Tag Archive: forth


The VOAG is Watching - The VOAG is Everywhere!For Adebolajo and Oluwatobi,

Against Imperialist wars in Muslim lands:

LCFI statement on the Woolwich killing: 31 May 2013[1]


Gerald Downing, Socialist Fight. May 2013 (Reposted without permission)
The LCFI is a proudly anti-Imperialist Trotskyist internationalist grouping which never equates the violence of the oppressor with that of the oppressed. We stand with Lenin unequivocally on these questions: Lenin: We are defending… not the national interests, for we assert that the interests of socialism, of world socialism are higher than national interests, higher than the interests of the state.[2]
The killing of the British soldier Lee Rigby, 25, in Woolwich, South London, on 22 May, who was identified as a British soldier by the Help for Heroes t-shirt he was wearing, was a political act. One of the assailants, Michael Adebolajo, immediately made this clear in a statement: We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you until you leave us alone. Your people will never be safe. The only reason we have done this is because Muslims are dying by British soldiers every day. We must fight them as they fight us. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. I apologise that women had to witness this today but in our lands our women have to see the same. You people will never be safe. Remove your government, they don’t care about you. Do you think David Cameron is going to get caught in the street when we start busting our guns? Do you think your politicians are going to die? No, it’s going to be the average guy like you, and your children. So get rid of them. Tell them to bring our troops back so we, so you can all live in peace.
We sympathise with the family of the dead British soldier, it is terrible to lose a son, husband and father in any circumstances but the full blame lies with British Imperialism’s wars of aggression and drone strikes – the kill ratio is thousands to one and they all have families too and the so called “Islamacist terrorists” combatants are “guilty” only of heroically defending their own lands; Lee Rigby was a professional mercenary soldier paid to implement David Cameron’s predatory Imperialist foreign policy and he paid the price of this dangerous assignment. The seeds of violence were sown by British Imperialism; together with other European Imperialist powers they shipped upwards of fourteen million black Africans across the oceans in cages as slaves. How many countries have they invaded and destroyed to exploit and rob their wealth and natural recourses? When was the last time a Muslim group invaded a country for its resources and killed a million people?
We will not condemn Michael Olumide Adebolajo, 28, and Michael Oluwatobi Adebowale, 22.According to Paul Cahalan in an article in The Independent on Sunday on 26 May Michael Adebolajo was arrested with six others in Kenya under suspicion of being at the centre of an Al-Qaeda-inspired plot in 2010. He was tortured before being released without charge, it seems because MI5 agents thought they could recruit him as a spy. MI5 constantly harassed him and his family in an attempt to make him work for them after he returned home.[3] This was their answer.
However we do not agree with their methods of struggle. As with all so-called “acts of terror” or the shooting of British soldiers by Irish Republicans we say that for national liberations fighters the army of occupation is a legitimate target. But we do not endorse individual action like planting bombs against civilian populations (which this was not) or killing of individual soldiers in a public street not only because it cannot achieve its aim of defeating imperialism but because it has the exact opposite effect on the mass of their potential supporters, the organised working class. Our approach is the traditional Marxist one of “unconditional but critical support”. As Trotsky said (and we would not use the epithet “terrorism” today): In our eyes, individual terror is inadmissible precisely because it belittles the role of the masses in their own consciousness, reconciles them to their powerlessness, and turns their eyes and hopes towards a great avenger and liberator who some day will come and accomplish his mission. The anarchist prophets of the ‘propaganda of the deed’ can argue all they want about the elevating and stimulating influence of terrorist acts on the masses. Theoretical considerations and political experience prove otherwise. The more ‘effective’ the terrorist acts, the greater their impact, the more they reduce the interest of the masses in self-organisation and self-education. But the smoke from the confusion clears away, the panic disappears, the successor of the murdered minister makes his appearance, life again settles into the old rut, the wheel of capitalist exploitation turns as before; only the police repression grows more savage and brazen. And as a result, in place of the kindled hopes and artificially aroused excitement comes disillusionment and apathy.[4]
However we cannot make our support for anti-Imperialist fighters conditional on them agreeing to our methods of struggle. This was not a “terrorist” act but a response to massive Imperialist terrorism against the Muslim lands with which the pair clearly identified. Under the cloak of religion there are very powerful anti-Imperialist sentiments in that statement above with which we solidarise, without in any way conceding to the religious prejudices of Fundamentalism. We must learn how to support the one and oppose the other without ever taking our eye off the main enemy, World Imperialism.
As Trotsky says: The struggle against war, properly understood and executed, presupposes the uncompromising hostility of the proletariat and its organizations, always and everywhere, toward its own and every other imperialist bourgeoisie…[5]
The war dead of Imperialism
Estimates of the war dead following the 2003 invasion of Iraq are as high as one million. Taken with the death toll from the previous sanctions campaign and the First Gulf War (Operation Desert Storm, 1990-91) combined with the invasions of Afghanistan, Libya and the sanctions campaign against Iran etc this pushes that figure to close to two million dead. Almost all these occupied lands[6] have seen the life expectancy of the general population decline dramatically, infant mortality rise sharply, previously free education and hospital services devastated by privatisation and delivery into the hands of US and other multi-nationals, now affordable only by the rich. Their infrastructure and services like transport, electricity, water sanitation and sewerage have been enormously degraded and their whole economies reduced to worse conditions than they endured half a century and more ago under colonialism. Radioactive fragments from depleted uranium shells in war zones from ex-Yugoslavia to Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Mali have caused and will cause countless deaths and birth deformities in these regions.  All to serve the global war aims of US-dominated Western Imperialism, to enhance the profits of the great banks and finance houses and their allied multi-national companies. A new fascism is looming, a Fourth Global Reich with the same social values as the Third. As State, Power & Bureaucracy put it: Over everything (in Nazi Germany) loomed the banks: as the banker Schroder put it at his Nuremburg trial: “They had a powerful influence on the party and on the government.” We cite a German couplet from the period: Who marches in with the first German tank? / Herr Director Rasche from the Dresden Bank.[7]
Before the Second Gulf War of 2003 Iraq suffered enormously from the sanctions against it imposed by the US. On May 12, 1996, Madeleine Albright (then U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations) appeared on a 60 Minutes segment in which Lesley Stahl asked her “We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?” and Albright replied “we think the price is worth it.”
This is all caused by Imperialism’s drive for profits, to capture markets for their products, to eliminate rival semi-colonial regimes by installing their own puppets in these countries. Even pliant national rulers can become a barrier to the finance capital masters of Wall Street, the City of London and the Paris Bourse; Saddam Hussein was installed as Iraq’s ruler by the CIA, Assad was a steadfast ally of Imperialism until they found better ones and Gaddafi had made his peace with Imperialism but nonetheless it was not enough to established today’s needs of unrivalled global domination by the US and its allies.
It is the masses of the US, British, French etc. working class who have the power to end Imperialist oppression. To those the oppressed and relatives of the slaughtered in the semi-colonial world must appeal for justice. And revolutionaries in the metropolitan countries have a duty to respond to these appeals and to encourage them and to fight for the rights of the workers in Iraq, Libya, Syria etc always against Imperialist aggression whether by direct invasion of via their proxy armies from Benghazi or from the Free Syria Army.
How have the far left in Britain responded?
The SWP have taken quite a good position on the Woolwich killings: Guerrilla fighting in the Global South, and attacks in the West, won’t end as long as the West continues to wreak havoc across the world. We should respond to the anger that imperialism fuels by pointing to the role of imperialism and demanding solidarity with those who are oppressed.[8]
The Socialist Party have taken a dreadful Islamophobic pro-Imperialist position: The unprovoked, barbaric and vicious murder of an unarmed soldier in Woolwich yesterday is a horrific event which must have been profoundly traumatic for the people who witnessed it, and, of course, an appalling tragedy for the victim, and the victim’s family and friends. Local residents showed incredible bravery in intervening to try and assist the victim. The Socialist Party completely condemns this attack just as we condemned 7/7, 9/11, and all similar attacks aimed at indiscriminate slaughter.[9]
Workers Power’s statement is weak at the beginning; it should not begin with the immediate horror and its effects on the family of the victim and onlookers (Iraq’s slaughtered have families too and their citizens have seen far worse) but with its cause, which it does tackle well later in the article. In that respect the SWP article is better that theirs: This is a horrific act, committed in front of ordinary civilians, women and children. We sympathise with the family of the victim and those traumatised by witnessing such appalling scenes. But London Mayor Boris Johnson’s claim that it has nothing to do with British foreign policy and the claim that British soldiers are bravely defending us in Britain and fighting for freedom in Afghanistan is a brazen lie.[10]
As might be expected the Alliance for Workers Liberty take a clear pro-Imperialist stance. Sacha Ismail tells us that “The young men” were “supporters of violently reactionary theocratic politics”. With their single victim there are not in the same “violently reactionary” league as those who are responsible for two million war dead, he might have mentioned. And what about: For the most part, the threat posed by Islamists – whether ultras like these ones, or softer varieties – is not directed against off-duty soldiers. It is directed against women, LGBT people, atheists and secularists, dissidents and critical-minded people in Muslim-majority countries and in some Muslim communities in countries like Britain. [11]
This is just a straightforward lie. The “threat posed” to whom? To the interests of British Imperialism or to British citizens or British soldiers or are all these things the same? The entire concern of British Imperialism is the opposition to their invasions and seizures of lands and they could not give a hoot what happens to women and LGBT people and others in “Muslim-majority countries”. To bring in that in this context is to give direct propagandistic support to the war cries of the Sun and Daily Mail. And finally the direct equation of “radical Islamism and nationalist racism” as twin evils. Note that “radical Islamism” comes first in the list of dangers to us all and fascism has been prettified as “nationalist racism” because, of course it is in fact better than “Islamo-fascism”, the favourite AWL term for Fundamentalism: This is, or should be, a wakeup call for the labour movement and socialists. If we cannot build a political force in working-class communities capable of appealing to the angry and dispossessed, then reactionary ideas like radical Islamism and nationalist racism will continue to spread.[12]  Naturally there is no mention of Imperialism and its wars on North Africa and the Middle East as a possible motivation for the attack, as we would expect from such an Islamophobic pro-Imperialist group.
CND General Secretary, Kate Hudson, leading light in Stop the War and in Ken Loach’s new Left Unity project has an unequivocal national chauvinist (the safety of our troops) position: “We deplore the brutal murder of an unarmed British soldier in Woolwich yesterday. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family. Acts of violent retribution against individuals can never be justified as a response to the crimes of states and governments. As we have repeatedly stated since 9/11 and the engagement of our troops in the wars and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, the best way to ensure the safety of our troops…”[13]
Lastly we will look at Lindsey German, ex-SWP leader, Stop the War and Counterfire. Her statement is all couched in what is best for British Imperialism. And she cannot even openly acknowledge that it is a normal and understandable response to the mass murders by US and British troops – just look at the italicised words below, say motivated, claimed and supposedly similarly motivated. Even US filmmaker Michael Moore tweeted: “I am outraged that we can’t kill people in other countries without them trying to kill us!”[14] Who could believe a “terrorists” when they say they are opposed to Imperialism slaughtering their co-religionists in Muslim lands – they are just “nutters”?
The attack in Woolwich yesterday was horrific. There can be no justification for a murderous attack on an individual soldier in the streets of London. It must have been awful too for the local people who witnessed it… So we know what these men say motivated them. They claimed that the killing of the soldier was in response to the killing of Muslims by British soldiers in other countries. One said that the government did not care for people and should get the troops out.
The Boston bombers last month were supposedly similarly motivated. The Woolwich attack, carried out by two men now shot and wounded and under arrest in hospital, appears to represent a phenomenon that was pointed out nearly a decade ago by the security services in Britain: that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq would lead to a growing threat of terrorism in Britain. Those of us in Stop the War have long predicted that these sorts of attacks would happen because of the war on terror.[15]
The rise of fascism – EDL/BN
T
he English Defence League are taking full advantage of the situation; 2,000 marched in Newcastle on 25 May, Mosques have been attacked and people racially abused. We must mobilise all our forces in opposition to this. It is telling that the UKIP leader Nigel Farage has only met serious opposition from the left in Scotland because of the serious failure of the left to combat anti-immigrant hysteria from bourgeois politicians and the mass media.
The main anti-fascist organisation in Britain is the Unite Against Fascism, a front for the Socialist Workers Party. It is a purely Popular Front-type organisation, spreading illusions in the ‘neutrality’ of the capitalist state by having the Tory Prime Minister David Cameron as one of its supporters. It is funded by the TU bureaucracy and has developed a very cosy relation with the police on anti-fascists demonstrations. In Newcastle on Saturday 25 May the Revolutionary Communist Group reported the following:
On 25 May, as the racist English Defence League (EDL) marched through Newcastle, police arrested 14 anti-fascists, detained them for up to 10 hours, and raided their homes, seizing computers and mobile phones. Seven FRFI supporters were among the detainees. They were seized half-an-hour before the counter-demonstration organised by Newcastle Unites was due to assemble. In the weeks before the EDL march, Newcastle Unites, a coalition of Labour councillors, local trade union officials and the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), was determined to exclude FRFI and other militant anti-fascists from its march. Its planning meetings were held in secret and its members physically assaulted FRFI supporters to exclude them. On the day of the march, Newcastle Unites stewards colluded openly with Northumbria police to identify our comrades for arrest.[16]
These methods are in many ways the opposite side of the coin methodically to individual acts of violence against the state forces, though we will not equate misguided but heroic anti-Imperialists with police collaboration. This Popular Frontism also displays its contempt for the organised working class and its potential to overthrow capitalism by denying that fascism is a class question.
We put forward the following points for anti-fascist work as against the SWP and others internationally:
1.            We stand by Trotsky’s classical definition of Fascism; “The historic function of fascism is to smash the working class, destroy its organizations, and stifle political liberties when the capitalists find themselves unable to govern and dominate with the help of democratic machinery”.
2.            Fascism has no fixed ideology of its own; it can be characterised globally as consistent reaction against the organised working class and those aspects of a state’s constitution which are publically perceived as assisting the progressive advancement of socialism or which they perceive as posing the threat of revolution including bourgeois democracy which allegedly allows socialist ideas to flourish.
3.            We defend unequivocally the traditional Marxist position of No Platform for Fascists. As Trotsky observed in Whither France, “The despairing petty bourgeois sees in fascism, above all, a fighting force against big capital, and believes that, unlike the working-class parties which deal only in words, fascism will use force to establish more ‘justice’. The peasant and the artisan are in their manner realists. They understand that one cannot forego the use of force”.
4.            Fascism depends vitally on mobilising the middles classes to crush the organised strength of the working class, Whither France again, “The petty bourgeoisie is economically dependent and politically atomized. That is why it cannot conduct an independent policy. It needs a ‘leader’ who inspires it with confidence. This individual or collective leadership, i.e., a personage or party, can be given to it by one or the other of the fundamental classes – either the big bourgeoisie or the proletariat”.
5.            The emergence of the BNP/EDL signifies that a section of the British middle class and some declassed workers have lost hope in the organised working to solve their problems and, via the medium of the fascists, are coming under the sway of the imperialist bourgeoisie, the fascists’ ultimate masters. Whither France again, “But the petty bourgeoisie can also find a leader in the proletariat. This was demonstrated in Russia and partially in Spain. In Italy, in Germany, and in Austria, the petty bourgeoisie gravitated in this direction. But the parties of the proletariat did not rise to their historic task. To bring the petty bourgeoisie to its side, the proletariat must win its confidence. And for that it must have confidence in its own strength”.
6.            The responsibility for the rise of fascism lies with the TU and Labour party leaders who have failed to fight the austerity policies of the ConDem government. By criticising “cuts too far, too fast!” they signal that they intend to make the working class bear the burden of the capitalist crisis if Labour wins office and make only a few cosmetic changes to the programme of the ConDems. They do this to defend their own privileged positions as administrators and defenders of that corrupt system.
7.            It is therefore vital to use the tactic of the United Front of the organised working class against the fascists and the reject the Popular Front as advocated by Searchlight (Use your vote, Hope not Hate) and the Socialist Workers Party (‘‘The strategy for anti-fascists is to unite the broadest possible forces against the Nazis”) which ties the working class to parliamentary democracy and even allows voting Tory, “as a last resort”, to keep the fascist out.
8.            Similarly we reject the political position of those like the Communist Party of Great Britain and the Communist Student who oppose No Platform and advocate ‘free speech for Nazis’ as a libertarian excuse to avoid the class struggle necessary to defeat fascism and the capitalist system which breeds it in its decline.
Notes
[1] In line with Trotsky’s article; For Grynszpan, Against Fascist Pogrom Gangs and Stalinist Scoundrels, (1939) http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1939/xx/grnszpan.htm
[2] Lenin was speaking of the first workers state then! Report on Foreign Policy, Joint Meeting of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee and the Moscow Soviet May 14, 1918 Collected Works, Vol. 27.
[4] Leon Trotsky, Why Marxists Oppose Individual Terrorism, (November 1911),http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1911/11/tia09.htm
[5] Trotsky, Leon. Resolution on the Antiwar Congress of the London Bureau, (July 1936).
[6] Apart from Afghanistan, already devastated by the USSR war of 1979-89 against the Mujahideen who were supported by China, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the US via the CIA. Estimates of the dead here vary from 850,000 to 1, 500,000.
[7] Dragstedt, A and Slaughter C, State Power & Bureaucracy, New Park 1981 p. 95
[8] Socialist Worker, The wars that fuel the rage behind Woolwich attack,http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/art/33448/The+wars+that+fuel+the+rage+behind+Woolwich+attack
[9] Socialist Party, No to terrorism! No to racism! No to war! Statement from Greenwich Socialist Party on the Woolwich killing, http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/16739/23-05-2013/no-to-terrorism-no-to-racism-no-to-war
[10] Workers Power, Woolwich: the War on Terror on our doorstephttp://www.workerspower.co.uk/2013/05/british-soldier-killed-woolwich-london/
[11] Ismail, Sacha. Woolwich, Islamism and the racist, authoritarian backlash,http://www.workersliberty.org/woolwich
[12] Ibid.
[13] Hudson, Kate, the Woolwich attack, http://leftunity.org/the-woolwich-attack/

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.

Revolutionary Internationalist League’s 1995 Critique of Workers Power: The Roots of Degeneration

One general feature has become steadily more pronounced however, the adaptation to the feeling among sections of liberal western opinion that ‘our’ governments must ’do something’ – a sentiment that plays directly into the hands of imperialism. So now we have the ludicrous position of the LRCI [forerunner of Workers Power/ LFI] trying to sound revolutionary, and calling for the UN and NATO out of the Balkans and condemning the bombing, while at the same time demanding that ‘our’ government sends arms to the Bosnian forces and opens the borders to Islamic ‘volunteers‘ going to fight with them. In other words Workers Power does not want the imperialists to fight in the Balkans; they just want them to get their clients and proxies to do the fighting![Much like their apraisal of Lybia today]

Preface
The Revolutionary Internationalist League was formed in November 1984 as the British section of the International Trotskyist Committee, the renamed Trotskyist International Liaison Committee (TILC). Its origins lay in the Workers Internationalist League, (WIL) which was founded in 1983 by a Faction of the Workers Socialist League. The WIL split a year later into several factions and dissolved. It was one of these factions that formed the Revolutionary Internationalist League.

The VOAG doesn’t necessarily endorse all the positions of the RIL and doesn’t know the differences between these groups. What is of interest to the VOAG is the RIL’s 1995 critique of Workers Power (re-published below), which the VOAG supports. The document is as relevant today as it was in 1995 and explores the roots of Workers Power’s present tragectory, recent splits, and current politics. I have to warn the reader that this is a rather long document, but should be of  great importance to members of Workers Power and any one interested in their politics. So grab a coffee, make yourself comfortable, it’ll be worth the effort.

Introduction – Who are Workers Power?
Workers Power in Britain is one of the many ‘left’ organisations that likes to call itself Trotskyist (Revolutionary Marxist). On paper, they like to appear as the ‘purest’ of Marxist, but like so much of the rest of Britain’s left they have gone through a steady process of political degeneration and opportunist adaptation. Increasingly they have become just another irrelevant sect, more interested in selling their paper than building any real struggles that can forge a new revolutionary vanguard and party.

They have built up an ‘international’ in much the same way as British groups like Militant, and their own former ancestors, the SWP: Instead of developing a genuine democratic internationalist party, they have set up ’satellite’ sections who must follow the line of the British leaders. They call this the ‘League for a Revolutionary Communist International (LRCI), but as we shall see in this document the LRCI is no more than the extension of Workers Power in Britain. [Since this document was published the LRCI has been renamed the LFI, League for the Fifth International.]

Over the past few years and in particular since the collapse of the Stalinist regimes in Eastern Europe in the early 1990s, Workers Power has rapidly speeded up its process of political degeneration and decay. It has come out with more and more rotten positions, it has developed an undemocratic and unhealthy internal regime and it has made a complete mess of just about every major area of practical work it has engaged in. Today, Workers Power holds out no hope of winning militant workers and youth to its organisation, it has become part of the British left’s living dead.

Worker’s Power’s Centrist Method
In essence Workers Power’s centrist method can be reduced to a sectarianism towards the working class and youth, which characterises its passive propagandistic, arrogant and literalist approach to class struggle. Increasingly, Workers Power has been further characterised by a total capitulation to bourgeois democracy, and middleclass public opinion. This adaptation to middle class public opinion has reached its peak in regards to the pro-imperialist policy Workers Power advance in relation to the war in Yugoslavia. But it goes back to their fears of raising the demand ‘victory to Iraq’ during the Gulf war and their constant refusal to defend the gains of the October workers revolution in the former Soviet Union from capitalist restorationism and counter revolution, which cloaks itself in the hypocritical gown of western ‘bourgeois democracy’.

The present leadership of Workers Power and the LRCI has for years been advancing the policy that it is correct to fight for bourgeois democracy within degenerated workers states. This shows a remarkable ignorance of class rule in capitalism, an ignorance all too often shared by groups like the USFI and Matgamna’s Socialist Organiser, who are desperate to prove to the middle classes that socialists are more in favour of bourgeois democracy than the bourgeoisie.

Since its first progressive period during the English Civil War and the French revolution, bourgeois democracy has always been the political system to which capitalist exploitation is best suited. It is about abstract ‘human rights’ that hide class power. Counter revolution within the workers’ states, whether healthy or degenerate, was always going to be best disguised in bottles marked ‘democratic rights’, especially when the so-called Communists are so eager to swallow the whole bottle without studying the ingredients. 

What is the relevance of Workers Power?
Workers Power is a perfect example of a sect. There might even be ten times as many members of Workers Power as are in the RIL, but when did they last lead a struggle, when did they last even organise a march? Increasingly, Workers Power hasn’t done anything. They can go to other peoples meetings and marches, criticise everyone else, and sell a few papers, and that to them is active political work. No wonder Workers Power has never tried to even talk to the working class youth, they know those youth wouldn’t be in the slightest bit interested in a group of people who treat revolution like an interesting schoolboy hobby.

Workers Power has become a sect; if it had the 9000 members the SWP boasts of it wouldn’t be any better. It has no perspective of winning or even leading anything. And not surprisingly the sect has become a clique (the term cult might imply something more exciting than the mundane existence of this increasingly irrelevant group). A clique of leaders and full timers who go back years with one another run the group and demand personal loyalty from all its members. Some of the material from the recent splits will make that so apparent we need not comment further.

So, you may ask, if Workers Power are increasingly so irrelevant why waste our time writing about them? The conservatism, routinist sect that Workers Power has become only serves as an example of how not to build a revolutionary organisation, how not to win workers and youth, how to abstain from struggle and criticise everyone else, how to turn revolution into its opposite – into a drinking club for left wing people who want a hobby and like to sound sanctimonious and a little bit intellectual.

Workers Power is not just Workers Power in Britain, it is the principal section of the League for a Revolutionary Communist International, which as an international organisation claiming to be Trotskyist has attracted small but important groups of revolutionaries in a number of countries. We believe the recent split of the Latin American sections from Workers Power, following closely on the split of the New Zealand section to be a decisive turning point for the LRCI. There is no longer any national section within the LRCI that can fight to reverse the degeneration. The regime will no longer allow for that, and most of the remaining members are too crushed and tied in terms of personal loyalty to do anything except leave.

We don’t gloat at this depressing spectacle, nor do we wish any harm to those comrades who have chosen to go down the road of degeneration. Frankly, we would be wasting our time to do either. Rather, we feel the recent split demands the drawing of a balance sheet, the learning of lessons – especially important to those youth getting involved in politics for the first time, and for those ex-members and ex-sections of Workers Power which must now ask themselves where to go next.

The recent splits in the LRCI – Austria
In spring 1995, the Austrian section of the LRCI, Arbeiter-lnnenstandpunkt split. In 1992 Arbeiter-Innenstandpunkt was the largest far left group in Austria, bigger than either the Militant or the Austrian RKL. Arbeiter-lnnenstandpunkt had won a number of youth who were quickly turned into sectarians.

The final straw in the degeneration for the Arbeiter-Innenstandpunkt group came when they joined a right-wing Serbian monarchist demonstration in Vienna. They shared the same platform with the apologists, monarchists and clerical counterrevolutionaries from the former Yugoslavia, and failed to utter a word of criticism of Serbian nationalism. The only Serb member of the LRCI did try to make some attack on the monarchists and was promptly beaten up by Serb nationalists.

Workers Power have refused to ever make any public or internal correction to this complete debacle. It is bad enough to make such a mistake but to go on defending it years later spells disaster. The Austrian group ceased to grow and conservative pessimism set in. Earlier this year, the LRCI held what appears as a ridiculous debate to anyone outside the sect. They had an almighty argument about whether the political period in the world was counter- revolutionary with revolutionary potentials, or whether it was revolutionary, within a counter- revolutionary situation.

Such nonsense denotes an organisation that has lost any grip of Marxist dialectics. The world political situation is extremely contradictory. The collapse of Stalinism and the rightward shift of social democracy has intensified both revolutionary and counter-revolutionary pressures. The world is a more unstable place. But to generalise that it is either revolutionary (which clearly it is not) or that it is counter-revolutionary (suggesting the complete victory of reaction and the impossibility of making any practical revolutionary developments in the immediate future) is a nonsense. It is a classic attempt to try and make an abstract schema fit a complicated and concrete world.

Workers Power in Britain decided the period was now revolutionary. This has more to do with their celebration of the collapse of Stalinism than anything that existed in the class struggle, or that they thought they could actually do anywhere. A section of Arbeiter-Innenstandpunkt, decided it was counter-revolutionary and that, in fact, there was nothing much that could be done except make propaganda. This ridiculous argument led to the first of this year’s splits. The result is that there are now two tiny sects in Austria both of which are in reality sterile passive propaganda groups.

New Zealand and Latin America
In September 1995, the ’Proletarian Faction’ in the New Zealand section split. This was followed in October by the departure of the Peruvian and Bolivian sections, the only two Latin American sections of the LRCI and their only groups in neo-colonial countries. The two splits have different origins and some important different positions. They also share a great deal of correct criticisms of Workers Power and the LRCI.

The points of agreement include opposition to Workers Power’s counter-revolutionary positions on the war in former Yugoslavia, where Workers Power have called on imperialists to give military support to the Bosnian state and supported the Bosnian army, whilst refusing to defend Serbs from NATO bombing.

They opposed Workers Power’s support for the counterrevolutionary government in Lithuania, and their call for the Thatcher government to provide military aid to the pro capitalist government there to use against Soviet forces. They opposed Workers Power’s ‘united front’ with Boris Yeltsin in the 1991 August coup in the USSR. Workers Power had demanded socialists take sides with one section of the old bureaucracy, the more openly pro-capitalist counter revolutionary and pro bourgeois democratic one, against another which was more anti-democratic but wanted a slower process of capitalist restoration.

Both opposed the insane line of the LRCI which stated that the Bolivian working class had suffered an historic defeat on the scale of the Paris Commune! They resisted this defeatism until the LRCI forced it to be finally published in Bolivia- on the eve of a one month general strike! They opposed Workers Power’s positions on Haiti and Rwanda where Workers Power rejected elementary Marxism in failing to distinguish imperialism, refusing to allow for the possibility of ever supporting the Haitian government against a US military invasion, and backing the British and US sponsored Tutsi RPF in Rwanda during the mutually genocidal civil war with Hutus.

They opposed Workers Power’s call for a ‘democratic’ Popular front with the far right Islamic fundamentalists against the reactionary regime in Algeria. Many of them had opposed Workers Power’s backsliding during the Gulf war between imperialism and Iraq. Workers Power quickly retreated from demanding the victory of the oppressed nation, Iraq, once the war was in full swing.

In all these conflicts, we are completely with the sections that have split from the LRCI, in so far as we have been able to study their positions. Many of these criticisms have been made by us for many years, and they are developed in this pamphlet. Workers Power did not tolerate this opposition and it is clear that the internal regime of the LRCI made it increasingly impossible to wage these struggles from within. Bureaucratic suspensions and expulsions combined with splits became inevitable.

In practical terms Workers Power’s centrist method has made it redundant. But the most important point leading to the split for us is not the struggle over Eastern Europe or Yugoslavia, centrally important though these questions are for Trotskyists, but the resistance to the attempts of the LRCI leadership to impose an analysis of the political situation in Bolivia which would rule out any intervention in the class struggle.

The episode is an example of Workers Power’s rotten method. According to the LRCI the Bolivian working class has, since 1986 suffered a strategic and historical defeat with the massive cutbacks in the mines and privatisation. Workers Power said this defeat was as deep as that of the French working class after the Paris Commune was smashed and drowned in blood in 1871. They equated a series of important defeats of a combative working class – which had not lost its combatively – to the world historical defeat of the World’s first attempt to establish a workers’ state.

The Bolivian comrades recognised that the workers had suffered serious defeats and setbacks, and that the bourgeoisie was on the offensive with further large-scale privatisations. But they knew that to accept the LRCI’s analysis would condemn them to a passive, propagandist existence in the face of a reality that was much more complicated and where the working class had not yet been crushed.

Despite heated protests against this new line dictated by Workers, the Bolivian section was finally forced to swallow it. Their resistance brought them up against the bureaucratic internal regime of the LRCI. They were told that they would be suspended from the LRCI if they did not print the ‘official’ line in their Bolivian paper. They printed the line earlier this year, just before the outbreak of the General Strike in Bolivia. Such an obviously foolish line must have made the Bolivian comrades look like clowns in their own class struggle.

The Latin American comrades clearly saw that the un-Marxist methods of the LRCI would destroy the possibilities of revolutionary work in their countries. And the internal regime was clearly making a fight against these methods impossible. The leadership tried to suspend José Ville, a leading Bolivian comrade in London for receiving a fax asking him to join the New Zealand faction. Then they suspended him for trying to go to the International Executive Committee, of which he was an alternate member, and where he would have had the proxy vote of two absent full members from Latin America, and said that he would be expelled if he went to the meeting. He was threatened with discipline for doing almost anything.

Workers Power’s gutter response
In typical fashion, Workers Power has attempted to obscure the real political disagreements with a cocktail of slanders, misrepresentations, character assassinations, appeals to moral hysteria and assorted gutter rantings. When all else fails the Workers Power leaders resort to labelling all opponents as individualistic, undisciplined thieves against the workers movement!

Villa was an “unreformable” cult leader hostile to discipline, so Workers Power tell us. But the most important thing is to come: “in the shortest terms our attitude to Poder Obrero depends on whether they possess a shred of revolutionary morality. The Bolivian section has kept the money sent to them for an air fare and have not to date returned it, despite many requests to do so. Clearly it they do not – and we still hope that they will despite their spilt –  this would bring into the whole situation a question of their honesty and honour as revolutionaries”.

Once again, Workers Power seek to hide the political argument by whipping up a moral outrage for their version of revolutionary morality against a world of ‘thieves’ and ‘robbers‘. When Chris Brind split it was the computer, now it is an airline ticket. Any piece of tittle-tattle will do for the workers Power leaders to demand loyalty by creating an anti-political and hysterical atmosphere. In issuing such crap the Workers Power leaders display even more contempt for their own members than they do for Villa and those who have split. Because anyone who swallows all this in place of a political examination of the questions concerned must be a total wooden head.

The roots of the crisis
The LRCI’s recent series of splits is the result of the contradictions in its politics. These contradictions have festered because of its inconsistencies. Since the LRCI was built around, and has always been politically dominated by its largest section, Workers Power in Britain, the causes and history of its degeneration are fundamentally those of Workers Power.

Workers Power’s method has always been characterised by an `academic’, formalistic and essentially mechanical attitude to Marxist theory and programme. Now this method takes the form of conservative passivity in ‘practical’ work, and a literary output designed to provide a convoluted ‘Marxist’ cover for positions which are in fact an accommodation to the shifts of British liberal middle class opinion, principally with regard to developments in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.

The roots of the crisis lie in the incomplete and partial nature of Workers Power’s break with the politics and methods of Tony Cliff’s International Socialists (subsequently the SWP) in the 1970s, and of its movement towards Trotskyism. The group’s early struggles undoubtedly had a generally positive character, both against Cliff and subsequently against the rightward moves of Matgamna’s International Communist League which they were briefly part of before its Socialist Organiser phase. In the course of these struggles they turned increasingly to Trotskyist positions and made correct criticisms of the theories and practice of many of the groups claiming to be Trotskyist. However, they always tended to approach struggles on the basis of abstract propaganda, interventions and ultimatums, like their `take-it-or-leave-it’ fusion proposal to the Workers Revolutionary Parry after its expulsion of Gerry Healy in 1985.

The inconsistency in the break with Cliffism was clear in three main areas: its understanding of the theory of permanent revolution; its attitude to the Fourth International and the Trotskyist Transitional Programme, and its essentially economistic approach to the special oppression issues (racism, sexism and anti-lesbian anti-gay bigotry). The last six years have also shown that the dominant leadership only partially broke from a Cliffite view of the formerly Stalinist-ruled states.

Workers Power and Permanent Revolution
The limitations of workers Power’s understanding of permanent revolution was displayed by its support for the Tutsi-dominated and pro-imperialist, Ugandan-backed Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) during last year‘s civil war. It was necessary for Trotskyists to fight for integrated workers’ and peasants’ defence organisations, independent of both sides and giving support to neither. A further example, is Workers Power’s call for a ‘united front’ (in fact a popular front) in Algeria, against the regime‘s state of emergency and military repression, to include the reactionary, fundamentalist Islamic Salvation Front (FIS).

In neo-colonial countries it is essential to fight for a united front of the anti-imperialist forces of the working class and the peasants, the impoverished petit-bourgeoisie and the urban poor, fighting for their own interests against their own capitalists and landlords, Trotskyists have to fight for such united fronts, without which the revolutionary victory of the working class is impossible in the great majority of neo-colonial countries.

The leaders of Workers Power were incapable of making a clear, honest distinction between that vital, necessary line of struggle and the possibility of occasional, episodic blocs with the neo-colonial bourgeoisie, or sections of its forces, when they find themselves in temporary conflict with the imperialists. They are all ‘united fronts’ and all united fronts are they keep reminding us, just `tactics’ around immediate practical questions.

These ’theoreticians’ use such word—games to try and justify their confusion and the dangerously mistaken policies it has led to in the cases of Algeria and Rwanda arguing in favour of working class support for reactionary bourgeois forces which are not fighting imperialism but trying to control the masses.

In the way that opportunism and sectarianism are always opposite sides of the same coin, Workers Power’s failure to apply the method of permanent revolution comes out in a blind sectarian attitude to nationalist movements or struggles that are actually a focus for the struggles of the advanced workers and the fighting masses.

This has been particularly clear over questions of electoral support. An early example was the initial refusal of Workers Power and the Irish Workers Group to call for a vote to Sinn Fein in the north of Ireland elections in the early 80s, despite the importance of the Republican military struggle against British imperialism, let alone the clear indications of the strength of its base among the most oppressed and militant sections of the nationalist working class. Subsequently they changed their position, merely commenting that they had not realised that Sinn Fain would get so many votes, as though it was just the number of crosses on ballot papers!

Much more recently we have seen a similar example of this sectarianism in the South African elections though without any possible excuse that they did not know the ANC would get so many votes. Trotskyists have to fight to break the workers and the masses from the ANC. In the elections it was essential to fight for independent working class organisation and action, to expose the treachery of the ANC, and to call for the unions and mass organisations to build a Workers Party. But this fight had to be taken into the living experience of the masses, who saw a vote for the ANC as constituting themselves as a nation, voting for social change and defending ‘their’ elections against sabotage. That is why we understood that on that basis and as part of that strategy (and not for any other reasons) consistent Trotskyists had to be in favour of a vote for the ANC.

Not Workers Power though. They could not bring themselves to vote for the ANC. They can vote for any bunch of counterrevolutionary social democrats on the basis that they are a bourgeois workers party. But the ANC and Sinn Fern are not bourgeois workers’ parties. They are petit bourgeois or bourgeois nationalists and the ANC, moreover, is a popular front. That is how political arguments are settled by Workers Power: it is just a matter finding the right label. We are not quarrelling with the labels here, we are disagreeing with the LRCI’s un-Marxist method of settling questions of revolutionary strategy and tactics -put a movement in the right category and up pops the appropriate response. This is a sectarian method which ignores the real questions of the movement and consciousness of the masses, of the advanced sections of the working class and youth, of their relationships to the various organisations and leaders, and of finding the most effective and dynamic way to intervene in their struggles and change the consciousness of the advanced workers.

So in the South African elections the LRCI ended up calling for a vote for the Workers List Party, an electoral front for a small centrist sect which got less than 1% of the vote. Moreover they knew perfectly well that this group actually opposed fighting for the unions to form a Workers Party, and that their electoral adventure was part of their sabotage of the Committee for a Workers Party. But never mind – they were not nationalists and they were not a popular front!

In both cases the opportunism towards reactionary bourgeois forces and the sectarianism towards the masses, mechanical formulae have replaced Marxist analysis and revolutionary strategy. It is not surprising therefore, that the most important opposition to the dominant Workers Power leadership within the LRCI has come from its sections in neo-colonial countries.

Special oppression issues and the influence of economism on Workers Power
More than anywhere else, the continuing influence of Cliffite economism on Workers Power is shown in its analysis and policy on special oppression which it rather oddly prefers to call ‘social’ oppression (as though there are some sections of the working class and the masses who are not oppressed in class society!).

It has failed to develop a real Marxist analysis of the relationship between class exploitation and special oppression, which understands the roots of special oppression in the development of class society, the ways in which oppression on the basis of race, sex and sexual orientation is not directly reducible to class exploitation and the essential role of all these forms of oppression in maintaining class society.

The highpoint of Workers Power’s lesbian and gay work, and its final limit, was without doubt the Trade Unionists against Section 28 campaign in the late 1980s. Workers Power comrades were right to take a stand against Section 28, the most serious institutional attempt by the state to attack the gains of the lesbian and gay movement. The problem was that they limited this to a narrow trade union, workplace perspective. They called for non-cooperation by council unions, and for strike action to defend any workers who were discriminated against on grounds of sexual orientation.

At the Trade Unionists against Section 28 conferences others argued that the biggest affect of the Section 28 would be in whipping up a reactionary anti-lesbian anti-gay climate, which would lead to an increase in physical attacks (this is exactly what happened, in fact).  And proposed a motion calling for labour movement organisations to maintain and defend any lesbian gay facilities threatened with closure as a result of Section 28, and to organise the physical defence of lesbian gay centres, clubs, bars etc. from anti lesbian/anti gay attacks.

The other side of the economistic outlook which lay behind that decision was demonstrated at the founding conference of the All-Britain Anti-Poll Tax Federation in November 1989. Delegates moved a motion stressing the importance of drawing the most oppressed sections of society into a truly integrated movement to smash the poll tax. The motion made it clear that this would be impossible without a fight against the influence of racism, sexism and homophobia in the movement, and that therefore racist, sexist and anti-lesbian anti-gay activity was incompatible with membership of the anti poll tax movement. Those words were chosen with care, because this was not a motion to automatically exclude anyone with backward ideas from the fight against the poll tax, which is how Workers Power misrepresented it when the opposed the motion.

The reverse side of this method is Workers Power’s repeated refusal to challenge the limited democratic politics of the petit bourgeois leaders of the lesbian gay movement. A national demonstration against Clause 25, a measure designed to restrict lesbian and gay adoption rights was called for February 1991. By the time of the demonstration, of course, the imperialist attack on Iraq was in full swing. Many took the view that the question of the war was of central importance for every struggle of the working class and the oppressed in Britain. and raised the slogan Victory to Iraq on the march. Workers Power members refused to join in the chant, but limited themselves to calls for ‘lesbian and gay rights’.

More recently, in antiracist and antifascist work, Workers Power has taken to using the slogan Support black self-defence. Of course this is something we have to support, as a basic civil right, and there are circumstances where we would be in favour of calling for it and organising it but it cannot be the programme that Trotskyists should fight for in general, because it leaves the black communities isolated and does nothing to mobilise integrated working class action. Yet when, two years ago, Workers Power put forward a programme for an attempt to set up a new London anti-fascist network, this was their only reference to organised defence. They opposed an amendment to change the demand to organise worker/community defence.

The developments of movements and struggles of the specially oppressed have been a significant feature of the period since the second world war, especially since the 1960s. These movements have by and large developed separately from the workers’ movements, and under the political domination of petit-bourgeois or bourgeois leaders, because of the unresolved crisis of working class leadership. Thus the ability to respond to these developments as revolutionary Marxists is a critical test of the political health of groups claiming to be Trotskyist. In this area, too, Workers Power’s break with its Cliffite background has been incomplete and it has imposed a confused half-way house of radical democratic and economist positions on the LRCI.

Workers Power’s practice; the united front
The key test of revolutionary organisations is what they do, not what they say. And it is in its practice in Britain, and most notably in its understanding, or rather misunderstanding, of the united front that its centrism and its general rightwards trajectory are most clear.

In the run up to the Iraq war, Workers Power argued that once war started, the position of the united front Hands Off the Middle East Committee should immediately be Victory for Iraq. Once the war started, however, Workers Power started to edge away from the priority given to that centrally important slogan. Workers Power  increasingly accommodated to waveres on the HOME committee.

This became increasingly pronounced in the latter stages of the war when talk of a split in the popular frontist Committee Against the War in the Gulf held out to Workers Power the prospect of a broader campaign in which they could join with the SWP. Then we started to hear the argument that the slogan is less important than getting some action.

Of course we would support and build concrete action, including united fronts on a lower level than the Victory to Iraq slogan, wherever that would advance the struggle – but that would mean that it could not be at the expense of or counterposed to the central anti-imperialist demand. But as so often with Workers Power the possibility of a limited united front becomes an alternative or a block to raising vitally important elements of a Trotskyist programme.

Workers Power opposed the HOME committee, putting out a leaflet on the 2nd March CND demonstration opposing a motion that the committee should be based on “Victory to Iraq” and then voted for “Stop the War – Cease Fire Now” as the basis for the committee (before the war the LRCI had described this as ‘A hopeless pacifist slogan’).

The war demonstrated what were to become increasingly common features of Workers Power’s practice – accommodation to left-liberal opinion, which of course is an expression of bourgeois ’public opinion’ – and a view of the united front, which puts a dubious pretence of ‘unity’ above the fight to win the most advanced workers and youth to revolutionary politics.

After the war this became clear again in antifascist work, principally in Anti-Fascist Action (AFA). With the growth of racist and fascist activity in the course of 1991, AFA could have been an important organising centre for antifascist defence. However it was dominated by Red Action, a small splinter-group from the SWP which has a totally rotten, squadist and substitutionist  approach to the political fight against fascism. It opposes building mass action as part of the fight against fascism and refuses to have any orientation to black and Asian youth under attack. It quite consciously states that its constituency is white working class youth. AFA was built on the basis of these politics and Workers Power did not challenge them and went along with their squadism. The argument was that this was a specific limited united front for the purpose of confronting the fascists. However it was built on a definite political perspective that excluded mass action and an orientation to the black communities, and its outlook was promoted in a regular magazine sold by Workers Power members. For Workers Power the united front had to be kept on the level of their allies.

It was clear that without an anti-racist perspective it is not possible to have an orientation to the black and Asian communities, or to build an integrated movement, or to combat fascism ideologically, or to build mass working class action. Red Actions ‘orientation’ to the white working class (which, of course, meant that they never won any white workers or youth) was an absolute obstacle to building an effective anti-fascist movement.

The story of the Workers Power involvement in AFA indicates many of its basic political problems ~ its opportunist and limited view of the united front tactic, its inability to understand the importance and relevance of the struggle against special oppression, and its leaders’ arrogant refusal to give an honest account of political mistakes.

 Workers Power and the transitional programme
Revising the fundamental starting point of Trotsky’s Fourth International, the Transitional Programme, Workers Power challenge the notion that the crisis of humanity can be reduced to the crisis of proletarian leadership. The LRCI’s Trotskyist Manifesto boldly declares:

“However today it would be wrong simply to repeat that all contemporary crises are ‘reduced to a crisis of leadership’’. The proletariat world-wide does not yet face the stark alternative of either taking power or seeing the destruction of all its past gains. Nevertheless, in many countries and, indeed, whole continents, the crisis of leadership does reach such a level of acuteness”.

This shows a fundamental misunderstanding of Trotskyism. They are saying that the crisis of leadership can only be central in revolutionary type situations. But what factors push society from nonrevolutionary to revolutionary and from revolutionary to counter-revolutionary situations? And what factors are responsible for the low levels of class struggle and political activity by the working class in nonrevolutionary periods. The question of leadership is fundamental to this. The central factor remains the crisis of proletarian leadership.

Trotsky never meant that only the crisis of leadership was important and when that was resolved all other factors would automatically fall into place. Such an approach, like Workers Power’s revision of Trotsky, shows an abandonment of dialectics and a refusal to understand the dynamics of struggle. The working class defeats suffered in recent years, the disorientation of workers’ organisations, the political demoralisation and disinterest on the part of some workers. all of these things are fundamentally caused by the crisis of leadership. The impact of defeats can reinforce that crisis, as the relationship between the class and its leadership is a dialectical and dynamic one.

However the essential point in this relationship is the crisis of proletarian leadership: the epoch we live in makes conditions for socialism ripe. The misleadership of the workers and oppressed movements is capitalism’s last salvage. The fundamental task of Trotskyists remains the resolution of the leadership crisis. To misunderstand this is to misunderstand the central basis for the creation of the Fourth International. The LRCI’s position on the crisis of leadership would suggest that the struggle for an international Trotskyist vanguard party is no longer of prime importance rather we should join up with reformist, Stalinist and centrist leaderships to ‘help’ the workers regain their combatively so that in future the crisis of leadership could once again be central!

Along with this revisionism Workers Power have a centrist approach to transitional demands. On paper they can raise many correct demands, but when faced with practice they backslide. This is shown in the example we have referred to before. Workers Power’s refusal to raise the demand of worker/community defence preferring all kinds of other more liberal sounding demands instead, such as ‘support black self-defence’ or ‘self-defence is no offence”.

The difference between these two approaches helps us understand the real practical importance of the transitional method. Because of the high level of organised racist attacks and murders on the black and Asian communities in parts of Britain, many youth have automatically been forced to organise some spontaneous level of ‘self-defence’. The demand for worker/community defence was able to intercept with the most militant vanguard sections – in this case the youth under attack – and take them forward instead of just giving them a slogan they already organised around. This demand posed the question of a political fight within the working class for active organisation against racist violence and fascist activity. It raised the fundamental question of who controls the streets, estates, schools, colleges or workplaces: The black and white working class, united in a struggle against racism and fascism, or the racist state which protects the fascist and racist gangs.

The slogan of worker/community defence is conceived from the standpoint of taking a struggle further, developing it into a greater struggle, broadening the involvement of sections of the working class and youth. lt is an immediately relevant concrete demand as well as one which ultimately leads to struggles that threaten capitalist power itself. It is a transitional demand the RIL has been able to organise mass mobilisations around, in Shadwell for instance on a scale Workers Power has never done.

The demand for ’self-defence’ on the other hand takes nothing forward. Of course we must support those who are defending themselves. But our task cannot be to simply support struggles as they spontaneously develop but to take them forward, to offer them a programme that raises the political level and broadens the struggle against the capitalist system, in other words to lead the struggles with transitional demands.

This is the difference between the transitional method, and the all too common understanding of it by centrists from militant to Socialist Outlook. We use transitional demands as immediately relevant ways of developing, broadening and raising the political level of struggles today. They see them as making a struggle slightly more ‘left-wing’, of demanding something capitalism cannot support, of making propaganda.

Whatever the abstract correctness of Workers Powers propaganda, when faced with sharp struggle, in the community campaign that drove the BNP off the streets in Brick Lane or in organising around racist attacks, Workers Power has constantly sided with the centrists and opposed transitional demands that could take the struggles forward.

The same is true about the worker/community tribunal following the police murder of Brian Douglas in South London this year. The aim of the tribunal was to go beyond the anger that many black youth and workers have towards the racist police, to challenge the illusions that somehow the state can achieve justice, and to create a movement that understands that only the working class and black communities can deal with racist police. Our whole conception was based on this, the struggle for a movement that wanted independent action against police and state murders as well as court cover ups.

Important sections of Lambeth Unison, the biggest trade union in Lambeth, organised such a public tribunal. Workers Power turned up and tried to close the tribunal down, stating that what was needed was an inquiry with a panel of ‘important figures in the black community’ that had established reputations in the eyes of black people (MPs etc.) to head the inquiry. This panel would pass verdict on the police, not the community itself. Workers Power said this might then convince more people that the police did murder Brian Douglas.

The problem was that we wanted to go beyond that, the overwhelming majority of black and white youth who had heard about it, knew the police were responsible for the murder. The question was what do we do about it. Our proposal for a tribunal was to aid the building of a movement that takes justice into its own hands. Workers Power’s craven opportunism was conceived from the standpoint of making attractive and acceptable propaganda. Workers Power’s proposals would have demobilised any struggle and given the bureaucrats the control back. We are not opposed to any number of liberal bourgeois inquiries, but to raise it in opposition to a workers/community tribunal, when that had already been established by the biggest trade union in the area, is the opposite of the transitional method. Unsurprisingly, all the rank-and-file workers from Lambeth voted down Workers Power’s right-wing proposal.

Electoral support and Workers Power’s conservatism – adaption to social democracy
The narrow understanding of the united front is reflected in a conservative application of the tactic of electoral support. We have already discussed an example of this in South Africa but the LRCI has made apparently opposite but in fact directly related mistakes in recent elections in Britain and France.

The only purpose of electoral support for the Labour Party, or any other bourgeois workers party, to break the most class conscious workers from reformism. (We know bourgeois workers parties once in power will always turn against the workers). Where sections of the working class are coming into political conflict with the reformist bureaucracy and are breaking from it electorally, Trotskyists should in general give critical support to those workers, and seek to develop such resistance.

On that basis the RIL called for a vote for all three Militant candidates in the last general election, because all of them clearly had a real base that was in conflict with the politics of the Labour leadership. And because of the importance of the anti-poll tax struggle which had brought millions of workers into conflict with the Labour politicians carrying out this Tory policy at local level, which Militant was campaigning against.

Workers Power only supported the two candidates who had previously been sitting Labour MPs and had been expelled by the party. For them having a base could only be measured formally in terms of Labour movement positions. They refused to support Tommy Sheridan the former chair of the All-Britain Anti-Poll Tax Federation in Glasgow, even though Glasgow had had the highest non-payment of the poll tax, and had mass mobilisations to stop court officers removing the goods of non-payers.

Not surprisingly Sheridan got a substantial vote – 19%. Workers Power could only ‘apologise’ that they did not have anybody in Glasgow! But they have not learned. Whereas the RIL has had a general policy of critical support for Militant candidates in local elections, Workers Power has refused to do the same, even though they normally get between 10% and 20% of the vote, and in some cases more, representing a significant section of the most class conscious workers who are voting for what they see as a militant alternative to the Labour bureaucrats.

In the French presidential elections earlier this year the LRCI stuck to the same policy of backing the main bourgeois workers’ party, in this case the Socialists of the outgoing president, Mitterrand. They refused to call for a vote for the candidate of Lutte Ouvrière, an organisation which presents itself as Trotskyist and has a significant working class membership, which regularly picks up hundreds of thousands of votes in elections. Of course, Lutte Ouvrière got 6% of the vote. A significant section of the working class rejecting the established social-democratic and Stalinist leaderships. In these cases Workers Power’s mechanical ideas of electoral support which led it to call for a vote for the irrelevant ‘Workers List’ candidates in South Africa, meant that they ignored the development, among the most class conscious workers, of a resistance to the betrayals of the reformists.

The LRCI and the crisis of Stalinism
More than anything else it is the development of the crisis of Stalinism since 1989 that has accelerated the LRCI’s general rightward movement, and brought the crisis of the LRCI to a head. At every critical turn of events in Eastern Europe the Workers Power/LRCI leadership has junked Trotskyism and taken increasingly revisionist positions.

The RIL has consistently argued for an independent, working class, political-revolutionary line against all the forces of capitalist restoration in the degenerated and deformed workers’ states, from the upheavals of 1999, through German reunification, the crises in the Baltic and the Caucasus, the August coup and the break-up of the Soviet Union, to the wars in the former Yugoslavia. At every stage we have had to fight and expose the dangerous, reactionary direction taken by the LRCI.

The conflicts over these positions have been the main focus of opposition inside the LRCI. “We regard the opposition to the leadership over the questions of Lithuania, the August coup, and the civil war in Bosnia as an attempt to defend Trotskyism within the LRCI and in general share the criticisms of the Latin American comrades and the New Zealand faction. These events have shown very clearly that Workers Power has not completely broken from a Cliffite view of the Soviet Union and the east European states, despite its rejection of Cliff’s state capitalist characterisation of their economic systems. On this area, more than on anything else, its politics reflects the pressures of middle class `liberal’ public opinion.

The first sign of these problems was clear back in 1989. WP’s political analysis of the upheavals that swept eastern Europe in 1989 was seriously flawed. These upheavals were generally negative from the point of view of working class interests. They were pro-bourgeois democratic movements, looking to ‘the west’ and testing out how far they could go against the bureaucracy in this direction under the changed conditions of Gorbachev’s accommodation with the imperialist powers. As they became bolder, more openly pro-capitalist forces came to the fore, replacing the more cautious bureaucratic reformists, but the overall direction of these mass movements was established from the beginning, and the working class hardly ever played any independent role.

The LRCI on the other hand saw the upheavals in a far more positive light, as originally moving towards a political revolutionary situation, despite the lack of evidence of any struggle by the working class for its own interests. Later the LRCI had to change its assessment of these movements but of course it was not a change of policy by the LRCI, it was the movements that had changed their character like the Iran-Iraq war previously! Quite how ‘political revolutionary’ developments in the working class had been reversed by pro-bourgeois movements they were never able to explain.

It was not that the LRCI leadership mistook a cross- class movement supporting bourgeois democracy, pushing for the restoration of a capitalist market economy, for a working class movement fighting for proletarian democracy against the privileged bureaucracy. The LRCI described these events as positive, political-revolutionary developments because the Workers Power leaders saw bourgeois democracy as progressive in the degenerated and deformed workers states.

The evolution of the LRCI’s positions over the subsequent five years bear out the accuracy of this judgement, and of our judgement that the roots of their crisis lie in their incomplete break with Cliffism. Indeed they are rapidly following down the path beaten by Socialist Organiser back to their ideological roots. 

The following year the tendency became clearer still as a result of German ‘reunification’, the capitalist takeover of East Germany and the developing crisis in the Baltic republics of the Soviet Union. The LRCI’s opposition to the process was notably ambiguous, declaring themselves against the “Undemocratic reunification’. The danger of slogans like this should be clear. Democracy is a form of state rule and cannot be neutral in class terms. This slogan left open the question of whose democracy, the bourgeoisie’s or the workers’? And of course reunification was ‘democratic’, in the bourgeois democratic sense; it was based on the results of bourgeois democratic elections in East Germany.

The capitulation to bourgeois democratic and bourgeois nationalist forces in eastern Europe   led to the LRCI taking an outright counterrevolutionary position with respect to the Baltic Republics. In the course of 1990 openly pro-capitalist nationalist movements had come to power in the three Baltic soviet republics, and in March 1990 the Lithuanian government declared its independence from the Soviet Union. In the context of the overall negative development of the crisis of Stalinism, without any significant independent movement of the working class, and because of the real history of national oppression by the Soviet bureaucracy, these movements did have broad popular support. They were nevertheless counter-revolutionary movements which were in effect the cutting edge of the accelerating movement towards the breakup of the Soviet Union by the forces of capitalist restoration.

That is why the RIL opposed supporting or defending these governments. We argued for a programme of independent working class action, with workers’ control of industry to defend collectivised property from the restorationists, and workers’ defence guards. We supported the right of workers to establish independent socialist republics of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, and argued for such republics to form a socialist federation of the Baltic. We did not call for Soviet troops to put down the Baltic regimes, and opposed the operations of the Soviet interior Ministry troops in the Baltic and their attack on the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, in January 1991. But socialists could not support the mobilisation against them by  the reactionary government of President Landsbergis, that could only mean supporting the liquidation of the working class into a pro-bourgeois movement as a preparation for capitalist restoration. This should have been clear as crystal to Trotskyists but it was inconceivable to the leaders of Workers’ Power.

In May 1990 Workers Power, under the headline “Hands off Lithuania”, argued that, socialists should “Demand that the British government recognises Lithuania and supplies goods if requested by Lithuania without conditions”.  They made it clear in the article that this absolutely included arms. So they had decided whose side they were on. They could only see a struggle between the forces of bourgeois democracy and the forces of the Stalinist bureaucracy, and in their view the former represented progress and had to be supported. If you did not make the same decision you were vilified and misrepresented as supporters of Stalinist repression.

Workers Power’s support for Yeltsin and counter-revolution in the former Soviet Union
After all this, it came as no big surprise when the LRCI capitulated to ‘democratic’ and imperialist pressures and backed the counter-revolutionary Yeltsin in the 1991 August coup in the former Soviet Union. The principled Trotskyist stand on this question was to see the refusal of the great mass of the Soviet working class to respond to calls for the defence of Yeltsin’s ‘democracy’ as essentially positive, though passive. The workers were certainly hostile to the coup, but did not see Yeltsin as offering any alternative that they were prepared to fight for. Trotskyists needed to turn this passive hostility to both wings of the restorationist bureaucracy into an active independent mobilisation of the working class.

Those groups in the Soviet Union who identified with Trotskyism should have called for workers’ councils to take control of the factories etc., organise a workers militia, begin a campaign of fraternisation with the soldiers to set up rank-and-file committees in the army, and prepare for a political revolution against both wings of the bureaucracy.

We opposed support for Yeltsin’s ineffective, and later rescinded, ‘general strike’ decree because this would subordinate the working class to the most open pro-bourgeois wing of the bureaucracy. We were against defending the Russian Parliament because this had nothing to do with democratic rights for workers. It was a bourgeois democratic institution which was a focus for capitalist restoration in a degenerated workers’ state.

Again, when it came down to it Workers Power were unable to fight for the independence of the working class, or see the connection between that and the defence of collectivised property. They could not think about the crisis in class terms at all. All they could see was a choice between bourgeois democracy and Stalinist repression. So in the words of one of their leading ‘theoreticians’, they “Stood arm-and-arm with Boris Yeltsin”. Of course, we can rest assured that it was Boris’s left arm Workers Power was linking with! And they would probably have held a red flag in their free hand too! They do have principles after all.

The Bosnian War
But it was over the long drawn-out civil wars in the former Yugoslavia – where the pressures of bourgeois opinion have been strongest – that the full extent of Workers Power’s retreat from Trotskyism has become apparent. The RIL has recognised that all the regional or ‘national’ capitalist-restorationist factions that have come to power in the republics of the former Yugoslav federation are trying to use ethnic divisions to carve out a base for themselves and establish their own privileged relationship with imperialism. The imperialists, in sofar as they have acted together, are trying to exercise control over the whole region by establishing a balance of power between these factions. For these reasons the RIL has refused to give support to any of the governments, or to take a defencist position in relation to any of them in the course of the wars between them.

We have argued that the only answer to their reactionary nationalism, is for integrated working class control of distribution; occupations of industries, and workers’ organisations in the different republics to build action against the war efforts of all the governments, and to take back the factories stolen by privatisation.

At different times Workers Power, too, has said many of these things, but they are flatly contradicted by the main line of Workers Power’s arguments, that has been for the defence of the pro-capitalist, pro- imperialist governments against its rivals. First it was for Croatia against Serbia, then for the Bosnian government against the Bosnian Serbs. Trotskyists support independent working class self-defence, but this is a far cry from the LRCI’s position of defend the Croatian or Bosnian governments.

One feature of WP’s positions has become steadily more pronounced: The adaptation to the liberal western opinion that ‘our’ governments must ’do something’- a sentiment that plays directly into the hands of imperialism. So now we have the ludicrous position of the LRCI trying to sound revolutionary, and calling for the UN and NATO out of the Balkans and condemning the bombing, while at the same time demanding that ‘our’ government sends arms to the Bosnian forces and opens the borders to Islamic ‘volunteers‘ going to fight with them. In other words Workers Power does not want the imperialists to fight in the Balkans; they just want them to get their clients and proxies to do the fighting! No wonder that this reactionary nonsense has blown the LRCI apart and exposed it as an unprincipled bloc.   
Revolutionary Internationalist League, 1995

May Day Greetings from the Liaison Committee for the Fourth International to The VOAG.

The Liaison Committee for the Fourth International sends its
warmest revolutionary greetings to The VOAG and the world’s working class, the poor and oppressed and in particular to its fighting vanguard- those most class-conscious elements- who have now begun to emerge on a global scale to fight its cause under the banner of the world revolution, so shamelessly abandoned by so many international groups claiming the name of Trotskyism.
 

Since the uprising on 15 February, 2011 in Benghazi, the ‘Libyan revolution’
has
been the touchstone for revolutionaries worldwide. The mass media
supplied us
with a great deal of lying propaganda, lies that the
majority of left groups
would have had no trouble exposing in an earlier period, as
with Iraq,
for example, but they did not try.

They did not find and expose the racism of the ‘rebels’, their lynchings and
summary executions of black people on the pretext they were all “Gaddafi’s
mercenaries from Chad”. They could not expose the CIA connections and obvious
pro-imperialism of the Transitional National Council, and even those who were
eventually forced to acknowledged this told us that there was a ‘real
revolution’ in the ranks of the ‘rebels’, pointing to the sole pathetic piece of
‘evidence’, the very sophisticated banner that opposed intervention with six
people around it, undoubtedly flown in from CIA headquarters in Langley,
Virginia to fool the gullible and those who wanted to be fooled.

Of course the LCFI recognises that Gaddafi was no
revolutionary socialist, he was a bourgeois nationalist who ruled with a
corrupt clique of capitalist backers, whose main aim was the preservation of
the privileges of that group. He assisted Imperialism by supplying weapons to
Southern Sudan to divide the country to enable the US to seize the oil
resources then controlled by China. In return Omar al-Bashir (whom Gaddafi
assisted to come to power in the 1986 coup) was the foremost backer of the
rebels in Benghazi, secretly supplying weapons and other assistance to overthrow
Gaddafi, totally consistent with the completely unprincipled character of the
national bourgeoisie.

Those on the ‘left’ who wish to assist in the overthrow of
Assad in Syria, (and they are generally the same culprits) can point to similar examples
of treachery, and the favours Assad and his father Hafez al-Assad performed
for Israel and the US in Lebanon, intervening to prevent the defeat of the Falangists
(Christian fascist forces), when the alliance between Lebanon’s leftists and
Palestinians were on the brink of victory during the Civil War in 1976.

As with the policy of the United Front of working class
parties, the LCFI champions the Anti-Imperialist United Front tactic as developed by
Lenin and the Comintern in its first four Congresses. Just because the
semi-colonial world is terrorised by a brutal dictator, it does not mean that they
are the main enemy of the world’s working class and oppressed. That epithet
belongs to Imperialism and global finance capital, and to it alone in all wars and
conflicts.

A defeat for Imperialism has always two great progressive
consequences. The strengthening of the class consciousness of the workers and poor
in the oppressed nation under Imperialist attack; and far more importantly in the
global balance of class forces, the dashing of illusions in the working class
of the imperialist country in their ‘own’ bourgeoisie, as the defeat of US Imperialism
in Vietnam showed.

As with the international class struggle, so with the national.
You cannot fight for Imperialism in its foreign wars whilst consistently
seeking its overthrow at home. Domestically, the first line of Trotsky’s
Transitional Programme, “The world political situation
as a whole is chiefly characterized by a historical crisis of the leadership of
the proletariat” is as true today as when written in 1938. Every refugee from the
fight to build the world party of socialist revolution must deny the truth of
that proposition. Every refugee from the class struggle blames the working
class for its lack of combativity and its inability to lead itself, and thereby defends
the class treachery of the trade union bureaucracy and their political
representatives in parliament.

Trotsky said the British Trades Union leaders were the “backbone of British
Imperialism”.
This is true of every national TU bureaucracy, from the British TUC
to COSATU in South Africa. Without for a single moment neglecting our
internationalist duties, our main task today in our own class struggle is to
fight and pose alternatives to these treacherous misleaders. The building of rank
and file movements in the trade unions, the placing of demands on all those who
claim leadership of the working class, the relentless exposing of the centrists
who defend the left Trade Union bureaucrats is our central task in the class struggle.

As the Transitional Programme says: “In the struggle for partial and transitional demands, the workers now more than ever before need mass organizations, principally trade unions. The powerful growth of trade unionism in France and the United States is the best refutation of the preachments of those ultra-left doctrinaires who have been teaching that trade unions have “outlived their usefulness.”

We therefore reject totally any suggestions that the trade
unions have become simple agents of the capitalist state; that Trotsky’s
Transitional Programme no longer applies in 2012, that we must seek to build
our own sect in isolation from the mass struggles of the working class.
We are as confident as ever that with a correct orientation to Imperialism
internationally,
and to the class struggle domestically based on irreconcilable
opposition to the TU bureaucracy, our small international current will

undoubtedly find the ear of the resurgent vanguard of the international working class.

·  Defeat World Imperialism, finance capital and its agents in Syria and in every war!
·  The Malvinas are part of Argentinean national territory, defeat British Imperialism!
·  No reliance on Bourgeois nationalist leaders, even of the left variety like Chavez!
·  Only the International Working class can defeat Global Imperialism!
·  Build the World Party of Socialist Revolution!
·  Forward to the Liaison Committee for the Fourth International! 
Liga Comunista—Brasil
Tendencia Militante Bolchevique—Argentina
Socialist Fight—Britain
1 May 2012

Theses on inter-imperialist rivalries

The VOAG’s comrades at Socialist Fight sent the following statement explaining their (correct) position on contemporary imperialism.  The VOAG feels that it deserves a wider audience, and therefore has taken the step of publishing it. For PDF back issues of Socialist Fight journal, scroll down and click the links to the right. For the latest Socialist Fight journal contact: Socialist _ Fight@yahoo.co.uk

Gerry Downing, 18 May 2012
1. The US is still the hegemonic imperialist world power.
2. Its overwhelming military superiority and the dollar as world trading currency make it the main enemy. The situation is not like that before WWI and WWII when there was no clear dominant world imperialist power.
3. That being said the position of Marxism on inter-imperialist wars remains, dual defeatism and civil war against our own bourgeoisie – the main enemy is at home!
4. Though declining the US still has the ability to make alliances and force compliances far more than other imperialist power blocks which are only half-formed – the EU or China/Russia with Germany balancing between both.
5. In this situation semi-colonial countries like Syria or Iran are perfectly entitled to seek aid from Germany, Russia and China in defence of their own sovereignty, although we acknowledge they are giving it in defence of their own imperialist interests.
6. Attempts by the US to splinter its rivals e.g. South Ossetia/Georgia, the Ukraine, Tibet and the World Uyghur Congress must be politically opposed.
7. There is a major difference between the finance capital-dominated economies of the US and GB and their allies (as seen in the UN vote to attack Libya) and the industrial capitalist economies of Germany, Russia and China who abstained in that vote.
8. However this conflict is not between finance capital and industrial capital or between neo-liberal laissez-faire capitalism and Keynesian, ‘big state, social democratic’ capitalism.  All capitalist production is dominated by finance capital; it is the method of extraction of the surplus from the wage-labour of the workers.
9. Rather it is a conflict between two forms of capitalist exploitation, the one in which fictitious capital and the dollar as world trading currency was able to extract value from the rest of the capitalist world and the other where advanced technology and in particular heavy industry in Germany benefiting from the low exchange value of the Euro was able to dominate in both Germany and China with Russia benefiting from both.
10. Therefore we cannot alter our Leninist appreciation of world Imperialism and the anti-Imperialist rivalries emerging as US Imperialism weakens relative to its rivals and which will produce WWIII but we must understand the differences behind the conflicts in formulating our own tactical approach to this crisis.The VOAG

What Is Centrism

Intro
This document was first published by the UK Workers Power /LFI group in its Trotskyist Discussion Bulletin, No1, 1986. http://www.fifthinternational.org/content/what-centrism.

In December 2011 – just three months prior to more than half of the membership walking out – the Central Committee sent a copy to all its members.

The cover said: “Recent discussions have raised the issue of what we in Workers Power and the L5I understand by the term centrism. A good starting point is our article What is Centrism? from the 1980s. This was written during the debates that followed the collapse of the Workers Revolutionary party in Britain in 1985”.

The essay reproduced below is indeed a good starting point to understanding the term centrism; however the article is an ironic warning of the dangers of formalism. The VOAG has little argument with the essay formally, however can’t help thinking that the essay’s criticisms and characterisation of centrism are the same criticisms and characterisation that the VOAG directs at Workers Power themselves. Thus the essay is not just a summary on centrism, but also reads like a self criticism of Workers Power and its own centrism.

 What’s absolutely unjustifiable is attributing the label “centrism” to the methods and approaches of the Workers Revolutionary Party prior to its split in 1985/86 . The WRP may have had its flaws, but it certainly wasn’t centrist. Indeed, it was the only British post-war Trotskyist group that was not centrist.  Workers Power throws the phrase around at its political rivals

What Is Centrism?
“One may state it as a general rule that antipathy toward the concept centrism, and toward all further subdivisions of centrism is typical of tendencies that are either centrist themselves or have not yet finally freed themselves from their intellectual amorphousness”. Trotsky Writings 1933/34 p169 [See what I mean when I say this essay will read like a Workers Power self criticism!]

Two attempts have been made so far to draw up a political balance sheet of the Workers Revolutionary Party’s degeneration. Despite the sharp disagreements of Hunter and Banda over the history of the Fourth International, one thing unites them: an “antipathy toward the concept centrism”.

This is not unique on the British left. Whilst the word “sectarianism” is generally bandied about as an insult, the term “centrism” is seldom heard. Militant, for example, refer to all their political opponents as tithe sects”, The SWP in turn characterises Militant as “revolutionaries with centrist tendencies”. The RCP refer to us all as the “radical left”,

In recent years the WRP itself worked with only two political categories: “dialectical materialist” and “police agent”. [Unfortunately, although this essay is a useful discussion of centrism, it is somewhat marred by such sectarian slanders so common in the Workers Power tradition. We just have to ignore them]

Before this, the International Committee characterised its rival the USFI as “Pabloite revisionist”. The Thornett group and its former international affiliates were similarly unwilling to call degenerate Trotskyism “centrism” unless of course it was “centrism with special features”. (GBL Theses on the Crisis of the Fourth International, 1979)

For us, on the other hand, an understanding of the Fourth International’s history, and of the fragments which today clutter the ground between reformism and revolutionary communism is impossible without understanding centrism and its different subcategories.

Can We Define Centrism?
Trotsky’s writings on centrism in the mid 30’s contain the most developed understanding of centrism, its different features, stages of development and laws of motion. Yet, whilst Trotsky wrote in 1935; “the concept of centrism has a precise meaning in a Marxist dictionary” (Writings 35/36 p 153) he also warned repeatedly about the difficulty of positively defining centrism.

He wrote, for example, that centrism “is characterised to a much greater extent by what it lacks than by what it embraces” (Writings 33/34 p232) This is because “centrism”, like every Marxist concept, embraces a process. It is not a motionless category. Outside of metaphors, there is no “Marxist dictionary.” For this reason, Trotsky wrote, any general definition of centrism: “of necessity always has a conjunctural character.” Trotsky Writings 33/34 p233

We must however start with a provisional definition of centrism. For Workers Power centrism is a current which stands between reformism and revolutionary communism, often borrowing from both or vacillating between the two, or confining its revolutionism to theory and its reformism to practice. It is also essentially a transitional phenomenon, moving either towards or away from Marxism. Paradoxically, its transition can be swift or it can take the form of years of ossified, motionless centrism. Unlike reformism and Marxism centrism has no historic class basis, but it has, nevertheless material root in the class struggle itself.

We think the whole Fl collapsed into centrism between 1948 and ’51, and that the split of 1953 which formed the IC, was an incomplete break with centrism, [Actually, of course it was a complete break with the centrism of Michel Pablo and the Forth International]. Unlike Banda, who says the IC “fought Pabloism with Pabloism” we prefer the more scientific formula: they fought centrism with a different kind of centrism. We have explained this in detail elsewhere. The task of this document is to develop an understanding of centrism, by looking at the historical development of the concept itself,

As Trotsky wrote in 1940: “Dialectical thinking gives to concepts by means of closer approximations, corrections concretisation, a richness of content and flexibility.” Trotsky In Defence of Marxism New Park p65

Whilst centrism entered the Marxist lexicon after 1914, it was explained with the greatest “richness of content and flexibility” by Trotsky in the 1930s. The degeneration of two internationals was the material premise for this. The degeneration of yet another, Trotsky’s Fourth International calls for even more “dialectical thinking” on the subject of centrism. We can rise to this task only if we reconquer the gains of understanding embodied in the writings of Lenin and Trotsky on centrism.

The Second International
The concept centrism was first developed in relation to the Marxist “centre” of the Socialist International after 1914. From the end of the 19th Century the main conflict in the Second International was that between “orthodoxy” and ‘revisionism”. Bernstein, the chief revisionist attacked the Marxist goal of a revolutionary transition to socialism. He argued that capitalism had become more stable, and that the struggle for social reforms within capitalism had to replace the Second International’s formal commitment to abolishing it.

Against Bernstein, “orthodox” Marxism was defended by a number of writers, and most consistently by Karl Kautsky, the main theoretician of German Social Democracy, The problem was, however, that the Trade Union and ‘Parliamentary right wing of the Second International was perfectly willing to stand by “orthodox’ Marxism in theory, whilst being thoroughly reformist in practice.

Trotsky wrote of Kautsky’s orthodoxy: “Kautsky untiringly defended the revolutionary essence of Marx and Engels’ doctrine, although the initiative in repelling revisionist sallies was often taken by the more derisive elements (Luxemburg, Plekhanov, Parvus). In the political arena, however, Kautsky made total peace with the Social Democracy in the form it had acquired, never commenting on its profoundly opportunist nature and, never responding to the efforts to make the party’s tactics more resolute. As far as that went the party, i.e. the ruling bureaucracy also made peace with Kautsky’s theoretical radicalism.” Trotsky, Portraits Political and Personal (1922) p31

The nature of the right wing’s commitment to orthodox Marxism was summed up in the famous comment of Ignaz Auor to Bernstein: “My dear Edo the sort of thing you ask for is not done by passing a resolution; one does not say it, one does it.” H Grob, History of German Labour Movement p 82

Prior to the outbreak of the First World War the weakness of the “Kautskyite centre” was that it  was able to defend orthodoxy, but not apply it consistently in practice. The emergence of Imperialism, the threat of war, the appearance of revolutionary crises, all demanded that revolutionary Marxism develop a new kind of programme different to the Maximum and Minimum programme of Social Democracy, and a new kind of party, based on class combat and with disciplined organisation, as opposed to the electoral broad church of the Socialist Parties.

Marxism developed these new tools partially, separately and in a one sided way before 1914, often with the “centre” taking a more or less correct position in the debates. However when war broke out in August 1914 the whole of the “centre” sided with the social chauvinists. Under pressure from the left and the right the Kautskyite “centre” vacillated between the two. At the anti war conferences of the left in Zimmerwald and Kienthal, the centre sought to reconcile the left with the old reformist bureaucracy. Clearly the concepts “orthodox” and “revisionist” were no longer adequate to describe the conflicting political tendencies, or to understand the betrayal of the centre.

The war drew a balance of the leaders of the Second International. It required the Marxist left to evolve a new characterisation of the Kautskyite centre. This characterisation was put into place by Lenin alongside the other key elements of the communist programme for the Imperialist epoch, at the end of the war.

Writing in 1917 Lenin described three distinct tendencies within the labour movement: The social chauvinists, the revolutionary left and the “centre”. Referring to the third group, Lenin outlined the fundamental features of Kautskyite centrism:

“Historically and economically speaking they do not represent a separate stratum but are a transition from a past phase of the labour movement the phase between 1871 and 1914, which gave much that is valuable to the proletariat, particularly in the indispensable art of slow, sustained and systematic organisational work on a large and very large scale to a new phase. A phase that became objectively essential with the outbreak of the first imperialist world war, which inaugurated the era of social revolution.” Lenin, Tasks of the Proletariat In Our Revolution- September 1917. He continued: “The Kautskyans, the “centre” are revolutionaries in words and reformists in deeds, they are internationalists in words and accomplices of social chauvinists in deeds,” Lenin, ibid.

Two important points spring immediately from Lenin’s initial understanding of the concept centrism. First, he sees it as a transitional phenomenon, from one kind of politics to another. Secondly, he tries to explain its material roots in history and the class struggle. These two qualities, discovered in Kautskyanism by Lenin, were to form the basis of the later, more generalise concept of centrism.

It is important to note also, that in dealing with Kautsky and co, labelling them centrist, Lenin is not simply lumping them together with the social chauvinists. Neither is he insulting them, He describes their contribution as ‘valuable”, despite their inability to adapt Marxist orthodoxy to the new epoch. In the same way when we describe the Socialist Labour League, the precursor of the Workers Revolutionary Party as “centrist” we are not implying that it could not make correct and “valuable” criticisms of Pabloism, nor that its history of intervention in the class struggle should be “written off”.

What we are saying is that even at its point of origin, the concept centrism better describes the process of degeneration of Marxism toward reformism, a process that was to be repeated several times after Kautsky, than the labels “orthodox” and “revisionist” It does so because, in the 20th century, Marxism is not a series of truths and theories to be defended against bourgeois professors and systematically explained to the working class: it is a guide to revolutionary action. In our epoch working class leaders no longer stand or fall by their ability to read “Capital” to the masses, but by their programme. Centrism encompasses better than any other concept the process of programmatic degeneration which was a feature of Kautsky, and was to be a feature of the Stalinist Comintern and the post war Fourth International.

From 1917 to 1923
To describe the emergence of Kautskyite centrism is not to exhaust the subject of centrism and the Second International. Towards the end of the war a different kind of centrism emerged the centrism of the masses. Under pressure of defeat and extreme privations masses of workers in Europe were pushed away from their old social chauvinist political leaders in the direction of the newly founded Comintern. Often too, a section of the old leadership was likewise propelled leftward by the pressure of the newly radicalised mass.

Rather than fading away, as might be implied from Lenin’s original definition of centrism, centrism was renewed by the leftward surge of the workers. Centrist parties and centrist factions within parties now emerged. The Comintern leaders saw them correctly as both an expression of and an obstacle to the movement of large numbers of workers towards communism.

In combat with such forces, the Comintern developed the concept of centrism from a specific characterisation of Kautsky (one of the earliest centrist formations in this period was the SPD led by both Kautsky and Bernstein!) to a more general concept. In particular the Italian “maximalists” of Serrati and later the Frossard-Cachin tendency within the French Communist Party were characterised as centrists.

Summing up the period of the Comintern’s programmatic struggle with leftward moving centrism, Trotsky wrote, in March 1923: “After the war, an irresistible leftward movement set in amongst the working massed the genuine revolutionary section of the working class was unable in the space of a few months either to find or educate new leaders it must be recognised that during its initial years the Communist International had many sections headed by some leaders who were revolutionary but inexperienced and not firm enough; and by others who were semi revolutionary and eternally vacillating but possessing considerable authority and political aptitude… the qualitative sameness of the politics of Paul Levi, of Frossard and the rest shows that involved here are not at all peculiarities inherent in any specific situation which of course must be carefully taken into account – but a wholly internationalist tendency in the spirit of left centrism, which is prepared to adopt the external ritual of the Communist International, to swallow 21 and more conditions without a grimace, but all on the sole condition that everything go on exactly as before.” Trotsky, Balance Sheet of the completed period First 5 years of the Comintern, Vol 2 p33

With the crystallisation of a revolutionary communist programme and International, also came the crystallisation of “centrism” as a concept describing a whole series of tendencies with the same essential features. Like the centrism of Kautsky, the centrism of 1917 to 1923 also had its material roots in the transition of the masses from reform to revolution. As with Kautsky, this centrism was not dust derided and written off: over and above attempting to win the masses and their leaders away from. centrism, Trotsky recognised the “political aptitude’ of the leaders, as well as their political ineptness.

The defeat of the revolutionary wave after the First World War had the effect of stabilising the mass movement. Where organised centrist currents continued to exist separately from the Second or Third Internationals they did so by virtue of their marginalisation from mass pressure

However the defeat and stabilisation post 1923 also, in an indirect way provided the conditions for the emergence of yet another form of centrism: with different material roots to that of the Second International but exhibiting many of the same features. This form of centrism emerged from the Stalinist degeneration of the Communist International itself.

The Centrist Comintern 1923 1933
Even before 1923 the Comintern’s sections committed centrist errors. It is very important to understand the qualitative difference between these mistakes and the systematic centrism of the Comintern after 1923. As we saw above, it was necessary to incorporate leftward moving centrist elements into the early Comintern. Later, even before 1923, the Executive Committee of the Communist International itself presided over centrist vacillations, such as that of Zinoviev and Kun on the question of the “revolutionary offensive”, and the mistakes of Levi in Germany.

Despite this however, we describe the period of the first four congresses of the Comintern, from 1919 to 1923, as a healthy, revolutionary period. Why? Because in this period the Comintern was creating a revolutionary programme against which centrist errors could be judged, and a leadership capable of judging them. The revolutionary legacy of the early Comintern is thus embodied in the theses and resolutions of the first four congresses and in the work of the Comintern sections in this period.

After 1923 a qualitative break occurred. Starting with the German events of 1923 the Comintern leadership became seriously disoriented. Between 1924 and 1925 the Comintern endorsed ultra left, adventuristic “putsches” in Germany, Bulgaria and Estonia. At the same time it also developed bureaucratic and opportunist pacts with non proletarian forces (e.g. the foundation of the Peasant International). This right wing tendency increased and was consummated with the disastrous adaptation of the British CP to the TUC “lefts” in the 1926 General Strike, then in the liquidation of the Chinese CP in the Kuomintang, which led to the crushing of the Chinese Revolution in 1927.

Following this defeat, and the expulsion of the Trotskyist opposition, the Comintern, again veered left, inaugurating the Third Period”. This again combined strident ultra-leftism (where Social Democracy was equated with fascism and the United Front rejected) with accommodation to certain right wing and bourgeois democratic figures; in the case of Germany even to right wing national chauvinism.

The end result of the “Third Period” was the defeat of the German proletariat at the hands of Hitler, and the rise of fascism. This in turn provoked a new opportunist swing, i.e. the Comintern’s popular (or people’s front) line. First of all in France, then as a generalised tactic, the Comintern elaborated the Popular Front strategy. For Stalinism, the rise of fascism made necessary an alliance with so called democratic capitalist parties, and with capitalist countries where “democracy” held sway because this involved the conscious and open betrayal of the workers of the “democratic” countries such as the Stalin/Laval pact of 1935 which endorsed the ‘defence and security” of French Imperialism. The Popular Front policy signalled the end of the Comintern’s centrist period. Its evolution into a counter revolutionary, reformist international was complete, and its self liquidation in 1943 already inevitable.

The Trotskyists, who formed the only consistent opposition to the Comintern’s centrism, were able to pinpoint the material roots of this centrist evolution in the state and party bureaucracy of the Soviet Union. The 1936 theses on “The Evolution of The Comintern” outlined this understanding.

“The two methods adopted by the Comintern for handling the masses on the one hand, unprincipled, adaptation to existing circumstances and the bourgeois democratic and petty bourgeois reformist parties, and on the other the sudden unprepared appeals to the revolutionary instincts of the masses have their roots in the social position of the Soviet bureaucracy ( the Comintern bureaucracy being its obedient appendage). Owing to its social character, the Soviet bureaucracy inclines towards adapting itself to the privileged and exploiting sections of Soviet society (Kulaks, intellectual strata, labour aristocracy). However as soon as the development has reached a critical point, where these strata become so powerful socially that they threaten the bureaucracy’s position of political privilege, the latter saves itself only by an appeal to the masses…” The Evolution of the Comintern Documents of the Fourth International p 119-120 Pathfinder

For this reason Trotsky adopted the label “bureaucratic centrism” for the Comintern in the period 1923 1935. Although originating in the vacillating petty bourgeois interests of the Soviet bureaucracy, Comintern centrism exhibited all the classic features of previous centrist groupings. It vacillated between reformism and revolution, violently swung between ultra left and right opportunist errors, elevated Leninism into a rigid orthodoxy whilst departing from it at every turn. Like previous centrist formations however it also contained competent leaders, was able to make correct criticisms of reformism, syndicalism anarchism; it educated cadres in Marxism and provided thousands of heroic martyrs for the revolutionary cause.

As well as illustrating yet another type of centrism, the Comintern contains other valuable lessons. The tactics of the International Left Opposition toward the centrist Comintern passed through different stages, taking account of the qualitative phases within the Comintern’s centrist evolution.

Throughout all the defeats which the Communist International presided over, through all the left and right zigzags, and even despite their official expulsion in 1928, Trotsky and his followers remained loyal to the Comintern. They argued this was necessary as long as the possibility of reforming the Comintern existed. They argued that the existence of masses of subjectively revolutionary workers, particularly in Germany, within the Communist Parties, offered, under the pressure of those masses, the possibility of a return to the revolutionary programme elaborated in the first five years. Following the defeat of the German workers in 1933 Trotsky abandoned this perspective. Not simply because of the defeat itself, but because no section other than the International Left Opposition criticised the Comintern’s errors from a revolutionary standpoint. With the destruction of the KPD, the Comintern’s biggest section outside the USSR, it was not possible to regenerate the International from within. From July 1933 Trotsky argued for the creation of a new International.

It is important to understand here that Trotsky’s break with the Communist International did not come at the point it became centrist; neither did he declare for a new International because the Communist International had “crossed class lines” (it was not to do that until two years later in France) in the manner of the second International in 1914. The break occurred because the Comintern had proved itself incapable of being reformed from within. It was irredeemably centrist. This fact has important implications when we come to look at the Fourth International after the war.

1933 – 1938 Trotskyism Versus Centrism
The task of building the Fourth International was made especially difficult by the need to combat the various shades of centrism which now existed. On the one hand there remained the Comintern, on the other there were elements of the “right opposition” who had been expelled from the Communist International in the “Third Period” and who had, because they too were centrists, made some correct criticisms of the Comintern. As well after 1933 there occurred yet another mass movement of the Social Democratic workers towards the left, under the threat of fascism and during severe economic depression. This new turn created centrist formations within and on the fringes of the second International: the followers of Pivert in the French SFIO, a section of the British Independent Labour Party, A. J. Muste in the USA, etc.

Faced with such a panoply of centrism, Trotsky was driven to write in 1934: “For a revolutionary Marxist the struggle against reformism is now almost fully replaced by the struggle against centrism.” Trotsky, Writings 1933/34 p235

In the struggle against centrism of the mid 1930s Trotsky further concretized and developed the Marxist understanding of centrism. This mature conception, outlined in the writings of the period as well as in the day to day tactical relationship of the Movement for the Fourth International to various centrist groups, is extremely useful to us today.

In his article “Centrism and the Fourth International”, Trotsky outlined the general features of centrism as it existed in 1934. Despite the difficulties outlined before of precisely defining centrism, it is worth quoting this passage in full. It will strike a chord immediately with any critical observer of the British left, and of the SLL/WRP tradition in particular:

1. In the sphere of theory centrism is impressive and eclectic. It shelters itself as much as possible from obligations in the matter of theory and is inclined (in words) to give preference to “revolutionary practice” over theory; without understanding that only Marxist theory can give to practice a revolutionary direction.
2. In the sphere of ideology, centrism leads a parasitic existence: against revolutionary Marxists it repeats the old Menshevik arguments (those of Martov, Axelrod, and Plekhanov) generally without re valuing them: On the other hand it borrows its principle arguments against the “rights” from the Marxists, that is, above all, from the Bolshevik Leninists, suppressing, however, the point of the criticisms, subtracting the practical conclusions and so robbing criticism of all who object.
3. Centrism voluntarily proclaims its hostility to reformism but it is silent about centrism more than that it thinks the very idea of centrism “obscure”, “arbitrary”, etc.: In other words centrism dislikes being called centrism.
4. The centrist, never sure of his position and his methods, regards with detestation the revolutionary principle: State that which is; it inclines to substituting, in the place of political principles, personal combinations and petty organizational diplomacy.
5. The centrist always remains in spiritual dependence upon right groupings, is induced to court the goodwill of the most moderate, to keep silent about their opportunist faults and to regild their actions before the workers.
6. It is not a rare thing for the centrist to hide his own hybrid nature by calling out about the dangers of “sectarianism”; but by sectarianism he understands not a passivity of abstract propaganda (as is the way with the Bordigists) but the anxious care for principle, the clarity of position, political consistency, definiteness in organization.
7. Between the opportunist and the Marxist the centrist occupies a position which is, up to a certain point, analogous to that occupied by the petty bourgeoisie between the capitalist and the proletariat; he courts the approbation of the first and despises the second.
8. On the international field the centrist distinguishes himself, if not his blindness, at least by his short-sightedness. He does not understand that one cannot build in the present period a national revolutionary party save as part of an international party; in the choice of his international allies the centrist is even less particular then in his own country.
9. The centrist sees as outstanding in the policy of the Communist International only the “ultra left” deviation; the adventurism, the putchism, and is in absolute ignorance of the opportunist right zigzags. (Guomindang, Anglo-Russian Committee, pacifist foreign policy, anti-fascist bloc, etc.).
10. The centrist swears by the policy of the united front as he empties it of its revolutionary content and transforms it from a tactical method into a highest principle.
11. The centrist gladly appeals to pathetic moral lessons to hide his ideological emptiness, but he does not understand that revolutionary crisis can rest only on the ground of revolutionary doctrine and revolutionary policy.
12. Under the pressure of circumstances the eclectic centrist is capable of accepting even extreme conclusions but only to repudiate them later indeed. Recognizing the dictatorship of the proletariat he leaves plenty of room for opportunist interpreters: Proclaiming the need for a fourth international he works for the creation of the two and a half international.

Notwithstanding it’s latter day period of sectarian isolation who can fail to see all these lines in the SLL/WRP? Who either can fail to distinguish the character traits of the Thornett group, the Socialist Labour Group, or the Spartacists in Trotsky’s pen portrait of centrism. [Everyone one these points can be ascribed to Workers Power, and exposes the root cause for its recent split. However anyone who knows the history of the WRP can only fail to recognise it in this list of traits]. In addition to this general definition of centrism we also find Trotsky exploring, in the 30s, some of the “further subdivisions” of centrism which are also important for an understanding of today’s centrism:

a) Left And Right Centrism
Under the pressure of the masses some of the Social Democratic leaders were prepared to step out of their reformist garb and. put on the clothes of centrism. In his 1934 Manifesto “War and the Fourth International” Trotsky drew a distinction between “masked reformist or right centrists” and the “left centrists who are distinguished in turn by a great number of shadings.”

Trotsky exposed the right centrists (such as De Man) as wanting to drag in the defence of the fatherland “under the cover of a socialist plans”, whereas the Left centrists “arrive in words at the denunciation of the defence of the fatherland. But from this bare denunciation they do not draw the necessary practical conclusions.” (Writings 33/34 p311)

b) The Direction Of Centrist Formations
On top of the characterisation “left’ and “right”, Trotsky also carefully distinguished, between rightward and leftward moving centrism. This is crucial, since a concept which encompasses transition would be useless if it didn’t have a sub category which told us the direction of transition. As Trotsky wrote: “In front of each centrist group it is necessary to place an arrow indicating the direction of its development from right to left or from left to right.” Trotsky Writings.

In turn the ability to distinguish between leftward and rightward moving centrism dictated the tactics the Fourth International adopted towards the various groupings. For example Trotsky bitterly criticised the POUM of Spain which was the result of Nin and Andrade’s evolution away from Trotskyism and did not flinch from a split with Nin, and advocated the formation of an independent nucleus in Spain. Towards the American Workers Party of A. J. Muste however, a leftward moving organisation, the Trotskyists carried through a tactic of fusion. “We took a liberal and conciliatory attitude on the organisation questions, reserving our intransigence for the question of programme” wrote Cannon of the Communist League of America’s fusion with Muste. Cannon, History of American Trotskyism, p181.

c) The Centrism Of The Masses
Trotsky often contrasted the spontaneous and temporary centrism of the working class with the systematic centrism of the leaders and of small groups. He wrote in the war manifesto for example: “For the masses centrism is always only a short transition stage.” The consciousness of the working class evolves rapidly and under fire; its centrism, its uncertainties, are very quickly put to the test.

On the other hand, despite the fact that centrism is essentially a transitional phenomenon, it is possible for centrist tendencies to exist for prolonged periods, provided the class struggle doesn’t confront them with a decisive choice between revolution and counter-revolution; defeatism or chauvinism, etc.

As early as 1925 Trotsky had described this type of centrism, with regard to the British ILP: “The main feature of socialist centrism is its reticence, its mediocre half and half nature, it keeps going as long as it does not draw the ultimate conclusions and is not compelled, to answer the basic questions set before it point blank, … as a rule centrism is most typical of small organisations which precisely through their lack of influence absolve themselves from the need to provide a clear answer to all questions of politics and bear practical responsibility for this answer. Just such is the centrism of the Independent Labour party.” Trotsky, Where is Britain Going? p112

He returned to the subject of centrism again in 1935 in more general terms: “In our epoch there are to be found a good many circles in various countries that have acquired a Marxist programme, most often by borrowing it from the Bolsheviks, arid who then turned their ideological baggage into a greater or lesser degree of ossification.” Trotsky, Writing 35/36 p154

The concept of “ossified” centrism is important in our analysis of post-war Trotskyism. It is an apparent contradiction in terms: a transitory phenomenon frozen by objective circumstances in its process of transition. However, neither for us nor for Trotsky does this contradict the essential feature of centrism – i.e. that it is a process of change from reform to revolution or vice versa. Neither is such a phenomenon unknown elsewhere in Marxist theory: one immediately calls to mind the dictatorship of the proletariat as it exists today in the USSR: frozen, blocked in its transition to socialism.

Trotsky wrote of the Independent Labour Party, which had assumed office in the Labour government of 1924-5: “From the very moment that centrism became a political force it had to pass beyond the bounds of centrism, that is either draw revolutionary conclusions from its opposition to the Imperialist state or openly enter its service. The latter of course is what happened ” Trotsky, Where is Britain Going.

In this instance the ILP’s prolonged centrist existence came to a close when it assumed power. However, returning to the ILP which by 1932 had become again a. distinctly centrist current (it had split with the Labour Party) Trotsky wrote: “The bureau suffers the fate of all centrist organisations in times of acute class struggle; it is destroyed by the release of centrifugal forces within itself. History could not arrange a better demonstration of the correctness of our understanding of centrism,” Trotsky, Writings 35/36 p27 [This is exactly what happened to Workers Power in March 2012]

Unlike the masses’ centrism, which is always transitory, it is possible for small organisations to exist as centrist currents relatively ossified, stabilised by their isolation from the class struggle. However when decisive questions are posed in action such forces must complete their evolution either in the manner of 1923 (by crossing class lines) or in the manner of the 1930’s (when the ILP’s centrifugal forces propelled a section towards the Fourth International).

The Concept Of Centrism
We have reviewed at length the history of the concept centrism. So much has been lost or given away by the post-war epigones of Trotsky that such a review is absolutely necessary before we attempt to employ “centrism” as a tool to understand the degeneration of the Fourth International In this way we can make analogies and comparisons, but avoid the dangers of complacent” and “facile” comparison referred to by Mike Banda.

Let us sum up what we mean by centrism:
1) Centrism, is a political current in transition between reformism and revolutionary communism.
2) It can emerge from either Marxism or reformism and travel in either direction.
3) Insofar as it exists separately from these two currents, centrism borrows from and vacillates between both, always blinding an obstructing the political development of the working class.
4) Centrism cannot exist forever in this state, however where material circumstances absolve it from practical’ responsibility for its politics, centrism can exist in a prolonged “ossified” state
5) Centrism has no historic roots in either the bourgeois or proletarian classes.
6) It is necessary to understand the different phases, types, and directions of centrism in order to operate Marxist tactics towards it.

Now let us turn to the Fourth International after Trotsky’s death

The Fourth International From Trotskyism To Centrism
Mike Banda was correct to warn against facile analogies in his article “27 Reasons…”. How often have we heard the Mandelites whine, during yet another “unity” drive: “when did we commit our August 1914?” But we cannot abandon analogies and comparisons; only complacency.

The problem with Banda’s document, to date the most critical account of the post war Fourth International to emerge from the WRP, is that it fails to distinguish between the various stages of the Fourth Internationals degeneration. It is not much more than a list of crimes committed not only by the IC and IS, but also the post war Fourth International, the Fourth International after 1940, and in the case of Cannon, apparently as early as 1934/5. What is missing is precisely the concept centrism and an understanding of its different sub-species and phases.

We believe that the Fourth International in 1938 was the one and only revolutionary party. Whatever the mistakes made by the constituent groups of the Movement for the Fourth International, whatever mistakes made after 1938, and there were some during Trotsky’s lifetime, the Fourth International was a revolutionary organisation precisely in the same way as the early Comintern: by virtue of its programme and the existence of a leadership which embodied that programme, put it into practice, checked the errors and vacillations of its members against this programmatic criterion.

The outbreak of war disoriented the Fourth International as did the murder of Trotsky and some of his most capable followers by Stalinism and Fascism. Cannon committed centrist errors on the proletarian military policy, and the French and British sections mirrored each other in opportunist and sectarian application of the programme of revolutionary defeatism.

By 1944 however, at the International Conference the Fourth International was able to reorient itself on a revolutionary basis. It set about reconstructing an international leadership and intervening in the post war upsurge. In the maelstrom from 1938 to 1948 the Fourth International’s revolutionary programme was a beacon to the workers of the world. Whatever mistakes it made in this period it was fundamentally revolutionary.

After 1948 however, the Fourth Internationals again became disoriented. It had failed to revise its perspectives to take account of the post war political stabilisation of Stalinism and imperialism. As a result it saw in the Tito-Stalin split and the Cold war only a confirmation of the old perspective of imminent collapse, imminent revolution correct in 1938, but no longer accurate ten years and a world war, later.

Based on a perspective that saw first Tito and then Mao as “no longer Stalinist”, that saw the Yugoslav events as a slightly imperfect proletarian revolution, and that predicted the imminent War/Revolution, the Pablo leadership of the Fourth International revised the Marxist programme. The lack of time to build real Trotskyist parties, the necessity of long term deep entry into Stalinist and petty bourgeois movements, the  possibility of an epoch of “workers governments of workers parties” i.e. Tito style social overturns, all were enshrined in the Yugoslavia resolution of the Fourth Internationals 1951 Congress

Unlike the Comintern the Fourth International had never been in reality a mass organisation. Its strength lay in its programme alone. The utter negation of Trotskyism which it adopted, in 1951, and the fact that no tendency or section correctly criticised the Yugoslav Resolution, signalled the passing of the Fourth International decisively into its centrist phase. From then on it would have been necessary to form a faction, conduct an open fight for leadership and not to flinch from a split and the formation of a new international organisation.

It is undoubtedly correct to label Pabloism centrism, Whilst proclaiming allegiance to Bolshevik Leninism it accommodated voraciously, first to Stalinism and then to petty bourgeois nationalism. Whilst in possession of the banner of the Fourth International it also projected long term entry into the parties of the dissolved Comintern. It was, in conformity with Trotsky’s definition, “Amorphous and eclectic”, it “substituted for a principled policy, personal manoeuvring and petty organisational diplomacy”. It “remained silent on the opportunist sins” of Tito and Mao, and “covered up their actions before the workers”. In transforming the entry tactic and the workers government demand into strategic aims, Pabloism embodied to the letter Trotsky’s dictum: “A centrist readily swears by the policy of the united front, emptying it of its revolutionary content and. transforming it from a tactical method, into a supreme principle.”

If it is correct to call Pabloism centrism however, is it not true that the International committee split with that centrism in 1953? Yes it split with “Pabloism” but not with centrism. The IC never criticised the 1951 Congress resolutions which were the programmatic basis of “Pabloism” If Pabloism was “revisionist” then the “orthodoxy” of the “Open Letter” and “Under a stolen flag” was the orthodoxy of  Kautsky and Zinoviev. It covered up rank adaptation to Bevanism in Britain and to Social Democracy in France. The insult ‘liquidationist’ aimed at Pablo disguised the liquidation by Healy of British Trotskyism into the Labour left. And by 1964 the Socialist Labour League was working with a perspective every bit as catastrophist as that of Pablo’s 1951 prognosis.

The 1953 split, as we have said before, occurred simultaneously too early and too late. It occurred without a principled fight within the International, and was largely prompted, by the breakup of the international non aggression pact that substituted for democratic centralism in the Fourth International. On the other hand it occurred long after the critical resolution on Yugoslavia was passed at the 1951 Congress.

One objection to this analysis which often arises is the following: “if you are quick to abandon the Fourth International, to call for the formation of a new International after 1951, how do you explain its existence as a centrist current for over 35 years. Is not centrism only a transitory phenomenon?”

The answer to this has two sides, both completely in accord with Trotsky’s definition of centrism. We describe the fragments and splinters of the Fourth International as “ossified’ or “petrified” centrism, i.e. centrism which by virtue of its isolation from the masses can remain in limbo between reformism and communism. The possibility and precedent for such a development is outlined in Trotsky’s writings on the ILP, in both early 1920s and mid 30s, reviewed above. To the question, how can centrism become “stable” in such a way, we answer; in the same way as reformism and Stalinism after the war: on the basis of the most gigantic economic growth in world history under capitalism, and on the basis of the defeat of the revolutionary upsurge after 1944.

On the other hand, such centrism cannot remain stable forever. After two decades of relative stagnation the splits and disintegration suffered by the centrist currents in Britain in the heat of a new period of crisis testify to this. Under the pressure of key events it is possible for “ossified” centrism to dissolve in either direction. The example of the LSSP in Sri Lanka whose historic “August 1914” occurred in 1964 when they entered the bourgeois Bandaranaike government proves this.

The SLL/WRP As Centrism
We have outlined elsewhere our criticisms of the SLL/WRP. That it “made mistakes” is for us, not in dispute. The question still at issue however is: what was the character of those mistakes? The answer to this question is linked fundamentally with the question of the WRP’s future.

By trying to prove the SLL/WRP was centrist we are not implying that the whole history of the organisation must be written off; we are not attempting to deliver the WRP the ultimate insult; neither are we simply trying’ to “stick a label” on the WRP. Lenin and Trotsky’s understanding of centrism was able to encompass its positive as well as its negative elements. When the SLL/WRP criticised Pabloism, it built strikes and shop stewards organisations, defended Trotskyism against “state capitalist” theories, they were fighting a necessary fight; they were on the right side of the battle lines, but fighting with inadequate political weapons. That is why the fight against Pabloism evolved into a criminal slander campaign, that is why the fight against “liquidation” ended up with the assertion that no revolutionary party was needed in Libya etc. That is why the ATUA became a sterile and sectarian shell; that is why the SLL itself ended up with a form of state capitalist analysis of Cuba.

The alternatives to understanding centrism as the root of the WRP’s political crisis still not resolved decisively six months after the expulsion of Healy were demonstrated graphically in the original Banda/Hunter exchange. For Banda the Fourth International’s demise was the product of totally subjective factors; the inadequacy of the cadre, etc. Hunter was right to label this a “bad men” theory of history. For this, however, Hunter substituted a “bad circumstances” theory. “The Fourth International’s degeneration was seen as the inevitable result of adverse objective conditions. The boom, the isolation from the masses, the strength of Stalinism and reformism mean for Hunter that we made mistakes but we could have done it no other way”. Both positions are fundamentally one sided and undialectical. Both are fatalistic.

The concept centrism on the other hand is profoundly dialectical. It allows us to see the material roots of the past mistakes without endowing them with “objective” inevitability. It also allows us to characterise the stages of the Fourth International’s degeneration in a way not attempted by Banda. It allows us to understand when and how quantitative mistakes become qualitative centrism and how centrism itself, posed in practice with vital questions, must make another leap either back into the camp of the proletarian revolution or into the camp of its enemies.

The WRP, posed with such vital questions during the miners’ strike, entered into a period of political crisis still not ended. The key to projecting a revolutionary future for the WRP, for resolving positively its centrist period, lies in the re elaboration of a transitional programme for today’s class struggle. One of the most vital prerequisites for this is a scientific understanding of the WRP’s past as centrist.

Centrism is the concept which developed in the epoch of revolution, in the epoch of transitional programme. It developed to cope with the reality that a correct understanding of Marxist “orthodoxy”, of economic theory, even of the materialist dialectic was no guarantee of programmatic correctness. As a concept it developed historically, as we have outlined. It developed, like all human thought ‘post festum’ after the event. This incidentally explains why the charge that we call Lenin or Trotsky “centrist” before 1914 is completely unfounded. To measure the leaders of the past against programmatic yardstick which could only exist in the present would be completely anti-Marxist.

However with the post war Fourth International it is a different matter. In the case of Pablo; in the case of Cliff and Grant, Mandel and Cannon, in the case too of Healy, Banda, Hunter and co. [Bollocks] the “yardstick” already existed. It was the Transitional Programme and the whole history of Trotsky’s fight with Stalinism and reformism. The task we face is to re-erect it, re elaborate it for today. We cannot do this unless we understand how it was possible for these loaders to proclaim allegiance to that programme in words and systematically negate it in deeds. In this lies the burning importance of the concept centrism and its “further subdivisions” for the current debates in the WRP. [Or rather Workers Power]
The VOAG is watching - The VOAG is everywhere!!