IBT Split: the Asian Anti-imperialist Marxist opposition1
06/11/2018 by socialistfight
Socialist Fight Comment:
We have read this exchange and are 100% in support of the South Asian Comrades in the recent three-way split in the International Bolshevik Tendency. These are the arguments of erudite Marxists who understand Lenin and Trotsky. The issue debated here is the coups in Egypt in 2013 and in Turkey in 2016 and the comrades have arrived at almost exactly the same conclusions as ourselves. Some of the argumentation is more sophisticated and better targetted than our own.
The IBT split between the Imps, led by Logan, who claimed Russia was imperialist, and the Nimps, led By Tom Reily, who claimed it was not. However such was the rampant confusion in the group that the Nimps were more pro-imperialists than the pro-imperialist Imps on these two coups, claiming it was impossible to oppose both coups as it did not matter who won in the conflict between two bourgeois forces.
This lead to outright denial that there was any US/Israel involvement in the coup or at least that it benefited them in any way in Egypt, despite them openly boasting of their victory. The slaughter of Egyptian workers was a matter of indifference for Reily as we see in the post, a disgusting civilisation mongering racist attitude which the SE Asian comrades bring out vividly. In Turkey it was merely a matter of democracy, US involvement was denied and when requested for proof, reply came there none.
Previously the ‘left’ opposition Nimps had attacked Imp Barbara Dorn for formally taking a dual defeatist position on the Maidan coup and subsequent civil war whilst demanding Russia hand over Crimea and the Sevastopol, Russia’s Black Sea naval base to Ukraine, i.e to NATO and the USA. However the Nimps took a neutral position in the US-funded and organised and fascist led-Maidan coup. But this is a great read:
[Collapse of the IBT] Collection of our contributions on Egypt, Turkey and Brazil for the internal debate
The collection of our contributions on Egypt, Turkey and Brazil for the internal debate.
For your understanding about our position.
Egyptian Coup occurred in 3rd July 2013
Morsi regime does not only represent the reactionary, pro-imperialist and islamist government but also reflects the relationship of power as a result of the class struggle in 2011 between Egyptian people and the ruling group (U. S Imperialism and the indigenous subordinating partners).
Morsi regime is not satisfying for both the ruled and the ruling. For people, Morsi is a fruit of the “Egyptian revolution” in 2011 but not a satisfying one. The democratic presidential electoral system is the only remained fruit in the hands of people. Meanwhile for imperialist, Morsi is not a satisfying as well. It is the result of the reluctant concession in 2011.
As the fierce resistants in the Morsi regime showed, Morsi regime is very vulnerable to defend the interest of imperialist finance capitals.
Therefore they could not endure anymore the Morsi regime, but actually what they could not endure is the series of mass resistants in Morsi regime because if they had not stopped the resistants, the resistants would have reached the fundamental question of the Egypt society.
In this appraisal, the military defense of Morsi is the defense of the fruit of the people’s struggle for democracy in 2011 as like the opposition to Kornilov is the defense of the fruit of February revolution.
So I think, our main slogans in this situation would be “No to military dictatorship!” “Defend our democratic fruit against imperialist!”
―As Marxists, we all know that election is the justification of bourgeois dictatorship and the way to challenge the dictatorship through the election is closed.
Firstly, before the election, the way to the state power ahead of the representatives of the proletariate is barred by various obstacles as Lenin explained in State and Revolution
Secondly, after the election, whenever their interest (especially in a colony, it is imperialist finance capital’s) is threatened or their interest is not fulfilled in satisfying level as a result of “democratic” process, they activate the mechanism to reverse the result. The mechanism is various from bullying by mass media and the prosecution which might result in imprisonment or political death, dismantlement of party or impeachment of the president by the constitutional court, assassination, fascism, rebel insurrection to the coup.
In a colony, because the domestic rulers are mostly the comprador who can be ‘ruler’ only when they help the imperialist’s local business and they are lower partners under the imperialist domination, it is rare that they have an independent interest against imperialist finance capital. However, in the case that there are substantial natural resources, which does not need special skill to pump up, being plundered by imperialism, it is likely that the bourgeois hostility and nationalism against imperialism rise relatively high as we have seen.
Therefore, in the colony, the conflict between one bourgeois and another might be the conflict between the ‘nationalist (or the obstacle which disturbs the imperialist interest) bourgeois and imperialist controlling imperialist lower partner (in some cases even blatant mercenary). Honduras, Egypt, Libya, Ukraine, and Syria etc. are such cases.
-Of course, we should be careful not to be the cheerleader of a faction of the bourgeois. It is needless to say we should check and check not to be it. But it seems to me too FORMALIST and DEFENSIVE approach that “If the conflict is in the range of bourgeois legality or there is no physical conflict or there is no imperialist invasion from outside, we should be neutral and not engage in the conflict.”
-War (or physical conflict) is nothing special something, but only the continuation of politics by other means.” (I paraphrased a little bit)
- Certainly, Egypt was one of the ongoing examples. We had exchanged the [Disc] on it in August 2013. At that time, like today, some comrades argue that neutrality would be the correct position while some others, including myself, argued military bloc with Morsi.
However, in an interesting comparison, we would find that the reasonings for neutralism are quite contradictory each other between today for Brazil and 2013 for Egypt. Today, Tom and Bill pointed out the bourgeois legality as the reason for neutralism: “as long as it is not extra-legal” and “if the right has not gone outside bourgeois legality.” But in 2013, the events in Egypt in 2013 were clearly out of bourgeois legality.
Actually, if there had been a revolutionary group which has quite of influence in Egypt in 2013 or elsewhere where a military coup is occurring and it had taken the position of neutralism, it would have been useless. Because that position can do nothing in that situation but only teaching people they are all evil (we all know that “daily poison” and “pistol on our head” are all evil) or the group who allowed the winning of coup faction for the neutralism will be killed soon.
And, how do we judge the qualitative differences between two “factions” by quantity? Actually, it is quite self-evident on the position to look at those events retrospectively. When the ‘direct tool factions’ of imperialism (military elite in Egypt, TNC in Libya, the “moderate” in Syria) won (or caused) the conflicts, certain numbers have sharply increased: Outflow of national wealth, destructions of social infra including school and hospital, number of massacred innocent, rape, court sentences of death (528 in March 2014 in Egypt), killed or imprisoned activists, homeless, migrants and numbers of drown in Mediterranean etc. I think those numbers show us the qualitatively stark differences before and after pictures of the countries and between the factions.
Of course, Morsi is a reactionary religious bastard who should be toppled down by the working people toward socialist revolution. That is not the question at all. We all agree with it, I guess.
But is it same with being toppled down by the military backed by imperialist? A totally different scene unfolds as we have seen.
What we would have defended is not just Morsi but the Morsi who was about to be toppled down by military. What we would have defended is not the empty wish that Morsi would do something good for us. What we would have defended against military coup is the past struggle of working people at least up to there, and but also the socialist future. What we would have defended, when the coup happened is not just Morsi himself or his regime itself, but the time and resource to overthrow Egyptian colonial capitalism which Morsi defends while enduring veil for the time being.
Morsi was a barricade built on the confrontation line between left and right along with the relationship of force, which both sides do not have any intention to keep permanently, while it keeps both sides from the attack from the other temporarily. Morsi was the barricade which both sides want to collapse to further to build a stable stage for their own exclusive interest.
The critical question is to which direction the barricade is collapsed. We want to collapse it toward the right when we go further, but we should defend it when the rightists try to collapse it toward our side.
It is not only wrong to be NEUTRAL when the barricade collapse but also dangerous.
We (at least myself) are not talking about strategic distinction but tactical choice and priority. And we know that the tactic can be decisive (life and death) question at a certain point. I think the following might be a relevant reference for our discussion.
Trotsky: “For the feeble-minded let us cite another example. When one of my enemies sets before me small daily portions of poison and the second, on the other hand, is about to shoot straight at me, then I will first knock the revolver out of the hand of my second enemy, for this gives me an opportunity to get rid of my first enemy. But that does not at all mean that the poison is a “lesser evil” in comparison with the revolver.” ―For a Workers’ United Front Against Fascism
You are mentioning “the military is not involved”, “parliamentary (process)”, “bourgeois legality” “Unlike in Egypt” as the reasons for a neutral position on Brazil. But when we are talking about the Egypt case which the above reasons can be applied to, you are for the neutralism also. I think there is inconsistency in this argument. How do you think?
I guess your main point to be neutralism is “qualitative distinction.” Would you explain it more, because it sounds rather abstract to me?
I have focused on Egypt while not on Brazil.
I believe that the impeachment maneuver in Brazil is the joint work of US imperialist forces and local right-wing rulers who over decades have become a subordinate part of the colonial system in which imperialist finance capital dominates, in order to maximize their interests by removing obstacles they face, which is against the working class’s interests. But I’d rather reserve, for the time being, taking a position on impeachment because (1.) I am not so confident on the case of Brazil, (2.) it seems that it is not so urgent for us to take a position, and (3.) even if we take the wrong position, it is not, I hope, too fatal for the Brazilian working class, to the extent that they might be annihilated. Since it is not exceptional, however, we need to carefully follow the Brazil case.
Going back to Egypt, I did not feel comfortable after reading Tom and H’s emails of 13 May.
Firstly, I have not been able to understand the consistency of Tom’s argument. If we use in Brazil the argument that “the military is not involved”, it was a “parliamentary (process)”, and “bourgeois legality” was adhered to “Unlike in Egypt” as reasons for a neutral position, then surely we should have taken a different attitude on Egypt. The rules for being offside in the football world cup should be the same in every game.
Second, as we know, there have been massive (perhaps nothing for you) setbacks for the Egyptian oppressed after the military coup. The report, “Egypt court sentences 528 Morsi supporters to death” (BBC, 24 March 2014), is a tip of the iceberg. You write about Trotsky saying “it is necessary to form a short-term bloc with the reformists against the more immediate butchers in order to permit the workers movement to survive, a precondition for ultimate victory. This is the ‘qualitative’ distinction—short term survival.” But you argued that “there was no similarly qualitative distinction between…the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood, …(and) military.” And H said that “nothing could be gained from a defence of him (Morsi).”
24 March 2014, BBC report: A court in Egypt has sentenced 528 supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi to death. They were convicted of charges including murdering a policeman and attacks on people and property. The group is among some 1,200 Muslim Brotherhood supporters on trial, including senior members. Authorities have cracked down harshly on Islamists since Mr Morsi was removed by the military in July. Hundreds have been killed and thousands arrested.
I had to ask myself: What is worth defending if not 500+ people’s lives? These lives represent a huge retreat and sacrifice of innocent people at the hands of imperialism. You dismiss them as qualitatively nothing.
Is it nothing because they were Morsi supporters who “impose Islamic strictures”? Are the veil or such things so unbearable that they make the ultimate goal impossible, to the extent that we give up even our short-term need for survival?
In South Korea, there have been four military actions against the populace which have resulted in massacres: (1) 1946-1950 (before the Korean war), (2) 1950-53 (during the Korean war), (3) 1961 military coup led by General Park, after “4.19 people’s revolution” in 1960, and (4) 1979-1980 after Park’s assassination, the military coup massacred at least hundreds people mostly in Gwangju. Class-conscious workers who have experienced these events do not need even a minute to understand the meaning of military action against the people. They instinctively side against the military coup if there is any possibility of raising a meaningful force, in order to survive themselves and rescue the working people as a whole. But you put them in the bag labeled “qualitatively nothing.”
I think you are arguing on the assumption that there is somebody who has illusions that MB government would do something (perhaps democratically) good for people. I guess so because you repeatedly said similar sentences.
“I don’t see how the Egyptian working class could have benefited in these circumstances from defending the Muslim Brotherhood against the military.…I fail to see how the MB was qualitatively better and stood for something worthwhile defending.…In these situations workers have nothing to gain from the support to either bourgeois-reactionary force.” ― H, 27 June
I already tried to explain this question on 11 May, but I will try again. No, I believe, we did not have that kind of illusion. And we should not.
Did Bolshevik have similar illusions on provisional government? Yes, before April. No, after April. As we know that’s Lenin’s April thesis to challenge that kind of illusion on the provisional government. And around July the provisional government exhausted almost all illusion in their mass base in Petrograd. And of course, “the protests against the provisional government (MB) at that (this) point had undoubtedly mass character and included working-class forces (from H, 27 June).” as like in 2013 in Egypt just before the coup. Then, why did the Bolsheviks defend the Provisional government against Kornilov, instead of neutrality? For the remained illusion that provisional government would do something good instead of working class themselves or that Kerensky was democratically better than Kornilov? NO. I understand that Bolshevik defended the provisional government not because of that kind of ‘marginal and academic’ reason. Bolshevik defended the provisional government for life and death and strategic reason. Bolshevik defended the provisional government to defend the relationship of the force formed by the February revolution and to defend the opportunity to overthrow the provisional government itself by working class.
Going back to Egypt. If we had defended MB government we should have done because 1) it was the reflection of the relationship of the force formed by 2011 Egyptian revolution. 2) in order to defend the opportunity to overthrow MB government which was the last (or almost last) bulwark of the Egyptian capitalism by working class.
Repeatedly I am saying, I think you do not seriously read my argument. I guess so because you try to rebut what I have not argued. You are trying to prove Morsi was a bastard while I have agreed that Morsi was a reactionary bastard and should be overthrown. And I have argued what we should really defend against the coup is not Morsi but the relationship of force which was formed by 2011 resist and reflected in Morsi regime and the opportunity to overthrow the Morsi.
Therefore, the materials to prove how Morsi was bad (you are even trying to prove his regime was as bad as the Al-Sisi’s military coup!) is meaningful somewhat but it is a march in the same place and an attack on a straw man.
In the news article which you introduced, the writer said that there was a possibility that Morsi conspired his own coup. It would be not very surprising. Kerensky did too. Then, it would be interesting to think about that hypothetical case. Would it be different to the target and goal of the Al-Sisi’s coup if Morsi had attempted his own coup against the 2011 “Egyptian revolution”? Would we have opposed against that hypothetical Morsi’s coup?
Do you agree that the real target of the coup is not Morsi but the resisting force which had destabilized the Egyptian ruling system for years?
Do you accept that, after the coup, the people on the streets against the regime were dramatically disappeared (I do not believe that you think that is because the target of the resist, Morsi, was removed), that the force including the workers’ movement which could resist against the arbitrary regime was catastrophically destructed and the “Egyptian revolution” itself disappeared by the military coup?
* * *
I think this article is another useful reference for our current discussion. (Italics and bold are mine)
(A Few Theoretical Considerations)
“Opportunist thought and sectarian thought have this feature in common: they extract from the complexity of circumstances and forces one or two factors that appear to them to be the most important (and sometimes are, to be sure), isolate them from the complex reality, and attribute to them unlimited and unrestricted powers.…
If the left centrists hide behind Lenin in order to imprison the revolution within its original framework, that is, the framework of bourgeois democracy, the ultra-lefts draw from the same Leninist alternative the right to ignore and to “boycott” the real development of the revolution.
“The difference between the Negrín government and that of Franco,” I said in a reply to an American comrade, “is the difference between decaying democracy and fascism.” It is with this elementary consideration that our political orientation begins. What! exclaim the ultralefts, you want to restrict us to a choice between bourgeois democracy and fascism? But that’s pure opportunism! The Spanish revolution is fundamentally a struggle between socialism and fascism. Bourgeois democracy does not offer the slightest solution…And so on.…
“The military struggle in Spain is at the present time being conducted by Franco on one side, and by Stalin-Negrín on the other. While Franco represents fascism, Stalin-Negrín do not at all represent socialism. On the contrary, they represent a “democratic” brake that obstructs the movement toward socialism. The historic alternative, communism or fascism, has not yet achieved its political expression. Far from it.…
“The Stalin-Negrín government is a quasi-democratic obstacle on the road to socialism; but it is also an obstacle, not a very reliable or durable one, but an obstacle nevertheless, on the road to fascism. Tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, the Spanish proletariat may perhaps be able to break through this obstacle to seize power. But if it aided, even passively, in tearing it down today, it would only serve fascism. The task consists not merely of theoretically evaluating the two camps at their true worth, but moreover of utilizing their struggle in practice in order to make a leap forward.”
“The left centrists as well as the incurable ultra-lefts often cite the example of Bolshevik policy in the Kerensky-Kornilov conflict, without understanding anything about it. The POUM says: “But the Bolsheviks fought alongside Kerensky.” The ultra-lefts reply: “But the Bolsheviks refused to give Kerensky their confidence even under the threat of Kornilov.” Both are right…halfway; that is, both are completely wrong.”
―Leon Trotsky, Ultra-lefts in General and Incurable Ultralefts in Particular(A Few Theoretical Considerations), September 28, 1937
Turkish Coup occurred in 15th July 2016
I have explained my viewpoint on Egypt coup that the 1st priority of the working class in 2013 was to defeat the military coup to defend 1) the relationship of the force at the time and 2) the opportunity to overthrow the Morsi’s regime.
And I believe that we should have applied the same approach to Turkey’s event too.
- If we had made a bloc with Erdogan against the coup, we would have made it not because Erdogan is a defender of democracy (which you are concentrating to disprove) but just a slow killer, slower than the coup.
- If we have enough power to destroy both sides, or the working class already are fully awake and ready to take the state power, we do not need to make such a bloc [like your slogan suggests]. In that case,we should simultaneously smash both sides, pistol, and daily poison, and take the power. And in that case, I think, we do not even need to wait for revolution tomorrow but there should be a revolution today or even yesterday. Let’s think more about that hypothetical assumption more. And then, in that case, I believe, there should have not been such a coup. Then we would have not needed to discuss the tactic against the coup.
- The important thing for us is not democracy but the national and international relationship of forces. Our goal is not the abstract democracy but concrete relationship of forces. Our goal, as communists, is not the event of democracy but the relationship of forces which is advantageous to the proletariat, in other words, the political space which working class could defend by their own power and the extreme one is revolution. Therefore, in a certain condition, we pursue the victory of ‘fascist’ Brazil against ‘democratic’ British.
- Everything exists in relationship and changes and develops in the relationship. So we should examine things from that point of view. In that regard, investigating ‘fixed’ character of a thing free from the change of relationship of forces is formal logic and is dangerous. I think your study on Erdogan is similar to that.
- Erdogan before July, anyway, was an existence reflecting the relationship of forces at that moment, while the force attempting the coup was the force wanting a sudden change which is advantageous to the imperialist finance capital and their domestic alliances.
- Erdogan, both before and after the coup, has been the force which has ‘anti-democratic’ orientation. I believe that we all, participating in this discussion, know that and no one has denied this point. The coup was stopped but the Erdogan regime has taken almost fruit of the victory against the coup, different from the case of 1917 Sep situation since in Turkey the working class is too weak to take it. And even though the coup was failed, the social pressure which was reflected in the coup attempt was not disappeared. The pressure has been expressed through Erdogan now. Erdogan has reflected the interest of imperialist finance capital and their domestic alliances and expanded the interest ‘gradually’ and sometimes ‘rapidly’ so that the political spaces of the working people have been decreased.
- Meanwhile, we should also remind that Kerensky before August was enough ‘anti-democratic’ and tried to destroy political spaces of the working class provoking continuously. If the October insurrection had not executed and time had gone in the indecisive attitude of the Bolshevik after the defeat of Kornilov, Kerensky after August by himself would have become ‘Kornilov’ or second ‘Kornilov’ would have turned up. Because, we all know that, the unstable dual power situation could not continue forever, society pursue stability and only by taking the social hegemony in either hand of proletariat or bourgeoisie the social stability can be achieved. Therefore the ‘anti-democratic’ character of the Erdogan regime was not surprising.
- Should we oppose the ‘anti-democratic’ measure of Erdogan now? Of course, we should. And would the July coup have been the attempt to create the disadvantageous situation for working class? If yes, why we should not oppose it. Then, isn’t it fair to defend the relationship of forces at the time against the attempt and forces which tried to give a lightning blow to working class in order to rapidly build disadvantageous situation for working class?
- We are not historical critics but historical practitioners. There are times we should immediately react. Some comrades have tried to prove the ‘anti-democratic’ character of Erdogan, which we all agree with, based on the data after the July and argued that we should have taken the neutral position at July. I have argued that that kind of abstentionism is wrong since 2013. But even though Erdogan and the forces which attempted the coup were exactly same, we should have opposed the coup even in that case too. If a) it was right to oppose it, b) we had enough power to resist it c) but we had stayed at home so that we had allowed the coup to succeed, it would have been catastrophic, like China in 1927, Indonesia in 1965 and Egypt in 2013. Meanwhile, what we would have lost if we had opposed the coup while the two forces had exactly the same ‘anti-democratic’ character? Let’s answer this question. Political reputation or political pride? Yes, perhaps. But we can stake them. It is not that catastrophic. We can recover them soon. We can get precious lessons from that practice. In that case, we would still have the organizational capability (lives and power) which can achieve the precious lessons and program.
2016 11 23
Tom (19 Dec) and H (21 Dec) said to me.
To date, have not seen evidence from comrades who do not share our assessment of how much actual democracy there was at the moment of the coup. And the reports I have seen and forwarded (from Economist and other sources) have all tended to confirm that there was not a great deal of actual democratic space in Turkish society for dissidents and opponents of the regime and that this was an ongoing process. –Tom (all bold is mine)
For us to take sides in such a conflict there must be a very important difference in the way that they assert themselves (as there was between the Nazis and Social Democrats in Germany, or Allende and Pinochet etc.)…To have a side it is necessary to show that there was a qualitative distinction. That has yet to be shown apart from the “defense of democracy” formula that you apparently do not subscribe to. –Tom
When discussing what side, if any, we should have taken in Turkey in July we would have first needed to analyse whether any represented achievements worth defending.
Again, please explain how the situation was beneficial prior to the coup in Turkey compared to a military coup. As I said reality is always concrete. –H
In fact, a victory for Erdogan should have resulted in a more beneficial situation for the working class than a military coup, according to your view. How come then, that Erdogan banned 19 trade unions as one of the first steps after the coup and is since ruling on the basis of a state of emergency which is the measure of a military dictatorship? –H
You comrades ask me to prove the qualitative difference between the force of the and the regime in power then. The coup attempt in Turkey failed, while the Egyptian coup succeeded. Therefore, it is easier to see how much the society and the relationship of the forces have changed after the coup in the case of Egypt rather than in Turkey.
I have sent several articles to [disc] before. The articles say that 528 people were sentenced to death, 41,000 were imprisoned, the vivid protesters on the street were disappeared, and Mubarak who had been imprisoned after 2011 was released. All of these things happened in a year after the coup and the Arab Spring in Egypt has gone with the wind.
Isn’t it concrete enough to prove the justification to stop the coup?
Because Turkish people clearly knew the consequence of the coup in Egypt and there have been that kind of coups in Turkey itself, Turkish people went out to the street and stake their lives to stop the coup.
Buy you have said “qualitatively nothing, nothing to defend, not a great deal of actual democratic space…” after reading those. So I have had to think how much abstractly you watch social things. How much abstracted level and how high place from the earth make you blind those concrete things happened (the number of death sentenced and jailed etc) after the coup in Egypt and appraise those things as “qualitatively nothing?” That answer makes me recall the Cliffeites’ height of abstraction which make them appraise the collapse of Soviet as “qualitatively nothing, just a crap’s walk.”
And you said the difference between the Nazis and Social Democrats in Germany as an example to take side with. But the difference is clear enough to us not because we are smart enough Marxist but because we sit in the Marxist class in 80 years later after that happened. At the time the overwhelming majority of “Marxists” could not recognize the clear enough difference. And they said “qualitatively nothing.”
<Articles on Egypt>
* * *
And you said
If the two wings of the exploiters that come to blows are exactly the same we think it does not make sense to side with either―therefore our position should be one of opposition to both.–Tom
It is clear that in August 1917, Kerensky and Kornilov were not “exactly the same.” But can’t we say they were almost the same? They conspired the coup together. They were rather accomplices than two factions of bourgeois rivalries. What was the difference of the “program” of those two? Both of them pursued to defend the ruling class’s interest and make Russia stay in the imperialist chain in the world war by reverse the political advancement of the working class and crushing bolshevik party. What was different? Almost the same. They were different only on the tactic, time and size of stomach.
And you comrades said the dual power situation as a reason to form the bloc with Kerensky and stop the coup. Then perhaps, do you think that if there had not been dual power, Bolshevik should have chosen the “neutrality, dual defeatism or stay at home tactic” when Kornilov rushed in Petrograd?
* * *
And you said,
The “sectarianism” of the April Theses prepared the victory in October. To fail to correctly orient the masses with the right policy is to disarm them politically and expose the party claiming to be a vanguard as incapable and not worthy of serious consideration. –Tom
It is correct enough. We should repeatedly emphasize the important lessons such as April Theses. I agreed. But simultaneously, we need to understand the relationship between strategy and tactic. The virtue of strategy is to direct the correct goal and direction. But straight line to a goal is rare in the concrete situation. The path in concrete and practical life, not in the classroom, there are lots of twists and turns. Therefore from time to time at a certain point, even though it is temporarily, it seems that we are going to backward.
The April Theses were correct enough. It showed the correct direction for the Russian working class. But if the April Theses had not combined with the tactic which Lenin and Trotsky took in August against Kornilov, Bolshevik would have been crushed and Bolshevik might have been known as an incurable sectarianist who have only a compass and only know to walk straightly forward. But luckily enough, Bolshevik did have not only a compass but also a real map and the ability to find the concrete path either.
In a certain point, tactic determines strategy.
Trotsky said this point like this
“The left centrists as well as the incurable ultralefts often cite the example of Bolshevik policy in the Kerensky-Kornilov conflict, without understanding anything about it. The POUM says: “But the Bolsheviks fought alongside Kerensky.” The ultralefts reply: “But the Bolsheviks refused to give Kerensky their confidence even under the threat of Kornilov.” Both are right…halfway; that is, both are completely wrong.”–Ultralefts in General and Incurable Ultralefts in Particular
* * *
I have collected the references of Lenin and Trotsky on tactic as attached. I have failed, at least until now, to find anything from them to support your “neutralism, abstentionism or stay at home tactic” while have found a lot that Lenin and Trotsky harshly criticized the argument which remember only the half part of the correct answer.
2016 12 27
Some comments on RB’s reply on 12 Dec
[RB] So it was a) a battle between the working class, led by the Bolsheviks, and the bourgeoisie, b) represented in ‘democratic’ form by Kerensky and in an extreme undemocratic form by Kornilov.
—a) Also the battles between two bourgeois factions were: the battle in August 1917, the1920s in China, and 1930s in Germany and Spain. In a serious social crisis, as we have seen, bourgeois camp usually split into two factions on how to deal with the crisis. One of the major issues of them is how to deal with social discontents, including the working class. That’s why the working class have an interest in that conflict.
—b) Kerensky was also an extreme ‘undemocratic’ regime like Erdogan and Morsi, Trotsky describes him as a “social-fascist” as seen below.
“In connection with this, the question again rises of social-fascism. This silly invention of the terribly leftist bureaucracy is presently becoming in Spain the greatest obstacle on the way to the revolution. Let us turn again to the Russian experience. The Mensheviks and the S-R’s, then holding the power, led an imperialist war, defended the owning class, persecuted the soldiers, the peasants and the workers, made arrests, introduced the death penalty, condoned the killing of Bolsheviks, forced Lenin into illegal existence, kept the other Bolshevik leaders in prison, spread the most ignominious calumnies against them, etc., etc. All that is more than enough to call them in retrospect “social-fascists.” But there, in 1917, that word did not exist at all, which did not prevent the Bolsheviks, as is well known, from coming to power. After the terrible persecution of the Bolsheviks in July–August, the Bolsheviks sat together with the “social-fascists” in the bodies set up to fight against Kornilov. In the beginning of September, Lenin, from illegality, proposed a compromise to the Russian “social-fascists”: “Break with the bourgeoisie, take the power, and we, the Bolsheviks, shall peacefully fight for power within the Soviets.”“—Leon Trotsky, Problems of the Spanish Revolution
* * * *
[RB] “defense of democracy” formula that you apparently do not subscribe to.”
Josh does not address, as far as I can tell, Mikl’s even more explicit reference to the democratic content not being important.
So, in conclusion, do you think, Mikl that we should oppose a coup in all circumstances? – even when there is no democratic difference between the two sides? Josh and others have argued that there is some kind of ”democratic space” to be defended and this is the basis of their argument, and this is actually quite a significant difference. It is really important to clarify this, in my opinion.
—I have preferred ’relationship of forces’ or ‘political space of working class’ to the democratic difference. The reason is 1) we do not support every democracy because the democracy is for bourgeois’s interest. Only the part of it just overlaps with the working class’s interest. I think Burnham explained this question quite plausibly in his pamphlet.
“There is no more basic opposition between bourgeois democracy and fascism than between middle age and old age.…However, in the process of achieving the socialist revolution, the working class has a genuine interest in–not bourgeois democracy–but concrete democratic rights, some of which exist under the regime of bourgeois democracy.…”Democracy,” as the word is used at the present time, has either one or two entirely different meanings. In the first place,…”and 2) ‘Relationship of forces’ or ‘political space of working class’ reflects more class and active viewpoint on the political situation. Meanwhile, the ’democratic vs undemocratic’ frame does not view the situation as classes’ conflict and changing and developing one. It passively and formal-logically views the situation taking a step backward from the scene like a commentator.
* * * *
[RB] You protest that [MK] “How much abstracted level and how high place from the earth make you blind those concrete things happened (the number of death-sentenced and jailed etc) after the coup in Egypt and appraise those things as “qualitatively nothing?”“ Obviously, comrades are not indifferent to the suffering of people in Egypt or Turkey, but these things were happening in Egypt before the 2013 coup and they were happening in Turkey before the coup.
—Your answer is quite surprising to me that these things [the surged number of imprisonment and the death penalty after the coup in Egypt. 41,000 imprisonment and 528 death penalties of activists just in a year after the coup] were happening in Egypt before the 2013 coup. Do you have evidence of your argument?
* * * *
[RB] [MK] “But even though Erdogan and the forces which attempted the coup were exactly same, we should have opposed the coup even in that case too.”
Do you still hold to this position? – of course we oppose the coupsters, but the question is why would we side with Erdogan if there was no difference between them? I find this contradictory and confusing.
—I am sorry for making you feel confused, to the extent that you quoted that very sentence 4 times in your document. Yes, I still hold to that.
In the 9 Oct email, I tried to explain the need to act immediately and a guideline for the action with the extremely hypothetical case.
1) There must be the need to take immediate action in the Marxist class struggle in practical arena contrary to in the Marxist class-room. When fire breaks out and it threatens us, we need to escape or extinguish the fire without studying the cause and character of the fire. Of course, if the fire is under our control or advantageous to us, it is exceptional.
2) Do we have any guarantee that a coup has nothing to do with us when we do not know where the coup is from? When it is unclear, it is rational to stop the coup with the assumption that it might be worst case. It is rational to choose an action which minimizes the risk to the working class. The survival of the working class’s political resources (lives and organizations etc.) are much more precious than our political reputation.
That’s what I tried to explain with that sentence.
* * * *
[RB] Many of the citations from Trotsky you appended to your 22nd November document addressed situations of conflict between imperialists and colonies and semi-colonies.
Those are about not only the conflict between imperialists and colonies and semi-colonies. The citations on German, Spain and China in 1920s are not. Those are about the ’triangle conflict’, working class-ruling class faction1 (or imperialist) -ruling class faction2 (or colony): the working class attitude on the conflict of two parts of ruling class when working class do not have enough power to take state immediately. Below is another useful reference. (I found the full article is very useful to our discussion but we cannot get English version of it from internet, except for the quoted.)
“The civil war between Negrin [leader of the Republic] and Franco does not signify the same thing as the electoral competition of Hindenburg and Hitler. If Hindenburg had entered into an open military fight against Hitler, then Hindenburg would have been a ‘lesser evil’. We do not choose the ‘greater evil’, we choose the ‘lesser evil’. But Hindenburg was not the ‘lesser evil’ – he did not go into open warfare against Hitler; the Social Democrats hoped for that – that was stupid – but that was not the case. But here [in Spain] we do have a war of the Social Democrats against fascism.
“To support Hindenburg against Hitler meant to give up political independence. Here too we do not support Negrin politically. If we were to have a member in the Cortes [parliament], he would vote against the military budget of Negrin. we charge Negrin with the political responsibility for the conduct of the war. But at the same time, we must repulse the fascist hordes until the moment when we ourselves can take into our hands the conduct of the war.
“To affirm that to fight together with the Negrin forces against Franco is the same as to vote for Hindenburg against Hitler is an expression, I am sorry to say, of what is known as parliamentary cretinism. The war against fascism cannot be resolved by parliamentary means because fascism is an army of reaction that can be crushed only by force. That’s why we were against the policy of the Social Democrats in Germany — the pure parliamentary combination with Hindenburg against Hitler. We called for the creation of workers’ militias, etc.
“But here [in Spain] we do have a fight against fascism. It is true that the general staff of the ‘democratic’ army is capable of tomorrow making a truce with Franco, but it is not a fact today. And we can’t overlook the real events. Tactically we must use the war of the republicans against the fascists for the purpose of a strategical aim: the overthrow of the capitalist regime”.—on Spain (14 September 1937)
2017 04 08
Erdogan’s Bonapartist Regime (HH TR 2017 03 08) describes not only 2016 coup but also Turkish history of capitalist development, political economy, political forces and their conflicts since 1908. It is very informative article to understand Turkey society. It is weird, however, that this lengthy article hardly discussed about the imperialist involvement in that history (not only about 2016 coup).
Then, the question popped up, while following the description of the article: “Isn’t Turkey a colony? “There is one, perhaps accidentally, in the quotation: “By January 1971, Turkey appeared to be in a state of chaos. The universities had ceased to function. Students emulating Latin American urban guerrillas robbed banks and kidnapped US servicemen, also attacking American targets.” According to this quote in Erdogan’s Bonapartist Regime, we can guess that there was huge anti US atmosphere in Turkey society. But there was no explanation on the reason of that in the articles as a whole.
Those articles argue, including H’s Response to Mikl (04 02), like an attorney of the U.S, striving to prove that there was no the US imperialist involvement. Are you sure that the US is not guilty? Do you have any evidence that there was not? And do you comrades think that there was not in Egypt, neither?
HH and TR’s logic to be neutralism (no to taking sides) in Turkish 2016 coup is this: “Erdogan’ regime is not a legitimately ‘democratic’, is going toward to establish a Bonapartist quasi-dictatorship and not going to be significantly different to the coup forces.”
And H pointed the fact that “there was dual power situation.” as the reason why Bolshevik at the time defended Kerensky, which is not applicable to the Egypt and Turkey cases, who was not a legitimately “democratic”, bonapartist and not going to be significantly different to Kornilov.
Trotsky and we, as Trotskyists, defend Kerensky, Bruening and Chavez in spite of they are all anti-democratic and bonapartists.
IBT on Chavez,
“In fact the main “principle” of Chávez’s rule is bonapartism—a term denoting a “strong” government that appears to float above the conflicts of competing social classes, but in fact balances precariously between them.
“Many leftists backed Chávez in the recall referendum on the grounds that his opponents were reactionary. But voting “no” to new presidential elections amounted to giving political support to the existing bourgeois government, something Marxists can never do. Under these circumstances, with no way to express a clear, proletarian alternative, the best that class-conscious Venezuelan workers could do was spoil their ballots, while making clear their readiness to defend Chávez, arms in hand, against any extra-legal attacks by the right or their imperialist godfathers.”
“The right-wing opposition and its imperialist mentors denounced “Cuban-style communism” and claimed that the proposal to remove presidential term limits proved that Chávez intended to be “president for life.”⋯Other “reforms” were anti-democratic—including the removal of a 180-day limit on presidential “state of emergency” declarations, and raising the number of signatures required for a recall referendum from 20 to 30 percent of the electorate.⋯A “yes” vote in the referendum was an endorsement of Chávez’s brand of Bonapartist reformism.⋯But it seems that most workers who stayed home did so because they were suspicious of the anti-democratic political “reforms” and Chávez’s commitment to defending the prerogatives of the big capitalists.
Trotsky on Brüning,
And Trotsky’s following lessons from Struggle against Fascism in Germany also could be a direct refute to the HH and TR’s “Bonapartism, anti-democracy and dual power” logic. All emphasis are mine.
“The gist of this Stalinist philosophy is quite plain: from the Marxist denial of the absolute contradiction it deduces the general negation of the contradiction, even of the relative contradiction. This error is typical of vulgar radicalism. For if there be no contradiction whatsoever between democracy and fascism – even in the sphere of the form of the rule of the bourgeoisie – then these two regimes obviously enough must be equivalent.
“Nor is the matter restricted to Germany only. The notion that nothing new will be added by the victory of fascists is being zealously propagated now in all sections of the Comintern. In the January issue of the French periodical Cahiers du Bolchevisme we read, ”The Trotskyists behave in practice like Breitscheid; they accept the famous Social Democratic theory of the ‘lesser evil,’ according to which Brüning is not as bad as Hitler, according to which it is not so unpleasant to starve under Brüning as under Hitler, and infinitely more preferable to be shot down by Groener than by Frick.” This is not the most stupid passage, although – to give it due credit – stupid enough. ⋯ (Trotsky 27 January 1932)
The fact of the matter is that the Stalinists compare the two regimes from the point of view of vulgar democracy. And indeed, were one to consider Brüning’s regime from the criterion of “formal” democracy, one would arrive at a conclusion which is beyond argument: nothing is left of the proud Weimar Constitution save the bones and the skin. ⋯
Whether Brüning is “better” than Hitler (better looking perhaps?) is a question which, we confess, doesn’t interest us at all. But one need only glance at the list of workers’ organizations to assert, fascism has not conquered yet in Germany. In the way of its victory there still remain gigantic obstacles and forces.
The present Brüning regime is the regime of bureaucratic dictatorship or, more definitely, the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie enforced by means of the army and the police. The fascist petty bourgeoisie and the proletarian organizations seem to counterbalance one another. Were the workers united by soviets, were factory committees fighting for the control of production, then one could speak of dual power. Because of the split within the proletariat, because of the tactical helplessness of its vanguard, dual power does not exist as yet. ⋯
Brüning’s dictatorship is a caricature of Bonapartism. His dictatorship is unstable, unreliable, short-lived.”
“In the face of a proletarian uprising, there is no gainsaying it, there will be no difference between Brüning, Severing, Leipart, and Hitler. Against the October Bolshevik uprising, the SRs and the Mensheviks united with the Cadets and Kornilov; Kerensky led the Black Hundreds and the Cossacks of General Krasnov against Petrograd; the Mensheviks supported Kerensky and Krasnov; the SRs engineered the uprising of the Junkers under the leadership of monarchist officers.
But this doesn’t at all mean that Brüning, Severing, Leipart, and Hitler always and under all conditions belong to the same camp. Just now their interests diverge. At the given moment the question that is posed before the Social Democracy is not so much one of defending the foundations of capitalist society against proletarian revolution as of defending the semi-parliamentarian bourgeois system against fascism. The refusal to make use of this antagonism would be an act of gross stupidity.
“To wage war for the purpose of overthrowing the international bourgeoisie,” Lenin wrote in Left-Wing Communism, “and to refuse beforehand to tack and veer in one’s course and to make good use of the antagonism (no matter how temporary) in interests between the enemies; to eschew agreements and compromises with possible (no matter how temporary, vacillating, and adventitious) allies – isn’t that too ridiculous for words?” Again we quote verbatim; the words we italicize in parentheses are Lenin’s.
We quote further: “It is possible to vanquish a more powerful enemy only by straining one’s forces to their utmost; and it is imperative that one make use, most painstakingly, carefully, cautiously and expertly, of any ‘rift’ between the enemies, no matter how tiny.”
On 16 July at 00:15 Gerry Downing of Socialist Fight Britain wrote in his Facebook wall:
‘Absolutely no support for this coup. As reactionary as Erdoğan is we cannot support a coup by the military in the ridiculous name of ‘democracy’ against an elected government. They don’t call it a revolution as they did in Egypt but this can only benefit the US and NATO in the region. Images seems to indicate that the masses and the left are resisting the coup and it will fail. If it does it will also undermine the autocracy of Erdoğan. Down with the coup! Victory to the popular masses!’
It is likely that this coup attempt was assisted, encouraged if not actually directed by US imperialism in response to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s moves to seek rapprochement with Russia (he apologised at last for shooting down the Russian jet)  and with Syria’s Assad.  He also sought to mend relations with Israel all in the past few weeks. As The Economist reported on 5 July:
‘Mr Yildirim (the prime minister) has got off to a good start. In a single day last month, Turkey agreed to restore ties with Israel, with which it has been at odds since 2010, and apologised to Russia for bringing down a jet that veered into its airspace in November after a bombing run over Syria. Officials from the ruling party have since raised hopes of progress in peace talks in Cyprus, divided since 1974 between an internationally recognised Greek south and a Turkish-occupied north. They have also floated a cautious opening with Egypt and a rethink of Turkey’s botched Syria policy.’ 
The Mosi Coup And The Left
Gerry Downing, September 15th
When I was a child in rural West Cork my father told me a story. A man had a horse and no fodder for him as Winter came on so he devised a plan to save him. He would teach his horse to live on the wind. All Winter long he trained his horse in this technique until Spring arrived. The horse was now fully trained but suddenly and inexplicably he died.
This tale popped into my head when I read the story as related in several of the left and self-proclaimed revolutionary left of the “revolution” in Egypt that was going so excellently well that it overthrew the dictator Morsi but then suddenly went so disastrously and inexplicably wrong, like the poor horse in West Cork. Al Sisi “stole” the “revolution”, the generals “hijacked” it etc. The Workers Revolutionary Party’s Marxist Review had a front page featuring those fireworks celebrations what we all remember was put on by the Army supporters, paid for, of course, by the Coptic Christian billionaire Naguib Sawiris who organised the coup and mass mobilisations in collaboration with the CIA and the army:
“The mass movement created a huge crisis for the bourgeoisie and FORCED THE ARMY TO STEP IN and, after failing to reach any compromise with the Muslim Brotherhood, launch a coup to topple the Mursi presidency and replace it with as fake ‘intern’ government as a fig leaf for army rule”
Dave Wiltshire stupidly wrote on page 23, as if the horse had almost transformed the clever farmer into a millionaire except for his inexplicable death.
Some commentators have analysed the coup as a defeat for the working class and the hopes of a revolution. Rubbish, Wiltshire assures in an “after the Nazis us” mode:
“…the two wings of the bourgeoisie, representing the army and the Muslim Brotherhood are reduced to tearing each other apart while their imperialist masters look on in disarray”.
Alan Wood and the IMT are in exactly the same mode. In what must rate as one of the most idiotic pieces of “Marxism” ever, The Second Egyptian Revolution – IMT Statement, they boldly proclaim:
“Morsi has fallen. The magnificent movement of the masses has once more shown to the entire world the authentic face of the Egyptian people. It shows that the Revolution, which many even on the Left believed to have stalled, still possesses immense social reserves. Despite all the lying propaganda that tries to present the Revolution as a “coup”, this was a genuine popular insurrection, which spread like wildfire through every city and town in Egypt. This was the Second Egyptian Revolution.”
[…]  Socialist Fight, Gerry Downing, 30-10-18 IBT split; Spartoid contempt for the working class and oppressed nations, Robertsonian Stalinophilia; sectarian third period on British Labour and concomitant imperialist apologia, https://socialistfight.com/?s=IBT+split%3B+Spartoid+contempt+for+the+working+class+ and Gerry Downing, 6-11-18 IBT Split: The Asian Anti-imperialist Marxist opposition https://socialistfight.com/2018/11/06/ibt-split-the-asian-anti-imperialist-marxist-opposition/ […]