Friday, December 25, 2020
The re-election of Labour in October as a majority government seals its fate as an open bourgeois party. In 2017 we said that Labour was at the point of becoming a new Liberal party that no longer pretended to represent the interest of workers. When Andrew Little, former head of the CTU, stepped down to let Jacinda Ardern take the leadership just weeks out from the election, the trajectory of the Labour Party as a bourgeois workers party – founded in 1916 by the unions to get workers off the streets into parliament, replacing the bullets of the general strike of 1913 with the ballot box every few years – was set to revert to the original bourgeois Lib/Lab Party of the 1890-1914. In just over a century Labour has come full circle to revert to its roots in the original Liberal Party. Not the same old Liberal Party. The conditions that led to the breakdown of the Liberals in 1914, revolution, counter-revolution and war, are now much more destructive and pose the stark alternative of an end to human civilisation, or the rise of revolutionary socialism and end to bourgeois class rule.
The Liberal Party
It’s task in the new colony, as well as dispossessing Maori of land for white settlement, was to integrated newly unionized workers into the class system passively via state legislation to reconcile the conflicting interests of labour and capital expressed in the great Maritime strike of 1890. The Industrial, Conciliation and Arbitration Act (IC&A Act) o 1894 was the result, locking unions into a state arbitration court.
It took another 20 years for those working for wages in extractive, processing, and transport industries, and influenced by syndicalist and socialist ideology, to break from Labour’s ‘leg-iron’, state arbitration, to form the ‘Red Federation’ of Labour. The result was five years of growing agitation and strikes culminating in the general strike of 1913, the complete breakdown of this Lib/Lab settlement, and the farmer and business lobby to put the Reform party into power.
The Labour Party
“When the NZLP was founded in 1916 it was to divert the labour movement away from industrial struggles that divided the nation and threatened the future of capitalist profitability. Its purpose was to take control of the majority of workers and split them from the Red Feds, anarchists and socialists who were committed to radical industrial action to negotiate their wages and conditions.
Labour promised to win what workers needed through parliamentary reforms. It would impose the 1890s Liberal IC&A Act – that ‘arbitrated’ agreements between workers and bosses that had split the Labour movement and given rise to the Red Fed – and make Arbitration compulsory. Labour therefore was the party of the state-controlled unions until compulsory arbitration was repealed by Labour in 1987 and compulsory unionism by the NACTs in 1992, which together broke the back of the unions’ resistance to neo-liberalism, taking workers back to the 1880s.
The NZLP had inflicted a mortal wound on itself. To serve its purpose as the Party that could reconcile workers to capitalism it needed to represent the unions and its membership to have any claim to be a workers’ party. It had to win a majority based on a working-class constituency if it was to be useful to the ruling class.
1984 changed all that because Labour abandoned its founding pretence of advancing the interests of workers and instead made workers’ pay for the capitalist crisis facing NZ by introducing Rogernomics. Then PM Lange called this the “pain before the gain”.
Despite this historic betrayal, the union bosses fought to keep Labour alive so that when the New Labour split occurred only a few small unions left Labour for NL. The NL split was premature and fizzled out as NL joined forces in an amalgam of Greens, Liberals and Mana Motuhake that became the Alliance. Labour survived by expelling its right- wing faction which became ACT but under a succession of new leaders remained a Blairite, Third Way party trying to achieve a classless balance between capitalism and socialism – represented by the notorious ‘middle’ [class].
It has not renounced its neo-liberal turn because getting the state out of business and policing fiscal responsibility is the new normal and Labour cannot serve its purpose unless it reconciles workers to the neo-liberal market and its brutal attacks on workers.
But surviving the near-death experience had a cost. Labour lost its working-class mojo and could no longer count on a majority from the labour movement. The NACTs continued their anti-worker attacks and drove some workers back to Labour, not because they believed in Labour as ‘their’ party but because it was the lesser evil.
Labour had lost its reason to exist. The unions were gutted by the NACTs ECA in 1992 and ceased to be a force capable of sustaining the party. The Labour caucus’ focus on the ‘middle class’ reinforced the ‘neoliberal’ ideology that unions no longer served workers who had to rely on their individual efforts to get ahead.
Labour was in limbo with its traditional role overtaken by the new role of representing a classless utopia of petty bourgeois ‘middle NZ’. Under Helen Clark Labour sold itself as the natural party of the centre-left majority.
To sell this it needed to compete openly with the NACTs whose history gave it much greater claim to represent the grasping petty bourgeoisie. After all the NACTs originated as a farmers’ party with urban petty capitalists very much in tow. Labour’s fate then was to abandon its working-class constituency – the “missing million” – and recreate itself as the bland, Blairite, ‘classless’ party.
To do this it had to present itself as the alternative to the NACTs which has close links to the capitalist ruling class that owns business, including the media; a burgeoning new petty bourgeoisie in the cities and a new rural gentry getting rich off dairying.
Every leader who stood up to claim this title was shot down by the caucus of Blairite time-servers until Andrew Little, the last vestige of Labourite ties to the union bosses, was forced to resign. Ardern’s ‘fresh’ style may attract more votes from the middle, but it is the death knell of Labour devoid of substance as the party of workers in Aotearoa/NZ.
Yet, only the death knell, because what will finally kill off Labour in the end is not its failure to advance workers interests, it is its open renunciation of its duty to attempt to do that by joining with the Greens and NZ First to form a government.
Labour parties, and social democracy in general, can always come back from the dead so long as workers live in hope. But by forming a coalition with openly capitalist parties like the Greens and NZ First, as even critics like Mike Treen advocate, sends Labour back to where it began, the Liberals of the 1890s.
The Liberal party was a cross-class party of workers, small farmers and the unemployed. Its philosophy was the reconciliation of classes under the Liberal Democratic state that stood for the self-governing nation within the British Empire. Sometimes referred to as a ‘liberal-labour’ [lib-lab] or populist party because it contained an open contradiction between farmers and labourers that was suppressed by the submersion fusion (and diffusion) of class in the nation state; a state once called ‘proto-fascist’ by historian Willis Airey.
This reconciliation could not last as the Liberals blew apart when workers rose up against the IC&A Act to form the Red Fed. Farmers split from the labourers and were enrolled as special police – Massey’s Cossacks – to smash the Red Fed, with farmers forming the Reform Party, and the defeated workers the Labour Party.
Labour has come full circle. It has officially renounced the existence of class politics in Aotearoa and transformed itself into the ‘classless’ populist Liberal Party that is preparing to fuse its program with the Greens and NZ First who both represent the petty bourgeoisie in NZ.
Workers now have no alternative but to struggle to take control of their own lives by breaking with the parliamentary farce and the bourgeois nation state, to organise their own independent mass Labour party and a new Red Fed, able to fight the class struggle in the workplace and the streets as part of a global mobilisation of workers, unemployed, poor farmers and oppressed peoples for survival socialism against a dying capitalism and rush to human extinction.”
Long live the Revolutionary Labour Party!
As we pointed out in 2017, Labour in coalition with Greens and NZFirst constituted a bourgeois popular front and could no longer be given critical support by revolutionaries. As we predicted, in her first term Ardern used her coalition partners as an excuse not to push forward with her social transformation.
Locked into a coalition with the petty bourgeois parties, Labour was able to blame its coalition partners for failing to deliver on its election promises. There was no ‘transformation’. There was no climate emergency to signify our “nuclear moment”.
Labour won its new mandate in the October election only because of its success with COVID-19. It created a Blairite bubble in the liberal centre based on the denial of class war with the concept of the “team of 5 million”. It could do so by following the science on pandemics and subsidizing business.
But this centrist bubble will not survive the economic crash and climate change. Capitalism is now destroying the ecological conditions for its existence. Facing the global terminal crisis, Labour isn't following the science which tells us we need a revolution to survive human extinction.
The Labour Party cannot grasp that we face a truly existential crisis. It believes its own hype that it can end the class war with appeals to 'consensus' and national unity. The petty bourgeois base of Social Democracy has always put the interests of profits before workers insisting it will decide when workers are ready for parliamentary socialism, thus disarming them in the face of ruling class reaction.
Labour governing alone will attempt to resolve the economic and climate crash at the expense of working people. This will destroy any surviving illusions in social democracy and bourgeois parliament. Workers will then be free to build an independent labour movement with a political party and program for socialism. We have a decade left to do it.
A Revolutionary Labour Party will have a revolutionary program for a workers’ government elected by workers councils, to implement a socialist plan.
It will rebuild the Red Federation and form democratic workers councils, in which oppressed minorities are over-represented, to organise and mobilise the working class, the class that produces the wealth, to fight for workers’ ownership and control of the economy.
· For the socialisation of the land, industry and finance!
· For leasehold tenure as the basis of land use!
· For the return of stolen Maori land!
· For a single state bank to replace private banks, and to advance social capital for agriculture, public works, housing, health and education!
· For a socialist plan based on workers’ democracy as expressed in the workers councils.
Sunday, September 27, 2020
We publish here an exchange between the International Trotskyist Nucleus - Fourth International (NTI-CI) and our tendency, on the subject of the degeneration of the Internationalist Leninist Trotkyist Fraction (FLTI).
Dear Comrades of the NTI-CI,
Like you we support the CEP in its call for an IMT against Munzer's slander and we do not separate moral questions from political questions. We also see that you have an interest in re-uniting the former militants forced out of the FLTI as it degenerated under Munzer's leadership. We include ourselves in that exodus having been forced out in 2010 over China, causing the 'explosion' you talk about in your critique of the Crisis in the FLTI. https://ntici1938.wordpress.com/2020/05/29/la-crisis-de-la-flti/
We don't agree that the degeneration in the FLTI began with your expulsion or even with our split over China in 2010. As you suggest in your analysis of the FLTI, its degeneration had started in its internal regime well before that. We did an analysis of that degeneration, as a consequence of the National Trotskyism of Morenoism, in our own balance sheet when we left. https://redrave.blogspot.com/2010/04/draft-balance-sheet-on-cwgs-relations.html
We also wrote Draft Theses on the Crisis and the World Situation in 2010 drawing out the consequences of the rise of China in shaping that crisis and the world situation. https://redrave.blogspot.com/2010/10/draft-theses-on-crisis-and-world_31.html
As we have discovered among the ex-FLTI militants we have spoken with, none of them have seen these two documents which puts the inter-imperialist rivalry between the US and China at the center. Munzer staged our expulsion with histrionics over his rotten bloc with the JRCP to fight for socialism in China to shut down democratic debate over this question.
We hope that you are open to reconsidering our position on China as correct in predicting the trajectory of China in the world in 2010 and essential to any revolutionary revolutionary program today. We leave it to you to read our documents on China by comparing the 2010 Draft Theses with our most recent analysis of the terminal crisis. http://www.cwgusa.org/?p=2395
We look forward to your response and a fruitful discussion.
For the International Leninist Trotskyist Tendency
NTI-CI answer on balance sheet
Date: Sat, Sep 19, 2020 at 8:16 AM
Comrades of the ILTT:
Comrade Dave Brown:
First of all, we would like to apologize for the delay in our response. Before writing to you we wanted to study your documents, not only on the Chinese question, but also on other very important questions of the class struggle at the international level. From the outbreak of the FLTI in 2010 until today, ten years have passed in which there has been no lack of confrontations between revolution and counter-revolution on an international level. Without revolutionary lessons from the most important events, any revolutionary regroupment is impossible. Unfortunately, we have seen that our differences are not limited to the character of China, but have deepened. For example, let us go to the Syrian question. In your document of March 3, 2020 you maintain the following:
On the side of the revolution we have the majority of the Syrian people who have stood against and been martyred by every assault from March 2011 to today. This includes the ‘civilians’ who remain resolute and the ‘moderate’ and ‘Islamic’ militias who despite being politically at odds, are in a military bloc against the regime. Internationally support is weak (never sufficient to properly arm and augment the militias), sporadic (US, Turkey and Arab states arming militias but at odds with the revolution) and ineffective (EU and Arab states attempts at diplomacy) and must be unless it actively takes the revolutionary side in the war against the regime. The question of whether Turkey’s military intervention measures up to that standard is currently being tested on the ground and in the air in Idlib.We understand that the point here is that there was insufficient support from US imperialism and the EU for the revolution. That is, you consider the US and European intervention to be progressive. We do not agree with this statement. If we leave aside the moments when US and European imperialism directly attacked the revolutionary masses through NATO and military coalitions, and it is impossible to leave them aside, imperialism has intervened in Syria by arming the bourgeois army parties such as the ESL, ISIS, etc. so that they could disarm the rebel militias and disorganize the local coordination committees. This is not a "weak international support" but a counter-revolutionary intervention to destroy the revolution from within the resistance. This erroneous characterization leads you to conclude that the problem is that there is a lack of "a great imperialist power that would side with the revolution”.
On the side of the counter-revolution the Assad regime is backed by Russia. Without it, the regime would have been defeated in 2015 when the rebels held most of the country and several large cities including Aleppo and Idlib. The Arab states that suppressed the Arab Spring in their countries sided with the Assad regime but were incapable of defeating the Syrian revolution. Iran is a special case, as it was instrumental in engaging Russia to intervene in Syria. Therefore, in the absence of any major imperialist power siding with the revolution, Russia’s intervention swung the balance of forces decisively in favour of the counter-revolution (Idlib, Victory to the Syrian Revolution!).
We must also point out that we do not agree with their "doubly defeatist" position on the Ukraine. We recognize the workers' militias from the east who stood up to confront the government that emerged from the preventive counter-revolution of Maidan and its subordination to US imperialism and the EU. This is why we stand for the military victory of Dombas against Kiev, while fighting for a proletarian leadership of the civil war (2).
It is important to point out that unlike the great majority of the currents that claim to be Trotskyists in the US, you have put one of the axes of your policy in the struggle for the abolition of the police and for the self-defence committees. This is something we demand. However, we believe that the "Labour Party" tactic you are proposing is wrong. Today a revolutionary party can only develop in the self-organizing bodies that are emerging, in the factory committees. We do not see a process of mass unionization as in the 1930s, which gave rise to the CIO and Trotsky's labor party tactics. You can consult our position on the U.S. here (3).
We would also like to ask you if you continue to demand, as we did in the 23 points, the struggle for the destruction of the Zionist State of Israel, since in the statements we were able to review, this program is not expressed. In our Workers' Action No. 2, in a polemic with the Spartacist League, we developed the central part of our position on the Palestinian question (4).
Our position on the Chinese question is expressed in our document on the world situation, which we put to your consideration (5). We believe that many of the differences we have stem from our differences over China and Russia and their characterization of these as new imperialisms. We characterize these countries as relatively independent. We believe that the only thing that can prevent their semi-colonization or colonization by one or more imperialist powers is proletarian revolution. We are open to debate on the Chinese question, and would like to know if you are willing to reconsider your positions on the issues we have outlined above and on others that might emerge from a more thorough study of your documents.
We also refer you to our latest polemic with the FLTI leadership and the true Stalinist character of WIL, its official group in Zimbabwe (6).
Finally, we call on you to pronounce on our campaign for an International Moral Tribunal in the face of a Stalinist provocation by the leadership of the RCIT and its neo-Zapatista group, the ALS of Mexico (7).
An internationalist greeting, Tomás Cuevas, by the NTI-CI
PS. In relation to the FLTI's balance sheet we want to tell you that having established discussions with different comrades and wings of the international faction's outburst has made us advance, specify and even correct aspects of our balance sheet. We hope in the near future to publish a more finished balance of the degeneration of the international faction.
PS 2. We regret that we do not have all the documents available in English. If you consider it necessary, we could translate the ones you consider to advance the debate.
27 September 2020
Comrades of NTI-CI,
Dear Comrade Tomas Cuevas,
Thanks for your reply to our letter of July 14, 2020
We will deal with the main points you make in order for clarity. First is your claim that we see the US as 'progressive' on the side of the revolution. If this were true, it would obviously be a capitulation to social imperialism and a liquidation of the revolutionary party. This is a serious charge based on a quote from one article taken out of context. This is surprising as we have written many articles on Syria (and MENA also) where we say the opposite – that the US is the No 1 terrorist, and main imperialist aggressor and invader in MENA.
The US in Syria
Comrades, we certainly do not see the US as a 'progressive' force in Syria or anywhere in the world. It is the main counter-revolutionary power in the world today. In MENA the US has intervened over decades and especially since the first Gulf War in 1991. However, in Syria today the US has no strong or immediate interest in changing the status quo, that is, the Assad regime (or some alternative bourgeois regime which suits US imperialism). Since the ’82 Lebanese civil war the Assad family has never challenged Israel and the status quo in the Middle East.
Therefore, in Syria the US interest is to negotiate a stable regime that does not directly challenge Israel nor US interests in the region. We have also argued that the US is not interested in challenging Russia’s role in propping up Assad, so long as US wider interests are not challenged. This is clear from the failure of Obama to impose his ‘red line’ on Assad, the embargo on SAMs that could be used against the regime, and the attempts to sponsor militias to support an alternative bourgeois regime to replace Assad.
Nor do we agree that ISIS was deliberately armed by the US. Its core militants are Iraqi Sunnis who were jailed by the US from 2003 onwards, and its arming results from captured US arms and equipment during the insurgency. To suggest otherwise is to advance a conspiracy theory that denies the capacity of Iraqi insurgents to mobilise and fight imperialist occupation. The US special forces have fought ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and allied with the Kurds in East Euphrates, and are now occupying oil fields in that region formerly captured by ISIS, all in the defence of the status quo which it has largely created. We defend ISIS against the US. The real project of US imperialism in the region, especially under Trump, is to use its proxies to ensure that the US/EU policing of client regimes in MENA continues to serve its economic interests.
Therefore, the point of our article you quote from is not that US imperialism is ‘progressive’. That is a misrepresentation in the context of the full article. You quote some sentences as if we are implying that the US has an interest in defending the revolution. No! The US would only support the Syrian revolution if it advanced its overall interests in the region which are counter-revolutionary through and through. The point of the article is talk about the stand that revolutionaries take in the course of a national revolution when an imperialist power (or a regional power like Turkey) takes a side in the revolution in its own interests? It is important to look at objective situation in all of its concrete aspects to weigh up the balance of forces of revolution and counter-revolution so as to arrive at practical actions that advance the revolution.
All of this is in the context of the Syrian national democratic revolution that was capable of defeating the Assad regime without direct imperialist aid until Russia intervened. Since then the revolution has been in retreat and is now finally trapped in Idlib surrounded by its enemies. As we point out, the militias have nowhere to go, and the people who support the revolution see no way out except a ceasefire that buys time for the revolution. Their hopes that the US and the EU will negotiate a ceasefire and arrive at a ‘democratic’ solution have been destroyed. They have no option but to take advantage of Turkey’s interest in including Idlib into a buffer zone along its border.
The Ceasefire as Tactic
For revolutionaries the military tactics in that situation are not solved by proclaiming “advance the revolution” in the abstract but only by spelling out the tactics necessary to do so. Among them will be how to take advantage of the clashing interests among the imperialist powers and their regional proxies. One of those tactics is a ceasefire that buys time until material aid from revolutionary workers around the world can come to the aid of the revolution. As we all know the crisis of revolutionary leadership has prevented any worthwhile campaign to be mounted by revolutionaries to arm, let alone join, the Syrian revolution.
“Putin and Assad were against the ‘terrorists’ surviving anywhere. Astana was never observed on the ground and the gains made by the regime backed by Russian and Iranian forces tore it up. Assad’s revenge, as elsewhere in Syria, was the total destruction of towns and cities and the targeting of civilians, men women and children, schools and hospitals. This was to be the total destruction of the revolution. Turkeys response was to defend its buffer zone, by invoking a humanitarian crisis of the million refugees camped on its borders, and defending its authority under Astana to maintain observation posts inside Idlib. This situation then quickly escalated within weeks from a few soldiers on the ground to masses of tanks and infantry, and then F-16s in the air.”
Facing this objective situation of the revolution in retreat, revolutionaries must evaluate the intervention of semi-colonial Turkey in Idlib in March this year to create a ceasefire and a buffer zone. We argue Turkey made use of its alliance with Russia to pressure Assad into agreement. We say Turkey is objectively siding with the Syrian revolution in its own interests. Should this provoke a military conflict between Russia and Turkey we would defend Turkey. At the same time, we see that the US and EU have no current interest to intervene in Idlib on the side of the revolution against the regime and its Russian backers, as their interests are elsewhere.
And further on in the article you quote from, we go on to say:
"Revolutionaries who claim the tradition of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky must agree. We support the Syrian Revolution against the counter-revolution. The revolutionary people who refuse to live under Assad can make use of any support offered their cause, whether or not their long-term objectives with their allies are the same. The revolution must live to fight another day, just as the militias on the South of Syria who surrendered to Assad in return for safe passage to (ultimately) Idlib. Yet, in defending Turkey’s military intervention on the side of the revolution we do not agree with its bourgeois national pro-imperialism, its political regime, nor its oppression of the Kurds. But if the war escalates into a wider war between two main protagonists, Russia and Turkey, we take the side of the oppressed semi-colonial nation against the imperialist oppressor nation." [emphasis added]
Trotsky on revolutionary tactics
The larger question which the article addresses is: how do revolutionaries orient themselves in a semi-colonial civil war when outside powers are intervening? First, we have to characterize those powers as imperialist or not, together with their active political and economic interests, so as to have a correct program. Second, when two or more imperialist powers are clashing over territory and taking sides in a civil war, while we are for the defeat of all imperialist powers, can we take advantage of this clash of interests?As Trotsky said in his ‘Learn to Think’, in the relation to Algeria, we can postulate a situation where fascist Italy arms the revolutionary movement, clashing with colonial France. This situation requires more subtlety than an abstract dual defeatism. Workers in Italy would continue to fight to overthrow the fascist regime at home but also ensure that the arms reached the Algerian insurgents. But where such an opportunity arises, Trotskyists must clearly warn revolutionaries that the interests of imperialism are never progressive, but in fact counter-revolutionary.
In Syria, as elsewhere, we follow Trotsky's method. The national democratic revolution begins with a fight for transitional demands for national self-determination, democratic rights and economic reforms. Of course, the bourgeois factions compete to align with imperialist powers to form new regimes to exploit and oppress the masses. Therefore, our program has to expose the counter-revolutionary nature of imperialism and its bourgeois lackeys. To succeed the workers and poor peasants have to break from the national bourgeoisie and their imperialist overlords. This requires a Trotskyist international to fight for the leadership of the democratic revolution to transform it into permanent revolution for socialism.
To quote again from the same article:
“We unconditionally take the side of the workers and poor farmers who are the life blood of the revolution. We call for a ceasefire and a Workers’ and Farmers’ government in Idlib supported by all the Arab masses, and defended by workers internationally. But for this to succeed the workers of the Middle East, in particular of Turkey and Iran must overthrow their authoritarian regimes and take the leadership in the anti-imperialist fight, breaking with their imperialist masters and overthrowing their pro-imperialist bourgeois ruling classes. We demand that the workers of Europe, and the other imperialist powers, fight to open their borders to migrants and refugees fleeing the exploitation and oppression of centuries, and build antifascist militias and workers councils capable of overthrowing their ruling classes, liberating the oppressed semi-colonies as part of the global socialist revolution, under the leadership of a new revolutionary communist international.”
Russia: ‘independent’ or ‘imperialist’?In the above discussion on the question of revolutionary tactics taking advantage of conflicts among imperialist powers, we characterise Russia as imperialist, and its interest in Syria is that of an imperialist power. It came to the aid of Assad when his regime was threatened by the revolution. Putin advanced Russia's imperialist interests by making an alliance between Syria, Turkey and Iran against the Arab revolution as a whole and to strengthen the wider Russia/China bloc.
There is no evidence that Russia is sacrificing its own interests to play the role of a US proxy in Syria. Russian and US interests are not aligned in Syria but nor do they justify an open conflict unless Russia challenges the US occupation of the East Euphrates region. This is now becoming a strong possibility according to the latest developments. In that event our position is one of dual defeatism because the two imperialist blocs that are contesting control of MENA, from Morocco to Iran, must both be defeated by a victorious Arab Democratic Revolution that is completed as the Permanent Revolution for a United Federation of Socialist Republics.However, on the question of whether Russia is ‘independent’ or ‘imperialist’, we agree with you, this must be part of the larger debate we continue to have on China. We see this as a critical debate because in our opinion it marked a significant degeneration in the FLTI. We would certainly like to develop the debate on this question in the wider discussion that is taking place among ex-militants of the FLTI. Meanwhile we have circulated a short article summarising the main points at issue as we see them and have published it online.
On the other questions you raise, on Israel, Ukraine and the RCIT, and the question of amending our balances on the FLTI, we expect that these will also be part of the agenda for discussion among all the ex-militants who are contributing to developing a balance of the FLTI to settle a score with National Trotskyism in order to build a healthy Trotskyist current in Latin America as part of a healthy international.We look forward to a productive and fruitful debate.
Dave Brown (for International Leninist-Trotskyist Tendency)
27 September 2020
Friday, September 25, 2020
We publish two documents about the relationship between our tendency and the FLTI. This is part of a wider discussion with ex-Militants of the FLTI that documents the history of that tendency. These refer specifically to the debate of the character of China that blew up in the FLTI in 2009. The point of disagreement was whether China was emerging as an imperialist power or not. As a result of the dispute our tendency split from the FLTI as a relapsing national Trotskyist tendency characterised by a bureaucratic centralist internal regime centred on the LOI-CI of Argentina. The first document is an account of the way this dispute led to the FLTI resorting to Stalinist methods in the formation of a Zimbabwe section. The second, summarises the main points of the debate over China as a contribution to the reflections on this issue among ex-members of the FLTI today.
We broke with ISO (International Socialist Organisation of Zimbabwe) in early 2009 after a bitter and acrimonious fight with the then leadership headed by GW. We agreed to identify ourselves then as the New ISO pending a name change, should that be warranted. The majority of comrades followed us with a sizeable minority remaining with GW’s group and others quitting all together.
The break was preceded by a protracted political fight that culminated in a huge defeat for the GW slate at the 2008 ISO congress/National Members Conference (NMC). The fight centred on the critique of the Cliffite centrist method of adapting to the labour bureaucracy as opposed to the rank and file, a popular front approach and a bureaucratic centrist regime.
The election was immediately followed by persecution and victimisation resulting in the arrest of three leading comrades (LM and myself initially with AM rushing from South Africa to join us) at the behest of the GW group.
It was during this period that we made contact with WIVL (now WIVP) of South Africa led by Cde SM. We agreed to start exchanging notes with the view of finding answers to the political limitations we had identified in ISO. The engagements involved exchanging documents.
Soon, by around mid-2009, the FLTI was introduced to us and we initiated engagement more or less on the same level with WIVL, informal yet regular. This later culminated in a trip to SA by AM and another comrade with a view of establishing how best we can relate and continue engagements. At this meeting there were proposals for fusion made to us and we stated that only a general meeting/congress of comrades scheduled for later that year would deal with that.
It was in South Africa that we also got to know of a major political debate within the FLTI over the nature of China and we resolved at leadership level to probe the issue further and make a decision at our congress, if possible.
AM used the trip (his second one after the first personal one when he rushed back to join us in jail) to South Africa to also get in touch with individuals he wanted to work with to form an NGO, Zimbabwe Action Trust. We only got to know about this later on. This was to form the backbone of accusations of working with NGO’s when the FLTI turned against him towards the end of 2010.
We held our congress in December 2009 where it was resolved to continue probing the issue of China and maintain a fraternal relationship with FLTI.
Soon after our congress, and becoming increasingly impatient, FLTI quickly dispatched Cdes SM and MT twice to Zimbabwe in early 2010 to ostensibly look at how best they could help us but in actual fact trying to identify hurdles to immediate fusion and agreement on China.
It was during these visits that a proposal was made for us to change our name and leadership structure to reflect the tradition of FLTI. Little did we know that AM had already made a commitment (during the first official South Africa trip around October 2009) to the FLTI to fuse New ISO into FLTI and also adopt the position of the majority on China.
This was to become apparent when AM returned from Argentina in April of 2010 when we later learned that he had, together with SM of WIVL, doctored the minutes of our congress to appear as if we had agreed on fusion, on China, and to change our name. This was done during the second organisational trip to South Africa enroute to Argentina.
The FLTI/WIVL resorted to this method after realising that their positions were in the minority and could not allow for proper discussion. We can only imagine that if they could do this to thwart a majority view, how far would they go to thwart a minority position as happened with comrades of CWG-NZ/HRWS over the China issue?
The trip to Argentina (in April 2010) proved to be a turning point in that our name, structure and position on China was imposed on us with the help of Mutero who was now acting unilaterally on key issues taking instructions from FLTI.
Just a few days after AM had returned from Argentina, I was to leave Zimbabwe for South Africa. AM indicated to me that they had resolved in Argentina for me to go to South Africa for a brief period as a guest of the WIVL. Little did I know then that it was a plot to remove me from the ground in preparation for an imposition of a name, RIL-FI, and majority position on China. I never got to meet SM and when I was informed by other cdes of developments back in Zimbabwe I quickly made preparations to return and confront AM on the issue.
Upon my return, all leading cdes including me, had been either stripped of their positions or demoted using a new leadership structure imposed on us by FLTI to facilitate an unprincipled fusion and control. We quickly began to mobilise for an extra ordinary congress to primarily look at the issue of imposed fusion, name and position on China.
The extra-ordinary congress, held in August 2010, was attended by the majority of both the general members and members of the leading organ, the National Coordinating Committee (NCC). The result of the congress, as per the published statement, was to reject the imposed fusion, name, leadership structure, position on China and other minor issues resulting in AM being expelled and resolving to continue calling ourselves the New ISO.
Whist in South Africa, after failing to meet SM, I made contact with cdes of CWG (NZ) and CWG (US), then HRWS, who constituted a minority on the question of China and had recently broke with the FLTI to form a Liaison Committee of Communists (LCC).These comrades enabled us to look at the Chinese issue intensively and openly resulting in an agreement that China had become an emerging imperialist nation. We became a section of the LCC in mid-2011 after extensive engagements, enough time necessary to look at the issue given our Cliffite history, and launched the RWG.
Soon after our congress in 2010 we heard that a moral commission had been established by the FLIT which had found that AM was working with NGO’s, and was still following the Cliffite IST tradition of holding an annual public meeting (called Marxism) where even members of the reformist mainstream parties were invited to speak, among other findings.
The real results of the findings remain unclear to us save to say that SM and some FLTI cdes spent time in Zimbabwe around this period. AM did not produce any response to the findings that we are aware of but the RIL-FI soon split in two with AM keeping the name and most comrades, and Cde JS leading another group soon to be named WIL centred on the out of Harare comrades. RIL-FI died a natural death as AM went on to be a leader of a food federation working with the MST of Brazil.
Cde Tigwe (For RWG-Z) 29 August 2020
Some salient points on the China question
Comrades, as ex-Militants of the FLTI, you probably know that the CWG and HWRS joined the FLTI at its founding conference in 2009. We immediately got into a dispute about the character of China. Everyone thought it had restored capitalism, but we were divided over whether or not it could become an imperialist power. We agreed to a public debate on China. An exchange of documents began between the majority (China cannot become an imperialist power) and minority (China is already an emerging imperialist power). However, the debate was not conducted in a democratic centralist way as it was diverted by CM into the Japanese adventure with the JRCL. As you will know from our balance sheet on the FLTI written in early 2010, we think that this episode was evidence of the emergence of a bureaucratic centralist regime around CM. Both the Japanese adventure and the Zimbabwe adventure in our view were driven by the wrong position on China taken by the Majority. Here is a summary of the salient differences on the character of China.
(1) "The world is divided, there can be no more room for imperialism powers."
Majority: From the start, this was the main argument of the majority. It was argued, following Lenin, that the world was already divided by the imperialist powers, and thereafter could only be re-divided in future inter-imperialist wars. Old imperialist powers may fall and new ones rise, but new imperialist powers can never be.
Minority: The minority agrees with this in the context in which it was written. Imperialist (oppressor) powers back their imperialist monopolies, including banks, to extract super-profits from the (oppressed) colonies and semi-colonies. No oppressed country can accumulate sufficient surplus-value to trigger growth that would bring the LTRPF into effect and the export of surplus profits as the necessary condition of imperialism. To escape imperialist exploitation would require the overthrow of imperialism and its comprador bourgeois agents. A big task for a semi-colony (or even a weak imperialist power such as Tsarist Russia.
Resolution: This position is correct insofar as no oppressed capitalist semi-colony has broken from the imperialist world system forcing a repartition of the world economy from ‘below’...except for workers' or peasants' revolutions going all the way to a break with the national bourgeoisie and imperialism. The Russian revolution did exactly this. We don't need to tell the whole story to those who know it, it is sufficient to show that these revolutionary breaks did not reject Lenin on imperialism. Rather they confirmed his theory and method. What’s more, Lenin's theory and practice was instrumental in making the revolution that broke free of the capitalist world by winning the civil war in 1921, as did China in 1949.
(2) The workers states, isolated and backward, could not escape their bureaucratic deformation or degeneration. Without political revolutions supported by world revolution, their fate was, as Trotsky thought most likely, a state capitalist restoration.
The majority and minority agree that this historic defeat took place in Russia and China by 1992. In China we agreed that restoration converted the bureaucracy into the Red Bourgeoisie. But we differed on the legacy of the bureaucratic workers state in determining the outcome for the restored state capitalist regime.
Majority: Starting from its assumption that no imperialist powers can emerge once the world was divided in the imperialist epoch, the restoration of capitalism means that China would re-enter the world economy as an oppressed country unable to accumulate sufficient value to emerge as imperialist. Whether China is semi-colonial, or some 'transitional' state, the point is it is oppressed and fought over by rival imperialist powers. Massive FDI in the free trade zones, big branch plants of most of the big multinationals, and China's role as the workshop of the world, all fit the 'profile' of a semi-colony that serves the imperialist division-of-labour by producing cheap imports of capital and consumer goods for the world market.
Minority: The minority questions how can this be true? China has accumulated massive surpluses since 2001 when it joined the WTO, and now exports surplus capital to every continent as FDI or state-to-state deals in competition with the established imperialist powers. While China allowed the controlled penetration of imperialism in the special zones, it also imposed terms that required joint ventures and intellectual property transfer unlike any semi-colony. The legacy of the workers state allowed it to control and limit the extend of imperialist penetration, and thus to retain the ability to accumulate capital and emerge as an imperialist power.
Resolution: Abandon the dogmatic assumption that Lenin's theory of imperialism cannot predict and spark revolutions that allowed socialist revolutions to re-partition the world economy! Further, failing the world revolution, counter-revolutions forced the bureaucracy to restore capitalism but not at the expense of re-colonization. The legacy of the workers' state proved to be the advantages of a strong central state, a dominant state-owned monopoly sector, and a centralised Communist Party that could plan the economy. The minority asserts that this legacy of the workers' state allowed the Red bourgeoisie to accumulate capital sufficient to trigger the LTRPF and the export of capital.
(3) The Character of China at the concrete level
The two points above cover the theoretical development of Lenin's theory of imperialism, the victory of socialist revolution against imperialism, and of the inevitable failure of an isolated revolution in a single backward country. This is consistent with the observed reality of the character of China today. But we need to evaluate the program and practice of the Majority and Minority as a consequence of their method and theory.
Majority: The majority theory of no new imperialisms must be put to the test against the observed reality today. At the time we had the debate in 2009, the evidence of China's restoration as a semi-colony, open to re-colonisation by imperialism especially the US and Japan, was superficially convincing. It required a program for the socialist revolution, the defence of China, especially from the US, and a bloc with the JRCL in support of the socialist revolution in China. The Minority was naturally cast as abandoning Lenin and Trotsky in order to support the US ruling class in its attempt to recolonise China. At that time the Minority held that China was an 'emerging' imperialism with semi-colonial characteristics and would have defended it from a US (or any other imperialist) attack to increase the super-exploitation and oppression of China. The Majority today still argues that the growth of China is that of an oppressed nation subordinated to imperialist powers. Even the Belt and Road project that invests $trillions in unprecedented global infrastructure is interpreted as reducing labour costs for imports and exports that serve the profits of China’s imperialist masters!
Minority: For the Minority Lenin's theory of a re-divided world applies to the workers states which he had a hand in establishing. It can explain the return of the workers' state to the capitalist world with the legacy of state capitalism that avoids re-colonisation and the lawful emergence of new imperialist powers. It counters the unipolar world of the fake left that delegates the workers revolution to this or that imperialist dictatorship including that of Xi Jinping, president-for-life. The program for China that flows from this is dual defeatism in every inter-imperialist war and defeatism in wars against semi-colonies.
Resolution: In the decade since this debate began, China has risen to become second only to the US as a world power, and ahead on real GDP and capital accumulation. Back In 2010 China was only beginning the trajectory of its imperialist expansion. But already it was accumulating a surplus in trade much of which was invested in US treasury bonds. No semi-colony ever did this. It had virtually no external debt, unheard of for those of us living in semi-colonies. It was becoming a banker for the Bolivarians and the Castroists. The only reason that the Majority did not see these trends as contradicting its theory on China was the preconceived schema misrepresenting Lenin which saw the world revolving around only the USA. Back then we referred to this theory as missing the 'elephant' in the room. Today there is no question: the elephant has broken out of the room, trampled on those who still do not see it, and is now challenging the US for the lead in dominating the world. As comrades look back at the FLTI to see what went wrong and why, they should re-evaluate the debate on China and the adventures in Japan and Zimbabwe, which revolved around his question China.
Dave Brown (for ILTT) 4 August 2020
Wednesday, September 09, 2020
PM Ardern and the human face of Labour that masks naked capitalism
The New Zealand Labour Party must be elected to govern alone to be judged for its failure to deliver on its promises to workers and the poor for decades. It got away with breaking those promises by making concessions to NZ First party to keep the coalition Government in power. As for the Greens keeping Labour ‘honest’, a pious hope when its co-leader James Shaw recently gave $11 million to an elite private school!
When social democratic parties tie themselves to petty bourgeois or bourgeois partners, they become part of a political popular front dominated by the interests of international monopoly finance capital. Promises made to workers are then sacrificed. As a result, they become in effect open bourgeois liberal parties without any pretense of representing workers.
Labour has long been moving towards an open liberal party since 1984 when it was hijacked by the Roger Douglas right-wing who later split to found the ACT (Association of Citizens and Taxpayers) party, later rejuvenated under MMP on the extreme right of parliamentary parties. Labour won the 1987 election with the support of swinging voters in affluent National Party seats. Disgusted by Labour’s right turn, in 1989 its left-wing split from the party behind Jim Anderton to form the New Labour Party leaving the centrists around PM David Lange in charge of the liberal rump of the party.
The Split in Labour was a Disaster
The split in Labour was a disaster. The Left had roughly a third of the votes in the national conference and a majority on the National Council behind Jim Anderton. But instead of using that support to launch a campaign to kick out the Douglas right faction, Anderton left prematurely to form the New Labour Party.
The NLP got 5% of the vote in 1990, proving that the split was not only ill-judged but a top-down left bureaucratic adventure. Labour suffered a major defeat retaining only 29 seats allowing National to form an extreme right-wing government to impose the ECA, drastically cut benefits and force a 26 week stand down for the unemployed.
In 1993 two thirds of the electorate voted against Rogernomics. Labour won almost the same number of seats as National but it did not get a majority because the NLP (which had now formed the Alliance with the Greens and Democrats) split the vote in a number of seats.
The result was a hung parliament. Anderton refused to support a Labour plan to form a government on a 5-point program which included repeal of National’s labour ‘reforms’ and plans to privatise health and the ACC. This allowed National to stay in power until 1999.
The split in Labour then ensured that the Rogernomics counter-revolution sped forward on steroids under the National Party. What began as a bureaucratic split by the labour left now became a sell-out of NZ workers for the whole lost decade of the 1990s. Moreover, it marked the consolidation of the Blairite centre in the Labour Party and the failure of the Clark and Ardern governments to repudiate neo-liberal policies.
Under MMP Labour has ruled only with the support of the petty bourgeois Alliance, Greens, and NZ First. The 9 years of the Fifth Labour Government (1999-2008) was a popular front Gov’t that provided a Blairite fig-leaf over the naked neo-liberal policies of the Fourth. It trapped workers in parliament while the world headed for the financial crisis of 2007/2008.
True to form, Labour had done no more than prepared the ground for National’s 9-year term in office from 2008 to 2017, dragging the country into period of austerity and subservience to both Chinese and the US imperialism.
Labour sneaked back into office in 2017 only by forming a popular front coalition with the bourgeois populist NZ First party, and a confidence and supply agreement with the petty-bourgeois Greens. Labour under its Blairite Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, wanted to prove that it could govern for the centre, reconciling capitalism and socialism, and failed to enact any major reform in the interest of workers.
Labour has always been a Capitalist Party
The reason should be obvious. That Labour is and always was a capitalist party that put profits before people. Its only rationale to exist was to present itself as the ‘nice’ face of capitalism to corral workers off the streets into parliament. But Rogernomics exploded the myth of ‘niceness’.
Today the ‘missing million’ is the working class that Labour has abandoned for the middle-class, or more accurately the “class-less middle of NZ”. When crises strike, Labour rallies the nation against class which provides a mask for the ruling class. It suppresses the class contradiction in the warm bath of nationalism.
Then the Covert crisis struck, Labour showed its true colours. It formed a cabal of big businessmen including Sam Morgan the face of neoliberal marketplace, to get permission for the ‘hard and fast’ lockdown. But the cabal wanted to continue to pull the strings. The ‘plan’ was to eliminate the virus then find a rapid high-tech solution to track everyone to keep it out, and so open the economy up for ‘business as usual’.
This worked until the bureaucratic border breakdowns that allowed the virus to sneak back in. The cabal, now with support from National, put the hard word on Labour to abandon the strategy of elimination as too costly for business. Labour balked at this plan, but compromised to try to keep the virus at bay, and lost little popular ‘trust’. Then with Judith Collins running the naked face of capital strategy, Sam Morgan spat the dummy when his Covid Card failed to get rapid adoption. It was game on with weeks to go.
With the election looming, the contradiction between the expectations of Labour’s voter base and its failure to meet those expectations, has been over-ridden temporarily by the impact of the pandemic.
The idea that NZ as united in one “team of 5 million” is fraying at the edges and looking shaky. Business sentiment, especially SME businesses, despite bailouts and wage subsidies, has dropped between the first lockdown in March and second lockdown in August.
The desperation of the rightwing National and extreme right ACT, now backed by the rebellion of the Morgan business cabal, and the corporate media, threatens to destroy the trust in Labour’s leadership in the fight against the pandemic.
For an Workers Socialist Party
The 2020 election may yet see Labour returned with a majority to govern on its own. But even so in the Covid world it would rapidly cave in to the kiwi comprador cabal and international finance to give priority to the economy. But it would be exposed to the working masses as a bankrupt social democratic party serving only to make workers’ pay for the bosses’ crisis ridden system.
To make this happen class conscious workers must give critical support to the re-election of the Labour Party with the objective of splitting workers away to form an independent workers party, that can represent the 80% who work to replace the rotten capitalist system with a socialist system that serves their needs.