In Brief

Selections from social media

The following is a selection of postings from the IBT Facebook page published since the last edition of 1917.

20 July 2021 | Down with Labour Party purges! Defend the left!

The British Labour Party is set to expel a number of left-wing organisations and their supporters en masse at its National Executive Committee meeting today: Labour in Exile Network, Labour Against the Witchhunt, Resist and Socialist Appeal. While varying from group-to-group, ostensibly expellable offenses include prima facie allegations of selling or writing for their publications, staffing their stalls, describing oneself as a “supporter” of their organisation, participation in their events, and of course smears of antisemitism where none exist. The purge of left-wingers is no doubt a sign of things to come for other oppositionists as Keir Starmer stears Labour “back to business-as-usual” after the demise of Jeremy Corbyn’s left-reformist experiment. While the IBT has significant political differences with those being persecuted, including their continued support for Starmer’s Labour, we nonetheless denounce the purges and defend their right to remain within the party. See “The Corbyn Project” for a post-mortem analysis of Labour during the Corbyn years.

20 August 2021 | Release the #KillTheBill protesters!

Four people in Bristol have been sentenced to more than three years each for protesting against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) bill in March and more convictions will likely follow—78 people have been arrested and 28 have been charged. Drop all charges and release them now! Defending our right to protest is not a crime. The call for their release needs to be raised on the day of action against the bill this Saturday, and the power of the working class and oppressed needs to be mobilised to stop this legislation in its tracks, especially within the trade unions.

This heavy-handed reaction by the state illustrates exactly why the PCSC bill needs to be fought. It is designed to prevent protests causing “a serious annoyance or inconvenience”—a fundamental attack on civil liberties:

“Unless a protest causes ‘a serious annoyance or inconvenience’ to the powers that be, it is likely to be largely ineffectual. The ruling class does not give up power without a fight—centuries of struggle have been necessary to obtain what rights we do have to organise as workers and for movement towards racial and sexual equality. There is a constant threat of regression. All the things we protest against—low wages and poverty, environmental destruction, racism, violence against women and much more—will not fundamentally change under capitalism.”
—“Cause Capitalism a ‘Serious Inconvenience’

6 September 2021 | Texas: Free abortion on demand!

Last week, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down (by 5 to 4) a challenge by pro-choice appellants disputing the Texas Heartbeat Act, thereby allowing a near total ban on abortions to go into effect in the state and undermining the historic Roe v. Wade (1973). The Texas law, now upheld by the highest court in the US, bans abortion after six weeks, incentivizes Texans to rat on those performing abortions by offering a $10,000 bounty to anyone who successfully sues, and criminalizes those who “aid and abet” in the procedure (conceivably anyone involved, from doctors and clinicians to those providing referrals, transportation, or any type of logistical support). The ruling will significantly embolden anti-abortion activists especially in those states where repressive “fetal heartbeat” laws have already been signed into law (e.g., Alabama, Ohio, Missouri).

20 September 2021 | 2021 Canadian election: Spoil your ballot!

Voters in Canada go to the polls today in a federal election that the opposition parties have portrayed as a cynical political move by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Liberals) to capitalize on previously high polling numbers in order to form a majority government. The election campaign has generated little interest among working people, who continue to grapple with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic: growing social inequality and sharpened class divisions, unaffordable housing and a rising cost of living, an overwhelmed and underfunded healthcare sector, and an estimated 27,000 dead from the virus amidst the country’s fourth wave of Covid cases.

All of the main national parties running in the election (Liberals, Conservatives, NDP, Bloc Québécois, People’s Party and Greens) are fundamentally committed to governing in the interests of the ruling elite on Bay Street. This includes the NDP, which is what Marxists call a “bourgeois workers’ party”—a formation dominated by a pro-capitalist leadership and political program, but with roots in the organized workers’ movement and trade unions. The leaders of the NDP are (yet again) offering nothing approximating the political interests of the vast majority of Canadians (i.e., the working class). Marxists reject the “choices” available and call for a spoiled ballot. As we noted in “Marxism & Bourgeois Elections”:

“The principle of working-class independence is the bedrock of revolutionary electoral tactics. When a reformist party joins or openly advocates an alliance with the bourgeoisie, or presents a program that makes no pretense of defending working-class interests, electoral support will only hinder the efforts of the working class to organize separately in its own interests. But where a working-class party, however tentatively, starts to go beyond the bounds of the bourgeois status quo and states an intention to fight for the working class as a class, that opens up the possibility of various tactical approaches.
“The task of revolutionaries today is to gather together into a Marxist propaganda group capable of effective intervention in the workers’ movement on a transitional program. A principled yet flexible approach to bourgeois elections will play a role in the struggle to educate and win over the working-class vanguard to the cause of socialism and consolidate it into a fighting party, just as it will play a role in the future in breaking the masses in the direction of a party that can carry out a revolution. The fact that we are today a long way from that should not discourage us. We are very few in number, but we have an advantage that our forebears did not: the accumulated experience and knowledge of more than a century and a half of class struggle.”

10 October 2021 | IMT: Defending cops as ‘dialectical materialism’

In “RCMP union wins large pay raise: Every union must demand the same or better!” (7 October), Fightback (Canadian section of the IMT) once again promotes the reformist delusion that the struggle of cops for more funding is progressive. Acknowledging that the RCMP, the Canadian federal police force, is a “violent tool of the wealthy elite” and “part of these armed bodies who defend private property of the means of production and the personal wealth of those who hold the lion’s share of it,” Fightback nonetheless calls for “bringing rank-and-file police closer to the working class so they cannot be used when the capitalists really need them.”

Posturing as “dialecticians,” Fightback argues: “we take the approach of opposing the actions of police unions that are at the expense of the wider working class, but supporting those actions that benefit workers and bring rank-and-file police closer to the labour movement. We demand parity between workers and police, and should fight for that parity with class struggle methods.”

While Marxists obviously support demands to raise the wages of workers by class-struggle methods, we don’t obfuscate the fact that cops and prison guards are the armed fist of the capitalist state domestically and not part of the workers’ movement. Revolutionaries demand that cops be driven out of organized labor, not invited in.

20 December 2021 | ‘Freedom Rally’ shut down

This past weekend, IBT comrades attended a “Say No to Indigenous Genocide Denial” victory rally in downtown Toronto, Canada at the former Ryerson University. Temporarily known as X University while awaiting renaming to break association with Egerton Ryerson (architect of Ontario’s residential school system), the university has become a focus for anti-Indigenous and anti-immigrant bigotry by right-wingers.

The united-front mobilization, initiated by Fightback (International Marxist Tendency) with support from others left groups and local trade-unions, started as a counter-protest to efforts by the campus Ryerson Conservatives club, along with the right-wing populist People’s Party of Canada and Ontario First Party, to organize a “Ryerson Freedom Rally” to oppose vaccine mandates and the renaming of the university. The “Freedom Rally” was officially called off largely due to the organizing efforts of the counter-protesters, though a small grouping did march by the rally near the end.

At the demo, we distributed a leaflet with excerpts from our article, “Canada’s Dirty Secret: Residential schools & ethnic cleansing”.

22 December 2021 | Boric victory in Chile: Plus ça change

The victory of president-elect Gabriel Boric (56%) over ultra-conservative José Antonio Kast (44%) will resolve none of the key political issues upon which he campaigned and led to his surprise electoral win (ie, tax evasion and avoidance by the ultra-rich, parasitic private pension schemes, ecologically-destructive mining projects, crushing student debt, etc.). Boric, a former student leader and activist, was thrust into power in the wake of the mass protests of 2019 against social inequality under outgoing right-wing billionaire president Sebastián Piñera. While Marxists are clearly not opposed to the reformist demands animating Boric’s base, his tepid reformism will not fundamentally address the laws of capitalist society. Undoubtedly, the groundwork is now being laid for the emergence of a post-Piñera popular-frontist (ie, cross-class) government in which Boric’s broad left-wing coalition, which includes the Chilean Communist Party, governs with elements of the bourgeoisie. A popular-front government, committed to capitalist rule and seeking to administer the bourgeois state (not smash it), signifies not a decisive break with the Pinochet-era past, but a reviving of illusions in the bankrupt “socialist” experiment under Salvador Allende in the early-1970s.

As the once revolutionary Spartacist League warned when Salvador Allende’s popular-front “Unidad Popular” took power in 1970:

“It is the most elementary duty for revolutionary Marxists to irreconcilably oppose the Popular Front in the election and to place absolutely no confidence in it in power. Any ‘critical support’ to the Allende coalition is class treason, paving the way for a bloody defeat for the Chilean working people when domestic reaction, abetted by international imperialism, is ready. The U.S. imperialists have been able to temporize for the moment—and not immediately try to mobilize a counter-revolutionary coup on the usual Latin American model—because they have softened the anticipated nationalization losses through massive profit-taking over several years.
“Within reformist workers’ parties there is a profound contradiction between their proletarian base and formal ideology and the class-collaborationist aims and personal appetites of their leaderships. This is why Marxists, when they are not themselves embodied in a mass working-class party, give reformist parties such ‘critical support’—against overt agents of capital—as will tend to regroup the proletarian base around a revolutionary program. But when these parties enter a coalition government with the parties of capitalism, any such ‘critical support’ would be a betrayal because the coalition has suppressed the class contradiction in the bourgeoisie’s favor. It is our job then to re-create the basis for struggle within such parties by demanding they break with the coalition. This break must be the elementary precondition for even the most critical support.”
—“Chilean Popular Front,” Spartacist (No. 19, November–December 1970):

8 January 2022 | Chicago: For workers’ control of education!

More than 27,000 members of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) have been locked out by the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) district since mid-week, impacting 340,000 students. CTU members had refused to return to in-person learning after the holiday break unless their health and safety concerns over Covid-19 are addressed (e.g., wider testing, clear metrics over schoolwide outbreaks, adequate staffing and substitute teachers). CPS officials and Democratic mayor Lori Lightfoot responded by locking out teachers and students from both in-person and remote learning including freezing online instruction platforms. Attacks on teachers for prioritizing the health and safety of staff and students comes as Covid cases in the US reach all-time daily highs (over one million new cases were reported on Monday alone). From “bread and butter” economic issues, to health and safety concerns, working people can only rely on a class-struggle leadership within their own ranks to defend their interests.

As we noted in 2020:

“A serious, science-based effort to contain, treat and eradicate Covid-19 requires free screening and testing at schools by public health workers, vigilant contact tracing, proper ventilation and distancing, as well as PPE for all staff and students. No school reopenings should take place until deemed safe by workplace safety committees of teachers and school support staff, in collaboration with healthcare workers.
“Workers cannot rely on school administrations, departments of education and labor, capitalist politicians, bourgeois courts and union bureaucrats to defend our interests. Instead, our most effective weapons are well-organized militant strikes and picket lines and a class-struggle leadership rooted in amalgamated unions covering all workers on site and the entire education sector.
“The public education system must be run by a network of workers’ committees coordinated at all levels (school, district, state, national, international), with real decision-making power over safety procedures and workplace closures in response to Covid-19 as well as broader issues around school functioning, curriculum and pedagogy. Students should be involved in age-appropriate decision-making about their education and school environment.”
—“School Closures, Class Struggle & Covid-19

16 February 2022 | Trudeau’s ‘emergency’ measures

The invoking of the never-before-used Emergencies Act by Canada’s Liberal government is a gross attack on civil liberties and a dangerous precedent that revolutionaries must oppose. While today aimed at unrest in downtown Ottawa and blockades at a number of key Canada-US border crossings, the same authoritarian measures will be employed tomorrow against the working class and left (e.g., BLM marches against racist police terror, sit-ins and direct actions by climate activists).

This Act is being used to ban public assemblies the government deems “illegal and dangerous”; give the police “more tools to restore order”; empower the government to designate and secure “critical” areas (e.g., border crossings, airports); freeze financial assets associated with “illegal activity”; and impose fines of up to $5,000 and five-year jail terms.

Marxists oppose the vaccine mandates of the capitalist state and employers (which strengthen the hand of the ruling class), and we advocate workers’ control of the Covid response. However, we clearly do not seek to affiliate with those mobilizing under the banner of the so-called “Freedom Convoy”: a heterogeneous collection of malcontents ranging from those justly upset by the government’s mishandling of Covid-19, right-wing conservatives, and anti-science/anti-vaccine fanatics to overt and covert pro-fascist elements.

The fascists involved must be isolated, physically confronted and driven from the streets by united-front actions of the workers’ movement, including trade unions, organizations of the oppressed and other potential victims of the fascists—not by the armed fist of capitalist state backed by draconian legislation.

The deep frustration among wide layers of the Canadian working class at almost two years of global pandemic must be channeled into a socialist direction. Revolutionaries advocate mobilizing working people around a program that not only addresses their immediate needs, but does so in a manner that points toward a workers’ (i.e., soviet) government based on collectivized property and central planning to truly meet human need.

See “A Revolutionary Response to COVID-19” for an emergency program of action.

12 March 2022 | Texas: Down with anti-trans directive!

Last month, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an odious anti-trans directive criminalizing the provision of gender-affirming care to minors as ostensible “child abuse.” The order means any parent/guardian providing basic care to their child may now be investigated by state authorities. And teachers, clinicians, or social workers who suspect a child is receiving care must report it or face criminal charges themselves. The clear intent is to intimidate and punish anyone supporting trans youth.

Yesterday a Texas district court issued a temporary injunction halting investigations under this order, but state Attorney General Ken Paxton signaled his intent to appeal the ruling. It is clear that the threat to trans youth in Texas is far from over—and this reactionary directive reflects a wider attack on trans rights, with dozens of similar anti-trans bills working through state legislatures across America.

Marxists oppose all discriminatory legislation and support the ongoing legal challenges to remove Abbott’s directive, while placing no faith in the bourgeois “justice” system which itself criminalizes the trans community and its supporters. Ultimately ending anti-trans bigotry requires struggle against the material roots of this hatred, which lie in the bourgeois family and the system of hereditary property it enshrines. We look to the organized working class to lead the fight to defend trans people, and other minorities in America, from the rising tide of reactionary hate. Such a struggle begins with workers’ resistance to state persecution; it must end in a revolutionary struggle to overthrow capitalism and the family and gender norms it perpetuates.

See “Birth Certificates & Bullies” for our perspective of trans liberation through socialist revolution.

13 March 2022 | The main enemy is at home!

Most demonstrations in Britain in response to the war in Ukraine have duplicated the sea of Ukrainian flags seen at cultural and sporting events with Russia presented as the sole guilty party. Rather than criticism of the role played in this conflict by the British state and its allies, there are calls for them to “do more” to help Ukraine (i.e., military intervention). A demonstration called by the Stop the War Coalition on 6 March in London, however, took a more even-handed approach under the slogans “Russian Troops Out! No to NATO Expansion!”

Revolutionaries are dual defeatist in any conflict between imperialist powers but focus our fire on our “own” imperialist power in opposition to warmongering national chauvinism. We attended this demonstration with placards and a leaflet calling for strikes against the British war machine: “No troops, no weapons, no sanctions!”

The basis of this “peace” demo, however, was ambiguous enough to accommodate political responses to the war that included calls on the EU to “act now” in support of Ukraine. There was a certain overlap with another demonstration taking place at the same time half a mile down the road in Parliament Square, much more overtly in favour of Western imperialist military intervention; EU and Union flags flying alongside the blue and yellow of Ukraine—a demonstration that revolutionaries could not participate in.

It is necessary not only to call to “stop the war”, but to actively work for the defeat of our own ruling class, in Britain and other imperialist countries around the world.

Read our analysis in “Ukraine & the Left.”