Saturday, September 01, 2012

“Workers of The World Unite, You Have Nothing To Lose But Your Chains”-The Struggle For Trotsky's Fourth (Communist) International -A History of the Committee for a Workers' International (CWI)

Markin comment:

Below this general introduction is another addition to the work of creating a new international working class organization-a revolutionary one fit of the the slogan in the headline.

Markin comment (repost from September 2010):

Recently, when the question of an international, a new workers international, a fifth international, was broached by the International Marxist Tendency (IMT), faintly echoing the call by Venezuelan caudillo, Hugo Chavez, I got to thinking a little bit more on the subject. Moreover, it must be something in the air (maybe caused by these global climatic changes) because I have also seen recent commentary on the need to go back to something that looks very much like Karl Marx’s one-size-fits-all First International. Of course, just what the doctor by all means, be my guest, but only if the shades of Proudhon and Bakunin can join. Boys and girls that First International was disbanded in the wake of the demise of the Paris Commune for a reason, okay. Mixing political banners (Marxism and fifty-seven varieties of anarchism) is appropriate to a united front, not a hell-bent revolutionary International fighting, and fighting hard, for our communist future. Forward

The Second International, for those six, no seven, people who might care, is still alive and well (at least for periodic international conferences) as a mail-drop for homeless social democrats who want to maintain a fig leaf of internationalism without having to do much about it. Needless to say, one Joseph Stalin and his cohorts liquidated the Communist (Third) International in 1943, long after it turned from a revolutionary headquarters into an outpost of Soviet foreign policy. By then no revolutionary missed its demise, nor shed a tear goodbye. And of course there are always a million commentaries by groups, cults, leagues, tendencies, etc. claiming to stand in the tradition (although, rarely, the program) of the Leon Trotsky-inspired Fourth International that, logically and programmatically, is the starting point of any discussion of the modern struggle for a new communist international.

With that caveat in mind this month, the September American Labor Day month, but more importantly the month in 1938 that the ill-fated Fourth International was founded I am posting some documents around the history of that formation, and its program, the program known by the shorthand, Transitional Program. If you want to call for a fifth, sixth, seventh, what have you, revolutionary international, and you are serious about it beyond the "mail-drop" potential, then you have to look seriously into that organization's origins, and the world-class Bolshevik revolutionary who inspired it. Forward.
A History of the Committee for a Workers' International (CWI)

Below is a general account of the development of the Committee for a Workers International (CWI) over the last 24 years. It is based on a speech made by Peter Taaffe at a European School of the CWI in July 1997. Valuable comments were also made during the discussion by a number of comrades, some with a long history within the CWI. In particular, Arne Johansson from Sweden, Angela Bankert from Germany, François Bliki from Belgium and many others all made important additional points on the history of the CWI. As far as is possible in a short account, their comments have been incorporated into the text. This is by no means a full account of the work of the CWI over almost two and a half decades. A proper history is eagerly awaited. It is hoped a comrade will be able to undertake this task in the near future.

Foundation - 1974

The CWI was founded at a meeting of 46 comrades from 12 countries in April 1974. This was not the beginning of international work by supporters of the British Militant (now Socialist Party), who were the main initiators for the founding of the CWI. Many efforts were undertaken in the previous ten years to extend the influence of the ideas of the British Militant internationally. Even without a single international contact, Militant always proceeded from an international standpoint. An international is, first of all, ideas, a program and a perspective. The general ideas are the linchpin of any organization. From this alone flows the type of organization that is required. Therefore, the history of the CWI, as with the British Militant, is a history of the ideas of this body, in contrast to the ideas advanced by other rival Marxist organizations.

The need for an international organization flows from the very development of capitalism itself. The great historical merit of capitalism is that it developed the productive forces, of which the working class is the most important, and bound individual nations together through the world market. Internationalism, as Marx pointed out, flowed from the very situation created by capitalism, i.e. the creation of the world market and the world working class. This idea is even more important today in the period of globalization. The linking together of companies, continents and different national economies on a world scale has been taken to an extent never even imagined by Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky.

First International

The first attempt to set up an international was, of course, undertaken by Marx and Engels with the founding of the First International. Marx attempted to bring together in one international organization the most advanced sections of the working class: French radicals, British trade unionists, and even the Russian anarchists. Great work was undertaken by the First International, culminating in the heroic Paris Commune. Engels pointed out that the International was "intellectually" responsible for the Commune although it had not "lifted a finger" to create it.

This first great attempt of the working class to establish their own state made the bourgeois tremble. They drowned the Commune in blood and conducted a witch-hunt against those who they held responsible, above all the leaders and adherents to the First International. But the defeat of the Paris Commune also coincided with an upturn in capitalism and a serious crisis within the First International especially because of the role of the anarchists, led by Bakunin. Marx and Engels led a successful struggle against the ideas of anarchism but, alongside the disruptive activities of the anarchists, the upswing of world capitalism created reformist illusions in those like the British trade union leaders, which led to splits and divisions within the First International. Marx and Engels then drew the conclusion that the First International had done its job, had established the idea of internationalism and of an International in the consciousness of the working class. But they also concluded that, having exhausted this historical mission, it should be wound up after moving its offices to New York.

Second and Third Internationals

The period that followed saw the creation of mass parties of the working class. These parties were mostly influenced by the ideas of Marx and Engels. This process culminated in the foundation of the Second International in 1889. This organization developed in a generally progressive phase of capitalism. Tens of thousands of working-class people were mobilized by these parties, attracted to the ideas of socialism and given a basic class education. But because of the objective conditions - the steady progress of capitalism in developing the productive forces - this led the leaders of the parties who adhered to the Second International to collaborate with the capitalists, seeking compromises, which became a way of life. In effect, a stratum rose above the working class, with catastrophic consequences, once capitalism's progressive phase had exhausted itself. This was clearly shown in the onset of the First World War. The overwhelming majority of the leaders of the parties of the Second International supported their own bourgeois in the bloody slaughter of the war.

The adherents to genuine internationalism were reduced to a handful. Some who may feel that the genuine internationalists today have been enormously weakened by the collapse of Stalinism and the ideological offensive of the bourgeoisie, should ponder the situation of Lenin, Trotsky, Connolly, MacLean, Liebknecht, Luxemburg and other genuine Marxists, in the First World War. At the Zimmerwald conference, which gathered together those who were opposed to the First World War, the old joke went that the delegates could have fitted into two stagecoaches! Yet two years later the Russian revolution exploded, and within nine months of this, the Bolsheviks were in power and the first genuine workers' state had been established. This set in train the ten days that shook the world.

Out of the Russian revolution came the creation, in 1919, of the Third International. If anyone has any doubts of the effects of the Russian revolution, read John Dos Pasos's USA. He gives many headlines from the US press about the Russian revolution. Not just the yellow press, whose editors dipped their pens in mad-dog saliva, but also the so-called "responsible and informed" journals of capitalism, like the New York Times, which carried headlines such as, "Lenin Assassinates Trotsky", or "Trotsky Kills Lenin". Even more lurid was the edition that claimed, "Trotsky Kills Lenin in Drunken Brawl". The Hungarian workers attempted to follow their Russian brothers and sisters, as did the German and Italian workers. In fact, the whole of the European working class was striving in this direction. It is not possible to go into detail on the causes of the Third International's degeneration. Trotsky traces this out in detail. The main causes were the isolation of the Russian revolution and the development of privileged strata that usurped political power. The defeat of the German revolution and the later betrayal of the German working class with the coming to power of Hitler consolidated the political counter-revolution carried out by the Stalinist elite.

Fourth International

The political collapse of the Third International led Trotsky to pose the need for a new Fourth International. But the founding conference did not take place until 1938. This was no accident. This step was based upon the perspective developed by Trotsky and the Trotskyist movement of a new world war. As a consequence, Trotsky envisaged a mighty revolutionary wave that would sweep across western Europe. He was absolutely right in this, as the revolutionary events of 1944-47 demonstrated. This began with the Italian revolution of 1943-44 and was followed by the revolutionary events in France and other convulsions throughout Europe. But Trotsky could not have anticipated that Stalinism would come out of the war strengthened and that imperialism would be greatly weakened. As part of this process the Communist parties, which had participated and often led the struggle against Hitler, Mussolini and fascism, increased their mass support. Social democracy was also strengthened. The very power which had been vested in these organizations by an aroused working class allowed their leaders to save capitalism at this crucial historical juncture. Capitalist counter-revolution was carried through, not in an outright military or fascist form, but mainly by "democratic" means. Social democracy and Stalinism, and the mass parties which based themselves on these ideas, saved capitalism in Western Europe in this period and, in effect, laid the political preconditions for the beginning of the upswing of world capitalism in the post-1945 situation.

After Trotsky

As with all Trotskyists, we trace our roots back to Trotsky himself. We in Britain, however, came from the Workers International League (WIL), set up in 1937, and the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), formed in 1944. We believe that the analysis of this party and its leaders, like Ted Grant, Jock Haston and others, was more accurate than the perspectives of others. They anticipated the development of deformed workers' states in Eastern Europe and China, in particular. The leadership of the "Fourth International", Ernest Mandel, Michael Raptis (Pablo), Pierre Frank and others, believed that this phenomenon - the creation of deformed workers' states - was an impossibility. Faced with reality, however, they did a somersault. Then they went to the other extreme and Tito, in Yugoslavia, became an "unconscious Trotskyist" as did Mao Zedong.

Of course, the leaders of the RCP made mistakes. There is no such a thing as an infallible leadership. Ted Grant, for instance, originally characterised the regimes in Eastern Europe, such as Poland or Czechoslovakia, as "state capitalist". But he checked himself, re-examined the works of the great teachers, such as Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky, and came out with a correct evaluation of the situation of these states. Tony Cliff, on the other hand, maintained, and still maintains, the doctrine of state capitalism.

The leaders of the RCP also made the mistake, in our opinion, of entering the Labour Party in 1949-50. The majority, led by Grant and Haston, correctly argued that the conditions were not there for successful entry into the Labour Party. The Labour government of 1945 was actually carrying out reforms, the creation of the welfare state, etc, and there were the beginnings of the world economic upswing. It would have been more correct to remain as an independent party with the majority of the efforts of the Trotskyists, at that stage, directed towards industry. But the capitulation of Jock Haston led to the disintegration of the majority and, in effect, the capitulation of Ted Grant to the wrong policy of Gerry Healy for entry into the Labour Party. However, because of the beginning of the post war boom, even a powerful Marxist organization would have been undermined. The objective situation in this period and for the foreseeable future, was favorable both for reformism and Stalinism.

USFI Congress 1965

My generation entered the scene at the end of the 1950s and early 1960s. I joined our organization in 1960. We had a base amongst workers in Liverpool and there was also a base amongst a very promising layer of students who joined our organization at Sussex University. We were, at this stage, part of the United Secretariat of the Fourth International (USFI). We had been forced into a very unprincipled fusion with Mandel's organization in Britain, the Internationalist Group, later the International Marxist Group (IMG), in mid-1964. The old, rather self-mocking, slogan of the Trotskyists at that time was, "unhappy with fusions, happy with splits". And sure enough within six months - towards the end of 1964 - because the amalgamation had taken place on an unprincipled basis, there was a split. In order to clarify the situation of a split organization with two distinct groupings, Ted Grant and myself attended the Congress of the USFI in 1965. Our arguments for continuing to be recognized as the only official British section of USFI were rejected. This decision was in the tradition, unfortunately, of the leaders of this organization who preferred pliant followers able to carry out their line, rather than genuine collaborators, even with serious political differences. Our tradition has always been to try and argue out differences politically. The tone for the USFI was set by the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) in the United States. James Cannon was an able workers' leader but possessed certain Zinovievist, that is maneuverist, traits. An honest approach towards the different sections of the USFI was foreign to this leadership.

The Congress of the USFI took place in the Taunus Mountains, in Germany, in November/December 1965. We submitted alternative documents and amendments to those of the leadership. We had differences on the character of modern capitalism and economic perspectives. We maintained, I believe correctly, that Mandel's ideas were neo-Keynesian in content. We also differed with them on perspectives for the Common Market, as the European Union was called at that stage. The USFI leadership clearly thought that European capitalism was at the point of "take-off", that capitalism would be able to unify Europe. We also differed with them on the analysis of the colonial and semi-colonial world. We were in support of the national liberation struggle, even under bourgeois leadership, but without in any way giving a shadow of political support to the leadership of these movements. The US SWP, which was then part of the USFI leadership, believed that Castro was more or less carrying out the tasks of genuine Trotskyism at that stage. There was no need, according to this organization, for a political revolution in Cuba, i.e. the creation of soviets, the election of officials, the right of recall, etc. On the other hand, in the course of the conference deliberations we managed to extract from the leadership a difference between Mandel, on the one side, and the US SWP, on the other, in relation to China and Mao Zedong. When we questioned Mandel about a formula in their document about the need for an "anti-bureaucratic movement" in China, he admitted that the US SWP believed that a political revolution was necessary but that Mandel, Maitan and Frank believed that it was not. In general, however, despite the fact that our documents were the only real opposition at the congress, our ideas were not addressed and hardly referred to.

Refuting our arguments, Mandel & Co. recognized two sympathizing groups of the USFI in Britain, ourselves and the IMG. This was completely unprecedented in the history of the Trotskyist movement. While there are examples of an official section and sympathetic groups being accepted, there was no precedent for an official section to be de-recognized or put on a par with a "sympathizing" group. In our book this was a form of expulsion, moreover, one undertaken in an underhand and dishonest fashion. We decided that the time had arrived when we must turn our backs on this organization and the squabbling sects who described themselves as "Trotskyist".

Out of the USFI

We tried to follow the advice of Marx and Engels to their followers in Germany in the 1870s. Writing to Babel, one of the leaders of what later became the mass Social Democratic Party of Germany, Engels commented, in 1873: "It is easy to pay too much attention to one's rival and to get into the habit of always thinking about him first. But both the General Association of German Workers and the Social Democratic Workers Party together still only form a very small minority of the German working class. Our view, which we have found confirmed by long practice, is that the correct tactics and propaganda is not to draw away a few individuals and members here and there from one's opponent, but to work on the great mass which still remains apathetic. The primitive force of a single individual who we ourselves attracted from the crude mass is more than ten Lassallian renegades, who always bring the seeds of their false tendencies into the party with them." (The Lassallians were the followers of Ferdinand Lassalle who founded the General Association of German Workers in 1863.)

Marx commented earlier, in 1868: "The sects see the justification for its existence and its 'point of honor' - not in what it has in common [emphasized by Marx] with the class movement but in the particular shibboleth which distinguishes it from it."

We decided to face up in Britain, Germany, Ireland, Sweden and elsewhere to the task of reaching those workers, particularly young workers, who had an interest in left politics and could be won to a Marxist and Trotskyist position. There were many very good comrades in the small Trotskyist groups, many who were raw revolutionary material, but the opportunities of transforming them into rounded-out Marxists were squandered by the mistakes of the leadership of these groups.

Guerillaism and the USFI

We had fundamental differences with the USFI's approach on the role of students in the revolution, and particularly on guerrillaism. Their position on guerrillaism resulted in the destruction of many potentially fine revolutionary fighters. It is not a question of ex post facto criticisms but, at the time when the USFI was engaged in sectarian adventures in Latin America and elsewhere, we polemicized against them. In January 1972, for instance, when it was revealed that there was a split between the mainly European sections of the USFI and the followers of the US SWP, we utilized the opportunity in internal material to explain our position to our comrades and to theoretically inoculate them against the ideas of Mandel and others.
The main proponent of guerrillaism, at least publicly, was Livio Maitan. We will give just a few quotes from a document, written in 1972, of our criticisms of his position:

"Of lesser importance but still necessary is the arming of ourselves against the ideas of the different sects. The Bulletin has already carried criticisms of different tendencies in this country. This short piece is to familiarize the comrades with the present evolution of the United Secretariat [USFI], the organization we were expelled from in 1965. Internal documents of [the USFI] have come into our possession that reveal a split between the mainly European sections of the USFI and the followers of the American SWP. The issue around which both tendencies have polarised is that of guerrilla war (but it doesn't stop there) and the attitude their organization has taken towards it. This is of particular interest to our tendency as it was one of the questions which we attempted to raise at their 1965 World Conference and which was dealt with at length in our document of the Colonial Revolution presented to that Congress and rejected without discussion. (See our document on the Colonial Revolution and the Report of the Congress):

"Maitan gives a number of quotes from the great Marxist teachers. Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky are transformed in Maitan's hands from the masters of scientific socialism into guerrilla romantics who anticipated Guevara, Debray and their ilk as proponents of the idea of peasant based guerrilla operations. Thus, in a reply to earlier SWP criticism, Maitan has torn out of context extracts from Engels, Marx and Lenin in order to demonstrate the validity of guerrilla war! He quotes, for example, from Engels's Introduction to Marx's Class Struggle in France, which refers to insurrection as an "art". Engels was dealing with the problems of a proletarian uprising in the cities! Where the great teachers of Marxism have supported guerrilla warfare, it has only been as an auxiliary to the movement of the working class in the cities. Maitan's attempt to utilize articles by Lenin on guerrilla war in 1906 are a complete distortion. He makes Lenin appear more as a theoretician of the Social Revolutionaries, in looking towards guerrilla war and the peasant movement as the most important factor in the situation at that time, than of the Bolsheviks. In reality, the Bolshevik Party had fought a relentless theoretical battle against precisely these ideas, insisting on the prime role of the industrial proletariat, while giving every support to the peasant movements in the countryside and attempting to bring it under the influence of the proletariat.

"Trotsky elaborated this idea in his work on the Permanent Revolution and elaborated in numerous articles on the incapacity of the peasantry, because of its social position, its lack of cohesiveness, etc, to plan any independent role in the Revolution; either it supports the proletariat, as in the Russian Revolution, or the bourgeoisie.

"Lenin did support guerrilla war in 1906, as an auxiliary when he considered the Revolution was on the upswing. Later, when it was obvious that an ebb had set in, Lenin opposed the continuation of guerrilla war, as he did the faction of Boycottists amongst the Bolsheviks who opposed any participation in the Tsarist Duma and the possibility of even limited legal work. He would have condemned as a slander those who, because of these articles, would have accused him of propounding the theory of guerrilla war as outlined by Maitan.

"The position is even worse in the case of Trotsky: "On the question more specifically of rural guerrilla warfare, Trotsky grasped the importance of armed peasant detachments in the Second Chinese Revolution." (USFI International Information Bulletin, January 1968, page 13). The impression is given that Trotsky greeted the peasant guerrilla war in China enthusiastically and uncritically. In reality, as the following extracts from Trotsky will show, he warned that because of the predominantly peasant social basis of the Chinese "Red" Army, it could come into collision with the proletariat if it defeated Chiang Kai-shek and entered the cities:

"It is one thing when the Communist Party, firmly resting upon the flower of the urban proletariat, strives through the workers to lead the peasant war. It is an altogether different thing when a few thousand or even tens of thousands of revolutionists assume the leadership of the peasant war and are in reality Communists or take the name without having serious support from the proletariat. This is precisely the situation in China. This acts to augment in the extreme, the danger of conflicts between the workers and the armed peasants... Isn't it possible that things may turn out so that all this capital will be directed at a certain moment against the workers?... The peasantry, even when armed, is incapable of conducting an independent policy." (Peasant War in China, September 1932)

"As we know, the "Red" Army did shoot down those workers who rose in support of it in the cities. Because of the impasse of Chinese society, the Chinese Stalinists were able to use the peasant army to maneuver between the classes and construct a state in the image of Moscow. (See Colonial Revolution document)

"And as if it were written for today, Trotsky answered the "guerrillaist" arguments... when he remarked in passing: "The Russian Narodniks ("Populists") used to accuse the Russian Marxists of "ignoring" the peasantry, of not carrying out work in the villages, etc. To this the Marxists replied: "We will arouse and organize the advanced workers and through the workers we shall arouse the peasants." Such in general, is the only conceivable road for the proletarian party."

"Not once are these fundamental principles of Marxism posed, i.e. of the social role of the working class, organized in large scale industry, being the only class capable of developing the necessary cohesion and consciousness to carry through the tasks of socialist revolution.

"On the contrary, having bent to the mood of the rural guerrillaism reflected within their own ranks, it is only one step removed from hailing the latest outbreak of urban guerrilla war as a step forward: "We also envisaged the possibility of essentially urban guerrilla warfare and armed struggle." (USFI International Information Bulletin, page 17)

"One of the ideas fought for almost from the conception of the Marxist movement against the anarchists and terrorists has been that of mass action by the proletariat as the main lever for the social revolution. No self-sacrificing individual or small group armed with bomb and pistol, is able to bring about the downfall of the capitalist system. On the contrary, individual terror can bring down a wave of repression on the whole labor movement, as has been the case in a whole series of countries, of Latin America and of Quebec recently...

"Hansen, on behalf of the SWP in replying to the arguments of Maitan and Mandel, gives a crushing indictment of the present open "guerrillaist" orientation of the majority in his own international organization. Many correct points are made against the majority with which we would... agree.

"But Hansen's criticisms are at the same time leveled at the positions which he and the SWP held only yesterday and which they have not completely abandoned.

"Many of the ideas and even the formulations relating to the role of guerrilla war and by implication the peasantry are borrowed from our documents presented at the 1965 World Congress.

"If the SWP now claim that they have consistently held this position they would have to explain why they opposed our document presented to the World Congress where a clear Marxist perspective is given in relation to developments in the colonial and semi-colonial world. Ours was the only position which started out from the fundamental ideas of Marxism, the primacy of the working class and the need for the Marxist cadres to root themselves amongst the proletariat.

"In fact the pro-Castro and hence pro-guerrillaist orientation is one of the themes of Hansen's document. He quotes with approval the earlier reunification document in 1963 which founded the present United Secretariat: "Guerrilla warfare under a leadership that becomes committed to carrying the revolution through to a conclusion, can play a decisive role in undermining and precipitating the downfall of a colonial and semi-colonial power. This is one of the main lessons to be drawn from experience since the end of the Second World War. It must be consciously incorporated into the strategy of building revolutionary Marxist parties in colonial countries."

"There is no attempt, as we have done in our material, to first of all lay down the main strategy of Marxist tendencies in these countries of first concentrating the small forces available amongst the industrial workers while, of course, giving every assistance to armed action by the peasants and attempting to tie in these movements together with that of the organized workers. The "experiences" referred to are those of Cuba, Algeria, etc, i.e. of the methods of rural guerrilla warfare...

"Perhaps the most pertinent point in all the documents is that made by Hansen against Maitan: "One of the items in the evolution of comrade Maitan's thinking might have been the internal developments in the Italian section of the Fourth International at that time when, if I am informed correctly, the bulk of the youth were lost to a Maoist current"! (USFI International Information Bulletin, page 22)

"This statement alone is a complete vindication of the criticisms we made at the time of the 1965 Congress and in our document on The Sino-Soviet Dispute and the Colonial Revolution [written by Ted Grant]. We warned them: "No concessions can be made to the degenerate nationalism of all wings of Stalinism... Those comrades who dream of an 'easier' approach are deluding themselves. Nor is it possible to imagine an opportunist approach on "current", "modern" lines will succeed, while the revolutionary approach is left for the bedroom. "Why should any cadres in the Russian wing, or the Chinese wing, approach the Fourth International unless it has something to offer? What have we to offer at this stage except the theories of the masters, reinforced and enriched by the experience of the last decades?" (Colonial Revolution, pages 25-26)

"The pro-Chinese position of the whole of the USFI not only failed to win over sections of the CPs becoming critical of Moscow but on the contrary resulted in the going over of a section of the Italian USFI youth to Maoism! They preferred the real Maoists!"

This position of the USFI did untold damage in Latin America. It is no exaggeration to say that thousands, tens of thousands, of young people and workers in Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia and elsewhere who were initially attracted to Trotskyism, were led into the blind alley of guerrillaism by the leaders of the USFI. They had a similar position of uncritical support for the Provisional IRA in Ireland. Needless to say, their position as political attorneys for different guerrillaist leaders did not result in any substantial gains for their organization. On the contrary, as we see above, it led at a certain stage to the recruitment of potential supporters for Trotskyism to go over to these guerrillaist movements. The USFI destroyed many potentially important revolutionary fighters.

Towards New Layers and the Labour Party

We considered that our main task in the period of the 1970s and also later, was to turn decisively towards the proletariat, especially to the new layers. In Britain, as we have detailed in our book, The Rise of Militant, we concentrated our work in the Labour Party and, particularly, in the youth wing of the Labour Party. We had to skillfully adapt to this milieu but we never hid our ideas. Indeed, it became a standing joke amongst our opponents that a Militant supporter would immediately be recognized by the allegedly exaggerated hand movements but, above all, if they mentioned that they stood on the basis of the ideas of "Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky". This did not stop our "Marxist" opponents, who were usually located outside of the organized labor movement, from criticizing us for "opportunism". While we gave critical support to the left, particularly the Benn movement in the 1980s, we always defended our own independent position.

Could the same be said for those "revolutionary purists" who did not sully their hands within the mass organizations of the working class? The followers of Mandel, in a number of countries, opportunistically cuddled up to different left reformists and in the process watered down their program. No such criticism could be made of the supporters of Militant (now the Socialist Party) in Britain. We built a solid base amongst the youth, particularly in the Labour Party Young Socialists (LPYS). Ninety per cent of our efforts were concentrated in this field. It was not just the youth comrades, but the older comrades who participated and played a role in educating the new layer of youth who were moving towards Marxism. We won a majority in the LPYS in 1970, as we have explained elsewhere, later taking all the positions on the National Committee. This probably went a bit far but the LPYS NC members were actually elected at regional conferences. Experience had shown that unless the Marxists won the NC position in a region, the Labour Party bureaucracy would hamper, undermine and frustrate the attempts of the youth movement in that area to engage in any genuine mass work. In the future, however, where we are engaged in mass work, in general it would not be appropriate for us, even where we have an overwhelming majority, to take all the positions in the movement.

We were tolerated in the Labour Party at this stage. One of the reasons for this was the genuine rank-and-file democracy that existed in the party. Also we were energetic, most of the comrades were youth, had very good ideas, etc. A wing of the bureaucracy undoubtedly believed that the youthful supporters of Militant would, as previous generations had done, move to the right as they got older. However, these "Trotskyists" did grow up but, to the horror of the right wing, they continued to defend their ideas and some of them even became MPs. They were not the kind of MPs that the right and the bureaucracy had anticipated. The 1980s was a very successful period for the Marxists in Britain, as we have explained in The Rise of Militant. At one stage our membership rose to 8,000. Three MPs - all known Trotskyists - were elected and made a marvelous contribution to the struggles of the British working class.

Of course, the ruling class hated us and put enormous pressure on the Labour bureaucracy to weaken us and drive us out of the party. As is well known, a series of expulsions ensued in the 1980s and early 1990s. However, this did not prevent us from reaching out to workers who were engaged in struggle. Alongside of the Liverpool battle, we gained invaluable experience in leading the mass movement around the poll tax. We defeated this measure and, in the process, brought down Thatcher.

Painstaking Work

The development of the British section has always run alongside the growth of the CWI. But it would be a mistake to see the CWI as a mere adjunct of the work that we did in Britain. The CWI has a separate identity. It was impossible to replicate exactly the experience of the British Marxists in every country even in Western Europe. Painstaking discussions ensued with comrades in different countries in elaborating different and varying strategies and tactics to enhance the profile, numbers and effectiveness of the supporters and members of the CWI. As explained above, even when we were restricted to the small island of Britain, we always had an international outlook. We never took a purely British position but always proceeded from an international analysis, only then examining how the situation in Britain fitted in with this. We were always on the lookout for international contacts. Many of the international contacts that we made appeared to be purely "accidental". But these "accidents" were related to the changes in the objective situation that was affecting the working class and their organizations.


A dramatic growth in our international contacts was itself related, in the early part of the 1970s, to the big changes that were underway in the mass, traditional organizations of the working class. But the first extension of our influence came in Ireland. We recruited a young student in Britain who then went back to Northern Ireland on the eve of the explosive Civil Rights movement in the late 1960s. He, in turn, made contact with a new generation of youth, both Catholic and Protestant, around the Northern Ireland Labour Party in the city of Derry. I was invited to visit the North of Ireland in 1969. I arrived just a week before the explosive, almost revolutionary, events in Derry of August 1969. I was able to make contact and discuss with a number of young socialists at that time: John Throne, Bernadette Devlin (now McAlliskey), Cathy Harkin, Gerry Lynch and many others. We built a very important position, at that stage, amongst both Catholic and Protestant youth through the Derry Young Socialists. Later on, through our work at Sussex University, we recruited Peter Hadden who went back to Northern Ireland in the early 1970s, and has played a decisive role in our section in the North and throughout Ireland in this period. Following these discussions I traveled south and met a group of youth who were members of the Southern Ireland Labour Party in Dublin. Unfortunately, most of them who proclaimed to be Marxists were absolutely unfitted for the task of building a powerful Marxist organization. Nevertheless our work in the North of Ireland did, later on, lead to the establishment of an important presence in the South. This, in turn, led to the recruitment of what is now the leadership of the Irish section, comrades such as Dermot Connolly and Joe Higgins, who is now a Socialist Party TD.


At this stage, we did not just work through the different youth organizations in Europe but also in the international organization of the social democratic youth, the International Union of Socialist Youth (IUSY). We came up against a youthful but extremely hardened group of careerists who had been groomed as future leaders of the mass social democratic parties. Their main aim was to occupy the plush offices and limousines of ministers in future social democratic governments. We represented a mortal threat to them. Compared to the Labour bureaucracy in Britain, these creatures were a much more vicious breed. Nevertheless, our young comrades attended every meeting, no matter how daunting or boring the task in confronting these young careerists, in the hope of turning up useful potential socialist and revolutionary fighters.
This paid off in 1972 when two of our comrades, Peter Doyle and Andy Bevan, were sent to the conference of the Social Democratic Youth in Sweden. There they met Arne Johansson and Anders Hjelm who were immediately recognized as kindred spirits of the British young socialists. Arne comments:

"The visit of the two representatives of the British Militant came just at the right time. There was a radicalization amongst the social democratic youth in Sweden, with growing opposition towards the bureaucracy. At this stage we were part of a left faction within the Social Democratic Youth. We were well known, so much so that a social democratic bureaucrat even pointed out the British young socialists to us and said that our ideas were similar to theirs and that we should "discuss with them". This we did on the evening of the congress and found that we had a lot in common.

"We were concentrated in the city of Umeå in the north of Sweden, in a loose left/Marxist discussion group. Without a doubt, unless we would have met Militant at this time, this organization would have completely disintegrated. We were not politically homogenous. Nor was it preordained that we would automatically join Militant or what became the CWI. In fact, the representatives of the USFI, in the form of Pierre Frank, made determined efforts to win us. He traveled to Umeå to address a meeting of our student group. I asked him if he knew of the British Militant. His riposte was short and brutal: "They are completely impotent."

"Roger Silverman, on behalf of the British Militant visited Sweden, engaged in very thorough discussions with us and helped to consolidate us on the political positions of the British comrades. We took steps to organize a serious Marxist force but one that was very, very small at that stage. On the other hand, the Swedish Social Democratic Youth was a large organization and the bureaucracy had learned from the experience of Britain. They, therefore, very quickly moved to expel us from the SSU but this did not mean we were completely debarred from the party - you could be expelled from the SSU while still retaining membership of the social democracy. Nevertheless, the "loose left" in Umeå and elsewhere disintegrated, although we won some very good comrades to our organization.

"Undoubtedly, the 1970s was a difficult time for the Swedish Marxists and only by digging in and establishing firm roots, along with serious international contact, was it possible for us to survive this period. In effect, we could not pursue effective entry work as most of our forces were outside the SSU and, subsequently, outside the Social Democratic Party. In the creation of our organization, we had to combat not just the ideas of reformism but the false ideas of the Mandelites in Sweden. Their attitude was that the revolutionary students were the new vanguard of the working class and they adopted an extremely sectarian attitude to anyone who did not agree with them. Only by correctly analyzing the situation were we able to survive and to make serious progress in the course of the 1980s."


We had a similar, although different, situation in Germany. I had met a German comrade at the LPYS conference in 1971. He was soon recruited to our organization and, in turn, attracted a layer of youth who traveled into our ranks. But if in Sweden we had arrived just in time, as Arne commented, this was not perhaps the case in Germany. Angela Bankert comments: "The CWI came a bit late to Germany. The radicalization of the youth was well under way. This was reflected in the youth wing of the social democracy, the Jusos. Unfortunately, it was not genuine Marxism, in the form of our ideas and organization, which successfully intervened in this situation, but Stalinist-influenced organizations."

In a different historical context of sharp crisis, of a revolutionary or pre-revolutionary situation, this position in Germany could have been fateful, as had been the case in the past in other countries. For instance, in Spain in the 1930s, the "Trotskyists" refused Trotsky's advice to enter the Spanish young socialists. But the Stalinists were not so "pure". They entered and won virtually the whole of the socialist youth which not only strengthened the Spanish Communist Party but resulted in the lost opportunity for Trotskyism to establish a mass base. The consequence was the isolation of the Trotskyists and the defeat of the Spanish revolution. Angela comments: "We intervened, with our very small forces at the beginning, just when this radical wave was beginning to recede. Nevertheless, there was a very keen audience for our ideas. At regional conferences of the Jusos and the party, with sometimes 300 people present, we could usually sell about 150 papers."


The Belgian section of the CWI was founded in 1974 again by "accident". Roger Silverman was on his way back to Britain and missed the boat from Belgium to Britain and was, therefore, compelled to stay overnight. He therefore looked up a contact from an LPYS conference and from this original introduction, a group of youth active within the Belgian social democracy came towards us and were eventually won over politically to our ideas.

François Bliki, who has participated in the Belgian section of the CWI almost since its inception, comments:

"If we would have been in touch with the CWI prior to the 1970s, it is no exaggeration to say that we would now be the largest section in the whole of the CWI, perhaps exceeding the numbers in the British section. There was tremendous turmoil within the workers' movement in the early 1970s. This was reflected in the social democracy with the shift towards the left, particularly by the youth. The biggest Trotskyist current at that stage was around Ernest Mandel's organization, which refused to involve itself in this struggle within the social democracy. We were very young and inexperienced but, nevertheless, we had a big impact right from the beginning. In 1986 we organized a mass movement of 26,000 students in 25 different towns in Belgium. It was organized under the name of our organization because the Belgian Young Socialists would not let us use their name. We made significant gains through the work we conducted within the social democracy.

"From an historical point of view, this work was entirely justified. But of course, conditions change. The split with the Grant group in 1992 was also felt in Belgium. This resulted in 32 comrades remaining with the majority and 30 with the minority. This minority merely repeated ideas from the past that were quite adequate for their time but had become completely outmoded by the change in the situation. Whereas they have stagnated, we have undergone a big growth. Now we have over 100 and they have 20, largely older, comrades with a stagnant membership.

"In 1995, there was a split from the Mandel group with the best of the comrades coming towards and joining our organization. At that stage, the SI [the Belgian group linked to the British SWP] had 34 members. They actually approached the ex-Mandel group, led by a comrade who is now with us, but there was no question of him joining this organization rather than us. Then in 1997, at a national meeting with 21 present, the London-based leadership of the SWP tried to impose their international "party line" [although not implemented in Britain], which meant that the members of the Belgian SI would have to enter and submerge themselves into the social democracy. This is against the background where the conditions for work within the social democracy no longer exist for a serious Marxist tendency. We approached them and had discussions with the 13 who voted against [it was a majority] and, subsequently, the majority of these comrades joined us. It was the comrades who left the Mandel group earlier, and who had been approached by the SI to join them, who now went and participated in persuading the Belgian SI to join our organization."

April 1974 - CWI and Greece

By 1974 it was clear that the conditions were ripe to take the initiative in forming a properly structured international organization. Big movements took place throughout Europe. The CWI was founded at a conference in London on 20/21 April 1974. Four days later, on 25 April, the Portuguese revolution exploded and we immediately intervened. Similar upheavals were to take place in Greece and Cyprus soon afterwards, and the Franco dictatorship was on its last legs in Spain.

The history of our International is one of ideas, of an attempt to work out the most effective strategy and tactics for the building of the forces of Marxism. With a small organization it is always a question of concentrating all, or most, of your forces at the "point of attack". At that stage - the early 1970s - for us, that was clearly within the mass organizations that still retained the overwhelming support of the proletariat. In one case, Greece, we predicted the need to work in mass organizations even before they had been formally created. Almost as soon as the military junta had been overthrown in Greece in July 1974, our organization outlined the perspective for the development of a mass socialist party. We argued that this inevitably arose from the situation following the overthrow of the junta, that would open the floodgates for the mass participation in politics that would inevitably take a new form to that which existed prior to the military coup in 1967. The new generation, in particular, was looking for a revolutionary road but was repelled by the parties that still clung to Stalinism. We identified the figure who would probably lead such a party - Andreas Papandreou. He had evolved from the leader of the "left" in the liberal bourgeois party, the Center Union, prior to the seizure of power by the colonels into a radicalized socialistic opponent of the junta. And very quickly after he returned from exile, in September 1974, Papandreou took steps to organize a socialist party, PASOK, which rapidly attracted big layers of the youth and working class who were looking for a revolutionary alternative. Our ability to intervene in Greece arose from another "accidental" encounter with a Greek comrade in Britain. I happened to be speaking at an LPYS meeting in the west of London soon after the junta had seized power and a Greek comrade, a playwright who spoke little English, immediately identified us as 'Trotskyist'. This comrade participated in the fringes of our organization over a period of years. When he returned to Greece in 1973, and tried to re-enter Britain he was excluded by the authorities. This rather repressive measure against him turned out to be very fortuitous for us. He was there when the junta was overthrown and immediately made contact with a group of Trotskyists who had played a heroic role in the struggle against the dictatorship. He urged us to visit Greece, which we did shortly afterwards. At the end of 1974, I was able to win this group and another group to the CWI. The first group was led by Nicos Redoundos. Nicos still plays a vital role in Xekinima, our Greek organization. Also, as we have explained elsewhere, we won a very important group of young socialists in Cyprus. Comrades Doros and Andros remain in our organization and still play an important role. From the original group who joined us, Andros is now active in the leadership of the Greek organization. We were able to carry through the fusion of the two groups in Greece, which, for a period, worked quite effectively. Unfortunately, this unity did not last but, nevertheless, our organization rose, at one stage, to a membership of 750. Moreover, it played quite a decisive role in the developments of the left in PASOK over a very important historical period. Now PASOK, alongside many of the other traditional parties of Western Europe, is in the process of abandoning its class base and, therefore, the task in Greece is to work as an independent organization.

Portuguese Revolution

The CWI, right from its inception, was extremely energetic in intervening in any serious workers' movement. For instance, as soon as the Portuguese revolution broke out, both Bob Labi and Roger Silverman were on the streets of Lisbon distributing material hailing the revolution and outlining the perspective of what we considered was the likely development of events. For us it was not just a question of correct ideas but of ideas linked to action and intervention. A similar and very successful approach was adopted in relation to Spain. We have outlined in our book how we intervened in the Spanish situation. What is not generally realized is that there were many attempts to establish contact with Marxists and revolutionaries but they were not successful until we came across serious forces in 1974. Lynn Walsh, at a later stage, was also sent to see whether the CWI could make headway in Portugal. We then looked on any international contact, as we do today, as gold dust to be carefully nurtured and developed with the hope that this would lead on to much greater possibilities later on.

We called our international organization the Committee for a Workers' International for very good reasons. There were a number of "Internationals", all of whom maintained that they were "The" International. We did not want to go down this road. We, therefore, called ourselves a "Committee", for a future mass International. We used the word "Workers" because we wished to emphasize the central role of the proletariat, in contradistinction to others who based themselves on the peasantry, guerrillaist ideas or the students, as the "detonators" of the revolution.

Sri Lanka and India

And it was not just in Europe, where our main base was, that we began to have success. We had a very important Sri Lankan contact in London who was in touch was a big left opposition that was developing within the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP). This was the largest Trotskyist party in the world, with a great revolutionary tradition, but whose leadership had moved in an opportunist direction by joining the popular fronts with the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) after 1964. Through this Sri Lankan comrade, we made contact with this organization led by Siritunga Jarysuriya (Siri), Vasudeva Nanayaika (Vasu), and Vickremabahu Karunaratne (Bahu). Accordingly, Ted Grant made a visit to Sri Lanka in 1976, which led to closer political relations with these comrades. He also made a visit to India to a much looser group of 'Marxists' who had come into contact with us. I subsequently visited Sri Lanka in 1977 and the tendency led by Siri, Vasu and Bahu were won to the CWI, bringing with them a significant group of workers numbering hundreds. In effect, all the best trade union leaders who were in the LSSP came over to this trend, which constituted itself, after they were formally expelled from the LSSP, as the Nava Sama Samaja Party (NSSP).

I also made a visit to India with Bahu after I visited Sri Lanka in April 1977. The discussions that we had with a group of "Marxists", based in Bangalore, proved to be completely abortive. This grouping of pseudo-intellectuals were welded into their armchairs, contemplating their navels even more than Buddha himself. We immediately turned our backs on them but, fortunately, made contacts with members of the former-Maoist mass Communist Party, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) - the CPI(M). From the contacts we made in these discussions with very good, active workers in the unions and the CPI(M), we established the first basis of our Indian organization. Roger Silverman subsequently made many visits to India and at one stage lived for quite a long period of time in the sub-continent.

First International School

After two years of the CWI's existence we organized, in 1976, an International school in the city of Ulm in West Germany. We made spectacular efforts in Britain to get as many comrades as possible to this school. We bought an old battered bus to travel to the school. This ancient vehicle trundled to the European continent, much to the astonishment of the population of the different countries that it visited. Upon our return to Britain we promptly sold the bus. The gathering in Ulm was partly a school and partly a conference of the cadres that we had managed to assemble around the banner of the CWI. Apart from the countries mentioned earlier, there were many others in which we had loose contacts or groups that were moving towards the CWI. One such group was in Cyprus, of comrades who played a key role at the time of the Turkish invasion of the island in 1974. They played a quite heroic part in taking up arms against the Turkish invaders through the youth wing of the socialist party, EDEK.

Expelled From Social Democracy

While in Britain we had great latitude for work within the Labour Party throughout the 1970s and most of the 1980s, this was not at all the case with comrades in other countries. The social democratic bureaucracies in the countries of Western Europe had learnt from the experience of Britain. Very quickly in Sweden and Spain, our comrades, almost as soon as they formed distinct and significant groupings, were faced in the mid-1970s with a witch-hunt and expulsions. This did not prevent them from playing an important part in the struggles of the workers and the youth in their own countries. In Britain, we had successfully launched a school students' strike in 1985 against the establishment of slave labor through the YTS scheme, with 250,000 students coming out on strike. Basing itself upon the experience in Britain, the Spanish section of the CWI organized a massive movement among school students involving strikes of millions of youth. They also did great work during the Gulf War at the beginning of the 1990s. Our German section and other sections did extremely useful work at this stage as well.

Emissaries Abroad

But we did not just send emissaries for the ideas of the CWI to Europe alone. We also made a determined intervention in Latin America. In the early 1980s we sent comrades such as Paulina Ramirez and her brother, Matteus, and Tony Saunois to Chile. This involved great danger for these comrades as the Pinochet dictatorship was still in place. Great work was undertaken in Chile where the basis of the organization we have today was founded. We also sent a comrade from the Spanish section to work in Argentina, which was not as successful.

Also comrades from Britain, such as Clare Doyle and Dave Campbell, intervened in the former USSR in the extremely difficult conditions of the late 1980s and early 1990s to establish the basis of the organization that we have there. Other comrades, like Steve Jolly, Robyn Hoyl and Paul True were sent to Australia, where again great work was undertaken. This is now bearing fruit with the very successful growth of our Australian organization.

Our general policy had always been to work, where this was possible, in the mass organizations. After the initial assembling of the cadres, the task was then to develop viable sections of the CWI. But related to this was also the best method to develop the initial cadres and, alongside of this, the leadership of the different national organizations of the CWI. Leadership is something that is not easily acquired. It is an art that has to be learnt and inevitably involves mistakes, particularly from a young leadership. There is nothing wrong with this - in fact it is inevitable - particularly on tactical questions, but the important thing is to learn from mistakes.

International Campaigning

A vital component part of the development of the CWI was the successful organization of international campaigns. On the issue of Spain, for instance, before we acquired the initial cadres, we conducted a campaign of solidarity with the Spanish workers in general but, in particular, with the underground socialist unions and party, the UGT and PSOE. At that stage, this party stood well to the left of the Labour Party in Britain and of social democracy in general. These campaigns were important not only because they allowed us to intervene in Spain but also brought towards us important figures from the trade unions in Britain. In our discussions with comrades from Lutte Ouvrière, who were present at the 1997 European School, we made the point that although we have worked, and very successfully, in the trade unions this is not the only way of winning workers. It is possible to win some very good workers, some of them leading shop stewards, on issues which are not immediately related to work in a particular factory or in industry in general. For instance, we won Bill Mullins, who was then one of the leading conveners in a factory of 12,000 car workers in Birmingham, not on a trade union issue but through the campaign of solidarity with the Spanish workers. After he was won to our organization, we pursued very successful work in his factory on trade union issues. He subsequently played a key role not just in Birmingham and the West Midlands, but nationally in our trade union work and is presently our national industrial organizer.

Defending Our Comrades

In the 1980s also, with the growing importance of the different national sections of the CWI, we were involved in vital defense campaigns of comrades who had been arrested for their activity. In Israel/Palestine, comrade Mahmoud Masarwa was arrested and tortured, Femi Aborisade and other comrades in Nigeria were arrested, South African comrades were arrested and some of them imprisoned. We also were involved in the leadership of the general strike in Sri Lanka in 1980, which resulted in the victimization of thousands of workers. We organized an effective solidarity campaign with these workers on an international scale.


All this work brought towards us some very important contacts. Some of them were won in the most peculiar and unlikely conditions. For instance, the present powerful position that we enjoy in Nigeria was made possible to some extent by our participation in a "Black Book Fair" in London. A Nigerian lecturer visiting London accidentally came across a number of our books and documents. He was very impressed with the ideas contained in them and took them back to Nigeria. This had a big effect on a group of Nigerian activists who considered themselves Marxists, some of whom were still under the influence of Stalinism but who had heard about Trotsky, and they approached us for discussions. Through this we won the position that we have in Nigeria at the present time.

South Africa

Similarly, in South Africa, a group of activists, some of them lawyers and intellectuals who participated in the first formation of independent black unions in 1973, came across our documents. This had a powerful effect on them and some of them gave up their jobs and flew to London, into exile, in order to have discussions with us. This, in turn, led to a very successful phase of intervention in the underground struggle in South Africa where our organization was considered as a "tendency" of the African National Congress. Some of the material produced in their journal, Inqaba ya Basebenzi, had a powerful effect on the outlook of the militants who were fighting in the factories and in the struggle against the apartheid regime. This was subsequently confirmed in the early 1990s when the apartheid regime began to disintegrate. This also led to the South African comrades intervening in Zimbabwe which led to the foundation of our Zimbabwean section.

New Initiatives

Our Pakistan section, which is now undertaking some of the most serious work of any section of the CWI amongst the workers and peasants, was established through Pakistani exiles who we came into contact with in London.

In the USA the visits of Sean O'Torain and the work of Alan Jones, who comes originally from Greece, resulted in the setting up of the US organization.

Exhausting the Possibilities

Work in the mass organizations, it was clear, was virtually exhausted by the end of the 1980s. More and more, the work of our different national sections was taking place outside of these organizations. But, as happens very often in history, we did not draw all the necessary conclusions as early as we should have done. I have taken this point up in my book, The Rise of Militant, where I advance the idea that successful, independent work under our own banner could have been possible in Britain as early as 1985-86. The persecution of the Marxists and the further shift towards the right within the Labour Party had completely changed the situation. The process had begun whereby the British Labour Party more and more separated itself from its working class base. We organized mass meetings attended by 50,000 workers protesting against the expulsions of our comrades. But unfortunately, we did not offer a clear organizational as well as political alternative, at this stage. We asked people to join Militant, which we still described merely as a newspaper. We were not a party. The main thrust of our propaganda was against expulsions. The call to join a newspaper, rather than a party, was intangible in the consciousness of those who attended our meetings. Contrast our experience since we changed our name to Socialist Party in Britain to the situation which obtained then. Two hundred and twenty workers agreed to join the Socialist Party in Britain in the course of the 1997 general election. The fact that we are now called a party has had a decisive effect on our own ranks in making them conscious of the tasks which are posed but also in reaching out and winning workers who are looking for a party such as ours.

1992 - Open Work

As comrades know, in 1992 there was a split in Militant and the CWI. There is no time to go into all the issues involved in this split - we have done this elsewhere. But what is clear is that the small minority that split from our ranks were utterly incapable of facing up to the new period and the new tasks which were posed by developments in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The decision to conduct more independent work laid the basis for the successes of our organizations in the course of the 1990s. The initiative of setting up Youth against Racism in Europe (YRE) led to great success, which we have detailed in The Rise of Militant.

But alongside of the establishment of independent national sections we have, since 1994, launched the CWI as an open International. It would not have been possible to do this successfully in the previous period. The baggage we carried from our work within the mass organizations inevitably led to us concealing the true extent of our international organization. The truth is that virtually everybody knew about the existence of the CWI, which was often listed by the different labor bureaucracies in the "evidence" they amassed to carry through our expulsions. The bureaucracy knew about it, our opponents on the left, particularly the Stalinists, spoke openly about this. It was the working class, unfortunately, that did not have a full knowledge of the existence of the CWI. Now, as a more independent organization, we have corrected this.

We have moved to establish more independent work and an independent international organization at perhaps just the right historical moment. A huge vacuum now exists in the workers' movement. Just look at the Malmö meeting of the so-called Second International in 1997. This was a gathering of social democratic leaders and bankers who very often were one and the same thing. Significantly, the opposition to this meeting, in the streets around the conference, was organized by our Swedish section. There is no mass Stalinist International today, merely fragments of Stalinism - some of them quite important - scattered throughout the world. Unfortunately, the comrades of the USFI, at their Congress in 1995, in effect abandoned the idea of building, in this period, mass revolutionary Trotskyist parties or a mass revolutionary Trotskyist International. We believe also they have begun to abandon the idea of the party as a revolutionary, democratic centralist organization. It is quite obvious that you cannot have a rigid centralism in any organization today. Maybe we will have to alter the terminology, perhaps we cannot use the phrase itself because of its connections now with Stalinism. But though we have to carefully examine terminology and change it where necessary, nevertheless the idea of a unified International, of revolutionary unity, is an idea we must defend, as we must also defend and develop the idea of the need to create parties to ensure the victory of the working class.

On another level, the dockers' strike in Britain shows the need for international action of the working class like never before in history. The 1995 Danish bus workers' struggle, as with their Indian counterparts in Bangalore, also demonstrated the need for the working class to link up on the trade union level internationally. At the same time there is a greater need today, as I mentioned earlier, in the era of globalization, to not only adopt a general internationalist stance but also to create mass political organizations which are linked together through a real mass International.

Reassembling Revolutionary Forces

The question is how to build such a mass International. We have a vital role to play in this process. We have in the past, as I described, sent comrades to different countries and continents throughout the world to establish the first forces of genuine Marxists. If necessary we will continue to do this. But a new mass International will not develop in a linear fashion. The process will involve fusions, splits and the reassembling of genuine revolutionary forces on an international and national plane.

We have been very successful in this regard. From the beginning we managed to absorb into our ranks organizations that did not agree with everything that the CWI stood for. In Cyprus, for instance, the group mentioned earlier that eventually joined us, after quite lengthy discussions, was somewhat heterogeneous. Many of those who remained with the CWI and who played a key role in building a very important section in Cyprus were, from the outset, committed to the general perspectives and program of the CWI. But there were others who could be described as occupying a left centrist position, vacillating between the ideas of the CWI and centrist ideas. Some of them dropped by the wayside as the group became more serious, while others evolved into genuine revolutionaries with a rounded-out outlook. Similar developments took place in Sri Lanka. While the NSSP affiliated to the CWI, the leaders of this organization, particularly Bahu, never fully agreed with the analysis that we had made of Stalinism, of developments in the former colonial and semi-colonial world and the national question, etc. While successful collaboration ensued for a period, the differences never disappeared and were a factor in the split of the NSSP from the CWI in 1989 (although a very important minority led by Siri stayed with the CWI).

A more recent example of a very successful fusion was in France. Comrade Renaud from Gauche Révolutionnaire (GR), the French section of the CWI, comments:

"We came to the CWI from the USFI. We had come into political opposition to the leadership of the organization in France, the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (LCR). From 1987 they had been pursuing a policy of "automation". They interpreted this to mean that every initiative undertaken by themselves was deemed "sectarian". Leading comrades of the LCR would even argue that to sell the paper was sectarian. The line was that we should try to intervene in "new kinds" of organizational forms, new formations, for example, the developments on the environment and amongst the ecologists.

"There were, of course, some correct points in what they said. We have never hesitated to aid any group of workers in the labor movement, particularly those evolving towards the left, environmentalists involved in serious struggle, etc. But the problem with the USFI's position was that they never tried to put forward their own political line, but tended to adapt their program, in an opportunist fashion, to the leaders of these "new formations". For example, when a left group within the Socialist Party [PS] launched a school students' union the USFI deliberately played down their own role and forswore any attempt to win this group over. At every demonstration, they lent them [the PS] megaphones, etc, because this group, according to the USFI, should be the "leaders' of the school students' union. In reality, the Mandelite youth organization was bigger than this group. This role of merely "helping" the leaders of the traditional left organizations and not politically challenging them we opposed.

"In the beginning it was not clear in our heads but we wanted to build the forces of Trotskyism in an open, fighting organization. We wanted to build and recruit to our party with our program. Our clash with the Mandelites on this issue is what shaped our tendency inside their organization. We had already begun to bring a newspaper out whilst still within the LCR. We won a majority of the Jeunesse Communiste Révolutionnaire [JCR - the LCR's youth organization] in 1989. But you will see there have been many changes in our political line as we have sought to clarify our position. In the French Mandelite organization there are several tendencies, which are really factions. In fact, the LCR is not a party but a federation of factions.

"They expelled us in October 1992 when we were quite well organized with a group of 50-60 young people around us. When we were expelled we were approached by many groups. I think comrades would be astonished at the number of Trotskyist groups throughout the world, many of them very strange to say the least. We know, we met them all. We had heard of the Militant, and at first thought it was a kind of left, social democratic, "workerist" tendency within the social democratic and labor movement. But then we went through the experience of the Brussels demonstration after a comrade had seen a poster in Ireland.

"After the demo we approached the CWI with a view to launching the YRE in France. We originally thought that we would have to join the CWI as a condition for us setting up the YRE. But we were pleasantly surprised that this was not the case and that we were given permission to form the YRE. We thought that this was a very good start, which then led to political discussions and eventually a large level of agreement which resulted in us joining the CWI."

David Cameron was also one of the founders of GR in France and, at the time he made the following comments, was a member of our International Secretariat. He has now returned to France to help build our French organization. David adds:

"The USFI and Mandel had completely failed to understand the changes in the world situation. We had definitely drawn the conclusion that this organization was impossible to reform after their congress in 1991. So, as Renaud has commented, we started looking around for other organizations. We did not confine ourselves to that but also began to develop our own ideas in opposition to the LCR. This led us to contact with many organizations, more than we wanted to!

"A comrade from the JCR who is no longer with us - he ended up badly, going back to the LCR - went on holiday to Ireland in the summer of 1992 and bought a copy of Irish Militant in a newsagents. This is how we came to learn about the October 1992, anti-racist YRE demonstration. In fact, we had been arguing for years within the LCR and USFI for them to take such an initiative. Following the Brussels demonstration we had many discussions with the CWI.

"What did these discussions actually amount to? We first of all had to get rid of any misconceptions that we were dealing with "left reformists". When you approach an organization, you have to ascertain the nature of that organization. Are these people Marxists? Are they reformists? Are they sectarian? Are they Stalinists? The second point is how do these people analyze what is going on in the world? What are their perspectives? And, of course, vitally, are they competent in building viable organizations both on a national and international scale? Through discussions we became convinced that both the Militant and the CWI met the criteria that we had set ourselves.

"There are many lessons in relation to how we joined the CWI which will be useful in similar experiences in the future. I don't think that fusion with other groups is the main way of building the International. I think we will build out of the new layers coming into action but, also, the question of working with other groups and fusion can be posed as well.

"In France, at the moment, there is a certain flux on the left. In my opinion there is the beginning of a break-up of the three largest Trotskyist groups - which were set up in the 1960s - with the emergence of an opposition in Lutte Ouvrière, for example. And at the same time, there is the emergence now of defined political currents, even with their own newspapers, within the PCF [French Communist Party]. There is, therefore, the possibility of fusions and regroupments posing further questions for our intervention in the mass organizations. I think similar questions will be posed elsewhere. Renaud said at the end of his contribution that when we joined the CWI we weren't perfect - we're still not perfect. I think we have learnt a lot from the International and I also hope that we have contributed to the International.

"Just a word on work within the traditional organizations in the past. The French section is one of the few in the International which has never actually done entry work. We came into the International after the CWI had exhausted the tactic of work within the mass traditional organizations. I wonder if we had come in ten or fifteen years before, what we would we have done in France? Let's put the question another way. Could the LCR with 1,500 members, in 1968, and 3-4,000, in the mid-1970s, have been more effective in working within one of the two major mass organizations of the French working class? Hundreds of workers joined the French Communist Party in the decade after 1968 and tens of thousands joined the Socialist Party. Now, if the LCR had decided to employ the tactic of the CWI (given the size of the LCR) to enter the PCF - difficult but not impossible - or go into the PS - easier but not so profitable - is it not possible they would have made a much bigger impact? It seems to me that when an organization of this size - and from that point of view size is important - could have maintained an independent organization and yet, at the same time, worked within either wing of the mass organizations, that could have been the most effective method."

Lessons From the Past - For the Future

The main forces for our organization will come from new layers of the proletariat who have only just begun to move into action or have not yet entered the political arena. The task of winning these layers may appear to be immediately more arduous than the "easier" task of trying to group together different "revolutionary" organizations. There are, of course, some very good comrades in different organizations with a different tradition to our own. It would be a mistake not to seek principled revolutionary unity with genuine forces. However, we have to turn our back on the sectarian fragments who will never be capable of building genuine mass Marxist forces.

The early 1990s were not the easiest of times for us or for revolutionary Marxists in general. But we managed to keep alive the revolutionary thread. We have analyzed, we believe in a correct, rounded-out fashion, the objective situation that confronted us and the working class, and are prepared for a new, more favorable position for our organization. While we are not completely out of the woods yet, the most difficult period is perhaps behind us. This does not mean that we will not have more problems but, at the same time, there will be great opportunities for the development of our organizations and the CWI if we work correctly. The achievements in the future will far surpass what we have done in the past. We must raise the level of all comrades, from the leadership to the newest comrades. Every member has a vital role to play in the development of the revolutionary movement. Each comrade, as Trotsky commented, carries a particle of history on their shoulders. We stand in the best revolutionary traditions of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky and the achievements of the revolutionary movement of the last four or five decades. One worker today can win 10, 50, 100 tomorrow and prepare the ground for the development of new mass workers' parties and a new mass workers' International.

We must learn the lessons of the past. There have been enough defeats of the proletariat. Because we have not yet attained mass influence, there are bound to be setbacks and defeats. But there are going to be victories as well. And in defeats and in victories, this new generation will learn the lessons of the past and build an organization, which, this time, will carry the working class to victory.




In the summer of 2006 I originally wrote the following commentary (used in subsequent election cycles and updated a little for today’s purpose) urging the recruitment of independent labor militants as write-in candidates for the mid-term 2006 congressional elections based on a workers party program. With the hoopla already in full gear for the 2012 election cycle I repost that commentary below with that same intention of getting thoughtful leftists to use the 2012 campaign to further our propagandistic fight for a workers’ party that fights for a workers government.

A Modest Proposal-Recruit, Run Independent Labor Militants In The 2012 Elections

All “anti-parliamentarian”, “anti-state”, “non-political” anarchist or anarcho-syndicalist brothers and sisters need read no further. This writer does not want to sully the purity of your politics with the taint of parliamentary electoral politics. Although I might remind you, as we remember the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Barcelona Uprising, that your political ancestors in Spain were more than willing to support the state and enter the government when they got the chance- the bourgeois government of a bourgeois state. But, we can fight that issue out later. We will, hopefully, see you on the barricades with us when the time comes.

As for other militants- here is my modest proposal. Either recruit fellow labor militants or present yourselves as candidates to run for public office, especially for Congress, during the 2012 election cycle. Why? Even a quick glance at the news of the day is calculated to send the most hardened politico screaming into the night. The quagmire in Afghanistan (and unfinished business in Iraq and threats to Iran), immigration walls, flag-burning amendments, anti -same-sex marriage amendments, the threat to separation of church state raised by those who would impose a fundamentalist Christian theocracy on the rest of us, and the attacks on the hard fought gains of the Enlightenment posed by bogus theories such as ‘intelligent design.’ And that is just an average day. Therefore, this election cycle provides militants, at a time when the dwindling electorate is focused on politics, a forum to raise our program and our ideas. We use this as a tool, like leaflets, petitions, meetings, demonstrations, etc. to get our message across. Why should the Donkeys, Elephants, and the other smaller bourgeois parties have a monopoly on the public square?

I mentioned in the last paragraph the idea of program. Let us face it if we do not have a program to run on then it makes no sense for militants to run for public office. Given the political climate our task at this time is to fight an exemplary propaganda campaign. Our program is our banner in that fight. The Democrats and Republicans DO NOT RUN on a program. The sum of their campaigns is to promise not to steal from the public treasury (or at least not too much), beat their husbands or wives, or grossly compromise themselves in any manner. On second thought, given today’s political climate, they may not promise not to beat their husbands or wives or not compromise themselves in any untoward manner. You, in any case, get the point. Damn, even the weakest neophyte labor militant can make a better presentation before working people that this crowd. This writer presents a five point program (you knew that was coming, right?) that labor militants can run on. As point five makes clear this is not a ‘minimum’ program but a program based on our need to fight for power.


The quagmire in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Middle East (Iraq, Syria, Libya, Palestine, Iran) is the fault line of American politics today. Every bourgeois politician has to have his or her feet put to the fire on this one. Not on some flimsy ‘sense of the Congress’ softball motion for withdrawal next, year, in two years, or (my favorite) when the situation is stable. Moreover, on the parliamentary level the only real vote that matters is the vote on the war budget. All the rest is fluff. Militants should make a point of trying to enter Congressional contests where there are so-called anti-war Democrats or Republicans (an oxymoron, I believe) running to make that programmatic contrast vivid.

But, one might argue, that would split the ‘progressive’ forces. Grow up, please! That argument has grown stale since it was first put forth in the “popular front” days of the 1930’s. If you want to end the wars in Afghanistan and elsewhere fight for this position on the war budget. Otherwise the same people (yes, those 'progressive Democrats') who almost unanimously voted for the last war budget get a free ride on the cheap. War President Barack Obama desperately needs to be opposed by labor militants. By rights this is our issue. Let us take it back.


It is a ‘no-brainer’ that no individual, much less a family can live on the minimum wage (now $7/hr. or so). What planet do these politicians live on? We need an immediate fight for a living wage, full employment and decent working conditions. We need universal free health care for all. End of story. The organized labor movement must get off its knees and fight to organize Wal-Mart and the South. A boycott of Wal-Mart is not enough. A successful organizing drive will, like in the 1930’s; go a long way to turning the conditions of labor around.


Down with the Death Penalty! Full Citizenship Rights for All Immigrants who make it here! Stop the Deportations! For the Separation of Church and State! Defend abortion rights! Down with anti-same sex marriage legislation! Full public funding of education! Stop the ‘war on drugs’, basically a war on blacks and minority youth-decriminalize drugs! Defend political prisoners! This list of demands hardly exhausts the “culture war” issues we defend. It is hard to believe that in the year 2012 over 200 years after the American Revolution and the French Revolution we are fighting desperately to preserve many of the same principles that militants fought for in those revolutions. But so be it.


The Donkeys, Elephants and other smaller bourgeois parties have had their chance. Now is the time to fight for our own party and for the interests of our own class, the working class. Any campaigns by independent labor militants must highlight this point. And any campaigns can also become the nucleus of a workers’ party network until we get strong enough to form at least a small party. None of these other parties, and I mean none, are working in the interests of working people and their allies. The following great lesson of politic today must be hammered home. Break with the Democrats, Republicans!


We need our own form of government. In the old days the bourgeois republic was a progressive form of government. Not so any more. That form of government ran out of steam about one hundred years ago. We need a Workers Republic. We need a government based on workers councils with a ministry (I do not dare say commissariat in case any stray anarchists are still reading this) responsible to it. Let us face it if we really want to get any of the good and necessary things listed above accomplished we are not going to get it with the current form of government.

Why the XYZ part? What does that mean? No, it is not part of an algebra lesson. What it reflects is that while society is made up mainly of workers (of one sort or another) there are other classes (and parts of classes) in society that we seek as allies and could benefit from a workers government. Examples- small independent contractors, intellectuals, the dwindling number of small farmers, and some professionals like dentists. Yes, with my tongue in my cheek after all my dental bills, I like the idea of a workers and dentists government. The point is however you formulate it you have got to fight for it.

Obviously any campaign based on this program will be an exemplary propaganda campaign for the foreseeable future. But we have to start now. Continuing to support or not challenging the bourgeois parties does us no good. That is for sure. While bourgeois electoral laws do not favor independent candidacies write-in campaigns are possible. ROLL UP YOUR SHEEVES! GET THOSE PETITIONS SIGNED! PRINT OUT THE LEAFLETS! PAINT THOSE BANNERS! GET READY TO SHAKE HANDS AND KISS BABIES.


Click on the headline to link to Downtown Boston BM Rally Facebook event page.



TIME: STARTING AT 2:00 PM (People will be leafleting downtown from about 11:00 AM and we will stay until about 5:00 PM so join us anytime you can to show your solidarity.)


The Boston Smedley Butler Brigade and Samantha Smith Chapter- Veterans for Peace, the Boston Bradley Manning Support Network , Bradley Manning Square of Somerville Committee and other social activists and concerned citizens support the call by the National Bradley Manning Support Network and others to rally nationwide at local Obama headquarters on Thursday September 6, 2012, the day President Obama is scheduled to accept the Democratic Party nomination of president, to call for freedom for alleged WikiLeaks whistleblower, Army Private First Class Bradley Manning. We also will be calling on the president to use his constitutional authority to pardon Private Manning now.

Contact: Al Johnson-Event Coordinator
or Pat Scanlon (VN 69’)-Coordinator, VFP Chapter 9, Smedley Butler Brigade


Check our Facebook event page –Downtown Boston Bradley Manning Support
Rally-September 6th-

Call for action at Obama 2012 offices nationwide Sept. 6th during DNC

The Bradley Manning Support Network, Afghans For Peace and SF Bay Iraq Veterans Against the War Call for Nationwide Actions at local Obama Campaign Offices September 6th 2012 during the Democratic National Convention! Free Bradley Manning!

Since Army PFC Bradley Manning’s arrest in May 2010 for allegedly sharing the “Collateral Murder” video and other evidence of war crimes and government corruption with the whistle-blower website WikiLeaks, progressives and human rights activists have been asking, “Why isn’t President Obama stepping in to help Bradley?”

After all, it was President Obama who in May 2011 declared with regards to protests in the Middle East,

“In the 21st Century, information is power; the truth cannot be hidden; and the legitimacy of governments will ultimately depend on active and informed citizens.”

On Thursday, August 16, US military veterans in Portland OR, Oakland CA, and Los Angeles CA, occupied Obama 2012 campaign offices and faxed a letter of demands to the Obama campaign’s central office. Those letters began:

As those who have spent years serving our country, we have faith that as Commander-in-Chief, President Obama will do the right thing in answering our request.

The letter went on to list the following demands:

That President Obama retract and apologize for remarks made in April 2011, in which he said Bradley Manning “broke the law.” Because President Obama is commander-in-chief, this constitutes unlawful command influence, violating Article 37 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), and prevents Bradley from receiving a fair trial.

That President Obama pardon the accused whistle-blower, taking into consideration his 800 days of pretrial confinement. UN torture chief Juan Mendez called Manning’s treatment “cruel and inhuman,” as it included nine months of solitary confinement at Quantico despite Brig psychiatrists recommending relaxed conditions.

The Bradley Manning Support Network maintains hope that justice will prevail and that President Obama can be the vehicle of change on this issue, but first he needs to hear loud and clear from veterans and civilians across the country that the American people want amends for the unlawful torture of Bradley Manning, and believe he should be freed.

Organizers of the August 16 West Coast actions are now urging others to join them in a nationwide effort to hold actions at many more local Obama campaign offices on September 6th, the day of candidate’s nomination acceptance speech. We want to share messages of support for Bradley with Obama campaign offices from coast to coast.

Please contact for more information about attending and/or organizing an event.

Labor donated

From The Pens Of Karl Marx And Friedrich Engels-Their Struggles To Build Communist Organizations-The Early Days- Karl Marx-The Poverty of Philosophy-Chapter Two: The Metaphysics of Political Economy -Strikes and Combinations of Workers

Click on the headline to link to the Marx-Engels Internet Archives for an online copy of the article mentioned in the headline.

Markin comment:

The foundation article by Marx or Engels listed in the headline goes along with the propaganda points in the fight for our communist future mentioned in other posts in this space. Just below is a thumbnail sketch of the first tentative proceedings to form a communist organization that would become a way-station on the road to building a Bolshevik-type organization in order fight for the socialist revolution we so desperately need and have since Marx and Engels first put pen to ink.
Marx/Engels Internet Archive-The Communist League

A congress of the League of the Just opened in London on June 2, 1847. Engels was in attendance as delegate for the League's Paris communities. (Marx couldn't attend for financial reasons.)

Engels had a significant impact throughout the congress -- which, as it turned out, was really the "inaugural Congress" of what became known as the Communist League. This organization stands as the first international proletarian organization. With the influence of Marx and Engels anti-utopian socialism, the League's motto changed from "All Men are Brothers" to "Working Men of All Countries, Unite!"

Engels: "In the summer of 1847, the first league congress took place in London, at which W. Wolff represented the Brussels and I the Paris communities. At this congress the reorganization of the League was carried through first of all. ...the League now consisted of communities, circles, leading circles, a central committee and a congress, and henceforth called itself the 'Communist League'."

The Rules were drawn up with the participation of Marx and Engels, examined at the First Congress of the Communist League, and approved at the League's Second Congress in December 1847.

Article 1 of the Rules of the Communist League: "The aim of the league is the overthrow of the bourgeoisie, the rule of the proletariat, the abolition of the old bourgeois society which rests on the antagonism of classes, and the foundation of a new society without classes and without private property."

The first draft of the Communist League Programme was styled as a catechism -- in the form of questions and answers. Essentially, the draft was authored by Engels. The original manuscript is in Engels's hand.

The League's official paper was to be the Kommunistische Zeitschrift, but the only issue produced was in September 1847 by a resolution of the League's First Congress. It was First Congress prepared by the Central Authority of the Communist League based in London. Karl Schapper was its editor.

The Second Congress of the Communist League was held at the end of November 1847 at London's Red Lion Hotel. Marx attended as delegate of the Brussels Circle. He went to London in the company of Victor Tedesco, member of the Communist League and also a delegate to the Second Congress. Engels again represented the Paris communities. Schapper was elected chairman of the congress, and Engels its secretary.

Friedrich Lessner: "I was working in London then and was a member of the communist Workers' Educational Society at 191 Drury Lane. There, at the end of November and the beginning of December 1847, members of the Central Committee of the Communist League held a congress. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels came there from Brussels to present their views on modern communism and to speak about the Communists' attitude to the political and workers' movement. The meetings, which, naturally, were held in the evenings, were attended by delegates only... Soon we learned that after long debates, the congress had unanimously backed the principles of Marx and Engels..."

The Rules were officially adopted December 8, 1847.

Engels: "All contradiction and doubt were finally set at rest, the new basic principles were unanimously adopted, and Marx and I were commissioned to draw up the Manifesto." This would, of course, become the Communist Manifesto.
Markin comment on this series:

No question that today at least the figures of 19th century communist revolutionaries, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, are honored more for their “academic” work than their efforts to build political organizations to fight for democratic and socialist revolutions, respectively, as part of their new worldview. Titles like Communist Manifesto, Das Kapital, The Peasants Wars In Germany, and the like are more likely to be linked to their names than Cologne Communist League or Workingmen’s International (First International). While the theoretical and historical materialist works have their honored place in the pantheon of revolutionary literature it would be wrong to neglect that hard fact that both Marx and Engels for most of their lives were not “arm chair" revolutionaries or, in Engels case, smitten by fox hunts. These men were revolutionary politicians who worked at revolution in high times and low. Those of us who follow their traditions can, or should, understand that sometimes, a frustratingly long sometimes, the objective circumstances do not allow for fruitful revolutionary work. We push on as we can. Part of that pushing on is to become immersed in the work of our predecessors and in this series the work of Marx and Engels to create a new form of revolutionary organization to fight the fights of their time, the time from about the Revolutions of 1848 to the founding of various socialist parties in Europe in the latter part of the 19th century.
Karl Marx-The Poverty of Philosophy-Chapter Two: The Metaphysics of Political Economy -Strikes and Combinations of Workers

“Every upward movement in wages can have no other effect than a rise in the price of corn, wine, etc., that is, the effect of a dearth. For what are wages? They are the cost price of corn, etc.; they are the integrant price of everything. We may go even further: wages are the proportion of the elements composing wealth and consumed reproductively every day by the mass of the workers. Now, to double wages ... is to attribute to each one of the producers a greater share than his product, which is contradictory, and if the rise extends only to a small number of industries, it brings a general disturbance in exchange; in a word, a dearth....

“It is impossible, I declare, for strikes followed by an increase in wages not to culminate in a general rise in prices: this is as certain as that two and two make four.”

(Proudhon, Vol. I, pp. 110 and 111)

We deny all these assertions, except that two and two make four.

In the first place, there is no general rise in prices. If the price of everything doubles at the same time as wages, there is no change in price, the only change is in terms.

Then again, a general rise in wages can never produce a more or less general rise in the price of goods. Actually, if every industry employed the same number of workers in relation to fixed capital or to the instruments used, a general rise in wages would produce a general fall in profits and the current price of goods would undergo no alteration.

But as the relation of manual labour to fixed capital is not the same in different industries, all the industries which employ a relatively greater mass of capital and fewer workers, will be forced sooner or later to lower the price of their goods. In the opposite case, in which the price of their goods is not lowered, their profit will rise above the common rate of profits. Machines are not wage-earners. Therefore, the general rise in wages will affect less those industries, which, compared with the others, employ more machines than workers. But as competition always tends to level the rate of profits, those profits which rise above the average rate cannot but be transitory. Thus, apart from a few fluctuations, a general rise in wages will lead, not as M. Proudhon says, to a general increase in prices, but to a partial fall – that is a fall in the current price of the goods that are made chiefly with the help of machines.

The rise and fall of profits and wages expresses merely the proportion in which capitalists and workers share in the product of a day's work, without influencing in most instances the price of the product. But that “strikes followed by an increase in wages culminate in a general rise in prices, in a dearth even” – those are notions which can blossom only in the brain of a poet who has not been understood.

In England, strikes have regularly given rise to the invention and application of new machines. Machines were, it may be said, the weapon employed by the capitalist to quell the revolt of specialized labour. The self-acting mule, the greatest invention of modern industry, put out of action the spinners who were in revolt. If combinations and strikes had no other effect than that of making the efforts of mechanical genius react against them, they would still exercise an immense influence on the development of industry.

“I find,” continues M. Proudhon, “in an article published by M. Leon Faucher... September 1845, that for some time the British workers have got out the habit of combination, which is assuredly a progress for which one cannot but congratulate them: but this improvement in the morale of the workers comes chiefly from their economic education. ‘It is not on the manufacturers,’ cries a spinning-mill worker at a Bolton meeting, ‘that wages depend. In periods of depression the masters are, so to speak, merely the whip with which necessity arms itself, and whether they want to or not, they have to deal blows. The regulative principle is the relation of supply and demand; and the masters have not this power’ ....

“Well done!” cries M. Proudhon. “These are well-trained workers, model workers, etc., etc., etc. Such poverty did not exist in Britain; it will not cross the Channel.”

(Proudhon, Vol. I, pp. 261 and 262)

Of all the towns in England, Bolton is the one in which the radicalism is the most developed. The Bolton workers are known to be the most revolutionary of all. At the time of the great agitation in England for the abolition of the Corn Laws, the English manufacturers thought that they could cope with the landowners only by thrusting the workers to the fore. But as the interests of the workers were no less opposed to those of the manufacturers than the interests of the manufacturers were to those of the landowners, it was natural that the manufacturers should fare badly in the workers' meetings. What did the manufacturers do? To save appearances they organized meetings composed, to a large extent, of foremen, of the small number of workers who were devoted to them, and of the real friends of trade. When later on the genuine workers tried, as in Bolton and Manchester, to take part in these sham demonstrations, in order to protest against them, they were forbidden admittance on the ground that it was a ticket meeting – a meeting to which only persons with entrance cards were admitted. Yet the posters placarded on the walls had announced public meetings. Every time one of these meetings was held, the manufacturers' newspapers gave a pompous and detailed account of the speeches made. It goes without saying that it was the foremen who made these speeches. The London papers reproduced them word for word. M. Proudhon has the misfortune to take foremen for ordinary workers, and enjoins them not to cross the Channel.

If in 1844 and 1845 strikes drew less attention than before, it was because 1844 and 1845 were the first two years of prosperity that British industry had had since 1837. Nevertheless none of the trades unions had been dissolved.

Now let us listen to the foremen of Bolton. According to them manufacturers have no command over wages because they have no command over the price of products, and they have no command over the price of products because they have no command over the world market. For this reason, they wish it to be understood that combinations should not be formed to extort an increase in wages from the masters. M. Proudhon, on the contrary, forbids combinations for fear they should be followed by a rise in wages which would bring with it a general dearth. We have no need to say that on one point there is an entente cordiale between the foremen and M. Proudhon: that a rise in wages is equivalent to a rise in the price of products.

But is the fear of a dearth the true cause of M. Proudhon's rancour? No. Quite simple, he is annoyed with the Bolton foremen because they determine value by supply and demand and hardly take any account of constituted value, of value which has passed into the state of constitution, of the constitution of value, including permanent exchangeability and all the other proportionalities of relations and relations of proportionality, with Providence at their side.

“A workers' strike is illegal, and it is not only the Penal Code that says so, it is the economic system, the necessity of the established order....

“That each worker individually should dispose freely over his person and his hands, this can be tolerated, but that workers should undertake by combination to do violence to monopoly, is something society cannot permit.”

(Vol. I, pp. 334 and 335)

M. Proudhon wants to pass off an article of the Penal Code as a necessary and general result of bourgeois relations of production.

In England, combination is authorized by an Act of Parliament, and it is the economic system which has forced Parliament to grant this legal authorization. In 1825, when, under the Minister Huskisson, Parliament had to modify the law in order to bring it more and more into line with the conditions resulting from free competition, it had of necessity to abolish all laws forbidding combinations of workers. The more modern industry and competition develop, the more elements there are which call forth and strengthen combination, and as soon as combination becomes an economic fact, daily gaining in solidity, it is bound before long to become a legal fact.

Thus the article of the Penal Code proves at the most that modern industry and competition were not yet well developed under the Constituent Assembly and under the Empire. [1]

Economists and socialists [*1] are in agreement on one point: the condemnation of combination. Only they have different motives for their act of condemnation.

The economists say to workers:

Do not combine. By combination you hinder the regular progress of industry, you prevent manufacturers from carrying out their orders, you disturb trade and you precipitate the invasion of machines which, by rendering your labour in part useless, force you to accept a still lower wage. Besides, whatever you do, your wages will always be determined by the relation of hands demanded to hands supplied, and it is an effort as ridiculous as it is dangerous for you to revolt against the eternal laws of political economy.

The socialists say to the workers:

Do not combine, because what will you gain by it anyway? A rise in wages? The economists will prove to you quite clearly that the few ha'pence you may gain by it for a few moments if you succeed will be followed by a permanent fall. Skilled calculators will prove to you that it would take you years merely to recover, through the increase in your wages, the expenses incurred for the organization and upkeep of the combinations.

And we, as socialists, tell you that, apart from the money question, you will continue nonetheless to be workers, and the masters will still continue to be the masters, just as before. So no combination! No politics! For is not entering into combination engaging in politics?

The economists want the workers to remain in society as it is constituted and as it has been signed and sealed by them in their manuals.

The socialists want the workers to leave the old society alone, the better to be able to enter the new society which they have prepared for them with so much foresight.

In spite of both of them, in spite of manuals and utopias, combination has not yet ceased for an instant to go forward and grow with the development and growth of modern industry. It has now reached such a stage, that the degree to which combination has developed in any country clearly marks the rank it occupies in the hierarchy of the world market. England, whose industry has attained the highest degree of development, has the biggest and best organized combinations.

In England, they have not stopped at partial combinations which have no other objective than a passing strike, and which disappear with it. Permanent combinations have been formed, trades unions, which serve as ramparts for the workers in their struggles with the employers. And at the present time all these local trades unions find a rallying point in the National Association of United Trades, the central committee of which is in London, and which already numbers 80,000 members. The organization of these strikes, combinations, and trades unions went on simultaneously with the political struggles of the workers, who now constitute a large political party, under the name of Chartists.

The first attempt of workers to associate among themselves always takes place in the form of combinations.

Large-scale industry concentrates in one place a crowd of people unknown to one another. Competition divides their interests. But the maintenance of wages, this common interest which they have against their boss, unites them in a common thought of resistance – combination. Thus combination always has a double aim, that of stopping competition among the workers, so that they can carry on general competition with the capitalist. If the first aim of resistance was merely the maintenance of wages, combinations, at first isolated, constitute themselves into groups as the capitalists in their turn unite for the purpose of repression, and in the face of always united capital, the maintenance of the association becomes more necessary to them than that of wages. This is so true that English economists are amazed to see the workers sacrifice a good part of their wages in favor of associations, which, in the eyes of these economists, are established solely in favor of wages. In this struggle – a veritable civil war – all the elements necessary for a coming battle unite and develop. Once it has reached this point, association takes on a political character.

Economic conditions had first transformed the mass of the people of the country into workers. The combination of capital has created for this mass a common situation, common interests. This mass is thus already a class as against capital, but not yet for itself. In the struggle, of which we have noted only a few phases, this mass becomes united, and constitutes itself as a class for itself. The interests it defends become class interests. But the struggle of class against class is a political struggle.

In the bourgeoisie we have two phases to distinguish: that in which it constituted itself as a class under the regime of feudalism and absolute monarchy, and that in which, already constituted as a class, it overthrew feudalism and monarchy to make society into a bourgeois society. The first of these phases was the longer and necessitated the greater efforts. This too began by partial combinations against the feudal lords.

Much research has been carried out to trace the different historical phases that the bourgeoisie has passed through, from the commune up to its constitution as a class.

But when it is a question of making a precise study of strikes, combinations and other forms in which the proletarians carry out before our eyes their organization as a class, some are seized with real fear and others display a transcendental disdain.

An oppressed class is the vital condition for every society founded on the antagonism of classes. The emancipation of the oppressed class thus implies necessarily the creation of a new society. For the oppressed class to be able to emancipate itself, it is necessary that the productive powers already acquired and the existing social relations should no longer be capable of existing side by side. Of all the instruments of production, the greatest productive power is the revolutionary class itself. The organization of revolutionary elements as a class supposes the existence of all the productive forces which could be engendered in the bosom of the old society.

Does this mean that after the fall of the old society there will be a new class domination culminating in a new political power? No.

The condition for the emancipation of the working class is the abolition of every class, just as the condition for the liberation of the third estate, of the bourgeois order, was the abolition of all estates and all orders. [*2]

The working class, in the course of its development, will substitute for the old civil society an association which will exclude classes and their antagonism, and there will be no more political power properly so-called, since political power is precisely the official expression of antagonism in civil society.

Meanwhile the antagonism between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie is a struggle of class against class, a struggle which carried to its highest expression is a total revolution. Indeed, is it at all surprising that a society founded on the opposition of classes should culminate in brutal contradiction, the shock of body against body, as its final denouement?

Do not say that social movement excludes political movement. There is never a political movement which is not at the same time social.

It is only in an order of things in which there are no more classes and class antagonisms that social evolutions will cease to be political revolutions. Till then, on the eve of every general reshuffling of society, the last word of social science will always be:

“Le combat ou la mort; la lutte sanguinaire ou le neant. C’est ainsi que la quéstion est invinciblement posée.”

[From the novel Jean Siska by George Sand:
“Combat or Death: bloody struggle or extinction. It is thus that the question is inexorably put.”]


[1] The laws in operation at that time in France – the so-called Le Chapelier law adopted in 1791 during the revolution by the Constituent Assembly and the criminal code elaborated under the Napoleonic Empire – forbade the workers to form labour unions or to go on strike. The prohibition of trade unions was abolished in France in 1884.

[*1] That is, the Socialists of that time: the Fourierists in France, the Owenites in England. F.E. [– Engels note to the German edition, 1885]

[*2] Estates here in the historical sense of the estates of feudalism, estates with definite and limited privileges. The revolution of the bourgeoisie abolished the estates and their privileges. Bourgeois society knows only classes. It was, therefore, absolutely in contradiction with history to describe the proletariat as the “fourth estate.” [– Engels, 1885 German edition.]