I. The Need for an Independent and Internationalist Working Class Position

As we elaborated in a recent statement, the RCIT considers Cameron’s referendum on Britain’s membership in the European Union as a political trap. “Socialists have to explain that it is in the interest of the working class and the oppressed of Britain to oppose any form of imperialist state. They should refuse to be dragged into giving their support as gullible voters to either of these alternative forms of imperialism. Consequently, the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT) and its supporters in Britain call upon workers and oppressed to vote neither YES or NO to UK membership in the EU. Instead, they should write on the ballot: “Neither Brussels, nor Downing Street! For international Unity of the Workers and Oppressed”, i.e., effectively abstain in this vote.” [1]

In doing so, the RCIT is upholding the Marxist tradition of taking a defeatist position in any conflict between two imperialist camps. Faced with the alternative between an imperialist nation-state and an imperialist federation, we give preference to neither. Similarly, Marxists don’t support any one imperialist state in a conflict with another. Neither do we support a smaller corporation against a bigger one or vice versa. Nor do socialist shop stewards support management in the latter’s greedy desire to fuse with another corporation or to sell part of their company to another corporation.

It is a central pillar of the Marxist tradition that the working class be politically independent of the bourgeoisie or any one of its factions. This means that workers should refuse to become foot-soldiers for any imperialist camp.

The main issue at the referendum is not a domestic conflict between different parties (UKIP against the government, Labour and Liberal Democrats) or within the Conservative party. Neither is the main issue national independence or the unification of Europe. These are just phrases of the bourgeois protagonists of the rival camps. Nor is the main issue whether people are for or against austerity or for or against racism, because both austerity and racism have been implemented for decades in both Britain and the EU. The main issue of the referendum is the alternative between two different political forms of imperialist state organization – an imperialist UK within the imperialist EU or outside of it as a junior partner of US imperialism.

In a situation in which two factions of the ruling class try to rally the oppressed classes behind their imperialist banner, it is the paramount duty of Marxists to explain to the working class that it must not lend support to either of these reactionary camps. Instead they must follow the principles of revolutionary defeatism, fight against both proposed alternatives and advocate an internationalist perspective.

Furthermore, in their struggle against both British and EU imperialism socialists should strive to unite with workers and oppressed in other countries. Such an internationalist stand implies that workers in Britain should look for kindred actions and organizations beyond their own national borders which they can support. Similarly, British socialists should strive for multi-national unity between white, Asian, black and migrant workers in their own country. No less, they should mobilize to display solidarity with refugees and migrants and to smash immigration controls.

In the case of the EU referendum, the RCIT calls upon workers and oppressed in Britain to express their internationalist refusal of Cameron’s pseudo-alternative by voting neither YES or NO to UK membership in the EU. Instead, as we wrote in our earlier statement cited above, they should write on the ballot: “Neither Brussels, nor Downing Street! For international Unity of the Workers and Oppressed”, i.e., effectively abstain in this vote.

I.1.          Our Tradition

For four decades it has been the tradition of our movement to advocate abstention in referendums on questions of entry of imperialist states into or their exit from the EU. In one of the first resolution of our predecessor organization – the League for a Revolutionary Communist International – we stated:

For that reason Workers Power in Britain called for an abstention in the 1975 referendum and will not add its voice, nor will the Gruppe Arbeitermacht nor the Irish Workers Group, to the campaigns for withdrawal, which are chauvinist in their inspiration and utopian and narrowly nationalist in the solutions they offer for ailing European capitalism. For the same reason we would have been unable to and unwilling to advocate either a yes or a no vote in the Norwegian referendum on entry or any future one in Spain or Portugal or even in a referendum on withdrawal in Greece. On each occasion the proletariat is asked to decide on the merits of two purely bourgeois programmes which contest the form of the relationship each of the European powers has with the others.[2]

The above quote reflects a certain weakness in the position of our predecessor organization, in that it did not differentiate between the tactics of socialists living in imperialist countries and those active in semi-colonies. As the RCIT has previously elaborated, we maintain that socialists in semi-colonial countries should advocate the exit of semi-colonial countries from the EU (or any other imperialist alliance) as part of the struggle against the imperialist domination of the oppressed people. [3]

However, in its primary manifestation – the question of membership of imperialist countries in the EU – our tradition has consistently taken a correct stand by refusing to support either entry or withdrawal. As briefly noted in the quote above our British section called for abstention in a referendum on Britain’s exit from the EEC (as the EU was called at that time) in 1975. We did so in contrast to most of the centrists and left-reformists (including the Stalinists and the left-wing of the Labour Party led by Tony Benn) who all advocated to vote for withdrawal.

We continued this tradition when the issue of entry into the EU became a central issue in Austria. The Austrian section produced extensive propaganda both against the “left-wing” supporters of the country’s entry into the EU (mostly left-wing social democrats) as well as against those opposed to entry (the Stalinist party as well as nearly all centrists). At that time we wrote:

Revolutionaries should therefore actively seize the opportunity provided by such a national debate in order to advance an internationalist programme of opposition to the capitalist EC and its anti-working class plans, to the attacks of the Austrian bourgeoisie, and for abstention, this posing the only real alternative for Austrian workers: international links between the workers throughout Europe, a concerted fight against capitalism at home and abroad, and for the Socialist united States of Europe. (…) On this point the working class position must be clear: we can have no interest in sticking up for either section of the capitalists against the other and marching with them for their profits. Our defence of workers’ present conditions is based exclusively on the international interests of the proletariat.[4]

In 1994, our Swedish section also called upon workers of that country to oppose both the pro-EU as well as the anti-EU camp of the bourgeoisie and to abstain in the upcoming referendum there. Our Swedish comrades argued:

The immediate task for revolutionary socialists in Sweden will be to intervene in the EU referendum, defending working class independence from both the Yes and No campaign – which are just two different ways of trying to tie the workers to the fate of capitalism.[5]

The RCIT proudly continues this tradition, which is the only revolutionary and internationalist alternative for the working class and the oppressed in such situations.

[1] See RCIT: Boycott Cameron’s Trap: Neither Brussels, nor Downing Street! For Abstention in Britain’s EU-Referendum! For international Unity and Struggle of the Workers and Oppressed! Fight against both British as well as European Imperialism! Forward to the United Socialist States of Europe, 2 August 2015, http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/eu-referendum-in-uk/

[2] Movement for a Revolutionary Communist International: The Nature of the EEC and the Elections to the European Parliament; in: Permanent Revolution No. 2 (Summer 1984), p. 9. See also Workers Power: EEC: An Arena for European Class Struggle; in: Workers Power No. 57 (6 June 1984), p. 4

[3] See e.g. RKOB: The European Union and the issue of the accession of semi-colonial countries, 14.10.2012, in: Revolutionary Communism No. 6, http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/eu-and-semi-colonies/

[4] MRCI: Austrian Workers and the European Community; in: Trotskyist International No. 1 (Summer 1988), pp. 21-22. See also: ArbeiterInnenstandpunkt: Weder Österreich noch EU, sondern die Vereinigten Sozialistischen Staaten von Europa. Eine marxistische Streitschrift gegen Austropatriotismus und Euroimperialismus, Broschüre, Wien 1994.

[5] Sweden: Voters kick out the Right; in: Workers Power No. 182 (October 1994), p. 13

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About RCIT Britain

What the RCIT stands for Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT) The Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT)is a revolutionary combat organisation fighting for the liberation of the working class and all oppressed. It has national sections in a number of countries. The working class is composed of all those (and their families) who are forced to sell their labor power as wage earners to the capitalists. The RCIT stands on the theory and practice of the revolutionary workers’ movement associated with the names of Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Trotsky. Capitalism endangers our lives and the future of humanity. Unemployment, war, environmental disasters, hunger, and exploitation are all part of everyday life under capitalism as are the imperialistic oppression of nations, the national oppression of migrants, and the oppression of women, young people, and homosexuals. Therefore, we want to eliminate capitalism. The liberation of the working class and all oppressed is possible only in a classless society without exploitation and oppression. Such a society can only be established internationally. Therefore, the RCIT is fighting for a socialist revolution at home and around the world. This revolution must be carried out and lead by the working class, for only this class has the collective power to bring down the ruling class and build a socialist society. The revolution cannot proceed peacefully because a ruling class never has nor ever will voluntarily surrender its power. By necessity, therefore, the road to liberation includes armed rebellion and civil war against the capitalists. The RCIT is fighting for the establishment of workers’ and peasants’ republics, where the oppressed organize themselves in councils democratically elected in rank-and-file meetings in factories, neighbourhoods, and schools. These councils, in turn, elect and control the government and all other statue authorities, and always retain the right to recall them. Authentic socialism and communism have nothing to do with the so-called “socialism” that ruled in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, and which continues to do so in China and Cuba, for example. In these countries, the proletariat was and is dominated and oppressed by a privileged party bureaucracy. Under capitalism, the RCIT supports all efforts to improve the living conditions of the workers and oppressed, while simultaneously striving to overthrow this system based on economic exploitation of the masses. Towards these ends, we work from within the trade unions where we advocate class struggle, socialism, and workers’ democracy. But trade unions and social democracy are controlled by a bureaucracy perniciously connected with the state and capital via status, high-paying jobs, and other privileges. Thus, the trade union bureaucracy is far from the interests and living conditions of its members, based as it is on the top, privileged layers of the working class – a labor aristocracy which has no real interest in replacing capitalism. Therefore, the true struggle for the liberation of the working class, the toppling of capitalism and the establishment of socialism, must be based on the broad mass of the proletariat rather than their “representative” from the upper trade union strata. We also fight for the expropriation of the big land owners as well as for the nationalisation of the land and its distribution to the poor and landless peasants. Towards this goal we struggle for the independent organisation of the rural workers. We support national liberation movements against oppression. We also support the anti-imperialist struggles of oppressed peoples against the great powers. Within these movements we advocate a revolutionary leadership as an alternative to nationalist or reformist forces. While the RCIT strives for unity of action with other organizations, we are acutely aware that the policies of social democrats and pseudo-revolutionary groups are dangerous, and ultimately represent an obstacle to the emancipation of the working class, peasants, and the otherwise oppressed. In wars between imperialist states we take a revolutionary defeatist position: we do not support either side, but rather advocate the transformation of the war into a civil war against the ruling class in each of the warring states. In wars between imperialist powers (or their stooges) and a semi-colonial countries we stand for the defeat of the former and the victory of the oppressed countries. As communists, we maintain that the struggle against national oppression and all types of social oppression (women, youth, sexual minorities etc.) must be lead by the working class, because only the latter is capable of fomenting a revolutionarily change in society . Therefore, we consistently support working class-based revolutionary movements of the socially oppressed, while opposing the leadership of petty-bourgeois forces (feminism, nationalism, Islamism, etc.), who ultimately dance to the tune of the capitalists, and strive to replace them with revolutionary communist leadership. Only with a revolutionary party fighting as its leadership can the working class be victorious in its struggle for liberation. The establishment of such a party and the execution of a successful revolution, as it was demonstrated by the Bolsheviks in Russia under Lenin and Trotsky remain the models for revolutionary parties and revolutions in the 21st century. For new, revolutionary workers' parties in all countries! For a 5th Workers International to be founded on a revolutionary program! Join the RCIT! No future without socialism! No socialism without revolution! No revolution without a revolutionary party!
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