France Arrests a Comedian for His Facebook Comments, Showing the Sham of the West's 'Free Speech' Celebration
By Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept
14 January 15
orty-eight hours after hosting a massive march under the banner of free expression, France opened a criminal investigation of a controversial French comedian for a Facebook post he wrote about the Charlie Hebdo attack, and then this morning, arrested him for that post on charges of “defending terrorism.” The comedian, Dieudonné (above), previously sought elective office in France on what he called an “anti-Zionist” platform, has had his show banned by numerous government officials in cities throughout France, and has been criminally prosecuted several times before for expressing ideas banned in that country.
The apparently criminal viewpoint he posted on Facebook declared: “Tonight, as far as I’m concerned, I feel like Charlie Coulibaly.” Investigators concluded that this was intended to mock the “Je Suis Charlie” slogan and express support for the perpetrator of the Paris supermarket killings (whose last name was “Coulibaly”). Expressing that opinion is evidently a crime in the Republic of Liberté, which prides itself on a line of 20th Century intellectuals – from Sartre and Genet to Foucault and Derrida – whose hallmark was leaving no orthodoxy or convention unmolested, no matter how sacred.
Since that glorious “free speech” march, France has reportedly opened 54 criminal cases for “condoning terrorism.” AP reported this morning that “France ordered prosecutors around the country to crack down on hate speech, anti-Semitism and glorifying terrorism.”
As pernicious as this arrest and related “crackdown” on some speech obviously is, it provides a critical value: namely, it underscores the utter scam that was this week’s celebration of free speech in the west. The day before the Charlie Hebdo attack, I coincidentally documented the multiple cases in the west – including in the U.S. – where Muslims have been prosecuted and even imprisoned for their political speech.
Vanishingly few of this week’s bold free expression mavens have ever uttered a peep of protest about any of those cases – either before the Charlie Hebdo attack or since. That’s because “free speech,” in the hands of many westerners, actually means: it is vital that the ideas I like be protected, and the right to offend groups I dislike be cherished; anything else is fair game.
It is certainly true that many of Dieudonné’s views and statements are noxious, although he and his supporters insist that they are “satire” and all in good humor. In that regard, the controversy they provoke is similar to the now-much-beloved Charlie Hebdo cartoons (one French leftist insists the cartoonists were mocking rather than adopting racism and bigotry, but Olivier Cyran, a former writer at the magazine who resigned in 2001, wrote a powerful 2013 letter with ample documentation condemning Charlie Hebdo for descending in the post-9/11 era into full-scale, obsessive anti-Muslim bigotry).
Despite the obvious threat to free speech posed by this arrest, it is inconceivable that any mainstream western media figures would start tweeting “#JeSuisDieudonné” or would upload photographs of themselves performing his ugly Nazi-evoking arm gesture in “solidarity” with his free speech rights. That’s true even if he were murdered for his ideas rather than “merely” arrested and prosecuted for them. That’s because last week’s celebration of the Hebdo cartoonists (well beyond mourning their horrifically unjust murders) was at least as much about approval for their anti-Muslim messages as it was about the free speech rights that were invoked in their support - at least as much.
The vast bulk of the stirring “free speech” tributes over the last week have been little more than an attempt to protect and venerate speech that degrades disfavored groups while rendering off-limits speech that does the same to favored groups, all deceitfully masquerading as lofty principles of liberty.
In response to my article containing anti-Jewish cartoons on Monday - which I posted to demonstrate the utter selectivity and inauthenticity of this newfound adoration of offensive speech - I was subjected to endless contortions justifying why anti-Muslim speech is perfectly great and noble while anti-Jewish speech is hideously offensive and evil (the most frequently invoked distinction – “Jews are a race/ethnicity while Muslims aren’t” – would come as a huge surprise to the world’s Asian, black, Latino and white Jews, as well as to those who identify as “Muslim” as part of their cultural identity even though they don’t pray five times a day).
As always: it’s free speech if it involves ideas I like or attacks groups I dislike, but it’s something different when I’m the one who is offended.
Think about the “defending terrorism” criminal offense for which Dieudonné has been arrested. Should it really be a criminal offense – causing someone to be arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned – to say something along these lines: western countries like France have been bringing violence for so long to Muslims in their countries that I now believe it’s justifiable to bring violence to France as a means of making them stop?
If you want “terrorism defenses” like that to be criminally prosecuted (as opposed to societally shunned), how about those who justify, cheer for and glorify the invasion and destruction of Iraq, with its “Shock and Awe” slogan signifying an intent to terrorize the civilian population into submission and its monstrous tactics in Fallujah?
Or how about the psychotic calls from a Fox News host, when discussing Muslims radicals, to “kill them ALL.” Why is one view permissible and the other criminally barred – other than because the force of law is being used to control political discourse and one form of terrorism (violence in the Muslim world) is done by, rather than to, the West?
For those interested, my comprehensive argument against all “hate speech” laws and other attempts to exploit the law to police political discourse is here. That essay, notably, was written to denounce a proposal by a French minister, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, to force Twitter to work with the French government to delete tweets which officials like this minister (and future unknown ministers) deem “hateful.”
France is about as legitimate a symbol of free expression as Charlie Hebdo, which fired one of its writers in 2009 for a single supposedly anti-Semitic sentence in the midst of publishing an orgy of anti-Muslim (not just anti-Islam) content. This week’s celebration of France – and the gaggle of tyrannical leaders who joined it – had little to do with free speech and much to do with suppressing ideas they dislike while venerating ideas they prefer.
Perhaps the most intellectually corrupted figure in this regard is, unsurprisingly, France’s most celebrated (and easily the world’s most overrated) public intellectual, the philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy. He demands criminal suppression of anything smacking of anti-Jewish views (he called for Dieudonné’s shows to be banned (“I don’t understand why anyone even sees the need for debate”) and supported the 2009 firing of the Charlie Hebdo writer for a speech offense against Jews), while shamelessly parading around all last week as the Churchillian champion of free expression when it comes to anti-Muslim cartoons.
But that, inevitably, is precisely the goal, and the effect, of laws that criminalize certain ideas and those who support such laws: to codify a system where the views they like are sanctified and the groups to which they belong protected. The views and groups they most dislike – and only them – are fair game for oppression and degradation.
The arrest of this French comedian so soon after the epic Paris free speech march underscores this point more powerfully than anything I could have written about the selectivity and fraud of this week’s “free speech” parade. It also shows – yet again – why those who want to criminalize the ideas they most dislike are at least as dangerous and tyrannical as the ideas they target: at least.
It's always been amazing to me when people who previously had nothing particularly good to say about free speech come running to the forefront of outrage about it when the target is hate speech against "others."
Other voices from different perspectives also underscore indelibly this hypocritical behavior.
The attack on the editorial offices of "Charlie Hebdo" has shocked the public, which is horrified by the violent deaths of 12 people in the center of Paris. The video images, viewed by millions, of the gunmen firing their weapons and killing an already-wounded policeman have imparted to Wednesday’s events an extraordinary actuality.
In the immediate aftermath of the shootings, the state and media are seeking to exploit the fear and the confusion of the public. Once again, the political bankruptcy and essentially reactionary character of terrorism is exposed. It serves the interests of the state, which utilizes the opportunity provided by the terrorists to whip up support for authoritarianism and militarism.
In 2003, when the Bush administration invaded Iraq, French popular opposition was so overwhelming that the government led by President Jacques Chirac was compelled to oppose the war, even in the face of massive political pressure from the United States. Now, 12 years later, as President François Hollande is striving to transform France into the United States’ principal ally in the “war on terror,” the attack in Paris plays into his hands.
In these efforts Hollande can rely on the media, which in such circumstances directs all its energies toward the emotional manipulation and political disorientation of the public. The capitalist media, skillfully combining the suppression of information with half-truths and outright lies, devises a narrative that is calculated to appeal not only to the basest instincts of the broad public, but also to its democratic and idealistic sentiments.
Throughout Europe and the United States, the claim is being made that the attack on the magazine "Charlie Hebdo" was an assault on the freedom of the press and the unalienable right of journalists in a democratic society to express themselves without loss of freedom or fear for their lives. The killing of the "Charlie Hebdo" cartoonists and editors is being proclaimed an assault on the principles of free speech that are, supposedly, held so dear in Europe and the United States. The attack on "Charlie Hebdo" is, thus, presented as another outrage by Muslims who cannot tolerate Western “freedoms.” From this the conclusion must be drawn that the “war on terror” — i.e., the imperialist onslaught on the Middle East, Central Asia and North and Central Africa — is an unavoidable necessity.
In the midst of this orgy of democratic hypocrisy, no reference is made to the fact that the American military, in the course of its wars in the Middle East, is responsible for the deaths of at least 15 journalists. In the on-going narrative of “Freedom of Speech Under Attack,” there is no place for any mention of the 2003 air-to-surface missile attack on the offices of Al Jazeera in Baghdad that left three journalists dead and four wounded.
Nor is anything being written or said about the July 2007 murder of two Reuters journalists working in Baghdad, staff photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen and driver Saeed Chmagh. Both men were deliberately targeted by US Apache gunships while on assignment in East Baghdad.
The American and international public was first able to view a video of the cold-blooded murder of the two journalists as well as a group of Iraqis — taken from one of the gunships — as the result of WikiLeaks’ release of classified material that it had obtained from an American soldier, Corporal Bradley Chelsea Manning.
And how has the United States and Europe acted to protect WikiLeaks’ exercise of free speech? Julian Assange, the founder and publisher of WikiLeaks, has been subjected to relentless persecution. Leading political and media figures in the United States and Canada have denounced him as a “terrorist” and demanded his arrest, with some even calling publicly for his murder. Assange is being pursued on fraudulent “rape” allegations concocted by American and Swedish intelligence services. He has been compelled to seek sanctuary in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, which is under constant guard by British police who will seize Assange if he steps out of the embassy. As for Chelsea Manning, she is presently in prison, serving out a 35-year sentence for treason.
That is how the great capitalist “democracies” of North America and Europe have demonstrated their commitment to free speech and the safety of journalists!
The dishonest and hypocritical narrative spun out by the state and the media requires that "Charlie Hebdo" and its murdered cartoonists and journalists be upheld as martyrs to free speech and representatives of a revered democratic tradition of hard-hitting iconoclastic journalism.
In a column published Wednesday in the "Financial Times," the liberal historian Simon Schama places "Charlie Hebdo" in a glorious tradition of journalistic irreverence that “is the lifeblood of freedom.” He recalls the great European satirists between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries who subjected the great and powerful to their withering scorn. Among their illustrious targets, Schama reminds us, were the brutal Duke of Alba, who in the 1500s drowned the Dutch struggle for freedom in blood; the French “Sun King,” Louis XIV; the British Prime Minister William Pitt; and the Prince of Wales.
“Satire,” writes Schama, “became the oxygen of politics, ventilating healthy howls of derision in coffee houses and taverns where caricatures circulated every day and every week.”
Schama places "Charlie Hebdo" in a tradition to which it does not belong. All the great satirists to whom Schama refers were representatives of a democratic Enlightenment who directed their scorn against the powerful and corrupt defenders of aristocratic privilege. In its relentlessly degrading portrayals of Muslims, "Charlie Hebdo" has mocked the poor and the powerless.
To speak bluntly and honestly about the sordid, cynical and degraded character of Charlie Hebdo is not to condone the killing of its personnel. But when the slogan “I am Charlie” is adopted and heavily promoted by the media as the slogan of protest demonstrations, those who have not been overwhelmed by state and media propaganda are obligated to reply: “We oppose the violent assault on the magazine, but we are not — and have nothing in common with — ‘Charlie.’”
Marxists are no strangers to the struggle to overcome the influence of religion among the masses. But they conduct this struggle with the understanding that religious faith is sustained by conditions of adversity and desperate hardship. Religion is not to be mocked, but understood and criticized as Karl Marx understood and criticized it:
“Religious distress is … the expression of real distress and also the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of spiritless conditions. It is the opium of the people.
“To abolish religion as the illusory happiness of the people is to demand their real happiness. The demand to give up illusions about the existing affairs is the demand to give up a state of affairs that needs illusions. The criticism of religion is therefore in embryo the criticism of the vale of tears, the halo of which is religion.” [Contribution to Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Law, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 3 (New York, 1975), pp. 175-76]
One has only to read these words to see the intellectual and moral chasm that separates Marxism from the unhealthy milieu of the ex-left political cynicism that has found expression in "Charlie Hebdo". There has been nothing enlightening, let alone edifying, in their puerile and often obscene denigration of the Muslim religion and its traditions.
The cynically provocative anti-Muslim caricatures that have appeared on so many covers of "Charlie Hebdo" have pandered to and facilitated the growth of right-wing chauvinist movements in France. It is absurd to claim, by way of defense of "Charlie Hebdo", that its cartoons are all “in good fun” and have no political consequences.
Aside from the fact that the French government is desperate to rally support for its growing military agenda in Africa and the Middle East, France is a country where the influence of the neo-fascist National Front is growing rapidly. In this political context, "Charlie Hebdo" has facilitated the growth of a form of politicized anti-Muslim sentiment that bears a disturbing resemblance to the politicized anti-Semitism that emerged as a mass movement in France in the 1890s.
In its use of crude and vulgar caricatures that purvey a sinister and stereotyped image of Muslims, "Charlie Hebdo" recalls the cheap racist publications that played a significant role in fostering the anti-Semitic agitation that swept France during the famous Dreyfus Affair, which erupted in 1894 after a Jewish officer was accused and falsely convicted of espionage on behalf of Germany.
In whipping up popular hatred of Jews, "La Libre Parole" [“Free Speech”], published by the infamous Edoard Adolfe Drumont, made highly effective use of cartoons that employed the familiar anti-Semitic devices. The caricatures served to inflame public opinion, inciting mobs against Dreyfus and his defenders, such as Emile Zola, the great novelist and author of J’Accuse.
The World Socialist Web Site, on the basis of long-standing political principles, opposes and unequivocally condemns the terrorist assault on "Charlie Hebdo". But we refuse to join in the portrayal of "Charlie Hebdo" as a martyr to the cause of democracy and free speech, and we warn our readers to be wary of the reactionary agenda that motivates this hypocritical and dishonest campaign.
By David North
23 January 2014
We are posting here the tribute to Dave Hyland, former national secretary of the Socialist Equality Party of Britain, delivered by David North, national chairman of the Socialist Equality Party of the US and chairman of the International Editorial Board of the World Socialist Web Site, to a memorial meeting held January 18 in honor of Comrade Hyland. Dave Hyland passed away on December 8, 2013. (See: “Memorial meeting pays tribute to Dave Hyland’s political struggle”).
The death of Dave on December 8 did not come as a shock. He had been grievously ill, with extremely aggressive rheumatoid arthritis, for more than 20 years. But despite the gravity of his illness, Dave had manifested powers of resistance that seemed to defy scientific explanation. His willpower, his desire to live and to participate in life as fully as possible, exerted itself as a real physical force.
Four years ago, Dave had lapsed into unconsciousness, and the physicians told his family that it was unlikely that he would live more than a few days. But he regained consciousness, and, despite immense physical handicaps, resumed an active political and intellectual life.
It was still possible to hope until very recently that Dave would remain with us for some time to come. But in November, it became clear that Dave’s illness could no longer be held at bay. He accepted this fact with dignity, rejecting further, what he believed to be fruitless, efforts to prolong his life.
I was told that on one occasion, in the midst of the most trying physical circumstances, he said to his daughter Julie, “Life is beautiful.”
Dave had endured the hardships of his illness without a trace of self-pity. He retained his optimism, and his love of life. For many, the experience of protracted illness, the sheer weight of physical difficulties and pain, leads to resignation, intellectual disengagement, and emotional withdrawal. But this was not the case with Dave.
In November, Dave and I spoke for what we both knew would be the last time. It might appear strange, but the discussion was not at all somber. Dave remained intensely involved with the world, passionate in his political commitment to the cause of international socialism, and interested in all that was taking place.
Dave told me that he had no regrets about the main course of his life. His decision to join the Trotskyist movement in the early 1970s flowed necessarily from the political conclusions that he drew, as a class-conscious worker, from the great struggles of that era. He viewed his decision in 1985 to base his opposition to the national opportunism of the Workers Revolutionary Party on the history, principles and program of the International Committee as the most important of his life. As his life drew to a close, Dave expressed his pride in the development of the World Socialist Web Site and confidence in the future of the movement to which he had made such an imperishable contribution.
Every one of the speakers has referred to the events of 1985. Next year it will be 30 years since that struggle took place. To those of us who participated in that fight, it seems as if it was only yesterday. But the photographs displayed in the exhibit tell us otherwise. Back then we were still young men. But though three decades have passed, the events of 1985 remain embedded so vividly in our minds that it seems as if they occurred only yesterday. That is because there remains a powerful connection between those events and the lives we are still leading.
Dave would have liked to have made it into his seventies or eighties. But not everyone is granted that longevity. Yet, more important than longevity is what one does with the years one is granted. The real measure of the success of one’s life is to have retained at the end of one’s life the best qualities of one’s youth, and to understand the inner logic of the experiences through which one passed.
Dave was able to understand the course of his life as interconnected chapters of a broader historical narrative. It was a life that was guided by socialist principles to which Dave adhered over many decades. His life made sense and could be understood in relationship to the great historical events of his time.
We all live amidst objective forces of monumental power. As one becomes older, one acquires a better sense of the extent to which the course of our lives has been determined by forces beyond our direct and immediate control. But we are not powerless. Each of us must decide how to respond to the great objective forces of history.
The photographs and documents in the exhibit illustrate the principles that connected one period of his life with another. There is no sadder fate than to come to the end of one’s life without being able to identify any central purpose that guided one’s actions — to be unable to answer the question, “What was it all about?” Or even worse, when asked about the past, to reply, “I don’t remember.” People who don’t remember generally don’t want to remember, because they have departed so far from the ideals that inspired them in their youth.
Dave knew what his life had been about. He remembered and wanted to remember the experiences through which he had passed. That is the key to the calm and equanimity with which Dave confronted the final stage of his life. I think he expected that a meeting such as this would take place, and that the estimation of his life would be objective and fair.
There is no question but that Dave will be remembered as a major figure in the history of the British and international working class.
Dave was born in the aftermath of the Second World War, a period which witnessed the resurgence of working class militancy. Like so many hundreds of thousands of British workers who came of age in the 1960s, Dave believed that the time had come to avenge the defeat of the 1926 General Strike and the indignities of the “Hungry 30s.” From his father he had a direct connection to that period of social struggle.
In 1945, the British working class had swept the Labour Party to power in the hope that this would lead to a socialist Britain. But in the quarter century that followed — whether in or out of power — the Labour Party and the Trades Union Congress (TUC), aided by the Stalinist Communist Party, devoted the bulk of their energies not to fighting the hated Tories, but to restraining, opposing and betraying the struggles of the working class.
It might be difficult for the younger generation that has experienced only setbacks and has never seen the power of the working class in struggle to understand the optimism and determination that existed in the Britain of the 1960s and early 1970s. It is conveyed to some extent in the music of the times. There was contempt for the old system and a determination to put an end to it. And it was evident that there existed a force that could carry it out.
The 1970 victory of the Tory Party in the national elections set the stage for a wave of struggles by the working class. The new government was determined to employ its new Industrial Relations Act to suppress strikes, but the British workers refused to accept the legitimacy of laws that were seen as nothing other than the exercise of ruling class interests. Between 1970 and 1974, the struggles of the working class brought Britain closer to socialist revolution than any time since the 1926 General Strike.
In 1973-74, the British miners — in their second national strike against the policies of the government of Edward Heath — achieved what their grandfathers had not. The strike forced Heath to call a general election. The central issue, declared the beleaguered prime minister, was “Who ruled Britain?” The answer was given. “It won’t be you.” Heath lost the election. For the first time in history, the British working class had brought about, through the exercise of its industrial power, the resignation and defeat of a Tory government.
The defeat of the Tories did not solve the strategic problem of socialist revolution in Britain. Rather, the working class now confronted in the new Labour government, allied with the trade union bureaucracy, an implacable enemy determined to employ all the experience and skill it had acquired over decades of political treachery to restrain, disorient, paralyze, demoralize and disarm the mass movement that had brought Britain to the brink of socialist revolution.
In other words, between 1974 and 1979, the Labour governments of Prime Ministers Wilson and Callaghan — abetted by the TUC and its accomplices in the British Communist Party — did everything in their power to prepare the political ground for the triumph of Thatcherism and all the subsequent political disasters that befell the working class.
However, there was one political tendency in the British working class that had developed during the 20 years that preceded the great strike movement of 1973-74 on the basis of a struggle against the Labour Party, the trade union bureaucracy, Stalinism and various forms of middle class radicalism — principally, the Pabloite and state capitalist tendencies. I am speaking, of course, of the Socialist Labour League, the British section of the International Committee of the Fourth International, led by Gerry Healy.
In the 20 years between 1953 and 1973, the Trotskyist movement in Britain had experienced an extraordinary growth.
These gains initially arose on the basis of the principles that were defended in the 1953 struggle against the revisionist tendency in the Fourth International led by Michel Pablo and Ernest Mandel. The essential issue in this struggle was the irreplaceable role of the Fourth International in the development of Marxist consciousness in the working class and the victory of the world socialist revolution. The International Committee, formed in the autumn of 1953, rejected the claims of the Pabloites that socialism could be realized under the leadership of Stalinist, social democratic and bourgeois nationalist organizations or various other types of socially and politically heterogeneous petty-bourgeois radical organizations.
Healy had played an important role in the 1953 struggle. Collaborating closely with James P. Cannon, the leader of the Socialist Workers Party in the United States, Healy defeated the Pabloite tendency within the British organization, which actually demanded an end to the independent existence of a Trotskyist party and its liquidation into the Communist Party. That was the Pabloite line. The Communist Party, it claimed, would represent the revolutionary aspirations of the working class and there was no need for an independent Trotskyist organization.
The relentless fight against Pabloite liquidationism laid the basis for the subsequent growth of the Trotskyist movement in Britain. The defense of the Trotskyist analysis of Stalinism — the insistence upon the unalterably counterrevolutionary role of the Kremlin bureaucracy and all the national communist parties — prepared the British Trotskyists for the political opportunities that emerged in the aftermath of Khrushchev’s “secret speech” of February 1956, in which Stalin was exposed as a murderer, and the brutal Soviet suppression of the Hungarian Revolution in October of that same year.
These events, which hurled the Soviet bureaucracy and the international Stalinist movement into deep crisis, vindicated the stand taken in 1953 by the British Trotskyists under Healy’s leadership. Moreover, their clarity on the nature of Stalinism—the absence of any illusions, assiduously promoted by the Pabloites, in the supposedly revolutionary potential of the Kremlin regime—enabled the Trotskyists to intervene in the crisis of the British Communist Party. They won a number of recruits from the Stalinist organization who were to play an important role in the subsequent development of the Trotskyist movement.
Despite immense problems — proscriptions by the Labour Party, attacks by the Stalinists, the chronic lack of financial resources — the influence of the Trotskyist movement grew steadily in the late 1950s. It must be stressed that during this fruitful period of organizational growth, the British Trotskyists were playing a major role in the on-going theoretical and political struggle against Pabloism within the Fourth International. Indeed, it was during this period that the British Trotskyists began to develop their criticisms of what they perceived, correctly, as a drift by the US Socialist Workers Party toward reconciliation with the Pabloites.
As early as 1957, Healy recognized that the SWP was retreating from the Trotskyist principles that it had defended in 1953. The SWP became embroiled in a “regroupment” campaign in the United States that signaled an opportunist reorientation toward the milieu of left middle class radicalism.
In contrast to the opportunist vacillations of the SWP, the British Trotskyists were steadily developing the fight against Stalinism and Social Democracy. Since the late 1940s, the British Trotskyists had conducted work within the Labour Party. The purpose of this work had not been to convert the Labour Party into a socialist organization — an impossible task — but to expose the treacherous role of Social Democracy and, on this basis, win the best elements within the Labour Party to the program and perspective of the Fourth International.
As the influence of the Trotskyists grew in the late 1950s, the Labour Party resorted to witch-hunts and expulsions. Healy could not be cowed. In 1959, the Trotskyists formed the Socialist Labour League to prosecute the struggle against Labourism. Significantly, in the United States, the SWP opposed this necessary organizational break, ignoring the fact that the alternative was complete political surrender to the discipline and authority of the Labour Party. Cannon, by now a thoroughgoing opportunist, accused Gerry Healy of having embarked on an “ultra-left binge.”
Refuting the claims of Cannon that life outside the precincts of the Labour Party was impossible, the Socialist Labour League built a formidable opposition to the Social Democratic bureaucracy within the Young Socialists, at that time the youth movement of the Labour Party. By the early 1960s, it had won the leadership of the Young Socialists. When the Labour Party retaliated with expulsions, the YS reconstituted itself as the youth movement of the Socialist Labour League.
Between 1961 and 1963, the SLL opposed the efforts of the US Socialist Workers Party, which was now led by Joseph Hansen, to engineer a reunification of the International Committee and the Pabloites’ international organization. The political pretense used to justify the reunification was the overthrow of the Batista regime in Cuba by the guerilla forces led by Castro (who, it is worth recalling, initially enjoyed the support of the United States).
Castro’s victory, the SWP claimed, demonstrated that a socialist revolution could be led to victory and a workers’ state established under the leadership of a political movement that was neither Marxist or Trotskyist, nor even explicitly socialist and based on the working class.
Thus, the aim of the reunification was the dissolution of the Fourth International into the reactionary political swamp of leftish middle class politics. Efforts to build an international socialist movement of the working class, based on Marxist theory and guided politically by the heritage of Trotsky’s struggle against the betrayal of the October Revolution, were to be abandoned. The fate of the socialist revolution was to be entrusted to an array of bourgeois nationalists and petty-bourgeois radical organizations allied with or dependent upon, in one form or another, the Soviet bureaucracy.
The opposition of the SLL and the French Trotskyists in the PCI (later to become the OCI) to the unprincipled reunification of the SWP with the Pabloites prevented the liquidation of the Fourth International. Moreover, the struggle waged by the SLL led to the expansion of the work of the International Committee — with the formation of the Workers League in the United States, the Revolutionary Communist League in Sri Lanka, and, later, in the early 1970s, the Bund Sozialistischer Arbeiter in Germany and the Socialist Labour League in Australia.
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