First Published: People’s Canada Daily News/On the Line, Vol 5, Nos 227-232, September 22-27, 1975
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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An organisation, fraudulently calling itself the “British and Irish Communist Organisation”, exists here in Ireland, as well as in Britain, and despite the fact that it opposes Marxism-Leninism on every basic as well as secondary question, and has even gone to the depth of ’criticising Chairman Mao, and Comrade Lenin’, opposing directly the analysis of Stalin, Marx, and Engels, and openly upholding the renegade and dog of the Second International, Kautsky, it parades itself as ’Communist’ and ’Stalinist’. This organisation is nothing but a clique of splitters and disruptors drawn from assorted splits or attempted splits, and headed by Brendan Clifford, a trotskyite.
The sole orientation of this clique is opposition to the proletarian revolution in Ireland, as well as in Britain (where they are trying desperately to increase their influence) and throughout the world and its main activity for this end is that of seeking out ’quotations’ from the Marxist-Leninist classics in order to put a ’Marxist-Leninist’ front on the activity of counter-revolution and sow maximum confusion in the working class movement, Both in theory and in practice every stand they take sides with British imperialism and the Irish capitalist class (in their case the unionist section in the north) to oppose the workers and small farmers, oppose the revolutionary intellectuals, oppose the struggle against the entire imperialist dominated capitalist system in Ireland.
They oppose the trade union movement and oppose the, right and necessity for workers to go on strike to maintain their standard of living, they support the British Conservative Party as the most ’sensible’ force in British politics and Enoch Powell, that arch racist and fascist, as an ’honest and good intentioned politician’. They support U.S. imperialism and oppose the People’s Republic of China and the great, glorious and correct Communist Party of China – just like all trotskyites do – and preach rabid great nation chauvinism in the British working class movement against the people of the colonies and neo-colonies. In short, they are criminal elements using the name of Marxism-Leninism for the sole purpose of trying to give British imperialist rule in Ireland and the rule of the British monopoly capitalist class a lease of life from its deathbed by trying to mislead the working class movement. Not only do the B & I’C’O (better called the British and Irish Trotskyite Organisation) preach political support for reaction, but they bare facedly preach open support for the British imperialist mercenary army as a ’peace keeping’ army ’serving the working class’ and for the Garda Siochana and the British state police. In one Dublin meeting in which their views were being exposed and denounced by genuine Marxist-Leninists from CPI(M-L), one of their spokesmen – Ros. Mitchell – openly called in the Gardai to arrest the CPI(M-L) comrades, whilst their leader, Brendan Clifford, boasts openly of the friendly attitude of the British imperialist army to his organisation and himself!
The British and Irish Trotskyite Organisation are nothing basically but a band of criminals and openly aligned agents of British imperialism seeking to cause disruption and counter-revolution. In their criminal attempt to cause disruption and mislead the people, they have resorted to misquoting and quoting out of context Marxism-Leninism, to one-sidedly picking up various ’facts’ from Irish history in order to ’prove’ their concoctions from books, and they have dished up all the anti-Marxist theories of the past under an up to date label, that is, revisionism, the theories of Kautskyism, trotskyism and all forms of opportunism including social democracy. In 1967 they wore Mao badges and hid their trotskyism more carefully, but, since then, like an irresistible force of history, their true trotskyite nature has come floating to the surface, despite their attempts to cover it over with a thin layer of Marxism. The last seven years have totally exposed the B & ITO as the most bankrupt of organisations and the chieftain of opportunist trends in Ireland, as well in fact, as in Britain. Their counter revolutionary theories and practice has no ’good side’, except as a teacher by negative example. Although they are numerically very small, and highly insignificant in that sense, nevertheless their distortion of Marxism-Leninism merits our attention precisely because they epitomise and concentrate all the opportunist lines present in the revolutionary movement today, sowing confusion and causing disunity amongst the people. It is from the standpoint of serving the present needs of the revolutionary movement that the B & ITO’s treacherous theories need to be exposed and will be systematically refuted in the pages of this paper in the coming months. The needs of the revolutionary movement today demand that the rope with which the B & ITO have fully exposed themselves in the last 7 years, and which has turned into a noose, now demands to be tightened.
As Chairman Mao Tsetung pointed out in 1970: “The danger of a third world was still exists and the people of all countries must get prepared but revolution is the main trend in the world today,” or as the Chinese comrades said more recently: “The wind sweeping through the trees heralds a rising storm in the mountain.” The great upheaval in the world has developed apace since the repudiation of the betrayal of the Khrushchovite revisionists and especially since the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China. With these significant events, genuine Marxist-Leninists all over the world divided with revisionism and began the task of rebuilding the genuine Marxist-Leninist centres. These new centres did not establish themselves in one fell swoop but through a protracted struggle against line of the Khrushchovite revisionists internationally as well as in their own parties. This movement in turn hastened the development of the revolutionary movement and gave it a new lease of life, so that when the contradictions, in the imperialist system began moving once again into severe crisis, a revolutionary movement began to develop against imperialism and revisionism and for proletarian socialism, a ’great upheaval’ began.
This new upsurge in the revolutionary movement has presented important tasks to the genuine Marxist-Leninists, some of which are new and some of them old, but re-emphasised and re-outlined. One of the crucial tasks amongst these is that in order for the revolutionary swell amongst the people to advance, it is necessary for the genuine Marxist-Leninists and revolutionaries to come together and work for unity, in order that the people’s movement can wage united struggle against imperialism and reaction. To achieve this the task of differentiating sham from genuine Marxism-Leninism has become a high priority on the order of the day, as genuine unity can only be forged by gradually isolating opportunist trends from genuinely revolutionary trends. This question of exposing sham Marxism-Leninism is also important because the workers’ movement, imbued with a new determination, has increased in its political level and depth compared to a few years ago, but is actively being misled or disintegrated in places by opportunist lines, and people are demanding answers to serious theoretical questions.
In the early and mid-nineteen sixties the main struggle was to expose and denounce Khrushchovite revisionism as in the ’Communist’ Party of Ireland and in Britain in the ’Communist’ Party of Great Britain and various groups and tendencies came into existence in the course of that struggle, under the banner of Marxism-Leninism. What these trends had in common at that time was that they opposed the Khrushchovite line and supported the genuine Marxist-Leninist line as upheld by the Communist Party of China in the People’s Republic of China. At that time there were various disagreements in theory and practice between these Marxist-Leninists, which at times were very sharp. At that stage it was also important to work for the maximum unity and to oppose sham Marxism and the Internationalists, forerunner of CPI(M-L), engaged in this process. For example, throughout 1967 the Internationalists sought to develop some basis of unity with other Marxist-Leninists in Ireland as well as in Britain and convened the historic “Necessity for Change Conference” in London in August 1967 as part of this attempt and as part of the struggle to rebuild the revolutionary headquarters.
At this time there were sharp differences between the various Marxist-Leninists gathered, The first of them was between dogmatism and Marxism-Leninism. Various of the ’Marxist-Leninists’ headed by the B & ITO, claimed that the Internationalists were not revolutionary because “they did not use Marxist terminology” and because they had carried, out analysis of the imperialist superstructure from the point of view of moving youth and student and general revolutionary movement forward and “Marx had never done this”. Of course Marx could not have analysed what never existed in his time, i.e. the imperialist superstructure, but these dogmatists could not apply Marx’s analysis of the capitalist society and of the philosophical and cultural superstructure of capitalism to the present conditions. This exposed the dogmatic character of the B & ITO at that time, and pointed to the necessity to uphold the Marxist-Leninist line that ’Marxism is concrete analysis of concrete conditions’ and that the correct orientation is to proceed from the desire to serve the people and to defeat imperialism, and from that to analyse the real world using Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought as a guide to action. This disagreement also manifested itself sharply on the question of what the Marxist-Leninists should do in 1967, with the B & ITO leading the trend of advocating ’studying Marxism-Leninism from books’ in order to ’advance the theoretical level of the movement’ whilst the Internationalists advocated developing the practice of the revolutionary movement (which at that stage was at a relative low), using Marxism-Leninism to guide that, and through this process developing the necessary theoretical guidelines for further advancing the revolutionary movement in Ireland, as well as in Britain. (Note... the English Internationalists, forerunner of the Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist), sister party of the CPI(M-L), was founded at this conference.)
However the most important difference in the Marxist-Leninists at that time (which was related to the differences just mentioned) was the fact that some of them were interested to build further unity and clarify differences between one another whilst others – again headed by, the B & ITO were not, and merely wanted to use differences as an excuse for splittism and then run around like mad dogs labelling the Internationalists and various other groups who participated as ’all bad’, ’totally reactionary’, ’anti-Marxist’, ’existentialist’ and other such nonsense. The B & ITO walked out of the “Necessity for Change Conference” following their splittist line and since that date have made it their business to oppose every inch of development of the Internationalists and CPI(M-L), i.e. every inch of development of the Marxist-Leninist headquarters in Ireland.
However, in 1967, although it was clear that there were theoretical as well as practical differences between the various trends, it was only possible to resolve these to a certain extent, and in fact the main task was the necessity to unite against Khrushchovite revisionism on the basis of Marxism-Leninism and in support of the Communist Party of China and the People’s Republic of China and to resolve other questions as they emerged in the course of time. Therefore, although the Internationalists sought to clarify various differences at that time, their main interest was to develop a spirit for unity and to make concrete attempts to do that. This is why, for example, after the conference they attempted to get the B & ITO and various Marxist-Leninists to attempt to build unity.
Since 1967, the world has changed and the “great disorder under heaven” favourable to revolution has increased manyfold. The situation now is that in order to be able to provide leadership to the revolutionary movement it is even more important for the genuine Marxist-Leninists to adopt the spirit of wanting to unite and for them to make concrete attempts at this. It is also more important to struggle against sham Marxism-Leninism in order to achieve this. Since 1967, the relatively small disagreements (which however reflected two fundamentally different world outlooks and standpoints) have turned into full disagreements between the CPI (M-L) and the B & ITO, whilst the two lines, genuine Marxism-Leninism versus opportunism, have developed throughout various Marxist-Leninist groups and circles, and need to be patiently clarified and sorted out in order that genuine Marxist-Leninists can unite.
Our differences with the B & ITO began as specified, in the Necessity for Change Conference, on the question of where do correct ideas come from and is Marxism-Leninism a dogma or a guide to action, and should the revolutionaries build the revolutionary movement in theory as well as practice or sit on the sidelines “theorising from books” and ultimately oppose it. The birth of the Internationalists out of the revolutionary youth and student movement of the day was led by the piercing formulation by Comrade Hardial Bains, who was the founder and leader of the Internationalists in Ireland from 1965-1968 and is now Chairman of the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist). Comrade Bains put forward “Understanding requires an act of consdous participation by tine individual, an act of finding out”, a formulation which cut through the imperialist superstructure of loyalty to the status quo, non-investigation and lackey mentality as well as cutting through the activities of the revisionists of divorcing theory from practice and creating a hiatus between the two. The B & ITO went wild at this formulation, as it sized up their practice, and unable to defeat it by sheer sophistry, went into realms of “investigation”, buried themselves in books in order to find some quotation to “disprove” it, showing in the course of this their utter bankruptcy, the utter bankruptcy of their so-called Marxism-Leninism and their total failure to grasp the specific features of the time (see the next in the series of articles on the B & ITO).
This disagreement with the B & ITO developed since 1967, and has arisen now on every issue fundamental to the Irish revolution. The B & ITO epitomise everything reactionary in the Irish revolution, using on the one hand narrow nationalism and national chauvinism and then turning to the other reactionary pole of opposing the solution of the national question as “totally reactionary”.
The B & ITO are the chieftains of opportunism in Ireland and Britain, and although their line in concrete form is not upheld widely (even most opportunists have more shame), echoes of it sound throughout the Marxist-Leninist camp.
The existence of opportunism is a definite feature of imperialism, and as Comrade Lenin said, without fighting against opportunism the fight against imperialism is a “sham and a humbug”. On opportunism Comrade Lenin pointed out in Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism:
What is the economic basis of this world historic phenomenon?
Precisely the parasitism and decay of capitalism which are characteristic of its highest historical stage of development, i.e. imperialism. As is proved in this pamphlet, capitalism has now singled out ahandful (less than one-tenth of the inhabitants of the globe; less than one-fifth at a most ’generous’ and liberal calculation) of exceptionally rich and powerful states which plunder the whole world simply by ’clipping coupons’. Capital exports yield an income of eight to ten billion francs per annum, at prewar prices and according to prewar bourgeois statistics. Now, of course, they yield much more.
Obviously, out of such enormous superprofits (since they are obtained over and above the profits which capitalists squeeze out of the workers of their “own” country) it is possible to bribe the labour leaders and the upper stratum of the labour aristocracy. And the capitalists of the ’advanced’ countries are bribing them; they bribe them in a thousand different ways, direct and indirect, overt and covert.
This stratum of bourgeoisified wailers, or the ’labour aristocracy’, who are quite philistine in their mode of life, in the size of their earnings and in their entire outlook, is the principal prop of the Second International, and, in our days, the principal social (not military) prop of the bourgeoisie. For they are real agents of the bourgeoisie in the working class movement, the labour, lieutenants of the capitalist class, real channels of reformism and chauvinism. In the civil war between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie they inevitably, and in no small numbers, take the side of the bourgeoisie, the ’Versaillese’ against the ’Communards’.
Unless the economic roots of this phenomenon are understood and its political and social significance is appreciated, not a step can be taken toward the solution of the impending social revolution.(Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, pp. 9-10, V.I.Lenin, 1920, Foreign Languages Press, Peking, 1965.)
This is precisely the basis for the existence of the B & ITO and it is precisely because of this that it is necessary to expose their theories and unite genuine Marxist-Leninists against such sham Marxism-Leninism. Otherwise Marxism-Leninism becomes a matter of interpretation and discussion, with all kinds of groups and all kinds of “opinions” and “interpretatians” about the present situation, If this is allowed to be the case the revolutionary movement will never advance because the life and soul of Marxism-Leninism will be denied, that is its basis in practice. As Chairman Mao Tsetung said,
The dialectical materialist theory of knowledge places practice in the primary position, holding that human knowledge can in no way be separated from practice and repudiating all the erroneous theories which deny the importance of practice or separate knowledge from practice. Thus Lenin said, ’Practice is higher than (theoretical) knowledge, for it has not only the dignity of universality, but also of immediate actuality’. The Marxist philosophy of dialectical materialism has two outstanding characteristics. One is its class nature: it openly avows that dialectical materialism is in the service of the proletariat. The other is its practicality: it emphasises the dependence of theory on practice, emphasises that theory is based on practice and in turn serves practice. The truth of any knowledge or theory is determined not by subjective feelings, but by objective results in social practice. Only social practice can be the criterion of truth. The standpoint of practice is the primary and basic standpoint in the dialectical-materialist theory of knowledge.” (Reprinted from Selected Readings from the Works of Mao Tsetung, Foreign Languages Press, Peking, 1967.)
The B & ITO have not left one page of opportunism unturned in their activities and their ’cooking up of theories’ with which to oppose Marxism-Leninism. In 1967 they presented themselves as Marxist-Leninist but in fact preached Irish and working class chauvinism. Very soon their outright trotskyism began getting exposed. This happened for example when they pitted themselves against the upsurge in the revolutionary youth and student movement of the late 1960’s, by labelling ’students as petty bourgeois and therefore reactionary’ and their opposition to the small farmers, like all trotskyites they dream of a society in which the contradiction between the ’proletariat and the bourgeoisie’ exists in some pure form and in which there are no particular contradictions to resolve in order to advance the class struggle, only this ’pure one’ and in its ’abstract form’ too.
By 1970, when the armed resistance of the people in the north had broken out again against the invasion by the British imperialist army, the B & ITO had to cook up some further theories in order to justify their opposition to this revolutionary movement. Once again, with their driving force as opposition to revolution, whilst wanting to promote themselves as ’academic Marxists”, they revealed their essential trotskyism by coming out against the national question per se and as a question of principle. However so overboard were they to save their own skins and nestle up to the British imperialist army, that, like all trotskyites in a live situation, they actually supported the reactionary nationalism of the Ulster bourgeoisie. (The trotskyite movement regularly supports reactionary nationalism, for example, their support for the reactionary nationalism of Bangla Desh).
The last few years have witnessed the all-round exposure and degeneracy of the B & ITO. They have come out with all their theories to oppose the rising tide of workers struggle and the anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist sentiment of the masses of people in Ireland and in Britain. They have called for the division of the Irish Trade Union Movement with the setting up of the Ulster TUC (see article no. 3 in this series) – a task which the Ulster bourgeoisie has long been attempting to accomplish, they have come out against strikes and they have reverted to open Khrushchovite revisionism, supporting the bourgeois state, opposing armed struggle (and vainly trying to make out that Lenin was against armed struggle) and calling for nothing more than reforms from the bourgeoisie. Today alongside the slogans of the peaceful road, an all-round slogan epitomising Khrushchovite revisionism, they advocate the well-worn Trotskite slogan of ’workers control’ (to oppose the revolutionary struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat), and in Ireland advocate the division of the people into ’two nations’, thus echoing one of the most important features of imperialism, that is the annexation and division and redivision of smaller and weaker countries.
Their ’organisation’ is nothing but a clique of splitters and disruptors, and in fact Clifford openly lauds this to the skies in the editorial of the 100th anniversary issue of their rag the Irish Communist, when he praises the fact that the ICO were formed from a split from the great division with the revisionists in the ’Communist’ Party of Great Britain, led by Michael McCreery in 1963, The leading members of the B & ITO left the ’C’PGB with McCreery and then shamelessly united with Trotskyites to cause a division and set up the Irish Communist Group. The 100th edition of the Irish Communist openly boasts of this activity in an article entitled: “A Hundred Issues of the Irish Communist”, as follows:
An ’anti-revisionist’ faction publicly left the CPGB in October 1963 and set itself up in opposition to it. That was the beginning of the anti-revisionist movement in Britain as a public movement. It gathered momentum for about six months, and then began to stagnate and fragment. The leaders of the movement suffered from great illusions about the tasks confronting it. They imagined that they could simply base themselves theoretically on a number of documents published by the Chinese CP, and that the task was merely an organisational one of party building through applying these documents to the British situation, and they discouraged any thinking that went beyond that view. Since the theoretical position of the CPC was very inadequate this approach suffocated the main part of the anti-revisionist movement.
The group which eventually formed the ICO were the initial rank and file movement. They insisted on pointing to the inadequacies and contradictions in the CPC documents, and maintained that a basic theoretical groundwork needed to be laid. And this group (who were all workers) were, of course, declared to be ’armchair Marxists’ by the leaders, (who were almost all intellectuals). Most of the ’armchair Marxists’ also happened to be Irish. The leaders decided they wanted an Irish front organisation (paralleling the Connolly Association/CPGB relationship), and urged the armchair Marxists to participate in it, thinking that would keep them out of harm’s way. One of the leaders who was Irish was deputed to establish the front organisation. Two groups were invited to meetings to discuss it: a group of Irish trotskyists of Republicans (including’G. Lawless – by the way, what happened to Gerry Lawless?), and the group of armchair Marxists. The latter decided to make the front organization independent of the mother, and did so with the support of the trotskyists. The leadership was defeated, and the Irish Communist Group resulted in about May 1964. The ICG applied itself for about a year to the kind of work that was later done more effectively by the ICO. The ’Stalinists’ applied themselves to laying a theoretical groundwork and the trotskyists organised and agitated. But eventually the trotskyists panicked and the ICG split, the Stalinist part forming itself into the ICO and the trotskyist into the Irish Workers’ Group (which included such notabilities as M. Farrell and E. McCann).
Since that time the sole practical activity of the Clifford clique has been nestling up to other organisations, producing some line which appears revolutionary and then trying to gain membership by causing a split in their ranks. The ICG was split by Clifford between the open trotskyists, Lawless and Co., and the so-called Stalinists, i.e. the neo-trotskyists, led by Clifford. The latter formed the Irish ’Communist’ Organisation, later to become the British and Irish ’Communist’ Organisation. As they themselves boast:
“The original Irish form of the ICO was thus a result of accident rather than of nationalism”, (also in the same article.) Clifford then tried splitting the Connolly Youth (1966-7), the Internationalists (1967-8), the Cork Workers Club, the Northern Ireland Labour Party, various groups, and then proceeded to try to split the Ulster Workers’ Council and the Ulster Volunteer Force etc., and others. Clifford and his trotskyite clique will stop at nothing to advance their line! Apart from himself and one or two cronies, Clifford’s only other members have included Len Callender, a reactionary careerist who himself tried to create a split from the Internationalists in 1967, and got thrown out on his ear, and Rosamund Mitchell, and a few others with her who joined in a reactionary attempt to split CPI(M-L) in 1971, led by a reactionary and careerist called McSweeney. With this collection of splitters and wreckers the B & ITO is constantly itself splitting internally and recently lost most of its members because of its blatant opposition to the working class and working class unity as epitomised by its support for an Ulster TUC and its opposition to the British miners’ strike of 1973.
The B & ITO are nothing short of Trotskyites, which however are not a “political trend in the working class” but are, as Comrade Stalin pointed out in Mastering Bolshevism (dated 1937):
...Trotskyism has ceased to be a political trend in the working class, that it has changed from the political trend in the working class which it was seven or eight years ago, into a frantic and unprincipled gang of wreckers, diversionists, spies and murderers acting on the instruction of the intelligence services of foreign states.
What is a political trend in the working class? A political trend in the working class is a group or a party which has its own definite political face, platform and programme, which does not and cannot hide its views from the working class but, on the contrary, openly and honestly carried on propaganda for its views in full view of the working class, does not fear to show its political face to the working class, does not fear to demonstrate its real aims and tasks to the working class, but, on the contrary, goes to the working class with open visor to convince it of the correctness of its views. In the past, seven or eight years ago, Trotskyism was one of such political trends in the working class, an anti-Leninist trend, it is true, and therefore profoundly mistaken, but nevertheless a political trend.
’Political figures’ hiding their views and their platform not only from the working class but also from the Trotskyite rank and file, and not only from the Trotskyite rank and file, but from the leading group of Trotskyites – such is the face of present-day Trotskyism.
But it follows from this that presentday Trotskyism can no longer be called a political trend in the working class. Present-day Trotskyism is not a political trend in the working class but a gang without principle, without ideas, of wreckers, diversionists, intelligence service agents, spies, murderers, a gang of sworn enemies of the working class, working in the pay of the intelligence services of foreign states.
(This article was researched by the Marxist-Leninist Institute, Ireland.)