Socialist Fight respond to my post


16/08/2018 by socialistfight

What Alan Gibson said in reply to Ian Donovan


Socialist Fight re-blogged my critique on their blog site and liked a comment by their member Ian D.  – indicating that his comment represents their view as a group.

I reproduce Ian’s comment below along with a reply.


[Ian’s comment on my post]

I used to think like this. But there are problems with it because it gives too much confidence to the Stalinist regimes in saying that they act to defend the gains of the revolution.

The IBT holds the position that China, to this day, is a deformed workers state when in fact China is dominated by a billionaire capitalist class whose main political expression is the Chinese Communist Party. In China, the state is now an instrument for defending the billionaire class from the masses and though there is still a high level of statification in the economy, its utility is in defending the Chinese bourgeoisie…

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One thought on “Socialist Fight respond to my post

  1. Ian says:

    My position on workers organisations in decaying deformed workers states is nothing to do with economism. Whether or not support the use of repression to suppress a mass working class organisation is hardly a matter of economism; it is a matter or preserving every morsel of working class power in an extremely problematic situation where the class consciousness of the proletariat was at a very low ebb, thanks to decades of Stalinist betrayal and repression.

    There is also a chronic lack of understanding shown in the equation of Solidarnosc with the Ulster Workers Council strike, which was for Protestant supremacy over an oppressed people subject to sectarian rule and imperialist troops on the street. What has Poland got to do with that?. Actually there was a real element of national oppression involved in Stalinist rule in Poland, which is partly what fueled pro-Western sentiment.

    Poland was a deformed workers state at the time, in an advanced state of decay. The only force that can really defend a workers state against counterrevolution, the only force that has the material interest to do so, is the proletariat. The bureaucracy does not have such a material interest. It is a parasitic growth on a workers state, a parasite so ruinous that it would eventually kill its host, which it did, and not only in Poland. But the proletariatt, for a variety of reasons, decades of Stalinist venality and repression, economic hardship in the name of ‘socialism’, did not see the remnants of the deformed workers state as its own gains, and was hostile to defending it. It tended to suspect that Western capitalism would make it better off.

    Marxists argue hard against this. But how could crushing working class organisations and supporting martial law, by a privileged petty bourgeois layer that has no class interest in defending what was left of these social gains, help to change that consciousness of the proletariat? It didn’t. All it did was make the working class weaker and more subservient when the bureaucracy subsequently united with the pro-capitalist politicians around Solidarnosc to restore capitalism. Resistance to counterrevolution has to come from the proletariat; if the proletariat is unfortunately not in a political state to resist in that way, it is not possible to substitute for it. And certainly to look to conservative bureaucrats as a means to such substitution makes no programmatic sense whatsoever.

    The differences the IBT have with the Sparts over Yuri Andropov are an indication of how far Robertson had drifted from the politics of seeing ‘conservative’ Stalinists as being allies, to seeing them as in some way admirable. But this idea that ‘conservative’ Stalinists are some kind of strategic allies against counterrevolution is the root of it. The IBT put this perspective in the first of the China articles Alan cited:

    “The Soviet bureaucracy’s power and privileges paradoxically derived from the collectivized property of the workers’ state. It “robbed the people” through endemic social parasitism rather than class exploitation in the strict sense. Trotsky anticipated that those sections of the bureaucracy that hoped to secure their privileges through privatization of state assets would align with the forces of capitalist restoration. More conservative elements, concentrated among those who stood to lose out in the event of large-scale privatizations, would tend to resist counterrevolution and might even throw in their lot with an insurgent pro-socialist workers’ uprising.” (

    But Trotsky did not say that the conservative section of the bureaucracy might throw in their lot with the revolutionary proletariat. What he said was quoted in the same article, but the difference not noted:

    ““From this perspective, impelling concreteness is imparted to the question of the ‘defense of the U.S.S.R.’ If tomorrow the bourgeois-fascist grouping, the ‘fraction of Butenko,’ so to speak, should attempt the conquest of power, the ‘fraction of Reiss’ inevitably would align itself on the opposite side of the barricades. Although it would find itself temporarily the ally of Stalin, it would nevertheless defend not the Bonapartist clique but the social base of the U.S.S.R., i.e., the property wrenched away from the capitalists and transformed into State property….

    “Although it is thus impermissible to deny in advance the possibility, in strictly defined instances, of a ’united front‘ with the Thermidorian section of the bureaucracy against open attack by capitalist counter-revolution, the chief political task of the U.S.S.R. still remains the overthrow of this same Thermidorian bureaucracy.”

    In other words, Trotsky spoke of the faction of Reiss, which he identified with ‘complete Bolshevism’ throwing in its lot with the insurgent proletariat, he did not regard the Thermidorian wing of the bureaucracy as ‘tending’ to resist counterrevolution. They may do, they may not. For Trotsky, the ‘main political task’ was the overthrow of that ‘same Thermidorian’ bureaucracy. Why call for that if there is a real possibility of it throwing in its lot with the proletariat? That is the programmatic root of the Yuri Andropov Brigade.

    The earlier article points out that the Chinese bourgeoisie at the time it was written, and even more so now, was and is much more powerful than the Russian bourgeoisie was when Yelstin ascended to power in Russia. But how can that be, if Russia was capitalist and China is a deformed workers state? It is true of course, but this stronger bourgeoisie interpenetrates with the regime and with good reason, it its is regime and it has presided over its enrichment. The form of restoration in China is different to Russia; Russian capitalism was simultaneously put into power and crucified by imperialist neo-liberalism under Yeltsin, and the Russian bourgeoisie regrets it. Putin’s nationalism is the political expression of that. Chinese capitalism chose not to subordinate itself to neo-liberalism and commit economic suicide as did the Russian. Chinese capitalism is thus in rather better shape.

    This is a basis for siding with the ‘conservative’ wing of such regimes against the likes of Yeltsin, but not on basis of the illusion that by doing so you would be siding with a last-ditch defense of a workers state. It would be permissible to take a side on the grounds that the Yanayev group in 1991, though they were capitalist restorationists and had no alterative to that, were opposed to the kind of subordination to imperialism that Yeltsin stood for, and were in fact effectively the agents of an incipient semi-colonial capitalism resisting an imperialist proxy.

    That is pretty much our understanding of the difference between the Deng/Yanayev form of capitalist restoration, and Yeltsinism. See for more elaboration.

    But that once again raises the question of defence of semi-colonial peoples against imperialism and its proxies, as I raised in my previous comment.


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