VII. Cynical Sunshine-Socialism: Workers Power/LFI/REVOLUTION refuses to join the barricades

 

Workers Power/LFI and its youth organisation REVOLUTION failed in its biggest test of the class struggle since the miner strike in 1984/85 to act as a revolutionary organisation. It failed both politically and practically. It saw the Uprising as an understandable, justified protest but without any perspective. It did not approach it as a class struggle which revolutionaries join and support but as an event on which it commented but which it refused to join. What is justified in situations in which a handful of anarchists loot without any sort of mass influence and/or support from the working class is a crime during situations like the August uprisings.

 

In relation to this, they did not treat the tens of thousands of youth as part of the revolutionary subject to change the society.

 

The main political failures of WP leadership were that:

 

* It did not call to join and support the Uprising (and therefore also did not participate itself).

 

* It did not apply a united front tactic in calling the organisations of the workers movement to join, support and spread the Uprising.

 

* It didn’t raise a single proposal to the tens of thousands of youth on how to fight and to spread the struggle except one sentence “we support self-defence”.

 

It is a scandal that the WP leadership failed in their already modest production of propaganda during the Uprising to call for joining the struggle. They preferred to express sympathy and “understanding” but not to call the workers movement and the youth to come out and join the barricades. But the proletariat is not measuring forces by their “sympathy”, or their (indeed arrogant) “understanding” in words, but by their concrete actions. Therefore while after the end of the Uprising they called the workers movement to defend the poor against the repression, they failed to call the same workers movement during the Uprising to support and join it. Why? Because their failure to understand the Uprising as an important class struggle is related to their opportunistic adaption to the reformist and centrist left. And for this left it is much easier (i.e. much less risky) to defend victims against victimisation than to support rebels during their rebellion when the whole bourgeois public opinion (including the Labour bureaucracy) denounces them in a hysteric campaign.

 

WP/REVO’s failure to see the tens of thousands of youth as a revolutionary subject led them to make hardly any proposals for them to fight. Nothing about how to organise in the struggle like calls for mass assemblies in the districts, the formation of councils of action, etc.. Nothing about how to spread the Uprising to other areas of the country. No proposals on how to put pressure on the labour movement to give up its silence or condemnation.

 

WP claims to be a fighting propaganda group. But in fact they hardly delivered any propaganda during the uprising to the fighters and they have not joined the struggle. A fighting propaganda group is also characterized by its prepardness to participate in struggles. “Revolutionaries” who are not participating in revolutions although they happened at their doorstep can call themselves revolutionaries, but they aren’t (any more). A fighting propaganda group who is not willing to join the struggle of the proletarian masses can call itself a fighting propaganda group but with such an attitude it becomes a laughing stock. They didn’t go to the areas of struggle. They didn’t produce any agitation – they only had their 2-page statement. These statements show that they have no idea what the situation in the proletarian disctricts is like. They didn’t go to other areas of London to raise support for the Uprising.

 

As the practical result of this political failure WP/REVO refused to join these tens of thousands of youth at the barricades. Instead they consciously decided to stay away from the Uprising and to remain at home or in their youth camp. In fact they didn’t have any organised intervention in the August Uprising despite its duration of several days and despite the most possible favourite conditions. Very favourite because first the Uprising happened in London, the city where the whole LFI has its strongest local branch. And secondly because at exactly the same time they had from 5-7th August an international REVO conference and from 8-12th August their international REVO summer camp close to London which – according to a public REVO report – was attended by more than 80 people. (42) They easily could have sent a delegation of several dozens of comrades to the Uprising to intervene, to participate, to discuss with people and to learn in concrete struggles together with the proletarian youth. But the leadership strongly intervened against any suggestion from young comrades to join the Uprising.

 

Instead of intervening in the class struggle the LFI and REVOLUTION enjoyed their summer camp close to London – at the same time when tens of thousands of youth were fighting on the streets! In a public REVO statement titled “Summer, sun, socialism - that was our international summer camp this year'” the comrades report about “interesting workshops” and the “opportunity of sports and leisure facilities of the camping grounds”. “Every day we watched the events of the ‘riots’ in London and discussed about it at the Camp plenary. So we adopted for example a resolution and an international united front call against police violence and about the conditions for the British youth. Since as a youth organization we also like to fete, we had in the evening parties at a big camp fire or in the community tent. On Thursday "Broken Dialect," an anti-capitalist hip-hop crew, was our guest and thereafter DJs made music for us. The camp offered a lot of room for members, supporters and contacts to hold political discussions, but also to build new friendships.” (43)

 

This official REVO report makes clear what the practical attitude of this organisation is to a mass uprising of the lower strata of the working class which happened in front of their nose. Published two weeks after the Uprising, it is nothing other than a verification and justification of the collapse of LFI/REVO’s revolutionary basic attitude. These sun-shine socialists don’t feel ashamed in any way when they report about their interesting workshops and how they enjoyed their parties in the evening while at the same the police killed and crushed working class youth which was fighting back on the barricades. And they are bold enough to write “With the working class youth - against the police!” at the same time. What a cynicism, what a petty-bourgeois collapse of any basic revolutionary backbone! Every activist participating in the uprisings would be correct to answer to such statements:

 

Marx once wrote: “Every step of real movement is more important than a dozen programmes.“ (44) Here we have to say that the LFI/REVO’s complete failure to join a real movement tells us more than a dozen of their programmes. It is easy to support an uprising of the migrants in the French banlieues in autumn 2005 and to develop tactics for them while being far away from France. It is easy to write an action programme for the revolution in Tunisia, Egypt or Libya. But when an uprising of the lower strata of the proletariat happens in their own country, in their own cities (!), they are not capable to implement, not even to develop, the correct tactics or any sort of a revolutionary action programme for the fighters and even refused to join them on the barricades. When there was the uprising of the masses on the Tahrir square in Cairo, the LFI sent two comrades to Egypt to write eye-witness reports. When there was an uprising at home they did not even send comrades to the barricades to – at least – write eye-witness reports, not mentioning the possibility to have an intervention. The absolute majority of the so-called Marxists in LFI/REVO did prefer to have programmatic discussions (and fun) while an uprising happened in the front of their door.

 

What the WP/LFI/REVO leadership doesn’t understand is that Marxism cannot be learnt and internalised without the participation in the class struggle. Of course a small propaganda group cannot participate in each and every struggle. But we don’t talk about a minor event. We talk about one of the most important class struggles in Britain since 1984/85 in cities where the WP/LFI/REVO had at that time – because of the REVO camp near to London – altogether about 100 people available. This is more than it ever had at any major working class struggle in its whole history!

 

In a letter to the Spanish youth Trotsky advised his supporters – at a time when the Bolshevik-Leninists also were propaganda groups – that Marxism can only be learnt if theoretical education is combined with “participating in the life and struggle of the class”. It is a devastating fact that the WP/LFI/REVO leadership refused to join the working class youth when it was fighting on the barricades:

 

The strength of Marxism is in the unity of scientific theory with revolutionary struggle. On these two rails, the education of the communist youth should progress. The study of Marxism outside the revolutionary struggle can create bookworms but not revolutionaries. Participation in the revolutionary struggle without the study of Marxism is unavoidably full of danger, uncertainty, half-blindness. To study Marxism as a Marxist is possible only by participating in the life and struggle of the class; revolutionary theory is verified by practice, and practice is clarified by theory. Only the truths of Marxism that are conquered in struggle enter the mind and the blood." (45)

 

WP claimed in their statement from 8th August: “Our stance is clear: we are 100% for the people on the streets and against the police” (46) After the Uprising they wrote big-mouthed: “The August 2011 riots will be remembered as a working class youth uprising against repression, racism and the recession. Workers Power stands solidly with the youth and against the police.” (47)

 

But August 2011 has shown what standing “100% for the people on the streets and against the police” means for WP/REVO. Yes, “the August 2011 riots will be remembered as a working class youth uprising against repression, racism and the recession”. But it will be also go down in the history of the LFI and REVO as their centrist bankruptcy when at the same time as tens of thousands working class youth did fight on the streets nearly literally in front of their doors for several days … these sunshine-socialists preferred to discuss about it every day, adopted a resolution and went to party each night. What else than contempt for such holiday-socialists can a militant black youth, an unemployed white worker, a migrant woman in a precarious job living in Tottenham feel?!

 

It all ended up in a bizarre, indeed embarrassing situation: Leading LFI comrades gave talks on the inspiring uprisings in North Africa while at the same time a few kilometres away there was a quite inspiring uprising. They had training for self-defence at demonstrations against the police while at the same time they could have practised self-defence with people who were actually fighting the police! Afterwards a leading REVO and LFI comrade reported that at the camp they “discussed progress every day and REVO’s international leadership adopted a declaration of solidarity with the youths. Yesterday (on 13th August when there was a demo against police repression several days after the end of the Uprising, MP) comrades departed to the city to conduct interviews with young people, to share the flyers and to intervene at a large meeting in one of the universities (…). It feels good to be part of a movement that swims against the tide in this situation, and striving to do what you can to channel the anger and frustration in a struggle to get to the real and underlying problems (…).”(48) Well, it might feel good to stay in a camp and refuse to join an Uprising. But being a revolutionary in a situation of a mass uprising demands a bit more than “feeling good”!

 

Unfortunately this is not a description of a Monty Python movie but a real soap opera from an erstwhile revolutionary organisation. What comes to one's mind is the betrayal of the centrist Lambertist group in May 1968. On 10th May 1968 the Lambertist after a meeting marched with hundreds of activists to the Quartier Latin where thousands of students built barricades against the police. After reviewing the situation the Lambertist leaders came to the conclusion that this was only a petty-bourgeois action. They decided to leave the place and walked away. This was at that time correctly denounced as betrayal by nearly all activists of the radical left. And when the LFI was still a revolutionary organisation we characterised this behaviour correctly as “political cowardice” and as a “very unrevolutionary reflex”. (49) But what shall we say about the behaviour of Workers Power today when there is an Uprising not in Paris (or in Cairo or Tripoli) but in London during an assembly of nearly a hundred of their activists?! In fact the WP leadership acted worse than the Lambertists. They did not even walk to the barricades but remained in their camp or at home. They preferred the fun before the fight. In other words, WP/LFI/REVO’s motto was: eenjoying the party in the tent, instead of joining the barricades to build the party!

 

When various centrists denounced the uprising of sectors of the oppressed which were defeated by the ruling class (like the Irish Uprising in Dublin in 1916) Lenin replied to them that it is the duty of Marxists to support every rebellion of the oppressed to weaken the bourgeoisie and to go forward in our liberation struggle:

 

We would be very poor revolutionaries if, in the proletariat’s great war of Liberation for socialism, we did not know how to utilise every popular movement against every single disaster imperialism brings in order to intensify and extend the crisis. If we were, on the one hand, to repeat in a thousand keys the declaration that we are “opposed” to all national oppression and, on the other, to describe the heroic revolt of the most mobile and enlightened section of certain classes in an oppressed nation against its oppressors as a “putsch”, we should be sinking to the same level of stupidity as the Kautskyites.

 

It is the misfortune of the Irish that they rose prematurely, before the European revolt of the proletariat had had time to mature. Capitalism is not so harmoniously built that the various sources of rebellion can immediately merge of their own accord, without reverses and defeats. On the other hand, the very fact that revolts do break out at different times, in different places, and are of different kinds, guarantees wide scope and depth to the general movement; but it is only in premature, individual, sporadic and therefore unsuccessful, revolutionary movements that the masses gain experience, acquire knowledge, gather strength, and get to know their real leaders, the socialist proletarians, and in this way prepare for the general onslaught, just as certain strikes, demonstrations, local and national, mutinies in the army, outbreaks among the peasantry, etc., prepared the way for the general onslaught in 1905.“ (50)

 

In the same spirit Trotsky drew the line between Bolshevism and centrism. While the former calls and supports the oppressed in their struggle, the centrists consider this as “adventurist” and prefer to limit themselves to defend the oppressed:

 

Nevertheless, Ledebour’s position even on this question does not leave the precincts of centrism. Ledebour demands that a battle be waged against colonial oppression; he is ready to vote in parliament against colonial credits; he is ready to take upon himself a fearless defense of the victims of a crushed colonial insurrection. But Ledebour will not participate in preparing a colonial insurrection. Such work he considers putschism, adventurism, Bolshevism. And therein is the whole gist of the matter.

 

What characterizes Bolshevism on the national question is that in its attitude toward oppressed nations, even the most backward, it considers them not only the object but also the subject of politics. Bolshevism does not confine itself to recognizing their “right” to self-determination and to parliamentary protests against the trampling upon of this right. Bolshevism penetrates into the midst of the oppressed nations; it raises them up against their oppressors; it ties up their struggle with the struggle of the proletariat in capitalist countries; it instructs the oppressed Chinese, Hindus, or Arabs in the art of insurrection and it assumes full responsibility for this work in the face of civilized executioners. Here only does Bolshevism begin, that is, revolutionary Marxism in action. Everything that does not step over this boundary remains centrism.“ (51)

 

The decision of the WP leadership to stay away from the mass uprising is simply a betrayal to the revolutionary goals and the struggle of the working class. This was not a wrong decision of a few persons in a confusing situation. This Menshevik cowardice was pushed by the LFI leaders, confirmed by the decisions of REVOLUTION at their summer camp, confirmed by the WP resolution from 19th August and by official REVO reports published since then. All this demonstrates that the degeneration of WP/LFI/REVO in the recent past has now crossed the Rubicon. They have betrayed the revolutionary method – the fight for the revolutionary program in the class struggle; they have therefore become a left-centrist organisation.

 

 

(42)         REVO Germany: Sommer, Sonne Sozialismus – das war unser diesjähriges internationales Sommercamp, 29. August 2011, http://www.onesolutionrevolution.de/?p=1645

 

(43)         Here is the complete report which we translated from the German original into English.

 

Sommer, Sonne Sozialismus – das war unser diesjähriges internationales Sommercamp

 

REVO Deutschland, 29. August 2011, http://www.onesolutionrevolution.de/?p=1645

 

Das diesjährige internationale REVOLUTION Sommercamp fand vom 8. bis zum 12. August in der nähe Londons statt. Insgesamt waren mehr als 80 Genoss_innen aus Großbritannien, Schweden, Österreich, der Slowakei und Deutschland anwesend. Tagsüber gab es ein vielfältiges Workshopprogramm.

 

Die Workshops reichten über den Aufbau von Schulstreikkomitees, Augenzeugenberichte vom Tahrir Platz in Kairo bis hin zu Diskussionen über die Krise des Kapitalismus oder die Befreiung Palästinas. Außerhalb der Workshops nutzten Viele die Möglichkeit der Sport- und Freizeitangebote des Campinggeländes.

 

Täglich verfolgten wir die Ereignisse der „Riots“ in London und diskutierten darüber Campplenum. So verabschiedeten wir zum Beispiel eine Resolution und einen internationalen Bündnisaufruf, gegen Polizeigewalt und über die Umstände der britischen Jugend.

 

Da wir als Jugendorganisation natürlich auch gerne feiern, wurden abends am großen Lagerfeuer oder im Gemeinschaftszelt Party gemacht. Am Donnerstag war „Broken Dialect“, eine antikapitalistische Hip-Hop Crew, zu Gast und danach Dj´s, die für uns auflegten.

 

Das Camp bot viel Raum für Mitglieder, Sympathisanten und Kontakte, um politische Diskussionen zu führen, aber auch, um neue Freundschaften zu schließen. Wir gehen daher nicht nur gestärkt aus dem diesjährigen Sommercamp in London, sondern freuen uns vor allem auf das nächste internationale Sommercamp in zwei Jahren, dass wahrscheinlich in Österreich stattfinden wird.

 

Summer, sun socialism - that was our international summer camp this year'

 

This year's international REVOLUTION summer camp was held from 8th to 12th August near London. In total, more than 80 comrades from Great Britain, Sweden, Austria, Slovakia and Germany were present. During the day there was a varied workshop program.

 

The workshops ranged from the structure of school strike committees, eyewitness reports from Tahrir Square in Cairo to discussions about the crisis of capitalism or the liberation of Palestine. Outside of the workshops many used the opportunity of sports and leisure facilities of the camping grounds.

 

Every day we watched the events of the "riots" in London and discussed about it at the Camp plenary. So we adopted for example a resolution and an international united front call against police violence and about the conditions for the British youth.

 

Since as a youth organization we also like to fete, we had in the evening parties at a big camp fire or in the community tent. On Thursday "Broken Dialect," an anti-capitalist hip-hop crew, was our guest and thereafter DJs made music for us.

 

The camp offered a lot of room for members, supporters and contacts to hold political discussions, but also to build new friendships. We therefore emerge not only strengthened from this year's summer camp in London, but especially look forward to the next international summer camp in two years that will probably take place in Austria.”

 

(44)         Karl Marx: Kritik des Gothaer Programms. Brief an Wilhelm Bracke (1875); in: MEW Bd. 19, S. 13; in English: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1875/letters/75_05_05.htm

 

(45)         Leo Trotzki: An die spanische Jugend (1932); in: Revolution und Bürgerkrieg in Spanien, Band 1, S. 164f.

 

(46)         Workers Power: With the working class youth of London – against the police, Statement from 8 August, http://www.workerspower.co.uk/2011/08/with-the-working-class-youth-of-london-%E2%80%93-against-the-police/

 

(47)         Workers Power: The political situation in Britain after the August uprising; Resolution on the political situation after the riots, 19.8.2011, http://www.workerspower.co.uk/2011/08/political-situation-after-the-august-uprising/

 

(48)         Gunnar Westin (REVO Sweden): The British media campaign worthy of the worst dictatorship, 14.8.2011, http://revolutionsweden.wordpress.com/2011/08/14/de-brittiska-mediernas-kampanj-vardig-den-varsta-diktatur/#more-3743 (our own translation)

 

(49)         Emile Gallet: “Everything was possible”—May ’68 (1993); in: Trotskyist International Nr. 11, p. 28; http://www.fifthinternational.org/content/%E2%80%9Ceverything-was-possible%E2%80%9D%E2%80%94may-%E2%80%9968

 

(50)         W. I. Lenin: Die Ergebnisse der Diskussion über die Selbstbestimmung, Werke, Bd. 22, S. 366; in English: The Discussion On Self-Determination Summed Up, http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1916/jul/x01.htm

 

(51)         Leo Trotzki: Was nun? Schicksalsfragen des deutschen Proletariats (1932); in: Schriften über Deutschland, S. 246f.; in English: What Next? Vital Questions for the German Proletariat; http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/germany/1932-ger/next02.htm#s9

 

 


Chapter 6: SWP - Solidarity but no tactics

Chapter 8: Crisis of leadership