The Internationalist Socialist League (ISL) Of Palestine Breaks With The American League for the Revolutionary Party (LRP)


12/04/2013 by socialistfight

The ISL Breaks With The LRP

Response by the Liaison Committee for the Fourth International to the ISL of Palestine 28-3-2013
The LCFI is committed to principled revolutionary regroupment of those forces fighting to re-establish Trotsky’s Fourth International programmatically based on the first four congresses of the Communist International and the Trotskyist Fourth International, in particular the Transitional Programme and the Communist method of the Workers United Front and the Anti-Imperialist United Front that produced that document. We seek to do that by splits and fusions leading to political, programmatic and ideological agreement in the first place with those claiming the name of Trotskyism. We understand within a few years of Trotsky’s assassination by Stalin’s agent, Ramón Mercader in Coyoacan, Mexico, in August 20 1940 the Fourth International began its political degeneration and decent into centrism, decimated by US isolationism and the terrible toll in cadres murdered by the Nazis, the Stalinists (often in collaboration) and the infiltration of its ranks by the CIA and GPU to send US Trotskyists sailors to their deaths on the Atlantic convoys and to murder the leading youth leaders, Trotsky’s son Leon Sedov, his secretaries Erwin Wolf and Rudolf Klement and Ignace Reiss, the defector to Trotsky from the Stalinist bureaucracy. Nonetheless there have been serious struggles to re-establish the Fourth International on the above basis post WWII and we intend to defend those theoretical and political gains and to build on them.

The current regroupment process between the International Socialist League (ISL) of Palestine and the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT) is not based on these principles. The RCIT rejects the whole of Trotskyism since soon after the assassination of Trotsky, hence its Fifth International orientation, and Yossi Schwartz, a central leader of the ISL, has dipped into and joined almost every Trotskyist current in the planet without embracing any principles that cannot be junked at the next liaison. Hence the marriage proposal involves the sectarianism of the RCIT/Workers Power tradition and the opportunism of Yossi’s political career and his group.

This is the response of the LCFI to the ISL and its centrist pro-Imperialist positions after the Liga Comunista of Brazil received a letter from Yossi which was clearly influenced by the bourgeois positions of Hamas and the elements of the ‘Arab Spring’. Dazzled by the apparent success of the Arab Spring both groups have failed to identify the hand of Imperialism taking control of the opposition groups in both Libya and Syria. Crucially they have failed to defend the Anti-Imperialist United Front against the proxy forces of Imperialism, foolishly parroting Imperialist propaganda that these are genuine ‘revolutions’. Paradoxically their political capitulation to Hamas in Gaza has brought them close to the position of Israel and Zionism on the Syrian civil war.

Yossi’s Summersaults
After a six year relationship the ISL has severed ties with the left Shachtmanite League for the Revolutionary Party (LRP) and seems to be gearing itself up to leap into bed with the RCIT, whose main section is the Revolutionary Communist Organisation for Liberation (RKOB) of Austria, former affiliates of the League for the Fifth International, whose British section is Workers Power. [1] It will be a difficult courtship but Yossi has accomplished some half a dozen similar manoeuvres in the past and we do not doubt his capacity to pull this one off as well. Accepting the ‘Fifth International’ will be a stumbling block (unprincipled bloc?) but having embraced Shachtmanism for six years it should not prove insurmountable. If his followers can stomach it, that is. Yossi has flipped-flopped so many times that pulling quotes from his political history (unfortunately for him all too readily available online) to refute his current positions is very simple indeed. The Sparts (International Communist League) delight in this. And the RCIT has similar reactionary positions to the ISL on Libya and Syria.

Yossi was a leader of the Trotskyist League, the Canadian section of the Sparts (ICL) for many years, having joined from the Israeli Communist party. In about 1995 he suddenly contacted RP of the Leninist Trotskyist Tendency (LTT). The British section was the Workers International League which LCFI leader Gerry had joined a few years previously. He declared his unconditional agreement with the main thrust of its programme and they in turn began to make political statements on Quebec and its right to self-determination. He claimed to have altered the line of the Sparts over Palestine; he had attacked its refusal to take sides in the 1948 war that led to the formation of Israel. He joined with his partner as the Canadian section of the LTT. He assisted RP in changing the position of the LTT on Israel/Palestine from the ‘secular democratic state of Palestine’ to one ‘bi-national state’, recognising Israel as a nation and therefore its right to self-determination and orienting to the working class, including the Jewish workers. Yossi and Gerry have always opposed all two-state positions. He convinced Gerry of this position at the time, the ‘secular democratic state’ position was just too obviously a capitulation to Yasser Arafat, the PLO and the Arab bourgeoisie, whose slogan it was. We will return to this vital point later.

The only conflict Gerry had with Yossi then was in 1996 when Gerry produced a document on Guerrilla war tactics for the LTT journal In defence of Marxism (same name as the IMT journal) and Yossi, supported by RP, objected to characterising Mao and the Chinese Communist party as part of the workers’ movement. [2] Gerry was reluctantly forced to change the article, but he never agreed. He felt it cast too many doubts over the theory of the deformed workers state in China and did not take into account the international character of Stalinism. The fact that Trotsky said the Chinese CP “tore itself away from its class” when it adopted guerrilla tactics did not prove the matter for him. But it did indicate Yossi’s turn towards Shachtmanism we can now see with the benefit of hindsight.

The LTT broke up in 1999 and, according to a Wiki article, by 2002 Yossi was back in Palestine; he is a Palestinian Jew. The Wiki piece (very likely written by Yossi himself) says: The SWL (Socialist Workers League, 2002-4) was built as a result of a split initiated by Trotskyists who were part of the Israeli Committee for One Democratic Republic of Palestine. The Trotskyists, led by Schwartz, believed that only a program that struggles for a socialist Palestinian republic can unite the Palestinian Arab workers and peasants of the region. With two comrades, Schwartz founded a faction named Militants for the Fourth International. The MFI contained only 5-6 comrades.[3]

It is noteworthy here that Yossi had evidently changed his position and that of his followers and was now rejecting the right of Israel to self determination and denying it was a nation. The SWL immediately contacted the Partido Obrero, (Argentina) and became a section of its International, the Co-ordinating Committee for the Refoundation of the Fourth International, with whom this position gelled. The popular frontist orientation of PO veteran leader Georg Altamira apparently posed no problems for the SWL.

And now for the third summersault on this vital question. Wiki again:
During 2002 and the beginning of 2003, the SWL attempted to launch a movement for one and democratic republic with Abnaa el-Balad movement. The failure to build it, led the minority faction to conclude that it must ally with the Communist Party of Israel and call for voting to its political front, Hadash. The majority, led by the PO comrades, claimed that the 2003 elections should be boycotted. As a result of the factional struggle, the SWL (Minority) changed its views and accepted the right of the Israeli people for self-determination, along the perspective of socialist federation of the Middle East with full cultural and national rights to all minorities. In June 2003, the SWL (Minority) decided to become political supporter of the International Marxist Tendency (IMT) led by Alan Woods and the late Trotskyist politician Ted Grant. It changed its name to In Defense of Marxism Circle (IDMC), starting entry work within the Communist Party of Israel and later on within the Labor Party (Israel). The SWL was dissolved and does not exist anymore. [4]

So now Yossi and his comrades are again accepting Israel as a nation and are defending its right to self determination; the ‘bi-national state’ position once more. But a fourth summersault was soon called for to seduce a new lover, Wiki again: In July 2007 Yossi and his comrades left the International Marxist Tendency because they correctly took issue with the IMT’s refusal to defend Hamas against the Israeli-US-sponsored assault by Arafat on it following its electoral victory in Gaza in 2006. Now Yossi re-adopted “some of the politics of the SWL again but upholding the state capitalism analysis of the USSR and changing their name to the Internationalist Socialist League.

Back again to the ‘one democratic state’ position. To justify this we find that in 2007 he discovered big historical problems with Grant, Woods and the IMT: Further, the ISL comrades understood that behind the IMT’s refusal to defend Hamas against Fatah’s imperialist-backed attacks stood an overall accommodation by the IMT to imperialism. For example, in the case of the Malvinas (Falklands) war of 1982, the IMT refused to defend Argentina, an oppressed neo-colonial country, against British imperialism. Similarly, in the struggles in Northern Ireland, the IMT had refused to side with the Irish Republican Army fighting against British imperialism. And beyond the IMT, the ISL comrades saw that all the major groupings claiming the banner of Trotskyism had at some time or other similarly betrayed the principle of unwavering defence of the oppressed against imperialist attack.[5]

The group’s newly-discovered state capitalist principles then led him to approach the British SWP’s international, the International Socialist Tendency (IST) and he had a number of articles published in International Socialist (still online). The British SWP has a relatively good anti-Zionist position, but in line with its opportunist anti-Imperialism, does tend to capitulate to its Muslim fundamentalist opponents, the Hamas in Gaza and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Yossi accepted that but apparently soon dug a bit deeper:

But a quick review (!) of the IST’s political record revealed a pattern of opportunist positions no better than those of the ‘orthodox Trotskyist’ milieu they had broken from. In particular, the SWP was certainly anti-Zionist but it habitually capitulated to the nationalist and Islamist leaderships of Muslims both in Britain and in the Middle Eastern countries occupied by the imperialists. The ISL had a brief correspondence with the IST, which also revealed the IST’s stunningly cynical attitude toward the prospects for working-class revolutionary struggle in the Middle East: the IST advised the ISL to give up their efforts and move to Britain![6]

This really is too much. Yossi has been active as a Trotskyist for several decades and then, in 2007 and 2008, he suddenly discovered these blindingly obvious truths that any serious Trotskyist should know about the politics and methods of two of the biggest far left groups internationally, the IMT and the IST. The IMT are more obviously directly soft on Imperialism, the IST softness on its fundamentalist Muslim opponents led both groups to a similar position in Libya and Syria – for the IST any fighting anti-regime fundamentalist Muslim zealots are anti-Imperialists which is why they supported the Afghan Mujahideen against the USSR in the 80s. [7] Yossi certainly knew all these details back in 1995-9 when the LTT discussed these matters, but Yossi has an amazing capacity to ‘forget’ all uncomfortable political positions when the next lash-up approaches.

The ISL’s opportunism on deformed workers’ states
In the liaison between the ISL and the LRP the repudiation of Trotskyism on the question of the degenerated and deformed workers states could not be more explicit: The core faith of the orthodox milieu is that the Stalinist states were workers’ states. That view was refuted by the fact that the working class barely lifted a finger to defend ‘their’ states from collapsing and in many cases had been a key force in anti-Stalinist mass struggles. But if the Stalinist states were not workers’ states, what was their class nature? The ISL comrades correctly concluded that if the working class had been oppressed and exploited by those states, then the Stalinist bureaucracy that ruled them must have functioned as a capitalist ruling class.[8]

But the bride to-be is now furiously proclaiming her political virginity despite her large flock of offspring:
It is therefore important to understand the difference between state capitalism with a Bonapartist regime as Syria still is, and a deformed workers state as Cuba or North Korea still are. State capitalism is an economy where the ruling class is the capitalist class and the nationalization of the economy serves the interests of this class. In Cuba the capitalist class was eliminated as a class and escaped to Miami. However the Stalinist state apparatus blocks the road to socialism and unless this block is removed by a political revolution the capitalist class growing out (of) the Stalinist bureaucracy will take over the economy and the state and turn Cuba once again (in)to a capitalist state. We saw such a process already in China that by now is an imperialist state. [9]

Anthropologists have discovered that the myth of ‘Mary’s virgin birth’ arose because of a mistranslation from Aramaic to Greek – the original proclaimed that a ‘young woman’ had given birth, a miraculous event for the parents surely but really rather a commonplace and unremarkable occurrence for humanity as a whole.[10]

We are again obliged to assert that what was involved in the struggle against Shachtman and his followers in 1939-40 was not just some obscure debate about how exactly revolutionists should characterise the USSR but what programme was necessary to steel the revolutionary vanguard of the class to lead the masses to overthrow the US ruling class. That is why we must always seek the defeat of ‘our own’ Imperialist ruling class in conflict with semi-colonial nations or deformed workers’ states as Trotsky defended the USSR under Stalin and China under Chang Kai-shek. We note the defence of semi-colonial nations against Imperialist assault is missing from Yossi’s rediscovered ‘orthodoxy’ above.

Yossi, the ISL and the Jewish working class
The quotes in the IMT’s IDOM from Yossi are still online where he defends Israel’s right to exist: These liberals argue that because of these human rights abuses, Israel cannot be a ‘real’ democracy like the Western states. This however, is a very weak argument. The crimes of the Israeli ruling class are not fundamentally different from those of the ‘Democratic’ Imperialist states. If the radical liberals who insist that Israel is not a Western democracy use the same criteria to classify the imperialist ‘democratic’ states themselves, then they will have to conclude that democracy in any of these countries is a fiction. The actions of Israel in Gaza and the West Bank are no different from those of the US in Iraq. Does that mean there is no form of democracy in the US as well? Furthermore, attention must be drawn to the fact that Israel was not the only capitalist state that created a massive refugee problem in 1947. Israel is not different from any of this. Israel is an imperialist and capitalist state, ruled by the big corporations.[11]

Now all that has had to be junked: and This development is explained by the unique nature of Israel as a colonial settler state. It is a basic truth that the great majority of the world’s workers have “nothing to lose but their chains” and therefore have a fundamental interest in overthrowing the capitalist system. The same cannot be said of Israel’s Jewish workers. Like other labor-aristocratic layers in imperialist countries, they enjoy certain material privileges based on the imperialist status of their ruling class. But unlike even other labor-aristocratic workers, their gains are enjoyed at the direct expense of the Palestinian masses and they live on land stolen from the Palestinians. Thus they see the aggressive actions of the Israeli state as the guarantor of their privileged existence. While the IMT, like most socialist groups, stubbornly closes its eyes to these facts, the future ISLers soon realized that they could not afford to do the same if they were to advance a genuine perspective for the struggle for Palestinian liberation and for socialist revolution in the Middle East.[12]

And here is the nub of the problem, from which springs all other problems. The Israeli working class, as a class, uniquely on the planet, are apparently beyond the pale. And this springs from the fact that they are a unique form of labour aristocracy because the “their gains are enjoyed at the direct expense of the Palestinian masses and they live on land stolen from the Palestinians. Thus they see the aggressive actions of the Israeli state as the guarantor of their privileged existence”.

We cannot accept this uniqueness. Yossi admits that the Israeli Jews now constitute a nation and we agree. He further says that this nation has no right to self-determination because, historically and today, it can only be exercised at the expense of the Palestinian nation. We agree with this also; the Zionist state must be overthrown but the Israeli Zionist state is not the same as the Israeli nation. As we agree on the right of return of all Palestinians expelled from 1948 onwards we must also assert that it surely would not be beyond the wit of a revolutionary Palestinian workers’ state to house, feed and provide for health care and education of all Jews and Palestinians in the region in a Multi-Ethnic state. Personal property, house and land disputes could be settled amicably in arbitration courts without ethnic cleansing.

The bi-national state slogan adopted by the LTT on Yossi’s urgings and then by the International Trotskyist Current (forerunner of the Socialist Fight group) is incorrect we all agree now. It does imply Israel’s right to self determination at the expense of the Palestinians. And we know that no isolated revolution in any state in the region or on the planet could survive on its own for long so the perspective of a Socialist Federation of the Middle East is the correct one.

But we must be far more rigorous in how we apply these slogans as they reflect our perspectives. As Trotskyists we not only believe that bourgeois revolutions must be led by the working class but they must also go on to tackle the tasks of the socialist revolution for that revolution to be permanent. So we advance the slogan of a workers and peasant’s government as a transitional demand leading to the strategic goal of a Multi-Ethnic workers’ state of Palestine as a part of the Socialist Federation of the Middle East.

Yossi on the leadership of ‘the revolution’ in Syria
Yossi now finds himself to the right of his former IMT comrades on the question of the leadership of this ‘revolution’. In an article on 14th March 2013 What the Assad regime was and what it has become – Part Three, the IMT’s Fred Weston says: The situation is now far more complicated. Many revolutionary youth are still fighting to remove the hated dictator and all his hangers on. But what determines the real nature of the opposition as a whole is its leadership and its programme (our emphasis).

It is true that some sections of the Free Syrian Army have clashed with the fundamentalists that they see as having hijacked their revolution, but what is their alternative? The programme is fundamentally one of bourgeois democracy at best and Islamic fundamentalist reaction at worst. We must speak the truth and explain honestly what has happened. We are for the downfall of Assad, but we are also against imperialist intervention and the manoeuvres of the reactionary regimes in the region.[13]

Yossi’s article, Victory to Revolution in Syria assesses the opposition to Assad thus: The ability of the Bashar al-Assad regime to survive so far is largely due to the lack of working class independent mobilization at the head of the opposition. There are many local committees that could become Soviets and which are continuing to provide services. But they lack coordination and a revolutionary strategy. Equally, the resistance is still made up of countless formations of loosely connected armed militants, with no credible unified revolutionary command. The fractured character of this armed resistance is a result not only of the social segmentation and isolation policies enforced for decades by Damascus but also because of the class nature of the opposition at the moment.

The middle class leaders of the uprising are blaming each other for the failure. The seculars blame the Islamists while the Islamist are blaming the secularists. The simple truth is that the middle class organizations – whether they are secularists or Islamists – do not have the program, strategy or tactics to mobilize the masses workers and peasants to overthrow the bloody regime. If the leaders of the opposition hate Assad they are at the same time afraid of working class revolution. If there is a clear lesson to learn it is that without the working class, women and men leading the masses including the lower middle class and without a revolutionary leadership of the working class the stalemate can continue for a longer period.[14]

This is all “if your aunt was a man she’d be your uncle” stuff: “There are no working class independent mobilization at the head of the opposition” – because it is an imperialist sponsored counter-revolutionary opposition. “There are many local committees that could become Soviets”. But they are pigs’ ears and not silk purses. “But they lack coordination and a revolutionary strategy” because they are counter-revolutionary. There is a problem with “the class nature of the opposition at the moment” – it is a reactionary, imperialist-sponsored bourgeois movement. If only, if only, if only it was not what it is it would be something else. At least Fred Weston can acknowledge the bitter truth: “But what determines the real nature of the opposition as a whole is its leadership and its programme”. But Fred ignores Imperialist sponsorship so the unstoppable Arab Spring still dazzles him into support; Yossi ignore these problems and plumbs for the Sunni Muslins.

The ISL and Muslim fundamentalists.
The correct attack by the ISL on the IMT for refusing to defend Hamas against Arafat’s Zionist-US-sponsored thugs has now morphed into a strategic alliance with the fundamentalist Muslims. “Palestine united and free from the river to the sea” is a Hamas slogan used by the ISL and makes difficult any alliance with Israeli workers. This turn away from the working class is far clearer in Yossi’s Victory to the Revolution in Syria statement. In the split debate the ISL charged the LRP with failure to defend the fundamentalist against French Imperialism. We have looked at the LRP statement and the subsequent notes in reply to readers and can find no substance in this charge at all. Despite big differences with the LRP over Libya and Syria the LRP statements on Mali seem principled and correct to us. Moreover the LRP counter charged the ISL with a failure to criticise the fascistic barbarism of the fundamentalist in Mali and assert that as the source of the disagreement that caused the split. We feel there is substance to this charge. In Yossi’s statement on Syria he explicitly defends his position on ‘Islamism’:

Thus it is clear that at least until now the Western imperialists have not armed the rebels and the reason they have not armed the rebels is because they do not trust them as many of them are Islamists. The problem the imperialists have in Syria is the relative strength of the Islamists in the mass movement.[15]

Of course Imperialism has armed the rebels, both on their own accord and via Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. They have not supplied them with heavy weapons or air cover; apparently Syria’s air defences are very sophisticated. And it is true that they are nervous about what the fundamentalist might do to Israel and the reaction of Russia, China and Iran. Yossi’s criticism amounts to a demand that Imperialism arm the FSA now; he may get his wish soon. But the next statement brings out his capitulation very clearly:

At this conjuncture of history in Afghanistan, in Palestine, in Mali the imperialists are on one side and the Islamists on the other. This of course can be changed and this would not be the first time in the history of the last 100 years that the Islamists would serve the imperialists. But today the Islamists are fighting against the imperialists and today Revolutionary Marxists are on the same side as the Islamists in the conflict against Assad’s tyranny without giving the petit bourgeois or bourgeois secular or religious forces any political support. (our emphasis)[17]

We do not have to go back 100 years to find ‘Islamists’ in the service of Imperialism. The CIA sponsored Bin Laden and armed the Afghan Mujahideen against the USSR in the 80s. The CIA sponsored the fundamentalist Muslim zealots in Libya against Gaddafi. And at this very moment they are sponsoring another wing of the same movement that now dominates the Syrian opposition, the Muslim Brotherhood, in Egypt to smash that revolutionary struggle in which the working class has played and is playing such a vital part. Imperialist-sponsored fundamentalists are leading the attacks on the working class in Tunisia. The Turkish AKP government have accepted Israel’s Obama-dictated apology over the murders of their nine citizens on the Mavi Marmara by Israel the better to co-ordinate their assault on Assad. And the very same Hamas, in which Yossi places such faith, has made clear that it will cut a deal with Israel if possible to betray the Palestinians, just as Arafat did before them and Abbas is doing now. It has rejected its traditional alliance with Shi’a-dominated Syria and Iran and now proclaims itself Sunni Muslims in alliance with the Sunni/Whabhi reactionary Imperialists stooges in Egypt and Saudi. On 28 March 2013 the Times of Israel approvingly reported that the FSA had: “retaliated against what it claimed were Hezbollah hostilities and bombarded the group’s interests inside Lebanon”. The Hezbollah are Shi’a Muslims and the third target of the US and Israel.

The unwanted outcome of the Iraq war for Imperialism was to strengthen Shi’a Iran in the region. US imperialism has now adopted a tactic of allying with former Sunni supporters of Saddam in Iraq and Sunnis through the region to bring down Assad and Iran and seize control of the whole area in alliance with the Sunni/Whabhi Muslims. Sure the US would prefer its own secular stooges, they want Ghassan Hitto, “a pro-imperialist Syrian-American capitalist who has been resident in the United States for decades, as prime minister for rebel-held areas of Syria” as Yossi says. But as in 1996 when the Taliban took Kabul and lynched the former President Najibullah the CIA will celebrate in its Langley, Virginia HQ if Assad falls to the FSA. Israel will too, despite some trepidation.

Yossi attacks his opponents on the left who gave uncritical support to Assad, like the Workers World Party, George Galloway, the Maoists and the CPGB (ML). His ‘demolition’ of these groups consists in quoting what they have to say and leaving it to the reader to imagine what is wrong with it. In fact most of what he quotes is principled anti-Imperialist stuff – he could surely find many unprincipled sections uncritically supporting the reactionary Assad if he tried. But he is anxious to employ the traditional amalgam tactic of lumping them all together to direct his attack at the Liaison Committee for the Fourth International. Again there is no refutation of the LCFI quote apart from the assertion what we think all these counter-revolutions were CIA plots.

Of course there were many sincere but politically naïve anti-Imperialist and anti-Gaddafi-Assad revolutionists in Libya and Syria when the uprisings broke out; they supplied the forces for the first uprisings. But reactionary leaders and Imperialist sponsorship quickly swept them into political oblivion. The CIA surely plotted furiously in Libya, but it was the Saudis and the Qataris who did that in Syria – right from the outset they had armed forces in the ground who opened fire on the army and police during legitimate peaceful demonstrations, drawing the fire of the security forces. These were clearly pre-planned operations to bring on the conflict that they knew was brewing because of the legitimate opposition of many to the brutal Assad regime. Also many Sunni sheikhs and mullahs were seeking revenge for the appalling Hama massacre in 1982.

But the masses in the cities, petty bourgeois and working class, backed Assad and still do, because they know he is their only hope of retaining a secular state where they have a modicum of civil rights for their trade unions and religious freedom compared to the threatening imposition of Sharia law by the more backward, rural fundamentalists that Yossi supports, despite ritual disclaimers.

And then he goes on to prove at length what a fake anti-Imperialist Assad is, as if we did not know. The point is the Assad government is fighting Imperialism now and so we are obliged to form an Anti-Imperialist United Front with him against the Muslim fundamentalist reactionaries and bourgeois secular agents of US imperialism. Must we quote Trotsky’s 1837 letter to Diego Rivera again to show it is current conflicts that counts? That Spain in 1936-39 was an Imperialist country and China in 1937 was a semi-colonial country as is Syria in 2013? Didn’t Trotsky know about Chiang Kai-shek’s massacre of the Shanghai Soviet in 1927 when he advocated such a bloc in 1937? Or what Haile Selassie was in 1935 or Vargas in Brazil in 1938? And still Trotsky was for the defeat of the Imperialist forces, even by these reactionaries. In China Trotsky and the early Comintern always advocated an Anti-Imperialist United Front with Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-shek during the civil wars against the northern warlords who were agents of Imperialism, very like Syria today.

The ISL, Mali and the LRP
But let us finish with the LRP quote where they cogently state the correct Marxist position on Mali (despite their errors in Libya and Syria):
So let us be perfectly clear: when we said that we stand in defence of all those facing imperialist attack, we meant it. Yes, since we stand against the French invasion of Mali, identify the imperialists and their allies as the main enemy and call for their defeat, of course we stand in defence of even the most reactionary Islamist groups being attacked in Mali such as Ansar Dine, the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

As our statement noted, we take this stand with full knowledge of the crimes these groups perpetrated against the people of Mali’s North during their time in power. Just how terrible was the rule of Islamist groups in the North? So bad that apparently even Al-Qaeda criticized their version of ‘Sharia’ for being too extreme! On February 14 the Associated Press reported the discovery in Timbuktu of documents authored by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) leader Abu Musab Abdul Wadud (a.k.a. Abdelmalek Droukdel) that were left behind when the Islamist forces abandoned the city. Those documents criticized local Islamist forces for going too far, too fast, in imposing their conception of religious rule. They reportedly singled out for criticism the stoning-to-death of adulterers and the whipping of people for other supposed crimes, attacks on Sufi Muslim sites of worship “and the fact that you prevented women from going out, and prevented children from playing, and searched the houses of the population.”

Because the terribly oppressive nature of the Islamist groups’ rule in northern Mali’s was already well known (as was the brutal role of the nationalists who at first shared power with them), our statement made clear that while we stand in defence of the Islamists against the imperialists’ attacks, we do not think that the masses should sacrifice their struggle against any of those forces that oppress them:

At the same time, our opposition to the imperialists does not mean that we call for the oppressed to necessarily pause their struggle against local oppressors, forgo an opportunity to overthrow them or to in any way compromise their ability to defend themselves by necessarily rushing to the defence of those who were, before the imperialist attack, acting as local rulers and oppressors themselves. Indeed, despite the imperialist attack, in concrete instances armed Islamist or nationalist groups may prove a more immediate threat to the masses; under such circumstances necessity dictates that the oppressed must defend themselves against whoever is the most immediate and grave threat.[18]

If you substitute Gaddafi and Assad for the ‘Islamists’ that was the policy of the LCFI for Libya and is for Syria today. It is, in fact, a clear elucidation of the principles of the Anti-Imperialist United Front. Except the LRP have great problems with proxy forces acting on behalf of Imperialism. Their Shachtmanite origins oblige them to defend the political cowardice of Burnham, Shachtman, Carter and their middle class milieu which Trotsky and the revolutionary US SWP fought as recorded in In Defence of Marxism. Their traditional softness on Imperialism on the former USSR compromises their position on the struggles of oppressed nations today.

[1] ISL’s Resignation Letter to the LRP (March 2013),

[2] Idom, Theoretical journal of the LTT, No 4 (May 1996), Guerrilla warfare,

[3] Wiki article, Socialist Workers League,

[4] Ibid.

[5] Joint ISL.LRP statement,

[6] Ibid.

[7] We do not use the pejorative terms ‘Islamacist’ and ‘Islamist’ that lumps together all Muslims.

[8] Joint ISL.LRP statement.

[9] Victory to the Revolution in Syria! by Yossi Schwartz,

[10] Behind The Bible Fraud—By Robert Adams, New Dawn,

[11] IMT, Is Israel a Democracy? Interview with Yossi Schwartz IDOM 2005,

[12] Joint ISL.LRP statement.

[13] What the Assad regime was and what it has become – Part Three, by Fred Weston, IDOM,

[14]Victory to the Revolution in Syria! by Yossi Schwartz

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid.

[18] LRP/Cofi, February 17, 2013, In Response to Questions from Readers, Socialist Fight

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