EPSR: Stalinism and the utter confusion of Don Hoskins3
20/03/2018 by socialistfight
Press conference to launch News Line 1976. Pictured John Spencer, Royston Bull, Alex Mitchell & Stephen Johns
EPSR: Stalinism and the utter confusion of Don Hoskins
In the Economic & Philosophic Science Review No 1530 for 6th March 2018 Don Hoskins gives us an 11,144 article in almost unreadable 8 and 7-point (quotes) type face, 8 pages of slab text with no subheads and with huge quotes from unreferenced bourgeois sources. It is laden with intemperate language against vague opponents who are never analysed in detail.
EPSR’s separate stages in revolution in Ireland
The following is just phrase-mongering:
“But the shallowness, anti-theory philistinism and the “condemn terror” capitulations of the fake-“left”, (revisionist flavour as well as poisonous Trotskyist), continue to hold back the only possible way that system can be ended, through seeing and using the defeats and setbacks for imperialism as the openings for conscious revolutionary struggle, to completely bring down and end the entire monopoly capitalist system, and establish world-wide cooperative socialism.”
But unfortunately, when comrade Don gets on to theory it is just gibberish as when he quotes from their line in 2001:
“It (Sinn Fein – GD) remains the most outstanding political party of anti-imperialist achievement in the entire Western world (oh FFS – GD), but it has no answer at all to the far more complex socialist revolutionary challenge facing Western civilisation as a whole. Worse than that, Sinn Féin has no allegiance whatever to building a party of Marxist-Leninist revolutionary theory and becomes a bad role model at that point of future development.”
The is based on the bizarre notion that Sin Fein has inflicted a massive defeat on British imperialism in Ireland in getting the Good Friday Agreement signed. Ah, but you see some problems remain. Sinn Fein’s chief error, after “joining bourgeois confusion in the imperialist countries on a number of international issues” (whatever these might be) was to condemn the 2004 Madrid Bombings (192 dead) and 9/11 events (2,996 dead). Who on earth expected SF to do anything else? But there’s more:
“On top of all that, the SF role model for revolutionary socialist political struggle in Britain gets several crucial points completely wrong. Firstly, without revolutionary theory for Britain, the socialist revolution will NEVER take place.”
But SF made no such mistakes, it never claimed to be a revolutionary socialist organisation – though they did make some vague references to ‘socialism’ in the early 1980s, but then so did all post-war Labour leaders up to Tony Blair. Neither did it ever have any such a model (programme}, it was always totally opposed to socialist revolution because it was a petty-bourgeois nationalist party and is now a CAPITALIST party, in an austerity-imposing government in the north of Ireland up to a year ago and seeking coalition partners for government in the south; it is never going to propose a programme to defeat itself. Here is one instance:
Signposts to Independence and Socialism
by Gerry Adams (1988)
Paperback 31pp Out of Print Only by understanding this will we understand the relationship between republicanism and socialism. I have heard some of our membership refer to us as a socialist party, or as revolutionary socialists, or as a nationalist party. All very confusing. We need clarity on these issues. Real national independence, such as I have outlined above, is the prerequisite of socialism. You cannot have socialism in a colony or a neo-colony. You must have your own government with the power to institute the political and economic policies which constitute socialism.
Socialism is a definite system of society in which the main means of production, distribution and exchange are socially owned and controlled and in which production is based on human need rather than private profit. A socialist society is one where the working class directly or through their representatives run the state. A capitalist society is one where the private owners of capital or their representatives do so.
Republicanism is not a word which defines such a definite system of society. In our case it refers to the struggle to establish national independence in its widest sense and defines a state which is not a monarchy, tyranny or aristocracy but which is democratic. Republicanism is not inherently socialist in the sense that I have defined socialism above, yet, as I have said, it is the prerequisite of socialism in Ireland.
It is also a term most easily understood by the majority of Irish people. They understand it to mean national ‘independence, sovereignty, unity and an end to foreign interference in our affairs. And this is despite the best efforts of the Fianna Fail and SDLP leaderships or Fine Gael to distort its meaning. Socialism, on the other hand, as far as most people can judge is what socialism does. It means different things to different people and nothing to most people and as we have seen it is in the interests only of one section of people — the working class.
Republicanism, however, is in the interests of wider sections of our people, is more easily understood by them and is seen as a formidable and important political opinion in Irish society. A republican movement, therefore, has the potential to be the mass movement for Irish democracy, consisting of all who seek to establish a united and genuinely independent Irish Republic.
Such a Republic is one in which social sections other than the working class may have an interest. Socialists and non-socialists will, therefore, have a common interest in getting rid of imperialism. In all of this, the question of socialist republicanism or republican socialism is an important one for radicals in Ireland today. The term ‘Republican Socialism’ has been used by some, but strictly speaking, it is a misnomer. If you say you are a republican socialist you are implying that there is such a thing as a ‘non-republican’ socialist; but of course, there is not and cannot be, at least if socialism is used in the classical sense of the term defined here. One cannot be a socialist and NOT be a republican. Connolly, as usual, indicated what the correct term was when he called the party he founded in 1896 the Irish Socialist Republican Party. It follows that if one wishes to use the term ‘socialist’ in defining one’s political position today, the proper term is ‘socialist republican’ and socialist republicanism’, in order to distinguish oneself from non-socialist republicans. The Republican Movement has for decades been the movement of the most radical and determined advocates of Irish unity and real independence. That is what republicanism has meant and means to most people in Ireland.
If people are socialists as well as republicans, it is, of course, perfectly valid that they should call themselves ‘socialist republicans’. But if the Republican Movement as a whole decides to style itself ‘socialist republican’, this implies that there is no place in it for non-socialist republicans, or that non-socialist republicans are in some way second-rate, inferior or less genuine republicans.
This inevitably must narrow the potential support-base of the Republican Movement and enable other movements to claim that they are ‘republican’ though they are not socialist; for example, Fianna Fail or the SDLP. This carries the danger of letting these parties off the political hook, for their leaders will be able to claim that they are the real republicans and that what the ‘republicans’ are offering is some foreign importation called ‘socialism’.
Thus the possibilities of driving a political wedge between the leadership of Fianna Fail and the SDLP on the one hand and their members and rank-and-file supporters on the other will be diminished. But if ‘socialism’ is what is offered as the alternative, it cannot have the same popular appeal and will leave the leadership of these sham ‘republican’ parties politically unscathed.
But comrade Don is determined to pile confusion on top of confusion:
“Firstly, without revolutionary theory for Britain, the socialist revolution will NEVER take place. The reformist – ‘left’ pressure, advocated by the SLP (SDLP? GD) and SF groupies, is WORSE THAN useless, utterly disarming the working class in Britain, and utterly disarming the international anti-imperialist struggle which can ONLY proceed by stepping things up towards TOTAL CONSCIOUS REVOLUTIONARY MARXIST struggle as rapidly as possible. Secondly, the correct programme, strategy, and tactics, — the correct theory, — that Sinn Féin did have for its colossal anti-imperialist triumph in Ireland was STRICTLY LIMITED to a national liberation victory.”
Well now it looks like it is possible for the national anti-imperialist struggle to succeed in Ireland because it was led by “the most outstanding political party of anti-imperialist achievement in the entire Western world” (Vietnam and China are also examples, one of their members assures us) but for the “international anti-imperialist struggle” their lack of “TOTAL CONSCIOUS REVOLUTIONARY MARXIST struggle” (as possessed by the Don and his crew of two) is “is WORSE THAN useless, utterly disarming the working class in Britain”. How can this be, the great national revolutionaries are worse than useless internationally? This can only be understood by a deep understanding of Stalinist stageism, it seems:
“But national liberation and socialism are two totally different things entirely.”
Well, that is certainly the position of all bourgeois nationalists, the lefts like Eamon de Valera in the Tan war and Civil War from 1919 to 1923, who famously said the “labour must wait”; the rights like Michael Collins who were outright counterrevolutionaries and pro-imperialists in that Civil War. But it was not the position of James Connolly who advised the workers just before the 1916 uprising, “In the event of victory, hold on to your guns, as those with whom we are fighting may stop before our goal is reached.” The best of the Irish nationalists, in particular, Liam Mellows, came to understand that national liberation and socialism are NOT “two totally different things entirely” but completely bound up with each other.
Liam Mellows (right) with pro- and anti-Treaty IRA commanders on 8 May 1922. (George Morrison)
This is an extract from Mellow’s “The People’s Republic,” which was written in 1922, just before he and fellow Republicans Rory O’Connor, Joe McKelvey, and Richard Barrett, were executed by firing squad on 8 December 1922, in reprisal for the shooting of TD Seán Hales. These executions and their effects on their fellow prisoners are described in Peadar O’Donnell’s Irish Civil War memoir, The Gates Flew Open:
It is a fallacy to believe that a Republic of any kind can be won through the shackled Free State. You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. The Free State is British created and serves British Imperialist interests. It is the buffer erected between British Capitalism and the Irish Republic.
A Worker’s Republic can be erected only on its ruins. The existing Irish Republic can be made the Workers’ and Peasants Republic if the labour movement is true to the ideals of James Connolly and true to itself.
The Irish Republic represents Independence and the struggle has a threefold significance. It is political; it is intellectual; it is economic. It is political in the sense that it means complete separation from England and the British Empire. It is intellectual in as much as it represents the cultural expression of the Gaelic civilisation and the removal of the impress of English speech and English thought upon the Irish character. It is economic because the wresting of Ireland from the grip of English capitalism can leave no thinking Irishman with the desire to build up and perpetuate this country an economic system that had its roots in foreign domination.
Ireland does not want a change of master. It would be folly to destroy English tyranny in order to erect a domestic tyranny that would need another revolution to free the people. The Irish Republic stands therefore for the ownership of Ireland by the people of Ireland. It means that the means and process of production must not be used for the profit or aggrandisment of any group or class.
Ireland has not yet become industrialized. It never will if in rejecting and casting off British Imperialism (and its offspring the Free State and Northern Parliaments) the Irish workers insist that a native imperialism does not replace it. If the Irish people do not control Irish industries, transport, money and the soil of the country then foreign or domestic capitalists will. And whoever controls the wealth of a country and the processes by which wealth is attained, controls also its government.
Ireland, if her industries and banks were controlled by foreign capital, would be at the mercy of every breeze that ruffled the surface of the world’s money markets. If social capitalism flourished a social war such as now threatens practically every country in Europe would ensue. Ireland, therefore, must start with a clean slate. 
Leon Trotsky didn’t think this separation of the bourgeois and the socialist revolutions was possible from 1904 when he developed his Permanent Revolution theory. Lenin’s April Theses married the two to make the great October Revolution. Trotsky’s Permanent Revolution anticipated the April Theses where Lenin rejected the Democratic Dictatorship of the Proletariat and Peasantry and struck out for the second revolution by proclaiming “down with the Provisional Government”:
“The person who now speaks only of a “revolutionary democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry” is behind the times, consequently, he has in effect gone over to the petty bourgeoisie against the proletarian class struggle; that person should be consigned to the archive of “Bolshevik” pre-revolutionary antiques (it may be called the archive of “old Bolsheviks”).” 
This means that a revolutionary bourgeois republic was then impossible in Russia because the working class is a world class and its consciousness, reflected in its revolutionary vanguard, reflects this fact putting international socialism, i.e. world revolution on the order of the day, not a separate revolutions to achieve the very miserable austerity regime between SF and the DUP in Stormont that is so inspiring to the good comrades of the E&PSR. This perspective has remained the only really revolutionary one so since 1917 and only revolutionary Trotskyism fights for it today. And a revolutionary bourgeois republic is impossible in Ireland now and its six northeastern counties also. We must look to James Connolly’s and Liam Mellows’ Workers Republic for inspiration. Mellows was inspired by the first, short Lived Communist Party of Ireland which was directed by the revolutionary Comintern become it collapsed into the opportunism of Zinoviev after 1924 and Stalin after that in 1928.
SF are no revolutionaries now, were never social revolutionaries but did qualify for support from all revolutionary socialists when they were still fighting the occupation of the six counties by the British Army arms in hand. But definitively not now. But the 2004 E&PSR thinks so too:
“In some specific historical circumstances, they have run on to each other (who, when? GD). But they won’t be doing it out of the GFA. And they won’t be doing it in Ireland when Sinn Féin becomes the governing party there soon.”
Can’t help noticing that the 2004 criticisms are somewhat sharper and at odds with the lack of any 2018 criticisms, apart from the very foolish notion back in 2004 that SF was about to become the government of a united Ireland. We missed that event.
Can’t help noticing that the 2004 criticisms are somewhat sharper and at odds with the lack of any 2018 criticisms, apart from the very foolish notion back in 2004 that SF was about to become the government of a united Ireland. We missed that event.
Radek and Bukharin at the Second Congress of the Comintern in July 1920
In fact, the struggle for national liberation in Ireland cannot be separated for the tumultuous events internationally at the time, culminating in the Russian Revolution, nor from the revolutionary events in Britain itself in 1919 to 1922, as we outlined in our article, Hesitant Comrades, The Irish Revolution and the British labour movement. In hindsight, it might be better titled The Irish Revolution and the British Revolution. Here are a few extracts:
We will not follow through on the meticulous details that Bell provided in succeeding chapters except to highlight some issues. Bell follows the evolution of the British Socialist Party and the early CPGB in some detail. Radek’s advice to the British delegates at the Second Congress in July 1920 is of prime importance.
‘It is simple hypocrisy and swindling that these same people (The British Labour party who had just passed a resolution supporting the independence of India, Ireland and Egypt), who could not even rise to the level of characterising General Dwyer as a common murderer in Parliament on the occasion of the Amritsar bloodbath (in 1919 – GD), pretend to be the defenders of colonial independence. We greatly regret that our party comrades who are in the Labour Party did not tear the mask off these swindlers’ faces. The International will not judge the British comrades by the articles that they write in the Call and the Workers Dreadnought, but by the number of comrades who are thrown into gaol for agitating in the colonial countries. We would point out to the British comrades that it is their duty to help the Irish movement with all their strength, that it is their duty to agitate among the British troops, that it is their duty to use all their resources to block the policy that the British transport and railway unions are at present pursuing of permitting troop transports to be shipped to Ireland. It is very easy at the moment to speak out in Britain against intervention in Russia, since even the bourgeois left is against it. It is harder for the British comrades to take up the cause of Irish independence and of anti-militarist activity. We have a right to demand this difficult work of the British comrades.’  (p. 114, quoted by Bell from ‘The International…’)
If the sympathy of the British working class was so strong from mid-1920 to mid-1921 why did it die then? On 15 April 1921, the Empire loyalist Thomas delivered another blow at British and international working class. Remember the account from early 1919 that has been provided by Robert Smillie, of the meeting with Lloyd George as recounted in his book In Place of Fear: Lloyd George told them:
“Gentlemen you have fashioned in the Triple Alliance of unions represented by you a most powerful instrument. I feel bound to tell you that in our opinion we are at your mercy.The Army is disaffected and cannot be relied upon. Trouble has already occurred in a number of camps. We have just emerged from a great war and the people are eager for the reward of their sacrifices and we are in no position to satisfy them. In these circumstances, if you carry out your threatened strike you will defeat us. But if you do so, have you weighed up the consequences? The strike will be in defiance of the government of the country and by its success will precipitate a constitutional crisis of the first importance. For, if a force arises in the state that is stronger than the state itself, it must be ready to take on the functions of the state or withdraw and accept the authority of the state. Gentlemen, have you considered and if you have are you ready?'”
Smillie commented: “From that moment on we were beaten and we knew we were beaten.”
The owners of the newly re-privatised mine proposed massive wage cuts and the miners’ executive, rejecting their own general secretary, right winger Smillie, who wanted to compromise, called for a strike of the Triple Alliance, miners, railway workers and transport workers, that had been in existence since 1915. They called the strike, the government declared a state of emergency and moved troops for confrontation and the leaders of the Triple Alliance called off the strike. That date goes down in history as Black Friday. So it was that Thomas and the right wing Labour traitors now moved on the deal with the next, and perhaps greater problem for the British ruling class, Ireland.
Of course with the Truce in July and the Treaty in December 1921 it was clear that the Sinn Féin leaders themselves were willing to compromise on Britain’s terms. They had no political desire for an outright victory over imperialism nor was the political alternative offered by Éamonn de Valera’s in Document No 2 during the Treaty debates substantially different from that compromise. And the majority of those who really sought victory over British imperialism and fought on for it in the Civil War after the Treaty had no vision to of what it would need politically. Those few who did, left republicans like Liam Mellows and Joe McKelvie became increasing sympathetic towards the revolutionary message of the tiny Communist Party of Ireland, led by James Connolly’s son Roddy and Sean McLaughlin. But Mellows and McKelvie were shot with Rory O’Connor and Richard Barrett on 8 December 1922, prisoners of war summarily executed without trial in a reprisal shooting, of course a w,ar crime. They surely picked the most politically advanced and therefore dangerous prisoners to secure their relationship with the Empire. There was no longer an inspiring fight against British imperialism to inspire the British working class to fight themselves against that same enemy. There was no ‘new and more powerful leadership’ for them to rally to; the new CPGB was too small and too politically confused to provide that. 
 Addendum to Liam Mellows’ Famous Fleshpots of Empire Speech … – Socialist Fight, https://socialistfight.com/2015/11/06/liam-mellowes-famous-fleshpots-of-empire-speech-january-4th-1922/
 V. I. Lenin, Letters on Tactics, Written: Written between April 8 and 13 (21 and 26), 1917, https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1917/apr/x01.htm
 Hesitant Comrades, The Irish Revolution and the British labour movement, https://socialistfight.com/2016/04/23/hesitant-comrades-the-irish-revolution-and-the-british-labour-movement/
Note the Wikipedia article makes no mention of Steve Johns, surely the most theoretical leaders of the split in 1979:
Economic and Philosophic Science Review
The Economic and Philosophic Science Review (EPSR) is a British socialist newspaper founded by Royston Bull, formerly a leading member of the Workers Revolutionary Party and industrial correspondent for The Scotsman newspaper.
Bull split from the WRP in 1979 and with a number of supporters to form the Workers Party. The group, upon formally repudiating Trotskyism, renamed themselves the International Leninist Workers Party and later the Economic and Philosophic Science Review. Although Royston Bull died aged 69 on 2 January 2005, the EPSR continues to be published fortnightly, by its supporters.
The ILWP/EPSR are avowedly Marxist-Leninist and supportive of the Soviet Union but critical of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union‘s revisionism which they claimed was the result of Joseph Stalin‘s political errors. They are also very strongly supportive of the Irish Republican Army and many Third World national liberation movements.
During the 1970s, Eurocommunists outside the group (building on from earlier ideas of the New Left) had attempted to promote “LGBT rights” on the far-left, instead of proletarian politics. This gathered steam to the point that by the 1990s it was a prominent ideology on the far-left; the EPSR rejected this proposal outright as anti-social, saying homosexuality had “obvious disadvantages for any species in evolutionary terms”. John Pearson, a member of the revisionist Communist Party of Great Britain (Provisional Central Committee) in their publication Weekly Worker in 1999 said this was “homophobia” on the part of the EPSR.
Relations to Socialist Labour Party
With the foundation of the Socialist Labour Party by the leader of the National Union of Mineworkers, Arthur Scargill in 1996, the EPSR dissolved itself into the SLP where they operated as a faction around their paper, the EPSR. Royston Bull was elected Vice-President of the SLP in 1998, but was then almost immediately expelled (or ‘voided’) from party membership. Arthur Scargill, who had supported Bull’s candidacy, used it to strengthen his position within the SLP. The election caused a significant rift within the SLP, with one member, Brian Heron, calling Bull’s election “a disaster”. Whilst some of Bull’s supporters stayed within the SLP, most left to rejoin Bull and organised themselves as “EPSR supporters”.
I’m writing this as a quick response to the above critique of the EPSR, although I know that Don Hoskins is working on a more lengthy response, and is pleased by the opportunity to exchange polemics (and I should point out that I am not personally a member of the EPSR, although my politics are Leninist and generally very close to those of the EPSR).
As one minor point, I’d like to mention that the Economic & Philosophic Science Review abbreviates its name to EPSR rather than E&PSR.
For another, for clarification, it should be noted that when stating “It [Sinn Fein] remains the most outstanding political party of anti-imperialist achievement in the entire Western world”, the EPSR meant that in the geo-political sense ie. not including revolutionary parties in the East, such as found in Vietnam, Korea, China etc and not including parties in Africa, Cuba, Nicaragua, or El Salvador etc because they are not “in the [rich, metropolitan countries] Western world”.
On the matter of the printed EPSR’s allegedly too small and dense typeface, it has to be said that the EPSR is available online and you can then read it as large as you like. The printed version tends to be available first and is dense because there are a lot of world events, imperialist lies and “left” confusion for a Leninist biweekly to cover in any given fortnight.
Also, for example, some people may not like a webpage presentation of white text on a red background as used by the Socialist Fight website. It’s fine with me; I’m just saying you hardly want such things to be a serious starting point for deciding what cuts the mustard.
On more substantive matters, I’m sure that Don Hoskins will have plenty to say (give it a week or so?) about the allegations of confusion levelled at the EPSR, but it has to be said that the same EPSR segment on the Irish struggle and the British imperialist turmoil over Brexit and the provocative talk of reintroducing a “hard border”, said the following, precisely to sum up the great achievements of the IRA/SinnFein struggle and the defeatism of the BRITISH (nastily middle class “patriotic” fake “left”).
From EPSR 1530 for 6 March 2018:
The reality in Ireland is that the total ethnic suppression of the republicans and the “No surrender” stridency of the Orange colonialists is long gone and it is long gone because of the defeat of the colonialists and British imperialism.
If that were not the case all this agonising over the reimposition of a border would not be happening at all; in fact there would still be a “hard border”.
But in fact all sides, and even the bigoted DUPers have been falling over themselves to make clear that “oh no, there is no intention of establishing a hard border” and as soon as a few of the more off-the-wall nutters hinted at ignoring the GFA the Americans suddenly popped up to warn the British ruling class against making any stupid moves to jeopardise it. And that was not just any old American but the one at the heart of years of painstaking negotiations to withdraw.
As for the Sinn Féin now using “constitutional” means that is because it has won the capacity to do so, and as the quoted Michael Gove comments above make clear, (still sour and smarting from it) the entire British establishment understands that.
Why ever would there be an insistence of doing things the hard way – costing lives and pain – and in fact almost certainly counter-productively inflaming hatreds and divisions when the British retreat includes making available more straightforward mechanisms?
Offering the olive branch to the majority colonist population is not done out of defeat, it is done from strength and the confidence to carry the entire population forwards.
This fake-“left” defeatism is in line not with the working class but with the bitterness of the ruling class which itself does not want to admit its own defeat.
Sinn Féin and the republican movement are nationalists not Marxists and have their own flaws, not least ironically in joining in on occasions with the “condemnation of terror” that puts all the fake-“lefts” on the wrong side in the oncoming world war.
End of EPSR extract.
There is much more to be said, especially about stages in nature, military struggle, all social and human development, and Lenin’s understanding of stages in political and military strategy and tactics VERSUS the revisionist “stage-ism” which often got these things wrong and dropped anchor at bourgeois stages, arguing against potential movement forwards, out of miserable defeatism, just when the revolution should have been taken forwards.
But let me end by saying this discussion has great value in being open and in front of whoever in the working class and anti-imperialist movement wants to read it.
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