Monday, February 24, 2014

Death of a tendency (2006)

From the September 2006 issue of the Socialist Standard

The recent death of Ted Grant at the age of 93 has been a landmark, albeit a minor one, in British political history.

Grant was the last of the three great gurus of the British Trotskyist movement and the eminence grise of what became known as the Militant Tendency. Along with his two main Trotskyist rivals, Gerry Healy (of the Socialist Labour League/Workers' Revolutionary Party) and Tony Cliff (of International Socialism/the Socialist Workers' Party) he had a considerable input into what became - with the decline of the Communist Party - the most significant political trend to the left of the Labour Party. 

Born Isaac Blank just outside Johannesburg, he changed his name to Grant when he came to Britain during the turbulent mid-1930s with a small band of other South African militants, convinced that it would be more fertile political territory than his country of birth. Attracted to the political ideas of the exiled Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky, this small group of South African émigrés had already been influential in the founding of South Africa's first Trotskyist organisation, the Workers' International League, and soon made a mark on the fledgling British Trotskyist movement. Of the two small British Trotskyist groupings of the time, the Balham Group and the Revolutionary Socialist League (later to be called the Militant Labour League, selling a newspaper called Militant), Grant and his colleagues were attracted towards the latter. In what became a tradition of the Trotskyist movement not only in Britain but internationally, they soon split from it though to form their own organisation, this time a British version of the Workers' International League they had left behind in South Africa. Among those joining them was the Scottish orator Jock Haston and a voluble Irish militant, Gerry Healy. 

Fourth International 
In 1938 Leon Trotsky and his followers set up an international organisation intended to rival the worldwide Communist ('Third') International. This 'Fourth International' cast around for a British section, but the tiny group around Grant, Haston and Healy was ignored and the franchise went instead to the larger Militant Labour League. For this key event in Trotskyist history then, Grant and his comrades were shunned and Grant himself never got to meet Trotsky before the 'Old Man's' assassination by Soviet agents in Mexico in 1940. 

During the Second World War, Grant's WIL was active on the industrial front and soon began to eclipse its parent organisation in both membership and influence - so much so, that by 1944 the Fourth International persuaded the two organisations to merge, in what was effectively a WIL takeover. The new organisation created was called the Revolutionary Communist Party and was the first (and last) time the British Trotskyist movement was united in the one organisation. 

Grant became editor of the RCP's paper, Socialist Appeal, and Grant and Haston were the organisation's first delegates to the Fourth International. The RCP existed for three years and grew to 500-600 members, being a thorn in the side of the Communist Party before, in true Trotskyist fashion, internal strife led to decline and a split. 

Significantly, in the late 1940s three main factions had begun to emerge which were to be the main tendencies within the Trotskyist movement in Britain in the decades thereafter. Those around the Palestinian émigré Tony Cliff developed a distinctive version of the theory that what existed in the Soviet Union was a form of state capitalism (though only after Stalin's accession to power in 1928) and therefore couldn't be supported by socialists, while the groups around Grant and Healy held on to Trotsky's own belief that what existed in Russia was a workers' state, albeit a degenerated one. Indeed, the Grant and Healy factions had much in common politically, and it was mainly the bitter personal hostility that developed between the two men that kept their groupings separate. 

Secret organisation 
In the early 1950s, Grant and his small number of followers started a magazine called International Socialist. Grant lived in London and worked as a night-time telephone operator, which left him free to pursue his political work as a Trotskyist during the day. At this time he began to build up a close political relationship with a Trotskyist from Birkenhead called Jimmy Dean, who was the driving force behind Rally, a paper popular with the youth section of the Labour Party in the North West of England (and soon edited from Liverpool by a teenage Pat Wall, later one of the Militant supporting Labour MPs). 

By 1955 Grant and his supporters decided that the time was right to found a new organisation. Harking back to the group Grant first joined on his arrival from South Africa, it was called the Revolutionary Socialist League and its first General Secretary was Jimmy Dean. It effectively fused two small Trotskyist bases in London and Liverpool where Grant had an influence, and was a tightly-knit organisation built on the Leninist principles of the vanguard party, being hierarchical and secretive in almost equal measure, operating like other Trotskyist groups before it as a clandestine faction within the Labour Party. 

Coincidentally, two years earlier the Trotskyist Fourth International had split. Healy's faction had the UK franchise but went off with the splitters, leaving a vacancy for a British Section which the leadership of the FI allegedly tried to fill by placing an advertisement in Tribune, which Grant answered. By 1957, the RSL was given the British franchise by the FI but advanced only sporadically, starting a new paper called Socialist Fight but otherwise being eclipsed by other Trotskyist groups, particularly Healy's. At the time the Healy, Cliff and Grant factions were all building up support by working inside the Labour Party as secret parties within a party, focusing especially on the Labour League of Youth, but Grant's faction was so unsuccessful that the FI forced it to merge with an up-and-coming young group of Trotskyists in Nottingham around Ken Coates called the International Group. When this marriage of convenience led to the inevitable divorce within a year or so, the FI took the opportunity to rescind Grant's franchise altogether, giving it instead to the Nottingham faction which by then had turned itself into the International Marxist Group (IMG), a current which went on to develop a strong student base under the leadership of Tariq Ali.

Militant 
The loss of the Fourth International franchise was an understandable blow to Grant, but around the same time his group had begun to take steps which were to prove more fruitful, the most significant of which was the creation of a new publication to be called Militant - for Labour and Youth. It's editor was a young Liverpudlian with strong organisatiuonal abilities called Peter Taaffe, who became Grant's lieutenant-in-chief, while Grant himself was political editor. The striking design of the paper was created by Roger Protz, later of the Campaign For Real Ale, but who was a notable activist at various times in each of the three main Trotskyist factions in British politics (later, in Cliff's International Socialists, he became editor of Socialist Worker). It was to be growing sales of Militant, combined with systematic, organised activity in the Labour Party, which was eventually to bear fruit for Grant's faction. 

By 1966 they were the only one of the three main Trotskyist factions still inside the Labour Party. Healy's group had, by the early 1960s, almost completely taken over the (now renamed) Labour Party Young Socialists and after several attempts they were eventually expelled, with Grant personally refusing at one stage to vote to keep Healy-ites in the Party. Cliff's faction disengaged from Labour in the mid-1960s, seeing propaganda opportunities in disassociating itself from Wilson's Labour government, leaving the field free for Grant. By 1970 Grant's RSL had a majority on the Labour Party Young Socialists Executive and from 1972 onwards always had one of its members on the Labour NEC as the LPYS representative. 

Throughout the 1970s, the influence of what by this time was becoming known as the 'Militant Tendency' grew apace, both in the Labour Party and trade unions. Grant's organisation moved from being the least well-known of the major Trotskyists sects to becoming the most well-known, with something of a 'workerist' face, placing less emphasis on building up student support than most Trotskyist groups and more on recruiting the skilled and semi-skilled working class, especially local government workers. 

By the 1980s Militant's growth and influence was such that it could claim scores of Labour councillors across Britain as 'supporters' (when in reality they were RSL members who couldn't publicly admit to being a 'party within a party'). In addition, they could claim several Labour Parliamentary candidates - three of whom (Dave Nellist, Terry Fields and Pat Wall) eventually became MPs, and - most controversially of all - they took effective control of Liverpool City Council, with Derek Hatton as the council's Deputy Leader and Tony Mulhearn (a long-time RSL member more trusted by Grant) as his aide de camp. 

The mid-1980s, when the Tendency claimed over 8,000 'supporters', was the peak of Militant's influence on British politics and the nearest Grant came to fulfilling his dream of creating a mass Trotskyist base within the Labour Party. But its size, influence and the notoriety attached to it by the mainstream press led to the first systematic attempt to deal with Trotskyist infiltration in the Labour Party since the expulsion of the Healy-ites. Earlier, in 1975, Lord Underhill had written a report on Militant's activities in the Labour Party for a left-wing dominated Labour NEC that chose at the time to do nothing about it. But in the 1980s the Labour leadership acted, first under Michael Foot and then under Neil Kinnock, with his famous attack on the Militants on Liverpool City Council at the 1985 Labour Party conference, after they had deployed the tactic of refusing to set a rate, issuing 30,000 council workers with redundancy notices. 

Labour initially started by picking on the most obvious candidates for expulsion, the five members of Militant's Editorial Board, including Grant and Taaffe, who were expelled in 1983. After this, large and increasing numbers of their comrades were systematically put outside the Party they claimed was 'the mass party of the working class'. 

Political positions 
Throughout the lifetime of the RSL, 'entryism' into the Labour Party was one of its defining characteristics as a Trotskyist current. Others used entryism as a tactic, including Cliff and Healy, but for Grant's group it appeared to amount to more than this - it was a defining political position. Sometimes called 'deep entryism' it was not simply about a Trotskyist organisation going into the Labour Party, building up support and effectively raiding it for new members before emerging into the outside world stronger and fitter. For Grant, as Militant's main theoretician, the task of his tendency was to 'win the Labour Party to socialism' on the grounds that a united Labour and trade union movement under a Trotskyist leadership was unstoppable. 

The means for achieving this goal was deep entryism plus a particular variety of Trotsky's 'transitional demands' programme, a strategy developed from Lenin's premise that the working class in capitalism was not capable through its own efforts of developing a socialist consciousness. This transitional programme was a carefully calculated list of demands - such as massive public works programmes, the nationalisation of the top 200 monopolies, and an implausibly generous minimum wage - which would be superficially attractive to supporters of reforms in the wider Labour and trade union movement, and which Militant thought contained the seeds of a future socialist society. The intention was a dishonest one, for Grant and Militant's other leaders knew that these demands were not generally capable of realisation within the normal politics of capitalism - indeed, that was the very point of advocating them. The resultant anger they expected within the working class when these demands were unmet would lead, they hoped, to a lurch towards the left under the leadership of the Trotskyist vanguard itself - the RSL. 

The desire to stay in the Labour Party at all costs coupled with distinctive transitional demands that could lead to a Trotskyist leadership introducing 'socialism' (really state-run capitalism based on nationalisation) via an Enabling Act in parliament - and supported by workers' councils in the industrial field - was what really defined Militant in relation to the other Trotskyist sects. Also, and uniquely, the RSL quickly identified the arena of local government as a means for criticising traditional, piecemeal reformist politics (saying they would always oppose rent and rates increases), raising its programme of more radical transitional demands instead as the 'bridge to socialism': 
"To lift the horizon of the local parish pump politicians on to the broader national and international field - this is the first task of the revolutionary Councillor . . . It is necessary within the Labour Groups and in open council to point out the limitations of particular struggles and reforms and show how (in theory and practice) reformism (nationally and locally) cannot resolve the contradictions of capitalism." (RSL 'Notes on Council Work', by Ellis Hillman, 1961.) 
These socialist-sounding phrases, in reality masking the advocacy of what were, in effect, just more radical reforms of capitalism, was typical of their entryist tactic, as later exemplified in Liverpool. Combined with their relentless workerism and disdain for non-economic issues, this constituted their 'Unique Selling Point' within the Trotskyist milieu (unlike others, Militant had relatively little interest in sexual or student politics, or supporting Third World nationalist movements). 

These were the key perspectives handed down by Grant himself, consistently over decades. Indeed, it was often said by his supporters and opponents alike that Grant was saying the same things in the 1980s as he had been saying in the 1940s, and his book, "The Unbroken Thread: the Development of Trotskyism Over 40 Years", is testament to this. This would have to include his oft-repeated claim (following Trotsky, and like his rival Gerry Healy of the WRP) that capitalist collapse leading to a Trotskyist leadership of a revolutionary working class was imminent in 'the coming period' of the next 10-15 years, somewhat in the perpetual manner of 'tomorrow never comes'. 

Post-Militant 
In the eventually, capitalism outlived Grant himself. Indeed, Grant's end appears to have been a rather sad one, in an old people's home, years after having been kicked out of the Labour party and then, rather more remarkably, the RSL itself. The campaign of the Labour leadership in the 1980s against Militant had been so successful that by 1992 the majority of the RSL, led by Taaffe, came to the conclusion that continuing with entryism was pointless and stood 'Militant Labour' candidates against the official Labour Party, with mixed success. A group around Grant and one of his protégés, Alan Woods, refused to accept this reversal of what the Tendency had always stood for, and were expelled. 

Just as Grant had borrowed from early Trotskyist groups when founding the Revolutionary Socialist League and its paper, Militant, so this expelled rump from the RSL started a new paper called Socialist Appeal, the name of the journal Grant edited while one of the leaders of the RCP just after the war. Never more than a couple of hundred at most, this group made little impact, while after a period of serious decline the slightly larger Militant Labour eventually voted in 1997 to dishonestly turn itself into the 'Socialist Party' (of England and Wales - SPEW to its enemies), effectively trying to usurp the name of the SPGB. This grouping has since declined further, though its leading elements in Scotland, such as Tommy Sheridan, were instrumental in forming the rather more successful but equally reformist Scottish Socialist Party. 

The modern legacy of Ted Grant is an interesting one, for in many respects he was the most successful of the three main British Trotskyist leaders, while still falling well short of his ultimate goal. From a socialist perspective, the Militant Tendency (like the other Trotskyist groups) did much to muddy the waters of revolutionary politics in the UK, posing as socialist while supporting the usual Trotskyist stew of radical reformist demands with the long-term aim of state-run capitalism organised by a Leninist vanguard party, another classic 'dictatorship over the proletariat', with Grant as leader-in-waiting. 

Grant knew full well of the real socialist alternative promoted by the Socialist Party of Great Britain and our companion parties overseas (he debated Socialist Party speaker Tony Turner in 1945 and was wont to deride us as 'ultra left' sectarians) but he rejected real socialism for the type of politics that cast him in the role of leader, manipulating the mass of the proletariat towards a 'revolutionary situation'. But, as history proved, the working class were not so easily manipulated by Grant's particular mix of Trotskyist tactics, and his lifetime was effectively wasted on an ultimately dishonest political cause. 

This was a shame, because like Tony Cliff, Grant had much energy and some talent as a writer and speaker. He was an obsessive analyst of - and collector of information about - the capitalist economy, though arguably (because of his unsupported belief in capitalist collapse) his best works were not in this field. His political tract Against the Theory of State Capitalism in 1949, for instance, was a relentlessly logical attack on the irrationality of the Cliff (SWP) position from an orthodox Trotskyist perspective, implying that the only coherent state capitalist theory applied to the Soviet bloc, etc came from those, like the Socialist Party, who rejected Leninist and Trotskyist politics altogether. And in more recent times, he collaborated with Alan Woods to write an excellent book called," Reason and Revolt: Marxist Philosophy and Modern Science", a history of science and scientific methods from a general Marxist standpoint. Grant will be remembered, above all else though, for founding a political tendency which hit the headlines and gained public notoriety but which otherwise did the socialist movement huge amounts of damage. His political heirs in Socialist Appeal and SPEW fittingly continue to peddle the same kind of elitist and outdated reformist nonsense now as Grant did when he first became a Trotskyist in the 1930s. Indeed, for years Grant was derided by many for sounding rather like an old, broken record - and today, his surviving political heirs most certainly stand out as badly scratched vinyl in what is a transparently digital age.
Dave Perrin

The great divide (1987)

From the April 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard

The "North-South divide" has become part of political rhetoric. The government recently issued figures which showed that of the jobs lost in recent years, 94 per cent were in the north of the country and only 6 per cent in the south, thereby seeming to provide still more evidence of a division between North and South. In fact the "north" now includes almost anywhere outside the south-east of England as the Midlands have also suffered massive job losses. Predictably, the opposition parties have blamed this on the government's mismanagement of the economy. Roy Hattersley, Labour's deputy leader and shadow chancellor, said the government had "scandalously neglected those areas of the economy with which it does not feel any emotional sympathy and deep political interest" (Independent, January 21). He accused them of favouring city and financial interests in the south-east at the expense of manufacturing industry, which is synonymous with the interests of the regions. Edward Heath, the former Tory Prime Minister and leading "wet", said that the North-South divide was moving further south and that the government should pursue a policy of investment for the regions. What was required, he claimed, was a "constructive, co-ordinated development policy for the country as a whole".

The Liberal-SDP Alliance is always keen to talk about divisions in society. At the recent launch of their joint election programme, which was designed to paper over the damaging splits between the two parties, they talked of the need to unite the country through co-operation and partnership. Partnership in government, they argued, is the only way to heal the divisions between North and South. They also urged co-operation between workers and employers. that class division should be forgotten in the interests of a united nation. This is rather like urging someone being mugged to co-operate with the mugger.

Chancellor Nigel Lawson and other Tory ministers denied the existence of any North-South divide. Lawson claimed that the worst of the recession is over, that the economy is growing fast and that over one million new jobs have been created since 1983. But these new jobs have not been spread evenly across the country. On the government's own figures, since 1983 there were 446,000 new jobs in the South-East, but only 135,000 new jobs in Scotland, the North-West, the North-East and Yorkshire and Humberside added together. There has been a five per cent increase in jobs in the financial services to 2.25 million, but manufacturing output is still four cent below its 1979 level. Thatcher has claimed that it is wrong to talk of a North-South divide as parts of the South are doing badly. She has got a point, although it does seem strange that she would want to remind people of the severe deprivation and decay that exists in parts of the South-East, especially areas of inner London.

Manufacturing industry has suffered badly in the current world depression. Many coalmines, steelmills, shipyards and factories have been closed and many others have had severe job losses. Some towns and cities have rates of unemployment in excess of 20 per cent, with some pockets in these areas having much higher levels. This is not a deliberate government policy however - governments can do little to affect the way the economy operates. All wealth under capitalism is produced for sale on the market in the expectation that it will make a profit for the owners. If a product cannot be sold at a profit then production is cut back and workers thrown on the dole. Many industries in the north of the country have been faced with this situation and have acted accordingly. Most of the political criticism seems to want a "fairer" spread of employment prospects across the whole country. Even if this were possible, the implication of this kind of argument is to spread poverty across a wider geographical area. Which ever way capitalism inflicts its suffering on the working class is unacceptable. To argue about its location but ignore its real cause serves only to perpetuate it.

Talk about a North-South divide, or indeed whether workers are employed or unemployed, only covers over the real division in society -  the class division. If you have to work in order to live, if you are a member of the working class, then you are likely to experience a life of shortage, insecurity and relative poverty. Whether you live in London or Liverpool or whether you earn 300 a week or are on the dole will not change this. Clearly existing on a giro means more intense poverty than existing on a wage packet but compared to the life of ease and luxury lived by the capitalist class, these differences are meaningless. As long as workers allow capitalism to continue there will be arguments about who is doing best (or least badly). We will be told that northerners are being hard done by compared to southerners, despite the fact that both endure various levels of poverty. In fact workers themselves will contribute to these artificial divisions - not so long ago there were reports of trouble at a football match when supporters of a London club waved bunches of 10 notes at Liverpool fans and sang songs about them being on the dole.

There always seem to be a plentiful supply of Scottish nationalists who claim that the "English" parliament doesn't care about the Scots, who should get their own parliament and run their own affairs. The Brixton and Tottenham riots happened almost within spitting distance of the House of Commons; clearly, having the "mother of parliaments" on your doorstep is no sure way to peace and prosperity. Not so long ago we were told how lucky we are to live in a developed country like Britain, because if we lived in parts of Africa we'd be starving to death. They were still talking about the North-South divide, but now in global terms. It is cold comfort to people on the dole to be told that they are lucky that they don't live in Ethiopia. The absolute poverty is not the same, but its cause and solution certainly are.

The possibility of finding differences in working class existence are endless. The urgent need is to put an end to the system that creates these artificial divisions. Capitalism is by its nature divisive and competitive, whether it divides people on the grounds of race, sex, nationality or geographical location. Workers have got to transcend these artificial differences and recognise our common interest - that of a degraded, exploited class. Once we recognise our basic class interests then no force on earth can prevent us from acting accordingly, and putting an end to all social division once and for all.
Ian Ratcliffe


Orange myths (1985)

From the August 1985 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is Sunday 7 July. In Portadown this morning a riot took place and working people, including policemen, were hurt; some were arrested. Another battle  . . . another myth . . . another contribution to the bitterness and hatred that divide the working class in Northern Ireland.

The government and police and wanted to ban this morning's march through the exclusively Catholic Obins Street district. The marchers, Orangemen going to church accompanied by bands playing sectarian tunes and flaunting sectarian symbols, refused to obey the Government, the police and the law despite their vociferous protestations of loyalty to all three. The police - probably working on the assumption that they could cope more easily with the Catholics than they could with the loyalists - gave in and the march took place. The holy men of the Orange Order marched defiantly through Obins Street to communicate with their god.

The Orange Order intend repeating this exercise on the twelfth and thirteenth of July. The police have issued a notice proscribing these marches and - to compound this lunacy - the Catholics have announced their intention of staging parades at the same time and on the same date.

Paisley and several other loyalist politicians and hate-mongering clergymen have let it be known that they will defy any Government order banning the march. In their eyes the issue is sufficiently serious to justify a civil war. Serious enough to endanger the lives, homes and liberties of working people, for, make no mistake, it is workers who would be asked to slaughter one another. Not because they suffer poverty or live in slums; not because they endure the miseries of unemployment or have mean lives. No. Paisley, who has used bigotry and hatred to become one of the best paid politicians in Europe, and his friends don't experience these things. What they are asking Protestant workers to spill their blood for is something really wholesome and important: the right to march through avenues of Catholics reminding them that their forbears were defeated in 1690!

We would ask our Protestant fellow workers to examine some of the historical facts that make up the myths and damned lies for which their leaders want them to kill and be killed. We have, many times, in the past, exposed the myths that make up the "principles" behind the IRA murder campaign and the fallacious reasoning used to inveigle Catholics into support of Irish Nationalism, so it cannot be said that in exposing the lies and deceptions underlying Unionism we have any sympathy whatsoever with nationalism or republicanism. Our purpose is to disabuse workers on both sides of the notions and fictions that keep them divided; to show that neither Unionism nor nationalism have anything to offer the working class and, to bring them to an examination of the cause of their real, common problems.

King James and King Billy
James II succeeded to the throne of England following the death of his brother, Charles II, in 1685. A convert to Catholicism and a sickly pious man - following a life of profligacy and sexual abandonment - he was determined to re-establish the power of Catholicism in his kingdom. Within three years of becoming king, James' policies had provoked fierce opposition in England and fear and distrust among the Protestant population of Ireland. In 1688 seven members of the English parliament petitioned James' son-in-law, William, Prince of Orange, to become king of England. James reacted by allying himself with the French king, Louis XIV, who manipulated the situation to his own advantage by making England a semi-dependent of his own kingdom.

According to Orange fiction, James was the agent of Rome and popery. Nothing could be further from the truth. In seeking the help and support of Louis XIV, King James was allying himself with the pope's bitterest enemy. Louis, bent on European domination, had made Lorraine a subject state, had attacked Genoa and attempted to sack Rome. The pope of the period, Innocent XI, was outraged and humiliated. In 1686 some of the European powers, alarmed at the strength and ferocity of the French, entered into the Treaty of Augsberg. This Treaty, established specifically to resist the marauding armies of Louis XIV, was subscribed to by the king of Spain, the Emperor of Germany and by William, Prince of Orange. The nominal head of the Treaty powers was Pope Innocent XI. 

So, rather than being an enemy of the pope, as Orange mythology asserts, "King Billy" was the pope's ally when, in November 1688, he invaded England and his armies were partially provisioned and equipped by the powers of the Augsberg Treaty - and he had the official backing of the Roman Catholic church! Contrary to myth, when they fought in the Battle of the Boyne on 30 June and 1 July 1690, King Billy was an ally of the pope and King James an ally of the pope's most bitter enemy, Louis of France. Indeed, when news of King William's victory over King James at the Boyne percolated through to Rome the pope ordered the singing of a special Te Deum in St. Peter's and similar celebrations and rejoicings were held in Catholic churches in Madrid, Brussels and Vienna.

James was a Catholic, of course, and William a Protestant but, as always, the politics and economics underlying their conflict rose above religion.

Religious liberty
What about the notion that King Billy established religious liberty in Ireland and saved the Protestants from persecution? Again, Orange fable stands historical fact on its head.

It was James, as the legitimate incumbent of the English throne, who signed the Acts of the Dublin Parliament, giving freedom of religion to all citizens. King Billy, too, when he agreed the Treaty of Limerick in October 1691, accepted that the various religious denominations should continue to enjoy the freedom of religious worship established in the reign of Charles II and under the Acts of the Dublin Parliament agreed by James. Later he established the Episcopalian Church and effectively outlawed not only Catholicism but Presbyterianism -  the religion of the great majority of Protestants in Ireland.

A Presbyterian clergyman in 1691 was liable on conviction of delivering a sermon or celebrating the Lord's Supper to a term of imprisonment and fine of £100 and they were similarly punished for performing marriage rites. There are many recorded convictions for these "offences" during the period, especially in the counties of Antrim and Down. In 1694 the Williamite government passed a Test Act which effectively precluded Presbyterians from offices under the Crown and a further Act of 1713 set a punishment of imprisonment for Presbyterians convicted of schoolteaching and banned the marriage of Presbyterians and members of the Established church.

The History of Irish Presbyterianism gives the political and economic reasons for the persecution thus:
Presbyterians, having no political power, had to submit to political persecutions. The feudal system which transferred ownership of the soil from the toiler to the landlord was one of many evils introduced by the power of England.
King Billy was the chief agent of that feudal power which persecuted, viciously and equally, both Catholic and Presbyterian in Ireland.

Driven out of Ireland
Such was the "civil and religious liberty" enjoyed by the then, as now, numerically strongest Protestant denomination in Ireland that, in the first half of the eighteenth century, almost a quarter of a million Ulster Presbyterians were driven out of the country. These went mainly to America, where many played a distinguished role in the war of the American colonists to gain political and economic independence from England.

On both sides of today's sectarian divide it is ordinary working people, usually the very poorest, who are the victims of both the republican and loyalist myths. The hate mongers and fable peddlers don't live in the slums and are rarely victims of the violence they so actively promote.

When Presbyterians march to celebrate the Battle of the Boyne on "The Twelfth" and the victory of King Billy over his equally degenerate father-in-law, King James, they are commemorating a victory which was as opposed to the interests of their forbears in 1690 as it is to their own class interests in 1985.
Richard Montague
Belfast Branch WSP




A Great Exaggeration (1972)

Book Review from the October 1972 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Bolsheviks and Workers' Control by Maurice Brinton. Solidarity. 25p.

Built-in to capitalism is a conflict between the capitalists who own the means of production and the wage-earning or working class who operate them. This conflict goes on without its participants being necessarily or fully aware of its nature and its most obvious signs are strikes over wages and working conditions. However, this is not just a wages struggle; it is a struggle between the two classes for control over the means of production. In its highest form the workers consciously organise to win political power with the aim of transferring the ownership of the means of production from the capitalist class to the community as a while.

This stage has yet to be reached, but incidents in working class history already show that the class struggle is more than mere wage bargaining. When, under exceptional circumstances such as occur after wars, the capitalists' control over their factories has broken down the workers have themselves on a number of occasions taken over the means of production and through trade unions or factory committees tried to keep production going. Such "workers' control" was not Socialism nor could it have led to Socialism because most of the workers involved had never been convinced socialists. The State has always been able to re-assert capitalist control.

The classic example of this was the occupation of the factories in Northern Italy in 1921, but before that in Russia in 1917 something similar had happened. Engineering workers in Petrograd in particular took over control of the factories where they worked. Brinton's book is an account of how between 1917 and 1921 the Bolshevik government suppressed this "workers' control" and instituted instead their own state (capitalist) control.

This process of suppression began soon after the Bolsheviks had seized power in November 1917 which clearly showed up right from the start (rather than from the death of Lenin) their anti-working class character. These facts have long been known to Socialists but will probably be new to Trotskyists and their ilk.

The book suffers from a number of defects, not least that when he conies to theorise Brinton shares the illusions of the anarchists, syndicalists and dissident Bolsheviks he quotes. He does not bring forward any evidence to show that "workers' control" enjoyed the general support of the workers he seems to suggest it did. He ignores the problems the partisans of "workers' control" would have faced had they triumphed, in view of the economic backwardness of Russia as a whole where four-fifths of the population were peasants who had never been near a factory.

To see, as Brinton does, the Russian Revolution as essentially an unsuccessful attempt to establish "workers' control" is a great exaggeration. The occupation of the factories was only incidental to the seizure of political power by the Bolsheviks and their use of it to sweep away out-dated obstacles to the development of capitalism in Russia — and was only made possible by the same breakdown of law and order which allowed the Bolsheviks to seize power.

The attempt to maintain "workers' control" was doomed to fail not only because of Russia's economic backwardness but also because of the lack of understanding of the Russian workers. Oddly enough at one point Brinton comes very near to expressing our view — and almost in our own words — of events in Russia in 1917:
"The year 1917 certainly saw a tremendous social upheaval. But it was a utopian dream to assume that socialism could be achieved without a large proportion of the population both understanding and wanting it. The building of socialism . . . can only be the self conscious and collective act of the immense majority."
We do not mind people making the analysis we pioneered but we would prefer this to be openly acknowledged rather than disguised by the kind of inaccurate account of our position given by Brinton in his introduction.
Adam Buick