For the Vietnamese Revolution!
Against the Revision of Marxism
By G. Healy
Nobody doubts the sincerity and the anger of the thousands of young people who marched on October 27 against the war in Vietnam. They followed in the footsteps of the tens of thousands of others who marched against the dangers of nuclear war behind CND a few years ago. There is, of course, a difference between the two periods.
The ranks of the CND included many of the present fake “left” Labour MP’s, church dignitaries and “left” trade union leaders such as Frank Cousins. This was in the period immediately before the Labour government was elected in 1964
The highlight of CND was when the Labour Party Conference in October 1960 decided to oppose the H-bomb. The movement had not only organised demonstrations, it had also won some influence in top trade union circles. Yet it was unsuccessful, simply because it was unable to mobilise any support in the working class ranks as distinct from the “left” trade union bureaucracies.
On those occasions when CND speakers did go to address workers’ meetings, it was as missionaries explaining the horrible truth about the H-bomb, whilst at the same time not in the least bit interested in the industrial struggles within the factories and unions.
The immediate problems of the working class in relation to wages and working conditions were treated by CND as entirely separate issues These were “trade union” matters, they said. It was this separation between propaganda against the bomb and the all-important “trade union” matters such as the class struggle in the factories that finally rendered the CND impotent.
To be fair, however, to CND, none of its leaders claimed it to be anything more than a middle class protest movement. The Vietnam Solidarity Campaign is, in the main, led by three groups, The Communist Party, the “state capitalist” International Socialism group and the Pabloite International Marxist Group.
The campaign never, at any time, appealed to the working class to join a struggle or pledged support to the struggle of the engineering workers. It was, in fact, much more divorced from the working class than even the CND.
This, of course, suited the Communist Party which has always used the working class as a means of pressure whilst, at the same time, preventing them establishing their political independence as a class. Stalinist politics dominated the VSC.
A Long Process
During the CND years the Socialist Labour League stressed, as we do today, that only a revolutionary party, fighting within the factories and the trade unions for Marxist theory and against reformism can find a road to the working class.
This is a long process in which many lessons have to be learned in the course of training a cadre leadership within the trade unions and the workers movement, a task which can never be undertaken by a body based on protests movements.
The Young Socialists, influenced by the Socialist Labour League, fought the treacherous policies of Wilson and were expelled from the Labour Party for doing so before the General Election in October 1964. The Communist Party and the International Socialist group, who are the two main props of the VSC today, in many cases supported the expulsions. At no time during this critical period, apart from a few verbal asides, did they organise the slightest opposition to Wilson.
The political situation in which the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign is operating today is entirely different from that of the CND. The Wilson government is discredited in the ranks of the working class.
The working class is on the move in the factories and the trade unions. From the decisions of the British-Leyland Combine Committee rejecting the calling off of the engineers strike, together with the overwhelming decisions of the TUC and Labour Party conference against the Prices and Incomes Act, we can see the beginnings of a mass rank-and-file discussion inside the trade unions.
Enormously important, this clearly indicates that the working class is about to enter politics not just through the expressions of its bureaucratic leaders, but as a class.
Such an intervention weakens further the alliance between British capitalism and American Imperialism, which in turn strengthens the struggle of the Vietnamese workers and peasants.
It is at this point that the principled differences between the revisionist organisers of the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign and the Socialist Labour League emerge. We say that it is not enough to explain to the workers the horrors of the Vietnam war, like the CND were fond of doing in relation to the H-bomb.
Realizing working class strength as a major factor in support of the Vietnamese revolution is inseparable from the conscious task of building the revolutionary leadership inside the trade unions.
This can only be done by the Socialist Labour League, as the revolutionary party, and not by middle-class protest movements.
The second principle difference between the VSC and the Socialist Labour League is on the question of theory.
We can say that the development of theory takes place through the conscious application of Marxism to the work inside the trade unions, tenants’ movements, students and youth, within the universities and factories, which, in turn, enables us to develop Marxism as a theory. This is embodied in a continuous struggle to overcome the political problems which arise in the course of training cadres.
The VSC advocates that the drawing together of “left” tendencies with fundamental political differences under one roof around a minimum programme is sufficient.
Such a position is nothing more than the degrading of Marxist theory and a weakening of the Vietnamese Revolution. It separates the vital role of the struggle to develop theory from the day-to-day activity to build the party as an integral part of the international defence of the Vietnamese revolution.
The October 27 demonstration encouraged confusion amongst students and young people around the all-important issue of the building of the revolutionary party.
True enough, a number of the groups involved would say that they do this job as separate organisations, but that is not the question. On the demonstration they all subordinated themselves to the creation of the greatest confusion, especially in relation to the Stalinists, who are a counter-revolutionary force within the workers’ movement.
The Socialist Labour League is not opposed to working from time to time on specific issues with other tendencies in the this can be used in the course of the struggle to strengthen Marxist theory through the building of the revolutionary party. [Misprint in the original. We suggest that workers movement. be inserted after “tendencies in the …”, and method after “this”, with capital T for “this” - ED]
We say that October 27 was a blow against Vietnamese Revolution, despite the sincerity of those involved, because it weakened theory by presenting a “short cut”, which landed the whole demonstration into the lap of reformism.
Let us examine a few of the experiences which form the background of the campaign.
There was the big publicity in the press and on radio and television relating to the demonstration in Grosvenor Square last March.
Tariq Ali announced that the old time peaceful demonstrations of the CND had come to an end.
Mr. Pat Jordan of the so-called International Marxist Group posed for special photographs in the Daily Mail with his finger pointing dramatically at a drawing of Grosvenor Square. Tariq Ali posed for photographs under a portrait of Trotsky. It is difficult to imagine who these “guerrilla fighter” idiots were fooling.
The idea was built up that the VSC consisted of a group of whizz-kids who had found a short-cut which would enable the students and youth to by-pass the struggle in the trade unions and workers’ movement. Inside the universities those who fought for the development of Marxist theory were laughed at and denounced as “sectarians”.
Then came the heroic struggle of the French students and with it all the bitter lessons of the role of Stalinism in exploiting their separation from the working class.
The theoretical lack of conception of the importance of building the revolutionary party within the French working class was plain enough for all to see.
The press built up the atmosphere that violence would take place.
Throughout that summer Tariq Ali, now a regular guest star on television, basked in the publicity of the Cohn-Bendits and others, whilst Mr. Ernest Tate and Pat Jordan of the International Marxist Group encouraged him from behind the scenes.
This remained the position until a few weeks before the demonstration, when the Maoists suddenly learned that it was not going to Grosvenor Square after all, but to Hyde Park, and it was going to be a very peaceful, British affair. They promptly founded their own section of the VSC.
It was not, however, a question of whether there was or was not to be “peace” with the police. What was essential about this VSC campaign was its reformist politics.
Talks of a punch-up with the police after Grosvenor Square was adventurist nonsense in the first place.
Such ultra-left propaganda makes absolutely no impression on the trade union rank and file. Now, all of a sudden, the switch to “peace” with the police is just as obnoxious.
As the Maoist adventurers moved out, the Stalinist opportunists moved in.
Summing up the politics of the march, the Communist Party Morning Star on October 26 said:
“The British peoples’ struggle to stop the bombing, to compel the Wilson government to stop conniving with Johnson’s war, to dissociate from it, and to throw its weight on the side of other forces in the world to get the US to quit Vietnam, is the crucial way to help Vietnamese people …
“That is why the decision of the organisers [Messrs. Tariq Ali, Tate, Jordan] of this Sunday’s demonstration to address their demands primarily to the British government, and to march down Whitehall, is timely and in accordance with the needs of the situation.” (Our insert – GH)
A demonstration, to the Marxist, is only one means of penetrating the consciousness of the workers movement in order to build the revolutionary party.
The Communist Party politically dominated the demonstration because, as reformists, they knew where they stood.
The woolly headed opportunists, such as Tariq Ali, Jordan and Tate, and their so called “International Socialism” allies, were caught in a trap.
“Dear Harold …”
When Tariq Ali wrote his message to Wilson, which read :
75000 Socialists came to tell you to stop supporting the US in Vietnam, start supporting the NLF.” [National Liberation Front, the leadership of the Vietnamese people – Ed.] and delivered it to 10 Downing Street, he was presenting the reformist Communist Party line, whether he liked it or not.
When it was all over, the 30,000 people who had marched wound up, whether they liked it or not, supporting the class-collaborationist line of the discredited British Stalinists who supported the French Communist Party. The middle class advocates of extra-parliamentarism had arrived at parliament.
True enough, unlike the pre-war days, the Stalinists had to make a few concession. They closed an eye to the “International Socialism” group who carried the banners saying American Fascists out of Vietnam – Soviet Fascists out of Czechoslovakia.”
They also closed their ears to the demands for “Victory to the NLF” which, taken out of context of the struggle inside the workers’ movement, is almost meaningless.
As skilled opportunists they could well afford to do this, knowing that it was their policy which was being delivered to Downing Street.
The biggest victory of all, of course, went to the Government Ministers, the state and its agencies of oppression. They built the whole thing up as part of a massive campaign to white-wash the police, knowing well that perhaps in the very near future the workers all over the country will be engaged in sharp struggle with the state.
Right from the beginning the police had nothing to fear from the campaign. They know the Tariq Alis, the Jordans and the Tates are men without effective organisations or political policy.
As Inspector Gale of Scotland Yard said of the control exercised by Tariq Ali and the members of the Ad Hoc committee over the march :-
“It was very creditable. In fact it was quite incredible when you think of the large number of people involved. I thought the Metropolitan Police made you feel very proud of them. They came out of this head and shoulders higher than I would have expected.”
By-Pass the Struggle.
In the end there was a prize for everyone.
The Communist Party had its own way politically.
The opportunists of the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign got their press publicity.
Marxist theory was degraded, and the police were white-washed.
The Socialist Labour League, as a matter of principle, did not, and could not, participate in such a fraud.
(Reprinted from The Newsletter of November 2, 1968)