Hegemony of Bourgeois Ideology on the Western Left –V.U. Arslan

Hegemony of Bourgeois Ideology on the Western Left –V.U. Arslan

2019 was a shocking year for the international revolutionary Marxist movement. In one year, ISO (International Socialist Organization) decided to dissolve itself in the USA; CWI (Committee for a Workers’ International), which claims to be the largest international organization in the world, split and its historical leadership remained in the minority; Partido Obrero (PO), which is one of the most important revolutionary Marxist parties in Argentina,  is still going through a corrosive division process.

Are there any similar political issues and processes that determine these divisions and the liquidation process? The answers are very important. First of all, every organization has a unique story. In other words, the uniqueness of organizations and countries make it difficult to reach broad generalizations that can explain these three situations at the same time. It has always been easier for small fractions to divide and drift into a vital crisis, and in most cases, these are shallow debates rather than fundamental political and ideological separations. However, when it comes to deep-rooted socialist organizations such as ISO, CWI and PO, it is a revolutionary task to investigate political consequences of these processes.

In this crisis, a traditional phenomenon is the case: The pressure on socialist parties increases in the more challenging and active periods of the class struggle that comes after the years of long stagnation of the class struggle, because the expectations of the party cadres and the base also increases. If these expectations are not met, then the party may find itself in a crisis. The common situation in such cases is that at least some of the party cadres accuse the leadership of being unable to react properly, being conservative and idle. In most cases, separations focus on tactical issues in the first place, but later they turn into strategic differences in internal struggle.

During the rise of FIT (Frente Izquerda de los Trabajadores), the united front of the socialists in Argentina, the PO lost its leadership to its rival, PTS (Partido de los Trabajadores Socialistas). This process seems to have played an important role in the crisis that PO fell into. ISO, on the other hand, could not advance in the current period of left popularity in the US politics that caused disappointment and ISO faced a difficult situation in the face of the rapid rise of the reformist DSA (Democratic Socialists of America). In both cases, lower level leaderships accused historical leaderships of failing to respond to the needs of the new process, and consequently historical leaders were toppled from leadership.[1]

As far as we can see, the fact that tactical differences evolving into strategic (ideological) differences is still limited in the case of the PO. On the other hand, the ISO experienced a sharp ideological shift that the new leadership of ISO and the vast majority of the cadres locked the door of ISO as they condemned Leninism and engaged in identity politics and reformism. CWI is an international organization, unlike PO and ISO, and the division process can be understood within international trends rather than national politics. Besides, the debates in CWI division were about the question of how sections will deal with identity struggles and where to put them in class struggle, as it was in ISO.[2]

As a classical debate, bureaucratism and democratic centralism discussions have come to the fore in divisions. Since the liberal influence is much more dominant in the ISO experience, the idea of centralism has been demonized, the issue of organization has come about, and the idea of the vanguard party organization consisting of revolutionaries has been condemned. In the CWI split, the wing, which distinguishes itself from historical leadership, voice criticism of ‘bureaucratic centralism’ to the historical leadership rather than breaking away from the idea of centralism.

We do not have to examine all these split processes one by one. On the other hand, in the case of ISO, political trends were more obvious and the results were destructive. The liquidation of an important organization such as ISO in a central country like the USA is a major event in itself. This dramatic end shows us that the revolutionary Marxist movement is under the hegemony of bourgeois ideologies, especially in Western countries. Identity politics, liberal policies and the adaptation to bourgeois parliamentary system, deep influence of individualism and reformist tendencies are not strong only in the Western reformism but also in the socialist movement in Turkey. So the idea that “this problems concern only the Western left” is not the reality because the socialist left in Turkey, which have a strong Stalinist heritage, is in the very heart of a similar process. Indeed, socialist left in Turkey have been in a long-term crisis, weakening gradually during the last years. Many socialist organizations and parties in Turkey also experienced important splits in recent years.

Therefore, discussing the characteristics of the influence of bourgeois ideology on the socialist left will also be useful to evaluate the crisis of Turkish left. In the international revolutionary Marxist movement, the country where bourgeois hegemony on the left is the strongest is the USA, and the party that experienced a collapse because of this bourgeois interaction, is the ISO. Therefore, it is necessary to investigate the liquidation of ISO, which is the embodiment of an extreme example of the aforementioned trends. In this article, we do not intend to do an autopsy on ISO; on the other hand, it is necessary to discuss the process and trends in the light of the ISO experience in order to demonstrate the effects of bourgeois ideology on the left and to fight against it.

Dissolution of the ISO

When the ISO, the biggest and mighty Leninist organization of the USA, decided to dissolve itself and end its political life, almost everyone was surprised. It was an important historical event as we are talking about the most active organization of the socialist left in the USA and its 60-year tradition. An uncommon fiasco in history! The decision of dissolution is summarized as follows in this short farewell letter from ISO, on socialistworker.org:

“At what turned out to be the ISO’s final convention this February, we set out to begin the process of boldly transforming organizational structures and practices, which had been forged over 40 years of working class defeat and the marginalization of socialists, into ones that might contribute to the new and vibrant movement of the left.

Unfortunately, the impact of decades of undemocratic practices, including a hostility to caucuses and the self-organization of members of oppressed groups, as well as the recently revealed egregious treatment of allegations of sexual assault, meant that we were not able to recreate ourselves. We were faced with a situation of the organization becoming a barrier to our members playing important roles on the socialist left.”[3]

This is the reason for the dissolution! The ISO, which has around a thousand members and hundreds of active members, is the leading socialist publisher in the USA, has a considerable hegemony on the left with the yearly Marxism conferences, was dissolved by its members who have no suggestion but the decision of dissolution. The end of ISO has become the most direct example of the concept of liquidationism.

The path to liquidation begins with the removal of ISO leaders by younger sub-leaderships, because of their degeneration, cumbersomeness, alcohol problems, critical health problems, and chronic organizational problems. In other words, losing their leadership qualities, historical leadership was kicked out in an era when internal problems were escalating. The new leadership, which has been largely renewed by quota according to “racial origins”, is under the obvious influence of bourgeois ideology and inexperienced. In the midst of this “cleaning” in which the old leadership was overthrown, a sexual assault file that was six years ago was once again put on the agenda. The new leadership decided that the old leadership was covering up the issue. They did not only liquidate leading officials, but also organized a congress by gathering former members who have left ISO. The congress, which was gathered with such a composition, decided to dissolve the ISO.

The inability of the organization’s poor administrators to understand the new struggle period, the inability to do what is required, or the mismanagement of a sexual assault case cannot explain the unexpected disappearance of such an old tradition. Either way, after the “lousy” leadership was liquidated, the new leadership would have embraced organizational requirements and struggle more firmly. They could have made necessary political interventions, re-handle the sexual assault case properly and the organization would continue on its way. But it did not happen, on the contrary, they dissolved the organization and nobody opposed it. The conclusion that must be drawn is that the fundamental problems which led the ISO to political bankruptcy are the ideological-political problems. Examination of this case has great importance. If the lessons of the ISO are skipped, it will be inevitable to repeat such mistakes in the future of class struggle.

Determinant Role of the Leadership

Why could the ISO not overcome this political crisis and surprisingly drift into an extinction? It is very normal for organizations to fall into crisis, to weaken by these crises or to experience divisions. For example, PO and CWI are also in crisis, but nobody expects these organizations to dissolve themselves. For this reason, ISO’s decision to dissolve itself is something that needs explanation. The determinant character of leadership in revolutionary socialist parties and ideological defeat stand out as the two main factors of this bankruptcy.

Gramsci examines three important layers within the revolutionary party as follows: “(1) the “mass element” of “ordinary, average” members, who are essential to the organization’s existence but who by themselves cannot ensure the party’s existence; (2) the experienced, knowledgeable and “innovative” layer constituting the party’s leadership, whose qualities make it the essential ingredient to the party’s existence; and (3) “an intermediate element” of party militants who provide the crucial physical, intellectual and moral interconnections between the other two layers.”

As is seen, Gramsci portrays the development of the central leadership that will build the revolutionary party as a historical development: “one speak of generals without an army, but in reality it is easier to form an army rather than to form generals.” Gramsci is right, because the theoretical and practical leadership of revolutionary Marxism can only be shaped through a crystallization within the long years of struggle experiences. General conditions of deprivation that exploited and depleted working classes suffer; the difficulties of bringing together the active and disciplined cadres who are not chasing career in a party; and a dedication to the struggle even when the revolution is not sighted on horizon: these are the aspects that make difficult to cut corners to form a historical revolutionary leadership. When bourgeois parties lose their leadership, it is not very hard to replace them with new ones, but this is not the case for revolutionary parties. That is why the leadership crisis has always been a great danger for them.

It can be said that the leadership that built and enlarged the ISO left a success story behind them. While many socialist organizations in the USA withered away, the ISO could become an active party, which could gain new cadres throughout the USA, but it also kept its handicaps inside as we will mention briefly below. The ISO was by far the biggest among its counterparts. However, it is understood that the ISO leadership has lost its leadership capacity by experiencing a significant degeneration over the years. Moreover, to the extent that some chronic bureaucratic practices prevented the development of new leaders among the cadres, a change in its leadership on a sound basis became almost impossible.[4]

Consequently, the change in the historical leadership of the ISO, which has been degenerated by bureaucratic tendencies and struggled with advanced ‘health’ problems, has been quite traumatic. Moreover, this process takes place in the USA while class struggle and left reformism are rising and the ideological pressure of an identity-centered leftism puts pressure on the ISO. The new leadership that took over the organization questioned Bolshevism and had clear tendencies to reformism and identity politics. Of course, the responsibility for this situation belongs to the ISO historical leadership.

Political Tendency behind ISO’s Liquidation

Ideological defeat is the main determinant in the death of the ISO. Explanations such as degeneration of historical leadership or the inability of the organization to keep up with the new era cannot explain the dissolution of the ISO. Although the leadership had changed (which could also change the party policy), the ISO was liquidated and there are strong ideological reasons for it.[5]

Ideological defeat manifests itself in the fact that the cadres and the new leadership, which overthrew the ISO leadership, felt itself inadequate to settle an account with the historical leadership as a response to the party’s crisis. The texts that the new leadership published to announce the dissolution implicitly condemn the Leninist party model. The decision was made because the reason of its existence (raison d’être) and therefore the whole project was found wrong. “The organization became a barrier”! Therefore, a change in the leadership did not satisfied the cadres, which were decisive in the decision of the liquidation decision, and consequently ISO was buried in the ground with an official decision.

No wonder that the liquidation of the biggest organization of the US, which was called Leninist, creates great joy in the left liberal circles in the USA. “Disciplined”, “centralist”, “vanguard”, “revolutionary” party … These expressions disturb the left wing elements loyal to liberal democracy in the USA, the central country of individualism. The claim of “vanguardism” especially disturb them. According to these liberals, this notion is something non-democratic and authoritarian! However, the person or people who take the initiative and lead in every aspect of life actually play a kind of vanguard role. So, how strange can it be that a vanguard is needed for the revolution! On the contrary, the harder the task is, the greater the need for leadership and, in the meantime, discipline, diligence and centralization! However, these characteristic features of Leninism seem very authoritarian and bureaucratic to them. However, what we see in different variants of social democracy, the right-wing parties, reformist unions and mass organizations are domination of the rich and influential people, careerism, very strict bureaucratic practices, intrigue to grab a chair in the state and the governmental positions. On the other hand, any faithful researcher who studies the life of the Bolshevik Party during the Lenin period will encounter an undeniably democratic and lively party life that cannot be compared with the bourgeois parties.

Without a successful unity of the vanguard elements of the working class and their equipment with the class consciousness in the struggle against the bourgeoisie, its devices, the reformist parties and the union bureaucracy, maybe spontaneous social explosions can occur but these uprisings cannot turn into a successful revolution. Probably no one would claim that the Pentagon, the CIA and ladies and gentlemen of the Wall Street will surrender peacefully. Therefore, the ‘change’ and an ‘another world’ cannot be imagined without a revolution by force. On the other hand, history is full of lost revolutions due to the lack of revolutionary vanguard. Therefore, giving up Leninism actually means giving up revolutions. For those fake left elements, who consider that the idea of revolution is impossible and present it as an undesired project, the existence of organizations such as ISO is unnecessary and even dangerous because they do not believe in the leadership of the working class and the determination of the class struggle. After all, reformist and centrist parties are eternal rivalries of the revolutionary parties, and both forces are mutually exclusive projects that try to defeat each other.

In this context, giving up the claim of a revolutionary party is a major ideological defeat and at the same time, the end of ISO. It was assumed that the ISO was organized upon the Leninist principles, therefore, that all the problems arose from the Leninist principle of centralism. The “terrible” leadership of ISO had dominated the members thanks to the centralist mechanism and the essence of the problem was this! The cadres, who thought in this way, were obviously not interested in the question whether the ISO really coincides with Leninist principles in practice. In the USA where the experience-centered postmodern narrative is strong, the new ISO leadership apparently drew some conclusions from its own individual experiences and made broad theoretic generalizations. Therefore, they were not very interested in the historical dimension of the issue, which is related to trends of the class struggle. They thought that the Leninist organization model give the leadership an opportunity to exercise dictatorship over the members. The materialization of the ideological defeat was came to the light with the fact that the majority of ISO members joined the ranks of the DSA which is attempting to ‘rebadge’ Kautsky (the “renegade Kautsky” in the words of Lenin) nowadays.

The break with Leninism was grounded on the brochure called “Anatomy of The Microsect” of Hal Draper, one of the theoretical leaders of the International Socialists, which was the precedent of ISO. Hal Draper, in the brochure he wrote after leaving the ranks of the IS on the grounds that the IS became a sect, expresses that the conception of vanguardism causes a “sect” mentality and an organization cut off from the masses. However, Draper and his approach is far from being convincing about a necessity as such. Moreover, there are very important historical examples such as Plekhanov’s leadership in chain of events starting from “Emancipation of Labour”, which was founded by him and a couple of friends of him in exile, to division of RSDWP and the division of Menshevik-Bolshevik and the October Revolution. It is out of the question that a strong Marxist intellectual like Hal Draper does not know such examples. The Microsect brochure is not his best work and it bears the traces of his anger and separation from the organization. Hal Draper deserves more criticism from another perspective. Yes, he might deserve a lot of harsh criticism, but International Socialists turned into ISO, creating an important tradition in the USA and making considerable contributions in struggle. Hal Draper, on the other hand, had exhausted the following years of his life before he could open a new path and have an effect. It is not surprising, because Draper’s alternative to the construction of a revolutionary party only consists of publishing, organizing conferences, creating local groups and forming units in the unions.

The perspective offered by Hal Draper appears to have had an impact on ISO members. Because, it seems familiar that the new leadership, which signed the liquidation decision, suggests a “searching process” which is the only perspective for the members and the whole left. What’s with this “searching process”? No explanation. There is neither a properly written text about this process in which the great tradition is destroyed, nor a single theoretical debate, search, or idea but shallowness. The only thing they put forward is a claim of the “search for new” which is obviously not Leninist!

It is not difficult to see the manifestations of the ideological defeat. ISO’s liquidation decision was expected to create turbulence, harsh debates and divisions at all levels of the organization. Since this was not the case, indeed the ISO ran out of steam. Shallow cadres, worn and under the influence of bourgeois ideology… The members draw an image that they detached from the active political struggle, has been disintegrated by the idleness of the organization, captivated by the hegemonic tendencies in the country as they are not well educated in the school of revolutionary Marxism and the historical leadership is exhausted…

The dissolution of ISO took place when all these conditions of defeat is combined with the harsh winds blowing on the left of the USA. The pressure of identity politics in the USA on the one hand, and the pressure created by Democratic Socialists and leader Bernie Sanders on the other, marked the ideological defeat of ISO. Against these quite hegemonic forces, the weakened cadres of the ISO decided to liquidate their organizations, which reached a deadlock, in favor of these elements.

Identity Politics

With the Cold War, the USA became a country where the revolutionary class movement and the communist movement weakened. Leftism turned into a moderate opposition inside the imperialist Democratic Party, identity politics and NGOism. Post-modernism was the strongest in the USA. In the long years when the class struggle regressed, a deep pessimist wave grew out of the old Stalinist intellectuals. Middle-class academics have replaced the working class, which they no longer “believe”, with the new social movements and oppressed as the main political subject. The goal and subject of the political struggle was not a struggle for power, which declared as evil.

The idea of revolution was rejected and, the idea of radical democracy, which is nothing more the bourgeois democracy, was adopted. Every fundamental solution on social problems was called authoritarianism and seen as a authoritarian domination. The notion of individual as a subject was blessed by the left jus as US imperialism does! So, the left is stuck in this sphere of individual-communal rights and freedoms arena. Farewell to the idea of revolution, political power, working class… Instead, they put identities organized in civil society in the center of the struggle to provides pressure groups to control the state and capital. In other words, it is not possible to destroy capitalism (that is not be a good thing because it gives rise to authoritarianism etc.) but it is possible to restore capitalism!

“It has been revealed that the working class is not a revolutionary force”, “we are already living in a post-capitalist society”, “there are other contradictions in the society” … According to this understanding, a dominant antagonism (such as the irreconcilable contradiction between labor and capital) no longer relevant. Instead, there are multiple antagonisms. Men vs women, whites vs blacks, heterosexuals vs homosexuals, native vs immigrant, human vs nature etc. These identity contradictions should be new topics and areas of struggle in politics.

It is clear that this understanding does not target the foundations of the system. To give an example, it may be striking to mention what they say about Bernie Sanders, who speaks to the poor people and gains a wide support from the laborer and the youth with a left reformist discourse. For them Bernie Sanders is just “White and man, bin it!”. Or call him “bro-gressive” to despise him. They have no problem about Sanders’ bourgeois, but they have problems with his while male identity because identity is above of everything. We face with a group that is very small (but very noisy) compared to the masses mobilized in Bernie Sanders’ campaigns. This tendency has a considerable domination in the academy and influence on the mainstream media and on the internet. 

Assuming there is an irreconcilable contradiction between men and women as they say, where can we go from here? How to build a new world from this fundamental contradiction? If we move from this so-called fundamental contradiction, we cannot get anywhere other than capitalism. The system has the ability to absorb these identity movements. We know that the Clinton family, which are symbols of the American elites identified with Wall Street, have received great support from feminist and black organizations in the USA. On the other hand, the whole world witnessed that the White House raised the rainbow flag of the LGBTI+ movement. Identity or culture centered opposition is not a problem for the system. Moreover, it creates a fruitful soil for the far-right politicians, such as Trump, as other identities and cultures are marginalized and pushed to the right with these discourses.[6]

The identity policies that we are trying to summarize here have a great impact on the ISO. For many years, when the class perspective has practically never practiced, it was just on the paper. ISO was focusing primarily on the female-LGBTI-black-Latin and Muslim identities, just as other post-modern leftist organizations. However, the fact that ideological hegemony of the identity politics inevitably caused contradictions with the working class struggle, which needs a unity of the class beyond all identities. As a result, racial quotas were put into practice within the party. Although ISO has made politics over the defense of oppressed identities for many years it seems that it was never enough for the cadres who started the process of liquidation that they ISO apologized to identity groups on behalf of ISO. The sensitivity about identities was so advanced that a terribly handled sexual assault case triggered the liquidation of ISO.

Social Basis of the Petty Bourgeois Left Critics

While we discuss the case of the ISO in the context of the hegemony of the post-modernism on the left movements in the imperialist metropolises, it will be useful to examine its social base. The expansion of higher education in many parts of the world over the past 50 years has brought about the emergence of a huge student population. The existence of 7-8 million (out of 81) university students in Turkey could give an idea in this regard. This large population cannot be considered directly as part of the petty bourgeois classes as they are temporarily out of class and work life. The origin of the families of the students set the ground of their class orientation and the vast majority will be future workers. On the other hand, their political and intellectual development does not take place directly through the labor-capital conflict. A considerable part of the students has to work. At the same time, the professions they will have when they graduate often lose their middle-class privileges, and the academy that surrounds their world is a petty bourgeois world. Still, the main determinant is the class struggle. When the class movement gets stronger, the political orientation turns into a class-centered leftism in the student movement. But when the class movement regresses, the idea that class struggle is not the key to explain the life gains popularity. On the other hand, anti-Marxist positions are constantly supported in the academy and there is an endless attack against the class-centered perspective. When the capitalist crisis shook the world in 2008, the question “Was Marx right?” became popular but Marx they referred was the economist Marx, not revolutionary Marx. Similarly, they are always hostile to Lenin and Trotsky. It is not surprising that left liberals celebrated the ” death of Leninism” after the collapse of the ISO.

In the years when the class struggle regresses, left politics is withdraw into universities where this intellectual climate prevails. The petty bourgeois leftism is also influential in the politicization processes of this part of the white-collar workers (attempted to be swallowed as the new middle class), which have a weak tradition of union struggle but relatively stronger will of climbing the social ladder.

This is the social group that strengthens identity-centered NGO movements and popularizes the ideas of the middle class intellectual layer and its ideas counter to the class-centered perspective of Marxism. This petty bourgeois left tendency has gained a great hegemony over the years because of the fact that the working class continues to grow numerically but weaken politically as a result of the serious historical defeats of the class organizations  (including the ideological defeat caused by the bankruptcy of the USSR). On the other hand, these petty bourgeois group have tools and power to dominate the ideological arena. University chairs are in their hands, the media is always open to them and they have popular intellectual figures thanks to these positions they occupy. In addition to their powerful means they have, they have a power to dominate beyond it. Their power to set the ideological agenda is great because their ideas are depending on some simple contradictions such as men vs women, black vs white etc. These simple formulations are very useful to accept for the masses and also useful to agitate people to make them followers.

On the other hand, as we see in the case of US, as capitalist crisis deepens and the workers movement rises again, some inclusive left reformist-left populist elements such as Sanders strengths that is disadvantageous to identity leftism. We will turn back to this point below.

Should we, the revolutionary Marxists, draw the conclusion to avoid the student movement? Or is it a fate that student or semi-intellectual activists tend to petty-bourgeois ideas? No. The determinant of this issue is the approach of the revolutionary party to petty bourgeois leftism. If the party politics is clear about identity politics and postmodern trends and gives its members a real revolutionary education, it will have the capacity to equip its cadres with the ideas of the revolutionary Marxism. To have such party of the cadres, ideological clarity, active participation in the working-class struggles, the revolutionary internationalist ties established with international class struggle and the preservation of the workers power perspective as a historical goal are indispensable. But if you dilute ideas, tail behind the reformists, sail to opportunism, it will be inevitable for you to be transformed and dispersed.

ISO organized a large number of members in universities, mainly under conditions that the class struggle regressed. On the other hand, ISO never attempted to canalize its cadres to the active class struggle; it did not establish internationalist ties with the revolutionary movements in other countries. On the other hand, it was constantly flirting with identity politics. As such, the ISO inevitably resembled them in the central country of identity-cultural leftism. In the articles written by the new leadership that dissolved ISO, they expressed how they feel anger and frustration because the leadership did not support the idea that they should establish small separate branches of identity groups within the party. They are obsessed that Black, Latin, Asian, Muslim identities are the main problem. For example, Ocasio Cortez, the popular figure of the DS, speaks like a typical bourgeois politician of US imperialism, but the makers of identity policy tolerate her because Cortez is Black, Latin and woman. This is how it works. In short, ISO cadres are largely alienated from the idea of a united class struggle above any ethnicity and religion, just like the vast majority of the US left.

Wind of Sanders and the Power of Reformism

Left organizations such as ISO have adopted the strategy of doing politics around the left wing of the Democratic Party in the USA. In fact, ISO may be a better example in this regard when we compare it to the other organizations. But when Barack Obama took the chair, the ISO could not hide its excitement in Socialist Worker[7]. The Obamamania, has a great influence on the left as Obama is a black American. It is the identity politics again!

Over the years, ISO supported the Green Party rather than the Democrat Party in the US elections. However, the Green Party is capitalist party totally integrated to the system. ISO has always been reluctant to follow independent class politics. At the core of their politics, they take a position as a kind of pressure group upon the Democratic Party. This historical trend caught off guard the ISO as Bernie Sanders left his mark on the US politics. When you have supported politicians like Ralph Nader, who is the former leader of the Greens, Sanders would seem like a great revolutionary to your followers.[8]

The power of reformism comes from ballot boxes. For example, when a reformist leader who  promises free education, he gets great support of progressive workers and the youth in the election campaign if he has the chance to be elected as president in the USA although his promises are not that big radical challenges to the system. Indeed, Sanders has this support now. If revolutionaries do not stand firmly against these new types of social democrats, who promise some social reforms but loyal to the imperialism at the same time, they may be in great trouble. For this reason, in order to be protected from the hegemony of the reformist charismatic leader, the revolutionary party should keep its distance to prevent its base from falling into reformist illusions. This is how the wind of Sanders and the DSA, created a great attraction and weakened ISO. So, how can we oppose reformist hegemony without falling into a sectarian and introverted attitude? How to contact the base of reformists?

It should not be forgotten that the stars of the ballot boxes are the reformist leaders, who have power, political excitement and political control and loyal to the imperialist machine. But where the revolutionaries are strong are the streets, mobilizations and strikes. And these struggle arenas are exactly where the masses are closer to the revolutionaries. In the election races the ropes are in the hands of reformist leaders, but the streets points revolutionaries. Since this is the historical trend, the relation of revolutionaries with social democracy should be determined due to this trend. Revolutionaries try to interact with the base of social democracy with the tactics of united front in the real battles on the streets where the revolutionization of laborers and youth is possible as a tendency. On the other hand, revolutionaries refuse to tail to the election program of reformist leaders that declare loyal to capitalism, full of compromises and reactionary elements.

SWP and the Intelligence Service

British secret service MI6 had leaked agents to the left parties and movements for decades, according to a report published in the Guardian last year. The most infiltrated party was the British Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP) with 24 agents. There is nothing surprising in this, because the SWP had been the most active and strongest socialist organization in Britain for many years. These agents operated continuously from 1970 to 2007 in SWP.  It is reported that anti-Vietnam War movements was the second among the organizations which intensively infiltrated by intelligence officers between 1968 and 1972. Apart from that, MI6 has infiltrated into 124 opposition groups from the late 1960s to the late 2000s. This revealed data is only about MI6. Either it would be nonsense not to consider FBI or another intelligence service in USA had done the same. A party cannot be a revolutionary party without any precaution against these  kind of threats by its organizational structure as all intelligence agencies in the world are busy with such infiltration activities.

Imperialist capitalists all over the world are working hard to follow socialists and emerging struggles closely and to manipulate them if necessary. However, ISO, SWP and Western socialists in general are completely vulnerable to these issues. What is meant by vulnerability is that vast majority of Western socialists are in serious illusions by considering that bourgeoisie uses only the means of liberal parliamentary methods in the class struggle. Or, to talk about the majority of them, they are assimilated to a left wing of liberal parliamentarism. In other words, they have fragile and loose organizational structure because of their ideological weaknesses.

Such relatively large parties, in which plenty of agents are leaked, are an enormously easy bite for the operations of the political police. Is it possible for a political organism, which are adapted the “moderate” climate in the West, has all the sicknesses of individualism and identity politics in the level of hysteria, to pose a threat to the capitalist system?

Since the SWP, or most other Western socialist organizations, do not have an independent class line and a perspective of a workers’ power, these organizations cannot be a revolutionary war apparatus of laborers and youth. They are very ready to undertake the mission of being the apparatus of an oppression group in the civil society of the liberal bourgeois system.

Examples of Syria and Libya

ISO was one of the typical Western socialist organizations that loves using the concept of “revolution” for the civil wars of Syria and Libya. “Revolutionary” and leftist groups like ISO jumped into the human rights and democracy stories. These were big lies in the service of the imperialist aims of the US, which seeks regime change in Syria and Libya. No wonder these groups are easily guided. For example, hundreds of protests were organized in the West for the “Syrian Revolution” or against the “murderer Assad”. However, it is an exceptional situation that the Western left mobilized masses against the Saudi-made massacre in Yemen.

Once again, we come back to the problem how the western left is under a deep bourgeois hegemony. It is not the job of the socialists to declare a revolution based on the fake claims of “rebellion against the dictators” without looking at the content, demands and leadership of that social movement. Those Western socialists took the same position with the imperialist media and politicians of their own countries as calling the imperialist interventions to Libya and Syria as “revolution” just like McCain, Trump or Macron did… However, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, the popular figure of the DSA, was one of those “patriots” praised for the McCain, who was aggressive war criminal, at his funeral ceremony. You cannot expect those people, who are praying for such a murderer the United States imperialism, to oppose a regime change intervention in Syria.  Any political group , which is actually on the left of the DSA but totally integrated to it, can not take different position. The ISO and other similar organizations didn’t even think that those armed groups in Syria were equipped and financed by the USA, Erdogan, Saudis, etc. could never be called “revolutionaries”. On the contrary, ISO and others organized an offensive defamation campaigns against leftist organizations and journalists[9] who adopted a consistent anti-imperialist attitude.

Therefore, left liberalism once again played its role to legitimize the operations of the imperialists against their enemies and spread their lies to the peoples of the world. This is how they beat the drum of imperialism. So what happened to Libya? What are the Libyan “revolutionaries” doing today? It is evident that they are not very interested in these questions, as they supported the FSA or other Islamists, who are guided by various intelligence services. The beneficial fools of the Western left, acting with FSA flags on the streets deceived the peoples of the world. Those who were a little more careful among them left the claim of the revolution after a while but never wanted to take a real attitude towards imperialist interventions in Syria and Libya by being in a neutral position because they were under the pressure of imperialist propaganda. However, it is a basic principle to oppose imperialist interventions to backward countries, and to be in favor of the defeat of US imperialism’s regime change efforts and operations.

We can summarize the situation as follows: Those who stand up for so-called the Syrian or Libyan revolution have no problem with anti-imperialism. So they are not anti-capitalists and only dream of liberal democracy. We can hear the objections that “but we took the side of the people against the dictator.” But this objection does not express the reality. Firstly, the peoples of the Libya and Syria were deeply divided. Secondly, the rebels, who took orders from the other dictators, had already proved that they were not less bloody than the dictators they rebelled against. The imperialists had their own interests and they implemented their own project through tongs. It is obvious how much they are integrated into the system in the West because they reached an extreme position that they asked for Pentagon the intervention instead of saying “hands off Libya and Syria” without giving any support to Assad or Gaddafi. 


It is evident that the Western left has been in a deep crisis. The collapse of the ISO is the extreme example of this. Leninist organization, which will lead abolishment of capitalism, can only be possible with democratic centralism and disciplined and hardworking cadres. These cadres cannot be brought together without constant interaction with struggles of workers, oppressed and youth and revolutionary movements around the world. In order to be strong in any process, the independent revolutionary class position should be preserved, and cadres should be armed with the revolutionary class ideas of Marxism. If reformist politicians, petty bourgeois movements and identity politics become the ideological source of the members and cadres, weakening of revolutionary socialist parties is inevitable.



[1] .The story TKP (Communist Party of Turkey) ,which split into two in 2014, is very smilar.. The fact that TKP was very passive in the Gezi Rebellion and lagged far behind the process has raised the problem of why TKP is so ineffective despite the thousands of members it has. As a result, a significant part of the party cadres took action against historical leadership, and tactical differences in the process evolved into fundamental ideological differences.

[2] Peter Taaffe led historical leadership of the CWI accuses the other wing (which is the majority of the CWI) of being opportunistically adapted to identity politics. But the majority of the CWI rejects this and accuses the historical leadership of being conservative to new social movements.

[3] https://socialistworker.org/2019/04/19/taking-our-final-steps

[4] A veteran revolutionary member of the ISO Joel Geier’s resign letter explains the details of the bureaucratic degeneration: https://www.scribd.com/document/404260865/3-21-19-With-Profound-Regret-Joel-Geier-Resigns-from-ISO 

[5] In the 1980s, there is another experience of an old tradition’s liquidation because the degenerated leadership and the ideological-political defeat in the revolutionary Marxist movement in Britain. The WRP (Workers Revolutionary Party), led by Gerry Healy, which has an important domination on the British socialist left, could not get over its crisis.

[6] Steve Bannon, who  is an American media executive former investment banker and White House Chief Strategist in the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump, remarked that he couldn’t “get enough” of the left’s “race-identity politics”. “The longer they talk about identity politics, I got ’em … I want them to talk about race and identity … every day.” Sheri Berman, Why Identity Politics Benefits Right More Than Left, Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jul/14/identity-politics-right-left-trump-racism

[7]    The ISO used Obama’s election campaing slogan “Yes we can! ¡Sí se puede!” is on cover page of the issue 63- January 2009 of  the ISR   https://isreview.org/issue/63?fbclid=IwAR3q1tmGvjSZrBDUS_MDQ2CUgiqdMNt0iqhuX-sBujXusuwS_LfreSsaphQ

[8] ISO’s attitude on the  crisis in Greece crisis was also reformist. ISO did not make any serious efforts on internationalist organization after leaving the IST led by the British SWP, but on the other hand, it continued its contacts with the other organizations that broke with IST. One of them, the Greek DEA, integrated to Syriza in the era of the crisis and received ISO’ support in this regard.

[9] Julian Assange, John Pilger, Robert Fisk are Seymour Hersh are among these journalists.



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