Statement of the Liaison Committee for the Fourth International
1. The Geopolitical US counter-offensive
In the same week, two unprecedented events took place in the Caribbean. Firstly, there was the murder of the Haitian President, Moïse, which created social chaos in the country. Then there were synchronized protests in multiple cities in Cuba and the United States against the Cuban government.
In both cases, the much of international capitalist media is invoking humanitarian intervention. This happened a few days after the visit of the “number 1” of the CIA, William Burns, to the governments of Ivan Duque and Jair Bolsonaro, agents of imperialism that have been confronted by massive popular struggles. The US policy of continental domination is facing other serious challenges from the pro-Eurasian turn of the Bukele government in El Salvador, and the electoral victory of the left under Pedro Castillo in Peru.
After the Bahamas, 21 km from Cuba, Haiti has the closest territory to Cuba at just 77 km. Of course, therefore, without forgetting Haiti’s resources, such as its bauxite and gold reserves. It is possible US imperialism, in its ‘progressive’ phase under Biden/Harris is seeking to open an outpost for threatening Cuba via Haiti with the well-worn justification of humanitarian intervention. Though the actual operation to murder a US-backed president looks like an operation by an exiled domestic rival of Moïse, using wayward Colombian mercenary forces that were available on the market, nevertheless the US is not inclined to miss an opportunity to exploit such an event for its own geo-strategic advantage:
“Amidst the social and political crisis that Haiti is currently facing, following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, that country’s interim government asked President Joe Biden to send a commission of US officials to support the transition.
The Pentagon itself acknowledges that the mercenary agents who murdered Moise were Colombians trained by the US military, direct informants for the DEA and the FBI. The operation is very similar to what was carried out by mercenaries who in May 2020 also left Colombia to try to invade Venezuela by boats. At the time, the invaders were arrested and disarmed by Venezuelan fishermen. It is no secret that Colombia is the most important US military platform in South America, especially against Venezuela and Cuba.
The US Head of State has indicated that he will send the delegation to the Caribbean country, which will also include US troops, investigators and security personnel, to ensure public order, which has been shaken for several months, first by protests against Moise himself and then for everything that resulted from his death. “https://www. Semana.com/mundo/articulo/estados-unidos-envio-una-comision-a-haiti-por-solicitud-del-gobierno-interino/202143/
In other words, taking advantage of the political crisis caused by the assassination of Jovenel Moïse. The provisional government that succeeds him requests the intervention of US imperialism, to which it responds in the affirmative and includes sending troops and investigators. Therefore, it is clear that a new imperialist intervention in Haiti is being prepared by its local agents.
This is happening in Haiti at the same time as the gusano mobilizations are taking place in Cuba to start a hybrid war against the Cuban workers’ state. This is fortuitous, to say the least, and may not be coincidental. Certainly, the effect is the same. The Cuban issue, and the exploitation of the Haitian crisis must therefore be seen as parts of an attempt by US imperialism under Biden-Harris to seize control over its immediate geostrategic area of influence: the Caribbean and Central America.
It should be noted that the gusano mobilizations in Cuba are based on a hybrid war operation launched through social networks. One key figure is an Argentinian, Agustín Antonetti, who is part of the right-wing Libertad Foundation, which has already participated in previous operations that fuelled the right-wing coup in Bolivia against the left populist Evo Morales, and operations against the liberal-populist government of López Obrador in Mexico. (see: http://www.cubadebate.cu/noticias/2021/07/12/investigacion-confirma-la-perversa-operacion-de-redes-sociales-contra-cuba-lanzada-desde-el-exterior/)
It is the duty of all those who claim to be popular and working-class fighters to mobilize against the imperialist manoeuvres in the Caribbean that today target Cuba and Haiti.
As part of its continental offensive, the CIA met earlier this month with Bolsonaro, the high command of the Brazilian armed forces and the Brazilian Intelligence Agency to provide guidance. William Burns had paid a visit with a similar purpose to Colombia, which, like Brazil, has been shaken by mass working class opposition demonstrations.
It must be said that this represents a change in the attitude of the Biden-Harris government. In the immediate aftermath of their first coming to power in January during a deep conflict that culminated in the Trumpists’ invasion of Capitol Hill, the Biden-Harris government sought to displace leaders in Latin America who had been Trump’s puppets. However, the White House had to revise that policy after it backfired in El Salvador. Under threat of being overthrown by US pressure, Salvadoran President Bukele immediately allied with China and Russia on the international stage. (see http://tmb1917.blogspot.com/2021/05/el-salvador.html)
It is in this context, after the turn of Bukele, that the Biden-Harris government turned about after its failed manoeuvre in El Salvador, and sought to deepen relations with former Trump puppets, such as Duque and Bolsonaro, and use them in its current continental offensive.
The electoral defeat of the right in Peru was the qualitative leap in this regard after the setback in El Salvador, forcing the White House to no longer want to get rid of the Trumpists, but to guide them, to preserve them from popular fury, and through them, contest and defend their Latin American semi-colonies against the influence of China, Russia, Venezuela, and Cuba. It is worth remembering that the setbacks of imperialism began with the failure of the coup attempts in Venezuela and the reversal of the coup in Bolivia in 2020.
As part of this offensive is the manipulation of the gusano opposition inside Cuba, the feeding of interventionism in Haiti, the deepening of relations between US imperialism and its semi-colonial collaborators in Brazil. Also part of this offensive is the policy of pressure and attrition against Pedro Castillo’s electoral victory in Peru, to prevent the Pacific becoming the South American silk route, enabling a transoceanic route between Argentina and Peru, passing through Bolivia, three countries that distanced themselves from the influence of the US and approached China and Russia in their trade and diplomatic relations.
2. Defend the Cuban Revolution!
Particularly important in this situation is the defence of the Cuban Revolution. The upheaval in Cuba is a result of gusano pro-US forces exploiting a degree of social discontent flowing from the decades of US blockade against Cuba, social discontent that has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Cuba has some of the best medical facilities in the world, because of the complete socialisation of its healthcare system. Its record on infant mortality, a key index of social progress, has often been better than that of the United States, which is incredible given that the US is the wealthiest country in the world and Cuba is just a fairly poor, offshore island nation with comparatively meagre resources.
This is because, unlike every other leftist and left-talking government in Latin America, in 1960-61 Cuba expropriated its bourgeoisie and consolidated an elementary degree of economic planning as the basis of its economy, creating a deformed workers state by doing so. It was created by an alliance of the left-liberal nationalist July 26th Movement (M-26) guerrilla movement and sympathetic working-class elements of the Popular Socialist Party, the pro-Moscow CP in Cuba at the time, in struggle against the venal pro-US Batista dictatorship. The general strike that finally toppled Batista at the end of 1958 caused virtually his entire army to flee, destroying the capitalist state itself and giving the July 26th Movement guerrillas a monopoly of armed power, which in an accelerating conflict with US imperialism and its supporters in the Cuban bourgeoisie over the next two years, gave them unprecedented freedom to make inroads into capitalist property, which over those two years they were driven, purely to defend themselves, to abolish.
We regard that expropriation as the greatest gain that the working class has so far achieved in the Western Hemisphere, and its defence the highest duty of class-conscious workers around the world.
It has survived great difficulties. For more than 30 years Cuba’s alliance with the USSR provided it with a means to counteract imperialism’s blockade against it. But with the collapse of the USSR and the Soviet bloc in 1991 it was deprived of that aid. It went through a ‘special period’ in the 1990s as a result, of great hardship and suffering, but escaped some of its isolation with the rise of left populism in other parts of Latin America, Chavez in Venezuela, Morales in Bolivia, Correa in Ecuador. At the same time, under unremitting economic pressure from imperialism, the Cuban government has made concessions to capitalism at home, legalising the use of US dollars as currency by those who can afford it, which has in turn deepened class polarisation and the social base for counterrevolutionary movements. The latest difficulty that has caused it problems is the Covid-19 pandemic. Even though Cuba’s advanced healthcare system has led it to develop its own vaccines, and to give help to other countries struggling with the pandemic in the earlier phases (even imperialist Italy had Cuban help!) nevertheless lack of resources have caused problems, and newer, more infectious variants coming in from abroad have made things worse. Social discontent at the slow pace of vaccination has been exploited politically by the gusanos in this crisis.
Cuba is a deformed workers state. Its leadership is consciously not internationalist and does not see the salvation of the Cuban revolution in the extension of socialist revolution worldwide. Even though it has a somewhat different political origin to the more mainstream Stalinist regimes, and far greater popular support and legitimacy than many such regimes, nevertheless the Cuban regime is fundamentally like the Stalinist regimes. It is nationalist, not internationalist, and seeks to find ways to coexist with imperialism. Concessions to capitalism are built into the logic of this kind of politics. It also suppresses workers democracy, not least for fear that the mass based leftist sentiment that exists at its base will give rise to ‘ultraleftist’ trends that seek international revolution.
Thus, for all its leftism, personified by Guevara’s heroic guerrillaist attempts to liberate other parts of Latin America from US domination (which cost him his life), nevertheless in the early 1960s Guevara had the printing plates for a Cuban edition of Trotsky’s Permanent Revolution destroyed, precisely because this consciously elaborates a programme of world revolution. We therefore seek a proletarian political revolution in Cuba, to replace the often left-talking bureaucratic leadership of the Castro brothers, and now Miguel Díaz-Canel, with a government of workers councils (soviets) and a leadership committed to workers democracy and world revolution. But the precondition for such a further advance in Cuba is the defence of the gains of the Cuban revolution against imperialist attack and internal counterrevolution, which work hand in hand, as experience shows.
One grouping to the left of the Cuban government made a striking and true characterisation of the divisions in Cuba that have emerged in this crisis:
“Those who came out to protest against the State and socialism in Cuba were the people. We can even assure that many belong to that part of the people that has suffered the most from the effects of the crisis than the pandemic, the blockade, the new North American sanctions and the desperate and insufficient management of what we can achieve, in the midst of so much scarcity and problems. accumulated, they have provoked. They are also that part of the people that has been most disadvantaged by the inevitable increase in social inequality with which the advance of market reforms has lacerated and segmented our society. We even dare to assure that these multiple inequalities, sometimes invisible, but always felt and so damaging to social justice, have produced a disconnect. A disconnection between those who shouted “Homeland and Life” in the streets, and the revolutionary project. And that disconnection, which always leaves behind a certain feeling of abandonment, of political and economic orphanhood, sooner or later has turned into rancor and even hatred.
“If we ignore this complexity, if we simply think that they are “criminals” or “marginal”, if we resist understanding the processes of marginalization and if we do not recognize the debts with the most humble in the interior of our society, we will never understand what happened that Sunday.
“On Sunday there was no confrontation between the people and the State as basic forces – although more than one theorist spends ink trying to prove it. On Sunday there was a confrontation between two parts of the people, between two projects: a part that has succumbed, that has surrendered, to the agenda of those who have always tried precisely to surrender them out of hunger and need, and who are willing to renounce the sovereignty and socialism because they understand, or perceive, not only that they no longer have anything to lose but that they have nothing left to gain, and on the other hand, the part of the people that is not willing to renounce or the revolutionary project they have built for generations or to the legality of the socialist Constitution for which they democratically voted, nor of the emancipated society that they imagine in their future beyond the current State heir to the Revolution, and its shortcomings. Those who believe that only the military, the leaders and the holders of the MLC have reasons to defend socialism, are very wrong. Millions of people in Cuba today are not willing to lose a peaceful society, a project of social justice, and a national dignity that has only given this people, all of them, a Revolution that is not exhausted in what has been achieved, but must open new paths.”https://medium.com/la-tiza/tendremos-que-volver-al-futuro-21721dc2ffaa
That should be the basic orientation of revolutionary internationalists, of Trotskyists, in the current Cuban situation – to the advanced sections of the masses, who also mobilised, in even greater masses than those mobilised by gusanos, to defend the revolution. A proletarian political revolution in Cuba has to come from the advanced sections of the masses, not the backward elements who are open to being led by the gusanos. A proletarian political revolution in Cuba would be demanding more socialism, not less!
The International Marxist Tendency, the tendency historically led by Ted Grant, today by Alan Woods and Rob Sewell, say some similar things from a more formally Trotskyist-sounding standpoint:
“Clearly, there was a genuine component to the protest in San Antonio (something that President Díaz-Canel himself later recognised) that grew out of the real hardship facing the people. The slogans that brought hundreds of people out to the streets in San Antonio were ‘we want vaccines’ and the demand for a solution to their immediate problems, which was put to the local authorities.
“But we would be blind if we did not see that there was also another factor. For days there has been an intense campaign orchestrated by counter-revolutionary elements on social networks under the slogan #SOSCuba. The campaign has two aims. One, try to create a social uprising, protests in the streets, through the dissemination of exaggerated, biased or directly false information (for example about the health situation in Matanzas, the area most affected by the pandemic) and the abstract call to protest in the streets. Two, with the excuse of the health emergency situation (partly real, partly exaggerated) to promote the idea of the need for a ‘humanitarian intervention’ by foreign powers to ‘help Cuba’.
The hypocrisy of the personalities (artists, musicians, etc.) who have promoted the campaign is incredible. Where was the campaign in favour of an ‘international intervention’ in Brazil, or Peru, or Ecuador – all countries that have suffered Covid-19 mortality rates 10, 20 or 50 times higher than those of Cuba?
This hypocritical campaign is a clear attempt to justify a foreign imperialist intervention against the revolution, under the cover of humanitarian aid. We have seen this before, in Libya, in Venezuela, in Iraq. We know what is really behind these so-called ‘humanitarian interventions’: imperialism. We could not imagine a greater degree of cynicism. The same powers that apply a blockade against Cuba, which prevent it from trading on the world market, from purchasing medicines and supplies to manufacture them, are now demanding that the Cuban government open a ‘humanitarian corridor’!”https://www.marxist.com/protests-in-cuba-defend-the-revolution.htm?fbclid=IwAR1aj6qHd-RGAOF09_dAITjCqMUbpi2vSaMO4E3b7FGEe0ayfomIGZT3JaQ
It should be remembered that IMT supported the “Libyan Revolution”, an imperialist intervention similar to that which it now criticizes (see The Libyan Issue and IMT Revisionism). They draw some necessary conclusions, with which we wholeheartedly concur:
“Faced with this situation, what position should we as revolutionaries take? In the first place, it must be clearly explained that the protests called by Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and other related elements are openly counter-revolutionary, although they try to capitalise on a sense of malaise that emanates from the very difficult objective conditions. The problems and hardships are real and genuine. But the protests, under the slogan “Homeland and Life” and “Down with the dictatorship”, are counter-revolutionary. There are confused elements participating, to be sure. But in the midst of the confusion, it is inevitable that those who dominate these protests are, from a political point of view, counter-revolutionary. They are organised, motivated and have clear objectives. It is therefore necessary to oppose them and to defend the revolution. If those who promote these protests (and their mentors in Washington) achieve their goal – the overthrow of the revolution – the economic and health problems suffered by the Cuban working class will not be solved, but on the contrary, will be aggravated. You only have to look at Bolsonaro’s Brazil or neighboring Haiti to convince yourself of this.”ibid
Their article concludes with these slogans, that are excellent as far as they go:
“Defend the Cuban revolution!
Down with the imperialist blockade – hands off Cuba!
No to capitalist restoration – for more socialism!
Against the bureaucracy – for workers’ democracy and workers’ control!”ibid
The main disagreement we have with this is that it does not explicitly call for a proletarian political revolution and a regime of soviets. Though such demands do point in that direction.
This article has rightly been praised on the international left as embodying a socialist perspective. Including by leftists who have not been willing to draw a clear line against the counterrevolution. It’s a pity that the IMT comrades have not so far taken up the polemical cudgels against such people on the left. Indeed, they might tend to regard such a polemic as ‘sectarian’. But it is necessary because those who blur the class line on these questions also have influence, can mislead workers in Cuba and outside and thereby pose dangers to the working class and the revolution, and must therefore be challenged.
For instance, there is a petition with many signatures being circulated by the supporters of the Cliffite International Socialist Tendency titled “Release Frank García Hernández and His Comrades” that says that the signatories are:
“… very concerned to learn of the arrest during a march of protest in Havana on 11 July of Frank García Hernández, Cuban historian and Marxist, Leonardo Romero Negrín, young socialist studying physics at the University of Havana, Maykel González Vivero, director of Tremenda Nota and Marcos Antonio Pérez Fernández, pre-university student. Frank García Hernández is an important scholar has achieved a worldwide reputation for his work on reevaluating the history of the Cuban left and organising an international congress on Trotsky in Havana in 2019.
We call for the unconditional release of Frank and all his comrades and for respect for the democratic rights of all the Cuban people.”https://socialistworkersleague.org/2021/07/14/release-frank-garcia-hernandez-and-his-comrades/?fbclid=IwAR16I3Mr_g-4-NX5eITGgJpAnxoWdihViautwBw_rvyrVBzbBhqYxrEf8nk#
The petition does not elaborate on which demonstration García Hernández and his comrades were marching on. But a clue is to be found in a statement of the US SEP (World Socialist Web Site) that also demands that García Hernández be released:
“The Socialist Equality Party (US) demands the immediate release of Frank García Hernández from house arrest by the Cuban government. García Hernández, a self-avowed Marxist associated with the Comunistas Blog collective, was arrested Sunday during historic protests against the economic crisis and the worsening of the COVID-19 pandemic.”https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2021/07/16/cuba-j16.html
From this, it becomes clear that the demonstration they were arrested on was the one organised by the pro-gusano forces under the slogan “Homeland and Life” calling for ‘humanitarian intervention”, who the La Tiza group accurately said are
“a part that has succumbed, that has surrendered to the agenda of those who have always tried precisely to surrender them out of hunger and need, and who are willing to renounce … sovereignty and socialism.”op-cit, see earlier
This is a serious, strategic error by these leftists, in keeping with the politics of the Cliff tendency, who they are obviously allied with, which surrendered to anti-Communism as long ago as the Korean war in 1950. While we are for upholding the norms of workers democracy and are not in favour of suppressing their views through imprisonment or worse, nevertheless in marching with those mobilised by the gusanos against the Cuban government they are committing a serious, strategic error, and their activities should be condemned.
The Cliff tendency always denied that there had been any kind of social revolution in Cuba, defining Cuba as ‘state capitalist’, and therefore refused to defend it against imperialism. Indeed, they celebrated the 1991 counterrevolutionary collapse of Stalinism in the USSR with the headline “Communism has collapsed. It should have every socialist rejoicing.” It would probably be wishful thinking for them to improve on this appalling position over a reactionary movement in Cuba.
Flowing from this, we get the absurdity of the Cliffite petition citing remarks by Rosa Luxemburg from the early years of the Russian Revolution:
“Freedom only for the supporters of the government, only for the members of one party — however numerous they may be — is no freedom at all. Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently. Not because of any fanatical concept of ‘justice’ but because all that is instructive, wholesome and purifying in political freedom depends on this essential characteristic, and its effectiveness vanishes when ‘freedom’ becomes a special privilege.”op-cit, https://socialistworkersleague.org/
Rosa Luxemburg was mistaken when she wrote these remarks upbraiding the Bolsheviks for allegedly violating workers democracy in 1918. Even though she was a conscious Marxist and internationalist, she appeared not to understand the murderous nature of the opposition that the Bolsheviks were facing and the treachery of even their social-democratic opponents within the workers movement who were prepared to ally with such murderous forces. Tragically, Rosa herself fell victim to equivalent murderous forces in Germany in January 1919, which puts a somewhat different perspective on her criticism.
But how much more bizarre to say this in Cuba today. Who is it aimed at? The Cuban government? That would seem to imply that the Cuban regime can be in some way equated with Lenin’s consciously revolutionary and internationalist Soviet government in 1918. But of course, they do not believe that. They are using Rosa Luxemburg’s error to curry favour with any social democratic elements in the gusano-led movement for their vision of ‘socialism’ without any nasty repression of bourgeois forces that claim to be ‘democratic’. But they are likely to be onto a loser there, as the gusano movement will obviously be dominated by forces far to the right of that kind of social-democratic utopianism. It is not only opportunism: it is suicidal opportunism for any left-wing, pro-socialist types to engage in blocs with the gusanos.
The same is true of David North’s tendency, who despite their sometime pretentions of orthodox Trotskyism, always denied that the Cuban revolution created any kind of workers’ state. They follow in the footsteps of Gerry Healy who in the 1960s asserted that the Cuban bourgeoisie was still in power but was somehow ‘weak’. At the Healyites 1966 London Conference of the “International Committee of the Fourth International” the founder of the Spartacists, James Robertson, was unceremoniously thrown out after mocking Healy’s position on Cuba, for quipping that “If the Cuban bourgeoisie is indeed ‘weak,’ as the I.C. affirms, one can only observe that it must be tired from its long swim to Miami, FLA [Florida]”. It is clear from more recent writing that the WSWS still rejects the idea that Cuba is any kind of workers state, and therefore deny that there is any revolution to defend. Therefore, it is completely logical that their propaganda around this should resemble that of the Cliffites, who they otherwise denounce as the worst renegades from Trotskyism.
Defence of Cuba, as one of only two surviving deformed workers’ states (the other being North Korea) is still a central responsibility of genuine Trotskyists, fighting to re-create the Fourth International as a mass revolutionary force. We in the Liaison Committee for the Fourth International seek political debate and regroupment with revolutionary-inclined forces around these basic revolutionary positions as the key means of advancing the worldwide struggle for socialism.
(This is a translation of a leaflet by the Emancipação do Trabalho (Emancipation of Labour) movement that the LCFI’s in Brazil supports and is involved with. #3J refers to the mass demonstrations against Bolsonaro on the 3rd July, the latest in a series of mass demonstrations against the regime.)
Why do we have to overthrow the entire Bolsonaro government?
For taking the death of more than 520,000 of our relatives and dear friends and still making a joke of it; for trying to make money from corrupt schemes for overpriced vaccine purchases; for the privatization of Eletrobrás, when energy that is already expensive will become more expensive and inaccessible to the poor; for reducing emergency aid to a miserable amount when we need help the most, while increasing the price of everything else; for stealing the forest and indigenous lands; for taking away our right to retirement. The generals of the Bolsonaro government, like Pazuello, are accomplices to all this, as are Paulo Guedes.
Should we trust impeachment and Congress?
Many brothers and sisters, out of desperation at the situation, support the impeachment of Bolsonaro. This would be a progressive step to destabilize the coup-dictatorship project in Brazil. But who would take over? Of course, General Mourão, who said that the Brazilian workers Christmas bonus (13th salary) is a jabuticaba, an indulgence that Brazilian workers should not be entitled to and does not like indigenous people or blacks. Therefore, with or without impeachment we cannot let up until we overthrow the Bolsonaro government and the coup regime. Without going beyond impeachment, what we will have is a Mourão government. We do not need another Bolsonaro, his supporters and accomplices or other scammers, we need a workers alternative to the misfortunes of Bolsonaro and his gang.
Workers’ Left Front
Our front is the men and women workers. There is no place for scammers in our midst. Who are the scammers? Who helped overthrow Dilma, who campaigned for Bolsonaro, who is voting for privatizations, for the destruction of social security, against women, indigenous people. This group is the MBL, PSDB, DEM, Doria, Witzel. It is the “repentant ones” who want to harm our unity. Our fight is for a Unified Day of Struggles and Popular Assemblies across the country! To achieve:
1. Vaccination for the whole population!
2. Assistance at the level of a minimum wage for all underemployed and unemployed!
3. Freezing of the basic basket of goods, and of gas, fuel and rent products;
4. Exemption from bills with continuity of provision of water, energy, internet services!
5. No layoffs or evictions in the city and in the countryside!
6. Nationalization without compensation of the big companies that lay off workers!
7. Nationalization and control by the workers’ organizations of pharmaceutical companies, medical supplies, and the private health system!
8. General amnesty of workers’ debts with the loan sharks, banks, and credit cards! Credit to associations and production cooperatives without interest!
9. Do not return to face-to-face classes until vaccination of the entire population!
10. Repeal of labour, social security, and all coup measures.
11. Full rights of Brazilian citizenship for all immigrants.
12. Let millionaires, bankers and foreign companies pay for the crisis!
13. Against oppression of women, blacks and lgbtqa+ of the working class, the indigenous and quilombolas (those descended from rebel former slaves)!
14. For the end of repression of the working class!
Emancipação do Trabalho
Below this introduction is an abridged version of the article that we wrote advocating critical support for Howard Beckett’s campaign for the position of General Secretary of Unite the Union, before he stood down on 18th June. His candidacy was withdrawn as part of a promise he made that if Gerard Coyne, the hard right-wing candidate for the GS position, managed to get enough nominations to get on the ballot, he would do everything to ensure that only a single left-wing candidate stood.
Beckett stood by this promise, which no doubt gives him a degree of kudos for honesty. However, since his campaign was politically superior to those of his two ostensibly left-wing rivals, Steve Turner and Sharon Graham, this honesty has not done the Unite membership and the labour movement any favours in terms of the political choices open to it. It should be noted that all of the ostensibly left candidates (as well as Coyne) are part of the Unite bureaucracy, which is in an integral part of the British trade union bureaucracy in general, and none of them represent a working-class challenge to that bureaucracy in principle. It is not normal practice for revolutionaries to routinely support trade union bureaucrats in internal union elections, but the political character of what Beckett stood when his candidacy was operative was not that of a run-of-the-mill bureaucrat. The political break he made with Starmer, having effectively declared war on the leader of the Labour Party and his anti-left project, made Beckett qualitatively superior to Turner and Graham.
Turner made his desire for collaboration with Starmer pretty clear in an interview with the Huffington Post (27 April) that set the tone for his campaign:
“I’ve always felt we could get a solution to this [Corbyn getting the whip back]. But the longer it goes on, the more entrenched it becomes on both sides. It’s like a war of attrition going on, and it’s going on in public. That’s not helpful to the party, it’s not helpful to Keir, it’s not helpful to Jeremy and it’s not helpful to me as a trade union leader or our members.
“People don’t vote for a divided party. Or a party that’s contemplating his own navel. Sometimes it’s right to shout. But on some occasions diplomacy is best done privately. Look, Keir wasn’t my preferred candidate …. But I’m a socialist, I’m a democrat, and the reality of it is he was elected by the vast majority of our members that voted.
“We didn’t even convince our own members to come on a journey with us, in terms of the political program that was being laid out by Jeremy, Becky and that entire team. We didn’t win the argument inside our own union. We won it amongst the politicos and that group that loves to talk to themselves.”https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/unite-steve-turner-len-mccluskey-interview_uk_6088331fe4b0b9042d8ae549
And he went further:
“Trying to get this purist Left, I find incredibly dangerous. We’re fighting the rise of the far right and that narrative of hate and division in society more generally. We are trying to pull the Left together to create a vision of a better Britain and we’ve got this purist debate that’s taken place, pitting good Left comrades against good Left comrades, because they don’t sign up to a particular way of thinking on a particular issue.
“That purist argument, you’re a class traitor if you don’t sign up to something is just beyond belief, that’s not my Left. I’m an inclusive, tolerant, Left.”ibid
But what is bizarre about this plea for ‘tolerance’ is that it is done in defence of ‘tolerance’ of the Labour leadership of Keir Starmer, which has engaged in the one of the biggest purges in history of the Labour Party membership, targeting leftist supporters and former supporters of Corbyn, anyone who opposes the oppression and dispossession of the Palestinians, and has created a situation where anyone in the party who speaks out in defence of those purged risks being purged themselves. For Turner to speak out against the ‘purist’ and supposedly intolerant left in this context is simply grotesque. It marks him out as an apologist for Starmer’s witchhunt and as someone who could possibly even be a threat to the left within UNITE if elected, alongside the openly pro-Starmer, right-wing candidate Gerard Coyne. Such positions and attitudes have their own logic.
Since Beckett withdrew, Turner has made some very tepid criticisms of Starmer’s purges and called for the reinstatement of those thrown out. But though he mused that eventually Starmer might not prove to be a leader that unions could work with, he still refrained from attacking Starmer directly and calling for his ousting, or for unions to refuse to support Labour under his leadership. He has made a slight verbal adjustment in his campaign rhetoric, perhaps to accommodate Beckett’s supporters given the claims made when Beckett withdrew that Beckett and Turner would be running a joint campaign. But Turner, not Beckett, is the candidate, which is the reality, and it would be naïve to take such diplomatic formulations at face value and trust Turner.
Then there is Sharon Graham, who is standing on a very leftist programme of rebuilding the strength of the union, rebuilding industrial militancy, and fighting for workers gains in this way. This positive element of her campaign is spelled out:
“We must rebuild our industrial base and bring workers from outside our traditional industries into our union. We can’t afford years of drift facing a Tory government and sustained only by short-term tactical manoeuvres. We can’t fiddle while Rome burns. We have to start doing it ourselves: this is not ‘workerism’ – this is the reality of our moment.
“We need an industrial programme that moves decisively beyond the empty rhetoric of ‘partnership’ and which is also supported by our industrial activists; the vast majority of whom agree on the need for power in the workplace and strong organisation, with the ability to take strike action if and when required.
“Of course, we still need to seek influence in parliament – laws matter. They can dictate our lives. But we must now reform the way we influence legislation. If anything, I will push hard for policy, but I will base this on a workers’ manifesto that is decided by our reps and activists.
“I will pursue its priorities by actively campaigning, as well taking our priorities into the structures of Labour. I will also refuse to support future candidates for parliament that have not represented working people. We need more working-class voices in Westminster and I will turn this soundbite into reality.”https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/32606/02-06-2021/unite-general-secretary-campaign-statement-from-sharon-graham
That is positive, the trade unions should not be giving any support to election candidates who support or refuse to oppose attacks on working class people, who refuse to oppose austerity, or who refuse to oppose the government. However, there is also this:
“Already, only a small minority of members are engaged in this debate. Make no mistake, we are moving in ever decreasing circles and we need fundamental change.
“For many years, conversations within the left have often been reduced to considering the merits – or otherwise – of the existing leadership of the Labour Party. But decades on from Thatcher, this discussion is increasingly detached from the concerns of working people. Instead of putting forward concrete plans to build working-class power, general secretary elections are being fought as proxy wars, far removed from workers.”ibid
This is not so good. Because the supposed ‘small minority’ of members who are ‘engaged’ in the debate about the merits of the existing leadership of the Labour Party … are the highly political layer who provided the mass base for Corbynism, and their right-wing opponents of course, who are as noted earlier, engaged in the most massive purge in the history of the Labour Party and the labour movement in Britain, precisely in order to try to render impossible any future challenge to neo-liberal domination of the political wing of the labour movement. To dismiss this whole conflict as ‘ever decreasing circles’ and ‘detached from the concerns of working people’ is a false, narrowly trade unionist view that abstains from the struggles that are most crucial for the interests of working people, and actually a retreat from the best aspects of the Corbyn movement.
In essence, despite different methods of reasoning, both Turner and Graham arrive at the same conclusion: to abstain from challenging the neoliberal attacks on the Labour left and the left generally that Starmer personified, either on the grounds that to do so would mean the left becoming intolerant (Turner) or getting involved in matters that are supposedly of no interest to workers (Graham). Neither represent any challenge to the labour movement being dominated by forces loyal to neoliberalism. And both campaigns, as indeed was Beckett’s, are waged by long-time full-time officials who partake of the privileged status of the top reaches of the union bureaucracy with salaries many times above those of the members they are supposed to lead and represent.
None of the three left candidates’ platforms even pay lip service to the basic socialist view that union officials should be paid no more than a good skilled worker’s salary. The right-wing media regularly runs muck-raking articles on the sizeable salaries of union officials, who generally earn several times the salary of the members they represent. Such criticisms are hypocritical as the bourgeoisie rely on this bureaucratic layer and its conservatising influence to control the labour movement, as a firebreak against revolution. But as we explain below, sometimes despite that, trends can emerge from the bureaucracy that reflect a class-struggle impetus from below, as with Beckett’s declaration of war against Starmer which became quite sensational in the weeks before he withdrew.
It is the limitations of the ‘left’ bureaucracy, not least in forcing Beckett into line and into withdrawing his candidacy, that have now put militants on the left in Unite and in the broader labour movement influenced by Unite, into an invidious situation where the left is divided and maybe paralysed in a way that can benefit the hard, neoliberal right-wing agent, Coyne. Both Turner and Graham should have stood down in favour of Beckett’s campaign not because Beckett is a fancy lawyer, or any such rubbish of the kind some reactionary populist/workerist types have been peddling, but because his campaign, in declaring war on Starmer from a leftist standpoint, was politically superior to both. Beckett is also culpable for capitulating to them over this, out of misguided ‘anti-sectarianism’ which quailed in the face of denunciation by treacherous fakers like Owen Jones.
Now we have two nondescript ‘left’ campaigns, both of which have something fundamentally lacking about them, in that both, for different reasons refuse to take on the neoliberal parasites that are wrecking and crippling the labour movement. The two campaigns are sterile and are in danger of cancelling each other out and allowing the right-wing to sail through the middle. There is nothing we can currently do to rectify that. No doubt our own supporters in Unite, along with all other militants, will not simply abstain in the election but give their vote to whoever out of Turner and Graham are in their judgement are likely to do the least possible damage to the union, in the hope of staving off Coyne. But neither of the two ‘left’ candidates merit a political endorsement, even a critical one, unless one of them unexpectedly does something that steps beyond the fundamental flaws we point to here. The left bureaucracy in Unite have between them engineered a disappointing and risky situation in this election and will have only themselves to blame if a disaster happens.
Unite General Secretary Election
A Critical Vote for Howard Beckett! (Abridged)
Re-arm the left and the Unions to take on this Criminal Government!
The candidacy of Howard Beckett, who has strongly criticised the Labour leadership of Keir Starmer with its witchhunts against the left, its antipathy to trade unionists and organised workers, and its re-Blairisation of the Labour Party under the guidance of Peter Mandelson, who also advises Boris Johnson, has been like a breath of fresh air after the previous capitulations of the Labour left.
Beckett has taken on the Labour right wing in a manner that no prominent figure in the Labour Party or labour movement did in the entire Corbyn era from 2015-2020, including of course Corbyn himself. He has taken on Labour’s Blairite/Zionist stooge leader head on and that is the centrepiece of his campaign. In some ways the things that he has said are exceptional for a candidate in an internal union election. On 14th June he Tweeted simply: “Starmer must go” following earlier Tweets where he said: “If Labour HQ continues down its path and no longer speaks for working people, it will not be getting Unite money if I am general secretary.” These are not exceptional; he has said many similar things over the past several weeks. But his onslaught against the treacherous Starmer leadership of Labour is escalating and is becoming utterly counterposed to the other two ostensibly ‘left-wing’ candidates, Steve Turner and Sharon Graham.
Beckett went into more depth in his forthright attack on Labour’s right-wing leadership in an interview on 8th May with Revolutionary Socialism in the 21 Century, where he elaborated:
“He’s not a success as a leader. What’s going on now is a dereliction of duty with his failure to offer a narrative on zero Covid, or a narrative on nationalisation when it’s most needed, or resistance to fire and rehire. If he continues on the course he’s on he’ll become irrelevant, and Labour is quickly becoming a party of the establishment.
“It is for the Labour Party to prove its relationship with unions, and if it doesn’t speak on a daily, weekly, monthly basis on behalf of working people then it will become irrelevant to working people. But if that does happen, the union movement will not be found wanting. If I am general secretary, the union movement will step into that vacuum and talk with and for our communities, educate our communities and talk about socialism.
“Unite has already reduced our affiliation and we’re on record as saying we will have to take great care that any further money is given to those who share our values. If they continue on this path there will be debates not just about regular funding and funding around elections but also about affiliation, and I will happily facilitate those debates. The only language the leadership understand at the moment is the language you would be giving to a bad employer.”https://www.rs21.org.uk/2021/05/08/unite-elections-an-interview-with-howard-beckett/
However, he is not confining himself to politicking within the Labour Party milieu. He is, as least verbally, putting forward an agenda of class struggle which is somewhat unusual to hear from an aspiring leader of a trade union in this period, and appears to be pitching to lead a left-wing political movement, not just a campaign for a leading trade union position:
“Steve Turner is running on the idea of partnership with employers. I reject that. When you talk in that language it diminishes the fact that we are in a class struggle.”
“I am banging the drum for Unite to have its own TV channel, with regular interviews with high-profile politicians and activists, constant news and evaluation of industrial and political landscape. It could be used for advice, distilling information for our reps, and even cookery shows. If we start talking to wider society the next generation will see exactly what a union does, understand the importance of collectivism and want to be part of this.”
“If the laws are trying to restrict liberties then they should be defied. As soon as we start accepting them as valid then our liberties are lost, and it becomes only a matter of time before our entire movement is lost. Unite’s rule book has been changed to make a statement about Unite stepping outside of the law. It is becoming a reality for us now.”
“Strikes. Strikes! Targeted strike action. Simple as that. The idea that protecting the NHS is done by making speeches? Nonsense. People should be in Unite because they need to be in a union that will take the fight to the government. If we can’t make the argument for reversing privatisation now after Covid then frankly we all deserve what we get. If we can’t make an argument about care homes coming into public ownership under the NHS then we deserve what we get, and if we can’t defend the argument for a 15% pay rise then we deserve what we get. Here and now the reality for all of us there needs to be strategic, targeted industrial action.”ibid
One negative point about Beckett, where he displayed weakness, albeit in November 2020 before the Unite leadership issue became central, was when under pressure from the right and the Zionists, he pulled out of an event calling for Jeremy Corbyn’s reinstatement because expelled Labour member and Jewish anti-Zionist Tony Greenstein was also a speaker. Greenstein is a hate figure of the Zionists and those who share platform with expelled anti-Zionists are immediately added to the list of targets. However, a few weeks later in December, at a NEC meeting discussing the Tory-stooge Equality and Human Rights Commission’s report smearing sections of the Labour left as anti-Semitic, he challenged aspects of the process, tweeting “My NEC report for Unite will record being denied access to submissions to the EHRC, denied a debate on suspensions; denied debate on the importance of protecting lawful speech.” (https://www.thejc.com/news/uk/unite-union-official-beckett-criticised-over-his-response-to-labour-antisemitism-meeting-1.509469). Beckett is a union official, not a Palestine solidarity activist, but his statements on the recent Zionist atrocities make clear that he is an outspoken opponent of these crimes which have had such a major impact on the labour movement in Britain these last few years.
Smears and Witchhunting of Beckett
He has more recently himself had a taste of the cynicism of the fake ‘racism’ allegations of the right and the fake-left, when he was himself suspended from Labour for a tweet in solidarity with a large, militant crowd of anti-racists in Glasgow who physically prevented immigration officials from seizing two Indian Muslims who were under threat of deportation. Beckett, clearly enraged by the racism of the Home Office led by Priti Patel, the far-right Tory capo, Modi-supporting anti-Muslim fascistic Hindutva bigot and Israeli stooge, who clearly ordered the action, tweeted on 13 May: “Priti Patel should be deported, not refugees. She can go along with anyone else who supports institutional racism.”.
He quickly apologised and said his tweet was not meant to be taken literally. Various liberals who claim to be on the left, and the Labour leadership, howled with outrage at Beckett’s supposed ‘racism’ for forgetting that the Home Secretary who ordered a racist atrocity, one of many, is also not white. But this is drivel, as usual his accusers for the most part have no problems with deporting ethnic minority people, or even if they have in theory, would not dream of refusing to support Labour’s own racist and sociopathic levy of deporters seeking government office. Anyone with half-a-brain and an ounce of honesty can see that Beckett was expressing outrage at state racism, not supporting it. He really has nothing to apologise for, and his suspension is just another piece of scandalous Starmerite dishonesty.
Apparently as part of the bilious campaign against him the Starmerites are now moving toward his expulsion from the Labour Party, supposedly for ‘racism’ against Johnson’s deporter-in-chief. Which just underlines the nature of the Zionist-led Labour Party where people are expelled with smears of ‘racism’ and ‘anti-Semitism’ for opposing the organised racist and Zionist trends that dominate Labour. Including several former Blairite Home Secretaries who could give Theresa May or Priti Patel a run for their money in the migrant-bashing stakes – Jack Straw, David Blunkett, Charles Clarke, Jacqui Smith, Alan Johnson, all anti-migrant xenophobic lowlife in the same mould as Patel. Labour has never expelled such vile people, but they now propose to expel a leading union left-winger for supporting direct action against racist deportations. That is a sign of ‘racism’ in their racist fantasy world.
All this has the effect of exposing more and more the mendacity, racist and chauvinist politics behind the fake ‘anti-Semitism’ campaigns and the like that simply lie about the left in the service of the foulest bigotry.
Unite Election: Political Struggle not Stitch-Ups
Since then, he has been the target of similar hysteria from the soft left. In the hustings/vote for the support of the political machine known as the United Left (UL) within Unite, which is dominated by trade unionist cadre of the Communist Party of Britain, Beckett only narrowly failed to get nominated as the UL candidate, by three votes. However there seems to be evidence that dozens of paid-up UL supporters who wanted to vote for Beckett were not allowed to vote, due to ‘technical’ problems involving an email address/server, and the legitimacy of this vote is hotly disputed by not only Beckett, but many on the wider left. This brought the machinery of the CP/B into play to get numerous nominations from branches for Turner; by the time the deadline was up he had 525, with Graham beating Beckett by 349 to 328. The openly right-wing candidate, Gerard Coyne, came last with 196 candidates.
However, nominations through formal union bodies do not necessarily equate to votes in a union election, as these bodies tend to be dominated by the bureaucracy, activists, and those closest to the formal structures of the union. The strategy of Coyne will be to rely on the influence of the right-wing gutter press to appeal over the heads of the union structure to the atomised members. However, the strategy of Beckett also seems to be based on an attempt at an aggressive political appeal to class sentiment, also over the heads of the officialdom, based on a left-wing hostility to Starmer and his supporters, something that Turner and his CPB supporters are actively hostile to from a Labour-loyal perspective, and which Graham flinches from in the name of ‘non-political’ trade unionism.
Given the recent history of Unite, this is not a forlorn strategy. Beckett could succeed, and in the process push the politics of the union much further to the left. Capitulators to Blairism and softer elements on the left, personified by Owen Jones, contend that three putative left-wing candidates standing are likely to divide the ‘left’ vote and hand the union over to the right winger Coyne. But that is not necessarily true, looking at the history of recent General Secretary elections in Unite. Apart from the fact that given his conciliation of Starmer, Turner’s designation as a left candidate is something of an exaggeration. Much depends on the quality of the campaigns waged by the candidates.
In 2010, there were four candidates: Len McCluskey (ex-Militant left-wing bureaucrat and the current retiring GS), Jerry Hicks (widely renowned victimised rank-and-file militant from Bristol Rolls Royce), Gail Cartmail (soft left ‘socialist-feminist’ and current assistant GS of Unite) and Les Bayliss, a right-winger similar to Coyne today. Bayliss came third; this was a highly political contest between McCluskey with bureaucratic ‘left’ politics and the revolutionary-minded militant Hicks, who put up a hell of a fight. Both of the top two left candidates beat Bayliss. In a repeat election in 2013 where the only two candidates were Hicks, the polarisation was stronger, and a similar result obtained where McCluskey beat Hicks by 2 to 1. Hicks improved vote of 79,819 showed there was a substantial base for political militancy in Unite. Only in 2017 was the result close, where McCluskey, in what was widely seen as an unnecessary and cynical election aimed at prolonging his own term in office, only narrowly beat Coyne. Another rank-and-file trade union militant, Ian Allinson, who appeared much less well-known than Jerry Hicks, failed to make major inroads and only gained 13% of the vote.
But that election appears very different to this one. McCluskey by then was a busted flush, and barely clung on by his fingernails, and the election itself a demoralising exercise. This is shaping up to be a highly political election fight, a real battle for the ‘soul’ of Unite, the biggest union in Britain, by forces around Beckett who hope to drive a campaign to re-arm the kind of leftist sentiment that drove support for Corbyn, and to drive the labour movement itself back to the left. That is the danger that the right-wing see from Beckett’s campaign, and why there has been a hysterical response from Starmer’s supporters.
Bureaucratic splintering and militant trade unionism
As his detractors have been keen to point out, he is not a rank-and-file worker. He is of Irish Catholic working-class background, born in Belfast, and someone who went to university and became a solicitor. He worked for the Union for a long period and is undoubtedly simply by virtue of his occupation wealthier than many union members.
His background is hardly the stuff of trade union militancy at a rank-and-file level as in the heyday of union militancy that existing in Britain prior to the victories of Thatcher over the trade unions, most crucially in the miners’ strike of 1984-5. It is the stuff of a trade union movement that has been beaten and betrayed for decades. Betrayed particularly by the political class that has developed centrally in the political bureaucracy of the Labour Party, which has over several decades become something more than what it was at the time of the party’s emergence: an extension of the pro-capitalist bureaucracy of the trade unions. This bureaucratic layer in Britain historically had their own organic relationship to British industrial capital from the massive industrialisation that began in the late 18th Century, that continued at breakneck speed in the Industrial Revolution of the 19th Century, that marked time in much of the 20th before undergoing major decline as a result of a conscious ruling class strategy of exporting jobs and deindustrialisation, aimed at crippling the labour movement, in the last quarter of the 20th Century.
However, this has itself led to new polarisations, part of which were responsible for the rise of Corbynism as a reaction to Blairism. The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus, a pioneer of dialectical logic, once remarked that “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man”. This is a key insight, regarding the inevitability of continuous change and flux in all phenomena, which found its way into Hegel’s much more elaborated, but idealistic dialectic, which was inverted and given a consistently materialist foundation by Marx. In analysing the course of the class struggle such understanding is crucial.
This finds concrete expression when you look at Blairism, and the changes in the right-wing of political labour bureaucracies, which have not occurred only in Britain, but Britain has become an archetype. The deindustrialisation of Britain, and the rise of financial capital which has replaced its former industrial power to a considerable degree as the index of Britain’s remaining power in the world as an imperialist nation, has modified the relationship between the labour bureaucracy and British capitalism and produced new polarisations.
As was noted in an article 23 published just over a year ago:
“… there has been a further development of imperialist capital …. catalysed by the further decay of capitalism as classically expressed in Marx’s law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall. The fall in the rate of profit meant that the classical unity of industrial and banking capital exploiting a large scale industrial proletariat in the advanced countries became less and less profitable, and so industrial capital increasingly sought to do away with the proletariat, or as much of it as possible, in the classical imperialist countries, and migrated to underdeveloped countries in search of cheap labour to manufacture goods, the bulk of which at least initially were still for realisation in the advanced countries, thus raising the rate of profit. At the same time, the further decline in profit rates gave rise to drives in the imperialist centres to privatise everything that moved. Everything from prisons to public housing, from air traffic control to schools to hospital cleaning to probation officers, everything that could possibly if privatised be squeezed to obtain a morsel of profit and hence raise the overall rate of profit, was so privatised.
“This also modified the phenomenon of finance capital as a fusion of banking and industrial capital. The migration of important sections of industrial capital from the main imperialist countries, even though the funding, as before, came from the imperialist banking arm, produced a geographical separation between industrial and banking capital even though they remained a unity under the system of finance capital. This produced an emanation of finance capital which some Marxists, entirely reasonably, call financial capital, to distinguish it from finance capital in its classical form. Its function is not the methodical exploitation of the proletariat to generate surplus value, but tricks and novel methods of seemingly extracting value from nothing, by such means as the creation of asset price inflation (closely linked to the concept of ‘fictitious capital’), ‘futures’, or other innovative ‘financial products’ which also have the effect of seemingly conjuring up new value from nothing. Such as credit-default-swaps, which played a major role in the late-2000s financial crisis. Of course, speculation is not new under imperialism, but there are also questions of degree.”
“In any case, this is what has undermined the Labour Party, and produced a new breed of ‘labour’ politician who is not a mere servant of finance capital in a political sense, like the old labour bureaucrats who fought for national welfare states and supported their ‘own’ imperialist countries’ struggles to maintain imperial influence, while trying to ‘humanise’ this imperialism. The old Labour bureaucracy was personified by Attlee, who while conceding independence to India (he really had no choice) nevertheless fought brutal colonial wars in Malaysia (including Singapore) and Indonesia, also helping the French back into Indo-China, and crushed the nascent Kenyan independence movement and workers movement. This kind of social chauvinism linked ‘welfare’ to support for colonial oppression.
“But it is somewhat different to the ‘labourism’ of Blair and Peter Mandelson, with his infamous statement as to how Labour is ‘intensely relaxed about people becoming filthy rich’. The former was subordination to finance capital, the latter is subordination to financial capital. This is not, by the way, a moral difference. Both of these things are deeply reactionary and the social-imperialism of old-Labour was itself mortally antagonistic to socialism. It is however a sociological difference – the old social imperialist bureaucracy still had a material connection to organised labour, if only as a parasite upon it. Whereas New Labour has no such necessary connection at all.”https://www.consistent-democrats.org/uncategorized/no-vote-to-zionist-new-labour/
But this can, indeed must, lead to heightened contradictions between the Labour Party and the labour movement which was its seedbed. Today a key part of what was once the Labour Party bureaucracy is not connected by a class collaborationist relationship with industrial capital, and thereby finance capital, interested in preserving class peace by managing large, often militant, organised workforces with a great deal of social rhetoric and some reforms.
The traditional well organised industrial workforces have been considerably weakened, and the workforce that unions represent is much more fragmented and multi-sectored. Unions themselves have been weakened, by the strategic defeats inflicted on them in battle decades ago, by the passage of anti-union laws that the bosses have made stick for decades, by the export of heavy industrial jobs and hence the loss of industrial muscle, and by the fragmentation mentioned. But that never meant that class anger had died down. Just that the bosses had found ways to frustrate it and stop it being expressed. Or so they thought….
The ascent of Jeremy Corbyn to the Labour leadership in 2015 was a big shock to the ruling class. It became possible because under first Kinnock, and then with a vengeance under Blair and Brown, key parts of Labour’s traditional right-wing bureaucracy had become agents of financial capital instead of the older relationship described above.
The difference is crucial as these new leaders resembled the Tories they were supposed to be opposed to much more closely. They became privatisers; during the Blair-Brown period in office they introduced private sector neoliberal practice into public services with a fervour; they fomented a capitalist boom in tandem with other neoliberal forces abroad that ended in 2007 with a major financial crisis.
Corbynism in Relation to the Class Struggle
Corbyn rose to the Labour leadership paradoxically because under Blairism many of Labour’s most class-conscious followers had ceased to recognise it as Labour and ceased to vote for it. This loss of support so worried the Labour bureaucracy that they designed a novel scheme to try to entice support back: they allowed Labour supporters (not members) to vote for the leader for a nominal one-off sub payment of £3. In 2015 they lost the second General Election in a row, in large measure because of working class abstention. Even the soft-left Ed Miliband, who talked about a ‘crisis of working-class representation’ to get elected leader but did nothing to actually represent workers – could not entice support back that the Blairites had lost.
So, in the first leadership election under the new system, they also felt compelled to allow Corbyn on the ballot, for fear that the election for leader would appear fake if they did not. The rest is history. The presence of a genuine left social democrat on the ballot, with the newly opened-up election system, and a threatening, very right-wing purely Tory government under Cameron in the saddle, led to a massive influx of hundreds of thousands of new members and supporters, and an historic victory for Corbyn.
The right-wing counterattacks began at once, with the ‘Chicken Coup’ in 2016, the brazen sabotage of Labour’s highly successful election campaign in 2017, where Corbyn stripped Theresa May, the new Tory leader who had succeeded Cameron when he lost the Brexit referendum, of her majority, and then the developing ‘anti-Semitism’ Zionist propaganda lie and the cynical posturing of the right around supposedly being diehard opponents of Brexit, only to become rampant flag-shaggers and nationalists as soon as Corbyn had been forced out of the leadership. Everyone knows that the right-wing used every method they could think of to lose both the 2017 and 2019 General Elections and were utterly mortified when Corbyn came close to victory in 2017.
But the hundreds of thousands of Labour supporters who voted for Corbyn in 2017 have not gone away, nor the millions of additional Labour voters who voted for Labour in 2017 when Labour’s share of the national vote rose from 30.4%, just over 9 and a quarter million votes in 2015, to 40.0%, over 12 and three-quarter million votes in 2017. In 2019 Labour lost only around half a million of those increased votes, but a surge of UKIP voters to the Tories put the Tories in pole position and Labour, weakened by witchhunts and right-wing sabotage, was unable to counter that.
But that still leaves several hundreds of thousands of left-wing activists pulled towards Labour in the Corbyn period, and over three million voters who would not vote for Blairites, or even soft lefts like Ed Miliband who never fully renounced Blairism, who were radicalised and mobilised by the Corbynite surge. Those people have not gone away. And a considerable number of them are in Unite.
The Beckett campaign seems to have inspired something of a reprise of the enthusiasm among left-wing Labour supporters, viscerally hostile to Blairism, that was originally given to Corbyn. Beckett was closely associated with Corbyn right through his leadership, though in the background. He led the legal team that successfully defended Jeremy Corbyn’s right to be on the ballot in 2016, during the ‘chicken coup’ leadership contest that was forced on the party by a PLP vote of no-confidence, where the plan was to exclude Corbyn from the ballot by a legal/constitutional manoeuvre, carried out by the Blairite/Zionist Lord Foster. However, since Corbyn allowed his leadership to be sabotaged and ousted, Beckett has gone well beyond that.
As well as the possibility of rank-and-file militants becoming prominent in class struggle responses, there can also be splits and fragmentation of the bureaucracy, itself resulting from rank-and-file pressure. So, while Beckett may not conform to the ideal of a left-wing trade union campaign, demanding that the officialdom be paid no more than the workforce they represent, his campaign still reflects a class struggle impulse from below. Beckett thus should be put to the test of office.
We republish below the statement of the Liaison Committee for the Fourth International on Julian Assange’s case from April 2019, immediately after he was expelled from the Ecuadorian embassy and sent to Belmarsh in preparation for planned extradition to the US Gulag. This is a pretty good summary of the issues and smears that were used for years to undermine Assange’s defence.
The situation now is just as much as an outrage. Judge Vanessa Baraitser refused to extradite Assange to the US because his being flung into the US ‘Guantanamo-like ‘Maximum Security’ Gulag would likely cause his death, as the abuse involved would cause him to take his own life. She thus admitted the inhumanity of the US rulers’ system for incarcerating those like Assange who expose their criminality, their massacres of prisoners, their systematic use of torture and mass murder in their rampages around the world. Yet she upheld the grotesque charges even as the US lawyers themselves implicitly admitted that their original indictment did not stand up even in their own terms and attempted to supplement it with another pack of nonsense from a new informant, an unstable young Icelandic man who is in fact a proven liar and convicted child sex offender. And this individual, one Siggi Thordarson, has now confessed that his testimony against Assange in the new indictment (objections to which Baraitser refused to hear), was fabricated.
So, there are three sets of lies that have been hurled at Julian Assange. Firstly, the phoney rape charges that were concocted in Sweden (see below). The second being the attempt to indict Assange over Wikileaks’ work with Chelsea Manning (the real motive for the first fabrication in Sweden). And the third based on Thordarson’s lies. And yet Assange is still in Belmarsh, while the US liars and torturers look for a way to appeal/justify this potentially deadly persecution of a courageous journalist who exposed the crimes of US imperialism. This is just obscene!
Free Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning! Defeat Imperialist War Criminals! (2019)
The arrest of Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London on 11 April is another imperialist crime and exposes once again that a key international role of the British imperialist ruling class, in the words of Assange’s friend Pamela Anderson, is to act as “America’s bitch”.
This after 7 years of political asylum in the face of a phoney rape prosecution in Sweden, which was always political cover for an imperialist attempt to cage Assange for political ‘crimes’ against imperialism, in that he evidently worked together with former US soldier and whistle-blower Chelsea Manning to expose imperialist crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, including the notorious ‘Collateral Murder’ video that shows helicopter-borne US troops blatantly murdering journalists in Baghdad under cover of fighting ‘terrorism’, killing with abandon civilians who happened to be near to a resistance fighter.
Assange’s arrest was facilitated by the imperialist bribery of the Ecuadorian regime of President Lénin Moreno with around $4.2 billion worth of IMF loans/aid. Moreno was denounced by his predecessor, the radical nationalist Rafael Correa, who gave Assange asylum in 2012, as “the worst traitor in Ecuadorian history” for this selling of Assange, and Ecuador itself, to US imperialism.
The delivery of Assange to imperialism by the traitor Lenin Moreno, is part of the hunt for anti-imperialist fighters promoted by the right-wing governments that now control most Latin American countries. The neo-Nazi government of Jair Bolsonaro revoked the right to asylum of activist Cesare Batiisti, allowing his arrest and deportation to Italy. Moreno and Bolsonaro act under the direct orders of imperialism.
At a stage of capitalism in which the capitalist mass media are all bought by the great financial and imperialist capital, Wikileaks has carried out a fundamental historical mission for investigative journalism world-wide. Assange and his collaborators anticipated the entire conspiracy of the judicial-parliamentary coup d’état and the rise of the pro-US extreme right to power in Brazil. In 2015, Assange revealed that the US spied on 29 phones from the Dilma government, the Workers’ Party, and even the presidential plane.
The articulations for the Coup have developed from 2009. As revealed by Wikileaks, the Conference “Bridges Project: Building Bridges for Law Enforcement in Brazil” was held, between October 4 and 9, 2009, in the city of Rio de Janeiro, by US authorities for members of the Judiciary, Public Ministry and Federal Police of Brazil. The then Federal Judge Sergio Moro, (today awarded the position of Justice Minister in the Bolsonaro government) participated in that Conference.
The “training” was continued by several visits of Moro to the USA. This frantic articulation served to initiate the great judicial-police operation known as “Lava Jato” (car wash). The central objective of the mega-operation was, in the name of combating corruption, to expropriate the Brazilian oil company Petrobras and incriminate and arrest the most popular left-wing political leadership in Brazil, former President Lula, although nothing had been proven against him. All this was previously revealed by Wikileaks.
The judicial operation mounted by imperialism was initially supported by the PT. With the help of the PT itself, imperialism paved the way for the overthrow of the PT and the rise of the extreme right to the presidency. Assange was responsible for filtering thousands of documents that pointed to an intense espionage operation conducted by the National Security Agency (NSA) of the United States against the then Brazilian government.
Anomalous figures like Correa tend to be pushed aside by those more in tune with the class aims of the ‘national bourgeoisie’ in oppressed semi-colonial countries like Ecuador. Once again the ‘national bourgeoisie’ is shown to be an agency of imperialism within these countries. To really fight imperialism, capitalism itself has to be uprooted by the proletariat as part of an international revolutionary movement with the strategy of permanent revolution.
The Assange rape allegations are political cover for the liberal bourgeoisie and treacherous not-so-left reformists and neoliberal fifth columnists within the workers movement to give their support for the persecution of Assange. The driving force of the case was a key neoconservative Blair-like figure in Swedish social democracy, Claes Borgstrom, and main alleged accuser, Anna Ardin, is a Swedish Social Democrat who remarkably is one of a microscopic minority of Swedish citizens who have been deported from Cuba for political activities. As Craig Murray, the former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan and now a principled anti-war activist laid out in detail, Ardin was the driving force of the case and coerced the other woman involved into going along with allegations she considered were fabricated by the police. 
Now the US had revealed its hand, it has exposed what has always been true all along – that the ‘rape’ setup was political cover for extradition to an American gulag. This is where Chelsea Manning has already been thrown, indefinitely, once again, for refusing to testify to a grand jury that is preparing further charges against Assange.
We are seeing the resurrection of the liberal refrain that Ardin, as a putative victim of sexual assault, should not be named however outrageous her behaviour in setting up Assange. However, according to Swedish law, both the putative victim and the suspect are supposed to remain anonymous, yet Assange was named in the media simultaneously with the beginning of the case. Ardin took advantage of this to attack him in the media right from the start. Given her history involving Cuba, and her documented behaviour towards Assange when he was in Sweden in 2010, the chances of her not being an imperialist spook appear negligible.
The US doesn’t treat prisoners as brutally as China or Russia – because of its technological priority, it simply does not need the brutal approach (which it is more than ready to apply when needed). In this sense, the US is even more dangerous than China insofar as its measures of control are not perceived as such, while Chinese brutality is openly displayed.
It is therefore not enough to play one state against the other (like Snowden, who used Russia against the US): we need a new international network to organise the protection of whistleblowers and the dissemination of their message. Whistleblowers are our heroes because they prove that if those in power can do it, we can also do it.
For defenders of democratic rights and opponents of imperialism, the right of accusers to anonymity do not trump the duty to expose an attempted frameup by sinister imperialist spy agencies. The CIA is far more dangerous to the rights of ordinary people than any individual suspect in a criminal case.
The indictment against Assange that is part of the extradition demand includes Assange allegedly ‘conspiring’ with Manning to access material on government computers, along with such ‘normal’ journalistic activities like seeking information not in the public domain from internal sources, seeking to protect the confidentiality of sources, etc. So such paragons of the liberal bourgeoisie as the Guardian, the New York Times and the Washington Post worry that they could be next. But they were exactly the kind of people who threw Assange under a bus the moment the CIA tried to fit him up on rape charges.
The treachery of this kind of people is epitomised by the so-called Independent Group of MPs, the Umunna-Soubry group, who have, along with dozens of Labour MPs and some Tories, 70 parliamentarians in all, signed a letter to the UK government demanding that Assange should be extradited to Sweden as priority, while the US should take second place. Fat chance – the Swedish case was a means to an end with a limited life, which has now run out, and the imperatives of US imperialism will take precedence. They are no longer deniable, and there is no way the CIA’s tools in Sweden will stand in the way of Uncle Sam. These Tory-Blairites are merely seeking a political alibi for their own actions in support of such blatant attacks on journalism and elementary democratic rights by their imperialist allies.
It is good that Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbot have spoken out against Assange being extradited to the USA, even if their statement was somewhat weak on the ‘rape’ calumny. This mirrors their chronic weakness in the face of the phoney ‘anti-Semitism’ smear campaign in the Labour Party, their failure to stand up for blatant victims of racist abuse by the racist apparatus of their own party, such as Jackie Walker and Marc Wadsworth.
But at least they have spoken out against Assange’s extradition and that ought to place some political obstacles in the way of Assange simply being rendered. There needs to be a broad-based labour movement campaign to stop Assange being buried alive by US imperialism.
Free Assange! Free Manning! Defeat British/US imperialism.
 Craig Murray, Why I am Convinced that Anna Ardin is a Liar 11 Sep, 2012 https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2012/09/why-i-am-convinced-that-anna-ardin-is-a-liar
Defend the Russian Federation!
On 22 June, In a blatantly obvious publicity stunt and military provocation, evidently ordered by Boris Johnson himself, the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Defender, with a BBC Camera crew and a Daily Mail reporter on board, ostentatiously sailed through the territorial waters of Crimea, which has been part of Russia for most of its history and certainly since a popular referendum in 2014 secured a massive majority for Crimea becoming part of the Russian Federation, claiming the waters, and Crimea itself, belongs to its client regime in Ukraine. The outcome of the referendum is hardly surprising, since the majority of the population of Crimea is Russian, not Ukrainian.
The Western imperialists refuse to recognise Crimea’s status as part of Russia, and Johnson’s provocation is a further part of the anti-Russian campaign resulting from that. Indeed the whole point of the Western offensive against Russia, even decades after the Soviet workers state collapsed, is to complete what Hitler sought to do to Russia in 1941. Nations and peoples that have the temerity to have ever overthrown capitalism cannot be allowed to go their own way even after a counterrevolution.
Imperialism demands that they be humiliated, crushed, made into totally dependent lackeys of the world imperialist hegemon, the US. That is why, despite promises made by then-US President George H.W. Bush, to the last Soviet President, Mikhail Gorbachev, that NATO would not be expanded East, NATO has been extended through Eastern Europe all the way to the three Baltic republics of the former USSR – right to the Russia border. Ukraine is to be next. The imperialist-sponsored Ukrainian Maidan coup in 2013 was driven by outright neo-Nazis, admirers of the OUN forces led by Bandera who fought for Hitler against the USSR in the Second World War.
The Defender sailed from Odessa in Ukraine, straight through Crimean (i.e., Russian) territorial waters, just off Sebastopol, which is the headquarters of Russia’s strategic Black Sea naval fleet, on a course towards Georgia. The British government claimed that “The Royal Navy ship is conducting innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters in accordance with international law”. The Russians, quite rightly, did not see the British ship’s activity as ‘innocent’ at all, and fired a series of warning shots at the ship. Then a Russian Sukhoi SU-24 supersonic fighter-bomber dropped several bombs in the path of the Defender to underline the warning.
The bizarre pretence from the government that this was some kind of ‘innocent passage’, and not a pre-planned provocation designed by Johnson’s government, was equally bizarrely exposed when a bunch of confidential Ministry of Defence documents were somehow lost and found at a bus stop in Kent on the morning of Tuesday, 21st June. Incredibly, these documents discussed the likely impact of a provocation that had not happened yet. Defender’s provocation happened the following day. In the words of the Guardian, the documents “discussed the potential Russian reaction to HMS Defender’s travel through Ukrainian waters off the Crimea coast on Wednesday”. The Guardian comments that the documents reveal that the operation “was conducted in the expectation that the Kremlin might respond aggressively.”:
“Three potential Russian responses were outlined, from ‘safe and professional’ to ‘neither safe nor professional’. On Wednesday, Russia said warning shots had been fired, and that a jet had dropped four bombs in the path of the British destroyer to force it to change course. It emerged that cannon had been fired at a safe distance behind the British warship, while there was no evidence to support the latter claim.”https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/jun/27/classified-ministry-defence-papers-found-bus-stop-kent
The Russians released somewhat fragmentary video footage of the incident that shows aspects of threatening confrontation of their craft with the Defender, as well as some activity by Russian aircraft in its vicinity. Its hardly very clear but that is immaterial. The point is that this was a deliberate provocation by the British, and it was designed to ‘test’ the Russian forces’ resolve to defend Crimea’s territorial waters. It was obviously for propaganda purposes which negates the convention of ‘innocent passage’ that the British are trying to use to justify the ship’s presence. Insistence that Crimean waters are ‘Ukrainian’ waters is self-evidently just such a propaganda purpose.
According to what appears to be a freelance military blog called The War Zone/The Drive:
“While all this was going on, it appears that at least one NATO intelligence-gathering aircraft was monitoring the activities in the area. Publicly available flight-tracking data indicated that a U.S. Air Force RC-135V/W Rivet Joint was airborne off the coast of Crimea, having flown in from Souda Bay on the Greek island of Crete.”https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/41239/russia-claims-bombs-dropped-to-warn-off-british-warship-royal-navy-says-it-never-happened
If this is accurate, it does cast some light on what the British were up to. Johnson wants to play the jingoistic ‘Global Britain’ card with his pretentions that not only Russia, but also China’s presence in the South China Sea can be dealt with by the British Empire practice of “sending a gunboat”. But that is a joke. Brexit has made Britain even more of a lackey imperialism to the USA than it had been previously.
The British warship was playing a similar role to the South Korean Airliner KAL-007 in September 1983, when it deliberately flew off course above then-Soviet territory in the Far East (Kamchatka and Sakhalin) to trigger off radar and air defences so that an American spy plane could gather data about the defence capabilities of the USSR, then the main degenerated workers state in the world. Now capitalist, but non-imperialist Russia, is still the target of US imperialism, albeit not as a workers’ state but rather a dependent form of capitalism resisting outright subordination to imperialism, similar tactics are still being used by the US against it.
Far from being ‘Global Britain’, Johnson’s absurd and decrepit British Lion is just a Judas Goat for the US. As indeed was and is South Korea. Johnson even overruled the reservations of Raab, his own foreign minister on this. HMS Defender’s task was setting off Russian defences so that the US could hoover up the data. Hardly “ruling the waves”. More like a pilot fish swimming ahead of a shark.
HMS Defender is lucky that it did not share a similar fate to KAL-007 (whose flight number, in the British context, was indicative of its mission). Russia would have had every right to so respond. In imperialism’s current war drive against the bloc of non-imperialist nations in some way resisting imperialist world domination, not just Russia, but also China, Iran, Syria, Venezuela, and of course the two remaining deformed workers states of Cuba and North Korea, it is in the interests of the world proletariat for the states currently in conflict with imperialism to prevail.
No Support for Starmer’s Labour
This 26 June Peoples Assembly demonstration is important because it is called, in a still simmering pandemic, against the government’s attempts to ram through its Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, under cover of the same pandemic. They calculated that the labour movement and working-class people generally would be so preoccupied with protecting themselves from Covid that they would not have the stomach to fight back against such an attack on basic protest rights. Or that the population are so bloated with nationalist fantasies about Brexit and defeating ‘foreigners’ that they would all snap to attention at the attacks on supposedly ‘woke’ anti-racists and climate protesters, and do as they are told.
They have miscalculated, just as they did about the pandemic. Johnson’s original plan was simply to allow enormous numbers to die, like Trump and Bolsonaro, to maintain profit in the name of ‘herd immunity’: letting the disease ravage the whole population in the hope that survivors would eventually become immune. The population refused to be led to the slaughter for profit, and the government had to take quarantine measures that Johnson had previously mocked as unnecessary in Britain, the ‘Clark Kent’ of capitalism. Still as a result of the government’s repeated sabotage of its own public health measures, and its huge corruption, at least 100,000 perished.
The government has been aided, both in slaughtering the British population by negligence, and in its attacks on democratic rights, by the Labour Party. When the pandemic began Jeremy Corbyn was able to sharply attack Johnson’s malign neglect. But when Starmer tool the reins all that changed, and Labour baldly said it would support the government, “whatever it decided to do”(!). So Starmer supported the sending of kids back into schools in June, before any vaccines existed, which gave the virus room to mutate into the Kent variant and laid the basis for the Second wave. Starmer also refused to oppose the legalisation of rape, torture and murder by the secret police (!) and would have refused to oppose Patel’s anti-protest law if the scandal of the murder of Sara Everard (by a cop!) and the brutalisation of those holding a vigil in her memory, on Patel’s orders, had not exploded the issue.
Starmer’s Labour party deserves no support in parliamentary elections, as the British working class has figured out for themselves, despite those fossils on the British pseudo-left who insist that Labour is still the embodiment of the British working class’s aspirations for social reform and class consciousness. It self-evidently is no longer anything of the sort, as shown by its pathetic poll ratings in the face of a brazenly corrupt and self-seeking gang in government, the loss of Hartlepool to the Tories, the lost deposit in Chesham and Amersham (from second place in 2019!) and the upcoming loss of Batley and Spen. Those sections of the working class who were enthused by Corbyn certainly have no illusions that Starmer represents anything ‘working class’ and quite rightly let him go hang! The most class conscious workers are fully aware that the Blairite/Zionist wing of Labour are Tories in all but name, and vote with their feet accordingly. They are right to do so: the road to the rebirth of working class politics lies through the destruction and humiliation of these bastards, whose aim is to stymie any possibility of an alternative to neoliberal capitalist reaction.
There will be social-political struggles and explosions under this government. Hence the attacks on democratic rights – Johnson and co. are battening down the hatches already. We need a party of the working class to give them political leadership, and the Labour Party is worse than useless right now. Those desperately trying to ‘stay in and fight’ should not be simply dismissed, but the urgent need is for a public political pole of defiance of Zionist New Labour. We support Chris Wiliamson’s initiative, the Resistance Movement, as the beginning of such an initiative, though we do not necessarily have to agree with everything it does (supporting George Galloway’s ‘Workers Party’ candidacy in Batley and Spen, given his own support for Farage and the Scottish Tories, is in our view a mistake). But we still see this is as the most likely vehicle for a new political party of the left in Britain to emerge.
We will support, critically when necessary, any initiative in the labour movement that points in the right direction politically. Thus, we supported Howard Beckett’s highly political candidacy for the leadership of Unite, which he has unfortunately now withdrawn under immense pressure from the left bureaucracy of which he is still part. This shows the limitations of bureaucratic politics even in its most left manifestations and underlines that the labour movement needs something more than this (though it is an open question whether the blended Turner-Beckett campaign is the complete negation of Beckett’s original). It needs a revolutionary leadership and programme, and a revolutionary party, which is the only way a political force can be created that will not back down in the face of our class enemies and their agents in the workers movement.
After Israel’s May Defeat
The following article was distributed on the People’s Assembly Demonstration in London on June 26th as part of a Communist Fight supplement. The demonstration itself, though worthy enough, did not manage to connect with some of the sizeable and youthful movements that have errupted against racism (Black Lives Matter), environmental degradation and disaster (Extinction Rebellion) as well as some of the mobilisations against the Police Bill. The turnout, no more than around 10,000 as a rough estimate, was quite disappointing in that regard.
The one seriously dynamic part of the demonstration was those who came to demonstrate against Zionist crimes and in support of the Palestinians. A late decision had been taken by the organisers to appeal for Palestine activists to turn out and build a anti-war, pro-Palestinian contingent. They saved the march and gave it a dynamism it otherwise lacked. Our supplement which addressed this head on with the article below as well as another one about the situation with the government and the Labour Party, was well received: we distributed over 200 of them.
May’s Saif Al-Quds (Sword of Jerusalem) war was an important political defeat for the Israeli ethnocracy. It showed Zionism is not all powerful, despite its hi-tech weaponry and the massive military and economic largesse it receives from its imperialist allies with their overlapping Zionist lobbies – Israel’s partners in crime. But Israel will not easily be overcome. Unlike South Africa, its settler colonialism is far more entrenched and aims to eliminate the native Arab population of Palestine, not exploit it. Unlike that previous racist transplant, Israel is far more strategically placed within the Western imperialist powers and its lobby is a powerful imperialist force, albeit of varying strength, within the ruling capitalist classes of Europe and North America.
The Zionist lobbies are a unique formation based centrally on ethnocentric Jewish chauvinist politics within the Western imperialist ruling classes. They are an alliance of similarly minded but sometimes dissenting factions – they are not monolithic. A Jewish-born capitalist in the West is entitled by right to Israeli citizenship under Israel’s racist ‘Law of Return’, and thus to become part of Israel’s ruling class. Many though not all do. Israel is not a Western colonial servant as much of the softer left says. Much of Israel’s power comes from these pro-Israel ruling-class factions overseas. Israel’s ruling class overlaps with the ruling classes of the West, which is why its power is proportionately much greater than its size and population. Without this, Israel’s power would be no greater than that of, say Denmark. But Denmark’s Prime Minister cannot do things like marching into the US Congress to ovations from all sides while denouncing Obama’s Iran deal, as Netanyahu did in 2015. Denmark does not have overseas interests who can do things like sabotaging the Labour Party here, as happened to Corbyn through a torrent of smears and lies.
Elbit Systems, whose facilities in Oldham courageous Palestine Action supporters have been occupying, symbolises what Israel is about. This is not some Western arms exporter supplying arms to a client, like Saudi Arabia in Yemen. This is an Israeli arms company that supplies high-tech weaponry to the West and its clients: to the British armed forces, those of the US, France, Italy, Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, the Philippines; from military drones to night-vision equipment and other military surveillance equipment. Its military hardware is marketed as tested in action, i.e., against the Palestinian people. Israel is a far tougher nut to crack than any mere colonial outpost, it is an imperialist enemy in its own right. Therefore, you get the contradictory phenomenon where, while Israel sometimes acts like a Western client state, at other times the US and other Western powers act like Israeli client states. The overlapping of the ruling classes means there is an element of truth in both.
We must know what we are up against. Otherwise, we will be suckers for the smears about ‘anti-Semitism’ that have driven back the left repeatedly. Israel is a key element of world imperialism and will not be defeated or humanised by liberal pressure tactics or boycotts based on moral disgust. While boycott campaigns like BDS have some value, this is only as a step towards mobilising working-class actions. Mass solidarity demonstrations like the ones in Britain are crucial. But even more the labour actions boycotting Israeli ships and/or arms shipments in San Francisco, Italy and elsewhere. These point the way toward internationally based working-class revolutionary action to inflict major defeats on Zionism, and indeed given Israel’s key role as a quartermaster and a centre of neo-liberalism, on world capitalism itself.
It is crucial, but not enough, to protest and mobilise against Zionism and imperialism’s wars, their crimes against the Palestinians, their threats to Iran, to Syria, and the region. What this points to is the need for a strategy of permanent revolution, of the working class acting as the leader of all the oppressed, with the centrally Arab working class in the Middle East struggling for its own power, overthrowing class and national oppression, liberating both itself and the Jewish population from Zionism which is a key mainstay of capitalist oppression.
The following is a translation of a leaflet issued by the Emancipation of Labour movement in Brazil (a working-class revolutionary trend which the Brazilian LCFI section, the Frente Comunista dos Trabalhadores, supports and works closely with), before the massive nationwide Day of Demonstrations on 19th June where marchers demanded the impeachment and expulsion from power of Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s depraved Neo-Nazi president, whose misrule has led to a mountain of deaths from Covid. The fury against Bolsonaro among the Brazilian working class is finally turning into mass political action. And this is expressed in the exponential increase in the number of protesters and cities that participate in national protests. The May 29 demonstration 2021 took place in 213 Brazilian cities and 14 cities outside Brazil and was attended by approximately 200 thousand people. At the demonstration on June 19, that is, 20 days later, more than 750,000 people in 427 acts in Brazil and in 17 countries abroad took to the streets against Bolsonaro.
F. A. S., a 26-year-old seamstress, worked in an average company with a signed portfolio, with her husband. A mother of three, and pregnant, she contracted Covid. The husband had to leave work to take care of the children and the house, and both were fired. They were unable to pay the rent of almost 400 reais, in addition to the bills for food, water, electricity, gas, internet, … He received emergency aid which was later reduced. The family became unemployed and homeless during the pandemic. They have joined dozens of other workers in a similar situation to occupy land abandoned for decades. In a police raid on the occupation, F.A.S. lost the baby. After all that, she remained firmly in the occupation Carlos Marighela, who resisted for several months against several other threats of eviction, obtained the solidarity of various parties, unions and left-wing organizations and emerged victorious.
Poverty and extreme poverty punish 61.1 million Brazilians. Unemployment has already hit a record high and reached 14.4 million people, the highest number in a decade. Blacks, women, and people with less education are hit hardest. Official inflation (IPCA) recorded the highest peak in 25 years. Fuel prices and cooking gas are still rising. Correios, Eletrobrás and Caixa Econômica are threatened with privatization later this year. This will raise (even more) their service prices, such as the electricity bill, and further increase the number of unemployed.
We are impoverished to make them rich. The Bolsonaro government is a fascist and perverse government that conducts a new cycle of enrichment of the bosses. Blackmailing with blows and exploiting the pandemic the government increases poverty, unemployment, despair and hunger. The government’s greatest aspiration is to consolidate a military dictatorship, police and militias, creating a coup so not to leave power anymore. The last presidential elections in 2018 have already been intervened by the Armed Forces high command so that Lula, the candidate for which much of the population intended to vote, remained unjustly imprisoned. That election was the continuity and deepening of the 2016 coup. And the 2022 elections will be rigged if we allow them to.
Although there are differences between O Globo (Brazil’s main bourgeois media organisation), the Supreme Court, the PSDB with Bolsonaro, all were together in the coup and work together in a bosses front, attacking the living conditions of the population. We workers need to create our own front, to unite for our common interests. To fight hunger, poverty, unemployment, evictions, police violence and the pandemic, in the streets and in elections, to fight for a workers government. This time, ours alone, no bosses. The 2016 coup was the result of the popular front of workers with bosses. It is clear that we can only trust ourselves and not those who six years ago joined with Bolsonaro to carry out a coup against us.
We need a united front of the left-wing labour parties to stay alive, not just for the 2022 elections. To get rid of Bolsonaro and the many military personnel who have come to power we need to organize committees of unemployed, sharing basic supplies, supporting occupations, plenary sessions, strikes, mutual assistance funds. If most workers are already forced to expose themselves to the virus to work, staying at home without a fight does not solve the problem of the pandemic. You must go out on the street carefully but go out and fight so as not to die of hunger, or shooting, or Covid.
May 29th was important. June 19th, too. But we need more than that to achieve the demands of our parade. “Bolsonaro Out!” just to wear down the government, it’s not enough for us. It is necessary to create a united national plan of mobilization and struggle, with united demonstrations, without divisionism, organized by Popular Workers’ Assemblies to defend the lives of workers. We need a journey of continuous struggle to ensure the implementation of measures that take us out of the current suffocation. We at Emancipation of Labour think that some of these measures to combat the Pandemic and get out of the Crisis should be:
1. Immediate and mass vaccination for the entire population, prioritizing the poorest and most vulnerable sectors!
2. Emergency aid of a minimum wage for all underemployed and unemployed!
3. Against inflation, freezing the products of the basic basket, gas, fuels and rents.
4. Exemption from all tariffs with continuity of provision of water, energy, internet services!
5. No layoffs or evictions in the city and in the countryside!
6. Nationalization without indemnification of the big companies that close!
7. Nationalization and control by the workers’ organizations of pharmaceutical companies, medical supplies and the private health system!
8. General amnesty of workers’ debts to the loan sharks of banks and credit cards! Credit to associations and production cooperatives without interest!
9. Do not return to face-to-face classes until vaccination of the entire population!
10. Repeal of labor, social security and all coup measures.
11. Full rights of Brazilian citizenship for all immigrants.
12. Down with the government – Bolsonaro, Mourão and all scammers!
13. Let millionaires, bankers and foreign companies pay for the crisis!
14. Against the oppression of women, blacks and lgbtqa+ of the working class, the indigenous and quilombolas*!
15. End the of repression of the working class!
*population descendent from rebel ex-slaves
Recently the Trotskyist Faction decided to change our name. This became necessary after the formal split of the Gerry Downing grouping/website that still calls itself Socialist Fight from the international tendency that we previously commonly adhered to, the Liaison Committee for the Fourth International (LCFI). We came into existence as a faction to defend the previous programmatic positions of SF, and particularly the consistent hard anti-Zionist positions that SF had become known for over the past 5 years or so, from attack by the other side of the dispute. For the full background of this it would be useful for new readers to examine three documents.
The first being our January 2020 Platform within Socialist Fight. This codified our basic programmatic positions. In the text there are references to five basic documents of our tendency, which expand on the politics of the Platform in considerably more detail. They are available on the ‘Basic Documents’ section of our website, at https://www.socialistfight.org/basic-documents/, for convenience of readers.
The second document necessary to understand this is entitled Trotskyist Faction Takes on the Mantle of Socialist Fight, https://www.socialistfight.org/uncategorized/trotskyist-faction-takes-on-the-mantle-of-socialist-fight/, dated March 2020. It contains a full account both of the political reasons for, and the course of, the faction fight that took place in Socialist Fight in January-March 2020, which culminated in Downing splitting away from us, and the LCFI Secretariat in the Americas recognising two sections, Socialist Fight and our Trotskyist Faction/Socialist Fight, as dual British sections of the LCFI until the situation could be resolved.
The third document that needs to be read to explain this, is the document produced collectively by the LCFI itself, in the aftermath of the rump Socialist Fight grouping led by Gerry Downing formally splitting away from the LCFI, titled LCFI Statement on the departure of the Downing faction of Socialist Fight (Britain), https://www.socialistfight.org/uncategorized/lcfi-statement-on-the-departure-of-the-downing-faction-of-socialist-fight-britain/, in February 2021, it explains the overall context of the differences that led to this grouping splitting away from us. We will not repeat this here obviously but given that this grouping has left the LCFI and is using the name Socialist Fight, we are no longer a faction of anything, but just the British Section of the LCFI. So, we need a new name, which reflects our independent existence.
We have chosen the name Consistent Democrats, which we have been using as a provisional, alternative designation for our faction since last summer, knowing that the name Trotskyist Faction had a limited life. Why use this name? Well it is a name the Bolshevik Party used when the Russian Social Democrats (Bolsheviks) were formally illegalised under Tsarism. Obviously, we are not suffering from that problem. But we have been suffering from the hostility of the soft-left and pseudo-left and there has been a fairly systematic attempt by much of the left that is politically soft on Zionism and the Zionist lobby, not to engage with our politics, but to suppress them.
So, in a sense, our use of this name expresses the fact that we have been fairly systematically the target of attacks on workers democracy by the capitulatory left. Because of this, we are the only tendency on the left that has consistently opposed the Zionist-fuelled right-wing witchhunt in the Labour Party. Other trends on the left have refused to defend the whole left against the ‘anti-Semitism’ smear campaign, always finding some left-wing tendency or individual (often, but not exclusively, ourselves) as unworthy of defence, suitable to be thrown under the bus and denounced as real left-wing ‘anti-Semites’ who can be sacrificed to appease the witch-hunters. Which it never does, of course, their attitude is that as soon as their adversaries give an inch, they immediately try to take a mile.
As well as that, the name has the advantage that it is distinctive; there are so many Trotskyist fragments around with very similar names as a result of the fragmentation of the Trotskyoid left, (a serious problem whose causes we have made a serious attempt to address) that this name is somewhat distinctive.
The name does have its dangers and drawbacks though. As Trotsky once noted regarding its use by the Bolsheviks in illegality:
“”the Bolsheviks were compelled to call themselves, at trade union meetings and in the legal press, not Social Democrats, but ‘Consistent Democrats’. True, this did not pass scot free; a considerable number of elements adhered to Bolshevism who more or less were consistent democrats, but not at all international socialists; however, by supplementing legal with illegal activity, Bolshevism overcame the difficulties.”Writings, 1935-36, p156
There would potentially be an opportunist danger if we were simply operating under the banner of ourselves as Consistent Democrats; it would seem to dilute the socialist content of our political activity in a similar way as Trotsky noted above.
However, our journal, which we have been publishing since the inception of our faction just over a year ago, is called Communist Fight. This in our view counteracts the danger Trotsky referred to splendidly. Far from diluting the communist element of our politics, it highlights it very sharply.
So, we are now the Consistent Democrats. This is splendid in our view. Marxists are the consistent democrats, we seek to take up all struggles around genuinely democratic questions, all questions involving oppression, in the spirit of Lenin’s Bolshevik Party. As Lenin famously said in What is to be Done (1903):
“the Social-Democrat’s ideal should not be the trade union secretary, but the tribune of the people, who is able to react to every manifestation of tyranny and oppression, no matter where it appears, no matter what stratum or class of the people it affects; who is able to generalise all these manifestations and produce a single picture of police violence and capitalist exploitation; who is able to take advantage of every event, however small, in order to set forth before all his socialist convictions and his democratic demands, in order to clarify for all and everyone the world-historic significance of the struggle for the emancipation of the proletariat.”https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1901/witbd/iii.htm