In Defence of Marxism Editorial Statement
The In Defence of Marxism web site and the organisation that publishes it, the International Marxist Tendency, aims to provide an analysis of capitalist society and the class struggle that ensues from it. We develop a perspective of where we think society is going and finally we offer a programme to the workers of the world with which to combat this system and eventually achieve a socialist society, a society where exploitation and injustice will become things of the barbaric capitalist past. And in all countries where we are present we actively intervene within the labour movement to build a genuine Marxist left opposition, whose final aim is that of offering the working class a revolutionary leadership.
Internationally there are many other tendencies attempting to offer their alternatives. We have our differences with many of these as exemplified by our approach to the labour movement, by our method of work and by our fundamental ideas, which anyone can access by looking at the wide variety of articles on our website. Our readers can judge for themselves by reading the material on the key issues at stake. However, occasionally we encounter not "polemics", not genuine disagreement with our ideas and methods, but out and out falsification of our position. We believe that if activists in the movement are to benefit from any exchange of ideas, then at the very least those involved should quote honestly from what their opponents actually say and write.
It is the easiest thing in the world to raise a straw man in order then to knock him down. To falsify the position of an opponent in order to then ridicule his or her position serves no meaningful purpose. It does not help workers and youth to understand what is really at stake. It may give the writer a feeling of self-satisfaction, but it certainly does not enhance his or her standing within the wider labour movement. We would rather have an honest debate about what we stand for and answer any genuine criticisms of our real positions.
It would never have occurred to Engels to falsify the arguments of Dühring in order to score cheap debating points. In all the polemics of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky we see a most scrupulous attitude towards the quoting of their opponents. That is why they always quoted at length and never tore isolated phrases out of context in order to distort the positions they were answering. The reason for this is very simple. For a genuine Marxist tendency, the purpose of a polemic is neither to score points nor to insult the other side but to RAISE THE THEORETICAL LEVEL OF THE CADRES.
A dishonest method
In the past we have occasionally had to deal with dishonest criticisms, but we generally prefer not to enter into polemics with the pseudo-Trotskyist sects who masquerade as the "Fourth International". These organizations that vegetate on the fringes of the workers' movement are constantly attacking each other, in an atmosphere of hysterical denunciations. This brand of sterile factionalism has nothing whatever to do with the real ideas and methods of Leon Trotsky, and tends to alienate workers and turn them against Trotskyism in general.
We usually ignore the attacks of the sects, who really represent only themselves. There are times however, when we feel obliged to put the record straight. In the age of the internet it is possible for even the most insignificant group to put into circulation the most incredible falsifications and misrepresentations of our positions. We are therefore compelled to spend a little time to explain where we really stand. Unfortunately, in this article we have to deal with a case of falsification.
We therefore ask our readers to show a little patience as we dedicate here some time and space in answering the slanders, insinuations and blatant lies about the International Marxist Tendency published by the French language journal, La Vérité [the theoretical magazine of yet another group claiming to be the Fourth International] in its issue N° 48 (nouvelle série) February 2006. The group behind this publication is better known as the "Lambertists", one of the many splinter groups that emerged from the debris of the old Fourth International at the end of the Second World War, and that is how we will refer to them throughout this text.
Dishonest methods in polemics do not educate the cadres but rather miseducate them. This was not the method of the Bolshevik Party of Lenin and Trotsky but the disgraceful caricature of Zinoviev and Stalin which destroyed the Bolshevik Party and the Communist International. And it will destroy the so-called Trotskyist tendencies that have long ago abandoned the ideas, methods and traditions of Trotsky. The latest split of the Lambertist organization is further proof of this assertion.
The crisis of the Lambertists is only the latest episode in the ignominious disintegration of the sects that emerged from the degeneration of the Fourth International after the death of Trotsky. In one way or another, all these organizations that loudly proclaim themselves as the Fourth International are in crisis, splitting and disintegrating. They are utterly incapable of providing a theoretical explanation for the most important phenomena in the world today, from the collapse of Stalinism to the Venezuelan Revolution. Above all, they are organically incapable of orienting to the real movement of the masses. They stand condemned as an irrelevant footnote to history.
The International Marxist Tendency (IMT) is the only Trotskyist tendency in the world that has proved its viability, not just in theory, where our record is second to none, but in practice, by our serious and systematic work to propagate the genuine ideas of Marxism-Leninism (Trotskyism) in the mass organizations of the working class. The IMT was the only tendency to explain the real meaning of the Venezuelan Revolution and to actively intervene in it. This is a fact that nobody can dispute. What annoys comrade Lambert and his colleagues is precisely this fact: that we were able to find a road to the masses, where they (and all the other 57 varieties of "Trotskyism") have failed to do so.
It is our successes that have prompted the furious attacks of the sects. The Lambertists have just lost the big majority of their Brazilian section, which was one of the biggest and most important sections outside France. Part of the reason for the split was undoubtedly the total inability of the Lambertist leaders to understand the nature of the revolution that is unfolding in Latin America. They adopted the same mechanical and formalistic schemes to the Venezuelan Revolution that has characterized their whole outlook for decades. As a result they were completely unable to intervene in the Revolution.
This has raised questions in the minds of their members, especially in Latin America. The comrades of their Brazilian section made a serious attempt to establish contacts with the revolutionary tendencies in Venezuela, and this brought them into contact with the comrades of the CMR, who are playing a leading role in the occupied factories movement in Venezuela. This was apparently the reason why they were expelled.
Having seen how they distort, misrepresent and completely falsify the political positions of the IMT, we can only presume that the O Trabalho group have been subjected to the same school of falsification, and we express our sympathies to them. And since the motivation for the attacks against our tendency was the conflict with the majority of the Brazilian section, we will begin by clarifying the question of our relations with them.
Our relations with O Trabalho
In their May edition (N° 49-50) the Lambertists dedicate about half of the journal to recent events that have unfolded within the Brazilian section of their international grouping. There they repeat many of the slanders raised in the February issue. We do not wish to enter here into the conflict that erupted in Brazil. But one of the main accusations against the leaders of their Brazilian section, known as the O Trabalho group, was that they had been secretly working in collaboration with the IMT.
Here we see an excellent example of the kind of hysteria and paranoia that constitutes the usual atmosphere inside the "Trotskyist" sects in every country. Instead of dealing seriously with political differences - which will inevitably arise from time to time - the leaders immediately detect some kind of plot against themselves. They react with shrill accusations, personal attacks and bureaucratic measures. This is a finished recipe for internal crises and splits. The leaders do not care about the damage caused to the organization, as long as their personal authority is safeguarded.
As a matter of fact, the accusation of factional collaboration between O Trabalho and the International Marxist Tendency is completely untrue. Our contact with the Brazilian comrades of O Trabalho came about as a result of the work of our Venezuelan comrades of the CMR. As we have already explained, they have been playing the leading role in the movement of the occupied factories in Venezuela and therefore naturally attracted the attentions of Serge Goulart of the O Trabalho group who is a leading figure within the movement of the occupied factories in Brazil.
Comrade Goulart and the other workers involved in the occupied factories in Brazil had come under attack from the state. They issued a public appeal for solidarity from workers around the world, and they also specifically requested that we help in this campaign. We responded to this appeal, as we would respond to any request by workers under attack. As a result of the efforts of Marxist.com many of our worker comrades with positions in the labour movement in their respective countries raised the issue and sent letters of support. That was as far as the connection went. How far the Lambertist International campaigned on behalf of their Brazilian comrades, we are not sure. But our impression is, not very much.
In the meantime the conflict between the Lambertist international leadership and their Brazilian section has led to a split. The international leadership of the Lambertists has waged a furious campaign against the majority of the O Trabalho group. In the February edition of La Vérité many references are made to the "Woods-Grant tendency" - that is, the International Marxist Tendency (IMT) - under the title "A propos de la politique du courant Grant-Woods", and it is with this article that we mainly deal with here.
As an indication of the unscrupulous methods used by these comrades, they commence their attack on the IMT by attacking another tendency that has absolutely nothing to do with us. They point the finger at the so-called "Unified Secretariat of the Fourth International" (USFI), the Mandelite tendency. The reason for this blatant distortion is clear. They wish to unload onto the shoulders of the IMT some of the opportunist positions adopted by the USFI.
The method of La Vérité is the method of the Stalinists that Trotsky described as the amalgam. What we have here is a case of guilt by association, except that this association has been established in the texts of the Lambertists and nowhere else. We regret to inform our Lambertist critics that we have nothing whatsoever to do with this organisation and cannot be held responsible for anything they do or say. This "confusion" of La Vérité is no accident (although it is true that they are confused on just about everything).
In Brazil the Mandelites had a minister in the Lula government supporting its reactionary policies. This led to a split and now there are two groups supporting the "Unified Secretariat". This is absolutely characteristic of the organic opportunism of the Mandelites in general. But it has nothing whatsoever to do with our tendency, which always opposed the revisionist ideas of Mandel and co. and as a result broke decisively with the USFI in 1965 and has had no contact with this organization since then.
The problem here is that the readers of La Vérité do not know anything about the IMT (the "Woods-Grant International") because they do not know the real history of the Fourth International. La Vérité wants to keep them in ignorance by deliberately spreading lies and confusion. They deliberately mix everything up: Pablo, Mandel, Woods-Grant. Our first task is therefore to shed a little light on the history of the movement, in the hope that La Vérité might at last begin to live up to its name.
When did the Fourth degenerate?
The roots of the political and organizational degeneration of the Fourth can be traced back to the death of Trotsky. All the leaders of the Fourth without exception - Pablo, Frank, Cannon, Mandel, Healy and Lambert (insofar as the last two can be considered leaders at that time) bear a collective responsibility for this. But that is something that Lambert has carefully concealed from his rank and file for decades. They have been kept in ignorance of the real story of the International and instead they have been fed the fairy story that the Fourth International was OK until 1953 when it mysteriously degenerated. The time has come to put an end to this fairy story and tell the truth. [See Appendix at the end of this article, The origins of the collapse of the Fourth International]
We will deal later with the long list of distortions of our present day positions. Let us begin by putting the historical record straight. The author does not bother himself by dealing seriously with the history of the Fourth International. He dare not enter into the details because the historical record would be acutely embarrassing for Lambert. Instead of dealing with the question properly, he modestly confined himself to footnotes. In these footnotes, the "tendency founded by Ted Grant" is presented as the "rightists" within the Fourth International at the end of the Second World War.
What is the justification for this allegation? Where is the documentary evidence, the quotations, the resolutions? Not a single shred of evidence is advanced for this scandalous assertion. The reason is that it has not the slightest basis in fact. This is not the place to publish a documented history of the Fourth, but we intend in the next few months to deal with this question and to republish the writings of comrade Ted Grant, which will completely demolish the myth that the British section (the RCP) represented a "rightist deviation". On the contrary! The record shows clearly that the RCP alone stood for the defence of Trotsky's ideas, methods and policies, whereas the official leadership of the Fourth was wrong on every major issue. The mistakes of Pablo, Cannon, Mandel, Frank and co. were what demoralised the cadres of the International and caused internal crises and splits that destroyed it.
The hopelessly incorrect line of the leaders of the International is outlined by Ted Grant in the Program of the International (this and other works from the period can be found at the Ted Grant Archive). Of course, anyone can make a mistake. But a serious leadership is prepared to listen to criticism, correct mistakes and learn from them. The problem arises when a leadership is not prepared to admit a mistake and continues to repeat the same mistakes. In such a case we are no longer dealing with mistakes but a tendency.
An incorrect political line must sooner or later manifest itself in incorrect organizational methods and an unhealthy internal regime. We explained many times to the leadership of the International that the only authority it can have is a political and moral authority. The leadership must convince the membership by patient argument, not by bureaucratic means, intimidation and threats. But a leadership that lacks the necessary political and moral authority will inevitably resort to organizational methods in an attempt to silence criticism.
When Lenin and Trotsky stood at the head of mass Communist Parties in the early days of the Communist International, they always dealt with differences (and there were many!) in a patient way. It would never have occurred to them to treat the Bordigists or the German and British "Lefts", for example, by presenting them with ultimatums and expulsions. That is a finished recipe for the destruction of the International. Those were the methods that were introduced into the CI by Zinoviev and Stalin. The reason for this is that they were unable to answer critics by loyal political argument. They did not have the necessary political and moral authority and therefore attempted to use organizational means to solve political problems.
This was the case with the leaders of the Fourth after Trotsky's death. Unable to answer the arguments of the British comrades in the period 1944-50, they resorted to intrigues and organizational manoeuvres. That is to say, they adopted Zinovievist methods. They could never win a majority of the British section through a democratic discussion and therefore manoeuvred with a small minority led by Gerry Healy to split the section and expel the majority. These are the same methods that Lambert and Gluckstein are now using to expel the majority of their Brazilian section. Who was responsible for these methods in the first place? It was Pablo, along with Cannon, Mandel, Frank and all the other so-called leaders of the International. Lambert learned these methods from them - and he has proved to be a most adept pupil of the Pablo school.
Cannon, despite his faults, was probably the best of them. At least he had been a workers' leader and played an important role in assembling the first Trotskyist cadres in the early days of the Left Opposition. But Cannon was never a theoretician. He was an organizer and agitator. And although Trotsky supported the political stand of the SWP majority against the petty bourgeois opposition of Schachtman, he never condoned Cannon's organizational methods, which necessarily led to a split. Even before the War, Cannon used Zinovievist organizational methods against our tendency (See History of British Trotskyism). Such methods will inevitably destroy any organization that uses them. The fate of the American SWP and of the whole of the Fourth International should provide a sobering warning to this effect.
While Trotsky was alive, it was unthinkable that Zinovievist methods should be tolerated in the International. But after his death the arrogant and pretentious leaders of the Fourth abandoned the patient method of explanation that the Old man had always used in favour of the "big stick". Lenin once warned Bukharin, when he was chairman of the CI: "You want obedience: you will get obedient fools". Pablo, Cannon, Mandel and Frank could not tolerate criticism (just like Lambert and Gluckstein today). When the positions of the RCP were shown to be correct, one after another (China, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, Yugoslavia etc.), they reacted by fomenting a split in the British section, using their agent - Gerry Healy. The RCP was expelled and destroyed by these Zinovievist methods - methods that have nothing in common with those of Trotsky but which have been faithfully copied by Lambert - from Pablo!
In footnote 1of the Lambertist article we read the following:
"After the collapse of the RCP, Grant and his followers developed certain ideas that they shared with the Pabloites, in particular the position that the productive forces had the capacity to develop, which led them to maintain that the social democracy had a historical future."
This little note manages to include a mistake in every sentence, and sometimes two. The RCP did not "collapse". As we have explained, it was deliberately destroyed by the "Pabloite" leadership that was faithfully being followed by the likes of Pierre Lambert and Gerry Healy at the time. Contrary to the absurd myth so assiduously spread by Lambert, the RCP was not "Pabloite" but (unlike Lambert) was implacably opposed to the line of Pablo and the rest of the leaders of the International. The original British Pabloite was in fact - Gerry Healy. In Britain, Healy was the most dedicated follower of Pablo and slavishly followed all his master's instructions from Paris. On one occasion he even "got the line" by telegram (see History of British Trotskyism for details).
As a matter of fact, Pablo and his stooge Healy had almost no support inside the British section. All the intrigues of the International leadership had no effect on the members, overwhelmingly proletarian in composition, who remained faithful to the ideas and methods of Trotsky that were defended by Ted Grant and the RCP leadership. That is why the International leadership decided to wreck the British section. Their slogan was always the same: "rule or ruin". That is also the slogan of Lambert and Gluckstein. That is why they have just lost their Brazilian section. That is why they will never build a serious revolutionary International in a thousand years.
The author then goes on to state (without even blushing) that, "Grant and his followers developed certain ideas that they shared with the Pabloites". Now this is really something! If the RCP really had so much in common with Pablo and co., why did the latter unceremoniously expel them from the International? Here we leave behind the rational universe and enter into the fairy tale world of Alice in Wonderland, where everything is stood on its head.
The historical record will show that, in fact, Ted Grant had NOTHING in common with the ideas and perspectives defended by Pablo, Mandel, Cannon, Healy - and Lambert. These perspectives were a hundred percent incorrect and undermined the authority of the Fourth International, not just with the advanced workers who hitherto had looked with a certain sympathy to Trotsky, but with the cadres of the Trotskyist movement itself. Here we have the real cause of the degeneration and collapse of the Fourth International. The split of 1953 was not the starting point of the degeneration but its inevitable result. The whole lamentable history of that organization ever since has been one crisis and split after another.
What were the perspectives advanced by Pablo and co - with the complete support of Lambert and Healy - after the Second World War? They had the idea of an immediate slump, war and revolution. They denied any possibility of even a temporary stabilization of capitalism in Europe and instead put forward the perspective of dictatorship and Bonapartism. From these perspectives flow certain tactics. Pablo and the others put forward the tactic of deep entrism ("entrism sui generis"), that is, the Trotskyists must immediately enter the Social Democratic and Stalinist parties, which, according to this perspective, would immediately enter into crisis, permitting the Trotskyists to form mass parties of the Fourth International overnight.
Every one of these propositions was falsified by the march of events. They were based on a complete misunderstanding of what Trotsky had written in 1938, when he said that within ten years not one stone upon another would be left of the old Internationals (that is to say, the Social Democracy and Stalinism) and the Fourth International would become the decisive force on the planet. But like any perspective, this prognosis had a provisional character. Marxist perspectives are not a blueprint to which events must conform. That is an idealist conception that has nothing in common with materialist dialectics. Marxists must carefully study the objective situation and bring their perspectives constantly up to date. Our perspectives must be examined in the light of experience, and either modified or, if necessary, rejected, on the basis of the latter.
Trotsky based his prognosis of 1938 on an approximate analogy with the situation that developed out of the First World War. But war is the most complicated of all equations, as Napoleon pointed out. The Second World War developed in a way that not even a genius like Trotsky could have anticipated. In particular, the spectacular victories of the Red Army changed everything. Incidentally, the perspectives of Stalin, Hitler, Roosevelt and Churchill were also exploded by the actual development of events. We do not have space here to deal with this in more detail. But an analysis of the developments in world capitalism after 1945 can be found in the writings of Ted Grant, particularly Will There be a Slump? (1960).
To state it bluntly: the then leaders of the Fourth International completely misunderstood the real objective situation that emerged from the Second World War, and because of their false perspective they destroyed the Fourth International. The establishment of deformed workers' states in the countries of Eastern Europe and the victory of the Chinese Red Army posed new theoretical problems for the Fourth, and yet again the leadership revealed a complete incapacity to understand what was happening. At first they maintained that Eastern Europe and China were capitalist regimes. Then, without any theoretical explanation of their past position, they changed 180 degrees. Overnight they pronounced Tito's Yugoslavia after the break with Stalin to be a healthy workers' state. This was the method of Zinovievist political impressionism - constant theoretical vacillations, changing the line with no explanation from A to B and back again.
Ted Grant's position
The resolution adopted by the International Pre-Conference of the Fourth International in April 1946 (The New Imperialist Peace and the Building of the Parties of the Fourth International - April 1946), was permeated with the false perspective of the impending revolutionary crisis, the impossibility of a general economic recovery of capitalism and therefore it highlighted the excellent possibilities to develop the forces of the Fourth International. All this of course was false and eventually led to one crisis after another of the organization, and to its final collapse.
They were equally wrong on the perspectives for Stalinism and the USSR. In 1946 the perspectives of the then leadership of the Fourth International were that through "the combined economic, political and diplomatic pressure and the military threats of American and British imperialism" the Stalinist regime in the Soviet Union could collapse. The complete opposite was the truth. Ted Grant, together with the leadership of the RCP, attempted to correct this mistaken prognosis. On our website we provide all the historical documentation for this and other questions.
The British RCP saw that, because of the new balance of forces in Europe caused by the victory of the Red Army, and because of the class balance of forces, it was impossible for the ruling class to impose reaction immediately. The British comrades characterised the regimes in Western Europe (France, Belgium, Holland, Italy) as regimes of counter-revolution in a democratic form, while the likes of Pierre Frank insisted that the perspective for Western Europe was one of Bonapartist dictatorship.
Ted Grant, the leading theoretician of the RCP, attempted to correct the false positions of the then leadership of the "Fourth International". For a more detailed account of this we suggest reading all the articles that can be find in our section on the Fourth International. At the time, in his reply to Pierre Frank, Ted wrote: "Among the cadres of the Fourth International, there are comrades who have not sufficiently understood this lesson. They continue to live on the 'revenue from a few ready-made abstractions' instead of concretising or partially rectifying previous generalisations." That was the root of the problem.
The leadership ignored the arguments of the British section and blindly maintained their false position. In vain the British comrades pointed out the changed situation and the need for a re-evaluation of perspectives. In vain they pointed to the symptoms of an economic revival after the war. In vain they explained to the leaders of the International that because the Post-War Labour Government in Britain was carrying out most of its programme, the conditions for entry into the Labour Party were absent. All the arguments of the RCP fell on deaf ears. Such was the stupidity of these gentlemen that when one of the representatives of the American SWP was asked in 1947 about Trotsky's 1938 prediction that within ten years not one stone upon another would be left of the Social Democracy and Stalinism, he replied with a straight face that there was still one year left!
In his Open Letter to B.S.F.I. (September/October 1950) Ted Grant outlined the new world situation that arose from the War and warned the International:
"These factors have resulted in an unparalleled development, which could not have been foreseen by any of the Marxist teachers: the extension of Stalinism as a social phenomenon over half Europe, over the Chinese sub-continent and with the possibility of spreading over the whole of Asia.
"This poses new theoretical problems to be worked out by the Marxist movement. Under conditions of isolation and paucity of forces, new historical factors could not but result in a theoretical crisis of the movement, posing the problem of its very existence and survival."
There is not the slightest doubt that if Trotsky had still been alive in 1945 he would have immediately seen the need to re-evaluate the situation in the light of events. But the so-called leaders of the Fourth were incapable of doing this. They were simply not up to the level of the tasks posed by history. For them, matters were very simple: all they had to do was to repeat like a mantra what Trotsky had written in 1938. That is to say, they treated perspectives, not in a Marxist but in a metaphysical way. They slavishly repeated the words of Trotsky without understanding Trotsky's method. In the same way a parrot will repeat sounds that resemble human speech but without the slightest understanding of their meaning.
The fact is that every one of the positions defended by the "Pabloite" leadership of the Fourth after the War, and slavishly supported by Lambert and Healy, were shown to be false, and every one of the basic positions defended by Ted Grant and the RCP were shown to be correct. That is what Lambert and Gluckstein cannot stomach. That is why they have tried for so long to hide the facts and falsify the history of the Fourth International from their followers. That is why they consistently distort our positions and misrepresent them in miserable footnotes. A tendency that bases itself upon falsification will itself end up as a miserable footnote to history. As Trotsky pointed out, the locomotive of history is truth, not lies.
The economic cycle and the class struggle
Our friendly critic attributes to the RCP "in particular the position that the productive forces had the capacity to develop, which led them to maintain that the social democracy had a historical future."
The author of these lines may be politically illiterate but surely there was no need to punish logic and the French language as well as to mangle Marxism? What is this gibberish supposed to mean? The productive forces always have the "capacity" to develop, in the same way that most men and women have the "capacity" to think. Whether or not this manifests itself in an actual development of production or in individuals who actually think is quite another matter. In the case of the Lambertists, the latter proposition may be open to serious question.
As we have seen, the leaders of the Fourth had a completely false perspective after 1945 - NOT JUST ON THE ECONOMY BUT ON EVERYTHING ELSE. Our friendly critic carefully selects just one question (the development of the productive forces) where he imagines (incorrectly) that he is on safe ground, forgetting all the rest. Pablo, Mandel and co. predicted an immediate slump (and an immediate war, Bonapartism and revolution). Let us ask our critic a straight question: WERE THESE PERSPECTIVES CORRECT - YES OR NO? There is only one answer possible: these perspectives had absolutely nothing in common with the real situation. They were false in every particular, from the first line to the last. It is no use at all attempting to resort to sophism to wriggle out of this fact, which is most unpalatable for Lambert, since he (unlike Ted Grant) not only shared "certain ideas" with the Pabloites, but was in complete agreement with all these ideas.
It is not possible to separate just one element (the productive forces) from what was an entirely incorrect perspective. Their perspective of immediate slump was only part of their general lack of understanding of the real processes taking place on a world scale. The leaders of the Fourth International were denying any possibility of economic recovery and consequently were predicting revolution (or Bonapartist dictatorship, or war...) just around the corner. They were predicting the collapse of the Soviet Union, when in actual fact the Stalinist regime in Russia had emerged enormously strengthened from the War.
One of the major debates immediately after the Second World War was: would there be any possibility of a boom and revival of capitalism? Cannon, Mandel, Pablo, Healy and the other leaders of the then Fourth International, based themselves on an entirely formalistic interpretation of Trotsky's (correct) statement that capitalism was in its "death agony". They interpreted this (incorrectly) to mean that there could henceforth be no question of an economic recovery after the War.
Such a position was entirely at variance with the Marxist method. It was answered in advance by Lenin, who, in polemicising against the so-called Left Communists in the CI, pointed out that there was no such thing as a "final crisis of capitalism". As long as the working class did not overthrow it, capitalism could always find a way out of even the deepest crisis. He and Trotsky did not even rule out, as a theoretical possibility, that capitalism might experience a considerable upswing in the future, if the proletariat did not show a way out through the socialist revolution.
How did Trotsky pose the question of the class struggle and the economic cycle? In his article, Flood-tide, written in 1921, Trotsky makes the following observation:
"The capitalist world enters a period of industrial upswing. Booms alternate with depressions-an organic law of capitalist society. The current boom nowise indicates the establishment of equilibrium in the class structure. A crisis frequently helps the growth of anarchist and reformist moods among the workers. The boom will help fuse the working masses." (The First Five Years of the Communist International, vol. 2, p. 74)
What conclusions did Trotsky draw from the economic revival? Did he conclude that it signified the end of the class struggle? Did it signify the inevitable victory of reformism, or a "rightist deviation" as our Lambertist critics would put it? Far from it! We can see from the above quotation what Trotsky's position was. Unlike Pablo and Lambert, Trotsky had a Marxist attitude towards economic perspectives. The idea that slump necessarily signifies revolution and boom counterrevolution is completely incorrect. It is typical of the undialectical formalism that is the inevitable trait of the thinking of ultra left sectarians in every period.
Trotsky had to explain to the "Lefts" the ABCs of Marxism. The relation between the economic cycle and the class struggle is not direct and mechanical as the Lefts imagined, but contradictory and dialectical. He explains in a balanced way that a boom can have positive effects in fusing the working class, healing the wounds of past defeats and raising its confidence. Let Trotsky speak for himself:
"The capitalist press is beating the drums over the successes of economic "rehabilitation" and the perspectives of a new epoch of capitalist stability. These ecstasies are just as groundless as the complementary fears of the "lefts" who believe that the revolution must grow out of the uninterrupted aggravation of the crisis. In reality, while the coming commercial and industrial prosperity implies economically new riches for the top circles of the bourgeoisie, all the political advantages will accrue to us. The tendencies toward unification within the working class are only an expression of the growing will to action. If the workers are today demanding that for the sake of the struggle against the bourgeoisie the Communists reach an agreement with the Independents and with the Social Democrats, then on the morrow-to the extent that the movement grows in its mass scope-these same workers will become convinced that only the Communist Party offers them leadership in the revolutionary struggle. The first wave of the flood-tide lifts up all the labour organizations, impelling them to arrive at an agreement. But the self-same fate awaits the Social Democrats and the Independents: they will be engulfed one after the other in the next waves of the revolutionary flood-tide.
"Does this mean-in contrast to partisans of the theory the offensive-that it is not the crisis but the coming economic revival which is bound to lead directly to the victory of the proletariat? Such a categorical assertion would be unfounded. We have already shown above that there exists not a mechanical but a complex dialectical interdependence between the economic conjuncture and the character of the class struggle. It suffices for understanding the future that we are entering the period of revival far better armed than we entered the period of crisis. In the most important countries on the European continent we possess powerful Communist parties. The break in the conjuncture undoubtedly opens up before us the possibility of an offensive-not only in the economic field, but also in politics. It is a fruitless occupation to engage now in speculations as to where this offensive will end. It is just beginning, just coming into sight.
"A sophist may raise the objection that if we grant that the further industrial revival need not necessarily lead us directly to victory, then a new industrial cycle will obviously take place, signifying another step toward the restoration of capitalist equilibrium. In that case wouldn't there actually arise the danger of a new epoch of capitalist restoration? To this one might reply as follows: If the Communist Party fails to grow; if the proletariat fails to gain experience; if the proletariat fails to resist in a more and more far-reaching and irreconcilable revolutionary way; if it fails to pass over at the first opportunity from defence to offence, then the mechanics of capitalist development, supplemented by the manoeuvres of the bourgeois state, would doubtless accomplish their work in the long run. Entire countries would be hurled back economically into barbarism; tens of millions of human beings would perish from hunger, with despair in their hearts, and upon their bones some new sort of equilibrium of the capitalist world would be restored. But such a perspective is sheer abstraction. On the way toward this speculative capitalist equilibrium there are many gigantic obstacles: the chaos of the world market, the disruption of currency systems, the sway of militarism, the threat of war, the lack of confidence in the future. The elemental forces of capitalism are seeking avenues of escape amid heaps of obstacles. But these same elemental forces lash the working class and impel it forward. The development of the working class does not cease even when it retreats. For, while losing positions, it accumulates experience and consolidates its party. It marches forward. The working class is one of the conditions of social development, one of the factors of this development, and moreover its most important factor because it embodies the future.
"The basic curve of industrial development is searching for upward avenues. Movement is rendered complex by cyclical fluctuations, which in the post-war conditions resemble spasms. It is naturally impossible to foretell at which point of development there will occur such a combination of objective and subjective conditions as will produce a revolutionary overturn. Nor is it possible to foretell whether this will occur in the course of the impending revival, at its beginning, or toward its end, or with the coming of a new cycle. Suffice it for us that the tempo of development does to a considerable measure depend upon us, upon our party, upon its tactics. It is of utmost importance to take into account the new economic turn which can open a new stage of fusing the ranks and in preparing a victorious offensive. For the revolutionary party to understand that which is, already implies in and of itself an abridgement of all time intervals and the moving up of dates." (ibid., pp. 83-4)
Is this not perfectly clear? Trotsky explains the complex dialectical relation between the economic cycle and the class struggle, which condition each other, but not in a mechanical way. It is possible that a slump could demoralize the workers and postpone revolutionary developments for a number of years. The economic slump that followed the defeat of the 1905 revolution in Russia had just such an effect, and Trotsky correctly predicted that an economic revival would be needed before the workers took the road of revolution again. This is precisely what happened in the period 1911-14.
It should be noted that Trotsky in the above extract poses the theoretical possibility of a future period of upswing in capitalism ("a new epoch of capitalist restoration") if the Communist Parties failed to take power. He regarded this as unlikely - an abstract perspective - because the perspective was one of victorious socialist revolutions led by the Communist International. In 1921 the possibility of the bureaucratic degeneration of the Russian Revolution was not even a remote consideration. But the isolation of the October Revolution in conditions of extreme material and cultural backwardness (because of the betrayals of European Social Democracy) led to the Stalinist degeneration, which undermined the CI as an instrument for socialist revolution. This, in turn, led to the defeat of the revolution in China, Germany, Spain, etc., which in turn led directly to the Second World War.
The balanced way in which Trotsky (and also Lenin, who had the same position) dealt with this question is in complete contrast to the childishness of the "Left Communists", whose method was a mechanical vulgarisation of Marxism. The "Lefts" denied any possibility of a revival of the productive forces, considering any such idea as tantamount to the abandonment of a revolutionary perspective and a capitulation to reformism and Social Democracy. They attacked both Lenin and Trotsky as "rightists" for the crime of explaining the facts of life to them. But subsequent developments demonstrated that Lenin and Trotsky were right and the "Left Communists" hopelessly wrong.
As a footnote we should add that, despite the seriousness of their political differences, it never occurred to Lenin and Trotsky to propose the expulsion of the "Lefts" or to use the formidable apparatus of the Communist International to suppress them. They used the political debate to educate the cadres of the International and answered d the arguments of their opponents patiently. That was the correct, Leninist, way to handle differences within the organization. The method of Lambert-Gluckstein is not.
‘Say what is!'
The situation that arose after 1945 was not like the situation after the end of the First World War. The victories of the Red Army and the revolutionary wave that swept Europe forced US imperialism to underwrite European capitalism for fear of "Communism". On the other hand, contrary to Trotsky's prediction in 1938, the old organizations of the Social Democracy and Stalinism succeeded in placing themselves at the head of the movement and derailing it. The counterrevolution took place in a democratic form (as happened in Germany in 1918-20).
This was the political precondition for an economic revival and a stabilisation of capitalism, which reinforced the hold of the Social Democracy over the masses in Britain and other countries. On the other hand, the victories of Stalinism in Eastern Europe and China, following the spectacular victories of the Red Army during the War, increased the illusions in Stalinism among the masses. Contrary to Trotsky's expectations, Stalinism and reformism were reinforced for a whole historical period.
Ted Grant explained the reasons for the post-war upswing in capitalism in the following terms:
"What then are the basic reasons for the developments of the post-second world war economy?
1. The political failure of the Stalinists and the social democrats, in Britain and Western Europe, created the political climate for a recovery of capitalism.
2. The effects of the war, in the destruction of consumer and capital goods, created a big market (war has effects similar to, but deeper than, a slump in the destruction of capital). These effects, according to United Nations' statisticians, only disappeared in 1958.
3. The Marshall Plan and other economic aid assisted the recovery of Western Europe.
4. The enormously increased investment in industry.
5. The growth of new industry - plastics, aluminium, rockets, electronics, atomic energy and by-products.
6. The increasing output of the newer industries - chemicals, artificial fibres, synthetic rubber, plastics, rapid rise in light metals, aluminium, magnesium, electric household equipment, natural gas, electric energy, building activity.
7. The enormous amounts of fictitious capital, created by the armaments expenditure, which amount to 10 per cent of the national income in Britain and America.
8. The new market for capital and engineering products, created by the weakening of imperialism in the undeveloped countries, which has given the local bourgeoisie the increased opportunity to develop industry on a greater scale than ever before.
9. All these factors interact on one another. The increased demand for raw materials, through the development of industry in the metropolitan countries in its turn, reacts on the undeveloped countries and vice-versa.
10. The increasing trade, especially in capital goods and engineering products, between the capitalist countries, consequent on the increased economic investment, in its turn acts as a spur.
11. The role of state intervention in stimulating economic activity." (From Will there be a slump?).
How did the leaders of the Fourth deal with this situation? They understood nothing. Their arguments are like a carbon copy of the so-called Left Communists in the period 1920-1924. They categorically stated that the world economy would remain in "stagnation and slump." Even when the facts were carved on their noses, and the capitalist economy began to revive, they refused to take this into account. As late as 1947, when no serious person could deny that there was an economic revival in Europe, they still refused to acknowledge their mistake. Then, in an attempt to cover their bare backside, they proclaimed that, although there was some economic growth (they could hardly say anything else!), capitalism could not reach the level of production attained pre-war.
This was an entirely arbitrary and unscientific assertion, not founded either on Marxist economic theory or on the facts. It was merely an attempt to save some face in the light of an objective situation that was in open conflict with their predictions. For these people, the most important question was not the education of the cadres but only the maintenance of the prestige of the leaders: a disastrous policy with disastrous results! In practice the "ceiling" on the growth of the productive forces they had put forward so light-mindedly was soon broken and capitalism entered into an economic upswing that lasted for over two decades.
If Marxism were a collection of ready-made formulas, rather than a scientific method, then every petty sectarian in history would be as great as Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky put together. But things are not so simple. The British Marxists, gathered around the leadership of the RCP, using the method of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky, questioned this position and were the first to point out that world capitalism was entering a period of revival. They explained the need to reorient the forces of the Fourth International on the basis of an analysis of what was really taking place.
The productive forces
On this question Pierre Lambert developed a very strange variety of sectarian misunderstanding. He and his followers simply stuck to the previous position of denying that there had been any development of the productive forces. Amazingly they stick to this position to this very day. They seem to fear the very idea that the productive forces can actually develop, for they feel this would lead to the conclusion that revolution is impossible. Such a conclusion is entirely unwarranted. It is a mechanical caricature of Marxism that was answered long ago by Lenin and Trotsky, as we have seen.
Marx explained long ago that it is the very development of the productive forces that makes revolution inevitable. It strengthens the working class and in the end increases the contradictions within the system. The development of the productive forces in Europe since 1945, it is true, caused serious problems for the revolutionary movement. It was the objective basis for the isolation of the proletarian vanguard and the decline of the Fourth International. But it also had the effect of strengthening the working class, healing the scars of the defeats of the past. It has mercilessly whittled away the peasantry in Italy, France, Spain and Germany, and in so doing it has weakened the social base of reaction.
The enormous development of the productive forces in China at the present time, by strengthening the proletariat, is creating the conditions for a powerful revolutionary upsurge in the next period. It must not be forgotten that the biggest revolutionary general strike in history, in France 1968, came at the peak of the post-war economic upswing. This is sufficient proof that it is not at all necessary to deny the possibility of development of the productive forces under capitalism in order to maintain a revolutionary policy and perspective.
The leaders of the RCP were the only ones who kept their heads and maintained a firm course based on the real ideas of Lenin and Trotsky. For this "crime" they are now assailed by our friends in Paris as "rightists". This is no accident. As we have already seen, the "Left" Communists also described Lenin and Trotsky as "rightists", and for exactly the same reason. Marx was quite right when he said that history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce. The "Left" Communists did a lot of damage with their ultra left tactics and policies, like the "theory of the offensive" which led to a serious defeat of the German working class in 1921. That was a tragedy. But the antics of Lambert, Healy, Pablo, Cannon and Frank were only a farce. They did not have the influence in the working class that the German "Lefts" had in order to test their "theories" in practice. With the wisdom of hindsight, perhaps that was not a bad thing.
The long period of economic upswing lasted till the first serious recession of 1973-4. For a whole period, at least in the advanced capitalist countries, capitalism was in a position to grant concessions and reforms to the workers (the national health service, pension schemes, etc.). In such a situation to simply repeat that capitalism cannot recover and that revolution is around the corner was to fly in the face of reality. Thus, they completely disorientated the cadres of the Fourth International.
Lenin once said that an ultra left is an opportunist who is afraid of his own opportunism. That is confirmed by the whole evolution of all the tendencies that emerged from the old leadership of the Fourth International. Over the past decades we have seen every conceivable (and some inconceivable) combinations of ultra left and opportunist deviations. These groups constantly swing from ultra-leftism to opportunism and back again. Having started with a caricature of Trotsky's position that assumed that every dot and comma the Old Man wrote was literally correct, they then concluded that the "old ideas" were useless and unceremoniously ditched them. An extreme case was the American SWP, who no longer claims to be Trotskyist even in words. But, in reality, the others are no better.
Only when it became abundantly obvious that capitalism was experiencing an economic upswing of considerable proportions did these so-called "Trotskyists" accept that there had been a recovery. Then, typically, they did a 180-degree somersault and went to the opposite extreme. The tendency around Ernest Mandel - which became the so-called United Secretariat of the Fourth International (USFI) - developed a perspective of decades of social peace in the advanced capitalist countries, based on the idea that capitalism had somehow resolved some of its fundamental contradictions through Keynesian deficit financing and state intervention. They even theorised the idea of the "bourgeoisification" of the working class. The events of 1968 in France took them completely by surprise.
As for Lambert and his followers, they reacted to the situation by simply closing their eyes to reality, like a frightened child who hides his head under the blankets in case he sees a ghost. We would ask our Lambertist friends a question: Have the productive forces developed since the end of the Second World War? Or are they still at the level of 1938 as they claim? The answer is clear to anyone who looks at the statistics. For that matter, it is clear simply by living in the real world. The problem with all the sectarians is precisely that they do not live in this world at all.
With their customary Alice in Wonderland logic, the Lambertists have worked out a neat syllogism: a) Grant predicted an economic boom after the War, b) therefore he believed that reformism and Social Democracy could survive, c) therefore he is in favour of Social Democracy. How any intelligent person could accept such a logic really passes all understanding. But let us ask our friendly critic another straight question: Has the influence of the Social Democracy been maintained within the international labour movement since the end of the Second World War, yes or no? For those of us who still inhabit the planet earth, this question really answers itself. For sectarian extraterrestrials, we can never be sure.
It is really very simple. The massive economic upswing between 1948 and 1973 was precisely the material base upon which reformist illusions were fostered within the labour movement. In the advanced capitalist countries, at least, the economic upswing allowed for a certain social and political stability. Those were the conditions that enormously strengthened the social democracy within the labour movement. Not to take that into account would be flying in the face of reality. This has meant that the small forces of genuine Marxism were isolated from the masses and working under difficult conditions for a whole historical period. That is the objective reason why the Fourth International failed to develop in the way that Trotsky had anticipated in 1938. We were swimming against the tide.
In no way did the position of the RCP contain any illusions about the viability of the capitalist system. They simply stated what was actually happening. They understood that capitalism was going through a temporary revival and that eventually crisis would set in again. They did not imagine that the economic upswing would last as long as it did. They also understood that this recovery would lead temporarily to a strengthening of reformist illusions among the ranks of the labour movement. As a matter of fact, reformism has been strengthened for a whole historical period, while the forces of genuine Marxism (Trotskyism) have been thrown back. This is an indisputable fact. But the real reason why the Fourth International was destroyed in this period cannot be explained purely in terms of the difficult objective situation.
The objective difficulties are only half the story. We cannot leave aside the subjective factor, the quality of the leadership. The role played by the "leadership" was crucial and utterly negative. The first rule of dialectical materialism is: always say what is. Marxists set out from the real situation, no matter how unpalatable. In order to reorient the forces of the Forth International, it was absolutely necessary to take account of the new objective situation. This is what the leadership of the Fourth were unable to do. They proved to be completely inadequate to the needs of the situation and as a result, made a whole series of mistakes that wrecked the International.
In a war, the importance of good generals when an army is advancing is decisive. But it is even more decisive when the army is compelled to retreat. In such circumstances, with good generals, the army can retreat in good order, keeping its losses to a minimum, enabling the army to entrench itself, and prepare for a new offensive when conditions permit it. But bad generals will always turn a retreat into a rout. That is what happened to the Fourth International.
The footnote already alluded to draws a most peculiar conclusion from the economic perspectives of the RCP. They say that the recognition of an economic recovery after the War led them to maintain that, "the social democracy had a historical future." Well, six decades later what does La Vérité have to say about the Social Democracy? Does it still exist or not? Evidently, it does, and it still has a hold over millions of workers.
In Britain, the Labour Party regularly receives the votes of millions of workers, despite the abominable policies of Blair. The workers are very critical of Blair, who is hated by the activists. Yet, after nine years of New Labour, all the attempts of the sects to build a serious alternative to the Labour Party have failed abysmally. The Socialist Alliance collapsed. Now the Scottish Socialist Party has split. The other sectarian grouplets are not even worth mentioning.
What is the reason for this strange situation? It is very simple: the British workers see no viable alternative to the Labour Party. Insofar as they do not vote Labour, they do not vote at all. That may be a very unpalatable fact for some people, but it is a fact nonetheless. The main trade unions are still affiliated to Labour and provide it with most of its funds. They also still have fifty percent of the votes at Labour Party conference. In other words, Blair has failed to break the Labour Party from the unions. This is a decisive question for future perspectives for the British working class.
The question of the Labour Party was always a central question for the British Marxists. Lenin dealt with it many times, especially in Left-Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder. Trotsky wrote even more on the Labour Party, and the need for the British Trotskyists to conduct serious and systematic work in it. For anyone with the slightest knowledge of Marxist theory and the real conditions in Britain, the need to work in the Labour Party is an ABC question. But the sects always howl with rage at any such suggestion. For them, work in the Labour Party is the same as - supporting Blair!
Such an argument is simply childish. But that is too generous! A child of six would understand that it is possible to work in the Labour Party and fight against Blair. As a matter of fact, the only way to fight effectively against Blair is by conducting a struggle in the Labour Party and the unions that are inseparably linked to the Labour Party. That is the only way to build a viable Marxist tendency in Britain.
The argument that, by working in the Labour Party we will discredit ourselves by associating with the right wing traitors is not new. It was already answered by Lenin in his debates with the British "Left Communists" like Willie Gallagher:
"Comrade Gallacher is wrong in asserting that by advocating affiliation to the Labour Party we shall repel the best elements among the British workers. We must test this by experience. We are convinced that all the resolutions and decisions that will be adopted by our Congress will be published in all British revolutionary socialist newspapers and that all the branches and sections will be able to discuss them.
"The entire content of our resolutions shows with crystal clarity that we are representatives of working-class revolutionary tactics in all countries and that our aim is to fight against the old reformism and opportunism. The events reveal that our tactics are indeed defeating the old reformism." (Speech On Affiliation To The British Labour Party, August 6., The Second Congress Of The Communist International, July 19-August 7, 1920).
Anyone who reads the Socialist Appeal or our website, Marxist.com, can be left in no doubt that we stand for the programme and policies of revolutionary Marxism, and that in the Labour Party and trade unions in Britain we are indeed "fighting against the old reformism and opportunism." Despite these obvious facts, La Vérité feels free to repeat the scandalous claim that the British Socialist Appeal in some way supports Blair! They quote from an article, Britain: Blair must go but Brown is no better, written by Phil Mitchinson, and say the following:
"A question is therefore posed: should Blair the ‘privatiser', Blair the butcher of Irak, of the Labour Party be chased out? The Grant-Woods group declares itself as the ‘Marxist faction' in the Labour Party. So what is their position? On October 4, 2005, just after the party congress had taken place, they published an article under the title ‘Blair must go'. But then they hurry to add ‘but Brown is no better'. Apart from the replacement of Blair by another individual who ‘is no better', are there no other issues that concern the activists of the Labour Party?"
How do the Lambertists interpret what we say? They say the following:
"What should one conclude? That to remove Blair is impossible? That in any case whoever replaces him ‘would be no better'?"
Right from the very beginning we see the crude and dishonest method adopted by the author of this attack. Tony Blair is finished. He will have to stand down as leader of the Labour Party in a few months. Some British Trade Union leaders are preparing to back Brown in his bid to become the next leader of the Labour Party. The purpose of the article in Socialist Appeal was to combat the illusions being sown within the British labour movement that somehow Brown would be better than Blair, when in actual fact he has loyally served the interests of British capital as Chancellor of the Exchequer. Yet again, La Vérité stands the truth on its head.
Our readers can look at our October 2005 article for themselves, but we will just quote the last three paragraphs to make clear where we stand:
"There must be a real challenge to the Blair/Brown big business agenda at every level of the labour movement. We cannot wait two, three, or four more years. Those union leaders who have been backing Brown must wake up to reality. The alarm must be sounded by the ranks. If the trade unions united their resources behind a real left candidate they could have a big influence. No support should be given to any candidate who does not support withdrawing troops from Iraq, who does not oppose privatisation, support renationalising the railways, and abolishing the anti-union laws. This is a minimum requirement.
"A left candidate like John McDonnell, for example, even if he did not win a leadership election could open the door to real debate about the need for socialist policies throughout the movement.
"The process of questioning in society, of changes in the unions, which has already begun, will not go away. The task of socialists and trade unionists must not be to rally around any candidate who might win, regardless of their policy, but instead to organise the discontent, the searching, the mounting militancy in British society into a real force for change. Change inside the labour movement, and change inside the Labour Party, as steps toward the change that really matters - the radical socialist transformation of society."
Having begun with this vulgar misrepresentation of our position the author then continues:
"One has to wait until November 10... to find another article in the Woods-Grant publications."
Our friendly critic has not even done his homework properly. He conveniently ignores another article by Phil Mitchinson, "War on terror" used as an excuse to whittle away elementary civil liberties in Britain, published on October 25, 2005. That article is dedicated to Blair's attack on civil liberties, and our readers can see the text at the link above.
The November 10 article, The last but one nail in Blair's coffin, is then quoted in a further attempt to prove that the Marxist tendency in Britain supports Tony Blair. How do they do this? By mistranslating a phrase from English into French. In the original English the article says:
"This first parliamentary defeat for Blair may prove to be the penultimate nail in his coffin. When will he go? That question cannot be answered with any certainty. Not a day too soon obviously."
In English "Not a day too soon" means, "the sooner he goes, the better". But in the French our Lambertist author translates "Not a day too soon" as "Pas de sitôt, de toute evidence". This means "not so soon, obviously". Any French reader would conclude from this that the British Socialist Appeal's position is that Blair will not go too soon. The real translation into French would have been "Pas (un jour) trop tôt", or else "Il est grand temps" (it is about time!) i.e. it should have happened sooner.
Not happy with falsifying the translation, the Lambertists then add their own spin to the meaning and say:
"Here we then have the message that this ‘Marxist' fraction addresses to the activists of the Labour Party and the trade unions, "Blair ne peut pas, ne doit pas partir." This means "Blair cannot and must not go".
This is the exact opposite of the position defended in every single one of the articles that have appeared in the Socialist Appeal on this subject. If this is a joke, it is in very bad taste. Not even our most implacable opponents in Britain (and we have a few) have ever accused us of supporting Blair. Yet our friendly Lambertist critic does so without the slightest hesitation - and without even a smile! To clarify the point further we will quote two paragraphs from the very same November 10 article:
"Blair's defeat yesterday brings the downfall of Blairism that much closer and is therefore to be welcomed. However this is far from the end of the matter, on the contrary it is only the beginning. A new chapter has been opened in the struggle for the Labour Party. Parliamentary rebellions can play an important role in that process especially if they are linked to the struggle throughout the rest of the labour movement. That struggle cannot have as its aim the puny ambition of replacing Blair with Brown or some other clone, it must set its sights higher. The cause must be to reclaim Labour for the working class, and to fight for socialist policies."
"There is only one force that can defeat Blair - the trade unions and the party rank and file. It is not just in parliamentary voting lobbies, but inside the labour movement that Blair and co must be defeated. What is needed now is a militant trade union defence of jobs and pensions combined with a struggle against the Blairites, in defence of civil liberties, and for socialist policies inside Labour."
In dealing with the position of our British comrades of the Socialist Appeal, it is worth listing some of the titles of their journal over the past period.
Issue 119, February 2004, "Lies on Iraq, lies on fees... Make Blair Pay"
Issue 126, October 2004: "Troops out of Iraq. No to Blairism! Fight for Socialist policies!
Issue 131, April 2005: "Don't let the Tories in... and kick them out of Labour"
Issue 133, June 2005: "Unions must drive Blairism out"
Issue 141, April 2006: "Lies, deceit, corruption... Blair must GO!"
Issue 143, June 2006: "Ditch Blairism now"
Issue 144, July/August 2006: "Left Must Challenge Blair and Brown"
Issue 145, September 2006: "Labour Needs Socialism Not Blairism"
These are our front-page headlines. We believe they speak for themselves.
After falsifying our position on Britain they then move on to our position on the European Union. Again they attempt to present the opposite of what we stand for. What are we supposed to defend? Nothing at all. They claim that we are indifferent on this question. Yes! We are so indifferent that we wrote a lengthy document on it, which is a small book. This was written by Alan Woods in June 1997 and is called A Socialist Alternative to the European Union. They quote from this in their usual selective manner:
"We are neither for nor against withdrawal from the EU on the basis of capitalism. The interests of the working class [are] not represented in either case... Nevertheless, we should not be under the illusion, as are the lefts, that the austerity measures are simply due to Maastricht. Maastricht is used as an excuse or smoke screen for the cuts and attacks taking place throughout Europe. These attacks would have taken place with or without Maastricht."
To this they add their own translation (and we have already seen that they are excellent translators):
"Translation: as socialism has not been realised, the policy and the institutions of the European Union are questions of indifference to the working classes of Europe. But on what planet do our great ‘revolutionaries' live?"
We believe that we live on a planet called earth, where as a rule the laws of logic apply in normal debate. But what kind of a debate is it where one systematically falsifies the arguments of an opponent. Again the method here is dishonest, as it cuts out what does not suit the preconceived views of the author. This is a typically Stalinist method that has nothing to do with the honest and democratic traditions of the Trotskyist movement.
To clarify what was said in that article, instead of taking quotes out of context, let us dispense with the amiable services of our "translator" and allow the author to speak for himself. The following quotes give the real position of our tendency on the European Union. We have underlined the extract they quote out of context and in all later quotes we will use the same method of underlining what they quote out of context:
"Our position on the EU is similar to the position Marx took in the controversy about free trade or protectionism that time. He explained that the interests of the working class are neither for free trade nor protectionism, but international socialism. That the debate on free trade reflected the interests of different sections of the ruling class. It was a trap to take sides in this dispute, and the workers' movement had to take an independent political stance. Similarly with us. We are neither for nor against withdrawal from the EU on the basis of capitalism. The interests of the working class [are] not represented in either case."
"The European Union is nothing more than a capitalist club, a glorified customs union, established to promote the interests of European big business. It has nothing in common with the interests of the working class. That is our starting point. Our opposition to the EU is exactly the same as our opposition to capitalism or capitalism generally. We take a clear independent class position. The only alternative to the capitalist EU [is] the Socialist United States of Europe.
"This is our general position. However, it is necessary to link the general demands to a concrete programme of struggle against all attempts to put the burden of the crisis of capitalism on the shoulders of the working class, the old, the unemployed, the sick, the women and youth. There is growing opposition in the Labour movement, especially on the left, against the Maastricht criteria for monetary union. We are opposed to Maastricht, as we are opposed to all capitalist measures against the working class. Nevertheless, we should not be under the illusion, as are the lefts, that the austerity measures are simply due to Maastricht. Maastricht is used as an excuse or smoke screen for the cuts and attacks taking place throughout Europe. These attacks would have taken place with or without Maastricht. According to the right wing Economist, "labour costs are too high". They must be driven down to put European capitalism back on its feet. This situation arises from the crisis of capitalism itself. That is the reason why austerity measures are taking place simultaneously throughout the capitalist world, from Europe to Japan and the United States.
"Despite all the contradictions, the main capitalist powers in Europe, especially the Germans and French, are determined to push ahead with a European currency. The plan is to introduce it at the beginning of 1999. But this can be easily blown off course with the advent of a new world recession. What is our view of a European currency? Firstly, we cannot consider it in the abstract. Who is introducing it and why is it being introduced? Under capitalism, we have to oppose the introduction of a single currency, as it will be used to cut living standards. Obviously, in a socialist Europe, a common currency would be introduced to facilitate planning and exchange. But under capitalism it is a different question. It is not an abstract issue of just being for or against the principle of a single currency - we have to take into account concretely how its implementation will be used to carry through attacks on living standards, etc. In other words we have to draw out all the implications and consequences for the working class of a single currency on the basis of capitalism. In any referendum we would advocate a 'No' vote to the single currency, and argue the case for a socialist Europe."
Here the method of quoting used by our friendly critic stands revealed in all its glory. He conveniently omits the sentence that says, "We are opposed to Maastricht, as we are opposed to all capitalist measures against the working class." Why did he omit this? Because it utterly negates his argument that we are "indifferent to the Maastricht Treaty".
In further attempting to portray our position as one that sees the EU as somehow progressive, they quote from EU Constitution debacle - The real nature of European Union exposed written by Roberto Sarti and Fred Weston in December 2003:
"Maastricht, the euro, and all the other agreements, have had the effect of internationalising the class struggle within the borders of the EU. Everywhere the workers are coming up against the same policies. Everywhere, pensions, welfare benefits, education, public transport, are all under attack. And everywhere we see strikes and demonstrations against these measures, from Austria to Greece, from Italy to Spain. No country is immune from this process."
All this paragraph states is something which is quite obvious to any intelligent observer. As the Maastricht agreement involves applying the same cuts in social spending throughout the EU, the same attacks on pensions and education and so on, it provokes a similar reaction in all the member states. The workers of Europe mobilise against these attacks. We cannot understand what is wrong in stating what is so obvious. What is their objection? They attempt to ridicule our statement by saying "So, the European Union is an engine that stimulates class struggle..." This is like ridiculing someone who says that the existence of capitalism stimulates class struggle and then attacking him for having illusions in capitalism!
They continue by returning once more to Alan Woods' A Socialist Alternative to the European Union, where they quote the following:
"The separate national markets of Britain, France, Germany, and the others, were far too small for the giant monopolies. The Common Market was created in an attempt to overcome this limitation. The big monopolies looked forward to an unrestricted regional market of hundreds of millions, and beyond that to the world market. On the basis of the economic upswing, the European capitalists were largely successful in establishing this glorified customs union, where the abolition of tariffs between the countries of the Common Market and a common tariff with the rest of the world served to develop and stimulate world trade."
In passing they manage once more to mistranslate. In the French instead of "glorified customs union" we have "glorious customs union", i.e. instead of "union douanière glorifiée" we have "glorieuse union douanière". The difference is clear to anyone who wishes to understand it. The first mistranslation (on Blair) could be accepted as a mistake, but now it appears to be a pattern. Why bother translating what is actually said when you can transform the meaning into its opposite for the purpose of a polemic?
In any case a lengthier quote puts the whole piece into its proper context:
"The Common Market was established as an attempt by the European bourgeois to overcome the narrow confines of the nation state, with its limited market. Historically the nation state played an essential role in developing capitalism, which served in the first instance to protect and develop the home market. However, with the development of communications, technique, science, multinational companies, and the world market, the productive forces came into conflict with the limitation of national state boundaries as well as private ownership of the means of production. Capitalism and the nation state from being a source of enormous progress became a colossal fetter and impediment to the harmonious development of production. This contradiction reflected itself in the world wars of 1914-18 and 1939-45 and the crisis of the inter-war period.
"The development of world trade in the post war period allowed the capitalist system to overcome this contradiction, at any rate partially and for a temporary period. The separate national markets of Britain, France, Germany, and the others, were far too small for the giant monopolies. The Common Market was created in an attempt to overcome this limitation. The big monopolies looked forward to an unrestricted regional market of hundreds of millions, and beyond that to the world market. On the basis of the economic upswing, the European capitalists were largely successful in establishing this glorified customs union, where the abolition of tariffs between the countries of the Common Market and a common tariff with the rest of the world served to develop and stimulate world trade."
Once again our erstwhile critic commits the sin of omission. As you can see in their quote, a fundamentally important sentence is simply left out: "The development of world trade in the post war period allowed the capitalist system to overcome this contradiction, at any rate partially and for a temporary period." [Our emphasis].
Never have we stated that capitalism has been able to resolve its fundamental contradictions. The European Union was the capitalists' attempt to get round the fundamental obstacle of the nation state by building a bigger market, but as we explain consistently throughout all our articles on this question, they cannot completely remove the nation states and they cannot achieve a genuine unification of the EU into one single state. We merely point out that on the basis of the post-war boom they were able "partially" and for a "temporary period" to overcome some of the basic contradictions. It does not take much to understand that if capitalism is going through the longest and strongest boom in its history there would be more room for manoeuvre for the various national capitalist classes. That in no way implies that there has been a fundamental change in the system. The same laws as established by Marx continue to operate, and inevitably at some stage the system will enter into a severe crisis.
After Alan Woods, it is the turn of Maarten Vanheuverswyn to have his article quoted out of context in order to prove the opposite of what he is actually stating. His article, European Union faces deepest crisis in its history, written in June 2005 is quoted, but again conveniently leaving out elements which would contradict the attempts of the Lambertist author to distort. What we have here is an attempt to present our position as being one of support for the EU. This is how they quote:
"Although the broad analysis worked out by the Marxists has been proved to be correct (as the present crisis demonstrates), the expansion of the European Union from the original six countries to 25, and the integration of their economies has gone far further than we originally anticipated. This was mainly due to the development of world trade and the general upswing in world capitalism in the period 1948-74, from which they all benefited.
"All this was predicated on a high rate of economic growth. This gave rise to a significant development of the productive forces for a time. In this context, the closer integration of the economies of the main European powers was in the interests of all of them."
We have already made our position on the EU very clear. But again they add their own comment on the above quote which further distorts what we really say. They say the following:
"Yes, you have read properly, this tendency claims that the European Union has been an instrument for developing the productive forces, stimulating the development of the world market! And moreover, the creation of this ‘common market' has allowed for the unification of the workers' struggle across Europe.
"If this corresponds to the facts, then indeed - as Messrs Grant and Woods do - one would have to support in a barely critical manner the European Union, the unification of the national markets into vaster markets seeing that the regime of private property of the means of production allows for the development of the productive forces, and in particular of the main one among these, the working class. But in what world do we live?"
We do not know what world they are living in, except that it is one in which distortion and lies are apparently acceptable methods in discussing political ideas. Here they carry out a slight of hand like a magician, confusing one thing with another and making other things disappear. They ignore the fact that comrade Vanheuverswyn specifically referred to the period 1948-1974, that period in history which saw the biggest development of the productive forces on a world scale, not only in the history of capitalism but in the whole of human history. It was that powerful development that laid the basis for the partial success in achieving economic integration within the borders of the EU.
It is true that since 1974 the rate of growth has significantly slowed down, and that in the past few years it has become almost stagnant. On this basis national contradictions between the EU member states are growing. The attempts to impose a European Constitution have been stalled. This all flows from the crisis of the system as a whole. But to deny that there has been any growth is to fly in the face of reality.
The slogan of the United States of Europe
When dealing with the EU it is necessary to proceed from fundamentals. Already in the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels explained that capitalism develops a world market. The present phenomenon of globalisation was already anticipated in the pages of the Communist Manifesto. The most important manifestation of the present epoch is the crushing domination of the world market that cuts the ground from under the feet of the old nation states.
The crisis of humanity represents the fact that capitalism is no longer capable of developing the productive forces as it did in the past. The main barriers to the development of the productive forces on a world scale are on the one hand private ownership of the means of production and on the other hand the nation state. It is the task of the socialist revolution is to eliminate these barriers and eliminate the nation state, establishing world socialism.
The EU was a tacit admission by the European bourgeoisie that the growth of the productive forces had outstripped the narrow confines of the nation state - particularly the states of Europe, which found themselves squeezed between the might of US imperialism on the one hand and Stalinist Russia on the other hand. They attempted to form a trading bloc that would compensate their weakness. The original idea of French imperialism was that they would dominate Europe, with Germany as a second-class partner, but it did not work out like that. This is all explained in A Socialist Alternative to the EU by Alan Woods.
The idea that Europe could be united under capitalism is, as Lenin explained long ago, a reactionary utopia. It is reactionary because it would represent another imperialist bloc. It is utopian because the bourgeoisie is incapable of uniting Europe. The national contradictions are too strong to permit the unification of Europe, which would be a progressive development. But it is only possible through the expropriation of the banks and monopolies. Only the working class can bring about the unification of Europe by revolutionary means. The slogan of the Socialist United States of Europe (and a Latin American Socialist Federation) is a reflection of this fact.
In A Socialist Alternative to the EU we read:
"Over a hundred years ago, Karl Marx explained that, in the struggle between the Tories and Liberals over Free Trade versus Protectionism, the working class had to maintain an independent position. We were in favour neither of one thing or the other. This was merely a struggle between different wings of the ruling class (landowners and manufacturers) in which the workers had no interest.
"The present debate on EMU bears a striking resemblance to the controversy on free trade in the last century. Then as now, there was a sharp difference of opinion between various wings of the ruling class in Britain. The landed aristocracy, for its own purposes, defended protectionism, while the rising industrial bourgeoisie, defending its own interests, advocated free trade. (Needless to say, at that time, the weaker bourgeoisies of France and Germany were all in favour of protectionism). In the course of this struggle, which became extremely heated, the rival wings of the ruling class both sought to enlist the support of the working class. What was the position of Marx and Engels? They adopted a firm position of class independence, and resolutely advised the workers to refuse support to either one of the two sides. This was despite the fact that, in the abstract, one could argue that free trade was more progressive than protectionism. However, questions of this kind can never be settled "in the abstract". It is necessary to pose the question concretely, that is to say, from a class point of view. And it is clear that the interests of the working class [were] not served by either of these policies. Only a socialist policy can serve the interests of the working people. That remains as true today as 150 years ago, when Marx delivered his speech on free trade. The issues are somewhat different, but the principles are identical."
Our critics yet again quote out of context the following remark by Alan Woods:
"What future could there be for small states like Britain, France, or even Germany in isolation? The idea of combining the economic resources of Europe - and the whole world - is a progressive aim which shows the only serious way forward out of the present crisis of humanity. The two main obstacles which are preventing the further development of industry, agriculture, science and technique on a world scale are private ownership of the means of production and the nation state."
By leaving out what comes before and after this quote, they leave the reader with the impression that we believe the EU is somehow progressive. That is entirely false. It is the same Stalinist method of selective quoting. If we reproduce the quote in full, it shows precisely the opposite of what our Lambertist intended:
"Opposition to the Europe of the monopolies does not mean that we must support the kind of "national independence" advocated by the Eurosceptics. The policy of national self-sufficiency ("autarchy") has failed everywhere where it was tried, and must inevitably fail in the modern epoch when everything is decided by the world economy. The attempt to build "socialism in one country" led to a disaster in Russia and China, although they were both mighty economies based on the resources of sub-continents. What future could there be for small states like Britain, France, or even Germany in isolation? The idea of combining the economic resources of Europe - and the whole world - is a progressive aim which shows the only serious way forward out of the present crisis of humanity. The two main obstacles which are preventing the further development of industry, agriculture, science and technique on a world scale are private ownership of the means of production and the nation state. Only by eliminating these obstacles can society break the shackles that fetter its development. Thus, the real alternative to the capitalist EU is not "national independence" but the Socialist United States of Europe.
"The idea of a capitalist united Europe, as Lenin long ago explained, is a reactionary utopia. On the one hand, it is impossible to achieve a genuinely united Europe on a capitalist basis. The separate national interests of each capitalist class rules this out. In reality, what is proposed by the EU and Maastricht is very far from this. But even if they could achieve it, then it would be entirely reactionary, as it could only be brought about by the most brutal means. Hitler attempted this by military conquest and occupation."
But let us turn the argument around for a moment. Let us ask what position the Lambertists take on the EU. For reasons known only to themselves, the Lambertists have developed a fetish about the EU, which they regard as the origins and cause of all our problems. They issue a peremptory demand to everybody: for or against the EU! To which we shrug our shoulders and reply: against. However, this reply does not at all exhaust the question. It is necessary to say why we oppose it, from what class standpoint, and what we propose to put in its place.
That it is necessary to oppose the capitalist EU is self-evident. But it is possible to oppose the EU from many different standpoints - not all of them progressive. In every European country the extreme right wing reactionaries also oppose the EU. In every campaign and referendum on this issue these elements raise their head: fascists, xenophobes, racists and reactionary chauvinists like Le Pen, Haider and the right wing of the British Tory Party. Oh yes, these are very definitely against Maastricht and all its works. But they do so from the standpoint of the most reactionary sections of the ruling class.
When the Lambertists accuse us of being "indifferent" to the EU, what do they mean? That we ignore it? But that is plainly not the case: we have a very clear position on this question. What then: that we are for the EU? This argument has just about as much validity as the argument that we are "for Tony Blair", that is, none at all. But that does not stop our friends from across the Channel from saying it anyway. As the journalists of the yellow press say: "Why let the facts spoil a good story?" No, what they mean is that the genuine Trotskyists of the IMT are against the EU and in favour of the Socialist United States of Europe. That was good enough for Trotsky and it is good enough for us. But it seems it is not quite good enough for Lambert and Gluckstein.
Marxism has nothing in common with nationalism and chauvinism. No concessions whatsoever must be made to this poison that can disorient the working class, lower its class consciousness and foster illusions in such ideas as "national sovereignty". The left reformists and Stalinists take a wrong position on this and even make concessions to the right wing on the so-called defence of sovereignty - which is an absolute abomination from the standpoint of Marxism and Leninism, and above all, of Trotskyism. It would be nice to think that our friendly critic was able to understand at least some of this. Unfortunately, our experience so far gives us no grounds for optimism on such a supposition.
In all their written material they put a heavy emphasis on the defence of national sovereignty against the European Union. Now, to the best of our knowledge, France is not a colonial country fighting for national independence. On the contrary, France is an imperialist nation that exploits its former colonies in North Africa, Africa and the Caribbean. The slogans of bourgeois democracy in France lost all progressive significance a long time ago - approximately 210 years to be exact.
The slogan of national sovereignty had a progressive, indeed a revolutionary, content in the period when revolutionary France was fighting for its survival against Britain, Austria and Prussia. But it had already become a reactionary slogan by 1870, and by 1914 was denounced by Lenin as a betrayal of the international working class. To attempt to revive it now, in the epoch of imperialist decay, even indirectly, is a complete betrayal of the most elementary principles of Lenin and Trotsky and a complete abandonment of proletarian internationalism.
The Lambertists in France in fact blame all the evils of capitalism on the Maastricht agreement. [For more on this, see the section below which deals with France]. That is completely incorrect. Any idea that the French bourgeoisie is in some way better than the "European" bourgeoisie, or that the position of the French working class would be better if France left the EU and was "independent" (whatever that might mean today) is entirely false. To adopt such a position would be equivalent to the abandonment of a class standpoint.
One could draw the conclusion from this that the French bourgeoisie or the British, or any national bourgeoisie in Europe, would not be attacking the gains of the working class in their own countries if it were not for the European Union! But these attacks are dictated by the needs of capitalism today, with or without Maastricht. The whole point is to break with the futile argument about whether we should be in or out of the EU and to raise an independent working class alternative. This we clearly do in all our material.
What can our Lambertist friends say in answer to this? Maybe they will accuse us of not being sufficiently "concrete" in our opposition to the capitalist EU. "It is all very well to advocate socialism, but first we must do ‘A', ‘B' or ‘C'. For example, first we must withdraw from the EU and then we can talk about socialism." We are well accustomed to such arguments - from the Left reformists and Stalinists, whose "practical" solutions invariably imply surrender to the bourgeoisie. The Menshevik-Stalinist theory of stages constantly presents itself in different disguises, always as a "concrete" and "practical" alternative - to socialism.
Maybe our friendly critic will reply that it is not sufficient merely to advocate socialism, that it is necessary to struggle for all kinds of transitional demands, including democratic demands. We would be the last ones to disagree with this. In the epoch of imperialist decay it is necessary to fight for every meaningful reform and every democratic demand insofar as it retains its validity. This would include the defence of oppressed nations to determine their own affairs without the interference of imperialism. When the Iraqis or Venezuelans demand this right, we must defend it. But this emphatically does not apply to the "national rights" of imperialist nations like France or Britain.
The IMT takes an independent class position on the European Union. We give no support to the EU, but neither do we support a nationalist position, which is what the reformist left and Stalinists always do when they oppose membership of the EU. We prefer to stick to the method of Marx and explain that inside or outside the European Union as long as there is capitalism there would not be a fundamental difference as far as the working class is concerned. What is required is not to confuse the working class with nationalist demagogy but to fight for socialism and to raise the demand for the Socialist United States of Europe as the only real alternative to the Europe of the monopolies.
Our Lambertist friends devote a significant portion of their text to attacking the policy of the Marxist paper and website La Riposte. But yet again what they attack are not the real ideas and policies of these comrades, but a flagrant and deliberate distortion of them. To begin with, they raise the question of the appraisal of the Jospin government (1997-2002) in the text published by La Riposte under the title PCF: program, strategy and participation in government [PCF: stratégie électorale, programme et participation gouvernementale]:
"If, ‘on all fundamental questions, the policies applied by Jospin were based on the defence of capitalist interests' La Riposte notes nonetheless that ‘the few positive measures of his government - such as the CMU, and the law on the 35 hour week - did not prevent a general decline in the living conditions of the majority of the population'."
This is followed by a further quote from La Riposte:
"In the policies applied by the ‘plural left' from 1997, all was not negative. In spite of their limits, the emplois-jeunes [youth jobs] were a step forward. As was the CMU. However, taken as a whole, the policies carried out by the government were a mixture of botched and insufficient social reforms, on the one hand, and, on the other, of reactionary counter-reforms taken directly from the Alain Juppé ‘plan'."
All this would appear to be clear enough. But our critics then say "Let us take the main measures which La Riposte considers as ‘positive' " and go on to explain the shortcomings and unacceptable aspects of these different measures, such as the fact that the introduction of the 35 hour week was often accompanied by the annualisation of working hours and hand-outs to the employers, or that the emplois-jeunes were limited-term contracts (up to five years) which often served to replace permanent contract workers. But clearly this is exactly what La Riposte is referring to when it says that these reforms were "botched and insufficient".
Is this really so difficult to understand? Since our Lambertist critics do not appear to grasp the relation between Marxism and reforms, let us quote Lenin on the subject. In his article, Marxism and Reformism, written in September 12, 1913. Lenin explains the difference between Marxism and reformism:
"Unlike the anarchists, the Marxists recognise struggle for reforms, i.e., for measures that improve the conditions of the working people without destroying the power of the ruling class. At the same time, however, the Marxists wage a most resolute struggle against the reformists, who, directly or indirectly, restrict the aims and activities of the working class to the winning of reforms. Reformism is bourgeois deception of the workers, who, despite individual improvements, will always remain wage-slaves, as long as there is the domination of capital.
"The liberal bourgeoisie grant reforms with one hand, and with the other always take them back, reduce them to nought, use them to enslave the workers, to divide them into separate groups and perpetuate wage-slavery. For that reason reformism, even when quite sincere, in practice becomes a weapon by means of which the bourgeoisie corrupt and weaken the workers. The experience of all countries shows that the workers who put their trust in the reformists are always fooled.
"And conversely, workers who have assimilated Marx 's theory, i.e., realised the inevitability of wage-slavery so long as capitalist rule remains, will not be fooled by any bourgeois reforms. Understanding that where capitalism continues to exist reforms cannot be either enduring or far reaching, the workers fight for better conditions and use them to intensify the fight against wage-slavery. The reformists try to divide and deceive the workers, to divert them from the class struggle by petty concessions. But the workers, having seen through the falsity of reformism, utilise reforms to develop and broaden their class struggle.
"The stronger reformist influence is among the workers the weaker they are, the greater their dependence on the bourgeoisie, and the easier it is for the bourgeoisie to nullify reforms by various subterfuges. The more independent the working-class movement, the deeper and broader its aims, and the freer it is from reformist narrowness the easier it is for the workers to retain and utilise improvements." (V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 13, pp. 372-75.)
How clearly Lenin explained this question! This quotation could be applied precisely to the situation in France. The working class will always fight for reforms, wage increases and other partial demands, "for measures that improve the conditions of the working people without destroying the power of the ruling class", in Lenin's words. Indeed, without the day-to-day struggle for advance under capitalism, the socialist revolution would be impossible. Our difference with the reformists is not that they advocate reforms, but that they do not fight in a determined way for reforms, that they capitulate to the bourgeois, compromise and end up by carrying out a policy of counter-reforms.
The point is that under present day conditions no meaningful and long-lasting reforms are possible under capitalism. Everywhere, the bourgeoisie is taking back the concessions that they gave in the past under the pressure of the working class and its organisations. The welfare state is being undermined and destroyed. The only way to defend the gains of the past is by an all-out struggle with the bourgeoisie that will inevitably pose the question of power. That is self-evident to any Marxist. But does that mean that the struggle of reforms is no longer necessary. Such a conclusion would be entirely false and would serve to isolate the Marxists from the working class, who understand the need to fight to defend wages and conditions against the depredations of Capital.
The Lambertists are indignant because La Riposte supported the demand for a 35-hour week and certain other reforms. They consider that these reforms had nothing positive about them, that they were in fact reactionary counter-reforms. If that was the case, they must explain why the right-wing parties had originally intended to abolish the law introducing the 35-hour week completely. And they must also explain why the labour movement in France fought against this, forcing the right wing to back down on this issue, limiting itself to various reactionary amendments.
The same is true of the CMU, which offers a minimal level of medical cover to sections of the population deprived of this prior to the measure. The CMU does not go far enough. Of course! The comrades characterised it as "botched and insufficient", but it is nonetheless a step forward and any attempt of the bourgeois to remove it must be vigorously resisted, just as it was correct to oppose the abolition of the emplois-jeunes, in spite of their deficiencies, by the Raffarin government.
Marxists will always defend even the smallest reform that tends to improve the conditions of the workers and the youth, while at the same time explaining that the only way to guarantee a lasting improvement in living standards is through the socialist transformation of society. Whoever is not prepared to defend the ground won by the working class in the past will never be able to lead them to the taking of power in the future. All this is ABC to a Marxist but it is a book sealed by seven seals for sectarian muddle heads.
La Riposte and the PCF
Ours critics then move on to the question of the attitude of La Riposte towards the participation of the French Communist Party (PCF) in a future left government, in which the Socialist Party (PS) would have a majority. They quote the reply of La Riposte to the question "Should the PCF agree to govern with the PS?"
"Not under any conditions. For us, it should be out of the question to participate in a left government, which, like the Jospin government, massively privatises and, on all fundamental questions, adapts its policy to the interests of the capitalists. The PCF should say that it is prepared to govern with the leadership of the PS on the condition that they commit themselves to decisive measures to defend the interests of the workers and break the control of the capitalists on the economy."
La Vérité states that this means that La Riposte is in favour of PCF participation in a future left government. But for anyone who can read, the above quotation makes it perfectly clear that the position taken by La Riposte is that this participation is conditional, that it depends on the content of the programme of the government. Once again, what we have here is not a criticism of the policies of La Riposte, but a deliberate and dishonest misrepresentation of these policies.
The argument then lodged against this position is that it:
"...does not say that, as with the Jospin government, the first condition for (this commitment) would be to break with Maastricht and the European Union, a will expressed by the majority of the people in voting ‘no' on May 29 2005!"
This brings us to the point which has become a veritable idée fixe among the Lambertists, namely the need for France to break with the Maastricht Treaty and the European Union, of which, so they claim, La Riposte is a fervent supporter, and even that Grant and Woods see the Maastricht Treaty as "a point of support for the class struggle in Europe!" On this, as on many other questions, it is not difficult to show that La Vérité, (The Truth) is in fact full of the most outrageous lies. What is true, however, is that La Riposte does not oppose the European Union for the same reasons as La Vérité, which counterposes to capitalist "Maastricht" and to the reactionary European Union, the defence of the equally capitalist and reactionary "French Republic", which it appears to consider as being progressive.
But before moving on to the European question, let us first of all clear up the question of PCF policy and its participation in a future left government. Our critics write:
"La Riposte salutes in passing Marie-George Buffet, the general secretary of the PCF, who: "is right - better late than never - when she says that the left lost because it "did not dare to face up to the defenders of capitalism", going from "concession to concession" and from "adaptation to adaptation" to capitalist interests."
Annoyance with this quote from La Riposte is then expressed in the following terms:
"But is not that which characterises the policy of Marie-George Buffet, precisely to seek an agreement to govern with those in the Socialist Party who openly support the application of European directives?"
But how does this remark invalidate the point made by La Riposte? Was Buffet right, or was she wrong, in saying that the reason for the failure of the previous left government was its failure to face up to capitalism, and the concessions made to the capitalists? Yes or no? Clearly the answer is yes. And when La Riposte says "better late than never", it simply means that this should have been stated and acted upon during the left government, and not only after the defeat of 2002. Where is the problem? Here again, our critics brandish their puny little sword but strike no blows.
Lenin always said that the truth is concrete. The French workers have passed through the experience of the right wing Raffarin government. They have fought it with mass strikes and demonstrations in the best traditions of the French labour movement. There have been uprisings of the dispossessed youth. The Establishment was rocked by the defeat in the referendum on the European Constitution. All this points to a decisive change of mood in French society. This was commented on even by Chirac, who said: "there is a profound malaise in French society."
The stage is being prepared for a big shift to the left in France. The masses will want to kick out the discredited Raffarin government. But what will they put in its place? The sects in France - including the Lambertist sect - had big ideas about their prospects, based on a protest vote at a time when the working class was disillusioned with the policies of the Socialists and Communists. The French sects imagined they would be in a position to challenge the traditional mass organisations. But now all these illusions have been reduced to dust. In the last presidential elections the PT candidate got... 0,5%.
The working class does not understand small organisations. As a rule they pass them by unnoticed. Only a series of exceptional circumstances allowed the "Trotskyist" candidates to attract a respectable vote a few years ago. Now the situation has changed and all these groups are in crisis. The masses will turn again to the SP and CP as night follows day. In the next period the question will be posed of a Left government in France.
What should our attitude be? The only correct position would be to call on the workers to eject the right wing and to vote for the workers' parties - that is, the CP and SP. But the main role of the French Marxists is to "patiently explain" that a Left government must carry out socialist policies: the nationalisation under workers' control and management of the banks and financial institutions and the big monopolies. Without this, the reformist leaders will once again be compelled to carry out policies in the interests of Capital, this time with deep cuts, preparing the way for an even more reactionary right-wing government in the future.
Maastricht - once again!
Having attempted - and failed - to discredit La Riposte, the Lambertists then return to their idée fixe, the EU and Maastricht. They attribute to the French comrades the idea that the greatest danger to workers comes "from those who criticise Maastricht, the euro and the European Union!" Here our critics' impudence reached unheard-of levels. What was the position taken by the French comrades in the referendum on the Maastricht Treaty? Did they support it? No. Did they call for an abstention? No. They called for a "no" vote. Therefore, either the Lambertists are unable to read French, or they are yet again deliberately telling lies.
La Riposte indeed criticized the arguments of various elements on the French left who oppose the European Union not from the point of view of working class internationalism, but from the narrow nationalist perspective of "national sovereignty" and the independence of the French capitalist republic. They criticized the standpoint of petty bourgeois nationalism and reformism. That is to say, they criticized the standpoint that is shared by the French Lambertists. And they were quite right to do so. Naturally, this Marxist criticism of a petty bourgeois nationalist standpoint fills the Lambertists with rage:
"Polemicising against those who "call upon the workers to oppose the European Union in order to avoid, as they say, selling "national sovereignty", La Riposte declares: "There too, we find ourselves on completely nationalist grounds, which contain not the slightest atom of progressive or socialist content."
From this opposition to the European Union from a clear internationalist and working class standpoint, our critics brazenly conclude that for La Riposte, opposition to privatisation and the social conquests of the past is reactionary! This is quite simply nonsense of the most stupid kind. La Riposte has consistently and vigorously opposed all privatisations, carried out under both left and right-wing governments, and for the representatives of the Parti des Travailleurs [as the Lambertists are known in France] to pretend otherwise is purely and simply the most barefaced lying, both to their own membership, and to whatever readers they might have outside of their own organisation.
For instance, in the same text published by La Riposte from which they quoted earlier (PCF: program, strategy and participation in government), we read:
"We must demand the inclusion in the party programme of the nationalisation, under democratic workers' control, of all the banks, without exception, of all the big industrial enterprises and all major distribution networks. Socialism does not mean the nationalisation of tiny companies, cafés and bakeries, but communists must tirelessly explain that the backbone of the national economy must be torn out of the hands of the capitalists and placed firmly in the public sector under the democratic control and management of the workers. In this manner, and only in this manner, could a future left government give itself the means to carry out a vast programme of social reform, including a reduction of the working week, increased wages, a guaranteed job for all, and the provision of the necessary financial resources for high quality publics services available to all."
And this position is blithely "translated" by La Vérité as meaning that "opposition to privatisation is reactionary"! Churchill once said that the best form of defence is attack. These distortions are like the cloud of ink that is squirted by a squid when fleeing from a predator. They realise that they are in a weak and indefensible position on the EU, and they try to cover their backside by engaging in a whole series of slanderous attacks on those who are upholding a consistent Marxist, internationalist and class position. But this transparent manoeuvre is doomed to fail. No amount of distortions and lies can conceal their complete abandonment of a class position on the EU question.
La Riposte opposes the capitalist European Union, but, unlike the Parti des Travailleurs, it does not do so on the basis of the so-called defence of the equally capitalist and reactionary French Republic. It does not pretend that this capitalist republic is based on "Liberty, Equality and Fraternity" (how can there be equality between exploiters and exploited?), neither does it decorate its declarations with the colours of the national flag, images of "Marianne", and other bourgeois nationalist patriotic symbols. La Riposte advocates the overthrow of capitalism, the establishment of a socialist republic in France and of a socialist federation of Europe. For the Lambertists this amounts to supporting the European Union! This is really cynicism of a higher type, previously unknown in the ranks of the Trotskyist movement.
La Riposte called for a "no" vote at the time of the referendum. However, is it true, as the Lambertists maintain, that the Maastricht Treaty is the fundamental cause of the counter-reforms presently being carried out in all the member states? No, it is not true! The same counter-reforms are being carried out everywhere in the capitalist world, and not only in those countries that signed the Treaty. These counter-reforms are the result of the crisis of the capitalist system. The social conquests of the past are incompatible with the continued existence of capitalism. This, and not the Maastricht Treaty, is the real reason for the constant attacks made against the rights and living conditions of the workers.
To put matters as simply as possible: if the Maastricht Treaty had not been ratified, the position of workers under capitalism would not be fundamentally different. Anyone who doubts this need only consider the defeat of the Constitutional Treaty in 2005. La Riposte opposed the Constitution, called for a "no" vote, but explained in advance that the defeat of this Treaty would solve nothing in and of itself. This has proved to be perfectly correct. Since the defeat of the constitution, repeated attacks have been made by governments and employers on the rights and conditions of the workers, in France and in all countries. The reactionary policies written into the Treaty were already being carried out for many years beforehand, in France and elsewhere, and have continued to be applied ever since.
The basic idea that runs through all the nationalistic propaganda of the PT is that the European Commission is acting against the interests of capitalist France, and of the capitalist "republican" state, and that workers should rally to the flag of this republic to defend it against the European Commission. In fact, the French state has always played a decisive role in shaping the policies of the European Union, which are policies directly in the interests of French and European capitalism. On some issues, such as for example agricultural subsidies, conflicts have arisen between the national capitalist states that make up the Union; but on all the fundamental issues the main powers involved are agreed.
In any case, not a single significant measure could be imposed on the French capitalists or the German capitalists if it ran against their fundamental interests. The European Commission is an instrument of the most powerful states in Europe, such as France. The claim of the PT, made in another article in the same issue of La Vérité that the European Commission is somehow in the process of dismantling the capitalist French Republic "one and indivisible", working to break it up into smaller states through what the PT calls the "balkanisation" of France, is quite absurd. It does, however, provide a clear indication of how far the PT is prepared to go in its hysterical attempt to bolster its declining support and membership on the basis of crude nationalist and "republican" sentiment.
With tedious predictability, La Vérité then moves on to attack the position of our Italian comrades. They attempt to portray them as supporting Prodi, the present Prime Minister of Italy. They start by quoting an article by Claudio Bellotti, Le Primarie e Rifondazione - Bertinotti si incatena all'Unione, [The primaries and Rifondazione - Bertinotti chains himself to the Unione] published in August 2005. The "Unione" refers to the coalition between the PRC, the DS and a series of bourgeois parties, all under the leadership of Romano Prodi, also referred to as the Centre-Left or even the Olive Tree coalition, a name used in the past. In their attack, the Lambertists give a long explanation of who Prodi is.
In Italy no one on the left has any doubt about who he is and what he has done in the past, and it is not necessary to repeat all this in every article. He was adviser to Christian Democrat led governments in the past and played a key role in a series of privatisations that took place back then. He was Prime Minister of a previous Centre-Left coalition government, and later took up a position as President of the European Commission. He has always defended the interests of the bourgeoisie loyally. The problem is that the leaders of the two main workers' parties in Italy, the DS and the PRC are not only supporting Prodi but they are also in his government, supporting an utterly pro-capitalist position.
The purpose of the article quoted above was to intervene inside the PRC on the question of the "primaries". The primaries were organised to allow the electorate of the Unione to vote for who they wanted as leader of the coalition. The article makes its criticism of Bertinotti absolutely crystal clear:
"The participation of Bertinotti in this contest represents a new link in the chain which ties the PRC to the Unione. Anyone who has any doubts about this can easily get a clear idea by reading the ‘Project for Italy' published in July by the leaders of the Centre-Left."
The Lambertists after quoting from the article graciously admit that it makes certain criticisms of the Prodi coalition. They say:
"Consequently, the attitude towards Prodi is not a ‘secondary' one for the Italian working class and nation. Their future, their survival is at stake... Can one help the Italian workers to remove Berlusconi by uniting behind someone who has, through the European directives (!), supplied Berlusconi with the weapons of his policy of regionalisation, privatisation of the public services, liquidation of industry?
"Let us repeat, the friends of Grant-Woods are members of the same leadership of the PRC. What is their attitude towards Prodi? Before the primaries (August 31, 2005), an article signed by Claudio Bellotti says: ‘the Unione is the incorruptible guardian of EU policies...' but the article ‘forgets' to mention that Prodi was for four years President of the European Commission..."
Having quoted the list of criticisms the article makes of the Unione, La Vérité complains that these are "very limited". As their readers do not have the actual article available at hand and in French, we are forced to quote from it to show the real tone of that article. The article lists a series of criticisms of Prodi's ‘Project for Italy'. It criticises their defence of the Italian constitution, their support for the Maastricht criteria, for NATO and its wars. They explain that the economic policy of the Unione will be more "blood and tears" for the workers; that they will "squeeze" the workers in the name of "profit".
In giving a general judgement on Prodi's "Project", the article says:
"This manifesto follows faithfully the logic of a coalition that suffers from deep internal divisions. The points that are raised clearly in it are those that guarantee the national and international interests of the ruling class; the rest is fog, mystification, nice words or diplomatic silence on the controversial issues."
The article goes on to explain that thousands of left activists would vote for Bertinotti in the primaries as a way of expressing their opposition to the anti-working class policies of Prodi, but then goes on to add:
"But precisely because of this the PRC's support for such a manifesto is unpardonable; it is the poisoned fruit of the line established at the last party congress which now inexorably chains us ever more tightly to policies which until yesterday we were opposed to."
The article concludes:
"Our battle to change the direction the PRC is going in certainly did not end with the March  congress and the chickens will soon come home to roost. That will be the moment when the fate of our party will be decided: not on the virtual stage of the primaries, but in the harsh reality of the class struggle; not with the nice words in documents, but with the harsh language of events."
These quotes from the article should help anyone understand the real position of our Italian comrades. But as in the case of the attack on the British Socialist Appeal, here too we have convenient mistranslations that serve to distort our articles and leave the mistaken impression that we believe one thing when an accurate quote clearly illustrates that we mean something entirely different. They quote the following from the article:
"In the majority of the party [of the PRC, Editor's note] some would like to push the more critical comrades to give up or to adopt a position of boycott or passive abstention (...) Well, if any leaders are thinking along these lines, they are making a big mistake (...) Today Prodi has the wind in his sails but tomorrow things will be different. Our battle to change the PRC is certainly not over."
This method of quoting is very dishonest. Yet again, it cuts out key phrases, pastes together different parts of an article and also includes words which were never in the article (such as "Today Prodi has the wind in his sails"). With such a method we could prove Jesus was the Anti-Christ by "quoting" from the Bible. What the actual text says is the following:
"In the higher echelons of the majority [Bertinotti wing] of the party are some possibly thinking of pushing the more critical comrades to give up or to adopt a position of boycott or passive abstention, thus freeing themselves of some troublesome elements within the party? The enthusiasm with which certain ‘captains' threaten sanctions and expulsions against those who - possibly mistaken but with understandable bitterness - have expressed their unwillingness to take part in this virtual contest, would seem to confirm this.
"Well, if any leading comrade (undoubtedly a small minority) is thinking along these lines, they are making a big mistake. The future of the PRC will not be decided by some media gimmickry. Today Prodi offers you a stage upon which to parade yourselves, but be warned that tomorrow you will be asked to play a completely different role: you will be called upon to be co-responsible for the new attacks on the workers, the youth, the unemployed, the immigrants... Our battle to change the direction the PRC is taking is certainly not over."
Let us compare the sections that are underlined. It is immediately evident that not only are they taken out of context, some of them are also false. Reading, once again the fuller version, should serve to clarify what the Italian comrades were really saying in that article. Again, as is repeated several times in their article, the Lambertists, after having taken out of context, falsified and added words that were never written, add their own interpretation. They say:
"The friends of Grant-Woods thus clearly state: the whole world is lining up behind Prodi, who has ‘the wind in his sails' and therefore inside the PRC ‘abstaining' is out of the question... one will have to wait, as ‘tomorrow things will be different'. Is this not an appeal to accept the PRC's lining up behind Prodi... while waiting for "better times'?"
Here the trick is to ignore the context and apply words meant for one scenario to another. What was posed in those concrete circumstances was not whether the party should support Prodi. The word "abstention" does not refer to that at all. What the electorate of the Centre-Left was being called on to do was to choose the leader of the coalition, i.e. who should be Prime Minister should the Centre-Left win the elections. Bertinotti was standing for the leadership.
The position of the Italian comrades had been made clear beforehand, that taking part in the primaries meant tying the party even more closely to Prodi's Unione. Once, however, the party had decided to take part, the position of the comrades was that the left of the party should participate in the campaign for the primaries, call on people to vote for Bertinotti against Prodi and use the occasion to raise a critical voice. Instead the Lambertists attempt to present the comrades' position as being one of supporting Prodi and waiting for better times.
They quote from another article Una prima valutazione del risultato [A first evaluation of the results] published in October 2005 after the primaries had taken place. Again they quote out of context, ignoring sentences and paragraphs which say the exact opposite of what the Lambertist author would like his readers to believe.
This is what they quote:
"The perspective of the elections today becomes central, they appear as the simplest element with which to remove the right-wing government, seeing that this was not achieved through street mobilisations."
Having quoted the article thus, they add their own "translation" again, by asking whether the failure of the street mobilisations was "the workers' fault". They say:
"Why did the workers fail to check-mate Berlusconi ‘with street mobilisations'? Is this ‘the fault of the workers'? Or does the responsibility lie with the apparatuses of the DS and the PRC, dragging behind them the union tops, who refuse to break with the European Union, as they have just demonstrated by lining up with Prodi?"
They ask this question as to whether the blame for this actually lies with the leaders of the PRC, DS and trade unions. But that question was answered in the very same article from which they quote. It appears just before the quote above on the perspective of the elections:
"Over the last few years millions of people mobilised throughout the country against the Berlusconi government and its policies. They did this in the gigantic demonstrations against the war, in the general strikes in defence of the Workers' Statutes. In many cases this reawakening was expressed in bitter and radical struggles such as the strike of the [FIAT] Melfi workers or of the municipal transport workers.
"However, this willingness to struggle was not matched by the leaders of the Centre-Left, who have always refused to take these mobilisations to their logical conclusion, that is to a struggle to remove the government."
As you can clearly see, the Italian comrades put the blame for the failure of the mobilisations to remove the Berlusconi government on the shoulders of the leaders of the left. But of course if the Lambertists do not provide this quote to their readers, how can they know that the question posed has been answered in advance? We leave our readers to judge this method of quoting and polemicising for themselves.
The point our Italian comrades make about the primaries is the following:
"The perspective of the elections today becomes central, not only because this legislature is coming close to its end, but because they appear as the simplest and most practical means with which to remove the right-wing government, seeing that this was not achieved through street mobilisations. When one evaluates the mood of the masses, of millions of workers, the worst danger is doctrinarism. The mass movement does not proceed according to theory but on the basis of its own concrete experience and of life itself. ‘We have had enough of Berlusconi, and while we wait for the chance to vote [in the elections] we take this opportunity to go en masse to vote in the primaries'; this is the feeling that guided the ‘left electorate' in the polling stations on Sunday."
Contrary to many people's expectations, there was a massive turnout in the primaries of millions of people. It revealed how seriously many people on the Left took these primaries. This completely confirms what the Italian comrades were saying, i.e. that the left of the PRC should take part and not isolate itself from the masses. But for the Lambertists and other sectarians, such questions as how the Marxists can link up with the mass movement are really of no interest.
Having ignored essential parts of the article - those parts that would expose their manipulations of the text - they ask whether the right wing can be removed from government via the elections, "i.e. behind and on the programme of Prodi". They write:
"Second question: can one expect to ‘remove the right wing from government' via the elections, i.e. behind and on the programme of Prodi... which is the same as that of Berlusconi, courtesy of the European Union? In answer to this question Grant-Woods reply... by appealing to line up behind Prodi."
Is it really true that the Italian comrades support Prodi? No, it is a straight lie. At last year's PRC congress, the comrades of FalceMartello presented their own document, the "Fifth document" to the party congress. They took this to over one thousand branches of the party. The very title of the document leaves no doubt as to where the comrades stand: Rompere con Prodi - Preparare l'alternativa operaia, which in English reads, "Break with Prodi - Prepare the workers' alternative". That document is very clear. It warns against the party abandoning its independence. It criticises the fact that the party is creating illusions about the nature of the Centre-Left alliance. In the opening statements of the document it says:
"This loss of political and class independence of our party does not fall from a clear blue sky. It is the result of a long process of political and ideological revision, of a serious organisational weakening [of the party] of a method that has dramatically distanced the PRC from the labour movement and from a class point of view."
The 18-page document criticises every aspect of the PRC's programme, policies, alliances and so on. It warns against being sucked into a coalition with bourgeois parties. It calls on the party to change course and adopt a fighting socialist programme. It raises specific demands on jobs, wages education, housing and so on. Among the demands we find the call for the renationalisation under workers' control of all those sectors that have been privatised over the past years. The list of demands ends with the following:
"Against the capitalist Europe of Maastricht, of Schengen and of the Constitutional Treaty. For the withdrawal of Italy from NATO and for the closure of US and NATO bases on our territory. Withdraw the troops from Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkans."
Months after the party congress, as the alliance with Prodi became ever tighter, the National Political Committee (the Central Committee) of the PRC met on September 17-18, 2005. The four comrades of FalceMartello on the Committee, Claudio Bellotti, Simona Bolelli, Alessandro Giardiello, Jacopo Renda, presented a statement which opened up in the following:
"The decisions of the majority are leading the party down a blind alley. The participation of the Secretary in the primaries is a new link in the chain with which the PRC is tying itself to the Unione.
"In exchange for Prodi's media limelight the party is committing itself to not voting against the measures that the future centre-left government will take (at best we will be allowed to abstain).
"We are signing a blank cheque to the detriment of the workers and lower classes of this country. This is clearly evident from the common programmatic position adopted by the Unione in July."
And concluded thus:
"Any illusions and hopes that today may be placed in the Unione will very soon dissolve in the face of harsh reality, which will consist of anti-popular policies. On this basis those same workers, who wore down the centre-right with the great struggles of the last few years, will raise their voices again and unleash once more a wave of mobilisations, which for now have only temporarily receded. This is the perspective that can create the conditions to radically invert the course the party has embarked on thus freeing the labour movement from class collaboration."
To make things absolutely clear and to leave no doubts as to where the comrades of FalceMartello stand we can quote just a few of the headlines from their journal:
FalceMartello no. 187, October 12, 2005: Let us not wait for the elections - With struggle we can get rid of them!
FalceMartello no. 188, November 17, 2005: Unite the struggles against the Berlusconi government - Prepare the real left alternative!
FalceMartello no. 189, December 20, 2005: Today in Val Susa, tomorrow the whole of Italy! [Note: this refers to the magnificent mass movement that erupted in the Val Susa, near the French border]
FalceMartello no. 190, February 8, 2006: The Unione towards the elections - Their programme and ours.
FalceMartello no. 191, March 10, 2006: Vote Rifondazione Comunista - Sack the Berlusconi government - struggle for a real left alternative.
FalceMartello no. 192, April 13, 2006: The Unione conquers the government but does not stop the right.
Half of issue 49-50 (nouvelle série), May 2006, of La Vérité is dedicated to a dossier on Brazil, in which they launch a series of attacks on Serge Goulart and the Majority of the O Trabalho group. While attacking them, the Lambertists also drag in the International Marxist Tendency, or, as they call it, the Grant-Woods tendency. They repeat many of the slanders quoted above. But when it comes to attacking our position on Venezuela and the role the comrades of the IMT play there, the Lambertists really outdo themselves.
We read the following:
"It is indispensable to highlight within this list the Militant tendency of Grant-Woods [Note: they regularly refer to the IMT as the Militant tendency, which ceased to exist some years ago], which holds a position as reactionary as that of the Unified Secretariat. In particular it is an obstacle to the Venezuelan revolution, where they develop a policy, which supports all the more reactionary traits of Chavez's policy. Why not quote, for example, the positions developed by the Militant on the question of Venezuela's joining the MERCOSUL?
"Militant, in the name of Trotskyism, plays the role of transmission belt of the Castroite bureaucracy - in a time when the Unified Secretariat has been devalued among large layers of the mass movements - to promote and cover up an openly counter-revolutionary policy in Venezuela and in the whole American continent and beyond."
To prove their point they quote from an article by Alan Woods, Marxism, parliament and the Venezuelan Revolution - Venezuela after the elections: What now? Published in December 2005. This is the part they quote:
"In order to counteract the lack of a genuinely revolutionary foreign policy, the President has tried to enter into direct contact with foreign leaders. In order to break the diplomatic isolation that Washington is attempting to impose on Venezuela, Chavez has tried to reach agreements with governments and countries that have differences with the USA, or that in some sense can be considered "progressive"."
The method here is consistent but, as with all the other quotes, it is sufficient to provide what comes before and after that quote:
"By far the weakest and most unsatisfactory aspect of the Bolivarian Revolution is its foreign policy. It is no accident that that part of the state apparatus where the counterrevolutionary tendency is strongest is the diplomatic corps. It is an open secret that few of the ambassadors can be trusted and that at the first opportunity they will go over to the counterrevolution.
"In order to counteract the lack of a genuinely revolutionary foreign policy, the President has tried to enter into direct contact with foreign leaders. In order to break the diplomatic isolation that Washington is attempting to impose on Venezuela, Chavez has tried to reach agreements with governments and countries that have differences with the USA, or that in some sense can be considered "progressive". The intention is laudable, but the results are not always what he desires."
As our readers can see, the meaning is completely different to what the Lambertists would like one to believe. To make things even clearer, we can quote another paragraph that follows shortly afterwards.
"Venezuela is the world's fifth oil exporter. This has undoubtedly given the Revolution a breathing space and allowed Chavez to build points of support with energy deals with Caribbean and South American neighbours. But the "support" that can be obtained in this way is both very relative and very unstable. The only real friends of the Venezuelan Revolution are the workers, the peasants and the poor people of Latin America and the whole world. It will have need of such friends."
They then move on to the Mercosur, which is a feeble attempt on the part of some of the Latin American bourgeois to form a trading bloc on the lines of the European Union. The Lambertists seem to be mesmerised by this question. In Europe they blame the EU for everything, and now in South America they can blame everything on Mercosur. This is nonsense. Mercosur was an attempt by the bourgeoisies of countries such as Argentina and Brazil to defend their own particular interests in the region through a trade bloc. This cannot succeed, and in any case is shot through with contradictions, particularly between Brazil and Argentina.
As with the EU, they attempt to present our position as being one of support for the Mercosur. They quote "Grant-Woods" as stating:
"the only thing that Venezuela's entry into the Mercosur means is the recognition of the enormous potential of the Venezuelan market".
This is yet another "bleeding chunk" taken from an article, MERCOSUR: ¿Paradigma de la Unidad Latinoamericana? ¡El sueño bolivariano de una América Latina Unida sólo será posible con el triunfo del Socialismo! published in July 2004 on the website of the Venezuelan CMR. In the usual Lambertist style, it is taken again out of context, in order to give the impression that we mean precisely the opposite of what we actually stand for. By now, we should be getting accustomed to this. What is the reason for this parsimonious use of quotes? Maybe the Lambertists are trying to save ink and paper? Then, in a spirit of Christian charity, let us help them by quoting the whole paragraph:
"The revolutionary Marxists have always underlined the need to have an internationalist approach, the need for unity of the proletariat, the exploited and oppressed of the countries of the Americas and of the whole world. But this ‘unity' as represented by Mercosur, and which Venezuela is now joining, is based on the property relations of capitalism, which with its private property of the means of production is the main obstacle to the development of the productive forces in our countries, the only real way of overcoming poverty and misery. Things being thus, the only class character that the Mercosur has is that of being an agreement between the South American bourgeoisies in an attempt to defend themselves against the penetration of North American and European imperialism, and at the same it represents the seeking of a larger market for these ‘national bourgeoisies' one at the cost of the other. For this we must not be fooled. The only thing that Venezuela's entry into the Mercosur means is the recognition of the enormous potential of the Venezuelan market for the capitalists of Brazil, Argentina, Chile, etc."
All that this last sentence means is that the other members of the Mercosur want to get into the Venezuelan market. This in and of itself express neither support nor opposition. It is just a statement of fact. But the rest of the paragraph should be abundantly clear to any honest reader.
To remove any doubt as to what our position is we provide the following quote from Theses on revolution and counterrevolution in Venezuela - Part Two written by Alan Woods and published in May 2004:
"99) The original vision of Bolivar - that great son of the Venezuelan people - was not a national revolution, but a revolution that would unite the peoples of all Latin America and the Caribbean. That was really the only way in which the continent could achieve genuine independence, freedom and prosperity. But Bolivar's vision was betrayed by the bourgeoisie and the Creole aristocracy. The greedy and corrupt oligarchies carried out the Balkanisation of Latin America, dividing it up into national states that often waged fratricidal wars for territory. This fatally weakened Latin America and brought it under the domination of imperialism, draining its resources, destroying its huge potential and reducing its people to misery and despair.
"100) Today Bolivar's vision of a united Latin America retains all its vitality. It is the only way forward. But it can never be realised on the basis of capitalism. The bourgeoisie has had almost 200 years to show what it can do, and it has been exposed as bankrupt. Only the proletariat, in alliance with the peasants, the urban poor and all other exploited classes, can realise this perspective. In order to do this, it must expropriate the landlords and capitalists and create a Socialist Federation of Latin America.
"101) By uniting the vast economic resources of Latin America in a common socialist plan of production, the enormous economic potential of the continent can be realised for the first time. Compared to this, the miserable little schemes of the bourgeoisie, such as Mercosur, will be exposed as insignificant tinkering. In the space of two five year plans, enough resources would be generated to completely transform the lives of millions of men, women and children. That is the perspective we hold out to the masses of Latin America. It is the only cause worth fighting for. Once the masses realise the potential, they will fight with tremendous energy. Faced with a general revolutionary upsurge all over Latin America, the US imperialists would be rendered impotent. If they are not able to hold down Iraq, much less would they be able to hold down the whole of Latin America. Instead of intervening, they would be faced with revolutionary movements at home." [Our emphasis]
And to make things even clearer we will quote an article by our comrades in Argentina, Argentina - The attitude of revolutionary Socialists towards the Kirchner government, published in June 2003. The article states clearly the following:
"MERCOSUR is a pact between the ruling classes of the two biggest Latin American countries (Brazil and Argentina) to protect their markets from the unrelenting assault of American multinationals and to open up trading links further with other imperialist blocks such as the European Union. Their aim is to strike a balance between the two giants (American and European imperialism) in order to defend their own interests better. MERCOSUR (which also includes Uruguay and Paraguay) worked relatively well during the economic boom of the 1990's, however when the winds of recession started to sweep through the area at the end of the last decade, it more or less ceased to exist due to the conflict of interests between the Brazilian and Argentine capitalists, who tried to export the recession to each other by, at one point, actually putting up protectionist barriers between one other in order defend each other's respective domestic markets.
"At the moment, US imperialism is pushing for the implementation of the "Free Trade Area of the Americas" (FTAA), with which it aims to deepen and strengthen its economic hold over Latin America. As expected, this has led the ruling classes of both Argentina and Brazil to put aside their differences in order to try and fight off this new onslaught from the Americans. Interestingly, neither country is actually questioning the FTAA's right to exist, but, on the contrary, they simply want to negotiate with the US capitalists so that the FTAA can be implemented in the best possible conditions for the capitalists of each country, or, we should say, in the "least worse" possible conditions for them.
"As we said at the beginning, the Latin American bourgeoisie is weak and lacks the necessary strength and courage to openly break with imperialism. In many areas of business they have common interests with the imperialists and in reality the local bourgeoisies in Latin America merely act as the local representatives of the imperialists in these countries. Despite the fact their economic interests are continually threatened by the imperialists' voracious appetite, sometimes leading to tension between them, in the last analysis they will always find an agreement or understanding between each other (or even downright capitulation, as in the cases of Mexico, Chile and in even Argentina, particularly over the last few years)
"Therefore to talk, like Chavez and a number of other "left-wing" nationalists in our country do, of the possibility of Latin American unity on a "national capitalist" basis is pure pie in the sky. The idea of a meeting on "Latin American unity" with Fidel and Chavez talking together with the rotten, pro-imperialist oligarchies of Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Argentina and Paraguay is just laughable. The Latin American oligarchy is in fact very comfortable with [the] present situation, disposing of the resources of each country as it pleases, with a helping hand of course from the US and European capitalists.
"We have already described above that the only way to build a serious challenge to imperialism and the local oligarchy is through a socialist revolution led by the working class. We, as Socialist revolutionaries, are firmly in favour of Latin American unity. However, we realise that there is only one way of achieving this, namely through a Socialist Federation of Latin America. This would be a very powerful force that would not only be able to defeat any attempts on the part of imperialism to crush the revolution and successfully integrate and plan the resources of the whole continent in a harmonious manner, with the aim of improving the economic, social and cultural conditions of our peoples, but it would also get the support of the working class in America itself and the rest of the capitalist world, thus sapping the bases for an imperialist intervention and widening the struggle for socialism to more and more countries." [Our emphasis throughout]
In all our publications on Latin America one slogan stands out very clearly and it is a constant. We call for the Socialist Federation of Latin America as the only real solution to the problems facing the workers in the region. On a capitalist basis there is no solution.
In Venezuela the Lambertist tendency has built nothing. Its ideas find no echo, which is hardly surprising, as they seem to have not the slightest idea of what is happening there. A revolution is underway involving the active participation of the broadest masses of workers, peasants and revolutionary youth. What have our friends in Paris got to say on the subject? Not much, it would seem. By contrast, the comrades of O Trabalho, who are themselves leading a movement of occupied factories in Brazil, have expressed a keen interest in the revolutionary movement in Venezuela, and in particular the occupied factories movement.
Factory occupations have become an important aspect of the class struggle in countries like Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela. This is a reflection of the acute crisis of the system and also a very high level of consciousness among a layer of the working class. There is plenty of material on our website, both in English and Spanish, on this question. This is no accident. The Venezuelan section of the IMT, the CMR (Corriente Marxista Revolucionaria) has played a key role in leading the movement of the occupied factories.
The comrades of the CMR launched the Freteco (Frente Revolucionario de Trabajadores de Empresas en Cogestion y Ocupadas - Revolutionary Front of Workers of Occupied Factories and under Co-management). They did this to bring together in one front all the factories that have been occupied. Some of these factories, such as Inveval and Invepal have been nationalised by Chavez, something which no other tendency thought possible. Our comrades were in fact the only ones calling for the nationalisation of these factories.
This highly successful work of the Venezuelan Marxists deserves the highest praise. Yet our friendly critics in Paris find nothing positive in it. On the contrary, they find only betrayal and class collaboration (!). Yes, dear reader, you read that correctly. Let us quote what they actually say:
"We would not be surprised to see this political current - which as we have demonstrated in La Vérité, under the pretence of being Marxist lines up constantly with those tendencies that are the most opposed to class independence - also coming out against workers' independence!"
Then they add:
"On our part as we are for the defence of the Venezuelan Revolution, we are for the defence of a government (and of a president) that nationalises companies and resists the imperialist offensive. But we do it from the terrain of working class independence, which is in contradiction with the Mercosul and the so-called ‘revolutionary co-management'."
One rubs one's eyes in astonishment. This really is the height of impudence! In the first place, the Lambertist tendency is in no position to defend anything from anyone on any terrain whatsoever, since they are completely and utterly absent from the Venezuelan workers' movement. Their "defence of the Venezuelan Revolution" is rather like a Platonic love affair: conducted from a respectable distance - namely, several thousand miles - from the comfort of an office in Paris. There they can deliver all the "clever" lectures they like "from the terrain of working class independence", which have absolutely no effect on the course of the revolution itself.
By contrast, the CMR is actively participating in the Venezuelan Revolution. And, as any minimally informed person would know, the CMR has consistently defended the position of class independence, encouraging, organising and leading the movement of the workers to occupy the factories and run them on the basis of workers' control.
In attempting to "prove" the alleged class collaboration of the CMR, they quote from an article available in Spanish, Gran éxito de la Marcha de trabajadores de empresas en cogestión y ocupadas, published in May of this year. This article is a report on a demonstration of workers from occupied factories organised by the Freteco. They quote what a worker is reported as saying at the demonstration:
"This march is only the first step. There must be a battle for the re-election of the President and to extend the model of revolutionary co-management that he has presented."
Although not a precise translation, these words were expressed by the worker, but he added more which gives a greater meaning to what he was saying. He said:
"This march is only the first step. We must be in the vanguard of the Battle of Santa Ines and this must be a battle to re-elect the President and to extend the model of revolutionary co-management presented by him, for the re-election of the President and to extend the model of revolutionary co-management that he has presented, based on workers' assemblies with decision-making powers, to all the factories and to move forward towards workers' control and management. As the President has said, we must defeat bureaucratism, inefficiency and corruption. This is the Battle we have launched from the Front."
We have explained many times that for the Venezuelan workers "cogestion", although it technically translates as "co-management", does not have the same meaning that is given to the word in Europe. For them it is a way of achieving workers' control. In Venezuela "cogestion" goes well beyond the simple concept of sharing management with the bosses. This worker is taking up the call of Chavez and giving it his own class content. The words of this ordinary Venezuelan worker accurately express the revolutionary aspirations of the masses - their desire to take the running of the factories - and of the whole of society - into their own hands. They may not use the scientific terminology of Marxism, but that is undoubtedly what they are striving for.
The real test for a revolutionary tendency is its ability to intervene in a revolution. The Lambertist sect has revealed its complete inability to intervene in the Venezuelan Revolution, and its rank and file members have the right to ask why. The reason is clearly revealed in the above comments. Like all the other pseudo-Trotskyist sects, they do not take their starting point from the real movement of the masses (not in Venezuela, nor anywhere else) but they base themselves on abstract formulae, which they attempt to foist upon the living movement of the working class. If the workers reject these sectarian formulae, then so much the worse for them!
If we were to apply the method of the Lambertists we would have to tell these workers, who are actually fighting for workers' control (that is, who are really fighting for a policy of class independence, in deeds not in words only) that they are wasting their time. They should either achieve complete nationalisation under workers' control and management or else stay away from the movement of the occupied factories. Unless it is "pure socialism" then we will not dirty our hands with it.
This is really a laboratory specimen of sectarian thinking. It deserves to be put in a glass case in some museum and preserved for all posterity - along with the sectarian fossils themselves. Then future generations, already living under socialism, can study them and marvel that in the first decade of the 21st century there were actually people who called themselves Marxist revolutionaries who held such opinions. We can imagine groups of schoolchildren examining such specimens, as they would a fly trapped in amber a million years ago, a fascinating but completely useless object.
The comrades of Freteco and the CMR do not base themselves on abstract formulae that they have learned to repeat like parrots from a sectarian cookbook. They intervene actively in the struggles of the Venezuelan working class and to raise the need for nationalisation and workers' control. In its Manifesto, Manifiesto del Frente Revolucionario de Trabajadores de Empresas Ocupadas y en Cogestión, the Freteco clearly states:
"The Front of Occupied Factories and under Co-management declares that its main objective is to extend the process of expropriation and nationalisation of Venezuelan industry and to place these under the control of the workers."
There can be no confusion here as to where the Venezuelan Marxists stand. They are for nationalisation of the commanding heights of the economy under workers' control and management. They explain systematically and consistently that unless the Bolivarian Revolution adopts these measures it will only be half a revolution, and such a situation is very dangerous because it means that capitalism has not been decisively defeated and can make a comeback at some later stage and destroy all the gains the workers have achieved so far.
In point 6) of its Manifesto the Freteco states:
"The interests of the workers in the occupied factories under co-management are no different from the interests of the rest of the working class and the Venezuelan people. The Venezuelan labour movement must be better organised in order to be able to advance towards socialism, socialising the means of production and placing them under the control of the workers and the communities, so that we can all democratically plan together the national economy."
Is this not clear enough? To any normally intelligent person, it is abundantly clear! But not to our Lambertist friends in Paris. They do not listen because they are not interested in what anybody else has to say. They are completely blinded by their own convoluted thinking, which closely resembles that of the medieval Schoolmen who argued endlessly about how many angels could dance on the end of a pin and could prove that white was black, red, or any other colour you care to name. One cannot hope to win an argument with such people. They are determined to "prove" that we are reactionaries and they look for words or sentences here and there that they can copy and paste together, quote out of context, in the fervent hope that no-one will actually read the original texts.
The trade unions
The Lambertists naturally adopt the same charming procedure when it comes to our position on the Venezuelan trade union movement. At the last UNT congress a serious division emerged, which we have reported on our website. In a completely unscrupulous manner, and in defiance of all the facts, the Lambertists try to line us up with the right wing of the UNT. They do this again by their usual method of dishonestly quoting from our statements but conveniently leaving out whatever they consider would be bad for the readers' health. They quote the following sentence in bold:
"This plan can be realised independently of whether the UNT congress is held or whether the elections are organised (...)"
For clarification's sake, here the "plan" refers to concrete interventions in the working class struggles, factory occupations, etc., and the struggle for socialism. But after this sentence they miss out the rest of the paragraph, which reads:
"If the C-CURA [the Chirinos left wing] starts to apply this wherever we have positions, this would allow us to gain the ear of the rank and file workers of the UNT, clarifying who is prepared to move towards socialism and who is not. This would be the best way of preparing for the congress and the elections and making absolutely clear those of us who are the most consistent revolutionary sections and those that are not."
After having missed out this key point, leaving the impression that we are not at all concerned about the congress or the internal elections, they state the following:
"Thus, with a ‘radical' language, the spokespersons of the Militant, before a general assembly where there was no lack of voices demanding the immediate calling of elections inside the UNT, appear as a kind of ‘bridge' with those who were outside, boycotting the congress, because, in the final analysis, the ‘date and the elections this year' would be secondary in relations to a ‘plan' voted on for the re-election of Chavez."
What we said was absolutely clear, as the missing part of the quote demonstrates. We said that the left wing of the UNT should implement the struggle for factory occupations, raise the question of the need for socialism and so on. We explained that the abstention of the left wing of the UNT from concrete struggle and concentrating everything solely on the internal elections was a mistake. Why did we say this? The role of the trade unions in the revolution is a crucial one. As the basic organizations of the class, they are the means whereby the proletariat can put its stamp decisively on the revolution, and they must be the main transmission mechanism whereby the revolutionary vanguard can lead the class.
However, in order that the unions should fulfil this role, they must actively intervene in the class struggle in general, and the movement for workers' control and factory occupations in particular. After the split in the old right-wing union, the CTV, the creation of the UNT aroused the hopes of millions of working people in Venezuela. Unfortunately, we have to admit that these hopes have been so far disappointed. When Chavez drew up a list of hundreds of factories that were either closed or threatened with closure, and launched the slogan "fabrica cerrada, fabrica tomada", what should the UNT have done? In our view it should have immediately issued instructions to every region to draw up a concrete plan for factory occupations. Was this done? No. It was not done, and a golden opportunity was lost.
In our view, the left wing around Orlando Chirinos, who have been in control the UNT, made a very serious mistake. They allowed too much of their time to be spent on bureaucratic wrangles with other tendencies within the union, at the expense of actively intervening in the class struggle. This is a very serious matter because it undermines the faith of the working masses in the trade union movement. Contrary to the lies of the Lambertists, we support the left wing of the UNT against the right wing. But that does not mean we have to adopt an uncritical attitude to the UNT lefts, who must bear a great deal of responsibility for the failures of the UNT in the last period. These failures have encouraged the right wing of the UNT to go onto the offensive, leading to a very damaging split at the congress.
We tried to give the discussion a correct perspective by explaining that involvement in the concrete struggles would put the left in a better position in both the UNT congress and the internal elections and would clarify who is for socialism and who is not. It would expose the right wing for what they really are. Concentrating solely on the question of internal elections would play into the hands of the right wing, which is what actually happened later. We explained that if the Left adopted our position then the internal elections would be on the question of the concrete struggle for socialism rather than support or no support for Chavez. And that was the only correct position to take.
There are many other distortions about the work of our comrades in Venezuela, but the reader will already be tired of such a monotonous list of rubbish. Let us just say that the allegation that we raise the possibility of transforming occupied factories into cooperatives is yet another Lambertist lie. Presumably they are basing themselves on one demand raised in the article Éxito de la marcha del Frente Revolucionario de Trabajadores de Empresas en Cogestión y Ocupadas. That demand states:
"Expropriation of the Alfa Quartz warehouses in Charallave and for these to be placed under the control of the workers of the cooperatives."
This was to meet the needs of the workers in the cooperatives who had nowhere to operate from. We have never raised the demand for occupied factories to be transformed into cooperatives. In fact we have systematically argued against this. Anyone who wants to read the full list of demands can find them at Marcha del Frente Revolucionario de Trabajadores de Empresas en Cogestión y Tomadas.
We must apologise to our readers for the large number of quotes we have given in order to demonstrate the complete falsity of the position of the Lambertists and their shameful dishonesty. We assure the reader that, however tedious it was for you to read this list of lies, misrepresentations and distortions, it was even more tedious for us to have to write it: an experience that resembles what it must be like to crawl through a well-used sewer. Nevertheless, we hope that, at the end of the day, we will have put the record straight.
They have attempted to demonstrate that we support Blair, the European Union and the Maastricht agreement, Prodi in Italy and a whole number of crimes against the working class. In fact, it is hard to think of a crime that we have not committed - in the feverish imagination of our friends in Paris, that is. If any of this were true then we would stand condemned before the workers of the world. But no serious person will be convinced by these crude and stupid distortions. They remind us of the words of Prince Hal, when describing the monstrous falsehoods of the lying old drunkard, Falstaff:
"These lies are like the father that begets them, - gross as a mountain, open, palpable." (Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part one, Act II, Scene iv.)
The only difference is that at least the lies of Sir John Falstaff were a source of amusement. We have also had a good laugh at the nonsense that issues out of the publishing house of La Vérité in Paris. But there is a side of all this that does not amuse us at all. The Lambertists claim to be Trotskyists. Leon Trotsky spent many years fighting against the Stalin School of Falsification. When Trotsky was alive, Trotskyism was a clean banner and was respected by many politically active workers. After the death of the Old Man, as we have shown, the so-called leaders of the Fourth International succeeded in discrediting the very idea of Trotskyism everywhere.
They were all responsible for this: Pablo, Mandel, Healy, Cannon and Lambert. The last named continues to act on the basis of the false ideas and Zinovievist organisational methods that he learned in the school of Pablo. All his shouting and bawling about "Pabloism" will not alter this fact. If he denies this, let him open the books and publish today what he wrote in the period 1945 to 1953.
Of all the tendencies of the Fourth International, the only one that can hold up its head today is the tendency founded by that great Marxist theoretician and faithful disciple of Trotsky, comrade Ted Grant, who alone kept the genuine ideological and organisational heritage of Trotsky alive. The ideas of Ted Grant are represented today by the International Marxist Tendency, which is now conducting revolutionary work in almost forty countries in every continent.
For decades the degenerate sects that emerged out of the disintegration of the Fourth tried to ignore this tendency, but this has now become impossible. Our successes are too numerous and striking to be ignored. Marxist.com is now the most authoritative Marxist website in the world representing an organized international tendency. The remarkable successes of our sections in Pakistan, Spain, Italy, Austria, Venezuela, Mexico are known to everybody. By contrast, most, if not all, the 57 varieties of pseudo-Trotskyist sects are in crisis and splitting in pieces. As Ted used to say: "these people are unlucky at fusions and lucky at splits".
The reaction was to be expected. Our rivals are starting to attack us on all sides. Almost every day, there is some new "critique" of the IMT on some sectarian website or other. The attacks of La Vérité are special only in the unusual degree of venom and the crudity of the falsifications. It is like a cats' chorus that occasionally disturbs the sleep of honest men and women: slightly annoying at times, but hardly something to be taken seriously. In a way it is a kind of belated recognition of our achievements - a reluctant recognition in which public malice is not unmingled with secret envy. As the Arab proverb goes: "the dogs bark, therefore the caravan is moving."
We are, of course, entirely unmoved by these howls of protests. The absurd claims made by malicious enemies are false and easily exposed. In any case, we are not interested in what the sects who fuss and fiddle on the fringes of the labour movement say, think or do. They are an irrelevant footnote to history, condemned by their inability either to defend Marxist theory or to find a road to the working class. We do not write for them but for our many friends all over the world: workers, socialists, communists and revolutionary youth who are looking for a serious revolutionary alternative, for a real Marxist International.
To these we say: if you wish to defend a clear class and revolutionary position within the international labour movement, then you should join the International Marxist Tendency. We stand on the genuine traditions of the movement: the ideas of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky, the programme of proletarian internationalism and the Bolshevik tradition of internal democracy, for without genuine Leninist inner-party democracy, the building of a revolutionary party is impossible.
Anyone is free to disagree with what we really stand for and to state this publicly by any means they wish. Polemics and discussions are the lifeblood of the revolutionary movement. But the prior condition for serious discussion is that ideas must not be misrepresented or falsified. Any tendency that is not capable of representing the ideas of its opponents in an honest way will never build a serious force in a thousand years.
We invite all those workers and youth around the world who are looking for a genuine revolutionary Marxist tendency to contact us and help us build a force rooted in the working class in all countries.
London, November 1, 2006
Appendix: The origins of the collapse of the Fourth International
By Fred Weston, (26 October 2004)
In 1946 the leaders of the Fourth International were predicting imminent revolutionary upheavals, when in reality capitalism was entering the biggest boom in its history. The leadership of the British Trotskyists, in particular Ted Grant, tried to convince the International that their perspective was false. History has proven Ted to be right. No one can doubt it, and we are proud to continue the tradition that he laid down of serious, meticulous analysis of the real processes taking place in society.
After the Second World War the leadership of the then "Fourth International" became completely disorientated. They could not understand what was happening and this marked the beginning of the end of the organization.
However, before entering into a brief analysis of why the Fourth International eventually collapsed, it is worth noting just a few of the most significant quotes from a document produced by the then international leadership. Remember all this was written in 1946, just as capitalism was entering the biggest boom in its history, and when the Soviet Union had emerged enormously strengthened from the Second World War. We believe they speak for themselves.
"Despite certain existing weaknesses of the revolutionary workers' movement, there is no reason whatever to assume that we are facing a new epoch of capitalist stabilization and development."
"The revival of economic activity in capitalist countries weakened by the war, and in particular continental European countries will be characterized by an especially slow tempo which will keep their economy at levels bordering on stagnation and slump."
"Under these conditions a prolonged and relatively full and stable development of the forces of political democracy seems more problematical than ever. The few democratic concessions which the bourgeoisie has granted since the end of the war are the result, on the one hand, of the pressure of the masses, and on the other, of the conciliationist and capitulatory policy of the reformist and Stalinist parties."
"What confronts us now is a world-wide crisis transcending anything known in the past and a world-wide revolutionary upsurge developing, to be sure, at unequal tempos in different parts of the world, but unceasingly exercising reciprocal influences from one centre to another, and thus determining a long revolutionary perspective." (Emphasis in the original)
"Current events in all countries prove that the objective possibilities for creating the parties of the Fourth International have never been as great and are increasing all the time."
"The essential precondition for harnessing ourselves with enthusiasm and faith to the task of building the parties of the Fourth International is that we first acquire the firm conviction that great possibilities now exist in this sphere."
"Behind the appearance of power never before attained, there lurks the reality that the USSR and the Soviet bureaucracy have entered the critical phase of their existence."
(from The New Imperialist Peace and the Building of the Parties of the Fourth International - Resolution adopted by the International Pre-Conference, April 1946).
Compare the above quotes to what the leadership of the British RCP, whose main theoretician was Ted Grant, was saying. Although not even they could have predicted the long post-war boom, they could see that the immediate period ahead was one of economic recovery and stabilization of the system.
"In opposition to the reformists and Stalinists, who seek to lull the masses with a perspective of a new renaissance of capitalism and a great future for democracy, the resolution of the International Pre-Conference is one hundred per cent correct in emphasizing the epoch of decline and collapse of world capitalist economy. But in a resolution that seeks to orientate our own cadres on immediate economic perspectives - from which the next stage of the class struggle will largely flow, and thus our immediate propaganda and tactics - the perspective is clearly false." (Emphasis in the original)
"The present crisis and low level of production, is not the economic crisis as understood by Marxists in the classic sense. It is a crisis of "underproduction" arising from imperialist concentration of productive forces for war and from war destruction itself."
"The theory of spontaneous collapse of capitalism is entirely alien to the conceptions of Bolshevism. Lenin and Trotsky emphasized again and again that capitalism will always find a way out if it is not destroyed by the conscious intervention of the revolutionary party which, at the head of the masses, takes advantage of the difficulties and crises of capitalism to overthrow it. The experience of World War II emphasizes the profound correctness of these conceptions of Lenin and Trotsky."
"Meanwhile, with the weakness of the parties of the Fourth International, which remain small sects at this stage, the capitalists have been enabled to find a way out of the collapse and decline of economy. This has prepared the way in Western Europe for a steady and fairly rapid recovery." (Emphasis in the original)
"The Fourth International will only discredit itself if it refuses to recognise the inevitable recovery, and it will disorientate its own cadres as well as the broad masses by predicting a permanent slump and slow rhythm of recovery in Western Europe, when events are taking a different shape."
What we can see from the above quotes is that the leaders of the Fourth International in 1946 had not absorbed the ‘method' of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky. For them Marxism was not a scientific method, but a dogma to be applied rigidly. All they had to do was repeat the perspective of 1938. They ignored the fact that a perspective cannot be a blueprint. It can only map out the general process - and sometimes it has to be radically changed as events unfold. For these "leaders" all this was a closed book.
They ignored the real processes taking place and merely tried to impose on reality their own subjective desires. Presumably they must have thought that to admit any possibility of capitalist recovery would demoralize their forces. In the end they succeeded in achieving exactly this! Their mistakes were to lead to the destruction of the Fourth International which Trotsky had so painstakingly striven to build.
Trotsky had expected a revolutionary wave at the end of the Second World War, similar to the one that followed the First World War, and he had expected the Fourth International to become the dominant force within the Labour movement. There was indeed such a revolutionary wave. In this the perspective was confirmed. The Civil War in Greece, the resistance movement and the strikes in both Italy and France towards the end of the war and immediately after it, the Chinese revolution in 1949, the struggle for independence throughout the Colonial world, in Britain the landslide victory of the Labour Party in the 1945 elections, etc., all show that Trotsky's prognosis was correct.
The problem was that the forces of the Fourth International were too weak to be able to play a fundamental role in these unfolding events. If the revolutionary party is too small, if it is not at the right place at the right time, the revolutionary moment can pass and the opportunity is lost. The result was a major historical defeat of many of the revolutionary movements that emerged at the end of the War. Where there were victories, such as in China, these took the form of Stalinism, i.e. deformed workers' states modelled on the Soviet regime. They were not revolutions led by the working class. These did however add to the strength of Stalinism. Far from facing immediate crisis, as the leaders of the Fourth were predicting, the Stalinist regime in Russia was more powerful than it had ever been. Stalinism was also strengthened in the West, as in the eyes of many workers Russia seemed to be "spreading the revolution".
The break-up and splintering of the Trotskyist movement is rooted in that period. The then leadership of the Fourth International was totally incapable of understanding what was happening. If you read the writings of leaders like James Cannon (leader of the American SWP at the time) in the late ‘40s and early ‘50s you will find a totally wrong perspective. His perspective was one of the immediate crisis of capitalism and thus revolutionary developments in the short-term. At one point he even denied that the Second World War was over!
In 1946 the Fourth International held its "International Pre-Conference". Ernest Mandel and others contributed to the drafting of that manifesto. But it clashed totally with reality. The leadership of the Fourth International had developed a theory that any boom was out of the question. This proved to be totally false. The working class was defeated because of the theories of the Stalinist and Reformist leaders. The Fourth International was too weak to stop this.
The defeat of the working class after the War was the main political pre-condition for an upturn in the economy. The United States had emerged enormously strengthened from the War. It was the main capitalist Superpower that had accumulated huge profits from war production. For fear of revolution in Europe the USA pumped in huge amounts of money into countries like Germany, Italy, France, etc., to revive their economies - the famous Marshall plan. The destruction caused by the war meant a huge reconstruction programme was necessary. All this laid the basis for the biggest economic boom in the history of capitalism.
The leadership of the Fourth International couldn't come to terms with these new developments. They did not understand that a reappraisal of the situation was necessary. The fact is that they thought they could hold their forces together by promising revolution "round the corner". Such a policy could only lead to the break-up of the International, and this is precisely what happened.
As Lenin explained, if you do not correct your mistakes then you will stumble from one mistake to another. The end result is sectarianism. Not having understood their mistakes of the 1940s the so-called "leaders" of the Fourth International went further along the road of degeneration coming up with all kinds of strange theories. From one of immediate revolution they swung over to the theory of the ‘bourgeoisification' of the working class in Europe - a complete 180 degree turn! For instance in April 1968 Ernest Mandel in a meeting in London declared that there would not be a movement of the European working class for at least twenty years. This was on the eve of the momentous May 1968 movement of the French workers! They could not see reality in 1946, and they could not see it in 1968.
The leadership of the British section of the Fourth International, the RCP (Revolutionary Communist Party) understood the changes that were taking place and developed different perspectives. The main theoretician of the RCP was Ted Grant. He is still active today, and is a member of the Socialist Appeal editorial staff. If you access our web site you will find a book called The Unbroken Thread. It is a selection of Ted's writings from 1938-83. You can also find a much larger selection of his writings in Tedgrant.org. In the section on Economic Perspectives 1946 you will find an analysis of the unfolding economic upswing, a much more sober appraisal of how things were developing. This document reflected the same analysis that was developed in the amendment that the RCP presented to the Fourth International's 1946 perspectives.
We have already mentioned that on Russia also, the leaders of the Fourth International got it wrong, as the quote provided above shows. Instead of crisis, Stalinist Russia was consolidating and expanding its power base. On China also the leadership of the Fourth International were to get it wrong. They were saying that Mao would have compromised with Chang Kai Shek and betrayed the revolution. Ted's writings on China (see The Chinese Revolution, January 1949) reveal a much more precise understanding of what was going on.
The leadership of the Fourth International was to go on and make a series of errors also on what was unfolding in Eastern Europe. They first started off by refusing to accept that what we had in Eastern Europe were regimes modelled on Soviet Russia. Then they swung the other way (without explaining why) and even declared some of these countries (China, Yugoslavia, etc.) ‘healthy workers' states', abandoning that definition as soon as it became untenable.
All this suffices to show that Mandel, Cannon and co., lost their bearings after the war and this led to a zigzagging away from a genuine Marxist analysis. This later led to split after split and the total destruction of the organisation. The British Trotskyists tried to salvage what they could from the wreckage, but were left with very small forces. It would take decades before we could speak of a genuine revival of the movement. But that is another story, which we deal with elsewhere.
The two documents, The New Imperialist Peace and the Building of the Parties of the Fourth International, [the official document produced by the then international leadership] and Economic Perspectives - Proposed line of amendment to International Conference Resolution (Nov. 1946) [produced by the leadership of the RCP], should be read together as they are full of lessons for the workers and youth of today who are looking for a revolutionary way out of the present impasse facing capitalist society. Compare the two different methods adopted and judge for yourselves.
If the revolutionary aspirations of the masses - when the conditions for revolution are ripe - are betrayed and the working class goes down to defeat we see throughout history a similar process. Only a rump of the advanced layer of the working class remains active, and these quite often tend to be the elements more loyal to the party and trade union bureaucracies. They draw the wrong conclusions from the defeats and serve as a further brake on the workers and youth as a whole. In such a situation it becomes more difficult to defend revolutionary ideas and the Marxists find themselves more isolated.
It is precisely in such a situation that ultra-left sectarian tendencies (as well as reformist ones) can develop. The anarchists emerged as a force within the First International after the defeat of the Paris Commune. The ultra-leftism of the leaders of the Fourth International can also be explained in the same way - by the defeat of the revolutionary movement that followed the Second World War.
If we do not understand how the class moves then we can draw the wrong conclusions in such situations, as does a layer of more advanced workers. When there is an ebb in the movement this strengthens the bureaucracy of the trade unions and mass workers' parties. Some of the more advanced workers continue their struggle against this bureaucracy but do not find an echo among the ranks. From this they conclude that these organisations are too bureaucratic to work in and end up leaving them to set up new unions or parties with the idea of offering the working class an alternative. Unfortunately they find that outside the official organisations things are not so easy. That is because there is no short cut, no magic formula to resolving the problem. If there is an ebb in the movement due to past defeats you cannot simply resolve it by declaring an "independent" revolutionary party or ignoring reality and pointing to revolution around the corner. The movement of the working class has its own tempo, its own timing. You cannot prematurely force it to move more quickly.
We must learn from this historical experience and develop a perspective for the future. The collapse of the Fourth International was partly a product of the objective situation. But we also have to remember that the leaders of the British RCP did not succumb to the same process. Why was that? The answer is to be found in the fact that they understood the essence of Marxism, the method of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky. For them Marxism was not a crystal ball, but a scientific method, a guide to action.
The workers and youth of today are already being forced by the crisis of world capitalism to go once more onto the offensive. We have before us a historical opportunity to continue - and finally complete - the tasks that the great Marxists of the past had posed themselves.
October 26, 2004