Tag Archive: workers power

Grass Roots Rank and File Launch Conference.

Saturday 12 April 2014. 12pm
Comfort Inn, Opposite New St Station,

Station Street,

Birmingham. B5 4DY.

Following the successful meeting of the Grass Roots Left National Committee in Birmingham on 18 January the launch conference of the new Grass Roots Rank and File now looks to be on a far healthier basis than was feared when Socialist Fight supporters had been reduced to a minority of two in defence of the Constitution and Platform of the GRL as the basis for the new organisation at the AGM of 9 November. Between the two meetings the SWP had split at its December conference and the new organisation, now called the Revolutionary Socialists of the 21st Century, took the majority of the Unite the union faction who had supported Jerry Hicks for general secretary twice. Both the SWP and the SR21C attended the GRL NC and as they were now rivals they sought to accentuate their leftism. It seems now that the new joint Rank and File organisation will be open and democratic and be based on a platform and constitution at least similar to the old GRL one. Both Workers Power and Socialist Resistance had to reverse themselves and now say that standing on Jerry Hicks election points really was minimalist and not enough and they abandoned their charges of ultra leftism against SF. The SWP, of course, continues its opportunist tailending of all the other the TU bureaucracies as Laurence Humphries’s report on the Unite the Resistance conference on page 30 makes clear. In the meantime we hear that fusion discussions between Unite and the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), whose Executive is dominated by the SP/CWI, are going to succeed because the government will withdraw check-off facilities from the PCS and so probably bankrupt it. The SP has already approached the United Left, the Unite bureaucracy’s mouthpiece, to ensure that they become ensconced as that bureaucracy’s footstools as well as for the RMT’s Bob Crow.grass-roots-RandF


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

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

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,

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;
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,
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

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

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;

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
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!,
The August Uprising in Britain – A Report of the RKOB delegation on its
visit in London in August 2011.
Pröbsting: What would a revolutionary organisation have done? August
uprising of the poor, the nationally and racially oppressed in Britain.
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,

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!?

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.

What Is Centrism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At 8:15 a.m. on August 6, 1945, the US Air Force exploded an atomic bomb over the Japanese city of Hiroshima, instantly killing 80,000 civilians. Most of the city was leveled by the bomb’s shock wave or incinerated in the subsequent firestorm. Three days later, before it was understood what had happened in Hiroshima, the US exploded a second atomic bomb above Nagasaki, immediately killing 40,000.

Within weeks the toll had likely climbed to 250,000 killed through burns and radiation poisoning. Those who survived the blasts described scenes of nearly unspeakable horror—civilians, mainly women and children, burnt so badly there could be no treatment; “walking dead” staggering through the streets in their last hours, their skin hanging like rags from their bodies; atomic shadows seared into the pavement where humans had stood. Tens of thousands more continued to die and suffer in the years and decades after the attacks.

The US bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki stand among the most savage acts of violence against a civilian population ever committed. Sixty-five years later, they remain shrouded in lies and obfuscation emanating from the modern-day defenders of American militarism.

Typical is a column written by journalist Warren Kozac, published Friday in the Wall Street Jounal. Kozak recently wrote a biography that attempts to rehabilitate the bloodthirsty Air Force general Curtis LeMay, who, before the bombing of Hiroshima, organized the firebombing of Tokyo, killing an estimated 87,000 people.

Kozak repeats the standard lies used to justify the atrocity, including the claim that the decision to use the atomic bomb saved lives. “It should be noted that when President Harry Truman was considering whether to invade Japan instead of dropping the bombs, his advisers estimated that an invasion would result in one million American casualties and at least two million Japanese deaths,” writes. “In the strange calculus of war, the bombs actually saved Japanese lives.”

Truman’s decision had nothing to do with saving lives, Japanese or American. At the time of the bombing, Japan was, in a military sense, already defeated. Its navy, air force, and industrial capacity largely destroyed, the Japanese had sought out conditions for peace in the weeks before the attacks.

The use of the atom bomb was, above all else, a cold-blooded strategic decision made with Washington’s eyes already transfixed on the postwar order. At the Tehran Conference of 1943, the Soviet Union had agreed to declare war on Japan within three months after the ending of hostilities in Europe. After the defeat of Germany, the Soviet Red Army—which had borne the brunt of Allied fighting in Europe—began to be shifted across the Eurasian landmass in preparation for an invasion of Manchuria on August 8, 1945—two days after Hiroshima, and the day before Nagasaki.

Washington was aware that if the war were not concluded rapidly, the Soviet Union would be in a position to assert itself in the resumed Chinese civil war between the pro-US nationalist forces of Chiang Kai-shek and the peasant armies of Mao Zedong, on the Korean peninsula, and potentially in Japan itself, where a revolt of the country’s working class and peasants against the empire—as had taken place in Italy against Mussolini—was far more likely than the fight to the death of the Emperor posited by Kozak and others.

But even more crucially, Truman and the US military were anxious to use the atomic bomb, this new weapon of extraordinary destructive power, as an object lesson to the Soviet Union and the entire world of the lengths Washington would go to defend its interests.

Historian Thomas McCormick has eloquently summarized the decision: “In two blinding glares—a horrible end to a war waged horribly by all parties—the United States finally found the combination that would unlock the door to American hegemony. A prearranged demonstration of the atomic bomb on a noninhabited target, as some scientists had recommended, would not do. That could demonstrate the power of the bomb, but it could not demonstrate the American will to use the awful power. One reason, therefore, for American unwillingness to pursue Japanese peace feelers in mid-summer 1945 was that the United States did not want the war to end before it had had a chance to use the atomic bomb.” (America’s Half-Century, 44-45.)

This year we observe the anniversary of the slaughter in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in a new period of war and militarist aggression. The Obama administration has intensified its war in Afghanistan, loosening up rules of engagement allowing the military to “take out” civilian targets. In recent weeks, Washington has staged a series of provocations designed to ramp up pressure on what it views to be its main strategic rival, nuclear-armed China.

And now the US is shifting toward a war footing with Iran, claiming that its nuclear program is designed to create nuclear weapons, the same charge it falsely leveled against the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Washington’s hypocrisy is staggering. In cases where it views the nation as an ally—Israel, India, and now Vietnam—it turns a blind eye to nuclear weapons programs or supports uranium enrichment.

Moreover, the Hiroshima anniversary recalls that only the US has ever used nuclear weapons in war. If American imperialism was willing to unleash this destructive power to assert its hegemony at a time of its peak economic strength, it will not shirk its use to defend this hegemony under conditions of economic decline.

There have been repeated reports, beginning in 2006, that the US and Israel are contemplating the use of so-called “tactical” nuclear weapons in a preemptive strike against military targets in Iran. Late in 2008, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates—then still in the employ of the Bush administration—formally advocated the use of preemptive nuclear strikes in a speech to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP). (See “US defense secretary expands pre-emptive war doctrine to include nuclear strikes”.)

Though the US has the largest nuclear stockpile and plays the most destabilizing role in world affairs, the danger of nuclear war is not limited to its designs. Russia, Britain, France, and China maintain thousands of nuclear missiles. Israel has in the past obliquely threatened to use nuclear weapons against its neighbors, while in any new South Asian war, India and Pakistan—and possibly China—would be tempted to use their nuclear missiles.

As in the lead-up to WWI and WWII, the world has become a tinderbox of sharp tensions among the Great Powers. In the Middle East, the Horn of Africa, Central Asia, the Balkans, Southeast Asia and the Pacific, any number of scenarios could touch off a new global conflagration that would repeat the horrors of the 20th century, including the use of nuclear weapons, but on a far more deadly scale.

The descent into depression and militarism, so reminiscent of the 1930s, can only be stopped by the international working class fighting for a socialist program. The capitalists’ genocidal “war of each against all,” as Lenin put it, must be replaced by a planned, socialist economy, organized to meet social needs rather than the profit drives of the rival cliques of billionaires.
By Tom Eley
7 August 2010
Botom-Of-Post - Protest

“Councillors say they are ‘trimming the fat’. However, the fat went years ago and they have been gnawing on the bones ever since”.

 Cuts and closures are already being felt in Surrey, which people usually see as a place of leafy suburbs and stockbrokers. However the county’s less well-known trade union struggles and local, grassroots campaigns are beginning to fight back.

Across Surrey, people are mobilising against the cuts. Brooklands College was saved after a huge local campaign by staff, students, parents and local people. Parents, governors and staff at Shortwood School turned out in their hundreds at public meetings. They organised street stalls and collected a petition of over 1,000 signatures in a campaign to save their school. Working peoples’ creativity and organising ability has shocked the local council.

March 15th saw the launch of  the Save Our Services in Surrey (SOSiS) campaign, sponsored by Surrey Unison. The campaign will coordinate anti-cuts activity, support local campaigns, and bring local trade unionists together to defend jobs and services.

Paul Couchman, Tusc Parliamentary Candidate for Spelthorne, West Surrey and founder of Save Our Services in Surrey said at the launch rally: ”We face threats to close Shortwood infant school in Staines, threats to hundreds of essential bus services, a ‘review’ of fire services with a clear intent to reduce the number of fire stations -and swingeing cuts to community hospital services. -And this is before the county council’s £180 million cuts package over the next few years.”

Paul Couchman is also the secretary of the Surrey County Council Trade Unions (SCCTU), representing all trade unions within the council. They have formally affiliated to the campaign. Speaking at a joint SOSiS and SCCTU lobby of Surrey Council, at Kingston Town Hall on 23rd March, Paul said: “Public sector workers and local communities who need public services, will be asking who to vote for in this year’s general election. Most trades unionists already see that New Labour no longer represents working class people and that whoever wins, the next government will take the axe to public services.”

Richard Jones, Surrey FBU branch secretary spoke at the lobby. He said: “We’ve reached a point where fire crews are turning up at emergencies and having to tell the public that they cannot make a rescue because they have to wait for more staff to turn up. These cuts put lives at risk. We turn up to incidents without enough crew and have to wait for back-up before we can safely enter the building. Fire-fighters are going in understaffed and risking their lives. The public is in danger, fire-fighters are in danger, enough is enough!”

Richard Jones continued: “If these cuts go through, Surrey will be spending less per head of the population on fire services than any county in Britain. It will mean the loss of fire engines and station closures. It’s life or death in the fire services and if these cuts continue the Grim Reaper will be taking up residence in Surrey.”

After the lobby, Paul Couchman told the rally: “We’ve sent a message to the councillors that our public services are vital and we won’t tolerate cuts to them. The politicians spent billions bailing out the bankers, and they want us to pay the price. The local hospital has lost most of its wards including the A&E Dpt, local fire stations face the axe and bus routes are being slashed.”

Paul is Chairman of the Elmbridge Care Homes Campaign. Reffering to the Campaign he said: “We have decided to draw a ‘line in the sand’ and say no more sell-offs. We are fighting to preserve the excellent services provided by the care homes”.
Paul explained the importance of working class people having a political voice, now that New Labour has joined the Tories in cutting and privatising public services. “Its necessary to fight together, trade unions and the community, to maximise the pressure on politicians and councils to fully fund public services.”

Alan Greenspan, head of the US federal reserve during the boom years – once treated as a god by capitalists and now reviled as being responsible for the crisis – recently excused his role by saying: “Unless there is a societal choice to abandon dynamic markets and leverage for some sort of central planning, I fear that preventing bubbles will in the end turn out to be unfeasible. Assuaging their aftermath seems to be the best we can hope for.”

Greenspan is right, capitalism, an unplanned blind system driven by profit and not by social need, will always have periods of crisis like at present. Anxious to restore their profits, the capitalists’ way out of the crisis will always be to try to trample working class people a bit further into the dirt.  All of the things won through struggle – are under attack. The NHS, education – the list is considerable,  The crisis is being used to unravel and dismantle all of those social gains. We’re told that poverty must now increase and that we should meekly accept the growing gap between the richest and the poorest in society. However the public are not fooled.

A Mori survey in the FT showed the public was utterly unconvinced of the need for cuts. Only a quarter believed there’s a need to cut services to reduce the national debt. 50% don’t think cuts are necessary at all -and 48% think more, rather than less, should be spent on public expenditure. The recession is the result of massive market failure. It’s entirely technically and financially feasible to create at least a million new jobs, by investing in insulating homes and public buildings, investing in renewables, through a sustainable publicly run transport system, and utilising the skills and know-how in society for socially useful production. None of this will happen if we leave it to the market.


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Almost a year ago, during the G20 demonstration in central London. The police indiscriminately assaulted hundreds of people in an attempt to spark a riot. Hundreds were clubbed and assaulted. One person was murdered. Many others were attacked on their way home, up to half a mile from the demonstration. One, relatively tame incident, was caught on camara. The policeman involved was charged with assault. Today he was acquitted. Below is a Youtube video of the incident. Make your own mind up.- And when you’re at the next demonstration remember: Self defence is no offence. Fight Back!!!! 

 A riot squad officer who allegedly twice hit a female protester with a metal baton has been cleared of assaulting the woman.


A riot squad officer who hit a G20 protester twice with a metal baton has been cleared of assault. Metropolitan Police Sergeant Delroy Smellie, 47, clashed with Nicola Fisher outside the Bank of England last April.

The officer, a member of the controversial territorial support group, went on trial accused of assault by beating last week. He was cleared at City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court. But he could still face misconduct proceedings over the incident. Smellie, who was standing in the dock for the verdict, smiled widely and gave two thumbs up to his supporters as he was cleared.

District Judge Daphne Wickham said there was no evidence that his use of the baton was not approved, correct or measured. She said the officer had a “mere seven seconds” to act and other witness also feared for his safety. She said: “It was for the prosecution to prove this defendant was not acting in lawful self-defence. I have found the prosecution has failed in this respect and the defendant has raised the issue of lawful self-defence and as such is entitled to be acquitted.”

Ms Fisher, 36, ran in front of Smellie hurling abuse during a vigil to mark the death of Ian Tomlinson the previous evening. District Judge Wickham, who heard the case without a jury, watched video footage of the incident and looked at dozens of photographs. Nicholas Paul, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said Smellie lost his self-control because of Ms Fisher’s irritating, aggressive and confrontational actions. He said the officer was justified when he shouted at her, pushed her back and struck her with the back of his hand, knocking off her sunglasses.

But Mr Paul said the officer went too far when he struck Ms Fisher across the thigh with the extendable metal weapon, known as an asp. The clash attracted attention worldwide when amateur video footage of it was posted on the YouTube website. Ms Fisher, of Brighton, failed to attend the trial claiming she was suffering depression and did not want to be in the public spotlight again.

Last month we discussed the real, human cost of the war in Iraq. We discovered amazingly that 1.2 – 1.6 million people have died due to the Iraq conflict, approximately 1:18 of the population. This month we are told 15% of the population, 1:6 has been displaced by the war.  

Seven years after the March 2003 US-led invasion, Iraq remains deeply divided. There are few prospects of durable solutions for the approximately 15 per cent of the population who are displaced inside and outside Iraq. It is thought that there are almost 2.8 million internally displaced people (IDPs), close to half of whom were displaced prior to 2003. Daily life for all Iraqis is precarious. Public health, electricity, water and sanitation services remain inadequate.

Here we forward this newsletter and would encourage everyone to subscribe. It comes once a month in email form- And is packed with interesting items about the war.

Iraq Occupation Focus
Newsletter No. 142
March 25th, 2010

Sign up to receive this free newsletter automatically – go to: http://lists.riseup.net/www/info/i raqfocus. Please also ask all those who share our opposition to the increasingly brutal US-UK occupation to do likewise.

Police: US troops kill Iraqi reporter and husband
AP reports (March 12th): U.S. troops opened fire on a car in western Baghdad, killing an Iraqi journalist and her husband, a police official said. Morgue officials confirmed the deaths and said the bodies of Aseel al-Obeidi and her husband were riddled with bullets.

UK government violated human rights of two imprisoned Iraqis, court rules

The Guardian reports (March 2nd): The UK government was condemned for violating the human rights of two Iraqis accused of murdering two captive British soldiers in 2003. Faisal al-Saadoon and Khalef Hussain Mufdhi, Sunni Muslims and former officials of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath party, have been detained for almost seven years. They are currently being held in the Rusafa prison near Baghdad. The European court of human rights in Strasbourg unanimously foundthe pair were “at real risk of being subjected to an unfair trial followed by execution by hanging” in Iraq.

Former murder squad chief to head inquiry into Iraqi killings allegation
The Guardian reports (March 9th): An investigation into claims that British troops killed and abused prisoners will be led by a former head of a Scotland Yard murder squad. The case will involve seeking evidence from witnesses to a fierce battle in southern Iraq six years ago. The huge task was announced at the launch of a public inquiry into allegations that British soldiers murdered 20 or more Iraqis after the “battle of Danny Boy”, named after a checkpoint in Maysan province, north of Basra, on 14 May 2004.

Interference Seen in Blackwater Inquiry
NY Times reports (March 2nd): An official at the United States Embassy in Iraq has told federal prosecutors that he believes that State Department officials sought to block any serious investigation of the 2007 shooting episode in which Blackwater Worldwide security guards were accused of murdering 17 Iraqi civilians, according to court testimony. David Farrington, a State Department security agent in the American Embassy at the time of the shooting in Baghdad’s Nisour Square, told prosecutors that some of his colleagues were handling evidence in a way they hoped would help the Blackwater guards avoid punishment for a crime that drew headlines and raised tensions between American and Iraqi officials.

Urgent Appeal for releasing the prisoners detained in Iraq prisons
Brussells Tribunal reports: (March 11th): World Association of Arab Translators and Linguists are appealing to the Secretary General of the United Nations for the release of Iraqi prisoners: “The USA occupying forces in Iraq have locked up more than 162,000 Iraqi citizens in more than 50 prisons and detention camps including 28 camps run by US occupying forces, in addition to many undisclosed investigation and incarceration centres over Iraq.

The number of detainees registered in International Red Cross records is around 71,000, the other detainees are not recorded with the IRC because they are arrested at US detaining centres where visits by the Red-Cross representatives are denied by the occupying forces and thousands of war prisoners and old age detainees have been imprisoned and detained for more than six years suffering from unbearable and painful living and health conditions..

Among the detainees there are 520 women detained by the US forces as hostages in place of their husbands or sons who have escaped detention by the US occupying forces. In prisons run by the US occupying forces there are also more than 900 children of less than fifteen years of age and 470 of them are less than twelve years of age. In the government prisons there are 1400 children less than fifteen years dumped into crowded and filthy cells. There are also 12,000 persons detained by mistake or under suspicion who are still detained for many years.”

Fallujah doctors report rise in birth defects
BBC reports (March 4th): Doctors in the Iraqi city of Fallujah are reporting a high level of birth defects, with some blaming weapons used by the US after the Iraq invasion. The city witnessed fierce fighting in 2004 as US forces carried out a major offensive against insurgents.Now, the level of heart defects among newborn babies is said to be 13 times higher than in Europe. British-based Iraqi researcher Malik Hamdan told the BBC’s World Today programme that doctors in Fallujah were witnessing a “massive unprecedented number” of heart defects, and an increase in the number of nervous system defects. She said that one doctor in the city had compared data about birth defects from before 2003 – when she saw about one case every two months – with the situation now, when, she saw cases every day.

2.8 million Iraqis remain internally displaced
Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre reports (March 4th): Seven years after the March 2003 US-led invasion, Iraq remains deeply divided. There are few prospects of durable solutions for the approximately 15 per cent of the population who are displaced inside and outside Iraq. It is thought that there are almost 2.8 million internally displaced people (IDPs), close to half of whom were displaced prior to 2003. Though Iraq is no longer in the grip of a humanitarian crisis, daily life for all Iraqis is precarious. Public health, electricity, water and sanitation services remain inadequate.

Iraq’s trade ministry hit by £2.6 billion fraud
The Times reports (March 7th): Rampant government corruption emerged as one of the biggest issues in the election campaign, with the exposure of a huge fraud at the trade ministry. Sabah al-Saadi, head of the Iraqi parliament’s anti-corruption committee, said documents showed that $4 billion (£2.6 billion) had gone missing from the ministry, but that the total could be as high as $8 billion in the past four years. Saadi said he was pursuing 20,000 legal cases for official corruption, most of which had been delayed until a new government was installed.

Voter fraud allegations
Juan Cole reports (March 5th): Aljazeera Arabic reports that parties are attempting to buy votes among the often penniless refugees. Al-Hayat [Life] reports in Arabic that over a million Iraqis took part in early voting. An official in the Independent High Electoral Commission, Hamdiya al-Husaini, confirmed to al-Hayat that soldiers had been pressured to vote for a certain party, which she would not name, and even that some soldiers arrived at the voting station only to find that someone else had already voted on their behalf. She promised an investigation by the High Electoral Commission. The voting process was chaotic, and many soldiers’s names could not be found at their voting stations on the registration rolls. Some soldiers even staged demonstrations over being disenfranchised in this way, in response to which the High Electoral Commission promised them redress. Nevertheless, thousands are estimated to have been unable to vote.

Iraq opposition alleges ‘flagrant’ election fraud
AFP reports (March 12th): A senior member of Iraq’s main secular opposition bloc protested of blatant fraud in favour of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki during Iraq’s general election. “There has been clear and flagrant fraud,” said Intisar Allawi, a senior candidate in ex-prime minister Iyad Allawi’s Iraqiya bloc, the main rival to Maliki’s State of Law Alliance. “There were persons who manipulated or changed the figures to increase the vote in favour of the State of Law Alliance.” She said that Iraqiya’s own election observers for last Sunday’s poll had found ballot papers in garbage dumps in the northern disputed province of Kirkuk.

Ayad Allawi accuses Nouri al-Maliki’s group of fraud in bid to retain power
The Time adds (March 12th): Ayad Allawi told Western officials that aides to Nouri al-Maliki, the Prime Minister, had hidden ballot papers and falsified computer records in an effort to retain power. “They are stealing the votes of the Iraqi people,” his spokesman told a press conference called to set out the main claims. Several violations alleged by Mr Allawi have been confirmed by diplomats and election observers. Mr Allawi also claimed that 250,000 soldiers were denied the chance to vote, and that an election monitor had found ballot papers with votes for Mr Allawi dumped in the garden of a polling station in the northern city of Kirkuk.

Number of Iraqis killed jumps as election nears
AP report (March 2nd): The number of Iraqis killed in war-related violence increased by 44 percent between January and February, according to a count by The Associated Press, with civilians accounting for almost all of the casualties.

Iraqi children’s rights violated
The Brussells Tribunal reports (February 2010): Under the American occupation, lack of security, sectarian violence, deterioration of health care systems, poverty, massive imprisonments, clean water shortages, limited or no electrical power, environmental pollution and lack of sanitation all contributed to grave violations to children’s rights and a drastic increase in the child mortality rate. It has been reported that one out of eight children in Iraq die before their fifth birthday.

Iraq’s Christians demand justice
Al Jazeera reports (February 28th): Iraqis in Baghdad and Mosul have protested a recent wave of attacks on their minority religious communities, following the murder of eight Christians in less than two weeks. Holding olive branches and the national flag, demonstrators vented their anger over the poor security afforded them in the wake of a series of killings. Shouting slogans such as “stop the killing of Christians”, hundreds of demonstrators called on authorities to guarantee their protection as they marched round al-Ferdus Square in central Baghdad.

EI protests against the continued harassment of union leaders
Education International reports (February 26th): Education International is very concerned about the continuous governmental interference the Iraqi Teachers’ Union (ITU) is experiencing. The ITU, an organisation currently applying for EI membership, continues to face extreme attacks from the Iraqi government which wants to control the union. Iraqi teacher unionist al-Battat was arrested and then released on 22 February after an eight-day detention period. He was involved in strike actions, and his home came under fire after he refused to hand over the union memberships lists.

Women Miss Saddam
Abdu Rahman and Dahr Jamail report for IPS (March 12th): Under Saddam Hussein, women in government got a year’s maternity leave; that is now cut to six months. Under the Personal Status Law in force since Jul. 14, 1958, when Iraqis overthrew the British-installed monarchy, Iraqi women had most of the rights that Western women do. Now they have Article 2 of the Constitution: “Islam is the official religion of the state and is a basic source of legislation.” Sub-head A says “No law can be passed that contradicts the undisputed rules of Islam.” Under this Article the interpretation of women’s rights is left to religious leaders – and many of them are under Iranian influence.”The U.S. occupation has decided to let go of women’s rights,” Yanar Mohammed who campaigns for women’s rights in Iraq says.

New Fraud Cases Point to Lapses in Iraq Projects
NY Times reports (March 13th): Investigators looking into corruption involving reconstruction in Iraq say they have opened more than 50 new cases in six months by scrutinizing large cash transactions — involving banks, land deals, loan payments, casinos and even plastic surgery — made by some of the Americans involved in the nearly $150 billion program. Some of the cases involve people who are suspected of having mailed tens of thousands of dollars to themselves from Iraq, or of having stuffed the money into duffel bags and suitcases when leaving the country, the federal investigators said. In other cases, millions of dollars were moved through wire transfers. Suspects then used cash to buy BMWs, Humvees and expensive jewellery, or to pay off enormous casino debts.

25th March 2010


 On Thursday the government announced how cuts to higher education will be distributed between the universities. The long-awaited report confirmed the fears of many that education would be made to pay the price of the £1 trillion given to the rich bankers. The report from the Higher Education Funding Council of England shows that four out of every five universities in England will face real-terms cuts. A total of £573 million in cash cuts (7.23%), have been announced for next year alone. This is nothing short of a catastrophe for education in England.

In order to make the cuts seem less bitter, slight increases have been made to teaching and research funding but this is still a real terms fall. The cuts by and large fall in the ‘capital funding’ bracket – mostly the money that universities are allowed to claim for new buildings. This may not seem like it will immediately effect students, but many university buildings are unfit for purpose and will be replaced by universities using funding from other areas – effectively sacking teachers and replacing them with bricks. This is currently happening at King’s College, where staff are being sacked at the same time as management are forking out £20 million for the grandiose Somerset House on the bank of the river Thames.

Just for profit, not for students
Research funding will be narrowed into a smaller number of ‘elite’ institutions, creating a two-tier system.
The general trend is to give more money to the universities that already have the most, by taking it away from the others. Oxford University’s research funding has increased by £7.1million up to £126million, and a third of the total research fund is distributed to just five key universities – Oxford, Cambridge, UCL, Imperial and Manchester. Less fortunate universities are set to become little more than teaching factories providing degrees aimed at workplace skills with much less funding to develop research practices. But although these richer universities are more protected from the cuts, some are still making academic staff redundant as part of a drive towards “restructuring” – providing only courses that are profitable in the world of business, and deprioritising education that is for the pursuit of knowledge.

Education for the rich
Many university managers want to shift the central funding crisis onto students – by campaigning for higher tuition fees. Shortly after the general election, the review into ‘Higher Education Funding and Student Finance’, headed by ex-BP chief executive Lord Browne, is expected to increase the tuition fee cap from £3,225 per year to £5,000 or even higher.

Some universities such as Oxford are pushing for the cap to be abolished altogether, allowing them to charge whatever they like. Fees have already been shown to put working class students off entering university, and the higher fees proposed are likely to mean that more prestigious universities such as those in the Russell group will become almost exclusively playgrounds of the rich. The combined effect will be that working class students will pay to be trained in careers, while rich students will receive a traditional ‘liberal’ arts and sciences education leading to cultural elitism. This would be a serious regression back in the direction of a Victorian style education.

Stealing our future
But with money, or without it, the HEFCE is threatening to keep higher education well out of reach of thousands of students in Further Education colleges who want to carry on their studies.
Entry quotas have been given to universities, and they will be required to keep within the limits or face financial penalties. At a time when unemployment is so high, many young people are desperate to start earning money, or continue education and are now being denied the opportunity for either, with an estimated seven applicants for every university place this year, leaving youth on the scrap-heap.

Courses cut – exec pay rockets
Many universities have already begun cutting staff and even whole departments. Sussex has lost linguistics, Leeds is losing classics, UCL is cutting language courses and Westminster is slashing IT. The cuts are not just a response to anticipated central government funding cuts, but university managers are cynically using them as an excuse to remove unprofitable courses and academics who perform useful research, but without immediate financial value to businesses.

This is part of the trend towards neo-liberalism in universities where academics have to justify their jobs based on economic value, ignoring the far more important value non-profitable research can have for society. The move towards business-orientated universities has expressed itself in other ways – vice-chancellors have seen their pay increase to a level similar of Britain’s largest national corporations, many earning in excess of £300,000 per annum. At the same time their numbers have increased by a third, meaning a disproportionate amount of money is spent on management while academic jobs are being cut. This is

Britain’s role in the shady European ‘Bologna Process’ plan, which is attacking education across Europe, and has provoked mass uprisings of students from Italy, to Greece, to France, Austria, Germany, Switzerland and many more. The process coordinates efforts by the leaders of 42 countries to standardise universities, allowing them to compete with one another – creating a market in education, where institutions that best serve the needs of business will thrive, whereas the others will be cut back. The global financial crisis seems to mean that the bosses are accelerating the process.

But the current attacks on education are no foregone conclusion, and the movement for education is starting to win victories. Occupations, demonstrations and strikes at Sussex, Leeds and London Met have already won some impressive victories along the way to defeating the cuts, and the similar struggles of our brothers and sisters in Europe show a potential to organise internationally – if we could do that imagine how powerful the student movement would be. The lesson – we need to organise and fight for learning, not profit

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Sussex University Student Occupation 2010 -The Full Story

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 Education Campaign – After The Occupation – What To Do Next

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  Time for an Anti-Fascist Defence League!!

The English Defence League (EDL) continue to pose a threat to our cities and towns across the UK with their racist campaign against extremist Islam. EDL demonstrations are both increasing in size and the level of violence.

In Stoke, January, EDL supporters daubed a mosque in racist graffiti. Threats were made to an Asian run taxi service. Asian and Muslim businesses came under attack.
This month, the EDL were able to march on the Houses of Parliament in London, whilst police used violence to break up the antifascist demonstration that was present.
If the EDL marches continue – and there is no reason to think otherwise– sooner or later we will experience attacks on communities on a scale of those seen on the European continent.
We need to organise self-defence for ourselves if we are to protect our own demonstrations and our
communities from fascists and the police, and to stop the EDL in their tracks.

We need to form our own ANTI-FASCIST DEFENCE LEAGUE

Download this Call for an Anti-Fascist Defence League Workers Power AFDL Flyer
Alternative Call for an Anti-Fascist Defence League AFDL (2)