Written: February 1944
Source: Workers' International News vol. 5 no. 6 (February 1944)
Transcription: Maarten 2006
Markup: Emil 2006
Proofread: Needs doing.
The question of the International is the key question of our epoch. In it is involved the fate not only of the I.L.P. but of the working class throughout the world for many decades to come. That is why it is of decisive importance for revolutionaries to have complete clarity as to what we mean by rebuilding the International.
From this point of view the contributions of Ridley and Brockway to the Internal Bulletin reveal a deplorable lack of understanding of the problem. Ridley's contribution, which is so enthusiastically praised by Brockway, does not once really get down to the basis of the problem. He starts off on the wrong foot immediately by introducing entirely irrelevant and erroneous conceptions on the "internationalism" of the Mohammedans and of the bourgeois revolution. As a self styled Marxist Ridley should know better than that. Internationalism is not an idea which has its application at any period in history. The material basis has to be prepared if the idea of internationalism is to assume any reality whatsoever. That was precisely the historic role of capitalism: the development of the entire globe into a single economic inter-dependent whole through the creation of a world market, to which every country's and even every continent's economy is indissolubly linked and bound. This is the material basis which links the interests of the workers of all lands and on which Marx built his conception of internationalism. The slogan: Workers of the World unite! was not put forward from a sentimental point of view - which was completely foreign to Marx - but as a scientific expression of the interests of the working class; an expression of the interests of the development of world economy. To talk about the possibilities of internationalism before the development of capitalism as a world economy has laid the basis for it, is to deal with the question from a vulgar utopian point of view, and to reject the very elementary basis of Marxism.
That this lapse is not an accidental one, is shown by Ridley's treatment of the problems of the rise and decline of the first three internationals and his light-minded attitude towards the problem of the Fourth International.
Even accepting the explanation given by Ridley that the conditions of imperialism led to the decline and degeneration of the Second and Third Internationals, not to speak of the first, what follows from this? To argue the inevitability of this decline from the objective conditions of capitalism alone, is to reason not as a Marxist but as a fatalist. Precisely on this question, more than any other, the "dialectical" approach Ridley uses this expression while employing a crassly empirical method is necessary. This can be seen by Ridley's references to the Bolshevik Party. He writes:
"The revolutionary character which Bolshevism alone among the parties of the Second International, still retained, was due primarily to the still feudal-absolutist nature of the Russian state, which made reformism impossible."
As an explanation of the development of the Bolshevik Party and of its success, this falls rather short of the mark, to say the least. The "feudal absolutist nature of the Russian State" did not prevent the development of Menshevism which played the dominating role in the early stages of the Russian revolution. Nor did it prevent Zinoviev, Kamenev and Stalin from taking up a fundamentally false attitude during the course of the revolution; an attitude and policy which, if carried out, would have made the victory of the Russian revolution impossible. Had their fatal course been followed and the revolution been irretrievably wrecked, no doubt Ridley, with his erudite historical method, would have announced with his air of great profundity "Russia is a backward feudal country entirely unripe for socialism (which incidentally was the argument of the Mensheviks at the time). Given the immaturity of the proletariat and of social relations, the seizure of power by the workers was a fantastic dream."
This false conception of the development of world history is shown in the reason he gives for the failure of the Third International which was conceived on Ridley's admission on the basis of a complete break with reformism and its policies.
"These can be reduced to two: the failure of International revolution in the first phase 1919-26, and the subsequent impossibility of 'combining' an active policy of world revolution with the economic needs of the backward Russian State. We may add that the first of these two causes had itself a double root in: the corruption of the Western workers by imperialism (cp. section on International) and in the organisation of the Comintern, which, arising on the still mediaeval soil of Russia, adopted inevitably pre-democratic, pre-capitalist forms of organisation which unfitted it for victory in the more advanced Western world, which had already traversed its bourgeois democratic revolution. To lead an anti-capitalist revolution from a pre-capitalist soil was to lead history from behind. Sooner or later, the world revolution had to be sacrificed to the needs of Russia or vice-versa. This was the basis of the Trotsky versus Stalin controversy
Ridley's reasons for the collapse of the International explain precisely nothing, in fact they reveal that Ridley has not the slightest understanding of the basic lessons of our epoch. In the first place why was it impossible to combine "an active policy of world revolution with the economic needs of the backward Russian state"? Far from being in conflict (this is a conception that, like much else, Ridley has borrowed from the Stalinists whom he professes to despise, and indeed, if correct could serve as a justification of the policies of the Russian Stalinists) the two were and, even today, are indissolubly bound together. It is not an accident that the idea of Five Year Plans was developed by the internationalists and opposed in the initial stages by Stalin. It is not the economic interests of Russia which are in conflict with the international revolution, but the interests of the Stalinist bureaucracy; and incidentally the latter are contradictory to the "economic needs" of the Soviet state as well.
This one point in itself is an example of Ridley's anti-Marxian and shallow method of analysis. The explanation for the failure of the international revolution is about on the same level. The "corruption" of the Western workers did not prevent them in the period 1919-26 from advancing on the road of revolution. The German revolution, Austrian, Hungarian, Bulgarian, etc.; the seizure of the factories by the Italian workers; the revolutionary possibilities in France and Britain during 1918-20; the revolutionary situation in Germany in 1923; the general strike in Britain in 1926 Ridley is completely blind to these. His petty bourgeois arrogance can only see corruption of the workers. In fact, no other period in history has witnessed so many heroic and selfless attempts on the part of the masses in the West to overthrow capitalism, to deal with Europe alone. Heroic efforts which were continued with the movements of the Belgian, Austrian, Spanish and French workers in the last decade. No more could possibly be asked of the workers than their insurrectionary replies to the crimes of imperialism since the last world war.
It is precisely on the basis of the lessons of these unsuccessful attempts, that the new international must be built. To these, the sectarian-centrist Ridley is completely blind, as his second reason discloses: "Sooner or later the world revolution had to be sacrificed to the needs of Russia, or vice-versa." Why? However, there is no need to dwell on this point. But Ridley makes an assertion with regard to "organisation" of which he does not bother to give the slightest proof. In fact precisely the opposite is the case. The history of the last few decades is marked by many revolutions. Only one was victorious. Because of the absolutist-feudal regime which produced an absolutist-feudal organisation to combat it ? that is what Ridley is attempting to imply. Utter rubbish! The Russian Revolution was victorious because not only all the other conditions for revolution were present they have been present many times in other countries of the East and West, not only the objective conditions were present, but the subjective as well: the existence of a Bolshevik Party and a Bolshevik leadership with Bolshevik organisational method with a correct policy based on revolutionary Marxism.
The great contribution of Lenin to Marxism was not only in theory but precisely on the question of organisation. The immaturity of the revolutionary vanguard and the mistakes which flowed from this was the cause of the failure of the Communist International in the early years; the absence precisely of Bolshevik Parties and Bolshevik methods of organisation ensured the doom of the revolutions after the war.
In Germany one of the reasons, if not the main reason for the failure of the Spartacists under Rosa Luxemburg to lead the German revolution to success was the fact that the German revolutionary left was not organised as a Bolshevik Party and with Bolshevik methods. Or perhaps Ridley, with his social revolutionary fatalism would argue that Luxemburg and the German revolutionaries were also corrupted by German imperialism?
Ridley asserts that the methods of the Bolsheviks pertained to "pre-capitalist" Russia: that is, they were good enough for barbarian and backward Russians but certainly not for cultured "intellectuals" of the Ridley stamp. Far from the method of organisation stemming from Russia's past, it was created by Lenin, as was Bolshevism itself, on the importation of Marxism, i.e. "German English French" socialism into Russia. However, exactly the opposite conclusions would flow from Ridley's argument if he had thought out the question clearly. According to his method of analysis the development of the Labour movement in the West was conditioned by the "corruption" of the workers, whereas the Russian absolutism produces Bolshevism. Consequently, the so-called "democratic" methods of organisation of the Socialist movement in the West are an expression of the corruption of the working class, according to this logic. To put the problem thus is to demonstrate its absurdity. If the argument on organisational structure has any validity at all, it can only be that Bolshevik organisation has stood the test of history; all other methods have brought the proletariat to catastrophe.
If Ridley, and also the I.L.P. N.A.C., which has apparently endorsed Ridley's ideas in the main, can criticise in detail the alleged mistakes in the organisational structure of the Bolshevik Party, an eager and expectant public has yet to see these committed to paper. If they have a brand new and infallible set of organisational rules which can guarantee success, it would certainly be of interest and enlightenment to study them. Till then Marxists will stick to the organisational method and principle of Bolshevism a method which guarantees a greater measure of proletarian democracy through the method of democratic centralism than any other yet developed.
Having arrived at the conclusion which has now penetrated even into the skulls of the N.A.C. centrists (at least in their formal statements) that the Second and Third Internationals have collapsed, Ridley proceeds to examine the problem of the Fourth.
"Trotsky was undoubtedly a revolutionary genius, but was too egotistic for a successful practical politician"
Coming from Ridley, such a trite and frivolous remark could he ignored, except that it demonstrates the real narrowness of outlook which makes him attempt to ascribe his own limited outlook to those he criticises. Probably Ridley is still smarting at the memory of the just criticism levelled against him by Comrade Trotsky when he advocated in 1931 the idea of immediately proclaiming the Fourth International! Perhaps Ridley or Brockway or Maxton possess the qualities that make a successful "practical" politician? What makes a man a practical politician is, as usual, not explained. Perhaps Stalin defeated Trotsky and the Left Opposition because he was not "egotistic" and was a "successful practical politician" In fact Stalin's personal success was due to his personal "egotistic" qualities and his "practical politics", but hardly served the interests of socialism. But the very raising of this question in the casual manner it is introduced, serves as an indictment of the impressionistic ideas of Ridley. When Trotsky led the October insurrection and organised the Red Armies, his "egotistic" qualities apparently prevented him from being a "successful" practical politician! What an explanation of events! This is followed up by what is intended as a contemptuous dismissal of the theoretical basis of the Fourth International:
"its (Fourth International's) ideology is little more than a continuation of the revolutionary phase of the Comintern."
He could have said that it was the continuation of the ideology dating back to Marx. What is intended as a sneer, in fact is a testimony to the continuity of revolutionary tradition which is embodied in the Fourth International.
Thus Ridley blindly dismisses the lessons of the last period in shallow personal criticisms, which in any case are false through and through. To expect from Ridley a criticism of or an answer to Trotsky's theories, methods and contributions to Marxism, would of course be naive. In this domain, like all centrists he would he lost. Thus, after dismissing the egotistic and impractical Trotsky, he concludes his analysis of the development of the International founded by Trotsky:
"In my opinion, any chance of its becoming a mass movement was destroyed by the death of Trotsky, who left no successor of comparable calibre. To be sure, any movement which depends on the writings of a dead man, who is not there to interpret his meaning, must inevitably become scholastic a worshipper of the dead letter or sectarian a permanent wrangle over the unknown meaning. (Bibliolatary is not confined to Churches.) The "Trotskyist" movement, with its fierce disputes and endless splits, confirms the above dictum!"
Ridley here shows about as much political perspicacity as Stalin (with apologies to Stalin). Stalin too had the illusion that by murdering Trotsky he could settle accounts once and for all with Trotskyism. True enough, the death of Trotsky constituted a terribly damaging blow against the international working class and against the young and weak forces of the Fourth International. But an International is not one man. An International as Trotsky had occasion to point out to the I.L.P. "is not at all a form as flows from the utterly false formulation of the I.L.P. The International is first of all a programme and a system of strategic tactical and organisational methods that flow from it." It is apparent that an International is not built by squabbles over petty trifles but on great principles. The basic teachings of Trotsky derive from those of Marx, Engels, Lenin. It is on these solid foundations that the groundwork of the Fourth International has been laid. He who rejects the policy of the Fourth International, must show how or wherein they have departed from these basic principles or else wherein these principles have been proved false by experience. Of this, not a word from Ridley or the I.L.P. but instead this puerile argument which is not worthy of even a schoolboy.
However, while talking of the "New International" Ridley is prudently silent on the instructive history of the "international" organisation to which the I.L.P. gave its adherence, the London Bureau. Brockway comments on this significant omission, but attempts to explain it by the suggestion that the "Bureau" never considered itself an International. Certainly the history of the Bureau testifies to the fact that any international grouping of "socialist" parties in modern times, which are not bound together by common principles and a common programme Marxism-Leninism, will be speedily shattered by the impact of events. There is hardly one of the brother parties of the I.L.P. which is associated with the Bureau today. Under the relentless pressure of the class struggle they have failed to stand the test and have been driven to the four corners of the political compass. The remnants of the Swedish party have gone back to the swamp of Stalinism. The American Lovestoneites have committed suicide by dissolving their organisation. Despite the experience of the war, the Norwegian Labour Party remains the loyal servant of His Majesty, King Haakon. The emigre S.A.P. of Germany has leaned towards the Stalinists and support of the Allies in the war. The Spanish P.O.U.M., despite the catastrophe its policy brought about in Spain, is flirting with the idea of an emigre Popular Front, thus providing a caricature of the policy it operated in the revolution. The rest of the parties, like all centrist organisations have collapsed in a similar inglorious fashion. The I.L.P. as the lone survivor of this debacle, has itself described a very weird evolution in its policies in the intervening period. If it remains and can still prate of internationalism, it is not because it is made of sterner material and sticks rigidly to principles. But because it has not yet been put to the test. The P.O.U.M. at least was far more of a revolutionary organisation, than the I.L.P. ever could be.
The problem of the "new" international can only be understood in relation to the experience of the international working class over the last few decades. It is on this basis that the principles and ideas of the Fourth International have been worked out, with the method of Marxism as the basis. What have the "theoreticians" of the I.L.P. learned? In Stalinism and Bolshevism, Trotsky makes the proud boast:
"The Bolshevik Party was able to carry on such magnificent "practical" work only because it shed the light of theory on all its steps. Bolshevism did not create this theory: it was furnished by Marxism. But Marxism is the theory of movement and not of stagnation. Only events on a tremendous historical scale could enrich the theory itself. Bolshevism (Trotskyism) brought an invaluable contribution to Marxism in its analysis of the imperialist epoch as an epoch of wars and revolutions; of bourgeois democracy in the era of decaying capitalism; of the correlation between the general strike and the insurrection; of the role of party, soviets and trade unions in the epoch of proletarian revolutions; in its theory of the soviet state, of the economy of transition, of fascism and Bonapartism in the epoch of capitalist decline; finally in its analysis of the degeneration of the Bolshevik party itself and of the soviet state. Let any other tendency be named that has added anything essential to the conclusions and generalisations of Bolshevism."
In rejecting the programme of the Fourth International naturally enough, neither Ridley, Brockway or any other leader of the I.L.P. faces up to a criticism of these theoretical achievements. Ridley's thesis, if such it can be called, is composed of bits and pieces taken from the programmes and theories of a number of fundamentally opposed currents in the working class movement. Ideas lifted direct from the S.P.G.B. on the colonial question, from the anarchists on the State, from the Stalinists on Russia, a distorted idea here and there from the Trotskyists, and laid over with the confused conceptions of the Centrists withal! And he tries to palm off this horrible mess as Marxism with the benediction of Fenner Brockway and the N.A.C. of the I.L.P. It would require a volume to deal with the theoretical blunders and misconceptions which bristle in nearly every paragraph. Take this typical specimen of muddled thinking:
"Viewed from this angle, it is obvious that no fully socialist society, in the sense indicated above, could possible have emerged from the activities of the earlier Internationals to which allusion was made in the preceding section. In the time of the First International only a small part of Europe and America was either capitalist or democratic. (Outside Europe and America both Capitalism and Democracy were unknown). In the time of the Second International, Imperialism and world capitalism had not yet exhausted their role; neither had yet "left off". Whilst both the Third and Fourth Internationals were based, in effect, upon the social conditions of a pre-capitalist-feudal-autocratic Russian society.
Thus, none of the aforementioned socialist Internationals could have led to world socialism in the sense which Marxism exclusively attached to that conception. Their failure was, under the given conditions, inevitable. e.g. Had they succeeded, their victory would have been progressive but not socialist. At the most, they could only have led to regimes of state-capitalism."
What does this nonsense mean? That, had the Third or Fourth Internationals succeeded in conquering power in any of the major European countries they would have gone the way of Russia? But not, even Ridley, far less the I.L.P. has in the past disputed, or even now disputes, that even the degenerate Soviet State remains today a workers' state, not a "state capitalist regime." Or is Ridley perhaps stealthily hinting that Russia has gone state capitalist? He certainly should have informed the world of this in a less casual way. But even when one admits the reactionary military-police superstructure which Stalinism has infamously imposed upon the Soviet Union, what does this prove in relation to the problem of a Soviet Germany? The measures of repression taken by the Bolsheviks were not a question of principle but imposed upon them by the hostile imperialist environment and the backwardness of Russia. A victory for a Socialist Germany after the last war, which was entirely possible, would have altered the whole relationship of forces throughout the world. Backward Russia in this war and in the years before it, has provided a wonderful example of the powers of socialist methods of production. A combination of the economy of mighty Germany and the resources of Russia would have been invincible both economically and militarily. It could but have been the prelude to the victory of the revolution in Europe and throughout the world. Such a victory would have led not to "state capitalism" but to the abolition of the state within a generation or so throughout the globe. It is painful to have to repeat such elementary Marxian propositions to those proposing to lay down "new" and infallible prescriptions for a new International.
Ridley's explanation of the failure of the Internationals is certainly ingenious enough. They failed therefore the time was not ripe for them! A wonderful scientific reading of history, which he improves upon by telling us that even if they succeeded they would still have failed. But this does not as yet provide us with an analysis of the reasons for the defeats any more than the man who explained heat by saying that it was hot!
As if to reduce his views to absurdity, Ridley goes on:
"The next International mounts on the shoulders of History. It can actually do what the others promised. It arises in a continent (Europe) now unified by History using Hitler as its blind instrument! and in rapid process of industrial development. Led by a socialist Germany, a socialist France, and a socialist England, the United Socialist States of Europe will for the first time in all history, fulfil the Marxist prerequisite for a genuine scientific socialist society."
As usual, everything is stood on its head. The job the Internationals failed to carry out is supposed to have been achieved by Hitler. As Trotsky would say Ridley confuses the brake with the locomotive of history, revolution with counter-revolution. In fact the position is precisely the opposite. Hitler's coming to power, the war, Hitler's victories in Europe are the result of the failure of the working class to carry out the tasks urgently posed by history, the failure of the working class (i.e. of its organisations) to abolish the contradiction between the development of the productive forces beyond nations boundaries' and the national state by progressive means, has led to an attempt at solution by reactionary means.
The formalistic, anti-Marxist out look of Ridley and the I.L.P. is expressed in the "three main purposes" of Ridley's projected "fifth (in reality 2 ) International:
"As it aims at the creation of a socialist society which starts on the basis of a finished capitalism
it should confine itself to those parts of the world primarily Europe, later, perhaps, the Americas where the objective social conditions exist (e.g. In Asia and Africa the only kind of revolution possible is a predominantly agrarian anti-feudal revolution of the Russian type, which can, at best, only end in State capitalism and dictatorship, since the objective conditions for scientific socialism viz. the abolition of economic scarcity and political democracy do not exist. The European world has so long a start that, for the 20th century, a socialist Europe, no longer torn by civil war, must continue to lead the world)."
It would be difficult to find in any revolutionary writings a paragraph which exposed such complete bankruptcy in the conception of world history and the method of historical materialism. Ridley once wittily referred to the S.P.G.B. as a Victorian survival. It would be hard for even this sect to produce a statement such as this, from whom of course it is derived. Brockway for sentimental reasons comes nearer the correct policy than the "Marxist" Ridley, when he rejects this section of the document relating to the colonial question. It is almost a century since Marx pointed out the interdependent character of world economy which it was capitalism's historic task to develop. Since that time, particularly in the last few decades with the development of imperialism, and the emergence of new techniques, this position has been emphasised. Even Churchill, Roosevelt, Hitler and other bourgeois politicians understand this better than Ridley. The world has become a single economic unit and because of this, events in one continent immediately have political and economic repercussions in every other. Incredible that Ridley has not seen the social implications of the global war to which he so often refers. The sheer Victorian-European ("white") arrogance with which Ridley divides those privileged advanced countries ready for Socialism, which his International will condescend to honour with a section from those benighted countries to be cast into the nether darkness till they are economically ready to have its attention is only matched by his ignorance of the world historical process in the past decades. Even the reformist Second International did not go so far as this. While in reality confined to Europe it paid lip service to the struggle for liberation of the colonial peoples and for the work in the colonies. Ridley is afraid that revolutions in colonies will end in state capitalism and dictatorship on the lines of the Revolution in Russia. Even granting that this is so, would not this be a tremendous step forward in comparison with the slavery of the colonial peoples today? Ridley, the historical "authority" is apparently against "bourgeois" revolutions in the East today, though willing enough to accept completed revolutions from the past. We would remind him that neither the French nor British revolutions were achieved "democratically" or through "libertarian" means but through bourgeois dictatorship. In any event, by implication Ridley is condemning the Russian Revolution without stating this openly. He wishes to throw out the Soviet revolutionary baby with the dirty Stalinist bathwater. But far from being a reactionary event, the Russian revolution remains the greatest event in human history. And what alternative was there for Russia? A failure on the part of the Bolsheviks to seize power would have led to economic stagnation and the colonisation of Russia by the other great powers. Ridley overlooks one of the great progressive achievements of the Third International and its founders. It would appear that he has not read or understood the writings of either Lenin or Trotsky. While the problem of the revolution in the colonies was not developed by Marx (though in advance he riddled the Ridleyian conception by showing that a successful revolution. in China would automatically lead to a revolution in the developed countries of the West) it received detailed attention and study from those revolutionary theorists who worked out its basic laws. On this never a word from the light minded Ridley. Even if we accept as correct, which broadly speaking is true, that revolution in Europe is coming in the next period, the fate of such revolutions will at least be partly determined by the explosions it will produce in Asia, Africa and other colonial and semi-colonial countries. One of the expressions of capitalism's historic impasse is that social disturbances and revolutions in any part of the globe immediately react on the other continents as well; there is not one continent or country in which explosive material has not been accumulated. Lenin, in his analysis of imperialism showed that the road to revolution in the West lay in destroying the source of the super-profits for capitalism in the East, the means whereby "corruption" of the Western workers was maintained. Ridley talks about "corruption" of workers in the West but is apparently against destroying the basis of this.
However, Trotsky's theory of Permanent Revolution shows Ridley to be a crude scholastic of the worst type. (If Ridley had studied the works of "dead" revolutionaries, he would not derive his ideas from men who have been politically dead for years). Trotsky shows that the process of social evolution is not at all a mechanical and rigid one. Because of the intervention of imperialism in the colonial areas, the development of these countries proceeds on different lines to the history of Britain, France and the other advanced states. The imperialists attempt to maintain the old feudal relations and prevent a "normal" development along capitalist lines. The capitalists of backward countries, because of the belatedness of their development are inextricably entangled with the landlords, the semi-feudal regime and with the imperialists. Any movement of the masses which threatened the imperialists or the landlords would almost automatically assume anti-capitalist tendencies at the next stage, besides which the capitalists are economically integrated with the landlords and would be hard hit by any incursions on their property. Thus the bourgeoisie in backward and colonial countries is incapable of carrying through the bourgeois revolution. It is this development of world history which made the October Revolution in Russia possible. The fact that the bourgeoisie, having ceased to play a progressive role, the bourgeois-democratic revolution can only be carried out by a conquest of power by the proletariat. The tens and hundreds of millions of the peasantry, history has demonstrated conclusively, are incapable of playing an independent role. They can only support and follow the lead of some other class in the cities to achieve their aims. As the bourgeoisie cannot fulfil the revolutionary role they did in the past, the leadership of the peasantry now falls to the young and vigorous proletariat. But having attained power, the proletariat cannot stop at the democratic tasks, including the breaking up of the large estates and the division of the land among the peasantry, but will inevitably turn towards socialist measures, expropriation of the capitalists, etc. But this in its turn, will come up against the weak and backward character of the economy. The sole solution lies in the extension of the revolution to the more advanced countries. Hence the naming of the process the Permanent Revolution.
Trotsky was writing on this in 1903. The October Revolution and events in Spain, India and China have completely confirmed the correctness of this theory. But all that the cowardly Centrist can see is that the state that issued from the Russian Revolution has degenerated. To draw the conclusion: not to extend the revolution and thus end the isolation but to send the colonial masses that is the greater part of humanity to perdition . . . till they are economically ready for socialism. A position which the development of world imperialism has rendered impossible in any event. But as the revolutions in the West are at least partially dependent for success or failure on the movement of the masses in the East, this is tantamount to declaring Socialism impossible of realisation anywhere. Not for nothing did Lenin say that the road to the revolution in Britain lay through Delhi. The doctrine that the revolution must inevitably come in Europe first is not only false, but pedantic and utterly devoid of any dialectical content. Nowhere is it written that the proletariat of Germany must come to power before the proletariat of China, or the proletariat of Britain before that of India. True it is that a revolution in the East, though it would immediately purge society of the feudal rubbish accumulated over centuries, and if only for that reason would he completely justified, could nevertheless not stand on its own resources for a long period of time. But it would provide an enormous impetus to the revolution in Europe and America, to whose proletariat the Eastern peoples would look for assistance and succour. The revolution is as indivisible and inter-connected as the war itself. Revolution in Europe means revolution in Asia and the Americas and also vice-versa.
In an attempt to cover his false position, Ridley goes on to say:
"Hence, whilst encouraging and supporting all non-European progressive revolutions, we do not identify our socialist revolution with progressive non-socialist ones, as has been done so disastrously in the era of the Russian Revolution which ended with the dissolution of the Comintern and the assassination of Trotsky. The new International drops the vague and too ambiguous title ''World Revolution" and concentrates on the "United States of Europe. It is, actually, a distinction without a difference, for who wins Europe today wins the world tomorrow!
The above analysis should have disposed of this artificial conception, which attempts to separate the fate of Europe from that of the rest of the world and contains a sharp "distinction" and a sharp "difference" with Marxism on the problem of the colonial areas.
Having disdained to examine the programme and principles of the Fourth International, which represents the application of Marxism to the modern epoch, Ridley and the I.L.P. proceed to adopt ideas in the name of "Marxism'' at that which date back not to the pre-Bolshevik epoch, but are even pre-Marxian. Says Ridley, and in this he has the warm support of Brockway and the N.A.C.:
"Our slogans must be suited to this so changed atmosphere (hatred of totalitarian stateism and of war). As dialectics, Marxism has no use for outmoded thought-forms and outdated slogans. For example, to make a revolution against (bourgeois) dictatorship 'in the name of "The Dictatorship of the Proletariat" would be worse than futile. Contrarily, it is necessary to borrow heavily from Anarchism and Syndicalism emphasising the slogans of "workers' control" against bureaucracy, personal liberty against state regimentation, socialist ethics against the cynical amoralism of Fascist and Stalinist gangsters. Full anarchism (or anarchist-communism) is, indeed, impossible whilst the State remains, but each form of society leans towards its successor, and socialism can immediately where once its scientific prerequisites already exist, begin, already, to lean towards its eventual anarchist-communist successor."
What this mass of confused and contradictory ideas means, not Ridley himself could explain. If he means that the State will be only a transitional one till socialism is realised, (what is this nonsense about Anarchist-communist successors?) that would merely be the orthodox-Marxist way of regarding the problem. If he believes that 'Socialism 'could immediately be introduced even in Europe or the United States, that is not economically possible. The State will continue to exist in the period after the seizure of power and only gradually "wither away" into Socialism. Ridley confusedly agrees that the State will remain in the first period after power has been achieved by the workers. But to repeat the A.B.C. of Marxian ideas which Ridley does not seem to understand, the State is an instrument of oppression of one class over another, it is the guardian of inequality and its existence presupposes that the economic basis for the complete abolition of classes has not yet been achieved. Under capitalism, the state is the instrument of the capitalist class and is used for the suppression of the workers. When the workers take power they must smash the bourgeois state and replace it with one of their own, based on the workers' Soviets. And such a State cannot but be a "dictatorship". Ridley cannot have it both ways. Either he supports the idea of a state which must mean some form of coercion (i.e. dictatorship) or rejects it completely and thus must embrace anarchist doctrine. In this case he should come out openly against Marxism. For the question of the nature of the state before and after the conquest of power is one of the decisive criterions which separates Marxism from all other tendencies in the Labour movement. Just as bourgeois democracy cannot be anything else but the dictatorship of the capitalist class so such a state can only be the "dictatorship of the proletariat." If Ridley means that we should reject the Stalinist caricature, that has long been a tenet of Bolshevism. But the Bolsheviks put in its place the idea of "workers' democracy" a democracy of the toilers as opposed to the democracy of the rich as it was in the early days of the Soviet Union. There is no need to borrow half-baked anarchist ideas. Revolutionaries, if they are to be successful, must stick to the scientific method of Marxism. And whatever its form, which may vary from one country to another, the rule of the workers cannot be anything else but the dictatorship of the proletariat. With the victory of the workers in Europe such a dictatorship would he very light, guaranteeing full freedom of speech, press, etc., even possibly to the bourgeois parties, certainly to all parties accepting the Soviet system, as a return to capitalism would be almost out of the question. But this is purely a question of expediency, not of principle. The much slandered Bolsheviks on whom Ridley by implication, pours his quota of slime, did not at all begin with ruthless measures. Even the liberal press was not suppressed. Only when the existence of the Soviet State was menaced by internal counter-revolution and world-wide capitalist intervention, did the Bolsheviks reply with the Red Terror to the terror of the White Guards. We stand unreservedly with the Bolsheviks against the mawkish sentimentality of Ridley and Co. The Bolsheviks have provided the world working class with an example to be followed in the coming revolutions if they are not to go under in a new wave of capitalist barbarism. The history of Europe since the last war is a warning of what happens to the working class if they stop half-way on the revolutionary road and do not take the necessary precautions and even reprisals against the capitalists and their henchmen. Hitler, Mussolini and Franco have shed rivers of workers' blood and left the flower of the working class to rot in jails and concentration camps-throughout Europe. Against capitalist barbarism and with the future of civilisation itself at stake the working class will not stop, short of the most ruthless steps if necessary to preserve their rule by workers' dictatorship.
To tie their hands in advance could only be the advice of a Centrist. There is no need to borrow from the Anarchists on the other points mentioned by Ridley either, they are all comprised in the philosophy of Marxism and can be found in the works of the "dead" Lenin and Trotsky.
Trotsky writing with infallible Marxian instinct had picked on this question long in advance in criticising the theoretical conceptions of centrism. He realised that the centrists had queasy stomachs easily upset by the slightest difficulties and would inevitably conclude from the Stalinist experience, not the correct lessons, but the abandonment of the idea of a firm holding of power by the proletariat.. Without the Bolshevik conception of the dictatorship of the proletariat history has shown that it is impossible for the proletariat to seize power. Ridley pretends to be scared only of the term; in reality he has scuttled away from the problem instead of facing it and in so doing placed himself in the camp of Liberal-anarchism which bases itself on the rarefied air of "Libertarianism" without reference to sordid material questions such as time, place and conditions under which the struggle for power is waged.
In his book Whither France, Trotsky, in criticising the "Left" member of the French Socialist Party, Zyromski who- wished to "apologise" for being in favour of a "dictatorship" of the proletariat (Ridley unashamedly and with relief gives up the idea altogether without any apologies to Marxism whatsoever) wrote the following lines which constitute a complete refutation of Ridley's position:
"For some reason or other Zyromski, in a whole series of articles, repeats with especial insistence the idea (moreover pointing to Stalin as original source) that 'the dictatorship of the proletariat can never be considered as an end in itself.' As if there were somewhere in the world insane theoreticians who thought that the dictatorship of the proletariat was an 'end in itself'! But in these odd repetitions there lurks an idea: Zyromski is making his excuses to the workers in advance for wanting a dictatorship. Unfortunately, it is difficult to establish the dictatorship if we begin by apologising for it.
Much worse, however, is the following idea: 'This dictatorship of the proletariat must be relaxed and progressively transformed into workers' democracy in proportion to the extent of the development of socialist construction.' In these few lines there are two profound errors in principle. The dictatorship of the proletariat is opposed to workers' democracy. However, the dictatorship of the proletariat by its very essence can and should be the supreme expression of workers' democracy. In order to bring about a great social revolution, there must be for the proletariat a supreme manifestation of all its forces and all its capacities: The proletariat is organised democratically precisely in order to put an end to its enemies. The dictatorship, according to Lenin, should 'teach every cook to direct the State.' The heavy hand of the dictatorship is directed against the class enemies: the foundation of the dictatorship is constituted by the workers' democracy.
According to Zyromski, workers' democracy will replace the dictatorship 'in proportion to the extent of the development of socialist construction.' This is an absolutely false perspective. In proportion to the extent that bourgeois society is transformed into a socialist society, the workers' democracy will dispense with the dictatorship, for the state itself will wither away. In a socialist society, there will be no working class; and secondly because there will be no need for State repression. This is why the development of socialist society must mean not the transformation of the dictatorship into a democracy, but their common dissolution into the economic and cultural organisation of the socialist society."
This quotation annihilates Ridley's utopian socialist conceptions. It answers not only the nonsense of Ridley on the question of workers' power but also the absurd idea that even in Europe Socialism could be immediately introduced. If this were so then indeed the anarchists would be correct and the necessity for the State would disappear immediately after capitalism was overthrown. Ridley accepts the anarchist criticism of the dictatorship of the proletariat yet wishes to introduce Socialism immediately and have a state in the transition period not to Socialism then but to Anarchism into the bargain! What lucidity! What historical understanding! What social analysis! Ridley has no need to consult the works of Trotsky to get the unknown meaning, the meaning of Marxism is entirely unknown to Ridley.
Ridley sums up his erroneous conceptions:
"Any new International must, to pull its weight in the present world, politically be (a) anti-capitalist and not merely anti-feudal, like its historic predecessors; (b) economically post- capitalist, based on the already solved problem of production (by capitalism) and aiming in its social and economic philosophy at the solution of the socialist problem of consumption rather than the already achieved capitalist problem of production; and (c) in opposition to all dictatorship must be libertarian, ethical and democratic."
It cannot be repeated too often that Socialism in our Time", in this generation, is only possible in the post-capitalist, post-democratic soil already cultivated by Western (bourgeois) civilisation; and it is to the conquest of this that a new International must direct its primary energies."
"It cannot be repeated too often" that Ridley commits elementary errors that any green student of Marxist theory would not perpetrate. The three previous workers' Internationals were built on the basis of anti-capitalism. But to say that the new International must not be anti-feudalist is so much fantasy. In the greater part of the world, including the advanced countries of Europe, there are feudal survivals. Are we to wait for capitalism to abolish these before making the revolution? If so we would have to put off the revolution till doomsday. It should be obvious that all survivals from feudalism and even earlier periods will be finally destroyed by the workers' revolution. History does not wait till the last feudal custom has been abolished before imperatively demanding the preparation of a new stage.
Ridley's point (b) is also incorrect. Socialism, no more than any other system of society, is not a question merely of consumption, but of production. The Socialist Revolution is historically necessary above all because capitalism hampers the growth of the productive forces which have reached their limit, comparatively, under the capitalist system. If it was a question of utilising only the productive resources created by capitalism, there would be no future for socialism. But on the contrary, the freeing of the productive forces from the fetters of capitalism would lay the basis for an increase in the productive capacity undreamed of in former societies. Only an enormous increase in production would lay the basis for the disappearance of the State. Apparently it is necessary to remind these utopians that it is necessary to produce before you can consume. An artificial separation on the lines suggested by Ridley is quite meaningless. Socialists are as much concerned with production as consumption.
Point (c) is just so much hot air but is positively dangerous insofar as it sows illusions as to the methods by which the workers can achieve their emancipation, in the usual petty bourgeois fashion placing on the same plane, workers' dictatorship and the dictatorship of Fascism.
Brockway, in his comments on Ridley's Memorandum betrays the same incapacity to face the problem as do all the centrists. When it comes to the question of the basis on which the new International is to be built, Ridley is nebulous. Brockway recognises the need to "prepare" for the new International at least in words. But his method of preparing is, to say the least, most peculiar. "First, we should continue to explore all possible contacts in all possible countries, with a view to preparing a nucleus to rally round the New International."
This sounds much like some Rotarian society, oozing good-will to all and attempting to maintain "International" connections. It should be obvious that before an International Party (or a national Party for that matter) can be built, there must be at least a basic agreement on policy and principles. The collapse of the London Bureau was determined by the fact that the Parties which composed it did not have a common principled position on the fundamental problems of our time. Now Brockway's method of issuing questionnaires much on the lines of an inquiry to decide which brand of beer is preferred by the public, might be a good test for the latter, but is certainly not a method of building an International. The I.L.P. here faithfully continues in its centrist tradition. Nothing is laid down, nothing fixed in advance. Questions are addressed to all sorts of dubious individuals, grouplets and parties and what questions! There is not one that contains any real Marxian content which would help to demarcate reformists from revolutionists, muddle heads from those who know where they are going and how they intend getting there. Take a couple of examples:
"What do you regard as the reasons for the failure of the Second and Third Internationals? Why is it that the Second International was so ineffective in influencing political events whilst its industrial counter-parts, the International Federation of Trades Unions and perhaps particularly the International Trade Union Centres (like the International Transport Workers Federation, Textile Workers and Miners) appear to have been more effective? Do you think the first step towards international working class unity would be to concentrate on the strengthening of international Trade Union organisation (e.g. the formation of an all-in Federation, including the Russian Trade Unions, the C.I.O., etc.) and the extension of International Centres for Trade Unions in particular industries rather than on a Socialist International?"
What is meant by the Trade Union Internationals being more effective than the Second International and achieving more results, it is not given to ordinary mortals to understand. And how it can be suggested that the Russian "Trade Unions" which long ago ceased to be trade unions in any sense of the word and became mere appendages of the Stalinist bureaucratic regime would strengthen internationalism is more than a mystery. But it follows naturally from the unclear conceptions of centrism. They howl about the amoral dictatorship of Stalinism one day, only to prepare as in this case to embrace its tools disguised as trade union leaders, the next.
"What elements do you think should be invited to collaborate in preparation for a New International? Revolutionary Socialists only? Social Democrats? Communists? Trotskyists? Anarchists? Syndicalists? Reformist Trade Unionist Organisations? Co-operative Organisations."
It should have been clear to the merest political child that all these tendencies are mutually incompatible and fundamentally opposed to one another. To attempt to reconcile them is impossible. Anyone who has not learned the fundamental distinction between Bolshevism
(Trotskyism) and the other tendencies in the last two decades, has learned nothing from history. This is emphasised by the next point:
"Do you think there should be a fundamental basis, defining both the socialist objective and policy? Is a statement of socialist objective necessary in view of the experiences of Nazism and of developments in the Soviet Union? For example, do you think it necessary to emphasise the democratic, libertarian and equalitarian aspects of Socialism? Do you think the time is ripe for a synthesis of the Marxist and Anarchist conceptions of social structure?"
After the shameful betrayal of its so-called principles by anarchism in the Spanish revolution, one could expect the petty bourgeois utopianism of anarchism, would be exposed clearly for all claiming to be Marxist. To try to unite fire and water would be much more simple than the feat of uniting anarchist chimeras with Marxist science. All the other questions in this questionnaire are of similar character.
However, Brockway's comment as does the questionnaire refers to, flow from the conceptions developed by Ridley. In dealing with his questionnaire, Brockway remarks with pride: "The responses which we have already had to our communications [obviously on the lines of this questionnaire - EG] are encouraging and the possibilities of this exploration have only been begun." Very likely. A document which says nothing and commits to nothing, is something which any reformist or opportunist can support. Presumably Brockway has received encouraging responses from the "brother party" in the U.S.A, Norman Thomas' Socialist Party which merely differs over the trifling question of the war they support the Allies while Brockway claims to oppose the war. Or the new party South Africa which has been so enthusiastically hailed by the "New Leader" opportunist through and through, which not only supports the war but speaks for the white minority only, also a mere detail that the I.L.P. disagrees with.
"...it is important," says Brockway, "that during the period before the mass movement towards a New International arises, international socialists in all countries should be thinking out again their ideas of Socialism and the best organisational basis for a New International. We must not aspire to lay down any theoretical basis in its final form, but it will be a valuable thing if Socialists in different countries are pooling their ideas so that out of this exchange of opinion a restatement of Socialism can be contributed to the discussion when a New International comes 'on the map'."
An organisation that was seriously Marxist, if it wished to inaugurate an international discussion on the way the New International should be built, would lay down the principles and ideas which it considered the experience of the last period had demonstrated as valid. It would attempt to sharply differentiate the sheep from the goats; revolutionists from reformists and syndicalist confusionists. That is the method of Trotsky, and the method with which Lenin built the Communist International when it was revolutionary. In predicting years in advance the debacle of the London Bureau, when a Marxist analysis of its principled or rather lack of principled basis, enabled him to discern its inevitable fate, Trotsky wrote:
"A 'revolutionary' resolution for which the opportunists could also vote was deemed by Lenin to be not a success but a fraud and a crime. To him, the task of all conferences consisted not in presenting a 'respectable' resolution, but in effecting the selection of militants and organisations that would not betray the proletariat in the hours of stress and storm."
And in this is summed up the only sound method of laying the basis for mass parties of the working class which can lead the toilers to victory.
After solemnly repeating most of Ridley's errors, Brockway attempts to tackle the question of the organisational basis of the International, and in doing so finds himself on the horns of a dilemma of peculiar Centrist construction.
"The Second International failed organisationally because it was not much more than a discussional body afraid to give a lead to any of its sections."
"An International ought to be able to express the considered view of the international working class movement to its different sections, and different sections ought to pay very considerable regard to the lead given in this way."
"...The Communist International, on the other hand, failed because it was too rigid in
organisation. Its policy and finance were dominated by the Communist Party of Russia and all other sections had to turn as it ordered. This is the other extreme which must be avoided.
We must think out a basis of organisation which is between these two; and, which is realistically a reflection of the degree to which national sections in their present stage of development are likely to accept a lead from an International Centre."
Brockway has not realised that fundamental political questions must be reflected in organisational method. Fundamentally differing political tendencies cannot be reconciled within the framework of a single organisation either nationally or internationally, but sooner or later must be torn apart when the question of action arises. All tendencies are tested in the fires of the class struggle which brooks of no evasion or subterfuge. Thus a genuine proletarian International can only be built on the basis of agreement on the question of principles. This in itself presupposes that all questions of major political importance which vitally affect the policy of the national parties, should come up for international discussion and decision. While of course, a great amount of flexibility, especially oil secondary questions, is desirable, this should not affect the basic issue. An International should not be a post-bag to which one politely sends reports of decisions. Nor an International Congress a fraternal meeting where the progress of the different sections is merely recorded. In Lenin's day the Comintern was a live body, where after full discussion of disputed questions throughout the sections, final decisions were referred for International discussion and decision to the World Conference, where important questions were fully discussed for days and sometimes weeks. The International was a live democratic organisation and not at all "rigid in organisation" in the sense of being bureaucratically controlled. True it is that the Russian Party possessed an enormous and even predominant influence in the Councils of the International. But this was a political influence, due to the tremendous experience and authority of the Bolshevik Party. Lenin always insisted on thorough democratic discussion on all questions. And while inflexible on questions of principle, always preferred where possible to convince comrades by experience on questions of tactics. The later degeneration of the Communist International began as a political degeneration which reflected itself in organisational method as well. Thus, from democratic discussion and decision, bureaucratic decisions were decided on in advance, and all voting decisions became merely meaningless gestures, till the Communist International ended up with the totalitarian "unanimous" decision on all questions. But to compare the organisational methods of the Comintern in Lenin's day with those of decline under Stalin, or even Bukharin and Zinoviev, and to argue that they were the same could only be done by a centrist who wished to reject all international discipline. Or perhaps Brockway is still smarting with the recollection of the conditions for membership which the International proposed to apply to all parties proposing to affiliate? These principled conditions clearly laid it down for all to see those parties which really wished to take the road of revolution and those who refused to break once and for all with reformism. It is interesting to note after all these years, with their rich experience of vicissitudes and crises for the I.L.P., after wobbling many times in policy, sometimes moving right, sometimes moving left, that they have gone back to the position of the I.L.P. of 1920: rejecting one of the fundamental principles of Marxism, the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Brockway wishes to have his cake and eat it, to be part of an International without accepting any responsibility for its decisions and to accept the results of the International's deliberations. Brockway's is a typical evasive and vague formulation of the question which ties any organisation accepting it to nothing. "An international ought to be able to express...different sections ought to pay very considerable regard..." How much is very considerable regard? What is it supposed to mean? Exactly nothing! Perhaps like the I.L.P. itself the international should explain its views to the national section which will listen with "considerable regard" and then proceed to carry on as usual with its own policy, much as the I.L.P. behaves in its internal working or as the London Bureau proceeded in the days when it pursued a fictional existence.
That this is what Brockway really means, is shown by his criticism of the Communist International. "We must think out a basis of organisation which is between these two" Neither Brockway nor any other mortal could resolve the contradiction which is posed by this idea. Only Centrists who live in a world of make-believe, or cloudy phrases and ideas would even, pretend to suggest that it is possible. Marxism-Leninism showed the method of building the party nationally and internationally: on the basis of democratic centralism. Brockway puts the issue beyond doubt by leaving the back door open in advance: "a basis of organisation (must be thought out) which is realistically a reflection of the degree to which national sections in their present stage of development are likely to accept a lead from an international Centre." If the individual sections have not developed into or as one international party, why pretend that an International exists? Far better to declare openly that there is no basis for an International at all than participate in a farce of this nature.
The Second International and its sections would gladly have accepted such an interpretation of internationalism". It differs in nothing essential from the very practice which Brockway criticises. It leaves the door open to every sort of abuse. Who is to decide "realistically" anyway?
It is clear that the conceptions of the I.L.P. on revolutionary organisation are as vague and woolly as their ideas on revolutionary policy. The world situation poses more imperiously than ever before the necessity for a revolutionary vanguard on an international scale. An international which bases itself on the principles worked out by Marxism. It is not a question of a number, but to repeat the idea developed by Trotsky so long ago. The International "is not at all a 'form' as flows from the utterly false formulation of the I.L.P. The International is first of all a programme and a system of strategic, tactical and organisational methods that flow from it."
Comrades of the I.L.P. study our documents in the light of events, examine again the ephemeral and contradictory ideas developed by the I.L.P. leadership in Conference documents in the last few years. A thorough and honest analysis will convince you that only under the banner and with the programme and method of the Fourth International can victory be obtained.