Reply to Michael Pröbsting and the RCIT

What a strange but delightfully dialectical face ‘liberation’ has in Libya today! – By Gerry Downing, Socialist Fight.

The 10,800 word article by Michael Pröbsting Liberation struggles and imperialist interference in Revolutionary Communism News Newsletter of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (Rcit), No.12, 24.10.2012 deserves some consideration because it seek to defend their indefensible pro-imperialist position on Libya and attacks those who took a principled stance.[1]

However we reject the lumping together the positions of the Liaison Committee of the Fourth International with those of the ICL/Spartacists and the Internationalist Group/LFI. There are big differences; these two groups and the International Bolshevik Tendency, the third member of the ‘Spart family’, refused to defend Libya against the CIA-directed Benghazi rebels in their proxy war on Gaddafi from the outset and never took the principled orientation of the Anti-Imperialist United Front, adopting the softer and incorrect line of ‘military bloc’, as against the positions of the early Comintern under Lenin and Trotsky, which Trotsky defended until his assassination in 1940.[2]


However incorrect the label of ‘sectarian anti-imperialists’ might be for the first three groups mentioned it is at least arguable in terms of the political orientation of  the Rcit. But it is clearly a lying political amalgam to lump in the ultra-Stalinist Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) with the three; their leader Harpar Brar took a totally unprincipled position of uncritical political defence of Gaddafi himself, visiting Tripoli to implicitly express contempt for the oppressed migrant workers in particular who suffered so badly under the regime and the pacts with Imperialism on the detention of immigrants bound for Europe in concentration camps in the desert, etc.

And we reject also the suggestion that we hold the position of the old WRP under Gerry Healy and the present position of the WRP under Sheila Torrance who are similarly uncritical of Gaddafi albeit in the name of the objectively unfolding world revolution which found its unconscious agents in the form of Gaddafi, Arafat, Saddam and even Khomeini and not of the two stage revolution of the Stalinists, even if that is the ultimate logic of the Healyite position.

To substitute Gaddafi for Chiang Kai-shek in Trotsky on China in 1937 the LCFI defended the “remainder of the independence of Libya” – Gaddafi was not totally controlled by Imperialism.  “The Eiffelite imbeciles try to jest about this “reservation.” “The Trotskyists,” they say, “want to serve Gaddafi in action and the proletariat in words.” To participate actively and consciously in the war does not mean “to serve Gaddafi” but to serve the independence of a (semi) colonial country in spite of Gaddafi”.[3]

This consists of a long theoretical defence of the Rcit positions, drawn from the arsenal of Workers Power, from whom they split in 2011 with little political differences, and then a defence of their stance on Libya on the ridiculous basis that the current situation is a great step forward and the ‘democratic revolution’ is powering ahead. In the course of the theoretical defence Pröbsting either junks or contemptuously belittles great principles of Marxism, Leninism and Trotskyism.
 
He says, “We are anti-imperialist because we take the stance of the working class … and not the other way round” This is the position of the ‘Eiffelite imbeciles’ above. We must be anti-imperialist because Wall Street-dominated global finance capital controls all our lives. In claiming that they are taking the “stance of the working class” the Rcit mean supporting pro-imperialist workers in metropolitan countries who do not understand this, which is what all the Fifth Internationalist groupings which originated from Workers Power do. “The Bolsheviks-Communists support any real movement of the popular masses against the suppression of democratic rights” says Michael. But what is a “real movement”? As Trotsky says, “but the masses are by no means identical: there are revolutionary masses, there are passive masses, there are reactionary masses.”

Michael says, “In reality the imperialist meddling is no help for the revolutionary-democratic struggle, but threatens to undermine it. That is why we have supported progressive liberation struggles of the masses against dictatorships, but at the same time rejected sharply imperialist interventions. (e.g. the struggle of the Bosnians 1992-95, the Kosovo Albanians in 1999, the uprising against the Gaddafi dictatorship in Libya in 2011).”

But your ‘rejection of Imperialist interventions’ was purely verbal, you supported it and alibied it in practice by pretending it was not happening because it was a proxy war ‘confined’ to mass bombing in Libya and there were no openly admitted ‘boots on the ground’. If fact there were thousands of Qatari troops and US and UK Special Forces operating in Libya as they are today in Syria. And note the ‘threatens to undermine’ bit. As we will see he goes on to claim that they failed in this putative endeavour and the ‘revolution’ has succeeded as a ‘partial dual power’ situation.
Michael says, “Only when the imperialist intervention is becoming the dominant feature of the political situation, revolutionaries must subordinate the democratic struggle to the fight against such an intervention.”

When will we recognise that ‘imperialist intervention is becoming the dominant feature of the political situation’? When the leadership of the movement supports it unequivocally and Imperialism supply it covertly or overtly with weapons and total political support, as in all these cases and now in Syria, we suggest.

Michael says, “Our anti-imperialism is a consequence of our fundamental position on the class struggle and not an overriding principle, which resides above the class struggle.” If anti-imperialism is not ‘an overriding principle’ it follows that there could be some pro-imperialist struggles that better serve the interests of the working class than defeating global imperialism, like defeating the local tyrant with the support of Imperialism. This is a statement of gross opportunism and a forthright rejection of fundamental Marxist positions!

And now Michael tries to portray himself as a principled Trotskyist, “Our method is that during such just democratic or national liberation struggles we are on the side of the liberation fighters (who are mostly under bourgeois or petty-bourgeois leaderships) and support their military victory. We sharply differentiate between these progressive liberation struggles and the interests of the imperialist powers. While we support the first, we totally oppose the later. Hence we Bolshevik-Communists reject any imperialist interference and call for the defeat of the imperialist forces.”

But you did none of this. The ‘liberation fighters’ were reactionary pro-imperialist and al-Qaeda forces. You therefore supported Imperialist forces and called for their victory on behalf of Imperialism in all these conflicts and now in Syria.

Michael Pröbsting directly contradicts himself
Michael says, “However Lenin and the Bolsheviks did not conclude from this that one should not support their national liberation struggle. Which conclusion did Trotsky and the Fourth International drew from the fact that the imperialist and petty-bourgeois public opinion in Western Europe and Northern America was strongly in favour of the Republican antifascist government in Spain in 1936-39 or for the national liberation struggle of the Chinese toilers under Chiang Kai-shek’s leadership against Japanese imperialism from 1937 onwards? They certainly did not succumb to the imperialist and petty-bourgeois ‘public opinion’ when they gave critical but unconditional support to the Republican antifascist government or the Chinese struggles, but pursued the independent and internationalist working class viewpoint”.

Here Michael Pröbsting directly contradicts himself. Where was the ‘critical but unconditional support’ for Libya under attack by Imperialism and its proxy armies in these conflicts and now in Syria? You directly succumbed to the imperialist and petty-bourgeois ‘public opinion’ by supporting the ‘popular’ uprising without questioning in any serious way either its pro-imperialism or anti-working class character. You ended up ‘howling along with the wolves’ because you had no ‘over-riding principles’ and postulated an impossible political formation, a pro-imperialist struggle that served the interests of the international working class! It is a monstrous insult to compare the Benghazi rebels to either the Chinese Trotskyists of the 1930s [4] or even the later Maoists or the Spanish Trotskyists [5] or the ranks of the POUM [6] and anarchists [7]in Spain in 1936-9.

And now Michael repudiates another central tenet of Marxism, “Marxists must not start from the consideration: “How can we as revolutionaries fighting in Western imperialist countries best oppose the pressure of ‘our’ bourgeoisie.”

Oh but we must start from there if we are in an Imperialist country! That did seem to be good enough for Karl Liebknecht in his famous 1915 pamphlet, The main enemy is at home. It has become part of the arsenal of every serious Marxist since he wrote, “The main enemy of every people is in their own country! The main enemy of the German people is in Germany: German imperialism, the German war party, German secret diplomacy. This enemy at home must be fought by the German people in a political struggle, cooperating with the proletariat of other countries whose struggle is against their own imperialists.”

And why must we reject internationalism in favour of national chauvinism according to Michael? “This is one-sided and thus opens the door to serious mistakes. It would be anti-imperialism for fools. One must start thinking from the viewpoint “what is the independent class policy in the interest of the international working class and the oppressed people”. This is the ‘Eiffelite imbeciles’ third campist line yet again. We cannot EVER have a pro-imperialist movement that serves the interests of the international working class. Anti-imperialism must be in the DNA of ever serious Marxist on the planet, only thus can you serve the interests of the international proletariat.
Michael says, “The Libyan and the Syrian Revolution in 2011 also started as a democratic revolution as part of the Arab revolutions against the bourgeois dictatorships. So, contrary to interpretation of the sectarians, these civil wars started not as a conspiracy of imperialism – they were authentic liberation struggles of the workers and peasants.”

You can argue that there were uprisings for democratic rights (not ‘democratic revolutions’) in Tunisia, Egypt, the Yemen, Bahrain and even Syria but not in Libya. From the start the Libyan uprising was organised and orchestrated by pro-imperialist forces and CIA agents. There was never anything progressive or liberating about this Benghazi uprising except in the minds of a few deluded workers and peasants. The immediate lynchings of black workers gave the lie to that; this was an imperialist intervention to seize control of the ‘Arab Spring’ which they did all too successfully. In Syria there were some progressive aspects to the uprisings but Imperialist-sponsored forces quickly seized control and now have an iron grip on the opposition to Assad.

Succinctly Paul Wolfowitz [8] countered every word of the Rcit on Newsnight on 24 October when he was outlining how to bring the ‘revolution’ to victory in Syria and he said ‘Libya is very pro-Western now’! That goes straight to the heart of the issues. All principled anti-Imperialists and those concerned to forward the class consciousness of the international proletariat seek their defeat and the victory of Assad against them. They do so in order to prepare for the building of a principled anti-imperialist internationalist Trotskyist section of the Fourth International there.

Michael says, “One has to concretely analyze if a given democratic or national liberation struggle becomes fully subordinated to the imperialist manoeuvres and doesn’t possess any significant internal dynamic of a workers and peasant liberation struggle. If this is the case, Marxists must change their position and give up critical support for the national liberation struggle.”

Did not Imperialism get exactly what it wanted?
And that did not happen in Bosnia, Kosovo, Libya and Syria? Did not Imperialism get exactly what it wanted in the first three? Kosovo is practically a US colony run by mafia gangsters, Bosnia is little better and just look at the state to which your ‘revolution’ has reduced Libya! And a similar if not worse fate is looming for Syria. Just how bad does your ‘revolution’ have to get before you give up on it? Workers Power has never repudiated their support for the KLA and the Rcit is stuck with it too.[9]

Michael writes: “Such complications, amalgamations of different and contradictory interests in a given military conflict are likely to increase in the future. Why? Because of the increasing rivalry between imperialist power… Unfortunately this aspect is completely ignored by many sectarians who fail to recognize that in addition to the old imperialist power – in North America, Western Europe and Japan – there are also new, emerging imperialist powers, in particular Russia and China.”
There may be new Imperialist powers but it wrong to equate them like this. Now the dominant, war mongering imperialist forces on behalf of global finance capital are led by the USA and it is therefore correct for nations like Syria to get whatever assistance they can from Iran, China and Russia. Libya and Syria in particular getting support Russia and China is not to be equated with opposition forces who are the cat’s paw for the interests of this imperialist finance capital, centrally based in Wall Street. Syria is now attempting to defend what it left of its own right to self determination.

Of course if a direct imperialist war were to break out say between a US-dominated bloc and a Russia-China-German bloc then the dual defeatist tactic would be mandatory. With proper support for national liberation struggles that might break out during the course of the war, even if supported by one side or the other etc. Michael writes, “All this in addition to the well-known murderous suppression of the slightest sign of resistance of the Libyan people.”

The ‘Libya people’ would include CIA agents, those hired and bribed by them and those who had a desire to become the agents of Imperialist finance capital when it took over, not to mention the al-Qaeda fundamentalists who wanted to impose Sharia law and restore the oppression of women and agreed to be temporary allies of the USA, in an analogous to the duty of Marxists to be temporary allies of Gaddafi against Imperialist attack.  And now in the silliest and most indefensible part of the whole document, Michael writes, “Are the workers and youth today in a better or in a worse position than under the Gaddafi dictatorship?” Only a very naïve man would ask such a question and be surprised at getting the opposite answer to the one he expected. Consider the following quote, “The giveaway of Libya’s oil, the principal objective of the NATO powers, is no small matter. Libya’s oil was privatized in short order, with contracts allotted according to the number of bombing runs each country had made—France on behalf of Total, Spain on behalf of Repsol, Italy on behalf of Eni, England on behalf of BP and the U.S. on behalf of Marathon, Hess and ConocoPhillips. This will have the effect of reducing revenues to the new government, which will have to fill the funding gap by cutting social spending to the bone and taking out loans from the international financial institutions, like every other neoliberal state.

This is not to say that sectors of the Libyan population (or the Syrian or Iranian population for that matter) don’t have legitimate grievances against their nationalist dictatorships. However, when their countries are targeted for regime change by foreign transnational capital and their own emerging domestic transnational capitalist class, any military alliance that government opponents make with these globalizing interests is an act of treason against their own people. This is a global class war and the United States and other NATO powers represent the interests of the transnational capitalist class, not the Libyan working class.”[10]

It is of prime importance to note that nowhere does Michael or the Rcit oppose the recolonisation of Libya and the oil grab of the western companies. He did find space to attack Gaddafi’s lesser capitulation to Imperialism but the total prostration of the rebels as described above is a total irrelevancy in his eyes.

A partial dual power situation indeed!
He then goes on: The sectarian “anti-imperialists” claim that in Libya the counter-revolution – i.e. NATO imperialism and its agents, the supposedly “racist” rebels – has won the civil war. Consequently they consider the outcome as a defeat for the working class. We on the other hand think that the Libyan Revolution ended in a partial victory for the working class and the oppressed because it defeated the bourgeois-bonapartist Gaddafi regime. True, the bourgeois, pro-imperialist leadership around the TNC tries to hijack this unfinished democratic revolution and turn it into a democratic counterrevolution. However this process is far from completed. What we have today in post-Gaddafi Libya is a crisis-ridden regime which is divided by various factions. It is divided not only by power struggles but also – and to a large degree because of – the pressure of the masses. What we have today in Libya is a partial dual power situation. What constitutes this partial dual power situation?

This must be the most farcical paragraph in the whole document. A partial dual power situation indeed! The phrase was first used by the Bolsheviks to describe the situation in Russia after the February revolution of 1917 where massive workers councils (Soviets) effectively controlled the country, vying for power with the government itself. Eventually the Soviets abolished parliamentary democracy and instituted the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ in which the working class ruled. This was replaced by the dictatorship of the bureaucracy under Stalin in about 1924. Maybe if he wrote a ‘potentially partial dual power situation’ we might get far enough away from reality to fail to notice that the working class has not got an ounce of influence here and only ‘dual power’ operating  is between the al-Qaeda fundamentalist militias and the pro-US forces.

Michael takes his information on Libya from Carlos Munzer and the Democratica Obrera. His claims for the revolution in Libya are hot air; we would recommend double-checking it all. However we must confess a lack of knowledge of the working class forces on the ground in Libya. If they are reviving as suggested by Munzer then intervention is clearly called fro to turn them against the pro-Imperialist influences they are under. Even if strikes are underway as he claims and “The workers have formed new trade unions and are organizing themselves in rank and file structures. They have more rights and power than under the Gaddafi regime.” Them these are pro-Imperialist organisations.

See for example his position on Syria where the main enemy is Assad, and Russian and Chinese Imperialism. There is absolutely no opposition to the US, the EU, Turkey, the Saudis or the Qataris. “In Greece and the whole Europe, it is necessary to paralyze all the ports and ships that transport weaponry and food to murderous al Assad, and instead ship food and weaponry for the heroic Syrian resistance! The Russian and Chinese working class has to revolt against the assassins Putin and Hu Jintao just now! It is urgent to stop the counterrevolutionary war machine of Putin and Hu Jintao’s that are arming to the teeth genocidal al Assad! It is urgent to send weapons, equipment and food to the masses that are fighting in Homs, Damascus, etc.!”

Revolutionary Combatants of the Libyan Militia; Internationalist Volunteer Workers Committee; Adhering: Fracción Leninista Trotskista Internacional http://www.democraciaobrera.org/pag_ingles/mediooriente/2012/carta_tunez_ delibia042012.html Maggie Michael of Associated Press tells us exactly what kind of ‘masses’ these are: “Some 30,000 people filled a broad boulevard as they marched along a lake in central Benghazi on Friday to the gates of the headquarters of Ansar al-Shariah. They carried banners and signs demanding that militias disband and that the government build up police to take their place in keeping security. “Benghazi is in a trap,” signs read. “Where is the army, where is the police. Other signs mourned the killing of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, reading, “The ambassador was Libya’s friend” and “Libya lost a friend.” Military helicopters and fighter jets flew overhead, and police mingled in the crowd, buoyed by the support of the protesters”.[11]

And so the last hope for the revolution is… Ansar al-Shariah! They will just have to substitute for the Bolsheviks! What a strange but delightfully dialectical face ‘liberation’ has in Libya today! Sound just like the days before the storming of the Winter Palace in 1917 Russia, does it not?

As we write this the town of Bani Walid is under siege. According to the Inter Press Service News Agency pro-government armed militias were trying to indiscriminately kill large numbers of people in Bani Walid, because of its history of support for Gaddafi. Amnesty International says many continue to be detained without being charged or put on trial across Libya, and have been tortured or otherwise ill-treated. The International Centre for Prison Studies (ICPS) says Libya holds the highest number of prisoners held without trial in the world at nearly 89 percent. Foreign prisoners, many of them from sub-Saharan Africa, account for nearly 15 percent of Libya’s prison population, and women for just over 2 percent. Nasseer Al Hammary, a researcher with the Libyan Observatory for Human Rights said that the human rights situation in Libya now was far worse than under Gaddafi.[12]
So the working class in Libya are on the brink of seizing power are they? Some ‘unfinished revolution’ with ‘partial dual power’ comrades of the Rcit!

Endnotes
[1] The Rcit statement is here: http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/liberation-struggle-and-imperialism/#ds

[2] See Stuart King, The anti-imperialist united front: a debate with the GOR,  30/03/1986 – “Clearly here Trotsky does not limit the united front only to questions of ‘military blocs’ against the imperialists or the Warlords. Indeed such a position makes a non-Marxist division between ‘politics’ and ‘war’-“war is the continuation of politics by other means”.” King and the whole Workers Power family have now repudiated these correct positions because of their need to defend their unprincipled position on Libya. http://www.fifthinternational.org/content/anti-imperialist-united-front-debate-gor

[3] We invite readers to check the LCFI statement itself on page 36 and the article on page 14 to see that the equation of the LRCI position with that of the ‘Spart family’ and CPGB (ML) is totally unfounded. http://www.scribd.com/doc/53607829/SocialistFightNo6-123

[4] See Interviews with Wang Fanxi by Gregor Benton, “Wang repeats what he has described elsewhere, that is, that the position taken by their group — and by Trotsky — was not one of ‘revolutionary defeatism’. The stated aim was to ‘transform the war against the foreign invaders into a revolution to replace the leadership of the resistance war and thereby to assure the victory of the war against the foreign invader…’ This policy… was in line with Trotsky’s declaration that the workers’ organisations had to ‘participate actively and in the front lines of the present war against Japan’. But because Chiang Kai-Shek could not assure a victory over the Japanese, the Trotskyists had to win prestige in the military struggle and the political struggle against the deficiencies and betrayals of the Guomindang.” http://revolutionaryhistory.co.uk/book-reviews/books/reviews/chinese-trotskyism.htm.

[5] See Felix Morrow, Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Spain, New Park Publications, £1.25 / 75p. Earnest Mandel writes, “Felix Morrow’s Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Spain remains the best Marxist analysis of the Spanish revolution of 1936-37 and its tragic ending. Other works, written since and drawing upon extensive new source material, give a more detailed account of the events and struggles (social and political) which marked these dramatic years, and of those which led up to them. But none are equal, leave alone superior, to Morrow in their analysis of the basic class forces at work, the inevitable clash between them and the outcome of the contest, decided by the lack of revolutionary leadership or clear political consciousness on the part of the toiling masses. http://www.marxists.org/archive/mandel/1974/xx/morrow.htm

[6] The Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification (Spanish: Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista, POUM; Catalan: Partit Obrer d’Unificació Marxista) was a Spanish communist political party formed during the Second Republic and mainly active around the Spanish Civil War. It was formed by the fusion of the Trotskyist Communist Left of Spain (Izquierda Comunista de España, ICE) and the Workers and Peasants’ Bloc (BOC, affiliated with the Right Opposition) against the will of Leon Trotsky, with whom the former broke. (wiki)

[7] Anarchists played a central role in the fight against Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War. At the same time, a far-reaching social revolution spread throughout Spain, where land and factories were collectivized and controlled by the workers. All remaining social reforms ended in 1939 with the victory of Franco, who had thousands of anarchists executed. Resistance to his rule never entirely died, with resilient militants participating in acts of sabotage and other direct action after the war, and making several attempts on the ruler’s life. Their legacy remains important to this day,

particularly to anarchists who look at their achievements as a historical precedent of anarchism’s validity. (wiki)

[8] Paul Dundes Wolfowitz (born December 22, 1943) is a former United States Ambassador to Indonesia, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense, President of the World Bank, and former dean of the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. He is currently a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, working on issues of international economic development, Africa and public-private partnerships, and chairman of the US-Taiwan Business Council. He is a leading neoconservative. As Deputy Secretary of Defense, he was “a major architect of President Bush’s Iraq policy and … its most hawkish advocate.”(wiki). In fact one of Imperialism’s most important theoreticians.

[9] See Kosovo’s “Mafia State” and Camp Bondsteel: Towards a permanent US military presence in southeast Europe April 14, 2012 By F.William Engdahl. “Hashim Thaci the current Kosovo Prime Minister, got his job, so to speak, through the US State Department”. According to The Guardian, Tuesday 14 December 2010, Hashim Thaçi is identified as the boss of a network that began operating criminal rackets in the runup to the 1998-99 Kosovo war, and has held powerful sway over the country’s government since. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/14/kosovo-prime-minister-llike-mafia-boss.

[10] Libya Worse Off After NATO Takeover, June 26, 2012, http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=1043

[12] The abuse and mistreatment of prisoners in detention centres around the country, many of them run by militias, is an ongoing problem. http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/10/shadow-fighting-erupts-over-gaddafi.
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