On the Logan Show Trial
Appendix E ii
The ‘Logan Question’ in the Spartacist Tendency
Excerpted from “We Go Forward!”, 1917 No. 9
The founders of the New Zealand Permanent Revolution Group, Bill Logan and Adaire Hannah, were the victims of the most hysterical witchhunt and sordid frame-up in the history of the iSt. Logan was the National Chairman of the Spartacist League of Australia and New Zealand (SL/ANZ) from 1972 to 1977. Hannah, then his companion, was the National Secretary. Under their leadership, the SL/ANZ grew from a handful of relatively inexperienced youth into the strongest Spartacist section outside the U.S. In 1977 the couple was transferred to London at the behest of the Spartacist international leadership, where they were instrumental in winning an important layer of cadres from opponent organizations, and launching the Spartacist League/Britain (SL/B).
But Logan and Hannah were scarcely in London a year before they became targets of a mounting campaign of petty criticism by Robertson & Co. These attacks eventually led to their ouster from the leadership of the British section. Logan and Hannah were then transferred to New York under a cloud of suspicion. While performing routine organizational tasks in the group’s New York headquarters, the Robertson leadership began the process of “reevaluating” their record in Britain and particularly in Australia. This led to an emotional explosion at the January 1979 Australian summer camp, where the ranks were encouraged to “speak bitterness” about their experiences under their former leadership. Logan and Hannah were accused of a host of “betrayals,” “abuses” and “crimes” during their tenure as leaders of the SL/ANZ, which had ended two years earlier.
The process culminated in the “trial” of Bill Logan at the Spartacists’ first and only international conference at Colchester, England, in August 1979. A hysterical atmosphere was created, as delegates were subjected to endless anti-Logan diatribes by the Spartacist leadership and “disabused” former comrades primed for the occasion. The whole procedure was full of irregularities: Logan was denied counsel in presenting his case, and the organization refused to provide Hannah, his only witness, with any financial assistance to attend. Needless to say there was plenty of money available to fly in hostile witnesses. Everyone in the organization knew that the results of the trial were a foregone conclusion.
In expelling him from the Spartacist tendency, the trial body declared that:
“Bill Logan is 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. His crimes are against communist morality and its substrate elementary human decency... he cannot be and should never have been a member of a working-class organization...”
Ten days after Logan’s expulsion, when Adaire Hannah attempted to resign from the organization in protest, she was told that the Colchester conference had terminated her membership. Yet the Spartacist leadership had previously told her that there was no reason for her to attend the conference, as she was not on trial. Not only was she denied the opportunity to defend herself, she was not even told why she was expelled.
While both the North American BT and the PRG had always held that the Logan trial was a frame-up on the whole, ambiguities remained. During the trial and the process leading up to it, the accused couple’s undiminished loyalty to the Spartacist tendency prevented them from grasping the enormity of the fraud perpetrated against them, and hence from defending themselves as forcefully as they could. Robertson took great pains to involve the maximum number of members in the purge to make the guilt of Logan and Hannah an article of faith among his followers. A number of current members of the IBT, then iSt members, believed the substance of the charges against Logan, and joined in the chorus of condemnation at Colchester. Others had private misgivings, but viewed the whole affair as a falling out among bureaucrats.
Robertson’s Star Pupils
The matter was complicated by the fact that charges against Logan contained certain distorted and exaggerated elements of truth. One major item in pre-fusion discussions was to separate the truth from the lies. This was necessary to clear the record and prevent the repetition of similar mistakes.
We arrived at the following conclusions: the Logan regime in the SL/ANZ was in fact bureaucratic. A commandist leadership style, a punishing work schedule and lack of consideration for members’ individual needs seriously marred the group’s internal life. But these methods were neither peculiar to, nor invented by, Bill Logan and Adaire Hannah. They were similar in quality to practices that were current in a number of Spartacist locals during those years, and that rapidly became the norm for the organization as a whole. Experienced SL cadres from the U.S. took up residence in Australia during Logan’s tenure, and participated fully in the leadership of the section without noticing anything amiss. Other top leaders, including Robertson himself, had visited the section and talked to the membership. Not only did they approve of what they saw, but they held up the Logan regime as a model for the rest of the organization. The leaders of fledgling national sections were frequently advised to “do it like Bill and Adaire.” Logan and Hannah’s role in undermining democratic centralism in the Spartacist tendency was inextricably connected to their self-conception, fulsomely endorsed by the New York leadership, that they were the star pupils and most able practitioners of the Robertson school of party building.
The SL/ANZ regime, for all its problems, was run solely in the interests of furthering the political goals of the Spartacist tendency. The allegations made at the 1979 trial, that Logan was an evil genius who routinely interfered in the sexual lives of members to gratify his bizarre sadistic urges, were never anything more than malicious invention on the part of Robertson and his acolytes. In fact, nearly all the incidents cited as proof of Logan’s “moral turpitude” were well known to the Spartacist leadership years before the anathema was pronounced at Colchester. Not an eyebrow was raised in New York at the time. Only later, when Robertson decided to get rid of Logan, were certain events seized upon and embellished to depict the former leader of the SL/ANZ as a Svengali. This is the only conclusion that an impartial examination of the documentary record can sustain.
Why, then, did the iSt engineer a frame-up of two of its most capable leaders? The answer is that Logan and Hannah were far too capable for Robertson’s liking. They had assumed the leadership of the SL/ANZ in 1972 with a mimeograph machine and a membership that could be counted on one hand; when they departed for London five years later, they left behind them an organization five times its original size, with a stable core of leading cadres, a regular monthly press, promising trade-union work and a solid reputation on the Australasian left.
During their brief tenure as leaders of the Spartacist League/Britain, Logan and Hannah once again demonstrated their aptitude for party building. Within a year, under their leadership, the Spartacist operation in Britain had quadrupled in size, and had recruited some extremely talented and capable cadres from the centrist left. Had this rate of growth continued, it was possible that the SL/B would have become larger than its parent organization in the U.S.
Even though there were no significant political differences between them, Robertson began to regard Logan as a potentially formidable internal opponent, one who might be able to carry a sizeable minority, or perhaps even a majority, of the tendency with him in the event of a dispute. Adaire Hannah was Logan’s closest political and personal associate. It was not their failures, but their successes, that made Logan and Hannah suspect in Robertson’s eyes, and caused them to become two of the earliest victims of the pre-emptive strikes that were to claim many of the Spartacists’ best and brightest in the ensuing years.
Posted: February 2008