Copy to: CWG / US CWG / New Zealand, GKK / Austria, GMI / France, LCT / Argentina MaS / Russia, PCO / Argentina, RP / Peru RMG / Zimbabwe, TMI / Brazil …
Subject: Cahill-Clark-Rachlis contribution of February 28, 2016
The Bureau of the Permanent Revolution Collective made proposals twice to the Liaison Committee of Communists (November 30, 2015, February 9, 2016, each time in English) and submitted (in English which is not the mother tongue of any member of the Collective) a draft international platform. He received March 6 a contribution (in English) from Dan Cahill, Christopher Clark and Charles Rachlis on behalf of the LCC, on two issues: the situation in Syria is supposed to be revolutionary (1); it would be wrong and dangerous to talk of Islamofascism (2).
Permanent revolution is a strategy
The SR / Egypt, one of the few organizations that claim to be Trotskyist in the region, surrendered successively to the Muslim Brotherhood and the staff, both counter-revolutionary forces that blocked the beginning of democratic revolution in Egypt, repressed the whole labor movement and restored the former despotism of Mubarak. SR justified their zigzags invoking the permanent revolution, as all revisionists since 1949.
For the masses have proven anew that their revolutionary energy is endless, that their revolution is truly a permanent revolution. (Revolutionary Socialists, Egypt: Four days that shook the world, 5 July 2013)
Permanent revolution is not a simple historical prognosis that history should fulfil automatically. It is above all a conscious strategy requiring that the proletariat takes the lead of the oppressed, which he can do only through a workers’ party (a communist, revolutionary, internationalist party).
No matter what the first episodic stages of the revolution may be in the individual countries, the realization of the revolutionary alliance between the proletariat and the peasantry is conceivable only under the political leadership of the proletariat vanguard, organized in the Communist Party. This in turn means that the victory of the democratic revolution is conceivable only through the dictatorship of the proletariat which bases itself upon the alliance with the peasantry and solves first of all the tasks of the democratic revolution. (Trotsky, What is the Permanent Revolution? Basic Postulates, 1929)
Opportunism talk of a metaphysics « revolution » in Syria to cover class collaboration. It divides only on how to surrender to the bourgeoisie.
Opportunism differs according to the strata of the bourgeoisie with which it tries to unite and in whose support it attempts to enlist the proletariat. (Lukacs, Lenin, 1924, ch. 4)
Most of them support the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois democrats who apparently oppose the regime and Jihadism;
Some support the official Syrian regime arguing this one is « anti-imperialist »;
Others support jihadists in Syria and Iraq under the same pretext.
What is the nature of a « revolution growing » for 5 years?
If a revolution has occurred in Syria for 5 years, which is a very long time for a revolution, it would have deepened; it would have become a social revolution. If there was a social revolution in Syria, the whole world would know.
There is currently no social revolution in Syria (or Iraq), contrary to what was happening in much of Spain in 1936-37 thanks to the mobilization of workers and peasants, workers’ control and seizures of land, the existence of armed workers’ organizations (CNT, POUM) who supported then the arming the people and expropriations.
The revolutionary-military measures were accompanied by revolutionary-economic measures against fascism… Especially was this true in Catalonia where, within a week from July 19, transport and industry was almost entirely in the hands of CNT workers’ committees, or where workers belonged to both, CNT-UGT joint committees… The peasants needed no urging to take the land. (Felix Morrow, Revolution and Counter Revolution in Spain, 1938, ch. 3)
The contribution of Charles, Christopher & Dan argues that « the revolution in Syria has not been crushed ». But instead of a real concrete analysis of the concrete situation, they asserted it.
The power of the revolution grows; the Local Coordinating Committees have assumed and exercise more powers than before…
The only proof is the jive of the « Coordination of Local Committees. »
What is the Coordination of Local Committees?
Local Committees of Syria are not Soviets.
The LCCs started from a group of activists, journalists, legal experts and politicians. (Amer Abu Hamed, Syria’s Local Coordination Committees, the Dynamo of a Hijacked Revolution, May 2014, p. 7)
They have not strengthened but faded after 2011.
The LCCs have been considerably weakened due to repression from both the regime and jihadi groups. (Amer Abu Hamed, Syria’s Local Coordination Committees, the Dynamo of a Hijacked Revolution, May 2014, p. 6)
The Syria of 2014 is very different to the Syria of 2011 when the revolution started. (p. 13)
The leadership of « Local Committees » is pacifist, nonviolent. It was even willing to compromise with the Baath regime.
The LCCs have a membership office for groups wanting to establish an LCC-affiliated Coordination Committee in a certain area… Omar Edelbi, an LCC spokesperson, explains that:‘the task of the membership office is to verify… this person’s and this group’s belief in peaceful revolution, non-violence’… (Amer Abu Hamed, Syria’s Local Coordination Committees, the Dynamo of a Hijacked Revolution, May 2014, p. 8)
‘The Vision of LCCs for the Political Future of Syria’ was issued in June 2011… According to this paper, the only way out of the crisis is a peaceful negotiation with the regime. (p. 12)
No matter what the outcome of the conflict, the role of LCCs and other peaceful revolutionary youth groups will be crucial in rebuilding Syria. (p. 13)
A group that does not want to overthrow the regime, which claims to be pacifist, nonviolent, so leaving the monopoly of arms to the bourgeoisie (Baathist or Islamist) is not revolutionary.
A bourgeoisie armed against the proletariat is one of the biggest fundamental and cardinal facts of modern capitalist society. And in face of this fact, revolutionary Social-Democrats are urged to “demand” “disarmament”! That is tantamount of complete abandonment of the class-struggle point of view, to renunciation of all thought of revolution. (Lenin, The Military Program of the Proletarian Revolution, September 1916, II)
In addition, these « Local Committees » belonged for four years -from July 2011 to July 2015- to the bourgeois SNC supported since its inception by Saudi, Qatar, Kuwait, Turkey, the USA, Great Britain and France. Obviously, they did not withdraw to defend the interests of the proletariat.
A major Syrian anti-regime group, the Local Coordination Committees, announced Saturday it had quit the opposition in exile … In a letter to the Syrian National Coalition, the LCC denounced what it termed the SNC’s transformation into « blocs linked to foreign forces », referring to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. « We wish to inform you that the LCC has decided to withdraw officially from the coalition. We had hoped that this political grouping, of which we are one of the founders, would realise the aspirations of the people and the principles of the revolution for which it has paid an unimaginable price. Unfortunately, we have on several occasions noted its inability to undertake this mission”… The LCC denounced what it called « non-institutional » working methods and the creation of « blocs related to factors and external forces, which was the main reason for the outbreak of internal conflict over the personal ambitions of some members of the Coalition ». (AFP, Syrian LCC group quits opposition bloc, August 1, 2015)
The revolution against the Syrian regime and Islamofascism
A democratic revolution started in 2011 but was crushed by 2012. As in other countries in North Africa and West Asia, youth and workers have rebelled against a torture and police state. As there was no revolutionary workers’ party and the working class could not take the lead, the revolution was defeated under the pressure of two counter-revolutionaries forces: the bourgeois state supported by the Iran and Russia; Islamofascism of ISIS and al-Nosra (al-Qaeda) supported by Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Turkey. The theory of permanent revolution was confirmed, but negatively.
The Baath regime has not fallen yet, not only because the Russian state, Hezbollah from Lebanon, the « Revolutionary Guards » from Iran (this designation shows that we should not word for everyone speak of « revolution ») have strengthened militarily, but also for political reasons. A part of the population, not just the great bourgeoisie, preferred the Baath regime to that of ISIS or al-Qaida.
The regime and the imperialist powers (USA, Russia, France, Great Britain …) bombed and devastated much of Syria. According to the United Nations for Refugees (UNCHR), about 23 million Syrians, four fled to neighboring countries and Europe, 6.5 million have fled within the country. How to believe that in such a situation, a revolution can grow?
The only significant area of the country that escapes the tyranny of the Baath, al-Nosra (al-Qaeda) or ISIS is the north that the Assad government has conceded to Kurdish nationalism. The PYD-YPG could maintain and extend its position with the help of the US military.
The Free Syrian Army has been marginalized since 2011 and it controls in March 2016 only a small fraction of the territory. On the ground, the difference between the jihadists and FSA has never been clear. It is doubtful that the foreign states which supported it finance and arm a social revolution. Since its birth, the FSA recognized the authority of bourgeois SNC. The SNC is notoriously dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist movement that led the against-revolution in Tunisia and Egypt, which is close to the AKP / Turkey enclosing journalists and murders the Kurds.
LCC contribution considers the CoReP yielded to « overboard Laïcité » and uses the vocabulary of former President Bush Jr. These two deviations may reject the Middle East “vanguard activists”.
This matters because our tendency and our program have an audience of some hundreds among Arabs and other people culturally defined as Muslims. On Facebook they are our ‘biggest fans.’ We have already earned a reputation as defenders of political prisoners such as Rasmeah Odeh and of the Arab Spring and their national-democratic revolution, and there are already quite a few who understand that only the Permanent Revolution offers any way out of oppression by one imperialist power or another. Similarly, we work in some senses alongside groups like « Al Awda, » the Palestinian Right to Return Organization, the Students for Justice in Palestine, the MENA Solidarity Network and others. We have established in the minds of some vanguard activists that we are not the pro-Assad and/or ‘orientalist’ U.S. leftists and that we are an international tendency who defend their aspirations. We worry that we could ruin this patient work if we got a reputation-by-association with anyone guilty of overboard « Laicité. »
Again, there is no quote of the draft international platform submitted by the Bureau of the CoReP or previous Collective’ statements.
The so-called « overboard Laïcité »
For Charles, Christopher & Dan, the European labour movement is too secular. The comrades do not explain what they mean by « overboard Laïcité ».
We see overboard Laïcité as at least part of the explanation for why the European workers’ movement did not develop a layer exile revolutionists with a sufficient implantation in the Tunisian, Egyptian, Libyan and Syrian struggles of recent years.
The comrades are wrong to embark upon this line of thinking:
The world is not too secular, but not secular enough. Nationalism and religion are everywhere exasperated by the decadent bourgeoisie. Religious fundamentalism and sectarianism lobby governments and, sometimes, start plain totalitarianism. Women, youth, religious minorities, atheists, teachers, artists, homosexuals … have everything to gain that religions and the priests of all kinds are driven back into the private sphere.
A serious danger in Europe is the division of the workers ranks and the weakening of the labour movement by xenophobic and fascist parties. These parties campaign against the European Union and national minorities or foreigners. Obviously, in the USA, Trump cannot use Christianity against Mexican immigration. But in Europe, racist Islamophobic campaigns often take forms of discrimination against a particular religion (Islam) that of the minority, whose believers are of foreign origin.
The defense of religious minorities and atheists, the separation of religion and state were always our program.
Complete separation of church and state. (Marx and Engels, Demands of the Communist Party in Germany, March 1848)
Having once got rid of the standing army and the police – the physical force elements of the old government – the Commune was anxious to break the spiritual force of repression, the “parson-power », by the disestablishment and disendowment of all churches as proprietary bodies. (IWA, The Civil War in France, 1871)
The workers’ party endeavors to liberate the conscience from the witchery of religion. (Marx, Critique of the Gotha Program, 1875, IV)
Religion must be of no concern to the state, and religious societies must have no connection with governmental authority. Everyone must be absolutely free to profess any religion he pleases, or no religion whatever, i.e., to be an atheist, which every socialist is, as a rule. Discrimination among citizens on account of their religious convictions is wholly intolerable. Even the bare mention of a citizen’s religion in official documents should unquestionably be eliminated. No subsidies should be granted to the established church nor state allowances made to ecclesiastical and religious societies. (Lenin, Socialism and Religion, December 3, 1905)
The inability of present-day leadership of the working class to unify the workers’ ranks, to refute xenophobes and racists, to fight fascism does not come from their “overboard Laïcité”.
The global labor movement has always included a clerical component. For example, the Catholic Church has played a role inside the PT / Brazil since its foundation in 1980 as a bourgeois workers party. In Europe, the Labour Party was created in 1900 by Christians. Solidarnosc was created in Poland with the help of the Catholic Church in 1980; Christian unions also exist in Germany, Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Romania …
The currents of Marxist origin (social democracy and Stalinism) have generally abandoned the secular program that had been part of the minimum program for decades. For example, Brazilian government headed by PT prohibits abortion; French state led by the PS finances the Catholic Church; German state co-led by the SPD finances Christian cults.
In Britain, the largest centrist organization, the SWP gave up anticlericalism. His electoral coalition Respect refused in 2004 to defend the right to abortion. The SWP chose the alliance with a Christian Labourist (George Galloway) and a clerical group linked to the Muslim Brotherhood (Muslim Association of Britain) against the rights of women workers (including Pakistani). There is something to learn.
In fact, the ‘reformists’ in imperialist countries push back the migrant workers and the proletarian revolutionaries refugees by:
Their social imperialism (their own nation above all)
Their government politics (immigration restrictions)
Their links with the labor aristocracy (so they neglect the most exploited layers).
The term « Islamofascism » is not an invention of Bush
The first argument of the contribution of Charles, Christopher & Dan is that George W. Bush introduced the term « Islamofascism » in the United States.
What we don’t see is Bush’s equation of Al Qaeda with the Hitler/Mussolini alliance, we don’t see a necessity to associate Islam with fascism, and we don’t see a historical fascism which by definition is a mass militarized movement of the petty-bourgeoisie for the rescue of capitalism from the workers’ movement. Neither do we see it apply to Al Nusra Front nor to ISIS/Daesh, as any fact established by our scientific method.
True, Bush used the term in 2005. However, it seems to have been invented in 1990, 15 years before, by the Irish journalist Malise Ruthven.
Italian fascism used the term « totalitarianism » but this did not prevent Trotsky’s use to the regime of the bureaucracy of the USSR after 1933.
A totalitarian régime, whether of Stalinist or Fascist type, by its very essence can be only a temporary transitional régime. (Trotsky, The USSR in War, September 1939, ‘Totalitarian Dictatorship’)
Trotsky has not experienced against Islamist revolution
The second argument of Charles, Christopher & Dan is that Islamism is foreign to Trotsky’s conception of fascism (they dispense with this definition).
We agree with Trotsky’s definition in « Fascism, What It Is and How To Fight It, » and we ask comrades to either explain some fundamental identity between particular Islamist groups and historical fascism or explain why we need a new, expanded definition that takes particular Islamist groups into account. If you have done so, we have not seen it.
No Communist has said the last word on every topic. For example, the Communist International analyzed Russia as a workers’ state led by the working class. That did not stop the Fourth International to analyze it -15 years later- as a degenerated workers’ state led by the bureaucracy. That FI analyzed Russia as non-capitalist has not prevented the HWRS / USA and the CWG / New Zealand to analyze -50 years later- as a capitalist and imperialist country.
The Communist League, the International Workingmen’s Association and the Workers’ International did not anticipate fascism.
The Communist International supported the alliance with the bourgeoisie in the dominated countries, while denouncing Islamism.
The need to combat Pan-Islamism and similar trends, which strive to combine the liberation movement against European and American imperialism with an attempt to strengthen the positions of the khans, landowners, mullahs, etc. (Lenin, Theses on National and Colonial Questions For The Second Congress Of The Communist International, 1920, th. 11)
True, during his life, Trotsky could know only imperialist fascism. But he considered that religious ideology could be fueled by imperialism.
Mussolini, the atheist, will do all in his power to fan the religious passions of the Muslims. (Trotsky, A Fresh Lesson: On the Character of the Coming War, October 1938, ‘Once Again on Democracy and Fascism’)
Islamism is counter-revolutionary and the Caliphate is totalitarian
Islamofascism is a late fascism in dominated countries. It grew up from the inability of the national bourgeoisie (« socialist » in words, but already clerical) of the first generation (pan-Arab, Persian, Afghan …) to overcome the imperialist powers (and the State Zionist colonizer) and develop national capitalism.
Fascism appeared at the decadence of capitalism, in imperialist era. Has the proletarian revolution be victorious in the 1st World War, there would have been no fascism in European countries. Without defeats after the 2nd World War, Bonapartist regimes and fascist movements in the dominated countries did not make history.
The bottom line is that Islam began as fascist surrogate forces of a particular imperialist power (Bosnia, 1943, Iran 1953; Indonesia 1965, Afghanistan 1973 …). Then, for lack of proletarian revolution, pan-Islamism has emerged on its own as a form of anti-imperialism but its actual content is counter-revolution (Iran, 1979; Afghanistan, 1992; Egypt, 2011; Iraq, 2012; Syria, 2012 …).
The Collective tried to describe it in August 2014.
In North Africa and the Middle East, Islam served as a refuge for the oppressed masses against foreign penetration. That is why the bourgeois nationalist leaders in the 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s colored their anti-imperialism of this belief, even those who relied on the USSR (Nasser, Bourguiba, Ben Bella, Arafat, Hussein, Assad, Gaddafi …), while others claimed squarely Islamic political doctrine and a Sharia legal regime (the monarchies of the Persian Gulf, the Muslim Brotherhood, Iranian ayatollahs …). Muslim fundamentalism ideology asserted itself as Stalinism discredited in the 20th century communism throughout the region and as bourgeois nationalism « progressive » (Nasserism, Baath, Fatah …) failed miserably.
Bakr al-Baghdadi claims to revive the caliphate of the origins of the expansion of Islam. But the wheel of history can not be turned back. All religious political movements today are primarily marked by the decay of capitalist mode of production in the imperialist stage, very different conditions that were for the appearance of the great religions. Indeed capitalism came into decay, which feeds the reaction, irrationalism, obscurantism, clericalism, complotisme … including in advanced countries.
In Asia and Africa, Jihadists economically connect to the global capitalist mafia networks (kidnapping, international traffic of oil, weapons, drugs …), to the parasitic regional bourgeoisie that live on the oil and rent and exports to imperialist countries (in the case of ISIS, initial funding came from Qatar and Saudi Arabia). In the name of Sharia, Boko Haram federated criminals from Nigeria and Cameroon. The ISIS attracted hundreds of offenders from Iraq, Syria and even Europe who can steal and murder with a religious justification, as well as hundreds of young rebels who believe that « Holy War » will settle accounts of the oppressors in the region, including Syria and Palestine. But, like the Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafists represent the interests of local ruling classes (landowners and banking, industrial or commercial bourgeoisie) …
As an expression of capitalism in the imperialist era, anti-imperialism of bearded Islamists is powerless, as their claim to overthrow the Zionist colonization. In fact, Al-Baghdadi limits its pan-Islamist project to Syria and Iraq. He carefully left Mecca to the Saudi monarchy linked to the US and he is careful not to confront the Israeli army that controls the other sacred city of Islam, Jerusalem. He prefers to launch his fascist and mafia gangs against Shia Muslims and religious minorities defenseless Christians and Yazidis (non-Muslim Kurds). More than 500,000 civilians have fled, adding to the millions of refugees caused by Zionist colonization, persecution of Kurds in Turkey, the US intervention in Iraq, the civil war in Syria … (CoReP, Neither imperialist intervention in Iraq, nor Islamic Caliphate! August 24, 2014, available in Spanish)
Analogy with 1920’s and 1930’s (imperialist) fascism is striking:
The leaders are adventurers,
It fanatizes its basis with an archaic ideology (religion, which was already used by the Spanish Falange and Austrofascism Dollfuss)
It brings together unemployed soldiers and officers, offenders and traditional petty-bourgeois,
It targets democracy, labour movement and minorities.
The CoReP defends the rights of all religious minorities, especially in places where religious minorities and homosexuals risk their lives. It is on the side of the pan-Islamists when they actually face (which is exceptional) an imperialist power or the Zionist state. But CoReP considers that, as a bourgeois fraction, it cannot be effectively anti-imperialist. It is primarily a counter-revolutionary movement, a barbaric expression of the decay of capitalism and a price to pay for the delay of the proletarian world revolution and the accentuation of crisis of the leadership of the world proletariat. We must begin to resolve this crisis of leadership to restart the world socialist revolution.
The GKK / Austria and GMI / France, when they distribute the statements of the CoReP among the contingents of Turkish and Kurdish workers, do not encounter hostility.
The draft international platform does not use the word « Islamofascism ». If the comrades of the CLC analyze the movement led by the ayatollahs in Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists in Egypt, the Jihadism of Iraq and Syria as counter-revolutionaries groups, there is no significant difference.
How to move forwards?
The international communist program does not start from religious or political backwardness.
The slogans of the workers’ class conscious vanguard are one thing, while the spontaneous demands of the masses are something quite different. (Lenin, The Question of peace, August 1915)
Our resolutions are not designed for broad masses. (Lenin, Closing speech at the 7th Conference of the RSDLP, May 12, 1917)
Everywhere I ask what shoulds we do? Make our program fit the objective situation or the mentality of the workers? And I believe That this matter must be put before every comrade who says That this program is not made for the American situation. This program is a scientific program. It is based on objective analysis year of the objective situation. It can not be Understood by the workers as a whole. (Trotsky, Discussions with the SWP on the Transitional Program, June 1938)
LCC’ E-mail of March 6 -which sent the contribution- has the subject: Draft Program. What is unexpected is that the contribution never mentions the draft (which does not approach the concrete situation in Syria, nor use the term Islamofascism).
The LCC the CoReP and groups without international affiliation who claim to be revolutionary communists have heavy responsibilities. They must unite to actually reach the proletarian vanguard and begin to organize it in their countries and beyond. Until now, they are not able to achieve this end because of their size, their dispersion and the discrediting of « Trotskyism » subordinating either to the imperialist bourgeoisie, either to the bourgeoisies of the dominated countries (including the most despotic regimes like Assad or ISIS).
To move forwards, we have to:
Start from the historical interests of the world proletariat,
Study platform projects or resolutions and respond really (amendments, alternative draft),
Distinguish the (political) differences and (semantic) terminology problems that increase with the use of several languages,
Distinguish the differences are acceptable, even inevitable and necessary within the same international organization with those that delineate the internationalist from social-patriots.
Indeed, it is not enough to share a scientific theory (historical materialism analysis of the capitalist mode of production) or method (dialectical materialism) to settle all the new phenomena, to deal with strategy, much less tactics.
The different aspects of a revolutionary movement, as a homogeneous historical process and generally as a development possessing survival value, are neither uniform nor harmonious in content or movement. (Trotsky, Stalin, ch. 4)
If there is a global disagreement with the platform draft, Charles, Christopher & Dan must write another draft international platform.
If there is a global agreement, then the LCC and the internationalist communist groups have to amend the draft, adopt joint statements and prepare together an international conference as soon as possible.
The LCC makes a great effort by sending a delegation of two militants to the 3rd Conference of the GMI / France. We hope that this meeting will help to gather the internationalist Communists.
International Bureau of the CoReP
(rough English version by the GMI)