Polemics with the ICL:
Kurdistan & the Struggle for National Liberation
Bill Logan: From Krafft-Ebing to Mother Theresa?
BT: Renegades for Hire
Reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 807, 1 August 2003.
Lately we have been on the receiving end of a collective howl slandering us as “chauvinists” coming from a collection of putative leftist organizations that are as disparate as they are minuscule. In the U.S., the League for the Revolutionary Party (LRP) declares that we are “Zionists” because our forthright defense of the Palestinian people against the genocidal Zionist rulers is not predicated on the elimination of the Hebrew-speaking people. Next comes the Internationalist Group (IG) raving that we are adapting to “social-chauvinism” because we speak openly about the need to combat retrograde consciousness among workers and the oppressed (see “Cynics and Demagogues: An IG Provocation,” WV No. 789, 18 October 2002). Simultaneously the IG is running an international campaign in defense of its líder minimo Negrete falsely charging that we accused him of being an agent provocateur, i.e., a police agent. Why? Because we had the temerity to point out that their slanders of us as racists were a set-up for provocations and worse against our organization.
Now this chorus smearing us as “chauvinists” has been joined by an outfit with a pathology all its own—the International Bolshevik Tendency (BT). Offering its services to the British Socialist Workers Party (SWP) at a recent “Marxism” conference in London, the BT appeared with a leaflet smearing Jim Robertson, one of the founding leaders of our international tendency, with the charge of “vulgar chauvinism.” And no less than that, an American whose supposed “self-satisfied great-power chauvinism” is aimed at peoples from the Near East, specifically the Kurds. The BT smears Robertson with the scurrilous claim that he characterized Kurds as “turds.”
It should be noted that slanders against communist leaders are commonly flung by anti-Marxist opponents (Marx as a “chauvinist,” Lenin as a “German agent,” Trotsky as a “bloodthirsty butcher,” Cannon as a “window-smasher,” etc.). These attacks are not “personal”—they are meant as attacks on the very existence of the Marxist movement and have always rightly been viewed as such.
The BT’s role at “Marxism” is a case in point. The SWP seeks to salvage the “good name” of British imperialism (and above all its “honorable” Labour Party representatives) by denouncing “Bush’s war” against Iraq. The BT leaflet was an incitement for the goons and censors of the SWP, who proceeded to surround our lit table, trying to block our salespeople and threatening that if any of our people got into one of their putatively “public” forums we would be “dealt with.” And they were as good as their word. Some of our comrades who were inadvertently called on to speak had their tickets ripped up and others were barred from getting in altogether.
As millions took to the streets around the world in protest against the impending war on Iraq, ICL sections built revolutionary internationalist contingents calling for the military defense of Iraq and for mobilizing the proletariat in struggle against their “own” capitalist rulers. What we fought for in the antiwar movement didn’t go down well with the reformists, who were busy trying to dupe people into thinking that the war could be stopped by building the broadest possible movement, particularly by allying with the representatives and institutions of the very imperialist system that breeds war. When two of our young women comrades took the floor at an antiwar teach-in in London last February to point out that opposition to the impending war on Iraq meant opposition to the very Labour government that was prosecuting it, Chris Bambery, a lead honcho of the British SWP, threatened that anyone who didn’t politically support the Stop the War Coalition “deserves a bullet in the head.” As the Spartacist League/Britain wrote in its statement of protest (WV No. 799, 14 March): “This is the real face of the SWP’s ‘give peace a chance’ coalition-building: you’ve got to silence the reds to get workers and youth to lie down like lambs with the wolves of the Labour Party whilst they wage war on Iraq and against working people at home!”
Some years back our forthright recognition of and struggle against racial and ethnic hostilities also was met with a barrage from a rotten mélange of rat groups charging us with “racism.” As we wrote in our response, “Hate the Truth, Hate the Spartacist League: New Left Moralists’ Big Lie Campaign” (WV No. 217, 20 October 1978): “The charge of racism (like the charge of ‘cop’) is the dirtiest mud that can be slung. In this racist society it is a charge that presumes guilt until proven innocent. To reply presumably confirms that suspicion is widespread and perhaps justified. To remain silent is taken as evidence of guilt.”
As Marxists we do not pander to the national conceits or chauvinism of any people, but fight for the socialist emancipation of the proletariat and liberation of all the oppressed. This gets under the skin of those who are animated not by Marxism but by liberal moralism and vicarious “Third World” nationalism. (Such does not animate the Bolshevik Tendency, who in fact have nothing but sneering contempt for struggles against racial, national or ethnic oppression, but we will get to that later.) But their lies against us are in the service of larger, truly social-chauvinist, reformist outfits that are out to get us because we fight for proletarian revolutionary internationalist opposition to the imperialist rulers and the brutal depredations they, and their neocolonial satraps, visit upon oppressed peoples around the globe.
Defense of the Palestinians against the genocidal onslaught by the Zionist rulers of Israel was central to our efforts to mobilize for our revolutionary contingents. We stood out in sharp relief against the pacifism and outright social-patriotism peddled by the rest of the putative left, which mostly dumped any mention of the Palestinians in the name of “unity” with everything from pro-Zionist Democratic Party politicians in the U.S. to bourgeois pacifists who abhor all “violence,” especially that of the oppressed against their oppressors. At the same time that fake leftists are denouncing us as Zionists, our comrades in Germany are being physically attacked by the so-called “anti-nationals”—who are pro-Zionist stooges for German imperialism—for our defense of the Palestinians.
The Pathology of Renegades
The BT’s leaflet, titled “Robertson’s ‘Vulgar Chauvinism’,” quotes a postscript to a letter they had written to Workers Vanguard complaining because we had nailed them on their chauvinist opposition to independence for the Kurdish people. Said postscript cites a 15 October 1978 presentation given by comrade Robertson to the New York local of the Spartacist League/U.S. The subject was the fight to remove the national chairman of our British section, Bill Logan, who had been running a nasty and brutal operation.
Premising his remarks with examples of how oppression oppresses, comrade Robertson spoke to how Logan had built his “regime” by playing on the internalization of oppression, particularly of young women as well as any considered to be of the “lower orders” by the viciously class-conscious and racist powers that be in British society. The speech observed: “Internalized oppression is an evil, evil thing. And I think it lay at the root of some of the bad regimes that we have uncovered here and there in our organization. Because it always takes two. It takes those who are insecure, become brutal or sadistic or pretentious, little Stalins. It also takes victims. And the victimization comes, generally, out of the playing upon internal insecurities and fear.” Indeed every paragraph of Robertson’s speech conveyed our party’s intolerance toward all forms of chauvinism and oppression, which is fundamental to our purposes as a revolutionary Marxist organization.
In this context, Reuben Samuels, a leading cadre of our international who was in London at the time, was criticized for absenting himself from the urgently posed fight for the survival of a Spartacist section in Britain: “Criticism of Reuben: the whole time where was Reuben? He was off in the library, studying the Turds for his class. Right? He wasn’t playing any role.” The BT cries that is a “piggish” reference to the Kurds. Only in the minds of those genuinely inspired by chauvinism could “turds” be seen as referring to Kurds! And that is the BT. Insofar as this organization has taken any note of the national oppression of myriad peoples around the globe, and that isn’t much, the BT has been strident in declaring its opposition to the exercise of their right to self-determination—with the exception of Kosovo just at the time when Kosovo Albanian separatists were acting as bomb-spotters for the 1999 U.S./NATO war against Serbia. For the BT, the Kurds number among those whose demands for independence get in the way of the “struggles of the workers and peasants against the existing oppressor states.”
And it doesn’t just apply to the Kurds. The BT has achieved some notoriety for its opposition to independence for Quebec, winning the BT an official invite from the organizers of a mass Anglo-chauvinist “Maple Leaf” unity rally in Montreal on the eve of a 1995 referendum on Quebec sovereignty (and also losing them their only Québécois member, who quit protesting the BT’s “de facto bloc with the Canadian bourgeoisie”). Here too the BT tries to hide its chauvinism behind appeals for “joint class struggle,” echoing the Anglo-chauvinist labor bureaucrats in Canada who also argue that independence for Quebec would be harmful to “labor solidarity.”
And speaking of adaptation to “great-power chauvinism,” how about the abjectly reformist Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB), which the BT tried to woo into discussions “for political regroupment” a few years back? It didn’t bother them that the 1995 draft program of the CPGB openly pronounced: “The capitalist state in Britain has an official ideology of anti-racism” (Weekly Worker, 5 September 1999). In fact, these fusion negotiations fell apart only because the CPGB rejected the BT’s advances.
In the U.S., the BT similarly dances to the political tune of the pro-capitalist labor bureaucrats, mirroring their indifference to the struggles of the black masses. When the Spartacist League in 1982 mobilized the power of labor and the black community to successfully spike a Ku Klux Klan provocation in Washington, D.C., and launched Labor Black Leagues based on that victory, the BT claimed we were turning our backs on the unions and disparaged this as “community organizing”!
In America, where anti-black racism has always been the handmaiden of reaction and black militancy has always been seen as profoundly subversive, the fight to mobilize the multiracial working class in defense of the oppressed black masses is the key to the socialist revolution. Fortunately, black workers and youth in Washington and black longshoremen and shipyard workers from union locals throughout the South did not share the BT’s disdain for our anti-Klan mobilization. Only those for whom “the working class” means the labor aristocracy could see our mobilization for the unity and integrity of the working class against capitalist “divide and rule” racism and its fascist shock troops as anything but a fight for the survival of the unions as instruments for the elementary defense of the proletariat.
Garbage Doesn’t Walk by Itself
In “BT Doth Whine Too Much” (WV No. 806, 4 July), we published excerpts from the BT’s letter which charged that we had “grossly” misrepresented their views on the Kurdish people; in response, we demonstrated their opposition to Kurdish independence, largely by citing the BT’s own words from articles in its press, 1917. But the purpose of the BT’s letter was its postscript—to slander the SL and comrade Robertson in particular as “chauvinist.” The leaflet which the BT fed to the SWP’s goons at Marxism snidely intones that our omission of “any comment on the letter’s postscript” in WV is evidence of our “implicit acceptance” of their “vulgar chauvinism” slander. What we plead guilty to is fatuous gullibility. As we write in our editorial statement (see page ): “We excised the ‘P.S.’ because it was a contemptible lie, but in so doing fell into the BT’s trap and implied guilt with our evasive silence.” We responded to the BT’s letter as if it were some kind of legitimate political dispute in the workers movement and as though the purpose of their letter actually had anything to do with the plight of the Kurdish people. More fool us; we should have, and do, know better.
The BT isn’t an outfit that has any concern with the clash of political opinion that is critical to raising the consciousness of workers and radicalized youth. And it never has had such concern. The founders of the BT all individually quit our organization coincident with the onset of anti-Soviet 1980s Cold War II, when the stakes of being “red” got a lot higher than they were in the period of the “New Left” and Vietnam antiwar movement when most of them joined. A couple of years later, this ragtag collection of political cowards got together to concoct a political rationale for their lack of intestinal fortitude, claiming that they had been “purged” for their political views. They didn’t have a word, much less a document, they could point to as evidence of their putative political opposition, just their pathetic resignation statements.
But although their political appetites—which are generally rightist and generally reflect the fringes of petty-bourgeois academia they overwhelmingly inhabit—should lead them elsewhere, the BT has throughout its existence pursued an unnatural obsession with our organization. And they have a rather consistent history of staging provocations against us just when other forces—ranging from the reformists straight up to agencies of the bourgeoisie—are gunning for us. Thus 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 members. We were at the time engaged in a very serious legal fight against the FBI, which had targeted our organization as “violent.” And here we have a group of ex-members of our organization screaming that we are “violent.” Whose interests did this serve?
In 1985 they published a highly inventive piece of reptile journalism titled “The Road to Jimstown,” smearing our party as an “obedience cult” and spinning lurid, slanderous tales of corruption and worse. In 1995, these slanders against us were picked up by no less a mouthpiece for the American capitalist rulers than the Wall Street Journal. The purpose was to try to undercut growing domestic and international protest in defense of black death row political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was then under immediate threat of execution. In their efforts to portray Jamal as a depraved “cop killer,” the Wall Street Journal (16 June 1995) happily picked up the BT’s smears to depict the Partisan Defense Committee—the central organization that had been fighting for others to take up his case—as associated with a crazed “cult.” As we wrote almost two decades ago, “Those who are guided by intense subjective malice as a political program are just asking to be someone’s tool, witting or unwitting (sometimes both)” (“ET: New Name, Same Game?” WV No. 388, 4 October 1985).
The addition of Bill Logan as the BT’s own dear leader in 1990 added a whole new dimension to the BT’s obsession with trying to get us by any means necessary. Logan was expelled at the first international conference of our tendency in 1979 following a thorough investigation by an international Control Commission and trial body which found him to be a twisted sociopath who manipulated the most intimate details of comrades’ personal lives for his own power purposes and gratification. The charges against Logan were brought by the Central Committee of the Spartacist League of Australia and New Zealand. The documents on the Logan regime in Britain had unleashed a torrent of painful testimony by the overwhelmingly young comrades of the remote Australian section, of which Logan had formerly been national chairman for years. As Reuben Samuels, who was sent to Australia on behalf of the international at the time, recounted in a recent document: “Exploiting their inexperience as well as deep devotion to our program, in Australia Logan ran a personality cult based on poisonous intrigue and manipulation of the most private details of comrades’ personal lives. ‘Loyalty’ was measured by loyalty to the ‘Chairman’s’ latest whim. Comrades were told who they should couple up with or not. Offspring were considered a curse and abortion a party ‘duty,’ so that one comrade with a baby was rendered suicidal.”
Logan was expelled for crimes “against communist morality and its substrate elementary human decency.” The motion passed unanimously by delegates at our international conference (including some who would later found the BT) concluded that Logan “cannot be and should never have been a member of a working-class organization.” As a measure of protection of the workers movement, we took the unusual step of making our internal bulletins documenting the Logan case publicly available and expending some effort to get them into major libraries in Australia and New Zealand.
One Sick Puppy
Eleven years later, the BT embraced Logan as one of its own. Unlike the Saudi royal family, who merely granted asylum to deposed Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, the BT anointed Logan as its líder maximo, and launched itself as an “international” tendency. And now the BT seizes on a statement from comrade Robertson made 25 years ago—a statement that never elicited a single objection from the several future BTers then still in our organization—from our publicly available internal bulletins.Today, the BT contorts this statement in order to make the lying charge of “vulgar chauvinism” and peddles the slander to larger reformist outfits (and who knows who else).
It is notable that the postscript to the BT’s 12 June letter to WV, recounted in the written ammo they gave the SWP at “Marxism,” omits any mention of Logan. They can’t 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?
A look at Logan’s Web site (bl.co.nz) might offer some answers. Here Logan advertises his services as a “counselor, narrative therapist and celebrant.” The man who tried to force a young woman comrade to have an abortion and when that failed pressured her to put her child in a foster home now provides sample texts for funerals for babies. The man who aped all the attitudes of the long-decayed British “empire” to play on internalized oppression of working-class youth, women and those from the “colonies” now offers a “secular grace” worthy of a fat bourgeois sitting down to his dinner as he gushes with condescending thanks “to those who planted the crops...to those who gathered the harvest...to those who prepared it and those who served it.” The man who spoke the language of her majesty’s Parliament in objecting to any criticism of himself that might find its way into the membership as a “breach in diplomacy” when he was in our organization, now advertises the “Anglican and Presbyterian influences of my childhood” on his Web site. A sadistic Colonel Blimp turned “all god’s children” missionary—to say that this is one sick puppy is a vast understatement.
Tell Me Who Your Friends Are...
An early sign that something wasn’t quite right with Logan was when he started writing documents arguing that bands of armed guerrillas were sufficient for the establishment of a workers state on any piece of territory, including coming very close to arguing that a workers state could be built in “one cave.” This particular “theory” has much in common with the views of Pol Pot. And with the benefit of hindsight, one can see the shared and grotesque distortion of Marxism into a vicious personality cult that characterized Logan’s “methods” of leadership. On the other side of the equation in looking at what makes the BT tick, there’s Al Richardson of the journal Revolutionary History. A raving anti-Communist inspired by the “democratic traditions” of parliamentary Labourism, Richardson was cheek by jowl with the BT at “Marxism.”
Such is the political company in which the BT logically belongs. The second leaflet that the BT was handing out at Marxism (“Compare and Contrast—ICL vs. IBT on Stalinism & Soviet Defencism”) provided a veritable compendium of the BT’s anti-Sovietism. This ranged from their denunciation of our call to “Hail Red Army in Afghanistan” fighting the CIA-backed, anti-woman Islamic reactionaries to their claim that our statement of military support to the Kremlin Stalinists should they have intervened to stop the bid for power by the anti-Semitic, clerical-reactionary Solidarnosc in Poland in 1981 was a “Stalinophilic perversion of the Trotskyist position of unconditional military defense of the bureaucratized workers states.”
Given this track record, the BT’s charge that we “flinched” on Soviet defensism by not giving military support to the impotent Kremlin coup plotters against Yeltsin’s counterrevolutionary forces in 1991 would appear all the more remarkable. The “Gang of Eight” coup makers made no move against Yeltsin, militarily or otherwise, for the simple reason that they were as committed as Yeltsin’s clique to capitalist restoration but lacked the backing of U.S. imperialism. In fact, the BT’s after-the-fact support to the “Gang of Eight” was simply a convenient means for the BT to be able to drop its always highly nominal position of Soviet defensism by declaring the battle against capitalist restoration already lost. In contrast, the ICL distributed tens of thousands of copies of our leaflet “Soviet Workers: Defeat Yeltsin-Bush Counterrevolution!” in the Soviet Union. It was only when it was clear that the working class was not going to move against Yeltsin, who was rapidly consolidating a capitalist state, that we accepted that the USSR had been definitively destroyed.
And you can bet your boots that the BT forgot about its military support to the coup plotters in the company of the SWP, which cheered Yeltsin’s counterrevolution as a cause for “rejoicing.” On the contrary, an intervention by a BT speaker at an SWP forum at “Marxism” on “Russia 1917 and Soviet Democracy” was so pusillanimous that he got sustained applause from much of the audience, which was replete with state-capitalist, anti-Communist SWPers. And what about the BT’s line that imperialist troops should “live like pigs, die like pigs”? The BT charged us with “social-patriotism” because we didn’t cheer the deaths of 240 U.S. Marines blown up by a car bomb—planted by persons and forces unknown—in Lebanon in 1983 as an act of “anti-imperialism.” As we noted at the time, the BT’s vicarious bloodthirstiness was both a convenient posture against us and directly proportional to their distance from where the blood was being shed. At “Marxism” our comrades challenged the BT to apply its supposed convictions a little closer to home and intervene into a forum on Northern Ireland to demand that the British troops there should “die like pigs.” Not bloody likely. Instead the leader of the BT’s British outfit politely asked why the Socialist Alliance, which has been little more than an electoral front group for the SWP, does not “call for British troops out of Northern Ireland now.” Why? Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the SWP supported the intervention of these troops in 1969?! But that’s the BT’s standard operating procedure—they reserve their bile for the revolutionists while crawling before the large reformist forces.
Thus to the extent the BT has a political profile, it is as centrists who use their anti-Spartacism as the entry ticket into the swamp of social democracy. But the BT is also something else altogether: a vicious gang of crazed “god that failed” renegades, eager to serve the purposes of those who would like to destroy us. Lies and slanders are their weapons of choice, as they are the first recourse for the bosses when they want to break strikes and for the defenders of the racist status quo when they seek to destroy fighters for black liberation.
From the time of Marx on, Marxists have always been committed to elementary sanitation in the workers movement. We do not know whether the BT is motivated simply by its obsessive malice or by something even more sinister. But in seeking to destroy the nucleus of the indispensable Leninist vanguard, they serve the interests of all the enemies of the revolutionary proletariat. To smear the ICL as “chauvinists” is to strike at the very heart of what we are and what we must be to play a role in the liberation of all mankind from capitalist tyranny.