Open letter to the members of the WSP of India
14 October 2018
Comrades of the Workers’ Socialist Party of India,
Revolutionary Regroupment is a Trotskyist tendency based in Brazil. We uphold the struggle of the Fourth International against Stalinist degeneration of the Communist movement internationally, as well as fight the opportunism of many so-called Trotskyists who are actually class-collaborationists, reformists or centrists. As you can check by reading our English publications, we defend a view of firm opposition (not one vote, not any kind of political support) to popular fronts; defend the national rights of oppressed nationalities (including their right to self-determination) while fighting nationalist ideology among workers; oppose imperialist intervention and attacks against oppressed nations by all means (which recently included Libya and Syria, and may soon include Iran). You can check some of these and other of our positions on: https://rr4i.milharal.org/english/
We persistently tried to contact the WSP leadership in the interest of exchanging political views after reading the Program of WSP and other of your documents. The reason for this was that we found your program, despite some minor differences, to be quite orthodox, a creative implementation of the method of Permanent Revolution in the Indian sub-continent and generally politically principled. So far, we have been ignored by the leadership of your group, which does not seem to have informed the membership about us either. We are writing this open letter to the members of WSP in the interest of demonstrating our willingness to conduct discussions about the construction of the international Marxist party – a rebuilt Fourth International. Following are some of the political points that we would like to raise with you.
We strongly believe there is no other way of re-building the Fourth International other than engaging in serious programmatic discussions with other groups claiming or moving to the genuine Trotskyist tradition and program. That is even truer internationally than it is on a national level. There is no “revolutionary party in one country”. While it is possible to transfer comrades to several other countries after growing in just one, it would be easier and more viable to fuse with comrades from other nations on the basis of a consistent program and methodology. While many acclaimed Trotskyist currents have acquired a crystalized opportunist tone, this is no reason to give up on this internationalist perspective, as there are constant splits and evolutions that give birth to groups and individual militants moving to the left. Not to mention groups and individuals who are dissatisfied with the existent “Internationals” and actively searching for a principled group to join. Internationalism means both solidarity with the struggles of the workers and the oppressed in other countries and willingness to build an international party.
2) Democratic centralism
While there are many traits of the Bolshevik Party that were determined by early twentieth-century Russian context, we believe Lenin’s flexible organizational formulations (depending on practical circumstances and on the size of the party) retain one fundamental principle: democratic centralism. That means unity of action and political line, along with freedom of discussion internally. Different points of view should be debated and clarified internally. Temporary tendencies or factions could be formed to defend such points of view in a loyal manner. The leadership could (and should) be modified in its composition after ordinary and extraordinary conferences.
This system worked for the Bolsheviks even during the hardest times of Tsarist repression. Of course the limitations on this should be determined by concrete circumstances of political freedom in the particular country, resources etc. But as a general principle, this is crucial for any revolutionary party. Freedom of internal disputes and discussions, including freedom to criticize the leadership, is the only mechanism that allows the correction of the errors that any revolutionary group will inevitably commit. Otherwise, it tends to deepen or insist on those errors, and eventually develop a form of opportunism.
Building a democratic-centralist group and leadership is not an easy task – it takes time and energy. But it is the only way of developing the organization creatively and positively, rather than ending up as a clique of permanent leaders who are seen as unquestionable and who cannot be criticized (even when they make mistakes). This factor played a role, for example, in the bureaucratic degenerations of some of the political traditions we see as having a positive contribution after the destruction of the Fourth International by the Pabloists — such as the Spartacist League/U.S. and the International Bolshevik Tendency (IBT). We also believe it played a role, in a somewhat different manner, in the degeneration of the Fourth International and of many Communist parties corrupted by Stalinism. We, therefore, regard it as a very important political issue.
3) For a communist intervention in the trade unions
We regard trade unions as organizations of the workers which defend basic rights under capitalism. Texts such as Trotsky’s “Trade Unions in the Epoch of Imperialist Decay” condensate the lessons developed by the early Communist International. Trade unions in most countries have become increasingly corrupt and class-collaborationist, they have adapted to the bourgeois state and to capitalist order. A layer of bureaucrats has established itself ahead of most of them and they defend their conservative positions maintaining the struggles “under control”, while usually presenting themselves as true representatives of the workers. They are not willing to wage struggles against the bosses and the state to their fullest consequences, because this would put in jeopardy their comfortable positions.
Nevertheless, no matter how bureaucratized trade unions may be, it is of supreme importance that revolutionaries fight within them, warning workers against the betrayals and backward ideology of the labor bureaucracy. Trotsky wrote (in 1940) that: “in spite of the progressive degeneration of trade unions and their growing together with the imperialist state, the work within the trade unions not only does not lose any of its importance but remains as before and becomes in a certain sense even more important work than ever for every revolutionary party. The matter at issue is essentially the struggle for influence over the working class. Every organization, every party, every faction which permits itself an ultimatistic position in relation to the trade union, i.e., in essence turns its back upon the working class, merely because of displeasure with its organizations, every such organization is destined to perish. And it must be said it deserves to perish.”
We are aware of the fact that in many cases, there are only fake-unions, organizations which are heads without a body, which conduct no real organizing or struggles whatsoever, and are in reality schemes to rule over state or pension funds. These, obviously, cannot be seriously considered unions. However, we are a little skeptical that such is the case of all unions in India. A recent struggle by the factory workers in the Sriperumbudur-Oragadam belt involved the demand of recognition of the union, which indicates this is a burning issue.
Also, if such were the case that no real unions exist, it would be important to wage a call for the creation of unions, to organize the unorganized. The American Trotskyists played a very important role in the process of unionizing the working class (in industrial unions) in the early 1930s. While we agree with the Program of WSP that broader and more democratic organizations (such as factory committees, soviets, etc.) would be required in more acute moments of class struggle, revolutionaries must not dismiss the unions. Reflect upon Trotsky’s warning, comrades.
4) Defend the deformed workers’ states against capitalist counterrevolution
In the WSP program, it is stated that “capitalism has been restored in the former USSR and the People’s Republic of China.” It would be important to have a clarification on this, more precisely, on the class character of the state currently reigning in China. In our opinion, the Chinese state is a deformed workers’ state, despite the bureaucracy’s consistent turn to the right in the last 25 years. This shift opened up areas of the economy for the exploitation by capitalist enterprises and consequently reduced the importance of the state sector. This represented an adaptation to capitalism, since those concessions were presented by the bureaucracy as the construction of “Socialism with Chinese characteristics”, and they dangerously increased social inequalities. But the history of China, the hesitant/conservative role played by the state in such opening and even the characteristics of the Chinese economy, all these elements testify that a bourgeois counterrevolution did not yet occur in the country, i.e., a qualitative and non-returning moment in the process of restoration of a backward, isolated and deformed workers’ state.
We want to understand if you consider that the Chinese state is effectively a bourgeois state, and when and how such a state would have replaced the deformed workers’ state established after the 1949 revolution. We would also like to know your position on Cuba, Vietnam and North Korea, which we also consider to be deformed workers’ states. Contrary to the counter-revolutions that have triumphed in the deformed and degenerated workers’ states of the USSR and Eastern Europe between 1989 and 1991, in Cuba, Vietnam, China and North Korea, the workers’ states survived. Significant differences can be seen in their economies in comparison to capitalist countries, for example: total state control of the banking system, used exclusively for financing the state industries; state control of all strategic and basic industrial sectors; state property of the land, despite its private usufruct in some cases – elements which point to the incomplete and still unstable character of capitalist “restoration”.
Only a bourgeois counterrevolution – the replacement of the workers’ state by an organ to serve the exclusive interest of the capitalists – would destroy the social achievements that remain (although deformed by the bureaucracy). It is significant that many on the left who point to the supposedly bourgeois character of the Chinese state still regard the restoration of capitalism in the country as “incomplete” or “in progress” after so many years. It is curious that such restoration is not considered to be “still in progress” in Russia or Poland, for example. This has an explanation: such restoration is still partial because the state that is above the Chinese society zigzags between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, adapting empirically to the pressure of these two fundamental classes. In the last two decades of bourgeois reaction over the proletariat throughout the world, this bureaucracy tended to adapt to imperialism, but “left” twists in the bureaucracy, which is a heterogeneous and unstable social layer, are not excluded. Such a turn would not, however, change its dual, contradictory and, in the long run, counterrevolutionary character. We maintain in our program the need to fight for a proletarian political revolution against the CCP bureaucracy, with democratic (Soviet) reformulation of the economy by the Chinese workers, while we also defend China against the possibility of a capitalist counterrevolution.
5) Properly fight all forms of oppressions under capitalism
Revolutionists must fight all forms of oppression under capitalism, including those which are a by-product of (or reinforced by) class domination. Among those, we include sexism, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, religious intolerance against atheists and oppressed creeds, etc. The revolutionary party must strive to be the “tribune of the people”, that is, lead all the downtrodden against capitalism, under the guidance of the proletariat. Fighting all such prejudices is the only way to unite the masses under a single socialist banner, instead of splitting the oppressed in various separated (and sometimes opposing) movements. For this, the party and the class must rid themselves as much as possible from reproducing all poisoning ideologies that only benefit the ruling class. Only by doing so can we properly defend the workers.
We consider the recent de-criminalization of homosexuality in India to have been an important (albeit very limited) victory for all the oppressed. We did not find much about the LGBT question in the English language literature of the WSP, only some brief references. We could see that WSP militants favored the change in the law and oppose state interference in the consensual relationships of adults. But at the same time, we saw the use, by some militants, of terms such as “sexual deviation” and “perversion” to refer to homosexuality, and that it was a “disease of capitalism” (some of these statements were made in the name of the party). We regard this as a serious issue, which could damage the WSP work in the eyes of the homosexual youth and workers.
Both medical science and the socialist program for this question have developed a lot since Lenin’s time. Today we know that homosexuality is no illness. This has been confirmed by several psychology and psychiatry counsels worldwide. The psychological issues that harm gay people derive from the violence and repression they suffer in capitalist society. Today we know that homosexuality is very common in the animal kingdom and humans are no exception. Contrary to other practices that humans have evolved from, homosexuality causes absolute no harm to society and there is no logical reason for socialists today to treat it in the terms above mentioned. There are gay and bisexual comrades within our own group who would be repelled by such statements. We imagine the same would be true for LGBT people in India. Not only there is no logical reason to sustain such opinions, but they would also unnecessarily alienate progressive youth and workers from your party. A correction and clarification on this issue is urgent if the WSP wants to properly defend this oppressed minority and attempt to win them over to the program of Permanent Revolution.
Comrades of the WSP, we take our commitment as internationalists seriously as a condition for our very survival as revolutionists, and by this we mean neither diplomatic non-aggression pacts with groups in other countries, nor passivity towards discussions. That is the reason for this document. We ask you to attentively study the documents available in English in our website (https://rr4i.milharal.org/english/), as we have done and will continue to do with your documents. We are adamant that capitalism can only be eventually overthrown through regrouping the subjective revolutionaries around the world on a sound programmatic basis to rebuild the Fourth International.
Revolutionary Regroupment (Brazil)