17/01/2014 by socialistfight
The CWI and IMT: Right Centrist Heirs Of Ted Grant
The Committee for a Workers International (CWI, of which the British section is the Socialist Party of England and Wales, SPEW) is a right centrist group of Trotskyist origins. The same is true of the International Marxist Tendency (IMT), of which the British section is Socialist Appeal (SA), which shares a common political heritage with the CWI in the person of Ted Grant, who developed the theoretical and political perspectives of both international groups from the late 1940s.
Grant’s basic political error is a failure to understand the state, either the capitalist state or the former degenerate workers’ state of the USSR or the various deformed workers’ states of Eastern Europe, China, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia/Kampuchea and Cuba as they emerged after WWII. Ted Grant characterised a whole swath of left bourgeois nationalist regimes as deformed workers’ states basically because he crudely equated nationalisation with socialised property relations (socialist planned economy) and he did not understand the Marxist theory of the state at all in his later years, a point we shall deal with later.
The Grantites therefore fail to understand or accept that the state under capitalism is the prime instrument of class oppression which has to be overthrown in revolution by the working class. Under pressure of long-term deep entryism in the Labour party this has led them to take a reformist position of socialism through parliament via an Enabling Act and to misidentify the forces of the capitalist state, the police, the army and prison officers as workers in uniform; just more state employees who are therefore entitled to form trade unions and be represented by their chosen shop stewards like any other workers. They see no problem whatsoever with the Prison Officers Association (POA) being part of the workers’ movement, when in reality these state forces should be expelled from the TUC. Their historic and ongoing role in torturing Republican prisoners in the north of Ireland without a word of objection from the Grantites reveals their true relationship to the capitalist state.
In their defence they plead that the Enabling Act orientation is merely a transitional demand used to mobilise the working class and that the demand to unionise the state forces is, in fact, a clever Marxist tactic to split the army and police in time of revolution. So instead the revolution being the act of the working class itself led by the revolutionary party overthrowing the capitalist state it is the act of a left socialist government, Labour left in the case of the SA or some other left government like the Trade Union Solidarity Committee or maybe the No to the EU in the case of the SPEW. The role of the working class then is to defend the revolutionary nationalisation of the ‘commanding heights of industry’ which the ‘revolutionary’ government has already carried out. If the Trotskyist are a majority in this government the result is a healthy workers’ state, if they are a minority it becomes a deformed workers’ state.
Workers in Uniform?
Marxists reject the characterisation of the police, army or prisoner officers as workers in uniform. In 1905 Lenin was very sanguine on how to split the army and police in an insurrection:
The contingents may be of any strength, beginning with two or three people. They must arm themselves as best they can (rifles, revolvers, bombs, knives, knuckle-dusters, sticks, rags soaked in kerosene for starting fires, ropes or rope ladders, shovels for building barricades, pyroxylin cartridges, barbed wire, nails [against cavalry], etc., etc.). Under no circumstances should they wait for help from other sources, from above, from the outside; they must procure everything themselves… To launch attacks under favourable circumstances is not only every revolutionary’s right, but his plain duty. The killing of spies, policemen, gendarmes, the blowing up of police stations, the liberation of prisoners, the seizure of government funds for the needs of the uprising—such operations are already being carried out wherever insurrection is rife, in Poland and in the Caucasus, and every detachment of the revolutionary army must be ready to start such operations at a moment’s notice. i
And Trotsky clearly rejected such an approach also (there was a Social Democratic police chief in Berlin at that time as it was a political appointment):
In case of actual danger, the social democracy banks not on the “Iron Front” but on the Prussian police. It is reckoning without its host! The fact that the police was originally recruited in large numbers from among social-democratic workers is absolutely meaningless. Consciousness is determined by environment even in this instance. The worker who becomes a policeman in the service of the capitalist state, is a bourgeois cop, not a worker. Of late years, these policemen have had to do much more fighting with revolutionary workers than with Nazi students. Such training does not fail to leave its effects. And above all: every policeman knows that though governments may change, the police remains. ii
Of course we do not advocate such tactics as Lenin advocated above today but it is instructive to note that neither Lenin nor Trotsky regarded the state forces as workers in uniform in any way at all. It is a different matter when whole sections of an army or of the police begin to come over to the side of revolution. But then they cease to be state forces and became anti-state forces on behalf of the revolution.
In a polemic in 2006 against ‘Michael’, who subsequently split to join the International Bolshevik Tendency, iii Lynn Walsh relied heavily on the attitude of Marx to the state and Transitional demands in Germany in 1848, quoting from the Communist Manifesto and the later, Demands of the Communist Party in Germany (1848). iv What he neglects to tell us is that the ONLY point in the Communist Manifesto that Marx felt obliged to alter is on the question of the state. Strategy for Revolution in 21st Century tells us.
“The experience of the Paris Commune in 1870 led Marx and Engels to revise one aspect of the Communist Manifesto, in their 1872 preface, the only time they ever felt it necessary to do so. In their words, “One thing especially was proved by the Commune, viz. that ‘the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery and wield it for its own purposes.’“ As Lenin would repeat later in State and Revolution, this means that “that the working class must break up, smash the “ready-made state machinery”, and not confine itself merely to laying hold of it.” v
The IBT replied to this at length in an orthodox Trotskyist document, Marxism vs. ‘Militant’ Reformism, vi with which there is little to disagree and whose arguments we therefore do not need to repeat. It serves as a useful supplement to this document, apart from obvious differences in method of approach to the working class. Failure to understand the Marxist theory of the state was the specific weakness peculiar to Grantism that led to the collapse of that tradition into right centrism in the late 1940s and early 1950s with the rest of the Trotskyist movement. In fact Grant was much better than most other groups in rejecting the capitulation to the political opportunism of Michel Pablo, the post war central leader of the Fourth International, in regard to Yugoslavia at that period, as we shall see later.
How the Sparts see the DSM and the WASP
The Grantite attitude to the state in Britain is mirrored in every country where the CWI or IMT has sections. Here is the account of the International Communist League of the activities of the DSM (CWI) and its front group the Wasp. Care needs to be takes as the ICL never countenances any tactical orientation to the working class via its vanguard at all; it is the most dogmatically sectarian of all the self-proclaimed Trotskyist groups. We would suggest the ability of the CWI group to remain in the ANC, albeit as a DEEP entry group, until 1996 was how they built their group; a clear revolutionary programme might have attracted far more repression but in reality the ANC do not distinguish between self-proclaimed Trotskyist groups. As long as an outside centre was maintained the entry tactic was at least a possibility. Total entryism is only possible for a brief period of a year or two. Nevertheless the account vindicates our own position that they are reformists everywhere on the state:
According to the Daily Maverick (15 October), a meeting of wildcat strike leaders took place in Marikana, representing miners from several provinces. The article noted in particular the presence of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), which has been active in the Rustenburg area. The DSM says that a national strike coordinating committee was launched on October 13 and that the committee is calling for a general strike on November 3. On October 19, Vavi and NUM officials were pelted with rocks by striking workers at AngloGold Ashanti’s mine in Orkney, North West Province. Earlier, several DSM members were detained by mine security and grilled by police after addressing the strikers. The workers movement must defend the DSM and all others victimized for their role in the miners struggle!
However, mineworkers and others need to be aware of the thoroughly opportunist history of the DSM, which is affiliated to the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI [in Canada, Socialist Alternative]) headed by Peter Taaffe. The Taaffe group formed the Marxist Workers’ Tendency of the ANC, remaining inside this bourgeois party until 1996. In a speech in New York given shortly after the 1994 elections, Taaffe, then the leader of the British Militant Labour Tendency, opposed the call for a workers’ party, saying: “The working class in South Africa has to go through the experience of an ANC government. The slogan of a workers’ party was an incorrect slogan in the period prior to the elections in South Africa. We wanted the biggest possible ANC majority” (WV No. 602, 10 June 1994).
The DSM emerged from its entrism inside the ANC when the latter’s “national liberation” credentials were starting to wear thin as a result of economic policies aimed at reassuring investors. Indeed, few if any left groups persist in uncritically cheerleading for the regime and its leaders, who are unashamedly riding the “gravy train.” But the DSM, like the other reformists who hitched their wagon to the Tripartite Alliance, maintains its class-collaborationist politics, which are at bottom the same as those of the SACP and COSATU tops. This can be unmistakably seen in the DSM’s attitude toward the state (see the 1994 Spartacist pamphlet, Militant Labour’s Touching Faith in the Capitalist State). Just like their reformist big brothers, the CWI/DSM believes that the police are part of the workers movement.
In the 1994 speech cited above, Taaffe supported the cop union POPCRU (Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union), enthusing that “these very same black police who were tools of the apartheid regime, were radicalized by the situation.” His conclusion was: “We can neutralize the forces of the state and win them over.”
One can cite any amount of evidence disproving this suicidal illusion, the cop massacre of miners at Marikana being an obvious example. In the wake of that event, the DSM, in a 17 August statement titled “For a General Strike to End the Marikana Massacre,” violence-baited the Lonmin strikers, rebuking them for “killing first two security guards, on Saturday, and then two police officers on Monday” (quoted in a 23 August SSA statement published in WV No. 1007, 31 August). Now, in a 16 October statement, the DSM refers to a wave of workers militancy sweeping through the country, which supposedly includes “the police as well as the municipal workers”! Of the Taaffeites, it can truly be said that they have learned nothing and forgotten nothing. The police, black and white, are enforcers for capitalist rule. We say: Cops, prison guards and security guards out of the unions!
The DSM calls for “nationalisation of the mines under workers’ control and management.” A black-centred workers government would expropriate the mines, banks, industry and land without compensation, while struggling to extend the revolution internationally. Such a government could only be put in place through the expropriation of the South African bourgeoisie as a class, i.e., through proletarian revolution. The DSM statement does not mention socialist revolution, and this is not an accident. They don’t believe that the workers must smash the capitalist state and replace it with a workers’ state. In Britain, Taaffe’s organization claims that industry will be nationalized through the mechanism of an “enabling bill” passed by the bourgeois Parliament. This is just a version of what the British Labour Party did after World War II: it’s social democracy, not communism. vii
The Marxist theory of the State
Of course every Marxist student knows Engels famous 1884 definition of the state:
The second distinguishing feature is the establishment of a public power which no longer directly coincides with the population organizing itself as an armed force. This special public power is necessary because a self-acting armed organization of the population has become impossible since the split into classes. The slaves also belong to the population; as against the 365,000 slaves, the 90,000 Athenian citizens constitute only a privileged class. The militia of the Athenian democracy was an aristocratic public power against the slaves, whom it kept in check; but to keep the citizens in check as well, a gendarmerie was needed as described above. This public power exists in every state; it consists not merely of armed men but also of material adjuncts, prisons and coercive institutions of all kinds, of which gentile society knew nothing. viii
In 1843 Marx in On the Jewish Question attacked the idea of a regime of rights in the French Constitution of 1793 partially on the basis that policemen were needed to enforce these ‘rights’:
Security is the highest social concept of civil society, the concept of police, expressing the fact that the whole of society exists only in order to guarantee to each of its members the preservation of his person, his rights, and his property. It is in this sense that Hegel calls civil society “the state of need and reason.” … we see that the political emancipators go so far as to reduce citizenship, and the political community, to a mere means for maintaining these so-called rights of man, that, therefore, the citoyen is declared to be the servant of egotistic homme, that the sphere in which man acts as a communal being is degraded to a level below the sphere in which he acts as a partial being, and that, finally, it is not man as citoyen, but man as private individual [bourgeois] who is considered to be the essential and true man. ix
So here we see that the policeman protects the property of the bourgeoisie against the worker as his central task, according the Marx. But there are all forms of state, the democratic, the totalitarian, the fascist and there are workers’ states. And it was on the analysis of the new workers’ states that appeared after WWII that Grant displayed both his adherence to certain Trotskyist principles and his weakness on the state. It is widely acknowledged outside his own ideological circles by any that are willing to make a serious objective assessment that his defence Trotskyism’s heritage on both Yugoslavia and China in 1949 were principled and correct in so far as they went.
In 1957 Bill Hunter produced his anti-Pabloite document, Under a Stolen Flag which must rank as a spirited defence of Trotskyism, albeit with the left centrist weakness we have analysed in On the Continuity of Trotskyism. However in Ted Grant The Unbroken Thread we find a curious gap in the history from the mid fifties up to the early sixties. As we learn from A Brief biography in Revolutionary History 2002:
In 1953 a split took place in the International, with Healy and Cannon leaving to form their own grouping. This left the International without a section in Britain. After some discussions, Ted’s group was recognised as the official British section. By the end of the year Ted again became full-timer worker, and a new magazine, Workers International Review, was launched. x
Bill Hunter points out that this was on the basis of supporting Pablo, with whom he certainly disagreed.:
We must remark, in passing, that Pablo and Co. show scant courtesy to the little group in Britain which made an unprincipled fusion with last year. How now, Comrade G(rant)? You have justified your bargain – two professionals and a magazine, in exchange for a ‘section’ in Britain with a few ‘principles’ thrown in – by declaring that Pabloism has changed. This shabby covering has now been torn away by none other than Pablo himself. On Page 1 of its thesis the ‘International Secretariat’ informs is that: ‘The more and more dramatic events have followed one another in the USSR, the Peoples Democracies and the capitalist countries since the 4th World Congress, have completely and brilliantly confirmed this analysis. (i.e. the whole Pabloite war revolution nonsense – SF) xi
(We will analyse how the CWI’s reformist theory of the state evolved from a relatively good position by Ted Grant in the late 1940s and early 1950s to today’s reformist one with a thin veneer of Trotskyism in a separate document, The Marxist theory of the state…)
The CWI’s pro-Imperialism on Ireland
Nowhere is the theory of the state more needed than in the north of Ireland, nowhere is the Grant tradition as obviously capitulatory as there. We will examine the article from Militant on the 1974 Ulster Workers strike that brought down the Sunningdale Agreement which was proposing a timid reformist power-sharing agreement which would grant some modest protection against discrimination to the Nationalist, i.e. anti-Imperialist, community in the north of Ireland. In an article in the Irish Examiner, Welcome for Orange Order is one step on long journey, July 03 2012, Gerard Howlin comments on the reception given in the ballroom in Leinster House, in the Irish parliament, to the grandmaster of the Orange Order Edward Stevenson. Giving the historical background he comments:
In 1795, as tensions mounted, a clash occurred called the Battle of the Diamond in Co Armagh. It was a nasty scuffle involving Catholic Defenders and local Protestants. It did, however, give birth to the Orange Order. If the Seanad chamber is a backdrop for the Protestant Enlightenment in Ireland, the order can be viewed, as one historian remarked, as the key force of counter-revolution. It was the political genius of the order that it could hold dukes and dustmen in its popular but sectarian embrace. xii
The skilled Protestant workers, the institutionalise aristocracy of labour who have traditionally looked to Apartheid South Africa, to Zionist Israel and to the US deep South Jim Crow for inspiration, despised the poor ‘papist’ nationalist/Catholic workers and were always determined to form a cross-class alliance to deny them employment, housing, welfare and life itself whenever “croppy” became too uppity. But Militant pandered to them thus:
The whole basis of life in modern society depends on the working class. Nothing moved in Northern Ireland without the permission of the working class. Even bourgeois commentators, hostile to the aim of the strike were forced to comment on the power and ingenuity displayed by the working class. Thus the Times correspondent commented on the situation in the Protestant Sandy Row district of Belfast…”Between fifty and a hundred men have operated a rubbish clearance service, going round in the backs of lorries while others swept the streets. At the weekend, brown paper rubbish bags arrived and 22,000 have been given to families in the past three days.” Connections were made with sympathetic farmers who supplied the areas with cheap food. xiii
This is the sentence that leaps out at you from that article: “Nevertheless, the strike also demonstrated in a distorted form and on a reactionary issue, the colossal power of the working class when it moves into action.” Who would express such admiration for a neo-fascist uprising? Would we admire the strength and discipline of Hitler’s Brownshirts because this showed us what these workers could do if there were socialists and not fascists? And remember the material basis for discrimination in the north of Ireland. Here was the real aristocracy of labour that was originally gathered in 1795 in the Orange Order, whose declared purpose in its initiation oath is still to “counter-revolution”. “Nothing moved in Northern Ireland without the permission of the working class” cannot but choke you. This “nothing” is primarily other workers, Protestants who had solidarity with nationalist workers and nationalist workers themselves who were assaulted with fascistic enthusiasm by Loyalist thugs with the covert assistance of the British Army and the not-so-covert assistance of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The various bourgeoisies, from the Irish pro-Imperialists to the bedrock of Imperialist orthodoxy in the columns of The Times, of course, were not hostile to this strike, supported it but had to be careful in how they expressed their support, as Militant were. Hence the mutual admiration between Militant and the pro-Imperialist bourgeoisie here: “Isn’t it great to have the workers going on strike for us instead against us for a change?” is the common theme here supported by Militant. Those in South Africa will recall Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s strikes against the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal. Do we all remember how supportive The Times were to the 1926 General Strike and how it complemented the workers on their ingenuity etc? We though not!
A sectarian catastrophe cannot be ruled out in Northern Ireland; particularly if the trade union movement fails to act now. But Marxists reject the siren voices who speak and write of the ‘inevitability’ of religious civil war. Events in Britain and Southern Ireland can exercise a profound effect in the North of Ireland. The worsening economic situation in Britain and its effects in Britain will provide the opportunity for cementing a class movement of Catholic and Protestant workers. But as in the past, these opportunities can be missed if the lessons of the last six years are not learnt. The bitter religious divisions between the working class will not be bridged by Christian homilies. Sectarianism will not evaporate if the trade union leaders act as if by ignoring it, it will go away by itself. The working class of Northern Ireland have demonstrated their colossal power during the May strike. (our emphasis). xiv
So workers participating in a reactionary fascist attack on other workers demonstrated the colossal power of the working class! This is the most outrageous sentence we have ever read for a group which claims to be socialist. It is true that an earlier article, whilst bad, was written in Ireland and at least had some clear opposition to the strike.
They were using that power for reactionary aims and to assist their own worst enemies, the Craigs, Paisleys and co. Let them use it together with the Catholic working class – and they will be an invincible force. xv
A Measure of Equality
But that was the very reason for the strike, they feared the “Catholics”, in fact all the political opponents of British Imperialist occupation of the six north eastern counties of Ireland, would gain a measure of equality, they would be forced to stop discriminating against them and within their own ranks “Rotten Prods” would emerge to show solidarity with the nationalists and anti-imperialists, as they did in the late teens and early 1920s. This labour aristocracy was not going to yield its privileges to anyone because they knew that covertly the entire British establishment supported them, including the trade union bureaucracy and the Labour party, whose left flank was guarded so assiduously here by the pro-Imperialist Militant Tendency of Ted Grant. The strike was to stop the possibility of the nationalist community gaining that limited measure of equality and its success guaranteed just that for another generation at least. The power of the working class was exercised to prevent workers unity and the Socialist party, whilst advocating unity, believes it can only be on the basis of the support for the British Empire. They are THE most pro-Imperialist sect on the left.
Irish Marxists – gathered around the Militant Irish Monthly – are the only tendency in the Irish labour movement, on the basis of a Marxist programme and perspective, capable of furthering the process of re-arming the Northern Ireland workers on class lines. xvi
This is a complete lie. This utterly shameful article, still proudly displayed in the archives of the SP/CWI, displays this as a political current prepared to go to all lengths to defends the interests of British and global Imperialism, and covering this up with a thin veneer of leftist pseudo-Marxist gobbledegook.
But that was 1974 what about today? The politics are the same, as Socialist Fight No 12 pointed out:
In an article on 16 January 2013, Northern Ireland: Flag issue turmoil illustrates failure of the ‘peace process’ Ciaran Mulholland, CWI Northern Ireland, (the Socialist Party) gives us this on the riots:
Whilst the total numbers involved are relatively small there is no doubt that the issue has acted as a lightning rod for widespread dissatisfaction with the peace process which has built up over time in the Protestant community. There is real and genuine anger among large layers of Protestants. There is a sense that “everything is going in one direction”, that is, Protestants are losing out to Catholics. In the view of many Sinn Fein are pushing too hard for concessions-as Progressive Unionist Party (the PUP is linked to the UVF) leader Billy Hutchinson has argued “Sinn Fein are acting outside the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement”. This is the reason that the PUP have given for reversing their previous conciliatory approach on the flags issue. A banner displayed in the Mount Vernon, where Hutchison works as a community worker, proclaims “North Belfast Against Cultural Apartheid”.
What ‘the Protestants’ and ‘the Catholics’ believe
The stuff that “the Protestants” believe is completely false however as the article goes on to explain. They are blaming “the Catholics” who are sufferings a great deal more than themselves.
At the same time many Catholics continue to believe that they are subject to sectarian discrimination. They hold that they are dealt with more harshly by the police. They believe that they are more likely to be poor and unemployed than Protestants for historic reasons, reasons of geography and because of the residues of sectarian discrimination, there are still differences between the two communities in economic terms. The poverty rate among Protestants at 19 per cent is lower than the 26 per cent rate for Catholics. In the three years to 2010 on average, 28 per cent of working-age Protestants were not in paid work compared with 35 per cent of Catholics.
So the stuff that “the Catholics believe” is, in fact, true. But nonetheless we must be careful to avoid drawing any conclusion about whose beliefs are correct and whose are far-right reaction:
The views expressed in each community are sometimes true, or partially true. Sometimes however genuinely held beliefs are simply not true. The reason that such a complex situation can arise is that there are genuine interwoven grievances on both sides. The real problem is that the peace process has failed to deliver for working class or young people whatever their background. The peace process has failed because under capitalism genuine peace, and real economic advancement for working people, is not possible. Under the structures established by the Good Friday Agreement it is assumed that everyone belongs to one or other of two mutually exclusive communities. Under capitalism all that is possible is a sharing out of political power, and a sharing out of poverty and unemployment… Whilst all sections of the protestant community have been affected by the flag issue it finds its sharpest expression in the most deprived working class areas. The rioting and the road blocks are in part a distorted form of class anger directed at the unionist political establishment represented in the assembly and on the executive.
But the problems predate the GFA and indeed the Orange state itself from 1921, although both made a bad situation much worse. It is a complete lie that the ‘two communities’ are equally to blame. In the medieval church that type of argument as it is made above was known as equivocation.xvii And “class anger” my arse. Was it class anger that drove some backward German workers to don Brownshirts and attack Jews? Leon Trotsky said they were the “storm troopers of finance capital” and that is what we are seeing emerging in Belfast. Of course it is a lie that Loyalist anger is directed primarily at the UUP/DUP and the police. However some rioters justified attacking the police because it had too many Catholics (by February 2011, 29.7% of the 7, 200 officers were from the Catholic community). But anger is only directed against all these because they seen as slacking somewhat in their traditional job of discriminating against ‘the Catholics’.
In a 1999 review of Loyalists, by Peter Taylor Socialism Today told us that the PUP “initially moved in a socialist direction”. The Socialist party described the neo-fascist uprising that was the Ulster Workers’ Council strike of May 1974 was displaying “the latent power of the working class” in the “interests of the majority of the Protestant population” as they saw it; right or wrong we must respect this prejudice!
In October 1974 current PUP leader Billy Hutchinson, murdered Catholics Michael Loughran and Edward Morgan in Northumberland Street, Belfast (which links the Protestant Shankill to the neighbouring Falls Road, a Catholic area). Hutchinson has often stressed the importance of the working class nature of Loyalism and has argued in favour of socialism, he is an atheist and has never been a member of the Orange Order. The SP have always pandered to this neo-Strasserite xviii Loyalist ‘socialism’ – which opposes the rights of the nationalist community – a “socialism of idiots”, as SPD leader August Bebel famously described it c. 1890.
The Malvinas War, The CWI Defends The Empire
If we scroll on eight years we come to the Malvinas war against Argentina in 1982. Again Ted Grant could be relied on the rush to the assistance of the empire threatened by an uppity semi-colony claiming back their national territory seized as a colony by the British Empire in 1690. Here is another shameful article in defence of Empire but also containing the key rejection of Marxism on the state and revolution:
The Falklands war is not a reason for calling off the struggle against the Tories – on the contrary, the slaughter of the war and the additional drain on British capitalism, for which big business will try to make the workers pay, underlines the urgency of stepping up the struggle to bring down the Tory government.
The labour movement should be mobilised to force a general election to open the way for the return of a Labour government to implement socialist policies at home and abroad. Victory of a socialist government in Britain would immediately transform the situation in relation to the Falklands. The Junta would no longer be able to claim to be fighting British imperialism.
A socialist government would make a class appeal to the Argentinean workers. A Labour government could not just abandon the Falklanders and let Galtieri get on with it. But it would continue the war on socialist lines. First, a socialist government would carry through the democratisation of the British armed forces, introducing trade union rights and the election of officers. Working class interests cannot be defended under the direction of an authoritarian, officer caste, which is tied to the capitalist class by education, income and family and class loyalties. The use of force against the Junta, however, would be combined with a class appeal to the workers in uniform. British capitalism will probably defeat the Junta, but only through a bloody battle and at an enormous cost in lives. Using socialist methods, a Labour government could rapidly defeat the dictatorship, which was already facing a threat from the Argentinean working class when Galtieri embarked on his diversionary battle with British imperialism (our emphasis).xix
The above passage contains all the reformist repudiation of the Marxist position on the state as well as the gross national chauvinist pro-Imperialism so characteristic of this sect. For instance the “workers in uniform” stuff was explicitly repudiated by Lenin and Trotsky in their writings on the capitalist state as we say above. And as for continuing the war if they were in government that is simply a piece of gross social Imperialism, socialist in name but clearly Imperialist in content to toady to British ruling class interests and placate British middle class and workers’ pro-imperialist prejudices. We recall the pressures of the time (having been assaulted for defending Argentina’s right to the Malvinas) but what good is a Marxist who cannot stand up to the pressures from his or her own ruling class? They are simply playing games.
Workers Power’ document
The key elements of the reformism of Grantism under a thin veneer of Marxist gobbledygook are exposed in the 1989 document by Workers Power. Whilst not agreeing with many details in the piece it does address the essence of the group’s anti-revolutionary reformism:
In place of the strategy of the proletarian seizure of power Militant puts forward the schema of a Labour government with a parliamentary majority and a socialist programme, implementing the transformation of society by legislative means. Peter Taaffe argues:
…” in the pages of Militant, in pamphlets, and in speeches, we have shown that the struggle to establish a socialist Britain can be carried through in Parliament backed up by the colossal power of the labour movement outside. This, however, will only be possible on one condition: that the trade unions and Labour Party are won to a clear Marxist programme, and the full power of the movement is used to effect the rapid and complete socialist transformation of society.”
At the level of strategy this amounts to a parliamentary road to socialism via an established reformist party—that is a bourgeois workers’ party. Nowhere in the pages of Militant or its associated journals do we find any references to the need (in Britain) for workers’ councils as the organs of struggle and of proletarian power in order to effect the revolution. Nowhere do we find the argument for a workers’ militia as an alternative to the capitalists’ military machine. Nowhere do we find the call for a revolutionary party, distinct from all shades of reformism and centrism, as the necessary leadership for the proletariat in the revolution. Parliament and the existing organisations of the working class are deemed sufficient. Indeed, the job of workers’ organisations is merely to supplement and enhance the work of the left parliamentarians. Even these existing reformist led organisations are not cited as an alternative form of political power to Parliament. As Taaffe explains:
“The struggle to enhance the position of Labour in Parliament has always been supplemented by the struggle outside Parliament, both of the trade unions and the Labour Party.”
This parliamentary strategy leads to a crucial error; the down-playing of the role of the working class, of its self-organisation as the key to its self-emancipation in the course of revolution. If anyone, particularly the reformist leadership of the Labour Party, were in any doubt about the Militant’s commitment to Parliament, Rob Sewell (now a leader of the rival IMT which retains the politically identical positions on the state GD) repeated the essence of their position in an indignant reply to the reformist Geoff Hodgson:
“The idea put forward by Hodgson that we want to ‘smash parliamentary democracy’ is completely untrue. Unlike the sectarian grouplets on the fringe of the labour movement we have stressed that a socialist Britain can be accomplished through Parliament, backed up by the mobilised power of the labour movement outside.” The swipe against the left in order to appease the right is a classic characteristic of centrism. xx
But perhaps they have advanced since those days? Not a bit of it. Now that they are no longer in the British Labour party they can feign well to the left of the IMT/British Socialist Appeal on domestic as well as in international issues. But the essential reformist politics remain the same. They are still for the parliamentary road to socialism only now they are sure the Labour party cannot do it but a more radical, reformist workers party can perform this task and tread the path of the old Communist parties via parliament. This radical party is the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) in Britain and the Workers and Socialist Party (WASP) in South Africa, to name but two. The line is still the same, lacking even the radical posturing of Gerry Healy’s WRP in its strident denunciations of all such reformist ideas whilst cosying up to the reformist Ken Livingstone and defending his sell out of the in 1984 and toadying to Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein and the Ayatollah Khomeini.
Libya and Syria today
In recent international questions they have been begun to adopt a third camp position, as can be seen in Libya and Syria. That is they support the Imperialist sponsored ‘revolutions’ on the ground but denounce all open Imperialist intervention. This is the classic “neither Washing nor Moscow” (or in these cases Tripoli or Damascus) but international socialism” line. They therefore seek the working class fighting in their own class interests which naturally, for them, means they will not defend the semi-colonial regime against a proxy way by Imperialist-sponsored forces. But it is at least refreshing not to hear the gross apology for imperialist-sponsored outright reactionary forces in Libya and Syria (Obama’s ‘revolutions’) that we get from groups like their former comrades in the Socialist Appeal/IMT, The Socialist Workers Party (SWP/IST), the Mandelite Fourth International, the Alliance for Workers Liberty, Workers Power and the Austrian-based Revolutionary Communist International Tendency, (RCIT) on these questions. But they began in Libya as straight forward pro-imperialists:
No serious left force can advocate a policy of abstention where working people are subjected to murderous attack by a ruthless dictator like Gaddafi. Clearly, we had to give political support -the position of the Socialist Party and the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) from the outset – to the people of Benghazi when they drove Gaddafi’s forces from the city in a revolutionary uprising. xxi
But the “people of Benghazi” were led by CIA ‘assets’ (who turned out subsequently to be liabilities) and were lynching Black workers right from the start. The flying of King Idris’ flag and the whole history of CIA sponsorship of these groups and leaderships should have been enough to identify who the ‘revolutionaries’ in Benghazi were. But with that un-repudiated history of pro- Imperialism the shift is only a tactical one to capture those who are seeking genuine Trotskyist revolutionary politics and will not trouble too much to examine what they are really saying and how it gells with past positions. As Socialist Fight No 7 said:
The Socialist party (CWI) are somewhat more circumspect (that their former comrades in the IMT):
While many Libyans are celebrating, socialists have to be clear that, unlike the ousting of Ben Ali in Tunisia and Mubarak in Egypt, the way in which Gaddafi has been removed means that a victory for the Libyan people was also a success for Imperialism. Without NATO acting as the rebels’ air force or the soldiers, weapons, organisation and training that NATO and some other countries like the feudal Qatar autocracy supplied, Tripoli would not have fallen to the rebels in the way that it has
So a more truthful approach, the ‘revolution’ was won with the assistance of Imperialism. That has sorted out their former comrades in Socialist Appeal but one is left floundering by the idea that the “victory for the Libyan people was also a success for Imperialism.” We know that was what they said on the TV comrades but it was a lie. You cannot advance Imperialism’s victory and the victory of the working class at the same time, they are mutually exclusive, and one must advance at the expense of the other, a ‘zero sum’ rather than a ‘win-win’ situation we would suggest. Of course the use of the word ‘people’ might mean that they accept that capitalists and workers have ultimately the same political and economic interests in faraway lands. But once you pay the first tranche of the protection money the Mafia will always be back for more.
The CWI take a similar third campist line on Syria today. This does put them to the left of those like the Alliance for Workers Liberty (who do equivocate, it is true), the Fourth International (Mandel) and Workers Power and the RCIT, who are still batting for their reactionary pro-Imperialist ‘revolution’ abandoned now by the more pragmatic leftists.
The History and Genesis of the National Shop Stewards Network
The Socialist Party/CWI-sponsored NSSN was founded at a conference called by the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) on July 7, 2007. The proposal to re-establish a shop stewards movement came from an RMT sponsored conference to discuss working class political representation held in January 2006.
Its founding conference saw a dispute over Clause 3 of the constitution, which pledged not to interfere in the internal affairs of TUC affiliated unions. This effectively meant that no criticisms were allowed of the left trade union bureaucracy, whose mouth piece it was to become. After four year’s existence it embarked on a new turn. Following a unanimous decision of the steering committee, on 22 January 2011, the NSSN held a conference to discuss launching its own anti-cuts campaign. A motion from a majority on the steering committee proposed establishing an anti-cuts campaign “bringing trade unions and communities together to save all jobs and services”, whilst a minority on the steering committee argued against the motion, opposing setting up an anti-cuts campaign and argued for “working with Coalition of Resistance, Right to Work and other groups, to build and launch a single national anti-cuts organisation early in 2011”. In the debate both sides had equal speakers and shared responsibility for chairing the debate which lasted two and a half hours, with the conference voting 305 to 89 to establish an anti-cuts campaign committee which was elected immediately afterwards.
So after four years of having successfully resisted attempts to delete Clause 3 at successive conferences in 22 January the NSSN split and became more openly an obvious front for the TU bureaucracy. All non-SP members, apart from one or two, resigned from the Steering Committee. Here is Gerry Downing’s resignation letter:
I hereby resign from the Steering Committee of the NSSN because the decisions of the Special Conference of 22 January effectively meant that the NSSN had openly become a front for the left trade union bureaucracy. Such aspirations as it had to represent the independent interests of the rank-and-file of the working class was now totally abandoned. Despite its left posturing on correctly demanding of anti-cuts campaigns no platform for Labour councillors who vote for the cuts the fact is that no national trade union, right or left, has demanded that Labour councillors it sponsors, supports or influences vote against the cuts or refuse to implement them, let alone seeks to mobilise its members for industrial action to defeat the cuts, against Labour Councils where necessary.
In fact Unite has explicitly instructed its councillors to set legal budgets to implement the cuts and all other national union leaderships have a similar attitude. Therefore hollow left posturing by the NSSN SP leaders whilst covering up for these left bureaucrats is no opposition at all. The RMT now calls off legally endorsed strikes on “legal advice” that a judge MIGHT grant an injunction! The NSSN, in gaining the support of RMT General Secretary Bob Crow and having RMT President Alex Gordon on the Anti-Cuts Committee means the prospect of endorsing the illegal strike action and occupations now increasingly necessary to fight cuts and privatisation has all-but disappeared from the perspective of the NSSN. I therefore call on all serious trade union militants to build a rank-and-file movement independent of ALL TU bureaucrats and attend the London meeting on April 9th of those who supported Jerry Hicks for Unite General Secretary to found the Grass Roots Left in Unite and encourage such formations in all unions. Non-unite members who agree with the perspective welcome. Details of venue etc to follow.
Gerry Downing Unite
Workers Power’s Jeremy Dear made the following analysis:
Gordon (Alex Gordon, RMT President at that time) claimed that the NSSN opposition wanted:
• the NSSN conference to take a position on the Unite leadership campaign (presumably in support of Jerry Hicks)
• the NSSN to oppose the Trade Union Freedom Bill on the grounds that it did not go far enough
• to refuse a £5,000 donation from the RMT because this would put the NSSN in hock to that union’s leadership.
None of these claims are true. It was a smear speech, aimed at undermining the minority before the debate. Nevertheless, Gordon’s speech did more than show what an unprincipled bureaucrat he is, it showed that Crow and his cronies in the RMT bureaucracy had reached a deal with the SP leadership. Crow and co. would support the SP’s bid to split the anti-cuts movement with a rival campaign, in order to weaken the Socialist Workers Party (which they both hate, especially after a series of articles in Socialist Worker critical of the RMT’s leadership of the tube dispute) and secure the NSSN as uncritical cheerleaders of the left wing union leaders. xxii
As we wrote at the time:
The SP have an almost totally compliant membership, clearly to the right of the SWP, for instance. if we ignore the odd cloud of doubt that passes over the faces of leftists like Rob Williams and others when a particularly nasty piece of chicanery is imposed, like the forced split in the NSSN on the 22 January. Jane Loftus, a member of the Socialist Workers Party voted November 5 2009 to accept the interim agreement and call off the strikes, just as the strength of the postal workers was starting to be realised and she was forced to resign from the SWP as a result. But the SP backed this same sell-out deal with the usual lame excuses:
“But once they had a chance of looking at what was achieved by their mass strike action, many of the workers have drawn the conclusion that the deal (unanimously agreed it seems by the elected postal executive committee) does allow the CWU to regain some element of trade union control in the workplace and therefore does push back the attacks of the bosses. One local CWU leader in the South West wrote to his members: “We have forced a vicious employer back to the table”. He went on to say: “We know the interim deal does not settle every single problem in the industry but it gives us a foothold … Royal Mail set out to destroy your union. We are still here”. The idea, often put forward in the right-wing media, that workers are ready to strike at the drop of a hat is wrong. In this case many think the interim deal opens the way to the reversal of the attacks on them and their union.” xxiii
The CWU are now proposing to accept privatisation because it is “illegal” to strike against it and will only seek to mollify some of the worst excesses of the deal afterwards. And Bill Fox and Jane Loftus, CWU Gen Sec and President are still touring to left circuses as part of an anti-cuts and privatisation opposition! Counterfire has no pretence at internal democracy so is a most fruitful arena for reformist demagogs like Tony Benn whose bottom line is the parliamentary road to socialism with the working class as a stage army who will assist in getting Labour governments elected. God forbid that they should do anything to seriously threaten capitalism or even seriously damage ‘the economy’ by any strike longer than one day.
The SP/NSSN alibis Len McCluskey’s betrayal at Grangemouth
The Socialist party Scotland statement, Trade unions must learn lessons from Grangemouth setback, on 25 October 2013 said:
There was huge pressure on the shop stewards at Grangemouth following the closure announcement on Wednesday 23 October. More than half of the permanent workforce at the whole Grangemouth site had been told their jobs were gone. The oil refinery was closed. According to Ineos it would remain so, unless the union agreed to huge cuts in workers’ terms and conditions. The possibility of closure enduring was a real one. In addition, the Unite Scottish secretary, Pat Rafferty, supported by the Unite general secretary Len McCluskey, was at that point urging that the union sign up to the company’s demands.
It laments more in sorrow than in anger McCluskey’s “mistake”. Then on the 28th on the Sunday Politics show hosted by Andrew Neil Bob Crow said he “takes his hat off” to Unite for saving jobs. On the 29th the Socialist party piece was reposted but “This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 25 October 2013 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.” The only difference we noticed was that the words, “supported by the Unite general secretary Len McCluskey” were gone so that it was all down to that nasty Unite Scottish secretary, Pat Rafferty. They really cannot fart now without Bob’s say so.
Of course they can attack the Labour party leaders and Miliband for starting the whole affair but that is because, unlike the Socialist Appeal, they are no longer in the Labour party. But essentially their politics are the same. So the SA can be fighting syndicalist and the SP can be fighting anti-Labour and still end up in the same place. They bow, like Rob Sewell, to Stalinist class traitor Jimmy Reid also. And of course there is no mention of their voting for McCluskey against Jerry Hicks in the election and no mention of a rank and file movement to defeat and replace the bureaucracy. However they did mention elsewhere the fact that Jerry Hicks got 80,000 votes as evidence of the strength of the left in Unite (which obviously excludes themselves as leftists in Unite). Even ‘sadder’, they thought, were the actions of Billy Hayes, another sponsor of the NSSN with Bob Crow, who likewise expects and gets no criticism in return:
The sell-off of the remaining publicly owned parts of Royal Mail was completed over the last week. This represents the sad passing of the last remaining form of publicly owned communications.
Of course genuine revolutionary socialists, trade union militants and fighters for the class are not ‘sad’ at these betrayals at all but hopping mad and even more determined to expose these class traitors and replace them with a genuine revolutionary and fighting leadership.
These are the affiliates of the NSSN: National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), Communication Workers Union (CWU), National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), National Union of Journalists (NUJ), Prison Officers Association (POA), Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU).