Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Archive for the ‘Trotskyism’ Category

“It’s time for the UK Socialist Revolution” – Workers Revolutionary Party Newsline Rally.

with 5 comments

Newsline, One Of The Two Daily English Language Socialist Papers.

“We support the Russian intervention in Ukraine. They should have intervened before. The US spent $6 billion organising the coup in Kiev in 2014. There were 34 burnt to death at the trade union office in Odessa. In Donbass the working class rejected the fascist coup. Fascists in Ukraine are a very small percentage of the population.”

Workers Revolutionary Party General Secretary Frank Sweeney.

Still going after all those years:

Breaking, Exclusive.

Newsline, 21st of November.

OVER 100 workers, students and youth attended the News Line Anniversary Rally at the Wheatsheaf Community Hall in Vauxhall, south west London on Saturday afternoon.

In his opening speech as chairman of the rally, All Trades Unions Alliance Secretary Dave Wiltshire said: ‘Comrades – I would like to welcome you to this rally celebrating 53 anniversary of the daily revolutionary newspaper the News Line and commemorating the 82nd Anniversary of the assassination of Leon Trotsky by Stalin’s agent.

‘Trotsky the co-leader with Lenin of the world’s first socialist revolution in Russia in 1917 and founder of the Fourth International remained confident of the victory of the world socialist revolution throughout his life.

‘Our party was equally confident when we founded the first revolutionary daily paper 53 years ago.

Our political enemies derided us as living in a fantasy world (surely not!) so confident they were that capitalism was the final, the best social system and it would never be overthrown. Socialism was an unattainable dream and the working class was destined to forever having their labour exploited for the profit of the capitalist class.

‘The working class have had enough of austerity, enough of seeing energy companies making millions for their shareholders while they freeze and their children go hungry. They have had enough of seeing their benefits and wages cut while a handful of bankers and hedge fund spivs wallow in luxury.

‘And enough of being told they must make sacrifices to fund the imperialist war being waged in the Ukraine to weaken Russia in the hope of engineering a regime change that will overthrow the gains of the Russian Revolution that denied the vast wealth of that country to capitalist exploitation.

‘Across the world workers and the impoverished masses are rising up from Myanmar, Sri Lanka through to Europe, the US and Britain.

‘In Britain – the oldest and weakest link in the capitalist chain – the situation has reached a revolutionary turning point.


The final speaker was Workers Revolutionary Party General Secretary Frank Sweeney, who said: ‘We’re proud of the News Line. For 53 years we have produced it on a daily basis six days a week. There have been at least five major attempts to close it down which we have beaten off.

‘The Tory government policy is to make the working class pay for the capitalist crisis. They say we are now in a recession. Capitalism is bankrupt and in its biggest crisis ever.

‘People are going to starve to death, not for lack of food but because of the private ownership of the means of production.

‘The only future being held out is poverty, permanent unemployment and endless imperialist wars. The aim of imperialism is to recolonise Russia and China. What’s driving them is the economic crisis which is ripping them apart.

The tiny fragment of the WRP canal historique exists is odd in itself, but that they justify their Tankie support for Putin on the grounds that there is something left if what Trotskyists called a ‘degenerated/deformed workers’ state’ in Russia is not just distasteful but frankly bizarre.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 21, 2022 at 12:15 pm

One of the best US Left Statements on Ukraine: “Against “Campism” and All Imperialism”. Against the Current.

leave a comment »

A Letter from the Editors: Clarity on Ukraine Against the Current

(This is truly excellent and has echoes of many of our concerns and views on the European left. It comes via Marxism List.

Against the Current is published by Solidarity, USA, a sympathising organization of the Fourth International. It is a bi-monthly analytical journal explaining its goal: as part of our larger project of regroupment and dialogue within the U.S. Left, the journal presents varying points of view on a wide variety of issues. )

AS RUSSIA’S INVASION and its global impacts spread with ruinous impact, it’s high time for factual, political and moral clarity on what this war is about. That requires sorting out a great deal of ideological mythology on all sides.

It shouldn’t be surprising, we suppose, that this war has cut through usual political dividing lines on the right as well as the left. There’s a barely disguised pro-Putin wing in the U.S. Republican Party, generally aligned with Trump/MAGA forces.

More “traditional” neoconservative militarists (and some of the Democratic establishment) see an opportunity to use Ukraine as the battering ram to bring down the Russian regime and cripple its ally China. Others like Henry Kissinger, whose unquestionable imperialist war criminal credentials span four decades of the 20th century, call for Ukrainian “territorial concessions” – meaning surrender and dismemberment — in the interests of stability.

Among parties of the European far right, the German AfD and French Rally (Marine Le Pen) openly sympathize with Russia, while the Polish “Law and Justice” ruling party is militantly pro-NATO, the Hungarian Christian-nationalist regime of Viktor Orban plays both sides, and the newly elected far-right coalition in Italy appears itself to be divided on the war.

The divisions among these reactionary, racist forces and governments are largely conditioned by how to manipulate nationalist sentiments and public fears over Europe’s economic woes; by opportunistic hopes of aligning with what will turn out to be the “winning side;” and by the scramble to secure energy from Russian oil and gas in a pending bitter winter.

On the left, meanwhile, the divisions are over the meaning of imperialism and how to oppose it – in particular, the problem posed by a war in which the aggressor is not “our own” imperialist power, as it has been from Vietnam to Afghanistan and Iraq and so many in between. The fact that U.S. imperialism is as vicious and destructive as ever is not the central issue in the present war.

Socialists need to be clear about our position: We support Ukraine’s war of national survival and its right to receive assistance. We do not support NATO. Thanks to Putin, in fact, NATO and U.S. imperialism have already accomplished strategic goals: NATO’s shaky unity is restored, Finland and Sweden are joining, Germany is ramping up its military spending to and probably beyond the 2% of GDP level, and U.S. “leadership” of the alliance is no longer in question.

To help pose the central questions, elsewhere in this issue we publish an excerpt from a powerful statement by Ukrainian and other European leftists. The full text is available, “Support Ukrainian Resistance and Disempower Fossil Capital.”

First and foremost, this statement presents a powerful case for Ukraine’s right of self-defense against a brutal Russian invasion. The fundamental reality is that this invasion has explicitly stated annexationist objectives and, were it to succeed, a genocidal trajectory that’s already been evidenced in the slaughters of civilians and forced population removals in Russian-occupied territory.

The statement is also clear about the imperialist character of NATO, what it stands for, and the demand for its dissolution and the forging of an anti-militarist alternative to great-power blocs. While addressing a document from part of the German left, its arguments are highly relevant to the debate in the U.S. left, where sectors of the peace movement oppose Ukraine’s right to obtain weapons on the grounds that “arming Ukraine only prolongs the war and suffering.”

These forces, we are sorry to say, include pacifist-leaning organizations – including CodePink, RootsAction and World Beyond War — that have done excellent work around many issues such as the U.S.-Saudi-backed war in Yemen, Washington’s sadistic cutoff of Afghanistan’s foreign reserves, and more.

It is painful to see these groups’ inability to understand the legitimacy of Ukraine’s war against Putin’s invasion, or the deluded notion that Ukrainian surrender or acceptance of territorial amputation would bring “peace through negotiations,” or even the unworldly idea that peaceful resistance by itself would turn back Russian tanks.

A Proxy War?

We don’t suggest these antiwar voices are supporters of Putin, or that they’re anything but sincere in their horror – which anyone with human feelings must fully share – over the death and destruction that’s being inflicted every day on Ukraine and its people.

Rather, the problem is their disorientation over a war that’s not “our own” imperialist crime – and their refusal to address the issue of Ukraine’s right of self-defense. CodePink and RootsAction representatives in particular have declined to answer this question when repeatedly and directly asked. To be sure, they voice their support of Russian draft refusers and the revived Russian antiwar movement, which represents a great hope for us all – but that stance doesn’t respond to Ukraine’s rights.

To justify this unacceptable evasion, some of the U.S. peace movement, along with the International Committee of the Democratic Socialists of America, have come up with the formula of a “proxy war” in Ukraine between the United States and NATO on one side, versus Russia on the other, such that supporting Ukraine’s right to receive weapons means backing “our” imperialist side.

The argument is seductive because it sounds principled, because it points the finger at NATO’s aggressive post-1991 expansion to Russia’s borders, and because it reflects an aspect of reality – but in a highly distorted way. (For some discussion of these issues see our earlier editorial in ATC 218, “Out of the Imperial Order: Chaos” and a statement by Solidarity.)

There is indeed a danger of the war growing to an inter-imperialist conflict – particularly if Russia’s invasion is protracted. The longer it takes Ukraine to defeat the invasion, the greater the danger that the war might escalate and expand. That’s especially true as Putin’s moves to annex occupied territory, under the obscene pretext of fake “referendums” that no one takes seriously, make any prospect of negotiations even more distant.

It’s profoundly mistaken, however, to elevate this potential danger to a primary immediate one — and even worse when leftists do so for essentially ideological reasons to rationalize abstention from supporting Ukraine.

Why? Critically, both NATO and Russian militaries have made clear – for reasons of their own interests — that they have no intention of escalating to direct confrontation. Biden will not supply Ukraine with artillery capable of striking inside Russia. As for Putin’s purported threat to use nuclear weapons, that’s meaningful more as a terrorist bluff than a serious military option. (Today’s satellite-guided weapons of mass murder by precision artillery, high-tech drone strikes and the like make “tactical battlefield nukes” a blunt rather than efficient option.)

The argument that NATO expansion “provoked” the Russian invasion also falls apart on critical examination. As unjustified and triumphalist as it was, NATO’s expansion to strategic states of eastern Europe was substantially completed more than a decade ago, including the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland (1999), Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia (2004), Albania and Croatia (2009). The additions of Montenegro (2017) and North Macedonia (2020) are hardly game-changers.

All this certainly contributed to the ascendance of Putin’s sinister Great-Russian revanchism, but cannot be said to have “provoked,” let alone justified, his assertions in 2021 that Ukraine “is not a real country” and that its people need to be incorporated (subjugated) under Russian rule.

Supposedly, Russia was also provoked by a 2008 promise of Ukraine itself joining NATO, a reckless and frankly stupid U.S.-inspired project — but the Russian regime surely understood that any such action would be vetoed by Germany (and after 2014 Ukraine was not eligible under NATO’s own rules when it didn’t control its territory of Crimea).

In any case, the danger of Ukraine joining NATO is the kind of issue that could have been resolved by a combination of diplomatic and semi-secret agreements. It’s harder now with the outbreak of war where Ukraine’s very existence is at stake.

Some on the left, for example the editors of Monthly Review, have argued at length that the Ukraine war is the culmination of longstanding U.S. intentions to cripple and then fragment Russia itself. Whatever the historical backdrop of such imperialist ambitions, the fact is that the United States and NATO did not supply advanced weapons to Ukraine in advance of the invasion.

Indeed, even though U.S. intelligence accurately predicted the invasion, Washington and other western capitals expected a Russian victory within days with the rapid fall of Kyiv and all of eastern Ukraine. Only the success of Ukraine’s resistance, and the clear refusal of its population to tolerate any consideration of surrender, prompted the West to undertake massive arms supply and ramp up vital intelligence support of Ukraine’s military.

It’s understandable that those who don’t or can’t recognize the centrality of Ukraine’s resistance and popular mobilization can only view this as a Western-inspired “proxy war.” The blind reduction of Ukraine and its people to pawns on the great-power chessboard is a fatal obstacle for efforts to build a peace or anti-imperialist movement worthy of the name.

Against “Campism” and All Imperialism

There are even worse, pro-Russian so-called “campist” left voices who claim to see something “anti-imperialist” in Russia’s drive to stamp out Ukrainian independence and national existence, including the grotesquely misnamed United National Antiwar Coalition. (UNAC has held webinars featuring a former nuclear weapons inspector Scott Ritter, issuing half-deranged declarations that Russian triumph is inevitable and that Ukraine deserves to be destroyed.)

Support of Russia in this war is an absolute betrayal of basic democratic principle, without which any posturing about socialism is empty noise.

We can’t ignore all manner of bitter reactionary consequences of this war. These are gifts provided by Putin, free of charge, to western imperialism.

The suppression of women’s rights and the erosion of democracy in Poland are forgotten as that country becomes a U.S.-backed pillar of NATO’s strategic rearming. Palestine and its people are collateral damage, as happens in almost every international crisis –as the Israeli army’s near-daily murder of Palestinian young people and the destruction of occupied neighborhoods proceeds with almost no media attention.

The Russian regime’s ideological claim that “Ukraine was never a real country” strikingly parallels the longstanding Zionist argument that “there was never a Palestinian nation or state – in each case, justifying colonialism and annexation. More than 30,000 Ukrainian and Russian refugees have fled to Israel while Palestinians remain stateless in their own occupied homeland, or in exile.

At the same time, the threat of starvation in the Horn of Africa brought on by drought and climate change, as well as skyrocketing food prices in much of the Middle East and Asia, are exacerbated by the interruption of critical grain shipments from Ukraine and Russian fertilizer exports.

What will happen in the coming ominous winter months is an open question. We note that at the time when “Support Ukrainian Resistance and Disempower Fossil Capital” was written, the authors saw signs that economic and fuel supply pressures in Europe might be leading western countries to push Ukraine toward surrender. With recent Ukrainian advances and the brutal hardening of Putin’s stance – and the unknown consequences of Russia’ internal crises — that now appears less likely, but it’s important to understand that imperialism is infinitely treacherous and the twists and turns of policy are not necessarily predictable.

We do know that the rising stakes, as well as casualties and the scale of destruction, make clarity about this war all the more critical for any authentic socialist and anti-imperialist politics.

for November-December 2022, ATC 221

Written by Andrew Coates

November 6, 2022 at 5:10 pm

“Moscow’s self-defence against Nato and attempts to force a deal with Washington have been decisively defeated.” Susan Watkins, Editor New Left Review.

with one comment

“Putin’s lurch to war, disastrous for Russia as well as for Ukraine, is unjustifiable. But it was not unprovoked. NATO enlargement has been an aggressive operation and Moscow has always been in its sights. In calling for a stable settlement of military borders, the Kremlin has a good case. From its foundation in 1949, NATO was always an offensive, not a defensive enterprise, whose ultimate objective in American eyes was the restoration of a normal capitalism in the Soviet bloc.” wrote Susan Watkins, the Editor of New Left Review, at the start of 2022 (An Avoidable War. NLR. 133/134 Jan/April. 2022)

Watkins begins the just published NLR 137 Editorial, Five Wars in One, The Battle for Ukraine, by stretching further back. She proposes a key to interpreting the Russian invasion through categories inspired by a “classic analysis” of the Second World War. A footnote reveals this to be Ernest Mandel’s The Meaning of the Second World War (1986).

This was, she asserts, according to the Belgium Marxist (1923 – 1995) and leading figure of the Fourth International, the outcome of five types of conflict. Firstly, “war between the top imperialist powers—Germany, Japan, the us, Britain—competing for the position of world hegemon.”, secondly, “the USSR’s self-defence against the German invasion, protecting the gains of 1917 from Nazi counter-revolution..”, “a third type of war, fought by the Chinese people against Japanese imperialism, which would develop into a social revolution once Allied support for the Kuomintang was cut off. ” “Fourth, and distinct again, were the wars of national liberation waged by anti-colonial forces who refused to fight for their French, British, Dutch and American masters in Indochina, Burma, Malaya, Indonesia and the Philippines, joined by the Quit India movement; these struggles again turned towards social revolution in Indonesia and Indochina.” Finally, …the armed-resistance movements of Nazi-occupied Europe, which in several cases—Yugoslavia, Albania, Greece—took on the character of national uprising, revolution or civil war, while parallel processes in France and Italy saw the emergence of mass communist parties.”

Watkins suggest that, this ” this type of analytical perspective” may help, “to distinguish the different types of conflict involved” behind, and inside, the present battle over Ukraine.

This is curious grille de lecture. Many people will resent being given a lecture on this basis. Not because of the obvious historical differences between the Second World War, or because there are plenty of other ways of classifying the conflicts at work. The present-day list simply unfolds in wildly different directions, “the question of the civil conflict within Ukraine itself.”, secondly, “Putin’s war, the second type of conflict at stake, has an ambiguous double character, defined by its twin adversaries, Nato and Ukraine.”, “a third type of conflict: Ukraine’s war of national self-defence.” fourthly, a conflict, “being waged by the Biden Administration. A former CIA chief describes it as a proxy war: the us exploiting Ukrainians’ courage and their will to fight the Russians, as—for example—it had once armed and advised the Rojava Kurds. “and fifthly, “over-determining Washington’s reactions to Ukraine: the coming battle with Beijing.”

It goes without saying that this strays from the concerns of most people: Russia invaded Ukraine causing untold misery. We stand with Ukraine against this. End of story.

Apart from numbering five, what is the relevance of Mandel? Perhaps there is one. “On the one hand, Russia’s mobilisation began as a desperate defensive gamble against the advance of us military power. On the other, the invasion is a neo-imperialist war of conquest or partition, wavering in scope, provoked by Kiev’s declared option for incorporation into the West.” “in the absence of any de-escalatory escape route, Biden’s refusal to countenance real negotiations helped to tip Russia’s defensive posture against Nato into an aggressive neo-imperialist one towards Ukraine.” “Ideologically, the courage of the Ukrainians and the well-publicised atrocities committed by Putin’s forces on the battlefield have galvanized support for Kiev in the US and Europe far more effectively than lectures about democracy and autocracy from the grinning ghoul in the White House could have done. The official ideology depends of course on keeping up the charade that ‘Ukraine will decide’. In reality, Ukraine is a supplicant on the international stage, dependent on American arms and intelligence.”

In other words, the war has helped muster support for the US and NATO. Or as Mandel put it during the Second World War, that was not a fight to defeat fascism, “but to break the resistance of the German and Japanese bourgeoisies to the maintenance and extension of their own particular interests” backing “their national bourgeoisies in the enterprise, “class collaboration”, led to “the denial or restriction of democratic liberties of millions of workers and peasants in large parts of Europe and Asia.” Though few would find much resonance in politics today in his judgement that this led to to “the strangling of the revolutionary possibilities” in 1945, the following is surely what Watkins has in mind, not just that, “The character of the Biden Administration’s conflict with Russia is unambiguously ‘imperialist’, in the sense that it aims at regime change and the assertion of American hegemony over the Eurasian continent.” but that, looming ahead, “The prospect of a Sino-American conflict, the real focus of the last three administrations in Washington, is the final lock determining the Ukraine war’s dynamic.”

This claim about “American hegemony” harks back to the days of seeing the world as a giant chess board, fought between ‘camps’. But nobody denies Ukraine and Russia are capitalist. So, the battle having been won, what kind of objective does ‘Biden’ have in using military imperial might to back Ukraine? To carve up an already carved world to grab more terrestrial power? Clearly not. To redraw frontiers to include Ukraine in the US? Hardly. Colonisation? ‘Western’ imperialism, global capital, in the age of globalisation is finance and markets, the exploitation of non-market resources, new enclosures, techno-feudalism, not colonies. Moscow, by contrast seems driven by territorial ambitions of the 19th century kind, and national populism in its most extreme form. This is the principal contradiction in play, and everything else is secondary to the present actions of the Russian Federation and its leader, Vladimir Putin.

The journal strays close to the reaction outlined by Edwy Plenel (and repeated in the NPA YouTube video below“ “campisme”, a Un “campisme” de gauche, fonctionnant par antiaméricanisme automatique comme s’il était tenu par le membre fantôme du soviétisme disparu.” Left-wing campism, that operates with a knee-jerk anti-Americanism, as if it came from a phantom limb of the long-gone Soviet Union.” (L’Épreuve et la Contre-épreuve. De la Yougoslavie à l’Ukraine, 2022) As if the issue of Ukrainian self-determination, and above all, its people’s right to live freely without war, is just part of a whole range (five) of conflicts – even we could agree, and those knowledgeable about the details will surely not, on the sketched out list Watkins offers. The squirming of Serge Halami, editorial director of Le Monde Diplomatique, railing against “une gauche atlantiste” and a new “union sacrée” in France, insinuating a fervent pro-Nato stand to Plenel, proves his point not just by acknowledging this book, and the existence of “campism” but by constant reference, like Watkins, to ” l’hégémonie des États-Unis.” The inexistence of the left, his and her left, is surely due more to their failure to carry out the simplest act of human decency, to stand with Ukraine. (Une gauche désarmée face à la guerre. November. Le Monde Diplomatique)

What of Ukraine and Nato’s future? The viscerally anti-EU and pro-Brexit Watkins berates European states for their inability to offer, a ” more accommodating, globally multiculturalist framework that would have made room for rising powers” She adds “After fifty years of sapped sovereignty European states lack the material and imaginative resources for a counter-hegemonic project.”.

This is the preceding conclusion,

Moscow’s self-defence against Nato and attempts to force a deal with Washington have been decisively defeated. Whatever the formal status of the country, Nato will be implanted in Ukraine for the foreseeable future. With Sweden and Finland’s accession, Russia will have a new 800-mile border with the bloc and the Baltic will be a nato lake, with Kaliningrad an isolated anomaly. Unless there are dramatic new developments before the winter, Russia’s war of territorial conquest seems set to freeze into one of defensive attrition that will eventually take a high economic toll. At the same time, unless the us radically changes its game, Ukraine does not appear to have a military strategy to recover the lost fifth of its territory. If, as Zelensky now claims, its aim is the reconquest of Crimea, Kiev’s war will take on a neo-imperial character too, subduing rebel regions. So far, the Biden Administration’s only tactic for achieving regime change in Russia is to drag out the war. Meanwhile, NATO’s truly chilling 2022 ‘Strategic Concept’ document brigades its thirty-odd member states behind Washington in the stand-off against Beijing.

The Fourth International, the wing directly linked the legacy of Ernest Mandel, has issued its own statements. They differ in tone and substance so much from New Left Review that it is hard to believe that the journal and its Editor once moved in its cicles.

Solidarity with Ukrainian and Russian resistance to the war – Statement of 37th Fourth International youth camp.

“The full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine since the 24th of February 2022 marks a clear escalation of the war which had been going on since 2014 in the country. It is aimed at satisfying Great Russian expansionism; it has resulted in numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity; tens of thousands of Ukrainians have already been killed, 15 million have been forced to flee their homes and many of them had to seek refuge abroad. The immediate withdrawal of Russian troops is necessary to stop the sufferings and ensure the democratic self-determination of the people in Ukraine.

We express our solidarity with the Ukrainian people who are the victims of this unjustified assault and support their resistance against the invading and occupying power. We also stand in solidarity with opposition to the war as expressed by Russian activists, many of them having had to flee abroad to escape the authoritarianism of Putin’s regime. We remind Europe that this regime is hailed by many far-right movements which have been on the rise throughout the continent.

We warn against any direct inter-imperialist war between NATO and Russia, all the while striving for the defeat of the Russian invasion. A nuclear conflict would be a disaster the world has only had horrifying glimpses of before.

We call for the cancellation of all Ukrainian foreign debt held by Western powers as well as international financial institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank. This debt has only helped develop a neoliberal regime of capitalist accumulation in Ukraine at the expense of the Ukrainian working class. Freeing these funds would help Ukraine resist the Russian assault and rebuild the country without the interference of Western neoliberal markets.

So far, the sanctions have targeted a limited number of members of the Russian ruling class; they clearly are ineffective in stopping the war.

Furthermore, Western companies continue to trade military components with Russia. We support the expropriation of Russian millionaires’ assets in foreign banks and their redistribution to rebuild Ukraine and support the victims of the war. This requires an international public register of wealth; such a register would also be a necessary first step to impose any meaningful tax on the capitalists of our own countries to make them pay for the economic and social crisis which the war in Ukraine has aggravated while allowing for even more delirious profits for capitalists such as in the spheres of energy and arms sales.

We thank our Ukrainian comrades from Sotsіalniy Rukh for dedicating time to come to this camp and share their experiences; we will stay in solidarity with them and with our Russian comrades to contribute to the defeat of the Russian invasion in any way we can and help rebuild an independent and democratic Ukraine. We hope our exchanges and discussions during and after this camp can help inspire a world free of military blocks and all neo-colonial relations.

Update, out today.

Zelenskyy: A government of millionaires against billionaires.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 2, 2022 at 1:09 pm