The total failure of the reformist and centrist left in Britain to intervene in the August Uprising is a dramatic example of the crisis of proletarian leadership. Trotsky wrote in his Transitional Program in 1938: “The world political situation as a whole is chiefly characterized by a historical crisis of the leadership of the proletariat.” Unfortunately this is even truer today.
Left reformism and centrism in Britain (as in many other countries) adapts or even capitulates to the pressure of the bourgeois public, the labour bureaucracy and the labour aristocracy. They are not capable to swim consistently against this stream. This is why hardly anyone of them openly called to join the Uprising and to spread it. Even those who didn’t condemn the Uprising failed to advance a program of struggle to spread and organise the insurrection.
This opportunism goes hand in hand with the open or hidden refusal by most of the British left of the Leninist theory of party building, of openly fighting against the labour bureaucracy and bringing a socialist class consciousness into the working class.
In addition the Uprising – in which the black and migrants played a central role – showed that the British left has hardly any connections with these oppressed strata. One could see this at the meeting of Coalition of Resistance on 11.8. or the demonstration in Tottenham on 13.8. which the RKOB delegation attended. (52) In both these events black and migrant people were an extremely small minority despite the fact that they were a major force in the August Uprising and constitute the majority in the Tottenham area where the demonstration on 13.8. took place. In Tottenham the Turkish/Kurdish left-Stalinist organisations MLKP and TKP/ML were the only ones which had political graffiti on the walls.
This is a particularly tragic failure given the fact that the migrants and black play an increasing role in the British society. Today in London only 57% of the population are British White and more than 30% are non-White. (53) It is clear that amongst the mass of the working class and in particular amongst the lower strata the non-white people have an even higher share.
A scientific Marxist understanding of the migrants from semi-colonial countries as national oppressed and super-exploited is now of particularly huge importance. As we have explained somewhere else this was on the most controversial issues in the LFI before we got expelled in April 2011. (54) In our opinion it is important to analyse today the situation of the black and migrant layers of the working class in Britain based on a Marxist method. In our thesis on Migration and revolutionary integration we have developed our understanding of this question. (55)
As we explained repeatedly a revolutionary organisation must not orientate itself primarily to the middle class and the labour aristocracy but towards the middle and lower strata of the proletariat and the oppressed.
Again it is not accidentally that nearly all the groups of the British left (SWP/IST, SP/CWI, SA/IMT, AWL etc.) either openly reject Lenin’s theory of the labour aristocracy or consider it as no longer relevant. Or they formally keep it but remove the content and reduce the labour aristocracy to just one of many different social layers of the proletariat without recognising the corruption of them by imperialist super-profits (like WP/LFI).
In the period of decay of capitalism the pressures on the labour aristocracy itself increases. This feature was also very visible in the 1920s and 1930s when the capitalist crisis resulted in the decline of the petty bourgeoisie. So the living conditions of an important part of the labour aristocracy come closer to the mass of the proletariat. This can lead on one hand that sectors of the labour aristocracy join the struggle of the lower and middle strata of the proletariat and one could see (if one looks at the statistics of the mass arrests) that it were not only the poor who joined the Uprising. On the other hand this downward pressure can also lead to the situation that sectors of the labour aristocracy rather join the camp of the counter-revolution. The rise of the English Defence League shows that fascism can become an attractive force again.
The other side of the Menshevik coin is the widespread aristocratic attitude of the left towards the lower strata of the working class and the black and migrants. This is why their ignorance of the Uprising is not accidently. Unfortunately the British left has a strong political and social middle class DNA – meaning that many are coming from this strata and don’t have the will to win, or even to have regular contact with the lower and middle layer of working class. Workers Power is a good example for this. Despite our repeated proposals in the years before we got expelled they refused to put an emphasis in their orientation to these oppressed layers. As a result they became over many years more and more distant from the lower strata and when these layers rose up they simply ignored them. It is highly symbolic that on the same day when WP published its statement about the aftermath of the uprising it also published its political perspective document. Despite its considerable length (nearly 6.000 words) the document does not contain anything about the lower strata of the working class, about the black and the migrants. Not a single word! These important layers are not even mentioned once. (56) It is a shameful consistent ignorance of the oppressed layers both in analysis and in their practice. A Bolshevik organisation can never be built on the fundament of such aristocratism! Bolshevism means to be the voice and the arm of the vanguard of the working class, means to be the Pallas with the mass of the working class and the oppressed.
The August Uprising demonstrated the desperate need for a truly Bolshevik organisation in Britain. No one should forget the lessons of these days. These five days shook Britain but failed to wake up the left. Revolutionaries are not only tested by this or that theoretical question or this or that slogan in a resolution (as important as these are). They are tested first and foremost by the class struggle. Which side are you on? Do you enter the struggle and bring socialist consciousness into those layers who fight against the class enemy – or do you prefer to stand on the sidelines, comment or worse lament on the backwardness of the youth, black and migrants, call for understanding of their motives and for solidarity with the victims. This was the test in early August and the Left in its huge majority failed.
The time has now come to draw a conclusion. We need to build a new Bolshevik organisation on an unambiguous revolutionary program, with a healthy orientation to the lower and middle strata of the working class and the oppressed and an understanding of the need of the combination of theory and practise. The RKOB wants to discuss and collaborate with all those who agree with the spirit of our analysis and positions on the August Uprisings which we have published in the last few weeks. Contact us! Join us!
(52) Bericht der RKOB-Delegation über ihren Aufenthalt in London 2011, http://www.rkob.net/international/berichte-uprising-in-gb/, An English translation of this report on the visit of the RKOB delegation in London will be published soon on our website www.rkob.net
(53) See Office for National Statistics: Neighbourhood Statistics: Area: City of London (June 2009),http://www.neighbourhood.statistics.gov.uk/dissemination/LeadTableView.do;jsessionid=ZHrqTdyXDznJBKrqFx24Nm5NpQ072tLVCW8F8LTzDY2Yqmy3MHBl!-2005379762!1314728119422?a=3&b=276743&c=London&d=13&e=13&g=325264&i=1001x1003x1004&m=0&r=1&s=1314728122828&enc=1&dsFamilyId=1812&nsjs=true&nsck=true&nssvg=false&nswid=1280
(54) Gründungserklärung der RKOB (Declaration of the Foundation of the RKOB), Special Issue of our paper Revolutionary Liberation, April 2011, http://www.rkob.net/app/download/5094702112/Gr%C3%BCndungserkl%C3%A4rung+der+RKOB.pdf?t=1304341064
(55) The Theses constitute a book in German and can be ordered at our contact address firstname.lastname@example.org. We have published an English language summary: Marxism, Migration and revolutionary Integration, http://www.rkob.net/new-english-language-site-1/revolutionary-integration/
(56) 2011 British political perspectives. Political perspectives passed by the 2011 Workers Power conference in June, http://www.workerspower.co.uk/2011/08/1768/