Marxist Bulletin No 3 Part IV

Conversations With Wohlforth




Spartacist-ACFI Unity Negotiations

Seventh Session
23 September 1965

Spartacist: Robertson, Nelson, Watts, Mage (late); (Harper, Secretary).
ACFI: Wohlforth, Mazelis, Michael, L.

Meeting convened at 8:30 p.m.

2. Popular Election Leaflet
3. American Question
4. Next Meeting

1. Minutes: The minutes of 30 July were accepted.

2. Popular Leaflet: The revised leaflet on the NYC elections was accepted. It will be mimeographed by ACFI, and cost split between the two groups.

3. American Question:

Wohlforth: The three documents which represent our position on the American Question (1963 Wohlforth-Philips American Resolution; 1964 Bulletin statement on Crisis of American Socialism; 1965 SWP document by L.) have essentially the same economic analysis from a world point of view and lead to the same general conclusions. The ’63 document was proposed within the framework of what a party the size of the SWP would do, 1964 document for an ACFI-sized group, while L. in 1965 has greater elaboration on the conceptions of the transitional program and united front. Our position is that essentially capitalism as a world system is in a period of stagnation and decline, and that the fundamental character of the post-war period is formed by the boom and prosperity of capitalism based on the rebuilding and development of Europe and that the period since the end of the 50’s has been one of decline and stagnation. Flowing from this are profound effects on the work in the U.S., the rebirth of radical activity, militant struggle among Negroes, and increased student and trade union activity, all necessitating intervention. In contrast is the position of the SWP Majority expressed in the ’63 political resolution and more clearly in the ’65 statement. The ’63 resolution views the contradictions of capitalism as external to the capitalist system, that the shrinkage of world markets creates a crisis of over production (our thesis is that even if the Soviet bloc didn’t exist there would be a crisis--it is not just a reflection of the colonial revolution), and in ’65 they admit they really have no analysis and feel capitalism will be stable for a long time. In ’63 their lack of understanding was especially revealed in section on Negro question which they saw as a racial struggle rather than being brought into being by the crisis of capitalism, that the stagnation of the economy forced those in the weakest economic position out of the economy. They saw no need for the SWP to do anything, and therefore the central conclusion and heart of the ’63 statement was that the work of the SWP was to be propagandistic. This is the heart of the SWP’s degeneration and centrism, and this document was the most revisionist ever passed by the SWP. We proposed a line of intervention, recognizing that we must become participants in the developing mass movement and struggle. What was central to our ’63 document was to intervene and become part of this new process. Developments since ’63 have borne this out. There is now more struggle, more ferment, and we have been giving more stress to relating theoretical intervention (not propagandistic) to actual intervention in order to give leadership to militants in their struggle. The SWP’s position is not and never was one of intervention. Not a question of counterposed propaganda or agitation because both are wrong, but seeking to give theoretical leadership to the struggle as it is, on a higher theoretical level than propaganda, simultaneously on a higher and lower level than propaganda, the fusion of theory and practice. SWP’s conception of a propagandistic period was wrong. There is no period in the history of man when you can limit yourself to propaganda, not even period of greatest reactions and I can’t even conceive of such a period. The ’63 Majority resolution was wrong and incapable of amendment because its fundamental thesis was wrong. The SWP has implemented this line; this is the reason for its degeneration.

L.: I can summarize significance of my document under 4 headings: (1) political standpoint; (2) general political aims; (3) context which shapes particular form in which document written; (4) to define practical political perspectives of the document. (1) Central standpoint is resolution material from the Third World Congress, the point at which strategic perspective and method were introduced, and the conception of the inter-relationship between the united front, workers control, and the transitional method, and putting this strategic concept and method into the present world, the nature of the real strategic issues in the world today. (2) The general aims of the document are to determine what are the tasks of building a movement in this country. The struggle for ideological hegemony over the radical vanguard is beginning, and this hegemony is the beginning point for organizing the vanguard forces into the basis of a revolutionary party. This standpoint is taken from the 1st section “Feuerbach” of the German Ideology, where Marx and Engels summarize their method for the first time, separate it from any of its Hegelian hang-overs. (3) The context is the conjunctural pessimism and tail-endism sweeping through the entire American movement from PL to the SWP. All these movements are Bernsteinist in a fundamental sense: The movement is everything, the goal nothing. (4) The perspective of the document is the need to build a movement from scratch, to recognize that there is no party in this country which today represents the continuity of Leninist struggle, just a series of groups that can fuse and build a nucleus cadre which can then start to build a movement from scratch. The reference point is Lenin in 1910. The economic question is fundamental. The problem of Marxist economics after we have identified material movements in the basis of society is to translate these movements into social movements in the superstructure, and to show how developments in the political superstructure actually change the course of economic events. Two things are true of this period. It is part of the epoch of decay in which imperialism can only survive by resorting to various forms of statism--and we are in a particular period in which U.S. has established hegemony over the world and has enjoyed economic prosperity based on credit expansion. Marx defines “economic crisis” in Vol. 3 when general crisis emerges from such a period, new 1929 threatened, and bourgeoisie needs new formula to prevent economic collapse. They can either squeeze more surplus value out of working class at home which means attacking trade union movement which means undermining their own base, or finding a solution in the colonial world. But every bit of colonial world operating at a deficit and a drag on the imperialist economy. Their solution is to attempt to establish a viable and productive peasantry in the backward countries and lay the basis for primitive accumulation to create an internal market and lay basis for capitalist expansion. Since 1959 U.S. has followed policy of managed social revolutions, general policy of imperialism to support nationalist colonial revolutions as long as they remain within control of imperialism. The SWP et al failed to see this and merely sees U.S. and its allies as conducting struggle against the colonial revolution ... this is not the case. They are instead trying to circumvent the Permanent Revolution by sucking working class and peasantry of these countries into train of Ben Bellas, Nassers, etc., and to use these regimes to lay basis for reorganization for healthy internal agricultural development, and in turn the imperialist exploitation of these countries. Pabloites see this as progressive. If colonial revolution follows the Cuban-Ben Bella model, ultimate end is victory of imperialism. If imperialists see they are failing to succeed in this policy, they must confront the working class in their own country. Therefore main task is to show inter-relationship of forces on a world scale and show why main question is not colonial revolution but preparation for conditions for revolution in advanced countries. American Trotskyist movement has not understood for decades Trotsky’s conception of united front, workers control and transitional method. Trotsky knew he was dealing with idiots and bunglers, so he wrote in 1938 an example of how the transitional method is applied to today’s issues which today SWP tries to algebraically impose on reality. The only way to build a revolutionary movement in the U.S. is to show radicals there is a meaningful relationship between their personal existence here and now and activities they can conduct here and now and with a socialist revolution here in the U.S.

Watts: Wohlforth noted the relationship between the superficial economic analysis in the SWP document and their abstentionism. Their basic flaw is that they make no mention of the declining rate of profit. However, not this single error that has led to the disintegration of the SWP but their abstentionism has been reflected in their lack of economic analysis. One other point, on the meaning of the word “propaganda”. By this we never meant that propaganda is the objectivist type of stuff the SWP comes out with, simply commenting on the various progressive social developments. This is why we were disturbed by the tendency of your 1963 document--merely widespread activism as a cure for the basic degeneration of the party. The document that expressed their real degeneration was the Negro resolution--this was the worst.

Robertson: The 1963 Philips-Wohlforth document ran the anticipated film of economic development too fast, pointed out a number of tendencies operating to weaken U.S. economy but projected an immediate crisis and also implied the economy had been in crisis for several years--an over-acceleration of time. While forecasting a crisis, the ’63 document also clearly projected a crisis of stagnation, i.e., a drawn-out crisis of some sort rather than a crisis in the accepted sense of breaking of bubble and widespread world curtailment of production. Why should the definition of crisis be changed? An attempt to have your cake and eat it too. This has actually in terms of the capitalist economy an extremely good period despite the weaknesses indicated in both your and the SWP document. Philips has admitted this when he says the crisis predicted in 1963 has been postponed but will come--this is correct. The 1963 PC resolution stated a fairly correct economic prognosis and correctly called for a general propagandistic approach (though they were misusing the term “propaganda” as Wohlforth has misused it tonight): “Stated generally, the economic trend is one of a turn from relative prosperity through a process of developing stagnation to a pattern of more precipitous decline.” Their intention was of course revealed for all to see in terms of para 41 and the substitute para 41 we introduced which linked up a general propaganda orientation with intervening in movements such as they are and developing bases within them, that we must intervene or be condemned to sterile isolation and degeneration during the upsurges of the next period. The Majority rejected this amendment, and we then voted against the resolution--without the amendment the resolution was no good. “Propaganda” is political education, linking up theory with events in order to provide orientation in struggle rather than merely offering slogans for immediate mobilization for action. This is related to our perspective, the creation through a process of splits and fusions of an effective propaganda group in this country. We are not presently a propaganda group but something far less. We want to create an organization that can intervene in struggle in at least an exemplary way. We want to polarize the ostensible revolutionary organizations and crystallize out those elements with revolutionary outlooks. To do these things would be a major victory in terms of what is now possible in the U.S. We also must do our work and participate as we are now. We object to propaganda only if it is divorced from action. I really don’t know what to say about a good deal of L.’s remarks on transitional method, workers control, united front, etc. These are tactics undertaken by a revolutionary party, e.g., United Front. Centrists saw this as a tactic “sui generis”, but Trotsky pointed out UF merely that tactic in the appropriate circumstances which extends the authority of the party over the masses. Without being linked up and subordinated to the revolutionary party, the united front is nothing. Another point, it would be a mistake to simply take the colonial revolution in bloc and suggest that the Bolsheviks and the early CI were simply interested in turning all eyes to the West. Not so. Some of the most effective work done by Trotsky was raising question that not only in advanced but also in backward countries proletarian uprisings could take place, the emphasis being on its proletarian leadership. They were prepared to make a heavy orientation toward these struggles as a possible entrance way into what they at the same time recognised was the decisive theater in terms of the history of the world--the revolution in Europe and America.

Mazelis: Robertson does not really come to grips with the thesis put forward in the L. document. He refuses to see the contradiction between the Majority line in ’63 and our line. It is a matter of the basic economic analysis which is not in that document and which is in our document and in the L. document in the most developed form to date. Your incorrectness is shown by your offering a substitute for one page, then rejecting the draft when this one page was rejected. We proceeded in an entirely different way on the Negro question, beginning with an analysis of the Majority document as a whole. Tonight you have stated again that the economic analysis in the Majority draft was correct. Therefore you should have voted for it. I would like to hear tonight a detailed dealing with the L. document, but the points Robertson has raised are not its weaknesses. I think he misunderstands completely the concept of the united front as put forward by L. Also your feeling that the document slights the colonial revolution. One of the strengths of the L. document is that it sums up clearly why Marxists are opposed to the Pabloite conception of the colonial revolution, and you are making an artificial distinction when you say Lenin’s and Trotsky’s views were different from those put forward in the document. Watts touched on the question of mistakes in past documents. Of course we made mistakes, and let me be the first to admit the 1963 document is far from perfect and has errors from which we can only learn. But its main line, the economic analysis and call for strugg1e within the SWP, was correct. Certainly there are instances of trying to overcorrect for petty-bourgeois background, etc., and we learned through our own struggle that, e.g., colonization is good, but it’s not an answer to the degeneration of the SWP.

Nelson: The ’63 document has now become a millstone around Wohlforth’s neck, and he now feels it necessary to admit the excesses of the period when he was in alliance with Philips. The basic error of the ’63 document was not its economic analysis but that the main working thesis of the document is the premise that the party need only be reunited with the working class to reassume its revolutionary role, i.e., assumes the party to be essentially revolutionary. The document was not presented then as some profound economic analysis. Our quarrel with it then was not so much that it presented a qualitative overstatement economically, but a more serious misunderstanding of the political sickness of the party. Then you posed as the immediate task getting back into the trade unions at all costs which at this stage means going into oblivion. In ’63 you stated U.S. was then in crisis and now 2 years later you say “beginning to show signs of ... ”. You still don’t, despite all your talk about method, understand the relationship between party and class. The ’63 document is syndicalist--get back to the class and the party will automatically correct itself. This reflects the simple trade union attitude of Philips. You were wrong in your analysis of the party, the tasks of the party, the relationship between the revisionism of the party and projected tasks. The Majority document was not abstentionist because it had the wrong economic analysis but because it saw no role for itself in shaping the direction of the political movement in this country. The L. document might be characterised as Left Freudian. If I wanted to be quite blunt, I would say it had a crack-pot quality. The United Front is a tactic of struggle to maximize the strength of the working class while exposing in practice the defective line of false leaders, not what you say here:

“Trotsky warns that the struggle for socialism must proceed from demands for the material necessities of life. For example, struggle in the construction workers industries cannot themselves have a socialist character since the construction workers, in taking over their industry could not conceivably solve the fundamental problems of its existence. However, if slum-tenants, unemployed, construction workers, workers in construction materials industries unite on a common program of housing, schools, etc., proceeding from consumption, they have broken the back of alienation in principle uniting their respective immediate material interests as labor with their material interests as consumers of the products of labor. Struggles of the working class and its allies which thus bridge the division of labor of the working class respecting programs of consumption or other material and social conditions of life exactly embody the key to the fundamental change required in the competence, morality and combat capabilities of the working-class and its allies. Such a political combination for common conditions of life, material, social, political, is a United Front.”

That’s garbage, frankly. This isn’t a united front, this is something else; I don’t care what you call it, but it isn’t a united front! Throughout you display this same kind of sloppiness in confusing the theoretical foundations of the party, transitional program and united front, in a whole series of peculiar--strange--errors, equating “workers state” with “socialism”, posing as the task of the United Front determining the “Bill of production”, the State Budget, etc.

The document as a whole has a strong Economist flavor. It is not a political document. Comrades of ACFI, if you are 99% in agreement with this document, as you stated before, then you are in bad shape. On your relation of size to task, this is not a simple equation. We have been able to make a modest start on what we proposed in our amendment despite the fact that we are several times smaller than the SWP.

Wohlforth: There is a recurrent theme in these discussions which is worth mentioning. We always get to the point where Spartacist comrades take us to task for some past position we held, claiming it is a millstone around our necks, while at the same time they consider it a matter of principle to uphold every position they ever took. In our opinion no position we ever took is a millstone around our neck and every position you have taken is a millstone because you have shown yourself critically incapable of examining your own past and your own development. We are developing and evaluating our past. The ’63 resolution in my opinion on the political level on how to revive the SWP is not as bad as Nelson says, but it does err in that direction. Since 1963 we have a conscious record of development on this question, and we now have clearer understanding of the methodological failure of the SWP underlying their failure to intervene. You have not developed on this level. You do not share our method. You have a tremendous millstone and we don’t. In 1963 our essential thesis was American imperialism was in decline and in crisis, and we were right but we dated it too late. The prognosis of a crisis of stagnation has been borne out. The central position of the SWP was wrong and was a reflection of their Pabloism, that the crisis of capitalism is caused by the development of the colonial revolution. They view the 1950’s as a period of revolutionary upsurge and do not see that the economic crisis is internal within capitalism itself. They lacked a conjunctural analysis of the development in the post war period, and to the extent Spartacist supports SWP position they have no analysis. It is the process, not the speed, that is important, and we can be off by 20 years as long as we have correctly analyzed the process. According to our understanding colonial outbreaks are a reflection of crisis in the advanced countries. L.’s document can be understood on a number of levels. To read a page which is ABC on the question of alienation and say that this is Freudian is not to understand Marx and not to understand the essential element of Marxist analysis. Socialism breaks down the dangers of alienation. Transitional struggle, struggle posing the question of power, has within it the conception of a new way of organizing society, and this is what workers councils were--a way of uniting sections that were divided and reorganizing society in a different way” It’s not Al [Nelson]’s fault he doesn’t understand. It is Spartacist’s line that everything is program, no theory or method. Thereby the United Front becomes a coalition of specific parties in Germany; the “transitional program” is a document written in 1938. This approach is a manifestation of the cause of theoretical stagnation among Marxists, to know the particulars but not the process that produced it and adapt it to current reality. Spartacist is a left extension of the SWP, and will remain so as long as they don’t break from the method of the SWP, as long as they don’t go back to the history of the SWP and understand it. Therefore it is quite natural that you support their 1963 document.

Watts: I have 3 points: (1) You may be correct in saying the ’63 Majority document was deficient in that it had a tendency to depict the nature of the crisis as stemming from progressive loss of markets, isolation as the colonial world becomes more and more revolutionary, leading to political and economic crisis in the U.S. But if on this basis you say it doesn’t matter, therefore, what Philips said in the first 20 pages of your document, which is what you just said that this was the most important tactical point, then I see you left without any basic analysis of the American economy now. (2) L. commented that in recent years the U.S. has demonstrated, e.g., Cuba, greater tactical flexibility with respect to colonial revolutions. But this is recognized by everyone, that the U.S. is willing to support confined movements which could build some reasonable economic structure in the colonial countries and make them even more profitable fields of development. However, recently there seems to have been a reversal. One must realize that the Cuban revolution has been successful in creating a state which is roughly analogous to that in China. The political and social process at work in the colonial world must be studied carefully, and this task still remains to be done. We agree with you that an analysis of the colonial world and Stalinism is a major task, and we are devoting a good deal of attention to this. (3) I want to support Nelson’s charge of L.’s general sloppiness. Take for example the following quotation from L’s document:

“The first practical principle of the strategic perspective is to rid oneself of all foolish notions about the ‘nobility’ of the workers or the claptrap that it is merely necessary for the workers to seize the factories and elect their own government to set the world to rights. Unless we begin with the fact of the profound moral corruption of the workers and their profound incompetence in management, we shall never discover a solution to these key obstacles to socialist victory. The first and always the most fundamental task and perspective of the strategic perspective is to change the human nature of the working class as a whole entirely.”

(presumably before the revolution can be successful, if I understand this correctly, and I do not believe I am taking this out of context). If you mean by this the working class must be changed in the sense of realizing the need for and participating in a vanguard party, we would agree with you. But if you mean the working class must before it can make a revolution rid itself of its profound moral corruption and learn how to run factories, gain competence in management, then this reminds me much more of a humanist approach rather than a developed Marxist approach. As it is written this seems to be terribly sloppy and misleading to say the least.

L.: If what Nelson has selected is the prime example of the poor character of the document, then he is on very bad ground. The concept of the relationship of the working class to power is from the German Ideology. If you look this up you will drop your criticism on this point. If you will refer to footnotes 12 & 13 on the United Front, you will find that the paragraph you find so objectionable is exactly what Trotsky had to offer on the soviets being the highest form of united front. The concepts of united front and soviet are identical. The paragraph Watts cited could be subject to ambiguous interpretation. The working class as long as it is alienated, i.e., obsessed with the bourgeois way of existence, is incapable of taking power. However, once workers see themselves as united, once the division of labor is broken down, once they see various problems capable of solution in terms of the labor power that they as a single organization represent, then the mystery of capitalist production is beaten. The secret of the united front is that when the working class sees itself united, as Marx points out, there is a qualitative change in its consciousness. United front by its very existence creates change in the confidence of the working class, and this causes them to be attracted to us and not the labor fakers. The UF is a primitive form of soviet which represents a profound social change in the organization of society. Only when the workers are organized as a united class for themselves is there the possibility for workers power. Once the working class is united, the mystery of production is destroyed and the workers say “let us resolve what we shall produce”. On what we mean by economic analysis, not what bourgeois economists mean. Credit cannot solve any basic problem, only delay and aggravate it. The capitalist manager must try to solve the basic problem by confronting the working class and reducing wages. This is what we mean by economic crisis. The capitalist system must now temporarily create vast amounts of credit, but eventually must either open up the colonial world for a new wave of colonial expansion or confront the working class in its own country. Not a question of picking the date but seeing how the ruling class is compelled to create a social and political conjuncture. Then comes ferment, motion and intervention. The working class does not take the road of political struggle by autonomous means, and this is where Philips wrong, this is Dobbs’ position, but is impelled to take a revolutionary road, just as has happened with Ho Chi Minh, a liberal, in Vietnam. A conjunctural perspective is realizing the problems posed to the bourgeoisie and how the bourgeoisie are compelled to create the conditions of class struggle, and ultimately create the class struggle itself. The document emphasizes from beginning to end that the only solution to this problem is a revolutionary party, and to say it is economist is to be merely oblivious. Finally, on the question of colonial policy which you raise, this is the ABC’s of capitalism. How does capitalism progress -- by expanding production, by realizing surplus value and profit by employing new labor and new means of production. But this has come to a halt in the advanced countries, and they expand instead in Latin America, in Africa, in India. We saw this in ’57 in Cuba, how consciously the bourgeoisie supported Castro revolution. The only solution is to create a prosperous and productive peasantry and create an internal market for capitalist accumulation, otherwise will have to confront class struggle in own country, the last resort. On Robertson’s remarks, they are irrelevant to the whole document and its political purpose.

Mage: I disagree on the last point. Expanded production does not consist of increasing variable capital but constant capital. Marx made a prediction which turned out not to be true, that expanded production would also involve an increase in variable capital. In fact, the statistics of American economy show very clearly there has been a substantial decrease; over the course of the century there has been no increase in number of hours worked, while the population has trebled. It is not then the problem Rosa Luxemburg saw of penetration into non-capitalist areas that is the sine qua non for expanded production, but investment opportunities inside the developed countries which leads us to the nature of the capitalist crisis. There is only one crisis, the one that became open in 1914 and continues to this day and will continue until the elimination of capitalism. All one can discuss are what are the stages and development in the course of the permanent crisis, i.e., the forces of production have outrun capitalist property relations and national boundaries and demand the reorganization of society. The predictions of Marx in the 1870’s have become concrete reality and dominate our epoch. If we discuss political intervention, it is not at all that capitalism is in crisis--this is what is ABC--but what is the form the crisis is taking right now, here in our country, the concrete economic prognosis on which we must base our intervention into the class struggle which of course goes on independently of whether we or the capitalists want it to or not. L.’s explanation of what he means by united front seems perfectly orthodox, so it would make much more sense if he would use the orthodox formulation, that the working class must cease being a class in itself and become a class for itself. Alienation will be overcome by overcoming the particular forms of alienation which exist today. A socialist revolution doesn’t solve any problems at all but provides an opening to the future and the conscious impetus to overcome them further. The revolution removes barriers to the solution of problems. It creates a possibility and a new consciousness which can develop or wither. L.’s concept of alienation is too limited; it will continue until we have built a communist society. On L.’s concrete economic prognosis, the question of a crisis of stagnation, the quintessence of stagnation would be, statistically, the American economy from 1933-41, and one might argue that the period 1957-1963 is comparable. Stagnation is above all a relative factor, while the decisive factor of American capitalism is that there have been revolutions in the world, that the S.U. has established a non-capitalist economy and that after the Second World War China took the same path. So the problem of capitalism is not the growth rate at home but above all the historical context. Stagnation does not now consist of a growth rate of 1% a year, but of a growth rate 2% a year less than that of the Soviet Union. Except for the last 2 years the U.S. has been lagging behind the Soviet Union. The reason for this is the classical one of the effects of the nearly full investment of the available potential surplus value which would cause such a vast flood of cheap commodities that the rate of profit would be completely wiped out and a crisis occur, so that the solution must be to prevent the consequences of a healthy growth. To keep up with the S.U. means major crisis in the U.S.--this is the contradiction, while to avoid a major crisis in the U.S. means to fall slowly and steadily behind the S.U. The solution must be found militarily. If you can put enough pressure on the S.U. and China, this will force on them such a heavy arms burden that it will slow their rate of growth. But these arms would ultimately be used and the consequences would be self-destructive. At the same time the American economy has grown much more dynamic than even a war budget can control. There is a vast potential expansion of productive capacity which means that 1/2 the industrial working class today is working in obsolete industries and will be thrown out of work at the next recession. While this recession may be overcome, it means that the prosperous condition of the working class today is an illusion, based on expansion and not on the market, so that even a relaxation in the rate of growth can mean vast increase in the rate of unemployment. This is what I think is in the cards for American capitalism within the next 2-3 years, and only the radical extension of the war in Vietnam has delayed it.

Robertson: First, as regards points touched on by Mazelis and Wohlforth re the Majority 1963 documents on the American and Negro questions. Wohlforth described the American document of the SWP Majority as their major document, their decisive document, unlike presumably their Negro and International documents. We see this in the opposite light, that they were least interested in the American document--it came in late and trivially, and since they didn’t expect any “action” over this were able to write some fairly decent words to cover-up. Their action documents were their Negro and International documents. The Negro document is in our opinion truly the worst document the SWP ever produced. It repudiates explicitly through page after page a revolutionary perspective in the U.S. with their theory of two vanguards and two separate organizations for the black and white workers. In our opinion it could not be amended simply with action amendments, and we were appalled by your attempt to do so. But in the least active sector, over the American Question document, they were able to allow words to cover up intentions, i.e., something we have always observed with Pabloites--the lapse into orthodoxy where there is no challenge. In this area we were correct in introducing an action amendment, and when they rejected it we then properly voted against the document because we were then voting against a significant, vital and declared omission in what would have otherwise been a sufficiently correct document. On the question of the nature of the capitalist crisis, I use the term “crisis” not in the sense of the crisis of the capitalist order but rather the particular character of the economic cycle. There has for some time been a revisionist tendency, long associated with Huberman and Sweezy, to attribute the absence of sharply defined peaks and bottoms to an economic cycle in the post-war period to the idea that the bourgeois state has developed a sufficient capacity to intervene so that the crisis expresses itself in a condition of stagnation. I think that this vastly overstates the effects of the so-called Keynesian measures, and the usual arguments that are advanced to support this are impressionistic--unemployment insurance and the like have very little effect--and the “control” measures operate too little and too late. To expect therefore that the nature of capitalist crisis today centers on stagnation is a way to say that the economy of the post-war world, which has generally performed quite well, therefore has another kind of crisis. (In a sense it does have another kind of crisis, such as Mage took up, a certain ability to transfer crises within the economic sector into the military sector.) But to suggest that there is some lesser outcome to contradictions within the economic sector is wrong and suggests too great a modification of the capitalist order. In fact, the very thing L. mentioned, the vast inflation of the credit structure, introduces above all the potential for a sharp crash. A great deal of what has been raised tonight “educationally”, e.g., that the transitional program is not just a document written in 1938, etc., is simply beside the point, intended to imply that these things are coming as a revelation to the other side. On the L. document, I’m afraid I must confess that I too have not understood a word of Marx, Engels, Lenin or Trotsky if this is the ABC of Marxism. In fact, in rereading the document, I thought of a cartoon that is a favorite of mine. Several workmen have just unwrapped a very large canvas and the art dealers are looking at it. In the middle of the large white canvas is a perfect black dot. And one of the art dealers is saying to the other one, “I don’t care if he is the world’s greatest painter, I still think he’s kidding”--this is the quality I carried away from reading the L. document. As to whether the aim of the bourgeoisie in the colonial world is to create a prosperous peasantry in order to find a new base for exploitation -- I don’t even want to deal with this. That is a very original contribution indeed!

4. Next meeting will be 1 October at Mazelis’. Subject will be the 1962 split in the Revolutionary Tendency, and its continuation in 1963-64.

Meeting adjourned about 11:15 p.m.




Posted: 12 January 2006