01/08/2015 by socialistfight
Trotsky and Lenin defended the United Front and identified the British Labour party in particular as a ‘bourgeois-workers’ party’.
This article was written in Socialist Fight No 3 in the Autumn of 2009 whilst Socialist Fight were in a political relationship with the Groupe Bolsevik of France, who originated in the Lambertist tradition. We split over the Libyan ‘revolution’ which the GB supported and we identified as a pro-imperialist reactionary movement.
It argues strongly for the tactic of the United Front and the Transitional method to develop the class consciousness against the sectarianism of the Stalinists and James Robertson’s International Communist League etc.
Gerry Downing 1 August 2015
Bourgeois-workers’ parties: behind the mask of pseudo-revolutionary intransigence
by Ret Marut and Philippe Couthon
Socialist Fight must defend our position and that of our comrades in the CoReP in the recent European Parliament elections. It was not right to abstain in this election as it is not right to abstain in most other bourgeois election for the reasons Lenin spelled out in Left Wing Communism; many workers exercise this democratic right because it is one of the few ways they can influence political decision making, their voters are sought by all candidates and so they discuss politics and are at as heightened political level at election times because of that. And the outcome did matter for good or ill, the EU institutions produces many “directives” (laws) and other decisions that affect workers of Europe and other countries.
It was a blow to the working class—and specially migrant workers—that far right and fascist groups like the FPÖ (Austria), Vlaams Blok (Belgium), ATAKA (Bulgaria), DF (Denmark), Perussuomalaiset (Finland), BNP (Great Britain), LAOS (Greece), Jobbik (Hungary), Northern Leagues (Italy), PVV (Nederland), PRM (Romania), SNS (Slovakia) got so many votes, enough to elect many MEPs. Electoral victories of fascistic and racist parties signify great dangers if a revolutionary party is not built against the reformist parties and union bureaucracies whose treachery paralyse the working class and gave a chance to fascist demagogy and aggressive bands. The task of serious revolutionaries is not to prettify these events – even less to disperse the vanguard with political absurdities and calumnies – but to build this party, using every contradiction, every occasion.
In April 2009 there was no revolution in any European state, no workers’ councils that would allow us to consider a boycott. Trotsky wrote in 1936,
“As for the legislative elections in France, I don’t think that we can accept a boycott. Propagandize for Committees of Action, yes. Oppose the future Committees of Action to the present electoral action, no! One can only boycott parliament when one is strong enough to replace it by direct revolutionary action”. 1
On the other hand, we were not strong enough to have SF lists, GKK lists or GB lists. When communists can have candidates, it is on the basis of their program, so they cannot participate in a coalition with centrists or reformists. Does the ultra intransigent secretariat of the LTF justify the electoral bloc they had in Argentina in July 2003 between the LOI and rightwing Morenoite LSR?
When communists are, unfortunately, not able to participate in an electoral competition, they are not neutral: most of the time, they must tactically support the candidates of workers’ organisations against the candidates of political bourgeois parties. Correctly, the Communist Workers Group used this tactic many times in New Zealand (See Class Struggle No. 80, Sept-Oct 2008, http://www.geocities.com/communistworker/cs80.html).
So, we certainly were not opposed to centrists like the LCR-PSL (Belgium), LO (France), Antarsya (Greece), SP (Ireland), IA (Spain), etc. standing in the last European Parliament elections. We criticize them for their program, not their participation. However British Labour, the French PS or PCF, the Italian PRC, the Spanish PSOE, the Australian and New Zealand Labour parties, the Brazilian PT, the Chilean PCC or PSC, the Indian CP and CP(M), etc. are still bourgeois-workers parties when in power, even if their links with the working class are not the same.
Revolutionists do not support any bourgeois government, included with reformists inside, who are necessarily betraying the working class. It is right -and useful- to ask the bourgeois-workers parties to break with the bourgeoisie; it is wrong to ask a bourgeois government to choose peoples interest and socialist politics, as LCR (now NPA), PCI (now POI), LO and late PO (sister organisation of Workers Power) did to popular front governments in the 1980s and 1990s in France.
Because there can be no bourgeois workers’ government. A state – and its head, the government – is either capitalist or socialist. And if Dave Brown looks to Trotsky for an analysis of any government of a reformist party (or several reformist parties) as a bourgeois government, he will succeed and we will agree. What he will not be able to prove is a radical opposition, for Trotsky, between a vote for a reformist party in power and a vote for a reformist party in parliamentary opposition, as Robertson has been unable to prove a radical opposition, for Trotsky, between a vote for a reformist party within a formal bourgeois alliance and a vote for a reformist party without one.
The participation in referendums is politically different, but this does not mean systematic abstention either. When communists want to signify the question is purely divorced from real class struggle or the question leads to choose between two reactionary answers, casting a null vote or abstaining is the correct tactic. For instance, in the case of a referendum on the Lisbon treaty, a Yes vote would mean endorsing the capitalist nature of the EU, the domination of the imperialists countries on the former workers’ states and the anti-working class nature of the EU proposals and a No vote would signify a nationalist hostility to EU and a division of the European working class, because of the xenophobic (against workers from East European countries members and Turkey) content of No2EU.
Let us look at the usual reasons given for rejecting any vote for the bourgeois-workers’ parties by centrists organisations and sects claiming to be “Trotskyists” and “Leninists” such as those the Pabloites, the Morenoites, the Lambertists, the Healyites, the Hardystes (Lutte Ouvrière), the Robertsonists, etc). And even when some of them they did advocate a vote for these parties it was mainly on the basis of deep-entryism where they spread the illusion that they could be transformed into instruments to introduce socialism.
First let us examine the letter of the Humanists for Revolutionary Socialism (HRS) and Dov Winter’ letter requesting fraternal relations with the Leninist Trotskyist Fraction (LTF) of 31 May 2009. This is the only theoretical piece we have on the subject of voting for bourgeois-workers parties and as it has already been used by the LOI to force a retreat on the matter from Dave Brown of the CWG. It is a document based on the common attitudes of the left wing of US “Trotskyism” e.g. the Stalinophile Jim Robertson’s Spartacist League (SL) and Stalinophobe Sy Landy’s League for the Revolutionary Party (LRP) (the right wing “Trotskyists” court the union bureaucrats and often votes for… bourgeois candidates).
So the SL has proposed a novel idea that a revolutionary organisation cannot vote for a reformist one if the latter is in some form of alliance with the bourgeoisie. Confronted with the evidence that the Belgian section and the French section called workers to vote for the social-democrat and Stalinist candidates in 1936, the SL riposted that is was the proof of the superiority of American Trotskyism over European Trotskyism. Well, we are not interested in “superiority” of one section because we look for international cooperation. We see this more this as a proof of the superiority of Trotsky’s tactics on Robertson’s sectarianism. In practice, to look radical, SL and other ICL sections has never called to vote for reformist candidates.
American sectarianism may be based on another element of wounded national pride; Lenin and Trotsky claimed that the British, European and Antipodean working class had the advantage over the US working class of having formed bourgeois-workers’ parties and were therefore at a higher level of political consciousness; the US working class alone of the advanced countries had failed to make this separation of the classes, albeit on a reformist basis.
The battles around the “new Unionism” of the late 1880s and early 1890s had resulted in the unifying of the whole working class in Britain (still on a reformist basis) and Europe (here the path to reformist-workerism differed but the outcome was the same), the US working class were defeated in their contemporaneous class battles at the Carnegie Homestead strike, the Pullman strike and elsewhere, they failed to unify their class despite their most heroic efforts and in the battles immediately post WWII and even in the 1930 and 1950s. Gompers’ AFL retains its reactionary craft unionism/patriotic alliance with the labour aristocracy to this day.
The stock US centrism reply is “well that was then, this is now, and even if this was true back then, (which many obviously doubt), it is not true still, these parties have become simply bourgeois parties like the US Democrats, you are as bad if not worse than us now”. We contend this is a false methodology, a failure to understand the method proposed by Lenin in Left Wing Communism, and Dov Winter completely fails to do so in his piece and draws the wrong conclusions from his wrong understanding.
In the letter, having described how the communists must approach the ranks of the reformists parties (but not place demands on their leaders), he characterises the Workers United Front (WUF) thus “This tactic may be termed a united front from below to bypass the traitorous leaders”. Of course the ‘traitorous leaders’ cannot be ‘bypassed’; they must be fought, exposed, unmasked and defeated in order for the revolutionary socialist party to be built. ‘Bypassing’ was certainly how the Anarchists, Bukharin and the rest of the ultra-lefts understood the UF at the time but this misunderstanding was fought by Lenin in Left Wing Communism, by Trotsky in his address to the 1922 Fourth Congress of the Comintern and by the best Bolsheviks at the time.
We may make a limited comparison (because we are not yet facing a major fascist threat) with the situation in Germany in the early 1930 and see how Trotsky dealt with that. In 1932 the KPD got almost six million votes – we suggest this indicated a far greater implantation in the German working class than the supposed “direct or indirect influence over 50% of the working class in Argentina” which you proposed back in the crisis of 2002 without any proof in electoral terms. We further suggest that the SPD had committed crimes at least as serious against the German working class as the British Labour party or French Socialist Party has ever committed against the British or French workers.
Yet still the 3rd International Left Opposition and the IKD understood the real balance of class forces in Germany and the KPD did not. In 1932 the bulk of the membership and the votes of the KPD came from the youth and the unemployed, the falling seven million plus votes the SPD won came mainly from the older, more conservative (because of some many relatively recent defeats) workers in employment, but fearful for their jobs and future in that raging economic and political crisis. This was the crucial and indispensible section of the working class, the industrial workers, which had to be won to the cause of the revolution in alliance with the youth for it to succeed and it had to be a central focus of all Transitional demands by serious revolutionaries.
Workers’ United Front
Trotsky proposed a Workers United Front (WUF) between the KPD and the SPD, specifically rejecting the Stalinist notion of a “UF from below” but proposing one which was directed at BOTH the SPD leaders (in the party and the trade unions) AND the rank-and-file. The UF placed demands on these misleaders to fight capitalism and the fascists, which would expose them in action before their ranks as betrayers and sell-outs by means of this engagement. In other words, Trotsky was convinced the SPD, as part of the German labour movement, was a central roadblock to the fight against fascism and for the revolution and the task was to set its ranks against its leadership.
Simply denouncing them amounted to a demand that their ranks desert them and join us, merely a futile propagandist gesture which could only lead to increasing ultra-leftist frustration. We know that the KPD contemptuously dismissed Trotsky’s advice; the SPD were “social-fascists”, we suggest that your characterisation of the bourgeois-workers’ parties as solely “bourgeois-imperialists” plays the same role and uses the same mistaken tactic of the “united front from below”.
Just in case you do not believe us on this matter, here is Trotsky in 1932 quoting from and defending his 1922 resolution to the Fourth Congress of the Comintern:
“Is the united front to be extended so as to include only the working masses, or so as to include also opportunistic leaders? The very manner in which this question is posed is the outgrowth of a misconception. Were we able to simply unite the working masses around our banner … by eliminating the reformist party, or trade union organizations – that, of course, would be the best way. But, in that case, the very question of the united front, in its present form, would be non-existent. In the question of the united front, as it is raised, we observe a passive and wishy-washy tendency masked by verbal intransigence. At once, the following paradox hits one in the eye: the Right wing elements of the party, with their centrist and pacifist tendencies… step forward as the most irreconcilable opponents of the united front. And on the other hand, those elements, which, during the most difficult moments held their position entirely on the grounds of the 3rd International, now step forward for the tactic of the united front. What is actually the case is that the supporters of the temporizing and passive tactic are now stepping forward behind the mask of pseudo-revolutionary inransigence.”
Doesn’t it seem as if these lines were written today against Stalin-Manuilsky-Thälmann-Neumann? (or against the LTF today!) Actually, they were written ten years ago, against Frossard, Cachin, Charles Rappaport, Daniel Renoult and other French opportunists disguising themselves with ultra-leftism. We put this question point blank to the Stalinist bureaucracy: Were the theses we quoted “counter-revolutionary” even during that time when they expressed the policies of the Russian Politbureau, with Lenin at its head, and when they defined the policy of the Comintern? We warn them duly not to attempt in answer to reply that conditions have changed since that period (as Dave Brown and Dov Winter do!): the matter does not concern questions of conjuncture; but, as the text itself puts it, of the ABC of Marxism. 2
And the Stalinist version
The French Communist Party in 1932, for example, declared that:
“The tactic of class against class… tested in France during four years of economic or political struggles will be firmly applied by the whole of the Party during the course of this electoral campaign. The responsible organisms of the Party, from the cells up to the Political Bureau, will be on the alert so that there nowhere re-occur the defections and compromises with the Socialist, or even the Radical Party, as occurred in certain regions in 1928…
During its electoral campaign our Party must be on the alert so as not to fall into the error where right opportunism allies itself with the most narrow-minded sectarianism… It must once again be repeated that far from being a sectarian tactic, our tactic of class against class, which prohibits any electoral bloc in any form with the Socialist Party, supposes and signifies a united front at the base with Socialist workers…
The objective current conditions are very favourable for convincing Socialist workers to fight in common with their Communist brothers against the bourgeoisie and its principal supporter, the Socialist Party… The objective situation has never before so pushed the Socialist chiefs down the openly reactionary path at the same time as it pushes the Socialist workers onto the path of revolutionary struggle. This is the material, objective basis for our entire tactic of a class against class united front.” (Cahiers)
Of course Trotsky also used the term “class against class” in What Next? (January 1932) but he clearly demarcated it from the sectarianism of the Stalinists who used it in the sense that they alone represented the working class. This is Trotsky’s position in 1931:
“No common platform with the Social Democracy, or with the leaders of the German trade unions, no common publications, banners, placards! March separately, but strike together! Agree only how to strike, whom to strike, and when to strike! Such an agreement can be concluded even with the devil himself, with his grandmother, and even with Noske and Grezesinsky. On one condition, not to bind one’s hands.” 3
This might sound similar but it is crucially based on the United front from above; placing demands on the reformist leaders to fight and fighting alongside them when they do – no diplomatic ‘non-aggression pacts’ before, after or, when necessary, during united front engagements and below; engaging with the ranks of the reformist workers to show them that we are the real force that demand the unity of the working class against fascism and reaction and their leaders are unwilling to pursue any struggle to the end because they are covert defenders of capitalism like the reactionaries who were open defenders. And this requires an open party with independent programme and press, the “march separately” part.
WUF: the indispensible orientation for all revolutionaries to all mass reformist parties
So to recap the WUF was never simply the tactic for mass parties; it was and is the indispensible orientation for all revolutionaries to all mass reformist parties and other parties based on the working class until the revolution itself conquers, i.e. the essence of all their political struggles, the ABC of communism. The ultra-lefts were well-meaning revolutionists who thought that the straight-to-the-masses-approach would bypass political struggle to raise the consciousness of the workers (or that consciousness would suddenly “leap” without this orientation). 4
This is never right and, having rejected the TM and its orientation to bourgeois-workers’ parties implicitly for Dov Winter and his co-thinkers straight-to-the-masses is the only correct revolutionary practice, although he does not spell out any alternative at all to the TM. But the “International Action and Coordination Secretariat of the Leninist Trotskyist Fraction” official reply to the International Trotskyist Committee of June 10 2009 does spell out a detailed position and suggest an alternative to voting.
“Those who support publicly and politically a bourgeois government, be it a left bourgeois one, a popular front, a bourgeois nationalist, a bourgeois-worker government, a social democratic one, etc. – is refusing to prepare the throwing out of that government and are selling their souls to the Devil. And you have called publicly to vote critically –that is, you gave a political support, albeit “critically”- for a bourgeois imperialist government as that of the British Labour… to be the representative of the British working class to the European Parliament! This is worse than supporting the reactionary strikes of the British labor aristocracy and bureaucracy. It means recognizing the European Parliament, which equals to recognizing the UNO, the OAS, and the rest of the imperialistic institutions with which imperialism establishes its regime of domination over the planet.
“It is a falsification of the tactics of proletarian United Front, that should never be used when the treacherous bourgeois-worker party is in the government, save for one exception (and even then, one should not give it the least political support): when it may be defeated by a Bonapartist/fascist coup, as when Kerensky was supported by the Bolsheviks “in the same way that the rope supports the hanging man”in front of the Korniloviad “This policy of United Front with the bourgeois-worker parties in power was carried by Lambert and the French OCI, and with it this party betrayed the workers in France and submitted itself to the Popular Front and the government of Mitterrand in the ‘80s; you and the GB are today continuators of this policy. You didn’t counterpoise to the elections to the European Parliament the Marxist apothegm: “Proletarians of all countries, Unite!”5
So many political errors
This extract contains so many political errors that it is difficult to know where to begin. Here are but some of them. “And you have called publicly to vote critically – that is, you gave a political support, albeit “critically”- for a bourgeois imperialist government as that of the British Labour”. And as you reject any “critical vote” for any of your list of governments above so it is clear you reject any critical support at all because this must mean political support with a vote. You can see below that Lenin equates a critical vote with a type of support, because that is how the British working class will see it. See what Lenin had to say on this matter, comrades, before you rush to your ultra-left conclusions:
“At present, British Communists very often find it hard even to approach the masses, and even to get a hearing from them. If I come out as a Communist and call upon them to vote for Henderson and against Lloyd George, they will certainly give me a hearing. And I shall be able to explain in a popular manner, not only why the Soviets are better than a parliament and why the dictatorship of the proletariat is better than the dictatorship of Churchill (disguised with the signboard of bourgeois “democracy”), but also that, with my vote, I want to support Henderson in the same way as the rope supports a hanged man—that the impending establishment of a government of the Hendersons will prove that I am right, will bring the masses over to my side, and will hasten the political death of the Hendersons and the Snowdens just as was the case with their kindred spirits in Russia and Germany”. 6
Dave Brown is not a modest man
In the first place this dismissal of Lenin rests on Dave Brown’s assertion that there is a fundamental political difference between voting for a bourgeois-workers’ party out of power and voting for a bourgeois-workers’ party in power, between voting in British elections and in elections for the European parliament. As Jim Roberson before -whose 1977 assertion became a credo for SL, ICL, IBT and IG (the ‘family of Sparticism’) – he does not prove this in any way nor is he able to produce a quote from Lenin or Trotsky that this was their position.
In any case this flimsy defence is not needed by the LTF in their official reply because their reference is to all bourgeois-workers’ and social democratic governments and parties as well as all colonial and/or semi-colonial ones in conflict with imperialism. But the reply to the ITC does assist us in our dilemma as to what we are to do in the elections after these become governments. We are to “counterpoise (sic) to the elections to the European Parliament the Marxist apothegm: “Proletarians of all countries, Unite!”
We must assume this also applies to national elections if we are not to ignore politics entirely during the period of heightened political excitement during the election. “Don’t vote, organise” is a false counterposition used by sectarians and anarchists, never by serious Marxists. Lenin ridicules just this position in his Left Wing Communism.
So should we have participated in the European elections, should we have advocated a vote for the mass bourgeois-workers’ parties, centrists etc? Absolutely not, says the LOI, “It means recognizing the European Parliament, which equals to recognizing the UNO, the OAS, and the rest of the imperialistic institutions with which imperialism establishes its regime of domination over the planet”. Here is Lenin again in Left Wing Communism:
“We Bolsheviks participated in the most counterrevolutionary parliaments, and experience has shown that this participation was not only useful but indispensable to the party of the revolutionary proletariat, after the first bourgeois revolution in Russia (1905), so as to pave the way for the second bourgeois revolution (February 1917), and then for the socialist revolution (October 1917). In the second place, this sentence is amazingly illogical.
If a parliament becomes an organ and a “centre” (in reality it never has been and never can be a “centre”, but that is by the way) of counter-revolution, while the workers are building up the instruments of their power in the form of the Soviets, then it follows that the workers must prepare—ideologically, politically and technically—for the struggle of the Soviets against parliament, for the dispersal of parliament by the Soviets.But it does not at all follow that this dispersal is hindered, or is not facilitated, by the presence of a Soviet opposition within the counter-revolutionary parliament. In the course of our victorious struggle against Denikin and Kolchak, we never found that the existence of a Soviet and proletarian opposition in their camp was immaterial to our victories. We know perfectly well that the dispersal of the Constituent Assembly on January 5, 1918 was not hampered but was actually facilitated by the fact that, within the counter-revolutionary Constituent Assembly which was about to be dispersed, there was a consistent Bolshevik, as well as an inconsistent, Left Socialist-Revolutionary Soviet opposition”. 7
He quotes from the German ultra lefts in the same work:
“All reversion to parliamentary forms of struggle, which have become historically and politically obsolete, must be emphatically rejected” This is said with ridiculous pretentiousness (says Lenin), and is patently wrong. “Reversion” to parliamentarianism, forsooth! Perhaps there is already a Soviet republic in Germany? It does not look like it! How, then, can one speak of “reversion”? Is this not an empty phrase? 8
The Constituent Assembly
Trotsky explains “to participate actively and consciously in the war does not mean ‘to serve Chiang Kai-shek’ but to serve the independence of a colonial country in spite of Chiang Kai-shek”.
Trotsky gives this example of this wrong ultra-left method:
“The only salvation of the workers and peasants of China is to struggle independently against the two armies, against the Chinese army in the same manner as against the Japanese army” (say his ultra-left opponents). And Trotsky explains “to participate actively and consciously in the war does not mean ‘to serve Chiang Kai-shek’ but to serve the independence of a colonial country in spite of Chiang Kai-shek. And the words directed against the Kuomintang are the means of educating the masses for the overthrow of Chiang Kai-shek. In participating in the military struggle under the orders of Chiang Kai-shek, since unfortunately it is he who has the command in the war for independence—is to prepare politically the overthrow of Chiang Kai-shek . . . that is the only revolutionary policy”.9
So here is Trotsky in 1927 elaborating a policy not only of critical (but not political) support for left bourgeois nationalist government of Chiang Kai-shek by participation in his army in the war against Japanese imperialism. Trotsky here and Lenin in Left Wing Communism would be the greatest of class traitors if it is true as you propose that “you have called publicly to vote critically –that is, you gave a political support, albeit “critically”- for a bourgeois imperialist government as that of the British Labour”. Such a “critical vote” is NOT political support for us just as it was not for Lenin; if you want to say we politically support the imperialist programme of the British Labour party or the French Socialist party you must prove it by something other than illogical deductions and baseless assertions like this. You then correctly identify the critical vote with the united front method and then contemptuously reject that also except in the very limited circumstances of a fascist-type coup as Kornilov attempted in 1917 and, “even then, one should not give it the least political support”. But again the whole method of the united front is NEVER to give political support to the programme of the bourgeois-workers’ party or government, or to the anti-imperialist bourgeoisie or petit bourgeoisie, to support, as Lenin says, “as the rope support the hanged man”. You must think Lenin was very wrong in his famous book. We hope you have read it, if so you certainly have not understood it.
Moreno was well known for his zigzags. How are your polemics today compatible with your real practice, the joint LOI-LSR slate – on a not so radical platform – in Argentinean elections of 2003? We guess no more than your systematic condemnation today of democratic slogan at any time is compatible with the LOI opportunist call for a Constituent Assembly in December 2001, in a country where political parties were allowed, elections took place, at a time the masses drove out an elected president.
In International Workers Organiser NO. 1, p. 84, you say:
“We do not accept that to mobilise the forces for revolution that the main demand should be to call for a Constituent Assembly which is a form of bourgeois regime that recognises the right of the bourgeoisie to have an equal vote with workers. This is a Menshevik concession to Stalinist stagism and a vote of no-confidence in the revolutionary capacity of the working class and its vanguard. In isolation of workers self-organisation the Constituent Assembly entraps workers and poor peasants inside a bourgeois regime”.10
Here is a situation showing that democratic demands on bourgeois governments may be relevant to all periods of a revolutionary upsurge from CWG website by Jose Villa. The author has become a renegade from Trotskyism now, but the work stands as the best Marxist analysis of the 1952 lost revolution in Bolivia:
“Neither did the POR raise the main slogan for a thorough-going bourgeois democracy: the sovereign Constituent Assembly, where all those over the age of 18 (or 16) would have the right to vote and to be elected. New elections on as democratic and as broad a basis as possible, and the creation of a new Constituent Assembly where the main national problems could be debated, would have let the revolutionary party more easily unmask the nature of the MNR and of parliamentarianism. The POR envisaged something else which flung dust in the workers’ eyes: to restore the reactionary constitution which put Paz into the Presidential Palace.” 11
Take the following Trotsky quote:
“In Brazil there now reigns a semi-fascist regime that every revolutionary can only view with hatred. Let us assume, however, that on the morrow England enters into a military conflict with Brazil. I ask you on whose side of the conflict will the working class be? I will answer for myself personally—in this case I will be on the side of ‘fascist’ Brazil against ‘democratic’ Great Britain. Why? Because in the conflict between them it will not be a question of democracy or fascism. If England should be victorious, she will put another fascist in Rio de Janeiro and will place double chains on Brazil”’. 12
That sounds like Trotsky supporting a ‘fascist’ Brazilian government to me. And further should we not have ‘supported’ Argentina’s government against Britain in 1982? Of course this ‘support’ could not be uncritical so that it becomes politically against the working class, which is what Moreno did in 1982 to hide his opportunist relationship with the Peronist CGT, but it did have to be critical and militarily against imperialism. And neither Brazil in 1938 nor Argentina in 1982 had anything approaching a ‘left-bourgeois’ government which we must never support according to the LTF. But Trotsky could even support ‘semi-fascist’ Brazil against Britain and even semi-feudal Abyssinia against Italy. What a class traitor you must think he was!
A baby’s rattle
Trotsky did not think a demand for a Constituent Assembly was necessarily “a Menshevik concession to Stalinist stagism and a vote of no-confidence in the revolutionary capacity of the working class and its vanguard”. It was precisely the lack of “workers’ self-organisation” that demanded this tactic:
“To the adventurist resolution of the February Plenum of the ECCI (1928) I already then counterposed a course towards the mobilization of the Chinese workers under democratic slogans, including the slogan of a Constituent Assembly for China. But here the ill-starred trio fell into ultra-leftism; that was cheap and committed them to nothing. Democratic slogans? Never. “This is a gross mistake on Trotsky’s part”. Only soviets for China – not a farthing less! It is hard to conceive of anything more senseless than this – by your leave – position. The slogan of soviets for an epoch of bourgeois reaction is a baby’s rattle, i.e., a mockery of soviets. But even in the epoch of revolution, that is, in the epoch of the direct building of soviets, we did not withdraw the democratic slogans. We did not withdraw them until the real soviets, which had already conquered power, clashed before the eyes of the masses with the real institutions of democracy. This signifies in the language of Lenin (and not of the philistine Stalin and his parrots): not skipping over the democratic stage in the development of the country. “Without the democratic programme – constituent assembly, eight-hour day, confiscation of the land, national independence of China, right of self-determination for the peoples living within it – without this democratic programme, the Communist Party of China is bound hand and foot and is compelled to surrender the field passively to the Chinese Social-Democrats who may, with the aid of Stalin, Radek and company, assume the place of the Communist Party. 13
Trotsky was at one with this method of Lenin’s:
“Without hiding or mitigating our opinion of the Social Democratic leaders in the slightest, we may and we must say to the Social Democratic workers, “Since, on the one hand, you are willing to fight together with us; and since, on the other, you are still unwilling to break with your leaders, here is what we suggest: force your leaders to join us in a common struggle for such and such practical aims, in such and such a manner; as for us, we Communists are ready.” Can anything be more plain, more palpable, more convincing?
The official party, itself, violates its stillborn policy at every step. In its appeals for the “Red United Front” (with its own self), it invariably puts forward the demand for “the unconditional freedom of the proletarian press and the right to demonstrate, meet, and organize.” This slogan is clear-cut through and through. But when the Communist Party speaks of proletarian and not only of Communist papers, meetings, etc., it thereby, in fact, puts forward the slogan of the united front with that very Social Democracy that publishes workers’ papers, calls meetings, etc. To put forward political slogans that in themselves include the idea of the united front with the Social Democracy, and to reject the making of practical agreements to fight for these slogans – that is the height of absurdity”. 14
1. Trotsky, Lettre à Fred Zeller, 1936, Œuvres t. 9, EDI, p. 56.
2. Trotsky, What Next?, Vital Questions for the German Proletariat, http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/germany/1932-ger/next02.htm
3. Trotsky, For a Workers’ United Front Against Fascism, 1931, http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/germany/1931/311208.htm
4. Many have postulated that this “leap” happened in 1917 in Russia and in Spain in 1936. This is ignores the previous twenty years of work of the Bolsheviks in Russia and the decades of work by the anarchists and others in Spain for decades before the revolution 1936.
5. Point 10 of the TF letter leaves us in no doubt: “This is not a letter as the one we sent before, which was informal, so you could know our elaborations on our positions. This is the official position of the International Action and Coordination Secretariat of the LTF”.
6. Lenin, Left-Wing Communism: an Infantile Disorder, http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1920/lwc/
9. Trotsky, On the Sino-Japanese war, September 23, 1937, http://www.zhongguo.org/trotsky/revbetrayed/images/China/58.htm
10. International Workers Organiser, periodical of the Leninist Trotskyist Fraction (LTF), Issue No. 1, September 2008, http://www.geocities.com/communistworker/
11. Villa, Jose. The 1952 Revolution: How the 4th International and the POR betrayed the revolution which could have carried Trotskyism to Power http://www.geocities.com/communistworker/bolivia.html
12. Trotsky, Anti-Imperialist Struggle is Key to Liberation, An Interview with Mateo Fossa, (September 1938) http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1938/09/liberation.htm
14 Trotsky, What Next? Vital Questions for the German Proletariat Part I http://marxists.catbull.com/archive/trotsky/germany/1932-ger/next01.htm.