Trotskyist Faction or Consistent Democrats: What’s in a Name?

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

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