Appendices To Essay Nine Part Two




This page used to form part of Essay Nine Part Two. It has been moved here because that Essay was becoming somewhat unwieldy.


If you are using Internet Explorer 10 (or later), you might find some of the links I have used won't work properly unless you switch to 'Compatibility View' (in the Tools Menu); for IE11 select 'Compatibility View Settings' and then add this site ( Microsoft's new browser, Edge, automatically renders these links compatible; Windows 10 does likewise.


However, if you are using Windows 10, Microsoft's browsers, IE11 and Edge, unfortunately appear to colour these links somewhat erratically. They are meant to be dark blue, but those two browsers render them intermittently black, mid-blue, light blue, yellow, purple and red!


IE11 also messes up some of the formatting on this page -- for example, several line-spacings between sub-headings and certain paragraphs have been omitted. Also, some of the sub-heading underlining lines, which should be red, have been left black!


Firefox and Chrome reproduce most of them them correctly, but, on this page only, some that should be red are left black, as are some that should be blue! Others that should be blue are red! I have tried to correct this, but nothing has so far worked.


Finally, several of the links I have posted to Richard Seymour's blog -- Lenin's Tomb -- no longer work. It seems there has been a slight change to Lenin Tomb's URL. I have now altered many of the links to Richard's site, but it will take some time for me to check them all. The same seems to be the case with some of the links connecting to Weekly Worker.


Quick Links


If your Firewall/Browser has a pop-up blocker, you will need to press the "Ctrl" key at the same time or these and the other links here won't work!


I have adjusted the font size used at this site to ensure that even those with impaired vision can read what I have to say. However, if the text is either too big or too small for you, please adjust your browser settings!


(A) Appendix A -- The Degeneration Of The WRP


(B) Appendix B -- Yet More Dialectical Bickering


(1)   Enver Hoxha On Mao


(2)   Mao On Khrushchev


(3)   Mao On Stalin


(4)   Trotsky On Ordjonikidze


(5)   Raya Dunayevskaya On Mao


(6)   Mandel On Stalin


(7)   Paul Hampton On Tony Cliff


(8)   Fifth International On Stalinism


(9)   John Molyneux On The Socialist Party


(10)  Pat Taaffe On Mikawasima Tookjoo


(11)  The World Socialist Party On Plekhanov


(12)  Mandel On Djilas


(13)  Mark Rainer On The SEP


(14) The Socialist Party Of Great Britain Contra Edward Conze And David Guest


(15) Tony Clark On Trotsky


(16) Tony Clark, Dialectics, Posadas, UFOs And 'Space Gods'


(C) Appendix C -- James Burnham: The Politics Of Desperation


(D) Appendix D -- The Origin Of The Slate System


(E) Appendix E -- Hallas On Party Democracy


(F) Appendix F -- Trotsky And The Democratic Degeneration Of The CPSU


(G) Appendix G -- Resignations From The UK-SWP And The IST -- 2013


(H) Appendix H -- The Crisis In The UK-SWP Rumbles On


(I) Appendix I -- The Last Death Throes Of The UK-SWP?


(1) Fall-out From The December 2013 Conference


(2) Mass Resignation


(J) Appendix J -- Recent Split In The ISO (USA)


(1) Chicago Comrades


(2) Ex-ISO Members


Abbreviations Used At This Site


Return To Essay Nine Part Two -- for an explanation why these splits and scandals keep happening -- and, alas, also the reason why they will continue to do so.


Why I Oppose Dialectical Materialism [DM]


Contact Me


Appendix A


The following material has been quoted from here. Formatting has been altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site; minor typos have been corrected, spelling has been changed to UK-English. Emphases in the original. Anti-Leninist sentiments have been omitted.


Recall, all of this was 'justified' by WRP hacks using dialectics. It is important to add that the Healyites rejected the 'proof' below as a pack of lies and fabrications. I have no way of knowing whether this material is accurate, but it certainly agrees with what others have said about the WRP; readers will plainly have to make their own minds up.


Tom Burns, Solidarity, issue 16 (new series), spring 1988

Elsewhere in this issue, in a dramatic exclusive, we publish a damning extract from the secret report of an internal inquiry into corruption within the Workers Revolutionary Party. The full report, which has been leaked to us, chronicles an astonishing tale of abject perfidy by leading members of the group. In this article, Tom Burns gives the background and comments on the inquiry's extraordinary findings.

We publish this document in the interests of political hygiene. It consists of about half of the con­fidential internal interim report on Gerry Healy's Workers Revolutionary Party prepared by a "commission" of the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI). Following his expulsion from the WRP on October 19 1985, Healy and his supporters were expelled from the ICFI in December 1985. This was as a result of allegations of sexual abuse, even rape, of women in the party, physical assault on other members, and the establishment of a "mercenary relationship" with a number of Arab despotisms (see Solidarity issue 11).

The text deals with the WRP's financial and other dealings with their foreign backers. It is largely self-explanatory, but a few background details may be helpful. The commission was set up at the insistence of David North, long-time chieftain of the Healyite Workers' League in the United States. North, together with the anti-Healy coalition inside the WRP headed by Michael Banda and Cliff Slaughter, was instrumental in the summer of 1985 in the ousting of Healy.

The ICFI inquiry had the reluctant support of the Banda-Slaughter WRP, who correctly foresaw that an exposure of the facts could be a means of bringing pressure to bear to transfer control of the IC to North. (Indeed, the WRP was suspended by the ICFI on December 16, the day this report was submitted.)

The commission nevertheless had an interest in protecting the reputations of Healy's erstwhile supporters, since they had all been aware (to some extent) of what had been going on. One result of this was that the report as circulated to the WRP's leadership in late 1985 was censored. The names of those who had taken sides against Healy, together with those of Arab politicians and intelligence agents, were suppressed, and the copies of the documents from Healy's files which were attached to the original report as exhibits were removed.

The commission only had access to fragments of the documentary evidence. On October 9 1985, when the crisis in the WRP came to a head, Mike Banda and his anti-Healy supporters walked out of the party offices in Clapham. This left Healy's acolytes in control of the premises for about forty-eight hours, during which time they removed large quantities of the most sensitive documents. This report is therefore based on the few documents they overlooked, plus some material from other WRP files and accounts.

Healy Of Arabia

Even these remnants disclose payments of over a million pounds to the WRP from Arab regimes and the Palestine Liberation Organisation. The report clearly shows that for nearly a decade the WRP acted, quite literally, as the paid agent of brutal and oppressive foreign powers. This lasted from at least as early as 1975, when the first contact was made with the
PLO, until 1983. During this period a series of agreements was concluded with the Libyan regime and the WRP's political perspectives were amended to suit their paymasters.

The document alleges that the WRP acted -- through Gerry Healy, Alex Mitchell,
Corin and Vanessa Redgrave, and a number of others -- as a collector of information for Libyan Intelligence. This function had, as the report puts it, "strongly anti-Semitic undertones". Put plainly, they were Jew-spotting in the media, politics and business. The Khomeini
revolution and the Iran-Iraq war -- in which the WRP's efforts to support both sides soon collapsed -- put paid to their employment by the regime of Saddam Hussein. But before this disaster the WRP's connections with Iraq clearly generated more than the £19,697 identified in the report.

The Iraqi connection had sinister aspects. From 1979 on, the WRP provided the Iraqi embassy with intelligence on dissident Iraqis living in Britain. Since Saddam Hussein's dictatorship does not scruple to arrest the relatives of opponents, to use torture on a vast scale, or even to murder children, it seems likely that the WRP were accomplices to murder.

One example of the depths to which these corrupt practices drove the party occurred in March 1979, when with only one dissentient [dissenter? -- RL] the central committee of the WRP voted to approve the execution (after pro­longed torture) of more than 20 opponents of the Iraqi government. One of the victims, Talib Suwailh, had only five months earlier brought fraternal greetings to the conference of the WRP's own front organisation, the All Trade Unions Alliance (see the Slaughter group's News Line, 20 November 1985).

In addition to the £1,075,163 identified by the document as having come from the Middle East and Libya between 1977 and 1983, the report gives, in a section dealing with the WRP's internal finances which we do not print, breakdowns of a further £496,773 received between 1975 and 1985 from other sections of the International Committee, almost entirely from North America, Australia and Germany. This raises further questions about how additional Middle Eastern money may have been recycled to the WRP via other IC sections; it is known, for example, that the Australian section received at least one substantial payment from Libya.

The Death Agony Of The WRP

The WRP's fission products included, at last count, six organisations plus a large number of dispersed and semi-detached individuals. On the anti-Healy side, in early 1986 Slaughter's WRP was expelled from North's International Committee; it in turn ejected North's British supporters, led by Dave and Judy Hyland, who then formed the 'International Communist Party'. Mike Banda was also expelled with a more politically disparate group who established a short-lived discussion circle, Communist Forum; Banda himself repudiated Trotskyism completely, and a number of his associates have joined the Communist Party.

In the summer of 1986 the WRP began negotiations with the LIT,
Nahuel Moreno's Argentinean-based international apparat, (notable mainly for their enthusiastic support for the Argentine junta's invasion of the Falklands/Malvinas). These talks have, in turn, generated yet another internal opposition (Chris Bailey, Gerry Downing, David Bruce, et al), who face expulsion if the marriage is consummated.

It is certain that the anti-Healy camp know far more about the dirtier aspects of the WRP's past than they have so far publicly admitted. Indeed, their coyness about the past is one of the few things which unites the warring factions. Probably none of them know the full story, but virtually all of them know more than they have revealed so far. These include North, who has resolutely chosen not to make public even the skeletal information we publish; Cliff Slaughter, who for many years was secretary of the International Committee; and Dot Gibson, who was responsible for running -- and falsifying -- the accounts of the WRP and its companies. Silence denotes consent.

Healy and a number of his supporters are even better placed to be held accountable for the despicable practices which this report alleges. It states, for example, that Alex Mitchell and Corin Redgrave were as deeply involved as Healy himself in the dealings with Arab governments. So was Vanessa Redgrave, whose personal finances are alleged to have merged with the inflowing money.

One part of the document not published here states, "It was learned from cde [name suppressed] that one large IC donation of $140,000 to the party was never recorded. Under instructions from G Healy it was given to Vanessa Redgrave who had run into tax problems."

The pro-Healy WRP which emerged from the October 1985 schism has also had its problems. From the beginning Healy had an uneasy relationship with Sheila Torrance, who ran the organisation and the restarted daily News Line. In the summer of 1986, Mitchell suddenly quit, returning to Australia, and the association between Healy and his showbiz 11 on the one hand and Torrance on the other deteriorated. The break came in December. Torrance kept a majority of the remaining membership and News Line, which by now had a circulation in the low hundreds.

Healy, the Redgraves, and a small rump, resurfaced in August 1987 as the
Marxist Party
, which has discovered a new messiah in Gorbachev, apparently due to lead a political revolution in the Soviet Union. Meanwhile, in early 1987 yet another faction, headed by Richard Price, broke away to refound Trotskyist orthodoxy as the "Workers International League". Torrance, with what remains of her WRP, is currently embroiled in a tussle with yet another group led by Ray Athow over the party's remaining assets. Tedious, isn't it?

Their Morals And Ours

One important aspect of the corruption of the WRP not covered by the report is the mercenary relationship it established with certain local authorities. For example, the financially scandal-ridden Lambeth council was effectively dominated by a group of councillors who were covert members or supporters of the party (one, at least, received a party salary and car) with all that implies in terms of jobbery and corruption.

The Labour Herald, an important journal of the Labour "left" and formerly co-edited by
Ken Livingstone and Ted Knight, was financed and controlled by the WRP. The party also had important influence in, and access to, the highest levels of the GLC. We hope in future issues of Solidarity, with the help of our readers, to explore this further dimension of corruption. Incidentally, the WRP was far from being the sole beneficiary of such influence....

What is relevant about this tale is not that the WRP was led by a monster (or monsters) -- after all, there are plenty of those around -- but that numbers of intelligent, self-sacrificing, and idealistic people (but what ideals?) accepted such a regime for decades. Psychiatry as well as ideology is needed to explain such a phenomenon. Masochistic party or leader fetishism is only one facet of the problem....


Extract from the Interim Report of the International Committee Commission, December 16 1985

From Solidarity, issue 16 (new series), spring 1988

Here, published for the first time, we extract four key pages of the 12-page report on corruption in the WRP, prepared by a special commission of the International Committee of the Fourth International

Relations With The Colonial Bourgeoisie

The Commission was able to secure a section of the correspondence relating to the Middle East from the files in G Healy's former office. The documents examined by the Commission are seven relating to Iraq, four relating to Kuwait and other Gulf states, 23 relating to the PLO and 28 relating to Libya. The following report bases itself mainly on these documents.

From internal evidence in the documents under our control, it is obvious that much more material must exist, which was either taken out of the centre when the rump was in control or kept elsewhere. Therefore the actual amount of money received from these relations and the extent of these relations must be considerably bigger than what we are able to prove in this report. The documents at our disposal clearly prove that Healy established a mercenary relationship between the WRP and the Arab colonial bourgeoisie, through which the political principles of Trotskyism and the interests of the working class were betrayed.

In late June 1976, the ICFI was informed for the first time that the WRP had established official contacts with non-party forces in the Middle East. These contacts were with the PLO, a national liberation movement. However, in April 1976, two months earlier (and more than a year before a public alliance was announced between the WRP and Libya), a secret agreement with the Libyan government was signed by [name suppressed in original] and Corin Redgrave on behalf of the WRP (exhibit no 5). This was never reported to the ICFI. The Commission has not yet established who in the leadership of the WRP, beyond the signatories, knew of the agreement.

This agreement includes providing of intelligence information on the "activities, names and positions held in finance, politics, business, the communications media and elsewhere" by "Zionists". It has strongly anti-Semitic undertones, as no distinction is made between Jews and Zionists and the term Zionist could actually include every Jew in a leading position. This agreement was connected with a demand for money. The report given by the WRP delegation while staying in Libya included a demand for £50,000 to purchase a web offset press for the daily News Line, which was to be launched in May 1976. The Commission was not able to establish if any of this money was received.

In August 1977, G Healy went himself to Libya and presented a detailed plan for the expansion of News Line to six regional editions, requesting for it £100,000. G. Healy also discussed the Euro-marches with the Libyan authorities and responded positively to a proposal to have the "Progressive Socialist Parties of the Mediterranean" participate in the marches. This would have included
PASOK, a bourgeois party in Greece. These plans did not materialise. G. Healy reported this in a letter to Al Fatah leader [name suppressed] (exhibit no 6).

This letter and a number of further letters to [name suppressed] (exhibit no 14) demonstrate that the relations with the PLO -- which according to the claims made by the WRP before the ICFI were supposedly based on the principled resolutions of the Second Congress of the Communist International -- were cynically used to make the PLO an instrument for obtaining money from the Arab bourgeoisie, thereby destroying any chance of building a section of the International Committee among the Palestinians.

The complete political opportunism of the relations to the Arab colonial bourgeoisie is most clearly revealed in a redraft of the WRP perspectives signed by G. Healy (exhibit no 7). This document was presented to the Libyan authorities during a visit in April 1980. It reconciles the WRP perspectives with the Green Book. Instead of the "working class" we find "the masses" and the Libyan Revolutionary Committees are identified with Soviets. The criterion of the class character of the state is completely abolished. Like almost every document found by the Commission relating to the Middle East, it ends with a request for money.

G. Healy lined up publicly with the reactionary forces in the Middle East. During a visit to Kuwait, Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Dubai in March-April, 1979, G. Healy, V. Redgrave, and [name suppressed] met with the Crown Prince of Kuwait, Sheikh Sa-ad, and some of the ruling bourgeois families. When they were invited however to have dinner "with a group of left oppositionists led by the Sultan family," according to their own report "the delegation declined to accept this invitation as we did not wish to intervene in the political matters in Kuwait" (exhibit no 8). The sole purpose of this trip was to raise money for the film
Occupied Palestine.

The trip ended finally by the delegation urging the feudal and bourgeois rulers to censure a journalist of the
Gulf Times
who had written an article on the real purpose of their visit. The delegation finally received £116,000. In October 1979, Vanessa Redgrave visited Libya and asked for £500,000 for Youth Training (exhibit no 9). As of February 1982 the WRP had received "just over 200,000 pounds" from Libya for Youth Training (exhibit no 10). In addition to this a £100,000 fund was raised in the British working class. While approximately £300,000 was raised for this project, the real cost for the purchase, legal and building expenses for seven Youth Training Centres as of May 21, 1982 was £152,539.

In April 1980 a WRP delegation led by G Healy visited Libya, presenting his redrafted WRP perspective and asking for more money. From March 8 to 17, 1981 G. Healy made a further visit to Libya, putting forward demands totalling £800,000. The Commission found a report in Healy's hand­writing of this (exhibit no 11). This report contains the following statements: "In the evening we had a two hour audience with [name suppressed]. We suggested that we should work with Libyan Intelligence and this was agreed. ... March 13. The delegation was visited by [name suppressed] from the intelligence". This has a special significance, considering the fact that the Libyan Intelligence has excellent relations with the German Special Branch (BKA).

The Commission has not been able to establish to whom in the WRP leadership, if anyone, this written report was shown. The same applies to all other written reports and correspondence.

At that point G. Healy had considerable difficulty getting all the money he was asking for. The report goes on: "March 15th. We were told that [name suppressed] had promised £100,000 which we said was welcome but inadequate.... April 9th. Met [name suppressed] for the first time since he returned from Tripoli. He had no news but paid up £26,500 to pay for youth premises already decided. This brings the total to date paid from the promised £500,000 to £176,500. It looks as [if] our visit made no impact whatsoever".

In May 1981, G. Healy's letters asking for the money became more and more desperate. On April 15th he writes a letter, marked "confidential", to [name suppressed] of the People's Committee in the Libyan People's Bureau (exhibit no 12) urging him to give the money. On May 17, 1981 a "private and confidential" letter is sent to "dear [name suppressed]" (exhibit no 13) through Alex Mitchell.

On August 25th Alex Mitchell asks PLO representative [name suppressed] for an immediate meeting to discuss "the very grave questions which have arisen regarding our revolutionary solidarity work in the Middle East". He informs him that "with the full agreement of the Political Committee, our Party's proposed visit to Beirut and Tripoli has been cancelled".

In a Memo to G. Healy, Alex Mitchell reports that [name suppressed] proposed to write a letter to Gaddafi and forward it through [name suppressed] of Libyan Intelligence. On August 28th, G. Healy writes a letter to [name suppressed] in the name of the Central Committee of the Workers Revolutionary Party, complaining that he didn't get the money from Tripoli and blaming the Libyans for the price raise in the News Line (exhibit no 14). The same day G. Healy writes another "private and confidential" letter to "Brother [name suppressed]" (exhibit no 15).

The last document in the hands of the Control Commission is a letter from G. Healy to the secretary of the Libyan People's Bureau, dated February 10th, 1982, under the heading "Re: 1982 Budget" (exhibit no 10).

The Israeli invasion of Lebanon in June 1982 and the right-wing turn of the Arab bourgeoisie led to the drying up of the finances coming in from the Arab colonial bourgeoisie. Only a few documents could be found on the relations with the Iraqi bourgeoisie, although we know that many trips have been made there. The relations came to an abrupt end when the Iran-Iraq war started in 1980. The total amount obtained through these relations, according to the available documents, is listed below.

The Commission has not yet been able to establish all the facts relating in the case of the photographs that were handed over to the Iraqi embassy. We do know the two WRP members were instructed to take photos of demonstrations of opponents of Saddam Hussein. One of the members, Cde. [name suppressed], refused the order. A receipt for £1600 for 16 minutes of documentary footage of a demonstration is in the possession of the Commission.

Money Received From The Middle East

The following report on monies received from the Middle East was put together by the Commission from a careful analysis of many documents and cash books. We were told repeatedly that Healy wanted no formal record kept of the money coming in. A full list and graph of what was found is in exhibit no16.

A list by year shows the following amounts coming in:

1977 £46,208
1978 £47,784
1979 £347,755
1980 £173,671
1981 £185,128
1982 £271,217
1983 £3,400
1984 0
1985 0

TOTAL £1,075,163

Analysed by country, where it is possible to distinguish, the amounts are:

Libya £542,267
Kuwait £156,500
Qatar £50,000
Abu Dhabi £25,000
PLO £19,997
Iraq £19,697
Unidentified or other sources £261,702

TOTAL £1,075,163

The Commission was told by both [name suppressed] and [name suppressed] that frequently cash was brought to the centre which would not be immediately banked. Therefore, it was possible for large sums of cash to come and go without ever being recorded.




Yet more dialectics; yet more principles ditched...



Appendix B -- Yet More Dialectical Bickering


In this section I will be posting several more examples (in addition to those in Essay Nine Part Two) where dialecticians use their theory (1) to prove other dialecticians wrong, or (2) to argue for one conclusion and its opposite.


I have chosen a wide range of examples from the major tendencies in Marxism, from leading individuals to more minor figures in order to show how widespread and pervasive this approach to theory is. More will be added over the coming months.


I have re-formatted these passages to conform to the conventions adopted at this site, and altered the spelling to UK English. I have also corrected a few minor typos.


(1) Enver Hoxha On Mao


"'Mao Tsetung (sic) thought' is opposed to the Marxist-Leninist theory of revolution. In his writings Mao Tsetung makes frequent mention of the role of revolutions in the process of the development of society, but in essence he adheres to a metaphysical, evolutionist concept. Contrary to materialist dialectics, which envisages progressive development in the form of a spiral, Mao Tsetung preaches development in the form of a cycle, going round in a circle, as a process of ebb and flow which goes from equilibrium to disequilibrium and back to equilibrium again, from motion to rest and back to motion again, from rise to fall and from fall to rise, from advance to retreat and to advance again, etc. Thus, upholding the concept of ancient philosophy on the purifying role of fire, Mao Tsetung writes: 'It is necessary to "set a fire going" at regular intervals. How often? Once a year or once every three years, which do you prefer? I think we should do it at least twice in the space of every five years, in the same way as the intercalary month in a lunar leap year turns up once in three years or twice in five". (Mao) Thus like the astrologists of old, on the basis of the lunar calendar, he derives the law on the periodical kindling of fire, on the development which goes from 'great harmony' to 'great disorder' and again to 'great harmony', and thus the cycles repeat themselves periodically.


"In this manner, 'Mao Tsetung thought' opposes the materialist dialectical concept of development, which, as Lenin says


"' us the key to understand the "selfmovement" of every existing thing;... gives us the key to understand the "leaps", "the interruption of graduality", "the transformation into the opposite", the abolition of the old and the emergence of the new', with the metaphysical concept which 'is lifeless, pale and dry'. This becomes even more obvious in the way Mao Tsetung handles the problem of contradictions, to which, according to Chinese propaganda, Mao has allegedly made a 'special contribution' and developed materialist dialectics further in this field. It is true that in many of his writings, Mao Tsetung frequently speaks about opposites, contradictions, the unity of the opposites, and even uses Marxist quotations and phrases, but, nevertheless, he is far from the dialectical materialist understanding of these problems. In dealing with contradictions, he does not proceed from the Marxist theses, but from those of ancient Chinese philosophers, sees the opposites in a mechanical way, as external phenomena, and imagines the transformation of the opposites as a simple change of places between them. By operating with some eternal opposites taken from ancient philosophy, such as above and below, backward and forward, right and left, light and heavy, etc., etc., in essence Mao Tsetung negates the internal contradictions inherent in things and phenomena and treats development as simple repetition, as a chain of unchangeable states in which the same opposites and the same relationship between them are observed. The mutual transformation of the opposites into each other, understood as a mere exchange of places and not as a resolution of the contradiction and a qualitative change of the very phenomenon which comprises these opposites, is used by Mao Tsetung as a formal pattern to which everything is subject. On the basis of this pattern, Mao goes so far as to declare that 'When dogmatism is transformed into its opposite, it becomes either Marxism or revisionism', 'metaphysics is transformed into dialectics, and dialectics into metaphysics', etc. Behind such absurd assertions and this sophistical playing with opposites, lurk the opportunist and anti-revolutionary concepts of Mao Tsetung. Thus, he does not see the socialist revolution as a qualitative change of society in which antagonistic classes and the oppression and exploitation of man by man are abolished, but conceives it as a simple change of places between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. To confirm this 'discovery', Mao writes: 'If the bourgeoisie and the proletariat can't transform themselves into each other, how does it come that, through revolution, the proletariat becomes the ruling class and the bourgeoisie the ruled class?... We stand in diametrical opposition to Chiang Kai-shek's Kuomintang. As a result of the mutual struggle and exclusion of the two contradictory aspects with the Kuomintang we changed places...'. (Mao)


"This same logic has also led Mao Tsetung to revise the Marxist-Leninist theory on the two phases of communist society. 'According to dialectics, as surely as a man must die, the socialist system as a historical phenomenon will come to an end some day, to be negated by the communist system. If it is asserted that the socialist system and the relations of production and superstructure of socialism will not die out, what kind of Marxist thesis would that be? Wouldn't it be the same as a religious creed or theology that preaches an everlasting god?' (Mao)...


"These questions which we have analysed do not cover all the anti-Marxist and anti-Leninist content of 'Mao Tsetung thought'. However, they are sufficient to permit the conclusion that Mao Tsetung was not a Marxist-Leninist, but a progressive revolutionary democrat, who remained for a long time at the head of the Chinese Communist Party and played an important role in the triumph of the Chinese democratic anti-imperialist revolution. Within China, in the ranks of the party, among the people and outside China, he -- built up his reputation as a great Marxist-Leninist -- and he himself posed as a communist, as a Marxist-Leninist dialectician. But this was not so. He was an eclectic who combined some elements of Marxist dialectics with idealism, with bourgeois and revisionist philosophy, indeed, even, with ancient Chinese philosophy. Therefore, the views of Mao Tsetung must be studied not only in the arranged phrases of some of his published works, but in their entirety, in their practical application, while also considering the practical consequences they have brought about." [Quoted from here. Bold emphases added. Italic emphasis in the original.]


(2) Mao On The Khrushchev Regime


"At the 22nd Congress of the CPSU Khrushchov (sic) openly raised another banner, the alteration of the proletarian character of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. He announced the replacement of the party of the proletariat by a 'party of the entire people'.


"The programme of the CPSU states, 'As a result of the victory of socialism in the U.S.S.R. and the consolidation of the unity of Soviet society, the Communist Party of the working class has become the vanguard of the Soviet people, a party of the entire people'. The Open Letter of the Central Committee of the CPSU says that the CPSU 'has become a political organization of the entire people'.


"How absurd!....


"First, it is necessary to apply the Marxist-Leninist law of the unity of opposites to the study of socialist society. The law of contradiction in all things, i.e., the law of the unity of opposites, is a fundamental law of materialist dialectics. It operates everywhere, whether in the natural world, in human society, or in the human thought.


"The opposites in a contradiction both unite and struggle with each other, and it is this that forces things to move and change. Socialist society is no exception. In socialist society there are two kinds of social contradictions, namely, the contradictions among the people and those between ourselves and the enemy. These two kinds of contradictions are entirely different in their essence, and the methods for handling them should be different, too. Their correct handling will result in the increasing consolidation of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the further strengthening and development of socialist society.


"Many people acknowledge the law of the unity of opposites but are unable to apply it in studying and handling questions in socialist society. They refuse to admit that there are contradictions in socialist society -- that there are not only contradictions between ourselves and the enemy but also contradictions among the people -- and they do not know how to distinguish between these two kinds of social contradictions and how to handle them correctly, and are therefore unable to deal correctly with the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat.


"SECOND, socialist society covers a very long historical period. Classes and class struggle continue to exist in this society, and the struggle still goes on between the road of socialism and the road of capitalism. The socialist revolution on the economic front (in the ownership of the means of production) is insufficient by itself and can't be consolidated. There must also be a thorough socialist revolution on the political and ideological fronts. [Quoted from here. Bold emphases added; capital letters in the original.]


(3) Mao On Stalin


"As the Soviet Union was the first, and at the time the only, country to build socialism and had no foreign experience to go by, and as Stalin departed from Marxist-Leninist dialectics in his understanding of the laws of class struggle in socialist society, he prematurely declared after agriculture was basically collectivized that there were "no longer antagonistic classes" in the Soviet Union and that it was "free of class conflicts", one-sidely stressed the internal homogeneity of socialist society and overlooked its contradictions, failed to rely upon the working class and the masses in the struggle against the forces of capitalism and regarded the possibility of restoration of capitalism as associated only with armed attack by international imperialism. This was wrong both in theory and in practice." [Quoted from here. Bold emphases added.]


(4) Trotsky On Ordjonikidze


"The October Revolution has not perished. I never said it has. I do not believe it has. But I did say that it is possible to ruin the October Revolution, if one really undertakes to do so -- and that you have already accomplished a few things to that end. Your entire thinking on this question, comrade Ordjonikidze, is not dialectical but formal. You ignore the question of the conflict of living forces, the question of the party. Your thinking is utterly permeated with fatalism. You differentiate between optimism and pessimism as if they were two immutable categories independent of conditions and politics. According to your way of thinking, one can be only either an 'optimist' or a 'pessimist', i.e., either think that the revolution has completely perished or that it will not perish under any circumstances no matter what we did. The one and the other are false. Has not the revolution already passed through a number of ups and downs? Didn't we have a stupendous upswing in the period of the October overturn, and didn't we hang suspended by a hair in the period of the Brest-Litovsk peace? Recall to your minds what Lenin said during the struggle against the Left Communists -- that it is extremely difficult to control the automobile of power in the epoch of revolution, because it is necessary to keep making sharp turns all the time. Brest-Litovsk was a retreat. The NEP, after the Kronstadt uprising, was a retreat. And did not each wave of retreat engender in its turn opportunist moods? It is clear as noonday that when these movements of retreat and of downward swings in the revolution are prolonged for a year, or two and three years, they engender a more profound drop in the moods of the masses and of the party as well. Comrade Ordjonikidze, you are a native Caucasian and you know that a road that leads up the mountain, does not go straight upward, but winds and zigzags, and often after a steep rise, it is necessary to descend two or three versts....


"Comrade Ordjonikidze approaches the question of the victory or defeat of the revolution independently of any connection with the dialectic process, i.e., independently of the mutual interaction between our policies and the objective conditions. He poses the question in the following manner: either the inevitable victory of the revolution or its inevitable defeat. Now, I say: If we proceed to make real and thorough mistakes, then we can doom the revolution. But if we apply all our forces to rectify a false line, then we shall triumph. But to assert that no matter what we may do -- either in relation to the kulak, in relation to the Anglo-Russian Committee, or in relation to the Chinese Revolution -- it can do no harm to the revolution; that the revolution must triumph "anyway" -- is to reason in the manner that only indifferent bureaucrats are capable of doing. And so far as they are concerned, it is precisely they who are capable of ruining the revolution. [Quoted from here. Bold emphases added.]


(5) Raya Dunayevskaya On Mao


"The drastic change from the first 'Soviet' period (1928-9) to the second (Yenan period, 1935-1945) was naturally questioned by many Communists. When some in his 'Red Army' called the merger with the Chiang regular Army 'counter-revolutionary,' Mao replied that they were 'dogmatists.' This political struggle underlies the period of Mao's alleged original contribution to the philosophy of Marxism.


"Objective research has since cast considerable doubt as to the date (1937) when the essays 'On Practice' and 'On Contradiction' were written; they weren't published until 1950-52. We, however, are willing to accept the official date for their writing at face value because they are objectively, subjectively, for yesteryear and for today, so very Maoist that it does not matter that Mao may have back-dated them to make them appear prescient or re-written them to suit his present style. The point is, in order to sell the policy of class collaboration, Mao evidently thought a frontal attack on 'dogmatists' would be insufficient. Hence he chose the form of 'Philosophic Essays.' These are so filled with empty abstractions that it is difficult to discover either his subject or his aim.


"In 'On Practice', Mao writes, 'The epistemology of dialectical materialism...regards human knowledge as being at no point separable from practice.' If knowledge is at no point separable from practice, he would have done well to tell us what practice he is talking about. But, no, Mao is anxious to make this reduction of theory to 'practicality' appear to be based on nothing less authoritative than Lenin's Philosophic Notebooks. Mao quotes Lenin's sentence, 'Practice is more than cognition (theoretical knowledge).' He fails to tell us, however, that Lenin was only restating Hegel's analysis of the relationship of the Practical Idea to the Theoretical Idea before the two are united, as Lenin puts it, 'precisely in the theory of knowledge.'


"Far from theory being reduced to 'practicality,' Lenin asserts, in the very section from which Mao quoted one sentence, the following: 'Alias: Man's consciousness not only reflects the objective world, but creates it.' Since this preceded the quotation Mao used, it would have seemed impossible for even a Confucian like Mao so totally to have misunderstood its meaning -- unless, of course, he had set out deliberately to pervert Lenin. In any case, the world the sophist Mao created was for such a low purpose -- to compel obedience to a new united front with Chiang -- that one hesitates to dignify the writing as 'philosophy.'


"Only because this state-capitalist tyrant rules over no less than 650 million souls is one compelled to attempt an analysis of his "original contribution to Marxism".


"Evidently, Mao failed to convince his hearers or his readers (we are not told which) because he soon followed with still another 'philosophical essay', once again directed against the dogmatists and this time called 'On Contradiction'. We are told that it was delivered as a lecture at the anti-Japanese Military and Political College in Yenan, August, 1937.'


"In "On Contradiction' Mao used some 'practical' examples. This has at least one virtue: it shows exactly how he has to rewrite his own previous period of rule in order 'to balance' the mistakes of 'dogmatists' against those of the Kuomintang. It turns out that only 'after 1927 (my emphasis -- R.D.), the Kuomintang turned in the opposite direction' from the 'revolutionary and vigorous' period of united front in 1925. The defeat of the Chinese Revolution is now laid at the door of 'Ch'en Tuh-siu-ism,' that is to say, the revolutionary Trotskyist leader, Ch'en Tuh-siu! Even the loss of 'Soviet China' (now called merely 'revolutionary bases') is blamed, not on Chiang's extermination campaigns, but on the 'mistakes of adventurism'.


"'Since 1935', Mao pompously continues amidst a great deal of pretentious phrasemongering on the philosophic meaning of 'Contradictions,' 'it (the Communist Party) has rectified these mistakes and led the new anti-Japanese united front'. It follows that after 'the Sian Incident in December, 1936, it (the Kuomintang) made another turn,' obviously in the 'right revolutionary direction' since they are once again in a united front. In 'On Contradiction' this demagogic class collaborationist says benignly, 'We Chinese often say: "Things opposed to each other complement each other."'


"So permeated to the marrow of his bones is Mao with Confucianism that it is doubtful he is even conscious that he is thereby perverting in toto the Hegelian-Marxian theory of development through contradiction. Seen in all its profundity for the first time by Lenin, in 1915, as he re-read and commented upon Hegel's Science of Logic, this development through contradiction, transformation into opposite, helped Lenin get to the root of the collapse of established Marxism, the Second International. Blind to the developing oppositions, contradictions, antagonisms, Mao on the other hand invented a 'truly original' division in the concept of contradiction, which he called 'Principal Aspect of the Contradiction.' This division between 'the principal contradiction' and 'the principal aspect of contradiction' permits Mao to make as complete a hash of philosophy as he has previously made of history. Thus it turns out that under certain conditions, 'even principal contradictions are relegated temporarily to a secondary, or subordinate, position' and because of 'uneven developments' and 'mutual transformations,' the economic basis becomes 'subordinated' while 'political and cultural reforms become the principal and decisive factors.' Trying to make up for this insipid subjectivism, Mao proceeds to tell his readers that Communists 'of course' remain materialists since 'as a whole,' they see that 'material things determine spiritual things...'. All one can say of such a hodge-podge is what Kant said of 'the cosmological proof', that it was 'a perfect nest of thoughtless contradictions.'


"A recent traveller to China cited what a local party secretary from Shensi said: 'Through the study of theory, I clearly understood the principles of uninterrupted revolution and of revolution by stages and put them into concrete application in pig breeding'. Senseless as the local party secretary's statement is, it is only the logical conclusion of 'The Leader's' reduction of theory to 'practice' compelling the Chinese to follow his dictum that 'dogmas are more useless than cow dung.'


"Before, however, we flee in disgust from the vulgarities that pass for 'philosophy', and become too anxious to dismiss what totalitarian China lovingly calls 'Mao's thought', let us bear in mind his present power. Let us remember, also, that when Mao made the Chinese Communist Party accept the new united front with Chiang and initiated his 'three-thirds' principle -- that one-third Communist Party members, one-third Kuomintang, and one-third non-party people constitute the administration in Communist areas -- the fight against Japan stiffened. This was the period when visiting foreign journalists, whose cultural standards were greater than those of Mao's cohorts, were impressed with his 'exciting speeches on culture'. Wearied of the Kuomintang corruption and its ineffectualness in fighting Japan, they were impressed by the Communists, not only in the fight against Japan, but in the dedication 'to go to the people', i.e., to establish schools among the peasants in remote areas, and proceed with agricultural reforms. Still others, including many of the bourgeoisie and landlords, were attracted by the moderate agricultural program, and hence, many anti-Communists began accepting the Chinese Communists as mere 'agrarian reformers'. Mao contributed nothing to Marxian philosophy, and denuded its politics of its class content. But he certainly carved out an original road to power." [Quoted from here. Bold emphases added.]


However the Gerry Healy Prize for 2021 -- awarded to the individual who manages to write a totally irrelevant 'dialectical' critique of anything whatsoever -- goes to the following 'analysis' of Mao by Dunayevskaya:


"As I was reading Mao's 'revelations' on how contradictions continue to exist under 'the people's republic' with even 'people' redefined, I remembered Leontiev with his admission that value still operated in Russia, with even 'Chapter I' of CAPITAL redefined as something of the 'past.' But while it is true that Mao does with the philosophical concept of contradiction the same thing that Leontiev did with the economic concept of value -- somewhere in a footnote in Volume I Marx laughs at the bourgeois philosopher for understanding every sort of senseless contradiction but being a stranger to the Hegelian contradiction which is the source of all dialectic -- this is 1957, not 1943, and it is China, not Russia. What is new in the date and the country is what we have to grapple with. In 1943 Russia was about to win a war and was telling its workers there will be no difference in their conditions of labour. In 1957 the whole world, even the dominant rulers who are aiming for war if that is what is needed for world mastery, are scared senseless that they might all be blown off the earth. In a way it bears a parallel to the rise of Nazism when the depression so shook up the world and the workers were in such violent revolt that even fascism had to call itself National SOCIALISM.


"Moreover state capitalism in an industrial country is one thing and something else again in so vast an underdeveloped country as China -- Mao says five million of its six million population is peasant! They must still talk about their bowl of rice and ask the bourgeois intellectual's collaboration, something like some of the Czarist officers who were given a place under political leadership of the CP [Communist Party] in Russia in those bitter communist war years.


"Philosophically it is a very great advance indeed for a Mao to put contradiction, even though he makes it meaningless by his application to all so it applies to none, in the centre of his speech. Grace Lee Boggs didn't go beyond that in her philosophic section -- neither in 'Dialectics and the Fate of Humanity' in 1947 when revolution was in the air, nor in 1950 when Hegel got put into our thesis only to have him equivalent to development through contradiction while the age of absolutes remained an abstraction. [T]he new article in the Russian journal of philosophy suddenly took issue with Hegel and claimed Marx considered the unity of opposites as 'greater than negativity,' denying the Hegelian negation of the negation as central to Marx. I said then, wasn't it peculiar that they all bandy about unity of opposites so freely just in order to evade the resolution of the contradiction and face the Absolute Idea. Mao now says Lenin said some marvellous things on contradictions. It only goes to prove that what was central for Lenin in 1915 is not for us for today, except as methodology. Nothing, absolutely nothing short of Absolute Idea are the Communists afraid of any more. How we have them beat now!


"If you will bear with me, we will, before we reach Mao and the special place Hegel assigned to him in the Spirit in Self-Estrangement, go through the previous stages of alienation:


"1. In SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS, the Unhappy Consciousness or Alienated Soul arises as 'a personality confined within its narrow self and its petty activity, a personality brooding over itself, as unfortunate as it is pitiably destitute.' Hegel continues on the very next page, 'Through these moments -- the negative abandonment first of its own right and power of decision, then of its property and enjoyment, and finally the positive moment of carrying on what it does not understand -- it deprives itself, completely and in truth, of the consciousness of inner and outer freedom, or reality in the sense of its own existence for itself.' I have brought this down in a footnote in the book to a description of the ex-radicals who can find no place for themselves either in or outside of the bourgeois fold and end up on the green couch. You can put in characters you yourself know and get your own illumination.


"2. In REASON alienation takes the form of 'The Law of the Heart and the Frenzy of Self-Conceit: The heart-throb for the welfare of mankind passes therefore into the rage of frantic self-conceit, into the fury of consciousness to preserve itself from destruction; and to do so by casting out of its life the perversion which it really is, and by straining to regard and to express that perversion as something else.' If not [C.L.R. James] then any fainthearted Marxist or labour bureaucrat will do, including Khrushchev.


"3. But Mao doesn't appear till 'Spirit in Self-Estrangement -- the Discipline of Culture' which 'constructs not merely one world, but a twofold world, divided and self-opposed.' And just look how Hegel follows Mao through with his discovery of contradiction so long as there is 'unity': 'The equilibrium of the whole is not the unity which abides by itself, nor its inwardly secured tranquillity, but rests on the estrangement of its opposite. The whole is, therefore, like each single moment, a self-estranged reality.' And two pages further on Hegel continues: 'The sphere of spirits at this stage break up into two regions. The one is the actual world, that of self-estrangement, the other is that which spirit constructs for itself in the ether of pure consciousness, raising itself above the first. This second world, being constructed in opposition and contrast to that estrangement, is just on that account not free from it....'


"That is what Mao is blind to -- he thinks he can construct two opposite worlds, and as soon as he assures it '100 flowers can bloom,' even if he does deny any flower the right to be a second party, which is 'bourgeois,' thereupon he has assured his poverty-stricken land 'unity.' Marx, in his 'Critique of the Hegelian Dialectic,' where he speaks of how many fields of exploration lay hidden in Hegel if only critically understood, points precisely to this spot which Hegel calls 'The Noble Type of Consciousness.' [A]t another place [Hegel says], 'This type of mind is the heroism of service' and, finally 'Such a type is the haughty vassal; he is active in the interests of the state-power': 'This estrangement, however, takes place in Language, in words alone, and language assumes here its peculiar role.... [I]t is the power of utterance QUA utterance which, just in speaking, performs what has to be performed.... Speech, however, contains this ego in its purity; it alone expresses I, I itself.'


"It is equivalent, in economic terms, to the Fetishism of Commodities which kept even classical political economy, which had discovered labour as the source of value, its prisoner. Throughout that remarkable first chapter in CAPITAL Marx keeps talking of the perverse relationship under capitalism where dead labour dominates living labour. In Hegel 'this entire sphere of perversion' of the spirit in self-estrangement ends with: 'This type of spiritual life is the absolute and universal inversion of reality and thought, their entire estrangement the one from the other; it is pure culture. What is found out in this sphere is that neither the concrete realities, state-power and wealth, nor their determinate conceptions, good and bad, nor the consciousness of good and bad (the consciousness that is noble and the consciousness that is base) possess real truth; it is found that all these moments are inverted and transmuted the one into the other, and each is the opposite of itself.'


"THAT opposite Mao did not grasp, nor could he, since this state he is leader of has its own dialectic of development, irrespective of the noble consciousness of its leader. Just as every single thing has its own dialectic of development, so the various stages of alienation go through their transformations. Or rather vice versa since 'the moving and creating principle' (to use Marx's expression for the principle of negativity) is this very negativity. Neither Khrushchev nor Mao can escape this, but that each has tried a different aspect of it because of the compulsion from the objective movement and the subjective aspirations of their working people denotes the true absolute of our age, the counterrevolution in the very innards of revolution and (and that is the vision) the revolution in the innards of their counterrevolutionary states. Wait till the book [MARXISM AND FREEDOM] appears and we go to battle." [Quoted from here, where the source of Dunayevskaya's quotations can be found. Capitals in the original. Bold emphases added; quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


Admittedly, the above material comes from a letter so its obvious incoherence is somewhat understandable. Even so, any Maoist who read the above is surely going to exclaim "WTF is she on about?!"


(6) Mandel On Stalin


"It is precisely because, the Soviet man is not yet completely master of his economic destiny that the conscious conduct of the economy, the concrete economic policy, assumes such elemental importance! But think of Stalin understanding such a dialectical truth. He is too busy shuffling the deck, keeping all the contradictory pieces of his system of thought in their place. This is the conscious expression of the contradictory nature of the Soviet bureaucracy....


"Stalin asserts that agricultural production in the USSR is socialist production. He speaks of the 'collective farm form' of socialist production. But agricultural production in the USSR is not only collective farm production. Stalin himself mentions the private property of the 'collective farm households' (families comprising the collective farms). His enumeration of their household goods as composed of several 'cows, sheep, goats, pigs, ducks, geese, fowl, turkeys' might give the impression that this is a trivial matter in Soviet agriculture taken, as a whole. But this is not the case. On the eve of the war, 50% of Soviet livestock was private property, and even today this figure has not seriously altered. An important sector of private property therefore subsists in agriculture. And the products of this private sector play a growing role as commodities delivered to the collective farm and 'free' market.


"Then, it is absurd to characterize the collective farm sector as a socialist sector. It is even more absurd to say that 'collective farm properly is socialist property.' This would lead us to the conclusion that there are two 'socialist' forms of property: socialist property, 'belonging to all the people,' as Stalin says, and collective farm property, belonging to the producers' cooperatives. Since these two forms of property are in economic conflict with each other -- otherwise there is no explanation for their coexistence, but that would be too dialectical for Stalin to understand -- the economic antagonism, the social conflicts, would be perpetuated under socialism, which is the negation of one of the fundamentals of Marxist theory." [Mandel (1952), quoted from here. Bold emphases alone added; quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


(7) Paul Hampton (Of The AWL) On Tony Cliff


"Cliff exhibited the crudest of 'determinism' derived from Stalinism. He confused two distinct elements: the fightback which workers put up against their exploitation under capitalism (which is inevitable); and the victory of socialism, which is not a foregone conclusion. He deliberately downplayed Shachtman's real point: the exceptionally conscious character of the socialist revolution. For Shachtman, as for Marx and Trotsky, the working class (unlike other previous classes) had to make its own revolution, and had to understand the meaning of its fight in order to lay the basis for self-conscious (i.e., democratic) working class rule, and wider universal human emancipation. This was part of the rationale for revolutionaries organising themselves as a party, together with combating the ruling ideas of the epoc'. However. Cliff, writing at the end of the '40s, defined consciousness as basically 'accidental' in this fight, despite his protestations of its 'big role', and of the need to avoid "complacency'.


"Cliff also assailed Shachtman with the familiar orthodox Trotskyist insult that he had abandoned dialectics by adopting bureaucratic collectivism, but gave this argument a novel twist. He deduced the nature of Stalinist Russia straight from the laws of dialectics: capitalism was the negation of feudalism; capitalism was the unity of wage labour and capital, 'the existence of each of which is dependent on the existence of the other'; as capitalism developed, from free competition to monopoly, and then to state capitalism; so the polar opposites came into conflict until the working class triumphed over the capitalists, 'the negation of the negation'. (1949: 20) For Cliff, bureaucratic collectivism can't fit into this schema, it is impossible in Marxist theory because of his version of dialectics (straight from the Short Course). Instead, during this 'transition period', 'today all the exploiters are compelled to use more and more elements of the socialist future, such as planning, etc., in defence of their interests, is only a sign of the historical obsoleteness of capitalism' (1949: 22-23). The sub-text here (with shades of Ted Grant) is that Russia can only be socialist or some form of capitalism -- the structure of logic will permit nothing else.


"Overall Cliff substituted logic-chopping for the study of real relations in Russia. His mistake recalled precisely the error Marx had in mind when he wrote to Danielson that, 'My critic must needs metamorphose my outline of the genesis of capitalism in western Europe into a historic-philosophical theory of the general course, fatally imposed on all peoples, regardless of the historical circumstances in which they find themselves placed.... He does me too much honour and too much shame at the same time.... but one will never succeed with the master-key of a historico-philosophical theory whose supreme virtue consists in being supra-historical.'...


"Cliff's tunnel-visioned version of history made all societies pass through the same stages of development and pass automatically from one to the other under the lash of the development of the productive forces. He must have glanced at the Communist Manifesto and imagined Marx chanting the mantra: 'the country that is more developed shows, to the less developed, the image of its own future.' However, for all his apparent orthodoxy, he never could decide on whether the Stalinist bureaucracy represented the highest stage of capitalism, or its birth pangs. No doubt Cliff would shriek about the unity of opposites, but even the over-burdened dialectic would find it difficult to carry the weight of such confusion. He was subject to the same kind of ambiguities of which he was to accuse Shachtman!" [Quoted from here. Bold emphases added; quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


(8) Theorists From The Fifth International Criticising Stalinism In General

"A scientific understanding of the system, of its processes of change, of the contradictions in the enemy camp as well as our own are vital for any party that wants to lead the struggle, not just tail behind it. A commitment to dialectical thinking is, in and of itself, no guarantee of success. The universities of Stalinist Russia were full of self proclaimed experts in dialectical logic who -- when it came to concrete reality -- could not tell their arse from their elbow (to use a famous Marxist phrase). But without some attempt to understand change systematically, would-be revolutionaries will always be lost in a sea of change. Two thousand years ago the philosophers discovered that 'everything flows'. Only scientific socialism has the answer to 'which way?'" [Quoted from
here. Bold emphasis added; quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Paragraphs merged.]


(9) John Molyneux On The Socialist Party


"Lenin summed up the contradictory character of the Labour Party by defining it as a 'capitalist workers’ party'. So when Labour moved rightwards under Blair or Spring it was a quantitative shift rather than a fundamental change. Moreover what constituted the 'workers' element in this capitalist workers' party, namely its working class base -- as expressed in its vote, its membership and its organic relationship to the trade unions -- was weakened but clearly did not disappear. By adopting the undialectical view that the Labour Party was now a purely capitalist party the SP threw away decades of Marxist analysis of Social Democracy in favour of a position they would previously have denounced as ultra-left. This is what lies behind the Irish SP's current dogmatic and sectarian refusal to contemplate sharing a platform with even former Labour Party representatives in campaigns. These, it is argued, must first prove, their genuine socialist credentials before being allowed to share platforms. This sectarian approach misses out on opportunities to bring many more people over from Labour to the radical left." [Quoted from here. Bold emphases added; paragraphs merged.]


(10) Pat Taaffe On Mikawasima Tookjoo


"On the issue of Taiwan, our critic is equally at sea on the question of nationalism. He says, on the one side, that Taiwan has 'never' been a nation. Yet a little later, when he deals with its history, he says that, 'The growth of Taiwanese nationalism came after the successful land reform' and as a result of 'the support from US imperialism after 1972'. So a Taiwanese nation does not exist but Taiwan nationalism exists! He adopts a completely undialectical, black and white approach, which does not see and examine phenomena from an all-sided point of view. There is now clearly a consciousness of a separate entity, Taiwan, and a broad 'national consciousness' amongst the majority of the population. There is also a mixed consciousness with a section considering themselves both 'Taiwanese' and 'Chinese' and, as Laurence [Coates] explains, still other layers with a different consciousness." [Quoted from here. Bold emphasis added; quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


(11) The World Socialist Party (USA) On Plekhanov And Russian Communism


"As can be seen, this conception of the universe is both materialist (since it posits the existence of a world of reality independent of men's perception of it) and dialectical (since it sees the world of reality as a changing, differentiated unity). It was for this reason that Dietzgen called his philosophy 'dialectical materialism', a phrase he first used in his 1870s articles in the German Social Democratic press. This was some years before Plekhanov, who is generally said to have originated this phrase (which is not to be found in the writings of Marx or Engels), even claimed to be a Marxist. Plekhanov, it should be noted, meant something rather different by it than did Dietzgen; he was the father of the undialectical state philosophy of present-day Russia which also, unfortunately, goes under the name of 'dialectical materialism' and with which Dietzgen's quite different theories are not to be confused." [Quoted from here. Bold emphasis alone added.]


(12) Mandel On Djilas


"Instead of examining such real problems as the material base of bureaucratic power, instead of analyzing concretely the history of the bureaucracy's rise to power, Djilas prefers to devote himself to a confused analysis of the 'contradictory development of the dictatorship of the proletariat' which has no few surprises in store for us....


"In his vain search for 'capitalist contradictions' in Soviet society, Djilas overlooks the real contradictions in the economy of the USSR. Because of this, he is incapable of putting his finger on the real crimes of the bureaucracy. Like any society in transition between capitalism and socialism, Russian society "must necessarily unite in itself certain traits and peculiarities of both these forms of the social economy" (Lenin, Economy and Politics in the Epoch of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, Selected Works, French Edition, p.634). Within it, as Lenin said, the forces of capitalism and of socialism are engaged in a constant struggle for supremacy. From Lenin's time up until the forced collectivization of agriculture, this struggle between two fundamentally antagonistic modes of production continued to exist in its essentials: small scale production for the market by millions of small peasant enterprises, and production by large industries which were collectivized property. This struggle has today been decided in favour of the non-capitalist mode of production. This doesn't at all mean, however, that no vestige of capitalism remains in the USSR. Quite the contrary. The struggle has simply been transferred to another plane, that of distribution. The bureaucracy defends its privileges on the plane of distribution with remarkable ferocity against the proletariat. These privileges, the historic origins of which we have described above, give a bourgeois, capitalist character to the norms of Soviet distribution. There is nothing astonishing in this. It was foreseen by none other than Marx himself, in the well-known section of his Critique of the Gotha Program, and by Engels, in a more general form, when he wrote in Anti-Dühring." [Mandel (1951). Spelling altered to agree with UK English. Bold emphases alone added; quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


(13) Mark Rainer On The SEP [Socialist Equality Party]


"Just as I was being expelled from the SEP I contacted Alex Steiner and Frank Brenner of I thought they could help in my situation, but that didn't really interest them, they instead wanted me to read their polemic. While in the SEP I was neutral toward their polemic, but afterwards I came to agree with several of their positions.

"Their polemic can be summed up very briefly, the SEP has failed to provide a consistent leadership for the working class. The failure to lead and engage the working class can be shown in many examples from Iraq war, the protests in Mexico, the 2008 elections, etc. The SEP has fallen back into a contemplative mode, most party work is devoted to commenting on events on the World Socialist Web Site.

"This retreat can be explained in good part from the personal circumstances of the leading members and also the political conditions during the 80s and 90s. Over the years they have become burnt out on political work for which they have seen few results, at the same time they have grown to be more middle class and comfortable. They still show up a picket lines from time to time but not with serious intent to provide leadership.

"It is wrong to suggest that the retreat is result of the adoption of certain philosophical conceptions. I would say instead that the SEP's embrace of objectivism and determinism is a rationalization of their retreat. I think that Steiner and Brenner are both wrong when they accuse the SEP of abandoning dialectics, Steiner and Brenner and the SEP share the same muddle headed conception of dialectics. The problem with the SEP is not their ability to cite the 'law' of quantity of quality. Both the SEP and Steiner and Brenner miss the fact that dialectics was a critical method for the last three thousand years, even for Marx....


"The SEP today has departed significantly from the theory and practice of Marxism. In its theory it has abandoned dialectical materialism, and in its place it has increasingly adopted methods based on pragmatism and positivism. Corresponding with its decline in theory, the party has undergone a decline in its practice. The party has abandoned the struggle for socialist consciousness in the working class and has abstained from intervening in major political events such as the New York transit strike, mass protests in Mexico, and the Iraq war....


"The lack of theoretical understanding is not just confined to the younger members, leading members of the party, ones with over thirty years of experience, show an inadequate understanding of basic concepts such as dialectics. Some of the older members simply defer to David North, or worse, Joe Kay, for answers to theoretical questions. While the former is simply inaccessible to most members, the latter actively works to suppress discussion....

"Within the Marxist movement few understand Marx's dialectic. Marx's dialectic is commonly understood as the opposite of Hegel's dialectic, yet the term dialectic is not understood, and few can point to concrete examples of Marx's dialectic. Often Marx's dialectics is associated with Hegelian concepts like, quantity into quality, negation of the negation, and the unity of opposites. While Marx makes passing reference to such Hegelian conceptions in Capital, his dialectic has a fundamentally different basis." [Quoted from here. Bold emphases added. The above is in reference to the 'debate' between David North and Alex Steiner; quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


(14) The Socialist Party Of Great Britain [SPGB] Contra Edward Conze And David Guest


"Confused Dialecticians


"To illustrate the subject let us glance at two or three interpretations of the laws of dialectical materialism by two writers who published short books on the subject, David Guest and Edward Conze. Guest, in his Dialectical Materialism,' quotes the second law of dialectics as follows: 'The law of unity is interpenetration, identity of opposites.' This is the phrase he uses and later quotes Lenin's blessing for the same wording.


"Note the word 'identity.' Opposites cannot be identical as long as they are opposites, and to say that one cannot exist without the other is not very illuminating because a thing cannot be opposite to nothing. It must be opposite to something that is opposite to it. Marx didn't mix unity with identity. Writing of the two poles of the expression of value in the first chapter of Capital, he said: 'The relative form and the equivalent form are two intimately connected, mutually and inseparable elements of the expression of value, but at the same time are mutually exclusive, antagonistic extremes, that is poles of the same expression.' That is Marx's wording and that is the essence of the matter. Mutually dependent, inseparable but mutually exclusive. Identity of opposites is just nonsense.


"And referring to the inner contradiction in opposite sides of society, Guest makes the following remarks:


'Marx found the basis of the class struggle to lie in a contradiction between the methods of production and the existing social relationships. It is this contradiction which, during a certain historic period gets expressed in an external antagonism of classes. When this is so, one class represents the force of production seeking to expand and another class represents those social relations which are hemming in the productive forces. But the basic contradiction will continue to exist in classless society and will cause a progressive development of social relationships as the productive forces themselves develop.'


"In this last sentence we can see the creeping paralysis of Russian propaganda. The basic contradiction is the contradiction between the method of production and the existing social relationships but, according to Guest, it will continue to exist under communism. In his breathless pursuit of contradictions he makes the mistake of thinking that they must always be of the same kind, and he has missed the basic contradiction which will be solved for good and all -- the contradiction between social production and private ownership which originated in primitive society, developed during succeeding centuries and will be finally solved by socialism.


"Now let us take two examples of Conze's interpretation of dialectical materialism as contained in his book: 'An Introduction to Dialectical Materialism.' Conze is also in a jam over the question of opposites as can be seen by this gem: 'I know no general reason why opposites always must be united. The study of scientific method is not yet advanced enough to give us proof of this kind.' Conze has evidently walked up the wrong street. The human race in its wisdom has decided that when two things turn up in a certain relationship to each other they will be called opposites. As long as the human race sticks to this view we can't have one opposite on its own. Conze is apparently prepared to concede that all the black door handles that have so far turned up have.


"Love And Hate


"On another page, Conze, with the backing of Freud, gives us this information:


'Freud has shown that we can have no feeling of love towards anyone without simultaneously having a more-or-less feeling of hatred towards the same person. And vice versa. No hatred can exist without containing some love. Love is the regular component of hatred, even if the quantity of love is sometimes microscopic.'


"That is a peculiar way of looking at the unity of opposites. On the basis of this we can prove anything and get nowhere. But let us see if we can translate it into something more obvious. A wooden stick has two ends. They are the names we give to two opposite parts of the stick, and while the stick exists as a stick the ends exist as separate, antagonistic, mutually dependent opposites. As long as we retain our sanity the ends will appear to us as two different parts of this stick, and we can't have even a microscopic bit of one end existing alongside, let alone inside the other. Of course we can throw the stick in a fire and put the same end to both, but this is a different end altogether. Let us use language reasonably and for its purpose. Love and hate are two opposite expressions of a common human emotion. They cannot both exist at the same time for the same object but they can alternate, or they can both dwindle with the dwindling of emotion.


"But let us look at love and hatred from the point of view of the development of these two poles for the expression of emotion and not their temporary equilibrium in an individual who both loves and hates. Human emotion develops until it becomes differentiated into what we call love and hatred. In its earlier development the distinction is blurred but in the course of time it becomes clearly defined and it is love and hatred as such, and as opposition, that Conze is writing about. Love is love and not hate, and in a given situation they are mutually exclusive. Mixing interpenetration with identity seems to be the cause of the confusion. If we pass our finger along the stick we come to a point where it is neither one end nor the other; but we never have our finger on a little bit of one end and a large part of the other. What happens is that one end passes into the other.


"There is a progressive change in nature, and thought, an evolution. What does this mean? It means a movement from the simple to the complex, an evermore complicated mixture of a comparatively few elements. An example might make this clearer. A modern piece of highly developed mechanism such as an aeroplane engine, is a mystifying sight to the uninitiated, and yet it is made up of a multitude of simple movements that taken by themselves, would mystify nobody. The human mind thrives by learning and contriving and thus craves for an evermore complicated life. It is more satisfying and therefore progressive, to the majority in the long run." [Quoted from here; accessed 18/08/2015. Bold emphases added; quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. (This short article is available to download as a PDF.) Added on Edit, July 30, 2021: The first of these two links no longer works and the second takes the reader to a different article; nevertheless, the source of the above passage can now be viewed here. (The SPGB is rabidly anti-Leninist and uses DM -- or, rather Dietzgen's dogmatic version of this theory -- to 'prove' that Lenin's interpretation of DM is woefully misguided.)]


(15) Tony Clark On Trotsky


We have already met this maverick Marxist Leninist (just how maverick he is, see the next subsection), but here he is again claiming that Uber DM-fan Trotsky somehow failed to apply that theory to the former USSR, when he actually did little else!


"Now...the fetishisation of Marx by many on the radical left has meant that the most fundamental law of dialectical logic is forgotten, when it comes to Marxism, which is viewed as a doctrine containing no contradictions. But Marxism, like everything, does contain contradictions -- a positive side and negative side. At the political level, the positive side of Marxism serves the interest of the working class, while the negative side can serve the interest of bureaucracy. This fetishisation means that most leftists focus on the positive, while being unaware of the negative side -- which finds expression in the elevation of the dictatorship of the proletariat into a principle, rather than a tactic, and the abolition of the separation of powers, which Engels called for, which opens the door to political tyranny.


"The point is that socialism, like the trade unions, is part of the working class movement and both can lead to the domination of a bureaucracy to one degree or another. Without democracy, the socialist revolution inevitably leads to the rule of the bureaucracy, just like in the trade unions. In fact, socialism can be described as a general trade union, which has come to power. So why wouldn’t a bureaucracy take control, as they do in the actual trade unions? The main contradiction on the left is between bureaucratic and democratic socialism. Bureaucracy is not the result of backwardness, as the Trotskyist narrative would have us believe.


"[Any] reference to Cromwell in England and the Committee of Public Safety in the French revolution is a red herring, because I am not opposed to dictatorship. I am simply pointing out that it should not be turned into principle. The contradiction between bureaucratic and democratic socialism ensures the defeat of the latter, when dictatorship is made a principle. Lenin's fetishisation of Marx meant he was unable to see where turning dictatorship into a principle would lead to, underpinned by the abolition of the separation of powers. Like most of the left, Lenin saw only the positive side of Marxism, while being unaware of the negative side. Marx must have known that he would become a fetish and once said, 'All I know is that I am no Marxist.'...


"Trotsky failed to think dialectically on socialism in one country, leading him to the mistaken view that world revolution was an immediate absolute necessity for the victory of socialism in individual countries. Casting aside dialectics, like Downing, he demanded the communist movement choose between socialism in one country and world revolution, but it wasn’t an either-or issue." [Tony Clark, letter to the editor of Weekly Worker, 22/07/2021, Number 1357, quoted from here; accessed 30/07/2021. Some paragraphs merged; bold emphases added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


(16) Tony Clark, Dialectics, Posadas, UFOs and 'Space Gods'


In an exchange of letters in the Weekly Worker recently we finally enter The Twilight Zone, where 'dialectics' is used to justify and oppose research into ancient tribes of aliens who created human beings by genetically modifying an earlier primitive humanoid species in order to enslave humanity -- beginning with our old friend, Tony Clark:


"Former Revolutionary Workers Party central committee member David John Douglass argues that, on the basis of Marxism and dialectics, what Juan Posadas said about extraterrestrials being necessarily communist because of their advanced technology is a reasonable proposition (Letters, June 10).


"In fact, the Posadas argument, to say the least, was rather naive. The 'UFO' debate polarises into two camps: the open-minded versus closed-minded individuals -- the latter represented by people like Paul Demarty [writing in an article published in Weekly Worker, 03/06/2021 -- RL], whose thinking seems to rarely go beyond mainstream academia. Since the latter often dominate, because they represent mainstream views, the arguments of Posadas were not subjected to any serious scrutiny by the wider left, who keep away from the issue because they fear the ridicule factor, deployed by people like Demarty to shut down any debate.


"Sightings of UFOs happen all over the world and I am far from convinced that those behind the phenomenon are all benign. It goes back thousands of years into prehistory, which Demarty is probably unaware of, and was the source of all the main religions, like Christianity -- with its 'god making man in his own image' narrative, and so on -- that plague the human mind, while religious people continue to be unaware of who these 'gods' really were.


"More open-minded researchers, who have gone beyond mainstream academia and delved into the prehistoric origins of homo sapiens in southern Africa, have a different story to tell. For instance, Zecharia Sitchin, who studied at the London School of Economics, wrote his best seller, The 12th planet, based on his interpretation of ancient Sumerian text, which clearly reveals that humans were genetically engineered from homo erectus into homo sapiens as slave-workers for the aliens, referred to as 'the Anunnaki'. The term 'Anunnaki' means, in modern English, 'those who came from the heavens (i.e., space) to earth'. Religionists, establishment academics and other mainstream thinkers have claimed that Sitchin has misinterpreted Sumerian text, but, the more they knock him, the more he is confirmed by modern science and astronomy.


"For instance, on the basis of his interpretation of ancient Sumerian text, Sitchin predicted back in 1976 that another planet in our solar system would be found beyond Pluto with a huge elliptical orbit. In 2016, astronomers at the California Institute of Technology found the gravitational fingerprint of another planet, 5,000 times the mass of Pluto, on the outer fringes of the solar system with an elliptical orbit. This is precisely what Sitchin predicted, but on this amazing development in astronomy the closed-minded and the anti-Sitchinites remain silent. The astronomers are calling this new planet a gas giant, but they wouldn't know this by its gravitational evidence alone. The scientist and researcher, Michael Tellinger, confirms the general validity of Sitchin's interpretation of ancient Sumerian text in his book, Slave species of the gods -- the secret history of the Anunnaki and their mission on earth.


"I am not suggesting that Sitchin is infallible, but he is closer to the truth than his detractors and the closed-minded, and he has had too many hits to not take seriously. What we can be certain of is that the deep state knows more about the extraterrestrial, and inner-terrestrial, phenomena than they are letting on. All the evidence suggests, at least from an open minded perspective, that we are not alone in this solar system, the truth of which organizations like Nasa must be well apprised.


"The point of all this is to warn against the naive Posadas view that those behind the UFO phenomena -- whose existence have been confirmed by astronauts and pilots, both military and civilian, and others -- are automatically benign. To draw such a view from Marxist dialectics is unwarranted. What we can draw from dialectics though is that, in Hegelian dialectics, regarding the relationship between essence and appearance, sooner or later, essence must appear -- meaning in this case, that the secret activity of 'UFOs' related to this planet and its connection to humans will eventually be uncovered." [Tony Clark, letter to the editor of Weekly Worker, 17/06/2021, Issue 1352, quoted from here. Bold emphases and links alone added.]


Of course, Sitchin's translation of those Sumerian tablets has been thrown into considerable doubt by several experts, and as carefully as astronomers have searched the skies no Twelfth Planet has been observed, indeed, it turns out that the alleged "gravitational fingerprint" of this mythical planet is also spurious.


A letter from another reader attempted to suggest that Weekly Worker re-focus itself on a more rational approach to Marxism and science:


"Are other readers of the Weekly Worker not jolted to the bones, as certainly I am, by how letters as well as main articles recently have been devoted to such matters as UFOs, aliens, their 'genetic engineering' of homo sapiens, etc? Do the generators of suchlike guff see no other priorities for consideration and development? In turn, does no comrade out there in the vast shit-heap that is the capitalist paradigm not ask themselves that simple but stark question of how the hell did scientific/dialectically materialist Marxism get to this? Equally so, how any amongst us holding this type of attitude is promptly shot down by the very same sterile and insulated hyper-intellectualism that generates such nonsense in the first place -- needless to say, in that combination of self-mutilating and decadent manner. Nothing whatsoever of 'virtue signalling' is intended here, because, of course, we’re all in one boat when it comes to near-total isolation. And when 'decadence' is referenced that’s not in any horribly bourgeois moral sense, but purely insofar as decay is maybe the inevitable stage we've reached as a result of that isolation." [Bruno Kretzschmar, letter to the editor of Weekly Worker, 24/07/2021. Bold emphasis alone added. Paragraphs merged]  


However, anyone (like the above comrade) who thinks that those who dote on 'dialectics' are amenable to reason will soon face a rude awakening -- indeed, one week later his plea for greater circumspection was soon brushed aside:


"Marxism is a scientific platform, upon which the study of anything is capable of consideration on the basis of dialectics and materialism. Art, design, human endeavour, religious thought of all sorts, human grasping for understanding of the earth -- and the universe. Everything from theories of a flat earth to an inner earth, of 'space gods' and wooden gods. Consideration of our attempts to make sense of the place we occupy is the very essence of what Marxism is. Of course, we shall comment on them and put forward analyses and perspectives based upon the science of human thought and the material conditions in which it develops. I think comrade Bruno misses the point and the appreciation of human speculation and ceaseless search for answers." [David Douglass, letter to the editor of Weekly Worker, 01/07/2021. Bold emphasis added.]


So, shape-shifting lizards and women who give birth to rabbits are legitimate subjects for scientists to research, now, it seems. If you are prepared to accept any old rubbish from Hegel, research into 'space gods' will make eminent good sense, and it won't.



More to follow...


Appendix C: The Politics Of Desperation


James Burnham


I am reproducing James Burnham's response to Trotsky's criticisms of his analysis of events in Europe in 1939-40. Any who object to this on the grounds that Burnham later repudiated Marxism, and even later defended US imperialism, should read this first, and then perhaps think again.


Those most likely to complain are probably fellow Trotskyists, who will, however, not extend their complaints to cover my quoting of Stalin, Mao, or Enver Hoxha -- nor will they notice this article appears at the Marxist Internet Archive. Perhaps that is because, unlike Burnham, the other three characters didn't abandon 'the dialectic'.


Even so, no one should assume that the present author agrees with everything Burnham says -- and certainly with nothing he later went on to say about either Marxism or US Imperialism.


I have re-formatted this article to conform to the conventions adopted at this site, and have altered the spelling to UK English. I have also corrected several minor typos, and have added several links.




Some Notes On The Article A Petty-Bourgeois Opposition In The Socialist Workers Party


What a comfort it will prove to Max Eastman! For ten years he insisted that what separated him from us was -- dialectical materialism. For ten years we replied: No, Max Eastman, you are only fooling others and yourself, and trying to fool us; what separates you from us is your unwillingness to accept the political program of the international revolution, and the practical political consequences that flow from that program. We will not permit you to evade the political issues by turning the debate aside into the abstract regions of speculative metaphysics.


But Eastman, it seems, was right all along. The real root of the matter, the ineluctable heart and core -- it is now Trotsky who makes it at last clear to us -- is, precisely -- dialectical materialism. Burnham rejects dialectical materialism: from this original sin flow, like the conceptual links of the endless closed chain of the Hegelian universe, all the errors and crimes of the party opposition. But, we recall, it is not today or yesterday that Burnham rejected dialectical materialism. Indeed, since he never accepted it, he can hardly be said ever to have rejected it. His opinion of dialectical materialism has been a constant: it has not been unknown in the Fourth International. A curious coincidence, and a mark of almost criminal laxity, that Trotsky waited until 1940, in the midst of a bitter factional struggle on concrete political issues, to discover its burning and all-vital importance.


The rule says: we must think things through to the end. The discovery having been made, even if so belatedly and under such exceptional circumstances, the International must draw the consequences. Trotsky must, I would feel, now propose a Special Commission to investigate and weed out all traces of anti-dialectics that have crept into the Socialist Workers Party through Burnham's activities during these years. It will, I am afraid, have plenty of work cut out for it.


It might begin, for example, with the party's Declaration of Principles, its foundation programmatic document, which was, by an oversight, written by Burnham. With the war actually started, it will have to devote particular attention to most of the pamphlets and articles on war, since most were written by Burnham. Surely it can't overlook the political resolution for the last convention, also the product of Burnham's Aristotelian typewriter; or, for that matter, a fair percentage of all the political resolutions for conventions and conferences and plenums during the past live or six years. And not a few special articles and lead editorials in the Appeal and New International, the political document motivating the break with the Socialist Party -- as well, come to think of it, as the first resolution proposing entry into the Socialist Party (the anti-entrists were, evidently, right, since the whole orientation sprang from anti-dialectics). And the Spanish resolution, around which centred the chief political light in the Socialist Party. Let us not speak of the fact that perhaps the bulk of motions, resolutions, articles on American politics (the main enemy is, is it not, in our own country?) came from the same tainted source.


And let us above all not mention that even today, when anti-dialectics has come into the lull anti-revolutionary open, the party was compelled to turn -- to Burnham, in order to formulate a political plan in connection with the Congressional session (Appeal, issue of December 30th) and to ask -- Burnham, to defend the policy of the party when criticized by a local branch (Rochester; unanimous PC motion, meeting of January 9), and to accept Burnham's motions (as against both Cannon and Cochran) when an important branch (Newark) asked how to handle the spreading Food Stamp Plan.


But the investigation will unearth even more curious, and ironic circumstances. It will find, to take one instance, that at the founding convention of the SWP, the lengthy Russian resolution itself, the resolution which defeated Burnham was, with the sole exception of the paragraph or two repeating the dictum that "Russia is a workers' state," -- written by Burnham. All, that is, of the concrete analysis, all that dealt with origins and sources and conditions and relations and predictions and history and changes, was the product of anti-dialectics (anti-dialectics operating, true enough, largely on material unearthed by Trotsky); dialectics contributed to the resolution -- the "fixed" category ("workers' state") of "vulgar" and "Aristotelian" thinking.


The reply comes: Agreed, Burnham has done some service in his day; when, a tame petty-bourgeois journalist, he submitted himself docilely to the "proletarian element", he could reach correct Marxist conclusions in spite of his dialectical peccadilloes; now, with the war broken, he capitulates to the mighty pressure of the Hooks and Eastmans, becomes a petty-bourgeois "enraged", and all his proposals, motions, speeches, articles, are false and "absolutely stale". If he were a dialectician, he would understand how this happens. If he would recognize his heresy, confess, and resubmit it, he might even live to do further service in the future. But a more central point is: not whether Burnham has done service in the past or will behave in the future (both very minor problems), but how the past illumines in its own way the sudden appearance on the scene of dialectics at just this time, at the time when Burnham is in an opposition struggling against Trotsky and Cannon over the concrete political issues of today and tomorrow.


Perhaps, however, it was only that the American comrades were naive, being only (by their own admission) "students" of dialectics rather than ordained dialecticians, and did not recognize the monster they were harbouring. But then there is a new, and this time international, scandal to explain: Two years ago Max Eastman wrote in Harper's Magazine a theoretical attack on Marxism. Trotsky thereafter wrote me a personal letter requesting and proposing to me that I answer Eastman and defend the theories of the Fourth International against his attack (which, a few months later in the New International, I did). I was neither more nor less of a dialectician then than today. My views on the subject were as well known to Trotsky then as today. I therefore enquire: By what right did Trotsky make this proposal to me? By what right did he entrust the theoretical defense of the Fourth International against a theoretic opponent who was himself an anti-dialectician to -- an avowed anti-dialectician? Was he ignorant then about the importance of dialectic, but suddenly wise today? Or was he light-minded and irresponsible in giving the defense over to a theoretic enemy? Equally astounding: last June, after the article Intellectuals in Retreat, after my review of Haldane in Partisan Review where I once more summarized flatly my point of view toward dialectics, Trotsky, through Abern, requested me to edit and cut 1,000 words from his introduction to the Longmans Green edition of Capital -- and to do so at my own discretion. An extraordinary attitude toward one's own theoretical work: to turn it over to an irreconcilable enemy for revision!

Dialectics And Finland


Trotsky complains that I do not take dialectics seriously, limiting myself to "rather cynical aphorisms". I have not, it seems, the proper attitude of respect toward sacred doctrine, and this is unbecoming in a Marxist. It is true that, considered as an alleged scientific theory, I do not take dialectics seriously, any more than I would take seriously, as alleged scientific theories, any other theology or metaphysics. How can I take a doctrine seriously when, during the course of an entire century, its alleged "laws" or "principles" have never even been formulated -- they have only been named, given titles. How can I even say whether I agree or disagree with, for example, the "law of the change of quantity into quality", when no one yet has told me or anyone else what that law says? Of what use are all the metaphors (good and bad) and the "examples" brought forward to illustrate the "law" when no one has yet stated what they are supposed to be illustrating?


It would be the easiest thing in the world to make me take dialectics seriously, and to persuade me of its truth, if it is true. All that would have to be done is the following: Formulate its laws in a clear and unambiguous manner, in such a manner that the terms used in the formulation refer directly or indirectly to objects or events or procedures or operations that are publicly recognizable in the experience of any normal human being; and show what predictions can be made about the future on the basis of deductions from these laws. Then I will grant that dialectics is significant, and will take it seriously. Show, second, that on the basis of deductions from these laws predictions about the future can be made that are verifiable and verified, and that they enable such predictions to be made as well as or better than any alternative proposed hypotheses. Then I will grant that these laws are not merely significant but true. An Open Letter to Burnham on dialectics is announced. It will give an opportunity for this enlightenment. Looking back over the hundred years' failures of the past, I am not over-optimistic about its coming this week.


I do not take dialectics seriously as a scientific doctrine, but I take very seriously indeed the uses to which dialectics is put in some political disputes, in particular by Eastman, the anti-dialectician, in his way, and by Trotsky in the current dispute. I object, and very strongly, to the substitution of theological disputation in the manner of the Council of Nicaea (which split Europe over the question of whether the Son of God was of "one substance" or "similar substance" with the Father), of loose metaphors and platitudes about science and pseudo-science in the style of the 19th century popularisers of Darwin, for clear discussion of the genuine issues of the politics of 1939 and 1940.


Consider: the opposition raises questions with reference to the war, the Nazi-Soviet Pact, the actions of the Soviet Union, the invasion of Finland. The reply is: the problem is whether or not Russia is a workers' state. The opposition demonstrates convincingly that a decision on the definition of the class character of the Soviet Union can't answer the strategic and tactical issues posed to the movement. The reply is: the problem is the laws of dialectics. (There is a fourth stage which does not appear in written documents: the abominable personal gossip with which the Cannon clique corrupts its followers.) In an analogous manner, the opposition makes and proves concrete criticisms of the conservative and bureaucratic Cannon regime. The reply is: the problem is the alien petty-bourgeois social roots of the opposition.


Why is dialectics brought into the dispute? In the first instance, as an obvious and mechanical manoeuvre, which deceives no one of "trying to drive a wedge into the ranks of the opponents." But more generally: to evade issues that can't be and have not been answered on their own legitimate plane, to escape from an inconvenient reality to a verbal jousting ground, to confuse and turn aside the attention of the membership from the actual problems that face them, to -- in the century-sanctioned way of all "authority", all "dogma", all bureaucracy -- brand the critic as heretic so that his criticism will not be heard. The textbooks ("the school bench") give a name to this device: Ignoratio Elenchi or Irrelevant Conclusion. The remarks on it of Whately -- a contemporary of Darwin, by the way -- are not, however, themselves irrelevant:


"Various kinds of propositions are, according to the occasion, substituted for the one of which proof is required:... and various are the contrivances employed to effect and to conceal this substitution, and to make the conclusion which the sophist has drawn answer, practically, the same purpose as the one he ought to have established. I say 'practically the same purpose', because it will very often happen that some emotion will be excited -- some sentiment impressed on the mind -- (by a dexterous employment of this fallacy) such as shall bring men into the disposition requisite for your purpose, though they may not have assented to, or even stated distinctly in their own minds, the proposition which it was your business to establish."


Let us suppose, however, that I accept the entire first half of Trotsky's article, that I grant my errors on dialectics, and accept dialectics as the key to truth and socialism. What has changed with reference to the political issues in dispute, the problems discussed in the second half of his article? Nothing has been changed a centimetre. Everything remains just as it was when dialectics had never been mentioned. For Trotsky does not in any respect whatever establish any connection between what he says about dialectics in the first part of his article, and what he says about the defense of Russia, the Soviet-Finnish War, and the "organizational question" in the second half. Does anyone doubt this? Let him re-read the article, and see for himself. It follows therefore that the entire discussion of dialectics is totally irrelevant -- as Trotsky himself presents the discussion -- to the political questions. "Consciousness grew out of the unconscious, psychology out of physiology, the organic world out of the inorganic, the solar system out of nebulae...." Very well; let it be so. Now show us how from generalizations of that type it follows -- even by the most dialectical of logics -- that...the Red Army is introducing workers' control in Finland and we ought to defend it.


The fact that Trotsky thinks and says there is a necessary connection between his dialectics and his politics has nothing to do with the question of whether there actually is such a connection. All through history, men have thought and said that there were connections between their scientific investigations or practical decisions on the one hand and their theologies or metaphysics on the other. Pasteur said that there was such a connection between his bacteriology and his Catholic faith; Einstein today between his field physics and his pantheistic idealism; Millikan finds God proved in his cosmic rays.


Either the dialectics is relevant or irrelevant to the empirical and practical questions in dispute. If it is irrelevant, to drag it in is scientifically useless. If it is relevant, the empirical and practical questions can in any case be settled on their own merits on the basis of the available evidence and our goals. In neither case is a decision as to dialectics required.


Trotsky writes: "To demand that every Party member occupy himself with the philosophy of dialectics would be lifeless pedantry." I want to enquire: if it is true, as Trotsky claims, that dialectics is "the foundation of scientific socialism", if rejecting does, as he declares, define the one who rejects as an alien class influence, if dialectics is indeed the method whereby we can solve correctly political problems, then by what conceivable principle does Trotsky conclude that it would be "lifeless pedantry" for more than a few Party members to occupy themselves with it? Rather would we have to say that dialectics must be the first and last study of all party members if they wish to be consistent and clear-headed revolutionary socialists.


Or must we seek another kind of explanation for Trotsky's dictum: There is one doctrine -- the "secret doctrine" -- for the elite, the leaders, the inner circle; and another -- the vulgar doctrine -- for the mass, the ranks, the followers. What is the relation of the followers to the secret doctrine? They are not to know it, to study it, to test it in their own conscious and deliberate experience: that is excluded as "lifeless pedantry." But may they then consider it unimportant, or reject it? Not on your life: then they are alien class elements. No: they must believe, they must have faith. As for the doctrine itself, it is safe in the hands of the elite; they will bring it out on appropriate occasions (a sharp factional fight, for example) to smite and confound the Enemy.


For my own part, I do not believe in Faith.


My friend and colleague Max Shachtman (may he forgive me for the reference, as I must, perforce, forgive him for what he has recently written about me) says: I do not really understand much about dialectics; I am only a humble student of the subject; of course I believe in it as all good Marxists must. This attitude is not unique in Shachtman. Whenever I have talked to any pro-dialectics party comrade about dialectics -- or tried to talk about it -- I have been given the same response (except, to be complete, in the case of Wright, who seems to think he understands dialectics because its words so well express the conflicts and shifts and confusions in his own attitudes and actions). We do not really understand it; we believe of course; we can't formulate its laws; we can't tell you how you can test them; some day we hope to get around to studying it. This response is as characteristic of pro-dialecticians in the Cannon clique as in the opposition. Few even pretend to "understand", for example, the first part of the Trotsky article which I am now discussing.


Now I ask Shachtman and all these comrades of the party: if you don't understand it, if you can't explain or prove it, why then do you "believe" it? Whence springs your faith?


Throughout the centuries, it has been characteristic of religious groups to have two doctrines: the "esoteric" doctrine of the "inner circle", the monopoly and carefully guarded secret of the high priests; and the "exoteric" doctrine of the "outer circle", for the followers. Is this not exactly the situation with dialectics -- whether or not you "believe" in dialectics? And the existence of an esoteric doctrine is always potentially reactionary, anti-democratic. It is so because the esoteric doctrine is by the nature of the case irresponsible, not subject to control by the humble followers, a weapon in the hands only of the priests.


For the method which I advocate -- the method of science -- there is only one doctrine, available to all. And what it says is subject always to tests that can be made by any normal man. There is no revelation, and no short cut, and no prophet.


I conclude on dialectics with a challenge:


In the letter dated January 3rd it is clearly implied that my attitude toward dialectics is incompatible with my being editor of the theoretical journal of the party. In the article (p.11) it is stated explicitly that my rejection of dialectics represents the influence of another class.


First I want to ask: Where in the program of the Socialist Workers Party or the Fourth International is a belief in dialectics made part of the programmatic basis of our movement, the acceptance of which defines the conditions of membership? And if it is not, by what right does Trotsky or any one else attack me politically or object to my editorship of an organ of the International on the grounds of my attitude toward dialectics?


Is not our movement founded on its program, decided by conventions representing the membership? Or -- do we communists hide our views, and is our real program something different from our public and adopted program?


But if Trotsky is justified in what he says about dialectics, and the conclusions he draws in connection with dialectics, I say further:


Let him propose to the forthcoming convention that this lack in our program be filled, that the convention adopt a specific clause, to be added to the Declaration of Principles, affirming acceptance of the philosophy of dialectical materialism.


If he does not make such a proposal, then only one of two conclusions is possible: either what he is now writing about dialectics is not meant seriously, is mere polemical rhetoric for the faction fight of the moment; or dialectics is indeed an esoteric doctrine, not suited for the public opinion of the party to pass upon, but a private monopoly of the priests.


If he does make the proposal, it is true that he will have only one precedent in the history of labour politics: Stalin's program adopted at the Sixth Congress of the Comintern, in which the abandonment of Marxism was consummated. I confess that I should not like to feel that our movement is ready to regard such a precedent as appropriate.

The Finnish Invasion And The Perspective Of The Third Camp


If by a "workers' state" we mean that form of society transitional from capitalism to socialism, then Russia today can be considered a workers' state only on the basis of its nationalized economy. Of those various major features of the "transitional society" described in advance (in State and Revolution, for example), no one, absolutely no one in any political camp except that of the Stalinists themselves, maintains that any other socialist factor remains in Russia today except the nationalized economy. Nationalized economy, must, therefore, in the view of those who hold that Russia is a workers' state, be a sufficient condition for so characterizing it, and by a workers' state Marxists have always meant, from Marx on, that form of society which is transitional from capitalism to socialism.


The assumption therein involved I, of course, reject. I hold that at least one other major condition is necessary for that form of society which is transitional to socialism -- namely, workers' democracy; and that therefore Russia today is incorrectly characterized as a workers' state. This was Marx' opinion; and his opinion has been entirely confirmed by the experiences of the last fifteen years of Soviet history.


Nevertheless, even if the assumption is granted, if it is thus further granted that Russia today is a workers' state, this will not at all suffice to motivate a tactic of defense of the Soviet State and the Red Army in the present war (just as, conversely, if the assumption is denied and it is thus denied that Russia is a workers' state, this will not by itself suffice to motivate a tactic of defeatism). We can't deduce a tactic of defense from our definition of the Soviet state any more than we could deduce it from the "law of the negation of the negation." Nor are we aided further in determining our tactic by the assumption that nationalized economy, in and by itself, divorced from the concrete social and political and historical relations which form the context of the nationalized economy, is "progressive" (an assumption which is involved in the initial assumption of our "dialectical" defenders of the workers' state doctrine -- an assumption which effectively eliminates all the changing actual reality which they say dialectics teaches us to take into account, and substitutes: a static, abstract category).


The general strategic aim of our movement is the world proletarian revolution (and socialism). We all hold (in words, at any rate) that this aim is now a goal not for the indefinitely remote future, but for the present period, that is, for the war and the postwar period. We concretize our goal in the statement of our "war aims" -- united socialist states of Europe, the Americas, a free Asia and Africa, a world federation of socialist republics. Presumably we mean these seriously.


Any tactic we propose, therefore, can be justified only by proof that, directly or indirectly, it is in fact the best available means for reaching our general strategic goal.


Even granted, then, Trotsky's assumptions, granted that Russia is a workers' state, the tactic of defense can be justified only if certain additional propositions are, in fact, true.


These would have to include: (a) Defense of the Red Army is in fact the best available means of defending the nationalized economy (which, for the purpose of discussion, let us assume to be in and of itself progressive); (b) Defense of the Russian nationalized economy as a primary task is the best available means for promoting the world revolution.


But everyone grants (in words, at least) that the defense of Russia is not the only major necessary means for achieving our general strategic aim; other necessary means include, certainly: the overthrow of Stalinism; colonial revolts; the lifting of the revolutionary consciousness of the masses; the deepening of the class struggle throughout the world, in at least several major nations to the point of successful proletarian revolution. In and of itself, defense of the present (i.e., Stalinist) Russian state and the Red Army, even if 100 per cent successful, would be of not the slightest value in achieving our goal; on the contrary, would make our goal impossible, since it would mean only the continuation in power and the extension of Stalinism.


The two propositions required by Trotsky to justify the tactic of defense therefore involve a third: (c) Defense of Russia in the present war does, in fact, serve as the best available means, or as an integral part of the best available means, for promoting colonial revolts, the lifting of the revolutionary consciousness of the masses, the overthrow of Stalinism, the deepening of the class struggle throughout the world (including, naturally, Russia itself and those countries against which Russian military action is conducted), and the completion of this struggle in successful revolutions.


Unless these three propositions are true, then the tactic of defense is not justified -- no matter what may be the truth about dialectics and the definition of the Russian state. Their truth can be established in one way and one way only: not by changing quantity into quality or uniting opposites, but by relating them to the relevant evidence that can be brought to bear from modern historical experience -- including prominently the evidence presented by the first months of the war itself.


As soon as these propositions are formulated, it is clear that Trotsky and the Cannon clique have utterly failed to present sufficient evidence to permit us to regard them as true. Proposition (a), especially on Trotsky's premises (which include the belief in a "fundamental contradiction" between the bureaucracy and the nationalized economy) is certainly at best very doubtful, and becomes increasingly doubtful as we observe the economic program in the small Baltic countries -- now Russian provinces, in the declaration of the Kuusinen government, and for that matter in Poland, or if we estimate the probable effects of increasing economic collaboration with Germany.


But it is Propositions (b) and (c) which are crucial; and any child should be able to realize that all the evidence from the beginning of the war, far from giving any remote likelihood of their truth, shows them to be undeniably false.


Trotsky, concentrated on the sociology and psychology of polemics, does not recognize explicitly the nature of the scientific problem posed in the dispute. Nevertheless he is compelled to give it implicit recognition. He seems to sense that all the thousands of words he has been writing since September on the "workers' state" and dialectics are beside the point; and he tries to introduce at last -- a few hundred words out of the many, many thousands (chiefly on p.10 of the mimeographed version of the article I am now discussing) -- some evidence for the truth of the key proposition (c).


What is this alleged evidence? I will quote the central sentences:


"In the second case (Poland and Finland) it (the Stalinist bureaucracy) gave an impulse to the socialist revolution through bureaucratic methods....


"...the resolution (of the opposition on Finland) does not mention by so much as a word that the Red Army in Finland expropriates large land-owners and introduces workers' control while preparing for the expropriation of the capitalists...they (the Stalinists) are giving -- they are compelled to give -- a tremendous impulse to the class struggle in its sharpest form.... The Soviet-Finnish war is evidently already beginning to be completed with a civil war in which the Red Army finds itself at the given stage in the same camp as the Finnish petty peasants and the workers, while the Finnish army supports the owning classes, the conservative workers' bureaucracy and the Anglo-Saxon this 'concrete' civil war that is taking place on Finnish territory.


"As for the Kremlin it is at the present time forced -- and this is not a hypothetical but a real situation -- to provoke a social revolutionary movement in Finland...."


Now the first thing to be observed about this alleged evidence is that the whole world -- including Trotsky himself -- knows it to be false. Nothing of this kind has happened or is happening. Trotsky, indeed, admits it to be false when, in the letter dated January 5th (to "Joe"), evidently replying to the qualms his statements about Finland had raised even in the stern breasts of the Cannon clique itself, he "explains" what he wrote by saying...that such things did happen -- in Poland! -- and will happen in Finland. But what he said in the article was that they had happened and were happening in Finland. (From where, by the way, Comrade Trotsky, did you borrow this method of "explanation"?)


(In passing, it was the opposition that pointed out, long ago, that an embryonic civil war began in Poland; and this fact was repeatedly denied and ridiculed by Cannon.)


What did actually happen -- so far as we can learn by sifting all the reports -- in Poland, Finland (and let us not forget Lithuania and her two sisters), up to now?


In Poland, important manifestations of the class struggle, including embryonic revolutionary steps, began -- before the Red Army marched and independently of Russia -- with the military and civil breakdown of the Polish bourgeois government. This is a normal and natural occurrence in all countries, whatever the character of the opposing army, when the home government goes to pieces. In a number of towns (including, apparently, Vilna and Warsaw itself) embryo "Soviets" arose on a loose basis, with labour and other popular organizations assuming de facto many of the tasks of sovereign power; in the villages, peasants began ousting the landlords -- or, more exactly, the landlords had already run away.


It is quite possible (though the evidence is far from clear) that in some sections the march of the Red Army excited certain hopes -- at least hope in comparison to the fears of the advance of the Reichswehr, and even encouraged some peasants to bolder steps in occupying the land of their former masters (who were no longer there to oppose them). These hopes were in the shortest time liquidated, together with the persons of any peasants or workers hardy enough to persist in them. The regime of Stalinism -- and Stalinism without completely collectivized economy -- was imposed by the representatives of the GPU. In the Vilna region the embryo "soviet" was smashed and the militants killed, in preparation for handing the territory back to bourgeois Lithuania.


Then the Red Army took over the three small Baltic states. Anyone who thought that in that action "the Kremlin (was) provoke a social revolutionary movement" was rapidly undeceived. From the reports, a few underground communists began to show their heads. With public statement (released in the world press) and by police action, the Red Army joined the Baltic government in shoving those heads down again, and in reinforcing bourgeois rule and capitalist economy in those nations.


Meanwhile, it was revealed to all who had initially doubted it that Hitler and Stalin had divided Poland in complete and prior agreement.


These events were observed by the workers and peasants of the world, and above all, we may be sure, by the workers and peasants of the other nations bordering Russia -- not least by the people of Finland. Not being highly skilled In sociological definition nor belonging to the inner dialectical circle, they drew nevertheless, in their humble way, certain conclusions (where they had not already drawn them from the Trials and Spain). Their conclusion, in short, was: the Red Army in this war is not our ally.


The propaganda campaign began against Finland, and then the invasion. For a number of days, the Red Army triumphantly advanced. The Kuusinen government was proclaimed, issued its program (a bourgeois, not a proletarian program, by the way, in spite of Trotsky's dialectical deduction that the Kremlin must use social revolutionary policies -- bureaucratically carried out; the Kremlin did not consult Trotsky).


What was the effect -- the actual effect that happened, not the effect that we can read about in our former theses (which coincides with what Trotsky writes in the present article) or deduce from theories? The effect was, not to stimulate, but to wipe out what there had been of the class struggle (and there had been more than a trace of it) in Finland, to throw the Finnish workers and peasants into the hands of their own bourgeoisie. This is proved, first, by reports which, properly sifted, can legitimately be believed; but, second, independently, by what may be deduced from (1) the failure of the Kuusinen government to excite any favourable response and (2) the high morale of the Finnish army which is obviously supported by a huge percentage of the population. This last fact the NC majority and Trotsky explain by the shockingly Philistine argument that the Finnish army has such good supplies and training -- as if the Red Army were equipped with bows and arrows.


This reaction was not surprising. Knowing the Red Army fought against their interests, and seeing no third alternative, the Finnish workers drew what seemed to them the only possible conclusion under the circumstances: to fight desperately for the bourgeois "fatherland"; with the third alternative (an Independent struggle for freedom and power against the main enemy, at home, and the invading enemy) excluded, they chose what appeared to them as the "lesser evil". Those responsible for this reactionary conclusion are the imperialists on the one hand and the Stalinists on the other (and all others!) who, ruling out the third camp, posed the choice exclusively as either Mannerheim's army or Stalin's.


On the other side, according to our theses (War and the Fourth International), the Russian soldiers and workers should have been reacting as follows: "Within the USSR war against imperialist intervention will undoubtedly provoke a veritable outburst of genuine fighting enthusiasm. All the contradictions and antagonisms will seem overcome or at any rate relegated to the background. The young generations of workers and peasants that emerged from the revolution will reveal on the field of battle colossal dynamic power." But (to paraphrase a remark of Trotsky's), "events did not recognize our theses." In the Finnish war, the Russian soldiers and workers have shown -- just the opposite, as everyone knows. There is no mystery here. The soldiers fight so poorly, so unenthusiastically, because -- though without benefit of dialectics -- they understand clearly enough that in this war the Red Army fights not for but against their interests and the interests of workers everywhere, and of socialism.


Who is it who is closest to socialist consciousness; those Soviet soldiers and workers who recognize the reactionary character of the war, are resentful and distrustful of it, and show no enthusiasm for it; or those (notably including the GPU) who are whipped up into a frenzy of Stalino-patriotism for it? We, the opposition, say: the former. Trotsky is compelled by his doctrine to say: the latter.


But, in the further course of the Finnish war, will not the class struggle re-assert itself in Finland? Certainly, as we have declared from the beginning. When the Finnish defense and the Finnish government begin to crack, just as in Poland the overt class struggle will re-appear; workers and peasants will take social revolutionary steps, will, perforce, begin moves toward independent power and sovereignty. Above all will they do so if there are revolutionists and militants among them who have not, meanwhile, been functioning as spies of the counter-revolutionary Red Army, but have made clear to them that their struggle, in the first instance directed against the main enemy at home, finds an also implacable enemy in the Kremlin and all its institutions, that the Red Army marches in not to aid them but to crush them; and if internationalists within the ranks of the Red Army have guided in a parallel manner the ranks of the Red soldiers, urging them to throw off the yoke of the Kremlin-GPU and to join in common struggle against their oppressors with the Finnish workers and peasants -- not to obey the orders of the Kremlin to reduce the workers and peasants of Finland to a new type of slavery.


Does the policy of the Kremlin (through "compulsion" or voluntary will, it does not matter) in reality stimulate the class struggle, the social revolution? If so, then Marxism has been wrong from the beginning, for then the struggle for socialism can be carried on by bureaucratic-military means as a substitute (good or bad) for the popular, conscious and deliberate mass struggle of the workers and peasants. To accept Trotsky's interpretation of the events of the present war is to accept the theory of the Bureaucratic road to socialism. I refer the reader to Max Shachtman's excellent discussion of this point in his recent reply to this same article of Trotsky's.


But is not the Kremlin stimulating the social revolution by its new policy, both directly through its own state agencies, and by the new line of the Comintern? If this is true -- as Trotsky now holds -- we can't possibly explain intelligibly to the workers the meaning of the new line of the CI (and we have not done so up to now -- everyone recognizes that from reading our press), we have no sufficient reason for not re-applying for admission as a faction of the CI. [CI -- Communist International, RL.]


No. The present policy of the Kremlin stimulates the class struggle and is "socialist" only in the same general sense as Wilson's policy with reference to "defeatism" in Germany in 1917-18, or Chamberlain's policy in his broadcasts to and leaflet-droppings on Germany today, or Hitler's similar appeals. These "revolutionary" policies -- with respect to the enemy country -- are all simply supplementary military-strategic devices. As a matter of fact, in this sense the most "radical" of all of them at the present time is Hitler's, not Stalin's: Hitler's New Year speech was far more "socialist" than the proclamation of the Kuusinen government. True enough, the nation employing this device is always playing with social dynamite -- above all in this war. Even Chamberlain's propaganda is capable of "stimulating the class struggle" within Germany under appropriate circumstances -- but we hardly support it, for that reason (though we do support the class struggle, no matter how stimulated). But the more usual effect is for it to aid in stifling the class struggle in the enemy nation, (precisely because it is not internationalist in character, and because the workers understand it as merely a manoeuvre of a rival oppressor). This is just what has happened in Finland, just as in Germany after the Chamberlain leaflet raids.


Cannon and Trotsky tell us: But then you want the imperialists to take over the Soviet Union. This is nothing but the standard slander which has always been directed against those who uphold the internationalist position of revolutionary defeatism. We are for the defeat of all the belligerent armies and the overthrow of all the belligerent governments; but for defeat and overthrow not by the opposing armies in the field, but by the third camp, by the workers of each respective country.


But Cannon and Trotsky say nothing of the meaning of their alternative in relation to the general strategic aim, to the world proletarian revolution. How, just how, will a defensive tactic with respect to the Red Army serve the development of the revolution, how in this war -- not the war of our theses -- where the Red Army fights, in alliance with the Reichswehr, for the defense, preservation and extension solely and simply of the power, privileges and revenues of the counter-revolutionary bureaucracy? Trotsky and Cannon do not tell us, can't tell us. And yet their position could rest only upon a clear, convincing and reasonable answer to this question.


The position of the opposition is based upon the perspective of the collapse of existing governments, upon the optimistic expectation of mass revolt against the war. It is summed up as: the strategy of the third camp. In this war, the actual war which has broken out and is now going on, the revolutionists must take their stand unambiguously in the third camp, the camp of the workers and peasants, of the oppressed of the entire world, of the peoples of India and Africa, the camp of struggle against the camps of all the belligerent powers and the belligerent governments. Today the troops of the third camp are atomized, disordered and disorganized, scattered through the framework of society. Tomorrow their ranks will close; they will form in great army corps; the popular army of India, the revolting Negro divisions of Africa, the workers' fronts of Germany and the Ukraine and France and the United States.... But they will do so successfully only if the troops of tomorrow can hold clearly and simply and unambiguously before themselves the firm strategic aim: the third camp, the camp of struggle against the war and the war-makers, for workers' power and socialism.


Trotsky and Cannon, desperately clinging to a doctrine no longer adequate to meet the test of events, have abandoned the strategy of the third camp. How revealing that even the phrase (used so effectively -- after being mistakenly borrowed from the opposition -- in putting forward the revolutionary position in the ALP controversy between Rose and the Stalinists) has dropped out of the party press and agitation! They have joined one of the belligerent camps, one of the war camps. In this can be seen the basic defeatism of their perspective (they, who accuse us of being defeatists!), defeatism toward the possibility of successful proletarian revolution in the course of the war. They are compelled, more and more, to argue for Stalinism as the "lesser evil" (their description): this lesser evil is the goal they place before the workers -- a fine goal indeed to inspire revolutionary struggle! They must reason in terms of the maintenance of existing governments (what if, Cannon asks in debate, Finland takes over northern Russia?). Everything is turned upside down. The strategic aim of world revolution issuing out of the war is subordinated to defense of Russia. Their whole policy becomes oriented around the tactic of defensism with respect to the Red Army -- on the very best account, the part usurping the place of the whole. For the sake of a hand the head and heart are sacrificed.


Trotsky has permitted a frantic clinging to a false doctrine to drive him, in short, to a policy of defeat and desperation.

What The Record Shows


In the article, The War and Bureaucratic Conservatism, we analyzed the character of the Cannon group, its regime, and its present policy. We showed that it is not a principled tendency, but a permanent clique; that its only real policy is self-maintenance; that it on all occasions subordinates political to organizational questions; that in actuality it has no genuine program, but only the substitute for a program -- the substitute being usually borrowed from Trotsky.


In the present dispute, Trotsky puts forward the program which the Cannon clique appropriates, and Trotsky supports -- unconditionally -- the Cannon clique. It does not, however, follow that the analysis which we made of Cannon's present policy applies also to Trotsky. I wish now to examine briefly the political record of Trotsky since August 21st with the aim of throwing some light on the problem of how Trotsky has reached his present impasse, in which he finds himself upholding an incorrect political perspective, a false analysis of events, and a sterile, cynical and rotten bureaucratic clique. I will draw only upon facts which are well known, and which can be checked at every point.


For more than a week following the first announcement of the Nazi-Soviet agreement -- the most startling International shift of recent years, and obviously of the most peculiar moment to the Fourth International -- Trotsky made no public statement to the press. He then gave out two short and very general statements in which he did not attempt any analysis or prediction; in fact they summed up to little more than the view that there was nothing much to be said about the agreement. Trotsky issued no statement -- so far as we know -- on the outbreak of the second world war, the most momentous event in the history of mankind. In fact, he has to this day made no general analysis of the war and its meaning, a lack which has been widely remarked among the general public.


Since the war began, Trotsky has made only two specific predictions of any importance. The first was when the Red Army was mobilizing on the borders of Poland, when Trotsky stated that Stalin did not know why the army was mobilizing. A short time later he was compelled to recognize that the Polish invasion had been carried out by prior agreement with Hitler. A few weeks before the Finnish invasion, Trotsky was preparing an article for a magazine. According to an outline of this article which was received in New York, he therein predicted that there would be no Finnish invasion (that year at any rate) but that the issues would be "compromised".


The first major article written by Trotsky was the one which was published in the New International (The USSR and the War). This did not concern itself in a single sentence with the problems and prospects of the war already started, but with the most general possible theoretic issues. The second (published in an internal bulletin) was on the class character of the Soviet Union. Meanwhile (and continuing through the present) have been numerous shorter documents dealing with the internal factional struggle, the overwhelming percentage of them concerned with such issues as the character of the groups in the party and their methods, etc. The next long document (the one here under discussion) brought in one new subject: the dialectics; and a new document (the Open Letter to me) on the same subject is now promised. The only specific statements about current events in this document (those on Finland) turn out, by Trotsky's own admission, to be false.


So far as I am aware, he has said nothing about the taking over of the three Baltic countries. And nothing was said about the taking over of Poland and the invasion of Finland until after these events occurred.


Let us sum up the undeniable general features of this 4½ months' picture: virtually no specific predictions, and those made disproved by events; nothing specific foreseen in advance; no proposals or guides for action in advance; a minimum concern with the major historical action now occurring -- the second world war; a maximum of energies devoted either to general theoretic questions (up to and beyond dialectics) or immediate internal polemic.


This picture has a great political-symptomatic importance. This is easily grasped when we compare it with Trotsky's almost invariable political record in connection with other major historic occurrences (none of which since the Russian revolution approaches the significance of the second world war) -- such as, for example, the German events or the Trials. There, while not neglecting general theoretic concerns or internal factional struggle when necessary, Trotsky has been distinguished over all other political figures in the entire world for precisely what is absent now: for immediate and constant reaction to the events; for exact predictions, so often brilliantly confirmed; for stating at every stage guides for the action of the workers; for illuminating by specific analysis the meaning of actually occurring events. The whole world knows this.


To the present picture, we must, unfortunately, add further elements: Trotsky not merely supports the Cannon regime, but whitewashes it 100% -- an attitude which even its most ardent follower in the party could not even pretend to justify by objective reference. Trotsky not merely condemns the opposition, but slanders it, misstates and distorts not merely its views but its very words. Trotsky (for example, in the sheaf of letters of the first days of January) indulges in absurd exaggerations.


Now Trotsky has amply proved by his entire career that he above all takes ideas, doctrine, principles seriously, that he bases himself upon and operates from principles. When we keep this in mind, the picture of these months falls into a classic and often repeated pattern: the pattern of one who proceeds from a theory, who is motivated in his actions by that theory, but where the theory itself is false. Clinging to the theory becomes under these circumstances an act of desperation; and the desperation communicates itself to the actions, even to the very style.


The theory, the doctrine, at all costs. But the doctrine is not in accord with events. Then, refusing to abandon the doctrine, there are only two solutions: to evade events (by treating, say, of very general theoretic questions or of dialectics), and to falsify events to bring them into accord with the (false) doctrine. No intent to deceive is involved in this: it follows almost automatically when one clings desperately to a false doctrine.


Therefore also the opposition must be smashed at any cost. The only vehicle for the doctrine is Cannon (who will accept any doctrine that suits his clique['s] purpose). Therefore complete support for Cannon. But here, too, just as in treating international events, Trotsky must pay a heavy price -- and the price, alas, is assessed not merely against Trotsky but against the International and indeed in the last analysis against the workers everywhere -- for his false doctrine. To implement his (false) doctrine he finds he can utilize only a rotten bureaucratic clique; but by supporting this clique he becomes an accomplice in and defender of its crimes against the movement.


If we realize that Trotsky proceeds seriously and firmly from theory, and that this theory with relation to the war is false, his present political position, and the manner of his political and organizational intervention in the party dispute -- so puzzling and often shocking to many comrades -- become at once intelligible. (This of course is not that "class analysis" which Trotsky demands from all Marxists. All that such analysis could mean in his case would be: what social group is aided by the effects of Trotsky's present policy? The answer is perfectly evident: the Russian bureaucracy. His present policy is a deviation from the direction of the international proletarian struggle for socialism, toward Stalinism.)


The party and the International face in the immediate future the most serious decision of many years. We will either be dragged by a false doctrine, a distorted perspective, and a bankrupt regime into a blind gulf where the waves of the war will leave us floundering and finally drown us; or we will, with however painful a wrench, break out onto the high road, the best soldiers in the one army to which we can give our loyalty; the army of the third camp.


James Burnham

January 10, 1940




Much of the subject matter of the post-war debates in the Fourth International is pre-figured in the above, especially Burnham's comments about the allegedly progressive role of the Red Army in spreading socialism by bureaucratic means. Indeed, if we ignore Burnham's comments about dialectics, this critique would later form an important part of Tony Cliff's criticism of Stalinism and of the orientation of the Fourth International toward it.


Indeed, many of the points Burnham raises here, and in Science and Style, anticipate some of my own criticisms of DM.


The difference is: I remain a Trotskyist, and always will...



Appendix D: The Origin Of The Slate System


I am reproducing here an edited version of an account of the origin of the slate system found in most Bolshevik-style parties that has appeared on the Internet recently. I have re-formatted it to conform to the conventions adopted at this site. I have also added (1) details of the reference this comrades uses, (2) one link, and (3) the sub-heading: 'Introduction'. The full version of this article can be found at the link given at the end.




The leadership-recommended slate system for internal elections to the national leadership is used in most Leninist groups. It is not a natural system arising from the workers own experiences and democratic instincts but something artificially imported into the workers movement.


In theory, the leadership-recommended slate system can be used to recommend a list that consciously includes a good balance of talents and personalities. In practice, it gives the existing leadership a tremendous advantage in elections and experience has shown that it has allowed leaders to secure their continuous re-election along with a body of like-minded and loyal followers. The leadership slate system is a confrontational system. By recommending a slate, the leadership is imposing a loyalty test upon the delegates. And it makes it extremely difficult to change individual members of the national leadership without overturning the leadership as a whole. By electing a group en bloc it makes it hard to express discontent with particular members of the leadership. Thus individual leaders avoid accountability and hide behind the slate as a whole. The bottom line is that the leadership-recommended slate system has become an important way in the 'Leninist movement' for the leadership to maintain itself in power and prevent any challenge to its authority. Combined with other rules this has created the basis for the stultifying, monotone, autocratic regime that operates in almost all the various wings of the Leninist movement. This regime may vary in intensity from one group to another but it forms a common feature of the movement....


The following information comes mainly from a study made on how Communist Party internal elections were carried out in Revolutionary Russia. The study, 'The Evolution of Leadership Selection In The Central Committee 1917-1927', was written by the well-known sovietologist and academic Robert V. Daniels who drew most of his information from the official records of Bolshevik and CPSU party congresses. His essay was published in a fairly obscure academic study of Russian Officialdom which covered Russian society from the 17th to the 20th centuries.


The first thing that may be surprising to state is that the Bolshevik Party did not operate slates. By Bolshevik Party we mean the party that led the Socialist Revolution in October 1917. This party, the Russian Social Democratic and Labour Party (majority), used the normal system of electing its leadership that has naturally emerged in every workers movement across the world -- voting for individual candidates in a competitive election. Thus those successfully elected to the Central Committee (the leading body of the Party) had to receive higher votes than the unsuccessful candidates. Of course, unofficial slates did exist based on political questions and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But there was no official list of candidates recommended by the outgoing leadership with all the advantage and status that would have conferred on any candidate included in such a list.


This normal election procedure continued after the revolution and the Bolshevik Party changed its name to the Communist Party:


"Until well after the Revolution the makeup of the Communist Central Committee was governed by genuine elections at the party congresses, however they may have been influenced by factional controversies and pressure by the leadership (i.e. Lenin). Congress delegates voted for as many individuals as there were seats on the Central Committee, and the appropriate number with the highest votes were declared elected. Candidate members were originally the runners-up, but by 1920 they were being voted on separately after the roster of full members was announced. Under these conditions the membership of the Central Committee was naturally drawn from well-known revolutionary activists and key figures in the central party leadership." [Daniels (1980), pp.357-58.]....


1921 -- Turning Point


A significant change in the Soviet Communist Party's leadership election system occurred in 1921. 1921 was a key year in the development of the Soviet Union. In many respects it was the turning point from which we can trace the degeneration of the Communist Party and the Soviet state it ruled. This was the year which saw mass hunger in the countryside and strikes in the cities. Reflecting this a major factional battle over how to solve the economic crisis ensued that came to be referred to as the Trade Union Debate. The old Central Committee was almost evenly divided in the debate with Lenin and Stalin pushing for the partial reintroduction of the market and small-scale capitalism, while Trotsky's faction argued for the extension of war communism into the factories. In the elections for the delegates to the Tenth Party Congress Lenin's more flexible and positive position won a large majority. But the delegate election campaign also reflected the growing ability of the official party bureaucracy to manipulate the party machine with many examples of the packing of meetings etc.


The Tenth Party Congress met in a crisis atmosphere with the serious revolt of the sailors at Kronstadt seen as threatening the whole future of the revolution. This brought the divisions inside the Party to a head. Quite apart from the dispute within the party leadership caused by the Trade Union Debate, discontent was rife at all levels of the Party. There were two rank and file opposition factions: the Democratic Centralists who protested that the democratic aspect of the party and state life was being lost; and the Workers Opposition who were pushing for direct trade union control of industry. It was in this situation that Lenin introduced his disastrous proposal to ban factions. Although this was only thought to be a temporary measure to prevent the party being torn apart in the crisis, it became a permanent rule within the Soviet Party and was used by Stalin again and again to silence dissent....


Introducing The Leadership Slate


The third organisational measure that was to soon make it much easier for Stalin to assert and maintain control was the introduction by Lenin and his faction of a block slate system in the elections for the Central Committee:


"In 1921, at the Tenth Party Congress, the first signs appeared of a basic change in the actual manner of selecting Central Committee members. This was the practice of making up a semi-official slate of aspirants, to be voted on de facto as a group by the Congress delegates. The occasion happened to be the most acute crisis ever experienced by the Soviet leadership, when it came under attack both externally from peasant rebels and the naval mutineers at Kronstadt, and internally from the left and ultraleft factions represented by Trotsky and the Workers' Opposition. Having decisively defeated his critics within the Communist Party in the pre-Congress delegate selection, Lenin evidently decided to use his influence not only to oust several key oppositionists from the Central Committee but to expand the body from nineteen to twenty-five, thereby creating in all nearly a dozen openings for new people.


"The fact that a slate of recommended official candidates was prepared for the Congress delegates to vote on is made clear by the totals of individual votes announced after the ballot. Lenin was everyone's choice, with 479 votes. But nearly unanimous votes were received by numerous other people, tapering down to 351 for the twenty-fourth member, the newcomer I. Ia. Tuntul,...far ahead of the next contender, the deposed Trotskyist party secretary Krestinsky with 161." [Ibid., pp.357-58. (In fact, this passage comes from pp.358-59; I have also restored a paragraph break which occurs in the published version -- RL.)]


In addition to successfully supporting the 'old Bolshevik' leaders against Trotsky's group and other candidates, Lenin used this unofficial slate system to promote less well-known figures who he thought would be more supportive of his position:


"Basically Lenin's slate making to curb the opposition factions that so plagued him in 1921 relied on the award of Central Committee status to loyal but not widely known provincial functionaries who would have stood little chance in the earlier style contest for a smaller body of stellar personalities." [Ibid., pp.359-60.]


1922 -- Stalin Consolidates His Power


At the Eleventh Party Congress in 1922, in which Lenin was unable to play a major role due to illness, the individual results for the elections to the Central Committee were for the first time in the Party's history not announced. Presumably this was because it would have appeared strange and embarrassing to see the unofficial leadership slate all gaining similar votes, way ahead of the rest of the candidates.


1922 was also the year in which Stalin was able to decisively take over the party machine. As with other measures introduced by Lenin that were intended to temporarily minimise dissent, the tactic of increasing the size of the Central Committee was seized upon by Stalin who combined it with a leadership-organised slate as a means of securing the election of new more loyal members. This culminated at the Twelfth Party Congress in 1923 (with Lenin absent):


"Nineteen twenty-three was the year of Joseph Stalin's signal breakthrough in setting up a personal political organization in the Party, following his designation as general secretary the year before. Turning Lenin's proposal for an expanded Central Committee to his own advantage, Stalin persuaded the Twelfth Congress to increase the body from twenty-seven to forty. This substantial expansion, together with three vacancies, gave him sixteen slots to fill.


"Slate making was in evidence once again when the Twelfth Congress came to the election of the Central Committee, though the mathematics of it were covered up by a motion at the Congress to withhold announcement of individual vote totals.


[Added in a footnote:] "Trotsky led the opposition to the proposed expansion, holding out for a small body that could continue to exercise quick day-to-day decision-making authority." [Ibid., p.360. (I have restored a paragraph break which occurs in the published version; I have also separated the section that was in fact part of a footnote to p.360 -- RL.)]


At each succeeding Party Congresses up to and including the Fifteenth in 1927 Stalin used the behind-the-scenes leadership slate system and increases in the size of the Central Committee, to promote yet more grateful party and state functionaries and thereby increase his domination of the leadership:


"The Thirteenth Party Congress of May 1924, was the first to come after Lenin's demise and the open break between Trotsky and the party leadership. It was the occasion for another substantial expansion in the ranks of the Central Committee, this time from forty to fifty-two. While practically all incumbents were confirmed in office.... [This sentence has been cut-off in mid flow -- RL]. 


[Added in a footnote:]  "One -- Lenin -- had died; one was transferred to the Central Control Commission, which ruled out Central Committee membership, and one -- Karl Radek -- was dropped for his activities on behalf of Trotsky." [Ibid., p.361.]....


"The Fifteenth Party Conference, held in December 1927, a year later than the rules called for, saw the dramatic expulsion of the Left Opposition headed by Trotsky and Zinoviev. The unprecedented number of eight Central Committee members were dropped for oppositionist activity....


"With the seventy-one members of 1927, the Central Committee had reached a level that was to hold constant through the post-purge Eighteenth Congress of 1939....


"121 members and candidate members in total...." [Ibid., pp.363-64. (I have restored two paragraph breaks which occur in the published version; I have also separated the section that was in fact part of a footnote to p.361 -- RL.)]


Daniels concludes his assessment thus:


"Within the short span of five years under Stalin's organizational domination the central leadership body (Central Committee members and candidates) was expanded more than two and a half times and almost totally realigned from an elected group of the articulate and politically popular to a body de facto appointed on the basis of bureaucratic constituencies." [Ibid., p.366.]


The Trotskyist Movement And The Slate System


How and why the slate system was adopted by the Trotskyist movement would be a very useful subject for detailed study. Interestingly, there was a reference to its introduction into the British Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) at its conference in 1950:


"At this conference Healy introduced another novelty -- a slate for election to the National Committee. The EC had drawn up this slate and if any delegate wanted to nominate someone who was not on the slate they also had to nominate someone else to be taken off!" ['The Methods of Gerry Healy' by Ken Tarbuck, published in Workers News No.30, April 1991, under the pseudonym of 'John Walters' and with the title 'Origins of the SWP'.]


Bear in mind that the 1950 conference of the RCP was the one where Healy was able to overcome all his opposition. The slate allowed him to get a Central Committee entirely to his liking. In previous years the RCP had operated a system where the factions in the organisations automatically had a number of seats on the CC according to the level of support they had among the membership. And the faction's representatives on the CC were democratically decided by the faction themselves.


Pat Byrne, May 2010 (2nd version).




Robert V. Daniels, 'Evolution of Leadership Selection in the Central Committee, 1917-1927,' in Walter M. Pintner and Don K. Rowney, eds., Russian Officialdom: The Bureaucratization of Russian Society from the Seventeenth to the Twentieth Century (Macmillan, 1980), pp.355-68.


Quoted from here:


[Unfortunately, the above link no longer seems to work!]



Appendix E: Duncan Hallas On Party Democracy


This is an edited version of an article -- written by a genuinely working class revolutionary -- which originally appeared in 1971 as part of a collection called Party and Class, pp.38-55 (i.e., Cliff, et al (1996). Quoted from here.


[I am currently checking the on-line version (reproduced below) against the published version for any typos, etc. Formatting has been altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site. Bold and some italic emphases added; links also added.]


It will be seen from this that Hallas greatly underestimated the difficulties revolutionaries faced, especially those arising from within his own movement as it degenerated. Even so, its lessons need to be re-learnt


Towards A Revolutionary Socialist Party


by Duncan Hallas


The events of the last 40 years largely isolated the revolutionary socialist tradition from the working classes of the West. The first problem is to reintegrate them. The many partial and localised struggles on wages, conditions, housing, rents, education, health and so on have to be co-ordinated and unified into a coherent forward movement based on a strategy for the transformation of society.


In human terms, an organised layer of thousands of workers, by hand and by brain, firmly rooted amongst their fellow workers and with a shared consciousness of the necessity for socialism and the way to achieve it, has to be created. Or rather it has to be recreated. For such a layer existed in the twenties in Britain and internationally. Its disintegration, initially by Stalinism and then by the complex interactions of Stalinism, Fascism and neo-reformism, reduced the authentic socialist tradition in the advanced capitalist countries to the status of a fringe belief. As it re-emerges from that status, old disputes take on new life. The nature of the socialist organisation is again an issue.


That an organisation of socialist militants is necessary is common ground on the left, a few anarchist purists apart. But what kind of organisation? One view, widespread amongst newly radicalised students and young workers, is that of the libertarians. In the nature of the case this is something of a blanket term covering a number of distinct tendencies. The essence of what they have in common is hostility to centralised, co-ordinated activity and profound suspicion of anything smacking of "leadership". On this view nothing more than a loose federation of working groups is necessary or desirable. The underlying assumptions are that centralised organisations inevitably undergo bureaucratic degeneration and that the spontaneous activities of working people are the sole and sufficient basis for the achievement of socialism.


The evidence for the first assumption is, on the face of it, impressive. The classic social-democratic parties of the early 20th century are a text-book example. It was the German social-democracy that furnished Robert Michels [i.e., in Michels (1916) -- RL] with the material from which he formulated the "iron law of oligarchy". The communist parties, founded in the first place to wrest the politically conscious workers from the influence of conservative social-democratic bureaucracies, became in time bureaucratised and authoritarian to a degree previously undreamt of in working class parties. Moreover, the basic mass organisations, the trade unions, have everywhere become a byword for bureaucratisation and this, apparently, irrespective of the political complexion of their leadership.


From this sort of evidence some libertarians draw the conclusion that a revolutionary socialist party is a contradiction in terms. This is, of course, the traditional anarcho-syndicalist position. More commonly it is conceded that a party may, in favourable circumstances, avoid succumbing to the embraces of the establishment. However, the argument goes, such a party, bureaucratised by definition, inevitably contains within its structure the embryo of a new ruling group and will, if successful, create a new exploitative society. The experience of Stalinist parties in power is advanced as evidence here.


Much of the plausibility of views of this sort derives from their highly abstract and therefore universal character. It would be unfair to equate them with the currently fashionable "naked apery" but there is certainly some similarity in their psychological appeal. Writers like Morris and Ardrey dispense with the difficult and complicated job of analysing actual societies and actual conflicts in order to deduce from an allegedly unchanging human (or animal) nature the "inevitability" of this or that. In the same way much libertarian thinking proceeds from very general ideas about the evils of formal organisation to highly specific conclusions without much effort to investigate the actual course of events. Thus Stalinism is seen as the "inevitable" consequence of Lenin's predilection for a centralised party. A few general notions, a few supposed "universal truths" which are easily mastered in half an hour, become the substitute for serious theoretical equipment. Since the real world is a very complicated place it is highly reassuring to have at one’s disposal the ingredients for an instant social wisdom. Unfortunately it is also highly misleading.


The equation "centralised organisation equals bureaucracy equals degeneration" is in fact a secularised version of the original sin myth. Like its prototype it leads to profoundly reactionary conclusions. For what is really being implied is that working people are incapable of collective democratic control of their own organisations. Granted that in many cases this has proved to be true; to argue that it is necessarily, inevitably true is to argue that socialism is impossible because democracy, in the literal sense, is impossible.


This is precisely the conclusion that was drawn by the "neo-Machiavellian" social theorists of the early 20th century and which is deeply embedded in modern academic sociology. It lies at the root of modern social democratic theory, such as it is. Of course, libertarian socialists will have none of this. The essence of their position is rejection of the tired old cliché that there must always be élites and masses, leaders and led, rulers and ruled. Nevertheless the opposite conclusion is implicit in their approach to organisational questions for the simple reason that formal organisations are an essential feature of any complex society.


In fact, useful argument about the problems of socialist organisation is impossible at the level of "universal" generalisations. Organisations do not exist in a vacuum. They are composed of actual people in specific historical situations, attempting to solve real problems with a limited number of options open to them. Failure to take adequate account of these rather obvious considerations vitiates discussion. This is particularly clear in the disputes about the origins of Stalinism.


That Bolshevism was the father of Stalinism is an article of faith with most libertarians. It is also the view of the great majority of social-democratic, liberal and conservative writers and, of course, in the purely formal sense that the Stalinist bureaucracy emerged from the Bolshevik party, it is incontestable. But this does not get us very far. By the same reasoning Jesus Christ was the father of the Spanish Inquisition and Abraham Lincoln the father of United States imperialism, but nobody, one hopes, imagines that statements of this type lead to any useful conclusion. The question is how and why Stalinism emerged and what role, if any, the structure of the Bolshevik party played in the process.


Daniel Cohn-Bendit's treatment of the matter in his book Obsolete Communism is instructive. He sets out to show that "far from leading the Russian Revolution forwards, the Bolsheviks were responsible for holding back the struggle of the masses between February and October 1917, and later for turning the revolution into a bureaucratic counterrevolution -- in both cases because of the party's very nature, structure and ideology".


The first point is not relevant here and will be discussed later. The second is developed by means of quotations, suitably selected to establish the calculated malevolence of Lenin and Trotsky. It is shown, correctly, that in 1917 Lenin favoured management of enterprises by elected committees of workers and that in 1918 he came out strongly for one-man management, that Trotsky in 1920 called for the militarisation of labour and that the suppression of the Kronstadt revolt in 1921 was an important turning point in the process by which the Russian workers lost power. What is really astonishing about Cohn-Bendit's account of these events is his complete omission of any consideration of the circumstances in which they took place. The ravages of war and civil war, the ruin of Russian industry, the actual disintegration of the Russian working class; all this, apparently, has no bearing on the outcome. True it is conceded in passing that Russia was a backward country and was isolated by the failure of the German revolution but, we are told, "these general factors can in no way explain the specific turn it (the revolution) took".


Now it is usually supposed that there is some sort of connection between the type and level of the production of the necessities of life and the kinds of social organisation that are possible at any stage. No doubt it is very unfortunate that this should be so. Otherwise mankind might have leapt straight from the old stone age to socialism.


If, however, it is conceded that one of the preconditions for socialism is a fairly highly developed industry with a high productivity of labour then some of the "general factors", so casually dismissed by Cohn-Bendit, assume a certain importance. Russia at the time of the revolution was not just a backward country. By the standards of the developed capitalist countries of the time it was very backward indeed. 80% of the total population was still engaged in agriculture; the comparable figure for Britain was 4.5% of the work force. The economist Colin Clark estimated the real income per head per occupied person in Russia in 1913 as 306 units; the comparable figure for Britain was 1,071 units. Indeed on Clark's calculations, the figure for Britain as early as 1688, some 370 units, was higher than that for Russia in 1913. All such assessments contain a large margin of error no doubt, but even if the maximum allowance is made for this the prospects for an immediate transition to a non-coercive society in early 20th century Russia were very slender indeed. True, man does not live by bread alone, the cultural heritage is also important. And the cultural heritage of Russia was Tsarist barbarism. Not surprisingly there was no tendency whatever in the pre-revolutionary Russian Marxist movement that believed that socialism was on the agenda for an isolated Russia, though this illusion had, it is true, been entertained by the Narodniks.


Yet the economic level of 1913, miserable as it was, represented affluence compared to what was to come. War, revolution, civil war and foreign intervention shattered the productive apparatus. By May 1919 Russian industry was reduced to 10% of its normal fuel supply.1 By the end of that year 79% of the total railway track mileage was out of action-and this in a huge country where motor transport was practically non-existent. By the end of 1920 the output of all manufactured goods had fallen to 12.9% of the 1913 level.


The effect on the working class was catastrophic. As early as December 1918 the number of workers in Petrograd had fallen to half the level of two years earlier. By December 1920 that city had lost 57.5% of its total population. In the same three years Moscow lost 44.5%.


The number of industrial workers proper was over three million in 1917. In 1921 it had fallen to one and a quarter million. The Russian working class was disappearing into the countryside to avoid literal starvation. And what a countryside! War, famine, typhus, forced requisitioning by red and white alike, the disappearance of even such manufactured goods as matches, paraffin and thread -- this was the reality in the Russia of 1920-21. According to Trotsky even cannibalism was reported from several provinces.


In these desperate conditions the Bolshevik party came to substitute its own rule for that of a decimated, exhausted working class that was itself a small fraction of the population, and within the party the growing apparatus increasingly edged the membership from control. All this is incontestable, but it seems reasonable to suppose that the actual situation had rather more influence on these developments than the "very nature, structure and ideology" of the party. As a matter of fact the party regime was astonishingly liberal in this period.


The most balanced summary of the matter is that of Victor Serge, himself a communist with strong libertarian leanings, an eye-witness and a participant,


"It is often said that 'the germ of all Stalinism was in Bolshevism at its beginning'. Well, I have no objection. Only, Bolshevism also contained many other germs -- a mass of other germs -- and those who lived through the enthusiasm of the first years of the first victorious revolution ought not to forget it. To judge the living man by the death germs which the autopsy reveals in a corpse -- and which he may have carried in him since his birth -- is this very sensible?"


Given the backwardness of Russia, which germs flourished and which stagnated, which of the several potential outcomes actually materialised, depended above all on the international situation.


The Bolshevik seizure of power took place in the context of a European revolution. The revolutionary movements proved strong enough to overthrow the German Kaiser, the Austrian Emperor and the Turkish Sultan as well as the Russian Tsar. They proved strong enough to prevent a foreign intervention sufficiently massive and sustained to overthrow the Soviet regime, assisted of course by the conflicts between the remaining great powers. But they were aborted or crushed before the critical transition, the establishment of working class power in one or two advanced countries, was reached. The failure of the German revolution in 1918-19 to pass beyond the stage of the capitalist-democratic republic seems, in retrospect, to have been decisive. The defeat of the Spartacists sealed the fate of working class rule in Russia, for only substantial economic aid from an advanced economy, in practice from a socialist Germany, could have reversed the disintegration of the Russian working class.


The actual outcome, the transformation of what Lenin, in 1921, called a "workers' and peasants' State which is bureaucratically deformed" into a totalitarian State capitalism, was itself complex and lengthy. The point that is relevant to this discussion is that an essential part of that process was the destruction of all the wings and tendencies of the Bolshevik party. It was not sufficient for the counter-revolution to liquidate the various oppositions of left and right. So little was the party suitable as an instrument "for turning the revolution into a bureaucratic counter-revolution" that most of the original Stalinist cadre too had to be eliminated before the new ruling class stabilised its position.


By 1934, the year of the 17th Party Congress, all open opposition in the party had long been suppressed. The fate of the delegates to that Congress, Stalinists almost to a man, was revealed by Khrushchev in 1956.


"Of the 1,966 delegates, 1,108 were arrested.... Of the 139 members and candidates of the party's central committee elected at the Congress 98, i.e. 70%, were arrested and shot."


In short, the vast majority of those who had any roots in the Bolshevik past -- 80% of the 17th Congress delegates had joined by 1921 -- were liquidated and replaced by new personnel "uncontaminated" by even the most tenuous ties with the working class movement.


These events, which have had such profound and lasting consequences, are facts of an altogether different order of magnitude from the deficiencies, real or alleged, of Bolshevik organisational practice. To suppose otherwise is to fall into that extreme voluntarism which many libertarians share with the Maoists.


It does not follow that the last word in organisational wisdom is to be found in the Bolshevik model. In the very different conditions of late 20th century capitalism arguments for or against Lenin's position of 1903 are not so much right or wrong as irrelevant. The "vanguard partyism" of some of the Maoist and Trotskyist sects is the obverse of the libertarian coin. Both alike are based on a highly abstract and misleading view of reality.


What is in dispute here is in part the usefulness of the analogy. It is clear that any substantial revolutionary socialist party is necessarily, in one sense, a "vanguard". But there is no substance in the argument that the concept is elitist. The essence of elitism is the assertion that the observable differences in abilities, consciousness and experience are rooted in unalterable genetic or social conditions and that the mass of the people are incapable of self-government now or in the future. Rejection of the elitist position implies that the observed differences are wholly or partly attributable to causes that can be changed. It does not mean denial of the differences themselves.


The real objection to the emphasis on the "vanguard party" is that it is often part of an obsolete world outlook that directs attention away from contemporary problems and leads, in extreme cases, to a systematic false consciousness, an ideology in the strict Marxian sense of that term.


A vanguard implies a main body, marching in roughly the same direction and imbued with some sort of common outlook and shared aspiration.


When, for example, Trotsky described the German Communist Party of the 1920s and early thirties as the vanguard of the German working class, the characterisation was apt. Not only did the party itself include, amongst its quarter of a million or so members, the most enlightened, energetic and self-confident of the German workers; it operated in a working class which, in its vast majority, had absorbed some of the basic elements of Marxist thought and which was confronted, especially after 1929, with a deepening social crisis which could not be resolved within the framework of the Weimar Republic.


In that situation the actions of the party were of decisive importance. What it did, or failed to do, influenced the whole subsequent course of European and world history. The sharp polemics about the details of tactics, history and theory, which were the staple output of the oppositional communist groups of the period, were entirely justified and necessary. In the given circumstances the vanguard was decisive. In Trotsky's striking metaphor, switching the points could change the direction of the whole heavy train of the German workers' movement.


Today the circumstances are quite different. There is no train. A new generation of capable and energetic workers exists but they are no longer part of a cohesive movement and they no longer work in a milieu where basic Marxist ideas are widespread. We are back at our starting point. Not only has the vanguard, in the real sense of a considerable layer of organised revolutionary workers and intellectuals, been destroyed. So too has the environment, the tradition, that gave it influence. In Britain that tradition was never so extensive and influential as in Germany or France but it was real enough in the early years of the Communist Party.


The crux of the matter is how to develop the process, now begun, of recreating it. It may be true, as Gramsci said, that it is harder to create generals than to create an army. It is certainly true that generals without an army, are entirely useless; even if it is supposed that they can be created in a vacuum. In fact, "vanguardism", in its extreme forms, is an idealist perversion of Marxism, which leads to a moralistic view of the class struggle. Workers are seen as straining at the leash, always ready and eager to fight but always betrayed by corrupt and reactionary leaders. Especially pernicious are the "left" leaders whose radical phraseology conceals a fixed determination to sell the pass at the first opportunity.


Such things certainly happen of course. Corruption in the literal sense is not unknown in the British labour movement and in its more subtle manifestations it is widespread. But it is grotesquely one-sided to suppose that, for example, the history of Britain since the war, can be explained in terms of "betrayals" and it is idiotic to imagine that all that is necessary is to "build a new leadership" around some sect or other and then offer it as an alternative to the waiting workers.


The reality is much more complex. The elements of a working class leadership already exist. The activists and militants who actually maintain the shop floor and working class organisations from day to day are the leadership in practical terms. That they are, typically, more or less under the influence of reformist or Stalinist ideas or ideas more reactionary still, is not to be explained in terms of betrayal. It is to be explained both in terms of their own experience and in terms of the absence of a socialist tendency seen as credible and realistic.


The first point has been crucial. Reformist policies have been successful in the advanced economies in the last 20-odd years. Not always or for everyone but for enough people enough of the time to create a widespread belief in reformism as a viable proposition.


As conditions change the second point becomes increasingly important and excessive emphasis on the vanguard concept can become a real barrier to the process of fusing the tradition and the activists.


One of the negative features of the leadership/betrayal syndrome is the assumption that the answers to all problems are known in advance. They are contained in a programme which is definitive and final. To safeguard the purity of the programme is seen as one of the main tasks of the selected few. That there may be new problems which require new solutions, that it is necessary to learn from one's fellow workers as well as to teach, are unwelcome ideas. And yet they are fundamental. Omniscience is no more granted to organisations than to individuals. A certain amount of modesty, of flexibility, of awareness of limitations is necessary.


It is, on the face of it, rather unlikely that a programme written in, let us say, 1938, contains the complete solution to the questions of the 1970s. It is certainly the case that in the process of recreating a considerable socialist movement many old concepts will have to be modified. Ideas, at least useful, operative ideas, have some sort of relationship to facts and it is a platitude that the world in which we work is changing at an unparalleled rate.


As a matter of fact the development of a programme, in the sense of a detailed statement of partial and transitional aims and tactics in all important fields, is inseparable from the development of the movement itself. It presupposes the participation of a large number of people who are themselves actively engaged in those fields. The job of socialists is to connect their theory and aims with the problems and experiences of militants in such a way as to achieve a synthesis that is both a practical guide to action and a springboard for further advance. Such a synthesis is meaningful to the extent that it actually guides the activities of participants and is modified in the light of practice and that change in circumstances which it itself produces. This is the real meaning of the "struggle for a programme" that is so often turned into a fetish.


Similar considerations apply to internationalism. Internationalism, the recognition of the long-run common interests of workers everywhere and of the priority of this interest over all sectional and national considerations is basic to socialism. Today, with the increasing weight and influence of great international big business concerns, this is more obvious than ever. There cannot be a purely national socialist organisation. It is one of the merits of the Trotskyist groupings to have consistently emphasised this fundamental truth.


Yet the conclusion often drawn from it: "one must start with the International" is another example of the distorting influence of overconcentration on "leadership". An "International" which consists of no more than a grouping of sects in various countries is a fiction. It is a harmful fiction because, as experience has shown, it leads to delusions of grandeur and hence to evasion of the real problems. The ludicrous situation in which no less than three bodies exist, each claiming to be the Fourth International and exchanging mutual anathemas like rival mediaeval popes, is a sufficient indication of the bankruptcy of ultravanguardism in the international field.


To develop a real current of internationalism -- and without such a current all talk of an International is self-deception -- it is necessary to start by linking the concrete struggles of workers in one country with those of others; of Ford workers in Britain and Germany for example, of dockers in London and Rotterdam and so on. This means starting where such workers actually exist, namely in the various countries. It means putting aside grandiose ideas of "International leadership", "World Congresses" and the like, in favour of the humdrum tasks of propaganda and agitation in one's own country together with the development of international links which, however limited at first, are meaningful to advanced workers outside the sectarian milieu.


Meetings and discussions between socialist grouplets in the various countries are essential, theoretical discussion is essential but above all the creation of real links between groups of workers is essential. Only after this has been done on a considerable scale will the preconditions for the recreation of the International be achieved. In the existing situation the analogy of Marx and the First International is in some ways more relevant than that of Lenin and the Third. Neither provides a blueprint that can be followed mechanically.


Of course, after all the dross is discarded, there is an important grain of truth in the "vanguard" analogy. It lies in the recognition of the extreme unevenness of the working people in consciousness, confidence, experience and activity. A rather small and constantly changing fraction of the working class is actually involved, to any extent, in the activities of the existing mass organisations. A larger fraction is episodically involved and the vast majority are drawn into activity only in exceptional circumstances. Moreover even when largish numbers of workers are engaged in actions, in strikes or rent struggles, etc, these actions are typically sectional and limited in their objectives, The only major exception which occurs more or less regularly, the act of voting for a party seen as, in some sense, the working man's party, is itself increasingly ritualistic in character. And even at this level it has to be remembered that at every election since the war something like one-third of the working class has voted Tory.


To state these well-known facts is sometimes regarded as something of a betrayal, a slander against the working class. And yet it is merely a statement, not only of what exists, but also of what must exist for capitalist class society in its "democratic" form to continue at all. Once large numbers of people actually act directly, collectively and continuously to change their conditions they not only change themselves; they undermine the whole basis of capitalism. The relevance of a party is, firstly, that it can give the real vanguard, the more advanced and conscious minority of workers and not the sects or self-proclaimed leaders, the confidence and the cohesion necessary to carry the mass with them. It follows that there can be no talk of a party that does not include this minority as one of its major components.


The problem of apathy has to be seen in this context. As has often been pointed out, the essence of apathy is the feeling of powerlessness, of inability to change the course of events in more than a marginal way, if that. The growth of apathy, the increase in "privatisation", in turning one's back on the world, is naturally closely connected with the decline in the ability of reformist politics to deliver the goods as the power of the international capitalist firms to evade "national" restrictions grows steadily. This is why apathy can be very rapidly turned into its opposite if a credible alternative is presented.


That alternative must be more than a mere collection of individuals giving general adherence to a platform. It must also be a centre for mutual training and debate, for raising the level of the raw activist to that of the experienced, for the fusion of the experiences and outlook of manual and white collar workers and intellectuals with ideas of scientific socialism. It must be a substitute for those institutions, special schools, universities, clubs, messes and so on, through which the ruling class imbues its cadres with a common outlook, tradition and loyalty. And it must do this without cutting off its militants from their fellow workers.


That hoary red herring, the question of whether socialist consciousness arises "spontaneously" amongst workers or is imposed by intellectuals from the "outside" has absolutely no relevance to modern conditions. It is strictly a non-question because it assumes the existence of a more or less autonomous working class world-outlook into which something is injected. Whether the relatively homogeneous working class outlook, so lovingly described by writers like Hoggart, was ever so autonomous as has often been supposed may be questioned. In any case it is dead, killed by changing social conditions and above all by the mass media. It is rather ridiculous to argue about whether one should bring ideas from "outside" to workers who own television sets. Certainly most workers and especially the activists see things rather differently than the denizens of the stockbroker belt. Their whole life experience ensures this. But workers are not automata responding passively to the environment. Everyone has to have some picture of the world, some frame of reference into which data are fitted, some assumptions about society. The whole vast apparatus of mass communications, educational institutions and the rest have, as one of their principal functions, what sociologists call "socialisation" and what the old Wobblies called head-fixing. The assumptions convenient to the ruling class are the daily diet of all of us. Individuals, whether bus drivers or lecturers in aesthetics, can resist the conditioning process to a point. Only a collective can develop a systematic alternative worldview, can overcome to some degree the alienation of manual and mental work that imposes on everyone, on workers and intellectuals alike, a partial and fragmented view of reality. What Rosa Luxemburg called "the fusion of science and the workers" is unthinkable outside a revolutionary party.


Such a party cannot possibly be created except on a thoroughly democratic basis; unless, in its internal life, vigorous controversy is the rule and various tendencies and shades of opinion are represented, a socialist party cannot rise above the level of a sect. Internal democracy is not an optional extra. It is fundamental to the relationship between party members and those amongst whom they work.


The point was well illustrated by Isaac Deutscher in discussing the Communist Parties in the late twenties and early thirties.


"When the European communist went out to argue his case before a working class audience, he usually met there a Social Democratic opponent whose arguments he had to refute and whose slogans he had to counter. Most frequently he was unable to do this, because he lacked the habits of political debate, which were not cultivated within the party, and because his schooling deprived him of the ability to preach to the unconverted. He could not probe adequately into his opponents case when he had to think all the time about his own orthodoxy.... He could propound with mechanical fanaticism a prescribed set of arguments and slogans;... When called upon, as he often was, to answer criticism of the Soviet Union, he could rarely do so convincingly, his thanksgiving prayers to the workers' fatherland and his hosannahs for Stalin covered him with ridicule in the eyes of any sober-minded audience. This ineffectiveness of the Stalinist agitation was one of the main reasons why over many years, even in the most favourable circumstances, that agitation made little or no headway against Social Democratic reformism."


Latter-day parallels will spring to mind.


The self-education of militants is impossible in an atmosphere of sterile orthodoxy. Self-reliance and confidence in one's ideas are developed in the course of that genuine debate that takes place in an atmosphere where differences are freely and openly argued. The "monolithic party" is a Stalinist concept. Uniformity and democracy are mutually incompatible.


Naturally a party cannot be a hold-all in which any and every conceivable standpoint is represented. The limits of membership are democratic collective control by the working class over industry and society. Within these limits a variety of views on aspects of strategy and tactics is necessary and inevitable in a democratic organisation. The heresy hunting characteristic of certain sects is self-defeating; an atmosphere of quasi-religious fanaticism is incompatible with the reintegration of the socialist tradition with a broad layer of workers.


The discipline that is certainly necessary in any serious organisation can arise in one of two ways. It can arise from a system of artificial unanimity enforced by edicts and prescriptions, a system that is counter-productive in a socialist group. Or it can arise from a common tradition and loyalty built on the basis of common work, mutual education and a realistic and responsible relationship to the spontaneous activities of workers.


Spontaneity is a fact. But what does it mean? Simply that groups of workers who are not active with any political or even trade union organisation take action on their own behalf or in support of others. From the point of view of organisations the action is "spontaneous"; from the point of view of the workers concerned it is conscious and deliberate. Such activity is constantly occurring and reflects the aspirations for self-government that are widespread even amongst workers commonly regarded as "backward". It is an elemental expression of the class struggle. Without it conscious militants would be suspended in a vacuum. To use the hackneyed but useful analogy, it is the steam that drives the pistons of working class organisation.


Pistons without propellants are useless. Steam unchannelled has only a limited effect. Spontaneity and organisation are not alternatives; they are different aspects of the process by which increasing numbers of workers can become conscious of the reality of their situation and of their power to change it. The growth of that process depends on a dialogue, on organised militants who listen as well as argue, who understand the limitations of a party as well as its strengths and who are able to find connections between the actual consciousness of their fellows and the politics necessary to realise the aspirations buried in that consciousness.


It sometimes happens that even the best militants find themselves overtaken by events and occupying a position, for a shorter or longer time, to the right of previously unmilitant workers. The experience is familiar to active rank-and-file trade unionists. Slogans and demands that were yesterday acceptable only to the more conscious people can quite suddenly be too limited for the majority when a struggle develops beyond the expected point. Inevitably the greater experience and knowledge of the activists induces a certain caution, normally appropriate, but which, in a rapidly changing situation, can sometimes become a real barrier to advance. The same tendency is bound to occur with an organisation. This is the valid element in Cohn-Bendit's critique of socialist parties.


The danger is inherent in the nature of the environment. Sudden changes of consciousness amongst this group or that cannot always or even usually be predicted. What can be predicted is the need for the sensitivity to detect them rapidly and the flexibility to react appropriately.


Neither the existence of such spontaneous changes of mood, unexpected upheavals nor the frequent tendency towards caution amongst the layer of experienced and committed socialists constitute an argument against a party. On the contrary, given the unevenness of consciousness and the industrial and geographical divisions of the working class, a party, indeed a centralised party, is essential to give to various actions of different groups that cohesion and co-ordination without which their effect will be limited to local and sectional gains.


It is an argument against that bureaucratic caricature of a party that Stalinism has caused many on the left to confuse with the genuine article. One of Cohn-Bendit's chosen illustrations of party conservatism, the fact that in July 1917 the Bolshevik party lagged behind the workers of Petrograd and tried to restrain and limit their demonstrations, illuminates the point. The party was caught in a dilemma inherent in the uneven development of the movement in Russia as a whole. As Trotsky wrote


"there was the fear that Petrograd might become isolated from the more backward provinces; on the other hand there was the hope that an active and energetic intervention by Petrograd might save the situation."


This "conservatism" was a reflection of the pressure of the party members in other centres who, in turn, transmitted the mood of working class circles in these centres. The fact that there was a party sufficiently flexible to react to that pressure probably prevented a repetition of the Paris Commune in 1917. This, of course, was the most extreme situation possible but similar problems are inevitable at every stage of development.


A revolutionary socialist party is necessary then; but such a party has been necessary for a long time. Why should it be supposed that it is possible to create it in the 1970s?


Basically the case rests on the analysis of the world crisis developed in International Socialism, and particularly on the thesis that, in the changing conditions of capitalism, reformist policies will be less and less able to provide those partial solutions to the problems confronting the working class that they have been able to provide in the decades since the Second World War. This is the objective factor.


The most important subjective factor is the decline in the ideological power of Stalinism. The past influence of Stalinism on the left and its effects, direct and by reaction, in effectively excluding the building of an alternative are difficult to exaggerate. For 15 years that power has been eroded, slowly at first and then more and more quickly. Today it is in full disintegration. This ideological decomposition is not to be confused with the organisational decline of Communist parties. Though the British party has certainly declined this is not the decisive consideration. The party still commands the allegiance of a good many industrial militants. But it no longer commands it on the old basis. It is no longer a Stalinist party. All kinds of tendencies exist within it and now that the papal infallibility of Moscow is gone for ever the monolithic party cannot be restored.


The dominant group in the party, the Gollan leadership, is effectively reformist. Whether, as some of its critics suspect, the leadership aims to liquidate the party into the Labour Party, or whether, as seems more likely, it clings to the illusion that there is room in British politics for a second reformist workers' party, makes little difference. As an obstacle to regroupment on the left the party is a rapidly waning force.


Nor is the Labour Party left the force it used to be. In part this is a reflection of the decline of the Communist Party, for every significant left-wing in the Labour Party in the past has leaned heavily on the Communist Party's Trade Union base. In part it is an effect of the decline of the Labour Party's own membership organisations -- youth, wards, constituencies -- which has become so marked in recent years. There are still genuine socialists active in the Labour Party as there are also amongst the passive card-holders. But it seems unlikely, though it is not inconceivable, that any fairly massive socialist current will develop in the party.


The basis for the beginnings of a revolutionary socialist party exists amongst those industrial militants who used to look to the Communist Party, amongst increasing numbers of radicalised young workers and students and amongst the revolutionary groups.


The latter are an important but difficult problem. The root cause of the sort of sectarianism that has plagued the British left is the isolation of socialists from effective and influential participation in mass struggles. The isolation is rapidly diminishing but its negative effects -- the exacerbation of secondary differences, the transformation of tactical differences into matters of principle, the semi-religious fanaticism which can give a group considerable survival power in adverse conditions at the cost of stunting its potentiality for real development, the theoretical conservatism and blindness to unwelcome aspects of reality -- all these persist. They will be overcome when, and only when, a serious penetration and fusion of layers of workers and students outside sectarian circles has been achieved. The International Socialism group intends to make a significant contribution to that penetration. Without having any illusions that it is "the leadership" the group exists to make a theoretical and a practical contribution to the regeneration of socialism in Britain and internationally.




1. This figure and those following are taken from E. H. Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution, Vol 2.



Appendix F: Trotsky And the Degeneration Of The CPSU


The story of the degeneration of the CPSU after the gains of October 1917 has been told many times. Part of that degeneration was reflected in Trotsky's struggle with anti-democratic forces that were gaining strength in the early 1920s. Much of this can be put down to the effects of the Civil War in the fSU at the time, the destruction of industry and the near disappearance of the old working class. But, the fact that these pressures have existed ever since, and still exist, shows that this isn't just a feature limited to a unique set events that took place in that country between 1917-1928.


Although he was a great a revolutionary, by 1924 Trotsky found these pressures were far too great even for him to be able to defend successfully the democratic spirit that dominated the party only a few years earlier. In the face of growing unrest among workers in 1923, the GPU responded by making a series arrests. Trotsky was ambivalent at first, but soon came out in favour of (limited) party democracy.


This illustrates once again the forces that exist between centralisation and open democracy that afflict all such parties, and how these forces, in the end, always seem to favour the former over the latter.


Here is how Tony Cliff depicted things:



The New Course Controversy


[Formatting has been altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site. Some italic emphases and all links added. Minor typos corrected where they have been spotted. Footnotes omitted.]


The Troika of Stalin, Zinoviev and Kamenev was formed with the prime aim of fighting Trotsky, who had missed the opportunity at the Twelfth Party Congress (April 1923) to carry out Lenin's wish to fight Stalin's bureaucratism....


A more serious challenge to the Soviet government came from two dissident groups within the party: 'Workers' Truth' and the Workers' Group.


The Workers' Truth group was composed largely of students, disciples of Bogdanov, the old Bolshevik who broke from Lenin in 1907. It consisted of no more than 20 members. Outside of discussion circle activity the organisational work of the group consisted of publishing two numbers of its journal.


Far more influential was the Workers' Group, composed mainly of workers led by Miasnikov, Kuznetsov and Moiseev, who had been expelled from the party in 1922. The group was formed in the spring of 1923. Immediately after the Twelfth Party Congress it issued a manifesto denouncing the "New Exploitation of the Proletariat", and urging workers to fight for Soviet democracy. In May Miasnikov was arrested, but his group continued its propaganda. When the strikes of July-August broke out they wondered whether they should go to the factories with a call for a general strike. They were still arguing about this when in September the GPU arrested a number of them, about twenty people in all. The group apparently had about 200 members in Moscow. It was estimated that about 200 Communists were expelled from the party at the end of 1923 for their involvement with Workers' Truth and the Workers' Group.


However small the Workers' Group, its influence was quite widespread. Rank and file party members listened sympathetically to their appeals. In the presence of mass discontent when the trade unions did not voice the workers' grievances, and the party paid little attention to them, a small group could have a far wider impact than its size warranted. After all, the instigators of the Kronstadt revolt had not been more numerous or influential.


The party leaders sought to stamp out the sparks. Dzerzhinsky, head of the GPU, was charged with the business of suppression. When he found that many party members were sympathetic to the two groups, he turned to the Politburo and asked it to declare that it was the duty of all party members to denounce to the GPU party members who cooperated with these subversive groups: in effect this meant their acting as policemen. Dzerzhinsky's stance could be explained only by the bureaucratic nature of the party and the massive alienation of the rank and file from it.


Trotsky's Reaction To Workers' Unrest


Dzerzhinsky's statement led Trotsky to speak out. He did not condone the existence of Workers' Truth or the Workers' Group and did not condemn their persecution. He did not protest at the arrest of their supporters. He did not support their incitement of workers to industrial action. He did not see how the government could meet workers' demand when industrial output was still negligible. He saw the way to assuage workers' demands by a long-term industrialisation policy. Nor was Trotsky ready to support the demand for workers' democracy in the extreme form in which the Workers' Group and Workers' Truth raised it. But he found that Dzerzhinsky had gone too far, and on 8 October 1923 he wrote a letter to the Central Committee and the Central Control Commission complaining about Dzerzhinsky's stance.


Trotsky admitted that he himself had at first been sceptical about the arguments of the illegal groupings about democracy. Referring to the Twelfth Party Congress he stated:


"Many of the speeches of that time made in defence of workers' democracy seemed to me exaggerated, and to a considerable extent demagogic, in view of the incompatibility of a fully developed workers' democracy with the regime of a dictatorship...."


However, things went from bad to worse:


"[T]he regime which had essentially taken shape even before the Twelfth Congress and which, after it, was fully consolidated and given finished form, is much further removed from workers' democracy than was the regime during the fiercest period of war communism. The bureaucratisation of the party apparatus has reached unheard-of proportions through the application of the methods of secretarial selection. Even in the cruellest hours of the civil war we argued in the party organisations and in the press as well...while now there is not a trace of such an open exchange of opinions on questions that are really troubling the party...."


As a result,


"Within the basic stratum of the party there is an extraordinary degree of discontent.... This discontent is not being alleviated through an open exchange of opinions in party meetings or by mass influence on the party organisations (in the election of party committees, secretaries, etc.), but rather it continues to build up in secret, and, in time, leads to internal abscesses."


Trotsky also renewed his attack on the Troika's economic policy. The ferment within the party was intensified, he argued, by the industrial unrest. And this was brought about by a lack of economic planning. He found out that the concession the Troika had made to him at the Twelfth Congress was spurious. The congress had adopted his resolution on industrial policy, but this had remained a dead letter.


Trotsky ends his letter with a statement that although hitherto he had declined to make his views public, now he would have to spread his ideas -- not to the public as a whole, not even to all party members, but to those 'mature' enough.


"I have deliberately avoided submitting the struggle within the Central Committee to the judgment of even a very narrow circle of comrades: specifically to those who, given any party course that was at all reasonable, would surely occupy a prominent place in the Central Committee and the Central Control Commission. I am compelled to state that my efforts over the past year and a half have yielded no result.


"I think it is not only my right but my duty to make the true state of affairs known to every party member whom I consider to be sufficiently prepared, mature, self-restrained, and consequently capable of helping the party find a way out of this impasse without factional convulsions and upheavals."


Trotsky's letter was kept secret from the party rank and file.


On 15 October another letter was written, this time by a group of forty-six prominent party members. They issued a statement directed against the official leadership, criticising it in terms practically identical to those Trotsky had used. They declared that the country was threatened with economic ruin, because the "majority of the Politburo" did not see the need for planning in industry. The Forty Six also protested against the rule of the hierarchy of secretaries and the stifling of discussion:


"Members of the party who are dissatisfied with this or that decision of the central committee or even of a provincial committee, who have this or that doubt on their minds, who privately note this or that error, irregularity or disorder, are afraid to speak about it at party meetings, and are even afraid to talk about it in conversation.... Nowadays it is not the party, not its broad masses, who promote and choose members of the provincial committees and of the central committee of the RKP. On the contrary the secretarial hierarchy of the party to an ever greater extent recruits the membership of conferences and congresses which are becoming to an ever greater extent the executive assemblies of this hierarchy.... The position which has been created is explained by the fact that the regime is the dictatorship of a fraction within the party....


"The fractional regime must be abolished, and this must be done in the first instance by those who have created it; it must be replaced by a regime of comradely unity and internal party democracy."


The Forty Six went beyond Trotsky's letter of 8 October. They demanded that the ban on inner party groupings should be abolished. They finally asked the Central Committee to call an emergency conference to review the situation.


Among the Forty Six were Trotsky's closest political friends: Evgenii Preobrazhensky, the brilliant economist; Iuri Piatakov, the most able of the industrial administrators; Lev Sosnovsky, Pravda's gifted contributor; Ivan Smirnov, the victor over Kolchak; Antonov-Ovseenko, hero of the October insurrection, now chief political commissar of the Red Army; N. Muralov, commander of the Moscow garrison. Radek expressed solidarity with the Forty Six in a separate declaration. They formed the core of the so-called 1923 Opposition, and represented the Trotskyist element in it.


Besides them there were former adherents of the Workers' Opposition and Decemists (Democratic Centralists), like V. Smirnov, T. Sapronov, V. Kossior, A. Bubnov and V. Ossinsky, whose views differed from that of the Trotskyists. Many of the signatories appended strong reservations on special points to the common statement or expressed plain dissent. The Forty Six did not represent a solid faction, but a loose coalition of groups and individuals united only in a general protest against the lack of democracy in the party.


The fact that Trotsky did not sign the document of the Forty Six was symptomatic of his irresolute attitude and his unwillingness, so long as Lenin's recovery was still possible, to openly challenge the Troika. He thus also avoided the accusation of 'factionalism'.


The declaration of the Forty Six lost some of its sting by its admission that


"the present leaders would not in any conditions fail to be appointed by the party to the outstanding posts in the workers' dictatorship"


thus accepting that there was no alternative leadership available. The declaration was also weakened by the fact that the only concrete recommendation was the summoning of a conference of the Central Committee and active party workers to consider what should be done.


On 24 October Trotsky wrote another letter to the Central Committee criticising the inner-party regime, and referring especially to Lenin's sharp criticism of Rabkrin.


The Troika Reacts


The Central Committee and the Central Control Commission, together with delegates of ten leading party organisations, met for a plenary session from 25 to 27 October. The Troika used this session for counter measures against Trotsky and the Forty Six. Trotsky was kept away from the meeting by the onset of the mysterious illness which affected him most of that winter. In the latter part of October he had caught a severe chill while on a duck-hunting expedition, an occasion narrated at some length in his autobiography and accompanied by philosophical reflections on the role of accidents in history. The sequel was what he later called "a dogged, mysterious infection, the nature of which still remains a mystery to my physicians". The intermittent fever lasted well into January when Trotsky left Moscow for the Caucasus.


At the party conference, which followed this plenum on 16-18 January 1924, Preobrazhensky was the main Opposition spokesman, and he continued to carry this major task throughout the ensuing few months of what has become known as the New Course controversy. He offered to the Central Committee and the Plenum of the Central Control Commission a resolution embodying the principle of workers' democracy, including free expression and discussion, real control and election by the membership and an end to the dominance of the secretariat.


Preobrazhensky's proposal was rejected out of hand by the Troika. Instead they counter-attacked, accusing Trotsky and the Forty Six of factionalism.


The Troika justified the Central Committee's decision not to distribute the Declaration of the Forty Six on the grounds that it would violate the banning of factional activities pronounced by the Tenth Party Congress. At the same time, the Central Committee declared its acceptance of the principle of workers' democracy.


The resolution embodying both these elements was carried overwhelmingly at the party conference: by 102 votes to 2, with 10 abstentions. This was the springboard for the campaign against the Opposition which was shortly to begin.


News about the Opposition spread, and interest in their ideas was widespread. So the Troika was not satisfied merely with the refusal to publish Trotsky's letters of 8 and 15 October and the Declaration of the Forty Six, plus the threat of persecution of the Opposition. They decided to take the wind out of the Opposition's sails by adopting its principles as their own. In an article in Pravda on 7 November, entitled New Tasks of the Party, Zinoviev proclaimed:


"It is necessary that inner-party democracy, of which we have spoken so much, begins to a greater degree to take on flesh and blood.... Our chief trouble consists in the fact that almost all very important questions are pre-decided from above downwards."


A note appended to the article announced that the columns of the paper would be thrown open for a discussion in which party members, trade unionists and non-party people were invited to participate. The response was massive and the debate carried on in the columns of Pravda throughout the greater part of November. The Politburo appointed a sub-committee consisting of Stalin, Kamenev and Trotsky, to elaborate a resolution on party democracy. The Troika was ready to make verbal concessions to Trotsky, doing everything necessary to maintain the appearance of unity. They asked Trotsky to put his signature next to theirs under the text they had plagiarised from him. Since Trotsky himself had never come out openly in opposition to the Troika, this manoeuvre worked.


In terms of a description of the problems facing the country, the government and the party, the resolution proposed by Stalin, Kamenev and Trotsky was quite close to Trotsky's thinking. It was vague when prescribing for inner-party democracy, but did demand "a serious change of the party course in the direction of a real and systematic application of the principles of workers' democracy". But on the crucial issue of the control exercised by the centre over the appointment of local party secretaries it remained equivocal. It recalled that the party statute required the confirmation of such appointments by the highest party authority, but thought that the time had come, "in the light of the experience which we now have, especially of the lower organisations", to "verify the usefulness" of this and other similar restrictions on the autonomy of local branches. "In any case", concluded this section of the resolution, "the right to confirm secretaries cannot be allowed to be converted into their virtual nomination."


Whilst paying lip service to inner-party democracy, the resolution was adamant in condemning any factional grouping in the party.


"Workers democracy means the liberty of frank discussion of the most important questions of party life by all members, and the election of all leading party functionaries and commission by those bodies immediately under them. It does not, however, imply the freedom to form factional groupings, which are extremely dangerous for the ruling party, since they always threaten to split or fragment the government and the state apparatus as a whole."


While accepting inner-party democracy, the resolution condemned the Workers' Group and Workers' Truth, and by implication the Declaration of the Forty Six. It cited and endorsed the earlier resolution of the Central Committee of 25 October approving the "course set by the Politburo for inner-party democracy", sharply condemned the Forty Six and criticised Trotsky's letter of 8 October. This resolution was unanimously approved at the joint session of the Politburo and the Praesidium of the Central Control Commission on 5 December. The members of the Troika could heave a sigh of relief: the danger of an open split in which Trotsky would lead the rank and file of the party against them had once again been averted.


Trotsky attached the utmost importance to this resolution which he treated as a vindication of his own point of view. In the heat of subsequent controversy he described it as initiating a fourth period in party history, the previous periods being 'pre-October', 'October', and 'post-October'. In May 1924, at the Thirteenth Party Congress, he declared that the resolution gave him the essentials of what he wanted.


In words, the 5 December resolution was perhaps a victory for Trotsky. But the actual power to nominate the secretaries of provincial and local party committees, who played a crucial role in deciding the election of delegates to party congresses and conferences, remained with the Central Committee. The implementation of workers' democracy was to remain in the hands of the bureaucracy, and since the bureaucracy was determined to hold on to its power, the resolution settled nothing.


Trotsky's Elaboration On The New Course


Although he put his name to the Politburo resolution, Trotsky still feared it could become a paper concession by the Troika, who tried to use it to escape censure, as with the concessions they made to the resolutions at the Twelfth Party Congress. To prevent its becoming a dead letter, he decided to appeal to the rank and file of the party to put pressure on the leadership.


In a series of brief articles written for Pravda in December 1923 Trotsky elaborated on the theme of bureaucratic abuse and the lack of rank and file initiative and independence. In January 1924 this collection, together with another couple of hitherto unpublished articles, was issued as a pamphlet with the title The New Course. These articles contained in a nutshell most of the ideas which became the hallmark of 'Trotskyism'.


On 8 December Trotsky wrote an Open Letter to party members in which he made clear his position. He described the New Course as a historical turning point, but warned the rank and file that some of the leaders were already having second thoughts and trying to sabotage the New Course.


"The excessive centralisation of the apparatus at the expense of initiative engendered a feeling of uneasiness, an uneasiness which, at the extremities of the party, assumed an exceedingly morbid form and was translated, among other ways, in the appearance of illegal groupings directed by elements undeniably hostile to communism. At the same time, the whole of the party disapproved more and more of apparatus methods of solving questions. The idea, or at the very least the feeling, that bureaucratism threatened to get the party into a blind alley, had become quite general. Voices were raised to point out the danger. The resolution on the 'new course' is the first official expression of the change that has taken place in the party. It will be realised to the degree that the party, that is, its 400,000 members, want to realise it and succeed in doing so."


Trotsky then went on to appeal to the youth to assert themselves and not regard the Old Guard's authority as,


"absolute. It is only by constant active collaboration with the new generation, within the framework of democracy, that the Old Guard will preserve itself as a revolutionary factor. Of course, it may ossify and become unwittingly the most consummate expression of bureaucratism."


This was the first time Trotsky charged the Old Guard with the danger of "bureaucratic degeneration". He supported the charge by referring to the historical experience of the Second International.


"History offers us more than one case of degeneration of the 'Old Guard'. Let us take the most recent and striking example: that of the leaders of the parties of the Second International. We know that Wilhelm Liebknecht, Bebel, Singer, Viktor Adler, Kautsky, Bernstein, Lafargue, Guesde, and many others were the direct pupils of Marx and Engels. Yet we know that in the atmosphere of parliamentarism and under the influence of the automatic development of the party and the trade union apparatus, all these leaders turned, in whole or in part, to opportunism.


"...we, the 'elders', ought to say to ourselves plainly that our generation, which naturally enjoys the leading role in the party, is not absolutely guaranteed against the gradual and imperceptible weakening of the revolutionary and proletarian spirit in its ranks if the party were to tolerate the further growth and stabilisation of bureaucratic methods...."


Thus, after a delay of some nine months, Trotsky at last threw the bombshell Lenin expected him to throw at the Twelfth Party Congress. Now that Trotsky put himself publicly at the head of the Opposition, open political combat between the factions became inevitable....


The most damaging weakness of The New Course was that it represented the Opposition as the best defenders of party unity and the strongest opponents of inner party factions. Trotsky proposed not the allowing of factions, but a style of leadership that would render them unnecessary.


"We are the only party in the country, and in the period of the dictatorship it could not be otherwise.... the Communist Party is obliged to monopolise the direction of political life.


"It is incontestable that factions are a scourge in the present situation, and that groupings, even if temporary, may be transformed into factions.... The party does not want factions and will not tolerate them."


On the one hand the party was strangled by the bureaucracy, but on the other Trotsky was unwilling to call on social forces outside the party to combat the bureaucracy.


The very fact of the Opposition arguing against factionalism could not but play into the hands of the Troika who repeatedly accused the Opposition of being a faction.


The New Course calls on the party to guard its monopoly of power as the sole guarantee of the survival of the revolution. At the same time, within the party, it objects to the monopoly of power of the Old Guard. It was quite easy for the Troika and its adherents to argue that the latter was the necessary consequence of the former. If one had to substitute the 400,000 party members for the millions of the proletariat, should not the latter be substituted by the 'more reliable' veterans -- especially as 97 per cent of the party members in 1923 joined the party only after the October revolution?...


Finally, the stand for democracy in The New Course seemed of questionable validity when compared with Trotsky's (and Lenin's) position on the same issue at the Tenth Party Congress in March 1921. This is what Trotsky said then:


"The Workers' Opposition has come out with dangerous slogans, fetishising the principles of democracy. They seem to have placed the workers' voting rights above the Party, as though the Party did not have the right to defend its dictatorship even if that dictatorship were to collide for a time with the transitory mood of the workers' democracy.... What is indispensable is the consciousness, so to speak, of the revolutionary historical birthright of the Party, which is obliged to maintain its dictatorship in spite of the temporary vacillations in the elemental stirrings of the masses, in spite of the temporary vacillations even in the workers' milieu. That consciousness is for us the indispensable cement. It is not on the formal principle of workers' democracy that the dictatorship is based at any given moment, though the workers' democracy is, of course, the only method by whose help the masses are increasingly drawn into political life."


...Above all, the New Course controversy demonstrated the tragic problem of a proletariat which made up a small minority of the population, weakened by civil war, in the midst of a mass of peasantry in a backward rural country surrounded by world capitalism. In 1904 Trotsky wrote:


"It is only too clear that a proletariat capable of exercising its dictatorship over society will not tolerate any dictatorship over itself."


But what if the proletariat, due to conditions, ceases to be "capable of exercising its dictatorship over society"? [Cliff (1991), pp.25-40.]


The Campaign Against Trotsky


The Troika's Reaction To Trotsky's New Course


The reaction of the Troika to Trotsky's New Course was vehement. It began on 15 December 1923 with an article by Stalin in Pravda and a speech by Zinoviev in Petrograd (published in Pravda on 20 and 21 December). They both charged Trotsky with violating the unanimity of the Politburo by making a public statement in opposition to the unanimously adopted resolution of 5 December. From mid-December until the Thirteenth Party Conference -- of 16-18 January 1924 -- violent controversy raged in the key party organisations.


The Troika fired a barrage of criticism against Trotsky. He was accused of disloyalty to the Politburo, of criminally inciting the young against the Old Bolsheviks, who were the bearers of the revolutionary tradition. It was said to be wicked to turn the rank and file of the party against the apparatus: every good Bolshevik was aware of the crucial role of the apparatus in preserving and leading the party. Trotsky was equivocal over the ban on factions: he did not dare to challenge the decision of the Tenth Congress on the ban, but sought surreptitiously to undermine this decision. The Troika said he pretended to speak for the workers, but played up to the students and the intelligentsia. His hatred of the party apparatus, his slander of the Old Guard, his disrespect for the Bolshevik traditions and his underestimation of the peasantry; all these clearly demonstrated that he was alien to the party, to Lenin -- that he was still a semi-Menshevik....


Stalin's article opened the floodgates for the anti-Trotsky campaign. It aimed to divert the party's attention from the New Course discussion. The editor of Pravda, Nikolai Bukharin, made it clear that he supported the Troika by publishing an article entitled Down with Factionalism, which was described as The Reply of the Central Organ to the critics, and continued through five issues of Pravda (28, 29, 30 December 1923, and 1 and 4 January 1924)....


Scores of articles attacking the Opposition appeared in Pravda and only a tiny number of articles defending it. Certain Pravda staff members who favoured reporting both sides of the argument impartially were summarily sacked by order of the Central Control Commission. Trotsky's pamphlet The New Course was hardly to be found in any bookshop, as Max Eastman recorded. Everything possible was done to propagate the argument that Trotsky had always been hostile to Bolshevism, and that Trotskyism had always been a trend hostile to Lenin.


Isaac Deutscher is correct when he writes:


"In the long history of inner-party oppositions none had been weighed down by so heavy a load of accusations and none had been ground down so remorselessly by the party machine as was the 1923 Opposition. By comparison the Workers' Opposition had been treated fairly, almost generously; and the oppositions which had been active before 1921 had as a rule enjoyed unrestricted freedom of expression and organisation."


The party crisis of November-December 1923 was the last occasion on which Pravda provided a forum for conflicting groups within the party. Thereafter it spoke exclusively as the official voice of the Politburo.

The Thirteenth Party Conference


The preparations for the Thirteenth Party Conference, held in January 1924, were in the hands of the secretaries. The election of delegates was indirect and proceeded through several stages. At every stage the secretaries did their best to eliminate supporters of the Opposition....


The fear of reprisal was especially great because of the threat of the sack, with unemployment so massive and the power of the 'Red Manager' so great....


Students sympathetic to the Opposition were expelled from the universities in large numbers.


Opposition sympathisers were quite strong in the Red Army, so the oppositionist Antonov-Ovseenko was removed from the crucial post of head of the Political Administration of the Army. (Antonov-Ovseenko was replaced by A. Bubnov, a former Democratic Centralist and one of the signatories of the Declaration of the Forty Six, who now switched to the side of the Troika and became a supporter of Stalin until he was purged in the 1930s.)...


The party apparatus demonstrated its decisive power. The Opposition got only three delegates to the Thirteenth Party Conference out of 128 delegates with deciding votes (and 222 with consultative votes.)


Trotsky was not present at the conference. As we have already mentioned, in early January he left Moscow to recuperate at the Black Sea resort of Sukhum. The leadership of the Opposition at the conference fell to Preobrazhensky, Piatakov, Osinsky and Sapronov, none of whom had the authority of Trotsky.


The conference turned into an orgy of ferocity against the Opposition led by Stalin and supported by Zinoviev and Kamenev. Stalin's vitriolic attacks on Trotsky, in which he called him a Menshevik, 'patriarch of bureaucrats', and so on, culminated in a quote from the resolution of the Tenth Party Congress on the banning of factions in which the following hitherto undisclosed clause was revealed, requiring the Central Committee


" case (cases) of breach of discipline or of a revival or toleration of factionalism, to apply all-party penalties up to and including expulsion from the party.... A condition for the application of such an extreme measure (to members and candidate members of the CC and members of the Control Commission) must be the convocation of a plenum of the Central Committee to which all candidate members of the Central Committee and all members of the Control Commission shall be invited. If such a general assembly of the most responsible leaders of the Party by a two-thirds majority, considers it necessary to reduce a member of the Central Committee to the status of a candidate member, or to expel him from the Party, this measure shall be put into effect immediately."


The conference adopted a resolution denouncing the Opposition -- Trotsky and the Forty Six -- as guilty of "petty-bourgeois deviation from Leninism" and going on to state categorically:


"The Party will politically annihilate anyone who makes an attempt on the unity of the Party ranks. Party unity is more assured now than ever before....


"Decisive measures, up to expulsion from the Party, must be adopted against the spreading of unverified rumours and prohibited documents....


"The Conference orders the Central Committee to publish the previously unpublished seventh paragraph of the resolution 'On Party Unity' adopted at Comrade Lenin's proposal by the Tenth Congress, which entitles a joint meeting of the Central Committee and the Central Control Commission by two thirds majority to demote from member to candidate member, or even to expel from the Party, any Central Committee member who has violated Party discipline or has 'tolerated factionalism'."...


The Thirteenth Party Congress


...In payment for his support for Stalin at this difficult time Zinoviev earned the right to be the main speaker at the coming Congress by delivering the political report of the Central Committee. This turned out to be an almost hysterical call for unity of the party:


"In this hall there is not one man who would not be ready to give up everything for our party to be united, for this is the single serious prerequisite of all further successes of the revolution and all further successes of the Comintern."


In his extreme propagation of the idea of monolithic unity Zinoviev accused Trotsky of responsibility for the formation of factions and groupings. He taunted Trotsky for his charge of lack of inner-party democracy and the dominance of the bureaucracy in the party, argued that the party must become "a thousand times more monolithic than hitherto", and concluded by issuing a challenge to Trotsky to get up before the Congress and recant his errors....


This was the first time that dissidents in the party were called upon to disavow their ideas in order to escape censure. The demand for contrition would later be made of Zinoviev as well as all those who joined him in his demand for Trotsky to recant.


Trotsky was very isolated at the Congress. The Congress was attended by 748 delegates with a deciding vote and 416 with a consultative vote. The Opposition was represented by two with a consultative vote, Trotsky and Preobrazhensky. The party apparatus had done its job ruthlessly. Only four months before, on the eve of the Thirteenth Party Conference, thousands of party members had supported the Opposition.


Trotsky made a much shorter speech than he usually did at party congresses. He said very little about the economic issues, although he reiterated his demand for more planning and repeated his accusation that "the party, in the form of its leading apparatus, did not approach the tasks of planned guidance of the economy with the necessary energy". He spoke with extreme moderation, reasserting his opposition to factionalism and his loyal submission to the discipline of the party. He went on to praise the 'Lenin Levy' as a demonstration of the "increased confidence of the working masses in the party.... Undoubtedly the Lenin levy brought our party closer to being an elected party."...


He went on to vehemently deny the allegation that he supported the right of factions or groupings to exist in the party.


" democracy in no way implies freedom for factional groupings, which are extremely dangerous for the ruling party, since they always threaten to split or divide the government and the state apparatus as a whole. I believe this is undisputed and indisputable....


"The report that I was in favour of allowing groupings is not true. It was impermissible to draw distinctions between factions and groupings...under the present historical conditions groupings are merely another name for factions."


In the final part of his speech Trotsky could not but express his real anger at Zinoviev's call on him to recant:


"Comrades, an invitation was extended here for all who have committed errors to stand up and confess them. Nothing could be simpler or easier, morally and politically, than to admit before your own party that you have made this or that mistake. For that, I believe, no great moral heroism is required."


But the resolution of 5 December 1923 constituted an admission by the Central Committee that it had made mistakes and that a new course should be set. Those whose warnings had prompted that resolution could not now declare themselves to have been wrong.


"Comrades, none of us wants to be or can be right against the party. In the last analysis, the party is always right, because the party is the sole historical instrument that the working class possesses for the solution of its fundamental tasks. I have already said that nothing would be simpler than to say before the party that all these criticisms, all these declarations, warnings, and protests -- all were mistaken from beginning to end. I cannot say so, however, comrades, because I do not think it. I know that no one can be right against the party. It is only possible to be right with the party and through it since history has not created any other way to determine the correct position.


"The English have a proverb: My country right or wrong. We can say with much greater historical justification: whether it is right or wrong in any particular, specific question at any particular moment, this is my party."


Trotsky went on to say he could not vote for the resolution of the Thirteenth Party Conference which had condemned him.


"Not only an individual party member but even the party itself can make occasional mistakes; such mistakes, for instance, were represented by individual decisions of the last conference, certain parts of which I believe were incorrect and unjustified. But the party could not make any decision, no matter how incorrect and unjustified, that could shake by even one iota our total devotion to the cause of the party, and the readiness of every one of us to shoulder the responsibility of party discipline under all circumstances. And if the party passes a resolution that one or another of us considers unjust, that comrade will say: Right or wrong, this is my party, and I will take responsibility for its decision to the end."


Trotsky refused to recant his ideas -- party discipline required only that once outvoted he agreed to abide by the majority in action.


Trotsky's restrained speech did not save him from torrents of abuse. One delegate after another attacked him. All the leaders of the European communist parties present, except the French, rose to add their voices to the shower of abuse rained upon him. Hypocritically seizing on the ambiguity in Trotsky's statement that "none of us wants to be or can be right against the party", Stalin and Zinoviev twisted the knife in the wound....


The main resolution of the Congress confirmed the verdict of the Thirteenth Party Conference on the "petty-bourgeois deviation" of the Opposition, and praised the Central Committee for its "firmness and Bolshevik defending the foundations of Leninism against petty bourgeois deviation."


"The slightest factionalism must be prosecuted most severely. The firm and monolithic quality of the RKP, based on the firm principles of Leninism, are the most important prerequisite for the further successes of the revolution."


The Thirteenth Congress closed the discussion in the party, and prohibited Trotsky from speaking in public about the disputed questions.


Trotsky, isolated and depressed, had been routed in his absence at the Thirteenth Party Conference in January; now in May, at the Party Congress, the complete collapse of his influence and authority was further confirmed....


The real tragedy of Trotsky was that while he opposed the Troika that dominated the party, he still was not ready to go to the mass of the workers outside of the party or even the rank and file of the party as this would violate the ban on factionalism that Lenin, with his support, had imposed on the party at the Tenth Congress. Above all Trotsky was afraid to mobilise non-party people, many of whom were influenced by Mensheviks, SRs and others, who, together with the new bourgeoisie of the NEP, raised their heads in opposition to Bolshevism. He still considered the Communist Party to be the revolutionary party and thought that his place was inside it whatever happened. When many years later Trotsky wrote in an obituary of Krupskaya that "her revolutionary instinct came into conflict with her spirit of discipline" he was laying bare his own plight. [Ibid., pp.41-59.]




In relation to the earlier ban on factions, this is what Cliff had to say:


The Fight To Defend Party Democracy


The undermining of inner party democracy did not take place without vigorous protests from party members. K.K. Iurenev, for example, spoke at the Ninth Congress of the methods used by the central committee to suppress criticism, including the virtual exile of the critics: "One goes to Christiana, another sent to the Urals, a third -- to Siberia". He said that in its attitude towards the party the central committee had become "not accountable ministry, but unaccountable government".


At the same congress, V.N. Maksimovsky counterposed "democratic centralism" to the "bureaucratic centralism" for which the centre was responsible. "It is said," he commented, "that fish begin to putrefy from the head. The party begins to suffer at the top from the influence of bureaucratic centralism." Iakovlev stated: "Ukraine has become a place of exile. Comrades unwanted for one reason or another in Moscow are exiled there." Sapronov declared:


"However much you talk about electoral rights, about the dictatorship of the proletariat, the striving of the central committee for party dictatorship in fact leads to the dictatorship of the party bureaucracy."


Nevertheless, throughout the civil war, the atmosphere of free discussion in party conferences and congresses was maintained. During the debate on the Brest-Litovsk peace treaty the party enjoyed, in the words of E.H. Carr, "a freedom and publicity of discussion rarely practised by any party on vital issues of public policy." Bukharin's pamphlet defending "Left Communism" against Lenin's position was published in May 1918 in one million copies.


In the trade union debate the democratic traditions of Bolshevism remained clear. As Robert V. Daniels, a historian not sympathetic to Bolshevism, put it: "The fall of 1920 was the high point of open discussion in the Communist Party and of free opposition to the leaders' authority." Victor Serge wrote of the situation in the party during the civil war:


"[The party's] thinking is...very lively and free. It welcomes the anarchists and Left Social Revolutionaries of yesterday....


"Nobody is afraid to contradict Lenin or to criticise him. His authority was so little imposed, the democratic manners of the revolution were still so natural, that it was a matter of course for any revolutionary, no matter how recent a recruit, to express himself frankly in the presence of the man who headed the party and the state. Lenin was more than once criticised unsparingly, in factories or conferences, by totally unknown people. He listened to his contestants coolly and replied to them in a commonsense manner."


The Banning Of Factions


At the Tenth Party Congress, meeting in the shadow of the Kronstadt uprising, Lenin moved a resolution to ban all factions, which the congress approved:


"The congress orders the immediate dissolution, without exception, of all groups that have been formed on the basis of some platform or other, and instructs all organisations to be very strict in ensuring that no manifestations of factionalism of any sort be tolerated. Failure to comply with this resolution of the congress is to entail unconditional and immediate expulsion from the party."


To this was added a secret article giving the central committee unlimited disciplinary discretion:


"the congress authorises the central committee, in cases of breach of discipline or of a revival or toleration of factionalism, to apply all party penalties, including expulsion."


Members of the central committee could themselves be expelled from the party by a two-thirds vote at a combined meeting of the central committee and the party control commission.


The banning of factional activity was not regarded as an absolute measure. When Riazanov proposed an amendment to rule out elections to the central committee on the basis of separate groups, each standing on its separate platform, Lenin objected:


"We cannot deprive the party and the members of the central committee of the right to appeal to the party in the event of disagreement on fundamental issues.... Supposing we are faced with a question like, say, the conclusion of the Brest peace? Can you guarantee that no such question will arise? No, you cannot. In the circumstances, the elections may have to be based on platforms."


That the banning of factions did not mean the banning of all inner-party opposition was clear not only from this exchange between Lenin and Riazanov, but also from the fact that the resolution On Party Unity itself invited dissidents to state their views in the Bolshevik press as well as in special discussion sheets.


Lenin also went out of his way to emphasise that there was substance in the Workers' Opposition's criticisms of the situation in the party and state. He referred to "the services of the Workers' Opposition". In the resolution on party unity he included the following:


"the congress at the same time declares that every practical proposal concerning questions to which the so-called Workers' Opposition group, for example, has devoted special attention, such as purging the party of non-proletarian and unreliable elements, combating bureaucratic practices, developing democracy and workers' initiative...must be examined with the greatest care and tested in practice."


Even in the darkest days of the civil war, factions had not been banned in the Bolshevik Party. The Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries were harassed, now outlawed, now allowed to come out into the open. Such policy changes were dictated by the circumstances of the war, and by the vacillations of these parties. But at the Tenth Party Congress in March 1921 not only were these parties outlawed, but so also were factions inside the ruling Bolshevik Party. There was a feeling among the Bolsheviks that there was no alternative. Perhaps the attitude of the party was best summed up in Radek's words to the congress:


"In voting for this resolution, I feel that it can well be turned against us, and nevertheless I support it.... Let the central committee in a moment of danger take the severest of measures against the best party comrades, if it finds this necessary. Let the central committee even be mistaken! That is less dangerous than the wavering which is now observable."


In general one can say that at this time Trotsky was an enthusiastic supporter of the claims of authority and centralisation in the party. He seems to have been less sensitive than Lenin to the dangers inherent in the situation -- only later, in 1923, does he become aware of the bureaucratic threat. But while Trotsky supported this accumulation of bureaucratic power, he was not himself centrally involved in it. The party and state apparatus was increasingly falling under the control of Stalin and his faction -- a fact that was to become immensely important after the departure of Lenin. [Cliff (1990), pp.199-201.]




It is clear then that the ban on factions was, for Lenin, a temporary measure forced on the party by exigent circumstances. However, as Cliff also notes:


"The Bolshevik Party programme adopted in March 1919 made it clear that the restriction of the rights of other parties was only temporary. Thus it stated: "...the forfeiture of political rights, and whatever limitations may be imposed upon freedom, are necessary only as temporary measures." However, the circumstances conspired to demonstrate that sometimes there is nothing more permanent than what is intended to be temporary." [Ibid., p.193. Bold emphasis added.]


Indeed, they have so conspired ever since...



Appendix G -- Resignations From The UK-SWP And The IST -- 2013


In this section I will post several relevant letters (that have been posted on-line) which attempt to explain why their authors were resigning from the UK-SWP and/or the IST -- individually or collectively -- in the light of the Special Conference of the 10th of March 2013. There were, of course, several such letters posted before this conference took place --, for example Tom Walker's. [Tom used to be a Socialist Worker journalist.]


[In what follows, I have corrected several minor typos, and have re-formatted this material to conform to the conventions adopted at this site. Most of the links have been added. Spelling altered to UK English.]


A) Resigning From The SWP -- My Email To The Central Committee

I am writing to notify you of my resignation from the Socialist Workers Party.

I am making this decision as I cannot in all conscience remain a party member following the travesty that passed for a Special Conference today. Quite aside from the gerrymandering of speaking times, aggregates and delegations, the decisions taken today are not ones that I am in any willing to accept. The effect of these decisions will be to further isolate the SWP from the rest of the Labour movement -- already a number of trade unionists and academics are boycotting the party, and this will only increase now the party has failed this most basic of tests.

The SWP is not a safe place for women. The revelations that appeared in Saturday's Guardian indicate that repeatedly where women have come forward to report rapes by senior party members, their experience has been one of being horrifically mistreated. The statement from Charlie Kimber and Pat Stack is utterly inadequate as a response. I don't care how unpleasant Nick Cohen is (hint -- it's very), here we have a woman reporting how she was raped by a party organiser, and what happened to her when she reported it to the party's Disputes Committee. And the official response of the party is to claim she's not being truthful about it. This is unacceptable. This woman, like others, was failed miserably by the SWP when she sought redress from its official structures. I do not believe that any woman can now have confidence in bringing a similar complaint before the Disputes Committee, and abusive men will know they can get away with these acts. Having appeared as a witness at the DC hearing of the
Facebook Four, I can confirm that the Kangaroo Court analogy is more than apt. How can I stay in such an organisation? Who would I ever want to recruit to it?

This has not been an easy decision
. I joined the SWP in 2002. In that time I have been a Paper Organiser, Branch Secretary, District Organiser and a Fraction Convenor, as well as serving as a shop steward in 3 different unions and a Branch Secretary in the PCS. I value much of what I have learned from other SWP members in that time -- even in recent years where I have had significant differences with the party's perspectives, my relationships and discussions with comrades have remained fraternal. However, since December there has been a marked shift in this. I have been personally abused at every branch meeting I have attended in that time, as have other oppositional comrades. Vicious rumours have been spread about me by long-standing party members in an attempt to personally discredit me. I have been physically threatened. All of this because I stood in solidarity, first with the victims of rape and sexual harassment (who party members have happily lied about), and secondly with four comrades who were expelled on a trumped-up charge shortly before conference for their attempts to stop the CC from damaging the SWP in this way. This is not the behaviour of a revolutionary party, it is the behaviour of a cult. I have no intention of remaining in a cult.

Andy Lawson, Hackney East


[Quoted from here. (This link no longer works!)]


B) Resigning From The Socialist Workers' Party


This is the first mass resignation from the SWP:


FAO the Central Committee of the Socialist Workers Party


We, the undersigned, are writing to you to inform you that we can no longer remain in the Socialist Workers Party. The organisation's tradition of fighting women's oppression has been seriously undermined by the handling of a number of rape and sexual harassment allegations by the Disputes Committee and the Central Committee and the crisis of democracy and accountability in the party this has laid bare.


The SWP leadership has done everything it can to silence members' genuine concerns on the matter including:

Expelling four comrades for discussing concerns about how the rape allegation was handled;
Gerrymandering and abusing bureaucratic measures in conference, aggregates and district meetings;
Sitting back whilst the Central Committee supporters have bullied the complainants, their supporters, and any member of the opposition.


We are not prepared to accept or abide by the decisions of the special conference. The conference is a bureaucratic victory which will only lead to the demise of the SWP. The reputation of the SWP in the movement is irreparably damaged as a result of the handling of these complaints by the Disputes Committee and the leadership's determination to protect one member rather than to develop a clear perspective on rape and consent.


The SWP leadership have utterly failed to uphold the organisation's core principles of women's liberation. This is corrosive to the party and thus it is not in spite but because of our commitment to the struggle that we feel forced to leave in order that we can remain committed socialists who can build militant activity in our workplaces and communities. We will not put the party before the class, or the organisation before our principles.


We stand in solidarity and comradeship with those who remain in the party and attempt to save it, but we can no longer do so.


In solidarity,


Adam F, Brixton
Adam T, Portsmouth
Aidan B, Sheffield North
Alaina B, Sussex & Brighton
Alan R, Edinburgh
Alex A, Oxford
Alex W,  Leeds Central
Alexej K, Bristol North
Alice B, Edinburgh
Alice S, Leeds Central

Alistair H, Sheffield North
Allan M, Luton
Amy N, Cardiff
Amy A, Oxford
Amy W, Portsmouth
Andrew B, Camden/Hackney
Andrew B, York
Andy B, Kent
Andy G, Leicester
Andy L, Hackney East

Ashleigh F, Bristol North
Ayan C, Bristol North
Becca D, Leicester
Becky J, Liverpool
Ben S, Kent
Brian C, Bradford
Bryan S, Camden
China M, Brent and Harrow
Chris B, Sussex & Brighton
Christina R, Portsmouth

Christopher R, Hoddeson
Ciara S, Tower Hamlets
Ciaran O, Lewisham
Damon S, Middlesbrough
Danny J, Manchester City Centre
Darren H, Bradford/Leeds Met UCU
David C, Southend
Dave M, Brixton
David P, Liverpool
Emma R, Norwich

Emma W, Oxford
Frances P, Portsmouth
Gill T, Walthamstow
Gina E, Doncaster
Glenn D, Newcastle
Gonzalo P, Euston
Hannah E, Sussex & Brighton
Hester D, Leeds Central
Holly S, Walthamstow
Ian S, Hastings

Jacob L, Leicester
Jackson B, Sheffield
Jake D, Tottenham
Jake P, Euston
James N, Leytonstone
Jamie A, Euston
Jamie P, Tottenham
Jen I, LSE
Jenny M, Hackney East
Jenny R, Leicester

Jessamie F, Sussex & Brighton
Jessica R, Wandsworth & Merton
Jim K, Hull
Joe R, Portsmouth
Joe W, Portsmouth
John B, Euston
John C, Glasgow South
John G, Euston
John R, Portsmouth
Joseph B, Kent

Jules A, Liverpool
Kaity S, Portsmouth
Kat B, Cardiff
Kathryn G, Bristol South
Keith W, Canterbury
Kieran C, Camden
Kris S, Wandsworth and Merton
Kristina I, Sussex and Brighton
Lewis P, Sussex and Brighton
Liam H, Gravesham/Medway Branch

Linda R, Edinburgh
Mariya P, Leicester
Mark H, Hornsey & Wood Green
Martyn C, Sussex & Brighton
Martin P, Sheffield
Matt H, Sheffield South
Matt H, Bristol North
Max B, Sheffield South
Michele S, Norwich
Mike R, Brighton

Miriam J, Manchester
Naomi J, Canterbury
Nathan A, Oxford
Nick F, Liverpool
Nick W , Brighton
Nicole L, Brixton Branch
Paul L, Leicester
Penny S, Oxford
Peter A, Preston
Pippa G, Liverpool

Raoul L, Coventry
Raymond W, Edinburgh Branch
Rebecca D, Bristol North
Richard S, Hornsey & Wood Green
Richard T, Bristol East
Rob M, Bristol East
Roisin B, Sheffield North
Rosalie K, Hull
Rowan L, Brixton
Ryan H, Liverpool

Ryan P, Brighton
Sam B, Bristol North
Samuel G, Islington
Sarah W, Portsmouth
Sophie S, York
Stacey M, Nottingham/Glasgow
Stephen B, York
Steven S, Liverpool
Tom J, Liverpool
Tom M, Leicester

Tom S, Lewisham
Toni M, Bristol South
Wendy W, Edinburgh
Will R, Canterbury
Will T, Lancaster
Zoe W, Euston


[Quoted from here.]


The above list has grown from 70 to 126 since early March.


[Some of these names re-appear in the list below.]


C) Resignation Of Brighton And Sussex SWSS


[This is probably the SWP most effective SWSS, and was a leading force in the recent occupation of Sussex University -- RL.]


Following yesterday's Special Conference, we the undersigned members of Brighton and Sussex SWSS have decided to resign from the Socialist Workers Party. The experience of recent weeks has been profoundly disheartening to us all and we cannot reconcile those experiences with the fundamental tenets of women's liberation (feminism). We do not make light of this decision however we cannot continue as members in good conscience. We extend our solidarity to all those comrades that continue to defend the best of our tradition in the organisation and reaffirm our commitment to the cause  of international socialism -fighting capitalist oppression in all its shapes and forms. We will continue to be active on our campuses and in our community, building campaigns alongside our comrades inside the SWP and elsewhere in the movement.

Alaina B
Chris B
Hannah E
Ian L
Jess F
Martyn C
Lewis P
Mike R
Nick W


Quoted from here.


D) Jennifer Marks


After being in the party for ten [years] I have come to the decision the party is going in a direction that I do not feel morally comfortable with.

It has stepped over boundaries with I cannot condone and has become sectarian in the way that it has treated comrades and handled the situation regarding the Facebook 4.

CC members have lied and have made up rules to suit themselves. Even though I do believe that there has to be a party the way that the party has acted has gone too far. I hope that in the future that the party can be mended but I will not be apart of an organization that puts 1 comrade in front of the whole party and that is what has happened and all I have to say now is:

fuck you to the cc… and martin smith.


[Quoted from here.]


E) Dave Marsh


Come April I would have been a member of the SWP for ten years if I hadn't resigned today. I joined the SWP when I was 20 years old because I felt they were the most militant, the best class fighters, the best tribunes of the oppressed. The latter is especially important, as I grew up having to deal with Autism; being bullied continually at school, being made to feel like an outsider, an outcast and a weirdo. I was so glad to find a bunch of people who I thought felt the same as me, who wanted an end to the injustice of capitalism and sought to replace it with a system based on working class power.

However comrades, it is obvious that the party is not what it seems. Never mind "the dark side of the internet", this crisis has shown the dark side of the SWP. If it's not obvious already, I feel profound disgust at the way several women have been treated by the Disputes Committee, the CC and their supporters in their respective districts. Comrades you are doing yourselves a disservice by attacking these women and claiming these women are liars, instead of trusting women when they come forward with their experiences of rape and sexual harassment, you chose to protect the leading accused member.

The events of the last few months have shown that the party internally is not in a healthy state, four comrades were inexplicably expelled before the January 2013 conference simply for raising objections amongst one another in a private Facebook conversation, comrades have been shouted at, made to feel like shit for speaking out, members have been accused of "factionalism" just for writing articles critical of the party's internal bureaucracy. Increasingly mad calls for expulsions are the order of the day. The party apparatus has been used to gain support for the CC faction's line (and yes it is a faction comrades, the only allowed permanent one, you can stop that internal dialogue you're having right now) and where that faction has a slim majority the votes to the special conference have been organised to ensure that party members who are active in united fronts or campaigns, members who are branch organisers, paper organisers, members who are leading members of the black and student caucuses to deny the right to have their say.

I hope that in the future we can have a party that is dedicated to open and free debate, where vigorous disagreement and controversy are the norm, where comrades are respected and welcomed to disagree with the majority. Sadly it is not the case with the SWP. Neither can it be assumed anymore, that it is a safe place for women.

I stand in solidarity with anyone who wishes to continue to fight for the SWP, and I sincerely, genuinely hope you win, but just as the oft repeated phrase "optimism of the will, pessimism of the intellect" states, I don't believe the SWP can be won. It is going the way of a sect. The bureaucracy is too entrenched, too willing to protect themselves and their status, rather than admit their mistakes.

I hope to work with all of you in the future, no matter what your position was in this crisis.



[Quoted from here. (This link no longer works!)]


F) Richard Seymour


[Some Links added -- RL.]


As of 9pm this evening, I was no longer a member of the Socialist Workers' Party. I have resigned from the party with an initial 71 others. [See the above list -- RL] Further resignations are afoot. This explanation, for me, sums it up:


"We are not prepared to accept or abide by the decisions of the special conference. The conference is a bureaucratic victory which will only lead to the demise of the SWP. The reputation of the SWP in the movement is irreparably damaged as a result of the handling of these complaints by the Disputes Committee and the leadership's determination to protect one member rather than to develop a clear perspective on rape and consent."


I will be writing a lot about what has happened: there is much to say. (It may surprise certain party members to read this, but I have actually been quite disciplined in the two months since I first wrote about the crisis in the SWP. I have held a lot back.) For now, I just want to say a few things.


First, I think the party is over. However, many members will stay on in the organisation and attempt to fight, even within the constraints of post-conference 'discipline', for a change in the party. These are among the most talented, committed and active people in the group. Some people weirdly think the current Central Committee is somehow irreplaceable. I think you could put together any random collection of people from the faction, in any number or combination, and they'd make a better leadership. (This isn't to damn them with faint praise.) Their decision to stay on and continue to fight, though I believe it to be mistaken, is very brave given the climate in some parts of the party now. Some members have already put up with months of abuse and stupidity: just off the top of my head, I can think of the insanely arrogant, self-serving statement by Sheffield apparatchiks that was included with the internal bulletin, slagging off the student members for their feminist deviations. Those same wised up hacks are already cracking knuckles and laying down arbitrary rules. People who are ready to stick it out in this context have my complete respect, even if not my full agreement. I stress this because some people outside the organisation, who don't understand what's happening, will rush to assume that every member who doesn't leave is tainted, agrees with everything that has happened, and so on. Don't make that assumption.


Second, in stark contrast, one is dispirited by the complete moral and intellectual degeneration in some quarters that has been occasioned by this crisis. The hacks, of course, surprise no one, because they have no moral or intellectual standards. Master dialecticians, they can defend any barbarity to their own satisfaction. They're still telling themselves, no doubt, that all this stuff about rape and sexual harassment is a pack of lies dreamed up to hurt the party: by MI5 agents, Bamberyites, Poulantzians, whoever. They're telling themselves right now that we can always grow more students, and that this whole thing has been caused by a hard minority of malcontents, the Sino-Seymourite conspiracy. But some seemingly normal party members, where they haven't simply started to sound like Scientologists, have begun to make arguments that should shame any socialist. And then there are those party sages who had a reputation for probity. John Molyneux! What happened to this man? His letter to SWP members about this crisis, eventually used as the basis for a motion to be submitted to the National Council, was stunning for its capitulation to bureaucratic irrationality.


Thirdly, one is simply astounded by how inadequate, corrupt, stupid, narrow-mindedly bureaucratic and delusional the leadership of the SWP has proven to be. It is not just that having covered up serious sexual allegations, and so disastrously failed at least two female comrades, they can admit no fault. It is not just the absurd, scholastic, apolitical explanations they give for doing so, or the tragic retreat into bunkered dogma that has accompanied this. It is not just that they lie with impunity. It is not just that they ducked a real debate, with their absurd rules limiting faction speakers at aggregates, and their gerrymandering of conference. It is not just that even now many of them are desperate to get the accused back into the leadership as soon as can conveniently be arranged. It is not just that their response to the most recent allegations by a female ex-member was to effectively dismiss her as a liar, without investigating further. It is that, having done a Jonestown, they think they've just triumphed.


Finally, as much as I admire and respect all of those who have fought for the party's soul from within, I also want to register my gratitude to those in the International Socialist tendency who supported the fight, and also to those outside the party whose solidarity has been genuine, and who have - despite real differences with the SWP -- taken a principled position without using this simply to bash the party. I include 'the likes of' Laurie Penny and Owen Jones in the latter, despite their movementist, reformist or feminist deviations.


[Quoted from here.]


G) Resignation From Liverpool SWP


I have reluctantly decided to resign from the Liverpool SWP and briefly I will give my reasons. Firstly let me note this resignation is primarily addressed to my comrades, the comrades who in the main rallied to IDOOP [In Defence Of Our Party -- RL], the best in the branch, motivated by the authentic revolutionary spirit of the IS tradition, those comrades who, unsurprisingly were the real backbone of the branch, who will probably be counted on to sustain what is left of the wreckage created by the mendacious behaviour of what is clearly the politically weakest and most bankrupt CC the SWP has ever had, when others slope back off into the background.

If all we had lost at the gerrymandered Special Conference was motions to address the democratic deficit in the party, with the CC enjoining us to continue living with this sclerotic Zinovievite model of Leninism, or put aside criticisms of bureaucratic and Potemkin 'united fronts' or our skepticism about overly sunny evaluations of Tory weakness that evade the impact of neo-liberalism on the working class, then I would still be in the branch and active as I had planned. I would have stayed and accepted these political differences, arguing my corner as revolutionaries must but also fighting to build an organization of clear eyed, unsentimental revolutionary partisans of the working class and tribunes of the oppressed, that I still believe is desperately needed.

But I don't think that is possible when it comes to a failure by the party leadership to address, let us be blunt and honest, an allegation of serious sexual assault by the most senior figure in the party at the time (within touching distance of 50 years old) against a 17 year old woman. The SWP CC imagine they will be able to rehabilitate 'delta' after their bureaucratically finessed 'victory' but they won't. Far more importantly the SWP CC blew the opportunity to rehabilitate the party itself. The gravity of the crisis has entirely eluded this CC and that is no surprise because very early on they decided they would bury this scandal and the usual methods of indirection -- we have the Tories to fight, unite, unite, unite, fingers in ears -- would suffice. Instead a long, painful spiral of decline for a pariah organization that few will happily work with across the wider movement now surely beckons. So although I entirely respect your decision to stay for now and appreciate the real dilemmas we all face as a community of militants in terms of organizing to fight effectively, I must fraternally I disagree about staying though there is still much to retrieved from the wreckage.

I will be active in the International Socialist Network and the broader movement (not the 'outside' or the wilderness as some comrades tend to think of everyone -- the working class -- outside party ranks in a curious example of sectarian myopia) and I know that I will be collaborating and working alongside the best comrades who remain in Liverpool branch in that wider movement. Hopefully we will eventually come together in the mass revolutionary organization for, and of, the working class that is required in Britain.

This final part of my resignation is addressed only to the 'comrades' who have shown they are entirely ignorant of the traditions of the Bolshevik party, its democracy, its serial controversies (the lifeblood of Bolshevism according to Lenin), its tumult. It is addressed to the 'comrades' who appear happily innocent of the IS tradition and its properly rebellious spirit, the comrades who worshiped at the shrine of 'Cliffy', the 'comrades' who were the most monotonously hackish in the branch whilst I was there, whose interminable contributions induced headaches, whose 'experience' was so much bromide and who sadly evinced a startling absence of anything resembling wisdom that you might have usefully imparted to, say, the 17 year old woman from the anti-cuts group who showed at branch to check us out. This wisdom if you had possessed it might have helped you navigate the SWP's self induced crisis, to see the truth of the situation, to put yourself in the shoes of any young activist, male or female, considering whether the SWP was a community of militants worth belonging to, that they could own. Or that they might be safe in? Outraged and disgusted at my suggestion? Exactly. Considering whether you will be safe in a socialist organization ostensibly committed to the emancipation of humanity should not really be a consideration should it? This addressed to the 'comrades' whose extraordinary branch emails, all menacing indignation and heresy hunting, by turns cock of the walk and neurotically insecure, have left me agog at the arrogance and stupidity and depressed at the future of the branch if it is these hands. Finally this is addressed to the 'comrades' who would choose to remain blissfully ignorant of what our ex-National Secretary got up to but arranged to have Luke Staunton excluded from the branch and party. With your conduct throughout I believe you have effectively spat in the face of the future and I have nothing but the utmost contempt for you all.

For you the party became a comfort blanket, and you behaved as bureaucrats, sectarians, Menshevik birds of passage in your actions, not as revolutionary tribunes of our class.

Jules Alford,

[Quoted from here. (This link no longer works!)]


H) Leeds University SWSS Disaffiliates From The SWP


In response to the recent crisis engulfing the SWP over its mishandling of rape allegations, Leeds University Socialist Workers Student Society would like to announce our disaffiliation from the organisation.


We feel this step is necessary because of the party's inherent sexism and bureaucratised democratic structure, which has also historically subordinated the role of Socialist Workers Student Society. The treatment of dissident voices within the party and subsequent bullying and intimidation of young members has made our continued affiliation untenable.


We believe democracy and women's liberation are the foundations of a truly revolutionary movement. As such, we have decided to reconstitute our group with these principles at our core, under the name Revolutionary Socialists (RevSoc).


We are committed to the fight against capitalism, oppression and imperialism and will work with all those in the movement who share these goals, in a non-sectarian manner.


As a group, want to work towards left unity on campus, building on our recent successes of working with other activists. We extend our invitation to all staff and students to contact us who share our dedication to creating a viable socialist alternative.




Leeds University Revolutionary Socialists (RevSoc)






[Quoted from here.]


I) Anthony MA


As a "paper" member who has done little since the late 90's but kept as informed as possible while attempting to hold to my principals in everyday life, I was nevertheless incredibly proud of being part of an organisation that fought on so many fronts and defended so many from the attacks they face under this system. However I cancelled by party subs and sent off a resignation email today. I have read a lot, not evenly from both sides as the CC seem to be lacking in any specific arguments and the excuses they did put forward made me physically cringe when reading them. However I have read all I could find and even based on one or two of the undisputed facts I found it impossible to feel anything but disgust at the behaviour of a leadership I for many years looked to for a clear answer on how to make the world a better place. I am not interested in those that believe they have found justification for these actions in the writings of Marx and Lenin, you show yourselves to be deluded in the most complete fashion. Richard I am glad you walked up to the party stall that day and joined with your convictions and energy and I applaud your decision and that of those who proceeded and joined you in leaving over this debacle.


[Quoted from here -- in the comments section.]


J) A Resignation Statement


I joined the SWP in February 1977, just after the party had changed its name (and always regretted never having been in the IS). I went straight into the thick of things -- Grunwicks, Lewisham, Right to Work marches and then the ANL [Anti-Nazi League -- RL]. I lost my job as a result, got thumpings and death threats from the NF and ended up, unemployed with a young daughter, selling the paper on my own in Chester through the Falklands war. Never regretted a moment of it and don't now.

Later in the 1980's I got work in welfare rights, a field I've stayed in ever since; politically ambiguous because it involves individual advocacy, rather than collective action but it earned me a living and at least did no harm. Did my bit during the miners' strike and waited for better times. But things are a bit different in a modest provincial city rather than a metropolis. You work with the rest of the left -- Militant and CND at the time -- because you have to. The SWP kept me active and, yes, probably did keep me out of Cliff's swamp, preventing cosy compromises.

But by the end of the 80's I had a problem: the poll tax. The SWP took a disgracefully sectarian turn, in active opposition to the non-payment campaign. Let no-one tell you this was a principled position, arguing for action by council workers. It may have started like that but it went on, long after it was obvious that there was going to be a mass campaign of non-payment, as a reflex opposition to anything the Millies were doing. So I ignored the party and worked in the anti-poll tax unions. Fortunately the SWP changed position -- just in time for the first Iraq war.

We talk about the IS tradition, meaning the ideas of state capitalism, the permanent arms economy, deflected permanent revolution and so on. But just as important is the ingrained tradition of praxis found in the party. And in the SWP perhaps the strongest such tradition is that we know what to do when our ruling class starts a war. We oppose it, actively and up front, whatever the difficulties. The period of my political activity of which I am most proud is the early 90's when the poll tax and the anti-war campaigns ran into and fed from each other.

And so the reactionary '80's became the nondescript '90's. Without having a very clear idea what was going on (remember 'the 1930's in slow motion' anyone?) the SWP grew quite impressively, partly because we were the only people left standing after the collapse of communism . I joined in intermittently.

Then came 9/11. Stop the War swept us all up and along. I woke up one day at a Merseyside aggregate to find John Rees telling us that because a Labour left challenge to Blairism had failed to materialise we were going to have to provide it ourselves, through Respect. News to me, having spent the whole of the 1980's arguing against Labourist perspectives, (and having tried to make a real go the Socialist Alliance). Never mind, the leadership had real, earned in action, authority back then.

But has anything gone right since?


You think you won in Hammersmith. You didn't: you lost. For all the foot-stamping and cheering you lost, comprehensively and probably irrevocably.

I'm not going to go into 'the case'. But just look at the effects. And keep looking because it isn’t over yet.

● Hundreds of members have resigned with more to come. Hundreds more will just drift away. You only had 2,500 members to start with (don't bother lying about the numbers -- ask Mark H about the Merseyside members list).

● UtR [Unite the Resistance -- RL] backing is evaporating, as reported at last week's branch meeting

● Marxism [the annual UK-SWP political event -- RL] is going to be a small, dispirited event this year; most of the non-party speakers have already withdrawn

● the SWP in short is a small, shrinking and ageing organisation, living on past glories

● the CC do not have a clue what to do. They are divided and will split again at or before next conference (but they won't tell you about it beforehand). Mark Thomas at last week's meeting might as well have been represented by an empty chair for all the ideas and spirit he showed (in fact was he really there? It's all rather vague in the memory...)

And don't be fooled by the fact that people still talk to you. That's because you're all, as far as I'm concerned, decent socialists and militants, with your own records to lean on. People feel sorry for you.

I don't feel sorry for you. I feel like giving each and every one of you a kick up the bum. Most of you have long and honourable records as class fighters. Yet you allow yourselves to be dragooned and misled by a completely mediocre leadership. You are each worth 10 of the current CC. 100! (1,000! Cliff would say but he always exaggerated).

Stay members, that's fine, better than being inactive. But don't put up with being lied to, patronised, kept in the dark, told what you can and can't discuss, being required to say everything's fine when it isn't and listening to dreary speakers trying to reheat 30 year old ideas that you have already learned verbatim. Try not to believe (because it really can't be true if you think about it) that your party's problems are all being caused by the internet, young people today, ruling class attacks (they're not attacking the SWP they're laughing at you), uppity feminists or Richard Seymour. If bad things keep happening to your party, then it is not unreasonable, or disloyal, to hold your leadership at least partly responsible.

(But you'll need to be ruthless and stick together or the Professor [Alex Callinicos -- RL] will get you too).


I apologise. I voted for the sense of the final faction statement and so was committed to staying in with you. Then I contemplated going public and selling the paper. And I just couldn't do it. I would be ashamed. For the first time in my life not just temporarily embarrassed by a turn I wasn't convinced about but comprehensively ashamed.

I know we voted for the long haul of recovering our party from the present morass. But I'm not, after all up for it. And I'm afraid it's all your fault. Yes, each and every one of you. Bastards. Because in the faction I experienced more creative political discussion and political passion than I have in years. And I want more of it.

We each have to make our own personal reckoning with the Party and I'm not going to tell anyone what to do. The faction leadership's claims already to have made a difference within the party are not empty and I'm sure that, as you go on, you will force further movement. And I think the struggle is on the rise again, which will be good for everyone. For myself I'd just say that my MS is only gently progressive but it is progressing and I would like to be involved in something politically creative while I still can. Anyway, that's my excuse for impatience.


The Professor opened proceedings at Hammersmith by announcing that "the SWP is not an institution of bourgeois society". Note the polyvalent and evasive "of". But the SWP is definitely an institution within bourgeois society and duly affected by that. That we have Marxist ideas in no way exempts us from the Marxist insight that the social relations of production in which we are embedded profoundly affect both our ideas and praxis. SWP comrades above all should know this.

And we have a problem with a party bureaucracy which has taken on many of the forms of the stratified and managerialist society in which it sits. We never discuss this. But that is the root cause of our current problems. The party's bloated centre (3% or more of party membership is made up of full timers by my estimate) is identified with the party itself and must be defended at all costs. And so a pesky 19 year old making a complaint becomes a challenge to 'Leninism'.

It doesn't even work well. Our leadership is out of touch and ineffective. Our branch is working well round the bedroom tax. The leadership contributed nothing. Indeed they have offered no way forward since the collapse of the pensions dispute in December 2011 at least.

Of course they have some basic competence. They can produce an OK paper. They can defend an existing corpus of ideas competently, as can we all. They can occasionally take an effective initiative -- the RtW [Right to Work -- RL] assault on companies exploiting Workfare springs to mind. But nothing comes out of it.

Perhaps above all, in unprecedented times, when the ruling class is conducting open class war as never before in recent times, when Southern Europe is convulsed by revolt, when existing political and ideological structures are collapsing around us our leadership have next to nothing to say: just carry on with the routine, prattle about a weak government (our Coalition government might be weak; our ruling class is not) and wait for an upturn.

What does it mean to be a revolutionary in these times? What do we mean by socialism after the collapse of the supposed alternatives in the East? What would a socialist revolution look like and what sort of crisis might engender it? We actually need answers at this sort of level because history is asking us questions anew. Every day. Today, for instance, in Cyprus. Is the bank raid a model for the revolutionary appropriation of private property? Is there a prospect of a hegemonic alliance of the working class with small businesses against the oligarchy? Neil Davidson started to think about this sort of thing in his Big Book only to be slapped down in his usual patronising way by the Professor.

But it's not just about high theory. What do we say and do about UNITE community branches? How do we fight back in the war on welfare? How do we relate to the millions of workers in non-unionised private sector workplaces? We say nothing or talk about something else, even when faced with these everyday practical problems.

So, anyway, I say it's time to try again. I actually find myself agreeing with every single proposition in this piece by John Game.

So I'm off to join the IS Network (temporary name I hope) and give that a try. Anyone else tempted is very welcome and there's quite a few people there you'll know.

Otherwise, I will see you around I'm sure. No particular hard feelings, and lots of respect, for everyone in the branch on my side; and I propose happily to ignore the convention that we do not talk to ex-members. Good luck with your project and if you can turn the SWP round (when you've sacked the Professor I'll take notice) I will gladly admit my errors.


Richard Atkinson


[Quoted from here.]


K) Statement Of Resignation -- IS Canada


1. Opposing violence against the oppressed, including violence against women, is a question of principle for socialists.

2. There has been an allegation of very serious sexual violence involving a leading member of the Central Committee of the Socialist Workers Party UK (SWP).

3. The SWP Central Committee has failed to deal with this with the seriousness it deserves. It has persistently rejected efforts by a substantial number of its members and supporters to address this adequately. In fact, members of the SWP have faced disciplinary action for attempting to remedy this situation.

4. The International Socialists (I.S.) in Canada has been for many years, and remains, a member of the International Socialist Tendency (IST), of which the SWP is the largest and leading organization.

5. In January 2013, delegates to the annual convention of the I.S. in Canada voted (14 to 2, with one abstention) to reject a resolution calling on the leadership to write a public a letter of concern over these matters.

6. It is now March. The SWP has held a special conference on this issue. The SWP leadership remains intransigent. The leadership of the I.S. in Canada still remains silent, and therefore continues to be undifferentiated from the SWP in the IST.

7. Silence is not an option. On principle, therefore, we the undersigned can no longer remain as members of the International Socialists. Regretfully, please accept this as our letter of resignation.

Abbie Bakan
Ian Beeching
Brian Donnelly
Jay Gannon
Paul Kellogg
John Riddell
Suzanne Weiss


[Quoted from here.]


L) On My Resignation From The International Socialists Of Canada

The crisis in the British Socialist Workers Party raises an important issue of principle for socialists throughout the world. A serious accusation of rape was made by a teenage member of the SWP against a Central Committee leading member of the party in his 40s. How socialists respond to allegations of rape is not a tactical question nor is it the internal affair of a single organization. Internal organizational practices are reflections of principles. Although internal organizational mechanisms may vary, when mechanisms to address violations of principle fail, credibility and capacity to participate in movements against oppression are damaged.

As a nurse working in the emergency department, I regularly have patients who are victims of violence. Furthermore, I have loved ones who were the victims of sexual assault and abuse. I cannot reconcile my fervent wish to build a party for socialism with being associated to a political tendency that has as its most dominant constituent a party that has grossly violated its opposition to the oppression of women. As of March 19, 2013 I have resigned from the Canadian International Socialists for its continued association with the SWP through the International Socialist Tendency.

Rape is a crime that is equivalent to or worse than violent assault. It is a crime that not only has the potential to cause life threatening physical illness; it leaves many emotionally and psychologically damaged. With 90% of rapes unreported in the UK, any allegation should be investigated as a serious crime. Furthermore, according to one SWP member, at the 2011 SWP national convention, after the accused spoke to the meeting, "There had been an attempt by his allies to rally supporters, resulting in some comrades giving him a standing, foot-stamping ovation." This reaction to accusations of sexual abuse, regardless of guilt, represents gross misogyny and creates a threatening oppressive atmosphere.

The capitalist courts have failed many people. Sexism and racism in our society is systematic and police often brutalize the oppressed. In Vancouver,  where I live, the police failed over sixty women murdered or missing since the 1980's. Many of these women were the victims of racism, sexism and other prejudices that grip our society. I have heard personal testimony of police arresting a young woman who had called 911 accusing her father of beating her.

Historically raped women were often forced into marriage. For hundreds of years it was believed that a pregnant woman could not have been raped because pregnancy required consent. In 1841 the Canadian civil code put the onus on the woman to prove she actively resisted rape. For most of history suspicion was put on the woman and investigation was done into her moral worth and credibility. In Canada, it wasn't until 1983 that spousal immunity to accusations of rape was eliminated. In 1984 a Judge of the Provincial Court of Manitoba said. "Unless you have no worldly experience at all, you'll agree that women occasionally resist at first but later give in to either persuasion or their own instincts."

In North American history, false rape accusations were a major tool of social control used against blacks and other oppressed minorities. "The accusations against persons lynched, according to the Tuskegee Institute records for the years 1882 to 1951, were: 19.2 per cent for rape, 6.1 per cent for attempted rape. Men using rape as a tool of racist oppression stripped the legitimate right of women for justice against rape by creating a culture of terror. The civil rights movement mobilized millions in the fight against racism. Alex Callinicos raising the specter of "lynch mobs" of angry members if the debate continued after the special convention of the SWP is a violently sexist statement.

Injustices happen to this day, however through the struggle of the feminist movements of the sixties and seventies to those of today some of the grossest injustice has been defeated. The police and courts in many instances protect the vulnerable and bring justice to victims of crime. Bourgeois democracy is a system of contradictions. While recognizing the role of police and courts in enforcing hegemony of the ruling class, it also must be recognized that the mechanisms of society, often fought hard for by activists, can protect individuals against acts of violence and crime.

The reality is, for all the flaws of British law, in 60% of rape cases that go to court the defendant is convicted. This proportion is higher than for some other violent crimes. In many places women have fought hard to change sexist and racist laws and won.  Evidence that consent is absent is no longer defined simply by a statement of "no." Self-induced intoxication is no longer regarded as consent. In 1991 legislation was passed in Canada in which "complainant's sexual history is rarely relevant to the issues properly to be determined. The focus should be on the event which is the subject matter of the charge."

Of course there are real limitations to the court system in contemporary society. That is why it is so important that in many cities feminists have fought for and created rape crisis centres. These centres can advocate for women and help mitigate the negative effects of individual police prejudice and reduce difficulties and feelings of isolation when approaching the legal system. Were I work in an emergency department there are specially trained nurses to deal with sexual assault. These nurses are some of the most caring human beings I have met.

The mentality fostered by revolutionary groups of extreme hostility to the police and courts, often resulting from historic police harassment of socialist organizations, creates conditions where victims of abuse by party members are alienated from mechanisms society has created, under intense pressure from the women’s movement, to bring a measure of justice. As socialists we must fight to make the mechanisms of society better, not substitute our organizations for society.

The utopian concept of building organizations that attempt to substitute for society inevitably leads to the formation of cults. I saw this as a member of the Vancouver socialist cult Fire This Time. When those with authority in an organization are only accountable to that organization for criminal behavior, rampant abuse can occur. After a politically motivated assault by one member on another, I witnessed what results when a criminal matter is dealt with as an "internal" issue. At first denial. Next "this is an internal issue" and a refusal to discuss. Then bullying and marginalization of those opposed within the organization. Those outside the organization who expressed criticism of the assault were labeled as slanderers and enemies. Finally an inward turn occurred in which the "line" was parroted so many times it became gospel and critical thought was crushed. The parallels between my brief experience in a cult and the behavior of the SWP leadership are striking.

The only appropriate response of any organization to an accusation of rape is to fully support the woman in accessing services and professional counsel. Furthermore the SWP should have offered full financial and moral support should the woman take the case to court. It should have been made clear, without a shade of gray, that by going to court for such a serious accusation she was honoring the struggle of justice for women and that it would be in the best interests of the SWP.

The fact that friends of the accused were allowed to sit on the dispute committee that held the investigation is completely unacceptable. Moralizing about revolutionary credentials is a sad failure on the part of the SWP to recognize biases. Being a revolutionary does not obviate the responsibility to respect impartiality. Furthermore, the Central Committee of the SWP stated that a trade union would deal with rape accusations in a similar manner. This is false. No trade union would conduct a rape trial.

In recognizing the right for party members to form factions, it is implicit that conversations must be permitted between individuals of similar mind. The SWP central committee's decision to expel four members of the SWP for Facebook conversations is an absurd affront to democracy. Furthermore, the woman making the accusation was refused the right to speak at the 2013 SWP conference.

It would be hard to imagine the SWP having an internal investigation had one member stabbed another. This fact alone shows the organization's misogyny.

The SWP's decision to handle the rape accusation through an internal investigation has proven disastrous. Not only has the party trial failed the woman making the accusation; it has led to a split in the organization. There have been mass resignations from the SWP over the handling of rape allegations, in one letter alone over seventy people resigned. Many student sections of the SWP have left the organization. Mainstream media is able to discredit socialism in public opinion because of the act of a small number of socialists. Had the case gone to court, a scandal might have brewed in the tabloids, but the party would have remained defensible. 

Ian Beeching

Ian Beeching is a former member of International Socialists–Canada. He lives in Vancouver.


[Quoted from here.]


M) Resignations From Sheffield SWP


[I have re-punctuated this to make it more consistent, and removed the bullet points, replacing them with numbered paragraphs -- RL.]


SWP Central Committee,

We are hereby resigning our memberships of the SWP. We're sure you've read enough of these by now to realise that we're all going for similar reasons, but we're going to explain once more in the hope that at some point you'll realise what you're doing to this organisation and do something to rectify it.

Some of us have been in the SWP for many years, others have been members since the student movement of 2010. This may not seem long to those of you who have been in for decades, and perhaps you will think you can just recruit new students when they arrive on campus, but once upon a time we believe the line was that every member was 'gold dust'. It's a shame that this no longer seems to be the case.

We are resigning because we cannot defend the catastrophe you have created. We considered waiting until next conference and proposing a slate with none of you on it, but we have come to realise that this would make no difference. You have killed a once brilliant organisation. The SWP's reputation is in tatters, no credible anti-sexist will touch us with a barge pole, and the degeneration in the conduct of debate over the few weeks has been soul-destroying. You ought to write a thank you letter to the original 30 comrades who formed the IDOOP faction, for they are responsible for at least 540 members remaining in the organisation since National Committee. Those 540 were the most inspirational, principled, determined, brilliant comrades you will ever have the pleasure of working alongside, and you should be fighting with every core of your being to ensure that any who remain stay inside the organisation. You could learn a lot from them.

The response of the CC to the concerns raised by a huge layer of membership has been staggeringly inept. We won't be able to list all of the mistakes, but these are the ones that spring to mind. In each case we have added a suggestion for what we think should have been the alternative course of action; we sincerely hope you will take this on board:

(1) Refusing to arrange a commission to investigate and review our disputes processes as this is 'going against conference decisions' (followed by the addition into the CC motion of the review of disputes processes)

You should have: not refused, but set up the commission at national conference, avoiding this entire fucking mess.

(2) Accusing the factions of being apolitical because they failed to mention UtR/UAF/crisis of capitalism in an argument about the handing and fallout from a disputes case.

You should have: not done this and attempted to win the argument about the issue at hand -- the handling and fallout from a disputes case.

(2) Passing around of the Facebook conversation which was the excuse for the expulsions of the 'Facebook four' around select individuals in our district.

You should have: not passed it around attempted to win the argument about the issue at hand -- the handling and fallout from a disputes case. 

(3) Allowing the women (yes, there were two women, unless you're a bureaucrat who needs an official box ticking to recognise a complaint) to be smeared as police spies, liars, Trojan horses, politically suspect. Allowing their districts to ostracise, bully, intimidate, exclude and insult them by denying all knowledge of it.

You should have: maintained regular contact with both women to ensure they were being supported through a very traumatic experience, visited their districts regularly and in no uncertain terms condemned the above behaviour with promise of disciplinary action for anyone who continued in this manner, on the grounds that this is extremely reactionary, sexist behaviour which should not be tolerated in any organisation that prides its record on fighting sexism. 

(4) Attempting to convince our organiser to overrule a vote in order to stop one of us, an ex-faction member, getting elected onto district committee.

You should have: not done this and attempted to win the argument about the issue at hand -- the handling and fallout from a disputes case.

(5) Denying that our work outside of the party has been severely affected (generally by citing numbers of papers sold) and that our reputation is in tatters among the wider left.

You should have: not denied this, but thought about what this meant, and considered a constructive approach to repairing damaged relationships -- note, you should still do this

(6) Deliberately misrepresenting the IDOOP faction, (suggesting that comrades such as Ian Birchall, Mike Gonzalez, Pete Gillard etc. have waited decades to reveal that they are in favour of permanent factions).

You should have: not done this and attempted to win the argument about the issue at hand -- the handling and fallout from a disputes case. 

(7) Creating the bogeymen, Richard Seymour and China Mieville, in order to obscure the argument.

You should have: not done this and attempted to win the argument about the issue at hand -- the handling and fallout from a disputes case.

(8) Asking comrades to sign a loyalty statements to the CC (before realising you had less support than the faction and conveniently never mentioning it again). 

You should have: not done this, and attempted to win the argument about the issue at hand -- the handling and fallout from a disputes case.

(9) Passing around of our organiser's resignation letter to the CC to select individuals in our district.

You should have: not passed it around and instead attempted to win the argument about the issue at hand -- the handling and fallout from a disputes case.

(10) Suggesting that for the faction to call for Comrade Delta to cease to represent the party for the foreseeable future is 'going against conference decisions' (followed by the 'political decision' for Comrade Delta to cease to represent the party for the foreseeable future).

You should have: not suggested this, and accepted that we were correct, admitted a mistake and gone ahead with ceasing his representative and paid roles.

(11) Blaming party members for the fact that a list of academics and trade unionists have raised concerns.

You should have: not blamed party members (it is patronising to those who signed to say they did not make that decision themselves, whoever organised it) but thought about what this meant, and considered a constructive approach to repairing damaged relationships -- note, you should still do this.

(12) Allowing members of the IDOOP faction to be treated with utter contempt, suspicion and hostility.

You should have: not allowed this, it is the primary reason that many members have left. This is unforgivable  It is your responsibility as the leadership to ensure that comrades are treated with respect, are not shouted down, are not ostracised, bullied, ignored, smeared and excluded.  You should have followed up every complaint, and ensured that comrades knew that their behaviour was unacceptable and would not be tolerated. Conduct in this debate has been despicable, and you have done nothing.

(13) Using phrases like "You were defeated!" and "Show some humility!" when talking on the phone to ex-IDOOP members when they tell you they are thinking of leaving the organisation.

You should have: remembered that every member is gold dust, and attempted to engage in a constructive discussion of concerns.

(13) Removing party employees from their positions based on their involvement in the disputes case/their votes at conference/their involvement in the factions.

You should have: not done this. Always to remember to think about what you are doing and how it might look to the membership and the outside world.

(14) Using the phrase "This is not a cover-up" when issuing public statements.

You should have: not done this. If you are being accused of a cover up, you must patiently explain why it is not a cover up, with credible justifications, not empty phrases.

(15) Finally, when a union is putting out a statement regarding safety of oppressed groups in the labour movement suggesting amendments that state that we 'do not presume innocence or guilt' you should have: not done this, and instead congratulated the union for it's progressive stance on supporting survivors of sexual violence.


We hope you find this list helpful. We noticed that you seemed to be having difficulty recognising and admitting mistakes, and thinking of alternative courses of action, so we hope this alleviates that issue.


Rosie Warren (Sheffield North Branch, South Yorkshire District Committee, University of Sheffield SWSS, University of Sheffield Palestine Society Committee, NUS)

Tom Maguire-Wright (Sheffield North Branch, University of Sheffield SWSS President, NUS)

Alison Worsley (Sheffield North Branch, University of Sheffield SWSS, NUS)

Patrick McNeill (Sheffield North Branch, University of Sheffield SWSS, NUS)

Isra Jawdat (Sheffield North Branch, University of Sheffield SWSS, University of Sheffield Palestine Society Treasurer, NUS)

Neill Grant (Sheffield North Branch, Sheffield North Branch Committee, University of Sheffield SWSS, NUS)

Ben Wadsworth (Sheffield North Branch, Unite)

Christian Hill (Sheffield South Branch, Sheffield South Branch Committee/Paper Organiser, Unite Community)

Kieran Boden (Sheffield South Branch, Hallam University SWSS, NUS)

Jenny Evans (Sheffield South Branch, University of Birmingham SWSS, NUS)

The following people have already resigned individually for similar reasons but would also like to add their names to this statement:

Matt Hale (Sheffield South Branch, Unite Community, Sheffield Trades Council)

Andrew Gallacher (Sheffield North Branch, University of Sheffield SWSS, NUS)

Aidan Barlow (Sheffield North Branch, University of Sheffield SWSS, NUS)

Martin Percival (Sheffield North Branch, NUT)

Matt Bond (Sheffield South Branch)

Jackson Baines (Sheffield South Branch)

Gina Elby (Doncaster Branch, Unite Community)

Rhys Lloyd (Doncaster Branch)

*The final point, for those who are unaware, is in reference to the Unison women's statement.

The CC were informed about the statement published, and about several comrades being approached to sign it. In response, the CC proposed the following amendments (highlighted in bold):


"We recognise the enormous challenges faced by women victims of male violence, and the pressures which women face, including from abusive men, not to complain about violence and abuse. We therefore believe that, when women complain of male violence within our movement, our trade unions and political organisations should start from a position of believing women but without making presumptions about guilt or innocence."


"We believe that all women who complain of male violence have the right to be listened to and supported, and to have their complaints properly and sympathetically investigated through due process."


The amendments were immediately rejected with comments attacking the Party.


The CC position then became that no comrade should sign the statement.


[Quoted from here.]


N) University Of Manchester Socialist Worker Student Society Disaffiliation And Resignation Letter


'How do you recognise a dissident Marxist? This term is used to refer to people who did not treat their socialism as an inherited canon of knowledge, but at each moment were willing to think their politics anew.' -- Dave Renton


It is with a great deal of disappointment and a slight sense of demoralisation that the University of Manchester Socialist Worker Student Society would like to make public our decision to disaffiliate from the SWP, with those of us who were members of the organisation now resigning. Many of our reasons for this will come as no surprise to those who have followed the party's fortunes in recent months and do not need in depth explanation. Yet at the risk of sounding self-indulgent we would like to take this opportunity to make a few basic points both relating to why we are leaving and what we plan to do next.


It goes without saying that the recent mishandling of allegations of rape and sexual harassment against a leading comrade have weighed extremely heavily on our decision. Nothing further needs to be said on the case itself. Those in the know will be aware of places online where they can find much better informed opinions than any we could offer.


The crisis that followed and the leadership's insistence on untenable 'lines' have caused irreparable damage to our student work. Our own group has lost hardened activists who had cut their teeth in countless struggles and who found in our tradition the articulation of their own revolutionary thoughts. There is nothing we can say that could possibly better articulate the permanent damage done to SWSS nationally than the walkout of over 100 delegates at NUS [National Union of Students -- RL] conference as our candidate for VPHE [Vice President of Higher education -- RL] -- a loyal supporter of the Central Committee -- took to the podium


That this situation was not repeated when an ex-faction member spoke shows that we have reputations inside the student movement as principled activists, forged over years of struggle. In the public statement we released during the fall-out of the original conference we stated that we would not allow our record to be 'undermined by forces inside our own party'. The thought of comrade Evans addressing a hall of empty seats proves this is exactly what has happened.


This alone would obviously not be cause to leave the SWP. That decision can only be taken if the party is no longer the most viable vehicle to reach our end goal of a mass revolutionary organisation in Britain. We have reached the conclusion that the Socialist Workers Party no longer has that potential. We're not in a position to provide a list of reasons for this, not least because we might not completely agree in our own SWSS group and secondly because we are yet to have a proper opportunity to openly discuss this. We look forward to using the coming period to attempt to figure out just what has gone so wrong (the problems of the party evidently go deeper than its disputes committee procedures). Genuine clarity around these questions will be achieved through open debate and the ability to test ideas out in the movement, not through resignation letters.


However, we can at least make two brief points on what we plan to do next: firstly we will echo the recent calls for left realignment being heard across the labour movement. The British far left has a habit of cyclical degeneration and a paranoid lust for ideological purity that has to be overcome with the utmost urgency if it is to be able to offer a genuine alternative to austerity. We have no desire to build the Party of Socialist Workers. Nor the Workers' Party of Socialists. We will be arguing for, as a comrade outside of the SWP has put it, 'a rejuvenation of the left that goes beyond building the sects'. We have no shortage of ideas for the shape this might take and look forward to sharing these with anyone who'll listen.


Secondly we would like to introduce a point that has thus far been omitted from most reflections on the crisis in the party. For all those who have left the organisation, we would urge you to consider the political necessity of working with 'CC loyalists' again. There is barely a campaign or trade union one can be active in without coming across SWP members and we are prepared to work alongside any we might encounter. To refuse to work with them out of grudges either personal or political would weaken any future activism on our behalf. This is not to say we will forget our disagreements but rather continue to fraternally argue that the party has run its course.


To conclude, Trotsky started anew when he realised the Third International was lost. It is with no small degree of an inflated sense of self-importance that we loosely equate our position now with his. Admittedly we are yet to be exiled from the country but no analogy is perfect. We look forward to continuing to build for the socialist future of humanity and now, with much more spare time on our hands, we welcome anyone who would like to discuss how we go about getting there.


In solidarity,


The Marxists formerly known as University of Manchester Socialist Worker Student Society


[Quoted from here.]



Appendix H -- The Crisis Rumbles On

This has just been posted at a new SWP 'oppositional' website:


The SWP's National Committee met on Sunday 7 July 2013 and voted by 26-6 to suspend four comrades and make wider moves to shut down any organised opposition to the party leadership. This move is a smokescreen. It is a deliberate attempt by the leadership to escalate the crisis rather than address the critical problems facing the party.


The state of the party today testifies to the poor quality of the Central Committee's political judgement. At each stage since the complaints of sexual predation against [name redacted] first came to light, the CC has decided upon actions that have exacerbated the situation and deepened the polarisation within our organisation.


Over 400 people have resigned their party membership since January. Attendance at the Marxism festival looks set to be half that of last year. Significant sections of the left are boycotting the event in horror at the leadership's actions. The overwhelming majority of our student members have left, and there is no strategy to rectify this situation. Over 15 party workers have resigned their positions since January -- or been sacked.


Urgent action needs to be taken if we are to avoid the total collapse of our organisation. The latest decisions advanced by the CC and agreed at NC demonstrate beyond any doubt that the party's leadership would rather shut down political debate by using crude disciplinary measures than engage with the very serious political questions this crisis has exposed. This is despite the CC’s own declaration in January that "members of the SWP are of course free to discuss face-to-face or online get together to seek the outcomes that they want to achieve".


The appalling handling of the second complaint against [Name redacted] -- complaints that he sexually harassed a party worker reporting directly to him -- further demonstrate the complete failure of the party leadership to put our politics on women's oppression into practice.


The leadership's first reaction was to deny that a second woman had come forward. Then they turned to delaying tactics, stringing the complaint out for over four months with a series of contradictory excuses. The disputes committee twice refused to hear the case. Under pressure they have now offered a hearing, subject to certain conditions, and are presenting this as an adequate resolution to the whole issue.


We demand the following immediate measures as a first step towards acknowledging the seriousness of this crisis and beginning to redress it:


● the four suspensions must be immediately lifted

● end all disciplinary threats against dissident members

● open up the pre-conference discussion period now


In the meantime all remaining party workers who support the SWP opposition have resigned from their positions in solidarity with the four victimised comrades. We refuse to fall silent and allow the leadership to continue on a course that will destroy our party. We urge the central committee to step back before it is too late.


Signed by 256 comrades so far:


Adam DC, Hackney; Adam L, North London; Adrià P, Essex; Áine M, Manchester; Al M, East Lancashire; Alan R; Alberto T, North London; Alexis W, Central London; Ali S, Central London; Alice B, Central London; Alicia S, East London/UEL; Amy G, Cambridge; Andrew O, Cambridge; Andrew R, Leicester; Andy C, Manchester; Andy N, Birmingham; Andy S, Hackney; Andy W, Leicester; Angela S, Hackney; Anindya B, East London; Anne A, North London; Anne P, Edinburgh; Arjun M; Arthur G, Kent; Bartly W, Manchester; Bea L; Becky G, Portsmouth; Ben N, Central London; Bettina T, Hackney; Brendan D, South East London; Brian P, Leeds; Bunny LR, Kent; Cathy P; Charlie H, Hackney; Chaz S, Walthamstow; Chris E, Manchester; Chris T, Leicester; Christian C, Central London/KCL; Christine B, Glasgow; Christine V; Colin F, South East London; Colin W, Hackney; Connor K, East London/UEL; Connor K; Dan B, South London; Dan S, Norwich; Daniel G, Manchester; Darren P, South London; Dave P, East London; Dave R, Leicester; David A; David H, Central London/KCL; David H, Birmingham; David R, Central London; Debbie J, Glasgow; Debs G, Liverpool; Deni K, Swansea; Despina M, Hackney; Dexter H, Sheffield; Dom W, Liverpool; Elizabeth D, Leeds; Elizabeth J, Cardiff; Emily M, Colchester/Essex SWSS; Emma C, Manchester; Emma C, South London; Estelle C, South London; Ewan N, West London; Fergus A; Fraser A, South London; Fraser R, Kent; Gareth B, Birmingham; Gareth J, Cardiff; Gary H, Stoke-on-Trent; Geoff B, Manchester; Gill G, Hackney; Graham C, Glasgow; Hanif L, Newcastle; Hannah D, Central London; Hazel S; Helen D, Kent; Ian A, Manchester; Ian B, North London; Ian C, South East London; Ian D, Walthamstow; Ian H, Edinburgh; Ian S, West London; Imelda M, Hackney; Imogen C, South London; Imogen PG; Irem A, Hackney; Iris C, Central London; Isabel D, Central London; Isabel H, Manchester; Jack F, South London; Jack H, Barnsley; Jack T, Glasgow; Jacqui M, Home Counties; James B; James K, East London/UEL; James N, Oxford; Jamie A, Cambridge; Jamie D, East London; Jamie W, East London; Jane P; Jaz BP, South London; Jelena T; Jen W, Central London; Jennifer R; Jim W, Central London; Jo R, Cambridge; Joel D, Central London; John W, Oxford; Jon F, Kent; Jonas L, East London/UEL; Jonathan D, South East London; Jonny J, Central London; Jordan M, Leeds; Judy P, Manchester; Jules B, Walthamstow; Julian V, South East London; Kaiya S, Central London; Keith F; Keith M, North London; Keith P, Aberdeen; Kevin F, Leicester; Kim G, Birmingham; Kirsti T, South East London; Kyri T, North London; Laura J, Walthamstow; Laura N, South East London; Leo Z; Liam T, Kent; Lois C, South London; Louis B, North London; Lukas K; Luke E, South East London; Luke H, Edinburgh; Luke S, North London; Marcos S, Central London; Marie C, Kent; Mark B, South London; Mark W, South London; Marlyn T; Martha J, South East London/Goldsmiths; Martyn R, South London; Matt C, South East London; Matt G, Central London; Matt S, Central London; Matt W, Central London; Matthew C, Hackney; Megan T, Walthamstow; Michael M, Manchester; Michal N, Bristol; Mike G, Glasgow; Mike H, Black Country; Mike T, Leicester; Mike W, Bristol; Mikhil K, Manchester; Miriyiam A, Oxford; Mitch M, Cambridge; Mona D, Walthamstow; Moses M, East London/UEL; Nathan B, Kent; Neil B, Essex; Neil D, Edinburgh; Neil R, East London; Neil R, West London; Nick C, Edinburgh; Nick B; Nick E, Oxford; Nick J, South London; Nicola G, Leeds; Nigel D, Hackney; Oliver L, Essex; Ollie V, Essex; Owen H; Owen M, South London; Pat S, Central London; Patricia M, Brighton; Pat W, East London; Paul B; Paul B, North London; Pete C, Edinburgh; Pete G, Hackney; Peter A, Hackney; Peter S, North London; Phil T, Edinburgh; Phil T, North London; Pura A, Liverpool; Rachel E, Essex; Rachel P, East London/UEL; Ray M, North London; Rebecca S, East London; Rick C, South London; Rick L, Manchester; Rita M, Hackney; Riya A, Central London; Rob O, South London; Rob S, Walthamstow; Robin B, Central London; Roderick C, Walthamstow; Rosalind G, Central London/LSE; Ross S, Central London/LSE; Ruairidh M, South London; Russell D; Ruth L, South London; Sadie F, Cambridge; Sai E; Sam B, Portsmouth; Sam J, Walthamstow; Samir H, Central London; Sara B, North London; Sarah P, Essex; Sarah Y, Brighton; Sasha C, Edinburgh; Sean M, Manchester; Seb C, Cardiff; Sebastian C, Manchester; Shamma I, Walthamstow; Shanice M, Central London; Shayon S, Manchester; Shereen P, Walthamstow; Siân R, Hackney; Simon B, Central London; Simon D, Oxford; Simon F, Birmingham; Simon M, Huddersfield; Somaye Z, North London; Sonja C, Manchester; Sophie SR, Manchester; Sophie W, Oxford; Søren G, South London; Stef N, South London/Goldsmiths; Stella H, Kent; Steve H, East London; Steve V; Steven M; Stuart C, Manchester; Sue B, Manchester; Suhail M, North London; Sundara J, Birmingham; Terry W, Edinburgh; Theo W, Central London; Tina S; Tom G, Central London; Tom HD, Lancashire; Tom M, East London/UEL; Tom S, Central London; Tommy M, Edinburgh; Tony P, Luton; Tony W, Leeds; Valerie P, West London; Viv S, Hackney; Will S, Kent; William C, Kent; Willie B, Edinburgh.


The CC Backs Down:


On Sunday the SWP leadership suspended four comrades for association with an oppositional bank account. The CC has now lifted these suspensions with immediate effect on the assurance that this account will be closed.


We welcome this decision. The disciplinary action was always a distraction from the real issues at stake. The SWP is in a crisis caused by the utter failure of the leadership to put our principles on women’s oppression into practice, and by its refusal to engage with the urgent political questions raised by those opposed to its course.


It is thanks to the pressure of over 240 comrades who signed the statement on this website over the last three days that the CC has had to backtrack on its decision. This rapid about-turn has exposed the entire episode as a bureaucratic manoeuvre and a farce.


The CC still has not addressed the political questions the crisis has raised. The party is still in a potentially terminal crisis. And it is clear that a resolution to this situation is beyond the ability of the current leadership.


We therefore demand:


● that the case by a second woman against [name redacted] is immediately, transparently and effectively resolved.

● that the pre-conference discussion period is opened immediately to let an urgently needed democratic debate occur through official party channels.

● that the leadership and all other members cease the attempts to silence, sideline and vilify the opposition within the party.


Signed: Hanif L, Pete G, Ruth L, Søren G


Apparently Not:


Fighting talk from the CC:


Insightful analysis from: 'Soviet Goon Boy'.


Neil Davidson's video summary of the crisis so far (i.e., up to November 2013).


Appendix I -- The Last Death Throes Of The UK-SWP?


Fall-out From The December 2013 Conference


The SWP held their 2014 annual conference several weeks early because of the growing storm within the party. From Twitter feeds it looks like at least another fifty members have resigned (including Ian Birchall -- check out his measured resignation letter below --, Dave Renton, Jonathan Neale, Charlie Hore, Pat Stack, Neil Davidson, and Colin Wilson) as a result of several things that were said from the platform and the motions that were passed. It is highly likely that several hundred more will soon follow suite. I will post more details when they become apparent.


Indeed, there has now been (i.e., 23/12/13) a mass resignation of 140 comrades from the SWP.


Return To Essay Nine Part Two -- for an explanation why this sort of thing keeps happening on the Far Left.


Ian Birchall's resignation letter (quoted from here):


Dear Charlie,


It is with very great sadness that I have decided to resign my membership of the SWP.


It is over fifty years since I first joined the International Socialists. As Cliff used to say, it takes many streams to make a river, and I have never seen the organisation as more than one stream among many -- but for fifty years it was my stream, the context in which I made my small contribution to the socialist cause.


During those fifty years there has been a great deal to be proud of. Cliff's theory of state capitalism and the body of ideas deriving from it focussed our politics on the self-activity of the working class and rejected the notion that socialism is defined by state ownership. Our initiation of the Anti-Nazi League played a major role in blocking the rise of the far right in Britain. Our intervention in the miners' strikes, the campaign against the poll tax, and the Stop The War movement was highly creditable. Equally important has been the role played by many hundreds of SWP members in keeping trade unionism alive in their workplaces and in animating local campaigns in defence of workers' rights, against cuts, and against racism, sexism and war. The Marxism events and Bookmarks publications have done a very valuable job of disseminating socialist ideas. If I had died last year I should have died happy to have been a party member.


Unfortunately the events of the last year have changed everything. The monstrously irresponsible and self-indulgent conduct of a former leading member was bad enough. But far worse was the failure of the party leadership to deal flexibly and intelligently with the situation. The Central Committee has been at best obstinate and short-sighted, at worst grossly dishonest. The revolutionary organisation is a means to the end of socialist transformation, but for members of our self-selecting leadership it has become an end in itself.


As a result we have lost several hundred good activists, our student work has been badly harmed and our relations with our periphery have been seriously damaged. Last year's Marxism was the smallest for many years. Good comrades have been treated shamefully, apparently with CC approval. In fifty years membership I have not seen a crisis remotely comparable to the one we are now going through. We are urged to be "outward-looking" and to commit ourselves to activity in the "real world". Most of us would like nothing better, but when the leadership has broken down all relations of trust, effective action becomes impossible.


The Central Committee bears a heavy responsibility for this situation, and that they should seek re-election en bloc reveals an arrogance that disqualifies them as a leadership. As senior CC member, Alex Callinicos bears a particularly heavy responsibility. (When a dog bites me I don't blame the animal; I blame the owner that failed to keep it on a lead.) It is a small personal tragedy that his cowardice and dishonesty over the last year will overshadow forty years' work as a significant Marxist theoretician.


I make no apology for "factionalising".  Without the activities of the opposition faction, the few small improvements made would not have happened. The existence of a vigorous opposition inspired by the best traditions of the SWP has gone some small way to saving the party's honour. Unfortunately we were not able to achieve more. I fear the damage is now irreversible. But I sincerely hope you can prove me wrong, since the SWP's descent into irrelevance will weaken the whole left.  I shall observe with interest whether those who have been most vocal in demanding expulsions are equally committed to rebuilding their damaged organisation.


Given my age and health, I do not intend to join any other organisation. I continue to regard most (sadly I cannot say all) SWP members as my comrades, who share the same socialist goals and Marxist analyses that I believe in. I will, within the limits of my capacities, cooperate with the SWP and with any other genuine revolutionary socialist currents. I know there are many comrades who will remain in the SWP because they are hoping for a change in the party's democratic culture; they have my solidarity but I do not share their stamina or their faith. I hope that there will eventually be a revolutionary regroupment which draws on the best traditions of the SWP but avoids its weaknesses.


I have no desire to engage in further public criticism of the SWP, and, having stated the reasons for my resignation, I hope and intend to refrain from further polemics.


In comradeship,


Ian Birchall




Here are several more:


Dear Charlie,


It is with sadness that tonight I resign from the Socialist Workers Party after many years both in Leeds (and for the past seven years ) in Bristol, where I have worked hard to build the Party. I have been proud to be a comrade, and of all our achievements , but the crisis in the past year has seen uncomradely and undemocratic action, with sackings, bullying and isolation of comrades who spoke out about the Disputes Committee process.


I had hoped that this conference would make a serious attempt to acknowledge and rectify the mistakes made, apologise sincerely to the women at the heart of the crisis and that we could move forward in unity. Sadly it would appear that is not possible with a CC based on intransigence.


I remain a Revolutionary Socialist committed to liberation from oppression but can not work within this organisation. I offer my solidarity to all my comrades.


Linda Nunns



[Quoted from here. Minor typo corrected.]


Dear Charlie,

I am writing tonight to resign from the Socialist Workers Party. I am a revolutionary socialist who has viewed all the events since 2010 with alarm. It is not just the defence of rape by the upper echelons of the party, but also the very fact that their is an upper echelon in the SWP. As a blue collar worker without a university education I have always struggled to be accepted in the intellectualised atmosphere of the party. I do not think that anyone who joins should have to smash through a political/intellectual glass ceiling, but we do. In so many ways the SWP mirrors the society we aim to bring down. There is class and privilege in the party, that much was obvious to me from early on, I fought to smash it down, but like any other structure the hierarchy clings to power, at a national or local level.

Time and again I approached the party to complain of poor comradeship, zero support and poor organisation in Bristol, at least four times I was fobbed off the rest ignored. Once at a meeting in my own home I and the Secretary of UAF in Bristol, were silenced in our criticism of comrades, as it was felt that important funds from the NUT would be held back. To our knowledge those funds never materialised. Our local campaigns were jeopardized for the sake of national money, to prop up National UAF. For all these years as a good comrade I kept my mouth shut, or had it shut for me.

I can be brutal with language, I recognise Boss-like behaviour when I see it and I see it in the Party. You are the bosses, people like me, who trail around doing what we are instructed, are the workers; who are then smashed for showing a flicker of initiative. Worst of all are the unelected, self appointed, middle managers who have a position due to their seniority, a woeful parody of the bosses and managers we are trying to remove. I have a simple rule; anything that we resist at work, we should resist in our own organisation.

This in turn brings me to the immediate events around Martin Smith. This whole series of events has been spread over three years, not one and we have long been aware of the allegations facing Martin Smith. Again as a trade union rep with experience of discipline and how workers are treated, abused and oppressed, it was stunning to see the same behaviour occurring in the SWP and from comrades who have also been long serving Trade Unionists. It goes with the territory to stand up for the oppressed, not to be the oppressor. I was shocked to hear how the Disputes Committee had harassed the woman comrade who had been abused, any half competent trade union official would have stopped a meeting like that and any half decent revolutionary would never conduct a meeting like that.

I was proud to vote against the CC at the January 2013 conference and have paid the price in Bristol ever since. I believe in a revolutionary socialist party, your SWP is not it. You have had successes, yet as the Tories move further to the right and Labour clings to their coat tails and the Lib Dems face wipe-out the SWP is dragged further and further into the resulting vacuum. We need to resist all temptation, on the one hand to oppress other humans and on the other, to be drawn into the movement in the way you are doing through Unite the Resistance, amongst other campaigns. As revolutionaries we should always be firmly rooted in our place on the left and never over stretch into the movement. There are limits.

I trust you can see that my reasons for resignation are not purely based on the exploits of Martin Smith. I feel too many concessions are made to movementism and there is a lack of understanding of how we operate in United Fronts. Too many comrades can talk the talk, yet when they walk the walk it is to the beat of the Labour Party drum.

I have stayed in the SWP hoping that I could be a part of changing our structures from within. The democracy commission was a carve up and so too have been all the conferences and structures since. A former comrade in Bristol always used to tell me "Jaz, there are talkers and do-ers", Charlie, I must report the talkers have won. The party is taking on the appearance of a retirement home where old bigoted ideals will be savoured as you talk over what would have been if those "upstart students and no good women hadn't come along and spoilt it all".

I too hoped the latest conference would make a serious attempt to acknowledge and rectify the mistakes you and the CC made. I hoped you would have the guts to apologise sincerely to the women at the heart of your crisis and that we could all move forward in unity. That is not possible with a CC based on intransigence. That means I have to leave.

I will end by quoting a comrade from Bristol who has tonight also resigned; "I remain a Revolutionary Socialist committed to liberation from oppression, but can not work within this organisation. I offer my solidarity to all my comrades."

Justin "Jaz" Thomas


[Quoted from here (in the comments section).]


Dear Charlie,


It is with deep sadness that I am writing to resign from the SWP.


For three years a handful of us, growing to an impressive 400-500, have tried to resolve the appalling handling of the two disputes cases. In this time it became clear that the CC chose to cover up rather than address their and the DC's mistakes or confront Martin's behaviour.


Despite countless opportunities to resolve the situation, the CC chose to allow sexist, uncomradely and undemocratic behaviour from CC members and Smith supporters, including condoning lies that the women were spurned lovers and/or politically motivated.


This process has lead to the degeneration of our politics on women's oppression and has destroyed the small steps we took under the Democracy Commission to open up party democracy. One of the brightest generations of student revolutionaries has been squandered and with it our ability to rejuvenate the party.


I stayed in the party this year with the hope that if enough comrades were made aware of the situation, they would demand it be rectified. I stayed to win some kind of justice for the two women comrades so badly treated, and because I believed that the SWP was worth fighting for. I do not want to leave, but I cannot simply continue to remain in an organisation which is being destroyed by a leadership who, out of fear of tackling political and organisational weaknesses, are trampling our core principles and compounding mistakes at the cost of political clarity and direction.


Viv Smith


[Quoted from here (in the comments section).]


Dear Charlie,


I'm just ringing you up by email, as it's the method you prefer to use when you expel comrades, so I thought it would be the appropriate method for my resignation.



Tony Walker


[Quoted from here (in the comments section).]


I am no longer a member of the SWP. This is an organisation I joined 11 years ago while still at school, and to which I have given much of my life. I do not regret that. I remain proud of having been part of an organisation that attempted to apply the principles of socialism from below to a changing world, to unite people around a vision of our politics that can both inspire and give direction. But this is not the party I joined or built any more. The party has failed on a basic matter of principle, and destroyed its reputation. In the process it has become sectarian and inward-looking, and incapable of playing the role I believe any organisation must be able to -- incapable of looking reality in the face, of grasping opportunities, of changing itself. It has put its own short term cohesion above any possibilities of renewing the radical left.

I am immensely proud of the efforts we have made over the past year to resolve the party's crisis in a principled way. To those who have fought, at every stage, you have taught me the meaning of the word comrade. To those who choose to stay, I respect you immensely, and I will never turn my back to you. To those who are leaving, understand the duty we have to do something better.

The following are the notes from the contribution I made in the debate on the Central Committee election on Saturday afternoon. I reproduce them because they are a message more people need to hear:

"I was under the impression we were a party of leaders. Yet apparently certain individuals are essential to our leadership, so essential that nothing could remove them. The slate proposed by the central committee puts forward for re-election those who have done most to damage the party in the past year. The people who have organised to defend our former national secretary, spread lies and slander, and are responsible for driving out most of our students. But what really angers me, is that there are many people in this room who know this, and who will vote for them anyway. It's these people I want to address. Over the past weeks, people have said 'just wait a year', 'give it time, we'll get rid of them eventually', 'we know we need to deal with them, but just not now'. This isn't dealing with a crisis, it's kicking it down the line. It's not solving a problem, it's storing one up for later. If I'm honest, this is not likely to be my problem. But it will be yours, and it will come back again and again. To those comrades I say, if not now, then when? If our party proves incapable of turning itself around, of changing itself, in our darkest moment, how can we ever convince people it can become a useful tool for transforming the world? Think carefully comrades. If not now, then when?"


Dan Swain


[Quoted from here.]


Long-standing member, Jonathan Neale:


"I have resigned from the SWP. I remain a socialist and a revolutionary."


[Quoted from here.]


One of the victims of the alleged rape:


[Comrade X would like to continue to remain anonymous. I post her resignation statement from the SWP with permission below. She is happy for the statement to be shared but please avoid names.]

There are many reasons I am resigning after the events of the last twelve months, you can read some of them in my Internal Bulletin piece. I will give only one reason here: a member of the DC claimed at the SWP national conference this weekend that my email account might have been hacked but they were confident that the Central Committee was not responsible. How is it possible that this hasn't generated outrage? When told that the woman who brought a complaint of sexual harassment has had her email account hacked and one of the emails used as evidence in her case deleted, most SWP members seem content that it is OK because the CC did not personally do it.

This typifies the problems of the past 12 months. There has been no political will to resolve any of the issues in a principled way. There is no political will to demand that the person who gave the CC hacked emails should have to conclusively prove how they got the emails or be expelled. Instead at every stage smoke and mirrors have been deployed to manoeuvre to win votes and political positions. In the process I have been sacked, bullied, smeared and marginalised but this has been tolerated to prevent Martin's supporters from leaving and to avoid the CC accounting for their mistakes.

What of the apology? I do not accept as adequate or sincere an apology fought for and said through gritted teeth. I first found out that the CC regretted my hurt and distress when I read about it in their motion. No-one has met with me to communicate it personally. In tragic fashion I have had to speak to a motion to fight for an apology for myself. For months I was told no apology is necessary. Is it any wonder that I am unconvinced by the apology at conference?

A sincere apology would have political consequences. It would require those who have bullied and smeared to face some sanction. Instead the party leadership continue to argue that there is parity between the slandering and smearing of women who have brought allegations of rape and sexual harassment and people, angry at the handling of a rape allegation, calling Alex Callinicos a "wanker". A comrade who called someone an "idiot" faced disciplinary sanction, while those who claimed I was a police spy have faced none. That this is now the official party position is reason enough to leave.

The potential for a meaningful renewal of the SWP has dwindled. The last 12 months have polarised and entrenched positions. Debate is now refracted through the prism of a bitter faction fight. Too many people have left and continue to leave. For any organisation to remain dynamic and relevant there needs to be a high level of debate and discussion in order to develop the theory and practice necessary to relate to the real world. This crisis has not caused all the problems in the SWP but it has smothered the possibility that the SWP can develop into a serious revolutionary party.

I am not an MI5 agent, so I am leaving to rebuild the revolutionary left in Britain. This will be a process of years not months but for now I leave proud of my time in the SWP, deeply saddened that this is the endpoint and a little excited at the fresh air I can now breathe.


[Quoted from here.]


Dear Charlie,

I am resigning from the SWP after nearly 15 years membership. I have spent the last year hoping that the party will come to its senses, after this latest conference, it is clear that the party's current leadership and a minority of its members would rather save their arses, than stand up for our socialist principles.

I cannot be in an organisation, that puts itself above the class, or the principles it claims it adheres to.

I enclose a copy of an email I sent to Mark Thomas, after he phoned me in July, his final angry assertion, was that I was trying to split the party, which in the final analysis was me being supportive of the EDL and BNP on the streets. This is how far some of the organisations cadre as degenerated.

He has since not contacted me, even when I requested images for a national Bedroom Tax newspaper I was producing. And in the course of the last year nobody has to any satisfactory level answered those questions either, preferring to retro-fit recent events to fit circumstances.

I hope you can all live with yourselves, after what you have done.

Solidarity, to my friends and comrades who will be continuing the fight for democracy and accountability within the party, good luck to you all.


Adam Di Chiara.

Hi Mark,

I'll make myself clear if I haven't already.

I signed the statement because I want to see some change, in my opinion to save the party (from itself). I don't want to leave. I, like many others love the party, I feel it has given me a lot, and in return I have given it plenty back. But if things don't change, or moves aren't made to adapt the structures to our current situation, and the party fails to learn yet again from this most recent fracture, then I'll have little choice but to leave the party, but to be honest I don't think they'd be many left by then anyway, so your point about the Party punching above its weight and what would the EDL or BNP be up to without us around, frankly would become moot.

Fundamentally I see a bureaucracy, and an ossification in party structures not suitable for the now, and as Marxists, as Leninists, and democratic centralists, I find it my duty to tell you that the CC has made some horrendous mistakes recently, and is compounding them on a daily basis.

As a body it needs to be more self aware, and self appraisingly critical, but I don't think it can do this anymore, if it ever did.

It seems to be making perspectives up willy-nilly to suit whichever crisis is next on the agenda.

Essentially I've lost faith in the ability of the leadership to lead by example, or by convincing me on some major issues. I'll do my activity like a good comrade convinced by the needs of the present conditions, and if Gareth wants me to do an industrial sale, I can try and find time.

But I don't think you can blame a Faction, secret or otherwise, organised, or in disarray, like the leadership, with bank accounts to fund train fares, or to start fictitious newspapers, or whatever, for this crisis. The root cause is well understood, and in January what I saw in emails from Charlie was a determination to close down debate, shut people up, expel "whistleblowers", and the CC has since been on a bureaucratic binge ever since.

But by doing all this it has created the circumstances where comrades have felt the need to leave. It, not the faction, is what is dividing the party currently. I've even heard of some prominent members saying "expel them all", as if that's going to do anything other than destroy the party even further. Are they mad?

As far as I know the "faction" is fighting to keep comrades in, if it weren't for them I suspect more may have left already. Comrades are leaving because of what has happened and the bullying moralising, and scaremongering coming from the centre. The blame lies at the top.

How many students do we have left?
How many full timers have resigned?
How many people are coming to Marxism?
How long before even more comrades leave?
How can we claim to have debate and discussion when dogmatic views rule the coop?
And bullying and moralising is seen as an acceptable form of party discipline?

There is a democratic deficit.

These didn't happen because of a faction fight, these things are the responsibility of the leadership, and its weakness is showing when it resorts to these behaviours. I always knew when a District organiser wasn't happy about some activity they wanted me to help with, because this is how they'd act, with crass politics and moralistic jingoism, its a party trait I've always disliked, now the CC appears to be at it on a grande scale, it's unbecoming, unreasonable and untenable as a motivational strategy. As is "this debate is closed". This is what is losing, what? 400 members? Almost all the SWSS groups!

So please apply your mind to everything that has happened since January (possibly before), and attempt to see another perspective, and to try and argue on [sic] the CC for it to sort out this bloody mess it's created for itself, and to stop blaming others for its lack of responsibly leadership and self scrutiny.

If the email from Charlie had said "the vote was close, let's have a think about this" then I'm not sure I would have even joined the faction, I'm not even sure their would have been one, but what those emails said made me think that the rot had truly set in, and the longer this goes on the more rotten it's getting.

I'll finish with a paragraph from Trotsky which sums up some of my feelings on the matter. And is hopeful in someways, dependent on how the CC reacts.

From: The Question of the Party Generations

As often happens in history, it is precisely during these last months that the “old course” revealed the most negative and most insufferable traits: apparatus cliquism, bureaucratic smugness, and complete disdain for the mood, the thoughts and the needs of the party. Out of bureaucratic inertia, it rejected, from the very beginning, and with an antagonistic violence, the initial attempts to put on the order of the day the question of the critical revision of the internal party régime. This does not mean, to be sure, that the apparatus is composed exclusively of bureaucratized elements, or even less, of confirmed and incorrigible bureaucrats. Not at all! The present critical period, whose meaning they will assimilate, will teach a good deal to the majority of the apparatus workers and will get them to abandon most of their errors. The ideological and organic regrouping that will come out of the present crisis, will, in the long run, have healthful consequences for the rank and file of the communists as well as for the apparatus. But in the latter, as it appeared on the threshold of the present crisis, Bureaucratism has reached an excessive, truly alarming development. And that is what gives the present ideological regrouping so acute a character as to engender legitimate fears.





[Both of the above have been quoted from here, minor typos corrected.]


On leaving the SWP


Like many others following the SWP’s Annual Conference, I have now left the SWP. Below, for those are interested, briefly sets out the reasons why and lays out what I think should happen next. While writing this is in itself a useful exercise for clarifying my ideas, it also my attempt an explanation for all of those people, over the last 9 years, that I have recruited, tried to recruit, sold the paper too, argued with and generally harangued about the brilliance of Leninism.


What went wrong? Part 1 -- the Disputes Committees


I’m not going to go through the entire story of the way the two complainants were treated here (for a good overview and background, see revolutionary socialism and Dave Renton's blog). The reality is, however, that the complaint of comrade W about Martin Smith was seriously mishandled. This needn't have been the case. If the CC had been honest about what was going on rather than stage managing the 2011 Conference, we may have been able, collectively, to correct the mistakes then. That didn't happen, however, and when the complaint resurfaced in 2012, it was again mishandled.


I think it's important at this point to point out that the Disputes Committee failed politically to deal with this complaint. There's a lot of rubbish out there about trusting the political judgement of the DC panel. Well, trust is earned and based on record -- I'm afraid the record shows that the comrades on the Disputes Committee made a serious error around this. I'll leave aside the dodgy questions, the grossly unfair processes because I think the central political question is more important. I can accept that the rape was 'unproven' as an outcome (though I think they should have done much more to point out this doesn't mean it didn't happen and comrades have subsequently wrote well about why the default should be believing the victim) but it simply beggars belief that the DC did not find Martin Smith guilty of the campaign of sexual harassment he so clearly carried out. This is especially true when comrade X came forward with corroborating evidence and a similar story of abuse and harassment. Just so we're clear, Martin Smith is 100% guilty of sexual harassment (as the subsequent DC report shows).


All of this would be bad enough but could still have been corrected. Unfortunately, the Central Committee chose to try and cover up the case and use bureaucratic arguments to try and deny the existence of the second complaint. Thus they turned a crisis in one part of the Party into a crisis of their leadership. From that first error, all other subsequent errors followed and their constant strategy of increasing the divide has led now to a serious split at the heart of the SWP's cadre -- turning their leadership crisis into a crisis of the tradition.


What went wrong? Part 2 -- the underlying problems


It's fair to say that over the last 9 years in the SWP I have found myself in informal tendencies with a whole lot of comrades over a whole lot of different questions. Most of the time that has been within the framework set out by the Central Committee, meaning in general I have been a loyal comrade (and until this year I have only broken discipline once and that was against Bambery so it doesn't count). Even where disagreements did exist, such as with the deterioration of the paper or our poor approach to the Pensions Dispute, these disagreements took place within boundaries of what I would consider normal Marxist polemic. Sure, there were problems but again these took place within acceptable limits and did nothing to shake my view that the SWP, imperfect though it was, was the best tool in our class's toolbox for building a better future for humanity.


Like many comrades, the last year has been a steep learning curve for me. The political decisions made by the leadership and by their supporters point to one unavoidable conclusion -- that the politics of the SWP, and of many of its members, has ceased to be the politics of Marx or Lenin or Cliff. The strategy pursued by the CC and its supporters only makes sense if you accept the complete contradiction between their view and actual reality. Nowhere is this more obvious than with question of Conference votes. The ideal of democratic centralism is full discussion, decision then unity in action. When the Bolsheviks clarified this formula (one that finds its roots in real working class struggle) they did so without taking into account the future degeneration of the SWP leadership. As such, the Bolshevik method is predicated on the idea that comrades may put forward many different analyses and strategies and one must be chosen and tested. This works fine when these analyses are based on actual reality -- it is a system that can't cope when a majority of comrades simply ignore reality. Hence, conference votes that the matter was dealt with well, all is resolved, everyone is a comrade in good standing and apparently, through some Leninist magic, this then becomes the new reality. This ignorance of reality, the replacement of real circumstance with wishful thinking reminds me more of Stalinism than Marxism. It is a method that thinks that SWP Conference votes can change the world and it is a method that has no place within the international socialist tradition.


Thus over the last year the leadership's strategy has demonstrated time and again why it can no longer claim leadership over the most advanced workers. As we travelled further down the rabbit hole, more and more questions were raised about our method and about the level of politics and discipline in the organisation. At every turn, the CC almost seemed to willingly answer these questions in the negative.


The Defeat


As so we reach the December Conference, our third one this year and the last chance for the CC and their supporters to correct their trajectory and to join with those of us wanting to rescue something from the fire. Unfortunately and predictably, the loyalists did not take this opportunity and so I find myself leaving the organisation to which I have dedicated my entire adult life.


It is important to say here that my politics haven't changed. I am still convinced that Marxism is the best and only method for explaining the world around us and the future that millions hope for. More than this I remain convinced that the organisational form referred to as Leninism is the best way to organise in order to achieve that future. I do think, however, that the SWP no longer remains a useful tool for building that future.


As we move forward, the SWP-rump will still continue to exist, its members will still play a positive role in the working class movement and I will still work alongside them. But in terms of the project to build a revolutionary party, they now have nothing to offer. The class war tests us all of the time and over the last year the SWP majority has failed a fundamental test.


The future


While the result of the last twelve months of battles has been irredeemably negative and sad, it is now over and the concrete question facing those of us who have left or should have left is what we should be doing now. You can't be a Leninist without an organisation so the first step is to try and form something new. I would imagine this to be fairly lose at first but it should be somewhere for revolutionaries to debate and plan action, to bring new layers of radical workers and crucially to produce some sort of publication. The process of the faction fight over the last year has educated many of our number, myself not least, in some of the bigger political questions we now face. It is now up to us to put that clarity into action and to nurture the new culture we have been developing. This project is a modest one but it should have as its short-term goal the development of Leninist organisation that unites all of those serious revolutionaries who want to carry on activity. That means the best elements of both the SWP Opposition and the ISN, plus their peripheries. In future, it will hopefully mean the best elements of those still left in the SWP as well.


This step is the next crucial one -- the ISN contains many lessons, both good and bad, of how to try and build something new. I want us to avoid throwing the baby out with the bath water in terms of our politics but equally I think we need to follow the example of making serious and concrete changes to our method in order to change the culture we have inherited from the SWP. I also want to get my own house in order first before I even think about diving into radical reformist projects and realignment initiatives, of which it’s fair to say I have a healthy scepticism.


What this means for everyone else out there is that soon I will be selling you some sort of publication again (and I promise this one will be better than the last!), that I will still be bending your ear about revolutionary potential and I will soon be urging you to join me in building a revolutionary organisation.


Andy Gammon Cunningham


[Quoted from here, minor typos corrected.]


Dear Charlie,

After 32 years of continuous membership of the SWP, I am today resigning from the Party.

Clearly this has not been an easy step for me to take. However I do not see any alternative.

Contrary to the slurs aimed at oppositionists both inside and outside the Party I have not drifted into bourgeois feminism or autonomism, and although common currency few of the local members of the undeclared faction around MS seem to even know what these terms actually mean.

I remain as committed to the project of revolutionary socialism, but unfortunately I do not feel that this is now compatible with membership of the SWP

Dave Roberts



[Quoted from here.]


Dave Renton:


On Sunday evening, after conference had ended, I resigned from the SWP. I will explain why I have left, but before I do that, I first want to explain why for so many years I stayed with the party even while I often criticised it.


I first joined the SWP in 1991; at a meeting in the Sol's Arms pub near Warren Street. A couple of days before, I had been stopped in the street by a man selling Socialist Worker. After I had bought a paper, the seller, John Walker, invited me to a meeting. "I'm not interested in buying one", I told him, "I am much more left-wing than you are." It was not a wise thing to have said. John had come into the SWP after years in the libertarian Marxist group Solidarity and knew his left history far better than I did. After half an hour of standing on the street losing an argument, I agreed to go to the meeting where I eventually filled in a membership form. It was assumed that I would pay by cash and there was a grid on the back of my membership card which could be used to check that I was paying my each month's subs.


The SWP was the third left-wing party whose meetings I had attended in less than a year. After a few months in Slough Constituency Labour Party, I had resigned in disappointment at Labour's timid response to the then Iraq War. Before then, I had spent a couple of unhappy months on the edges of the Revolutionary Communist Party (Living Marxism), from whom I had learned habits of ultra-leftism and contrarianism, a combination expressed in my premature, fighting words to John. If it had not been the SWP in 1991 it might have been any one of the left-wing parties.


It was easy to join the SWP, since I already considered myself a socialist, and in fact had done so for more than five years. The real bravery had come much earlier, even before I reached my teens, when I had first begun to identify with the left, a decision which had set me off into a perpetual civil war with my family, my teachers, and almost every one of my contemporaries at my school. My reasons for sticking with the SWP were more significant.


In my first few months, I considered leaving at several stages. I did not have a worked out criticism of the SWP and some of my complaints seem daft to me in retrospect. The group seemed impossibly old to me, with an average age of approximately 27 or 28 (I was just 18). Soon enough, I was selling the paper, but I was genuinely perplexed by the way in my fellow sellers would shout what sounded to me like reformist slogans "stop the war", "beat the Tories". Weren't we supposed to be revolutionaries? I found the meetings dull and the contributions defensive. I tired of the way in which after the speaker had finished, there would be a long pause, and then whoever filled the silence would face 40 minutes of speaker after the speaker from the floor correcting them for some imagined deviation from the party "line".


Yet one of the things I liked about the SWP was that, despite the branch culture which I have just described, there were also comrades who were self-effacing, articulate and principled. I think of well-known figures such as Duncan Hallas and Paul Foot, but the real strength of the SWP was far below, in the branches, almost every one of which had an autodidact Marxist, a worker who had never gone to university, a person who would quote obscure ideas of Marx or Lenin and use them to relate events happening in the world outside and to the tradition of the workers' movement.


Over the past 20 years the self-taught workers have almost all left, while the party-liners have multiplied.


I might not have stayed in the group but for a series of events which happened in the course of my third year in the party. I was a student, in a tiny group of just 2-3 people. Through the unusual tactic of going out of our way to book the SWP speakers who would be most likely to interest a wider audience, and booking most of our meetings as debates or in combination with other groups, we were able to pull off weekly meetings of 100+ people. Locally and nationally (this was the time when the SWP was claiming 10,000 members) it seemed possible to envisage a genuinely mass party, something which would be on a scale the British left had not seen in decades.


Our MP John Patten was also the minister responsible for education, and was piloting through Parliament the rapid reduction of the student grant and its replacement with student loans, and had voted against the equalisation of the age of consent. We called demonstrations two or three times a week and found an audience for them. In no time at all the size of our group (its subs-paying membership) increased to 8 and then 25 people. We had an audience large enough so that we could legitimately stand people for office in the University and in the National Union of Students. Then, to coincide with my 21st birthday, the woman who I loved also joined our party. She and I were Luxemburg and Liebknecht, Trotsky and Sedova. Communism was our love story.


That spring there was a racist murder, and our local anti-fascist group met the family, supported them, and organised a demonstration in their support, while others on the left stayed aloof. I would not have had the confidence to support them had it not been for the training I had received in the SWP.


Over the next 20 years there were many other good moments of which I am also proud: the Anti-Nazi League carnival in 1994, editing a workplace bulletin with factory workers in Sheffield, organising a student occupation (of sorts) in Oxford in 1997, supporting refugees through hunger strikes in Liverpool in 2000-1, dispersing an emergent anti-immigrant campaign in Brent a year later.


In the most recent years, the best campaigns I have been involved in were ones which the leadership tolerated but did not seek to be part of: a London counterpart to the TUC's Tolpuddle festival, then last year's Counter Olympics Network.


I only learned the main details of the party crisis as recently as Christmas 2012. Long-standing comrades who I had known for years and trusted sought to set up a "third" faction, which would campaign within the SWP for the reform of our disputes procedures. I joined them. The leadership banned the faction, refused to publicise our documents or to allow us to speak at conference in January. My initial response to the January conference was to assume that the leadership would be chastened and that would be the end of the matter and spoke optimistically at meetings. But at our North London report back I heard Weyman Bennett promise, in his concluding remarks, "Never again will the SWP allow our student office to take a line independent from the leadership".


I have been around long enough to have grasped immediately what he meant -- that the CC were prepared to restructure the office and tear up the student perspective unanimously agreed at conference just days earlier, and were prepared to sacrifice our students to do so.


In February 2013, outside a meeting of the Defend the Right to Protest campaign, I met the second complainant, the woman who we were being told did not exist ("there is only one complaint", as Judith Orr had told the Birmingham aggregate). I gathered from the woman that she wished to proceed with her complaint, and I decided to spend some time helping her, in practice by listening to her as we drafted together her statement about what had happened.


My days are given to listening to people in court, asking them questions and listening to their answers, and listening to the questions which other people ask them. I do not believe that someone is telling the truth merely because I want them to succeed at a hearing, or because I am their representative. If I get the opportunity to meet them before a case, I will grill them as intensely as I can. I will look for any flaw in their evidence, test any contradiction no matter how slight. And if they want to run a case which I do not believe, I will tell them my doubts and invite them to reconsider it.


I spent more than 20 hours in the company of the second complainant, read her documents, listened to her intensely. And at the end of our meetings, I was absolutely convinced that in every single thing she said she was telling the truth.


Once it became clear that she was telling the truth, then for me there was no longer any basis on which to doubt the evidence of the first complainant, who the second woman was only corroborating. Both women were describing a similar pattern of repeated unwanted advances by the same man.


I will not go through the details of what happened next; the shoddy attempts of the Disputes Committee (the same committee which of course had already heard the first case) to decline to hear the second complainant, and to put off her case until after January 2014 in the hope that she would leave the party. What I do want to explain is what happened at SWP conference last weekend.


There were approximately 540 delegates at conference; fewer than one in 7 were aged under 40. Of the young people in the room , a large majority were in the faction. The mood was serious, even grim. The conference was conducted throughout with the same degree of procedural propriety as you would expect of the conference of a trade union of about 30-40,000 people. Motions were taken; votes were even on occasion counted. "Delegates" were reminded of the importance of reporting back conference decisions, presumably to the 10 SWP members for whom each delegate is supposed to stand. But here were 500 people, elected from 40 aggregates in many of which there were had been fewer people in the room voting for candidates than there had been places to fill.


A number of the delegates would happily admit to never attending SWP meetings and never selling the paper; they were there solely because they had been asked to stand in order to prevent oppositional members attending. How many members does the SWP really have beyond those who were in the room? If your definition extends to a requirement that a person attend their branch meeting at least once a year, perhaps, at the very most, a further 4-500 people nationally. This is not a mass party; you cannot sustain anything healthy on the basis of the levels of fantasy that could be seen in the room.


On Saturday morning, Alex Callinicos made a supposed "apology". The statement he read out was based on a CC motion which had been circulated in advance, and offered no specific regret for any specific action by any named individual but blamed merely "structural flaws in our disputes procedures". Structures of course have to be carried out by people but there was no acknowledgement that any individual had done anything wrong. The motion, for which the CC apology stood as an abbreviation, blamed the faction for politicising the dispute, when it was Callinicos himself whose article in January's Socialist Review had begun that process by mixing together the defence of the leadership's handling of the dispute and the defence of "Leninism". The motion explained the women's distress in terms of the publicising of their case on the internet. It spoke for women who the CC does not know, has not asked, and about whom some CC members have been lying for a year.


A leadership supporter R- inadvertently captured the half-hearted nature of the CC's manoeuvre when she explained to delegates in a later session; "I am prepared to say sorry. I am not going to apologise."


Many important things were said during the course of conference. Two women who used to be on the SWP Disputes Committee explained how the majority of that committee had tried to prevent the second complaint from ever being heard, and the battle they had had to fight to have it heard, resulting eventually in the appointment of a new panel. The room quietened when they spoke; but afterwards, no-one voted differently.


The panel which heard the second complaint explained why they had found that there was a case to answer, and spelled out that they had heard from her and read her evidence, and spent 2 full days considering her case, as well as a further period debating their reasons. Any fair listener would have grasped that the panellists believed that Smith probably had harassed the second complainant. The comrades listened, and some were troubled. But they continued to vote for the leadership.


A member of the same panel explained that the second complainant also made a complaint that her email had been hacked. It was quite possibly hacked, the panel had accepted, by a member of the SWP. But if so, and this was the sole matter that interested them, the hacker had not been instructed beforehand by the Central Committee to hack her email account, and that meant there was nothing for them to investigate.


In this last episode, you can find expressed the degeneration of an entire party. What we were being told was that the DC accepted that a member of the SWP may well have chosen to hack the email account of a woman who had made a serious, sexual complaint against a leading member of the SWP. In fact while the hacker was there, as a comrade from Manchester had explained, he had not just forwarded emails belonging to the complainant, he had also deleted what he presumably thought were the only copies of emails passing between Smith and the complainant, and which subsequently helped to prove her complaint before the second disputes committee. He was doing what now passes for loyalty in the SWP -- behaving in secret, destroying potential evidence, doing everything in his power to protect a man accused of rape.


If the individual who did this was not acting on orders, he was nevertheless doing something which he thought the leadership, or at least a section of it, would welcome. And there is no suggestion that he has ever been sanctioned for what he did. This mindset, of trying to think into the mind of a leadership, and of doing more and more grotesque things in the hope of winning their patronage, is associated with dark moments in history. Yet neither the disputes panel, nor it seems conference, found anything remarkable in it.


There were other bad times at conference; as when M- the outgoing chair of the Disputes Committee -- sought to smear the second complainant by insinuating that she had spoken to the Daily Mail and encouraged them to doorstep Smith.


R-, who was of course a member of the SWP Disputes Committee which heard the first case, called the second complainant "obscene" for having supported a faction which had named Smith as being accused of "sexual predation" and insinuated that the second complaint had been made only for factional purposes. It was as if she could blank out of her mind the evidence of her comrades on the second panel who had accepted that Smith probably had sexually harassed a woman. She ended her speech with the words, "Honour and Respect democratic centralism! Honour and Respect confidentiality!"


I will never again use the word "socialist" to describe the middle aged trade unionist from my former branch who went round the edges of conference, confronting the youngest delegate at conference, a woman in her gap year before university who had never met him before, with the hostile greeting, "Martin is innocent".


Conference voted by a majority of 8 to 1 in favour of a CC slate containing Callinicos and Kimber, with only 69 delegates voting for an alternative leadership (11 others abstained). I vainly shouted "count" when the vote on the apology was taken, not because it was close, but because I thought the numbers should be a matter of record. The chair moved on, having declared the motion heavily defeated.


I believe that about 15 or so more comrades voted for it than for the alternative CC slate; or to put it another way, only 1 in 30 of the non-faction comrades broke from the leadership, even on the most significant -- and straightforward -- question of whether there should be a genuine apology.


Against the many shameful things I saw, I must also insist that there were many people at conference sitting there with their heads in their hands, some in tears. You could see this most clearly among a section of the middle ground, who seemed visibly in pain at what they were watching.


As well as them, there were people who spoke out against the party's degeneration. I think of the longstanding member who spoke twice in the debate about the Central Committee, and stated in the most direct of terms that a Central Committee which is united only to cover up a crime of this sort has no legitimacy, and that a leadership which has driven hundreds of socialists out no longer deserves to lead. It is a difficult and lonely thing to tell hundreds of people that they are wrong. You need to be brave to stand up before a room of several hundred people who are hostile to you, knowing that they will be given many more opportunities to attack you than you will be allowed friends to speak in your defence. I am proud to call that man a comrade.


Why did we lose? I looked at conference and I saw a group of ageing and tired people, who have watched their party at war with itself over the past year. Among the SWP majority, a belief is prevalent that nobody can ever really "know" what happens in the privacy of a relationship between a man and a woman. It follows that in the context of multiple allegations of sexual abuse, the party is the only thing that counts. The working class, which is under attack in an epoch of austerity, is best protected by a revolutionary party which is as strong as possible. The party is everything. Without the party, we as individuals, and the working class, are alike nothing. The protection of the party is based on a committed denial of the reality of what happened, and the self-deception that this small party whose active members count only in the hundreds, is in fact many times larger than we know it to be, and represents the whole of the class, the entirety of the movement. To keep the party you have to protect the leadership; no matter how many mistakes they have made. These members of the SWP made it a point of pride that they hadn't read unwelcome articles in the Internal Bulletins, had not gone online or spoken to people who might disagree with them, had not tried to think for themselves about what had happened or who they believed. The leadership had spoken and that was enough for them.


Such an argument may satisfy my former comrades. But, unlike them, I have heard one of the complainants directly. Indeed, I have listened to her with more care, and over a longer period of time that anyone in the SWP ever will. And she is telling the truth.


The history of socialism is the story of a shifting border between principle and expediency. Edward Bernstein sought to put the former on a coherent basis when he argued that for him the socialist movement (i.e. the SPD, the party) was everything. To which Rosa Luxemburg famously responded that to her the movement was not everything, only the goal, the liberation of all humanity, counted for everything. Too many of my former comrades repeat Bernstein's error in convincing themselves that the party of their (and my) youth still exists, or that they make themselves "revolutionaries" by giving cover to a leadership which has disgraced the left.


That in short is why I left, because I am a Marxist and revolutionary, because I believe in women's liberation and will not cover up sexual abuse, and -- above all -- because I am loyal to the socialists of my youth and the principles they taught me. The decision, in the end, has not anguished me, and I am not in need of anyone's sympathy. I do convey my best wishes on leaving, my love and my solidarity greetings, to the principled few who remain.


All of my adult life has been spent either as a member of or a close supporter of the SWP. Few of my closest friends are people who I met anywhere but in the SWP. I am not sad though to leave, if anything I am relieved, and the prospect of being part of a new left inspires me.


[Quoted from here.]


Ex leading member, Hazel Croft, on the above resignation:


I really want to thank you for all you have written and achieved over the last year, Dave. This is a wonderful piece, and your lack of rancour is admirable. It brought tears to my eyes to read your account of the conference of the party to which I also once belonged, and in which I know there were sitting people I know and love who will have listened to what you describe being said and yet still would have still voted with the leadership. I always hoped that they went along with the leadership through lack of knowledge of the facts, through a misguided trust in the leadership. Now I know there is something more than that, and it is painful to hear it described and to try to understand how and why it has happened. I still can't get really get my head around how things turned to so much of their opposite, even though I have been grappling with it for the last 12 months. I have had mixed feelings over the last couple of days, as a new wave of people have resigned their membership -- I was happy people were leaving once it was clear they wouldn't win, but I also feel huge huge sadness for what has been lost with the degeneration of the organisation, and for the political and personal ramifications for myself and so many others. I am pleased you feel full of hope for the future -- although it may take you a little longer than you think to 'move on', and to stop thinking of the SWP. Certainly it has me -- although perhaps it has taken me longer because I did not feel able to battle it out to the end. Whatever happens next I certainly hope to be working alongside you in some capacity, and do believe we can create something better.


[Quoted from here (in the comments section).]


After 25 years I have resigned from the SWP.

In summary, the SWP has politically degenerated to a point where the chances of becoming fit for purpose seem vanishingly small. If we are serious we must start again and build on firmer foundations than fudge. The Revolutionary Socialism blog ( will carry information about the beginnings of this process. I am filled with sadness, but also with hope. Making a fresh start will not be easy. But it is necessary and it is possible. We each have to play what part we can.

I don't want to rehearse the general arguments again, but there are three specific issues I want to address. The first is about what has been achieved. The second is about the allegation that the second woman's email was hacked. The third is about the debate taking place across the movement about working with the SWP and its remaining members.


The SWP now has fairly good procedures for dealing with any future allegations of rape or sexual harassment. Labour movement organisations across the world will look at our experience if facing similar cases. Many women will be treated better as a result of the fight we have waged over the last year. If the opposition factions had achieved nothing else, this would have made it worthwhile.


Comrades should read the resignation letter of "comrade X" (who was renamed "comrade A" at the December 2013 conference) – the second complainant against M. This is widely available online. In addition to her complaints of sexual harassment, victimisation and bullying, she complained that her email account had been hacked after she brought her complaint, while she still worked for the SWP.

The fact that our leadership's mishandling of Comrade W's rape allegation came in the wake of the Saville, Assange and Strauss-Kahn cases added heat to this year's crisis. After the phone hacking scandal and the spying on the Lawrence family, it should have been obvious to anyone with an ounce of sense that comrade X's hacking complaint was potentially explosive and must be handled in exemplary fashion.

The SWP chose not to conduct a proper investigation into comrade X's hacking complaint.

I was the main witness for Comrade X in her hacking case. I have worked in IT all my adult life and have represented IT workers in my union for over 20 years from the workplace to the UNITE Executive Council. The disputes panel were utterly incapable of conducting a proper investigation into the allegation, lacking even basic IT skills and unable to understand the evidence or the issues. I explained to them at least twice what they needed to do to begin to uncover the truth. They chose not to do this. They reached a verdict without a hearing, on the basis of an "assurance", despite proof that evidence had been forged. After I opposed the panel's report at the party conference, a member of the panel accepted that there might have been hacking. The panel chose not to investigate further because they felt confident that hacking had not been carried out by the Central Committee or on its behalf (which was never the allegation). So is it OK if another SWP member hacked the email of a woman who complained of sexual harassment, tried to delete evidence and fabricated an email? Is it OK if it was on behalf of the man accused of rape and sexual harassment?

I know, first hand, that this investigation was utterly inadequate. This was no accident. Prior to any investigation, Alex C ridiculed the allegation at the party National Committee. The allegation was not taken seriously, despite the experience of the last year. Yet this disgraceful situation produced barely a ripple in conference. Comrades' desire to defend the organisation and its leadership made the majority of delegates oblivious to injustice. They could not bring themselves to look objectively at the possibility that such awful things had happened in a party of which we have been so proud. Their behaviour bears striking similarity to those CP members who, despite mountains of evidence, firmly believed the crimes of Stalinism were an imperialist smear until their own leader finally confirmed them.


We are all products of the oppressive capitalist society in which we live. No organisation in this society can completely rid itself of sexism, but all labour movement organisations should actively oppose sexism within their ranks. Revolutionary socialist organisations set the bar higher -- their leadership and cadre should be intransigent in opposing all forms of oppression, and individuals who cannot be swiftly won to this have no place in such organisations. There can be no liberation without socialism, and no socialism without liberation.

A small minority of SWP members have behaved in ways that would lead to disciplinary action in most trade unions. The vast majority did not. Some stood up to the reactionary elements. Most failed to do so, but did not themselves act in oppressive ways.

The crisis in the SWP has been so bad precisely because the organisation set itself high standards but failed to live up to them. While the majority of the leadership and cadre were not sexist themselves, they did accommodate to sexism in the party's ranks. They treated it as less important than other considerations and they fudged.

Those whose anger about the SWP's handling of these cases are leading them to refuse to work with the SWP or its members need to consider carefully where this will lead and how we fight most effectively against oppression. All sizeable organisations, including the unions and the Labour Party, include people with sexist ideas and who sometimes behave in sexist ways. We combat this sexism by fighting alongside them on the issues we agree on, while arguing hard against their sexism. We win them away from sexism both by arguing with them and by demonstrating in practice that the unity of women and men helps us all win, that their own sexism is a barrier to this, and that they would be better off without it. Refusing to work with organisations that include people with sexist views means refusing to work with almost anyone, abandoning the mass action that has the potential to change people's ideas, to change the world, and to eradicate oppression. It is not a radical approach to liberation, it is the politics of despair. We should all understand why some people may personally find it impossible to work with certain individuals, but we should not mistake this for a correct political strategy.


Ian Allinson


[Quoted from here. (This link no longer works!)]


Dear Charlie

I have decided to resign from the Socialist Workers Party after 30 years.

I do not take this decision lightly, and have given it much thought, but I cannot remain a member of a party whose leadership consistently fails to uphold the principles of a revolutionary socialist party.

Everyone makes mistakes, but instead of acknowledging them, and learning from those mistakes, the Central Committee has spent the past year repeatedly compounding the damage -- saying nothing when comrades concerned about the treatment of comrade Delta's victims were attacked on all kinds of spurious grounds, and regularly marginalised.

I have been proud to be a member of the SWP since 1983, and my politics have not changed. But for the past year, I have not been proud of being in the SWP, I have felt ashamed.

Over the past few months I, and several hundred others, have done everything we can to convince the leadership of the SWP to think again -- to accept they were wrong on how the 2 complainants were treated, and to learn from that experience by encouraging the open comradely debate and respect between comrades which is the hallmark of a genuine revolutionary party capable of the role it must have in fighting the attacks on our class.

Instead, the few changes we have achieved were only grudgingly made as 'concessions', and a culture allowed which requires only unquestioning loyalty.

There comes a point when a line is crossed, and I'm afraid that point has come.

Sue Bond


[Quoted from here. (This link no longer works!)]

Dear Charlie,

It is with great sadness that I write to tell you of my resignation from the SWP. February next year will mark 40 years since I joined the International Socialists, but after last weekend's conference I can no longer in good conscience remain a member.

The past year has been the worst year I have spent in the SWP, and I think the worst year in the SWP's history. Over 500 people have already left, including the vast majority of our students; Marxism was a shadow of its former self, with numbers badly down and almost no outside speakers; the Unite the Resistance conference was half the size of last year's; and in the unions and movements, it's almost impossible to find anyone who thinks that we did the right thing.

Even our successes have been tainted -- the Tower Hamlets demonstration against the EDL was great, but we initially failed to offer solidarity to the almost 300 people arrested by the police, and the reaction to the 'Sisters Against the EDL' initiative seemed driven by pure sectarianism.

Over the last year I have fought to get the SWP to change its position on the two complaints against the former national secretary, and I am proud to have done so alongside so many other comrades. We started off convinced of the SWP's principled positions on women's oppression and women's liberation, and determined that those principles had to apply to every member, no matter how important. Like many others, I have been appalled by the leadership's managerialist approach to the crisis, putting party pride above principle, and by the culture of deference to the leadership that has determined the response of too many comrades.

I'm aware that both of those elements have been around for some time, but I always believed before in the SWP's capacity to learn from and transcend its mistakes. I no longer do so, and I think that an organisation that cannot learn from criticism, and wilfully ignores it, is an organisation that will calcify and become sectarian.

I have spent my adult life in the SWP, and I don't regret it for one minute. We have done great things -- with the Anti-Nazi League (twice), during the miners' strike, and with Stop the War, among many other things. I have learn a huge amount from comrades I have worked with over the decades, and I am particularly grateful for the opportunities given to develop and extend my writing. Many close friends and comrades I greatly respect will stay in the SWP, and I wish them all well. After a year's debate, conference's decisions on the internal crisis are clear and unambiguous -- I cannot defend them, or take any pride in my membership, and so it's for the best that I leave.

I intend to remain an active revolutionary socialist, and I look forward to working with SWP members and other socialists in the struggles, campaigns and movements to come, and to creatively applying the principles of international socialism in whatever new formation emerges from this crisis.

Yours, Charlie Hore


[Quoted from here.]


I'm resigning from the SWP.


This is why.


I believe all the current members of the CC are brilliant fighters, each in their own unique and valuable way. I have seen no evidence of a CC cover up and I accept their word. I do have specific reservations about one or two on the CC: that is not surprising, and not important; no one is perfect, including me etc.  I also believe that there is tremendous talent in the membership of the organisation. I am thankful to the party for introducing me to some of these comrades and also for educating me in the politics of the IS tradition.


I understand the need for unity within the party and that this allows for a united CC to roll out whatever policies we have agreed on and therefore, I also agree that permanent factions cannot be tolerated as this will hamper the ability of the party to focus on what is important given current political conditions.

So what is wrong?


The problem has arisen around the Disputes Committee, but, having thought about the reasons why the sad difficulties arose, I think the stresses that built up leading to the crash stem from the particular way we currently elect the leadership. There are a number of different ways this could be addressed, but that’s not really what I want to talk about here.


Comrades naturally, because they believe in the organisation, want to be loyal to the leadership and to the party. I myself want to do this and have done so throughout my two dozen years in the party. I have disagreed with the party direction from time to time, but I have always continued trying to build the party and to sell the paper etc. When I have a vote, I loyally vote for the party, for the CC position. And, outside the party I always argue passionately for our politics and tradition.


A party, with a clear unified message, is a strong party. And we work to try to build such a party. Comrades intuitively feel this is a strength of the SWP and loyally vote for CC positions and CC slates. But building for strength and flexibility is not necessarily a straightforward task. There is a difficult path for the CC to tread to maximise strength and flexibility.


I think the system of electing the CC (by slate) has meant that any error by any individual CC member can tar the whole CC (perhaps in the view of the CC members as well as those in the know), because of the joint responsibility conferred by those elections. There will be a temptation for the CC to close ranks to maintain unity and strength and also to maintain secrecy on any problematic issues. What has been a strength under normal circumstances becomes rigid and brittle, and a source of weakness, under conditions of stress of the kind we have seen lately. The CC may feel they must hang together or hang separately. Rigid loyalty to the CC of the kind expressed by some comrades, during most periods a strong support, can in more difficult periods become its opposite.


To me, admittedly without any detailed knowledge of the recent cases under dispute, but from the only vantage point I have, it seems that this rigidity and brittleness has been extended to the DC. Clearly, the DC fractured this year. The abuse of the power of the party exhibited by the 2013 DC Report Back is evidence, for me, of this weakness. Anybody can make a mistake, but it must be owned up to for any healing to commence.


I was extremely saddened when the overwhelming majority of the 2013 SWP conference did not vote for a clear apology to two women comrades subjected not only to the original misconduct they had reported and complained about but also to further abuse from the party apparatus. Why didn’t the comrades want to apologise? They didn't want to? I don't believe them! I believe they voted to be seen to be 'loyal'. Voting under the present system is a loyalty test. And of course, comrades want to be seen as loyal.


The party has been weakened this year, not because of the faction, but because of the way the leadership and apparatus has related to the party given the internal crisis.


It wouldn't be such a problem if it looked as though there is possibility of changing the situation.


I voted for the faction slate, even though I have never signed up to any faction, because there was no alternative. I could have continued to vote loyal, but my heart wasn't in it given the options available. I actually thought that the combination of comrades on the CC slate was probably a better combination than the faction slate. However, the fact that they were bound to one another because of the slate, made that choice wrong for the reasons given above. I suppose it was a protest vote.


I could have decided to stay in the party, beavering away from below, disregarding the type of leadership we have, and that is what I almost decided to do, but I have decided that would probably be wrong and would be, given the seeming intransigence locked in to the democratic structures of the party, simply wasting time.


So, because I cannot see any possibility of the change I think is necessary happening here any time soon, and because I don't want work in an organisation where I may be thought of as disloyal, and because I feel, after nearly a quarter of a century fighting for and with the party, that my time and energy might now be better spent elsewhere, I quit.


John Cowsill


[Quoted from here.]


Dear Charlie,

I have decided to resign my membership of the Socialist Workers Party.

With conference not apologising to the two women; not one member of our leading body made accountable; and a lack of recognition of the many mistakes made in the last year (2013) by the Central Committee. I have no confidence in the 'newly' elected Central Committee being able to lead any of us in the class struggle. The leadership has broken down all relations of trust.

Consequently, I cannot continue to operate as a revolutionary socialist while a member of Hornsey & Wood Green branch. The undeclared faction's sectarian behaviour towards anyone who has any doubts about the behaviour of MS has distorted the local party in a very destructive manner. I have been bureaucratically removed from the District Committee despite the objections of the local branch, systematically undermined, viewed as politically suspicious and slandered on many occasions.

I have been appalled at the actions of the leadership, the CC, and various comrades who mobilised to protect our former, disgraced, National Secretary and defend the indefensible -- rape and sexual harassment -- which now includes a hacking scandal into the second complainants (Comrade X) email account.

The comrade who brought forward a complaint of sexual harassment experienced victimisation and bullying (as did the first complainant). She then complained that her email account had been accessed without her knowledge and 'evidence' deleted.

I am shocked and horrified to hear that conference delegates heard this account and could not bring themselves to challenge the leadership, the DC, and begin a thorough investigation. Ian A puts it like this:

"The panel chose not to investigate further because they felt confident that hacking had not been carried out by the Central Committee or on its behalf (which was never the allegation). So is it OK if another SWP member hacked the email of a woman who complained of sexual harassment, tried to delete evidence and fabricated an email? Is it OK if it was on behalf of the man accused of rape and sexual harassment?"

The CC, and some senior Cadre, clearly and simply, see the SWP as an end in itself rather than a means of bringing about a socialist transformation of society. For the current leadership, the 'Party is everything' and 'the goal (socialism) nothing'. Fighting against all forms of oppression is an important part of challenging and overthrowing the Capitalist mode of production. In David Renton's recent resignation statement he outlines the dynamic of defensiveness and ultra-loyalty drawing ever so closer to a sect:

"The working class, which is under attack in an epoch of austerity, is best protected by a revolutionary party which is as strong as possible. The party is everything. Without the party, we as individuals, and the working class, are alike nothing. The protection of the party is based on a committed denial of the reality of what happened, and the self-deception that this small party whose active members count only in the hundreds, is in fact many times larger than we know it to be, and represents the whole of the class, the entirety of the movement. To keep the party you have to protect the leadership; no matter how many mistakes they have made."

A political reckoning was absolutely needed and our principles on women's oppression should have been put in to practise back in 2010 when the CC first heard of the complaint. Now, the prospect of renew is out of the question for the SWP. The SWP has politically degenerated to a point where the chances of it becoming fit for purpose seem ever so slight. A new party is possible; and in that project I will continue to operate as a revolutionary socialist, locally, nationally and internationally.

After having served my political apprenticeship for the last 20 months within the SWP, it's now time for a fresh start. This is necessary and it is possible.

I have no desire to disengage with the SWP politically -- I will not publicity criticise the SWP over these matters after this statement. I have stated my reasons for my resignation and hope to work with, strategically, sections of the SWP in the near future.

In comradeship,

Phil Tsappas


[Quoted from here.]


Veteran SWP-er and ex-CC member, Pat Stack, resigns


Dear Charlie


Next May I would have been in the SWP for 40 years. In my 39 years in the IS/SWP, 20 of those working full time for the organisation, there were of course many ups and downs. But I was always sure that this was my political home. I was chosen to be our representative on the NUS executive, became a full-timer, got elected onto the Central Committee, on which I served for 12 years. I look back on that time as an honour made all the greater by having worked alongside the likes of Tony Cliff, Duncan Hallas, Chris Harman and Paul Foot. However after a year of shooting in the dark trying to put right a wrong, I feel I have been brought to a crossroads. The SWP's failure to deal with the dispute arising from the complaint of the two women against the former national secretary, its failure to correct the errors that arose from that dispute, and the complete lack of honest accounting as to what went wrong, have all brought me to this point. The leadership had so many opportunities to do the right thing, to make decisions that would save the SWP from a huge cost to its reputation and huge loss of membership. It remains a source of heartbreak and bewilderment for me that you failed so badly at every turn. Leaderships can only be judged on what they have done, what results they have achieved. Whatever way we look at it, this leadership failed to deal with the issue that lies at the heart of the biggest crisis the SWP ever faced.


If the problem were exclusively one of failed leadership I might just still be considering my continued membership. Sadly it is clear that for a large section of the loyal membership, a short-sighted "defence of the party" has overridden every other consideration, including principles, and furthermore for them "defence of the party" has become synonymous with "defence of the leadership".


The full horror of this was exemplified at conference by the standing ovation for Maxine's disputes committee report, followed by the complete lack of response to the revelations of dispute committee members C and J (neither of them faction members) that Maxine and the majority on the disputes committee had indeed blocked the second case from being heard.


Those who gave the standing ovation for Maxine -- about a third of the conference -- long ago decided that the two women were lying, either for factional reasons or because they were stooges of the state. They decided this way despite having no reliable knowledge of either case.


It is laughable to pretend this group of people has not broken fundamentally with our principles over women's liberation.


In the light of this I feel I have no choice but to resign from the SWP. I do so with much sadness. I do so, however, in the company of many others alongside whom I have fought and who, like me, now feel they have to move on. They have been outstanding examples of how to fight for what is right in very difficult circumstances, and I stand by them with pride.


I know that in doing so I am saying goodbye to something that has been a huge part of almost my entire adult life. I am also saying goodbye to those members of the faction who will choose to stay inside the SWP. I would say to them: we fought an honourable fight together, we did the right thing, we defended principle rather than organisation. So never ever apologise for what you have done this past year. I know you think the SWP can still be changed. I think you are wrong, but wish you every success in your efforts.


I am further saying goodbye to many comrades who despite their horror at the behaviour of the IDOOM [In Defence Of Our Martin -- RL] "ultras" (the undeclared faction committed to defending the former national secretary at all costs), didn't join our faction. A number of them have contacted me asking me not to leave, to stay and to try to prevent the party being taken over by those representing this sectarian distortion of our traditions. I hate having to tell them I am going, but I fear they are fighting a losing fight. I will always regard them as comrades and hope to see them in the struggles of the future.


For myself, I remain a committed revolutionary, a champion of socialism from below, and a believer in revolutionary organisation. I am just sad that the vehicle I chose to travel on has hit the buffers, and angry that some of those still on it have betrayed everything it once stood for.


Pat Stack


[Quoted from here.]


Mass Resignation (165 so far):


The signatories to this statement can no longer remain members of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) following events at its annual conference on 13-15 December 2013.

We all fought for a just resolution for the two women at the heart of this crisis. We are proud of having conducted that battle. We are honoured to have worked alongside hundreds of comrades in an effort to uphold our political principles on women's liberation.

We remain committed to socialism from below and to the need for revolutionary organisation. The SWP taught us how to fight and we are indebted to both the politics that inspired us and the individuals who made this happen.


We have resigned because our leadership failed to put our principles on women's liberation into practice. Nevertheless many good revolutionaries who did not fail that test will remain members of the SWP. We want to work with the SWP and others in campaigns and struggles ahead.

Over the last year we began debating a wide range of political questions. We want to continue those debates. The crisis has brought out both the strengths and the weaknesses of our own political tradition. These questions will not be resolved in weeks, or even in months. But we do want to assess how we begin again to organise collectively.


In solidarity,


Adam DC, Adrià Porta Caballé, Alberto Torres, Alexis W, Alice LB, Amy Gilligan, Andrew Osborne, Andy Cunningham, Andy North, Angela S, Anindya Bhattacharyya, Anne Saxon, Annie N, Arjun Mahadevan, Arnie Joahill, Bartley W, Bea Leal, Bettina Trabant, Bill Crane, Brian Parkin, Bunny La Roche, Charlie Hore, Christian C, Colin, Colin Marchant, Colin Wilson, Cris Johnson, Dan Swain, Darren P, Dave Radford, Dave Roberts, David Hollings, David Renton, Deborah M, Despina M, Dominic W, Elizabeth Dearden, Emily McDonagh, Emma C, Emma C, Estelle C, Ewa Barker, Ewan Nicolson, Fraser Ritchie, Gareth Jones, Gary M, Gill George, Graham Campbell, Hanif L, Hazel Sabey, Helios Alonso, Ian A, Ian Birchall, Ian Stone, Imelda Messenger, Imogen PB, Iris C, Isabel H, Jack Farmer, Jack T, James Cameron, James Norrie, Jamie Andrews, Jaz Blackwell-Pal, Jen W, Jo Robbins, John Walker, Jonas Liston, Jonathan Neale, Jonny Jones, Jordan Miers, Judd Osborne, Judith Swift, Kaiya S, Kath Knight, Keith Forbes, Kevin F, Kyri Tsappas, Leon Bond, Liam Tobin, Linda Nunns, Lois Clifton, Louis Bayman, Lukas K, Luke E, Luke Henderson, Mark B, Mark W, Martha J, Matt S, Matthew C, Michael McDonnell, Michal N, Mike Thompson, Mike Williams, Mikhil Karnik, Mireia Chavarria, Miriyam Aouragh, Mitch Mitchell, Moses Milner, Nancy L, Nathan B, Neil B, Neil Davidson, Neil Rogall, Nicholas J, Nick Cimini, Nick E, Oliver Lowe, Ollie Vargas, Owen H, Owen Miller, Pat Stack, Patrick Naylor, Patrick Ward, Pete Cannell, Pete Gillard, Phil T, Rachel Eborall, Rebecca Short, Rick C, Rick Lighten, Rita McLoughlin, Rob Owen, Robin B, Roderick C, Ron Smith, Ross S, Ruairidh Maclean, Ruth Lorimer, Sadie F, Sam James, Sam O’Brien, Sara Bennett, Sarah Pigott, Seb Cooke, Sebastian Cooke, Shanice M, Shayon S, Shirley Marchant, Siân R, Simon Behrman, Simon D, Simon Fisher, Sophie Williams, Søren G, Stella Hawker, Steve Baker, Steve Henshall, Stuart Calton, Sue Bond, Suhail M, Sundara J, Tara Topteagarden, Theo Williams, Tom Haines-Doran, Tommy Martin, Tony Walker, Valerie Prechner, Viv Smith, Will Stacey, William Cleary, William S, Yasmin Kenyon.


[Quoted from here.]


Appendix J -- The 2009-2014 Split In The ISO (USA)


(1) Chicago Comrades


Readers will no doubt recognise the familiar complaints about high-handed, uncomradely treatment of dissenters, and the lack of democracy in the party -- as well as the obligatory reference to 'dialectics'.




We are a group of former ISO members from the Chicago district. We left the organization over the past two to five years (at different points) but remain loyal to the ISO and the politics of International Socialism. We estimate we have one hundred years combined experience in the ISO. We have developed, or have on reflection developed, some serious concerns about organizational practice within the ISO and its approach to its membership and political perspectives.


Some of us were dealt with in a uncomradely and undemocratic manner upon raising political disagreements. Some of us were forced out of the organization. Some of us were part of leadership teams that acted (at times) in an uncomradely and undemocratic manner towards comrades who raised dissenting viewpoints; such actions were not individual aberrations at the level of district or branch committees but were directed from the highest ranks of the ISO.


All of us began to ask questions about the underlying causes of these problems and, while we are not in agreement on everything, we have come to a few conclusions.


1) The ISO has produced over many years an atmosphere in which dissent has been tolerated only to a minimal degree and simple questions have been treated as dissent. In this hothouse atmosphere, the leadership often feels compelled to argue against simple questions; questions become arguments, arguments become arguments with the leadership, thereby making too many lines of discussion in the organization vertical.


2) This is in part related to mistaken lessons about Leninism inherited from the British SWP.


3) More importantly, it is related to perspectives which consistently exaggerated the potential coming struggles -- always just over the horizon -- and turning points that never became qualitative turning points.


4) These perspectives errors are related to a failure to come to terms with some of the key features of the current (and to some extent recent) political period(s): leftward-moving consciousness, interest in radical ideas, episodic struggles, low-level of class struggle, a small and disorganized revolutionary and reformist left, the impact of the fall of Stalinism, etc.


Despite our concerns we did not "air dirty laundry in public." We knew, on balance, that the ISO contributed a great deal to the development of the U.S. and international left. We had (and have) no desire to see the organization or its work harmed. We, like most current and former members, recognize the important role ISO comrades -- along with other comrades on the left -- played in the Chicago teachers strike, as well as in the fast food workers struggles, the ongoing work against racism, and many other important activist arenas. These successes, however, do not change the fundamental problems and issues at hand.


Moreover, until now, we did not believe our criticisms would be seen as constructive, believing they would add fuel to the fire of cranks and sectarians and find little audience among comrades. We thought our criticism would be perceived as a public attack by comrades eager to defend the organization.


But things have changed.


1. An accumulation of members with different sets of experiences and backgrounds, the growth of comrades in the organization, a political maturity attained from putting down roots in certain areas of work (rather than relying on episodic struggles) means that these comrades' experience may run counter to the espoused perspective of the “next turn” on the horizon, raising questions about the functioning of the organization.  


2. The implosion of the British SWP and the failure of a series of political assumptions associated with the International Socialist Tendency (IST) has opened up an important space for rethinking the tasks and organizational conclusions of revolutionaries today. While the ISO did not share all the same political problems as the SWP, it is nevertheless marked by our common political evolution. American ISO exceptionalism is an insufficient response to the questions posed by the failures of the British SWP.


3. The convergence of points 1 & 2 create a moment that not only invites but requires responsible political self-reflection. The questions of the moment are becoming clearer even if our answers to those questions have yet to be formulated. It is clear to us, based on a reading of last year's convention documents as well as recent debates in and around the organization, that the national leadership has not led an adequate discussion about how to meet the challenges of the current period. This does not mean that the lead being provided on the ground in specific areas of work is necessarily wrong; there are many talented comrades leading such areas of work. But the national perspective/lead seems fragmented and empirical rather than unified and dialectical.


4. Whatever mistakes he may or may not have made we are very concerned about the forced resignation of Shaun J. -- a comrade with 14 years of dedicated membership in the ISO. This forced resignation comes after Shaun raised a number of concerns (very legitimate concerns in our opinion) during last year's convention discussion and concerns (again, very legitimate concerns) about a national march in Washington, D.C. that was run by some of the worst liberal shills connected to the Democratic Party. We are not saying Shaun was right or wrong but rather that the events surrounding his case are exceedingly troubling. Most importantly, they are indicative of a method of functioning that is out of step with the demands of the current political moment.


We therefore offer the following points for consideration -- all of which relate to the two main issues of democracy and perspectives that we believe should be up for discussion in a dialectically linked manner.


Organizational Issues


1. There needs to be a thorough accounting of the question of democracy in the ISO. In the most recent debates around the march in Washington there was, evidently, a debate among Steering Committee (SC) and National Committee (NC) members. It was resolved. But when rank-and-file ISO members raised similar issues their views were treated as outliers. The idea that the leadership must be seen as infallible is papal not Marxist.


2. Why is it not appropriate, when there is a substantial debate among the leadership, to open up that debate to the entire membership? That this is not seen as appropriate is a hangover from Zinovievist (SWP) notions of Leninism: the debates are not had out in the open; the leadership is a monolith; the center leads the party; the party leads the class, etc. This may lead to an ossification of the political life of the organization.


3. Not all disagreements with the leadership are anti-leadership or anti-Leninist. By exaggerating the scale of critiques the leadership itself runs the risk of escalating debates about organization, theory and perspectives into existential questions -- that the leadership is "under siege," etc. -- when in fact no such existential threat exists.


4. Only a collective nation-wide leadership of a wide layer of comrades (both ISO members and other socialists) will be able to figure out -- through discussion and practice -- new perspectives for the current era. This national discussion, of course, will have to be held in concert with the global discussions of the revolutionary left.


5. A relatively small SC or NC does not need to come up with all the answers. On the contrary it needs to lead and help facilitate democratic discussion. Any assumption -- whether by the leadership or the rank-and-file -- that political questions such as perspectives are to be answered solely by the leadership is a hindrance to the growth and maturation of the organization.


6. Related to this, there has been a tendency to fetishize talented new members and denigrate long-standing cadre,  an approach  influenced by Tony Cliff's distortions of Lenin. Talented new ISO members were often treated like gold; experienced cadre -- especially cadre who raised questions or criticisms -- were too often seen as expendable.


7. In the long run this can create not only a brain drain in the organization but also a process by which some of the most principled cadre may leave or are driven out of the organization. See the current sad state of the British SWP for example. This fact, combined with the exhaustion of "war footing" and "turning points," is the most important subjective factor for the loss of ISO members.


Political Issues


1. Both the IST and the ISO expected that the late 20th century and early 21st century would produce a larger explosion of struggle than has so far occurred. This expectation of sustained struggles, whether arising largely spontaneously or led by liberal or social-democratic forces outside the radical left, has proven erroneous (noted exceptions aside).


2. The exaggerated expectations therefore had a contradictory and distorting impact on the organization's relationship to struggle and its self-replication.


3. The organization burned many longstanding comrades out through hyperactivity. Long-standing cadre who became outliers in terms of the perspectives tended to be marginalized or removed.


4. Conversely, the organization was unintentionally passive about the possibility of initiating new centers of organizing. While the ISO has done much impressive work, too often it has found itself in the position of "waiting for Godot" -- waiting for external developments.


5. This contradiction helps explain the vacillation between "war footing" and "turning points" on the one hand and recurring "back to basics" campaigns on the other.


6. The ISO did not make as many or as extreme mistakes at the SWP. Moreover, the political period has continued to develop. But some of these mistakes echo into the current failure of the ISO leadership to fully lead.


7. The current period is marked by the following characteristics in the U.S.: a widespread interest in socialist and even radical ideas, a low level of class struggle proper, extremely episodic social struggles, a weak organized labor movement, a small revolutionary left, increasingly dysfunctional mainstream politics, the increasing immiseration of the working-class, the ongoing impact of the global reorganization of capital and production, and the primitive formation of radical politics among the "radicalizing minority."


8. In other words the conditions do not exist at the moment for the revolutionary left to consistently play the role of the "left wing" in larger reformist or liberal led struggles. Such events and movements do occur but they are not a defining characteristic of the present moment.


9. The question is posed to the revolutionary left of initiation of struggle: ideological, physical and strategic.


10. For some time it has been axiomatic that we are not in a position like that of the third international, the fourth or the second. We may be closer to  the position of the first international: one of building almost from scratch. Of course like all historical analogies this is insufficient. Regardless, the question that such an objective situation would pose is: what can the radical left initiate?




1. See here some of the largest successes in recent years (some of which involved ISO comrades, some of which did not): The CTU [Chicago Teachers Union -- RL] strike (and the role of socialist and radical teachers in reforming the union and leading the strike), the fast food workers campaigns of the IWW a few years ago, the initiating of Occupy Wall Street by small groups of radicals, the counter-strategic centers of the Wisconsin uprising, the modest but very real electoral inroads being made by Socialist Alternative, etc.


2. What other possibilities are there? Summits for alternative ideas of labor organizing with socialists, independent trade unionists and the better anarchists? Electoral alliances with Socialist Alternative (or others) running targeted local socialist political campaigns? Inviting other relatively sane Trotskyists (Solidarity, Socialist Action, etc.) to co-organize Socialism 2014 as partners? Beginning an open dialogue with appropriate parties on questions of regroupment/alliances in the pages of the ISR [International Socialist Review -- RL]?


3. Would it be possible through such projects to create a much more significant pole of attraction for the  thousands of U.S. residents and citizens who think of themselves as socialists but who are not yet ready to join a revolutionary organization? Or, the hundreds or few thousand Marxists in the U.S. who are quite politically principled but have no desire to be a part of what seems to be a mere sect?


4. To be clear we do not favor liquidation. We continue to believe in the need for revolutionary organization and the basic politics of International Socialism. Were the ISO to become part of a larger party (one that included reformists) we would favor the right of factions or platforms.


5. Regardless, we believe that the questions of the political moment have become clearer even as the political mistakes of our former tendency have come into sharper relief. Now is the time to shift towards an honest and open discussion about both -- to eschew finger pointing and defensiveness alike.


We do not claim an infallible purchase on truth. We, like all comrades, have made mistakes. We fully expect that some of these mistakes might be aired in response to our letter, and we are willing to own those. Regardless, we offer these concerns not as a condemnation of the current leadership or any individual comrades.


We offer them in the hope that the ISO and its leadership will begin to correct some of  its errors -- and initiate a modest (but nonetheless historically important) discussion (and experimentation) on the U.S. Left.


In struggle,


Adam T., Bob Q., Hector R., Loretta C., Rossana R., Saman S., Sophie H.


[Quoted from here. Several paragraphs merged. Link added.]


(2) Ex ISO Members


Theory And Practice Of Idealism In Trotskyism And The ISO




The attitude of a political party towards its own mistakes is one of the most important and surest ways of judging how serious the party is and how it in practice fulfils its obligations towards its class and the toiling masses. Frankly admitting a mistake, ascertaining the reasons for it, analyzing the circumstances which gave rise to it, and thoroughly discussing the means of correcting it -- that is the earmark of a serious party; that is the way it should perform its duties, that is the way it should educate and train the class, and then the masses. [Lenin, Left Wing Communism (1920).]


We are a group of former International Socialist Organization (ISO) comrades from the San Francisco Bay Area.


We have been heartened by the critiques of the ISO that Shaun Joseph, Scott J., and the Chicago comrades have offered. We want to express our overall agreement with the thrust of the critiques they make and add our voices to theirs.


All of us worked very closely together during the years we dedicated to building the ISO, and consider that collaborative work the most important accomplishment of our lives. We remain committed to socialist revolution and, as Leninists, still consider the accomplishments of the Russian Revolution the high point of human history, and the construction of a working class vanguard a historic necessity for the possibility of capitalism’s overthrow.


In the years since we have left the ISO, we have remained in touch with one another and have been discussing our experiences in an attempt to come to grips with what went wrong. We believe there is a deep crisis within the International Socialist Tendency (both here and abroad), as well as an overall crisis in the revolutionary socialist left that requires anyone committed to the project of socialist revolution to take a sober and critical look at both of the state of our project and the organizations attempting to lead such a project.


Overall, we believe the picture is not a pretty one, but we share with the above-mentioned comrades an commitment to come to grips with the world as it is, not as we wish it to be. While in the ISO, we found an increasing gap between our experienced reality and ever rosier predictions of growth, postulates of continual "leftward shifting consciousness," and claims of both an ever growing "radicalizing minority" and developing class consciousness (even growing revolutionary or Social Democratic consciousness) within the working class.


Attempts to question these perspectives were met with suspicion and ultimately derision by a national leadership who saw such questioning as an obstacle to growth. Since we each held these views, we were seen as a hostile faction within the ISO that needed to be split up by any means necessary.


Like the Chicago comrades, we too experienced what they describe as "simple questions" being "treated as dissent," as well as a leadership "compelled to argue against simple questions; questions become arguments, arguments become arguments with the leadership." While we all experienced this in our isolated locales, and may be tempted to view these experiences as a purely local phenomenon, we believe such a view would be a mistake. We believe these practices originate from the top of the organization.


Let us be clear. While we all did not know about each other across the organization, or know that many of us shared growing concerns about both ISO practices and perspectives, the national leadership surely did. Far from highlighting these disparate disagreements emerging among the national cadre and exposing the growing discontent and strains within the organization to us all (which is the job of any group claiming to be an actual 'national leadership'), the leadership took an "isolate" and "divide and conquer" approach to the cadre of the organization. This method is completely antithetical to the steps required to actually build a network of cadre that can act as the nucleus for the reconstruction of a vanguard.


On this basis alone, we find the actions of the ISO Steering Committee to be contemptible and urge comrades who are upset at Shaun, Scott, or us, as we attempt to bring deep-rooted problems to light, to not blame the messenger. The blame for these problems coming to light outside the organization rests entirely with the Steering Committee, which has developed an internal leadership method which isolates, marginalizes and silences dissenting voices, instead of amplifying and exposing them so problems can be resolved within the organization.


This method created a situation where many comrades tended to keep their heads down and mouths shut. For that reason, it was very difficult to get a sense of how one's own disagreements were reflected across the organization. The comrades mentioned above have given us the great gift of ending our feeling of isolation. We hope by offering our support, and our own explanation of what went wrong, more comrades will come forward to give us all the benefit of their experience and insight.


We do not pretend to have worked out all the questions we have been grappling with since leaving the ISO, and we don't agree with everything the other comrades have written. Nonetheless, we thought it would be most productive to mark out where we do agree, offer a few insights of our own, and let people know what we think needs to happen to correct the problems within the organization that we gave the best years of our lives to, and by extension address deep-seated problems within the international revolutionary left.


Idealism, Consciousness And Unexamined Inheritances


To start with, after two years of discussion amongst ourselves, we have come to the conclusion that there is a theoretical underpinning to the problems we (and others) experienced in the ISO, including continually erroneous perspectives which were rarely assessed, a leadership method that emphasized cheerleading and exhortation over sober assessment of the challenges we were facing, a tendency to tail the liberals both politically and organizationally (opportunism), a growing separation between our Marxist theory and our practice (a hallmark of opportunism), a sectarian attitude towards the revolutionary left (other socialists and anarchists alike), and an intolerance toward ongoing political disagreement within the organization.


As Lenin said, "Without revolutionary theory, there is no revolutionary practice." It is also true that theoretical errors lead to ongoing mistakes in practical work. We believe the root of the problems in the Trotskyist tradition are to be found in an idealism that Trotsky introduced into Marxism.


Trotsky’s oft-quoted formulation is a good place to start: "It is not the party that makes the program [the idea]; it is the program that makes the party." In a personal letter to James Cannon, Trotsky wrote:


We work with the most correct and powerful ideas in the world, with inadequate numerical forces and material means. But correct ideas, in the long run, always conquer and make available for themselves the necessary material means and forces.


And in 1938:


To adapt the mentality is a pedagogical task. We must be patient, etc. The crisis of society is given as the base of our activity. The mentality is the political arena of our activity. We must change it. We must give a scientific explanation of society, and clearly explain it to the masses. That is the difference between Marxism and reformism. (Trotsky, "The Transitional Program")


And in 1946 by SWP National Committee member, John G. Wright:


Trotsky saw that the world party of the working class is first of all a closely knit system of ideas, that is to say, a program…. From the given system of ideas -- or program -- flows a corresponding system of strategic, tactical, and organizational methods. The latter have no independent meaning or existence of their own and are subordinate to the former…. Indeed we can say without any fear of exaggeration than none attach greater significance or power to ideas than do the revolutionary Marxists. Like Marx, Engels and Lenin, Trotsky regarded ideas as the greatest power in the world…. Lenin's Bolshevik Party valued its ideas as its most potent weapon. Bolshevism demonstrated in action, in 1917, that such ideas, once embraced by the masses, become convened into an insuperable material force.


We read statements like these as expressions of an idealist conception of both how a party relates to the class and how ideas develop within the class. This idealism finds its clearest expression in Trotsky's "The Transitional Program" in 1938.  Here, Trotsky lays out a prognosis for how a tiny and politically isolated 4th International could emerge as mass, international party capable of leading the working class to revolution in the context of the global capitalist crisis expressed through the horrible events of the inter-imperialist rivalry of WWII.


While a fuller critique of "The Transitional Program" goes beyond the scope of this document, there are some features we see in it that comrades will recognize in the practices of the ISO, despite its official non-adherence to that document:


*overestimation of class consciousness and revolutionary consciousness within the class


*an emphasis on ideas (Transitional Program), and the right leadership to develop those ideas, as a prescription for growth, and for developing consciousness and organization within the class


*an emphasis on objective circumstances (crisis) for developing class consciousness and an underestimation of the impact of ruling class ideology and organization (liberalism) on restricting the development of class consciousness


*a resulting underestimation of the need for a rooted, working class militant layer (cadre) in order to overcome ruling class ideas and the liberal leadership of our class


In a nutshell, "The Transitional Program" has acted as a de facto blueprint for "get rich quick schemes" for the revolutionary left, by which small, isolated radical groups could become mass leaders in a short period – schemes rooted in perceiving "correct" ideas (not the actual party and certainly not the cadre in the party) as the material basis for the possibility of building ideological and organizational influence within the class.


Revolutionary organizations have sought such a magic bullet for growth over the last several decades with terrible consequences: organizations that are smaller, less rooted in the class, less experienced overall, wholly practiced at sectarianism with relation to each other, and incapable of sustaining debate internally. This, we believe, is rooted largely in the ideological and organizational legacy of "The Transitional Program" and the organizations that sprung from it.


Looking for this magic bullet has led to a tendency (not only in the British SWP and the American ISO, but familiar in all of Trotskyism) to treat the highest leadership bodies of the organizations as an irreplaceable priesthood necessary for finding those right ideas; a leadership that saw the role of the party cadre as implementing the leadership’s plans. Any cadre who did not agree were ultimately seen as an obstacle to both organizational growth and to the development of the party's influence within the class. This concept of leadership -- as a layer separate from and above the cadre -- reflects an idealist conception of party building which unmoors the building of a vanguard party from the people that might constitute the nucleus of that vanguard: working class militants in the party who have absorbed Marxism and see it as the theory that guides their practice.


It is these idealist notions that form the basis of the continual errors of the ISO and Socialist Worker in declaring "turning points" and "new movements," and continual promises of growth, while neglecting to  assess whether or not these turning points, new movements, or growth actually materialized (and if not, why not).


In the ISO today, this idealism takes the form of a mistaken, non-materialist understanding of the relationship between class struggle, organization, and consciousness. This has produced a deterministic postulate on the development of class consciousness which over-emphasizes the role of objective circumstances in producing changes within the working class, regardless of the state of working class organization or of revolutionary organization. Ironically, this idealistic notion of how class consciousness develops tends to factor out the role of the party in the process, and leads to a downplaying of the need for a party at all.


Further, there has been an ongoing problem in the ISO of equating attitudes on social questions (such as police racism, U.S. Wars, and LGBT rights) with class consciousness. As Marxists, we understand class consciousness to mean the recognition of workers that they are a class in opposition to the interests of the ruling class, and the necessity of organizing as such to defend their interests. So while attitudes on social questions are important and give socialists a sense of working class ideas on the issues of the day, they are certainly not the best barometer of class consciousness.


Historically, class consciousness has been measured by the unionization rate among workers, the total number of days workers have been on strike, the character of those strikes (economic or political), the size of the revolutionary organization within the class, and the breadth and depth of the implantation of that organization (generally measured through membership size, the class character of the organization, and paper circulation).


Because these measures have remained flat and even declined over the last two or three decades, the ISO has jettisoned most of these measures in favour of polls, election results, and sporadic demonstrations, which can be used to paint a picture of a working class on the move and on the cusp of an "upturn." This fits the ISO's "transition period" and subsequent "new period" models, that claim an end to the "downturn" of the 1980's, and put the organization in the posture of constantly searching for that promised "upturn."


The point is not that shifts in poll numbers or election results tell us nothing about the general opening to left-wing ideas, but that they tell us little about the cohesion of those ideas and what people are doing based on them -- i.e. how the class is organizing. Opinion polls offer only a snapshot of a consciousness that is entirely malleable and can shift rapidly in the absence of working class or revolutionary organization. Looking at actual numbers on class struggle and levels of working class organization is a much better way of gauging the level of consciousness because it tells us something about what people are doing in relation to what they think.


This error -- attempting to judge consciousness based on opinion polls, under conditions of historically low levels of point of production struggle -- has been repeated again and again in ISO perspective documents and in Socialist Worker. Equally erroneous is the tendency to assert radicalization based exclusively on worsening conditions for the working class alone:


* "Young radicals today enter politics with a much deeper understanding of class society -- since class inequality continues to grow…." (Organizational Perspectives 2005)


* "But because the movements have been at a standstill, it would be easy to miss the existence of the radicalization at all." (Organizational Perspectives, 2005)


* "…mass consciousness has clearly been shifting leftwards." (Organizational Perspectives, 2006)


* "At last, the level of struggle was beginning to catch up to rising class-consciousness."  (Organizational Perspectives, 2007)


* "The spirit [our emphasis] that animated the Wisconsin struggle hasn't disappeared." (Organizational Perspectives, 2011)


* "There are signs of growing struggle or the desire to struggle [our emphasis] that are appearing." (Organizational Perspectives, 2011)


* "…gap between consciousness and mobilization…." (Organizational Perspectives, 2013)


These formulations help foster a reversal of the Marxist understanding of the relationship between struggle and consciousness.


It is idealist to continually argue that anger builds, consciousness develops, and it is out of that consciousness that people act. This led many comrades to believe that consciousness was continually well ahead of where it actually is and consequently have an unrealistic expectation of what was possible after some of the explosions in struggle we have seen in the last decade. Socialists must develop a deeper theoretical understanding of the dynamic at play. To do so, we need to go back to some basic tenets of Marxism.


"Being determines consciousness" is one of these basic tenets. Or as Engels put it, "In the beginning was the deed." In other words, people generally act beyond their consciousness and only begin to understand their actions later. It is also why, in some cases, spontaneous action can go beyond not only the consciousness of the class, but even beyond the consciousness of the most developed leaders.


The Paris Commune taught Marx the form "at last discovered" that working class reorganization of society would take; the February 1917 revolution taught Lenin that his idea of the Russian Revolution being limited to a bourgeois revolution was mistaken.


Gramsci explained why this happens this way:


The active man-in-the-mass has a practical activity, but has no clear theoretical consciousness of his practical activity, which nonetheless is an understanding of the world in so far as it transforms it. His theoretical consciousness can indeed be historically in opposition to his activity. One might almost say that he has two theoretical consciousnesses (or one contradictory consciousness): one which is implicit in his activity and which in reality unites him with all his fellow-workers in the practical transformation of the real world; and one, superficially explicit or verbal, which he has inherited from the past and uncritically absorbed (Prison Notebooks).


So the dynamic is more along the lines of people acting well ahead of their own consciousness and, under the right circumstances, consciousness catches up to action. Lenin argued in What is to be Done that "catching up" is by no means spontaneous. In fact, in the absence of conscious intervention by socialists, most people will begin to doubt that they have learned anything new by taking action and will drift back towards bourgeois ideology that has been pounded into them since the day they were born.


It is worth remembering what Lenin said regarding the tendency for the working class to gravitate to left wing ideas: "The working class is instinctively, spontaneously Social-Democratic…." But in order to clearly understand the challenges facing socialists and socialist organization today, we need to look at Lenin's oft-cited quote in full: "The working class is instinctively, spontaneously Social-Democratic, and more than ten years of work put in by Social-Democracy has done a great deal to transform this spontaneity into consciousness." For over a decade, the ISO national perspectives have inverted the relationship between consciousness and struggle and continually see workers ideas as ahead of their actions and organization. This is thoroughly idealist, non-materialist and non-Marxist.


In the ISO, we often talked about confidence. Particularly after the 2008 election of Obama, this took the form of the 'confidence' that workers would have to struggle, as a result of the election of a bourgeois party candidate. First, such a statement is an inversion of reality. The election of a bourgeois candidate by the working class, who expects that candidate to perform deeds in the name of the working class, is a result of a profound 'lack of confidence' by the class. In reality, confidence without a material basis to hinge it on is just wishful thinking. We have seen the evidence of this in the last several years. Despite some explosive moments in struggle (e.g. Wisconsin, Occupy), in the absence of a coherent left that can give a struggle some continuity, initial confidence can quickly turn into demoralization.


Without organization, ruling class ideology will always re-impose itself because, as Lenin said: "bourgeois ideology is far older in origin than socialist ideology,…it is more fully developed, and…it has at its disposal immeasurably more means of dissemination." While these Lenin and Gramsci quotes may be entirely familiar to the Steering Committee of the ISO, their implications find no echo in ISO perspectives:


* "Young radicals today enter politics with a much deeper understanding of class society -- since class inequality continues to grow…." (Convention Perspectives 2005)


* "Now we have entered a new era, in which the level of struggle is finally beginning to catch up with mass consciousness -- even as class-consciousness is growing at a pace not witnessed in generations." (2009 Organizational Perspectives)


These formulations are rooted in placing an emphasis on consciousness that is always ahead of struggle. This leads to the idea that somehow without sustained struggle and without exposure to left wing organizations or socialist arguments, young workers today naturally have a greater understanding of class society (what class they are for and in and what class they are against) than young people in the past.  All of this somehow achieved as unionization rates continue to fall in the US, the number of strikes reach historic lows and left-wing organization withers.


Overall, we agree with the Chicago comrades that the ISO has experienced:


…a failure to come to terms with some of the key features of the current (and to some extent recent) political period(s): leftward-moving consciousness, interest in radical ideas, episodic struggles, low-level of class struggle, a small and disorganized revolutionary and reformist left, the impact of the fall of Stalinism, etc…


But to be clear, we find the ISO's formulation of a "leftward-moving consciousness" fundamentally flawed. Consciousness can move leftward (and it does), but as we have seen time and time again in relation to attitudes on the war, women's rights, racial profiling and immigrant rights, attitudes can shift rightward as well and they have vacillated in both directions continually over the last decade.


It makes no sense for the leadership of the ISO to assert that "struggle is finally beginning to catch up to mass consciousness" (from the 2009 perspectives documents) when we cannot point to a sizeable and coherent left in this country which has as its historical task the role of helping give shape (i.e. consciousness) to the spontaneous resistance of the working class. These kinds of statements about consciousness (of which there are examples in every set of convention documents going back at least 9 years) reveal that the leadership of the organization never entirely understood what Duncan Hallas wrote in 1971 about the implications of the absence of a coherent left or "vanguard" -- despite the frequent quoting of his article and its republication by both Haymarket and the International Socialist Review:


A vanguard implies a main body, marching in roughly the same direction and imbued with some sort of common outlook and shared aspiration.


When, for example, Trotsky described the German Communist Party of the 1920s and early thirties as the vanguard of the German working class, the characterisation was apt. Not only did the party itself include, amongst its quarter of a million or so members, the most enlightened, energetic and self-confident of the German workers; it operated in a working class which, in its vast majority, had absorbed some of the basic elements of Marxist thought and which was confronted, especially after 1929, with a deepening social crisis which could not be resolved within the framework of the Weimar Republic.


In that situation the actions of the party were of decisive importance. What it did, or failed to do, influenced the whole subsequent course of European and world history. The sharp polemics about the details of tactics, history and theory, which were the staple output of the oppositional communist groups of the period, were entirely justified and necessary. In the given circumstances the vanguard was decisive. In Trotsky's striking metaphor, switching the points could change the direction of the whole heavy train of the German workers' movement.


Today the circumstances are quite different. There is no train. A new generation of capable and energetic workers exists but they are no longer part of a cohesive movement and they no longer work in a milieu where basic Marxist ideas are widespread. We are back at our starting point. Not only has the vanguard, in the real sense of a considerable layer of organised revolutionary workers and intellectuals, been destroyed. So too has the environment, the tradition, that gave it influence.


If the implications of what Hallas wrote 40 years ago were understood there would be none of the ISO's trumpeting of a "transitional period" and then the "new period," where somehow a decimated left was expected to cohere due to a "leftward moving consciousness" that finds expression in episodic demonstrations, sit-ins and opinion polls.


This idealist formulation grossly underestimates the important role the mass parties mentioned above -- whatever their weaknesses -- had in giving everything from the labour movement of the 1930s to the social movements of the 1960s their coherence, thus helping create the environment for the radicalization in those eras.


It is understandable that a small, inexperienced organization completely isolated from the working class would have trouble orienting itself in a period like this one. It is even understandable that such organizations might periodically grasp at phantasms with hopes of breaking out of that isolation.  There is little excuse for holding onto such a practice for decades when it has produced little to nothing. But given our small size and collective inexperience, there is no excuse for hounding members out of the organization when they persist in pointing out the gap between expectations and reality.


That these errors have not been looked squarely in the face and corrected is organizational habit and a practice that ought to be corrected. The fact that attempts to question these perspectives, and to do so openly on leadership bodies and in front of the membership, led to a series of what can only be called unprincipled behaviours of the ISO leadership towards dissenting members is just inexcusable. There should be no room anymore for the organizations of the revolutionary left to act in fear of either internal disagreements or of these disagreements reaching the outside world. We would be wise to remember what Trotsky actually wrote about democratic centralism:


Freedom of criticism and intellectual struggle was an irrevocable content of the party democracy. The present doctrine that Bolshevism does not tolerate factions is a myth of the epoch of decline. In reality the history of Bolshevism is a history of the struggle of factions. And, indeed, how could a genuinely revolutionary organization, setting itself the task of overthrowing the world and uniting under its banner the most audacious iconoclasts, fighters and insurgents, live and develop without intellectual conflicts, without groupings and temporary factional formations? The farsightedness of the Bolshevik leadership often made it possible to soften conflicts and shorten the duration of factional struggle, but no more than that. The Central Committee relied upon this seething democratic support. From this it derived the audacity to make decisions and give orders. The obvious correctness of the leadership at all critical stages gave it that high authority which is the priceless moral capital of centralism (Trotsky, Revolution Betrayed).


Turning Points And New Movements


We appreciate the persistence of Shaun Joseph in both raising disagreements and seeing them through to the end, as well as his emphasis on building the left wing of movements. His writing about the recent March on Washington is particularly important since it's the first thing we have seen in print from an ISO member (now former member) that echoes our own criticisms of the constant "turning points" such events are supposed to represent. We want to draw particular attention to his observation in the evaluation of the March on Washington that, "correct predictions suggest a correct framework, and incorrect predictions the opposite. (Hence assessment is a crucial moment in any truly Marxist politics.)"


For us the refusal to assess past perspectives in the light of developments sums up succinctly the experience we had and why we ultimately left the ISO. The struggle at Republic Windows and Doors was supposed to herald the return of class struggle; it didn't. The immigrant rights movement was pronounced "here to stay;" it wasn't. The election of Obama was heralded by the Steering Committee as ushering in a sea change in US politics; it didn't.  Neo-liberalism was reported as 'dead;' it is alive and kicking.


The biggest problem is not that the leadership was wrong and has been wrong so many times we have begun to lose count of all the examples. The problem is that the leadership did not make pains to publicly  announce these mistakes thereby forming the basis of an assessment (and re-assessment) of the period. Secondly, the leadership has done everything in its power to marginalize cadre who have attempted to point these errors out. Instead of honest assessment, we get well worn platitudes like the one Todd Chretien offers in his response to Adam Turl in Socialist Worker where he recounts the high points ("dots") of struggle over the last 20 odd years and says:


Now, it is possible that we will look back in five (or ten or more) years, those dots will have created some sort of coherent picture as the pre-history of the United Front, so to speak, and our attempts to construct united front-type things along the way will have built critical relationships and taught us valuable lessons. Or maybe we are in for an even longer and more protracted struggle than any of us envisioned.


This kind of equivocal generalization has been the stock answer for years when movements have collapsed, leaving no organizational legacy.


Scott J takes up the same "turning points" theme in his critique of the ISO (we have curtailed this for length, but it is worth reading his blog for those interested):


There is a regular hailing of some movement or event as the way forward, "The Next Big Thing" -- or "The New Civil Rights Movement" -- and regardless of how many times ISO members continuously assert that "we are not just moving onward and upward," this same triumphal attitude seems to occur over and over again…the election of Barack Obama and the factory occupation of Republic Windows and Doors seemed to open a new era in struggle from which we would never go back. In fact, there have been countless moments after which the world would never be the same, although, eventually it always is. The Republic battle -- as inspiring as it was -- produced not a single similar example in the months following. Yet, leading members of the ISO literally predicted that there would be an explosion of labour struggles in 2009 and those who disagreed with this optimistic assessment were browbeaten and labelled as pessimistic cynics and driven out of the organization.


We couldn't agree more. All of us are among, "those who disagreed with this optimistic assessment [and who] were browbeaten and libelled as pessimistic or conservative cynics and driven out of the organization."


Here are just a few of the many, many examples of this sort of "turning point" lean from the past handful of years:


* In 2007 the ISO Organizational Perspectives documents stated, “we remain in a Transition Period” but with a “forward trajectory of class struggle.”


* In 2009, the ISO National Committee admitted that Obama presidency had been immediately and shockingly much worse than expected, but did little to examine why this mistake in perspectives was made and did even less to clarify and take the membership through an assessment of the drastic consequences for activism this Democratic presidency was having.


* In 2011 the Steering Committee confidently declared, “two years of Obama’s steady trek rightward have not quelled the radicalization but further fueled (sic) it.” Rather than diving into a thorough examination of the dynamics that created volatile flashpoints with little organizational legacy, like Wisconsin and the months of Occupy, the Organizational Perspectives concluded, “The movement is not dead, but there is not yet a clear indication of its future momentum” [in reference to LGBT organizing] and, on immigrants rights, “This movement is not gone, but it is not currently flourishing.”


* Also in the 2011 Organizational Perspectives documents the Steering Committee asserts, “But the anger of the exploited and oppressed can be contained only for so long before it gives way to resistance and ultimately to revolution.” The word ultimately here implying an inevitability that has no place in Marxism.


* 6 months later the National Committee declares, “The Wisconsin uprising was not an isolated episode, but rather an opening shot in the coming rise in the class struggle.”


The failure of this general approach, and an inability to correct these fundamental errors, means that assessment remains at a superficial level (‘Obama didn’t act how we expected’), or is avoided altogether in favor of ‘looking forward’. Deeper assessment that begins to touch on the fundamental problems of this approach is treated as hostile critique. When comrades continue to pursue these critiques, next follows the kind of bullying, manipulative and deceitful practices by representatives from the Steering Committee and local leaderships (with the blessing of the Steering Committee) that we experienced in our district, as they attempted to isolate the source of the critique.


This failure to come to grips with reality has led to a leadership method that emphasizes exhortation by always pointing out the new opportunities and new movements and associates leadership with ‘inspiring’ people.  There seems to be a fear to tell things like they are so not as to demorale people.  In fact, telling the truth about what a deep crisis the Left is in would be a welcome starting point for anyone serious about wanting to overthrow capitalism (socialist and anarchist alike).


Our bedrock is not hope based on people feeling more confident or people getting angrier and our method is not cheerleading.  Our bedrock is Marxism and the reality of capitalism as a class divided system whose only solution is found in the dictatorship of the proletariat and an abiding knowledge there is nothing inevitable about the outcome of that struggle, for it can end in the common ruin of contending classes or in socialist revolution.  Our method is telling the truth to our class and to ourselves about how far our class is, both politically and organizationally, from that task and how weak the Left is in relation to that project.


The failure to come to grips with reality by the Steering Committee has lead to a separation of theory and practice, since the focus becomes increasingly on day-to-day developments within movements and the wider world, missing the depth of Marxist politics that should guide the work in both leading movements and winning a layer to revolutionary politics. A key consequence of this in the ISO has been a separation in publications between ‘news and analysis’ articles and Marxist theory, and ultimately the downgrading in prominence of Marxist theory both within practical analysis and in the publications as a whole.


Opportunism And Sectarianism In The Movements


One important result of the constant “turning point” perspectives is an organization-wide expectation that there will one day be a big wave that will dramatically change things, drive large numbers of people to draw radical conclusions and seek out a revolutionary organization to join. This factors out the activity of conscious, organized socialists in constructing that very vanguard to which the party relates; it is an essentially passive position for the party (no matter how much activity or bustle goes on) because it is waiting for this layer to form.


As we have so often seen with the ISO, this gives rise to a consistent approach of “we don’t want to cut ourselves off,” “we don’t want to counterpose ourselves to developments,” a tailing of liberal leaders and an approach that then has the ISO trying to shield the bulk of a liberal-led movement from its more radical elements, e.g. anarchists, “the ultra-lefts” and “the sectarians.” More and more we began putting building relationships with the liberal leadership ahead of building relationships with their more radical anarchist political cousins. This is what facilitated the slide into opportunism.


Scott J also highlighted this tendency of the ISO to orient to liberals at the expense of more radical allies, and illustrated this well with respect to antiwar work. We would add the following examples:


* tailing Cleve Jones into the ‘Equality Across America’ strategy by adopting his national strategy building an LGBT rights movement whole cloth without developing our own strategy


* chasing DREAM activists in the immigrant rights work and celebrating their struggle as an important potential advance for the immigrant rights movement when in fact, the DREAM struggle represented a decisive rightward shift in the movement as it collapsed into the Democratic Party


* uncritically tailing Slut-Walk activists by echoing their identity politics frame, accommodating to the use of the term ‘slut’ and the impact of raunch culture upon current feminist politics


* aligning with liberal trade union leaderships and supporting concessionary contracts in UTLA in the face of a significant “No” vote by left-wing trade unionists


* equivocating around the recall in Wisconsin that was patently a means of diverting the movement into a failed electoral strategy and away from class struggle – it should have been explicitly and clearly opposed

The ISO increasingly behaves like Second International socialists, without even attracting a mass base as payoff for such opportunism.


We would extend this critique to the ISO work in CTU. It is entirely understandable that Karen Lewis would seek to shut down the strike given the pressures the union faced and the fact that politically she’s a liberal trade union militant. The question that ISO members should ask is should revolutionary socialists have called for the pulling down of picket lines only 9 days into the strike? Do we have the same politics as Karen Lewis or even the best of the trade union militants today? No, we don’t. Our role in that strike should have been to call for a “no” vote on the agreement and for a return to the picket line until we could assure contractual protections, from the backlash everyone knew CTU faced, that eventually led to record number of school closures.


It is worth remembering the words of James P. Cannon in warning fellow comrades about the pressure to accommodate even in a much larger and more rooted party.

We are not progressives, but revolutionists. Our role in the trade union movement is to organise the masses for the proletarian revolution and to lead them in the struggle for it. All of our daily work must be related to this, and subordinated to it. The test of our work can never be made by formal victories on paper, but by the development of class consciousness in the ranks of the workers, the degree of their organisation on that basis and the increasing influence and leadership of our party. Strategic positions in the labour movement are of importance chiefly from the standpoint of enabling the party to advance and develop its work of revolutionising the masses. [...]


Active unionists, especially those who hold office, are beset by a thousand temptations to turn aside from the road of the class struggle. Only their close union with the party will enable them to overcome these temptations.

That means Lee Sustar (as well as ISO member and CTU Vice-President, Jesse Sharkey) need to write articles calling for a different way forward for the union than what is seen as ‘practical’ by the remaining non-socialist leadership. No such articles can be found in the pages of Socialist Worker and the existing articles largely tailed the CTU leadership in the struggle. We believe extending the strike was the right thing to do and would have produced a better outcome for the CTU workers and the class overall.


For the ISO, far from isolating themselves, such a lead would have solidarized them with the Left-wing and put them in a position to provide leadership to the most radical elements within CTU and in the trade union movement beyond it. Instead they tailed the CTU leadership and accused anyone to the left of them as hopeless sectarians and ultra-lefts.


For the writers of this document, our starting point and bottom line is the critical need for rebuilding a revolutionary party. How we approach the rest of our work – including in movements and union organizing – necessarily flows from this. It is our belief that those activists that the ISO often accuses of being ‘ultra-left’ or ‘sectarian’ are actually the very forces we should be engaging (disagreement and all) with the idea of THOSE people as the most solid and politically advanced section from which to reconstruct a political vanguard in the United States.


Instead (and we find this a pattern in virtually all ISO work), the ISO tails the left wing of the liberal movement while simultaneously castigating and cutting itself off from the revolutionary Left (such as it is).  This puts the ISO in the position of giving left cover to the liberals while disrupting the formation of political and organizational ties with the Left that we should be most active in facilitating. Historically, opportunism and sectarianism have been two sides of the same coin.


Scott J makes similar claims of opportunism in the practice of the ISO and we agree. But we do not agree that this stems from the drive to recruit. There is no question that there has been a longstanding tendency to recruit new activists as opposed to the more difficult task of engaging and recruiting longstanding activists -- no disagreement there. But the root of the problem is an attempt to reach a “larger audience” in hopes of a promised membership breakthrough that continually fails to materialize, a willingness to jettison a cadre critical of the approach and a tendency to shift ever rightward in effort to reach an audience claimed to be moving “leftward.” That this leftward shift has proven ephemeral or short-lived has  led to a rightward pressure on the ISO, so as not to “cut itself off.” This fuels only bigger rifts between the Steering Committee, grasping for new growth with increasingly opportunistic methods, and a cadre trained in Marxism, but increasingly seeing its own organization diverge from those roots.


We also agree that ISO practice is sectarian in relation to the revolutionary left (especially the anarchists). There was seldom a real attempt to engage longstanding activists around our revolutionary politics. In practice this took a number of different forms. Sometimes it was soft selling or avoiding our politics  altogether in coalition or union work, coupled with the near abandoning of selling Socialist Worker in any consistent way. Another manifestation of this was downplaying the systematic work needed to bring people closer to joining revolutionary organization, with claims that they were already “close to us” or just outright mistaking “building relationships” for actually bringing people closer to our politics. In the past we referred to these practices as movementism, but Scott more accurately calls this opportunism. This separation of our politics from our practice leads to opportunism in the movement strategy and sectarianism toward other left radicals.


Scott’s quote of Trotsky is apt:

…just because I see Scheidemann [a leader in the Social Democratic Party of Germany] on the one side and, on the other, American or Spanish or French syndicalists who not only wish to fight against the bourgeoisie but who, unlike Scheidemann, really want to tear its head off-for this reason I say that I prefer to discuss with these Spanish, American and French comrades…

The ISO has both a hostile attitude to the rest of the revolutionary left and a tendency to tail left-wing liberals. This dovetails internally with the hostile attitude of the Steering Committee to the cadre whose developing experience diverges from their own and a tendency to romanticize the newest member as both politically ahead of the backward cadre and unsullied with the taint of ‘experience’ which was seen as leading to burn out (not to a better understanding of connecting Marxist theory to practice).

As the Chicago comrades point out:

 …there has been a tendency to fetishise talented new members and denigrate long-standing cadre, an approach influenced by Tony Cliff’s distortions of Lenin. Talented new ISO members were often treated like gold; experienced cadre -- especially cadre who raised questions or criticisms – were too often seen as expendable.

We believe that Tony Cliff’s distortions of Lenin, including a fetishism of “going to the base” to discipline the supposedly predictably-conservative “committee-men,” continue to play out routinely in ISO practice. But we also believe the source is the mistaken idea of a “leftward moving consciousness” and its more modest version ‘the radicalizing minority”.


There are no shortcuts to the rebuilding of a revolutionary left.


We believe that, whether within the ISO or outside of it, revolutionary practice today demands a focus on rebuilding of a radical left in a principled manner, neither disguising political differences nor making these the basis for sectarian hostility, while winning a core to Marxism. While we are aware that our criticism here (and the ones raised by Scott J., Shaun J. and the Chicago comrades) will be largely seen as hostile to the ISO’s project and characterized as attempts to destroy the organization, we believe the opposite is true.


This document, and the ones we read by former and current comrades who are criticizing the ISO, are being written with the sole intent of beginning a discussion we hope can help re-orient the ISO or any set of revolutionaries, nationally or internationally, looking to recover a more sound basis for rebuilding a revolutionary vanguard steeped in Marxist thought and rooted in the working class. Whether or not the ISO, as it exists, can help form the basis of that revolutionary left remains to be seen. We don’t believe it can unless comrades within the organization are able to make some significant changes aimed at creating the space for genuine assessment, thoroughgoing debate and the linking of theory with practice.


It is not enough to identify the problems. There must be concrete organizational conclusions for the ISO. Here are five things we believe would begin this process:


1. The right to form permanent factions


In order to develop meaningful criticism across a national organization it is essential that comrades are able to organize in an ongoing and open way around their differences. Factions were not outlawed in the Bolshevik Party until 1921. Our organizations are legal, function above ground, and are not subject to political repression. An attitude towards factions that amounts to banning them does not keep us safe from state repression or capitalist counter-revolution, it keeps the leadership safe from dissent. Some debates take time to resolve. There is no real assessment, no real debate, and ultimately no real clarity,  without the possibility of this taking organized form within the ISO. It is not enough to say “room is needed for debate;” room has to be made for debate.


2. Elected District Organizers


Having District Organizers who are dependent on staying in good favor with the national leadership to maintain their positions has meant instead of helping hold that leadership accountable they crack down on those who raise criticisms. Leadership needs to be won locally instead of being anointed from above.  The Bolsheviks under Lenin elected their organizers (see Lars Lih’s article Democratic Centralism: fortunes of a formula). There is no reason we shouldn’t elect ours.


3. All debates to be aired in public in the Socialist Worker, instead of using “internal bulletins”


The building of a strong revolutionary organization founded on principled debate is thoroughly connected with the building of principled debates with sections of the working class and other members of the left. An organization that aims to contend for leadership of movements now and ultimately aims to contend for leadership of the class must be built openly not behind closed doors.


4. End the slate system for electing the Steering Committee


Abolish the slate system of elections in favor of an ordinary process of electing candidates (as was the practice of the Bolsheviks until 1921). This is the most straightforward way of ensuring that significant disagreements and differences in political position, including those expressed in factional form, are allowed a full airing throughout the organization, including on the Steering Committee (and other leadership bodies).


5. Elect a new Steering Committee


Based on our experience, the Steering Committee as it is currently constituted will need to be replaced if the organization is to move forward. The committee demonstrates an inability to honestly and openly assess the impact of its persistent mistakes. Steering Committee members’ ongoing hostility to criticism and their use of behind-the-back slander and outright lies to discredit critics makes them unfit to lead.


ROGER DYER was a member from 2000 to 2011, in the San Francisco Bay Area, branch committee, convener and district committee member, district organizer for immigrants rights, active in local anti-war and immigrants rights movements, and delegate to National Conventions.


RACHEL MORGAN joined the ISO in 2006 (until 2011), after 4 years in a sister organization in Australia, where she was on branch committees and the National Committee. In the Bay Area, she was active in the local anti-war movement, and led nationally in the campus anti-war network. She was a member of branch committee, convener, district committee member and delegate to National Convention.


ADRIENNE JOHNSTONE was a member of the ISO from 1994 until 1995 (in New York) and from 2002 until 2011 (in San Francisco), branch committee, branch convenor, district labour organizer, district committee, National Committee member, National Convention delegate, candidate for president of United Educators San Francisco with Educators for a Democratic Union, organizer for the March 4 walk out against budget cuts, contributor to Education and Capitalism: Struggles for Learning and Liberation (Haymarket Books)


CHRISTINE DAROSA was a member from 2003 to 2011 in San Francisco. She was a contributing writer for Socialist Worker, and participated in the production of Haymarket’s Meaning of Marxism, Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution, and a contributor to Changemakers 101. She was active in LGBT rights work, as well as many local initiatives. She was a member of branch committees, and delegate to National Conventions.


ANDY LIBSON was a member of the ISO from 1999 to 2011. In the San Francisco Bay Area, branch committee, convenor and district committee member. Founding member of Educators for a Democratic Union and Vice-Presidential Candidate for EDU in recent election for leadership in United Educators for San Francisco.


BRIAN BELKNAP was a member of the ISO from 1986 to 2010.


[Quoted from here. Accessed 12/12/2014.]


See Essay Nine Part Two -- for an explanation why these things keep happening, and will continue to happen, on the far-left.




Return To The Main Index


Back To The Top


Latest Update: 30/07/21


Hits Since 18/03/13:


Web Site Counters
Gevalia Coffee Maker