Workers Power’s backsliding on Ukraine


04/03/2015 by socialistfight

A vague and non-class specific movement was going to be the basis for Workers Power’s Fifth International

By Gerry Downing 4 March 2015

When the League for the Fifth International (LFI) was founded in 2003 this represented the victory of the semi-state capitalist Fifthist line. Workers Power took this step because they saw the World Social Forum and the European Social Forum as the movements which would build the new supra-class International. The split documents from the minority in 2006, Platform of the international tendency in the L5I [1]explain this further turn away from the working class and Trotskyism in detail, but from an anti-Leninist perspective. Their ‘orthodoxy’ covered their own retreat from the working class, unlike the recent right split by Simon Hardy and Luke Cooper, who don’t even try. The 2006 split in essence charged the majority with being grossly opportunist in pursuing the original opportunist Fifth International orientation. [2]

In 2011 Workers Power were absolutely unequivocal about their support for the US/EU/Nato sponsored uprising in Libya. How hilariously reactionary that political line as outlined by Richard Brenner now seems in the light of subsequent developments. He even demands the murders of Gaddafi and his sons, and Nato and its Libyan allies were quick to oblige:

“After the fall of Gaddafi revolution must go deeper, Richard Brenner Wed, 31/08/2011 – 18:00

Gaddafi has been defeated – now the fight is on to save Libya from NATO and the oil grabbing western powers, writes Richard Brenner

NOW THAT Gaddafi has fallen the Libyan Revolution must go deeper and break up the remains of the old regime – popular committees need to stop the new NTC government and the NATO powers from stealing the fruits of the people’s victory. The entry of the rebels into Tripoli spelled the beginning of end for Gaddafi. The dictator’s offer to arm the people of Tripoli against the rebels went completely unanswered – because the masses were already in the streets celebrating his downfall. Hardly surprising. In Tripoli in the early days of the uprising, Gaddafi’s forces had already murdered between 200 and 700 unarmed demonstrators. Like all victorious uprisings the Libyan Revolution will have to crush the remaining elements of the old regime including Gaddafi and his sons. They should not be tried but put to swift revolutionary justice.”

The Sun celebrates Workers Power’s “swift revolutionary justice”.

Socialist Fight and the LCFI are proud of the stance we took at the time. Just the title of the work should suffice to show the absolutely irreconcilable class differences between us and Workers Power. We will leave the impartial reader to make up their own minds; what triumphed in Libya, a “democratic revolution” or a Nato-sponsored counter-revolution? To ask the question is to answer it. This is the title and first strap line of our April 2011 statement:

“For the unconditional defence of Libya against Imperialism! For a Military United Front with Gaddafi to defeat NATO and the CIA armed “rebels”! No confidence in the government of Tripoli; only by arming all the people and by the permanent revolution can we win the struggle! Statement on Libya by the Liga Comunista of Brazil, the Revolutionary Marxist Group of South Africa and Socialist Fight of Britain,” 21 April 2011; in: Socialist Fight No. 6 (2011), p. 36 [3]

This obscene grovelling to imperialism by Workers Power was followed by a similar one in Syria, where ’the revolution’ covered everything from the secular pro-imperialist Free Syrian Army to the Saudi/Qatar/US sponsored jihadist. Anyone could make this ‘democratic revolution!!!’ to get Assad it seemed. Unfortunately Assad was critically supported by all the minority groupings and the majority of Sunnis in the cities who did not want to accept the fate of Libya and succumb to Sharia law on the machinations of the USA/CIA. They have been successful in that up to now.

And it seemed as the geo-political war aims of the White House expanded that Workers Power would take the same stance on Ukraine. Initial signs were not good; the first article that appeared was of the “neither Moscow nor Berlin” Shachtmanite type. But the appearance of outright fascists on the EuroMaidan and sharp criticism from Socialist Fight seemed to spook them and now the line changed sharply to the left and they began to support the resistance in the East and expose the far right and fascist character of the coup that overthrew the elected government and the genocidal war that the new president Poroshenko has launched against the Russian-speaking Donbass.

But that was a year ago. A new turn was necessary and that appeared most clearly in an article that appeared online on 10 January and in the February print edition (with some differences). [4]

The first item of concern in the article is in the description of the EuroMaidan itself:

“Thus, when the former president, Viktor Yanukovych, delayed signing the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement in November 2013, the hopes of a large part of the population for economic growth and democratic reform through closer integration with Europe were dashed.”[5]

The EuroMaidan is shamefacedly legitimised here, although these illusions are exposed later in the article it does not say here that, in fact, the aspirations of a large section of the crowd in the EuroMaidan that were not ideologically directly by far right or fascist forces was to join the EU to be allowed emigrate to countries like Britain and Germy where they would be able to get better wages than in Poland and Romania.

“Crimea had been annexed by the Russian Federation, civil war was raging in the Donbas region, Ukraine had signed the free trade Association Agreement and a new government ruled in the Verkhovna Rada.” [6]

The Annexation of Crimea by Russia? “We saw people coming to vote cheerfully in a very bright mood, ATAKA MP Adrian Asenov said. According to Denitza Gadzheva most people in Crimea wanted to join the Russian Federation. She noted that the streets were full of people waiving the Russian flag. The patriots appealed their proposal for declaration to be passed in Parliament guaranteeing Bulgaria’s neutrality in case of future military actions in the Ukraine conflict.”

The phrase “Crimea had been annexed by the Russian Federation” suggests that the transfer of Crimea to Russia was not the democratically expressed choice of the people of Crimea but an act of aggression by Russia (Nicholas Sarkozy has a better take on it than this) and the attack in the “Donbass region” against a civilian population was a “civil war” and not the population defending their rights against CIA-sponsored fascist batallions.

This is how the article describes the government elected in October 2014:

“October duly saw a fresh cohort of MPs returned to parliament, with the opposition Party of Regions reduced to a rump. Negotiations to form a government ended with five of the six parties represented in parliament signing up to a coalition agreement which set accession to Nato, economic “reform” and the promotion of national-patriotic values as its main priorities.”[7]

Note the legitimacy of these elections are not challenged, the violent thuggery, attacks on the Communist party and all defenders of the Donbass opponents are not exposed at all. These are presented as free and fair elections. But the consequences of this endorsement appears a few paragraphs later:

“However, a look at the ministers appointed to carry through the government’s programme reveals that EuroMaidan has so far done little to shake up the patronage, clientelism and mutual interests that have long determined the composition of Ukraine’s governments. The failure of EuroMaidan to establish durable democratic or working class structures that could have mobilised opposition to a new establishment government is in large part to blame for this. It also says something about the class nature of the dominant layers of the movement.” [8]

Note here that the print version in WP February 2015 has a different version of the above paragraph:

“However, patronage remains in place. And it says a lot about the class character of the dominant forces in the EuroMaidan that this “revolution” did not establish structures that could have mobilised opposition to a new government of oligarchs.” [9]

Having accepted the legitimacy of the October elections both versions logically follow. The online version is an obvious attempt to soften the impact of the print version but both are easily the worst and most revealing sections of the entire article. In some ways the ‘softening’ makes matters worse. Marxists never kow tow to bourgeois democracy, we do not accept the legitimacy of any form of bourgeois parliamentary elections, recognising it as a form of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie whilst revealing the illusions of the working and middle class are a given moment in time, and so worthy of study. See Lenin’s The Renegade Kautsky and Trotsky’s Terrorism and Communism for extended exposes of the fraud of bourgeois parliamentary democracy. But this election was wholly undemocratic, even by bourgeois standards and we cannot accept in any way the legitimacy of its outcome.

And to express surprise in the print version that the election “did not establish structures that could have mobilised opposition to a new government of oligarchs” is the equivalent of a naive religious Christian expressing surprise that the Devil does not say his prayers.

And in the online version:

“The failure of EuroMaidan to establish durable democratic or working class structures that could have mobilised opposition to a new establishment government is in large part to blame for this.”[10]

Doh! As Homer Simpson might say, a far right fascist led coup that overthrew a democratically elected government turned out to be undemocratic! And we surely do not expect “working class structures” from a neo-liberal government infested with far right nationalists and fascists. They do not allow potential revolutionary forces to arise who might cut their own throats! Who would have thought it?

Image result for Homer Simpson Doh! images

Of course they might argue that they were trying use the Transitional Method to win over the forces referred to in our first comment above on your “hopes of a large part of the population for economic growth and democratic reform through closer integration with Europe”. But the first duty of a Marxist is to tell the truth to the working class not pander to their illusions in this ridiculous way. The truth that we might present thus:

‘you were conned into following a far right and fascist coup because you though that EU membership would either allow to emigrate to countries where you could get good jobs or they might allow you to sell your agricultural produce at a far better price. These are lies, you will get none of these things. These fascists have only led you to far worse poverty and economic and social devastation. And they are sending your sons and fathers (conscription is up to 59 years now!) to be slaughtered in a genocidal war against your brother and sisters and their small families in the Donbass, a war you rightly do not believe in. Rise up against them, make common cause with your brothers and sisters in the Donbass and over throw these oligarchs and this will then enable them to overthrow theirs. You are already revolting against conscription. Finish the job’.

The following passage is a consequence of portraying Russia and the West as rival imperialist power where a ‘deal defeatist’ position is at least plausible:

“For ordinary Ukrainians, rival attitudes to the civil wars of the 20th century and to the legacy of the USSR and Nazi occupation, are deeply rooted and have consequences for how they see their status within Ukraine today. For the oligarchs, these competing ideologies are merely tools to be cynically used in their clan struggles for control over the state which is used both as a source of personal enrichment and a means to repress their opponents. The escalation of inter-imperialist tension provoked by the grinding world economic crisis has brought Russia and the USA into conflict, first in the Middle East and now in eastern Europe. Their struggle for influence has shattered Ukraine’s oligarchic consensus and unleashed the poison of nationalism.” [11]

This “on the one hand there are pro-Western oligarchs, on the other hand there are pro-Russian oligarchs, they are equally as bad (true as far as it goes) sets up the next section for a far more reactionary position on the war:

“As a result, although the working class in the east retained its relatively privileged position, as compared to the more agricultural west, it did not achieve this through its own independent mobilisation but rather by remaining reliant on the nexus of business interests, official trade union bureaucracies and a political class inherited from the planned economy.” [12]

This amounts to a contemptuous rejection of the working class and its organisations who had succeeded, to some limited degree in the East, in maintaining some aspects of the old Soviet Welfare State; “the cunning and unprincipled dogs only maintained their living standards by unprincipled manoeuvres” is the thrust of the above paragraph. This next section is far worse:

“This reliance is now reinforced from both sides; by the existence of an ultra-nationalist regime in Kiev, which promotes derogatory views of the consciousness of the working class in the east and by the apparent coincidence of interests in, for example, defending heavy industry in the east. The escalating social and economic crisis in Ukraine will expose the tensions in this relationship. The task of socialists in Ukraine is to exploit these tensions, exposing the fact that all the oligarchs and the competing imperialist powers have a common cause in keeping all sections of the working class politically reliant on the representatives of the capitalist system. The creation of a working class party that can give leadership to the youth and poor famers of the whole country and is politically independent of all the oligarchs is the most urgent priority. This means a party that advocates socialist revolution to put the economy under the control of the working class, organised by democratic workers’ councils and defended by the armed population in place of the police, army and secret services loyal to the capitalist state. This is the only way that the working class can end its exploitation and reorganise production to meet the needs of ordinary people instead of filling the Swiss bank accounts of thieving oligarchs.” [13]

This whole section is a reassertion of the Shachtmanite position of Neither Washington nor Moscow but the international working class. No understanding that a defeat for imperialism here would be the best possible outcome for the working class in the Donbass, in Ukraine and Russia, the whole of Europe and the working class in all the imperialist countries as well. As those who have read Trotsky’s In Defence of Marxism (1939) know that Trotsky fought a year long battle against Max Shachtman to retain the position of defence of the USSR against imperialist attack despite the crimes of the Stalinist bureaucracy because of its class character as a Degenerate Workers State. This after the Hitler Stalin pact and the Invasion of Finland by Stalin turned middle class and academic public opinion against the Soviet Union, particularly a layer of intellectuals who had rallied to the cause of the Russian Resolution. Workers Power and its offshoots, like the 2011 split the Austrian-based RCIT, had always been a semi state capitalist group (at some points approaching revolutionary Trotskyism as in the early to mid-1980s in particular).

Nowhere in this whole piece is there an identification of the USA as the aggressive Imperialist power or its geostrategic goal of world domination via wars, bombings and hired proxy armies. They failed that test too on Libya and on Syria and have reverted to third campism after a brief flirtation with revolutionary politics on the Ukraine. They make no defence of the Donbass in this article, despite its leadership.

The reference to “rival nationalist agendas” in the following passage highlights their approach:

“The task of socialists in Europe and Russia is to aid this struggle by opposing the attempts of their own ruling classes to subordinate Ukrainian workers to rival nationalist agendas, to impose their placemen and proxies as leaders and to force Ukraine to choose between exploitation at the hands of one or other of the imperialist camps.” [14]

NO, No, No, that is NOT what the war against the Donbass is about. Has Workers Power now accepted that the Donbass militias are simply a proxy army for the Russia, as the RCIT has? Despite its leadership the base of the Donbass militias is working class increasing growing in class consciousness, especially since rejecting the purpose of Minsk 2 and defeating the proxy imperialist army at Debaltseve.

The following paragraph does attempt to take the other side to some extent:

“This means an intransigent struggle against the militarisation of eastern Europe by Nato, countering the imperialist propaganda offensive and mobilising working class opposition to government support for the austerity offensive of Kiev’s ultra-nationalist regime.” [15]

But none of the above follows from this. And it does not take any military side with the Donbass. So it’s ok to undermine the war effort of Kiev but no need to call for the victory of Donbass. This is the ultimate logic of trying to equate Russia and the USA as rival imperialist powers.

At the Workers Power Capital in One Day on 28 February Peter Main finished with a speech in which he sought to portray China as the ‘Yellow Peril’ or rather as having a “string of pearls”; a series of military bases through the world. I was forced to interject from the audience that China has no foreign bases, none at all (and NATO has upward of 1,000 I might have said). Michael Roberts, on the top table as a Marx’s Capital expert, nodded his agreement.

The real nature of the US Defence Department’s propaganda about China’s “String of Pearls” is debunked by no less than those bold Chinese Communist party propagandists in The Economist in a far more balanced article:

“In the eyes of some Indians, Colombo is part of a “string of pearls”—an American-coined phrase that suggests the deliberate construction of a network of Chinese built, owned or influenced ports that could threaten India. These include a facility in Gwadar and a port in Karachi (both in Pakistan); a container facility in Chittagong (Bangladesh); and ports in Myanmar. Is this string theory convincing? Even if the policy exists, it might not work. Were China able to somehow turn ports into naval bases, it might struggle to keep control of a series of Gibraltars so far from home. And host countries have mood swings. Since Myanmar opened up in 2012, China’s influence there has decreased. China love-bombed the Seychelles and Mauritius with presidential visits in 2007 and 2009 respectively. But since then India has successfully buttered up these island states and reasserted its role in the Maldives. Besides, China’s main motive may be commerce. C. Raja Mohan, the author of “Samudra Manthan”, a book on Sino-Indian rivalry in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, argues that China’s port bases partly reflect a desire to get easier sea access for trade to and from west China.” [16]

Socialist Fight has explained in detail what is wrong politically and economically with saying that the world is characterised by inter imperialist rivalries between Western Imperialist and Eastern Imperialism in our Eight Indices of US-led World Imperialism. This is point 8:

“Military bases: “The US operates and/or controls between 700 and 800 military bases worldwide… (there is a) presence of US military personnel in 156 countries. The US Military has bases in 63 countries. Brand new military bases have been built since September 11, 2001 in seven countries. In total, there are 255,065 US military personnel deployed Worldwide.” [17] In addition, other NATO countries, such as France, the UK, etc. have a further 200 military locations within the network of global military control. The biggest “host” countries are those that once lost a major war in which the US was involved. Germany, Italy, Japan and Korea are the four biggest ‘hosts’. France and the UK mainly have bases in the remains of their colonial empires.” [18] [19]


[1] Permanent Revolution, Platform of the international tendency in the L5I

[2]In Defence Of Trotskyism No. 7

[3] Socialist Fight No6.

[4] K D Tait, Ukraine’s new government… from Euromaidan to Euro catastrophe 10/01/2015,

[5] Ukraine’s new Government…

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Workers Power February 2015, Issue 318

[10] Ukraine’s new Government…

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] China’s foreign ports, the new masters and commanders, China’s growing empire of ports abroad is mainly about trade, not aggression.

[17] The Worldwide Network of US Military Bases, The Global Deployment of US Military Personnel, By Jules Dufour, Global Research, November 15, 2014, 1 July 2007

[18] Foreign Military Bases and the Global Campaign to close them, A beginner’s guide, 21 July 2009. Wilbert van der Zeijden,

[19] Eight Indices of US-led World Imperialism Socialist Fight 23/7/14,

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