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John Ross: from the International Marxist Group to defending “politically socialist” Chinese regime.

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Image result for socialist action uk

Still Around as John Ross Sings Praises of Chinese “Xi’ism”.

John Ross was one of the main figures  in the leadership of the International Marxist Group in mid01970s, elss well known than say Tariq Ali, but considered the main figure.  By the early 1980s when it became known as Socialist Action, but he gradually lost the support of much of its membership. Ross was leader of one of three groups which emerged from the crisis of this group in the mid-1980s, the one which retained the name Socialist Action. They increasingly ceased to function as a normal left-wing group and became a group of advisers to Livingstone, or as critics said, a kind of high-level entryist group  who provided the inner core of  the Mayor’s team.

I write the above as a one-time member of the Opposing Faction to Ross in the 1970s IMG, Tendency A.

Reasons to distrust the groupuscule are many but  this sentence sums up their kind of politics, “Socialist Action also participated in Respect – The Unity Coalition after the 2007 split in that party. Several of its supporters became members of the party and one served as its national treasurer.” They are now said to have influence on Jeremy Corbyn.

The group still has a, kind of, site: Socialist Action.

We cannot dislike  them too much at present  since this is one of their recent policies:  There is no ‘People’s Brexit’

The development of Ross is, which ever way you look at it, curious.

A famously ‘Orthodox’ Trotskyist, who knew his Lenin better than Jesuits know their Thomas Aquinas he has been working in China as an academic economist,   Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China- paid for by the state –  for some time and sings the praises of the government’s ‘socialism’.

He has been posting material like the below, all over Facebook for the last few weeks.

How China’s Socialism Outperforms Capitalist Development Strategies. John Ross.

China has followed an economic development strategy, as analyzed below, that is radically different from the neo-liberal “Washington Consensus” advocated by the IMF. The latter is the dominant development strategy advocated by capitalist countries. This article therefore factually compares the results of what will be termed China’s “socialist development strategy” versus the Washington Consensus.

The reasons for making such a factual comparison are clear. The basis of any serious or scientific analysis is that if facts and theory do not coincide it is the theory that has to be abandoned, not the facts suppressed. This is equally expressed in the Chinese dictum “seek truth from facts.” Anti-scientific “dogmatism” consists of clinging to a theory even when the facts contradict it.

Despite this requirement for factual study, supporters of the Washington Consensus appear to dislike making systematic factual comparisons of the two development approaches. The reasons for this will become evident from the data below. This shows that China’s “socialist development strategy” far outperforms the Washington Consensus. The emphasis placed by China on development strategy and its socialist orientation has obvious implications for other countries.

The term “Washington Consensus” was first coined in 1989 by U.S.-based economist John Williamson – although the actual practical policies were commenced in the late 1970s/early 1980s. The Washington Consensus is a classic form of neo-liberalism. It advocates in terms of economic policy privatization and minimization of the state’s economic role. Its social policy may be described as “trickle down” – a belief that if there is economic growth all layers of society will automatically benefit as the benefits “trickle down” from the richest to poorest. Legally the Washington Consensus states that the overriding goal is the strongest guarantee of private property. Politically, although claiming to be neutral, this combination of policies evidently favours capitalist and conservative political parties.

China’s “socialist development strategy,” which commenced with its 1978 economic reforms, is radically different in its entire framework, and directly counter-posed on key policy issues. China used, in Xi Jinping’s phraseology on economic policy, both the “visible” and the “invisible hand” – not simply the private sector but also the state. Indeed, in China itself, as the Communiqué of the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the CPC stated: “We must unswervingly consolidate and develop the public economy, persist in the dominant position of public ownership, give full play to the leading role of the state-owned sector.”

..

In social policy China, in line with its socialist approach:

  • undertakes conscious programs deliberately aimed at eradicating poverty – these are to be completed in the 13th Five-Year Plan by 2020 by lifting the remaining 70 million people out of poverty;
  • deliberately promotes development through urbanization as a way of moving the population into higher productivity economic sectors;
  • deliberately seeks to narrow the income gap between rural and urban areas;
  • does not rely exclusively on “the market” but deliberately uses state infrastructure spending to raise the economic level of its less developed inland provinces;
  • legally guarantees private property but a key economic role is assigned to the state sector;
  • is politically socialist

China’s Upcoming Communist Party Congress Will Formalise ‘Xi’ism’

John Ross. August the 30th.

Xi Jinping is therefore the first Chinese leader facing a simultaneous combination of China’s transition to a high-income economy with low Western growth. This combination, therefore, produces China’s new policy configuration – ‘Xi’ism’.

Xi Jinping’s organisational position was already consolidated by his official designation as the ‘core’ of China’s leadership. But the previous most powerful leaders of China, Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, are also officially designated in terms of their analysis of the periods of their leadership in terms of ‘Mao Zedong thought’ and ‘Deng Xiaoping theory’. It is therefore likely that China’s Communist Party Congress will also ideologically and in policy terms formalize Xi Jinping’s position in terms of what amounts to Xi’ism.

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Written by Andrew Coates

September 8, 2017 at 12:03 pm

Former International Marxist Group Leader, John Ross, “China made the world’s largest contribution to human rights.”

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Former Leader of International Marxist Group Praises China’s Human Rights Record. 

Note for Jeremy Corbyn – How China made the world’s largest contribution to human rights

By John Ross. October the 20th. 

From this site, “20 years of accurate predictions on China and the world economy  实事求是 – seek truth from facts, Chinese saying originally from the Han dynasty.”

I supported Jeremy Corbyn’s election as leader of the Labour Party. As I have known him for thirty years I know Jeremy Corbyn is the most principled leader of the Labour Party in my lifetime – the most committed to human well-being. On Tuesday he is scheduled to have a personal meeting with Xi Jinping during the latter’s British visit.

The significance of China’s contribution to human well-being can be understood by both Jeremy Corbyn and the left in the US and Europe.

On key issues for the development of China, Britain, and other countries Jeremy Corbyn has the same positions as China. He is an opponent of any US military build-up against China and of proposed measures in trade agreements such as the TransPacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) which are against the interests of the population of the participating countries, China and developing countries in general.

Sections of the British media present a supposed choice that Britain has to choose between either pursuing purely economic interests or criticising China over ‘human rights’. This posing of the issue is totally false – China should be supported precisely because of its contribution to human rights. China has done more to improve the overall situation not only of its own people but of humanity than any other country in the world – as the facts show.

Pause for large intake of breath.

Taking the latest World Bank international definition of poverty ($1.90 daily expenditure at 2011 internationally comparable prices) from 1981 to 2010, the latest data, China has raised 728 million people from poverty. The rest of the world reduced poverty by only 152 million people. China therefore lifted almost five times as many people out of poverty as the rest of the world put together.

To demonstrate what this means for humanity’s well-being 728 million people is more than the population of the EU, more than the population of the Latin American continent, more than twice the population of the US, and 11 times the population of Britain.

For someone with Jeremy Corbyn’s concern for humanity, particularly the least privileged within it, this is the best imaginable news.

Nor is this a gigantic step forward just for China but for human well-being. China’s entire population, not just the poorest, has seen increases in living standards which are without comparison in human history. China’s average annual increase in ‘total consumption’, including not only direct household living standards but education and health spending, has been over eight percent a year for three decades – not only the world’s fastest but by far the most rapid increase in living standards for the greatest number of people in human history. China has brought social security protection to 820 million people, more than the population of the EU, and health care to over a billion – three times the population of the US, almost the population of Africa, and nearly twice the population of Latin America.

The simple but gigantic example of women in China and India graphically illustrates the real issues involved in human rights globally – and women in China and India together constitute one in every five people on the planet. A Chinese woman’s life expectancy is 77 years, and literacy among Chinese women over the age of 15 is 93%: an Indian woman has a life expectancy of 68 and literacy rate over the age of 15 is 66%. India may be a ‘parliamentary republic’, in which Facebook may be used, but (regrettably for India) the human rights of a Chinese woman are far superior to the human rights of an Indian woman.

This presents the issue of human rights in the clearest fashion. The most pressing questions facing the overwhelmingly majority of the world’s population, who live in developing countries, are not those of Western ‘human rights’ campaigns such as those of ‘Amnesty International’. Over 500 million people in India do not have a toilet – for those who live in the real world to have a toilet is a far more important human right than internet restrictions. And if Indian women had the right to move to China, and would live nine years longer and achieve literacy by doing so, innumerable people would move north of the Himalayas – and that is said by someone who wants nothing but for India to make the same progress China has achieved.

Another deep intake of foul breath.

Do these gigantic achievements in human rights in the real sense mean China has no problems? Not a single serious person in China believes this. To take merely some striking issues, major environmental damage exists in China. But despite this real issue overall China’s social and environmental conditions demonstrate that great progress has still been made. Life expectancy, as Nobel laureate Amartya Sen has demonstrated, is the most sensitive of all indicators as it sums up all different pluses and minuses in social, environmental and other indicators. A person in China lives three years longer, and someone in the US two years less, than would be expected from their respective per capita GDPs – showing overall social and environmental conditions in China are significantly better than would be expected from its stage of economic development and in the US significantly worse. But that does not alter the fact that China still has to take huge steps to overcome environmental problems.

Furthermore despite China’s unprecedented achievement in the reduction of poverty, it still has to finish the job by raising another 100 million people out of poverty. It would therefore be highly interesting for Jeremy Corbyn to discuss with Xi Jinping the President’s recent pledge to complete the task of eliminating internationally defined poverty in China by 2020.

As China is still building up its social security system towards the level made possible in Britain and other advanced countries, and as international studies show Britain’s health service to be the world’s most cost efficient, a mutually valuable discussion could take place between Jeremy Corbyn and President Xi on how, taking into account their countries different conditions, both can strengthen their health services.

But what China has no need of at all, indeed what is grotesque given China has produced the greatest improvement in human conditions in human history, is to be delivered sanctimonious lectures by other countries – particularly those whose recent activities include invading other countries, such as Iraq, resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths spreading chaos throughout the Middle East, or whose historical relation to China was to force it to import opium, to burn its greatest architectural achievements, and for a century and a half to hold islands off its coast as a colonies.

I cannot put words in someone else’s mouth, but my summary of the basis for an honest discussion with China would be roughly the following: ‘President Xi, the world rightly greatly admires China’s progress in the improvement in the conditions of human beings, of human rights in the real sense – which are the greatest of any country in the history of the world. We should discuss how other countries can draw lessons from these achievements.

Oh dear, oh dear.

‘As you yourself have pointed out China, as it is still a developing country, still has long path of development ahead. You have set out the “goals of completing the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects by the centenary of the CPC in 2021 and building China into a modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, and harmonious by the centenary of the PRC in 2049 so as to realize the Chinese Dream of the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.” Could you outline this in more detail? And in the same way we study your achievements in improving the conditions of not only China but humanity there may some aspects of our experience China may draw lessons from?

‘I particularly noted your statement of what China sees as its relation to the overall condition of humanity: “Throughout 5,000 years of development, the Chinese nation has made significant contributions to the progress of human civilization… Our responsibility is… to pursue the goal of the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, so that China can stand firmer and stronger among the world’s nations, and make new and greater contributions to mankind.”

Dumbfounded doesn’t begin to cover it.

‘Britain is also one of the world’s great historical nations. I love my country deeply, and the enormous contributions it has made to world culture and science, and in which struggles such as the Suffragettes or to create our health service are a source of great pride. There are regrettably some things in my country’s history, as with every great state, which I am not proud of. Some of these I mentioned and were crimes done by Britain to China. It is therefore particularly gratifying that this negative past can be put behind and China and Britain can now work in conditions of equality and mutual respect. On that basis, in the very different conditions of the two countries, we can both make further contributions to what must be the goal of any country’s policy – the improvement of the condition of human beings, of human rights in the deepest sense, including the right of each country to pursue its own national way of life. On that basis, as with China, my hope is that Britain will not only improve its own conditions of life but make new and greater contributions to humanity.’

Jeremy Corbyn is totally devoted to the interests of humanity, and in particular to the least privileged within it. He can therefore make up his own words. But any balanced reflection on human values will make clear that not only he but the world should rejoice to see that China has been able to take the greatest step forward for real human rights of any country.

Well that’s got it off his chest.

John Ross is a former leader of the International Marxist Group.

At present is part of the group Socialist Action, as can be seen from the above and these, recent articles:

Saturday, 05 September 2015 No China’s economy is not going to crash – why China has the world’s strongest macro-economic structure by John Ross.

Wednesday, 02 September 2015 A victory parade for China and humanity John Ross, on China’s 70th anniversary Victory Parade.

This is how the Labour Leader will receive the Chinese President.

Corbyn to challenge China’s strongman president Xi Jinping over human rights abuse during private one-on-one talks today

  • Labour leader given an unprecedented private meeting with President Xi
  • It came after he threatening to raise concerns at an exclusive state banquet
  • Expected to demand release of hundreds of jailed human rights lawyers
  • He’ll also raise concerns over Chinese steel dumping threatening UK jobs

Labour anti-Europe Group Linked to Tax Payers’ Alliance and Hard-Right Business Campaign.

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Kaye Hoey MP: From International Marxist Group to Patriotic Tax Payers’ Alliance.

A new Eurosceptic Labour group has been accused of acting as a front for the campaign to leave the European Union in the referendum vote.

Labour for Britain, which launched in June and says it picking up strong support from MPs, peers, councillors and activists, aims to “provide a space” for party members who support a “significant change” in the relationship with the EU.

But The Independent has found that it has strong links to Business for Britain, an organisation that is prepared to go further and argue in favour of a British exit from the EU. The Labour group also has ties to the Taxpayers’ Alliance, which has variously argued for further benefits cuts, reducing pensions and eroding trade union rights.

Labour source said: “This isn’t a forum for debate but a front for people who want to erode workers’ rights and raise taxes on families while cutting them for millionaires. I’m shocked Labour MPs would work hand-in-glove with those whose policies run counter to the beliefs of our party.”

Brendan Chilton, the director of Labour for Britain, said the website would shortly be registered to Mr Mills.

“It just was a simple case in the very early days that we needed to get a domain set up and the website purchased, and Labour for Britain at the time hadn’t been established all too long and so we worked with Matthew Elliott to get that done,” he said.

Mr Chilton acknowledged it “certainly can appear” the group is a front for a pro-“Brexit” campaign, but he added: “Our activities to date [show] we are primarily a group that says the Labour Party …will press for reform.”

Independent.

17th of June International Business Times.

A group of Eurosceptic Labour MPs have teamed up with one of the party’s biggest private donors to launch a campaign to push for a “full dialogue” ahead of the promised EU referendum.

The “Labour for Britain” group has the support of John Mills, the founder of household goods firm JML, who gave Labour £1.6m ($2.5m) worth of shares last year.

The organisation, set up by Kate Hoey, Graham Stringer and Kelvin Hopkins, warned that Labour could “weaken the UK’s negotiating position” by supporting the “In” campaign no matter what.

The MPs said in a joint statement: “We believe that the debate about our country’s future in the EU has been dormant within the Labour Party for too long. We need to have a full dialogue within our membership and with our natural supporters.”

Mills, who is also a co-chairman of Business for Britain, claimed that “many Labour voters feel that too much power lies in Brussels rather than with the UK Parliament”.

Kate Hoey is a former member of the International Marxist Group – way back in the 1970s it is true. (here).

This is what she says these days, (New Statesman 19th of June) – all of which puts the disclaimer from Chilton distancing Labour for Britain from the hard right in its true perspective.

What Hoey wants, she tells me, is: “To get back to our parliament the right to make its own laws, the right to have complete control of our economy, to decide everything that relates to our own country … and of course that is fundamentally opposed to what the original aims of the Common Market were”. She also calls for an end to the free movement of people (“People from the Commonwealth are completely penalised when it comes to getting their families in to visit them and yet somebody can walk in from Romania or Latvia with no history of involvement in this country whatsoever”) and the abolition of the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy. “That’s what the Labour Party should be doing instead of going off into a little corner and saying ‘No, no it’s all wonderful and we might want to tinker around a little bit’. We are letting down millions of our own supporters, many of whom voted Ukip and will continue to do so until this is treated in a serious way.”

Even more strikingly, Hoey blames her party’s “extremely unpatriotic” outlook for its increasing alienation from its traditional working class supporters. “They feel very strongly about their country and we have been extremely unpatriotic as a party to our country. There’s just a feeling that we’re half-hearted about being British, we’re half-hearted about the monarchy, we’re half-hearted about the way we see our country in the world. I’m very proud of being British and I think the United Kingdom is a force for good in the world and we seem to feel all the time that we have to put ourselves down because somehow that might upset people”.

…we’ve been taken over by this kind of London, intellectual, academic-y, liberal-y people who feel that, really, if only we just got rid of all those people out there who ask awkward questions about immigration and ask awkward questions about people living off benefits when they shouldn’t be, that Labour would somehow be wonderful.

We hope that’s cleared that up.

Those who claim to be on the left and who back anti-EU campaigns for the coming referendum should reflect on the political evolution of our former comrade.

 

Piers Corbyn: From the IMG and Squatting to Climate Change Denial and the Daily Express.

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It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a climate change denier is in possession of good fortune, and must be in want of right-wing sponsors.

Spiked-on-Line (ex-Living Marxism, Revolutionary Communist Party)

Hat-Tip: Adam Barnett.

Left Foot Forward carries this story: Why is the Daily Express still quoting this crank in its weather stories?

Climate change denier Piers Corbyn believes the earth is ‘cooling’.

The Express reports: Piers Corbyn, forecaster for WeatherAction, said: “It is going to be very warm and sunny, with strong sunshine making it very hot and dry.
“We could certainly beat 24C (75F) or 25C and even nudge close to a 27C (80F) in some spots which get the best of the sunshine.”

Adam notes: “Here’s Piers Corbyn on global warming, from his website” …we point out that the world is now cooling not warming and there is no observational evidence in the thousands and millions of years of data that changes in CO2 have any effect on weather or climate.”

Corbyn is wont to attack “Green Fools” who believe in climate change.

He is a one-man one-idea one-voice rebuttal of Naomi Klein.

On his more than strange website (Weather Action), this cartoon appears,

Embedded image permalink

Hilarious!

This quote gives a flavour of his thinking,

Polar bears did very well in the warmer times. They didn’t die out at all; they didn’t die out in the last 10,000 years, nor during the previous interglacial, nor the one before that. So, they’re just used as a deceitful heartthrob; you know, to pluck your heartstrings because the polar bears might die out.

This has drawn the admiration of London May Boris Johnson (Daily Telegraph. January 2013),

I wish I knew more about what is going on, and why. It is time to consult once again the learned astrophysicist, Piers Corbyn.

Now Piers has a very good record of forecasting the weather. He has been bang on about these cold winters. Like JMW Turner and the Aztecs he thinks we should be paying more attention to the Sun. According to Piers, global temperature depends not on concentrations of CO2 but on the mood of our celestial orb. Sometime too bright the eye of heaven shines, said Shakespeare, and often is his gold complexion dimmed. That is more or less right. There are times in astronomical history when the Sun has been churning out more stuff — protons and electrons and what have you — than at other times. When the Sun has plenty of sunspots, he bathes the Earth in abundant rays.

Adam is not equally  impressed,

But Mr Corbyn is in a league of his own. As a study by researchers at the University of Sunderland into his wacky method of making weather predictions months in advance reported: “Some forecasts are clearly very good, and a few are very poor, but the majority fall in the grey area in between, where an optimistic assessor would find merit, but a critical assessor would find fault.“ In other words, you could get as reliable a weather forecast by looking out of a window.

I looked out of my window during the Winter and noticed it was oddly warm the whole time, with no snow at all in Ipswich. Corbyn proved wrong! In the 1970s Piers Corbyn (Wikipedia) was a member of the International Marxist Group.

His ‘student cell’, based in London University affiliate (independent since 2007) Imperial College, was somewhat separate to other IMG  London student groups. Notably from the Central London Cell, ULU, Central London Poly and FE colleges,  (I was a member, doing my ‘A’ levels at Westminster Further Education College), and the LSE cell.

The little band of Imperial College strugglers that Piers was part of rankled the Uni authorities and the NUS top-knobs. Apart from that I personally knew little of them.

This recounts part of Piers’ political career, described in a highly unsympathetic not to say, sub-Spart, way by an anarchist, (BM Blob. 1988).

One spokesperson that became well known was Piers Corbyn. He was a Trotskyist apparatchik belonging to the International Marxist Group (before the IMG dissolved itself into the Labour party). His influence was immense as regards general Elgin Ave policy and the line taken by the squatters newspaper (EASY-Elgin Avenue Squatters? Yes! ) This newspaper emphasized getting support from this or that institution (e.g. Young Liberals or, Paddington’s then Labour MP) and rubbished the libertarian current which called for “Free Housing for all” instead of the usual “nationalize the land” nonsense. The former demand was put forward by The Diggers who had a few years earlier been based elsewhere in Notting Hill. Later they were to become the backbone of the Rainbow Tribe Tepee people (c/f above photo) and The Peace Convoy.

This continues in a similar vein:

Despite all the mystifications and contradictions surrounding an alternative lifestyle, they nonetheless in Elgin Ave and elsewhere called for a radical approach to housing. Although Corbyn was an adept entryist and able, at times, to push para-state bodies like Student Community Housing (SCH) and the obsessively legalistic, Family Squatting Advisory Service (FSHS) he also kept getting way-laid by the libertarian atmosphere of Notting Hill. He once noted for instance how a guy known as “Shaky Dave” found in building street barricades, more therapeutic help than anything social workers, asylums or drug dependence had to offer. Later – befitting the trajectory of the IMG – Corbyn became a Labour party councillor in Southwark (Elgin Ave was rehoused in Camberwell) where from his bureaucratic perch, he defended the Pullens Estate and other Southwark squatters against the more Militant controlled Southwark Council who were evicting them. Many a Southwark squatter has mouthed-off about Corbyn, often saying how his presence spreads the illusion that something can be done by reforming the Council, thus pacifying the necessary direct action. One anarchist even punched him in the face.

There was an interview with Corbyn about the Notting Hill period on the BBC 4 series, “Lefties”. He has we learn, left the Labour Party. Down in his manor another opportunity opens: The Republican Socialist Campaign in the General Election for Bermondsey and Old Southwark, 2015

Republican Socialist Stands for Bermondsey The Republican Socialist Party (RSP) has chosen its first ever parliamentary candidate for the constituency of Bermondsey and Old Southwark, the seat currently held by Simon Hughes. Steve Freeman, who stood for the constituency as an independent in 2010, has agreed to stand.

Pundits are confidently predicating that Steve may well, possibly, get into double figure votes. With all that lovely climate change denying dosh sloshing about Piers will no doubt be tempted to support a fellow struggler for truth. Or perhaps he is happy with the UKIP backing Daily Express.

The International Marxist Group and the SWP Crisis.

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IMG High Hopes

The International Marxist Group, and the Present Socialist Workers Party Crisis.

“For us, a socialist revolution means…the dissolution of the existing capitalist state, the expropriation of the possessing classes from the means of production, and the construction of a new type of state and economic order…..the emergence of such forms of second power, incarnating the sovereignty of a proletarian democracy alternative and antagonistic to that of bourgeois democracy, must be the long term strategic goal of the socialist movement….the tradition to which these conceptions belong is broadly speaking that of Lenin and Trotsky, Luxemburg and Gramsci.”

Perry Anderson, Arguments Within English Marxism. Extracts. Pages 194-5 1980.

“For most students the roster of Bebel, Bernstein, Luxemburg, Kautsky, Jaurès, Lukács, Lenin, Trotsky, Gramsci have become names as remote as a list of Arian bishops.”

Perry Anderson, Renewals. New Left Review. Second Series. No 1. 2000.

It is not always easy to talk about the political past. People move on, they find ideas that they worked with do not fit the present, or their own needs, they take on new political identities, they reinterpret their old ones. This is even more the case on the committed left. The IMG was such a highly dedicated force, or at least had considerable activist energy, during the 1970s. It was strongly revolutionary. On demonstrations, for years after the 1973 Chile Coup, its members shouted Armed Road, Only Road, One Solution Armed Revolution!

There is no British film, like Romain Goupil’s Mourir à trente ans (1982) which recounts the life of Michel Recanati of the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (LCR), that captures the intense atmosphere that enveloped their sister Party, the IMG. As yet only sketches of the Group (of which this is one), and some account in John Callagham’s book on the British far-left (1987),  are available for those interested in the history of this left.

But the IMG has reappeared, if not in substance, at last in reference, in the debates around the current SWP crisis. The SWP leadership has criticised its so-called ‘permanent factions’, that is the competing tendencies that existed within the IMG. Mike Macnair in the Weekly Worker develops a substantial argument around this (which we will return to (SWP and Theory. 28.2.13). Alex Callinicos has made another reference. He has claimed that SWP oppositionists, associated with the journal Historical Materialism, would like to see it play the role that New Left Review did for the IMG – separate and independent, but very influential. Or to put it in his own words, they had the “NLR syndrome’—Perry Anderson sought to profile himself as self-appointed generalissimo of the class struggle.”

The IMG.

There is a simply and obvious reason for these references. The International Marxist Group, (IMG. 1968 – 1982) was, during the 1970s, the chief rival, politically if not organisationally, of the International Socialists/Socialist Workers Party (founded in 1977). It was, from 1969, the British section of the Trotskyist Fourth International. The IMG described the International Socialists as “centrists”, that is not full-bloodied revolutionary Marxists. In 1972 Tariq Ali had predicted, “This, coupled with an increasing adaptation to left social-democracy, will mark the decline of IS as an organisation containing many dedicated revolutionaries” (The Coming British Revolution. 1972)

The IMG was a ‘cadre’ organisation, that is people were ‘candidates’ expected to undertake education and show commitment before full membership. Reaching up to 1,000 members at its peak towards the end of decade the Group underwent, as Mike Macnair writes, a series of “wrenching turns” as it developed. In 1973 its “main strategic goal” was the “preparation of organs of dual power immediately before or during the general strike” in Britain (Tasks of the IMG. International Vol. 2. No 2. 1973). In 1976 the objective had shifted to the construction of a “class struggle left wing”, a “united front” to break with the “bureaucracy” of the labour movement. (The Programme We Need. International Vol. 3. No2. 1976).

The IMG’s ‘action plan’ thereafter evolved ever closer to “left social democracy”, as its relaunched ‘broad’ paper, Socialist Challenge (1977). The name of the paper indicates a shift. What else could it refer to but Stuart Holland’s The Socialist Challenge (1975) and the Alternative Economic Strategy (AES) that developed on the Labour and trade union left? Despite standing as Socialist Unity (with Big Flame) in the 1979 General Election it became more and more directed towards Labour activists. By 1982 the IMG was dissolved. As the Socialist League it ‘entered’ the Labour Party.

During this period the IMG had close ties to New Left Review (NLR). The Editor Perry Anderson wrote in 1976 of the “objective possibility of the reappearance of the political ideas associated with Trotsky in central areas of working-class debate and activity.” (Page 101. Considerations on Western Marxism. 1976) Anderson’s commitment to the strategy of ‘dual power’ has already been cited.* The Managing Editor, Robin Blackburn, and several others, closely linked to the journal, including Norman Geras, Tariq Ali and Quintin Hoare, were active members of the IMG. The background of many of its debates is best looked at through NLR’s pages rather than in the IMG’s official documents.

The IMG’s internal life was marked by conflicts between a number of different ‘factions’, called ‘tendencies’. Comrade Macnair describes them as follows. “Between 1970 and 1979 there was continuously a (small) minority faction which supported the line of the US SWP, led by Alan and Connie Harris, under a variety of names. Beyond this, there were several oppositional factions (called ‘tendencies’) in pre-conference discussions, but mostly they did not lead to ‘no overall majority’ and dissolved after the conference. At the 1973 conference there were, indeed, multiple factions – the larger ones beyond the pro-SWP tendency, the Alan Jones (John Ross), Tony Whelan, ‘New Course’ (Pat Jordan, Peter Gowan, Tariq Ali and others) and Robin Blackburn tendencies – and no majority. The conference, as was USFI practice, gave the largest minority, the Jones tendency, a working majority on the national committee.”

Some may have a slightly different description. Apart from pure US SWP imported ‘The Faction’ (Capitalised), with a cultist air; there were fairly stable divisions. These was the ‘majority’ the ‘Ross’ led grouping (Tendency ‘B’), which looked to the 1930s/1940s American SWP ‘Cannon’ model of ‘building the proletarian party’, and the British Labour left as a potential ally and (eventually) the AES as a way forward. Against them were the more European inspired IMG members (including all the New Left Review writers), Tendency ‘A’. They looked to the French LCR, and the leading theorist of the Fourth International, Ernest Mandel. They were (in the 1970s) more sceptical about the Labour Party and the AES (amongst other items, its proposals to introduce import controls and withdrawal from the, then, ‘Common Market’).

We would say that conflicts between these – partially shifting – groups did mark the internal life of the IMG to a strong degree. They must have led to a degree of political paralysis but as Macnair points out, the way this was avoided was a lot worse,

He states that in the IMG the, “core group in the apparatus was not willing to lay political turns and differences within this group before the membership, at conference; it would wait until its re-election was secure before announcing a new turn. This was, at the end of the day, functionally the same ‘not in front of the children’ behaviour as the SWP’s ban on permanent factions: differences at the top and changes of line were to be kept within the leadership, not referred to the members for decision: the apparatus had to present a united face to the membership, at least in circumstances where the leaders might lose their jobs.”

So whether moments of political immobility would have been a bad thing, given the abrupt change of line from ultra-left rhetoric to Labour left, is not clear. A brief holiday and some horse-trading might (as in all might ofs.. pretty uncertain) stabilised the IMG around a common project.

In the event it was continually wracked by change. There were plenty of them: ‘Bolshevising’ the group by a cell structure; a sudden mass campaign for a ‘No’ vote in the Common Market Referendum to the ‘turn to industry’; sending comrades into manual jobs (as always not involving the previous Central Committee itself). Macnair describes the demiurge behind this process, John Ross, as a kind of Tony Cliff. He was always “bending the stick” (with Lenin’s Complete Works to justify this). From some quarters virulent dislike of Ross, who leads a comfortable existence as an advocate of the Chinese Model, and leader of the miniscule Socialist Action, indicates the endurance of the strong feelings of those days.

Dual Power in Practice?

The backdrop to all the IMG debates of the 1970s was the expectation that Europe would experience revolutionary upheavals. To the Fourth International 1968 had thrown up a “new vanguard of mass proportions, by and large eluding the control of the traditional workers’ organisations”. (The Building of Revolutionary Parties in Capitalist Europe. International. Vol2. No 2. 1973). Their objective was to “crystallise into a serious Marxist political organisation”. The FI would win hegemony, and create a real international organisation on this basis. When the “next explosion of mass struggle occurs” they will be there to help create a system of “dual power” for the “logic of the revolutionary situation to unfold.”

We quoted some of the IMG’s early 1970s predictions of imminent British dual power, in this vein. It is hard to disagree with Geoff Roberts of the Communist Party of Great Britain, that its premise was to expect “revolutionary upheavals” everywhere including in the United Kingdom. (The Politics of the IMG. Marxism Today. February 1976) Indeed there were those within the Group who referred to Lukács and the “actuality” (that is contemporary reality) of the “revolution”.

April 1974 saw the start of the actual Portuguese ‘Carnation Revolution” which the IMG foresaw would the “foundation stone of the United Socialist States of Europe.” (Editorial. International. Vol.2. No3. 1974) The perspective of a wider ‘Iberian’ revolution appeared with “a Socialist Spain, a Socialist Iberia, and a Socialist Europe” was on the agenda. (Portugal, Spain.Towards the Iberian Socialist Revolution. 1975)

This was not to be. Ernest Mandel’s promise that the next Fourth International Congress would take place in a liberated Barcelona failed to materialise (Page 196. Ernest Mandel. A Rebel’s Dream deferred. Jan Willem Stutje. 2009). In retrospect it was not any ambiguity on the part of the FI’s tiny section, the LCI, towards, the still strong, Portuguese Communist Party (PCP) and the land’s Fifth Provisional Government, that was at fault. Nor that the fragmented Spanish groups with which it was linked remained isolated partly because of their own divisions.

Portugal and Spain were simply ‘caught up’ in a massive drive to normalise their political structures on Western European models. Generous external funding helped this. Internal political support – not least from sections of the people’s themselves – quickly excluded any revolutionary possibilities. It was the reformist Socialist parties, led by Mário Soares in Portugal and then by (most markedly) by Phillipe González’s PSOE,  rapidly ‘modernising’ before the word got into more general use, in the region who became political players, not the left.

Yet as the decade wore on most of the IMG remained united around what Robin Blackburn called “working for the emergence and victory of institutions of dual power. This entails striving to develop a revolutionary alternative to reformism in the working class movement and thus educating and preparing the working class for the creation of their own instruments of power.” (What is the Democratic Road to Socialism? International Vol. 3. No 4. 1977). In 1979 Ernest Mandel admitted that the Portuguese revolutionary process had now “ended temporarily” (Page 48. Revolutionary Marxism Today 1979). However Mandel avoided predicting further ‘dual power’ crises, preferring to talk more vaguely of Southern Europe being “on the verge of a pre-revolutionary situation almost continuously” (Ibid)

Did the IMG and the FI only manufacture illusions about socialist revolutions that never happened? Not at all. Amongst the differences that marked them out from both ‘orthodox’ Trotskyism and the SWP of the period was its insistence on democracy. That is, not only did revolutionary parties have to have a “democratic internal life”, but that there “are no infallible parties…no infallible party leaderships, party majorities, ‘Leninist central committees’ or individual party leaders”. In workers’ state there should be

“unfettered political freedom for all those individuals, groups, tendencies, and parities who in practice respect collective property and the workers’ constitution.” (Socialist Democracy and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. Resolution of the United Secretariat of the Fourth International. Imprecor. No 10. 1977).

The Failures of the 1970s.

The International Marxist Group underwent great changes as the 1970s failed to produce a mass shift to the left, let alone Perry Anderson’s “second” or “dual power”. In 1982 Tariq Ali and Quintin Hoare wrote a “balance-sheet” of this period.

The second half of the seventies, however, administered a series of brutal shocks to the entire ‘new vanguardist’ perspective. The fall of Saigon to the armed battalions of Vietnamese Communism did not coincide with a successful proletarian revolution in Portugal. On the contrary, not only did not Lisbon Commune emerge but virtually the entire European revolutionary left failed the test of how to respond adequately to the tumultuous events which were to climate in the restabilisation of the bourgeois order some groups tempted by military adventurism, others tailing the Communist Party in its undemocratic manoeuvres with sections of the officer corps.(Socialists and the Crisis of Labourism. New Left Review. 1st series. 132. 1982)

Ali and Hoare root the difficulties of the revolutionary left in their inability to “intervene with a conception of socialist democracy capable of convincing the mass even of the industrial workers of its superiority to the bourgeois democracy offered by Soares.” They list the other failures of the revolutionary left, from the implosion of Maoism as the reality of the Chinese Communist Party became more and more apparent, to the widespread inability of the radical left to grow, or to have a wider political impact, apart from (uniquely in the latter, impacted, sense) the Italian far-left’s descent into the ‘years of lead’. It would seem not just a strategic failure, but the whole idea that there was a “new vanguard” that was “detached” from traditional politics to the point where it was open to revolutionary Marxism was false. That there was no new ‘constituency’ on the left for ‘new parties’.

The answer, for Ali and Hoare, was to be found in a “united front between the Labour left and Marxists”. In other worse, the left could not create a new party at all, at least in Britain. The Marxists would need, they asserted the newly founded Socialist Society (New Left l and ll figures, from Stuart Hall, Raymond Williams, to supporters of the ‘Anderson’ New Left Review and others) to supply a “cultural” and “ideological” front. Socialist activists inside the Labour Party and the unions could offer the practical workers. The AES would meld them together.

The Socialist Society itself was to dissolve, its own leadership reduced from the original broad front. In the late 1980s it helped hold the Chesterfield Conferences that seemed, for a time, to function, as Ali and Hoare would have wished. It was involved in what is now called a “network” of activists and theorists. But the Collapse of Official Communism in 1991, and its fall-out, undermined any consensus about what ‘socialism’ meant. As the quote from Anderson that heads this intervention indicates, people drifted away from Marxism, their frame of reference changed. The fate of the Labour left was marginalised by the rise of modernisation and then Tony Blair. . Attempts to ‘refound’ the left on first principles, to launch left parties, up to the Socialist Alliance, have not been successful.

What of those who wished to continue building revolutionary parties? Not everybody agreed that the game was over. For Alex Callinicos, by contrast, the SWP had become a winner by keeping its head.

“The British International Socialists (SWP from 1977 on) went through an acute crisis at the end of the 1970s, in which the main issues were, first the very question of whether or not the upturn which had brought down Heath was over, and second, the problem of how to relate the “new social movements” responding to various forms of oppression (of women, blacks, gays, etc.) to the working-class struggle for socialism. Eventually these arguments were resolved and the SWP was able to weather ten years of Thatcherism with a membership of something over 4,000 in good political spirits”(Trotskyism. 1990)

The SWP has never become a mass party. Its past and present problems do not need rehearsing here. Louis Proyect notes their ‘deeping degeneration’ which may well be true. At least some of their difficulties  come from the belief that there they are the group that can occupy the political space – such as it is – opened up in the wake of ’68. That is, to put it no lower, they think they are on the side of history. For those inclined to read a more detailed, and highly amusing,  analysis, Soviet Goon Boy comes strongly recommended.

That at least is part of Mike Macnair’s analysis. For him “The IMG, the LCR and the IS/SWP were all at the end of the day ‘children of 68’. In place of these reasons for a working class political party, and for organisation independent of the class-collaborators, they defined themselves as ‘revolutionary’ by commitment to events like May 68.” He continues, “By the end of the 1970s, this concept of ‘revolution’ was plainly useless to concrete political perspectives. What it left behind was ‘initiatives to draw masses into action’. But such initiatives, if to be taken by small groups, logically implied political capitulation to the class-collaborators.” The conclusion, “The IMG collapsed because the capitulators won.”

Class-collaborators are always with us, like those (the Weekly Worker included) who joined the Respect Coalition, perhaps? May 68 was, by all accounts, something a lot more rare. It was not an Event in the pompous metaphysical way Alain Badiou now labels it. But it did open up some long-termer political space for the left. Its more spontaneous legacy may be found in the self-organised activity of the Internet as well as in ‘social movements’ , ‘networks’ and even parties, A dislike of authoriarianism may be an enduring trait.

It could be that it  is this that has finally caught up with the SWP.  In this sense we democratic leftists are all children of ’68’.

It was not, however, only such ‘events’ that determined the life and dissolution of the IMG. It was a thoroughly wrong ‘conception of the epoch’ in which events were merely the signs of an underlying structure. Revolutions, ‘dual power’, were ready to spring into life as a ‘crisis’ unfolded. The left, networked with its ‘practical workers’ would rush up, undergo what Ali and Hoare call a “process of splits and fusions”, and something, something – a Party – would emerge. When belief in these principles waned, so did the IMG in its organised, united, form, ended. That is why it “collapsed”. But much of its wider legacy, its democratic and New Left side, and many of its former members, continues to be present on the left.

Some kind of union of the left (and please, please, no more ‘coalitions’), not in a revolutionary climate but here and now, faced with the dire right-wing Liberal-Tory government, may yet happen.

Some of us still think that before any of this, we are still stuck in the process of ’refounding’ the left.

I always had a soft spot for those Arian bishops.

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* The terms is obvious to all Marxists, “The basic question of every revolution is that of state power. Unless this question is understood, there can be no intelligent participation in the revolution, not to speak of guidance of the revolution.

The highly remarkable feature of our revolution is that it has brought about a dual power. This fact must be grasped first and foremost: unless it is understood, we cannot advance. We must know how to supplement and amend old “formulas”, for example, those of Bolshevism, for while they have been found to be correct on the whole, their concrete realisation has turned out to bedifferent. Nobody previously thought, or could have thought, of a dual power.

What is this dual power? Alongside the Provisional Government, the government of bourgeoisie, another governmenthas arisen, so far weak and incipient, but undoubtedly a government that actually exists and is growing—the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies.”

V. I.   Lenin The Dual Power 9 April 1917.

There is also this interesting blog on the IMG.