Fascism in Germany. Robin Blick 1975

Appendix IV: Germany and the Fourth International

On 15 July 1933, Leon Trotsky made public his resolve to terminate the 10-year-old policy of fighting as a faction within the Communist International to reorient its parties, and, as far as possible, its leading cadres, back towards Leninism. The defeat in Germany, the collapse of the German Communist Party (KPD), and finally – and most decisively – the refusal of the leading bodies of the Comintern either to acknowledge defeat in Germany or to undertake any serious assessment of the policies that had made it possible, convinced Trotsky that the Comintern was dead as an instrument of proletarian revolution, that in future it could only prepare and execute similar defeats. The decision to proclaim, and then to build, the Fourth International flowed from Trotsky’s decision in the summer of 1933 that the fate of the world proletariat and of all humanity could no longer be entrusted to a leadership and a movement incapable of digesting the lessons of the German catastrophe. To wait for a more ‘favourable’ conjuncture, for a new upturn in the class struggle, before separating definitively from the Comintern (as many centrists, and fellow-travellers of Trotskyism such as Isaac Deutscher, advised at the time) would have been to adopt the position of Kautsky in 1914. Lenin’s break from the Second International did not proceed from considerations of tactical expediency, but from principles. He could, no more than Trotsky, permit the opportunist leadership of the International to retain unchallenged its bureaucratic stranglehold on the European working class. Though officially launched in March 1919, the Communist International was conceived and born in the weeks and months of isolation that followed the monumental betrayal of 4 August 1914, when to a man the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) voted for imperialist war in the German Reichstag. The unanimous vote of the Presidium of the Comintern’s Executive Committee (ECCI) of 1 April 1933, on the German question ranks equally with the vote of 4 August as the greatest act of perfidy in the entire history of the international workers’ movement. Such treachery could in each case have but one answer – the proclamation of a new International.

But involved in these two historic splits was more than an organisational separation, important though that was. Lenin insisted from the very beginning that the new international would have to demarcate itself, and relentlessly oppose, all those tendencies in the old International that had led to its demise in 1914. Nationalism, parliamentarism, Marxist phrases and reformist deeds, adaptation to militarism, indifference and even hostility towards the national aspirations and struggles of the oppressed colonial peoples, narrow trade unionism, bureaucracy and the subordination of the overall strategic requirements of the working class to the short-term interests of the most privileged layers of the labour aristocracy – all these tendencies and features of the Second International, Lenin declared, must be rooted out of the revolutionary vanguard and its International. So it was with the Fourth International, which, from the day of its proclamation, confronted not one but two mortally hostile world movements, those of Stalinism and Social Democracy. What, above all else, did Trotsky defend in separating definitively from the Stalinised Comintern? Precisely that which not only the Kremlin bureaucracy but the leaders of the Second International had trampled in the mud – proletarian internationalism. Both Internationals had foundered on the rocks of nationalism, had nailed to their masts the banner of ‘socialism in one country’. This was the theory that in 1914 provided the justification and political impetus for the war credits vote of 4 August – ‘we must defend the Germany of the Kaiser and Krupp to defend our organisations, and our socialist Germany of the future’ – and it was that theory which once again sacrificed the German proletariat on the altar of expediency when the Kremlin bureaucracy sabotaged the revolution in Germany in the name of building ‘socialism’ in the USSR.

In the course of its development, the world Trotskyist movement has attracted into its ranks or as sympathisers tendencies and individuals whose separation from Stalinism proved to be incomplete on certain fundamental questions. Subsequent sharp turns in the political situation and the line of the Stalinist apparatus in the USSR revealed that their alignment with Trotsky, while not merely episodic, had been in the nature of a bloc on certain important issues. And of this Trotsky was well aware. To cite some instances. During the period of the Stalin – Bukharin bloc in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the Communist International (1925-27), the Left Opposition had come out against the party policy of appeasing the Kulak and the Nepman, to the detriment of the development of planned and industrialised economy. But when, in early 1928, Stalin swung over sharply to the left – the ultra-left in fact – and launched his programme of crash industrialisation (much of it stolen from the programme of the Left Opposition), a small group of Left Oppositionists – Radek, Pyatakov, Smilga and Preobrazhensky – defected to Stalin on the grounds that he was now, belatedly if bureaucratically, carrying out the economic policies of the Opposition.

Stalin’s false, nationalist perspective of building ‘socialism in one country’ was relegated by the ‘capitulators’ to a difference of secondary importance, whereas for Trotsky and those who remained loyal to the Left Opposition, it was paramount. (Nor did their capitulation, and renunciation and denunciation of Trotsky earn them a permanent niche in the bureaucracy. Stalin had all four killed, but not before he had squeezed them dry of their political and administrative talents.) The capitulators turned their backs on Europe, on the rise of fascism in Germany, on the ruinous policies of the KPD and the Communist International (except for Radek, whose journalistic skills Stalin employed to justify them), and with genuine but misplaced devotion to the revolution, plunged themselves into the work of ‘socialist construction’. They had been disoriented by Stalin’s left turn. Their defection coincided with the rise of a new oppositional tendency in the Communist International, and especially the KPD – the group of Brandler. Essentially a rightwards-moving centrist tendency, it had endorsed socialism in one country, and Stalin’s opportunist policies in Britain and China, as sound Leninism. Only with the inauguration of the Third Period did the Brandlerites fall out with the Comintern and the Thälmann leadership in the KPD. As a centrist tendency attracted organically towards a permanent bloc with left Social Democracy (a tendency which had been all too apparent in the summer and autumn of 1923), they were highly sensitive to any change of policy that might have undermined this relationship with the left wing of the SPD. Consequently the Third Period, and the theory of social fascism, drove the Brandler group into sharper opposition, and very quickly out of the KPD and the Communist International. Many of the things it wrote and said about Stalinist policies and tactics during the Third Period were correct – such as on the united front, and the absurdities of ‘social fascism’. But they did not constitute a Leninist alternative and challenge to the Stalinist faction, since they were directed only at one facet and phase of Stalinism – its ultra-leftism of the Third Period – and failed to go to the core of the problem, the theory of socialism in one country. The Brandlerites turned the united front from a tactic into a fetish and a strategy, just as Brandler himself had done as leader of the KPD in the months prior to the ‘German October’. Therefore for Trotsky there could be no question of a bloc, let alone a fusion, with the Brandlerites simply because of a formal agreement over one aspect of Stalinist policy. Moreover, when it came to the question of the USSR itself, the Brandlerites refused to criticise in the slightest degree Stalin’s adventurist economic policies or the bureaucratic regime in the party. Their opposition was of an opportunist nature, forced on them by the immediate threat the Stalinist line posed to their relations with Social Democracy in Germany. Elsewhere, there was general agreement. And, therefore, no agreement with the Left Opposition.

The secondary nature of Brandler’s differences with the Stalinist leadership in the USSR and the Communist International became evident when, with the winding up of the Third Period in 1934, the right oppositionists and their co-thinkers in the exiled SAP heralded the openly opportunist rapprochement with Social Democracy as a return to ‘realism’ on the part of the Kremlin. Once again, a sharp turn – this time to the right – in the Stalinist line found its former opponents sucked back into the embrace of the bureaucracy.

So we can see that each turn in the Stalinist line threw up – and throws up to this day – oppositional groups based on a rejection of the prevailing Stalinist tactic. Such opposition can of course be deepened into a rounded-out conception of Stalinism, depending not only on the character of the tendency involved, but on the intervention of the Trotskyist movement itself. But it can also be opportunist, remaining on the level of a tactical difference, and become reabsorbed into the main Stalinist current when the bureaucracy undertakes a new turn – either to the left or the right. Here of course we must distinguish between the Stalinist tendency as it existed between 1924 and 1934, the period during which Trotsky characterised it as bureaucratic centrism, a centrist current based on a bureaucracy that rules a degenerated workers’ state; and Stalinism from 1934 onwards, when it had clearly become a counter-revolutionary force defending the world status quo. Thus such left turns as the bureaucracy has made in the post-1934 period (as in the period of the Stalin – Hitler pact, when the Communist International took a left line in the imperialist states at war with Hitler) are of a fundamentally different nature from those of 1924 and 1928-34, when they embodied a left zigzag within a centrist tendency whose overall direction was to the right, towards the position firmly established by 1935 and the era of the Popular Front.

Today’s zigzags take place within a Stalinism that is counter-revolutionary through and through, and such left turns that are made are part and parcel of its counter-revolutionary strategy, even though they may be forced on the bureaucracy by a powerful left swing in the working class (as at the time of the French General Strike of May-June 1968, when the PCF and the CGT adapted to the movement only in order to win its leadership and then betray it). But even though these oscillations in the Stalinist line possess a different character to those of 1924-34, they have still served to disorient a section of the world Trotskyist movement, the movement that Trotsky founded on his theoretical grasp of the role of Stalinism, and the movement that proclaimed its resolve to cleanse the working class of this ‘syphilis of the labour movement’. The break-up of the wartime alliance between the USSR and the imperialist Allies, and the far-reaching economic changes carried through in the Eastern European states under Red Army occupation, resulting in the creation of a series of deformed workers’ states, together with the victory of the Chinese revolution in 1949 and then, the following year, the outbreak of the Korean war, began to lead a section of the Fourth International leadership towards the revisionist theory that in the event of a third world war (which it believed imminent) the Soviet bureaucracy would seek to defend itself against imperialist attack by unleashing mass movements in the imperialist states. The Stalinists would in the countries where they dominated the workers’ movement (France, Italy) then ‘project a revolutionary orientation’ and, even though it was against all their instincts and better judgement, go on to take the power. New deformed workers’ states would then be created, which could retain their bureaucratic characteristics for ‘centuries’. This was essentially the perspective evolved by Pablo, the head of the Secretariat of the Fourth International, and it found immediate echoes in nearly all sections of the International.

Here is not the place to write the history of the Fourth International – though this must be done, and soon. The lesson of Pabloism, whose essence was the liquidation of the Trotskyist vanguard into the Stalinist movement (and, as the theory began to evolve still further in an opportunist direction, into the reformist movement and in the semi-colonial countries, into petit-bourgeois nationalist movements such as the FLN in Algeria) is that its point of origin was an empirical adaptation to a left turn in the Stalinist apparatus as it came under increasing pressure from world imperialism. The split of 1933 from a Comintern that had just led the German working class to defeat with an ultra-left policy therefore by no means inoculated the Trotskyist movement for all time against adaptations to Stalinism in a future period of leftism.

And we must go a step further. Having resolved on its orientation towards – and ‘deep entry’ into – the Stalinist movement while it was still in a ‘left’ phase, the Pabloites clung to their strategy in the period when the Soviet bureaucracy undertook a steady turn to the right, under the leadership first of Malenkov and then Khrushchev, towards détente with imperialism, on the basis of the policy of ‘peaceful coexistence’. New progressive tendencies were promptly discovered inside the bureaucracy – possibly to compensate for its loss of militancy on the international scene. ‘Self-reform’ of the bureaucracy, ‘liberalisation’ of the repressive regime in the arts and history, were trends which the Pabloites associated with the Khrushchev leadership, especially after his ‘Secret Speech’ of March 1956. In other words, adaptation to the bureaucracy had now become a way of life, a whole political method, for the Pabloites. But it had begun when the Stalinists were in a left turn. This then made possible the retreat from Trotskyist principles and theory not only of a handful of leaders in the secretariat, but the disruption and near-destruction of entire sections of the Fourth International.

The Workers Revolutionary Party

The WRP (until November 1973 the Socialist Labour League) initially supported Pablo’s bureaucratic expulsion of the majority of the French section from the Fourth International after it had opposed Pablo’s revisionist theories. It then, together with the American Socialist Workers Party, changed course and opposed Pablo. Thus was born in 1953 the International Committee for the Fourth International. Then the SWP began to drift slowly back towards the European Pabloites, organised in their International Secretariat in Paris, and reunited with them in 1963, refusing to discuss their reasons for doing so with their former comrades of the International Committee. In reality, the SWP leadership had capitulated to the very forces and theories which they had begun to attack in their Open Letter of 1953, but subsequently treated as a question settled by the split. Then in 1971 there followed another split in the forces of Trotskyism, the prime responsibility for which, in the author’s judgement, rests with the leaders of the SLL, who used their differences with the French section over Bolivia as a pretext for severing all links with the OCI. The SLL has since ‘transformed’ itself into a revolutionary party, the WRP, and it is certain aspects of this party’s tactics, strategy, programme and theory that must be examined most critically, to shed possible light not only on the split of 1971, but the history of the Trotskyist movement in Britain and internationally. Specifically, the attempt will be made to estimate to what extent the WRP leadership has assimilated the lessons of Germany, and integrated them into the theory and activity of the movement.

It is the author’s contention – and one that he will attempt to substantiate by detailed textual references from the publications of the WRP – that within the leadership of the Trotskyist movement in Britain there exists a virulent residue of Third Period Stalinism. There must be no misunderstandings on this question. The WRP leadership is not in any sense a Stalinist leadership. But for a whole constellation of historical and political reasons, the break from Stalinism made by the Trotskyist movement in Britain was neither as sharp nor so deeply grounded in Marxist theory as it had been in France, to cite a case in point. The pioneering cadres of the British Trotskyist movement, divided between several tendencies in their early years, in the main separated from Stalinism in the period of the Popular Front, when the Kremlin was organising the defeat of the French and Spanish proletariats under the banner of the alliance of all ‘men of good will’ against fascism and war. It was a period of the massacre of the Bolshevik old guard in the Moscow show trials, while in Britain Stalinists grovelled on all fours before the ‘social fascists’ of yesterday, anti-German blimps and clergy of all denominations. To break from this morass of opportunism, and the vilification and murder of Lenin’s closest comrades, was the elementary duty of a Communist, the first step towards constructing a movement that could carry through the revolution betrayed by Stalinism. But Stalinism did not begin in 1935 with the Popular Front, nor in 1936 with the Moscow Trials. It has a history dating back to 1924, to Stalin’s first pronouncement on socialism in one country, through the period of right-opportunist adaptation to Social Democracy of 1925-27, and then of ultra-leftism from 1928 to 1934. Each of these phases go to comprise the history of Stalinism. Stalinists such as Johnstone and Klugmann have eyes only for the leftist errors, and present the opportunist phases of the Comintern as being periods when a Leninist policy was pursued. Yet if we look at the various important stages in the degeneration of the Comintern between 1923 (the defeat of the German revolution) and the proclamation of the Fourth International (also following an even more serious defeat in Germany), we see that of those 10 years, six years were dominated by a leftist orientation on the part of the Stalinist bureaucracy. First came the period of ‘Zinovievist’ leftism of 1924, which spawned the theory of social fascism, and saw the perversion of the united front into a bureaucratic manoeuvre designed not to unite the whole class against the bourgeoisie (which was how Lenin conceived of it) but simply as a device to ‘expose’ the reformists. There then followed the three years dominated in the Communist International by the alliance of Bukharin and Stalin, of unprincipled blocs ‘at the top’ with the reformists, and not also ‘from below’ with the reformist-led masses. Then beginning in 1928, and enduring in fact until mid-1934, came the line of ‘social fascism’, of fully-blown bureaucratic adventurism. So Trotsky began his fight against the degeneration of the Communist International when it was in an ultra-leftist phase (against mainly Zinoviev on the question of Germany, but also Stalin), and abandoned the struggle to reform it 10 years later when it was at the very peak of another and far more disastrous period of ultra-leftism.

Let us repeat if only for those who so distort the history of Stalinism as to encourage the illusion that it has been nothing but a succession of betrayals brought about by a right-opportunist line (an illusion found in the writings of Royston Bull, to cite one example): Stalinism first took root in the Comintern masked as a left, super-Bolshevising tendency, and Trotsky’s opposition to it was demagogically characterised as a deviation towards Social Democracy. And the same slanderous arguments were used, of course with much else besides, to discredit and distort the basis of Trotsky’s opposition to Stalinism in the Third Period. He was accused of serving as a ‘left cover’ for Social Democracy, of being a pseudo-Marxist apologist for the reformist bureaucracy, etc, etc.

This brings us now to the question of the WRP and its relationship to the mass workers’ movement in Britain. Dominated as it is by Social Democracy, the British workers’ movement has spawned essentially two varieties of adaptations to this deeply-rooted bureaucracy. One is of the open opportunist type, that identifies the bureaucracy with the class, and submerges itself into the lower and middle echelons of the bureaucracy in order, at some propitious moment, either to force it to the left, or to take over from where the bureaucracy leaves off. The clearest expression of this pseudo-Marxist adaptation to Social Democracy is the Militant group of Ted Grant, a renegade from the Fourth International. For the Militant, the Labour Party is the party that will carry through the socialist revolution.

But the domination of the bureaucracy also produces the mirror opposite of the Militant. Correctly rejecting the ‘deep entry’ strategy of the Militant, the conclusion has been drawn by the WRP leadership that the reformist machine can be by-passed, that a prolonged period of entry work is no longer necessary, that the working class will come direct to the ‘mass revolutionary party’ after one final ‘exposure’ of the reformists, and that this ‘exposure’ will be rendered all the more swift and conclusive by the fact that the reformists are no longer Social Democrats, but ‘corporatists’ completely tied to the bourgeoisie and its state, and indistinguishable from the open representatives of capital in all essentials.

Yet despite important differences between these two tendencies, they share the strategy of demanding that the reformist leaders carry out the expropriation of the bourgeoisie! This demand has no precedent either in the history of Bolshevism, the Leninist phase of the Comintern, or of the early years of the Fourth International. In the Militant of 22 March 1974, however, we find the call advanced for a minority Labour government to enact ‘an enabling bill for the immediate nationalisation of the 250 monopolies, the banks, the insurance companies and building societies’. Presumably this was to be done with the support of the Liberals or Ulster Unionists! And the WRP is no less explicit. An All Trade Union Alliance Miners’ Section Statement (11 January 1972) declared that:

... the miners’ strike can be won and the political conditions created for the holding of a general election and the return of a Labour government. Such a government could be forced to implement the miners’ demands and carry out socialist policies. [1]

Which is, of course, undiluted Pabloism. Social Democracy, however strong the mass pressure of the workers, cannot ‘carry out socialist policies’. If this were so, what need is there for the Fourth International? (And in fact, Pablo drew this very conclusion from his initial false premise declaring the Fourth International to be redundant and taking a post in the bourgeois-nationalist government of Ben Bella in Algeria.) This opportunist approach to bureaucracy has its parallel in the statement’s paternalist attitude towards workers’ control, where it says: ‘Bring in a Labour government which will legislate workers’ control...’ [2] Now Trotsky says explicitly that workers’ control is established at plant level by the workers themselves, fighting to establish control, the right of inspection and supervision, over the employer. Thus it is reactionary to conceive of workers’ control as being ‘legislated’ by a bourgeois parliament (as also do the left reformists like Benn and Jones). Nor does this exhaust the errors contained in this single slogan. In the Transitional Programme it states that industries owned by the state ('public works’) should come under workers’ management and not workers’ control, which pertains to privately-owned concerns. Finally, it should be pointed out to the leaders of the WRP (and the Militant tendency, their mirror image inside the Labour Party) that in the estimation of Trotsky – who had considerable first-hand experience in such matters! – ‘only a general revolutionary upsurge of the proletariat can place the complete expropriation of the bourgeoisie on the order of the day’. For the Workers Press, this is a slogan which ‘answers’ every single problem of the working class irrespective of the level of consciousness of the workers or the depth of the capitalist crisis.

It was this sectarian conception that among others led to the decision to form the WRP and which has increasingly dominated its activities and press since its launching in November 1973.

The Reformists Are Being Exposed

This was the official position of the SLL from very early on in the life of the Wilson government of 1964-70. The June 1965 conference of the SLL endorsed a resolution which stated that ‘the reformists are being revealed [to the working class, that is] in their true colours... The working class now has the opportunity to break from reformism, to enter into a struggle for power.’ This was June 1965! The same resolution added that ‘the very sharpness of the crisis... strips the reformists of any pretence at being able to carry out policies in the interests of the working class...’. [3]

From the general truth that reformism has betrayed and will betray the working class at decisive moments in its struggle against capitalism, was deduced the false specific conclusion that the Labour government elected in 1964 would not only inevitably betray the working class at the first opportunity, but ‘as compared with the Macdonald government of 1929-1931... [would] betray more openly and quickly’. [4] Four years later, the SLL General Secretary Gerry Healy would write, following the withdrawal of the labour government’s anti-trade union bill ‘In Place of Strife’, that ‘the working class is in so different a position from 1931 that Wilson cannot carry out his betrayals as easily as did Macdonald...’. So in 1965, the SLL leadership – Healy included – had left the small matter of the working class out of their calculations in their defeatist speculations about the coming betrayals of the Wilson government. There had been no betrayal for, according to this document, ‘nothing substantial whatsoever had been handed to the next Tory government by the Wilson administration...’. Yet, as we shall see, the perspective right up to this point had been one of the reformists grinding down and impoverishing the working class on behalf of the monopolies, integrating their trade unions into the state, and even going ‘beyond the doorway into fascism’ to serve their capitalist masters. This collapse of the SLL’s perspectives elicited the smug comment from Healy: ‘The perspectives of every group and party except ours are in ruins.’ [5]

This perspective of 1965, that Wilson was to betray and be exposed before the entire working class, continued right through 1966, when in April, the stripped-bare reformists were returned with a majority of nearly 100 seats over the Tories. And it became even more accentuated in its false optimism in 1967, a period of stagnation in the class struggle following the defeat of the seamen’s strike of the previous summer. At the SLL annual conference in May 1967, the British Perspectives resolution was adopted unanimously (the author voting for it also). It declared quite unambiguously in its opening sentence that the working class in Britain was ‘preparing to break with Social Democracy’ and that the Labour leadership in crisis was ‘coming into head-on collision with the workers’. [6] If the second statement were true, which it patently was not – then of course the first would be plausible, but by no means certain. That would depend to a large degree on the interventions of the vanguard. However, mistakes in the estimation of the tempo of the development of consciousness in the working class can be made very easily, since they depend on so many variables that are not susceptible to accurate analysis. Marxism is not an exact science. But all the more reason to acknowledge such errors, to correct them, and to prepare the movement better for struggles in the future. This is not the method of the WRP leadership, nor was it that of its forerunner, the SLL. For in 1968, again at its annual conference, we find the same error being committed on a yet grander scale. The resolution Economic Perspectives spoke with great assurance of ‘the existence of a pre-revolutionary situation’, and then went on to make the following absurd statement:

Here is the importance of our insistence that reformism was dead: its role now is to do precisely the opposite of what it first claimed to do; it occupies office in order to facilitate the smashing down and impoverishment of the working class, and to enrich the monopolists. [7]

One moment reformism is ‘dead’ – and had been for some time, one is led to imagine – and the next moment, it is alive and well, smashing down and impoverishing the working class. Hardly a job for a corpse, or even an invalid. The SLL could ‘insist’ for all it was worth, but reformism simply refused to lie down and die, as the February 1974 General Election result testified yet again. There is no short cut around British Social Democracy. The resolution then laid out a perspective for the breaking of the working class from a reformism that was already ‘dead’:

The very conditions of life – big cuts in real wages, the threat of unemployment, brutal attacks on living standards and trade union organisation by the Labour government – will break millions of workers from any attachment to reformism [which, remember, is ‘dead'] in the immediate future. [8]

How simple. The only trouble was, this schema bore little if any relationship to reality, either to the state of the British economy, or to the role of reformism, which is much more complex than depicted here. Above all, what the resolution left out, or rather underestimated, was the ability and power of the working class not only to defend itself against attacks by capital, but actually to improve its wages and conditions, under its existing leaders. And this had been ruled out completely. Hence the perspective of a break from reformism ‘by millions’ in the ‘immediate future’. Thus the proposal was made and voted on to ‘stand candidates in the next parliamentary elections’ to ‘expose and defeat the existing “parliamentary” leaderships of the working class’. A task rendered all the more easy by the fact that ‘Social Democracy is now preparing its greatest-ever betrayal of the British working class’. [9] After the betrayal – us! The bigger the betrayal, the better for the vanguard. So said the Stalinists of the Third Period, and so said – and still says – the leadership of the WRP. The number one lesson of history is that bureaucracy feeds on defeats, even defeats that it has itself engineered. The task of the vanguard is not to be a witness to these betrayals, but to fight to prevent them, to force the reformists back from the path of betrayal and to make possible their exposure under conditions where the vanguard, and not the bourgeoisie, will be the beneficiary of Social Democratic treachery. The 1968 resolution spoke of this ‘betrayal’ as an accomplished fact, against whose consequences the movement then had to rally the working class. Left in words, this perspective was capitulationist in content.

This same conference hedged its bets on the future of Social Democracy, however, for in an addendum to the Political Perspectives (on racialism), it conceded that ‘Social Democracy may find some form of life after the fall of the present government’ (emphasis added). No question of a Labour victory, or, heaven forbid, of the SLL working for it. Labour was going to fall, and, one suspects, a good job too. But would that not mean the return of the Tories? Not necessarily. For ‘the next stage of relations between the classes cannot be contained within the Tory-Labour parliamentary framework’. And, remember, the SLL would be running its own candidates.

The year of 1969 saw this line taken beyond the limits of ordinary credence. The Tories were preparing to take office on the most reactionary conservative programme since the war, and to oust as too dependent on the working class a government the SLL had characterised in terms more appropriate to a fascist regime. In March, the London Area Committee of the SLL passed a resolution which spoke of ‘the revolutionary situation now evolving’ and of ‘the masses who are now rejecting Social Democracy’. A note of realism crept into this same resolution, however, when it complained of the ‘deplorably low theoretical level of the League’ – a state of affairs for which the present author holds himself in part responsible, by uncritically endorsing such travesties of Trotskyist theory and programme.

The zenith – or rather nadir – of this ultra-leftist phase was reached at the Whitsun annual SLL conference of 1969. Statements such as ‘the rejection of the reformist Labour leadership in Britain’ were mere commonplaces. The resolution insisted against all the evidence to the contrary – on a perspective that would ‘carry us in the immediate future into the struggle for power.’ And if reformism were finished – ‘dead’ in fact – and if the working class were rejecting it for the revolutionary alternative, and the ruling class had no other solution open to it but violent repression of the working class, the perspective would have been one of the immediate struggle for power. But it was not, despite the claim that the situation was ‘rapidly becoming pre-revolutionary’. [10] No evidence of the concrete political manifestations of a pre-revolutionary situation – elements of dual power, dislocation of the economy, the growth of mass centrist, leftward-moving currents in the working class, splits in the bourgeoisie, etc – was brought forward to back up this perspective, since none existed. Subjective idealism reigned supreme, in a leadership that vaunted itself as exponents of dialectical materialism and ‘philosophy’.

How did the SLL conference see the political level of the British working class in the summer of 1969, one year before it gave 12 million votes to the ‘dead’ reformists, and one year after the emergence of a pre-revolutionary situation which posed the struggle for power in ‘the immediate future'?

The desertion of the reformist [that is, Labour] party has been almost complete. Large sections of workers are now openly hostile to the Labour Party [this at least was true; some several millions have voted consistently Tory since the war – RB] and in large measure to all politics [hardly an indicator of revolutionary consciousness – RB]. The fall in the Labour vote at by-elections has been dramatic proof of this. There is very little life left in the party itself [scarcely surprising, in view of the fact that it had been pronounced ‘dead’ two years previously – RB], and the left wing is demoralised by the impending electoral massacre. Whatever temporary swings there may be in electoral votes, the disarray of the Labour Party marks the end of an epoch in British politics, an epoch based upon reformism and class compromise... By the time the present Parliament reaches its end... the role of the Labour leadership will also have been finished. No section of the working class will ever again look to the labour party for leadership. [11]

Given that the reformists were not only ‘dead’, but now deserted for ever by the working class, all that remained to be done by the SLL was to bury the stinking corpse. The demand of the hour was ‘to fight now for socialist policies against the Labour government, to bring it down...’. [12] This statement must be denounced as demagogic and irresponsible. To ‘bring down’ a Labour government with an election pending must mean a refusal to vote Labour, for one can hardly struggle to overturn a regime and at the same time vote to keep it in office! But this resolution tried to have it both ways, for it also issued the slogan ‘Keep the Tories out’ – by bringing Labour down! While the absurdities of this line were never acknowledged (let alone corrected or the roots of the error of perspective explained), as the expected and inevitable election confrontation between Labour and the ‘Selsdon’ Tories approached, the SLL leadership silently and discreetly tail-ended the working class by coming out for a Labour vote to keep the Tories out and therefore, whether they like it or not, to keep Wilson and the rest of the rejected, exposed, discredited, doomed – and ‘dead’ – reformists in.

Remarkable as it may seem for those who see in Pabloism only a right-opportunist adaptation to bureaucracy, it took a similar line, arguing like the SLL that reformism was ‘dead’ and that the working class was in the process of shedding its last illusions in the Labour Party. Thus, in 1968, the same year that the SLL pronounced the Labour Party ‘dead’, Tariq Ali of the International Marxist Group wrote: ‘Today Social Democracy stands exposed and isolated, its credibility for the working class virtually destroyed.’ [13]

Elsewhere in the same article, Ali offers a simplistic definition of the role of Social Democracy that differs not one whit from that of the SLL, with its talk of reformism ‘smashing down’ and ‘impoverishing’ the working class and ‘enriching the monopolists’:

British Social Democracy is simply trying to fulfil its historic role – that of holding back the traditional organisations of the workers [Ali overlooks the fact that the Labour Party is one of the traditional organisations of the workers, and is based on another – the trade union movement! – RB] while cuts are made in workers’ living standards in order to solve the economic problems facing British capitalism. [14]

Which, if it were true, leads on to the inescapable conclusion that the British working class is hopelessly backward for it votes for this party with a regularity and consistency that must be very frustrating for radicals like Ali. Finally it must be said: from the false premise (based on a superficial analysis of the role of students in the May-June 1968 movement in France) that the traditional organisations of the working class (reformist and Stalinist parties, trade unions, etc) were either dead or dying, was deduced the Pabloite theory of the ‘new vanguard’. Student power, black power – these were to become the new vehicles of the socialist revolution, and their supporters, substitutes for the proletarian vanguard party. In the SLL, there was a formal and highly vocal opposition to such conceptions. But the notion of a ‘new vanguard’ also penetrated here, with an idealisation of the role of ‘the youth’, which in the period under discussion, developed to quite formidable proportions step by step with the retreat from work in and towards the Labour Party, and the emergence of the false theory that reformism was exposed in the eyes of millions of workers. The fruits of this leftism (itself proof that the role and nature of Pabloism had never been fully understood in the SLL leadership) we see today in the WRP’s theory of ‘corporatism’ and the revival of tactical conceptions that originated in the Third Period.

At this point we should pause to comment on a remarkable fact. Revisionism in the Bolshevik Party and the Comintern began under a leftist guise, that of the ‘Bolshevisation’ campaign waged by Zinoviev on behalf of the Troika against Trotsky and his supporters. When the false, leftist perspectives and ultimatistic methods of 1924 failed to yield the revolutionary rewards predicted by their initiators, the Stalin clique swung over to right opportunism, to socialism in one country, and allotted to the TUC lefts in Britain, and the Kuomintang bourgeois nationalists in China, the role of chief auxiliary to the Comintern in its new task of serving as the ‘frontier guard’ of the USSR. Thus leftism prepared the way for opportunism, for adaptation to Social Democracy, and in the last analysis, to the pressure of imperialism. So it was with Pabloism. The immediate postwar perspective of the Secretariat of the Fourth International was of a mass revolutionary upsurge rapidly going beyond and even outside of the traditional organisations of the working class. In Britain, the Revolutionary Communist Party was set up in 1944 precisely to take the leadership of this mass movement. When this perspective failed to materialise, Pablo and others swung over to the right, seeing in the nationalisations carried through in East Europe by the Soviet bureaucracy and its national agents proof that Stalinism still had a progressive role to play. The Kremlin (and later Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese Stalinists) now assumed the functions ascribed in an earlier epoch to the TUC lefts and the Kuomintang. And while we must insist on the all-important distinction between Stalinism, which is the outgrowth of a degenerated workers’ revolution, and Pabloism, which does not draw directly on the strength of a ruling state bureaucracy, there are nevertheless similarities between the evolution of Stalinism within the Comintern and Pabloism in the Fourth International that must not be minimised. Starting in 1968, and basing themselves on the upsurge in student militancy throughout the world, the Pabloites pronounced radicalised layers of the petit-bourgeoisie to be the ‘new vanguard’ (this was the theory of Mandel). In countries such as Britain, reformism was declared to be dead, and the workers allegedly breaking from it, ripe for ‘capture’ by the ‘new vanguard’, which would draw the workers to its side by heroic ‘confrontations’ with the police. International Socialism also flirted with this reactionary theory for a time, which was put to the test and found wanting in the LSE occupation in the winter of 1968-69. Thus Pabloism too has known its ‘Third Period’, and its Zinovievist birth pangs. It zigzags from left to right and back again to the ultra-left, thrust hither and thither not only by the impressionist theories of its leaders, but, more important, by the essentially petit-bourgeois basis and composition of the tendency itself. He who sees only right opportunism, open adaptation to bureaucracy, in Pabloism, is no better equipped to fight it than were those of Trotsky’s supporters in the later 1920s able to fight Stalinism, which they saw as a rightwards-moving tendency unable to make sharp and indeed adventurist turns to the left. From the foregoing we can see how important it is for a party constantly to check over its perspectives, assessing and revising them in the light of experience. For if this is not done openly and honestly in front of the whole membership, sudden turns in the political situation, or a serious error in tempo by the party leadership, will expose the party and the advanced workers around it to the dangers of pressure from hostile class forces. There is always present the tendency to react to the collapse of a false perspective by shooting off at a tangent in quest of new forces and policies that will ‘bring results’. So it was in 1925, so it was again with Pablo in 1950-53. Honest correction of perspectives is therefore a prerequisite for the struggle against revisionism and liquidationism, the adaptation of the party to hostile class forces.

Finally, it should not be passed over in silence that opposition to Pablo’s methods and perspectives, in the case of Healy, only dated from 1953, when Pablo and his supporters had gone over to a right-opportunist position. Just as Healy lived through the Third Period as an uncritical member of the Communist Party, so now did he only rebel against Pabloite revisionism when it revealed its right-wing face. Indeed, as late as 1952, Healy was numbered among Pablo’s most loyal executors, seconding the resolution which expelled the French Majority from the Fourth International! These are not dead episodes in the history of the Communist movement. They live today in the ultra-leftist course of the Healy leadership, a leadership which is proving daily that it learned little or nothing from either Trotsky’s break with the Stalinised Comintern in 1933, or the split from Pablo in 1953.

In the case of the SLL, the source of the original error in perspective lay in a schematic and highly subjective method of analysis. Tendencies and trends that certainly existed and became more accentuated in the period under discussion were elevated into accomplished facts, into a finished process of development. Not that the possibilities exist for a weakening of reformism, and, through the correct tactics, the consequent winning of key groups of workers to the revolutionary party. Instead reformism is ‘dead’, the working class has broken from it en masse and forever, the reformists are about to carry out their ‘greatest-ever betrayal’, are preparing to grind down the working class to pauperism, etc, etc. The concrete is dissolved into the abstract, the particular into the general, the relative into the absolute, the present into the future, and, as we now see with the building of the ‘mass revolutionary leadership’, [15] the liquidation of the Communist vanguard into the mass.

What had gone wrong? The problem which confronted the SLL in 1969 was that the class struggle had not developed at the tempo or with the sharpness anticipated after the election of the Labour government in 1964. The incomes policy, the seamen’s strike, the world monetary crisis, the introduction of the proposed anti-trade-union legislation of 1969 – and then its withdrawal – were all seen as harbingers of an ‘immediate’ struggle for power, of a ‘pre-revolutionary’ situation, as events which would rapidly expose the reformists in the eyes of the entire working class. It did not happen, and that was no fault of the SLL leadership. But it should have been openly recognised that the perspectives had been grossly over-optimistic as to the tempo of the class struggle, and corrected. Instead, a subjectivist method came to the fore, paraded as ‘Marxist philosophy’, which not only denied reality, but increasingly created an alternative and much more comforting world of the imagination, one in which the movement’s internal problems were increasingly seen by the top leadership as the source and not result of the relative stagnation in the class struggle. From this period dates the inner soul-searching in the SLL, the political self-flagellation, and the rise to positions of high authority of the ‘activists’, who were counterposed in an idealistic way to those who could not ‘relate theory to practice’.

The root of these internal problems in the SLL, some of which imposed severe strains on relations between different sections and members of the movement, as it fought to implement wrong policies based on a false perspective, was located in the class struggle itself, and in the continued grip of the reformist bureaucracy on the working class. The more the dominance of this bureaucracy was ignored and denied by the SLL, the more difficult it became to train cadres to fight reformism in the workers’ movement. But there were also other aspects to this problem that have, in the last year, come to the fore in a particularly sharp way.

Reformism, Fascism and Corporatism

The earliest instance of the anti-Trotskyist theory of ‘corporatism’ that the present author has been able to unearth in the publications of the SLL is in an article by Cliff Slaughter in Labour Review in 1959. Discussing the degeneration of international Social Democracy in the early imperialist era, Slaughter makes the following remarkable, to say the least, observation:

What was a correct strategy for many years, work through Parliament, an open party and the creation of strong trade unions, proved eventually to have its own dangers when it persisted into the monopoly phase of capitalist development – a phase when the parliamentary and trade union machines gradually became incorporated into the bourgeois state. [16]

Nearly everything is wrong here, and monumentally so. Parliament has always, in the capitalist era, been a component part of the capitalist state. It did not become ‘incorporated’ into the state only during the period of monopoly capitalism. This conception has affinities with the right-opportunist Stalinist theory that the task of Marxists is to fight to free Parliament from the grip of big business, and restore it to its old independence from the capitalist state. Then Slaughter commits his second blunder. He links together Parliament, a completely bourgeois institution, with the trade unions, working-class organisations both in content and by origin, led by a reformist bureaucracy. This is at the same time a leftist and rightist error. Finally we arrive at Slaughter’s claim that at some time during the onset of the rise to dominance of monopoly capitalism, roughly in the final quarter of the last century, the trade unions were ‘gradually... incorporated into the bourgeois state’. If Slaughter is correct on this point, then Britain (which in a footnote is cited as a ‘good example’ of this development) has for at least 75 years been without independent trade unions! Yet this was precisely the era in which, despite setbacks, the trade unions achieved total immunity from the law. Slaughter thus, after the manner of the academic, dissolves the real struggle of the working class to establish, defend and extend its organised strength against the capitalist state, into an abstract, supra-historical ‘tendency’ which, if carried to its logical conclusion, means that the working class can be and in fact has been robbed of its rights and independent organisations ‘gradually’, without any workers being aware that this defeat is being inflicted, and therefore without any section of the working class resisting it. Corporatism can be installed ‘behind the backs’ of the working class.

As far back as the SLL conference of 1963, we find the following perspective being put forward for future relations between the reformist organisations and the capitalist state:

The struggles of our epoch raise immediately the problem of power, and so the integration of the trade unions into the state, and of the parliamentary leaders more closely into the bureaucratic and militarised state, are necessary instruments. Both must prepare in the security preparations of the capitalist state. [17]

This theme was revived at the 1966 conference, when the Trade Union Resolution spoke of the ‘concentration of capitalist state power, and its need in every country to incorporate the trade unions into the state in different ways...’. The same resolution also declared that ‘the alternatives are either integration of the unions into the state or the transformation of the trade unions into revolutionary organs of the class, under the leadership of the Marxist party’. [18] This formulation is not an invention of the SLL leadership. It can be found in the last article written by Trotsky, or rather the ‘rough notes for an article’ that was ‘obviously by no means complete’. [19] But what Trotsky says in this article has often, in the author’s judgement, been misconstrued. Moreover, Trotsky himself employs certain formulations which are open to question (unless one sees Marxism as holy writ) and in fact mutually contradictory. One must first place the article in its political-historical setting. Independent trade unionism had been crushed across the length and breadth of Europe, the homeland of the mass trade unions of modern capitalism. From Franco Spain to Nazi Germany the trade unions had been replaced by fascist ‘labour’ organisations, whose sole function was to regiment and discipline the workforce to the requirements of capitalist production. Trotsky’s article begins: ‘There is one common feature in the... degeneration of modern trade union organisations in the entire world: it is their drawing closely to and growing together with the state power.’ Then Trotsky goes on a little further to say:

The labour bureaucrats do their level best in words and deeds to demonstrate to the ‘democratic’ state how reliable and indispensable they are in peacetime and especially in time of war. By transforming the trade unions into organs of the state, fascism invents nothing new; it merely draws to their ultimate conclusion the tendencies inherent in imperialism.

Neither in Italy, Germany nor Spain did fascism transform the trade unions into organs of the state. On the contrary, it smashed them, in the case of Italy over a period of several years, in Germany, in three months, and in Spain, instantly as soon as Franco’s armies occupied the territory in which they operated. These are historical facts, and are not open to question. We must assume therefore that Trotsky meant something different when he used the word ‘transforming’.

And we would be quite right so to assume. Two pages on, Trotsky writes:

We cannot renounce the struggle for influence over workers in [Nazi] Germany merely because the totalitarian regime makes such work extremely difficult there. We cannot, in precisely the same way, renounce the struggle within the compulsory labour organisations created by fascism.

Here Trotsky uses a very different formulation, one that accorded entirely with the realities of the fascist regimes of Europe. And not only Europe. Discussing the trade union question in the economically backward countries, Trotsky writes:

... the governments of those backward countries which consider it inescapable or more profitable for themselves to march shoulder to shoulder with foreign capital, destroy the labour organisations and institute a more or less totalitarian regime. [20]

Perhaps the advocates of the theory of ‘corporatism’ would argue that Trotsky underwent a belated conversion to the conceptions of ‘social fascism’ in the last weeks of his life. But then they would therefore have to explain how this same Trotsky, in the course of drafting the main texts for the emergency conference of the Fourth International held in May 1940, wrote the following, under the heading ‘The Trade Unions and the War’:

In wartime the trade union bureaucracy definitively becomes the military police of the army’s General Staff in the working class. But no zeal will save it. War brings death and destruction to the present reformist trade unions... There will be no room for reformist unions. Capitalist reaction will destroy them ruthlessly. [21]

But to return to the article in question – ‘Trade Unions in the Epoch of Imperialist Decay’ – which has been so perverted by the WRP leadership.

The author is not alone in preferring Trotsky’s latter formulation, which speaks of the destruction of the trade unions by fascism, one which accords with his many writings against the Stalinist theory of ‘social fascism’. The introduction to the pamphlet in question quite correctly warns that unless the problem of state power is posed in the fight to defend the trade unions from attacks by the state, they will be ‘destroyed as they have in the past by fascist dictatorship acting on behalf of the big monopolies’. [22] The publishers of this pamphlet? The SLL! Four years later, however, with the SLL fast slipping into an ultra-left line on the trade union leaders that resulted in their being called ‘corporatists’, the introduction was rewritten to give an opposite definition of fascism to the one contained in the 1968 edition: ‘... the integration of the trade unions into the machinery of the state... would be done either by the prostration before the capitalists of the trade union bureaucracy or by the direct transformation of the trade unions into state organs in a fascist dictatorship’. [23] From ‘destruction’ to ‘transformation’ – and without a word of explanation as to why.

Finally, as if to resolve any doubts that might have lingered on this question of the relations of reformist trade unions to fascism and the fascist state, Trotsky concludes:

Monopoly capitalism is less and less willing to reconcile itself to the independence of trade unions. It demands of the reformist bureaucracy and the labour aristocracy who pick up the crumbs from the banquet table that they become transformed into its political police before the eyes of the working class. If that is not achieved, the labour bureaucracy is driven away and replaced by the fascists... all the efforts of the labour aristocracy in the service of imperialism cannot in the long run save them from destruction. [24]

In Weimar Germany, the bourgeoisie did demand of the ADGB bureaucracy that it serve as the ‘political police’ of the employers and the state. But the bureaucracy was unable to perform this function, due to the constraints imposed on it as a bureaucracy rooted in the organisations of the working class. Fascism had to pulverise these organisations, and ‘drive away’ (or rather lock up) the reformist trade union leaders, and sometimes even murder them, to meet the economic and political requirements of German imperialism. The same applied to Italy and Spain. Class collaboration was in each case supplanted by the savage destruction of the workers’ organisations and the repression of the trade union bureaucracy. This is the meaning of Trotsky’s statement that even the most servile trade union bureaucrat cannot hope, in the long run, to escape the destruction of the organisations on which he is based, and therefore the termination of his own career – and possibly even his life. This leads directly on to the WRP’s perversion of Marxism on the trade union question, and also of Trotsky’s analysis of the relationship between the reformist bureaucracy and fascism. And as in the case of perspectives and the tempo of the exposure of reformism, the revision is, in formal terms, to the ultra-left.

As we have noted, the seeds of the line and theory that bloomed luxuriantly in 1973 were certainly sown as early as 1963-64, when the SLL leadership was preparing abruptly to terminate its entry work in the Labour Party and move towards an ‘open’ organisation that would hopefully attract the masses of workers whom the SLL anticipated would be breaking from reformism in the immediate future, as a consequence of the expected monumental betrayals of the Labour and trade union leaders. Thus in his report to the SLL Conference of November 1964, Cliff Slaughter put forward the following perspective for the newly-elected Wilson government, a perspective that included its possible evolution towards fascism:

Ex-union leader Frank Cousins was a natural Minister of Labour, but he was made Minister of Technology. This implies that the government needed a rapid change in technology through the discipline of labour by the unions, or through the threat of a totalitarian government or fascist state. [25]

And ‘the government’ Slaughter was talking about was a Labour government! Cousins, the chosen spearhead of this ‘totalitarian’ or ‘fascist’ development, resigned from the Wilson cabinet less than two years later over government wages policy and its attempts to limit the independence of the trade unions! Slaughter’s formulation must, however, be seen as an extreme example of SLL thinking on the trade unions at this time, for it did not reappear again until 1969.

It was not by accident that the same 1969 SLL Conference Resolution that confidently – almost arrogantly – predicted that ‘no section of the working class will ever again look to the Labour Party for leadership’ and a ‘struggle for power’ in the ‘immediate future’ should also have contained the formulation that, of all the pre-1972 statements on the trade unions and the state, approaches most closely to the theory of ‘social fascism’:

... the capitalist class faces the prospect of a highly dangerous transition phase to another form of class rule: either it effects this through the imposition of a Bonapartist dictatorship, or else the workers are led by the revolutionary party to the proletarian dictatorship. While they prepare for the bloodiest of direct repressions [this was in May 1969] by the army and the state, the bourgeoisie relies directly [emphasis in original] on the trade union bureaucracy to effect this transition in their favour. Now that the Labour Government is discredited [a year later, it received 12 million votes, including those of the SLL – RB], everything depends, for the ruling class, on the betrayals of the trade union leaders... The bureaucracy is flesh of one flesh with Wilson and the Labour Cabinet. Its fate is tied up with them, like them it will act in accordance with the needs of capitalism, even beyond the doorway into fascism, if it is not challenged and defeated. [26]

The reader might well rub his eyes in disbelief. For here we have a formulation that, quite apart from its incredibly muddled thinking on the question of Bonapartism (which, by its very nature, excludes the direct rule of fascism), actually states that British Social Democracy, in both its trade union and Labour Party varieties, will continue to function, ‘to act in accordance with the needs of capitalism’, under a fascist dictatorship, ‘even beyond the doorway into fascism’.

Now this is, of course, the theory that dominated the Comintern and especially its German section between 1929 and 1934; namely that Social Democracy (the Stalinists of course used the term ‘social fascism’) would continue to serve capitalism under a fascist regime, in their words, would continue to act as the ‘main social support of the bourgeoisie’. This reactionary theory was only finally officially discarded with the onset of the Popular Front in the summer of 1934. The veteran British Stalinist Palme Dutt used very similar formulations to the SLL’s 1969 resolution in his book Fascism and Social Revolution in a section entitled ‘The Adaptation of Social Democracy to Fascism’:

As capitalism develops to more and more fascist forms, Social Democracy, which is the shadow of capitalism, necessarily goes through a corresponding process of adaptation... With the complete victory of the fascist dictatorship, this process of adaptation does not come to an end, but on the contrary reaches even more extreme forms. [27]

Those comrades who believe that the theoretical degeneration of the movement began only with the launching of the WRP should look closely at the cited section of the 1969 SLL Conference Resolution, and ask themselves in what way it differs in its essentials from Dutt’s. And they should also turn once again to the writings of Leon Trotsky on the question of fascism and Social Democracy, in which he consistently attacks the notion put forward by Dutt – and the 1969 resolution – that Social Democracy will serve the bourgeoisie ‘even beyond the doorway into fascism’. Trotsky, first against Zinoviev and Stalin in 1924, and then again against the entire Comintern leadership from 1928 to 1934, insisted on the contradiction between fascism and Social Democracy, that they were two distinct, mutually exclusive and therefore antagonistic forms of political rule. The rise of fascism heralds, and its assumption of power accomplishes, the destruction of the organisations of Social Democracy, both trade union and political. This was the experience in Italy and in Germany. Reflecting in 1928 on the first dispute of 1924 over the relationship between Social Democracy and fascism, Trotsky returned to Stalin’s famous formulation that fascism and Social Democracy were not antipodes, but twins:

One might say that the Social Democracy is the left wing of bourgeois society and this definition would be quite correct if one does not construe it so as to over-simplify it and thereby forget that the Social Democracy still leads millions of workers behind it and within certain limits is constrained to reckon not only with the will of its bourgeois master, but also with the interests of its deluded proletarian constituency. But it is absolutely senseless to characterise the Social Democracy as the ‘moderate wing of fascism’. What becomes of bourgeois society itself in that case? In order to orient oneself in the most elementary manner in politics, one must not throw everything into a single heap but instead distinguish between the Social Democracy and fascism which represent two poles of the bourgeois front – united at the moment of danger – but two poles, nevertheless. [28]

And when Trotsky spoke of the possibility of fascism and Social Democracy being ‘united at the moment of danger’, he envisaged this as taking place in a civil war in which the proletariat was on the offensive. The SLL scenario, by contrast, had the reformists serving a fascist regime after a defeat had been imposed on the working class, that is, after ‘the bloodiest of direct repression by the army and the state’. The alternative line of development envisaged by the SLL in 1969 was the revolutionary party leading the working class to ‘challenge and defeat’ the plans of the ruling class and the bureaucracy – in other words, a struggle for state power in which the reformists would perform the role ascribed to them by Trotsky as the spearheads of counter-revolution. The SLL therefore had its perspectives entirely the wrong way round. It had the army, fascists and the labour and trade union leaders ‘all thrown into a heap’ in the very situation that would have thrown them into mortal conflict – namely the attempted seizure of power by fascism!

When faced with the threat of imminent proletarian revolution in the winter of 1918-19, the Social Democrats allied themselves with the Free Corps, among whom were many who later emerged as cadres of Nazism. But in 1933, these same Social Democrats were hounded out of office and into exile by their allies of 1919. If one cannot appreciate the difference between revolution and counter-revolution (a difference which accounts for the alliance in 1919 and the antagonism in 1933 between the reformists and the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie) then things have indeed come to a sorry pass.

Trotsky on Social Fascism

The reader who does not feel involved in this absolutely vital, indeed decisive, theoretical polemic with the WRP leadership must be patient. For it was the perversion of Marxism on this question that directly led to the victory of fascism in Germany, and the most monstrous period of barbarism endured by mankind in the history of this planet. That is why it is necessary to confront not only the WRP leadership, but the entire movement, with the record of what Trotsky himself wrote on the question of social fascism:

No matter how true it is that the Social Democracy prepared the blossoming of fascism by its whole policy, it is no less true that fascism comes forward as a deadly threat primarily to that same Social Democracy, all of whose magnificence is inextricably bound up with parliamentary-democratic-pacifist forms and methods of government... [29]

Yet the SLL insisted that reformism could survive and, moreover, assist in the ‘imposition of a Bonapartist dictatorship’ and ‘the bloodiest of direct repressions by the army and state’. Would these then leave both parliament and the trade unions intact? One must assume so. In which case, Stalin, and not Trotsky, was right on social fascism:

The thousands upon thousands of Noskes, Welses and Hilferdings prefer, in the last analysis, fascism to Communism. But for that they must once and for all tear themselves loose from the workers. Today this is not yet the case. Today the Social Democracy as a whole, with all its internal antagonisms, is forced into sharp conflict with the fascists. It is our task to take advantage of this conflict and not to unite the antagonists against us. [30]

The SLL resolution of 1969 denied that such a conflict existed, thereby excluding the possibility and use of tactics which flowed from Trotsky’s analysis. Instead, there was advanced the slogan ‘Bring down the Labour government’ – a government whose leaders were about to serve under fascism. We might recall that the KPD Stalinists, acting on Stalin’s orders, campaigned and voted with the Nazis to bring down the Prussian Social Democrats, who were also depicted as willing agents of fascist dictatorship. In the case of the SLL, however, the old Trotskyist traditions and principles won out, and the SLL campaigned for a Labour vote in the June 1970 general elections. In retrospect, however, one must concede that the attacks conducted by the SLL on Robin Blackburn of the Red Mole for advocating abstention on the grounds that both Labour and Tory were capitalist parties, while correct, also served to conceal the abstentionist position the SLL had toyed with in 1969:

Social democracy has prepared all the conditions necessary for the triumph of fascism. But by this fact it has also prepared the stage for its own political liquidation [not ‘incorporation into the state'! – RB]... German Communism in its struggle against the Social Democracy must lean on two separate facts: 1) the political responsibility of the Social Democracy for the strength of fascism; 2) the absolute irreconcilability between fascism and those workers’ organisations on which Social Democracy itself depends. [31]

Again, if this statement is correct (and it was proved to be so – tragically – in little more than a year) then the 1969 SLL resolution is just nonsense. For if Wilson, Feather, Scanlon, Jones, etc, had been permitted to serve a fascist regime in Britain, in what capacity would they have done so, given that the organisations on which they rested, and from which they derived their earlier usefulness to the bourgeoisie, had been totally destroyed? Fascism seeks its mass support not in isolated collaborators from the old and destroyed workers’ organisations, but the petit-bourgeoisie. To elevate Wilson to a position of any prominence in a fascist regime would, moreover, be a direct provocation to the fascist petit-bourgeoisie, who made the counter-revolution precisely in order to put the labour bureaucrats, the ‘reds’, out of business once and for all. But such questions did not interest the SLL leadership, any more than they did the KPD. Reformism, fascism, Bonapartism, the army – all were lumped together in Lassalle’s ‘one reactionary mass’ and counterposed to a working class breaking for ever with reformism and moving towards the direct struggle for state power under the ‘independent’ leadership of the ‘revolutionary party’ – which at the SLL conference in question numbered no more than a few hundred, most of them youth not active in trade unions. The gap between reality and perspectives was and remains staggering, and could have only led, as it did, to the systematic demoralisation of precious cadres, and the consequent strengthening of not only hostile revisionist tendencies, but Social Democracy itself. Such is the logic of ultra-leftism. Trotsky attacked the Third Period policies of Stalinism for this reason, that they protected the reformists from the pressure of their own workers. The Stalinists refused to acknowledge the contradiction between the Social Democrats and the Nazis, even though on its exploitation depended the fate of the entire German proletariat. Trotsky posed this question in philosophic terms, and in a way that throws penetrating light on the scholastic forms of thought that masquerade as ‘Marxist philosophy’ and ‘dialectical materialism’ in the top leadership of the WRP today.

Of Third Period Stalinism’s refusal to distinguish a principled difference between fascism and bourgeois democracy, Trotsky wrote:

The gist of this philosophy is quite plain: from the Marxist denial of the absolute contradiction [that is, of a contradiction between the capitalist economic bases of fascist and bourgeois-democratic regimes – RB] it deduces the general negation of the contradiction, even of the relative contradiction. This error is typical of vulgar radicalism.[NB] For if there is no contradiction whatsoever between democracy and fascism – even in the sphere of the form of the rule of the bourgeoisie – then these two regimes obviously enough must be equivalent. Whence the conclusion: Social Democracy equals fascism. [32]

This is the method of the WRP leadership. It does not say, like the Third Period Stalinists, that there is no principled difference between fascism and bourgeois democracy. But it has said, and it still does, that Social Democracy, whose entire functions are bound up with a parliamentary regime and mass workers’ organisations, can serve under a fascist – or, in the current parlance, corporatist – regime. In other words, the SLL started from the point at which the Stalinists arrived. In both instances, relative contradictions within polar opposites are dissolved away into the general contradiction between the two poles. Fascism and Social Democracy are polar opposites to Communism – an absolute contradiction since the two poles rest on a mutually exclusive system of property relations, to which all other contradictions are subordinate. But within the capitalist pole there are also relative opposites of a political nature, each again being mutually exclusive – fascist dictatorship and parliamentary democracy, of which Social Democracy is an organic part. Stalinist scholasticism against Marxist dialectics – this was one of the forms the struggle between the Comintern bureaucracy and the International Left Opposition assumed in Germany in the period of Hitler’s rise to power. Has this experience, like the related questions of tactics and strategy, been lost on today’s Trotskyist vanguard? The dangers are that it might be soon, unless a fight begins in the movement to drive out these political and methodological residues from an utterly alien tendency.

That such residues exist was at one time freely admitted by the SLL leadership. Peter Fryer (the founding editor of the Newsletter, forerunner of Workers Press) wrote in his book The Battle for Socialism that the pioneers of the British Trotskyist movement:

... inherited some of the less happy features of Comintern line and language during the so-called ‘Third Period’ of Left sectarianism. The Marxist groups could not but bear the stamp of the Communist Party from which they sprang: could not but share its virtual isolation from the mass movement, its tendency to adventurism and the harshness of its language towards political opponents, particularly those who were relatively close to its own point of view. [33]

These were not just Fryer’s views. In a short note, the author thanked ‘the comrades who have helped me in writing this book: either by reading all or part of it and suggesting improvements, as Michael Banda, Brian Behan, Gerry Healy, William Hunter... and Brian Pearce have done’. [34] Fryer’s remarks on the question of Third Period residues within the British Trotskyist movement now acquire a new significance in view of the WRP’s sharp lurch to the ultra-left in designating reformist and Stalinist leaders as ‘corporatists’, and in taking up some of the tactical devices employed by the KPD during the Third Period – the united front from below, refusal to defend reformists from attacks by the bourgeoisie, vacillations on the question of fighting for a Labour government, flirtation with ‘red unionism’ (the All Trade Union Alliance) monotonous predictions of imminent military coups and civil war in Britain and other advanced capitalist states, the substitution of the ultimatistic maximum programme of the WRP for the Transitional Programme of the Fourth International, etc, etc. All these are indications, not that the WRP is in any sense a Stalinist or pro-Stalinist tendency, but that its failure to consummate the final break with the negative traditions referred to by Fryer now becomes a powerful factor in pulling the movement away from the working class towards self-imposed sectarian isolation. It is an isolation that the top leadership is now seeking to overcome by liquidating the party into the radical petit-bourgeoisie and largely non-political layers of unorganised youth that predominate in the WRP’s youth section, the Young Socialists. Sectarianism therefore begets opportunism, as so often in the history of the Marxist movement.

To return to Trotsky on social fascism:

Let us assume [as did the SLL’s resolution of 1969 in a British context – RB] that the Social Democracy would, without fearing its own workers, want to sell its toleration to Hitler. But Hitler does not need this commodity: he needs not the toleration but the abolition of the Social Democracy. [35]

So it was not and is not a question of the subjective intentions of the reformist bureaucracy, as Leipart found out to his cost. Social Democracy is an objectively existing current in the working class, based on material and historical foundations. When it comes to power, fascism must tear up by their roots all the independent organisations of the proletariat, not only those of the revolutionary movement, but those of Social Democracy. Cannot the WRP leaders see this and understand the tactical considerations flowing from it? But Trotsky goes yet further, in a direction that, were the lines that follow written by anyone else, would result in their author being denounced by Workers Press as an apologist for bureaucracy:

The Social Democracy supports the bourgeois regime, not for the profits of the coal, steel and other magnates, but for the sake of those gains which it itself can obtain as a party, in the shape of its numerically great and powerful apparatus. [36]

This was not at all how the SLL saw things in 1968, when its conference resolution declared that the British Social Democrats occupied office ‘in order to facilitate the smashing down and impoverishment of the working class, and to enrich the monopolists’ [emphasis added].

Moralism and psychology were substituted for an historical and theoretical analysis of Social Democracy, which is not one whit less counter-revolutionary for being concerned with its own social base in the mass organisations of the proletariat. For therein lies precisely its unique role! Trotsky was scathing of the Third Period Stalinists who sought to characterise the reformists in subjectivist and moralistic terms:

‘Can we actually assume that these inveterate traitors would separate themselves from the bourgeoisie and oppose it?’ [Ask Stalinists rhetorically – RB] Such an idealistic method has very little in common with Marxism, which proceeds not from what people think about themselves or what they desire but from the conditions in which they are placed and from the changes which these conditions will undergo. [37]

In other words, today’s – and yesterday’s – traitors, when spurned by the hand that formerly fed and rewarded them for their treachery, may be forced to display other qualities, which, if not heroic, may contain sufficient oppositional character to provide splendid tactical opportunities for the revolutionary party to make a road to the workers who still follow the reformists. This was the essence of Trotsky’s united front policy for Germany. Once again, by depicting Social Democracy as nothing else but the ‘worst enemy of the working class’, [38] the SLL liquidates all differences between the various forms of bourgeois rule, ranging from a Labour government under parliamentary democracy to fascism – for are not the Tories the ‘worst enemies of the working class’ and would not fascism become so if it assumed mass proportions in Britain? Again, how can there be any question of a united front with the worst enemies of the working class? And against whom could it be directed, if not less worse enemies? From idealistic theory flow false perspectives, a wrong analysis of Social Democracy and finally, on the plane of practical politics, wrong tactics for work in and around the mass reformist organisations. The SLL became walled off from the very source of its potential strength, and its cadres denied the only field of work where they could have come to grips with the real problems of a working class dominated by the oldest reformist bureaucracy in the world.

Instead of using the methods of petit-bourgeois moralism, Trotsky insisted that reformism should be seen ‘as an historic reality, with its interests and its contradictions, with all its oscillations to the right and left...’. [39] Idealisation of Social Democracy perhaps? Or a dialectical materialist, instead of subjective idealist, approach to reformism? For the SLL and now its successor, the WRP, Social Democracy was and is always moving to the right at breakneck speed, leaving one to imagine either that at some time in the distant past the Labour Party was a revolutionary party, or that at some time in the near future it will become a fully-fledged fascist party. And indeed it must, if no other movement except yet further to the right is projected for it. While this obviates the need for either prolonged entry work in the Labour Party or a united front tactic (since few workers will be found supporting such a party as it gallops rightwards over the horizon beyond the doorway into fascism), it brings the vanguard not one inch nearer solving the task that has faced Marxists in Britain since the time of Engels and Marx: how to cut a road to the mass workers’ movement as it really exists, and not as we would like it to be.

One final quotation from Trotsky before moving on to discuss the new phase of ultra-leftism that erupted in the SLL towards the end of 1972, and is still with us at the time of writing (March 1974):

The leaders of the Communist International failed to understand that capitalism in decay is no longer able to come to terms with the most moderate and most servile Social Democracy, either as a party in power, or as a party in opposition. It is the mission of fascism to take its place not ‘side by side’ with the Social Democracy but on its bones. Precisely from this there flows the possibility, the need and the urgency of the united front... [40]

Enter Corporatism

For those in the WRP who stopped to think about it, the repeated use of the term ‘corporatism’ in the Workers Press caused great confusion. Some members thought it meant simply reformist class-collaboration, others the ‘incorporation of the trade unions into the state’, and others yet again, fascism. One can sympathise with their bewilderment, since all three versions are to be found in the press of the WRP, even, on occasions, being interwoven with one another and also with other state forms such as Bonapartism, police-military dictatorship and Presidential rule, to name only three. If we look more closely at this question of corporatism, we can see that the word fulfils its different functions mostly (though not always) according to the subject matter. For Marxists who treat the terminology of their science seriously, as epistemological tools for approximating as closely as possible to an ever-changing reality, and not as terms of abuse, corporatism is the state form created by fascism, in which trade unions are dissolved and new, fascist ‘labour’ organisations established whose leaders function as slave-drivers of the workers on behalf of the monopolies. Such was Robert Ley’s Labour Front which in fact took the name of a corporation, plagiarising the corporations of fascist Italy. Now there is evidence to suggest that this is the meaning given to corporatism by the WRP leaders, and here they are acting as orthodox Trotskyists. To cite some examples. ‘The MSI [the Italian neo-fascists] wants to smash all resistance by destroying free trade unions and constructing a corporate state on the Hitler-Mussolini model.’ [41] No doubts here. Not the ‘incorporation of the trade unions into the state’ nor their ‘tying to the state’, but their destruction. And this is just what Hitler and Mussolini did, and Franco after them. The MSI’s politics were given an identical characterisation in a Workers Press editorial in November 1972. It spoke of ‘influential industrialists... backing the fascist MSI in the hope that it can bring back Mussolini’s corporate state and discipline the working class’. [42] Later we shall see that, according to the Workers Press, those harbouring the same designs in Britain included the entire leadership of the TUC!

In March 1971, little more than a year before the ‘new line’ on corporatism emerged, an SLL Political Committee Manifesto asked workers: ‘Will you see your trade unions destroyed, will you walk the road of the corporate state, the path of Mussolini and Hitler...?’ [43] Quite unambiguously, the corporate state is presented as the work of Hitler and Mussolini, a regime that destroys trade unions.

Gerry Healy, General Secretary of the WRP, also knows what corporatism really is, and, moreover (in view of Bull’s theory that it is operated by trade union leaders) that it inevitably leads to the elimination and persecution of even the most craven reformist bureaucrats:

This is the era of the corporate state and fascism, and the destruction of the entire trade union movement, as well as the democratic rights of all workers. Just as in Germany under Hitler, the loyal trade union servants of the ruling class may yet rub shoulders with revolutionary Marxists in the concentration camps of the future. This grim reminder should never be forgotten. [44]

Good advice – unfortunately not heeded by Healy’s own editorial staff, who would in two years’ time be telling Workers Press readers of the ‘advantages’ that ‘the corporate state and fascism’ bring to the reformist leaders of the workers’ movement.

Five days later, Workers Press returned to this theme of the threat posed to the reformist bureaucracy by the growth of ultra-reactionary tendencies in the ruling class, and quite correctly warned: ‘The Weimar bell tolls for you too Messrs Scanlon, Jones and Heffer!’ [45] How far the SLL departed from this Trotskyist position can be traced in the analysis of the SLL-WRP line from the autumn of 1972 onwards that the author presents in the later part of this appendix. No longer being future victims of corporatism, the Scanlons and Joneses were numbered among its disciples, executants and benefactors.

An equally precise definition of corporatism, equating it with fascism, was made in a statement adopted unanimously by the Fifth Annual Conference of the ATUA on 22 October 1972. Under the heading ‘Moves To Corporatism’, the section in question declared:

This is the real meaning of their [that is, the Tories'] proposed laws to restrict wage increases, and of the Industrial Relations Act... These measures facilitate the plans of the big monopolies to put an end to Parliamentary government and install a corporatist dictatorship. While such a programme cannot be carried out without the defeat and destruction of the trade unions and parties of the working class, nevertheless every capitulation to the state control of wages and trade union rights is a step in the direction of the corporate state which is the essence of fascism. [46]

Within a matter of days, this analysis was to be thrown to the winds as the SLL impressionistically reacted to the TUC – CBI – Tory talks over voluntary wage restraint by accusing the trade union leaders of actually desiring a corporate state, ‘the essence of fascism’. So the TUC leaders were thus transformed from class-collaborationist reformist bureaucrats into fascists spearheading the drive towards the corporate state. But of this ultra-left turn by the SLL, more later.

The Chilean regime established by the coup of September 1973 was also described by Workers Press as a corporate state. And why?

The Chilean military Junta is fulfilling its brutal pledge to leave not one stone upon another in the struggle to smash workers’ organisations and democratic rights. A fully-fledged corporate state has now been proclaimed in which the Popular Unity parties and left-wing organisations have been banned and the working class placed under the rigid control of corporate institutions... [47]

On 27 October, the same paper said of the Junta that it was ‘turning the country into a corporate state on Portuguese lines’ and that ‘to replace the trade unions the junta intends to set up bodies like the Italian fascist “syndicates"... The inspiration for this scheme comes from Mussolini’s Italy, Salazar’s Portugal, and Franco’s Spain.’ [48] Jack Gale gave an excellent definition of fascism in an article on Franco Spain: ‘Its unique character consists in its destruction of every independent working class organisation.’ [49]

The nature of Spanish corporatism was examined in great detail by Juan Garcia in a series of articles in Workers Press in April 1973 entitled ‘Corporatism in Spain’. For Garcia, corporatism is fascism, is the destruction of trade unions and their replacement by fascist ‘labour’ organisations:

Spanish employers have no fears about the activity of the Organizacion Sindical, the vertical trade union of the fascist corporate state... It was only built after the physical destruction of the independent organisations of the Spanish working class in the 1936-39 Civil War...

But here we must run ahead a little. While he writes on Spain, Garcia is very clear on the nature of corporatism. It is fascism, the smashing of independent trade unions. But when he transfers his attentions to Britain, the SLL’s ultra-leftist, quasi-Third Period estimation of reformism takes over, and he slips into formulations that could have quite easily come from the pen of Royston Bull or Stephen Johns. First he says that the Franco ‘corporate union... epitomises everything that the Tories want in this country [that is, Britain] to replace the trade unions of the working class.’ [50] Even though this statement can be taken to mean that the Tories are fascists (which they are not), no Marxist would differ with his definition of corporatism as applied to Britain – the destruction of the trade unions, and their replacement by some other body. But at this point, because he has to toe the SLL line on the TUC ‘corporatists’, Garcia has to deny or pervert everything that he wrote about Spanish corporatism. In a subsequent article in the same series he writes of ‘men who are leading the British trade unions into the corporate state trap...’, these men including Vic Feather, the then Secretary of the TUC. [51] Finally, Garcia lapses into the methodology of the theory of ‘social fascism’ in accusing Labour Party leaders involved in protests against Franco’s anti-labour repressions of ‘complete collaboration with Tory corporatism’. [52] And corporatism is, by Garcia’s own definition, both in Spain and in Britain, fascism, the destruction of trade unions. If the two main workers’ organisations – the TUC and the Labour Party – are led by corporatists and if they had, as far back as April 1973, entered into ‘complete collaboration’ with an already existing Tory corporate state, then in what sense did corporatist Britain differ from corporatist Spain? Is (or was) Britain a fascist state? Let us go another step further. If the TUC unions have become an annexe of the corporate state, and their leaders the willing tools (or ‘devoted disciples’) of such a regime, should workers remain within such organisations? Or should they build new ‘red’ trade unions untainted with the stain of corporatism? In Spain, Garcia has already given his answer to this problem – and it is the correct one. Attacking the line of the Spanish Stalinists on the fascist syndicates, which is to depict them as organisations in the process of becoming genuine trade unions, Garcia writes:

The Stalinist policy of ‘taking over’ the official unions is now carried to its logical conclusion after the turn to promoting Spain’s entry into the EEC as the centre of party policy... In propagating the lie that the vertical unions have been taken over by the real representatives of the working class, the CP builds up the ‘liberal’ image of the now Euro-centred Franco regime. [53]

Garcia – and the WRP – must be consistent. Either join with the Spanish Stalinists in ‘reforming’ Franco’s corporatist ‘unions’, the same policy that the WRP applies to the ‘corporatist’ led unions in Britain, or pursue in Britain the correct policy advocated by Garcia for Spain – the development of the underground workers’ commissions. Implicit in the WRP’s theory of ‘corporatism’ is the notion of creating ‘red’ unions – and here we are confronted once again with the same problem of the residues of Third Period Stalinism. This is no exaggeration. On the front page of the issue which carried the first article of Garcia’s series on Spanish corporatism was the headline ‘Corporate State Is Law’. The article in question stated that the implementation of the Tory government’s Counter Inflation Act meant ‘the end of the basic trade union right of free wage negotiation’ (which was not strictly accurate, even within the terms of the law) and that ‘from today it is illegal for workers to strike to improve their wages above the level set by Premier Edward Heath’ (also not correct, as subsequent strikes, notably by the miners, demonstrated). But more than inaccurate was the statement that followed. Hugh Scanlon of the AUEW was charged with offering the ‘Tory corporatists’ a ‘deal... which amounts to a total acceptance of the corporate state and all its dictates.’ [54] What Scanlon had in fact done – and of course should have been denounced for, in the correct terms – was to offer TUC voluntary support for holding back wage claims, and propose amendments to the Industrial Relations Act. This is not corporatism, it is classic Social Democracy, pursuing its traditional role of class collaboration. In Spain, Franco’s regime did not appoint the Scanlons as the chiefs of his corporatist syndicates. He had them shot in their hundreds and thousands. Not total acceptance, but total rejection.

This then brings us to the second main use of the term ‘corporatist’ as it appears in the press of the SLL and WRP: its application to leaders of the workers’ movement. Here the Third Period residue is at its strongest – and most dangerous.

A harbinger of the line that was to emerge triumphant in 1973 was a short article by Ian Yeats on Northern Ireland towards the end of 1971 when he claimed that the Tory government planned to ‘establish a form of direct rule but through local agents – a semi-fascist formula in which the trade union and labour bureaucracies are transformed into a direct arm of the capitalist state’. [55] This was one occasion when it would prove to be a case of ‘Ulster today, Britain tomorrow’.

As we have tried to show, for several years prior to 1972, while the SLL vacillated somewhat in its estimation of the relationship between reformist trade unionism and fascism, the orthodox Trotskyist position predominated; namely that reformism and fascism are antagonistic and mutually exclusive systems of bourgeois domination of the working class, and that the establishment of a fascist regime necessarily involves not only the destruction of the reformist trade unions and the parties of Social Democracy but also, in the words of Trotsky, the ‘chasing away’ of the labour bureaucrats. In 1972, the SLL leadership began to revise this Trotskyist position. The initial impetus was the Tory government’s decision, taken in the summer of that year, to implement some form of incomes policy. Not only was this move presented as proof of Tory resolve to establish the corporate state, (which, as we have demonstrated, is equated by the WRP with fascism), but the TUC and Labour Party leaders (and later those of the CPGB) were depicted as eager supporters of the institution of such a state as well. In other words, the Tories were fascists ('corporatists’) and the reformists and Stalinists social fascists (Jack Jones – ‘a devoted disciple of corporatism’). But let the Workers Press speak for itself.

On 7 September 1972, John Spencer wrote from the TUC in Brighton that the vote giving sanction to member unions to appear before the Industrial Relations Court ‘proclaimed an openly corporatist position on class collaboration’. [56] In the already-quoted SLL statements on corporatism, it was equated with fascism. Now the term took on a new – and non-Marxist – connotation, implying class collaboration between the reformist bureaucracy and the capitalist state, leading not to the destruction of trade unions (as in earlier definitions) but their subordination, with the full agreement of their leaders, to a system of state control over wages. This revision of the Trotskyist position on the relationship between the labour bureaucracy and fascism gathered pace rapidly over the next weeks and months. On 8 September, Stephen Johns, the most enthusiastic advocate of this new line, wrote that ‘a whole section of the trade union movement has virtually declared itself for the corporate state’ – in other words, for fascism. With a certainty that was to be belied by the events of the next 18 months, Johns asserted that ‘cooperation with the anti-union laws is firmly enshrined as the ethic of the trade union movement’. Note that Johns twice says ‘movement’ and not just leadership. This is not a slip of the pen, but a worked-out sectarian theory of the hopelessness of reorienting the official workers’ movement. Left in words, it leaves out entirely the ability of the working class to impose its will – to a certain degree and in certain situations – on its own bureaucratic leaders. Thus Johns could write of the imminent formation of ‘the new corporate state TUC’, as if the working class would have no say in the policies and actions of its own organisations. Johns’ article concludes with a radical journalistic flourish that is entirely capitulationist in political content: ‘Brighton 1972 was not the year of the left but the year of the new corporate state TUC when union leader after union leader went over to the camp of reaction.’ [57] But it was also the year when the TUC went on record for the expulsion of all trade unions that registered under the Industrial Relations Act, a decision which was scrupulously honoured and implemented by those who ‘went over to the camp of reaction’. For Johns, presumably, this stand, forced on the bureaucracy by the pressure of the working class, nevertheless constituted proof that ‘cooperation with the anti-union laws is firmly enshrined as the ethic of the trade union movement’. But let us examine this thesis a little more closely. Johns declared in this article that electricians’ union leader Frank Chapple, an extreme right-winger, was spearheading this drive towards corporatism. Yet a year later, a stubborn strike of electricians in the Chrysler combine compelled this budding corporatist not only to give official backing to the strikers, but challenge the Tory government’s ‘corporatist’ wages policy. A stand which won him the ‘conditional support’ of... the SLL! Under a banner headline ‘Corporate State or Free Negotiations’, Workers Press on 27 September 1973 declared that Chapple ‘must be given conditional support in electricians fight for basic rights’. So now Chapple was leading the fight against the corporatism he a year previously was said to be introducing! Chapple and his fellow right-wingers, Workers Press asserted, were now ‘in the front line of the fight against the government’. [58] A week later, Workers Press’ enthusiasm for Chapple, the former lynchpin of the ‘corporate state TUC’, was still mounting, he being praised, together with his union executive, for his call for the nationalisation of Chrysler: ‘The EETPU has taken the utterly principled step of demanding the nationalisation of Chryslers.’ Chapple, along with his members, had ‘stood rock solid in the teeth of the Chrysler Corporation’s attacks’. [59] This sordid episode indicates with what little thought or sincerity the WRP leaders began their tactic of dubbing trade union and Labour Party bureaucrats ‘corporatists’, for at the slightest sign of a fight on the part of these same leaders, the designation is discarded and yesterday’s – and tomorrow’s – ‘corporatists’ praised to the skies as utterly principled fighters, standing rock solid against ruling-class attempts to destroy trade unionism and introduce the corporate state. But to return to the genesis of this theory of corporatism, which appeared in its finished form at the 1972 Trade Union Congress. It soon became evident that Johns was not speaking for himself alone when he chose the term ‘corporatist’ to characterise the TUC leadership, for on 9 September, in an introduction to an ATUA National Committee statement, Workers Press asserted that the TUC leaders had declared their ‘virtual acceptance of the ‘corporate state’. [60] Some confusion still existed as to what this acceptance implied for the working class however, for, on 28 September, Alex Mitchell, after claiming that the TUC had ‘entered still deeper into Heath’s plans for constructing the corporate state’ (implying thereby that Heath was no different from those who in the past had taken the same road – Mussolini, Hitler, Franco) gave his own definition of the regime Heath intended – with the full collaboration of the TUC – to construct: ‘The corporate state is no more [sic!] than a slave state.’ [61] The TUC bureaucracy had now been won over to a restoration of a slave economy, with Feather and company presumably functioning as its privileged slave-drivers and overseers. Confusion is the only word to describe the state of mind of the Workers Press staff at this juncture, for on 29 September, an article referred to a ‘blueprint for corporate state wage bargaining’ that had been published by the Commission on Industrial Relations. [62] Since when did slaves ‘bargain’ with their masters? And on a more realistic level, does not the introduction of corporatism (fascism) demolish all the institutions and practices of wage-bargaining? Such a formulation reveals dangerous illusions in the nature of fascism, which as Trotsky repeatedly insisted against the Third Period Stalinists, demolishes the last vestiges of bourgeois democracy and an independent workers’ movement – the latter being one of the two parties to all collective bargaining agreements and practices.

Yet right in the middle of this ultra-leftist turn, the SLL proved itself perfectly capable of a correct analysis of corporatism – outside the frontiers of Britain. On 3 October, an article on Portugal said of President Salazar that he ‘destroyed the trade unions... and set up a corporate state modelled on the ideals of Mussolini...’. [63] An International Committee of the Fourth International Statement, published on 29 December, on British entry into the EEC, declared that the Common Market had ‘nothing to offer the workers of Europe except unemployment, wage cuts, the destruction of their organisations and the drive towards the corporate state. If left unchallenged the plans of the European monopolies will result in the creation of fascist states...’ [64] Contrast this orthodox position on corporatism, fascism and reformist-led organisations of the working class with the leftist analysis made of the developing relations between the TUC and the Tory government following the Brighton TUC conference of September 1972. Here the problem was posed concretely as a task to be solved by the practice of the party, and not in newspaper articles and propaganda manifestos.

On 17 October 1972:

... the government will be preparing for a regime of economic dictatorship [sic – not political] where the law courts, the prisons as well as mass unemployment will be used against workers who fight for wages and basic rights. The threat of such a corporate state structure is now discussed quite openly in the Tory press as the alternative to the so-called voluntary restraint on wage rises and strikes... The reformist leaders are striving for a pact with the government and will continue their collaboration. [65]

Here the corporate state is not the destruction of unions, nor even their ‘incorporation into the state’, but law courts, prisons and mass unemployment. But naturally, the reformist leaders are ‘striving’ to implement this plan. Another article – by Alex Mitchell – in the same issue stated that the TUC ‘was negotiating behind closed doors with Heath... for state control over wages’. In other words, the TUC leaders, like the Tory corporatists, preferred state control of wages to voluntary restraint, even though this would mean their own demise.

Stephen Johns on 18 October:

[The]... growing mass movement is in direct conflict with the TUC leaders. They are now preparing to discuss the details [that is, general agreement having already been reached – RB] with the Tories and employers over a corporate-state machinery to control wages over the next 12 months... many trade union leaders have swallowed whole the principle of corporate state control over wages... The TUC is cooperating completely with this strategy... [66]

But there was confusion in the Workers Press as to what this strategy was, for two days later Alex Mitchell predicted that ‘a voluntary package will be agreed between the three parties [TUC, Tories and CBI] at next Thursday’s meeting...’ [67]

From this point onwards, the SLL line began to oscillate wildly, being the mirror image of the behaviour – imagined as well as real – of the reformist bureaucracy. Each time the reformists lurched towards a capitulationist position – or seemed to the SLL to do so – the Workers Press veered off to the ultra-left, supplementing the right-opportunism of the bureaucracy. On 30 October, Jack Gale wrote:

No agreement is likely to be reached on wages and price control – and even if it were, it would be another matter to enforce it. The TUC leaders – despite their anxiety to collaborate with the government – have been unable to deliver the working class like sacrificial lambs to the Tory slaughter. [68]

The same article correctly pointed out that ‘everywhere relations between the ruling class and the reformist trade union leaders are being broken up’. Could the SLL exploit this rupture between the Tories and the reformists to further its policies and influence in the working class? Hardly, for two days later an hysterical Stephen Johns wrote: ‘... union leaders are on the brink of accepting Tory state control of wages... that the TUC should even discuss... a blueprint for the corporate state demonstrates its contempt for Congress decisions’. But then we learn that the TUC has gone over the brink, that ‘obviously, men like Victor Feather... are fully persuaded that corporate state control of the economy, where unions will lose their independent role, is a good thing’. [69] Here we arrive at the Stalinist theory of social fascism. The same Johns wrote a little later in Fourth International that the corporate state is a regime based ‘on the Hitler-Mussolini model’, a state in which the ‘free trade unions’, are ‘destroyed’. [70] Johns therefore charged Feather with actually wanting to establish such a regime in Britain, a regime that would necessarily (unless like Johns one accepts the Stalinists’ theory of social fascism) involve not only the political, but even the possible physical liquidation of the TUC General Secretary. How could there be a serious tactic in relation to the trade unions and their leaders if the SLL line was that these leaders consciously desired the fascist corporate state? Even Johns had his doubts about this, for, on 3 November, following another deadlock between the TUC and the Tories (over the government’s proposals for voluntary wage restraint, it should be made clear, and not, as Workers Press tried to make out, state control of wages), he wrote that ‘not even the most servile TUC bureaucrat has the power or independence to deliver the ready goods’. [71] Strange, when one recalls that they headed the ‘corporate state TUC’, the British version of the Nazi Labour Front!

The volte face continued the next day, when the TUC – Tory – CBI talks were described as a ‘long farce’, whereas previously they had taken the TUC to the brink of accepting the corporate state! This was implicitly admitted to be untrue, as the paper reported Feather as saying after the collapse of the talks ‘We were prepared, provided the rest of the package was right [that is, state control of prices, rents, profits] to agree that these controls [over wages] should be purely voluntary.’ Yet even this statement was taken as proof of ‘how far the union leaders went to accepting a state-regulated plan’. [72] On the contrary, they show that the TUC could only go so far as to suggest – on terms that were totally unacceptable to either the Tories or the CBI – a policy of voluntary wage restraint exercised by the trade union bureaucracy itself.

It was only after the breakdown of the talks for voluntary wage restraint that Heath moved over to a policy of state control of wages – as the Workers Press itself reported: ‘The state pay plan to be legal.’ But still the SLL wanted to have its corporatist cake and eat it. ‘From today’, wrote Stephen Johns, ‘wage control will be added to the anti-union laws as the second plank of the corporate state.’ So Britain was already a corporate state! As for the TUC leaders, they were accused of wanting to ‘snatch this government from the fire once more’. [73] But the government was a corporatist government, and so even though the TUC had rejected Heath’s ‘corporatist’ plans (for the voluntary control of wages by the TUC, and not the state) they nevertheless wanted to defend the corporate state from the working class. Social fascism again!

By 16 December, with the AUEW having been fined for defying the Industrial Relations Court (a stand which if the union’s leaders were corporatists, was either incomprehensible – or a ‘left cover’), Workers Press again tail-ended the bureaucracy by talking of ‘a showdown between the unions and government’ [74] – the same unions whose leaders had two months previously already ‘swallowed whole’ the corporate state! On 21 December, the TUC corporatists were reported as telling all unions ‘to ignore Heath’s bid to stop all pay talks – embarking on what could become a major clash with the Tories in a matter of weeks’. [75] From ‘swallowing whole’ the corporate state to a ‘major clash’ with the Tory corporatists... also in a matter of weeks. It was on the latter perspective – correct in so far as it based itself on the likelihood of the TUC and Labour Party leaders being unable to collaborate actively in the implementation of Tory wages policy – that the SLL entered 1973. But 1973 was to prove the year when League leadership undertook its most serious revision of Trotskyist principles on the trade union question.

Corporatism Enshrined

As early as 11 January, the prospects of a ‘major clash’ had melted away simply because the TUC had resumed its talks with the Tories: ‘With... corporatist-style legislation only weeks away from the statute books, it is the most monumental treachery for the TUC to be seen grovelling at the doorway of No 10.’ [76] The TUC was now ‘grovelling’ before corporatism again. The inner meaning of this ultra-leftist ranting became clearer two days later, when Stephen Johns declared that:

... the talks between the TUC leaders and the Tory cabinet have settled only [sic!] one thing – free negotiations on wages are at an end. Next week the government will publish its plans. These will tell workers what wages they can and cannot have. Disobedience will mean fines or jails... This policy is nothing less than a Tory conspiracy to which the TUC chiefs are willing partners... Those who resist will face a barrage of corporatist legislation passed by the Tories... The TUC chiefs are right at the centre of this plot. [77]

Johns was back on the social fascist trail. But what rendered this defeatism even more reactionary was Johns’ squalid attempt to invoke the authority of Trotsky for an analysis that was essentially Third Period Stalinist in its method. He quoted from Trotsky’s What Next? in an attempt to draw a parallel between the German Social Democrats of 1930-32 and the British reformists of 1973: ‘There is no historical spectacle more tragic and at the same time more repulsive than the fetid disintegration of reformism amid the wreckage of all its conquests and hopes.’ By so quoting Trotsky, Johns obviously hoped to lend a much-needed Marxist veneer to his petit-bourgeois radicalism. His choice of quote was however a little injudicious, for had Johns just read on one page more, he would have found Trotsky explaining just why it was false for the Third Period Stalinists to describe reformism as ‘social fascism’ – or as ‘corporatism’. Even more horrifying for Johns would have been the discovery that Trotsky was advocating the formation of a united front with this same ‘fetid’ and ‘disintegrating’ Social Democracy. Not for the last time, one found the Workers Press invoking the name and writings of Trotsky to pervert Trotskyism.

The false theory that the corporate state does not involve the destruction of the trade unions or the repression of their leaders reappeared at this time, in an editorial on 16 January stating that with ‘the acquiescence of the leaders of the Labour Opposition and the TUC’ the Tories had ‘taken definite strides towards the establishment of a corporate state in which all basic rights would be taken away from the working class and their trade unions transformed into instruments of control over them on behalf of capitalism’. [78]

This confusion over corporatism was further compounded on 19 January by the inane jumbling together of corporatism with Bonapartism. One article spoke of ‘Heath’s corporatist-style wage-control legislation’ (which the Labour leaders, it was predicted, would ‘assist him to get it through parliament and then support the Tories against workers who fight it’), and another, of the same Tories having ‘embarked on the road to a Bonapartist dictatorship in the style established by General de Gaulle in 1958’. The same article says, correctly, ‘that Bonapartism in Britain would lean to the left’ on the bankrupt leaders of the Labour Party and the TUC, and rightwards, on the army and the big monopolies. [79] Yet if Heath’s goal was corporatism, the destruction of the trade unions, then how could he balance between the trade union bureaucracy and the army, since the former had ceased to exist? Like the theory of social fascism, which excluded the possibility of a Bonapartist regime in Germany because Social Democracy had become fused with both the capitalist state and fascism, the SLL’s theory of corporatism undermined any serious attempt to evolve a Marxist analysis of the highly complex political forms of rule developing in Britain under the Heath government. And, moreover, without such an analysis there could be no correct perspectives.

By 20 February, after some vacillations, the SLL had sorted out its line on the trade union leaders and Heath’s corporate state. Workers Press declared that the ‘Tory pay board is corporatism’ – in other words that corporatism did not involve the destruction of trade unions, but the state regulation of pay. Indeed, the trade unions had been allotted a key role in Heath’s corporatism, which would ‘be introduced into Britain by reformist leaders giving the pay board acceptance and credence...’. [80] Two days later, the paper said that ‘the Labour leadership, far from fighting such corporatist measures, is seeking to speed them up by enabling the Tories to by-pass parliament.’ [81] The next day, Workers Press gave an international dimension to their theory by claiming that in approving the EEC plan for worker-directors on company boards, the TUC had agreed ‘to cooperate in the setting up of corporatist institutions in Britain’. [82] Yet this scheme, utterly class-collaborationist in aim, did not involve the destruction of the trade unions nor even their ‘tying to the state’. Such reactionary schemes in West Germany have failed to undermine the power of the reformist trade unions. For that, something far more substantial than ‘worker-directors’ (and, moreover a solution that would terminate such experiments in reformism forthwith) would be required, as the history of Weimar Germany proves.

Increasingly, state control of wages became identified by Workers Press with the establishment of the corporate state. The issue for 27 February proclaimed in its headline: ‘Pay Code Law Is Corporate State.’ [83] If that were the case, then the corporate state was due to be established by parliament, quite peacefully, in ‘cold’ fashion in accordance with a theory prevalent in the Third Period. Once again therefore, the leftism masked defeatism, disorienting those workers who took their political line from the SLL.

The first theoretical exposition of the SLL’s revisionist theory of corporatism appeared in Workers Press on 1 March, written by Royston Bull, a new recruit to the paper from The Scotsman. Here we can detect the first outlines of a trend that today has become dominant in the WRP – the fusion of a thoroughly non-Marxist, petit-bourgeois radicalism with the Third Period, leftist residues that had lingered on within the SLL from the earlier Trotskyist movement. Just listen to Bull, the man who believes that the KPD led the German working class to defeat by collaborating with the Social Democrats:

The ruling class and the labour movement bureaucracy are now proceeding at headlong speed towards corporatism in Britain. Plans for tying the trade union movement permanently to the big capitalist corporations are already in a highly advanced state. These plans... are being discussed daily and in detail by right-wing and Stalinist trade union leaders at various levels and in various localities... [84]

The scale of Bull’s confusion on what constitutes reformism and corporatism (fascism) is stupendous. Like the Third Period Stalinists, he equates the two, seeing them not as antipodes, but twins. ‘Class collaboration’ becomes ‘corporatist thinking’, while, after the manner of Dutt’s Stalinist scholastics, from the subjective hostility of the bureaucracy towards revolution is deduced the fact that it must ‘willy-nilly throw in its lot with extreme reaction’. But ‘extreme reaction’ is nothing less than fascism. Is Bull then saying that the Third Period Stalinists were correct – against Trotsky – when they argued that since the ‘social fascists’ opposed proletarian revolution, they would be compelled to join with the Nazis in a fascist counter-revolution? Bereft of a tactic that will weaken the links between the bureaucracy and the bourgeoisie (thereby throwing both into crisis), Bull contents himself with hurling literary bolts at the reformist leaders. There can be no question of a united front with the TUC, since ‘Feather and company are not just getting in the way. They must be seen as part of the enemy.’ [85]

But the point is: how is this general truth made apparent and concrete to the millions of workers who still see the reformist leaders as their allies to one degree or another? Bull has no answer to this question. Feather, Wilson, Jones and Scanlon are thrown together in the same reactionary heap as the Tories and the employers, and the workers summoned to join the ranks of the ‘revolutionary party’ and its various skeletal front organisations. And understandably, the working class shows not the least interest either in Bull’s noisy denunciations of their leaders, or the WRP’s maximalist programme which, strange as it may seem, these same reformist leaders are asked to implement. Like his stablemate Johns and his political mentors in the top leadership of the WRP, Bull proceeds from the subjective hostility of the labour bureaucracy to working-class militancy and revolutionary politics, not from the objective movement and struggle of the classes, and the place and role of the bureaucracy in this struggle. Trotsky knew better than anyone how the German reformists loathed revolution, that they would seek by all possible means to betray the struggle of the workers for socialism. But did he proceed from this one-sided estimation of the role of the bureaucracy? If he had done, he would have ended up in the same position as that developed by the KPD leaders in the Third Period, namely that there could be no question of even the most limited united front actions with parties and leaders who had betrayed the working class in the past and would do so again in the future. Trotsky began also from the objective contradiction between the existence of the reformist workers’ movement – and its bureaucracy – and a fascist regime. It was this relative, political contradiction that Trotsky sought to exploit through the tactic of the united front between the KPD and the SPD; first to block and then crush the fascists, and in the course of this struggle begin to break the German workers from their reformist leaders. The WRP has another method of approach. Jones and company, you see, are ‘dedicated disciples of corporatism’ – which is of course rubbish – and since they actually desire the destruction of the organisations they lead (for in their saner moments, this is what the Workers Press journalists declare corporatism to be – viz Chile, Spain, Portugal), there can be no question of their actually leading struggles whose objective content is directed against the capitalist attack on the independence of the trade unions from the state.

Bull’s method is that of the petit-bourgeois radical voyeur who believes that the class struggle is invisibly directed by a handful of wicked capitalists, ruthless military men and corrupt bureaucrats at the top. The reformist leaders are depicted as nothing more than stooges of the employers, whose working-class members can do little or nothing to prevent the bureaucracy selling them out. Thus Bull writes that for the TUC bureaucracy, the reformist or corporatist solution makes no difference (even though one involves their continued flourishing, the other their doom). For the TUC leaders, ‘one form of selling out the class struggle is as good as another’. [86] House of Lords or concentration camp – one ‘is as good as another’. And so argued the Stalinists, who led the German working class to defeat by refusing to exploit the contradictions that existed between fascism and the reformist bureaucracy, the contradiction between a well-heeled and fed bureaucrat at liberty and one living on bread and water in prison garb. Bull’s schematic conception of reformism simply has no room for such an eventuality. On the contrary, Bull sees corporatism as an attractive proposition for trade union leaders: ‘corporatism would make Jones’ life easier by automatically ironing out many of the clashes and conflicts that he now has to deal with’. [87] And it could also make his life shorter, a fate that befell not only his German and Spanish counterparts, but, later that year, many leaders of the Chilean trade unions. Others still languishing in the camps of the Junta following the ‘ironing out’ of the Chilean workers’ movement may have their own comments to make on Bull’s picture of life for a trade union bureaucrat under corporatism (a term that along with fascism has been used to denote the type of regime in Chile). The fact that these same Stalinist, centrist and reformist leaders were themselves responsible for their own fate (not to speak of that of the entire Chilean working class) does not diminish by one iota the validity of Trotsky’s insistence that when faced with a choice between bourgeois democracy and fascism, the reformist bureaucracy has more to gain by choosing and fighting for the former, and that it is the duty of Communists to exploit this situation by offering the reformists a united front against fascism. The petit-bourgeois radical does not think in this revolutionary dialectical way. All he can see is the ‘advantages’ fascism brings to the bureaucracy by smashing the working class. Thus on 5 March, Bull elaborated on his theme of the corporate state being a kind of paradise for reformists when he wrote that ‘secretly they welcome the corporate state in order to deal with any revolutionary mass movement that the crisis engenders’. [88]

That Bull can be permitted to write such anti-Trotskyist trash in Workers Press proves that right at the heart of the WRP leadership a deep going process of degeneration is under way. For these imbecilic lines are a direct, open challenge to everything Trotsky wrote on fascism. This is how Trotsky assessed the claim, made by the Stalinists, that the ADGB bureaucrats would find ‘life easier’ under Hitler. Shortly after the dissolution of the trade unions and the arrest of their leaders on 2 May 1933, Trotsky wrote:

That the reformists, after the defeat, would be happy if Hitler were to permit them to vegetate legally until better times return, cannot be doubted. But unfortunately for them, Hitler – the experience of Italy has not been in vain for him [see Chapter XII] – realises that the labour organisations, even if their leaders accept a muzzle, would inevitably become a threatening danger at the first political crisis. Dr Ley, the corporal of the present ‘Labour Front’ has determined, with much more logic than the presidium of the Communist International, [and, it must be said, Healy and company – RB] the relationship between the so-called twins... Essentially, the theory of ‘social fascism’ [and of ‘corporatism’ – RB] could have been refuted even if the fascists had not done such a thorough job of forcing themselves into the trade unions. Even if Hitler had found it necessary, as a result of the relationship of forces, to leave Leipart temporarily and nominally at the head of the trade unions, the agreement would not have eliminated the incompatibility of the fundamental interests. Even though tolerated by fascism, the reformists would remember the fleshpots of the Weimar democracy and that alone would make them concealed enemies. How can one fail to see that the interests of the Social Democracy and of fascism are incompatible when even the independent existence of the Stahlhelm is impossible in the Third Reich? [89]

Nevertheless, 36 years later, an SLL conference resolution insists... ‘beyond the doorway into fascism...’.

The shrill radicalism of the Bull – Johns variety is a menace to the working class. It denies to the vanguard the tactical weapons it needs to defend the entire class from the attacks of ‘extreme reaction’, namely the tactic of the united front, which, if employed skilfully and not simply as a manoeuvre to ‘expose the reformists’, will create the conditions for breaking the workers from the grip of reformism. Radical rhetoric replaces revolutionary tactics and strategy. Of course, this tendency is to be found thriving in organisations that, unlike the WRP, have broken entirely from Trotskyist principles and programme. Bull’s thesis that fascism will not strike at the reformist leaders was echoed by Michael Fenn of International Socialism. Writing in Socialist Worker in April 1974, he predicted that:

... if there was a military regime in Britain... I very much doubt if Mr Mason [Labour Minister of Defence] would even be required to leave the country. But the real leaders of the working class in Britain, the shop stewards, some trade union officials... would probably finish up either dead or in concentration camps like our brothers in Chile. [90]

Like Bull and company of Workers Press, Fenn seems incapable of learning from the experiences of either prewar fascism or the Chile coup. In each case, the victims of counter-revolution included not only the lower cadres of the workers’ movement, but hardened trade union bureaucrats, cabinet ministers and even Police Presidents.

This problem of petit-bourgeois radicalism is not new in the revolutionary movement. Trotsky encountered it in the formative years of the French Communist Party, when a petit-bourgeois grouping in the party opposed the united front tactic on the grounds that it involved compromises with Social Democracy. This tendency, particularly strong in journalist circles, Trotsky countered in the following way:

It is possible to see in this policy [of a united front with the reformist organisations and leaders – RB] a rapprochement with the reformists only from the standpoint of a journalist who believes that he rids himself of reformism by ritualistically criticising it without ever leaving his editorial office but who is fearful of clashing with the reformists before the eyes of the working masses and giving the latter an opportunity to appraise the Communist and the reformist on the equal plane of the mass struggle. Behind this seemingly revolutionary fear of ‘rapprochement’ there really lurks a political passivity which seeks to perpetuate an order of things wherein the Communists and reformists each retain their own rigidly demarcated spheres of influence, their own audiences at meetings, their own press; and all this together creates an illusion of serious political struggle. [91]

And such has increasingly been the trend within the SLL (and now WRP) since the period of entry work inside the Labour Party was abruptly terminated in 1964. Far from halting this trend, the launching of the daily paper (Workers Press) in 1969, and the WRP, the open ‘mass revolutionary party’, four years later, has accentuated it; for by creating the outward forms of a revolutionary party fighting for ‘independent leadership of the working class’, the unspectacular but fruitful infighting of 1950-64 has been replaced by the noisy and strenuous shadow-boxing of the last decade. An apparatus and a long payroll are no substitutes for tactics, strategy and policy, as the KPD discovered to its cost in 1933, when, for lack of the latter, it lost the former. We repeat: reformism cannot be defeated by abuse, a lesson the WRP leaders should surely have gleaned from the tragic experience of Germany. Trotsky, who cannot be accused of any leniency towards Social Democracy, wrote on this question that when the Stalinist bureaucracy:

... declares that reformist leaders and fascism are twins, it not only criticises the reformist leaders incorrectly but also provokes the rightful indignation of the reformist workers... The reformists must be criticised as conservative democrats and not as fascists, but the struggle with them must be no less irreconcilable because of it... [92]

Exactly. Verbal or literary ‘intransigence’ towards reformism, of the type offered up by Workers Press, does not undermine, but strengthens, the support given to reformist leaders by the working class. Workers can see that these leaders are not ‘corporatists’, and this slander diverts attention away from their real criminal role in the movement as reformist agents of the bourgeoisie. On this single issue, the reformist leaders are placed in the right against their Marxist opponents. Right opportunism is thus strengthened by its mirror opposite, left sectarianism. Summing up the false policies of the KPD that led to the victory of Hitler, Trotsky wrote that:

The strategic conception of the Communist International was false from beginning to end. The point of departure for the KPD was that there is nothing but a mere division of labour between Social Democracy and fascism [Jack Jones is a ‘devoted disciple of corporatism’ – RB]; that their interests are similar ['corporatism will make Jones’ life easier...’ – RB], if not identical. Instead of helping to aggravate the discord between Communism’s principal adversary [Social Democracy] and its [that is, reformism’s] mortal foe [fascism] – for which it would have been sufficient to proclaim the truth aloud instead of violating it [’the corporate state TUC’ – RB] – the Communist International convinced the reformists and the fascists that they were twins; it predicted their conciliation ['beyond the doorway into fascism’ – RB], embittered and repulsed the Social Democratic workers and consolidated their reformist leaders... No policy of the KPD could, of course, have transformed the SPD into a party of revolution. [Unlike the WRP, with its incessant and fatuous calls on the corporatist Labour leaders to ‘nationalise without compensation and under workers’ control’ the entire holdings of the big bourgeoisie – and through parliamentary legislation at that! – RB] But neither was that the aim. It was necessary to exploit to the limit the contradiction between reformism and fascism – in order to weaken fascism, at the same time weakening reformism by exposing to the workers the incapacity of the SPD leadership. These two tasks fused naturally into one. [93]

How far the WRP leadership has departed from Communist tactics and strategy will be demonstrated when we deal with the reactions of the party to the military coup which it mistakenly believed was pending in the winter of 1973-74. Far from exploiting the contradictions between the reformists and the would-be military dictators (not to speak of Heath, who, the WRP insisted, was in the process of installing a corporate state, and who Healy likened at that time to Hitler in his attacks on the trade unions), the WRP proceeded to lump the Labour and trade union leaders in the same sack as the Tories and their army allies. This even went so far as to accuse NUM leader Joe Gormley of actually being an accomplice in the coup plans of the Tories, even while Gormley, under pressure from militant miners, stuck fast to his union’s wage claim! All these monumental blunders flowed from the WRP’s theory that the trade union leaders are corporatists.

The SLL’s theory of corporatism was not, however, confined to the trade union wing of the reformist bureaucracy. Following the adoption – against right-wing opposition – of a programme of reformist-type nationalisations by the Labour Party National Executive, Workers Press commented on 11 June that the proposals were ‘not socialist nationalisation but its opposite – corporatism’. [94] In other words, the SLL made the same ultra-leftist error as did Palme Dutt when he saw in the Labour Party’s plans for the municipalisation of London Transport corporatism and ‘social fascism’. In both schemas no room was left for intermediary positions between revolutionary expropriation of the bourgeoisie and fascist state regulation of a capitalist economy. Thus the Workers Press said that the Labour Party NEC’s plan was ‘not socialist nationalisation but its opposite – corporatism’. If this were indeed the case, then the nationalisations carried through by the Labour government of 1945-51 were also corporatist, in that they excluded workers from the management of the nationalised enterprises, and paid handsome compensation to the old owners. Yet the author can find no instances where the Trotskyist movement of the time used this designation ‘corporatist’ to denote the class nature of the postwar Labour nationalisations. Indeed, the Trotskyist movement has, while always pointing out the capitalist nature of reformist nationalisation, defended the state sector of the economy against all attempts by the bourgeoisie and their Tory representatives to undermine the nationalised industries by ‘hiving off’ their most profitable sectors back into private ownership or to use the state sector as a means of subsidising private industry.

The question that now arises, however, is quite important. Will the WRP defend against de-nationalisation sectors of the economy brought under state ownership under the terms of the proposed Labour plan? For if such industries are run on a corporatist (that is, fascist) basis, then a revolutionary has no business defending them, or calling on the working class to do.

And there will be even less possibility of the WRP using the Labour plan as a means of opening up a discussion inside the workers’ movement on nationalisation, and exploiting the verbal radicalism of the Labour Party lefts to turn their talk of a planned economy into a real struggle for socialist nationalisation. Thus on 13 June, Workers Press insisted that ‘the “socialism” of Anthony Wedgwood Benn and Renee Short, with their pleas for more participation and control by the “people” in the economy is, in fact, a most dangerous move towards the corporate state...’. [95] Repeatedly counterposed against the ‘corporatism’ (in reality, left reformism) of the Benns is the maximum programme of the socialist revolution – ‘nationalisation of all basic industries, land, banks and finance houses without compensation and under workers’ control’. [96] Quite apart from the fact that the transitional demand of workers’ control (which, as Trotsky repeatedly insisted, is a step preparatory to the expropriation of the bourgeoisie) is substituted for workers’ management, this propagandistic counterposing of the maximum programme of the revolutionary party to the reformist programme of Social Democracy prevents the vanguard making a serious approach to the millions of reformist workers who seriously desire to struggle for their demands and in defence of their gains, but in and through the reformist-led organisations. This problem is not a new one. Trotsky encountered similar sectarianism in 1933-35, when members of the Belgian section of the International Communist League described as ‘fascist’ the ‘Labour Plan’ of the Belgian reformist leader Henri de Man. Trotsky’s reaction to the utopian de Man plan was entirely different to that of the WRP’s sterile verbal battles with Labour Party ‘corporatism’:

The plan of de Man, bombastically called the ‘Labour Plan’ (it would be more correct to call it ‘the plan to deceive the toilers’) certainly cannot make us abandon the central political slogan of the period [the slogan ‘Power to the Social Democracy’ – RB]. The ‘Labour Plan’ will be a new or renovated instrument of bourgeois democratic (or even semi-democratic) conservatism. But the whole point of the matter lies in the fact that the extreme intensity of the situation, the imminence of dangers, threatening the very existence of the Social Democracy itself, forces it against its will to seize the double-edged weapon, very unsafe though it is from the point of view of democratic conservatism... None of us can have any doubts that the plan of de Man and the agitations of the Social Democracy connected with it will sow illusions and prove a disappointment. But the Social Democracy, with its influence on the proletariat and its plan... are objective facts: we can neither remove them, nor skip over them. Our task is two-fold: first to explain to the advanced workers the political meaning of the ‘plan’, that is, decipher the manoeuvres of the Social Democracy at all stages; secondly, to show in practice to possibly wider circles of workers that insofar as the bourgeoisie tries to put obstacles to the realisation of the plan we fight hand in hand with the workers to help them make this experiment. We share the difficulties of the struggle but not the illusions. Our criticism of the illusions must, however, not increase the passivity of the workers [such as would be the effect of WRP attacks on reformism if they reached a significant layer of the workers – RB] and give it a pseudo-theoretic justification but, on the contrary, push the workers forward. Under these conditions, the inevitable disappointment with the ‘Labour Plan’ will not spell the deepening of passivity but, on the contrary, the going-over of the workers to the revolutionary road. [97]

Trotsky then deals with those ultra-lefts who abstained from the fight for the de Man Plan on the grounds that it was fascist:

I consider it incorrect to liken the plan to the economic policy of fascism. Insofar as fascism advances (before the conquest of power) the slogan of nationalisation as a means of struggle with ‘super-capitalism’ it simply steals the phraseology of the socialist programme. In de Man’s Plan we have – under the bourgeois character of Social Democracy – a programme of state capitalism that the Social Democracy itself passes off, however, for the beginning of socialism and that may actually become the beginning of socialism in spite of and against the opposition of the Social Democracy. [98]

It is clear that Trotsky not only saw the opposites of fascism and proletarian revolution, but the stages, processes and forms of transition between them. Instead of the WRP’s radical-sounding but arid schemas he evolves a perspective of intervention, one that can seize hold of the content of the reformist programme – the pressure of the masses – and direct it against the reactionary form that the bureaucracy seeks to impose on it. That is why Trotsky did not attack the Belgian Benns as corporatists, but criticised them for failing to struggle seriously for their own plan:

... de Man and Co must be branded not merely because they do not develop the revolutionary extra-parliamentary struggle [which as avowed reformists they would not be expected by workers to do anyway – RB] but also because their parliamentary activity does not at all serve to prepare and bring nearer and realise their own ‘Labour Plan’. Contradictions and hypocrisy in this sphere will be clearly understood even by the average Social Democratic worker who has not yet grown to the understanding of the methods of proletarian revolution. [99]

Thus the reformists were to be exposed, said Trotsky, by mobilising the workers to make the reformists carry out their own miserable, utopian plan. They would not be exposed by demands that they lead the extra-parliamentary revolutionary struggle and implement the full programme of the socialist revolution. This is, however, the method of the WRP. It runs contrary to the Trotskyist tradition. In fact, Trotsky condemned it as far back as 1922, when, in a letter to the Marseilles Congress of the PCF, he attacked the ultimatistic attitude of a section of the party’s leadership (ironically its petit-bourgeois right wing) towards joint actions with the reformist segment of the French workers’ movement:

To put forward the programme of the social revolution [the WRP equivalent would be its call for ‘nationalisation of industry, the banks and the land under the workers’ control without compensation’ – RB] and oppose it ‘intransigently’ to the Dissidents [the rump of the former French Socialist Party – SFIO – that voted to adhere to the Communist International at its 1920 congress at Tours – RB] and the syndico-reformists, while refusing to enter into any negotiations with them until they recognise our programme – this is a very simple policy [so simple that even Bull and Mitchell have mastered it – RB] which requires neither resourcefulness nor energy, neither flexibility nor initiative. It is not a Communist policy. We Communists seek for methods and avenues of bringing politically and in action the still unconscious masses to the point where they begin posing the revolutionary issue themselves. [100]

The struggle waged by Lenin and Trotsky against sectarianism did not prevent later generations of Communists falling victim to this debilitating disease, as the experience of the Belgian Trotskyists demonstrated.

The de Man Plan dispute continued to plague the Belgian section, and Trotsky returned to it 14 months later in a critique of the position of the left-centrist George Vereecken. His argument was the classic one of the abstentionist who hides his passivity and fears of a clash with the reformist apparatus behind demagogic attacks on the reactionary nature of Social Democracy, and claims that to fight in any way for demands raised by the reformists involves necessarily a capitulation to reformism. Trotsky replied that:

... if we had to present a plan to the Belgian proletariat, this plan would have had an altogether different aspect. Unfortunately the Belgian proletariat gave this mandate not to us but to the Belgian Labour Party and the plan reflects two facts: the pressure of the proletariat on the POB and the conservative character of the party... The revolutionary task consists in demanding that the POB take power in order to put its own plan into effect. Vereecken replies to this: No! ... I will propose a better plan. Is this serious? No. It is ridiculous. Vereecken set himself outside of reality... [101]

So we can see that the WRP’s sectarian response to the Labour Party’s plans for state control of sectors of the economy has precedents that reach back to the formative years of the Fourth International. Labour Party ‘corporatism’ as it pertained to the NEC proposals, however, was destined to suffer a rapid demise as the plan came under attack not only from the Workers Press but the bourgeois press and the Labour Party right wing. This attack was at times passed off by Workers Press as a subtle attempt to ‘build up’ the left and its bogus nationalisation proposals, but nevertheless the truth dawned that there was at stake a real question of principle from which revolutionaries could not abstain. Tail-ending advanced workers who saw in Benn’s call for state ownership and workers’ control a policy to fight the employers and the Tories, Workers Press began to attack Wilson and his supporters for seeking to ditch a programme the paper had only a matter of days previously been denouncing as ‘corporatism’. On 22 June, Workers Press correctly attacked Michael Foot for ‘attempting to silence Benn’, the same Benn whom on 13 June had been described as ‘moving towards the corporate state’. If Benn was so moving, why was Foot ‘witch-hunting’ him, unless it was to provide Benn with a ‘left cover'? Yet Workers Press on this occasion said that Foot’s bid to curb Benn was an attempt ‘to silence altogether the demand for socialist policies within the Labour Party’. [102] What a miserable volte face. Even more ignominious was the feature article of 27 June, which if anything idealised Benn as a spokesman for socialist policies in the Labour Party. It took to task Morning Star editor George Matthews for playing down Foot’s attempts to silence Benn on the nationalisation question, and asked why this Stalinist did not ‘rebuke Foot for his outrageous attack on Benn, which opens the door for sabotage of a socialist platform in the next election’. [103] Benn had now accomplished the metamorphosis from corporatist to the spokesman for a ‘socialist platform’ in a matter of two weeks! And without the least acknowledgement of a change of line on the part of the SLL.

This adjustment to reality proved to be only fleeting. By the time of the Labour Party Conference in October, Workers Press had reverted to its former sectarianism. Thus an important speech by Anthony Benn was not only largely deleted from the paper’s report, being dismissed as mere ‘fireworks’, but actually distorted in a manner that could only strengthen the reformist opponents of Trotskyism. According to the report published in the Guardian, Benn said:

We reject, as a party and a movement, the idea that one worker on the board is industrial democracy. We reject co-ownership. We reject the phoney works councils not rooted in the strength and structure and traditions of the trade union movement. All these are window dressing, designed to divert the demand for democratic control into utterly harmless channels. [Like the WRP, the reformist Benn settles for workers’ control, and not management, in state-owned industry.] We are talking about the transfer of power within industry and we will not accept the existing pattern of nationalisation as a form for the future. We have had enough experience to know that nationalisation plus Lord Robens does not add up to socialism. [104]

The pre-natal leftism of the SLL prevented it from seizing on this speech of Benn’s as a means of opening up a genuine discussion in the Labour Party and trade unions on workers’ control and socialist nationalisation (as Trotsky recommended in his articles on the de Man plan). Another routine exposé of the perfidious nature of Social Democracy sufficed.

Royston Bull (who else?) wrote:

Benn produced some very dramatic left-wing phrases to try to warm up the cold mess of compromise which it was his job to present to the conference... But apart from these verbal fireworks, Benn was firmly on the side of the reformist leadership. [105]

Surprise, surprise. Was Bull expecting him to be anywhere else? The only section of Benn’s speech to be quoted by Bull was the remark about Lord Robens, which whether by printer’s or proof-reader’s error, or some other means, acquired an opposite meaning. Bull reported Benn as saying: ‘... nationalisation plus Lord Robens does add up to socialism.’ [Emphasis added] A leadership that cannot exploit and develop the verbal (and sometimes real) left turns of the reformists will never expose and defeat reformism. That was the lesson of pre-Hitler Germany. Is the WRP to follow in the footsteps of the KPD, whose leaders Trotsky scourged for their failing to take ‘reformism as a historic reality, with its interests and its contradictions, with all its oscillations to the right and left...'? Instead, the Stalinists ‘operated with mechanical models...’ of a bureaucracy always ready, willing and able to betray the working class, even in collaboration with the fascists, who sought their elimination. [106] This disease is not confined to the WRP. Ultra-leftism finds its most finished – and degenerate – expression in that tendency which refuses to recognise and defend the greatest conquest of the international working class – namely the nationalised property relations established by the Russian Revolution of 1917. As Trotsky says in the Transitional Programme, such sectarians are capable of recognising only two colours – Red and Black. So when the reformists of the Labour Party come under attack from the ruling class and its various agencies for proposing a modest programme of nationalisations, the Socialist Worker can see in this conflict between the reformists and the bourgeoisie only a ‘sham battle’ whose purpose on both sides is to divert the working class from the ‘real issues’. In June 1974, the paper declared, following the statement by a Tory leader that Labour’s programme was ‘Marxism on the march’, and CBI attacks on Benn as a revolutionary hell-bent on expropriating the monopolies, that:

... what differences there are between the two parties are differences about how best to persuade working people to accept cuts in living standards in order to boost profits. Both are thoroughly committed to capitalism... A stunt is needed. So we have this carefully orchestrated propaganda campaign by the Tory Party, the CBI and the Aims of Industry. They want to con people into believing that the Labour government is about to introduce what the CBI president calls ‘Communist-state state control’. It is a sham battle. There is precious little difference the between the Tory practice on state intervention and that of Labour... The Labour Party’s actual nationalisation proposals [which incidentally, in the party’s 1974 election manifesto, included proposals to nationalise the drug industry, shipbuilding, aircraft, North Sea oil and the docks! – RB] are as different from socialist nationalisation as chalk is from cheese. [107]

Or as the Workers Press put it, a year earlier, ‘not socialist nationalisation, but its opposite, corporatism’. Neither Healy nor Cliff (leader of IS) appears capable of detecting within the oscillations of the reformist leadership not only its ever-present readiness to compromise with capitalism, but also the pressure of the workers, who at certain stages in their radicalisation seek to impose their own demands for action against the employers and the state on their existing leaders, especially when those reformist leaders have been placed in the government by the votes of the workers. Neither can the reformist leaders afford to ignore this pressure from below. As Trotsky said in relation to the British reformist leaders, when an important section of the proletariat becomes radicalised:

... what happens is that the labour fakers swing left in order to retain control. If the ILP is not there at the critical moment with a revolutionary leadership the workers will need to find their leadership elsewhere... It is this treacherous ‘heading in order to behead’ which the ILP must prevent in Britain. [108]

Trotsky even went so far as to predict that the TUC chief Citrine might ‘shout for Soviets’ rather than lose his grip on the class. To turn one’s back on such ‘Soviets’, simply because they have been created on the initiative of a ‘labour faker’, would be no less criminal than to abstain on the fight for the demands the working class succeeds in forcing on its own reformist leaders, such as the Labour Party’s proposals for nationalisation. In each case, the reformists are left with a clear field to carry through their betrayal. Leftist rhetoric, whether uttered by Healy or Cliff, becomes a screen for capitulation to reformism.

In vain does the sectarian await the emergence of a mass movement untainted by the imprint of reformism. As if the working class could fight outside of the organisations it has created with such devotion and suffering over the last century and a half! Healy and Cliff mistake the form for the content of the class struggle, and therefore are unable to develop the latter when it comes into conflict with the former. Thus IS seeks to create a ‘pure’ mass movement independent of the reformists by means of ‘rank and file-ism’, while the WRP summons workers to ‘join the ATUA’ under whose leadership alone can any advance be made in the class struggle. We repeat, both recipes leave the bureaucracy in undisputed control of the basic organisations of the working class, just as Stalinist ultimatism, with its ‘united front from below’, protected the reformist leaders in Germany in their hour of mortal crisis.

There are of course many instructive instances where Trotsky sought to exploit the hesitant left turns and radical phrase-mongering of the reformist leaders, transforming them into weapons in the struggle against this same reformist bureaucracy. He saw (unlike the radicals of the Workers Press) that it is not a question of a verbal debate with the bureaucracy about whether reformism can bring socialism, but of using the elements of the reformist programme that reflect the pressure of the workers to bring these workers into struggles that pose concretely the utter inability of reformism to implement even its own meagre demands. This was Trotsky’s method when he approached the dispute in the Belgian section over the de Man plan: ‘We must learn to strike the enemy with his own weapons.’ [109] Elsewhere Trotsky pointed out to the sectarians who insisted on abstaining from the fight for the de Man plan on the grounds that it was ‘fascist’ (Vereecken), that the Bolsheviks went much further, actually taking over and implementing against Kerensky the land programme of Kerensky’s party, the Socialist Revolutionaries. Had Healy been around at that time, no doubt he would have accused Lenin and Trotsky of capitulation to populism and the peasant petit-bourgeoisie. And such indeed was the charge levelled against the Bolsheviks by all manner of critics. Likewise Vereecken was horrified by Trotsky’s proposal to launch a campaign ‘in favour of the [Belgian] Socialist Party taking power to carry out its own plan’. [110] The sectarians and abstentionists should note that Trotsky called for a Socialist Party government on its own programme. Not for him the fatuous call for the reformists to take power on the programme of the revolutionary party which, when they failed to implement it, allegedly rendered them ‘exposed’ in the eyes of millions of reformist workers. No. As Trotsky insisted against the Third Period Stalinists, who dismissed every conflict and left turn in the reformist leadership as either a ‘division of labour’ or a ‘manoeuvre’ pure and simple, ‘it is necessary to catch the squirming reformists at their own words and to impel the reformist masses to the road of action – beat the enemy with his own weapons’. [111]

Trotsky also applied this method to Spain, where in the early period of the revolution, the reformists were compelled to take up the slogan of workers’ control under the pressure of the radicalised workers:

... to renounce workers’ control merely because the reformists are for it – in words – would be an enormous stupidity. On the contrary, it is precisely for this reason that we should seize upon this slogan all the more eagerly and compel the reformist workers to put it into practice by means of a united front with us, and on the basis of this experience to push them into opposition to Caballero and other fakers. [Just as a revolutionary ought to have seized on Benn’s plan to push the workers that supported it towards a break with this same Benn – RB]... Caballero himself, under the pressure of the masses, [is] forced to seize upon the slogan of workers’ control and thereby opening wide the doors for the united front policy... We must grab this with both hands. [112]

‘Grab with both hands...’ or denounce as ‘corporatism'? Then there is the case of Germany. Faced by the Nazi threat, the SPD leaders in the summer of 1932 put forward a more left programme than any they had entertained since the formation of the Weimar Republic. Trotsky naturally did not take their promises seriously. But millions of workers, including those repelled by the adventurist tactics of Third Period Stalinism, did. So this is how Trotsky approached the problem of the united front with the reformist workers:

The ‘left’ turn of the Social Democratic leaders startles one with its stupidity and deceitfulness. This by no means signifies, however, that the manoeuvre is condemned in advance to failure. This party, laden with crimes, still stands at the head of millions. It will not fall of its own accord. One must know how to overthrow it. The KPD will declare that the Wels – Tarnow course towards socialism is a new form of mass deception, and that will be correct. It will relate the history of the SPD’s ‘socialisations’ of the last 14 years. That will be useful. But it is insufficient: history, even the most recent, cannot take the place of active politics... Nothing is easier than to ridicule the Social Democratic bureaucracy, beginning with Wels, who has struck up a Song of Solomon to socialism. Yet, it must not be forgotten that the reformist workers have a thoroughly serious attitude to the question of socialism. One must have a serious attitude to the reformist workers. Here the problem of the united front rises up once again in its full scope. If the Social Democracy sets itself the task (in words, we know that!), not to save capitalism but to build socialism, then it must seek an agreement not with the Centre [Party] but with the Communists. Will the CP reject such an agreement? By no means. On the contrary, it will itself propose such an agreement, demand before the masses a redemption of the just-signed Socialist promissory note... Between their words [that is, of the reformists] and their deeds lies an abyss; we know that very well – but we must understand how to pin them down to their word. [113]

What then should the Workers Press have said when the Labour Party, led by Benn, came out with its plan to nationalise 25 major companies? Was it correct to follow in the ultimatistic footsteps of Thälmann and Vereecken, and denounce the whole undertaking as ‘corporatism'? Or should it have taken the road of Trotsky, and declared:

This plan reflects in a distorted fashion the demands and needs of the most advanced layers of the working class. We do not share the reformist illusion that by itself this plan will bring socialism. But we will be in the very forefront of the struggle, together with those workers who do share these illusions, and who want to implement this plan, to make Benn and company carry it out, once elected. More than this. We ask of Benn: what companies do you propose to nationalise? Name them now, so that the workers of these industries can begin, now, to introduce, on a democratic basis, workers’ inspection of the accounts of these concerns. We will fight in every plant where we have members to rally workers of all political tendencies of the left to introduce workers’ control in the companies you name while for our part not necessarily confining ourselves to this list. We will fight for local and national assemblies of workers’ representatives – Trade Union, Labour Party, Coop, etc – which will begin to draw up, in concert, with economists and technicians sympathetic to the working class and socialism, rudimentary, provisional plans for the running of these industries when nationalised. In this way, we can prepare to make the transition from workers’ control over the capitalist owners to workers’ management of state-owned industry. On each and every occasion that the employers and their political agents attempt to block the implementation of this plan, we pledge ourselves to fight, against such sabotage, using the workers’ control organs established in the plants. Likewise, we expect that you and your fellow Labour leaders will not retreat before attacks on the Tories in Parliament. We share the struggle, but not the illusions.

Had the Workers Press reacted in this way to the left turn of the Labour Party leaders in the summer of 1973, then they would have been far better placed than proved to be the case to denounce and expose these same leaders for retreating from their own programme when the time came, less than a year later, to implement it. As Trotsky said, we must learn to fight the reformist enemy with his own words, his own weapons. Otherwise, they will perform the function for which they were originally devised. Abstention from the fight to hold Labour to its nationalisation plans thus becomes a left cover for the reformists’ retreat from them. It is worse than useless continually to call upon reformists to implement, in a non-revolutionary situation, the full programme of the socialist revolution. As the Transitional Programme states:

... only a general revolutionary upsurge of the proletariat can place the complete expropriation of the bourgeoisie [that is, the WRP’s ‘nationalisation without compensation under workers’ control’ – RB] on the order of the day. The task of transitional demands is to prepare the proletariat to solve this problem.

For Healy, this problem, the central one of our epoch, has already been resolved. Therefore there is no crisis of leadership. There is no ‘contradiction between the maturity of the objective revolutionary conditions and the immaturity of the proletariat and its vanguard’, and therefore no need for the Transitional Programme, whose purpose is precisely ‘to find the bridge between the present demands and the socialist programme of the revolution’. Instead, the WRP advances the full programme as if the workers had, by their own efforts, already overcome the contradiction. Yet strangely, we find these revolutionary demands being addressed to the reformist leaders to carry out, even though, by this time, the workers should have broken from them! Thus the WRP’s revision (more correctly, abandonment) of the Transitional Programme involves deviations both to the sectarian left and the opportunist right. It denies the crisis of leadership, and at the same time, calls upon the reformists (the ‘corporatists’) to carry out the socialist revolution! Its last line of defence is that if the reformists do not carry out the mandate given to them by the WRP (and by them alone, since few workers vote Labour for the socialist revolution) then the reformists stand ‘exposed’. This schema leaves out of account entirely the consciousness of the class, whose immaturity the Transitional Programme is designed to overcome:

This bridge should include a system of transitional demands, stemming from today’s conditions and from today’s consciousness of wide layers of the working class and unalterably leading to one final conclusion: the conquest of power by the proletariat. [Emphasis added]

The WRP not only denies the need for such a bridge in its practice, but also in theory. In his ‘Foreword’ to the 1963 (and 1968) edition of the Transitional Programme published by the SLL, Cliff Slaughter wrote, oblivious to the actual contents of the work he was introducing: ‘The Transitional Programme is nothing to do with the minimum programme or reform programme of the Social Democrats or the Stalinists.’ [114]Nothing to do with'? Whence then its transitional character? The Programme itself is quite specific on this point:

Classical Social Democracy, functioning in an epoch of progressive capitalism, divided its programme into two parts independent of each other: the minimum programme which limited itself to reforms within the framework of bourgeois society, and the maximum programme which promised substitution of socialism for capitalism in the indefinite future. Between the minimum and maximum programme no bridge existed... The strategic task of the Fourth International lies not in the reforming of capitalism but its overthrow... However, the achievement of this strategic task is unthinkable without the most considered attention to all, even small and partial questions of tactics... The Fourth International does not discard the programme of the old ‘minimal’ demands to the degree to which these have preserved at least part of their vital forcefulness... Insofar as the old, partial, ‘minimal’ demands of the masses clash with the destructive and degrading tendencies of decadent capitalism – and this occurs at each step – the Fourth International advances a system of transitional demands, the essence of which is contained in the fact that ever more openly and decisively they will be directed against the very bases of the bourgeois regime. The old ‘minimal programme’ is superseded by the transitional programme, the task of which lies in systematic mobilisation of the masses for the proletarian revolution. [115]

Trotsky says ‘does not discard’, Slaughter says ‘nothing to do with’. And the WRP claims to base itself on this programme!

This retreat from the programme of Trotskyism and work in the basic organisations of the class has progressed parallel with, and to a large degree has produced, the growing obsession of a section of the WRP leadership with what is termed ‘Marxist philosophy’. The most recent stage in the evolution of the WRP has demonstrated the class content and function of this quest, one that Marx declared to be obsolete a full 130 years ago. The weapon of criticism (in the WRP’s case, the ‘criticism of reformist leaders’) must be replaced by the criticism of weapons. The task of the proletariat is not to resurrect philosophy in a new ‘Marxist’ guise, but to abolish all ideologies, the cult practised by Healy included. Contemplative thought, masked as a stern command to party members to ‘make changes’, to ‘break from idealism’, to ‘take up the struggle for Marxist philosophy’, has become the ideology of a leadership that has turned its back on both the programme and practice of Trotskyism, and above all on the real struggles and problems of the working class. ‘Theory’ in their hands has turned, not into a guide to action, but a screen that walls off the party, and principally its apparatus (which has swollen out of all proportion to the objective needs of the party and its level of activity and influence in the working class), from the real world. ‘Marxist philosophy’ is, in the case of the WRP, the ideology of abstentionism and sectarianism. A new ‘theology’ has usurped the strategy and tactics of Bolshevism. Small wonder that serious WRP worker and intellectual cadres find themselves increasingly in a blind alley, unable to capitalise on the rich opportunities that the unfolding political situation offers for building a genuine Communist party in Britain. Trotskyists must never forget the last of Karl Marx’s Theses on Feuerbach: ‘The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways: the point, however, is to change it.’ The WRP thinks differently. Its leaders claim that philosophical questions are the most important, and those of programme, of tactics and strategy, of intervention in the living workers’ movement, secondary. Thus the pamphlet In Defence of Trotskyism (1973) speaks of the ‘philosophical foundation’ of Marxism, as if Marxism were a philosophy standing above all other forms of knowledge of the real world, and the practice of the revolutionary party. Yet this is what Marx and Engels said of such system building, in the work that settled accounts with their idealist past:

Where speculation ends in real life – there real, positive science begins: the representation of the practical activity, of the practical process of development of men. Empty talk about consciousness ceases [except, that is, within the confines of the Healy leadership – RB] and real knowledge has to take its place. When reality is depicted, philosophy as an independent branch of knowledge loses its medium of existence. At the best its place can only be taken by a summing-up of the most general results, abstractions which arise from the observation of the historical development of men... But they by no means afford a recipe or schema, as does philosophy, for neatly trimming the epochs of history. [116]

Four decades later, Engels is still defending this position:

As soon as we have once realised – and in the long run no one has helped us to realise it more than Hegel himself – that the task of philosophy thus stated means nothing but the task that a single philosopher should accomplish that which can only be accomplished by the entire human race in its progressive development – as soon as we realise that, there is an end to all philosophy in the hitherto accepted sense of the word. One leaves alone ‘absolute truth'... instead one pursues attainable relative truths along the path of the positive sciences, and the summation of their results by dialectical thinking... with Hegel philosophy comes to an end... [117]

It is difficult indeed to reconcile what Engels writes here with the official declarations of the Healyite International Committee on philosophy, exemplified by its publication In Defence of Trotskyism, where we find a simply astounding formulation referring to the ‘revolutionary character of Marxism in philosophy’, [118] when it is abundantly clear that the revolutionary character of Marxism resided in, amongst other things, its negation of philosophy! As Engels himself explains:

... this [Marxist] conception... puts an end to philosophy in the realm of history, just as the dialectical conception of nature makes all natural philosophy both unnecessary and impossible. It is no longer a question anywhere of inventing interconnections [or as Healy would say, ‘opposites’ – RB] from out of our brains, but of discovering them in the facts [what the WRP philosophers call ‘empiricism’ – RB]. For philosophy which has been expelled from nature and history, there remains only the realm of pure thought, so far as it is left: the theory of the laws of the thought process itself, logic and dialectics. [119]

Engels wrote in similar vein in his polemic against a not unrelated idealistic school in the SPD – that of Dühring:

... modern materialism is essentially dialectic, and no longer needs any philosophy standing above the other sciences... That which still survives, independently, of all earlier philosophy is the science of thought and its laws – formal logic and dialectics. Everything else is subsumed in the positive science of nature and history. If we deduce world schematism not from our minds, but only through our minds from the real world, if we deduce principles of being from what is, we need no philosophy for this purpose, but positive knowledge of the real world and of what happens in it; and what this yields is also not philosophy, but positive science... Further, if no philosophy [not even ‘Marxist philosophy’ – RB] as such is any longer required, then there is no more need of any system, not even of any natural system of philosophy. [120]

Now Dühring, like Healy and Slaughter, did consider philosophy to be the determining factor in human thought. Engels summarised his idealist conceptions as the view that:

... philosophy... is the development of the highest form of consciousness of the world and of life, and in a wider sense embraces the principles of all knowledge and volition... Philosophical principles consequently provide the final supplement required by the sciences in order to become a uniform system by which nature and human life can be explained... So far Herr Dühring, and almost entirely word for word. [121]

And so Slaughter and Healy, almost word for word! We repeat, ‘philosophy’ has become the avenue for retreat from the struggle to apply and enrich the Transitional Programme in the basic, traditional organisations of the proletariat. Boycott of working-class anti-fascist demonstrations has gone hand in hand with greater and greater concentration by the WRP leadership on the very ‘philosophical’ questions which, it is claimed, alone can bring the party into the leadership of the working class. Unfortunately, advanced workers by no means sceptical about the importance of Marxism will judge the WRP by its abstention from the struggle against fascism, and not only by its obsession with an obscurantist perversion of dialectical materialism. Thus we see that there is a very real connection between the (subjective) idealist conceptions of the WRP leadership and the party’s sectarian political line.

How is it, one might well ask, that a movement that arose out of the debacle brought about in Germany by criminal adventurism and ultra-leftism is so susceptible to the disease of sectarianism? We have to answer that, in a sense, the problem did not even begin with the Third Period, but with the preceding phase of leftism launched in the Comintern under the auspices of its then President, Zinoviev. Trotsky’s lengthy and closely-argued critique of Zinovievism, contained in the volume The Third International After Lenin, has, in the opinion of the present writer, never been properly assimilated by the British Trotskyist movement. This can be demonstrated both by the WRP’s practice and theory. One of the salient features of the WRP’s political method is its inability to grasp things and processes as they really are, preferring instead a picture of the world in which the working class is ever on the point of breaking with its reformist leaders on the one hand, and the ruling class preparing to unleash repressive measures of horrific dimensions on the other. Both in their turn are the mechanical reflex of an ‘economic crisis’ which stands outside of politics and social relations, and is uniform in its severity and political repercussions throughout every corner of the globe. Given this world-schematicism, this mechanistic, vulgar model of the dialectical relationship between ‘politics’ and ‘economics’, it is a simple task to arrive at the ‘correct’ political line, which can be imposed on every section of the International just as readily as the apparatus sends its directives to the party organisations within a single country.

This was of course also the method of Pablo in the early postwar period, when in company with many others who later swung over to Pablo’s right-opportunist course of liquidating the Fourth International into the Stalinist and reformist bureaucracies, Healy (and Cannon, the founder of American Trotskyism) endorsed uncritically the leftist, ultimatist and in, many senses, Zinovievist methods and line of 1944-48. What does Trotsky say of Zinovievism?

Each party, to a lesser or greater degree, fell a victim of the false points of departure [foisted on them at the Fifth Comintern Congress of 1924]. Each chased after phantoms, ignored the real processes, transformed revolutionary slogans into noisy phrases, compromised itself in the eyes of the masses and lost all the ground under its feet...

There also flourished, not only under Zinoviev’s but also Stalin’s prodding, a:

... purely mechanical ‘Left’ conception during the initial period of the struggle against ‘Trotskyism’. For this conception there existed always and unalterably only the Social Democracy that was ‘disintegrating’, workers who were becoming ‘radicalised’, Communist parties that were ‘growing’ and the revolution that was ‘approaching’. And anybody who looked around and tried to distinguish things was and is a ‘liquidator’. [122]

Familiar words.

In this work, Trotsky is at enormous pains to lay bare the inner connections between left and right opportunism; how the rightist error in Germany of 1923 prepared the soil for the Zinoviev leftism of 1924, and how the collapse of the latter false orientation in its turn made possible the swing back to right-opportunism over the next three years, the alliance with the TUC and Chiang Kai-shek. Yet if we read the foreword to the 1974 WRP edition of The Third International After Lenin, this aspect of Trotsky’s analysis of Stalinism is entirely overlooked. The year 1924 has, in the higher echelons of the WRP at any rate, been erased from history. And yet 1924 was the year of ‘Bolshevisation’, of the international campaign against Trotsky and his co-thinkers, of criminal adventures in Estonia and Bulgaria, of the emergence of the opportunist theory, which ripened in subsequent years, of manoeuvres over the heads of the masses with trade union chiefs and bourgeois nationalists. It was not for nothing that Trotsky insisted that ‘the key year of the sharp turn in the situation was the year 1924’. [123] Inability to grasp the interpenetration of left and right opportunism, as outlined by Trotsky in this work, must leave the vanguard exposed to just such dangers as laid low the Comintern after 1923, and the Pablo leadership in the immediate postwar period. In Britain, it has for many years produced a false orientation to the workers’ movement, sometimes sectarian, on other occasions (such as in the period of the Bevanite movement, and, in the early 1960s, with the Labour lefts and the anti-H-bomb movement) opportunist. Now we have coming to the fore a new threat to Trotskyism, which also in part derives from false conceptions inherited from the early years of the post-Lenin Comintern. It is the ‘apparatus’ conception of the revolutionary party.

How deeply this reactionary, nationalistic concept has penetrated into the thinking and practice of British Trotskyism is demonstrated by the following passage from Gerry Healy’s Problems of the Fourth International, a sizeable pamphlet which is remarkable in that it manages to omit entirely any discussion of the Revolutionary Communist Party, and dates the origins of Pabloism from 1951, when it had begun to exhibit openly its opportunist nature, and had swung away to the right from the leftist positions of 1944-48 (which had been endorsed by Healy in the RCP):

A period of unparalleled revolutionary conflict lies ahead. The Socialist Labour League now shoulders an enormous responsibility – that of constructing the mass revolutionary party [this as written in 1966! – RB] which will lead the working class to power. By so doing it will inspire revolutionists in all countries to build similar parties, to do the same. [124]

This is nothing less than ‘Trotskyism in one country’. ‘Constructing the mass revolutionary party’, therefore, as early as 1966, had become a substitute for rebuilding the Fourth International. First build the ‘British’ party, next the ‘British’ revolution and then – and only then – the building of other national parties of a ‘similar’ type, and finally, national revolutions in the other countries. Here we have not a Trotskyist, but a Stalinist schema of world revolution, in which each country makes ‘its own’ way to socialism, and where internationalism does not flow from the world nature of economy and the class struggle, but consists of workers being ‘inspired’ by, in this instance, the British example to make the revolution in their own countries. The ultimate stage in this revision of Leninist internationalism is to argue that since it is given to Britain to build the first mass party and make the first revolution in the advanced countries, then what is good for the SLL (now WRP) is good for the international working class and those groups and parties which adhere to the International Committee. Thus the world class struggle becomes a mere adjunct of the impending revolutionary battle in Britain, with vital developments such as those in France, Chile, Greece, Portugal, etc, serving merely as ‘lessons’ for British workers that illuminate their national road to socialism.

And sure enough, the Healy leadership finally did arrive at this national-messianic conception of the role of the British working class in the struggle for the world revolution. In a discussion early in 1971 between delegates of the SLL and its then International Committee partners, the OCI, belittling the importance of the volcanic eruption of the Polish workers against the Gomulka regime, Healy declared:

The development of the situation in this country [Britain] has entered a new phase. What we are proposing [sic!] is power. It is we who are leading the struggle against the Tory government, the centrists and the Stalinists. What we are preparing here can be summed up as follows: the discrediting of Pabloism [the same Pabloism to which Healy had, less than a year earlier, made proposals for unity on the basis of the Pabloites being part of the same Trotskyist ‘movement’ – RB], reformism and Stalinism. The international movement is on the threshold of a leap forward. It must [NB] adopt a position on the question of where this leap will take place. It is in England that the situation is explosive, and by starting from that, the Fourth International will be able to overcome its crisis. [emphasis added]

So by a series of complex mutations and progressions, none of which in itself constituted a direct and open challenge to Marxism and the programme of the Fourth International, the WRP apparatus has, in the minds of Healy and his closest supporters, become identified with the world revolution and rebuilding the Fourth International; whereas in reality, they are utterly incompatible.

In August 1914, the SPD leadership went over to national defence in the name of protecting the party machine. In 1924, Stalin’s theory of ‘socialism in one country’ was the ideological refraction of the conservatism of the party apparatus, which placed the preservation of its own newly-won privileges above the cause of the world revolution. In both cases, the apparatus became the medium for nationalist pressures on the working class and its vanguard. This was how Trotsky assessed the relationship between the party apparatus and Stalin’s own rise to total power in the USSR:

... it is no accident that Stalin looked upon the organisational lever as basic; whatever deals with programmes and policies was for him always essentially an ornament of the organisational foundation... what Stalin had assimilated was merely the Leninist conception of a centralised party machine. The moment he got hold of that, he lost sight of its roots in theoretical considerations, its programmatic base became essentially unimportant... the centralised political machine... to him was the essence of Bolshevism... after the conquest of power in October 1917, all tasks, all problems, all perspectives were subordinated to the needs of that apparatus of apparatuses, the state. [125]

In place of the independent movement of the class acting in its own right under the leadership of a truly democratic centralist Communist party, the WRP leaders have substituted a new force: it is the apparatus, issuing its commands to the class, and firing off propaganda salvos at the reformists and Stalinists, that makes the revolution. We repeat: the form taken by this revision of Marxism can often be extremely left. But its content is opportunist. All workers’ parties that have had as their main goal the preservation of the apparatus have degenerated into instruments of reaction within the workers’ movement. Unless a fight is waged against this tendency and theory, the WRP will prove no exception to this inexorable law. And to fight against the domination of the apparatus means to fight for a return to the Transitional Programme, to the strategy and tactics of Bolshevism, for an unequivocal orientation back towards the workers’ organisations, including not only the trade unions but the Labour Party. It is on these questions, all of which centre on the task of rebuilding the Fourth International, and not that of the ‘regime’ as such, that the WRP will be returned to the road of Trotskyism, and the Healy-inspired petit-bourgeois radicals and adventurers defeated in their bid to liquidate Trotskyism in Britain.

At the core of the WRP’s mistaken approach to the reformist-led organisations of the working class is its failure to understand that at certain stages in the evolution of the bourgeoisie towards the fascist solution of its crises, its dominant circles are compelled to break from their former policy of collaboration with the leaders of Social Democracy. Instead, the WRP sees this stage of the crisis, one that demands the destruction of both bourgeois democracy and independent workers’ organisations, as ushering in a new phase in the development of reformism – corporatism. The Social Democratic ‘corporatists’ carry out their allotted role of ‘smashing down’ and ‘impoverishing’ the proletariat irrespective of the fact that these same leaders only hold the positions they do in the workers’ movement because they rest, to one degree or another, on the support of important layers of workers. In its essentials, therefore, this theory is the same as that of Third Period Stalinism’s ‘social fascism’, which Trotsky scourged repeatedly in his writings between 1930 and 1934:

Not by a single word do they [the Stalinists] recall that the Social Democracy can neither live nor breathe – that is, it can neither exploit democracy nor betray the workers – without leaning upon the political and trade union organisations of the working class. Thus it is precisely along this line that the irreconcilable contradiction between Social Democracy and fascism; precisely along this line does there open up the necessary and unbridgeable stage of the policies of the united front with the Social Democracy... The Social Democracy was driven from all its positions, entirely overwhelmed and trampled underfoot precisely because it had ceased to be of service as a support for the bourgeoisie... Had the Comintern placed, from 1929, or even from 1930 or 1931, at the foundation of its policies the objective irreconcilability between Social Democracy and fascism... if upon this, it built a systematic and persistent policy of the united front, Germany, within a few months, would have been covered with a network of mighty committees of proletarian defence, that is, potential workers’ soviets. [126]

And still the Workers Press rants on about corporatism as if Trotsky had never written a word on social fascism. Flowing from the WRP’s reactionary theory of corporatism is the rejection in practice of the united front, since how can one unite with corporatists? And thus reasoned the Third Period Stalinists, with their dictum of ‘no blocs with the social fascists’. [127]

One is also struck by other similarities between the method of the WRP leadership and Third Period Stalinism, which in the former case leads to the conclusion that Social Democracy is corporatism, and, in the latter, that it is fascism. This is how Trotsky posed the question:

The Stalinist theory of fascism indubitably represents one of the most tragic examples of the injurious consequences that can follow from the substitution of the dialectical analysis of reality, in its every concrete phase, in all its transitional stages, that is, in its gradual changes as well as in its revolutionary (or counter-revolutionary) leaps, by abstract categories formulated upon the basis of a partial and insufficient historical experience (or narrow and insufficient view of the whole). The Stalinists adopted the idea that in the contemporary period, finance capital cannot accommodate itself to parliamentary democracy and is obliged to resort to fascism. From this idea, absolutely correct within certain limits, they draw in a purely deductive, formally logical manner the same conclusions for all countries and for all stages of development... To them, Primo de Rivera, Mussolini, Chiang Kai-shek, Masaryk, Brüning, Dollfuss, Piłsudski, the Serbian King Alexander, Severing, MacDonald, etc, were the representatives of fascism... [128]

In a different historical period, we find the WRP speculating on the prospect of imminent military coups in ‘every major country’ and in Britain, subsuming every political party and trade union, and every form of capitalist rule, under the rubric ‘corporatism’. Formal thought, the hallmark of the petit-bourgeois radical, is substituted for the dialectical materialist method, which as Trotsky points out, takes into account not only the polar opposites of revolution (Communism) and counter-revolution (corporatism) but the shadings and transitions between them. This is not an academic question, as the tragic lesson of Germany should have taught the leaders of the WRP: ‘Each one of these transitional forms, if we want to go forward, and not be flung to the rear, demands a correct theoretical appraisal and a corresponding policy of the proletariat.’ [129]

Opponents of this analysis could argue that, whereas with the Stalinist bureaucracy its main foundation was and remains the Soviet state and the nationalised property relations established by the October Revolution, the WRP functions in a capitalist state, and receives not one iota of support from the Stalinist state bureaucracies. Absolutely true. But here we are examining not only the current social and political setting of the problems of the British Trotskyist movement, but its entire history. And that history is an international one in every sense of the word. Trotskyism came to Britain relatively late in comparison with France, the USA, Germany, Greece and several other countries. It emerged as a fraction within the workers’ movement only after the collapse of the Third Period, when the Stalinists had swung over from adventurism to Popular Frontism, and when, therefore, the main task of Trotskyists was to fight against opportunism and class collaboration carried out under the spurious slogan of ‘unity’. By contrast, in France and Germany especially, the Left Opposition groups had already behind them some years of struggle against Stalinism when it had been pursuing an ultra-leftist course, and therefore had more opportunity to assimilate Trotsky’s profound critique of Third Period Stalinism. In so doing, they could inoculate themselves, to a greater extent than in Britain, against similar contagions. Some of the forms taken by what Trotsky termed Stalinist ‘bureaucratic adventurism’ were pernicious in the extreme, and could easily have become the common coin of those seeking to break away to the revolutionary left from Stalinism in its rightist phase after 1934. Whence comes, for example, the frantic activism imposed on the WRP cadre by its impatient leadership? Healy would argue that it is a healthy legacy of the Puritan tradition and the Cromwellian Revolution, when men were moved to deeds by forces they could not understand. Here is not the place to clash swords with Healy over the English Revolution, save to point out that, contrary to the legend perpetuated in the WRP, the ideological precursors and executants of the revolution were by no means laggardly in questions of theory. Activism in the civil war, and before, there was in plenty, but it was to be found in the camp of the King, whose followers were supremely contemptuous of all ideas save as crude justifications for their own rule.

The WRP’s activism is, in the author’s opinion, in part a residue of Stalinism, which, as early as 1924, substituted for an honest and realistic relationship with the working class, a regime and method of command, of forced marches, of zigzags and panic improvisations. Just as Stalin sought to rescue the Soviet economy from the impasse into which his earlier policies had led it by launching in 1928 his panic plan of industrialisation and forced collectivisation, so on the international plane the Comintern attempted to order – with far less response and no success – the workers under its leadership into adventurist campaigns and actions (Berlin, May Day 1929). Both were aspects of the same tendency – bureaucratic adventurism. The Stalinist clique, walled off from the real problems and processes in the masses, aimed to command the class, substituting its own subjective illusions and narrow caste needs for the objective movement of the class struggle, the laws of political economy and the requirements of the international working class.

At the level of the national parties of the Comintern, this attempt artificially to accelerate the tempo of the class struggle expressed itself in commands to work yet harder, to intensify the polemics against every other tendency in the workers’ movement, to replace argument and conviction by orders and even worse methods of securing compliance. Bureaucratic adventurism became translated into the language of unthinking activism and blind obedience, which when they led to yet further isolation of the vanguard from the broad mass of the workers, were supplemented by hysteria and the repression of even the most timid critics. Those whose break from Stalinism to Trotskyism began with a struggle against these methods and the regime that imposed them could see blind activism as a direct consequence of bureaucratic adventurism, and that it had not an atom of Bolshevism in it. But what of those whose break came later, when Stalinism was frantically discarding its ‘inflexible’ image in a bid to curry the favour of its intended reformist and bourgeois Popular Front allies? Could not precisely those superficial ‘Bolshevik’ features be mistaken for the genuine article, especially now that Stalin was hastily discarding them in order to cement his alliance with the ‘democratic’ imperialists? There have in the history of the Trotskyist movement been not a few petty despots who, with varying degrees of success and opposition, attempted to transplant the apparatus methods of ‘left’ Stalinism and their Zinovievist precursors in the soil of the Fourth International. Combating such methods and tendencies, which, more often than not, assume a leftist-sectarian political form, is an essential part of the overall struggle to reorient the Trotskyist movement in Britain and internationally. It poses, however, an intimidating task for relative newcomers to the movement, since all too easily they can be induced to suppress their criticisms of the ‘regime’ and violations of democratic centralism on the demagogic grounds that these are the protests of the middle-class liberal against Bolshevik discipline.

Here indeed, the questions of regime and method, tactics, strategy and programme, theory and practice, become fused, each pointing inescapably to the same conclusion: that in Britain more than possibly any other country, Trotskyism has laboured under the enormous and in fact insurmountable handicap of not having fully assimilated Trotsky’s profound analysis of Zinovievism and Third Period Stalinism in all their many-sided aspects.

Trotsky was only too aware of these dangers, as experience had taught him that sectarians quite mistakenly looked upon the enforced isolated position of the Fourth International as a confirmation of their own abstentionist views, and therefore its ranks as a haven from the class struggle. A whole section of the founding programme of the Fourth International was therefore devoted to this most pernicious tendency:

Under the influence of the betrayal by the historical organisations of the proletariat, certain sectarian moods and groupings of various kinds arise or are regenerated at the periphery of the Fourth International. At their base lies a refusal to struggle for partial and transitional demands, that is, for the elementary interests and needs of the working masses, as they are today. Preparing for the revolution means to the sectarians, convincing themselves of the superiority of socialism. They propose turning their backs on the ‘old’ trade unions, that is, to tens of millions of organised workers – as if the masses could somehow live outside of the conditions of the actual class struggle! They remain indifferent to the inner struggle within reformist organisations [the WRP and Third Period theory of it being merely a ‘division of labour’ between the right and ‘left’ – RB] – as if one could win the masses without intervening in their daily strife! They refuse to draw a distinction between bourgeois democracy and fascism [’social fascism’, ‘corporatism’ – RB] – as if the masses could help but feel the difference on every hand! ... These sterile politicians generally have no need of a bridge in the form of transitional demands because they do not intend to cross over to the other shore. They simply dawdle in one place, satisfying themselves with a repetition of the selfsame meagre abstractions... [130]

In the case of the WRP leaders, we could more accurately say that they have no need of transitional demands since they live under the illusion that the workers have already crossed over the bridge to the side of the maximum programme of the seizure of power! The result, however, is the same – sterile sectarianism, a noisy, shallow polemic with the traditional leaderships, and an abstention from serious work in the mass organisations of the class. The tragedy is that all this buffoonery goes under the name of Trotskyism.

This returns us to the question of method. The radical lives on impressions and acts on hunches. Thus because fascists talk of the community of class interests, which are harmonised through the corporate state, and because reformists, even left ones, talk of workers’ control as a means of ensuring that workers ‘have their say’ in the running of the capitalist firm, Workers Press constructs a slanderous amalgam between corporatism and reformists advocating class collaboration under the slogan of ‘workers’ control’:

Jones... has long been an advocate of such corporatist-style involvement with the state and the employers... Wilson, Jones, the Institute for Workers’ Control, the Common Market law-drafters and the Conservative Central Office all talk of ‘worker participation’ precisely to hold the working class back and place it under the power of a corporate state. By ‘workers’ control’ they really mean corporatist control over the workers. [131]

Once again the ghost of Lassalle’s ‘one reactionary mass’. It is not enough for Workers Press to warn of the reformist illusions disseminated amongst workers by advocates of bogus workers’ control. They must be lumped together in quite arbitrary fashion with Tories and the EEC, even though Workers Press knows full well that should a real corporate state be established in Britain, the Institute for Workers’ Control would, no less than the WRP and other socialist organisations, be repressed as subversive of the new regime. It would then become apparent – only too late – that there was a difference between Jack Jones’ ‘workers’ control’ and the ‘class harmony’ of the fascist corporate state. And here too we should note a parallel with Germany, where the Stalinists denounced as fascist the reformist utopia of ‘economic democracy’ – at the same time as the fascists were denouncing it as pure Marxism. Ironically, the target of the WRP’s abuse has also been guilty of labelling reformist opponents of genuine workers’ control as ‘corporatists’. The Institute’s directors, Ken Coates and Tony Topham, wrote of a Labour Party Executive Committee document on Industrial Democracy that it proved ‘there are numerous conscious and dedicated corporatists among our leaders’. [132] ‘Dedicated corporatist’ was also the term employed by Stephen Johns to denote the views of Jack Jones, who has collaborated with the Institute along with several other prominent trade union leaders. Thus we have a situation where the WRP attacks Coates and Jones as corporatists, and Coates attacks the Labour Party and TUC right wing as corporatists! Confusion upon confusion, flowing from an utter inability in both cases to comprehend the antagonistic relationship between reformist bureaucracy and the structures established by the corporate state.

Throughout the spring and summer of 1973, the theme that Britain had actually become a corporate state by virtue of the passing by parliament of the Counter-Inflation Act predominated over any other, more realistic approach to the class struggle in Britain. It was reminiscent of the KPD’s claim that Weimar Germany had turned fascist following Brüning’s decision to cut wages by Presidential decree in the autumn of 1930. The corporate or fascist state is not a set of laws passed by parliament, but a regime of mass terror imposed on a proletariat that has either been betrayed or defeated in battle. Even the fantasy-mongers of the SLL did not try to present this picture to the readers of Workers Press, but there were nonetheless frequent claims that Britain had become a corporate state; and, moreover, with the full approval of the entire leadership of the official labour movement. Workers Press of 30 March spoke of ‘the Tory corporate state’, and on 2 April, announced ‘the corporate state is law’. But what sort of corporate state was it? One that among other things, permitted the continued publication of Workers Press. If this was corporatism, then could it be so bad after all? So reasoned many German workers who took seriously Stalinist claims that the regime of Brüning represented fascism. They were to receive a terrible – and in many cases fatal – shock when real fascism came to power in January 1933. Here too Royston Bull is one of the chief culprits. He actually talks of the TUC accepting a ‘voluntary corporatism’ – sheer gibberish that the Workers Press editorial board should be ashamed to print, let alone the SLL Central Committee and its General Secretary Gerry Healy. Voluntary fascism? Healy must be politically unhinged to permit such dangerous word-juggling to confuse the advanced workers who read the paper, expecting it to provide them with a clear analysis of the political situation, and a perspective and policy to fight on.

Instead they are dished up with second-rate radical journalese thinly disguised with a smattering of half-assimilated Marxist phrases. The reformists are to be exposed and demolished by daily salvos of abuse. Jack Jones’ position as leader of the 1.5 million-strong Transport Workers Union has not been disturbed in the least by the verbal lashings of Bull and Johns. On the contrary, their effect can only be to alienate workers who might otherwise be persuaded to listen to a serious Marxist criticism of the role of their leaders. Jones has at various times been accused of wanting to ‘build a better corporatist Britain’ and of being, like other members of the Institute for Workers Control, a ‘corporatist [who] poses as [an] advocate of workers’ control’. [133]

Problems of tempo began to trouble Workers Press towards the middle of 1973. Britain had become a ‘Tory corporate state’ and yet there were as yet few visible signs of the features traditionally associated with such a regime. So on 26 April, the paper spoke cautiously of ‘the first steps towards a corporate state in Britain’. [134] Things speeded up more than somewhat on 9 May, when the same Bull revealed to his readers that ‘TUC chief Victor Feather opened a campaign in favour of the corporate state at a conference yesterday’. The form this ‘campaign’ took was subtle in the extreme, and only an expert in corporatism like Bull could have unmasked him. For Feather had disguised his real intentions by attacking corporatism:

When people talk of the corporate state they often think of Mussolini. But I don’t need to remind anybody that Mussolini banned trade unions as one of the first things he did. That is exactly the opposite of a genuine negotiation between a democratic trade union movement and democratic, government.

Bull knew much better. Mussolini did not ban trade unions, he ‘absorbed’ them, thus creating the ‘fully-fledged corporate state’, which here Bull equated with Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. For good measure, Bull accused Feather, a dyed-in-the-wool reformist who, in happier days when corporatism was not in vogue, had given interviews to Workers Press, of ‘enunciating the principles of the German Labour Front under fascism’ – call him a Nazi! That will teach Feather not to ‘campaign in favour of the corporate state’ under the guise of attacking it. [135]

Meanwhile, ‘the attempt to disarm the working class is complete. The bandwagon towards the corporate state moves on.’ [136] By 1 June, it had slowed down a little, for Workers Press spoke of the ‘beginnings of a corporate state’ and of an ‘historic capitulation which will leave the unions ‘stripped of all their rights.’ [137] The possibility that the TUC could actually come into conflict with the corporatist bandwagon never occurred to Workers Press, since it depicted Feather and company as not merely its passengers, but as sharing the driving seat! Back in April, the corporate state was ‘law’. Now the warning was given that a proposed deal between the TUC and the Tories over wages ‘would make the corporate state an established fact.’ [138]

Despite the continued inability of the TUC and the Tories to clinch such a deal (and it eluded them right up to the fall of the Heath government in the election of 28 February 1974), the reformists’ pilgrimage towards corporatism continued to command the attention of Workers Press. On 5 June, they ‘took another step along the road to the corporate state when they presented their case for a phase three pay rise for hospital workers to the pay board’, [139] while two days later, the TUC was said to be joining in talks with the government that aimed to ‘make the corporate state a reality’. [140] On 14 June, however, it was discovered that ‘the trade union bureaucrats are finding it more difficult to sell out the interests of the working class by signing a corporatist phase three deal’, [141] a statement that was cancelled out on 19 June by the assertion that the ‘TUC bureaucrats’ were surrendering to ‘Heath’s demands for permanent corporatist controls over trade unions...’. [142] On 30 June, there was permitted to slip into Workers Press a Marxist definition of the corporate state that exposed as nonsense all previous claims that the reformists not only desired it, but would be placed in charge of it. D Maude wrote of ‘the smashing of the labour movement and the imposition of the corporate state’. [143]

Even amidst the welter of leftist rhetoric, the SLL was not averse to tail-ending the reformists, not excluding their most right-wing representatives. On 5 July, Bull noted that the corporatists of the ‘right-wing General and Municipal Workers Union are to put down a motion for the September TUC Congress rejecting the government’s economic policy as “unfair and unworkable"’. [144] Did Bull ever stop to ask himself how yesterday’s corporatists had become today’s opponents of corporatism? Apparently not, for Workers Press was by 16 July accusing trade union leaders of taking ‘another stride in their plans to introduce corporatism into industry’. [145]

But other forces than the TUC were striving to establish a corporate state in Britain. Perhaps the most hair-brained of all the notions on this theme to find its way into Workers Press was the unearthing of a fascist purpose behind the Tory government’s rent and children’s allowances scheme introduced in July 1973. These, together with the cut-price butter coupons for recipients of social security benefits, were described by Workers Press as deliberately designed ‘to create a division between such poor people and the workers in trade unions. In this way, the forces are being assembled among those who depend on the state for a right-wing ultimately fascist, movement.’ Thus the aged, infirm, disabled and mothers of large families would be blackmailed and drilled into a ‘shock-force against the organised workers’. [146] Once again, Marxism is debased by this burlesque on a deadly serious theme. To be sure, Trotsky referred to the bulk of the Nazi voters as ‘human dust’, but he used altogether different terms for the murderous SA and SS. Does Workers Press seriously believe that the mass plebeian forces of fascism will come from the recipients of welfare state aid, when fascist movements have without exception selected their main combat cadres from the youth? The notion that the Tories will themselves assemble and set in motion this mass fascist movement also presupposes that the Conservative Party can transform itself into a fascist party, whereas past experience again teaches us (and recent political developments in Britain confirm it) that the ‘revolt of the plebeians’ cannot be led by the leaders and parties of the ‘old system’. This is the appeal of the ‘anti-establishment’ Liberals, and of Enoch Powell, not to speak of the pseudo-populist racialism of the National Front. Has Germany taught us nothing? Did not the KPD insist until almost the very end that the real fascist threat came from the Brünings, Papens and Schleichers? There is evidence that the lessons of the German catastrophe have not been assimilated as they should have been by the WRP. False analogies with Germany, equating Heath with Hitler, abound in Workers Press. Then there are the loose uses of the term fascism, as in the case of Stephen Johns, who wrote of a Tory government ‘half-way to dictatorship and hell-bent for the new fascism’. [147] The new fascism? Nothing in his article gives the reader a clue as to what Johns means by this. The result is further political confusion arising from a dilettante-ist, flippant attitude towards Marxist theory. No less disturbing are the outright distortions of history perpetrated by the leaders of the movement. Gerry Healy, possibly influenced by the rampant leftism he had unleashed in the SLL, wrote on 30 July 1973:

The old reformist and Stalinist leaderships are utterly incapable of leading the working class to power. Through the policies of class collaboration they [the reformists and Stalinists] prepare instead the victory of dictatorship, as they did in Germany in 1933. [148]

Was that how the KPD Stalinists prepared the defeat of the German working class – through class collaboration? According to Royston Bull, yes. But according to Trotsky, no.

More sophisticated is the revision undertaken by Cliff Slaughter, who studiously avoids using the term corporatist when writing about reformists. He knows it is wrong, and not so far removed from Stalinist ‘social fascism’. However, he too has bent to the party line on this question, though in another way. On 16 November 1973, he performed the considerable feat of writing an article on the Third Period in Germany without once applying the lessons of the consequences of KPD ultra-leftism to the present-day problems and struggles of the working class. And this was an article entitled ‘Political Foundations of the Revolutionary Party'! He contents himself with a long quote from an article by Trotsky on the policy of the KPD, every word of which is an indictment of WRP policy towards the Labour Party and the mass movement generally. But Slaughter manages to give it another direction. He deduces from Trotsky’s extensive criticism of the KPD policy of renouncing the united front with Social Democracy in the name of ‘independent leadership’ that ‘only a party independent of the Stalinist bureaucracy and its interests can open up a revolutionary path for the working class’. [149] But such a lesson could have just as easily – more easily in fact – been drawn from the role of Stalinism in the Popular Front. The important lesson from Germany was not just the general one that revolutionaries must be independent of Stalinism, but, rather, under what precise conditions, and with what false policies and tactics, did the KPD lead the German working class to defeat? Once again the particular, the specific, the concrete, the real, is liquidated into the general and the abstract. The lesson is, says Slaughter, that we must be independent of Stalinism. True. But there are times when the revolutionary party must propose and fight to form a united front with the Stalinists, not to speak of the reformists. Slaughter has nothing to say about this question as it applies to today. Instead, he leaps from the Third Period to... Chile, a classic instance of right, and not left, opportunist policy. And because Slaughter adopts this generalised approach to the Third Period, he falls into the error of identifying Stalinist leftism of 1929-33 with its later left turns, which have a qualitatively different character. ‘This same left talk without any serious preparation for power has characterised the Stalinists ever since, even during their “right” turns.’ [150] This is not so. From 1935 onwards, Trotsky considered Stalinism a counter-revolutionary force, whereas up to that year, he had regarded it as bureaucratic centrism moving to the right away from Bolshevism. Anxious to get away from a concrete discussion of the Third Period, Slaughter glosses over this fundamental change in the nature of Stalinism, and reduces its tactics to a matter of ‘left’ or not so ‘left’ talk. In other words, the rich lessons of the Third Period, the subject of scores of articles by Trotsky, are being obscured by the present ultra-leftism of the WRP, which of necessity has a blind spot when it comes to looking at leftism in the past. The many attacks on the Popular Front – all completely justified – therefore serve to accentuate this one-sided presentation of the history of the Comintern. And we should remember that the Stalinists put the Third Period to an opposite and complementary use, employing its sectarianism to boost support for the Popular Front. In both cases, the Leninist alternative to the Third Period and the Popular Front is neglected, or, in the case of the Stalinists, deliberately erased from history. Every attack on the Popular Front must be enriched by an exposition of the Leninist united front, but this is rarely if ever done, much to the detriment of the political training of younger comrades. If the time comes when the WRP is driven by force of circumstance to revert to this tactic, then its leaders may find either that the majority of their members are openly hostile to it and see it as opportunism, or will simply have no comprehension of what it is and how to apply it. This is the price one pays for neglecting and even distorting history. But perhaps the worst distortion of all was undertaken by Slaughter in a three-part series he wrote for Workers Press, ‘The WRP and the Transitional Programme’. In the second of these articles, he boldly asserted that, together with the reformists, the German Stalinists, in the period of Hitler’s rise to power, constituted the ‘greatest weapon’ of the bourgeoisie in its attack on the workers’ movement. [151] Quite apart from the obviously Third Period overtones of Slaughter’s contention, it leads on to other questions even more vital for the Trotskyist movement. For if the KPD, already by 1930, had become, alongside the SPD, the ‘greatest weapon’ of the German ruling class, then Slaughter is obliged to explain how it was that at this time, and for another three years, Trotsky was seeking to reform this ‘greatest weapon’ of the German bourgeoisie, a weapon that the Nazis tore to shreds with incredible fanaticism and barbarism? How come that Trotsky had not detected what Slaughter now informs us of, that by 1930 the cause was already lost, and that Trotsky was wasting his time struggling to reform the Communist International and its German party? And was this not the line of the ultra-lefts of the day, who spurned the necessary theoretical and practical task of going through to the bitter end with the struggle to save what could be saved of the Communist International? And if it is true that from the very beginning – 1924 – Stalinism shared the counter-revolutionary nature and role of Social Democracy, then one is obliged to put not only a question mark against, but a line right through, all the subsequent work of the Left Opposition, for it flowed from a false, opportunist perspective that remained uncorrected right up to and beyond the foundation of the Fourth International. Uncorrected that is, until the advent of Slaughter and his discovery that already by the early 1930s (and in complete contradiction to Trotsky’s estimation) Stalinism had become an openly counter-revolutionary force, that it could therefore not be, as Trotsky had said, bureaucratic centrism.

By putting an equals sign between the SPD and the KPD in the pre-Hitler period – they were both the ‘greatest weapon’ of the bourgeoisie – Slaughter makes himself a sitting target for the onslaught Trotsky initially directed against the German ultra-lefts of the day:

It would be a criminal act on the part of the Opposition Communists to take, like Urbahns and Co, to the road of creating a new Communist Party, before making some serious efforts to change the course of the old party... To raise now the question of a third party [as Slaughter was doing, with his statement that even before 1933, the KPD leadership were the ‘greatest weapon’ of the German ruling class – RB] is to counterpose oneself on the eve of a great historic decision to the millions of Communist workers who are dissatisfied with the leadership but who, from a feeling of self-preservation, hold on to the party... We must mercilessly expose ultra-radical capitulators; and demand from the ‘leaders’ clear answers to the question what to do, and we must offer our answer, for the entire country, for every region, every city, every district, every factory... Left Oppositionists are not intermediaries between the KPD and SPD. They are the soldiers of Communism, its agitators, its propagandists and organisers. All eyes on the Communist Party! We must explain to it, we must convince it! [152]

Poor Trotsky! Lacking the inspired guidance of Slaughter, here he was, futilely training his eyes on, and seeking to convince, the... ‘greatest weapon’ of the capitalist class. This is where the WRP’s ultra-leftism is taking its membership – not only away from the organised workers’ movement today, but towards a completely false history of the Fourth International and the world labour movement. This is the price of Healy’s domination of British Trotskyism. [153]

Quite apart from a frequent tendency to falsify the role of the Stalinists in the German defeat, one often finds an erroneous presentation of the economic conditions prevailing in the period of Hitler’s rise to power. The inflation of 1922-23 is brought forward to the late 1920s and early 1930s, years which in fact saw the pursuance of a rigorously deflationary policy by the governments of the day, with cuts in spending on welfare, and reductions in both wages and prices. Complete confusion on this question reigned in the resolution on trade union work passed at the SLL special conference of 2-3 March 1968, which stated:

In the middle and later 1920s there was an enormous growth of inflation and unemployment. This paved the way for monopoly takeovers on a vast scale. They in turn almost immediately began to finance the Hitler movement. [154]

Almost everything is wrong here. Firstly, there was no inflation in the middle and later 1920s. The hyper-inflation of 1923 was halted by early 1924, and thereafter the mark retained its world parity, even during the banking crisis of the summer of 1931. The growth of unemployment dates from 1928 and the onset of the decline in the domestic German boom. The 1926 jobless figure of two million was, in the main, the result of the rationalisation movement and the concentration of monopolies (discussed in Chapter XIV) and had nothing to do with a (non-existent) inflation. Finally, this incredibly ignorant statement places the mergers of 1925-26 (IG Farben, the Steel Trust, etc) at the end of the decade and the beginning of the 1930s, when the crisis brought this tendency towards concentration to a temporary halt.

In reality, the ‘enormous’ growth in unemployment followed the mergers, and did not precede them. Whence do these historical distortions flow? Primarily, from a desire to draw facile, glib parallels between late Weimar Germany and the prevailing political and economic situation in Britain, parallels that help to sustain for the more gullible and shallow-minded the sectarian policies and false perspectives of the WRP leadership. Thus Healy declared at a public meeting that Heath would fight inflation ‘just as Hitler fought it’ – the only trouble being that Hitler’s arrival in power brought to an end four years of rigidly deflationary government economic policy and ushered in a period of state-backed economic expansionism, and policies that contained highly inflationary elements. Once again historical truth, one of the most precious possessions of the Marxist vanguard, was sacrificed to a cheap political sensationalism that, far from preparing the working class for the coming fight against the real (and not imaginary) fascists, disarmed it.

The WRP itself was in fact launched on a programmatic document which distorted the history of the Comintern and especially of Stalinism. It stated that ‘Stalin and the bureaucracy in 1923-24 imposed the programme of “socialism in one country"’ on the Communist International. [155] But as all those familiar with the writings of Trotsky on this question should know, Stalin only propounded his theory of ‘socialism in one country’ in the autumn of 1924, when he revised the text of his Problems of Leninism, which in April 1924 had contained the statement that socialism could not be built in a single country. The drafters of this document projected the Stalinist policy of socialism in one country back into a phase of the Comintern when the issue was by no means decided, before the turning points of the defeat of the German revolution (November 1923) and the death of Lenin (January 1924). Similar schematism vitiates the section dealing with later Comintern episodes. Quite correctly the resolution refers to the ‘role of the British Communist Party in covering up for the betrayal by the TUC General Council of the 1926 General Strike and the surrender to Chiang Kai-shek resulting in the defeat of the Chinese Revolution’. [156] In other words, these defeats and betrayals flowed from a right-opportunist course. But the precise nature of the policies by which the Kremlin bureaucracy betrayed the German workers to Hitler is not only left obscure, but lumped together with the Popular Frontism of the Spanish Stalinists: ‘It was the same Stalinist bureaucracy which led the German working class into the defeat by Hitler in 1933 and the Spanish workers to defeat by Franco.’ [157] The same bureaucracy – yes, up to a point. But not the same policy and tactics. The document had no reservations about describing the right-opportunist errors of 1926-27, but was silent about the left-opportunism of 1933. Again, the blind spot, again the vulgar telescoping of qualitatively different stages in the decomposition of the Comintern under Stalin’s leadership. And that is why it is not enough to say that the bureaucracy was the ‘same’ in 1926, 1933 and 1936-39. Trotsky up to 1934 characterised the politics of the Stalinist bureaucracy at bureaucratic centrism. In the USSR, he stood for the reform of the apparatus, not to overthrow it by a violent political revolution. The year of 1934 saw Trotsky changing his position on both these crucial questions, yet they are totally ignored in the resolution, the document which today provides the programmatic foundation for the WRP.

Even more alarming is the characterisation of counter-revolutionary Stalinism as centrism in the 1972 SLL conference resolution: ‘Trade union militants recruited to the Stalinist parties are diverted through conscious use of centrist policies... to produce defeats for the working class.’ [158] Is Stalinism therefore a tendency which, as in the period between 1924 and 1934, oscillates between a reformist and revolutionary line? Such slapdash thinking and use of terminology can disarm party comrades in the struggle against Stalinism, which is nothing else than a counter-revolutionary force. It is as if nothing has changed since 1933, the year when Trotsky began to revise his estimation of Stalinism as a centrist tendency, the year in which he issued his call for the building of the Fourth International.

This highly dangerous characterisation of Stalinism as a centrist tendency is not a recent aberration. As long ago as 1966, the SLL November Conference document, British Perspectives, said that the:

British Stalinists are making a great bid for what they call ‘leadership of the left’. In reality this is, of course, nothing more than an attempt to reproduce a new type of centrist leadership... The Stalinists aim to be the leaders of the new betrayal... [159]

What is this ‘new type of centrist leadership’ which Stalinism is allegedly capable of organising and heading? Does its appearance mean that after more than three decades of openly counter-revolutionary activity, it is now prepared and able to swing to the left, towards (though not of course, into) the camp of revolutionary Communism? For that is what centrism is, a tendency which vacillates between revolutionary Marxism and open reformism. It can be travelling in either direction. Stalinism, despite its periods of leftist adventurism, evolved progressively over the years towards support for the imperialist status quo. This is why Trotsky characterised it, up until 1934, as bureaucratic centrism. But all that changed with Stalin’s entry into the League of Nations, his support for French foreign policy, the Popular Front and the strangling of revolutions in France and then Spain. Can it be that now, Stalinism is turning back to the left again? This is the only conclusion one can draw from the 1966 SLL document in question. Nor does the confusion on the nature of centrism end here. In this very same document, we also find Simon-pure Fabians being characterised as centrists, only in this instance they are said to be moving to the right away from previously more left positions:

Two years of Labour government have witnessed an important polarisation to the right of all the centrist forces, that is the old-type centrists, such as Michael Foot, Silverman and Co and the newer ones who were elected in 1964-66, such as Heffer, Newens, Bidwell and others.

Reading on further, we learn however that these same ‘centrists’ (a term which for Marxists denotes an individual or group moving either away from or towards Communism) ‘are so thoroughly imbued with reformism and opportunism that at this stage they absolutely refuse to make the slightest break from Wilson’. [160] If this last characterisation is correct – and we think that it is – then none of the Labour MPs named could have at the same time been centrist, for a centrist, we repeat, is one who is in transition between the two poles of Social Democracy and revolutionary Marxism. What these gentlemen do represent is of course left Social Democracy, a tendency the SLL-WRP usually dissolves away by the use of quotation marks around left. Sometimes the same reformist leader is honoured with two or even more designations. Thus former TGWU chief Frank Cousins was in 1963 correctly characterised, along with Wilson, as a ‘left reformist’, [161] while by the Special Conference in March 1968 he had moved left to become a ‘centrist leader’. [162] Even more confusing for the League’s members was the designation of Cousins at the same conference, on another resolution as ‘a “left” trade union leader’ [163] – in other words, not even a genuine left reformist!

By the autumn of the same year, on the eve of the aborted national engineers’ strike that the SLL leadership believed would usher in the first chapter of the British revolution, the SLL Political Committee referred to ‘centrists in the Labour movement... who cling to the policy of a middle or “left” reformist road’. [164] Then winding up this exercise in confusion-mongering, the London Area SLL conference resolution of February 1969 had Foot featuring as a ‘centrist’. [165] Which all goes to prove that you cannot play around with the vocabulary and terminology of Marxism and at the same time hope to train a cadre to fight reformism, centrism and Stalinism in the workers’ movement. These terms have a precise meaning for Trotskyists, a meaning that has been etched in blood in Germany, Spain, China and Chile. Light-mindedness about the use of the Marxist vocabulary in the middle and later 1960s, when the term ‘centrist’ became simply a word of abuse, led in the 1970s to a similar employment of ‘corporatism’. Indeed, it was the very same leaders who had been ‘centrists’ between 1966 and 1969 who now became, in 1972 and 1973, the apostles of this latter ideology. Those who had been, by implication, idealised in one period as being more left than they really were, in the succeeding period equally wrongly presented as conscious and willing accomplices in the destruction of the trade unions and the institution of the corporate (fascist) state. Such political instability, such methodological impressionism, simply cannot make any serious inroads into the broad layers of workers still under the influence of one or other wings of the bureaucracy. To fight and defeat reformism, you must know what it is you are fighting, otherwise, all the sacrifice and devotion in the world will result in this same reformism not only emerging unscathed from the conflict, but even strengthened. Here too there is much that still has to be learned from the experience of Third Period Stalinism.

This question of the nature and history of Stalinism goes right to the core of the problems of the Trotskyist movement in Britain, and finds a section of the leadership headed by Gerry Healy and supported – and even outflanked – by a team of journalists from the bourgeois press not only obscuring but actually distorting the content of Stalinism and Trotsky’s analysis of it. One direct consequence of this has been the SLL’s readiness to endorse uncritically the actions and policies of the Vietnamese and Chinese Stalinists, even though the leaders of these movements were responsible for the murder of hundreds of Trotskyists in the early postwar period. All this was brushed aside as the Vietnamese Stalinists were forced to adopt a left line under the direct military attacks of imperialism. As in the case of Pablo, a left turn by a section of the bureaucracy threw some Trotskyists off balance, and found them liquidating the Fourth International into the left flank of counter-revolutionary world Stalinism. So we can see that the question of Germany and the Third Period is right at the heart of the struggle to rebuild the Fourth International today against all tendencies which liquidate the vanguard into either the mass or into alien political movements, however ‘left’ they may appear to be at any one given time. Sooner or later, this liquidationist current must challenge the very foundations of the Fourth International, and it is for this fight that serious comrades in the WRP must prepare. Sometimes the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ Trotskyism confront each other across the pages of the same Workers Press. On 3 August 1973, an obituary to Walter Ulbricht referred to ‘Stalin’s policy of denouncing the Social Democrats as “social fascists” – the policy which prevented a united struggle of the German working class against the fascists’. On the very next page, the reader discovers that Ulbricht still lives, for there he can read that the TUC leaders ‘in answer to the demand that a Labour government is returned to power by revolutionary working-class action... hold out the sop that unions would be allowed to nominate their own men to help organise the counter-revolution... they suggest politely that officials of the new, corporatist unions could sit in the boardrooms of the corporate state too’. [166] The contrast between this mindless babbling and the sober appraisal of social fascism on the facing page must be excruciating for all members of the WRP who take Trotskyism – and their revolutionary responsibilities – at all seriously.

But it is hard to take the offerings of Bull and Johns at all seriously. On 16 August, Bull suddenly discovered that everything he had written about the trade union leaders being corporatists was rubbish. On that day, he reported that ‘the great Tory campaign to get trade unions to desert the fundamental principle of independence from the state and instead turn themselves into corporatist appendages of Tory anti-working class legislation has met an appropriate end’. Who had been responsible for administering the coup de grâce? Surely not Feather, whom Bull had likened to Robert Ley of the Nazi Labour Front? Yet Bull had to admit that the TUC’s policy of expelling trade unions failing to de-register from the register set up by the Industrial Relations Act had led to Tory anti-union policy suffering ‘a complete fiasco’. Those unions expelled for registering that subsequently de-registered were described by Bull as having ‘abandoned their flirtation with corporatism’ – which meant that the TUC trade unions never did ‘flirt’ with it. Moreover, Bull declared that ‘only 25 [unions] remain in corporatist collaboration with the government by staying on the register and outside the TUC’. [167] Did Bull – or anyone else for that matter – ask himself what the TUC ‘corporatists’ were doing expelling the registering ‘corporatists'? But by 27 October, with the foundation of the WRP only a matter of days away, the old line was back with a vengeance. Not only were Tories out ‘to smash unions’ but were receiving the full support of the trade union leaders in doing so. Stephen Johns wrote that the Tories had ‘a trade union leadership in the palm of their hand, a leadership which in struggle after struggle, has proved it prefers the corporate state [by Johns’ definition a state ‘on the Hitler-Mussolini model’ – RB] to a political battle by the working class to force the Tory government to resign’. [168] The events leading up to the resignation and electoral defeat of the Tories, precipitated by an official decision of the NUM ‘corporatists’ to recommend to their members a ‘yes’ vote to their request for strike action on the union’s claim, would soon prove how little Johns understood the British workers’ movement and its leaders. The WRP itself was launched on the basis of this one-sided estimation of the relationship between the trade unions and the state. The resolution adopted unanimously at the founding conference on 4 November 1973 declared that ‘the reformist Labour leaders, tied to the state and the monopolies, actually become the instruments for this attack, on the unions and the destruction of basic working-class rights’. [169] Did it not occur to the drafters of this resolution that the trade union leaders could also become a target of a Tory attack on the trade unions? But that would mean the reformists actually being driven into leading some form of opposition to the Tories, and, in turn, to unheard-of complications for the new party, involving even the use of the united front tactic. And by this time, the traditional call for the TUC to organise and lead action against the Tory government had been dropped in favour of a united front ‘from below’ on the basis of workers joining the All Trades Union Alliance. So instead of the united front tactic, there was held up the comforting prospect that ‘the treachery of the Labour, trade union and Stalinist leadership is being daily ever more openly demonstrated, and one section after another is forced to take up the question of revolutionary leadership’. [170] This was the theme of Johns, who wrote on 8 November:

The Tories have already prepared for a confrontation with the active collaboration of all union leaders under phases one and two. Now they are counting on the leadership for further collaboration in order to take one section on at a time – and smash them. Workers must reject the union chiefs’ suicidal policy and fight to build a new leadership in their unions. [171]

Just like that. Even though towards the end of 1973, corporatism became overshadowed somewhat in Workers Press by panic-mongering on the non-existent prospects of an impending military coup and civil war, the theme was not totally neglected. On 26 November, the TUC was charged with ‘willingness to sit in the jaws of the corporate state’, and of simultaneously ‘taking the road of the corporate state’ and ‘embracing the spirit of corporatism’ – all because it advocated the state registration of workers and employers in the building industry. [172]

The Acid Test

The fuel crisis and NUM overtime ban of the winter of 1973-74 put the WRP’s theory of corporatism to the acid test. If there was even a particle of truth in it, then not only the trade union, but also the Labour Party leaders would side openly with the Tories in Heath’s alleged plot to stage a military coup, which by January 1974, when the army began its security operations at Heathrow airport after an alert concerning a possible Arab rocket attack, had become the main preoccupation of Workers Press. On 19 December, Alex Mitchell ventured the prophecy that the two lines of action open were either ‘Bonapartist dictatorship... or... the taking of power by the working class’. In other words, Britain was back in the revolutionary situation that had been predicted by the SLL as far back as 1968. As for the entire official leadership of the trade unions and Labour Party, there was no doubt where they would be in such an impending clash – ‘right with the Tories and the vicious onslaught on every working-class family’. [173] The prospect was a Tory-Labour coalition unleashing civil war on the working class, a fantasy that existed only inside the disoriented brain of its inventor. The trouble was, this fantasy now became the line of the WRP for the next three months, and a means for systematically confusing and demoralising many members of the new party seriously struggling to give leadership to the working class. Once again, the WRP’s false perspectives prevented them from doing so. Sectarianism now ran riot. The WRP’s ‘Policy for the Crisis’ is a classic instance of how ultra-leftism in practice protects the reformist enemy it is trying to weaken:

In the election the working class must fight to compel Labour candidates to carry out a programme of socialist demands, in practice they will not do this. In this way the role of the reformists can be exposed explicitly in front of the working class. [174]

So the reformist leaders were to be exposed after they had failed to carry out the maximum programme of the WRP! This presupposes a mass revolutionary consciousness in the working class that will reject Social Democracy for not carrying out the socialist revolution. And in such a situation, one hopes the WRP will not be calling on the working class to vote Labour, but standing at the head of a mass movement millions strong and on the verge of taking power itself.

It should be self-evident that reformists can best be ‘exposed’ around their own programme, that workers will begin to break from their reformist leaders when they see these leaders retreating from the demands on which they have been returned to office by the mass votes and struggle of the working class. Even more absurd is the WRP’s statement that the socialist demands are put on reformist leaders only to expose them. Isn’t the WRP serious about fighting the class enemy? Is the united front only a manoeuvre to ‘expose’ the reformists, or is it primarily a bloc with reformist workers and leaders against the class enemy? How many workers will rally to a call that is explicitly declared to be purely for the purpose of exposure? The WRP found out in the election of 28 February 1974, when its nine parliamentary candidates were correctly spurned by the working class in its healthy desire to defeat the Tory class enemy. They had no time for a party which made as the main aim of its intervention the fight to ‘expose’ Labour when that same party was daily ranting about the dangers of a Tory military putsch. What would the WRP leaders have said about the following extract from an article by someone whom today they might well charge with being a ‘left cover’ for reformism?

We cannot force our programme upon the masses mechanically... As long as we have not convinced you [the reformist workers] and attracted you to our side, we are ready to follow this [democratic] road to the end... make your party open up a real struggle for a strong democratic government... let it arouse millions of workers: let it conquer power through the drive of the masses. This, at any rate, would be a serious attempt of struggle against fascism and war. We Bolsheviks would retain the right to explain to the workers the insufficiency of democratic slogans: we could not take upon ourselves the political responsibility for the Social Democratic government; but we would honestly help you in the struggle for such a government; together with you we would repel all attacks of bourgeois reaction. More than that: we would bind ourselves before you not to go beyond the limits of democracy (real democracy) so long as the majority of the workers has not consciously placed itself on the side of the revolutionary dictatorship. [175]

Nothing about a ‘socialist programme’, or about exposure. Only a sincere fight alongside but politically independent of the reformist workers and their leaders to secure the election of a Social Democratic government, a government which, when formed, would be defended by Communist and reformist workers alike against the attacks of reaction. Nothing either about ‘bringing down’ this reformist government, before such time as the majority of workers have consciously gone over to Communism – a situation which certainly never prevailed in 1969, when the SLL made this slogan its official policy.

The WRP had no need of such a tactic. Everything was made beautifully simple by the fact that:

Britain is being plunged irrevocably into a revolutionary crisis without parallel. It dwarfs the May-June struggles in France of 1968. It is not comparable at all [sic!] to the 1926 General Strike, but is a negation of the Chartist uprising of 1848. [176]

Which might have been comforting to the national pride of the WRP philosophers, but, as so often in the past, offered no serious perspective for either the working class or the WRP to fight on. What was to be done about the Labour Party and TUC in this ‘revolutionary conflict'? No answer was forthcoming. The recipe offered was ‘build councils of action on a local, regional and national basis’ – councils that did not exist, and will not until the mass of workers – members of the Labour Party and the TUC trade unions – decides to build them. Such bodies will not arise on the instructions of a party, least of all when it commands the support of a mere handful of workers. Stephen Johns had already explained why no united front call went out to the leaders of the real, as opposed to imaginary, mass organisations of the working class. They were all led by corporatists:

They are all part of the same bureaucracy, committed to the preservation of capitalism... These men started as reformists, devoted to the belief that capitalism can be changed or improved peacefully... In the epoch of capitalist decay... these men move more and more towards corporatism – the total merging of the trade unions and the bureaucracy with the institutions of capitalist rule. Feather is a dedicated corporatist, but the ‘lefts’ are travelling in the same direction only two steps behind. [177]

Johns finally arrived at a worked-out theory of social fascism. Feather was an orthodox ‘social corporatist’, but in hot pursuit behind him were the ‘left social corporatists’ – men like Scanlon and Jones. And since they, along with their Labour Party counterparts, were hell-bent on integrating the unions into the state, how could there be any question of a united front with them? And thus reasoned the Stalinists of the KPD in the Third Period. Johns therefore demands the ‘defeat’ of ‘the reformist trade union bureaucracy and replacing it with a revolutionary Marxist leadership. This fight means building the WRP to lead the working class.’ [178] But neither Johns, Bull, Healy nor anyone else in the WRP leadership has the faintest notion of how this is to be done. It is pure demagogy to talk of ‘defeating the reformist trade union bureaucracy’ unless at the same time you are prepared to put the demand on that bureaucracy that it break with the bourgeoisie and the capitalist state and begin the struggle for a Labour government, and, moreover, unless you pledge yourself to defend the organisations and leaders of the workers’ movement if and when they come under attack from the class enemy. Johns cannot envisage this happening – they are ‘right with the Tories’, ‘dedicated corporatists’ and the like – so therefore he cannot find a road to the workers who still prefer the leadership of Feather to the WRP. Barely one month after Johns wrote these lines he was sharing the platform with, amongst others, a Tory and a Scottish Nationalist as a WRP parliamentary candidate at the general election. The main purpose of his standing, he told the meeting, was to expose the Labour and Communist Parties. This was the WRP’s ‘united front’ in action, and in Johns’ case, received the punishment it deserved. John’s won 52 votes, the second lowest vote in the entire election’s 630 seats.

Other Third Period residues surfaced in this period. The appearance of tanks at Heathrow was described gleefully by Alex Mitchell, Workers Press editor, as ‘driving another nail into the coffin of reformism’. [179] Much the same thing was said by the KPD leaders about Hitler’s assumption of power in Germany – only many of them ended up in coffins along with the reformists. Mitchell’s cynical remark, which displays not the least class feeling or sense of solidarity with other sections of the workers’ movement, is in fact a confession of bankruptcy. The WRP cannot finish off reformism, so let the tanks do it instead. Then after the tanks... us. Mitchell possibly did not in fact believe what he wrote, for the next day he had the dead and nearly buried reformists being ‘kicked into line’ by the Tories. In other words, the Tories still had a use for them, and were not going to stage a putsch – unless the reformists had been allotted posts in the post-coup Junta. And if that were the perspective, then it did not accord with the frequent analogies being made with Chile, where reformists and Stalinists had been murdered by the military junta. The simple truth was that neither Mitchell nor Healy knew what was going on, since both were completely hooked on two false perspectives that now collided, the first being the reformists instituting the corporate state – ‘the corporate state TUC’ of Stephen Johns – and then helping to run it; and the second, a variation on the Bonapartist theme elaborated at the SLL’s 1972 annual conference of an imminent military coup which would ‘crush the working class’ and presumably even its (corporatist) organisations and leaders.

This conjuncture led to the most monstrous theoretical absurdities. On 19 February, the Heath government was said to have ‘centred’ its ‘general election policy on police-military dictatorship’, while Heath himself had allegedly ‘spoken out openly about his plans to introduce the corporate state in Britain’, overlooking entirely the paper’s statement of 10 months previously that the ‘corporate state is law’. So the Tories were seeking a parliamentary mandate for both the establishment of a corporate state (that already existed, sanctioned by the TUC and the Labour Party leaders), and for a military-police coup. For as Workers Press explained, ‘as the crisis deepens, this corporatist state can only be maintained by police-military dictatorship’. [180] This is akin to saying that Hitler needed to stage a ‘military-police’ coup to supplement his already established fascist regime! But if corporatism means the destruction of the workers’ organisations, against whom or what will the ‘police-military’ coup be directed? Again we must conclude that these confusions flow from a serious underestimation of the counter-revolutionary role and nature of fascism (corporatism), which, as past history has proved beyond all doubt, renders subsequent military coups superfluous. Indeed, the only two army actions under fascism of any note have been directed against the existing regime, namely the abortive July 1944 putsch in Germany and the General Spinola coup in Portugal of April 1974.

The attempt to sustain these two mutually exclusive (and false) perspectives also led to the most tortuous journalistic gyrations. Speculating on the possibility of a sharp break in the previously cordial relations between the reformist bureaucracy and the ruling class (a development that Workers Press increasingly disregarded), the right-wing publicist Peregrine Worsthorne wrote in the Sunday Telegraph on 30 December 1973 that ‘militant trade unionists... may well find themselves less often in Downing Street and more often in other less comfortable Crown properties’. In other words, the TUC leaders could be heading for the same fate that befell their German counterparts in 1933. But Alex Mitchell, writing strictly on the WRP’s leftist line, saw things differently. Apparently this experienced Fleet Street journalist labours under the delusion that shop stewards are in the habit of calling at 10 Downing Street, for he commented on Worsthorne’s article that ‘this is the language of class war set in a context of “red plots,” provocations and the jailing of trade union militants’. [181] Thus the implications of Worsthorne’s remarks – that the bourgeoisie could be considering spurning the TUC’s proffered hand of class-collaboration (of the ‘militant trade unionists’) are lost, and the banal conclusion drawn that the main – indeed only – thrust will be directed at the rank and file. Again the same leftism, again the same inability to understand the contradictory development of the relations between the bourgeoisie and the organised workers’ movement.

The WRP’s embarrassment was all too obvious. On 12 January, there crept back into the pages of Workers Press – rather shamefacedly – the long-discarded call for the TUC to organise a General Strike. References to corporatism vanished as if by magic. Even Bull and Johns gave the word a well-earned rest. A special TUC conference of union executives, called for 16 January to discuss the economic crisis, was mercilessly attacked, as were the Stalinists for supporting it. They were charged with ‘attempting to divert attention [to the conference]... the most extreme and clear example of counter-revolution... a conference of trade union leaders who have already proved they are incapable of fighting the Tory government is not the answer’. If the working class could not turn to its own leaders and mass organisations, what then was the answer? ‘The question posed... is one of building the WRP...’ [182] But if the workers don’t yet feel ready to join...? The WRP gave its own answer when on 12 January, Workers Press came out with a call in the name of the ATUA to ‘lobby the TUC’. The WRP had joined the ‘counter-revolution’. Perspectives and policies were being revised and discarded almost by the hour, and without any acknowledgement that such changes had taken place. Similar confusion reigned about the role of Powell. On 18 January it was stated that Powellism had become ‘the adopted policy of the Tory party’. Yet at the same time, Powell’s aim was said to be ‘to get rid of the “soft” Tories and lead the party in a Bonapartist administration which will rule by emergency decrees, all backed by the armed forces and armed police’. Now this was the same policy that the existing Heath leadership were already said by Workers Press to be carrying out. And the plot thickened when the same article declared that ‘Powell’s opposition to a general election... does not mean he is opposed to Tory policy’. [183] How could he be, when Tory policies were, according to the Workers Press, Powell’s policies too? Was there a split within the Tory party, and if so, what was it about? Its crude conception of dictatorship prevented the WRP from seeing that Powell was moving off in search of the plebeian forces out of which fascist movements are made. Far from being an advocate of ‘Bonapartism’ and rule by decree and armed forces, Powell seeks to broaden the base of capitalist rule through demagogy, by verbal defence of trade unions, and by populist-flavoured nationalism. This was the meaning of his demonstrative decision to vote Labour. The WRP entirely misconstrued Powell as a reactionary Tory who wants to smash the working class down with the army and police. That was not how Hitler did it in Germany (though the author is not suggesting that Powell is a fascist). By the next day, Heath had stolen Powell’s Bonapartist thunder. Moreover, he was going to fuse his planned Bonapartism with an already existing corporatism, as John Spencer explained – though not without some embarrassment: ‘As the crisis deepens, this corporatist state can only be maintained by police-military dictatorship...’ Heath had spoken of the need for a ‘new form of partnership between management and labour in industry’, and Spencer took this to imply a plan that was ‘thoroughly corporatist, and though it is not a fascist scheme, it has many similarities with the Labour Front set up by Hitler’s infamous lieutenant Dr Ley’. [184]

Determined to prove that the Tories were performing the role played by the Nazis in Germany, the emergence of Powell as an open enemy of the Heath leadership had Workers Press floundering. In the issue of 16 February, the front page headline proclaimed that the Tories were ‘out to smash unions’ (thereby establishing a fascist state), while on the back page, the paper informed its bewildered readers that ‘when Powell attacks the Tory Party leadership it is because it pulls back from an all-out confrontation with the working class involving the destruction of living standards’. [185] So the Tories were ready to ‘smash the trade unions’, but not prepared to cut wages. Curiouser and curiouser...

No more illuminating were Gerry Healy’s comments on Powell at a meeting on 27 February 1974. From neglecting the danger of Powellism in the pre-election campaign, and seeing the fascist threat as coming from the Tories (Heath will ‘cure inflation’ like Hitler did in Germany) and, by implication, the TUC ‘corporatists’, the WRP swung over to the other extreme and embraced a perspective that totally obliterated the two main political parties of the working and ruling class. ‘The two-party system is breaking up’, predicted Healy. ‘The conflict will be between the WRP and the [as yet non-existent – RB] Powellite movement.’ Once again, the possibility of a united front tactic being employed with the mass workers’ organisations was ruled out. After all, they are ‘breaking up’. Healy offered instead the seemingly revolutionary, but in practice extremely reactionary slogan ‘it’s us against the fascists’. [186] As for the working class, and how to win it for a principled struggle against reaction and racialism – not a word, unless it is assumed they will crush Powellism by casting their votes for the WRP’s projected 500 candidates at the next general election.

Theoretical decomposition had by now set in even among the paper’s more talented and politically advanced writers. Spencer was at pains to distinguish between fascism and corporatism, and yet had drawn similarities between corporatism and the Nazi Labour Front. Who would have believed that this gibberish could have been written by the same man who in an article on Portugal in May 1973 called its regime the ‘Portuguese version of the corporate state’ and a ‘hated fascist regime’, thereby equating the two terms as several WRP journalists had done before him. [187] That the Workers Press could, when it so chose, give a perfectly sound Marxist description of the corporate state was demonstrated on 22 February, when an article on Powell said that he intended to ‘smash the trade unions and set up an exclusively white Britain on corporatist lines’. [188] Then, on the very eve of the election, Michael Banda detected in the Labour Party manifesto an ‘insidious corporatism’ whose contours were wisely left unexplored. [189]

But we must explore this anti-Trotskyist theory to the end, to the point where workers pick it up and give it reactionary interpretations that even experts like Johns and Bull have so far been unable to devise. A miner told a Workers Press reporter shortly after the 28 February 1974 general election: ‘What was said on the front page of Workers Press is true – the Labour Party is a Tory Trojan Horse sent into the working class.’ [190] Now Workers Press had called the Labour Government a Tory Trojan Horse – implying that within the Labour Cabinet was a Tory government functioning and making Wilson do its bidding. This worker had taken the ultra-left line a stage further and had the Tories actually setting up the Labour Party and then ‘sending it into the working class’ – in 1906 to be precise. Marxists have always regarded the formation of the Labour Party as a tremendous conquest of the British working class, and one to be defended. The logic of this worker’s statement – printed without comment – is that being a Tory creation, the Labour Party should not be defended by the working class, and that the sooner it is broken up, and its hidden occupants revealed, the better. But the same applies to the trade unions, of which the Labour Party was the creation and the political expression. Are they Tory Trojan Horses too?

And so we arrive at the same position as is adopted by the International Socialists on the Soviet Union, that it is not a workers’ state, since it is ruled by a corrupt bureaucracy, and that no worker should defend it from imperialism. It is in fact an imperialist Trojan Horse. Here is the theoretical point of contact not only with Third Period Stalinism, which also looked with contempt on the past gains of the working class, but with that petit-bourgeois, anti-Communist tendency of ‘state capitalism’ which dominates the International Socialism group. Should we find it surprising therefore that a leading member of IS – Nigel Harris – has evolved a theory of corporatism remarkably similar to that peddled in the pages of Workers Press by petit-bourgeois radicals Johns and Bull? As varieties of corporatism Harris (who incidentally upholds the theory that the USSR is an imperialist state) specifies two distinct types, ‘Right and Left’. He speaks in the same breath of a Social Democratic corporatism based on the ‘"self-socialising” of private capital’ and of ‘corporatist elements in Fascism and Nazism’. As a leading exponent of the former variety he names Anthony Crosland, the Labour leader, while corporatism is also detected, much after the manner of Banda (though two years before him) in a Labour Party statement of 1957, Industry and Society, which declared that ‘under increasingly professional managements, large firms are as a whole serving the nation well’. [191] One can imagine how Bull or Johns would have seized on this tasty morsel as proof of Labour Party ‘corporatism’. Unfortunately, the state capitalist Harris has beaten them to it. The theory of ‘corporatism’ is by no means confined, however, to the ‘state capitalist’ wing of IS. Roger Protz, one-time editor of the SLL youth paper Keep Left, and until the summer of 1974 editor of Socialist Worker, elaborated for the radical weekly Time Out a version of the theory which places him very close to the Healy – Bull – Johns school of leftism:

There is a simple, if stark, choice facing the new Labour government: socialism or corporatism. Harold Wilson’s ministerial broadcast last week showed that he is ready to continue down the rocky road towards corporatism...’

Protz also seems to share the WRP’s illusion that pressure from below can force the corporatist Labour Party along the path to socialism, for he concludes his article thus:

If the movement that stopped In Place of Strife can be rebuilt and broadened into a campaign based on nationalising the commanding heights of the economy under workers’ control [Protz, like the WRP, rejects workers’ management – RB], then Labour could be forced to change track and move back up the corporate path towards the signpost that says ‘socialism’. [192]

Or as the Workers Press says: ‘Make Labour carry out socialist policies.’

Nigel Harris is not the only revisionist to have embraced an anti-Marxist conception of corporatism. Tariq Ali of the Pabloite International Marxist Group also sees in reformist class collaboration (or what he terms ‘consensus government’) the essence of corporatism and the corporate state:

The trend in Western Europe today is a trend towards consensus government, towards a corporate state... We have the Grand Coalition in Bonn [the CDU – SPD coalition broken up by the formation of the SPD – Liberal coalition after the West German elections of September 1969 – RB]; the tacit coalition in France; a consensus government in Britain. [193]

Note that like Harris – and also Bull and Hammond of the WRP – for Ali corporatism is a variant on the theme of class collaboration between reformist bureaucracy and the bourgeoisie. Once again therefore we see the historical lineage of this false theory, which comprises a mixture of petit-bourgeois radicalism and Third Period Stalinism. [194]

Let us look a little more closely at some of the political conclusions drawn by the Pabloite and other revisionists from the impressionistic theory that the organisations of the working class (trade union and political) are becoming incorporated into the capitalist status quo (what Ali calls ‘consensus’ politics or ‘corporatism’). Ernest Mandel says the following:

The development of this [revolutionary] consciousness occurred first of all among the students, for a very simple reason: because the traditional organisations of the workers’ movement are profoundly bureaucratised and long since coopted into bourgeois society. When the workers’ movement does not erect multiple barriers against the penetration of bourgeois ideology into the working class, most of the workers succumb... However, when among students who are a larger minority, they can free themselves by individual thought from the constant manipulation and mental conditioning of the great public-opinion-moulding instruments in the service of bourgeois society. [195]

From this false analysis of the contradictory nature of the traditional workers’ organisations – Mandel sees only their incorporation into capitalism, and excludes the ability of the working class to use them as imperfect weapons of struggle against capitalism – Mandel then deduces his theory of the ‘new vanguard’:

In its twofold revolt against the bourgeois university and the imperialist war, the student vanguard has become conscious of the necessity of rising up against bourgeois society in its entirety... They can and they must play a powerful role as detonator. By playing this role within the working class, and above all through the intermediary of the young workers, they can free in the working class itself enormous forces for challenging capitalist society and the bourgeois state. [196]

Thus the development of revolutionary consciousness and the formation of the revolutionary vanguard takes place outside and even against the traditional organisations of the working class. If workers are to take part in the formation of this ‘new vanguard’ at all, then it will be independently of their own political parties and trade unions. Mandel is quite explicit on this question:

Yes, the workers’ movement must win back the student movement... But this cannot be accomplished by way of the ossified and bureaucratised structures of the traditional workers’ organisations. It is within the working class, rising up in spontaneous struggle against the capitalist system, creating its own leadership, its own committees, that this will take place... It will not take place in the traditional organisations, because of the spirit which today inspires this new, young revolutionary vanguard. [197]

Thus it becomes the mission of middle-class students to ‘liberate’ the proletariat from its oppressive organisations, which are simply machines for incorporating the workers into ‘the system’. One can see how it became possible for certain ultra-leftist elements active in the May-June events in France to find their way over to essentially fascist positions in subsequent years. It was also the contention of the Nazi ‘lefts’ that the German workers’ movement, dominated by... a corrupt bureaucracy, was oppressing the German proletariat, and that it was the mission of petit-bourgeois déclassés like Goebbels and the Strasser brothers to emancipate it. Naturally, Mandel is not in any way arguing for such a position. But he toys around with the leftist notions that, in a certain political setting, can provide the yeast for such mutations.

Moving even further away from authentic Trotskyism, we come to yet another advocate of the ‘incorporation’ theory – namely Herbert Marcuse. He too (like Mandel, Ali, and, from a slightly different standpoint, Johns, Bull and company) sees the traditional workers’ organisations as pillars of the status quo. And like Mandel, he draws the conclusion that agencies for social change must come from outside these organisations, and therefore – and here he differs with Mandel to a certain extent – outside the proletariat altogether:

This containment of social change is perhaps the most singular achievement of advanced industrial society; the general acceptance of the National Purpose, bipartisan policy, the decline of pluralism, the collusion of Business and Labour within the strong state testify to the integration of opposites which is the result as well as the prerequisite of this achievement. [198]

Marcuse, since he has placed the industrial proletariat in the position of one of the chief supports of the capitalist system, seeks his ‘new vanguard’ elsewhere:

... underneath the conservative popular base is the substratum of the outcasts and outsiders, the exploited and persecuted of other races and other colours, the unemployed and the unemployable... Their opposition hits the system from without and is therefore not deflected by the system. [199]

Even the May-June explosion, heralding a new upsurge of proletarian militancy and radicalisation in the advanced imperialist states, did not persuade Marcuse to modify substantially his pessimistic theories. By 1969, he was even beginning to flirt with the notion of ‘corporatism’:

The character of the opposition in the centre of corporate capitalism [that is, a capitalism where the working class and its organisations have been incorporated into the capitalist state and society – RB] is concentrated in the two opposite poles of the society: in the ghetto population... and in the middle-class intellectuals, especially among the students... This ‘unorthodox’ character of the opposition is itself expressive of the structure of corporate capitalism (the ‘integration’ of the majority of the underlying population). Neither of the two oppositional groups constitutes the ‘human basis’ of the social process of production – for Marx a decisive condition for the historical agent of the revolution. [200]

True, Marcuse does hold out a slender hope that his ‘opposition’ might link up with the workers. But, like Mandel, this union can take place only outside the traditional organisations of the proletariat – and therefore on the terms of the petit-bourgeoisie, of the ‘new vanguard’ in its various guises:

By itself, this opposition cannot be regarded as agent of radical change; it can become such an agent only if it is sustained by a working class which is no longer the prisoner of its own integration and of a bureaucratic trade union and party apparatus supporting this integration. If this alliance between the new opposition and the working class does not materialise, the latter may well become, in part at least, the mass basis of a neo-fascist regime. [201]

‘Corporatism’ also found its adherents among the American ‘New Left’ in the early and mid-1960s. Impatient and theoretically semi-illiterate middle-class and bourgeois radicals latched on to the ‘incorporation’ theory as an explanation of their failure to evoke sympathy for their views amongst organised labour. Like Marcuse (who enjoyed a large following in ‘the Movement’) they saw the trade unions (and not just the bureaucracy) as pillars of the Kennedy-Johnson ‘establishment’. Thus the June 1963 convention of the Students for a Democratic Society. (SDS) adopted a policy document America and the New Era which declared that domestically, Kennedy was:

... moving towards the image of the ‘corporate state’, following such countries as France and West Germany, in which government and business recognise that national planning by central bodies and strong programmes of social welfare are necessary if social conflict which threatens the corporation economy flows from this conception.

Perhaps the reader might think we have strayed a long way from the WRP and its problems. In a sense this is true. But our excursion into the more bizarre variants on the ‘incorporation’ theory does have a purpose. It is to warn of the direction in which the present WRP leadership is taking the party. For in each and every case, advancing this theory leads on to a rejection of the revolutionary role of the proletariat in overthrowing capitalism, to the acceptance of anti-Leninist conceptions of revolutionary leadership, to the abandonment of the workers’ organisations, especially the trade unions, to the total domination of the bureaucratic apparatus. Revisionism thus finds a meeting-place with bourgeois sociology, which for decades now has been vainly trying to prove that the ‘traditional’ proletariat of Marx and Lenin has been replaced by an ‘affluent’ and ‘bourgeoisified’ working class, ‘upwardly mobile’ instead of revolutionary and, through its bureaucratised organisations, easily bought out to accept and even defend the capitalist status quo.

Revisionism is the penetration into the Marxist movement of bourgeois ideology, dressed up as ‘advances’ or ‘developments’ of Marxist theory, or attempts to bring it into line with a supposed ‘new reality’. Quite often, revisions of Marxism are preceded and influenced by new trends in bourgeois thought, as in the case of Bernstein, whose reformist conceptions converged on the liberalism of Max Weber and his circle. But sometimes, it is the revisionists who give an impetus to new departures in bourgeois social theory, and here we can call to mind the case of the Burnham – Shachtman opposition in the US Socialist Workers Party. Burnham’s theory of the ‘managerial revolution’ and the ‘convergence’ of societies founded on different systems of production and property relations has now become an established tenet of modern sociology, and is widely accepted amongst leading Sovietologists and ‘Kremlinologists’.

Now it would seem that the Healy leadership in the WRP, in revising Trotsky on Social Democracy and fascism, has succeeded in performing a similar service with the theory of ‘corporatism’. Two well known sociologists, RE Pahl and JT Winkler, have – quite possibly entirely independently of Healy – arrived at the political conclusions drawn by the WRP leadership: namely that the Labour Party, supported by the trade union leaders, is preparing to – and is quite capable of – establishing a corporate state in Britain. Moreover, like the WRP, Pahl and Winkler liken corporatism to fascism. Corporatism, they argue, is ‘fascism with a human face’. [202] The article in question deserves close attention by WRP members and supporters, since in it they will find – couched partly in the language of bourgeois sociology it is true, and depicted graphically with the inevitable diagrams – the reactionary, pessimistic, defeatist theory that has infested the pages of Workers Press since the autumn of 1972.

The authors insist that the Labour Party (along with the Tories and Liberals) is ‘putting forward now an acceptable face of fascism; indeed a masked version of it...’. The variant of fascism embraced by all three political parties in Britain is, we are told, ‘corporatism’, even though ‘Labour boasts that it is really “building socialism” this time’. Behind the socialist phrases of Labour politicians ‘reluctant to proclaim corporatism openly’, the leaders of the workers’ movement are marching forward to a fully-blown corporate state. And what is more (and here too, there is agreement with the WRP), this regime is to be ushered in with the aid of the trade union apparatus. Working-class opposition to Labour corporatism would be met ‘within a year or so’ by ‘corporatist intervention and state regulation of labour markets and some attempt to control strikes, probably not initially by legal prohibitions, but perhaps through union discipline or, ultimately, coercion’. And remember, Pahl and Winkler regard it as equally likely that a Labour regime will carry through this ‘coercion’ as a Tory corporatist regime. [203] This too has become the position of the WRP.

Almost inevitably, the authors single out as the leading exponent of Labour corporatism, not Wilson, nor even the far right of Jenkins and Williams, but... Benn. His reformist conceptions of state control and ownership are construed by Pahl and Winkler as certain to lead, not to a ‘transfer... from capitalism to socialism, but to corporatism’. [204] It is almost as if the authors had culled not only their ideas, but even their turn of phrase, from sermons in Workers Press on the iniquities of Benn’s brand of left reformism. Both Healy and our two worthy bourgeois sociologists discern in left Social Democracy the clear outlines of ‘corporatism’, ‘fascism with a human face’. Or as Third Period Stalinism put it, ‘left social fascism’.

Pahl and Winkler even allow for another WRP variant – ‘voluntary corporatism’:

For workers, corporatism has a certain short-term appeal. It offers a softer option for the cure of inflation than the ‘short, sharp burst of unemployment’ prescribed by neo-classical economics. A corporatist government would certainly guarantee full employment... The price of this guarantee would, of course, be wage control [what the Workers Press once called ‘corporatist wage bargaining’ – RB] and restraints on the freedom of industrial action. The recent TUC conference suggests that much of union officialdom would be willing to make such a deal. [205]

Here we have the WRP scenario right down to TUC collaboration in the implementation of corporatist wage policy and the erection of the corporate state. And what is also common to both Pahl and Winkler and the Healy revisionists (not to speak of those of the IS and the Pabloites who peddle the same reactionary, leftist wares) is that they leave out of account the strength of the working class, and its ability to fight through its ‘official’ organisations to make them serve, not as instruments of oppression, but as imperfect weapons in the class struggle. Pahl and Winkler say quite specifically: ‘If resistance is to emerge, and our prediction to prove inaccurate, it will be within the working class, [but] probably not the official union movement.’ As if to underline the hopelessness of the situation, the authors conclude with a thought that, once again, could so easily have been culled from a Workers Press editorial or lead article on the futility of voting Labour: ‘... for the immediate future, no matter whom you vote for today [this article appeared on the day of the 10 October 1974 general election] the result will be the same.’ [206] And that result will be, as the WRP has so often told us (when it is not predicting with equal confidence a military coup) – corporatism.

Thus we have a peculiar, and for the purposes of our inquiry, highly illuminating ‘convergence’ of various stands of bourgeois radical and revisionist thinking on this question. From Healy and Cliff to Mandel and Ali, from the American ‘New Left’ to Herbert Marcuse, and now finally joined by modern bourgeois sociology, there is broad agreement on ‘corporatism’ and the role performed within it by the reformist bureaucracy. And should it not be food for thought – and indeed action – that each of these tendencies and schools of thought is travelling a path signposted by the most terrible defeat in the history of the world proletarian movement? Pahl and Winkler insist that Labour is preparing to introduce a corporatist regime – ‘fascism with a human face’. Healy says that Labour will continue to serve the bourgeoisie ‘even beyond the doorway into fascism’, and that the trade union and Labour leaders are all corporatists. Tariq Ali says that when reformist parties go into a coalition with a bourgeois party, they are helping to form a corporatist regime. Marcuse sees corporatism being introduced in the advanced capitalist countries, not only with the support of the reformist leaders, but even their working-class supporters. All variants on this theory reflect to one degree or another a profound pessimism, and conceal beneath their leftist bombast a retreat from the central task of constructing a world revolutionary leadership in the heart of the organised proletariat. For if it is true that the workers’ organisations can so readily be converted into instruments for the crushing of the proletariat, then one must indeed conclude that the working class is, as the sceptics say, hopelessly backward, corrupted and lost for the cause of revolution. And the day may well be close at hand when many of today’s exponents of the theory of ‘corporatism’ will draw just that conclusion from their original false premise.

Let all those who still value the WRP’s Trotskyist traditions and see them now threatened with the Trojan Horse of petit-bourgeois radicalism, personified by Johns and Bull (and actively encouraged by Healy as the natural culture for his own brand of pseudo-proletarian leftism), draw the lessons from the ‘corporatist’ episode in the SLL and the WRP before it is too late. After the Third Period came the Popular Front. Ultra-leftism masks a basic opportunist orientation to the right, as Healy himself demonstrated when he addressed a press conference announcing the WRP’s decision to run nine candidates in the election of 28 February. As has since been verified, Healy, when asked how the WRP would prevent the military coup he had stated to be impending, declared:

In this election, we are fielding only a handful of candidates. But capitalism is finished, gone for good, and soon millions of workers will turn to our policies. In a year or two, at the next election, the WRP will be fielding 500 candidates. Then we will introduce legislation which will be supported by the working and middle class, and we will nip any military conspiracy in the bud.

The peaceful road to socialism, as advocated not only by Social Democracy, but Stalinism. In Chile, as the Workers Press never tired of pointing out, it led to bloody defeat. And it will do so here. But mark Healy’s words well – ‘nip in the bud’. They have something of a history in the revisionist movement. Robin Blackburn, a leading member of the Pabloite IMG, wrote in the New Statesman, in an article that appeared on the day of the coup in Chile, that ‘a concerted socialist intervention drawing upon all the experiences and ideas of recent years could nip in the bud the most menacing developments and set the scene for an assault on capital’ (emphasis added). Outraged by Blackburn’s parliamentary cretinism, Alex Mitchell asked rhetorically in Workers Press:

How do you ‘nip in the bud’ incipient dictatorship? How do you ‘nip in the bud’ the Tory government which is preparing with repressive legislation and behind the scenes with the police and military to destroy the basic rights of the working class... How can you ‘nip the bud’ of your executioner? [207]

Mitchell did not have long to await the answer. It came from his own General Secretary. Run 500 candidates for parliament one or two years from now (even though the Tories have already ‘cleared the jails’ to make way for working-class militants) and when you have formed the government (a Trotskyist government that the military and the police will make no attempt to subvert until you are safely ensconced in your ministerial chairs) then with the support (but not active participation of) the working and middle class, you will, to quote Blackburn, the ‘cowardly capitulator to Stalinism’, ‘nip [it] in the bud’. Was it not with this perspective that not only the Chilean workers went down to defeat, but also the workers and peasants of Republican Spain, whose leaders told them to trust in the ability of ‘their’ parliament to ‘nip in the bud’ the plottings of the fascist officers? And the WRP would warn us of the dangers of the Popular Front? Let Healy recall his remark at a meeting held on Chile on 10 October 1973, to the effect that ‘you can’t compromise with the state, that is the lesson of Chile’. [208]

Healy’s pathetic delusion that the armed forces of British imperialism can be thwarted in their counter-revolutionary designs by parliamentary legislation has a long tradition in the reformist wing of the British labour movement. Its basis is the slow, drawn-out development of the class struggle, and the parliamentary and constitutional prejudices that have arisen on the foundations of the privileged position of the working class, whose class enemies have been able to concede reforms at home by virtue of brutal repression in the colonies. Trotsky had to answer the advocates of the constitutional road to socialism, not so much for the benefit of those Labour trade union leaders who embraced this conception, but because it had deep roots in the working class itself. He cites a classic exposition of the theory by an unnamed British Labour leader:

In the event of armed resistance on the part of the fascists they will be declared outlaws and the overwhelming majority of the British people [or as Healy put it, ‘the working and middle class’ – RB] will back the Labour Party in defence of the legal government.

Trotsky spared nothing in his reply:

These people have decided in advance to come to power in no other way than through the donkey’s gate over which stands the enemy, armed to the teeth and standing guard, has shown them to. If they, the lefts, take power (through the indicated gate) and if the bourgeoisie rise up against this legal power then the good British people will not tolerate this... the brave spirits and wise men have firmly decided to conquer the bourgeoisie whatever the political combinations and at the same time maintaining the best relations with parliament, the law, the courts and the police. The only trouble is that the bourgeoisie does not intend to surrender the privilege of the legal expropriation of power to the lefts. [209]

We might add that the same conception attacked here by Trotsky (and advanced by Healy in his election press conference) became official Stalinist policy in Britain, with the adoption, in 1951, of the CPGB’s programme, The British Road to Socialism, which has as its anti-Leninist cornerstone the notion that parliament is above the state power, and can be used both to expropriate the bourgeoisie peacefully and to convert the rest of the state machine into an instrument of workers’ rule:

... by political action using our democratic rights to transform traditional institutions, parliament can be made into the effective instrument of the people’s will to carry through legislation to challenge capitalist power and replace capitalism by socialism. [210]

Extended elaboration of this counter-revolutionary theory, Fabian in origin, is to be found in the CPGB publication Communism and the World Today, which boldly asserts à la Healy:

... opposition to socialist measures legalised in Parliament means that those who engage in it come up against one of the most deeply held traditions in British political life – that Acts of Parliament are law, and that those who seek to overthrow them by extra-parliamentary means are guilty of treason. [211]

Let the last word against the constitutionalists of the Labour Party, the CPGB, and WRP, be said by Trotsky: ‘The workers’ majority in parliament can be destroyed if armed force is in the hands of the bourgeoisie. Whoever does not understand this is not a socialist but a numbskull.’ [212] Finally, a question to Healy. Does he intend that his bill outlawing military coups, passed by his WRP parliamentary majority, receive the royal assent? Has he overlooked the not insignificant fact that the monarch is not only head of Church and state, but the armed forces?

Mitchell passed judgement on Healy’s as well as Blackburn’s plan to defeat military dictatorship when he wrote that talk of ‘nipping in the bud’ such threats was ‘part of the gradual road to socialism... part of the Stalinists’ peaceful road... a spineless counter-revolutionary treatise...’. [213] Healy’s anti-Leninist conceptions are threatening to undermine the theoretical foundations of the Trotskyist movement in Britain. The man also really believed that Heath was a fascist, and that the Tory party was a fascist party. On 22 February 1974, Workers Press reported a speech by Healy in which he declared: ‘Heath says he will cure inflation, he can do this. He can do it just like Hitler did – by smashing the organisations of the working class.’ [214] And how did Healy propose to fight Heath’s fascism, his smashing of the organisations of the working class (which Jack Gale says is the unique feature of fascism)? By electing a WRP government to nip Heath’s fascism in the bud. This was the SPD’s road to disaster in Weimar Germany – fight Hitler with ballot papers.

First there was unfurled the WRP’s theory of the peaceful, parliamentary road to corporatism. Now we have its logical complement, the parliamentary repression of the bourgeois state. In the first case, there is present an underestimation of the powers of resistance of the working class to attacks on its organisations, in the second, an equally serious underestimation of the ruthlessness of the bourgeoisie.

This episode, one that deserves to go down in the annals of British Labour history as ‘Healy’s 500’, demonstrates yet again how easily ultra-leftism can pass over to open opportunism. As Trotsky once said, the sectarian is really a frightened opportunist. The political training received by members of the WRP is such that it can only leave them defenceless in the face of sudden changes in the political situation demanding independence of thought, the ability to think problems through without direction from above, and above all, a firm line on left and right deviations from Communist tactics and strategy.

The consequences of leftism when it is implemented in the youth are of course doubly disastrous, for there is already a strong tendency amongst young workers to reject not only the conservatism of the bureaucratic apparatus of the labour movement, but, along with it, the need to fight as militants for positions of leadership within the basic organisations of the class. Here too the WRP leadership has been remiss in living up to its political responsibilities. All the radicalism of the adult movement finds its reflection in the activities and publications of the WRP’s youth section, the Young Socialists. We cite but a few of the most glaring instances. Keep Left (the YS weekly) stated in April 1973 that the ‘so-called leaders of the working class are preparing to collaborate with a corporate state that rules by decree through its state machinery’ [215] – a definition of corporatism that was similar to the notion of the KPD that Brüning’s system of rule by decree comprised fascism. The theme of a TUC-supported corporate state was pursued in Keep Left in August 1973, which accused the TUC leaders of ‘plotting with them [the Tories] to introduce a corporate state in Britain where trade unions will be little more than departments of a dictatorial government to smash the working class’. [216] Not only is this statement utterly false, it could easily encourage young workers to desert or not to join the trade unions on the grounds that they are about to be used as instruments to ‘smash’ them. Also false was the definition of fascism given in Keep Left in July 1973, which spoke of ‘the state control of wages’ as being the ‘basis of the fascist regimes of Hitler and Mussolini...’. [217] Trotsky insisted against the Third Period Stalinists (who argued that Brüning’s state control over wages constituted fascism) that fascism involved, and was based upon, the physical destruction of all workers’ organisations – including those led by the Wilsons and Feathers of the day. Fascism certainly does control wages by state decrees, but is only able to do so (unlike Papen, whose decrees were defied by a working-class offensive) because the fascist terror has already destroyed the trade unions. On the basis of the thesis advanced by Keep Left, Britain under the Tories had become a fascist state, and indeed this was implied by YS National Secretary M Bambrick at the 1973 YS Conference when she declared that the Tories ‘had assumed virtual dictatorship over wages and conditions’ and that at the centre of Tory policy had been ‘the destruction of the democratic rights of the working class, the absorption of trade unions into the corporate state...’. [218] And the corporate state, as we have so often been told by Workers Press, is nothing else than the fascist state. The YS version of the WRP line on corporatism had its lighter moments however. In May 1973, Keep Left proclaimed that ‘the trade union leaders have officially accepted the trap of the Tory corporate state’. [219] How does one ‘officially’ accept a trap when the purpose of traps is to deceive? And why set a trap for those who are already in full agreement with you?

Neither was Keep Left immune from the distortions of the Leninist tactic of the united front so often to be found in the press of the adult party. In June 1973, the youth paper correctly stated that in Germany the ‘established working class leaderships – divided as they were by the policies of Stalinism – were unable to form a united front against fascism’. But the article erred when it went on to say that the Third Period policy of Stalinism ‘designated the thousands of German Social Democratic workers and trade unionists as “social fascists"...’. [220] This epithet was applied primarily to the reformist and trade union leaders, while futile attempts were made to win the rank-and-file workers of these organisations to the ‘united front from below’. But since the WRP has now opted for this policy itself, one can hardly expect it to be attacked in Keep Left as a Stalinist tactic. WRP National Secretary Gerry Healy hardly helped to clear up this confusion on the nature of social fascism and the Stalinist tactic of the united front from below when he addressed the April 1973 YS conference. He told delegates that ‘in the 1930s in Germany they [the Stalinists] expounded their social fascist line and argued that the coming to power of fascism in Germany was not a defeat for the working class’. [221] Was this the essence of ‘social fascism'? Surely its core was the ultimatistic rejection of the united front with the reformist-led organisations of the working class, as Healy, a British Communist Party militant at the time, should be well aware. Where will such a leftist line lead the youth? Unless it is checked, away from the basic organisations of the working class, towards individual, anarchistic resistance to capitalist oppression, and after the inevitable defeat and disillusionment, possibly towards even more reactionary ideologies. Thus we find YS National Secretary Bambrick telling a YS meeting that ‘trade unions... have been deprived of the right to be trade unions... they have ceased to be unions’. [222] Bambrick stopped at the very point where it becomes interesting. If trade unions are no longer trade unions, what then are they, and should young workers join or stay in them? The theoretical premise for quitting the unions had been established, even though the conclusions of Bambrick’s statement have not yet been fully drawn and acted upon.

Underlying this ultra-leftism of the WRP and YS is a lack of confidence in the strength of the working class, in its ability, even without revolutionary leadership, to force the reformist and Stalinist leaderships to take limited actions against the attacks of the employers and the state. That the bureaucracy will at a certain stage seek to behead the movement of the workers is not in doubt. But before the great betrayal of the May-June 1968 general strike in France could be carried through by the Stalinists, the CGT and PCF had to place themselves at the head of the mass movement, thereby initially even giving it a certain impetus and drawing into the strike layers of workers who would move only under the leadership of the Stalinists. The task of revolutionary leadership is not to proclaim daily that on no account will the bureaucracy act against the bourgeoisie – prophecies that when inevitably proved wrong, will only lead to the further isolation and even discrediting of the vanguard – but to develop an orientation that enables the vanguard to exploit the vacillations of the bureaucracy, its partial dependence on the workers, its partial conflicts of interest with the bourgeoisie and the capitalist state.

The WRP’s leftist-abstentionist position on the TUC leaders prevents it from following such a course. Thus on 5 May 1974, an ATUA statement on the sequestration of the assets of the AUEW by the Industrial Relations Court asserted that the union’s ‘Stalinist, fake “left” [they were not even genuine fakes – RB] and right-wing reformist’ leaders were ‘utterly paralysed’ and predicted: ‘Scanlon, the Stalinists and their ilk won’t fight.’ To hammer home the point, the statement ended by declaring that the AUEW leadership had ‘shown themselves totally incapable and unwilling to fight to defend trade unionism’. [223] In fact the WRP had shown itself totally incapable and unwilling either to learn from its past underestimations of the strength of the working class, or to apply seriously Communist tactics in the trade unions. For the very next day, the ‘paralysed’ Scanlon, dubbed by Workers Press on a previous occasion as a ‘corporatist’, used his casting vote on the AUEW executive to secure the approval of a resolution instructing all the union’s members immediately to begin an indefinite strike against the sequestration order of the Industrial Relations Court. Once again, the perspectives of the Healy leadership had been ‘richly confirmed’ – in plainer English, reduced to rubble.

The WRP leaders seem to live in constant dread of being accused by their political opponents on the left of being ‘soft’ on reformism. They should remember that this was also the charge levelled at Trotsky by the Stalinists during the Third Period. From the historical truth that reformism betrays was deduced the conclusion that no united action was possible with reformist leaders, since this could mean acting as accomplices in new betrayals. Not so, said Trotsky:

The possibility of betrayal is always contained in reformism. But this does not mean to say that reformism and betrayal are one and the same thing at every moment. Not quite. Temporary agreements may be made with the reformists whenever they take a step forward. But to maintain a bloc with them when, frightened by the development of a movement, they commit treason, is equivalent to criminal toleration of traitors and a veiling of betrayal. [224]

Yet in November 1973, when the WRP leaders considered that Britain was on ‘the verge of dictatorship’ – an imagined threat that the WRP countered by calling for a... general election! – a WRP Political Committee statement dated 14 November not only omitted any call for a united front of workers’ organisations to block the dictatorship moves of the ruling class, but failed even to issue a clear call for a Labour government! One might ask, what was the purpose in demanding a general election if not to place in the government the reformist leaders of the working class? Ultimatism was also well to the fore at this time, with the WRP Central Committee issuing a statement on 1 December 1973, which proposed ‘to unite the working class’ on ‘the founding programme of the WRP’. Clearly such a proposal ruled out united front action with all other tendencies in the workers’ movement, since without exception, these parties and groups have chosen to embrace other programmes. In demanding unity on its own full founding programme, the WRP presented an ultimatum not only to the leaders of all other workers’ parties, groups and trade unions, but to the working class itself, since only a tiny minority, a few thousand at most, have declared themselves for the programme of the WRP. And when we see that this programme includes not only minimum demands such as the repeal of Tory legislation, but the expropriation of the bourgeoisie – ‘nationalisation of the basic industries and of all large companies, banks, building and insurance societies...’ – then it becomes clear that this call for working-class unity is nothing less than that old Stalinist manoeuvre, the ‘united front from below’. As if to confirm its political and historical pedigree, this same statement proclaims:

For the carrying out of such policies the WRP fights for the setting up of Councils of Action... These Councils unite [even though they do not yet exist – RB] trade unionists, tenants, unemployed, all political parties and tendencies of the working class (Labour Party, Communist Party, WRP, IS, IMG, etc) to fight against the main enemy, the Tory government. [Emphasis added]

Yet each and every one of these ‘political parties and tendencies of the working class’ rejects to one degree or another the programme of the WRP! And it is upon this programme that the Councils of Action were to be based, as subsequent attempts to launch them (in each case, ending in fiasco, with the WRP in splendid isolation, in full control of its ‘Councils’ but without any workers) demonstrated. Once again, ultimatism, the bane of serious revolutionary work in the mass movement, protected reformism and Stalinism.

These are warning signals that cannot be ignored. A section of the WRP leadership comprised both of veteran party members, former youth leaders and petit-bourgeois recruits from the journalistic world and the acting and allied professions is decomposing rapidly, threatening to drag down with it the proletarian movement that thousands have loyally struggled to build and sacrificed years of their lives to defend against the Social Democratic and Stalinist enemies of Trotskyism. It is part of an international movement that has a long record of principled opposition to both opportunism and sectarianism within the working class.

Just now, it is a sectarian line which predominates, (though this is by no means certain to prevail for a protracted period of time). Sectarianism flows from a false, one-sided relationship with the class, and an arrogant disregard for its organisations and past conquests. Trotsky long ago characterised the type of leader now in the ascendant in the WRP, personified by its National Secretary, Gerry Healy:

Each sectarian wants to have his own labour movement. By the repetition of magic formulas he thinks to force an entire class to group itself around him. But instead of bewitching the proletariat, he always ends up by demoralising and dispersing his own little sect... The sectarian no longer recognises his world. All reality stands marshalled against him and since the facts flout him, he turns his back on them and nurses himself with rumours, suspicions and fantasies. He thus becomes a source of slanders without being, by nature, a slanderer. He is not dishonest. He is simply in irreconcilable conflict with reality. [225]

Such negative traits come to the fore especially when the class and its vanguard moves and fights through its traditional organisations in a militant fashion, as we have seen in the case of the reaction of Workers Press to the nationalisation proposals of the Labour Party NEC. The WRP held these plans to be ‘corporatism’, to which was counterposed, mechanically and from the outside, the full programme of the socialist revolution (and not the Transitional Programme of the Fourth International). Trotsky says of this subjectivist method that:

... it is not enough to create a correct programme. [Though we should remember that the WRP’s programme – a maximum one – is not even ‘correct’ in a formal sense – RB] It is necessary that the working class accept it. But the sectarian, in the nature of things, comes to a stop upon the first half of the task. Active intervention into the actual struggle of the workers’ masses is supplanted for him by an abstract propaganda of Marxist programme. The sectarian looks upon the life of society as a great school, with himself as a teacher there. In his opinion the working class should put aside its less important matters, and assemble in solid rank around his rostrum: then the task would be solved. [226]

Thus the WRP repeatedly calls on ‘all workers’ to join its ranks, while characterising the movement which commands the support of the overwhelming majority of workers as being led by ‘corporatists’. No progress is possible along the road to socialism, or even the defence of the most minimal gains, without such a mass defection from the reformists, says the WRP. This is of course sectarian ultimatism at its worst and most criminal:

A sectarian does not understand the dialectical action and reaction between a finished programme and a living, that is to say, imperfect and unfinished mass movement. The sectarian’s method of thinking is that of a rationalist, a formalist, and an enlightener... The sectarian sees an enemy in everyone who attempts to explain to him that an active participation in the workers’ movement demands a constant study of objective conditions, and not haughtily bulldozing from the sectarian rostrum. For an analysis of reality the sectarian substitutes intrigue, gossip and hysteria. [227]

That is really well said – and directed.

It is important to make clear what is meant by the ultra-leftism of the WRP. There have been many different varieties of leftism in the workers’ movement. The adventurism of the 1921 ‘March Action’ arose on the basis of a genuine radical current in a section of the German working class that was entirely healthy in its content. Then there followed the leftism of 1924 in the Comintern, when Zinoviev was at the helm backed by his Troika allies Stalin and Kamenev. Here the radicalism derived in part from the apparatus, which sought to impose its false perspectives on a class that was in retreat and disarray after the defeat of October-November 1923. But even so, Zinoviev’s leftism, and the Troika’s campaign against Trotsky under the guise of ‘Bolshevising’ the Comintern, found support in the KPD left, which in turn rested on extremely radical layers in the party and the class as a whole. The third phase of KPD leftism marked a further shift along the spectrum from proletarian to bureaucratic adventurism, with the Kremlin’s domestic and foreign policy requirements now becoming the dominant factor, though even here the old traditions of Spartacist boycottism and the March Action, coupled with a profound hatred of Social Democracy, enabled the Third Period line to draw in behind it literally millions of workers.

While the WRP’s leftism possesses many of the forms of the latter two varieties, namely Zinovievism and Third Period Stalinism, and feeds to certain degree on working-class frustration with reformism, it is increasingly acquiring a different content, namely that of petit-bourgeois radicalism. This is filling out the pseudo-Bolshevik forms developed in earlier phases of the movement’s history, and accentuated by the dominance within the leadership of ex-members of the British Communist Party, who have brought with them from the Stalinists their sectarian attitude towards the Labour Party. All these elements now fuse to give us a bloc which is dragging the party away from the mass workers’ movement towards the radical middle class and declassed elements, and away from the Fourth International towards an exclusively national orientation – Trotskyism in one country. Sectarianism towards the mass movement is paralleled by indifference towards the central task of rebuilding the Fourth International. That is why the question of ‘corporatism’ is so crucial for the fate of the WRP. Trotsky called sectarianism a cancer within the Fourth International. It is time to wield the surgeon’s knife.

Antipodes – Or Twins?

The [Labour Government’s] proposals aim to establish a state capitalist structure, in industry virtually the same as the giant state capitalist corporations in Italy which have their origins in the corporate state of Benito Mussolini – the fascist dictator and the butcher of the Italian working class. (Workers Press, 26 April 1975)

They [the Labour Party and TUC leaders] propose the organisation of industry under a series of public corporations, with the participation of the trade union bureaucracy, in a fashion redolent of the Corporations of Fascist Italy; they aim at assisting monopoly capitalism to develop to its logical end in state capitalism. (A Hutt [CPGB], The Condition of the Working Class in Britain (London, 1933), p 251)


1. Workers Press, 12 January 1972, emphasis added.

2. Workers Press, 12 January 1972, emphasis added.

3. SLL, Conference Resolution, June 1965, pp 3, 9, emphasis added.

4. SLL, Conference Resolution, June 1965, p 10, emphasis added.

5. International Bulletin, no 1, July 1969, pp 1-2, 4, emphasis added.

6. SLL, British Perspectives, 1967, p 10.

7. SLL, Economic Perspectives, 1968, pp 16-17.

8. SLL, Economic Perspectives, 1968, p 18, emphasis added.

9. SLL, Economic Perspectives, 1968, p 27.

10. SLL, Conference Resolution, 1969, pp 1-3.

11. SLL, Conference Resolution, 1969, pp 4-5, emphasis added.

12. SLL, Conference Resolution, 1969, p 16, emphasis added.

13. Tariq Ali, ‘The Extra-Parliamentary Opposition’, in New Revolutionaries (London, 1969), p 77.

14. Ali, ‘The Extra-Parliamentary Opposition’, in New Revolutionaries, p 68.

15. Workers Press, 25 February 1974, emphasis added.

16. Cliff Slaughter, ‘Revolution and Class Consciousness’, Labour Review, Volume 4, no 1, April-May 1959, p 11, emphasis added.

17. SLL, Perspectives, 1963, p 5.

18. SLL, Trade Union Resolution, 1966, pp 1, 3.

19. Note to LD Trotsky, ‘Trade Unions in the Epoch of Imperialist Decay’, Marxism and the Trade Unions (London, 1968), p 5.

20. LD Trotsky, ‘Trade Unions in the Epoch of Imperialist Decay’, Marxism and the Trade Unions, pp 5, 6, 8, 10, emphasis added.

21. ‘Imperialist War and the World Proletarian Revolution’, Documents of the Fourth International (New York, 1973), p 341, emphasis added.

22. ‘Introduction’, Trotsky, ‘Trade Unions in the Epoch of Imperialist Decay’, Marxism and the Trade Unions, p 4, emphasis added.

23. ‘Introduction’, LD Trotsky, ‘Trade Unions in the Epoch of Imperialist Decay’, Marxism and the Trade Unions (London, 1972), p 3, emphasis added.

24. Trotsky, ‘Trade Unions in the Epoch of Imperialist Decay’, Marxism and the Trade Unions, p 11, emphasis added.

25. Newsletter, 5 December 1964, emphasis added.

26. SLL, Conference Resolution, 1969, p 7, emphasis added.

27. R Palme Dutt, Fascism and Social Revolution (London, 1935), p 170, emphasis added.

28. LD Trotsky, ‘Strategy and Tactics in the Imperialist Epoch’, The Third International After Lenin (New York, 1957), p 114.

29. LD Trotsky, ‘The Turn in the Communist International’ (26 September 1930), The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany (New York, 1971), p 70, emphasis added.

30. LD Trotsky, ‘For a United Workers’ Front Against Fascism’ (8 December 1931), The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany, p 137.

31. LD Trotsky, ‘What Next?’ (27 January 1932), The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany, pp 144-45, emphasis added.

32. Trotsky, ‘What Next?’, The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany, p 154.

33. P Fryer, The Battle for Socialism (London, 1959), p 145.

34. Fryer, The Battle for Socialism, p v.

35. LD Trotsky, ‘The Only Road’ (14 September 1932), The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany, p 287.

36. Trotsky, ‘The Only Road’, The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany, p 287, emphasis added.

37. Trotsky, ‘The Only Road’, The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany, p 287.

38. SLL, Resolution, 1969, p 4.

39. LD Trotsky, ‘The German Catastrophe’ (28 May 1933), The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany, p 397, emphasis added.

40. LD Trotsky, Whither France (Ceylon, 1961), p 68, emphasis added.

41. S Johns, ‘Italy’s New Fascists’, Fourth International, Volume 8, no 2, Spring 1973, p 83, emphasis added.

42. Workers Press, 17 November 1972, emphasis added.

43. Workers Press, 22 March 1971, emphasis added.

44. Workers Press, 26 March 1971, p 1, emphasis added.

45. Workers Press, 31 March 1971, p 1.

46. ATUA, The Way Forward For All Trade Unionists, 22 October 1972, emphasis added.

47. Workers Press, 25 September 1973, p 2, emphasis added.

48. Workers Press, 27 October 1973, p 5.

49. Workers Press, 23 October 1973, p 8, emphasis added.

50. Workers Press, 2 April 1973, p 5, emphasis added.

51. Workers Press, 6 April 1973, p 5.

52. Workers Press, 7 April 1973, p 5, emphasis added.

53. Workers Press, 5 April 1973, p 5.

54. Workers Press, 2 April 1973, p 1, emphasis added.

55. Workers Press, 20 December 1971, p 4, emphasis added.

56. Workers Press, 7 September 1972.

57. Workers Press, 8 September 1972, emphasis added.

58. Workers Press, 27 September 1973, p 12, emphasis added.

59. Workers Press, 4 October 1973, p 1, emphasis added.

60. Workers Press, 9 September 1972.

61. Workers Press, 28 September 1972, emphasis added.

62. Workers Press, 29 September 1972, p 3, emphasis added.

63. Workers Press, 3 October 1972, p 5, emphasis added.

64. Workers Press, 29 December 1972, p 7, emphasis added.

65. Workers Press, 17 October 1972, emphasis added.

66. Workers Press, 18 October 1972, p 1, emphasis added.

67. Workers Press, 20 October 1972, p 1, emphasis added.

68. Workers Press, 30 October 1972, p 1, emphasis added.

69. Workers Press, 1 November 1972, p 1, emphasis added.

70. Fourth International, Volume 8, no 2, p 38.

71. Workers Press, 3 November 1972, p 1.

72. Workers Press, 4 November 1972, emphasis added.

73. Workers Press, 6 November 1972, p 1.

74. Workers Press, 16 December 1972, p 1.

75. Workers Press, 21 December 1972, p 1.

76. Workers Press, 11 January 1973, p 1.

77. Workers Press, 13 January 1973, emphasis added.

78. Workers Press, 16 January 1973, emphasis added.

79. Workers Press, 19 January 1973.

80. Workers Press, 20 February 1973, p 1

81. Workers Press, 22 February 1973, p 2, emphasis added.

82. Workers Press, 23 February 1973, emphasis added.

83. Workers Press, 27 February 1973.

84. Workers Press, 1 March 1973, emphasis added.

85. Workers Press, 1 March 1973, emphasis added.

86. Workers Press, 2 March 1973, p 8.

87. Workers Press, 3 March 1973, p 8.

88. Workers Press, 5 March 1973, p 1.

89. Trotsky, ‘The German Catastrophe’, The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany, pp 397-98, emphasis added.

90. Socialist Worker, 27 April 1974, emphasis added.

91. LD Trotsky, ‘On the United Front’ (2 March 1922), First Five Years of the Communist International, Volume 2 (London, 1974), p 96, emphasis added.

92. LD Trotsky, ‘Whither the ILP?’ (28 August 1933), Writings of Leon Trotsky, 1933-34 (New York, 1973), p 55, emphasis added.

93. Trotsky, ‘The German Catastrophe’, The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany, pp 394-95, emphasis added.

94. Workers Press, 11 June 1973, p 2.

95. Workers Press, 13 June 1973, p 2.

96. Workers Press, 11 June 1973, p 2.

97. LD Trotsky, ‘Revisionism and Planning’ (9 January 1934), Writings of Leon Trotsky, 1933-34, pp 192-94, emphasis added.

98. Trotsky, ‘Revisionism and Planning’, Writings of Leon Trotsky, 1933-34, p 194, emphasis added.

99. Trotsky, ‘Revisionism and Planning’, Writings of Leon Trotsky, 1933-34, p 196, emphasis added.

100. LD Trotsky, ‘A Letter to the Convention of the French Communist Party’ (13 September 1922), The First Five Years of the Communist International, Volume 2, p 174, emphasis added.

101. LD Trotsky, ‘The Belgian Dispute and the de Man Plan’ (2 March 1935), Writings of Leon Trotsky, 1934-35 (New York, 1973), pp 213-14, emphasis added.

102. Workers Press, 22 June 1973.

103. Workers Press, 27 June 1973, emphasis added.

104. Guardian, 3 October 1973, emphasis added.

105. Workers Press, 3 October 1973, p 12.

106. Trotsky, ‘The German Catastrophe’, The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany, pp 396-97, emphasis added.

107. Socialist Worker, 22 June 1974, p 3, emphasis added.

108. LD Trotsky, ‘Once Again the ILP’ (November 1935), Writings of Leon Trotsky, 1935-36 (New York, 1973), p 71, emphasis added.

109. Trotsky, ‘Revisionism and Planning’, Writings of Leon Trotsky, 1933-34, p 197.

110. Trotsky, ‘The Belgian Dispute and the de Man Plan’, Writings of Leon Trotsky, 1934-35, p 215, emphasis added.

111. LD Trotsky, ‘Are There No Limits to the Fall?’ (18 January 1934), Writings of Leon Trotsky, 1933-34, p 220, emphasis added.

112. LD Trotsky, ‘More On Soviets and the “Balkanisation” Argument’ (1 September 1931), The Spanish Revolution 1931-1939 (New York, 1973), pp 162-63, emphasis added.

113. Trotsky, ‘The Only Road’, The Struggle Against Fascism In Germany, pp 319-21, emphasis added.

114. C Slaughter, ‘Foreword’, LD Trotsky, The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International [that is, the Transitional Programme] (London, 1962 and 1968), p 4, emphasis added.

115. Trotsky, The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International, pp 11-12, emphasis added.

116. K Marx and F Engels, The German Ideology (Moscow, 1964), p 38.

117. F Engels, ‘Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy’ (1888), Marx-Engels Selected Works, Volume 2 (Moscow, 1962), p 365, emphasis added.

118. International Committee of the Fourth International, In Defence of Trotskyism (London, 1973), p 23, emphasis added.

119. Engels, ‘Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy’, Marx-Engels Selected Works, Volume 2, pp 400-01.

120. F Engels, Anti-Dühring (Moscow, 1959), pp 39-56, emphasis added.

121. Engels, Anti-Dühring, pp 53-54.

122. Trotsky, The Third International After Lenin, pp 90-96.

123. Trotsky, The Third International After Lenin, p 89.

124. G Healy, Problems of the Fourth International (London, 1967), p 4, emphasis added.

125. LD Trotsky, Stalin (London, 1947), pp 352-58.

126. Trotsky, ‘Are There No Limits to the Fall?’, Writings of Leon Trotsky, 1933-34, pp 211-15, emphasis added.

127. While we are discussing the theoretical antecedents of the WRP’s notion of Labour Party and TUC ‘corporatism’, we would do well to recognise that there is another strand quite apart from Third Period Stalinism, and that is English middle-class radicalism, which in the form of the prewar Socialist League of Sir Stafford Cripps, came up with a remarkably similar evaluation of the 1934 Labour Party programme For Socialism and Peace to that arrived at 40 years or so later by the WRP, with its unbelievably stupid denunciation of Benn’s nationalisation plans as ‘corporatism’. Of the 1934 programme, the Socialist League said it was ‘not a plan for socialism’ – which was correct – but ‘a form of organisation leading to the corporate state’ (cited in A Hutt, British Trade Unionism (London, 1942), p 131). And this was basically the same programme that Labour fought on and won the general election of 1945. If the Socialist League was correct, then the working class had not only voted for corporatism. Cripps himself had in the interim become a corporatist, because he entered the Labour government elected in 1945 as a Minister, becoming His Majesty’s Chancellor of the Exchequer! At least in the case of Cripps, his somersault was a protracted one. In the case of the WRP, such gyrations are accomplished in a matter of weeks or even days, as the example of its treatment of Benn himself demonstrates.

128. LD Trotsky, ‘Bonapartism and Fascism’ (15 July 1934), Writings of Leon Trotsky, 1934-35, pp 51-52.

129. Trotsky, ‘Bonapartism and Fascism’, Writings of Leon Trotsky, 1934-35, p 52.

130. Trotsky, The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International (London, 1963), pp 50-51.

131. Workers Press, 23 March 1973, p 2, emphasis added.

132. K Coates (ed), Can the Workers Run Industry? (London, 1968), p 234, emphasis added.

133. Workers Press, 24 April 1973, p 4. The feud with Jones had an ironic sequel. When Alan Thornett, a leading WRP militant at the British-Leyland motor plant at Oxford, had his steward’s credentials withdrawn by the management, Thornett’s TGWU branch committee issued a circular – presumably with WRP approval – which reported that ‘application has been made for the dispute to be made official and for the personal intervention of Brother Jack Jones’ (Workers Press, 23 April 1974, emphasis added). So it appears that even ‘dedicated disciples of corporatism’ have their uses when it comes to fighting for the reinstatement of a victimised WRP steward. And quite correct too!

134. Workers Press, 26 April 1973.

135. Workers Press, 9 May 1973, p 12.

136. Workers Press, 9 May 1973, p 12.

137. Workers Press 1 June 1973, p 12.

138. Workers Press, 2 June 1973, p 1, emphasis added.

139. Workers Press, 5 June 1973, p 1.

140. Workers Press, 7 June 1973, p 1.

141. Workers Press, 14 June 1973.

142. Workers Press, 19 June 1973, p 12.

143. Workers Press, 30 June 1973, p 12, emphasis added.

144. Workers Press, 5 July 1973.

145. Workers Press, 16 July 1973, p 12.

146. Workers Press, 20 July 1973.

147. Workers Press, 13 August 1973, p 12.

148. Workers Press, 30 July 1973, p 2.

149. Workers Press, 16 November 1973, p 7.

150. Workers Press, 16 November 1973, p 7.

151. Workers Press, 31 July 1974.

152. LD Trotsky, ‘What Next?’ (27 January 1932), Germany 1931-1932 (London, 1970), pp 206-08, emphasis added.

153. In March 1971, in an article on the TUC’s report on the Tory Industrial Relations Bill, Slaughter indeed spoke of a readiness on the part of the trade union bureaucracy to ‘coexist and function jointly with the state-run union’ (Workers Press, 18 March 1971, p 3), but eschewed the use of the term ‘corporatist’ to denote the policies of the TUC leaders. The fact that Slaughter knows that the use of this term is utterly anti-Trotskyist therefore renders his embellishments of the WRP’s ultra-leftist line all the more reprehensible. Bull can at least claim in his defence that he knows not what he does.

154. SLL, On Trade Union Work, March 1968, p 3.

155. SLL Central Committee, Draft Resolution: Perspectives for the Transformation of the SLL into a Revolutionary Party (1 February 1973), p 10, emphasis added.

156. SLL Central Committee, Draft Resolution: Perspectives for the Transformation of the SLL into a Revolutionary Party (1 February 1973), p 10.

157. SLL Central Committee, Draft Resolution: Perspectives for the Transformation of the SLL into a Revolutionary Party (1 February 1973), p 10, emphasis added.

158. SLL, Conference Resolution, 1972, p 8, emphasis added.

159. SLL, British Perspectives, 1966, p 5, emphasis added.

160. SLL, British Perspectives, 1966, p 5, emphasis added.

161. SLL, British Perspectives, 1963, p 6.

162. SLL, Perspectives, March 1968, p 6.

163. SLL, On Trade Union Work, March 1968, p 4.

164. SLL Political Committee, Letter to All Members, 7 October 1968, p 1.

165. SLL London Area, Resolution, February 1969, p 2.

166. Workers Press, 3 August 1973, pp 2-3.

167. Workers Press, 16 August 1973, p 11.

168. Workers Press, 27 October 1973, p 3.

169. Workers Press, 6 November 1973, p 3.

170. Workers Press, 6 November 1973, p 3, emphasis added.

171. Workers Press, 8 November 1973, p 1, emphasis added.

172. Workers Press, 26 November 1973, p 4.

173. Workers Press, 19 December 1973, p 1.

174. Workers Press, 1 January 1974, p 1, emphasis added.

175. LD Trotsky, ‘Our Present Tasks’ (7 November 1933), Writings of Leon Trotsky, 1933-34, pp 138-39, emphasis added.

176. Workers Press, 5 January 1974, p 1.

177. Workers Press, 2 January 1974, emphasis added.

178. Workers Press, 2 January 1974.

179. Workers Press, 8 January 1974, p 1.

180. Workers Press, 19 February 1974.

181. Workers Press, 31 December 1973, p 8, emphasis added.

182. Workers Press, 8 January 1974, p 8, emphasis added.

183. Workers Press, 18 January 1974, p 8.

184. Workers Press, 19 February 1973, p 1, emphasis added.

185. Workers Press, 16 February 1973, emphasis added.

186. Workers Press, 1 March 1974, p 12.

187. Workers Press, 15 May 1973.

188. Workers Press, 22 February 1974, p 12, emphasis added.

189. Workers Press, 27 February 1974, p 10.

190. Workers Press, 11 March 1974, emphasis added.

191. N Harris, Competition and the Corporate Society (London, 1972), pp 68, 71.

192. Time Out, 25-31 October 1974, p 9.

193. Ali, ‘The Extra-Parliamentary Opposition’, in New Revolutionaries, p 68.

194. Workers Press also on at least one occasion linked coalition government (that is, a reformist – Tory coalition government) with the corporate state, which not merely denies to Social Democracy any share in the government, but physically destroys its mass organisations. An editorial on 20 April 1971 said of an article in The Times by Labour MP Brian Walden that it showed ‘just how close to coalition and the corporate state many sections of the Labour bureaucracy are’.

195. E Mandel, ‘The New Vanguard’, in New Revolutionaries, p 50, emphasis added.

196. Mandel, ‘The New Vanguard’, in New Revolutionaries, pp 50-52.

197. Mandel, ‘The New Vanguard’, in New Revolutionaries, pp 51-52, emphasis added.

198. H Marcuse, One Dimensional Man (London, 1964), p xii, emphasis added.

199. Marcuse, One Dimensional Man, pp 256-57.

200. H Marcuse, ‘Re-Examination of the Concept of Revolution’, New Left Review, no 56, July-August 1969, p 30, emphasis added.

201. H Marcuse, ‘Re-Examination of the Concept of Revolution’, New Left Review, no 56, July-August 1969, pp 30-31, emphasis added.

202. RE Pahl and JT Winkler, ‘The Coming Corporatism’, New Society, 10 October 1974, p 73.

203. RE Pahl and JT Winkler, ‘The Coming Corporatism’, New Society, 10 October 1974, pp 72-73, emphasis added.

204. RE Pahl and JT Winkler, ‘The Coming Corporatism’, New Society, 10 October 1974, p 74.

205. RE Pahl and JT Winkler, ‘The Coming Corporatism’, New Society, 10 October 1974, p 76.

206. RE Pahl and JT Winkler, ‘The Coming Corporatism’, New Society, 10 October 1974, p 76, emphasis in original.

207. Workers Press, 17 September 1973.

208. Workers Press, 12 October 1973, p 3.

209. LD Trotsky, Problems of the British Revolution (London, 1972), pp 15-16, emphasis added.

210. CPGB, The British Road to Socialism, 1968 edition, p 49.

211. CPGB, Communism and the World Today (London, 1963), p 43.

212. Trotsky, Problems of the British Revolution, p 17, emphasis added.

213. Workers Press, 17 September 1973.

214. Workers Press, 22 February 1974, emphasis added.

215. Keep Left, 7 April 1973.

216. Keep Left, 25 August 1973

217. Keep Left, 7 July 1973.

218. Keep Left, 14 April 1973.

219. Keep Left, 12 May 1973.

220. Keep Left, 16 June 1973, emphasis added.

221. Keep Left, 21 April 1973.

222. Keep Left, 14 April 1973.

223. Workers Press, 6 May 1974, emphasis added.

224. Trotsky, ‘Strategy and Tactics in the Imperialist Epoch’, The Third International After Lenin, p 129.

225. LD Trotsky, ‘A Cancer in the Workers Party’ (12 August 1935), Writings of Leon Trotsky, 1935-36, p 25, emphasis added.

226. LD Trotsky, ‘Sectarianism, Centrism and the Fourth International’ (22 October 1935), Writings of Leon Trotsky, 1935-36, p 26.

227. Trotsky, ‘Sectarianism, Centrism and the Fourth International’, Writings of Leon Trotsky, 1935-36, p 26.