Fourth International 1992: The end of the Soviet Union

Resolution 8: In Honor of Comrade Bill Brust

This resolution was adopted at the World Conference of Workers against Imperialist War and Colonialism, held in Berlin on November 16-17, 1991 under the auspices of the International Committee of the Fourth International.

The International Committee of the Fourth International salutes the memory of Comrade Bill Brust, aged 72, who died on September 15 this year. Bill was a Trotskyist for 53 years and a founding member of the Workers League.

Bill was the best of a generation of revolutionary-minded young workers who took up the struggle to liberate the working class from capitalist slavery in the 1930s. Although he initially became a member of the Stalinist youth movement, he was soon to join the US Trotskyist movement. He did this at a time when the Stalinists could still command the loyalty of millions of workers through their abuse of the prestige of the October Revolution, and when the Trotskyist movement faced constant political and physical attacks. That he did so expressed the fact that Bill was animated by a profound belief in the principles of revolutionary internationalism and the scientific doctrine of Marxism, which only the Trotskyist movement upheld.

Together with his wife and comrade Jean, Bill remained loyal to these principles throughout the course of the most difficult period in the history of the revolutionary movement. His life encapsulates within itself the long and protracted struggle against nationalism and opportunism waged by the Fourth International since its founding in 1938.

Bill was politically steeled in the fight against Stalinism’s betrayal of October and the struggle for world socialist revolution. Through the disarming of the international proletariat, imperialism was to plunge humanity into the bloodbath of World War Two. At a time of blackest reaction, Bill defended the perspective of the international unity of the working class and, even in the army, fought for the revolutionary defeatist perspective outlined by Trotsky in his proletarian military policy.

In the postwar period, the Trotskyist movement was to face its greatest challenge from a liquidationist tendency which arose within its own ranks. Bill knew very well the counterrevolutionary character of Stalinism. His rejection of Pabloism’s capitulation to the Stalinist bureaucracy and imperialism was rooted in his profound conviction that the overthrow of imperialism and the establishment of socialism demanded the construction of the Fourth International as the world party of socialist revolution. He understood that the revolutionary organization of the working class was the product of its education in Marxism by the revolutionary party and that there was no possible substitute for this.

With the issuing of the “Open Letter” in 1953, Bill declared his support for the International Committee. He was to remain a partisan of the ICFI until his death. The development of Pabloism was rooted in the continued domination of Stalinism and social democracy over the workers movement. This had enabled imperialism to be restabilized, under the hegemony of the United States. Through the broad layers of the petty bourgeoisie it deliberately cultivated, imperialism subordinated the working class to its interests through the national opportunism espoused by the bureaucracies and their Pabloite apologists.

When the SWP reunified with the Pabloites, Bill rejected this treacherous course. Contacting Gerry Healy and the Socialist Labour League in Britain, he became a supporter of the small group of Trotskyists which was constituted as the American Committee for the Fourth International, the forerunner of the Workers League.

In the course of the next 28 years, Bill was to engage in the most decisive struggle of his life—to defend the program and principles of Trotskyism against the sustained offensive of Pabloite opportunism. This was to find its fullest vindication in the decisive victory of Trotskyism over opportunism, which led to the split with the Workers Revolutionary Party renegades in 1985-86. That fight led to the restoration of the program of Trotskyism to its rightful place in the Fourth International. It brought an end to the disunity created by national opportunism in its ranks and a renaissance of Marxism without parallel since the FI was founded.

Bill played an active part in that struggle. In the fight to reorientate the world movement in the struggle against opportunism, Bill’s rich history of struggle played a decisive part and enabled him to carry out the most important work of his long political career. He brought to young and inexperienced cadres the heritage of the decades-long struggle of the Fourth International since its founding.

Earlier, he had played an important personal role in the establishment of the Bund Sozialistischer Arbeiter as the German section of the ICFI. This was to deepen, with Bill translating numerous statements and articles for publication in our international press. During the spring of 1989, Bill and Jean participated in the European election campaign waged by the BSA and the International Communist Party and made a powerful contribution to the consolidation of the Trotskyist movement in Europe. Within the Workers League itself, Bill’s experience and understanding of fundamental political questions was a source of strength for the entire cadre.

The victory of 1986 expressed a profound shift in class relations internationally. It anticipated the breakup of the entire postwar order and with it the collapse of the Stalinist regimes in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Bill lived to witness this—the supreme vindication of the struggle waged by the Fourth International to defend the program of world socialist revolution.

Bill’s life was animated by the great principles of revolutionary Marxism. It was dedicated to the building of the Fourth International. It is entirely fitting that the last task which he completed before his death was a meticulous new translation of The Transitional Program, its founding document.

There can be no greater testament to Comrade Bill than the universal respect and admiration in which he was held by his comrades internationally. His steadfastness, courage and objectivity was an inspiration to all who knew him. He leaves behind a powerful heritage for the new generations of revolutionary fighters who will lead the working class to its final victory.