06
Dec
18

A scary few weeks for reports on the effects of climate change

The recent article in Forbes magazine – A Simple Guide To All The Scary And Depressing Climate Change News At The Moment – outlines a glut of bad news reports about climate change over the past couple of weeks.

I would encourage people to check it out even though it does not make for an optimistic read. Things are getting worse and quicker than expected.

For a video summary of the article and the “highlights” of the reports the article refers to I would recommend the following two YouTube videos. The vlogger doesn’t have the greatest presentation style but he is worth sticking with for the information.

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07
Nov
18

A rely to “Trotskyism, the United Front and the Popular Front: Against Class Collaboration and Sterile Sectarianism”

Stephen Diamond commented on my blog post announcing the end of my recent Facebook discussion with Gerry Downing asking me to respond to Ian Donovan’s 1998 document “Trotskyism, the United Front and the Popular Front: Against Class Collaboration and Sterile Sectarianism” .

Ian claims this document “refutes the positions of the Spartacists [on Popular Fronts] at length and no one from their tradition has ever properly replied to it politically.”

Firstly a couple of secondary issues.

Ian argues:

“…the IBT leadership, which locates the cause for the Spartacists’ degeneration purely in the personal foibles and (largely organisational) mistakes within an allegedly broadly revolutionary framework made by the Spartacists’ historic leader, James Robertson, in the late 70s.”

Even the most cursory examination of the IBT’s analysis of the degeneration of the Spartacist League exposes the idea they take such a simplistic approach to the cause of the Spartacists degeneration. See for instance:

http://www.bolshevik.org/TB/TB1_ALL.html

http://www.bolshevik.org/TB/tb2contents.html

http://www.bolshevik.org/TB/TB5html.html

http://www.bolshevik.org/Pamphlets/Whatever/WhateverToC.html

http://www.bolshevik.org/Leaflets/ibt_2010_sclerotic_spartacists_unravel.html

Ian also says:

“There is no need to write a work of the size of Capital to illustrate how the Spartacists’ major theoretical/ programmatic error on the nature of workers’ parties in popular fronts, applied in a consistent manner, can easily lead to … a deranged sect like the contemporary ICL. All one needs is a little elementary logic and sense of development of phenomena, and simple observation of the habits of contemporary Spartacists.”

But if so then how to explain the IBT who held this position for all of the nearly 30 years of their existence?

Whatever differences Ian may have with the IBT they are clearly nothing like his fairly accurate description of the Spartacists today as being “widely known and loathed as one of the most bizarre, unsavoury and cultist organisations on the international left.”

I raise these two issues because they seem to be further examples of a guilt by association than a real attempt at a political argument that led me to end my discussion with Gerry (and indirectly with Ian). To paraphrase Ian’s argument:

The Sparts today are fucked up, as anyone can see. The IBT defend the programme of the early Sparts. This includes what Ian believes is the position that directly led to the Sparts becoming fucked up therefore…

So on to the substance of Ian’s piece – whether it is an acceptable tactic to vote for a workers’ party when it is participating in a Popular Front.

Most of Ian’s piece seems to be a “what did Trotsky really mean when he said this” analysis of Trotsky writing on some concrete instances of Popular Fronts. As I understand it Ian’s piece was originally produced as an internal document within the IBT and responses to it as part of that internal debate, which dealt with the issue of the meaning of the quotes, were subsequently published by the IBT after Ian resigned – The Popular Front: A well-covered trap

It is unfortunate that Trotsky is not clearer on this issue. From my reading both sides are necessarily having to stretch his words rather than being able to point to clear advice on the question. The IBT accepts this and therefore relies less on quotes and more on applying general Marxist principles to this particular type of situation. Ian appears to rely more on his interpretation of the quotes.

But even if I was convinced that Ian was correct in his interpretation of the quotes then all that means is I would say I disagreed with Trotsky.

As far as I can tell the key part of Ian’s justification for being prepared to vote for workers’ parties in a Popular Front (other than his interpretation of the historical quotes) is contained in the following paragraph:

“What does it mean to say that the contradictions of a bourgeois workers party are ‘suppressed’ for the duration of the coalition? It can only mean that they fail to operate, if words mean anything. That is, that for practical purposes, until the coalition is actually broken, these parties cease to have an operative proletarian component and themselves become effectively bourgeois formations. But if the bourgeois workers parties within the coalition cease ‘for the duration’ to embody any class contradictions, if those class contradictions are ‘suppressed’, then how can one say that there is any class contradiction within the coalition itself, between its constituent parties? The proletarian component(s) of the bourgeois workers part(ies) are ‘suppressed’ by the coalition. So what contradiction are revolutionaries seeking to hammer on in demanding that the working class component “break with the bourgeoisie”? Surely if the proletarian component in the workers parties is suppressed, there is no contradiction in the coalition to exploit in order to blow it apart? So the demand to ‘break with the bourgeoisie’ becomes meaningless, a demand addressed at a formation whose class contradictions do not operate until the demand is realised, which means the demand has no leverage and is reduced to a barren abstraction. This is all completely logical within this odd theoretical framework.”

But what is the contradiction that can lead revolutionary Marxists to consider giving critical political support to a bourgeois workers party that runs on a programme which only offers a reform of capitalism rather than its revolutionary removal?

Clearly we do not endorse such a programme.

There are however times when that pro-capitalist programme comes into contradiction with the reformist mis-leaders expressing the idea that the working class has its own separate interests that are in conflict with the interests of capital (this is usually in response to this idea being expressed by a militant working class vanguard actively prosecuting the class struggle and the reformists wanting to channel that proletarian rage into the safety valve of parliamentary politics).

It is that idea which we are supporting while it is the reformist programme that we are critical of in our “critical support”.

I would argue that this contradiction is very certainly “suppressed” by standing on a joint programme with capitalist parties. How could it not be?

I suspect that what is really going on here is that Ian understands the contradiction involved in a bourgeois workers party quite differently. For him it is primarily a sociological/objective matter rather than a political/programmatic one.

In a Facebook comment directed at me on this issue of bwp’s in a PF Ian argued:

”It’s a partial negation and there is a contradiction between the bourgeois component of the PF and the bourgeois workers party as well as between the bourgeois top and the proletarian base of the bourgeois workers party itself.”
https://www.facebook.com/groups/199341173500669/permalink/1686277921473646/?comment_id=1686484654786306&reply_comment_id=1688102531291185

I responded (further down that discussion thread after Ian had argued with Cameron Woodford on the same issue) to this idea as follows:

“This misunderstands the contradiction at the heart of a bwp. It is not that the leadership are bourgeois and the base are proletarian in an individual sociological sense. They are all part of the working class. To the extent the leadership are separate from the membership in a sociological sense it is that the leadership predominantly come from the labour aristocracy while the membership do not.

“The real contradiction in a bwp that revolutionaries seek to exploit is between the programme of the leadership which does not project the overthrow of capitalism but rather just the reform of it and the aspirations of the membership for more than that – for changing capitalism into some version of socialism.

“And this links to the question of the PF. The main problem with the PF is one of politics. It is a device used by the leadership of a bwp to keep anti-capitalist sentiment in the membership at bay – “we can’t break the unity of the Popular Front” they cry.

“Calling for a vote to those leaders while they are expressing that ‘unity with the capitalists’ line does not help in exposing the real contradiction involved in a bwp.”

To the extent I have captured something real about the way Ian (and Gerry who expresses the same idea) understand the contradiction involved in a bourgeois workers party then perhaps it also helps explain their willingness to give political support to outright bourgeois forces in other situations.

If they understand the leadership of a bourgeois workers party to be bourgeois in nature then it is not so much of an issue for them to also find circumstances where they could give political support to bourgeois forces where their organisational attachment to a working class base was within another context – say like an “Anti-Imperialist United Front”.

I realise this last point is something of a stretch so I cannot be definitive about it – but it does have the advantage of being internally consistent.

05
Nov
18

I’m done debating Gerry Downing

The other topic that Gerry Downing has been highlighting on Facebook in the wake of the IBT split is the national question in situations where two, or more, groups of similar sizes with different national identities are intermingled in the same geographical area.

It is particularly difficult to engage Gerry constructively on this issue as his position seems to be mainly motivated by rage against the crimes of imperialism. This is of course an entirely justifiable emotional reaction but it should not take the place of sober Marxist analysis in developing political positions.

The discussions on this issue also saw much more of Gerry’s tendencies towards hyperbole and misrepresentations of his opponent’s position. This approach combined with my increasing realisation that we don’t even agree on the core political principles of Marxist has made it clear to me that there is no point in debating any further with him.

There has been enough discussion on Facebook, some of which I have copied on this blog, for anyone to see the different political methods at play. So it is time for me to end my participation in these exchanges.

======================================================

Gerry:

My view is the continuity claimed for the RT focuses you and your cothinkers in one narrow direction and prevents open examinations of these questions.

The stultifying internal regimes where a substantial minority held a view of Russia as imperialist since 2008 is ridiculous, an example of the grossest form of bureaucratic centralism and personality cult which disgraces the name of Trotskyism.

But the political essence this is based on is a capitulation to imperialism via the interpenetrated peoples theory in Ireland and Cyorus and Israel. The equation of the semi colonial nationalism of the oppressed with imperialist nationalism of the imperialist oppressor is reactionary and definitively not a development of Leninism and Trotskyism on the national question but a rejection of that tradition entirely.

In Ireland this involves a ridiculous reduction of the conflict to a Catholic vs Protestant conflict and adopting Gerry Adams’s Loyalist veto on a united Ireland 10 years before the Good Friday Agreement sold out the struggle against British imperialism. And that pernicious 1977 Theses on Ireland was actually a move to the left. Previously the iSt had a socialist Ulster position, a direct capitulation to the neo fascist of the PUP, Glen Bar, Gusty Spence et al.

The frustration of pointing out not only the reactionary politics of the 1977 document to Alan Gibson and his percieved duty to defend even the factual errors on top of reactionary politics led me to write him off as a unthinking cult member.

But I also was a cult member as was Ian and many others. When the WRP exploded in 1985 I examined every other political tendency claiming the name of Trotskyism and concluded after two years of the glasnost that the majority of the charges the WRP made against other groups were true. But also the majority of what they said about the WRP was also true. And then a terrible responsibility devolves to you. You must doubt everything and question everything by examining the details yourself and make your own political judgements.

It seems to me that this 10 year conflict burst in the open because the south Asian group began to do this terrible thing and it blew the minds of both factions and they had to be stopped immediately. The expulsion of the Mikl group was the real reason for the explosion of the rotten compomise.

Surely the worst capitulation to imperialism was Barbara Dorn’s demand that Russia hand over the Crimea and the Black Sea base in Savastapol over to NATO and the neutral stance of the ‘left opposition’ on the US sponsored Maidan coup, the Al Sisi military coup in Egypt in 2013 and Turkey in 2016 as well as the reactionary ‘down with the Shah, down with the Mullahs’ in Iran in 1979.

It was altogether too much that a semi colonial group rejected this imperialist dominated ideology inherited from Max Shachtman.

Alan:

Really?

This is a shockingly poor polemic – even for you.

Why is having a minority on any issue necessarily an example of a “stultifying internal regime” and “the grossest form of bureaucratic centralism and personality cult”?

The two things would only be linked in this way if you thought revolutionary organisations should be completely politically homogeneous – which is curiously usually much more what a cult looks like. Or if you had evidence that the minority was denied the democratic right to argue for their position in internal discussions and put forward motions on the disputed issue at conferences – both of which the IBT minority on Russia was allowed to do.

There is simply no basis in fact for you arguing that the BT/IBT are “capitulating to imperialism” for our position on the national question in places like the north of Ireland, Cyprus and Israel/Palestine.

The position you critique is just the recognition that in situations where there are intermingled/interpenetrated populations of relatively similar sizes with different national self-identities then there is no simple application of the bourgeois democratic demand of right of self-determination which can be implemented in a democratic fashion. It is only by establishment of a workers republic that the national question can possibly be resolved democratically.

You on the other hand continue to use the right to self-determination slogan. Consequently you would theoretically be prepared to take sides in participating in a genocide against the current oppressor national grouping because of their political affiliation to an imperialist state. This is independent of whether any imperialist forces are actually involve in the conflict. You believe this would be an unfortunate, but acceptable, consequence of their pro-imperialist politics. I do not. That is a real political difference.

But why describe the IBT/my position as being a capitulation to imperialism? The IBT is one of the few groups with a British presence who start their assessment of this issue with a call for British Troops out of Ireland – very strange for a pro-imperialist group don’t you think.

For the sake of this argument I will accept the Socialist Fight description of Israel as being an imperialist state. Therefore you are again facing a problem in that the IBT have always been clear that for there to be any solution to the national oppression of the Palestinians the existing racist Israeli state will have to be destroyed – once again a very strange sort of pro-imperialism that calls for the destruction of the imperialist’s own state power!

I am unsure why you say that I have a “perceived duty to defend even the factual errors on top of reactionary politics” of the 1977 Spartacist document “Theses on Ireland”. You and I have discussed this issue a couple of times face-to-face in the past year. In those discussions I have conceded there are some factual errors in it. I consider them to be of secondary importance – something you did not dispute as I remember it – and despite these errors I believe the main thrust of the argument to be correct. Perhaps you have misremembered this in your anger at my continued defence of the basic position?

The weakness in your position is best highlighted by the case of Cyprus. I am curious as to who you consider to have been the imperialist aggressor in Cyprus? Was it the section of the population considering themselves Turkish or those considering themselves Greek? And therefore was it Greece or Turkey that you consider to have been the imperialists in this conflict?

By the way this recognition of intermingled populations is not a “theory” no matter how many times you want to describe it as such – it is just a recognition of a demographic reality which affects the demands that Marxists make in those situations.

I am not interested in defending Barbara over her positions on conflicts involving Russia so why you raise it in a polemic with me is unclear. Though I must say that I am not aware of her ever having argued for the position you ascribe to her as it is not consistent with the position she holds.

As regards the four inter-capitalist conflicts you refer to in which the new post-split BT group I politically support took a “no side for workers” stance on. That is only a “capitulation to imperialism” according to your unique/idiosyncratic understanding of Trotskyism as including taking sides in conflicts between non-imperialist capitalist forces on the basis of an assessment of which of the non-imperialist capitalists is the most politically aligned with imperialism at any moment. Not as the actual Trotskyist approach is premised on – whether or not there are actual imperialist military forces involved or one of the non-imperialists is acting as a direct military proxy of imperialism. This is a real political difference between us but political clarity on it is not helped by your continual refusal to discuss the real substance of the difference.

Gerry:

The political differences between Reilly and Logan are fundamentally cultish and personality based. On the Russian question, Logan supports US imperialism and Reilly is neutral. So not far apart politically. But on the coups question, Reilly is worse than Logan and is pro-USA in his stance, as the original Spart were on Iran in 1979 and present-day Egypt 2013 and Turley 2016. Accommodation to US imperialism to different degrees and in different ways.

The interpenetrated peoples theory has no precedent in the Marxist canon; the situation in the north of Ireland existed in the days of Marx and Engels and Lenin and Trotsky and no one conceived of supporting Loyalism and consequently British imperialism in this way. And what about the ‘Rotten Prods’, the shipyard trade unionists who defended the nationalists and got the same treatment, many killed with the ‘Belfast confetti’; bolts and rivets and disks from the shipyards. Were they too traitors to the ‘different national self-identities’ of the ‘Protestants’ and Catholics?’ You admit their pro-imperialism, “because of their political affiliation to an imperialist state” but still see nothing wrong in supporting imperialism via its agents in the occupied north of Ireland. Incidentally, I went to an AWL meeting recently and they too put forward a version of that pro-imperialist theory, calling it “mixed up populations”. And the Socialist party and the SWP have the same capitulation to reactionary Loyalism. I accuse them all of being as bad as the Spart Family.

And do get into the habit of calling them Nationalist and Republicans on the one side and Loyalists and Unionists on the other to make clear to your own mind the difference between support for and opposition to British imperialism,. Not a religious conflict between ‘Protestants’ and ‘Catholics’, backward fellows who can’t learn to live with their ‘cultural differences’. Your imperialist apologetic “different national self-identities” forsooth! That’s the road to human liberation, is it?

Demanding the withdrawal of British troops whilst sanctifying a vile, racist, supremacist ideology as a legitimate culture is shocking. Was Nazism the ‘culture’ of the Germans, and so should be respected like this?

Also in Palestine, the rights of the Zionist oppressor racist ideology is equated with the ideology and struggles of the Palestinians for basic democratic rights. Likewise in Cyprus the imperialist forces were the EOKA and the invasion by Turkey was a legitimate defence of that population.

And no, we are not seeking a ‘democratic’ solution to the division of Ireland but a revolutionary one. That division was imposed by fascistic terror in the months of July and August 1920 and it will have to be undone by revolutionary violence.

As for your ‘drive the Protestants/ Jews into the sea’ I got that on Saturday evening from the Sparts themselves. On reading our flyer on Tommy Robinson and his connection with Israel the Spart demagog objected to the phrase “all of Israel is occupied territory” by claiming that meant that we wanted to drive the Jews into the sea. he repeated this a number of times in his rant against Socialist Fight. Before the other man warned me not to hand out any more of those flyers in the meeting.

Alan:

What are you talking about?

A difference on whether Russia is an imperialist state or not is reduced to “not very far apart politically” and “fundamentally cultish and personality based”.

I presume your comment on the Russian question is in relation to a potential military conflict with the USA. And here you have got it completely wrong. The IBT (the post-split group Logan is with) would be neutral in this conflict as they would understand it as being between two imperialist states while the BT (the post-split group Riley is with) would be militarily on the side of Russia as a non-imperialist state in conflict with an imperialist one. Neither group would be on the same military side as the USA.

You can keep on denying the demographic reality of inter-penetrated peoples all you like. However you cannot ascribe to me, or anyone in either the BT or IBT, the position that we support Loyalism and consequently British imperialism. You may disagree with our position on how the national question can be resolved but this is just getting to be completely pointless. It is impossible to debate with someone who instead of trying to understand his opponent’s position and point out internal inconsistencies or divergences with historical reality instead just repeats a mantra (completely at odds with reality) over and over and over. The real irony of this is who this reminds me of – the current day Sparts!

In regard to Ireland I am happy to use whatever terms you like for the two populations – though I don’t see how it solves your political problem. And indeed your binary version of Nationalist and Republicans on the one side and Loyalists and Unionists on the other misses out what apparently is a growing group in the middle who reject the ideas of either pole.

I accept I was using “pro-imperialist” too loosely. I was making a bit of a concession to your view of the non-Nationalist/Republican population as being a homogeneous whole. Of course there will be an element in the Loyalist/Unionist population who will act as direct military proxies of British imperialism and will need to be militarily defeated no matter what the future holds. But they will be a small minority of the population who identify as non-Irish in some way, or Northern Irish as distinct from the Republic or whatever. Indeed, as your own example shows, within the organised working class there will even be sections of this wider population who will stand against the military proxies of British imperialism in their “own” community.

The real question for you is who exactly has this “vile, racist, supremacist ideology” as their culture? And what should happen to those within the wider Loyalist/Unionist side of the population, in its broadest sense, who don’t share that ideology but also do not want to be simply subsumed into the Republic?

Ok you want a “revolutionary” solution to the problem in the north – so do I as that is how a workers republic will come into being. But still you spit bile as my supposed pro-imperialism so there must be more to it.

I guess the key question here is what is the class nature of your “revolution”? Will it be a socialist revolution to transform the property relations or will it be a revolution to change the dominance/control of the capitalist state power from those identifying as Loyalist/Unionist to those identifying as Nationalist/Republican?

Now I realise that a lot here depends on what the British would decide to do. Any involvement of imperialist British forces would have to be opposed as a starting point (as per the IBT programme!). That could well lead to independent working class forces struggling to make a revolution for a workers republic fighting alongside you and the bourgeois revolutionaries against the British imperialists.

But what if, for other geo-political reasons, the British did not send any troops and there was only the relatively small number (in that situation of Loyalism/Unionism feeling betrayed by the British) of Loyalist/Unionist thugs to deal with? Would you be with those fighting for working class unity and therefore for a workers republic (both North and South of the border!) or would you be with the bourgeois revolutionaries fighting behind the banner of Irish Self-Determination which in reality just means extending the border of the capitalist Republic?

All the above would have led nicely to a couple of questions about Cyprus – what makes the EOKA the imperialist force? They were representing the interests of the “imperialist” Greek state were they?

But of course I forget – for you EVERY inter-capitalist conflict (even purely political ones) has an imperialist vs non-imperialist nature and requires taking sides (even a purely political side as in the ANC leadership contest).

So my questions are effectively meaningless because they ask questions based on a different understanding of international geo-political reality. And they are also motivated by a quite different understanding of the core principles of Marxism. And they are asked of someone who appears unable to move beyond school chanting of slogans to get to substantive political discourse.

So I am done with this. Feel free to rant on about how you have politically defeated the cultish pro-imperialist who is Alan Gibson.

[At the same time as this discussion was taking place on one thread Gerry also commented on another thread where the following short exchange took place]

Gerry:

Oh, do try to get your head around that imperialism stuff, Alan. Here is that horrible opportunist Lenin capitulating to bourgeois nationalism, a ‘crime’ that James Robertson can never be accused of committing:

“By supporting the right to secession, we are told, you are supporting the bourgeois nationalism of the oppressed nations. This is what Rosa Luxemburg says, and she is echoed by Semkovsky, the opportunist, who incidentally is the only representative of liquidationist ideas on this question, in the liquidationist newspaper!

Our reply to this is: No, it is to the bourgeoisie that a “practical” solution of this question is important. To the workers the important thing is to distinguish the principles of the two trends.INSOFAR AS THE BOURGEOISIE OF THE OPPRESSED NATION FIGHTS THE OPPRESSOR, WE ARE ALWAYS, IN EVERY CASE, AND MORE STRONGLY THAN ANYONE ELSE, IN FAVOUR, FOR WE ARE THE STAUNCHEST AND THE MOST CONSISTENT ENEMIES OF OPPRESSION. But insofar as the bourgeoisie of the oppressed nation stands for its own bourgeois nationalism, we stand against. We fight against the privileges and violence of the oppressor nation, and do not in any way condone strivings for privileges on the part of the oppressed nation.

If, in our political agitation, we fail to advance and advocate the slogan of the right to secession, we shall play into the hands, not only of the bourgeoisie, but also of the feudal landlords and the absolutism of the oppressor nation. Kautsky long ago used this argument against Rosa Luxemburg, and the argument is indisputable. When, in her anxiety not to “assist” the nationalist bourgeoisie of Poland, Rosa Luxemburg rejects the right to secession in the programme of the Marxists in Russia, she is in fact assisting the Great-Russian Black Hundreds. She is in fact assisting opportunist tolerance of the privileges (and worse than privileges) of the Great Russians.”

Replace Poland with Ireland and ask yourself who might be the black hundreds in the north of Ireland?

Alan:

It seems you are incapable of understanding even simple words on a page.

“Insofar as the bourgeoisie of the oppressed nation FIGHTS the oppressor…”

“But insofar as the bourgeoisie of the oppressed nation stands for its own bourgeois nationalism, we stand against. We fight against the privileges and violence of the oppressor nation, and do not in any way condone strivings for privileges on the part of the oppressed nation.”

So.

For military support against a capitalist state denying the right to secede (right to self-determination) by an oppressed nationality.

No political support to the nationalism of the bourgeoisie of the oppressed nation.

The problem you have is that the right to secede/right to self-determination is that this refers to situations where there is a separate physical place where the oppressed group lives which can secede and set up a new state.

In situation of inter-mingled/inter-penetrated populations that is not possible and just repeating slogans which relate to situations where it is is just plain stupid.

Just as is justifying it with your bizarre view that EVERY inter-capitalist conflict HAS to be imperialist vs non-imperialist.

But we are talking at cross-purposes based on very different understandings of the core principles of Marxism.

So go ahead trash me as a cultish pro-imperialist, I am finished trying to discuss with you as though you were motivated by anything approximating a Leninist-Trotskyist version of Marxism.

 

 

01
Nov
18

A discussion with Gerry D. of Socialist Fight

In the wake of the split in the IBT the leader of the tiny British left group – Socialist Fight – tried to take advantage of that event by launching political attacks on what he believes to be some of the core problems with the politics of the IBT.

The following is a Facebook discussion we have had over the past few days on how to relate to reformist workers parties and how to relate to non-imperialist capitalist forces who are fighting imperialism.

While it is a long discussion and, as is often the case with FB, not always as clear as it could be (on both sides) I do think it outlines some important differences between the view of someone standing in the tradition of Bolsheviks like Lenin and Trotsky as compared to those of an example of what passes for left-wing “Trotskyism” in Britain today.

At the very least if anyone is interested in understanding where I am coming from politically on these issues reading this exchange with Gerry may prove helpful.

[I have edited the comments for obvious spelling mistakes].

Gerry:

To demonstrate to the Bolshevik Tendency and International Bolshevik Tendency that Trotsky followed Lenin and NEVER deviated from the policy of voting Labour where there was no revolutionary or mass centrist party to vote for. To agree with that you must read the reasoning both give. And that included voting for Blair, as he makes clear in his comment:

“MOREOVER, THE LONDON DIVISION’S POLICY OF GIVING CRITICAL SUPPORT ONLY TO ANTI-SANCTIONISTS WOULD IMPLY A FUNDAMENTAL DISTINCTION BETWEEN THE SOCIAL-PATRIOTS LIKE MORRISON AND PONSORIBY OR – WITH YOUR PERMISSION – EVEN CRIPPS.”

And

“IT IS ARGUED THAT THE LABOUR PARTY ALREADY STANDS EXPOSED BY ITS PAST DEEDS IN POWER AND ITS PRESENT REACTIONARY PLATFORM. FOR EXAMPLE, BY ITS DECISION AT BRIGHTON. [7] FOR US – YES! BUT NOT FOR THE MASSES, THE EIGHT MILLIONS WHO VOTED LABOUR.”

 

 

At present, British Communists very often find it hard even to approach the masses, and even to get a hearing from them. If I come out as a Communist and call upon them to vote for Henderson and against Lloyd George, they will certainly give me a hearing. And I shall be able to explain in a popular manner, not only why the Soviets are better than a parliament and why the dictatorship of the proletariat is better than the dictatorship of Churchill (disguised with the signboard of bourgeois “democracy”), but also that, with my vote, I want to support Henderson in the same way as the rope supports a hanged man—that the impending establishment of a government of the Hendersons will prove that I am right, will bring the masses over to my side, and will hasten the political death of the Hendersons and the Snowdens just as was the case with their kindred spirits in Russia and Germany.

If the objection is raised that these tactics are too “subtle” or too complex for the masses to understand, that these tactics will split and scatter our forces, will prevent us from concentrating them on Soviet revolution, etc., I will reply to the “Left” objectors: don’t ascribe your doctrinairism to the masses! The masses in Russia are no doubt no better educated than the masses in Britain; if anything, they are less so. Yet the masses understood the Bolsheviks, and the fact that, in September 1917, on the eve of the Soviet revolution, the Bolsheviks put up their candidates for a bourgeois parliament (the Constituent Assembly) and on the day after the Soviet revolution, in November 1917, took part in the elections to this Constituent Assembly, which they got rid of on January 5, 1918—this did not hamper the Bolsheviks, but, on the contrary, helped them.

Vladimir Lenin’s “Left-Wing” Communism: an Infantile Disorder, “Left-Wing” Communism in Great Britain, https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1920/…/ch09.htm

 

Leon Trotsky’s Writings on Britain, Volume III, Trotskyism versus Centrism in Britain
Once Again the ILP, Interview with Robertson

Question – WAS THE ILP CORRECT IN REFUSING CRITICAL SUPPORT TO LABOUR PARTY CANDIDATES WHO ADVOCATED MILITARY SANCTIONS?
ANSWER – NO. Economic sanctions, if real, lead to military sanctions, to war. The ILP itself has been saying this. It should have given critical support to all Labour Party candidates, i.e., where the ILP itself was not contesting. In the New Leader I read that your London Division agreed to support only anti-sanctionist Labour Party candidates. This too is incorrect. The Labour Party should have been critically supported not because it was for or against sanctions but because it represented the working class masses.

The basic error which was made by some ILPers who withdrew critical support was to assume that the war danger necessitated a change in our appreciation of reformism. But as Clausewitz [4] said, and Lenin often repeated, war is the continuation of politics by other means. If this is true, it applies not only to capitalist parties but to social democratic parties. The war crisis does not alter the fact that the Labour Party is a workers’ party, which the governmental party is not. Nor does it alter the fact that the Labour Party leadership cannot fulfil their promises, that they will betray the confidence which the masses place in them. In peace-time the workers will die of hunger if they trust in social democracy; in war, for the same reason, they will die from bullets. Revolutionists never give critical support to reformism on the assumption that reformism, in power, could satisfy the fundamental needs of the workers.

It is possible, of course, that a Labour government could introduce a few mild temporary reforms. It is also possible that the League could postpone a military conflict about secondary issues – just as a cartel can eliminate secondary economic crises only to reproduce them on a larger scale. So the League can eliminate small episodic conflicts only to generalize them into world war.

Thus, both economic and military crises will only return with an added explosive force so long as capitalism remains. And we know that social democracy cannot abolish capitalism.
No, in war as in peace, the ILP must say to the workers: “The Labour Party will deceive you and betray you, but you do not believe us. Very well, we will go through your experiences with you but in no case do we identify ourselves with the Labour Party programme.”

Morrison, Clynes [5], etc., represent certain prejudices of the workers. When the ILP seeks to boycott Clynes it helps not only Baldwin [6] but Clynes himself. If successful in its tactic, the ILP prevents the election of Clynes, of the Labour government, and so prevents their exposure before the masses. The workers will say: “If only we had Clynes and Morrison in power, things would have been better.”

It is true, of course, that the mental content of and Baldwin is much the same except, perhaps, that Baldwin is a little more “progressive” and more courageous. But the class content of the support for Clynes is very different.

IT IS ARGUED THAT THE LABOUR PARTY ALREADY STANDS EXPOSED BY ITS PAST DEEDS IN POWER AND ITS PRESENT REACTIONARY PLATFORM. FOR EXAMPLE, BY ITS DECISION AT BRIGHTON. [7] FOR US – YES! BUT NOT FOR THE MASSES, THE EIGHT MILLIONS WHO VOTED LABOUR. It is a great danger for revolutionists to attach too much importance to conference decisions. We use such evidence in our propaganda – but it cannot be presented beyond the power of our own press. One cannot shout louder than the strength of his own throat.

Let us suppose that the ILP had been successful in a boycott tactic, had won a million workers to follow it, and that it was the absence of this million votes which lost the election for the Labour Party. What would happen when the war came? The masses would in their disillusionment turn to the Labour Party, not to us. If Soviets were formed during the war the soldiers would elect Labour Party people to them, not us. Workers would still say that we handicapped Labour. But if we gave critical support and by that means helped the Labour Party to power, at the same time telling the workers that the Labour Party would function as a capitalist government, and would direct a capitalist war – then, when war came, workers would see that we predicted rightly, at the same time that we marched with them. We would be elected to the Soviets and the Soviets would not betray.

AS A GENERAL PRINCIPLE, A REVOLUTIONARY PARTY HAS THE RIGHT TO BOYCOTT PARLIAMENT ONLY WHEN IT HAS THE CAPACITY TO OVERTHROW IT, THAT IS, WHEN IT CAN REPLACE PARLIAMENTARY ACTION BY GENERAL STRIKE AND INSURRECTION, BY DIRECT STRUGGLE FOR POWER. In Britain the masses have yet no confidence in the ILP. The ILP is therefore too weak to break the parliamentary machine and must continue to use it. As for a partial boycott, such as the ILP sought to operate, it was unreal. At this stage of British politics it would be interpreted by the working class as a certain contempt for them; this is particularly true in Britain where parliamentary traditions are still so strong.

MOREOVER, THE LONDON DIVISION’S POLICY OF GIVING CRITICAL SUPPORT ONLY TO ANTI-SANCTIONISTS WOULD IMPLY A FUNDAMENTAL DISTINCTION BETWEEN THE SOCIAL-PATRIOTS LIKE MORRISON AND PONSORIBY OR – WITH YOUR PERMISSION – EVEN CRIPPS. [8] Actually, their differences are merely propagandistic. Cripps is actually only a second-class supporter of the bourgeoisie. He has said, in effect: “Pay no attention to my ideas; our differences are only small.” This is the attitude of a dilettante, not a revolutionist. A thousand times better an open enemy like Morrison. Lansbury [9] himself is a sincere but extravagant and irresponsible old man; he should be in a museum not Parliament.

The other pacifists are more duplicitous – more shifty: like Norman Angell [10], who demands more sanctions now, they will easily turn into social-patriots as war develops. Then they could say to the workers: “You know us. We were anti-sanctionists. Even the ILP supported our struggle. Therefore you can have confidence in us now when we say that this war is a just war.’ No, the ILP should have applied the same policy of critical support to the whole of the Labour Party, only varying our arguments to meet the slightly varied propaganda of pacifists and social-patriots. Otherwise illusions are provoked that pacifism has more power to resist than has social-patriotism.

This is not true; their differences are not fundamental. Even among the Tories there are differences on sanctions and war policies. The distinction between Amery [11] and Lansbury is simply that Amery is more of a realist. Both are anti-sanctionists; but for the working class, Lansbury with his illusions and sincerity is more dangerous.

Most dangerous of all, however, is the Stalinist policy. The parties of the Communist International try to appeal especially to the more revolutionary workers by denouncing the League (a denunciation that is an apology) by asking for “workers’ sanctions” and then nevertheless saying: “We must use the League when it is for sanctions.” They seek to hitch the revolutionary workers to the shafts so that they can draw the cart of the League. Just as the General Council in 1926 accepted the General Strike but behind the curtains concluded a deal with the clergy and pacifist radicals and in this way used bourgeois opinion and influence to “discipline” the workers and sabotage their strike, so the Stalinists seek to discipline the workers by confining the boycott within the limits of the League of Nations.

The truth is that if the workers begin their own sanctions against Italy, their action inevitably strikes at their own capitalists, and the League would be compelled to drop all sanctions. It proposes them now just because the workers’ voices are muted in every country. Workers’ action can begin only by absolute opposition to the national bourgeoisie and its international combinations. Support of the League and support of workers’ actions are fire and water; they cannot be united.

BECAUSE OF THIS, THE ILP SHOULD HAVE MORE SHARPLY DIFFERENTIATED ITSELF FROM THE CP AT THE ELECTIONS THAN IT DID. IT SHOULD HAVE CRITICALLY SUPPORTED THE LABOUR PARTY AGAINST POLLITT AND GALLACHER. It should have been declared openly that the CP has all the deficiencies of the Labour Party without any of its advantages. It should have, above all, shown in practice what true critical support means.

BY ACCOMPANYING SUPPORT WITH THE SHARPEST AND WIDEST CRITICISM, BY PATIENTLY EXPLAINING THAT SUCH SUPPORT, ONLY FOR THE PURPOSE OF EXPOSING THE TREACHERY OF THE LABOUR PARTY LEADERSHIP, THE ILP WOULD HAVE COMPLETELY EXPOSED, ALSO, THE SPURIOUS “CRITICAL” SUPPORT OF THE STALINISTS THEMSELVES, A SUPPORT WHICH WAS ACTUALLY WHOLE-HEARTED AND UNCRITICAL, AND BASED ON AN AGREEMENT IN PRINCIPLE WITH THE LABOUR PARTY LEADERSHIP.

Interview with Robertson (November 1935), New International, February 1936,

Alan:

So it seems for Gerry voting for a mass reformist party is a principle rather than a tactic as it should be done EVERY time there is no alternative revolutionary party to vote for.

[At this stage Gerry moved the discussion away from how to relate to bourgeois workers’ parties to fighting imperialism]

Gerry:

That’s what Lenin and Trotsky thought. They spell it out for you there in reasons you cannot mistake, But, like on imperialism, oppressed and oppressed nations, etc, Jim Robertson did not agree so the Great God must be right.

The United Front and the Anti-Imperialist United Front are tactics that apply at all times except when the direct uprising takes place for the seizure of power and the masses are flocking to the revolutionary banner; in a sense it is wrong to characterise the UF as a tactic at all because it is the methodology of communism, its very mode of existence, its orientation to the global working class as a whole class, the only method that can mobilise that force that alone can overthrow capitalism.

Alan:

Stop with the “you are a mindless follower of Robertson” bullshit. It has never been true of the IBT as a group and certainly isn’t true of me as an individual. It just makes you look stupid.

On the substantive issue I can agree that the method of the united front is something that can usefully be described as a principle while we remain under capitalist rule. And voting for bwp in elections can be seen as one of the many concrete issues which that general principle can provide political guidance for. But like many other concrete issues that are guided by the considerations of general principles there are quite often any number of tactical applications available. In the case of critical electoral support to bwp in elections those tactical considerations can mean giving and withdrawing that critical support.

On the anti-Imperialist United Front I have to say I disagree with the content you give to it as it leads you to giving political support to pro-capitalists as you did when choosing a side, under the banner of the AIUF, in the inter-bureaucratic dispute over the leadership of the pro-capitalist ANC.

Gerry:

You agree with opposing direct capitalist invasions and bombings but not with opposing pro imperialist coups and pro imperialist proxy forces, an impermissible distinction. The Benghazi rebels flew the flag of king Idris, were led by CIA assets and began hanging black workers immediately. Regime change was US and EU imperialism’s aim.

But you refused to oppose this at all, taking no side. And then when NATO began bombing all the Sparts agreed on a military bloc, such as you could make with any bourgeois force or even fascists to survive and not an anti-imperialist united front, failing to recognise Libya as a semi colonial oppressed nation attacked by imperialism.

Alan:

Ahh – all those anti-imperialist capitalists fighting the pro-imperialist capitalists where it is obvious who is on which side.

Like Iraq v Iran? Where you have told me you accept you would be switching backwards and forwards as your understanding of who was the imperialist “proxy” kept changing.

Of course this poses the issue of whether this distinction between the anti-imperialist bourgeois forces and the pro-imperialist bourgeois forces necessarily involves some degree of political support as a result of making this distinction about the political motivations/alignments of the contending bourgeois forces.

Perhaps an unfair accusation one might say.

Except we have the example of Gerry using the AIUF to justify giving explicit political support to one bureaucrat against another in the leadership struggle inside the ANC.

Gerry:

When US imperialism set up Saddam to attack Iran of course you took Iran’s side. Despite his massacre of the working class leaders Khomeini had ousted the main stooge regime in the region. However the US and Israel did not want Saddam becoming the dominant regional power which would threaten Israel. So when that became a possibility US changed tack and Israel began to supply Iran with modern war material. Playing both off against each other. Now it was necessary to change tack and support neither side. I think that’s a principled change driven by changed circumstances. You could no longer give even critical support to Iran as long as it was been supplied and supported by imperialism.

We have a dog in every fight against imperialism, despite the reactionary character of that dog. When both are equally supported in order to weaken opponents of Israel we have no dog because there is no anti imperialist side.

Alan:

ANC…

Gerry:

I’ll defend that stance later. But for now Zuma was corrupt and the Guptas had achieved state capture. Result was white monopoly capitalism won with Ramaphosa, a far more corrupt agent of US imperialism. They got what they wanted and i opposed that. ‘No to the ouster of Zuma’ was the slogan used.

Alan:

As there was no military conflict the ANC example shines a light on the reality of the content you give to the term AIUF.

It is about giving political support to bourgeois politicians and parties.

While he thinks you might have gone to far in the case of South Africa Ian’s comments on other threads show SF’s general willingness to give political support to bourgeois forces.

When we have discussed this in our informal chats you have attempted to place your understanding of the AIUF as consistent with taking military blocs while giving no political support.

While much of these discussions in the wake of the split in the IBT have been frustrating and not particularly providing any political clarity at least on this question exposing your divergence from Leninist Trotskyism has been laid bare.

Gerry:

And your designation of all bourgeois forces as equal is the most illuminating. Why did Lenin and Trotsky and the Bolsheviks place such emphasis on the difference between oppressed and oppressor nations. You have just done it again. Obama and Bush are capitalist; Gaddafi and Assad are capitalists. The same thing. Thus do the ICC syndicalists cover for their capitulation to their own imperialist ruling class.

You can’t get it out of your mind. Capitalism = capitalism. Never mind all that imperialism B.S. which only confuses true Trotskyists.

Alan:

Come on Gerry debate the real differences.

I am for military blocs with bourgeois forces (or at least pointing the guns the same way) if they are in military conflict with imperialism or its direct proxies.

You agree with doing this.

However you also give political support to bourgeois forces you judge to be the anti-imperialists in political conflicts with other bourgeois forces you judge to be the pro-imperialists.

I have speculated that you would mix military support with political support in situations of military conflicts with imperialism. You have denied this. But given your willingness to give political support in situations where there is no military conflict with imperialism I think my speculation is correct.

Gerry:

If the imperialists gain their aims via proxies and they don’t directly invade so we have no side?

Alan:

It depends on how you are using the term “proxy”. In a separate discussion by Cameron with you and Ian this was something of a contested issue. I would like clarity on how you are using the term before I answer your question.

Gerry:

I mean a group, like the Benghazi rebels, the Syrian Jihadist ‘rebels’ and the other pro-imperialist paid groups, the Kiev regime installed by the Maidan coup, the Cyril Ramaphosa wing of the ANC, sponsored by imperialism, the Temer leaders of the Brazilian coup against Dilma, the Venuzeula and Nicaragua rebels, i.e all pro-imperialist forces sponsored by the USA, the CIA and their allied NGOs to achieve regime change the better to exploit the semi-colonial country vis its more plaint stooges.

As Trotsky explained about the Chiang Kai Check it does not matter that previously these forces targeted now were the chosen stooges of the USA or other imperialist powers, today they are its targets because they defend some elements of the sovereignty of their nations. We should never be neutral in such regime change operations, critical support to the targes of imperialism:

“But Chiang Kai-shek? We need have no illusions about Chiang Kai-shek, his party, or the whole ruling class of China, just as Marx and Engels had no illusions about the ruling classes of Ireland and Poland. Chiang Kai-shek is the executioner of the Chinese workers and peasants. But today he is forced, despite himself, to struggle against Japan for the remainder of the independence of China. Tomorrow he may again betray. It is possible. It is probable. It is even inevitable. But today he is struggling. Only cowards, scoundrels, or complete imbeciles can refuse to participate in that struggle.”

Alan:

You have mixed up a whole lot of things there.

The most obvious thing I find problematic is your doubling down on political support to a bourgeois politician in the ANC leadership contest. With the clear implication that any of your other examples could also involve giving political support.

I am sorry but this and your willingness to vote for candidates standing on the platform of a Popular Front shows to me that you are on a completely different political track to me.

Working class political independence is a core principle of revolutionary Marxism. It is not something you turn on and off as it suits you.

Given this divergence on what is such a central part of my whole political perspective there seems little point in continuing this discussion.

Gerry:

You are united against SF and Trotsky, who is wrong on this if we are wrong. Was Trotsky right or wrong on China? Was he giving political support to Chiang Kai-shek? What a scoundrel that Trotsky was to do such a thing. Shame on him!

Alan:

No. Trotsky was not giving political support to Chiang Kai-shek.

Gerry:

Not political support against the working class but against Japanese imperialism? The anti-imperialist united front surely. No mixing of banners or conceding party or class independence but more than a military bloc which you conclude with any bourgeois force to preserve life and limb, with the devil or his grandmother.

Alan:

It was a military bloc against Japanese imperialism.

Where is there any evidence of political support to Chiang Kai-shek?

Just because you fill out your AIUF with political support don’t presume that Trotsky would have done so also.

Gerry:

Well it depends on what you mean by support. It Trotsky certainly was not neutral in that war. I suppose you have to say it’s politically against imperialism not politically against his own working class. That surely is a political stance by Trotsky. Or else we are neutral politically in every conflict. And Trotsky did reject capitulation to bourgeois nationalism.

Alan:

So no evidence – it just must have been…

Seriously?

Well if you want to use the terms military support and political support in such a way that when there is military support there is always necessarily political support then like your friends (again!) in the CPGB you have to explain why Lenin was very clear that the support the Bolsheviks gave the Provisional Government against the Kornilov coup involved NO political support whatsoever. This example being important because it is the first one where the distinction between political and military/technical support it made ad far as I am aware.

Lenin points to a distinction in the types of support. And if you don’t like military and political support as the terms to describe that distinction then either come up with new terms.

Or just accept that you disagree with Lenin and Trotsky on this. Maybe you are right and they are wrong.

Gerry:

As I say it depends on what you mean by ‘political support’. The military bloc against Kornilov could be made with any force threatened by the onslaught. It was a political decision but not political support. However the bourgeois nationalists are a semi oppressed semi oppressor class as Trotsky said and so there already is a political characterisation and not at all your dual defeatism which you took in Iran in 1979, in Egypt in 2013 and Turkey in 2016, not to nention the dual defeatism in Ireland in 1977 and Palestine in 1948. It definitely is a political poaition to always seek the defeat of US and every other genuine imperialist force either direct or proxy or both as in Libya after NATO began bombing.

Is that political support. We said at the time it wasn’t “military but no political support to Gaddafi against imperialist attack” – I’ll get the actual headline but on a question by a comrade I felt obliged to admit that it did contain an elenent of political support against imperialism only.

Alan:

As you are openly, and proudly, on the record as giving political support to one ANC capitalist bureaucrat against another in their leadership contest this discussion about the nuance’s in use of the terms military and political support are somewhat moot.

You give political support to bourgeois forces.

In my opinion this breaks a core principle of revolutionary Marxism – political independence of the working class.

(As is your willingness to vote for candidates standing on a Popular Front programme of class collaboration).

This is a red line issue for me and if you like your fellow-travellers in the CPGB consider this to be ultra-left sectarianism then I wear that as a badge of honour.

Gerry:

And you have no idea that you equate the nationalism of the opressor with the nationalism of the opressed in an appalling anti-Leninist way. For you, there is, ultimately, no oppressed and oppressor nations, no imperialism, just “capitalism”. The whole global imperialist system sought the ouster of Zuma and the installation of Ramaphosa. Why? Because they knew that would do the maximum damage to the working class and poor in South Africa and so the world. But you are neut5ral in all imperialist onslaughts in the third world because you accept a Sgachytmanit third campist position – they are all “capitalists” were are proletarians, let them fight out their differences it is of no concern of us simon-pure Bolsheviks, who prefer to stay at home in all these confrontations – Hitler Bruning, Von Papen, Hindenburg – all the same reactionary far-right politicians, no difference and as for the right-wing social democrats, the main enemy clearly. You are ultimately little better than a third-period Stalinist. Have nothing to do with the working class.

Alan:

This is pointless. You aren’t engaging with my actual position. I am sure knocking over this straw man makes you feel happy but it is not serious politics.

I, and the BT, are for the working class taking a military side against the imperialists when they attack non-imperialist capitalist forces. The record on that is clear.

Our REAL difference on this issue is two-fold.

Firstly over whether EVERY military conflict between two non-imperialist capitalist forces is NECESSARILY an imperialist vs non-imperialist conflict and so required the working class to take a side with one non-imperialist capitalist forces against another.

Secondly there is your version of the “Anti-Imperialist United Front” which, as the ANC example clearly shows, involves giving political support to whichever non-imperialist capitalist you choose to side with in the name of anti-imperialism.

You think this is justified and I know you are personally motivated by a justifiable deep hatred of the crimes of the imperialist system. But substituting emotional rage for critical Marxist analysis never ends up in a good place. And don’t get annoyed and start throwing your toys out of the pram by making absurd political allegations just because I point out that your approach is incompatible with a core principle of revolutionary Marxism.

[The initial discussion on relating to bourgeois workers parties continued as follows]

Gerry:

When is it that the workers have no illusions in the reformist leadership? Three possibilities. They don’t vote at all, they vote Tory or LibDem or they vote for and undertake a revolution. Trotsky spells out why to vote for the Constituent Assembly even in November 1917. But them old reformists Lenin and Trotsky weren’t a patch on that great rrrrevolutionary God Robertson.

“No, the ILP should have applied the same policy of critical support to the whole of the Labour Party, only varying our arguments to meet the slightly varied propaganda of pacifists and social-patriots. Otherwise illusions are provoked that pacifism has more power to resist than has social-patriotism.

This is not true; their differences are not fundamental. Even among the Tories there are differences on sanctions and war policies. The distinction between Amery [11] and Lansbury is simply that Amery is more of a realist. Both are anti-sanctionists; but for the working class, Lansbury with his illusions and sincerity is more dangerous.”

Alan:

The issue is the type of illusions.

There are lesser-evil illusions in which pro-capitalists will attack us less which can even lead some workers to vote for capitalist parties. This is unfortunately the dominant consciousness in Ireland and is reflected in the Irish LP being effectively indistinguishable from SF or FF.

The type of illusions I am interested in engaging with are ones based on class consciousness, even if I believe these are in the context that our separate interests as a class can be achieved through reforming capitalism. That is what needs to be put to the test of government and why we are supporting them like a rope. We say in advance they will betray their claim to be the ones who best defend and extend the separate interests of our class but maybe you are right to believe them so let us go through this together. Then when they are in power and show their true colours we are able to point this out and call on workers to break from reformism – which is the whole point of the tactic.

But if the reformist party is not even pretending to stand for the independent interests of the working class what test are they being put to? How can we say – look their claims to best represent our independent class interests have been exposed, break from them and join the ranks of revolutionary Marxism as the ones who fight for our class interests? What consciousness are you in engaging with, what illusions are being exposed?

The key phrase in the quote you provide from Trotsky which expresses this is:

“Both are anti-sanctionists; but for the working class.”

“…but for the working class.”

Trotsky is arguing that both the right and left reformist leaders are projecting the idea that they represent our separate class interests. This is not a dispute between Corbynite left reformism and Blairite “one Britian”ism. Between a left of the LP who project the idea we have separate class interests which they will fight for and a right who deny the very idea there are separate working class interests.

Your approach seems to be based on a simple process – count the numbers of workers. The majority still support party X therefore we will support party X.

So in Poland despite Solidarosc having a programme of capitalist restoration with no opposition to this by any faction you still say stay with the workers.

So in Popular Fronts, which are the most extreme and explicit form of this denial of the working class having its own class interests, you continue to support the workers party. Vote for the most virulent proponents within the workers movement of the idea of the cross-class PF as the way to get across the idea of separate working class interests! And this in the name of Trotskyism?

I wonder what you would have said in response to the events of 1914.

The social democratic parties retained mass support in the working class as they voted for war credits.

What would you have said to those brave few individuals who broke discipline to vote against war credits?

What would you have called that small band of mad sectarians who met in Zimmerwald to call for a break with the mighty Second International which drew behind it the masses ranks of the proletariat?

No doubt you will be full of indignation at how I could imply you wouldn’t have stood with those brave 3rd Internationalists. It is a completely different issue, blah, blah, blah.

But you have a problem because your political method in every other case is ALWAYS stay with the reformist parties with mass working class support no matter what they say or do.

You drag the banners of Marxism, of Leninism of Trotskyism through the mud with this crass objectivism.

Gerry:

My Reply to Alan Gibson:

The issue is the type of illusions.

There are lesser-evil illusions in which pro-capitalists will attack us less which can even lead some workers to vote for capitalist parties. This is unfortunately the dominant consciousness in Ireland and is reflected in the Irish LP being effectively indistinguishable from SF or FF.
(IRISH POLITICS ARE DIFFERENT TO BRITISH POLITICS. THE IRISH LABOUR PARTY BECAME PRO-IMPERIALIST AFTER THE DEATH OF CONNOLLY AND TOOK NO SIDE IN THE CIVIL WAR, EFFECTIVELY SIDING WITH THE PRO-TREATY FREE STATERS SIDE. FIANNA FAIL WON THE ANTI-IMPERIALIST WORKING CLASS VOTE, WHICH IS NOW TENDING TO GO TO SINN FEIN, NOW A CAPITALIST PARTY. VOTE LABOUR WHEREEVER A VIABLE CENTRIST GROUP WITH MASS IMPLANTATION IN THE WORKING CLASS IS NOT STANDING)
The type of illusions I am interested in engaging with are ones based on class consciousness, even if I believe these are in the context that our separate interests as a class can be achieved through reforming capitalism. That is what needs to be put to the test of government and why we are supporting them like a rope. We say in advance they will betray their claim to be the ones who best defend and extend the separate interests of our class but maybe you are right to believe them so let us go through this together. Then when they are in power and show their true colours we are able to point this out and call on workers to break from reformism – which is the whole point of the tactic.
(THIS IS CORRECT)
But if the reformist party is not even pretending to stand for the independent interests of the working class what test are they being put to? How can we say – look their claims to best represent our independent class interests have been exposed, break from them and join the ranks of revolutionary Marxism as the ones who fight for our class interests? What consciousness are you in engaging with, what illusions are being exposed?
(INCORRECT. THE MOST CLASS CONSCIOUS WORKING CLASS ALWAYS SEE LABOUR AS REPRESENTING THEIR INTERESTS AS AGAINST THE TORIES, AND THEY ARE CORRECT TO DO SO. THE LEAST CLASS CONSCIOUS ONES MAY VOTE TORY OR, MORE FREQUENTLY THEY CAN’T BRING THEMSELVES TO DO THAT SO THEY DON’T VOTE AT ALL ON THE WRONG BASIS THAT “THEY ARE ALL THE SAME”. THE LINKS WITH THE TRADE UNIONS MEAN IT CAN’T ACTUALLY DO THE DAMAGE TO THEM THAT THE TORIES DO. TO THINK OTHERWISE IS TO BELIEVE THERE IS A FUNDAMENTAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN RIGHT AND LEFT REFORMISM. THERE IS NOT AS TROTSKY POINTS OUT AND THAT YOU CANNOT ACCEPT)
The key phrase in the quote you provide from Trotsky which expresses this is:
“Both are anti-sanctionists; but for the working class.”
“…but for the working class.”
Trotsky is arguing that both the right and left refoemist leaders are projecting the idea that they represent our separate class interests. This is not a dispute between Corbynite left reformism and Blairite “one Britian”ism. Between a left of the LP who project the idea we have separate class interests which they will fight for and a right who deny the very idea their are separate working class interests.
(AGAIN INCORRECT. YOU ARE POSTULATING A FUNDAMENTAL, QUALITATIVE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LEFT AND RIGHT REFORMISM. CORBYN DOES NOT FIGHT FOR ANY SERIOUS “SEPARATE CLASS INTERESTS” OF THE WORKING CLASS NOW AND HE WILL DO EVEN LESS OF THAT IN GOVERNMENT. BUT “A LEFT OF THE LP” 550,000 OF THEM, WILL DO SO IF WE CAN INTERVENE AND JOINT THE PARTY AND GIVE A LEAD. THE FIRST STEP OF THE UNITED FRONT IS “VOTE LABOUR”)
Your approach seems to be based on a simple process – count the numbers of workers. The majority still support party X therefore we will support party X.
So in Poland despite Solidarosc having a programme of capitalist resotration with no opposition to this by any faction you still say stay with the workers.
(THE IBT SUPPORT FOR THE MARTIAL LAW CRACKDOWN ON THE POLISH WORKING CLASS BROKE THE BACK OF THAT RESISTANCE AND PAVE THE WAY FOR THE RESTORATION OF CAPITALISM IN 1989, BY THE COLLABORATION BETWEEN WALENSA AND JARUZELSKI. THIS FROM MARK HOSKINSON IN 1983, TROTSKYIST BULLETIN NO. 3; “IN REALITY THE PROLETARIAN BASE OF SOLIDARNOSC PREVENTED THE ORGANISATION EVER BECOMING A MASS FORCE FOR CAPITALIST RESTORATION. WE REJECT THE POSITION THAT A MASS PROLETARIAN-BASED MOVEMENT COULD EVER HAVE BECOME THE AGENT OF CAPITALIST RESTORATION. THE EXISTENCE OF A SIGNIFICANT TENDENCY COMMITTED TO DEMOCRATICALLY CENTRALISED PLANNING WAS AN EXPRESSION OF THE PROLETARIAN BASE. SOLIDARNOSC REMAINED A CONTRADICTORY AND OFTEN CONFUSED MOVEMENT OF THE MASS OF THE POLISH WORKING CLASS AGAINST BUREAUCRATIC PRIVILEGE AND POLITICAL REPRESSION. THE CONTRADICTION BETWEEN THE PROLETARIAN BASE AND THE POLITICS OF THE SOLIDARNOSC LEADERSHIP WAS ONCE AGAIN EXPRESSED DURING THE BRITISH MINERS ‘ STRIKE. SOLIDARNOSC BASE GROUPS IN THE POLISH COALFIELDS DECLARED THEIR SOLIDARITY WITH THE BRITISH MINERS AND DENOUNCED THE SCABBING OF THE JARUZELSKI REGIME. WALESA AND CO. STOOD IN STARK CONTRADISTINCTION TO THIS POSITION WITH THEIR REPORTED EULOGIES OF THATCHER (THOUGH THESE REPORTS WERE NO DOUBT EMBELLISHED UPON BY THE BRITISH PRESS).”
“…YOUR POSITION OF HALF-HEARTED SUPPORT TO JARUZELSKI, WHILE REFUSING TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE BRUTAL CRACKDOWN HE CARRIED THROUGH, REPRESENTS THE DILEMMA YOU FACE AS AN ORGANISATION THAT HAS NOT BROKEN FROM SPARTACISM. YOUR INNER CONVICTIONS LEAD YOU IN THE DIRECTION OF DEMANDING THE SUPPRESSION OF SOLIDARNOSC FROM SEPTEMBER 1981 –SEE THESIS 3-­ BUT YOUR FEAR OF BEING BRANDED AS SPARTACISTS LEADS YOU TO ONLY ACTIVATE THIS DEMAND IN DECEMBER. IN ANY EVENT IT IS A POSITION THAT LEADS YOU TO WRITE OFF THE WORKING CLASS AS AN INDEPENDENT REVOLUTIONARY FACTOR. IT LEADS YOU TO LOOK TO THE STALINIST BUREAUCRACY TO ACT AS THE PROTECTOR OF THE PLANNED PROPERTY RELATIONS. IN SHORT IT LEADS YOU A MILLION MILES AWAY FROM REVOLUTIONARY TROTSKYISM.”)
So in Popular Fronts, which are the most extreme and explicit form of this denial of the working class having its own class interests, you continue to support the workers party. Vote for the most virulent proponents within the workers movement of the idea of the cross-class PF as the way to get across the idea of separate working class interests! And this in the name of Trotskyism?
(THE QUESTION INDICATED THAT YOU HAVE NOT UNDERSTOOD THE METHODOLOGY OF THE UNITED FRONT AND THE TRANSITIONAL PROGRAMME AT ALL. “TELL THEM THEY ARE WRONG” SHOULD WORK WITHOUT EVER ENGAGING IN THEIR STRUGGLES. YOUR BEST EFFORTS ON THIS WERE WHEN YOU STRUGGLED IN THE SOCIALIST ALLIANCE WITH A REGULAR PRESS. REVOLUTIONARY STUFF COMPARED TO THE ONE-A-YEAR)
I wonder what you would have said in response to the events of 1914.
The social democratic parties retained mass support in the working class as they voted for war credits.
What would you have said to those brave few individuals who broke discipline to vote against war credits?
What would you have called that small band of mad sectarians who met in Zimmerwald to call for a break with the mighty Second International which drew behind it the masses ranks of the proletariat?
No doubt you will be full of indignation at how I could imply you wouldn’t have stood with those brave 3rd Internationalists. It is a completely different issue, blah, blah, blah.
(WHAT IS THE PROBLEM HERE? OF COURSE, SUPPORT LUXEMBURG AND LIEBKNECHT WITH ACTION AND VOTES BUT WHERE THEY CANNOT STAND? STILL THE UNITED FRONT WITH THE SOCIAL DEMOCRATS UNLESS WE BECOME POST 1928 THIRD PERIOD ULTRA-LEFT LUNATICS)
But you have a problem because your political method in every other case is ALWAYS stay with the reformist parties with mass working class support no matter what they say or do.
(ALWAYS STAY WITH THE WORKING CLASS. NEVER PROCLAIM YOURSELVES THE ONLY HOPE UNTIL YOU HAVE WON THEY ALLEGIANCE. AND YOU CAN NEVER DO IT UNLESS YOU ADDRESS THEIR PRESENT CONSCIOUSNESS WITH TRANSITIONAL DEMANDS. LENIN, THE BOLSHEVIKS AND TROTSKY THOUGH SO. YOU DO NOT.)
You drag the banners of Marxism, of Leninism of Trotskyism through the mud with this crass objectivism.
(YOU ARE DOING THAT WITH THIS SECTARIAN THIRD PERIOD STUFF)

Alan:

Have I read your comment correctly to say you advocate a vote to the Irish Labour Party at the current time?

I have to challenge your assertion that because of the link to the trade unions Labour Party type organisations are unable to do the same damage to the working class that a Tory type party can.

I know this to be untrue because I had the “pleasure” to live through the David Lange and Roger Douglas led NZ Labour Party which in the 1980s carried out sweeping attacks on the working class that the National Party (NZ’s Tory party) had not been able to do.

When in power social democrats are a capitalist government. They may wring their hands when having to do what the capitalists need but they will do it none-the-less.

The degree to which the working class can resist, or not, attacks by the capitalists is always the result of the strength of militant class struggle politics among class conscious workers.

Quite often the election of a Labour Party will coincide with an upsurge in working class militancy (or perhaps more correctly their election is a result of that upsurge) but that doesn’t change the reality that the social democrats in power are a capitalist government.

To in anyway imply that it is the Labour Party parliamentarians and their allies in the trade union leadership who will protect the working class is the worst kind of labourite parliamentary cretinism that only disarms the working class.

I am not postulating a fundamental difference between left and right reformists – in power they will both carry out the needs of capital. The only difference is the amount of public hand wringing. However what is different is the programme they put forward. The left reformists put forward a platform that projects, in a reformist way of course, the idea that the working class has separate class interests. The right reformists do not bother with this and put forward a platform for all the people, the whole country or whatever. This changes the dynamic in the nature of the illusions that class conscious workers have in them – and therefore what electoral tactics we should employ.

I simply disagree with you that the most class conscious workers will ALWAYS vote for the Labour Party. I actually believe that when the LP is led by right-wingers like the Blairites that many class conscious workers do not vote at all as they can see there is no substantive difference between the LP & Tories and to the extent they do vote for the LP it is on the basis of hopeful lesser-evilism – unfortunately promoted by the likes of you with your ahistorical belief in the necessary relative benignness of LPs as compared to Tories.

Regarding Solidarnosc – ask yourself what would have happened if they had won? The programme of all factions was for capitalist restoration and that is what they would have implemented. I can only presume you don’t think that an earlier restoration of capitalism would have been so bad because it would have been some kind of “worker-led capitalist restoration”?

Why the hell are you referring to the general usefulness of united fronts with social democrats in response to me raising an issue with electoral tactics towards Popular Fronts – dodge and weave Gerry…

So the 3rd Internationalists were wrong to split from the parties of the 2nd International because they hadn’t yet won the allegiance of the working class? Don’t prevaricate, just come out and say it like your friends (on this question at least) in the CPGB are only too proud to do.

It was the Socialist Labour Party not the Socialist Alliance that the IBT joined. And despite our small size and supposed “sectarian third period” politics we somehow managed to play a central role in the opposition to the Scargill bureaucracy. That was because the IBT understands united fronts, critical support and the method of the Transitional Programme in a much more thorough way than you ever will.

Just as I, as an individual, was able to use that political method to play a central leadership role in Ireland’s second city in the biggest working class movement this country has seen for many years – the campaign against the household and water charges. Hard to believe if I had the politics you ascribe to me…

Gerry:

To give your due you did and do good work in Ireland and as i understand it you were central to the SLP work in Britain. But what work do the IBT or the BT do or intebd to do now? The Irish Labour party is not really like the British Labour party, very abject in its pro imperialist outlook. And Fianna Fail was a bit like the Peronists in Argentina. Irish voting is more nuanced because of the transferable vote. I’d vote Labour or left alternative and then transfer against Fine Gael. But always abstaining seems to me to be useless. But I’m open to discussion on that.

New Zealand Labour, is it a genuine bourgeois workers party? Australian Labour seems to me to be one.

Alan:

The IBT has a long history of united front/campaign work though their main political activity has been the production of the articles in 1917. And yes it would have been good to see more articles but even though, as an activist, I want to have more material I could see the sense in quality over quantity. Groups like Socialist Fight only reinforces that showing what clearly prioritising quantity over quality can lead to.

Regarding the NZ Labour Party it is over 20 years since I lived there so my personal exposure to them is limited but it certainly was a bourgeois workers party when Lange and Douglas used it as a vehicle to attack the working class.

The election that brought them to power was infamous for the National Party’s “dancing Cossacks” cartoon tv advert trying to run a red scare in response to the LP’s fairly mild left-reformism (which they were quickly to betray).

 

 

21
Oct
18

Serious capitalist commentator on climate change

Ever since the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report was released on 8 October I’ve been watching the international mainstream bourgeois media for something more substantive than the knee-jerk couple of days sensationalist response of the Irish press before it was back to business as usual.

I was therefore interested to read “The latest report on global warming makes grim reading” in The Economist.

This article is interesting because it goes beyond the findings of the IPCC report. One significant example of this, which is surprisingly absent from the IPCC report, is in regard to the dangers of tipping points with methane gas release from the frozen tundra in the Arctic circle and areas of the ocean floor. The feedback mechanisms involved in this could easily see temperature increases of many degrees which would make anything humanity does virtually irrelevant. They also point to some more recent studies which highlight some areas to greater degree than in the IPCC report.

The overall picture The Economist paints is of a situation which is even worse than that put forward in the IPCC report. They recognise that massive changes in the way humanity produces and consumes energy are needed – so what is their prognosis?

On October 9th, a day after the volume’s release and ahead of an important UN climate summit in Poland this December, environment ministers from 15 of the EU’s 28 members pressed the bloc to revise its climate targets in line with the 1.5°C target. This is welcome. But in a world where even the existing target looks likely to be missed by a mile, how much difference it will make is open to doubt. In climate change, as in so many other areas, words are cheap. It is actions that are eloquent.

And that is unfortunately a completely accurate assessment. There is no evidence that international capitalism has the ability, or even the subjective will in some cases, to do what is necessary. The iron laws of capital accumulation and competition prohibit them from doing what is necessary.

The obvious conclusion, which of course The Economist will not draw, is that humanity needs to move beyond the irrational capitalist socio-economic system and we need to do it fast.




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