This is a translation of “노동계급 최악의 적” : 제국주의 투항과 중립 그리고 BT. After AI’s translation, we proofread it. There might be errors. All comments are welcome.
“Worst Enemy of the Working Class”
: Capitulation to Imperialism, Neutrality and ‘BT’
BT’s latest article and our agreement
BT (Bolshevik Tendency), led by former comrade Tom Riley, announced on July 10 “UK/NATO: Stay out of Russia’s territorial waters!”
The article summarizes the nature of the conflict between NATO led by the United States and Britain and Russia and the attitude of Marxists.
“Marxists recognize the inalienable right of Russia (as well as Iran, Venezuela, Nicaragua and other non-imperialist countries being bullied by the UK/US or other NATO imperialists) to vigorous self-defense against military threats from land, sea or air.”
We agree with this.
And the article was inspired by Trotsky’s September 25, 1937, “Pacifism and China,” with the subtitle “Neutrality equals ‘conscious or unconscious’ support for imperialists.” We also acknowledge the timeliness of this. This is because fake socialists, who succumb to imperialist pressure, frequently take neutral position in imperialist-led conflict, citing Lenin’s “revolutionary/dual defeatism.” Neutral is ultimately on the side of the strong in conflicts where the strong attack the weak.
Marxist pollution after Trotsky’s death
In the last 80 years or so since Trotsky’s death, Marxism has been seriously contaminated by imperialist chauvinism. British and American imperialism, in particular, won both imperialist rivalry wars. Therefore, the upper layer of the working class in the region was further corrupted by super profits linked to their own countries’ victory. Thus, chauvinism in British and American imperialist countries is even more serious.
Opportunists imbued with imperialist sentiment have frequently taken a neutral stance in the conflict between imperialism and the degenerated/deformed workers’ states, and between imperialism, colonies and neo colonies. They then applies “revolutionary/dual defeatism” as represented by the idea that “both are same” and “the main enemy is at home (i.e., their own imperialism),” which should be applied to conflicts between predator and predator(inter-imperialist wars). And they dressed it up as as Leninism.
In this regard, it is quite appropriate to rebuke today’s opportunists for surrendering to imperialism, as Trotsky’s 1937 article demonstrates.
BT: A staunch advocate of the neutral line
But there is a problem. BT, who today cite Trotsky to rebuke their opponents for their “opportunistic neutrality” and to promote Trotsky’s revolutionary ideas, was in fact one of those stubborn advocates of opportunistic neutrality tactics. BT, led by Tom Riley, is an ardent successor to the International Spartacist Tendency (iSt), which was not free from Anglo-chauvinism. (For further explanation of this issue, see The long lasting hegemony of British-US imperialism, Anglo chauvinism and the development of Trotskyism)
This group has taken a very neutral line on a number of issues, including the 2014 Ukraine crisis, even though calls it a “U.S.-organized coup overthrew Viktor Yanukovych.” In the various imperialist neo-colonial maneuvers to expand its influence, such as “military coup, proxy wars using puppet regimes, civil wars using local henchmen,” they have been neutral and have been a “conscious or unconscious’ support for imperialists.” in this way. They stood on the side of the invaders and oppressors only if imperialist carried out a ‘direct’ military invasion, the last resort of various means, that is, if the aggression of imperialism cannot be hidden to anyone’s eyes.
The iSt, which Tom Riley’s BT vigorously seeks to succeed, was a relatively revolutionary section within the Trotskyist movement. However, the iSt could not completely break free from the contamination of Anglo-chauvinism. As a result, opportunism was often apparent in decisive cases. The iSt’s chaotic tactics and opportunistic program were eventually crystalized into the ‘theory’ of “interpenetrated people” in the 1970s. It is a theory that erases the oppression relationship between imperialist oppressors and colonial oppressed, calling them a “interpenetrated people in the same land” (see “Palestinian Liberation and Social Patriotism” for criticism of this ‘theory’ and deeper discussion of Palestinian liberation).
Along with the remaining comrades in the collapsed IBT, BT argues that the theory of opportunistic neutrality is in the ‘Marxist tradition(!)’ and therefore we should defend it (In Defense of (Seymour’s) Marxism). The reason why they put (Seymour’s) in parentheses before “Marxism” is that the iSt’s successors are not as brazen as the Cliffites(state capitalists).
When the “Russian issue” was raised, they managed to reach the right conclusion while remaining a “conscious, unconscious supporter for imperialists” Whilst frequently taking a neutral line, now they try to teach something.
What was the correct line in Ukraine 2014?
As BT said, the current situation is an extension of the situation in 2014. After the 2008 Georgian War, the debate over “Is Russia Imperialist?” continued until 2014. Tom Riley’s faction, which became the BT in 2018, shared with the South Korean members the position that “Russia is not imperialist” until April 2014 when it won in the conference. However, the Ukraine crisis, which was the hottest issue in early 2014, was very different.
We argued for a united front with Yanukovich against the Euromaidan movement, an imperialist regime change initiative.
“The formation of a anti-fascist united front was a very urgent task for the survival of the working class. The formation of communist-led anti-fascist militias reflects the crisis of the working class who felt threatened by survival. Class-conscious Ukrainian working class fighters should have rallied to this militia.
There is no question that Yanukovic deserves to be hated by the people. But what position should the working class take when pro-Imperialism Neo-nazis are trying to replace Yanukovich's regime? Trotsky took the following stance in the 1930s when the Nazis were increasingly likely to replace the existing capitalist regime in Germany:
To come out into the streets with the slogan “Down with the Brüning-Braun government” at a time when, according to the relationship of forces, it can only be replaced by a government of Hitler-Hugenberg, is the sheerest adventurism.―Against National Communism! (Lessons of the “Red Referendum”)
I compare the Bolshevik struggle against Kornilov with Brüning’s struggle against Hitler─ What Next? Vital Questions for the German Proletariat
Ukraine’s Yanukovich regime was today’s “Brüning-Braun government.” On the other hand, if the pro-imperialist-fascists, the leadership of the Euromaidans, come to power, they will become today’s Hitler-Hugenberg regime. The working class should not have given the latter an ounce of support to overthrow the former. The main enemies of the Ukrainian working people are the U.S./EU imperialism, their liberal puppet and fascist forces. Therefore, crushing their attempt is the primary goal. If necessary for this task, it may temporarily be on the same side as Kerensky(Yanukovych) against Kornilov (Pro-Imperialist-Fascist forces).”―우크라이나에 대한 단상 On the Ukraine Crisis
In the course of over seven years since then, we have become more than ever convinced that the “united front” was the only correct revolutionary line at the time. And the relationship at the time was almost the same as the relationship of the forces of the Bolshevik’s united front with Kerensky against Kornilov’s coup backed by British-French imperialism in August 1917, and the Trotsky’s united front in 1937 whith Chang Kai-sek against Japanese imperialism.
If the united front had been achieved, it would have attracted the support of the significant number of the working class. If it had won, as in Russia’s September and October 1917, imperialist attempts would have been thwarted, the Yanukovych regime faced a serious crisis, the working class would have hugely been radicalized, and socialism would have emerged on the imminent agenda. Now, however, that it has failed, Ukraine has been divided into two and the civil war continues, and in western Ukraine, where pro-imperialist fascists have taken power, working class organizations have been crushed, people’s lives have been devastated, and military bases against Russia has been established.
BT’s Opportunistic Neutralism in 2014
In 2014, however, the current BT faction claimed the neutral position “both are same.”
“⒜ A few weeks after the U.S. “regime change” project commenced, Victoria Nuland, a former aide to Vice President Dick Cheney who had been handed the Ukraine file by Obama, told a “Ukraine in Washington 2013 Business Conference” that the U.S. had invested a whopping $5 billion to develop a network of clients and agents to influence Ukraine’s future political direction.…
⒝-1 Yanukovych and his cronies were corrupt and self-serving, but their EU-oriented rivals, personified by Tymoshenko, were no better. ⒞ By linking opposition to Yanukovych to demands to expropriate the oligarchs, restore social services and reorient economic activity to meet the needs of working people, socialists could have sought to turn the protests in a revolutionary direction, a development which would have been enthusiastically supported by tens of millions in Russia, East Europe and beyond. In the absence of any significant challenge from the left, ⒝-2 the protest remained a dispute within the parasitic oligarchic elite over whether to tie themselves to Russia or the EU.―Ukraine, Russia & the Struggle for Eurasia (underline and symbols are ours)
⒜ At that time, they already knew that the incident was a U.S.-led imperialist regime change.
⒝ But nevertheless, they took a neutral line, shouting “both are same.”
⒞ Despite the immediate occurrence of a critical situation for the working class, it is argued that it is enough to raise socialist demands, ignoring the real situation.
Trotsky wrote a slightly longer article, “On the Sino-Japanese War” two days before the September 25, 1937 article from which BT quoted above. According to the article’s argument, the positions of “Ukraine, Russia & the Struggle for Eurasia” are “real traitors” “Eiffelite imbeciles” and “suspended in the air .”
Bt’s Self-contradiction in 2021
In 2014, the Euromaidan movement established a pro-imperialist regime in Ukraine, making it easier for its super-exploitation, and furthermore, establishing a bridgehead to hunt Russia, the ultimate goal.
In the meantime, NATO, led by the U.S moved further toward the East and even the buffer zone with Russia has now disappeared. Now, imperialism is directly pointing its claws at the body of the neo-colony that is Russia. Russia is now in direct collision with British warships in its waters and is threatening to fire on them. The current situation is not separated from that of 2014. It is an extension of the situation. (See “On the Belarusian Crisis” for NATO’s expansion to the East and the conflict between neo-colonial Russia and imperialism after the collapse of the Soviet Union.)
But now, BT pretends to be anti-imperialist fighter, regardless of their neutrality in 2014, saying, “Neutrality equals ‘conscious or unconscious’ support for imperialists.”
Change of the means for colonization after WWⅡ
As Lenin said, imperialism, which “finds most ‘convenient’, and derives the greatest profit from, a form of subjection which involves the loss of the political independence of the subjected countries and peoples” (Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism). Imperialism uses every mean to establish a pro-imperialist regime that is obedient in colony. Before World War II, direct military aggression was the prefered means.
However, things have changed a lot since World War II. The colonial working class has grown in conscious and as a separate entity, and there have been frequent threatening anti-imperialist national liberation struggles. While the competition between predators exhausted their power (at the end of WWII), the national liberation struggle against imperialism won in significant places. Workers’ states were established in some of the regions, including North Korea, Eastern Europe, China, Cuba, Vietnam and Indochina with the support of the Soviets.
Then direct military aggression and direct colonial rule were used very limitedly. Instead of that the indirect and covert measures such as civil war or coups mobilizing local henchmen, pro-imperialist anti-government protests, proxy wars using puppet regimes, assassination, economic blockade, and demonization mobilizing mass media were preferred.
BT’s history of ‘Neutrality equals ‘conscious or unconscious’ support for imperialists’
BT, however, has only taken a stand against imperialism when it launched a “direct military invasion,” the last resort of imperialism. When using indirect and covert means, they take a neutral stance, saying “where is imperialism?” and then when the imperialist tyranny is too visible, they pretend to oppose imperialism, citing “Neutrality equals ‘conscious or unconscious’ support for imperialist.”
Today BT wants to be largely distinguished from other opportunists such as SWP, RCIT and IBT that are more often neutral. BT, however, has remained neutral in imperialist regime changes, including Libya and Syria in 2011, Egypt in 2013, Ukraine in 2014, and Turkey in 2016. In addition, BT, a faithful successor to Anglo-chauvinism, advocates iSt’s “unconscious or conscious support for imperialists” in the past. Three Middle East wars, except 1956 when Britain and France militarily intervened in the conflict between Arab nationalism and imperialism, and Israel’s 1976 deployment of special forces to Uganda's Entebbe airport, killing not only PLA ‘terrorists’ but also 30 Ugandan airport guards in the name of its hostage rescue.
* * *
-The Arab-Israeli Wars
“You attack us for what you characterize as "disgraceful neutrality in the wars between the Arab regimes and the Zionist state, a neutrality that...is nothing less than a capitulation to Zionism." In the first place, as we made clear in "For Trotskyism" we have an Egyptian-defensist position in the 1956 war. French and British imperialist control of one of Egypt's prime economic assets, was a real obstacle to any prospect of national development and a blatant infringement on Egyptian sovereignty. We defend Nasser's nationalization of the Suez as an anti-imperialist act, and militarily support Egypt in its conflict with Britain, France and Israel.
The wars of 1948, 1967 and 1973 had a different character.…
In the 1967 war, Jordan and Egypt were fighting for a redivision of the lands stolen from the Palestinians in the 1948 war. Where was the "anti-imperialism"? The correct position in this struggle over who was to oppress the Palestinians was, as in 1948, one of revolutionary defeatism on both sides.”―Trotskyist Bulletin no. 3: Reply to WP by IBT
-Israeli special forces intervened in Uganda in 1976
“The Stalinophilic Communist Cadre [CTC] groupuscule, which also intervened at the January 1977 forum…The CTC was also critical of the SL’s neutrality when Israeli special forces intervened in Uganda a few months earlier to free hostages being held by Palestinian guerrillas.…
We consider the SL’s position to have been essentially correct and in accord with the position on Lebanon held at the time.”―In Defense of (Seymour’s) Marxism
-Iranian Revolution in 1979 and the confrontation between Yeltsin and the Old Communist Party over the wholesale privatization of the state-owned assets in Russia 1993
“In general on the political level we should treat thisconflict as we [i.e., the international Spartacist tendencyof 1978-79] treated the struggle between the Khomeinites and the Shah. At that time we were in favor of avictory for neither, warned the left of the danger ofthrowing in their lot with the ‘‘lesser’’ evil and calledinstead for a perspective of independent proletarianintervention. As in Iran, a decisive question [is] what willthe army do? Unlike the situation in Iran, the insurgentsdo not seem to have the active support of the overwhelming mass of the population.”―IBT on Moscow Coup
-Libya in 2011
“Unlike in Egypt and Tunisia, where the protests were mass popular expressions of opposition to brutal oppression, the conflict between Qaddafi loyalists and the rebels headquartered in Benghazi amounted to a small-scale civil war between qualitatively equivalent capitalist factions. Marxists take no side in such conflicts, although we of course oppose the killing of civilians by the combatants. The entry of the NATO powers, however, transformed this conflict into a struggle between a neocolonial country and several imperialist powers (and their indigenous proxies).”―Defend Libya Against NATO Aggression!
-Syria in 2011
“In Syria’s civil war, revolutionaries do not support either the brutal Baathist dictatorship or its reactionary Islamist opponents. At the same time, it is necessary to side militarily with any indigenous forces (including Islamists) when they are attacked by the U.S. and other imperialists.”―Middle East Chaos
-The coup in Egypt 2013 and the coup in Turkey 2016
Internal Struggle in the IBT 2008~2018 and Our Contribution
After a debate on imperialism sparked by the “Russian social character” and the 2013 Egyptian coup and 2016 Turkish coup, the IBT collapsed in three pieces in 2018. At that time, South Korean members held their positions, saying, “Russia is not an imperialism but a large colony.” “The 2013 Egyptian and 2016 Turkish coups were part of an imperialist regime change and the working class should have stood on a united front against the coup.” We fought a painful battle against the illogical and stubborn ‘neutralism’ that stood in contradiction to Lenin and Trotsky’s teachings. In the process, we understood that it was rooted in materially based opportunism, especially Anglo chauvinism, which was a capitualation to imperialism.
In a long internal debate, we looked for Lenin and Trotsky’s documents and read them over and over again. In order to realize the contradiction with the revolutionary tradition of Lenin and Trotsky we introduced several key documents to them. Among the documents, Lenin’s on national question, Trotsky’s “Struggle against Fascism” “Spanish Revolution,” especially “Ultralefts in General and Incurable Ultralefts in Particular” and “On the Sino-Japanese War.” The latter contains a longer analysis of the triangular conflict sparked by the Sino-Japanese War and a sharper rant against opportunists who call for “dual defeatism” in the situation. These documents gave us confidence that we were on the revolutionary tradition.
Warning to the World’s working class in an anti-imperialist struggle: BT’s hypocrisy
During the 2013-2018 period, Tom Riley’s faction never mentioned but just arbitrarily dismissed our repeated recommendations. They could not point out a contradiction between our arguments and Lenin andTrotsky’s ideas. However, they repeatedly cited iSt and said that they should be faithful to that tradition. But today, citing another article of Trotsky on the same subject, they dare to teach that “Neutrality equals ‘conscious or unconscious’ support for imperialists.”
As seen above, BT is a vigorous defender of the iSt opportunistic neutral line against imperialism. In 2018, BT called Seymour’s ‘theory’ of opportunism ‘Marxism.’ In 2019, the works were collected and named ‘Leninism (Leninism & Nationalism).’
Trotsky on September 23, 1937 would have called them the “Eiffelite imbeciles.”
“The Eiffelites counterpose the policy of “class struggle” to this “nationalist and social patriotic” policy. Lenin fought this abstract and sterile opposition all his life. To him, the interests of the world proletariat dictated the duty of aiding oppressed peoples in their national and patriotic struggle against imperialism. Those who have not yet understood that, almost a quarter of a century after the World War and twenty years after the October revolution, must be pitilessly rejected as the worst enemies on the inside by the revolutionary vanguard. This is exactly the case with Eiffel and his kind!”―On the Sino-Japanese War
We also agree with this.
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Revolutionary practice is impossible without revolutionary ideas. To establish revolutionary ideas, various opportunistic pollution should be washed away. The Bolshevik ideas that led to the success of the Russian Revolution were only acquired through a relentless struggle against betrayal since 1914. Let’s wash away the pollution of opportunism that has succumbed to imperialism and defend Marx-Engels-Lenin-Trotsky’s revolutionary ideas!