Historical Differences with the RCIT (Aug 2012)

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Dear Comrades of the RCIT,

Thanks for your reply to our latest letter [29 June 2012] on our historic differences and methods. It is good to finally get a serious response to what has always been a condition of developing our relationship – resolving our historic differences.

You will remember that right from the outset we stipulated that, hand in hand with practical collaboration on drafting documents to test out our agreement on important current questions, we said we needed to open a serious discussion of our historic differences. We made it clear that we could not proceed towards fusion talks until these differences had been resolved.  Our insistence on this was to avoid what happened in 1991 when the RTT was bureaucratically excluded from the LRCI for refusing to say that its differences over the ‘united front’ with Yeltsin was a ‘tactical’ rather than a principled difference. It was a principled difference then, and remains so today. The same happened with the Proletarian Faction and the POP and POB in 1995 when the LRCI regarded the question of NATO bombing in Bosnia as a ‘tactical’ difference, while we insisted it was principled.

Thus our most recent letter was the third since September 2011 that spelled out our historic differences. The first on [Monday, September 19, 2011] summarised these. The second [Tuesday, November 22, 2011] repeated this summary with a bibliography of key documents. The most recent went further and facilitated your response by quoting large sections from some of these documents to make specific our critique of the LRCI/LFI program between 1989 and 1999. We have compiled the exchange of letters on this subject in an Appendix as a separate file.

We also replied twice to your proposals that we form a Liaison Committee or Bloc (following the Bloc of Four). The first letter [Monday September 19, 2011] explained that we rejected a Liaison Committee because both the HWRS and CWG had our relations bureaucratically broken by the LRCI and we wanted to revisit this history before agreeing to a LC with you.

This history is explained in detail in the RTT’s document “In Defense of Trotskyism” (IDOT).

The second letter [October 14, 2011] explained why a Bloc with you modelled on the Bloc of Four was not possible since we had principled differences on the unconditional defence of workers states. We didn’t reply to your last letter asking us to explain yet again our approach to fusion though we were drafting a short letter restating our objections and informed you of this fact, but for some reason that letter was not sent.

So you can see comrades that we have been upfront about our view of our relations from the start and fulfilled our side of this informal arrangement that resulted in the writing of two documents (on Libya and China) with RCIL collaboration, and amending and endorsing another on Greece written by the RCIT.  As well as that we have reproduced a number of other RCIL statements such as that on the UK youth uprising and the more recent statements on the Greek elections.  And at the same time we have tried to for nearly a year to get you to engage seriously on our historical differences. So there is no lack of cooperation and willingness to collaborate with the RCIL as the recent letter from the RWG also testifies (item 11 in the Appendix).

Liaison Committee of Communists

In replying to your letter of July 29 to the CWG we will respond as the Liaison Committee of Communists. Internal problems in the HWRS, compounded by the geographic isolation of our three groups have held back progress in putting our Liaison Committee on a stronger footing.  Now that the HRWS has undergone a split, our three groups, RWG (ZIM), CWG (USA) and CWG (A/NZ) are committed to overcoming barriers to communication and to work towards more active collaboration. We see our common development towards a democratic centralist current which must aim for regroupment to form a new communist international. That is why we are very serious about continuing to discuss and resolve our differences with the RCIT to try to move towards fusion.

However, as we will explain, though are differences are now being seriously debated and possibly narrowed, a big difference remains.  For Trotsky the unconditional defence of the workers states became the most important question facing the Fourth International approaching the Second Imperialist War. Bourgeois democratic rights, including the right to self-determination were clearly subordinated to defence of workers’ property. We pointed out in the second letter on the Bloc of Four that Trotsky refused to bloc with those who did not unconditionally defend the USSR as a Degenerated Workers State. That is the substance of the main difference we have with you and the subject of our most recent letter. For us, resolving this difference is a precondition for further steps towards fusion. Meanwhile, while this discussion continues we will for our part continue to develop the collaborative relationship we have had in the last year.

In this letter we will not reply to all the questions raised in your letter but try to concentrate the discussion on the key principled differences. We will also leave open the wider questions as to the material bases of these differences as they have been stated forcefully by both sides already. We will avoid large quotations and focus on a few key documents. The first of these is In Defence of Trotskyism  which covers the LCC position on defence of the workers states as well as the way these were handled by the LRCI. The second is RTT Bosnia pamphlet  (especially Part 3 p 55-75) that presents the LCC position on the Yugoslav war up to 1997. The third is the CEMICOR document on the Albanian-Serbian Question which deals with the 99 NATO/Serbian war over Kosovo. We hope that these documents will clarify any misunderstandings about our respective positions and so we can see precisely what differences actually exist.

Unconditional defence of Degenerate Workers States

When we (RTT and CLNZ at the time) first entered into fraternal relations with the LRCI we did so in broad agreement with its program, specifically the document that signified the MRCI’s adopting of orthodox Trotskyism on the workers states, The Degenerated Revolution, and the subsequent Trotskyist Manifesto. Trotsky would have no problem blocking with the MRCI/LRCI on the basis of this program since it clearly stood for the unconditional defence of the DWSs.

Whenever the bureaucracy is forced to fight against the bourgeoisie, genuine revolutionaries, if they are not able to immediately overthrow and replace the Stalinist bureaucrats, must act together with them in a united front in order to defend the interests of the working class. In such struggles the Stalinists do not cease to be a counter-revolutionary force. If their leadership is not broken in struggle then either the workers’ organisation or state will suffer defeat, or it will be defended or even extended, in a counter-revolutionary fashion.”( TDR, Chapter 8 )

However, we think that Trotsky would not have agreed to the LRCI leadership then abandoning its program as follows:

[1] In 1990 the LRCI blocked with a reactionary nationalist restorationist government in Lithuania. (See IDOT).  While Lithuania had the right to self-determination, this was not at the expense of political revolution. To subordinate political revolution to the right to self-determination is to put a condition on defence of the workers states. The LRCI changed its line to support a restorationist popular front between the Lithuanian national pro-restorationist bureaucracy which was being actively supported by imperialism, against the Russian occupying troops, thus subordinating the defence of workers property. Here the Russian Stalinist regime became the main enemy not the restorationist nationalists in a popular front with imperialism. The correct position in TDR was for Russian and Lithuanian workers to rebuild revolutionary soviets and militias and bloc militarily in defence of workers property against the national restorationists, appealing to the ranks of the Soviet troops to join them and build new soldiers soviets. This would to prove to Lithuanian workers that political revolution and a genuinely socialist USSR, and not a separate capitalist Lithuania aligned to imperialism, was in their class interests.

[2] The LRCI also changed The Degenerated Revolution which called for a ban on all ‘restorationist’ parties, to a ban on only ‘fascist’ parties. Because workers had illusions in bourgeois parliament, restoration and national self-determination, the LRCI adapted to ‘public opinion’ to allow the bourgeois democratic right to form political parties with open restorationist programs.  Thus the LRCI was now calling on workers to support bourgeois democracy as the road to political revolution, when it was actually the road to social counter-revolution.

[3] These changes prepared the ground for the popular front with Yeltsin in August 1991. Yeltsin was an open ‘fast track’ restorationist clearly allied to imperialism. Like most of the E. European Stalinist regimes, he sought to restore capitalism by means of bourgeois parliament. The LRCI changed TDR. Rather than fight the restorationists, and bloc with any bureaucratic faction defending workers property, the LRCI defended the open restorationist Yeltsin in a popular front with imperialism against the Stalinist hardliners who wanted to slow down the restoration process by suppressing bourgeois democracy. The result was that Yeltsin won and immediately set about attacking workers rights, banning the CP, dissolving the USSR and eventually using tanks to shell parliament to impose the rapid ‘shock therapy’ International Monetary Fund (IMF) plan for restoration. This is what we refer to as Yeltsin’s ‘counter coup’.

The original TDR position was correct. No united front with restorationists (fast or slow track) was possible. Workers must oppose restorationists by rebuilding independent soviets and workers militias against both tanks and parliament. There was no essential difference between Yeltsin and the hardliners. But in terms of workers advancing the political revolution Yeltsin was the main enemy. Yeltsin used the restorationist parliamentary popular front with the IMF and imperialism to exploit workers illusions in bourgeois democracy and to disarm them in the face of the destruction of the workers state. 

[4] In 1995 in the Bosnian war the LRCI called for dual defeatism of NATO and Serbia when it considered that Serbia was still a ‘moribund workers state’.  Not to call for a victory to Serbia is a clear rejection of unconditional defence of a DWS.  Even if Serbia was a restored capitalist semi-colony we would have to call for victory against NATO. The LRCI justification for this break with unconditional defence was that Serbia was engaged in ethnic cleansing of Bosnian Muslims. Worse, the LRCI called on imperialism to “send heavy artillery, tanks and planes to the Bosnian army” and “tanks and heavy artillery, and yes if possible planes and Scud missiles” and even “international volunteers” to support their Bosnian proxies.

The LRCI slogan to defeat NATO is therefore pure centrist rhetoric while also failing to stop imperialism arming of Bosnian and Croatian proxy regimes in its war with Serbia. Even if Serbia was not a DWS, to put an equal sign on NATO and Serbia is to suppress the Leninist distinction between oppressor and oppressed states. As the RTT document on Bosnia argues, while workers have to defend those being ethnically cleansed on all sides, the main character of the war by 1994 was that between imperialist NATO and Serbia as a DWS undergoing capitalist restoration. We had to call unconditionally for the defence of Serbia, while at the same time mobilising Serbian and other ethnic workers militias to overthrow their nationalist restorationist bourgeoisies in league with imperialism.

[5] In 1999 in the NATO/Serbian war, again the LRCI had an effective dual defeatism because while it argued for the defence of Serbia it didn’t call for armed workers to defend Serbia against NATO bombing. Instead it said that it would not defend Serbia from NATO where it was ethnically cleansing Kosovars. Thus the LRCI said: Nevertheless, in the massive bombing by Nato air forces, revolutionaries defended Serbia/Montenegro against imperialist attack. This did not include, however, any concession to Serbian chauvinism – its oppression of Kosova, or its denial of the Kosovars’ right to self-determination.” Thus the defence of Serbia (still as a ‘moribund workers state’ for the LRCI) from NATO was subordinated to the bourgeois democratic rights of an independent Kosovo ‘Workers’ Republic’.   While the Kosovars were nationally oppressed, support for their right to independence against Serbia was an obligation to be taken up by Serbian workers blocking with Kosovar workers against the Serbian nationalists, against NATO intervention and for the political revolution. Instead of calling for a political revolution by armed workers against the Serbian Stalinist regime, in a bloc with Kosova Muslim workers, to settle the national question within a Socialist Federation, the LRCI subordinated unconditional defence of a workers state to a popular front between the restorationist KLA and imperialism.

What does this failure to defend workers property unconditionally have to do with the LCC/RCIT current political positions on Libya?

The RCIT claims that the LRCI/LFI method on restoration in the DWSs is consistent with its position in Libya today, and it is the LCC position that has changed. But the unconditional defence of workers states is not part of the program of the bourgeois democratic revolution in an oppressed capitalist state. It is part of the political revolution in a post-capitalist state. The LRCI called for dual defeatism in wars between imperialism and DWSs subordinating the defence of a workers state to the bourgeois democratic program of the ‘democratic counter-revolution’.

Dual defeatism between NATO and Serbia can only mean that the Stalinist dictatorship and not imperialism was the main enemy.

The Marxist program for national self-determination in a counterrevolutionary breakup of DWSs in E. Europe, the USSR and Yugoslavia, is that the bourgeois democratic right to self determination of oppressed nationalities is subordinated to the political revolution.  In 1995-1999 when the ex-Yugoslav DWSs were in the process of capitalist restoration, we were for the defeat of NATO, the defence of Serbia, for a multi-ethnic Bosnia, and for the right to self-determination of Kosovo as a socialist republic within a federation of Yugoslav socialist republics.

Libya is a semi-colony facing a global crisis of capitalism. It is an oppressed nation and has to be defended against imperialism, the main enemy. Our position on Libya shows that despite the complication of the NATO bombing (which we opposed), for the national democratic revolution to become permanent, it has to proceed on three fronts; against the incumbent national Gaddafi regime; against the preferred imperialist replacement regime the TNC; and against the direct intervention of imperialism. We do not call for dual defeatism. Imperialism is the main enemy while Gaddafi is the immediate enemy of the revolution.  In this situation, imperialism is never called on by revolutionaries to intervene in a civil war or in a war of national independence, because it is always the main enemy. On the other hand, in some situations, revolutionaries can refuse to stop aid by imperialism when it is called for by a national liberation movement, as Trotsky explains in ‘Learn to Think’.

How does Trotsky’s ‘Learn to Think’ relate to this?

Trotsky argues against the anti-imperialists who deny the right of national democratic movements to make use of inter-imperialist rivalry to get material aid in their struggle against imperialism. This does not mean for a second, that imperialism ceases to be the main enemy, and we never stop fighting to defend the oppressed country and defeat imperialism.  At the same time if a national liberation struggle calls for imperialist aid, which of course would only be offered to advance the interests of one imperialism against another, workers in those countries offering aid would not stop that aid, nor stop trying to defeat that imperialism at home.  We do not call for it, we warn against the imperialist interests tied to aid, but we do not stop it if it aids the revolution.

Those who signed the joint statement on Libya called for the defeat of imperialism and the victory of Libya. In the absence of proletarian aid the NTC demanded a limited NATO intervention. It did so in its own interests to help remove the regime.  None of us were in the position to stop the NATO bombing and had we been able to do so we would probably also have been able to arm the revolution ourselves. Even so, had we made a decision to not stop imperialist aid to the insurrection, we would certainly not have demanded it, and we would certainly have warned against it.


In the early 1990s the LRCI made a major right-turn under pressure of capitalist restoration of the DWSs and imposed a condition on their defence – the political revolution must be subordinated to bourgeois democratic rights which included the right to form restorationist parties clearly linked to imperialism.  Bourgeois democracy however, was the principle method by which ‘fast track’ restoration was imposed in Eastern Europe and the USSR. Those who warned against this right-turn said that this would represent a restorationist popular front with imperialism – the ‘democratic counter-revolution’. They were bureaucratically expelled from the LRCI.  So we think that the LRCI at that point was a bureaucratic centralist organisation and that it subsequently has not overcome that bureaucratisation. While the comrades of the RCIT broke to the left from the LFI over fundamental questions of class orientation and the period, the LCC cannot move towards fusion with the RCIT until that organisation recognises the material basis of the LRCI’s right-turn away from unconditional defence of DWSs to a restorationist popular front with imperialism.

Liaison Committee of Communists

August 19, 2012


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Apr 23, 2017 | Posted by in Marxism, RCIT | 0 comments

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