28/01/2014 by socialistfight
To The Political Platform Splitting From The RMG
We read your split document and, as you will have realised from the document, On the Differences in the Revolutionary Marxist Group, we support you in the split and in your characterisation of the positions of the RMG majority. In particular you are right to orient towards the WASP, towards the EFF and towards the Numsa split from the Cosatu/SACP/ANC.
We produced a long document to assist you and your comrades when you engage with the WASP and the DSM so that it is on the basis of being fully conscious of what their political history and political essence is.
In this regard the emphasis on syndicalism and the aristocracy of labour position is very important; both the RMG majority and the DSM/CWI are wrong on this in Britain, SA and internationally which is why we laid such emphasis on it.
That is why we warned that the problem would come up again with the WASP:
We are very sceptical if the process described here corresponds with reality. We do not think that there is a process whereby white workers are losing their privileges to any marked degree. Also the ‘Cape coloured’ mixed race and the Indians constituted a large section of the, at least, semi-privileged workers. And they are being joined by a privileged layer of black workers in trade union positions and in skilled jobs.
In Britain this layer is represented most vociferously by those like Bob Crow of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT). His political origin is in the CPGB (as was, today the Morning Star/CPB) and he relies strongly on economic nationalism, most infamously British jobs for British workers and anti European Union Europhobia. This is the ‘leftism’ he pursues so as to be the main opposition to Miliband and the Labour party along with The Independent newspaper columnist Owen Jones. They aim to become the “UKIP of the left”, to be a left populist version of the far right Europhobic United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). This social layer of left bureaucrats in Britain is ideologically defended by the Socialist Party and its National Shop Stewards Network, the same CWI who are one of the chief sponsors of the Workers and Socialist Party (WASP). Peter Taaffe, the Socialist Party General Secretary, visited South Africa in February 2013 for the conference of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM, the SA section of the Committee for a Workers’ International), to promote the WASP project.1 2
We see this now in the letter from the WASP to Numsa, who undoubtedly represent the most privileged layers of skilled workers, the SA Labour Aristocracy, even if they also turn to the most oppressed. They say:
We support NUMSA deputy general secretary Karl Cloete’s characterisation of this battle as one between a pro-capitalist wing and a pro-socialist wing. But fundamentally, the NUMSA leadership’s stand is a reflection of the continuing socialist consciousness of NUMSA members themselves, their understanding of the worsening situation in South Africa, their frustration with it, but crucially the burning desire to act to change the course of events in favour of the working class. It is to the NUMSA leadership’s everlasting credit that it took up the battle.
It is completely wrong to present Jim and Vavi in this way, we know their history of support for the ANC and how they have broken strikes for the ANC in the past we know that they have now only begun this opposition because their own base and political positions were threatened. They have not changed their spots and suddenly become “socialists” – they are left Stalinists. They are not driven in the first place by “the burning desire to act to change the course of events in favour of the working class”.
And this is completely wrong:
“whilst the battle in Cosatu appears to be a battle within the organised working class – of different factions of the leadership of the same class – it is in reality a battle between the classes. This struggle is mediated though factions that represent the diametrically opposed and incompatible interests of the main classes within society – the pro-Zuma wing acting on behalf of the capitalist class, and NUMSA and the unions supporting it, representing the interests of the working class.”
And of course we cannot kow tow to the memory of Mandela in this way as if he was not the author of the Codesa and the real betrayer of the revolution and the instigator of today’s neo-liberal SA, one of the most unequal societies on the planet:
The booing of Zuma and the ice-cold reception of other leading ANC members at memorial services for Madiba is a clear indication of the complete divorce in the minds of the working class between their hopes and aspirations for a democratic South Africa – personified in Madiba – and the disgrace of the modern ANC and the inequality, suffering and corruption they have presided over. NUMSA should take this as a vote of confidence in the course of action you have embarked upon.
We make these warnings because the revolutionary RMG split must now develop its tactics in regard to the WASP, the EFF, the Numsa/Vavi split and the section that is splitting from the SACP with the correct slogan “For a workers’ party”. But we can definitively assert that what the DSM/CWI have in mind for this workers’ party must be completely different from that the RMG revolutionaries must fight for. Because in Britain and everywhere internationally the CWI and the WPB/RCIT sees this as a radical reformist party. However in the past the WPB and the LFI advocated the correct Leninist/Trotskyist tactic.
Where the Permanent Revolution split of 2006 (who have now abandoned this position themselves) spells out what it must be in the US:
By 1938 Trotsky had developed the Labor Party tactic into its most refined revolutionary form. The guidelines that he laid down remain valid today. They can be summarised thus:
a) A refusal to accept that the demand for an independent party based on the trade unions, and the attendant demand on the bureaucracy to break with the bourgeoisie, are synonymous with the call for a reformist Labor Party.
b) The raising of the Transitional Programme as the programme for the Labor Party is the means of fighting to secure a revolutionary development.
c) The maintenance of a revolutionary organisation even within a Labor Party movement is essential for the inevitable battle with the bureaucracy.
d) Periods of economic crisis and sharpening class struggle are the most favourable for raising the Labor Party slogan. However, even during “calm periods” the slogan retains a propagandistic value and can be acted upon agitationally in local situations or elections. For example, against support for a bourgeois party candidate in an election, revolutionaries would call on the unions to field an independent working class candidate.
e) In no sense is a Labor Party that is anything less than the revolutionary party a necessary stage in the development of the working class in countries where there are no workers’ parties. f) Once again it must be remembered—programme first. Today in the USA and elsewhere these guidelines—much trampled upon by groups like today’s thoroughly right centrist SWP (US)—must inform a revolutionary application of the Labor Party tactic.” 3
This from Leon Trotsky, On the Labor Party Question in the United States:
Now we must not reckon by our prognosis of yesterday but by the situation of today. American capitalism is very strong but its contradictions are stronger than capitalism itself. The speed of decline came at American speed and this created a new situation for the new trade unions, the CIO even more than the AFL. In this situation it is worse for the CIO than the AFL because the AFL is more capable of resistance due to its aristocratic base. We must change our program because the objective situation is totally different from our former prognosis.
What does this signify? That we are sure the working class, the trade unions, will adhere to the slogan of the labor party? No, we are not sure that the workers will adhere to the slogan of the labor party. When we begin the fight we cannot be sure of being victorious. We can only say that our slogan corresponds to the objective situation and the best elements will understand and the most backward elements who don’t understand will be compromised.
In Minneapolis we cannot say to the trade unions you should adhere to the Socialist Workers Party. It would be a joke even in Minneapolis. Why? Because the decline of capitalism develops ten—a hundred times faster than the speed of our party. It is a new discrepancy. The necessity of a political party for the workers is given by the objective conditions, but our party is too small, with too little authority in order to organize the workers into its own ranks. That is why we must say to the workers, the masses, you must have a party. But we cannot say immediately to these masses, you must join our party.
In a mass meeting 500 would agree on the need for a labor party, only five agree to join our party, which shows that the slogan of a labor party is an agitational slogan. The second slogan is for the more advanced.
Should we use both slogans or one? I say both. The first, independent labor party, prepares the arena for our party. The first slogan prepares and helps the workers to advance and prepares the path for our party. That is the sense of our slogan. We say that we will not be satisfied with this abstract slogan which even today is not so abstract as ten years ago because the objective situation is different. It is not concrete enough. We must show to the workers what this party should be: an independent party, not for Roosevelt or La Follette, a machine for the workers themselves. That is why on the field of election it must have its own candidates. Then we must introduce our transitional slogans, not all at once, but as occasion arises, first one and then the other. That is why I see absolutely no justification for not accepting this slogan. I see only a psychological reason. Our comrades, in fighting against Lovestoneites, wanted our own party and not this abstract party. Now it is disagreeable. Naturally the Stalinists will say we are fascists, etc. But it is not a principled question; it is a tactical question. To Lovestone it will seem that we lose face before the Lovestoneites, but this is nothing. We orient not according to Lovestone but according to the needs of the working class. I believe that even from the point of view of our competition with the Lovestoneites it is a plus and not a minus. In a meeting against a Lovestoneite I would explain what our position was and why we changed. “At that time, you Lovestoneites attacked us. Good. Now in this question, which was so important to you, we have changed our mind. Now, what do you have against the Fourth International?” I am sure we will prepare a split in this manner among the Lovestoneites. In this sense I see no obstacles.
Before finishing—a correction in the formulation of the question: The labor party proposal is not a part of the program of transitional demands but is a special motion.
Question: In a trade union does one advocate a labor party, vote for it? Trotsky: Why not? In the case of a trade union where the question comes up, I will get up and say that the need for a labor party is absolutely proved by all the events. It is proved that economic action is not enough. We need political action. In a union I will say what counts is the content of the labor party, that is why I reserve something to say about the program, but I will vote for it.
And this from the Humanists for Revolutionary Socialism: As the reader can see we are calling for a workers/labor party based on the struggles of the workers and “a revitalized and democratized trade union movement”. This can only take place if the bureaucracy in the unions is overthrown or considerably weakened. We, of course, call for a labor party based on the entire working class (other organizations of the working class and its oppressed sections). We are exposing the lies of Munzer becuase we state categorically in our program that “Within the trade unions, we fight for the rank and file to oust the reformist and pro-Democratic Party bureaucrats, and to democratize the unions and win them to a revolutionary action program based on a system of transitional demands which serve as a bridge between today’s struggles and the socialist revolution.”
But even more importantly our program states that “In helping to build such a [labor] party, revolutionaries must argue for it to adopt a transitional program based on Trotsky’s 1938 programmatic contribution and, even more importantly, on his dialectical method in approaching changing situations in the class struggle”. (my bold) One of the things that ultra leftists and dogmatic sectarians like Munzer and Shaheed (WIVL) cannot grasp is that in each country the situation is not the same. For those people who rejects Marxism and its dialectical method the class struggle and its parties evolve the same way all over the world as if we live in a society of clones. But the labor/workers’ party in the US is not likely to develop the same as Workers’ Party in Brazil or the Labor Party in England evolved. In Brazil the ruling class needed a reformist Workers’ Party. So they found Lula and the unions’ bureaucracy to establish such a party.
In the United State the ruling class has been counting on the unions’ bureaucracy to quell the class struggle through the unions’ support for the Democratic Party. The evidence for the last 80 years is overwhelming that the only time the US ruling class may change its mind is when we’ll see massive struggles that we have not seen since the 1930’s. There is overwhelming evidence that the Labor/Workers’ party in the US could emerge only when there will be massive upheavals by the working class. It takes a very long time for
American workers to move, but when the workers move, they move fast. That will be the time when class independence will stop being an abstraction. It will becomes real for the workers and so is the labor party. It is a tradition in this country that when conservative workers who normally vote for the Republican Party are in bitter confrontation with the state they become open to the idea of the labor party (for example, that what happened during a bitter strike in the Las Vegas hotels in the 1980s). It is different than Brazil because it is not possible here to build a reformist labor party through the services of the unions’ bureaucracy and the left, that is, without massive class struggles. History illustrated it without a doubt. The experiment of the left wing of the unions bureaucracy and the left in the 1990’s to build a labor party via the project of the Labor Party Advocate (LPA) failed miserably. This left wing of the union bureaucracy that built (with the help of reformist left) the LPA refused even to run labor candidates in the name of LPA because it would have annoyed the rest of the union bureaucracy and their friend: the Democratic Party.
Trotsky proposed a labor party in the US because a great number of workers were ready for class independence, but they were not ready to join the SWP. This has not change in regard to HWRS (which is the continuation for Trotsky’s method and the pre-Second-World-War’s SWP) today. The consciousness of the working class remained roughly the same. A lot of them vote for the Democrats because they do not see the rise of class independence, and the rest of them stay home during elections for the same reasons. But only few of them are ready today to join a revolutionary organization. So the necessity to raise the tactic of the labor party has not changed since Trotsky’s death. Whether it is correct or not will have to be tested when the sleeping giant, the American working class, will wake up and rise up in massive struggles against capitalism. We tried to explain to Munzer and Shaheed that it remained a tactic that needed to be tested (see our critique of the FLTI), but to no avail as the reader can see from Munzer letter. There are many possibilities and we cannot predict what will happen when the sleeping giant will be fully awake. The stage of the labor party could be bypassed completely. If the working class will rise up by building new organs of struggles such as factories committees, inter-unions committees that run democratically by the rank-and-file and not the bureaucracy, neighborhood committees of the oppressed etc., we may drop the tactic of the labor party and call for Soviets based on these committees. If the workers will want to supplement their massive struggles with the establishment of a political party that expresses their class independence, that will not mean that the majority of the workers are ready to join a revolutionary party. In this case we’ll fight for a Workers’/Labor party that is based on the workers organs of struggles, that is, the fighting rank-and-file of the unions and the oppressed. In such a case such a labor party will have different wings. The revolutionary wing could win the support of the working class and lead the workers to power through the method of class war and ultimately the final revolution. If the counterrevolution will win and will not need immediately the service of fascism, the bourgeoisie may decide to pacify the workers through the establishment of a reformist labor party, and they will use the service of the reformists.4
We hope this will lead to some thoughts about the entry tactic you are now engaged in and how to conduct it, you are clearly right that a small group of Trotskyist stand no chance of reaching the masses as a standalone group. Those who take an ultra-leftist position on their relationship with the working class, like the Sparts, the Internationalist Group, etc. have no need of such consideration and tactical orientation. Those who have a completely opportunist position like the DSM/CWI will use it to politically accommodate with Vavi and Jim, as the RMG majority are doing in a different way. We hope it will lead to some reconsideration of what a revolutionary party should have done in 1994 so you can refine your tactics whiles remaining rock solid on revolutionary principles – the famed Leninist steadfastness in revolutionary principles and flexibility of tactics in struggle. But even if not we can at least agree on how to conduct today’s entry tactic. As you can see from Trotsky above it was not enough to develop the correct policy but we needed also to develop tactics on how to relate to the masses. Surely the black masses in 1994 saw voting for the ANC as ending Apartheid and some step forward in forming their own nation. Lenin and Trotsky never had the Spart-like attitude of simply telling them that they are wrong – they were wrong in one essential way but there was also a progressive element in wanting the end of white racist rule for that election only. 0.02% for the Workers List party could not at all relate to those masses.
1 South Africa: Big response for Workers’ and Socialist Party. http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/16208
2 Wikipedia, Workers and Socialist Party, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Workers_and_Socialist_Party
3 Permanent Revolution July 2006, http://www.permanentrevolution.net/entry/395
4 Humanists for Revolutionary Socialism: http://www.humanistsforrevolutionarysocialism.org/IFLT_Documents/Labor_Party_Letter.htm