of the humble, devout French serf before the 1789 French Revolution or the supposedly carefree, contented black slave in the U.S. South before the American Civil War.
From Canada to Germany, inasmuch as the BT raises political questions, it reflects the values of the ruling class as refracted through its own national social democracy. More provocateur than political opponent, the BT is centrally animated by subjective malice toward our party. As such they are open to anyones bidding. Their lies and slanders are the weapons of choice for a bitter and vicious gang of renegades. Their purpose is to seal us off from thinking leftists and subjectively revolutionary youth, while giving ammunition to the forces of reaction arrayed against us. The BTs are real political garbage, and as weve said of them many times in the past, garbage doesnt walk by itself.