Ten years ago this April, the Socialist Appeal was launched as the journal of the Marxists in the British Labour movement. We are on the eve of celebrating the hundredth edition of the Appeal, and ten years of tireless work in defending the ideas and principles of Marxism on a world scale.
The ideas represented by Socialist Appeal and Marxist.com have gained a considerable audience over the last ten years. The launching of Marxist.com was an important initiative. This was a big step forward, which has made possible big advances in getting our ideas known and entering new areas. The sheer volume of our theoretical production has never been greater. This has enabled us to break into new areas: Indonesia, Turkey, Ireland, the Balkans, Russia, North America and others.
Few would dispute the fact that our website is the best in the world. It is increasingly a point of reference for communist and socialist activists everywhere. In 2001 alone we had over a million successful page requests. This is a guarantee of our future success. It should fill all our comrades with a sense of pride and confidence in the Marxist tendency in Britain and internationally.
We are determined that our theoretical work will be continued and stepped up, and our use of the Internet maximised. We are preparing new books and pamphlets dealing with all aspects of Marxist theory. In this way we can connect with the most advanced elements who are looking for an alternative.
Marxism is Not Dead!
Socialist Appeal was launched under the most difficult conditions. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, many people thought that socialism was off the agenda. A decade ago the bourgeois were euphoric. They talked about the end of Communism, the end of Socialism, and even the end of history. All the leading ideologues of the bourgeoisie and the reformist labour and trade union leaders proclaimed the death of Marxism.
After the collapse of the USSR, the bourgeois felt that they were no longer threatened by "Communism". The capitalist system (the "free market economy") ruled supreme. The ruling class felt confident. They dreamed of an economic boom that would last forever. But time has moved on since then. Ten years have passed since the collapse of the USSR. In that period, the most profound changes have taken place, which are transforming the situation on a world scale.
The euphoria of the defenders of the “market economy” was short-lived. Now all their dreams are in ashes. The entire situation has changed into its opposite. All the declarations of the strategists of Capital are filled with deep pessimism and foreboding. In a very short time, the so-called free market economy has revealed all its shortcomings. Capitalism has revealed its reactionary character on a world scale.
In fact, we were never worried about the attacks on Marxism. Marxism has been pronounced dead every year for the last 150 years. One can believe many things of the ruling class, but there is one thing which cannot be believed. One cannot believe that they are completely stupid. And it is unthinkable that they would spend so much time and money attacking an idea that is dead. On the contrary. The bourgeoisie only attacks ideas that are very much alive and which pose a mortal threat to their system.
Crisis of Capitalism
Marxism explains the historical process ultimately in terms of the development of the productive forces. The motor-force of capitalism is the production of commodities, and especially capital goods. In the last boom, the bourgeois of America and all other countries invested colossal amounts on new technology, new plant and machinery. This situation affected the psychology of all classes.
The economists wrote about a "new economic paradigm". The middle class (including the Labour bureaucracy) followed the bourgeoisie and its “market” ideology. The working class saw no alternative and sought individual solutions to its problems. Despite the extreme pressure on the workers, the debt, the long hours of toil, the stress and exhaustion, it was possible for a temporary period to obtain a relative amelioration of living standards. The strength of reformism and particularly its right wing (Blair, etc) and the isolation and weakness of the forces of Marxism were both predicated on this.
Now we see the other side of the process. The revolt of the productive forces against the straitjackets of private ownership and the national state is manifested in the present global crisis. Unable to deny the facts any longer, the bourgeois economists have admitted that the US economy is in recession. The world situation is characterised by increasing volatility at every level. The fears of the strategists of capital are expressed in one article after another. This represents a turning point in the whole situation.
There is massive overproduction ("over capacity") on a world scale. In Asia alone there is a huge productive capacity which cannot be used. Even when this is mopped up, it will not be possible to go back to the type of feverish growth of the previous period. A period of sluggish growth, accompanied by high unemployment in all countries, will follow.
The present global instability, with a combination of war and slump, is unprecedented since 1945. For a long time the capitalist system experienced an unprecedented upswing, with full employment and rising living standards in the advanced capitalist countries, and relative stability in the relations between states. Now the world economy is entering into the first simultaneous slump since 1974. This is an unprecedented situation which is provoking deep concern among the strategists of capital.
In economics, as in politics, US imperialism is faced with the equivalent of bushfires everywhere. No sooner do they put out one fire, than another one flares up with even grater intensity. This is in itself a graphic expression of the nature of the present epoch.
Who Are We?
The international Marxist tendency, represented in Britain by the Socialist Appeal, is, in a formal sense, very young. But in fact, it is very old. We stand on the ideas of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky which, in fundamentals, have not changed since the publication of The Communist Manifesto over 150 years ago. We stand on the titanic achievements of the First, Second and Third internationals.
We also stand on the basis of the ideas of that great revolutionary Marxist theoretician and martyr of the working class – Leon Trotsky – on the ideas of the International Left Opposition and the founding documents of the Fourth International.
In the person of Comrade Ted Grant, we stand for the continuation of the ideas of Trotsky. This year is also the seventy-fifth anniversary of the expulsion of Leon Trotsky and the Left Opposition from the Russian Communist Party. Comrade Grant was a member of Trotsky’s International Left Opposition from the very beginning. He represents an unbroken thread that connects us to the finest traditions of Bolshevism-Leninism and the October revolution.
Under the most difficult conditions, Trotsky and the International Left Opposition fought to rescue the genuine traditions of October. At that time, the current of Trotskyism was respected by working class activists everywhere. Unfortunately, these great traditions were discarded and betrayed by the sectarians who usurped the banner of the Fourth International after the death of the Old Man.
The Unbroken Thread
We thus represent an unbroken tradition for over seventy years of struggle to defend the authentic ideas of Marxism. Of course, the Marxists are faced with tremendous problems and obstacles at every step. But we are used to this. We have shown that we are able to resist the pressures. This depends in the first place and above all on a correct political line, and a scientific understanding of society and the class struggle. But ideas in and of themselves are not enough. It is necessary to build an organised tendency.
In Britain, over a period of forty years and more, we built the most successful Trotskyist movement since the Russian Left Opposition. Unfortunately, these colossal gains were thrown away by ultra-left elements. Ten years ago, in Britain and internationally, we broke with those who wished to abandon these traditions and lead the movement down the road of sterile sectarianism, and undo the results of decades of work in the Labour Party and the trade unions.
Ten years later, the facts speak for themselves. Those myopic sectarians who imagined that it was sufficient to walk out of the Labour Party and proclaim themselves to be "The Party" have only succeeded in wrecking the movement. They are now not even a footnote to history.
The bourgeois, the right wing and the ultra-lefts all imagined that the Marxist tendency was finished. But we have proved them wrong. There are times in history when just to hold the movement together is itself a victory. Despite all difficulties, over the past decade we have managed to hold our forces together. By contrast, almost all the sects are in crisis, losing members and splitting. This is the result of their complete lack of understanding, especially of how the working class moves. They have no conception of theory and no clear orientation to the class.
We have succeeded in retying the knot of history, rebuilding what had been destroyed and assembling the cadres under a new and clean banner. Together with co-thinkers in different countries, we have worked to rebuild the Marxist tendency on the basis of the ideas of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky. After quite a difficult period, the forces of Marxism are going forward in Britain and internationally.
Our work is being helped by a change in the objective situation. Everywhere there is a thirst for ideas and theory among the youth and the advanced workers. In many countries and continents the audience for our ideas is growing, and we are winning new supporters all the time. This is no accident. It reflects in part the beginnings of a change in the objective situation, but also the fact that the correctness of our ideas has been demonstrated by the course of events.
However, ideas without organisation is like a knife without a blade. In a Bolshevik organisation, there is no Chinese wall separating theory and practice. Our theory, programme and perspectives must be expressed in organisational forms, or they will never be put into practice. Above all it is necessary to find a road to the mass of the working class, beginning with the active layer in the trade unions and the mass socialist and communist parties.
Turn to the Mass Organisations!
A revolutionary tendency must have a perspective, but also a strategy for growth. In building the Marxist movement, there are no shortcuts or panaceas. The small ultra-left sects on the fringes of the Labour movement, who spend all their time building phantom "revolutionary parties" of half a dozen people, do not even understand the nature of the problem of party-building. They do not understand that it is not sufficient to proclaim the superiority of Marxism. It is necessary to educate the cadres not only with theory, but through patient work in the mass organisations of the working class.
We have a dual task: a theoretical task, of patiently explaining our ideas, raising the level of the advanced guard; and building the Marxist tendency. We must not succumb to the pressures of the existing situation, but understand the perspectives and the processes at work under the surface.
For the past twenty years, the workers’ organisations have lived through a period of defeats and setbacks. Looking back, many activists see nothing but defeats. Not having the advantage of a Marxist perspective, they do not understand how the class moves and have therefore drawn the most pessimistic conclusions. However, this psychology – which they mistakenly regard as "realism" – reflects this past, not the present or the future.
The class struggle will continue, no matter what the Labour and trade union leaders say or do. Of course, the union apparatus if powerful and can hold back the movement for a time. But this will only give it an even more explosive character when it finally bursts through. If the unions act as an obstacle, there will be a wave of unofficial strikes, which will later end in official action. The main thing is to see that an explosive mood is building up under the surface of apparent calm.
In the next period the crisis of capitalism will find its expression in crises within the mass organisations of the working class. The hold of the right wing leadership will be broken. The unions and parties will be shaken from top to bottom, preparing the way for the formation of mass left reformist and centrist tendencies. The Marxists must be capable of winning over the leftward-moving workers and youth. This means that we must maintain our unswerving orientation to the mass organisations of the class.
Build the Forces of Marxism!
From our perspectives certain things flow. We must give a sense of urgency to the task of building and strengthening the Marxist tendency, in order to prepare for the great tasks that might descend upon us sooner than we imagine. The sudden explosion in Argentina shows what will happen in one country after another. We must be prepared.
The political authority of our tendency on a world scale has never been higher. The quantity and quality of our written material has never been greater in the history of the last fifty years. That is the fundamental reason for our success. We are moving into a decisive period in history. Provided we take the necessary steps to build and strengthen the tendency in time, big possibilities will begin to emerge in one country after another. But the prior condition for success is that we should be in a position to take advantage of them.
Ideas must be expressed in action. It is necessary to get organised to fight against capitalism and imperialism. We must be at the forefront of this struggle at all levels. In this we have a proud record, as shown by our reaction to the recent events. We issued our first statement on the September 11 events the very same day, and following up with regular timely analysis, and also tactical advice and directives, including the slogan of anti-war committees, which were put into practice by our supporters in different countries.
On a world scale, events are moving fast. Everywhere the ruling class is faced with growing instability, wars and crises. The problems of humanity cannot be solved by capitalism, a diseased system which condemns millions of men, women and children to a life of poverty, wars, unemployment, sickness, ignorance and oppression.
The mood in the international Marxist tendency on its tenth anniversary is overwhelmingly optimistic and enthusiastic. This is a decisive fact – and it has a political basis. The correctness of our ideas fills us with confidence. Confidence in the ideas of Marxism. Confidence in the world working class. Confidence in ourselves.
The key to tomorrow’s victories is the work that we do today. We must all approach the task of building the tendency with a spirit of urgency and the revolutionary determination to overcome all obstacles. The work of educating and training Marxist cadres and integrating them in the mass organisations of the working class is the prior condition for the creation, first of a mass Marxist tendency, and then a mass Marxist party and an International which is really capable of leading the working class to the socialist transformation of society, nationally and internationally.