Security and the Fourth International
News Line, 20 November 1976, Page 7
A DECISION WHICH WILL SHAKE THE
Georges Vereeken, the veteran Belgian workers’ leader, has written a document on Security and the Fourth International.
It appears in Vereeken’s publication, Le Pouvoir aux Travaileurs’, Special Number, October 1976, and has been translated from the original French by the International Committee of the Fourth International.
Vereeken, author of The GPU in the Fourth International, (New Park Publications, £3.50), supports the International committee’s call for an international commission of inquiry into Joseph Hansen and George Novack of the Socialist Workers’ Party (USA).
On 1 January 1976 the International committee indicted both these men as accomplices of the GPU, Stalin’s secret police. The indictment arose from a detailed investigation undertaken by the International Committee into the circumstances before, during and after the assassination of Leon Trotsky in Mexico on 20 August 1940.
The investigation conclusively proved that Hansen and Novack had waged a 36-year campaign to cover up the crimes of the GPU in the Trotskyist movement, shielded known agents and consistently prevented a full-scale investigation into their activities.
On studying the International Committee’s material and the statements of Hansen and Novack, Vereeken has concluded that there is a case to answer and that both men are objectively accomplices of the GPU.
This drives a further nail into the slander campaign whipped up by the accomplices of the GPU all over the world among anti-communists, liberals and renegades of every description.
What is Hansen’s reaction? He does not re-publish Vereeken’s article in his weekly Intercontinental Press, its syndicated slander columns are only open to those who clear the agents of the GPU and oppose an international commission of inquiry.
In desperation, he publishes a translation of another article from Vereeken’s paper and adds a commentary which he headlines: “Vereeken Begins Learning About Healyism” (Intercontinental Press 12 November 1976).
Hansen attempts to create a disruption from the fact that the International Committee wrote its own forward to the English language edition of Vereeken’s book and that a picture of Hansen captioned “indicted as an accomplice of the GPU” appears in it.
There are no grounds whatsoever for Hansen’s attempted disruption. There are even less when it comes from an arch-falsifier of the history of Trotskyism and the man who wants to suppress a security investigation into the GPU’s role in the Trotskyist movement.
George Vereeken’s Article
Translated form Le Pouvoir aux Travaileurs’ Special November October 1976
Hansen and Novack have brought about a united front to condemn the International Committee, which, in its campaign to uncover the crimes of the GPU, has accused them of being GPU accomplices.
But just as they were doing so, the US Attorney-General issued a statement saying that there were 66 FBI agents active in the organisations they lead, together with 1,300 occasional informers not belonging to them.
On 15 September 1976 the US Prosecutor-General ordered the FBI to cease surveillance activity in the Socialist workers Party (SWP) and Young Socialist Alliance (YSA) of which Hansen and Novack are the main leaders. This surveillance, which has lasted for 38 years, is now too costly and has become pointless. These organisations are no longer a danger to state security.
The Militant, organ of the SWP, says that “certain officials at the Department of Justice in Washington are, according to some sources, worried that if the 66 informers all leave at once, there is a risk of them being identified.”
How Hansen has managed to deceive and dupe the great majority of the Trotskyist leaders and a number of other personalities. [Text as original – Ed]
The Start of the Whole Affair
“On 7 April 1975 Joseph Hansen, one of the leaders of the SWP (USA), wrote an article in his weekly magazine Intercontinental Press entitled ‘Red Lion Square, where were the leaders of the WRP?’ The following allegations were made against leading members of the Workers Revolutionary Party, British section of the International Committee of the Fourth International.
‘Has the WRP been infiltrated by agents of the Special Branch? What are the identities of those in the WRP who suggested that the best course was to have nothing to do with the demonstration against fascism in Red Lion Square?
Didn’t this advice fit in with what the WRP admits – that manipulation of the left played an important role in police preparations for 15 June? What are the names of those members who gave advice that played into the hands of the police and the capitalist state? Who are these shadowy figures? Why does the WRP remain silent on this? Why doesn’t it name those involved in the sinister affair? What is the WRP trying to cover up? Still another question must be asked. Is it possible that agents provocateurs like these are responsible for the campaign undertaken by the Workers Press of trying to follow up Scarman’s work, of even improving on Scarman in attacking the International Marxist Group?’”
This extract is the beginning of a letter written on 29 May 1975 by Cliff Slaughter, secretary of the International Committee of the Fourth International to the “dear comrades” of the United Secretariat of the Fourth International, of which the International Marxist Group is the British section.
This letter also indicated (I am abridging here but at the end of this statement the reader can find the complete text) that the Workers Revolutionary Party of which G. Healy is the foremost leader, in fact took a decision not to participate in this demonstration.
It also showed that they agreed with Hansen that these questions should be examined and clarified. The letter further revealed that in May 1975, at the Sixth Congress of their International Committee, it was decided to investigate all these questions concerning the infiltration of secret agents into revolutionary organisations – and they proposed to the United Secretariat that a Parity Commission should be established to be composed of members of each committee.
Healy even undertook to appear before it for questioning if Hansen would undertake to do likewise, while taking into account the practical difficulties for him.
Although Hansen had accused him of heading an organisation whose British section was directed by agents of the secret police, and had asked for their names to be publicly stated, for all that Slaughter ended his letter with friendly greetings.
In his reply, dated 5 June 1975, Hansen addressed himself only to Slaughter and not to the organisation he represents. This is a favourite method of the Stalinists and is used by some Trotskyists. Hansen is in this category. For him there is only Slaughter and Healy.
His reply starts off ironically. Slaughter’s letterhead was typed, a “proof” that he represents a moribund organisation: He says his signature is an indecipherable hieroglyphic etc. He concludes that all these are “small items” but they should be taken note of because they could lead to the identification of an agent placed in the organisation by the police or by the CIA. And in case the letter should be a forgery, he is sending a photocopy.
But still, as the political content bears an “unfortunate” resemblance to the political content of the Workers Press, evidently the letter is not a forgery and this, as we shall see later, enables him to make a number of observations about it.
Hansen never noticed that the FBI had infiltrated
66 agents into the SWP
Although he is quick to go onto the attack, after this brilliant demonstration of his vigilance and flair for uncovering secret agents, we cannot help but pose the question; how is it that he has never, to our knowledge, denounced secret agent?
Whereas we have just learned that today, in the two organisations he leads along with Novack, there are now 66 FBI agents and 1300 informers working from within for the information of this notorious police machine.
This is what the attorney-general said when he announced on 15 September that he had ordered the FBI to cease its surveillance of the SWP and the YSA. This is what the readers of Lutte Ouvriere learned from its issue of 2 October 1976.
We will sum up the content of Lutte Ouvriere’s introduction to the extracts from the SWP’s Militant, which are reproduced in full at the end of this document.
Hansen’s Tortuous, Poisonous Language
Since the reader is familiar with this bombshell which is about to shake the Trotskyist movement, and will now be used to purify it, we shall continue with our account, and turn to the way Hansen has tried with all kinds of turns of phrase, to justify his refusal to reply to the embarrassing questions which a parity commission would ask him.
He considers that “Healy’s method of thinking is tainted with subjective idealism …”
The workers Revolutionary Party simply refused to participate in the demonstration against fascism because, according to their own statement, “Manipulation of the left played an important part in police preparations”.
We have frequently seen in Brussels how the police use this kind of occasion. For Hansen, the refusal to become a “hero” in Red Lion Square, where a man’s life was lost (a fact he never even mentions) is nothing but a consequence of Healy’s empiricism and the ultra-leftism of the political line of the Workers Revolutionary Party, which is “universally recognised outside the Workers Revolutionary Party and the Workers League”, its sister organisation in the United states.
According to him, this is also the method which was used to fight the International Marxist group, the British section of the Fourth International, [United Secretariat – Ed.], and played an important role in the behaviour of the police on the occasion of the demonstration against fascism.
In which case, which was the organisation carrying out the ultra-left policy – the International Marxist Group, which was leading a fraction of the vanguard into the fight without the support of the workers, or the Workers Revolutionary Party which considered it an adventure? Hansen’s reply to Slaughter goes on:
“In light of this, it is clear that the Parity Commission you call for could only ascertain (1) whether the top leader of the Workers Revolutionary Party is still on an ultra-left binge as comrade Cannon correctly called it, and (2) whether the sentence I wrote – and the charges you levelled against the IMG – constitute examples of the kind of conclusions to be expected from succumbing to ‘subjective idealism’
“Under these circumstances it is superfluous – and ridiculous – to set up a Parity Commission. The evidence is already public knowledge, open to inspection by the entire working class audience.”
In the Lutte Ouvriere article we find that 18 months ago the Socialist Workers Party and the Young Socialist Alliance started a law suit against the FBI, accusing it of “subversion and of introducing informers into its ranks”. To quote the paper:
“The case had quite an impact. The revelations piled up. Now the attorney-general had just ordered the FBI to stop its wretched activities within the SWP.”
It then reproduces extracts from the Militant, the Socialist Workers Party Paper:
“In an historically unprecedented gesture, the attorney-general has stopped his ‘inquiry’ into the SWP and the YSA. Camejo, SWP candidate for the presidency of the US, has greeted this decision as ‘a victory for the democratic rights of all Americans’”
Curiously enough, Lutte Ouvriere, in muted tones, and the Militant in strident demagogic tones, both lead their readers to believe that the Chief Prosecutor had given way to the Socialist Party’s actions.
What is politically serious is the Lutte Ouvriere covers this up as an “historic victory for the democratic rights of all Americans”, whereas it is purely and simply a decision to stop costly surveillance of a party which has become reformist. The Chief Prosecutor himself says in is no longer a danger to state security.
Could the announcement of this “victory” in The Militant have been written by Joseph Hansen? In any event he bears the main responsibility for the acts of the Socialist Workers Party and the Young Socialist Alliance.
The following shows how he brings the existence of the 66 FBI agents to the knowledge of the readers. To listen to him, you would think the Socialist Workers Party had silenced the FBI – it even sounds like a great victory for the Socialist Workers Party and the Young Socialist Alliance. Do you think we are exaggerating? Take note:
“In August (1976) the Socialist Workers Party published documents from its files showing that the FBI had used 66 informers, passing them off as members of the Socialist Workers Party and Young Socialist Alliance. Moreover, some 1300 occasional informers, not acting as members of the Socialist Workers Party, furnished information on the socialists and other political parties. Organisations of blacks and women, trades unions etc, since 1960 …”
But these 66 agents are still in the Socialist Workers Party. That is what it literally says in the following paragraph:
“Certain officials of the Department of Justice in Washington are, according to some sources worried that if the 66 informers all leave at once, there is a risk of them being identified. They would like to stagger the period during which they leave the party.
In other words, as Hansen puts it in his Letter to Slaughter, for 66 FBI agents, “provocateurs and shadowy figures” who have infiltrated the Socialist Workers Party to leave all at once, is worrying for certain officials of Justice with a capital J.
That is understandable. Justice with a capital J will need them again and they should not be identified. The conclusion to be drawn is that many of them will remain within the Socialist Workers Party to carry on their dirty work.
What is remarkable is that up to now Hansen has been unable to announce that he has identified a single one of these 66 spies. How can he think he is in a position to make fun of anyone?
It should also be asked what heights the 66 FBI specialists raised themselves to in the party and the youth movement. They certainly must have reached to level of local or regional leadership and even national leadership. How many of them have Hansen and Novack got on their Secretariat of their Political Bureau and their Central Committee?
There are many more questions to be asked – for example, how did the Socialist Workers Party learn of the concern of certain officials at the Department of Justice? But the worst thing is that the leadership of the Socialist Workers Party minimises the presence of the 66 FBI agents within the Socialist Workers Party and the Young Socialist Alliance, that they try to get people to believe that “Chief Prosecutor Lebi” was obliged by the Socialist Workers Party to stop his “enquiry”, and that this was an “historically unprecedented gesture” and a “victory for the democratic rights of all Americans”.
We find it highly astonishing that Lutte Ouvriere should have published this without the least criticism.
A Political Evolution Similar to Our Own
From Slaughter’s second reply and more notably from the statement of Hansen’s activities against the International Committee, it emerges that their political evolution is similar in many ways to our own development between the wars.
In struggling politically against those we thought incorrect, and in the resulting polemics, we became suspicious about many things. Our arguments were often twisted round and venomous allegations followed one upon another.
The “super Trotskyists”, the hardest ones, often hid behind a pseudonym. This was the case with Obin. The Well brothers (alias Soblen), Paulsen (Dallin) and Etienne (Zborowski) etc. They had raised themselves up to the top of the international movement. Out of sectarianism, many members who were not agents at all acted in the same way and were sometimes more disgusting than the GPU agents who have been exposed.
The most serious thing is that all of them contributed, some consciously and others through a kind of ultra-leftism, to provoking a whole series of splits.
In fact, for example, in the [Spanish] civil war they – the agents and the sectarians – fought in a united front with the GPU against the leadership of the POUM, and bear a share of the responsibility for the deaths – to quote just two cases – of Nin and Landau.
In his reply, dated 21 June 1975, Slaughter begins by saying that the “irony” and “facetious jokes” are aimed solely at camouflaging the basic problem – the security of members of the revolutionary movement.
He once more quotes the accusations posed by Hansen, and in turn poses the questions: How can a member of the Trotskyist movement accept that such accusations should not be immediately examined? Can such a facetious, ironical tone be permitted when it is public knowledge that police agents have been discovered in the top leadership of the Australian section of the United Secretariat and (I quote) “the Socialist Workers Party has been subjected for many years to large-scale and intensive FBI surveillance”?
We also find in Slaughter’s letter the idea that the most important organisational question of the revolutionary movement becomes the question of security.
“The question of security in the Fourth International, not only at the moment, but in our past history, now assumes great importance, and for this reason we of the International Committee, along with the Workers League (USA), who are in political solidarity with us, will bring before a parity commission all material relevant to the security inquiry set up in relation to Wohlforth and Fields.”
He ends his letter by once more proposing to the United Secretariat that a parity commission should be formed.
We come now to the need to sum up the International Committee statement of 8 August with which we are not entirely in agreement.
It also goes back to Hansen’s accusation, but adds the commission of inquiry should be formed with three members of the United Secretariat and three of the International Committee to make a thorough examination of this attack, and at the same time, to bring together material which can provide evidence on the questions of security and provocations from 1966. This date should be born in mind because it is very important.
This proposition originated in the conviction of the International Committee that the general situation was objectively favourable to the formation of revolutionary parties and that, to win the working class for the struggle for power, it was necessary to begin clarifying the problem of falsifications, slanders and provocations which have from the beginning endangered our movement.
This statement violently attacks those groups of petty bourgeois led by Pabloites in the United States, Britain, Australia and other countries for having inherited this specialisation of slanders and provocations from the Stalinists. Hansen has shown himself to be the inspirer of such aggression.
In the 1960’s Hansen was plotting with S.T. Peng and P. Frank to prevent political and theoretical discussions from being held. In the case of Ceylon this has been shown quite clearly. All discussion was forbidden (the same situation recurred at the time of the Sino-Soviet conflict GV.) resulting in the catastrophe we know about.
Healy condemned the unprincipled, unreserved campaign of solidarity for Vietnam, carried out by sections of the United Secretariat. Those who fought this position hardest were the representatives of J. Hansen and the Socialist Workers Party leadership.
Analysing their positions on the Tate affair, raised by Hansen, the statement concludes:
“Why cannot Hansen, the Socialist workers Party and the United Secretariat accept the International Committee’s proposal and open an inquiry into questions of security and provocations – why cannot they countenance a statement from Ernest Tate?
“How can it be explained that on the one hand Hansen and his allies want to haul the Socialist Labour League up before the ‘justice’ of petty bourgeois radical opinion while on the other hand they reject a proposal coming from the Trotskyist movement to start an inquiry as an integral part of the political training of cadres for the revolution. Everyone who fights for the Fourth International will draw his own conclusion from this attitude of Hansen’s”
The document makes the following accusation:
“Hansen has even organised splits and built organisations independent of the United Secretariat (in Portugal, Australia and other countries), while the Socialist Workers Party claims to be in political solidarity with the United Secretariat and to collaborate with it so far as the reactionary laws in the US permit. Only those totally without principles can ignore the political lessons of this experience and keep silent, especially now that Hansen once more, as in 1963, wants to place a ban on discussion and information.”
In conclusion the International Committee energetically declares that it wants to put a stop to these methods. This is what it is now doing.
Research Into the 1960’s Requires Going
Back to the 1930’s
The research into what was wrong in the Trotskyist movement rapidly led the investigators to go much further back. Even in August and September 1975 the first articles announced that the research had been fruitful. Hansen, for his part, remained silent. And for good reason.
At the end of October it was already clear that in the 1930’s the highest ranks of the organisation in Paris, Sedov’s entourage, Leon Trotsky’s household in Mexico and the SWP in the United States, were infiltrated by GPU agents.
Note that these revelations came at a time when members of the Workers Revolutionary Party and the International Committee were completely unaware of our efforts to tear down the wall built up by all the other Trotskyist tendencies.
My book, The GPU in the Trotskyist Movement, finished in May 1972, only appeared at the end of October 1975. Like its author, it was to be placed in quarantine.
The month of December 1975 was decisive. The researchers had not only found, in the archives of the State Department library in the US and elsewhere, a heap of documents on the networks and agents working for Stalin and Beria – agents who had been denounced by Don Levine, Deutscher and ourselves – but they found more details, above all a letter which we consider to be of the utmost importance for clearing out the “Augean stables”.
It was in December that they found out about the existence of my book, published at the end of October 1975, and they got in touch with us.
New Park Publications Ltd., the Workers Revolutionary Party publishing house, undertook to bring out my book in English. At the same time we received from them a 138 page pamphlet, published in October, and a 20 page document, 44 x 30 cm., dated 1 January 1976.
The title of the former was Security and the Fourth International, and the second was Hansen and Novack – Accomplices of the GPU. It was the beginning of a non-stop campaign.
In spite of certain political differences, we had no difficulty in agreeing in the formation of a commission of inquiry composed of members of the United Secretariat, the International committee and persons of known integrity.
The Accusations Against Hansen and the Struggle for a
Commission of Inquiry
1) The letter addressed to the Government of the United States by Robert McGregor, American Consul General, Mexico, on 1 September 1940, 11 days after Trotsky’s death:
“Hansen stated that when in New York in 1938 he was himself approached by an agent of the GPU and asked to desert the Fourth International and join the Third. He referred the matter to Trotsky who asked him to go as far with the matter as possible. For three months Hansen had relations with a man who merely identified himself as ‘John’, and did not otherwise reveal his real identity.”
2) A short statement by Harold Robins, the guard who overpowered Trotsky’s assassin:
“Comrade Hansen, in your exposé, in your so called reply to Comrade Healy and the International Committee, you accuse them of being paranoid, as Stalin did Trotsky. You cover up for the actions of the American agencies and government agencies, and the frame-up by the Mexican police which fell apart on President Cardenas’s intervention. That is your role. You cover up history, you re-write history, you defend the Stalinist agents.
“Whose interests are you serving, Comrade Hansen? Revolution or counter-revolution? The question is whose side are you on? The answer is political, and your method reveals it.”
3) Hansen’s refusal, after recognising the authenticity of the letter from the American Consul, to appear before a parity commission of members.
Can it be believed that Trotsky would have agreed to this contact when he had already escaped several attempts on his life, when several of those close to him had been assassinated, when he knew his life was in danger and his house was like a small fortress?
It is still the case that Hansen was for three months in contact with John, whose real name was Dr. Gregory Rabinowitz.
He was the director of the Red Cross in the US from 1936 to 1939. Under the name of John, Rabinowitz made contact with Hansen.
Under the name of John Rich he maintained contact with Ruby Weil, who carried out the mission of putting the Trotskyist Sylvia Ageloff into contact with Trotsky’s future assassin.
Through her, Sylvia became the mistress of the future assassin and introduced him into Trotsky’s house.
Under the name of Roberts he managed to make Miss Franklin into the secretary of Cannon, the principle leader of the Trotskyist SWP. She went by the name of Sylvia Caldwell and was only exposed in 1950.
Under the name of Dr. Schwartz the same man, in 1936, transferred Thomas Black from the Communist Party to the SWP. Rabinowitz then sent Black to Trotsky’s household to prepare the assassination.
These are the facts and arguments we have put forward in a vain attempt to convince the Bureau of the International Revolutionary Marxist Tendency (TMRI) to support the proposal to constitute an enquiry.
What is more as soon as we realised the importance of the affair we published it in the February number of Pouvoir aux Travailleurs with this comment:
“A revolutionary, learning of such a letter, and of the statement and proposal, cannot do anything other than agree that at the earliest possible moment such a commission should be organised in order to censure the accusers, if it turned out that their accusations are false, or the accused, if the accusations are confirmed.
“It should not be forgotten that we are dealing with the Trotskyist movement which from its very inception has been manipulated by Stalinist agents and by the GPU, that they infiltrated the very highest bodies and used all their poisoned weapons – including the moral and physical destruction of militants who had written about or witnessed their crimes.”
We also placed the question before the TMRI. At the meeting of the International Secretariat on 27 March 1976 we were prevented from explaining why the IC’s demand for the formation of such a commission should be supported. Our resolution was unanimously rejected. But if Hansen formed a commission of honour, the United Secretariat would attend.
This prompted us to write out our position and publish it in a political letter to the cadres. What follows are the most important extracts from it.
What we criticise is not the visit to the Consul as such. It cannot be ruled out that after the murder of Trotsky, the American comrades forming the guard had to comply with certain formalities.
The most astonishing thing – it fact it is quite overwhelming – is what the Consul told his government. It is impossible that he should have invented the story about “John” who tried to convert Hansen to the Third International and make him leave the Fourth – in other words to become an agent of the GPU.
And we now know that “John” was the key element in the GPU machine in the US at that period.
“Can it be believed that Comrade Trotsky would have agreed to let Hansen play this game with a GPU agent – in the year 1938, the year of the assassination of his son Sedov, Wolf, Klement, etc.? It’s beyond belief.
At that period, the GPU did not hesitate for a moment to liquidate revolutionary militants anywhere in the world. They even, as we have already said, liquidated their own agents who had committed crimes in the name of the GPU, but if left active might one day change their ideas and begin to talk.
Thousands were liquidated in this way. Is it also not strange that after three months of vain efforts to win over Hansen, “John” was not liquidated by the GPU? Or that Hansen was not liquidated, seeing that he was one of those responsible for the defence of Comrade Trotsky, the enemy No. One? We find all this very obscure.
More astoundingly, though the members of the Bureau have known since February that the SWP and the Fourth International (Mandel, Frank tendency) have not replied to the proposals made to them, the resolution they for on the International Secretariat said:
‘In the event that these comrades (those accused of being accomplices of the GPU) should ask for the formation of a Jury of Honour on the affair, the TMRI is ready to take part.’
Frankly this is beyond our understanding. Especially since they were able to read in the document we wrote in February, that all the commissions of inquiry into criminal activities within the Trotskyist movement have been suppressed.
If nothing else this tour de force by the agents within our movement today demands a thorough examination. I should be borne in mind that if there had been the commission of inquiry Trotsky asked for when Sneevliet accused Zborowski of being a GPU agent – if the leading comrades of the organisation at that period had organised such an inquiry – Zborowski would no doubt have been exposed. Sedov would not have been murdered and a lot of things would have been different.
By not making a thorough examination of the extremely serious accusation against Hansen and Novack, our Bureau and the IS are acting in the same way as those who led the Trotskyist movement in 1938, with the difference that it is no longer a question of terrible crimes but that the splintering of the communist left leave it impotent, which is the main aim of the Kremlin today.
More surprisingly still, on 3 April Lutte Ouvriere announces that a commission of inquiry is being formed at the request of Varga. He is accused by the OCI of being both a CIA agent and a GPU agent provocateur. This commission had already been formed with the participation of the Socialist Workers Party (USA), the Ligue Communiste Revolutionaire (France), the Workers Socialist League (Britain), the International Spartacist Tendency (US), and Lutte Ouvriere (Friance). It has invited the participation of all revolutionary organisations. Our organisation has already told Lutte Ouvriere of our decision to take part.
What position! Hansen and Novack, the Socialist Workers Party leaders, accused of being accomplices of the GPU by Healy’s tendency, refuse to appear before a commission of inquiry, but they are the first to agree to sit as judges on the inquiry which Vaga has had either the courage or the audacity to ask for to absolve him of the accusation made against him and his organisation, the LIRQI, by the OCI.”
A third of the Bureau’s reply to our statement is devoted the labelling Healy and the International Committee degenerate epigones, and the rest to defending Hansen and Novack “who have been revolutionaries throughout their lives” … “who bear no resemblance to agents like Zborowski”, saying that the Belgian comrades are getting involved on the wrong side in the dispute and that it is time they put a stop to it.
Quite correctly, in March, the Bureau noted in No 68 of Sous le Drapeau de Socialism that these people’s political estimation of the MPLA was worse than a mistake:
“Finally, our international tendency is obliged to express its profound indignation at the attitude of certain organisations claiming to be Trotskyist, such as the Socialist Workers Party of the United States and its allies elsewhere, when they put the MPLA, FNLA and UNITA on the same level and receives congratulations from Roberto Holden for continuing to support him.
It was in the United States itself that the most startling revelations were published, showing how the CIA had been giving aid to the FNLA since 1961, and UNITA as well.
Mistakes in political estimation are permissible, and in fact inevitable. But certain mistakes which persist are inexcusable and must weigh heavily in the political estimation of the organisations concerned.”
While approving of this denunciation of support for the policy of American imperialism, we have to add that this is only one aspect of the general politics of Hansen and Novack.
The Chief Prosecutor’s order to stop surveillance by the FBI is proof, together with the decision to withdraw the 66 agents in such a way that they are not identified. This shows we are right to fight to bring them into the dock.
Another Reason: The suppression of all Inquiry Into
the GPU’s Crimes in the Movement
In 1938, in a small meeting aimed at finding out who was responsible for a theft – it could only have been one of the members present – Zborowski was accused by Sneevliet of being an agent of the GPU.
What did he do? He had the audacity to write to Trotsky, who quickly replied that he must immediately demand the creation of a commission to judge this “slanderer”.
Four days after this agent had killed Sedov, Trotsky’s son, Trotsky received a letter from the agent saying that Sneevliet and Vereeken were accusing Sedov of being responsible for the death of Reiss, assassinated in Switzerland by a gang of GPU agents because he had sent his Order of Lenin back to Stalin and had gone over to Trotskyism. Trotsky once more firmly asked for a commission of inquiry.
Both commissions were supposed to meet at the time of the Congress to proclaim the Fourth International in 1938. But a few days beforehand, Klement, the administrative secretary, announced that his briefcase had been stolen from him in the Metro, with all the documents for the Congress in it.
Klement disappeared and was in turn assassinated by the GPU. It cannot be ruled out that material collected for the two inquiries disappeared with the briefcase. What is certain is that both commissions failed to take place and were suppressed.
Nor was there any response to the demand for a commission of inquiry made by Sedov’s companion when Klement’s body was fished out of the Seine, to see if there was a link between this assassination and Sedov’s death.
After the assassination of Comrade Trotsky on 20 August 1940, the Socialist Workers Party, then led by Cannon, decided to form a Commission of Inquiry to examine the behaviour of Sheldon Harte, one of Trotsky’s guards.
On the day of the attack led by Siqueiros and his gang to assassinate Trotsky, in May 1940 – which was miraculously a failure – Sheldon Harte, who was on guard, broke his orders, opened the door, let himself be taken away without resisting and was physically liquidated in the manner of the GPU. This commission never took place either.
In 1943, our tendency asked the European Secretariat of the Fourth International to condemn acts of proletarian immorality committed by members of the Belgian section. There was no reply.
It cannot be ruled out that other proposals and requests were also made at the time of the splits in the Fourth International beginning in 1931. [Date as original – Ed]
The appeal made in 1955 in the magazine Fourth International was entitled “An Agent of the GPU Completely Exposed” and urged the “vanguard organisations in the United Stated” to create a Commission of Inquiry to “force Zborowski to reply to all questions concerning his activity as a GPU agent in the Trotskyist movement”. The appeal was fruitless.
In mid-1964, at the Congress of the Belgian Section of the Fourth International, we succeeded in obtaining the rehabilitation of Sneevliet (the Dutch Marxist leader shot by the Gestapo in 1942 along with six other members of his leadership) and of Vereeken, both victims of slanders Zborowski repeated to Trotsky.
The version of the Belgian section’s leadership appeared in April 1965 in its organ Lutte de Classes under the title “An Historical Note”
The other more complete version, reflecting the decision taken at the Congress, appeared in Sous Le Drapeau du Socialisme, the organ of the Revolutionary Marxist Tendency, for August-September 1966. These two documents met with no response.
Nor can it be ruled out that the commission of inquiry announced by Lutte Ourvriere on 3 April 1976 will be postponed for ever. It was to examine accusations made by the Organisation Communiste Internationaliste against Varga, of being both a CIA and GPU agent provocateur. It was supported by the French League Communiste Revolutionnaire, the United States Spartacist League and the Socialist Workers Party itself.
What makes us think this is firstly the affair of the 66 FBI agents in the Socialist Workers Party, and also the fact that Lutte Ouvriere on 9 October printed a further protest against the Organisation Communiste Internationale’s gangster-like methods in relation to Varga and his members, but without mentioning the question of the commission. [Text as original – Ed]
There must be an end to this system of suppression, which resulted in the infiltration the movement by a mass of criminal agents, splintering of revolutionary organisations, the physical liquidation of a host of revolutionary militants and the odious crime of the assassination of Trotsky.
Hansen’s “Verdict” Without Trial
Following his badly aimed attack against Slaughter and the Workers Revolutionary Party Hansen, after a long silence, discovered a weakness in the International Committee’s denunciations; a misrepresentation of an interview given to the International Committee comrades in 1975 by Van Heijenoort.
Questioned about infiltration, Jean Van Heijenoort said, among other things, that Cannon stayed in France for a time after the 1938 conference, informing himself about the crisis in the French section, and also meeting Sneevliet.
The question was also raised of the help Dallin and others had given Zborowski to get into the United States, as he was still in France in 1941.
Finally, without a date being mentioned he was asked, “did Cannon know about this?” When he replied in the affirmative, the question was put again. Reply; “Yes, he knew everything”.
In Van’s mind this could only have meant after the arrest of Zborowski in 1955, but unfortunately for the comrades of the International Committee, they took it as meaning the period in which a whole series of militants helped him during 1941.
They thus indirectly cast suspicion on those who had, without knowing it, helped the scheming adventurer. In June 1976 Van Heijenoort, questioned this time on behalf of the Socialist Workers Party, very prudently said that he did not want to answer questions which did not concern him directly.
He stated that at this period he himself had confidence in Zborowski, that he had not helped him to leave France, but that if asked to he would have done so. In fact at this period no one suspected Zborowski, not even Reiss’s companion.
The author of this document does not know English. Some documents have been translated by comrades, but especially in the case of Van’s interviews he had to make do.
He apologises in advance if some of the nuances are inaccurate, but he thinks that Comrade Van, involuntarily, is partly responsible because of his imprecision in the previous interview.
Obviously Hansen has other cards to play. He has decades of activity in the movement behind him, as some comrades know, and a considerable apparatus. He is also a very experienced manipulator. We shall take this into account.
Let us first take the essentials of a very short document, which Hansen has managed to get signed by more than 100 leading militants and persons close to the Trotskyist movement from some 30 countries and 5 continents.
We shall analyse it, comment on it, criticise it and fight it as we do with other papers from this file, but without obstructing the reader, because this short defence document is included word for word in the file at the end.
For a whole year Hansen personally has been quiet, but in Intercontinental Press, organisations and individuals have refuted the suspicions, allegations and accusations brought against him by the Healy group.
This is quite the opposite to how Sedov and Trotsky behaved when they were hit by the avalanche of slanders from the east. The father was even astonished at the rapidity of the replies from the “youth”, as Krivitsky called him, adding that without him the “Old Man” could not have carried out the considerable work he did.
What is noticeable in this case is the enormous amount of work carried out by the organisations of the IC to broadcast by every means, in pamphlets etc., all they have learned about the past, and above all about those who had done everything to suppress the truth.
It is also true that even today the Workers Revolutionary Party, the International Committee and ourselves do not have any definite “proof”. That is why we do not say that Hansen is an agent of the GPU, but only an accomplice.
If, after the “Old Man’s” death, he had made out a written report on the way he had entered into contact with “John”, if he had given an accurate description of “John”, and quoted the arguments he used to try to get him to leave the Fourth International for the Third, if Hansen had also described how the meeting was arranged in order not to be surprised by their own members or by police of any description, it would have been a much greater help to members in their illegal work.
Hansen kept silent, and it is only 36 years afterwards that members who read English and belong to the upper ranks of their respective organisations, have learned the astonishing fact that the most important member of Trotsky’s defence guard was for three months, supposedly with Trotsky’s consent, in contact with the chief agent of the network which would finally kill Trotsky.
We have reported elsewhere how “in August 1976 the Socialist Workers Party published documents from its files showing that the Socialist Workers Party had 66 informers passing as members of the Socialist Workers Party and the Young Socialist Alliance”.
We Commented: “To listen to him, the Socialist Workers Party itself had silenced the FBI”. That too could be considered an allegation that Hansen belonged to the FBI. And similarly when the Militant writes that “certain officials at the Department of Justice in Washington are, according to some sources worried that if 66 informers all leave at once” … doesn’t this give the impression that Hansen has contact with certain individuals in the Department of Justice? [Editors emphasis]
But wouldn’t Hansen have done better – Hansen who, in his reply to Slaughter, showed us how to analyse all the “small items” to discover agents who infiltrate the organisation – wouldn’t he have done better to analyse the “base insinuations” and gratuitous suppositions against himself, or even to take up one of these “lies without foundation or political content”, if not the “frame up” itself?
Instead he contents himself with simple affirmations and refers the reader to the organisations who have given point-by-point refutations of these accusations in his stead.
Then he gives an example of his “modesty”. “Hansen and Novack are known to the world as political men, writers and publishers.” The World with a capital W or the little world of Trotskyism?
In fact, “they have for more than 40 years been prominent members”. They were “picked out and falsely accused of helping Stalinist murderers, while in fact they “were devotedly protecting Trotsky in his last exile in Mexico”.
It is necessary to “speak out in defence of Hansen and Novack …. implicated by the kind of practice used to divide the workers’ movement”.
He cites the examples of Lenin being accused of being an agent of the Kaiser and Trotsky being an agent of the Gestapo.
He appeals to “Marxists and honest people to fight with them against these false techniques used by the Stalinists”. Those who maintain them must be fought.
If not, the fight for socialism will be discredited. He ends with an appeal to the Workers Revolutionary Party (the party of which he had asked in May 1975: “Is it infiltrated by agents of the secret police”) to stop its underhand attacks.
In denouncing the “frame-up”, Hansen himself is setting up a frame up, to deceive a large number of cadres of the Trotskyist movement but also a number of personalities well known for their integrity.
Before giving our opinion on the document which was signed, including Hansen’s introduction and title, we must point out two facts of basic importance to understanding this manoeuvre. [Text as original – Ed]
1. The main signatories, especially in France and Belgium, have done everything in their power to stop Vereeken’s book, The GPU in the Trotskyist Movement, from appearing. They are still doing everything they can today to stop it being read by or known to members of their organisations.
2. The Workers Revolutionary Party, British section of the International Committee, has become the best organised movement and has a very considerable weapon in its 16-page daily. Now, this organisation today is going ahead and uncovering the question of other Trotskyist organisations still consider to be taboo. [Text as original – Ed]
These are the factors which will enable us to show that Hansen and others are objectively accomplices, since they try to suppress the truth about the crimes of the GPU agents, and so still give such agents a certain freedom of action.
The case of Hansen is much more serious. At the subjective level, several things make him an object of suspicion, or to use his own language, a shadowy figure. His defence of Sheldon Harte, the American Consul’s report, his silence about his relations with the No. 1 GPU man in the United States, his part in burying the Commission of Inquiry into Sheldon Harte and all those responsible for the defence of Comrade Trotsky.
There is also the case of Cannon’s secretary, introduced by “John” via Budenz into the top ranks of the Socialist Workers Party, and other things we shall come back to when we obtain accurate translations. All that belongs to the past. Let us look at the present.
The expansion of the Healy tendency had brought them onto Hansen’s pitch in the United States, Australia and elsewhere. This has obliged him to launch a great political attack in the style of Obin, the Well brothers and Zborowski.
He began by asking if the Workers Revolutionary Party was infiltrated by agents of the secret police, following this with other questions, so that the readers might draw the conclusion that the leadership of this party “which aids the task of the police and the capitalist state” is in the hands of skilled agents.
Then came his reply to Slaughter, his flair, his vigilance, his precautions (the photocopy) and his “arguments” for not having to come and explain himself to a commission of inquiry.
Under suspicion after so many discoveries, especially the discovery of the report of the American Consul in Mexico, he waited for the enemy to give him the chance and then jumped on the incorrect interpretation of Van’s interview.
He obtained the signatures of five comrades who were ex-secretaries or guards of Trotsky’s and a rectification from Van, who nonetheless did not put his signature to the document. Sara (Weber) and Jacobs supplied a statement of support.
This permitted him to obtain, via the leaderships of the different Trotskyist groups, 160 signatures on a document which a second reading shows to be meaningless.
The introduction reproduced above, the title and the sub-title, are Hansen’s. Title “The Verdict”, sub-title “Report on the slanders being circulated against Hansen, Novack and the Socialist Workers Party by the Healy Group”.
If Hansen thinks that a “verdict” without trial and without witnesses will enable him to get out of appearing before a real parity commission, a commission of inquiry, then he and those who unconditionally support him are wrong.
As we said at the beginning of this document, it is the start of the whole affair.
The first United Front
Except for the “Posadists”, the representatives of all the Trotskyist tendencies have signed this document. The list includes representatives of tendencies known “familiarly” in the movement as Pabloites, Lambertists, Mandelites and Frankites, Trotskyists of Lutte Ouvriere and supporters of Hansen and Novack.
For the first time in the history of the Trotskyist movement, a united front has been formed … not to fight against capitalism and its lackeys, but to condemn those in the revolutionary movement who are demanding that the infiltration of the movement by agents should be brought to light, that the Augean stables should be cleaned out and the maximum security be assures to the members. [Editors emphasis]
There is a certain resemblance between the behaviour of the main figures representing Trotskyism and the representatives of Khrushchevism.
The Khrushchevites try (and until now have succeeded) to stop the masses knowing about those who, with Lenin, led the October Revolution, or knowing the real causes of the “Stalin phenomenon”.
This behaviour is dictated by their share in the responsibility for the bloody terror and their complicity in suppressing the truth.
The Trotskyist united front is also aimed at covering up the truth of the responsibility of certain people who were then members for the infiltration of the organisation and the ravages it produced.
Others have learned the truth and, out of weakness or involuntarily, followed the advice of other, unknown agents: “keep quiet, it would harm the organisation …”
Another parallel, with Zinovievism, or inheritance from it, is using a system of organisation, absolutely necessary in a period of semi or complete illegality, to enable a few key figures to manipulate the whole organisation.
There is one more strange thing which follows from these serious deformations. All the leaders of the little Trotskyist groups and organisations know that the book on “The GPU” was translated and edited by the Workers Revolutionary Party publishing house.
Only in the English speaking world is it beginning to be known. It is also thanks to International Committee publications that the truth is beginning to be known to ordinary members and sympathisers.
But in the French speaking countries, silence still rules and until now manipulators have kept the book under wraps.
The Attorney General’s statement that the Socialist Workers Party is no longer a danger to state security, the revelation of 66 FBI agents in the Socialist Workers Party – which is led by Joseph Hansen – and the non-stop campaign being carried out by the Workers Revolutionary Party and the International Committee and ourselves for the organisation of a parity commission of inquiry mean that truth and security will triumph. We are sure of it.
For the Belgian section of the
Revolutionary Marxist Tendency,
Vereeken references the following documents:-
1. Analysis of the Zborowski-Dallin letter to Trotsky written after Sedov’s death and repeating slanders against Sneevliet and Vereeken.
2. Correspondence between Cliff Slaughter for the International Committee, the United Secretariat, and Hansen, May-June 1975.
3. International Committee document on Hansen’s activities, August 8, 1976.
4. Lutte Ouvriere report on end of FBI surveillance of Socialist Workers Party.
The following document was reproduced to accompany this article:
Confidential letter from US consul George P. Shaw to the US Secretary of State, detailing conversation between Joseph Hansen and embassy official Robert G. McGregor, on 31 August 1940, seven days after Trotsky’s assassination:
AMERICAN CONSUL GENERAL
Mexico, D. F.,Mexico
1 September 1940
Subject: Enclosing Memorandum of Conversation between Consul Robert G. McGregor Jr. and Mr. Joseph Hansen, erstwhile secretary to Mr. Leon Trotsky.
The Secretary of State,
I have the honor to refer to my dispatch No. 249 of September 1, 1940, and to enclose as of further interest to the Department a memorandum of a conversation which took place on August 31, 1940, between Consul McGregor of this office and Mr. Joseph Hansen, secretary to the late Mt. Leon Trotsky.
Geo. P. Shaw,
In sextuplicat to the Department
Enclosure: As stated.