Documents 3 to 17 and 19 to 24 originally published in Internal Bulletins of the SWP and the International Bulletins of the International Committee
For a number of months now the IS has asked for a face-to-face discussion with a delegation of members of your majority, and subsequently with a representative delegation of your entire NC in order to limit, if not remove, the difficulties which have arisen between your leadership and the International leadership.
More recently, despite the documents which have come to us and despite the activity which your majority has undertaken against the International leadership, we again emphasized the necessity for such a meeting before the taking of a definitive position on your part.
In place of any other reply to this request, we were simply informed of the convening of your Plenum. We then asked you to communicate, as we have the right and the duty of doing, the precise agenda as well as the documents which would be finally submitted. We know that such documents are now circulating both amongst yourselves and elsewhere.
This request is all the more justified since we have no other means of participating in the discussions of your Plenum, the presence of any one of us, as we ardently desired, being excluded for obvious reasons.
But again, up to this time, at least a week before your Plenum, we have received no reply.
Everything is proceeding as though the majority of your NC has taken the decision to ignore the International leadership from now on, to place it before the accomplished fact, and subject it to the pressure of a kind of ultimatum.
Ask yourselves what is the deepest meaning of such a strange attitude, unique in the annals of our principled and democratic movement.
Is it not exceedingly disturbing that a hostile activity is being developed by your leadership in the International before the taking of any clear political position and without the International leadership having prevented you in any way from expressing your possible divergences through the normal channels of the preparatory discussion for the Fourth World Congress?
Here we are in November 1953, that is to say, more than four months after the documents for the Fourth World Congress were submitted to you, without yet knowing in my responsible manner what your precise position is toward them.
To build a faction under such conditions, then to bring it forth brusquely in the light of day and then violently oppose it to the International leadership becomes, frankly, an unprincipled, unspeakable operation profoundly alien to the traditions and nature of our movement. It can only reflect motives other than mere political divergences. It already appears as a most deep-going break in our ranks and you ought to be the first to be disturbed by its real significance and consequences.
The political basis of this faction is possibly that indicated by Comrade Cannon in his June 4, 1953 letter to Comrade Tom: whether or not there is alignment on the positions of your majority in its differences with the minority. Along this line Comrade Cannon asked to find out who are your 'friends' or your 'enemies' in the International.
This conception also appears to us absolutely indefensible and alien to our traditions.
The International cannot align itself on this or that position of a national order and cannot identify itself with any national faction. On the other hand, it does not know either 'friends' or 'enemies' within our movement, but simply ideological tendencies all treated on the basis of absolute equality.
To wish the contrary is to want to repeat the history of the Stalinist faction in the Soviet Union after Lenin's death, which Russified the Third International and converted it into an appendage of the leading clique of the Russian Communist Party.
The International has the right and duty to pronounce politically on the differences which have arisen in any national section, once these differences become politically precise and clear.
Such was not the case, in our opinion, with your internal struggle up to your May 1953 Plenum. This struggle began, in our opinion, in confusion and extraordinary factional tension before its political tent clearly developed.
The gravity of the accusations launched, without being proved by written documents, the threats, from the beginning, of split, the changes in the course of the struggle of the principal motive attributed by the majority to the minority (propaganda group against independent party, then tendency capitulating to Stalinism, then a defeatist tendency toward the American working class and its perspectives finally at the May Plenum the struggle for power) were not of a character to clarify the discussion and permit us to give our opinion, in full awareness and confidence, on the real political content of the differences.
Accordingly, we saluted the resolution unanimously voted at your May 1953 Plenum, for it corresponded to our own conceptions and suggestions on the future conduct of the discussion in your organization: to conduct it on an exclusively ideological ground without calumnies or threats of split, as Trotsky proposed during the struggle against Shachtman in 1939-48, and by fully guaranteeing in this way the rights of the majority and minority.
But our surprise and indignation were great when we learned of the letter sent immediately after the Plenum, coming after his so magnanimous closing speech at the latter, and without any new fact intervening, by Comrade Cannon to Comrade Tom, envisaging the constitution of an international preventive faction against some future eventual interference of the IS in 'the affairs' of your party, and organized on a 'basis of military discipline.'
From this moment it became clear to us that your majority, conceived, disillusioned by not having received the support it counted on from us in its struggle against the minority, turned against 'Paris' before again turning against the minority to definitively settle accounts with it.
On the other hand we were not deceived by the efforts from that time on to find as well a political platform different from that of the International leadership undertaken from the beginning for quite other motives. We became acquainted with this attempt at a platform through the Stein document factionally circulating in the International and recently by another 'draft' which repeats and amplifies its line.
Certain articles in The Militant moreover do not leave any doubt on certain aspects of the line that you now want to elaborate contrary to that of the International and connecting with the extreme positions of the confusionist, sectarian and anti-International groups like that of Bleibtreu in France.
It is naturally your right to arrive even tardily in formulating essential differences with the line of the Third World Congress and that of the documents presented for the Fourth World Congress which are its equal. But so long as the conception of our International as a world party, regulated by a healthy regime of democratic centralism, remains valid, we protest against procedures which place themselves outside this regime and could culminate only in the breaking of the unity of the International.
We likewise protest with equal energy against the so-called ideological and political polemics against the line of the International which strangely resemble the worse calumnies of Bleibtreu and his acolytes and which have provoked in so recent a past our common indignation. Among others, against the calumnious and stupid campaign which now re-echoes our so-called 'revisionism and our 'capitulation before' Stalinism, with the aim of grouping together on the lowest level in an unprincipled bloc all the confusionist, sectarian, Stalinophobe and retrograde elements and tendencies in the International.
An enormous responsibility rests on your Plenum, comrades, regarding your relations with the rest of our movement, which in its overwhelming majority is attached more firmly than ever to the line and organization of the International.
Do not have any empty illusions on that score.
Your choice seems to us a very precise one: either you recognize the democratic-centralist regime of the International, the line and the discipline issuing from its Congresses and defended by its directing organisms, the IEC and the IS, and develop within the framework of this regime with all its consequences your possible political divergences with the present leadership of the International, the legal depository of the line of the Third World Congress and that of the 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th IEC Plenums; or else you ought clearly to formulate another organizational conception different from that of the statutes of the International voted at the Second World Congress and based on its present reality, that we will then submit to the judgment of the next IEC Plenum.
We are absolutely convinced that the IEC wishes to permit, and effectively assure, the broadest and most democratic political discussion in the International. The preparation of the World Congress will be discussed in by our next Plenum to which you are invited to send a representative delegation of your organization.
The IEC Plenum will culminate easily and unanimously, we wish to believe, in the adoption of measures concerning the discussion and convening of the Fourth World Congress, giving full guarantee and satisfaction to all organizations and members of the International.
In these conditions no hostile organizational activity will consequently be justified. We should thus then enter into a political discussion on the basis of precise texts defining everyone's ideas and line.
The Fourth World Congress will democratically settle the disputed questions and we declare that we will be the first to respect its decisions in every respect, whatever they are.
Nevertheless, we do not fail to emphasize once again, guided by our sense of responsibility, in this letter and at this last moment what we have repeated in all our appeals for a number of months now addressed to your majority.
Avoid a fundamental political crystallization on this or that line before a previous discussion between delegations responsible to your leadership and the IS or the IEC.
Put above any other consideration the unity of our International movement, the unity of pour own organization.
With fraternal greetings,
The IS Bureau
Last updated 17.8.2003