Two remarkable documents from the ex-Trotskyist L5I
A comment from Michael Pröbsting, Revolutionary Communist International Tendency, 25 April 2017, www.thecommunists.net
The "League for the Fifth International" (L5I) has recently published two quite remarkable documents. (1) One is a statement of its Swedish section addressing the truck attack in Stockholm. The second is a statement of its British comrades on the upcoming new elections in June this year. (2)
The similarity of the perspectives in these two articles is no coincidence. Rather, they reflect the tremendous right-wing shift of this organization in past years.
The statement by the Swedish section is a kind of 1914 bonsai war cry. As readers undoubtedly known, four people died on 7 April 2017 in a rundown attack in Stockholm by an alleged supporter of Daesh. As we always do in similar cases, the RCIT condemns such reactionary attacks against innocent civilians. However, we also consistently point out that the imperialist war offensive in the Middle East and Africa, as well as the racist oppression of migrants, and, in particular, of Muslims in Europe are the main cause for such tragic events. (3)
Contrary to such a principled Marxist approach, and faced with the Islamophobic outcry of the bourgeois media, the Swedish L5I group completely capitulated. Adapting to the hysterical offensive of imperialist "public opinion," the L5I section denounced the attack, claiming that it confirmed the "fascist character of Islamism" and decried the entire phenomena of Islamism as a "fascist movement of a religious character"! In this way, the L5I is merely parroting the same reactionary nonsense preached by Islamophobic liberal, Stalinist and social democratic parties. These latter forces have proved themselves to be social-imperialist lapdogs of the ruling classes of all the Great Powers. By denouncing Islamism as "fascist barbarity," they provide justification for and in essence condone the bloody colonial wars of the West in the Middle East and Africa, alongside the brutal oppression of the Chechens by Russia and the Uyghurs by China, and the general oppression of migrants in Europe.
But the Swedish section of the L5I goes even further. In its article it criticizes the left and workers’ movement for not fighting forcefully enough against the Islamists! They demand: "Instead of giving the Islamists spaces of their own, the left needs to mobilise actively against them, something that should have been done a long time ago."
So in a period when thousands of Muslims in Europe are put on trial and thrown into jail; when racists and fascists slander Islam as the main danger to Europe; when Muslim women are increasingly forbidden to wear religious head covering; at a time in which the main task in Europe is to defend Muslims against this oppression (including the defense of democratic rights of Islamists), and in which the left and the workers’ movement so pathetically fail to undertake this responsibility; in such a period the L5I calls … "to mobilise actively" against the Islamists!
In the past, when the LFI was still a revolutionary organization and we were still part of it, we categorically rejected any such characterization of Islamism as a whole as "fascist." In a congress resolution, we stated: "The Islamist spectrum is a wide one, ranging from those that are conservative-bourgeois parties seeking to maintain the influence of the ulema and the landlords alongside the capitalists and strictly constitutional in their methods, through petty-bourgeois populist currents opposed to imperialism using militant tactics of armed struggle or guerilla warfare, to the jihadi terrorist groups and even fascist and semi-fascist organizations." (4)
While we certainly criticize Islamism – as we do Castro-Chavismo, Stalinism, etc. – we also recognize its contradictory and heterogeneous nature. There are various bourgeois and petty-bourgeois currents within the Islamist camp, some of which stand in the forefront of just liberation struggles (often national and anti-dictatorial resistance movements); and at the same time there are currents which play an openly reactionary role, like the bourgeois theocratic regimes in Saudi Arabia or Turkey, for example, and even counter-revolutionary forces like Daesh. Since those days, after our complete break with that movement and our founding of the RCIT, we have defended and further developed our earlier analysis. (5)
But after the majority of the L5I leadership expelled us, the founding cadres of the RCIT in April 2011, the L5I has undergone a dramatic shift to the right. (6) The result is its continuous withdrawal from any consistent confrontation with ideological pressures exerted by imperialism. Consequently, a few dead in Stockholm are sufficient for the Swedish L5I group to entirely capitulate to the hysterical imperialist media, for them to gird their loins for battle, and give full vent to a sort of 1914 bonsai call for war against Islamism!
The British supporters of the L5I have similarly adapted rapidly to reformism. In their official statement on the upcoming snap elections to be held in June, they elaborated a short program which they ask the Labour Party to fight for. This program aptly reflects the retreat of this group from revolutionary Marxism. In this statement one can only search in vain for any call to support the resistance struggles against the imperialist Great Powers in the Middle East and Africa. Nowhere to be found in this statement is a call for Labour to finally expel Tony Blair’s right wing from the party. Nor does one even come across a slogan calling for a workers’ government.
But the most remarkably noteworthy item in this statement focuses elsewhere: The British L5I group reiterates more explicitly than ever its radical shift to the right last year on the issue of the European Union. As we have elaborated elsewhere, in its revolutionary past, the LFI defended the position that revolutionary Marxists must neither support an imperialist nation state (like Britain, Germany, or Austria) nor the imperialist EU. (This, of course, has also been the unequivocal position of the RCIT.) It follows, that, consistent with our traditional Marxist position, we always would and do call in referenda about EU membership neither to vote for nor against joining (or leaving) the EU, but rather always for adopting an independent class position: principled abstention with a blank ballot, but preferably one bearing an appropriate slogan (e.g., “For the United Socialist States of Europe!)”
Last year, towards the Brexit referendum, the L5I broke with this decades-long tradition and now supports membership in the EU as a step towards "progress of the productive forces" and the socialist unification of Europe. Here, we do not want to repeat our criticism of this obtuse, groveling flip-flop before European social democracy and, by extension, EU imperialism. Instead, we refer readers to our publications on this issue. (7)
Here, we only wish to emphasize the thoroughly consistent culmination of the L5I's right-wing shift in the latest statement of their British supporters. After it already proclaimed last year that the EU represents "bourgeois democratic progress," Red Flag, in its current statement, calls not only to fight against Brexit but also explicitly supports the imperialist single market of the EU! Thus, the L5I supporters literally call for the Labour Party to "commit to membership of the single market" and, elsewhere, to "defend the single market"! One can hardly demonstrate more concisely the social-imperialist flip-flop of the ex-Trotskyist L5I!
The "defense of the single market" – this is the goal of avowed liberals and social democrats. While this slogan is admittedly consistent with the L5I's internal logic, the very fact that such so-called "Trotskyists" can take up this cause, only further reflects the group’s complete ideological disorientation; the loss of their revolutionary compass!
The fact that neither the Swedish nor the British statement has been publicly repudiated by the international organization shows how small and irrelevant (if existent at all) is the number of authentic Marxists still inside the L5I. Clearly, the L5I has degenerated into ordinary Market Marxists!
(1) The L5I's most internationally renowned section is its British group, formerly known as Workers Power, which dissolved into the Labour Party two years ago and publishes a magazine entitled Red Flag.
(2) L5I Sweden: Condemn the terror attacks in Stockholm: fight terrorism and imperialism, 2017-04-08, https://www.arbetarmakt.com/2017/04/stockholm-terror/; Britain: Labour must turn Left to spike May’s plans, 19/04/2017, http://www.fifthinternational.org/content/britain-labour-must-turn-left-spike-may%E2%80%99s-plans
(3) See e.g., RCIT: Terror in Paris is the Result of Imperialist Terror in the Middle East! 14.11.2015, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/terror-in-paris/
(4) Michael Pröbsting and Simon Hardy: Theses on Islamism, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/theses-on-islamism/
(5) See e.g., Yossi Schwartz: The Marxist View of Religion in General and Islam in Particular, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/marxism-and-islam/; ISL: Islam, Islamism and the Struggle for Revolution, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/islam-and-revolution/; RCIT: The Revolutionary Struggle against Daesh and the Imperialist Aggression in the Middle East, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/resolution-daesh/; RCIT: France after the Attacks in Paris: Defend the Muslim People against Imperialist Wars, Chauvinist Hatemongering, and State Repression! 9.1.2015, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/statement-paris-attacks/
(6) The RCIT has dealt with the centrist degeneration of the L5I in various documents. See e.g., Michael Pröbsting: Marxism, the European Union and Brexit. The L5I and the European Union: A Right Turn away from Marxism. The recent change in the L5I’s position towards the support for EU membership represents a shift away from its own tradition, of the Marxist method, and of the facts; August 2016, in: Revolutionary Communist No. 55, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/eu-and-brexit/; Michael Pröbsting: Does the EU Represent "Bourgeois Democratic Progress"? Once again, on the EU and the Tactics of the Working Class – An Addendum to our Criticism of the L5I’s Turn to the Right and Its Support for EU Membership, 16.09.2016, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/eu-brexit-article/ ; Manfred Meier: Nachbeben des Brexit - Zur Rechtswende von GAM/L5I: das „JA“ zum Verbleib in der EU, August 2016, http://www.thecommunists.net/home/deutsch/gam-brexit/; Michael Pröbsting: The British Left and the EU-Referendum: The Many Faces of pro-UK or pro-EU Social-Imperialism. An analysis of the left’s failure to fight for an independent, internationalist and socialist stance both against British as well as European imperialism (chapter III.3.), August 2015, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/british-left-and-eu-referendum/; RCIT: Where is the LFI drifting? A Letter from the RCIT to the LFI comrades, 11.5.2012, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/centrist-degeneration-of-lfi/; On the history of the RCIT and the L5I see our book by Michael Pröbsting: Revolutionärer Parteiaufbau in Theorie und Praxis. Rück- und Ausblick nach 25 Jahren organisierten Kampfes für den Bolschewismus, Dezember 2014, http://www.thecommunists.net/home/deutsch/rcit-revolutionare-partei/
(7) See the previous footnote for the three documents by the RCIT in which we deal critically with this change of position.