Correspondence February - June 1943
Ted Grant to the RSL
London, February 19 1943
We have received today a copy of your Criticism of “Preparing for power”, which we will answer as soon as possible and will let you have copies for your members.
This is the only copy we have received of this document and we would like a statement from you as to whether you have delivered a bundle to us. We would appreciate a few more copies if this is possible.
Ted Grant to Jimmy Deane
London, March 4 1943
We are not at all clear on your position at the moment. If it would be possible to get a transfer to Glasgow, in our opinion that would be the best thing for the national organisation. If, on the other hand you can manage to get fixed up in your area, that will be all to the good. However if you can hang on until the next Central Committee meeting which takes place April 3rd and 4th (please do not forget) then we can discuss the position fully.
Re the statement on GH. I believe you have taken an incorrect position on this question. In relation to the statement issued by the PB, this was a moderate and objective outline of GH’s position. Had the PB desired to do so they could have presented a far more damning case against GH. With regard to the political position, no one would suggest that on every question which was discussed GH took a “personal” position. It is difficult in such cases to decide where the personal ends and the political begins, but always in such cases the criterion is not at all the people on either side, but the political question. Your reference to the military policy, for example, has nothing whatsoever to do with the question of the expulsion or of the outline. The outline is merely a characterisation of GH as a disloyal and irresponsible egotist. It is impossible at a certain stage to tolerate such actions. At the CC we attempted to get GH to explain the reasons for such an action. He refused to do so and insisted upon leaving the meeting and the organisation. While in the past it might have been a question of weighing up the gain for the organisation through GH’s activity on the one hand, and the loss through his irresponsibility on the other, with the emphasis on the former, such a position is no longer possible. The group is in an entirely different position today. It is now a national organisation with national responsibilities and must conduct itself as such. Especially is this so for the leading members. The youngest member of the organisation would have been expelled for a disloyal position in joining the ILP. If this can be done in a period of calm what reliance could be placed on such a comrade in a period of crisis? It is not at all a question of any personal antagonism. It was a question of the whole of the CC and the whole of the PB taking a stand on this matter.
On the question of the constitution. The fact you raise that GH demonstrated the correctness of the constitution is beside the point. What is important was the way GH attempted to raise an opposition by influencing branches such as Glasgow and Liverpool, etc., behind the backs of the EC, without first consulting the EC and raising his objections and discussing the question, and then if he did not receive satisfaction, raising these openly in front of the membership.
As it was, when confronted by the EC on his return to London from the provinces he did not defend his position and immediately resigned from the organisation. We spent a day and night with him discussing the error of his ways. But a time must be reached when we call a halt! Our leniency with GH is indicated by the fact that even on this occasion no action was taken against him, in that you yourself knew nothing of it until now.
It is no accident that GH should have behaved in this way. His whole outlook over a period of years has been dominated by subjective motivations. As you know very well no one on the PB or CC has any personal axe to grind against GH. The whole CC was concerned merely with an objective analysis of the situation. In fact the ones most insistent upon expulsion were those who had had little dealings with GH.
But to allow the whole work of the CC to be disrupted every few months is an intolerable position. While it remained merely a question of irresponsible behaviour on small committees and in a small organisation, the issue was not so important, but GH himself raised it before the membership by exploding quite unexpectedly his bombshell. It is unfortunate that you were not present to view this yourself, otherwise your views might be different.
It is of the utmost importance that GH refused to put his case, stamped out of the CC and immediately hastened to inform ILPers of his position. This was before he knew the organisation had expelled him, thus demonstrating the correctness of the decision of the CC.
It is perfectly true that mistakes have been [made], and will be made by everyone in the organisation. It is true also that personal differences will play their part in all organisations including ours, and should be ironed out. It is correct that a comrade should never be expelled whatever the personal differences so long as he agrees politically, but the one unforgivable crime is disloyalty and irresponsibility against the party. Loyalty to the organisation is the first rule of all politics, and this more for leading comrades than for the rank and file. In conclusion I would point out that once GH himself had raised the question before the whole membership – and this he did by raising it in front of the CC – it was the duty of this body as a responsible leadership to make a statement to the whole organisation. Not to have done so would have been light-minded. GH’s position was not only irresponsible, but criminally irresponsible.
On the last point you raise: GH made no attempt to defend his position at the Monday meeting. The statement issued was on the lines of the statement to the organisation. He agreed that the CC was justified in expelling him because of his indefensible position and actions. Incidentally his real disloyalty was shown by the fact that he swore “on his revolutionary honour” that it was a lie that he had threatened to join the RSL and the ILP in the past, an oath that was immediately proved false.
On the Irish question; we are enclosing copies of letters sent by Neill, and of letters we have sent to Dublin. This should give you a good idea of the position.
On the question of workers’ control. Piper’s resolution is being discussed by the Industrial Committee and we will send you a full report together with the decision as soon as possible.
Re. the points you raise for discussion on the local organisation and advice on the question; I think that you are tackling the matter in a determined way at the moment and would prefer to discuss the question with you next month.
The important issue you raise in your letter of the 9th February is on industrial unionism, and the programme of the committee published in the Socialist Appeal.
First I would point out that it was a Case of type-setting errors in the actual programme. The sub-heading should of course be, “Mobilisation of the masses for minimum demands”. Demand 6 is also a typographical error, and should read “Area and national workers’ councils”.
I would agree that you make a good point on the necessity for much more attention to be paid to the question of youth in our programme, instead of leaving youth and women to be dealt with in point 5. The problem of youth will assume a tremendous importance in the next few years, especially in the post-war period, but at the moment because of the fact that most of the best youths have been called into the army unfortunately the issue does not reveal itself to us as sharply as it should. Probably the 1941 programme that you suggest would form a basis, although as I have not this to hand I can only agree to this from memory and not from a re-examination of the material. The points you raise are most interesting and deal with the necessity of a dialectical approach to the problems facing the working class. We must condemn the fetish of industrial unionism which is mouthed by the ILP, in particular Padley and other sectarians, as a panacea for all evils. As you justly point out this is to hark back to pre-World War One for an ideological and political position in matters of tactics and organisation of the workers.
The basic error of the sectarians of the ILP, etc., on this question is not to examine the problem from the point of view of the actual development of the class struggle and the workers’ movement but to put forward forms of an “ideal” character which should be imposed on the workers’ movement rather than to take the movement as in its dialectical development and thus lead it to a higher consciousness. In this connection it might be remarked that even in 1900-1912, at the time of the blossoming of sectarianism both in Britain and America of the SLP variety, their method of presenting the case and fighting for industrial unionism was incorrect. Since that time we have had the experience of two world wars, the Russian revolution, and all the great events which have taken place in the last decades. Basing ourselves on this we can confidently predict, as you say, that long before the workers will arrive at the “ideal” form of trade union organisation (i.e. industrial organisation) the revolution will be on the order of the day and factories and workers’ committees will take the place, not merely of these fairy fancies of Padley and Co., but for the matter of that, very likely of the trade unions themselves.
With regard to this we would remark that the fact that factory committees and soviets – and what form these will take we cannot say definitely in advance – will be set up in the next period ahead does not prevent us from developing the idea of capturing the unions and transforming them into fighting organisations of the working class with a programme of militant struggle and workers’ power. This is not likely to be realised because of our weakness and the rapid development of events, though it is not impossible that we might capture some national unions. Long before this, as the most likely course of events, the struggle would have burst forth into the arena of a fight for power.
But this does not at all mean that we do not continue to work in the unions putting forward the objectively correct idea of capturing the leadership and transforming even the most reactionary of unions. Thus there is no contradiction between the two ideas, the problem is solved by the development of events themselves.
When you say that industrial unionism for America is a burning issue and one that immediately affects the workers this is correct and that is why it plays a part as a topical and practical issue for our American comrades. It would be impossible to organise the workers in the mass production industries in America except on an industrial basis. That is why the ossified and bureaucratic American Federation of Labor representing the upper strata of the workers could not carry out this progressive task and indeed opposed it tooth and nail. Standing in the way they had to be pushed aside when the workers organised on an industrial basis. Industrial unionism was not merely a propaganda slogan in the USA in the last period, but a direct question of agitation and practical action on the part of the masses.
In Britain the situation is entirely different. It is true that the top bureaucracy is little better than that of the AF of L, although not quite so corrupt and degenerate. This of course because of the pressure of the workers who are far more conscious than the workers in America at the present stage. Our main attention in our industrial work should of course be in the union branches [in the] factories, and shop-stewards’ committees. It will be directed – and this will assume more and more importance in the coming period as our successes among the miners have demonstrated – [at] the replacement of the top apparatus from the top to bottom, the election for periods of not more than 3 years of the officials, these to be under the direct control of the membership, and of course that no official should receive the inflated wages that they are doing at the present time.
This also is not at all in contradiction with our general ideas and perspectives of the development of events as outlined in the transitional programme. It is significant that the Old Man should link up the question of work in the unions while at the same time pointing out the limitations of the unions and the inevitable formation of factory and ad hoc committees during the course of the struggle. These two are not at all contradictory if we examine the dialectic of the process itself.
In the sense of a living slogan to be immediately applied you are correct when you say that the slogan of industrial unionism is “out of date”. As an agitation issue it has no importance at the present time. As a propaganda slogan it preserves a certain importance; in that sense we cannot drop the slogan of industrial unionism; it remains a broad educational slogan for militant workers. It would be to fall into a pedantic position to reject completely this slogan because of the sectarian and senseless use which is made of it by the ILP and others. So in that sense as a means of exposing the vested interests of the bureaucrats in the unions who organise on that basis it can still be used.
Therefore we can still retain it in a broad programme, though not as an immediate issue, and though it will recede into the past as even perhaps will the capture of the old unions themselves at the time of the revolution.
After the war, of course, unions will be re-organised on an individual basis. Incidentally it will be of interest to you that the perspectives of this committee have been thrashed out and the resolution adopted by the industrial committee and the PB on this question will be sent to you. In fact it was this that precipitated the resignation of GH. On the first evening of the CC he attempted to get the minutes altered to conceal his ultra-left point of view of the last CC.
When GH realised that the question was coming up for discussion and he had made a bad blunder, rather than face this discussion, he resigned. In fact that has been the “personal-political” basis of his disagreements in the past.
On the question of workers’ control, literature on this is very meagre but you will find quite a lot of material in Lenin’s works of 1917. Felix Morrow’s material on what took place in Spain should be of some use, and I believe, if my memory serves me correctly, there was some material on this in the old minority movement.
Ask IP if he has any material relating to this. At the same time IP would be doing the organisation a great favour if he gave us some material on the minority movement and the general strike of 1926.
In conclusion if I have not made myself clear please write again.
With warmest wishes,
PS: I learn from Jock that he sent the Irish correspondence to you.
Ted Grant to RSL
London, April 3 1943
Secretary, RSL [Handwritten: Please pass to D. D.]
Your letter of March 22 1943, as well as the two previous communications dated March 5 1943 from “SG”, have been considered by our political bureau. In reply we wish to state that we in no way consider that the publication of the material relating to Starkey Jackson can be described either as “disgraceful” or as a “wicked trick”, as you term it.
We do not share your view that the publication of Jackson’s name and record may mean his death at the hands of the Nazis. Jackson was a known public figure in the British working class movement; the details of his public activity as published in the Socialist Appeal were already well-known, and insofar as there is any record of his activities in the hands of the Nazis or fascists, they will already have had it without our intervention. In any case, it would be impossible, generally speaking, to distinguish one Jackson from another, since there are probably many thousands of Jacksons in the British army today.
We consider it is of first class importance that sympathisers of the Fourth International should be made aware now, not after the war, when any of its leading figures fall in the line of battle.
Your attitude towards this question is consistent with your “illegal” and “secretive” methods by which you justify your lack of activity for, and in the interests of, our movement. You say: “We feel we must protest against your action in posting your reply to GH with the inscription on the envelope ‘Please hand to RSL’. Considering your member’s name and address are well-known, we think your action is entirely unwarranted.” What is this but the most ridiculous form of boy-scout politics? Certainly not the action of serious revolutionaries. First, you refuse to give us an address – then, when we address the material to one of our own members to be conveyed to you, you object. If the police are watching the correspondence at this address, the contents of the letter would indicate to whom it was addressed in any case. Surely this demonstrates the farcical nature of your objections.
In any event, the method of conducting our correspondence and discussions is completely unsatisfactory. We again propose to you to give us a public address to which we can address communications, and that you, in turn, address all correspondence to our official address in line with the procedure of all other working class organisations. If you object to writing to our offices, we will supply you with another address which shall be the recognised official address to which all material to our organisation shall be forwarded. We cannot be responsible for verbal or written communications addressed to us via any other source.
As the result of the “pipe-line” system of communication a great deal of confusion has arisen regarding the transit of your documents to our centre. On two occasions you have stated that you delivered bundles of 50 copies of your Criticism of “Preparing for Power”. The statement that 50 copies had been delivered to G. Healy, we understand was reiterated at your national conference, when the question of fusion discussions were raised. We must point out that comrade Healy denies ever having received these documents, and we fail to see what he would gain by saving them all for himself. He has always delivered any other material handed him by you. After your conference you delivered a further bundle of documents entitled Revolutionary Defeatism and not Criticism of “Preparing for Power”. To date we have received one copy of this latter document which was handed to us by comrade RC for which you received a written acknowledgment.
Had our suggestion for a joint bulletin been accepted at the initiation of these discussions, all the confusion and unnecessary duplication of work could have been avoided and the negotiations for fusion speeded up.
The answer to Criticism of “Preparing for power” is in the process of completion and you will receive this shortly.
Report of visit of member of the Socialist Workers’ Party of America
By Ted Grant
[WIL secretary circular to members, May 10 1943]
For members only
A member of the Socialist Workers’ Party, USA, paid us a visit on the weekend of May 3rd. He spent the day at the centre, discussing from 8 o’clock in the morning till 3 o’clock in the afternoon. From 3 till 8 pm he had discussions with members of the RSL. At 8:30 he addressed an impromptu meeting of our London members. He left us at 11 pm when he had to catch the train. Below is a report of the discussions.
He stated that the Socialist Appeal was eagerly awaited by the rank and file members of the SWP, who were proud to see the British Trotskyists coming out boldly against the bourgeois and the Stalinists, not holding back their punches in the present period of upsurge. What interested him, and impressed him, was the application of the transitional programme to industrial questions. He pointed to the fact that they were as yet not at the stage in the States where they could put forward the slogan of workers’ control, but concentrated on day-to-day issues, struggle against the bureaucracy, for more democracy, etc. We discussed the question of production committees and our alternative position. It was clear to the American comrades that our industrial policy was meeting with some measure of response and success, and he asked many questions about the general state of industry throughout the country – the chaos, mismanagement, etc. He pointed out that in the States inefficiency had as yet not impressed itself upon the working class, as they were just passing through the first stage of the war; they would no doubt reach a similar situation to our own as war develops. Although this would not be exactly the same owing to the more advanced technique, etc. in America.
The military policy was discussed and there was complete accord on the position we advanced. He stated that there was no voice of opposition raised within the ranks of the SWP on the question of the military policy.
He read the statement of the RSL and our criticism, as well as their letter closing the discussion. He fully concurred with our criticism, in particular with the three outstanding questions of disagreement with the RSL: i.e., Labour to power as against the third Labour government; the military policy (he recognised that their failure to mention it in their paper was in fact a rejection of it); and workers’ control of production.
In the afternoon he had discussions with eight members of the RSL who happened to be at the park. Of these, seven expressed disagreements with the RSL policy, as well as among themselves on the question of military policy, Labour to power and workers’ control of production. He spent most of the time attempting to convince them of the correctness of our policy. In reporting his discussions he was of the opinion that some of the RSLers could be “won over to our position”.
The news went round like wildfire of the presence of an American comrade in our midst, and by 8 pm, thirty London members were waiting at the centre to meet him. He outlined the general position of the SWP, their activities, their influence, etc. Since the trial, they had become widely recognised as a force in the US; they had been enabled to address trade union meetings hitherto not open to our propaganda. Vincent Dunne had just completed the most successful tour yet undertaken by the party. The party had 15 paid professionals in New York alone. The relationship between the Shachtman group and the SWP was more or less on the same basis as between ourselves and the RSL – only along sharper lines. The large majority of the Militant were not sold but distributed; this was due to general backwardness of the American working class and was the practice of all working class organisations. On dealing with the question of the relationship between our organisation and the IS, he stated that the IS regarded us with extreme friendliness; he was delegated as an observer of the situation in Britain. He believed that he was regarded as a competent observer (he was at one time a paid organiser of the party and has close associations with the leaders of the SWP). From his observations our organisation and his were in the closest possible harmony in expounding the programme of the Fourth International. In fact our presentation of the transitional programme in the Socialist Appeal was perhaps the best in the international. Regarding the RSL, he was of the opinion that they were moving away from the Fourth International in their rejection of the most important transitional demands and their general incapacity to apply the transitional programme. He was not empowered to make a statement on what the future relations with the IS would be, but he assured us he would convey his full observations, of which he had made no secret – that is, that we were the organisation capable of playing a role in the coming period. He expressed gratification at the enthusiasm, energy and unified spirit of the organisation.
To sum up. This comrade was primarily and above all interested in political differences and discussions. The official stamp of the RSL did not deter him from criticising that organisation. We gained the impression that he was specifically delegated to refrain from stating the attitude of the leaders of the SWP towards us – but merely to make observations for a report back. On the question of unity, he did not press for this. He merely stated that he was aware that this would be the easiest solution to the problem for the IS. He asked whether we could not afford to indulge in the “luxury” of unification. We made our position clear. We would undertake a unification only on a principled basis. We could not afford to embroil ourselves in bitter factional struggles in the period facing us. A unification would be acceptable to us only on the following conditions: acceptance of the three outstanding questions of difference – 1) the military policy; 2) our policy on production as expounded in the Socialist Appeal; 3) Labour to power. It was our desire to be recognised as the official section, but if necessary, we would continue on the present basis, in spite of the hindrance, rather than endanger our progress.
Ted Grant to RSL
London, May 24 1943
To the secretary, RSL
The formal dissolution and burial of the Comintern is a magnificent confirmation of the ideas of comrade Leon Trotsky and the Fourth International. It introduces a new period in the relationship between the Trotskyists and left centrists, and inevitably opens up a widespread political discussion on the question of the “new” and the Fourth International.
In these new conditions and immediate perspectives, the tasks of the fourth internationalists is to close the ranks. The problem of a united Trotskyist movement assumes added importance for all who claim allegiance to the ideas, principles and methods of the Fourth International.
At our political bureau meeting of Sunday, May 23 1943, we resolved to urgently appeal to the RSL to agree to an immediate joint meeting of our Executives with the purpose of arranging the date of a unification conference of our two organisations, to be held within the next month.
Ted Grant to IS
London, June 3 1943
To the EC,
Dear comrade Loris,
The dissolution of the Comintern undoubtedly ushers in a new period for the left wing of the labour movement internationally, a period of discussions in which both “left” and right centrists, together with all manner of ultra-lefts, will fill the press with discussions about the “new” international, whilst ignoring the existence of the Fourth.
This places added importance to the status of our organisation and that of the other groups, as well as the question of the unification of the fourth internationalists in Great Britain.
It imposes the duty of a closer collaboration between yourselves and the English comrades and the duty to discuss with the English comrades questions of policy and tactics. Recently several “personal” letters have been received here from members of the American party, which are circulating throughout our membership for discussion. We ask that these documents and the replies be circulated in the States as well. We would be pleased to have the opinions of the IS on the contents of these letters.
Enclosed you will find the copy of a letter sent to the EC of the RSL.
With fraternal greetings,
TO to WIL
June 4 1943
To the EC, WIL
As you already know informally, fourteen members of the TO were expelled from the RSL. The comrades appealed to national conference which endorsed the expulsions. Following this decision, an appeal was made to the IS.
Since making this appeal, the TO has fused with the SWG. The political and organisational basis of this fusion was outlined to you in a letter from the SWG some months ago and there is no need to reiterate it here.
The struggle against the expulsions and for reinstatement into the BSFI [British Section of the Fourth International] has been carried through by us in line with our adherence to the organisational principle of democratic centralism. It has been both complicated and protracted but is not unconnected with the struggle of the TO to achieve a principled unification of the FI adherents in this country.
However, it was inevitable during this period that the attention of the TO should have been mainly focused on the struggle within the RSL. Despite a certain amount of joint work and discussion in some areas, it remains an unfortunate fact that relations between our two groups have, in the past few months, tended to deteriorate. For our part we are anxious to remedy this position. We therefore suggest a series of discussions both locally and centrally around the issue of unification. In such discussions we should attempt to explain the significance of our struggle within the RSL.
We take the opportunity of repeating here our readiness to cooperate with you in any work in which our comrades can be of assistance. In this respect we suggest a united action to cover the showing of the film called Mission to Moscow. We could discuss details – distribution of leaflets, etc. – as soon as a meeting is arranged between us. We do not know your plans but we should suggest that the RSL and other working class organisations be approached for united action on this issue.
With very best wishes,
JL for the EC, TO
RSL to Ted Grant
June 6 1943
Your letter of May 24 1943 has been received by us and I am instructed to reply to you as follows:
In the first place I have to point out to you that once again you start your letter with a lie – by heading it “Fourth International” despite the fact that you are not in the Fourth International.
Secondly I have to remind you that at the meeting between our representatives and yours which took place last year we made it quite clear to you that we are only prepared to agree to fusion with the two organisations provided agreement has been reached upon the most important issues facing the revolutionary movement in this country today. You have long had our documents making our position on these issues perfectly clear. At the joint meeting in question, you, personally, stated that replies to our document would be produced by you within a fortnight of their being received by you. In your letter of April 3 1943, you promised that your reply would be received by us “shortly”. We are still waiting for it.
The formal dissolution of the Comintern has indeed been a “magnificent confirmation of the ideas of comrade Trotsky and the Fourth International” – ideas in the formulation of which, incidentally, your organisation has never played any part. But we fail to see how this in any way changes the situation between our two organisations. It has always been the task of fourth internationalists to “close the ranks” and we are, as ever, in favour of this today. But organisational unity without political unity would achieve nothing but discord.
Consequently, we must reject the proposals for immediate organisational unity contained in your letter. If you really desire unity you will in future show more celerity in conducting your share of the political discussions which we have initiated.
Incidentally, it would be of interest to us to know why you are so much in favour of organisational unity with us today, when serious political differences exist, while you consistently rejected it in the days of 1938-1939 when no such differences existed. Do you consider that your then attitude was incorrect or is your present attitude, like your past, dictated by “clique” considerations – the differences being that you believe that now you could secure a majority in a united organisation, whereas previously this would not have been the case?
We note with surprise that you make no mention in your letter of our letter of May 7 1943. We trust that you received and should welcome your comments on it.
Secretary RSL (No signature)
 The Socialist Labor Party of America led by Daniel DeLeon.
 The Alien Registration Act of 1940 (known also as the Smith Act), which allowed the prosecution for anti-government seditious activities, was first used to behead the US Socialist Workers’ Party. In October 1941 the whole leadership of the SWP was put on trial in their stronghold of Minneapolis and most of them were condemned to up to 16 months of prison. The conduct of the defendants and the political nature of the attack gained them the respect of a broad layer within the US labour movement.
 Vincent R. Dunne was one of the leaders of the victorious teamsters’ strikes of 1934-5 in Minneapolis.
 The Workers’ Party, which split in 1940 from the US Socialist Workers’ Party.
 Here Ted Grant refers to the letters sent by Cooper and Stuart to British comrades. The reply of the leadership of the WIL to these letters is published in this volume.
 The Trotskyist Opposition was a faction of the Revolutionary Socialist League (British section of the Fourth International) led by Lawrence. The Socialist Workers’ Group was a splinter group of the RSL.