Thirty years ago in World Revolution
In April 1975 the Vietnam War was coming to an end. A ‘revolution’ had occurred in Portugal and a massive strike wave had been developing in Spain. World Revolution Nº3, then a 48-page magazine, published in that month covered these and other issues. The response to the war in South East Asia and the upheavals in Lisbon and other Portuguese cities was symptomatic of an implacable hostility to the fashionable causes of the left at the time. It judged that:
“Just as the slogan ‘Defence of the Free World’ has helped dragoon Vietnamese workers and peasants in the interests of US imperialism, the ideology of ‘national liberation’ is also a cover for the interests of Russian, Chinese and North Vietnamese imperialism in Vietnam. It has mobilised workers for capitalist interests in the same way that the ideology of anti-fascism mobilised workers in the Spanish Civil War and in World War 2 to fight and die for one faction of the capitalist class against another”.
WR also disavowed the extreme left putsch of March 11th in Portugal: “With the disarray of the right after the aborted coup, the left in Portugal can take on the dual role of disarming the working class ideologically and repressing it physically when the crisis demands the mounting of savage attacks on the class. The left is therefore ready to play out the role not only of an Allende but also of the Noskes and Scheidemanns”(1).
The hostility of WR to bourgeois movements of all descriptions incurred the wrath and ostracism of leftism which was and still is characterised by a willingness to choose its camp from among contending capitalist factions within each national state and from between competing imperialist adversaries. But as the pages of the magazine of this period show, WR was by no means politically ‘indifferent’ as the leftists claimed. The struggle of the workers in Spain, in the Middle East, and in the Glasgow dustcart drivers’ strike - all expressions of the wave of international class struggle that had begun in France in 1968 - were defended wholeheartedly against the sabotage of the forces of the bourgeois state including the left and the trade unions.
Furthermore WR was arguing for the eventual formation of an international revolutionary party on a “sure basis”. Indeed the first article in this magazine is a report of the formation at the beginning of 1975 of the International Communist Current, from the groups of the international tendency to which World Revolution belonged, as an essential step on the road to this goal:
“The manner in which our political current has developed is unlike international regroupments in the past which began as a set of national regroupments before fusing on the international plane. Ours has taken place as if in reverse. Its origins were on the international level before expressing itself within particular national boundaries. In this specific way the international character of all proletarian political organisation, acknowledged explicitly as a founding principle since 1847, is being reaffirmed today in the International Communist Current. The Current’s role as the international pole of regroupment of revolutionaries has now been put upon a concrete organisational footing, reflecting the need to act effectively in a period of heightening class struggle....There are only two main obstacles which can stand in the way of other groups regrouping with us: that they have different class standpoints from our own, or that they are infused with sectarian attitudes for which the working class has no need. Only vigorous political discussion and clarification can resolve differences or demonstrate their irreconcilability”.
As if to illustrate this perspective WR 3 also contains two substantial polemical articles. One castigates the Liverpool group Workers’ Voice for “unlimited” sectarianism. WV told WR that “we have all come to agree on the same class boundaries” but it nevertheless abruptly “broke off relations” with WR because of the ICC’s views on the state in the period of transition between capitalism and socialism.
The other, over ten pages, ‘From leftism to the void’, is a scathing survey of the ‘modernist’ political trend which had a significant influence in the wider political milieu at the time. The key invention of modernism was the idea that the working class had become a ‘class for capital’. The article concludes with a resounding denunciation of its pretensions:
“The present resurgence of the world proletariat, that giant the bourgeoisie and its druids thought forever dead, is therefore also the resurgence of the ultra-left (2). Against the babblings of those who claim to have broken with this rich and vital tradition and to have discovered ‘new realities’ in a ‘modern movement’ , revolutionaries must take up again the clarion call of the Spartakusbund, which defiantly said of the revolutionary struggle of the working class: ‘I was, l am, l shall be!’
(1) Salvador Allende: ‘Socialist’ president of Chile from 1970 to 1973. Gustav Noske and Phillip Scheidemann, members of the German Social Democratic Party, whose government organised the bloody defeat of the German Revolution from 1918-1923
(2) At this time, this term was sometimes used instead of the more accurate ‘left communist’.