Workers Hammer No. 239

Autumn 2017


Pouring cold water on SWP Cold Warriors

The following remarks were made by two supporters of the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist) during the discussion following a presentation by the Socialist Workers Party’s (SWP) Alex Callinicos on “The Russian Revolution and the lessons of October” at the SWP’s Marxism 2017.

Jo: I brought along a couple of quotes which basically come from opposite sides of the barricades. One’s from Tony Cliff and the other’s from Trotsky. So I just want to say a few words by way of introducing them. Because the SWP leadership really have zero credentials to talk about the Russian Revolution as being part of their history. The Cliff tendency was founded on the theory of state capitalism, which was generated by hostility to the social gains of the Russian Revolution. This so-called theory was then used to rationalise the position they took in 1950, when the Labour government was ruling Britain — was ruling the empire — and sent troops to fight the Koreans and later the Chinese.

Cliff’s group was rightly expelled from the Fourth International for refusing to defend North Korea and China against imperialism. It’s a fact. Both of these are amongst the deformed workers states, where capitalism was overthrown. Despite Stalinist misrule, this was a historic gain for the international proletariat and, as Trotskyists, the Spartacist League stands for unconditional military defence of China and North Korea. North Korea is under grave threat from the imperialists today, as you’ll know if you listen to the news. So, as part of that unconditional military defence, we’re also for their development of nuclear weapons. Without nuclear weapons, North Korea would look like the whole of the Near East today.

To introduce the first quote, by Tony Cliff, hatred of the workers states has always been the hallmark of the SWP and, before that, the Cliff tendency. So this is what Cliff said: “And I say no, no, we have nothing to do with bloody Russia, because it is not a source of strength.” For the SWP, the Stalinist bureaucracy has always been a greater enemy than imperialism. That’s what “third campism” means. This is what Trotsky said in “The Class Nature of the Soviet State”: “Every political tendency that waves its hand hopelessly at the Soviet Union, under the pretext of its ‘non-proletarian’ character, runs the risk of becoming the passive instrument of imperialism.” Those who can’t defend old gains will never make new ones.

Charles: Yeah, I agree with that. My name is Charles. I’m from the Trotskyist League in Quebec and Canada, the International Communist League. For us in the ICL, the Russian Revolution is a model; it’s not an interesting historical anecdote. Despite its Stalinist degeneration, the gains of October were embodied in the Soviet Union until its collapse in 1991-92. At the time, the ICL, the International Communist League fought in the Soviet Union and around the world to spike Boris Yeltsin’s counterrevolution and at the same time, sweep away the remnants of the Stalinist bureaucracy and return the Soviet Union to the road of Lenin and Trotsky.

The SWP, they cheered capitalist restoration, saying in a front-page headline: “Communism has collapsed. It should have every socialist rejoicing”, ie social democrats. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the world has become a much more dangerous place — just look at the Near East. And the SWP has its share of responsibility for that. This was not an aberration. Not only did you support anti-Communist, anti-Soviet movements like Solidarność, you also supported the mujahedin anti-woman cut-throats in Afghanistan. To overthrow capitalism, we need more October Revolutions around the world, led by a vanguard party of the Bolshevik type, not an anti-Communist social-democratic obstacle like the SWP. Thank you.