The question of organisational security has always been the essence of the struggle to build the Fourth International. It is not only the state agencies of the ruling class against which a defence must be made, but also, in the period under discussion, the treacherous forces of world Stalinism with its murderous secret police, the GPU.
The article below reports on the conflict between two organisations claiming affiliation to the Forth International in America, the Workers League, which was in solidarity with the International Committee of the Fourth International, and the American revisionist Socialist Workers Party. The difference between the two organisations on the question of security is most instructive.
For the Workers League security was above all a class question. This organisation was prepared to work and co-operate with any working class organisation, no matter how serious may be the disagreement between them, if it came to a defence against the class enemy. As we shall see, this principle was entirely unknown to the leaders of the Socialist Workers Party, who adamantly refused to co-operate with the Workers League and the ICFI on security questions of the gravest importance.
International Committee of the Fourth International News
More than five months have elapsed since the International committee of the Fourth International presented the indictment against Joseph Hansen and George Novack of the revisionist Socialist Workers Party, (USA), accusing them of being accomplices of the GPU. The charge arose out of an investigation conducted by the International Committee in the United States and Western Europe, drawing upon court records, Congressional testimony, interviews and archives.
It centred on the circumstances surrounding the assassination of Leon Trotsky in Mexico on 20 August 1940, the murder of his son, Leon Sedov, in Paris on 14 February 1938, and a series of GPU crimes inside the early Trotskyist movement.
The enquiry established the proof that Joseph Hansen and George Novack harboured known GPU agents, shielded them, covered up the crimes of the Stalinist secret police in the Fourth International and waged a filthy campaign of denigration against those who tried to investigate security questions in the Trotskyist movement.
The 19-part series of articles resulting from the investigation, “Security and the Fourth International”, will shortly be appearing in book form along with the indictment of Hansen and Novack.
On 8 May 1976 David North, secretary of the Workers League in the United States, wrote an open letter to the SWP’s Jack Barnes demanding to know why there had been a five-month silence on the International Committee’s indictment against Hansen and Novack.
AN OPEN LETTER TO JACK BARNES
Dear Comrade Barnes,
On several occasions during the past month, the Bulletin, [Publication of the Workers League, American Trotskyist organisation in solidarity with the International Committee of the Fourth International – Editor.], has contacted the national office of the Socialist workers Party to obtain press copies of the files which you have obtained from the government, relating to the FBI break-ins into your New York headquarters between 1960 and 1966.
You have made these files freely available to the New York Times and other representatives of the capitalist press.
However, the Socialist Workers Party has refused to make these files available to the Bulletin.
On Thursday 13 April I telephoned your national office and made another request that you make these files available to the Bulletin, as you have done for the reactionary bourgeois press.
The request was refused, with the following reason given by your spokesman:
“The day you retract the slander that our movement is run by cops and the GPU is the day we’ll treat you like anybody else.”
We completely reject the reason you give for withholding these documents from the Bulletin.
These files cast light on government operations against the socialist movement. Since you have invited the capitalist press to inspect these documents, it is absolutely unprincipled for you to withhold these files from us.
Furthermore, the Workers league has nothing to “retract”.
We stand completely behind the charge made by the Central Committee of the Fourth International that Joseph Hansen and George Novack, both leaders of the socialist Workers Party, are accomplices of the GPU – the secret police of the Soviet Stalinist bureaucracy.
But since you are insisting on a retraction of the charges, there is one way you can obtain one.
You can, as National Secretary of the SWP, call upon Hansen and Novack to issue a complete and formal reply to all the charges made by the International committee of the Fourth International and provide all the necessary evidence to a Commission of Enquiry set up to investigate the charges.
The statement of the International Committee charging Hansen and Novack was published in the Bulletin on 13 January 1976.
Fourth months have passed but still there has been no reply by either of them.
They have not challenged any of the vast array of meticulously assembled evidence produced by the International Committee that proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Hansen and Novack have deliberately acted to cover up the crimes of the GPU against Leon Trotsky and the Trotskyist movement.
How do you, Comrade Barnes, explain the failure of Hansen and Novack to answer the grave charged made against then?
Their silence for the past four months means that they do not contest the charges. They are damned by their silence.
1. Joseph Hansen has not explained why he has suppressed from the Trotskyist movement for 35 years details of his personal contacts with a GPU agent known as “John” in New York in 1938.
This contact was revealed only when the International Committee uncovered previously unpublished State Department archives in Washington DC.
Evidence showed that “John” was an alias used by GPU agent Dr. Gregory Rabonovitz who masterminded operations in the United States aimed at murdering Trotsky.
2. Hansen has not explained why he sought to prevent the unmasking of GPU agents within Trotsky’s household in Coyoacan.
Although Hansen never disputed the sworn statements of ex-Stalinist Thomas L. Black before the Senate Committee in 1966 to the effect that the GPU agents were operating inside Trotsky’s household, Hansen never conducted an investigation to discover the identity of these agents.
3. Neither Hansen nor Novack has explained why they continue to defend GPU agent Sylvia Franklin as an exemplary comrade, although they both know that she used her position as Cannon’s personal secretary to obtain information for the Soviet secret police.
On 29 November 1960 a New York Grand Jury named Franklin in her maiden name, Sylvia Callen, as a co-conspirator in a spectacular Soviet espionage case.
Her name appeared on the indictment along with that of Lavrenti Beria, the infamous
henchman of Stalin.
4. Hansen has not explained why he has endeavoured to minimise the GPU exploits inside the SWP of one-time Stalinist agent Floyd Cleveland Miller, who tapped Cannon’s phone and then became prominent inside the SWP as a leader of the seamen’s faction.
He was also assigned to visit Natalia Trotsky in the early 1940’s.
5. Hansen has not explained why he is so vehemently opposed to an Sheldon Harte, the young guard sent down to Mexico by the SWP in April 1940. [Text as original. Most likely this refers to the need for an enquiry into his disappearance on the night of the armed raid on Trotsky’s house and the subsequent discovery of his body. - Ed]
Harte’s subsequent behaviour, leading to his death in May 1940, raises the most serious questions about his loyalty to the Trotskyist Movement.
6. Hansen and Novack have not explained why they suppressed for almost 35 years the fact that the SWP – with Novack taking the initiative on this matter – helped bring Mark Zborowski, the number one agent of Stalin inside the Fourth International, into the United States from war-torn France.
7. Hansen has not replied to any of the serious questions raised by Comrade Harold Robins, the captain of the guard inside Coyoacan in 1940, about the handling of security measures for the protection of Trotsky’s life.
Neither Hansen nor Novack have been slandered. The International Committee has presented its evidence in the most straightforward manner possible.
Every charge made by the International Committee has been substantiated with documents and unassailable facts.
But, Comrade Barnes, you want a retraction of the charges without having to answer the evidence.
If the International committee has, as you claim, hurled slanders at Hansen and Novack, then presumably they would have the evidence at their disposal to demolish the charges.
But the fact of the matter is that Hansen and Novack cannot answer the charges because they are what the International Committee has publicly accused them of being, accomplices of the GPU.
This is why Hansen desperately solicits the support from the revisionist bankrupts of the OCI, IMG and even the Thornett group.
He has even fished Wohlforth and Fields out of the renegades cesspool to issue testimonials in his behalf.
But, comrade Barnes, why can’t Hansen and Novack answer for themselves?
Rather than striking a pose of righteous indignation, why don’t you demand that Hansen and Novack answer the charges?
The revolutionary movement can only be strengthened by a thorough investigation of all the questions raised by the International Committee in its examination of Security and the Fourth International.
Furthermore, after the public revelation that the FBI entered the national offices of the SWP almost at will between 1960 and 1966 and had access to every file, don’t you think that the time has come for your movement to reconsider its entire attitude to questions of security?
Comrade Barnes, will the movement of which you are National Secretary obtain and provide detailed factual replies to the charges of the International Committee that Hansen and Novack are accomplices of the GPU?
Answer the following questions:
Why did Hansen have secret meetings in New York in 1938 with the GPU agent Gregory Rabinovitz, alias “John”, who was at the centre of the Stalinist operations to murder Trotsky in Coyoacan?
Why did Hansen fail to have “John” photographed during his meetings with him over three months or in any way identify this dangerous GPU agent?
Why has Hansen never answered the charges of Thomas Black that there were GPU operatives in Trotsky’s household nor sought to establish their identities?
Why has Hansen defended Sylvia Franklin as an “exemplary comrade” when she has been publicly unmasked as a GPU agent in a Federal Grand Jury indictment?
What hold does Franklin have on Hansen and Novack?
Why did Hansen and Novack hide the fact that the SWP leadership made the arrangements to bring Mark Zborowski into the United States?
Why have Hansen and Novack deliberately suppressed the story of Zborowski’s activities within the United States after he was reintegrated into the leadership of the Fourth International in New York?
Why has Hansen deliberately sought to brush off the real extent of GPU agent Floyd Cleveland Miller’s actions in the SWP?
How can Hansen explain the failure of the SWP to play any role in unmasking any of the GPU operatives in their midst? Had it been left to Hansen and Nocack, Mark Zborowski might have to this day preserved his reputation as an old “Trotskyist” and “secretary of Leon Sedov”.
Why has Hansen contrived to prevent an inquiry into the role of Robert Sheldon Harte and into all the serious questions raised by Harold Robins, captain of the guard at Coyoacan, related to Trotsky’s security, in his open letter of 23 December 1975, to the SWP?
The international committee of the Fourth International will continue to press ahead with the campaign to establish a Commission of Inquiry to investigate all the evidence it has assembled.
In the meantime we await your reply.