The following article, endorsed by the Communist Organization for the Fourth International (COFI), is an editorial from Proletarian Revolution No. 63 (Fall 2001).
Where We Stand:
No to New Reformist Parties!
by Sy Landy
We are entering a critical conjuncture in the political history of the left. Across the world, leading sections of the “far left” have made a dramatic turn toward reformism. In an effort to fill the political vacuum left by the collapse of Stalinism a decade ago and the parallel shift to the right by the social democratic and labor parties, left organizations that previously spoke of building Bolshevik-Leninist vanguards are now forming reformist parties and blocs committed to social-democratic programs.
We are not speaking of supporting reforms under capitalism, which revolutionaries often do. What we see today is a wholesale embrace of the anti-working-class reformist ideology, along with attempts to create whole new reformist institutions to replace the discredited ones. In some cases, the leftists are already taking the logic of their shift further: attempting to build or support openly class collaborationist populist parties and popular fronts.
Not by accident, this turn toward patching up the capitalist political system is occurring just when this system is once again proving itself to be unreformable. Temporary ups and downs cannot hide the fact that the global economy is foundering. Super-exploitation is rampant. The gap between the super-rich capitalists and the increasingly impoverished working class is widening, and the middle strata are disintegrating. Reformism is a proven failure: that is why the mainstream social democrats and liberals, whose firmest social base has always been in the middle class and labor aristocracy, are moving so rapidly rightward. The far left’s rehashed reformism has even less viability. Its program is worse than illusory: it is dangerously misleading, given the deepening crisis of the system.
In the language of Bolshevik-Leninism, “centrists” are those who, on the one hand, profess revolution and the independent organization of the vanguard sections of the proletariat but, on the other, practice reformism. Yesterday, unwilling to drop even small tactical differences for the sake of unity, the centrists maintained a wide variety of separate groups in each country and around the world. Today, they are beginning to cluster together, but not in efforts to forge even rhetorically revolutionary unified organizations. Instead they are embracing the few left reformist politicians who still survive and, with them, attempting to resurrect dying social democracy. (We note that we predicted some years ago that the centrists would form new reformist parties to fill the space abandoned by the undisguised social democrats. See COFI Sets International Tasks in PR 48.)
Lenin and Trotsky taught us that reformism and populism were counterrevolutionary doctrines dressed up in progressive language. In opposition to the current trend, authentic communists who applaud the death of reformism and want to fight its resurrection must regroup on a principled program and fight this new betrayal. In response to the centrist turn to reformism, communists have to redouble their efforts to re-create the revolutionary party of the proletariat in their own countries, as part of a politically restored genuine Fourth International.
The New Reformism
The most widespread and perhaps the largest current of centrists around the world, the United Secretariat of the Fourth International (USec), is on the verge of finally ending its pretence of adhering to the conception and program of Trotskyism. This step will put the seal of approval on the actual practice of most of its followers — blending indistinguishably into the left reform wing of social democracy.
A pioneer effort in the current turn was made by the International Socialist Movement in Scotland, a group which has now left the Committee for a Workers International (CWI), the former Militant Tendency. It launched the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP), a mild-left organization which enlisted under the banner of nationalism and the electoral road to power and has won a seat in the new Scottish parliament. The Scottish followers of the late Tony Cliff and the British Socialist Workers Party (SWP) have already dissolved into this new party.
In England and Wales, the SWP is playing the major role in the Socialist Alliance, an electoral pre-party bloc which counterposed itself to Tony Blair’s New Labour Party in the June 2001 parliamentary election. Along with the SWP, the bloc includes the bulk of the centrist left: the Workers Liberty group, the ex-Stalinist Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB, publishers of the Weekly Worker), Workers Power (the leading section of the LRCI, the League for a Revolutionary Communist International), the USec’s International Socialist Group (publishing Socialist Outlook) and smaller formations. The CWI’s Socialist Party maintains a half-in, half-out relationship to the SA at the moment, although its basic political differences are merely tactical. [For more on the Socialist Alliance, see Left Flops in British Election.]
The British miners’ leader Arthur Scargill had made an earlier attempt to forge an alternative reformist party by forming the Socialist Labour Party (SLP) for the 1997 parliamentary election. Today it remains as a rival electoral outfit vying with the newer SA, equally reformist but with a Stalinist tinge. [For more on the SLP and its far-left supporters, see Spartacists Cross Their “Crude Class Line”.]
In Germany, elements of the far left, notably friends of the USec and the LRCI section, initially gravitated toward Gregor Gysi’s not-so-left ex-Stalinist party, the Partei des Demokratischen Sozialismus (PDS). But the PDS became overtly capitulationist so quickly that most of the far leftists have already fallen away, awaiting a less odiferous reformist formation. In France, Lutte Ouvrière intermittently calls for a new workers party on a vague programmatic basis, while the USec’s leading section, the Ligue Communiste Revolutionnaire, tops that with a more concerted drive for a new radical populist party. In the European Union, a variety of centrist groups are attempting to form some sort of common party based on a non-revolutionary program.
In Australia, the new Socialist Alliance modeled on the British example includes the ex-USec and pro-Stalinist Democratic Socialist Party (DSP), the Cliffite International Socialist Organization, the Freedom Socialist Party, the Australian branch of the Worker-Communist Party of Iraq, Workers Power (of LRCI), Socialist Democracy and the unofficial Cliffites of Socialist Alternative. In Canada, a number of centrist and green groups are likewise discussing the formation of a new reformist or populist bloc or party. The rightward leap by the traditional reformist labor party, the New Democratic Party, has left its decimated left wing in even more of a state of befuddlement than usual. And in the U.S. a few years ago, a medley of union bureaucrats, aided by far leftists, formed the so-called Labor Party, which waits in the wings without running candidates (while its leaders continue to support the bourgeois Democrats)—in the hope of corralling any future break by workers away from the Democratic Party.
Sections of the South African left who recently pushed the Workers List as a reformist electoral front have not given up on such attempts, despite the lack of interest on the part of the large revolutionary-minded section of the proletariat. And, although much of its former allure has already been fading, an older attempt—the Brazilian Workers Party led by Lula—has continued to enthrall many centrist organizations in Latin America and elsewhere.
Open Class Collaboration
Reformism by its nature means class collaboration, so the centrists’ turn is not limited to re-creating reformist organizations that are nominally in the working class. In South Africa, the dominant class collaborationist road has been expressed by the fervent support given by left groups to the popular front government led by the bourgeois African National Congress and the Stalinist-reformist Communist Party. In Indonesia, the Peoples Democratic Party (PRD), which in the past had pursued a popular frontist line through support to Megawati Sukarnoputri, now appears to have switched support to the equally bourgeois recently ousted president, Abdurrahman Wahid. In this it has been supported by the Australian DSP.
In England, the lunge to the right did not halt with the creation of the Socialist Alliance; the mayoral election in 2000 saw the same centrists support Ken Livingstone and his overtly popular frontist campaign. In the U.S., the now-expelled Cliffites in the International Socialist Organization (ISO), as well as the CWI’s Socialist Alternative, endorsed and vigorously pushed the liberal populist campaign waged by Ralph Nader and the middle-class greens. In Zimbabwe, the Cliffites have outdone themselves in burying the class line. They joined, ran on a common electoral slate with and gave a left cover to the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). The creation of the MDC was initiated by the trade unions, but it was completely taken over by pro-capitalist bureaucrats and politicians who made sure that the party has no organizational links with the unions and is free to be the mouthpiece of the big urban capitalists and white landowners—all of which the ISO(Zim) admits!
The model for the British Socialist Alliance is the Italian Rifondazione Comunista, which has already proved that new reformist parties are no alternative to old ones. In parliament, Rifondazione voted in 1995 for the prime minister’s austerity program and thereby saved his bourgeois government. After that it supported the popular-frontist Olive Tree coalition, which instituted an austerity program against the workers. USec leader Livio Maitan is in the leadership of Rifondazione, and members of the centrist International Trotskyist Opposition (publishers of Proposta) have also been inside it as an organized tendency.
In Ukraine, the phony Trotskyists in the CWI-affiliated Rabotnichii Sprotiv (Workers Resistance) found themselves in the National Salvation Forum (NSF), the bourgeois opposition bloc supporting the then-Prime Minister Yushchenko. This would have been bad enough even if the NSF didn’t include an organization of fascists. The LRCI’s fraternal affiliate, Robitnychya Vlad/Molodiye Revolutioniye Marksisty (Workers Power/Young Revolutionary Marxists), has called the NSF progressive but has not yet joined it.
The new right turn is of course not the first in the history of the socialist left. At the dawn of the 20th century, social democracy appeared within the workers’ movement preaching the utopian lie that capitalism could be reformed and made humane through class collaboration. This was a world-historic betrayal which led to support for the first intra-imperialist world war and bloody fratricide for the international working class.
After the Bolshevik revolution, the social democratic fraud lost much of its appeal for an increasingly revolutionary proletariat around the world. With the isolation of the revolution and the growth of Stalinism, reformism and class collaboration was dressed up as the “popular front” by the new betrayers. This subordination of working-class independence was the next world-historic betrayal, one which contributed to successful counterrevolution in the USSR, paved the way for fascism and boosted support for the second world imperialist war. For nearly seventy years since the mid-1930’s, the Stalinist Communist parties have promulgated the ideology of class-collaborationism in the form of populism and popular frontism.
Today’s turn is another world-historic act of class treason. No one should be fooled by the fact that the perpetrators are still centrists vacillating between reformism and revolution rather than forces which have already proven themselves to be counterrevolutionary. If their present turn to the right is not halted, they are fated to attain that criminal goal.
We also cannot be fooled by the fact that the forces of international centrism are now comparatively small and still divided. The profound and deepening crisis of capitalism is beginning again to powerfully regenerate potentially revolutionary working class upheavals and mass strikes in country after country around the world. However, as a result of the devastation wrought by social democracy and Stalinism, advanced consciousness within the international working class is still weak, fragile and very susceptible to political corruption. And centrism, for all its present lack of size and power, has its greatest negative impact among the vanguard workers and communist-minded militants in many countries.
As the struggles accelerate and consciousness grows, centrists will be capable of misleading far more decisive sectors of workers than those who follow them today. They are creating pre-emptive political traps which could serve as a serious barrier to the re-formation of the world party of socialist revolution.
Conditions Behind the Turn
During the post-World War II period of prosperity, social democracy and Stalinism gained and maintained strength within the working class in many countries. Capitalism in the form of imperialism was able to grant enough concessions to give a material stake in the preservation of the system to significant sectors of the working class. The labor aristocracy and the bureaucratic technical and professional middle classes grew. Under such conditions, reforms won by mass struggles and the threat of revolution were used to promote the dual ideology of reformism and multi-class populism.
As the profound economic and social crisis of the system returned to the surface in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, proletarian upheavals and massive general strikes erupted around the globe. The Socialist, Communist and Labour parties tried to derail the workers’ struggles. Despite their temporary success, the cynicism they left in their wake contributed heavily to the steady decline in their ability to actually control the mass of workers. During the upheavals, the centrists, facing masses in motion and potentially revolutionary situations, talked more left but fundamentally adapted to the reformist and radical middle-class forces and failed to provide an alternative communist pole of attraction. In the aftermath, while centrism had gained in numbers as a result of revolutionary rhetoric, it could not displace the old decrepit reformist parties.
The thwarting of revolution did not end the mortal contradictions facing the world’s rulers. Stalinist East Europe and the USSR itself were the first to explode under the impact of economic collapse and the massive renewal of proletarian uprisings in the 1980’s. Even though the revolutions were hijacked by bourgeois pro-Western forces, the demise of Stalinism in the East qualitatively accelerated the decline of the reformist CP’s inside the workers’ movement in the rest of the world.
The crisis of capitalism was already eating away at past gains made by the working class in the advanced Western imperialist sector as well as the former colonial and semi-colonial world. The labor aristocracy and middle classes were slowly disintegrating, as handfuls blended into the bourgeoisie but the bulk were forced into the lower-paid working class or even more devastated strata. The Stalinist collapse accelerated the decay of whatever was left of the residual loyalty the Communist parties had still commanded among their former followers in the working class in some countries. Reformist parties retained their electoral strength but rarely kept even a vestige of the committed support they once enjoyed. And, among the most militant elements and the more conscious vanguard sectors, contempt for the reformists escalated.
As the crisis deepened and the working class in the West began stirring again, the traditional reformist statesmen began to ditch even their past paper-thin claim to “socialism” and the working class. The absence of a strongly organized revolutionary alternative convinced the labor potentates that they could move even further rightward toward open liberalism and middle-class voters without losing too many working-class votes. At the same time, as the economic crisis deepens and the working class gives every sign of renewing its mass struggles in growing areas of the world, these reformist leaders also see the looming danger on the horizon. Thus they gravitate even more closely to the power of the big bourgeoisie.
The closeness of the ties between the British Labour Party’s Blair and the U.S. Democrat Clinton demonstrate that the rightward turn of the old dominant reformists has virtually eliminated the remaining policy distinctions they once claimed with respect to open liberal bourgeois ideology. In fact, they move toward overt liberalism at the very moment when that liberalism itself is conservatizing. Thus a vacuum has been created on the reformist left, which has drawn the fascinated attention of the centrists. Hence the dawn of the new “socialist” electoral formations and electoral blocs which combine centrists with bewildered left Labourites as well as the middle-class radical Greens and other pro-bourgeois elements. The pseudo-revolutionaries are now exploring different forms as they try to create new “socialist” institutions to replace the departing former leaders.
In making their turn, the various centrists are engaging in what George Orwell called “doublespeak.” They use the term “socialist” to describe the new blocs they are forming, in order to justify burying their own supposedly revolutionary program in favor of proposals that won’t trouble mild-left reformists. And, just to be sure that their new programs do not offend reformists or populists, they use the “s-word” (and above all the “r-word”) as rarely as possible when listing their demands. Echoing the Stalinists’ time-honored class-collaborationist propaganda for popular fronts and “people’s democracy,” they increasingly stress the supposed progressiveness of populism.
Further, they employ classless terms like “anti-capitalist” to describe the growing protests against the global economy. These demonstrations are important but are multi-class in composition. They attract people who are not yet politically aware along with anarchists, liberals, radical middle-class environmentalists, arch-nationalists, back-to-nature proponents, trade unionists, subjective revolutionaries and real revolutionaries. They are led most often by petty-bourgeois and labor bureaucrats whose answer to global imperialism is a reactionary program rooted in national chauvinism and protectionism.
The mass of activists are still confused and have mixed consciousness; but their fundamental interests and desire to fight world-wide oppression are being betrayed by the misleaders. As Lenin and Trotsky stressed, the reformist outlook of working-class activists can be transitory; but it is permanent for the leaders because it reflects their long-term interest and role in society. That is why it is vital to participate in these joint actions; but at the same time it is necessary to expose the pro-capitalist programs of the liberal and reformist leaders. It is criminal to legitimize the anti-working class betrayers by lumping them with those they betray under the common and outrageously false label of “anti-capitalist.”
The centrists hope to win the “anti-globalization movement” to their new formations. Their aversion to attacking the labor and “progressive” leaders in large part stems from their need to win those elements in order to give bourgeois legitimacy to the blocs. Without the reformist celebrities, the centrists fear that the new alliances stand little chance of being taken seriously and achieving the authenticity they crave.
The Cliffites in particular notoriously refuse to criticize the reformists they work with. So it is ironic that in the SWP’s theoretical journal they quote what they call Trotsky’s “general outline of the united front” in explaining why it is necessary to do precisely what they do not do:The Communist Party proves to the masses and their organizations its readiness to wage battles in common with them for aims, no matter how modest, so long as they lie on the road of the historical development of the proletariat; the Communist Party in this struggle takes into account the actual condition of the class at each given moment; it turns not only to the masses, but also to those organizations whose leadership is recognized by the masses; it confronts the reformist organizations before the eyes of the masses, with real problems of the class struggle. The policy of the united front hastens the revolutionary development of the class by revealing in the open that the common struggle is undermined not by the disruptive act of the Communist Party but by the conscious sabotage of the leaders of the Social Democracy. (Quoted from The Struggle against Fascism in Germany, in Anti-capitalism, reformism and socialism by John Rees, International Socialism No. 90, Spring 2001.)
Rees comments that “Trotsky was writing about the mass Communist parties and mass reformist parties in the 1930’s, but the same general approach can be applied by much smaller revolutionary organizations today.” Yet the SWP, ISO & Co. often invite onto their platforms union leaders, Labour parliamentarians and other openly reformist speakers—and we can guarantee without hesitancy that they have not once revealed the “conscious sabotage” of the workers’ struggle by their “united front” partners. That is because the Socialist Alliances are not genuine united fronts, which are agreements for common action, but propaganda blocs among people who have held different programs, in which alleged revolutionaries subordinate their programs to those of their reformist partners.
The Revolutionary Tail
Perhaps the most corrupt attempt to revitalize reformism is that put forward by groups like the CPGB and Workers Power in Britain which see themselves as the far left of the movement. They do all they can to build the reformist formations, cheerlead their electoral efforts—and justify all this by claiming that they are trying to win the blocs to a revolutionary program. Of course, they will never convince the open reformist leaders to accept their program; hence they will never convince their fellow opportunists in the rest of the far left. If there were any chance that they would actually succeed, that would defeat the whole purpose of the turn and mean the death of the rotten blocs. Therefore, once their diplomatically proposed slogans are safely defeated, they breathe a sigh of relief and join wholeheartedly in the reformist electoral game. Their “transitional” or “revolutionary” interventions are a pretense, sadly fooling their adherents—and even themselves—that they are really acting as Bolsheviks.
Workers Power in particular claims that its method is that of Trotsky’s Transitional Program. But the Transitional Program was an open attack on reformism, not an attempt to cover it as a left tail.
To see how false these claims are, consider the question of a Labor Party in the United States in the late 1930’s, an example where Trotskyists did support the formation of a new class party not committed to communism from the start. Trotsky’s advocacy of a labor party was based on the fact that the mass class struggle had exhausted itself on the industrial and economic level and would have to move toward a political confrontation with the bourgeois state. He predicted that a workers’ movement would develop, demanding an independent party based on the proven militancy of the new CIO unions. The mass of workers would not, at that point, come directly to the small and relatively weak revolutionary organization. Rather they saw the strength they needed as coming from the big, fighting unions.
Under such circumstances it would have been stupidly sectarian to counterpose the small vanguard party to the huge class party workers sought. Moreover, the program of the party the movement would produce—reformist or revolutionary—was not pre-ordained. The Trotskyists agreed with their working-class brothers and sisters on the need for a mass party of their class, but they counterposed appropriate transitional demands to the reformist program of the labor and Stalinist misleaders.
The labor party demand was designed as a hostile challenge to put the CIO leadership on the spot in front of the mass of fighting workers who had illusions in the leaders’ commitment to independence and militancy. It was meant to force the reformist labor bureaucrats to break with the Democratic Party and take state power—or else stand exposed as the fakers that the revolutionaries openly insisted that they were.
Trotsky stated explicitly that the program they stood for could only be carried out by a revolutionary workers’ party. “It would be absurd to say that we advocate a reformist party.” That was the aim of the Stalinists and their ilk.
The Transitional Program was rooted in the idea that workers would increasingly come to understand their fundamental material interests in the course of class struggle. As Trotsky detailed, struggle by itself can produce backward as well as advanced consciousness; the key for communist success is that the vanguard workers’ party truthfully point out the revolutionary lessons in contrast to counterrevolutionary reformist deceits. “Why not say openly what is? Without any camouflage, without any diplomacy.”
In contrast, Workers Power suggests that the SA should adopt transitional demands like state expropriation of industry without compensation. Naturally, given the material and ideological power of capitalism, the mass of workers attracted to such a measure will initially demand it of the existing state rather than immediately opting for socialist revolution. In going through a common struggle, revolutionaries can show that only the revolutionary party can carry out such programs through the overthrow of the bourgeois state. By not insisting that their program requires revolution and the communist party, Workers Power helps the reformist and pro-reformist leaders perpetrate utopian illusions in the capitalist state.
One difference between Trotsky’s method and today’s centrists’ is that Trotsky’s proposed Labor Party was based on an existing, massive working-class struggle—whose victories and obstacles would help the authentic communists convince many workers that a revolutionary program was the only road forward. The Socialist Alliances today do not reflect proletarian strength and struggle in the minds of the workers. They appear as leftish versions of the present labor parties. But they are decidedly inferior to those reformist parties in that they are clearly too weak to change the present ominous situation. In Britain, industrial strike action has been at a very low ebb. In Australia it has been stronger, but still the strike weapon has hardly been exhausted. The working class has not yet wielded its potential for united action and enormous power in either country. Consequently the SA’s can only divert advanced revolutionary-minded workers without reaching the mass of our class. They are pre-emptive formations designed to trap and tame future mass working-class-led upheavals.
In such situations, authentic revolutionaries fight for the general strike as the means for translating the coming mass struggles into a political confrontation with the bourgeois state. The general strike is a weapon most useful when the class leadership is weak and the masses do not yet realize the power they can have in unified action. Once our class recognizes its power, all things are possible.
At this time, neither the so-called “anti-capitalist movement” nor the struggles of the working class have been successfully channelled toward the new reformist formations. But it is not for the centrists’ lack of trying. The Cliffites and the other major players already refrain from raising “far out” demands or challenging the reformist leaders. When the coming mass explosions mature, Workers Power and like-minded further left groups will lose their ability to raise the kind of radical demands that scare off their reformist playmates. Hopefully the subjective dedication of some of their followers will enable them to break free from those organizations and their role as left tails on the reformist kite.
It is telling that neither the SWP, nor its far-left allies that assert their Trotskyism more loudly, like to cite what Trotsky always said about electoral blocs. For example:The Bolsheviks did conclude practical agreements with the revolutionary petty-bourgeois organizations…. During the elections to the state Duma, they did, under certain conditions, enter into electoral blocs with the Mensheviks or the Social Revolutionaries on the second ballot. That is all. No common “programs,” no common and permanent institutions, no renunciation of the criticism of temporary allies. Such episodic agreements and compromises [were] confined strictly to practical aims—and Lenin never spoke of any other kind…. (Leon Trotsky on France, p. 146.)
Or, as Trotsky had said about the bloc he urged the German Communists to form with the Social Democrats to stop Hitler:No common platform with the Social Democracy, or with the leaders of the German trade unions, no common publications, banners, placards! March separately, but strike together! Agree only on how to strike, whom to strike, and when to strike! (The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany, pp. 138-9.)
Contrast this with the SWP’s burying itself inside the Scottish Socialist Party and with Workers Power and the CPGB calling for their Socialist Alliance to be a permanent “revolutionary” party.
Precedents For the New Turn
The scope of the centrists’ present turn is qualitatively greater than anything they have done in the recent past. We note, however, that many of the pseudo-Trotskyist currents have crossed the class line before, as if in preparation for today. Here are some major examples:
- The overwhelming majority of groups who claim the heritage of Trotskyism still support the concept of “deformed workers’ states”—that is, they believe that proletarian states were achieved without working-class-led revolutions. Further, since these states in Eastern Europe and East Asia were formed and led by Communist Parties, ruling openly in class collaborationist blocs with bourgeois elements, the “orthodox Trotskyist” conception in fact means that socialist revolutions can be made by popular fronts.
- In the late 1940’s, virtually all varieties of pseudo-Trotskyists favored deep entry into the right-moving social democratic and/or Stalinist parties. In sharp contrast to Trotsky’s entry strategy in the 1930’s, this was not an attempt to break left-moving workers from their reformist misleaders, but an endorsement of illusions in the supposedly progressive—if too moderate—character of those parties.
- In 1952, the Trotskyist POR in Bolivia, a significant political force, actively supported the left bourgeois nationalists during the revolution in that country, thereby helping to doom a major proletarian upheaval. No leadership body within the degenerating Trotskyist Fourth International uttered even a peep of opposition to this overt act of class capitulation. Shortly afterward, the Ceylonese Trotskyists joined their bourgeois government. Even though the FI’s embarrassed leadership had to oppose this blatant act, it was a product of their method.
- During the 1960’s, the pseudo-Trotskyist milieu was rife with organizations which saw the student milieu as the revolutionary vanguard in place of the urban proletariat. They also awarded that role to peasant-based guerrilla struggles in a number of countries. Thus they helped detour not only the potential proletarian revolution but also the liberation of the peasantry, whose only chance could come through working-class leadership.
The historical repetition of past betrayals, today by purported Trotskyists, does not fundamentally come as a result of multiple conspiracies or the abundance of bad ideas. As Lenin and Trotsky taught us, such serious transgressions can only be caused materially—that is, by the invasion of petty bourgeois and middle-class interests into the workers’ movement. In our opinion, therefore, it is no accident that the overwhelming majority of those groups who call themselves Bolshevik-Leninist today blatantly disagree with the view explicitly stated by Marx, Lenin (after 1905) and Trotsky—that the working class itself achieves its own revolutionary socialist class consciousness. Instead, they claim that such consciousness must be imported from the middle-class intelligentsia.
This anti-Marxist and anti-proletarian view reflects the fact that during the period of post-World War II prosperity, the rampant growth of the middle class and the labor aristocracy around the world not only reinvigorated reformism for that time, but invaded the ranks of the Trotskyist Fourth International itself. Not only did this provide the basis for the new leadership which corrupted and destroyed the revolutionary program and politics of the FI by the mid-1950’s, it steered that leadership into its capitulatory adaptations to the reformists.
What Is To Be Done
The liberation of the proletariat is the task of the proletariat itself; it is a task it must carry out in opposition to middle class “condescending saviors.” Building the revolutionary party is still the key communist slogan. Pushing for reformist electoral blocs and parties now is not only counterposed to the central task of building the revolutionary party, it is also counterposed to the struggle for mass action.
Unity in action is vital for the working class and its allies. In the coming period, revolutionaries will struggle not only for the general strike and other mass actions but will raise the proletarian united front as a battle cry. Once again the idea that the working class must lead all the dispossessed and the oppressed in their struggles will become the outlook of millions of fighters.
Communists “say what is”: reformism is not a moderate or too slow form of socialism, but its mortal, counterrevolutionary enemy. It is an enemy of whatever genuine reforms can still be achieved, since they can only come as a result of mass action and the threat of revolution. In contrast to the rightward moving centrists and their attempt to breathe life into the rotting corpses of reformism and populism, working-class communists stand openly for socialism and proletarian revolution. Even when circumstances call for tactical blocs with reformist parties, we openly warn of their treachery and criticize their leaderships. At every turn, we insist on the necessity of re-creating the communist vanguard party—in contrast to all calls for new reformist, radical and green parties. The chief task facing the proletariat today is the re-creation of the authentic Fourth International!
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