A talk I gave to the Canterbury branch of the SWP on 15/8
A while ago I wrote a response to an anti-Trotskyist leaflet1. It claimed that, by rejecting the possibility of ‘socialism in one country’, we try to put down “those who have the temerity to go on and build socialism”. It was a Stalinist group that put out this leaflet, but an orthodox Trotskyist could easily have written it. One of the groups I spoke to at the Marxism festival was the International Bolshevik Tendency2, who are supporters of the theory that the Soviet Union (along with many other countries) was a “deformed” or “degenerated workers’ state”. Their spokesperson wagged a finger at me and told me about how awful it is that the SWP looks at the Hungarian uprising of ‘56 positively, rather than as an act of counterrevolution, and how we think a socialist revolution still needs to take place in North Korea.
So although as part of this talk I won’t be going over the arguments of the most uncritical Stalinists, I will be going part of the way to addressing that position, since the so-called Orthodox Trotskyists are themselves so often counterrevolutionary and apologists for Stalinism. It sounds like nonsense to say that a Trotskyist could be guilty of this, but Cliff explained well how it happens, and how it comes from following Trotsky dogmatically but losing his essence, and abandoning classical Marxism3.
Based on a talk that I gave to the Kent Socialist Workers Party group. To many people these ideas will be obvious, but sometimes it helps to be reminded of the obvious. References are at the bottom.
There are three main tasks that face a revolutionary socialist party. The first is the SWP’s role, or any socialist party’s role, as an antifascist opposition; second is the importance of education on socialism: this topic is the majority of this article; third is the importance of internationalism and of relating individual struggles, as explained by Duncan Hallas.
At the recent Party Council of the SWP (June 2nd), Weyman Bennett (UAF) made a point about the role of socialists in fighting the far right. Recent experience has shown that social-democracy (that is, introducing socialist politics through reformist methods) in Europe, for example in Sweden, Denmark, and arguably the area controlled by our own Green Party, has shown no opposition to austerity. Many problems and kinds of unrest caused by capitalism make the rise of fascism all the easier. Trotsky in his last article (August 1940), Bonapartism, Fascism, and War gives many examples of these problems but there are three that are most relatable to our current situation: “the gravest crisis of capitalist society; growing confusion and indifference; the growth of hostility to the proletariat”.
I could give specific examples, but they are fairly self-explanatory. The polling strength of the racist Swedish Democrats is the result of scapegoating inequality and other social ills on immigrants. It is quite clear that if the periodical and inevitable crises of capitalism can lead to the popularity of fascist and right-wing populist ideas, a dedicated anti-capitalist party will also be the most effective antifascist party. Left-reformists themselves have a lot to answer for in the rise of the far right. The Labour party has taken a typically conservative stance on immigration, while Ed Milliband expresses his respect for UKIP. All this serves to normalise anti-immigrant hatred.
Last Saturday (June 1st) a small group of British National Party supporters, apparently 150 of them (it looked about 40), had a pen to protest in outside parliament. Across the country on this day there were a total of 55 protests held by the BNP, English Defence League, National Front, and other racists hoping to pass off the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby by an extremist Muslim as representative of Islam, and as the fault of immigration. All but two of these protests were outnumbered by counter-demos, mostly organised by Unite Against Fascism. It was great to see many SWP and ex-SWP members around, as well as our old sign The BNP is a Nazi Party – Smash the BNP. Many members of the Socialist Party were present, as well as Unison and PCS activists.
We managed, by refusing to be moved, to prevent the BNP from marching for five hours (midday to 5pm). When the police managed to get them marching, only 15 of them remained. Some activists against the badger cull managed to finally break them up! Human rights activist Peter Tatchell later recommended on twitter later that UAF use a “sitting protest” rather than the usual “macho methods”. Some of the ‘Anonymous’ protesters tried this, for about five minutes. It is a liberal tactic that achieves nothing more than a chalk drawing of a peace symbol. By allowing the fash to march freely, we would be guilty of giving them a platform. Most of the 58 antifascists who were arrested and dealt with so violently were protesting peacefully and defending democracy. [Relevant reading from ’77: In Defence of Violence]