Socialist Party / Committee for a Workers International


The so-called Trotskyist Socialist Party/CWI also stated in various statements its condemnation of the uprising:


The Socialist Party does not support rioting as a method of protest, but we place the blame for what has taken place firmly on the Con-Dem government and say that it must be removed.” (17)


The SP in Liverpool expressed the same sentiment in even stronger terms:


Liverpool & District Socialist Party is appalled at the current rioting which has resulted in the destruction of working peoples' homes, workplaces, and the community facilities and shops they rely on.” (18)


And the SP’s deputy general secretary, Hannah Sell, not only condemned the riots as “only damaging for the working-class communities” but even went so far to openly denounce the SWP for linking the riots with the idea of a revolution!


However, rioting is not the means to defeat the government, but, on the contrary, only damages the communities in which working-class people live, and gives the capitalist class an excuse to increase the repressive apparatus of the state.


The Socialist Party does not agree with those on the left who condone the riots, such as the Socialist Workers Party, whose posters in the areas affected by riots declare them to be a step from 'riot to revolution'.” (19)


The latest SP’s youth campaign added in its leaflet another argument for opposing the riots: “But we will not defeat the government by rioting. On the contrary, the destruction of homes and services hugely exacerbates the problems our community faces.” (20)


Of course it is obvious that riots will not defeat the government. But this is true for most forms of the class struggle today! Will a peaceful demonstration – which the CWI-leadership prefers to the riots – defeat the government?! Will a peaceful one-day general strike – another slogan favoured by the CWI-leadership – bring down the government?! Will the occupation of a square bring down the government?! Dream on, comrade pacifists!


Yes, the riots could not bring down the government but this was because of their lack of organisation, their lack of spreading and their failure to involve wider sectors of the working class. For all these one must not blame the youth, the blacks and migrants but the leaderships of the Trade Unions, the Labour Left and of the various anti-cuts movements who terrible failed in the past to rally and organise the masses for a full onslaught against the government and by this to attract and organise the poorer sector of the proletariat. In addition to it all of these forces are not even in contact with these sectors of our class. They have no idea about these layers – not even when one can find the poorest sector being active in uprisings, not to mention times of lower class struggle.


Building the fight back will not only enter the road of peaceful demonstrations and orderly strikes including general strikes. It will also enter the road of violent uprisings of which the August uprising was only a first step, a beginning as Ambalavaner Sivanandan correctly stated.


What in fact is behind the SP/CWI’s reactionary condemnation of the August Uprising is their adaption to the reformist Labour bureaucracy. This adaption expresses itself in anti-Marxist understanding of the nature of the bourgeois state. The bourgeois state – according to the CWI – does not need to be smashed by an armed uprising of the proletariat but can be peacefully transformed, even by getting a majority in parliamentary elections. This is a reformist position which the CWI held since their foundation in the 1970s.


Peter Taaffe, the central leader of the SP/CWI, defended this idea explicitly. In an interview a few years ago he answered to the question if there will be a revolution to overthrow capitalism:


Well yes, a change in society, established through winning a majority in elections, backed up by a mass movement to prevent the capitalists from overthrowing a socialist government and fighting, not to take over every small shop, every betting shop or every street corner shop -- in any case, they are disappearing because of the rise of the supermarkets -- and so on, or every small factory, but to nationalise a handful of monopolies, transnationals now, that control 80 to 85% of the economy.“ (21)


And in an educational pamphlet which the CWI publishes on its website another central leader, Lynn Walsh, repeats this idea:


Our programme presented the case for "the socialist transformation of society" - a popularised form of 'socialist revolution'. We use this formulation to avoid the crude association between 'revolution' and 'violence' always falsely made by apologists of capitalism. A successful socialist transformation can be carried through only on the basis of the support of the overwhelming majority of the working class, with the support of other layers, through the most radical forms of democracy. On that basis, provided a socialist government takes decisive measures on the basis of mobilising the working class, it would be possible to carry though a peaceful change of society. Any threat of violence would come, not from a popular socialist government, but from forces seeking to restore their monopoly of wealth, power and privilege by mobilising a reaction against the democratic majority.” (22)


As we can see the CWI doesn’t understand the character of the bourgeois state with its huge machinery – built from top down without any democratic control from below and which serves and can only serve the capitalist class. It exists and can only exist in order to implement the class interests of the bourgeoisie and enforce them against the resistance of the working class and oppressed. The CWI doesn’t understand that such machinery is incompatible to serve the working class in its road to socialism. This is why Marxists say that the bourgeois state cannot be reformed but must be smashed by a violent revolution. This is why Lenin repeated again and again:


The supersession of the bourgeois state by the proletarian state is impossible without a violent revolution.“ (23)


And against the centrist Kautsky, who like the CWI, today praised the peaceful transformation of capitalism Lenin stated:


The proletarian revolution is impossible without the forcible destruction of the bourgeois state machine...“ (24)


As a result of their revisionist theory of the capitalist state the CWI clams that there is no class contradiction involved between the police (despite the fact it is the armed fist of the ruling class) on one hand and the working class and oppressed on the other hand. Therefore the CWI see the police men and women as “workers in uniform”.


This is obviously wrong and in contradiction to the classic lessons of the Marxist classics – and in contradiction to the experiences the labor movement made for more than 150 years. The only purpose of the police is to control and oppress the working class – like low-level managers in the enterprise. Neither of them directly or indirectly creates or distributes value in any form. They are paid parasites and thugs of capitalism. They are part of the middle layers and not of the working class. It doesn’t matter if the police man or woman initially comes from the working class. Not the past but the present and the foreseeable future are decisive. This is why Trotsky thought any such idea of police men or women are “workers in uniform” is ridiculous:


The fact that the police was originally recruited in large numbers from among Social Democratic workers is absolutely meaningless. Consciousness is determined by environment even in this instance. The worker who becomes a policeman in the service of the capitalist state, is a bourgeois cop, not a worker. Of late years these policemen have had to do much more fighting with revolutionary workers than with Nazi students. Such training does not fail to leave its effects. And above all: every policeman knows that though governments may change, the police remain.“ (25)


As a result the SP/CWI doesn’t want to smash the police but rather reform it and “put them under control of the people”. This wrong theoretical concept of the CWI leads to a reformist practice. Not only did they condemn the violence of the oppressed – they also didn’t call for organized self-defense of the workers and youth in Tottenham, Brixton etc! How should they have defended themselves against the police?! These centrist don’t care. Instead the praise the reformist policy of “controlling” the police:


"For control of the police to be placed under the auspices of democratically elected local committees involving representatives from trade unions, councils, tenants associations, and community organisations.“ (26)


This is of course a completely illusionary, wrong perspective. We don’t need stupid hopes in reforming the police but rather decisive steps to organise armed self-defence units against the police. If police men and women are really standing on the side of the working class, they will leave the oppression apparatus to join such organs of self-defence. The only way to be a “worker in uniform” is possible via the total break with the police background, i.e. quiting this job, swapping the police uniform with the uniforms of the working class militias. As long as one stands in the duty of the apparatus oppressing the working class, he or she is not part of this class. What count is not what police men or women are thinking, but rather what they are doing.


(17)         Judy Beishon: Con-Dems to blame for anger of youth - mass, trade union-led workers' response needed, The Socialist newspaper, 16 August 2011,


(18)         Liverpool & District Socialist Party statement on the riots in Liverpool, 10 August 2011,


(19)         Hannah Sell (Socialist Party deputy general secretary): As inner cities erupt - A mass workers' movement is needed to defeat the government, 9 August 2011,


(20)         Youth Fight for Jobs: London is Burning: Youth Demand A Future (Leaflet)


(21)         The Socialist Party's history – The Militant Tendency, The Socialist, 29th June 2006,


(22)         Lynn Walsh: The State – A Marxist Programme and Transitional Demands; in: Marxism and the State – An Exchange by Michael Wainwright and Lynn Walsh,


(23)         V. I. Lenin: The State and Revolution. The Marxist Teaching on the State and the Tasks of the Proletariat in the Revolution (1917), Foreign Languages Press Peking 1970, p. 25


(24)         V. I. Lenin: The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky, Foreign Languages Press, Peking 1972, p. 13


(25)         Leo Trotzki: Was nun? Schicksalsfragen des deutschen Proletariats (1932) in: Schriften über Deutschland, Band 1, S. 186;; Leon Trotsky: What Next? Vital Questions for the German Proletariat,


(26)         Hannah Sell (Socialist Party deputy general secretary): As inner cities erupt - A mass workers' movement is needed to defeat the government, 9 August 2011,


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