Tag Archive: initiative


voice of anti-capitalismThe truth is out: money is just an IOU, and the banks are rolling in it

David Graeber, theguardian.com
Back in the 1930s, Henry Ford is supposed to have remarked that it was a good thing that most Americans didn’t know how banking really works, because if they did, “there’d be a revolution before tomorrow morning”.

Last week, something remarkable happened. The Bank of England let the cat out of the bag. In a paper called “Money Creation in the Modern Economy“, co-authored by three economists from the Bank’s Monetary Analysis Directorate, they stated outright that most common assumptions of how banking works are simply wrong, and that the kind of populist, heterodox positions more ordinarily associated with groups such as Occupy Wall Street are correct. In doing so, they have effectively thrown the entire theoretical basis for austerity out of the window.– moneyTo get a sense of how radical the Bank’s new position is, consider the conventional view, which continues to be the basis of all respectable debate on public policy. People put their money in banks. Banks then lend that money out at interest – either to consumers, or to entrepreneurs willing to invest it in some profitable enterprise. True, the fractional reserve system does allow banks to lend out considerably more than they hold in reserve, and true, if savings don’t suffice, private banks can seek to borrow more from the central bank.

The central bank can print as much money as it wishes. But it is also careful not to print too much. In fact, we are often told this is why independent central banks exist in the first place. If governments could print money themselves, they would surely put out too much of it, and the resulting inflation would throw the economy into chaos. Institutions such as the Bank of England or US Federal Reserve were created to carefully regulate the money supply to prevent inflation. This is why they are forbidden to directly fund the government, say, by buying treasury bonds, but instead fund private economic activity that the government merely taxes.

It’s this understanding that allows us to continue to talk about money as if it were a limited resource like bauxite or petroleum, to say “there’s just not enough money” to fund social programmes, to speak of the immorality of government debt or of public spending “crowding out” the private sector. What the Bank of England admitted this week is that none of this is really true. To quote from its own initial summary: “Rather than banks receiving deposits when households save and then lending them out, bank lending creates deposits” … “In normal times, the central bank does not fix the amount of money in circulation, nor is central bank money ‘multiplied up’ into more loans and deposits.”

In other words, everything we know is not just wrong – it’s backwards. When banks make loans, they create money. This is because money is really just an IOU. The role of the central bank is to preside over a legal order that effectively grants banks the exclusive right to create IOUs of a certain kind, ones that the government will recognise as legal tender by its willingness to accept them in payment of taxes. There’s really no limit on how much banks could create, provided they can find someone willing to borrow it. They will never get caught short, for the simple reason that borrowers do not, generally speaking, take the cash and put it under their mattresses; ultimately, any money a bank loans out will just end up back in some bank again. So for the banking system as a whole, every loan just becomes another deposit. What’s more, insofar as banks do need to acquire funds from the central bank, they can borrow as much as they like; all the latter really does is set the rate of interest, the cost of money, not its quantity. Since the beginning of the recession, the US and British central banks have reduced that cost to almost nothing. In fact, with “quantitative easing” they’ve been effectively pumping as much money as they can into the banks, without producing any inflationary effects.

What this means is that the real limit on the amount of money in circulation is not how much the central bank is willing to lend, but how much government, firms, and ordinary citizens, are willing to borrow. Government spending is the main driver in all this (and the paper does admit, if you read it carefully, that the central bank does fund the government after all). So there’s no question of public spending “crowding out” private investment. It’s exactly the opposite.

Why did the Bank of England suddenly admit all this? Well, one reason is because it’s obviously true. The Bank’s job is to actually run the system, and of late, the system has not been running especially well. It’s possible that it decided that maintaining the fantasy-land version of economics that has proved so convenient to the rich is simply a luxury it can no longer afford.

But politically, this is taking an enormous risk. Just consider what might happen if mortgage holders realised the money the bank lent them is not, really, the life savings of some thrifty pensioner, but something the bank just whisked into existence through its possession of a magic wand which we, the public, handed over to it.

Historically, the Bank of England has tended to be a bellwether, staking out seeming radical positions that ultimately become new orthodoxies. If that’s what’s happening here, we might soon be in a position to learn if Henry Ford was right.Enemy Is Profit

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How science is telling us all to revolt

Is our relentless quest for economic growth killing the planet? Climate scientists have seen the data – and they are coming to some incendiary conclusions.

Naomi Klein speaks to The VOAG (Well kind of)Irrigation

In December 2012, a pink-haired complex systems researcher named Brad Werner made his way through the throng of 24,000 earth and space scientists at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union, held annually in San Francisco. This year’s conference had some big-name participants, from Ed Stone of Nasa’s Voyager project, explaining a new milestone on the path to interstellar space, to the film-maker James Cameron, discussing his adventures in deep-sea submersibles.

But it was Werner’s own session that was attracting much of the buzz. It was titled “Is Earth F**ked?” (full title: “Is Earth F**ked? Dynamical Futility of Global Environmental Management and Possibilities for Sustainability via Direct Action Activism”).

Standing at the front of the conference room, the geophysicist from the University of California, San Diego walked the crowd through the advanced computer model he was using to answer that question. He talked about system boundaries, perturbations, dissipation, attractors, bifurcations and a whole bunch of other stuff largely incomprehensible to those of us uninitiated in complex systems theory. But the bottom line was clear enough: global capitalism has made the depletion of resources so rapid, convenient and barrier-free that “earth-human systems” are becoming dangerously unstable in response. When pressed by a journalist for a clear answer on the “are we f**ked” question, Werner set the jargon aside and replied, “More or less.”

There was one dynamic in the model, however, that offered some hope. Werner termed it “resistance” – movements of “people or groups of people” who “adopt a certain set of dynamics that does not fit within the capitalist culture”. According to the abstract for his presentation, this includes “environmental direct action, resistance taken from outside the dominant culture, as in protests, blockades and sabotage by indigenous peoples, workers, anarchists and other activist groups”.

Serious scientific gatherings don’t usually feature calls for mass political resistance, much less direct action and sabotage. But then again, Werner wasn’t exactly calling for those things. He was merely observing that mass uprisings of people – along the lines of the abolition movement, the civil rights movement or Occupy Wall Street – represent the likeliest source of “friction” to slow down an economic machine that is careening out of control. We know that past social movements have “had tremendous influence on . . . how the dominant culture evolved”, he pointed out. So it stands to reason that, “if we’re thinking about the future of the earth, and the future of our coupling to the environment, we have to include resistance as part of that dynamics”. And that, Werner argued, is not a matter of opinion, but “really a geophysics problem”.

Plenty of scientists have been moved by their research findings to take action in the streets. Physicists, astronomers, medical doctors and biologists have been at the forefront of movements against nuclear weapons, nuclear power, war, chemical contamination and creationism. And in November 2012, Nature published a commentary by the financier and environmental philanthropist Jeremy Grantham urging scientists to join this tradition and “be arrested if necessary”, because climate change “is not only the crisis of your lives – it is also the crisis of our species’ existence”.

Some scientists need no convincing. The godfather of modern climate science, James Hansen, is a formidable activist, having been arrested some half-dozen times for resisting mountain-top removal coal mining and tar sands pipelines (he even left his job at Nasa this year in part to have more time for campaigning). Two years ago, when I was arrested outside the White House at a mass action against the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, one of the 166 people in cuffs that day was a glaciologist named Jason Box, a world-renowned expert on Greenland’s melting ice sheet.

“I couldn’t maintain my self-respect if I didn’t go,” Box said at the time, adding that “just voting doesn’t seem to be enough in this case. I need to be a citizen also.”

This is laudable, but what Werner is doing with his modelling is different. He isn’t saying that his research drove him to take action to stop a particular policy; he is saying that his research shows that our entire economic paradigm is a threat to ecological stability. And indeed that challenging this economic paradigm – through mass-movement counter-pressure – is humanity’s best shot at avoiding catastrophe.

That’s heavy stuff. But he’s not alone. Werner is part of a small but increasingly influential group of scientists whose research into the destabilisation of natural systems – particularly the climate system – is leading them to similarly transformative, even revolutionary, conclusions. And for any closet revolutionary who has ever dreamed of overthrowing the present economic order in favour of one a little less likely to cause Italian pensioners to hang themselves in their homes, this work should be of particular interest. Because it makes the ditching of that cruel system in favour of something new (and perhaps, with lots of work, better) no longer a matter of mere ideological preference but rather one of species-wide existential necessity.

Leading the pack of these new scientific revolutionaries is one of Britain’s top climate experts, Kevin Anderson, the deputy director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, which has quickly established itself as one of the UK’s premier climate research institutions. Addressing everyone from the Department for International Development to Manchester City Council, Anderson has spent more than a decade patiently translating the implications of the latest climate science to politicians, economists and campaigners. In clear and understandable language, he lays out a rigorous road map for emissions reduction, one that provides a decent shot at keeping global temperature rise below 2° Celsius, a target that most governments have determined would stave off catastrophe.

But in recent years Anderson’s papers and slide shows have become more alarming. Under titles such as “Climate Change: Going Beyond Dangerous . . . Brutal Numbers and Tenuous Hope”, he points out that the chances of staying within anything like safe temperature levels are diminishing fast.

With his colleague Alice Bows, a climate mitigation expert at the Tyndall Centre, Anderson points out that we have lost so much time to political stalling and weak climate policies – all while global consumption (and emissions) ballooned – that we are now facing cuts so drastic that they challenge the fundamental logic of prioritising GDP growth above all else.

Anderson and Bows inform us that the often-cited long-term mitigation target – an 80 per cent emissions cut below 1990 levels by 2050 – has been selected purely for reasons of political expediency and has “no scientific basis”. That’s because climate impacts come not just from what we emit today and tomorrow, but from the cumulative emissions that build up in the atmosphere over time. And they warn that by focusing on targets three and a half decades into the future – rather than on what we can do to cut carbon sharply and immediately – there is a serious risk that we will allow our emissions to continue to soar for years to come, thereby blowing through far too much of our 2° “carbon budget” and putting ourselves in an impossible position later in the century.

Which is why Anderson and Bows argue that, if the governments of developed countries are serious about hitting the agreed upon international target of keeping warming below 2° Celsius, and if reductions are to respect any kind of equity principle (basically that the countries that have been spewing carbon for the better part of two centuries need to cut before the countries where more than a billion people still don’t have electricity), then the reductions need to be a lot deeper, and they need to come a lot sooner.

To have even a 50/50 chance of hitting the 2° target (which, they and many others warn, already involves facing an array of hugely damaging climate impacts), the industrialised countries need to start cutting their greenhouse-gas emissions by something like 10 per cent a year – and they need to start right now. But Anderson and Bows go further, pointing out that this target cannot be met with the array of modest carbon pricing or green-tech solutions usually advocated by big green groups. These measures will certainly help, to be sure, but they are simply not enough: a 10 per cent drop in emissions, year after year, is virtually unprecedented since we started powering our economies with coal. In fact, cuts above 1 per cent per year “have historically been associated only with economic recession or upheaval”, as the economist Nicholas Stern put it in his 2006 report for the British government.

Even after the Soviet Union collapsed, reductions of this duration and depth did not happen (the former Soviet countries experienced average annual reductions of roughly 5 per cent over a period of ten years). They did not happen after Wall Street crashed in 2008 (wealthy countries experienced about a 7 per cent drop between 2008 and 2009, but their CO2 emissions rebounded with gusto in 2010 and emissions in China and India had continued to rise). Only in the immediate aftermath of the great market crash of 1929 did the United States, for instance, see emissions drop for several consecutive years by more than 10 per cent annually, according to historical data from the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Centre. But that was the worst economic crisis of modern times.

If we are to avoid that kind of carnage while meeting our science-based emissions targets, carbon reduction must be managed carefully through what Anderson and Bows describe as “radical and immediate de-growth strategies in the US, EU and other wealthy nations”. Which is fine, except that we happen to have an economic system that fetishises GDP growth above all else, regardless of the human or ecological consequences, and in which the neoliberal political class has utterly abdicated its responsibility to manage anything (since the market is the invisible genius to which everything must be entrusted).

So what Anderson and Bows are really saying is that there is still time to avoid catastrophic warming, but not within the rules of capitalism as they are currently constructed. Which may be the best argument we have ever had for changing those rules.

In a 2012 essay that appeared in the influential scientific journal Nature Climate Change, Anderson and Bows laid down something of a gauntlet, accusing many of their fellow scientists of failing to come clean about the kind of changes that climate change demands of humanity. On this it is worth quoting the pair at length:

 . . . in developing emission scenarios scientists repeatedly and severely underplay the implications of their analyses. When it comes to avoiding a 2°C rise, “impossible” is translated into “difficult but doable”, whereas “urgent and radical” emerge as “challenging” – all to appease the god of economics (or, more precisely, finance). For example, to avoid exceeding the maximum rate of emission reduction dictated by economists, “impossibly” early peaks in emissions are assumed, together with naive notions about “big” engineering and the deployment rates of low-carbon infrastructure. More disturbingly, as emissions budgets dwindle, so geoengineering is increasingly proposed to ensure that the diktat of economists remains unquestioned.

In other words, in order to appear reasonable within neoliberal economic circles, scientists have been dramatically soft-peddling the implications of their research. By August 2013, Anderson was willing to be even more blunt, writing that the boat had sailed on gradual change. “Perhaps at the time of the 1992 Earth Summit, or even at the turn of the millennium, 2°C levels of mitigation could have been achieved through significant evolutionary changes within the political and economic hegemony. But climate change is a cumulative issue! Now, in 2013, we in high emitting industrial nations face a very different prospect. Our ongoing and collective carbon profligacy has squandered any opportunity for the ‘evolutionary change’ afforded by our earlier (and larger) 2°C carbon budget. Today, after two decades of bluff and lies, the remaining 2°C budget demands revolutionary change to the political and economic hegemony” (his emphasis).

We probably shouldn’t be surprised that some climate scientists are a little spooked by the radical implications of even their own research. Most of them were just quietly doing their work measuring ice cores, running global climate models and studying ocean acidification, only to discover, as the Australian climate expert and author Clive Hamilton puts it, that they “were unwittingly destabilising the political and social order”.

But there are many people who are well aware of the revolutionary nature of climate science. It’s why some of the governments that decided to chuck their climate commitments in favour of digging up more carbon have had to find ever more thuggish ways to silence and intimidate their nations’ scientists. In Britain, this strategy is becoming more overt, with Ian Boyd, the chief scientific adviser at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, writing recently that scientists should avoid “suggesting that policies are either right or wrong” and should express their views “by working with embedded advisers (such as myself), and by being the voice of reason, rather than dissent, in the public arena”.

If you want to know where this leads, check out what’s happening in Canada, where I live. The Conservative government of Stephen Harper has done such an effective job of gagging scientists and shutting down critical research projects that, in July 2012, a couple thousand scientists and supporters held a mock-funeral on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, mourning “the death of evidence”. Their placards said, “No Science, No Evidence, No Truth”.

But the truth is getting out anyway. The fact that the business-as-usual pursuit of profits and growth is destabilising life on earth is no longer something we need to read about in scientific journals. The early signs are unfolding before our eyes. And increasing numbers of us are responding accordingly: blockading fracking activity in Balcombe; interfering with Arctic drilling preparations in Russian waters (at tremendous personal cost); taking tar sands operators to court for violating indigenous sovereignty; and countless other acts of resistance large and small. In Brad Werner’s computer model, this is the “friction” needed to slow down the forces of destabilisation; the great climate campaigner Bill McKibben calls it the “antibodies” rising up to fight the planet’s “spiking fever”.The VOAG is everywhere

SF Logo2The Marxist theory of the state:
Deformed and Degenerated Workers’ States and Capitalist States

From Socialist Fight (British Section, Liaison Committee for the Fourth International) 
The post WWII debate in the Fourth International of the late 1940s and early 1950s on the class character of the ‘Buffer States’ in Eastern Europe was resurrected in 1989-92 with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the USSR following the Yanayev coup and Yeltsin’s counter-coup of August 1991. We will see from the struggles we have outlined below that the Stalinist bureaucracies became divided into three camps following the defeat of the Brezhnevites by Gorbachev in 1989; those Gorbechevites on the left who wished to retain the degenerate and deformed workers’ states by opening up the economic plan by glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring), those in the middle (Yanayev and Deng in China) who sought the restoration of capitalism by slow, planned measures, maintaining the Stalinist bureaucracy as the vehicle of restoration and those on the right like Yeltsin who sought a rapid capitulation to western Imperialism and their own enrichment by plundering the state assets in alliance with western transnational corporations. We can observe at least elements of these three tendencies in most of the counter-revolutionary overturns of 1989-92.

The first debate on the nature of the East European countries behind the ‘iron curtain’ in the FI in the late 1940s eventually resulted in the correct conclusion that they were deformed workers’ states, but much confusion remained. We will look at the position again as it emerged in the debate over the class character of Cuba in the early 1960s and the debate about the class character of Cambodia in the late 1970s following the invasion by Vietnam on 25 December 1978. And of course, as we have mentioned, the debate following the victory of the counter-revolutionary restoration of capitalism in Eastern European and Asian states in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Continue reading

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A Marxist Critique of
“A Scientific Critique of Unscientific Marxism”

A Marxist Critique of “A Scientific Critique of Unscientific Marxism”
Reply by Gerry Downing to Steve Ballard’s “A Scientific Critique of Unscientific Marxism”

Gerald Downing, Editor Socialist Fight.  2012
This short document is a synopsis of a much longer one by Steve. However in neither document does he use actual quotations from Marx and Engels. He makes assertions that they ‘recognised’ this, they ‘hypothesised’ they ‘elaborated’, etc. but makes no attempt to prove these assertions. Supplying an academic apparatus would make his “scientific critique” far more scientific. His original text is in bold in quotation marks and this is followed by my reply.

Steve Ballard writes: “Marx and Engels were the first to recognise how:- The essence of capitalism is a system oflaws, created by dynastic owners of surplus property, which ranks their self-aggrandisement above all other socialobligations, including the obligation to nurture all life, human and otherwise.”

The essence of capitalism is not a “system of laws” but, in common with all forms of class society, the private ownership of the means of production. Wealth is privately owned under capitalism but socially produced. The conflict this creates between capital and labour, the means of production and the social relations of production is the class struggle and according to the first sentence of the Communist Manifesto, “The history of all hitherto existing (class) society is the history of class struggles”

Already we are on the wrong idealist track, Capitalism rests not on a “system of laws” but on this objective relationship, independent of will and consciousness. We might  therefore acknowledge that whilst Marx and Engels regarded “historical processes as law-governed processes” these laws are derived from a study of the evolution of capitalism and are the laws of Historical Materialism.

It is the task of the revolutionary party to make this historical processes a conscious process, we must become the “conscious expression of the unconscious historical process” (Trotsky, My Life). “Marx determined that the concealed essence of capitalism could be found in its history, and that this essence and history were then preserved in disguise within its existing institutions and beliefs. History thus was the entry point for the study of capitalism. This is the materialist interpretation of history, based on the view that what gives history its meaning is material life, meaning economic forces. From this standpoint, Marx was studying classical political economy, but the method he selected is what married this study to Hegelian philosophy. The dialectical element, derived from Hegel, emerged from the realization that there is extreme tension caused by the unequal relations between the superior and inferior classes within society. The main driving force of historical change is thus seen to be the class struggle, and this is associated with a dialectical view because it reveals a contradiction located within all modes of production, a contradiction between the forces of production and the relations of production.”(Marx on Historical Change & Capitalism) http://www.lotsofessays.com/viewpaper/1702624.html)

We really do not know what “surplus property”, might be, the expression is found nowhere in Marx or Marxism and can only refer to a reformist notion that the rich have too much property and we should take some of it off them because they do not need it all. This is in line with the current thinking that if only we could retrieve the bankers’ bonuses and invest that all would be well with the capitalist economy. Such notions are pushed by the SWP and the World to Win in their LEAP stuff for John McDonald and the Labour Representation Committee. Feldman performed a like service for Ken Livingstone in his WRP days. There is, of course, “surplus value”, an entirely different concept which forms the bedrock of Marx’s study of Capital.

And really the notion that the owners of this supposed “surplus property” are very nasty  and irresponsible beasts which, “ranks their self-aggrandisement above all other social obligations” and could not give a hoot for their “obligation to nurture all life, human and otherwise” is simply another reformist moralist gripe about the nastiness of the ruling class. And anyway some of them do give a stuff; that nice Mr Gates gives away untold millions to help the poor, surely  he takes his “social obligations” seriously? Even if that is true that he does he is, of course, amongst the foremost defender of the system that starves a great proportion of humanity materially and whilst the world obviously has the capacity to feed, cloth, give proper healthcare, education, etc. to every individual on the planet. But that capitalism can never do, with the best will in the world.

But here we really need to go into some detail about the effects this private ownership of the means of production has on humanity in general; the details of how these social relations distorts and deforms the human psyche of the whole of humanity (including the capitalists) via the four forms of alienation analysed by Karl Marx’s in his Theory of Alienation:

(1)There is the alienation of the worker from the work s/he produces, from the product of his/her labour. The product’s design and the manner in which it is produced are determined not by its actual producers, nor even by those who consume the products, but rather by the capitalist class, which appropriates labour – including that of designers and engineers – and seeks to shape consumers’ taste in order to maximize profit.

(2) This is coupled with the alienation of the worker from working, from the act of producing itself. This kind of alienation refers to the patterning of work in the capitalist means of production into an endless sequence of discrete, repetitive, trivial, and meaningless motions, offering little, if any, intrinsic satisfaction.

(3) There is the alienation of the worker from himself as a producer, from his or her “species being” or “essence as a species”. To Marx, this human essence is not separate from activity or work, nor static, but includes the innate potential to develop as a human organism.

(4) Alienation of the worker from other workers or producers. Capitalism reduces labour to a commercial commodity to be traded on the market, rather than a social relationship between people involved in a common effort for survival or betterment. http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/Marxism.htm)

“Alienation (which) describes the separation of things that naturally belong together; and the placement of antagonism between things that are properly in harmony…Alienation (Entfremdung) is the systemic result of living in a socially stratified society, because being a mechanistic part of a social class alienates a person from his and her humanity… Although the worker is an autonomous, self-realised human being, as an economic entity, he or she is directed to goals and diverted to activities that are dictated by the bourgeoisie, who own the means of production, in order to extract from the worker the maximal amount of surplus value, in the course of business competition among industrialists.”(Marx’s theory of alienation http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marx%27s_theory_of_alienation, Wiki – our numbering)

“The capitalist system of secular laws must eventually overwhelm all pre-capitalist systems of religious laws, because of capitalism’s façade of freedom, its semblance of scientific neutrality and objectivity. Capitalism’s self-perpetuating, self-serving, quasi-scientific ideology of ‘survival of the fittest’ obscures the underlying oppression of whole populations, by owners of the greatest amount of surplus property, with complete disregard for the needs of any life that does not serve their self aggrandisement, human and otherwise”.

“Religious doctrinal laws oblige whole populations, including their most self-aggrandising clans, to nurture all life, human and otherwise, however imperfectly and inequitably; capitalism’s state-enforced repudiation of the socially-necessary obligation to nurture all life (a consequence of science’s repudiation of religion), must eventually cause the disintegration of all societies, pending the development of scientific socialism.”

Here again the problem is posed as if it was ideological and even on this level it is wrong. Only in a very few historical instances were whole societies governed totally by religious laws; Israel and Judea in Roman times, the reign of Mohamed, etc. Even the old Islamic Empire of the Ottoman Turks and modern Islamic Republics like Iran are mixtures of secular and Sharia laws. Already by the early Middle Ages conflict between church and state saw increasing secularisation of the state. And this was a progressive thing, an inevitable step in the preparation of society for the socialist revolution and the taking of power by the working class and so to the abolition of all classes. “Religious doctrinal laws oblige whole populations, including their most self-aggrandising clans, to nurture all life, human and otherwise, however imperfectly and inequitably;” seems to suggest that the development of
capitalism was reactionary and not progressive, this is surely a reference to noblesse oblige, a mere hypocritical principle to justify the jus primae noctis etc. And again we really do not know what “pending the development of scientific socialism” means if it does not signify some vague ‘raising of consciousness’ project and not the socialist revolution.

Look at how Christopher Hill describes this transformation in his great analysis of the intellectual and ideological conflicts that took place in the approach, during and after the English Civil War, The World Turned Upside Down (p242-3)

“One of the fascinating problems in the intellectual history of seventeenth-century England is the collapse of Calvinism. It was as though it had performed its historic task with the establishment of a society in which the protestant ethic prevailed. Before 1640 Calvinism had been attacked from the right by sacramentalist Laudians;[1] during the Revolution it was attacked by rationalist Arminians[2] of the left – John Goodwin, Milton, Quakers. Presbyterian discipline was unpopular both with the ungodly lower classes and with upper class anti-clericals. More serious, Calvinism had proved unable to sustain its defences against Antinomianism.[3] So long as the elect were respectable bourgeois Puritans, their sense of freedom through cooperation with God brought no fundamental danger to the social order. But it was impossible, once discipline brisk down, to decide who the elect were. The radicals rejected as hypocrites those Puritans whose faith did not result in works of love. Artisan Fifth Monarchists[4] proclaimed that they were the saints who should rule. Mechanick preachers and lower-class Quakers[5] were convinced that the Holy Spirit was within them. Some Ranters preached a dionysiac Antinomianism that would have subverted all the moral standards of a propertied society”.

Failure to agree who the elect were drove the men of property back to works — by their fruits ye shall know them. Standards and norms of conduct could be established and enforced by lay J.P.s with no danger of a clerical Presbyterian discipline. This was a very different theology of works from that of Catholics or Laudians; it was non-sacramental, in no “dependent on a mediating priesthood. It avoided both types of clericalism. And the sects themselves, once they had accepted the world and the sinfulness of man, cooperated in enforcing a morality of works on their members. We are all so Arminians now that it requires a great imaginative effort think oneself back into the pre-revolutionary society which Calvinism dominated.

The Catholic counter-reformation at the Council of Trent (1545–1563) decreed that an excerpt from the Gospel according to St John which begins; “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” be read out in the vernacular (the only part that the mass of ‘the  common people’ could understand, the rest was unintelligible Latin and Greek until the 1960s) in all churches. It was very important for organised reaction to counter the rising materialist ideology which put men above God and welfare above that of the church.

In the Enlightenment it fell to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe to demolish this idealistic reaction in the words of Faust: “This is how ’tis written: “In the beginning was the Word! Here now I’m balked! Who’ll put me in accord? It is impossible, the Word so high to prize, I must translate it otherwise If I am rightly by the Spirit taught. ’Tis written: In the beginning was the Thought! Consider well that line, the first you see, That your pen may not write too hastily! Is it then Thought that works, creative, hour by hour? Thus should it stand: In the beginning was the Power! Yet even while I write this word, I falter, for something warns me, this too I shall alter. The Spirit’s helping me! I see now what I need and write assured: In the beginning was the Deed!”  Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

All serious Marxists side unequivocally with Goethe, it is not “thought works, creative, hour by hour” but thought-driven practice, it was not the “battle of ideas” that determined the outcome of the great British miners’ strike of 1984-5 but the Battle of Orgrieve, which they lost. “Marx and Engels hypothesised that the only means to overcome the quasi-scientific ideology of capitalism would be science ­— the deeper and wider understanding of the unity and interdependence of all life, human and otherwise. They characterised their approach as scientific socialism to distinguish it from democratic or ‘utopian’ socialism, which disregards the particular significance of science’s discipline and methodology in the development of society.”

Anyone with the slightest knowledge of Marx’s theory of alienation would refute this sentence. Marx never saw the objective as simply the raising of consciousness and enlightenment. We are revolutionaries because bourgeois ideology is constantly re-imposed on the consciousness of the working class by the social relations of production all workers are forced to enter into in order to make their living. They must sell their labour power to the capitalist; they must subordinate their will to the capitalist in a humiliating relationship as explained by Marx:

In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness. At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or – this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms – with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters.

2011 August Uprising One Year On –
The VOAG reviews the RKOB’s analysis

Marking the anniversary of the 2011 August uprising, The VOAG has received with interest a series of documents from the RKOB (Revolutionary Communist Organisation for Liberation).  The Austrian RKOB originated as a left wing split from the LFI (League for the Fifth International), and has since founded the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency of which it is the Austrian section.

The VOAG would like to thank the RKOB for coming over to Britain in solidarity with the workers and youth who bravely fought Street battles against the police in defiance of austerity, unemployment, police harassment and oppression.

The VOAG would like to applaud the RKOB for its internationalism and sincerity. Whilst the RKOB sent a delegation from Austria, many Trotskyist groups based in London were no where to be seen on the streets of London. Left wing groups in Britain, as the RKOB have pointed out, limited themselves to standing on the sidelines, issuing impotent statements of half hearted sympathy and understanding toward the workers and youth. Many within the Labour movement even condemned the communities that participated in the resistance, labeling them rioters.

The VOAG also congratulates the RKOB on its forthright analysis of those August Days and the attitudes of the British labour movement toward them. (4) The uprising was a test which the labour movement universally failed. The RKOB asked the question “What Would A Revolutionary Organisation Have Done” (3) The RKOB says a revolutionary party would:  “have criticised all those reformist and centrist forces which restrict themselves to merely explain[ing] why the poor and oppressed take to the streets,(…) or who only call for abstract solidarity without raising a finger for practical participation and support for the uprising.”

A revolutionary organisation would have visited the communities, distributed propaganda, and directed those involved in the uprising, as much as was possible, away from targeting small shops and personal property and towards multinational chain stores, police stations and barricades. How embarrassing, how utterly shameful that this work had to be done by a group based in Austria, whilst so called revolutionaries in London stayed at home, ignoring historical opportunities to make connections with working class youth and their  communities.

As a member of the LFI –known in Britain as Workers Power, (since expelled for being working class and left-wing) I was amazed at the attitude of my own organization toward the protests. The RKOB correctly criticises Workers Power for not participating in the uprising, even though its annual international youth camp was taking place only two miles away from some of the protests.

The VOAG agrees with the RKOB’s characterisation of the uprising and its conclusion that the lower working classes are central to the struggles to come. The VOAG echoes the RKOB’s criticisms of groups like Workers Power  for being petty-bourgeois and for turning their back on the poorer, oppressed layers of the working class, in favour of the labour aristocracy and organised workers.

However The VOAG considers the RKOB has strayed too far in the opposite direction. It puts too much emphasis on the youth and the poorer, more oppressed sections of the working class. It is true that: “ after the mass protests of the youth in the education sector and the strikes of the trade unions, the lower strata of the working class and migrants have now entered the battlefield of class struggle with their uprising”. (1)

And further: “It is precisely the poorer, the lower, the oppressed layers of the working class – including the young, the racially and nationally oppressed layers – that are often ready to resist against the massive oppression and exploitation. And this part of the working class constitutes the largest mass, the heart of our class. How absurd is – given the present development – the theory of the League for the Fifth International that the labour aristocracy constitutes the core layer of the working class (at least in imperialist countries like the UK). In fact, this part of our class is – as Lenin put it – “the craft-union, narrow-minded, selfish, case-hardened, covetous, and petty-bourgeois “labour aristocracy”, imperialist-minded, and imperialist-corrupted, (…). That is incontestable. In contrast to the false assumption of LFI, the oppressed, the lower layers of the working class can play a central role in taking the class struggle against capitalist oppression on to the streets. This is what we see today in Great Britain.”(1)

However, the corollary of the petty-bourgeois tendencies of the labour aristocracy and trades unions is the alienation and lack of leadership of the unorganised precariate, youth and unemployed. Like it or not only the organised labour movement – however aristocratic- as expressed through the unions, has the ability, organisation and wherewithal to mount effective strike action and economic resistance to capitalism.  It still comes down to who has the economic power in society. And it is they, the organised labour movement, in their aristocratic unions – with their ability to withdraw their labour in a general strike – that hold the power in society.

Whilst the poorer and oppressed layers of the working class can provide a vital push from below, the organised labour movement can give their resistance organisation and economic clout.  Both these categories of the working class have positive and progressive features as well as negative and reactionary features.

The RKOB writes: “it confirmed to us how serious the political mistakes of the unions are not to organize lower layers of the workers en mass”: These aren’t mistakes. The Trades Union bureaucracy wants nothing to do with the lower working class. The bureaucracy is implacably opposed to the radicalisation that would surely follow a serious recruitment drive among the precariate, unemployed and poor.

For this reason the VOAG agrees with the RKOB when it: “advocates that the labour movement organises the most oppressed layers.“  (2) That we need a: “revolutionary Workers International with nationally rooted combat parties…based on the working class and in particular the lower and middle strata.” (5) And that our goal must be: “an indefinite general strike in connection with the organising of youth uprisings”.(2)

 Workers Power, who along with other pretendy trot groups, have clearly chosen petty-bourgeois and labour aristocratic forces over the precariate, youth and unemployed. We as Marxists choose scientific socialism. We make objective assessments of how the class struggle is playing itself out, based on an analysis of the constantly shifting interplay of class forces. We don’t seek to subjectively counter pose one force against another; we seek a revolutionary alliance of these forces.

Note:  The VOAG broadly agrees with the RKOB’s analysis. However – No.4: Five Days That Shook Britain is an excellent document that summarises the attitudes and positions of a number of left groups toward the uprising. If you decide to read any of the original documents linked below, The VOAG recommends you definitely read this one.

  1. These Are Not Riots – RCIT 10-08-2011
  2. The August Uprising Report Of The RKOB Delegation – RCIT 13-08-11
  3. What Would A Revolutionary Organisation Have Done – RCIT 18-08-11
  4. Five Days That Shook Britain – RCIT 01-09-11
  5. On The Anniversary Of The August Uprising – RCIT 07-08-12
    Revolutionary Communist Organisation for Liberation (RKOB)

Where is the LFI drifting?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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