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Submitted by dalcassian on Wed, 19/03/2014 - 17:48

PS David, you are wrong also when you write this and identify us with Tony Benn's attitude to Stalinism in power:

“Many of the left orthodoxies Benn adopted in the 70s were also held by us at the time. …. Seeing something progressive in the Soviet Bloc as opposed to the West. ….. We moved away from that Benn didn't.”

Yes we saw something comparatively progressive in the Stalinist states. We adhered to the “Orthodox Trotskyist” idea that the Stalinist states were historically ahead of capitalism, that they were “degenerated and deformed workers states”. (I'm pretty sure that Benn did not think they were any sort of “workers states”.) But what did we made of that in our day-to-day politics? .

Accepting our “inherited” “Trotskyist” theories, we read-off very little from the mere designation “degenerated workers state”. In practice we pushed the theorising into the background and related to events by way of case by case concrete analysis of the world around us.

The workers states schema implied that we were “defencist” for Russia against the USA, etc. In practice we saw the USSR as one of the two pillars of world reaction. As early as 1968 we said that Russian “defenceism” was for us of “10th rate importance”. We were for the defence of the Third World Stalinist states, but in the same way as we were for the defence of all colonies and ex-colonies, irrespective of what “class designation” we made of them.

We were comprehensively hostile to the Stalinist states. We sided with the workers and oppressed nations within the Stalinist states. We were for a workers revolution in all of them. In our tradition we called these looked-for revolutions “political revolutions”, but we understood and said that these revolutions would be immense social revolutions.

There was never an exception to this basic attitude at any point in the history of the tendency.

We considered ourselves to be “1953 Orthodox Trotskyist”, that is, supporters of the politics of James P Cannon and his friends in 1953, who split from the Mandel-Pablo Fourth International: we saw opposition to Stalinism and support for workers and oppressed peoples against ruling Stalinists as a central pillar of our politics.

Benn and his constituency party, Chesterfield, could write a friendly letter to the Russian neo-Stalinist dictator Leonid Brezhnev, accepting that he was on our side. When he died soon afterwards we published the obituary that can be found on this website (Requiem for Comrade Brezhnev). The very first publication of our group, the magazine An Solas/Workers Republic, which we put out together with the Irish Workers Group, carried an editorial commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, which I wrote, expressing our vehement hostility to Stalinism. It set the tone for the whole history of the tendency. (That too can be found on this site).

Of course, there was a major contradiction in the politics of the tendency on Stalinism. As well as our hostility to Stalinists in power, our no less vehement “anti-imperialism” led us to support anti-imperialist movements led by Stalinists. Others, the Cliff group for instance, who held to a “state capitalist” analysis of the Stalinist states, had exactly the same contradiction when they let “anti-imperialism” overrule every other consideration in their support for “anti-imperialist” Stalinist forces.

We did respond, immediately, in our paper, to the Stalinist victory in Indochina which we had wanted , by affirming the need for a workers revolution there again Stalinism. Theoretically coherent, we were not; but we were many hundreds of political miles away from the politics of those, like Tony Benn, who where politically soft on Stalinism.

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