THE CAREER of Michael Raptis, otherwise known as Pablo, Jerome, Gabriel, etc, who died in Athens on 17 February this year, spans most of the history of Trotskyism. Born in Alexandria, he joined the Archeio-Marxists as a student at Athens Polytechnic at the age of 17. After his group, the Fractionalists (KEO), split from the Archeio-Marxists, they joined with Pouliopoulos’ Spartacus group to set up the Greek Organisation of International Communists (OKDE) in 1934. When many of this group were arrested by the Metaxas dictatorship in 1936, Pablo was sent to the prison island of Folegandros, but was released in 1938 on condition that he went abroad. Along with George Vitsoris, he took part under the pseudonym of Speros in the founding conference of the Fourth International held at Périgny in 1938, although neither of them had been officially delegated by their organisations in Greece.

Pablo spent the early part of the Second World War in a sanatorium in Yser spitting blood, returning to Paris in 1942 to join the European Secretariat. The arrest of much of its previous leadership by the Germans made a reorganisation necessary at the end of 1943, and he became its Secretary. He also received the support of the American SWP to become Secretary of the Fourth International when contact was re-established between the European sections and those in the rest of the world in 1945, an office he held up until 1960. But by 1953 the SWP and a number of other groups, including the following of Gerry Healy and Pierre Lambert in Britain and France, had split from the International Secretariat, accusing it of ‘Pabloite Revisionism’. Whilst they supported the MNA during the Algerian revolt, Pablo was an enthusiastic supporter of the FLN, and was arrested along with Sal Santen in Amsterdam in 1960 for floating a scheme to wreck the French colonial economy by flooding it with forged banknotes.

 

The rest of the international leadership were able to take advantage of his absence in Algeria to diminish his influence, and negotiated a return of the American SWP and its client groups to set up the United Secretariat in 1963, but with the British SLL and the French OCI and some smaller groups remaining outside. Pablo himself split from the USFI in 1964 to set up the AMR (Revolutionary Marxist Alliance) publishing Sous le drapeau du socialisme. He insisted that his former comrades had chosen the wrong sides in the Sino-Soviet split and in the conflict between UNITA and the MPLA in Angola, and he placed more emphasis than they did upon the part played by self-management (autogestion) in the struggle for Socialism. Towards the end of his life he was the victim of a press campaign trying to link him with terrorist activity in Greece. Although his organisation had previously dropped its claim to represent Trotskyism, shortly before his death Pablo rejoined the USFI.

 

Estimating Pablo’s real political significance has always been difficult in English-speaking countries, where a whole mythology was erected around his name by those who had been happy to share his politics until they were directed against themselves. Although he was supposed to be the arch-theorist of ‘deep entry’, some of his critics, such as Healy, were a good deal more liquidationist in that direction than he was, and he constantly tried, without much success, to get Mandel and the others to publish a theoretical journal openly defending Trotskyism whilst undertaking such activity. Some of his positions, for example over Algeria, the Sino-Soviet split, or Angola, were certainly no worse than those of his opponents, and he pointed to the importance of women’s oppression under capitalism long before it became fashionable to do so. There was always a warmth of spirit about him, and he certainly had a more attractive personality and wider horizons than either Healy or Frank.

 

Al Richardson