From the February 1976 issue of the Socialist Standard
The organization which miscalls itself International Socialists has become a casualty of the system which it claimed was in the last process of decay. They unfortunately buried capitalism before it was dead.
This self-styled ‘revolutionary spear-head’, within the short time of its existence (1960) has done incalculable damage to the genuine Socialist cause. At a time when clarity and explanation and patience was needed, they spread confusion. There is not one original idea in their battery of arguments and policies that has not plagued the working class movement in this country for over 75 years. Advocacy of the General Strike; smashing the state; repudiation of the Parliamentary method as a means to Socialism; the cult of leadership and support for every type of industrial activity, as well as being utterly steeped in reformist policies.
The present split, with the expulsion and loss of membership, is alleged to be because the Central Committee was autocratic and intolerant of ‘grass roots opinion’. What else can you expect in an organization based on leadership? The Guardian (12.1.76) quotes an expelled member as saying ‘ . . . the leading theoretician Tony Cliff—[our italics—God help us] and founding member assumed a messianic exclusiveness of doctrine which he believes encapsulates historic truth . . .’ In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king and it is depressing to learn that this muddled ‘intellectual’ still persists in spreading confusion disguised as revolutionary tactics.
The real reason the I.S. has split is very old. An opportunist organization which plays politics by ear and has slogans instead of principles, emotional appeals instead of argument, may have a certain appeal to the unthinking. But events have overtaken them. The militant I.S. shop stewards are being rejected by the workers because capitalism is in a depression and workers want to keep their jobs. They fear that industrial unrest may close a factory or give the employers an excuse to clamp down on working conditions. In that case, the militant is an embarrassment.
In the field of reformism, militancy and pressure groups are irrelevant if the intentions of the capitalist are flatly against social reform. After all, the capitalist has to pay for reforms and it is his judgement and timing which count.
The instant reformer will never learn. Unsound on basic theory, religious in their approach to historic development and arrogant in their contempt for the workers’ thinking capacity, they believe that the intellectual few can lead the great mass of ignorant workers to socialism. But their concept of revolution is based on getting control of the political machinery without a mandate for Socialism. That is without a recognition that only by patient discussion and argument can workers be persuaded to get rid of their ideas of dependance on a wages system and the institution of buying and selling and that society is run by a force outside of themselves.
The path to Socialism is difficult but not impossible. The split in the I.S. has brought forward another organization—The International Communist League and another mass party has been promised for the autumn —The Socialist Workers Party. These will just as surely go the way of their parent. Founded on Trotskyism which they have never abandoned, these anti-cammassars have learnt nothing. They all support the big battalions of social reform—The Labour Party although it is fashionable to pretend that they are further to ‘the left’. They are nothing of the kind. They wish to take over the role of the Communist Party—another worshipper at the Labour shrine—in the Trade Unions. What a sad commentary when so-called revolutionary organizations have to depend on the shifting sands of industrial support. The SPGB is a revolutionary movement in its own right, completely independent from any outside influence. We don’t rely on trade union support or demands for reforms or any other outside influence. Our Party will not split, because its members agree on the major principle—that is that Socialism cannot be established with out the working class understanding its implications and the necessity of political action.
The I.S. and other misguided people who live in a world of euphoria where facts play little part, want to bring forward the social revolution by a series of short cuts. They are well-intentioned but disembodied creatures who present a positive danger to Socialism and the quicker they realize this the better. You may try to abort the social revolution before the period of class consciousness has developed but as everybody knows instead of bringing forth a healthy child you get a monster.