In Defence of Trotskyism - IS majority documents

In Defence of Trotskyism Introduction

Introduction to the In Defence of Trotskyism book

Peter Taaffe, Socialist Party general secretary

In Defence of Trotskyism

The great scientific socialists, beginning with Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, defended the role of the working class as the main agency for fighting capitalism and establishing a new socialist society. This was a thread running throughout their works. The working class, organised and disciplined by mass production, is the only class capable of developing the necessary collective consciousness through their organisations to achieve this task.

However, they and we recognise that the working class is not composed of one homogenous, undifferentiated whole. It historically involves, for example, men and women workers, the skilled and unskilled, and in our day is made up of many new layers involved in a number of different sectors with their own demands and agenda. Nevertheless, the CWI and Militant (now the Socialist Party), as this book demonstrates, successfully engaged in many different sectional struggles but always emphasised the decisive role of the working class, and their organisations, the trade unions and political parties, as the unifying force against big business.

The ruling class from the outset has tried to play on differences within the working class, to widen them as a means of cementing its rule. In recent years what has become known as ‘identity politics’ has come to the fore in general in society. Women’s struggles bursting onto the scene again and again, protests against sexual harassment, the fight for lgbt+ rights and other struggles have impacted on all manner of organisations in society. Indeed, the ruling classes quite consciously, through their ideological factories the universities and ‘places of learning’, have encouraged identity politics as a means of splitting and weakening the ability of the working class and its organisations to fight back. Even self-proclaimed ‘revolutionary left’ organisations, like the US International Socialist Organisation (ISO) have split on this issue and have virtually disappeared from the political arena.

Unfortunately, the former CWI section in the US, Socialist Alternative, has also turned in an opportunist direction towards the Democratic Party, and made concessions to identity politics. This has involved watering down its programme and actions to accommodate to the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). This organisation has the false, utopian view that the ingrained pro-capitalist Democratic Party can be turned into a ‘workers’ party’. Undoubtedly, some who split from the DSA can move in this direction but the overwhelming majority for a new workers’ party in the us will come from fresh layers, alongside trade unionists and other activists looking towards a  fighting, anti-capitalist, workers’ or even ‘pre-workers’ party. A theoretical or political error inevitably can lead to a big price being paid by those organisations claiming to be ‘Marxists’ or ‘Trotskyists’.

Something similar to what has happened to the ISO has affected sections of the CWI in the course of the last period. Serious political differences arose towards the end of 2018, continued throughout 2019 in our ranks and developed into a full-blown dispute as a clearly petty-bourgeois opportunist trend raised its head within the CWI.

The delay in an upsurge of mass movements also contributed to this. A similar political trend to that which confronted Trotsky in  1939-40, but over different issues, arose within the CWI seeking an ‘easier’, in reality opportunist, road – a ‘short cut’ to gaining greater influence amongst ‘specially oppressed’ groups and a turning away from the working class and its organisations to ‘more revolutionary’ forces.

The issues under dispute centred on the crucial role, the primacy and centrality, of the working class and its organisations in the struggle against capitalism and for socialism. The leadership of the CWI – like Trotsky in the late 1930s – confronted head-on these major political and organisational diversions from genuine Marxism. The spark for the dispute arose from young members of the Socialist Party in Ireland who implied at an international school that it was not the working class and its organisations but allegedly ‘new’ forces – women, lgbt+ people, etc – which constituted a new ‘vanguard of the working class’. Rather than correcting these young people, even gently, the Irish leadership dug in and defended their mistaken formulations. They compounded their error when they stood in the European elections of 2019 under the slogan of a ‘socialist feminist’ candidate. This was calculated to appeal to just one a small section of the working class. The consequences of this mistaken slogan and political orientation were that, unfortunately, their vote dropped dramatically in the European elections and they were reduced to four councillors from the previous 14 in the local elections held the same day.

This represented a sharp departure from the political traditions of the CWI which was actually born in 1965 when Ted Grant and myself came into conflict with the Mandelite United Secretariat of the Fourth International (USFI) on similar issues. We were delegates to their world congress but walked out and politically turned our backs on them in protest at the abandonment of a consistent Marxist approach based upon the power and potential of the working class.

Representing small forces at the time, we separated ourselves politically from Ernest Mandel’s USFI. For them it was also the ‘new forces’, allegedly new methods of struggle through rural and urban guerrillaism pursued by charismatic popular leaders at the time, or those like Tito in Yugoslavia, Mao in China and of course Fidel Castro in Cuba, who had, they argued, replaced the political power of the working class in carrying through socialist change. We recognised the changes that had been effected in some areas of the world through these radical popular leaders, like Castro and Guevara, who although not rounded-out Marxists played a significant role in social change. Nevertheless we stubbornly but correctly defended the historic role and potential of the working class in the forthcoming battles that were likely to open up internationally.

We were very soon vindicated in action in the mass revolutionary upheavals that erupted, particularly in France in 1968 with the working class reaching out for power through a general strike and organised occupations of the factories. This scepticism of Mandel about the potential of the working class was answered in action and resulted in the greatest general strike in history, with ten million workers occupying the factories. The French workers undoubtedly had the possibility of taking power relatively peacefully, at least initially, but for the obstacle of the perfidious French Communist Party and so-called ‘Socialists’.

Our general approach allowed us to subsequently face up to winning and mobilising the best working-class youth, and at the same time winning a significant layer of student youth in the universities who put themselves politically and historically on the standpoint of the working class.

This in turn laid the basis for us to effectively intervene in Britain by establishing a significant force amongst the Labour Party Young Socialists and eventually winning the majority. We followed this up with consistent, assiduous work in the Labour Party itself and built a powerful trade union base. This work was carried out initially through our very few cadres and journal, the Militant. This became an example for others in Britain and internationally who were in turn attracted to the banner of the CWI.

Unfortunately, while Herculean methods were used to try and establish a similar basis elsewhere, it was only in Britain that Marxism/Trotskyism managed to break through to the degree to which it did, to become a significant force that was able to powerfully influence events. We were not just a ‘factor’ but on some crucial issues a decisive factor in some of the big battles of the working class, recruiting 500 miners during their strike of 1984-85. This was also the case in the epic Liverpool struggle and the poll tax battle. It was not the pathetic ‘official leadership’ of the Labour Party at that time, under the hapless and treacherous leadership of Neil Kinnock, nor the Trades Union Congress (tuc) or the completely ineffective little sects on the outskirts of the labour movement, which led the way.

It was Militant that led the hugely successful mass movement to defeat Thatcher in the 1980s in Liverpool, winning in the process significant concrete reforms for the working class. Moreover members of the present leadership of the real CWI formulated and carried through the strategy and tactics that were employed to gain a great victory. Many other comrades joined us later in these battles. If the methods employed in Liverpool had been emulated in other cities and towns in Britain by the labour movement, then undoubtedly the Thatcher government’s savage council cuts would have been swept away. Rather than one victory in a triumphant city – Liverpool, supported by Lambeth council – numerous councils involved in struggle could have inflicted an even greater defeat on the Tory government.

Nevertheless the achievements of Liverpool were enormously impressive and attracted support from elsewhere. This in turn led to a rise in the political profile and the support amongst increasing layers of workers for the ideas of Militant of a fighting Marxist/Trotskyist organisation both in Britain and internationally, especially as this was aligned to the mass organisations of the Labour Party and the leftward-moving unions.

The mass rallies under Militant’s banner involving thousands of young people and workers, which numbered from 5,000 to 8,000, were organised first at the Wembley Conference Centre, then in the Albert Hall culminating in the spectacularly successful rally of almost 8,000 in Alexandra Palace in 1988 (at this event we had almost 500 children in the crèche – similar in size to a primary school!).

At the same time in Merseyside we had – in addition to Militant, our weekly paper – a local weekly paper and had a thousand members, which was the effective leadership of the labour movement in the city. Dozens of councillors were in our ranks alongside the heroic member of parliament, the late Terry Fields. He was jailed with the complicity of Neil Kinnock for defying Thatcher’s poll tax!

Alongside Terry in parliament were the other colossal class fighters, Coventry South-East MP Dave Nellist and Bradford North MP Pat Wall. Dave was expelled from the Labour Party for the ‘crime’ of defying Thatcher and refusing to pay his poll tax! Additionally we had 34 members amongst the hundreds of nonpayers jailed as Thatcher tried to crush the poll tax resistance. In vain! We organised through the Anti-Poll Tax Federation 18 million people not to pay the tax. It was this non-payment campaign – not the so-called ‘Battle of Trafalgar Square’, which was important as a symbol of resistance but not decisive – that finished off the poll tax and in the process consigned Thatcher to history. It was these examples that indicated the huge potential for the bold alternative of Marxism and Trotskyism under the leadership of Militant – now known as the Socialist Party.

Very few specifically working-class Trotskyist forces have achieved this kind of success elsewhere in the world, and none other than the CWI in Britain. Some managed to establish a largish base among students but did not succeed as Militant did in penetrating into the ranks of the working class and its organisations, the trade unions. The Trotskyist Morenoite organisation in Latin America did make a significant semi-mass breakthrough in Argentina and Brazil, as well as a separate Trotskyist organisation in Bolivia through the group led by Lora.

It was Militant’s gains in Britain that set the alarm bells ringing in the corridors of bourgeois power and which led to a series of underhand, vicious attacks combined with openly repressive measures employed by the capitalist state and its stooges in the labour movement against Militant and the CWI. This involved collaborating with the right wing in the trade unions and sending police spies into our ranks in an attempt to undermine our influence and growth. None of these methods would have succeeded but for the unexpected and unfavourable turn of events for the Labour movement and us, represented by the collapse of Stalinism and its aftermath in the ideological fallout. A massive campaign to discredit ‘socialism’ took place in the early 1990s.

It is necessary to make these points here, not just to repeat the historical record of the present leadership of the CWI, but to underline the completely false, bombastic claims made by our opponents. They are trying to undermine and distort the real traditions, programme, perspectives and methods of our organisation – the CWI – that led to this significant success. Moreover, this example and tradition can lead to further mass breakthroughs if those seeking a Trotskyist road remain firmly committed to the ideas which we have defended and still represent.

The discussion and differences in our international originally arose with the leadership of the Irish section of the CWI – which revealed a serious opportunist adaptation by them to identity politics, as well as their underhand organisational methods. This group has belatedly admitted that they deployed an ‘intervention’ into fellow comrades’ email accounts. This was to gather information that they were in political opposition to the leadership. This is what Eric Byl, a leader of the Belgian section, and Stephen Boyd, a leader of the Irish section, admitted to in a letter sent to the Nigerian comrades:

“In July of 2018 there was a serious suspicion that emails of leading members were violated by a councillor comrade. If this was the case (and it proved to be so), the comrade would have to be removed as a public representative as he couldn’t be trusted politically. However, that is a serious sanction and so we needed to have evidence and proof.

“Therefore three IEC members and Joe Higgins essentially made two decisions. The first was that the potential ‘breach’ had to be investigated. The investigation was carried out by the comrade who had discovered the original suspicious activity on the computer he used in a party office. Secondly, that it would look at the Chrome browser history on the computer, and also a limited scan of the email account of the comrade suspected of the ‘breach’, to see if there was any evidence of a ‘breach’ in his emails. Both of which were readily accessible when the comrade had opened Chrome on his computer…

“The investigation was justified and necessary and got to the truth of a serious attack on the party.” A clear admission of ‘spying on the ranks’ of the organisation!

Paul Murphy was originally the main target for this, the Irish leadership’s underhand ‘secret’ methods of surveillance of ‘oppositional’ comrades. The IS opposed this and defended his right as a party member and a public representative for the party to put forward his views openly to the membership. He had a record in the public domain, particularly in the water charges campaign, and had been threatened with jailing and a long prison sentence. The Irish party leadership, in our opinion, had not been conducting a sufficiently energetic public campaign, either in Ireland or internationally, to prevent the imprisonment of Paul and the others charged. The is therefore intervened, particularly CWI Secretary Tony Saunois, to step up the defence campaign, which along with the strenuous campaign waged in Ireland we believe did significantly contribute to staying the hand of the judges and the police in their attempts to jail him and others.

The same principled approach was not reciprocated by Paul Murphy in the course of the struggle over the internal methods of the Irish leadership. He was originally the target, not the IS, for the attacks of the Irish leadership. Now he has separated himself from the IS and, unfortunately in the process, from Trotskyism itself. He has announced that he is separating himself from the Irish organisation – splitting – and would like to link up opportunistically with others on the left including the Greens and Sinn Féin. The IS did at one stage pose the question of perhaps not standing in the way of Sinn Féin participating in a ‘left government’ in the South of Ireland while at the same time continuing to criticise the inadequacies of its programme. This was raised in perspectives documents and agreed at the conference of the Irish section, but because this situation did not arise, this proposal was not pursued. However, the discussion of the issues inside the party revealed a sectarian approach of the Irish party leadership towards the question of limited agreements with opposition ‘left’ parties.

This did not imply that we politically endorsed Paul Murphy or his arguments in favour of a ‘united front’ with Sinn Féin and others, but rather a limited practical technical agreement not to stand in the way of a government in which Sinn Féin participated, if that was the wish of significant sections of the Irish electorate and particularly of the working class. A united front usually pertains to an agreement between specific workers’ organisations to fight for a clear programme of demands, while maintaining our own programme, and on some occasions could even include the idea of a ‘radical revolutionary government’. None of that was proposed in the case of Ireland. Now Paul Murphy has taken this idea a step further and given it a massive opportunist twist. This involves attempting to link up with other opportunist forces, some of them with a chequered record in the trade union movement.

This bloc will merely be a further deepening of the opportunist trends, already evident in the evolution of the policies of the Irish leadership. The suspicion will be that Paul Murphy is trying to save his seat in the Dáil at any cost. Moreover he is quite clearly linked to Philip Locker in the US who broke from the CWI for similar opportunistic reasons and whose small group has now collapsed into the DSA.

They politically subsist on ideas borrowed from us. For instance, Paul Murphy’s latest document lauds the ‘dual tasks’, which is an idea that we first formulated in the aftermath of the collapse of Stalinism. Consciousness had been thrown back, not just in terms of programme but also of organisation: the need for a mass party of the working class. We therefore had to champion the idea of new mass parties of the working class, as well as the need for a clear revolutionary Trotskyist programme – hence the dual tasks.

During the last debates on this issue in Ireland, supporters of the Irish leadership argued that the IS and the leadership in England and Wales were also promoting ‘identity politics’ by emphasising the essential role of the working class! As if the working class and trade unions, the mass organisations of the working class, can be put on the same level as sectional struggles and organisations!

This issue of the trade unions reflected a big difference between us – the IS – and the opportunists within the CWI, as is revealed in the documents reproduced in this book. Marxists, Trotskyists, are duty bound to seek out and politically convince and educate workers in the trade unions, the basic organisations of the working class. The discussion revealed that in some sections, like Ireland in the South, and Greece, while lip service was paid to this idea, in practice they had abandoned attempts at systematic work in the unions and workplaces. In Greece they even criticised the gold miners, suggesting they should give up their jobs to “protect the environment” without suggesting alternative employment.

This had been preceded by a whole period when not just political issues arose, but also the method upon which the Irish organisation was being built, with a top-down, out-of-touch apparatus – largely subsidised by the state – substituting for an educated, ideologically solid organisation. The differences expressed were not just with the IS but with the majority of the CWI, including some who opportunistically supported them in the latest dispute.

The Irish organisation undoubtedly has a commendable, courageous past record historically in many campaigns: water charges, leading the significant strike of Turkish workers employed by the multinational Gama, a protracted struggle in the Irish Labour Party against the right wing and then a successful period of open work. All of this was undertaken with the support of the CWI, notwithstanding the criticisms of some aspects of their work and their lack of a real transitional programme in later years. Their participation and role in the victory to legalise abortion in Ireland in 2018 was recognised by us.

We duly commended them at international meetings while at the same time raising the necessity for us to combat and defeat manifestations of identity politics in general and particularly within their ranks. These ideas emanate, as we mentioned, in the main from us universities, and contain a strong element of separatism. Leading proponents of these ideas pretend to be ‘progressive’ but in reality are aimed at separating and dividing the working class and its struggles, harking back to the beginnings of the labour movement when workers were very often divided. The labour movement played a decisive role in bringing workers together as a cohesive, decisive force.

Marxism historically has consistently first sought to unify the working class in action – and particularly women workers with their male counterparts – at the point of production in the factories, the workplaces, in the localities and in general society. Our opponents – the long-term sectarians, together with those on the right wing of the labour movement and their quasi-left political cousins – of course deny that is their aim. But in practice this is what invariably takes place.

In war – including the class war – the first casualty is truth! This bourgeois maxim is taken for granted amongst the ruling class. However, with the labour movement, and particularly those who claim to be Marxists or Trotskyists, it behoves those who seek to represent the working class to tell the truth both about the objective situation and to seek to answer criticisms honestly. However, Lenin stressed that in Russia he had never come across a really honest labour movement tendency outside of the ranks of the Bolsheviks, the genuine representatives of Marxism and the working class.

It is impossible to answer all the myriad lies used against us. This should be kept in mind when reading some of the slanderous documents, and the language and shameful behaviour of those who supported identity politics in the ideological struggle.

And if there is any doubt that these former comrades did not put forward identity politics, then read a recent statement of Eljeer Hawkins, one of their members who supported the position of the leadership of the US organisation against us. He wrote recently in relation to a comment of us Democratic Party representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, covered uncritically in their paper: “See I have a problem with this statement and the implicit identity politics in her comments. How do we build a united working-class and poor peoples’ movement? A universal solidarity politics and a class analysis that doesn’t negate special oppression but centres capitalism and the capitalist class as the enemy that uses racism, sexism and homophobia etc as a tool of division, subjugation, alienation and violence.”

And yet the leadership of our former us organisation has now joined the queue of those departing from the CWI who engage in colossal distortions and slander when it comes to the policies of the majority of the CWI, with highly personalised attacks similar to Stalinism’s against the Left Opposition. There is nothing new in this. Lenin was invariably accused of being a ‘dictator’, ‘bureaucratic’, in favour of ‘one-party rule’, telling lies, etc by the Mensheviks – the opportunists in the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party in the dispute in 1904 with Martov, Plekhanov and others. Trotsky was later accused of harbouring the same methods and views by the Stalinists and reformists. He was accused of lecturing his opponents from the “heights of Oslo”, where he did not live and there were no heights in any case!

The former leadership of our Scottish and Liverpool organisations, when they were breaking from Trotskyism in earlier periods, made similar accusations and they gained absolutely no traction, either with the ranks of our organisation or in the wider labour movement. Their slanders became merely ineffectual weapons to be used against us by bourgeois and petty-bourgeois opponents when they needed them. For instance, Alan McCombes, a former leader of our Scottish organisation, in our dispute with its leadership made a similar accusation. The CWI was allegedly seeking to lecture them from the heights of Leytonstone in East London, where we had our centre. This had as much effect as a drop of water on a hot stove! We have always striven to tell the truth no matter how unpalatable, both to our own membership and the broad labour movement, when the situation required it – something that has, unfortunately, not been the method of the leaders of our former Irish organisation and their international supporters.

For instance in the course of the Liverpool struggle we openly in our press – and in the book Liverpool: A City that Dared to Fight – expressed our differences with the comrades in Liverpool on the issue of ‘redundancy notices’. They had been pressurised by the situation – and for very good but incorrect reasons – to introduce the ‘tactic’ of redundancy notices to gain time for the struggle. We disagreed with them at the time and predicted that Kinnock would disloyally use this to attack the councillors, which he duly did at the infamous Labour Party conference later in 1985! Similarly there were disputes in our ranks over the appointment of Sam Bond as the council’s principal race relations officer.

There is here in this book an abundance of material which spells out our record in Britain in defending women workers in particular and women in general. We did this very effectively in the 1990s, launching the Campaign Against Domestic Violence, whose programme was in turn taken up by the broad labour movement in Britain and translated into action with the setting up of special refuges and action to help the victims of domestic abuse. The reality is the recent general capitalist offensive through austerity has meant that right-wing councils, including Labour-run authorities, have sabotaged and undermined this work through cuts, leading to the closure of many of the special units which sought to defend women from violence and domestic abuse. This underlines that gains amongst different groups and sections are linked to the general fight of the working class and labour movement.

Moreover, where women have acted in the defence of their own interests, as with the magnificent strikes of women workers in Glasgow in 2018, we have engaged with and supported them, and encouraged male workers to take action alongside the women. These initiatives were welcomed by the women on strike. A similar situation occurred in the strikes in Birmingham where mainly male refuse workers organised their strike alongside that of the mainly female home care workers. They realised the vital need for class unity in the defence of all sections of the working class.

The starting point of the sectarians and advocates of identity politics is firstly to hone in, to seek to emphasise and magnify any differences in consciousness between sections of the working class. A Marxist and Trotskyist approach does the opposite: it seeks to emphasise what unites working people in struggle. Of course, we recognise the special oppression of different groups and accordingly formulate specific demands. But we at the same time always seek to unify in action the struggles of working people through a common programme, instilling confidence in their ranks with a strategy for victory. We recognise the points of difference where they exist, which means supporting particular demands, but also we have the responsibility to seek to enhance the general struggles of the working class, to free them from opportunist and sectarian leaders and unify them on a fighting programme.

All the charges levelled at the CWI on matters of organisation and how the party functions on a day-to-day basis we believe are answered in this book, which seeks to honestly deal with our history, something which many of our opponents know very little about because they did not participate in the work that built the CWI. The breakthroughs that we made in the 1980s and in the 1990s, of helping to create the outline of future mass formations and an international, have been maintained in the revolutionary core that forms the nucleus of our England and Wales organisation and in those in the CWI who are politically aligned with our international. Our reconstituted international will be developed in the heat of struggle and largely composed of new forces that will leave behind sectarians and opportunists on the side-lines of history.

A central idea for us is that the capitalist system has drained the cup of optimism to its last drop in the economic field, where the productive forces – science, technique and labour – are in a blind alley. Also in politics, this is revealed through the splits in the ruling class – more like a splintering in Britain and Europe as a whole, as Brexit and its aftermath have shown. It is also to be found in the huge discontent which is brewing not just in the ranks of the most important class, the working class, but also in broad layers of the middle class, who are increasingly thrown into a pit of despair by crisis-ridden capitalism.

One measure of the mass revolt that is coming is that the majority of the young in the us – the millennials – are already in favour of the idea of ‘socialism’, as the brutal journalism of capitalism, the Economist, admitted in a recent leader column: “Socialism is storming back because it has formed an incisive critique of what has gone wrong in Western societies… Some 51% of Americans aged 18-29 have a positive view of socialism, says Gallup.” Marxists/Trotskyists, if they are to find a road to the working class, must base themselves in a principled manner on that class.

Capitalism is in a blind alley having already experienced the worst slump since the 1930s! We witnessed the world economic crisis of 2007-08, second only in its effects to the Great Depression of the 1930s. Moreover, all the economic indicators now point towards another great crash in the next period with all its attendant miseries for the masses.

We want to create an international mass party aimed against all capitalist regimes which presently dominate the planet, thereby initiating a democratic socialist confederation of Europe and the world. Only in this way will we be able to fully utilise and develop all the great resources of the planet built up by the ingenuity and labours of the working class, thereby eradicating hunger and privation, and at the same time through a great socialist world plan avoiding environmental and climate catastrophe.

Deteriorating and unacceptable living conditions are not enough to effect serious change. Nor is the willingness of the working class to fight against its immediate conditions, even against capitalism as a whole, which is evident in the constant upheavals, and in the environmental movement.

Only when all the conditions for revolution are present – a split in the ruling class; the middle layers in revolt and looking towards the working class for a way out; a feeling amongst the mass of the working class that “we cannot live like this any longer” – will it be possible to effect what would be the greatest social overturn in history, the socialist revolution.

However, all these conditions can be present, yet if the most vital one is absent, a mass party, revolution can be derailed. Leon Trotsky called this the “subjective factor”, a mass revolutionary party, with a trained, far-sighted political leadership, able to withstand the pressures of capitalism and their agents in the working-class movement, the sell-out ‘reformist’ trade union and labour leaders. Even the most favourable of revolutionary situations can be lost unless a mass revolutionary party is present. This must be systematically built with the fundamental idea of socialist revolution, with the working class in a central, dominant role. This is the only way to liberate humankind from capitalism, a system which is dragging us into the abyss of increasing poverty, degradation and misery. Moreover, humanity can only save the planet itself from catastrophic climate change through revolution, socialist revolution.

“Say what needs to be said; do what needs to be done,” said Trotsky. He does not just platonically advocate the necessity for a mass workers’ party with a revolutionary leadership. He is very attentive to all the basic tasks involved even in the assembling of the building blocks for such a force. He does not minimise obstacles: “The selection and education of a truly revolutionary leadership, capable of withstanding the pressure of the bourgeoisie, is an extraordinarily difficult task.” Difficult but not impossible! The record of the real Committee for a Workers’ International – and its parties and formations – has demonstrated this clearly.

The consistent class analysis in this book is particularly timely and relevant to the situation facing all socialists and revolutionaries today – including those assembled in the ranks of the CWI. We have faced many hostile class pressures, at times, unfortunately, reflected in our ranks, particularly in the period after the collapse of Stalinism. This invariably arose, as we have pointed out, from those seeking ‘short cuts’, like the recent departures from our ranks, invariably buttressed with the argument that we need ‘allies’, particularly when the working class and its organisations do not appear to be active or moving into an immediate collision with capitalism.

There is nothing new in an attempt to find an ‘easier’ road to influence the working class by watering down the approach and programme of Marxism. Usually, this means building on sand. Many Trotskyists have in the past and even today struggled against great odds but because of a certain ISOlation arising from contemporary unfavourable conditions – particularly in the advanced industrial countries in the post-Second World War upswing – the working class appeared on the surface to be politically quiescent and even accepting of capitalism.

Militant – even before the creation of the CWI – turned its back on false methods and faced up squarely to the task of winning workers, young workers first of all, and then, through them, seeking to find a road to the mass of the working class. We have to combat and defeat all ideologically petty-bourgeois political trends which seek to divide, to introduce separatism into the workers’ movement. While Marxists support the rights of all oppressed minorities, and fight their special oppression, we repeat, we always emphasise and strive for the maximum unity of the working class.

Despite the many revolutions and revolutionary situations over the last 150 years, why is it that only in Russia so far was a successful working-class, democratic socialist revolution carried through? The dialectic of history meant that a Marxist party with the most modern ideas developed first in an economically ‘underdeveloped’ country because of the unique circumstances that Trotsky anticipated in his famous ‘theory of the permanent revolution’. This and the existence of the leadership of the Bolshevik party – led by Lenin and Trotsky – resulted in the victory of the 1917 Russian Revolution, whose immediate effects were felt internationally.

Rotted capitalism will not automatically disappear from the scene of history. This is a system  which is dominated now not by your ‘average’ millionaire, as in the past, but by a handful of oligarchs – billionaires – who now wield as much power as whole states and confederations of states wielded previously. It will take a mighty movement of the working class, mobilising behind them all the oppressed layers, who are already alienated from and ready to revolt against and defeat outmoded capitalism and replace it with world socialism.

The answer to how to undertake this colossal task can be found – particularly by the new generation – in reading and absorbing the lessons of this book and the method of Trotsky and Lenin to forge the political weapons that will create a new socialist world.

Peter Taaffe

October 2019