BEA to RR/BL (14 September 2020)
Published under the title “Imperialism, National Liberation and Permanent Revolution and also, a reply to the RR and BL”
This article is an answer to RR (9 July 2020, “RR and BL to BEA”). At the same time, for us struggling to establish the international leadership of the working class, the most important condition for overcoming the human crisis, we hope this article will contribute to the establishment of the right revolutionary program.
1. The repetition of straw man logic
Since the beginning of mutual dialogue in 2018, RR has argued that our position in Iran 1979 is to seek and support the rule of Khomeini. It is groundless and stubborn slander.
The position on Iran in 1979 is a very important programmatic point. For that reason, we have made our position clear several times.
The followings are the representative articles.
This position is in full accord with Lenin and Trotsky’s position on the struggle for national liberation in colony. We just applied the lesson to the 1979 Iran situation.
In the face of the Iran-U.S. conflict in 2019, RR, BT, IBT, ICL, and IG fought to defend Iran. In other words, it supported the position of military alliance with the current Islamic leadership of Iran in the conflict against U.S. imperialism. We judge that this indirectly sympathizes with the anti-Shah, the stooge of the U.S imperialism, military alliance line in January-February 1979.
In our two replies in March and August 2019, we pointed out the straw man fallacy and asked for its grounds.
This sentence of comrades [“To support the ascent of Khomeini to power would have been a strategical, political form of support which would only sown illusions and false expectations in the results of the Islamists’ rise to power.”(RR to Bol EA)] is the creation of a strawman. We have never insisted on “helping or supporting” Khomeini’s ascension to power. We have consistently been wary of “infusing illusions and false expectations on the Islamists’ rise to power.” Lenin’s April thesis in this regard is a key example of our tactics. I want you to point out which part did we insist on “helping or supporting” Khomeini’s grip on power, or the part that could be interpreted as such. ―Aug 2019, Bol EA to RR
But now, a year later, as if there was no document from August 2019, RR endlessly distort and slander our argument with the straw man logic without giving any grounds.
In our view, calling Khomeini’s rise to power a “partial victory” (or in your particular wording a “victory for the left-wing guerrillas and the working people”) seems to be implicit of a call to power, albeit critically. ― 3 page, RR’s 9 July 2020
To call such a thing a partial victory amounts to critical support of Khomeini’s ascension to power, which would be by definition “critically” supporting Khomeini’s grip on power (albeit contradictorily for the purpose of positioning his overthrow). ― 3 page
But this position has stagist implications. It certainly sounds like you are calling to side with Khomeini until his ascension to power. ― 4 page, (every emphasis is of Bol EA)
RR only presents their sensory organs as the grounds.
To make an opponent prone to attack, use extreme expressions ridiculously frequently.
You have the claim that imperialist involvement in itself is the defining factor, so that Marxists should always just oppose imperialists on whatever side they choose as a question of just anti-imperialism. We agree taking this factor into consideration is crucial. But with such methodology you limit the issue to just imperialism. This methodology is very mechanical, imperialist presence helps us choose which side, but is not the sole determiner.…Even in neo-colonies, this of course helps us build the picture, but cannot be the absolute factor in itself. ―1page
This is a dishonest and obstinate attitude. With this dishonest and illogicality, Marxist science cannot be dealt with productively.
2. The real slogan of the iSt: (a) Down with Shah! Break with Mullahs! vs (b) Down with Shah! Down with Mullahs!
This issue was analyzed and explained in detail in the August 2019 reply that ‘(a) is right and (b) is problematic.’
But RR still reiterates the argument that at that time iSt was no problematic and ‘(a)=(b).’, while we are wrong. In other words, future opportunistic interpretations of the iSt families are only a problem, and iSt’s position at that time was ‘(a)=(b).’
We see our analysis in the last letter as correct, but we may be wrong. We do not perfectly understand the internal circumstances and history of iSt at that time.
Let us leave this matter to our readers, including the iSt tradition (ICL, IBT, BT, IG).
They might answer these two questions.
1) what is right?
a: Down with Shah! Down with Mullahs!
b: Down with Shah! Break with Mullahs!
2) what is/was the real position of the iSt then and now
3. On the Brazil question
We, in August 2019, said to confirm each other’s commonality.
“But you comrades have a similar position with us in tactics in Egypt, Turkey, Libya, Brazil and Syria, which have been the big issues between IBT and us.”
Then, RR sent this opinion in July 2020.
“Speaking of Brazil, we know for a fact the PT government was in excellent terms with the imperialist powers during its entire existence. The coup, which never got to a physical confrontation, was much more a result of internal questions than of imperialist meddling/intervention. This is because imperialist interests were never at stake.”
RR is speaking of Brazil that “imperialist interests were never at stake [in the 2016 coup]”
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We judge that Brazil is a neo-colony.
In other words, it was capitalized by the initiative of imperialist financial capital. The dominant capital, such as banks and key industries, was built for the super-profit of imperialist financial capital, and is directly and indirectly controlled by it. The national governance system, such as politics and military, was built around the interest of imperialist financial capital.
Exploitation is supported only by violence. Therefore, the army, the intelligence department, the police, etc. have a close relationship with imperialist financial capital. This is why there have been so many coups in the neo-colony, while there few in imperialist countries.
We think Brazil also shares these characteristics and history. And we need synchronic and diachronic studies on Brazilian capitalism.
RR says, “imperialist interests were never at stake. [on 2016 coup]”, but there are quite a few reasons not to say “never.”
“Michel Temer’s ties to the U.S. government, as revealed by WikiLeaks’ Public Library of U.S. Diplomacy, add to the growing body of evidence that the parliamentary impeachment of Brazil’s democratically-elected president, Dilma Rousseff, was supported by allies in Washington.”―WikiLeaks: Brazil’s Acting President Michel Temer Is US Diplomatic Informant, May 13th, 2016
“Instead of strengthening regional institutions, Temer’s policy promotes free trade, seeks to privatize state owned companies, and prioritizes economic relations with the United States and European nations.”―Council on Hemispheric Affairs, The Temer Administration and the Threat to the Southern Regional Integration Process, July 20, 2016
“We need class actions – not vague “movements,” but concrete measures – such as real, not symbolic, strikes and plant occupations to sink the budget cuts, the privatizations and the “reforms” ordered by big capital and imperialism, which is applying in Brazil the same program as in Greece.”―IG, Brazil: No to Impeachment!, April 2016
“LEAKED CONVERSATIONS BETWEEN Brazilian officials reveal the inner workings of a secretive collaboration with the U.S. Department of Justice on a sprawling anti-corruption effort known as Operation Car Wash. The chats, analyzed in partnership with the Brazilian investigative news outlet Agência Pública, show that the Brazilians were extremely accommodating to their U.S. partners, going out of their way to facilitate their involvement in ways that may have violated international legal treaties and Brazilian law.”—The Intercept, 12 March 2020, “KEEP IT CONFIDENTIAL” The Secret History of U.S. Involvement in Brazil’s Scandal-Wracked Operation Car Wash
“after NSA documents leaked by Snowden revealed that the US electronic eavesdropping agency had monitored the Brazilian president’s phone calls, as well as Brazilian embassies and spied on the state oil corporation, Petrobras.”—Guardian, 24 Sep 2013, Brazilian president: US surveillance a ‘breach of international law’
We are not fully aware of the specific situation of Brazilian history and social organizations. But at the very least, we know that the words “imperialist interests were never at stake.” is dangerous words that is very likely to be wrong.
Looking at the answers to this question like that, we got a glimpse of how naive and frivolously RR deals with the important question even in Brazil.
For RR, the key word in their last reply to us is ‘victory.’ The word ‘victory’ is repeated 37 times from beginning to end in a six-pages long document. And this word is evenly distributed throughout the text (3 times in 1page, 11 in 3page, 14 in 4page, 5 in 5page, 4 in 6page).
For RR, who never wants to lose, this question was perhaps the most embarrassing subject.
This ridiculous argument also began as soon as the conversation began. We explained that the resignation of Egypt’s Mubarak in 2011 and the fall of Iran’s Shah dynasty in 1979 were similar social phenomena to that of Russia’s Tsar in 1917. Then RR said:
“Their coming to power is never described as a “victory” or “partial victory” of any kind by Lenin or Trotsky, but as a maneuver of the bourgeoisie to fool the masses.”
We explained the ‘ambivalence of matters’ in two replies, in 7 Dec 2018 and 15 March 2019. And introduced the February Revolution to the references of Trotsky and Lenin, who call it “victory” and we expected that this ridiculous debate on whether we can call it partial victory or not, would finish.
* * *
However, this time again, RR mentioned only one side of its’ face, repeating, ‘We cannot call them victory.’
The RR presents the fate of the Bolsheviks after the provisional government took power and the Iranian communists after Khomeini, as the basis for the events not to be and should not be called victory.
You say “We do not agree to describe this conflict simply as a bourgeois internal struggle”, but the results of such a victory – mass repression against communists, shows that it really was definitely (though not “simply”) a struggle between two factions of the bourgeoisie, with once taking power they can turn their guns against the masses that brought them into power.―1page
The expropriation of certain American companies and other issues may have been partial victories, but the process that led them to jail cannot be considered a partial victory, which is why they were soon after reversed and also combined with very reactionary measures. ―4page
In July 1917, under Kerensky’s interim government, Bolshevik was outlawed and threatened to death, and the leadership, including Trotsky, was imprisoned. Nevertheless, when Kornilov staged a coup in August, Bolsheviks went on a military alliance with the interim government of Kerensky.
In “On the Sino-Japanese War (1937)”, Trotsky insisted on an united front with the Kuomintang against Japanese imperialism. Chang Kai-shek of the Kuomintang was the one who crushed the Chinese Communist Party and massacred communists in 1927. Trotsky proposed to the Communists to form a military alliance with the Kuomintang of Chang Kai-shek. Perhaps RR never understood the meaning of the tactic if RR had not known that the writer of it was Trotsky.
In “Anti-Imperialist Struggle is Key to Liberation,” 23 September 1938, Trotsky argued that if Britain and Brazil clash militarily, even if the Brazilian regime is semi fascist, it should stand on Brazil’s side against democratic Britain. So, should the Brazilian Communists participating in the military alliance be promised in advance by the Brazilian fascist to guarantee the revolutionary activities of the Communist Party and legalization of the Communist Party?
* * *
The fate of communists, does not depend on the tolerance of the capitalists, domestic or foreign. But it depends on the scientific understanding on the mechanism of class struggle, and relationship of forces, leadership, and success or failure of class struggle.
If one does not understand the dialectical nature of the development of events, such as the two faces of things and the change and development, it is difficult to understand the revolutionary dynamics from February to October in 1917.
Not understanding it means not understanding the revolution. Rather than a revolutionary, then, it would be more of what Trotsky said in “Ultra lefts in General and Incurable Ultralefts in Particular.”
It doesn’t matter whether you call the events “victory” or not. What’s important is that the overthrow of Egypt’s Mubarak in 2011, the overthrow of Iran’s Pahlavi dynasty in 1979 and the collapse of Russia’s Tsar in February 1917 brought considerable results to the working class, while causing fatal losses to the ruling class. And it provided a springboard for the socialist revolution.
The fate of the working class and communists does not depend on the springboard or name of it, but on how to use it. Will it be used as a springboard for the revolution or as a springboard for the gallows?
We call “a large animal with four legs, a mane (= long thick hair on its neck) and a tail. being used for riding on, pulling carriages, etc.” a ‘horse’ in English and ‘cavalo’ in Portuguese. But it doesn’t matter whether you call it ‘horse/cavalo’ or not. Regardless of your naming of it, the horse will be running on the meadow.
5. The Theory of permanent revolution and stagism
RR also charges us as stagists. Of course, the evidence is only in their sensory organs as well.
You say: “From the beginning of the revolution on January 7, 19, until the collapse of the military on February 11, 1979, we struggle with Khomeinites to overthrow the regime. At the same time, we unconditionally protect the political and organizational independence and warn the working class of the reactionary nature of the Khomeinites. After the victory of Anti-Shah struggle, we struggle to build the workers’ power”.
But this position has stagist implications. It certainly sounds like you are calling to side with Khomeini until his ascension to power, and after this stage of overthrow, then we would struggle to build workers power. If that is the case, it contains within it a nucleus of a stagist position.
Our tactics, “sounds like” a stagist theory to you, are the application of Bolshevik’s during the Russian Revolution of April, August and October in 1917 and Trotsky’s teachings to Iran. But RR takes issue with it. It is slandered by saying that it is a stagist theory reminiscent of Menshevik or Stalinism.
We cannot win over the partner who are struggling against their own imagination. And there is no gain to win.
However, the iSt tradition of succumbing to imperialism has rationalized its opportunistic neutral position by using the theory of permanent revolution, and has distorted it in the process. Therefore, an explanation of this question is needed, in order to defend the theory of permanent revolution from opportunism. As such, the letter of August 2019 has already well explained it, but it will be supplemented again.
1) No Stages? Change has stages.
Everything, always, changes/moves. However, it maintains a form of movement such in a certain period of time. This form of movement has a continuity with them of before and after, but at the same time is distinguished. This is a stage.
Stages are observed in both water changes, human growth and social development. In the Russian Revolution, the periods of February, April, July, August and October were distinct from those of the previous ones, respectively. Lenin and Trotsky’s internal struggles were devoted to getting Bolshevik to understand the very difference in timing. Differences in the objective situation, differences in relationship of forces, status of the ruling class, and changes in the conscious and organizational readiness of the working class.
2) The Problem of Menshevism and Stalinism
The problem of Menshevik and Stalinist stagist thinking is not in recognizing the existence of stage. But it is in reducing the stages of historical development of mankind as the stages of a nation. Thus, it is a mechanistic thought that believes that every country must go through all stages of historical development of mankind. In other words, they think that capitalism should first go through in underdeveloped countries including such as Russia, China etc., where capitalism has not developed enough yet. So, they succumb to the capitalist class. Falling into the popular front, class-collaborationism, they are later exposed defenselessly to the counterattacks of the capitalist class (with imperialism).
3) The Value of the theory of Permanent Revolution
The value of theory of permanent revolution lies in looking at the development of a country as a dependent condition of global development. In other words, the theory of permanent revolution identifies the world as an organic system, not a simple collection of each country. In the organic system of the world, the law of uneven and combined development penetrates in each country. Therefore, a country does not necessarily have to take the stage of capitalist development. A country’s deficiency can be overcome through the world revolution.
The working-class revolution overthrowing the imperialist rulers in advanced capitalist countries and the struggle for the national liberation of colonies against imperialism are two forces that promote and complement each other in the course of the transformation of the organism of the world into socialism.
Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky understood this point, and explained it to us on several occasions. Here, we are quoting the representative sentences.
Marx and Engels:
“Now the question is: can the Russian obshchina, though greatly undermined, yet a form of primeval common ownership of land, pass directly to the higher form of Communist common ownership? Or, on the contrary, must it first pass through the same process of dissolution such as constitutes the historical evolution of the West?
The only answer to that possible today is this: If the Russian Revolution becomes the signal for a proletarian revolution in the West, so that both complement each other, the present Russian common ownership of land may serve as the starting point for a communist development.”―The 1882 Russian Edition, Communist Manifesto
“Social-Democracy…must utilize the struggle of the young colonial bourgeoisie against European imperialism in order to sharpen the revolutionary crisis in Europe.
“The dialectics of history are such that small nations, powerless as an independent factor in the struggle against imperialism, play a part as one of the ferments, one of the bacilli, which help the real anti-imperialist force, the socialist proletariat, to make its appearance on the scene.
“We would be very poor revolutionaries if, in the proletariat’s great war of Liberation for socialism, we did not know how to utilize every popular movement against every single disaster imperialism brings in order to intensify and extend the crisis.”―The Discussion On Self-Determination Summed Up, July 1916
“Hence, the socialist revolution will not be solely, or chiefly, a struggle of the revolutionary proletarians in each country against their bourgeoisie—no, it will be a struggle of all the imperialist-oppressed colonies and countries, of all dependent countries, against international imperialism…We said that the civil war of the working people against the imperialists and exploiters in all the advanced countries is beginning to be combined with national wars against international imperialism. That is confirmed by the course of the revolution, and will be more and more confirmed as time goes on. It will be the same in the East.
“It is self-evident that final victory can be won only by the proletariat of all the advanced countries of the world,…But we see that they will not be victorious without the aid of the working people of all the oppressed colonial nations, first and foremost, of Eastern nations. We must realize that the transition to communism cannot be accomplished by the vanguard alone.”―Lenin, Address To The Second All-Russia Congress Of Communist Organisations Of The Peoples Of The East, Nov 22, 1919
9. The conquest of power by the proletariat does not complete the revolution, but only opens it. Socialist construction is conceivable only on the foundation of the class struggle, on a national and international scale. This struggle, under the conditions of an overwhelming predominance of capitalist relationships on the world arena, must inevitably lead to explosions, that is, internally to civil wars and externally to revolutionary wars. Therein lies the permanent character of the socialist revolution as such, regardless of whether it is a backward country that is involved, which only yesterday accomplished its democratic revolution, or an old capitalist country which already has behind it a long epoch of democracy and parliamentarism.
10. The completion of the socialist revolution within national limits is unthinkable. One of the basic reasons for the crisis in bourgeois society is the fact that the productive forces created by it can no longer be reconciled with the framework of the national state. From this follows on the one hand, imperialist wars, on the other, the utopia of a bourgeois United States of Europe. The socialist revolution begins on the national arena, it unfolds on the international arena, and is completed on the world arena. Thus, the socialist revolution becomes a permanent revolution in a newer and broader sense of the word; it attains completion, only in the final victory of the new society on our entire planet.―10. What is the Permanent Revolution? Basic Postulates
“In Brazil there now reigns a semi fascist regime that every revolutionary can only view with hatred. Let us assume, however, that on the morrow England enters into a military conflict with Brazil. I ask you on whose side of the conflict will the working class be? I will answer for myself personally—in this case I will be on the side of “fascist” Brazil against “democratic” Great Britain. Why? Because in the conflict between them it will not be a question of democracy or fascism. If England should be victorious, she will put another fascist in Rio de Janeiro and will place double chains on Brazil. If Brazil on the contrary should be victorious, it will give a mighty impulse to national and democratic consciousness of the country and will lead to the overthrow of the Vargas dictatorship. The defeat of England will at the same time deliver a blow to British imperialism and will give an impulse to the revolutionary movement of the British proletariat. Truly, one must have an empty head to reduce world antagonisms and military conflicts to the struggle between fascism and democracy. Under all masks one must know how to distinguish exploiters, slave-owners, and robbers!”―Anti-Imperialist Struggle Is Key to Liberation, Sep 1938
As such, the specifically established the theory of permanent revolution through Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky looks at the imperialist world system as a single organism, and deploys a country’s revolution in international relations. On the other hand, the core of Menshevism and Stalinism, which we call stagism, is a one-national view of a country’s class relations by separating them from the world system and looking at them in isolation.
But from a one-national point of view, there is not just Stalinism, “socialism in one country.” The degenerated Trotskyists also shared the one-national point of view (“Capitalism in one country?”). Among the degenerated Trotskyists, there has been a tendency to remove imperialist and international factors from the class conflicts in a country or a region, especially in colony.
After Trotsky’s death, and after World War II, the Fourth International, whose main branches were mainly located in imperialist countries, began to be weighed down by imperialist pressure, and a programmatic degeneration occurred. Revolutionary continuity was inherited to some extent in the question of the degenerated/deformed workers’ states which was a hot point of struggle in Trotsky’s last years. It is undeniably significant contribution to Marxism. However, starting with the Israel-Arab war in 1948, a programmatic degeneration occurred in colonial-imperialist affairs.
The iSt camp was the most radical tendency within the increasingly regressive Fourth International. The iSt maintained a revolutionary line in the question of the degenerated/deformed workers’ states such as the Soviet Union, North Korea, China, Cuba and Vietnam. However, in the issue of imperialist-colonial conflict, the revolutionary attitude was not consistently maintained.
After taking a neutral stance in the Israel-Arab War in 1948, the tradition of looking at class struggles in certain regions or countries from a one-national perspective began without looking it internationally. It eroded a lot the so-called Trotskyist camp, including the iSt. In particular, it has frequently taken an inconsistent attitude toward the issue of imperialism especially in the Middle East. It took a frequent neutral stance, claiming that the struggle within the colonies was just a struggle between two bourgeois or two reactionary forces. Since then, such a neutral attitude has become chronic. Now, it takes a neutral stance on some complicated and difficult issues. Let’s check some remarkable examples. (We have been working on this long-term project.)
ICL: against Yeltsin in Aug 1991 in Russia
IBT: on Moscow coup in Oct 1993 in Russia
ICL, IBT, IG: Libya in Feb 2011, Syria in April 2011
ICL, (IBT), IG: Egypt in 2013
ICL, IBT, IG: Euromaidan in Ukraine in 2016
ICL, (IBT), IG: Turkey in 2016
ICL, (IBT): Brazil in 2016
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Human society, which emerged at the end of the evolutionary process of things, is the highest level of complexity. The revolutionary movement is the act of scientifically understanding the highest level of complex objects and intervening in the process of their transformation. Marxism is the highest level of scientific analysis framework for society and its transformation. And it is possible to maintain Marxism only when you can withstand the pressures of this imperialist society.
However, there are those who want to understand society and revolution as black-and-white logic and the four arithmetical operations. They do not understand the basis of the dialectic of ‘unity and conflict of opposites’, relationship of matters and endless movement of things. To bring down and distort the essence of an object to their own level of understanding. It is also a kind of idealism.
Here’s the conclusion from the last two years of talks with RR. Further dialogue is unproductive, whether it is under pressure or because of a lack of intellectual sincerity to understand Marxism. But through that conversation, we have become more able to understand more specifically about one of the most important issues of this time. Hopefully this can contribute to the construction of an international revolutionary party in the future.
14 SEP 2020