XXVIII. The Left Facing Great Power Rivalry: Eclectic Social-Pacifists





We have elaborated above that there are several centrist organizations like Peter Taaffe’s CWI, Alan Woods’ IMT and Alex Callinicos’ IST which managed to characterize Russia and China as “imperialist”, at least occasionally. However, as we explained, this is a rather platonic “name-calling” which does not find expression in the world political analysis of these forces. Unfortunately, such theoretical confusion is combined with a failure to understand the Leninist program of revolutionary defeatism, to say nothing of applying it.


In our book The Great Robbery of the South we demonstrated that both the CWI as well as the IMT openly reject Lenin’s strategy of revolutionary defeatism. [1] Let us briefly summarize our critique at this point. Basically these two organizations advocate an opportunist interpretation, better say, distortion of Lenin’s theory which serves to lend legitimacy to their social-pacifist adaption to the Great Powers. (We note in passing, that, not accidently, the CWI and the IMT also preach the reformist theory that the working class could take power in a peaceful way and via parliamentary reforms.)


Such falsification of Leninism is desperately needed by the CWI and the IMT as they have to justify their repeated betrayal of legitimate liberation struggles of semi-colonial countries and oppressed people against Great Powers – in particular against Britain where these currents have their “mother sections”.




CWI/IMT: Refusal to Defend Semi-Colonial Countries against Imperialism




As we have shown in detail somewhere else, the CWI/IMT – they were still united in a single organization at that time – refused to defend semi-colonial Argentina against British imperialism during the Malvinas war in 1982 when London was sending its fleet to the South Atlantic in order to keep their colonial possessions in this area. (The SWP/IST also refused to defend Argentina in this war. [2]) These centrists claimed that siding with Argentina would be “ultra-left” and, instead, they called for a “Labour Governments waging a socialist war against Argentina”! In an article published 25 years later, the CWI still defended their shameful capitulation to British imperialism. “Yet the ultra-left sects of today, determined to demonstrate their intransigent ‘Marxist’ approach, continue to advance slogans based on their misconception of ‘defeatism’.” Siding with Argentina, the CWI proclaims, would only repel the British workers (which seems to be the most important criterion for these “internationalist”): “[T]hey (the so-called “sects”, Ed.) believe it can be done by support for the Junta, when most workers have an instinctive hatred for what they see as a ‘fascist’ regime, and an understandable desire to see it defeated. The Tories, of course, are cynically exploiting the workers’ anti-fascist feelings; but support for the Junta would put Marxists beyond the pale in the eyes of workers, leaving the Tories free hypocritically to capitalise on the ‘fight against fascism’.


Furthermore, it is decisive for these “anti-imperialists” to defend the rights of the small group of British settlers living on the Malvinas Islands in front of the Argentinean coast: “The pseudo-Marxists also believe, it seems, that support for a socialist opposition to the war can be won through a policy which abandons the Falkland Islanders to the tender mercies of the Junta, writing off their rights in favour of the Junta’s legalistic claim to the land under their feet.


Consequently, the CWI denounced the application of the Leninist position of calling for the defeat of the British Navy (“Task Force”): “The most monstrous absurdity of the sects’ position, however, is the idea that workers can be won to a socialist position on the basis of calling for the defeat of the Task Force, calling literally – as representatives of the sects have stated in public – for "the sinking of the fleet"! They are in favour of the slaughter of workers in the ranks of the navy and army, and on this basis they will win mass support from the working class! This is a travesty of Marxism which, in so far as it has any effect at all, can only play into the hands of the Tories and Labour’s right, allowing them to portray ‘Marxists’ as idiots who support the Argentinean junta.” [3]


The CWI/IMT even went so far to refuse calling for an end of the British war against Argentina or for the withdrawal of the British fleet … because “the workers would not have understood it”! They argued: “To force the withdrawal of the Task Force would have involved the organization of a general strike, which itself would have posed the question of the coming to power of a socialist government. Yet at the outset of the war, such a demand would have received no support from the British workers. (…) Nor would the call to stop the war or to withdraw the fleet have provided a basis even for a mass campaign of demonstrations, meetings and agitation.[4]


This embarrassing adaption to the most backward social-imperialist prejudices among the British labor aristocracy was not a singular slip. It is rather an expression of the political DNA of this current – its social-pacifist, centrist method. Compare this with the attitude of the Bolsheviks at the beginning of World War I in 1914. Albeit the Bolsheviks had to work under conditions of repression and illegality and albeit the fact that in this imperialist war Marxists could not support any side (in contrast to the Malvinas war in 1982), irrespective of all that, the Russian revolutionaries never took such a coward and social-patriotic stand as the CWI/IMT does!


As we demonstrated above in chapter XVIII, the Bolsheviks became feverishly active in spreading anti-war agitation on the streets and in the factories at the beginning of World War I. They published leaflets in Petersburg which proclaimed Down with the war!’ and ‘War on war!’ What a difference to the pathetically coward position of the CWI and IMT in an imperialist war!


During the imperialist war and occupation of Afghanistan since 2001 – another important military adventure of Britain – the CWI again strongly refuses to lend any support for the Afghan struggle against the occupiers and their puppets which has been led by the petty-bourgeois Islamist Taliban movement.


In a programmatic essay, the CWI’s central leader Peter Taaffe contrasted the CWI policy to those of principled anti-imperialists like our organization: „If, therefore, we perceive this war as thoroughly reactionary on the part of imperialism, does this mean that we throw in our lot, albeit ‘critically’, with those who have allegedly ‘resisted’ the US juggernaut, namely bin Laden, his al-Qa’ida and the Taliban government? Unbelievably, this is the position of some small Trotskyist groups, such as Workers Power (our predecessor organization, Ed) and the Morenoite LIT. The latter is largely based in Latin America. Their approach will find absolutely no echo amongst the world working class, particularly the proletariat in the developed capitalist countries. Nevertheless, because they utilised some of the past writings of Trotsky to justify their position during the war they could, and did in some instances, confuse and befuddle some young people and workers who came into contact with them.[5]


This quote indicates that Taaffe has been aware that the CWI’s position is in obvious contradiction to Trotsky’s method. As we did show above, Trotsky called to defend even a “semi-fascist” Brazil against “democratic” British imperialism or the absolute monarchy of Ethiopia against Italy in 1935. However, the CWI claims that Trotsky’s approach would be no longer valid today: “It is nonsense to imply, however, as the sectarian organisations do by quoting these remarks of Trotsky, that the mass of the populations in most industrialised countries could take the same attitude today towards bin Laden and the Taliban.” [6]


In short, forces like the CWI, the IMT or the IST, refuse to defend semi-colonial countries and oppressed peoples because, as they claim, the political backward workers in the imperialist Great Powers “would not understand such a position”. This is the classic logic which social democracy used in 1914 to legitimize their support for the “defense of the imperialist fatherland”. “The workers would not have understood if we would have opposed the war” – this was the rallying cry for Noske, Ebert and Kautsky at the beginning of WWI! “The workers would not understand if we take the side led by the Taliban or the Argentinean military junta” – this is the rallying cry of the CWI and the IMT today! Different times but the same social-pacifist logic!


These centrists ignore the historical fact that the majority of the working class usually supports the defense of its imperialist fatherland at the beginning of a major war, as Lenin and Trotsky explained repeatedly. When he summarized the experience of the Bolsheviks during the World War I, Lenin wrote in 1922 about the policy towards the workers movement concerning a coming war: “We must take special pains to explain that the question of “defence of the fatherland” will inevitably arise, and that the overwhelming majority of the working people will inevitably decide it in favour of their bourgeoisie.[7]


Trotsky also emphasized this idea in his Transitional Program in 1938: “At the beginning of the war the sections of the Fourth International will inevitably feel themselves isolated: every war takes the national masses unawares and impels them to the side of the government apparatus. The internationalists will have to swim against the stream.[8]


It is the same method which leads the CWI to defend the existence of Israel – a colonial settler entity imposed by the imperialist powers by expelling the native Arab population. [9] As Peter Taaffe said, the CWI can not support the destruction of the Israeli Apartheid state and its replacement by a Palestinian state with minority rights for the Israeli Jews because “the Israeli Jews would oppose this”: “… the idea of a Palestinian state with minority rights for Israelis still appears. Such an abstract slogan would never be accepted by the Israeli population.“ [10]


Following the same logic of adaption to social-imperialism, the CWI as well as the IMT has – like numerous other centrist forces – dropped their support for the Syrian Revolution long ago. Since a number of years, both organizations claim the liberation struggle has degenerated into a “sectarian civil war” with no side worthy of support:


The situations in Iraq and Syria constitute at the moment the epicentre of the crisis engulfing the Middle East. The order inherited from the legacy of imperialism is exploding in the most brutal manner, under the effect of the power struggles for influence taking place between various reactionary forces and regimes. (...) On Syria, some on the international left have wrongly adopted some variant of a “campist” attitude, either by prettifying the -mostly jihadist- armed rebels fighting Assad, or by their apologism for the latter.” [11]


This is fundamentally a result of the counter-revolution that unfolded in Syria following a genuine mass revolt against the rule of Assad in 2011, inspired by revolutionary movements in Tunisia and Egypt. In the absence of strong, united, working class organisations and a socialist leadership, sectarian and Islamic forces were able to step into the vacuum, aided by reactionary Gulf States and Turkey and by Western powers. This led to the degeneration of the mass revolt into a vicious, multi-faceted civil war.[12]




IMT Russia: No Support for “Chechen Separatism”




Another example of such adaption to social-chauvinism is the position of the IMT and their Russian section on the independence struggle of the Chechen people. As we have stated above, the Chechen people declared an independent state after the collapse of the USSR in 1991/92 and defended their national rights heroically in two wars against the military aggression of overwhelming Russia. Today, it is the task of Russian Marxists to defend the Chechens against the brutal oppression by the Moscow’s local henchman, the butcher Ramzan Kadyrov.


However, the IMT takes a different stand. Despite the explicit wish of the Chechen people to gain their own state, the IMT adapts to Russian social-chauvinism. It denounces “separatism” and calls the Chechens and other oppressed people to stay in imperialist Russia:


Thus, there is nothing wrong with defending territorial integrity against separatism – be it in Russia or the Ukraine. Of course, this does not mean that we should not oppose a military solution of the issue, as long as it is possible. It does not mean that we should not oppose the atrocities of the bourgeois military, etc. But to support separatism under the slogan of the struggle of nations for self-determination is not necessary, especially separatism, which has the character of armed struggle like in the Donbas, the Caucasus or Northeast India. Often, such separatism does not lead to anything except to reduce the development of productive forces in the region. Here it is worth separating such separatism from the struggle for the liberation of the colonies. The inhabitants of Vietnam, Algeria and Palestine were not citizens of their oppressor countries. Therefore, the struggle for the creation of a national state in such cases merges with the struggle for equality. (...) We can often hear that nationally homogeneous states will experience a shift to class problems rather than national ones. Perhaps, this was true in the first half of the 20th century. However, many multinational empires have already collapsed, and modern Russia is already more homogeneous than at the beginning of the last century. Thus, there is no need to bring homogeneity to the absolute. (…) If we separate the territories inhabited by small nationalities from countries, immigrants will not disappear anywhere. And modern nationalism is directed mainly against them. All of these leads to the conclusion that at current stage of development of capitalism, there is no point in supporting the struggle to separate some nations from others, especially armed ones. It is better to fight against any wars that bourgeois governments are waging and for the future socialist revolution.” [13]


This statement of the Russian IMT comrades betrays a gross accommodation to social-chauvinism! It is utterly wrong to counterpose the national liberation struggles of the Vietnamese, Algerian and Palestinian people to those of the people in Chechnya or Kashmir. It is only a formal difference that they might have the passport of their oppressor state. It was certainly not the voluntary wish of the Chechen or the Kashmiri people to have the passport of their oppressor state but was rather forced on them! So how can this fact be used by “Marxists” in order to refuse support for their liberation struggle?!


It is certainly true that Russia “is already more homogeneous than at the beginning of the last century”. But what does this mean? Does the IMT suggest that Moscow has the right to oppress a certain amount of people albeit not as many as it did at the beginning of the 20th century?! No, Marxists oppose every individual case of national oppression. We support the liberation struggle of oppressed nations – irrespective if it is armed or unarmed and irrespective if the oppressor state subjugates one, five or ten smaller people!


Another example for the social-chauvinist logic of the CWI’s policy is their support for the “British Jobs for British Workers” strike in 2008. At that time British workers at the Lindsey Oil Refinery wanted to stop the hiring of migrant workers. Shamefully this reactionary strike received support from the trade union bureaucracy and several pseudo-Trotskyist organizations like the CWI and the IMT. Until this very day, the British section of the CWI even proudly boasts that one of its members was a leader in this strike!


It is in the same logic that the CWI leadership opposes the right of migrants to cross borders without any imperialist border control. Why? Well, you know, “the workers will not understand” (obviously the CWI only has in mind the British labor aristocratic workers and not the mass of the workers of the world living and suffering in the South!) [14]


Of course, we have to stand in defence of the most oppressed sections of the working class, including migrant workers and other immigrants. We staunchly oppose racism. We defend the right to asylum, and argue for the end of repressive measures like detention centres. At the same time, given the outlook of the majority of the working class, we cannot put forward a bald [sic] slogan of 'open borders' or 'no immigration controls', which would be a barrier to convincing workers of a socialist programme, both on immigration and other issues. Such a demand would alienate the vast majority of the working class, including many more long-standing immigrants, who would see it as a threat to jobs, wages and living conditions. Nor can we make the mistake of dismissing workers who express concerns about immigration as 'racists'. While racism and nationalism are clearly elements in anti-immigrant feeling, there are many consciously anti-racist workers who are concerned about the scale of immigration.” [15]


The CWI’s adaption to social-chauvinism is also reflected in its support for Brexit, i.e. Britain leaving the European Union. As we have demonstrated in a special pamphlet on this issue, the CWI leadership justifies this stand by claiming that the (imperialist) national state is preferable to the (imperialist) European Union. [16]


In contrast to these cowardly opportunists, Marxists consistently fight against all forms of social-chauvinism and imperialist aggression. The RCIT and like-minded revolutionaries are not content with abstract phrases of “anti-imperialism” but take the side of the oppressed peoples fighting against an imperialist Great Power. The decisive criterion for Marxists is not if this or that politically correct position is already shared by the majority of workers. It is exactly the task of a revolutionary vanguard organization to withstand such pressure and to defend the positions based on the Marxist program. It is our task to transmit such correct ideas into the working class and not to wait until the majority of workers develop such positions by themselves!


Hence, while we do not politically support the non-revolutionary forces at the top of these struggles, we don’t take our disagreement with such views as a pretext to desert a just liberation struggle. No, revolutionaries must support all legitimate liberation struggles against any Great Powers even if such a struggle is led by non-revolutionary forces. This was the method of the Bolsheviks and the Trotskyists and this is our method today!


Whoever directly or indirectly supports the system of colonization and protectorates, the domination of British capital in India, the domination of Japan in Korea or in Manchuria, of France in Indochina or in Africa, whoever does not fight against colonial enslavement, whoever does not support the uprisings of the oppressed nations and their independence, whoever defends or idealizes Gandhism, that is, the policy of passive resistance on questions which can be solved only by force of arms, is, despite good intentions or bad, a lackey, an apologist, an agent of the imperialists, of the slaveholders, of the militarists, and helps them to prepare new wars in pursuit of their old aims or new.” [17]




Did Lenin “correct” his Program of Revolutionary Defeatism?




Unfortunately, the CWI’s and IMT’s revisionism goes so far that they explicitly claim that Lenin would have “exaggerated” his formula of revolutionary defeatism and later corrected himself. Based on such historic falsification, these centrists seek justification for their own dropping of defeatism and adapting to social-imperialism.


In a long programmatic essay, the IMT’s central leader Alan Woods attempts to argue such a case:


The difference between abstract politics and the dialectical method is shown by the evolution of Lenin’s position on revolutionary tactics in the period 1914 to 1917. In August 1914, the split in the 2nd International created an entirely new situation. In the light of the unprecedented betrayal of the Social Democracy, it was necessary to regroup and re-educate the small and isolated forces of Marxism internationally. Lenin in this period laid heavy emphasis on the basic principles of revolutionary internationalism, above all the impossibility of returning to the old International, and implacable opposition to all forms of patriotism (revolutionary defeatism). In order to combat the doubts and vacillations of the Bolshevik leaders, Lenin gave the sharpest possible expression to these ideas, such as "turn the imperialist war into civil war," and "the defeat of one’s own bourgeoisie is the lesser evil." It is arguable that, on occasion, he exaggerated [sic]. It would not be the first time that, in order to "straighten the stick," Lenin bent it too far in the other direction [sic]. On the fundamental issues, there is no doubt whatever that Lenin was right. But unless we understand his method, not just what he wrote but why he wrote it, we can end in a complete mess.


Ultra-left and sectarian groups always repeat Lenin’s words without understanding a single line. They take his writings on war as something absolute, outside of time and space. They do not understand that, at this time, Lenin was not writing for the masses, but for a tiny handful of cadres in a given historical context. Unless we understand this, we can make a fundamental mistake. In order to combat chauvinism, and stress the impossibility of any reconciliation with the Social Democracy, and particularly its left wing (Kautsky and the "centre"), Lenin used some formulations which were undoubtedly exaggerated [sic]. Such exaggerations, for example, led him to characterise Trotsky’s position as "centrism" which was entirely incorrect. Endless confusions have arisen from the one sided interpretation of Lenin’s position of this period.


When Lenin returned to Russia after March 1917, he fundamentally modified his position [sic]. Not that his opposition to the imperialist war was any less, or his opposition to social chauvinism any less implacable. He continued to be vigilant with regard to any backsliding on the part of the Bolshevik leaders on the question of the war. But here it was no longer a question of theory, but of the living movement of the masses. Lenin’s position after March 1917 bore little resemblance to the slogans he had advanced earlier [sic]. He saw that, in the concrete circumstances, the mass of the workers and peasants had illusions in "the defence of the Revolution," as they understood it. It was absolutely necessary to take this into account, if the Bolsheviks were to connect to the real mood of the masses. If Lenin had maintained the old position, it would have been merely doctrinaire. It would have entirely cut the Bolsheviks off from the real movement of the workers and peasants. Only hopeless sectarians and doctrinaires could fail to see the difference. (…) As a matter of fact, the slogans of "revolutionary defeatism" played no role in preparing the masses for the October revolution. [18]


Hardly any sentence of this long quote makes sense. Alan Woods, who ridicules the “ultra-left sects”, neither understand Lenin’s and Trotsky’s position nor historical facts.


Woods claims that Lenin “exaggerated” the Bolshevik defeatist program against the imperialist war. So that would mean that he later withdrew it. As a matter of fact, as we demonstrated above, the Bolsheviks, the Comintern and later the Fourth International later confirmed all the essential ideas and slogans which Lenin raised in 1914.


Trotsky himself stressed the crucial importance of the principles of revolutionary defeatism in the program of the Fourth International: “The fundamental content of the politics of the international proletariat will consequently be a struggle against imperialism and its war. In this struggle the basic principle is: "the chief enemy is in your own country" or "the defeat of your own (imperialist) government is the lesser evil." (…) It will be the duty of the international proletariat to aid the oppressed countries in their war against oppressors. The same duty applies in regard to aiding the USSR, or whatever other workers' government might arise before the war or during the war. The defeat of every imperialist government in the struggle with the workers' state or with a colonial country is the lesser evil.[19]


Rudolf Klement, another leader of the Fourth International, repeated the validity of the Leninist program of revolutionary defeatism: In the application of revolutionary defeatism against the imperialist bourgeoisie and its state there can be no fundamental difference, regardless of whether the latter is “friendly” or hostile to the cause supported by the proletariat, whether it is in—treacherous—alliance with the allies of the proletariat (Stalin, the bourgeoisie of the semi-colonial counties, the colonial peoples, anti-fascist liberalism), or is conducting a war against them. The methods of revolutionary defeatism remain unaltered: revolutionary propaganda, irreconcilable opposition to the regime, the class struggle from its purely economic up to its highest political form (the armed uprising), fraternisation of the troops, transformation of the war into the civil war.[20]


Alan Woods claims that Lenin changed his position after the February Revolution in 1917 when he returned to Russia. This is simply a centrist invention! What Lenin did was not to give up the position of defeatism or the necessity of the transformation of the war into the civil war. What he rather did was to adapt the same program to the new conditions and to pedagogically explain it to the masses. This is not a change of position but a change of presentation of the very same position. This become evident from a speech Lenin gave to delegations for the Third Congress of the Comintern in 1921:


At the beginning of the war we Bolsheviks adhered to a single slogan—that of civil war, and a ruthless one at that. We branded as a traitor everyone who did not support the idea of civil war. But when we came back to Russia in March 1917 we changed our position entirely. When we returned to Russia and spoke to the peasants and workers, we saw that they all stood for defence of the homeland, of course in quite a different sense from the Mensheviks, and we could not call these ordinary workers and peasants scoundrels and traitors. We described this as “honest defencism”. I intend to write a big article about this and publish all the material. On April 7 I published my theses, in which I called for caution and patience. Our original stand at the beginning of the war was correct: it was important then to form a definite and resolute core. Our subsequent stand was correct too. It proceeded from the assumption that the masses had to be won over. At that time we already rejected the idea of the immediate overthrow of the Provisional Government. I wrote: “It should be overthrown, for it is an oligarchic, and not a people’s government, and is unable to provide peace or bread. But it cannot be overthrown just now’ for it is being kept in power by the workers’ Soviets and so far enjoys the confidence of the workers. We are not Blanquists, we do not want to rule with a minority of the working class against the majority.” The Cadets, who are shrewd politicians, immediately noticed the contradiction between our former position and the new one, and called us hypocrites. But as, in the same breath, they had called us spies, traitors, scoundrels and German agents, the former appellation made no impression. The first crisis occurred on April 20. Milyukov’s Note on the Dardanelles showed the government up for what it was an imperialist government. After this the armed masses of the soldiery moved against the building of the government and overthrew Milyukov. They were led by a non-Party man named Linde. This movement had not been organised by the Party. We characterised that movement at the time as follows: something more than an armed demonstration, and something less than an armed uprising. At our conference on April 22 the Left trend demanded the immediate over-throw of the Government. The Central Committee, on the contrary, declared against the slogan of civil war, and we instructed all agitators in the provinces to deny the outrageous lie about the Bolsheviks wanting civil war. On April 22 I wrote that the slogan “Down with the Provisional Government” was incorrect’ since if we did not have the majority of the people behind us this slogan would he either an empty phrase or adventurism.[21]


So we see that Lenin and the Bolsheviks fought for the very same strategic goals – transforming the imperialist war into civil war, fighting for the overthrow of the bourgeois government and for working class power – in all these years. They first tried to win the vanguard for such a program and later the masses. It could not be otherwise as one can not win the masses without winning the vanguard before. But the CWI and the IMT never even tried to win the vanguard for revolutionary defeatism, let alone the masses. They excuse themselves by referring to the problem that “the workers don't understand this”. As if the CWI and the IMT would be confronted with the task of winning the majority of the working class! They never were nearly as strong as the Bolsheviks were even in their weakest phase! Before they cudgel their brain about the challenge to win the majority of the working class, they should try to win a few thousand vanguard workers for revolutionary defeatism in a war! They did not and they could not. Why? Because they themselves, the leaders and probably many amongst their membership who were trained for years in opportunism, did not share a Marxist position on the imperialist war! This is the truth which the CWI and IMT leaders try to hide behind their phrases on what the workers supposedly understand and don't understand!


As we see, the CWI’s and the IMT’s interpretation of the classic Marxist position on revolutionary defeatism is based on thorough falsification. It is however not an accidental falsification. The whole tradition of Ted Grant, which shaped both the CWI of Peter Taaffe and the IMT of Alan Woods, is marked by the systematic adaption to the ideological prejudices of the reformist bureaucracy. Hence the CWI/IMT nonsense of the peaceful transformation of capitalism into socialism, the strange idea of the possibility of such a transformation via a “socialist majority” in the bourgeois parliament, the characterization of police men and women as “workers in uniform” and so on. [22] This extreme right-wing opportunism also finds naturally its expression in the issue of imperialist wars which is one of the sharpest forms of class antagonism.


There can be no doubt that the CWI and the IMT are useless centrists in the coming period of accelerated rivalry between the Great Powers and liberation struggles of the oppressed people. Trapped in the logic of social-imperialism, the can neither apply a program of revolutionary defeatism in conflicts between Great Powers nor can they fight for a pro-liberationist program of supporting the struggle of the oppressed.




The Russian Socialist Movement: Confused Eclecticists




Let us finally briefly deal with another centrist group in Russia which includes a number of members of the Mandelist “Fourth International”. To their credit, this organization recognizes the right of peoples to self-determination and opposes the language law which discriminates the non-Russian people. Likewise, they are aware of the imperialist character of Russia and oppose its military adventures in Syria and the Ukraine. In this regard, they contrast favorable from the Great Russian Stalinists à la Zyuganov et al. However, they also feel obligated to state their opposition to an independent Chechen state! Such they write in their program:


The RSM recognizes the right of peoples to self-determination, because it understands that forcibly keeping nations within Russia from a historical perspective will not lead to anything except bloody conflicts and the collapse of the country. At the same time, we believe that the separation of Chechnya or other nations from Russia will not bring the working people of these peoples either genuine independence, peace or prosperity. The formation of small, economically weak states inevitably transforms them into impoverished semi-colonies of imperialist countries, destined to plunder and political instability.[23]


It is certainly true that real prosperity is only possible through a socialist revolution of the working class in Chechnya, Russia and internationally. But why on earth should the Chechens prefer to live in an impoverished colony instead of an impoverished semi-colony where they are at least not humiliated and threatened every day by Russian soldiers and their local lackeys?! Or does the RSM want to deny the fact that Chechnya is a devastated colony under the bloody boots of Putin and Kadyrov?!


Unfortunately the RSM manages to combines such concessions to Russian chauvinism with preaching bizarre illusions in European imperialism. Such the RSM proposes that “a socialist Russia should join the European Union”! Such an idiotic proposal is combined with support of the reformist perspective of reforming the EU. Again, the RSM is not content to repeat this nonsense of the Party of the European Left but goes further and claims that this would be the best road to a “world republic of Soviets”!


We are optimistic about the possibility of socialist Russia joining the structures of the European Union and other integration structures under the condition that such accession does not mean our subjugation to international imperialism and the logic of capital accumulation. We support the proposals of the European left-wing parties and politicians for the debureaucratization of the EU and its transformation from the current top-level union of states into a single “political nation”. Perhaps, such a scenario is the best path to the world republic of the Soviets today, which we dreamed of a hundred years ago in our country.[24]


Well, as a matter of fact, the EU has always been an imperialist institution and can not be otherwise. Calling to join it “but without imperialist subjugation” is as realistic like joining a grizzle bear in its cave “under the condition that it does not touch you”. Not contend with such a bizarre idea, the RSM leaders also suggest that “debureaucratization of the EU” would be sufficient to make it an instrument of advance socialism! Neither in Russia nor in Europe is any socialist revolution possible by “debureaucratization”. Such an advance is only possible by expropriating the capitalist class and destroying the bourgeois state apparatus!


How do the RSM leaders arrive at such pro-EU imperialist conclusions? Could it play a role that a number of their cadres are close to the European University at Saint Petersburg which is funded by the EU?! Or could it be connected with their orientation to the bureaucratic leaders of the CLR trade unions who promote a kind of class-collaborationism a la ILO?


[1] See Michael Pröbsting: The Great Robbery of the South, Chapter 13 (Sub-Chapter: Is Revolutionary Defeatism too much for the Working Class? On the CWI’ and IMT’s Falsification of Lenin’s and Trotsky’s Method, pp. 357-365)

[2] The SWP/IST proclaims that in the war between Britain and Argentina in 1982 “[t]here was not a progressive and a reactionary camp.“ (Alex Callinicos: Marxism and Imperialism today, in: A. Callinicos, J. Rees, C Harman & M. Haynes: Marxism and the New Imperialism , London 1994, p. 51)

[3] Socialist Party (CWI): Falklands war: what lessons for the labour movement? In: Socialism Today, No 108, April 2007, http://www.socialismtoday.org/108/falklands.html

[4] Peter Taaffe: The Rise of Militant, London 1995, Chapter 20 “The Falklands/Malvinas War”, http://socialistalternative.org/literature/militant/

[5] Peter Taaffe: Afghanistan, Islam and the Revolutionary Left (2002), http://www.socialistworld.net/pubs/afghanistan/afghanchp1.html

[6] ibid

[7] V.I. Lenin: Notes on the Tasks of our Delegation at The Hague (1922); in: LCW 33, p. 447

[8] Leon Trotsky: The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International. The Transitional Program (1938); in: Documents of the Fourth International, New York 1973, p. 200

[9] On the RCIT’s critique of the CWI reactionary support for an Israeli state see Yossi Schwarz: Occupied Palestine / Israel: Dead End for the Two-State Solution. The Palestinian Liberation Struggle and the CWI’s Centrist Adaptation to Zionism, 12.11.2015, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/palestine-and-cwi/; Michael Pröbsting: The CWI’s “Socialist” Zionism and the Palestinian Liberation Struggle. A Reply from the RCIT, 15.9.2014, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/cwi-and-israel/

[10] Peter Taaffe: A socialist World is possible - the history of the CWI, 31.08.2004 http://www.socialistworld.net/doc/4779

[12] Niall Mulholland: Trump orders missile strikes against Shayrat air base, Committee for a Workers' International, The Socialist issue 944, 12 April 2017 https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/keyword/Committee_for_a_Workers_International/Cwi/25244/12-04-2017/attacks-ratchet-up-syrian-conflict-and-fuel-tensions-between-powers

[13] IMT Russia: Украина и национальный вопрос (Ukraine and the national question), http://www.1917.com/XML/E3YCowmZXwKhYk2bWYgKwrZ-lZ4.xml (our translation)

[14] We note, in passing, that rejection of “open borders” under the pretext of “progressive positions” is a phenomenon not limited to the CWI. For example, Angela Nagle recently published an essay “The Left Case against Open Borders” which has been cheered by right-wing chauvinists for obvious reasons. (American Affairs, Volume II, Number 4 (Winter 2018), pp. 17–30, https://americanaffairsjournal.org/2018/11/the-left-case-against-open-borders/). Some groups like the CWG even manage to legitimize their opposition to open borders with pseudo-Trotskyist “arguments. (See on this Michael Pröbsting: Patriotic "Anti-Capitalism" for Fools. Yet Again on the CWG/LCC's Support for "Workers’" Immigration Control and Protectionism in the US, 30.5.2017, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/cwg-lcc-us-protectionism/; Michael Pröbsting and Andrew Walton: The Slogan of "Workers’" Immigration Control: A Concession to Social-Chauvinism, 27.3.2017, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/workers-immigration-control/; Michael Pröbsting and Andrew Walton: A Social-Chauvinist Defence of the Indefensible. Another Reply to the CWG/LCC's Support for "Workers’" Immigration Control, 14.5.2017, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/cwg-immigration-control/)

[16] See on this e.g. Michael Pröbsting: The British Left and the EU-Referendum: The Many Faces of pro-UK or pro-EU Social-Imperialism (Chapter II.2. SPEW/CWI: The Hidden Patriotic “Socialists”), August 2015, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/british-left-and-eu-referendum/

[17] Leon Trotsky: Declaration to the Antiwar Congress at Amsterdam (1932), in: Writings 1932, S. 153

[18] Alan Woods: Marxism and the State, International Marxist Tendency, December 2008, http://www.marxist.com/marxism-and-the-state-part-one.htm

[19] Leon Trotsky: The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International, p. 200 (emphasize in the original)

[20] Rudolf Klement: Principles and Tactics in War

[21] V. I. Lenin: The Third Congress of the Communist International, Speeches At A Meeting Of Members Of The German, Polish, Czechoslovak, Hungarian And Italian Delegations, 11.7.1921, in: LCW Vol. 42, p. 325

[22] See on this e.g. Michael Pröbsting: Five days that shook Britain but didn’t wake up the left. The bankruptcy of the left during the August uprising of the oppressed in Britain: Its features, its roots and the way forward, in: Revolutionary Communism No. 1, pp. 30-31 (September 2011), http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/britain-left-and-the-uprising/sp-and-committee-for-a-workers-international

[23] Russian Socialist Movement: Программа (Program), http://anticapitalist.ru/programm/ (our translation)

[24] Russian Socialist Movement: Социализм и загадка наций (No to Imperial language policies!), 27.06.2016, http://anticapitalist.ru/2016/06/27/337/ (our translation)