The conflict that opened up in the Militant in 1991 eventually led to breaking point. The “Majority”, no longer able to tolerate any form of internal debate, decided to expel the Opposition, starting with Ted Grant, the founder of the Tendency. This act put the final seal on the degeneration of the old Militant. From a healthy, vibrant Marxist Tendency, it had been transformed into a bureaucratic, sectarian and undemocratic outfit. The opposition started to draw a balance sheet of the whole experience and this document is part of that.
“Representatives of the majority, despite the silence of the Opposition, began a vicious slander campaign against it, presenting the party with monstrously distorted versions of the views and proposals of the Opposition. This more and more one-sided discussion has been and is being conducted only to prepare the party for even more unhealthy organisational measures. Never before have the methods of intimidation, terrorising, smearing, and expulsion been used so unrestrainedly as now. The most responsible assignments are made exclusively from the point of view of factional selection... The Stalin group wants to finish matters off organisationally as quickly as possible.”
Leon Trotsky, October 1926.
“...the bloc continued to exist and its adherents did not stop their underhand work against the Party. They went on banding together their anti-Leninist party, started an illegal printing press, collected membership dues from their supporters and circulated their platform.
“In view of the behaviour of the Trotskyites and Zinovievites, the 15th Party Conference (November 1926) and the Enlarged Plenum of the EC of the Communist International (December 1926) discussed the question of the bloc... and adopted resolutions stigmatising the adherents of this bloc as splitters whose platform was downright Menshevism.
“Instead of submitting to the will of the Party they decided to frustrate it… the ring leaders of the bloc of Trotskyites and Zinovievites had outlawed themselves from the Party...”
J Stalin (History of the CPSU, 1938).
The Opposition has been banned. Opposition leaders expelled. Throughout the country a purge is taking place against Opposition comrades, with branch committees being called as kangaroo courts. Using the methods of McCarthy, comrades are being asked to choose: the Opposition or the Tendency. Opposition branches are being systematically closed down and “reorganised” by Full Timers. This witch-hunt is the culmination of the neo-Stalinist campaign that has been waged against the Opposition since its formation. By these actions the majority faction has engineered a split – despite the protests of the Opposition – and, true to form, immediately publicised it in the pages of the capitalist press, before the ranks had any chance to comment.
Over the last six months, many comrades were extremely concerned, if not deeply alarmed, by the way the “debate” over the “turn” had been conducted. Following in the traditions of Lenin and Trotsky, our organisation had always correctly prided itself with its democratic methods in dealing with differences over political and organisations issues. Trotskyism was born out of a struggle with the counterrevolutionary policies and methods of the Stalinist bureaucracy. Correct policies and a healthy internal regime were equally essential in the construction of a revolutionary tendency. We condemned the sects who, unable to answer the arguments of opponents, always attempted to distort and twist arguments in order to ridicule them, and eventually expel them. These false undemocratic methods – the product of an unhealthy regime – always produced convulsions and splits at every stage in their development.
Unfortunately, the recent debate marked a fundamental departure from our past methods. Far from being an open and genuine exchange of ideas and opinions, which could serve to raise the level of the organisation, the Majority faction used its position and resources to wage a relentless attack – using dirty methods – against the Opposition. A key weapon in this assault was the Full Time apparatus whose loyalty was abused to ensure the leadership’s “line” was carried through to a victory.
This dispute over the attitude towards the mass organisations has laid bare other differences over perspectives, both in Britain and internationally. It has also highlighted a dispute over organisational methods and approach as well as the character of the regime in the organisation. These differences have not fallen from the sky, but have arisen from both subjective and objective reasons.
What we have witnessed is a degeneration of the organisation.
How did it happen?
The move towards “activism” and the relegation of theory in the tendency is again not accidental, but flows from the broader degeneration that has taken place within the leadership.
Many comrades have asked themselves the question: how could our organisation, with its high political level and democratic traditions, have gone down this road?
The question is not a simple one, and does not admit of a simple answer. It would be wrong to look for a single cause, although undoubtedly some factors weigh more heavily than others in determining the fate of a revolutionary organisation.
Many of us were for a long time unable to detect the real nature and scope of the problem, because we consciously or unconsciously refused to admit the hypothesis of a political and organisational degeneration in the tendency that we had worked for decades to build. We attributed the problems and faults we observed to the individual mistakes of this or that comrade, which would be rectified in the course of experience. The blindness towards the processes which were taking place in the apparatus, the refusal to admit the existence of serious problems was itself one of the most harmful elements in the situation. Relatively minor mistakes and deviations can be easily resolved, if checked in time. But an uncorrected mistake can become a tendency, which can, in time, undermine the whole organisation. This is exactly what has happened here, and none of us can avoid our personal responsibility for it.
It is a peculiar paradox that, right up to the present moment, a great part of the comrades who support the majority still honestly believe that this tendency is basically democratic.
This is partly due to the fact that the full-time apparatus has succeeded in concealing from the comrades what is going on. The activities of the centre, the EC, the CC, etc. are a book sealed with seven seals for the great majority. Contrary to the traditions of Bolshevism, the activities of the leadership are shrouded in secrecy. It has become an obsession. And what goes on in the International is even more of a mystery to the average comrade. Given the complete lack of information, and the colossal trust in the leadership built up over decades, many comrades are inclined to take the word of the majority leadership against the Opposition, particularly when the internal controversy is presented as a “struggle to defend the organisation”. The whole thing is presented as a gigantic loyalty test. And the loyalty of the comrades has been systematically abused.
Where does this loyalty come from? From the colossal political and moral authority of the leadership. And this, in turn, was fundamentally the political and moral authority of comrade EG, who established the tendency on the basis of unshakable theoretical foundations.
For many years, the correctness of our ideas was demonstrated in practice, and this established an enormous confidence in the leadership. In a genuine Bolshevik organisation, the only authority a leadership can have is a moral and a political authority. You cannot demand authority on the basis of positions and titles: “full-timer”, “leading comrade”, “CC member”, “EC member” or even “General Secretary”. All this means less than nothing unless it is built on the correctness of your ideas and your ability to convince and inspire with political arguments.
The immense authority of the leadership created an enormous degree of trust, as we have said. Trust is, of course, a very fine thing. But you cannot build a Marxist working-class organisation on trust alone. In reality, the leadership of this tendency enjoyed more than trust. It had virtually a blank cheque (even in the most literal sense of the word) to do what it liked, without any real check or control. No leadership, no matter how honest or politically correct, should have that amount of “trust”.
To this day, the present leadership, which has, by its actions, abandoned all claim to political and moral authority, appeals to the membership to trust it. “Trust the EC, comrades! Trust the CC! Trust the full-timers!” Not by accident, the first reaction of the leadership to the crisis was to call numerous meetings which were required to pass votes of confidence in the national and international leadership. Never mind about the issues, never mind about the facts, just trust us, and everything will be fine. But everything is not fine, and thinking men and women will not be satisfied for long with attempts to play on their feelings of loyalty, in order to divert attention from the real problems we face.
As a result of a long period in which, in general, the ideas of the leadership were shown to be correct, we built a politically homogeneous tendency.
Up to the recent period there did not appear to be any serious political disagreements. In fact, there have been disagreements on all kinds of political and organisational matters, but these were never allowed to reach even the level of the CC or IEC. Nothing was permitted to indicate the slightest disagreement in the leadership. PT was particularly insistent on this. And since, in general, the disagreements did not appear to be of a decisive character (in retrospect they were extremely significant), it did not seem necessary to make much of them.
Unity is, of course, a valuable asset to a revolutionary organisation, provided it is a genuine unity, based on the coincidence of ideas. But in this tendency, there was something more than just unity. There was uniformity, which at times came dangerously close to conformism.
In a Bolshevik organisation, the main ideas come from the top – that is the justification for the existence of a leadership. But the ideas must be thoroughly discussed, criticised, amended, or rejected by the entire membership. Room must be given for the participation and creative initiative of the rank-and-file. Criticism and dissent must not be stifled. But that is precisely what has happened here.
We paid a very high price – far too high – for this “unanimity”. The tendency became unused to genuine discussion and debate. To be frank, many comrades (including “leading comrades”) simply stopped thinking. It was sufficient just to accept the line of the leadership. This, in itself, was a recipe for political degeneration in the long run.
In the past, we had a very open internal regime, where comrades could freely express any point of view, criticise, demand, and expect to get, answers to their questions. Over a number of years that has been undermined and now largely destroyed.
The present debate has revealed that any serious criticism or difference is regarded as high treason. This is presented as an “attack on the organisation”. Those who put forward such views are, therefore, to be treated as traitors. That applies to comrade EG, the founder of the tendency, just as much as to any rank-and-file member who dares to question the behaviour of the full-timer in his local branch.
The same is true in the International, where any attempt to even to ask for detailed information about the real state of affairs in Britain, is denounced as an “attack on the British section”.
How can we have a genuine discussion, when matters are presented in this way?
The history of the Bolshevik Party was completely different to this. Throughout its entire history, the Bolshevik Party had an intense internal life, with internal debates, controversies, differences among the leaders, openly expressed, yes, and factions also.
When we formed a faction to combat the disastrous “British Turn”, we were immediately accused of disloyalty. In a circular the EC attempted to prejudice comrades attitudes by feeding the “suggestion” that members were “shocked” at this action. In doing this, the majority merely demonstrate their abysmal ignorance of the real traditions of Bolshevism and democratic centralism. Trotsky had this to say on the subject of factions:
“In the Comintern, factions were forbidden, and this police ban was alleged to be in keeping with the Bolshevik tradition. It is difficult to imagine a worse slander on the history of Bolshevism It is true that in March 1921 factions were banned by a special resolution on the Tenth Party Congress. The very fact that this resolution was necessary shows that in the previous period – i.e., during the seventeen years when Bolshevism arose, grew, gained strength, and came to power – factions were a legitimate part of party life. And this was reflected in practice.
“At the Stockholm Party Congress (1906), where the Bolshevik faction was reunited with the Menshevik faction, there were two factions inside the Bolshevik faction involved in an open struggle at the congress itself over a major question, the agrarian programme. The majority of the Bolsheviks, under Lenin’s leadership, had come out for nationalisation of the land. Stalin, who spoke at the congress under the name Ivanovich, belonged to a small group of so-called “partitionists” that advocated the immediate partitioning of the land among the small property-owners, thus restricting the revolution beforehand to a capitalist-farmer perspective.
“In 1907, a sharp factional struggle was fought over the question of boycotting the Third State Duma (parliament).supporters of the boycott subsequently aligned themselves into two factions which over the next few years carried on a fierce struggle against Lenin’s faction, not only within the confines of the ‘united” party, but inside the Bolshevik faction as well. Bolshevism’s intensified struggle against liquidationism later on gave rise to a conciliationist faction inside the Bolshevik faction, to which prominent Bolshevik practical party workers of that time belonged: Rykov, Dubrovinsky, Stalin, and others. The struggle against the conciliationists dragged on until the outbreak of the war.
“August 1914 opened a period of regroupment inside the Bolshevik faction on the basis of attitudes toward the war and the Second International. Simultaneously a factional group was being formed of people who opposed national self-determination (Bukharin, Pyatakov, anthers).
“The sharp factional struggle inside the Bolshevik faction in the first period after the February Revolution and on the eve of the October Revolution is now well enough known (see for example, L. Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution). After the conquest of power a sharp factional struggle broke out around the question of the Brest-Litovsk peace. A faction of Left Communists was formed with its own press (Bukharin, Yaroslavsky, and others). Subsequently, the Democratic Centralism and the Workers’ Opposition factions were formed. Not until the Tenth Party Congress, held under conditions of blockade and famine, growing peasant unrest, and the first stages of NEP – which had unleashed petty-bourgeois tendencies – was consideration given to the possibility of resorting to such an exceptional measure as the banning of factions. It is possible to regard the decision of the Tenth Congress as a grave necessity. But in light of later events, one thing is absolutely clear: the banning of factions brought the heroic history of Bolshevism to an end and made way for its bureaucratic degeneration.” (L. Trotsky, Writings 1935-6)
A prior condition for internal democracy is the free flow of information. Without information, it is impossible for the membership to express an opinion, much less to determine policy. In this respect also, our tendency has been completely unlike the Bolshevik Party or the Communist International in its healthy period.
For the first five years of its existence, the Comintern held annual Congresses, despite the extreme difficulties involved. Every section discussed the problems of every other section. There were debates and controversies. The Russian party, despite its overwhelming strength and authority, did not attempt to use this to impose its views upon other sections. The Germans, Dutch, Hungarian and other parties pursued policies which were completely at variance with the standpoint of Lenin and Trotsky (usually with very negative consequences), but never experienced disciplinary measures or bureaucratic pressure. The only weapon used by Lenin and Trotsky was the weapon of convincing people by the superiority of their arguments. The tactic of character assassination, bureaucratic manoeuvres and the pressure of the apparatus was not the method of Leninist democratic centralism, but of Zinovievism and Stalinism.
Compare the situation with us. There is virtually complete ignorance about the work of comrades in other countries. This is true not only of the rank-and-file, but even at IEC level. This body only rarely meets. The Comintern held annual congresses. The IEC itself only meets about once a year. The “reports” given to it are, in reality, a list of our successes (very real and important, to be sure), for the purpose of boosting morale.
But very rarely do we get information about the problems faced by the comrades in difficult situations. This is not meant to be discussed outside the centre. Thus, an entirely false and one-sided picture is given even to the leading international comrades.
But the area about which there is complete ignorance is the workings of the centre itself. Even the leading international comrades know nothing about it. In the course of the recent debate, a representative of the IS minority went to one of the main European sections that supports the majority and asked the EC a simple question: “What do you know about my work, or the work of any other IS comrade?” The answer was a most eloquent silence. That speaks volumes about our internal regime.
The same is true in relation to the British EC. At the beginning of the dispute the Welsh CC cdes admitted that “they hadn’t a clue about the workings of the EC”. That goes for the rest of the CC, who never received any reports of its work, etc. Again the real state of the organisation is kept secret. Comrades in one area have no idea what the situation is in other areas – all they hear about is the successes.
In the past, the lack of any written information was justified in terms of security. It should be made clear that this refers almost exclusively to security, not in relation to the state, but in relation to the Labour bureaucracy.
It is quite ironical that the other faction now tries to justify the regime at the centre on the grounds of “security” when they have blown security sky-high by declaring an open organisation and publishing detailed information about the tendency in the pages of the bourgeois press.
The fact is that the argument about “security” has been used to violate internal democracy and keep vital information from being distributed. It is not a weapon against the labour bureaucracy, but against the rank and file.
Let us pose the question concretely: We have a situation where the leadership enjoys such trust that it amounts to a blank cheque; where there is uniformity of ideas, in which all dissent is automatically presented as disloyalty; where the leadership is allowed to function with virtually no checks or accountability, under conditions of complete secrecy from the rank-and-file. In such a situation, it is not surprising that a clique should exist. It would be astonishing if a clique did not exist.
Some comrades have posed the question as to whether the manifest reality of a political and organisational degeneration in our midst is not some kind of inherent consequence of democratic centralism.
In the first place, anyone with the slightest knowledge of the history of Bolshevism will see at a glance that this regime bears not the slightest resemblance to the internal regime of the party of Lenin and Trotsky. What we are confronted with here is not democratic centralism but bureaucratic centralism.
In the second place, it would be naive in the extreme to imagine that the fundamental cause of the degeneration of any workers’ organisation lies in its rules, statutes and constitution.
Statutes, of course, have their importance. But from a Marxist point of view, they cannot explain, still less determine, the fundamental evolution of a party, which is linked to all kinds of phenomena, both objective and subjective: the quality of its leadership, the development of its cadres, its links with the working class (or lack of them), the concrete stage through which the class itself is passing, the pressure of alien class forces on the party and its leadership. All these factors are a million times more decisive than any constitution, and can make or break any organisation, no matter how perfect its statutes. This is, after all, the lesson of that happened to the Bolshevik Party, the most democratic party in the history of the world working class, which degenerated under unfavourable historical conditions.
Today, at a time when Stalinism has been overthrown, not by the working class, but by capitalist counterrevolution in Russia, the strategists of capital are striving to blacken the name of Marxism in the eyes of the working class. There is a constant barrage of propaganda which attempts to slander the spotless heritage of Bolshevism, trying to show that “Leninism and Trotskyism are the same”. Part of this campaign is to identify Stalinist authoritarianism with the “original sin” of Democratic Centralism. This is false from beginning to end.
To begin with, the Bolshevik Party was neither the first, nor the last, example of a workers’ party which suffered a bureaucratic degeneration. All the parties of the Second
International experienced a complete bureaucratic-reformist degeneration, despite the fact that not one of them was organised on the lines of democratic centralism, and most had a very “democratic”, loose and “federal” structure. Only the Bolsheviks organised on Leninist lines succeeded in resisting the pressures of capitalism, maintaining the banner of revolutionary Marxism and leading the workers to power in 1917.
Not only the reformist, but also the anarcho-syndicalists, who enjoyed mass support in a number of countries up to the First World War, experienced a bureaucratic-reformist degeneration, and betrayed the working class. In France, the anarcho-syndicalists leaders dropped their demagogic slogan of a “general strike against war” and joined the war-time coalition – the “Union Sacree” – with the bourgeois at the first sound of the trumpet. Two decades later the leaders of the Spanish CNT betrayed the Spanish Revolution. Having refused “on principle” to organise a workers’ government in Catalonia in 1936, they did not hesitate to join the bourgeois Popular Front, even accepting ministerial portfolios. Yet, in their day, they vociferously protested against “democratic centralism”, and had the most “democratic” of constitutions, in which de-centralisation and federalism formed the main pillars.
In fact, no constitution in the world can guarantee against the danger of bureaucratic degeneration. Let us recall that Stalin’s Constitution of 1936 was hailed as “the most democratic Constitution in the world”. And so it was – on paper.
The American IWW – a semi-anarchist organisation which enjoyed big influence among certain sections of the workers before 1914 – had no full-timers, but only “part-timers”. That did not prevent a bureaucracy from forming in the leadership of the IWW.
In reality, you can have a bureaucracy in any organisation, even outside politics. You can have a ‘bureaucracy” in a knitting circle or a football club – and frequently very poisonous bureaucracies they are. We are not, of course, referring to a fully-fledged bureaucracy like that of the Labour Party or the Soviet Union, but cliques of people who are greedy for prestige and positions, who indulge in all kinds of back-stabbing, gossip and intrigue to gain their ends. This is a. common enough phenomenon not to require further elaboration.
Such a bureaucracy does not require a material base. The argument (which has been used by the “Majority”) that a bureaucracy must have a material base, in privileges, huge salaries and the rest, is entirely false and mechanical. We have heard the same argument from every piddling sect since Trotsky was alive: “Look, we have no privileges, no big cars. How can we be a bureaucracy?” Nevertheless, some of the worst examples of neo-Stalinist bureaucratic cliques are to be found precisely in ex-Trotskyist sects, like the Healyites.
The bureaucracies of the Labour Party and the trade unions, as well as the Stalinist bureaucracies of the East, are a different phenomenon. They rest on privileges and have a direct material interest in maintaining them at all costs. Here we are dealing with something else. But to ignore the existence of cliques and bureaucratic tendencies which have crystallised at the top of our organisation, and which have gone from bad to worse, would be the height of irresponsibility and would lead to the wrecking of the tendency.
The only defence against bureaucratism does not consist in paper rules and regulations, but in the consciousness of the membership, the formation of cadres and the political and moral standing of the leadership.
There is no historical law which says that degeneration is inevitable. How did it come about that Lenin and Trotsky did not go the same way as Stalin and Zinoviev? Why did Rosa Luxembourg not end up like Kautsky? The role of the individual is tremendously important, and even decisive at certain moments in history, for good or for ill.
Any workers’ organisation will come under the pressures of capitalism. These pressures are multiplied a thousandfold in periods of capitalist upswing like the period of more than two decades that preceded the Fist World War and set the seal on the degeneration of the Second International, or the period from 1950 to 1974 which had similar effects on the leaders of both the Social Democratic and Stalinist parties and also led to the degeneration of the leaders of the so-called “IV International”.
Or course, we must maintain a sense of proportion. Even if Marx, Lenin and Trotsky would have been alive at that time, it would not have made a fundamental difference to the general processes, within society and the working class. But it would have probably enabled us to preserve the bulk of our forces intact and prepare for the big possibilities which opened up in the subsequent period, beginning with 1968 in France. This, in turn, would have meant a fundamental change in the situation. That is the importance of the subjective factor, of genuine Marxist leadership.
The importance of good generals in war is not only for periods of advance. In a situation where, for historical reasons, the Marxists are forced to retreat, the importance of leadership is even greater. With good generals you can retreat in good order, preserve the bulk of your forces, dig in, and prepare for a new advance when conditions permit. With bad generals (like those who only know one word of command: “Charge!”) you can turn a defeat into a rout.
Pressures of Capitalism
With the wisdom of hindsight (the cheapest of all types of wisdom), it is clear that we did not give sufficient weight to the effects of decades of capitalist upswing on the entire evolution of the present period.
The consciousness of the working class, both in the West and in the former Stalinist states, has been thrown back for a time, although this will be overcome by a series of convulsive leaps on the basis of experiences in the coming period. Neither in the East nor the West can capitalism offer a way out for the working class. But that fact is not evident to the mass of the workers, whose consciousness has been affected by the fact that capitalism has been able to develop the productive forces for a whole period. This fact has a great importance in working out our perspectives and tactics, yet it is a closed book as far as the leaders of the other faction is concerned.
Prior to the miners’ strike, we had experienced a period of steady growth. This was the result of correct ideas, policies, tactics, perspectives and methods. It was also the result of the fact that the workers in Britain and internationally, were beginning to draw revolutionary conclusions from their experience of the great class struggles of the 1970s: the Portuguese and Spanish revolutions, the fall of the Greek Junta, civil war in Cyprus, big movements of the class in France, Italy, Britain, and so on.
The first big economic recession since 1950, in the mid-1970s, caused a shock-wave throughout the world. The perspectives of the European bourgeois at this time was not a period of stability, prosperity and “democracy”, but civil war and military coups. The “P-2” conspiracy envisaged military dictatorship not only in Italy, but in Belgium, Spain, Norway, etc. In Britain, Brigadier Kitson was openly discussing the possibility of a coup. It emerged that sections of the British ruling class had toyed with the idea of a coup against Harold Wilson.
All these processes were cut across by the Reagan boom which began in 1982. The objective situation changed. Capitalism succeeded in re-establishing a certain, temporary, equilibrium, albeit with rates of growth far inferior to those of the past. This fact inevitably had an effect on the consciousness of all classes. It is the fundamental reason for the long period of Thatcherism in Britain and of Republican administrations in the USA. It is also the basic reason for the move to the right of all the social democratic leaders, not just in Britain, whether in or out of power, and the collapse of the Left Reformists.
In all periods such as this, the pressures of capitalism upon the working class and its organisations enormously increase. We see this, not only in the open capitulation of the Labour leaders, but in the collapse of the sects, and above all, the “Communist” parties. But it is clear that the same pressures have also had a profound effect on a section of the Marxist tendency, starting at the top.
Without wishing to admit it publicly, the faction which bases itself on the apparatus, has drawn pessimistic conclusions about the working class and its organisations. In words, they continue to repeat the old phrases about the labour movement inevitable transforming itself “in the future”. But in practice, they have abandoned any such idea, and are looking around for a alternative to base themselves upon. They believe they have found this in the so-called “unorganised layers”, i.e. the most downtrodden and exploited layers of the working class. This marks a decisive step away from the traditional orientation of our tendency, and the beginnings of a break with the methods of Marxism.
One of the characteristics of this faction is its total inability to admit a mistake. This is not an accident. It flows from a desire to preserve at all costs the prestige of the ruling group, by giving it a aura of “infallibility”. But a mistake, if not corrected in time, will turn into a tendency. This is exactly what has happened, with disastrous consequences.
In the recent period, we have seen a tendency to avoid putting forward a definite perspective on any subject, on the grounds that “perspectives must be conditional” and that “the present period is very complex”.
Of course, perspectives are conditional by their very nature. There are different variants. But at the end of the day, a Marxist leadership must decide which variant it considers to be most likely. This is for a very simple reason. A Marxist organisation is not a debating club. Perspectives are supposed to be a guide to action. To fail to indicate the most likely path of development in society and the working class is to disarm the comrades, who require direction for their work, if it is to be effective.
Imagine a patient who went to the doctor with stomach pains and was told:
“a) It may be colic, b) it may be an ulcer, or c) it may be stomach cancer. Good morning!” The problem is that, at the end of the day, a Marxist leadership must put forward a definite perspective, for the same reason that a doctor must work out a definite diagnosis: because from it flows a series of practical conclusions relating to tactics and orientation.
The leadership of the other faction no longer tries to put forward a scientific Marxist perspective, firstly because they are incapable of doing so, secondly, because they are motivated by considerations of personal prestige, which is closely connected to the idea of an “infallible leadership”.
The authority and prestige of the leadership in the past was based upon correct perspectives, ideas, tactics and methods. Now all that has gone. The present leadership pursues incorrect perspectives, tactics, methods and ideas. Yet it demands authority. That is precisely the political basis for Zinovievist methods.
Zinovievism, at basis, is the attempt to solve political problems by organisational means. It is characterised by the use of the apparatus in internal political disputes, and the attempt to slander and distort the arguments of opponents. All these methods have been employed against the Opposition by the present leadership in the most shameless fashion. But these methods – entirely alien to the democratic traditions of our tendency, did not drop from a clear blue sky, but are rooted in a fundamentally mistaken method of party-building which has been present, in embryo, for some time and which has got steadily worse over the last few years.
How the Clique Developed
The development of a clique in the top of the organisation was the product of a whole series of factors, both objective and subjective, political and individual. It did not happen
overnight, but was a gradual process, the full significance of which was not immediately evident. There were symptoms of all kinds of negative manifestations, but the full extent of the degeneration only became clear when EG and AW finally challenged the clique. From that moment onwards, the process has become accelerated. What was implicit has become explicit. Quantity has become quality. The degeneration of the apparatus has reached such a point that it threatens the very existence of the tendency.
This is not to say that unhealthy tendencies did not exist before. The difference is that, having been publicly challenged and exposed by the position, the bureaucratic faction has become conscious itself, its interests and its identity as a clique. It is now consciously struggling to establish a complete monopoly of the apparatus, excluding every critical element, by the most unscrupulous means. The conduct of this faction in the present struggle is a final proof for all those comrades who doubted the existence of the clique.
The clique itself was not the product of a conscious conspiracy. It did not originally work according to a plan. Up until recently, it consisted of a very small group of personal friends and close collaborators of PT, a man of considerable ability, especially in the field of organisation who played an important role in the development of the organisation, although the political ideas, and many of the organisational ideas also, were borrowed from EG.
Until quite recently, the CC was not under the complete control of the clique, nor was the full-time apparatus as a whole. Superficially, the organisation was run on democratic lines. But in practice, there was an increasing tendency for control of the apparatus to be concentrated in the hands of the general secretary, although this was not evident to many comrades.
When the tendency was much smaller, with a handful of full-timers, the question of democratic control and accountability did not seem to be of vital importance. With such small numbers, if anyone was guilty of abuses, it would be immediately known, and would be quickly rectified.
But quantity becomes quality. When you reach the stage of 8,000 members and 200 full-timers, the question of control and accountability becomes a matter of life and death for the organisation. In effect, the apparatus acquired a dynamic and a life of its own, without reference to the needs and aspirations of the “rank-and-file”.
The original cadres of the tendency had a certain political level. The building of the tendency was conceived of in political terms. Organisation was regarded as the necessary vehicle for carrying the ideas of Marxism to the working class, not as an end in itself.
However, over a period, with the rapid expansion of the full-time staff, the political level of the full-timers suffered a decline. Less attention was paid to their political capabilities. Increasingly one heard more stress being placed on the organisational, or even purely administrational, aspects, “Committee-itis” came into fashion. The conversation of the full-timers centred obsessively on the functioning of committees of all kinds: ECs, CCs, DCs, BCs and so on.
Paradoxically, this fetishism of organisational forms led to the undermining of the very organisations themselves. The branches became subordinate to the committees, the committees to the full-timers.
The idea that “the full-timer” solves everything is false to the core. The health and viability of a revolutionary organisation depends on the health and viability of the branches. The branches are the roots of the organisation. Without healthy roots, the plant must wither and die.
Of course, full-timers play an essential role in the tendency. Without a solid full-time apparatus, we would be reduced to a group of dilettantes – a debating club. But the role of the full-timers is to assure the best possible functioning of the branches, not to substitute themselves for them.
The full-timer must provide leadership. But leadership consists in the ability to patiently convince, encourage, motivate and inspire. It also involves the ability to listen to and learn from the membership as a whole. This, in turn, depends on the political development and personal qualities of the comrade concerned.
Unfortunately, in many cases, those comrades who went full-time were not always the best candidates, but those who were available, or prepared to accept the extremely low wages of a full-timer. This often meant unemployed comrades or students, with little or no experience of the life of the working class and the labour movement.
There is no doubt that the great majority of full-timers were, and are, dedicated and self-sacrificing comrades. With adequate political training, most could have made the grade as revolutionary leaders.
However, the theoretical development of the full-timers was systematically neglected. This fact is clearly understood by the majority of the full-timers themselves, who have repeatedly complained about it. This neglect was a conscious decision by a group within the leadership which, in effect, has a contempt for theory. Schools for full-timers were regularly cancelled, alleging lack of time, resources, or “other priorities”. Any excuse was used to downgrade and belittle the importance of the theoretical development of the organisation, starting with the full-timers. This was the start of the slippery slope to disaster.
That the political level of the tendency has suffered a decline is not open to serious doubts. Gradually, ideas and politics have been pushed to one side, and replaced by an unhealthy and one-sided insistence on “organisation” (badly understood) and “agitation”.
The idea that cadre-building must occupy a central place in the building of the party has been discarded. The latest idea is that “you educate yourself on the streets”. That is, instead of reading the basic works of Marxism, you should be out selling papers and collecting money. These activities are, of course, very necessary. But we have always criticised the sects in the past for turning their organisations into “paper-selling machines”. We understood the extreme damage caused by groups like the Healyites, who picked up raw youths off the streets, “educated” them with a couple of slogans, and sent them out with piles of papers. Without ideas, perspectives and theory, and without an anchor in the labour movement, these youths rapidly become burnt-out and dropped out of politics altogether. Now the leadership of the tendency has, in effect, gone over to these false methods, with lamentable consequences.
The inability to explain, convince and motivate by political argument leads directly to the sin of “commandism” and office-leadership. The full-timers tend to order and bully the comrades, instead of convincing them. They rely upon the loyalty of the membership, built upon the political authority of the leadership handed down from the past, in order to get their way. If you do not accept the targets handed down by the full-timer, you are “not a good comrade”, you are “conservative”, and so on.
By degrees, the rank-and-file has been displaced by the full-time apparatus. A whole new “theory” has been elaborated by the leading clique. This boils down to the following formula, which is mechanically repeated by the supporters of this faction, as a key to open all doors: a) “Form a team at the top” and b) “bring on the youth”.
It is laughable to hear these essentially empty slogans being repeated even by members of the international leadership, as the “secret” of how to build. Thus, all the complex tasks of building a national section are reduced to a couple of banal ideas, which would be child’s play for a six year old.
How are we to understand a “team at the top”? A Marxist collective leadership undoubtedly ought to involve a number of comrades with different political and organisational talents. But at all times the political elements must predominate. However, this formula has been understood in an entirely different way by this faction.
The “team” referred to is regarded as “people who can work together”. Or, more accurately, people who “fit in”. Fit in – with what? People who fit in with the concept of party building handed down by this faction. A conception of party-building which is essentially non-political, which consists in the mechanical repetition of the slogans currently in vogue with the leading group, unquestioningly accepts targets and “hands them down” to the membership, and so on. That is how this faction understands a “team”. And anyone who does not fit into the “team” is considered an “awkward customer”, a “conservative”, or whatever, and, by one means or another, removed.
Something similar occurs with “bringing on the youth”. It is an elementary proposition that we base ourselves on the youth. It is necessary to give the young comrades every help and encouragement to develop and take initiatives. It is necessary to train the best of the youth as cadres and potential leaders, to continually renovate the leadership.
But, here too, an idea which is correct in itself, has been twisted into its opposite. If it is wrong to stifle the youth and hold them back, it is also wrong to flatter the youth, to fill them full of demagogic ideas, to pander to their impatience, and to turn them against the older generation of revolutionaries.
From quite an early date, the present general secretary decided to select a series of young comrades, promote them to leading positions, via the student work (NOLS), the LPYS NC and the Labour Party NEC, and finally, bring them to the national centre, where they worked under his direction, in different organisational fields.
Unlike the previous generation, which had to struggle for their position as a tiny minority of the YS, these comrades entered at a time when we had already conquered a majority. They rapidly rose to key positions as “leading Youth comrades”, without necessarily having earned it.
These comrades were competent politically, but with very little depth, with a strong organisational bent, and a great deal of arrogance, which, far from being combated, was regarded as a positive feature. Above all, they “got on with the job” and “got results”, by which was frequently meant that they told the leadership what it wanted to hear. A lot of the present “drum-banging” and “chest-beating” which characterises the leadership comes directly from this source.
The formation of a clique, based around the figure of the general secretary, and largely recruited from this layer of ex-youth comrades, was not, at first, a conscious process. A process of selection began of those elements who completely shared PT’s conception of party-building, and threw themselves into it, in the process exaggerating these false methods to the “Nth degree”.
For a long time, comrade EG acted as a brake on the political mistakes and organisational excesses of this group on the EC. For a long time also, they did not feel sufficiently confident to challenge EG’s authority. Usually, if it came to a clash, they would retreat. PT, in particular, dreaded the prospect of an open clash with EG and did all in his power to prevent these differences from surfacing outside the EC. That is the main reason why the differences which did exist never went to the CC and were completely unknown to the membership, which assumed that the leadership was completely united.
Being unwilling to clash openly with the founder of the tendency, they resorted to underhand methods. EG was gradually pushed out of direct contact with the organisational side of the work. The story was assiduously put around that EG was “too old”, “impossible to work with”, “an obstacle”, and so on. PT stated on numerous occasions that it is “impossible to have an honest discussion with EC present”. Starting in the EC, these slanders were gradually repeated in private conversations to CC members.
This situation led to meetings of comrades taking decisions outside the EC, always with the excuse that “we can’t discuss if EG is present”. It would be wrong to think that this was a conscious conspiracy. This group merely found its irksome that their pre-conceived ideas of how the tendency should be run should be challenged continuously by EG. Evidently, he did not fit into the “team”.
At first, this was an unconscious process. The group around PT met together to bemoan the activities of EG, then to circumvent him, then to isolate him, and push him into the sidelines, while still taking advantage of his theoretical insights. In order to “get on”, one had to declare one’s loyalty to the General Secretary, and come out clearly against EG. Those who failed to do so were regarded with suspicion, marginalised, demoted and pushed out, in one way or another.
Of course, it would be wrong to attribute the degeneration of the leadership purely to a question of individuals. Thus the majority faction has attempted, from the beginning of the present crisis, to present it as a “personality clash”, involving “personal attacks” on the General Secretary, and so on. In reality, the accusation of a clique and Zinovievist methods are not at all of a personal character. They are political accusations, unlike the type of abuse directed against the leading representatives of the Opposition (“senile”, “mad”, etc).
Nevertheless, the role of the individual can be decisive, for good or ill. Without Lenin and Trotsky, the October Revolution would never have taken place. And while it would be entirely wrong to say that Stalin was personally responsible for the bureaucratic degeneration of the Bolshevik Party, nevertheless, as Trotsky explains in his masterpiece Stalin, that individual undoubtedly set his personal stamp on the way in which the degeneration proceeded. The same was true of the personal role played by Gerry Healy in the degeneration of what used to be the Revolutionary Communist Party. Marxism does not at all deny the role of the individual in history, but explains concretely how certain processes, which ultimately have an objective social base, can express themselves in different ways through different individuals.
The positive aspect of the work of comrade PT in the building of the tendency, especially in the organisational field, cannot be denied. But the one-sided nature of this contribution, with its heavy stress on the organisational, as opposed to the political, the importance of the apparatus, as opposed to the branches, and the heavy stress on “action” and constant campaigning as a panacea, as opposed to cadre-building and patient work in the labour and trade union movement, had a potentially negative side, which only now has become completely dear.
So long as these tendencies were kept in check by the intervention of comrade EG on the EC, they did not appear to be particularly harmful. Important advances were chalked up, which also meant that many comrades – including those in leading positions – felt reluctant to criticise those defects and abuses which were already beginning to make their appearance.
Gradually, however, the leading group around the General Secretary, succeeded in pushing EG to one side and establishing a firm grip on the organisation. An important role was played in this by the Organisation Bureau, which was completely under the control of the General Secretary, although the “public face” of this committee was comrade RS, who was responsible for carrying out its policies.
One of the peculiarities of the General Secretary is that he acts with extreme caution, and makes it a rule never to appear as the person responsible for unpopular actions. These are always entrusted to other people, who get all the odium for policies and decisions which invariably emanate from PT’s office.
Of course, nobody can refuse to accept their personal responsibility for carrying out unacceptable policies and using bad methods. All this must be openly discussed, criticised and rectified.
But anyone with the slightest knowledge or experience of the workings of the leadership over the past 8 years or more knows perfectly well that no decisions of any significance are taken without the full knowledge and consent of the General Secretary, and that the great majority of them are taken, either on his initiative, or at least with his active participation.
Would the leadership have degenerated without the role of this individual? That is not an easy question to answer. In any event, we would find ourselves in the realm of pure hypothesis. But one thing is abundantly clear: the lack of vigilance, the complete trust which was deposited in comrade PT, enabling him to concentrate an enormous amount of power in his hands, played an absolutely fatal role.
Many comrades have pointed to the establishment of a full-time Central Committee as a decisive step on the road to degeneration. Certainly, the elimination of a series of experienced trade union comrades was a factor which removed an important check on the full-time apparatus. After this, the mood on the CC has become increasingly divorced from the reality of the working class and its organisations. At present, there is an air of complete unreality in all the discussions which take place on that body. The CC is now living in a world of dreams.
At the time, comrades EG and others supported the idea of a full-time CC as a step towards a more professional, Bolshevik organisation. It must be said that the idea of a full-time CC is not, in itself, either incorrect or necessarily a formula for bureaucracy. But none of the checks and balances which were originally proposed were ever allowed to function. In particular, the calling of regular industrial bureaus, bringing together the experience of our trade union activists, never took place. In effect, the trade union comrades found themselves squeezed out of the decision-making process of the tendency. This was to have fatal consequences when a more difficult period developed.
The period of 1981-83 saw a rapid expansion of the full-time apparatus. This was necessary and correct, in view of the increase of the membership and the number of branches. However, as we have seen, the quality and political level of the full-timers was not always what was required. Nor was any attempt made to guarantee the control of the membership over the full-timers, who were under the constant pressure of the Centre to get quick results.
The rapid growth of the organisation created the illusion of permanent successes. ‘The sky was the limit”. Despite the beginning of the “Reagan boom”, and the victory of Thatcher, there was still a potential for growth. This idea, also, was not necessarily incorrect, on condition that we had a sufficient number of cadres to explain our ideas to our periphery which numbered thousands at that time.
However, the idea of growth was understood by this faction in an entirely simplistic and organisational sense. The most crass expression of this tendency was the “Organisational Resolution” drafted by JT for the International in 1984. This argued that the question of growth was entirely down to the subjective factor, and that there was no reason we should not double, treble, quadruple the tendency in all countries, and so on and so forth. This resolution, which was criticised by EG and AW, did a considerable amount of damage in a number of sections which took it seriously (some, fortunately, did not). It led to an unhealthy competition, a scramble for growth, to see who had more figures on the blackboard at the next meeting. Very soon, figures were being systematically falsified by national leaderships who were afraid to be “shown up” for not following the wretched advice from the Centre. In this way, dishonesty, double-book-keeping and the defence of prestige was introduced into the International straight from the “experts” in London.
JT was later removed from his position as international secretary and “exiled” to the USA as a result of his manoeuvres and impermissible conduct, especially in Ireland. But to this day, all information concerning this scandalous affair has been suppressed and kept from the membership, including the IEC It is a fact that from 1985 to the Summer of 1991, JT was not permitted any contact with the Irish section, either in person, by writing or by telephone. He was not even allowed to attend the Irish Commission at the IEC. These facts can serve to illustrate the serious nature of his violation of the norms of revolutionary conduct. This is all well known to the IS, yet today JT is one of the main spokesperson of the IS majority faction internationally. This despite the fact that the campaign to remove him In 1985 was orchestrated and led by PT and PH (N Ireland).
The Miners’ Strike
The British miners’ strike was a major turning-point, not only for the working class, but for the British organisation. Given the importance of the dispute, the decision of the leadership to make a major turn towards it was obviously correct. However, the way in which this was done had calamitous consequences for the organisation.
On the political plane, the miners’ strike, which at times approached a level of struggle and consciousness unparalleled in recent history, had the effect of temporarily disguising the effects of the boom in British society.
By this time, the leading group was already suffering from certain delusions of grandeur. We had made a major breakthrough in Liverpool thanks to decades of patient work in the traditional mass organisations of the working class. It was correct to say that we were already an element in the political life of Britain. But the leading group has taken this correct idea and exaggerated It to the point where truth has been changed into its opposite.
One of the principal sources of error of the clique is its complete lack of a sense of proportion: a gross over-estimation of the real strength and influence of the tendency inside the working-class movement. This has led to fatal consequences, culminating in the “Turn”.
During the miners’ strike, we already saw a tendency to substitute ourselves for the real movement of the class. It was correct to put forces into the coalfields. But in many areas, our own comrades ended up running miners’ support groups and the like, instead of involving other people in the work.
One of the most negative features of this was that the branches were ignored, and begun to fall into disrepair. “Activism” was put forward as the be-all-and-end all.
The branches are the fundamental unit of the organisation. In a healthy tendency, the branches should be lively places, where the comrades can participate in discussions, learn, make decisions, and organise and plan the intervention in the labour movement. But in most areas, this is far from the case.
For sometime now, trade union work has not been discussed in the branches. All sorts of excuses were given, but, in reality, the trade unionists have been pushed out. Political education hardly takes place in the branches, which concentrate on discussing the latest “campaign”. Moreover these “campaigns” are increasingly based on marginal issues. Also campaigns are increasingly raised in a manner divorced from the labour movement.
In the past the Women’s Charter campaign and the campaign against sexual harassment at work were clearly focussed towards the trade unions and workplaces. In contrast, the recent Sarah Thornton campaign has been raised mainly as an individual issue and largely in a non-class manner.
In this way, the tendency is being pushed further and further away from the realities and aspirations of ordinary working-class people and the labour movement. We are being driven down a path which has already been well-trodden by all the sects and trendy lefties in the past.
Before this happened, there was a layer of cadres in the branches and DCs who were capable of building independently, and exercising some check on the full-timers. Now many of these comrades have dropped away, burnt out by the mindless “activism” dictated from the top. More and more, everything depends on the full timers. This is a false and unhealthy method and will eventually undermine the entire organisation.
Instead of political education in the branches we now get 15 minute lead-off on things like “What We Stand For”. A worker’s time is too valuable to be wasted in going to meetings to be told what he or she already knows. Hence the increasing lack of interest and participation in the branches.
Over a period we have lost a whole layer of experienced comrades who have been replaced by inexperienced comrades who have been replaced by inexperienced youth, who are given no serious training in the ideas and methods of Marxism. A kind of “Lenin levy” has taken place, which has had the effect of lowering the general political level land swamping the older generation of cadres.
The heavy emphasis on “bringing on the youth” is not an accident. Trotsky explained many times that the older generation represents the political capital of a revolutionary party. Anyone who seeks to change the nature of such a party must first destroy its political capital and make it forget its own past. This is a task which the ruling faction has been engaged upon for years – with the results we now see before us.
It is necessary to win and “advance” the youth, but it is criminal deliberately to turn the youth against the older generation, to give them a swollen head and to use them as a battering ram against the cadres. Yet this has been the conscious tactic pursued by the clique around the General Secretary, not only in Britain but internationally. The aim, furthermore, is not at all to “advance” the youth, but to advance the apparatus, by removing all those who stand in its way.
As we have seen, many of the present members of the clique are former “youth leaders” who have been selected and groomed by the General Secretary as his chosen supporters.
The miseducation of these comrades began very early on. Already at the annual conferences of the Youth Organisation in the late seventies, when we had overwhelming control, certain unhealthy tendencies were visible.
The “opposition” in the YO was quite small – a mere handful of sectarians and left and right reformists. They posed no threat, either politically or organisationally. Yet, instead of answering them politically, which would have served to raise the political level of the youth – our principal objective – on many occasions the “leading youth comrades” resorted to insults and “hammering” sessions. Instead of convincing by argument they based themselves on slogan-mongering, clichés and rhetoric. And this method, completely alien to those of the past, came to be regarded as normal, and even “clever”.
In the early days, we fought for ideas. Our conception of fighting for control, was the fight for political control. However, the leaders of the bureaucratic faction have a different idea altogether. They are obsessed with control in an entirely bureaucratic sense: of getting and holding onto office. They must be in the majority. They cannot stand the idea of being in a minority. Hence their obsessive reference to the Opposition as “The Minority”. As if that were a conclusive proof that the ideas of the minority must be wrong.
This apparatus mentality has done colossal damage to our work in the labour and trade union movement. The launching of the BL organisation was a tremendous event, pregnant with all kinds of possibilities for extending the ideas and influence of the Marxists among millions of trade unionists. Yet the BL organisation failed to develop. Why?
The first task of the Marxists is to work out correct ideas, policies, programme and perspectives. The second task, even more complicated and difficult than the first, is to find the way to link up the scientific programme of Marxism with the necessarily unfinished, confused and contradictory movement of the masses. If we fail to establish this link, we become a sect, neither more nor less.
The leadership of the bureaucratic faction has never understood this. Their sole concern is that we should “control” the movement, at whatever cost. They are like those Bolshevik committee-men who in 1905 turned up to the first meeting of the Petersburg Soviet, read out a declaration of the Party’s principles, and, when the astonished delegates refused to accept the Bolshevik programme en bloc, walked out.
The golden chance for the BL organisation to take off was during the miners’ strike. But it played next to no role in the strike, because it was not allowed to. Control had to be kept firmly in the hands of the tendency. The full timers were terrified that we might lose control, so it was never really permitted to function as a living entity. The result is well-known.
This fear of differences is deeply-rooted in the psychology of this faction. It is not an expression of confidence, but quite the opposite. It reflects an inability to convince by argument, whether in the YO, the unions, the LP, or our own organisation. It leads directly to bureaucratic methods, the attempt to solve political differences by organisational means, and, ultimately the swamp of Zinovievism, which the internal regime has now sunk into.
The apparatus faction lacks all confidence in the rank-and-file. Congresses are called with increasing infrequency. Even at these congresses, the views of the rank-and-file are not really welcome. “Awkward” resolutions are usually withdrawn under pressure from the EC. Those who insist on holding out can expect a public verbal “hammering”. The slate system of elections – which is not the only method of electing a leadership in a Bolshevik organisation – has undoubtedly been abused to make it difficult for leaders to be removed.
All these things did not remove the discontent of the rank-and-file, but merely drove it further underground. Many comrades were unhappy with the way things were going, but felt themselves to be isolated. How could they take on such a powerful and (apparently) united apparatus? Many gradually dropped out, others were deliberately pushed out, others fell into passivity, merely ticking over in the branches.
Those who attempted to give voice to their discontent found themselves confronted by a powerful apparatus which quickly moved to isolate them, branding them as “conservatives”, “whiners” and the like.
Under the given conditions, there was no chance for the rank-and-file to express its opposition. This fact gave the leading group a sense of almost complete invulnerability. They believed they had neutralised EC and those who were uneasy with the organisational methods and who felt the need for a more political approach to the work. They were capturing one position after another, without a shot being fired.
However, their self-assuredness led them to make mistakes. Having got control of the British section, the next objective was the International. TS and LC were sent in to undermine the position of AW, in the same way that EG had been undermined in the British leadership.
By this time – 1987/88 – there can be no doubt that this faction was working in a planned and coordinated manner. They got control of a number of sections, where they invariable succeeded in making a mess. For all their boasting and bragging about their alleged superior organisational capacities, they have never succeeded in building a section anywhere in the world, but only in disorganising the work and destroying good comrades.
By late 1990 they were planning a “coup d'etat” in the International, under the slogan of a “smaller IEC” (They had earlier tried the same thing in relation to the British CC, but failed). This plan involved the elimination of virtually all the old leaders (including RSi) and their replacement by people who were unconditional supporters of the clique. The Spanish section, for example, was to be reduced from four representatives to one – the same number as Australia! On the other hand, prominent members of the clique in Britain, LW, CD and LC were to be brought onto the IEC as full members and even the IS. Thus the same type of regime would dominate the International as in Britain.
But the organisers of this plan tried to move too hastily. They came into collision with AW, who for some time had been receiving complaints from sections where the clique was pursuing its methods, with disastrous results. A secondary incident sparked off a row within the IS which served as the catalyst which brought the whole thing to a head.
It is clear that a split at the top was the necessary precondition for the emergence of a serious Opposition tendency. The fact that two recognised leaders of the tendency, including its founder, comrade EG decided to confront the clique in the international centre transformed the situation.
But neither of these comrades were prepared for the vicious reaction of the apparatus, when it felt itself challenged. Like many others, they had not realised just how far the process of degeneration had gone.
Since the start of the crisis, all the processes have speeded up. There has been, on the one hand, a consolidation and hardening of the bureaucratic faction. Those for whom the power of the apparatus was more important than ideas have quickly gravitated to the ruling faction. This includes all but a small part of the full time staff.
There is a layer of comrades who have been so miseducated by the regime that they are prepared to follow anything which comes down “from the top” without question, no matter how monstrous. This is what is mistakenly considered to be “party loyalty”. In reality, it is disloyalty to the elementary principles upon which a genuinely Leninist party is built.
The apparatus leans to a great extent on a layer of young comrades who have not been seriously educated in Marxist ideas and have no knowledge of the past traditions of the movement. Many of these will, unfortunately, be burnt out and drop out of politics in the next period, particularly when they see that the “New Turn” does not fulfil the promises of the leadership.
But the great majority of those who support the leadership do so because they do not believe that the tendency could degenerate to such an extent. They have persuaded themselves that the problems and faults they see are secondary issues, the product of individual mistakes. They are desperately concerned to maintain unity and avoid a damaging split.
This instinct for unity is undoubtedly a natural and healthy one. But what is clear – and clearer by the day – is that the bureaucratic faction which treats the apparatus as its private property and attempts to deal with Opposition, not by convincing people but by crushing them and driving them out – this is the greatest threat, not only to the unity of the tendency, but to its very existence.
Around the banner of the Internationalist Opposition the basic forces of Trotskyism are beginning to regroup. Workers, trade unionists, unwaged, students, full-timers who have rebelled against the ruling faction and were not afraid to be sacked and victimised – that is the stuff a genuinely revolutionary tendency is made of.
A large part of the cadres, including the historical leaders nationally and internationally, support the Opposition, which has restored theory and political education to the central position from which they were excluded.
There is no doubt that, on the basis of their own experience of the bureaucratic regime, with its sectarian, adventuristic policies, many honest comrades will begin to draw their conclusions and will come over to the Opposition.
Realising this, the bureaucratic faction has resorted to a policy of mass expulsion of oppositionists. While spreading the lie that the Opposition has “split”, they themselves are carrying out the most monstrous split by expelling our comrades, starting with comrade EG, the founder and theoretical leader of our movement. That will not save them. In the struggle of ideas against the apparatus, it is ideas which inevitably win, in the long run. We remain as confident of our ideas as when we started building this tendency, decades ago. What we did then we can do again. And in the interest of the world working class, we are duty-bound to do so.