A Brief Reply to a Lengthy Attack by David North’s WSWS against the RCIT
By Michael Pröbsting, Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 18.4.2016, www.thecommunists.net
The so-called World Socialist Web Site has recently published a lengthy polemic against the RCIT in English and German. (1) The intellectual level of this attack can be assessed from the following quotes from the article:
“The documents written by its international secretary and leading theoretician Michael Pröbsting—notwithstanding references to Marx, Lenin and Trotsky, buttressed by radical-sounding rhetoric—read like strategy papers authored in the foreign and defense ministries and think tanks of the imperialist powers.”
“In Africa and Asia, their supporters cooperate with extreme right-wing nationalist forces.” (Which ones exactly? Naturally, the WSWS doesn’t even bother to mention a single one of our supposed “extreme right-wing nationalist” allies!)
“This right-wing, bourgeois and pro-imperialist orientation has attracted support from other pseudo-left tendencies. Pröbsting is a welcome guest at many pseudo-left discussion events…“
And so on and so forth. Stalin would have been proud of such pupils.
Nevertheless, the WSWS polemic is a valuable document insofar as it provides a case study in the organization’s theoretical ignorance, professional distortions, and hysterical accusations. Furthermore, it lays bare their gross rejection of Lenin’s and Trotsky’s method, as well as their thinly-covered adaption to the interests of Russian and Chinese imperialism.
The WSWS strongly denies the imperialist character of Russia and China, claiming that anyone who arrives at such a conclusion must be in the service of US imperialism. These are particularly bold claims, since the WSWS itself has proven itself completely incapable of producing an analysis of the class character of Russia and China. This anti-RCIT polemic fails to present a single fact or piece of empirical evidence to substantiate the WSWS position. Hardly surprising, the WSWS entirely avoids dealing with the substantive scientific literature which the RCIT has produced to prove its theses on the increasing rivalry between the Great Powers and its characterization of Russia and China as imperialist. (2)
This theoretical superficiality of the WSWS position is not the personal fault of the author of this anti-RCIT polemic. His inability to explain their position only reflects the collective failure of the WSWS to produce any analysis of China and Russia. For numerous years, until now the WSWS has not produced a single theoretical article or study on this question which extends more than one or two paragraphs. In fact, the WSWS hasn’t the slightest idea of how to characterize China and Russia. OK, they claim that these states are not imperialist. Fine, if so, what kind of capitalist countries are they? Are these semi-colonial countries super-exploited by imperialist powers like the US, EU or Japan, as a number of our opponents claim? Or are these “sub-imperialist” powers as others say? No one knows, as the WSWS is entirely silent about these issues which are so central to understanding the dynamics of the present world situation. (3)
To cover up for their blatant ignorance, the WSWS can only smear the RCIT and the author of these lines, claiming that we are in the service of US imperialism. In doing so, they are again being faithful to their tradition: it was the same group and the same people (like the WSWS leader David North) who accused leading US-Trotskyists like Joe Hansen (a former secretary of Leon Trotsky) and others in the 1970s that they always had been agents of Stalin’s secret service, the GPU!
So liberated from the necessity to prove anything, the real world driven by class contradictions in each and every country, the oppression of nations by other nations, and the rivalry between Great Powers is transformed into the surreal bonsai-world of North’s WSWS, where all contradictions are reduced to Western imperialism – led by the US – against all the rest. In other words, Lenin’s dialectical analyzes of the manifold class contradictions is replaced by the mechanistic simplicity of the contradictions in a first-person shooter computer game.
According to this mechanistic world view, all support of revolutionaries for class struggles, democratic rebellions and uprisings against national oppression can only be in the service of US imperialism if they are directed against other Great Powers. In order to prove their assertion, the WSWS has to conceal the RCIT’s program of consistent democratic, anti-imperialist and socialist struggle against all Great Powers (either Western or Eastern) as well as against all semi-colonial bourgeoisies (either pro-Western or pro-Eastern).
The WSWS’s contentions studiously repeat the logic of Stalinism in the 1930s and 1940s: At that time the bureaucrats accused the Trotskyists of being "in the service of the fascist powers" because the Fourth International supported the liberation struggles of the workers and peasants not only in the countries dominated by Germany, Italy and Japan, but also in India, Indochina, Latin America etc., i.e., the colonies and semi-colonies of Britain, France and the US. The Stalinists condemned the Trotskyist program of independent class struggle and national liberation struggles against all imperialist powers, and instead selectively supported one imperialist camp against the other. The WSWS is simply applying this reformist, anti-Marxist program of its teachers to present-day conditions.
The simplistic world view of the WSWS cannot fathom why people should rise up against brutal dictatorships like Gaddafi’s or Assad’s, except that they are being manipulated, paid and incited by CIA agents. Class exploitation and oppression in Syria, Libya, etc., which foment class struggles and democratic uprisings of the workers and peasants – all this is beyond the political imaginings of such people who have forgotten (or never understood) the basic ABCs of classic Marxist teaching.
In short, the wild attack of the WSWS against the RCIT says nothing about us, but reveals a lot about the Northites themselves. It is an involuntary self-exposure of the WSWS group laying bare the organization’s theoretical illiteracy, its smearing methods, and its political adaption to Russian and Chinese imperialism. These political positions and methods of “debate” are appropriate for a group which is dominated by a leader who, in his professional career, is known as David W. Green, the CEO of Grand River Printing & Imaging – a company that earns 25 million dollars a year, according to its website. After a busy but profitable workday, Green changes his clothes and lectures, now as David North, some university students about the Marxist program against the exploitation of the working class. (4)
The WSWS’s smear of the RCIT reflects its fear of the growth of authentic Trotskyism. It has every reason to do so.
We leave off with these brief remarks, but will deal with the WSWS attack in a more extensive article sometime soon.
(1) Johannes Stern: Behind the designation of Russia and China as “imperialist”: A case study in theoretical charlatanry, WSWS, 14 April 2016, http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2016/04/14/prob-a14.html; Johannes Stern: Warum werden Russland und China „imperialistisch“ genannt? Eine Fallstudie über theoretische Betrügerei, WSWS, 15. April 2016, https://www.wsws.org/de/articles/2016/04/15/proe-a15.html
(2) See e.g. Michael Pröbsting: The Great Robbery of the South. Continuity and Changes in the Super-Exploitation of the Semi-Colonial World by Monopoly Capital Consequences for the Marxist Theory of Imperialism, 2013, http://www.great-robbery-of-the-south.net/; RCIT: On the 100th Anniversary of the Outbreak of World War I: The Struggle against Imperialism and War. The Marxist Understanding of Modern Imperialism and the Revolutionary Program in Light of the Increasing Rivalry between the Great Powers, Revolutionary Uprisings, and Counterrevolutionary Setbacks, 25.6.2014, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/struggle-vs-imperialism-war/; RCIT: Escalation of Inner-Imperialist Rivalry Marks the Opening of a New Phase of World Politics. Theses on Recent Major Developments in the World Situation Adopted by the RCIT’s International Executive Committee, April 2014, in: Revolutionary Communism (English-language Journal of the RCIT) No. 22, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/world-situation-april-2014/; RCIT: Aggravation of Contradictions, Deepening of Crisis of Leadership. Theses on Recent Major Developments in the World Situation Adopted by the RCIT’s International Executive Committee, 9.9.2013, in: Revolutionary Communism No. 15, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/world-situation-september2013/; RCIT: The World Situation and the Tasks of the Bolshevik-Communists. Theses of the International Executive Committee of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency, March 2013, in: Revolutionary Communism No. 8, www.thecommunists.net/theory/world-situation-march-2013; Michael Pröbsting: China‘s transformation into an imperialist power. A study of the economic, political and military aspects of China as a Great Power, in: Revolutionary Communism No. 4, http://www.thecommunists.net/publications/revcom-number-4; Michael Pröbsting: No to chauvinist war-mongering by Japanese and Chinese imperialism! Chinese and Japanese workers: Your main enemy is at home! Stop the conflict on the Senkaku/Diaoyu-islands in the East China Sea! 23.9.2012,in: Revolutionary Communism No. 6, http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/asia/no-war-between-china-and-japan/; Michael Pröbsting: Lenin’s Theory of Imperialism and the Rise of Russia as a Great Power. On the Understanding and Misunderstanding of Today’s Inter-Imperialist Rivalry in the Light of Lenin’s Theory of Imperialism. Another Reply to Our Critics Who Deny Russia’s Imperialist Character, August 2014, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/imperialism-theory-and-russia/; Michael Pröbsting: Russia as a Great Imperialist Power. The formation of Russian Monopoly Capital and its Empire – A Reply to our Critics, 18 March 2014, in: Revolutionary Communism No. 21, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/imperialist-russia/; Michael Pröbsting: Russia and China as Great Imperialist Powers. A Summary of the RCIT’s Analysis, 28 March 2014, in: Revolutionary Communism No. 22, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/imperialist-china-and-russia/; Michael Pröbsting: More on Russia and China as Great Imperialist Powers. A Reply to Chris Slee (Socialist Alliance, Australia) and Walter Daum (LRP, USA), 11 April 2014, in: Revolutionary Communism No. 22, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/reply-to-slee-on-russia-china/; Michael Pröbsting: The Uprising in East Ukraine and Russian Imperialism. An Analysis of Recent Developments in the Ukrainian Civil War and their Consequences for Revolutionary Tactics, 22.October 2014, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/ukraine-and-russian-imperialism/
(3) Alex Steiner has also pointed to this fact in his articles on Russian imperialism. See e.g. Once more on the nature of Russia and China, February 29, 2016, http://forum.permanent-revolution.org/2016/02/once-more-on-nature-of-russia-and-china.html and Russia as an imperialist power, November 8, 2015, http://forum.permanent-revolution.org/2015/11/russian-as-imperialist-power.html
(4) See on this e.g. Joe Hargrave: A Tale of Two Men, http://trotskyism.livejournal.com/3890.html; IBT: Notes on the SEP/GRPI Puzzle, http://www.bolshevik.org/Leaflets/GRPI_puzzle.html