Continuing the theme of Trotskyism and the Second World War, this volume covers the period 1943-45. The articles and documents contained within this book covers the period of the emergence of the WIL and the setting up of the Revolutionary Communist Party. Many documents are appearing in print for the first time since they were written.
The book is divided into three sections. The first deals with the situation in Europe as the war moved towards its conclusion and the Fascist regimes in Italy and Germany collapsed into chaos. The second section deals with events at home and the tasks facing the labour and trade union movement. The final section contains key documents and letters relating to the build up to the formation of the RCP. As in Volume one, Ted's writings are supplemented by other documents to provide a full picture of the situation.
Key documents included in this volume include Rise and fall of the Communist International, Changed relationship of forces in Europe, Our tasks in the coming revolution and the minutes of the founding conference of the RCP.
481 pages long and now fully available online, this book provides an invaluable resource of Marxist theory and methods.
Table of Contents
- Introduction (by Rob Sewell)
War and revolution
- Aid Red Army with Lenin’s weapon (April 1943)
- The need for the International (June 1943)
- The rise and fall of the Communist International (June 1943)
- Second front will not end fascism (July 1943)
- Fascism collapsing – Europe’s revolution has begun (August 1943)
- The Italian revolution and the tasks of British workers (August 1943)
- How Mussolini came to power (August 1943)
- Aid the Italian revolution! (August 1943)
- Anglo-US strategy - Weaken Russia! (September 1943)
- Rift widens in Allied camp (September 1943)
- Churchill’s speech marks a new stage in the war (September 1943)
- Italian workers had control (October 1943)
- Fascist butchers now in allied camp (October 1943)
- The Moscow conference plans post-war reaction (November 1943)
- Lebanon clash bares de Gaulle-Churchill aims (November 1943)
- Allied talks plot world carve-up (December 1943)
- Stalin scraps “Internationale” (January 1944)
- Stalin recognises Badoglio (April 1944)
- Second front and the tasks of the working class (June 1944)
- Churchill preparing peace of revenge (July 1944)
- Germany – What next? Behind the generals’ revolt (August 1944)
- Leon Trotsky (August 1944)
- Capitalists fear armed Paris workers (September 1944)
- The Allies fear fraternisation (October 1944)
- National question - Rough draft (October 1944)
- The coming German revolution (October 1944)
- Why Hitler came to power
- Indian troops join ELAS (January 1945)
- British Labour betrayed Greek workers (February 1945)
- Crimea decisions kept from masses (March 1945)
- The changed relationship of forces in Europe and the role of the Fourth International (September 1945)
The home front
- Open letter on repression in Northern Ireland (January 1943)
- Coalition cracking - Labour to power (March 1943)
- The Beveridge Report (March 1943)
- ILP conference and tasks of the left (April 1943)
- The ILP in transition (May 1943)
- Labour Party endorses truce (June 1943)
- Labour leaders back Vansittartism (July 1943)
- Appeal is in danger (November 1943)
- Internationalism and centrism (February 1944)
- Churchill’s support crumbling (March 1944)
- ILP conference (April 1944)
- Bevin defends his anti-labour laws (May 1944)
- Labour leaders fear conference (May 1944)
- The attack on our party (May 1944)
- Statement to members from the Political Bureau (June 1944)
- Tories riding high (July 1944)
- TUC helps Goebbels (November 1944)
- Communist Party conference prepares post-war sell-out (November 1944)
- Redundancy (RCP Internal Bulletin - December 1944)
- Statement of the Political Bureau on redundancy (RCP Internal Bullettin, December 1944)
- Labour Party conference Labour lefts sell out (December 1944)
- Tory post-war plans (April 1945)
- The ILP at the crossroads (April 1945)
- CP Leaders want post-war coalition with the Tories (April 1945)
British Trotskyism and the Fourth International
- Correspondence May - November 1942
- A criticism by the RSL of the WIL pamphlet Preparing for power (December 1942)
- Correspondence December 1942 - January 1943
- Statement of the PB on the expulsion from WIL of G. Healy (February 1943)
- Correspondence February - June 1943
- Reply of WIL to the RSL criticism of Preparing for power (June 1943)
- Correspondence June - September 1943
- Reply to comrades Cooper and Stuart (September 1943)
- Our tasks in the coming revolution (January 1944)
- The world revolution and the tasks of the British working class (October 1943)
- WIL conference resolution on international affiliation (July 1943)
- Fusion conference of WIL and RSL (March 1944)
- Open letter to SWP members (January 1945)
The scope and depth of Ted Grant’s writings are a testament to his profound understanding of Marxism. The first volume of his writings covered the period just prior the war, the first three years of the imperialist war, the entry of the Soviet Union into the war, the formation of the Workers’ International League, and the beginnings of industrial unrest during the war. These writings during this period, following the death of Trotsky, mark Ted’s ascendency as the Trotskyist movement’s main theoretician.
In August 1942, the Workers’ International League issued a perspectives document, called Preparing for power, written by Ted, which served to direct the attention of the young forces of the WIL to the revolutionary tasks of the time. “The possibility exists for an unprecedented growth in influence and numbers in the shortest possible time. Today the problem consists mainly in preparing the basis for a rapid increase in growth and influence”, stated the document.
While armchair critics scoffed at this “wild” perspective, the question of posing a struggle for power was bound up with the perspectives of war producing a revolutionary wave. This is what Trotsky had explained. “This perspective must be made the basis of our agitation”, stated Trotsky. “It is not merely a question of a position on capitalist militarism and of renouncing the defence of the bourgeois state, but of directly preparing for the conquest of power and the defence of the proletarian fatherland.” (Writings, 1939-41, p.414)
This second volume, starting at the beginning of 1943, takes us over the next three years of the Second World War. In January 1943, the editorial in Socialist Appeal assesses the situation and concludes:
“The lessons of the recent period of history in one country after another can be focused on the same point – that there was in these countries no closely knit and soundly built party with a firm policy ready to lead the masses at the critical hour to the taking of power. ‘Popular Fronts,’ ‘national unity,’ every sort of unprincipled amalgamation: but never a genuine workers’ party prepared to take power, and with a programme that could win the masses.
“WIL sets itself the task of building such a party. The programme is no dead set of rules and tenets but a live instrument of power which responds to the changing situation, though never losing its firm Marxist foundation. The nucleus of the party is already formed, and as it grows it turns outwards more and more towards broader circles of the workers.
“The first stage of the struggle for a party is over. WIL has left the narrow discussion circles which are an inevitable stage on the way towards the building of a fresh movement and leadership, and is already taking its place on the actual field of battle. WIL now places itself directly before the workers and offers its programme as the only solution to their problems.
“A year is just beginning. It will see mighty events and portentous changes both on the international scene and on the field of the class struggle at home. Those events will sharpen and crystallise the moods and demands among the British workers. They will impress on the workers more and more the iron necessity for an independent class policy. It is the historic task of the fourth internationalists in Britain to provide that policy and to build up the party that will lead the way to its successful application. It is on this road that there lies the true continuation of British labour’s militant past.”
The military conflagration in the Second World War had shifted to the eastern front where the Russians were facing 176 enemy divisions, and the conflict was evolving into a struggle between the Soviet Union and Hitler’s Germany. “The workers are awaiting with bated breath on the outcome of the Battle of Stalingrad”, explained the Socialist Appeal of October 1942.
“Lieutenant General Diethmar, the German military spokesman, said over the Berlin radio: ‘No other enemy can extend or postpone decisions as the Russians. Over and over again they succeed in balancing the scales by the sheer force of their masses.’
“The Russian workers and peasants are pouring out their blood unstintingly in defence of their cities. The same Nazi spokesman stated: ‘The Soviet soldier is far more strongly attached than any soldier to the system in which he finds himself.’ The system, for which the Soviet masses are grimly giving their lives, is based upon the gains of the October revolution. The tradition of the great Russian revolution has given the Russian workers and peasants something worth fighting for – something so vital and so important that it must be defended at all costs. The socialised property and the collective ownership of the means of production and distribution are what gives the heroic defenders of Stalingrad the courage and tenacity which is amazing the world.”
The article continues:
“While the Bolshevik and Nazi armies are locked in colossal struggle, British and American imperialism sit like vultures watching their prey bleed to death. Commenting on the failure to open the Second Front the Frankfurter Zeitung of September 24th states: ‘British interests are best served if as many Germans and Bolsheviks as possible mutually kill each other.’ Britain and America are content to watch both their ‘enemy’ and their ‘ally’ destroy each other. When the destruction has sufficiently weakened both Germany and Russia, they hope to step in and take control.”
During 1943, the regime of Mussolini fell and the dictator’s bloody body was publicly hung upside down alongside his girlfriend in the centre of Milan. The authorities rushed to replace him by Marshal Badoglio, described by Ted as the Italian Petain, and King Victor Emmanuel III, in a desperate attempt to shore up capitalism and prevent revolution. Ted analyses this turn of events and explained that this marked “the beginning of the revolutionary upsurge in all the countries of Europe.” Soviets appeared in the northern industrial cities and the masses poured onto the streets. This was certainly the beginning of the Italian revolution.
The news of events in Italy provoked a letter to Socialist Appeal from Andy Scott, a Central Committee comrade who had been drafted into the army in the summer of 1943. Scott was his pen name; his real name was private Andy Paton. “The Italian events are just the beginning – and what a beginning!” he wrote. “Soviets with a few days, after 20 years of bloody repression, and in spite of every brand of treacherous leadership” (Socialist Appeal, Mid-September 1943).
Soon afterward, Stalin rushed to recognise the regime of Badoglio and the King, propped up by the bayonets of Anglo-American imperialism.
In May 1943, Stalin had dissolved the Communist International as a gesture to the Allies. In response, the Workers’ International League rushed out a statement by Ted Grant in the Workers’ International News entitled The rise and fall of the Communist International, directed at the rank and file of the Communist Party.
Stalingrad had proved to be a turning point in the war. The defeat of the German advance was turned into a massive counter-offensive. The Soviet military, backed by the resources of the planned economy, proved to be decisive in this massive reversal of fortunes and the driving back of the German armies. The WIL tracked the different stages of the war and closely monitored the prospects for a revolutionary upsurge, as Trotsky had predicted.
The war in Europe had meant that the only openly functioning section of the Fourth International was in Britain. From the smallest grouping in 1938, by 1943 the Workers’ International League had become the most developed Trotskyist force in Europe with around 300 members rooted in the working class. Although the WIL had not been recognised as the official section of the Fourth International since 1938, its correct policies and orientation allowed it to completely overshadow the official group, the Revolutionary Socialist League, which had dwindled to almost nothing with some 23 members. Their paper ceased to appear along with their ever-declining activity.
While the WIL adopted and carried into practice the Proletarian Military Policy of Trotsky, the RSL repudiated this “defensive” policy in 1940 and adopted both an ultra-left and opportunist-pacifist position. “The British Section, therefore, states that the demand in the international manifesto [War and the world proletarian revolution] has no validity in the existing conditions in this country…” explained a statement from the RSL. Instead they counter-posed the pacifist slogan of “peace” and “stop the war”.
The Fourth International was completely opposed to the imperialist war, but as Ted explained in his polemic with the RSL, under the concrete conditions it was wrong to repeat word for word Lenin’s position from 1914. At this time, Lenin was addressing the cadres and drawing a sharp line between defencism and internationalism. It was necessary to connect the revolutionary tendency with a war against fascism, but without giving credence to the war aims of British imperialism. Within this volume is contained the debate between the two positions. The WIL’s main statement, written by Ted, remains a classic document on this important question.
The RSL was not the only party of the Fourth International that failed to understand or rejected the Proletarian Military Policy. In fact, it provoked widespread opposition. Like the RSL, who repudiated the policy, the Belgian section struck out several paragraphs on this question from their clandestine version of the May 1940 Manifesto. There was also opposition in the French section, which was moving in opposite directions, and even in the European Secretariat, which was supposed to be guiding the work. Even in the United States, the policy was reduced to mere propaganda. (See Pierre Broué, How Trotsky and the Trotskyists confronted the Second World War, September 1985) Only in Britain, did the WIL take the policy into the working class and armed forces in the widest possible manner.
Given their dominant position and growing success, the WIL opened up friendly relations and correspondence with the International with a view to becoming the officially recognised section. The International Secretariat of the Fourth International in fact criticised the RSL for attacking the WIL as “centrist”, “chauvinist”, etc. “The impression of the WIL’s leadership we have here is that these are young comrades. If we could desire, at times, a little more firmness in their propaganda, we must recognise that they learn quickly. The last issue of their paper (that of May, with the article on the Second Front) is excellent, and to speak of “centrism”, “defencism”, “chauvinism”, etc., is simply false. It is necessary to say clearly: The WIL stands entirely on the grounds of the principles and methods of the FI and it should find its place in our ranks as soon as possible.” (Letter from the IS to RSL, June 21 1942, emphasis in original)
Despite the patronising tone at the beginning, the International Secretariat could not but criticise the RSL for its policies and groundless attacks. As we will see the RSL was in a state of acute crisis, riddled with factions, and in the process of complete disintegration prior to the 1944 fusion with the WIL. Just like a French bedroom farce, the minority leaders actually expelled the majority! This was revealed in a resolution of the IS of September 26 1943:
“1) The IS has now received adequate reports and statements from all concerned regarding the wholesale expulsion carried out by the DDH [Denzil Harber] leadership and its handling of the question of fusion with the WIL…
“2) The Central Committee of DDH has, by a series of impermissible and unheard-of bureaucratic manipulations, finally managed to ‘expel’ a majority of the organisation. These fantastic operations have been carried through in gross violation of the elementary rules and methods and traditional practices of the FI, and despite repeated warnings and demands of the IS. The CC has likewise disloyally sabotaged the policy of the IS regarding fusion with the WIL – a matter now of the greatest international urgency which can no longer be trifled with.
“3) By its actions the CC of DDH has forfeited all rights to be considered the leadership of the British Section of the Fourth International, and is no longer so regarded by the IS. It no longer has the right or moral authority to expel or reinstate anybody. The CC of DDH represents a minority fraction no more, and has no special rights or authority whatsoever.
“4) The IS has received the statement signed by Dunipace, Lawrence and Robinson in the name of the groups they represent which make up the majority of the membership, proposing to call a national conference to reconstitute the RSL as the official BSFI. We endorse this move as the most necessary action in the present situation, with the following proviso: The DDH group must be invited to participate in the conference and its arrangements committee on the same basis as other groups.”
In 1943, one of the factions within the crisis-ridden RSL, called the Trotskyist Opposition and led by John Lawrence, had opened up secret talks with the WIL. Eventually, after the RSL had reconstituted itself from the ashes, a hasty fusion conference was organised with the WIL in March 1944, where the Revolutionary Communist Party was formed and recognised as the official section of the Fourth.
With the political truce and the pro-war stand of the Communist Party, the WIL had concentrated its attention on the industrial field. At this time the Socialist Appeal is full of reports of industrial disputes. The resolution on the industrial situation presented to the 1943 WIL national conference explained that the previous year has seen the largest number of strikes for 16 years, and the first 5 months of 1943 had seen a 150 percent rise in the number of disputes compared to the same period of 1942. Clearly, this indicated a rising discontent within the workers in industry, which the Stalinists were attempting to suppress in support of the war effort. Worried at the growing effect of the Trotskyists, the British Communist Party launched a frenzied attack on members of the WIL, denouncing them as “Hitler’s agents”, and when discovered were to be treated accordingly.
To advance their work, and undermine the influence of the Communist Party, the WIL established the Militant Workers’ Federation in 1943. Roy Tearse was appointed the WIL’s industrial organiser and became the secretary of the MWF. The comrades threw themselves into the strike movement, the most significant being the Barrow-in-Furness strike, which the trade union bureaucracy and the Stalinists opposed. The influence of the MWF extended to the shop stewards in the Glasgow munitions factory at Fairfields and more decisively to the Nottingham Royal Ordinance Factory, where the convenor had joined the WIL.
The Stalinists were livid. In October 1943, Harry Pollitt, the CP leader, wrote after the great Barrow dispute: “We oppose strikes at the present time because they are against the present and future interests of the working class; and because existing trade union machinery, if rightly used, and backed by public opinion, can bring results satisfactory to the workers without dislocating the productive process.” This was also the line of the capitalist press and politicians.
The Stalinists advocated a “strong government” of Tories, Liberals and Labour. Their hatred of the Trotskyists also extended itself to the centrist Independent Labour Party. The ILP’s demand for “replacing the Churchill government by a Socialist government” was, according to the Stalinist J. R. Campbell, “black treachery”. “Restricted practices”, he continued, “are a relic of craft unionism”, and “whether we like it or not, we are in for vast changes in industry, which cannot be met by clinging to old customs and practices.”
Harry Pollitt, the leading Stalinist, claimed that “it is the class conscious workers in Britain, inspired by the Communist Party, who have led the fight for increased production and to make the Joint Production Committees work, have been ready to accept dilution, forego hard-earned customs and practices in industry.”
Workers, however, had other ideas. Resentment was growing and was reflected in the increasing number of industrial disputes. In the autumn of 1943, workers at the Vickers Armstrong factory in Barrow took action, which resulted in the union executive suspending the whole of the Barrow District Committee of the AEU. “Barrow has become the cockpit of Trotskyist agitation”, ranted Jack Owen in the Daily Worker, as they campaigned for a return to work.
Strikes spread to other areas, including the Kent coalfield, Fife, Doncaster, and South Wales, where 100,000 were out on strike. Anger was fed in July 1943, when the government announced the “Bevin Ballot Scheme”, in which young workers were removed from their jobs and forced to work in the mines on lower pay.
In October, the WIL held its Second National Conference attended by over 100 members, with 34 delegates, with firm roots in the working class. “Striking too was the number of newcomers fresh from the ranks of the Communist Party”, stated the report by Millie Lee in Socialist Appeal. Comrades attended the conference from all branches of the armed forces. The three statements discussed were on Perspectives, the relations with the Fourth International and Industrial Policy. The report on the WIL witnessed a 40 percent growth in membership over the previous year and established the WIL as a truly national organisation. There was enormous enthusiasm and sacrifice shown in the future building and success of the party. It was a tremendous fitting reply to the press witch-hunt led by Ernest Bevin, Minister of Labour, and the Daily Mail.
In March 1944, 5,000 apprentices went on strike on Tyneside against being conscripted to work in the mines and this quickly spread to other areas, including the Clyde. Welsh miners also went on strike. This movement coincided with the launch of the Revolutionary Communist Party on 12-13 March. As the Socialist Appeal put it: “Whilst 100,000 Welsh miners were demonstrating a wonderful class spirit and solidarity in the great Welsh coal strike, another important event was taking place in London. The Trotskyists were meeting in London for two days for the purpose of fusing together the hitherto separate organisations: the Revolutionary Socialist League and Workers’ International League, into one united Trotskyist party for Great Britain.” The event was attended by 69 delegates as well as a host of visitors. The name of the new party was to draw a sharp distinction between it and His Majesty’s Communist Party which supported the imperialist war and tied the workers to the Coalition government. It was to be the Revolutionary Communist Party.
It must be said that the new organisation was hardly a “fusion”, but represented in reality a complete takeover by the WIL. The RCP adopted lock, stock and barrel the programme, perspectives and methods of the Workers’ International League.
During the conference, the representative of the IS met with the old faction leaders of the RSL and with Gerry Healy established a new secret “anti-leadership” faction inside the RCP. James Cannon, the leader of the American Trotskyists, had always held a grudge against the leaders of the WIL ever since they refused to enter the unprincipled fusion of 1938. He was interested in replacing the RCP leaders by using Zinovievite organisational methods. A key ally in this conspiracy was Gerry Healy, who had been expelled from the WIL in February 1943 after walking out. From then on he established factional relations with John Lawrence in the RSL and wheedled his way back into the WIL. This was the beginning of a factional career that was to eventually destroy the movement.
During this time, the Trotskyists were active in supporting the apprentices’ strike, and managed to win over the strike leader, Bill Davy, to the movement. The capitalist press led a hue and cry over “trained agitators” and “fanatical adherents of Trotskyism” who were “doing all they can to foment class warfare” (Daily Mail).
The Mail continued its barrage, when on April 6 1944 it announced a “special team of investigators” to track down the Trotskyists. The Special Branch, according to the paper, was “in search of documents that would reveal the hidden hand of finance” and was following “a fantastic trail of clues.”
The Sunday Dispatch on 9 April explained: “Strikes are being fomented by agitators belonging to the organisations calling themselves the ‘Militant Workers’ Federation’ and the ‘Revolutionary Communist Party’ in connection with which is published and distributed the Socialist Appeal … those behind the Socialist Appeal – the writers on the paper and the agitators who foment trouble among the miners – are Trotskyists who believe in permanent revolution.”
Even Britain’s foremost cartoonist “Low” joined in the “nasty man” campaign by drawing a cartoon of a sinister Trotskyist pied piper leading a bunch of blindfolded youngsters labelled “strike suckers”. As Jock Haston commented in the Socialist Appeal: “Yes Low, they are suckers all right. Suckers to dig, to sweat, to fight, to die so that your employers might profit and you can throw mud at them; for which you get paid a little bit more than the lads who will dig coal in the mine.”
The authorities were so alarmed that they moved in to arrest four RCP comrades, Roy Tearse, Heaton Lee, Ann Keen and later Jock Haston. They were accused of conspiring to act in furtherance of an illegal strike; acting in furtherance of an illegal strike; inciting others to act in furtherance of an illegal strike; and aiding and abetting William Davy (the 19-year old apprentice and secretary of the Tyne Apprentices’ Guild) and others to act in furtherance of an illegal strike.
The headquarters of the RCP was also raided along with members’ homes. The Stalinists, who attempted to demoralise the apprentices by accusing them of being manipulated by pro-Nazi elements, applauded these actions. These arrests, however, were met by protests, including ILP leader James Maxton, who became head of the defence committee. The issue was also raised in Parliament, and eventually, after a successful campaign, the sentences were quashed at the end of September and the comrades released. “The whole thing is disgraceful”, declared Nye Bevan in the House of Commons.
In mid-1944, a revolutionary movement broke out in Greece. The entire population was involved in armed resistance. There had been a general strike in Athens against the execution of hostages by the occupying power a year earlier. The main organisation engaged in the resistance armed struggle was EAM (and its army ELAS). EAM was a broad mass movement, under the control of the Stalinists, which conducted the struggle against the fascists. As expected, the British government was fully behind the Monarchist forces, and supplied it with arms. However, the leaders of EAM entered the reactionary Greek exile government of Papandreou, and made all kinds of political concessions.
When the Germans were forced to leave Athens in October 1944, the CP called on the Greek people to “ensure public order”. It also ensured the Papandreou government came to power accompanied by British troops. The government proceeded to disarm ELAS, but this provoked armed resistance and an uprising. The ranks of ELAS took up the fight in Athens, Salonika and elsewhere as power passed into the hands of the working class.
By the end of the year, under orders from Churchill, British troops were used alongside Greek reactionaries to put down the Greek workers “to prevent a massacre” and to stop “triumphant Trotskyism”. “British imperialism has intervened with tanks, machine guns, and planes against the popular democratic will of the people”, explained the Socialist Appeal (Mid-December 1944). In this Churchill had the full backing of Stalin who believed the British should have a free hand. Eventually, the uprising was put down. Nevertheless, it would require several more years of betrayal at the hands of the Stalinists before the fighting spirit of the Greek revolution was extinguished.
In August 1944, there was a massive movement in France against the German occupation, led by an insurrection in Paris. “Barricades were set up in all the working class districts of Paris and tens of thousands, armed with revolvers, sticks and rifles were joined on the barricades by hundreds of thousands without arms”, explained Ted Grant in the lead article of the Socialist Appeal (September 1944). The Germans, despite having tanks, were completely defeated. It was a situation of dual power, with many factories in the hands of the workers. Out of fear of the revolutionary masses, de Gaulle was rushed in to head the movement and quickly make a truce with the Nazis. With the retreat of the Germans, the task of de Gaulle was to disarm the workers and, with the help of the Stalinists, to derail the revolution.
“The political general staff of capitalism, especially men like Churchill, have assimilated the lessons of the last world war”, stated the Socialist Appeal.
“It was ended by the Russian revolution, revolutions in Germany, Austria-Hungary and other countries and a revolutionary situation in Italy, France and even Britain. The masses, who had paid the price in blood and suffering while their masters made millions out of the slaughter and hunger, demanded a reckoning for the crimes of capitalism. The capitalist spokesmen have been haunted throughout this war by the fear of the repetition of these events.” (Mid-December 1944)
Such events were sweeping France and Greece and were part of a wider revolutionary wave that was sweeping across Europe, as Leon Trotsky had predicted before the war.
Unfortunately, the Trotskyists were too small to take advantage of the situation, which was hijacked by the Stalinists and social democrats. They deliberately set about betraying this movement and were in the forefront in disarming the resistance. They also waged the most vulgar campaign of chauvinism by blaming the German workers for the crimes of Hitler and demanded they pay the price. The actions of these “leaders” were to derail the revolution into the safe channels of protecting private property. It was a period of “counter-revolution in a democratic form.”
In January 1945, the RCP decided to fight the Neath by-election. This was the first time a British Trotskyist party had ever contested a parliamentary election.
The January edition of the Socialist Appeal boldly declared:
“In the whole course of the war, not a single election has been fought wherein a direct revolutionary appeal has been made to the electorate. The Revolutionary Communist Party will make this election a test of the real feelings in the ranks of the working class. Our candidate will fight on a platform of uncompromising hostility to the imperialist, war, for the breaking of the coalition, for the overthrow of the Churchill government and for Labour to power on a socialist programme…
“The Trotskyist candidate will fight the election on the basis of international socialism; he will conduct his fight in the traditions of the great socialist teachers of our time – Marx, Lenin, Liebknecht and Trotsky. For the overthrow and destruction of Nazism as well as the monarchist and capitalist quislings and governments set up by Anglo-American imperialism in “liberated” territories. Land to the peasants and factories to the workers throughout Europe and the world! Not the military domination of Europe by the Allied imperialist armies but a united socialist states of Europe. In particular he will appeal for a hand of friendship and fraternity to the German working class for the overthrow of Hitler and the establishment of the socialist brotherhood of European nations – against Vansittartism – against reparations, against blockade and revenge on the German working class.”
The writs were delayed and the election was not held until 15 May 1945, not long before the war was over in Europe. While the RCP never expected to win the seat, the election campaign was used to establish a base within the South Wales coalfield. This was considered fertile ground. Two-thirds of all strikes were concentrated in the British coalfield, a significant number in South Wales.
This immediately caused a ferocious reaction from the Stalinists. “There are only a few scattered Trotskyists in the Welsh coalfields”, explained a statement from the South Wales Communist Party. “They have no real influence in the miners’ Lodges, but the genuine grievances over the Porter Award … gave the Trotskyists their chance to exploit the strike for their own ends, and to slander the elected leaders of the miners, especially Arthur Horner, the President.”
There was talk that the left-wing Miners’ Agent, Trevor James, would be put forward as an independent Communist, well-known for his anti-war, anti-Stalinist views. James’ refusal gave the opportunity for the RCP to wage the challenge. Neath was a rock solid Labour seat and therefore there was no chance of splitting the vote and handing victory to an anti-Labour candidate.
The campaign was a marvellous affair. Thousands of copies of Socialist Appeal were sold throughout the constituency. In fact the February issue sold 7,500 copies, approximately one to every three houses. Two mass meetings were held in the Gwyn Hall, the first attracting 750 people, and the second attracting 1,500. The latter was the biggest political rally in Neath since Ramsay MacDonald held a rally in the same place in the 1929 General Election.
In the final rally, the CP was forced to debate. Councillor Alun Thomas, chairman of the West Wales CP debated Jock Haston. As expected, he raised all the old Stalinist slanders. “He tried to get the miners out on strike everywhere when we were preparing for invasion”, stated Thomas. “His policy was the same as Oswald Mosley, both parts of one and the same policy.
“He comes out against unconditional surrender. Says the German worker is our ally. How can the Russians, who tried to fraternise with the Germans and get them to mutiny, talk about these elements as brothers? Hitler has created a nation of nincompoops and murderers. Haston had to follow in Hitler’s footsteps.”
Haston, however, was a skilled debater and took up every point that Thomas had raised and then turned the tables on the Stalinists for their class collaboration and the betrayals of Stalin.
On Election Day, the RCP candidate, Jock Haston, secured 1,781 votes, a credible achievement under the circumstances. The Labour candidate scored 30,847. The war was almost at an end and workers were looking forward to a General Election to return a majority Labour government.
“In 1929, in the height of the depression Harry Pollitt, contesting Seaham Harbour against Ramsay MacDonald polled 1,451 votes against 35,615”, explained the Socialist Appeal. “In 1940 at the Silvertown by-election Pollitt received 996 votes on an anti-war ticket against Labour’s 14,343. In comparison with these figures, the result of the first election which our party has contested should be an encouragement and inspiration to the workers seeking a communist solution.” (Mid-May 1945)
The issue concluded that “Trotskyism has found its roots in Wales. But its richest harvest will be reaped in the years to come.”
Nationally, the organisation report at the second National Conference stated that the membership of the RCP had grown by 20 percent since the fusion. The organisation was in a healthy position to face up to the opportunities of the post war period.
Throughout these past three years, the theoretical and political line of the WIL and RCP was largely determined by Ted Grant, which can be seen from this written work. He drafted most of the main documents and statements of the party. The final important statement contained in this collection is The changed relationship of forces in Europe and the role of the Fourth International, which was presented by Ted to the March 1945 Central Committee, and later approved in the August National Conference. This was especially important, and while it was necessarily conditional about developments in those countries occupied by the Red Army, it nevertheless raises the possibility of the overturn of property forms being carried through by the Stalinists, albeit on a totalitarian basis.
More importantly, for the first time it is recognised that a developing stabilisation was unfolding in Europe as a consequence of the role of the leaders of the mass organisations. This development was to take the appearance of a “counter-revolution in a ‘democratic’ form”. It was counter-revolutionary in so far as the ruling class could ride out the revolutionary storm given the weakness of the subjective factor, i.e., the revolutionary party, but “democratic” because of the weakness of reaction and the pressure of the masses. What is also explained is the political preconditions for a new economic recovery of capitalism, a new departure from the traditional perspective of the past. It was this ability of Ted to grasp the new conditions in order to reorient the forces of Trotskyism, which the leaders of the Fourth International were incapable of doing.
This inability of the International leadership to recognise reality led to enormous problems in the years ahead. However, that is the subject on the next volume of Ted Grant’s writings.
Rob Sewell, May 2012
Aid Red Army with Lenin’s weapon
[Socialist Appeal, Vol. 5 No. 8, April 1943]
Full text available on the Ted Grant Internet Archive: Aid Red Army with Lenin’s Weapon
The need for the International
[Socialist Appeal, Vol. 5 No. 12, June 1943]
Full text available on the Ted Grant Internet Archive: The Need for the International
The rise and fall of the Communist International
[Workers’ International News, Vol. 5 No. 11, June 1943]
Full text available on the Ted Grant Internet Archive: The rise and fall of the Communist International
Second front will not end fascism
[Socialist Appeal, Vol. 5 No. 15, Mid-July 1943 - Not signed]
Full text available on the Ted Grant Internet Archive: Second front will not end fascism
Fascism collapsing – Europe’s revolution has begun
[Socialist Appeal, Vol. 5 No. 16, August 1943]
Full text available on the Ted Grant Internet Archive: Fascism collapsing – Europe’s revolution has begun
The Italian revolution and the tasks of British workers
[Workers’ International News, Vol.5 No.12, August 1943]
Full text available on the Ted Grant Internet Archive: The Italian revolution and the tasks of British workers
How Mussolini came to power
[Socialist Appeal, Vol. 5 No. 16, August 1943]
The downfall of Mussolini will be hailed with rejoicing by the working class throughout the world. His regime of blood and terror against the masses has endured for 21 years. The ending of fascism in Italy, the country of its origin, will be the first step towards the socialist revolution in Italy and throughout the world. But only if the Italian workers and the workers of Europe and Britain learn the lessons of history. To do so the working class must understand the reasons for the victory of fascism, how it arose and why it was enabled to conquer power.
Italy, although on the side of the victorious powers in the last war, came out of the struggle economically weakened. France and Britain seized the lion’s share of the territorial gains and left Italy only with desert and infertile acquisitions. All the burdens of the war were placed on the shoulders of the masses of workers and peasants, and of the middle class.
Like the workers and peasants of all Europe who had become disillusioned with capitalism which allowed the big combines and banks to amass enormous fortunes out of the war at the expense of the blood and suffering of the masses, the Italian workers and peasants were disgusted with capitalism and its wars for profits, markets and raw materials. They had in front of them the example of the Russian workers and peasants who had overthrown capitalism, and, for the first time in history, had expropriated the capitalists and established a workers’ government.
Immediately that war ended and the Italian capitalists launched their attacks on the standard of living of the masses a tremendous revolutionary ferment began in all sections of the exploited classes in Italy. The workers and peasants strove to emulate the example of the Russian workers and peasants. In Fascism and Big Business, Daniel Guerin describes the turmoil in Italy thus:
“In Italy, after the war, there was a real revolutionary upsurge of the masses. Workers and peasants, although they were not mature enough to address themselves to the conquest of power, at least were militant enough to force big concessions. Industrial workers got better wages, the eight hour day, general recognition of collective contracts, and a voice in production through factory committees. One strike followed another: 1,663 in 1919; 1,881 in 1920. In Genoa and other big sea-ports, the solidly organised dock workers won out over the shipowners. The steel workers did even better: in September 1920, they broadened a simple wage dispute into a large scale class struggle. When the big industrialists resorted to a lock-out, 600,000 Italian metal workers occupied the mills and carried on production themselves through their own elected shop committees. They opened their safes and discovered secrets, so closely guarded, of cost prices and profits... They won the fight: they were given – on paper, anyway – the right to check up on management and ‘workers’ control’.
“The peasantry showed no less fighting spirit. Returning from the trenches, they demanded the ‘division of the land’ which had been promised them, and, when it was not forthcoming, they occupied the coveted soil. A governmental decree sanctioned the fait accompli: on condition that they organise themselves into co-operatives, they obtained the right to remain four years on the lands they had spontaneously occupied (Visochi decree, September 2 1919). The tenant farmers also succeeded in improving the terms of their leases. The agricultural day labourers formed strong unions, the famous ‘Red Leagues’, backed up by the rural communes, won over to socialism, which had become so many proletarian fiefs. They bargained with the great landowners as one power with another, forcing from them union agreements, etc.”
By their occupation of the factories the workers demonstrated their desire to finish capitalism once and for all and to take power in order to do so. But the labour and trade union leaders sabotaged the struggle of the working class; ordered the workers out of the factories and exhorted the workers to stick to “constitutional” means in the struggle against capitalism. In face of the revolutionary offensive of the working class, the capitalists were powerless to resist. But the Socialist leaders, curbing and breaking the movement of the masses, saved capitalism in Italy from destruction. The Communist Party (although not yet degenerated into Stalinism) was incapable of playing a role in events, as it was too immature and weak and suffered from all the infantile diseases of leftism, refusing to attempt a united front with the Socialists, standing on the basis of ultra-leftism, and anti-parliamentarianism and thus dooming itself to isolation from the masses.
The revolutionary upsurge of the masses thus failed to overthrow capitalism. After weathering the storm by giving concessions to the workers and peasants, and having received a terrible shock, the capitalists began to prepare for their revenge against the workers.
“In Genoa at the beginning of April, 1919, the big industrialists and landowners sealed a holy alliance for the fight against ‘Bolshevism’. ‘This gathering,’ Rossi wrote, ‘is the first step towards a reorganisation of capitalist forces to meet the threatening situation.’ On March 7, 1920, the first nationwide conference of industrialists was held at Milan, and the General Federation of Industry was created. An all-embracing and detailed plan of joint action was drawn up, covering everything including the strategy of the campaign against the labour unions. Shortly after, on August 18, the General Federation of Agriculture was formed. Industrialists and landowners will no longer enter the battle with scattered forces.” (Fascism and Big Business)
For the purpose of fighting against the unions and the workers’ organisations the big industrialists began to organise, arm and finance bands of thugs and hooligans to fight against the working class. Just as in Britain, [where] the capitalists had begun to subsidise Mosley and his gangsters.
“...at the end of 1920, they furnished Benito Mussolini the means to carry on in his paper, the Popolo d’Italia, now a journal with a big circulation, a noisy campaign for naval and air armaments. In the issue of December 23, Mussolini announced that he was going to campaign ‘for a foreign policy of expansion’.” (Fascism and Big Business)
In the beginning these gangs were being used for the purpose merely of terrorising the workers amid murdering the militant leaders of their organisations. But the economic situation went from bad to worse. In January 1921 there were 600,000 unemployed. The middle class, the small shopkeepers, students, the professional classes, ex-servicemen, and the youth found themselves ruined and impoverished by the economic crisis. They began to look for a way out of the agony and suffering which capitalism had imposed on them. Meanwhile, while the unions and other working class organisations continued to exist, the capitalists, who were savagely attacking the standards of the workers and peasants and taking back all the concessions gained by their struggles, could not drive them to the starvation pittance which was necessary for the continued existence of the system. The capitalists saw the only way out in the destruction of the organisations, rights and liberties of the working class. Mussolini was financed and helped to organise the Fascist Party.
Taking advantage of the cowardice and treachery of the Socialist leaders who failed to put forward a radical programme for power, the magnates of big business subsidised the Fascists who put forward a demagogic anti-capitalist programme to suit the demands of the middle class. The middle class, failing to receive a lead from the workers and their organisations, in sheer despair supported the programme put forward by the fascists. As Guerin explains the situation:
“After the war a rather large section of the battered middle classes placed their hope in socialism. In the 1919 election, the ballots of the petty bourgeois were cast with those of the workers in greater numbers than ever before. When the metal workers occupied the factories in 1920, they had the sympathy of a great part of the petty bourgeoisie. But the Socialist Party showed itself absolutely incapable of leading the revolutionary upsurge of the masses. Instead of placing itself at their head, it dragged in their wake. In Mussolini’s own words, it did not know how ‘to profit from a revolutionary situation such as history does not repeat’.”
Mussolini began to organise his thugs, with the full assistance of the monarchy, the army, the landowners and capitalists. A veritable reign of terror was instituted against the masses. While the fascists were busy organising their murder raids against the workers and their organisations, the workers resistance was paralysed by their leaders. Mussolini and his hoodlums were enabled to march against the workers’ with impunity, while their leaders preached the necessity to rely on the “State” and the Constitution, at a time when the police and the heads of the army and the state machine were giving every encouragement and support to the fascists.
It was in this atmosphere of workers’ confusion and demoralisation that the capitalists placed Mussolini in power to retain their organisations and rights, [missing line] even if in an attenuated form, at the present time. But they will suffer the same fate as the Italian and German workers if they do not profit by their experiences.
Capitalism in its decay breeds fascism and to support the capitalist class is to make certain its victory. Not only fascism but a super-fascism will be imposed on the workers if capitalism is allowed to continue to exist. Only the building of a new revolutionary socialist party which has learned the lessons of the defeats of the workers in Europe can lead to a victory over the forces of fascism and reaction: the forces of capitalism. The advanced workers of Europe and Britain will find their way to the ranks of the Fourth International which alone can lead the toilers to a world of socialism and peace and thus guarantee the impossibility of the recurrence of the barbarism of fascism and war.
Aid the Italian revolution!
Socialist Appeal, vol. 5 no. 17, Mid-August 1943]
Full text available on the Ted Grant Internet Archive: Aid the Italian revolution!
Anglo-US strategy - Weaken Russia!
[Socialist Appeal, Vol. 5 No. 18, September 1943]
Four years of war and millions of men have destroyed incalculable wealth and blasted each other to death. Rotterdam, Coventry, London, Hamburg, Berlin, Stalingrad, Turin and Milan and dozens more of the great cities of Europe which were built by centuries of labour, [have been] blasted, ravished and ruined by the nightly pounding of the bombs and guns.
Four years of war, famine and disease destroys and weakens the peoples of Europe and Asia, conquered and governed by brutal military power.
Four years! First the fortunes of war smiled on Germany and her Axis satellites, now it is the turn of the Anglo-American bloc. Russia, almost entirely unaided, climbs out of the depths of history’s bloodiest defeats and slaughters and can no longer be destroyed by military means.
Four years of black reaction and now the first days of the dawn. Revolution in Italy; unrest in Europe – a new day in history, revolutionary history begins!
No country has escaped the effects of the war. Few are not immediately involved in the bloodshed and massacre.
In Nazi Germany, the anti-capitalist demagogy of Hitler is bared. Monopoly capitalism, whom Nazism serves, has piled up the most gigantic fortunes and stores of loot that has been known in German history. But in four years, the living conditions of the masses has steadily declined.
To create these fortunes, millions of German workers have toiled, sweated, fought and died: and become objects of hatred to the oppressed peoples of Europe. The “living space” for which the German masses are asked to die, becomes a grave for the workers and peasants of Europe. German capitalism thrives like a ghoul amongst the graves.
In democratic Britain and America “everyone must sacrifice”! But behind this fraud, the same situation as in Germany: monopoly capitalism dictates government policy, monopoly capitalism piles up super profits, monopoly capitalism dictates the life of the nation.
Democratic slogans! Yes; but more reactionary and totalitarian legislation for the masses. Sacrifice for the workers, but increased loot for the ruling class. “Freedom for Europe” tomorrow, but military dictatorship in India, the colonies and the “reconquered” countries today. The politics of monopoly capitalism, democratic and fascist, are based on the protection of property [and] the protection of the right to exploit and make profit. The political slogans are formulated and adapted from one day to another only to suit that end.
Fascism, as a mass political creed in Europe, has been destroyed by four years of war. Nazis, fascists, quislings, all are intensely hated as a breed, a tendency and an idealogical political bloc. Yesterday and today the fascists ruled, tomorrow the workers and small farmers will present a heavy bill for fascist rule to its inspirers and organisers.
Of voluntary collaboration from the masses, of fraternity between Europe’s nations, the New Order has none. The whip; the firing squad: these are its organs of rule. Even the relative freedom of the satellite countries is now being destroyed by the demands of total war.
“Democracy” which suppresses the national aspirations of colonial millions; which links arms with fascists and neo-fascists, with Darlans and Girauds; which seeks to lean on Badoglio to retain the House of Savoy; “democracy,” which could not prevent the war, nor unemployment, nor crisis, which allows monopoly capitalism to remain in control of the nation’s wealth and loot the treasury in the midst of a bloody war – that type of democracy is being questioned by millions throughout the world. In Australia, Canada, Ireland, Britain, parliamentary figures tell their tale. In America, North and South, labour is on the march. Labour’s turn to the left is a world turn and will have world shaking results.
For the past two years, Churchill and Roosevelt have lavished fulsome praise upon the Soviet Union... and some arms. The policy of Anglo-American imperialism has revealed itself as dictated by class aims, economic and political.
These pseudo democrats hoped that Russia would be destroyed by Germany after a bloody and exhausting war. Two birds would be killed with the one stone and they would emerge on top. With the workers’ state destroyed and their German capitalist rival bled to death, peace would result in victory and a strengthening of their domination and control.
This programme, though denied, was blurted out by the impetuous and indiscreet Moore-Brabazon two years ago or more. In the Sunday Observer of August 29th, the editorial columnist once again lifts the screen, praising the brilliant strategical leadership of Churchill which has resulted in the exhaustion and decline of Germany at small cost... to Britain!
After Quebec, Churchill spoke and gave a clear picture of the policy and future military strategy of the Allies and their essential economic and political aims for the future. No military aid to Russia until the policy of Britain and America with their precise definitions of a carved up Europe has been accepted by Stalin and military intervention suits their imperialist aims.
Behind Churchill’s statement: that a military front such as Stalin demands will not be dictated by political considerations but by military strategy, lies a great and definite lie. For the refusal to open such a front is dictated precisely by the class, political antagonism between Soviet Russia, a degenerated workers’ state, and her allies, countries controlled by the capitalist class.
They lie who say that there is no conflict. They do a disservice to the tolling masses and to the Soviet Union who cover up this conflict. For behind the half concealed discussions and debates and open propaganda, secret diplomatic discussions to decide the carve up and dictate the economic and political future of Europe and the world are taking place.
Out with it! The masses must demand an end to the secret diplomatic talks. Expose it, for it is reaction’s tool. Labour must demand a clear and open statement of the basis of this conflict and take a hand in deciding what has to be done.
The turning of the energy of the Allies against Japan is a sign that they are waiting for a further weakening of Soviet Russia. The campaign against Japan underlines the fact that the only genuine allies of the workers’ state are the working class.
For four years, the destiny of millions has been in the hands of capitalist governments, apart from the Soviet Union. Stalin’s bureaucratic policy, in spite of the fact that Soviet Russia is a workers’ state, has helped the capitalists to control and mislead the people. But the fifth year will usher in a new period of social alignments and political struggles. For reaction is giving place to revolution. The masses will have the last word!
In this period the working class need clear ideas and a revolutionary programme. Above all they need an international socialist party to carry that programme into effect.
To defend the Soviet Union, not only from her enemies and “allies” but from the false bureaucratic policies of Stalinism, is a first duty of the working class. To do so the workers must find their independence as a class.
Only the Fourth International – the world party of socialist revolution – has the policy which faces up to all the demands of our epoch.
Rift widens in Allied camp
[Socialist Appeal, vol. 5 no. 19, Mid-September 1943]
Full text available on the Ted Grant Internet Archive: Rift widens in Allied camp
Churchill’s speech marks a new stage in the war
[Draft article, late September 1943]
Full text available on the Ted Grant Internet Archive: Churchill’s speech marks a new stage in the war
Italian workers had control
[Socialist Appeal, Vol. 5 No. 20, October 1943 - Not signed]
Events in Italy have moved to a tragic climax for the workers’ and peasants’ revolution. The occupation of the greater part of the country by the troops of the Nazis, and the other parts by the Allies, has for the time being, paralysed the social revolution, which had reached a ripe stage of development within a few weeks of its commencement.
The Stalinists and Labour leaders have maintained a conspiracy of silence as to the meaning of events in the Italian peninsula. Nowhere have they explained the meaning of the heroic steps taken by the Italian working class. The formation of soviets, of workers’ militias in the industrial cities of Northern Italy; and in the last few days before the surrender of Badoglio to the Allies, the establishment of workers’ control in Italy.
The information that Badoglio had signed an agreement with the leaders of the trade unions and workers’ committees, was published in their press without comment. What preceded this agreement was not explained to the working class. But it is quite clear from the press, despite the severe censorship, that when Mussolini fell, the big capitalists in Italy fled as rapidly as they could to Spain and to Switzerland. The workers already had direct control of many plants; they had blown open the safes and started to investigate the profiteering of the boss class and their fascist gangster protectors. It was this factor alone – that the workers had control – that forced Badoglio to “sign an agreement” and give it the appearance of the granting of a concession.
But this was not all: the press also reported that there was to be a “government investigation into the fortunes of the fascist politicians.” Again, this was presented as if the Badoglio government was to make real investigations into the racketeering of the fascist bosses. But the facts are that the workers had already started the process. By smashing up the fascist offices; by raiding the homes of the leading fascists and taking the initiative into their own hands, the workers had commenced the investigations. It was the workers who discovered the stores of loot and food; it was the workers who exposed the graft and corruption. Badoglio gave it a legal form, only to take the movement out of the hands of the workers and cover up as best possible, the real ramifications of the graft and corruption, which undoubtedly reached up to the King and a large number of the new brand of Italian “democrats” who have decided to become quislings for the US and British imperialists.
So strong was the movement among the workers that the Badoglio government was compelled to legalise the factory committees, which, in great part supervised and regulated the workings of the factories and had control over the books and accounts of the factories to check the real profits being made by the capitalists. All these were the first stages to the taking of complete power by the working class.
It is this movement of the masses which the ruling class of Italy and of the Allies regarded with dread and hatred. It was fear of the revolution which had caused Badoglio and the King to remove Mussolini, whom they had supported and aided. Having calculated that Germany would be defeated, the Italian capitalists, financiers and landowners sold out to “democratic” imperialism in the confident knowledge that they would be protected from the revenge of the masses, by the bayonets of Anglo-American imperialism.
But the events of the last few weeks have another significance. More than six weeks after the fall of Mussolini, the capitulation of Italy was announced. Yet the Germans were enabled to occupy the greater part of the country within a few days. Badoglio had been negotiating secretly for terms for weeks. Had the masses been organised for resistance the Nazis could never have taken over with such ease. Despite the heroic resistance of the workers in the industrial cities of the North, their lack of equipment and organisation, together with the bewilderment and demoralisation of the soldiers, led to a collapse. Milan was conquered by 1,500 German soldiers and 12 tanks; Como by 85 German soldiers, Venice by two E-boats. So it was in all the industrial cities of the North.
Thus it is clear that the Italian capitalists and militarists deliberately betrayed the newly awakened workers into the hands of Hitler. Terrified by the threat from the workers, they apparently believed that to send them to school to Hitler for the time being would cure them of their aspirations towards socialism.
But the actions of the Allies, who murderously bombarded the Northern cities and laid waste the anti-fascist and socialist strongholds of the working class in Milan, Turin, etc., would indicate that they were not at all disappointed at the developments as a temporary stop-gap. The British and American rulers are not at all averse to having their dirty work carried out by Himmler and the SS troops. Churchill’s speeches make no secret of his fears of the revolution in Italy which he terms “anarchy”. To set the British and American soldiers to destroy the factory committees, the soviets, and workers’ rights, would not be such an easy task. It would embody the danger of the complete demoralisation of the British and American armies and the spreading of revolutionary feelings to their ranks.
The Nazis are doing the dirty work. British and American imperialism calculated on driving the Nazis out fairly rapidly and occupying these areas before the soviets can be reconstituted. And as in Sicily, so in Italy, AMGOT will be clamped down on the Italian masses. The military rule of British and American imperialism under which the Sicilian people are deprived of “political activities”, and where the fascist administration has been preserved virtually intact, will be transferred to the Italian mainland.
The Italian revolution has been caught between the hammer of the Axis and the anvil of the Allies. In this situation, no words can adequately condemn the foul role played by Stalinism and the Socialist parties in the Italian revolution. By their echo of the imperialist demand for “unconditional surrender”, by sowing illusions in Allied aims, they assist in the martyrdom of the Italian workers and peasants.
The statement of Roosevelt and Churchill hailing Badoglio as the “liberator” of Italy front fascist servitude, is a conscious attempt to deceive the workers of Britain and America.
The first stage of the Italian revolution has ended in defeat. But the Italian workers will rise again in the coming months and years together with the workers of all Europe. According to Pietro Treves, right wing Socialist leader, writing in Labour Discussion Notes of August, of the six democratic and workers’ parties which made their appearance on the fall of Mussolini, the only party which stood for the socialist republic was the Italian Trotskyist Party. Under the banner of the Fourth International the workers will avenge the crimes of capitalism and establish a new world in which the horrors of fascism and war still be banished forever in a socialist Europe and a socialist World.
Fascist butchers now in allied camp
[Socialist Appeal, Vol. 5 No. 21, Mid-October 1943 - Not signed]
Churchill’s quislings have no mass support
If clear proof is needed of the farcical character of the “war for democracy,” it is provided by the switch of the italian capitalist class, the italian fascists and monarchy into the Churchill-Roosevelt camp.
In gathering into their bosom the gangster generals, the Allies have given clear proof of the “Europe of tomorrow” as they visualise it. A Europe ruled by the reactionary fascists, monarchists and near-fascists; a Europe ruled by Giraud, de Gaulle, Badoglio, Roatta, Ambrosio, Salazar, Franco and Michailovich – all having one thing in common: hatred of the working class.
Badoglio formally declared war on Germany. By this action the major section of the italian ruling class has thrown in its lot with the Anglo-American imperialists. And in this action is revealed the complete hypocrisy and insincerity of the claim that the war is a war of democracy against fascism.
Badoglio and the Italian monarchy are as guilty of the crimes of fascism as Mussolini himself. It was Badoglio and the King, as representatives of the Italian capitalists and landowners, who paved the way for the coming to power of Mussolini, who supported and aided fascism to the very end.
It was not Badoglio’s and Victor Emmanuel’s new-found love of democracy which has dictated the change of sides in the middle of the war after all the bloodshed of Italian workers and peasants, but the interests of the Italian ruling class.
The bewildering changes that have taken place during the course of the present war have indicated clearly the nature of the conflict, so far as its imperialist participants are concerned. Not democracy or fascism is the issue, but the struggle for markets, raw materials, colonies, and spheres of influence.
The real nature of these sterling democrats is revealed by the members Badoglio has chosen for his government. Before they realised the change in line of the democratic Allies, most of the British press wrote disapproving articles on the composition of the government. Badoglio, Mussolini’s former Chief of Staff, the man who conquered Abyssinia with bombs and poison gas, announcing his conversion to democracy and his opposition to fascism enlightens us as to the personnel of his new government:
“It will naturally and definitely exclude all fascists and it will be absolutely democratic. I shall keep the service ministers with me now. General Ambrosio, Chief of Combined Staff; General Roatta, Chief of Army Staff; Admiral de Courten, head of the Navy; and General Sandalli, commanding the Air Force.”
Even the yellow press baulked at this hypocrisy. General Roatta was responsible for the reorganisation of the Italian fascist troops in Spain after their defeat at Guadalajara. Later he succeeded Graziani as Chief of the Army Staff. In January 1942 he became commander of the Italian troops of occupation in Yugoslavia, in which role he massacred, burned and pillaged the land and its people. In June 1943 he was reappointed Chief of the Army Staff, which post he has retained in Badoglio’s government. General Ambrosio, who was Roatta’s predecessor in Yugoslavia, has an equally criminal record of terror and suppression. These men are on the list of fascist war criminals for perpetrating atrocities in occupied countries including Greece and Yugoslavia, yet they turn up newly groomed, as members of the “democratic” government supported by the Allies. Marshall Badoglio’s own record, plus his retention of such infamous fascists in the government, is sufficient indictment.
Events in North Africa, and now in Italy are the foretaste of what is being planned for the future of Europe. The rulers of Britain and America are preparing to prop up and support the very forces which placed fascism in power. In doing so the very last consideration they have in mind is the restoration of “democracy”.
The real reason for the change of front of Badoglio and the Italian monarchy is the attempt to regain, if possible, some parts of the lost Italian empire and to rely on the bayonets of Anglo-American imperialism to protect them from the wrath of the Italian masses. The hypocrisy of the Anglo-American imperialists is clear for all to see. Badoglio and the King have no support whatsoever among the Italian masses. Far from seeking out the real representatives of the masses, the allied imperialists have gone out of their way to emphasise their support of the “royal” Italian government. This underlines their intention to preserve even the reactionary monarchy which ushered in fascism.
Apart from the removal of Mussolini and a few scapegoats among the high-up fascists, everything is to remain the same in Italy according to their calculations.
When Badoglio was being questioned by newspaper correspondents as to whether his intentions included the restoration of democracy, according to the report of the News Chronicle, General Mason Macfarlane intervened on his behalf, with the remark: “Under the circumstances the question might be difficult to answer!” Here we see how much the Allied generals at any rate, care about “democracy”!
As if expressly designed to make a mockery of the Allied claims, almost simultaneously with the announcement of the Italian declaration of war against Germany, comes the agreement with Portugal on the Azores. While Hitler was winning in the early stages of the war, the Portuguese government inclined towards Germany. Salazar is a dictator who has suppressed the Portuguese trade unions and working class organisations, who supports fascism and actively assisted Franco, Mussolini and Hitler to defeat the Spanish workers in the Civil War. Now he is supporting the “democracies”. And Franco too is preparing to move over to the side of the British and American imperialists in order to gain concessions. None of them are concerned with anything but loot.
Meanwhile the Italian workers who so heroically demonstrated their willingness to strive for a better world and for socialism after the fall of Mussolini, are held under the boot of the Nazis and Allied imperialism, while Italy has become a battlefield.
But the imperialists will not be able to work such an easy passage for Badoglio or for themselves either. The Italian revolution will rise again together with the workers of all Europe. Badoglio has unwittingly provided proof of this fact, in his interview with the war correspondents when he said:
“A curious incident shows the extent of the feeling of relief, not only among Italians, but among the German soldiers. About the same time as the fall of Mussolini was announced, a rumour spread round Rome that Hitler had been assassinated.
“We saw German soldiers go into ecstacies of joy. They threw photographs of Hitler into the streets from their barracks windows, and cheered.”
It is this movement of the Italian masses which destroyed fascism. The German soldiers in Rome have provided a glimpse of the movement of the German workers tomorrow. Together with the workers of Britain and America, they will build a new world in which fascism and war will be abolished forever by abolishing their cause: capitalism.
The Moscow conference plans post-war reaction
[Socialist Appeal, vol. 5 no. 22, November 1943]
Full text available on the Ted Grant Internet Archive: The Moscow conference plans post-war reaction
Lebanon clash bares de Gaulle-Churchill aims
[Socialist Appeal, Vol. 5 No. 23, Mid-November 1943]
Full text available on the Ted Grant Internet Archive: Lebanon clash bares de Gaulle-Churchill aims
Allied talks plot world carve-up
[Socialist Appeal, Vol. 5 No. 24, Mid-December 1943]
Full text available on the Ted Grant Internet Archive: Allied talks plot world carve-up
Stalin scraps “Internationale”
[Socialist Appeal, Vol. 5 No. 25, January 1944]
Full text available on the Ted Grant Internet Archive: Stalin scraps “Internationale”
Stalin recognises Badoglio
[Socialist Appeal, Vol. 5 No. 20, April 1944]
Full text available on the Ted Grant Internet Archive: Stalin recognises Badoglio
Second front and the tasks of the working class
Statement of the political bureau of the Revolutionary Communist Party
[Socialist Appeal, Vol. 6 No. 1, Mid-June 1944]
The second front has been launched and the most decisive phase of the military struggle in the course of the war is about to commence. By sea and air, hundreds of thousands of men are being flung into Europe in preparation for what is undoubtedly the final phase of the battle of the armies.
Simultaneously with the opening of the second front, the Anglo-American imperialists have opened up a tremendous press campaign to infuse the British workers with a determined “will to victory” and to prepare them for the mounting toll of casualties in what is likely to be the bloodiest period of struggle.
From a military point of view it appears that the “Allies” now have superiority of arms and men and that the war is undoubtedly at the “beginning of the end.”
Hundreds of thousands, probably millions, of the cream of all the nations will die on the beaches and in the battles which are now opening up: rich manure out of which the imperialists of all nations, fascist and democratic alike, plan to reap untold profits. These men, who will give their lives, are told that their historic mission is the destruction of fascism and the liberation of Europe.
But the capitalists lie when they say that these sacrifices will mean the destruction of fascism! They lie when they proclaim that it will lead to the liberation of Europe! So also do their allies and lackeys lie who are in the leadership of the working class movement here in Britain. These blood sacrifices are being made not in the interests of democracy, but of Anglo-American imperialism.
The debacle in North Africa where a deal was done with quisling Darlan, in Italy, where king Victor [Emanuel] and Badoglio replaced Mussolini – and were only removed at the insistence of the masses, despite the protection afforded them by Churchill and Roosevelt; the recent speech of Churchill in which he applauded fascist Franco who butchered the flower of the Spanish working class and peasants: these acts are ample evidence that the programme of Anglo-American imperialism is not an anti-fascist programme, is not a programme of liberation. Only a workers’ army united by class bonds and with a class programme can perform these progressive and historic tasks.
The new phase in the military field opens up wide perspectives and a new phase in the political field. The refusal to recognise even the anti-socialist de Gaulle as the new leader of France is evidence that the Allies are leaving themselves free to do a deal with a more reactionary bloc – the Vichyites or another section of the French quislings – that they are leaving themselves free to do another Darlan. This is to be expected if it suits their interests and is in line with their programme and past activities.
But the French workers cannot and will not support such a foul manoeuvre. Nor should they place their hopes and trust in the programme of the apparently more radical de Gaulle!
The difficulties of the Nazi armies, their defeats and retreats, will undoubtedly uplift and encourage the French masses to organise widespread partisan warfare. The workers and peasants of France will arm themselves and fight for their liberation. Every independent step on the part of the masses in the struggle for national liberation will be greeted with joy on the part of the internationalists – the Trotskyists.
In the period of transition the widespread liquidation of the French quisling capitalists and administrators will be undertaken by the masses – before the leaders of the Allied armies contact the quislings and seek to protect them and incorporate them into the “liberated administration” – as they did in Italy and North Africa. Local government forms will be set up and the centralisation of the partisan bands will commence. But the centralisation of the partisans under the leadership of agents of Anglo-American imperialism, their collaboration and subjugation to the armies of the “Allies”, which follows from the policy of de Gaulle and his so-called socialist and communist allies, is a dangerous policy, fatal to the real interests of a free France and fatal to the socialist aspirations of the French workers and peasants.
Only an independent class policy, a socialist policy, a Bolshevik policy; only centralisation under the leadership of the working class and a Trotskyist party, can lead to a free and united France as part of the socialist united states of Europe. Such a leadership would issue a proclamation to the German soldiers calling upon them to desert their officers, lay down their arms or take them over to the French workers and peasants, and to participate in a policy of class fraternisation. Such a leadership would denounce the policy of national hatred and the subjugation of Germany to a new Versailles and call upon the German workers, together with the workers of all Europe to destroy capitalism and all its political forms, and to organise a free and united socialist states of Europe.
The revolutionists in France will strive for such a policy and will receive the full and unqualified support of the British Trotskyists in that task.
At home the introduction of 1AA, and now the opening of the second front, has given rise to a period of industrial quiet, hesitation and apprehension. The wave of strikes which swept the basic industries has been temporarily calmed. The masses fear the slaughter of their loved ones and hesitate to act in a manner which they believe might endanger their efforts on the military front and prolong the end of the war.
Echoing the ruling class, the Labour, trade union and Stalinist leaders outdo each other in ecstasies of downright jingoism. The Labour and Stalinist leaders out-Vansittart Vansittart in their denunciation of the German people – forgetting that it was their German counterparts, who by their false policies, helped Hitler to come to power, and for whom they bear full responsibility.
For three years the Stalinists have been clamouring for the second front. Every vestige of class programme and class tactic was subordinated in the interests of bringing about this second front. In Parliament, Gallacher, a portrait in renegacy, weeps crocodile tears at the sacrifices the lads are about to make – but he urges them on. The second front has been opened, not to aid the Soviet Union or because of the protestations of Stalin or of his British puppets, but because it suits the military and political interests of the ruling class.
In the Daily Worker the appeal of the French communists has a crosshead: Death to the Boche, demonstrating yet again the foul role that these renegades play in the ranks of the working class. Meanwhile the ruling class repays the Stalinists with a kick in the teeth – even refusing to allow (for reasons of “national security”!) these miserable renegades an accredited representative of the Daily Worker to enter France in common with all the other patriotic press. Treachery to the working class is thus paid with kicks and with thanks.
In the face of the second front, its death and destruction, it is easy to break faith with the socialist programme. It is easy to break faith with the British and international working class. But we Trotskyists refuse to break that faith by not telling the truth about the second front, explaining its aims and objects. We refuse to be silent whilst the fate of humanity is being determined for generations to come. The policy of the Allies, if accepted by the masses will lead to a Europe parallel to the “New Order” of Hitler. It will lead to the rule of quislings equally as vicious and brutal as Laval. Nazism will be destroyed, but reaction will reign.
The British ruling class are preparing to stabilise their position at home after the war. They are preparing for attacks against the rights and organisations of the working class. The arrest of our comrades under the vicious Trade Disputes Act is but the beginning. It will be followed by further attacks under 1AA against the more powerful organisations of the working class.
When the “liberators of Europe” have made their sacrifice, and the rest return home, their democratic liberties will only be returned and extended by yet another battle. This is already widely understood in the ranks of the working class.
In the coming days the false prophets will be tested. All parties and their policies will be seen in the light of big events and battles. We Trotskyists are not sceptics. We have supreme confidence in the working class, in their ability to threw up new revolutionary leaders and to fight for a revolutionary policy.
In Europe and at home the epoch of revolutionary socialism is about to unfold. Our policy of class struggle; of breaking the truce with the capitalists and fighting for Labour to power on a socialist programme; of uniting Europe into a powerful united socialist states together with Britain and the Soviet Union; of uniting the workers of the world in a socialist society – this policy, we are confident, will appeal to the workers as the only solution for the destruction of capitalism and its ulcers, fascism, political gangsterism, colonial suppressions, reaction and wars.
Churchill preparing peace of revenge
[Socialist Appeal, vol. 6 no. 2, July 1944]
Full text available on the Ted Grant Internet Archive: Churchill preparing peace of revenge
Germany – What next? Behind the generals’ revolt
[Socialist Appeal, Vol. 6 No. 4, August 1944]
Full text available on the Ted Grant Internet Archive: Germany – What next? Behind the generals’ revolt
[Socialist Appeal, vol. 6 no. 5, Mid-August 1944]
Full text available on the Ted Grant Internet Archive: Leon Trotsky
Capitalists fear armed Paris workers
[Socialist Appeal, Vol. 6 No. 5, September 1944]
Full text available on the Ted Grant Internet Archive: Capitalists fear armed Paris workers
The Allies fear fraternisation
[Socialist Appeal, Vol. 6 No. 6, October 1944]
Full text available on the Ted Grant Internet Archive: The Allies fear fraternisation
National question - Rough draft
[No date, presumably October 1944]
Full text available on the Ted Grant Internet Archive: National question - Rough draft
The coming German revolution
[Workers’ International News, Vol. 5 No. 7, October 1944]
Full text available on the Ted Grant Internet Archive: The coming German revolution
Why Hitler came to power
[Socialist Appeal, Vol. 6, No. 9, December 1944]
Full text available on the Ted Grant Internet Archive: Why Hitler came to power
Indian troops join ELAS
Military dictator placed in power
[Socialist Appeal, Vol. 6 No. 10, January 1945 - not signed]
Churchill has been compelled to make fake “concessions” to the mass movement of the Greek people. This adventurer thought he could crush the Greek workers and peasants in a matter of days. But he had neither reckoned with the heroic resistance of the Greek masses in their fight to gain the right to choose their own government, nor had he reckoned with the resentment of the British soldiers and workers at having to play the role of SS in “liberated” Europe.
One of the main factors dictating Churchill’s gesture was the wave of resentment caused in this country and among the British troops in Greece. Lord Farringdon declared openly in the House of Lords that this expedition would provoke the danger of mutiny among the British troops.
The British capitalists thought they could rely on reactionary Polish forces, colonial troops, and “especially trained” paratroopers for this dirty job. When additional troops were flown to Italy, they were deceived that they were being sent to fight against Germans, and a German uprising aided by a section of the Greeks. This was made more plausible by the fact that many of the ELAS soldiery have German uniforms and equipment which have been captured from the Germans. But their indignation was great when they were captured by ELAS and the truth was revealed.
The British troops in Greece could not be deceived for an extended period of time. Already a section of the Ghurkas, reputedly the most backward of Indian troops, have deserted to ELAS.
The Observer on December 17th, openly declared:
“...the price of such a victory (over ELAS) would be high, not only in casualties but in its repercussions at home and abroad. It could probably not be achieved without serious Labour trouble in this county. It might break the coalition...”
These factors have compelled the imperialists to look to other methods of crushing the movement of Greek workers and peasants. They are forced to rely on a new regroupment of puppets who will be in a better position than Papandreou and the King to control the masses.
The London Times, most sober and serious organ of big business openly revealed that support for the so-called Papandreou government was a myth.
“The grimmest fact about the whole situation, and the one which dominates everything else, is that fighting is still going on, not for the most part between Greeks and Greeks, but between British and Greeks...”
The forces of General Zervas whom British imperialism lavishly supplied with arms, uniforms, money and equipment, have melted to nothing as soon as the trial of strength was shown. From reports carefully censored, it is apparent that almost half, if not the majority immediately went over to ELAS when an actual clash occurred rather than allow themselves to become tools of the fascists and imperialists against the Greek people. Out of his boasted army of 15,000 to 18,000, the last remnants of 1,000 have been ignominiously evacuated by the British navy. British bayonets are the sole prop on which the royalists and fascists can rely.
The Conference in Athens which was supposed to settle matters “between the Greeks themselves” was so much hypocrisy. If the British troops were withdrawn from Greece, ELAS would be the master of Athens not in days but within hours. It was a conference between the puppets of Britain and ELAS.
The nature of the so-called “representative government” which Churchill was backing with arms and food was exposed by the delegates who represented it at this conference. Rallis was one of them. This man organised the armed quisling thugs and murderers of the so-called “Security Battalions” for the Nazis in order to terrorise and carry out punitive expeditions during the Nazi occupation of Greece. He was declared a “war criminal” who, because of the hatred of the masses, even the Papandreou government was forced to place behind bars as a traitor. He barely escaped with his life when ELAS stormed the gaols, and the workers and soldiers proceeded to execute the quislings on the spot so that they would not come under the protection of the British. He was rescued during the struggle by the British troops.
As a provocation and an insult to the Greek masses, Rallis turns up as a delegate to the so-called “peace” conference.
But the Papandreou government which Churchill described as so representative and which he tried so desperately to save, has disappeared.
Regent has been set up and new negotiations have commenced. It is possible that a deal will be made with ELAS and EAM. As the Times has suggested, a government similar to that of de Gaulle should be established. The whole policy of the Stalinist leadership of ELAS is based on the idea of a compromise with British imperialism. ELAS is asking for the disarmament of all the Greek forces – which leaves the control in the hands of British imperialism. This is the road of defeat and disaster. Power is in the hands of the worker and peasants of Greece, if they were conscious enough to grasp it; if the Stalinist party was a Leninist party pursuing the policy of the seizure of power by the working class, we would have a Soviet Greece which would inflame the Balkans.
But the Stalinist bureaucracy has betrayed the Greek masses. Not only have they refused aid which they could easily have rendered since they are on the borders of Bulgaria, they have maintained a treacherous silence, thus serving the interests of the reactionaries. In return for Churchill’s support in Poland, Stalin is prepared to support British reaction in Greece.
ELAS has been temporising. Instead of openly appealing to the workers of the world, and above all to the British workers, explaining the real aims of Churchill and the ruling class, they have toadied in their public statements to the British ruling class and Churchill. While not putting forward any socialist demands, they have appealed not for a government of the EAM which represents 90 percent of the population, but only for half and less of the seats in a new government.
They demanded Damaskinos as regent, who when appointed promptly handed over the government to General Plastiras, a notorious reactionary who has sworn enmity to EAM and said he would leave Greece if their demands were granted. His claim to represent the new Greek “democracy” is that he has twice been a military dictator in Greece!
The last time for one day, after which he had to flee the country. So much for trust in Damaskinos and other “impartial” representatives of the capitalist class.
A compromise may be reached. ELAS has been trying to find a formula for capitulation all the time, But they fear the masses who might take things into their own hands. Already, before the conflict had begun, the Greek masses were in a revolutionary mood. Long before the war the Trotskyist Party had big support among the Greek workers and peasants. The Economist of August 5 1944, wrote:
“It is interesting to note that a Russian military mission has now arrived in the Greek mountains. A report from Cairo says that its ‘most probable objective is to draw into line the recalcitrant communists who now rule the EAM detachments.
“Whether this is really so cannot yet be ascertained, though it is known that M. Papandreou has had some support in the Middle East from Soviet representatives. ‘Recalcitrant Communism’ used to be pretty strong in Greece some years ago. Its spokesmen, who labelled themselves curiously as ‘Archivo-Marxists’, gave many headaches to the leaders of the Communist International in Moscow. Under the Mexatas regime the ‘Archivo-Marxists’ were wiped out by police repression; and it seems somewhat doubtful whether the same movement has now been able to re-emerge and to sway the Greek guerillas. But it is quite possible that some such unorthodox communist tendency may have established itself among the ‘men of the mountains’ firmly enough to oppose the Lebanon Agreement and to reject any conciliation with the dynasty. If so then the Russian military mission in Greece will be confronted with a task which may be as much political [as] military.
“The Mission has come to Greece with an increased ‘moral and political prestige derived from the victories of Russian armies. This will probably strengthen its hands in laying the ‘Trotskyist’ ghost in the Epirus.”
Although no news has come through the censorship, a report appeared in the provincial editions of the British press, which was suppressed in the later editions of the national press, that [out of] three prisoners interviewed by British journalists, two stated that they were social democrats, and one that he was a member of the Fourth International.
Our Greek comrades will be fighting for a revolutionary socialist policy as the only means of achieving victory for the working class.
Our tasks in Britain
News from reliable sources indicates that Churchill was compelled to undertake the manoeuvre of his Christmas flight to Greece because the Labour ministers had told him that their position was becoming untenable in face of the overwhelming protests they had received from the organised Labour movement throughout the country. They said that unless the policy was modified, in view of the risinig wave of protest, they would have no alternative but to leave the government. But Churchill has not changed. He remains, as before, the implacable enemy of the workers.
This shameful behind the scenes negotiations with Churchill and the reactionary imperialists by the Labour leaders must be ended. The pressure of the workers has already rocked the coalition. A mighty movement to end the coalition would compel the Labour ministers to leave the government and stay Churchill’s claws from seizing the Greek workers by the throat.
Workers! Demand the withdrawal of the British troops from Greece! End the coalition! For a socialist Greece and a socialist Britain!
British Labour betrayed Greek workers
Full text available on the Ted Grant Internet Archive: British Labour betrayed Greek workers
Crimea decisions kept from masses
[Socialist Appeal, Vol. 7 No. 1, March 1945 - not signed]
An avalanche of propaganda was let loose after the Crimea conference. Capitalist, labour and Stalinist press all over the world lauded the decisions.
The Daily Worker announced straight from the horse’s mouth that all future wars are ended by the decisions at Crimea. To add colour and drama to the situation, all the puppet states rattled their swords, sounded the bugles of battle, and declared war on Germany and Japan.
Concretely, what has been achieved? An announcement to destroy Germany, but this is a repetition of old statements poured through press and radio for five years. Stalin is to have his way in Poland and the London puppets are to be liquidated in favour of the Lublin puppets. This is an accomplished fact known for months.
No one will shed tears over the liquidation of [the] London Polish [government in exile] except the anti-Soviet diehards. No one gloats over the success of the Lublin government except the Stalinists. To the Polish masses, as revealed in the betrayal of Warsaw, both are criminals. Fundamentally, they offer only the continuation of capitalist regime in Poland, with all the pre-1939 spectres of horror. Once again the Polish masses will have to renew their struggles, and look beyond Lublin – beyond Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt to the working classes abroad for solidarity and assistance. Crimea has not solved one single problem of the Polish workers and the peasants.
Churchill made one of his purple speeches in the House of Commons. Following a tourist guide, he described the places he visited, the luncheons he attended, the banquets he gave, and conveyed the generally prevalent atmosphere after a good dinner, plenty of wine and expensive cigars. At the end of all this, he concluded his speech with a peroration that “far reaching decisions” had been taken.
That is the crux of the matter. “Far reaching” decisions were taken, but they are secret decisions on which the working classes are not to express their opinions.
Remember the flamboyant announcement of the Atlantic Charter and the Teheran conference. Later when the question became more concrete, Churchill revealed that the Charter did not apply to India or British colonies. It did not apply even to the enemy countries. In fact, it did not apply to anyone at all. Surpassing this cynicism, Roosevelt said that it will find a good place in historical archives, and in any case it was not signed by anybody and committed no one to the policy. But one concrete point which did remain a secret – a point on which Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill agreed – that was [on the] Greek revolution. Churchill chartered the course of action British imperialism would take and received the approval of Roosevelt and Stalin.
To get a correct picture of the Crimea conference, similarly, it is necessary not to merely examine the platitudes uttered by Churchill echoed by the Daily Worker – but to examine what he failed to mention. What is the attitude of Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt to the coming European revolutions? Surely, if the Greek situation seemed explosive at Teheran and decisions were made to put the revolution down – although not revealed until 12 months later – isn’t the whole of Europe a volcano today? The economic chaos is deepening, starvation is on the order of the day. The destruction of the German military machine will unleash the working class of Germany and Europe for the seizure of power. Did the “Big Three” arrange their plans to deal with the situation? It is obvious that this item must have been a major problem on the agenda. It is obvious what plans were devised and plotted against the working class. But these “far reaching” decisions were not revealed to the masses.
The Stalinists would cynically say that the conference decided to support the democratic demands of the masses. If so, why the secrecy? If Churchill would have announced after Teheran that the Greek revolution would be crushed, and Stalin had sanctioned its crushing, as he did after the event, what would have been the reaction of the British workers?
That is not all. It is obvious that some of the French colonies will be taken away. How are these colonies – mandated territories taken from France and Japan – to be disposed of? By giving them freedom? The American Wall Street Journal, Capital, revealed some time ago that Britain was forced to agree to an American seizure of the Japanese colonies.
Stalin also must have put forward his claims in the Far East. How were they settled at Crimea? Or was all this merely discussed and the three agreed to settle their claims at a future date at the point of a bayonet? Churchill did not utter a word on this question.
For some time now a conflict has been going on in the Middle East. Britain demanded oil concessions in Iraq; the Americans put forward the same demand; Stalin also spoke. Roosevelt saw the Arab chiefs – apparently Churchill learned about it after reaching Yalta. Fearing to lose the British imperialist grip in the Middle East, he decided to entertain the Arab chiefs. Once again, what was decided over the Middle East? Was the fate of Palestine discussed? Who is to get the oil concessions? Churchill is silent.
If all these things were discussed as they must have been in a Conference lasting nine days, with all the economic experts attending, not a word to the House of Commons and the British public.
It is clear that the root causes of war will remain, and cannot be eradicated by arguments of the imperialist powers with the Stalinist bureaucracy. Behind the superficial agreements reached at Crimea, the conflict between British and American imperialism and the Soviet Union continues. The demands of each, the manoeuvres to dominate, will continue at San Francisco.
The second factor on which there was agreement was the creation of a glorified League of Nations. Five countries, in words, are to dominate it. But in effect, China and France will play a minor role. Already, even Britain is thrust aside, and the American capitalist press speaks of two great powers, meaning the Soviet Union and America. What can such a League of Nations do in a conflict between the USA and the USSR?
However distorted by the Stalinist bureaucracy, as long as Russia remains based on nationalised means of production, it is a pistol aimed at world capitalism. Sooner or later world capitalism will seek its destruction. In such a struggle what functions can a League of Nations perform?
The two factors on which agreement was reached and announced to the world, lay the foundations for the third world war. All experts agree that Europe is a unified economic entity. The Treaty of Versailles, by splitting or maintaining Europe into tiny units, with tariff barriers and armaments race, created the conditions for the Second World War. In European economy Germany occupies the key position. The solution to the problem of wars does not lie along the lines of Balkanisation. That will only reduce the European masses to a low level of living, to be kept as pawns in the game of power politics. Only a unified European economy – in which the feudal remnants [and] capitalism have been overthrown and the working class [is] firmly in the seat of power in all the European countries, primarily Germany – can give peace and plenty for all.
In such a socialist united states of Europe, once again the German working class will occupy the key position. Crimea can decide what it likes, but the only alternatives for the working class are a third world war or a socialist Germany in a socialist united states of Europe.
The decisions at the Crimea conference, announced publicly are only a deception and a delusion. The real decisions shrouded in mystery for the working class, can only lead to further wars and misery. The labour movement must demand of its leaders to put an end to secret diplomacy of the imperialist gangsters; the workers have the right to know what plots are being hatched which will determine the destiny of the masses of Europe and the world.
The changed relationship of forces in Europe and the role of the Fourth International
[Workers’ International News, “RCP conference decisions”, September 1945]
Full text available on the Ted Grant Internet Archive: The changed relationship of forces in Europe and the role of the Fourth International
Open letter on repression in Northern Ireland
January 9 1943
The vicious police regime of Northern Ireland, the most reactionary government in the English speaking countries, has commenced a campaign of victimisation and repression against the Ulster section of Workers’ International League (Fourth International).
In conjunction with the Stalinists who have acted as informers and police agents, the capitalists in Ulster have started to drive our comrades out of their jobs. One of our local comrades was driven out of the shipyards at the beginning of November, and blacklisted by the Employers’ Federation. He is unable to obtain work despite the “shortage of skilled labour”.
On November 29th another of our comrades, Pat McKevitt was arrested and detained under the Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Act. After being held for a week without charge or trial he was escorted to the border and deported into Southern Ireland.
Comrade McKevitt, who was born in Dublin, is a plumber and was employed by Messrs. Harland and Wolff, shipbuilders at Belfast. He has a fine record of trade union militancy and is well known in Dublin where he was formerly a committee member of the Plumbers’, Glaziers’ and Domestic Engineers’ Union.
On the 3rd January, comrade Bob Armstrong, the leading member of our Irish section was arrested and detained under the same act. Although he is only 30 years old, comrade Armstrong has a record of more than 10 years activity in the British working class movement. Born in Glasgow he served his earliest years in the ILP Guild of Youth before joining the Communist Party in which he spent nearly 6 years. At the beginning of the Spanish civil war, he was one of the earliest members of the British Communist Party to join the International Brigade in which he served with distinction. He left London in August 1936 and was in Spain until the middle of 1938. He was twice wounded in the civil war; left hospital for the front before he was discharged on the first occasion and was put in charge of the International Brigade records at Albacete after his second wound. When he returned to England, although he had already started to question the policy of the Stalinists in Spain he retained his party membership and toured the country as a leading speaker for International Brigade Dependents’ Aid Committee. He addressed mass meetings of workers from CP platforms.
As the result of his own political development, he broke from the British Communist Party along with five other members of the Islington branch of the London CP after they had tried to conduct a discussion inside the Party which was refused and blocked by the Stalinist bureaucrats. He, together with his comrades immediately drew the correct conclusions of experiences in the CP and entered the ranks of the Trotskyists. Since that time comrade Armstrong has been one of our most valuable comrades, placing his whole life and experience at the disposal of our movement.
Following his break with Stalinism, the CP, unable to attack his record in public, immediately conducted their usual whispering campaign of slander and lies to undermine his splendid record.
Although the (Special Powers) Act was introduced ostensibly to deal with the IRA, the labour movement in Northern Ireland has consistently fought it and explained to the workers that it would one day be directed against militant and revolutionaries of the workers’ movement.
None of our comrades in Belfast have at any time been members of the IRA, but are Marxists who carry out their activity with the traditional weapons of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky, struggling against the petty bourgeois terrorist policy of the IRA and attempting to win the fearless youth of Ireland to the Marxist banner.
These comrades are married men with family obligations. The arrests, victimisation and deportation bring them face to face with actual starvation. Particularly in the case of comrade McKevitt who will receive no dole or financial assistance in Eire and will find it almost impossible to get work because of the widespread unemployment.
It is an urgent duty of all socialists and worker militants to immediately raise the question among our contacts, friends, in trade union and labour meetings.
Demand the release of Bob Armstrong.
Give and collect as much money as possible to keep these comrades and their families during this period. Such monies should be clearly marked, “Belfast Fund” and sent to the Treasurer at 61, Northdown Street, London, N1.
 The Civil Authorities Act (commonly known as “Special Powers Act”) was introduced in Northern Ireland in 1922, establishing among other measures the internment without trial.
Coalition cracking - Labour to power
[Socialist Appeal, Vol. 5 No. 6, March 1943]
Full text available on the Ted Grant Internet Archive: Coalition cracking - Labour to power
The Beveridge Report
A directive to members
By WIL Political Bureau
In dealing with the Beveridge Report our comrades must be crystal clear on how to approach the problem. It would be criminal on our part to create the slightest illusion in the minds of the workers regarding Beveridge, and in particular regarding our attitude towards it.
Because of the broad popular support which has been created in the ranks of the workers for the Beveridge Plan as the result of the skilful newspaper propaganda, aided by the workers’ press, and by the illusions created in the minds of the workers as the result of the right wing opposition in Parliament and their refusal to legislate it, our comrades can easily slip into a position of critical support for the Beveridge Plan, and not make our principled position clear. The grave danger is, that as the result of the opposition of big business, the main weight of the discussions in the labour movement will centre around this question, and it is our task to continually strive to bring the discussions back to a principled plane. Even the more advanced workers have some illusions on the “Plan”, and despite their scepticism, are easily confused unless the clear alternative is posed. They regard the Plan as a “lesser evil”.
Our whole perspective of crisis for British imperialism and coming tremendous class struggles, teaches us to place the Beveridge Plan in its correct relationship in the economic and political life of the nation.
In the first place, only the petty capitalists and their reformist allies believe that it can be implemented. The genuinely conscious representatives of big business know better and are scientifically correct, as capitalist economists, in their arguments against the Plan. The Beveridge scheme is utopian and if it were introduced into the Statute Books as the result of a radical upsurge, and even partially operated, it could only be for a short duration when the position of British capitalism would engender crisis and collapse.
Seen in perspective, the Plan is in the nature of a vent for the energy and revolutionary ideas of the workers, and thus acts as a red herring to distract the minds of the workers away from revolutionary socialist measures as the basis of social security.
The following directive is issued in the attempt to establish for our comrades the correct and concrete method of tackling the problem when it comes up for discussion, and to clearly establish our position as against that of the reformists.
1. The Beveridge Plan is a miserable reform with a number of reactionary features.
2. Our general attitude towards the Plan is determined by this characterisation.
3. The weight of our argument is thrown into exposing the Beveridge Plan rather than opposing it.
4. Our task is to explain the limitations of the Plan its reactionary characteristics; the difficulties and indeed, the impossibility of putting it into operation with the best will in the world on the part of the ruling class to explain that in the event of a political crisis that puts Labour into power, or a left coalition pledged to operate the Plan, that the financial guarantees would be undermined by inflation which the big business executives would inevitably introduce.
5. The primary reason for its introduction at this stage is to sidetrack the inevitable revolutionary upsurge of the masses, who will demand radical changes in the social and economic structure of the nation, into the blind alley of reformism.
6. From this flows the necessity to oppose the Labour and trade union leadership who present Beveridge as a panacea for social security after the war, and to counterpose our own demands that Labour break the coalition and fight for power on the basis of our socialist programme. We demonstrate that, by limiting the demands of the workers to Beveridge, the policy of the leadership of the Labour movement is a policy of betrayal. That this policy must inevitably lead to the disillusionment of the mass of the workers and lower middle class and that it must therefore strengthen reaction and lead to fascism in Britain.
7. In the trade union and Labour movement, our attitude towards Beveridge will be determined by the character of the resolution.
If it proposes to endorse the attitude of the National Council of Labour, the TUC, or the Co-op leadership towards the Beveridge scheme, we oppose the resolution and present an amendment demanding that Labour break the coalition and fight for power on a socialist programme as the only basis for social security. We vote against the original resolution in the event of our amendment not being carried, and thus demonstrate our principled opposition to the policy of betrayal.
If the resolution demands the immediate implementing of Beveridge and calls upon the Labour leaders to fight for its immediate and unconditional legislation, we put an amendment as before, and in the event of this falling, we put a second amendment demanding that Labour break the coalition to implement Beveridge, again explaining and emphasising our attitude towards the plan, and pointing out to the workers that if they seriously believe that it will partially solve their problem, then they have no alternative but to take this step. We would explain that without a directive as to how the Beveridge scheme could be implemented, i.e. by breaking with big business and conducting a struggle against it, the resolution was a farce. We would explain that if this was carried out we would give full support to the Labour Party against the reactionaries. But all the time we counterpose our own programme and thus, demonstrate to the workers in their own experience that the Beveridge scheme is incapable of solving the problem of social security, and teach them that the only alternative is the socialist revolution.
If this amendment was carried – to break the truce to implement Beveridge – we would vote for the resolution. But if our amendment fell, we would vote against the original resolution.
8. The question of our attitude in Parliament is not a practical one for us at this stage but it has a certain theoretical value. We would expose the meagreness of the proposed reform and its reactionary features, and explain why it is being introduced at this stage. We would demonstrate the soundness and the correctness of the reactionary opposition’s argument from the capitalists’ point of view as the result of Britain’s position in the world market. We would demonstrate from this that socialism is the only basis for social security. We would expose the reactionary attitude of the parliamentary reformists in accepting this Plan as the basis for social security, and clearly state that this attitude was a betrayal and that they were preparing to conduct a shadow fight with the ruling class around the question of Beveridge, instead of demanding large scale socialist measures as the basis for social security. We would then call upon the Labour leaders in Parliament to break the coalition and fight for power on our programme as the only basis for social security.
Having made our political attitude crystal clear, we would vote for the immediate implementing of the Beveridge scheme with the reformists and against the reactionaries.
9. The difference between our attitude in the working class organisations and in Parliament arises from the class character of the two institutions. In the labour movement there is no question of voting with the reactionaries when we vote against the Beveridge scheme, or the fakers who wish to limit the struggles of the working class to Beveridge. The full weight of our argument would be levelled against the Labour leaders for their policy of betrayal and our principled attitude demonstrated clearly and decisively in what we say; it must be emphasised by our vote which is against all false resolutions on the question. In Parliament our political case is identical, but the emphasis is thrown on the attack against capitalism, because of its hostility towards even this miserable reform and its inability to grant the workers even a minimum measure of social security. From this flows our criticism of the Parliamentary Labour Party for not decisively breaking with the capitalists and calling upon the workers to introduce a Labour government with large scale socialist measures as the only basis for social security and thereby, as the result of their sparring with the capitalists over the question of utopian and miserable reforms, misleading the workers and crippling their class basis of activity. Our vote would go with the reformists against the reactionaries so that our class position and hostility to capitalism would be harmonised with throwing the maximum weight for legislated reforms.
ILP conference and tasks of the left
[Socialist Appeal, Vol. 5 No. 9, Mid-April 1943]
Full text available on the Ted Grant Internet Archive: ILP conference and tasks of the left
The ILP in transition
[Workers’ International News, Vol. 5. No. 11, May 1943]
Full text available on the Ted Grant Internet Archive: The ILP in transition
Labour Party endorses truce
[Socialist Appeal, Vol. 5 No. 13, Mid-June 1943]
Full text available on the Ted Grant Internet Archive: Labour Party endorses truce
Labour leaders back Vansittartism
[Socialist Appeal, vol. 5 no. 14, July 1943]
Full text available on the Ted Grant Internet Archive: Labour leaders back Vansittartism
Appeal is in danger
Paper control used for political victimisation
[Socialist Appeal, Vol. 5 No. 22, November 1943]
The voice of revolutionary socialism is in danger of being suppressed. On a technical plea, the paper controller has suspended the license for both the Socialist Appeal and Workers’ International News. There is an implied threat to revoke our license altogether. These are the facts.
We must sound the alarm to our readers and friends. Never have we been faced with such a grave situation. In this period we need the full assistance and solidarity of every single friend, as we have never needed it before.
For two years, the Tories have been hammering at Herbert Morrison to suppress the Socialist Appeal and the Trotskyists. In Parliament and out of Parliament these representatives of big business have been pleading with Morrison, not only to suppress the Appeal but to suppress our organisation, Workers’ International League, and imprison its leaders. Morrison has refused on the plea that our press and party have not sufficient influence, although he threatened us with suppression about two years ago.
The Tories do not challenge the truth of what we print. On the contrary, it is because the Socialist Appeal alone of all the British working class press is fearless and consistent in its exposures of Tory aims that they demand a black out.
When the Barrow strike was taking place and the campaign was launched against us by Bevin, who accused the Trotskyists of being responsible for the wave of strikes, the Tory press used the situation to renew the campaign to suppress us.
The Daily Mail editorially demanded that police measures be taken against us. Charles Sutton, the Mail’s industrial correspondent stated that Herbert Morrison was reconsidering his belief that we had only a small influence in the country and was changing his mind about leaving us alone. This was probably wishful thinking on the part of Sutton and his editor, but it is an indication of how the most vicious anti-labour press look at the situation.
It is not possible to say exactly what the position is among the government tops; it is [however] possible to state openly that the attack against the Socialist Appeal did not arise from the local office of the Paper Controller but was clearly motivated and directed from the top, the office of Tory Minister of Supplies, Sir Andrew Duncan.
All the indications are, that failing to get Morrison to carry out their foul demands, and following on the violent attacks against the Trotskyists by Bevin – which indicates that the Tories can expect the support of Bevin in any steps they take against the Socialist Appeal – the right wing have become emboldened and have used Duncan’s office for a stab in the back at the Socialist Appeal and thus at the whole working class.
The use of the Paper Controller to strangle the Socialist Appeal is an attempt at political assassination in the dark-out of the public eye. We will not allow it to happen. We will bring their sinister activities into the open. If they insist on suppressing us they will be forced to do it publicly, before the eyes of the whole of the working class – in Parliament.
It is not because paper is short that we are being attacked. Every paper and magazine in the country is getting an increased allocation. Sir Andrew Duncan recently let it be known in Parliament, that not every journal uses its quota. It is clearly therefore for political reasons.
The Socialist Appeal is fast becoming recognised as the leading political and industrial paper of the British working class. Everyone knows this. In every part of the country, the advanced workers pass it from hand to hand because there are too few copies in circulation because there is one copy where there should be ten. This is what the Tories fear. This is why they are taking backstair methods to suppress the Socialist Appeal.
At present we are conducting negotiations with the Paper Controller. We do not know how these negotiations will go. But we can assure our friends that we will fight to the last ditch to keep the Socialist Appeal regularly on the streets. We will refuse to have our voice silenced. This may involve us in costly legal expenses.
Besides moral assistance we need every penny of financial assistance that we can get. Readers, friends, fight for the Appeal; give us the cash to make our voice heard.
Political Bureau, Workers’ International League
Editorial Board, Socialist Appeal
Editorial Board, Workers’ International News
Internationalism and centrism
[Workers’ International News, Vol. 5 No. 6, February 1944]
Full text available on the Ted Grant Internet Archive: Internationalism and centrism
Churchill’s support crumbling
[Socialist Appeal, Vol. 5, No. 19, March 1944]
Full text available on the Ted Grant Internet Archive: Churchill’s support crumbling
[Socialist Appeal, vol. 5 no. 21, Mid-April 1944]
Full text available on the Ted Grant Internet Archive: ILP conference
Bevin defends his anti-labour laws
[Socialist Appeal, Vol. 5 No. 22, May 1944]
Full text available on the Ted Grant Internet Archive:
Labour leaders fear conference
[Socialist Appeal, Vol. 5 No. 23, Mid-May 1944 - not signed]
The Labour leaders have announced the cancellation of this year’s Labour Party conference. The ostensible excuse for this is the warning of the Railway Executive Committee that it will be necessary to withdraw many more trains for military purposes.
But this excuse does not hold water, since many other organisations are holding their conferences as usual.
It is obvious that the leadership of the Labour Party has eagerly seized this pretext as a way out of a situation which even at best would be embarrassing and painful to them.
The opening of the second front would give added importance to a Conference of the representatives of the working class to discuss the issues whereby the fate of Europe is being decided. But the leaders are content to leave the fate of the workers in the hands of the capitalist class without giving the rank and file the opportunity to voice its opinions.
The real truth of the matter is that the leadership has seized the opportunity to avoid facing the rank and file delegates at this juncture. Throughout the country, in the unions and among the rank and file of the Labour Party, there is a tremendous revolt against the support by the Labour and trade union bureaucrats of the new anti-labour laws and a feeling of opposition to any measures of reprisal against the Labour “rebels.”
The leadership has followed this up by a demand for a statement from Aneurin Bevan that he will “in future loyally accept and abide by the orders of the Parliamentary Party.” In the event of a refusal the joint meeting of the NEC of the Labour Party and the Administrative Committee of the Parliamentary Labour Party has recommended that Bevan should be expelled. The stiffening of the attitude of the Labour leaders after the Parliamentary Labour Party had accepted a compromise, is obviously connected with the decision to cancel the Labour Party conference.
The leadership has realised the depth of feeling which these issues have aroused among the Labour rank and file. A reaction which has been completely unexpected by the leadership. A conference now would possibly reveal a sharp reaction against the whole compromising policy of capitulation to the ruling class by the policy of coalition. So the leadership prefers to wait for what they imagine would be a better atmosphere for the putting over their reactionary coalition policy – possibly after the second front has been opened.
This treacherous manoeuvre of the Transport House bosses shows how much they are really concerned with democracy in the party and seeking the opinions of the rank and file on the major crisis within the Labour Party.
The Labour rank and file workers should demand the speedy holding of the conference at a suitable date. The cancellation of the conference in conjunction with the whole record of the Labour and trade union bureaucrats in the coalition seriously poses before the Labour workers the necessity for a serious struggle to democratise and revitalise the Labour movement. Real democracy within the unions and the Labour Party can only be obtained by pushing the leadership on the road of a struggle for power against the capitalists.
Instead of directing their blows and reprisals against the left wing inside and outside the Labour Party within the working class movement, the leadership should be compelled to fight against the systematic attacks of the bosses on the standards of the workers. Either this or they should be driven out of the movement altogether. Either open MacDonaldism or the road of the crass struggle.
In the ending of the coalition with the capitalists, both industrially and politically lies the only means of reviving the Labour movement.
The attack on our party
By Political Bureau of RCP
[Internal circular, May 24 1944]
The recent attack against our organisation, the arrest of our comrades and subsequent trial together with the introduction of Regulation 1AA, has raised new and wider perspectives before our party and forces upon us a new tactical orientation. After a series of fairly thorough discussions, the Political Bureau decided to issue certain preliminary directives as the basis for local discussions both in relation to our Labour Party and industrial work.
The attack on our party launched by Bevin has brought our tendency before the workers in a manner which would have been impossible to visualise a few years, or even months ago. The prosecution of our comrades, which is everywhere recognised as the persecution of our party, is a historical prosecution being the first under the Trade Disputes Act, and marks a landmark in labour history. The reaction of the masses to the use of the Trade Disputes Act is one of sympathy with our party, and acceptance (though they disagree with our policies) of the fact that we are the revolutionaries – that we are the militant communists.
The new anti-labour legislation 1AA was introduced into Parliament with a full day’s debate and the main argument of the government was: this regulation is necessary to... combat the Trotskyists! The main opposition in the House of Commons to the anti-labour legislation – Bevan and Co., who received the undoubted support of the broad mass of the organised workers – comes to the defence (albeit weakly) of the Trotskyists. It can be said that the most significant “revolt” and crisis in the Labour Party since the beginning of the war is linked to the attacks against the Trotskyists, to the attacks against the Revolutionary Communist Party.
At the fusion conference it was agreed that we had once again entered the bloodstream of the organised labour and trade union movement as a distinct political trend: but only just. Now we can say that we have entered the political arena not only as a party, but one which is acknowledged as the left revolutionary wing of the working class. In the minds of the broad masses there is a marked sympathy with us, although there is little or no active and hard support. There is, however, the recognition that we are being framed because we are the most militant political and industrial trend in the country. In the left wing of the ILP, the Labour Party, and trade union movement, and even to some extent in the ranks of the Communist Party, there is the beginning of an open recognition that the Trotskyists continue the communist policy and tradition.
On the defence committee, the British Trotskyists for the first time, have a platform together with the established left reformist and centrist leaders of the labour movement. This fact has the effect of positively integrating Trotskyism as part of the labour movement in the eyes of the most advanced workers.
A new and fertile field has opened up for us which can be described as the limited united front.
In the past we tended to emphasise, almost to the exclusion of every other consideration, our criticism of the left reformist trend. Our attacks against the right wing of the Labour Party were usually in passing. We considered they were sufficiently exposed to those workers to whom we were addressing ourselves. This helped to harden out the principled cadres of the movement and helped to destroy any illusions that new members coming from the mass movement still had in the left wing leaders of these organisations. But in one sense, it was also a product of our isolation. Our appeal was directed to a small, narrow circle of the most advanced workers. But now our appeal is directed not only to the most advanced elements of the workers but to broader circles of left wing Labour supporters. An important part of our work in the present united front will be the skilful exposure of the reformists and centrists in deeds, but to slightly alter our method of approach, without, of course, withdrawing an inch from our principled political criticisms.
Our method of approach must be to bring out and emphasise the progressive aspect of the revolt of Bevan and the Labour lefts, and pose before the supporters of this trend the necessity to draw the logical conclusion from the steps which the lefts have taken against the reactionary right bloc. By this method we will place the responsibility on their shoulders for refusing to face up to the situation, and at the same time to explain the steps which we consider necessary for the left wing of the working class to take. Bevan and the lefts are the weathercocks of the labour movement. At present they sense the feeling of organised labour and reflect the pressure on part of the workers. Thousands of workers throughout the country have illusions in these lefts which will only be shattered by a process of patient explanation on our part.
It must be understood that we are dealing with capable reformists who are not amateurs at the game of “blocs”, united fronts, and manoeuvres, whereas we are entering this wider field for the first time, and with inadequate forces. We can therefore possibly make mistakes which can damage our future work. We must avoid such mistakes even if we are to make others of a rather sectarian character. If it were a question of a manoeuvre at the top and a bloc with the Bevan’s only, it would be lacking in principle and we would reject it at once. But there are thousands of the best elements in the ranks of the working class who look to these lefts for a lead and who have a genuine desire to combat the Trade Disputes Act and Regulation 1AA. It is with the purpose of integrating ourselves with these sections of the working class that we must throw the weight of our party and try to draw them fully into the struggle to combat the anti-labour laws and free our comrades.
To the extent that we can carry this out, we will raise the party onto a new level in its direct relations with the left elements of the working class. Such workers are openly hostile to the right wing of the Labour and trade union movement. But to destroy their illusions in the “lefts” it is not sufficient that we denounce Bevan as we have done in the past. It is necessary to be explanatory: to go through their experiences with them, calling on Bevan to match his words and gestures with deeds.
In joint work, and on the platforms with them, the method of approach will be decisive. Insofar as the limited task of combatting 1AA and the Trade Disputes Act is dealt with, our attitude must be aggressive. Stating our clear and hostile attitude towards the bourgeoisie, we must place the responsibility for the present situation, and particularly 1AA on the shoulders of the right wing of the labour movement. On a common platform, we should not, unless absolutely necessary, directly attack our allies of the day. We should however, do so at all times and in any case, by the statement of our positive policy: break the coalition, etc. It may be that while on that platform, it becomes necessary to make a negative criticism of our “allies”. Outbursts of downright chauvinism, criticisms of strikes, of militant activity or revolutionary propaganda would place the responsibility immediately on our shoulders to criticise what has been said. But in general, on a joint platform, the broader issue of the nature of the war will be pushed into the background at this stage of the limited united front. We will expose the “lefts” positively by pointing out that they can only carry the struggle to a successful conclusion by making a break with the coalition and rallying the working class in a struggle to place Labour in power on a socialist programme. In our press an important part of our material will continue to be devoted to a criticism of the “lefts”. But here too, our weight will be shifted from savage and downright denunciations towards pedagogical criticism and explanation.
In general, this limited united front will only be of value to our party if it brings us into closer contact with wider circles of the organised working class, and if we can draw broader sections of the advanced workers into common work with us. It may well be that in this will be the beginning of a real collaboration with the left Labour workers. On the other hand, it can easily die out, and very quickly too. Our tactics will evolve empirically as we gain experience in line with the situation as it evolves. One thing is certain: we must seize the favourable opportunity to utilise what forces can be mobilised now. Party work must be mobilised around this issue.
Our industrial perspective in the light of 1AA
It is an undeniable fact that the introduction of 1AA limits the legal activities of the Militant Workers’ Federation and our party industrial work generally. Our industrial perspectives must therefore be seriously discussed, reviewed and revised. It is necessary to adopt a new tactical orientation, whilst maintaining that firm and militant stand which characterised our industrial activity in the past.
Whilst broadening the legal basis of the existing anti-strike legislation and thereby limiting the activities of all workshop militants, 1AA is aimed directly against the Militant Workers’ Federation and similar organisations which seek to coordinate the militant industrial activities of workers in each district, between districts and on a national scale. One of the most important effects of the new law is to protect the trade union bureaucracy at the expense of the rank and file. It is now illegal to discuss or advocate strike action outside the branch room or official trade union organisation. It is now illegal to circulate resolutions of support other than through trade union branches or official bodies. It is now illegal to issue sheets for the collection of funds other than through the branches or official bodies. Insofar as strikes take place, and they undoubtedly will, support must be constitutional to be legal. We should make our fellow workers fully aware of these facts. We should hammer it into the consciousness of the sympathisers and members of the Militant Workers’ Federation and its area organisations, although it should not stop us from collecting monies through the shop stewards’ organisations and factory bodies.
In our conference resolution, relationship between the legal official and “illegal” unofficial aspects of the policy of our industrial work was dealt with. The Militant Workers’ Federation generally operated on the basis of our industrial perspectives. The principal function of the Militant Workers’ Federation was the clarification of the industrial policies among the leading militants, the coordination of militant action from one district to another and the organisation of moral and financial support for workers who were on strike, together with the circulation of important information from area to area. The gains of the Militant Workers’ Federation came from the coordination of militant activity and its assistance to workers in strike disputes, and not as such from the policy which was conducted inside the union. We must not minimise the importance of this consideration. 1AA cuts entirely across this form of activity by the MWF.
1AA has of course, not stopped illegal strikes – nor will it. Nor will it stop us aiding, through the factory organisations, workers who are forced to use the strike weapon. But the application of this latter form of assistance will demand skilful manoeuvring and real support among the workers. We could continue our work in the MWF as before and test the reaction of the workers to the attacks that the state would inevitably launch against the MWF and the militants associated with it. But this would be the worst sort of adventurism. It would be an ultra-left gesture which could only lead to the beheading of the leadership and the smashing of the growing left wing.
Our task is to retreat, but to retreat in good order.
The essence of a retreat in good order is that the leadership must fully understand why the retreat is necessary and have the full confidence of the broadest layers of its supporters. To achieve this, the supporters of the MWF must be made fully aware of the nature of the problems that are involved.
The main emphasis of our work must be shifted from the coordination of strike activity (directly) to the revitalisation of the trade union branches and district organisations. To the extent that we succeed in doing this, the duties normally performed by the unofficial MWF can be performed through the official trade union machinery in the local and district organisations that the adherents of the MWF control. This will not be an easy task to perform. But it can and must be done.
The heavy hand of the bureaucracy still stifles the life of the trade union local and district machinery. But it is absolutely certain that in the next period the branches will be revived and show active organisation.
It may be that the organised workers will sweep aside 1AA in practice: that the ruling class will be unable to apply this regulation with even the minimum of success... except to ourselves! But until such a situation arises, and whilst we have no practical demonstration of the mood of the workers, we are forced to adapt our tactics to the situation that exists.
The essence of our task in the immediate period ahead is to struggle to convert the MWF into a national all-union militant minority. This does not mean the liquidation of the MWF. It means a shift in the axis of its activism from the coordination of extra-union work to that of coordinating and conducting the same form of activity through the union machinery.
The link up and coordination of shop stewards’ and factory committees will be pursued as before. There is every reason why questions of policy should be thoroughly discussed and decided upon in these meetings. The stronger the penetration of the shop stewards’ and factory committees, the less “terrible” threat of 1AA. But even less “terrible” from a legal point of view, is if the coordination can be carried out via the branches and district committees.
Note: for the purpose of learning the lessons of the old Minority movement, led by the Stalinists – its mistakes and successes – the PB will instruct a comrade to concentrate on research on this question.
Statement to members from the Political Bureau
[Internal circular, June 22 1944]
The trial is over. Comrades Roy Tearse and Heaton Lee are in prison serving sentences of 12 months and Comrade Jock Haston is serving a 6 months sentence. Comrade Ann Keen was sentenced to 13 days which meant her immediate release.
The sentences are generally regarded in labour circles as monstrous in the light of the evidence brought forward.
As is known, the charges against the four were of “incitement” and “conspiracy” and acting “in furtherance of” an illegal strike. The fact that they were found not guilty on the conspiracy and incitement charges is a victory for us, particularly in the light of the vicious press campaign directly or indirectly accusing the comrades of instigating and inciting the Tyne apprentices’ and other strikes. It completely vindicates our declarations that we do not incite or conspire to bring workers out on strike, as the capitalist press and Labour, and Stalinist leaders were charging, but that the workers come out on strike only when they have a genuine and legitimate grievance. This was brought out beyond doubt in the course of the proceedings when one apprentice after another stated that they were bitterly hostile to the Bevin Ballot Scheme and would have come out on strike if they had never met any of the accused.
All the comrades conducted themselves in the court in a manner worthy of our tradition. Each took every opportunity afforded him or her to present our political ideas and in a commendable way. Their behaviour in the witness box impressed all alike – the prosecution, the judge, the apprentices and visitors in the gallery. There were a number of apprentices watching the proceedings and after the four comrades had given their evidence, they were literally flushed with enthusiasm. Those who were previously hostile became friendly.
It was no doubt, obvious from the press reports, that the King’s Counsel – Curtis Bennett – was not cooperating with the four comrades. Not only did he fail to assist them in drawing out their political position, which was of vital importance in this trial since it was clearly a political trial – but he failed to cooperate in bringing out their legal defence to the best advantage. It can be said that he did not put forward the legal arguments as well as our own comrades could have done themselves. It was considered at one stage in the course of the trial whether it would be advisable to dismiss Curtis Bennett and conduct the trial ourselves. However, there were many issues involved – the effects on the Defence Committee, the fact that the solicitors felt themselves obliged to walk out with counsel under these circumstances, the inexperience of our own comrades in court procedure and finally the importance of taking the question to the court of appeals and if necessary to the House of Lords for the trade union movement. All these things weighed against so drastic a decision – a decision which would have caused a sensation throughout the country.
In any future trials the comrades will have to seriously consider the conduct of their own case. In such an event it will be necessary to make a study of the legal procedure by the comrades on trial if we are not able to obtain a lawyer with our own political views or sympathetic towards them. Insofar as our policy was brought out it was in reply to the questions of the prosecution and not at all as a result of the questions of our own counsel. Naturally, as soon as the comrades’ answers had the effect of making a good impression on the jury, which they undoubtedly did, the prosecution closed down.
They were not permitted to make a statement before sentences were passed, as this privilege is not accorded in cases of “misdemeanour” as it is in cases of a “felony.”
The verdict was considered by all who attended the court as surprising, in view of the bitter attack by the judge in his summing up speech which lasted nearly three hours. Although he pleaded that the jury should not be influenced by the political issues involved, he cunningly introduced such issues as the war precisely in order to prejudice them. He put a better case for the prosecution than did the prosecution itself, without analysing at all the evidence on behalf of the defence. Yet in spite of this the jury threw out the charges of incitement and conspiracy.
The charges on which they have been convicted are of “furthering a strike” declared illegal under the Trade Disputes Act, and aiding and abetting Davy. Although it has been ruled in a previous case in the House of Lords that a strike can only be furthered during the course of the strike and not before it, this ruling was completely ignored and it was upon evidence prior to the commencement of the strike [that] they were found guilty. It is this legal point on which the appeal is to be made. This decision sets a precedent of vital consequence to the trade union movement. For in future, any worker who does any act which can be construed by the capitalist court to “further” a strike before the strike takes place is open to conviction, and such construction can be placed on practically any act. This could be seen in the case of comrade Haston, for there was not a shred of evidence that he aided or furthered the strike before or during the strike. The only evidence against him was of organisational directive in the formation of the Tyne Apprentices’ Guild and of political directive in the issuance of propaganda leaflets calling for nationalisation of the mines as the only solution to the coal crisis which were issued before the strike was declared and in no way referred to strike action.
The establishment in the Court of Criminal Appeal of the definition of “furtherance” as meaning before or during a strike, or both, is a very important question for the trade union and labour movement. Although this will cost an extra £1,000, it is an issue which must be fought out, if necessary to the House of Lords. In this it is necessary to redouble our efforts in raising the money through the organisations of the working class. It is necessary to bring the matter before every trade union branch and political meeting throughout the country either by personal contact or through circulars. Every comrade and every local in the party must display an initiative greater than heretofore, for this is an opportunity rarely presented on so clear cut a class issue. The demand for the release of the comrades must constitute the focal point of our campaign.
As the members know, the three comrades now incarcerated are all leading members of our party and each in his own way plays a vital part in the functioning and building of the party. It is true to say that in the present conditions it is impossible to replace these comrades in their particular sphere of work. In imprisoning these three comrades the party has undoubtedly been struck a severe blow by the capitalist class. Their absence can only be compensated by more determined and persistent efforts on the part of all members, especially the leading members.
We take this occasion to appeal to all comrades in the party to aid in accelerating the process of solidifying the members into one, united, homogeneous party. Our party must be built and can only be built on the solidarity, cooperation and loyalty of all members, regardless of any differences in tactics and policy. Solidarity with the comrades who are imprisoned can best be shown by intensifying the work of building the party. When they return from their enforced isolation, we are confident that they will come back to find the party more united, stronger and with more influence among the workers than when they went away. That is the answer of our party to the attacks of the ruling class: a fighting, united and integrated party carrying on the struggle for the overthrow of capitalism and for the victory of the Fourth International.
In conclusion, we reproduce here the message sent by the three from their cells immediately following the sentence:
“We have been convicted and imprisoned because of our advocacy of the programme of the Fourth International. The trial has demonstrated clearly that evidence or no evidence, the capitalist class will condemn revolutionaries to persecution.
“We affirm that such persecution and imprisonment will not shake our faith in the correctness of our programme. On the contrary this trial has strengthened our conviction that the policy of the Fourth International offers the only road for the emancipation of the working class.
“At this critical juncture in the history of our party in Britain, the main task of our comrades is to close the ranks, to knit the party together and to march forward united, in that spirit of comradeship and with that singleness of purpose which alone can gain us the leadership of the British working class.
“The watchword of the members of the party must be: Unify the ranks! Build the party! For the victory of the Fourth International!”
 Facing shortage of skilled miners (after many of the workers in the mines had been conscripted into the armed forces) the national government introduced through Labour minister Ernest Bevin (not to be confused with Aneurin Bevan, the left-wing Labour MP) a hugely unpopular scheme under which around 50,000 young men were conscripted to work down the mines by the arbitrary expedient of pulling their National Service registration numbers out of a ballot. These men, known as the “Bevin Boys”, were not trained for the conditions to be faced in the mines and were not given the status of being part of the armed forces. Bevin Boys included many apprentices who, losing the continuity of their apprenticeship, thereby lost the chance to pursue a skilled trade.
Tories riding high
[Socialist Appeal, Vol. 6 No. 3, Mid-July 1944]
Full text available on the Ted Grant Internet Archive: Tories riding high
TUC helps Goebbels
[Socialist Appeal, Vol. 6 No. 7, November 1944]
Full text available on the Ted Grant Internet Archive: TUC helps Goebbels
Communist Party conference prepares post-war sell-out
[Socialist Appeal, Vol. 6 No. 8, November 1944]
Full text available on the Ted Grant Internet Archive: Communist Party conference prepares post-war sell-out
A criticism of the November editorial in the industrial bulletin
[RCP Internal Bulletin, December 14 1944]
by Anne Walker
There are some particular aspects of the redundancy question which I should like to see further discussed.
It appears that the main danger of redundancy at the moment is not unemployment, though there may be localised unemployment when factories close down in districts where there is no alternative work (the South Wales ROFs have been mentioned as an example of this). In such places there might be stay-in strikes against the closing down, and our task would be to draw the political lessons, and make it as much of a general issue as possible as opposed to a local issue and, of course, to make sure the stay-in strike is properly organised so that the bosses have no chance to turn the workers out on the streets, where they would become an amorphous mass difficult to organise. Our main tactic in this whole period must be to keep the workers in the factories. For this reason I think that the demand for “Work or full maintenance” should be handled very cautiously; raised incorrectly, for instance, as the main slogan, it would be an acceptance of the principle of unemployment. It might even be taken up by the government and used to get the organised workers out of the factories, their promises could easily be broken later.
But the vital issue now, appears to be the use the bosses are making of the situation to lower wages, break union organisation, and divide the workers into antagonistic sections, men and women, craftsmen and dilutees, trade-unionists and non-trade-unionists. Our task is to give a lead to the unifying forces in the working class, by pushing the issues which bind the class together, and opposing those which tend to split it, thus we can use the attacks of the bosses to forge a weapon against them. The editorial of the November industrial bulletin came out against the sacking of dilutees, but supported the demand that non-trade unionists should go first. I think that this demand, can only have the effect of splitting the workers and we should oppose it. It is not just a matter of getting rid of scabs, the shop stewards can look after that if we demand shop stewards’ control of transfers. There are vast numbers of unorganised workers who are [missing words] fact. The building trade can never replace engineering, as it is a dependent industry; in fact by the development of prefabrication engineering may tend to absorb sections of the building trade. Today’s redundancy is the beginning of tomorrow’s mass unemployment; an unemployment that can never be rectified by any so-called boom in the building trade.
Redundancy is therefore not simply an industrial question that can be solved through trade union methods of struggle. It is a striking example of the impasse of the capitalist system, which in the last instance can only be solved through its overthrow and the establishment of socialism; that is why a real struggle against redundancy is essentially a political struggle.
The party’s role
What therefore is the party’s role on these questions in the present period? Redundancy and unemployment are political issues and our attitude towards them is governed by the necessity to raise the political consciousness of the working class. We continually strive to teach them the necessity for class unity on political questions.
Herein lies the error of “nons go first” in the struggle against against redundancy. It tends to maintain the division of the workers along trade union lines in a fight on a political issue, when the aim of the party should be to unify them on the widest possible basis.
We are aware of course that whilst fighting for such a perspective it is necessary to take the situation as it really is and not as we would like it to be. The prospect of a nation-wide struggle against redundancy on the basis of our transitional programme seems remote at the moment. It is possible of course that sharp struggles may take place in isolated factories, but the main opportunity for the party is that it gives us the chance of relating the transitional programme to some immediate issues.
The party’s role in industry at present is essentially that of an educator, and our slogans at the present time on the sliding scale of hours, wages, and full employment are designed towards this end. Our main task is to prepare and educate the workers for what lies ahead. This means an all-sided political exposition of the issues involved. We must explain and explain again the real basis of redundancy, whilst endeavouring to give leadership and striving for the widest possible political and organisational support for the party’s policy, but recognising the limitations as well. If we are faced with sackings on the grounds of redundancy, whether it be of a trade unionist or a “non”, we do not take sides on who is to be sacked, because of the very nature of our perspective. If we do take sides as the editorial suggests, and advocate that “nons” go first, we destroy, by an opportunist concession, the whole basis of our political attitude towards redundancy.
The party’s main job is to teach the workers a political lesson. If a struggle does develop, our members endeavour to give it leadership as well, but they can only struggle so far as the workers are prepared to struggle; beyond that they do their best to prepare them for the next stages ahead.
The “closed shop” and redundancy
The editorial remarks that “insofar as we are faced with actual sackings taking place, we demand that this be on the basis of the closed shop”. In other words the slogan of “nons first” is posed in conjunction with the slogan of the closed shop. The idea implicit in this is that a closed shop can be enforced by threatening the “nons” that unless they join the union they must be the first to leave the factory.
We do not rule out the possibility that a few “nons” may be frightened into joining the union in this way, and that such an event could mean that a 100 percent union shop would result. But this would not alter the fact that someone would still have to go, if the transitional demands were not operated. Even in a 100 percent shop, realities have to be faced; contracts are cancelled and the management insist that someone must go. Here we come to the core of the editorial, which states that on the docks, where you have a “closed shop”, dismissals and transfers would take place “on the basis of established membership”. So the idea is that you put the fear of hell into the “nons” one day and force them to join the union, and the next day (carrying out the editorial policy) put them out of the factory “on the basis of established membership”. The latest additions to the ranks of the trade union are the first to be put on the streets, with the full authority of the shop stewards’ committee. Here is revealed the farcical position of attempting to fight a political issue with trade union methods of struggle.
We feel that our comrades have raised the question of the closed shop in an attempt to find some sort of militant formula to lean on. Supposing we have a closed shop and sackings because of redundancy have got to take place, the comrades, according to their position in relation to the dockers, would demand the “established membership” line be operated. But the newer members of the union might not want to leave on that basis! Here we would have a real split in the ranks and if we were firm on the editorial policy we might find ourselves participating in a strike on behalf of one group of trade unionists trying to force another group out of the factory.
There also seems to be some confusion about the term “closed shop”. It must be understood that a “closed shop” is one where an agreement has been reached that, to quote the AEU rule book, “the shop is worked exclusively by union members”; this is a different position from a shop where 100 percent organisation only exists, and to go from one to the other requires a struggle with the employers, who have consistently fought against the closed shop. Well organised and powerful strike action would be required to force the demand home.
Our comrades don’t tell us anything new when they advocate either the “closed shop” or 100 percent trade unionism. But to organise for this a correct attitude towards the “nons” is absolutely necessary. The success of the fight for a closed shop, for example, demands a thorough education and preparation of the workers concerned, plus of course favourable circumstances. To inject artificially the slogan of the “closed shop” into a situation when workers are being sacked through redundancy may well prove a first-rate piece of adventurism.
The authors of the editorial demonstrate a complete failure to work out the implications of their slogans. What happens for instance in a factory where there are 5 percent non-unionists? Our policy not having gained support, the demand goes forward that these 5 percent be sacked first. If the management agrees and they go first – what then? 5 percent will not finish redundancy, and the tactical position will be so much the weaker, for having already accepted the fact that there is a basis for dismissals; and this is the most advantageous case!
But suppose the management refuse to accede to the demand? Do we advocate strike action to enforce it? If so, we are giving the “nons” no alternative but to throw in their lot with the employer and scab. For, if the strike succeeds they are on the dole; if they join the union and thus make the shop 100 percent they still go on the dole as the newest members of the union. And this is the way, we are told, a revolutionary party is to approach a political problem, striving for the maximum coordination between organised and unorganised workers!
It has been suggested that this is the way to prevent militants being victimised. But in the event of victimisation we should try to mobilise the whole factory, skilled and unskilled, members and “nons”, for strike action for the reinstatement of the militant. This applies irrespective of any question of redundancy. The whole factory behind the factory committee is our aim – but the “nons first” slogan cuts right across such a line. Even if the “nons” are sacked, there is still redundancy and trade unionists have to leave as well – sacking “nons” is no guarantee or safeguard against the victimisation of a militant steward or convenor.
As a last example, take a factory where the trade unionists are in minority (and there are quite a number). Would our comrades in the event of sackings advocate “nons first”? Obviously it would be a fantastic and adventuristic position. The only chance of struggle here is through a correct attitude towards the “nons” on the basis of our programme, appeals for unity on the job, etc. This would be our chance to organise the factory on the issue of redundancy, not on the “nons first” basis. The more we relate this policy to actual practice the more ridiculous it becomes.
The origin of the errors
The trade union bureaucrats, searching for a formula which will give scope for a certain amount of “blowing off steam” but at the same time by-pass any real struggle against capitalism, put forward the slogan of “dilutees first”. We reject this solution, counterposing to it the need to struggle for the “right to work” by the whole of the working class: no dismissals, shorter hours, etc., as per the transitional programme.
The basis for this stand of the EC of the AEU is among the craft unionists. To these we must patiently explain why and where it is a wrong stand. The main points we raise in this connection are:
- Redundancy and unemployment cannot be solved in this way.
- It will lead to a split in the workers ranks and the formation of an army of potential scab labour, and because of this it cannot even protect their rates (which was the basis of their acceptance of the dilution agreement), but in fact threatens them.
- The real dilution that threatens their rates and conditions is not in the influx of fresh workers into the industry (up to the end of 1943 under 5 percent of the AEU membership were actually registered under the Dilution Agreement, and the Dilution Agreement in theory applies only to these) but the whole tendency to de-skill the engineering industry – the classic example of this being Rolls Royce.
Superficially, it seems that a useful counter-slogan is that “nons go first”. In this many militants see an opportunity to put forward something real and concrete as a counterpoise to the official line. We can understand their attitude but it shows the need for political education, which is essentially the job of the party. We have to show them that this is no ordinary industrial issue that can be solved by negotiation or strike. It is part and parcel of the crisis of capitalism, which capitalism cannot solve. We then attempt to point to them the real road out via the transitional programme.
In essence, this slogan of “nons first” is no different from the other of “dilutees first”:
- It cannot solve the problem.
- It divides the workers, accentuates an already existent division instead of uniting in common struggle.
- It allows the reformist bureaucrats to hold any movement on a very low industrial plane instead of leading the fight against capitalism.
“Trade unions”, says the Transitional programme, “even the most powerful, embrace no more than 20 to 25 percent of the working class, and at that, predominantly the more skilled and better paid layers”. It is not the “nons” fault that considerable numbers remain unorganised. The structure and composition of the unions are in many respects barriers towards this. Such barriers cannot be broken down except by the party, whose job it is to lead the unorganised as well as the organised. We must not and dare not discriminate when redundancy arises.
When our party members operate in industry they are something more than good militant trade unionists. They operate above all consciously as revolutionary Marxists. Hence the need to break sharply from syndicalism, craftism, and attendant sicknesses. These particular steps are not always easy ones. Pressure is sometimes very great in the unions and factories. To be able to swim against the stream and patiently explain does not always bring immediate results and from time to time “short cut” policies are proposed. The slogan of “nons first” on the basis of the closed shop does not seem too bad on the surface but it conceals a dangerous pitfall for the party. If we are to educate the valuable militant contacts who are moving towards the party it is essential that we withdraw immediately these positions and commence a collective theoretical rearmament of our trade union militants.
Statement of the Political Bureau on redundancy
Political Bureau, RCP
[RCP Internal Bullettin, December 29 1944]
The editorial in the last issue of the Industrial Bulletin has aroused a discussion in the party along unexpected lines. From our older comrades in industry, and particularly those with a craft background of the skilled worker, we thought that a difference might arise on questions of factory tactics, but not on policy. Differences of a craft character which might arise could readily be eliminated and clarified after a short discussion. But the opposition has arisen from a different source: from comrades who are in the main young, and whose experience in industry is confined mainly to war time relations and forms of work.
Notwithstanding the belief of our comrades that their differences are on policy, they are in fact, differences on factory tactics. Questions which are considered in the editorial as factory tactics – an appendage of cur[rent] transitional political programme – are raised falsely as the proposed solution of the PB to the problem of redundancy. It is said that the question of “nons first” is a political question and that the future of the party will depend on our attitude towards the tactic of “nons first.”
While the comrades have sought the editorial with a microscope, they did not see quite important political omissions – omissions of programme: the question of a scheme of public works, workers’ control, etc. The editorial, of course, did not claim to be a complete exposition and concretisation of the party’s transitional programme as it relates to redundancy. It specifically pointed out that there would be future elucidation in future editorials. As the discussion proceeds this political elucidation will be carried out simultaneously with the discussion on industrial tactics.
Unemployment can only be solved politically. Commencing from a correct base – unemployment is a political question – the comrades try to negate the transformation of political strategy into its component parts, including industrial tactics. “Nons first”, the partial question is equated with our transitional programme, the general solution. Phrases replace concrete tactical directives – sectarianism converts the programme into a lie. Word from comrade Trotsky to those comrades who wish to think:
“An idea, correct from the point of view of revolutionary strategy as a whole, is converted into a lie, and at that into a reactionary lie, if it is not translated into the language of tactics. Is it correct that in order to destroy unemployment and misery it is first necessary to destroy capitalism? It is correct. But only the biggest blockhead can conclude from all this, that we do not have to fight this very day, with all of our forces, against the measures with whose aid capitalism is increasing the misery of the workers.”
And one of the most important “measures with whose aid capitalism is increasing the misery of the workers” will inevitably be the attack on the trade unions and the maintenance of the unorganised workers in the plants at the expense of the organised workers.
The discussion as it has already taken place, has revealed in our opinion a very grave confusion on the part of the comrades who oppose the editorial precisely on the lines indicated by Trotsky.
The question of “nons first” is taken out of its context and tends to become the focal point of the discussion on redundancy, thereby standing the discussion on its head. We propose therefore, to elaborate somewhat, the editorial on the policy as well as on the tactical issues and hope thereby to re-establish a correct relationship between strategy and tactics.
The fluctuations of employment, redundancy, during the period of transition and before the end of the war in the Far East; the readjustment of industry before the general crisis, throwing millions on the streets; the possibility of a post-war boom lasting a year or two – all these are important for us in determining our factory and industrial tactics. But they do not affect our general transitional programmatic demands, which are conceived and arise out of the structural crisis of capitalism. At most, conjunctural and transitional, these fluctuations in employment would determine the weight to be given to slogans and propaganda. But whatever the immediate fluctuation, we base our programme on the perspective of mass unemployment.
Despite the optimism of sections of the Labour, Stalinist and trade union leaders as to the future prospects under capitalism with a “progressive” regime, the masses are sceptical and uneasy. Correctly, they instinctively fear mass unemployment and the repetition of the suffering of the last post-war period of crisis. In this the instinct of the masses is entirely sound.
In opposition to all other trends in the labour movement, we Trotskyists have a programme based upon this real crisis of capitalism, which answers the questions of the masses on every point.
One thing we have in common, so it appears at least, not only with other workers’ organisations, but with the petit bourgeoisie, is the demand for full employment and decent living conditions for all. But having said this together, we immediately part company, because we alone seriously fight for this end and lay down a programme of struggle. Briefly, our programme can be summarised as follows:
- Work and decent living conditions for all, from which arises the sliding scale of hours and wages, the latter fixed at a guaranteed minimum; and,
- A general plan of industrial production and public works, which, from the point of view of the workers necessitates factory committees and workers’ control.
Out of the struggle for these transitional demands we daily raise the question of power.
The factory committees are conceived of as organisations uniting the workers for the fulfilment of these demands and the whole question is linked to the expropriation of the separate groups of capitalists at first and Labour to power.
During the war, this aspect of our transitional programme has been pushed into the background by the objective turn of events. But with the evolution in the international situation, particularly in “liberated” Europe at the present moment, this aspect of our programme comes to the forefront and can act as a torch, settling alight all that is decaying and burning it to the ground.
As the war approaches its end and the war market collapses, capitalist war time “planning” (possible only because of the unlimited market) disintegrates into the anarchy of the pre-war market. The chaotic planlessness of capitalism is more readily exposed. In response to the growing demand from the mass of the workers for a plan which will keep them in work, all the labour organisations (and even the middle sections of the capitalist class) demand a “plan of production.”
But the demobilisation of industry, the transformation of labour from one industry to another and from one part of the country to another, all these can be effectively planned only if there is workers’ control of industry. And this demand, whilst offering the only effective answer to the chaos which accompanies the capitalist change-over from war to peace production, at the same time separates us effectively from the renegades and traitors in the trade unions and labour movement. These gentlemen, in the words of the Transitional programme, “...stop short in pious trepidation before the thresholds of the trusts and their business secrets.”
We must explain to the workers that workers’ control of industry is not of course, socialism. But it is a transitional step towards socialism. The capitalists still privately own and manage industry, but their ramifications are under the open observation of the factory and trade union organisations.
The workers must have access to the plan of production. They must have access to the “secrets” of the banks, heavy industries and transport systems. Only then will the workers be able to effectively counter the “plans” of the government and its bosses – the trusts; only then will the workers be in a position to offer a genuine plan as an alternative solution.
By patient explanation of the need for the working class to fight for workers’ control in the factory and industrial organisations, we will give conscious direction to the coming workers’ struggles. But once the workers grasp the need for workers’ control, and effect it, we are already on the road to socialist revolution. The next stage of explaining the credits and debits of capitalist society becomes simple: what share of the national income is eaten and squandered by the capitalists as a class, as well as what share is taken by the individual capitalist owner or group of shareholders; what swindles take place to avoid taxation, etc., by the trusts and banks. A concrete picture of squandering of labour resources and of actual labour as a result of the anarchy which arises out of the capitalist lust for profits can be drawn.
With all these mal-ramifications of the capitalists under the close and constant observation of the trade unions and factory organisations, it would not be long before the workers swept the system and its capitalist benefactors into the dustbin of history.
The close-down of industry poses the question of a large scale industrial plan. In answer to the capitalists who close down the factories, on the grounds that contracts have ceased and there is no more market, our party agitates for the opening of the closed factories and their resumption as public utilities. In such cases the workers and technicians would directly manage the factories through the factory committees.
The full revolutionary significance of such a step is demonstrated by a resolution recently adopted by the new Belgian Miners’ Union demanding the opening of the closed mines previously operated by collaborationists and their operation under the control of the trade unions and factory committees. Obviously, the leaders put forward such a demand as the result of the pressure of the masses and not as a programme of struggle to give a lead to the workers, unless, of course, they are under the influence of the fourth internationalists who are giving a revolutionary lead.
In South Wales the capitalists are threatening to close down almost the entire new industry as well as the older tinplate plants. Here our programme would find an immediate response among the mass of the workers, who in any case are not among the most class conscious in the country. It would be possible to link our transitional programme up with the expropriation of these industries. The coal mining industry is a classic example where the slogan of expropriation, or nationalisation without compensation is immediately applicable. All the time we link our programme with Labour to power and the seizure of power by the working class.
That section of our international Transitional programme should be repeatedly studied and concretised in the present stage of the struggle.
It is on the basis of these political and economic alternatives to the capitalist crisis and collapse, and on the basis of the factory committees, that we bind the workers, organised and unorganised, together in common struggle.
But side by side with our generalised forms of struggle, we are faced with the partial struggles which arise out of the real relation of forces at every given stage. To turn one’s back on these daily problems, hold up our hands in horror and say: “we have our programme, if we can’t get that we won’t contaminate ourselves” is to replace Marxian tactics with sectarian phrases.
It is impossible to write a blueprint of tactics from which the party cadres must not deviate in the course of the coming struggles. A flare-up in one industry or area, the beginning of a wave of stay-in strikes, etc., all these problems will demand concrete answers and will arise but of the struggle itself. But one important tactical consideration is constant while capitalism remains: the defence and extension of the mass trade union organisations – at least until they are replaced by more revolutionary and more widespread forms of organisation. This is particularly true in Britain where the trade unions have now 40 percent and more of the industrial proletariat.
Inside the unions we have the duty to be foremost in conducting a struggle against sectarian, craft ideology. In demonstrating that the technical development of capitalism has outmoded craft skill and created all the conditions for its complete elimination, we show the necessity for industrial organisations. We attack the conception of the skilled worker who demands the operation of the Dilution Agreement, not because it protects the positions he has won in the past (or so he thinks) but because it splits the workers who are already organised in the mass trade unions, and weakens the fight against the ruling class.
To the organised as well as the unorganised workers we have to explain the character of the trade unions as class organisations. We do not thereby fail to point to their reactionary features, in particular the treachery of the present leadership. But despite their shortcomings, the trade unions are class organisations and have to be defended from capitalist attack. Simultaneously they have to be defended from being undermined by the more backward strata of the unorganised workers, and in particular that strata which refuses to be organised.
In a period of rising unemployment the slogan of the closed shop is raised as a defensive slogan. Faced with attacks on the part of the ruling class against their existing wage conditions, as well as unemployment, the unorganised workers will turn in greater numbers towards trade union organisation. Particularly if they receive a fighting lead from the union organisation in the shop.
The exact tactics which will have to be pursued in our task of uniting the workers as a whole and of defending the trade unions, will depend on the relationships that exist from factory to factory, districts and trades. But insofar as we cannot succeed in moving the workers in the direction of conscious seizure of power, we have still to defend the positions already won.
It may be possible to unite the workers in the first stages of the struggle against unemployment in stay-in strikes and other forms of struggle. Our party comrades will strive to the utmost in this direction. But we will have to base ourselves on the level of consciousness of the masses.
Of course, we have the most optimistic perspectives in the struggles that lie ahead, but there will be, we think, many ebbs and flows in the tide of battle before the class enemy will be finally defeated. The workers will have to retreat from time to time before the counter-revolutionary onslaughts of the reaction.
It is precisely during the coming period, when workers are being thrown into the unemployment queues and when the worker-soldiers will be returning home from Europe to swell these ranks, that the bosses will inevitably seek to weaken and destroy their organisations. By this means the capitalists can better strike blows at the living standards of the workers. Under such conditions, necessity and not desire, will compel us to retreat at certain stages of the coming struggles. We will have to fall back and defend the positions we already hold. We will have to give ground in order to regroup the fighting forces of the proletariat in readiness for the favourable stages in the conjuncture which will again permit us to press forward with our revolutionary offensive demands.
But, in order that tactical retreats shall not become routs, it is necessary to have one’s mind completely clear regarding the layout of the defensive lines to prepare our second line trenches well in advance so as not to tail on behind the masses at the decisive moment. Above all, the mass trade unions are the main lines of labour defence. In the Transitional programme comrade Trotsky took this proposition as self evident to the cadres of the Fourth International when he wrote:
“They [the workers] must defend their mouthful of bread, if they cannot increase or better it. There is neither the need nor the opportunity to enumerate here those separate partial demands which time and again arise on the basis of concrete circumstances – national, local, professional...”
The importance of the trade unions as class organisations was commented upon again and again by Marx, as also the question of their defence. As far back as 1846 Marx wrote, polemicising against Proudhon:
“If the first aim of resistance was merely the maintenance of wages, combinations, at first isolated, constitute themselves into groups as the capitalists in their turn unite in the idea of repression, and in face of always united capital, the maintenance of association becomes more necessary to them than that of wages.” (Karl Marx, Poverty of philosophy – our emphasis)
Our comrades might say that Marx was talking about the defence of the trade unions from the attacks of the united bourgeoisie, but we on the contrary, are talking about uniting the trade unionists against the unorganised workers. But this conception would be entirely false. It was just this consideration – the need to prepare ourselves to defend the workers’ organisations against the attacks of united capital which will accompany so-called redundancy – that motivated our raising the tactical question relating to the closed shop.
The proposition of non-unionists going first when actual sackings take [place], and relating this tactical proposition to the constant struggle for the closed shop, is nothing more than preparing the cadres for the correct solution to problems which will have to be solved.
Our critics may argue that even in these conditions “nons first”, and after that, dismissals on the basis of seniority are far from perfect positions to occupy. With that we are in agreement. But we cannot expect that partial and minimum demands will be free of shortcomings. Those comrades who disagree with these tactical demands have the duty to counter-pose better ones, or at least show where and how they could be improved. Instead, we are confronted with such infantile ultra-leftism as: “We do not recognise the crisis of capitalism”; “We will not recognise the sackings even when they have taken place.”
Our demands put forward under conditions of actual transfers and dismissals, that the trade unions, the shop stewards and factory committees must control transfers and dismissals, that the trade union organisations must be protected and that the first to go shall be those non-unionists whom we have, right up to the sackings taking place, tried to recruit to the side of the unions on the basis of our general propaganda and participation in union struggles – these demands are opposed, because, it is claimed, they will split the ranks of the workers. But unity of the workers is an empty phrase, or worse – it can lead to betrayal if it is raised to the proportion of an end in itself and thereby self sufficient.
Comrade Trotsky often warned us against the dangers of making a fetish of such abstractions and showed the necessity for struggle, under certain conditions, between even the different sections of the organised workers – let alone with the most backward layers of the proletariat. In Where is Britain going Trotsky wrote on the question of trade unionists paying the political levy:
“While standing on the general principles for permitting backward and non-conscious workers to join unions, we do so not from an abstract principle of freedom of opinion or freedom of conscience, but from considerations of revolutionary expediency. But these same considerations tell us that in Britain, where 90 percent of industrially organised workers pay political levies, some consciously, others out of desire not to violate solidarity, and where only 10 percent decide to throw down an open challenge to the Labour Party, it is necessary to carry on a systematic struggle against this 10 percent, to force them to feel that they are renegades, and to ensure to trade unions the right to exclude them as strike-breakers. In the last resort, if the abstract citizen has the right to vote for any party he chooses, the workers’ organisations have the right not to allow into their midst those citizens whose political conduct is inimical to the interests of the working class. The struggle of the trade unions for the right of refusal to allow the unorganised workers into the factory has long been known as a manifestation of workers’ ‘terrorism’, or, in the language of today, Bolshevism. It is just in Britain that this very method may and ought to be introduced into the Labour Party, which has grown up as the direct extension of the trade unions.”
Our present demands could in no sense be regarded as less inimical to to the abstract unity of the workers than this proposition of comrade Trotsky.
At the same time this makes clear a point that we believed would be understood as axiomatic by every member. Such tactics can only be successfully applied in suitable circumstances. Let us reiterate, it is not we but our critics who have elevated these tactical formulas to the status of political principles. If, in any particular establishment, despite all our efforts, it has not been possible to win a majority into the union, then it would be fantastic to suggest that we could rally the major part of the workers on our demand that “nons” go first. This should be self-evident, if one only pauses to pose the question: “who would propose it if there were not a trade unionist in the factory?” Further, on this point, what our critics do not appear to understand is the danger constituted by scabs in non-revolutionary conditions, when mass unemployment exists.
Under conditions of manpower shortage, it is not so difficult to get unionists and non-unionists alike out on strike in defence of a victimised shop steward or union militant; but in conditions of mass unemployment it will be an entirely different matter, as any comrade who had conducted pre-war struggles of such a character can well testify. To come forward under such conditions and demand equal rights for scabs and even plain nons, as for the organised workers, is to court disaster. Moreover, even from the standpoint of trade unionism, unless you are prepared to conduct a struggle in the interests of the union, not only against the bosses but against the backward, unorganised strata of the workers, then you will only lose any respect which you may have won among the best of these unorganised elements. They will justify their abstention from union membership on the grounds that the union is not capable or prepared to conduct a struggle in its own defence and in defence of its members.
Our comrades argue that there are many unorganised workers who are militant fighters and who only remain outside of the trade unions because of the sell-out of the leadership; and that there are many reactionary types who hold a union card. That if the policy of the PB were put into effect, these militants would be driven out of the plants whilst backward elements with a trade union ticket would be protected. No-one can doubt that in many cases this would be quite true. But our policy and tactics do not depend on [this] or that example or incident. Failure to generalise is impressionism and empiricism and not Marxism. As soon as these militants see that the organised workers are going to make a stand, they will be the first to stream into the unions. We have to base ourselves on the experiences of the working class in a century and a half of struggle. The trade unions contain the distilled experience and organisation of the overwhelming mass of the organised workers, and in that sense of our class. Without making a fetish of the trade unions, it is possible to say that the revolution will not be accomplished in Britain without them. To equate them to the unorganised mass is about the same order of mistake as equating the trade unions to the revolutionary party. But in essence, by refusing to generalise, this is precisely what the comrades of the opposition do.
Another corollary which ought to be self-evident is that the demand for “nons” to go first automatically flows from the demand of a closed shop. The closed shop means that every “non” shall go off the job if he refuses to join the union, at all stages of the struggle, whether there is unemployment or not. Literally thousands of strikes have been waged on this basis during the war period and before. How fantastic to promise that we struggle for the closed shop, for the sacking of “nons” during the time of hiring, but not during the time of firing! What a blatant contradiction!
We have been told by some comrades that the workers are demanding shop stewards’ consultation or control over sackings and transfers, but are not raising the “demands” put forward by the PB that “nons” should go first. In reply to this we can only ask: “For what do they want shop stewards’ control?” Obviously such control can only be operative through factory committees, i.e. the trade union organisation in the plant. Under such conditions is it not obvious that the “nons” will be the first to go? Is it suggested that where the shop stewards have control of sackings and transfers, they will pursue any other policy? Will they refuse to discriminate between an organised and unorganised worker? The workers will answer with the same voice as ours. For we will repeat one of the most important points made by comrade Tearse in the editorial, which so correctly evaluated the entirely sound, and if we might say so, revolutionary action of these workers: “...who should control transfers or dismissals? Our answer is that in connection with the “closed shop” demand we campaign for trade union control of any transfers or dismissals through the medium of the shop stewards or factory committee.”
Of course, in a badly organised factory the demand for consultation with the shop stewards before dismissals take place, or shop stewards’ control of dismissals, can act as a powerful means of recruiting to the trade unions, particularly if it is linked to a determined and fighting attitude on the part of the nucleus of organised workers.
The shop stewards may, of course want to operate the Dilution Agreement. As has bean outlined elsewhere, we would struggle against this. But it is highly inconceivable that craft workers, operating the Dilution Agreement, will discriminate against a dilutee who is a good trade unionist in favour of a skilled worker who is not in the trade union.
At the recent London aggregate discussion our opponents argued that if we fail to gain majority support for our transitional demand for the sliding scale we must at all costs keep the workers in the factories. We must “refuse to recognise the sackings” even after they take place! Of course we do not exclude the possibility of isolated stay-in strikes and other forms of struggle taking place on the basis of our demand to share out the work, right from the beginning. And we will give leadership to such a movement wherever it is possible. But these are not likely to develop immediately into a co-ordinated national struggle – otherwise, we have nothing loss than a revolution. Nor was this the point raised in the London aggregate, for at least half the comrades who spoke for the opposition developed their point to its logical conclusion and refused to “recognise the crisis of capitalism”, of which unemployment was only one manifestation.
From this completely ultra-left dogma, they landed, consistently in this case, in the sectarian mire. If we are not strong enough to win the demand for the sliding scale, then there is nothing more to be done than to continue to educate the workers on socialist principles. We are too weak, they claimed, to win the demand for the closed shop if we fail to win the major demand.
Let us assume that we are too weak to win either the transitional demand or the demand for the closed shop. What follows from this? We are then compelled to retreat even further back. We might raise such a [demand] as trade unionists should not be discriminated against during transfers and dismissals explaining the reasons, or some such tactical proposition which would serve to defend at least partially the trade union organisation.
But the question is stood on its head by the comrades when they claim that if we are too weak to win the sliding scale, we cannot win the closed shop. Here the transitional demand is equated with the struggle for a partial demand. The strategical struggle with the tactical struggle for the defence of organisation. The whole of working class experience shows that it is possible to rally the workers for the defence of positions already won and are under attack, much more readily, as a general rule, than for offensive struggle.
Seniority on the job
Another question upon which the comrades are somewhat confused is that of seniority. Lest any confusion arise out of inexperience or from the example given in the Industrial Bulletin editorial of the docks, we will restate and elucidate what it means here.
Wherever the principle of the closed shop (de facto or de jure) has been won, as a rule seniority operates. This means that the last to come into the job is the first to go when workers are sacked. This applies rigidly to public utility enterprises, railways and similar enterprises where there is a super-annuation fund or pension at the conclusion of service.
On a well organised building job, as the job grows, passes its curve and nears completion, workers are sacked. The last to come in all trades are sacked first, as these complete their part of the contract.
The workers fought many bitter strike struggles to force an agreement along these lines on the bosses. Its main aim was to establish a general rule, which, not in itself perfect, protected the workers from the whims and victimisation of the foreman and the boss. An employer finds it very difficult to sack an active trade unionist on the basis of this agreement.
In the case of the docks, cited by the Bulletin, the closed shop operated in the docks before the war. The newest workers who were the first to be sacked, were also the newest members of the dockers’ section of the TGWU. In this case it so happens that membership on the job coincided with membership in the union.
We would point out that when discussing this question with our docker comrades, members of the PB opposed the dismissal of the newcomers without a struggle to win the whole of the workers on the dock to the policy of sharing out the available work. We tried to demonstrate to the dockers that these new workers should be drawn fully into the union and not left in a probationary, dilutee – or second class section, as they were. In this way we opposed the craft outlook – if one can call dock labouring a craft – and put forward an industrial conception.
In pre-war days the rigid exclusion of “new” labour in the docks while dockers were idle is an example of “seniority” and one of the reasons why the wages of the dockers were so high in comparison with other sections of the working class when there was work to do. The mistake of the dockers in the case cited, was a craft mistake. They refused to allow the additional war time dock labourers to become permanent or full members of the union. Instead of demonstrating an industrial, class attitude welding the bonds of organisation more firmly together, they created a split among the workers who were already organised.
Of course, in some respects, the seniority clause protects the older workers at the expense of the youth. The younger workers are the last into industry and therefore usually the first to go. In the trades, agreements exist which lay down the employment of one apprentice to so many skilled or adult workers. The apprentices, in fact, are usually the last to go. This is not so in the building trade where the job shifts from month to month or period to period. But in the “stable” trades the older workers are undoubtedly protected at the expense of the youth. The seniority rule takes no regard of age, or of dependants. If an older trade unionist comes on the job after a young organised worker the young worker remains on the job when a sacking takes place. What other formula can our comrades suggest as a general alternative? This one was fashioned out of a century of trade union struggles.
Our critics triumphantly say: How can your policy unite the workers? How can you recruit unorganised workers, usually the newcomers into the trade unions on the basis of seniority? If they don’t come into the unions they are the first to be sacked; and if they do come in they are the first to go anyway, since they are usually the newest workers. You recognise the sackings – what is more you decide who is to be sacked and therefore take responsibility. We on the other hand unite the organised and unorganised together on the slogan of “no sackings”, before, during and even after they have been sacked.
This radicalism is, in reality an evasion in facing up to the real situation and burking the issue. It reminds one of the IRA members who refused to “recognise” the court but got 20 years just the same. The class struggle would be very simple and easy indeed if we had to take action only against the capitalists.
When we draw the unorganised workers into the union we don’t hold out a membership card as a magic meal ticket. We tell the workers bluntly that trade unionists will be unemployed as well as “nons”. But we can only protect each other and our class if we are united in class organisations. Only the will to fight together, united in the mass organisations and on the basis of a correct programme can provide a final solution to the problems.
The seniority agreement does not discriminate between workers on the basis of union membership. Let it be stated that the workers – young and old – seek a measure of security and stability within the system as it is. In general the young workers, not only accept the rule of seniority, but understand its significance and look forward to its protection as well as the old.
In conducting a struggle against the Dilution Agreement and craft outlook we fight to have the seniority agreement applied to dilutees as well. So that the craft worker would go from the plant before dilutee, if the craft worker was last on the job. Our answer is a class answer: organisation. It unites the craft and dilutee worker and gives a concrete answer to a concrete problem: who is to go? Our critics, substituting phrases for a correct tactical answer, precisely split the workers and force the craft workers to protect themselves at the expense of the dilutees in face of the very concrete attacks made by the employers.
Control of labour
At the discussion at the London aggregate one of our critics hurled the jibe at us that if we pursued our policy of trade union control of sackings to its logical conclusion, we would next be demanding that the trade unions control the labour exchanges! For the benefit of these comrades we would explain that there is nothing new or unheard of in this proposition. We will quote from a resolution proposed by the Bolshevik faction and adopted at the first All Russian conference of factory and shop committees on the eve of October:
“The organisation of workers’ control is a manifestation of the same healthy spirit in the sphere of industrial production as are party organisations in the sphere of politics, trade unions in employment, co-operatives in the sphere of consumption and literary clubs in the sphere of culture.
“...The plan of land labour must be carried out under the supervision of the peasants’ and the land workers’ organisations; ... the natural organs of workers’ control inside the industrial plant will be the factory shop and similar committees; and in the labour market, the trade unions.
“Employment bureaux must be placed under the control and management of the trade unions as class organisations.” (our emphasis)
Are our comrades going to suggest, that under such conditions trade unionists would be considered “equal”? Of course, our comrades will reply: “but there was a regime of dual power, the revolution was on the order of the day.” Precisely. But dual power will never arise except as a result of a struggle. Our task is to prepare for dual power. Shop stewards’ control of sackings with all the practical conclusions that flow from it, including the protection of the mass organisations and “nons first” as part of that preparation. Of course, we fight for the day when unionists and “nons” will control through the factory committee or soviet and we can say not the workers, but the boss must go. But every task in its right time. Our comrades see only the negative function – the unhappy task of deciding which workers shall go and which remain. They conceive of workers’ control being exercised here exclusively against a section of the working class. They fail to see the revolutionary significance that the organised workers have control, and that this control is already a measure of dual power.
When the capitalists sack the workers from their plants during a period of lay-off, they take good care that the men who go are the men who cause them the most trouble – if they can. In general, they protect the unorganised workers, and sack the trade unionists so that they can weaken the cohesive resistance of the workers to later wage cuts and inroads into working conditions. The question of who is to control the flow of labour (in and out) is a question of conflict. A conscious fighting leadership in any plant will try and see to it that the organised workers control. We do not choose the ground of battle; it opens up before us. Our job is not only to be aware of our general strategic aim and plan of campaign but to be acquainted with and boldly face the tactical details and problems that face us at every stage.
An argument advanced by some of the comrades that to adopt the demand for full maintenance is to recognise the principle of unemployment and we should refuse to do so, is taking sectarianism to its extreme. We recognise facts, and insofar as unemployment is a fact it is a “principle” of capitalism. But this is not to say that we accept the “right” of the capitalists to keep workers out of production, redundant or unemployed. It is very good that our comrades will tell the worker on the dole that he should be working and explain the sliding scale of hours. But the unemployed worker will also ask: “but what about my income now?” If our comrades reply: “We have a programme – the sliding scale of hours – but it does not say anything about maintenance because we do not recognise the principle of unemployment” we would agree with the inevitable rude reply of the worker.
The bureaucracy of the AEU see this question better than some of our comrades. It is no accident that they put forward the demand that redundant workers should be maintained on the basis of a 47 hour week. In their hands such a demand is a reformist and utopian stop-gap. They lack a programme; they fear the question of power. But our people should take up the demand of the AEU bureaucracy. Force them to match their resolutions with deeds; expose them before every employed and unemployed worker. “It is a very good demand – full maintenance. But what action do you propose to take, to implement it?” Workers who would turn from our comrades who talk about refusing to recognise that unemployed workers also need to eat will not be misled by the empty phrases of Jack Tanner.
Let us again repeat: our strategical objective is the seizure of power developed through the transitional programme. During certain stages of these strategical operations, we may, almost certainly will, have to carry out tactical advances and defensive retreats. Such a tactical manoeuvre, conceived as a means of defending the trade union organisations during such a retreat, is the operation of “nons first” at the time when we are not strong enough to prevent dismissals from taking place. It is not and cannot be anything more than this.
If we place ourselves on the standpoint of our opponents and relinquish without a battle, the right of the workers to control sackings on their terms, we may thereby retain our moral sanctity. It simply means, however, that we hand over the initiative to the bosses to attack and strangle the workers’ organisations.
What our critics have done is to confuse recognition with responsibility. By recognising sackings when they take place, and it is an elementary part of the Marxist method to recognise what is, we take no more responsibility for the curse of unemployment or the crisis of capitalism in its totality, than we do when we recognise the existence of war and develop our military policy accordingly. It is because of the recognition of the “crisis of capitalism” by our international leadership, above all comrade Trotsky, that we have today a Transitional programme and a “military tactic” to offer to the masses, while the sectarians stew in their own juice completely isolated from the struggle of the masses.
The fact that we are forced to solve partial problems does not mean that we abandon our transitional slogans even for a moment. Nowhere or at any time is it suggested that we give up the struggle for a sliding scale even after mass sackings have taken place. All we demand is recognition of the fact that the struggle for the strategic goal, involves participation in the tactical battles of the masses to hold onto positions already won. Those who prove incapable of holding those positions will never be able to lead to an advance. In the words of the Transitional programme:
“The Bolshevik Leninist stands in the front line trenches of all kinds of struggles, even when they involve only the most modest material interests or democratic rights of the working class. He takes active part in the mass trade unions for the purpose of strengthening them and raising their militancy.”
Our struggle for the closed shop during periods of redundancy is at all times “for the purpose of strengthening” the workers’ organisations “and raising their militancy” falls right into place here. It is subordinate to and in no way contradicts our strategical slogans. By emphasising this fact yet again, and adding that we always proceed on the maxim that tactics must be subordinate to and must not conflict with our strategical considerations; that the relationships in this connection are that of part to the whole, we believe that we have outlined the position so that it can be understood by every member in the party. In so doing we hope to close the door against any accidental confusion or misunderstanding that might have arisen as to the meaning of the editorial in the Industrial Bulletin.
In concluding, we would urge our comrades not to lose their heads or be impatient. We have recently gone through a period when there have been more jobs than workers. Trade union work has been easy and the party has made great strides. But we are entering a period when the number of workers will be far greater than the number of jobs and trade union work will have to be conducted in a very different milieu.
Comrade Trotsky gave good advice to impatient comrades who suffer from radicalism, when he wrote the following lines in Their morals and ours:
“The ‘Trotskyists’ learned the rhythm of history, that is, the dialectics of the class struggle. They also learned, it seems and to a certain degree successfully, how to subordinate their subjective plans and programmes to this objective situation. They learned not to fall into despair over the fact that the laws of history do not depend upon their individual tastes... They learned to subordinate their individual tastes to the laws of history.
 Leon Trotsky, For a workers’ united front against fascism, December 1931.
 In order to avoid the substitution of skilled labour (with higher wages) with apprentices or unskilled labour, it was a common practice in the trade union movement to force the employers to accept Dilution Agreements which established the priority of craftsmen on “dilutees” when trade was slack.
Labour Party conference Labour lefts sell out
[Socialist Appeal, Vol. 6 No. 10, December 1944]
Full text available on the Ted Grant Internet Archive: Labour Party conference Labour lefts sell out
Tory post-war plans
[Socialist Appeal, Vol. 7 No. 3, April 1945 - not signed]
More sweat, toil and tears for the workers
Churchill’s speech at the Conservative Party conference on March 15th was an indication of the policies and tactics of the ruling class for the general election and the post-war period.
The Tories are moving forward in cunning fashion in order to confuse the electorate and ensure a safe Conservative majority at the polls.
As Churchill has hinted, the general election will not be long delayed after the fall of Hitler and the close of the San Francisco conference.
Had there been a serious opposition to the Tories the prospects of their coming back to power would be virtually impossible. Yet Churchill is not unduly disturbed.
One of the trump cards Churchill indicated the Tories would use, is to disguise the ruling class control under the cloak of a “national” administration, it would be difficult for the Labour Party to expose this fraud and sham for what it is, after their participation for five years in a similar masquerade.
In addition to this the Tories have been demagogically attacking “controls”.
But the best weapon in the arsenal of Churchill and the Tories lies in the fact that the main platform on which they will fight the election, will be almost indistinguishable from that put forward by the Labour leaders. It will be difficult for the non-political electors, and even the politically conscious to see the difference between the Tory and the official Labour policy.
No wonder Churchill remarked derisively:
“Our socialist friends have officially committed themselves – much to the disgust of some of their leaders – to a programme for nationalising all the means of production, distribution and exchange.”
The vague speeches of the Labour leaders on “controls” instead of a bold fight for outright nationalisation without compensation, demonstrate the sound basis for Churchill’s contempt for them.
What the Labour leaders fear is the effect of such revelations on the rank and file – thus their weak protestations. Churchill pulled out the usual confidence trick of the Tories in his statement:
“The Four-year Plan will require our utmost effort, and whatever government is in power will not only have to turn White Papers into Acts of Parliament but to make the Acts of Parliament a living, active, and harmonious part of our social system. On all this we must march ahead even while the Japanese war continues and even while the process of bringing back the armies and rehabilitating our trade is incomplete. Never was there a time when so much was planned and projected and so much remains to be turned from paper into action.”
Never was there a time when so many cheap promises were committed to paper – that the capitalist class has no intention of translating into action. British capitalism, which was old and feeble when the war began, has suffered a catastrophic decline in her world position during the conflict. As Churchill soberly expressed it, “victory” for British capitalism, “with all its brilliant trappings appears to our strained and experienced eyes as a deliverance rather than as a triumph.”
Britain has lost her place as the dominant power in the markets of the world. Attempting to put a good face on the hard realities, Churchill casually revealed:
“We, [i.e. British capitalism – EG] have freely sacrificed our foreign investments which brought a large income into this country and helped to redress our trade balance.”
He might have added that British capitalism has lost more than half her shipping, her insurance and banking: that Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa are now competitors in goods they formerly imported from Britain; that America has largely grabbed the markets lost by Britain and intends to hang on to them; that British imperialism is in a worse position than she was after the last war.
Churchill’s half-panic, half-defiance in relation to his Trans-Atlantic “ally” and her dominant position after the war, is indicated by his references to America without naming her.
“We do not wish to live on the charity or generosity of any nation. We have given our all in the common cause and may claim assistance to recover our normal economy from those we have helped to victory. But we must never agree to found our economic life on the indulgence or favour even of the allies we most dearly cherish.”
The worsened position of British capitalism after the last world war turned Lloyd George’s promises and schemes into the realities of capitalism – mass unemployment, slump, the dole, starvation wages, misery and insecurity.
But today with the loss of Britain’s investments abroad, the position of British capitalism is even more critical. The profits and tribute they gained from abroad are gone. They must squeeze it out of the toil and suffering of the British workers. If British capitalism is to survive and compete it must reduce the standard of living to a lower level than anything endured by the British workers for decades!
And Churchill, while using glittering phrases intended to fool the workers in one section of his speech, used others to convey the situation to his audience of bankers and capitalists, officers and pampered youth.
“Let there be no mistake about it, it is no easy, cheap-jack utopia of airy phrases that lies before us. This is no time for windy platitudes and glittering advertisements...”
And in another passage:
“Blood, sweat, toil, and tears! There may be less blood and fewer tears, we thank God for that hope. But mental toil and physical sweat, the conscious, united resolve of every man and woman to give all that is in them, will be required of us long after the last bomb or cannon has ceased to thunder.”
Thus the reward for the terrible exertions and patient endurance of the masses in the war is... further intensified toil and sweat! And at the end of the toil and sweat? A third imperialist war! Already the imperialists of all lands are preparing for the naked struggle for markets, raw materials, colonial spheres of influence, and strategic bases which must inevitably culminate in in armed struggle! Britain announces she must double her exports or more. America replies by a programme of trebling hers. The competition between Britain and America for the markets of the world will be more intense than the embittered competition between Britain and Germany, which led to the present war. The armaments race is on. Bevin announces that Britain must have an army of 4,000,000 men after the war. ARP is to be continued. While in the past the misery in the distressed areas left the capitalists unmoved, now they have a plan to spread industry over the country – for strategic reasons! Lennox-Boyd, under Secretary for Air, declared bluntly at a meeting of workers that a factory in south-east London had to be removed because it would be a vulnerable target in the next war!
Thus the farce to be enacted at San Francisco is merely designed to smooth out the minor differences between the great powers, keeping the small powers in order, and lulling the masses into a false sense of security until they are thrust into the next war!
These are the outlines of the future world which British and world capitalism are preparing. One word of good advice was given by Churchill, which although put forward hypocritically, the advanced workers would do well to adopt.
“All my experience of the British people, which is a long one, convinces me that never at any moment more than this have they wished and meant to face realities, and woe betide those public men who seek to slide into power down the slippery slope of vain and profligate undertakings. This is no time for humbug and blandishments but for grim stark facts and figures...”
If the Labour and trade union leaders accepted this idea as a basis for their policy, Churchill and the Tories would be snowed under in the coming general election, and Labour would gain an overwhelming majority at the polls. All that would be necessary would be to tell the workers the truth! Give them the grim facts and figures! Give them too, a fighting alternative. A socialist Britain and a socialist Europe! An end to the nightmare of unemployment, hunger, want, fascism and war winch are inevitable if capitalism survives!
At no time have the Labour leaders warned the workers of the real critical situation of British capitalism. Morrison makes speeches chiding the capitalists for taking too gloomy a view of the future. The capitalist politicians do not hide the facts from their class; but the Labour leaders do all in their power to hide the truth from the working class. Instead of demonstrating the impossibility of improving the conditions of the working class while the capitalist system remains, they are offering a programme of reforms (which in any case would not substantially increase the standards of living for the workers) such as Beveridge, Housing, etc., etc. Indeed, they have made the statement that whoever comes into power after this election – the Labour Party or the Tories – will have to implement these so-called reforms projected by the present government – and that both sides will expect loyal co-operation from the opposition.
Attlee, Bevin, Morrison and Greenwood issue speeches in anticipation of the mood of the workers, urging discipline, forbearance and patience. Instead of showing the workers that without action against the landlords there cannot be an effective housing scheme; that without the nationalisation of the factories, far from full employment, there will be 4 to 7 million unemployed; that without a plan in which the workers and technicians organise and control, there can not be prosperity but only economic chaos; that without strong action against the combines and monopolies, the standard of life for the working class will fall catastrophically.
Who can doubt that if the Labour and trade union leaders explained the situation to the workers they would respond to a fighting socialist lead? But these cowards and traitors prefer to deceive the workers. They don’t want to win the next election! They are leaving Churchill to decide when to break the coalition at a time suitable to himself! They are not exposing the fraud of the Tory “reforms” and how can they, when they have helped to put them through Parliament?
If the Labour leaders wanted power, they would immediately break the coalition and wage a campaign of enlightenment throughout the country, showing the workers the only progressive alternative. But they dread the prospect of taking power with a majority because it would show the workers that the Labour Party programme cannot solve a single one of the major problems with which the masses are faced.
The Revolutionary Communist Party believes that only the programme of Marx and Lenin, the programme of revolutionary communism can solve the problems of the workers. But even today there are millions and millions of workers who still cling to the hope that the Labour leaders will improve the conditions of the workers and even introduce socialism if they came to power. We say to these workers: demand that your leaders tell the workers the truth, cease collaborating with the enemy and fight for power on a socialist programme.
We will fight side by side with the Labour workers on this basis in loyal co-operation and comradeship to return a Labour government so that the workers can learn from their own experience that the policy of the Labour leaders has nothing in common with socialism or communism.
Already Churchill has been talking of a post general election coalition. His Communist Party lackeys are supporting him in this. The Labour leaders have not decisively and unequivocally rejected the idea of a new coalition with Churchill.
Workers! Demand that your leaders end the coalition now! Demand that they fight for power on a socialist programme! Support the Revolutionary Communist Party!
 Set up in 1924 the Air Raid Precautions (ARP) was an organisation responsible for the issuing of gas masks, building air-raid shelters, up-keeping of local public shelters, and the enforcement through patrols of the blackout.
The ILP at the crossroads
[Workers’ International News, Vol. 5 No. 8, April 1945]
Full text available on the Ted Grant Internet Archive: The ILP at the crossroads
CP Leaders want post-war coalition with the Tories
[Socialist Appeal, Vol. 7 No. 4, Mid-April 1945]
Full text available on the Ted Grant Internet Archive: CP Leaders want post-war coalition with the Tories
Correspondence May - November 1942
Ted Grant to Jimmy Deane
London, May 20 1942
We note in the New Leader report of the Manchester conference of the Socialist Britain campaign that our delegates voted for the resolution. If this is so, it is a political error as we cannot take responsibility for the centrist, really reformist, programme of the ILP. Please let us have full details of what really took place.
The initiative of the comrades in covering Gresford with the SAs [Socialist Appeals] is very good. We suggest, if you have not already done so, that you cover the Kirby ROFs with the present issue, as you are bound to make good sales and contacts with it.
The Hyde Park meeting was a big success. A crowd of 400 to 500 listened attentively and enthusiastically to our case. The few Stalinist hecklers were silenced by the crowd themselves, and altogether our reception was all that could be desired.
We have sent our contacts’ addresses in Rugby to the name and address given by you. We note from the minutes that you are approaching Changer and IP for their position on membership once again. This would be a mistake. They have shown themselves in the past as elements which could not be assimilated to our organisation. We want to turn our backs on the old outworn elements and concentrate on the fresh elements as you are already doing. If elements such as these approach us for membership and prove by their work that they are serious, that would be a different question. Otherwise we should leave them severely alone.
Before taking young Cund out of the ILP you should discuss the question with the centre when you come up to London. He may be able to do something in the Lancashire Federation. But before a decision is taken it will be necessary to consider the question carefully.
The Cannon pamphlet is already sold out but the reprint will be ready in a fortnight and we will let you have some as soon as they are ready. We have no knowledge of Mc D. in Manchester but if he takes a couple of dozens of Appeals he should be worth looking up. The contact in Barnoldwick is sympathetic to us, is a member of the ILP, and distributes a few SAs. G. of Burnley is supposed to be attending to him. Unfortunately we have not heard from G. for some time. Jock has written but up to the present we have heard nothing.
The position in relation to the RSL prior to C.’s visit you are more or less acquainted with. Our stand has been confirmed by events. The report sent out from the centre should cover this. But at any rate we expect to make big gains (i.e. all that is worthwhile) from the RSL in the near future.
E. Grant (Secretary)
PS: The national conference will probably be held in August or the late autumn. We will send all details to you later.
E.C. Clapper to the RSL
June 21 1942
To the RSL
In our opinion, your attitude towards the WIL is utterly false. Without ignoring personal difficulties inherited from the past, it is necessary to recognise that your false attitude flows directly from a false political appreciation of this group. You see in it a centrist group “moving away from us.” That is an opinion which we can by no means share. The last document we have from you on this question is that entitled Our political estimation of the WIL and dated March 29 1942. Each one of your arguments has been unable to convince us.
The internal regime
We are a little astonished to see that your first criticism of the WIL is its present regime. We do not know the organisation at first hand. Of course, it is your right to have a poor opinion of its internal functioning. Because of your suspicions (well-grounded or not, we aren’t discussing this point at the moment), you have the right to demand rigorous rules for common negotiations, you can also ask serious guarantees for the functioning of the future unified organisation. All this is your full right. But to invoke past or present mistakes in the internal regime in order to refuse any common discussion is inadmissible. Further, you present this point as a “difference of principle”, as a “fundamental difference.” But your document soon informs us that this “difference of principle” is founded upon the report of a few members who have left the WIL or who have been expelled from it. Naturally, we do not doubt the honesty of these comrades. But don’t you think that all this is a rather narrow basis for establishing “principles”? We permit ourselves to remind you also that some documents of your last national conference (1941) show that the internal functioning of your own organisation was extremely chaotic during a certain period. Now, the question of the internal regime is the first point of your “political estimation” of the WIL. Don’t you think that the outside observer could believe that you are just looking for poor reasons to justify an erroneous political judgement?
Attitude towards the war
Your accusation against the WIL in this realm comprise three points:
- A certain number of doubtful expressions in WIL’s publications which indicate that the group abandons defeatism to pass into the defencist camp;
- The use in the past, when there existed the danger of invasion, of the slogan “Arming the workers under workers’ control”;
- The present use of the slogan “Nationalise the war industries under workers’ control.”
Let us examine each of these complaints successively.
You give in your document (pages 2 and 3) some quotations from the WIL’s publications and in them you discover “defencism” and “opportunism”. All this criticism is not only incorrect, but even unfair. Thus you give a quotation from the WIL’s paper:
“Why did French imperialism take the road to defeat? Because to mobilise the workers to victory would have meant to arm the men who, only four years ago, rocked the capitalist state to its foundations in the great strike of June 1936. It would have been a risk that the government dare not take.”
And you add this commentary:
“From this we learn two things. One, that the WIL believes the French working class had it been ‘mobilised for victory’ by the French bourgeoisie (i.e. furnished with arms) and had no anti-working class repressions taken place, would have supported the war and would have vigorously resisted the German invasion. And this, let it be noted, within the framework of the French imperialist state. Two, that the WIL would have supported such action on the part of the French working class.”
The last sentence is absolutely inexact. You did not “learn” this from the quotation because it is not in it. Not only does the quotation not speak of “support”, but it doesn’t even say that such a situation could have materialised. Rather, it tries to prove the contrary. In order to get the spirit of the article, it suffices to cite the conclusion:
“Only the working class, organised independently of the bosses, can defeat the offensive Hitler must launch, and, at the same time, prevent a repetition of the French disaster on British soil. Only in this manner can the whole forces of the country be mobilised... But this means that the workers must organise consciously for the capture of power. Let the socialist revolution be our answer to Hitler!”
This is a fundamentally revolutionary conclusion.
Your whole method consists in taking a phrase, tearing it from the context and showing that it might permit an opportunist interpretation, even if this interpretation is contrary to the meaning of the whole article. Naturally, by searching through a year or two of the publications of a political organisation, you can find half a dozen of such phrases and with them you triumphantly erect a “defencist” and “opportunist” line! But that has nothing in common with Marxist criticism.
We are going to try to show you the flaw in your method by an example. Lenin’s expression that defeat is the “lesser evil” is often repeated (if it is well understood is another question). Let us take the complete quotation from Lenin: “There can be absolutely no doubt that the lesser evil would be now and immediately the defeat of Tsarism in the present war. For Tsarism is a hundred times worse than Kaiserism.” That quotation, taken alone, could be interpreted as justifying the defeatist policy in Russia by the comparison of political regimes. Accordingly, it would lead to the support of the present war on the side of the democracies, for there is a still greater difference between fascism and bourgeois democracy than between Tsarism and Kaiserism. Hence, etc, etc... Naturally, this whole method is false, but it is precisely this method that you employ towards the WIL. And, as we have already said, it is not only false, but unfair.
With the question of the slogan “arming the workers” we arrive at the first serious difference. Your principal argument against the slogan is that “British imperialism proved very well able to protect itself against invasion.” Thus, you have been right against the WIL thanks to... Hitler, who has not tried invasion. But your approach to the problem is incorrect for it forgets only one little thing: the state of mind of the masses. In August 1940 the invasion was a possibility (even a quasi-certainty in the consciousness of the masses). The masses had also seen the attitude of the bourgeoisie in a dozen countries (above all in France!). How to answer the question which tormented them? We have always insisted in our propaganda that while pretending to defend the nation, the bourgeoisie in reality defends its privileged position inside the nation. This is even the basis of the revolutionary policy towards the war. The slogan “arming the workers” introduces precisely a wedge between the bourgeoisie and the masses. It reveals to all the hypocrisy of “national defence”: in the hour of the greatest danger the bourgeoisie refuses to trust its own people, preferring a bargain with the “enemy” bourgeoisie. What an excellent means of agitation! Matters have not proceeded to such a point in England, but they might have reached that point and for a certain period the slogan had a deeply offensive character against the British bourgeoisie.
To all this you reply: “it is revolutionary to call upon the workers to seize power. But to call upon the workers to seize power as the WIL did, as the only way of ‘preventing a repetition of the French disaster on British soil’ is not revolutionary; it is chauvinism.” This quotation would indicate that you do not understand what chauvinism is, i.e. unity with the bourgeoisie against the revolutionary interests of the proletariat. How can “to call the workers to seize power”, be “chauvinism”, whatever the purpose may be?
Of course, these few considerations do not exhaust the problem. Perhaps there were some insufficiently clear formulae in the WIL’s propaganda; we are not closely enough acquainted with the state of mind of the English workers to measure the practical value of the slogan, etc., etc. But what we wanted to show is that the slogan, far from being “defencism” is fully compatible with our principles.
The last point of your criticism of the WIL in the question of the war is your condemnation of the present use of the slogan: “Nationalise the war industries under workers’ control!” We are obliged to say that we cannot share this opinion at all. Your argument against the slogan goes like this. At present, the nationalisation is not a “class demand”. The workers “wish for increased production in support of the imperialist war.” Consequently, the slogan “helps to maintain their chauvinism.”
All this reasoning is made up of abstract rationalism, but not of revolutionary realism. The workers convince themselves of the imperialist character of the war through different ways. The major one is the fact that even during the war the capitalists do not cease to be capitalists and heap up huge profits. The profit system, with its accumulation of riches and poverty during the war itself, clearly reveals the hypocrisy of “national defence”. On abstraction, a capitalism without private profit during the war would be much stronger to wage war. In reality the struggle against the profit system breaks the “civil peace” and leads to revolutionary actions against the bourgeoisie. And to give a perspective to this struggle, the slogan of “nationalisation under workers’ control” is one of the best.
Of course, at the beginning, many may support the slogan for patriotic reasons, for better prosecution of the war. But this is true for every slogan during the war. You write: at present, “the class issues, around which the worker struggles, are simple and elementary in character. They centre around wages, income tax, hours and conditions, and must inevitably assume acute forms as the war forces the bourgeoisie to impose increasing burdens upon the workers.” But even this struggle may be supported for patriotic reasons. A patriotic trade union leader may very well ask for a better repartition of the income tax, for wage increases, etc., in the interests of the prosecution of the war. All the arguments you raise against the slogan of nationalisation may be raised against the objectives you ascribe to the present struggle.
The problem of the Labour Party
The discussion gravitates around two points which must be strictly separated. The first is the slogan “Labour to power”; the second is the fraction work in the Labour Party.
As it appears to us, the two groups are for the slogan “Labour to power”, but with different formulations. The RSL demands a “Third Labour government”, which is the most unfortunate formula that one could imagine. It immediately indicates a continuity with the lamentable experience of the past, instead of mobilising the workers for the rupture with the bourgeoisie on the basis of a series of transitional demands. For the moment we see no serious difference between the two groups on this question. The RSL’s formula seems to us a simple mistake which must be quickly corrected.
Now, on the question of work in the Labour Party, we can only recall our general position on this problem. We are unacquainted not only with the recent documents, but even with the exact organisational situation of the two groups. Moreover, it is necessary to keep in mind such factors as the war, the internal life of the Labour Party, etc. For a long time, the temporary sojourn of revolutionaries in a centrist or reformist party has not been a question of principle, but of simple tactic for the building of the revolutionary party. We think it is by all means necessary to carry on systematic work inside the Labour Party. But under the present conditions a means of unhampered independent expression is also indispensable. These two forms of political activity should be coordinated, not one set against the other.
As well as we can judge by your documents, you are extremely provoked [annoyed] with the WIL, above all about the question of international affiliation. We would not say that the WIL is completely sinless in this matter. But it must be clearly seen that you have your share of responsibility for the difficult present situation because of your completely negative attitude.
The impression of the WIL’s leadership that we have here is that these are young comrades. If we could desire, at times, a little more firmness in their propaganda, we must recognise that they learn quickly. The last issue of their paper (that of May, with the article on the “second front”) is excellent, and to speak of “centrism”, “defencism”, “chauvinism”, etc., is simply false. It is necessary to say clearly: the WIL stands entirely on the ground of the principles and methods of the FI [Fourth International] and it should find its place in our ranks as soon as possible.
In England as elsewhere, we have the perspective of profound commotions in the next period. We must know how to prepare for them. The first step in this direction is a serious understanding with the WIL. Much precious time has already been lost. We hope you give serious consideration to these remarks and inform us of your opinion.
Ted Grant to Jimmy Deane
London, July 9 1942
Just a note to advise you to go to Belfast if that is the only means of keeping you in circulation. It is rather unfortunate that you will have to leave Liverpool at a time when things are opening out, but perhaps you will be able to do something in Belfast. At any rate if you have to go, try and get back to the Merseyside as soon as you can.
If you can make arrangements to go over to Liverpool occasionally to see how the lads are making out, that will be very useful; but make thorough arrangements for the continuation of the work in your absence, and keep in touch regularly with the lads, if only by letter.
Re. the minutes, it is not an important point and there is no need for you to worry about it.
We are pleased to see that you are doing so well with the miners near your area. Make sure that this is continued even if you have to move. Jock will probably be dropping you a line on the question of the miners very soon. Let us know how you make out in Wigan.
You’ll have seen the letter from the IS to the RSL by now. It looks as if the old “clap handies” policy is going to receive a severe jolt. It’s about time too. We will let you know all political developments as they take place.
Hoping to hear from you soon,
RSL to IS
July 28 1942
We have received the copy of your letter of January 13 1942 (the original of which failed to reach us) and your letter of June 21 1942. As you request, we have given serious consideration to your remarks and now give you our opinion of them.
1. The internal regime of the WIL.
Our criticism here is simply that the regime is not founded upon the principle of democratic centralism. To us, and we assume to you also, the maintenance of democratic centralism inside the organisation is a question of principle. We fail therefore to see how our criticism in this connection should “astonish” you. Our document, as our title shows, is our political estimation of the WIL. It would be impossible for us therefore to omit our attitude on this question of the internal regime. Nowhere do we state that “were this the only difference between us and the WIL” we should refuse discussions with them. In our opinion the present internal regime springs from the utterly unprincipled way in which the WIL was formed and helps to provide the basis for its present unprincipled policies.
So far as the factual correctness of our estimation of the WIL internal regime is concerned, we can only say that all the material and evidence in our possession confirms it.
2. The attitude towards the war.
You state that our “whole method consists in taking a phrase, tearing it from the context and showing that it might permit an opportunist interpretation even if this interpretation is contrary to the meaning of the whole article”, and you give one example in support of this statement – our quotation from Youth for Socialism of August 1940. Now we are well aware that such a method can be adopted and consequently we do not need to be shown its “flaws” by a quotation from Lenin. We deny utterly, however, that we have used such a procedure . The whole section of our document in question is an attempt to show how, under the impact of events, an erroneous attitude towards the war gradually grew up in the WIL; how it left our position to adopt a centrist one. Naturally the first manifestations were vague and ambiguous, as is in any case typical of centrism – contradictions occur in the same article.
Now as to the fairness of our conclusion, from the quotation in question, that the WIL would have supported resistance by the French workers to German fascism invasion, within the framework of the French imperialist state. In the first place it is implied in the whole passage we quote (only part of which you reproduce), secondly it flows from the attitude clearly expressed in the same article that Hitler, not Churchill, is the worst enemy of the British workers. Finally almost precisely this policy of workers’ resistance to German invasion, within the framework of capitalist rule, was advocated for the British workers by the WIL a few months later when they put forward the slogan of “Arm the workers” as an answer to the threat of invasion.
With this slogan, you state, “we arrive at the first serious difference”. This is correct in so far as all the previous differences given by us in this section of our statement merely provide the basis for and lead up to this slogan. You further state “Your principal argument against the slogan is that British imperialism proved very well able to protect itself against invasion. Thus you have been right against the WIL thanks to... Hitler, who has not tried invasion.” This remark of yours truly astounds us. Can it be that our document reached you in an incomplete or imperfect form? For what you have said is (to use your own words) “not only false, but unfair.” Let us quote from our document:
“Arming the workers to resist invasion by Hitler is stressed as the main and the most important task. Nowhere is there any suggestion that it is only in the interests of the working class to resist invasion after the resources of the country have been under the control of the workers and that, till this has taken place, the workers have no interest in national defence.”
This, friends, is our most fundamental criticism of this slogan and this you utterly ignore. But even apart from this, their basic political error, the WIL and apparently you also fail to recognise the real basis for the capitulatory attitude of the French bourgeoisie towards Hitler and the absence of this basis in the case of the British bourgeoisie. We will not elaborate on this question here, you will find our attitude clearly expressed in the statement On the attitude of our movement towards the war which was passed by our conference of September, 1941 and which you have received. We would add merely that this basic difference between the situation of the British bourgeoisie did not, as you put it, “refuse to trust its own people” but actually armed them (under its own control of course) in the Home Guard. This fact makes the WIL slogan even more “offensive” not to the British bourgeoisie, but to our whole attitude towards the war. Incidentally, you seem quite unaware that the WIL are still putting forward this slogan today: “Arming of the workers under the control of committees of workers elected in factories, unions and in the streets against the danger of Petainism.” (Point 10 of “Our programme for power”, Socialist Appeal, July 1942).
On the question of the use of the word “chauvinism” we must state that to imply, as the WIL imply, that German and not British imperialism is the main enemy is, in actual fact, “unity with the bourgeoisie against the revolutionary interests of the proletariat”, no matter what “left” coloration may be given to it: for it can only serve to divert the workers’ attention from their real tasks and strengthen, not weaken, the class truce.
As regards the slogan “nationalise the war industries under workers’ control”, we do [not] oppose this slogan when it it linked with class issues such as the maintaining and improving of workers’ conditions, and under circumstances in which it can be made clear that “control” is not separate from the question of power, be it either by a Labour government, or Soviet power according to the progress of the working class movement. But we do oppose it as a means of increasing production during imperialist war. And it is on precisely this line that the WIL advocate it. (“Workers’ control of production to end chaos and mis-management in industry to be exercised through workers’ committees.” Point 4 of “Our programme for power”, Socialist Appeal, July 1942). It is just this point of difference that you ignore and thus your remarks on this subject have no relation to the point at issue. It is true, as you say, that any slogan, however correct, can be supported for patriotic reasons, but this does not mean that we can put it forward with a patriotic coloration. To call for the nationalisation of the war industries under workers’ control in order to increase production today is to do just this.
Before going on to discuss the question of the Labour Party we must point out that all the above differences flow from the attitude which we have adopted towards the American military policy and that any discussion cannot ignore this fact. In your letter of January 13 1942 you state “among all the documents we did not find one giving a precise criticism of the American resolution end presenting another policy.” You are referring to our September 1941 conference. It is quite true that none of the documents in question gave a precise criticism of the American resolution because the resolution itself was available to us only just before the conference. We based our criticisms upon the policy as interpreted by Cannon. As however you state in the same letter that Cannon correctly interprets the policy we would have thought that you could have already commenced discussions with us upon our criticism of his line. In any case another statement on the subject was drawn up last October and sent to you. It and the previous statement together with other relevant documents were passed by our special conference a few weeks back and will shortly be received by you. We hope that this will lead to a fruitful discussion between us. We have noted with some disquiet that in your present letter (of June 21 1942) you appear to ignore all our most fundamental criticisms and to concentrate upon points of relatively secondary importance but assume that this was merely due to inadvertence. As regards the other policy to be counter poised by us to the American policy, we must point out that our policy is that of War and the Fourth [International] and the Transitional programme, i.e. that of the Bolsheviks in the last war. We do not consider that the circumstances of this war (or rather this war after June 1940) justify any new policy.
3. The problem of the Labour Party.
(a) “Labour to power” versus “A third Labour government”. We agree with you that there seems to be no serious difference between the groups on this question. When the workers support a third Labour government they obviously wish it to have a majority in the House of Commons, which its two predecessors had not. What is the difference between this and Labour to power. Incidentally we have been advocating the slogan of a “Third Labour government” since 1934 and this is the first criticism from you or your predecessors.
In recent years the WIL seems to us to have adopted the deliberately vague slogan “Labour to power” in order to free themselves from being bound by our clear slogan “For a third Labour government with a majority”.
Judging from their ambiguous formulation and their past vacillations (support of CP and pacifist candidates against official Labour candidates) we feel reasonably confident that, when a confused mass “left” wing movement develops towards the rupture of the class truce on the electoral field, serious divergences, the seeds of which already exist, will reveal themselves between those who support official Labour Party candidates and those who support adventuristic “left” candidates against official LP candidates, both within the WIL and between the WIL and ourselves.
(b) Work in the Labour Party. Our position on this question remains that laid down by past international conferences for the British section. It is contained in a recent document Industrial work and our perspectives which we are sending you again. We have a means of unhampered independent expression, as you are aware, in our paper the Militant. The difference between us and the WIL on this question are essentially the same as have split our movement in this and other countries in the past. Experience has shown that the two points of view cannot be contained in the same organisation.
From your letter we gather that you are in one hundred percent [agreement] with the policy of the WIL. True you say that it “may” have made mistakes but nowhere do you specify them. We would therefore ask you to explain to us how it happens that a group which came into existence... “as the result of purely personal grievances” (Founding conference of the Fourth International) and which was characterised as “being led on a path of unprincipled clique politics which can only land them in the mire”, (Ibid.) and as “irresponsible splitters and clique fighters” should now, after four years be characterised by you as “standing entirely on the ground of the principles and methods of the FI”? While the official [section], has apparently, in your opinion taken an entirely [in]correct course. Also we would ask you when and by what body the above characterisation of the WIL made in 1938 by the Founding conference has been reversed? You yourselves do not even appear to be aware of the past of the WIL since you state on the question of international affiliation “we would not say that the WIL is completely sinless in this matter”, while despite [the fact that] we hold fast [to the] history of our negotiations with the WIL you condemn us for a “completely negative attitude”.
At our last conference a few weeks ago, we decided to reopen discussions with the WIL upon the basis of our political line. These discussions have begun but unless (as it is most unlikely) they lead to political unity, organisational unity is out of the question. We also “have the perspective of profound commotions in the next period” but we think that the best way to meet them is on the basis of a disciplined firmly knit organisation with a correct policy.
Ted Grant to Jimmy Deane
London, July 29 1942
Many thanks for your letter and for the material you have sent from the Yanks including the material from Labor Action. As usual with these people they have been eating their words immediately after uttering them. They have reproduced the pictures from the article on Hong Kong in the April Socialist Appeal – but the usual distortions on our attitude can be expected.
Unfortunately there are no more copies available of the Permanent Revolution, so I’m afraid comrade S. will be disappointed, perhaps you could lend him a copy. I expect Jock gave you a card for Socialist Appeal reporters for which you asked. He has written an excellent reply to Hall which I expect you have seen and it will be reproduced in the SA and also in leaflet form. I would certainly like to get hold of some of the mythical £10 we are supposed to be earning!
In spite of the efforts of the capitalist press and of Hall to damage us, in the long run it will be of benefit to us. Millions of workers have now heard of the WIL and the SA and we have already benefited by letters of sympathy and support which we have received from all over England. We will probably gain quite a number of new members as a result. Here is the address of one contact who wishes to join: Mr H. B. Bradshaw, 2 Bowness Road, Preston, Lancs. We have written to him saying that you will write and make arrangements to call as the Lancashire organiser.
For the last period we have been worried because Manchester was the only large city in England in which we did not have a branch in spite of its good tradition in the working class movement. It looks as if Hall and the bourgeoisie have solved the problem for us. Somebody who wrote for an SA has asked to join us and says that she has a number of interested friends. Her address is – Mrs Ellen Lewis, 8 Cuyon Avenue, Victoria Park, Manchester – and we have written to her saying that you will make all arrangements. Here is an opportunity for you to do your stuff and wipe off a blot in the political landscape where we have no branch. Incidentally you are too hard on the Daily Express, you should have read the Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph and Herald!
We have received support and some letters from miners all over the country, all our contacts and all who have read the SA, plus many of those who have not, have given us expressions of sympathy and support. We have become a definite tendency known in the working class movement.
Graham has written and suggested that he could do with more assistance from Liverpool in organising the contacts in Nelson and Lancashire. I have written to him pointing out that it is practically impossible for you to do so because of work, distance, etc. I have explained that you can hardly get time to organise the Liverpool and Merseyside area, let alone a locality 70-100 miles away.
As you have met Jock and probably discussed all the outstanding political questions which face us, I don’t think it will be necessary to write anything on these questions at the moment. Please write on any points which you would like to discuss. Sorry not to have written before but as you can imagine we have been very busy with the bourgeoisie, RSL, etc.
PS: We are sending some back pamphlets for Stewart. This is the best we can do. Tell him I was unable to get anything on military subjects. Ted.
Ted Grant to Jimmy Deane
London, August 17 1942
Sorry not to have answered your letter immediately we received it, but we have been very busy preparing for the conference, and I did not think the matter was so urgent.
First of all I would like to impress you with the importance of attending our first national conference and bringing with you, if possible, some of the more advanced comrades as well. Please do everything you can to come, it is really vital that all the comrades who are the most advanced elements in the group should attend. If necessary make financial sacrifices, beg, borrow or steal the money, but for heaven’s sake move heaven and earth to try and attend if possible. Drop all other work for that weekend and do your best to come. Incidentally, if there are any close contacts, not members of the group, who are reliable and you think would be benefited thereby, you can bring them along as well, if they are sufficiently interested to wish to attend. Anyway, we are confident of seeing you next weekend to discuss all matters outstanding.
Re. the contacts in Preston. We advise you to take a very harsh stand on this question. We are going to raise this question very sharply with JL. What the hell does he think he is up to? He will be in London over the next weekend and would like you to be present at the discussions with him. I do not think that the question needs elaboration in this short note as we will discuss it fully with you next weekend.
Work [is] proceeding throughout the country favourably. Will give all replies to your last letters next weekend.
Very best wishes,
PS: Whatever happens be at the conference.
Ted Grant to RSL
London, September 16 1942
You will have received our letter of September 4 1942, which put forward our position on fusion. As you see we are very anxious that the much needed political and organisational clarification should be speeded up.
We have elected our committee of three, and will be pleased to meet your representatives on Sunday, September 27th at 10 am at the above address.
Re. your suggestions that there should be no joint discussion bulletins but that material should be circulated by both organisations independently, we accept this suggestion. But on the question of the arrangement of subjects, we believe that the Labour Party tactic and the question of the “Third Labour government” or “Labour to power” should be discussed separately, otherwise it would lead to some confusion.
We believe that there is no reason why your committee should object to these problems being discussed separately. Apart from this we would accept the arrangement of subjects to be debated as you have outlined them.
We are still waiting to receive the conference documents which you promised us in your last letter.
Ted Grant to Jimmy Deane
London, September 17 1942
I’m sorry not to have heard from you for such a long time and presume that you are either very busy or ill. B. Bradshaw writes from Preston complaining that he never heard from you and the shop at Preston complains that they never received any papers. We have sent the material to them.
Has Shindler visited you to discuss the contacts in Preston? The right faction has landed as we predicted – in a hell of a mess! You have received copies of the new ultimatum issued to them by DDH and Co., you can see the position by this in a nutshell.
Why didn’t any of the Liverpool comrades pick up the papers at the station last month? We want to get the SA out right on the first of the month for the next issue and are busy preparing it now. Could you send us an article on general conditions among the dockers for the next issue – by Saturday? If you can, it will go into the issue. I think this is ample time for you to collect the material and send in the article.
How are things proceeding on the Merseyside now that you have made the new arrangement? Is it working out ok in Liverpool and does it facilitate the work of the group?
The Coventry lads are going ahead and building up sales, contacts, and the organisation generally at a rapid pace. They threaten to outstrip the Merseyside if you don’t watch your step! Sadie Morris has given us the name of a contact (given below) who is a student of Liverpool university and who is supposed to have a dozen to eighteen YCLers under his influence. Look him up and see what can be gained. How did the YCLer who wrote to you turn out?
PS: Harold B. Bradshaw has written to us again saying that he has still not heard from you. In case there is any mistake, his address is – 2 Bowness road, Farringdon Park, Preston. We have written to him saying that you will contact him immediately.
Ted Grant to Jimmy Deane
London, October 20 1942
Thank you very much of your letter. The next meeting of the central committee will be held in London on Saturday, November 7th, the day before our public meeting.
I am very anxious to have a thorough discussion with you on the question of unity with the RSL and the IS. We are having a committee meeting between ourselves and the RSL on Sunday, 25th, and if you can possibly come to this meeting and also attend the central committee meeting on the 7th, it would be a good idea for you to find out for yourself what the real position is.
Will discuss all the problems, Liverpool and the group generally, when we see you, since we are busy at present with the Socialist Appeal. If you can possibly manage it within the next few days – could you send us the long promised article on the docks?
PS: Please send to us, or bring with you, your file of your correspondence with the IS as we would like to see it.
CC of the RSL to IS
October 28 1942
In view of the prohibition you placed on us of criticising the WIL in any of our publications, we are unable to reply openly to the open attacks which they make upon us in their recent pamphlet Preparing for power. They particularly criticise our Labour Party tactic, which was, as you know, endorsed by the international in 1938. What follows in quotation marks is an extract from the above mentioned pamphlet of the WIL’s.
“...The present period is characterised by a radicalisation and ferment within the working class, without a mass political vent for this dissatisfaction. Insofar as the workers are moving at all at present, they are expressing themselves in the industrial field. At a later stage they will turn to the Labour Party. But to come to the workers who are advanced enough to look for a road out – with the disguise of the ‘left wing of the Labour Party’ is idiotic. These workers will turn to the ILP or to the CP, but not to the so-called ‘socialist left of the Labour Party’...”
I attach a Militant heading to demonstrate how the RSL uses the subheading “Organ of the Socialist Left of the Labour Party”.
Since they, the WIL, have made this open attack, we shall assume, unless we receive a reply from you on this subject within two months from the date of this letter, that we have the right to reply to these attacks, openly.
The CC of the RSL
IS to WIL
New York, November 20 1942
My last letter to you was dated October 1st. I am regularly receiving your publications, which I must say, I read with great interest. Herewith enclosed you will find a copy of a letter of the CC of the RSL to us, as well as a copy of our answer. The public attack on your side was really a mistake in the present situation and we must try, all of us, not to repeat such an incident.
We have just seen for the first time, the resolution passed by the conference of the RSL in June, 1942, on their relation with your group. Apart from some rather dubious considerations, the two points decided upon are excellent and coincide completely with our own resolution of August 28th. We must now work with all our energy for their realisation. The CC of the RSL informed us that during October, a committee of six, three from each side, has been created, and that the discussion has already begun in certain areas. We would be extremely glad to receive further news from you.
E. C. Clapper
IS to RSL
New York, November 21 1942
We received your letter of October 28th on the public attack by the WIL. We are now engaged in negotiations with the WIL, and this incident must be treated not in a formalistic, but in a realistic way. Your policy has been attacked publicly and, of course, nobody can deny you the right to answer publicly. But we must tell you frankly that if we were in your place, we would not make use of such a right. You would lose nothing in doing this and you would strengthen, not weaken, your position in the negotiations.
This is only our advice. We repeat, nobody can deny you the right to answer. But if you make use of this right, we insist that your answer be moderate and pedagogic. You can very well explain the reasons and the character of your work in the Labour Party, but we must ask you to abstain from any criticism of the WIL, which would provoke an answer from their side. The opening of a public controversy at the present time and in such manner, would be most unfortunate.
We think fit to send copy of this letter as well as your letter of October 28th to the WIL.
E. C. Clapper
E.C. Clapper to WIL
New York, November 27 1942
I trust you have by now my letter of November 20th. I received your letter of October 31st, as well as the enclosed minutes of the October 25th meeting. I must say that on all the points raised at that meeting I would rather be on your side. The attitude of the RSL on the question of the joint bulletin is especially significant. I think you should insist on the RSL’s own resolution at their last conference, which decided for a joint bulletin and a unification conference after a six month period of discussion. You should firmly hold to these two points. I would appreciate very much your prompt writing and sending of documents in the present period.
E. C. Clapper
 Royal Ordnance Factory
 The WIL conducted an energetic campaign against the strike-breaking attitude of Joseph Hall, president of the Yorkshire Miners’ Association. See also Ted Grant, Writings, Vol. 1, pp. 254-8.
 Unfortunately it has not been possible to trace a copy of this letter.
A criticism by the RSL of the WIL pamphlet Preparing for power
By Revolutionary Socialist League
In our document Our political criticism of the WIL we state: “on the two fundamental issues which face our movement today, that of our attitude to the imperialist war and that of the method of building the new revolutionary party, the WIL has adopted policies basically opposed to those of Bolshevism. It is an organisation, not moving politically in our direction, but moving away from us.” If any further evidence of the fact that the WIL is a centrist body, and moving away from Bolshevism, were needed, their recent document Preparing for power provides all that is necessary.
In order to confine this discussion, as far as possible, to the most important issue, we are refraining from raising here criticisms regarding matters of secondary importance. A whole series of criticisms could, in fact, be raised and their omission here does not preclude us from raising them at some suitable opportunity. Meantime, however, our criticisms will centre round the WIL attitude towards the war and the problems raised by it, and the WIL attitude towards the Labour Party.
A basic defect of the WIL document lies in the complete omission of any real explanation for the decline of British imperialism and its defeats. The weakness of British imperialism lies in the fact that, owing to the uneven development of capitalism, its accumulated imperialist booty is now out of proportion to the relation which its economic (and, consequently, military) strength bears towards that of rival imperialisms. Hence it finds it difficult or impossible to maintain its conquests unaided. Hence, therefore, its defeats and its forced reliance on the USA.
But, according to the WIL document, everything is explained by “the old school tie blimps in the colonial service and the armed forces, whose stupidity and incompetence is but a reflection of the fact that the British bourgeois system has completely outlived itself,” and by the “enfeeblement and decline of the ruling class.”
It is true that we also read “in reality the process of decline has been going on for many years before the war. The altering relationship of forces between the powers was bearing less and less relationship to Britain’s nominal position.” But this “altering relationship of forces” is apparently considered to be due to the “senility and decay of British imperialism,” the causes of which are unexplained, not to the fact that certain of its rivals have experienced a relatively more rapid rate of economic and military development.
It is, of course, quite true that “the British bourgeois system has completely outlived itself,” but this is true of all bourgeois systems in this epoch of the general world decline of imperialism. Even Britain’s rivals in this war are decaying. Thus the WIL gives us no real reason for Britain’s defeats and difficulties and, moreover, by stressing and exaggerating the weakness of Britain and ignoring those of her rivals, gives a totally false picture of the position.
The British ruling class is far from being “completely senile and incapable of even conducting her own wars.” Today it can claim a greater volume of production per head of the population than any of the Allied powers and one that is possibly greater than any other country in the world. British imperialism is far from losing confidence in itself. It is not our job to uphold the conduct of British imperialism nor its military prestige, but such gross distortions as those contained in the WIL analysis lead inevitably to false policies.
Nor are these false policies long in emerging. “The corruption and incompetence, industrial and militarily, raises sharply in the minds of the workers the question of the regime.” There is no question of misunderstanding this sentence. It means that the workers are questioning the right of capitalism to continue as the system in this country. This, before the workers have even begun to display a mass sentiment for peace, while they still support the imperialist war and are, in fact, anxious to see it more efficiently and more offensively conducted. Either all previous history was accidental and from it no lessons can be learned, or else the WIL utterly misunderstands and distorts not only the present position of British imperialism, but also the present stage of development of working class consciousness. We incline to the latter theory. The mood of the masses is still predominantly in support of the imperialist war and the British bourgeoisie is conducting the war as efficiently as the limitations of “democratic capitalism” permit.
These factors do not provide for the “rapid maturing” of “all the conditions for social explosions.” What social explosions do come, as come they will, they will not arise upon the basis of demands by the workers for a more efficient prosecution of the war. No class struggles can arise on this issue because it is not a class issue as far as the workers are concerned. This is not their war and they have no class interest in victory in it.
At present the masses are under the ideological leadership of the bourgeois and petit-bourgeois and hence support the imperialist war.
Many defeats have been suffered by the British bourgeoisie in this war and sections of the workers have, as a result, criticised the leadership of the bourgeoisie and demanded a more efficient prosecution of the struggle. But this is not a proletarian class reaction to the situation, it is a petty bourgeois reaction and is possible only because the workers are still imbued with alien class ideology. Such working class discontent will stop at grumbling, in the same way as the similar and even more vocal discontent of the petty bourgeois does, and may even be transformed by British victories into greater support for the imperialist government.
It cannot lead to working class action, just because the demand for a more efficient prosecution of the imperialist war is not a class demand for the workers. Moreover, class action by the workers, as they know, would yet further impair the efficiency of British imperialism. British defeats can lead to social explosions, but they will be explosions caused by war weariness, by a desire to end the fruitless slaughter, to escape from the economic hardships of war and to bring an enduring peace and prosperity to the world.
Class action by the workers against the bourgeoisie is at present in an early stage and confined to relatively small sections of the proletariat. It is taking the form of strikes on economic issues. But during an imperialist war such strikes inevitably bring the workers into conflict with the imperialist state machine. The inevitable increase in this strike movement will bring about breaches in the class truce and will eventually smash it.
This process will be accompanied by a profound change in the workers’ attitude to the war. The present desire for a more efficient prosecution of the war will be replaced by the demand for peace. There is no mention of this demand in the WIL document. Yet in War and the Fourth International we read “The revolutionary struggle for peace, which takes on ever wider and bolder forms is the surest means of ‘turning the imperialist war into a civil war’.” But omission of all mention of the slogan of peace by the WIL is, of course to be expected, for they do not raise the slogan of “turning the imperialist war into a civil war”; their slogan, nowhere explicitly stated in the document, it is true, but implicit in it and in their other propaganda is “turn the imperialist war into a workers’ anti-fascist war.” In other words, their main attack is directed not against the British bourgeoisie, but its rivals, the fascist regimes. Their main charge against the British bourgeoisie is that it does not fight those rivals efficiently enough!
It is illuminating to observe that the perspective of workers’ conquest of power during the war is pushed right into the background by the WIL, indeed, it is barely mentioned. They give three possible terminations of the war. The first is by the ruling class capitulating to Hitler, “under threat of revolution… as the French bourgeoisie did”. Incidentally, where can the WIL show the slightest real evidence that the French bourgeoisie capitulated “under threat of revolution”? But this, say the WIL, would be “immediately to provoke an uprising among the masses”, with the object of continuing the war(!!). We would ask the WIL here to explain to us why, on their premises, no such uprising took place among the French workers? The WIL even believe that not only are the workers better patriots than the capitalists, but that the “Labour leaders” would “place themselves at the head of the masses in order to continue the war”(!!!). Once again, why did none of this take place in France on the WIL’s premises, and, yet more to the point, why was the development of the Russian revolution in 1917 so very different? In the past it has been the practice of our movement to regard the Russian revolution as typical, at least in broad outline, of the proletarian uprisings during the imperialist war. It has been left to the WIL to treat it as an exception.
The second possible termination to the war is given as the victory of Britain and her allies over the Axis powers.
“Once the masses compare the glittering promises about ‘after the war’ [with what they are to compare them is not given – RSL] their indignation will rise to unprecedented heights and revolutionary explosions would result.”
“The prospect of stalemate and a compromise peace” which is the WIL’s third choice is correctly regarded by them as “even more remote.”
“Long before the war had reached such a stage, and it would require several years, the endurance of the masses would have reached breaking point and the stability of the imperialist regimes would be put to the test. Revolution would begin in Europe or Asia and alter the whole balance of forces.”
And this is the only reference to revolution through “war weariness” in the whole of a document, written during an imperialist war and entitled Preparing for power and emanating from an organisation that claims to be revolutionary! The termination of the imperialist war which we envisage and for which we are struggling is precisely this fourth possibility which the WIL so contemptuously push into the background. But then we are “old fashioned” enough to base our activity upon turning the imperialist war into a civil war.
Our basic criticism of the WIL’s centrist policy with regard to the war can be found in greater detail in our conference resolutions and to these we refer the members of the WIL for further details.
With regard to the section entitled The possibilities of fascism in Britain, we must suggest to the WIL that they are in error in stating that “Mosley could only come to power on the basis of German bayonets.” This suggests that the German bourgeoisie, if victorious could set up a fascist regime here. This is false and in contradiction to the experiences which have taken place on the continent. Fascism cannot be imported in this way. All that the Germans could do would be to set up some form of Bonapartist regime. Actually the position of British fascism would be greatly weakened by such conquest by German imperialism. But we, of course, realise that the WIL needs this picture of Mosley triumphing with the help of German bayonets in order to provide a background for their policy of veiled support for the imperialist war.
So far as the Labour Party tactic is concerned, we do not intend to deal with it here at great length. The WIL reader may find our attitude set out in our conference resolution Industrial work and our perspectives. Some of their own past internal documents up to so recent a date as 1941 should also be of assistance to them in this connection. We shall confine ourselves to a few comments here.
The WIL confirms the correctness of the tactic of entry into the LP up to the end of the first 18 months of the war by referring to the fact that the ILP was at that time turning towards the LP. While it is, of course, natural for centrists respectfully to observe the orientations of other centrists, to attempt to model their conduct upon them, we would point out to the WIL that when, towards the end of 1936, Trotsky and the IS first raised the question of our entry into the LP, no such attitude existed on the part of the ILP.
The WIL state:
“The whole idea motivating the entrist tactic is to enter a reformist or centrist organisation which is in a state of flux, where political life is at a high pitch, and where the membership is steadily moving towards the left. It is essentially a short term perspective of work in a milieu where favourable prospects exist for obtaining results in a relatively short space of time.”
So far as the first statement is concerned, it is manifestly false so far as the entry into the British Labour Party was concerned. If the WIL members entered the LP expecting to find it in a state of flux, with a high pitch of political life, etc., they have been a long time discovering their mistake! So far as the second sentence is concerned it is also false so far as our entry in this country was concerned. The greater reserve strength of British imperialism has made developments inside the British LP slower than on the continent. We knew this when we entered. We also knew, incidentally, that imperialist war would at first delay this internal development still further, only to accelerate it greatly at a later stage.
The WIL admit that “at a later stage” the workers “will turn to the Labour Party”. They admit that at present the only movement is on the industrial field. But though realising that the political expression of this industrial movement will come first inside the LP, they refuse to attempt to orientate the workers today towards the LP, i.e. to facilitate and hasten this movement. They fear that if they do so the workers will turn to the CP and the ILP, although they have already agreed that the workers will turn to the LP.
But with regard to this same question of the workers turning to the LP at a certain stage in their struggles, we find in the WIL document a certain ambiguity, which savours strongly of the double book-keeping of “third period” Stalinism. In one place we read:
“Insofar as the workers are moving at all at present, they are expressing themselves on the industrial field. At a later stage they will turn to the Labour Party.”
This is a clear statement of the position and perspectives. But we also read:
“At that stage [i.e. before the war – RSL] it seemed the most likely course of events that the awakening of the masses would move completely on the traditional course and pass through the Labour Party. But the outbreak of war cut across the development of events and produced a different pattern.
“It is useless to base the tactics of today on the possibilities of tomorrow.
“If [our emphasis – RSL] as the result of the mass upsurge, hundreds of thousands and millions participate actively in the organisation of the Labour Party…
“But history never repeats itself in exactly the same way. The masses of the workers, above all the advanced stratum, have a certain scepticism towards the Labour leaders.”
All these statements are obviously intended to throw doubt on the first quoted statement that the masses will turn to the LP. The WIL or its leaders, have not yet had the courage to deny openly, in writing, that the workers will turn first to the LP, but they are preparing the way for doing so. We may hear in the future that the masses are “skipping over” the LP phase and turning directly to… the WIL.
In finishing this section on the LP tactic, let us quote to the WIL a few passages from their document Contribution by the Workers’ International League to the discussion on the tasks of Bolshevik Leninists in Britain, issued in 1938. We would point out, in advance that none of the ideas contained in these passages originated in the WIL, they were merely borrowed by the WIL from our organisation.
“For the Labour Party, functioning as it does in bourgeois democracy, war time is election time, and in the peace periods between elections, it becomes a mere skeleton, passively supported by its individual, trade union and co-operative members. At the present moment, except for the passive ripples of by-elections, its work is carried on by a small minority consisting in the main of the bureaucracy, a sprinkling of ambitious careerists, a few veterans who support the bureaucracy and the factions sent in by external organisations.”
Hardly, we would note in passing, an “organisation which is in a state of flux”, “where political life is at a high pitch” and “where the membership is steadily moving towards the left”!
“The mass membership for whose benefit the various postures are adopted are [sic – RSL] notably absent from the auditorium…
“But far from negativing the activity of the revolutionary socialists within the Labour Party, the peace time structure gives them a political weight out of all proportion to their numerical strength…
“As the crisis forces increasing numbers of workers from passive to active support of the Labour Party, they find within the party a nucleus around which to gather, and party growth means growth of the left wing.”
In conclusion, we must state that the basis for all the main political mistakes of the WIL is to be found in the defencist position it has adopted with regard to the imperialist war since the fall of France first made the defeat of British imperialism a real possibility. Defencism rarely shows itself in its open, naked form when it first arises, especially in a left-centrist organisation.
Concealment is especially necessary in an organisation still professing to stand upon the principles of revolutionary defeatism. The WIL is attempting to conceal the essential chauvinism of its policies by using today slogans which are revolutionary in a period of acute class struggle, e.g. workers’ control of production, election of officers, etc. It is using these slogans in such a way as to imbue them with a counter-revolutionary content, e.g. workers’ control of production in order to increase production for the war. And, in order to justify its abuse of these demands, it has to attempt to describe the present situation as though it was, in fact, one of acute class conflict.
Hence its absurd under-estimation of the strength of British imperialism, its exaggeration of the discontent of the masses. Hence even its policy with regard to the Labour Party tactic. For though the WIL attitude on this subject seems to be ultra-left, and is in fact so, if taken in isolation, it links up with and forms an essential part of their general opportunism. For to justify this opportunism, to be able to cover it with a cloak of revolutionary phrases, the WIL has to paint its picture of the present situation in revolutionary colours, it has to speak as though it were on the eve of the seizure of power! And, with such a perspective, the Labour Party tactic not only cannot be used, but actually becomes a hindrance.
We are well aware that the WIL can point to a number of passages in their document which state or imply a contrary estimate of the present situation. But these are merely yet further examples of that thoroughly dishonest system of double bookkeeping which we have mentioned above. In practice, the WIL claim that, for instance Lenin’s remarks on the “threatening catastrophe” (written on the eve of the seizure of power!) apply today, and such is the basis of their propaganda.
Adopted by majority of CC by postal ballot on December 22 1942.
 Our source is a 1975 reprint. Unfortunately it has not been possible to locate a copy of the original.
 Ted Grant, Writings, Volume 1, p. 296-317.
 Leon Trotsky, War and the Fourth International, June 10 1934.
 Ted Grant, Writings, Volume 1, p. 40-45.
Correspondence December 1942 - January 1943
Ted Grant to Jimmy Deane
London, December 14 1942
Many thanks for your letters. I am sending you back the correspondence for which you ask. I have just received the internal bulletin and will send it on to you as soon as I have read it.
I received the cash OK from Millie, and so far as I can judge the organisational proposals seem quite good and if you can carry them out the basis for a sound growth in the area should have been laid. The group as you know is making big strides throughout the country and we look to Merseyside, this containing some members, more experienced and with longer membership than most groups in the country. We expect gains organisationally, politically and financially as there is every reason that you should be able to do this especially with the new reorganisation.
The RSL are up to their old tricks and our relations with Lawrence and Co. are still the same. From information we have Stuart will be visiting us very soon. Anyway, let us hope in the next year the whole mess will be cleared up. In your last letters you didn’t raise any political questions so there is nothing much for me to raise with you. You should be able to make a good headway with the ILP and if you do systematic work in the outside areas as you indicate.
I hope you will be able to visit London soon and am looking forward to seeing you.
Ted Grant to RSL
London, January 19 1943
We understand that your organisation is holding a conference early in February. To facilitate and speed up the unity negotiations between our organisations, we propose that two representatives of our CC should participate in your sessions, and in particular the session dealing with the question of relations with the IS and unification.
Ted Grant to Jimmy Deane
London, January 30 1943
Pleased to hear from you again. We will discuss the Irish question fully with you when you are in London. As the CC meeting takes place next week, February 6 1943, I will not make any comment as we can thrash out the questions when you are here.
A central study circle running three times a week seems rather excessive, but this and other local group work can be discussed fully at the CC.
You will be interested to hear that the latest position re the RSL is absolutely farcical. The whole of the so called “right” has been expelled. Not only that but knowing these people as we do and their irresponsible social-club politics, if you remember we predicted that within a few months of the “right” being expelled that Harber would expel Robinson, or that Robinson would expel Harber. We were wrong. Apparently these maniacs could not wait as long as that. Robinson had a resolution up for the expulsion of Harber at the forthcoming conference. Harber who is in control of the organisation then pulled a fast one on some pretext or other, expelled Robinson and the whole of his faction. So that the situation now is that three-quarters of the organisation is either suspended or expelled but we will tell you all the news when we see you in person.
If you can get something going in Manchester, that would be a real step forward for the organisation. It is a serious omission that this is the only large industrial city where we have not a group established.
Unfortunately we are sold right out of Appeals and have not a single copy to spare. Millie says she has sent one hundred copies of the January issue of SA to Dublin – and this can be left to her. We will send you the other material you need.
Give Frank our regards and tell him we hope he will soon be better and active again.
With Warmest regards and hoping to see you at the weekend,
PS: The treasurer is after your scalp!
Ted Grant to RSL
London, January 30 1943
To the RSL,
In reply to your letter of January 14th you will see comrade A’s [Armstrong] fine record of working class activity in the current issue of the Socialist Appeal. Owing to the magnificent response of militant workers both in this country and Belfast, sending resolutions to the North Ireland prime minister, and rendering financial assistance, the desired result has been achieved and comrade A. has been released.
Ted Grant to Jimmy Deane
London, February 8 1943
Unfortunately we received your letter and the minutes too late to be able to do anything. We are rather annoyed that you did not think of telegraphing, as you did on the last occasion. Had you done so we would have telegraphed the money to you immediately. In future, if there is any urgency on any matter, please do not write but wire.
The next central committee meeting is arranged for April 3rd and 4th, and we will see you then.
It is particularly unfortunate you were not present for this meeting as there were many important items to discuss. At this meeting G. Healy resigned from the organisation and announced his intention of joining the ILP. The CC, faced with this situation unanimously decided to expel GH from the organisation. He refused to make any statement, but nevertheless, for purposes of clarification a general membership meeting has been called for all the London groups, for Sunday, February 14th. Despite the fact that he has been expelled, GH has been invited to place his case before the membership, in order to ensure full democratic discussion of the position. The situation is bad, but perhaps inevitable in view of GH’s attitude in the past. It has come as no surprise to those who were aware of his position. Together with all groups you will receive a copy of the minutes giving full details.
I see that Liverpool is attempting once again to reorganise and place the group on a sound financial basis. Let us hope that this time you will succeed in establishing a strong group politically and financially.
We are rather disappointed to receive no material for the Socialist Appeal from the Merseyside, or any of the areas that you are covering. The CC has decided to issue regular supplements to the paper. If these are to be maintained it is vitally necessary that we should receive industrial and local material from all over the country. Even if you cannot send articles, at least send the material which can be worked up into articles.
If any of the political questions you wish to raise are urgent, write and let us know, otherwise you can raise them at the next CC meeting.
PS: Thank you very much for the Fourth Internationals and the pamphlets you sent us. If you have any more material please send it as we have received nothing from SWPers for months.
Statement of the PB on the expulsion from WIL of G. Healy
Full text available on the Ted Grant Internet Archive: Statement of the PB on the expulsion from WIL of G. Healy
Correspondence February - June 1943
Ted Grant to the RSL
London, February 19 1943
We have received today a copy of your Criticism of “Preparing for power”, which we will answer as soon as possible and will let you have copies for your members.
This is the only copy we have received of this document and we would like a statement from you as to whether you have delivered a bundle to us. We would appreciate a few more copies if this is possible.
Ted Grant to Jimmy Deane
London, March 4 1943
We are not at all clear on your position at the moment. If it would be possible to get a transfer to Glasgow, in our opinion that would be the best thing for the national organisation. If, on the other hand you can manage to get fixed up in your area, that will be all to the good. However if you can hang on until the next Central Committee meeting which takes place April 3rd and 4th (please do not forget) then we can discuss the position fully.
Re the statement on GH. I believe you have taken an incorrect position on this question. In relation to the statement issued by the PB, this was a moderate and objective outline of GH’s position. Had the PB desired to do so they could have presented a far more damning case against GH. With regard to the political position, no one would suggest that on every question which was discussed GH took a “personal” position. It is difficult in such cases to decide where the personal ends and the political begins, but always in such cases the criterion is not at all the people on either side, but the political question. Your reference to the military policy, for example, has nothing whatsoever to do with the question of the expulsion or of the outline. The outline is merely a characterisation of GH as a disloyal and irresponsible egotist. It is impossible at a certain stage to tolerate such actions. At the CC we attempted to get GH to explain the reasons for such an action. He refused to do so and insisted upon leaving the meeting and the organisation. While in the past it might have been a question of weighing up the gain for the organisation through GH’s activity on the one hand, and the loss through his irresponsibility on the other, with the emphasis on the former, such a position is no longer possible. The group is in an entirely different position today. It is now a national organisation with national responsibilities and must conduct itself as such. Especially is this so for the leading members. The youngest member of the organisation would have been expelled for a disloyal position in joining the ILP. If this can be done in a period of calm what reliance could be placed on such a comrade in a period of crisis? It is not at all a question of any personal antagonism. It was a question of the whole of the CC and the whole of the PB taking a stand on this matter.
On the question of the constitution. The fact you raise that GH demonstrated the correctness of the constitution is beside the point. What is important was the way GH attempted to raise an opposition by influencing branches such as Glasgow and Liverpool, etc., behind the backs of the EC, without first consulting the EC and raising his objections and discussing the question, and then if he did not receive satisfaction, raising these openly in front of the membership.
As it was, when confronted by the EC on his return to London from the provinces he did not defend his position and immediately resigned from the organisation. We spent a day and night with him discussing the error of his ways. But a time must be reached when we call a halt! Our leniency with GH is indicated by the fact that even on this occasion no action was taken against him, in that you yourself knew nothing of it until now.
It is no accident that GH should have behaved in this way. His whole outlook over a period of years has been dominated by subjective motivations. As you know very well no one on the PB or CC has any personal axe to grind against GH. The whole CC was concerned merely with an objective analysis of the situation. In fact the ones most insistent upon expulsion were those who had had little dealings with GH.
But to allow the whole work of the CC to be disrupted every few months is an intolerable position. While it remained merely a question of irresponsible behaviour on small committees and in a small organisation, the issue was not so important, but GH himself raised it before the membership by exploding quite unexpectedly his bombshell. It is unfortunate that you were not present to view this yourself, otherwise your views might be different.
It is of the utmost importance that GH refused to put his case, stamped out of the CC and immediately hastened to inform ILPers of his position. This was before he knew the organisation had expelled him, thus demonstrating the correctness of the decision of the CC.
It is perfectly true that mistakes have been [made], and will be made by everyone in the organisation. It is true also that personal differences will play their part in all organisations including ours, and should be ironed out. It is correct that a comrade should never be expelled whatever the personal differences so long as he agrees politically, but the one unforgivable crime is disloyalty and irresponsibility against the party. Loyalty to the organisation is the first rule of all politics, and this more for leading comrades than for the rank and file. In conclusion I would point out that once GH himself had raised the question before the whole membership – and this he did by raising it in front of the CC – it was the duty of this body as a responsible leadership to make a statement to the whole organisation. Not to have done so would have been light-minded. GH’s position was not only irresponsible, but criminally irresponsible.
On the last point you raise: GH made no attempt to defend his position at the Monday meeting. The statement issued was on the lines of the statement to the organisation. He agreed that the CC was justified in expelling him because of his indefensible position and actions. Incidentally his real disloyalty was shown by the fact that he swore “on his revolutionary honour” that it was a lie that he had threatened to join the RSL and the ILP in the past, an oath that was immediately proved false.
On the Irish question; we are enclosing copies of letters sent by Neill, and of letters we have sent to Dublin. This should give you a good idea of the position.
On the question of workers’ control. Piper’s resolution is being discussed by the Industrial Committee and we will send you a full report together with the decision as soon as possible.
Re. the points you raise for discussion on the local organisation and advice on the question; I think that you are tackling the matter in a determined way at the moment and would prefer to discuss the question with you next month.
The important issue you raise in your letter of the 9th February is on industrial unionism, and the programme of the committee published in the Socialist Appeal.
First I would point out that it was a Case of type-setting errors in the actual programme. The sub-heading should of course be, “Mobilisation of the masses for minimum demands”. Demand 6 is also a typographical error, and should read “Area and national workers’ councils”.
I would agree that you make a good point on the necessity for much more attention to be paid to the question of youth in our programme, instead of leaving youth and women to be dealt with in point 5. The problem of youth will assume a tremendous importance in the next few years, especially in the post-war period, but at the moment because of the fact that most of the best youths have been called into the army unfortunately the issue does not reveal itself to us as sharply as it should. Probably the 1941 programme that you suggest would form a basis, although as I have not this to hand I can only agree to this from memory and not from a re-examination of the material. The points you raise are most interesting and deal with the necessity of a dialectical approach to the problems facing the working class. We must condemn the fetish of industrial unionism which is mouthed by the ILP, in particular Padley and other sectarians, as a panacea for all evils. As you justly point out this is to hark back to pre-World War One for an ideological and political position in matters of tactics and organisation of the workers.
The basic error of the sectarians of the ILP, etc., on this question is not to examine the problem from the point of view of the actual development of the class struggle and the workers’ movement but to put forward forms of an “ideal” character which should be imposed on the workers’ movement rather than to take the movement as in its dialectical development and thus lead it to a higher consciousness. In this connection it might be remarked that even in 1900-1912, at the time of the blossoming of sectarianism both in Britain and America of the SLP variety, their method of presenting the case and fighting for industrial unionism was incorrect. Since that time we have had the experience of two world wars, the Russian revolution, and all the great events which have taken place in the last decades. Basing ourselves on this we can confidently predict, as you say, that long before the workers will arrive at the “ideal” form of trade union organisation (i.e. industrial organisation) the revolution will be on the order of the day and factories and workers’ committees will take the place, not merely of these fairy fancies of Padley and Co., but for the matter of that, very likely of the trade unions themselves.
With regard to this we would remark that the fact that factory committees and soviets – and what form these will take we cannot say definitely in advance – will be set up in the next period ahead does not prevent us from developing the idea of capturing the unions and transforming them into fighting organisations of the working class with a programme of militant struggle and workers’ power. This is not likely to be realised because of our weakness and the rapid development of events, though it is not impossible that we might capture some national unions. Long before this, as the most likely course of events, the struggle would have burst forth into the arena of a fight for power.
But this does not at all mean that we do not continue to work in the unions putting forward the objectively correct idea of capturing the leadership and transforming even the most reactionary of unions. Thus there is no contradiction between the two ideas, the problem is solved by the development of events themselves.
When you say that industrial unionism for America is a burning issue and one that immediately affects the workers this is correct and that is why it plays a part as a topical and practical issue for our American comrades. It would be impossible to organise the workers in the mass production industries in America except on an industrial basis. That is why the ossified and bureaucratic American Federation of Labor representing the upper strata of the workers could not carry out this progressive task and indeed opposed it tooth and nail. Standing in the way they had to be pushed aside when the workers organised on an industrial basis. Industrial unionism was not merely a propaganda slogan in the USA in the last period, but a direct question of agitation and practical action on the part of the masses.
In Britain the situation is entirely different. It is true that the top bureaucracy is little better than that of the AF of L, although not quite so corrupt and degenerate. This of course because of the pressure of the workers who are far more conscious than the workers in America at the present stage. Our main attention in our industrial work should of course be in the union branches [in the] factories, and shop-stewards’ committees. It will be directed – and this will assume more and more importance in the coming period as our successes among the miners have demonstrated – [at] the replacement of the top apparatus from the top to bottom, the election for periods of not more than 3 years of the officials, these to be under the direct control of the membership, and of course that no official should receive the inflated wages that they are doing at the present time.
This also is not at all in contradiction with our general ideas and perspectives of the development of events as outlined in the transitional programme. It is significant that the Old Man should link up the question of work in the unions while at the same time pointing out the limitations of the unions and the inevitable formation of factory and ad hoc committees during the course of the struggle. These two are not at all contradictory if we examine the dialectic of the process itself.
In the sense of a living slogan to be immediately applied you are correct when you say that the slogan of industrial unionism is “out of date”. As an agitation issue it has no importance at the present time. As a propaganda slogan it preserves a certain importance; in that sense we cannot drop the slogan of industrial unionism; it remains a broad educational slogan for militant workers. It would be to fall into a pedantic position to reject completely this slogan because of the sectarian and senseless use which is made of it by the ILP and others. So in that sense as a means of exposing the vested interests of the bureaucrats in the unions who organise on that basis it can still be used.
Therefore we can still retain it in a broad programme, though not as an immediate issue, and though it will recede into the past as even perhaps will the capture of the old unions themselves at the time of the revolution.
After the war, of course, unions will be re-organised on an individual basis. Incidentally it will be of interest to you that the perspectives of this committee have been thrashed out and the resolution adopted by the industrial committee and the PB on this question will be sent to you. In fact it was this that precipitated the resignation of GH. On the first evening of the CC he attempted to get the minutes altered to conceal his ultra-left point of view of the last CC.
When GH realised that the question was coming up for discussion and he had made a bad blunder, rather than face this discussion, he resigned. In fact that has been the “personal-political” basis of his disagreements in the past.
On the question of workers’ control, literature on this is very meagre but you will find quite a lot of material in Lenin’s works of 1917. Felix Morrow’s material on what took place in Spain should be of some use, and I believe, if my memory serves me correctly, there was some material on this in the old minority movement.
Ask IP if he has any material relating to this. At the same time IP would be doing the organisation a great favour if he gave us some material on the minority movement and the general strike of 1926.
In conclusion if I have not made myself clear please write again.
With warmest wishes,
PS: I learn from Jock that he sent the Irish correspondence to you.
Ted Grant to RSL
London, April 3 1943
Secretary, RSL [Handwritten: Please pass to D. D.]
Your letter of March 22 1943, as well as the two previous communications dated March 5 1943 from “SG”, have been considered by our political bureau. In reply we wish to state that we in no way consider that the publication of the material relating to Starkey Jackson can be described either as “disgraceful” or as a “wicked trick”, as you term it.
We do not share your view that the publication of Jackson’s name and record may mean his death at the hands of the Nazis. Jackson was a known public figure in the British working class movement; the details of his public activity as published in the Socialist Appeal were already well-known, and insofar as there is any record of his activities in the hands of the Nazis or fascists, they will already have had it without our intervention. In any case, it would be impossible, generally speaking, to distinguish one Jackson from another, since there are probably many thousands of Jacksons in the British army today.
We consider it is of first class importance that sympathisers of the Fourth International should be made aware now, not after the war, when any of its leading figures fall in the line of battle.
Your attitude towards this question is consistent with your “illegal” and “secretive” methods by which you justify your lack of activity for, and in the interests of, our movement. You say: “We feel we must protest against your action in posting your reply to GH with the inscription on the envelope ‘Please hand to RSL’. Considering your member’s name and address are well-known, we think your action is entirely unwarranted.” What is this but the most ridiculous form of boy-scout politics? Certainly not the action of serious revolutionaries. First, you refuse to give us an address – then, when we address the material to one of our own members to be conveyed to you, you object. If the police are watching the correspondence at this address, the contents of the letter would indicate to whom it was addressed in any case. Surely this demonstrates the farcical nature of your objections.
In any event, the method of conducting our correspondence and discussions is completely unsatisfactory. We again propose to you to give us a public address to which we can address communications, and that you, in turn, address all correspondence to our official address in line with the procedure of all other working class organisations. If you object to writing to our offices, we will supply you with another address which shall be the recognised official address to which all material to our organisation shall be forwarded. We cannot be responsible for verbal or written communications addressed to us via any other source.
As the result of the “pipe-line” system of communication a great deal of confusion has arisen regarding the transit of your documents to our centre. On two occasions you have stated that you delivered bundles of 50 copies of your Criticism of “Preparing for Power”. The statement that 50 copies had been delivered to G. Healy, we understand was reiterated at your national conference, when the question of fusion discussions were raised. We must point out that comrade Healy denies ever having received these documents, and we fail to see what he would gain by saving them all for himself. He has always delivered any other material handed him by you. After your conference you delivered a further bundle of documents entitled Revolutionary Defeatism and not Criticism of “Preparing for Power”. To date we have received one copy of this latter document which was handed to us by comrade RC for which you received a written acknowledgment.
Had our suggestion for a joint bulletin been accepted at the initiation of these discussions, all the confusion and unnecessary duplication of work could have been avoided and the negotiations for fusion speeded up.
The answer to Criticism of “Preparing for power” is in the process of completion and you will receive this shortly.
Report of visit of member of the Socialist Workers’ Party of America
By Ted Grant
[WIL secretary circular to members, May 10 1943]
For members only
A member of the Socialist Workers’ Party, USA, paid us a visit on the weekend of May 3rd. He spent the day at the centre, discussing from 8 o’clock in the morning till 3 o’clock in the afternoon. From 3 till 8 pm he had discussions with members of the RSL. At 8:30 he addressed an impromptu meeting of our London members. He left us at 11 pm when he had to catch the train. Below is a report of the discussions.
He stated that the Socialist Appeal was eagerly awaited by the rank and file members of the SWP, who were proud to see the British Trotskyists coming out boldly against the bourgeois and the Stalinists, not holding back their punches in the present period of upsurge. What interested him, and impressed him, was the application of the transitional programme to industrial questions. He pointed to the fact that they were as yet not at the stage in the States where they could put forward the slogan of workers’ control, but concentrated on day-to-day issues, struggle against the bureaucracy, for more democracy, etc. We discussed the question of production committees and our alternative position. It was clear to the American comrades that our industrial policy was meeting with some measure of response and success, and he asked many questions about the general state of industry throughout the country – the chaos, mismanagement, etc. He pointed out that in the States inefficiency had as yet not impressed itself upon the working class, as they were just passing through the first stage of the war; they would no doubt reach a similar situation to our own as war develops. Although this would not be exactly the same owing to the more advanced technique, etc. in America.
The military policy was discussed and there was complete accord on the position we advanced. He stated that there was no voice of opposition raised within the ranks of the SWP on the question of the military policy.
He read the statement of the RSL and our criticism, as well as their letter closing the discussion. He fully concurred with our criticism, in particular with the three outstanding questions of disagreement with the RSL: i.e., Labour to power as against the third Labour government; the military policy (he recognised that their failure to mention it in their paper was in fact a rejection of it); and workers’ control of production.
In the afternoon he had discussions with eight members of the RSL who happened to be at the park. Of these, seven expressed disagreements with the RSL policy, as well as among themselves on the question of military policy, Labour to power and workers’ control of production. He spent most of the time attempting to convince them of the correctness of our policy. In reporting his discussions he was of the opinion that some of the RSLers could be “won over to our position”.
The news went round like wildfire of the presence of an American comrade in our midst, and by 8 pm, thirty London members were waiting at the centre to meet him. He outlined the general position of the SWP, their activities, their influence, etc. Since the trial, they had become widely recognised as a force in the US; they had been enabled to address trade union meetings hitherto not open to our propaganda. Vincent Dunne had just completed the most successful tour yet undertaken by the party. The party had 15 paid professionals in New York alone. The relationship between the Shachtman group and the SWP was more or less on the same basis as between ourselves and the RSL – only along sharper lines. The large majority of the Militant were not sold but distributed; this was due to general backwardness of the American working class and was the practice of all working class organisations. On dealing with the question of the relationship between our organisation and the IS, he stated that the IS regarded us with extreme friendliness; he was delegated as an observer of the situation in Britain. He believed that he was regarded as a competent observer (he was at one time a paid organiser of the party and has close associations with the leaders of the SWP). From his observations our organisation and his were in the closest possible harmony in expounding the programme of the Fourth International. In fact our presentation of the transitional programme in the Socialist Appeal was perhaps the best in the international. Regarding the RSL, he was of the opinion that they were moving away from the Fourth International in their rejection of the most important transitional demands and their general incapacity to apply the transitional programme. He was not empowered to make a statement on what the future relations with the IS would be, but he assured us he would convey his full observations, of which he had made no secret – that is, that we were the organisation capable of playing a role in the coming period. He expressed gratification at the enthusiasm, energy and unified spirit of the organisation.
To sum up. This comrade was primarily and above all interested in political differences and discussions. The official stamp of the RSL did not deter him from criticising that organisation. We gained the impression that he was specifically delegated to refrain from stating the attitude of the leaders of the SWP towards us – but merely to make observations for a report back. On the question of unity, he did not press for this. He merely stated that he was aware that this would be the easiest solution to the problem for the IS. He asked whether we could not afford to indulge in the “luxury” of unification. We made our position clear. We would undertake a unification only on a principled basis. We could not afford to embroil ourselves in bitter factional struggles in the period facing us. A unification would be acceptable to us only on the following conditions: acceptance of the three outstanding questions of difference – 1) the military policy; 2) our policy on production as expounded in the Socialist Appeal; 3) Labour to power. It was our desire to be recognised as the official section, but if necessary, we would continue on the present basis, in spite of the hindrance, rather than endanger our progress.
Ted Grant to RSL
London, May 24 1943
To the secretary, RSL
The formal dissolution and burial of the Comintern is a magnificent confirmation of the ideas of comrade Leon Trotsky and the Fourth International. It introduces a new period in the relationship between the Trotskyists and left centrists, and inevitably opens up a widespread political discussion on the question of the “new” and the Fourth International.
In these new conditions and immediate perspectives, the tasks of the fourth internationalists is to close the ranks. The problem of a united Trotskyist movement assumes added importance for all who claim allegiance to the ideas, principles and methods of the Fourth International.
At our political bureau meeting of Sunday, May 23 1943, we resolved to urgently appeal to the RSL to agree to an immediate joint meeting of our Executives with the purpose of arranging the date of a unification conference of our two organisations, to be held within the next month.
Ted Grant to IS
London, June 3 1943
To the EC,
Dear comrade Loris,
The dissolution of the Comintern undoubtedly ushers in a new period for the left wing of the labour movement internationally, a period of discussions in which both “left” and right centrists, together with all manner of ultra-lefts, will fill the press with discussions about the “new” international, whilst ignoring the existence of the Fourth.
This places added importance to the status of our organisation and that of the other groups, as well as the question of the unification of the fourth internationalists in Great Britain.
It imposes the duty of a closer collaboration between yourselves and the English comrades and the duty to discuss with the English comrades questions of policy and tactics. Recently several “personal” letters have been received here from members of the American party, which are circulating throughout our membership for discussion. We ask that these documents and the replies be circulated in the States as well. We would be pleased to have the opinions of the IS on the contents of these letters.
Enclosed you will find the copy of a letter sent to the EC of the RSL.
With fraternal greetings,
TO to WIL
June 4 1943
To the EC, WIL
As you already know informally, fourteen members of the TO were expelled from the RSL. The comrades appealed to national conference which endorsed the expulsions. Following this decision, an appeal was made to the IS.
Since making this appeal, the TO has fused with the SWG. The political and organisational basis of this fusion was outlined to you in a letter from the SWG some months ago and there is no need to reiterate it here.
The struggle against the expulsions and for reinstatement into the BSFI [British Section of the Fourth International] has been carried through by us in line with our adherence to the organisational principle of democratic centralism. It has been both complicated and protracted but is not unconnected with the struggle of the TO to achieve a principled unification of the FI adherents in this country.
However, it was inevitable during this period that the attention of the TO should have been mainly focused on the struggle within the RSL. Despite a certain amount of joint work and discussion in some areas, it remains an unfortunate fact that relations between our two groups have, in the past few months, tended to deteriorate. For our part we are anxious to remedy this position. We therefore suggest a series of discussions both locally and centrally around the issue of unification. In such discussions we should attempt to explain the significance of our struggle within the RSL.
We take the opportunity of repeating here our readiness to cooperate with you in any work in which our comrades can be of assistance. In this respect we suggest a united action to cover the showing of the film called Mission to Moscow. We could discuss details – distribution of leaflets, etc. – as soon as a meeting is arranged between us. We do not know your plans but we should suggest that the RSL and other working class organisations be approached for united action on this issue.
With very best wishes,
JL for the EC, TO
RSL to Ted Grant
June 6 1943
Your letter of May 24 1943 has been received by us and I am instructed to reply to you as follows:
In the first place I have to point out to you that once again you start your letter with a lie – by heading it “Fourth International” despite the fact that you are not in the Fourth International.
Secondly I have to remind you that at the meeting between our representatives and yours which took place last year we made it quite clear to you that we are only prepared to agree to fusion with the two organisations provided agreement has been reached upon the most important issues facing the revolutionary movement in this country today. You have long had our documents making our position on these issues perfectly clear. At the joint meeting in question, you, personally, stated that replies to our document would be produced by you within a fortnight of their being received by you. In your letter of April 3 1943, you promised that your reply would be received by us “shortly”. We are still waiting for it.
The formal dissolution of the Comintern has indeed been a “magnificent confirmation of the ideas of comrade Trotsky and the Fourth International” – ideas in the formulation of which, incidentally, your organisation has never played any part. But we fail to see how this in any way changes the situation between our two organisations. It has always been the task of fourth internationalists to “close the ranks” and we are, as ever, in favour of this today. But organisational unity without political unity would achieve nothing but discord.
Consequently, we must reject the proposals for immediate organisational unity contained in your letter. If you really desire unity you will in future show more celerity in conducting your share of the political discussions which we have initiated.
Incidentally, it would be of interest to us to know why you are so much in favour of organisational unity with us today, when serious political differences exist, while you consistently rejected it in the days of 1938-1939 when no such differences existed. Do you consider that your then attitude was incorrect or is your present attitude, like your past, dictated by “clique” considerations – the differences being that you believe that now you could secure a majority in a united organisation, whereas previously this would not have been the case?
We note with surprise that you make no mention in your letter of our letter of May 7 1943. We trust that you received and should welcome your comments on it.
Secretary RSL (No signature)
 The Socialist Labor Party of America led by Daniel DeLeon.
 The Alien Registration Act of 1940 (known also as the Smith Act), which allowed the prosecution for anti-government seditious activities, was first used to behead the US Socialist Workers’ Party. In October 1941 the whole leadership of the SWP was put on trial in their stronghold of Minneapolis and most of them were condemned to up to 16 months of prison. The conduct of the defendants and the political nature of the attack gained them the respect of a broad layer within the US labour movement.
 Vincent R. Dunne was one of the leaders of the victorious teamsters’ strikes of 1934-5 in Minneapolis.
 The Workers’ Party, which split in 1940 from the US Socialist Workers’ Party.
 Here Ted Grant refers to the letters sent by Cooper and Stuart to British comrades. The reply of the leadership of the WIL to these letters is published in this volume.
 The Trotskyist Opposition was a faction of the Revolutionary Socialist League (British section of the Fourth International) led by Lawrence. The Socialist Workers’ Group was a splinter group of the RSL.
Reply of WIL to the RSL criticism of Preparing for power
Full text available on the Ted Grant Internet Archive: Reply of WIL to the RSL criticism of Preparing for power
Correspondence June - September 1943
Ted Grant to RSL
London, June 13 1943
To the secretary, RSL
Enclosed is a copy of our reply to your Criticism of “Preparing for power”. We apologise for the delay, but as you see it is a fairly lengthy document and we were unable to complete it sooner.
We are about to issue it as an internal bulletin for which we are charging our members 6d per copy. If you wish us to supply your organisation, we would be pleased if you will let us know by return the number you will require.
The other points you raise in your letter to us dated June 6 1943 will be dealt with in a further letter.
Reply of WIL to the TO
London, June 13 1943
In reply to your letter of June 4th we are prepared, as always, to open up discussions for unification at once. In view, however, of your vacillating record as a fraction, and the record of the separate individuals and groups of individuals who go to make up the so-called TO, we must bluntly state that we are not prepared to fence and reopen up a discussion unless it is in the most serious strain. In other words, we are not prepared to “discuss” for the sake of discussion. As a prerequisite for further negotiations we propose that you clear up the following questions:
- Is the TO a faction of the RSL? Does it consider itself as such or does it now constitute a separate organisation with its own policy, constitution and discipline?
- Do you propose a fusion of our forces independently of what decisions are arrived at as the result of the present discussions which we are conducting with the RSL?
- In view of the fusion of the TO with the so-called SWG, which refused to join the WIL for alleged political differences and not because of alleged disagreements on the principle of democratic centralism (which the SWG never raised during discussions with us); and in view of the verbal criticisms being made by the personnel of the TO which indicate agreement with the political evaluation of WIL policy by the ex-SWG, does the TO propose to open up a written political discussion outlining its points of agreement and differences with us?
Here we must state that your present campaign around the question of democratic centralism is worthless as a basis of discussion unless it is linked up to the political and tactical tasks of the British fourth internationalists. Any serious discussion must be based upon common aim. This common purpose must be stated in clear and precise terms, together with the main political and tactical agreements and disagreements. If the TO wishes to open up a discussion on this basis, good! Endless discussion such as have occurred in the last 18 months or so is useless, irresponsible and unacceptable to us.
The responsibility for the deterioration in the relations between us rests entirely on the shoulders of the leadership of the TO. You broke off the common activity in cooperation into which we had entered prior to the visit of Stuart. In Glasgow, Coventry and London where you have members, we have afforded and still afford full scope to your members for joint discussions and active cooperation (which latter you have largely evaded) with our local comrades.
We welcome, however, any joint activity in which you are prepared to participate.
With regard to the film Mission to Moscow, we had already arranged to issue the article which appeared recently in the Appeal as a pamphlet. This is already nearly complete. If you are willing to assist in covering the cinemas, we suggest you contact H. Pratt, the secretary of the London DC who is in charge of the arrangements. Your comrades should do the same in Glasgow and Coventry. They have the addresses of the secretaries. The RSL have categorically stated that they will not enter into united activity with us. And past experience teaches us not to waste time approaching “other working class organisations” on such questions which only affect the Trotskyists.
Marc Loris to Ted Grant
July 15 1943
I received your letter of June 3rd, as well as the copy of your May 24th letter to RSL. Under separate cover I received a copy of the June 6th letter from the RSL to WIL, as well as a copy of your June 13th letter to the TO. Unfortunately, we do not have all the documents to which these various letters refer, for instance, your April 3rd letter to RSL and their May 7th letter to you, nor the June 4th letter from TO to you.
Not only the dissolution of the Comintern, as you correctly state, but the general development of the situation, make more and more imperative and urgent a solution of the British problem. Moreover, the evolution of the various groups in the last two or three years is quite clear. It is our duty – and we are firmly decided to fulfil it – to come to a settlement before coming events catch us unprepared.
You must understand, however, that negotiations for unification are not independent of the factional struggle inside the RSL. That’s why your conditions in the June 13th letter to TO seem to miss the point. Moreover, a certain irritation against Lawrence can be observed in that letter. Lawrence has followed a policy of bringing issues into the open in a manner calculated to have a broad educational effect. This policy seems to have borne some fruit, since, as it is just reported to us, a new opposition has arisen against DDH. But, whatever may be the importance of this last development, Lawrence has undertaken to solve the problem in a spirit of international discipline, not as a free-lance. I must say that we support him entirely on this point.
A few words about the question you raise concerning personal letters. They come, as far as I know, from Stuart or Cooper. I myself entered into correspondence with Deane on practical matters, then Deane asked me some political questions: I tried to answer him as well as I could. These letters – and there may be others I don’t know about – are exactly what they are, i.e. personal letters. Their authority is that which their signatories may have acquired – no more, no less – and, of course, the responsibility for the letters is exclusively theirs. As to the advisability of the letters, there is no general rule: it depends on the situation, and I think at the present time they may be helpful.
You ask “the opinions of the IS on the contents of these letters.” [I don’t think] it would be correct procedure on our part to give such “opinions”. Each time we deem it necessary, we state our opinion in official letters or documents. The timing and the contents of these documents are determined by the objective necessities of the situation; they cannot be made dependent on the sending of personal letters, which might oblige us to take positions on points on which we are not ready to do.
We received a copy of the Internal Bulletin you published, with Cooper’s letter. We can only welcome this publication, as well as your coming reply. You declare in the introduction: “We only hope that the American party will also circulate the correspondence among the membership in the States.” It seems to me here that the problem is not put quite correctly. The question is not at all of a polemic between WIL and SWP; the problem is the integration of WIL into the ranks of the Fourth International. The fact that Cooper is an American has no bearing on the case: he might be of any other country. If at a certain case of the discussion the IS deems necessary to let all the sections know the details of the negotiations, it will publish a series of documents, perhaps including Cooper’s letter in an international bulletin.
We are regularly receiving your publications, and following closely your activity. Your successes are very promising. We are firmly decided to spare no effort in the next period to bring WIL into the ranks of the FI, and we hope we will enter a period of closer and successful collaboration.
Marc Loris to Ted Grant
August 6 1943
I received your letter dated June 14th with the enclosed document (Reply to RSL criticism of “Preparing for power”). The document is now passing around and I don’t know yet the general opinion about it. But, if I may give my personal opinion, it seems to me to be a very, very good document.
I hope you now have in your hands my letter to you dated July 15th. I am anxiously awaiting your answer to it.
As you may have already seen in the magazine, I received J. Haston’s letter of April 21 and Aubrey received Atkinson’s letter of July 5. These letters are always a very great pleasure to us. Your paper and your magazine are coming through regularly.
Ted Grant to Marc Loris
London, August 15 1943
Dear comrade Loris,
Enclosed is a copy of a resolution on unification which it is proposed to put to our convention to be held in the beginning of October.
The resolution lays down the basis, as we see it, for a successful fusion of the Trotskyists forces in Britain. We should appreciate your views in time for the convention.
It seems to us that in 6 months, together with the IS, and largely dependent upon the IS, the discussion could be completed. But this would demand decisive political intervention by the IS. The organisational question is important but the political issues are decisive.
With fraternal greetings,
Ted Grant to Gerry Healy
London, August 21 1943
Dear comrade Healy,
Re GH’s Internal Bulletin on unity
At its meeting of August 19 1943, the political bureau resolved:
“That we give permission to comrade Healy, together with one comrade who supports comrade Healy’s line and a comrade who opposes it (comrade Hinchcliffe), to unofficially approach the RSL leadership with the three point “programme” contained in comrade Healy’s document.
“The political bureau will relieve the comrades from all activity which interferes with an energetic, enthusiastic ‘fight for unity’, which should serve to expose the alleged ‘for the record’ method of the political bureau.”
The political bureau believes that the experience gained in the few weeks before the conference should prove instructive to the membership and assist in the deliberations of the conference.
Reply to comrades Cooper and Stuart
The Bolshevik attitude to unity... and splits
by WIL PB
September 11 1943
The letters of comrades Lou Cooper and Stuart are models of how not to approach the problems of the separate groups in Britain, the differences between them, the building of the party, the attitude towards internationalism and the question of unification.
It is an almost unbelievable fact, that throughout the discussions on the disputes in the American party as well as in Britain, not once is mention made of the political basis of these disputes. Instead, we are treated to a high pressure sales talk on the benefit of “unity” without reference to time, place, conditions, developments, nature of the disputes, tendencies, social basis, etc., etc. We are asked to believe that all these disputes and splits can be traced to a lack of understanding of the organisational question. That “democratic centralism” is the magic panacea for all evils. The political questions apparently were of no importance.
Fortunately, these letters are merely “personal”, and without the authority of the international. Comrade Cooper starts off:
“Time and again we discussed, you remember, the necessity of WIL taking the lead in raising the banner of unity and storming hell or high water in order to achieve it. In our discussions I argued for consolidation on a principled basis in one united party, in which both programmes and all individuals and groups would prove themselves before the membership in the test of objective events.”
What is this supposed to mean? If comrade Cooper means that after thorough discussion, the policy of the majority is carried with the full rights of the minority to put forward their ideas internally, this is precisely the WIL’s position. But if this means that two tactics are to be operated inside the one organisation, in other words another 1938 which led to 10 splits in five years, then we categorically reject it. The first duty of comrade Cooper is to clarify his ideas on this question and give us precise formulations.
If comrade Cooper means that the WIL should devote the whole of its attention, or even the main attention of the party to the task of achieving “unity”, that would be nonsensical especially in the present period of mass upsurge within the British labour movement. The attitude towards such a proposition is one of tactics and expediency, and not at all a question of Bolshevik principle as such. It cannot be conceived in the abstract, but must be viewed from the political point of view, from the concrete positions of the tendencies, the development of the groups, the social composition, the past evolution, future possibilities, strength of organisation, cadres, etc. etc.
If comrade Cooper means that some attention must be devoted to the problem of unification, then let him refer to the “record.” That record which speaks so much in favour of WIL that he and other comrades across the Atlantic, not having any possible argument against it, refer to it as if forsooth, the WIL were committing some terrible crime in being in an unassailable position. Yes, comrade Cooper - we are for the record - and let the record speak! Since when has there been any other method for Marxists than that of studying the “record” to determine the position of any participants in political discussions?
In this connection, comrade Cooper characterises WIL’s inability to “value tried and tested and proven Bolshevik organisational procedure that alone can firmly build national sections and an international party.” Good! But the proof of the pudding is in the eating. In condemning WIL’s lack of understanding of Bolshevik method, he says:
“From my own close study and from subsequent investigation I am convinced that WIL’s original departure from the unification conference in 1938 was based on unprincipled grounds. No matter how grievous and unjust the WIL’s leaders felt themselves personally attacked, they still had absolutely no right to leave the unification conference.”
Close study? Subsequent investigation? This sounds very interesting, but unfortunately not very convincing and not very enlightening either. If comrade Cooper made a “close study” of the 1938 unification, then he is duty bound to give us the results of his labour. Here is the opportunity to expose the WIL leadership’s alleged inability to face up to... tried and tested and proven Bolshevik organisational procedure. Instead, we get a light-minded assertion, without the remotest shred of evidence, that the WIL leaders felt themselves “personally attacked” in 1938 and that is why they refused to enter the unification. Where, comrade Cooper, is the record? They say fools go where angels fear to tread. It is a noteworthy but deplorable fact that, while repeating this senseless assertion, comrade Cooper fails to make a political analysis of the Statement of the WIL to the founding conference in 1938 on the question of unification. He forgets to show us the fruits of the “tried and tested and proven methods...” Precisely here is the opportunity to demonstrate principled politics. Why no mention of the results of the unification – or examination of the unity agreement? Because the results speak too loudly precisely in favour of the position as put forward by WIL.
The WIL alone of all the groups, maintained a principled democratic centralist position in 1938, as it does today. Our principled position was justified to the hilt by subsequent events, as it will be in the future. It is a pity that since comrade Cooper made such a “close study” of the unification, and condemns WIL as unprincipled, he does not show how firmly built was the “united organisation”, which presumably was built on a principled basis. Elsewhere we have published some documents relating to the 1938 unity conference and its results. If necessary we will publish more and can return to this theme again. Suffice is to say that in the whole history of our movement, there can hardly be a more ill-omened or disastrous record of splits [than the one] arising from 1938.
An examination of our statement, taken in conjunction with the subsequent events in the “unified” organisation, would demonstrate conclusively that the source of the splits arose from the lack of political clarification, coupled with the “dual organisational structure” which permitted the operation of two tactics simultaneously, instead of the democratic centralist basis – one tactic, one policy – that of the majority, with democratic rights for the minority.
It would be a much more honest and simple statement of the truth to say that the 1938 unification was a failure, which fortunately, was not fatal for the Fourth International in Britain and the building of the revolutionary party, owing only to the courageous adherence to the principle of Bolshevism and democratic centralism by the WIL. This was not an easy task at that time when the WIL had only a handful of people in comparison with the large organisation which was claimed by the RSL. But, as we pointed out at the time, an organisation which developed on the basis of deep fissures – without discussion of the political and tactical differences and agreement arrived at on democratic centralist basis, was built on quicksand and would end in disaster. In reality all Cooper’s phrases beg the question. A genuine unification can only come on a principled programmatic and tactical basis.
Comrade Cooper repeatedly mis-states the actual position in 1938. WIL “must inevitably fail to explain how they happened to leave the Bolshevik international in 1938...” [!] “WIL’s original departure from the unification conference in 1938...” etc., etc. Nothing of the sort. WIL refused to sign an agreement, which in its opinion, laid the basis not for unity, but for a series of demoralising splits. WIL has no need to apologise for its position in 1938. On the contrary, the divergent elements who made the agreement, are hard put to it to explain how they came to agree to such a document. It is now universally agreed that the unity laid the seeds of disaster for the RSL. If the WIL has not referred in its publications to the 1938 conference, it is not at all from embarrassment of its own position, which is easily defensible, but from loyalty to the Fourth International.
Comrade Cooper asks how the WIL can justify the present split to its membership. The separate existence of the WIL has been historically justified. In deeds, not in words, the WIL has demonstrated the correctness of its position in 1938. The position of WIL is “on the record”.
“Can the WIL leadership justify itself to its membership by saying they are moving heaven and earth to genuine unity?” The WIL leadership would be hard put to justify itself if it went further that it has done. The WIL leadership has no cause to justify its position before the membership. The policy and the attitude on this question was unanimously decided upon at our last national conference. Unity of the groups in Britain is important; but it is not an end in itself. The building of the revolutionary party in Britain is far more important – a party based on the methods and policy of Bolshevism. Furthermore, far from having to justify itself on the attitude of unity, comrade Stuart will be hard put to it to justify to the WIL membership, the prevention of unity of those who stood on the same political platform and the advocacy of a split.
Not having a single political argument, comrade Cooper falls back on personal and organisational grounds.
“Do you mean to say that DDH or anyone else could hold back unity among English Trotskyists if the spirit [! – EG] of unity were deeply imbued in their consciousness? If the stick were really turned by WIL, in the direction of a genuine [! – EG] agitation and a struggle for unity, all obstructions would be overcome.”
This is really almost disarming in its absurdity. If the RSL’s “obstruction” is purely organisational, the IS then has the imperative duty to take organisational measures against the leadership of the RSL. But the problem is not one of organisation only, or even principally, but of the political position of the RSL. Comrade Cooper points to the success of the WIL, which he naively remarks, bases itself on the Fourth International’s “timely transitional and military programme”. But he fails to deal with the decay and degeneration of the RSL which does not support this programme. Is this an accident, comrade?
It is noteworthy to see that comrade Cooper makes no concrete suggestions and no concrete proposals – apart from “spirit” and “genuineness”, on how the unification is to be achieved.
We have the sophistic argument that the WIL is only “getting away” with the present divisions in Britain because it “hides” the existence of the other Trotskyist organisations. In a document which must surely rank as a curiosity of “organisational Bolshevism”, this remark will take pride of place. Since when have Bolsheviks become advertising agents for their opponents? It is not beside the point to remark here that we had to “advertise” the existence of the RSL to the International with which it has lost connection. We believe that this is sufficient advertising. Every member in our ranks is acquainted with the fact that the WIL is not the official section. A mere explanation of the false political position of the other groups, together with the illuminating experience within the official section since 1938, is enough to convince any worker sympathiser.
But as Trotsky would say: “Excuse me, comrade, excuse me, excuse me.” Comrade Cooper has used a most unfortunate argument. Insofar as the RSL conducts any activity at all among the workers, our most [pressing] task is to convince the workers that we are not the same organisation. “If these are Trotskyists,” the worker contacts have said, “then we want nothing of Trotskyism.” Naturally, the fact that they are the official section, certainly places us in an embarrassing position. But not from the angle that Cooper imagines. On the contrary, we are hard put up to defend the position of the International on this question and make an explanation of it.
“The WIL seems to go to the extreme limits to hide such information from its worker sympathisers. In the January issue of the Socialist Appeal, we have the scandalous picture of an appeal for united front action in industry to the ILP, and even the numerically insignificant anarchists, and not to the RSL! In recent issues of the Socialist Appeal there are also editorials discussing the bankruptcy of the old internationals, etc., and information that WIL is building the new international party in England, but not a word of the need of unity, or even of the existence of the RSL.”
What existence means for comrade Cooper, apparently means something else to Marxists and to WIL. Again, it is not the formal position, but the need to examine the problem dialectically. Trotsky wrote that it is easy to determine existence or non-existence of a party. Despite the official label, and with due apologies to comrade Cooper, as a genuine functioning Fourth International organisation, the RSL does not exist. Its significance for the past, the present, and the future of the international movement, its influence in the working class is so negligible as to be almost non-existent and will inevitably become zero. It is sad, and from the point of view of Cooper, a bitter pill, but the “insignificant” anarchists are far more important in industry than the RSL. Such is the sorry state of affairs. (Apart from the fact that this unimportant and unrepresentative group are far closer to the anarchists on industrial policy than they are to WIL or the Fourth International). But we can take no responsibility for it. It is to the point here to anticipate our argument, and ask comrade Cooper how it is that the SWP, far from offering a united front to the Oehlerites, the Fieldites, the Weisbordites, etc., in the States, who according to his own admission contained good elements, consistently ignored the constant bombardments of united front offers from them? Yet in Canada, they had a “united front” with the Fieldites. Why? Because in Canada the Fieldites meant something and with the given relation of forces, the Trotskyists were compelled to reckon with, and compete with them. There is no principle involved here, but purely an estimate of what was to be gained and what lost. We might add, that on most of the rare occasions when we had the misfortune to appear publicly with the RSL, one of our main tasks was to disassociate ourselves from them, so well did they succeed in discrediting the name of Trotskyism. If necessary we can elaborate on this with our most recent experience only a few months ago when they disgraced the name of Trotskyism at the conference called by the Labour lefts.
If comrade Cooper would retort that they are the official section, we would agree, but that does not alter anything fundamental, that is ours and the International’s misfortune. So far as the editorials in the Socialist Appeal are concerned, it is perfectly true that no mention is made of the need for unity. Because that is not the fundamental question for the readers of the Socialist Appeal. We have no need to convince them of this, or of the “existence” of the RSL either. It is up to the RSL to blow its own trumpet... if it can! We must ask comrade Cooper if he would consider the following advertisement would be suitable:
“This is to draw the attention of the readers of the Socialist Appeal to the fact that the WIL is not the official section of the Fourth International. The official section is known as the Revolutionary Socialist League. It has no independent existence since it claims to be the ‘Socialist Left in the Labour Party’. We cannot supply the address of the official section, for although we are conducting a political discussion for unification, they refuse to give us any address as a means of corresponding. We can, however, inform our readers that the minority of the RSL has recently expelled the majority and there are now three sections acknowledged by the IS [as] fourth internationalists. We must perforce warn our readers that the official section of the Fourth International alleges that the WIL, the American SWP and the IS hold a ‘chauvinist’ and an ‘opportunist’ position on the war... and have deserted the path of Bolshevism. We must apologise to our readers and supporters for any misconceptions that we may have created that we are the genuine Trotskyists of Great Britain.”
If comrade Cooper wants an advertisement of the truth, there it is. Surely this must be a classic gem of “organisational Marxism”, when it is suggested that the unofficial section should publicise the official section. And what an organisation! What a section!
For what object, comrade Cooper? We are not in the movement for the pleasure of erecting Aunt Sallies for the purpose of knocking them down. There is no need for us to tackle the shadow of a shadow in our press. Far more important [is] to deal with the genuine antagonists in the labour movement with whom we are faced. That is more fruitful and more educational for the workers approaching our tendency. However, to say that we hide the existence of the RSL to our new members is simply untrue, and such statements betray comrade Cooper’s ignorance of the position within our organisation and within the Trotskyist movement as a whole in this country.
Our position in relation to the International and the RSL is always explained. The correspondence is always circulated. But if the blunt facts are to be stated, “officially” or not, there is only one section of the Fourth International in Britain: Workers’ International League. Comrade Cooper may say by what right can we arrogate this position to ourselves? By the right of the programme which we possess in common with the International and by the right of the work we are doing. Long ago, Marx and Engels gave a good reply to the German philistines who indignantly asked who had elected them as advisers and leaders of the Social Democracy in Germany: they had been elected by the bourgeoisie and all the enemies of Social Democracy who were attacking them, Engels gravely replied to the complaining deputation which was sent to interview them.
This in its turn, raises the question: what makes an organisation a section of the International? Merely the formal connection? Nothing of the sort. This is of tremendous importance, but what is decisive is the political programme. To argue any other way is to stand internationalism on its head. It is to regard the problem in the same way as the centrists. “The International is first of all a programme and a system of strategic, tactical and organisational methods that flow from it.” And as comrade Cooper himself said in a speech to our members: “You are the Fourth International.” We do not know what made comrade Cooper change his mind; perhaps it is the climate of New York. Certainly he has not explained it by any other reason in his open letter to the British comrades, except by mysterious references to what he “discovered” and did not have time to tell us.
It is the blind and empirical insistence on the “organisational question” which can alone explain the crude errors against Marxism committed by comrade Cooper. The first question a Marxist would ask of any factional dispute, especially one which has raged for a number of years, and in which different tendencies have become firmly crystallised, is, what are the political differences? In what directions are the two factions moving? What is the social basis of the political positions adopted? How have the differences revealed themselves in action over a number of years? Etc., etc. This is certainly not the method adopted by comrade Cooper. Take this example of petit bourgeois thought:
“Woe to the WIL’s present stand if the RSL adopted by a majority the correct program for the day and started to grow! How will the WIL justify [the] split at that time?”
When we read these lines at first, we looked at one another with astonishment and consternation. Is this how the cadres are educated in America in their approach to problems, we wondered? For surely the least acquaintance with elementary Marxism would dictate the understanding that a group does not arrive at a political position by accident. In another Internal Bulletin we have dealt with the political ideas of the RSL and the evolution of its point of view. But it is to the point to remark here that they characterise the WIL and the Fourth International political position on war as “chauvinist”. That is, in war time, the most serious and fundamental crime against the interests of the working class which any party claiming to be Marxist could commit. A crime which caused Lenin to break with the Social Democrats. Does comrade Cooper believe that there exist differences between us that need discussing and thrashing out? Are the differences between Bolshevism and sectarianism of no importance? Does comrade Cooper take the transitional and military programme, the strategy and tactics of Bolshevism in war time, as of such little importance that he can dismiss disagreements so lightly?
The position put by comrade Cooper cannot be taken seriously by anyone who thinks the problem out. What possible objection could, not the WIL, but the RSL leadership have to unity, if they held the same political position? What possible “obstruction” could they place in the way of unity? “Woe to the WIL...” What a terrible threat! That one’s opponent should adopt one’s point of view!
The WIL has stated it is prepared to unify: what then could possibly stand in the way of such a unification? The boot would rather be on the other foot, and the RSL would not have the slightest possibility of preventing unification. The bulk of the RSL membership has maintained its political position for three years or more. Most of those in the RSL who were won over to the position of the TO belonged to a group which consisted of splitters from the RSL and expelled members of WIL and only “fused” with the RSL at a later date. The “principled” TO has been trying for more than 14 months, and have not succeeded in making the slightest impression on the RSL. But that such a fantastic and ridiculous statement should appear in a document intended to influence the WIL is disgraceful. If there was not a single other statement, this alone would be sufficient to destroy the effect the writer intended to have. It has about as much relevance to the situation as if we were to write to the SWP regarding the Schachtmanites: “Woe to the SWP if the Workers’ Party adopted a correct programme...”
Here we would point out that if the RSL held its “principles” seriously, it would be their duty to openly break with the Fourth International and prepare the formation of the new international. As internationalists it is the first duty of comrades Stuart and Cooper to demand of the leadership of the RSL that their position be clarified one way or another: either a unity on the basis of the programme and principles of the Fourth International, or a break with it. But apparently for the American comrades, the political issues and the programme of the Fourth International are of secondary importance: what is of primary importance is “unity.” Thus they stand Bolshevism on its head.
We are for unity, as the record has demonstrated. If we were not prepared to carry through our proposals for unification through to the end, we would not have put ourselves on the record, for instance, as the RSL did for years. We have taken this position, principally because of the attitude of the IS and in order to resolve the problem. But our main job in Britain consists in building the party. That is our duty to the International and to the working class. That remains our decisive criterion. We have no particular “enthusiasm” for unity and never have pretended to. The RSL is hopelessly encrusted in sectarianism. And with our meagre resources in cadres and forces we have to put our energies in the direction where the best results can be achieved for the party in Britain and for the International. The American party did not waste time on the sectarians in America, despite the fact that, as comrade Cooper himself says, they contained “some very good elements”. Yet they continue to pay quite a good deal of attention to Shachtman & Co. Why? Obviously, because despite their incorrect position, they still retain a number of good rank and file elements.
The fact that the RSL is nominally the official section, does not alter anything fundamental. Their political position, though more confused, is basically that of Oehler. The bulk of the RSL membership are not industrial workers. So that the problem of winning over the Bolshevik elements they might have in their ranks, must remain a subordinate one. The potential Bolshevik elements among the sectarians in America had to be sacrificed because more and better Bolsheviks could be won and trained from fresh elements among the mass of the workers, and indeed, with less expenditure of energy. The position is precisely the same in Britain. We are prepared to devote a minimum of activity to the solution of the problem. The American comrades say: “You are only for the record.” Yes, we are for the record. But what does this mean? We have stated our terms for unification and these we are prepared to carry out.
But this “for the record” position has two sides. We have to ask ourselves: are the American comrades who write to us for “unity” and “internationalism” “for the record”? We receive one document from an American comrade hysterically calling for “unity” without adding anything to how the problem is to be solved except by a change of heart. The TO receives another letter putting forward the idea of an entirely unprincipled split. One letter is “open”; the other is secret. We can understand the position of comrade Cooper, perhaps, in a young comrade carried away with enthusiasm. Though it would be the duty of the party leadership to use tact and curb such an outburst. But the position of Stuart is inexcusable.
Comrade Stuart arrived in Britain with the unalterable banner of “democratic centralism” and of “unity” as the principle above time and space. It was with this argument that he prevented the unification of those who stood on the same political platform. We pointed out the falsity of this position. A unification of the TO with ourselves need not prevent further discussion with the RSL on the problem of unity, and indeed would assist in clarifying the question. The TO would have become integrated with our organisation; the general movement would have had a fillip. Under comrade Stuart’s influence the TO was prevented from doing so. And the result? A shift in their political positions; expulsions of those who agree with WIL politically; fusion with those who have opposed WIL’s policy for years. Unity discussions with the ultra-lefts, whom comrade Stuart correctly termed “maniacs.” A most enlightening example of how to educate young people in the principles of democratic centralism!
We cannot but remark in passing, that nearly every letter that arrives from the States, like some King Charles’ head, the name of Lawrence appears as a subject of praise. This method of ballyhoo and advertisement – or as it is termed in the United States – “a build up”, on the “key man” principle, is certainly not the organisational method of Bolshevism, but savours more of bourgeois publicity methods. In comrade Cooper’s document we see the statement: “L. is a Bolshevik of high calibre who is seeking unity on a principled organisational basis.” Lawrence is a notorious weather-cock, incapable of maintaining a consistent political position for two days in succession. What is dangerous in the attitude of Cooper and some of the members of the IS is that by incorrectly posing the problem as they do purely as an organisational one, they inevitably leave the door open to political deviations and differences. Already Lawrence has made an unprincipled bloc with three sectarians and now with the ultra-lefts. Cooper makes great play of the “fine group of Bolshevik elements in the L. wing.” What exactly does comrade Cooper mean with “Bolshevik”? True it is that there may still be in the RSL and the TO a few worth while comrades who can be won to the methods of Bolshevism. Certainly the method of Stuart has been the means of retarding the possibility of these comrades developing in a healthy proletarian milieu. Many of them have been poisoned and demoralised by the unprincipled clique atmosphere engendered by Stuart, with his stupid assertions [to] a group of green young comrades, that only they knew how to “conduct principled politics” of all the English groups; that these are the “key” Bolsheviks, etc., etc. However, be that as it may, the position in Britain, not from the formal point of view, but from the living reality, is that there are dozens and hundreds of revolutionaries in the Stalinist party and the ILP, of whom half a dozen are worth the whole of the RSL, the Lefts and the TO thrown in for good measure. They may not regard themselves as Trotskyists at the present time, but they will find their way to our ranks if we put forward a correct programme and if they see in our organisation a healthy proletarian milieu, and not a petty bourgeois debating society. If it comes to a question on whom we will work [with] in the present period, a hundred times over, we reply: we prefer the active revolutionaries in the other parties, to the paper “Bolsheviks” and sectarians in the RSL. “By their deeds shall ye know them” is an excellent text. What deeds make the RSL and its factions “Bolsheviks”?
But it is particularly noteworthy to see the perspectives of the leadership of the TO in the future unified organisation. JG writes that the TO must prepare for the maintenance of their fraction inside the fused organisation – as the watchdogs of the IS! JC of the TO stresses the need to maintain their fraction to prepare for “minor battles” inside the unified organisation, etc. Thus they prepare for “unification” along the lines of Stuart’s advice, who wrote to the TO:
“In all likelihood there will be a withdrawal of recognition from the RSL and a period of testing in which all three groups will be regarded as sympathetic. After the testing period there will probably be convoked a unification conference for a final settlement of the question. The TO’s programme presages a long term perspective, however, and it should prepare to maintain itself on this programme for a considerable time to come, no matter what organisational turns the situation may take.”
Stuart says “a consistently false line on organisational questions (we refer you to the history of the Abern group in the SWP) cannot fail to have in the end a disastrous effect on a group’s attitude to programme and tactics.” Yes. This is precisely true, as we see from the results of the incorrect organisational tactics in relation to the RSL as well as the TO. But see whither Stuart has developed! He began with the sacredness of “unity”; he ends up with the advocacy of unprincipled splits!
Perhaps one of the mistakes that the WIL has made in the past was not going into the question of the “unification” of 1938 and its results. It certainly provides an example for all time, of the consequences of light-minded unity, leading to light-minded splits. This in itself could be the only fruitful result of a discussion arising from comrade Cooper’s letter: political lessons or genuine organisational conclusions, there are none. The unity of the party is a precious thing. Only people who are criminally light-minded would break the unity of the organisation which has been built by painstaking efforts and sacrifice on the part of the membership. But to believe that a recognition of this fact would in itself be a guarantee against the possibility of splits in the future, is to reason not as a dialectician, but as a formalist and idealist. The unity of the party is guaranteed not at all by solemn assurances pledging against splits, but by the programme on the one side, and loyalty to the organisation on the other. The fact [is] that the participants in the 1938 “Peace and unity agreement” “...mutually pledged themselves before the membership and before the Fourth International... to work together in harmonious collaboration laying aside like principled Bolsheviks all personal animosities and antagonisms, and refraining from factionalism, and especially from any kind of factional organisation, during the six months period allotted to the new Executive Committee...” This pledge to the Fourth International, did not prevent three splits before the six months were up. And how could it? It is significant in this regard, that there have been no breakaways or splits in the WIL, while the history of the “unified” organisation is an interminable and unseemly one of splits and further splits.
We could not guarantee in advance that there will be no serious disagreements, or even splits in the future in WIL. We do not think so. Serious Bolsheviks do not split easily from a genuine Bolshevik organisation unless the issues are of such a character as to reveal a profound social divergence. But again, it is impossible to view this problem in the abstract. We have to take the time, the conditions, developments, size of the party, etc., etc., into consideration. Many factors play their part which cannot be evaluated in advance. Here we would point out that, despite the metaphysical approach of comrade Cooper, the American party, no more than WIL, is guaranteed in advance against the danger of split. And if comrade Cooper would say otherwise, he would be an idiot.
It is instructive in this regard to note that Shachtman, one of the leaders of the latest split in the American party, wrote a very witty and informative article a few years back, in which he depicted the fate of the splitters. This did not stop him from joining their ranks. The solution to this problem does not merely lie in warning against the danger of split, but to quote comrade Cooper:
“The methods of a democratic centralist party that democratically arrives at decisions and carries its decisions into action in a disciplined manner, and later, democratically decided again to carry same or other decisions into action (and so on round the democratic centralist circle), are the only methods that can carry the party through all its tasks and to its final victory.”
Here, we might suggest to comrade Cooper that he once again direct his remarks to the right address – the factions of the RSL. Certainly light-minded unity would and does lead inevitably to splits precisely when it is opposed to the conception of the party and to democratic centralism.
WIL has had disagreements in its ranks, sometimes serious disagreements. There will be disagreements in the future as well. But the majority will decide. There is as little, or as much, possibility of a split in the WIL, as there is in the SWP. No more no less. Precisely because WIL, like the SWP, is based on the programme and the policy of the Fourth International and on the principles of democratic centralism.
So far we have seen the prediction of the WIL, and the methods of the WIL on the question of unification and splits, justified up to the hilt by the development of events. Is it an accident that the “unity” ended in such a speedy and inglorious debacle? Of course not! Theoretically in advance the WIL document said:
“The new Revolutionary Socialist League is founded on a compromise with sectarianism, and arising out of the political compromise there is naturally a dual organisational structure. The membership is left free to decide, each for himself, the milieu of work; the principle of centralism is thrown overboard, and with it any pretence of democratic discipline. In effect, the new RSL consists of two organisations masquerading under a single name, a state of affairs that cannot be hidden from the outside world, even if internal friction is sufficiently overcome to enable the organisation to begin to function.”
There were other reasons as well, of course, both practical and theoretical, for the debacle. But the caricature put forward by comrade Cooper as the attitude of the WIL – “I’m king – Recognise me!” – reveals a superficial approach to the problem. “Democratic centralism” is not an end in itself, but a means to the building of the party. But WIL never has “learned”, and we hope never will learn, the method of cynical and light-minded unification, without preparation and without discussion. The “democratic centralists” didn’t succeed in building the party in Britain. But the WIL, which has not learned the “tried and tested methods”, did succeed. Does this mean to say there is something wrong with democratic centralism? Nothing of the sort. It means that the collapse of the RSL can be traced to the fact that it was not based on the Bolshevik conception of the party and democratic centralism.
Unity too, is not an end in itself, but must be the means to the building of the party. Nor is the party an end in itself, but a means towards the seizure of power. In this connection, we might add that it is not “unity”, but the programme and policy, which is decisive. We might remind comrade Cooper that, despite its democratic centralist basis, in the epoch of reaction the Bolshevik Party suffered a whole series of splits. This was, of course, due to the pressure of reaction, which was reflected in the ranks of the Bolsheviks. It is to the point too, that the history of Bolshevism began with a split over an important, but minor issue. Trotsky’s mistake up to 1917 was precisely his insistence on “unity” with the Mensheviks.
Comrade Cooper might say, how can we compare the struggle between Bolshevism and Menshevism with the struggle between RSL and WIL, since both claim an allegiance to the Fourth International? We would point out that the differences between Bolshevism and Menshevism also began when both formally gave their allegiance to the same cause and the same International, and the divergences in the beginning were not of a fundamental character.
But Lenin, who stood against “unity” was correct in 1912, as he was in 1917 when he opposed Stalin and Kamenev who advocated unity with the Mensheviks. If we accept comrade Cooper’s description of the crisis in the Bolshevik Party in 1917 (it is not at all an accurate picture, but it would lead us too far afield to deal with events as they developed) what follows? More banalities. The unity of the party must be preserved. We must allow differences of opinion. You must not break party discipline, etc., etc. Excellent! But what exactly is comrade Cooper supposed to be teaching us? His conclusion from this is through and through false:
“In England today the WIL ‘prepares’ for similar party conditioning and maintaining in [a] time of real crisis – by completely avoiding a democratic centralist solution of the present divisional crisis! How is the WIL going to know how to maintain the party, the precious instrument of the revolution, in [a] time of real crisis, when it never learned how to resolve a party crisis previously (in 1938) and persists in refusing to resolve the present divisional crises!”
Poor comrade Cooper obviously has no inkling of what developed in Britain from 1938. We recommend him to study the record. Certainly we would say in advance, we would never participate in another 1938. Not under any circumstances. We would never agree to a violation of the principles of democratic centralism with the rich lessons of the results of this before our eyes. By what right does comrade Cooper say that we are “completely avoiding” a democratic centralist solution? He should provide the evidence for this. Once again the “record” speaks against comrade Cooper. Far from avoiding it, the WIL intends to insist on a democratic centralist solution to the problem, and we are insisting now that the problem be viewed in this light. We are all for a movement that will stand up to the shocks of future events. Certainly we are determined that it will not be on the model of the RSL of 1938. If the RSL never even began the task of building the revolutionary party, one of the organisational reasons can be traced to the unification of 1938.
In reality the whole method of comrade Cooper in his approach to this problem is false. The splits and divisions which have taken place in the Trotskyist movement in Britain and throughout the world have been no accident. Our international movement has been marked by splits in nearly every country where we had sections, without exception, including the Soviet Union where presumably the Opposition was educated in the methods and principles of democratic centralism perhaps better than any cadres of any party in history. The centrists, with their formless “unity” without principles and without perspectives, and without Marxist understanding, have used the argument of the “innumerable splits” within the Trotskyist movement, as a proof of the fact that the Trotskyists are incapable of building a movement. Others have argued that it was all due to “democratic centralism” as was the degeneration of the Russian revolution. This of course, is as false as the arguments of comrade Cooper. The splits did not fall from the skies. They came as a direct consequence of the epoch of reaction which followed the defeat of the revolution in Europe, ushering in Thermidor in Russia with its consequent reaction throughout the world. This reaction destroyed a whole generation of revolutionaries reared by the Comintern. But the degeneration of the old internationals could not but affect also the young and weak forces of the Fourth International as well. Isolated form the labour movement, persecuted by reaction, developing under the hard and difficult conditions of the defeats of the proletariat, even large sections of the elements which formed the International Left Opposition were bound to succumb, as did the Opposition in Russia, to the pressure of the unfavourable historical circumstances. The elements which began the work of the opposition, even in the majority, were not of the best material. The difficulties of growth and the milieu in which they had to work; the composition of the Opposition itself; the different stages of development through which the organisation passed; the necessity at various stages of making sharp changes if the movement was even to survive; all these factors led necessarily and inevitably to the splits. A movement, no more than society itself, cannot move forward without crises and even without splits.
There is nothing surprising in this. It is according to the laws of history. But this pertains not to the history of Trotskyism, or even to the history of the party, but to its pre-history. We are now entering a new period, a period when fresh forces and fresh cadres will be decisive for our movement. Not for nothing did the Old Man point out for the movement in France that the old leadership had been developed in a period of reaction and isolation from the labour movement and were inevitably moulded and conditioned by this in their outlook and psychology. A great part of the leadership were incapable of adapting themselves to the tasks which lay ahead. The revolutionary wave would produce fresh cadres and fresh leaders who could alone provide the backbone for the leadership of the party and lead the masses to victory. This applies not only to France but internationally.
The new stage of the movement was presaged by the founding of the Fourth International and the development of the Transitional programme. A new period for the building of genuine mass parties opens up for the Fourth International. Parties which can only be built on the basis of the mass programme of the Fourth International, of which the transitional and military programmes form an integral part. Anyone who slurs over these absolute prerequisite for the building of the Fourth International shows an un-Marxian attitude towards the programme and principles of Bolshevism. Not for nothing did Trotsky say that “toleration” of the sectarians and sectarian policies within the ranks of the Fourth International would be disastrous. Without a clarification of the political position in Britain all arguments on organisational questions are fruitless. Indeed, if not connected with the political problems, are actually harmful and can do great damage.
In this connection it is very instructive to note that comrade Cooper misinterprets the history of his own party. He holds up the bogey of the horrible results of the splits in America as a warning to the WIL. And we agree that the examples do not make a pretty picture. But the WIL has always agreed on condemnation of these splinter groups and have always supported the stand of the American party against them. But what is alarming, is that in discussing these splits, comrade Cooper looks only at the organisational question and completely ignores the political basis of the splits. Here, as always, it is the political criterion that is decisive. These groups had a wrong political estimate of the situation, it was their policies which led to split, further splits among themselves, and ultimate extinction. Extraordinary! Bot nowhere in comrade Cooper’s document it is made clear that it was the wrong orientation of all these groups which differed politically from the Fourth International, which led to their doom.
Many times we have listened patiently to some of the American comrades as they unfolded the sorry tale of sections which split from the American party, the history of which we were not unfamiliar [with]. But we were struck by the fact that the American comrades were quite unaware that whereas the movement in America is a good example of the results of unprincipled splits, the movement in Britain is an even better example of the results of unprincipled and light-minded “unifications.” The political tendencies of Oehlerism, etc., found full flower within the RSL. And if it is splits the comrades wish to study, there is no need to cross the Atlantic. For every split in America, we can show them two or three in the “unified” British section. As comrade Healy used to be so fond of saying: “Comrade Cannon came to Britain and unified four groups into seven.”
But here again, we would not adopt the attitude of comrade Cooper. There is no absolute rule on this question. We have to examine the problem in a dialectical way, not in a formalistic fashion. We cannot a priori and in advance, condemn every split automatically, merely because it was a split. We have to analyse the political basis and the social meaning of the split. If there had been powerful parties of the Fourth International throughout the world the problem would obviously be posed in an entirely different way. But then we would have been faced with entirely different tasks. In the past period, as today, the main problem was to prepare the building of the party, of transforming a sect into a party. The first prerequisite for this was to rid ourselves of the corroding influence of sectarianism. In this connection, we would say that it was the weakness and immaturity of the Fourth International, coupled with the terrible pressure of the reaction, which produced these splits. However, these splits cannot be conceived as an unmitigated evil. On the contrary, it was thus that the real cadres of the movement were educated, and a clear understanding of the role of the party, the tasks, and the political problems, were gained.
Let us examine the problem in the light of the developments of the International Left Opposition and the Fourth International. If we accepted the metaphysical absolutes of comrade Cooper, we would have to condemn Trotsky and the Fourth International as “unprincipled splitters”. Relying on memory, in Belgium in 1929 there was a split in the Trotskyist party. At that time Chiang Kai-shek was trying to seize the Chinese Eastern Railway in Manchuria, in which Russia had half-share (having previously ceded a half-share to the Chinese). Encouraged and incited by world imperialism he launched attacks on the Russian troops guarding the railway, and bloody collisions began to take place. There was danger of war. The majority of the Belgian Trotskyists condemned the Soviet Union in their official organ and supported China as a colonial country. The minority refused to distribute the party press which contained attacks on the attitude of the Soviet Union, and instead distributed a paper which they immediately rushed out. Thus a split took place. Trotsky and the International naturally, gave full support to the minority, and were correct in doing so.
Here we would like to deal with the position developed by comrade Stuart who points to the fact that Trotsky consistently stood for the reform of the Communist International up to 1933. He uses this analogy in justifying the directives which he gave to the TO as a “principled” question. His statement is perfectly correct. The sectarians, who insisted in 1928-33 in attempting to build “independent” parties, suffered dismal failures. But comrade Stuart, this too was not an eternal and unalterable principle, but was dictated by the objective situation. There is no need to go into any long or involved discussions on the question. One fact is sufficient to refute Stuart’s position. Apparently he does not know the history of his own party. Trotsky suggested in the early days of the Communist League of America, while other sections of the International Left Opposition stood for the reform of the Communist International, that the American comrades should launch out on the road of the independent party and prepare to compete with the CP in America. He did this, because of the weakness of the American CP, the freshness of the American workers, etc. To a different situation corresponded a different tactic. Thus the alleged “principle” on which Stuart based himself is revealed as a phoney. Cooper and Stuart might argue that the formal founding of the Fourth International alters the situation. But this too has already been answered by history.
All this nonsense about “absolute” principles on the question of “unity” is revealed by a very recent example. In France after the founding conference of the Fourth International, i.e. after the 1938 unity conference, in 1939 there was a split. The split was over a purely tactical question. One section wished to work as an independent party, the other insisted on the necessity of entry into the PSOP (the French ILP). We believe that the latter was in the minority. How to solve the problem? Why not all in one party, operating two tactics as in 1938? If it was a question of “Bolshevik principles” for Britain, why not for France? According to the latest prescription the minority should have been sternly condemned. But Trotsky and the International believed that the minority position was the correct one. The solution to the problem was that both groups remained within the Fourth International, while temporarily they separated in order to work out the tactics in practice. Trotsky believed that they would come together after a period had lapsed, and the results of the tactic of entry one way or another would have been worked out and demonstrated. There is nothing opposed to democratic centralism in this. Or is there?
To come nearer home. In Britain in 1933 there was a difference of opinion over the question of entry into the ILP and the so-called “independent” tactic put forward by the sectarians. Trotsky had advised correctly, entry into the ILP, which was in a state of flux and moving towards the left, as the only possibility of achieving results and preventing ossification and collapse. The sectarians were in a majority. Moreover, they comprised the leadership and the most experienced comrades. Yet Trotsky advised the young and less experienced comrades to enter the ILP. The path of the majority of the Communist League was suicidal and indicated their complete inability to face up the tasks. There could only be one thing to do. The minority entered the ILP. Were they correct in “splitting”, comrades? We refer you to the father of the split, comrade Trotsky.
Stuart admitted that had he arrived a few days later and the pending unification of the TO and the WIL had taken place, he would have been forced to accept the new position, as that would have been a “different situation.” So much for the sacred “principles” of democratic centralism.
However, these few examples suffice to show that the problem of “unity” and of split are not settled by shouts of “Unity! Unity!”. Our exceptional historical difficulties on an international scale have precisely been because in not one country have we possessed a mass party, and only in ideological struggle have the differing and heterogeneous elements which inevitably composed the beginnings of our movement, been tested and the wheat selected from the chaff.
It is instructive to observe the evolution of the different tendencies in Britain. Far from the WIL evolving in a direction politically hostile to the Fourth International, it has been the official section which has been evolving more and more politically away from the Fourth International. And not at all accidentally.
The evolution of the TO is a classic example of what happens to a tendency which raises the organisational above the political questions. By preventing a unification of the TO with those who were in political agreement with it, the TO landed in a blind alley. Quite unable to justify the completely unjustifiable split with the WIL, they developed political differences with the WIL and began to engage in the most shameless political horse-deals. And their evolution has just begun! Thus do unprincipled politics recoil on the heads of those who act blindly and empirically. In Stuart’s letter we see the full results developed to an unprincipled position in the most startling fashion. His letter constitutes a model of where an incorrect stand on an organisational question and an incorrect understanding on the methods of democratic centralism, can lead. After preventing the fusion of the TO with WIL for what he claimed was a “principled” position – “to split from the RSL was unprincipled” – he ends up, after the inevitable fiasco, with advocating the formation of another Trotskyist organisation. In other words – precisely a split! Now he says it would be “a caricature of real Bolshevik Leninist discipline” to continue the past tactic. And as a direct result of this directive, the WIL will be faced with the necessity to re-educate the TO in the organisational and political methods of the Fourth International. As comrade Cooper says: “Split is the greatest crime...”
Thus, in the most unprincipled fashion, Stuart discards his alleged principles of yesterday. But an important question arises precisely on this issue: the question of democratic centralism and internationalism. Just think of it! We are now in a pre-revolutionary period in Britain. Stuart claimed that “unity” was the most important problem in Britain. He accuses WIL of not understanding the principles of democratic centralism and internationalism. Certainly he provides a nice example of both. He is a member of the IS. On his personal responsibility he gives a directive “advising” the TO to set up a new organisation and to attack the other sections publicly, directly violating the previous instruction of the IS to the groups. Even if we were to concede for a moment that Stuart were correct in his advice to the TO, by what standards has he the right to give such [a] directive, which leads to action, in a secret letter to the TO? And by what standards of internationalism do two American comrades write to Britain, one addressing WIL in an open letter calling [for] “unity” in a vacuum; the other a secret letter to a faction advising split and a new organisation? If this is what Stuart imagines is democratic centralism, it would be difficult to understand the difference between unprincipled and principled politics.
Even if we accept the argument (which is entirely without foundation) that the WIL split on a “personal” issue; how does it happen that the WIL has built a thriving and living organisation with the correct Bolshevik policy, while the RSL has decayed and disintegrated and finished up on an entirely false position? Does this happen by some mysterious accident? Of course not! Despite the official label, the RSL as a genuine Bolshevik organisation, was always a fiction. If we would seek the theoretical explanation, even apart from the causes dealt with in this polemic, it has been provided by the Old Man:
“An organisation may be signified either because of the mass it embraces or because of the content of those ideas that it is capable of bringing into the workers’ movement...
“...More than once in history the rift within a lifeless organisation has given an impulse to the progressive development of its viable section...”
If there was nothing else, this in itself would confirm the position of the WIL.
As the record shows, WIL stands for the principled democratic centralist solution to the problem in Britain. We are for unity, but not a fiction of unity at any price. Unity must be on a Bolshevik basis to build the Bolshevik party.
We believe that our Conference Resolution lays the basis for the solution of the problem. Unification will be achieved. A united party on the basis of one policy – the policy of the majority – with full democratic rights for the minority. Our party must not be turned into a discussion club, but into a fighting party of the working class, protected by the application of the principles of democratic centralism.
Political Bureau, September 11 1943
 Stuart was the pseudonym of Sam Gordon, member of the International Secretariat of the Fourth International who visited Britain in the summer of 1942. The secret letter to John Lawrence was sent in February 1943. Lou Cooper was a leading cadre of the US SWP.
 The British Trotskyists’ unification conference of 1938 led to the formation of the Revolutionary Socialist League. The Workers’ International League opposed the terms of the unity agreement as unprincipled and decided not to join the RSL, which was then recognised as the official section of the Fourth International. The WIL could not send delegates to the founding conference of the Fourth International held in Paris in September 1938, but submitted a document, the Statement of WIL to the international congress of the Fourth International, asking to be officially recognised as a sympathising section and proposing a path towards clarification and unification of British Trotskyism. See, Ted Grant, Writings, Vol. 1, pages 46-7.
 Denzil Dean Harber (1909–1966) was one of the early supporters of Trotskyism in Britain and the secretary of the RSL.
 Alfred Weisbord joined the Trotskyist Communist League of America (CLA) in 1930 after breaking with Stalinism, but immediately split to form the Communist League of Struggle and eventually broke politically with Trotsky in 1934 over the tactic of entrism, which Weisbord regarded as a capitulation to Menshevism. B.J. Field was expelled from the CLA in 1934; after some vicissitudes his group developed some roots and influence especially in Canada. In 1935 a minority faction of the Trotskyist Workers’ Party led by Hugo Oehler refused to accept the majority decision to enter the Socialist Party of America and split.
 The Trotskyist Opposition, led by John Lawrence.
 Martin Abern was a leading member of the US young communists and one of the early supporters of Trotsky and the Left Opposition in the USA. Expelled from the CP in 1928, he was one of the founders of the Trotskyist CLA and later of the SWP. In 1940, along with Max Shachtman and James Burnham, he led a bitter factional dispute within the SWP that ended with a split and the formation of the Workers’ Party.
 Gerry Healy became suddenly the most outspoken partisan within WIL (for his own factional reasons) of immediate unity with the RSL, making a u-turn on his previous fierce opposition to the 1938 unity agreement.
Our tasks in the coming revolution
[Workers’ International News, Vol. 5 No. 5, January 1944]
Full text available on the Ted Grant Internet Archive: Our tasks in the coming revolution
The world revolution and the tasks of the British working class
[Workers’ International News, Special issue, October 1943]
Our principles stood the test
The outbreak of the second world imperialist war did not descend upon the peoples of the world without warning.
Already through the war of 1914-1918, world imperialism had demonstrated that it had ceased to perform a progressive function in world economic and social development, and had become a reactionary fetter on the development of the productive, social and cultural forces of the world. The revolutionary communists assimilated the lessons of this manifestation of imperialist decay and drew the lessons in their programme.
Analysing this period the two outstanding theoreticians of the Bolshevik movement, Lenin and Trotsky, demonstrated that the capitalist fetters on production aggravated by national boundaries of capitalist states and world empires, would inevitably give rise to a new world war if the workers failed to overthrow the capitalist system and establish a new socialist order. They demonstrated that the most important problem facing the workers was to unify Europe economically and politically, for upon this depended the future economic and cultural development of the workers of the world. Should the unification of Europe be left in the hands of capitalism, it would usher in a period of barbaric oppression and be but the prelude to a world conflict between capitalist Europe and American imperialism.
This thesis has been tragically confirmed by the experiences of our generation. The failure of the working class to weld Europe together was due, in the main, to the treachery of the leadership of the social democratic and Stalinist parties. In control of the mass organisations which alone were capable of defeating reaction, they capitulated to the Nazis in Germany without firing a shot or attempting to rally the working class for a decisive battle. By their policy of coalition with the capitalists in the Popular Front, they betrayed the revolution in France and in Spain. It was thus that the reactionary unification of Europe through enslavement was undertaken by the Nazis who sought to organise “the new order in Europe.”
With the rise of nationalist revisionism in the Communist International under the cloak of “socialism in one country”, it was left to the communist internationalists to continue the revolutionary traditions and principles of Bolshevism, under the leadership of Trotsky. In a series of theses, resolutions and programmatic documents, the fourth internationalists established their Bolshevik-Leninist heritage.
In contrast to the Stalinists and the reformists of all shades, the Fourth International warned: neither the League of Nations nor the so-called “peace blocs” could prevent the impending imperialist war; only the proletarian revolution could crush the preparations for the coming bloodbath and imperialist intervention against the Soviet Union, and ensure peace in Europe and the world. We pledged ourselves to the defence of the Soviet Union and to a principled opposition to the war in all the capitalist countries alike. No support for the governments of the ruling class; no support for the conduct of their war. The class struggle is the motive power of progress in war time as in peace time.
Whilst the social democrats, Labourites and Stalinists allied themselves to their imperialist rulers at the outbreak of war, the Trotskyists continued the revolutionary socialist struggle against the capitalists in their own countries, fascist and democratic. They confidently based themselves upon the inevitability of the imperialist war giving place to proletarian revolution with the upsurge of revolutionary enthusiasm among the workers.
Four years of war have served to test and re-establish the correctness of the Marxist analysis of war and revolution.
Workers’ International League reaffirms these basic ideas: we do not change our course. Our task is to assimilate the Marxist method, to translate the ideas of the Fourth International into action in the upheavals and storms which tomorrow brings.
War gives rise to revolution
We have now entered a new stage in the international situation. The imperialist war has given rise to the first of a series of proletarian uprisings and revolutions.
The inglorious exit of Mussolini from the stage of history, the collapse of fascism throughout Italy after 20 years, the initiative which the Italian workers have already shown in the first stages of the revolution in the spontaneous setting up of workers’ committees (soviets): all these events indicate that a new period of mass struggles and political alignments is opening up in Europe and the world.
Side by side with the antagonism of the imperialist states, there is the class antagonism of all the imperialists to the Soviet Union which remains the first proletarian breach in the capitalist walls; an antagonism which although temporarily pushed into the background on the part of Britain and the USA, will inevitably take first place as war gives place to civil war and imperialist peace in Europe.
History repeats itself on a higher plane. The same basic contradictions which impelled the imperialists to clash in 1914, forced them to attempt a solution by force of arms once again in 1939. The immediate cause of the present war was the rivalry between the old established and wealthy colonial empires, Britain and France who stood for the status quo, and the belated imperialist plunderers who sought to disrupt the status quo, Germany and Italy. This in turn precipitated Japan to challenge America and Britain for control of the East. The primary aim of German imperialism in 1914-1918 was to subjugate Europe as a base against Great Britain. Her primary aim in the present clash was to subjugate Europe, to challenge the United States for the domination of the whole world.
Reflecting the more concentrated and explosive character of the imperialist crisis, prolonged only by the treachery and the reformist illusions of the leaders of the mass organisations of the working class, the political contradictions are likewise on a higher plane. The experience of a generation has not passed without a corresponding rise in the level of political consciousness of the working class. The war of 1914-1918 resulted in mass chauvinism among the proletariat and peasants of all the capitalist countries. The new war was greeted with sullen resignation upon the part of the already disillusioned masses.
In all countries the world crisis is reflected in the universal militarisation of the people. Millions of proletarians and peasants, the most virile, productive and revolutionary sections of the population, are withdrawn from the factories and from the land to shoulder arms. Just as the class struggle deepens and hardens in the factories and fields, so in the coming period it will reflect itself in the military forces. Imperialist war will give place to proletarian militarism. The revolutionary socialists, guardians of the class independence of the working class, alone understand this transition and base themselves upon it; they alone teach and organise their forces to replace the capitalist armies with the armies of the working class.
On the military fronts, the war is characterised by an entire shift in the balance of power and political initiative. The early victories of Hitler’s armies are now swept into the album of history. The Mikado can see in this denouement, a reflection of the future of Japan. The mighty armies of Anglo-American imperialism, backed by the most gigantic war production in all history, stamp their hall-mark on the shape of things to come.
Germany defeated France, stripped and ruined her and her satellites on the European continent. Britain was left only the choice of becoming a satellite of Hitler or of American imperialism. She became completely dependent on the patronage of America. The further development of the war led to the ruin of all Europe; to the position where Germany and Soviet Russia have bled each other white. Large tracts of Asia have been laid waste. Alone of all the belligerents American imperialism can hope to come out of the war strengthened militarily and economically. But even mighty America cannot escape the consequences of the war. It will be impossible for her to enjoy in tranquillity the fruits of victory. The war will usher in such social eruptions and disturbances that not a single power will emerge victorious. In this war there will be no victors.
From Italy, the virus of the revolution has already spread to the Balkan countries. In Portugal the first stages of mass opposition to the Salazar regime has commenced. Franco feels the mighty tremors as the ground shakes beneath his feet. In Denmark the Nazis have been forced to apply the iron fist to suppress the movement of opposition. Germany, the bulwark of the European reaction, will inevitably and rapidly be engulfed in the all-consuming flames of proletarian revolution.
The apathy and demoralisation the scepticism which had permeated the whole of the labour movement and undermined the confidence of the workers in their own class, is giving place to a new upsurge of revolutionary enthusiasm. A favourable conjuncture in the objective situation is opening up before the workers and the revolutionary movement. The coming days will be accompanied by rapid turns and tremendous revolutionary shocks.
Only the blind can fail to see the favourable revolutionary perspectives that lie immediately ahead. Only the sceptics and the corrupt can fail to be optimistic for the socialist future in face of the titanic class battles which are on the order of the day.
Long before the collapse of Italy, the outline of the European revolution could be seen in Yugoslavia and Poland where elements of dual power already exist in the guerrilla movement and the initial stages of the struggle for national liberation.
The revolution in Germany will unfurl with terrific force once it commences. The Nazis have toyed with anti-capitalist and ‘‘socialist” demagogy even more than did their fascist counterparts in Italy. Even the majority of the German middle class will seek the socialist alternative to the regime. The powerful German working class, the strongest numerically and the most cultured of the European proletariat, has yet to say the last word. Nazi Germany became the hub of European reaction; a revolutionary Germany will become the citadel of the world proletariat.
Soviet Union rests on world revolution
Out of the last war the workers of Russia achieved the first successful proletarian revolution under the leadership of the Bolshevik Party of Lenin and Trotsky. The land was expropriated from the landowners without compensation and the basic industries of the country confiscated and operated in the interest of the nation. The wealth of the ruling class was nationalised and concentrated in the hands of the workers’ state.
In opposition to all the capitalist states, therefore, the defence of the nationalised wealth is a progressive task and must be supported by the masses of all nations.
But the failure of the revolution to sovietise industrial Western Europe; the effects of a weak and backward economy together with the exhaustion of the Soviet masses and the decline of the revolutionary enthusiasm, created the basis for the growth of a tremendous bureaucracy in the Soviet Union. In the same way as Bevin and Citrine personify and represent the bureaucratic caucus who control and batten upon the trade union movement, so Stalin and the Russian bureaucracy batten on the Soviet people. For the same reasons as the workers will defend their trade unions, if necessary, by military means against capitalist attack, so the working class will defend the Soviet Union. But the defence of the Soviet Union, no more than the defence of the trade unions, coincides with the policy of the bureaucracy.
By his policy of bureaucratic control in Russia, his reactionary Bonapartist national policy of conducting the war; his major concessions to world imperialism; his manipulations of the puppet “communist” parties abroad – Stalin is striking savage blows at the socialist revolution and undermining the existence of the Soviet Union. A correct revolutionary policy on the part of the Soviet leadership could ensure a speedy conclusion of the war through the socialist revolution in Europe. Together with a united states of Europe, the Soviet Union would be impregnable against imperialist attack and counterrevolution. But Stalin has long forsaken the road of socialist struggle for the path of counter-revolution.
By the dissolution of the Comintern, Stalin formally ends the last remaining links that bound the Soviet bureaucracy, even nominally, to the socialist revolution in Europe and the world. He has passed over openly to the position of agency of world imperialism within the borders of the Soviet Union. By this act, he demonstrates that he is prepared to aid the imperialists in destroying the revolution in Europe, which the bureaucracy regards with mortal terror. Symbolic of the position of the Stalinist bureaucracy, is the fact that the Comintern has been dissolved on the very eve of the Italian revolution.
The inevitable insurrection of the German working class will have profound repercussions not only on the European and British workers, but on the Russian masses. The relationship of forces can change overnight. The nightmare rule of the bureaucracy can be overthrown just as rapidly as the disappearance of Mussolini in Italy – with this difference: the revolutions in capitalist Europe will be social revolutions; they will commence on the basis and background of reformist politics and traditions and will seek to end the capitalist system. But the revolution in Russia will be a political revolution; it will commence on the basis of nationalised property, of the first workers’ state with all the revolutionary international socialist traditions of Bolshevism. The Russian prisons are filled with thousands of Bolsheviks who went through the experience of the Russian revolution and who are grounded in the revolutionary ideas of Lenin and Trotsky, the ideas of world proletarian revolution. These will play their part in reconstructing the proletarian leadership of the Russian masses and introducing Soviet democracy on a higher scale.
The fate of the Soviet Union rests directly on the fate of the new wave of revolutions. Further defeats and a new epoch of reaction would inevitably usher in the bourgeois counter-revolution in Russia. It is on this perspective that the capitalists of Britain and America place their hopes and their calculations. The objective role of Stalinism in the Soviet Union and the world is to prepare and facilitate the work of the counter-revolution.
Fortunately, the bourgeoisie together with Stalin, is miscalculating. The epoch of reaction is drawing to a close; the masses are preparing to pass to the counter offensive.
The future of Europe
The open and unconcealed programme of American and British imperialism is to maintain an army of millions in Europe to hold the revolution in check. They openly proclaim that they seek to establish “democratic” capitalist regimes upon which to base their rule. But no more than the Nazis will they be able to hold Europe down, except by means of brutal and ruthless terror against the peoples. Their programme is one thing: to organise the forces to put it into effect is another. With the downfall of Hitler the majority of the British worker soldiers – and in spite of their political backwardness even the American soldiers – will have no stomach to play the role of SS in Europe. The revolutionary movements of the German and European workers will have profound effects upon the troops of occupation.
Whatever illusions wide sections of the European workers might have in the sponsors of the “free governments” – these will be shattered as the American and British armies march across the continent. “Free Europe” will be free only insofar as it conforms to the dictates of American finance capital. The gigantic stocks of food which are being accumulated on the American continent are not being held for the purpose of feeding revolutionary masses who will seek to end capitalism in Europe. They are being held to feed the armies of the counter-revolution just as Hoover fed the armies of intervention against the Soviet Union and the Hungarian Soviet Republic at the conclusion of the last war.
The failure of the revolution would mean a disastrous fall in the standard of life and culture of Germany and Europe. The German and European economy are interdependent. Without German industry and a German market, even the present conditions in Europe cannot be maintained. That is the contradiction facing the Allies.
A victory for British and American imperialism, therefore, cannot herald a new blossoming of bourgeois democracy on the continent of Europe. On the contrary, without a breaking down of the national barriers and the expropriation of the means of production, a new era of barbarism and decay would set in on the continent of Europe. But even in that event there cannot be any stable reactionary regime in Europe today, with sufficient social support to effectively crush the revolutionary movement. The mass basis of reaction is vanishing. At worst, the capitalists will impose a bureaucratic military regime, which would be short lived. Without social support, it would topple and collapse at the slightest social shock, and a new upsurge would again commence.
In the absence of experienced Trotskyist parties with roots and traditions among the masses, the first stages of the revolutionary struggles in Europe will most likely result in a period of Kerenskyism or popular frontism. This is already presaged by the initial struggles of the Italian workers and the repeated betrayals of social democracy and Stalinism. But it is no reason for pessimism on the part of the fourth internationalists. The revolution will act like a hot-house for the fresh, confident cadres of the Fourth International. Those who swam against the stream and maintained their principles in a period of reaction, will be capable of building a mass party in the favourable conditions opening up. For the Trotskyist programme alone can lead to a break from quisling politics, end the crisis in Europe and lead mankind out of the capitalist impasse.
Against the capitalist programme of policing and “educating” the European populations, Workers’ International League propagates the fraternisation of the armies of intervention with the oppressed and revolutionary peoples.
Against the plans for protecting capitalist property rights in Europe, the task of the British socialists will be to assist the European populations to take over the land and the factories and overthrow the quisling capitalists and landlords.
Not for the replacement of an SS dominated Europe by an Anglo-American occupation of Germany and Europe, but for the united socialist states of Europe.
The struggle for national liberation, not only against their Nazi oppressors of today but their “democratic” oppressors of tomorrow will be a means with which to bind the revolutionary masses together. But the struggle for national liberation will be used for reactionary ends if it remains under the control of the capitalists and petit-bourgeoisie.
To the European working class and to our European co-thinkers, it is necessary to state clearly and unambiguously: the struggle for national liberation of the peoples of the occupied countries of Europe today and in the coming period will be successful only if it is conceived as part of and subordinate to the strategy of the struggle for the united socialist states of Europe.
India, China and the war in the Far East
At one stage of the war it appeared that the first revolutionary explosions to upset the calculations of the imperialist powers would commence in India and spread throughout the Far East. 400 million Indian slaves of British imperialism sought the opportunity to free themselves from the yoke of a foreign oppressor who denied them the most elementary national and social rights.
But the senile, corrupt and cowardly bourgeois and petit bourgeois leadership of the Indian movement for liberation, fearing the results of a mass revolutionary struggle on the part of the workers and peasants, emasculated the movement and capitulated to the brutal military rule of the British oppressor.
The treachery of the Stalinist and the so-called socialist leaders in India, together with the numerical weakness and isolation of the Indian Trotskyists from the masses, gave the Indian bourgeoisie the possibility of consummating this betrayal. But the coming revolutionary struggles in Europe will once again open the flood gates of the mighty Indian revolution. In this period the Party of the Fourth International, the Bolshevik-Leninists of India, will alone give leadership to the Indian revolution.
In the struggle of the Indian people to free themselves from the British yoke, the British working class must give aid and support to the revolutionary Indian people. Counterposing the class programme to the petit bourgeois nationalism of the so-called lefts, the Trotskyists will explain to the Indian masses, and particularly to the Indian workers, that only under the leadership of the working class at the head of the peasantry, will victory be achieved. For only thus will it be possible to take the necessary social measures of expropriating the land and freeing the peasants from the landlords and moneylenders, to gather the control of the nation’s resources into the hands of the working class and organise a democratic regime; only thus will they expel the British imperialists from India, gain genuine allies among the workers and soldiers of Britain, and achieve national emancipation.
In India our British comrades will oppose the policy of oppression and fraternise with the revolutionary people, aiding them by all means to achieve their national liberation and calling upon the worker-soldiers to assist the achievement of the democratic aspirations of a mighty oppressed people.
In Britain our task remains: to explain the real situation in India and expose the reactionary actions of the British imperialists in India; to oppose the oppressive policy of the ruling class, and to expose the role of the Stalinist and Labour leaders who act as agents of the ruling class in the ranks of the workers and who actively assist the imperialists in keeping the Indian people in continued subjugation by supporting the Churchill government. The British Trotskyists will strive to rally the British working class behind the struggle of the oppressed Indian people for national liberation.
In the Far East, the spread of the war will bring revolutions in its wake. Already the war in China has imposed the severest burdens upon the Japanese masses. Whatever temporary enthusiasm has been aroused among the masses of Japan by the early victories against the Allies, will vanish as the burdens of the war press heavier upon the already impoverished population.
The regime in Japan rested basically not upon popular support, but upon the strength of the military caste. The coming blows of Yankee imperialism will crumble the archaic and dictatorial regime. As in Italy, so in Japan, the proletariat will have the final say. The Son of God will be forced to flee and seek an earthly haven.
Meanwhile, the heroic struggle of the Chinese people for national liberation has been merged into the general inter-imperialist war for domination of the Pacific. Whereas the alliance of China with the Allied imperialists may at a later stage lead to the complete subservience of China to American imperialism, at this stage, such alliance does not alter the basic and fundamental character of China’s war for national liberation. The British workers must support and aid the Chinese people in this struggle.
But in China, as in India, the Chinese Trotskyists while fighting in the army of national liberation, explain to the Chinese workers and peasants that only under the banner of the working class will it be possible to break up the landed estates and unite the nation in a real democracy. Only under the leadership of the working class will the people be freed from foreign domination and the economic and cultural level of the masses raised by the establishment of the united Chinese socialist soviet republic.
Britain – the key to the European socialist revolution
From the verge of defeat, the British bourgeoisie now looks forward to the prospect of victory over the Axis. But this victory cannot alter the perspective of decay and disintegration which faces British imperialism. The improved position is illusory. It has not come about due to the strength of British capitalism or to a recovery in her position in the main, but due to the resistance of the Soviet masses on the one hand, and the mighty economic and military preparations of American imperialism on the other.
The basic conclusions of the 1942 conference document Preparing for power remain as an estimation of the decline of British imperialism and the tasks of the British Bolshevik-Leninists. British capitalism is threatened from all sides. Her decline is concealed somewhat by the huge shipments of food and munitions under the Lend-Lease Agreement with American capitalism. But once this huge subsidy is withdrawn, as it will be, the position of the British bourgeoisie will become serious. It is on this international background that political life has developed in Britain.
The British empire is maintained by the gracious consent of Wall Street. But revolution, beginning in Europe or Asia will rock the empire to its foundations. Even complete military victory for Allied imperialism will not solve the problems which face senile British capitalism. American imperialism has ruthlessly stripped the British capitalists of their foreign investments and grabbed strategic, economic and political positions within the British dominions and colonies. In Europe the American bourgeoisie are manoeuvring for position even there to oust Britain from the lion’s share.
Despite the military victories, there has been a further growth of radicalisation and discontent among the masses. This radicalisation has embraced wide strata of the population never before affected. The middle class has turned its face towards the left. The growth of Common Wealth from the middle class is an indication of this movement. The young generation – always the barometer for measuring the mood of the masses – is moving steadily not only in the direction of labour politics, but even towards a ‘‘communist’’ solution. This is a reflection of the yearning for change and the dissatisfaction with the old system, which cannot assure the masses peace and cultural freedom, which dominates political thought today.
Epoch of reforms at an end
The Gallup poll of June 1943 has revealed concretely the development of mass consciousness which the Marxists had predicted. The fact that Labour has a majority of the voting population behind it even today is of enormous significance in indicating the shift of mass opinion. If that is so today when the first minor clashes between the classes have taken place, it is a portent of the events in the next epoch. An important section, a proportion higher than ever recorded in an election in Britain, have become thoroughly disillusioned with reformism and moved over to “communism”. The bulk of these come from the young and most active section of the working class. Another large section of the youth is apathetic and cynical of all politics because of disgust with the Labour leadership and the repellent face of ‘‘communism’’ in its caricature, Stalinism. These will be thrust into active political life at the first serious shock in Britain. The middle classes are already restlessly turning towards left politics as an answer to their systematic impoverishment at the hands of monopoly capitalism.
In the last epoch the strivings of the masses were diverted into the channels of reformism. The Labour bureaucrats, basing themselves on the crumbs they received from the table of imperialism through the exploitation of the colonial slaves, retained a stranglehold upon the working class. But the decay of British imperialism in the last quarter century has completely undermined the basis of reformism. It is no longer possible for the British ruling class to continue their exploitation of the greater part of the world. With this, the period of concessions to the British workers is at an end; and so too, is the basis of reformism undermined. Even in its bloom, reformism did not gain for the workers any major concessions. The last 25 years’ experience of reformism, its defeats and betrayals, has left an imprint on the consciousness of the British proletariat. Two Labour governments, the betrayal of the general strike, the present coalition – all have been a means of imbuing the proletariat with a scepticism towards the Labour bureaucracy.
There exists a political maturity among the British workers, hitherto unknown. The influx into the trade unions, the support for Labour, which indeed has a majority behind it today, does not signify a vote of confidence in the Labour, and trade union leaders. Never in history have the basic masses of Labour had less confidence in the leadership than at the present time. They support and will continue to support the Labour bureaucracy, for lack of an alternative. Only the passivity of the proletariat constitutes the strength of reformism today. When events sweep the masses into action and the reformists are put to the test, a rapid reorientation will take place. The material and psychological basis has been prepared by the history of the previous decades.
The consciousness of the bourgeoisie that they are losing their grip upon the masses, leads them to project such schemes as the Beveridge report, as the means of deluding the people into continued support for capitalism. But such schemes – meagre and illusory as they are – are completely unrealisable. Both at home and abroad, the post-war plans of British imperialism are utopian. Their plans to use the British workers and soldiers against the revolution in Europe, in India and Asia, as well as in Britain will be met with unexpected results for them.
In the years preceding the war, as a consequence of the lull in the class struggle, the labour bureaucracy became enmeshed in the state machine and separated from the mass of the working class. Under the impact of the war the masses are moving rapidly towards the left; the bureaucracy is moving rapidly towards the right. Today the Labour bureaucrats do not reflect the feelings and desires of the rank and file Labour worker, or even the unorganised worker. Under the stress of tomorrow’s storms they will once again swing left – at least in words – not to lead the struggles of the workers against their employers, of course, but so that they can more effectively betray these struggles. We must not be taken unawares by such movements of the Labour lefts, but must prepare for such events in advance, forewarning the workers, calling upon the “left” Labour demagogues to match their words in deeds and thus consciously prepare the workers for the inevitable betrayal which will be carried out by the labour lackeys of the bourgeoisie.
The British workers favour ending the coalition with the capitalist class. But against the will of the masses the labour bureaucracy clings to the coat tails of the bourgeoisie. Without their support, the capitalists could not maintain their control. While the masses are distrustful of their leaders, they have not yet broken decisively from reformism. This dictates as the main strategical agitational slogan of the fourth internationalists in Britain: “End the truce! Labour to power!” By this we facilitate and reassert the independence of labour from capital. The coming to power of a Labour government would be the means of giving an impetus to the revolutionisation of the masses. A majority Labour government would be in an entirely different position to the previous Labour governments, insofar as even before it has come to power, the masses are critical. Whether the Labour leaders are forced to break, or whether they resist, the slogan serves as a means of exposing them and educating the workers. In any event, the coalition cannot be maintained for long, for inevitably the pressure of the masses will break it in the coming period. In this situation the fourth internationalists stand prepared with the transitional programme, including the demand for Labour to power.
ILP – revolutionary words – reformist deeds
Precisely when the proletariat is moving towards revolution, the leadership of the ILP chooses this moment to take a step in the direction of reformism. They are describing a similar evolution on a new historical background to that of the ILP in 1920-1923, when on the revolutionary wave which followed the last war, they moved away from reformism to a position of applying for affiliation to the then revolutionary Communist International. But unable to accept the revolutionary conditions of the international, the ILP swung back to the bosom of the Labour Party as a reformist body. Now, even before the eve of revolutionary upheavals, the ILP is preparing once again to return to the bosom of reformism. But here too, while the leadership is moving right, the rank and file are moving left.
Once the coalition is broken, the ILP will no doubt move into the Labour Party. This is the most likely perspective in the coming days and is in line with the policy and traditions of the ILP and Labour leaders. The Labour leadership will need a left face to turn towards the masses, and this face will be provided by the ILP leaders.
From the viewpoint of revolutionary socialism the entry of the ILP into the Labour Party would constitute a progressive step. It will hasten the differentiation within the ILP on the one hand, and facilitate the emergence of a mass left within the Labour Party, on the other. The leadership will swing even more openly to the right, making themselves indistinguishable from the pseudo-lefts in the Labour Party. The worker members in the ILP will begin to understand what is meant by the Bolshevik characterisation of this party as a centrist party. But this process of clarification will depend largely upon the growth and development of a revolutionary wing within the ILP.
Within the Labour Party, the ILP would act as the gathering point for all the left elements. This would facilitate the education of these elements as well. The leftward moving workers would find in the ILP merely a transitional phase of their development. One thing centrism cannot face up to: that is mass action. For this is what exposes its inadequacies, its vacillations, its refusal to face up to events on the revolutionary programme of Marxism.
The future of Stalinism
Over the past two years Stalinism has revealed its reactionary character to the most advanced elements within the working class. An unparalleled opportunity opened out for them to capture a major section, if not the majority of the working class. Instead, they lost ground within the ranks of militant labour, particularly in their strongholds, the Clyde and South Wales. Nevertheless, they remain a serious factor in the situation, with a growing support among the working class, as the campaign for affiliation to the Labour Party demonstrated.
The more backward and fresh strata of the workers moving in the direction of communism, are entering the ranks of the Communist Party because of the victories of the Red Army against the Nazis and its association with the Soviet Union and the October revolution. Although the CP appeals to the vilest and most jingoistic sentiments of the backward sections of the working class, some of the best elements within the party (with misgivings perhaps) still support Stalinism in the fervid hope that the policy will change. Moreover, it is only those sections of the workers who have directly experienced the cynical strike-breaking role of the Stalinists, who have received a powerful inoculation against them. As skilled deceivers of the masses, far more subtle and clever than the trade union bureaucrats, they have learned to clothe their policy of betrayal in high-sounding and even revolutionary-sounding phrases.
A big section of the petit bourgeoisie has been attracted towards Stalinism. With the prevailing mood of radicalisation coupled with the weakness of the revolutionary forces, Stalinism is still likely to gain a mass basis in the first stages of the coming revolutionary wave. Such a support could only be of a temporary character. It would last until such time as the masses realised their error in identifying Stalinism with Bolshevism.
Under the impact of events, new splits and fissures are opening out within the ranks of the CP. The membership is not homogeneous and anchored by tradition to Stalinism. By changing the party from a tightly knit organisation to a loose broad current, the bureaucracy has thereby lost its control over the future development of the membership, despite the totalitarian regime and the despotic control over the apparatus. Their new members are almost as much raw material for politics as were the youthful members of the Labour Party in the past.
But the right wing policy of the “Communist” Party, today, may be followed by a policy of ultra left adventures tomorrow. For the policy of the British Stalinist party is not determined by the needs of international socialism, or by the needs of the British working class, but by the needs of the reactionary Moscow bureaucracy. A clash between the bureaucracy and British imperialism on the field of diplomacy would probably be accompanied by ultra left gestures by the puppets at King Street. But even in this event the CPGB is incapable of carrying out the tasks of a revolutionary socialist, or communist party, and can only lead the workers into ill-prepared adventures and capitulations.
To combat the lies of the Stalinist leadership and to patiently explain the theoretical, historical and political basis of Stalinism and of Trotskyism is a primary task in educating the best members of the CP and in winning them over to Bolshevism.
The road for industrial workers
The reawakening and stirring within the ranks of the workers which is taking place, finds its best reflection among the workers in industry and the armed forces. More than 8 million workers are organised in the trade unions at the present time. This surpasses the peak figure of the revolutionary wave of 1920. Women are joining the unions in greater numbers than at any time in history. The wave of strikes last year, which spread from the mines to shipbuilding and transport and affected other industries, is an indication of the process.
The factories and the unions provide the centres of struggle for the working class. It is here that the struggle assumes a direct form. The betrayal and sabotage by the union leadership of the attempts of the workers to secure wage increases to cope with the rising cost of living; the burdens of income tax, the sacrifices of the workers while the capitalists reap greater profits; the palpable fraud of “equality of sacrifice”; the shameful pensions allowances; the inequalities and iniquities of the distribution of food; the chaos and incompetence of the capitalists in industry which demands added strain and effort on the part of the workers: all these factors have aggravated the discontent of the workers and prepared the background for the coming crisis.
The frustration by the trade union bureaucrats of the efforts of the workers to stem the attacks on their standards [and] their refusal to protect the workshop representatives from victimisation has forced the workers to find some immediate alternative form of organisation to meet the assaults of the employers and the fetters of the bureaucracy. Through the shop stewards’ organisations they attempt to defend themselves in the factories. But their own experiences and the development of the struggle itself impels the workers to the realisation that the forces of one factory are not strong enough to face the combined attacks of the employers, the trade union bureaucrats, the Stalinists. Instinctively, the advanced workers begin to look for a broader form of organisation which would unite the workers in different parts of the country for common defence.
The National Council of Shop Stewards led by the Stalinists partially fulfilled this need in the past. With the transformation of this body into an auxiliary strike-breaking instrument of the CP, it has virtually collapsed. But the new current of militancy which is emerging among the workers, seeks for some organised outlet. The expression of this mood has been provided by the establishment of the Militant Workers’ Federation, initiated naturally enough, by militants in the traditional storm centre of the Clyde.
For the third time in history the workers seek to build an industrial leadership which will defend their interests. But the crisis in Britain will almost immediately pose before such an organisation major political tasks, which if met, will transform it into an instrument of the socialist revolution. A correct policy on the part of our party towards this organisation will win the best militants who will help form the mass basis for the Trotskyist party of socialist revolution.
The decline of Conservatism
Marx had predicted the disappearance of the Conservative Party and a struggle for power between the Liberals and the revolution. The development in the coming period indicates the beginning of the process visualised by Marx, but in a different form. Liberalism has been eliminated as a political factor in Britain. The position that will rapidly develop will be one of a struggle between the extreme reaction and the revolution. The Conservative Party which has maintained itself intact for more than a century, has definitely passed its apogee. With the undermining of the basis of reformism in the loss of Britain’s world hegemony, simultaneously the basis of Conservatism is destroyed.
In itself, the Conservative Party is the product of the same conditions which produced labour reformism: the industrial, military and political supremacy of the globe by British capitalism. The transformation of Britain’s position from that of world mastery to a second rate power, implies not only the undermining of the basis of Labour reformism, but the destruction of the props on which the Tory party itself is based. From being the strong, unified and stable representative of British capital, fissures are already apparent in the Tory Party with the appearance of several well defined factions. Further developments can only promote the disintegration and decay of this former bulwark of British capitalism. Already the first signs appear. The die-hard wing of the Tories will pass rapidly over to the side of extreme reaction, and even the British form of fascism. Meanwhile, the hold that the Tories had over large sections of the workers for generations has been loosened and will be entirely broken.
Britain is faced with a new period of Chartism, on an entirely different historical level. The wave of revolution will change and transform the relations between the classes.
Owing to the favourable synchronisation of all the historical factors, exceptional possibilities exist for the victory of the British revolution. Without exaggeration it can be stated that Britain is the key not only to the European but to the world situation.
The future is ours
The crisis of the revolution is the crisis of leadership. Long in advance the old outlived organisations have demonstrated their bankruptcy in a series of catastrophic defeats of the proletariat throughout the world. The wave of reaction engendered by the pernicious policies of Stalinism and Social Democracy, led to the isolation of the young and weak forces striving to uphold the banner of Bolshevism; the Fourth International were forced to swim against the stream.
It was not possible to convince even the vanguard of the working class of the correctness of the viewpoint of Trotskyism, except through the experience of the most terrible defeats. But these defeats in their turn produced a wave of reaction within the ranks of the working class. Not only within the ranks of the bankrupt Second and Third Internationals, but even in the ranks of the isolated and weak forces of the Fourth International were the effects of this reaction inevitably reflected.
The putrid decay of the Second and Third Internationals is expressed in that fact that they learned nothing from the terrible defeats caused by their politics, and in the hour of mortal danger for the workers, perfidiously rallied to the side of world imperialism. But with the new revolutionary wave which will sweep the globe, all tendencies and all trends within the working class will undergo a new and decisive test. The bankruptcy of the old organisations will be clearly revealed in the flames of the revolution. The Fourth International will become the decisive revolutionary force on the planet.
In the revolutions in the past decades the one factor missing to ensure revolutionary success was a trained Bolshevik party and Bolshevik leadership. On the basis of the new upsurge the possibility exists for the creation and training of a Bolshevik Party – above all in Britain, in the coming epoch.
Properly speaking, the work of the Fourth International from 1928 to 1938 consisted in theoretical clarification and the selection of the cadres. It consisted mainly in theoretical preparation. The war and its repercussions presage the beginning of a new epoch for the Fourth International. The history of our tendency has begun. And in Britain its cadres have an exceptional opportunity. The handicaps which our continental co-thinkers suffered do not exist. With a correct policy and a correct orientation Workers’ International League will play a great role in coming events. In advance tens of thousands of the flower of the working class have their eyes open to the treacherous role of Stalinism and reformism. By our work and our devotion they will find the road to the revolutionary party. Our small vanguard can and must become the nucleus of the steeled and hardened Bolshevik party. Revolutionary theory, policy and action, fused with revolutionary audacity and revolutionary optimism – armed with these we will build the party and lead the workers to the conquest of power.
 This refers to the programme under which the USA supplied Britain, the USSR and other Allied nations with materials between 1941 and 1945. Formally titled An Act to Further Promote the Defense of the United States, the Act was signed in March 1941 and effectively ended the United States’ pretence of neutrality. The bulk of the grand total of these supplies (around 60 percent) went to Britain.
 This paragraph was added in the final version of the document.
WIL conference resolution on international affiliation
1. Workers’ International League declares its first and only allegiance to the Fourth International, it unconditionally adheres to the programme and basic principles of the Fourth International; accepts the authority of the International and bases itself upon and educates its cadres in the spirit of democratic centralism.
2. WIL accepts the general principle that all the adherents of the programme and principles of the Fourth International should be united in one organisation and that there should be one section of the Fourth International in each country with full official status.
3. WIL agrees with the International Secretariat that the Trotskyists in Britain should be united into one organisation but believes: that such a unification must be based not only upon agreement in words with the fundamental programme and principles of the Fourth International, but also upon the main perspectives and political and tactical tasks of the Trotskyists in Britain; that the policy of the united organisation must be based upon a majority agreement, granting the minority the normal rights within a Bolshevik organisation.
4. The WIL believes that a pre-revolutionary situation is maturing in Britain: that the political clarification of Trotskyist policy and an agreement in practice is the precondition for unification; furthermore, the WIL believes that fresh forces are needed to eradicate the stale and sterile faction struggles and sectarian strife which belong properly speaking to the pre-history of Trotskyism, and that toleration of sectarian policies in the present period are crimes against the Fourth International and the international working class.
5. The WIL believes that it would be criminal to repeat the disastrous blunders of our French comrades, who, in the revolutionary period in France 1934-1938 turned nearly the whole of their attention inwards instead of outwards to the masses propagating the policies of the Fourth International, organising and training fresh cadres; the result was that at the end of the revolutionary period Trotskyism was almost as weak as at the beginning.
6. Basing ourselves upon the above stated ideas, and as the result of our direct experience in Britain, the WIL frankly states that it has no enthusiasm for turning the whole attention of the organisation inwards to solve the split and is not convinced that it is necessary to do so, nevertheless in response to requests from the IS to solve the anomaly in Britain, WIL has opened up discussions with the RSL for the purpose of unification and has explored every avenue to end the split and fuse the genuine Trotskyists together; WIL declares that despite the refusals and evasions of the RSL it will continue to seek a unification on the basis of a majority decision on the political, tactical and organisational tasks in Britain; an agreement to be arrived at at a joint conference guaranteeing minority rights.
7. The WIL declares that for the purpose of the unification discussions, it is prepared to recognise the RSL with its expelled factions as a single organisation; it is prepared also to recognise the existing factions as separate organisations, to fuse separately or collectively; that real steps can be taken to unify our movement of the so-called “Trotskyist Opposition” with the WIL, since the former body declared for the Trotskyist policy of the WIL twelve months ago, before it was expelled from the RSL.
8. In view of the protracted discussions that have already taken place within each group on the political and tactical questions which separate us, the WIL believes that together with, and in agreement with the IS, a six months discussion period be opened up, at the end of which period unification be effected, on the basis of one policy and one tactic, at a fusion conference by a majority vote.
9. Meanwhile, to end the ambiguity and aid the unification discussions, and in line with the universally accepted and established facts: that WIL is in political agreement on the most important questions with the IS, whereas the RSL is in opposition; that WIL is the recognised Trotskyist organisation by the bourgeoisie, labour fakers and Stalinists, the ILP, the advanced workers in Britain, and is a recognised Trotskyist organisation by the American party and by other sections of the international; in view of this, the international is faced with the historic obligation to clearly and precisely establish the status of WIL. The WIL asks that either it be recognised as an official section of the Fourth International on an equal status as the RSL and its expelled factions (which in our opinion would be the best solution) or as a sympathetic section of the Fourth International with full rights of discussion, etc., but without a vote; a decision on either of these lines would not conflict with the statutes of the Fourth International, with the statement in paragraph 2 of this resolution, or with the principles of democratic centralism; the precedent for both contingencies has already been established in the Communist International under Lenin.
10. We appeal to the International Secretariat that a speedy and favourable solution to the status of WIL be arrived at, and that the proposals of WIL as stated in paragraph 3 be the accepted basis for unification of the Trotskyist forces in Britain.
Fusion conference of WIL and RSL
Held on the 11th and 12th of March, 1944
This conference was held in order to bring about fusion between the main Trotskyist groupings in Britain today. These Trotskyist groups were as follows:
- The Left Fraction of the Revolutionary Socialist League (led by Robinson of Glasgow)
- The Trotskyist Opposition of the Revolutionary Socialist League (led by Lawrence)
- The Militant Group (led by D.D.H. Harber)
- The Revolutionary Socialist League (the bulk of the membership led by Cooper)
- The Workers’ International League.
The Fourth International was founded in September 1938 and sections were set up in each country. The RSL was officially recognised as the British section or the FI. The WIL, on the other hand, was never a section of the FI although it carried out its programme and supported its policy, because it disagreed with the question of the tactics put forward by the FI in relation to the British situation. The RSL, because of its various fractions, was never [as] effective as the WIL and throughout the years since 1938, the International Secretariat of the FI have been attempting to bring the WIL into the FI. Various “unity” discussions have been held from time to time but have never succeeded.
In September of 1943, the International Secretariat of the FI passed a resolution at its conference, urging the fusion of the Trotskyist organisations in Britain as soon as possible in view of the importance of Britain in the military and political situation. Accordingly letters were exchanged and a representative or the FI – Terence Phelan – arrived in this country in the autumn of 1943 with the specific task of urging the fusion of the groupings and giving all the guidance and assistance possible.
In January, 1944, the RSL groupings held a conference at which the various groupings agreed on fusion. Negotiations began between representatives or the RSL and representatives of the WIL at whose meetings Phelan was always present.
Each section and grouping prepared its own resolutions for the conference and each section was allowed to speak on its own resolution. It will be seen, however, that the WIL resolutions were carried, thus indicating that the balance of forces between the RSL groupings and the WIL is very much in favour of the WIL.
Given here is the agenda of the conference: details of the resolutions passed and some brief notes on some of the discussion on military policy.
The fused organisation is now to be known as the Revolutionary Communist Party and is now [the] officially recognised British section of the Fourth International.
- Standing orders report
- Fusion resolution
- Military policy
- Entrist tactic
- Workers’ control.
- Industrial policy.
- WIL political and industrial pamphlet - adoption of
- Resolution on name.
The Left section of the RSL moved a resolution on standing orders relating to the question of the vote for members overseas:
“That this conference recognises that members of the Fourth International overseas have been arbitrarily deprived of their rights of membership. Whilst recognising that this is a gross abuse of power by the Joint Negotiating Committee it urges those members not to exercise those rights to have the proceedings invalidated since such would mean that the efforts and expense of this conference would be wasted. This conference calls upon the IS (International Secretariat) to fulfil its promise to ‘protect’ loyal minorities by suspending from membership of the Fourth International those guilty of arbitrary and bureaucratic actions.”
This resolution was moved by Robinson of Glasgow who stated that there were three reasons why he urged the adoption of the resolution.
- That [a] number of members in the Forces had written to him protesting against the fact that they had no vote.
- That it was necessary to decide on the question of sabotage in the occupied countries and those fighting the USSR.
- That it was necessary to discuss the Italian situation.
Croft (Glasgow RSL) read [a] letter from [a] soldier in Italy who had put the Italian section of Trotskyists in touch with the FI.
Ward (WIL in RAF) spoke against the resolution stating that it was necessary to understand the character of the work in the armed forces – that the work had to be done in such a way which would not allow the officers to attack them. Being caught participating in the voting in the WIL would mean court-martial.
Another person in the forces, speaking against, said that it was necessary to rely on [the] leadership in period of illegality.
Barclay (Militant Group) spoke against by saying that the resolution was a manoeuvre of Robinson’s to gain votes for himself and that the letters from soldiers was a put-up job.
Lawrence (Trotskyist Opposition) supported the resolution on Italy as the International had not stated its policy on this question.
Grant (WIL) spoke against by saying that although it would be a good thing for the forces’ [comrades] to have the vote, nevertheless this was impossible and to have votes by post would be a travesty of democratic centralism. It was necessary to have trust in the leadership.
Betty Russell (WIL) supported the resolution saying that the activity of the comrades in Italy justified their having the vote.
Robinson at this stage reported that it was obvious that the comrades in the forces were not being given any chance and that Grant had already decided that they should be deprived of their voting rights.
Haston (WIL) replied that the Left fraction was only putting up this amendment in order to upset the conference – that the Left have hostility to all other fractions and had even advised members not to attend the conference – a kind of Left “vendetta”.
The question of the Italian situation and the question of sabotage in those countries fighting the USSR were not extensively discussed and the actual copies of the resolutions are not available in detail. All these resolutions moved by Robinson were defeated and Haston (WIL) stated that he was not in favour of supporting sabotage in those countries fighting the USSR.
Fusion resolution (moved by WIL)
For the past ten years, whilst in fundamental agreement on the principles and programme of the Fourth International, the British Trotskyists have been split on the question of tactics. These splits took place during a period of great defeats for the international working class and consequent reaction within the workers’ organisations and were mainly a product of the isolation of the British Trotskyist movement.
But this period is now at an end. The war has led to the beginning of a new stage of the class struggle and in the development of the international labour force and movement. Once again the workers are gathering their forces for great class battles. Trotskyism, as a tendency, is beginning to merge with the rising tide of militancy and socialist aspirations of the working class.
In Britain this new upsurge has resulted in favourable conditions for the growth and development or the Trotskyist movement. To utilise these favourable conditions to the full, the forces of the Fourth International must be unified into one organisation, under a single and united leadership, and with a firm and resolute policy based upon the principles, programme and statutes of the Fourth International and reinforced by majority decisions on the political and tactical question which separate the comrades.
Together with the International Secretariat of the Fourth International the members of the two existing Trotskyist organisations have decided to end the splits in the British movement and to unite all fourth internationalists under one banner. At this conference the assembled delegates of the hitherto separate organisations – the Revolutionary Socialist League and the Workers’ International League – declare the fusion of these two organisations into one single party.
The past clashes on the political questions engendered deep cleavages between the leading personnel and embittered relations between the members of the organisations. An important task for the leadership of the new organisation is to introduce a real comradeship into the political discussions and life of the party, and to weep away all vestiges of the bitter disputes of the past in the interest of the fusion, this conference therefore dissolves all past organisational conflicts and disputes and closes the discussion on these questions in the British section.
The unification of the British Trotskyists is a great step forward for our national and international movement and will be heartily welcomed and endorsed by members of the Fourth International the world over.
The members of the British Section of the Fourth International appeal to all isolated comrades who stand on the platform of the Fourth International to join its ranks and take their place in deciding the outcome of the great historic battles which open out before the working class.
The unification of the fourth internationalists takes place in the period of the dissolution of the Third International, and when the open degeneration of its national sections into agencies of the ruling class is shattering the unity of the Stalinist ranks. In ever increasing numbers these militants are finding their way into the ranks or the Fourth International.
In uniting our forces at this Fusion Conference, the assembled delegates appeal to all who genuinely seek to achieve the international socialist emancipation of the working class, to join us and fight under the banner of the Fourth International.
Socialist workers! Communist workers! The Fourth International is the world party of Socialist revolution. It is the only international socialist or communist party of the working class. On its banner is inscribed the slogan of the First International: “Workers of the World Unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains. You have the world to gain.”
This resolution was moved by Haston (WIL). He stated that the position or the Trotskyist movement had been affected by the splits which had helped to isolate the movement from the working class. The question of organisational differences was not of fundamental importance to the tasks of the party. A more comradely atmosphere was needed. Disputes as far as the movement was concerned must go and should disputes take place the hard won fusion would be disrupted. An amendment moved that the discussion of 1938 should be reopened for its educational value but this amendment really intended to make the WIL admit they were sinners in 1938 and ask forgiveness of the Fourth International. This is a false attitude to the conference for the WIL had continued to raise this question with the IS over a period of years and indicated the attitude they would take at a fusion conference. The IS had not replied. The IS had, however, now stated that all discussion on 1938 should be closed. The continued discussion on this matter in the past was responsible for the disgraceful position in the past. Representation to the highest authority could always be made if the persons were not satisfied.
Hilda Pratt (WIL) disagreed with certain parts of the resolution stating that she did not consider that it was a question of being ashamed of the splits and the struggles but all this was part of the growth or the movement in the building of a revolutionary party. Mistakes are an important process as the history of the Bolshevik party shows. For the sake of unity the question should be closed now but should be raised in the future in the course of work in order that all might get clarification.
Someone from the Left fraction, here protested that a national party such as the RSL could not fuse with an international party such as the WIL and he was therefore against fusion.
Harber (Militant group) stated that in his opinion it was fatal to reopen old wounds and sores – that the same people who played a disruptive role in 1938 were playing the same role today. Comrade Pratt was the leader in 1938 and had been expelled – she attempts to provide a platform for personal ends in the organisation.
Atkinson (WIL) stated that comrade Pratt’s point of view was that as the WIL had a majority, the RSL could be slung out afterwards.
Healy (WIL) supporting the amendment stated that the matter should be closed for six months but that the differences in points of view should not be excluded from the movement. He asked what Haston and Harber were afraid of it the matter should be raised again in six months.
Haston (WIL) replied to the discussion by stating that 1938 was important for the historians. A united party must abide by the decisions of the majority. To accept the position that the WIL were wrong before fusion took place would have meant that fusion would never have been agreed to by the WIL. It was up to the international to raise the question for educational reasons. The united front and the Healy and Trotskyist Opposition resolutions separates those who want to build the party or disrupt the movement. The amendment was lost by 11 to 54 votes.
Greetings from the Fourth International
These were given by Terence Phelan, the American representative of the International Secretariat, on behalf of the Socialist Workers’ Party. He said that the essential factor in fusion was the working out of tactics within the organisation. He hoped that there would be a genuine dispersal of the factions and no smearing over of political differences.
Resolution on the military policy (submitted by WIL)
The Second World War into which capitalism had plunged mankind in the course of a generation, and which has been raging for more than four years is the inevitable outcome of the crisis of capitalist methods of production long predicted by the revolutionary Marxists and is a sign of the impasse out of which capitalism cannot lead the mass of humanity.
The war of the British ruling class is not an ideological war fought in the interests of democracy against fascism. This has been demonstrated clearly by their support of Hitler against the German working class, their acquiescence to the seizure of Austria and Czechoslovakia; by their cynical policy of non-intervention in Spain which enabled Franco to massacre hundreds of thousands of Spanish anti-fascist proletarians; by their support of Darlan in North Africa and Badoglio and Victor Emmanuel in Italy. The British ruling class is waging the war to maintain its colonial plunder, its sources of raw materials and cheap labour, its spheres of influence and markets, and to extend wherever possible its domination over wider territories. It is the duty of revolutionary socialists to patiently explain the imperialistic policy of the ruling class and expose its false and lying slogans of the “War against Fascism” and the “War for Democracy.”
The victory of German fascism and Japanese militarism would be a disaster for the working class of the world and for the colonial peoples. But no less disastrous would be a victory for Anglo-American imperialism. Such a victory would perpetuate and intensify the imperialist contradictions which gave rise to fascism and the present world war and will inevitably lead to new fascist and reactionary regimes and a third world war.
The British working class, therefore, cannot support the war conducted by the ruling class without at the same time opposing its own class interests on a national and international scale. Our party is opposed to the war and calls upon the working class to oppose it. Only by overthrowing the capitalist state and taking power into its own hands under the leadership of the Fourth International, can the British working class wage a truly revolutionary war and aid the German working class and the European working class to destroy fascism and capitalist reaction.
By their support of the war the trade unions, the Labour Party and Communist Party, with their satellite organisations, have betrayed the historic interests of the working class and the interests of the colonial masses oppressed by British imperialism. It is the duty of revolutionary socialists to mercilessly expose the leadership of the organisations as agents of the ruling class in the ranks of the workers and to win over the broad mass of the workers from the leadership of these organisations to the party of the Fourth International.
The outbreak of war created a new objective situation in which the revolutionaries had to conduct their political activity. Millions of workers – men and women – the most youthful and virile section of the population are conscripted into the armed forces. The war not only changed the way in which millions of workers are forced to live but also their level of political consciousness. War and militarism has penetrated every phase of and become the basis of their lives.
It would be a mistake on the part of revolutionary socialists to lump the defencist feeling of the broad mass of the workers together with the chauvinism of the Labour and Stalinist leadership. This defencism of the masses stems largely from entirely progressive motives of preserving their own class organisations and democratic rights from destruction at the hands of fascism and from a foreign invader. The mass chauvinistic enthusiasm of the last war is entirely absent in the present period. Only a deep-seated suspicion of the aims and slogans of the ruling class is evident. To separate the workers from the capitalists and their lackeys is the principal task of the revolutionary party.
The policy of our party must be based upon the objective conditions in which we live including the level of consciousness of the masses, and must help the masses in the process of their daily struggles along the road to the seizure of power.
In the present period all great social changes will be made by military means. Our party takes the capitalist militarisation of the millions not merely as the basis for the restatement of our fundamental principles and aims but for the purpose or propagating positive political ideas and policies in the ranks of the working class as an alternative to the class programme of the bourgeoisie. This necessitates the supplementing of our transitional programme with a policy adapted to the needs of the working class in a period of militarisation and war. Our attitude towards war is based not merely on the rejection of the defence of the capitalist fatherland but on the conquest of power by the working class and the defence of the proletarian fatherland. From this conception flows the proletarian military policy of the Fourth International.
In the last war socialist pacifism and conscientious objection were progressive and even revolutionary in opposition to the policy of national unity and support for capitalist militarism which was advocated by the chauvinists. But thirty years of class struggle have clearly and decisively demonstrated that such policies act as a brake on the socialist revolution and serve only to separate the conscious revolutionaries from the mass of the working class caught up in the military machine. To this negative policy must be counterposed a positive policy which separates the workers from their exploiters in the military organisations.
The working class and the revolutionary socialists are compelled to participate in the military organisations controlled by the capitalist state. But to the capitalist militarism for capitalist ends, the revolutionary socialists must counterpose the necessity of proletarian militarism for proletarian ends. Our military policy defends the rights and interests of the working class against its class enemy; at every point we place our class programme against the class programme of the bourgeoisie.
The Labour Party, the Communist Party, the ILP and the sectarians have also policies for the workers in arms. But these policies are reformist based upon the perspective of the continued control of the state in the hands of the bourgeoisie. These policies contain only a series of minor democratic and financial reforms which do not lead to the overthrow of the bourgeoisie and the conquest of power by the working class.
Our party is for the arming of the working class under the control of workers’ organisations, the trade unions, workers’ committees and political parties. We are against the special schools controlled by the capitalists for the training of their sons and agents for the highest posts of command and technicians of the military arts.
We are for state-financed schools, controlled by the trade unions and workers’ organisations for the purpose of training worker officers, who will know how to defend the interests of the working class.
We are against the selection of officers in the armed forces, including the Home Guard, by the bourgeois and its state machine. This selection takes place on the basis of class loyalty to the capitalists and hatred of the working class. We are for the election of officers in the armed forces by the men in the ranks.
These are positive steps which our party advocates in its proletarian military policy and which supplements our general transitional programme in the struggle for power. Such a policy, not only caters for the needs of the workers in uniform in their day to day struggle against the reactionary officer caste, but by its thoroughly anti-pacifist character prepares the working class for the inevitable military attacks at home, and for the defence of the proletarian fatherland against reactionary war of intervention.
Grant (WIL) moved this resolution: he stated that the problem of military policy was one on which no party could fail to have a correct policy. [A] revolutionary party must have a policy which faces up to the working class and the worker-soldier in arms. [The] overwhelming mass of [the] working class threatened by being crushed by German imperialism or British or American imperialism. It was necessary to finish with the old view of mere opposition to the war. Show that the aims and interests of the workers cannot be saved by having officers of a different class. Necessary to appeal for the election of officers by the soldiers. It was impossible to trust officers of bourgeoisie who have sympathy with the fascists. In Egypt English officers fraternised with captured Italian officers. English officers were shot by British soldiers at Dunkirk. German imperialism was not wanted here any more than British or American imperialism but the working class was the only force which can really fight fascism. Arm the workers! In the Home Guard, bosses and managers command. Officers should be elected. Arms stolen and hidden away even in the Home Guard of Britain where leakage of arms for revolutionary period. The chauvinism of the Bolshevik party was there before the return of Lenin. Under no conditions can the workers support imperialism in an imperialist war. The treachery of 2nd and 3rd internationals was responsible for this bloody war but saying this would not convince the workers.
Trotsky’s transitional programme says that every working class problem is of power. Only the workers can wage a revolutionary war. The masses of the workers were dragged into this war and faced with the choice of Hitler or Churchill. They chose Churchill. Our party must give the working class a fighting alternative. The Welsh working class were bitter against the Stalinist and traitors like Horner. Take control of things! And there will be an immediate response from the workers. This question means life or death to the movement. Conquest by military means won’t defeat fascism. The only reason the German workers support Hitler is the same reason why the British working class support Churchill. We stand in the position of the Fourth International.
The resolution was seconded by another member of the WIL. He said that it was necessary to go into the war desiring to defeat the bourgeoisie. Workers would take military machine created by the imperialists for the overthrow of the imperialist regime. Only anti-fascist war possible after the workers have seized power. Revolutionary defeatism was position of Lenin in 1916 on eve or revolution. The policy does not differ in essentials today.
Davis (Militant group): There was a deep difference in the movement regarding the war, stated this member speaking against resolution. The slogan of “the enemy is at home” did not sink home against the tide of working class illusion. As war progressed and invasion appeared imminent, what should have been attitude of revolutionary party. Not the arming of workers to fight Germans. To defeat the boss class should have intensified class struggle and explained to the workers the imperialist character of war. Neither the WIL, the RSL or America had any clear Military Policy. The WIL had not changed its policy since 1940. A revolutionary situation will come before end of war. The critical attitude to the government did not affect the mood of the masses at the time of imminent invasion. Every strike is a political strike even though supporting the war. At this point the revolutionary mood begins. Put to the workers day to day problems as insoluble while supporting the war. In this way workers can be won from the war. Fascism is not imported – in no place where Germans have occupied is fascism introduced. Fascism is here. Churchill, Attlee, etc. Defeat of British imperialism facilitates overthrow of imperialism. We are against war – against the defencist. Not to resist invasion until Germans have achieved power.
This statement was seconded by Harber (Militant group) who stated that the position was same as the policy adopted by Lenin in the last war – only new feature is the fear of fascism compared with the fear of Tsarist Russia.
Mercer (Left fraction): Any revolutionary struggle or strike facilitates the defeat of imperialists. It was necessary to decide either to fight your own bourgeoisie or a foreign power. To ask working class to fight a revolutionary struggle in order to forget the war is ludicrous. Popular or unpopular you must work to facilitate the defeat of your own imperialism. WIL and Co. will not face this question. The question is chauvinism or a revolutionary attitude to the war. Fraternisation with the working class of the enemy is directed against the British bourgeoisie because they are sick or the war, pressure of the American working class in the Socialist Workers’ Party must have been hellish. Leadership should have been able to stand against that pressure. More excuse for Kautsky than Cannon.
This statement was seconded by someone who said the sole enemy of the British working class was British imperialism. We protested against the idea of fraternisation as a weapon against German imperialism, instead of against British imperialism. Any working class action facilitates the military defeat of one’s own country. The Socialist Workers’ Party seems to hold a contrary opinion. One cannot get revolution whilst one is imbued with patriotism.
Goodman (Militant group) said that there was no difference between Grant’s slogan from the position of Harry Pollitt. Our job is to explain to the workers that this is not an anti-fascist war.
Some member of the WIL here attacked those members of the Left fraction by stating that the Left relegated the revolution to some distant future when the world revolution and conquest of power now opening up. There was a need for a positive policy. The Left were the real defencists in favour of the German bourgeoisie.
Another member of the WIL pointed out that there was a dread of fascism among the working class. Bourgeois democracy was the same as fascism and the same as international capitalism.
Lawrence (RSL) stated that a revolutionary situation facilitates defeat and defeat produces a revolutionary situation.
Someone in the armed forces, a member of the WIL, stated that there was a need to build class conscious groups and cadres in the army as nucleus of future Red Army to defend and achieve revolution.
Healy (WIL) said that the workers must take power by smashing the capitalist machine.
The discussion was ended by the last contribution being made by Bose an Indian member or the Militant Workers’ Federation who said that it was immediately necessary to prepare a programme for power. The resolution submitted by the WIL on military policy was carried.
One should note here that the military policy of the Left Fraction and the Militant group is for the complete defeat of the British imperialist powers. Cannon, in America and the WIL, want to go partly with the workers in the fight against fascism.
Resolution on the entrist tactic (Submitted by WIL)
The conference holds that: Whereas the acceptance of the principles and programme of the Fourth International are sufficient to establish the revolutionary basis of our tendency this is not sufficient to win the leadership of the working class and that for this purpose it is necessary to correctly apply the international programme to the national conditions and operate the correct tactics that flow therefrom.
Whereas the Trotskyist forces are numerically weak, with little contact and support among the masses, it follows that the penetration of the mass by our organisation and the winning of the masses to the banner of the Fourth International requires a clear grasp of the perspectives of the period and the operation of skilful political and organisation tactics flowing from these perspectives.
Whereas a serious revolutionary party must learn from the experience of the workers of the world, it must also be able to utilise these experiences as in relation to the actual conditions in which revolutionary work has to be conducted.
Whereas the entry of the revolutionary cadres into the mass organisations of the working class is one of tactics and not of principle, it follows that to raise the tactic of entry as a question of principle is extreme sectarianism whether it comes from the entrists or anti-entrists and must therefore be combatted as harmful to the revolutionary party.
Whereas the Labour Party is the mass political party of the British working class it follows that a correct attitude to the Labour Party – as to the trade unions – provides the key to the tactics of any organisation claiming to be a revolutionary in Great Britain.
Whereas it is considered in our perspective that although the workers and lower middle class elements are not turning in masses towards the Labour Party in the present period, but on the contrary are turning away from it in large numbers and joining other working class organisations and even the middle class Commonwealth, nevertheless, in general, the masses will again turn to the Labour Party in the coming days of class struggle and the Labour Party will again become a mass active organisation of the working class.
Conference holds, however, that this perspective must be concretised so that the best results from the orientation and deployment or our forces can be gained for the Fourth International.
Whereas the Communist Party is rapidly gaining the numbers and growing into a mass political party of the working class whilst hundreds of its best political revolutionary members are leaving it and seeking a new revolutionary party, it follows that an organisational split in the mass movement is inevitable unless the Communist Party is liquidated into the Labour Party and that, in any event, its best militants who have in general passed through the school of Labourism, will not easily be influenced by the “socialist left” in the Labour Party but can and must be won directly to the open banner of the Fourth International.
Whereas the past perspective of our tendency was for the complete collapse of the centrist party – the ILP, in fact, the ILP has grown in numerical strength and influence among the workers and is attracting fresh support from growing sections of the left labour and socialist conscious workers and therefore offers an important field for faction work on the part of the Fourth International.
Whereas the ILP wiIl most likely apply for affiliation to the Labour Party and be accepted when the Labour Party breaks the coalition and achieves its independence, it follows that the ILP will become the main left wing organisational base for the leftward moving labour workers and that the “socialist left” and similar paper organisations set up by the Trotskyist entrists will play no part in the Labour Party during the period of mass swing, but on the contrary will be a hindrance to our penetration of the Labour Party and must therefore be abandoned in favour of our factional entry into an affiliated ILP.
Whereas the perspective of a mass left swing to the LP may at a later stage necessitate a total entry of our forces into the LP, such a perspective is most unlikely, but if this situation arises our forces will probably enter the LP through the affiliated ILP.
Whereas the perspectives must be continuously before our organisation and our tactics must be constantly reviewed in the light of experience and in line with the development of the real movement of the workers at the present stage of the class struggle in Britain the LP is almost dead and is losing the confidence of the workers, as witness the support of the Scottish Nationalist candidate against the LP candidate in Kirkcaldy, and therefore is not a major field for our political faction work at the present time.
Whereas the main field of revolutionary activity at the present period lies on the industrial front, the factories, shop stewards movements and trade unions and will continue so in the immediate future, it follows therefore that our party must turn to the industrial movement of the working class which we can influence by our ideas and by our participation and that the main axis of our activities demands the raising of an independent banner of the Fourth International and the recruitment of the revolutionary industrial militants, many of whom have already passed through the Labour and Communist parties and the ILP directly into the British section of the Fourth international.
Whereas wide sections of the workers are critical of labour reformism and are turning to communism in its perverted Stalinist form, thousands of women and youth are skipping the labour stage and are seeking a militant revolutionary communist lead, it follows that the strata which is the most exploited section of the working class form virgin soil for revolutionary propaganda and thousands can be won directly into the party on the basis of our militant directives and our unstained banner.
Whereas the existing political organisation of the working class are all fields of guerilla faction work on the part or the British section of the Fourth International, the LP is the least favourable field for the present and immediate period ahead and that the ILP is the most fruitful. Our forces must be directed therefore on the basis of this appraisal.
Whereas conference therefore resolves: that the main task and the main tactic of our party in the immediate period is to build the independent revolutionary party of the British working class; to directly raise our banner before the British workers; to direct the maximum energy for the achievement of this task and to subordinate all factional work in the existing political organisations of the working class to that end.
Resolution on industrial policy (Submitted by WIL)
The favourable turn for British imperialism in the field of military struggle is accompanied by the beginning of a crisis in the field of arms production. The influx of American ammunition has resulted in contraction in certain aspects of the British arms industry. In some of the large munition plants a slackening up of production is already taking place. The transfer of workers from one branch of production to another is accompanied with widespread redundancy. The ability of the capitalists to make profits out of the war is hampered and they are no longer able easily to grant concessions, being forced to clamp down more definitely on the wages and conditions of the workers.
The first serious attempt to tighten up on wages was indicated in the National Arbitration Award No. 326 for engineering workers. Behind the legalistic phraseology of the terms of this twice interpreted Award, the gains from which affected only a small section of the workers (those working in establishments paying the “bare” minimum) and which for the vast majority of the workers meant no increase at all, can be seen as an attempt to fix a “ceiling” on wages.
The increasing radicalisation of the organised workers is particularly underlined by the recent turn of the postal workers’ and the civil servants’ unions and their struggle for affiliation to the TUC: the challenge to the state which is contained in their recent actions. With the mass conscription, the working class has been united on an unprecedented scale. The women and youth, inexorably drawn into the struggle side by side with the men, become an important factor in the struggle. In particular the women are fast losing the psychology of domestic drudgery, and are rapidly developing the characteristics of class conscious workers. The number of organised workers has reached its highest peak having exceeded the year 1920, which was 8,000,000 in the unions.
Faced with attacks on wage standards and the intensified exploitation through piece-work conditions; the added burden of income tax; the failure of joint production committees to solve the problems of production except at the expense of the workers; the use of the reactionary essential Works Order and the victimisation of trade union militants – a sharp discontent and radicalisation is transforming the outlook of the British working class.
This discontent has already manifested itself in sporadic and ever increasing disputes throughout the length and breadth of the country. Following the Betteshanger strike in Kent at the beginning of 1941, a series of strikes swept over the coal fields. These were followed by small strikes on the part of the dockers, of railwaymen, and of engineers. These later struggles, however, took place in relatively backward and unorganised areas. A contradiction existed in the fact that despite the deep feeling of dissatisfaction among the workers in areas such as the Clyde and South Wales, the workers in these parts had not yet participated in any major industrial disputes.
The Stalinists who had entrenched themselves among the militant workers in these areas, used their stranglehold on the traditional centres of working class militancy to push their anti-working class policy and strike breaking policy and put the brake on the working class struggle. Nevertheless the Communist Party, which has become the most vicious strike breaking force in British working class politics, cannot quell the rising tide of militancy among the working class. Nor, with the continuation of its present policy, will it be able to place itself at the head of any mass movement to divert it into harmless channels. It is already apparent that the hold of the Stalinists over the advanced workers is loosening.
The local nature of the early disputes resulted in the almost complete isolation of the strikers. But the third year of war, 1942, witnessed the workers participating in more strikes than in any single year since the General Strike of 1926. By far the most important dispute of that year had taken place on the Tyneside, which though traditionally a backward area, was the scene of a strike involving more than 20,000 ship-building workers. This strike marked the end of a year in which the engineering workers participated in almost half the total number of disputes whereas previously the miners had borne the brunt of the struggle.
Despite the fact that more labour days were lost in several years of the “peace” from 1926-1932 than in 1942 the increased number of disputes and the manner in which the workers are tending to spread the struggle serves to remind the employers of the eruptions they will have to face in the coming days.
In 1943 the transport workers, especially in the Midlands area, joined with their brothers in the coal-mining and engineering industry in showing fight against the employers, but it is now possible to perceive not only a broadening out but a general transformation in the nature of the struggle. Whereas previously the workers who were involved in disputes were isolated, the nationwide support given to the Neptune Engine Works on the Tyne; the solidarity of the miners in the South Yorkshire and South Wales coalfields over recent disputes affecting single collieries in the given area; or the strike or 23,000 Nottinghamshire miners over the imprisonment of one lad, these are demonstrations that the workers are closing their ranks in solidarity. But the latter strike in particular is an indication of the political character that the struggle is assuming.
Already the workers are realising the necessity of linking up with and gaining support of workers in other parts. The committees that were established as the directing centres in all these disputes are not yet soviets, but they point to the manner in which the workers, through the efforts of their local leaders, will create fighting committees or soviets on a regional and national scale in the future. More significant however is the fact that instead of the struggles being confined to the more backward areas as in the past, the recent disputes among the miners and engineers in South Wales and the Clyde, point to the fact that the more advanced workers are on the move. All these factors demonstrate that the main strategy of the revolutionary socialists in the field of industry must be to raise consciously in the minds of the workers the necessity to end the industrial truce.
The effects of the industrial truce with the government and the employers, which place the trade union movement in the clutches of the state machine and gives employers a free hand, are becoming obvious to the broad mass of the working class. Under the control of the present administration, the trade unions are rapidly becoming appendages of the capitalist state, with large numbers of trade union functionaries (starting with Bevin) in official government positions, as labour officers, etc.
The foregoing is clear indication that all the objective and even the subjective conditions for tremendous explosions are maturing in the factories, mines and transport of Britain.
Arising out of the struggles that have already taken place, the question of leadership is being raised more and more sharply in the minds of the working class. The workers have learned, whenever they have been forced to stand and fight, that the Labour and trade union leadership, together with the Communist Party and the National Council of Shop Stewards, have deserted them, and indeed, sabotaged their struggle at every turn.
But whilst the servile attitude of the trade union bureaucracy [towards] Churchill and the capitalist class and their sell-out of trade union rights has aroused the anger of the rank and file, only a small section is expressing its disgust by a conscious struggle for the removal of the leadership. Generally the workers in the trade unions are apathetic, the branches being poorly attended. This is assisted in no small degree by the Stalinists, who more skilful at putting forward their strike-breaking policy, are acting as props of the bureaucrats. Nevertheless, this apathetic mood is a temporary one and will be overcome by the workers on the morrow. The attitude of the AEU members on the recent wage award which forced the bureaucrats to make hasty pious gestures to the rank and file, is an indication of what the leadership will have to face as the struggle develops. Our duty is to assist these workers, the vast majority of whom are hostile to the strike breaking policy of the leadership, by providing them with the consciousness that will take them forward in the struggle. The bureaucratisation of the trade unions and their class integration with sections of the ruling class dictates the strategy of fighting to democratise the unions and replace the top strata with fresh elements; it dictates the need for an active policy of regular election of officials every two years at most, as well as the need to pay the union officials no more than the average wages for the trade or industry.
The Barrow strike was remarkable for the magnificent co-ordination of legal and “illegal” activity; co-ordination between the local legal machinery of the unions, as evidenced in the AEU – the branches and district committee and the “illegal” activity which gave the “victor punch” to the Barrow workers’ struggle.
The experience of the Barrow strike destroys completely the theory of ultra left sectarians who wish to turn their backs on the mass industrial organisations of the working class (the unions) and concentrate the whole energy of industrial militants on the building of ad hoc and factory organisations. This experience underlines the need to carry the fighting spirit of the factory organisations into the branches; in the district committees; and into the topmost organs of the trade union. It emphasises the tremendous strength of the workers’ organisations.
The struggle in the workshops cannot be separated from the struggle in the unions, but inevitably it takes on a faster tempo and consequently assumes a more direct form. The actions of the bureaucrats in sabotaging the attempt of the working class to defend themselves from the attacks of the capitalists, force the workers in the direction of seeking an alternative leadership. Once again they are setting up committees more directly representative of the rank and file, and while it is not possible to foresee the exact form the movement will take, some indication can be obtained by the recently formed Glasgow committee which adopted the historic name of the Clyde workers’ committee. Initiated by militants in that area, directly representative of the workers in their factories, this committee adopted a fighting attitude and programme which included as the central point, the struggle for the independence of the trade union movement from the capitalist state machine.
More important, however, is the fact that these militants recognising the need to link up with other militants, not only locally, but nationally, established a national federation of trade union militants now known as the “Militant Workers’ Federation”.
This Federation is not a paper organisation characteristic of Stalinism from 1925 to 1935, but already has a certain backing among influential workers’ committees and genuinely reflects the tendency now developing in Britain. Whatever the form of struggle in the various industries (the possible establishment of “consultative” committees in single factories or groups of factories) this national Federation has every possibility of becoming the focal point around which the workers will organise, when the coming storm which will inevitably witness the most terrific industrial clashes in the history of British capitalism, breaks out. The Militant Workers’ Federation may not receive a mass response immediately but it is already attracting the cream of the industrial militants who are aware of the false policies and corruption of the trade union leadership and of the Stalinists. Even if the stormy days of industrial strife engulf this Federation before it has had the possibility to harden its national connections, there is no doubt that it will play an important role in the future national struggle of the industrial workers.
The trade union leaders and Stalinists in particular are aware of this. That is the reason for Bevin’s recent outburst and his threat of new repressive legislation. It was a reflection not so much of the fear of the ruling class as of the mis-leaders of the working class in the field of industry. But whilst repressive measures both through the state machine and by expulsions in the unions may temporarily halt the forward march of the Militant Workers’ Federation, history demands this form of organisation. Repression can succeed only in consolidating the working class and establishing the role of the trade union fakers in the eyes of the organised workers.
The decision of the industrial militants to establish the Federation on a broad basis to include all industries is fundamentally correct. In the present stage of development of monopoly capitalism and the closely knit character or British industry, when all the major problems that confront the workers in the engineering trade, also confront those workers in other industries. When the miners, transport workers, railwaymen, are all crying out for a clear lead, the sectional policy advocated by the ILP of confining the organisation to the engineering industry would doom it to a fate of an unofficial movement at the end of the First World War. Moreover in the final analysis, the correctness of broadening out the basis of the committee will be demonstrated with the inevitable transformation of the industrial struggle into the challenge for power. To assist in this process, by waging a struggle against any ultra-left, syndicalist or sectarian tendencies, is the duty of the revolutionary socialists.
The struggles of the engineers towards the end of the last war saw the transformation of Card Stewards who merely acted as collectors and reporters for their respective unions, into a fighting shop stewards’ movement, organised on a factory basis irrespective of trade union, in order to carry on the struggle abandoned by the union leaders. Nevertheless, after the glorious struggles on the Clyde and elsewhere, seeing in the movement a threat to their positions, the union leadership were able, through the lack or a conscious leadership on the part of the shop stewards’ movement, to absorb the movement within the legal framework of the unions. This was followed with the exception of 1926 and 1931 by a period of almost 20 years of relative stability for British capitalism, which witnessed a slow day to day process of struggle on the part of the rank and file in a second attempt to build up an alternative leadership to the trade union bureaucracy.
This period was a favourable one for British capitalism in its attacks upon militant workers. It saw many of the finest types of militant workers crushed through isolation, victimisation and subsequent unemployment, becoming disillusioned and dropping out of the movement. When the National Shop Stewards’ Council was formed in 1936, the most advanced elements of the working class gathered around it in the belief that at last they had found a solution to their strivings for a fighting alternative leadership.
The hold this body gained over the industrial workers has been utilised since the political turn of the Communist Party in 1941, to put forward an anti-working class strike breaking policy. It now serves merely to implement the policy of the union leaders in the factory committees. The significance of this situation is that for the first time, the trade union bureaucrats have large numbers of direct agents in the factory committees, and where the CP is the strongest, the result is demoralisation and despair among the workers. But even this cannot last for ever.
Towards the end of World War 1, despite the low level of consciousness and despite the lack of conscious leadership, the workers were striving in the direction of a political solution to their problems. Since that period, however, the workers have experienced two decades of sell-outs on the part of the Labour bureaucracy and the Stalinists. Consequently, we have the contradiction where today the workers are far in advance of the predecessors in the last war, with a higher level of political consciousness, but are tending to express their militancy on the industrial field with a distrust of all the established political tendencies of the working class. The effect has been the revival of a semi-syndicalist trend among the industrial militants.
But the integration of the trade union bureaucracy with the state machine and the complete control of the state over Labour through the medium of the Essential Work Order, and other legislation, creates the objective conditions whereby any militant industrial movement must inevitably come into conflict with the state machine.
At such a stage, the whole struggle which is at present centred mainly on the wages question, will be raised to a political plane. The struggle against the strike-breaking policy of the trade union bureaucracy and their new-found appendages, the CP, will coincide with the struggle for the ending of the industrial and political truce.
The organisation of the National Federation marks a turning point in the labour and trade union movement; it is an earnest of the fact that for the third time, in an effort to release themselves from the stranglehold of the bureaucracy, the workers are attempting to create a movement with a national link-up.
For 25 years the Shop Steward and Factory Committee form of organisation has been steadily growing throughout the length and breadth of Britain. From a few advanced but isolated factories in World War 1, the factory committees have extended to almost every factory throughout the country in World War 2. Large and small, heavy and light industry, the factory and shop stewards’ committees nave been built and extended to all fields of production. In essence these committees are embryonic Soviets and reflection of dual power inside the factories.
Due to the strength of the capitalist class, the relative stability of their rule, and as a reflection of the low tempo of the revolutionary movement, these committees play an essentially defensive role at the present period. But with the turn in the situation the deepening of the crisis, and the sharpening of the class struggle, these committees will inevitably assume an aggressive character and seek a dominating position, challenging the capitalist class for the control of industry.
It is necessary consciously to extend these committees from one plant to another, from area to area, and establish a firm national tie. But our primary task in this field is to make the workers conscious of the real possibilities of these committees, not as offensive organisations of this or that group but as organs of control, as organs of power. The more deeply we entrench these ideas among the industrial workers, the easier the task in the future struggle, the surer the victory in the coming battle for proletarian power.
These factors impose on the revolutionary movement all the more sharply the necessity of orientating itself towards the trade unions and industrial movement. Just as Britain is the key to the international situation so is industry the key to our work in Britain. The success or our work in this direction will be the yardstick by which we measure the building or the party. As the movement finds expression in the industrial field, fresh elements will be pushed to the fore. Constituting the cream of the working class, unspoiled and uncorrupted, they will be among the best fighters in the front line of the struggle. This strata will provide the new cadres for Bolshevism and will become the recruiting ground for our party.
In spite of numerical weakness of the forces of revolutionary socialism, our ideas are the most powerful yet forged by the working class movement. We can play a decisive part in the coming struggles by giving conscious expression to the movement of the workers. This has already been shown in practice. With a correct policy on the issues which face the working class, we can raise the struggle to higher level, simultaneously drawing the best workers to our ranks to build the party of the Fourth International in Britain. But we will only succeed in this task of building a mass party and challenging the capitalist class for power to the extent that we succeed in converting the mass industrial organs of the working class into instruments of the socialist revolution.
(This resolution was that adopted at the WIL conference held in October 1943. It was reconsidered at the fusion conference in the same form.)
[The] number present at the conference was approximately 160, of whom 60 were delegates and 20 were in the armed forces.
It was decided that the name or the new organisation should be Revolutionary Communist Party. The latest edition of the Socialist Appeal has been published under this name.
Constitution of the Revolutionary Communist Party (British Section of the Fourth International)
The Revolutionary Communist Party, British Section of the Fourth international, bases itself upon the revolutionary principles embodied in the first four congresses of the Communist International and the world conferences of the Fourth international. It strives to win the leadership of the British working class for the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of a workers’ government (dictatorship of the proletariat) in Britain, and in close collaboration with the workers and toiling masses of all lands and under the leadership of the Fourth International, to proceed to the abolition of classes and the construction of the world socialist order of society.
Article 1. Name
The Revolutionary Communist Party, British Section of the Fourth International,
Article 2. International affiliation
The Revolutionary Communist Party accepts the programme and statutes, of the Fourth international, is an affiliated body of the Fourth international, and constitutes the British Section.
Article 3. Membership
- Any person who accepts the principles and Constitution of the Revolutionary Communist Party and who participates in its activities under the direction of the local, district and national bodies, is eligible for membership of the organisation.
- Every member must be a member of a branch, but in exceptional cases where no branch exists within reasonable distance or for special reasons a member may be made a national member and operate under the direct control of the CC.
- Application for membership must be made to a branch (except in cases as specified in (b) and if accepted must be ratified by the district committee or the central committee.
- Applicants for membership accepted by the branch shall be made probationary members for three months, at the end of which period the application must be reviewed by the branch which will decide to admit the applicant to full membership, extend the period of probation, or exclude the probationary member – all subject to the ratification of the district committee or the central committee.
- A probationary member may be expelled or admitted into full membership before the termination of the three months probation period, under the same procedure.
- Probationary members, are entitled to a voice on any question but may not vote and are not eligible to serve as delegates or officials of the organisation.
Article 4. Branches
- The unit of the RCP is the “branch” which is based on an industrial or area group of not less than five. Where the branch is of sufficient size, it may be divided by the DC or CC or has the right to divide itself with the permission of the DC or CC.
- Each branch should meet at least once weekly, [and] shall where necessary elect a branch committee at an annual general meeting of the branch or at specially convened meetings. Specially convened meetings must be called by the branch secretary at the request of not less than one third of the branch membership.
- The branch shall elect officials who shall be responsible for the direction of local activity.
Article 5. District committees
- District committees shall be set up in such districts as annual party congress or central committee decide. They shall be elected at annual general meeting or delegate conference of the branches (not less than three) within that district; or at special district meetings convened for this purpose by the central committee or at the request of one third of the district members.
- District committees shall appoint all district officials and should meet at least once a month.
- District committees are responsible for the direction of all party activities within the district.
- District councils shall be set up consisting of the district committee plus delegates from the branches for the purpose of advising and maintaining contact between the district committee and the membership. They shall be convened by the district committee or at the request of one third of the district branches.
Article 6. National congress
- A national congress of the membership represented by delegates from each organisational unit branches, district committees, and central committee and such other units as may arise from time to time, shall be convened each year by the central committee. The national congress shall constitute the highest authority of the RCP.
- Branches are entitled to send delegates to the national congress with a vote, on the basis of one delegate for every ten members or part of ten (or such figure as may be decided by the central committee in accordance with the party’s growth).
- District committees consisting of five or more branches are entitled to send a delegate to national congress in a consultative capacity, i.e., the delegate may speak but not vote.
- Members of the central committee attend national congress in a consultative capacity. CC members may be elected as delegates from branches.
- Members are eligible for election as delegates to congress after completing six months full membership.
- Where branches exist, which have no members who have the necessary qualifications as delegates, or where branches desire to send a delegate who is without the necessary membership qualifications, they can be represented at congress by special application to the central committee which may grant vocal and/or voting rights.
- Established groupings of three or four members may combine together with other groupings or branches in the same district for the purpose of representation at congress, or may send a delegate to congress with the consent of the central committee.
- Draft resolutions and reports of the central committee must be submitted at least two months prior to national congress. Party organisations have the right to submit resolutions or amendments to the drafts submitted by the CC; final amendments can be submitted by delegates in the course of the congress deliberations.
- The central committee shall appoint a standing orders committee and a credentials committee. The congress shall be ruled by the standing orders committee.
- No binding or imperative mandate can be imposed on any delegate to national congress.
- Decisions on all questions, including amendments to the constitution, are adopted by simple majority at the national congress.
Article 7. Central committee
- The national congress shall decide upon the number of, and elect, a central committee and alternates, and shall vest the central committee with full authority between national congresses.
- The central committee should meet at least every three months. It shall appoint front among its members a political bureau, a general secretary, a political secretary, and an organisational secretary. The three secretaries shall together constitute the secretariat which should meet daily and be responsible for the routine work of the party. The secretariat shall function from the central party headquarters or such place as may be decided by the central committee.
- The political bureau, the secretariat, or one third of the central committee members have the right to convene meetings of the central committee at any time.
- The political bureau shall have full authority between sessions of the central committee. It should meet once weekly or must be convened at the request of the secretariat.
Article 8. Control commission
The national congress shall elect a control commission from non CC members whose function shall be:
- To investigate any complaints or special enquiry which may be referred to it by the CC and, to advise the CC of the results of its investigations and enquiries.
- To investigate complaints of individuals, branches and districts against disciplinary measures taken against them by higher party organisations, and to submit their opinion on these to the CC or national congress for final decision.
Article 9. National council
- A national council shall be set up consisting of the central committee plus a delegate from each district committee and should meet at least every four months.
- The national council shall be an advisory body except as specified in article 10 and shall be responsible for maintaining contact between the national membership and the central committee.
Article 10. Special congresses
Special congresses with the same notice as annual congress may be called at any time, and with such notice as may be decided by the central committee. The central committee must convene a special congress at the request of more than one third of the national council or one quarter of the branches.
Article 11. Special powers
In the event of emergency, the central committee shall have the power to amend the constitution.
Article 12. Membership contribution
- Membership dues shall be a minimum of one shilling per week to be divided into three parts: 6d should be forwarded by the branch treasurer to the central committee on the first of each month; 4d shall be retained by the branch for its own funds; and 2d should be forwarded to the district committee on the first of each month. In addition, each member shall pay 2d per month for the international.
- Members two months in arrears shall be considered in bad standing and not permitted to vote; members three months in arrears shall be considered lapsed after due notice from the branch treasurer.
- The district committee and central committee have the right to modify the dues of any member after a special application has been made by the member concerned through his branch.
- Branches two months in arrears of dues shall be considered suspended by the central committee after due notice has been given.
- Members in bad standing shall not be eligible for election as delegates to any party conference or committee.
- Branches and district committees and the central committee have the right to impose levies on members.
- Branches and district committees shall issue quarterly balance sheets of all finances.
- The central committee shall issue a balance sheet of all finances to each national congress.
Article 13. Democratic rights and discipline
- All decisions of the governing bodies (national congress, central committee, political bureau, district committee and branch) are binding on all members and subordinate units. Any members or unit violating a decision of a governing body shall be subject to disciplinary action.
- The majority decisions of any body are binding on all the members within its jurisdiction. While cooperating in carrying out the decisions of the majority, all minorities have the right to express dissenting opinions within the party, to circularise the membership with any material stating these opinions, and to appeal to higher bodies against any decision with which they disagree. The central committee shall maintain a theoretical or internal bulletin as a medium for expressing these dissenting opinions and shall publish material submitted for discussion within twenty-one days of receipt.
- The national congress shall define the limits of any discussion.
- Disciplinary action, including censure, reduction to probationary membership, suspension of membership, and expulsion may be taken by the body having jurisdiction over any member committing a breach of discipline or acting in a manner detrimental to the interests of the party and the working class.
- Charges against any member must be made in writing and the accused furnished with a copy; such charges are considered by the body in which the charge originates at a meeting at which the accused member can attend and if a member of that body vote; the findings of this meeting shall serve as a recommendation to the district committee which shall take a decision. Charges originating in the district committee, political bureau or central committee shall be decided upon by those bodies.
- Any member subjected to disciplinary action is entitled to appeal to the next higher body up to the national congress; the disciplinary action in the meanwhile is upheld.
- Any member has the right to appeal against a decision of the national congress to the governing bodies of the Fourth International, and the political bureau shall provide all facilities for such an appeal, and shall transmit any documents pertaining thereto.
- All officials of the party and members of the committees shall be subject to recall by the section of the membership which appointed them.
- No member may accept a paid permanent position in a working class organisation without receiving the permission of the political bureau. All members holding public office or positions in the working class movement, paid or otherwise, shall be under the complete jurisdiction of the party.
All members of the RCP are required to enter the mass organisations of the working class under the direction of the party organisation for the purpose of fulfilling the aims of the party.
 Drafted by Jock Haston.
Open letter to SWP members
A reply to the report of comrade Stuart
By RCP Political Bureau
We address this letter to the leadership and members of the SWP – our brother party, on the contents of the International Bulletin issued by the SWP, with great reluctance and only after much hesitation. For this is not a spontaneous defensive reply to what we believe to be – and will try to prove to be – a slander upon our party and its leadership here in Britain: it is a considered attempt to place before the American comrades the truth about the British situation.
We would prefer to be stating a simple factual case of the present stage of the class struggle in this country and of the work of our party, together with a report of the pre-fusion discussions and the formation of the united party – the Revolutionary Communist Party. But our intervention in your discussions has primarily other, and in some respect, more important ends: the destruction of a fable and the exposure of a tendency which has made itself manifest on the part of certain leaders of the SWP in their activity in the British movement.
The fable is the one which has been reported by Stuart and disseminated by the SWP leadership in their International Bulletin. The tendency is factional, anti-internationalist in spirit and activity on the part of leading SWP members which acts as a blight on our movement; which distorts the facts and the relations within our parties; and which, unless destroyed completely in our movement (internationally and nationally), will do it irreparable damage.
Were we the most charitable people in the world, in dealing with this International Bulletin, we would be compelled to say that this is a classic example of how an international report should not be compiled or written – particularly if the purpose of such a report is to inform one section of our movement about another. But we do not propose to be charitable on this occasion. The issues are too big; the tower of stupid misinformation too high; the inevitable damage to international understanding and collaboration in the work of building the Fourth International too far reaching for this material to be freely peddled without complete refutation.
Correcting minor errors
Minor factual errors abound in Stuart’s “report” from the first page to the last. We propose to touch on some of these errors, but only in passing. Our main task will be to tear down the distortions and factional misrepresentations.
It is erroneous, for instance, to state that “a mass demand for Labour to break the coalition has swept the trade unions for the past two years”. That stage has not been reached. It is fast coming but it certainly had not been reached when the report was written.
It is false to say that when Aneurin Bevan goes to the mining districts to conduct strike breaking “the miners wave him aside no less lustily than the Stalinist Horner or the old time bureaucrat Lawther”. Bevan’s popularity is not an “old popularity” – it is new. Nor is it this illusory “discreditment among his constituents” that pushed Bevan into collision with the Labour Party heads. Bevan has never been so popular in the Ebbw Vale district, from which he was sent to Parliament, as he is in the present time. He is today’s popular idol in South Wales – and for that matter in Britain as a whole among the Labour masses. He is riding on the crest of the wave in the popular reawakening of the labour movement. It is this that brings him into collision with the Labour tops, and not at all because he wishes to regain lost credit.
“In the middle of March the Workers’ International League and the Revolutionary Socialist League held a joint convention at which these two organisations fused and took the name Revolutionary Communist Party.
“The groups had previously been divided by tactical differences. Originally, these differences centred around the question of entry into the Labour Party. Subsequently organisational differences superseded even the tactical. In 1938 a unification was attempted by the International on the basis of a compromise of the disputed questions, on which no clear majority had been evident. One group refused to accept this compromise and remained outside the formal framework of the then constituted British section of the Fourth International. This group later became the WIL. The official section became known as the RSL.”
The fusion conference convened by the International in 1938 was attended by four groups – the RSL, RSP, Militant Group and WIL – and not, as one would conclude from the above paragraph, by the RSL and WIL. The documents and discussions of this conference (which was dominated by American Party leaders) have unfortunately, never been published for the International.
The WIL was in existence prior to this conference and did not “later become the WIL”.
The original differences between the WIL and the Militant Group, from which the WIL arose, were of an organisational character. Later tactical and political differences arose, which maintained the separation. Thus, the facts are the reverse of those portrayed by Stuart.
It is incorrect to state that “a representative of each of the three former factions of the RSL are on the CC”. Nor is it correct to say that “no representation was given to the former WIL minority”. Conference representation was on a proportional basis. There are on the CC two members of the Militant Group, none for the Left – since they refused representation on the grounds that they would take no responsibility for the organisation or its policy. The TO and minority of WIL claimed to have the same political and tactical position as the majority of WIL. They disagreed only on whether discussion on past organisational differences be closed for discussion or not in the new fused organisation. The TO had requested that their representation be included in a joint panel. They were advised during the negotiations that the WIL caucus had not sufficient confidence in them as representatives of their political position for inclusion in a joint panel. It was therefore suggested by the WIL leadership that the TO should elect their own CC representative plus one alternate, which they did, jointly with the WIL minority. The WIL majority leadership vetoed their first nomination (a member of the WIL minority) for reasons which we can go into if necessary. Had they not done so, let it be stated, their nominee would not have got onto the joint WIL-TO panel.
It is true that the WIL minority were refused special representation on the CC, the reason being that they had no organisational weight or political differences which would give them this right. Since when does a minority have special representation on the basis of “minor organisational differences”, such as whether the WIL were correct or not in its attitude towards the fusion of 1938?
At the fusion conference which formed the RCP the TO and former WIL minority made a verbal statement saying their faction was dissolved. Not only the Lefts, but also the Militant Group proclaimed itself as a faction and retain factional rights.
The Left does not have a “number of miners”. Recently, one of its members entered the pits from the clothing industry. What can be said on this score is that an ex-miner who publishes the Miners’ Militant is in contact with a number of miners as a member of the Labour Party.
There are many other incorrect statements made about this faction which it is not necessary to comment on here.
The real discussions at conference
Ostensibly, the “report” sets out to portray the “fusion of the British Trotskyists,” the capitalist attack against the new party, and the immediate perspectives and tasks ahead. Such a project can only be welcomed – it is indeed laudable in the extreme – if conscientious reporters do the job.
One thing we can say at once about the report penned by Stuart – it is indeed conscientious. But not in explaining the ideas and discussions verbal and written which proceeded and formed the basis of the fused organisation, nor in explaining the birth of the RCP as an objective event whose evolution was observed by the participants, and recorded in the form of resolutions, documents and minutes. Conscientiousness, according to Stuart, does not demand such exacting research and study! It demands from him only a rehash of chit-chat on the back stairs, or scraps of fireside factional gossip! The least the British comrades expected is that a “reporter” would inquire from the source, as to the correctness of certain political opinions allegedly held by them.
One can peruse the “report” throughout without getting the slightest hint of the real discussions that took place at the fusion. Was there a discussion on perspectives; on the tactics arising out of these perspectives; the role of the Labour Party, industrial work, etc., etc.? Not a word on these problems which formed the basis of the discussions and which for so long separated the British Trotskyists – not a word!
The ideas of the participants were before conference in the form of numerous documents and resolutions. There is ample material for a full elucidation of the different positions which could have informed the SWP members of the political differences and been a valuable source of education. Stuart was familiar with these documents, as were the leaders of the SWP. Instead of an analysis of these real differences, we are treated to a disgraceful “report” of alleged differences and alleged deviations, and to a so-called analysis of “weights, measures and directives” which are cock-eyed in any case.
At the conference there were three factions which submitted resolutions and documents: the Militant Group, the “Left”, and the WIL whose political position had the support of the TO. 69 delegates attended the conference on the basis of proportional representation 1 to every 7 members. The delegation was as follows:
RSL: 17 (Militant Group 7; TO 6; Left 4)
The TO and the WIL minority had a different position from the WIL only on an organisational issue. The latter (TO and WIL minority) presented no independent political or organisational documents. The only manifestation of their position as opposed to that of the WIL was their opposition to the section of the Fusion resolution, which reads as follows: “In the interests of the fusion, this conference, therefore, dissolves all past organisational conflicts and disputes, and closes discussion on these questions in the British section.”
The main differences at conference centred on the four questions of policy and tactics: military policy, Labour Party tactic, workers’ control and industrial tactics.
The military policy put forward by the WIL and TO was opposed by both the Lefts and the Militant Group and not as Stuart incorrectly reported, by the Lefts only. Both factions argued that it was chauvinist and opportunist. This Resolution on military policy was published in the Fourth International in May 1944. Both the Militant Group and the Left moved resolutions on “revolutionary defeatism”.
The voting on this was as follows:
Left RSL resolution: 4 in favour
Militant Group resolution: 11 in favour
WIL-TO resolution: 57 in favour; 11 opposed; 1 abstention
The tactic of immediate entry into the Labour Party and the complete subordination of independent party work was put forward as against the tactic of building the party at this stage on the basis of turning the face of the organisation to the factory and trade union movement as an independent force, whilst maintaining at the same time factions in the LP and ILP, not closing the door to the possibility of future entry. The Militant Group and the Lefts together voted against the independent orientation on this question.
The voting was as follows:
For the entrist tactic: 11
For the independent orientation: 58
The slogan of “workers’ control” and the question of industrial perspectives and tactics: the Militant Group and the Lefts held that it was incorrect to raise the slogan of workers’ control as it was raised by the WIL in relation to production in war time. Both claimed that it was a concession to chauvinism and was opportunist.
The “Lefts” claimed that the slogan could only be put forward as arising out of a third Labour government and after such a government had come to power. The Militant Group said that it should only be raised during a period of revolutionary upsurge.
The WIL and the TO argued that the slogan had a propaganda potency at all stages of the struggle during imperialist war, and particularly when Joint Production Committees were being set up and a large scale propaganda was being conducted by the capitalists and their agents in the labour movement. Our task was to counterpose proletarian control in every phase of “civil” and military life, consciously raising the idea of factory committees and similar organisations as organs of workers’ control and as organs of power; linking the slogans of control constantly to the slogan of Labour to power.
On industrial tactics the WIL resolution had the support of all factions except the “Left”. This resolution urged support for the Militant Workers’ Federation as a stage in the crystallisation of a militant factory leadership on a national scale which would coordinate and direct militant industrial activity in the unions, as well as in the plants.
It was held that the MWF had the possibility of becoming the focal point around which the workers would organise on a local and national scale, when the industrial storm broke.
The “Lefts” argued that the MWF was a paper organisation and should be disbanded. Our task was to operate inside the Stalinist controlled unofficial movement, and if expelled, set up an expelled opposition. The sooner we were expelled from the Stalinist controlled organisation, once we had entered, the better – for our real work will not commence until we are expelled. This will enable us to start an agitation against Stalinist methods in the factories.
It may be said by some of the participants that the above is an over-simplification of the positions taken at conference. But without extensive quotations it is impossible to deal adequately with these differences.
Conference concentrated on the main outstanding questions which had separated the British movement over a period of years and several resolutions from the “Left” were not included on the agenda – e.g. on “sabotage” in relation to the Soviet Union, the national question and China, the Italian revolution, and others, because of lack of time.
On the fusion resolution (published in the Militant) the “Lefts” abstained. The TO and WIL minority opposed the section ending past organisational conflicts and closing the discussion on these questions. They wished to leave the question open for further discussion.
Briefly, these were the main questions discussed at the fusion conference and which should have been elaborated by Stuart on the basis of the documents if he had wished to give the SWP members a real view of the British movement and the fusion. But he failed to do so.
But if Stuart failed to give a political appreciation of the real discussions and differences, he gave plenty of space to organisational evaluations combined with imaginary political discussions and speeches.
Political characterisation based on gossip
In “indicating” a “deviation of national colouring” Stuart alleges:
“In defence of the resolution on military policy, a leader of the majority in the new CC [comrade Ted Grant is being hit at here - RCP] made some remarks that called forth astonishment and protest, particularly among those in agreement with the resolution, which is by and large a correct statement of the international policy. Characteristic of these remarks was a reference to Montgomery’s Eighth Army as ‘our Eighth Army’. The protests only brought reiteration from the speaker with a stronger emphasis than before: he spoke with pride of ‘our Eighth Army’.” (The emphasis is Stuart’s)
Monstrous falsification! That Stuart should accuse leading British Trotskyists of chauvinism is bad enough.
To tear a phrase out of its context for the purpose of demonstrating a “deviation”, is nothing short of a scandal in the ranks of the Fourth International. And that such stuff should be circulated by the PC of the SWP without a check is not easy to understand.
This “scene” is supposed to have taken place at the fusion conference. This is false. The incident, distorted above, took place at the WIL conference in 1943 during a discussion not on military policy, but on European and British perspectives. The resolution to which comrade Grant was speaking is published in a pamphlet, The world revolution and the tasks of the British working class, drafted by him and accepted as a basic document by the fusion conference. The speech referred to is apparently that made by comrade Grant published in Workers’ International News, January 1944, and the section reads as follows:
“The moment the Labour Party comes to power will be already its period of decline, of splitting and breaking up. There is more socialist consciousness, a more radical attitude on the part of the masses, than at any other period in history. The armed forces are more revolutionary, look more to the working class and socialism than even the ranks of the working class themselves. That class-consciousness is expressed in the fact that, in relation to the Negro and Indian questions we see solidarity between the Army and the working class.
“We have a victorious Army in North Africa, and Italy, and I say, yes, Long live the Eighth Army, because that is our army. One of our comrades has spoken to a number of people who have had letters from the Eighth Army soldiers, showing their complete dissatisfaction. We know of incidents in the Army, Navy and other forces that have never been reported, and that it is impossible for us to report. It is our Eighth Army that is being hammered and tested and being organised for the purpose of changing the face of the world. This applies equally to all the forces.”
This speech was edited for publication and several illustrations of minor mutinies and struggles among the ranks of the forces which led to this statement, were omitted because of government censorship.
The background to this speech can be seen when one takes into consideration that the Tories received 14 seats out of 600 in the elections to the mock Forces’ Parliament in Cairo, Labour received the overwhelming votes of the soldiers, Common Wealth next, and then the Stalinists. So great was the radicalisation that the authorities dissolved this “Parliament”. A Trotskyist was elected Prime Minister of the Benghazi “Forces’ Parliament” which was also disbanded.
Another indication of the radicalisation of the Eighth Army: during the tremendous campaign which accompanied the arrests of our party members for “inciting to strike”, the Eighth Army News published a full page article under the headline: The right to strike is one of the freedoms for which we fight”.
One would have imagined that the revolutionary content of this speech was clear.
Comrade Grant has pointed to the fact that the capitalists were making a great to do about the Eighth Army, shouting “Long live the Eighth Army”, etc. He cited the incidents to show the class antagonisms and said, “Yes, I say long live the Eighth Army for it is our army that is being hammered and beaten into shape.”
Obviously, what was being spoken about here was not the victorious bourgeois army, but certain revolutionary characteristics which had already manifested themselves and would grow as the war went on – the very opposite to what the bourgeois were shouting about!
The formulation could have been better. But what is being discussed here is the ideas. Comrades who fail to grasp the revolutionary perspective and essence which was being driven home are pedants, or wilfully blind. The least one expects from a responsible member of our international movement when allegations of chauvinism are made against a responsible leading member of a section, is to check the allegation at its source before repeating it in writing, or even in gossip.
Not satisfied with this distortion, Stuart must need go further. He states that comrade Grant “spoke with pride of ‘our Eighth Army’” (his emphasis), which, whatever misconceptions may have arisen over the statement of comrade Grant, is nothing less than a malicious lie.
If one looks for “deviations” in the SWP press and speeches with Stuart’s method, one could find plenty. One is used to such distortions from Shachtman (and it is no accident that he wilfully distorted this point, as he did [with] Cannon’s military policy speeches), but one expects an objective polemics from comrades in the international.
Let us give an example of how we too, could find such “deviations” in the SWP leadership, using Stuart’s method. From the speech on the military policy at the SWP 1940 conference:
“We are sending unlimited supplies of military materials to Europe. In my opinion the only reason why we are not sending troops is that there isn’t any place to land them.” (Our emphasis a la Stuart)
Could one infer from the above that Cannon means “our” troops? Another example:
“We are willing to fight Hitler. No worker wants to see that gang of fascist barbarians overrun this country or any country...”
“We will join the war as long as the workers do...”
No one can doubt that these formulations could have been better, but one would have to entirely distort the whole content of Cannon’s speech to arrive at a “deviation of national coloration”. In the same way one has to distort the entire revolutionary essence of comrade Grant’s speech to arrive at Stuart’s conclusions.
Let it be remembered that this discussion was taking place among Trotskyists – not a bunch of young imperialists or boy scouts. In dealing with perspectives wouldn’t Stuart consider [it] justifiable to refer to “our Eighth Army” in view of the significant revolutionary developments taking place?
But not content with building this false picture, Stuart wants to make sure that it is firmly implanted in the minds of the American party members. Just in case they didn’t get the “drift”, the “deviation” is traced in another disguise:
“Another view that aroused similar controversy was expressed by the same leader; namely that the liberation of the European peoples from fascism was to be accomplished (not inspired, aided or furthered) by a socialist Britain in arms”, and “this view even crept into an earlier draft of the resolution, but was corrected after a heated discussion.”
Fortunately, by accident, we have in our files the “original draft” to which Stuart refers, with the pencilled alterations. It should not be necessary to have to enter into a discussion on this plane, the allegations are so fantastic. For the purpose of pinning this downright lie, however, and indicating the method by which it is peddled, we will deal with it in detail, reproducing the original “deviation” and its evolution.
The history of the “deviation”
The actual passage in the original draft which is apparently that characterised as a “national deviation” reads as follows (incidentally it was not written by the “same leader” of the WIL but by another):
“Only the working class, by taking power into its own hands can destroy fascism abroad and at home, ushering in a period of peace and plenty for all mankind.”
This is marked by the TO and redrafted as follows:
“The only way in which the British working class can assist the German workers in the struggle against fascism is by waging a resolute struggle for power against their own ruling class at home. Once in power the working class will not hesitate to defend itself by military means against all attacks from hostile capitalism.”
It is further marked by comrade Haston, who originally drafted the resolution, as follows:
“Only the working class, by taking power into its own hands, can destroy fascism abroad and at home and assist the German and European working class to destroy fascism by waging a revolutionary war.”
And the final draft published, also by comrade Haston, reads as follows:
“Only by overthrowing the capitalist state and taking power into its own hands under the leadership of the Fourth International can the British working class wage a truly revolutionary war and aid the German working class to destroy fascism and capitalist reaction.”
If Stuart, or his informants, say that the discussion over this formulation arose on the basis of the idea that WIL members on the drafting committee held “that the liberation of European peoples from fascism was to be accomplished (not inspired, aided or furthered) by a socialist Britain in arms” – they are falsifying the facts in a most disgraceful manner.
Let it be noted that the draft under discussion was the first outline, and was just off the typewriter. It had not even been discussed by the WIL political bureau or the drafting committee. But in order to achieve the most comradely atmosphere and close collaboration between the WIL and the TO, it had been agreed by the WIL to work as closely with the TO as possible in the first formulation stages of the rough draft.
It is perfectly clear from the evolution of the draft resolution that no “heated” discussion took place or could have taken place on this basis. The question is too elementary – even for the un-theoretical and activist WIL!
Not only this. The final draft was unanimously accepted. How does it come then, that an original admittedly rough and unfinished draft, which has been altered with unanimous agreement, should be used in this way? Only for the most disgraceful factional reasons, comrade Stuart.
Let us repeat. Stuart did not consult the leading comrades who were alleged to have expressed verbally and in written form, these false ideas. When he informed the comrades here that he intended to write a report, comrade Grant specifically requested that the leadership in Britain should be shown the results of his effort before publication because of the previous experience of Stuart’s activities. Apparently, he did not think it worthwhile to attempt to correct these comrades who had chauvinistic tendencies.
What kind of “reporting” is this, can we ask, that throws into the arena scraps of factional gossip as a serious characterisation of a tendency; when the author is forced to admit that nowhere is there evidence to establish his facts?
“Thus far”, Stuart is forced to concede, “no other manifestations are recorded. [!] It is quite possible that what may be involved is merely careless thinking, unthought out ideas, mistakes of the moment. As yet not a fragment of a single document has crystallised such a point of view [!!!].”
Let us repeat: no other manifestations are recorded! Not a fragment of a single document has crystallised such a point of view! But there are dozens and dozens of documents giving the lie to the “deviation of a national character,” which Stuart tries to foist upon the comrades whom he so disgracefully slanders.
And this irresponsible stuff is peddled by the SWP leadership as a serious contribution to international education!
This gossip writing is accompanied by a theoretical haughtiness on the part of Stuart. Referring to our resolution on the military policy (which has been published in the Fourth International without comment), he says it “is by and large a correct statement of our international policy.” (Our emphasis). In its critical content what he is really saying is that “by and small” there are errors and ambiguities; that the British comrades responsible for the drafting of this resolution were not theoretically and politically so well equipped as... Stuart; that we have borrowed the idea, but didn’t get it quite right. We know this is Stuart’s angle from being continually told by him and his associates that we borrow our ideas from the SWP leaders and simply repeat them in our press! Here, if we might say so, is precisely a “deviation of national coloration” – but not on our part. What might be termed “Great Americanism” on the part of Stuart.
Let us admit at once that we borrow from the SWP. But isn’t this precisely internationalism? Our “common experience”? We hope to be able to borrow from other sections, and that they in turn will borrow from us. We know that the American comrades “borrowed” from comrade Trotsky – a function of our international is to assist in borrowing from each other. What is important is whether we understand the ideas we borrow.
Either our military policy resolution was a correct application of the ideas worked out by comrade Trotsky, and should have been stated as such, without qualification – or it was not so good and should have been the subject for advice and discussion. Such discussion on the basis of a resolution – not factional gossip – could have performed a good educational task in the USA as well as in Britain. Since Stuart is so rash and open of his criticisms of small organisational detail and offers his advice, why evade the important political responsibility?
The fact of the matter is that the resolution on military policy stands four square on the policy of the Fourth International. The “by and large” was mere effect, the factional barb.
Perspectives, plan and the ILP
According to our critic the RCP has no perspective for future work in relation to the ILP. At best “the RCP has carried out only haphazard work in the ILP, mainly literary... leading forces have from time to time been withdrawn... What is needed is a perspective and a plan of work.”
Let us examine this problem a little closer. In the first place, Stuart divorces the ILP from the political situation as a whole, in particular with the perspectives of the Labour Party and the relationship of the ILP to the Labour Party. The conference resolution turning the face of the RCP to independent work, had this to say about the ILP:
“The past perspective [pre-war - RCP] of our tendency was for the complete collapse of the centrist party – the ILP. In fact, the ILP has grown in numerical strength and influence among the workers and is attracting fresh support from growing sections of the left labour and socialist conscious workers, and therefore, offers an important field for faction work on the part of the Fourth International.
“Whereas the ILP wiIl most likely apply for affiliation to the Labour Party and be accepted when the Labour Party breaks the coalition and achieves its independence, it follows that the ILP will become the main left wing organisational base for the leftward moving labour workers and that the ‘socialist left’ and similar paper organisations set up by the Trotskyist entrists will play no part in the Labour Party during the period of mass swing, but on the contrary will be a hindrance to our penetration of the Labour Party and must therefore be abandoned in favour of our factional entry into an affiliated ILP.
“Whereas the perspective of a mass left swing to the LP may at a later stage necessitate a total entry of our forces into the LP, such a perspective is most unlikely, but if this situation arises our forces will probably enter the LP through the affiliated ILP.”
At this particular stage it is in the factories and the unions that the main forces of Trotskyism are being recruited. But we have not neglected the ILP. We have a complete picture of the ILP as a whole and of its active sections continually before us.
On the basis of the general perspectives quoted above, which are constantly tested and concretised by detailed knowledge, we devote a certain amount of time and forces to the ILP. Until recently it has not been necessary, nor, what is more, has it been possible to have a detailed plan of work.
We can fully agree with Stuart that it is possible to set a formal perspective of winning the majority of the ILP. Indeed, such a formal perspective has long been discussed in our ranks. But what we are directly guided by on this tactical issue are the general relationships in the movement, and the concrete possibilities of the material at hand. These in turn, are determined by the actual forces at our disposal inside and outside the ILP.
In explaining the situation in the ILP our critic gives a very distorted picture of the groupings and the possibilities from faction work at this stage.
“At the Easter conference” (1944) we are told, “the rank and file clashed with the leadership on both these issues (affiliation to the LP and opportunist bloc with the middle class Common Wealth) and in the vote defeated them decisively on both...”
What follows this statement implies that the RCP had no influence on these issues. The size of the left wing is grossly exaggerated.
Incidentally, there is no “Sara-Dewar” group in the ILP – there is, or since this Bulletin commenced, was a small group headed by Wicks and Dewar. Sara is in the Labour Party and has been for many years a full time paid lecturer for the National Council of Labour Colleges.
Nor is there in the ILP a “still larger indigenous left wing, containing a good many former CP members – particularly in the mine areas – [which] works with the Trotskyists in close harmony at conference.”
Not a single word of this is correct. There are number of errors of this character, but it is not necessary to deal with all here.
The resolution on Common Wealth was moved by Trotskyists “in close relation with the RCP”, and was an indication of a plan of work. All the credit can go to the RCP. But far from the voting on affiliation being a decisive defeat for the ILP leadership, it was on the contrary, an important victory for them. Their position was overwhelmingly carried. The resolution to convene a special conference to discuss affiliation to the Labour Party in the event of it breaking the coalition, was their resolution. The opponents of affiliation were largely pacifists and a small number of confused lefts. True, among these latter were some very good rank and file elements – most of whom have been convinced of the correctness of our position since.
Developing his case, Stuart states that “the programme is not at issue. With minor concessions the basic position of the Fourth International is already acceptable to the native left wing.” If by “native left wing” Stuart means ILPers moving to the left and at loggerheads with the leadership (and not the few renegades from Trotskyism) he is very much mistaken in the belief that there is programmatic agreement. The “native left wing” are largely left reformists, still very far from the position of the Fourth International. Here it is not a question of minor concessions on questions of tactics, but an education in revolutionary policy which must guide our actions. If it is the ex-Trotskyists who are being discussed, Stuart is entirely incorrect.
However, in this document, so full of detail, we are not informed what these “concessions” might be, but it is fairly easy to guess.
Inside the ILP the main tactical question which separated us from the Wicks-Dewar faction (which is not the “native” left wing), was the question of affiliation to the Labour Party. We are for affiliation – Wicks and Dewar are against. The perspective of the latter is to split (!) the ILP on the question of affiliation. Hopeless, stupid, utopian sectarianism! A split – even if it could be engineered at this stage and on the basis of the anti-affiliation bloc – would set up a miniature edition of the ILP. The bulk of the splitters would be petit-bourgeois, semi-anarchists and pacifists, and a handful of Trotskyists, doomed to splinter into pieces at the first meeting after the split.
But it is apparently this split perspective which intrigues Stuart. His first perspective is the formal one: to win the majority of the ILP. The second is a concrete one: to split the ILP on the affiliation issue.
Speaking of this type of tactic, one of the leading American comrades said that what was important was to strike while the iron was hot. But Stuart wants to strike while the iron is not yet in the fire. To be successful, such a tactic, even in the most favourable circumstances, must take up a great deal of time and energy of the party whose forces should be concentrated at the point of attack. But as we estimate it, the situation in the ILP is very different from that portrayed by Stuart. There has not yet grown the left wing or the ferment, thus the time is not yet ripe. And even if it were ripe, it would not be worth diverting the efforts of our members from more favourable fields of activity at the present stage of the struggle.
The anti-affiliationist policy is a sectarian trend. And it is precisely to this trend that Stuart wants to make concessions. If a split on this issue were successful it would have the opposite effect to what comrade Stuart seems to think. It would isolate the revolutionary wing who would be outside the ILP at the period of its entry into the Labour Party – just at that period when it would begin to offer a real milieu of work.
Throughout the working class movement there is a growing desire for unity on the part of the worker. The opportunist leadership of the ILP, tired of the wilderness and hoping to avoid responsibility of leadership in the great battles ahead , want to climb back into the Labour Party and a safe milieu of work. Their attitude toward affiliation is an opportunist one. But to combat them we have to counterpose a revolutionary attitude. Affiliation is entirely correct and in line with the historical trend and tasks. From every point of view affiliation would be advantageous to us. It would clarify the position of the ILP leadership as out and out reformist, not to be distinguished from the “left” Labour bureaucrats; it would intensify the differentiation within the ILP and help to crystallise the revolutionary wing; the ILP would act as a medium for organising the leftward movement of Labour workers who can be won to Trotskyism through our faction. The Labour leaders and the ILP leaders understand the position well: they would like nothing better than that the Trotskyists break from the ILP at this stage.
What weight has this so-called broader, non-Party Trotskyist faction, to whom we must make such “concessions”? The Wicks-Dewar faction had 9 members when Stuart penned his work, and no influence outside London. Since then, the best members – the younger elements – are now in the party, Wicks and Dewar remaining outside and officially dissolving their faction.
This advice on the ILP work is particularly irritating when it is taken into account that this is the first that we have heard from Stuart or any other American comrade on the subject. An elementary understanding of international work would indicate that the normal and obvious course for an IS or SWP delegate would have been to thoroughly discuss the question with the party leadership, before giving advice – advice obviously not intended for the leadership, since he had plenty of opportunities to offer this in discussion. Not even Trotsky would have deemed it proper to do this.
In any event, even if Stuart’s information on the incidental questions had been correct, at the very least it was light-minded and irresponsible to give a “directive” on a secondary question such as this, without taking the trouble to familiarise himself with the whole of the party work, the balance of forces, etc., etc., of which he is entirely ignorant even today.
His presumption is particularly glaring in the case he instanced of Roy Tearse. For months before his withdrawal, comrade Tearse was purely a nominal member of the ILP. His retention in fact, would have damaged us, as events have shown. It was far more important for comrade Tearse to conduct the open activity of the party in the industrial field, which has shown such good results for the party. Had Stuart taken the trouble to discuss the question, he could not have doubted this for a moment. But isn’t it rather fantastic that we have to write to the American comrades and discuss an organisational detail such as this? What would the comrades think if we had to intervene in a similar fashion in the organisational work of the American party, on the basis of some careless gossip that we had heard in private from some comrades, without a knowledge of the facts? What would the American comrades think if we demanded to know why so-and-so had been withdrawn from the Michigan Commonwealth Federation, and sent to do open work in Minneapolis?
This “example” (the withdrawal of comrade Tearse) is given to “prove” that the “policy of sporadic withdrawal must be replaced by a policy of building the left wing”! What withdrawals, comrade? Name them. As a matter of fact in some years of factional work we have taken only two or three people out of the ILP – and then only for good reasons. On the other hand, we have placed and retained in the ILP several comrades that we could ill spare from other important work – not from the point of view of immediate gains – but entirely from the point of view of long term perspective. Far from sporadic withdrawals all the people we gain in the ILP, remain there. This is an elementary question which is part of our whole organisational practice.
The example of comrade Tearse’s withdrawal is introduced to show that we have only conducted “haphazard work” in the ILP. Here is the evidence that we lack a “perspective”, a “plan of work”. What does Stuart think our comrades in the ILP have been doing over the past few years – playing hop-scotch?
It is significant that Stuart, who is supposed to be giving a directive on “perspectives” if you please... precisely fails to raise the question of perspectives! Since 1938 we have predicted the inevitable gravitation of the ILP to its reformist home – the Labour Party. We have based our perspective inside and outside the ILP on this prognosis. It is an astonishing thing that not once in his treatise, is this all important issue – precisely in relation to perspective – mentioned, i.e. affiliation to the Labour Party. One cannot even begin to talk about “perspective” without dealing with this question.
To say that our work was “mainly literary” is just ridiculous. In fact this side of our work has not been sufficiently developed. Not because we did not have any perspectives, comrade Stuart, but because of many factors, including paucity of forces.
After years of patient work with young, inexperienced comrades, our work in the ILP is taking shape. All the pseudo-Trotskyists groupings are united now – but in the party. We are penetrating into new districts where we formerly had no members or influence. But even now this work is in its early stages. Our perspective in the ILP is not one of “Get rich quick”, but of patient accumulation.
More recently, some of the SWP comrades have posed the orientation of the party towards the ILP from the standpoint of a campaign for fusion. No doubt we shall shortly be hearing from their friends in the British party posing these original ideas. It is our conception that fusion is posed in revolutionary politics when there is a substantial measure of agreement on the fundamental programme, and a fair measure of agreement on the secondary tactical issues; or it is posed as a tactical manoeuvre to sharpen out a dispute already in existence, with the purpose of securing a consolidation of the left centrist minority with the revolutionary party, and a split.
Whatever perspective is set, the struggle for fusion must be the centre of the party’s orientation and activity – if it is to achieve the desired effect. The whole weight of the party must be thrown into the breech, at the point of attack. But an elementary acquaintance with the evolution of the ILP in the past ten years, would rule out the first perspective at this stage of the struggle. Later, it may pose itself in the midst of a revolutionary upheaval.
The ILP, which evolved to the left from 1931 to 1934, has made a steady progression to the right since that date. In the last three years, particularly, that process has been speeded up. As a “principled” turn, fusion could only exaggerate the revolutionary potential of the ILP, would run counter to its present evolution, it should conflict with our general perspective and confuse our sympathisers on a national scale.
As a tactical manoeuvre it also runs contrary to our general perspective. After discussion over a period of months by our political bureau, it was rejected, because it would not compensate for the withdrawal from other more favourable fields of work – even if successful.
The present phase of the struggle in Britain and the relation of forces makes it impossible to effectively shatter the ILP and remove it as an obstacle in our path at this stage. Were we to split the left wing away, as we explained before, we would only isolate them in the next phase of the struggle. The Labour Party leaders are seeking a left cover and they are finding it in the ILP. Bereft of the Trotskyists and its own left wing, the ILP will still be an attractive force for the leftward moving Labour workers when it is inside the Labour Party. Inside the Labour Party, when fresh forces, moving to the left, seek expression through the ILP, the whole problem of fusion and split will be posed on a different plane. But that is the music of the future and not at all of today.
A sore thumb
A consistent theme which runs through Stuart’s Bulletin like a “sore thumb”, to use one of his own phrases, is that the leadership of the ex-WIL was and is theoretically weak and is especially characterised by “infectious activism”. To balance this, we are told that the former RSL was more strongly inclined to “pay serious attention to theory”. This is accompanied by allegations that WIL had a “somewhat sectarian spirit” and a mechanical approach towards other groups. Proof? There is not a shadow! Let us pose a question to comrade Stuart: [can you] show us a single document dealing with questions of theory or policy to back up your assertions?
“Naturally,” says Stuart, “the leadership carries over into the RCP all positive as well as the negative characteristics that attached to it in the WIL.”
This is emphasised by the statements – not proved, merely asserted – that the leadership had previously approached work with other organisations in a “mechanical, somewhat sectarian spirit”. Such material can only have value for our movement if backed by examples – concrete examples of alleged failures. In the absence of such examples we can only ask the SWP membership to conclude that this criticism has no validity.
Let Stuart explain the evolution of the British movement for the past six or seven years on the basis of this assertion. He will find it very difficult. For our part, we are not prepared to open up old wounds and go over sterile discussions of the past which can have value only for the archive rat or the historian of the future, but which would only introduce the antagonisms of the past into the fused party, and therefore be a godsend to the professional faction fighter.
The statement that “we will have to learn how to learn from the membership, as wel as how to teach it” can only mean that we did not do so in the past, and therefore as a leadership, lacked the most elementary understanding of the role of leadership.
We know that some of our American comrades pride themselves on their work in the organisational sphere. We are not exactly strangers to the work of the American party. We followed the discussion with the Burnham-Shachtman-Abern faction, and all the factions before that, and we were not unimpressed. But pardon us if we feel annoyed at such utter drivel being put into circulation in all seriousness – particularly when this stuff comes from a self-styled theoretician of the “organisational” school. Under far more difficult conditions than those faced by our American comrades, and without the personal guidance and authority of comrade Trotsky we have slowly and painfully overcome the liabilities of a bad start, and we have built something here of which we are by no means ashamed. Maybe comrade Stuart should learn a little from the British party.
Stuart states that the two sections underwent a unique development. The official section, the RSL, he says developed a strong sectarian current while the WIL apparently developed the transitional programme correctly. How this evolution is explained – in face of the low political level of the WIL – we are not told. Nor could he explain it. For if the facts about the unique development as stated by Stuart are correct, his conclusions are entirely contrary to the materialist interpretation of events. For purely factional ends, materialist interpretation is replaced by idealistic invention – and not so idealistic at that! It is not necessary to go into a lengthy refutation of this nonsense. We can only say to our American comrades who are students of this question: read the respective documents, read the respective publications which should be procurable at SWP headquarters.
“The fusion” says Stuart, “coming at the end of a bitter internal struggle in both organisations, has of course, left some wound scars.” This is intended to create a false impression of the real situation as it existed before the fusion. If Stuart did not like the truth, he should at least have remained silent instead of deliberately falsifying by implication. As everyone in Britain knows, and as the leaders of the SWP know: the RSL before the fusion was divided into three separate and distinct organisations. The RSL was dissolved by the IS and had to be specially reconstituted a few weeks prior to the fusion with the WIL, a politically united organisation. The impression is given that the WIL minority was a substantial factor. It had no political differences and at the last WIL conference it received one vote. To say that there was a “bitter internal struggle” on a par with that in the RSL is to create an entirely different picture.
The historical outline of the pre-fusion period is false in one particular after another and is entirely confusing. It is not proposed here to go into the political and tactical differences – alleged and real – which are the headaches of the future historian! But when Stuart concluded this prelude with the statement: “The minority of the RSL which held the position of the FI, correctly saw a solution only in the fusion of the two organisations. Neither the sectarian majority of the RSL or the WIL would at first countenance such a solution...” it creates a very incorrect impression. There is not one single document Stuart can produce to prove such an assertion or indicate the truth of the above statement; but there are many documents in the archives of the IS which tell a different story. We do not think it necessary to produce these documents here. Sufficient to say that neither faction was in existence when the negotiations commenced between the WIL and the RSL for fusion.
Late in the fusion discussions, Stuart worked in close conjunction with the TO and the minority of the WIL when it arose. The thesis worked out by Stuart in writing was that the TO-WIL minority were the loyal fourth internationalists. That is to say, they agreed with Stuart and his immediate friends – that the WIL and the other factions of the RSL were lacking in internationalism; and that it was necessary to keep the loyal faction in being at all costs. There is a whole literature on this question in the archive of the SWP leadership. We published in this country a letter from an American comrade together with our reply, as well as a factional letter from Stuart to the TO (not intended for publication). We suggested that the SWP membership be let into these discussions as well – but they were not.
Before the fusion took place, Stuart wrote a closed letter to the TO urging the retention of the loyal faction even in the event of fusion. “The TO’s programme presages a long term perspective, however, and it should prepare to maintain itself on this programme for a considerable time to come, no matter what organisational turns the situation may take.” It was part of this considered policy of keeping this faction – with no political differences – in being, that Stuart “report” was penned.
Since the fusion all negotiations and arrangements with the comrades inside the party and with European comrades in Britain are made through the faction or one of its members. The leadership of the British party are not informed of these arrangements and discussions and learn of them only by accident or not at all. Most of the time of Stuart and his friends are spent with the faction who do not inform the party of what discussions take place.
Why this faction, or clique, lacking political differences, is to be kept in being, we do not know. It is for reasons best known only to Stuart and his friends. For our part, we can only chart the fact.
Comrades of the SWP! Consider Stuart’s “report” again. A polemic from beginning to end against the ex-WIL and RSL leaderships, and statements only of their alleged incapacity. All the organisational nonsense and detail can have no real value for the SWP. The purpose of the Bulletin? A sort of honourable mention for the loyal friends of Stuart.
It may be that the leadership of the RCP is backward, incompetent, and should be replaced by more capable and more loyal comrades. But if Stuart wants to aid this process he will have to lift the polemic from the plane of gossip and manoeuvre to a political level.
Comrade Stuart was unlucky. He was badly informed! But so is every peddler of gossip who orients himself on gossip. There was no need for him to make these blunders – he was asked to check them. But he was not interested in checking them.
A capable leadership, nationally and internationally, can only be created as part of a genuine international and national collaboration and through honest political discussion and education. It will never be created by an organisational sleight of hand. In Britain, we republish important political discussion material we receive from America. This we do as part of our international education. Despite meagre technical resources we are glad to do so, because this gives a real political bond with the American party. But we would never, under any circumstances, publish the gossip that we hear from American comrades of all tendencies. In particular, we would never publish a criticism of the official leadership which came to us from factional sources (unless it was a public document in circulation in the SWP) without prior consultation with the leadership for verification or refutation.
Maybe we have a naïve, or incorrect, or formalistic attitude towards international collaboration and work. But we believe that the leaderships of the national sections have a certain duty and loyalty to each other. Trotsky taught us to be loyal, and he taught us to be careful with gossip. In the Comintern in the best days, reports of national sections were official reports. Of course, the minority has always the right to add its piece. This method of Lenin is the only way that loyal international collaboration can be conducted. Stuart’s method is harmful and can only lead to conflict and disruption. Let us hope that this kind of “reporting” will now be discontinued and we will not be involved in a discussion such as this in the future.
In concluding this letter, let us say that we have had no pleasure in penning it. It is with the greatest reluctance that we have taken time off from more pressing political tasks. If the tone appears sharper than some comrades think necessary in the circumstances, let us say we have deliberately toned down. We wish to minimise and not exaggerate the situation. The responsibility for the conflict rests entirely on the shoulders of Stuart and his immediate friends. We want a loyal international collaboration with the SWP and its leadership with whom we have political agreement on all outstanding questions. We object, however, to the American leadership, or a faction of it, having organisational faction or clique irons in the British fire. That is the international method of Zinoviev and not of Trotsky.
We have entered an epoch which is our epoch. The great tasks that face us and the struggles that lie ahead will demand the fullest fraternal collaboration and assistance in the spirit of Bolshevism. The SWP and the RCP have been fortunate in that we have not suffered the ravages of the reaction, which have been suffered by our European comrades. A loyal collaboration between us will have important repercussions in Europe; will be a tremendous step towards solidifying all sections of the Trotskyist movement. Such a loyal collaboration, however, must be based upon political clarity, agreement and honesty and not upon petty gossip mongering and organisational manoeuvre.
Political bureau, January 1945
 Published in this volume. The resolution was passed at the WIL conference of October 1943 and submitted by WIL and approved as a basic document at the fusion conference of March 1944.
 In the original, the headline was mistyped as: The right to strike is one of the freedoms for which we strike.
 This is the WIL resolution on military policy, drafted by Jock Haston and passed at the fusion conference.