A Letter from the RCIT to the LFI comrades, 11.5.2012
Dear comrades of the LFI,
We address you in this letter because several of our cadre were members of the LFI until recently. In the last 12 months we have seen divisions, expulsion and splits in the League for the Fifth International. In April 2011 five cadres from the Austrian section, who have formed the “Bolshevik Opposition” faction, were bureaucratically expelled by the LFI’s IEC majority. Amongst them were two members of the International Executive Committee (IEC) and three members of the leadership of the youth organisation REVOLUTION in Austria. Around this time a Tamil comrade from the central leadership of the Sri Lanka section, responsible for the union work amongst the plantation workers, resigned too. And several months later a number of members from the Pakistani section (including a Central Committee member), who had formed the “Left Opposition” faction, left the LFI. Together with other comrades we have joined forces and formed – also with former LFI members in the USA – an international organisation, the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT).
Politically our origin is in the struggle against the LFI’s majority opportunist adaption towards the union bureaucracy, the reformist and centrist left and its lack of orientation towards workers and nationally oppressed.
However shortly after these expulsion and splits the LFI majority split itself. Recently a number of members resigned from the LFI, amongst them 4 IEC members, central leaders from the British section and the central leader of the Austrian respectively the Czech section. They are a right-wing centrist, liquidationist split reflecting the pressure of the progressive petty-bourgeois strata at the universities and in the occupation movement.
So as a result, all in all in the last 12 month the LFI has lost half of its IEC members and – since the congress in summer 2010 – up to 1/3 of its total membership.
What are the main issues of this letter?
In this letter we point out that:
1. It is the duty of Marxists to make clear which class character political forces have. The leadership of the LFI has NOT made clear which class character the liquidationist, petty bourgeois split has.
2. This happens because of the adaption from the leadership of the LFI towards the petty-bourgeois milieu! In the united front/Anticapitalist initiatives projects which WPB joined they don’t have a sharp revolutionary profile and are very soft in criticizing centrist forces or don’t criticise them at all in public. They are even talking about the “revolutionary left” when they mean the centrist left.
3. The LFI itself is in its composition dominated by activists coming from petty bourgeois/intellectual layers or the upper strata of the working class since many years. It has a massive lack of workers from the broad mass of the proletariat and from the oppressed.
4. Therefore its political degeneration into centrism is related to the reluctance over years to correct the bad class composition of the LFI. The organisation has developed an opportunist approach towards the politics of libertarian and other petty-bourgeois forces!
5. We characterise the reluctance to win workers and oppressed in deeds (not only as promises and intentions) as part of the problem of “aristocratism” that goes hand in hand with the opportunism. It means the orientation to aristocratic layers and the accommodation to various positions and prejudices of the labour aristocracy.
6. One expression of this was the rejection of the slogan “For a Socialist Tamil Eelam” in Sri Lanka. It was a consequence of accommodation towards prejudices amongst the petty-bourgeois intellectuals and the aristocratic layers in the working class. We as RCIT are demanding not only a Socialist Tamil Eelam but also an “Azad, Socialist Kashmir” and an “Azad, Socialist Baluchistan” in Pakistan.
7. We sharply critisise the LFI leadership for pushing the organisation to refuse participate in the August Uprising of tens of thousands of working class youth in Britain in summer 2011. This was criminal especially because it happened in London at the same time as the REVO summer camp, where many comrades from the LFI and REVOLUTION came together. Active participation was rejected by the leaders of the LFI and they didn’t even sent a delegation of members to be in the proletarian districts where the uprisings happened during the nights. They rather preferred to have a summer camp with the slogan “summer, sun, socialism” (this was the headline of their report) where the focus was on discussions and drinking instead of being part of the class struggle on the burning streets of London. It is a joke to agitate once or twice in the proletarian districts during the day and to hide in the camp by night when the uprising takes place. Such a leadership is not capable to lead sections in semi colonial countries with sharp state oppression. It demonstrated a lack of revolutionary audacity. This was centrism in deeds and a betrayal of revolutionary principles.
8. Comrades, mistakes can happen, even grave mistakes can happen. But the worst thing is not to make mistakes, but to fail in recognising them, not to learn from them and not to make the necessary sharp corrections.
9. The LFI has undertaken a sharp centrist degeneration. It is no wonder that the LFI has shrunken massively.
10. We call all members of the LFI to break with the policy of centrist degeneration which is dominating now the LFI. Comrades, correct these fatal mistakes! Reorient the LFI towards the workers and oppressed!
Why did this happen?
Let us see how the LFI leadership characterises the split of the right-wing liquidationists around Luke Cooper, Simon Hardy (both from Britain), Roman Riedl (Austria) and Martin Mikula (Czech Republic). In its Statement on Resignations from the British Section of the League from 28.4.2012, the International Secretariat (IS) of the LFI correctly criticises the right-wing splitters for their rejection of democratic centralism and the need for a programmatically homogenous organisation. The IS states: “Their argument was simply copied wholesale from the quasi-libertarian critiques of Leninism and Trotskyism presently fashionable on the English-speaking left.” The IS also describes their views: “The majority correctly characterised these proposals as liquidationist, both in the political sense, in terms of dissolving our programme and principles, and the organisational sense, in terms of dissolving our tendency.”
It is however characteristic that the IS – while describing correctly several features of this right-wing split – fails to go beyond such a description and to give it a clear political class characterisation. As a result it fails to analyse, characterise and understand the context of this split.
We characterise the group around Cooper, Hardy, Riedl and Mikula as a right-wing, liquidationist split. As all political tendencies and phenomena in a class society it has a class character. As Marxists we have to point out what sort of class character the liquidationist split has. It is a petty-bourgeois, extreme right-centrist current. It reflects their capitulation towards the pressure of the progressive petty-bourgeois layers (dominated by university students and (pseudo-) intellectuals) who have an important influence in the occupation movement and amongst the left-wing university milieu.
Adaption towards the petty-bourgeois milieu
However the LFI leadership does not give a clear class character of the split and indeed is even incapable to understand the need of it. Why? Firstly because it would force them to rethink their own orientation since it orientates itself to the same petty-bourgeois milieu since years as the right-wing liquidationists are doing. Secondly because it would force them to ask themselves how it could happen that a significant sector of its leadership and membership openly repudiates Leninism and Trotskyism. And thirdly they would have to ask themselves why the same leaders with whom together they enthusiastically expelled future RCIT cadre in April 2011, why these same people desert the organisation and Trotskyism only 12 month later (after they had started in Britain an internal campaign for their liquidationist views for at least half a year)!
For us in the RCIT this development is not surprising and only the logical consequence of the process of centrist degeneration which the LFI unfortunately has undergone in the recent past. Already in late 2009 today RCIT cadres – who at that time had the majority in the Austrian LFI section – fought against the liquidationist tendencies which comrade Riedl and others showed during the intervention in a mass university strike in Austria. They rejected our proposals to intervene openly as members of the LFI and they refused to publicly criticise the wrong policy of the centrists and the left-reformist and libertarian forces which provided the leadership of the movement. Similarly we fought against the “new discoveries” of Riedl and others in 2010 that the IMT (Grant, Woods, Lal Khan) and centrism as such “are a current of Marxism”, albeit not a revolutionary one. And we emphasised against Riedl and others that the reformist bureaucracy does not betray the workers because of their “wrong ideologies and lack of understanding”. This is a false, idealistic explain. As Marxists we say it happens because as bureaucrats they have a material interest in controlling and pacifying the working class, they are corrupted and they are therefore also linked with the capitalist state and class.
These internal struggles dealt with questions touching the principles of Marxism, in particular the relationship between the revolutionary vanguard, its petty-bourgeois and labour reformist opponents and sectors of the masses. These were debates which anticipated a number of issues around which the splits/expulsion of the Bolsheviks by the LFI majority occurred in 2011 and around which the split of the right-wing liquidationists in spring 2012 took place.
The left-wing inside the LFI and later cadres of the RCIT defended the traditional Marxist position which the LFI, when it was still a revolutionary organisation, had defended too. But the majority of the LFI leadership wavered. Several of them sympathised more with Riedls positions rather than ours but they hesitated to openly wage a political-ideological struggle against us. So they all agreed that the LFI leadership should not take a position on these debates. In short they proved incapable to understand the task of revolutionary cadres to defend Marxist principles always and from the beginning. They only started to formally defend some of these principles when the right-wing proposed to dissolve the organisation and hence a split was already around the corner.
It is indicative that the LFI majority planned and executed very quickly the expulsion of the “Bolshevik Opposition” comrades only a few weeks after they formed a faction in Austria. On the other hand they didn’t see any reason to expel the right-wing liquidationists despite their open renunciation of Bolshevism. Would the Cooper/Hardy/Riedl/Mikula group have been less determined to build their “undogmatic anticapitalist networks” and would they have not resigned in mid-April 2012, they would still have a place in the LFI. In fact the LFI leadership actively hopes to win them back as they wrote in their “Statement on Resignations…”: “We can only hope that our former comrades draw this lesson from their own experience quickly, and return to our ranks to build a disciplined international organisation with a clear programme”. In another statement of the LFI leadership this still existing closeness to the right-wing liquidationist was made even clearer:
“We regret their decision, as they are all talented people, many of whom played an important role in the student movement in 2010-11. While we recognise that there has been a significant divergence in our views over the last seven months, we had hoped that the debate we conducted at our national conference last month and our International Council meeting at Easter could have continued within our ranks. We were disappointed that the comrades chose to leave after such a short discussion. We have made it clear to Simon and the others that we will continue to work with them wherever that is practical and principled. Given the continued similarity of our political views we expect those occasions to be many and frequent.” (Reply from Richard Brenner (LFI) to split statement of right-wing, 14.4.2012, http://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2012/04/14/a-simple-proposal-for-a-new-anticapitalist-left)
The practice of the past 12 month has shown that while the LFI leadership is totally hostile to the Bolsheviks it is soft and well-coming to the right-wing liquidationists. They see themselves much closer to the later.
This is in itself an expression of the centrist character of the present-day leadership of the LFI. In Trotsky’s days the centrist Stalin leadership exclaimed that it is “fighting resolutely both against the left-wing and the right.-wing danger” inside the Communist Party. Trotsky explained that this equation of the currents to the right and to the left of the Marxist line demonstrates itself a petty-bourgeois, centrist position:
„The central idea of the present campaign, that Marxist politics in general consists in a struggle against the right and against the left with the same irreconcilable spirit, is thoroughly absurd. To the right of Marxist politics stands the mighty world of imperialism with its still enormous agency of collaborationists. There is the enemy. To the left of the Marxist line there can be only wrong tendencies within the proletariat itself, infantile disorder in the party, and so forth. The most extreme expression of this false ‘leftism’ is anarchism. But anarchism’s strength and influence are all the smaller and less significant the more resolutely, the more determinedly, the more consistently the revolutionary party fights against opportunism. That is precisely the special historical merit of Bolshevism. In its annals, the struggle against the left always bore an episodic and subordinated character. The Stalinist formula of the struggle ‘with the same intransigence’ against the right and the left is not a Bolshevik formula but the traditional formula of petty-bourgeois radicalism, whose entire history has been nothing but struggle against ‘reaction’ on one hand and against the proletarian revolution on the other hand.“ (Leon Trotsky: Crisis in the Right-Center Bloc (1928); in: Leon Trotsky: The Challenge of the Left Opposition (1928-29), p. 302f.)
In fact the present-day leadership of the LFI fought with a much more “irreconcilable spirit” against the left-wing and expelled them when their leaders posed a potential danger inside the IEC. On the other hand they tried every possible compromise and still sending olive branches and appeals to the right-wing liquidationists to come back.
The chimera and the truth about the Bolshevik united front tactic
What is the reason for this? It is because the LFI’s leadership itself is politically confused and has become left-centrist in 2011. (Although we would not say that all members have left the former Bolshevik tradition of the LFI and thus it is possible that there might be future internal struggles around key issues in the context of the degeneration process of the LFI as a whole.) It is no accident that they and the right-wingers together attacked and expelled us because of our – as they called it – ”sectarianism”. They accused the Bolsheviks who later formed the RCIT that they have an “ultra-left understanding of the united front tactic.”
What the LFI- and WPB leadership is hiding behind this chimera is its own growing opportunism. As we have shown with a number of quotes (see for this the preface to our essay on the Fifth International in our English-language journal Revolutionary Communism No. 2, p. 26-28; http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/what-sort-of-fifth-international-do-we-need) the comrades see the reasons for the left-reformist trade union bureaucrats failure in the recent mass struggles against the Tory/LibDem government in their “refusal to think outside the box” and their “fear of the anti-union laws” – not their inability to struggle in the interest of the workers because of their material interests as bureaucrats. They also identify as the main problem of the left not their petty-bourgeois, centrist or left-reformist policy and subordination to the labour bureaucracy but their “divisions and fragmentations”. In its latest proposal for a political platform of the Anticapitalist Initiative WPB repeats this position:
“The leaders of the major unions have postponed and fragmented the fight back called for by their members. The pensions struggle – which had the potential to unify the movement – has been cynically sabotaged by right wing union leaders, and discoordinated by ‘left wing’ union leaders afraid of the antiunion laws. (…) The failure of the official leaderships has been compounded by two key factors:
* the withered and weakened state of workplace organisation, and
* the inability of the revolutionary left organisations to transcend their fragmentation – instead they project their division into the anti-cuts struggle, building rival anticuts campaigns where a powerful united front is needed.” (Workers Power: Draft Proposal for Political Basis for the Anticapitalist Initiative, 21.4.2012, http://southlondonanticapitalists.wordpress.com/2012/04/30/building-a-new-left-a-great-start/; our emphasis)
In effect the remaining left-centrist WPB leadership spreads the same nonsensical idea that there exists not a centrist left but a “revolutionary left” and the problem is that it remains fragmented. In the past we in the revolutionary LFI laughed about such nonsense. Today, the Neo-LFI leadership repeats this stupidity itself! If the various centrist groups would be united in one big centrist organisation … it would be a unified obstacle, and not an instrument to overcome the crisis of leadership. Why? Because the centrist left is not revolutionary, it is centrist. This means they possess a wrong, centrist method, strategy and tactic. It means that they are politically adapting and dependent of the labour bureaucracy. THIS is the main reason why “the left” cannot challenge the official labour movement leadership!
In addition to this the LFI/WPB leadership also adapts to the libertarian sentiments which are strong amongst the petty-bourgeois sectors of the university student and in the occupation movement. In contrast to the past when we intervened in non-revolutionary organisations, the WPB proposal does not deal with the question of power and therefore lacks the slogan for a workers government.
The LFI/WPB’s leadership whole orientation towards the “Anticapitalist Initiative” (ACI) is in itself opportunistically flawed. According to all reports which have been published this initiative attracted less people to its foundation conference on 28th April than the number of people who attended the WPB Anticapitalism event last autumn. About half of the 70-80 people present were members of Workers Power and its two right-wing splits (the Permanent Revolution group and the Cooper/Hardy group). The rest of the participants were in their majority divided between various organised and unorganised leftists and some libertarian university students.
This ACI is neither a reflection of the radicalisation of sectors of the working class or proletarian youth. Nor does it reflect sectors of centrism which are moving to the left. It is rather a combination of centrists moving to the right (who are questioning the “shibboleths” of the revolutionary pre-party organisations, of Bolshevism, who are wondering if Leninism might have been responsible for Stalinism etc.) and some libertarian university students. In short according to all accounts it is a small petty-bourgeois combination of right-wing centrists and libertarian forces. While the LFI/WPB’s leadership correctly criticised the right-wing splitters for their capitulation towards libertarian views, they themselves orientate to the same milieu and opportunistically adapt their propaganda to it.
How we did it in the past
This is a break from our revolutionary tradition in the past. While the LFI majority (at that time the left-centrists and the right-wing liquidationist were united against us, the Bolshevik wing in the LFI) accused us of a “sectarian” approach to reformism and centrism, the opposite was and is true. In the 2000s we had proven in practice by our work in the Austrian section that we are capable much better than the rest of the LFI in Europe to intersect with militant sectors of the masses, putting demands on the bureaucracy and repeatedly force the reformists and centrists into united front initiatives with us and combine this with an intransigent revolutionary profile. We initiated or co-initiated a number of demonstrations and school student strikes with thousands of participants. As a result our leading comrades could several times address in speeches thousands of workers and youth at demonstrations. (Some of them you can see at our youtube channel www.youtube.com/revolutioncommunism) We also played an initiating and leading role in an electoral left alliance in summer 2008 (called “THE LEFT”). But in opposite to the LFI/WPB’s leadership policy today we did this with a revolutionary programme and with a sharp profile from the beginning. Our slogan “Expropriate the super-rich!” enraged the bourgeois media and annoyed the left-reformists and centrists inside the alliance. But we also won sympathises and through our focus on on-the-ground agitation in a working class district in Vienna we recruited a number of workers and youth. The reports about all this can still be found in the section “Austria” on the LFI’s website. And on the RCIT website you will find a report, photos and videos of the internationalist MayDay 2012 demonstration in Vienna with 1.500 participants organised by a united front in which the Austrian RCIT comrades played a leading role. In all these years we had not only a sharp, revolutionary, public profile but also a sharp critic against the centrist forces.
In contrast when WPB won a leading position in a mass movement – as it did in the university student movement in 2010 – it unfortunately collapsed into opportunist adaption towards the petty-bourgeois milieu. When the mass movement hit the streets against the austerity plans of the Cameron government in autumn 2010 and the general strike slogan became an important tactic, the WPB leadership rejected agitation for a general strike and even criticised the SWP for raising this slogan as “too advanced”! Instead of engaging in a sharp political struggle against the various centrist and libertarian forces, the WPB leadership looked for a peaceful co-existence with them in various left-wing university student alliances. In the end LFI/WPB became centrist itself and instead of growing it lost 1/3 of its members in Britain.
Similarly the LFI section in Austria – nearly all of them university students – declined politically and organisationally after our expulsion. They announced in public a self-criticism that they want to correct the “one-sided”, “superficial” positions on Palestine and many other issues which the Austrian section published under our leadership in the past decade. Since then not a single document has appeared which proved the so-called “one-sidedness” of our past positions or which contained better, “more differentiated” positions. The ideological class struggle against left-reformism and centrism has de facto disappeared from the LFI Austria propaganda. No theoretical document has been published. They also ceased the publication of their e-mail newsletter, suspended the publication of its paper for half a year and hardly had any public meetings in the past 12 months. At the same time the Austrian RCIT section has not only published a monthly paper, two issues of its theoretical journal, run a regularly updated website and newsletter but also worked hard and successfully to recruit a number of workers and working class youth (including migrants from the lower strata of the working class). And at the same time it participated actively in the formation process of the RCIT. In fact Austria is a model for the charlatanry of the LFI majority’s critique against us. They argued for our expulsion as a need “to prevent a damage of the section in Austria”. Well, since they “saved” the Austrian section from the Bolsheviks, it hasn’t produced any theory, hardly any kind of propaganda and hardly any public meetings took place – this is the new work mode of the sections since then. In addition to it, Riedl who was encouraged from the LFI to lead the section played a central role in the liquidationist split, and the one or other will follow him soon. If this is a successful way to prevent damage, than we hope that we had not learn anything of it.
What is the cause of the centrist degeneration?
All these failures and adaption’s towards centrism are not accidently. The right-wing split is just the most consistent form of the political degeneration which the LFI has undergone in the recent past. These fundamental problems are related to a wrong understanding of the tasks of a revolutionary communist organisation in the present period.
A central task of a communist pre-party organisation is to speak out the truth as it sees it. Unfortunately in the last years a number of LFI cadres have shared the post-modernist, neo-Gramscian method of Luke Cooper which is alien to the materialist dialectic. As a result the LFI majority overthrew at its Congress in 2010 our traditional method of characterising historical periods. Hence they rejected our analyses of the period after 2001 as “pre-revolutionary” and of the present period as “revolutionary”. The same petty-bourgeois method led them to reject the Leninist position that the labour aristocracy is a small top layer in the working class which is politically backward and bribed by the bourgeoisie. They rather believe that the labour aristocracy is the best organised and most militant sector of the class who gets privileges because of its class struggle. While the LFI leadership opportunistically overstate the progressive character of the labour aristocracy, it underestimates the importance of the middle and lower strata of the working class and of the national oppressed layers. This is why they reject our analyses of migrants in imperialist countries as “in their huge majority nationally oppressed and super-exploited layers of the working class.” At the same time they tend to welcome assimilation of migrants into the majority nation as progressive. This is why we advocate the complete equality of languages of minorities and the abolition of the state language as the Bolsheviks did (again against the opposition of a substantial minority at the LFI congress in 2010). This is why we advocate support for an independent state of oppressed nations if they have demonstrated in past struggles that they wish for this. We combine it with the perspective of working class power. This is why the RCIT advocates a “Socialist Tamil Eelam” in Sri Lanka and an “Azad, Socialist Kashmir” and an “Azad, Socialist Baluchistan” in Pakistan.
This includes the propaganda and agitation of the necessary strategies and tactics for the working class struggle. It also includes the warning of the vanguard from its wrong friends – the right-wing and left-wing labour bureaucrats and the centrists of various colours. It means calling things by their name. That’s why the unambiguous advocacy of revolutionary tactics, the sharp criticism of the reformist and centrist forces, the class characterisation of movements and political formations etc. are indispensable for a communist pre-party organisation.
Why did the LFI degenerate so quickly in the last years? Why did a whole sector of its leadership cadre renounce Leninism and Trotskyism and denounce the task of building revolutionary organisations? Of course there are several reasons but the most important factor is that the LFI in most sections has a bad class composition, a dominance of university students, intellectuals and labour aristocrats since many years. It is a joke to have such a composition over years in imperialist countries where the working class (especially the lower and middle strata) represents the absolute majority of the population. This is a serious problem particularly in the new historic period where the class struggle from above and from below is sharpening enormously. In such a period the pressures not only from the bourgeoisie but also from the various sectors of the progressive petty bourgeoisie and the labour bureaucracy are increasing enormously. The worse the class composition of a revolutionary organisation is, the more difficult it is to stand against these political and ideological pressures.
Trotsky once remarked that „..the more the party is petty-bourgeois in its composition, the more it is dependent upon the changes in the official public opinion.“ (Leon Trotsky: From a Scratch – To the Danger of Gangrene (1940); in: Leon Trotsky: In Defense of Marxism, New York 1990, p. 113; http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/idom/dm/21-scratch1.htm)
Indeed the recent degeneration of the LFI is a living proof for Trotsky observation. The right-wing liquidationist split and the shift of the LFI to the right is a reflection of the public opinion in the labour movement and the petty-bourgeois intelligenzija (via the occupation movement etc.).
A bad class composition is not a disaster in itself … under the pre-condition that the organisation recognises this situation as a serious weakness which leads to degeneration if it is not overcome after a certain, rather shorter than longer, period and therefore undertakes bold and decisive measures to improve the class composition. This is why – in the years before our expulsion from the LFI – we proposed and fought for a number of measures for the proletarisation of the LFI and the Austrian section. As well as we not only argued but also tried to initiate projects to win more young proletarian people, migrants and women to the LFI. One of these projects was the building of womens collectives, followed by a womens organisation in Austria which focused on building roots of the organisation in a proletarian district. While several LFI leaders expressed agreement in general for some of the positions and projects no serious steps were undertaken and in the end we were denounced as “workerists”. The LFI leaders even made sure to dissolve the women organisation in Austria.
The leadership explicitly rejected the idea that a bad class composition is a problem for the LFI. It claimed that in small organisation the class composition is necessary and unavoidable like this. In a letter to the LSR conference in February 2011 the leadership of the German section wrote that the social composition of the fighting propaganda group like the LFI sections “will have a disproportional high share of university students or better educated, political interested workers (skilled workers)”. The reason they gave is: “because of the dominant role of propaganda”. The Austrian supporters of the LFI majority argued similarly in a statement: “It is perfectly natural that fighting propaganda groups tend because of its very high requirements for a membership tendentially not to be dominated by the lowest layers.”
In other words fighting for the working class interest with a communist programme requires … “education”, i.e. bourgeois education. Therefore, according to the LFI leadership, the mass of the global working class – particularly in the semi-colonial world – which posses a relatively lower level of education it is rather difficult to meet the requirements of the type of communist organisation the LFI wants to build. For the LFI leaders, the well-educated intellectuals and labour aristocrats (of whom disproportionally many live in the imperialist countries) are more fit. For us this is no Marxism. Is it really “perfectly natural” to build an organisation which should make the future revolutionary party possible, that has the goal to free the working class and all oppressed, that such an organisation is not lead, not even dominated in its composition by workers, women, migrants, oppressed nations although they are the absolute majority in the world? It is only “perfectly natural” in the halls of the universities in the imperialist countries, but in the rest of the world it is just “perfectly pervert”.
As a side note it is not without irony that exactly those people who lectured us about the difficulty for workers from the lower strata to meet the “very high requirements for a membership”, that exactly the same people who authored these lines deserted the LFI only one year later. The truth is the opposite: it is much more difficult for the petty-bourgeois intellectuals to meet the “very high requirements for a membership” than for the workers! The truth is that for workers (excluding the small layer of bribed aristocrats) it is easier to understand the Marxist Weltanschauung of their class and to fight for it than for the non-proletarian layers. We have to ask ourselves: Is it healthier to have an organisation of mainly workers and working class youth, even if some of them leave the organisation due to their hard living conditions and therefore the lack of energy and time? Or should Marxist prefer an organisation of petty-bourgeois intellectuals and labour aristocrats who do not carry Marxist positions into the working class but push the organisation to break with Bolshevism and try to reconcile the political activity with their lifestyle? Ours is the first option. And the LFI? Did we not see in the last years a huge increase of mainly university students who instead of dedicating their life to the cause of working class liberation struggle preferred to reconcile the political activity with their lifestyle?!
Trotsky on the question of the class composition of communist pre-party organisations
In contrast to the views of the LFI leadership Trotsky advised the Bolshevik-Leninists in all phases in the 1920s and 1930s to orientate themselves mainly to the workers and here in particular the mass of the workers and not to the privileged layers or even the university students. For example in 1929 – immediately after the foundation of the Communist League of America – he wrote about the need to find a way to the oppressed layers of the proletariat:
„The trade union bureaucrats, like the bureaucrats of false Communism, live in the atmosphere of aristocratic prejudices of the upper strata of the workers. It will be tragedy it the Oppositionists are infected even in the slightest degree with these qualities. We must not only reject and condemn these prejudices; we must burn them out of our consciousness to the last trace; we must find the road to the most deprived, to the darkest strata of the proletariat, beginning with the Negro, whom capitalist society has converted into Pariah and who must learn to see in us his revolutionary brothers. And this depends wholly upon our energy and devotion to the work.” (Leon Trotsky: A Letter to the American Trotskyists (1929), in: Trotsky Writings 1929, p. 133f.)
In another document in 1932 he argued in favour of a different approach towards intellectuals than towards workers, in particular from the lower strata. What he said would be most likely denounced as „workerism“ by the present-day LFI leaders – if it would come from our pen and not from Trotsky’s:
“When ten intellectuals, whether in Paris, Berlin, or New York, who have already been members of various organizations, address themselves to us with a request to be taken into our midst, I would offer the following advice: Put them through a series of tests on all the programmatic questions; wet them in the rain, dry them in the sun, and then after a new and careful examination accept maybe one or two.
The case is radically altered when ten workers connected with the masses turn to us. The difference in our attitude to a petty-bourgeois group and to the proletarian group does not require any explanation. But if a proletarian group functions in an area where there are workers of different races, and in spite of this remains composed solely of workers of a privileged nationality, then I am inclined to view them with suspicion. Are we not dealing perhaps with the labor aristocracy? Isn't the group infected with slave-holding prejudices, active or passive?
It is an entirely different matter when we are approached by a group of Negro workers. Here I am prepared to take it for granted in advance that we shall achieve agreement with them, even if such an agreement is not actual as yet. Because the Negro workers, by virtue of their whole position, do not and cannot strive to degrade anybody, oppress anybody, or deprive anybody of his rights. They do not seek privileges and cannot rise to the top except on the road of the international revolution.
We can and we must find a way to the consciousness of the Negro workers, the Chinese workers, the Indian workers, and all the oppressed in the human ocean of the colored races to whom belongs the decisive word in the development of mankind.” (Leon Trotsky: Closer to the Proletarians of the Colored Races (1932), in: Trotsky Writings 1932, p. 112)
In a discussion Trotsky had during his visit in Kopenhagen 1932 he advised comrades about their attitude towards a student or an academic, that „the workers movement for its part must regard him with the greatest scepticism. (…) When he has worked with the workers movement this way (for three, four or five years), then the fact that he was an academican is forgotten, the social difference disappear.“ (Leon Trotsky: On Students and Intellectuals (1932), in: Trotsky Writings 1932, p. 333)
We in the RCIT have the view that a communist pre-party organisation should orientate itself to the working class and not the petty-bourgeois intellectuals and labour aristocrats. Unfortunately the LFI rejects this and has become a victim of what we call “aristocratism” – the orientation to aristocratic layers and the accommodation to various positions and prejudices of the labour aristocracy.
This is related to the distortion of the concept of the “fighting propaganda group” by the present-day leadership of the LFI. In their recent “Statement on Resignations…” they described their view of the “fighting propaganda group” as follows: “We stand by our self-understanding as a group whose principal task is to defend and develop the revolutionary programme and to address the major questions of strategy and tactics facing the working class in its living struggles.”
This reflects a completely one-sided, un-dialectical understanding of the tasks of a Bolshevik pre-party organisation. Yes, of course its task is to “defend and develop the revolutionary programme and to address the major questions of strategy and tactics”. But this alone is not sufficient and even a passive propaganda circle could do this. What is the value of a programme and of strategies and tactics IF they are not transmitted into the class and its vanguard, IF they are not translated into recruiting workers and proletarian youth members who are fighting for this programme and who have roots in the class, IF they therefore do not lead to a communist pre-party organisation with a mainly working class composition?!
If a communist organisation does not achieve this, it is not a “fighting propaganda group” but rather a “commenting propaganda group” which is isolated from the working class and the oppressed layers.
Ignoring the August Uprising in Britain as the synthesis of theory and practice of Aristocratism
The wrong analysis of the class positions of the labour aristocracy and the lower and middle strata of the working class as well as the nature of national oppression of migrants on one hand and the wrong understanding of the tasks of a communist pre-party organisation on the other hand found their culmination, its test in practice, in the position of the LFI/WPB/REVOLUTION leadership during the August Uprising in Britain in summer 2011. This was an Uprising of the working class youth, black and migrants after the police killed a black father of four children, Mark Duggan. According to figures of Scotland Yard, more than 30.000 youth participated in this uprising which lasted for 5 days. As a completely spontaneous uprising it included a number of lootings. But in the first line it was an uprising against police repression. (Our analysis, perspectives and tactics can be read on our website: Nina Gunić and Michael Pröbsting: The strategic task: From the uprising to the revolution! These are not "riots" – this is an uprising of the poor in the cities of Britain!, http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/britain-uprising-of-the-poor; The August Uprising in Britain - A Report of the RKOB delegation on its visit in London in August 2011, http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/britain-report-from-uprising; Michael Pröbsting: What would a revolutionary organisation have done? August uprising of the poor, the nationally and racially oppressed in Britain, http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/britain-august-uprising/; 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, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/britain-left-and-the-uprising/)
This character was, despite some wavering, occasionally acknowledged even by the LFI/WPB leadership itself. After the Uprising the British comrades wrote in a statement “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.” (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)
However despite this literary recognition of the character of this mass uprising (which was contradicted in other statement), the LFI/WPB/REVOLUTION leadership strongly opposed any participation and a call for this in this Uprising. During the same time as the Uprising took place REVOLUTION had its international summer camp close to London. Given the progressive and mass character of the uprising a number of young members of REVOLUTION wanted to join and support the uprising. But the leadership – including Hardy, Cooper, Riedl and the present-day LFI leaders – all categorically opposed any practical support and participation in the uprising. Despite the words quoted above, in fact the leadership saw the uprising as a predominately backward, un-political, and criminal or even reactionary event. This abstention from an important class struggle event was even legitimised by the argument that one does not know the conditions in the area. Leaving aside that not knowing the concrete circumstances in a city did not stop us in the revolutionary past of the LFI to intervene in mass struggles (for example in Genoa/Italy in 2001, in Gleneagles/Britain in 2005 or in Heiligendamm/Germany 2007), it is a damaging acknowledgment if the comrades do not know and don’t have any connection to the area in an important working class district in London (Tottenham) where the LFI has its strongest branch since more than 35 years!
In fact this event demonstrated the practical consequences of aristocratism and a petty-bourgeois decadence of middle class people. In a report called “Summer, sun, socialism - that was our international summer camp this year’” the comrades told the public 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.” (see http://www.onesolutionrevolution.de/?p=1645) How can an organization call itself “revolutionary” if it prefers to have parties and drink a lot every evening, while at the same time thousands of youth fight against the police on the streets only a few kilometers away!?
Comrades, mistakes can happen, even grave mistakes can happen. But the worst thing is not to make mistakes, but to fail in recognising them, not to learn from them and not to make the necessary sharp corrections. If this happens a constant repetition and deepening of the mistakes are unavoidable. And indeed as we have shown in this letter and in other documents this is what happened with the LFI in the last year. This is a shame given the enormous possibilities of class struggle in the present period to build a strong international revolutionary organisation. But one cannot achieve this without an unambiguous Bolshevik method and a revolutionary programme which is applied to the concrete practical and theoretical questions of the class struggle. We have summarised our analysis, our lessens and our programme in “The Revolutionary Communist Manifesto” (which can be read online – at the moment only in English and German language – on the RCIT website www.thecommunists.net). We would welcome to debate this programme with you.
Comrades, we have drawn our conclusions from the past experience. After the bureaucratic expulsion of the “Bolshevik Opposition” in April 2011 and the left-wing splits in other countries comrades in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, USA and Austria have joined forces with other militants and founded the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT). We stand for the continuity of the revolutionary tradition which the LFI represented in the past. We call all members of the LFI to break with the policy of centrist degeneration which is dominating the LFI.
Michael Pröbsting and Shujat Liaqat (for the RCIT)
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