Draft statement, 10 November 2003 (English)

Submitted by martin on 6 October, 2003 - 11:42

Draft statement for the international Workers' Liberty meeting called by the AWL in Paris on 10 November 2003.

1. There are openings for the growth of the revolutionary left such as we have not had for two decades.
The rise of the global anti-capitalist movements, the tremendous upsurge of opposition to Bush's and Blair's war on Iraq, the growth of new workers' movements in the ex-colonial world, and the limited revival of real trade unionism in some older industrialised countries, have combined to create this situation.

2. Unfortunately the united left organisation the working class needs does not exist. Nor does a politically adequate Marxist left.

3. What exists is a sizeable number of organisations which have roots in the Trotskyist tradition-the tradition of those communists who, from the early 1920s, fought the Stalinist ruling class which seized power in Soviet Russia and control of the Communist Parties-but have evolved and mutated in different ways over decades.

4. Typically these groups are organised as more or less authoritarian sects. For many, many years the groups and groupuscules in the neo-Trotskyist archipelago had little contact with each other, almost no collaboration even on things on which they agreed, and no dialogue at all over the political issues that divided them.

5. What can be done to mend this? To know that we must know how we got into the present situation.

6. Revolutionary politics is a process of grouping and again regrouping around answers to the day's all-shaping political issues.

7. Eighty years ago, the Communist Parties were differentiated from the Social Democrats and organised around a response to the Russian Revolution, the foundation of a new working-class International (the Communist International), and a determination to learn the lessons that had led to working-class victory in Russia in 1917 and apply them elsewhere.

8. The Trotskyist movement, which stood on the foundations of the Communist International, was also the product of a world-reshaping event, but a negative one for the working class-the Stalinist counter-revolution in the USSR.

9. The big Communist Parties and the Communist International fell under the control of the Stalinist autocracy that had seized power in Russia. During the world crises of the 1920s, 30s and 40s, those, led by Leon Trotsky, who stood on the founding politics of the Communist International were reduced to tiny groups, persecuted and often jailed or murdered by fascists, Stalinists and bourgeois democrats alike.

10. After 1945, the world changed in many ways. The old division of the world into rival Europe-centred colonial empires, fenced off from each other by tariff barriers, gradually gave way to a new division between a Stalinist empire on one side and an "imperialism of free trade" dominated by a cartel of big capitalist powers led by the USA.

11. The USSR, which had already degenerated under Stalinism into a new system of class exploitation, became after 1939-40 a new imperialist centre. It would retain political domination over Eastern Europe until 1989. Elsewhere, liberation struggles in the colonies won political independence, or the colonial powers decided to grant independence without a fight. From the 1960s, a number of the new independent states became significant, though secondary, centres of capitalist accumulation.

12. In the mass labour movements, the language of "socialism" and "communism" was dominated by the Communist Parties and social-democratic parties which had become politically rotten decades before.

13. After 1968 a new revolutionary left emerged, but it did not distinguish clearly enough between working-class socialism and the revolutionary strands of Stalinism. As a result, it tended to disperse and dwindle after the mid-1970s.

14. After 1989-91 the world changed again. The collapse of Stalinism showed that the Stalinist model of "socialism" had been essentially an utopian attempt to supersede capitalism by way of forced-march competition from its periphery. It had been a doomed detour within the world-historic epoch of capitalism.

15. The ensuing expansion of world-market capitalism, to cover the whole world for the first time ever, has brought an expansion also of the objective numerical strength and international interconnectedness of the gravediggers of capitalism, the working class. But it came after the defeats and setbacks of the left in the late 1970s and the 1980s, and the profound shock to the culture of the actually-existing left caused by the collapse of Stalinism. It has been shaped by, and has shaped, the political ascendancy of the neo-liberal right and growing economic inequality between rich and poor.

16. The new anti-capitalist groups of the last several years signify the emergence of a new generation of radicals. Their "alternative" cultural forms have been central to their ability to indict the pathologies of capitalism, to begin to project a vision of another world, and to form global networks

17. To refuse to accept today's capitalist world, and to insist that another world is possible, is the necessary beginning of any new revolutionary movement. In view of the meanings given to "socialism" and "communism" in mass discourse over the last half-century, that the new anti-capitalist groups generally also refuse that old language is also promising for the future. But this implies also a certain "anti-politics", a preference for the symbolic, the expressive, the gestural, the theatre of confrontation, among the new groups.

18. It is the job of the organised Marxist left, the forces striving to establish and take forward some continuity of revolutionary thought, to learn from the new groups but also to help them move from that "anti-politics" to positive political strategies.

19. Yet since the death of Trotsky, the surviving Trotskyist groups were beleaguered and isolated for decades. Many of their most experienced and competent activists were killed during or after World War 2. They suffered a catastrophic decline in political culture. Most of them adopted variants of the seemingly "successful" Stalinist party style of organising themselves. They were unable to deal with the big changes in the world.

20. Since 1989-91, they have increasingly suffered a disorientation, a loss of positive political strategies and standards, and a collapse into a purely negative and reactive "anti-capitalism" and "anti-imperialism". For example, some would-be Marxists have sought alliances with Islamic fundamentalism on the grounds that since it is "anti-imperialist". But the paleo-imperialism of Islamic fundamentalism, or of states bent on regional conquest like Milosevic's Serbia or Saddam Hussein's Iraq, is reactionary. Politics which fail to recognise that fact will also fail to assist the expansion of today's anti-capitalist protest into a new, potentially hegemonic, radical political culture.

21. To create a framework for a new and united international revolutionary movement requires two things: the reinstatement of positive working-class politics by way of a renovation and renewal of ideas; and democratic, rational, anti-authoritarian ways of organising ourselves.

22. The two things are inextricably linked. There can not be political self-renewal and living political development in response to an always-changing world without free discussion. There can not be free discussion unless the organisation is free alike from dogma-worship, from indifference to the great real tradition of Lenin and Trotsky, from the distorting power of high priests and self-designated prophets and colleges of cardinals, and from the suppression of minority opinion practised in most of the would-be Marxist groups (with the consequence that sub-groups fight to make themselves dictator, or, if they lose, easily choose to split and found a new group).

23. The way forward from where we are is to sketch out the minimum organisational and political basis for an initially loose but organic unity that would have the possibility of growing into a new working-class socialist international. We, groupings and activists from different countries, propose to assist this process by agreeing an international platform, which we offer as a draft for discussion with other groups and activists, and by agreeing some arrangements for coordination among ourselves of activities and discussions on the basis of that platform.
24. As the main political planks we propose the following:
25. Workers of the world unite! For global solidarity against global capital. Against all wars, except those of national or working-class liberation.
26. Socialism, meaning not the Stalinist model but its opposite, a society reshaped on the principles of working-class solidarity and consistent democracy. Neither the Stalinist USSR, nor the surviving states modelled on it such as Cuba and North Korea, represent the socialism we want. On the contrary, they represent systems of class exploitation in no way post-capitalist, combined with autocratic regimes preventing any independent working-class political life.
27. Working-class self-liberation as the means to socialism; and, therefore, a fight for the political independence of the working class and opposition to "popular fronts".
28. Workers' control and democratic planning as the only means to stop the despoiling of the Earth's environment by the capitalist drive to maximise sales and profits.
29. An orientation to the working class and the labour movement as they are, while fighting to transform the movement. Active support for and involvement in working-class struggles at every level, including the smallest trade-union battles and battles to retain and expand social provision. Democracy and open debate in the labour movement; for rank-and-file movements in the unions. The promotion of working-class representation in politics, which in many countries signifies a fight to create a new broad workers' party.
30. For a workers' government-a government based on and accountable to bedrock working-class organisations, which will push through working-class policies against capitalist resistance: trade union rights, rebuilding public services under renewed public ownership and workers' and community control, taxation of the rich and expropriation of the great magnates of capital, etc.
31. Consistent democracy, as a basis of socialism, and as something to be fought for in partial battles now, under capitalism; and internationally. The workers of every nationality must appeal to the workers of other nationalities with the assurance that they tolerate no imposition upon themselves, but equally seek no privilege over the others. Solidarity with the Palestinians, while also upholding Israel's rights: two nations, two states. For a free united Ireland, with autonomy for the Protestant-majority areas in the north-east.
32. Global solidarity against global capital, seeking not to stop or reverse globalisation but to push through it and to mobilise for liberation the new forces and passions generated by the global development of capitalism.
33. The "Third Camp": an independent working-class stance against both the US-led "imperialism of free trade" (or "empire of capital") and regional-imperialist forces coming into conflict with it.
34. For women's liberation; against racism and immigration controls; equality for lesbians, gays and bisexuals.
35. The building of a revolutionary party not as a self-sufficient sect but according to the logic and needs of the class struggle on its three fronts, economic, political and ideological.
36. And the minimum organisational basis?
37. To organise in the workplaces and in all mass working-class organisations on the basis of majority discipline in action;
38. Democratic structures, allowing free discussion and rights of self-expression in committees and in the public press to minorities;
39. At least for a transitional phase, the right for minorities to have their own subsidiary publications alongside the party's main press.