Sunday, 21 December 2014
British Trotskyism in 2014
Britain has never had a strong movement of Trotskyism let’s be clear. In 2014 with the two major forces on the left identifying as Trotskyist as the socialist party SP and the Socialist Workers party – SWP Both have had high points in their history to the leading of the Liverpool City Council in the 1980’s of the former Militant Socialist party to the SWP who claim to be the leaders of the stop the war movement in and around 2003 with the estimated march of over a million on the streets of London opposing the Iraq war. Both claim to hold true to the true meaning of Trotsky and his perspectives and look to replicate a Russia 1917 all over again and be the head of that movement. In the UK we have many Trotskyist groups claiming to be the one true revolutionary group yet none getting the irony that Marxism is all about a working class party which does not seek to create other party’s to oppose it. Yet in the UK we have so many little left sects who all believe they are right and all the other groups are wrong. For me I have only been a member of one trot party that being the Socialist party of England and Wales. The SP for ease of reference. This party while similar to its others on the surface likes to boost about its proud tradition in the unions and in leading mass campaigns. Trotskyists are not anything if they are not unique in explaining why they are the real followers of Leon Trotsky and that how their tradition follows in his footsteps not any other group. For me seeing the SP and the SWP go into battle for the same battle ground saddened me in many ways we were almost taught to hate the SWP much like if we were a rangers fan we were born to hate Celtic fans and vice versa. Despite many not even gaining an understanding as to why and how our party came to hate this other lot and we must oppose them wherever we can. It’s just something many did not and will not question but accept that they are not part of our party so must be against us. I did find a lot of good SWP members and I am still in touch with many now who have left their own party for all together other reasons but are still sound people and are committed to changing society for the better despite no longer being in a party like myself but most importantly not wishing to continue the SWP’s and trotskyist poisonous politics any further. For me they are better for this. The authoritarian nature of these groups is no coincidence for me. Having put a term to the experiences I came across in the SP authoritarianism is something which is think is deeply held within certain parts of Marxism and Leninism as an extension of this tradition. For me the blind loyalty to a leadership you may have elected your delegate of your branch to go to congress to decide on your behalf if its good enough or not despite not knowing much on their inn’s and out’s is something which troubled me deeply. I was once a branch sectary of a local branch and felt as though I was carrying my branch’s thoughts and opinions on my shoulders yet when I got to congress I ended up falling in line with the majority decision of our region who felt we should all vote a retain w ay. This for me was me being part of a hierarchical structure of following those on high as those higher up must understand more and I should back them. This for me was one of many points in which I found myself catching myself to ask am I doing the correct thing here. For me I felt my views my opinions were getting sub subsumed into the party line I was pumping out the party line instead of my own thought out views and opinions on things. For me a political organisation of any sort can’t have a dictated line of which all should follow us all have our own minds and thoughts which must be put forward if so desired we can’t just elect others to represent us to then vote on our behalf. This is not democracy and for me is the reason why representative democracy is a sham and will not ever worked for the many. I think in Britain due to so many failures and few success’s many identified trotskyists try to get back to what Leon himself felt to be the true path to victory yet forgetting Trotsky himself never won as such. He came under huge scrutiny from the then Stalinist dictatorship which his previous supporters of Lenin and co who formed the communist party set in motion. Trotsky eventually came to his end by a Stalinist agent who tracked him down due to his opposition to a leadership not run by him and of him. So today’s British trotskyist party’s wish to recreate a movement where they are against the so called Stalinist leadership of the “right wing trade union leaders” which for the SP was a long held up bogey man which is the eternal baddie in the struggle and only a left wing Marxist leadership i.e. a socialist party run union leadership can make things right. Of course this would not solve anything as the PCS union shows who is lead by a left wing fighting leadership we are told which is in affect a socialist party run union with many of its own members at the head of this union. Only this weekend we have been told the union is under attack from the government not surprisingly of course as it has tried to resist some of the cuts in rhetoric anyway and have been under financial attack by the go who wish to end their “check off” system of how subs are paid as a consequence the union as seen fit to suspend all group and sector elections for the next 12 months. Ok the union is under attack but to suspend elections come on this is nothing but a b bureaucratic stitch up to muffle descent in the union and to centralise the union to doing what the leadership feel is necessary which in its view is staff cuts and its own version of austerity More can be read at http://www.pcs.org.uk/en/news_and_events/pcs_comment/index.cfm/government-steps-up-political-attack-on-pcs One of the many irritating things about British Trotskyism as I cant speak for any other country’s own version is their dogmatic approach to selling papers and this idea of hyper activity if we are not filling our free days with activity of visiting a work place or having a paper sale we were wasting vital opportunities for convincing those mystic radical workers which were out there waiting for our call to come join us in our mission for global change. I spent many a morning on a cold damp paper sale trying to flog our latest line on why we need a “24 hour general strike” while ordinary people walked past wondering why we bother while they go about saving vital cash to afford their weekly shop. We rarely sold a paper when I was involved in a sale I gave away more than I sold I have to admit. Yes the paper fascinated me I contributed the odd article even but never did me feel this was vital to our work. The idea of pamphlets and literature explaining the current situation I’m not against what I am against is the contra sending shite we pumped out the stupid repetitive slogans of “strike now” “save our NHS” “vote for a socialist alternative against the boss’s party’s” and so on. I have been guilty of similar sloganeering on this very blog from my time in such party’s but stating the obvious has rarely got us anywhere in the past so why would it now? The political traditions that explicitly look towards the legacy of the Russian revolution have to some degree or another sought to replicate the political, ideological and organisational paradigms of Leninism. What is more, attitudes towards the USSR split the labour movement, sometimes in obvious ways such as attitudes to NATO, sometimes in less obvious ways, such as the anti-Communism of some union leaders being more motivated by opposing what they saw as outside interference in their own unions. Hugh Wilford’s excellent book “The CIA, the British Left and the Cold War: Calling the Tune?” highlights the degree to which British and American Trotskyism in the 1950s reflected the impact of individualist liberalism on the left, and itself reinforced anti-communism, and common sense misconceptions of “totalitarianism” that conflated communism and fascism, and overlooked the degree to which Western liberal freedoms were themselves founded upon the crimes of colonialism, and that the political liberties were predicated upon unequal economic power. Communism itself, in its Leninist form, assumed the overthrow of existing social relations, and therefore the need to create not only a new society but also a counter-hegemonic ideological project, founded upon a disciplined party. As Pierre Bourdieu has remarked “Once a system of mechanisms has been constituted capable of objectively ensuring the reproduction of the existing order by its own motion, the dominant class have only to let the system they dominate take its own course in order to exercise their domination; but until such a system exists, they have to work directly, daily personally, to produce and reproduce conditions of domination which are even then never entirely trustworthy”. I find many Marxists who define themselves as such today do not ever put their real politics to the front in arena’s such as elections in which they believe they can gain a platform from they always water down what they stand for to the supposed understanding of “ordinary people” this often comes across as highly condescending in my experience and does nothing to further their eventual goal. I still do know many good members of various British left sects and think they have a lot of good intentions but those with good intentions have been wrong in the past and directed us in a very dark direction. Taking a section of Trotsky’s many works on where he ended up and how many of today’s party’s follow such lines “In contrast to the Right Opposition, Leon Trotsky, ever since his expulsion from the Soviet Union in 1929, had worked strenuously to build up a Leninist faction internationally. The Trotskyists saw their prime task as the reform of the Comintern, with the idea of bringing it back onto the road of Leninism as well as the reintroduction of workers' democracy in the Soviet Union. Trotsky right up until 1933 and the victory of Hitler defended this perspective. The victory of Hitler constituted an historic turning point for Trotsky. The utter failure of the German debacle, which was caused primarily by the ultra-left policies of the Stalinists, to stir up any opposition or criticism within the ranks of the Communist International, meant that the Comintern was dead. Incredibly, the leadership of the Comintern declared their policies absolutely correct. "After Hitler", they said, "our turn!" The actions of the Stalinists were comparable to the betrayal of the social democrats in 1914. Trotsky drew the conclusion that reform of the Comintern was no longer tenable, and that new revolutionary parties would have to be built and a new international prepared. "After the shameful capitulation of the Communist International in Germany", stated Trotsky, "the Bolshevik-Leninists, without hesitating a moment, proclaimed: the Third International is dead!" “ Does this remind you of anything? The SP and its co thinkers now thinking the labour party is dead for workers and we no need a “new workers party” pumped out in article after article even from me at one point who was convinced “new workers party” is all we need to forward revolutionary matters for the working class in this country. If only we had a proper mass party to represent our views I used to think. Well creating a labour party mark 2 was my eventual conclusion and well if one labour party was bad enough why on earth were we trying to create another one on similar lines backed by the same tired out reformist bureaucratic union leadership who area apparently on the same left as us hilariously. The Left today is akin to ghosts which have arisen due to an improper burial service. Trotsky was never properly buried, so all sorts of distortions and revisions of his figure continue to haunt the scene of the Left to this day. His repressed legacy returns as the return of the repressed, which is what we find as the grotesque symptom of Leftist sectarianism in the contemporary political arena. I learnt a lot from my time in the SP and will be forever grateful for introducing me to class politics but the bad parts I will not take with me and will look to expose forever more and where I find it. A better world is possible, but not if we don’t learn from our past however uncomfortable that may be. I learnt many lessons inside and outside of various political party’s I conclude by thinking hierarchical political party’s have had their day in many ways and we need to start to think beyond them whilst not forgetting the good lessons they have taught us all.