Actually Existing ‘Openness’

The 27 February 2003 issue of the Weekly Worker (paper of the Communist Party of Great Britain) prints a letter from the IBT on the issue of political vs. military support to Iraq. This letter was a reply to a polemic that appeared a couple of weeks earlier. The editors of the Weekly Worker gave no indication that the text they published had been shortened by half. The essential political argument remains, but the citations from V.I. Lenin that demonstrate that the Bolsheviks made precisely the same distinction in giving military, but not political, support to Kerensky against Kornilov in 1917 as we do today in defending Iraq, were entirely deleted.

CPGB comrades have advised us that the letter was cut solely for space, but we rather wonder if the editors did not also feel a bit uncomfortable arguing against Lenin. This is not the first time that we have come up against the limits of the CPGB’s vaunted "openness." In April 2001 a letter from a former CPGB supporter with a political critique of the politics of the Weekly Worker was also dramatically abbreviated without either consulting the author or indicating that the text had undergone substantial alternation (see: a letter by British IBT supporter Liz H.) It seems that, on some occasions, CPGB "openness" is subordinated to political expediency.

The following is the full text of our original letter. The sections cut by the Weekly Worker are in Times New Roman font.

To the Editor
Weekly Worker

The Weekly Worker’s report (February 20th, 2003) of the CPGB's Feb 16th public meeting on "The war and the revolutionary party" distorts the positions of the International Bolshevik Tendency on several issues--particularly on the distinction between military and political support. The classic example of a military (as opposed to a political) bloc is provided by Bolshevik policy toward Kerensky’s Provisional Government during General Kornilov’s attempted coup in August 1917. The Bolsheviks gave no political support to the Provisional Government, yet spearheaded the military resistance to Kornilov. Lenin explained the logic of this apparent contradiction in a September 1917 letter:

"Even now we must not support Kerensky's government. This is unprincipled. We may be asked: aren't we going to fight against Kornilov? Of course we must! But this is not the same thing; there is a dividing line here, which is being stepped over by some Bolsheviks who fall into compromise and allow themselves to be carried away by the course of events.

"We shall fight, we are fighting against Kornilov, just as Kerensky's troops do, but we do not support Kerensky. On the contrary, we expose his weakness. There is the difference. It is rather a subtle difference, but it is highly essential and must not be forgotten.

"We are changing the form of our struggle against Kerensky. Without in the least relaxing our hostility towards him, without taking back a single word said against him, without renouncing the task of overthrowing him, we say that we must take into account the present situation. We shall not overthrow Kerensky right now. We shall approach the task of fighting against him in a different way namely we shall point out to the people (who are fighting against Kornilov) Kerensky's weakness and vacillation. That has been done in the past as well. Now, however, it has become the all-important thing and this constitutes the change."
--"To the central committee of the RSDLP",

Our differing assessments of the February 15th demonstration highlight the political gap between the IBT and CPGB. The CPGB, like most of the rest of the "revolutionary" left, sees the political "breadth" of the Stop the War Coalition (StWC) as a virtue. In practice this has meant reaching out to "progressive" elements of the bourgeoisie, represented by Ken Livingstone, Jesse Jackson, the Liberal Democrats and the Daily Mirror. The CPGB may complain about the "tactical mistakes" of the StWC in the pages of the Weekly Worker, but it rejects the perspective of building a movement against the pending assault on Iraq on an explicitly anti-imperialist basis because it fears being "politically isolated." Thus the CPGB assumes responsibility for the fact that the massive opposition to the criminal imperialist aggression is contained within a bourgeois political framework and the platforms at the mass rallies are dominated by clerics, pacifists and pro-UN, i.e., pro-imperialist, ideologues.

In this conflict the line between flabby bourgeois social-pacifism and Leninism is drawn over the defense of Iraq. The StWC was constructed from the outset as a multi-class formation with an explicitly pacifist programme. Revolutionaries don’t build or endorse pacifist/pro-UN/class-collaborationist movements—we leave that to the reformists and their leftist touts.

It does no good for the Weekly Worker (February 20th, 2003) to conclude its report on the February 15th demonstration with a forlorn lament that: "Hopefully we will arm ourselves with a more powerful strategy". The workers’ movement can only be "armed" politically through a hard struggle to expose and discredit the debilitating petit-bourgeois pacifist illusions pushed by the StWC. Those who are serious about opposing the Blair/Bush axis of evil must side with the neo-colonial victims of our imperialist rulers.

For other issues raised in the Weekly Worker article I refer interested readers to the following:

- the current issue of 1917 (no. 25) has a number of articles related to the pending attack on Iraq (
- a 5 November 2001 IBT leaflet on the LRCI's endorsement of the class-collaborationist pacifism of the Stop the War Coalition (
- the pamphlet "Popular Fronts vs. Proletarian Revolution"
- the pamphlet "Building the Revolutionary Party and United Front Tactics" (

Copies of these and other IBT publications are available from IBT, BCM Box 4771, London WC1N 3XX.

For a discussion on the events of 1905 and the relationship between revolutionaries and Father Gapon (who is in no significant way analogous to Charles Kennedy in 2003) see: "Revolutionary Days", Lenin Collected Works Vol. 8, pp. 101-23. ( and "Lecture on the 1905 Revolution" Lenin Collected Works Vol. 23, pp. 236-53. (

Comradely regards,
Alan Davis
For the IBT

Posted: 13 March 2003