You are on page 1of 36
In Defence of Trotskyism No. 20 £1 waged, 50p unwaged/low waged, € 1.50 The IBT/Spart

In Defence of

Trotskyism No. 20

£1 waged, 50p unwaged/low waged, 1.50

No. 20 £1 waged, 50p unwaged/low waged, € 1.50 The IBT/Spart family ‘ Interpenetrated peo- ples
No. 20 £1 waged, 50p unwaged/low waged, € 1.50 The IBT/Spart family ‘ Interpenetrated peo- ples
No. 20 £1 waged, 50p unwaged/low waged, € 1.50 The IBT/Spart family ‘ Interpenetrated peo- ples
No. 20 £1 waged, 50p unwaged/low waged, € 1.50 The IBT/Spart family ‘ Interpenetrated peo- ples
No. 20 £1 waged, 50p unwaged/low waged, € 1.50 The IBT/Spart family ‘ Interpenetrated peo- ples
No. 20 £1 waged, 50p unwaged/low waged, € 1.50 The IBT/Spart family ‘ Interpenetrated peo- ples
The IBT/Spart family ‘ Interpenetrated peo- ples ’ theory denies the rights of oppressed nations
The IBT/Spart family ‘ Interpenetrated peo- ples ’ theory denies the rights of oppressed nations

The IBT/Spart family Interpenetrated peo- plestheory denies the rights of oppressed nations to self-determination

the rights of oppressed nations to self - determination “Interpenetrated peoples?” Amongst the “Protestants of

“Interpenetrated peoples?”

Amongst the “Protestants of Northern Ireland” (must use the

official name of the British Im- perialist-imposed state) there are fascist gangs who emerge in times of revolutionary upsurge.

These are then taken by our

chauvinists as the legitimate representatives of the entire Protestant community and so must be appeased. We say no, the fascists must be defeated, separated out from the mass of the Protestant working class and not appeased ideologically or politically like this.

and not appeased ideologically or politically like this. What about the Palestinians? How could the IBT

What about the Palestinians? How could the IBT take a neutral position on the Al-Nakba, the Palestinian Catas- trophe 1948? Israeli Jewish youth watch a procession of Israeli, Palestinian, and

international activists carrying names of those who died in the Deir Yassin mas-

sacre, Givat Shaul, West Jerusalem,

April 10, 2014. On April 9, 1948, some 100-200 Palestinians, including women and children, were killed by the extrem- ist Zionist militias the Irgun and Stern Gang (Lehi) in the village of Deir Yas-

sin. The Israeli activist group Zochrot organizes an annual procession to com- memorate those killed and to recount the history of the village.



“Interpenetrated peoples” with no right to self-determination? By Gerry





… BT/LTT Fusion Document For Trotskyism! (Spring 1987) …… Comment by Ian………………………………………….…………





The Good Friday Agreement meant acceptance of the Loyalist veto on Ire-

land’s right to self-determination By Gerry Downing………




….… …….…


Comment by Revolutionary programme (AG)…….… Comment by Ian 21/02/2016 …………………………

p. … … …….…


This pamphlet is consists of two articles on the Spart Family’s


‘interpenetrated peoples’ theory which was used by the early Spartacist League of the US in the mid 1960 to justify James Robertson’s refusal to defend the Palestinians against the murderous assault launched on them by the fascist gangs of the Irgun and Stern Gang on behalf of the state of Israel by taking a neutral position in that 1948 war. This was then expanded to take an equally reactionary position on Ireland in 1977 by proclaiming that they oppose the reunification of Ireland un- der capitalism, thereby accepting the Loyalist Veto 21 years before Gerry Adams’ Good Friday Agreement. All the modern ‘Spart Family’, the ICL, the IBT and the IG/LFI continue to defend this nonsense, in line with Robertson’s Shachtman origins. A reply by IBT supporter Alan Gibson and two comments by Ian Donovan are also included.

In Defence of Trotskyism is produced by Socialist Fight. First 5 issues are A4 format @£2 and from No. 6 are A5 @£1. Add postage £2 and enquire for larger orders. Cheques and SOs to Socialist Fight Account No. 1, Unity Trust Bank, Sort Code, 08-60- 01, Account. No. 20227368. All issues of In Defence of Trotskyism, from 1 to 19, are now available at Housmans Bookshop, 5 Caledonian Rd, London N1 9DX, on the Web- site or by post.

Socialist Fight is a member of the Liaison Committee for the Fourth International with:


The Communist Workers Front, Brazil The Socialist Workers League, USA and Tendencia Militante Bol- chevique, Argentina

Contact: Socialist Fight PO Box 59188, London, NW2 9LJ,, Communist Workers FrontBrazil Tendencia Militante Bolchevique, Argentina,

The Socialist Workers League, USA, http:/ Signed articles do not necessarily represent the views of Socialist Fight.


Interpenetrated peopleswith no

right to self-determination?

By Gerry Downing, 28/01/2016

I was named in a Fa- cebook thread in-

volving the following

comrades, Wilhelm Speklin, Jon Bonnevier, Barbara Dorn, Patrik

Olofsson, Alan Gibson,

Jens-Hugo Nyberg, some of whom are sup- porters of the Interna- tional Bolshevik Ten- dency known to me, on interpenetrated peoples thus:

“I believe Gerald Jo- seph Downing, Socialist

thus: “I believe Gerald Jo- seph Downing, Socialist Ireland in the late 1960s and from there

Ireland in the late 1960s and from there served to justify

the pro-imperialist line that the Sparts inherited from the degenerating Forth In- ternational in 1948 and

from Max Shachtman him-

self, Robertson’s teachers. Before we look at the bane- ful record of this theory in Ireland and Israel let us make some reassertion of the Marxist position on the self-determination of na- tions. There were, of course, plen-

ty “interpenetrated peoples” in the time of

the founders of modern Marxism but all of

them tackled these questions on the level of the international class struggle and anti-

imperialism. In line with the opening sen- tence of the Communist Manifesto:

“The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, op- pressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an un-

interrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a

fight that each time ended, either in a revolu- tionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.”

So no room there for all the interpenetrat- ed peoples nonsense about ethnic groups who just could not stand the sight of each other and frequently came to blows be- cause they lacked that vital “anti-sectarian

Fight, disagrees with the “interpenetrated

peoples” theory.” I looked up the relevant

sections of the BT/LTT Fusion Document of Spring 1987. It is section 5. The National Question and ‘Interpenetrated Peoples’ (see p. 12). I had read this document years ago but I was even more appalled at it now than I was then. Of course the “interpenetrated peoples” is a product of the imaginings of Jim Rob- ertson, the guru of the Sparts but every other member of the ‘family’, the IBT and

the International Group/LFI, are obliged to defend whatever nonsense he wrote before they actually split from what they imagine as the golden thread of Trotskyist continuity to preserve it whole. The bogus theory, with no precedent in the writings of the great pioneers of Marxism, Marx, En- gels, Lenin or Trotsky, was evolved to ex- plain what was happening in the north of


class-against-class perspective” mentioned in the IBT fusion document. Very telling is the quote chopped from Lenin in 1913 that they uses to preface the section:

‘‘Marxism cannot be reconciled with nation- alism, be it even of the ‘most just’, ‘purest’, most refined and civilised brand. In place of all forms of nationalism Marxism advances internationalism….’’ V.I. Lenin, ‘‘Critical Remarks on the National Question’’ (1913).

We would contend the Lenin developed

his position on the national question from

1913 when he praised Stalin’s very Second International mechanical work on the question. [1] Certainly by 1920 and the Second Con- gress of the Communist International Len- in was sounding very different from this quote, which certainly does not accurately reflect his position on the question even in


“First, what is the most important, the fun-

damental idea of our theses? The distinction

between oppressed and oppressor nations. We emphasize this distinctionin diametric contrast to the Second International and bourgeois democracy. In the epoch of impe- rialism, it is particularly important for the proletariat and the Communist International to establish the concrete economic facts and in the solution of all colonial and national questions, to proceed not from abstract pos- tulates but from concrete realities. The characteristic feature of imperialism is that the whole world, as we see, is now divid- ed into a large number of oppressed nations and an insignificant number of oppressor nations, which command colossal wealth and powerful armed forces. The overwhelming majority of the world’s population, more than a thousand million people, and very probably 1,250 million–if we take the world’s total population at 1,750 millionor about

seventy per cent of the world’s population,

belong to the oppressed nations, which are

either in a state of direct colonial dependence or are semi-colonies such as Persia, Turkey and China, or else, having been defeated by the armies of a big imperialist power, have become greatly dependent on that power by

virtue of peace


Of course we are all aware of Lenin’s last struggle against Stalin on this very ques- tion. In their treatment of the Georgian communists he correctly accused both

Stalin and Dzerzhinsky of ‘Great Russian

Chauvinism’. In the 31 December 1922 article Nation- alities Issue” or about “Autonomization Lenin criticized the actions of Felix Dzerzhinsky, Grigoriy Ordzhonikidze, and Stalin in the “Georgian Affair”, accusing them of “Great Russian chauvinism”:

“It is quite natural that in such circumstances the “freedom to secede from the union” by which we justify ourselves will be a mere scrap of paper, unable to defend the non- Russians from the onslaught of that really Russian man, the Great-Russian chauvinist, in substance a rascal and a tyrant, such as the typical Russian bureaucrat is. There is no doubt that the infinitesimal percentage of Soviet and sovietised workers will drown in that tide of chauvinistic Great-Russian riff- raff like a fly in milk. “I think that a fatal role was played here by hurry and the administrative impetuousness

of Stalin and also his infatuation with the

renowned “social-nationalism”. Infatuation in politics generally and usually plays the worst role… I think that Stalin’s haste and his infatuation with pure administration, to- gether with his spite against the notorious “nationalist-socialism” [Stalin criticised the minority nations for not being “internationalist” because they did want to unite with Russia], played a fatal role here. In


politics spite generally plays the basest of

roles…” [3]

Lenin further spells out this position to leave no doubt on where he stood against Stalin on it:

“And I think that in the present instance,

as far as the Georgian nation is concerned, we have a typical case in which a genuinely proletarian attitude makes profound caution,

a genuinely proletarian attitude makes profound caution, Lenin on Stalin: “The Georgian [Stalin] who is neglectful

Lenin on Stalin: “The Georgian [Stalin] who is neglectful of this aspect of the question, or who carelessly flings about accusations of “nationalist-socialism” (whereas he himself is a real and true “nationalist-socialist”, and even a vulgar Great-Russian bully)”

thoughtfulness and a readiness to compro- mise a matter of necessity for us. The Geor- gian [Stalin] who is neglectful of this aspect of the question, or who carelessly flings

about accusations of “nationalist-

socialism” (whereas he himself is a real and true “nationalist-socialist”, and even a vulgar Great-Russian bully), violates, in substance, the interests of proletarian class solidarity, for nothing holds up the development and strengthening of proletarian class solidarity so much as national injustice; “offended” nationals are not sensitive to anything so much as to the feeling of equality and the


violation of this equality, if only through

negligence or jest- to the violation of that

equality by their proletarian comrades.” [4]

As we can see the notion that the problem was two nationalities or peoples who had got mixed up together was absolutely alien to Lenin’s way of thinking and his con-

tempt for Stalin’s attitude is essentially contempt for that notion. And the failure to identify the class forces operating in so- called ‘communalist’ conflicts is a constant

Spart fall back third camp position to

avoid taking anti-imperialist sides. We al- ways look for the oppressor and the op- pressed and those who are serving as the proxy agents on imperialism and those who are their victims and fight back in anti -imperialist struggles.

The Sparts and the IBT on Ireland

I had forgotten how truly appalling and

chauvinist their position on Ireland was as set out in the Theses on Ireland (1977). [5]

What follows is part of the article Cultural Imperialism, Ireland, Workers Power and the Sparts in Socialist Fight No 9. Summer


I read it (the Theses on Ireland) last about 1986 and I am not sure I got to the end of

it then. Every second sentence contains a

direct lie or an outright political distortion.

It lies that the conflict in the north of Ire-

land was and is a religious one. It insists on

referring to Catholics and Protestants

throughout as if these backward Irish could not get over their stupid religious differences. I remember back in 1969 Ber- nadette Devlin attacked the backwardness of this line of Imperialist propaganda; it was about imperialist oppression not reli- gious differences she correctly pointed out. The document is full of patronising rac- ism, “In the absence of any significant sec-

tion of the Irish working class historically freed from national/communal insecuri- ty”. In other words why are these thick Paddys so worried about the murderous assaults of the RUC and B Specials? They are just suffering from some deep seated and irrational psychological “national/ communal insecurity”. Then follows their reactionary theory of “inter-penetrated peoples” which is how they avoid defending both the Irish na-

tionalists and the Palestinians against mur-

derous assaults. Ah no, they say, they are entitled to defend themselves (thank you very much!) but they can only do this via workers’ militias which must contain a member of the opposing community to make sure it is not “nationalist”. The Loy- alist would, of course, immediately shoot the unfortunate foolish ‘taig’ who volun- teered to join the Red Hand gang to make sure it was not ‘sectarian’.

Protestants of “Northern Ireland”

And then the following from AJP Taylor, whom they admit is a ‘bourgeois histori- an’:

“in the past ninety years the Protestants of Northern Ireland have been taught to think of themselves as a separate body, almost separate nationality within Ire- land, and have established now a long term domination of Northern Ireland,

partly, because of their superior econom-

ic strength, because of the backing they have received from the British Govern- ment, and partly because they are, or up to now have been, the more determine. For them Protestant domination is the answer to the situation in Northern Ire- land.’” But why are they ‘more determined’? Be-


cause they have the state forces and the British army to back them up, obviously. Stout, brave Protestants as opposed to the cowardly ‘Catholics’ is the implication, here. And Spart leader James Robertson comes from stout US New England WASP stock. Where do you start? Amongst the “Protestants of Northern Ireland” (must use the official name of the British Imperi-

alist-imposed state) there are fascist gangs

who emerge in times of revolutionary up-

surge. These are then taken by our chau- vinists as the legitimate representatives of the entire Protestant community and so must be appeased. We say no, the fascists must be defeated, separated out from the mass of the Protestant working class and not appeased ideologically or politically like this. And now the Big Lie on Lenin’s position on the rights of nations and the difference

between oppressed and oppressor nations.

The Sparts say:

“Thus, the right to self-determination means simply the right to establish a separate state, the right to secede. We reject the notion that it means ‘freedom from all outside interfer- ence and control’ or entails economic inde- pendence. In the general sense the right to self-determination is unconditional, inde- pendent of the state that emerges or its lead- ership.”

This is just garbage. What use is self-

determination if it does not entail some form of economic independence to op- pose the penetration of imperialist finance capital to super-exploit that nation? They say,

In general our support for the right to self- determination is negative: intransigent oppo- sition to every manifestation of national op- pression as a means toward the unity of the

working class, not as

the fulfilment of the

‘manifest destiny’ or ‘heritage’ of a nation, nor as support for ’progressive’ nations or nationalism. We support the right of self-determination and national liberation struggles in order to remove the national question from the historic agenda, not to create another such question. Within the framework of capitalism there can be no purely democratic solution (for example through universal suffrage) to the national question in cases of interpene- trated peoples.’

national question in cases of interpene- trated peoples.’ opposed to the inter- ests of the internation-

opposed to the inter-

ests of the internation- al working class and cannot be supported at all. Only nations have the

t o

s e l f -

r i g h t

determination. Imperi-

alist enclaves like the Malvinas kelpers, the Gibraltarian British,

the Algerian colons

and the Loyalists in the north of Ireland do not have the right to ‘self-determination’, they have no right to claim privileges and terri- tory on behalf of their imperialist masters. ‘Ulster’ is not a nation and has no right to self-determination and the Loyalists have no right to prevent the re-unification of Ireland on any basis. Talk of ‘opposition to

the capitalist re-unification of Ireland’ is to

oppose the demand in its entirety on behalf

of British Imperialism because the right to self-determination is a democratic right under capitalism and that is why Marxists advance it.

What is Loyalism?

“Though not yet (!!) a nation, the Protestants are certainly not a part of the Irish nation and are distinct from the Scottish and English nations. Presently their separate existence is defined in large part as against the Irish Cath- olic nation and at the ideological level is ex- pressed in religious terms. With their own social and cultural fabric (epitomised in the Orange Order) and history of opposition to the Irish nationalist cause, they have therefore acted as the ‘loyalist’ allies of British Imperial- ism…In all likelihood, a definite resolution of the exact character of the Ulster Protestant community will be reached with the with- drawal of the British army and will depend on

Lenin thought otherwise:

That is why the focal point in the Social- Democratic programme must be that division of nations into oppressor and oppressed which forms the essence of Imperialism, and is deceitfully evaded by the social-chauvinists and Kautsky. This division is not significant from the angle of bourgeois pacifism or the philistine Utopia of peaceful competition

among independent nations under capitalism, but it is most significant from the angle of the revolutionary struggle against Imperialism. It is from this division that our definition of the “right of nations to self-determination” must follow, a definition that is consistently demo-

cratic, revolutionary, and in accord with the

general task of the immediate struggle for socialism.” [6]

That struggle for self-determination must be, “most significant from the angle of the revolutionary struggle against Imperialism.” In other words imperialist-sponsored ‘national liberations movements’ like the Kosovan KLA, the Tibetan Dali Lama or the World Uyghur Congress are directly


Mustafa Barghouti:“What happened 65 years ago in Deir Yassin was a horrible massacre which prepared

Mustafa Barghouti:“What happened 65 years ago in Deir Yassin was a horrible massacre which prepared the ground for the ethnic cleansing of 70 percent of the Palestinian people, The same ethnic cleansing is going on today but in a different way. In 1948 they used direct massacres, now they use airstrikes in Gaza and shoot young Palestinians in the West Bank.”



rounding this.







as part struggle. To proclaim that there can be no ‘capitalist united Ireland’








name of wanting

a pure one. And where does the L ‘superior

nomic strength’ come from? Discrimination is the obvious

answer. And some things are just plain wrong like;

“This insurrection (of 1798) against British Imperialism, which was defeated in part by development of the reactionary sectarian Orange Order and the mobilisation of the peasantry by Catholic priests, was the oppor- tunity for the establishment of a modern nation of the whole island.”

Anyone with the most rudimentary knowledge of Irish history can tell you that the ‘the mobilisation of the peasantry by Catholic priests’ fought with the United Irishmen not with the British. This is an ignorant attempt to transpose the situation of the French monarchist counterrevolu- tion peasantry in the Vendée war (1793 to 1796) to Ireland, where the monarch was head of a foreign occupying army impos- ing the Protestant religion on them. He was thus despised by the peasantry. Those mobilised by the British were typ-



of the

[possibility of a united Ireland]


a strength. ing to the

tory of the last thirty years or

perhaps longer,

owing to histo- ry since 1885, when Randolph Churchill Win- ston’s father – first raised the cry of ‘Ulster will



matter of

























fight and Ulster will be right’ – in the past ninety years the Protestants of Northern Ireland have been taught to think of themselves as a separate

body, almost separate nationality within Ire-

land, and have established now a longterm domination of Northern Ireland, partly, be- cause of their superior economic strength, partly because of the backing they have re- ceived from the British Government, and partly because they are, or up to now have been, the more determined. For them, Protestant domination is the answer to the situation in Northern Ireland.”

They are almost a nation, it seems, so self-

determination is theirs. That they might be

a colonial people like the French colons

were who will either have to accept being

a minority nationality in a re-unified na-

tion, a socialist republic for Marxists or a ‘democratic republic’ for nationalists. Marxists say the ‘democratic republic’ is an illusion but we cannot either rule it out or

oppose it politically if it comes into being


ically the Catholic underlings of the aris- tocracy, Squireens and Buckeens, the low- er middle class landlords, like Daniel O’Connell, who later posed as the Great Liberator. These were gathered in militias like the North Corks, who flew the Or- ange standard, brutally ‘pacified’ Ulster (the Presbyterian Republicans), and were credited with the invention of the pitch- cap torture and half-hanging. The Catholic Bishops naturally sided

with the British but the lower orders of

the clergy, like Fr. John Murphy in Wex- ford, who was pro-British before the up- rising, led his parishioners with the call to “die like men defending themselves, ra- ther than to fall with folded arms under the enemy’s sword”. He was horribly mur- dered by the redcoats, one of 20,000 who were slaughtered in those two short au- tumnal weeks in north Country Wexford in the reaction that was far worse than

revolutionary France’s entirely necessary

‘reign of terror’ (30,000 in six years).

How the IBT ‘advances’ its analy- sis of this appalling record

When directly challenged IBTers tend to be a little circumspect on the 1977 Theses on Ireland (why would ANYONE defend stuff that is actually historically incorrect like the bit that says the Irish peasants supported the English monarch in 1798?)

but the 1987 fusion document is upfront

with its reactionary positions on Israel and

the Palestinians. Here it goes:

“The logic of capitulation to petty-bourgeois nationalism led much of the left to support the Arab rulers (the embodiment of the so- called ‘‘Arab Revolution’’) against the Israe- lis in the Mid-East wars of 1948, 1967 and 1973. In essence these were inter-capitalist wars in which the workers and oppressed of

the region had nothing to gain by the victory

of either. The Leninist position was there-

fore one of defeatism on both sides. For both Arab and Hebrew workers the main enemy was at home. The 1956 war was a different matter; in that conflict the working class had a side: with Nasser against the at- tempts of French and British imperialism (aided by the Israelis) to reappropriate the recently nationalized Suez Canal.” (see Ap- pendix, p. 12)

Oh what about the Palestinians FFS?

How could you take a neutral position

on the Al-Nakba: the Palestinian Catastro- phe 1948? 80 percent of the Arab inhabit- ants of what became Israel left or were expelled from their homes? Figures in excess of 800,000 have been quoted, their exclusion planned in detail beforehand and mass murder perpetrated against them just to encourage them on their way. The Deir Yassin massacre on April 9, 1948 was carried out by 120 of the Irgun and Lehi neo-fascist paramilitaries. The massacre of the 200 of the inhabitants included women and children, some of whom were paraded through the streets of West Jerusalem before being shot,

while others died when hand grenades were thrown into their homes. The Israeli state still refuses to open the archives to reveal what happened. This is where the “interpenetrated peoples” gets you.

Of course we must make the case of

why support of Israel and neutrality was a betrayal of enormous proportions. Yossi Schwartz, in an extensive article critiquing Tony Cliff, sets out the principles here:

“As a result of its failure, the RCL (the Is- rael/Palestine Trotskyists) saw in the Arab Uprising 1936-39 mainly a pogrom against the Jews and remained on the sidelines of history. It failed to assimilate the revolution-


Nakba refugees. IBT: “The foundation of the State if Israel was a victory for imperi-

Nakba refugees. IBT: “The foundation of the State if Israel was a victory for imperi- alism against the Arab masses.”

ary position of the

Fourth International

which supported the Arab Uprising in 1936-39: “The struggle against war and its social source, capitalism, presup- poses direct, active, unequivocal support to the oppressed colonial peoples in their struggles and wars against imperi- alism. A “neutral” position is tanta- mount to support of

imperialism. Yet, among the announced ad- herents of the London Bureau congress are found ILPers who advocate leaving the cou-

rageous Ethiopian warriors against maraud- ing Italian fascism in the lurch on the grounds of “neutrality,” and “Left” Poale Zionists who are even at this moment lean-

ing upon British imperialism in its savage

campaign against the legitimate, even if con-

fused, struggle of the Arab peasantry.” [7]

He argues cogently that in 1949 the Arab armies were forced to attack Israel because of the huge uprising of the Arab masses in

sympathy with the dreadful fate being im- posed on the Palestinians. That it is funda- mentally wrong to equate the two sides by saying that British and US imperialism was supporting the Arabs and not the Jewish

immigrants. In fact the position of imperi-

alism was undergoing a change from sup- port for the Arab fuedalist leaders to Isra- el. Without the support of the US, Britain and the USSR, Eastern Europe and Czechoslovakia in guns, money and unre- stricted immigration, on Stalin’s orders the state of Israel could not have been found- ed. The USSR was the first to recognise

the state of Israel, de jure, whilst the Palestinians were fleeing for their lives from guns supplied by the ‘Communist’ gov- ernment in Czech- oslovakia. The in- flux of some 200,000 Jews from

the Soviet bloc was

the decisive event in securing the imperi- alist bridgehead.

Yossi shows that the RCL and the FI were confused and cen- trist on Israel; whilst making many correct points against Hal Draper Munier (Gabriel Baer):

“insisted and correctly so that it is an illusion to think that imperialism was defeated by the

creation of a new independent state in an

anti-imperialist struggle; or that the existence of this Jewish State has a progressive influ- ence on the working-class and the labour movement in the Arab countries of the Mid- dle East; and that it is important to make clear to every socialist in the world that with- out the support of Anglo-American imperial- ism the State of Israel could not have been founded”. [8]

He quotes Baer:

“Had not the US delegation to the UN influ-

enced and bribed a certain number of dele- gations of small states, Haiti, Philippines and others; had not the US government allowed Israel, to be supplied with money and mate- rials so it could pay in dollars for Czechoslo-

vakian arms; had it not given the new state recognition (de facto) within a few hours of its creation; had not the British army tolerat- ed the opening of the road to Jerusalem by


conquest and evacuation of the Arab villages

along this road (on March 2, 1948, British

troops joined the Hagana to break up an Arab block at Bab al Wad, then early in April it failed to intervene when military actions along the road began, then on April 6 the British brought some supply trains into the city, etc.); had the British army not come to the rescue of the Jewish settlements Dan and Kfar Szold in Upper Galilee on the 9th of January; and last but not least, had not the first truce which was imposed by the UN in June 1948 saved Jewish Jerusalem from star- vation and military collapse had not all this happened the State of Israel could not have come into being.” [9]

He then points out that the FI was not able to call for the defeat of Israel and critical support for the Arab Armies be- cause it identified the revolutionary will of the Arab masses with its reactionary rul- ers:

Instead of seeing the hate of the Arab masses against the Zionist state as a form of

anti-imperialist resistance, he saw it as misdi-

rected chauvinism manipulated by the impe- rialists: “The aim of Anglo-American imperi- alism was to create a force which would play the same role in the framework of the Mid- dle East as a whole that Zionism had played for 30 years in Palestine. As a focus for chauvinist hate it would serve to divert the revolutionary struggles of the Middle East- ern Arab masses from anti-imperialist into racial or religious channels.”

He continues and points out to the anti- imperialist mass pressure in the Arab states:

But something went wrong with the plan in its initial stage in most of the Arab countries:

demonstrations were directed mainly against foreign companies and establishments, in- cluding the Soviet Union because of its sup- port of partition, and the Communist Party,


whose offices in Damascus were wrecked.”

This pressure of the Arab masses was the

reason the rulers of the Arab states went to war with Israel. Today this is even recog- nized by Zionist historians like Benny Mor- ris:

“The massacre and the way it was trumpeted in the Arab media added to the pressure on

the Arab states’ leaders to aid the embattled Palestinians and hardened their resolve to invade Palestine. The news had aroused great public indignation which the leaders

were unable to ignore.”[10]

Yossi argues strongly that Israel immigra- tion into Israel should have been opposed, that the Palestinians should have been given 100% support and that Israel had and has no right to self-determination be- cause it could only be exercised at the ex- pense of the Palestinians. Hence the “interpenetrated peoples” position is wrong as is the bi-national state theory. And we would claim, a strong defence of the need for the principled operation of the Anti-Imperialist United Front; critical support for the Arab armies and the Pales- tinian leaderships in the wars of 1948, 1967 and 1973. We would claim that the “interpenetrated peoples” line is simply left Shachtmanism, a rationalism of the centrist line that the Fourth International as a whole fell into in 1948 as outlined by

Yossi. And that the South African Work-

ers Party (WPSA) were fundamentally cor- rect against Tony Cliff and the Palestinian RCL and the Fourth International in gen- eral had collapsed into centrism. The betrayal of the 1952 Bolivian Revo- lution with only the small US West Coast Venn-Ryan tendency objecting to this was the next appalling consequence of this

collapse. Appendix:

BT/LTT Fusion Document

c o l l a p s e . Appendix: BT/LTT Fusion Document The National Question

The National Question and ‘Interpenetrated Peoples’

‘‘Marxism cannot be reconciled with na-

tionalism, be it even of the ‘most just’, ‘purest’, most refined and civilised brand. In place of all forms of nationalism Marx-

ism advances internationalism….’’

of nationalism Marx- ism advances internationalism….’’ IBT: “The logic of capitulation to petty - bourgeois

IBT: “The logic of capitulation to petty- bourgeois nationalism led much of the left to support the Arab rulers (the embodiment of the so-called ‘‘Arab Revolution’’) against the Israe- lis in the Mid-East wars of 1948, 1967 and 1973.” So IBT oppose the founding of the Israeli state but were neutral in only way to prevent its foun- dation and continued existence, these wars.

pressor people be equated with the whites

in South Africa or the French colons in

Algeria; i.e., a privileged settler-caste/ labor aristocracy dependent on the super- exploitation of indigenous labor to main- tain a standard of living qualitatively high- er than the oppressed population. Both the Irish Protestants and the He- brew-speaking population of Israel are class-differentiated peoples. Each has a bourgeoisie, a petty bourgeoisie and a working class. Unlike guilty middle-class

moralists, Leninists do not simply en- dorse the nationalism of the oppressed (or the petty-bourgeois political for- mations which espouse it). To do so simultaneously forecloses the possibility of exploiting the real class con- tradictions in the ranks of the oppressor people and cements the hold of the na- tionalists over the oppressed. The prole-

—V.I. Lenin, ‘‘Critical Remarks on the National Question’’ (1913)

Marxism and nationalism are two funda- mentally counterposed world views. We uphold the principle of the equality of nations, and oppose any privileges for any nation.At the same time Marxists

reject all forms of nationalist ideology and, in Lenin’s words, welcome ‘‘every

kind of assimilation of nations, except

that founded on force and privilege.’’ The Leninist program on the national question is primarily a negative one de- signed to take the national question off the agenda and undercut the appeal of petty-bourgeois nationalists, in order to

more starkly pose the class question. In ‘‘classic’’ cases of national oppression (e.g., Quebec), we champion the right of self-determination, without necessarily

advocating its exercise. In the more com-

plex cases of two peoples interspersed, or ‘‘interpenetrated,’’ throughout a single geographical territory (Cyprus, Northern Ireland, Palestine/Israel), the abstract right of each to self-determination cannot be realized equitably within the frame- work of capitalist property relations. Yet in none of these cases can the op-


tarians of the ascendant people can never be won to a nationalist perspective of simply inverting the current unequal rela- tionship. A significant section of them can be won to an anti-sectarian class- against-class perspective because it is in their objective interests. The logic of capitulation to petty- bourgeois nationalism led much of the left to support the Arab rulers (the em- bodiment of the so-called ‘‘Arab Revolu-

tion’’) against the Israelis in the Mid-East

wars of 1948, 1967 and 1973. In essence these were inter-capitalist wars in which the workers and oppressed of the region had nothing to gain by the victory of either. The Leninist position was therefore one of defeatism on both sides. For both Ar- ab and Hebrew workers the main enemy was at home. The 1956 war was a different matter; in

that conflict the working class had a side:

with Nasser against the attempts of French and British imperialism (aided by the Israelis) to reappropriate the recently nationalized Suez Canal. While opposing nationalism as a matter of principle, Leninists are not neutral in conflicts between the oppressed people and the oppressor state apparatus. In Northern Ireland we demand the imme- diate and unconditional withdrawal of

British troops and we defend the blows struck by the Irish Republican Army at such imperialist targets as the Royal Ul- ster Constabulary, the British Army or the hotel full of Conservative cabinet ministers at Brighton. Similarly, we militarily side with the Palestinian Liberation Organization against the forces of the Israeli state. In

no case do we defend terrorist acts di- rected at civilian populations.

This, despite the fact that the criminal terrorism of the Zionist state against the Palestinians, like that of the British army and their Protestant allies against the Catholics of Northern Ireland, is many times greater than the acts of communal terror by the oppressed. The foundation of the State if Israel was a victory for imperialism against

the Arab masses and the prospect for

world revolution. Those, like the Shachtmanites who supported this, and those who took a neural stance on this a traitors to the cause of revolu- tionary socialism and/or are pro- foundly wrong.


[1] J. V. Stalin, Marxism and the National Question,

[2] V.I. Lenin, On the national and colonial questions

(Report to the Second Congress of the Communist Interna- tional, July 1920) ~psteeves/classes/lenincolonial.html [3] Lenin, December 31, 1922, The Question of Na-


dec/testamnt/autonomy.htm [4] Ibid. [5] The Spart’s position on Ireland is the Theses on Ireland, Spartacist no 24, Autumn 1977 http://

[6] V. I. Lenin, The Revolutionary Proletariat and the



Right of Nations to Self-Determination, October 1915,

[7] Israel’s War of 1948 and the Degeneration of the Fourth International, By Yossi Schwartz, Rev-

Tendency h t t p : / /

olutionary ( R C I T ) ,

Communist M a y

International 2 0 1 3 ,

[8] Ibid.


Comment by Ian, 31/01/2016


partly agree with this, but consider it

one-sided. The concept of interpenetrat-

ed peoples has validity when the peoples who interpenetrate are more or less equal in terms of economic development and power in a regional or international context, but it

should not be applied to settler populations sponsored by modern capitalist imperialism. Such settler populations necessarily op- press subject populations with the power of imperialism at their disposal, and the na-

tional rights of the subject population there-

fore override their so-called ‘rights’. This is very clear with Israeli Jews. It is true, but slightly less obvious with the loyal- ist population in the North East of Ireland. And of course it is and was true with the South African Whites, which is the example that the Sparts don’t like to cite, though Roberston wobbled on even this. All of these peoples constitute(d) for- mations whose very cohesion is or was

linked inextrictably with the suppression and/or dispossession of the native popula- tion, and could therefore never exercise any ‘self-determination’ without oppressing that same native population. The idea that the oppressor has equal rights with the op- pressed over territory or means of life taken by force from the oppressed, is indeed scandalous, and contrary to the best demo- cratic impulses of Marxism.

It is partly true that the Spartacists’ posi-

tions on the Middle East and Ireland are left-Shachtmanite. But the concept of inter- penetrated peoples itself cannot be simply equated with this. In formal terms, the cur- rent positions of the Spartacists and IBT are similar not to Shachtmanism, but to the position of the US SWP and indeed the Fourth International itself, on the 1948 Is- raeli war (Naqba).

International itself, on the 1948 Is- raeli war (Naqba). A position of defeatism on both sides.

A position of defeatism on both sides.

This was a totally wrong position, to be sure, but it was hardly Shachtmanite. The Shachtmanite position was one of support for the Israeli side, which was a much worse, openly anti-Arab chauvinist position. The Spartacists initially broke with this position over the 1967 war, when they took a defeat of both sides position. But they did not retrospectively change their position on 1948 until 1973, with the publication of

Yossi Rad’s articles on the ‘Birth of the Zionist

state’, which advocated a defeatism on both sides position on that conflict also. It is difficult to equate this position with Shachtmanism, because the actual Shacht- manites did not hold this position, whereas other, ‘orthodox’ Trotskyist forces such as Cannon’s US SWP (in 1948) and the French Lambertistes (in 1967) did hold it. The position was still wrong, and amount- ed to neutrality between the oppressor and the oppressed, particularly scandalous in the light of the outcome of both 1948 (the dis- posession of the Palestinians in 78 per cent of Palestine) and 1967 (the 50 year occupa- tion of the other 22 per cent). This was not a position of ‘left Shacht- manism’, but a capitulation to Zionism by mainstream elements in the Trotskyist movement. The Spartacists actually treated


this neutral ‘orthodox’ position as an arche- type and something to be emulated, and extended it to Ireland in the 1970s (after calling for a ‘socialist independent Ulster’ (!) earlier in the ‘troubles’). As I said, the interpenetrated peoples posi- tion cannot be applied to colonists acting as agents of capitalist-imperialist conquest. It does have validity, however, where there are interpenetrated peoples of a (more or less) co-equal level of development involved in national and/or sectarian conflict.

One example of this given (falsely) to back

up the Spartacists position on Ireland is Cy- prus, where neither the Greek nor Turkish derived populations could be said to be in any sense agents of British imperialism, but whose divisive communal conflict gave a reactionary twist to the movement against British imperialism under Grivas/EOKA, with the programme of unification with Greece vs partition of Cyprus on ethnic lines, both of which were reactionary

‘solutions’ to the national question in Cy-

prus. This in the context of the reactionary forced population transfers which occurred between Greece and Turkey more widely in the 20th Century, particularly after WWI. Another example on a larger scale is India, where partition was a reactionary solution and had to be opposed, precisely because the peoples were interpenetrated and could not be divided into separate states without massive slaughter and ethnic cleansing, which did indeed happen and was one of the greatest tragedies of the 20th Century. The interpenetrated peoples position thus has positive features, as well as flaws. Its origins lie partially in a capitulation to Zion- ism, that is true. But in different contexts, those who uphold this can on some ques- tions hold better positions than those who


reject it too rigidly. One concrete example of this in the 1990s was Bosnia, where many on the left, such as in the USFI and also Workers Power, in the name of defending the ‘oppressed’ Bosnian Muslims against the

Serbs, defined as an oppressor people, capit- ulated to imperialism, whereas the Sparts and IBT managed to maintain a principled position of opposition to the imperialist bombing of the Bosnian Serb militias in the summer of 1995. Jose Villa broke to the left from Workers

Power over their neutrality in this war;

though he never actually embraced the Spart generalised position on interpenetrated peo- ples as applied to imperialist settlers, he did in practice embrace it in the situation of Bosnia, whose patchwork interpenetration of peoples had other origins. On this the Sparts and Spartoids were cor- rect against the more traditional ‘anti- imperialist’ left who ironically because of their own one-sided inflexibility on this ca-

pitulated somewhat to imperialism. These

things are complex and have to be under- stood concretely, not abstractly, and every situation analysed in its own specificity. Just a further point on Jose Villa and Bos- nia. In 1995 when he was in opposition to the Workers Power leadership over this, they became convinced that he was in some way acting as an IBT ‘agent’ and in an irra- tional and bureaucratic response actually passed a policy banning their members from talking to IBT members. They were completely wrong about this; Villa never embraced the IBT position on interpenetrated peoples with regard to the Middle East and Ireland. But they did have virtually identical views on Bosnia. This does indicate something about the complex- ity and multi-sided element to this, and how clarity has eluded the far left.

The Good Friday Agreement meant

acceptance of the Loyalist veto on Irelands right to self-determination

By Gerry Downing, 07/02/2016

F ollowing the publication of my piece, Ireland and Palestine: Interpenetrated peoples

and the rights of oppressed nations to self- determination [1] and a subsequent discussion and message exchange with Alan Gibson he

challenged me thus:

“You said that the implications of the inter- penetrated peoples position is pro-imperialist and appeasement of loyalism. You are of course free to make that argument but if a person serious about the political method of revolutionary Marxism did so then they would

have to respond to the IBT quote I provided

and explain how the clear anti-imperialism and anti-loyalism expressed there was con- sistent with that sup- posed implication. Are you such a per- son? Doing so would look something like:

“I have been alerted to the following piece by the IBT “… “Despite the clear anti-imperialist and

“I am not asking you to agree with the inter- penetrated people’s position and its political conclusions (although I do think that explains situations like the north of Ireland very well). All I am asking is that you re- tract your claim that the IBT, and its supporters like myself, are pro- imperialist appeaser of loyalism. Or if you want to continue with that ab-

surd characterisation then you at least have the polit- ical honesty, and confi-

dence in your argument, to use the IBT quote I provided and then explain how despite this your assertion is still true. Refusing to do this exposes you as a political charlatan who has no interest in polit- ical clarity or substantive political debate.

in polit- ical clarity or substantive political debate. ” The good Friday agreement adopted the Loyalist

The good Friday agreement adopted the Loyalist veto and abandoned Ireland’s right to self-determination.

anti-loyalist position outlined there I still believe …”

The piece Alan

quoted is from the 1995 document, An End to the Troubles, Irish ‘Peace Process’:

“The starting point for Marxists in dealing with Ireland has to be unconditional opposi-

tion to British imperialist intervention. We are

for the immediate, unconditional withdrawal of British troops from Northern Ireland. Marxists stand for the military defence of the IRA in conflicts with the British and NI state forces, and we oppose criminal prosecution and imprisonment of Republicans by the im- perialists and their allies. Moreover, the exist- ing order in Northern Ireland, with its margin- al privileges for Protestants and systematic discrimination and repression of Catholics, is

I replied:

“Of course I don’t think that. And I don’t think I said it. My assertion was that appease- ment of loyalism was the objective implica- tions of the theory. I’ll review the conversa- tion and I will apologise if I said or directly implies you or your comrades were appeasers of Loyalism.”

Alan corrected me:


something that the workers’ movement is

obliged to struggle against by all possible

means. We are unconditionally opposed to the whole apparatus of Loyalist terror: the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the Royal Irish Regi- ment, the Loyalist paramilitary murder gangs.” [2]

This document relies on the previous Spar- tacist League/ICL 1977 Theses on Ireland but is an independent IBT document which Alan demands that I assess in its own right. Whilst letting my original critique stand I

will therefore seek to prove that “the inter- penetrated people’s position is pro- imperialist and appeasement of loyalism” by referring to the political positions taken in that document, and taking the whole document, seek to demonstrate this by showing that it is self-contradictory in sev- eral aspects, taking positions in some places that are contradicted elsewhere. I immediately acknowledge that the vast

majority of those in the whole Robertson

tradition, the ICL, the IG/LFI and the IBT, are either unaware of and/or don’t accept that these are absolute contradic- tions. I will seek to prove that the Theses on Ireland of 1977 accepted the Loyalist veto over Ireland’s right to self-determination eleven years before Gerry Adams did in 1988 and the Irish ‘peace process’ document backs it up seven years after it was signed. Both documents are therefore a defence of

this peace process, even if this is not openly

acknowledged. I acknowledge that the ICL did oppose the actual Peace Process in 1988 but their opposition was so conditional as to be al- most worthless. In particular the Irish ‘Peace Process’ document accepts the bone fides of Imperialism in the Peace Process discus- sions by the use of a few quotes from Brit- ish imperialist politicians. The possibility

that Perfidious Albion might be lying is not considered. The understanding shown in both documents of the national question and the rights of nations to self- determination is wrong. The understanding of both documents of the Trotskyist theory of Permanent Revolution is wrong.

The Loyalist veto over Ireland’s right to self-determination

In order to make the case for interpenetrat- ed peoples it is necessary to sanitise the role of British imperialism in Ireland. There is far too much understanding of the prob- lems faced by British imperialism in Ire- land. As the words of the old Dubliners’ song go:

Far away in dear old Cyprus, or in Kenya’s dusty sand,/Where all bear the white man’s burden in many a strange land,/As we look across our shoulder, in West Belfast the school bell rings,/And we sigh for dear old England, and the Captains and the Kings.

So in the Irish peace process we get:

“the Downing Street declaration of late 1993, signed by British Prime Minister John Major and then Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Albert Reynolds, in which the struggle for a united Ireland was declared to be a “legitimate political goal.” It also repeated an earlier state- ment of the British minister for Northern Ireland, Peter Brooke, that Britain has “no selfish strategic, or economic interest in Northern Ireland.”

Instead of seeing this as a clever piece of

lying manoeuvring by Perfidious Albion it is taken at face value and designated as:

“a startling admission. The British ruling class apparently now regards the sectarian mini state, which it was instrumental in creating in the early 1920s, as a liability.”

And later in attacking the ICL opposition to the Peace Process:

“The bulk of the British bourgeoisie regards


“The colossal power of the working class”: Ulster Volun- teer Force - Wikipedia: “It would

“The colossal power of the working class”: Ulster Volun- teer Force - Wikipedia: “It would attack the Republic again in May 1974, during the two-week Ulster Workers' Council strike. This was a general strike in protest against the Sun- ningdale Agreement, which meant sharing political power with Irish nationalists and the Republic having more in- volvement in Northern Ireland. Along with the UDA, it helped to enforce the strike by blocking roads, intimidating workers, and shutting any businesses that opened”.

imperialist Britain and showing them

where the real class interests of the British Empire lay. We replied to Militant in

IDOT No. 8:

“The skilled Protestant workers, the institu- tionalised aristocracy of labour who have traditionally looked to Apartheid South Af- rica, to Zionist Israel and to the US deep South Jim Crow for inspiration, despised the poor ‘papist’ nationalist/Catholic work- ers and were always determined to form a cross-class alliance to deny them employ- ment, housing, welfare and life itself when- ever “croppy” became too uppity. But Mili-

tant pandered to them thus: “The whole

basis of life in modern society depends on the working class. Nothing moved in Northern Ireland without the permission of the working class. Even bourgeois commen- tators, hostile to the aim of the strike were forced to comment on the power and inge- nuity displayed by the working class. Thus the Times correspondent commented on the situation in the Protestant Sandy Row

the Protestants as a liability,

and would be quite happy to

wash its hands of them, and even allow the terms of op- pression to be reversed, pro- vided this does not create a Bosnia on Britain’s doorstep.”


“To the Tories, the “harmonization” of an all- Ireland market is (they no doubt hope) a means of grad-

ually divesting themselves of

an embarrassing and expen- sive problem handed down to them by previous generations of their class.”

And then, quoting the ICL’s Reuben Samuels, speaking of the Unionist general strike of 1974, who observed:

“The I973 [1974 in fact, GD] Ulster general strike, a 14-day general strike that totally shut down Northern Ireland, demonstrated that the social power and the social weight of the proletariat is there, even if in this particular case it was used for reactionary

ends. It was also an entirely anti-British strike. The British had set up the Council of Ireland, which was a scheme for a peaceful, if forcible (through economic pressure) reu- nifying of Ireland and dumping Northern Ireland, which has become a liability for British imperialism.” Spartacist No. 24, Au-

tumn 1977

This pleads the case of Loyalism and re- peats the line of Militant on that same 1974 strike. It certainly was not an “an entirely anti-British strike” no more than the Curragh Mutiny of 1914 [3] was an entirely anti-British mutiny. It was simply a matter of the British state and reaction- ary imperialist Britain disciplining liberal


district of Belfast…” Between fifty and a hundred men have operated a rubbish clear- ance service, going round in the backs of lorries while others swept the streets. At the weekend, brown paper rubbish bags arrived and 22,000 have been given to families in the past three days.” Connections were made with sympathetic farmers who supplied the areas with cheap food. [4]

This is the sentence that leaps out at you from that article:

“Nevertheless, the strike also demon- strated in a distorted form and on a reac- tionary issue, the colossal power of the working class when it moves into action (which, as we saw, the IBT later parrot- ed—GD).” Who would express such ad- miration for a neo-fascist uprising? Would we admire the strength and disci-

pline of Hitler’s Brownshirts because this showed us what these workers could do if there were socialists and not fascists? And

remember the material basis for discrimi-

nation in the north of Ireland. Here was the real aristocracy of labour that was orig- inally gathered in 1795 in the Orange Or- der, whose declared purpose in its initia- tion oath is still to “counter-revolution”. “Nothing moved in Northern Ireland without the permission of the working class” cannot but choke you. This “nothing” is primarily other workers, Protestants who had solidarity with na-

tionalist workers and nationalist workers

themselves who were assaulted with fascis- tic enthusiasm by Loyalist thugs with the covert assistance of the British Army and the not-so-covert assistance of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The various bour- geoisies, from the Irish pro-imperialists to the bedrock of imperialist orthodoxy in the columns of The Times, of course, were

“Nothing moved in Northern Ire- land without the permission of the working class” cannot but choke you. This “nothing” is pri- marily other workers, Protestants who had solidarity with national- ist workers and nationalist work- ers themselves who were assault-

ed with fascistic enthusiasm by Loyalist thugs with the covert as-

sistance of the British Army and

the not-so-covert assistance of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

not hostile to this strike, supported it but had to be careful in how they expressed their support, as Militant were. Hence the mutual admiration between Militant and the pro-imperialist bourgeoisie here. “Isn’t it great to have the workers going on strike for us instead against us for a change?” is

the common theme here supported by

Militant. Those in South Africa will recall Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s strikes against the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal. Do we all re- member how supportive The Times was to the 1926 General Strike and how it com- plemented the workers on their ingenuity etc.? We though not! [5] Was KwaZulu-Natal another case of ‘interpenetrated peoples’? It would seem

to fit the bill. Human beings are oppressed

by the social relations of production im-

posed by capitalism. Semi-colonial nations as a whole are oppressed by imperialism. The nationalist bourgeoisie here are a semi -oppressed, semi-oppressing class. All conflict takes place in that context and for that reason. It DOES NOT happen be- cause people are mixed up together. This is just nonsense, it has no precedent


Although the author may not be aware of it this line constitutes a repudiation of

Although the author may not be aware of

it this line constitutes a repudiation of the

Trotskyist theory of Permanent Revolu- tion:

“With regard to countries with a belated bourgeois development, especially the colo- nial and semi-colonial countries, the theory of the permanent revolution signifies that the complete and genuine solution of their tasks of achieving democracy and national eman- cipation is conceivable only through the dicta- torship of the proletariat as the leader of the subjugated nation, above all of its peasant masses.” [6]

We contend that this makes it very clear

that the right to nations to self- determination affords no veto to reaction. There are no workers in abstract, simply defined by the relationship to the means of production in capitalist society, the class with nothing to sell but its labour power. All workers also stand in some relationship to the real masters of life,

global imperialism. If they are workers in

imperialist countries they tend to be pro- imperialist and accept more or less the patriotism and social values of their own country and the mass media and educa- tion system which constantly reinforces the ideology that goes with this relation- ship to capitalism itself. If they live in a country with a history of

on the annals of Marxism. Neither document produce any quotes from the Marxist classics that suggest such a silly thing. It is an indication of cult- ism to seek to defend such an inde- fensible notion. The Spart family use it precisely for that reason; it you are collectively de- fending an absurdity it becomes a point of pride that no other Marxist current on the planet agrees. You are

uniquely right and therefore the continuity

of Trotskyism. The Irish Peace Process goes on to say:

“The national question in Ireland remains a major obstacle to class struggle and social progress. While there has been a partial self- determination of Irish Catholics in the South, particularly since the twenty six coun- ties became a republic after World War II, the national conflict in the North still has a major impact on Irish politics. The North- ern conflict is not, as Republicans and their guilty liberal apologists on the left pretend, a simple one of an oppressed colonial people fighting against an imperialist occupation. There is a major component of that, to be sure. But the existence of one million Protestants who comprise 60 percent of the population of the six counties means that any attempt to unite the island forcibly will inevitably ignite a sectarian conflict of Bos- nian proportions.


“While opposing the imperialist presence, Marxists must also oppose the reunification of Ireland against the wishes of the Protestants.”

The national question in Ireland IS NOT a major obstacle to class struggle and so- cial progress. It is an integral part of the form that the class struggle itself must take in order to defeat imperialism and make socialist revolution.


struggle against imperialism then they

tend to be anti-imperialist for instance the sympathy of the majority of Irish workers was with Argentina in the Mal- vinas war in 1982 and the Taoiseach, Charlie Haughey, was forced to express this sentiment in his own Fianna Fáil party, the more anti-British of the two main traditional parties in Ireland. This put strains on his otherwise grovelling relationship with Margaret Thatcher.

The dominant ideology in the Loyalist

community is far right pro-imperialism bolstered by a cross class alliance be- tween the capitalists and the aristocracy of labour engendering a feeling of supe- riority over nationalist workers amongst

the Loyalist; and so they support Britain in all its wars. It is to the Loyalist camp that British and European fascists go for support and they find a ready audience. In Dublin on 6 February Irish Republi-

can Left Action Against Fascism cleared

the streets of those attempting to rally outside the GPO to form the Irish sec- tion of Pegida. Such was the beating they took that it is very unlikely they will ever attempt such a thing again. We cannot imagine such a force emerging from the Loyalist community if they attempted the same thing in Belfast; on the contrary they would get ready Loyalist support but the nationalist community would supply their opponents; and that may well be their next move. Even in the more re- mote arena of football in the north of Ireland and in the West of Scotland the Celtic fans and nationalists elsewhere sing the Fields of Athenry, a clearly anti- imperialist anthem – “For you stole Trevel- yan’s corn, So the young might see the morn”,


and fly Palestinian flags to indicate sup- port for the oppressed Palestinians. The Rangers’ and other pro-Loyalists song is the Billy Boys: “We’re up to our knees in Fenian blood, Surrender or you’ll die, For we are The Brigton Derry Boys.” Rangers and other Loyalist fans fly the Zionist flag to indicate support for Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians.

Sectarian Killings

In an apparent endorsement the Irish

Peace Process says:

“The cessation of sectarian killings for the time being by both Loyalist paramilitaries and the IRA appears to have improved the possibilities for unity between Protestant and Catholic workers around class ques- tions. But class struggle could easily be submerged beneath a new wave of nation- alism.”

However whilst the cessation of killing is of course to be welcomed the Good Fri- day Agreement (GFA) has not brought the communities closer together. In fact

segregation has increased since the GFA and so has the number of peace walls between the communities. The reason is clear. Before the GFA Loyalist ideology was always seen in some measure at least in the Protestant community as a shame- ful thing and it was rejected at least par- tially because of the extreme reactionary

nature of its desire to discriminate and

oppress. The acceptance of the Loyalist Veto by Sinn Fein and Gerry Adams, and by the ICL 11 years beforehand, legitimised this reac- tion, it conciliated it and made it respectable. Surveys find that the nationalists are far more likely to want these peace wall to stay than the Loyalists; they have a great deal more to fear. The BBC reported:

In fact, the number of barricades in Belfast

has actually increased since the Good Fri-

day Agreement brought the Northern Irish conflict to an end in 1998. A 2012 study found almost 100 walls, fences, gates and roads forming “interfaces” between com- munities across the city. For people living in the shadow of a con- crete wall topped with fencing the peace they bring can help cement divisions rather than heal communities. Wall number one, which divides the Falls and Shankill roads at Cupar Street, went up in 1969 following rioting and house burnings in west Belfast.

Over the years it has risen to more than six metres. The last one went up last year in the grounds of a north Belfast integrated primary school following a period of local tension. There are 53 Northern Ireland Office maintained peace lines in four towns and cities in the region 42 in Bel- fast, five in Londonderry, five in Porta- down and one in Lurgan. However, community relations groups say

these are not the only peace lines, with

other structures and land being used to keep communities apart. In a survey for the Community Relations Council the In- stitute for Conflict Research listed a total of 88 peace lines as well as 44 police CCTV cameras. Some are listed as wasteland be- ing used by housing authorities as buffer zones, others include derelict houses as well as walls and vegetation to the rear of homes in interface areas. [7]

And Wiki tells us:

Public housing is overwhelmingly segregat- ed between the two communities. Inter- communal tensions have forced substantial numbers of people to move from mixed areas into areas inhabited exclusively by one denomination, thus increasing the de- gree of polarisation and segregation. The extent of self-segregation grew very rapidly with the outbreak of the Troubles. In 1969, 69 per cent of Protestants and 56 per cent


of Catholics lived in streets where they

were in their own majority; as the result of

large-scale flight from mixed areas between

1969 and 1971 following outbreaks of vio-

lence, the respective proportions had by

1972 increased to 99 per cent of

Protestants and 75 per cent of Catholics. In Belfast, the 1970s were a time of rising residential segregation. It was estimated in

2004 that 92.5% of public housing in

Northern Ireland was divided along reli- gious lines, with the figure rising to 98% in Belfast. Self-segregation is a continuing process, despite the Northern Ireland peace process. It was estimated in 2005 that more than 1,400 people a year were being forced to move as a consequence of intimidation. In response to intercommunal violence, the British Army constructed a number of high walls called “peace linesto separate rival neighbourhoods. These have multiplied over the years and now number forty sepa-

rate barriers, mostly located in Belfast. De-

spite the moves towards peace between

Northern Ireland’s political parties and

most of its paramilitary groups, the con- struction of “peace lines” has actually in- creased during the ongoing peace process; the number of “peace lines” doubled in the ten years between 1995 and 2005. In 2008

a process was proposed for the removal of

the peace walls. The effective segregation of the two com-

munities significantly affects the usage of local services in “interface areaswhere

sectarian neighbourhoods adjoin. Surveys

in 2005 of 9,000 residents of interface areas

found that 75% refused to use the closest facilities because of location, while 82% routinely travelled to “safer” areas to ac- cess facilities even if the journey time was longer. 60% refused to shop in areas domi- nated by the other community, with many fearing ostracism by their own community

if they violated an unofficial de facto boycott

of their sectarian opposite numbers. [8]

The essence of the theory of interpene- trated peoples

The Irish ‘Peace Process’ documents says: “But the

existence of one million Protestants who comprise 60 percent of the popula- tion of the six counties means that any attempt to unite the island forcibly will inevitably ignite a sectarian conflict of Bosnian propor- tions”.

ignite a sectarian conflict of Bosnian propor- tions”. Belfast Riots in July 1920. The immediate causes

Belfast Riots in July 1920. The immediate causes were the shoot- ing of RIC man Smyth in Cork (he was from Banbridge) and the

tensions arising from the 12th July (fanned by Carson). The more long term causes were fears about

jobs by Protestant workers. Par-

kinson notes that unemployment was 26% in Belfast then after the post-war depression. Protestant workers felt they were taking their ‘own’ jobs back.

nationalists in defence of this for this. This is the essence of Loyalist culture:

“Sectional disputes were frequent. To take one example, disputes over demarcation between shipwrights and carpen- ters occurred in 1890, 1891, 1911 and 1913. In that year, the apprentices of Harland and Wolff also went on strike. Less sec-

tional disputes occurred in 1887, over the introduc- tion of fortnightly pay- ment, and in 1892 in sup- port of the eight hour day. Then, in 1919, Belfast’s shipyard workers joined thousands of others in a mass strike for a 44 hour

working week.

In the following year, however, the second theme of the shipyard’s socio-political culture was dominant. Responding to

This is an acceptance of the Loyalist veto and is the essence of the theory of interpenetrated peo- ples. Whoever expected a peaceful revolution? When Ireland becomes reunited there will be fierce resistance from the neo-fascist loyalist mur- der gangs, amongst oth-

ers. They must be defeat- ed. They are NOT the legitimate repre- sentatives of the Loyalist working class or the ‘Protestant’ workers. To reject a historically progressive aim like Ire-

land’s right to self-determination on the

grounds that it will be fiercely resisted is to conciliate reaction. The following extract from The Boat Fac- tory: Life in the Yard, A cultural history of shipbuilding in Belfast shows the long histo- ry of the ideology of the labour aristocra- cy, of its supremacism and of its extreme willingness to impose discrimination on

the establishment of the Irish parliament in 1919 and the outbreak of the IRA’s War of Independence, loyalist workers expelled some 10,000 Catholics and ‘rotten Prods’—socialists and trade union activistsfrom the yards.

Outbreaks of sectarian violence involving

shipyard workers were nothing new. There had been disturbances during the 1912 Home Rule crisis, and an expulsion of Catholics in 1886. Five hundred loyalist shipyard workers had fought running bat- tles with the police in 1872, and in 1864 ironworkers, carpenters and shipwrights from the yards had been involved in fighting with Catholic navvies engaged in


the excavation of new docks. The role of

the ‘Islandmen’ in the ‘battle of the navvies’

was commemorated in at least one loyalist ballad: They sent unto the Island, and they chal- lenged us that day;/ For they had guns and pistols to begin a bloody fray; /Our arms we had to find them, but we didn’t dally long,/And we marched upon the Navvies in three columns stout and strong. Trade union consciousness and sectarian ideas found uneasy cohabitation in the pop- ulist unionism of groups like the Independ- ent Orange Order, and in the outlook of working class writers like Thomas Carnduff. The conflict, often violent, between the two, was the subject of the 1960 play, Over the Bridge, by another shipyard worker, Sam Thompson. [9]

I used to drink with a crew in Harlesden of Irish, Scottish, English and West Indi- ans in the early 90s. One weekend after- noon the north of Ireland came up. A man from Aberdeen opined the Robert-

son stuff about it all being sectarian and

people not being able to agree and they

were all the same. “No they are not”, I asserted “If you were a Catholic and married a Protestant you could live in West Belfast with no problems but you could not live in East Belfast They were not the same.” “You shut up now or I will stick this glass in your face” shouted the irate Or- angeman. Parkinson says there was about 93,000

Catholic workers in the city at this time

(Parkinson (2004), pp. 33-35) and he esti- mates that around 10,000 workers ex- pelled including several hundred female textile workers. He says that most of the expulsions occurred within the first few days but some intimidation did occur into the following month and even into early September when Catholic workers would


be forced out of work for refusing to sign ‘loyalty’ documents. Also, included were about 1,800 Protestant trade unionists and socialists who were also expelled from their work – the latter were called ‘rotten Prods’ by the unionist leadership (Parkinson (2004), pp. 35-36 & 328). Parkinson further estimates that over the

period of the conflict in Belfast (i.e. up to summer 1922), over 20,000 Catholics were displaced (Parkinson, p 62).

Parkinson also says that there is little evi-

dence that Unionist Party had organised expulsion but that the Unionist leaders failed to condemn them. Carson was later to express his ‘pride’ in the actions of his shipyard ‘friends’ (Parkinson (2004), p. 31). He goes onto say ,

“members of the BPA and other loyalist

splinter groups undoubtedly benefited from easy access to their considerable arsenal and were certainly responsible for the initial in-

dustrial expulsions and several sectarian

murders. Although the unionist establish- ment may not have co-ordinated the cam- paign of violence, it is undeniable that the Belfast authorities had been bracing them- selves for an outbreak of communal disturb- ances during the summer of 1920.” (Parkinson (2004), pg 309)

He goes on to say that the more incisive deployment of troops in Belfast would have probably reduced the level of vio-

lence. McDermott says that,

“There is no significant evidence that the unionist leadership ordered the expulsions from the shipyards … but … the expulsions mark the beginning of what … the whole of the nationalist community called the ‘pogroms’. (McDermott (2001), pp 33)

The response by a number of prominent nationalists and republicans in the North

piece of land. Any attempt by one or the other of the peoples to exercise

piece of land. Any attempt by one or the other of the peoples to exercise its right to self-determination, that is, to create its own political state, will necessarily lead either to forced population transfers (“ethnic cleans- ing”), or conquest and subjugation.”

This totally contradicts the opening sen- tence of this section: “The starting point

for Marxists in dealing with Ireland has to

be unconditional opposition to British imperialist intervention”. If the Irish na- tionalists succeed in reuniting Ireland, even under capitalism, that would be a defeat for British Imperialism. It is not a question simply of economics, national defence or wishing to avoid a ‘bloodbath’. The British ruling class are NOT neutral, their undercover MI5 agents constantly collaborated with Loyalist death squads in

assassinating not only IRA men and prom- inent professional opponents like Pat Fi- nucane in 1989, and Rosemary Nelson in 1999, but also random Catholics to spread terror. They infiltrated the Belfast IRA in particular so as to ensure they were either ambushed or they deliberately placed bombs or made sure they exploded prem- aturely or warnings were suppressed in

in August (including Sean McEntee; Denis McCullough; Bishop McRory and Rev John Has- san) is to set a ‘Belfast Boycott Committee’ which aims to force Belfast businesses to take back ex- pelled Catholic workers by pushing a vigorous boycott of all goods produced in Belfast. They have success with county councils in the

South and, while initially reluctant,

the Dáil takes responsibility for it

from January 1921. It should really go without saying that the orientation of all serious Marxists should be to those ‘rotten Prods’, socialists and trade union activists’ within the Protestant community and not to the Loy- alist oppressors of the best of the workers in that community and the nationalists in general. The existence of these forces is not ad-

mitted at all in either of the documents

and yet the overwhelming domination of the far right Loyalist ideology was estab- lish by extreme violence in collaboration with the British state. They were driven from the shipyards by Loyalist thugs using the infamous Belfast confetti, metal disks, large ship-building rivets, nuts, bolts and other metal scrap as missiles against the Catholic workers to drive them out of the

shipyard in 1920. It really should logically

follow that it can only be remove in like manner because we are entitled to assume that the neo-fascists will defend their privi- leges as violently as in the past so we had better draw the obvious conclusions from that. And further the Irish Peace Process says:

“The situation is one of interpenetrated peoples:

two peoples living together on the same


areas where a great number of civilians were killed, so as to create a backlash. They expended enormous resources in fostering fratricidal warfare within the ranks of Republican Socialism, the IRSP

and the INLA etc., recognising the dan- gerous implications of uniting the work- ing class under the banner of both revolu- tionary socialism and anti-imperialism, surely the essence of Permanent Revolu- tion.

These are not the actions of a neural

force who regarded the struggle as a liabil- ity they do not fear bombs in market places or withdrawing from Ireland but

the effect such a defeat would have on the British working class itself. If the Loy- alist succeed in crushing the nationalist resistance, and they have succeeded to a great degree by winning Sinn Fein and the IRA over to the Peace Process, then that is a victory for imperialism, with all its

negative national and international impli-

cations for the global class consciousness of workers, particularly in Britain. A victory over imperialism would enor- mously strengthen the British working class politically by undermining illusion in the ideology of imperialism and in the benefits they are getting from the booty of Empire. For this very reason Trotsky advocated critical support for Haile Selas- sie and Abyssinia against Italy in 1936, for

China led by Chiang Kai-shek against Ja- pan in 1937 and, hypothetically, for Var- gas and Brazil against Britain in 1938 de- spite the reactionary character of the lead- erships of these three nations. I would say the IRA and Sinn Fein stack up pretty well against those; whilst they were fighting British imperialism and its Loyal- ist agents they were deserving of the tradi- tional Marxist critical but unconditional

support. Neither of the two documents even considers this very important Marx- ist principle in the context of the global class struggle. This is also the essence of Marx’s fa- mous Irish Turn in 1869. He spelled this out in his letter to Ludwig Kugelmann. It made no concessions to the Loyalists (he had noticed them!) or to the anti-Marxist notion of interpenetrated peoples:

“I have become more and more convinced

and the thing now is to drum this con-

viction into the English working class that they will never be able to do anything decisive here in England before they sepa- rate their attitude towards Ireland quite defi- nitely from that of the ruling classes, and not only make common cause with the Irish, but even take the initiative in dissolv- ing the Union established in 1801, and sub- stituting a free federal relationship for it. And this must be done not out of sympathy for Ireland, but as a demand based on the

interests of the English proletariat. If not,

the English people will remain bound to the leading-strings of the ruling classes, because they will be forced to make a common front with them against Ireland. Every movement of the working class in England itself is crip- pled by the dissension with the Irish, who form a very important section of the work- ing class in England itself. The primary con- dition for emancipation here the over- throw of the English landed oligarchy remains unattainable, since its positions

cannot be stormed here as long as it holds its strongly-entrenched outposts in Ireland. But over there, once affairs have been laid in the hands of the Irish people themselves, as soon as they have made themselves their own legislators and rulers, as soon as they have become autonomous, it will be infi- nitely easier there than here to abolish the landed aristocracy (to a large extent the same persons as the English landlords) since


in Ireland it is not just merely an economic

question, but also a national one, as the land-

lords there are not, as they are in England, traditional dignitaries and representatives, but the mortally-hated oppressors of the national- ity. And not only does Englands internal social development remain crippled by the present relationship to Ireland, but also her foreign policy, in particular her policy with regard to Russia and the United States of America. Since, however, the English working class undoubtedly throws the greatest weight on the scales of social emancipation gen- erally, this is the point where the lever must be ap- plied. It is a fact that the English

Republic under

Cromwell met

shipwreck in Ireland. Non bis in idem! [this shall not happen twice] The Irish have played a capital joke on the English govern- ment by electing the convict felon O’Dono- van Rossa as Member of Parliament. Govern-

ment newspapers are already threatening a renewed suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, a renewed system of terror! In fact, Eng- land never has and never can rule Ireland any other way, as long as the present relationship continues only with the most abominable

reign of terror and the most reprehensible

corruption. [10]

warp: they still think they are fighting the

battles of the Reformation and the “Glorious

Revolution” of seventeenth century England. The ideology of Loyalism is a grotesque anachronism. But it has not been abandoned by the Protestant population. Marxists must frame their demands on the national question to undermine this consciousness, a product of the “carnival of reaction” of which Con- nolly spoke, and not drive the Protestant

working class into the arms of the Paisleyites (or worse) by echoing the Republicans’ de- mand for “self- determination of the Irish people as a whole.” There is no such thing as “the Irish people as a whole;” the Protestants do not feel themselves to be part of any such people. If there is to be any hope

of uniting Catholic and

Battle of Vinegar Hill, 21 June 1798
Battle of Vinegar Hill, 21 June 1798

Protestant working

classes, it cannot be demanded of the Protestants that they accept Catholic nation- alist aims as a condition for participating in common struggle. While opposing the impe- rialist presence, Marxists must also oppose the reunification of Ireland against the wishes of the Protestants.

Of course the document makes clear its opposition to these forces but then accepts

that they have a right to self-determination.

Only nations have a right to self-

determination. The Ulster Loyalists, the Falkland Islanders, the Gibraltarians, the inhabitants of Hong Kong or any other imperialist outpost have no rights to occu- py other people’s lands and claim them for their imperialist masters. This was, in fact, declared a crime in 1960 by the United Nations, that most pro imperialist of bod- ies which likes to pretend that modern im-

Ireland’s Right to Self- Determination

The Irish Peace Process says:

The Protestants are not actually a fully devel- oped nation. Rather, they are a half formed quasi national grouping, whose political con- sciousness and identity exists as if in a time


perialism is not at all as bad as 19 th cen- tury colonialism. [11] The Loyalists are not a nation, they do not want to be a nation and do not claim to be a nation. The essence of loy- alism is their ‘right’ to discriminate, to assert their superiority over the national- ists in a cross class alliance with their own ruling class and British imperialism. It is not a disagreement between peo- ples, but a mode of imperialist rule. The

“half formed quasi national grouping”

should be given a real name; modern colonialist infused with pro-imperialist bigotry. Theirs is a supremacist ideology like Zionism and apartheid South Africa and the Deep South Jim Crow South poor whites. And historically they have made these connections themselves in words and deeds. Ian Paisley received a bogus honorary doctorate of divinity from the fundamentalist Bob Jones Uni-

versity in Greenville, South Carolina in

1966, to take one example. The sympa- thy for Zionism of many Loyalists is legendary. And according to The Pensive Quill:

“In January 1988, the UDA intelligence boss and British agent Brian Nelson mas- terminded one of the biggest consignments of illegal weapons to loyalists since the Larne gun-running of 1914 to arm Car- son’s Ulster Volunteers. The loyalist

bloodbath bonanza consisted of 200 Rus-

sian-made Kalashnikov AK-47 automatic rifles; 90 American Browning 9 mm pis- tols; around 500 fragmentation grenades; 30,000 bullets; a dozen Russian-made RPG7 rocket launchers, and an unknown number of warheads. The South African weapons had a major impact on the mur- der rate of the loyalist death squads. Ac- cording to our sources, in the six years

from January 1982 to December 1987 before the smuggling of the huge arsenal, loyalists murdered 71 people. In the five years after the weapons’ arrival, loyalists killed 135 people almost double the rate before acquiring the South African haul.” [12]

That perceived right to discriminate and murder at will is the prime question, not some bogus question of their right to self-determination. But Alan objects:

“It is not a question of giving a “right of

veto” to anyone but just recognising that your solution of calling for the self- determination currently exercised in the south of the island to be extended to the north is not a democratic solution. Given the current political/social reality in the north what would that mean for the demo- cratic rights of the 50% or so of the popu- lation who do not want that? Of course nationalists in the north of Ire- land or Palestinians should not accept be-

ing second-class citizens. I am not arguing

that they should and I find it deeply offen- sive that you are implying that I am. I am just saying that there is no democratic so- lution possible within the framework of

capitalism. You on the other-hand seem only to be able to counter-pose alternatives within the framework of capitalism and so there is a simple dichotomy between siding with the oppressed or the oppressor. You need to start thinking like a communist not

a radical bourgeois democrat. (As an aside

I am curious as to why you refer to South

African Blacks and Deep Southern Blacks what are you suggesting in terms of self- determination for them?) I think the nub of the problem is that you miss a central point of the Leninist position on self- determination. It is to encourage working class unity. It is to undercut the political appeal of nationalism, both in the oppres- sor nation and the oppressed nation. In-


stead you take the Leninist approach to the right of self-determination as some over- arching slogan in an ahistorical sense thus gutting it of its real content and political purpose. And as another aside I have re- read your piece today taking notes this time and it really is a quite shoddy piece of work. Creating, and then knocking over, straw men combined with blatant political slan- ders. Your piece screams of liberal moral outrage rather than Marxist science.”

I have tried to explain to him that differ-

ences between the nationalism of the

oppressor and that of the oppressed. Lenin expanded it in great detail and the quote the IBT put forward in their fusion with the LTT makes no acknowledge- ment of this. [13] Supporting existing oppression of the Irish nationalists (NOT Catholics) by Loyalist (NOT Protestants) on the grounds that if you do so the op- pression might be reversed completely dismisses the fight against imperialism and the central position this must occupy in the programme of all serious revolu- tionaries. In Israel it is Zionism repress- ing the Palestinians, a fear that imperial- ism’s agents might themselves be op-

pressed at a later date is a defence of cur- rent Imperialist oppression. That is the essence of the argument, interpenetrated peoples is an alternative explanation for human oppression that blames human

nature and not the property relations of

capitalism and modern imperialism. That’s the significance of the Lenin Stalin debate, the Great Russian chauvin- ism of Stalin, the failure of Robertson to call for the defeat of the British Expedi- tionary force to the south Atlantic in 1982, by far the most telling example of the Sparts’ pro imperialism.

the most telling example of the Sparts’ pro imperialism. Christian Rakovsky and Leon Trotsky 1924 How

Christian Rakovsky and Leon Trotsky 1924

How Christian Rakovsky handled the national question

Look at how Christian Rakovsky handled the national question. Note how different it is from Stalin, from the Lenin of 1913 (as presented so one-sidedly in that quote

from the BT/LTT Fusion document)

and from the Lenin that took such um- brage at Stalin’s Great Russian Chauvin- ism as he called it in regard to Georgia in 1922 until his death in 1924. This passage relates how Rakovsky himself developed his views on the subject; these views then became those of the Left Opposition and Trotsky’s own views:


“What was the specific problem which the

national question posed for the Communist

Party in the Soviet Union according to Ra- kovsky? In 1919, in the article already men- tioned (Relations between the Republics), Rakovsky had analysed nationalism and na- tional culture as specific to the bourgeois state order, an extension of the concept of “private ownership” to the level of the state. Therefore he saw the elimination of capitalist private property as undermining once and for all the basis of specifically “national”

consciousness and culture, and he saw the federal and centralizing principle as a charac- teristic of the socialist order. The problem had presented itself then in terms of the “suppression” of national prejudice, national boundaries etc., and he had been very opti- mistic in 1919 about the pace at which those would disappear. At the Twelfth Congress that optimism had disappeared: “the more often we discuss this question the further away we are from a communist understand- ing and solution of the national problem”.

“There were many in the party in 1923 who

believed that the national problem had al-

ready been solved. Rakovsky asked: “Tell me, comrades, how many of you can explain in what way the October revolution solved the nationalities question?” It did not resolve it, nor could it have. National culture does not cease to exist because the state is a workers’ state or because the economy is no longer privately owned. National culture is “the only way” through which the working and peasant masses will gain access to political and cul-

tural life. “And hand in hand with national

consciousness comes that feeling of equality which Lenin speaks of in his memorandum. Because of centuries o tsarist domination, the nationalities are now experiencing that feeling of equality in a much deeper and stronger way than we think.” So the problem posed before the Communist Party was not one of the suppression or “overcoming” of national consciousness. “It (the party) faces


the question of how to find the bond be-

tween proletarian communist international-

ism and the national development of wide layers of the peasant masse with their aspira- tions for a national life, for their own nation- al culture, for their own national state.” [14]

We have examined Loyalist culture and shown that it is not a culture at all. Irish culture compromise a vast range of litera- ture and works of art, of plays and the the- atre performances that moved from Lon- don to become based in Dublin during the last decades of the 19 th century. Also in this period, in 1884, the Gael Athletic As- sociation began to develop and codify a whole series of unique national games which remain enormously popular today; hurling, Gaelic football for men and wom- en, camogie and handball. Although the hurling and football All- Ireland Finals and semi Finals are invaria- bly the biggest sporting events in Europe

and often in the world on the day, with

80,000 + attendances, yet no British press, apart from The Sun which gives the score, or TV station will report the results let alone on the games themselves, but will report on small rugby league and football contests in the south of France with a few hundred in attendance. The expulsion of the forces of the Empire from the south of Ireland in 1921 still rankles with the British imperialist establishment and its

representatives in the mass media.

Pro-Imperialist Terminology

Finally on the language used in the docu- ments. The offensive terminology like Protestant and Catholic and the British Isles that the documents use is an inad- vertent expression of contempt for Ire- land’s right to self-determination. Obvi- ously the comrades are unaware that Brit-

Tony Blair and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern sign the Good Friday Agreement on 10 April 1998.

Tony Blair and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern sign the Good

Friday Agreement on 10 April 1998. The document refers

to “These Isles” and never “the British Isles”

ish Isles signifies a territorial claim by Britain to the whole of Ireland. The Irish Government has made it clear to Britain and to international cartographers that it objects strongly to the use of the term. Nevertheless the BBC and other British imperialist spokespersons al- ways uses it in weather fore-

casts and elsewhere. Tony Blair

acceded to the request of the

Irish government and used the term “these islands” in the Good Friday Agree- ment. Its use is a cover for this wrong ap- proach as is, for example, the constant use of the term ‘sectarian conflict’ to excuse

and marginalise the role of British imperi- alism and Protestant and Catholic to des- ignate the opposing camps in the north of

Ireland. The correct terms are pro-

imperialist and anti-imperialist or Loyalist and Nationalist/Republican. The ICL programme states that: “We struggle for an Irish workers’ republic as part of a socialist federation of the British Isles” No serious self-respecting Irish citi- zen would use such a term as is evidenced by the following notes from Wikipedia:

questioned the use of British Isles as a purely geographic expression, noting:

[The] “Last Post has redoubled its ef- forts to re-educate those labouring under the misconception that Ireland is really just British. When British Retail Week mag-

azine last week reported that a retailer was to make its British Isles debut in Dublin, we were puzzled. Is not Dublin the capital

of the Republic of Ireland? When Last

Post suggested the magazine might see its way clear to correcting the error, an educa- tive e-mail to the publication…:

“…(which) I have called the Atlantic archipelago – since the term ‘British Isles’ is one which Irishmen reject and English- men decline to take quite seriously.” Po- cock, J.G.A. [1974] (2005). “British Histo- ry: A plea for a new subject”. The Discov- ery of Islands. Cambridge: Cambridge

University Press, p. 29. OCLC 60611042. “…what used to be called the “British Isles,” although that is now a politically incorrect term.” Finnegan, Richard B.; Edward T. McCarron (2000). Ireland: His- torical Echoes, Contemporary Politics. Boulder: Westview Press, p. 358. “In an attempt to coin a term that avoid- ed the ‘British Isles’ – a term often offen-

“In standard English usage, the toponym “the British Isles” refers to a European ar- chipelago consisting of Great Britain, Ireland and adjacent islands. However, the word “British” is also an adjective and demonym referring to the United Kingdom. For this reason, the name British Isles is avoided in Irish English as such usage could be con- strued to imply continued territorial claims or political overlordship of the Republic of Ireland by the United Kingdom.

On 18 July 2004, The Sunday Business Post


sive to Irish sensibilities Pocock sug-

gested a neutral geographical term for the collection of islands located off the northwest coast of continental Europe which included Britain and Ireland: the Atlantic archipelago…” Lambert, Peter; Phillipp Schofield (2004). Making Histo- ry: An Introduction to the History and Practices of a Discipline. New York:

Routledge, p. 217.

the “

term is increasingly unacceptable

to Irish historians in particular, for whom

the Irish Sea is or ought to be a separat- ing rather than a linking element. Sensi- tive to such susceptibilities, proponents of the idea of a genuine British history, a theme which has come to the fore during the last couple of decades, are plumping for a more neutral term to label the scat- tered islands peripheral to the two major ones of Great Britain and Ireland.” Roots, Ivan (1997).

The British Isles, A History of Four Nations,

Second edition, Cambridge University Press, July 2006, Preface, Hugh Kearney. “The title of this book is ‘The British Isles’, not ‘Britain’, in order to emphasise the multi-ethnic character of our inter- twined histories. Almost inevitably many within the Irish Republic find it objec- tionable. As Seamus Heaney put it when he objected to being included in an an- thology of British Poetry:

‘Don’t be surprised If I demur, for, be ad- vised/ My passport’s green./ No glass of ours was ever raised/ To toast the Queen. (Open Letter, Field day Pamphlet no.2


The A to Z of Britain and Ireland by Tre- vor Montague “…although it is tradition- al to refer to the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and


Northern Ireland as the British Isles, when considered as a single archipelago, this nomenclature implies a proprietary title which has long since ceased to exist, if indeed it ever really did exist.” [15]


[1] Ireland and Palestine: Interpenetrated peoples and the rights of oppressed nations to self-determination

oppressed-nations-to-self-determination/ [2] An End to the Troubles, Irish ‘Peace Process’ http://

[3] “On his return to the Curragh on 20th March, Paget

summoned his brigadiers and informed them that active operations against Ulster were imminent. He indicated that officers with homes in Ulster would be permitted to be absent from duty without compromising their careers. Unwisely (really, not Perfidious Albion again? GD), he added that any others who were not prepared to carry out their duty were to say so and these would immediate- ly be dismissed from the service. The brigadiers were to put these alternatives to their men and report back; 57 of the 70 officers consulted elected for dismissal. They were led by Brigadier General Herbert Gough who, like many of them, had Irish family connections.” http://

[4] John Throne, Militant International Review No. 9, June 1974. Northern Ireland the crisis deepens Postscript,

[5] IDOT No 8: The CWI and IMT: Right Centrist Heirs Of Ted Grant “Nevertheless, the (Ulster Workers Coun- cil) strike also demonstrated in a distorted form and on a reactionary issue, the colossal power of the working class when it moves into action.” Militant International Re- view No. 9 10 July 1974: https://

[6] Leon Trotsky, The Permanent Revolution, 10. What is the Permanent Revolution?, Basic Postulates, https://

[7] Forty years of peace lines

[8] Segregation in Northern Ireland, From Wikipedia, Segregation_in_Northern_Ireland [9] The Boat Factory: Life in the Yard, A cultural history of shipbuilding in Belfast

boat-factory-life-in-the-yard [10] Marx-Engels Correspondence 1869, Marx To Ludwig Kugelmann In Hanover,

[11] Edward McWhinney, Professor of International Law. “The Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples was adopted by the Unit- ed Nations General Assembly on 14 December 1960. The deliberate location of the United Nations vote in the General Assembly rather than in the Security Council where a permanent member’s veto would always be availa- ble to any one or more of the three permanent members that still had “colonial” legal ties or associations – was an obvious enough choice for the political activist States sponsoring resolution 1514 (XV). And the timing of the vote in 1960, when the decolonisation process was already well under way was hardly fortuitous. A working majority in favour of a patently anti-colonialist measure would not become politically possible until the General Assembly’s transformation from its original very narrow base of representation limited to the States members of the victorious wartime Alliance against Fascism to some- thing more nearly reflective in cultural and ideological terms of the world community at large. By 1960, this had begun to be achieved, albeit on an intermittent, or casual, step-by-step basis, over the decade and a half from War’s end. The numerical breakthrough had occurred as late as 1955, when 16 new States had been admitted in one big step to membership, bringing the total to 76. In 1960 itself, 19 new States had been admit- ted, sealing the emer- gence of what became, in Cold War terms, a neu- tralist or uncommitted, majority voting coalition variously styled as the Non-Aligned bloc, the Group of 77, the Ban- doeng group, the Devel- oping or Third World countries. It was this informal electoral alli- ance, that provided the intellectual cohesiveness and also the political- tactical competence to secure the adoption of resolution 1514 (XV) without a single expressed dissent in the General Assem- bly.”

Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, Adopted by General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) of 14 December 1960 [12] Loyalist guns from South Africa, September 22, 2012,

south-africa.html# [13] From the International Bolshevik Tendency: BT/LTT

Fusion Document: For Trotskyism! https://

[14] Gus Fagan, Biographical Introduction, to Christian Rakovsky, Rakovsky and the Ukraine (191923)https://

[15] British Isles naming dispute Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, British_Isles_naming_dispute

Comment by Revolutionary pro- gramme (AG), 08/02/2016

You ask “Was KwaZulu-Natal another case of ‘interpenetrated peoples’?” and answer your own question – “It would seem to fit the bill.” This comment clearly shows your total lack of understanding of the issues in- volved. KwaZulu-Natal, indeed South Africa as a whole, is not a case of inter- penetrated peoples. See for instance this from the IBT’s ma- jor programmatic document “For Trotskyism”

IBT’s ma- jor programmatic document “For Trotskyism” “In ‘classic’ cases of national oppression (e.g.,

“In ‘classic’ cases of

national oppression (e.g., Quebec), we champion the right of self-determination,

without necessarily advocating its exercise. In the more complex cases of two peoples interspersed, or ‘interpenetrated,’ throughout a single

geographical territory

(Cyprus, Northern Ireland, Palestine/Israel), the abstract right of each to self- determination cannot be realized equitably within the framework of capitalist property relations. Yet in none of these cases can the oppressor people be equated with the whites in South Africa or the French colons in Al- geria; i.e., a privileged settler-caste/labor aristocracy dependent on the super-


exploitation of indigenous labor to maintain

a standard of living qualitatively higher than

the oppressed population.”

Situations like South Africa (and KwaZulu -Natal has an even lower percentage of whites than the overall figure) are EX- PLICITLY differentiated from situations of interpenetrated peoples. Your continued failure to understand the actual position you claim to be arguing against actually just shows your ignorance

of the core of the Marxist position on the

right of nations to self-determination defence of a bourgeois democratic right. Lets look a bit more closely at the Trot- sky quote from the Permanent Revolution you provide in your latest piece:

“With regard to countries with a belated

bourgeois development, especially the colo- nial and semi-colonial countries, the theory of the permanent revolution signifies that the complete and genuine solution of their tasks

of achieving democracy and national emanci-

pation is conceivable only through the dicta- torship of the proletariat as the leader of the subjugated nation, above all of its peasant masses.”

I presume that given your use of this quote that you agree with Trotsky that only the dictatorship of the proletariat can bring about the complete and genuine so- lution of the tasks of achieving democracy and national emancipation for oppressed


Despite this Leninism/Trotskyism rec- ognises that in most cases where an op- pressed nation has no separate state there can be some level of democratic solution to the tasks of achieving democracy and national emancipation within the frame- work of capitalism hence defence of the right of nations to self-determination. What the “interpenetrated peoples” posi-

tion deals with is the very small number of cases where situations of national oppres- sion cannot in any way be democratically solved within the context of capitalism. They can ONLY be resolved within the context of the rule of the working class. Your position on the other hand contin- ues to be based on the fantasy that there can be a democratic solution to the nation- al question through self-determination within the capitalist framework in situa-

tions of intermingled peoples where a ma-

jority, or even significant minority, of the population are opposed to that setting up of that capitalist state (or in the case or

Ireland the extension of the capitalist state in the south). Or even worse that you have raised the bourgeois democratic right to national self -determination to the level of a Marxist principle and the question of whether its achievement has any democratic content is

of no importance to you that you are in

reality a nationalist rather than a Marxist. We are BOTH for ending the oppression of people in the north of Ireland based on their membership of the nationalist/ Catholic/anti-imperialist community (whatever term you want to use to de- scribe that community of people). The difference is over whether there is any solution to this oppression within the framework of capitalism that is supporta- ble by Marxists. You say there is, I say there is not. Until you deal with that actual political difference your polemics are not worth the paper they are written on (or screen they are read on). As an aside I also note the following which reinforces this conclusion. You correctly argue that the neo-fascist loyalist murder gangs must be defeated


and “they are NOT the

legitimate representa- tives of the Loyalist working class or the ‘Protestant’ workers”. You also correctly state “It should really go without saying that the orientation of all seri- ous Marxists should be to those ‘rotten Prods’,

socialists and trade un-

ion activists’ within the Protestant community and not to the Loy- alist oppressors of the best of the workers in that community and the nationalists in general.” However the clear implication of your “it should really go without saying” is that the IBT have a positive political orienta- tion towards those neo-fascist loyalist murder gangs.

I will remind you what the IBT’s actual

position is – “We are unconditionally op- posed to the whole apparatus of Loyalist terror: the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the Royal Irish Regiment, the Loyalist para- military murder gangs.” Why do you con- tinue with these fake polemics?

Comment by Ian 21/02/2016

In my view Ireland and Israel/Palestine are separate but related problems, with

distinct and separate elements to them,

but there is also some commonality. The fervent pro-Zionism of many loyalist big- ots speaks to the related nature of the two questions. It is hardly likely that either question can be resolved without in some sense the ‘consent’ of the oppressor groups in- volved. Israeli Jews and Ulster Protestants

January 1918
January 1918

do undoubtedly pos- sess the material forc- es to make an over- turn of their respec- tive oppressor states unlikely without their capitulation, which is most likely to happen

materially if it is first ideological. The real problem with

the ‘interpenetrated

peoples’ position here is that it dignifies the oppressor with the same legitimacy as the oppressed in na- tional terms. It is the Middle East where this is clearest, as the ‘self-determination’ of Israel Jews would not be possible with- out denying the right to return of Palestin- ian refugees. 20% of the population of

Israel proper are so-called Israeli Arabs: in the Naqba of 1947-9 more than two

thirds of the Arab population were vio-

lently expelled, Simple arithmetic tells you if that were reversed, there would be an Arab majority in Israel ‘proper’ of more than 60%. Not to mention that the sepa- ration between Israel proper and the West Bank/Gaza is utterly artificial. We are talking about a clearly, overwhelming ma- jority Arab population if basic democratic norms were observed. Not only that, but Israel does not claim

to be a nation-state. It claims to be the state of the Jews worldwide. And in bour- geois terms, there is a certain reality to this, as highly influential sections of the bourgeoisie in the US and to a slightly lesser extent Western Europe do regard Israel as their territorial asset. The Spart position dignifies this thoroughly anti- democratic situation as being a conflict of


February-May 1914
February-May 1914

two nations, the Ara- bic and Hebrew- speaking peoples. But the “Hebrew- speaking peoples” do not see themselves as a separate nation from world Jewry, and therefore in trying to make the Israel Jews

into a separate nation,

you are engaging in

nation-building in a strange vicarious sense. Marxists should be saying forcefully to Israeli Jews that their pan-Jewish ‘national’ consciousness has no legitima- cy and no democratic content, and that

they should solidarise with the Palestini- an people and endorse the basic demand of democracy the real Arab majority

should rule. They should be saying that

their nationalism is nonviable, and trying to engage with the small but highly sig- nificant milieu of Israeli/Jewish intellec- tuals who are attacking the ‘secular’ Jew- ish identity the basis of Zionism, as inherently racist and chauvinist and ad- vocating assimilation of Israeli Jews into the majority non-Jewish Palestinian pop- ulation. In Ireland, likewise the Protestants do

not claim to be a separate nation. They claim to be part of Britain. The problem for them is that much of the more en- lightened section of the British popula- tion sees them as a bigoted and retro- grade remnant of colonialism, and shud- ders when they open their mouths. The demand that socialists should make of

them is not to build them up into some quasi- national commu- nity with

‘national rights’ of their own which is a denial of their non- nationhood and being an exten-

sion of British

imperialism. In- stead we should tell them the truth; that insofar as they

act as separatists, their ‘identity’ is reac- tionary crap. Those Protestants who wish to be progressives and democrats need to throw their lot in with the strug- gle to reunify Ireland. This is simply an extension of Marx’s point that a nation that oppresses anoth-

er cannot itself be free. If Israeli Jews, or

Protestants in North East Ulster, want to be free, they have to embrace the strug- gle of the people their privileged non- national oppressor layers are suppressing and/or frustrating. It is true that the IBT, Spartacists et al, raise correct demands against the various forces of the state in Ireland, the British Army, or for that matter the Israeli state to an extent. If they did not, they would be as wretched as the overt Shachtmani- ties like the AWL etc. But their approach to the national question undermines these valid de- mands, by giving political cover and le- gitimacy to the oppressor non-national groups that provide the social base for the very reactionary state formations