IBT split; Spartoid contempt for the working class and oppressed nations


30/10/2018 by socialistfight

By Gerry Downing

Robertsonian Stalinophilia; sectarian third period on British Labour and concomitant imperialist apologia

Image result for International Bolshevik Tendency  images

After a decade on internal struggle on whether or not Russia was an imperialist country, the International Bolshevik Tendency split in late October. Both sides released their statements; the first, from the Bill Logan-led IBT on 19-10-18, A Note on the World Situation, Recent Departures & Line Change on Russia, explained that the majority had split from the organisation and they were now the leadership. The second statement on 21-10-18 came the Tom Riley-led renamed Bolshevik Tendency Statement on Resuming Independent Existence as the BT, solved the problem of why a majority should walk away from an organisation they founded.

The answer was that they were no longer a majority, a third faction had emerged and both sides want to shut these up as quickly as possible. Without access to all the documents of that faction it is not possible to reach a full judgement on them but from what the Riley/BT statement tells us this is the correct revolutionary line on imperialism and on the united front. The emergence of the faction was what caused such panic and forced the decade-long compromise to come to a sudden end. Riley was no longer the majority and both sides feared the struggle with a semi-colonial group who understood their ultra-left sectarianism and the full extent of their capitulation to imperialism would result in losses to that faction.

We have written on the united front and the correct attitude to social democracy elsewhere. Our comrade Ian Donovan has reposted his 1998 Revolution and Truth (R & T) polemic with the IBT and we agree 100% with his position on that question and voting for the bourgeois workers component of Popular Front. Suffice to say that he supplied the relevant Trotsky quote and the excuse of the Sparts Norden that Trotsky did not know what the policy of his supporters was in France was in 1934-36. Here is the Trotsky quote:

“All the political facts prove that there is no basis for the People’s Front either in the social relations of France or in the political mood of the masses. This policy is imposed from above: by the Radical bourgeoisie, by the Socialist businessmen and careerists, by the Soviet diplomats and their ‘Communist’ lackeys. All together they have done everything possible by means of the most dishonest of all electoral systems in order to dupe and rob politically the popular masses and to distort their real will. Nevertheless, even under these conditions the masses were able to give expression to their desire: not a coalition with the Radicals but the consolidation of the toilers against the whole bourgeoisie.

“Had revolutionary working class candidates been run on the second ballot in all the electoral districts in which the Socialists and Communists withdrew in favour of the Radicals, they would, no doubt, have obtained a very considerable number of votes. It is unfortunate that not a single organisation was to be found capable of such initiative. This shows that the revolutionary groups in both the centre and locally are lagging behind the dynamics of the events and prefer to temporise and evade whenever it is necessary to act. This is a sad situation. But the general orientation of the masses is quite clear.

“The Socialists and the Communists worked with all their might to pave the way for the ministry of Herriot — at worst the ministry of Daladier [i.e. politicians of openly bourgeois parties]. What did the masses do? They imposed upon the Socialists and Communists the ministry of [SFIO leader Leon] Blum. Is this not a direct vote against the policy of the People’s Front?” (The Decisive Stage, from Leon Trotsky on France, Monad Press, 1979, pp157-8).

But Jan Norden, then a central leader of the Sparts, now leader of the International Group/LFI cast doubt on the obvious conclusion that Trotsky was here advocating support and votes for the SFIO and PCF. Trotsky just did not know what was going on and/or opportunistically failed to take his French comrades to task for advocating a vote for the Socialists and Communists:

“So what was the situation in 1936? First of all, nobody paid any attention to this question at all. In the internal bulletin of the GBL there is one sentence on its policy in the election — and two pages of discussion in a later bulletin — compared to more than a hundred pages on the split with the Molinier group. Nor was the GBL policy mentioned in any of the post-June 1936 issues of Lutte Ouvriere. It was not a big issue. I’m not even sure Trotsky knew what the GBL policy was [R & T emphasis]; he might have, but it’s not clear. I was looking through the [Trotsky] archives [at Harvard University], and Trotsky writes big notes over everything putting triple exclamation points every time Vereecken opens his mouth. But here there’s no marks at all on his copy [of the GBL internal bulletin referring to election policy].

As Ian noted in 1998:

“It is absurd that Norden can speculate that Trotsky did not know what the electoral policy of the GBL was in 1935-36. In fact, there is a whole separate volume of Trotsky’s writings about the political crisis of the GBL during that very period. It is called The Crisis of the French Section (1935-36) (Pathfinder, 1977) and shows through numerous letters and polemical essays that Trotsky was paying very close attention to the internal life of the GBL and in fact waging within it a programmatic battle against the adventurist, centrist conceptions of the party and programmatically liquidationist, fake mass work-ism worst exemplified by Raymond Molinier. There is no passage in that book (or anywhere else) where Trotsky attacks the policy of being prepared to give electoral support to mass workers parties involved in a popular front. The reason why Trotsky did not scrawl critical annotations over the piece on this question in his copy of the GBL internal bulletin is obviously because he did not see what it said as in any way contentious. This is obvious to any honest reader of the material.” [1]

Trotsky explained the proper attitude of Communists to the British Labour party here:

“The difference is nevertheless colossal: in the past the British proletariat, insofar as it took part in political life, and especially during the first half of the nineteenth century, tied its democratic pacifist illusions to the activity of the Liberal Party. The latter did “not justify” these hopes and had forfeited the workers’ confidence. A special Labour Party arose as an invaluable historical conquest which nothing can now take away. But it must be clearly realized that the masses of workers became disillusioned more in Liberalism’s goodwill than in democratic pacifist methods of solving the social question and the more so now that new generations and new millions are being drawn into politics for the first time. They transferred their hopes and illusions to the Labour Party.” [2]

And Lenin and Trotsky never changed their views on this. The IBT line is sectarian third period nonsense on the British Labour party. This is complemented by a concomitant apologia for imperialism. Bill Logan first declared his line that Russia was imperialist in 2008 when Putin responded military in South Ossetia when Georgian president Saakashvili invaded in August 2008. An obvious defence of the war aims of US imperialism. It is unclear what Riley’s majority line was but certainly, it was not as bad as that. But far worse was to come over the Ukraine in 2014. In their conference of March 2014 the Loganites really did it. Here is the sorry tale:

“While there was no agreement on whether Russia is “imperialist,” there could be no doubt about the rivalry—as the Ukrainian crisis came to a boiling point in the weeks prior to the conference. On 3 March, Riley replied to a query from Dorn regarding the Nimp (Russia not imperialist) attitude toward a possible military conflict: “If there is a civil war in Ukraine between two qualitatively similar bourgeois opponents we would not have a side,” but in the event of a move “to forcibly seize the Russian base and assert Ukrainian nationalist/Nazi western imperialist government control” we would “side militarily with Crimean resistance and any Russian troops to repel the invaders.” Two days later (5 March 2014) Dorn, Decker and Logan (Loganites) presented a draft statement on Ukrainian events which included the following: “We demand the immediate expulsion of Russian forces from the territory of Ukraine (including its naval base at Sebastopol), and of any Western forces or ‘observers’ that may intervene militarily.”

Russia’s expulsion from its chief naval base on the Black Sea would have represented a major strategic setback for the Kremlin and a huge gain for U.S. imperialism, because the rightist regime in Kiev would have immediately handed the facility over to NATO. The Imps and Nimps disagreed about whether the population of the Crimea had a right to leave Ukraine and rejoin Russia. There were also significant differences over Russia’s intervention in Syria. The substantial articles published in on these questions, (“Ukraine, Russia & the Struggle for Eurasia” [No. 37] and “Middle East Chaos” [No. 38]) represent the Nimp position. To their credit the Imps publicly defended these positions whenever challenged in an exemplary fashion, despite their political reservations.”

Image result for the Azov Battalion and the Right Sector imagesNazi emblems proudly on show – but the IBT could not oppose even that. And their right opposition implicitly wanted to support it by giving the Russian Black Sea base of Sebastopol to the USA!

Barbara Dorn is the leader of the IBT in Britain and she made this statement in 2014 in direct support for US imperialism (who was going to perform the “immediate expulsion” of the Russian forces from the naval base at Sebastopol? Obvious NATO and the USA!). But what about the Maidan coup?  We now know great detail about what happened, but even without those, we had to oppose the war aims of imperialism and it was impossible to reach any other stance than opposition to this coup.

It was organised by the US NGOs, $5 billion spent for that purpose, Victoria Nuland, the US Assistant Secretary of State, was good enough to tell us. The CIA directly participated, and the leading force were outright fascists, the Azov Battalion and the Right Sector, glorifying wartime Hitler collaborator Stapan Bandera (mass murderer of tens of thousands Jews and Poles for Hitler and for the glory of Ukraine) and flying the Wolfsangle, Nazi insignia and chanting fascist slogans like “glory to Ukraine” etc. No serious Trotskyist could take a neural stance on that but the whole IBT did. We have not heard of a single opposition vote.

Victoria Nuland and Geoffrey Pyatt, Kiev, 10 December

Just to remind ourselves part of what Victoria Nuland (left) said in conversation with the US Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt (right), which the Russians were good enough to bug and record for posterity:

“OK. He’s now gotten both Serry and [UN Secretary General] Ban Ki-moon to agree that Serry could come in Monday or Tuesday. So that would be great, I think, to help glue this thing and to have the UN help glue it and, you know, Fuck the EU.” [3]


“Nuland: [Breaks in] I think Yats is the guy who’s got the economic experience, the governing experience. He’s the… what he needs is Klitsch and Tyahnybok on the outside. He needs to be talking to them four times a week, you know. I just think Klitsch going in… he’s going to be at that level working for Yatseniuk, it’s just not going to work.”

The good old US of A organised the lot! We can see now why we shouldn’t have opposed the US in the Maidan coup; it would have assisted not only Russian imperialism but also EU imperialism. And good old US chauvinist sects like the Spart Family could not have that!


[1] Ian Donovan, From the Archives: Spartacism vs. Trotskyism on the Popular Front, https://socialistfight.com/2018/10/25/from-the-archives-spartacism-vs-trotskyism-on-the-popular-front/

[2] Leon Trotsky’s Writings on Britain, 1925, Volume 2, Where is Britain Going?, CHAPTER VIII, Prospects, https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/britain/wibg/ch08.htm

[3] BBC News, 7 February 2014, Ukraine crisis: Transcript of leaked Nuland-Pyatt call, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-26079957

13 thoughts on “IBT split; Spartoid contempt for the working class and oppressed nations

  1. For the Bolshevik Tendency position on the events in the Ukraine read this 2015 article – http://www.bolshevik.org/1917/no37/ibt_1917_37_01_ukraine_russia.html

    It is unclear what the IBT position retrospective position will be. As they consider Russia to be an imperialist state I imagine it will be quite different.

    Given the clear divergence on the issue of Russia’s status between the two groups it is absurd for Gerry to be trying to tar both sides with the same brush.

    In a recent FB exchange with Socialist Fight leader Gerry Downing about voting in capitalist elections he said the following in regard to Ireland:

    “The Irish Labour party is not really like the British Labour party, very abject in its pro imperialist outlook. And Fianna Fail was a bit like the Peronists in Argentina. Irish voting is more nuanced because of the transferable vote. I’d vote Labour or left alternative and then transfer against Fine Gael.”

    In Ireland’s version of proportional representation that second and third preference votes often make a big difference in who gets elected in the multi-TD constituencies they have here.

    After giving the #1 to Labour it would seem that Gerry advocates workers tactically using the lower preference votes to any party other than the governing Fine Gael party.

    Gerry – am I correct in reading your position as it appears? That you are for giving second or third preference votes to the Fianna Fáil or Sinn Féin bourgeois parties?

    If so I presume you would justify this abject political support to bourgeois forces in the name of the “Anti-Imperialist United Front” – just as you did in taking sides in backing one bourgeois bureaucrat against another in the ANC leadership contest.


  2. stephenrdiamond says:

    Ian says in another reply that support of a mass bourgeois workers party is a tactical question. This disagrees with Gerry’s view, expressed in the conversation with Gibson/revolutionaryprogram. Gerry regards electoral support for Labor, even in the Blair era, is a principle, and comrade Gibson considers the question tactical!


    • Viriato says:

      Or, perhaps, as I understand Gerry’s words, it is “a tactical principe”…

      A tactical principe should not be applied “to any” circonstance (but to most) and I would be very surprise if Gerry has said such non sens.

      And it is preferable to write with no “it seems that” and other “tactical non principles”.


      • I had previously thought that it was a case of most rather than all situations. But in the course of the discussions on Facebook it has become clear that there really are no situations (outside of a direct revolutionary situation) when Gerry would not call for a vote to a bourgeois workers’ party where there was no revolutionary or centrist party alternative standing in the same constituency.

        If I have got that wrong then Gerry, or any other Socialist Fight member, can of course correct me and explain what it would take for them not to give electoral political support to a bwp.

        While they are doing so they might also take the time to clarify whether SF are for giving second or third preference votes to the Fianna Fáil or Sinn Féin bourgeois parties in elections in the Republic of Ireland as Gerry seemed to be implying.


  3. stephenrdiamond says:


    Could you perhaps give me another example of something that is a tactical principle? (I ask to avoid semantics. As I think of it, the very idea of a “tactical principle” is non-Marxist.


    • Viriato says:

      No I can not.
      My first problem is the langage and I write as I can, but there are some “tactical principles” that, in my view, apply for some time.
      For instance, not to be “leftist” (gauchiste in french), to have in mind the real state of the average class consiousness and to be “a step forward, not a mille” and with the masses and so forth.

      To vote, when you are not strong enough (when you do not have “une taille critique suffisante”) for a worker-bourgeois party is a sort of “tactical principle” till there is an advanced revolutionnary situation (again in my opinion) and the communist has developped themselves to the point they can challange the bourgeois-workers party (or when, in no revolutionnary situation, they can reasonably have a chance to challenge them).

      But have a “tactical principle” (because it is also one) not to go to elections, or not to support the social democratie as the cord support the hanged, is just erroneous.

      Here in France, there is a total lack of communists partys (PCF, LO and NPA are not real communists, the first is right followers of social democratie, NPA I do not know what it is but surely no communists and LO is a sectarian centrists indirect pro imperialists sort of “marxist-trotskist” anarcho sindicalist absurdity ) and there are also people, called themselves “marxists-leninists” who by “principle” do not go to elections, don’t vote and others which mainly do the same but as a ‘tactical principle’ votes for the social démocratie one’s in a while (sometimes, preposterously, quoting Lénine !!). C’est une terre de désolation (a land of waste) with a quite fighting worker’s class who search it’s way and doesn’t find it.

      As exemple and if the site approuves, I can give you some news from here in the form of an article of a good old friend and comrade that I will send if permitted.


  4. stephenrdiamond says:

    But have a “tactical principle” (because it is also one) not to go to elections, or not to support the social democratie as the cord support the hanged, is just erroneous.

    Yes, but I would maintain that to support a reformist when it is NOT a matter of supporting as the cord supports the hanged, that is a violation of fundamental principle.

    Do you think SF’s critical support of Corbyn has anything to do with supporting him in just the hangman’s manner? I don’t think SF even makes that claim.



  5. Viriato says:

    Ask SF.
    I know not well the British situation not living in GB.
    What I have red coming from SF (not all and not understanding all the particulars i.e. personalities, history, ,diferent groups and partys) seems to me in accord with their size and, in general, with the United Front principles.
    Generally speaking (correct me if I made mistakes) when a large part of the working class (600 000 new Labour members because of Corbyn if I am right) is a political awekening that in these days is important an, I hope, “the first lights of dawn” in a quite grey atmosphere.
    Which is the correct tactics for a comunist group or party when they are not many?
    To work inside..and outside as it is more convinient, but inside, almost mandatory. This is a compromise and should be treated that way. It were Lenine’s recomandations.
    “I gave you support (a quite conditional, critical support) if you let me make propagande and more (organise) among the working layers of your party”.
    And even if you don’t permit it, we do it the same.
    The support pass by voting for them the time we grow suficiently enough to take the lead and put aside the Labour dirigents that will not go forward enough.
    This is my position on the question, but, if I understand your critics; there must be a concret, factual exemple of what you critizise. Please tell me what it is to answer you more precisely.


    • stephenrdiamond says:


      Do you happen to know the source of your Lenin quote? The interesting question is how this integrates with the noose analogy.

      What I take to be unMarxist in supporting Corbyn is supporting him without the prospect of the support leading to a noose. Corbyn is not supported to discredit him. The CPGB (and to perhaps a lesser extent, SF) are boosters of Corbyn.

      Your Lenin quote is interesting because it does seem to serve as a possible basis for critical support to Corbyn. However, Lenin has made similar statements in other contexts, which I also have trouble understanding. For example, Lenin said Marxists support bourgeois national liberation movements provided, among other preconditions, democratic in allowing Communists to organize freely. I’ve never seen that criterion applied.


      • Viriato says:

        Well, you ask the memory of a 70 years old dememorized individual…
        But I can assure you that the Lenin’s quote is correct and refering GB. I believe that Trotski make similar and more extent recomandations.

        There are exemples of a inside work in bourgeois-working class parties made by “trotskists” in my country. Inside the Socialist Party, or openly when possible or secretly when not. The chilians Socialist Party was puched far to the left ( a little bit too much and in a non leninist way) surely by influence of the (bad) trotskist that were inside.

        This was after the self-dissolution of the Izquierda Comunista (if my memory don’t fail me) who was the Left Opposition tendancy ousted from the PCCH.

        But they don’t undertand a fig of the UF tactics and become a support and nothing more of a bunch of electoralists opportunists. This, perhaps, because of the petit bourgeois nature of it’s cadres and (few) militants.

        This kind of stupid “work” make that many young militants distrusted to the core “trotskism” and goes to other ways as “marxism-leninsm” which was on the mood at these times.

        But the théoretical question remains and not because that good tactics were used badly by petit bourgeois that they not remain correct.

        That is what I think , nor seeing any other possible marxist- leninst tactics when there is a big bourgeois-worker’s party (or at least reconized as it by the workers) and real comunists; better if of worker’s origin or having worked their whole life as workers ( I got a sound distrust of petit bourgeois because of seeing a lot of them and believing that changing from petit bourgeois mentality to proletarian mentality is the work of a life of correct fight in the class ranks) and I think they they have made their historical time as leaders of the worker’s partys.

        The question is not the tactical principle but the “art” tha hability to implement it. But if we study the luminous writtings from our classics there could be a lot of help.

        If SF makes some mistakes I believe that they can and will correct their tactics or there is no more hope in this world as if every correct left comunist tendancy falls every time in every tramp, where can you find or trust anyone?

        Are we there? No, I think on the contrary that things begin to go a little better and when the masses will come forward, the most important factor, leaders, theory, tactics and all will find the right path to communism.


      • stephenrdiamond says:

        The entry tactic (would you really call entry an instance of the united front), which is what you cite examples of, conforms to the noose simile. Trotskyists don’t enter a nonrevolutionary workers party unless they have the perspective of exposing that party by taking workers through the experience.

        With Corbyn, the fundamental perspective is not exposure. (The CPGB admits this, and I think Ian does as well.) It’s rather an (idealistic and subjective) hope that the Corbyn movement will take mass politics to the left. (What bourgeois commentators call the “Overton Effect.”) This, according to standard Trotskyist strictures, actually helps create an *obstacle* to socialism. It represents a stage theory, where the masses are first elevated to Corbynite ideology and later to socialism.

        I don’t doubt the authenticity of the Lenin quote, but of course context is necessary to interpret it. The issue is important enough to be worth it. I’ll do some searching myself.


  6. Viriato says:

    It’s rather an (idealistic and subjective) hope that the Corbyn movement will take mass politics to the left. (What bourgeois commentators call the “Overton Effect.”) This, according to standard Trotskyist strictures, actually helps create an *obstacle* to socialism. It represents a stage theory, where the masses are first elevated to Corbynite ideology and later to socialism.”

    I can understand your concern but, is there another alternative?

    I don’t think that SF has any hope or illusion in Corbyn’s politics.

    Corbyn is a mild social democrat even less to the left than french’s Mélenchon that I know better.

    But if he is the suficient reason to move 600 000 worker’s into the LP it should be wise to consider the fact.

    the tactic is: just go there and pick up the most workers you can. The time spent is worthwhile. Otherwise, waht is to be done? To continue publishing propaganda when some agitation is on the schedule paper?

    Sometimes there are steps and “stagism obstacles”

    In Chile the masses followed the Unidad Popular. There were millions following them, Worker’s ans peasants and poor petite bourgeoisie.

    Which were the other left options? The MIR, a sort of bad trotskists that have “abandoned” trotskism (in fact they said they were not publicly because of oportunistics reason, to get the money from Cuba; but they still have the “education’ of the worst latin american sort of “trotskism”) these people were a little group of no more than à thousand petit bourgeois in the outmost majority with very average and not even quality (not the same quality, very diferent in fact; I do not know the exact word) who have made a secret pact with Allende and support the UP from the left, somewhat critically. They boasted of their “military capabilities” because they used the word “revolutionary” to it’s lasts limits. Sort of guerrilla-Regis Debray-Ché Guevara stuff mixed with latin american “trotskism” plus some “illuminated discoveries” coming from their too young dirigents. A mess unpalatable for the masses.

    There was a tiny group of marxist-leninists, the PCR (Revolutionary Communist Party) that were a group of “marxists-anarcho-syndicalists” in fact, doing whatsoever but national politics and waiting for the bankrupcy of the UP for them take the lead. An illusion that cannot work, that has never work.

    What else? Nothing. Result: the tragedie of the working class in Chile and of their remarquable fighting espirit.

    What have you done in such a case, that is, because the class fight is a international one that repeats itself with some variants, if there were the alternatives descrived and you have not the theoretical and political background to understant it? Or even if you have it?

    Forty years letter we are still asking ourselves what went wrong and when and why and if it was possible in the international context, etc.

    This is not a joke, these are very serious matters. The other side, reactionnaries, doesn’t give a chance nor spare yours lifes.

    Tactics should be very carefully studied and applied.

    Here the criteria is knowledge, attitude (very important), seriousness. Till now I haven’t see SF failures on these matters.

    They have perhaps made some mistakes, I know not, I haven’t see it. But who doesn’t make?


  7. stephenrdiamond says:

    I can understand your concern but, is there another alternative?

    I don’t have an answer. But I think I know where to look, what needs research and discussion. If the small size of revolutionary (even of semi-revolutionary) groups is the obstacle, the first question is why are the ranks of revolutionaries so depleted? Hardly anybody attends to this. The Socialist Equality Party has an answer, albeit an absurd conspiracy theory, but at least they see there’s a question.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

WRP Explosion

WRP Explosion

WRP Explosion

%d bloggers like this: