Stalinophobia and Stalinophilia: Three trends in Trotskyism and three trends in Stalinism


24/03/2015 by socialistfight

Ukrainian soldiers try to push-start an armoured personnel carrier at a military checkpoint in Debaltseve

Ukrainian troops try to push start a troop carrier to flee Debaltseve in mid February.

On Ukraine there are three positions that claim the name of Trotskyism; a Stalinophile one, a Stalinophobic one, and a true Trotskyist one.

The first one relates to its fringes, and to the fringes of Stalinism (in Britain at least). This stance is more or less uncritical support for Putin and the Donbass leaders. Many have been falsely accused of it many times by Michael Calderbank and others elsewhere to cover their own tracks politically. The only self-proclaimed Trotskyist group who has this position is the Posadists, who in reality departed even centrist Trotskyism in the mid-1950s. Its corresponding Stalinist tendency is the CPGB (ML) of Harper Brar.

Moving left from that, in domestic British politics in many ways but right on Imperialism is that whole range of petty bourgeois centrist groups of Trotskyist origin, the AWL, the USFI (Socialist Resistance), the SWP, Workers Power (and the Austrian-based RCIT, whom Laurence joined) the SP and SA (Socialist Appeal) in Britain, together with those groups internationally like the French NPA and the Latin American Morenoites who took a shocking pro imperialist position on Libya and have compounded it on Syria and Ukraine. They cannot even seek dual defeatism as one would be obliged to do in a straightforward inter imperialist conflict. This is a constantly right moving grouping of social chauvinist but there are two exceptions that we know of.

The exceptions are Workers Power and the SA who have taken a relatively good position on the Ukraine after very bad lines on Libya and Syria. The sponsorship of open fascist grouping by Anglo American imperialism shook them and impelled them to the left somewhat. But they remained centrist and not Trotskyists because they failed to seek the defeat of their own ruling class and the victory of the Donbass. They failed to celebrate the victory of the anti-imperialist forces at Debaltseve. This grouping includes the RCIT and can be called left Shachtmanite, the “neither Washington nor Moscow but the International working class” groups. The CPGB (Weekly Worker) are also approximately in this grouping. They characterise Russia and China as imperialist and have a pusillanimous view of the conflict as we have analysed in our articles on Workers Power [1] and Laurence Humphries defection to the RCIT. [2]

They tend to postulate a pure syndicalist working class outside of nation and history, neither pro-imperialist nor anti-imperialist but “the independent working class”. Such a mythical Shachtmanite entity has never existed and never can. Workers are either pro-imperialist when they belong to imperialist nations or anti-imperialist if they belong to semi-colonial nations. Leaving aside the actual state forces themselves and their paid agents and the TU bureaucracy who are paid agents of the state of the second order (sometimes directly by MI5, Joe Gormley etc), and the bourgeois workers’ parties who are capitalist and imperialist parties of the second order.

The task of the revolutionary party is to develop the global class consciousness of the class, always there in embryo, by forging solidarity with the Ukraine Antifascists Resistance for example and clarifying the issues in conflict.

Stalinism and Stalinophobia
And now to Stalinism and Stalinophobia. We noted three trends also in the New Communist Party (NCP) public meeting on 26 February. The CPGB (ML) with its position on immigration close to UKIP, socialism in a single country taken to extremes. But reflected to some degree in the other two. They had a new publication ‘proving’ Joe Stalin was right about the Moscow Trials of 1936-9. But they are definitely for the defeat of Anglo-American imperialism and the victory of the Donbass. Both they and the NCP celebrated the victory at Debaltseve, the only political group outside Socialist Fight /LCFI who did so. They do no work in the British Labour movement, having the traditional Maoist scorn of all metropolitan working classes as simply bourgeois.

The NCP sounds very good on the Ukraine but the article on the London bus strikes was comparable to the Workers Power article (who have moved right on domestic politics); it accepted the bona fides of the Unite bureaucracy, doing their best for the drivers victimised by the bus companies. The notion that this bureaucracy might be complicit in this victimisation was just not considered. An ultra-left piece of propaganda against a decent body of comrades. You cannot be both consistently anti-imperialist and consistently anti-working class at the same time, though many groups try. At some point the contradictions mature and one dominates over the other.

And so to the Morning Star, whose two spokesmen spoke for SARU quite well, obviously leftist representatives of that party. But seriously, examine any copy of the Morning Star and it is clearly the mouthpiece of the TU bureaucracy, the apologists for all left bureaucracies and mild critics only of the right bureaucrats. And very mild and half-hearted critics of Labourism. The revolution is a distant memory, just reformism’s dream unconnected with everyday politics.

But in conflict against imperialism Stalinism must be critically supported, just as we support Labour against Tory. To choose imperialism against what is after all just as much part of the working-class movement as the British Labour party is class treachery, taking Stalinophobia to the extent of outright anti-communism and social chauvinism. The Communist party fight Fascism in the Ukraine because it is obliged to in order to survive and because of its history, just as Gaddafi, Assad, Saddam, the Taliban, al Qaeda and ISIS fought or are fighting it. Although all were previously clients of imperialism.

Can we seriously suggest that Stalinism is more or less counter-revolutionary than the British Labour party, for instance? They are both counter-revolutionary international currents, but in very different ways, as we have attempted to outline above. In that difference, just as in the conflicts between Anglo American imperialism and Franco German imperialism, revolutionary Trotskyism must seek its path. Because from this critique revolutionary Trotskyism must reforge and regenerate itself.

[1]. Workers Power’s backsliding on Ukraine

[ 2]. Reply by the LCFI to the Resignation of Laurence Humphries from the Socialist Fight Group/LCFI (

Trotsky: Theoretically it is possible to support the Stalinist candidate. It is a way of approaching the Stalinist workers. We can say, yes we know this candidate. But we will give critical support. We can repeat on a small scale what we would do if Lewis were nominated.

Theoretically it is not impossible. It would be very difficult, it is true — but then it is only an analysis. They, of course, would say, we don’t want your support. We would answer, we don’t support you, but the workers who support you. We warn them but go through the experience with them. These leaders will betray you. It is necessary to find an approach to the Stalinist party. Theoretically it is not impossible to support their candidates with very sharp warnings. It would guide them. What? How?

Kay: But in Boston the Stalinists wouldn’t even permit us to enter their hall. They even threw our comrade outside.

Trotsky: I know. They have even shot at us. But some tens of thousands of workers are with them. I don’t know exactly how many. It is very difficult to determine. Of course, we would suffer the indignation of Burnham. Shachtman would say, “See, I predicted it — capitulation to Stalinism.” There would even be considerable aversion in our ranks. But the question is the Stalinist workers. The working class is decisive. With guarantees, warnings, why not consider it? Is Browder a worse rascal than Lewis? I doubt it. Both are rascals.

Socialist movement history and trade union tactics| By Ed Lewis

One thought on “Stalinophobia and Stalinophilia: Three trends in Trotskyism and three trends in Stalinism

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