06/11/2018 by socialistfight
[Collapse of the IBT], 28th Oct 2018, http://bolky.jinbo.net/index.php?
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Socialist Fight Comment: The comrades of South Asia correctly identify the central problem of the iSt (Spartacist) tradition; weakness on and then outright capitulations to imperialism, an identification Socialist Fight and our international comrades in the ICFI have always made. This is forthright stuff.
Amusingly both the IBT (Imps) and the BT (Nimps) identify this material as ‘right wing’. The left-wing pro-imperialists and the right wing anti-imperialists! We have no hesitation in endorsing almost 100% of these statements.
It’s now clear. Once providing a revolutionary platform with a considerable revolutionary program, the IBT has succumbed to imperialist pressure and lost its revolutionary ability. It is no longer possible to be a revolutionary pole.
It has flinched from the struggle against imperialism, particularly the USA. The ‘Defenders of Seymour’s Marxism’ (we are calling both of Tom Riely and Bill Logan’s faction because they identified themselves to defend Seymour’s formula on national question as a precious revolutionary ‘tradition’ in the debate against us.) are seeking the line of least resistance, revising Lenin and Trotsky’s lessons.
They are defending the treacherous position, especially for the colonial people, as ‘tradition’. They have shown cynical and bystander’s attitude on the events of imperialist ‘regime change’ and national liberation. The persistent abstentionist arguments from both factions covered by ultra-radical phrases “dual defeatism”, from the argument that “Russia was and is imperialist.” just after the Russo-Georgian War in 2008 to the neutralist position on the coups in Egypt in 2013 and in Turkey in 2016, were the result of the subordinating attitude before the imperialist pressure. (This attitude is also related to Iran, Libya, Ukraine, Syria, and Venezuela.)
The main political axis of both is not of revolutionary vanguard but of opportunist petty-bourgeois discouraged by imperialist pressure, as described by Trotsky.
“Theoretical Bewilderment and Political Abstentionism…Throughout the vacillations and convulsions of the opposition, there is a second general feature intimately bound to the first, namely, a tendency to refrain from active participation, a tendency to self-elimination, to abstentionism, naturally under cover of ultra-radical phrases. You are in favor of overthrowing Hitler and Stalin in Poland; Stalin and Mannerheim in Finland. And until then, you reject both sides equally, in other words, you withdraw from the struggle, including the civil war. Your citing the absence of civil war in Finland is only an accidental conjunctural argument. Should the civil war unfold, the opposition will attempt not to notice it, as they tried not to notice it in Poland, or they will declare that in as much as the policy of the Moscow bureaucracy is “imperialist” in character “we” do not take part in this filthy business. Hot on the trail of “concrete” political tasks in words, the opposition actually places itself outside the historical process.” ―Trotsky, In defense of Marxism
Imperialism is the main origin of almost all opportunism in this epoch since the first world war and many of the individuals and groups, once revolutionary, have been victimized by the imperialist pressure and have become a part of the ‘tradition’ of opportunism.
We have done our best in the last decade to prevent the political degeneration, to keep the Lenin and Trotsky’s guidelines, and to clarify the differences. However, the IBT has become one of the parts in the opportunist tradition. Including Riely’s group that abruptly ran out before us for absurd reasons, “to undo the 1990 fusion”, the IBT no longer be a carrier of revolution, but became the first chain, like Kautsky, which transmits the imperialist pressure to the working class.
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It is an unexpected letter to us so that we were a bit shocked. But in this comment, we’d like to only point out the things that we think you comrades misunderstand or misinterpret the facts in the letter.
1. “The failure to reach agreement on the 2016 coup in Turkey (and its analogue in Egypt three years earlier) was a significant factor in this decision. While seemingly unrelated to the difference over “Russian imperialism,” the factional lineup once again found former ET/BT cadres on one side and former PRG comrades on the other.”
“But there was no evidence that any Imps did any serious research.”
“The comrades who consider that Russia is imperialist were uniformly of the view that we should defend Erdogan’s regime against the coup.”
You describe that the debate on Turkey and Egypt was between “nimps” and “imps”. But it was not. As you could not deny, we are nimps and perhaps we are the most radical in that position.
2. “It seemed pretty obvious that the comrades did not consider it necessary to seriously engage on the issue because, having counted the votes, they knew they had a solid majority due to the support of comrade Mikl et al.”
We are not ‘passive’ or ‘auxiliary’ supporters on ‘Turkey and Egypt’ issue. We had initiated the position from the outset until the other comrades finally supported the position to reach the majority in the last conference.
3. “The axis of the internal discussion chiefly involved differing assessments of the extent to which democratic rights for the workers’ movement were at stake in the two coups.”
“In my remarks to the conference I complained that the comrades who earlier rejected the comparison on the grounds that Khomeini’s regime in 1979 was an Islamist dictatorship, while Erdogan’s in 2016 was an attenuated bourgeois democracy, ignored the carefully researched document I submitted early in the pre-conference discussion period which proved that there had been considerably more democratic space in the early days of the Iranian Islamic Republic than in contemporary Turkey.”
The debate was not only on ‘democracy’ but also ‘imperialism’. Actually, the main reasoning of our position, at least of EA, was not on democracy but on imperialism. While you stressed on ‘democracy’ ignoring imperialist motives in those events in Turkey and Egypt, we strongly and consistently emphasized imperialist factor. We see that social disturbances in Libya, Ukraine, Egypt, Turkey, Syria, and Venezuela are of the results of the crash between imperialist regime management and the domestic people. Of course, 1979 Iran event was too. Maneuvers to change the regimes which do not serve the interest of imperialism, to build the puppet regime and to defend it from working people’s insurgency.
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–It seems that you have a tendency to politically dismiss EA comrades, distorting the details of the history and neglecting our contributions.
–We think that the axis which penetrates the two issues (Russia/the coups in Egypt and Turkey) which made the deep crack between 3 factions in the IBT is imperialism. Not the old formations of 28 years ago, but the question of imperialism, the greatest pressure which diverges almost all kind of opportunism in the last hundred years of capitalism.
7th Oct Comradely, EA, Contributed in 29th May 2018 to the internal debate
Iran, nationalism and imperialism
The debate on the questions of Iran, nationalism, and imperialism started after the military coups in Egypt and Turkey, in 2013 and 2016 respectively. Tom et al have argued that the iSt’s neutralist position in 1979, “Down with the Shah, Down with the Mullahs”, should apply to Egypt and Turkey as well. From the point of view of the political components, Egypt and Turkey’s situations in 2013 and 2016 were quite similar to that of Iran in 1979, so that might be formally logical and consistent, but that position is tactically incompetent and ultra-leftist.
Therefore, the question of Iran becomes practical and contemporary. We studied the question and concluded that the iSt’s position on Iran in 1979 and its application to Egypt and Turkey reflects only one face of the strategic principle. It is a tactically inept position, which would have led us to disastrous defeat. We should have taken the side of the anti-Shah struggle, in which the radical part the Islamists involved along with the working people, without giving any political support to the Islamicists, while politically preparing the overthrow of the radical Mullahs. That’s the position we have learned from Trotsky who clearly crystallized it, especially in his “On the Sino-Japanese War” and “Ultra Lefts in General and Incurable Ultra Lefts in Particular”.
In our study on the question we have found that the IBT and the iSt tradition have much too frequently taken that kind of neutralism in cases of imperialist aggression against colonies of the US. Besides Tom et al’s argument on Egypt and Turkey, neutralism on the maneuvers to change the disobedient colonial regimes by imperialism in Libya, Ukraine and Syria are recent examples. Defining actions against regimes when the imperialists are acting through domestic forces as merely civil war and taking the side of the targeted regimes only when the imperialists are involved directly in combat is not revolutionary. This is at best humanist, but it abandons Leninism on the national question. That position wastes critical time, failing to take practical measures to defend the victim of imperialist aggression at the outset while making claims to be anti-imperialist. It takes the side of the imperialists’ target at a time when support is useless. And it pretends to be anti-imperialist. Perhaps that might be better than the IS’s position which describes the imperialist proxy forces as “revolutionary”, but practically it is also in the service of imperialism.
The hint from the exchange with the ICL
The ICL’s “The Struggle Against the Chauvinist Hydra” gives a useful hint to us on where the frequent neutralism on imperialist involvements found in the iSt tradition comes from: “Despite all his efforts, part of the American leadership developed a chauvinist, anti-internationalist line, opposing national liberation struggles in multinational states.” This article shows the likely root of the apologist positions on imperialism, involving an extremely weird attitude of the iSt’s Maximus leader.
According to the ICL’s Hydra document and our two articles criticizing it, the iSt was already a nasty racist organization at the time that we describe it as a “revolutionary organization.” The leader’s racist rhetoric had been accepted without any significant internal struggle. Even when there was an acute appeal against his nasty words from the other leftists, the iSt just ignored this language and kept silence. There was no internal resistance neither.
This was very different to the attitude of Lenin and Trotsky against Stalin’s Great Russianism. Stalin showed bureaucratic arrogance with filthy words against minor nationalities and ordered the Georgians to join the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, labeling the resisting Georgian Bolsheviks as “socialist nationalists.” Lenin and Trotsky were provoked to a life and death fight against this. But some comrades say that ‘even though the main leadership of the iSt were racist and there was no serious resistance against it internally, the iSt then championed the national question. The national position devised at the time was revolutionary.’ Of course, we cannot exclude that kind of possibility even though it is very unlikely. But it is quite a similar argument that ‘Stalin was the champion on the national question even though he was a Great Russian chauvinist,’
Imperialism, colonialism and neocolonialism
After the Second World War, the struggles for national liberation were intensified by two causes. One is the growth of the working class in the colonies as a result of capitalization initiated by imperialism. The other is the weakening of the former imperialist powers in the colonies by all-out war between the imperialists. The growth of the working class has made direct imperialist rule difficult. Direct rule by foreign imperialists exposed the stark division of society before the working people. So ways to rule the colonies have changed from direct to indirect rule, using the indigenous ruling elites and comprador capitalists as domestic imperialist agents, to avoid direct and fierce struggles against imperialism.
Some of the struggles for national liberation have succeeded in overthrowing imperialist agent regimes. And among them, some countries have become workers states with the help of the Soviet Union.
Therefore, imperialist aggression has occurred, mainly against two kinds of places, degenerated/deformed workers states and the semi-colonies that were politically liberated after national liberation. Lenin described this phenomenon:
“Of course, finance capital finds most ‘convenient’, and derives the greatest profit from, a form of subjection which involves the loss of the political independence of the subjected countries and peoples. In this respect, the semi-colonial countries provide a typical example of the ‘middle stage’. It is natural that the struggle for these semidependent countries should have become particularly bitter in the epoch of finance capital, when the rest of the world has already been divided up.”
So when the colonial regimes are not sufficiently obedient to imperialism for whatever reasons and they have become the obstacles to maximize their profit and interest, imperialists have tried ‘regime change.’ Assassination, military coup, proxy civil war, and direct invasion etc. have typically been used to do it.
Neutralism against Imperialism and Iran
The iSt tradition has defined imperialist ‘regime change,’ as only ‘civil war’ when the forces involved were only domestic. In these cases the iSt tradition holds that the imperialist factor is not decisive and we should not take sides, covering this with superficially Leninist but ultra leftist rhetoric. By taking the side of the targeted regime only in the last stage of the imperialist operation to change the regime (after failing to take a side in the decisive conflict) this tactic reveals itself as useless in fighting against imperialism and betrays the Leninist duty to support the struggle for national liberation.
The 1979 abstention in the working people’s struggle against the US proxy Shah in Iran, was one of the vivid examples which has bent our revolutionary politics toward imperialist opportunism. Some comrades argue that the Shah and the Islamic regime, which was the result of a combination of the Iranian working people struggling against imperialism and the political victory of the reactionary Islamists, are the same. Or they even see the latter as worse than the former — which is an astonishing argument to us.
We argue that post-Shah Iran is much better than the Shah’s regime in the international relationship of forces between imperialism and the working class. We stand for the defence of post-Shah Iran in the impending imperialist aggression to restore a pro-imperialist regime, while we give no political support to the regime and preparing its overthrow and the building of a workers’ state.
We need to go back to Lenin’s Marxism.
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Contributed in 4th June 2017 for internal debate
The revolution in 1979 in Iran was not an Islamic revolution, but a revolution against Shah regime which was the imperialist stooge. In that revolution there involved various social forces such as radical nationalist, Stalinist guerilla, pro-soviet communists, and secular liberals meanwhile there were many Islam nationalist too. And there also were other Islamist faction which supported Shah and imperialist rule.
It was not destined to but was morphed into Islam revolution after a series of power game in a couple of years of time with Mujahedin, fedayeen and Tudeh which Khomeini faction won, in the situation of war with Iraq, the hostility policies of the US against it, passive and defensive policy of the Soviet and popular front position of the Tudeh. The Khomeini’s taking power was not resulted from their political ability but from domestic and international situation and the inability of the leadership of the working class, as like Kerensky took the power.
Even though it failed to go further to socialism and degenerated into and set in Islam revolution, it brought meaningful reforms to Iranian people and gave serious blow to imperialists especially the USA. The US lost one of their reliable bridgeheads and Iran became an opponent in that strategic region. So Iran revolution in 1979 was positive one for world working class which we should have sided with against Shah and imperialist.
In their outrage at past Robertsonian positions abandoned they give us an appalling list of their historical crimes which they feel are about to be repudiated. Not only did they take the pro-imperialist side in Ireland and Palestine; the IBT are nothing if not defensive of all the history of the Sparts before they departed:
“We regard the SL’s position on “interpenetrated peoples” to be among its most important original contributions to the Leninist-Trotskyist tradition. Robertson, who played a central role in developing this approach, as he did on virtually every important programmatic issue (including Quebec), deserves much of the credit for it. The iSt’s theoretical framework on the national question allowed it to develop a revolutionary position on a range of important conflicts, unlike its pseudo-Marxist competitors at the time.
The USec, LRP, CTC and all the others who disagreed with the Spartacists’ refusal to take sides in the Lebanese civil war were similarly outraged by the position of dual defeatism in the Arab/Israeli conflicts of 1948, 1967 and 1973 and the analysis of Israel/Palestine as another instance of interpenetrated peoples. Given the ICL’s recent embrace of what we might designate neo-Pabloism on the national question, might this also be up for revision?”
In fact, the Sparts did take sides in the Nakba in 1948, they took the wrong side, the Zionist side and Yossi Rad/Schwartz takes credit for changing it to a slightly better, but still wrong position of neutrality. Now a member of the Occupied Palestine/Israel International Socialist League and the Austrian-based international the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT) Yossi has the correct line of “a revolutionary defeatist position against Israel in its War in 1948 and a revolutionary defencist position for the Arab countries”. 
Yes, you read that correctly, the Sparts refused to take the anti-imperialist side of the Palestinians and Lebanese leftists led by Kamal Jumblatt and his son Walid in the Lebanese Civil War from 1975 to 1990 that resulted in 120,000 fatalities including the terrible September 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre of the entire camp of Palestinians carried out by the fascist Lebanese Phalangists with the full cooperation of the Israeli Defense Force. “Interpenetrated peoples” you see stopped them opposing imperialism here. And everywhere else. In their reply to the Hydra article there is an incredible section “Neo-Pabloism in Beirut & Entebbe” where they boast of their sordid history and actually quote the obviously correctly criticisms of the League for the Revolutionary Party and the Communist Cadre and whine, in effect, “have you lost the faith, now?”:
“In January 1977, at the height of the Lebanese bloodletting, the Stalinophobic League for the Revolutionary Party (LRP) intervened at a Spartacist League (SL) forum held at Columbia University in New York City:
“LRP speakers charged that the SL had reneged on the revolutionary obligation to give military tactical support in the anti-imperialist struggle in Angola and in the Palestinian fight in Lebanon when they were under attack by the U.S.-backed right wing and the Syrian army. The SL replied that Lebanon was a ‘tribal puzzle’ whose pieces apparently, have no relation to world imperialism.” —Socialist Voice, No. 3, Spring 1977
After 40 years, the ICL has now apparently come to agree with the substance of the LRP’s criticisms, at least on Lebanon.”
Any revolutionary socialist with even a modicum of internationalism would agree with the LRP. But NO, NO, NO, we must believe in the Unity and Trinity of God Robertson. The LRP correctly saw what this meant:
“The uniqueness of the Spartacist League, what many leftists mistakenly regard as ‘sectarianism,’ is that it does not capitulate to the nationalism of the oppressed nations – because it directly reflects the attitudes of the privileged sections of the American working class.” ibid