Where is the LFI drifting?

In April 2011, a left-wing faction in the LFI, the  Bolshevik Opposition, was bureaucraticaly expelled from the League for the Fifth International.  The majority of the faction were members of the Austrian Section, who went on to form the RKOB (Revolutionary Communist Organisation) – and recently founded a new international, the RCIT (Revolutionary Communist International Tendency).

The VOAG recieved a copy of  an open letter to all present and former comrades of  the LFI (published below). Whilst the VOAG doesn’t agree with everything in the letter, we support its general line and are in total accord with the specific criticisms levelled at Workers Power.

The VOAG is preparing a reply to the letter, which will appear on the blog shortly, but in the meantime, we have taken the step to publish this letter in full because it echoes so closely our own criticisms.

A Letter from the RCIT (Revolutionary Communist International Tendency) to the LFI comrades, 11.5.2012

Dear comrades of the LFI,
We address you in this letter because several of our cadre were member
of the LFI until recently. In the last 12 months we have seen divisions,
expulsion and splits in the League for the Fifth International. In April
2011 five cadres from the Austrian section, who have formed the
“Bolshevik Opposition” faction, were bureaucratically expelled by the
LFI’s IEC majority. Amongst them were two members of the International
Executive Committee (IEC) and three members of the leadership of the
youth organisation REVOLUTION in Austria. Around this time a Tamil
comrade from the central leadership of the Sri Lanka section,
responsible for the union work amongst the plantation workers, resigned
too. And several months later a number of members from the Pakistani
section (including a Central Committee member), who had formed the
“Left Opposition” faction, left the LFI. Together with other comrades
we have joined forces and formed — also with former LFI members in the
USA — an international organisation, the Revolutionary Communist
International Tendency (RCIT).

Politically our origin is in the struggle against the LFI’s majority
opportunist adaption towards the union bureaucracy, the reformist and
centrist left and its lack of orientation towards workers and nationally
oppressed.

However shortly after these expulsion and splits the LFI majority split
itself. Recently a number of members resigned from the LFI, amongst them
4 IEC members, central leaders from the British section and the central
leader of the Austrian respectively the Czech section. They are a
right-wing centrist, liquidationist split reflecting the pressure of the
progressive petty-bourgeois strata at the universities and in the
occupation movement.

So as a result, all in all in the last 12 month the LFI has lost half of
its IEC members and — since the congress in summer 2010 — up to 1/3 of
its total membership.

What are the main issues of this letter?
In this letter we point out that:
1. It is the duty of Marxists to make clear which class character
political forces have. The leadership of the LFI has /NOT/ made clear
which class character the liquidationist, petty bourgeois split has.

2. This happens because of the adaption from the leadership of the LFI
towards the petty-bourgeois milieu! In the united front Anticapitalist
initiatives projects which WPB joined they don’t have a sharp
revolutionary profile and are very soft in criticizing centrist forces
or don’t criticise them at all in public. They are even talking about
the “revolutionary left” when they mean the centrist left.

3. The LFI itself is in its composition dominated by activists coming
from petty bourgeois/intellectual layers or the upper strata of the
working class since many years. It has a massive lack of workers from
the broad mass of the proletariat and from the oppressed.

4. Therefore its political degeneration into centrism is related to the
reluctance over years to correct the bad class composition of the LFI.
The organisation has developed an opportunist approach towards the
politics of libertarian and other petty-bourgeois forces!

5. We characterise the reluctance to win workers and oppressed in deeds
(not only as promises and intentions) as part of the problem of
“aristocratism” that goes hand in hand with the opportunism. It means
the orientation to aristocratic layers and the accommodation to various
positions and prejudices of the labour aristocracy.

6. One expression of this was the rejection of the slogan “/For a
Socialist Tamil Eelam/” in Sri Lanka. It was a consequence of
accommodation towards prejudices amongst the petty-bourgeois
intellectuals and the aristocratic layers in the working class. We as
RCIT are demanding not only a Socialist Tamil Eelam but also an “Azad,
Socialist Kashmir” and an “Azad, Socialist Baluchistan” in Pakistan.

7. We sharply critisise the LFI leadership for pushing the organisation
to refuse participate in the August Uprising of tens of thousands of
working class youth in Britain in summer 2011. This was criminal
especially because it happened in London at the same time as the REVO
summer camp, where many comrades from the LFI and REVOLUTION came
together. Active participation was rejected by the leaders of the LFI
and they didn’t even sent a delegation of members to be in the
proletarian districts where the uprisings happened during the nights.
They rather preferred to have a summer camp with the slogan “summer,
sun, socialism” (this was the headline of their report) where the
focus was on discussions and drinking instead of being part of the class
struggle on the burning streets of London. It is a joke to agitate once
or twice in the proletarian districts during the day and to hide in the
camp by night when the uprising takes place. Such a leadership is not
capable to lead sections in semi colonial countries with sharp state
oppression. It demonstrated a lack of revolutionary audacity. This was
centrism in deeds and a betrayal of revolutionary principles.

8. Comrades, mistakes can happen, even grave mistakes can happen. But
the worst thing is not to make mistakes, but to fail in recognising
them, not to learn from them and not to make the necessary sharp
corrections.

9. The LFI has undertaken a sharp centrist degeneration. It is no wonder
that the LFI has shrunken massively.

10. We call all members of the LFI to break with the policy of centrist
degeneration which is dominating now the LFI. Comrades, correct these
fatal mistakes! Reorient the LFI towards the workers and oppressed!

Why did this happen?
Let us see how the LFI leadership characterises the split of the
right-wing liquidationists around Luke Cooper, Simon Hardy (both from
Britain), Roman Riedl (Austria) and Martin Mikula (Czech Republic). In
its Statement on Resignations from the British Section of the League
from 28.4.2012, the International Secretariat (IS) of the LFI correctly
criticises the right-wing splitters for their rejection of democratic
centralism and the need for a programmatically homogenous organisation.
The IS states: “Their argument was simply copied wholesale from the
quasi-libertarian critiques of Leninism and Trotskyism presently
fashionable on the English-speaking left.”  The IS also describes their
views: “The majority correctly characterised these proposals as
liquidationist, both in the political sense, in terms of dissolving our
programme and principles, and the organisational sense, in terms of
dissolving our tendency.”

It is however characteristic that the IS, while describing correctly
several features of this right-wing split fails to go beyond such a
description and to give it a clear political class characterisation.
As a result it fails to analyse, characterise and understand the context
of this split.

We characterise the group around Cooper, Hardy, Riedl and Mikula as a
right-wing, liquidationist split. As all political tendencies and
phenomena in a class society it has a class character. As Marxists we
have to point out what sort of class character the liquidationist split
has. It is a petty-bourgeois, extreme right-centrist current. It
reflects their capitulation towards the pressure of the progressive
petty-bourgeois layers (dominated by university students and (pseudo-)
intellectuals) who have an important influence in the occupation
movement and amongst the left-wing university milieu.

Adaption towards the petty-bourgeois milieu
However the LFI leadership does not give a clear class character of the
split and indeed is even incapable to understand the need of it. Why?
Firstly because it would force them to rethink their own orientation
since it orientates itself to the same petty-bourgeois milieu since
years as the right-wing liquidationists are doing. Secondly because it
would force them to ask themselves how it could happen that a
significant sector of its leadership and membership openly repudiates
Leninism and Trotskyism. And thirdly they would have to ask themselves
why the same leaders with whom together they enthusiastically expelled
future RCIT cadre in April 2011, why these same people desert the
organisation and Trotskyism only 12 month later (after they had started
in Britain an internal campaign for their liquidationist views for at
least half a year)!

For us in the RCIT this development is not surprising and only the
logical consequence of the process of centrist degeneration which the
LFI unfortunately has undergone in the recent past. Already in late 2009
today RCIT cadres who at that time had the majority in the Austrian
LFI section fought against the liquidationist tendencies which
comrade Riedl and others showed during the intervention in a mass
university strike in Austria. They rejected our proposals to intervene
openly as members of the LFI and they refused to publicly criticise the
wrong policy of the centrists and the left-reformist and libertarian
forces which provided the leadership of the movement. Similarly we
fought against the “new discoveries” of Riedl and others in 2010 that
the IMT (Grant, Woods, Lal Khan) and centrism as such “are a current of
Marxism”, albeit not a revolutionary one. And we emphasised against
Riedl and others that the reformist bureaucracy does not betray the
workers because of their “wrong ideologies and lack of understanding”.
This is a false, idealistic explain. As Marxists we say it happens
because as bureaucrats they have a material interest in controlling and
pacifying the working class, they are corrupted and they are therefore
also linked with the capitalist state and class.

These internal struggles dealt with questions touching the principles of
Marxism, in particular the relationship between the revolutionary
vanguard, its petty-bourgeois and labour reformist opponents and sectors
of the masses. These were debates which anticipated a number of issues
around which the splits/expulsion of the Bolsheviks by the LFI majority
occurred in 2011 and around which the split of the right-wing
liquidationists in spring 2012 took place.

The left-wing inside the LFI and later cadres of the RCIT defended the
traditional Marxist position which the LFI, when it was still a
revolutionary organisation, had defended too. But the majority of the
LFI leadership wavered. Several of them sympathised more with Riedls
positions rather than ours but they hesitated to openly wage a
political-ideological struggle against us. So they all agreed that the
LFI leadership should not take a position on these debates. In short
they proved incapable to understand the task of revolutionary cadres to
defend Marxist principles always and from the beginning. They only
started to formally defend some of these principles when the right-wing
proposed to dissolve the organisation and hence a split was already
around the corner.

It is indicative that the LFI majority planned and executed very quickly
the expulsion of the “Bolshevik Opposition” comrades only a few weeks
after they formed a faction in Austria. On the other hand they didn’t
see any reason to expel the right-wing liquidationists despite their
open renunciation of Bolshevism. Would the Cooper Hardy Riedl Mikula
group have been less determined to build their “undogmatic
anticapitalist networks” and would they have not resigned in mid-April
2012, they would still have a place in the LFI. In fact the LFI
leadership actively hopes to win them back as they wrote in their
“Statement on Resignations”.  “We can only hope that our former
comrades draw this lesson from their own experience quickly, and return
to our ranks to build a disciplined international organisation with a
clear programme”. In another statement of the LFI leadership this still
existing closeness to the right-wing liquidationist was made even clearer:

“We regret their decision, as they are all talented people, many of
whom played an important role in the student movement in 2010-11. While
we recognise that there has been a significant divergence in our views
over the last seven months, we had hoped that the debate we conducted at
our national conference last month and our International Council meeting
at Easter could have continued within our ranks. We were disappointed
that the comrades chose to leave after such a short discussion. We have
made it clear to Simon and the others that we will continue to work with
them wherever that is practical and principled. Given the continued
similarity of our political views we expect those occasions to be many
and frequent.” (Reply from Richard Brenner (LFI) to split statement of
right-wing, 14.4.2012,
http://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2012/04/14/a-simple-proposal-for-a-new-anticapitalist-left)

The practice of the past 12 month has shown that while the LFI
leadership is totally hostile to the Bolsheviks it is soft and
well-coming to the right-wing liquidationists. They see themselves much
closer to the later.

This is in itself an expression of the centrist character of the
present-day leadership of the LFI. In Trotsky’s days the centrist Stalin
leadership exclaimed that it is “fighting resolutely both against the
left-wing and the right.-wing danger” inside the Communist Party.
Trotsky explained that this equation of the currents to the right and to
the left of the Marxist line demonstrates itself a petty-bourgeois,
centrist position:

“The central idea of the present campaign, that Marxist politics in
general consists in a struggle against the right and against the left
with the same irreconcilable spirit, is thoroughly absurd. To the right
of Marxist politics stands the mighty world of imperialism with its
still enormous agency of collaborationists. There is the enemy. To the
left of the Marxist line there can be only wrong tendencies within the
proletariat itself, infantile disorder in the party, and so forth. The
most extreme expression of this false ‘leftism’ is anarchism. But
anarchism’s strength and influence are all the smaller and less
significant the more resolutely, the more determinedly, the more
consistently the revolutionary party fights against opportunism. That is
precisely the special historical merit of Bolshevism. In its annals, the
struggle against the left always bore an episodic and subordinated
character. The Stalinist formula of the struggle ‘with the same
intransigence’ against the right and the left is not a Bolshevik formula
but the traditional formula of petty-bourgeois radicalism, whose entire
history has been nothing but struggle against ‘reaction’ on one hand and
against the proletarian revolution on the other hand.” (Leon Trotsky:
Crisis in the Right-Center Bloc (1928); in: Leon Trotsky: The Challenge
of the Left Opposition (1928-29), p.  302f.)

In fact the present-day leadership of the LFI fought with a much more
“irreconcilable spirit” against the left-wing and expelled them when
their leaders posed a potential danger inside the IEC. On the other hand
they tried every possible compromise and still sending olive branches
and appeals to the right-wing liquidationists to come back.

The chimera and the truth about the Bolshevik united front tactic
What is the reason for this? It is because the LFI’s leadership itself
is politically confused and has become left-centrist in 2011. (Although
we would not say that all members have left the former Bolshevik
tradition of the LFI and thus it is possible that there might be future
internal struggles around key issues in the context of the degeneration
process of the LFI as a whole.) It is no accident that they and the
right-wingers together attacked and expelled us because of our as
they called it  “sectarianism”. They accused the Bolsheviks who later
formed the RCIT that they have an “ultra-left understanding of the
united front tactic.”

What the LFI and WPB leadership is hiding behind this chimera is its
own growing opportunism. As we have shown with a number of quotes (see
for this the preface to our essay on the Fifth International in our
English-language journal Revolutionary Communism No. 2, p. 26-28;
http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/what-sort-of-fifth-international-do-we-need)
the comrades see the reasons for the left-reformist trade union
bureaucrats failure in the recent mass struggles against the Tory LibDem
government in their  “refusal to think outside the box” and their
“fear of the anti-union laws” not their inability to struggle in
the interest of the workers because of their material interests as
bureaucrats. They also identify as the main problem of the left not
their petty-bourgeois, centrist or left-reformist policy and
subordination to the labour bureaucracy but their “divisions and
fragmentations”. In its latest proposal for a political platform of the
Anticapitalist Initiative WPB repeats this position:

“The leaders of the major unions have postponed and fragmented the
fight back called for by their members. The pensions struggle which
had the potential to unify the movement has been cynically sabotaged
by right wing union leaders, and discoordinated by ‘left wing’ union
leaders afraid of the anti-union laws. (…) The failure of the official
leaderships has been compounded by two key factors:                                                                                                                   withered and weakened state of workplace organisation, and                                                                                                             the inability of the revolutionary left organisations to transcend
their fragmentation.

Instead they project their division into the
anti-cuts struggle, building rival anti-cuts campaigns where a powerful
united front is needed. ” (Workers Power: Draft Proposal for Political
Basis for the Anti-capitalist Initiative, 21.4.2012,
http://southlondonanticapitalists.wordpress.com/2012/04/30/building-a-new-left-a-great-start/;
our emphasis)

In effect the remaining left-centrist WPB leadership spreads the same
nonsensical idea that there exists not a centrist left but a
“revolutionary left” and the problem is that it remains fragmented. In
the past we in the revolutionary LFI laughed about such nonsense. Today,
the Neo-LFI leadership repeats this stupidity itself! If the various
centrist groups would be united in one big centrist organisation … it
would be a unified obstacle, and not an instrument to overcome the
crisis of leadership. Why? Because the centrist left is not
revolutionary, it is centrist. This means they possess a wrong, centrist
method, strategy and tactic. It means that they are politically adapting
and dependent of the labour bureaucracy. THIS is the main reason why
“the left” cannot challenge the official labour movement leadership!

In addition to this the LFI/WPB leadership also adapts to the
libertarian sentiments which are strong amongst the petty-bourgeois
sectors of the university student and in the occupation movement. In
contrast to the past when we intervened in non-revolutionary
organisations, the WPB proposal does not deal with the question of power
and therefore lacks the slogan for a workers government.

The LFI WPB’s leadership whole orientation towards the “Anti-capitalist
Initiative” (ACI) is in itself opportunistically flawed. According to
all reports which have been published this initiative attracted less
people to its foundation conference on 28th April than the number of
people who attended the WPB Anti-capitalism event last autumn. About half
of the 70-80 people present were members of Workers Power and its two
right-wing splits (the Permanent Revolution group and the Cooper/Hardy
group). The rest of the participants were in their majority divided
between various organised and unorganised leftists and some libertarian
university students.

This ACI is neither a reflection of the radicalisation of sectors of the
working class or proletarian youth. Nor does it reflect sectors of
centrism which are moving to the left. It is rather a combination of
centrists moving to the right (who are questioning the “shibboleths” of
the revolutionary pre-party organisations, of Bolshevism, who are
wondering if Leninism might have been responsible for Stalinism etc.)
and some libertarian university students. In short according to all
accounts it is a small petty-bourgeois combination of right-wing
centrists and libertarian forces. While the LFI/WPB’s leadership
correctly criticised the right-wing splitters for their capitulation
towards libertarian views, they themselves orientate to the same milieu
and opportunistically adapt their propaganda to it.

How we did it in the past
This is a break from our revolutionary tradition in the past. While the
LFI majority (at that time the left-centrists and the right-wing
liquidationist were united against us, the Bolshevik wing in the LFI)
accused us of a “sectarian” approach to reformism and centrism, the
opposite was and is true. In the 2000s we had proven in practice by our
work in the Austrian section that we are capable much better than the
rest of the LFI in Europe to intersect with militant sectors of the
masses, putting demands on the bureaucracy and repeatedly force the
reformists and centrists into united front initiatives with us and
combine this with an intransigent revolutionary profile. We initiated or
co-initiated a number of demonstrations and school student strikes with
thousands of participants. As a result our leading comrades could
several times address in speeches thousands of workers and youth at
demonstrations. (Some of them you can see at our youtube channel
http://www.youtube.com revolutioncommunism
http://www.youtube.com/revolutioncommunism

We also played an
initiating and leading role in an electoral left alliance in summer 2008
(called “THE LEFT”). But in opposite to the LFI/WPB’s leadership policy
today we did this with a revolutionary programme and with a sharp
profile from the beginning. Our slogan “Expropriate the super-rich!”
enraged the bourgeois media and annoyed the left-reformists and
centrists inside the alliance. But we also won sympathises and through
our focus on on-the-ground agitation in a working class district in
Vienna we recruited a number of workers and youth. The reports about all
this can still be found in the section “Austria” on the LFI’s website.
And on the RCIT website you will find a report, photos and videos of the
internationalist MayDay 2012 demonstration in Vienna with 1.500
participants organised by a united front in which the Austrian RCIT
comrades played a leading role. In all these years we had not only a
sharp, revolutionary, public profile but also a sharp critic against the
centrist forces.

In contrast when WPB won a leading position in a mass movement as it
did in the university student movement in 2010 — it unfortunately
collapsed into opportunist adaption towards the petty-bourgeois milieu.
When the mass movement hit the streets against the austerity plans of
the Cameron government in autumn 2010 and the general strike slogan
became an important tactic, the WPB leadership rejected agitation for a
general strike and even criticised the SWP for raising this slogan as
“too advanced”! Instead of engaging in a sharp political struggle
against the various centrist and libertarian forces, the WPB leadership
looked for a peaceful co-existence with them in various left-wing
university student alliances. In the end LFI/WPB became centrist itself
and instead of growing it lost 1/3 of its members in Britain.

Similarly the LFI section in Austria nearly all of them university
students declined politically and organisationally after our
expulsion. They announced in public a self-criticism that they want to
correct the “one-sided”, “superficial” positions on Palestine and many
other issues which the Austrian section published under our leadership
in the past decade. Since then not a single document has appeared which
proved the so-called “one-sidedness” of our past positions or which
contained better, “more differentiated” positions. The ideological class
struggle against left-reformism and centrism has de facto disappeared
from the LFI Austria propaganda. No theoretical document has been
published. They also ceased the publication of their e-mail newsletter,
suspended the publication of its paper for half a year and hardly had
any public meetings in the past 12 months. At the same time the Austrian
RCIT section has not only published a monthly paper, two issues of its
theoretical journal, run a regularly updated website and newsletter but
also worked hard and successfully to recruit a number of workers and
working class youth (including migrants from the lower strata of the
working class). And at the same time it participated actively in the
formation process of the RCIT. In fact Austria is a model for the
charlatanry of the LFI majority’s critique against us. They argued for
our expulsion as a need “to prevent a damage of the section in Austria”.
Well, since they “saved” the Austrian section from the Bolsheviks, it
hasn’t produced any theory, hardly any kind of propaganda and hardly any
public meetings took place — this is the new work mode of the sections
since then. In addition to it, Riedl who was encouraged from the LFI to
lead the section played a central role in the liquidationist split, and
the one or other will follow him soon. If this is a successful way to
prevent damage, than we hope that we had not learn anything of it.

What is the cause of the centrist degeneration?
All these failures and adaption’s towards centrism are not accidently.
The right-wing split is just the most consistent form of the political
degeneration which the LFI has undergone in the recent past. These
fundamental problems are related to a wrong understanding of the tasks
of a revolutionary communist organisation in the present period.

A central task of a communist pre-party organisation is to speak out the
truth as it sees it. Unfortunately in the last years a number of LFI
cadres have shared the post-modernist, neo-Gramscian method of Luke
Cooper which is alien to the materialist dialectic. As a result the LFI
majority overthrew at its Congress in 2010 our traditional method of
characterising historical periods. Hence they rejected our analyses of
the period after 2001 as “pre-revolutionary” and of the present period
as “revolutionary”. The same petty-bourgeois method led them to reject
the Leninist position that the labour aristocracy is a small top layer
in the working class which is politically backward and bribed by the
bourgeoisie. They rather believe that the labour aristocracy is the best
organised and most militant sector of the class who gets privileges
because of its class struggle. While the LFI leadership
opportunistically overstate the progressive character of the labour
aristocracy, it underestimates the importance of the middle and lower
strata of the working class and of the national oppressed layers. This
is why they reject our analyses of migrants in imperialist countries as
“in their huge majority nationally oppressed and super-exploited layers
of the working class.” At the same time they tend to welcome
assimilation of migrants into the majority nation as progressive. This
is why we advocate the complete equality of languages of minorities and
the abolition of the state language as the Bolsheviks did (again against
the opposition of a substantial minority at the LFI congress in 2010).
This is why we advocate support for an independent state of oppressed
nations if they have demonstrated in past struggles that they wish for
this. We combine it with the perspective of working class power. This is
why the RCIT advocates a “Socialist Tamil Eelam” in Sri Lanka and an
“Azad, Socialist Kashmir” and an “Azad, Socialist Baluchistan” in
Pakistan.

This includes the propaganda and agitation of the necessary strategies
and tactics for the working class struggle. It also includes the warning
of the vanguard from its wrong friends — the right-wing and left-wing
labour bureaucrats and the centrists of various colours. It means
calling things by their name. That’s why the unambiguous advocacy of
revolutionary tactics, the sharp criticism of the reformist and centrist
forces, the class characterisation of movements and political formations
etc. are indispensable for a communist pre-party organisation.

Why did the LFI degenerate so quickly in the last years? Why did a whole
sector of its leadership cadre renounce Leninism and Trotskyism and
denounce the task of building revolutionary organisations? Of course
there are several reasons but the most important factor is that the LFI
in most sections has a bad class composition, a dominance of university
students, intellectuals and labour aristocrats since many years. It is a
joke to have such a composition over years in imperialist countries
where the working class (especially the lower and middle strata)
represents the absolute majority of the population. This is a serious
problem particularly in the new historic period where the class struggle
from above and from below is sharpening enormously. In such a period the
pressures not only from the bourgeoisie but also from the various
sectors of the progressive petty bourgeoisie and the labour bureaucracy
are increasing enormously. The worse the class composition of a
revolutionary organisation is, the more difficult it is to stand against
these political and ideological pressures.

Trotsky once remarked that  “..the more the party is petty-bourgeois in
its composition, the more it is dependent upon the changes in the
official public opinion.” (Leon Trotsky: From a Scratch To the
Danger of Gangrene (1940); in Leon Trotsky: In Defense of Marxism, New
York 1990, p. 113;
http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/idom/dm/21-scratch1.htm)

Indeed the recent degeneration of the LFI is a living proof for Trotsky
observation. The right-wing liquidationist split and the shift of the
LFI to the right is a reflection of the public opinion in the labour
movement and the petty-bourgeois intelligenzija (via the occupation
movement etc.).

A bad class composition is not a disaster in itself … under the
pre-condition that the organisation recognises this situation as a
serious weakness which leads to degeneration if it is not overcome after
a certain, rather shorter than longer, period and therefore undertakes
bold and decisive measures to improve the class composition. This is why
in the years before our expulsion from the LFI — we proposed and
fought for a number of measures for the proletarisation of the LFI and
the Austrian section. As well as we not only argued but also tried to
initiate projects to win more young proletarian people, migrants and
women to the LFI. One of these projects was the building of womens
collectives, followed by a womens organisation in Austria which focused
on building roots of the organisation in a proletarian district. While
several LFI leaders expressed agreement in general for some of the
positions and projects no serious steps were undertaken and in the end
we were denounced as “workerists”. The LFI leaders even made sure to
dissolve the women organisation in Austria.

The leadership explicitly rejected the idea that a bad class composition
is a problem for the LFI. It claimed that in small organisation the
class composition is necessary and unavoidable like this. In a letter to
the LSR conference in February 2011 the leadership of the German section
wrote that the social composition of the fighting propaganda group like
the LFI sections “will have a disproportional high share of university
students or better educated, political interested workers (skilled
workers)”. The reason they gave is: “because of the dominant role of
propaganda”. The Austrian supporters of the LFI majority argued
similarly in a statement: “It is perfectly natural that fighting
propaganda groups tend because of its very high requirements for a
membership tendentially not to be dominated by the lowest layers.”

In other words fighting for the working class interest with a communist
programme requires … “education”, i.e. bourgeois education. Therefore,
according to the LFI leadership, the mass of the global working class —
particularly in the semi-colonial world — which posses a relatively
lower level of education it is rather difficult to meet the requirements
of the type of communist organisation the LFI wants to build. For the
LFI leaders, the well-educated intellectuals and labour aristocrats (of
whom disproportionally many live in the imperialist countries) are more
fit. For us this is no Marxism. Is it really “perfectly natural” to
build an organisation which should make the future revolutionary party
possible, that has the goal to free the working class and all oppressed,
that such an organisation is not lead, not even dominated in its
composition by workers, women, migrants, oppressed nations although they
are the absolute majority in the world? It is only “perfectly natural”
in the halls of the universities in the imperialist countries, but in
the rest of the world it is just “perfectly pervert”.

As a side note it is not without irony that exactly those people who
lectured us about the difficulty for workers from the lower strata to
meet the “very high requirements for a membership”, that exactly the
same people who authored these lines deserted the LFI only one year
later. The truth is the opposite: it is much more difficult for the
petty-bourgeois intellectuals to meet the “very high requirements for a
membership/” than for the workers! The truth is that for workers
(excluding the small layer of bribed aristocrats) it is easier to
understand the Marxist Weltanschauung of their class and to fight for
it than for the non-proletarian layers. We have to ask ourselves: Is it
healthier to have an organisation of mainly workers and working class
youth, even if some of them leave the organisation due to their hard
living conditions and therefore the lack of energy and time? Or should
Marxist prefer an organisation of petty-bourgeois intellectuals and
labour aristocrats who do not carry Marxist positions into the working
class but push the organisation to break with Bolshevism and try to
reconcile the political activity with their lifestyle? Ours is the first
option. And the LFI? Did we not see in the last years a huge increase of
mainly university students who instead of dedicating their life to the
cause of working class liberation struggle preferred to reconcile the
political activity with their lifestyle?!

Trotsky on the question of the class composition of communist pre-party
organisations
In contrast to the views of the LFI leadership Trotskyadvised the
Bolshevik-Leninists in all phases in the 1920s and 1930s to orientate
themselves mainly to the workers and here in particular the mass of the
workers and not to the privileged layers or even the university
students. For example in 1929 — immediately after the foundation of the
Communist League of America — he wrote about the need to find a way to
the oppressed layers of the proletariat:

“The trade union bureaucrats, like the bureaucrats of false Communism,
live in the atmosphere of aristocratic prejudices of the upper strata of
the workers. It will be tragedy it the Oppositionists are infected even
in the slightest degree with these qualities. We must not only reject
and condemn these prejudices; we must burn them out of our consciousness
to the last trace; we must find the road to the most deprived, to the
darkest strata of the proletariat, beginning with the Negro, whom
capitalist society has converted into Pariah and who must learn to see
in us his revolutionary brothers. And this depends wholly upon our
energy and devotion to the work.” (Leon Trotsky: A Letter to the
American Trotskyists (1929), in Trotsky Writings 1929, p. 133f.)

In another document in 1932 he argued in favour of a different approach
towards intellectuals than towards workers, in particular from the lower
strata. What he said would be most likely denounced as “workerism” by
the present-day LFI leaders if it would come from our pen and not
from Trotsky’s:

“When ten intellectuals, whether in Paris, Berlin, or New York, who
have already been members of various organizations, address themselves
to us with a request to be taken into our midst, I would offer the
following advice: Put them through a series of tests on all the
programmatic questions; wet them in the rain, dry them in the sun, and
then after a new and careful examination accept maybe one or two.

The case is radically altered when ten workers connected with the
masses turn to us. The difference in our attitude to a petty-bourgeois
group and to the proletarian group does not require any explanation. But
if a proletarian group functions in an area where there are workers of
different races, and in spite of this remains composed solely of workers
of a privileged nationality, then I am inclined to view them with
suspicion. Are we not dealing perhaps with the labor aristocracy? Isn’t
the group infected with slave-holding prejudices, active or passive?

It is an entirely different matter when we are approached by a group of
Negro workers. Here I am prepared to take it for granted in advance that
we shall achieve agreement with them, even if such an agreement is not
actual as yet. Because the Negro workers, by virtue of their whole
position, do not and cannot strive to degrade anybody, oppress anybody,
or deprive anybody of his rights. They do not seek privileges and cannot
rise to the top except on the road of the international revolution.

We can and we must find a way to the consciousness of the Negro
workers, the Chinese workers, the Indian workers, and all the oppressed
in the human ocean of the colored races to whom belongs the decisive
word in the development of mankind. (Leon Trotsky: Closer to the
Proletarians of the Colored Races (1932), in: Trotsky Writings 1932, p. 112)

In a discussion Trotsky had during his visit in Kopenhagen 1932 he
advised comrades about their attitude towards a student or an academic,
that “the workers movement for its part must regard him with the
greatest scepticism. (…) When he has worked with the workers movement
this way (for three, four or five years), then the fact that he was an
academican is forgotten, the social difference disappear. (Leon
Trotsky: On Students and Intellectuals (1932), in: Trotsky Writings
1932, p. 333)

We in the RCIT have the view that a communist pre-party organisation
should orientate itself to the working class and not the petty-bourgeois
intellectuals and labour aristocrats. Unfortunately the LFI rejects this
and has become a victim of what wecall “aristocratism” the
orientation to aristocratic layers and the accommodation to various
positions and prejudices of the labour aristocracy.

This is related to the distortion of the concept of the “fighting
propaganda group” by the present-day leadership of the LFI. In their
recent “/Statement on Resignations…” they described their view of the
“fighting propaganda group” as follows: “We stand by our
self-understanding as a group whose principal task is to defend and
develop the revolutionary programme and to address the major questions
of strategy and tactics facing the working class in its living struggles./”

This reflects a completely one-sided, un-dialectical understanding of
the tasks of a Bolshevik pre-party organisation. Yes, of course its task
is to “defend and develop the revolutionary programme and to address
the major questions of strategy and tactics”. But this alone is not
sufficient and even a passive propaganda circle could do this. What is
the value of a programme and of strategies and tactics IF they are not
transmitted into the class and its vanguard, IF they are not translated
into recruiting workers and proletarian youth members who are fighting
for this programme and who have roots in the class, IF they therefore do
not lead to a communist pre-party organisation with a mainly working
class composition?!

If a communist organisation does not achieve this, it is not a “fighting
propaganda group” but rather a “commenting propaganda group” which is
isolated from the working class and the oppressed layers.

*Ignoring the August Uprising in Britain as the synthesis of theory
and practice of Aristocratism*

The wrong analysis of the class positions of the labour aristocracy and
the lower and middle strata of the working class as well as the nature
of national oppression of migrants on one hand and the wrong
understanding of the tasks of a communist pre-party organisation on the
other hand found their culmination, its test in practice, in the
position of the LFI/WPB/REVOLUTION leadership during the August
Uprising in Britain in summer 2011. This was an Uprising of the working
class youth, black and migrants after the police killed a black father
of four children, Mark Duggan. According to figures of Scotland Yard,
more than 30.000 youth participated in this uprising which lasted for 5
days. As a completely spontaneous uprising it included a number of
lootings. But in the first line it was an uprising against police
repression. (Our analysis, perspectives and tactics can be read on our
website: Nina Gunic’ and Michael Pröbsting: The strategic task: From
the uprising to the revolution! These are not “riots” this is an
uprising of the poor in the cities of Britain!,
http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/britain-uprising-of-the-poor;
The August Uprising in Britain – A Report of the RKOB delegation on its
visit in London in August 2011.
http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/britain-report-from-uprising;//Michael
Pröbsting: What would a revolutionary organisation have done? August
uprising of the poor, the nationally and racially oppressed in Britain.
http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/britain-august-uprising/;
Michael Pröbsting: Five days that shook Britain but didn’t wake up the
left. The bankruptcy of the left during the August uprising of the
oppressed in Britain: Its features, its roots and the way forward,
http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/britain-left-and-the-uprising/)This character was, despite some wavering, occasionally acknowledged
even by the LFI/WPB leadership itself. After the Uprising the British
comrades wrote in a statement “The August 2011 riots will be remembered
as a working class youth uprising against repression, racism and the
recession. Workers Power stands solidly with the youth and against the
police.” (Workers Power: The political situation in Britain after the
August uprising; Resolution on the political situation after the riots,
19.8.2011,
http://www.workerspower.co.uk/2011/08/political-situation-after-the-august-uprising)

However despite this literary recognition of the character of this mass
uprising (which was contradicted in other statement), the
LFI/WPB/REVOLUTION leadership strongly opposed any participation and a
call for this in this Uprising. During the same time as the Uprising
took place REVOLUTION had its international summer camp close to London.
Given the progressive and mass character of the uprising a number of
young members of REVOLUTION wanted to join and support the uprising. But
the leadership — including Hardy, Cooper, Riedl and the present-day LFI
leaders — all categorically opposed any practical support and
participation in the uprising. Despite the words quoted above, in fact
the leadership saw the uprising as a predominately backward,
un-political, and criminal or even reactionary event. This abstention
from an important class struggle event was even legitimised by the
argument that one does not know the conditions in the area. Leaving
aside that not knowing the concrete circumstances in a city did not stop
us in the revolutionary past of the LFI to intervene in mass struggles
(for example in Genoa/Italy in 2001, in Gleneagles/Britain in 2005 or in
Heiligendamm/Germany 2007), it is a damaging acknowledgment if the
comrades do not know and don’t have any connection to the area in an
important working class district in London (Tottenham) where the LFI has
its strongest branch since more than 35 years!

In fact this event demonstrated the practical consequences of
aristocratism and a petty-bourgeois decadence of middle class people. In
a report called “Summer, sun, socialism – that was our international
summer camp this year'”  the comrades told the public about
“interesting workshops” and the “opportunity of sports and leisure
facilities of the camping grounds”. “Every day we watched the events
of the ‘riots’ in London and discussed about it at the Camp plenary. So
we adopted for example a resolution and an international united front
call against police violence and about the conditions for the British
youth. Since as a youth organization we also like to fete, we had in the
evening parties at a big camp fire or in the community tent.” (see
http://www.onesolutionrevolution.de/?p=1645) How can an organization
call itself “revolutionary” if it prefers to have parties and drink a
lot every evening, while at the same time thousands of youth fight
against the police on the streets only a few kilometers away!?

Conclusion
Comrades, mistakes can happen, even grave mistakes can happen. But the
worst thing is not to make mistakes, but to fail in recognising them,
not to learn from them and not to make the necessary sharp corrections.
If this happens a constant repetition and deepening of the mistakes are
unavoidable. And indeed as we have shown in this letter and in other
documents this is what happened with the LFI in the last year. This is a
shame given the enormous possibilities of class struggle in the present
period to build a strong international revolutionary organisation. But
one cannot achieve this without an unambiguous Bolshevik method and a
revolutionary programme which is applied to the concrete practical and
theoretical questions of the class struggle. We have summarised our
analysis, our lessens and our programme in “The Revolutionary Communist
Manifesto” (which can be read online at the moment only in English
and German language on the RCIT website http://www.thecommunists.net
http://www.thecommunists.net). We would welcome to debate this
programme with you.

Comrades, we have drawn our conclusions from the past experience. After
the bureaucratic expulsion of the “Bolshevik Opposition” in April 2011
and the left-wing splits in other countries comrades in Pakistan, Sri
Lanka, USA and Austria have joined forces with other militants and
founded the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT). We
stand for the continuity of the revolutionary tradition which the LFI
represented in the past. We call all members of the LFI to break with
the policy of centrist degeneration which is dominating the LFI.

Bolshevik Greetings,
Michael Pröbsting and Shujat Liaqat (for the RCIT)

Further Reading:  Workers Power Conference 2012: Divisions, Expulsions, Appeals And Split – The VOAG Investigates.

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