Tony Saunois for the ‘In Defence of a Working Class, Trotskyist CWI’ Faction
Since the establishment of the International Faction ‘In Defence of a Workers’ and Trotskyist CWI’, at the IEC meeting, held in December 2018, the exchanges in the CWI have confirmed our analysis of the development of two main trends. At root, the cause of this crisis has been the objective pressures arising from the contradictory and complex conjuncture bearing down on the relatively small forces of a revolutionary organisation and our respective reactions to it.
We deliberately emphasised two ‘main trends’ because we were aware that other trends were also present and could emerge in the course of subsequent discussion. The differences between the faction and the Spanish leadership at the London meeting in March 2019 demonstrated this, and is fully analysed below. However, a balance sheet of the discussion, so far, starts from the fact that this is a struggle on our part to defend the CWI’s core principles, which are vital to determine its future.
The first main trend, around the international faction, represents the defence of the centrality of the role of the working class, and a Trotskyist method and programme to build a revolutionary party based on the working class. The second, represented by the ‘Non Faction Faction’ (NFF), reflects an opportunist trend which has bowed down to the complications of the current objective conjuncture and turned away from an emphasis on building among the organised working class. This has been reflected in an adaptation to the separatist ideas of ‘identity politics’ and turning away from the trade unions as a central aspect of the work to build a revolutionary party.
Now, a third, ultimatist, ultra-left trend has revealed itself, reflected by the leadership of the Spanish and Portuguese sections. This ultra-leftism is the opposite side of the same coin to the opportunism reflected in the political positions defended by NFF supporters. Moreover, the Spanish leadership never expressed their real position in the lengthy discussions that took place during the negotiations for fusion between our two organisations. They have claimed they were ‘deceived’. Yet it is not they who were deceived but the CWI. Had they clearly revealed their real position, rather than deny the effects of the collapse of the Stalinist regimes and the political consequences for the international working class in terms of the boost that process gave to capitalism – the ideological offensive against socialism and the impact this had on socialist consciousness and the organisations of the working class – the process of fusion would have been put into question. The international faction stands in opposition to both the opportunistic trend of the NFF, and the ultra-left trend represented by the Spanish and Portuguese leaderships. We defend the CWI’s genuine Trotskyist methods and traditions, which are necessary to build revolutionary socialist parties based on the working class.
The main leaders of the NFF are united on one thing: opposition to the IS majority. But they mask any criticism some of their members may have of their undeclared faction for opportunistic, factional reasons. In contrast, the international faction has expressed its opposition to the ultra-left approach expressed by the Spanish and Portuguese leaderships.
The powerful opportunistic pressures in this period are one reflection of the turmoil taking place in global capitalism and its reflection in all political spheres of society. It is not an accident that in many countries the main bourgeois political parties are riven with splits and divisions, as are the former bourgeois workers’ parties and new left parties like Podemos. The capitalist class is increasingly unable to rule in the old way. As yet, however, the working class has not put itself at the head of the movements that have erupted and there has not yet emerged a more clearly defined socialist consciousness or mass workers’ parties embracing socialist ideas. This has complicated the recent period. We are confident that this will change and the CWI must do everything possible to further this process. Massive struggles by the working class are pending which, at a certain stage, will see increased polarisation in society and the crystallisation of a more rounded socialist consciousness and organisation of the working class.
These factors have asserted big opportunistic pressures on revolutionary socialists, even to dissolve the party. The current crisis in the CWI has been reflected in all other organisations claiming to stand on the revolutionary left. This is reflected by the decision by the Irish SWP to dissolve into their broad front, People Before Profits, and to function as a ‘network’ (a process that the Irish NEC Majority comrades seem reluctant to comment on). A similar process by the IST took place previously in Germany. Both represent the abandonment of the idea of building a distinct revolutionary party.
More recently and more starkly, it has been seen in the implosion of the ISO in the USA. This followed a crisis at its convention where the former leadership was removed. It then voted through an online ballot to dissolve the party and disband the website. This is a warning to those in the NFF who argue that the international faction is exaggerating the political differences and trends. The crisis in the ISO mirrors some of the debates taking place in the CWI. It involves the issues of identity politics, the holding of public positions and how we deal with this in a principled fashion, and how sources of finance can affect the revolutionary party. The recruitment of a large layer of middle-class youth who are infected with the disease of identity politics, together with other opportunistic pressures, has led to the rapid implosion of the ISO. They have incorporated identity politics into their organisation, established a ‘MeToo’ caucus and adopted #IBelieveHer, rejecting any due process to investigate accusations of abuse.
This is a stark warning for our US section and others if the issue of identity politics is not approached correctly. Other organisations, like the PSTU in Brazil, experienced splits arising from the pressures of the objective situation – in that case, as a result of the sectarian attitude of the leadership towards the impeachment of the PT president Dilma Rousseff.
Identity politics is a massive issue in the US and internationally. It poses a major challenge for Marxists: how to oppose the separatist and divisive ideas contained within it, and which have penetrated beyond bourgeois and petit-bourgeois academic circles into sections of the labour movement. All left and revolutionary socialist organisations have been affected. Even the Woods-led IMT sect has been forced to confront it. The IMT – which, predictably, has attacked the CWI leadership personally – has been forced, a few months ago, to respond in a lengthy polemic against the ideas of identity politics that clearly infected their ranks. However, Woods argued in a crude way, opposing even the use of the term ‘socialist or Marxist feminists’, on the grounds that being a Marxist automatically means we are opposed to the exploitation of women. Unfortunately, the Irish section has adapted to the pressures of separatist identity politics, and this is echoed in some other sections, like Greece and Brazil. In Brazil, of course we should combat the vicious attacks against women, LGBTQ+, the working class and others, especially since Jair Bolsonaro came to power. Yet, like in the US, identity politics has permeated throughout society including into the PT and PSOL. We need to resist this, opposing separatist trends and fighting for a unified movement of the working class and others exploited and repressed by capitalism. The NFF accuses us of being ‘conservative’ or ‘hesitant’ about intervening in movements against women’s oppression. It can find no examples of this, however, because we are strongly in favour of energetic interventions in movements and potential movements on these issues.
In reality, the misrepresentation of our position is based on our insistence on a Marxist analysis of these movements, and the need to intervene with a clear programme. This contrasts with the growing tendency in the leadership of the NFF sections, who claim to oppose identity politics but in practise bow to the approach and slogans of the petit-bourgeois leaderships of movements against women’s and other specific oppressions. For example, fighting against victim blaming in the courts is very important, but it does not require us to adopt wholesale the current ‘popular’ slogans, such as #IBelieveHer, without taking into account the need to fight for democratic rights, including the right to a fair trial. Instead, we should be raising demands which point towards the capitalist nature of the legal system and the need for the working class to fight for it to be brought under democratic working-class control.
The NFF suggests that we are downplaying the movements because we point out their ‘cross-class’ character. Yet this class composition was clearly the case, for example, in Ireland, where wide sections of the capitalist class supported a vote for abortion rights in the referendum. By pointing out this objective fact we are not downplaying the importance of the movement. Mass movements against women’s oppression have our support regardless of whether they are led by bourgeois or petit-bourgeois forces. The CWI has always clearly explained that, while working-class and poor women suffer most as a result of their double oppression, all women are oppressed because of their gender in a class society. In this we have a difference with the IR (Spanish section), which tends to put the emphasis exclusively on the oppression of working-class women.
Nor do we argue, as the IR comrades do, that past women’s movements have played no role in the gains won by working-class women. On the contrary, it is clear that in a number of struggles predominantly middle-class women’s movements have helped give confidence to working-class women to fight on both social and economic issues. To do this, they have usually turned to class-based organisations and struggle. The key issue for us is that the working class is the only force capable of transforming society and, when intervening in cross-class movements, we have to put to the fore the role of the organised working class in the movement to achieve its aims.
The opportunistic pressures – or ‘Mandelism’ as we have referred to it in previous documents – are reflected in the ideas and positions adopted by supporters of the NFF. While this may not always have been a conscious process, it is the reality of what has taken place in a number of CWI sections, to varying degrees. Prior to this crisis, the IS majority had underestimated the degree to which these pressures had corroded the theoretical foundations of some sections.
Our charge of Mandelism has provoked some leaders of the NFF, like Bryan K (USA) and others, to develop the novel theory that this cannot be possible because Mandelism was a product of the 1960s – an entirely different era. But Mandelism is an expression of a form of opportunism. Are the comrades seriously arguing that opportunist adaptations could only apply in an era like the 1960s? What of the capitulation of the SPD in Germany in 1914! Pressures of opportunism and ultra-leftism arise in all periods, in varying degrees. The issue is how to resist them. In the future, we will also need to be prepared to combat left-reformist, centrist and left-centrist ideas and organisations.
The crisis began in Ireland, where the section has adapted to the pressures of separatism reflected in identity politics, turned away from organised, systematic and consistent work in the trade unions, and where consciousness to build the revolutionary party has significantly diminished. This has been admitted by the Irish leadership, especially in their document, ‘Setting the Record Straight, Part Two’, in paragraph after paragraph. On page 85, they state: “The diminishing of party building consciousness has affected the whole of the party, including the leadership. The development of the leadership has also been impacted upon, because there hasn’t enough been an upward pressure on the leading bodies from a stronger political and experienced cadre throughout the party.” The question, therefore, is posed, why the Irish leadership failed to address these issues and change the situation?
Should the current trajectory of the party in Ireland continue it would unfortunately face the same fate as the Irish SWP and ISO, and following our former Scottish section, heading towards disintegration and disappearance as a distinct Marxist organisation.
Recently, in the debate, some comrades have argued that the Irish party has taken steps to correct the weaknesses that have developed. We do not agree that verbal acknowledgements or an abrupt new turn to intervene in current industrial disputes, like the nurses’ and midwives’ strike, for instance, represents a qualitative change in the approach of the Irish leadership. We would welcome, of course, a genuine return to systematic, patient union work, like that carried out by the leading Siptu comrade over years. But just twelve days before the nurses’ and midwives’ strike the Irish NEC Majority argued that “there isn’t really an active layer in the unions that could be mobilised”. They justified an “element of an open turn” away from the trade unions as a necessary “detour away from the obstacles of the unions”. The failure of the Irish NEC majority to really change their position was also reflected on the issue of the ‘security breach, which triggered the crisis. They played down defending their actions following the IEC meeting. But at the recent debate in the Australian NC, KM returned to defend what they had done and claimed that they had uncovered a “factional battle plan” because of it.
The Irish NEC majority and their international supporters make occasional references to some (usually unspecified) “mistakes” they have made. Yet, in debate after debate and throughout their voluminous documents, they attempt to defend, justify and rationalise their political and organisational mistakes. This double-bookkeeping method has nothing in common with genuine discussion and debate. This should include openly accepting mistakes in front of the membership to try to arrive at principled conclusions, to collectively learn from debates and to politically strengthen the entire CWI.
The NFF has also argued that the comrades’ successful work in NIPSA, in Northern Ireland, is a refutation of the Irish section turning its back on systematic trade union work. In the first place, NIPSA work is carried out in the North, while the mistaken “Open Turn” away from union work was carried out in the South. In reality, the gains made by the NIPSA comrades are due to their tireless, systematic work, in often difficult circumstances. Other consistent union work is carried out, for example, in Unite, involving youth comrades, but, again, this is, by and large, in the North.
Since the debate began, similar opportunistic pressures have been more clearly revealed to have affected other sections and are reflected in the political material published both in the documents and publicly. NFF supporters say no evidence has been produced to prove this. When it is, however, they simply deny it as evidence. On the Greek website, for instance, in most articles there is a lack of consistent transitional demands. Occasionally, socialism is mentioned but as a formulaic addition. Many of the NFF sections seem to be falling into the trap of adopting a minimum and maximum approach to programme, whereby socialism is tagged on to some articles without using a transitional method that leads to this conclusion or explains what it is. In Greece, the article for International Women’s Day 2018, while condemning the rise in domestic violence, makes no reference to the class struggle, capitalism or socialism. This omission is present in many other articles, such as one carried on 1 September 2018, titled ‘Sexism under the Knife’, dealing with plastic surgery. Other articles on the environment lack concrete demands. The material on the Eldorado gold company in Chalkidiki, in general, lacks clear transitional demands. The article carried on 25 December 2018, while correctly attacking the mining company, makes no appeal to the local population or the mine workers but limits itself to how things will get worse. It attacks the local trade union leadership but makes no demands on the unions regarding what they should do. This is in line with the wrong arguments advocated by Andros P, that it is not possible to place demands on the Greek TUC!
The lack of a transitional approach towards the working class was reflected in the article on the same issue carried on 18 February 2019. The comrades wrote: “The workers though, that are defending the interests of the company, need to ask themselves if their own health and that of their kids, the very future of their land, should come before their wage packet, which they have today and will not have tomorrow.” There was no attempt to raise alternative employment or the rights of those working in the industry. This contemptuous attitude towards the miners had echoes of the attitude adopted at last year’s UN climate talks by the environmentalist David Attenborough, who has become popular through his TV nature documentaries. When questioned about the fate of Polish coal miners Attenborough shrugged his shoulders and had no answer regarding their employment or livelihoods!
While cosmetic improvements may have been made in some recent articles, these and other examples clearly reflect the opportunistic approach adopted by the leadership and the dilution of our distinct transitional and revolutionary socialist demands.
This trend has been reflected more recently by the leadership of the US section, as the 2020 presidential campaign begins, in the approach towards Bernie Sanders and other left Democrats, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, in New York, who was recently elected to the House of Representatives. It is correct, as the IS has consistently argued, to intervene in these developments in a skilful manner. In our opinion, however, comrades have recently gone too far and are not sufficiently critical of Sanders or Democratic Party lefts like AOC. The 2020 election will not be a mere repeat of 2016.
The slogan comrades have used when intervening in Sanders events, ‘Trump out, Bernie in – Build a mass movement’, does not strike the right note. We should be raising the demand, ‘Trump out – Bernie in, on a socialist programme’, as we have with Jeremy Corbyn. In our material, the demand for Sanders to break from the Democrats, run independently and form a new party is given less emphasis. We think this is a mistake. The proposal from leading US EC members, that we make a token financial contribution to the Sanders campaign, which was rejected by the US NC, illustrates the weakness in the comrades’ approach. Similarly, the criticism we make of AOC is extremely weak. While the call for a new party was included in the public financial appeal by Kshama S, in January, for the Seattle re-election campaign, the headline was: “Why I stand with AOC against the corporate Democratic Party establishment.” This was an opportunistic attempt to ride on the back of AOC’s current ‘notoriety’ and popularity. The weakness of our criticism of AOC and her programme is reflected in the slogan, ‘A Green New Deal’. Although an article has recently been published explaining that this would only be possible with the implementation of a socialist programme, comrades are still putting forward the slogan of a Green New Deal in isolation. The poster at the Seattle election launch read, ‘Seattle needs a Green New Deal’, rather than raising the demand for a ‘Workers’ Green New Deal’ or a ‘Socialist Green New Deal’.
The dilution of the programme and demands are a reflection of the opportunistic pressures that are present. Our task is to resist them, albeit skilfully, and not to buckle to them. If we do not do this we will not build a solid basis for Trotskyism in the US.
A crucial aspect of the debate has been centred on the issue of the trade unions. Despite the howls of protest from the NFF, the Irish section – and now apparently some others – abandoned systematic and consistent trade union work. The Irish leadership justified this because of the high degree of bureaucratisation of the trade unions, their role in social partnership and the relatively low level of trade unionisation. Andros P, from Greece, argued in his document that it was impossible to place demands on the Greek TUC because of its treacherous role. In the subsequent paragraph of his document, however, he proceeded to place demands on the TUC, thereby facing both ways. Significantly, Andros P makes no reference to the KKE (communist party) -led trade union federation, PAME.
Andy M (USA) in his letter, which was replied to by Peter T, underlines the real attitude of many leaders of the NFF much more clearly. He accused the faction of “retreating into a reactive, mechanical approach towards is an incredibly complicated period for the working class”. Yet what did he mean by this statement? He went on to argue that some unions are “so thoroughly bureaucratised in many instances they have ceased to have the characteristics of a workers’ organisation…” This is an entirely wrong perception of even the most right-wing bureaucratised trade unions, which still retain a working-class base despite the treacherous role of the leadership.
Leon Trotsky answered this point in his unfinished work, ‘Trade Unions in the Epoch of Imperialist Decay’. There he dealt with the trade unions even being integrated into the capitalist state and work in the unions in fascist states. He argued clearly: “In the absence of workers’ democracy there cannot be any free struggle for the influence over the trade union membership. And because of this, the chief arena of work for revolutionists within trade unions disappears. Such a position, however, would be false to the core. We cannot select the arena and the conditions for our activity to suit our own likes and dislikes… All the less so, can we renounce internal systematic work in the trade unions of totalitarian and semi-totalitarian type… or because the bureaucracy deprives the revolutionists of the possibility of working freely within these trade unions.”
In the same article, he wrote: “In spite of the progressive degeneration of trade unions and their growing together with the imperialist state, the work within the trade unions not only does not lose any of its importance but remains as before and becomes, in a certain sense, even more important work than ever for every revolutionary party.”
This was written in 1940 at a time when the level of unionisation was relatively low in most countries compared to the massive strengthening of the trade unions that took place in the post-war upswing. This does not mean that we should be imprisoned within the official trade union apparatus or only orientate towards the already unionised layers of the working class. In particular, we need to take initiatives to reach the new layers of the working class which are as yet unorganised. We need also to recognise the positive developments of the radicalisation of a section of the middle class which is becoming increasingly ‘proletarianised’, such as medical doctors and others. Some of these layers have begun to take up working-class methods of struggle. This process has not yet been completed and is at an initial stage of development politically and organisationally. However, this does not mean we should turn away from intervening in the organised sections of the working class and building a strong base there to confront and challenge the most entrenched bureaucracies.
Unfortunately, the opportunistic, rightward collapse that has taken place in the CWI has now been mirrored by the ultra-left approach adopted by the Spanish leadership, with the support of the Portuguese leadership. Our opponents in the NFF, and others, are trying to make hay out of this development. But we make no apologies for what has taken place. We have acted in a transparent and politically principled manner. The process of unification with the IR has now obviously not been successful and is disappointing. However, we ask our opponents, do they think it was correct to attempt to carry it through? No comrade at the IEC or in the international opposed the unification when it was proposed. It is not the first time such efforts have failed and it will not be the last. Woods and the IMT, in an open letter to CWI members (which is full of personal bile) mocking us for the “splits” and “divisions” that are taking place in the CWI. We would ask, how many splits has the IMT suffered in Spain, Pakistan, Venezuela and other countries? Factional struggles, regrettable though they may be, and sometimes even splits, are necessary in order to clarify programme, perspectives and the forces that will carry out the tasks facing Marxists.
The NFF appeal for “principled revolutionary unity”. This is the summation of their platform! Their appeal for unity is done on a totally unprincipled basis, as they use it to mask and avoid debate on the central political issues involved. In the recent debates, they are reduced to gossip, innuendo and protests about the conduct and tone of the debate, and to making false charges of how their supporters are dealt with at the international centre. This is to evade dealing with the central political and theoretical issues posed by the international faction. This unprincipled grouping refuses to declare itself as a faction. Yet it produces documents, co-ordinates its activities and convenes an international meeting – i.e. it is an undeclared unprincipled faction.
In their latest ‘Open Letter’ to the CWI membership, which fails to deal with any political issues, they claim they have a majority of the CWI and the IEC. A majority for what? Most of the sections with NFF leaderships have not taken a position on the political positions put forward by the international faction. In their latest letter, they talk of rights for the “minority”. What do they mean by this? If they are intending to propose a regime-change and remove the current IS majority, they should openly say so. While formally they may have a majority on the IEC, this is not a full representation of the balance of forces in the CWI. The IEC is not a full reflection of the strength, class composition or social weight of the different sections. Some groups were made sections and given IEC membership in recognition of the potential which existed for them to develop. The memberships of the sections in Poland, Cyprus and others are smaller than some of the branches in other sections. The composition of the IEC is not, therefore, an accurate reflection of the CWI.
We make no apology for attempting unity, on principled basis, with the Spanish comrades and others. Trotsky undoubtedly was disappointed that his attempts to convince Andres Nin, in Spain, and Diego Rivera, in Mexico, eventually failed. However was it correct for Trotsky to attempt it? In 1933/4, Trotsky also attempted to form a ‘Block of four’, as a step towards building a new international. Yet this collapsed after a few months. Was he correct to attempt this? We believe so, and have applied his method in our attempts to build the international. Following the collapse of Stalinism we explored discussions with other organization, such as the USFI and UIT and the DSP, in Australia, to see if it was possible to reach agreement in the new world situation following the collapse of Stalinism. These efforts eventually also failed. Yet was it correct to attempt to see if agreement was possible? We answer yes. Other efforts to reach agreement with other organisations will emerge again in the future and will need to be explored. In the future, powerful new parties will emerge with which it will be necessary to enter into discussion and explore the prospect of fusion. The new forces will comprise the main components for the building of a power revolutionary international. Yet this process will also involve fusions and splits, and may involve other existing revolutionary forces, as well. There is no other road in a struggle to build a revolutionary international organization.
The Spanish leadership failed to fully reveal its position, especially on the political consequences and confusion which arose from the collapse of Stalinism. The differences raised by the Spanish leadership centred on the assessment of socialist political consciousness amongst the working class and masses, at this stage, and the world situation. The CWI was the first to recognize the consequences of the collapse of the former Stalinist regimes and that capitalist restoration was taking place (something that the IMT, in which the IR was affiliated, denied until 1997). The Morenites, in Latin America, took even longer to recognize the reality of capitalist restoration. There was an economic and political counter-revolution in the former USSR and Eastern Europe. The consequences of this were not confined to the former Stalinist states. Flowing from this was the launching of a massive ideological offensive by the capitalist class, a throwing back of political socialist consciousness, collapse of the former workers’ parties and increasing bureaucratization and swing to the right amongst the trade union leadership. It resulted not only in a throwing back of political consciousness but also a crisis of organization of the working class in most countries.
The consequences of this process are still being felt today. They are reflected in the current complex conjuncture which exists. Following the global crisis of 2007/8, a wave of struggle and a political radicalization took place. There was the outbreak of revolutions and revolts in the Middle East and North Africa. In Greece, the elements of a pre-revolutionary situation which erupted reflected the stagnation and potential collapse of capitalist rule. However, it was not reflected in the emergence of a clear socialist consciousness and organisations of the working class. Elements of these were present but not in a rounded out manner. The radicalization was also reflected in the Indignados movement, and the upheavals that unfolded in many countries. The growth of Syriza, in Greece, the formation of Podemos, in Spain, and later, the election of Corbyn to lead the Labour Party, in Britain, were all a product of the consequences of the capitalist crisis, and elements of political and social radicalization that existed. We recognized the significance of these developments and positively attempted to intervene in them.
However, these developments also had important weaknesses reflecting the enduring impact of the collapse of the former Stalinist regimes and that the working class has not yet consciously put itself at the head of the movements that have erupted. This is reflected, as we have explained in many documents and at meetings, in the extremely weak programme advocated by the ‘new left’, which is not even left reformist. These programmes are to the right of the left reformist policies of the 1970s/80s. It is also reflected in the character of the new parties, which are not yet workers’ parties but often comprise elements of ‘two parties in one’ and lack active participation by the working class. The class composition and methods of organization (for example, ‘horizontal’ structures, including online ballots) of parties like Syriza, Podemos, the Left Bloc and Momentum, are mainly a reflection of the layers involved – semi-working class, petit bourgeois and semi-petit bourgeois – which have been radicalized by the capitalist crisis.
The leadership of IR ignore these weaknesses and prettify the situation. In discussions they drew the conclusion that the IS was, at least, partly responsible for the crisis in the CWI because of the emphasis we have placed on the issue of the throwing back of socialist consciousness and working class organization. This, they allege, gave the justification for the opportunistic turn taken by the NFF leadership. But Trotskyists cannot refuse to identify a problem because some may react to it opportunistically. The task of the leadership is to diagnose the problem and then deal with it in a principled manner.
Revolutionary socialists are optimistic but it is also essential that a realistic assessment of the objective situation and subjective strengths and weaknesses, are made, in order to accurately assess and effectively intervene in the class struggle. We cannot bury our heads in the sand and be in denial about the objective and subjective conditions which currently exist. To re-discuss these questions is returning to the polemics we had with the Grant/Woods group, which denied the process of capitalist restoration until 1997 and continue to deny its effects on the working class and its former parties and organisations. To deny these developments is the response of a sect incubated from reality. The leadership of IR revealed, to our surprise, that they were still agreeing with the IMT approach on these questions.
Reflecting this denial, the leadership of IR refuse to accept that there was any hint of “anti-party” consciousness at the time of the ‘Indignados’ movement in the Spanish state. This was a feature of the situation not only in Spain but it was also present, for a period, in Greece, in Brazil, Chile and many other countries. This was a temporary mood and changed quite rapidly, giving rise to the growth of Podemos, in Spain, at a later stage. However, to deny this was a problem, at the time, is to bury ones head in the sand in an attempt to prettify the situation. The conclusion of the IR leadership on this question is totally one-sided. We need to support and participate in a struggle to build genuine mass parties of the working class, with an active working class membership, which function as instruments of struggle and as a forum to fight for a socialist programme. Such parties can emerge through a series of struggles, with many false starts. However, the new left parties which have emerged are not yet of this character. The future of the existing left parties is far from secure, as the example of Syriza demonstrates.
The same approach was reflected in the arguments of the IR leadership in relation to the process of revolution and counter revolution in Venezuela. The leadership of IR attack the IS Majority for drawing a distinction between the Chilean revolution in 1970-3 and Venezuela. This allegedly was a “theoretical mistake” – although they never explained where the theoretical error was to be found. However, as we have explained in the CWI’s analysis on Venezuela, the top-down, bureaucratic, idealization of Chavez, in the manner of the Latin American ‘caudillo’ tradition, was a weakness. This was quite distinct from Chile, where a higher consciousness existed, in part due to the more powerful and lengthy tradition of independent workers parties and organisations. Allende was, of course, revered by the Chilean masses but he was never viewed in the same manner as Chavez. He was subject to criticism by the working class and by the different mass parties which existed, including the Communist Party, the different factions of the Socialist Party and the MIR. We should not forget that the formation of the Cordones Industriales – embryonic soviet-type organisations – were in opposition to the Communist Party, the right-wing of the Socialist Party and the trade union federation, the CUT. The consequences of the collapse of the former Stalinist states, was reflected in Castro’s statement that it “was as if the sun had gone out”. He, of course, meant it from the stand point of Cuba losing its material support from the USSR but his comments also reflected the scale of the political consequences this has had for the working class and its organisations internationally. To deny this is to bury your head in the sand.
These issues were all discussed during the process of unification with the IR, and some of the issues were debated at international meeting following the unification process. The leadership of IR, at that stage, indicated they were in agreement with the general analysis of the CWI on these questions – with the exception of the existence of an anti-party mood at the time of the indignados movement. What is now clear is that the IR masked their real positions, which they have now returned to. They have returned to the approach of the IMT on these major issues.
For the leadership of IR the issue is simply reduced to the subjective question of the crisis of leadership of the working class and the need for mass revolutionary socialist parties. The CWI has always recognized the decisive question of leadership and the need for building revolutionary parties, generally, for a successful revolution. Even should the working class manage to seize power without a party, which is a theoretical possibility, a party would need to be rapidly built afterwards. However, the question of the political consciousness of the working class, which is a subjective factor, is also related to the question of resolving the crisis of leadership and to become part of the objective situation. If it is only a question of the crisis of leadership and the lack of a mass revolutionary party then why has no revolutionary party or organization, anywhere in the recent period, experienced substantial growth and development?
If it only a question of the party then why has the IR only experienced minimal growth, with approximately 350 members, in total, after leading such massive youth mobilisations? At the time of the British miners’ strike, 500 miners joined the Militant. In the Liverpool struggle, we recruited nearly 100 in one night! This and the explosive growth of the POUM, which grew to 70,000 in six weeks during the Spanish revolution or the Bolsheviks (who grew from seven thousand to hundreds of thousands during the Russian revolution), all illustrate that the subjective factors of party and political consciousness, and the objective situation, are interconnected. Differences on all of these issues resulted in the IR leadership indicating they would leave the faction, as they subsequently did, and stating that it would therefore make no sense for them to remain in the CWI.
We have fought this internal political struggle on a principled basis, against the NFF and now also the Spanish and Portuguese leaderships. The struggle erupted on questions pertaining to the Irish section. While sharply disagreeing with the Irish leadership, we were not prepared to re-write the history of the CWI and repudiate what the Irish or other sections have achieved in conducting important struggles. Peter Taaffe recently wrote an introduction to ‘In Defence of Marxism’, in which he recognized the role of the Irish section in past struggles, including the water charges campaign, the Jobstown trials, and the recent abortion campaign. The Spanish leadership wanted these references removed. But we were not prepared to go along with re-writing our history due to the current factional struggle.
The CWI is currently passing through a testing time. This has been echoed in all organisations claiming to be of the revolutionary left. The difference with them is that we will emerge stronger politically, steeling and developing youth cadres in the process who will play a key role in developing and growing our forces at a later stage. At root, what lies behind this crisis are objective factors and a political and theoretical atrophy which affects the leadership of many sections. This is reflected in an opportunist trend. This trend has adapted to the current conjuncture and, in varying degrees, succumbed to the pressures of identity politics.
The international faction rejects the claim that this is a
dispute between an old, conservative, out of touch leadership, and those who
are supposedly prepared to face up to the “new movements”. On the contrary, it is a struggle to defend
the methods and ideas of Trotskyism – of the centrality of the working class
and an orientation to intervene in its organisations – as opposed to an
opportunistic searching for short cuts. This is a crucial struggle for the
future of the CWI and Trotskyism. The international faction will, therefore,
convene an international conference of its members and supporters to assess the
debate and determine the next steps necessary to defend the policy, programme
and methods on which the CWI was founded in 1974. But let there be no doubt,
this crisis will result in a stronger, battle-hardened CWI, well-placed to face
the revolutionary storms to come.