Chapter IV. The Justification of the L5I’s Turn to the Right – Our Refutation

 

 

Note of the Editorial Board: The following chapter contains several figures. They can be viewed in the pdf version of this document (see here).

 

 

 

Let us now turn to those individual arguments with which the L5I leadership justifies its jumping aboard the pro-EU train. As we will show, not only are the allegations of L5I leadership entirely wrong, but they are covertly based on an incorrect opportunistic and economistic belief which assumes that there does, in fact, exist potential for reversing the decay of capitalism. It is only in this way that the L5I can justify its adaptation to pro-EU social imperialism.

 

 

 

  1. a) Is It True that the Fate of the EU is Beneficial for the Development of the Productive Forces?

 

 

 

As we have shown above in several quotes taken from the writings of L5I leaders, this group justifies its support for membership in the imperialist EU by claiming that this will “raise humanity’s productivity and culture.” But the L5I leaders make no attempt at all to show how the continued existence of the EU and membership in this body will achieve these ends. This is quite understandable, as no such objective evidence can be provided!

 

Let’s take a quick look at the facts. First, let’s clarify what exactly is meant by the “productivity of mankind” and how this is measured. For us, as Marxists, based on what Marx wrote, the working class itself is “the most important productive force.

 

Let’s first reexamine the facts in order to check the bold – to put it politely – assertion of the L5I leadership. In Table 1, below, we see the long-term development of the share of wages in total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the old imperialist states from 1960 to 2010. In parallel to this, Table 2 displays the trend of official unemployment for the same period of half a century.

 

The figures show unequivocally that, despite the progressive integration of the EU in the economies of 15 countries since the 1980s, the period has been marked by both a significant decrease in the wage share as a percent of GDP and a dramatic increase in unemployment. By way of comparison, these two tables also give the corresponding figures for the US and Japan. Taken together, these tables show that – regardless of whether we are talking about countries within or outside the EU – the situation of the working class in all imperialist countries has deteriorated in recent decades. The wage share in the EU fell from 71.1% in the 1970s to 63.6% in the first decade of the new millennium. During the same period, unemployment increased from a range of 2–4% in the 1960s and 1970s to a range of 8–9.5% since the 1980s.

 

 

 

Table 1: Adjusted wage share in selected imperialist countries; total economy, 19612010 [1]

 

                                                As percentage of GDP at current factor cost

 

                                                USA                       Japan                      EU-15

 

1960–1970                           67.2%                    73.8%                    69.8%

 

1971–1980                           66.8%                    77.7%                    71.1%

 

1981–1990                           65.2%                    74.0%                    67.8%

 

1991–2000                           64.9%                    70.8%                    64.8%

 

2001–2010                           63.3%                    65.5%                    63.6%

 

 

 

Table 2: Unemployment rate in selected imperialist countries, 1961-2010 [2]

 

                                                USA                       Japan                      EU-15

 

1960-1970                            4.8%                       1.3%                       2.2%

 

1971-1980                            6.4%                       1.8%                       3.9%

 

1981-1990                            7.1%                       2.5%                       8.5%

 

1991-2000                            5.6%                       3.3%                       9.4%

 

2001-2010                            6.1%                       4.7%                       8.0%

 

 

 

The cause of this deterioration of the condition of workers (“the most important productive force”) during the 50 year period examined is, of course, not the advanced integration of the EU in itself (as nationally narrow-minded opponents of EU membership claim), as is readily discerned from the corresponding trends in imperialist countries outside the EU, like those for the US and Japan. Rather, this deterioration is based on the long-term crisis of capitalism. Therefore, in the broader context, it would appear that the increased economic integration of member states within the EU has had no real positive impact on either wages or unemployment.

 

Tables 3 and 4 compare the respective development of real wages and unemployment in Sweden and Austria before and after both countries joined the EU in 1994. Here too, no positive impact for the working class ostensibly attributable to joining the EU can be discerned. For Sweden, unemployment tripled from a range of 2–2.5% between the 1960s and 1980s to a range of 7–8% starting in the 1990s (Table 3). We see a similar development for Austria where unemployment also increased significantly while real wages mostly stagnated since the country joined the EU (Table 4).

 

 

 

Table 3: Sweden before and after joining the EU [3]

 

Growth of real wages per head                                   Unemployment

 

1961–73                                                3.5%                                                                                       2.1%

 

1974–85                                                0.7%                                                                                       2.6%

 

1986–90                                                2.2%                                                                                       2.0%

 

1991–95                                                -0.1%                                                                                     7.2%

 

1996–2000                           3.2%                                                                                       8.0%

 

2001–05                                                2.2%                                                                                       6.7%

 

2006–10                                                1.5%                                                                                       7.3%

 

 

 

Table 4: Austria before and after joining the EU [4]

 

Growth of real wages per head                                   Unemployment

 

1961–73                                                5.1%                                                                                       1.8%

 

1974–85                                                1.8%                                                                                       2.3%

 

1986–90                                                2.3%                                                                                       3.3%

 

1991–95                                                2.1%                                                                                       3.9%

 

1996–2000                           0.7%                                                                                       4.4%

 

2001–05                                                0.0%                                                                                       4.9%

 

2006–10                                                0.6%                                                                                       4.9%

 

 

 

For Austria, we must add that these official figures do not reflect the dramatic impact on the lower layers of the working class. For example, adjusted for inflation, the wage share for manual workers has dropped by 14% since the mid-1990s. For the total working class, the wage share decreased from 75% (1995) to 69% (2015). [5]

 

In summary, the position of the working class has deteriorated dramatically during the phase of accelerated EU integration – just like what has happened in other parts of the capitalist world. EU integration has done nothing to ameliorate the economic decline of workers in member states.

 

Now let’s examine some other indicators of the development of productive forces. Table 5 shows how, regardless of the EU’s successful integration and expansion in its member states during a half a century (1960–2010), the dynamics of industrial production did not increase in the member countries, but rather fell drastically – just as happened in the US and Japan. From growth rates of 2.5–5% during the 1960s and 1970s, average industrial production in the 15 EU member states dropped to an average of -0.3% in the first decade of the new millennium.

 

 

 

Table 5: Growth of industrial production in selected imperialist countries, 19612010 (in % per annum) [6]

 

                                                USA                       Japan                      EU-15

 

1961–1970                           +4.9%                    +13.5%                  +5.2%

 

1971–1980                           +3.0%                    +4.1%                    +2.3%

 

1981–1990                           +2.2%                    +4.0%                    +1.7%

 

1991–2000                           +4.1%                    +0.1%                    +1.5%

 

2001–2010                           -0.2%                     -0.4%                     -0.3%

 

 

 

A similar picture emerges when we examine capital accumulation during the same 50-year period. Again, we see a significant decline for the EU states from + 6% in the 1960s to meager + 0.4% during the first decade of the new millennium (Table 6).

 

 

 

Table 6: Capital accumulation in selected imperialist countries, 19612010 (in % per annum) [7]

 

Gross fixed capital formation at 2010 prices; total economy

 

                                                USA                       Japan                      EU-15

 

1961–1970                           +4.7%                    +15.7%                  +6.0%

 

1971–1980                           +3.5%                    +3.5%                    +1.9%

 

1981–1990                           +3.5%                    +5.7%                    +2.8%

 

1991–2000                           +5.4%                    -0.6%                     +1.8%

 

2001–2010                           -0.4%                     -1.9%                     +0.4%

 

 

 

The figures for growth in labor productivity reveal yet again the same trend towards stagnation – + 4.7% in the 1960s, + 2.1% in the 1970s and only 0.7% in the first decade of the new millennium. Contrary to the assertions of the L5I leadership, we do not discern any beneficial development for productivity brought about by EU integration, but rather a substantial decline (Table 7).

 

 

 

Table 7: Labor Productivity in selected imperialist countries (in % per annum) [8]

 

Gross domestic product at 2010 market prices per person employed

 

                                                USA                       Japan                      EU-15

 

1961–1970                           +2.3%                    +8.6%                    +4.7%

 

1971–1980                           +1.0%                    +3.7%                    +2.1%

 

1981–1990                           +1.5%                    +3.7%                    +1.8%

 

1991–2000                           +2.1%                    +1.0%                    +1.7%

 

2001–2010                           +1.5%                    +0.9%                    +0.7%

 

 

 

The same picture emerges when we consider the specific examples of Sweden and Austria. Here too, we see declining labor productivity, despite a small upswing for Sweden in the 1990s and again in 2013–2014 (Table 8).

 

 

 

Table 8: Labor Productivity in Austria and Sweden before and after joining the EU [9]

 

Average growth of Gross Domestic Product per employee

 

Austria                                 Sweden

 

1961–73                                                4.9%                                       3.5%

 

1974–85                                                2.1%                                       1.1%

 

1986–90                                                2.1%                                       1.4%

 

1991–95                                                2.1%                                       2.8%

 

1996-2000                            2.1%                                       2.7%

 

2001–05                                                1.1%                                       2.4%

 

2006–10                                                0.1%                                       0.9%

 

2011                                       1.2%                                       0.5%

 

2012                                       -0.3%                                     -1.0%

 

2013                                       -0.1%                                     0.3%

 

2014                                       -0.5%                                     0.9%

 

 

 

Table 9 makes a long-term comparison of changing productivity for a number of Western and Eastern European countries. By examining these figures we can compare how productivity developed before and after the entry of these countries into the EU. Britain joined the EU in 1972; Austria, Sweden and Finland in 1994; and Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Hungary became members of the EU in 2004. In all cases – with exception of the previously mentioned partial exception for Sweden – we can discern no increased productivity after joining the EU; on the contrary, the figures show a constant decline.

 

 

 

Table 9: Average labor productivity growth in Austria, Sweden, Finland, Britain, Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Hungary 19502013 [10]

 

Annual average growth within each period

 

1950–1972           1972–1995           1995–2004           2004–2013

 

Austria                                                 5.8%                       2.7%                       1.5%                       1.2%

 

Sweden                                                 4.0%                       1.3%                       2.5%                       0.9%

 

Finland                                                 4.5%                       3.0%                       2.3%                       0.6%

 

Britain                                                   2.8%                       2.6%                       2.4%                       0.4%

 

Poland                                                  –                              –                              4.8%                       2.5%

 

Slovakia                                               –                              –                              4.4%                       2.7%

 

Czech Republic                                  –                              –                              3.1%                       1.9%

 

Hungary                                              –                              –                              2.8%                       0.9%

 

 

 

Further on we will elaborate the causes of this trend. For now we shall summarize by noting that many indicators of social and economic developments prove quite the opposite of what the L5I leadership wants us to believe.

 

 

 

  1. b) Is It True that the Fate of the EU is Beneficial for the Situation of Migrants?

 

 

 

Another argument by the L5I leadership for their support for remaining in the EU is that withdrawal by Britain (or any other country) from the EU would aggravate racism against migrants the country in question.

 

Basically, we welcome the L5I leadership’s attaching such great importance to the defense of migrants in imperialist metropolises. Yet, when they expelled us from their organization in 2011, a central issue in the intra-party struggle was our analysis of the oppression of migrants; our thesis contended that they are, in the vast majority, “nationally oppressed and economically super-exploited.[11] Today, however, we suspect that what lurks behind the argument of L5I leadership expressing such concern for the well-being of migrants is not so much a correction to their approach on the issue of migration but rather a pretext to justify their pro-EU stance.

 

In any case, the argument of L5I leadership on this question is incorrect from beginning to end and only serves to whitewash EU imperialism. Of course we don’t deny that an imperialist Britain outside the EU will accelerate its oppression of migrants. But we strongly refute the assertion of the L5I leadership that this would be causally related to the withdrawal from the EU.

 

Anyone who seriously deals with the situation of migrants in Europe knows that, in recent years, there has been a massive intensification of racist oppression of migrants not only outside the EU but also within. Is it possible that the L5I leadership still doesn’t know about the French police hunt for refugees in the port of Calais; that various countries like Austria and Hungary are building fences on their borders; and that more and more EU countries have passed legislation to suppress Muslim migrants? No, this is not possible. Today it is entirely absurd to claim that migrants are suppressed more outside the EU than inside it.

 

The exploitation of migrants from semi-colonial countries residing in EU states is a lucrative business for EU imperialism. Between 1995 and 2011, the British state alone collected as tax revenue from migrants who arrived from other EU countries (especially Eastern Europe) no less than 4 billion pounds more than it handed out to them as social benefits and other government spending. [12] This is to say nothing of the extra profits garnered by individual British capitalists by over-exploiting migrants. At the same time, the EU attacks with full force refugees stranded along the external borders of the European Union, a trend that will doubtlessly accelerate in the future. Furthermore, since 2000 more than 11 billion Euros have been spent by the EU solely for the deportation of migrants. [13] Is it possible that Marxists can seriously contend that the situation of migrants in a given European country would be better if that country remains within an imperialist alliance of states like the European Union, than if it left such an alliance?!

 

The L5I leadership may point to the leading anti-EU party in Britain, UKIP which ran a huge smear campaign against migrants before the Brexit referendum, and now is only encouraged by the gross incitement it waged following its success. We quite agree, and have repeatedly pointed out ourselves, that the pro-Brexit campaign is inherently chauvinistic and directed against migrants. But the same chauvinism also exists within the EU. And parties similar to UKIP have been around for years in the EU: parties like the National Front in France, PEGIDA and the AfD in Germany, the FPÖ in Austria, and Geert Wilders in the Netherlands. There is absolutely nothing incompatible between such parties and membership in the EU, as was demonstrated by 6 years of the FPÖ participation in the Austrian government from 2000–06.

 

Let’s check whether – as the L5I leadership asserts – withdrawal from the EU inevitably leads to “further restrictions on immigration.” Naturally, we have no crystal ball which allows us to predict what will happen in Britain in the next few years. But we do have the experience of recent years and decades. And this experience only points to the intensification of the trends – as we have identified in our Theses on Migration – that will inevitably lead to increased migration from the global South to virtually all imperialist countries. These trends are two: the increased demand of capitalists in imperialist metropolises for cheap labor; and the increased misery of the people of the semi-colonial world. [14]

 

For these reasons, since 1960, the proportion of migrants within national populations has increased dramatically not only in Europe but in North America and Australia as well (see Figure 1).

 

 

 

Figure 1: The share of migrants in the population, 1960 and 2005 (in %) [15]

 

 

 

 

Taking these two key trends into account, we see that – contrary to the claims of the L5I leadership – the growing migration to the EU in recent decades has very little to do with the existence of the EU itself. This understanding is only reinforced when we examine migration to non-EU European countries like Switzerland and Norway.

 

For example, the number of migrants in Norway’s population grew from 59,000 (1970) to 805,000 (2015). Today migrants make up 15.6% of the population of that country. [16] This is, in fact, a higher proportion than in many EU countries. In the case of Switzerland, this increase is even more pronounced, where migrants and their descendents account for 36% of the country’s population, the highest percentages of migrants anywhere in Europe. [17]

 

Finally, it is also edifying to analyze the evolution of migration to Britain. In 1931, the country had 1.08 million people who were born abroad. At that time this accounted for 2.7% of the total population. By 1971, i.e., a year before Britain’s entry into the EU, this number grew to 3.1 million migrants (6.4% of total population). However, after another 30 years, in 2001, 4.6 million migrants lived in Britain which makes 8.8% of total population. [18]

 

So we see, contrary to what the L5I leadership claims, the proportion of migrants in the total population of in Britain grew more rapidly in the time before the EU membership than since. So how exactly do the L5I comrades conclude that a withdrawal from the EU would automatically have a negative impact on immigration to that country? Such a conclusion flies into the face of the data for Britain before it joined the EU compared to its migration figures after it became a member state; and this conclusion is further undermined by the experience of Switzerland and Norway which have never even belonged to the EU!

 

In fact, immigration is not linked in any way to the existence of the EU as such, but is rather a common feature of imperialist capitalism – especially during its period of decline. Similarly, regarding the issue of productivity, the L5I leadership attests to the supposedly progressive character of the EU, so that they can justify their opportunist shift to the right.

 

 

 

  1. c) Is It True that the Fate of the EU is Beneficial for Internationalist Consciousness and the International Struggle of the Working Class?

 

 

 

We now come to the next myth perpetrated by the L5I leadership. As the quotations from their publications which we included above demonstrate, the L5I leadership further justifies its support for membership in the imperialist EU by asserting that such membership would be conducive to “raise the international awareness and coordination of the working class.

 

Here, too, the L5I leadership does not provide a single shred of evidence to back up its assertion and, once again, they would be hard pressed to do so. While an “international working class consciousness” is not something that can easily be quantified, we can definitely say that trade unions, both in countries inside as well as outside of the EU, have in practice demonstrated an international class consciousness. For example, the number of trade unions in non-EU countries supporting the boycott campaign against apartheid Israel (the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions [LO], COSATU in South Africa, CUT in Brazil, the Canadian Postal Workers’ Union) has its parallel in trade unions within the EU. [19] During the Gaza war of 2008/09, the Norwegian unions of railway workers and the tram drivers even arranged short strikes in solidarity with the Palestinian people! [20] Therefore, we would maintain that the internationalist consciousness of the working class is not linked to the existence of the imperialist EU itself, but rather exists largely independent of it. Rather, the extent and depth of “international working class consciousness” depends in large part on the specific experience of class struggle within a given country, the influence of political forces in that country and, in particular, on the nature of the respective leaderships of the working class.

 

This is also evident when one examines the development of actual class consciousness of the workers within the EU. Here, the experience is seemly contradictory. For while we have witnessed various signs of the strengthening of an international consciousness of the proletariat (for example the solidarity with refugees in 2015), in parallel we have also seen the advance of reactionary chauvinism in recent decades. The latter is reflected in the strengthening of racist parties like the FN, the FPÖ, UKIP, and AfD, particularly among backward sections of the working class. In any case, we definitely do not ascertain a qualitatively advantageous development of international consciousness of the proletariat within the EU compared with that in countries outside the EU.

 

Involuntarily, even the L5I has to confirm our thesis. Dave Stockton, the leading comrade of the L5I, wrote in a recent article: ” Nearly all the high points of class struggle in the last century (1917-21, the mid-1930s, the late 1960s and early 1970s) saw an international cross-fertilisation of ideas and methods of struggle.” This is absolutely correct! However, the author unfortunately forgets to mention that, during the course of the century being examined, either no EU existed or, in the period of 1968–75, the European class struggle took place internationally beyond the borders of the EU (e.g., in the non-EU countries Portugal, Spain, Greece). This yet again confirms that the existence of the imperialist EU in itself is not a significant factor in whether an international class struggle takes place or not.

 

In general, it is nonsensical and a complete distortion of the facts to assert that the EU membership would automatically be beneficial to the militancy and the class consciousness of the working class. If that would be the case, the European proletariat would be the most politically developed and most militant in the world, because nowhere else on earth is there a similar supranational institution like the EU. Well, as we all know, the reality is quite different!

 

The fact is that the progressive integration of national economies into the EU has, in general, brought about a weakening of worker militancy and unionization. Naturally, this is not a result of the existence of the EU, but because the capitalist crisis has led to the material weakening of the proletariat and, primarily, the systematic betrayal of union leaderships. Thus, in no way can facts be used to prove the assertion of the L5I leadership that the EU membership is advantageous for the working class and its struggle.

 

Table 10 shows that the extent of union organization in the EU countries – despite the alleged beneficial effects of EU integration on the working class militancy – has in most cases been dramatically decreased just as is the case for non-EU countries. In France, the share of union members from 1978 to 2013 dropped by 2/3 to 7.7%. In Germany it was halved (from 35.5% to 18.1%), as was also the case in Britain (from 48.8% to 25.8%). By contrast, Norway, which does not enjoy the alleged blessings of EU membership, union membership has remained relatively stable, ranging between 52% and 57%. The same is true for Iceland, another European non-EU member.

 

Similarly, we see that in Austria and Sweden union membership has dropped significantly since these countries joined the EU in 1994. Taken together, these figures hardly support the L5I thesis about a positive correlation between EU membership and class consciousness!

 

 

 

Table 10: Trade union density in selected OECD countries, 1978–2013 (in %) [21]

 

1978                       1994                       2013

 

Australia                              49.7%                    –                              17.0%

 

France                                   20.5%                    –                              7.7%

 

Germany                             35.5%                    –                              18.1%

 

Italy                                       50.4%                    –                              37.3%

 

Japan                                    32.6%                    –                              17.8%

 

Britain                                  48.8%                    –                              25.8%

 

Austria                                 57.6%                    41.4%                    27.8%

 

Sweden                                77%                        83.7%                    67.7%

 

Norway                                54%                        57.6%                    52.1%

 

Iceland                                 66.2%                    87.4%                    85.5%

 

USA                                       34.0%                    –                              10.8%

 

OECD                                   34.0%                    –                              18.1%

 

 

 

Now let’s examine the development of the class struggle, as manifested by the number of worker strikes in Europe, during recent decades which have been characterized by the increased integration of national economies within the EU. If we look at the number of annual strike days per country, we find absolutely no confirmation for the L5I-assertion on the benefits of EU membership for the class struggle.

 

Figures 2 and 3 detail the frequency of strikes between 1990 and 2015 and reveal mainly two interesting facts. First, the number of strike days overall has decreased during the last 25 years – again, despite the assertion of the L5I leadership. Second, we also see that in both tables, non-EU member Norway (NO) ranks among the top countries for strike statistics, and in fact leads a number of EU member countries such as Britain (UK).

 

 

 

Figure 2: Strikes in Europe 1990–1999 and 2000–2009 [22]

 

 

 

 

Figure 3: Strikes in Europe 2009–2015 [23]

 

 

 

 

The development of the class struggle in the specific case of Britain makes the assertion of the L5I leadership no less puzzling. Regardless of its membership in the EU since 1972, the working class in Britain has met serious setbacks and the class struggle there has declined dramatically since the mid-1980s. Naturally, these setbacks were not because of the Britain’s EU membership, but they do demonstrate that the beneficial effects of EU membership for the class struggle are nowhere to be found.

 

 

 

  1. d) What Should the Attitude of Revolutionaries Be towards EU-Membership for Semi-Colonial Countries?

 

 

 

The turn of the L5I to the right is also reflected in their attitude to the question of membership of European semi-colonial countries, such as Greece, in the EU. The L5I vehemently rejects the slogan calling for an exit of Greece, claiming that this would only be a nationalist dead end.

 

It is striking that, in its increasing adaptation to pro-EU social imperialism, the L5I neglects to point out that the EU is not a federation of equal countries; rather it is a proto-state dominated by a few imperialist powers (especially Germany in tandem with France) and while including a number of oppressed and exploited semi-colonial countries. By semi-colonies Marxists understand countries which, although they formally constitute independent states, are in reality economically dominated and exploited by imperialist corporations and are politically dependent on the great powers. [24]

 

From a Marxist point of view, more than half of the EU member states (all the countries of Eastern Europe [formerly part of the Soviet-Stalinist bloc] as well Greece, Cyprus, Ireland, and Malta) can be characterized as semi-colonies, these are home to more than ¼ of the total EU population. The arrogant supremacy of the EU Troika in Greece and its forcing the sale of the country to foreign banks and corporations is probably the most renowned example of imperialist exploitation and oppression by the EU towards its semi-colonial countries in recent years. [25]

 

Remarkably, in all its articles on the EU, the L5I hardly mentions the fact that the EU is to a considerable extent composed of semi-colonial countries. This neglect is presumably intended to draw the reader’s attention away from the following dilemma: If a quarter of the population in the EU lives in semi-colonial countries, then the comrades would have to admit that, in these cases, they are dealing with oppressed peoples. From this admission would follow that the L5I comrades must seriously deal with the role of these oppressed peoples in an imperialist confederation like the European Union. Furthermore, they would have to deal with the role of the imperialist countries in the EU and their relations with their semi-colonial “partners.” By itself, any such a serious examination would make it impossible for them to reach the conclusions they have on tactics concerning the EU.

 

But instead of making a clear Marxist characterization of the EU and calling the current national oppression within this confederation by name, the L5I leadership prefers all possible descriptions and euphemisms (“center – periphery“, etc.). At all costs they must avoid drawing the conclusions for the anti-imperialist tactics dictated by such a clear characterization – namely, to support the struggle for shaking off imperialist domination within the EU, which would unavoidably necessitate the raising of the slogan for an exit from the EU.

 

But, unlike the national-reformist Plan B supporters, we Marxists combine such an exit-slogan for the semi-colonial EU countries with a socialist perspective of a workers’ government. [26]

 

 

 

  1. e) Is It True that Trotsky Advised the Working Class to Favor Remaining in an Imperialist Pan-European Confederation?

 

 

 

We have already mentioned above a quote by Trotsky that is used by the L5I leadership to justify its turn to the right. As a longtime militant of our movement, I cannot personally help but smile when I see my ex-comrades citing this quotation. In 1984, our movement published in one of our journals the entire article by Trotsky from which this quotation is taken. The article appeared in the context of and subsequent to our resolution on the EU in which we justified our revolutionary defeatist position. [27]

 

In a separate preface to Trotsky’s article, we covered, among other things, the slogan of unification of Europe. Unlike the present leadership of the L5I, we saw then that Trotsky’s article in fact confirms our traditional position, namely to reject supporting either a call to join or remain within the EU on the one hand or to call for an exit from the union on the other hand. Today, the L5I leadership wants to exploit the cited quote from Trotsky as evidence to justify its opportunistic turn to the right, without even bothering to explain how previously we, all of us, saw exactly the same article as justification of our revolutionary defeatist position!

 

But let us put aside the intricacies of the history of our movement and turn to the interpretation of Trotsky’s article itself. This is not the place to discuss in detail the development of Lenin and Trotsky’s attitude to the slogan calling for a United States of Europe, and for this we refer the reader to another document which we published a number of years ago. [28] Rather, here we limit ourselves to the observation that, at that time, Lenin correctly rejected the slogan of the United States of Europe because it was “either utopian or reactionary” – that is, either it is an illusory demand for a peaceful, equal Europe on a capitalist basis, or it is a reactionary slogan understood as an imperialist confederation. At that time Lenin did not envision the possibility of developing this slogan to one called for a United Socialist States of Europe. Similarly, Trotsky didn’t envision this either, which is why his slogan calling for a Republican United States of Europe – regardless of their far-sighted and progressive core idea on the political and economic unification of the continent – was objectively wrong for the very reasons given by Lenin, which we just cited. As we noted in the preface to the above-mentioned article by Trotsky which we republished in 1984, at the time he originally wrote it, Trotsky had not yet broken with the tendency to objectivist processism. It was only later that Trotsky combined the slogan of European unification with the proletarian seizure of power, and in 1923 he won over the Comintern for the slogan of the United Socialist States of Europe.

 

Regardless of all this, the current interpretation of Trotsky’s quote by the L5I leadership is (and this is probably the most important point in the entire issue) to put it mildly, outrageous. Naturally, Trotsky rejected then, as we do today, praising the imperialist nation state as an alternative to a European imperialist confederation. And, of course, he saw the unification of the continent by the proletariat as an alternative to an imperialist-dominated Europe. Had the L5I leadership been content with such an interpretation, they wouldn’t have become so embroiled in theoretical nonsense.

 

But, unfortunately, they are zealously motivated to find a “Marxist” justification for their pro-EU position, and therefore have boldly dared to reinterpret the Marxist classics. They were better advised to have let this alone, because the result of their machinations is nothing less than a public ridicule of Trotsky.

 

To quote again from their article, the comrades of L5I polemicize against us as follows: “The Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT) has managed a theoretical feat by applying the military tactics of revolutionary defeatism, relevant for cases where two imperialist camps are pitted against each other and so both are led to defeat, in this political question. As if you can react to a policy issue where there is only a Yes and No by saying that this is all crap and you simply abstain.” So, in fact, they are claiming that it is methodologically incorrect to tie a political issue, such as the relationship of an imperialist confederation with an imperialist nation state, with the military tactics of revolutionary defeatism. Can it be that the L5I comrades have forgotten that Trotsky wrote the article, from which they themselves quote, in 1916, i.e., in the middle of the First World War? The war saturated all political issues with the military tactic of revolutionary defeatism, indeed no political issue could be separated from the great conflagration. Could it possibly have escaped the attention of the L5I comrades that Trotsky’s article discussed the question of the unification of Europe under imperialist domination – to make it more concrete – that would be the result of the victory of one of the two camps in World War I? The L5I leadership completely and unabashedly distorted Trotsky’s position as a means of justifying their own pitiful support for a country’s remaining within the imperialist EU. Do the comrades seriously want us to believe that, at that time, in the case of a referendum to remain or exit from such an imperialist confederation – let us use Belgium as an example, which was then occupied by Germany – Trotsky would have called for socialists in Belgium to vote for remaining in an Empire dominated by Germany?! Yet this is precisely the ramifications of their corrupted reasoning; otherwise the use of the Trotsky quote by the L5I leadership would make no sense at all. Poor Trotsky, who is so misrepresented by his self-styled followers as a political clown!

 

[1] European Commission: Statistical Annex of European Economy, Spring 2015, p.73

[2] European Commission: Statistical Annex of European Economy, Spring 2016, p.15

[3] European Commission: Statistical Annex of European Economy, Spring 2016, p.194

[4] European Commission: Statistical Annex of European Economy, Spring 2016, p.180

[5] Eva Linsinger: 20 Jahre EU-Beitritt: Wer von der Mitgliedschaft profitierte und wer verlor, in: Profil 3.1.2015, http://www.profil.at/oesterreich/history/20-jahre-eu-beitritt-wer-mitgliedschaft-378783

[6] European Commission: Statistical Annex of European Economy, Autumn 2006, p.52 bzw., für die Jahre 2001-2010, European Commission: Statistical Annex of European Economy, Spring 2015, p.33. Since there are no figures for the EU-15 for the years 1961-70 and 1971-80 in these EU statistics, we have calculated figures for these two decades using the arithmetic mean of the figures for Germany, France, Great Britain and Italy.

[7] European Commission: Statistical Annex of European Economy, Spring 2015, p.49

[8] European Commission: Statistical Annex of European Economy, Spring 2016, p. 31

[9] European Commission: Statistical Annex of European Economy, Spring 2016, p. 180 and 194

[10] OECD: The Future of Productivity, 2015, p. 82. The OECD gives no figures for the Eastern European countries for the years 1950-1995.

[11] See on this e.g. Michael Pröbsting: Building the Revolutionary Party in Theory and Practice, Chapter III, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/rcit-party-building/rcit-party-building-iii/ as well as Michael Pröbsting: Marxismus, Migration und revolutionäre Integration (2010); in: Revolutionärer Kommunismus, Nr. 7, http://www.thecommunists.net/publications/werk-7 (in German language)

[12] See The Economist: “What have the immigrants ever done for us?”, Nov 8th 2014, http://www.economist.com/news/britain/21631076-rather-lot-according-new-piece-research-what-have-immigrants-ever-done-us

[13] See The Migrants Files: The Money Trail; www.themigrantsfiles.com as well as http://jplusplus.github.io/tmf-moneytrail/?initialWidth=653&childId=iframe-treemap#

[14] See Michael Pröbsting: The Great Robbery of the South, chapter 8iv, pp. 179-188, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/migration-and-super-exploitation/ as well as Michael Pröbsting: Migration and Super-exploitation: Marxist Theory and the Role of Migration in the present Period of Capitalist Decay, in: Critique: Journal of Socialist Theory has in its latest issue (Volume 43, Issue 3-4, 2015) http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/migration-and-super-exploitation/.

[15] Rolph van der Hoeven: Labour Markets Trends, Financial Globalization and the current crisis in Developing Countries (2010), UN-DESA Working Paper No. 99, p. 11

[16] See Norbert Beckmann-Dierkes / Johann C. Fuhrmann: Einwanderungsland Norwegen – Demografische Trends und politische Konzepte, in: KAS AUSLANDSINFORMATIONEN No. 2/2011, p. 41; Statistics Norway: Immigrants and Norwegian-born to immigrant parents, 1 January 2015, http://www.ssb.no/en/innvbef

[17] See Norbert Beckmann-Dierkes / Johann C. Fuhrmann: Einwanderungsland Norwegen – Demografische Trends und politische Konzepte, in: KAS AUSLANDSINFORMATIONEN No. 2/2011, p. 41; Statistics Norway: Immigrants and Norwegian-born to immigrant parents, 1 January 2015, http://www.ssb.no/en/innvbef

[18] Migration Watch UK: A summary history of immigration to Britain (2014), http://www.migrationwatchuk.com/Briefingpaper/document/48

[19] See e.g. BDS: Trade union solidarity, https://bdsmovement.net/trade-union-solidarity; Michael Deas: Make sure Palestine stays on agenda, says Norwegian labor activist, 27 June 2013, https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/michael-deas/make-sure-palestine-stays-agenda-says-norwegian-labor-activist; Aftenposten: Norway’s largest union calls for Israeli boycott, 17 April 2002, https://electronicintifada.net/content/norways-largest-union-calls-israeli-boycott/4048

[20] Norway – historical mobilization against Gaza massacres, 09.01.2009, http://www.labournet.net/world/0901/norway1.html

[21] See OECD: Trade union density (%) in OECD countries, 1960-2010; OECD: Trade union density 1999-2014, http://stats.oecd.org/viewhtml.aspx?datasetcode=UN_DEN&lang=en. In the case of Iceland the OECD does not provide a figure for the year 1978 hence we took the figure for the year 1980.

[22] European Trade Union Institute (ETUI): Interactive Map on Strikes in Europe (Version July 2016), p. 5, https://www.etui.org/Topics/Trade-union-renewal-and-mobilisation/Strikes-in-Europe-version-3-July-2016

[23] European Trade Union Institute (ETUI): Interactive Map on Strikes in Europe (Version July 2016), p. 5, https://www.etui.org/Topics/Trade-union-renewal-and-mobilisation/Strikes-in-Europe-version-3-July-2016

[24] See on this Michael Pröbsting: The Great Robbery of the South, chapter I

[25] We have published an extensive analysis of Greece as a semi-colony with specific characteristics: Michael Pröbsting: Greece – A Modern Semi-Colony. The Contradictory Development of Greek Capitalism, Its Failed Attempts to Become a Minor Imperialist Power, and Its Present Situation as an Advanced Semi-Colonial Country with Some Specific Features, November 2015, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/greece-semi-colony/.

[26] For a closer rationale of our exit slogan see the statement of the Austrian section of the RCIT: 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/

[27] See Permanent Revolution No. 2 (Summer 1984), pp. 16-22

[28] See Michael Pröbsting: Die Frage der Vereinigung Europas im Lichte der marxistischen Theorie. Zur Frage eines supranationalen Staatsapparates des EU-Imperialismus und der marxistischen Staatstheorie. Die Diskussion zur Losung der Vereinigten Sozialistischen Staaten von Europa bei Lenin und Trotzki und ihre Anwendung unter den heutigen Bedingungen des Klassenkampfes, in: Unter der Fahne der Revolution Nr. 2/3 (2008), pp. 17-22, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/marxismus-und-eu/; See on this also the report of the Bolshevik G. L. Shklovsky who participated in Bern conference in February 1915: The United States of Europe Debate (1925) in; Lenin’s Struggle for a Revolutionary International. Documents 1907-1916. The Prepatory Years, New York 1986, pp. 251-252; Stephen Dabydeen: Trotsky, the United States of Europe and National Self-Determination, in: Hillel Ticktin and Michael Cox (Editors): The Ideas of Leon Trotsky, Porcupine Press, London 1995, pp.163-186; R. Craig Nation: War on War. Lenin, the Zimmerwald Left, and the Origins of Communist Internationalism; Durham 1989, pp. 43-44.

 

 

 

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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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