18/10/2013 by socialistfight
The Revolutionary Internationalist League On Workers Power
RIL on Workers Power in 1995
“This position has got the LRCI leadership into a series of hopeless tangles and convoluted arguments, as their positions have zigzagged in response to the shifting circumstances of the Bosnian war. One general feature has become steadily more pronounced however, the adaptation to the feeling among sections of liberal western opinion that ‘our’ governments must ’do something’ – a sentiment that plays directly into the hands of imperialism. So now we have the ludicrous position of the LRCI trying to sound revolutionary, and calling for the UN and NATO out of the Balkans and condemning the bombing, while at the same time demanding that ‘our’ government sends arms to the Bosnian forces and opens the borders to (Islamic) ‘volunteers‘ going to fight with them. In other words Workers Power does not want the imperialists to fight in the Balkans; they just want them to get their clients and proxies to do the fighting! No wonder that this reactionary nonsense has blown the LRCI apart and exposed it as an unprincipled bloc.”
That is exactly what they did/do in Libya and Syria today! This document could be published by us but it would need a long introduction to clarify the differences on the questions of the Anti Imperialist United Front and Special Oppression. But is has very valuable insights on the politics of Workers Power and the RCIT today. This document was written by Nick De Marco, now a rich Barrister who has apparently;y abandoned revolutionary politics. But in 1995 he wrote well, even if the seeds of the later degeneration of that group are apparent in some of the political positions.
Gerry Downing 2011.
Introduction: Who are Workers Power?
Workers Power in Britain is one of the many ‘left’ organisations that likes to call itself Trotskyist (Revolutionary Marxist). On paper, they like to appear as the ‘purest’ of Marxist, but like so much of the rest of Britain’s left they have gone through a steady process of political degeneration and opportunist adaptation. Increasingly they have become just another irrelevant sect, more interested in selling their paper than building any real struggles that can forge a new revolutionary vanguard and party. They have built up an ‘international’ in much the same way as British groups like Militant, and their own former ancestors, the SWP: instead of developing a genuine democratic internationalist party, they have set up ‘satellite’ sections who must follow the line of the British leaders. They call this the ‘League for a Revolutionary Communist International’ (LRCl), but as we shall see in this document the LRICI is no more than the extension of Workers Power in Britain.
Since our organisation, the Revolutionary Internationalist League (RIL) and internationally the International Trotskyist Committee (ITC), was formed in the early 1980s we have had many debates and differences with Workers Power. In our history there have even been suggestions that our organisations fuse as we have both been traditionally more on the ‘left’ than most of Britain’s centrist groups that describe themselves as Trotskyist. The differences we have had with Workers Power have often seemed academic to outsiders, as if we were arguing about unimportant secondary questions, when really we were ‘all on the same side’. But we have always maintained that behind even the smallest of differences lies a difference in method which is fundamental to building a successful international revolutionary party.
Over the past few years and in particular since the collapse of the Stalinist regimes in Eastern Europe in the early 1990s Workers Power has rapidly speeded up its process of political degeneration and decay. It has come out with more and more rotten positions, it has developed an undemocratic and unhealthy internal regime and it has made a complete mess of just about every major area of practical work it has engaged in. Today, Workers Power holds out no hope of winning militant workers and youth to its organisation, it has become part of the British left’s living dead. How was it that an organisation with so many correct revolutionary positions could become such an unhealthy waste of space? Unfortunately, the story is all too familiar; the biggest danger for revolutionary organisations in the world today is their own political degeneration as a product of the defeats of workers’ struggles since the 1970s.
It should be important to anyone who wants to make a revolution to study this process of degeneration and decay, to learn the hard lessons necessary to ensure that the mistakes of the pest are not repeated in the future. That’s why we direct this pamphlet not just at those members or ex-members of Workers Power, but to anyone serious about building a movement that can smash capitalism and oppression in Britain and throughout the world.
Workers Power’s rapid degeneration has led to e series of splits within their international movement and the British section. Three important splits have occurred this year, the most recent being the most important – the complete break of all the Latin American comrades from Workers Power – the split of the Peruvian section. Poder Obrero (PO) and the Bolivian section also called Poder Obrero, late in September, as well as that of the ‘Proletarian Faction’ of the Workers Power New Zealand group in early September. In this pamphlet we hope to give an account of some of the differences that led to the splits as many show signs of the rottenness of Workers Power’s method. But this won’t be a commentary on someone else’s divorce but a drawing out of the real problems of political degeneration that we have seen and struggled against in Workers Power for years.
We will outline what these differences mean in practice, from the anti-racist struggles ` Britain to the implications of Workers Power’s counter revolutionary positions on eastern Euro; We will spell out what Trotskyists would doing these areas, and what our small organisation h as been able to achieve compared to Workers Power.
Worker’s Power’s Centrist Method In essence Workers Power’s centrist method can be reduced to a sectarianism towards the working class and youth, which characterises its passive propagandistic arrogant and literalist approach to class struggle and an opportunism to the various ‘left’ misleaders of the class; centrist groups like Militant and the SWP and ‘community leaders’ etc. In their practical work this is shown in their endless attempts to achieve joint conferences of centrists instead developing action to fight racism for instance.
Whilst Workers Power often zigzag between this sectarian and opportunist moods both to the workingclass and centrist left reformist leaders we will show how in theory and practice Workers Power’s method contains this major weakness. Along with this Workers Power displays a centrist attitude to the transitional programme, the method of Trotskyism. Whilst churning out lists and action programmes chock-a block with fancy transitional demands for struggles throughout the world when it comes to practice they desert the transitional method altogether. It is almost as if the transitional programme is a bib for them to regurgitate and beat their breasts with, but they don’t really believe it applies to the situation in the concrete class struggles. This sectarian opportunist revision of the transitional programme is given ‘theoretical’ legitimacy in their misnamed-named hodgepodge ‘Trotskyist Manifesto’.
We will show that in theory and practice workers Power rejects the transitional programme when it is most required. Increasingly, Workers Power has been further characterised by a total capitulation to bourgeois democracy, and middle class public opinion. We have said this of them for five year and now some of their own sections have split away from them making the same charge.
The adaptation to middleclass public opinion has reached its peak in regards to the pro-imperialist policy Workers Power advance in relation to the war in Yugoslavia. but goes back to their fears of raising the demand ‘victory to Iraq’ during the Gulf war and their constant refusal to defend the gains of the October workers revolution in the former Soviet Union from capitalist restorationist and counter revolution which cloaks itself in the hypocritical gown of western ‘bourgeois democracy’.
It has recently been revealed that the present leadership of Workers Power and the LRCI has for years been advancing the policy that it is correct to fight for bourgeois democracy within degenerated workers states. This shows a remarkable ignorance of class rule in capitalism, an ignorance all too often shared by groups like the USFI and Matgamna’s Socialist Organiser who are so desperate to prove to the middle classes that socialists are more in favour of bourgeois democracy than the bourgeoisie. Since its first progressive period during the English Civil War and the French revolution, bourgeois democracy has always been the political system to which capitalist exploitation is best suited. It is about abstract ‘human rights’ that hide class power. Counter revolution within the workers’ states, whether healthy or degenerate, was always going to be best disguised in bottles marked ‘democratic rights’, especially when the so-called ‘Communists’ are so eager to swallow the whole bottle without studying the ingredients. Our pamphlet will show how Workers Power capitulation to middle class public opinion, which in Britain and most imperialist countries today means bourgeois democracy, has led it to adopt openly counter revolutionary positions.
What is the relevance of Workers Power?
The British left is dominated by ignorance and philistinism. So often a member of a larger organisation, i.e. SWP/Militant will reduce every political question to size, who’s got a bigger group, you or us? Revolutionaries who have studied history know this is absurd. Lenin split with the Mensheviks because he demanded an organisation of professional revolutionaries, of leaders not just a mass party open to anyone who wants to sign the dated line on a card.
Our organisation, the RIL is a dramatic example of why we value quality over quantity. Over the past few year the RIL has led more successful struggles and engaged with more militant working class youth than many of the organisations ten or a hundred times our size. Of course we want to grow, but building an organisation that leads real struggle, and develops real leaders has always been our priority.
Workers Power, on the other hand, is a perfect example of a sect. There might even be ten times as many members of Workers Power as are in the RIL, but when did they last lead a struggle, when did they last even organise a march? Increasingly, Workers Power hasn’t done anything. They can go to other peoples meetings and marches, criticise everyone else, and sell a few papers and that to them is active political work. No wonder that Workers Power has never tried to even talk to the working class youth that the RIL attracts to political activity they know those youth wouldn’t be in the slightest bit interested in a group of people who treat revolution like an interesting schoolboy hobby.
Workers Power has become a sect; if it had the 9000 members the SWP boasts of it wouldn’t be any better. It has no perspective of winning or even leading anything. And not surprisingly the sect has become a clique (the term cult might imply something more exciting than the mundane existence of this increasingly irrelevant group). A clique of leaders and full timers who go back years with one another run the group and demand personal loyalty from all its members. Some of the material from the recent splits will make that so apparent we need not comment further.
So, you may ask, if Workers Power are increasingly so irrelevant why waste our time writing about them? And this is a good question because the RIL does not believe that in order to win anyone to revolutionary politics we must first deal with the problems of Workers Power. The opposite is true. The conservatism, routinist sect that Workers Power has become only serves as an example of how not to build a revolutionary organisation, how not to win workers and youth, how to abstain from struggle and criticise everyone else, how to turn revolution into its opposite – into a drinking club for left wing people who want e hobby and like to sound sanctimonious and a little bit intellectual. Part of the reason we write this pamphlet is because Workers Power has been an important force on the left before.
Many people genuine about the need for revolution have joined or looked with interest upon them. Despite our disagreements, we ourselves have fought shoulder to shoulder alongside them in battles against police, fascists, right-wing bureaucrats or other centrist groups trying to shut us up. It is important for the education of new generations of revolutionaries to examine the cause of the cancer that has taken over Workers Power.