Declaration of the Proletarian Faction
This statement contains the main arguments of the Proletarian Faction formed within Workers Power NZ, a section of the League for a Revolutionary Communist International (LRCI), in July 1995. It documents the development an a factional struggle over the reversion to right-centrism of the LRCI on the question of capitalist restoration, Bosnia etc. Fundamentally the struggle revealed a divergence in method between our conception of dialectics and the League’s impressionism.
Like the rest of the post-war Trotskyist left, the LRCI has failed to break decisively from centrism. “Centrism is the name applied to that policy which is opportunist in substance and which seeks to appear as revolutionary in form. Opportunism consists of a passive adaptation to the ruling class and its regime, to that which already exists, including, or course, the state boundaries. Centrism shares completely this fundamental trait of opportunism, but in adapting itself to the dissatisfied workers, centrism veils it by means of radical commentaries”. [“Independence of the Ukraine and Sectarian Muddleheads” Trotsky, Writings, 39-40. p.54.]It moved left from centrism in the 1970’s to produce an apparently Trotskyist analysis of the degeneration of the Fourth International [FI] and the Degenerate(d) Workers’ States [dws] in the early 1980’s.Specifically The Death Agony of the FI and The Degenerated Revolution published in 1981 and the Trotskyist Manifesto published in 1989. However, by the late 1980’s, as a small international tendency of around 100, it along with the rest of the left was subjected to the massive reactionary pressures of imperialist crisis and the collapse of the DWS’s. The LRCI’s Trotskyist “orthodoxy” was shown to be hollow.Its method is devoid of dialectics. Its failure to learn the lessons of the collapse of the FI meant that its break from the Cliffites was incomplete and that rather than developing a revolutionary response to the crisis of Stalinism, the LRCI collapsed back into centrism.
Succumbing to its isolation from the class struggle, and the pressure of democratic counter-revolution, a growing gap between theory and practice has arisen. While the LRCI pronounces orthodox Trotskyist positions on method, political economy and the restoration of capitalism in the DWS’s, in reality it has a one-sided abstracted Trotskyism which argues for a “revolutionary period” since 1989 and still-existing “moribund workers states”. These upbeat historical abstractions coexist with and cover a passive propaganda role in the class struggle which is evidenced by the League’s capitulation to the “progressive” nature of democratic imperialism.
The events of this period are every bit as momentous as those after WW2, if not more so. According to the LRCI the collapse of the workers’ states would be every bit at catastrophic as the events of the 1930’s. As such the end of the workers’ states would constitute the supreme test of Marx’s dialectical method. But the LRCI has failed to survive the test. Like the centrist FI after the Second World War, the League’s inability to recognise the end of the Workers’s states and the nature of the period as counter-revolutionary, demonstrates that it has become disoriented by events and liquidated its role as a revolutionary vanguard. That this should have happened comes as no surprise to us, given the history of our relations with the LRCI.
Method and the Fourth International
We base our analysis on:
[a] The Revolutionary Communist Party analysis: “The Question of the International” in Revolutionary Communist, No 2. 1975. The RCP took the view that the FI collapsed during the war and was incapable of overcoming its deficiencies of theory and method after the war because of the loss of Trotsky and inability of others to rethink Trotsky’s predictions. This was explained not as a lack of theorists of Trotsky’s calibre, but the result of a chain of events going back to the “epoch of the universal liquidation of Marxism” in the ’30’s which saw the FI isolated from the mass working class struggles and lacking in both Marxist method and theory. Could the post-war fatalist parroting of Trotsky’s predictions be corrected? Possibly, but unlikely because in “1947..the FI did not set itself the task of developing perspectives based on a materialist analysis of changing events.” (p.24). Subsequent events proved that this breakdown of method lead to a breakdown in theory on the post-war boom and Stalinism.
[b] the 1975 Communist Left Australian programme Section 12
” The Fourth Communist International after the death of Trotsky ceased to function as a democratic centralist organisation…The breakdown of the FI derives not from the death of Trotsky but from the failure of the International, with its links between its sections largely severed by the war, to turn the second imperialist war into civil war…The International then re-established after 1945 was not centred in Asia where Trotsky’s anti-war strategy had its greatest successes, but in Europe where it had its fewest. The post-1945 leaderships broke down on the crucial question of the characterisation of the states in which the Stalinists came to power – a failure of characterisation which was an extension of the failure of leadership vis a vis the Stalinists in the war period”. (see 1978 program)
[c] Owen Gager’s article “James P Cannonism” [Spartacist, 1973] shows that by 1946 the US SWP had compounded its chauvinist “centrist deviation” on the imperialist war, to adopt a position on the ongoing post-war revolution which gave the US working class the leading role in the world revolution. This interpretation is consistent with that of the breakdown of democent in which the strongest section had by 1946 consolidated is adaptation to US chauvinism. The LRCI rejects this saying that this is the same position as that advocated by Trotsky. [see p 7 para 32 of IEC Resolution on the Proletarian Faction]. We reject this.Trotsky’s perspective was invalidated by the end of the war. The “American Theses” failed to recognise this and succumbed further to US chauvinism by making the US the centre of the ongoing world war/revolution, as Gager correctly argues.
[d] But were there opposition movements inside the FI that could have corrected this breakdown of method and theory, or these “centrist deviations” as the LRCI claims? The short answer is no, because despite the existence of oppositional currents within sections, they were also theoretically weak, or state capitalist, and since the FI was not democratic centralist, they were not able to correct the breakdown/deviation. As other sources [Revolutionary History (Vols 1/3 & 4; 2/2; 3/2; 3/4); ‘The FI in Danger’ and Bornstein and Richardson’s War and the International] make clear, the FI was refounded in 1946 in a way which refused to apply democent, either in the representation of all sections, or in the agenda. The Goldman-Morrow faction and the Haston-Grant faction both challenged the post-war fatalist perspective but were bureaucratically shut-up. [see notes below]. The semi-colonial sections critical of the collapse into centrism during the war were under represented [The FI in Danger].
When WPNZ(A) had its first discussions with the LRCI in 1990 a number of differences existed. The most important were on the question of Marxist method. This was reflected in two areas of difference. The first was a difference over the causes of the collapse of the FI. It was clear to us in 1990 that the LRCI did not see any necessary connection between class composition, method and programme, in causing the collapse of the FI. It did not understand these elementary lessons of history. For this reason we thought it possible that the League too might become a victim of isolation, bad class composition and Euro-centrism and meet the same fate as the FI. The IS claims that we did not make this a big issue when we joined. Yet we made it very clear that we took this question seriously, and that the purpose of our joining was to win the League to our positions on Marx’s method. The subsequent failure of the League to develop dialectics and to confront the collapse of Stalinism with a revolutionary programme, has confirmed our worst fears.
On the question of the FI we argued that as the result of material conditions of isolation, class composition and European and US chauvinism, serious programmatic lapses during the war caused the collapse of the FI into centrism by 1946. In our discussions, the League took the view that the FI was healthy until 1948 and collapsed and died in 1951. The LRCI regarded the adaptation to chauvinism during the war as a “centrist deviation” which could have been corrected in 1948. [See “The History of the Fourth International in the War – the Leagues analysis of the Factions criticisms”, in Background Documents of the Positions of the Proletarian Faction.] As we have shown Trotsky did not regard the failure to implement the PMP – turn imperialist war into civil war – as a “deviation”. He already took the Palestinian section to task for their “step towards social patriotism”. It wasn’t a mere deviation, but represented “bankruptcy”, a matter on which the “international stands or falls”. [“A step towards social patriotism”. Writings, 38/39 207]. Were the “deviations” of the US and European sections any less serious?
But why judge these programmatic “deviations” i.e. politics, in isolation from everything else? Because the LRCI lacking dialectics cannot make the right connections. Its most common explanation for bad politics is bad people. We are offered a rogues gallery of deviationists and centrists:Cannon was a “national exceptionalist”; Cannon “went beyond pedagogic adaptation to political adaptation”; “young and inexperienced cadres strove to preserve as much of the letter of Trotsky’s old perspective as possible but in doing so altered its entire spirit”; Trotsky’s “followers lacked the confidence” to correct Trotsky’s perspective; “Under the leadership of Michel Pablo, Ernest Mandel supported by James P. Cannon and the SWP, the Second World Congress in 1948 systematised and deepened the errors in the perspectives of 1946”; “the Yugoslav partisan war was now analysed, post facto, as a “proletarian revolution” (initially only by Pablo)..” ; “Pablo was driven on by his capitulation to Titoism to undermine and revise the key positions of the Trotskyist movement: on the counter-revolutionary nature of Stalinism, on the necessity of a revolutionary party in a revolutionary crisis, the nature of the permanent revolution in the colonial and semi-colonial countries and on the tactic of entrism.” ” [i.e.Pablo] required that the revolutionary nucleus should hide its revolutionary programme and principles…”; Michel Pablo and the FI leadership stood up to the pressure of imperialism, unlike the “state capitalist theoreticians like Tony Cliffe who adopted the Shachtmanite “third camp” slogan…But… Pablo “succumbed to Stalinophilia”. Trotsky sums up: “We know that political tendencies do not exist “in the air”: deviations and mistakes, if persistent and prolonged, must be rooted in a class basis” [Trotsky, “Preface to the Polish Edition of Lenin’s Left-Wing Communism…” Writings 1932. p222.]
Would Trotsky have viewed these lapses as mere “centrist deviations”?
Trotsky made it clear that the war was the ultimate test of the health and hence future of the new international: “Our programme on war is our tactics, our programme on the socialist revolution, our propaganda”… “All the fundamental rules of proletarian “defeatist” policy in relation to imperialist war retain their full force today. This is our point of departure, and all the conclusions that follow are determined by it” … “The fundamental strategic question is our attitude toward war, which it is impermissible to subordinate to episodic tactical considerations and speculations” …
“Should the proletariat attempt at the expense of the clarity and irreconcilability of its fundamental policy to chase after each episodic danger separately, it will unfailingly prove itself bankrupt.” … “defeatism is the class policy of the proletariat, which even during a war sees the main enemy is at home, within its particular imperialist countries. Patriotism, on the other hand is a policy that locates the main enemy outside one’s own ountry”…”should revolutionary defeatism be renounced in relation to nonfascist countries? Herein is the crux of the question; upon this issue, revolutionary internationalism stands or falls”.[See ” A step towards social patriotism” in Writings, 38/39, 207-213.]
“Marxist intransigence, obligatory when realising the united front in general, becomes doubly or trebly so when it is a question of a problem as acute as war”.[“Preface to the Polish Edition of Lenin’s Left-Wing Communism.. Writings, 1932. p 226.] “The future destiny of our organisation, like the development of the FI will depend above all on the existence of an international cadre that understands how to answer the questions of revolution and counter-revolution – especially in their fascist and bonapartist guises – and that understands the question of the war threat and how to implement our slogans and put them into practice.” [Trotsky, “Tasks of the ICL” Writings, Supplement, 34-40. p509.]
Trotsky is clear. Under conditions of imperialist war, the failure to fulfil the tasks of the FI programme on war would amount to “bankruptcy”. To renounce “defeatism” in countries which are at war with fascist countries is an “obvious lapse into social patriotism”.[“A step towards social patriotism” Writings, 1938/39. 208-209.]
During the war the FI proclaimed its orthodoxy in theory, but in practice several of its leading sections “lapsed into social patriotism”. Objectively, despite the fact that the war threw up revolutionary situations, the FI failed to become the revolutionary leadership. Its small size, isolation from the mass movements,and exposure to Stalinist assassinations, contributed most to its collapse in Europe (Over 800 executed in Greece alone). “Imperialist War and National Resistance:Trotskyism and the Second World War” Revolutionary History, Vol.3 (4) 1991 p. 5-8 (for rebellion) . For Stalinist persecution in Greece, see Revolutionary History, Vol. 3 (3) Spring, 1991. [Go to Revolutionary History Index] The Greek Army rebellion in Egypt proved that war did create the conditions for revolution. The combined forces of the British Army and the Stalinists were necessary to destroy the revolution. Subjective lapses into social patriotism in the US and Europe, combined with the objective factors to contribute to the “bankruptcy” of the international. [See Revolutionary History, Vol 3, Nos 3 and 4.] We conclude that Trotsky would have taken the view that the new international failed the test of the war and collapsed into centrism.
The resulting centrist split between “revolutionary” theory and reformist practice put an end to democratic centralism. The IS became a “postbox” only. The European conference (1943) renewed some organisational links. [see War and the International, p 172 on the October Plenum of the SWP; p. 176 for “outlawing of Morrow”; and pps 172-185 for closing down on the opposition in Britain]. The post-war pre-conference (1946) was undemocratic because it did not represent all the sections and their experiences of struggle, and failed to put on the agenda the need for a balance sheet of the war-time breaks from the FI programme. [See Munis et.al. The Fourth International in Danger; p. 14 letter of the Spanish Group to the IS; p. 15, and p. 16-18 for undemocratic nature of 1946 conference; p. 19-30; and p. 31-41. See also War and the International, p.209-234.]
This prevented any possibility of the correction of the FI political disorientation after the war. That is why in our view the FI was not salvageable by 1946. Neither the British Haston-Grant or the US Goldman-Morrow oppositions were capable of correcting the collapse into centrism. Even if these oppositions had won, the FI would have reverted to an equally one-sided fatalism in which post-war capitalist stabilisation included the victory of state capitalism in the Soviet Union. Both oppositions though critical of the one-sided post-war fatalist perspectives dogmatically carried over from Trotsky, but they adapted in an equally one-sided way to the stabilisation of capitalism and argued that the USSR was state capitalist. [War and the International p. 182-187.] The only possibility of refounding the FI on a healthy basis in 1946 would have been the democratic centralist “overrepresentation” of the FI in the semi-colonies in those sections which did not adapt to chauvinism and where democratic norms still allowed programmatic criticisms to raised.[See The FI in Danger Natalia Trotsky, G. Munis, B. Peret.]
We argue that this was prevented by the bureaucratic measures of the European and US sections which deliberately under-represented the semi-colonial sections at the post-war congresses and suppressed their criticisms of the collapse into centrism during the war. This was the position of the Communist Left of New Zealand after 1975. It was based on the view that the semi-colonial sections were healthier than the US and European sections in the way they responded to the war and in their organisation.See details of critique of US section by Mexican section, and of US etc application of the PMP by the Indian section in The FI in Danger, and Revolutionary History, Vol 3 (3)].
Against this view the IS/IEC resolution rejects the view that the colonial and semi-colonial sections were healthier than the European and US sections. It argues that the rebuilding of the FI in Europe was necessary because of war-time conditions, and that Trotsky shared the perspective that Europe was the centre of the world revolution. We think that this is a Eurocentric perspective and not one shared by Trotsky. It uses Trotsky’s perspective as an excuse for not fronting up to the post-war chauvinism of the dominant imperialist sections.
What would we have done at the time? Because of the collapse of the FI into centrism we would have formed a faction to refound the FI on a democratic centralist basis as a precondition for; the full participation of the semi-colonial sections;  an honest critique of the collapse into centrism, and  the re-forging of the Marxist method and theory of the pre-war period, in order to lay the basis for a correct understanding of the post-war period. Today the charge is made against the Proletarian Faction that in 1946 we would have abandoned the FI in 1946 as centrist, and the LRCI (and MRCI before it as well). This is as absurd as a second charge that in a counter-revolutionary period such as the present, we would turn our backs on the class struggle. Quite the opposite, we entered the LRCI to fight for our positions in 1990, warning of the danger of LRCI repeating the collapse of the FI, and prescribing lessons in method and political economy. We would have done the same in 1946.
In our view, in 1990 the LRCI did not understand the historic roots of the collapse of the Fourth International into centrism, and its response to us on the FI shows that it has not learned anything in the past five years. To claim, as it does today, that the degeneration of the FI was “ultimately caused not by class composition, but by politics” is not a Marxist explanation, and worse than that blames the degeneration on the death of Trotsky. Stalin knew that the FI was to a large extent Trotsky. The FI was totally reliant on Trotsky for Marxist guidance. He was responsible for all the main programmatic documents. He alone was capable of correcting the petty bourgeois tendency towards pragmatism on the SWP leadership. Trotsky characterised the period in the 30’s thus” “We live in the epoch of the universal liquidation of Marxism in the ruling summits of the labour movement. The most vulgar prejudices now serve as the official doctrine of the political and trades union leaders of the French working class” . [Wither France, p5-6 Merit]. Trotsky had no collaborators of his stature, and few who could learn his lessons. He was forced to work with bourgeois experts “Comrade Field” for want of expertise in “economical and statistical data”. His isolation was the direct result of the “universal liquidation of Marxism” and the hegemony of Stalinism over the working class and the intellectuals. It was therefore to be expected that the leaders of the FI would not be able to live up to Trotsky’s example during and after the war. Hence the collapse into centrism. To that extent Trotsky’s death played a decisive part in this collapse. [See RCP document “The Question of the International”.] But what are politics if not “concentrated economics”? What are economics but contradiction? What are contradictions but dialectics? What is contradiction but class struggle? How do we understand this?
In its reply to the Faction the IEC Resolution of July 1995 states that the degeneration of the FI was “ultimately caused by politics” rather than isolation, class composition, failure of method, theory or democratic centralism.This argument is not based on dialectics. If politics and not class composition caused the collapse,what is politics but concentrated economics which in turn presupposes the use-value, exchange-value contradiction [class struggle] and in turn dialectics? Is not a centrist “deviation” based on personalities and politics, the result of profound problems of organisation [this is as far as the LRCI goes with its fetishised view of rebuilding the FI in Europe after the war] which for Marxists don’t float on the surface but are the result of material causes, isolation, class composition and imperialist chauvinism? [See Trotsky, In Defence of Marxism on “concentrated economics” p. 154.] In the “Leagues analysis” [see note above] the personalities of FI leaders, Pablo and Mandel, are credited with explaining the collapse. We would suggest that the League stands firmly on Cannon’s not Trotsky’s method when it comes to analysing the reasons that lay behind the collapse of the FI, i.e. the organisational question, and bad or young people or “deviant” personalities are credited with the collapse rather than the failure of dialectics. Better to have “stolen” from Trotsky’s In Defence of Marxism, that to ignore it as the LRCI does.
With Marx’s method it is not possible to separate politics from class composition. It is obviously true that an ideal working class composition of the FI would not have been a guarantee of a correct method and programme. But only logic-choppers look for black and white guarantees? There is ample evidence that Trotsky [and Cannon] saw very clearly the dangers of petty-bourgeois influences on the SWP. The IS/IEC in its reply to the Faction, does a body count of cadres in an attempt to disprove our argument that the FI or the LRCI suffers from poor class composition. But class composition is not a statistical matter, or an organisational question. Rather it is a matter of class orientation. There is no direct causal relationship between class composition, method and programme. We understand method to be a quality of leadership which must be tested by means of a proletarian orientation towards the working class in struggle, constantly testing theory in practice. There may be plenty of industrial workers in a party but no proletarian orientation, but you can be sure that if there is a firm proletarian orientation, the petty-bourgeois influences will be minimal.
The IS/IEC says that the SWP had many workers. Yes but that doesn’t mean much in itself. Why did Trotsky constantly warn against the influence of the petty-bourgeoisie? Why did he value 100 proletarians as worth 1000 intellectuals? “It is not a question of numbers, but of giving correct expression to the ideas and policies of the truly revolutionary proletariat. The thing is not to proclaim internationalism, [SWP] but to be able to be an internationalist in deed when times are most trying”. [Lenin, ‘Tasks of the Proletariat in our Revolution’ CW, Vol. 24. p. 82.] “Insofar as our party membership consists in part of petty bourgeois elements completely disconnected from the proletarian class struggle, the crisis … It is noteworthy that the crisis struck the New York organisation of the party, thanks to its unfavourable social composition, with exceptional force and virulence, while the proletarian centres of the party remained virtually unaffected”.[Cannon, Struggle for a Proletarian Party. p. 7]. “We judge all people coming to us from another class by the extent of their real identification with our class, and the contributions they can make which aid the proletariat in its struggle against the capitalist class” (ibid p.19). The IS/IEC argues that there is no necessary correlation between method and programme because what “ultimately” counts is “politics”.
For Trotsky, and for us, making such a claim is to junk dialectics. Trotsky was very clear on the link between method, theory, programme and practice. In his polemic with Shachtman who claimed that there was no necessary connection between method and politics citing the cases of Plekhanov and Liebknecht. Trotsky replies: “This argument if it means anything at all signifies that dialectical materialism is of no use whatsoever to a revolutionist. With these examples of Leibknecht and Plekhanov artificially torn out of history, Shachtman reinforces and deepens the idea…that politics does not depend on method, inasmuch as method is divorced from politics by the divine gift of inconsistency. By falsely interpreting two `exceptions’, Shachtman seeks to overthrow the rule. If this is the argument of a `supporter’ of Marxism, what can we expect from an opponent? The revision of Marxism passes here into its downright liquidation; more than that, into the liquidation of every doctrine and every method.” [In Defence of Marxism, p. 96.]
Method and Political Economy.
The second area of difference was over the related area of the method of political economy. The LRCI and its leading section, British Workers Power group, had come out of the Cliffite IS in 1975. The LRCI recognised that its position on political economy was deficient, and that it still had to complete its analysis of the nature of Stalinist economies. In particular those of Leo and Goldman which argue, after Trotsky, that the contradiction in the DWS’s was between workers property in the means [forces] of production and bureaucratically planned relations of production. By comparison the LRCI document on “Economic reform and Economic Crises in the USSR” identified the contradiction as between the law of value and Stalinist planning. This failure to understand the nature of the contradiction in the DWS cannot produce a theory of the laws of motion, the dynamics of the Stalinist economy, and therefore its limits and necessary crisis. This failure also makes a nonsense of Trotsky’s concept of the dual state which cannot resolve the contradiction between workers property and bureaucratic planning. Both of these areas of difference between the LRCI and us ultimately come back to Marx’s method as applied to the understanding of capitalism. Both come back to dialectics.[See Trotsky on dialectics especially Appendix B on “Philosophical Tendencies of Bureaucratism” Challenge of the Left Opposition (1928-29) which makes the connections between the dialectical method, historical materialism and method of political economy in Capital. In particular Trotsky defends Marx’s method as a form of “monism” as opposed to the bureaucrats “multifactor” theory.]
The LRCI at that time had an understanding of Marxist political economy derived from Fine and Harris’ book Rereading Capital. [See the review of Rereading Capital, by Tony Allen. Also the article on the “World in Recession: Revolutionary Communist Papers, No 7 July 1981, which gives a fundamentalist” analysis of the crisis, and Leo “Fear of Fundamentalism” in the CWG archive]. We characterised this method of political economy as ultimately neo-Ricardian. This is a non-Marxist method which does not locate a necessary contradiction at the point of production motivating the `development’ of capitalism and determining its surface appearances including the state. Failure to understand this leads to neo-Ricardian positions on the state which credit the state with considerable “autonomy” in moderating if not managing the economy. [For an excellent account of neo-Ricardian economics and politics see D. Yaffe, “Value and Price in Marx’s Capital” in Revolutionary Communist, No 1, January 1975.] Because neo-Ricardians have an ahistorical technical view of relations of production they are either ignored or abstracted from the historical process. This leads in effect to a separation of production from distribution, and society from the state. The class struggle is reduced to a distributional struggle for control of the state to manage the economy.
The LRCI had broken with the Cliffite economics of the Permanent Arms Economy and state capitalism, but in effect they retained the underlying method of political economy. While they rejected the PAE as underconsumptionist, their account of the end of the post-war boom and the crisis of overaccumulation in the Trotskyist Manifesto showed that it had not broken with neo-Ricardianism. For example their explanation of crisis recognises the fact that “contradictions surface again”… Yet they confuse a cause of crisis with one of its effects. “US capital exports lead to underinvestment at home, which resulted in low productivity and hence to a decline in the of profit” [Trotskyist Manifesto. p 13]. This is to reverse the cause-effect sequence. Capital export is an effect of the tendency for the rate of profit to fall, not its cause! In our fusion talks we characterised the LRCI’s method as “more analytical and descriptive than dialectical”. As a result the LRCI did not have a clear conception of the causes of the post-war boom, the crisis which brought it to an end, nor the necessary conditions for a world-wide revival of capital accumulation. Instead there was an impressionistic method which took each cycle and its distributional effects on class struggle in isolation of the deeper processes. This led to the LRCI overestimating the extent of the “world-wide recovery” in the mid 1980’s.[See WPNZ to LRCI 24 December 1990. p 4-9; WPNZ/A reply to LRCI December 1991, “The Revolutionary 90’s: Ten points in response to the LRCI Draft International Perspectives for the 1990’s”; and “Fear of Fundamentalism”.]
An impressionist method, therefore, leads to a revisionist political economy which has very dangerous consequences for workers in struggle. If world capitalism can “recover” without the necessity of re-establishing the conditions for renewed profitability by means of further massive destruction, including war and depression, this leads to a reformist perspective. It means that “democratic” imperialist states can collaborate and resolve their economic problems short of war and revolution. While the LRCI formally rejects this type of revisionism, recognising the “New World Disorder”, its method of political economy does not reject the possibility of such a relatively “peaceful” re-stabilisation of the world economy.The LRCI rejected the view that each cyclic recession must get deeper until the conditions for capital accumulation were renewed. This view clashed with that put forward by Dobbs in his document The World Economy, which showed that the “recovery” of the 1980’s failed to restore profitability in production, profits being made largely from speculation, and that each recession has been deeper than the previous one. Brian Green claims in his resignation letter that the IS made it difficult for him to complete this project and never got around to publishing it. [See our position in ” WPNZ/A Report to LRCI June-August 1991.]
Method, Crisis and Programme
The second related problem we identified in our fusion talks, was the failure to apply Marx’s method to the analysis of the degenerate(d) workers states. The LRCI’s understanding was that the contradiction in the DWSs was between the law of value and the bureaucratic state. A second contradiction between workers property and the bureaucratic state, which was the contradiction identified by Trotsky, was also recognised. But this contradiction is trivialised as one between workers production relations in society and bourgeois distributional relations in the state. This negates the importance of the contradiction internal to the dual state (between workers production relations and bourgeois distribution relations) and its class struggle resolution within the state by political revolution or bourgeois counter-revolution.”The contradiction at the heart of the Soviet Union is the contradiction between the system of property relations and a layer of administrators and distributors (the bureaucracy) who stand in the way of the working class dynamically developing the productive forces in its own i.e. socialist interests”. [The Degenerated Revolution.p30.] The neo-Ricardian echo shows up here when this contradiction is excluded from the state itself. Workers property in society is separated from the bourgeois state form. The contradiction as it is manifested in the state is therefore negated and the dynamic factor becomes reduced to the bureaucratic state and its capacity to develop or retard the economy. [Compare our criticism in “Workers Power NZ/A Report to LRCI June/August 1991 “The Analysis of Stalinism.”]
As we will see, this meant that the LRCI was unable to apply a dialectical understanding to the relationship between the forces and relations of production in the DWSs. This was to have serious consequences when, from 1989 onwards its position on the Stalinist state led directly to a theoretical and programmatic disorientation over the collapse of the Stalinist states and the restoration of capitalism.
Ultimately on these questions, theory and method must be judged against programme. The LRCI characterised our positions as “reductionist” and “catastrophist”, taking insufficient notice of “mediating effects of politics and ideology.” These differences are on Marx’s method as demonstrated in Capital etc. CLNZ based itself on Yaffe, Mattick, Grossman, Rosdolsky, characterised as “fundamentalists” by Lynch. Lynch rejects this view. The main arguments are found in “CLNZ to LRCI, 24/12/90” and Lynch’s reply “The WPNZ and the crisis in the world economy”. 18/10/91; and “Fear of Fundamentalism” March 8, 1993. The main point of contention was the so-called “recovery” of the mid-1980’s. Our position is that during a period crisis of overaccumulation,each recession gets worse and each “recovery” gets weaker until sufficient value is destroyed by depressions and wars to enable a new period of accumulation to begin. We found the LRCI position “impressionistic” because this recovery was largely “speculative” [a point we thought proven by Brian Greens’s World Economy document] and therefore not a recovery of conditions of capital accumulation. Lynch’s method allows for each cycle during a periodic crisis to be independent of any downward trend in devaluation. Its severity cannot be predicted and can only be determined by reference to empirical facts which includes the operation of counter-tendencies and the role of states in economic management. Therefore our position was viewed as “reductionist”, failing to recognise the factual significance of the recovery in profitability. This difference in method reappears consistently through to the debate over the “Perspectives” at the 3rd Congress.
Trotsky states that the conjunctural crisis is the `pulse’ of capitalism and cannot be used to explain crisis!
“In actuality, conjunctural cycles in the life of capitalism play the same role as, for example, cycles of blood circulation in the life of the organism. The inevitability of revolution flows just as little from the periodicity of crises as the inevitability of death from a rhythmic pulse”. [Writings, 1930, p 36.]
Compare Lynch’s method which sees the conjuncture as crisis and solution to crisis ie he misreads Grossman’s point that crisis is a “cure” to overaccumulation to attribute this mechanism to each conjunctural downturn. On prediction Trotsky states that:
“…revolutionary perspectives must be deduced from “real contradictory processes” not “false schemata”..(p 38).”It is necessary to foresee the inevitability of crisis after an upturn. It is necessary to warn the masses of a coming crisis. But the masses will be better prepared for the crisis the more that they, with correct leadership, utilise the period of the upturn” (p. 47)…”Combining subjective and objective data, it is possible to establish a tentative perspective of the movement, that is, a scientifically based prediction, without which a serious revolutionary struggle is in general inconceivable. But a prediction in politics does not have the character of a perfect blueprint: it is a working hypothesis.” (p.50).
On “catastrophism”. Lynch equates our method with that of the post-war Trotskyist dogma of war/revolution. Because we predict each downturn will be worse than the previous one to fulfil the necessary task of destroying value, our predictions can be proven wrong when premature ie. predicting pre-revolutionary crises, when the defeats of workers allowed the bourgeoisie impose neo-liberal solutions by means of democracy. These were predictions certainly anticipated more working class resistance to these neo-liberal attacks. In NZ, we responded to these attacks by predicting a pre-revolutionary crisis. But while we admit we were wrong, we were wrong not in predicting the severity of the attacks on workers, but in their ability to fight back. This method of prediction has much more in common with Trotsky’s prewar predictions than with the post-war epigones who pronounced a revolutionary period in the face of counter-revolutionary stabilisation. We are in good company in predicting pre-revolutionary situations in advance of their time. This method does not contradict our analysis of the period as counter-revolutionary.
Yet on the most important political question of the period, it is the LRCI’s method and theory which fails to recognise the end of the workers’ states and the world historic counter-revolutionary defeat. It is the LRCI’s disorientation on the question of the current period that calls into question its method and theory, not ours. The LRCI’s impressionistic method means that it cannot theoretically link the fundamental laws of motion of capitalism to everyday surface events. When surface events contradict its blind optimism in objective forces it forgoes reality as in the case of its conception of the “moribund workers’ states” and the “revolutionary period”.
It is certainly true that world capitalism cannot restabilise itself without depression and war, but these tendencies present in the structural crisis do not yet manifest themselves in the current balance of class forces in the form of revolutionary situations. On the contrary, the collapse of the Stalinist states has shifted the balance of class forces towards counterrevolution, and the character of the period has become that of democratic counter-revolution. The major pre-revolutionary crises are still ahead of us, as is the potential for revolution and counter-revolution, which are the defining conditions of a periodic crisis in the epoch of imperialism. We come back to the question of period below.
WPNZ(A) agreed to join the LRCI in early 1992 on the basis of general agreement with the programmatic positions in The Trotskyist Manifesto and on the understanding that we would fight to overcome our “major” differences by arriving at a common understanding of Marx’s method. We were impressed by the second Congress debate, and the way in which the Latin American comrades were treated. This allayed our fears that the LRCI was Euro-centrist in its practice.
In discussions since then the League began serious work on Marxist political economy, including crisis theory, imperialism and the nature of planning and the Stalinist states. However, at the same time the LRCI became immersed in the dramatic events surrounding the collapse of the Soviet Union and Eastern European DWSs. These events as it turned out were to become the decisive test of the LRCI’s ability to develop and apply its marxist method in practice i.e. of the political economy of the stalinist states and their collapse in practice. As a result of these tests the underlying weakness of the LRCI’s method and programme fully revealed itself. It became clear that because the LRCI did not have good analysis of the dws’s, it could not predict or intersect the restoration crisis in the USSR. The strategic line of political revolution got submerged in the tactic of critical support for bourgeois democracy on the basis of workers illusions in bourgeois democracy.[For our differences on these questions see; WPNZ/A to LRCI June-August 1991 [c] The Analysis of Stalinism; see LRCI May 1992 also.]
For responses to these revisions see Leo “”Where is the LRCI Going?” of July 1993 which reported good progress on political economy discussion; reservations on bourgeois democracy in the DWS’s, and sounds alarm about “a return to centrism or Reformism” with the revival of the minority position on the Stalinist state, and Johnson’s treatment on the IS. See “Observations on the last IEC” Jan ’94 which raises a number of concerns about bourgeois democracy in the DWS’s, the minority position on the state; the Bolivian “strategic defeat” and the “Anglo” and “Eurocentric” IS. And Leo “Why we need a Good Third Congress. p.2 on Democratic Centralism.
The Yeltsin Coup
The first major test was the Yeltsin coup. The LRCI’s position was confused. On the one hand it recognised correctly that neither those behind the coup nor Yeltsin intended to defend state property. On the other it said, against those who claimed that the coup makers should be supported because they were defending state property, that their reason for defending it, namely their caste privilege, was insufficient. [See “Revolution and Counter-Revolution in the Soviet Union” Trotskyist International No 7, Sept/Jan1991/92. “The [conservative faction of the old nomenclature] hoped by their actions on 19 August to defend their privileges on the basis of post-capitalist property relations and sought political legitimacy in the Supreme Soviet….In what sense could it be said that the SCSE “defended the planned property relations”? Only in this: that it resisted their abolition to the extent that they were the “host” off which it was parasitic. However, this massive social parasite was the principle cause of the sickness unto death of the bureaucratically centrally planned economy, of the consequent disillusion of the masses in it”.[ p7-9.]
So according to the LRCI to the extent that the “parasites” still defended “post-capitalist” property, they should not be supported because they caused the collapse of the “planned economy” in the first place. This was a clear break from Trotsky who argued that notwithstanding the Stalinists reasons for supporting state property, workers must bloc with them in this defence. What this break revealed was a residual Stalinophobia present in the LRCI.
This was further revealed in the nature of the support given Yeltsin during the coup. Both sides were restorationist and both posed a threat to workers. It is wrong to say that Yeltsin’s “democratic” method of restoration allowed a “democratic breathing space” for workers to mobilise a political revolution. Yeltsin’s method was that of a restorationist “popular front”. He wanted to use the widespread illusions in bourgeois democracy as the cover for his restoration. So while the conservatives were against Yeltsin, this did not mean that Yeltsin was for the workers. The point is that a fight between the enemies of the workers should have been used by workers to arm themselves against all their enemies. This required a workers united front against Yeltsin’s popular front of democrats, would-be exploiters, nationalists, and more privileged workers. The workers who supported Yeltsin were mainly privileged miners whose union leaders were supporters of restoration. Their leaders were composed of petty bourgeois graduates etc strongly influenced by marketising ideology. [See Trotskyist International April-July 1992 p27 “suicide of the Bureaucracy” p. 31.] Yeltsin flew to mines to call off strike. [p. 34.] The LRCI having argued against the WRP “stalinophobia” that the miners were “influenced by imperialism” [IIB 37 May 1991] turns around and claims in a polemic against the RTT [TI April-July 1992] that the miners led the workers defence of democratic rights. In the space of several months the miners go from being a new labour aristocracy to being the vanguard of workers struggles.
The miners got sucked into the popular front which is proven by Yeltsin calling off their strike! Yeltsin as agent of imperialist restoration tells workers they are going too far [and his supporters disarm the soviets!]. Not all workers got sucked into the popular front. Most stayed at home, but others armed themselves and defended the soviets. They were the vanguard workers who mobilised as a working class united front against the coup, and who also regarded Yeltsin as their enemy. In “Suicide of a Bureaucracy” [Trotskyist International April-July 1992] the LRCI makes light of the socialists who went to defend the “Red House”. Kagarlitsky was clearly a social democrat, but he is committed to “market socialism”, not rapid restoration. The thousands of workers who wanted to defend “socialism” were the obvious vanguard to be mobilised against the Yeltsinites. Those few who did go to the White House, they went to “support their enemies”. [See Interview with Kagarlitsky, IIB 44. November 1991.]
It was necessary for revolutionaries to expose Yeltsin as the enemy of the political revolution.The correct position was to mobilise workers independently of Yeltsin, an open restorationist. If Yeltsin was serious in opposing the coup we could offer a military bloc with him, but only if he “broke with the bourgeoisie”. Kagarlitsky is reported to have claimed that Yeltsin was not serious about opposing the coup since its purpose “was to pull Yeltsin and Gorbachev together into the government of national reconciliation, with emergency powers”. Yeltsin became serious and betrayed the coup when he realised that he could take emergency powers and have his own coup. So by the time Yeltsin got serious he was already taking more emergency powers than the Committee of Emergency, justifying this in the name of “democracy”. According to this view, Yeltsin usurped the coup to strengthen his relationship with the bourgeoisie. [Adams “Interview with Kagarlitsky” in ‘Report on visit to Moscow’ IIB 44, November 1991.
Revolutionaries would have demanded that Yeltsin not only called for and supported a general strike, but called on the army to defect and arm the workers.We would not have defended the White House during the coup [except in the unlikely event that it became part of the defence of workers democracy.] The correct place for revolutionaries was the armed defence of the Soviets. Kagarlistsky also claims that there was no attack on the Moscow or Leningrad soviets by the Emergency Committee. It was the members of the Soviets, members of the “democratic” bodies, not the coup plotters, that attempted to disarm the Moscow and Leningrad soviets. [Kagarlitsky interview cited above.] Against Yeltsin calling off the strike we would have called on the miners to break from Yeltsin. This would have helped Yeltsin to expose himself to those layers of workers who saw the need to build an independent, armed workers movement.
The LRCI called for a “united front” with Yeltsin without conditions. They were prepared to stand side by side with Yeltsin defending the Russian “White House” the symbol of bourgeois parliament. This was capitulating to the illusions in bourgeois democracy by claiming that such “democratic rights” empowered the working class. But talking about democracy in the abstract confuses bourgeois and workers democracy in a degenerated workers state. The LRCI had strongly argued some months earlier against any concessions to bourgeois democracy, although it was never “against democracy” but rather “in favour of workers democracy”. It now abandoned its formally correct position on the grounds that the struggle for bourgeois democratic rights could advance the political revolution .
Trotsky rejected the concept of democracy in the abstract. [See Trotsky, “Is Parliamentary Democracy likely?”. p55. “Defence of Soviet Republic and the Opposition” p291; “Does SU follow principles etc” p37/38.] The LRCI too, formally rejected bourgeois democracy up until the coup: “An extension of parliamentary democracy in the Stalinist states will prove a cruel deception for the masses. This “separation of power” between the apparent equality of parliament and the hidden but real inequality within society is not possible within the degenerate(d) workers states because the economy is not privately owned (p.17); “A freely elected parliament would sound the death-knell of Stalinist control – but it would not herald the victory of the proletariat. This does not mean that revolutionary Marxists are against democracy. It means that we are in favour of working class democracy. A five yearly election of a few hundred Mps is not vehicle for the exercise of such democracy (p.17).; “It is not surprising that in the Stalinist states today the “soviets” – a grotesque parody of the original workers’ and peasants’ councils are hated by the masses. But the alternative is not to turn the clock back to capitalist “democracy”. It is to build completely new councils as the basis for completely new workers’ democracy, a democracy that can and must triumph through a political revolution against bureaucracy”.[ Stalinism in Crisis.p 18].
The LRCI changed its mind when the extent of popular illusions in bourgeois democracy became clear. See the debate over bourgeois democracy at 3rd Congress. .Section on “Changes to Chapter 5” in “Why we need a good 3rd Congress”, and reply “once again on August 1991” “A Backward looking opposition: A Reply to Comrade Leo”. The reason the LRCI thinks that bourgeois democratic rights are progressive in a DWS is that it regards the Stalinist states as “Bourgeois” in form, and therefore, during the August coup it was progressive to bloc with the bourgeois “democrat” Yeltsin against the bourgeois [Stalinist] dictators.
But how is the working class empowered by its illusions in the “freedoms” offered by glasnost and perestroika? This is the path of “democratic counter-revolution” in which workers voted for the end of workers property in the false hope that it would bring real freedom and economic salvation. Again this showed the tendency to succumb to popular pressure to defend the democratic rights of workers by appealing to Yeltsin’s restorationist friends including the imperialists. On the question of “democratic counter-revolution” see Dobbs “Twenty-one weeks is a very long time in politics” and Brian Green’s Resignation letter.
What Green argues is that you cannot view the process of “democratic counter-revolution” as a “political revolutionary crisis”. It is the false perspective of the LRCI which held out hope that bourgeois democratic rights could provide a “breathing space” for political revolution which leads to the false characterisation of this phase of struggle as a political revolutionary crisis. A political revolution must involve the overthrow of the bureaucracy in defence of workers property. The “democratic” aspects of the process resulted from elements of the bureaucracy coopting layers of the working class in support of a “democratic” restoration. A similar weakness had already become apparent in the defence of the Baltic states from Soviet invasion. The LRCI correctly called for the unconditional right to self-determination of the Baltic states from the USSR i.e. in the case of Lithuania calling for independent workers state, and opposed the invasion of the Red Army. Yet at the same time it called on aid from imperialist states [without strings!] to defend these states.
Comrade Johnson in relation to Bosnia says that Imperialists are not “Santa Claus” to prove that there is no way that imperialism can intervene without strings. [“From a Revolutionary to an Eclectic Line on Bosnia” IIB 86] To argue otherwise is to capitulate to democratic imperialism, or social imperialism, the UN and other “fronts” for imperialist interests. We call on workers in all states to send arms and themselves to fight for an independent workers council state. This is saying that democratic imperialism is better than the Stalinist dictatorship of the proletariat!
The correct position for revolutionaries was to organise an armed struggle for a workers council state independent of both the Red Army bureaucrats and the nationalists, calling on the Red Army [like Trotsky did on Poland] to turn their guns on the Kremlin. Siding with one set of restorationists against the other does not advance the demand for an independent workers council state. It was also necessary to call on workers everywhere to support the struggle, including the mobilisation of arms and volunteers from outside Lithuania.
United Fronts with Imperialism
We see here a common problem. With the collapse of the USSR, the defence of workers property becomes subordinated to the defence of bourgeois democracy. This is justified as necessary to enable the working class to mobilise against decades of Stalinist repression and to overthrow the bureaucracy. But where elements of the bureaucracy are busy becoming would-be bourgeois, posing as democrats and competing to attract imperialist backing, how does “democracy” in the abstract advance the political revolution? The LRCI conducted a polemic against Socialist Organiser [in Stalinism in Crisis, published in 1991] on the question of “democracy”. “Socialist Organiser points out that “Everywhere the rallying cry of the revolution has been democracy” (SO, 18-1-90).
For revolutionary Marxists democracy is never classless. It can be, like bourgeois democracy, the disguised dictatorship of the capitalist class. Or it can be, like Soviet Power, the undisguised dictatorship of the working class. It is always the means of one class to rule over another. Parliamentary democracy holds two dangers for the working class of Eastern Europe. It can be the means of demobilising mass action… Secondly, parliamentary democracy can become the vehicle through which the Stalinists carry out and legitimate the sell off of state property etc.” … “For SO neither danger is relevant. There are no Soviets at present, it argues, so any parliamentary system is a step forward. And the restoration of capitalism is not a problem either since Stalinism is only as “backward parallel” to capitalism. Consequently, SOs immediate programme limits itself to the most radical form of parliamentary democracy” [p.39].
On the question of freedom of bourgeois parties. “The Leninist norm on party legality was for freedom to form parties committed to its overthrow. Mandel and the USFI never explain what unique contribution to the political revolutionary process open restorationist and neo-fascist parties could make.” [p35] “The whole political method of the USFI is based on finding unconscious revolutionaries, Stalinist or petty bourgeois nationalist parties which become the instrument of an historic process, alleviating the need for the conscious intervention of a revolutionary Trotskyist party” [p.35].
The problem is that is it not democracy in the abstract but bourgeois democracy which reflects at the level of state power and ideology, bourgeois social relations. Here “bourgeois right” already existing in the form of unequal relations of distribution, are extended to represent the “rights” of private property, ownership of the means of production, contract etc. ie. bourgeois relations of production.Trotsky said:
“Things must be called by their right names. What is involved here is not the introduction of some disembodied democracy but returning Russia to the capitalist road”… “But the masses do not want the landowner, the official, or the boss back. One must not overlook these “trifles” in intoxicating oneself with commonplaces about democracy”. [Trotsky “Is Parliamentary Democracy Likely?” [Writings, 1929.p. 55.] “When people counterpose democracy to the Soviets, what they usually have in mind is simply the parliamentary system.They forget about the other side of the question, the decisive one at that – namely that the October Revolution cleared the path for the greatest democratic revolution in human history… The Soviet system is not simply a form of government that can be compared abstractly with the parliamentary form. Above all it is a new form of property relations. What is involved at bottom is the ownership of land, the banks, the mines, the factories, the railroads.” [p.54]
Democratic demands such as the calling for `constituent assemblies’ where bourgeois-type parliaments are already in existence are necessary, not because they endorse such parliaments, but because they make it possible to replace parliaments with workers councils. However the LRCI goes much further than this. Workers are invited by the LRCI not to oppose openly restorationist parties; not to oppose open restorationists – Yeltsin and co – who are openly grabbing more powers and suppressing workers armed resistance; to bloc with national restorationists against the Red Army and to call on aid without strings from imperialism! Are these not united fronts with imperialism? Or is this to slander the LRCI as it claims? [See IEC resolution p. 5 para 21.]
In the case of the UF with Yeltsin, it was his nominal defence of the White House which allowed him to take emergency powers, including those against the soviets and the communist party, and firming up his imperialist ties, which made him victorious and sped up his seizure of power and the onset of the economic shock therapy. To claim that it was the threat of mass working class support behind the 100’s of miners who supported Yeltsin that caused the coup to collapse is false given that it was the “democrats” not the plotters who had most to fear from the armed and organised working class.
The LRCI claims that: “The tens or hundreds of thousands who gathered around the Russian Federation Parliament and the Leningrad Soviet were hardly sufficient to halt the plotters, but the forces of society which stood behind them were much more formidable. The threat of general strike by the miners and other independent unions, actual strikes in the Kuzbas and Vorkuta and threats of strikes in the Donbas, strikes by industrial workers in Leningrad and Sverdlovsk, the certainty of meeting armed resistance in the republics -all these factors paralysed the armed forces and the KGB. Utilising the unconstitutional nature of the SCSE, the great bulk of the armed forces refused to obey its instructions. Even large sections of the KGB refused to do so and defected to Yeltsin.” [Trotskyist International, April-July, 1992.] In the case of the Baltics, it was the promise of imperialist support for independence that aided the victory of the nationalists and rapid privatisation. In both cases the ability of workers to independently fight for the defence of democracy as the means of defending workers property and of creating independent workers states was undermined by a popular front with imperialism.
In other words, the democracy that was being defended here was already bourgeois democracy and not workers democracy. Bourgeois democracy was that defended by the would-be bourgeois Stalinists in the USSR or the openly bourgeois leaders in the Baltics. [The same could be said for Eastern Europe]]. The political rights won under bourgeois democracy, the right for individuals to vote, freedom of speech and assembly etc. were not rights that enabled workers to mobilise for political revolution. On the contrary they were “rights” that represented the “freedom” of workers to vote for a democratic counter-revolution. To the extent that the League gave political support to bourgeois democracy it was strengthening the arms of capitalist restorationists at the expense of workers democracy. Workers democracy, on the other hand, was and is the ability to fight to overthrow the bureaucracy by arming the workers, winning over the Red Army and revolutionising the soviets from the ground up.
This the only possible meaning that can be attached to workers democracy in a degenerated workers state.
“It would be quixotic, not to say idiotic, to fight for democracy in a party which is realising the rule of a class hostile to us. In such a case, one couldn’t speak of a class democracy in the party and in the soviets, but of “general” (that is, bourgeois) democracy in the country – against the ruling party and its dictatorship…we are fighting for proletarian democracy precisely in order to shield the country of the October Revolution from the “liberties” of bourgeois democracy, that is, from capitalism…All these freedoms are unthinkable outside the regime of democracy, that is, outside of capitalism. One must learn to think one’s thoughts out to the end”. [Trotsky, ‘Defence of the Soviet Republic and the Opposition’, in Writings, 1929.p29].
Writing in 1936 on the impact of the new constitution, Trotsky states that it is a return to the “system of bourgeois democracy based upon the so-called “universal, equal and direct vote of an atomized population. This is a matter, to put it briefly, of juridically liquidating the dictatorship of the proletariat”.[Trotsky, The Revolution Betrayed. P261.] And just as these “freedoms” were bogus and served only to “further reinforce the dictatorship” of the bonapartist bureaucracy, why should the attempts by the collapsing bureaucracy to further such “freedoms” under 1980’s glasnost, or of Yeltsin’s “democracy”, be any less bogus? Yeltsin like Stalin was concerned to liquidate the “dictatorship of the proletariat” in the name of… “democracy”.
The state debate.
We have seen that under the impact of the collapse of the Stalinist states, the LRCI had abandoned its formally correct Trotskyist positions on the DWSs, and begun to justify its support for bourgeois democracy by saying that it was more progressive than the stalinist dictatorship. But this left an embarrassing gap between the LRCI’s theory and practice. By 1993 this embarrassment motivated an attack on the League’s formally correct Trotskyist position to remove the source of embarrassment. The suppression of the contradiction in the stalinist state present in the Degenerated Revolution was now taken to its logical conclusion. A minority in the League wanted the possibility of any contradiction to be theoretically removed. According to this revision, DWS’s consist of workers property in contradiction with a bourgeois state in the form of a stalinist dictatorship. While that position was defeated in 1981, its revival was intended to provide a theoretical revision to justify the League’s adaptation to bourgeois democracy in the crisis of the collapse of the stalinist states.[See “Twelve years On” by Lynch in IIB 61 and replies from Sparkes, Van and Johnson in IIB 62]
The revisionist position on the state can be seen to be one mid-way between the Cliffite position of state capitalism and that of Trotsky.The state capitalist position is very popular in the light of the Stalinist collapses because it never held out any prospect that the Stalinist states were “socialist” or “workers states” of any sort. Their collapse did not signify a defeat for the world’s workers. The state capitalist theory began as an opportunist adaptation to the popular consciousness that Stalinism was totally reactionary, it remains even more popular today because it fits in with the bourgeois claim that reactionary Stalinism was the cause of its own downfall.
The LRCI formally broke with State Capitalism in 1981 and as such could not immediately revert to that position. It could not openly revive the junked political economy of state capitalism. But because the League’s method separates society from the state, it could revise Marxism to allow workers property to coexist with a bourgeois state. This was the thrust of the 1981 minority position on the Stalinist state. If adopted, this position would allow the League to explain the relatively peaceful transformation of the state without “winding the film of reformism back”. If it was already a bourgeois state, it need change only in its personnel and not its class nature. While empirically very neat in accounting for the apparently peaceful transfer of power from bureaucrat to bourgeoisie in the collapsed Stalinist states, this revision went too far. It argued that the post-war overturns in which the bourgeoisie were expropriated was performed by a bourgeois state! [See “The state debate – back to basics” and “Reply to Leo”.]
The majority could not accept this and the revision was defeated at the 3rd Congress in July 1994. But the state debate revealed that the majority in the League also had an understanding of the Stalinist state as predominantly bourgeois in form. This meant that already in the 1981 document The Degenerated Revolution there was a weakness on the question of the Stalinist state. Although the nature of the basic contradiction “the contradiction between a system of property relations and a layer of administrators (the bureaucracy)” (p.30) is formally correct, the way this contradiction is expressed in the dual state becomes subordinated to a fixation on the “bourgeois form” of the state. In Eastern Europe, “The Stalinists moved against the bourgeoisie, having already destroyed their armed power, with the full intention of maintaining a state profoundly similar to that of the old bourgeois type, not replacing it with a state of the new soviet type” (p.51) “We describe the dws as one what has a dual contradictory character, it defends proletarian property forms but it does so with coercive instruments normally associated with capitalist states.” [p.50The Degenerated Revolution.]
In all of this there is a fetishising of the bourgeois form of the state at the expense of its class content ie. the class nature of the state. This ultimately goes back to the suppression of the contradiction in the dual state itself. [See “The State Debate- back to basics”]. This is shown by the fact that the class character of the workers state is submerged into its bourgeois form. This means that the state becomes a mechanical reflection of the social relations of production defined economistically as the suppression of the law of value by means of nationalisation, central planning, and the monopoly of foreign trade. The workers state only comes into existence once the law of value is suppressed, and goes out of existence when the law of value has reasserted itself as “dominant”. Left out of this analysis is the dialectical relationship between the state and the economy in which the state overturn must precede the transformation of social relations in any revolutionary transition. The consequences for programme are obvious. There can be no revolutionary transformations in which political struggle plays a part! History is the result of objective “economistic” laws of change in which the state is a passive partner.[See The Leninist-Trotskyist Tendencies argument “The Marxist theory of the state and the collapse of Stalinism” In Defence of Marxism, June 1995 No 3..ps 10-6.]
If the Stalinist states were in reality bourgeois dictatorships, then it logically follows that they could be defended with bourgeois democracy, and that open bourgeois parties could be tolerated and united fronts with nationalist restorationists in breakaway republics could be made. United fronts with democratic imperialism could be justified against the Stalinist dictatorship. This shows why the LRCI, while an objective, economist process of restoration was under way in the economy, entrusted the defence of workers property not to workers democracy, but to bourgeois democracy – that “juridical liquidation of the dictatorship of the proletariat”. Which ultimately means no defence at all! [See the revised Chapter 5 of the Trotskyist Manifesto which means the LRCI no longer “opposes” openly restorationist parties: “we are not in favour of them”!” We do not oppose any parties, short of fascist, [why only fascist?] that have working class support”. This is the tactic of critical support appropriate for capitalism, introduced into a dictatorship of the proletariat! “Such thoughts are unthinkable” said Trotsky.]
Revising Trotsky on the class character of the state.
The only way the LRCI could characterise the Stalinist states as bourgeois in form was to revise Trotsky’s analysis of the class character of the workers’ states.
According to Trotsky:
“The class nature of the state is, consequently determined not by its political forms but by its social content; i.e. by the character of the forms of property and productive relations which the given state guards and defends”… only the intrusion of a revolutionary or a counter-revolutionary force in property relations can change the class nature of the state”…But does not history really know of cases of class conflict between the economy and the state? It does! After the “third estate” seized power, society for several years still remained feudal. In the first months of Soviet rule the proletariat reigned on the basis of a bourgeois economy. In the field of agriculture the dictatorship of the proletariat operated for a number of years on the basis of a petty-bourgeois economy (to a considerable degree it does so even now). Should a bourgeois counter-revolution succeed in the USSR, the new government for a lengthy period would have to base itself upon the nationalised economy. But what does such a type of temporary conflict between the economy and the state mean? It means a revolution or a counterrevolution. The victory of one class over another signifies that it will reconstruct the economy in the interests of the victors. But such a dichotomous conditions, which is a necessary stage in every social overturn, has nothing in common with the theory of a classless state which in the absence of any real boss is being exploited by a clerk, i.e. by the bureaucracy.” [Trotsky, Not a Workers, Not a Bourgeois State, Writings. (37-38) pps 63-64.]
Trotsky understood the workers’ states as contradictory formations in which workers property was in contradiction with bureaucratic state power. This contradiction would lead to a crisis of underproduction because while the bureaucracy used its state power to extract surplus it could not plan the development of the forces of production efficiently. The state therefore expressed this contradiction between production and distribution. It had a proletarian character so long as it protected workers property, and a bourgeois character so long it appropriated a surplus to maintain bureaucratic privilege.
Trotsky clearly saw the existence of a workers’ state as necessary:
“because the bourgeois norms of distribution still remain in force”…”This means that even the most revolutionary bureaucracy is to a certain degree a bourgeois organ in the workers state. Of course the degree of this bourgeoisification and the general tendency of development bears decisive significance. If the workers state loses its bureaucratization and gradually falls away, this means that its development marches along the road of socialism. On the contrary, if the bureaucracy becomes ever more powerful, authoritative, privileged, and conservative, this means that in the workers state, the bourgeois tendencies grow at the expense of the socialist; in other words that inner contradiction which to a certain degree is lodged in the workers state from the first days of its rise does not diminish, as the “norm” demands, but increases. However, so long as that contradiction has not passed from the sphere of distribution into the sphere of production, and has not blown up nationalised property and the planned economy, the state remains a workers state.” [Trotsky, “Not a workers, not a bourgeois state”. [Writings (37-38) p 67.]
The state therefore has a dual contradictory character. The contradiction would be resolved progressively if workers overthrew the bureaucrats state power; reactively if the bureaucracy destroyed the plan, the monopoly of foreign trade and state property. Here’s Trotsky on the dual power aspect of the dual state in 1928:
” What do we have in reality? We have a strongly advanced process of dual power in the country. Has power passed into the hands of the bourgeoisie? Obviously not. Has power slipped out of the hands of the proletariat? To a certain degree, to a considerable degree, but still far from decisively. This is what explains the monstrous predominance of the bureaucratic apparatus oscillating between the classes…A condition of dual power is unstable, by its very essence. Sooner or later, it most go one way or the other. But as the situation is now, the bourgeoisie could seize power only by the road of counterrevolutionary upheaval. As for the proletariat, it can regain full power, overhaul the bureaucracy, and put it under its control by the road of reform of the party and the soviets.” [“Our differences with the Democratic Centralists” in Challenge of the Left Opposition (1928-29), 294-5.]
Trotsky retains this view in 1936, [pps 52-56 The Revolution Betrayed]. And in 1937:
“The function of Stalin has a dual character. Stalin serves the bureaucracy and thus the world bourgeoisie; but he cannot serve the bureaucracy without defending the social foundation which the bureaucracy exploits in its own interests. To this extent does Stalin defend nationalised property from imperialist attacks and from the too impatient and avaricious layers of the bureaucracy itself. However, he carries through this defence with methods that prepare the general destruction of Soviet society.” [“Not a Workers’and Not a Bourgeois State?” Writings, 37©38, p.65.]
And in 1940 in the Manifesto of the FI, Trotsky wrote:
“..the Soviet Union by virtue of the social foundations laid down by the October Revolution, upon which the existence of the bureaucracy itself is dependent in the last analysis, still remains a workers’ state, terrifying to the bourgeoisie of the whole world…the class conscious worker knows that a successful struggle for complete emancipation is unthinkable without the defense of the conquests already gained, however modest these may be. All the more obligatory therefore is the defense of so colossal a conquest as planned economy against the restoration of capitalist relations. Those who cannot defend old positions will never conquer new ones.” [Writings, 39-40, p.199.]
As the mechanical materialism of The Degenerated Revolution shows, the LRCI never fully adopted Trotsky’s position on the state. This was because it could not apply a dialectical method to the relationship of the state and the economy, since it falsely conceived of the contradiction in the dws’s as between the law of value and the bureaucratic state, with a second contradiction between workers property and the bureaucracy. By making the main contradiction between that of the law of value and the bureaucracy, the LRCI minimises one side of the contradiction – workers property. This means that the main contradiction is not internal to the dws. It negates the internal contradiction between workers property and bureaucratic power as it manifests itself in the dual state. In turn it fails to recognise that the class struggle mediated by the Bonapartist bureaucracy takes place over control of the state.
For Marxists the law of value and the bureaucratic state are not the two poles of the main contradiction. The main contradiction is ultimately between workers property [socialism] and the law of value [capitalism]. But inside the DWSs this is mediated by the bureaucracy, in the form of the bonapartist dictatorship, that balances between the two classes. This means that the contradiction can only be resolved by one or other class taking state power out of the hands of the bureaucracy. Either the working class takes state power and the law of value is suppressed, or the bourgeoisie takes state power and workers property [plan, monopoly of foreign trade] is suppressed:
“The organ of the rule of the proletariat – the state- becomes an organ for pressure from imperialism (diplomacy, foreign trade, ideas, and customs). The struggle for domination, considered on a historical scale, is not between the proletariat and the bureaucracy, but between the proletariat and the world bourgeoisie. The bureaucracy is only the transmitting mechanism in this struggle”. [Trotsky, “Not a Workers’ and Not a Bourgeois state” in Writings. 37-38, p 70.]
The LRCI therefore cannot understand the dialectics of revolutionary /counterrevolutionary social overturns in which: “The victory of one class over another signifies that it will reconstruct the economy in the interests of the victors”.[“Not a Workers, Not a Bourgeois state”. Writings 37-38, p.64.] Instead it views the dynamics of both revolutionary and counterrevolutionary overturns as an objective process at the level of the economy in which the state plays a passive role in determining the class nature of society. On this point the LTT criticism of the LRCI is valid. The failure to understand the role of the state in social overturns leaves a gaping hole in the LRCI’s programme. It places a “question mark” over the USSR up to 1928 when the law of value was finally subordinated to the plan; over the post-war overturns between 1948 and 1950 when the plans came into existence in the EE workers’ states; in Cuba between 1960-62 before the introduction of the first five year plan. In each of these cases, between the workers’ seizure of power, and the subordination of the law of value, what was the class nature of the state? [see the LTT’s “The Marxist Theory of the State and the Collapse of Stalinism” In Defence of Marxism. No 3 1995 p12-13].
By 1993 the consequences of this failure became obvious to us. In response to the collapse of the DWSs, the LRCI rejected Trotsky’s analysis of the DWS, and separating property relations from the state, found that there was no part of the workers state [Red army] that defended state property. The workers state was already a bourgeois state and would need to be smashed. It therefore abandoned the most advanced workers defending the “Red house” in preference for the “most advanced” miners who came to the “White house” to join those who supported bourgeois rights of distribution becoming bourgeois relations of production. The LRCI’s tactic for political revolution fell prey to the bourgeoisies’ strategy of bourgeois democratic counter-revolution which saw bourgeois state overturns after 1990. It now denies that these overturns have occurred still entrusting the defence of state property to some objective process: a combination of worker resistance to the restoration of capitalist social relations, and the development of bourgeois democratic rights which will help facilitate political revolution, and which will hinder the completion of the restoration of the market.
In this way the LRCI adapts to Stalinophobia by making united fronts with democratic capitalist regimes in practice, while at the same time it invokes a formal “Trotskyism” in opposing the restoration of capitalist social relations in the abstract. In giving up the fight for political revolution, it relies on some fundamental economic process delaying restoration to rescue it from the charge of welcoming capitalist restoration. This political capitulation before an objective process has a name in the history of Marxism – it is economism or fatalism. In the history of Trotskyism it has another name – Pabloism. Lets see how the current position of the LRCI on the crucial question of restoration is. [‘The Restoration Debate: When is a workers’ state not a workers’ state?’]
The crunch test for Trotskyism today is the understanding of the restoration process following the collapse of the Stalinist states. It is a supreme test of Marxist method because it involves the counter-revolutionary destruction of the workers states at the hands of world capitalism. By any conception of Marxism, let alone Trotskyism, the restoration of capitalism in these states represent a world-historic defeat for the working class. [Trotsky referred to the prospect of the collapse of the Soviet Union as an “historical catastrophe”. “International Left Opposition” Documents of the Fourth International (33-40) p.26.]
The failure to recognise this and its consequences for programme is disastrous for workers everywhere.The LRCI’s inability to deal theoretically with this question is clear. It is the rewinding of the film of the “classless” state in reverse. While the `form’ of the state is bourgeois, it has no actual class `content’. “It is a bourgeois state form whose social content remains undecided”. [LTT “The Marxist Theory of the State…” p 15.] In April 1991 Lynch stated that Poland was state capitalist (IIB 34); One month later, Lynch has revised the method and declared Poland to still be a workers state, but that it would be state capitalist by the end of 1991 (IIB 36). [See also Permanent Revolution, 9, 1991. p. 84.] Two years later, when the new criteria for the end of the workers state had not been reached, and Dobbs’ alternative analysis had been sidelined, the LRCI invented the concept of the “moribund workers state”.
The LRCI’s current position [i.e. mid1995 ] on restoration, is that only in the former DDR was restoration completed, and that by means of the physical assimilation of DDR in the re-united Germany. In all the other states, despite the existence of “bourgeois regimes”, the economies have not yet seen the law of value dominant. Therefore capitalism has not been restored. Here we have two things. On the one hand the famililar separation of state and economy allows the LRCI to talk of bourgeois regimes in the absence of bourgeois social relations.The Mazowiecki government, formed in August 1989, well before “big bang”, and clearly “intending” to restore capitalism, is termed by Keith Harvey a “bourgeois workers government” according to Lenin’s definition i.e. “a government resting on the working class and its organisations but thoroughly bourgeois and pro-capitalist in its programme.” [Note 4. p.87 “Poland’s transition to Capitalism” Permanent Revolution, 9, 1991,p. 54.] On the other hand, planned social relations still exist because the law of value is not dominant, so therefore a workers state, albeit degenerated to the point of being moribund, still exists. [ibid p 59.]
The LRCI rejects the mere purging of the state being sufficient for the introduction of capitalism. Of the three features that define the workers state “it is the negation of the law of value via some system of bureaucratic planning that is decisive, the other two having a fundamentally technical character in that they are measures that allow planning”. But when is planning planning. According to the LRCI, quoting the World Bank, the situation at the end of 1990 was as follows: “The old planning system has broken down but has not yet been dismantled; meanwhile the structures vital to the functioning of the market have yet to be put in place”. [ibid (note 90, p 94)]. As Dobbs argues the LRCI position on restoration is normative. It seems that their norms are those of the World Bank and the Journal the Economist. What does “commercialisation” of relationships between banks, enterprises and the state mean? It can only mean “free market” capitalism. The LRCI position parallels that of the new right “civic” society theorists who do not accept that capitalism has been restored until the market is fully developed and as a result the conditions for democracy also created. [see Ivan Bernik “Politics and Society in Postsocialism” Journal of Communist and post-communist studies, 24, (2-3), 1994]
The absurdity of this position is clear enough. While the state is clearly smashing the plan and recreating the conditions for capitalist property, and is considered a “bourgeois regime”, it cannot be termed a bourgeois state because it has not succeeded in completely restoring capitalist social relations. This flies in the face of everything that Marx, Lenin and Trotsky wrote about the state, and Trotsky wrote about the Stalinist state. Logically, while acknowledging that the transition to capitalism will take the form of state capitalism, the LRCI’s position makes this impossible. In denying its existence as the “actually existing” capitalism in the ex-workers states, it excludes the possibility of state capitalist stage occurring. Ironically, this may prove a self-fulfilling prophesy if the “completion” of restoration in these state never achieves the abstract “free market” criteria set by the LRCI’s normative method.
“But such a counterposing of norm to fact, that is to say, of the generalised expression of the development to the particular manifestation of this same development – such a formal, ultimatistic, nondialectical counterposing of programme to reality is absolutely lifeless and does not open the road for the intervention of the revolutionary party.” [Trotsky, “Not a Workers’ not a Bourgeois State” Writings 37-38.p68.]
Again the problem goes back to method. How is the capitalist state understood? At the most abstract level, Marxists understand the capitalist state as a superstructural reproducer of capitalist social relations. But this does not mean that the social relations to be reproduced have to be in existence before the state. As we have seen, in concrete historical conditions, the state plays the revolutionary role of creating new social relations as a result of the seizure of state power. In the case of the collapsed worker states as they actually exist historically, [as the result of complex determinations], how would we expect the state to behave in the social overturn which sees capitalist social relations restored? The IS/IEC claims that our method of determining the point at which quantity becomes quality and the end of the workers state is based on exchange and not production relations.
Of course we are only talking of the beginning of the restoration of capitalism not the end of the process. As Trotsky made clear, once the bourgeoisie have state power they must reintroduce capitalism via the agency of the state which retains the form of state property but alters its content releasing the law of value. Once this is achieved by ending the monopoly of foreign trade and the reintroduction of a convertible currency, planning is over and the law of value is not longer suppressed. So it is not just money that plays the key role, but the state itself. How does the LRCI square its normative criteria lifted from Volume 1 of CAPITAL with the reality that it is the state which transforms the social relations from above? Marx abstracted the state from his analysis of capital in Vol. 1 for the purpose of exposition, the LRCI is under no such obligation today. Trotsky had an answer. In the first instance, the state would transform the content while maintaining the form of state property.
Here we deliberately refer to “concrete determinations” to contrast Marx’s method of abstraction which is used to derive an understanding of the “concrete complexity” of the mediations of the state in an historic overturn such as the collapse of the Stalinist states, in contrast to the LRCI’s normative method of proceeding directly from an abstraction “the law of value” and its operation “free labour” to the concrete. “Even under capitalism, the proposition that the value of commodities is determined by the amount of socially necessary labour time required to produce them does not operate according to as set of ideal norms (free competition) but within living contradictions. What is `normal’, in fact, is that capitalism `violates’ the law of value at the particular level so as to realise it at a general level.” [LTT “The Marxist Theory of the State and the Collapse of Stalinism” In Defence of Marxism. No 3, 1995. p.14.]
Its content would be expressed as state capitalism. But the state would precede capitalism: “The inevitable collapse of Stalinist Bonapartism would immediately call into question the character of the USSR as a workers’ state. A socialist economy cannot be constructed without a socialist power. The fate of the USSR as a socialist state depends upon that political regime that will arise to replace Stalinist Bonapartism.”[Trotsky, “The Workers’ State, Thermidor and Bonapartism” Writings, 34-35, p182.]
Because the property relations are “indivisibly bound up with the state” this would require first the “replacement of a workers’ government by a bourgeois or petty-bourgeois government [which] would inevitably lead to the liquidation of the planned economy and, subsequently, the restoration of private property. In contradistinction to capitalism, socialism is built not automatically but consciously. Progress towards socialism is inseparable from that state power that is desirous of socialism or that is constrained to desire it.” [Trotsky, “The Workers’ state, Thermidor and Bonapartism” Writings, 34-35, p 179.] Nor did Trotsky insist that the overthrow of the bureaucracy must be by bourgeois or petty-bourgeois. “Nobody has ever denied the possibility – especially in case of prolonged world decay – of the restoration of anew possessing class springing from the bureaucracy.” [Once Again: The USSR and its Defence”. Writings, 37-38, p 38.]
In case it may be said that this is consistent with the LRCI position, it is not: “the property relations which issued from the socialist revolution are indivisibly bound up with the new state as their repository. The predominance of socialist over petty bourgeois tendencies is guaranteed, not by the automatism of the economy – we are still far from that – but by political measures taken by the dictatorship. The character of the economy as a whole thus depends upon the character of state power… The collapse of the Soviet regime would lead inevitably to the collapse of the planned economy, and thus to the abolition of state property”. [Trotsky,The Revolution Betrayed, P 250.] The new bourgeois state would cease to plan state property, but by retaining state ownership subject it to the gradual influence of the law of value.[“Nationalised property stands or falls with the planned economy” Trotsky, Writings, 35-36, p.224.] It would have to do this by opening-up the economy to world capitalism and by introducing world money i.e. a convertible currency. At this point the law of value as it operates internationally would impact on the former workers state and begin to convert output into commodities i.e. having a socially necessary labour-time determined by the world market.
Why the crucial role of real money? As Dobbs points out, it is the only commodity capable of implementing the law of value by which all goods become revalued in terms of socially necessary labour time, whether or not they are produced capitalistically. Because the dws’s have collapsed back into the world capitalist economy and the state plays the key role of restoring capital, real money is the key agent.
“Once the cash based economy had been established no longer could it be said that any aspect of the workers state economy was left. Any remnants of planning was now swept away by the chase after the highest price. Evidence of this was not long in coming. Within months of the establishment of a cash based economy, scarcity gave way to glut. Whereas in the past we saw long queues of shoppers chasing few goods in the shops, we now saw few shoppers and shops bulging with unsold goods”.[Dobbs, “Money and the Restoration of Capitalism” p.4].
Refusal to recognise this point is a handing a win by default to the Cliffites who cannot explain the shift from crises of underproduction to crises of overproduction!
The reintroduction of real money does not mean the instant privatisation of land, property, or labour-power. Why should it? The law of value operates destructively at first, using world money to set values, and then constructively to set up increasing levels of competition. As it devalues and revalues commodities, it also creates a bourgeoisie. In a period of world capitalist structural crisis, restoration in the former workers state must ultimately move towards full privatisation, as these states sink into semi-colonial capitalist positions in the world economy. This unfettered reign of the law of value is the necessary mechanism by which capitalist production ‘in general’ is restructured to be profitable.
But this requirement is not set in concrete and it is not a necessary defining feature of restoration in any given state. There is no blueprint for the transition from DWS to state capitalism during a world capitalist periodic crisis. Clearly the state capitalist regimes that have re-emerged are crisis-ridden due to the massive devaluations necessary to create new semi-colonies amenable to the accumulation needs of imperialist powers. Even the bourgeois commentators recognise that one factor holding back rapid restoration is the social cost in disorder, and a possible re-emergence of “socialism”. [e.g. W. Wesolowski, “Postcommunist Transition to Democracy”. International Journal of Sociology, 24, (2-3) 1994.]
By the most obvious criteria, namely the actions of bourgeois states in suppressing workers property and introducing a convertible currency, in all of the East European states, and the former states of the USSR, the transition to state capitalism is complete. This was obviously the case in the former DDR too. It was the convertibility of the Ostmark, not any proportion of privatised state corporations, or labour power, that constituted the decisive, qualitative point at which “A” the DDR, was no longer “A” but “B” integrated into an existing capitalist state. For Trotsky: “Vulgar thought operates with such concepts as capitalism, morals, freedom, workers’ state etc. as fixed abstractions, presuming that capitalism is equal to capitalism, morals are equal to morals etc. Dialectical thinking analyses all things and phenomena in their continuous change, while determining in the materials conditions of those changes that critical limit beyond which `A’ ceases to be `A’, a workers’ state ceases to be a workers’ state'”. [In Defence of Marxism.. p. 65]’
In this sense, bourgeois regimes become bourgeois states, not because they merely “intend” to establish capitalist social relations, but because they actively suppress worker social relations, and actively establish bourgeois social relations. But in none of these states, except the former DDR, by the LRCI’s current definition, have degenerated workers states been replaced by state capitalism. The LRCI attempts to overcome the contradiction between actually existing state capitalism, and its abstract economist criteria of the dominance of the law of value, by inventing the transitional category, the “moribund workers state”. But what is a moribund workers state? It is the LRCI’s confused conception of state capitalism! The LRCI defines “moribund workers states” as: “degenerate workers’ states that have restorationist governments in power which are actively demolishing the foundations of the planned economy. The objective of all governments inside the MWS is clear: the complete destruction of the system of command planning and the transformation of the economy into a functioning capitalist market economy”.[Trotskyist International,16, Jan-April, 1995.p.24.] According to the LRCI’s conception of MWS it can refer to a state such a Poland where at one point the economy has collapsed by 1/3 or 1/2 of its GDP, and at another it is growing at more than 2%. This difference is accounted for empirically as a slump, brought about by the end of Comecom, combined with growth originating from a very low level of activity attributed to small-scale capital. Neither the end of planning, nor the dominance of the law of value is admitted.
Democratic Counter-Revolution / Period
The consequences of this mechanical method for the LRCI’s programme are clear enough. Despite the current phase of democratic counter-revolution, its “revolutionary period” is kept alive by the historical schema of incomplete restoration held back by the objective process of “democratic” resistance to the neo-liberal package of free market reforms. This is the idealist shadow boxing of abstract categories in which the LRCI acts as an academic counsel for the working-class-in-general, rather than as a revolutionary vanguard of workers in the flesh.
In rejecting their method the LRCI accuses us of being pessimists and defeatists. Against Dobbs and other oppositionist currents who did not adapt to bourgeois democracy, their analysis of democratic counter-revolution in the Stalinist states is viewed as fatalism. But this is empiricist logic-chopping. To understand that the “cold stroke” restoration was achieved by “democratic” means, does not exclude the possibility of political revolution. It means precisely that our programme for political revolution makes no concessions to the democratic counter-revolution. It means realistically that political revolution would only have been possible by asserting a strong leadership of the best elements in the working class [not the labour-aristocratic leaders of the miners] behind a programme of armed class independence of the bourgeoisie, restorationists, and other agents of imperialism.
Since these conditions were not realised, and the counter-revolution prevailed, we cannot credit any stage in the DCR as pre-revolutionary or revolutionary. This does not mean that we see the DCR as “inevitable” but, given the objective (collapse of the economy) and subjective conditions (the appeal of the popular front for “democracy”) we saw it as very likely. Precisely because we always hold out the hope that revolutionary intervention can change events, our programme would have been to rally the vanguard to defend the gains of October. As it was workers rallied to the call to defend their “democratic” freedoms from Stalinism, but did not use these freedoms to fight the restorationists seizure of power due to the absence of revolutionary leadership. As a result the “democratic” aspect of the CR was limited to workers struggle to abolish stalinism when the stalinists were already abolishing themselves. Because such “democracy” resulted in the overthrow of the workers states it is necessarily a counter-revolutionary democracy. Workers peacefully voted for the overthrow of the gains of 1917.
Because the DCR led to the end of the workers states, and to a world historic defeat, we are forced to acknowledge that this opens a counter-revolutionary period in which capitalism is immeasurably strengthened relative to the world proletariat. Why is there any question that the closing of the chapter of history opened in 1917, is a world historic defeat? Trotsky understood this clearly as an “historic catastrophe”. [“1933 Pre-conference”. p 26. Documents of the FI Pathfinder]. In what way would such an “historic catastrophe” not open a counter-revolutionary period, “democratic” or not? The material gains of October have been largely demolished. The advances of the planned economies have been smashed by bourgeois states. Workers living standards, and workers rights, have been destroyed. The ex-workers states are being forced to become capitalist semi-colonies, and compete economically if not militarily with one another. This creates new sources of surplus-value, and divides workers into competing capitalist states. World capitalism can now claim an ideological victory over “communism” and further weaken the ideological basis for socialism in the working classes. The petty bourgeois left is reeling in retreat from “post-communism” and falling back into a defence of “market socialism”.
But this does not mean that in a counter-revolutionary period all is lost. It does not mean that the world working class has been historically, or strategically, defeated as a class. The destruction of the DWSs represents a huge victory for international capitalism, but it cannot solve its fundamental economic crisis. The collapse of the workers states is part of the world wide offensive of capitalism against workers and peasants to destroy more value and so restore the conditions for profits. In that sense, the collapse of Stalinism is part of the world crisis which cannot avoid further “stagnation and decay” and which can only be overcome by all out “class war” on workers in order to smash their resistance to further destruction of jobs and living standards.
The LRCI draws a straight line from this necessary ongoing “class war” to “revolution”, and claims that we are in a revolutionary period. But to claim this we have to have real revolutions, not imaginary ones. The LRCI claims that its programme is one which leads this revolution? Where? In the ex-workers states, the LRCI fights with a programme to defend and smash the moribund workers states. It demands: defend state property, but smash the state! In the single most important struggle to defend the workers states it imagines still exist, the LRCI offers only confusion, disorientation, demoralisation. Elsewhere, as we shall see, the LRCI abandons the class line to fight alongside bourgeois restorationists, and imperialist agents, for …. “democracy”! Against the LRCI’s charge that those who say we are in a counter-revolutionary period have no programme, and are passive and fatalistic, we say it is your programme that is passive and fatalistic, in a word – bankrupt.
Let us quote Trotsky on the question of tailing “democratic” imperialism:
“As regards the petty bourgeois democrats – conservative and cowardly – they in general cannot imagine any possible role that of toadying to the liberal bourgeoisie or the reaction. This is why to them it is absolutely indisputable that anyone who does not go with them tailing imperialist democracy is ipso facto an accomplice of fascism. In other words they start from the total denial of the possibility of an independent proletarian politics – in this lies the entire secret. The rejection of independent proletarian politics is now pressing upon the petty bourgeoisie with particular force as result of the degeneration of the Soviet Union, the defeat of workers in Italy, Germany and Austria, Spain, Czechoslovakia, and so on ..and in view of the fact that the working class of the world has been thrown backward into a totally defensive position. But precisely in such a period, the revolutionary vanguard has the duty with special vigor and implacability to uphold the independent historical truth of the proletarian vanguard. Here opens the unbridgeable gulf between Marxists and the conservative petty-bourgeois democrats who once a week recall that they are socialists. [Trotsky, Supplement. 1934-40, p. 868.]
Objectivist vs dialectic Method.
Objectivism has a class content. It is not that of the working class which is engaged in class struggle constantly. Objectivism is bred in petty bourgeois intellectuals who do not immerse themselves in working class struggle. It is the product of an intelligentsia whose own interests depend upon their role in reconciling working class and capitalist class interests in capitalist society. They can therefore combine a theoretical or abstract anti-capitalism, with the promotion of democratic reforms as the means of opposing capitalism. This is why objectivism is a petty bourgeois disease inside the working class. This is why Trotsky was so insistent that intellectuals in the revolutionary movement be put on “probation for six to twelve months” so that they become “proletarianised”. [See In Defence of Marxism, p.140.] Ironically, having accused WPNZ/A comrades of “objectivism” for some years, it is the LRCI’s position that reflects this method. What do we find in common in the response to the collapse of Stalinism, in the restoration process, and indeed to the world crisis of capitalism expressed in the present “Revolutionary Period”? In one word- objectivism – the belief that theoretically abstract categories which are unmediated by class struggle, are automatically responsible for historic changes.
The LRCI claims that it is not objectivist because the process of restoration is “mediated by class struggle”.[IEC resolution on the Proletarian Faction, Para. 8] Yes, but what is the class struggle over in a Moribund Workers’ State, workers’ property, or capitalist property? It makes a difference to how the struggle is conducted. While there may be considerable common ground in fighting for workers control of industry etc. how is this to be won if not by the struggle for state power. What is the class character of the state? Workers or capitalist? Where the state has a bourgeois form, but a “classless ” content, what is the content of class struggle? The classic position in the history of Marxism is that of Plekhanov – the fatalism of evolutionary Marxism, later to become the doctrine of Menshevism and Stalinism. In essence, this is the belief that objective processes, including class consciousness, and class struggle, have a predetermined course, and are not subject to the intervention of the revolutionary vanguard.
Objectivism involves a rejection of Marxist dialectics.We base our understanding of dialectics on Marx, Lenin and Trotsky. Of Trotsky’s comments those in Defence of Marxism, and “Philosophical Tendencies of Bureaucratism”, Challenge of the Left Opposition.1928-29 are most useful. Dialectics requires us to understand the way reality is transformed as the result of contradictions. But these contradictions are not`evolutionary’ – outside subjective intervention. On the contrary knowledge allows us not merely to interpret reality, but to actively remake it.
“The life and death task of the proletariat now consists not in interpreting the world anew but in remaking it from top to bottom” [In Defence of Marxism. p97.] Further: “The revolutionary party is the essence of the fusion of theory and practice which makes revolutionary politics possible. ..theory – genuine theory or theory on a large scale- does not at all take shape in direct connection with the practical tasks of the day. Rather it is the consolidation and generalisation of all human practical activity and experience, embracing different historical periods in their materially determined sequence. It is only because theory is not inseparably linked with the practical tasks contemporary to it, but rises above them, that it has the gift of seeing ahead,l that is, is able to prepare to link itself with future practical activity and to train people who will be equal to the future practical tasks….Tactics are the practical application of theory to the specific conditions of class struggle. The link between theory and current practice is made through tactics. Theory, despite what Stalin says, does not take shape in inseparable connection with current practice. Not at all. It rises above it and only because of that has the capacity to direct tactics by indicating, in addition to the present tasks, points of orientation in the past and perspectives for the future. The complex line of tactics in the present – Marxist tactics, that is; not tail-endist ones – is determined not by a single point [in the present] but by a multiplicity of points in both past and future.” [Trotsky, Challenge of the Left Opposition. (1928-29).405-407.]
But if that knowledge is not based upon active intervention in the class struggle, then it becomes dried up [not succulent!], dogmatic and incapable of informing a revolutionary programme. “The fundamental flaw of vulgar thought lies in the fact that it wishes to content itself with motionless imprints of a reality which consists of eternal motion. Dialectical thinking gives concepts, by means of closer approximations, corrections, concretisation, a richness of content and flexibility; I would even say a succulence which to a certain extent brings them close to living phenomena.” [In Defence of Marxism. p 65.]
Dried-up, dogmatic programme! Wrong diagnosis, wrong prognosis! The LRCI’s diagnosis on restoration is wrong and therefore its prognosis is wrong and its programme is disoriented. Its programme is also revisionist because it adapts to bourgeois democracy in the workers states; makes united fronts with restorationists and speeds up the process of social overturns; fails to recognise the overturns; and puts forward action programmes under state capitalism which call for political revolution.
Against this bankrupt programme revolutionaries counterpose a transitional programme of demands with the aim of stopping further privatisations by smashing the capitalist state. The state capitalist regimes are capitalist states, not “bourgeois regimes”. While the restoration process is incomplete, the content of state property is capitalist. Therefore we are for expropriating “state capitalist property” as well as private property under workers control. We are for reforging workers councils [soviets] as the basis of building independent working class organisations for the struggle for power. We also enter united fronts with workers in every arena of class struggle. We fight the capitalist reaction by defending bourgeois democratic rights, opposing pogroms and wars and call on workers of all states to unite and turn the weapons on their ruling classes. Our aim is to fight for a socialist republic as part of a larger federation of socialist states – a “socialist united states of Europe”!
The LRCI is also wrong to talk about a “revolutionary period” since 1989 in the face of a world-wide democratic counter-revolution. This DCR in many of the collapsed DWS and state capitalist states takes the form of reactionary nationalist wars and pogroms, inspired by imperialist states to facilitate the re-partition of the ex-Stalinist states as new capitalist semi-colonies. Where there is a clear national oppression of one state by another we are bound to call for independent socialist republics. Where imperialism is backing states and/or those states also engage in national oppression we do not support national independence. Instead we fight for the international unity of all workers in all states to arm themselves and turn their guns on their bourgeois politicians and defend workers property, or expropriate capitalist property, by a seizure of state power.
The case of Bosnia.
In the case of Bosnia we reject the LRCI line in defense of Bosnia as it is now in a bloc with Croatia and backed by the US and Germany. Bosnia is now clearly engaged in the oppression of other nationalities. We support the original defeatist line on Bosnia and for a workers revolution and the transformation of the inter-communal war into a war against bureaucracies, restorationists and all imperialist states. Instead of killing each other with the aim of creating ethnic semi-colonial capitalist micro-states the workers from all communities should unite and overthrow their rulers and create a socialist federation. Instead of calling more international volunteers to support Izetbegovic, we should be for the expulsion of all the Islamic and Croat chauvinists “volunteers”, as well as other nationalists, and communalist militia. We should be for workers in other countries to volunteer fighters and arms to build anti-imperialist multi-ethnic councils and militias that should expel all the great powers from the region. We support the analysis of Cde. Johnson in “From a Revolutionary Line to Eclectic Line” in IIB 84. We don’t agree with the IS Resolution on ‘The Croatian Seizure of Krajina’ of 8th August 1995, since it fails to recognise Imperialist/Bosnian involvement in the seizure and draw the necessary conclusion – a return to a defeatist position.
Once more we think that the LRCI is putting the tactic of the right of self-determination before strategy of political revolution. The whole thrust of the collapse of stalinism under the combined pressure of imperialism and the crisis of the plan, makes nationalism reactionary in all but extreme cases. In which Eastern European country are capitalist restorationist regimes promoting good relations between ethnic groups? Social counter-revolution produces inevitably ethnic chauvinism. The introduction of free market and capitalist laws means that capitalism’s main enemies are collectivism and working class consciousness, solidarity and internationalism. Individualism and the right to own private property is linked with the right to (re-)create ones own ethnic identity and statelet. Imperialism needs to destroy Comecon and the planned economy. World capitalism pressures companies, regions and republics to be profitable. The companies that in the past were under a common plan must now compete to destroy each other. The same competitive destruction is expressed at national/communal levels.
All nationalist/communalist bourgeois movements try to distract the working class. Instead of fighting against its class enemies (imperialism and capitalism), the workers are split according to national/communal lines. With this the proletariat is divided and workers support is won for national-capitalist interests. The Yugoslav wars were inter-communal wars in which the roots of it were the imperialist and capitalist penetration. Every side is trying to create a communalist bourgeois state ruled by a new class. The arm dealers and imperialist powers increase these rivalries as part of a game around who could have more power in the international arena.
The LRCI had a correct position at the beginning of the war. We were in favour of defending Sarajevo, Tuzla and any multi-ethnic community against the Serbs but without supporting the Bosnian government. We were in favour of defending every community against Muslim, Croat or Serb militia attack. We were for the transformation of the ethnic war into a civil war against bureaucracy and imperialism. We should return to that line. Under imperialist and reformist pressure the LRCI changed and adapted to “democratic” imperialism.
The Leagues’ retreat into centrism.
The structural crisis of the last 20 years has seen the balance of class forces shift in favour of capitalism. Most of the left has retreated from the defeat of “socialism” into some openly bourgeois fall-back position of market socialism. There is the associated fatalism of writing off the Bolshevik revolution as doomed from the start, or at least premature if not adventurist. This amounts to a writing off of revolutionary optimism and the role of the working class as revolutionary agent. For those like the LRCI who formally reject defeatism, it is extremely difficult to resist the rightward pressures of public opinion on the official labour movement. As we have said if the LRCI failed to understand the significance of class composition on the collapse of the FI during and after the war, it cannot be expected to recognise the class basis of the same pressures exerted on it today. ” More precisely we say the crisis is the result of the pressure of bourgeois-democratic public opinion upon a section of the party leadership. That is our class analysis of the unrestrained struggle between the proletarian and petty-bourgeois tendencies in our party”. [p 2 Cannon, The Struggle for a Proletarian Party.]
The temptation is to move to the right to keep pace with the retreating working class, or at least the centrist political groups in practice, meanwhile placing ones revolutionary hopes in inevitability of revolution. A separation between abstract revolutionary theory and increasingly centrist political practice has taken place within the LRCI. To some extent this is inevitable, because the League is cut off from active participation in the class struggle and as such it is left writing literary commentaries on struggles all around the world, increasingly supporting bourgeois democracy rather than independent working class struggles as the way forward.
Its remoteness from the class struggle is a reflection of the League’s structure and class composition. It is dominated by the British Workers Power group, about 50 strong. It has declined in numbers from about 100 around the miners strike in the mid-80’s and now has few industrial workers. Composed mainly of teachers other professionals and students its experience of class struggle is largely limited to the fightbacks in the public sector.
The IS rejects our claim that the LRCI is isolated from the class struggle. It points with pride to the anti-fascist work as evidence that the LRCI is not petty-bourgeois. But anti-fascist work may also be evidence of isolation from the working class, as in the case of the old R.C.P.: “It is interesting that the last public activity of the R.C.P. should have bee a drive against Nazism, admittedly more alarming straight after the Second World War than it has appeared since, for when more meaningful activity is beyond the reach of Trotskyist organisations today they tend to concentrate on this work if they lack support in the broad movement. In the case of the R.C.P. leaders, it was a full turn of the circle, for some of their first work on the fringes of the Labour movement in 1938 had been of this nature. It also admitted that they were back were they started”. [Bornstein and Richardson, War and the International. p 201.]This pattern is repeated in the other sections [except for Brazil] who are all predominantly students, middle-class or well paid workers. This in itself is not a necessary recipe for centrism, but unless corrected by an orientation towards the industrial working class, it will lead to more and more adaptation to petty bourgeois prejudices and positions.
Trotsky on the need to proletarianise the petty-bourgeois in the party! :
“The party has only a minority of genuine factory workers. This is an inevitable beginning for every revolutionary workers’ party everywhere, and especially in the US. The non-proletarian elements represent the necessary yeast, and I believe that we can be proud of the good quality of these elements. But the danger is that we can receive in the next period too much “yeast” for the needs of the party…Our party can be inundated by non-proletarian elements and can even lose its revolutionary character. The task is naturally not to prevent the influx of intellectuals by artificial methods…but to orient in practice the whole organisation toward the factories, the strikes, the unions…The orientation of the whole party toward factory work is intimately connected with the question of the organisational structure of the party. I don’t believe that in view of the very small number of our members and the very short experience in mass work, we could establish emphatic rules for the party organisation now…Our local organisation can choose for its activity in the next period one, two, or three factories in its area and concentrate all its forces upon these factories…The unbreakable conditions should be: not to command the workers but only to help them, to give them suggestions, to arm them with the facts, factory papers, special leaflets, and so on. Such collaboration would have a tremendous educational importance from one side for the worker comrades, from the other side for the nonworkers who need a solid reduction…I believe that such an orientation would also assure a more healthy atmosphere inside the party…Only one general rule can we establish immediately: a party member who doesn’t win during three to six months a new worker for the party is not a good party member. If we seriously practised such a general orientation and if we verified the practical results every week, we would avoid a great danger: namely, that the intellectuals and white-collar workers might suppress the worker minority, condemn it to silence, transform the party into a very intelligent discussion club but absolutely no habitable for workers.” [“The Social Composition of the Party” [Writings 36ª37488©491.]
“If the movement toward us is rapid, especially from the Stalinists, we must have a period of probation of six to twelve months; for the workers no probation, but for the intellectuals, at least six to twelve months…They are the ones to be educated by our worker members…If we are to have a workers’ party we are to make the intellectuals feel that it is a great honour to be accepted by our party and that they will be accepted only if they are approved by the workers. Then they will understand that it is not an intellectual petty-bourgeois party but a workers’ movement, which for time to time can use them for its purpose. Otherwise we can be invaded by intellectuals, and if discussions begin with intellectuals coming from the Stalinists, then the workers will avoid the party.” [Discussions with Trotsky: 11.Writings 37©38 p 297.]
The problem is that the LRCI does not recognise the problem. This is rooted in the inability to understand the material basis of the collapse of the FI and a failure of dialectics.This failure also means the LRCI doesn’t understand the class basis of the difference with the Proletarian Faction. Trotsky had this to say about the opposition inside the SWP: “To certain intellectuals, anxious to indict `bureaucratic conservatism’ and to display their `dynamic spirit’, it might seem that questions concerning the dialectic, Marxism, the nature of the state, centralism are raised `artificially’ and that the discussion has taken a `false’ direction. The nub of the matter however consists in this, that discussion has its own objective logic which does not coincide at all with the subjective logic of individuals and groupings. The dialectic character of the discussion proceeds from the fact that its objective course is determined by the living conflict of opposing tendencies and not by a preconceived logical plan. The materialist basis of the discussion consists in its reflecting the pressure of different classes. Thus the present discussion in the SWP, like the historic process as a whole, develops – with or without your permission, comrade Burnham – according to the laws of dialectic materialism. There is not escape from these laws.”[ In Defence of Marxism p 102-103.]
Despite opposition inside the League in the period since 1989, it had compounded its errors by prematurely “homogenising” its method and driving out opposition. This meant that attempts to correct the League’s method were fruitless. Each mistake saw the League digging a deeper hole for its politics. Dobbs attempt to correct the wrong analysis of restoration saw his alternative analysis rejected on the grounds that it was limited to the level of exchange. Dobbs analysis of the “World Economy” never got the support needed to get published. Nor was his letter of resignation published in an IIB. Johnson’s longstanding critiques of the LRCI were often acknowledged by leading members as correcting the League’s line, while at the same time his “method” was characterised as “sectarian” by other leading members. [See the documents written by Johnson “One Year On” and “Points that was not answered…” ].
WPNZ/A’s criticisms, which over several years have led to the formation of the Proletarian Faction, have met with the standard response – “spartacist/sectarian”. Despite the attempts at opposition, theory and practice has degenerated into an “homogenised” i.e. dogmatic, dried-up, formally revolutionary theory, and a sterile, bankrupt, reformist practice.
The IS/IEC claims, because we reject the LRCI’s conception of Democratic Centralism, that we have abandoned democratic centralism altogether. It is true we have a different conception of democent from the LRCI. The League caricatures our position as one of rejecting democent in the early stages of party building because there are not enough workers. They say that we will have to wait to implant proletarian sections in every country before attempting to build an international tendency. Not at all. We start with the materialist understanding of what caused the FI to collapse and deliberately try to learn from those lessons. Whatever our size, we insist on the necessity to orient to the workers in order to compensate for the dangers of petty-bourgeois composition and of national narrowness [chauvinism]. The CLNZ came up against this problem in relation to the British RCP in the 1980’s. Now we come up against it again in the LRCI.
Our experience is that small, isolated, petty-bourgeois dominated tendencies, geographically located in a major imperialist power, have yet to find a way to overcome these problems. They will not rise above national narrowness until they recognise that the “solution” is part of the problem. The LRCI instead of recognising the need to fight to overcome these dangers, makes a virtue of necessity. Of necessity revolutionaries have to start with “Fighting Propaganda Group’s” that are small, overwhelmingly petty bourgeois in composition, and which do not represent the major forces of struggle around the world. This was the situation faced by the FI in the early 1930’s. But this does not mean that we make a virtue of the propaganda stage of party building, minimising or even fetishising the fact of our narrow petty bourgeois composition and national narrowness.
A symptom of fetishising the early stage of party building, is the tactic of splits and fusions among the fragments of Trotskyist centrism with the aim of “rebuilding”, “reforging” etc the FI. We reject this tactic as the main orientation of any FPG because the FI is dead and cannot be revived. Such a project wears the history of the postwar FI as a stinking corpse around its neck. None of these fragments seeking to breath life into the corpse have survived the current crisis of Trotskyism. This is what we would expect. None of the trotskyist left currents was theoretically armed to cope with the crisis of “trotskyist centrism” posed by the world crisis of capitalism and the collapse of the Stalinist states. The permanent crisis of leadership was already acute by the 1940’s. In the 1990’s there is as yet no recognisable embryo of a revolutionary vanguard. To solve the crisis of revolutionary leadership we must turn our backs on the bankrupt method, theory and practice of post-war fake trotskyism.
The arguments above have shown that the question of the collapse of the 4I, and our fear of the LRCI repeating the same degenerative process, were justfied in 1990. It raises the question as to whether any attempt to build a new international based upon democent can work when an organisation is so small, based mainly in Europe, with few sections mainly of a petty bourgeois composition, and none of them engaged in any systematic direct work in the class struggle. Can democent work when the life of the League is mainly literary uninformed by direct links to the crucial areas of class struggle except in some isolated instances? How in this situation can the League insist that its programme is correct on Stalinism and restoration, [though it admits it is incomplete] in its debates with “centrist” groups? Surely what this amounts to is the building of a new international with a very high entry qualification. Does this not dispose the whole organisation to bureaucratic centralism? Is this the approach of Lenin and the Bolsheviks to building the Revolutionary Communist International? Was it the approach of Trotsky in building the IBO and the 4I?
We don’t think so. The way ahead for small revolutionary splinters is not to set down a new version of the Transitional Programme and expect everyone to agree. This is to beg a number of more fundamental questions about marxism, dialectical materialism, and the living links between theory and practice which need to be tested out in struggle. This is neither a recipe for passivity, nor for a retreat into the libraries as the LRCI claims. On the contrary, by facing reality squarely and calling things by their right name we can approach the task of rebuilding the revolutionary tradition all the more seriously. The crisis of stalinism and the breakup of the rotten centrist tendencies will create small left-moving splinters. It is necessary to develop a method of bringing these groups together as the embryo of a new revolutionary, Fifth, international.
We are opposed to all reasons for orienting towards the fragments of the FI, under the guise of “rebuilding” the FI, as a form of political necrophilia. It is necessary to get away from the entire rotten tradition of degenerate Trotskyism after WW2. But this does not mean that we rule out principled fusions based on theory and practice. Regroupment must flow from a reforging of Marxist method and theory tested in practice. Our main orientation must be to the working class in struggle, to youth, and other oppressed groups. Left-moving centrist splinters who get involved directly in class struggle can be won to a revolutionary programme. But only if our main orientation is to such struggles in the first place. In this way theory and practice are united even at the earliest stages of party building. This is the method on which regroupment can take place on a democratic centralist basis on a number of levels of joint work, leading ultimately to fusion, but only on the basis of a high level of programmatic agreement tested out in revolutionary praxis.
Trotsky set out some guidelines for the International Communist League to build a new party and new international in 1934;
” In this, we must take as our starting point the fact that the only way to convince broad masses of the correctness of our ideas is in action. This is the central point of our new orientation. There are no organisational measures that can get around this step and make it superfluous…Alongside independent propaganda and active work all means must be employed – always in keeping with the concrete situation – to link up with the masses, push them forward, and consolidate new revolutionary cadres from their ranks. Above all this includes:
a. Systematic fraction work in the trades unions…
b. Systematic fraction work in all workers parties and organisations…
c. Very special attention to promoting work among the youth in existing youth organisations as well as by building and broadening new youth organisations.
d. Forming alliances and blocs with organisations striving for a new communist party and International. These must be based on a clear principled basis and concrete formulation of goals.
e. Fusion with such organisations on the basis of a clear communist programme.
f. Under very exceptional circumstances, the entry of an entire section into a centrist organisation…
A correct understanding of the newly created situation and a carrying out of the measures noted above, combined with the revitalisation of the revolutionary forces in numerous countries, will make possible significant progress on the road to the Fourth International as well as effective preparation for the decisive confrontation between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.” [“Tasks of the ICL” July 21 1934. Writings: Supplement 34-40 p 511-512.]
Proletarian Faction WPNZA July 1995.