Ted Grant

The economics of the transitional period

The most significant thing about all those who sought to revise Trotsky's position on the Russian question is that they always deal with the problem in the abstract and never concretely explain the laws of the transitional society between capitalism and socialism and how such a society would operate. This is not accidental. A concrete consideration would impel them to the conclusion that the fundamental economy in Russia was the same as it was under Lenin and that it could not be otherwise. The germ of the capitalist mode of production, which began under feudalism through the development of commodity production, lies in the function of

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At the end of June 1976 a conference of Western European Communist parties marked the disenfranchisement from Moscow of the Italian and French CPs, followed by other European CPs. The birth of what was later to be called “Euro-communism”, argued Ted Grant, was the logical consequence of the trajectory of these parties. True revolutionary internationalism had been long abandoned by the Communist parties in order to become agencies of the Kremlin bureaucracy's foreign policy. The decision of severing links with the USSR came after a long period of nationalist and reformist degeneration and adaptation to bourgeois “public opinion”.

At the end of June 1976 a conference of Western European Communist parties marked the disenfranchisement from Moscow of the Italian and French CPs, followed by other European CPs. The birth of what was later to be called “Euro-communism”, argued Ted Grant, was the logical consequence of the trajectory of these parties. True revolutionary internationalism had been long abandoned by the Communist parties in order to become agencies of the Kremlin bureaucracy's foreign policy. The decision of severing links with the USSR came after a long period of nationalist and reformist degeneration and adaptation to bourgeois “public opinion”.

In 1976 Spain was ripe for revolution, but the leadership of the workers’ movement had learnt nothing from the past experience. “The CP and SP leadership have strengthened illusions in the panacea of bourgeois democracy – that same ‘democracy’ which prepared the way for the rise of the fascist forces, the rebellion of the generals and the nightmare of civil war, and bestiality of fascist repression”, commented Ted Grant. Once again the problem of the coming Spanish revolution would have been one of the revolutionary leadership.

In 1989 new negotiations between the USSR and US imperialism (culminating in a Reagan-Gorbachev summit) were heralded as opening a phase of world peace. Ted Grant analysed the extremely fragile nature of these deals and warned that “the underlying reality is of two fundamentally opposed social systems which cannot tolerate indefinitely the existence of the other.”

“What has changed in the situation to cause Wilson and the other Labour leaders to adopt capitalist policies which have proved to be disastrous to the working class in the last twenty years, and have not even solved the problem from a capitalist point of view?” Asked Ted Grant in 1966 while analysing the about-face in policies by the Labour government, “Wilson and the other leaders of the Labour Party, have forgotten the elementary principles of socialism. They had the illusion that they could run the capitalist economy better than the representatives of capitalism.” A warning that could well fit for today's Labour leaders.

In analysing Churchill's speech of September 21, 1943 on the surrender of Italy, Ted Grant denounced the hypocritical attitude of the British ruling class. All propaganda about the "war for democracy and against fascism" was ruthlessly put aside by Churchill and a deal with the former supporters of fascism (the monarchy and the Badoglio dictatorship) was struck by the Allies. As Ted Grant correctly predicted, the same horse-deal was to be repeated in one country after another, including Germany, and explained that in order to stave off revolution, Allied imperialism was perfectly willing to reach a deal with the very same forces that had backed fascism, in order to defend their common

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The overthrow of Italian fascism in July 1943 sent shockwaves throughout Europe and the world, demonstrating that war was preparing combustible material for revolution. In this article from August 1943 Ted Grant greeted enthusiastically the heroic struggle of the Italian workers against fascism, dealing with the perspectives for the Italian revolution which was threatened on one side by the intervention of the Allied imperialists and on the other side by the treacherous policies of the Stalinist and social-democratic leaders. The article is published online in full for the first time.

We are pleased to announce the forthcoming publication of the biografy of Ted Grant written by, his close collaborator for many years, Alan Woods. The date of the publication is going to be April 5th, but we are now opening for pre-orders with a special discounted price. Below we provide a brief introduction to the book for our readers.

 

Order the book here- (for U.S. orders here)

“Quantitative easing”, i.e. literally the printing of money to increase the money supply and thereby to reflate the economy, seems the only policy left to the bourgeois in these times of severe economic crisis. Tax the rich, fight tax evasion, etc., is also popular among the reformist left today. But there is nothing new in all this. It has been tried before and it has failed. In 1978 Ted Grant answered the then left reformist wing of the Labour Party gathered around the journal Tribune,showing how none of these measures addressed the root cause of the problem.

The “Six-Day War” was fought June 5 to 10, 1967, between Israel and its neighbouring states of Egypt Jordan, and Syria. Israel won, occupying the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. Here in a Militant EC statement, Ted Grant outlined the various conflicting class and national interests at play in the region.

In 1974 the fascist EOKA-B staged a coup in Cyprus, backed by the military Junta in Greece. The Turkish army responded by invading the North of the island. The Cypriot workers’ powerful organisations, above all the AKEL (Communist Party), were caught by surprise by these developments and proved incapable of putting up serious resistance, constantly appealing to the UN to stop the invasion instead. Ted Grant pointed out the futility of such an approach and drew the lessons for the international working class and showed that the roots of this crushing defeat were to be found in the false policies of AKEL’s leadership who advocated passivity of the masses and support for Liberal president

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Gorbachev being appointed as general secretary of the CPSU in March 1985 opened up a period of turmoil in the USSR. In an attempt to prevent economic collapse he introduced “democratic” reforms trying to lean on the masses in order to curb the excesses of the bureaucracy. But as Ted Grant warned, there could not be half workers’ control and “the bureaucracy will do anything for the working class except get off their backs.”

In March 1981 The Sunday Times revealed that there were tentative preparations for a military coup d’état in Britain in 1968 at the time of the Wilson Labour government. All threads of the conspiracy led to the high echelons of the armed forces and figures near to the royal family. Ted Grant commented that this plot was an indication of how far the ruling class would go to defend its vested interests in times of crisis and explained what lessons should be drawn for the labour movement.

In November 1967 the devaluation of the pound underlined the fact that the undergoing crisis of British capitalism had not been solved. The crisis highlighted the beginning of a polarisation between the left and right wing within the Labour Party. Recognising that this was the result of conflicting class pressures on the LP leadership, Ted Grant debunked the arguments of the “lefts” and outlined the strategy of the Marxist wing within the labour movement in an epoch of sharp class conflict that was impending, a strategy that was later to crystallise in the growth of the Militant Tendency in the 1970s.

Labour’s defeat in the 1987 election came as a bitter blow to the hopes of British workers to see the end of Tory rule after 8 years of Thatcherism. Ted Grant pointed out the objective and subjective reasons for Labour’s defeat, denouncing the failure of Labour’s right wing leaders to pose an alternative to the Tories. However, considering the perspectives for British capitalism and tensions arising in British society, Ted Grant explained, the picture was not one of a strengthened Tory rule, but quite the contrary.

In June 1946 the Labour Party conference in Bournemouth marked a victory for the right-wing leaders. Ted Grant recognised this fact in an article in the Socialist Appeal. This was subsequently criticised by DO, a member of the RCP Minority, who claimed that the whole Labour Party was moving to the left. This was Ted’s reply.

The 1946 Labour Party conference saw the domination of the right-wing leadership and the disintegration of the former left. At this important turning point, Ted Grant explained the objective and subjective reasons for this and why the masses felt they had to “wait and see” what the Labour leaders would achieve in office.

In 1972 Britain was in a stormy period of class struggle. The Tory government’s attacks had radicalised the working class and the youth. This was reflected in the election of left leaders in the T&GWU, AUEW and other unions. It was also reflected in the Labour Party (LP) conference where the Tribune lefts gained a resounding victory. The growth of the Marxists within the LP and Labour Party Young Socialists was also a vindication of the patient work within the mass organisations of the working class undertaken by the Militant tendency. This document, although written 37 years ago, contains many valuable lessons for the Marxists of today.

The world communist conference of June 1969 marked an acceleration of the nationalist and reformist degeneration of the Stalinist parties worldwide. Open discussion on the differences between so-called “socialist” states was turned into diplomatic silence. Ted Grant provided a Marxist explanation for these developments.

This 1968 perspectives document was a fundamental document that prepared the British Marxists for the stormy period that lay ahead. “The Labour government has faithfully, if clumsily and stupidly, carried out the dictates of the capitalist class—much more effectively than a Conservative government could have done under the same conditions”, commented Ted Grant, but the victory of the Tories in the imminent election would unleash the anger and frustration of the workers and youth and push the trade unions decisively to the left.

The first year of the Wilson Labour government was one of timid attempts to fulfil the electoral promises of reforms which, however were being wrecked by the sharp reaction of the capitalists. Wilson would soon abandon any further attempt to carry out reforms, buckling under the pressure of the capitalists, paving the way for the disastrous defeat of Labour in 1970. Ted Grant in this pamphlet destroyed the phoney justifications of the Labour leaders for their cowardly policies and reaffirmed the need for socialist policies. The content of this pamphlet is as relevant, if not more relevant, today than when it was first written.

In 1965 the capitalist class in Britain, happy with the largest increases in profits ever seen, voiced their concerns about the policies proposed by the Labour government through the reactionary outing of Sir Halford Reddish. Ted Grant exposed these criticisms, explaining that they were a way of justifying the theft of the surplus value produced by the workers and concluded: “Big business is moaning about ‘socialism’. Give them a real taste of socialist measures, so that they can have something genuine to moan about!”

In May 1979 the print workers at The Times forced management to pull back from introducing a plan to enforce a new type-setting system. Ted Grant highlighted the fact that this victory would not have been possible without the solidarity shown by the print workers internationally to their British brothers.

In this article published in Militant in February 1979, a few months before Margaret Thatcher’s victory in the General Election, Ted Grant highlighted the root causes of the decline of British capitalism and the need for British capitalists to strike a blow to the workers’ rights and conditions. He exposed the failure of the reformist policies of the right-wing Labour leaders who in the three years of the Social Contract gave the capitalists a bonanza of profits while not guaranteeing any improvement for the workers. The hysterical campaign by the capitalist media against the unionised workers was an indication of the big class battles to come.

In the “transition” from the Franco dictatorship to bourgeois parliamentary democracy there was huge potential for genuine social change, for a revolutionary movement towards socialism. The leaders of the Communist Party, however, did not see their role as leading such a movement. On the contrary, they highlighted the “democratic” nature of ex-fascists and promoted reformist illusions.

In March 1977 Indira Gandhi called elections after a period of governing through “emergency” measures, which included the brutal clampdown on the labour movement. Her gamble didn’t pay off. The main beneficiary of the elections were right-wing forces gathered around the so-called Janata party. On the left the Communist Party of India, having supported Indira Gandhi’s measures, failed to gain from the situation, and the Maoist CPI-M shamefully backed Janata.

The capitalist crisis of the 1970s, combined with the Labour Party being in government after 1974 and carrying out austerity measures, had the effect of pushing the ranks of the party to the left. In these conditions the ideas of the Marxist wing, gathered around the Militant began to get a wide echo. The Marxists dominated the LPYS, the party youth wing, but were also winning many positions within the party, such as Andy Bevan’s selections as the party’s national youth officer. This provoked the wrath of the bourgeois media.

In 1978 war broke out between Vietnam and Cambodia, two countries that were supposed to be “socialist”. This bemused – and embarrassed – the Stalinist Communist parties, who could not explain this phenomenon. Ted Grant explained that the two regimes involved in war were bureaucratic, deformed workers’ state, with a one party, military-police dictatorship in power. Marxists supported the nationalised, planned economies in these countries, but raised the need for genuine workers’ democracy.

In 1979 Thatcher began to implement a long series of anti-working class policies on behalf of the British ruling class in an attempt to counter the decline of British capitalism. But, as Ted Grant pointed out, senile British capitalism was seeking to achieve higher profits through speculation and financial deals, rather than from investing capital to develop industry as it had done in the past. As he explained, “The bourgeoisie has forgotten completely that the production of real wealth is the production of manufacturing industry. They are more interested in the chase after nominal gains, rather than genuine gains for the economy itself.”

The 1972 Labour Party conference marked a turning point in the British labour movement. The high tide of radicalisation and class struggle that mounted up during the summer was finally reflected in the LP, pushing through a sound victory for the Tribune lefts at the party conference. Ted Grant drew the lessons of these developments—a powerful vaccine for the revolutionary vanguard against sectarianism—and pointed out that it was about time to launch a campaign in the whole of the labour movement to compel the Parliamentary Labour Party to abide to conference decisions.

The 1972 TUC conference revealed the increasing pressure from the working class for radical policies, and the victory of the “lefts” was a clear indication of this. However, many trade union leaders were not prepared to give a true expression to the militant mood that had developed within the rank and file. What was really required was that the trade union leaders should commit the Labour Party to socialist policies, if the movement was to be successful.

In the summer of 1972, two years into the Tory government, the workers’ anger erupted in the biggest wave of strikes since the 1920s. This radicalisation was reflected also in many left-wing motions being passed at trade union conferences. Ted Grant argued that it was time to reclaim the TUC for working class policies.

In 1971 the then Tory government brought in the Industrial Relations Act, which was aimed at curbing working class militancy. A year later, in July 1972 the British dockers went on strike, after five of their leaders were arrested under the new Act. Far from curbing the working class, there was a magnificent show of strength and solidarity, that could have sent the Tories packing if only the TUC leaders had been prepared to call a one day general strike and commit Labour to a socialist programme once in power.

In this article Ted Grant drew the lessons of the dockers’ strike in the summer of 1972. In spite of the audacious stand of the workers, who defied every attempt to intimidate them, the final agreement contained only marginal gains because of the role played by the trade union leaders.

In May 1972 the LPYS organised a march against the attempt by the Tory government to abolish subsidies on rents. Ted Grant pointed out the need for mass action organised by the trade unions to win this battle, as was the case in Glasgow during the First World War.

Ted Grant’s observed in 1972 that the introduction of laser technology had the potential to save millions of lives and also develop new fields in energy transfer, telecommunications, etc., but it also magnified the potential for weapons of mass destruction in the nuclear arms race. Capitalism and Stalinism revealed how they had become fetters on the rational development of human civilisation.

In the autumn of 1972 rising profits together with record unemployment figures, revealed the parasitic character of the British ruling class. With wages increasingly undermined by rising prices Ted Grant pointed out that the pressure from the workers to resist against this erosion was resulting in sharper class struggle. The bosses were not keen on concessions in spite of rising profits because “…profit is the unpaid labour of the working class. If the share of the workers is cut the share of the capitalists rises.”

In 1972 the Stalinist regime in Czechoslovakia arrested two dissidents. The British Communist Party was forced to “protest” against these actions but made no attempt to analyse why crackdowns on dissent continued to happen under “socialism”. Ted Grant explained that repression under the Stalinist regimes was to defend the privileges of the bureaucracy.

In 1971 in Britain, unemployment soared as a consequence of the world crisis. Ted Grant looked at the proposals that left and right-wing Labour leaders advanced and exposed the inability of both to come up with a viable and socialist alternative to the crisis.

In Britain, in 1972 a miner’s strike was provoked by the Tory government. Ted Grant called on the trade union movement and the entire working class to rally behind the miners to beat back the Conservative government. He gave examples of worker solidarity in contrast to the pusillanimous approach of the TUC leaders.

At the end of 1971, a war between Pakistan and India broke out. The Chinese-Russian conflict manifested itself in world politics through this proxy war, in which China supported the theocratic-military-police state of Pakistan and Russia supported the capitalist-landlord clique in India. Ted Grant exposed the manoeuvres of the Stalinists (of both the Chinese and Russian variations) as well as the role of what he called the dis-United Nations.

In 1971, the Tory government was on the offensive against the working class, which included the infamous Industrial Relations Act. At the same they announced a whole series of concessions to the capitalists, while at the same attacking social services and other reforms that had been by the working class through years of struggle. Ted Grant pointed out that all this should be fought with an alternative class policy by the Labour leaders.

In 1971, the crisis of world capitalism had manifested itself in a currency crisis of unprecedented proportions and the suspension of the convertibility of dollars into gold, the final blow to the world monetary system that had been established by the post-war Bretton-Woods agreement. Ted Grant explained the basis for this crisis was to be found in the deteriorating position of US capitalism and its attempt to export its balance of payments problems to its rivals.

In 1970, Ted Grant exposed the move to de-nationalise public assets by the Conservatives and proved that the nationalised industries, despite their bureaucratisation as a result of the lack of workers’ control, were more efficient than private industries.

Unemployment was rising in Britain. The Tories saw it as a useful tool to hold down wages, while the Labour leaders had no clear answers. Ted Grant explained what could be achieved by simply taking over the commanding heights of the economy.

In May 1972 an attempt by the right-wing trade union leaders to bow under the Industrial Relations Act was fiercely opposed by the rank and file. As Ted Grant pointed out, exposing the cowardly actions of these trade union leaders, “Unjust laws passed by Westminster at the behest of the enemy class are not worth anything when weighed against the power of the organised labour movement. The jails are not big enough or strong enough to contain the workers who will resist, if a lead is given.”

In February 1972 the Tory government led by Edward Heath provoked a major confrontation with the miners, who were tired of seeing their salaries squeezed by rising prices. “This government of capitalist perfidy, malice, stupidity, cruelty, incompetence and greed for gain, must be brought down”, commented Ted Grant.

In 1971, one year into the Tory government, with sluggish economic growth unemployment was growing and inflation had risen to 9%. At the same time the Tories were launching a vicious attack on the organised labour movement, provoking a backlash from the working class. Ted Grant pointed out that only a clear a decisive lead given from the Labour Party and the Trade Union movement as a whole for genuine socialist policies, could end this nightmare once and for all.

At the end of 1968 a currency crisis shook the world markets outlining the extreme volatility of the world situation. Here is Ted Grant’s analysis on the processes behind that crisis.

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