‘Not a Priority’

This letter was submitted for publication in Workers Power on 30 April 2009. We were immediately informed that: ‘Discussions in our publications with the IBT are not a priority for us and won't be for the foreseeable future.’ We suspect this is not so much a matter of priorities as of the difficulty the L5I leadership would have in defending its record of discovering 'revolutionary' potential in various overtly reformist formations.

The letter was distributed at a Workers Power "May Day Rally" on Sunday 3 May.


We agree with your call for a general strike in France to defeat the bourgeoisie’s attempt to offload the costs of their economic crisis onto the backs of working people. A successful general strike will require elected strike committees within which revolutionaries would seek to combat the influence of the ‘labour lieutenants of capital’ – including those who posture as ‘far leftists’.

While you have advanced various criticisms of the ex-LCR leadership of the New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA), your propaganda suggests that you think they can be pressured into providing an approximation of revolutionary leadership:

‘The NPA can play a critical role in all this and needs now to take concrete actions along these lines. If it does so – and if it avoids the trap of accommodating to reformism – it can begin to wrest leadership of the French working class movement from the hands of the reformists and open a struggle for working class power.’
(‘Days of action in France: we need an indefinite general strike to win’, 25 March 2009)

Elsewhere you describe the NPA as ‘the only force organised at the national level that can give the movement a clear perspective and, in particular, become the organiser and builder of the general strike’ (‘Faisons payer la crise aux capitalistes! Stop aux « reformes » et aux attaques de Sarkozy!’ [our translation]).

The ‘clear perspective’ offered by Besancenot & Co. is simple left reformism. The present economic downturn has intensified anti-capitalist sentiments among millions of workers. The LCR leaders had not anticipated this development when they initiated the NPA project two years ago as an overtly reformist party without any connection to Trotskyism. The NPA leadership feels compelled to continue talking about class struggle and a general strike, but poses militant action solely as a means to raise wages and win other limited reforms. The task of Marxists is to expose the NPA leaders’ reformist game, not to sow illusions that they can provide revolutionary leadership.

A few years ago you put a similarly positive spin on the World Social Forum, which we characterised as ‘a popular-frontist lash-up of Third Worldists, trade-union bureaucrats and NGO hustlers’ (1917 No. 26, 2004). Adapting to widespread illusions in the youthful anti-globalisation milieu at the time, you proclaimed:

‘Revolutionary Marxists say openly that we want to help it [the WSF] develop into an international movement, able to direct the struggle against capitalism and imperialism – a new world party of socialist revolution.’
(Workers Power, January 2003)

In the same issue, commenting on Lula’s election as president of Brazil, you suggested that his class-collaborationist campaign could perhaps provide a ‘base for radical socialist measures’.

Your recent support to Jerry Hicks for general secretary of Unite-Amicus in Britain repeats the same pattern. Hicks’ role in dragging the capitalist legal authorities into the union’s affairs is glossed over as just another one of the minor ‘problems with Hicks' positions’ (Workers Power, March). Revolutionaries would never support anyone who involves the bosses’ state in the workers’ movement.

Promoting illusions in Besancenot, Hicks, Lula, etc. can only demoralise and disorient any militants who might look to Workers Power for leadership. Leon Trotsky said that the duty of revolutionaries is to ‘say what is’, rather than adapt to what is currently popular. Yet the leaders of Workers Power, fearing isolation from the masses, have shown themselves to be chronically incapable of doing so.

Bolshevik greetings
Roxanne Baker
for the International Bolshevik Tendency

Posted: 17 June 2009