Chapter III. 25 Years of Building of Our International Tendency

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After outlining the Bolshevik-Communists conception of the revolutionary party we shall now present an overview of the history of our movement and its practical efforts to build such an organization. Let us start by summarizing the challenges which our movement faced at the beginning.

We started with the recognition that Marxism was thrown into a deep crisis when the Fourth International degenerated in the late 1940s and early 1950s. We recognized that all fragments of the Fourth International had in one way or another succumbed to the anti-working class pressures of Stalinism, social democracy, and/or petty-bourgeois nationalism. All the fragments of the Fourth International betrayed the method of the Transitional Program of Leon Trotsky by their capitulation to anti-proletarian class forces. Concretely, the leadership of the Fourth International and all its leaders of the future splits – Pablo, Mandel, Cannon, Lambert, Healy, Moreno, etc. – capitulated either to Stalinism (in particular Titoism and Maoism), Social Democracy (e.g., the Labour Party in Britain), or bourgeois nationalism (e.g., MNR in Bolivia 1952, Peron in Argentina, or the SLFP in Sri Lanka).

As we have analyzed in other documents, the leadership of the Fourth International was, by then, disoriented by new and unexpected political developments – in particular the counter-revolutionary defeats which ended the revolutionary phase of 1943-47, the strengthening and expansion of Stalinism, the consolidation of capitalism, and the failure of the Fourth International to overcome its isolation from the masses (with a few exceptions like in Bolivia, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam). They were faced with a new situation and failed to apply the method of Trotsky’s Transitional Program to the new phenomena and to adapt their perspectives to the changed circumstances. As a result, they distorted the revolutionary program in order to adapt to non-revolutionary forces – Stalinism, social democracy, and petty-bourgeois and bourgeois nationalism – which were stronger than the Fourth International. [1]

As we wrote in an essay: “We are fully aware that the possibilities for revolutionary work were very difficult for the Trotskyists under such circumstances. But their centrist failure was not that they remained numerically weak. Neither was their centrist failure that they made mistakes. Only those who don’t do anything make no mistakes. Their centrist failure was that they became uncritical or even hailed Stalinist, left social democratic, and petty-bourgeois and bourgeois nationalist forces. Their centrist failure was that they spread illusions among vanguard workers (and their own members) in the revolutionary potential of Tito, Mao-Tsetung, Aneurin Bevan, Messali Hadj, General Peron, etc., instead of warning of their inevitable betrayal of the workers. Their centrist failure was that they failed to understand and to teach the workers’ vanguard that only a revolutionary party fighting under the Trotskyist banner can lead the proletariat to victory. Their centrist failure was that, instead, they mis-educated the workers vanguard that an objective revolutionary process would push the Titos, the Maos, the Bevans, and the Perons to provide the workers and oppressed authentic leadership towards the revolutionary toppling of the capitalist system. No Stalinist agent forced them into these centrist failures! These failures were their own volition and responsibility! And it is these failures which marked the centrist degeneration of the Fourth International and all of its leaders in the years 1948-52. [2]

As a result, the revolutionary continuity which started with Marx and Engels struggle for communism since the 1840s and embraced the four revolutionary Internationals until the early 1950s had unraveled. Hence, Marxism – or let us more accurately call it the official mis-interpretation of Marxism – became dominated by Stalinism, social-democratism, or Trotskyite centrism. This went hand in hand with the increasing corruption of the workers’ movement by the labor bureaucracy and aristocracy. For this reasons the RCIT concluded in its program:

In this deep crisis of leadership - combined with the possibilities of the imperialist bourgeoisie for the systematic bribery of the labour bureaucracy and aristocracy - the ultimate cause can be found in the extraordinary bourgeoisification of the labour movement and the De-revolutionisation of Marxism, as is has been distorted by left reformism, centrism and the left-wing academics in recent decades.[3]

Hence, it is an indispensable and urgent task of the Bolshevik-Communists to reconstitute Marxism as an orthodox, undistorted, militant, and revolutionary tradition, mode of thought, and fighting force.

 

i) Workers Power (Britain) and the MRCI in 1976–1989: The Beginning of the Reconstruction of Revolutionary Marxism

 

When Workers Power (Britain) and the Irish Workers’ Group came into existence in 1975 after their split with the Cliffite Socialist Workers Party (SWP), they understood that the Fourth International had both programmatically as well as organizationally collapsed and, hence, the revolutionary heritage was broken. The chief task was to re-elaborate orthodox Marxism, to apply and extend it, given the new developments of capitalism and class struggle in the past decades and to build a cadre organization on the basis of such a program.

Later these two groups would join forces with Gruppe Arbeitermacht (Germany) and Pouvoir Ouvrier (France) and, in April 1984, they would found an international tendency – the Movement for a Revolutionary Communist International (MRCI).

These groups agreed on the need to re-elaborate a new program based on the transitional method of Trotsky’s program of 1938. They also shared the view that they must build an international tendency based on the principles of democratic centralism. Such, the MRCI’s Declaration of Fraternal Relations stated:

The building of a revolutionary international cannot be put off until national parties have been built. The international must be built by revolutionaries simultaneously with the building of national parties. It must be founded on the basis of an international programme guiding and informing the work of the national sections. On this basis it can and must be organised as a democratic centralist international.[4]

Workers Power and the MRCI energetically set about to meet these tasks. They studied the degeneration of the Russian Revolution and the development of Stalinism and corrected their analysis. Coming from the IS/SWP tradition, they initially held to Cliff’s view that the USSR, China, and the other Stalinist states were state-capitalist societies. However, eventually the comrades reached the conclusion that these countries were degenerated workers states in which Stalinist bureaucracies oppressed the working class, and the strategic task was to organize a political revolution. The results of this work were published in the book The Degenerated Revolution. [5] However, as we shall show below, this book contained a theoretical error on the issue of smashing the Stalinist state apparatus which we later corrected.

Another important theoretical achievement – as summarized above – was a Marxist assessment of the history and degeneration of the Fourth International and those who split with it, which was documented in the book The Death Agony of the Fourth International.

Another important contribution was Workers Power’s restatement of the Leninist understanding of reformism – social democracy and Stalinism – as bourgeois workers parties. By this we understand that these parties are dominated by a bureaucratic caste with the labor aristocracy as its core constituent layer. This bureaucracy is integrated into the capitalist system and cannot be reformed or made into a tool of the working class struggle. At the same time, we recognized that these parties were still based – in terms of membership and electoral support – on the working class and that it was important for revolutionaries to apply the united front tactic. [6]

Another key theoretical advance of the MRCI was the discussion and adoption of its Thesis on the Anti-Imperialist United Front. In this document the comrades went back to the original anti-imperialist position of the Communist International at the time of Lenin and Trotsky, which was later upheld by the Fourth International. Such an understanding included the consistent support for the military struggle of nations oppressed and attacked by imperialism. At the same time, communists must not give any political support to petty-bourgeois or bourgeois leaderships of these anti-imperialist struggles. [7]

Another important theoretical advance was the elaboration of the Thesis on Women’s Oppression. In this document we elaborated a materialist analysis of the historic roots of women’s oppression as well as an assessment of the heritage of the proletarian women’s movement in the times of Clara Zetkin, Alexandra Kollontai, and Inessa Armand. The thesis also elaborated a Marxist critique of the feminist movement which it considered as petty-bourgeois. Finally, it outlined a communist program and strategy for a women liberation struggle. [8]

While re-elaborating the fundaments of the Marxist theory was certainly the most important achievements of Workers Power and the MRCI during this period, they did not limit their activities to the field of theory. For example, Workers Power was the only left-wing organization which took an anti-imperialist position during the Malvinas war in 1982 and stood for the defense of Argentina and the defeat of British imperialism. Similarly, the comrades supported the Irish national liberation struggle against the British occupation without giving political support to Sinn Fein’s petty-bourgeois nationalism.

During the historic British miner’s strike in 1984/85, the comrades intervened and applied revolutionary tactics in one of the most important strikes in Western Europe since 1968. They called for a general strike and warned against the reformist strategy of the Scargill leadership in NUM and the betrayal of the TUC bureaucracy. They participated in efforts to build a rank and file movement of the miners. However, they did not succeed in recruiting miners for the organization. [9]

Finally the MRCI succeeded in recruiting a Trotskyist group in Austria. It also won José Villa, a student cadre from the Bolivian POR led by Guillermo Lora, and small group of comrades around him in Bolivia and Peru.

Readers will find a more extensive coverage of the MRCI’s history in a longer article by Richard Brenner which we published in 1999. [10]

 

ii) The LRCI in the Period 1989-2001: The Collapse of Stalinism and National Liberation Struggles

 

The year 1989 was important both for our movement as well as for world politics. As mentioned above, the MRCI had set itself the task of re-elaborating a new program based on the transitional method as well as the foundation of an international tendency based on the principles of democratic centralism. In the summer of 1989, delegates from groups in Britain, Ireland, Austria, France, Germany, and Peru discussed and adopted the new program called The Trotskyist Manifesto. They also agreed to transform the MRCI into an international tendency based on democratic centralism and elected an international leadership. The new organization was called League for a Revolutionary Communist International (LRCI). [11]

Despite its small size, the founding of this new organization marked an important step forward. Bolshevik-Communists had re-elaborated a program more than six decades after Trotsky wrote the Transitional Program. They also had finally succeeded in overcoming national limitations and founded a militant Marxist international tendency.

 

1989-1991: Political Revolution and Social Counterrevolution in the Stalinist States

 

Our international tendency immediately faced an acid test. In the years 1989-91 the Stalinist regimes in the USSR and Eastern Europe went through their terminal crisis. In addition, the Chinese regime was confronted with an uprising of students and workers, which it managed to crush on 4 June 1989. These years constituted a world revolutionary phase.

The LRCI followed these historic events closely in words and deeds. We elaborated a program for the political revolution in these states. We understood that the working class and the popular masses were rebelling against the bureaucratic caste, primarily due to democratic issues (the right of national self-determination, democratic rights like the right to assemble or to strike, etc.) This was hardly surprising given that the workers had been suppressed by Stalinist dictatorships for many decades. This was the beginning of a political revolution. The LRCI supported these struggles for democratic rights and argued for a revolutionary program. We argued that the masses have to prepare for a possible Stalinist backlash (as in fact happened in China) and that they should advance the struggle towards a political revolution to overthrow the bureaucracy. We warned against any illusions either in the soft-Stalinist Gorbachev-wing or in the restorationist wing around Yeltsin, or respectively in their Eastern European counterparts. We called for the formation of strike committees and action councils of the working class and workers’ militias in order to advance the insurrection for a political revolution. Most importantly, we stressed the need to build revolutionary workers’ parties instead of leaving the lead either to reform-Stalinist or bourgeois-democratic forces.

The culmination of this process was the failed Yanayev coup in August 1991. Between the 19th and 21st of August, the so-called Emergency Committee around Yanayev launched an attempted coup. Their plan was to impose a Stalinist-restorationist dictatorship like their Chinese caste-brothers and sisters did in 1989-92. They would have immediately crushed the gains which the workers and oppressed in the USSR had achieved in the years before. These gains included some minimal democratic rights like the right to demonstrate, to go on strike, etc. While sectarians sneer at such very simple gains, we – and all those who have experience of living under a dictatorship – consider them as important gains. While they are, of course, not sufficient, they are rather beneficial when organizing the class struggle.

Hence, during the three days from the 19th to 21st of August, we called for the defense of these gains against the threat of a Stalinist-restorationist dictatorship along the lines of that in China. We gave critical support to those forces who mobilized resistance against the coup – like the pro-Yeltsin forces who organized demonstrations, miners’ strikes, and military resistance. At the same time we warned against any support for capitalist restoration. From the moment the coup was defeated and Yeltsin tried to utilize the new situation for advancing the capitalist counter-revolution, we warned that this was the new main enemy.

In the statement we issued on the day after the coup was defeated, 22 August 1991, we wrote:

Our task is to get the working class to defend their post-capitalist property relations in the context of defending their democratic gains. The destruction of the democratic gains [by Pugo/Yanaev, Ed.] would have made it impossible to raise the consciousness of the masses to a level adequate to this task" (…) "The greatest danger to the working class now that the coup has collapsed is Yeltsin (...) Yeltsin is no friend of the working class. He represents all the elements in the former bureaucratic caste who have abandoned the prospect of bureaucratic parasitism on proletarian property relations in favour of becoming the new ruling class of a restored capitalist Russia. (…) His pro-capitalist policies spell mass unemployment and the destruction of social welfare for millions of workers; he wants to open up the 120 million Soviet workers to unbridled imperialist exploitation the events of the past week, whilst they have blocked the road to a Stalinist bureaucratic counterrevolution, have acted as a catalyst to speed up the social counterrevolution; the cause of the democratic restorationists has been immeasurably advanced. The tempo of the demise of the nomenklatura has likewise been accelerated.

We went on to call for “workers’ councils elected in every workplace and region of the USSR” and“proletarian political revolution to smash the dictatorship of the Stalinists and prevent the restoration of Stalinism." [12]

In the end, the process which started as a political revolution of the working class ended in a social counter-revolution. This constituted a historic defeat because it meant the destruction of the degenerated workers states’ and their social gains through capitalist restoration. The reason for this is that decades of Stalinist dictatorship had destroyed any independent working class organizations and politically atomized the proletariat. As a result, there was no revolutionary party and it was not possible to build one during the few years of the political-revolutionary crisis in 1989-91. Only the existence of such a party could have secured a victorious outcome of the political revolution.

All this demonstrates, once again, the counter-revolutionary nature of Stalinism whose rule had devastating effects on working class consciousness and organizations. This was already emphasized by Trotsky in a study he wrote in 1939 after the start of WWII:

The primary political criterion for us is not the transformation of property relations in this or another area, however important these may be in themselves, but rather the change in the consciousness and organization of the world proletariat, the raising of their capacity for defending former conquests and accomplishing new ones. From this one, and the only decisive standpoint, the politics of Moscow, taken as a whole, wholly retain their reactionary character and remain the chief obstacle on the road to the world revolution.[13]

In contrast to various centrists like the Mandelite Fourth International, the LRCI did not support either the Gorbachev- or Yeltsin-wing. While Mandel excluded the possibility of a capitalist restoration, we warned against this danger. In contrast to the Morenoites, we did not believe in a long “epoch of February” where a seemingly automatic process would lead towards a political revolution. And in contrast to the Cliffites – who believed that the Stalinist countries had always been capitalist anyway – we understood that the destruction of the planned post-capitalist property relations represented a historic defeat.

Neither did we share the idiocies of various sectarians who saw the politicization and mobilization of millions of workers against the Stalinist bureaucracy as a “counter-revolution.” When they speak about the “defense of the degenerated workers state,” they mean in fact the bureaucratic regimes which they wanted to save with the help of Stalinist tanks. These sectarians avoided asking themselves why nowhere did the workers pour into the streets to defend the Stalinists?! Why did these regimes collapse without any support from sectors of the working class?! In contrast to them, Marxists orientate themselves towards the working class and its struggles for their rights, and try to help them overcome their illusions from within their mass movement instead of supporting the totalitarian state apparatus which suppressed these workers for decades.

Not only did we argue for such a program of political revolution in 1989-91, we also sent several comrades – including the author of this booklet – to Eastern Germany, the USSR, Yugoslavia, Poland, Hungary, and Romania. We gained important experience in these mass movements and made a number of contacts with progressive activists.

Our most important and sustained intervention was in Eastern Germany which already began in November 1989 when we had to cross the Stalinist checkpoint with our propaganda hidden. Here we succeeded in recruiting a number of young Eastern German workers which constituted a new section of the LRCI and ultimately fused with the Western German section.

Finally, our experience in the political revolutionary crisis as well as the capitalist counter-revolution in the USSR and Eastern Europe helped us to correct an earlier theoretical mistake. As mentioned above, our book The Degenerated Revolution published in 1982 contained an error as it claimed that the task of the proletarian revolution – smashing the state apparatus – had already been accomplished by the Stalinist takeovers of 1948-50. Consequently, we erroneously thought, this was no longer a strategic task of the political revolution. This incorrect position was already rejected by a minority in Workers Power in the 1980s and, after the experience of 1989-91, gained more supporters. We correctly argued that the “bourgeois-bureaucratic” state machine (i.e., police, standing army, bureaucracy) in the Stalinist countries is not a proletarian instrument, but one of the petty-bourgeois bureaucracy which is much closer to the bourgeoisie than the working class. Therefore, the political revolution required not the reform of but rather the smashing of the Stalinist-Bonapartist state apparatus. This position finally got a majority at our fourth congress in 1997. [14]

Another theoretical mistake we made in the early 1990s was our concept of the “moribund workers’ states.” While we immediately recognized the reactionary nature of the events when openly bourgeois-restorationist forces came to power in the USSR and Eastern Europe, we thought that since the capitalist property relations had (and could) not have been immediately implemented, it would be inaccurate to already speak about capitalist states. Instead we characterized these countries as “moribund worker’s states.” In fact, we had misunderstood Trotsky who explained that the class character of a state is determined by the class forces which control the state. After an internal debate we corrected this error at our fifth congress in 2000. [15]

Another longer-term achievement of our closer analysis of the collapse of Stalinism was our study of the Marxist discussion about the relationship between the plan and market during the dictatorship of the proletariat. This led to our seriously elaborating how a workers’ state will plan its economy and resulted in a number of longer articles as well as a pamphlet called Plan versus Market. [16]

 

1991: The Imperialist Attack against Iraq

 

Another key event in the early 1990s was the imperialist attack on Iraq in January 1991. The bourgeois dictatorship of Saddam Hussein had conquered Kuwait in August 1990 and the Western imperialist powers – with the support of the Soviet regime of Gorbachev as well as the Syrian Assad regime – used this as a pretext for a massive military buildup in the Middle East.

The imperialists attacked and smashed the Iraqi army in a few weeks time. This provoked a popular uprising of the Shiite and Kurdish workers and peasants in early March. The imperialists preferred a weak dictatorship under Saddam over a victorious uprising and, therefore, halted their troops while the Baathist army crushed the insurrection.

Our organization took a clear anti-imperialist position in this war. We called for the defeat of the imperialist onslaught and for the military victory of the Iraqi forces. At the same time we refused to give any political support to the Baathist regime. We supported the Shiite and Kurdish uprising and called for a workers’ and peasant government.

Our clear anti-imperialist stand brought us in sharp conflict with the reformists and centrists. Following the leadership of the Stalinist states, most “Communist” Parties supported the UN embargo against Iraq imposed in the autumn of 1990 in preparation for the imperialist onslaught. The CWI – as well as many other centrists – refused to defend Iraq and took a neutral position. Some sectarians confused the necessary defense of Iraq with political support for the Baathists and even supported the latter’s maneuvers to retain or extend their power (like the invasion of Kuwait or the brutal repression of the popular uprising in March).

 

1992-1995: Balkan Wars

 

In Yugoslavia – a multi-national country – the collapse of Stalinism also led to an implosion of the federal state. The national sections of the bureaucratic caste split and decided to restore capitalist property relations. In such a dramatic transformation, they could only hope to keep power if they stirred up nationalist hatred in order to rally their people behind them.

The Serbian bureaucracy under Milosevic started this process in 1987 by escalating the oppression of the Kosova people and by systematically subordinating other provinces (Montenegro, Kosova and Vojvodina). As a result, Belgrade was able to control half of the eight votes in the federal leadership and thus threatened to oppress the other republics. The Slovenian as well as the Croatian bureaucracy under Tudjman headed for separate states. The latter combined this with chauvinist oppression of the Serbian minorities in Eastern Croatia as well as in the Knin region. Naturally the Western imperialist powers tried to intervene, but initially there were different strategies how this could be best done: from early on German and Austrian imperialism supported separatism in contrast to the UK and US.

The LRCI defended the national right of self-determination and hence defended Slovenia against the Yugoslavian army’s attack in June 1991. We took a defeatist position in the war between Serbia and Croatia since both sides waged war in order to oppress each other. At the same we defended the right of self-determination for national minorities (like the Serbs in Croatia). We warned that the nationalism instigated by the ruling regimes served as a distraction from the capitalist restoration. We called for the overthrow of the restorationist regimes and the creation of workers’ republics and a socialist Balkan federation.

In the early 1990s, the author of these lines traveled repeatedly on behalf of the LRCI to Serbia and built links with progressive anti-war activists. We translated a number of documents into Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian language and distributed them in the Balkans as well as among migrants in Austria. In addition, in 1992 we co-organized a demonstration of 1,500 mostly Serbian migrant workers against the chauvinist anti-Serbian wave which so strongly dominated imperialist and petty-bourgeois “public opinion.” There were two speakers at this demonstration – Pröbsting and a Serbian migrant comrade – and we called for opposition to both the imperialist campaign and Serbian nationalism. [17]

In April 1992 the chauvinist forces – in particular those around the Serbian nationalist Karadžić – provoked the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This brought unspeakable suffering to the Bosnian Muslims and those Serbs and Croats who resisted the nationalist partition of Bosnia by the Serbian and Croatian chauvinists. According to a report about the 1992-95 war written by the head of the Bosnian Delegation to the United Nations in 2008, 200,000 people were killed, 12,000 of them children, up to 50,000 women were raped, and 2.2 million were forced to flee their homes (in a country of about 4 million people).

We denounced the reactionary Bosnian government of Alija Izetbegović which – like the bureaucracies of the other republics – was striving to restore capitalism and which failed to defend the Bosnian people against the chauvinist aggressors. We called for international support for the liberation war of the Bosnian people and combined this with the perspective of a multi-national workers’ republic in Bosnia as part of a socialist Balkan federation. We denounced the US and EU imperialists who strangled the Bosnian resistance with an arms embargo and whose UN troops collaborated with the Serbian chauvinists when the butcher General Mladić organized the mass murder of 8,000 Muslim men in Srebrenica in July 1995.

The LRCI was part of the “International Workers’ Aid” campaign delivering medicine, clothes, etc. for the workers in Tuzla and other places and the author of these lines acted as the Austrian coordinator of this campaign. We called for arms and international volunteer brigades for the Bosnian resistance and denounced the NATO bombing campaign in the summer of 1995 which stopped the Bosnian liberation forces just when they were starting to advance and take back the areas they had lost in the first years of the war.

While many centrists either took a neutral position in this war and some even supported Serbian chauvinism, the RCIT stood for the victory of the Bosnian people and the defeat of reactionary Serbian chauvinists and combined this with the perspective of a socialist Balkan federation.

In this context, we should also note that, at the time, we initially made an error. Only belatedly, after some months, did we recognize that the Bosnian war was a genocidal war from the start. We had held a defeatist position in the first few months after April 1992, and only defended the Bosnian side from the autumn of 1992 onwards. Again, this was an error and we should have had defended the Bosnian side against the Serbian (and Croatian) chauvinists from the very beginning. Within the LRCI’s international leadership, the author of these lines argued, together with other comrades, for a correction of the LRCI’s line. At an international leadership meeting in July 1995, Pröbsting proposed the following statement:

The main weakness of our position during that period was that the terrible genocide was not initiated after the autumn, but most major conquests of Muslim territory by the Bosnian Serbs happened during this period. Therefore, we only started to defend the Muslims when they had already suffered their most serious defeats. When we changed our tactics in November 1992, we mentioned two decisive facts: i) the breakup of the Muslim-Croat alliance and ii) the decision of imperialism not to make a full-scale military intervention. Both reasons were not sufficient to create a qualitatively new situation. The breakup of the alliance with the Croats, important as it was, should not have been decisive for our defensist position because this alliance in itself did not (in this first period) and does not (since its renewal in March 1994) change the situation of the genocide committed against the Muslims. Despite the existence of this alliance, the Muslims (and also the Croats) were wiped out of many parts of the country between April and November 1992. This alliance was not strong enough to counter the offensive by the Karadziz-chauvinists. The abandoning of a full-scale imperialist military intervention should also not have been decisive for our tactics. We know that the main reasons for the war were in the internal Yugoslavian and Bosnian relation of forces. While we should have changed our tactics immediately in the case of an imperialist intervention, it was not correct to argue that the possibility of such an intervention was sufficient enough not to defend the Muslims and the multi-ethnic Bosnians.”

However, this position only received the support of a significant minority and was thus defeated.

More importantly, in 1995 the LRCI faced a split by a small opposition among our ranks which supported pro-Stalinist and pro-Serbian chauvinist positions. This split included the small Bolivian and Peruvian groups led by José Villa, as well as part of the New Zealand section. Leaving aside the fact that Villa, coming from a wealthy background, had for years proved himself to be a mini-caudillio and unprincipled intriguer incapable of collective discipline, these comrades proved unable to understand the importance of the democratic question, particularly in periods of sharp class antagonism and the lack of a socialist leadership. [18]

 

1997-1999: The National Liberation Struggle in Kosova and NATO’s War against Serbia

 

The Milosevic regime tried to make up for its losses by intensifying the oppression of the Kosova people. In the 1990s, it crushed the heroic miners’ strike in 1989 and tried to smash the boycott campaign against public institutions. [19] Finally, an armed uprising started in 1997 led by the petty-bourgeois-nationalist UÇK which originated from the Hoxahist LPK. It resulted in a civil war. The imperialists tried to contain the uprising by the so-called Rambouillet Agreement. However the uprising continued. Meanwhile NATO used the civil war as a pretext to build up its military presence in the Balkans and started an aerial war against Serbia. This ended with the cessation of the Serbian occupation but at the same time Kosova became a territory occupied by NATO and EU. This was helped by the betrayal of the UÇK leadership which served as an instrument in post-war Kosova.

The LRCI supported the national liberation struggle of the Kosova-Albanians from the beginning. The Kosova-Albanians had been nationally oppressed by Serbia since 1913 and had always desired independence from Belgrade. We stood for the victory of the uprising and called for a Kosova workers republic. We gave no political support to the petty-bourgeois UÇK leadership and defended Serbia against the NATO bombardment.

We also started to collaborate with Kosova-Albanian migrants in Austria and organized solidarity work. When the armed uprising spread after the massacre of Dreniza on 6 March 1998, the community organized a mass rally of 3,000 Albanian migrant workers and youth in Vienna. The Austrian section was invited to speak from the platform. I spoke as our representative and expressed our solidarity with the national liberation struggle for an independent Kosova of workers and peasants and warned against any interference from NATO imperialism.

Again – in contrast to centrists who failed to support the Kosova-Albanians – we can proudly record that we took a principled position both in propaganda as well as practice by supporting the Kosovar uprising, combining it with a socialist perspective while calling for the defeat of NATO’s war against Serbia.

 

1994 until Today: The Uprising of the Chechen People against the Russian Occupation

 

Russia’s two wars of occupation against the Chechen people – the first in the years 1994-96 and the second since late 1999 – were of equal importance during this decade. Against the desire of the Chechen people for independence, Moscow waged an incredibly brutal war. During the first war it massacred about 100,000 Chechens and during the second again up to 50,000 (in a country with a population of only one million!). The victory of the Chechen guerilla war in 1996 was an impressive event – compare the small Chechen people with Russia’s 143 millions! – demonstrating once again how much a liberation war supported by the whole population can achieve against a demoralized great power. While the Putin regime has succeeded in occupying the country until now, the resistance continues at a low level. This resistance has become dominated mostly by petty-bourgeois Islamist forces.

We supported the Chechen liberation struggle from the beginning and called for the defeat of the Russian occupation forces. We gave no political support to the petty-bourgeois and Islamist leaderships and called for an independent workers’ and peasant republic of Chechnya.

The Chechen war also provided the backdrop for a deeper analysis of Russian capitalism. In March 2001 Pröbsting drafted a document in which he analyzed the development of capitalist restoration in Russia in the 1990s and explained how the country has been transformed into an imperialist power. He put forward a resolution to that effect to a LRCI leadership meeting. However his resolution was defeated as the majority erroneously believed that Russia had become a semi-colonial country.

This reflected that, as early as the 1990s, when the LRCI was still a revolutionary tendency, the majority of its members faced enormous difficulties in applying Lenin's theory of imperialism when faced with new developments. A longer, internal, and controversy-laden process of discussions was necessary to correct this incorrect assessment of Russian imperialism.

At the next congress of the LRCI in April 2003, he again put forward a resolution on Russian imperialism, and this time our position received a narrow majority of the delegates’ votes.

 

The Difficulties in Party Building in the 1990s and the Struggle against Passive Propagandism

 

The 1990s were a difficult period for party building. Paraphrasing James P. Cannon’s formulation, we could speak about our “Dog Days.” After the destruction of the degenerated workers states and the victory of imperialism in Eastern Europe as well as in the Gulf war, a democratic-reactionary phase had commenced. It led to the crisis and demoralization of huge sectors of the workers’ movements. The Stalinist world-movement collapsed, the social democratic left became even less left, and many centrists despaired. They talked about the “midnight of the century” and “the end of the epoch of October.

We didn’t despair because we were aware that the removal of Stalinism would have positive consequences in the long run and that the defeats in Eastern Europe couldn’t remove the structural contradictions of world capitalism and, hence, would sooner or later lead to new periods of capitalist crisis and class struggle.

First and foremost, these historic upheavals demanded that revolutionaries elaborate a correct theoretical understanding and programmatic orientation. Our organization passed this test very well. We proved ourselves capable of applying a program of political revolution against the Stalinist regimes under concrete conditions and succeeded in developing it further. The few theoretical mistakes we made were later corrected. So the main task in this period was defending the revolutionary program in order to consolidate and educate the cadre for the future struggles; we stood the test.

However the defeats of the 1990s and our focus on programmatic and theoretical debates had also important negative consequences for our development. It helped to develop or strengthen a conservative, inward looking mentality among substantial sectors of our members who had an appetite for internal discussions and maybe selling the paper at a demonstration (and in some cases even doing some routine trade union work). But many members were inexperienced in or even hostile to activism and openly communist participation in mass movements and struggles, in agitation directed to people without Marxist education, and in recruiting new activists from outside the milieu of the old left. This was a crucial issue, since we understood that we had to turn to the youth who were much less affected by the demoralizing ramifications of Stalinism and its collapse than older workers.

In the end, this was not so surprising. Revolutionaries are, like all human beings, influenced by the times they are living in and by the dominating “Zeitgeist”. Changes of the world situation or of the class struggle may often lead to the loss of many comrade-in-arms who are overwhelmed by the new historical necessities demanded by the changed conditions of class struggle. This might shock the one or other communist at the very beginning but it should never become an obstacle in taking the necessary steps. As Lenin said:

Communists who have no illusions, who do not give way to despondency, and who preserve their strength and flexibility “to begin from the beginning” over and over again in approaching an extremely difficult task, are not doomed (and in all probability will not perish).“ [20]

Together with other leading cadres, Pröbsting pushed for a re-orientation of the LRCI towards the resurging class struggle in the second half of the 1990s. We were aware that, if we do not reach out to new layers of activists, our membership will decline and become increasingly conservative in its outlook. However our efforts were met with open hostility from some and passive resistance from many more comrades. As a result we lost a number of them during the 1990s. The British section had less than half as many members as in 1990. In the year 2000, the Austrian section also lost more than half of its comrades who were not prepared to re-orient themselves in words and deeds, something which involved taking up exemplary mass work and carrying out recruitment from new layers. Our experience taught us that while it may be possible to pass resolutions about adopting an activist, outward orientation, it can be very difficult to make these comrades change their attitude so than they are capable of implementing such a re-orientation.

This was one of numerous experiences we needed to get on with our progress. Those of us who learned the lessons were not surprised or despondent during subsequent internal fights but, quite the contrary, bore down to face every fight that was necessary to keep the Marxist ranks free from any revisionist deviations.

We also made numerical gains by winning a group in Sweden and later in the Czech Republic. We also built a small group in Australia by transferring cadres from New Zealand. We also supported the German section by transferring several cadres and winning over an ex-Lambertist group of trade unionists.

However, three important weaknesses remained: The remaining majority has not learned the lessons of the past internal struggles in their entirety. We also remained a largely European tendency with hardly any members in the semi-colonial world. In addition, our tendency was largely composed of intellectuals, students, and labor aristocrats. As we will see, these weaknesses would weigh heavily on the LRCI, and constituted a negative heritage.

 

Discussing the Character of the Period

 

An important debate in the LRCI in the 1990s was the discussion on the character of the period. The majority view – adopted at the second congress in 1992 – was that the events in 1989-91 had opened a “democratic-reactionary phase” which however was only the first phase of a “world-historic revolutionary period.” While we agreed with the assessment that the defeats of 1991 had opened a short-term “democratic-reactionary phase,” from the beginning the author of these lines and other comrades opposed the view that we had entered a “revolutionary period.” We argued that the capitalist crisis had not yet been exacerbated to the degree that would result in massive destabilization of world politics and the global economy. We argued that such developments inevitably lay ahead, but that this would only happen at a later period. The character of the period in 1990s, we explained, had rather a “transitional character.

Accordingly, Pröbsting put forward corresponding resolutions to the next LRCI congresses in 1994 and 1997 but lost. Finally he succeeded in gaining a majority at the congress in 2000. Year after year in which no revolutionary events of world-wide significance took place, contrary to their expectations, certainly helped the comrades to come over to our analysis. The following is the key section of the adopted resolution drafted by the author of these lines:

While the LRCI stood the test of the new period in the 1990s in a programmatic sense, it misunderstood the character of the period we are in. We characterised the period overoptimistically as a revolutionary one. We expected the deepening of the contradictions of capitalism, the rivalry between the great powers and as a consequence a massive upswing of class struggles and the emergence of revolutionary situations sooner than has happened. In reality, this process, as outlined above, was slower and more contradictory than we expected. In reality, the elements cited above prevented the period from having a revolutionary character. This does not mean that the LRCI was fundamentally wrong in its assessment of the dynamic of the world wide class equilibrium. We were wrong in assessing the tempo, not the fundamental direction, of the dynamic of the capitalist contradictions. Indeed, the elements of stability of the imperialist world system are decreasing and the elements of instability are increasing, as was apparent by the end of the democratic counter-revolutionary phase in 1997/98. But the period from the beginning of the last decade until now did not have a revolutionary character, marked by sharp contradictions. In the context of “global capitalism,“ and continuing US-hegemony, imperialism was able to achieve a relative, temporary stabilisation, which reminds us – to draw a historic analogy – of 1896-1913 rather than 1914-1948. This period bears a character of one preparing for future world-wide political explosions. One can characterise it as a transitional period or one of Interregnum.[21]

True, the majority of comrades did not arrive at tactical mistakes from their incorrect position on the character of the world period. But their mistake gave unnecessary ammunition to those pessimistic comrades inside and opponents outside of the LRCI who polemicized against us. And, even more importantly, it reflected a theoretical confusion of this majority of comrades and helped create confusion among future members, which would seriously disorientate them when a global revolutionary period eventually opened in 2008/09.

In the final analysis, one has to say that, unfortunately, the majority of the leading comrades failed to understand the method behind the Marxist characterization of historical periods. Every change of the world situation demonstrated how they would stumble around with eyes closed, unable to correctly analyze the nature of the period and to understand its consequences. This inability, together with their unwillingness to at least accept our correct analyses was, in the long run, a crucial factor which ultimately led to the degeneration of the entire organization. We will elaborate on this below.

In these discussions on the character of the period, the author of these lines also provided an outlook of future developments in world politics for which revolutionaries should prepare. Written in the spring of 2000, we think this outlook made a prognosis which was broadly confirmed by the events of the following decade. Here is a key excerpt of a draft document written by Pröbsting:

Towards a new, revolutionary crisis period

In all probability, the imperialist system will experience a sharp crisis and the opening of a new revolutionary period – probably in this decade. The reasons for this are: i) the accumulation of explosive contradictions in the imperialist world economy, ii) continued development of block formations and inner-imperialist rivalry, iii) the lack of important pre-conditions for a new boom period (like e.g., massive destruction of capital, a clear imperialist Hegemon, historic defeat of the working class in the imperialist centers), iv) in many countries the working class is still not decisively beaten and even sees an upswing of class struggles.

This new period will be characterised by a more intense rivalry between the great imperialist powers. Until now these contradiction have been suppressed by the heavy weight of the USA, but they are nevertheless present and express themselves (building of a separate EU army, steps towards the re-armament of Japan, repeated trade conflicts). US imperialism also lacks the resources to integrate Russia and China into a kind of world political alliance. Instead the contradiction between Moscow, Peking and Washington will increase, but Russia and China can challenge the USA not on a global but only regional level (e.g. Caucasus, Central Asia, Taiwan, South Chinese Sea)

This new period will be marked by a tendency of advancing block formation, particularly around USA (NAFTA, Latin America), EU (Eastern Europe, Northern Africa), and Japan (parts of Asia). This also implies increasing attacks against the oppressed people in the semi-colonies and an attempt to subordinate them further under the imperialist command (e.g., “Dollarization,” stationing of imperialist troops up to the formation of protectorates à la Balkans, etc).

The period ahead of us will witness an increase of world political instability. This implies more civil wars and wars between states in the future, first in the weakest chain of the imperialist world system – the semi-colonial states (look to Africa, the Balkans, the Caucasus, etc.)

Against the backdrop of a crisis-ridden capitalist development, capital will be forced to increasingly attack the working class world-wide. In countries where the bourgeoisie has not succeeded until now in turning around the relation of forces qualitatively at the shop floor level – particularly in continental Europe and Japan – we will see more intense attacks. Given the upswing of the class struggle and the revival of the trade unions which suffered heavy defeats in the past (AFL-CIO in the USA) we can expect sharp clashes between the classes. (…)

Against this backdrop of increasing economic and world political contradictions, there will be an increased importance of national and democratic struggles. Precisely because the great imperialist powers are pushing for penetration and subjugation of the semi-colonies (and ex-Stalinist states) but at the same time are not capable of delivering economic and political stabilisation for these regions, there will be an increase of national rebellions against the great powers or their henchmen. For the same reason the bourgeois classes will increasingly be forced to hold onto their power by authoritarian means. Clashes with the working class (and the petty bourgeoisie) will be the result. These struggles can and will, in one form or another, be combined with social protests and insurrections.

These are the elements which will put international conflicts including wars, revolutions and counter-revolutions into the center of world politics. These are the elements which characterise a revolutionary period. These are the elements which make the building of a new revolutionary mass international more important and more realistic than ever. In the fire of many class battles, in defeats and victories revolutions, a new layer of the proletariat and the youth will be politically educated. Against this backdrop the ideas of revolutionary communism will fall on fertile ground. The new revolutionary international will be able to rally the proletarian vanguard.” [22]

 

iii) The LRCI/LFI in the Period from 2001 to 2008: Pre-Revolutionary Period of Imperialist Wars and Resistance

 

The year 2001 saw the beginning of a new period in world politics with the 9/11 attacks and the imperialist war against Afghanistan as well as the rising anti-globalization protests. These events reflected that the imperialist world order had become less stable, imperialist wars in the South would become a regular feature, mass resistance in the semi-colonial world was increasing, and mass movements against the effects of global capitalism were also increasing even in the imperialist countries. They opened up a new political period which was no longer dominated by the collapse of Stalinism but by the offensive of monopolies and great imperialist powers and the mass resistance against them. Thus Pröbsting concluded in autumn 2001 that this new period had a pre-revolutionary character, i.e., a period of increasing contradictions of world capitalism and sharper class struggles which would at some point be transformed into a revolutionary period.

This characterization was supported by the healthier elements inside the leadership, but also met with strong resistance from others. The latter were rather inclined towards a conservative, passive-propagandist outlook which already forewarned of their later degeneration. But gradually we succeeded in overcoming this resistance, at least on the surface, and at the sixth congress in April 2003 our characterization was adopted. However, the sources of disagreement remained subliminally, waiting to manifest themselves much more severely at a later time.

 

2001: The Imperialist War of Aggression against Afghanistan

 

Immediately after the 9/11 events the LRCI warned that the US imperialism and its allies would use this as a pretext to “prepare a sustained war on the peoples of the Third World, especially on those peoples who fight back.” We called for the defeat of the imperialist war drive and concluded our statement: “Defend any state or people targeted for revenge attacks by the USA and NATO[23]

When the war against Afghanistan was approaching, we issued statements and leaflets with the heading “Defend Afghanistan! Defeat Imperialism!” At the same time we condemned the Taliban as a reactionary force. We supported their military resistance but could not give them any political support. When the imperialists succeeded in occupying the country and a guerilla war for national liberation began, we continued to uphold our anti-imperialist stand.

This put us in sharp opposition to most centrists who refused to call for the defense of Afghanistan claiming that one could not support a country led by radical Islamists like the Taliban. The centrist’s pacifism reflected their adaption to the liberal intelligentsia and the labor bureaucracy which again was under the impact of the huge imperialist public relations campaign regarding the need “to fight against terrorism” which “threatens us all.[24] In short, the Afghanistan war and the following occupation drew a sharp class line between consistent Marxists who take an unambiguous anti-imperialist stand and the centrists who cover their adaption to imperialism by social-pacifist phrases.

In the weeks before the beginning of the Afghanistan War there was a certain vacillation among some comrades of the Workers Power leadership who did not take a clear anti-imperialist position, i.e., defend the Taliban against the great imperialist powers. However the LRCI leadership intervened and we corrected this mistake.

Our sections participated in the anti-war mobilizations and in Austria we were able to make first contacts with Muslim migrants communities. These contacts and our experience in collaboration with these brothers and sisters would prove to be invaluable for our future work among the masses.

In this context we shall also point to the Palestine solidarity work which the LRCI started with the beginning of the second Intifada in September 2000. Several comrades went to Palestine as part of the International Solidarity Movement. We combined this practical work with propaganda for our long-standing position of support for the Palestinian liberation struggle with the strategic goal of smashing the Zionist state and replacing it with a multi-national Palestinian workers and fellahin republic from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.

We also participated in the solidarity demonstrations with the Lebanese resistance against the Israeli attack in the summer of 2006.

 

2003-2011: The War in Iraq and the Struggle against Imperialism

 

As we had predicted, the war against Afghanistan was just the beginning of the imperialist offensive to subjugate the Middle East. From the autumn of 2002, the US and Britain were preparing for another war against Iraq. This provoked a mass anti-war movement around the world, including inside the imperialist metropolises. At its high point – the international day of action on 15 February 2003 – between 15-20 million persons demonstrated around the world against the war-mongers Bush and Blair. This movement – definitely the most impressive mass movement in the imperialist countries since 1968 – received additional impetus with the beginning of the US/UK attack on 20 March. While the imperialists succeeded in conquering the country, they were soon faced with an armed mass insurrection. Their occupation became so costly and unpopular even among their own population that finally the US and British governments had to withdraw their forces in 2011.

Based on our anti-imperialist program, the LRCI called for the defense of Iraq and the defeat of the imperialist aggressors. At the same time we rejected any political support for the Baathist or Islamist forces. Inside the anti-war movements we fought against the reformist and pacifist forces who appealed to the UN “to find a solution” and against those who equally condemned both sides, the US/UK and Iraq.

The sections of the LRCI took an active part in the mass demonstrations against the war. The Austrian section was able to develop exemplary mass work the furthest and would play a leading and initiating role in anti-war protests. At the school students’ strike on 20 March 2003, we had a substantial contingent of students. After this we were a central part of an anti-war collation which initiated a number of protest actions. The high point was on 21 June 2006 when US president Bush visited Vienna (Austria’s capital city). On that day alone we initiated a school student strike in the morning in which 5,000 school students participated. At the same time our coalition – together with a reformist-dominated coalition – called for a mass demonstration in the evening in which 25,000 people participated. Just before this, the author of these lines was sentenced by a court for leading a protest action of several dozen activists against a pro-war meeting organized by Zionists.

This exemplary anti-imperialist mass work – together with our campaigns and school strikes against cuts in education – constituted the most important area which allowed the Austrian section to recruit new layers of militants and to build a sizeable youth organization. We combined sharp criticism of the politics of various reformists and centrists with a flexible application of the united front tactic. After the requisite sharp internal debates on issues of strategic re-orientation and methods of party building – and the resulting loss of a number of conservative members – we had prepared and built an organization which was willing and able to implement this line. The result was a rapid growth of both the Austrian section as well as the youth organization. Those members who proved to be unwilling to carry on as dedicated revolutionaries had left our organization and soon gave up organized political activity altogether.

 

Revolutionary Developments in Latin America: Argentina, Venezuela, Bolivia, and the Bolivarian Movement

 

The new period found also expression in the upswing of class struggles in Latin America. In Argentina, the capitalist crisis and the continuous neoliberal attacks finally provoked a spontaneous mass uprising in December 2001 – the so-called Argentinazo – which caused several presidents to resign in a period of a few weeks. During this uprising the piqueteros (unemployed activists) – about a third of the working class had been made unemployed at that time – and the proletarian youth played a major role. A number of enterprises faced with bankruptcy – the most prominent of them were Zanon and Brukman – were taken over by their workers and production was continued under workers’ self-management. At the same time, the majority of trade unions remained under the control of the Peronist and the CTA bureaucracies and did everything to derail this revolutionary situation.

In 2002, the author of these lines was sent twice as the LRCI representative to Argentina and spent nearly half a year there. During that time we collaborated with the PTS, a sizeable Trotskyist organization. Unfortunately, the discussions were concluded without any concrete results because we could not overcome our political differences (e.g., the application of the united front tactic towards reformists and trade unions including the workers’ party tactic). [25] More importantly, however, was the PTS’s rejection in principle of taking steps towards joint international work. Furthermore, the situation was assisted by a conservative tendency among the majority of the LRCI leadership who also opposed our efforts to advance our discussions with the PTS.

In retrospect, this conservatism has to be severely condemned. It expressed the unwillingness to approach activists from semi-colonial countries at times in which it would have resulted in a tremendous improvement of the class composition of the LRCI (i.e., overcoming the limitations inherent to an organization based only in imperialist Europe). Progress in our discussion with the PTS could have led to a fusion which may have eventually been followed by a split. However, at the time, it would have made a vast improvement in the organization’s composition and in the collective experiences of its members, as well as a substantially increasing its size. The author of these lines has to self-critically admit that, at the time, he did not sufficiently fight against the conservatism on this issue among the majority of the LRCI leadership, with the consequences which this would lead to.

In Venezuela, Hugo Chavez came to power in 1998, being carried along by the huge wave of desire of the popular masses to overcome their social misery. He soon faced strong hostility both of the majority of the domestic bourgeoisie as well as US imperialism which resulted in an attempted coup d’état in April 2002. During the 2000s the Chavez government took several state-capitalist measures (like the nationalization of the oil corporation PDVSA) and created social welfare programs for the poor (the so-called misiones). He combined this with strong anti-imperialist and socialist propaganda – including a call for a new Fifth International – and created a continent-wide movement which was often called the Bolivarian movement.

A similar movement coalesced in Bolivia where Evo Morales was elected as president in 2005. He also had the support of most trade unions, peasant federations, and other mass organizations. Like in Venezuela, his program of social reforms and limited state intervention in the economy provoked the resistance of the right wing parties and the Western imperialists. Later on, similar governments came to power in Ecuador and in Peru. They increasingly collaborated with the emerging imperialist powers China and Russia.

Many reformists as well as centrists like the IMT of Alan Woods hailed the Bolivarian regimes as “socialist.” They took Chavez’s promise to “construct 21st century Bolivarian socialism” at face value and supported the Bolivarian movement. In fact the Bolivarian regimes were not “socialist” but rather bourgeois, left-populist regimes. They represent popular front governments which are close allies of Chinese and Russian imperialism.

This, however, must not lead revolutionaries to ignore the fact that the Bolivarian movement has a lot of support among anti-imperialist and socialist-minded workers and peasants. Simply denouncing Bolivarian popular-frontism is not sufficient. This is why our movement – while sharply criticizing the Bolivarian policy – argued for applying the united front tactic. We defend the Bolivarian regimes against the coup plotters as well as imperialist pressure. We call for joint activities with these forces and – would Chavez have founded a “Fifth International” in 2009/10 – we would have attempted to fight as a revolutionary faction inside such an International against the Bolivarian misleaderships. The goal has to be to break up the popular front and constitute the working class as an independent force.

 

The Anti-Globalization Movement

 

The accelerating contradictions of capitalist globalization and the imperialist war offensives provoked a growing mass protest movement. This anti-globalization movement took to the streets for the first time at the WTO negotiations in Seattle (USA) in 1999, but became a mass movement in 2001. The biggest mobilizations took place against the meetings of the great imperialist powers – the G-7 summits. There were also important gatherings of the World Social Forum (WSF) respectively the European Social Forum (ESF).

Of particular relevance were the mobilizations against the G-7 summits in Genoa (Italy) in the summer of 2001 as well as in Heiligendamm (Germany) in 2007. Both saw international mass mobilizations and massive clashes with the repression apparatus. The LRCI mobilized sizeable international contingents to these events. Particularly memorable were the days of street fighting in Genoa when the young militant Carlo Giuliani was murdered by the Carabinieri. The day after the murder, 400,000 people participated in a mass protest. In these mobilizations and battles we proved that we had become an organization not only capable of producing good propaganda but also of undertaking necessary actions. Two of our comrades were arrested in this event – among them the author of these lines.

There were also various ESF conferences which we attended with sizeable delegations. At these conferences we argued for a strategy oriented to the working class and militant mobilizations. We confronted the reformist and petty-bourgeois leaderships which opposed any kind of democratic structures in order to build an organized and democratically controlled movement. In fact, the reformist forces – mainly a coalition of the ex-Stalinist European Left Party with various trade union bureaucrats and petty-bourgeois “civil-society” leaders with the support of centrists like the Cliffite IST – wanted to have their hands free for backstage maneuverings. One of the reformists’ tools was the so-called “consensus principle” which meant that decisions could be made only if everyone in the room agreed to them. This allowed the bureaucrats to prevent any unpleasant decisions.

Inside the LRCI leadership we had a controversial discussion about the character of the anti-globalization movement. Pröbsting argued for support and participation in this movement as a revolutionary opposition while at the same time pointing out the movement’s cross-class character given the strong presence of petty-bourgeois “civil society” forces. Hence, he called it the “anti-globalization movement.” However, the leadership majority downplayed this contradictory class character and called the movement an “anti-capitalist movement.” This incorrectly suggested that this movement was at least subjectively directed against capitalism as such. However, this was most definitely not true because Social Forum declarations and indeed the consciousness of many activists were primarily opposed to neo-liberalism and wars, but not to capitalism per se. These differences led to occasional conflicts inside the LRCI leadership about tactics to be used against the Social Forum leadership. For example, not all of the LRCI leaders were happy when we – and a number of anti-war activists – staged a protest at the ESF conference in London in 2004, as the organizers had invited a leader of the Iraqi Communist Party to speak from the platform. We opposed his presence, since his party was, from the beginning, part of the US occupation administration in Iraq. To the indignation of the SWP leaders, who defended his presence, we thwarted the Iraqi CP’s leader speech.

 

The Crisis of Reformism and the New Workers’ Party Tactic

 

The exacerbation of the class contradictions and the neo-liberal policies of the social democratic parties in Europe created a crisis and the decline of reformism. This led to the formation of new reformist or centrist parties to the left of social democracy. Most notable among these were the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste (NPA) in France, the RESPECT party led by George Galloway in Britain and the Linkspartei in Germany. Later, the ex-StalinistEuropean Left Party (ELP) also saw an upswing in some countries (SYRIZA in Greece, Izquierda Unida, in Spain) while it had discredited itself in Italy where Rifondazione Comunista had supported the neoliberal popular front government of Romano Prodi.

The LRCI responded to the crisis of social democracy by advocating the new workers’ party tactic, i.e., calling unions and progressive activists to break with social democracy and to unite in building new workers’ party. We argued that such a party should have a revolutionary program of action. However, we also made clear that we did not consider the adoption of such a program as a precondition for our participating in its formation. We criticized the reformist or centrist leaderships of the new left of social democracy parties referred to above, which usually had a strategic orientation towards elections rather than building a mass party through participation and mobilizations for mass struggles.

While our British comrades did not participate in the RESPECT party of George Galloway, our German comrades participated for some time in the WASG (which later would fuse with the ex-Stalinist PDS to form the Linkspartei) while comrades in France entered the NPA.

In the summer of 2008, the Austria section co-initiated a left-wing electoral list with several centrist and left-reformist groups (e.g., the CWI, Stalinists, Turkish migrant groups, former social democrats) when the Austrian social democracy was hit by an important internal crisis. While the electoral alliance was a failure, it enabled us to recruit a number of youth and workers and helped to educate our membership and periphery through the political debates which we held inside the electoral alliance. It also helped us to gain some public prominence when our leading candidate, Nina Gunić, called at a press conference for the “expropriation of the super-rich.” This anti-capitalist statement did not only provoke outrage among bourgeois commentators but also among the reformist and centrist forces inside the electoral alliance. [26]

 

Internal Debates and the Split in 2006

 

At the sixth congress in 2003, the LRCI debated the slogan calling for the founding of the Fifth International. We argued that the “Trotskyist” milieu had proven once more that it is completely incapable of meeting the challenges of the class struggle by providing revolutionary answers. We explained that it is necessary to orient to new layers of workers and youth most of whom have no “Trotskyist” education. We understood the slogan of the Fifth International also as the application of the New Workers’ Party tactic on an international scale, i.e., approaching radical, left-moving sectors of the working class and oppressed who are looking to build a political alternative.

However, a significant minority of our tendency opposed this slogan. They did so because they effectively rejected our orientation to the new and radicalized layers of workers and youth and preferred an orientation to the traditional left and old trade unionists. In the end we adopted the slogan of the Fifth International and renamed our organization “League for the Fifth International” (LFI).

In addition, also recognizing the fact that a new period had started, we discussed and adopted a new program. [27]

The acceleration of the class contradictions and struggles opened the opportunity to orient to mass movements and to recruit new layers of young militants. The LRCI did this successfully in some countries (Austria, Germany, and Britain) while in some others the comrades proved incapable of building the group and had stagnated over years (Sweden, Czech Republic, and France).

All in all, this was obviously a positive development. However, given the tensions looming inside our organization between the conservative minority which favored a passive-propagandist orientation, and those who supported orienting ourselves to actual struggles and recruiting new layers of activists, this development rather exacerbated the tensions. Most of the opponents of the Fifth International slogan in the British section would soon start a faction struggle which would dominate the inner-party discussions in 2004-06.

The minority, which would later constitute itself as a tendency and then as a faction, attacked the New Workers’ Party tactic, soon started to challenge our whole assessment of the period. They disputed our characterization of the period as “pre-revolutionary.” Instead, they claimed that in the 1990s capitalism had entered a “long wave of upswing” during which its productive forces would grow. They claimed that this upswing would last until about 2015. They accused us of “catastrophism” because we stated that globalization had accelerated – not alleviated – the contradictions of the capitalist world economy. For us, China’s rise would not propel the world economy to a new upswing but rather escalate the rivalry between the great powers. Pröbsting wrote several longer documents in which he explained that the world view of this minority completely contradicted both empirical facts as well as Lenin’s theory of imperialism. As he wrote, they were “De-Leninizing” Leninism. Their whole outlook was optimistic for capitalism and pessimistic for the class struggle and party building.

Finally, the faction which constituted half of the British section’s membership but had only little support in rest of the LFI, would split in the summer of 2006. Similarly, a handful of members from the Austrian section also created a faction in May 2006 with a similar passive-propagandist outlook. They would already split again within a few weeks. The future of these factions was rather comical. Their world view about the “long up