Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Fourth International: Unable to Make any Rational Balance Sheet of its Practice.

with 16 comments

FI: Unable to Account for its own Political Errors.

Comrade  Alan Thornett has expressed this opinion,

The FI and its sections have long been involved in building broad parties: the Left Block in Portugal, the Red Green Alliance in Denmark, the Socialist party in Holland, Rifondazione Comunista in Italy, Die Linke here in Germany, Syriza in Greece, the SSP in Scotland, and the Socialist Alliance and then Respect in England.

But apparently there are disagreements on this,

This was not on building broad parties as such, since I have been a strong supporter of such a policy. It was because the resolution in front of the congress called only for the building of broad ‘anti-capitalist’ parties. To me this was too restrictive. Yes we should seek to build anti-capitalist parties where the conditions for such parties exist, but this is not always the case. We should also be for building radical left parties that don’t meet such a criteria.


This is far from a new debate, of course, and I am pleased that Jan mentioned it this in his presentation yesterday. It was discussed by the Fourth Congress of the Comintern in 1922, after the revolutionary wave generated by the Russian revolution had receded and the Comintern had to come to terms with the that new struggles for power would not necessarily follow the soviet model.

Comrade Thornett then talks about Syriza – the Greek left-wing bloc.

Now much as one is interested in the 1922 Comintern we should perhaps begin at home.

What balance-sheet does the Fourth International have of its participation in Respect?

We know the reason for them leaving was not the ego and reactionary positions of George Galloway on a great  many issues, too  numerous to list here.

It was about Scottish independence and the position (against Galloway)  of the group Socialist Resistance in favour of an a bonny capitalist Scotland, free from British rule.

But we have yet to hear any serious judgement on their participation in this ridiculous communalist group.

Not a pip.


Written by Andrew Coates

January 10, 2014 at 4:37 pm

16 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. We are informed by a leading member of the FI that this appeared,

    Why we had to leave Respect

    “We were aware as anyone else of the weakness of Respect following the damaging split three years previously and the defeat at the General election. We had problems with the lack of intent to build Respect as a national organisation, the lack of interest in having a regular paper of its own and such matters as the irksome non-appearance of its leading members at the National Council. We did not support the decision to campaign for an elected Mayor in Tower Hamlets and then, strangely, not put up a Respect candidate. Yet we were prepared to soldier on and help work towards a Respect renaissance. Up to a week before the annual conference in November, we had no plans to depart. We knew that the conference would be smaller than last year, but hoped that by immersing the organisation in the anti-cuts movement, and combining this work with its excellent record on the war, Palestine and racism, to put new life into the organisation.”

    “We consider our departure as a defeat and do not rejoice at that. Instead, we must now recognise that there is a vacuum at the electoral level for an anti-capitalist party in this country. On the new drawing board, we can sketch out a few principles for the future; the need to organise as a national party, the need to involve all members in democratic and socialist debate, decision making and education at all times as a matter of course and to recognize that no matter how talented, hard working or inspiring its leaders may be, they are servants of the party and nothing more.”


    We await real self-criticism, indeed penitence.

    Andrew Coates

    January 10, 2014 at 6:26 pm

  2. “Involved in building Die Linke in Germany”, eh? That will no doubt come as a surprise to the majority of members of the “Fourth International” in that country, who are very decidedly in opposition Die Linke.

    One might expect Thornett to be aware of this as he spoke at an event largely organised by these comrades in Germany at the end of November (http://www.rsb4.de/content/view/5075/88/ ).

    Also no mention of the (for the “Fourth International” itself) far more significant “broad socialist party” (attempt) in Germany that they undertook in the mid to late 1980s, the VSP, which was a flop from the outset (it remained a merger of most of the West German USec-section GIM with the Maoist headcase sect KPD/ML, was not a member of the USec, and a number of the GIM members wouldn’t join it and instead ended up in the Greens, one such ex-comrade becoming health minister under Schröder and is now a lobbyist for the international ‘health industry’) and from which they have seemingly learned nothing.

    When the VSP also failed to gain ground in the GDR after the Berlin wall collapsed, *some* of the USec-tradition people in the USec quickly joined the PDS (and more of them withdrew from the VSP and eventually founded a new organisation), and through this, the long standing editor of the GIM and then the VSP paper, Winfried Wolf, got himself a seat in parliament for over a decade. After getting elected, he withdrew from the USec and later from the VSP.

    Wolf’s main interest these days is public transport.


    January 11, 2014 at 4:35 pm

  3. I’m awaiting REAL evidence from you that Respect was either ‘ridiculous’ or ‘communalist’ in the period up until SR left.

    You could make a start by telling people what you objected to in one of Respect’s most extensive policy documents – the election manifesto for the 2005 General Election http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/RESPECT_uk_manifesto.pdf

    Harry Blackwell

    January 11, 2014 at 4:36 pm

  4. Dagmar – the transcript linked to in the original post is the speech delivered at the conference in November which you link to (with a few minor post-delivery alterations).

    The event was organised by both of the fractions of the FI in Germany. There are disagreements between these currents about Die Linke and also within the FI about Syriza in Greece. Unlike other international currents, the FI openly debates these disputed issues and publishes them on its website. It is positive that the two groupings are working together and discussing differences and this will hopefully lead to a unified position. While the FI does discuss balance sheets and minority views, it does not have to choose between different interpretations of history nor does it require its members and sections to sign up to a dogmatic view of ‘orthodox trotskyism’, rather it seeks to reach out to a wider range of revolutionary and socialist currents.

    Harry Blackwell

    January 11, 2014 at 4:48 pm

  5. “The event was organised by both of the fractions of the FI in Germany.”, one of which is about twice the size of the other, the larger one being very anti-Die Linke, which is not surprising due to how its formation came about.

    You misunderstate the differences between both associated organisations in Germany if you imagine that they will reach “a unified position” on very many issues at all.

    One, the larger one, could be described as holding something like (to be kind) ‘a dogmative view of orthodox trotskyism’, while taking charge of publishing the German version of Inprekorr (formally published by both German groups and the Swiss-German speaking and Austrian comrades) and so informing those few people who read it (like myself) well of the activities of other revolutionary and socialist currents.

    The other, the smaller one, publishes an reasonably interesting and fairly accessible paper, SoZ, while at the same pretending it is not its own party publication. Its active members are largely involved – in some cases at a regional-parliamentary level – in Die Linke, and the organisation is certainly not ‘dogmative’ nor ‘orthodox’ (and probably not ‘trotskyist’) but suffers from the same kind of ‘movement-itis’ that the USec groupings in the UK and elsewhere have shown for a long time.

    While a happy middling between both general political positions, in one organisation, would be a gain for all concerned, I think, for obvious reasons, it is unlikely to happen. At least they talk to each other these days, I suppose.


    January 11, 2014 at 5:32 pm

  6. “You *underestimate* the differences between both associated organisations in Germany… ” is what that should have read.

    Fourth International: Unable to Make any Rational Balance Sheet of its Practice. Indeed.


    January 11, 2014 at 6:32 pm

  7. Harry Blackwell. You obviously can’t distinguish between what Respect claimed to be and what it was. It only ever existed in Tower Hamlets and Bradford, it’s councillors were almost entirely Muslim, either Bangladeshi or Kashmiris and when they, or rather the community leaders that delivered the votes, decided that the project no longer served any purpose they abandoned it and it collapsed.

    The arguments between the SWP and Galloway about internal democracy, control freakery, Galloway moving to the right etc, are nonsense that both sides use in an attempt to argue that it was any more than a vehicle for the political ambitions of communal leaders in two Muslim communities.

    In Tower Hamlets where I followed the farce closely we had the situation of a Respect councillor who was also an SWP member defecting straight to the Tories! It has been pointed out that in 2006 when the twelve all Bangladehsi councillors were elected the Bangladeshis voted tactically and not a single white Respect candidate was elected. From the close of the ballot the SWP had lost control and within less than two years the whole thing was falling apart.

    I have no doubt that in years to come historians of the far left in Britain will still be poring over the Respect fiasco to find out what went wrong. It’s easy. The left thought that they could use Muslim communalist politicians and vote deliverers but the reverse was true. The majority of the former Respect councillors and supporters are now involved with the Islamist backed independent group, explain that.


    January 11, 2014 at 8:53 pm

  8. In Birmingham Respect, and is SWP sponsors – were openly pro-Islamist. They baited and threatened secular Iranian exiles, supported the hijab, organised gender-segregated meetings and gave uncritical support to the dodgy Islamist ” psychologist” Salma Yaqoob.

    Jim Denham

    January 12, 2014 at 3:38 am

  9. Oh yes: on the subject of the wretched Thornett, I remember attending at least two meetings in the early 2000’s at which he made it clear that he supported the Taliban (no doubt “critically”) and accused me of being “r..actionary” (he was about to say “racist”) for expressing militantly anti-Islamist views.

    Jim Denham

    January 12, 2014 at 6:47 am

  10. The ridiculous notion that Respect was just fine and dandy until Socialist Resistance left would be less ludicrous if SR hadn’t left with this banner headline,“We wish Respect well” say resigning leaders (November 2010) http://socialistresistance.org/1122/we-wish-respect-well-say-resigning-leaders

    I point this article out:

    (2007 Chartist Magazine),

    Andrew Coates tells a tale of opportunism, egos and splits

    Where to begin? Where to end? Respect’s attempt to create a credible left-wing alternative to New Labour has culminated in a split, ferocious even by the standards of the British left. This won it coverage from Newsnight and Channel Four News reports, and a tide of instant Web reports and comments.

    Nevertheless, beyond the rhetorical fireworks, and the apparent lack of political differences, is there anything to be gleaned from this débâcle? Did it start from false premises? Does the saga of the two fighting wings of Respect throw up issues important to democratic socialists?

    Respect’s feuds appear just another case of the left’s tendency to self-destruct. Yet when it was launched the party looked as if was aiming for an enduring political presence. Called the ‘Unity Coalition’, it was founded in January 2004. It was primarily an electoral vehicle, allying expelled Labour M.P., George Galloway, the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), anti-War Muslims and some small Leninist groups. It stood, if one remembers the mouthful, for respect, equality, socialism, peace, environment, community and trade unions. The main platform was opposition to the occupation of Iraq; Respect was the biggest organised force in the Stop the War Coalition.

    A real bone of contention was Respect’s description of itself as ‘the party of Muslims’. In their dash for electoral gain the party had compromised with the Islamicist bullies described by Ed Husain in The Islamicist (2007).

    De facto alliances, now admitted by the SWP, had been forged with right-wing Islamicists, such as supporters of the reactionary Jamaat-i-Islami party present in the East London Mosque. Secular Bangladeshis were not slow to point to the bloody role the Jamaat played in opposing independence and suppressing the left in their country.

    Communalist appeals led to a growing electoral rival amongst Afro-Caribbean voters in the East End, the Christian People’s Alliance. Salma Yacoob associated with Birmingham mosques that played host to ultra-conservative preachers. Any attempt to oppose this approach was met with cries of ‘Islamophobia’.

    In municipal politics Respect increasingly relied on ‘community leaders’ (including wealthy businessmen) of a Muslim background (Bangladeshi in East London, Pakistani in Birmingham) rather than socialists or trade unionists. Nor was this the only difficulty. Their councillors often operated as councillors frequently do: vying for position, and standing up for ‘their people’ first, squabbling, switching sides, and puffing themselves up, regardless of their party’s instructions.

    More here: http://www.chartist.org.uk/articles/britpol/mar08_coates.htm

    Jim I am sorry to witness Alain Thornett’s trajectory.

    Mind you when he saw me a couple of years ago (at the Levellers’ Day event in Oxfordshire) he visibly recoiled.

    Perhaps he was concerned that I would begin to talk about the impending implosion of the NPA, another ‘project’ of the FI.

    Andrew Coates

    January 12, 2014 at 11:46 am

  11. “A real bone of contention was Respect’s description of itself as ‘the party of Muslims’. ”

    Where was this description agreed by the Respect organisation? Where is it in the manifestos of candidates or policy statements/press releases authorised by Respect?

    Harry Blackwell

    January 12, 2014 at 2:29 pm

  12. What is the NPA? What is important, Harry Blackwell, is not what was in statements and press releases and therefore a part of the official history but what was actually said in the mosques and the meetings in smoke filled rooms, and that Respect was a party for Muslims is exactly what was said.

    It is clear from what you said in your last post that this is going to be the official line of the far left. If it didn’t appear as an official statement it didn’t happen and the suggestions that it did is a lie, a smear etc etc.

    This is exactly what the Leninist left in various forms has always done. Contrast the official history of the East End in the thirties with the party line from Phil Piratin in Our Flag Stays Red and what really happened in the detailed account by Joe Jacobs in Out of The Ghetto. Both books are still available the latter from Eastside Books in Brick Lane.

    Similarly the official account of the ANL When We Touched The Sky by former SWP hack Dave Renton is largely fiction as anyone who lived through that period will attest to.


    January 12, 2014 at 3:43 pm

  13. You know full well it was made in their campaign literature.

    For more criticisms see the Socialist Party’s analysis:
    “THE SOCIALIST, the Socialist Party’s weekly newspaper, carried an article in issue 439 by Judy Beishon on Respect’s election results (see below). Some, particularly the Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP), the backbone of Respect, objected to the following statement in the article: “Respect declares that their twelve council seats in Tower Hamlets are ‘one more than the BNP in Barking and Dagenham’. This would be a cause for great celebration by the left as a whole, if it had been achieved on a clear class-based programme. But instead, unfortunately, Respect could unconsciously further the beginnings of a polarisation based on racial division, by not countering the growing perception that it is a ‘party for Muslims’.”


    Andrew Coates

    January 12, 2014 at 4:38 pm

  14. Comrade Blackwell, I knew this had more than a hint of de-ja-vu about it. In our similar “conversation” over at Cardinal Newman’s organ, you were busy pointing out (in the comments to an article on the “Maoist slavery case” in Brixton) the great openness of your International in forming great and successful unity projects with Maoists, such as in (I think) Portugal and (maybe) Belgium. Of course, you failed to mention the German VSP experience there as well.

    The leaflets on “the party for muslims” are very well known. Yet you choose to judge – bizarrely, in hindsight, when experience should tell you better – Respect on the basis of its programme and manifesto.

    No doubt Stalin’s 1936 Constitution is also worthy as being ‘democratic’, yea, ‘the most democratic’, and therefore useful for ‘defending the Soviet Union’?


    January 13, 2014 at 1:48 am

  15. Ah, yes unity in Belgium,

    “Some will claim perhaps that the “the LCR is kowtowing to the PTB” and so on. It is ridiculous. “They are them, we are us”. We prove it in solidarity with the Syrian revolution, in the fight against the trade union bureaucracy and patriarchy, in the defence of eco-socialism and the self-organisation of struggles. As the Flanders press release says: “the PTB and the SAP have a different vision on a number of questions”. At the same time, the PTB is changing, everyone can see it. We follow its evolution, hoping it will break with Mao-Stalinism without breaking with anti-capitalism… and without adopting the purely verbal pseudo-radical posture of the Greek or Portuguese CPs. But these questions, important as they are, will not stop us from loyally campaigning so that Raoul Hedebouw and Peter Mertens are elected to the Chamber… and all the better if they are not alone. Our wish: that this is the beginning of a new period of common left struggles.”


    The PTB is known as one of the defenders of North Korea.

    Have they really changed on that?

    Que ça se sache !

    Andrew Coates

    January 13, 2014 at 12:32 pm

  16. Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste (NPA).

    “NPA’s Foundation.

    The NPA originates in the Fourth International’s French party, the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (LCR). In 2007 their Presidential candidate, Olivier Besancenot got 1,498, 581 votes in the first round of the elections. Following this, and in line with the (still resonating) wave of ‘anti-globalisation’ protests worldwide it was decided to launch a new party. This would open up the old LCR to changed conditions. A handful of tiny left groups joined, with a much larger number of individual recruits. Committees were set up to prepare the way for what is now the Nouveau parti anticapitaliste. One third of its members come from the LCR, and 45% of National Political Committee.

    Since its formation in 2008 the NPA has defined itself, as a “une gauche de combat, anticapitaliste, internationaliste, antiraciste, écologiste, féministe, révoltée par toutes les discriminations “ that aims for a “transformation révolutionnaire de la société” based on a “nouvelle perspective socialiste démocratique pour le xxie siècle” en mettant fin à l’économie de marché”.

    There is little point in putting the same words in their English form.

    The party did not attain its target of 10,000 members, gaining 9,123 (still three times that of the LCR). It began to have an enhanced role in French political life, partly because of the articulate freshness of its ‘Postie’ Spokesperson, Olivier Besancenot, but also because it was a genuine player on the left. However media stardom did not lead to electoral success. In the of 2009 European Elections the NPA, largely standing alone, got 4,98% and no Euro Deputies.”

    “The Nouveau parti anticapitaliste is moving daily towards a serious split.

    On their site they publish the latest declarations of the various tendencies that make up the organisation, contributions to discussion at the National Body of the NPA, the CPN. The Gauche Anticapitaliste, which has criticised the NAP for its sectarian attitude to the Front de Gauche, and its decision to stand a candidate against Jean-Luc Mélenchon is the target of many attacks.”

    Then July 2012,

    “From 1,15% to Implosion.

    “L’interminable chute du NPA” (the never-ending fall of the NPA) is how the Le Monde Blog Gauche Toujours describes the latest departure from the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste.

    The decision by its minority current (40% of the vote at the party’s 2011 conference), the Gauche Anticapitaliste (GA), to join the Front de Gauche (FdG) has created waves.


    It split.

    It did indeed.


    Andrew Coates

    January 13, 2014 at 1:38 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: