ISJ Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

International Socialism, Autumn 1963


From Our Readers


From International Socialism, No.14, Autumn 1963, p.25.
Thanks to Ted Crawford & the late Will Fancy.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Is there any real difference between the ‘defensism’ of the Indian Government and that of the RSP? The latter insist that there is. They call it ‘revolutionary defensism’, which means ‘defending a bourgeois state in the ultimate interests of revolutionary class struggle’. To add conviction to this policy Marx and 19th Century European politics have been dragged in to boot.

The RSP’s dash to ‘revolutionary defensism’ has paused long enough for verbal adjustments to obscure their dependence upon Congress for their licence for continued liberty. The Congress Cabinet Ministers (those not dismissed for incompetence and fraud) call for ‘national sacrifice’ (i.e. no wage rises, no strikes and arrests of political opponents, etc.) to fight ‘communist Chinese aggression’. The RSP in the best traditions of collaboration calls for a ‘broad movement of the democratic masses’ (i.e. those not in jail for fighting Congress and the employers) against ‘foreign aggression’. The substitution is instructive.

The basic argument of the RSP appears to, be that in such countries as India the traditions of the struggle for national independence are seeped in the masses, so much that the struggles of ths workers against the employers themselves are ‘swayed by patriotic sentiments’. This is in fact, of course, the legacy of a bourgeois-led national movement against British imperialism. The RSP’s allusion to the prominence of ‘national independence’ in the Chinese Communist Party’s programme neglects the important fact that the Communists had to fight for a lot more than independence before they were able to cross the Yangse River. The space is not available to show that the basic mistake of the CCP in the years 1924-44 was its flirtation with national independence to. the exclusion of a revolutionary land policy (Mao’s ‘New Democracy’ etc.).

It is no accident that Nehru and Co continue their policy of leading the masses from the last refuge of all scoundrels, that of national chauvinism.

Surely the basic question for the RSP is, what actions will most weaken the rule of Congress? The object of their existence as an alternative to Congress is to replace it. Does a policy of defensism weaken Congress? Does it sap its confidence? Will it break the hold of Congress over the masses? Workers attending Congress meetings hear appeals to fight ‘communist aggression’; those at RSP meetings are roused to fight foreign aggression!

Quotations from Marx and history are not necessary to discover that no ruling class is disposed to concessions to the masses in the midst of the victory parades. In the case of India it is doubtful if the Indian Army on present form could contain a determined onslaught by the Chinese Red Army, without tremendous military and economic aid from Russia (?) and the West, and, all important, a passive working class.

True, the RSP intends to prosecute the class struggle, but against whom? How can they fight Congress successfully except with the balance of forces favourable to the masses? Jingoism will never go along with the nationalisation of the tea estates.

Military occupation of parts of India by the Chinese could sharply alter the class relations inside and outside these districts. Hal Draper has neglected this important aspect of SWP support for the Soviet Union against Finland in 1940. Are we then for the export of revolution? The question cannot be posed thus. Indian socialists are not facing a free choice between alternatives, but, alas, the accomplished fact. The extent of consultation by Congress with the masses about their state relations with China is the choice of prison or the recruitment centre. How can their ‘ultimate interests’ be served in this way? If the class struggle is still to be prosecuted is it to be confined to a fight for wages? Bombay dockers may fight for wages while unloading British military equipment. A wage rise may be a small price for Congress if it means victory or defeat for the army. The aim of an independent socialist India presupposes the removal of the Government of the bourgeoisie. This would liquidate the border dispute with China. The class struggle extends from wages to the character of the state.

One aspect of the Sino-Indian dispute the RSP has not examined, and this is the key to their position. The Indian socialist movement cannot see further than an election defeat for Congress. How can elections be won under semi-occupation? In an atmosphere of jingoism how popular is revolutionary defeatism ajt the ballot-box? It seems to me that the RSP are fighting a rearguard action as ‘revolutionary’ constitutionalists. They are seeking a popular election policy that can satisfy the State and their revolutionary pretensions. They call it revolutionary defensism. Lenin called it opportunism.

If the RSP is for the defence of a bourgeois state against what they themselves call a socialist state, how do they stand as regards Pakistan over Kashmir, or India in Nagaland? Are the workers’ ‘ultimate interests’ served best here on the side of their national bourgeoisie?

In the Notes (IS 13), Hal Draper is quoted as a supporter of the Dalai Lama and his struggle against China. (Draper even confuses the fight of the parasitic caste of the Lama with ‘Tibet’s struggle for independence’.) If it is the politics that are being continued in a war that is decisive, how can socialist support the most reactionary institution in history against the revolutionary defensism of a bureaucratic workers’ state? The defeated Kuomintang regrouped its forces on Formosa and the possibility of an Eastern base in Tibet with the US airforce was not an unreal one. (Would Chinese Communist invasion of Formosa infringe Chiang Kai Shek’s rights to independence?) The deciding factor in this (and Russia’s foreign policy in Finland) is not that a workers’ state can somehow never be wrong. The world socialist movement pays a price for Stalinist foreign policy. It is what the ultimate interests are, and how they are best served.

Gavin Kennedy

Top of page

ISJ Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Last updated on 24 March 2010