Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line: Revolutionary History
At the risk of trying the patience of Revolutionary History readers, it is necessary to state that the ICL’s letter in the last issue gives an entirely inaccurate account of proceedings on the Editorial Board, when material on the Ukrainian national movement was considered for inclusion in the journal.
The facts are as follows. Only one proposal with regard to the Ukrainian material was put to the vote, and that was the ICL’s proposal that the material should be rejected. This proposal was agreed, with myself and Bob Archer voting against. Charlie Pottins, who is accused of voting to publish the material, in fact voted with the ICL. I made it clear that I supported Al Richardson’s proposal that a decision should be postponed. However, as the ICL insisted that the vote on their proposal should be taken first, and this was passed by a large majority, Comrade Richardson’s proposal was never voted on.
The reason why I favoured postponing a decision was, quite simply, my own ignorance on the subject. I was not at all convinced that the authors of the articles the ICL objected to were “proponents of a Fascistic Ukrainian nationalist group”. A translation of the article which allegedly refers to Fascistic influence on the Ukrainian national movement as “admissible” had not in fact been presented to the Editorial Board, and we were dependent on a summary of that article. This seemed to me to be an inadequate basis on which to reach a decision.
Since then I have been able to discover some information on the Ukrainian group, none of which gives any support to the ICL’s contention that the group was sympathetic to Fascism. Take the following excerpts from a 1969 speech by Pierre Lambert, which recounts a meeting with Ivan Majstrenko (Babenko), one of the authors of the articles rejected by the editorial board:
Lambert presented this as evidence in support of Trotsky’s claim, in The Revolution Betrayed, that “the social revolution, betrayed by the ruling party, still exists in property relations and in the consciousness of the toiling masses”.
No doubt the ICL will point to Lambert’s statement that Babenko was “no longer a revolutionary”, etc. But it is worth noting that this was not the view of the US Socialist Workers Party, who in 1951 published an interview with Babenko and another leader of the Ukrainian Revolutionary Democratic Party, introducing them as members of “a group of revolutionary socialists” (Fourth International, September-October). Indeed, in March that year Ernest Mandel had established relations with the URDP on behalf of the Fourth International, and Babenko himself was invited to attend the FI’s Third World Congress in August (Les Congres de la Quatrième Internationale, volume 4, p.130). Presenting the resolution on the class nature of the ‘glacis’ at the World Congress, Pierre Frank made the point – later borrowed without acknowledgement by Lambert – that the Ukrainian nationalists’ support for the nationalised property relations demonstrated Trotsky’s thesis that the October Revolution lived in the consciousness of the masses (ibid., p.243).
All of this suggests that a serious study of the Ukrainian Revolutionary Democratic Party would be of considerable political interest, particularly in view of the importance of the national question in the Soviet Union today. Revolutionary History could have made a useful contribution by publishing some of the relevant material. It is a pity that the knee-jerk Stalinophilia of the ICL, and the failure of the Editorial Board to take a stand against this, prevented the inclusion of such material in the journal.
Updated by ETOL: 23.7.2003