Reply to a correspondent:

Andreas W. has asked us to comment on the position of Ted Grant on the Moscow coup of 1991.

Our correspondent says “I got the impression, that the Grantite minority in the then ‘Militant’/CWI-tendency had a position quite similar” to IBT’s in believing that it was “incorrect to side with the movement supporting the capitalist restorationist[s] around [Yeltsin], whatever class composition the movement had and also whatever subjective interest in (bourgeois) ‘democratisation’ the involved workers … had.”

This is our reply:

The position of the 1991-92 minority in the Committee for a Workers International led by Ted Grant and Alan Woods regarding the Moscow coup is stated in their 3 January 1992 document, "The Truth About the Coup". (

“In the most unscrupulous fashion imaginable, the IS majority faction at first attempted to smear the Opposition by claiming that we had ‘supported the coup’. This lie was too blatant to be maintained and they were quickly forced to drop it, while nevertheless insinuating we advocated a ‘neutral’ position and that support for the coup was ‘implicit’ in our analysis of the situation. But what are the facts?

“At the December European meeting, several months before the coup, AW pointed out that under certain circumstances it would be correct to give critical support to the Stalinists in Eastern Europe or the USSR in the struggle against capitalist counter-revolution.

“What precisely were these conditions? When and if a wing of the Stalinist bureaucracy came out in defence of nationalised planned economy and leant upon the sections of the workers in a struggle against the pro-capitalist restorationist forces.


“What relation exists between that concrete situation and the August events in the USSR? None whatsoever. The programme of the coup was not to defend the nationalised planned economy, but to move towards a ‘market economy’ in a more gradual and cautious manner. That is why many workers, as the ‘eyewitnesses’ reports reveal, said they could see no fundamental difference between the two rival gangs. Under these circumstances there was absolutely no question of giving ‘critical support’ to the coup. The possibility was never even hinted at by EG and AW, which did not prevent the IS majority faction from putting this disgraceful lie into circulation.”

Ted Grant’s later erudite and superficially orthodox but ultimately reformist book on the subject, Russia--From revolution to counter-revolution (1997) shows that of course his current organisation, the Committee for a Marxist International, retains this position. His description of events is acute to the bourgeois-restorationist character of the Yeltsin camp, and to the Stalinist-conservative character of the Yanayev/Emergency Committee camp, and he correctly opposes support for the Yeltsin side in the conflict, whether political or military. Yet his is a passive account, content to let the contending forces decide the issue in a conflict from which he remains separated.

While providing penetrating description of events, which includes much that supports a Marxist view of the matter, Grant refuses to acknowledge the simple fact that the transition between the regime of Gorbachev and the regime of Yeltsin is a point of radical disjuncture between the old degenerated workers’ state and the new bourgeois state. This, of course, is because Grant is a Kautskyite--a pseudo-Marxist reformist.

His reformism has frequently aligned him with open supporters of imperialism—whether in opposing the demand for the immediate, unconditional withdrawal of British troops from Ireland, or supporting the trade-unionisation of the police.

This sometimes pro-imperialist reformism has repeatedly taken a Stalinophobic form. In the 1980s the Militant Tendency under Grant first opposed the Soviet troops going in to Afghanistan, only to later critically support their presence and associated reforms, before finally welcoming their withdrawal which led necessarily to the victory of the CIA-supplied Mujahedeen. And in 1981 they fulsomely supported Solidarnosc under Lech Walesa (which was clearly capitalist-restorationist as we document in our pamphlet “Solidarnosc--Acid Test for Trotskyists”)

Bill Logan
For the IBT

Posted: 06 June 2006