Correspondence June - September 1943
Ted Grant to RSL
London, June 13 1943
To the secretary, RSL
Enclosed is a copy of our reply to your Criticism of “Preparing for power”. We apologise for the delay, but as you see it is a fairly lengthy document and we were unable to complete it sooner.
We are about to issue it as an internal bulletin for which we are charging our members 6d per copy. If you wish us to supply your organisation, we would be pleased if you will let us know by return the number you will require.
The other points you raise in your letter to us dated June 6 1943 will be dealt with in a further letter.
Reply of WIL to the TO
London, June 13 1943
In reply to your letter of June 4th we are prepared, as always, to open up discussions for unification at once. In view, however, of your vacillating record as a fraction, and the record of the separate individuals and groups of individuals who go to make up the so-called TO, we must bluntly state that we are not prepared to fence and reopen up a discussion unless it is in the most serious strain. In other words, we are not prepared to “discuss” for the sake of discussion. As a prerequisite for further negotiations we propose that you clear up the following questions:
- Is the TO a faction of the RSL? Does it consider itself as such or does it now constitute a separate organisation with its own policy, constitution and discipline?
- Do you propose a fusion of our forces independently of what decisions are arrived at as the result of the present discussions which we are conducting with the RSL?
- In view of the fusion of the TO with the so-called SWG, which refused to join the WIL for alleged political differences and not because of alleged disagreements on the principle of democratic centralism (which the SWG never raised during discussions with us); and in view of the verbal criticisms being made by the personnel of the TO which indicate agreement with the political evaluation of WIL policy by the ex-SWG, does the TO propose to open up a written political discussion outlining its points of agreement and differences with us?
Here we must state that your present campaign around the question of democratic centralism is worthless as a basis of discussion unless it is linked up to the political and tactical tasks of the British fourth internationalists. Any serious discussion must be based upon common aim. This common purpose must be stated in clear and precise terms, together with the main political and tactical agreements and disagreements. If the TO wishes to open up a discussion on this basis, good! Endless discussion such as have occurred in the last 18 months or so is useless, irresponsible and unacceptable to us.
The responsibility for the deterioration in the relations between us rests entirely on the shoulders of the leadership of the TO. You broke off the common activity in cooperation into which we had entered prior to the visit of Stuart. In Glasgow, Coventry and London where you have members, we have afforded and still afford full scope to your members for joint discussions and active cooperation (which latter you have largely evaded) with our local comrades.
We welcome, however, any joint activity in which you are prepared to participate.
With regard to the film Mission to Moscow, we had already arranged to issue the article which appeared recently in the Appeal as a pamphlet. This is already nearly complete. If you are willing to assist in covering the cinemas, we suggest you contact H. Pratt, the secretary of the London DC who is in charge of the arrangements. Your comrades should do the same in Glasgow and Coventry. They have the addresses of the secretaries. The RSL have categorically stated that they will not enter into united activity with us. And past experience teaches us not to waste time approaching “other working class organisations” on such questions which only affect the Trotskyists.
Marc Loris to Ted Grant
July 15 1943
I received your letter of June 3rd, as well as the copy of your May 24th letter to RSL. Under separate cover I received a copy of the June 6th letter from the RSL to WIL, as well as a copy of your June 13th letter to the TO. Unfortunately, we do not have all the documents to which these various letters refer, for instance, your April 3rd letter to RSL and their May 7th letter to you, nor the June 4th letter from TO to you.
Not only the dissolution of the Comintern, as you correctly state, but the general development of the situation, make more and more imperative and urgent a solution of the British problem. Moreover, the evolution of the various groups in the last two or three years is quite clear. It is our duty – and we are firmly decided to fulfil it – to come to a settlement before coming events catch us unprepared.
You must understand, however, that negotiations for unification are not independent of the factional struggle inside the RSL. That’s why your conditions in the June 13th letter to TO seem to miss the point. Moreover, a certain irritation against Lawrence can be observed in that letter. Lawrence has followed a policy of bringing issues into the open in a manner calculated to have a broad educational effect. This policy seems to have borne some fruit, since, as it is just reported to us, a new opposition has arisen against DDH. But, whatever may be the importance of this last development, Lawrence has undertaken to solve the problem in a spirit of international discipline, not as a free-lance. I must say that we support him entirely on this point.
A few words about the question you raise concerning personal letters. They come, as far as I know, from Stuart or Cooper. I myself entered into correspondence with Deane on practical matters, then Deane asked me some political questions: I tried to answer him as well as I could. These letters – and there may be others I don’t know about – are exactly what they are, i.e. personal letters. Their authority is that which their signatories may have acquired – no more, no less – and, of course, the responsibility for the letters is exclusively theirs. As to the advisability of the letters, there is no general rule: it depends on the situation, and I think at the present time they may be helpful.
You ask “the opinions of the IS on the contents of these letters.” [I don’t think] it would be correct procedure on our part to give such “opinions”. Each time we deem it necessary, we state our opinion in official letters or documents. The timing and the contents of these documents are determined by the objective necessities of the situation; they cannot be made dependent on the sending of personal letters, which might oblige us to take positions on points on which we are not ready to do.
We received a copy of the Internal Bulletin you published, with Cooper’s letter. We can only welcome this publication, as well as your coming reply. You declare in the introduction: “We only hope that the American party will also circulate the correspondence among the membership in the States.” It seems to me here that the problem is not put quite correctly. The question is not at all of a polemic between WIL and SWP; the problem is the integration of WIL into the ranks of the Fourth International. The fact that Cooper is an American has no bearing on the case: he might be of any other country. If at a certain case of the discussion the IS deems necessary to let all the sections know the details of the negotiations, it will publish a series of documents, perhaps including Cooper’s letter in an international bulletin.
We are regularly receiving your publications, and following closely your activity. Your successes are very promising. We are firmly decided to spare no effort in the next period to bring WIL into the ranks of the FI, and we hope we will enter a period of closer and successful collaboration.
Marc Loris to Ted Grant
August 6 1943
I received your letter dated June 14th with the enclosed document (Reply to RSL criticism of “Preparing for power”). The document is now passing around and I don’t know yet the general opinion about it. But, if I may give my personal opinion, it seems to me to be a very, very good document.
I hope you now have in your hands my letter to you dated July 15th. I am anxiously awaiting your answer to it.
As you may have already seen in the magazine, I received J. Haston’s letter of April 21 and Aubrey received Atkinson’s letter of July 5. These letters are always a very great pleasure to us. Your paper and your magazine are coming through regularly.
Ted Grant to Marc Loris
London, August 15 1943
Dear comrade Loris,
Enclosed is a copy of a resolution on unification which it is proposed to put to our convention to be held in the beginning of October.
The resolution lays down the basis, as we see it, for a successful fusion of the Trotskyists forces in Britain. We should appreciate your views in time for the convention.
It seems to us that in 6 months, together with the IS, and largely dependent upon the IS, the discussion could be completed. But this would demand decisive political intervention by the IS. The organisational question is important but the political issues are decisive.
With fraternal greetings,
Ted Grant to Gerry Healy
London, August 21 1943
Dear comrade Healy,
Re GH’s Internal Bulletin on unity
At its meeting of August 19 1943, the political bureau resolved:
“That we give permission to comrade Healy, together with one comrade who supports comrade Healy’s line and a comrade who opposes it (comrade Hinchcliffe), to unofficially approach the RSL leadership with the three point “programme” contained in comrade Healy’s document.
“The political bureau will relieve the comrades from all activity which interferes with an energetic, enthusiastic ‘fight for unity’, which should serve to expose the alleged ‘for the record’ method of the political bureau.”
The political bureau believes that the experience gained in the few weeks before the conference should prove instructive to the membership and assist in the deliberations of the conference.