WSWS (ICFI) ultimatism on the trade union question serves the US imperialist bourgeoisie

Produced as a collaboration with the FCT, Brazilian Section of the LCFI

The World Socialist Website (WSWS) is the portal of the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI). The WSWS is among the best left-wing Trotskyist sites on the planet. In fact, not all non-Trotskyist people who access the WSWS know that it is a website for a Trotskyist organization. And even less that this organization is called the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI). By dedicating themselves to the virtual world, they bring good information and have become experts in it.

But, virtue turned into addiction. The ICFI became sectarian, ultimatist in relation to union struggles, completely capitulated to virtual militancy, on the internet, and rejected all union activity of the working class on principle.

The ICFI-WSWS is opposed to working in workers’ unions on the grounds that they are run by reactionary bureaucrats – which has been true for 200 years and worldwide, but does not justify resignation – as is very clear and wordy here in this anti-union “training course” of the organization’s leader:

1. Why are unions hostile to socialism? By David North, 15 June 2019

2. That same position is here:Postal worker must draw some immediate conclusions, and one of them must be to take this current action out of the hands of the union and form rank and file committees. This really is a life and death issue. (Communication Workers Union folds 48 hours after Royal Mail threatens 20,000 jobs, Thomas Scripps, 2 May 2020).

3. And also here where the workers’ unions, led by bureaucrats, equals the Democratic Party of the US imperialist bourgeoisie:But yesterday’s stunt constituted an effort by the Democratic Party, the unions, and their hangers-on to disrupt and gain control of this growing movement of workers against the efforts by the corporations to force them to continue working during the pandemic under unsafe conditions .. ..Workplace committees are also necessary for workers to defend themselves against the efforts of the Democratic Party and the unions to hijack and disrupt their struggles. (May 1 “general strike” at Amazon: A failed adventure by theDemocratic Party and the unions, The International Amazon Workers Voice, 2 May 2020).

Union activity is the basic working class par excellence, it is its first awareness of the political struggle against bosses, businessmen, police and the capitalist state. Without going through this school and without discovering the limits of that school, it is difficult for workers to acquire revolutionary consciousness, class consciousness as a class for themselves, communist consciousness.

The ICFI abandoned the working class and became useless for mobilising the masses in their place of work, study and housing. They believe that they can completely replace unions with “grassroots committees” as led by the ICFI itself. It is “take it or leave it”: they carry out militancy directly in the ranks of the ICFI, or nothing. They do not consider the level of understanding of the workers or their expectations on the subject.

We believe that Parties, Unions and the Grassroots Committees are all useful and that they fulfill different functions. We need to bring the masses to revolutionary conclusions, based on common experience with them. For ICFI, unions are instruments as evil as the Democratic Party, they are also bandits. And the reality is not like that, black or white, no matter how bad the union bureaucracies are anywhere in the world. They are very gangsterish and bourgeois in the USA, but they are also in South Africa, Argentina and Brazil. We cannot help workers to overcome their illusions in the union struggle through ultimatums. Trade unions are a historic achievement for the working class. They suffered degeneration, along with the degeneration of capitalism towards barbarism, but they are still an instrument that needs to be regained from the hands of union bureaucracies for workers in their daily political struggle. And even if this reconquest is not carried out, this struggle is important to advance the workers’ consciousness.

Lenin was outspoken in the aftermath of the Russia revolution against such ‘principled’ refusal to engage with mass trade unions:

“We are waging a struggle against the ‘labour aristocracy’ in the name of the masses of the workers and in order to win them over to our side; we are waging the struggle against the opportunist and social-chauvinist leaders in order to win the working class over to our side. It would be absurd to forget this most elementary and most self-evident truth. Yet it is this very absurdity that the German ‘Left’ Communists perpetrate when, because of the reactionary and counter-revolutionary character of the trade union top leadership, they jump to the conclusion that . . . we must withdraw from the trade unions, refuse to work in them, and create new and artificial forms of labour organisation! This is so unpardonable a blunder that it is tantamount to the greatest service Communists could render the bourgeoisie. Like all the opportunist, social-chauvinist, and Kautskyite trade union leaders, our Mensheviks are nothing but ‘agents of the bourgeoisie in the working-class movement’ (as we have always said the Mensheviks are), or ‘labour lieutenants of the capitalist class’, to use the splendid and profoundly true expression of the followers of Daniel De Leon in America. To refuse to work in the reactionary trade unions means leaving the insufficiently developed or backward masses of workers under the influence of the reactionary leaders, the agents of the bourgeoisie, the labour aristocrats, or ‘workers who have become completely bourgeois’… ” (Lenin, Left Wing Communism, an Infantile Disorder, May 1920)

As Comrade Trot 20 years later, Trotsky returned to the same point and was equally incisive:

 “From what has been said it follows quite clearly that, in spite of the progressive degeneration of trade unions and their growing together with the imperialist state, the work within the trade unions not only does not lose any of its importance but remains as before and becomes in a certain sense even more important work than ever for every revolutionary party. The matter at issue is essentially the struggle for influence over the working class. Every organization, every party, every faction which permits itself an ultimatistic position in relation to the trade union, i.e., in essence turns its back upon the working class, merely because of displeasure with its organizations, every such organization is destined to perish. And it must be said it deserves to perish. “

(Leon Trotsky, Trade Unions In the Epoch of Imperialist Decay, August 1940).

In this respect, ICFI’s anti-union sectarianism has made it become a functional grouping under the control of that wing of imperialism within the US Democratic Party which continues to control the majority of the hearts and minds of the proletariat in the heart of the imperialist monster, in the most powerful country To paraphrase Lenin, ICFI’s leftism “amounts to the greatest service that the communists could provide the bourgeoisie.” In this case, the ICFI has the aggravation against itself of providing this service to the US imperialist bourgeoisie, the most exploitative and oppressive of the world working class.

It is true that because there is no alternative to the left of the Democratic Party to fight for the consciousness of the American proletariat. In 2016, in the industrial belts of the USA, especially in the workers’ cities of the so-called rust belt, workers who felt threatened by competition from Chinese industrialists voted for Trump’s protectionism.

With the wearing down Trump’s influence, a fraction of the left of the Democratic Party has again seduced the workers, though the social-imperialist Bernie Sanders. At this time when Sanders betrayed the most recent and perhaps historically greatest wave of socialism in US history, despite Bernie Sanders, it would be important to have a revolutionary Trotskyist organization capitalizing on disillusion within the immediate struggles, the union struggles of the important American proletariat, but the WSWS is relatively good for information, but not for organizing the fight against imperialism. Now, with the pandemic destroying the main card in Trump’s sleeve, full employment, with growing disillusionment with the two wings of imperialism, class conscious and communist workers’ reorganization is the order of the day, so it is important to build a independent workers’ party.

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