Sunday, January 23, 2022
State Capitalism Today The concept of state capitalism is associated by many on the left with past debates about Russia. The argument as to whether Russia or the Soviet Union was communist, socialist, a degenerated workers’ state, some kind of bureaucratic collectivism, or state capitalist is often held up as a typical example of far-left sectarian squabbling over obscure issues of terminology, and therefore as an issue which, now that the Soviet Union is no more, we should all set aside and move on from. However, I want to suggest that that there is much more at stake in the question of state capitalism than what label should be attached to Russia or other “communist” countries. Rather, the issue goes to the heart of our understanding of: a) the nature of capitalism; b) the Marxist critique of capitalism; and c) the essence of socialism. In this article I intend to discuss the whole matter without reference to the Soviet Union or that episode in history, important as it was, but with reference to current debates about capitalism, China, current geo-political conflicts, and ecosocialism. Let’s start by going back to basics. Capitalism and private property It has long been widely assumed—in the academic world, on much of the left, and in general public discourse—that capitalism is essentially defined as a system based on private ownership of the means of production. If you google “capitalism: definition” or “the meaning of capitalism,” the following appears: An economic and political system in which a country's trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state. Merriam-Webster offers the following definition: An economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market. The Concise Oxford Dictionary (1976) says: Capitalism, n.: Possession of capital or wealth; system in which private capital or wealth is used in production and distribution of goods And Wikipedia begins its entry: Capitalism is an economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production and their operation for profit. The Cambridge Online dictionary concurs: An economic, political, and social system in which property, business, and industry are privately owned, directed towards making the greatest possible profits for successful organizations and people. In the face of such unanimity, who can argue? Surely the proposition is simply a matter of fact or else true “by definition.” Except that private ownership of the means of production cannot, in itself, be the defining characteristic of capitalism for the simple reason that it has existed in numerous non- and pre-capitalist societies. Thus, in Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome the two main means of production were land and unfree labour (slaves), and both were privately owned. In European feudalism in the early Middle Ages, all the land of the kingdom was, “theoretically,” the private property of the king, and in practice most of it was the private property of the landed aristocracy and the church. On the other hand, more or less every capitalist economy has contained some degree of state ownership of the forces of production, and in many instances that degree has been very substantial. Thus, in Germany the railways were nationalised after WW1, and during the Weimar Republic large sections of mining, banking, and shipping were taken into public ownership. In France there was a big wave of nationalisations after WW2, including the railways, Renault, the electricity and gas industries, and Credit Lyonnais and other banks. While in the UK after the War, nationalised industries included the railways, London Transport, the BBC, British Airways, British Coal, British Steel, the Bank of England, British Gas, and the Post Office. The emergence of capitalism as the dominant economic system in the world occurred over several centuries, essentially from the fifteenth to the nineteenth century. What this centrally involved was not the establishment of private property but three connected processes: the spread of commodity production (i.e. production for sale on the market rather than consumption by the producers); the transformation of labour power into a commodity (i.e. the spread of wage labour and the development of the modern working class or proletariat); the winning of state power by the bourgeoisie in a series of revolutions (the Dutch, the English, the American, the French, etc.); and the transformation of the state into an instrument of bourgeois class rule. The spread of capitalism globally occurred primarily through imperialism or the pressure exerted by imperialism, in which the state played a crucial role, militarily, politically, and economically. If capitalism in the dominant Western countries tended, as a broad generalisation, to favour laissez-faire and free trade, in countries of belated capitalist development, such as Japan or the so-called Asian Tigers, the state tended to play a larger, more active economic role. The overall outcome of this is that capitalism exists as a global system of competitive capital accumulation in which competition rages both between giant multinational corporations (usually closely linked to particular states) and between capitalist states themselves, as in USA v China v France v Japan, etc. Hence the idea that capitalism, either in the past or today, can be seen as simply a system of private ownership, or that states and state-owned industries can be seen as somehow separate from or outside capitalism or as a non-capitalist sector in the economy, is completely unsustainable. Moreover, there is now abundant evidence that nationalised industries owned and run by capitalist states operate fundamentally on the same principles of profit and loss and exploitation of their workers as private capitalist businesses: Aer Lingus, ESB, Iarnród Éireann, and Bus Éireann are examples of this in Ireland, but other examples could be provided from around the world. The Marxist critique of capitalism Marx was of course against private ownership and control of production, and wanted to replace it by social ownership (of which more later), but this does not at all mean that his critique of capitalism can be reduced to a critique of private ownership. Marx’s starting point in his critique was a profound analysis of alienation (in the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 ) which showed how alienated labour (labour that is sold, i.e. wage labour) estranges humans from the products of their labour, from themselves, from their fellow human beings, and from nature. This was combined with a critique of the bureaucratic state in his Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, which rejected the idea of the state as representing society as a whole. Marx developed his analysis of alienated labour into an analysis of exploitation which showed how capitalism was based on the extraction of surplus value (profit) from workers’ labour, first clearly formulated in 1847 in Wage Labour and Capital and later developed in Capital, and a historical theory of class struggle between exploiter and exploited, oppressor and oppressed, set out in The Communist Manifesto, which culminates in the struggle between bourgeoisie and proletariat and, it was to be hoped, the victory of the proletariat, thus establishing a society where accumulated or dead labour serves living labour rather than vice versa and all class divisions are overcome. To depict this total critique and vision of human liberation as essentially an argument about state ownership versus private ownership is to narrow it and falsify it. Moreover, Marx’s critical analysis of capitalist production contains an important strand, the law of the concentration and centralisation of capital, which underpins the tendency within capitalism for the state to take over more and more means of production. Competition between capitalists means, says Marx, that “one capitalist always kills many.” Capital accumulation means the “concentration of capitals already formed, destruction of their individual independence, expropriation of capitalist by capitalist, transformation of many small into few large capitals.” Thus, free market capitalism, by its own laws, becomes transformed into monopoly capitalism with the concentration of ever larger amounts of capital and production in the hands of ever fewer and larger companies. This tendency has been empirically confirmed by the development of capitalism over the last 150 years, and can be visibly observed today in the domination of global oil, gas, steel, and car production, of banking, retail, computing, and social media, by handfuls of giant corporations that have become household names—BP, Shell, Mittal, Toyota, Goldman Sachs, WallMart, Amazon, Google, etc. Theoretically, Marx speculates, the limit of this centralisation would be ‘when the entire social capital was united in the hands of rather a single capitalist or a single capitalist company,” but in practice what is more likely is that increasing spheres of production are taken over by the state. This development was explored and predicted by Engels in his famous work Socialism: Utopian or Scientific. Engels comments on the rise in the nineteenth century of joint-stock companies and trusts, and then continues: In any case, with trusts or without, the official representative of capitalist society—the state—will ultimately have to undertake the direction of production. This necessity for conversion into State property is felt first in the great institutions for intercourse and communication—the post office, the telegraphs, the railways… But, the transformation—either into joint-stock companies and trusts, or into State-ownership—does not do away with the capitalistic nature of the productive forces. In the joint-stock companies and trusts, this is obvious. And the modern State, again, is only the organization that bourgeois society takes on in order to support the external conditions of the capitalist mode of production against the encroachments as well of the workers as of individual capitalists. The modern state, no matter what its form, is essentially a capitalist machine—the state of the capitalists, the ideal personification of the total national capital. The more it proceeds to the taking over of productive forces, the more does it actually become the national capitalist, the more citizens does it exploit. The workers remain wage-workers—proletarians. The capitalist relation is not done away with. It is, rather, brought to a head. [My emphasis – JM] Nor was it just Engels who wrote on these lines. There was extensive discussion within the Marxist movement of tendencies towards state capitalism, particularly in conjunction with imperialism, long prior to the advent of Stalinist Russia: Connolly (as we shall see), Lenin, and Bukharin, among others, all used the term in various ways. This discussion cannot be reviewed here, but it is worth noting the contribution of Bukharin, who, in his study of imperialism in 1915, identified two contradictory tendencies in the development of capitalism: a tendency towards internationalisation (it would be called globalisation now) and a tendency towards statification. On one thing Bukharin, who was close to Lenin, was emphatic: the state takeover of productive forces (“nationalisation”) in no way altered the capitalist nature of either the productive relations or the state. He wrote: With the growth of the importance of state power, its inner structure also changes. The state becomes more than ever before an “executive committee of the ruling classes”….Being a very large shareholder in the state capitalist trust, the modern state is the highest and all-embracing organisational culmination of the latter. In response to then-fashionable talk of “state socialism” and “war socialism” regarding the state’s takeover of industries during World War I, Bukharin replied: What is that picture of present-day "State Socialism" which appears to be a "change in principle"? From the foregoing analysis the answer seems to follow with irresistible logic: We have here the process of accelerated centralisation within the framework of a state capitalist trust, which has developed to the highest form, not of State Socialism, but of State Capitalism. By no means do we see here a new structure of production, i.e., a change in the interrelation of classes; on the contrary, we have here an increase in the potency of the power of a class that owns the means of production in quantities hitherto unheard of. To apply to such a state of affairs a terminology fit for post-capitalist relations, is not only very risky, but also highly absurd. "War Socialism" and "State Socialism" are purposely being circulated with the direct intention of misleading the people and of covering up by a "good" word a very ungainly content. The capitalist mode of production is based on a monopoly of the means of production in the hands of the class of capitalists within the general framework of commodity exchange. There is no difference in principle whatsoever whether the state power is a direct expression of this monopoly or whether the monopoly is "privately" organised. In either case there remains commodity economy (in the first place the world market) and, what is more important, the class relations between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. 22 It follows from the above that (as far as capitalism will retain its foothold) the future belongs to economic forms that are close to state capitalism. There remains one argument which appears both within and outside Marxist circles against even the theoretical possibility of a thoroughgoing state capitalist society. It is that whatever about the nature of nationalised industries within a predominantly private capitalist country, the moment the state sector becomes dominant or total there is a qualitative shift: the economic laws of capitalism no longer apply and the society ceases to be capitalist. This argument was neatly summarised by James Burnham in his important book The Managerial Revolution. The term “state capitalism” seems to be due to a misunderstanding….When the state owns only a part, and a minor part, of the economy, with the rest of the economy remaining capitalist private enterprise, we might correctly speak of “state capitalism” in connection with that minor state-owned part: since, as we have seen, the economy remains in its balance capitalist and even the state-owned part may be directed primarily to the benefit of the capitalist part. But the “capitalism” in “state capitalism” is derived not from the state-controlled part. When the latter disappears, or becomes negligible, then the capitalism has disappeared. There is no paradox in saying that 10 times 10% state capitalism, far from equalling 100% capitalism, equals 0% capitalism. The multiplication is of state, not of capitalism. Though the mathematics would be much more complex, it would be nearer an analogy to say that, just as 10% state capitalist economy equals only 90% capitalist economy, so 100% (or even 80% or 70%) state economy would have eliminated capitalism altogether. This objection might be valid if the statification were in a single, global, state-run economy, because then the competition between capitals which generates and enforces the drive to maximise profit and accumulate capital, which is the central dynamic of capitalism, would be absent. However, if, as is actually case, the process of statification is accomplished in one or several separate countries which remain in economic and therefore also geo-political and military competition with other states and economies within the world market, the principle features of capitalism—the exploitation of workers to maximise profit, competitive capital accumulation and compulsion to grow, and production for profit rather than human need—will continue. Socialism, the state and the working class Having rejected the view that capitalism can be defined essentially as a system of private property, I want now to turn to the idea that state ownership is an essential characteristic of socialism. The equation of state ownership with socialism is even weaker than the equation of private property with capitalism. Just as there were many pre-capitalist societies founded on private property, and many capitalist societies which included a large measure of state ownership, so there were numerous manifestly non-socialist societies based largely on state or collective property. These include various instances of what Marx called “the Asiatic mode of production” and what Karl Wittfogel called “Oriental Despotism,” such as Moghul India and imperial China, along with Pharaonic Egypt, Mamluk Egypt in the Middle Ages, and the Aztec and Incan empires. For Marx and Engels and all revolutionary socialists before the advent of Stalinism, socialism was first and foremost the self emancipation of the working class. The idea that state ownership separate from working-class emancipation constituted socialism was ruthlessly mocked by Engels. He writes: But of late, since Bismarck went in for State-ownership of industrial establishments, a kind of spurious Socialism has arisen, degenerating, now and again, into something of flunkyism, that without more ado declares all State-ownership, even of the Bismarkian sort, to be socialistic. Certainly, if the taking over by the State of the tobacco industry is socialistic, then Napoleon and Metternich must be numbered among the founders of Socialism. If the Belgian State, for quite ordinary political and financial reasons, itself constructed its chief railway lines; if Bismarck, not under any economic compulsion, took over for the State the chief Prussian lines, simply to be the better able to have them in hand in case of war, to bring up the railway employees as voting cattle for the Government, and especially to create for himself a new source of income independent of parliamentary votes—this was, in no sense, a socialistic measure, directly or indirectly, consciously or unconsciously. Otherwise, the Royal Maritime Company, the Royal porcelain manufacture, and even the regimental tailor of the army would also be socialistic institutions, or even, as was seriously proposed by a sly dog in Frederick William III's reign, the taking over by the State of the brothels. Similarly, James Connolly in 1899 argued: One of the most significant signs of our times is the readiness with which our struggling middle class turns to schemes of State or Municipal ownership and control, for relief from the economic pressure under which it is struggling. Thus we find in England demands for the nationalisation of the telephone system, for the extension of municipal enterprise in the use of electricity, for the extension of the parcel system in the Post Office, for the nationalisation of railways and canals. In Ireland we have our middle class reformers demanding state help for agriculture, state purchase of lands, arterial draining, state construction of docks, piers and harbours, state aid for the fishing industry, state control of the relations between agricultural tenant and landlord, and also nationalisation of railways and canals. There is a certain section of Socialists, chiefly in England, who never tire of hailing all such demands for state activity as a sign of the growth of the Socialist spirit among the middle class, and therefore worthy of all the support the working-class democracy can give. But all this notwithstanding, we would, without undue desire to carp or cavil, point out that to call such demands “Socialistic” is in the highest degree misleading. Socialism properly implies above all things the co-operative control by the workers of the machinery of production; without this co-operative control the public ownership by the State is not Socialism—it is only State capitalism. Therefore, we repeat, state ownership and control is not necessarily Socialism—if it were, then the Army, the Navy, the Police, the Judges, the Gaolers, the Informers, and the Hangmen, all would all be Socialist functionaries, as they are State officials—but the ownership by the State of all the land and materials for labour, combined with the co-operative control by the workers of such land and materials, would be Socialism To the cry of the middle class reformers, “make this or that the property of the government,” we reply, “yes, in proportion as the workers are ready to make the government their property.” This is entirely consistent with the way in which Marx and Engels always posed the abolition of capitalism and the transition to socialism. In The German Ideology they state, “Communism is for us not a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust itself. We call communism the real movement [i.e. the movement of the proletariat – JM] which abolishes the present state of things.” In The Poverty of Philosophy, “Just as the economists are the scientific representatives of the bourgeois class, so the Socialists and Communists are the theoreticians of the proletarian class [not of state property – JM].” In The Principles of Communism, Engels makes the first principle “Communism is the doctrine of the conditions of the liberation of the proletariat.” The Communist Manifesto begins with an account of the class struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat which will culminate, Marx and Engels say, in the downfall of the bourgeoisie and the victory of the proletariat. Then they continue: We have seen above, that the first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class to win the battle of democracy. The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degree, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralise all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e., of the proletariat organised as the ruling class; and to increase the total productive forces as rapidly as possible. And in Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, Engels writes: Whilst the capitalist mode of production more and more completely transforms the great majority of the population into proletarians, it creates the power which, under penalty of its own destruction, is forced to accomplish this revolution. Whilst it forces on more and more of the transformation of the vast means of production, already socialized, into State property, it shows itself the way to accomplishing this revolution. The proletariat seizes political power and turns the means of production into State property. [Emphasis in the original] In all of these formulations, and in Marxism as a whole, it is the proletariat or working class that is the driving force, the key element, the subject of the historical process. The proletariat wins state power and establishes state ownership of the means of production, not the other way round; state ownership is established and this raises up the proletariat. Socialism is not a blueprint for a planned economy based on state ownership drawn up by advanced theorists who enlist the proletariat (or some other social force) to help set it up; it is the form of society the proletariat must establish in the process of liberating itself. Yes, the proletariat requires a state and state ownership in order to take possession and control of the main means of production; it cannot do this as individuals or workplace by workplace. This a key point of difference between Marxism and anarchism. But this state is not the existing capitalist state taken over by the proletariat, For Marx this was the key lesson from the experience of the Paris Commune. “One thing especially was proved by the Commune, viz. that ‘the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery and wield it for its own purposes.’”. Instead, the capitalist state must be dismantled and replaced by “the proletariat organised as the ruling class,” which Marx called “the dictatorship of the proletariat.” In short, for Marx and Engels and for James Connolly (and the same was true of Rosa Luxemburg, Lenin, Bukharin, Trotsky, Lukacs, Gramsci, and all the revolutionary socialists prior to Stalinism), there could be no socialism without the leading role of the working class. Relevance today The concept of state capitalism has vital strategic relevance for the whole socialist movement internationally. If the abolition of capitalism and the establishment of socialism can be realised simply through state ownership, then there is no necessity for working-class revolution. On the contrary, capitalism can be overcome and socialism instituted by a variety of means. It can be achieved by the gradual extension of public ownership by a social democratic or reformist government through parliamentary legislation. For many decades this was the central strategic goal of the mainstream of social democracy, and after it was increasingly abandoned in favour of neoliberalism, it remained the defining aim of left reformists such as Tony Benn and Jeremy Corbyn. Substantial statification can also be realised by “modernising” nationalist military (or military-linked) political forces, such as Nasser in Egypt, or even imposed from above by a foreign army, as was done by the Russian army in much of Eastern Europe at the end of World War II. Of course, there will be times when revolutionary socialists will call for the formation of a left government committed to major reforms, including nationalisation, and will support such a government against the right. Here an understanding of the concept of state capitalism is important because it reinforces the point that such a left government is only a stepping stone towards workers’ power and socialism, not in itself the actual inauguration of socialism. There will also be many occasions when socialists demand the nationalisation of particular companies or industrial sectors, particularly when they are claiming bankruptcy and throwing their workforce on the dole. Again, the concept of state capitalism is a useful reminder that such nationalisation is only a reform—revolutionaries do fight for reforms—within capitalism and that nationalised firms and industries remain capitalist (i.e., they continue to operate with capitalist relations of production, and class struggle continues within them). This is important because certain types of reformist trade union leaders will try use the status of nationalisation as an argument for holding back workers’ struggle in these sectors. Another question, growing more important by the day, where the concept of state capitalism is vital, is China. Four decades of spectacular economic growth have raised China into the world’s largest economy and made it the principal economic, political, and military rival to the United States and its informal empire. The US has responded as empires always do when faced with an emergent challenger (much as Britain responded to the rise of Germany in the late nineteenth/early twentieth century). Since Obama’s “pivot to Asia” in 2012, it has been shifting its foreign policy and military focus from the Middle East to South East Asia. Now with Biden and the recent AUKUS deal, the concentration on China is intensifying to the point where some commentators, such as John Bellamy Foster of the Monthly Review, are speaking of a new cold war. This development lays a potential trap for the left, summed up in the phrase “My enemy’s enemy is my friend.” Since the US and its allies are lining up against China, and we know they are imperialist liars and robbers, there must be something good about China. This is a very dangerous “principle” for socialists. For example, the fact that in 1914 all the propagandists of the British Empire denounced the Kaiser’s Germany for its brutal militarism and expansionism did not mean it wasn’t brutal, militarist, and expansionist—it most certainly was—ask Rosa Luxemburg! I shall return to this later, but in the instance of China this kind of reaction can be reinforced and given a spurious Marxist gloss by arguing that China is not fully capitalist, or is even partly socialist, and not imperialist because of the size of its state sector and the key role of the state in directing the national economy. In this vein, John Bellamy Foster writes: Even more important than external geopolitical relations in determining China’s future is the internal legacy of the Chinese revolution. The CCP retains strong support from the Chinese population. Moreover, despite the development of the various integuments of capital in China, a number of key strategic-economic variables, related to socialism, free it in part from the “antagonistic centrifugality” that accounts for capitalism’s “uncontrollability” as a system of social metabolic reproduction.11 The noncapitalist sector of the Chinese economy includes not just a large sector of state ownership, but also both state control of finance through state-owned banks and the continuing absence of the private ownership of land. Substantial state ownership of basic infrastructure and finance has allowed for the continuation of economic planning in key areas, associated with a much higher rate of investment. This kind of analysis misses a number of significant facts 1. The Chinese Revolution of 1949, which established the rule of the Chinese Communist Party, was not in any shape or form a workers’ revolution. It was brought about by a military conquest of the cities from the countryside by Mao’s peasant-based People’s Liberation Army. The working class did not intervene in any active way in this process, and at no point was there workers’ power, workers’ control of industry, or workers democracy (or any kind of democracy) under the Maoist regime. 2. Deng Xiaoping’s reforms from 1978 onwards, which for those who identify socialism with state ownership would be seen as a key counterrevolutionary moment, were accomplished without resistance from below and without substantial structural change in the Chinese state. 3. The Chinese economy is highly integrated into the capitalist world economy. China is the largest US merchandise trading partner, the biggest source of imports, and the third-largest US export market. China is also the largest foreign holder of US Treasury securities, which help fund the federal debt and keep US interest rates low. In addition, China’s stock markets are some of the largest in the world, with total market capitalisation reaching RMB 79 trillion (US$12.2 trillion) in 2020. 4. China has a broad, well-established and very rich bourgeoisie. According to Credit Suisse estimates, the number of dollar-millionaires residing in China totalled 5.3 million individuals, ranking second after the United States in the world. Within this, China has a very large number of super-rich. According to one estimate, China now has the largest number of billionaires, 1058, of any country in the world. Possibly more accurate is Forbes’ ranking of China as still being in second place to the US, with 698 to 724, but Forbes also comments that Beijing has added 33 billionaires in the last year and now hosts 100, beating by one New York City for the title of city with most billionaires. 5. This bourgeoisie presides over a highly unequal society. According to the World Bank, China’s Gini coefficient (the standard measure of income inequality in which 100 equals maximum inequality) stands at 38.5—more unequal than Ireland (32.8) and the UK (34.8), but slightly less unequal than the US (41.5). Most importantly, China has a massive, highly exploited working class with very poor conditions of work and no proper trade union rights but a considerable record of struggle. In addition to this straightforward evidence demonstrating the capitalist nature of China, there is the fact that the Chinese regime is extremely authoritarian, brutal, and repressive. Amnesty International reported in 2020 that “China remained the world’s leading executioner—but the true extent of the use of the death penalty in China is unknown as this data is classified as a state secret,” and has also estimated that China carries out more executions than all other countries combined. Then there is the long-standing repression of Tibetans, Tiananmen Square dissidents, Uyghurs, and other Muslims and Hong Kong protestors. The idea that China is somehow semi-socialist leads both to a tendency to minimise this brutality and to the association of socialists with it. An understanding that China is not, and has not been, in any way socialist, but is rather state capitalist, cuts through this apologetics. Painting China red is also an example—the most important example—of a tendency on the left known as “campism.” This is the idea that the essential division in the world is between two camps of countries: an imperialist camp headed by the US (and including its allies) and an anti-imperialist camp who oppose US hegemony. In this view, the job of the left is to solidarise with the anti-imperialist camp and not be too critical of its leaders, and certainly not to work for the overthrow of any of these allegedly anti-imperialist regimes—an activity seen as objectively (and probably subjectively) siding with US imperialism. Which regimes are considered part of this “progressive” camp varies with the current focus of US policy and the current alignment of said regimes. Thus, at different times it has included Syria, Venezuela, Libya, Cuba, Iraq, Ukraine, Putin’s Russia, Belarus, and others. Along with engaging in anti-US rhetoric, having a substantial state sector is commonly regarded as a significant qualifying characteristic for membership of the “anti-imperialist” camp. Two major difficulties with this approach are: a) that it takes anti-imperialist rhetoric at face value when in reality it is entirely opportunistic and not matched with actions or, worse, is combined with imperialist and sub-imperialist deeds—Syria and Russia are a case in point; b) that it ignores the class struggle within the so-called anti-imperialist camp and denies the masses in these countries any right to rebel or resist their oppression. Assad, Gaddafi, and Maduro are not representatives or benefactors of the Syrian, Libyan, and Venezuelan working classes. Again, the concept of state capitalism safeguards against these dangers. Finally there is the question of the environmental and climate crisis—the overarching global issue of our time and of the decades to come. When Marxists and ecosocialists say the problem is not human beings as such, or over population or industrialisation as such, or “the idea of economic growth,” but capitalism, many “greens” and environmentalists will simply reply, “But the Marxist/communist/ socialist countries have been an ecological disaster and just as committed to endless economic growth.” Leaving aside the terminology, they are right. China is again a key example. China overtook the US as the world’s leading carbon emitter in 2006, and now, at 2777 million tonnes per year, it emits more CO2 than the US (1442m), India (714), and Russia (458) combined. Within this, China is the world’s greatest producer of coal by a considerable margin. In 2020, China accounted for over 50 per cent of coal production worldwide. China is also by a long way the world’s largest producer of environmentally disastrous cement and of private cars. Of course, it can be said that this is because of the size of China’s population, but that doesn’t change the immense global problem it is creating. It can also be said that Xi Jinping is promising to do better, but so is everybody, and this ignores the fact that the Chinese government, like all governments, has known this crisis was looming for a long time and done nothing. The concept of state capitalism is therefore vital to the ecosocialist case in that it explains that the commitment to environmentally damaging growth characteristic of so many of these “actually existing” socialist societies is derived not from their “Marxist” ideology but from their capitalist nature and their compulsion to compete within the world capitalist economy. Thus we can conclude that although the theory of state capitalism was elaborated in response to the phenomenon of Stalinist Russia, it was deeply rooted in classical Marxism, set out before the Russian Revolution even occurred, and remains vital for understanding the contemporary world and for dealing with the political challenges facing socialists today. .
Marxism and Fascism From Irish Marxist Review 30. This article does not attempt to be an exhaustive survey of the Marxist literature on fascism, which is vast. Rather it is an overview of how the Marxist analysis of fascism was developed with a focus on the writings of Leon Trotsky, who contributed more than any other individual to the Marxist understanding of this phenomenon, supplemented by some thoughts on more recent developments. The Marxist theory of fascism was developed in response to the emergence of a mass fascist movement and the threat which it posed to the workers’ movement and to socialism, i.e. it developed as a series of concrete analyses of current political phenomena, neither as a priori abstract theorising nor as historical reflection. Fascism first appeared as a significant force in Italy and Germany during the deep economic, social, and political crises that followed the First World War. Hitler founded the National Socialist German Workers Party in February 1920, and Mussolini founded the National Fascist Party in November 1921. Fascism was a new historical phenomenon, qualitatively different from previous authoritarian or autocratic regimes such as Tsarist Russia, the Kaiser’s Germany, or the absolute monarchies of the 17th and 18th centuries. Consequently there is no theory of fascism, or even the concept, in Marx and Engels or in Kautsky, Luxemburg, or Lenin. The closest approximation to a precedent in the writings of Marx and Engels is the concept of ‘Bonapartism’, derived from analysis of the French Second Empire, the regime of Louis Napoleon III, and set out by Marx in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte and elsewhere. Louis Napoleon established his dictatorship by means of a coup d’état in December 1851, after a period as elected president following the 1848 Revolution which ended the reign of Louis-Philippe. Bonapartism was a regime characterised by a strong executive, absence of democratic rights, and repression of republicans and the left. It expressed, Marx argued, a situation where ‘the bourgeoisie had already lost, and the working class had not yet acquired the faculty of ruling the nation.’ The state achieved a certain relative autonomy balancing between the two basic classes and playing them off against each other, although ultimately acting in the interests of the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie gave up its direct political power in order to preserve its social power intact. These concepts proved useful building blocks for the future analysis of fascism, but given the immense difference in scale, ferocity, and historical importance of the reaction imposed by Napoleon III and that of Mussolini, Hitler, and Franco, they could not in any way substitute for such an analysis. Fascism in Italy: the first response The fact that fascism first became a really threatening phenomenon in Italy meant that it fell to Italian Marxists to be the first to attempt a theoretical account of it. Unfortunately they did not acquit themselves well in this regard. The dominant Marxist in Italy at the time of the rise of Mussolini’s movement (1920-21) and his assumption of power in October 1922 was the initial leader of the Italian Communist Party (PCI), Amadeo Bordiga. Bordiga was a hardened ultraleft with an abstract propagandist conception of the party. He saw fascism as simply another aspect of bourgeois repression and drew no real distinction between fascism and bourgeois democracy, and consequently did not see the need for any specific or concrete analysis of it. As a result, the main political report, authored by Bordiga, presented to the Rome Congress of the PCI in March 1922 barely mentioned fascism. Bordiga opposed any notion of a united-front strategy against fascism and, indeed, the whole concept of the united front adopted by the Communist International in 1922, with the consequence that the PCI failed either to perceive the threat posed by Mussolini or to organise any specific resistance to his conquest of power. Gramsci was better than this in that he, probably alone among the Italian Communists, did see the possibility of the fascists taking power, but he only produced a few journalistic articles on fascism, not a rounded theoretical analysis, and he, like Bordiga and under his influence, opposed the idea of an anti-fascist united front until the mid -twenties. Clara Zetkin In fact it was the German Communist Clara Zetkin, close comrade of Rosa Luxemburg, who produced the first substantial Marxist analysis of fascism. This was in Zetkin’s Report to the Comintern Executive in June 1923. The first merit of Zetkin’s analysis was that she grasped the deadly serious threat posed by fascism. Her report begins: Fascism confronts the proletariat as an exceptionally dangerous and frightful enemy. Fascism is the strongest, most concentrated, and classic expression at this time of the world bourgeoisie’s general offensive. It is urgently necessary that it be brought down. This is true not only with respect to the historic existence of the proletariat as a class, which will free humankind by surmounting capitalism. It is also a question of survival for every ordinary worker, a question of bread, working conditions, and quality of life for millions and millions of the exploited. She also identified fascism as a symptom of the profound crisis of capitalism—‘We view fascism as an expression of the decay and disintegration of the capitalist economy’—and a product of the fact that this decay was inflicting massive impoverishment not only on workers but also on intermediate layers such as intellectuals and the lower middle classes. And she indentified a key difference between fascism and the kind of bloody counterrevolutionary terror witnessed in Hungary in 1921 under the Horthy regime as lying in the fact that whereas the Horthy terror was the work of ‘a small caste of feudal officers’, fascism had a mass base among a ‘broad social layer, broad masses’.. Zetkin saw fascism as a kind of historical punishment for the failure to carry through to victory the proletarian revolution, a failure for which the Social Democrats and even to some extent the communist parties were responsible. In a perceptive passage she noted: Masses in their thousands streamed to fascism. It became an asylum for all the politically homeless, the socially uprooted, the destitute and disillusioned. And what they no longer hoped for from the revolutionary proletarian class and from socialism, they now hoped would be achieved by the most able, strong, determined, and bold elements of every social class. All these forces must come together in a community. And this community, for the fascists, is the nation. They wrongly imagine that the sincere will to create a new and better social reality is strong enough to overcome all class antagonisms. The instrument to achieve fascist ideals is, for them, the state. A strong and authoritarian state that will be their very own creation and their obedient tool. This state will tower high above all differences of party and class, and will remake society in accord with their ideology and program. Zetkin rejected the predominant social democratic approach to fascism, which was to reduce it purely to violence and criminality and thus to something to be dealt with just by police measures. She noted that fascism always combines violence with ‘a sham revolutionary programme, which links up in extremely clever fashion with the moods, interests and demands of broad social masses’ and therefore must be combated politically and ideologically as well as by force. However, she insisted it was necessary to Meet violence with violence. But not violence in the form of individual terror—that will surely fail. But rather violence as the power of the revolutionary organized proletarian class struggle. This in turn necessitated the formation of ‘a proletarian united front … Workers must come together for struggle without distinctions of party or trade union affiliation’. Moreover, the mass united front needed to be capped by the call for a ‘workers’ and peasants’ government … [This] slogan is virtually a requirement for the struggle to defeat fascism’. Many of the themes in Zetkin’s report were later taken up by Trotsky in his analysis of the rise of the Nazis, but, although her report was adopted by the Comintern Executive in 1923, it did not remain Comintern policy for long, being overturned in 1924. As John Riddell writes: In his opening report to the Fifth Comintern Congress in 1924, its president, Gregory Zinoviev, abandoned Zetkin’s analysis … by claiming that … ‘The Social Democratic Party has become a wing of fascism … The Fascists are the right hand and the Social Democrats are the left hand of the bourgeoisie’. This ultra left position excluded the possibility of united action involving Communist and Social Democratic workers—the very error that had crippled resistance to Italian Fascism during its rise to power in 1921-22. Stalin went even further with this theory of ‘social fascism’. In September 1924 he wrote: Firstly, it is not true that fascism is only the fighting organisation of the bourgeoisie. Fascism is not only a military-technical category. Fascism is the bourgeoisie’s fighting organisation that relies on the active support of Social-Democracy. Social-Democracy is objectively the moderate wing of fascism. There is no ground for assuming that the fighting organisation of the bourgeoisie can achieve decisive successes in battles, or in governing the country, without the active support of Social-Democracy. These organisations do not negate, but supplement each other. They are not antipodes, they are twins. It is important to understand that Zinoviev and Stalin were not really moving leftwards here or taking genuinely ultra-left positions, like Bordiga for example. Rather, they were using ultra-left phrases as a cover for a rightward drift involving opportunistic alliances with forces such as Chiang Kai-shek’s nationalist Kuomintang in China and the leaders of the British TUC. As we shall see, this pattern was to repeat itself with disastrous consequences in 1928-33. Trotsky’s analysis This brings us to the most important Marxist analysis of fascism, that of Leon Trotsky. Two preliminary remarks about this: The first is that it was made in the most difficult circumstances and it was an extraordinary achievement that it was made at all. In 1927 Trotsky was expelled from the CPSU; in 1928 he was forcibly exiled to Alma Ata on the border with China; in 1929 he was deported to the Prinkipo Islands off the coast of Turkey, where amongst many other difficulties, news from Germany took a long time to arrive. Yet in these conditions in which most mortals would have been pretty exclusively concerned with their own fate, Trotsky managed, between 1928-34, to write a series of major articles on the events in Germany as they unfolded, which collected together form a book of almost 500 pages, whilst in the same period writing a book-length study of the Third International After Lenin, his three-volume History of the Russian Revolution, his autobiography My Life, and a stream of articles on subjects ranging from unfolding events in Russia to China and Spain. The second preliminary mark to be made is that Trotsky’s theory was not the product of a stand-alone special study or scholarly research (like ,say, his History of the Russian Revolution); rather it was developed in, and out of, a polemic and political struggle against the line on fascism of the Moscow-dominated Comintern. In 1928 the Comintern, under Stalin’s direction, adopted an intensified version of the ‘social fascism’ position of Zinoviev and Stalin in 1924 which became known as ‘Third Period Stalinism’. History since World War One was divided into three periods: 1917-24, the ‘first period’ of revolutionary upsurge; 1925-8, the ‘second period’ of capitalist stabilisation; and 1928 onwards, the ‘third period’ of the final crisis of capitalism and renewed revolutionary upsurge. The communist parties were instructed to abandon united-front work, to form breakaway ‘red’ trade unions, and to treat social democratic parties as fascist and often as the main enemy. Trotsky considered this ‘periodisation’ to be completely arbitrary and remote from the actual course of the class struggle and also extremely damaging to the struggle against fascism at precisely the moment this was becoming most acute. It was damaging because: a) by claiming that the Social Democrats and the Centre Party government of Brüning were fascist it suggested that fascism was already in power and there was nothing particular to fear from Hitler and the Nazis; and b) by labelling the Social Democrats as fascist it blocked the formation of the workers’ united front needed to stop Hitler. The first aim of Trotsky’s polemic was to warn the German workers and communists of the terrible danger they were facing, and to this end he deployed all his considerable rhetorical powers. It is the duty of the Left Opposition to give the alarm: the leadership of the Comintern is driving the German proletariat toward an enormous catastrophe, the essence of which is panicky capitulation before fascism!… The coming to power of the National Socialists would mean first of all the extermination of the flower of the German proletariat, the destruction of its organizations, the eradication of its belief in itself and in its future. Considering the far greater maturity and acuteness of the social contradictions in Germany, the hellish work of Italian fascism would probably appear as a pale and almost humane experiment in comparison with the work of the German National Socialists… Germany is now passing through one of those great historic hours upon which the fate of the German people, the fate of Europe, and in significant measure the fate of all humanity, will depend for decades… Worker-Communists, you are hundreds of thousands, millions; you cannot leave for anyplace; there are not enough passports for you. Should fascism come to power, it will ride over your skulls and spines like a terrific tank. Your salvation lies in merciless struggle. And only a fighting unity with the Social Democratic workers can bring victory. Make haste, worker-Communists, you have very little time left! But this was far from being just powerful rhetoric. Trotsky’s predictions and his urgency were based on a developed and concrete analysis of the fundamental nature of fascism and Nazism. Its central idea was Trotsky’s grasp of the class nature of fascism as a movement of the petty bourgeoisie, driven to despair by the acute crisis of capitalism and by the inability of the workers’ movement to resolve that crisis. At the moment that the ‘normal’ police and military resources of the bourgeois dictatorship, together with their parliamentary screens, no longer suffice to hold society in a state of equilibrium—the turn of the fascist regime arrives. Through the fascist agency, capitalism sets in motion the masses of the crazed petty bourgeoisie, and bands of the declassed and demoralized lumpen proletariat; all the countless human beings whom finance capital itself has brought to desperation and frenzy. From fascism the bourgeoisie demands a thorough job; once it has resorted to methods of civil war, it insists on having peace for a period of years. And the fascist agency, by utilizing the petty bourgeoisie as a battering ram, by overwhelming all obstacles in its path, does a thorough job. After fascism is victorious, finance capital gathers into its hands, as in a vise of steel, directly and immediately, all the organs and institutions of sovereignty, the executive, administrative, and educational powers of the state: the entire state apparatus together with the army, the municipalities, the universities, the schools, the press, the trade unions, and the cooperatives. When a state turns fascist, it doesn’t only mean that the forms and methods of government are changed in accordance with the patterns set by Mussolini—the changes in this sphere ultimately play a minor role—but it means, primarily and above all, that the workers’ organizations are annihilated … Therein precisely is the gist of fascism. For Trotsky it was fascism’s character as a mass movement based on the enraged petty bourgeoisie that distinguished it from other right-wing authoritarian rulers and regimes and made it such a deadly threat to the workers’ movement and to socialists. It gave fascism, both in Italy and in Germany, the ability through its combat squads to take on and smash the organisations of the workers’ movement at the base, in the communities, on the streets, and in the workplaces in a way that was not possible for an ‘ordinary’ military dictator. The petty bourgeois social base of the fascist movement was also the key to understanding its ideology, including its virulent anti-Semitism. Standing above the proletariat but beneath the big bourgeoisie, the petty bourgeoisie felt squeezed in conditions of extreme capitalist crisis between the two basic classes in society: on the one hand exploited and bankrupted by the power of finance capital and the banks; on the other pressured by the working class with its trade unions and its demands for decent wages and conditions. It therefore turned to a narrative which depicted the banks and the left as different wings of a conspiracy against ‘the German nation’, i.e. themselves, orchestrated, of course, by the Jews. The bankers, the Rothschilds, etc. were Jews; the communists (Marx, Luxemburg, Trotsky, etc.) were Jews, hence the Judeo-Bolshevik conspiracy. The big bourgeoisie, even those who supported Hitler with money, did not consider his party theirs. The national ‘renaissance’ leaned wholly upon the middle classes, the most backward part of the nation, the heavy ballast of history. Political art consisted in fusing the petty bourgeoisie into oneness through its common hostility to the proletariat. What must be done in order to improve things? First of all, throttle those who are underneath. Impotent before big capital, the petty bourgeoisie hopes in the future to regain its social dignity through the ruin of the workers. As Social Democracy saved the bourgeoisie from the proletarian revolution, fascism came in its turn to liberate the bourgeoisie from the Social Democracy. Hitler’s coup is only the final link in the chain of counterrevolutionary shifts. The petty bourgeois is hostile to the idea of development, for development goes immutably against him; progress has brought him nothing except irredeemable debts. National Socialism rejects not only Marxism but Darwinism. The Nazis curse materialism because the victories of technology over nature have signified the triumph of large capital over small. The leaders of the movement are liquidating ‘intellectualism’ because they themselves possess second- and third-rate intellects, and above all because their historic role does not permit them to pursue a single thought to its conclusion. The petty bourgeois needs a higher authority, which stands above matter and above history, and which is safeguarded from competition, inflation, crisis, and the auction block. To evolution, materialist thought, and rationalism—of the twentieth, nineteenth, and eighteenth centuries—is counterposed in his mind national idealism as the source of heroic inspiration. Hitler’s nation is the mythological shadow of the petty bourgeoisie itself, a pathetic delirium of a thousand-year Reich. In order to raise it above history, the nation is given the support of the race. History is viewed as the emanation of the race. The qualities of the race are construed without relation to changing social conditions. Rejecting ‘economic thought’ as base, National Socialism descends a stage lower: from economic materialism it appeals to zoologic materialism… Fascism has opened up the depths of society for politics. Today, not only in peasant homes but also in city skyscrapers, there lives alongside of the twentieth century the tenth or the thirteenth. A hundred million people use electricity and still believe in the magic power of signs and exorcisms … Everything that should have been eliminated from the national organism in the form of cultural excrement in the course of the normal development of society has now come gushing out from the throat; capitalist society is puking up the undigested barbarism. Such is the physiology of National Socialism. In order to argue for the strategy of a united front which Trotsky believed was essential for stopping the rise to power of Hitler in particular and fascism in general, he had to take on and refute in detail the theory that the Social Democrats were social fascists or that social democracy and fascism were twins. And here it must be remembered that among German communist workers at this time, memories were still fresh of the betrayal of the German Revolution of 1919–23 by the SPD and the complicity of its leaders in the murder of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht. Trotsky made his case not by dropping or even softening his criticism of social democracy but on the basis of understanding how its political role and social base differed from that of fascism and arguing that the victory of fascism would mean the annihilation of social democracy along with the destruction of all forms of independent workers’ organisation. The task of fascism lies not only in destroying the Communist vanguard but in holding the entire class in a state of forced disunity. To this end the physical annihilation of the most revolutionary section of the workers does not suffice. It is also necessary to smash all independent and voluntary organizations, to demolish all the defensive bulwarks of the proletariat, and to uproot whatever has been achieved during three-quarters of a century by the Social Democracy and the trade unions. For, in the last analysis, the Communist Party also bases itself on these achievements. The Social Democracy has prepared all the conditions necessary for the triumph of fascism. But by this fact it has also prepared the stage for its own political liquidation. It is absolutely correct to place on the Social Democrats the responsibility for the emergency legislation of Brüning as well as for the impending danger of fascist savagery. It is absolute balderdash to identify Social Democracy with fascism. The Social Democracy, which is today the chief representative of the parliamentary-bourgeois regime, derives its support from the workers. Fascism is supported by the petty bourgeoisie. The Social Democracy without the mass organizations of the workers can have no influence. Fascism cannot entrench itself in power without annihilating the workers’ organizations. Parliament is the main arena of the Social Democracy. The system of fascism is based upon the destruction of parliamentarism. For the monopolistic bourgeoisie, the parliamentary and fascist regimes represent only different vehicles of dominion; it has recourse to one or the other, depending upon the historical conditions. But for both the Social Democracy and fascism, the choice of one or the other vehicle has an independent significance; more than that, for them it is a question of political life or death. Trotsky’s advocacy of an anti-fascist united front between the KPD and the SPD was ignored by both parties with the disastrous consequence, which he entirely predicted, that Hitler came to power without serious resistance in January 1933. This negative confirmation of his analysis was not, however, the end of the matter. Stalin soon realised that the establishment of a Nazi regime in Berlin posed a direct military threat to the Soviet Union. Hitler and German imperialism wanted lebensraum for an expanded Germany in the East. Stalin responded to this threat by trying to form an alliance with Britain and France, i.e. with British and French imperialism (as in the First World War), and in line with this he brought about a complete transformation in Comintern policy. In 1934, about a year after Hitler’s victory, the Comintern began a 180-degree turn from the extreme ultra-leftism of the ‘Third Period’ to the class collaborationism of the Popular Front. The policy was pioneered by the French Communist Party, which formed an anti-fascist alliance with the Socialist Party and the Radical Party (a thoroughly bourgeois party headed by Eduard Daladier, prime minister of France on several occasions). It was then adopted as an international strategy at the Comintern’s Seventh Congress in 1935. The essence of the Popular Front was the unity of all ‘democratic’ forces, including bourgeois ones, against fascism. Trotsky was just as critical of the Popular Front strategy as he was of the preceding ultra-leftism and he developed this criticism in relation to events in France, with the formation of a Popular Front Government in 1936 under Leon Bloom, and in Spain, with the election, also in 1936, of a Popular Front Government met by Franco’s attempted fascist coup, the uprising of the Spanish working class (above all in Barcelona), and the three-year-long civil war. For Trotsky, the Popular Front represented a ‘betrayal of the proletariat for the sake of an alliance with the bourgeoisie’. It not only sabotaged the developing French and Spanish Revolutions but was also completely ineffective as a method of combating fascism. This was because the defeat of fascism required, as he had argued in relation to Germany, the united mobilisation of the working class, but this would be completely blocked and undermined by an alliance with outright bourgeois parties and forces, i.e. political formations inherently opposed to working-class action. The theoreticians of the Popular Front do not essentially go beyond the first rule of arithmetic, that is, addition: ‘Communists’ plus Socialists plus Anarchists plus liberals add up to a total which is greater than their respective isolated numbers. Such is all their wisdom. However, arithmetic alone does not suffice here. One needs as well at least mechanics. The law of the parallelogram of forces applies to politics as well. In such a parallelogram, we know that the resultant is shorter, the more component forces diverge from each other. When political allies tend to pull in opposite directions, the resultant prove equal to zero. A bloc of divergent political groups of the working class is sometimes completely indispensable for the solution of common practical problems. In certain historical circumstances, such a bloc is capable of attracting the oppressed petty-bourgeois masses whose interests are close to the interests of the proletariat. The joint force of such a bloc can prove far stronger than the sum of the forces of each of its component parts. On the contrary, the political alliance between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, whose interests on basic questions in the present epoch diverge at an angle of 180 degrees, as a general rule is capable only of paralyzing the revolutionary force of the proletariat. Civil war, in which the force of naked coercion is hardly effective, demands of its participants the spirit of supreme self-abnegation. The workers and peasants can assure victory only if they wage a struggle for their own emancipation. Under these conditions, to subordinate the proletariat to the leadership of the bourgeoisie means beforehand to assure defeat in the civil war. Once again the course of events, most tragically in Spain, was to confirm the accuracy of Trotsky’s analysis and warnings. Since 1945 there has been, thankfully, no historical experience of fascism comparable to that between the wars and no theoretical contribution on the subject comparable in importance to Trotsky’s. There has been a major debate on the nature and causation of the Holocaust to which many Marxists, including a number from the International Socialist traditional , have contributed, but I am treating that as outside the scope of this article. There have also been a series of contributions which are essentially defences, applications, or developments of Trotsky’s approach. Again, I am not going to survey this literature here. However, there are two significant changes that have occurred since the struggle in the 1930s which have strategic implications for the fight against fascism and which I want to flag up here. The united front today The first concerns the nature of the united front. The united front as advocated by Trotsky in the 1930s and previously by the Comintern in 1922 (including, very strongly, by Trotsky ) was essentially an agreement to form a common front between the two main political forces in the international working-class movement, the Social Democrats and the Communists. What Trotsky argued was that the leaderships of the communist parties should approach the leaderships of the social democratic parties with a view to reaching a concrete agreement for anti-fascist resistance. If such an alliance was established it would, he believed (and with good reason), mobilise millions of workers behind it. But neither in Ireland nor in most countries today is a replica of such a united workers’ front an objective possibility. On the one hand the Social Democratic or Labour parties are nowhere near the social force they were in the 1920s or ’30s, either in terms of roots in the organised working class or as physical organisations. (The SPD, for example, had significant combat groups for street fighting.) The communist parties, on the other hand, barely exist. It has been necessary, therefore, to find another route to establishing the required united front. A useful model in this regard is provided by the Anti-Nazi League (ANL) formed in 1977 to combat the rise of the neo-Nazi National Front (NF) in the UK. The ANL was launched by the British Socialist Workers Party (SWP) in alliance, not with the Labour Party as a whole, but with individual left Labour MPs (such as Neil Kinnock and Peter Hain), some trade union groups and officials (e.g. Ernie Roberts of the AEU), and various sporting figures and celebrities (Jack Charlton and Brian Clough). It worked closely with the musical movement Rock Against Racism, also launched by SWP members (David Widgery, Red Saunders, and Roger Huddle) and which was supported by many leading bands of the day such as The Clash, Steel Pulse, and the Tom Robinson Band. It operated, very successfully, through a combination of large street mobilisations against NF rallies and meetings, big music carnivals attracting up to 100,000 people, and mass leafleting campaigns when the NF stood in elections. This three-pronged approach played a major part in the political defeat and marginalisation of the NF. The ANL was then revived in the eighties to counter the rising British National Party of Nick Griffin and again met with considerable success. The fact that forty years on, Britain has not seen the emergence of a large fascist organisation, comparable to that which exists in many countries, is due, in no small measure, to the campaigning of those years. This experience stands in stark contrast to France where the far-left failed to campaign actively against the Front National, which before long became too large to be dealt with in this way. Circumstances differ in different countries and at different times, but the united front as an alliance driven by revolutionaries in conjunction with some reformists and progressive figures from civil society accompanied by mass grassroots mobilisations still seems the way to go in most cases in order to counter rising far-right movements. The key is to find the organisational form that best facilitates the active mobilisation of the maximum possible numbers on the ground. The Far Right today The second issue I want to raise is more complex and analytical in that it concerns the debate on the nature of the far-right parties, movements, and governments that we are currently facing. They are large in number and very varied in character, ranging from the very evidently neo-Nazi such as Golden Dawn in Greece or Jobbik in Hungary to the much milder UKIP in Britain, with many others somewhere in between such as Trump and his assorted followers, the Modi Government in India, Bolsonaro in Brazil, Victor Orban and Fidesz in Hungary, AfD in Germany, the Lega in Italy, the Swedish Democrats, Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (formerly Front National), and our Irish rag bag of Yellow Vests, Irish Freedom Party, and National Party. Some on the left deal with this problem by simply labelling all these varied right-wing forces fascist, especially if they in any way engage in racist messaging (which is effectively all of them), and some even include under the fascist label mainstream right wingers like Thatcher, Johnson, or Leo Varadkar. This is very unhelpful in that it deprives the category of fascist of any specificity and obliterates the important distinction between those politicians and parties that operate within the framework of bourgeois democracy and those prepared to move beyond it. It has the same flaw, on a lesser scale, as the Stalinist theory of social fascism in that it breeds a baleful complacency. To put it in concrete Irish terms, if Leo Varadkar and Fine Gael are fascist, why worry about the much smaller National Party. For those basing themselves on Trotsky’s analysis, the key distinction was between, on the one hand, far-right, or racist populist or conservative nationalist parties which nevertheless remained within the limits of bourgeois parliamentary democracy in that they accepted election results and did not engage in street fighting and were therefore not fascist (UKIP in Britain being an obvious example), and on the other hand, parties that” a) came from a clearly fascist or Nazi heritage; b) were run by an inner core that subscribed to some version of Nazi ideology, e.g. the Jewish conspiracy theory; and/or c) possessed a combat or proto-paramilitary wing which were therefore judged to be definitely fascist. What was crucial about this distinction was that it was presumed that if the latter came to power they would, like Hitler, move against parliamentary democracy and establish a dictatorship and, simultaneously, smash up labour movement organisations including the trade unions. But this distinction, real and necessary as it is, does not exhaust the matter. What the last twenty years or so has thrown up is parties and forces that seem to vacillate or hover between these two categories and possess some characteristics of each of them. Donald Trump is a case in point. Trump came to power in 2016 from outside the traditional centre of US politics but nevertheless through the vehicle of the mainstream Republican Party and without an independent street fighting force. For this reason, those of us basing ourselves on Trotsky rejected the idea that Trump was fascist. Others, notably Cornel West, Judith Butler, and John Bellamy Foster of Monthly Review, disagreed. Foster cites Trump as an instance of a wider phenomenon which he calls ‘neo-fascism’ writing of: movements in the ‘fascist genus’ (fascism/neofascism/post-fascism), characterized by virulently xenophobic, ultra-nationalist tendencies, rooted primarily in the lower-middle class and relatively privileged sections of the working class, in alliance with monopolistic capital. This can be seen in the National Front in France, the Northern League in Italy, the Party for Freedom in the Netherlands, the UK Independence Party, the Sweden Democrats, and similar parties and movements in other advanced capitalist countries. Michael Lowy also deploys the concept of neo-fascism in a similar way but makes clear the difference between neo-fascism and the fascism of the past. One of the most disturbing phenomena of recent years is the spectacular rise, worldwide, of far right-wing, authoritarian and reactionary governments, in some cases with neo-fascist traits: Shinzo Abe (Japan), Modi (India), Trump (USA), Orban (Hungary) and Bolsonaro (Brazil) are the best known examples… Neofascism is not a repetition of fascism in the 1930s: it is a new phenomenon, with characteristics of the 21st century. For example, it does not take the form of a police dictatorship, but respects some democratic forms: elections, party pluralism, freedom of the press, existence of a Parliament, etc. Naturally, it tries, as far as possible, to limit these democratic freedoms as much as it is able with authoritarian and repressive measures. Nor does it rely on armed shock troops, such as the German SS or the Italian Fascists. In a similar vein has been the use of the term ‘creeping fascism’ to describe virtually all the movements and governments of the racist right, including that of Donald Trump. This has been developed in book form, particularly in relation to Britain, by Neil Faulkner and others in Creeping Fascism: What It Is and How to Fight It. This issue of which organisations and governments should be named as fascist and where the borderline exists, if at all, between far-right or right-wing populists, etc. and actual fascists requires major discussion, including a concrete analysis of parties such the Front National/National Rally and the Italian Lega and governments such as Bolsonaro’s that is not possible here. However, I do not find the concept of neo-fascism, still less that of ‘creeping fascism’, convincing. What they both do is blur what seems to me the very important distinction, a matter of life and death, between regimes which annihilate and crush both parliamentary democracy and the organisations of the labour movement and regimes which do not. But in asserting that this distinction is vital we should not fall into the opposite trap of considering the character of parties and regimes to be fixed and immutable. The phrase ‘The leopard does not change its spots’ is not helpful here. Political leopards change their spots all the time, as the history of Social Democratic and Communist parties shows. Parties and leaders can move in different directions, moderating and/or radicalising. The Swedish Democrats had their origins in Swedish fascism; this in itself does not mean they still are fascist. Oswald Mosley began as a mainstream politician, including serving as a minister in the Labour government of 1929-31, and then became a full on fascist. Donald Trump did not run for president on a fascist basis, and his administration, for all its racist, sexist, and authoritarian awfulness, was not fascist in that it did not, for example, abolish congress, halt elections, or dismantle the trade union movement. Nevertheless, there was a moment in late 2020 after his electoral defeat when it looked as if he might try to move in an outright fascist direction. In the event, he did not, especially after the debacle of the 6 January incursion, and he remained with the framework of the Republican right. But, again, that could change in the future. This is why there needs to be concrete analysis. At the same time, concrete analysis requires a theoretical foundation, and, I would argue, the theory developed by Trotsky in the 1930s remains the best starting point for such contemporary work.
What price Eco-Leninism? This article was originally published in Rupture 4. ‘The time has come to experiment with ecological Leninism’. Andreas Malm As a long standing Leninist and convinced ecosocialist it might be expected I would leap at the term ‘eco-leninism’ and, indeed, I strongly favour a Leninist approach to environmental issues along with the struggle for socialism as a whole. I will return to what I mean by that later in this article. But it first has to be said that when it comes to adopting political concepts and labels not only general principles but also the political context must always be taken in to account. Marx and Engels say somewhere that in the mid-1840s they called themselves communists rather than socialists because at that time in France and Germany the term communist was favoured in the working class whereas socialist was preferred in middle class circles. In the 1870s however they were happy to call themselves both socialists and social-democrats because those terms were gaining mass appeal, especially in Germany. In the early years of the twentieth century Lenin, Luxemburg and Trotsky were proud Social Democrats but after the betrayal of August 1914 when most of the leaders of the Second international supported the imperialist world war Lenin argued for abandoning the tainted label of social democrat and returning to the name communist. In 1917 the Bolshevik Party as a whole and Trotsky followed suit as did Luxemburg shortly thereafter. Today no revolutionary socialist would call themselves a social democrat. In this instance the context is Andreas Malm’s call for ‘ecological Leninism‘ in his recent book Corona, Climate, Chronic Emergency (CCCE). Malm is an interesting, provocative and very prolific writer and this book merits a proper critical review in its own right which takes on board many of his valuable insights as well as discussing some of his limitations. This article, however, is not a review of the book as a whole but rather a response specifically to his notion of ‘eco-leninism’, with which I have a number of issues. For Malm the Leninism he invokes is that of the period of ‘War Communism’ in the young Soviet state, roughly 1918 to early 1921. It involves an energetic highly interventionist state, endowed with dictatorial, draconian even, powers to mobilise and direct all of society’s resources and labour to deal with an immense crisis – in Lenin’s case the Civil War and famine, in our case the pandemic and the climate catastrophe. First of all I’m unhappy about this presentation of the Lenin of War Communism as the essential Lenin. In general I would defend Lenin’s actions during this period but let’s be clear: it constituted only a small part of his political practice as a whole and one which was very much forced on him by immensely difficult circumstances. It is as if a doctor who devoted forty years to saving life but on one occasion shot a rabid dog who was menacing a patient was hailed and remembered as a dog killer. It is particularly unfortunate in that it chimes with and feeds into the dominant mainstream view of Lenin as an authoritarian figure who attempted to ‘impose’ socialism on the working class from above and who seized power in October 1917 in a party coup d’état rather than a workers’ revolution: a view I completely reject. Moreover the view of Leninism as essentially a certain ‘exemplary attitude to reality’ (Lukács ) or a kind of ‘gesture’ (Zizek )is often propounded by people who have abandoned the key political positions Lenin actually fought for, such as the revolutionary role of the working class, the necessity of a revolutionary party and the need to smash the capitalist state. And unfortunately this last point applies to Malm himself who says ‘the most classical Leninist gesture is the only one that can point to an emergency exit’ (CCCE p.148) while also arguing: We have just argued that the capitalist state is constitutionally incapable of taking these steps. And yet there is no other form of state on offer. No workers’ state based on soviets will miraculously be born in the night. No dual power of the democratic organs of the proletariat seems likely to materialize anytime soon, if ever. Waiting for it would be both delusional and criminal, and so all we have to work with is the dreary bourgeois state, tethered to the circuits of capital as always. There would have to be popular pressure brought to bear on it, shifting the balance of forces condensed in it forcing apparatuses to cut the tethers and begin to move ... but this would clearly be a departure from the classical programme of demolishing the state and building another – one of several elements of Leninism that seem ripe (or over ripe) for their own obituaries.(CCCE p.151). Thus Malm invokes the Lenin of War Communism but rejects the Lenin of The State and Revolution. This leaves us with a capitalist state as the agent, under pressure from sabotage and mass demonstrations, of making war on pandemics and climate change. This perspective seems to me both internally incoherent (the capitalist state implementing war communism?) and dangerous in that it may end up giving cover for capitalist authoritarianism, much as it echoes the view of Lenin as a top down authoeitarian. It is at least as ‘delusional’ as expecting a workers’ state based on soviets to be ‘miraculously born in the night’ [Has ANYONE ever expected such a thing?] Then the whole argument is supported by the caricature of revolutionaries (Marxists/ Leninists/Trotskyists etc ] as ‘waiting for’ the revolution, which has always been one of the lazier justifications for reformism. All historical analogies have their limits and problems but the analogy with War Communism has so many problems as to make it very unhelpful. I will not explore them all but just make two observations. First, it was never Lenin’s or the Bolsheviks’ preferred option as to how to proceed but was forced upon them by the direst necessity – utter devastation of the country by foreign intervention and civil war – and as a very short term measure abandoned in early 1921 because the war was over and it was driving the peasantry into major revolt . Unlike winning the civil war tackling climate change cannot be a short sharp, one-off hit but will have to be sustained over decades, which War Communism could not be. Second the terrible problems of War Communism were not confined to great brutality and the alienation of the peasantry. The period also saw (through no fault of Lenin’s but as a result of the economic collapse) the virtual destruction and disappearance of the Russian working class – its ‘dislodgement from its class groove’ as Lenin put it – and this was a major factor in driving the bureaucratisation and Stalinisation of the revolution. In any event ‘War Communism’ is hardly a programme or a prospect we can hold out to the Irish or the international working class as the way forward. This raises another important question which also has wider implications: who is Malm addressing and who should we as ecosocialists be addressing? I do not mean by this just who is the specific target readership of this particular book but the wider question of who is the target audience of the ecosocialist project as a whole which is linked to who we identify as the agent for the project’s realisation. For Malm the primary audience he seems to be addressing is a relatively small layer of environmental activists whom he hopes will pressure the bourgeois state into taking the necessary action by means of sabotage, direct action etc. For ecosocialists I believe our primary audience ought to be the working class. I do not mean by this that we should not engage with environmental activists (or students, school students etc.) – of course we should. But in doing so our aim should be win to win such people to a working class perspective because only the mass of the working class, in Ireland and globally, has the power to challenge and overthrow capitalism. Therefore our central goal is to win decisive sections of the working class to a socialist/ecosocialist and revolutionary perspective and this must never be lost sight of. In this endeavour neither the eco-Leninist label (incomprehensible to the overwhelming majority of working class people) nor the notion of War Communism are in the least suitable. Rather we have to advance a positive programme of demands, such as for free public transport, retro-fitting of homes and creation of climate jobs that link combating climate change to building a better life for the mass of ordinary people. Which brings me back to the matter of what might be an actually Leninist approach to the environmental crisis. Here I believe that all Lenin’s core ideas – his commitment to the working class, his internationalism and opposition to imperialism and imperialist war, his insistence on the need to smash the capitalist state, his championing of the oppressed , his grasp of the need to build a revolutionary party rooted in the working class – remain crucial. In 2017 I wrote as follows: Leave aside for the moment the political polarisation already taking place around the world and the possibility of another recession in the next couple of years, with all the incalculable political and ideological effects that will have. Leave all these things aside and we still face the scientific fact of rapidly intensifying climate change coming down the tracks. Once this reaches beyond a certain point and is grasped as an immediate reality rather than abstract speculation by millions of people, as will happen, this will tear up existing political allegiances as the great recession has done, only on a far greater scale. At present there are a number of extremely simple one line rebuttals of socialism and revolution – you can’t change human nature, nothing ever really changes, revolutions always end in tyranny and the like – which continue to function as ‘common sense’ in Gramsci’s use of the term and which block mass support for revolutionary socialism, despite their intellectual poverty and despite our best efforts to counter them. The reality of climate change will change the terms of the debate. Whether we are talking about taking emergency action to prevent it reaching some runaway tipping point or trying to survive its onset with some measure of human decency, the abandonment of an economic system founded on production for profit will become an absolute necessity. Dealing with the immediate effects of climate change – its storms, floods, fires and desertification – will also push people towards collective action and collective solutions... Of course there will be an ‘alternative’, at least for a period, and we can already see what that alternative will be: the Trumpian and, ultimately, Hitlerian ‘solution’ of walls and barbed wire and concentration camps and letting climate refugees starve and drown on a scale that dwarfs the carnage we have recently seen in the Mediterranean, while the rich insulate themselves in their gated communities in the uplands... To avert the barbaric response to climate change it will be necessary, as Lenin understood with unmatched clarity, to build revolutionary workers’ parties, defeat imperialism, smash the state and establish workers’ power. That in turn means finding ways to relate these ideas to working class people where they are at now. I think that still stands.
BAMBERY RESIGNS On Chris Bambery’s Resignation from the SWP On Sunday 10 April Chris Bambery, former SWP National Secretary and Socialist Worker editor, resigned from both the Central Committee and the SWP. In this article I wish to comment on and respond to Bambery’s resignation letter (which is appended below). The first and most striking feature of this letter is its low political level. The past year has developments in the class struggle of the highest importance: eight general strikes in Greece; mass struggles over pensions in France; a general strike in Spain; the government brought down in Portugal; the Icelandic government brought down and its successor defeated in two referenda on the IMF bail-out: a riot at the ballot box in Ireland involving the election of 5 United Left TDs (1 SWP) ; the great student revolt of late 2010; the biggest trade union march in history on 26 March; mass workers struggle in Wisconsin; and above all the amazing and ongoing Arab Revolutions. Together they constitute the biggest wave of working class and revolutionary struggle for at least thirty years. Yet none of these events merits even a mention in Bambery’s letter. Does he agree or disagree with the SWP’s line in or on any of these struggles, or the line of the International Socialist Tendency (IST), of which the SWP is a leading part? We are given no indication at all. Indeed the IST is never even considered, despite the fact that its Arab supporters are currently involved in, and in some cases playing a serious role in a revolution of epic proportions. Obviously these matters are considered to be of little significance compared to the central question which is how Chris Bambery is being treated by the SWP Central Committee. To say this smacks of egotism is to put it mildly. The second striking feature of the letter is the way it levels accusations at the CC without explaining or substantiating them. It says ‘The relentless factionalism in the organisation, driven by the leading group on the CC, shows no sign of ceasing and is doing enormous damage to the party’. But what factionalism is being talked about here? Normally in Revolutionary parties a faction is a grouping within the party organised (sometimes openly, sometimes secretly) to oppose or change the policy and/or leadership of the party in some way. Since the departure of the Left Platform (of John Rees and Lindsey German) to found Counterfire ,over a year ago, no such [open] faction has been operating in the SWP. At the SWP conference in January 2011 there was no evidence of any factional activity. Chris Bambury’s letter does not enlighten us on this score. It does not say who the faction or factions are, or what they stand for . It states that the factionalism is ‘driven by the leading group on the CC’ but does not say who constitutes this leading group or what they are factionalising about. If these issues had been raised previously this might be understandable but they have not. Consequently what we are forced to conclude is that by factionalism Bambery simply means criticism of or hostility to himself. Unfortunately if you occupy a leading position in a political organisation and make mistakes or do not do a good job you must expect to be criticised. It’s called accountability or even democracy. In addition to this there is a major irony in the situation. Given that, immediately following Chris Bambery’s letter of resignation, a very similar letter was received from 39 of his supporters in Scotland which also announced the formation of a new Marxist organisation in Scotland, it is absolutely clear that he, Bambery, had been organising a secret faction there. Moreover, it seems very likely that the reason he has chosen to resign now is precisely because he was confronted about his factional activity on the CC. This, I presume, is what was being referred to when he was accused at the CC of a ‘foul role in Scotland’. And on this score let’s be clear : using your position on the CC to organise a secret faction and prepare a split without once raising any of the political issues at Party Conference, or in the pre-conference discussion, or at National Committee or Party Council is a clear violation of both the formal constitution of the SWP and its long established norms of behaviour of which Bambery himself was very well aware. In truth he has played a dishonest and cowardly double game with both his fellow CC members and the membership of the SWP as a whole – cowardly in the sense that he has never been willing to advance his arguments in open debate before the members.[This repeats what he did during the argument with The Left Platform , when he never took or argued a clear position in any of the SWPs forums for debate] Another notable feature of Bambery’s letter is that he resigns simultaneously from the CC and the SWP as a whole. Not for a second does he consider leaving the CC and becoming an ordinary rank-and-file member of the party (despite the fact that many people have done this in the past – for example, Sheila McGregor, Andy Strouthous, Phil Marfleet, John Rose, Viv Smith ). In this respect – and in others – he follows the pattern established by John Rees and Lyndsey German last year. Personally I find this arrogance, this attitude of only being part of the party if you can be a leader, extremely distasteful and unbecoming of a revolutionary but there is also a wider political point involved here that needs spelling out as part of the education of newer members. The SWP as part of the International Socialist Tendency stands for a number of fundamental political ideas and principles. These include the classical revolutionary Marxist tradition, the self emancipation of the working class, Leninism, Trotskyism, the theory of state capitalism and deflected permanent revolution (as developed by Cliff), the critique of the trade union bureaucracy and reformism and so on. Central to these ideas was and is the project of building a mass revolutionary party. As we know from our experience in Britain and our experience internationally this is not easy to achieve. The British SWP, for all its faults and problems, has been as successful as anyone and more successful than most in holding together and building such an organisation. If one agrees with the basic ideas, which Chris Bambery (as National Secretary and SW editor) presumably did, one should not leave, still less encourage others to leave , on the basis of episodic or tactical disagreements eg disagreements about the emphasis to be put on particular campaigns or united fronts, disagreements about the analysis of the specific conjuncture, or disagreements about the composition of leading bodies. These kinds of issues which continually arise in the course of the struggle and must arise if the party is interacting with the real world, should be argued out within the party in a hard but comradely way with majority decisions being implemented in a unified fashion. Any other approach is simply irresponsible, and in this case it seems, again, highly egotistical and self regarding. Finally it is necessary to consider the damage this defection will do to the SWP. From Dublin, where I now live, this is hard to assess but it is obvious that Bambery’s position as Secretary of the Right to Work Campaign will cause some problems, especially if he chooses to try to use it in that way, which I have to say seems likely. Given that in reality he owes that position almost entirely to the SWP he ought, in principle, to resign from that too – but I doubt that he will – so this matter will have to be resolved in some way. Beyond that, and the situation in Scotland, the effect ought to be minimal. Opponents of the SWP, especially those circling in the blogosphere, will doubtless seize on it suggest a) that Bambury is a victim of the horrible SWP leadership; b) that his ‘forced resignation’ is evidence that it is difficult to be a ‘dissident’ in the SWP; c) that his departure is symptomatic of the party’s decline and imminent demise. These suggestions are all radically false. Far from being a ‘victim’ of the CC, Bambery was indulged and protected by the CC (for too long in my opinion, but that’s a different matter). His resignations far from being ‘forced’ were entirely voluntary. Far from it being difficult to raise disagreements in the SWP it is now much easier then it was in the days when Bambery was National Secretary. And far from it being a symptom of the SWP’s decline it is rather unfinished business from the struggle against Rees/German/Bambery regime which in my opinion was the pre-condition of the party’s recovery from the severe crisis into which we were plunged by the splitting and abandonment of local branch organisation in the late nineties and early noughhties. At present I think the British SWP and the IST are, in general, doing reasonably well . Of course it is uneven and of course there are problems but the objective situation is undoubtedly more favourable than it has been for years, so it should be possible for us to grow quantitatively and qualitatively in the coming months and years. Certainly we should not permit Bambery’s departure and machinations to deflcct us from the need to seize the time. Appendix: Chris Bambery’s Resignation Letter Letter to CC and SWP 10 April Dear Charlie, After 32 years membership of the Socialist Workers Party, during which I was National Secretary for 17 of them and editor of the Socialist Worker for five, I am resigning forthwith both from the Central Committee and the Socialist Workers Party. The relentless factionalism in the organisation, driven by the leading group on the CC, shows no sign of ceasing and is doing enormous damage to the party . It is a cancer eating away at its heart. At the special CC held on Friday 8 April I was told by Martin Smith I played a ‘filthy’ and ‘disgraceful’ role in the party, a ‘foul role in Scotland’ and despite the CC ‘fighting hard’ to integrate me I had ’spent the last year and a half organising against the CC.’ Such accusations were repeated by Martin’s supporters and were not refuted by yourself as National Secretary. While not recognising the reality of such slanders, I pointed out if you believed them immediate action would be required against any CC member believed to be involved in such behaviour. None followed. It is simply untenable to sit round a table or work with people who believe, and are spreading, such slanders. These slanders are not just aimed at me but those who have worked closely with me in building the party and wider initiatives, particularly so in Scotland which I’ve held responsibility for since 1988 until I was asked to step aside this year to help prevent ‘factionalism’. This step was criticised at a Scottish steering committee by some members who argued my role in the significant development of the Scottish districts, particularly amongst younger members, had been important. They too have been subject to similar slanders. The party has been afflicted by factionalism for four years and grips the leading group on the CC who seem addicted to it. It has damaged our united front work in all the campaigns - Right to Work most obviously but in all others. Stop the War is now treated with derision by leading CC members. In recent weeks there has been no lead or drive from the CC in turning the party towards building the growing anti-cuts movement. The current article in Socialist Review and the post 26th party notes on the way forward after 26 March both have virtually nothing to say on anti cuts campaigns. Martin Smith has attempted to blame me personally for the weaknesses of Right to Work despite the internal arguments which have held it back from its inception and which have brought it near to derailment. While all of us wanted to see the party grow the stress on party building has increasingly meant ‘intervening’ from the outside rather than recruiting whilst working alongside those who are building the movement. Since Friday’s CC I have been made aware that a major factional attack was being once more orchestrated against myself. The SWP prided itself on being free from factionalism and on its record in helping initiating and building strong and genuine united fronts. That has been damaged. I was one of the only two remaining CC members who had worked with Tony Cliff in a leadership role. Having worked closely with him on a daily basis for many years with, I believe the CC’s current approach goes against everything he stood for. His analysis of Lenin’s ideas laid great emphasis on taking a firm grip on the ‘key link in the chain’. Its been clear for some time that the question of austerity would dominate the political scene, yet we’ve failed to position ourselves at the heart of the anti-cuts movement and our influence is not what it could of been. This is not the place to go into detail about the party’s recent history, but Right To Work was initiated in bizarre circumstances (I learned the news from Party Notes) and the CC as a whole has never applied systematic pressure to push the formal position through the party. For all of my 32 years as a member I have given everything into building this party, even making serious financial sacrifices including loaning considerable sums of money during the financial crisis which has affected the party in recent years, money I am still owed. A revolutionary party is an instrument for making a revolution. If it is blunted or broken another must be built. I maintain the firm conviction that a party rooted in working class struggle that fights constantly for Marxist ideas whilst building unity on the basis of action is essential for the battle for socialism. For that reason, to take this road is not an easy decision, but it is one I have been forced to take. Yours sincerely, Chris Bambery