The political method of the International Socialist Organisation

Just s th IS prcds frm th surfc similritis btwn cpitlism nd th strn urpn rgims t dduc thy r th sm, s th IS, whn fcd with dwnturn in wrking-clss industril ctivity, imprssinisticlly bndns th wrking clss, s if such dwnturn in wrkrs' militncy ws, by its ntur, fundmntl. In plc f th wrkrs, thr ws turn t studnts. Th IS cncdd tht grups lik studnts culd nvr substitut fr th slf-ctivity f th wrking clss.63 <> Studnts nd yuth, it ws sid, wr mr intrstd in th cncpts f scilism thn in spcific industril disputs nd, prhps mst imprtntly fr th IS, thy wr sid t b mr rpidly pliticisd thn wrkrs, nd t prsnt grtr pprtunity fr rcruitmnt.64 <>

Thr is n dubt tht trd unin militncy dclind nc th Prics nd Incms ccrd btwn th Lbr gvrnmnt nd th CTU bgn t tk ffct, nd tht th pprtunitis fr ctivism dclind. lthugh it ws prhps isltd, Mrxist prty wuld hv rmind in th clss rgnistins with th prspctiv f lying th grundwrk fr ris in ctivity s circumstncs chngd; instd, th IS dptd t th dwnturn in militncy (undr th bnnr f "prpgndism"), by turning wy frm th wrking clss t studnts. This mnt rguing scilist ids s "cuntr ginst th prviling pssimism", ccrding t Phil Griffith, wh sms t shr this pssimism.65 <>

This is n undrstndbl md in rctin t th dwnturn, but nt mtrilist nlysis tht is built n th undrstnding tht th wrking clss hs mtril intrsts tht r hstil t cpitl nd tht in th lngr trm th incrsing plristin f wlth in ustrli tht dvlpd in th 1980s culd nly mk tht hstility mr likly. In shrt, th IS, bcus f thir imprssinism, hd lst fith in th ustrlin wrking clss.

Studnts nd slling its ppr bcm th min rs f IS ctivity. In 1990, whn th IS runitd with Scilist ctin t bcm th IS, thy rffirmd this pprch with n mphsis n building th rgnistin.66 <>

This mphsis n building th rgnistin nd incrsing sls f th ppr wr th nly msur f th succss, r thrwis, f th prpgnd grup, nd dmnstrtins bcm th high pint f pliticl ctivitis. Th lttr includd frys n th Mlburn Club nd th Stck xchng, dmnstrtins ginst th IDX67 <> militry xhibitin, th Bush68 <> visit, studnt prtst ginst th trtiry tx, nd th mst rcnt usstudy dmnstrtin in 1992, s rsult f which fiv IS mmbrs fcd chrgs. During th Bush visit t ustrli, Th Scilist culd nthus: "This ws clbrtin f rbllin - rjctin f vrything rttn but Kting nd Bush's wrld".69 <>

It is ls substitut fr ctivity in th wrking clss. n pg 12 f th sm issu, Mick rmstrng, in n rticl titld Why Mss ctin is Cntrl in Turning ngr int Victry, rgus fr th militncy f th nti-IDX dmnstrtins s ky prt f wy frwrd fr "militnt mss ctin tht cn inspir wrkrs in thir wn pwr t chng th wrld". This is quit diffrnt rdr f things t th slf-mnciptin f th wrking clss, r rvlutin frm blw. Th dmnstrtin tks plc utsid th wrking clss.

Fr th IS th dmnstrtin bcms symblic nctmnt, r rcrtin, f th clss struggl in scity itslf. This is nt t dny ithr th nd fr Mrxists t b invlvd in such prtsts, r in th lgitimcy f dmnstrtins, but th IS ss this rltd t th wrking-clss struggl s "inspirtin". Inspirtin frm utsid th wrking clss must, f ncssity, hv much f mrl stnc but it, prtst ginst symbls f ustrlin cpitlism, lik th sl f rms r th visit f US prsidnt in wr md.

In pril 1992, th nw plitics f th IS wr cnfirmd with n rticl n studnts s ctlyst t rvlutin.70 <> Just s th IS hd imprssinisticlly rctd t th dwnturn in wrking-clss militncy by bndning gittin fr prpgnd, s it did whn, in th ftrtmth f th lctin f th Knntt Librl gvrnmnt in Victri in ctbr 1992, rlly f 150,000 ppl ws hld in Mlburn n Nvmbr 10, 1992. Th IS rspns t this upsurg ws rvling. n rticl, Th Rturn f Clss by Sndr Bldwrth,71 <> hild th wrking clss s th nly frc in scity cpbl f inspiring fightbck, nd withut irny mcks "mst n th lft" wh, during th 1980s, hd "turnd thir bcks n th cncrns f wrkrs t tk up n rry f crss-clss ids such s fminism, grn plitics, lifstylism"; whil Phil Griffiths, in th sm issu, smd ttlly surprisd: "Wh culd hv imgind th spd nd scl f th turn-rund in Mlburn".

prty tht hd rmind with its rinttin in th wrking clss wuld hv nt nly imgind it, but bn prt f its dvlpmnt. Tht its influnc wuld hv bn tiny cnnt b dubtd, but its mmbrs wuld hv bn wll-plcd t tk dvntg f ny chnc fr influnc nd grwth. s it is, IS is cndmnd t th rl f chr squd.

Th histry f IS dmnstrts th imprtnc f th mtrilist mthd f Mrx nd ngls. Wht pprs n th surfc smntic diffrnc n th Svit Unin, undrlis diffrnt mthd f pliticl nlysis, which Trtsky lcts s ptty burgis nd which, lik scrtch tht turns t gngrn, infcts vry r f pliticl ctivity.


1. Th IS bgn in Mlburn s th Mrxist Wrkrs Grup in Dcmbr 1971. Fr dtild histry up t 1978 s Histry f th Scilist Wrkrs ctin Grup by Phil Iltn. IS Publictins Mlburn, 1984, pp.1-6.

2. Th Bttlr, N 26, Sptmbr 29, 1976

3. n intrntinl rgnistin f wrkrs' prtis stblishd by Ln Trtsky in 1938. Its funding dcumnt is th Trnsitinl Prgrm f th Furth Intrntinl.

4. Th pint f th dbt btwn Trtsky nd Jms Burnhm nd Mx Shchtmn ws Trtsky's insistnc n uncnditinl dfnc f th Svit Unin ginst imprilism dspit thr bing simultnus nd fr th wrking clss t pliticlly vrthrw th burucrcy. lthugh Burnhm nd Shchtmn wr thrticlly burucrtic cllctivists rthr thn stt cpitlists, th diffrnc with Trtsky ws th sm.

5. S Th SWP nd strn urp, by Phil Hrs, Scilist utlk (UK), N 27, ctbr 1990, p 26. Fr n IS rply s Lbr Cllg Rviw, N 17, Mlburn, Victrin Lbr Cllg, Jun 1992. S ls Stt Cpitlism vrsus Mrxism by Dv Windsr, Intrntinl, N 2, 1974, p 6.

6. Th Bttlr, July 1989, N 277, p 12.

7. ccrding t Mrx, scilism must includ th blitin f cmmdity prductin nd th grdul dispprnc f mny, th blitin f trd in cnsumr gds t lst within th cmmun, cntrl f frly sscitd prducrs vr th prduct f thir lbur nd vr thir cnditins, nd lstly th cntrl by th ppl vr th md f thir mtril rltins (which implis th bsnc f rprssiv stt pprtus). In thr wrds, scilism rmins n unttind gl nt lst in th frmr Svit Unin. Mrx Critiqu f th Gth Prgrm <> in Th First Intrntinl nd ftr, Lndn, Hrmndswrth, 1974, pp 345-6. S ls Pwr nd Mny: Mrxist Thry f th Burucrcy, rnst Mndl, Vrs, Lndn, 1992, spcilly chptr 1.

8. Prfc t th Critiqu f Pliticl cnmy, Mrx nd ngls Slctd Wrks, Mscw, 1950 p 327.

9. S in prticulr Msh Lwin, Lnin's Lst Struggl, Lndn, Wildwd Hus, 1969.

10. Th Bttlr, N 7, Jun 21, 1975, Wht but Russi, by Tm 'Lincin p 7. ls N 26, Sptmbr 29, 1976; N 51, My 20, 1978, p 4; N 40, Nvmbr 22, 1977 nd Ns 187, 188, 176, 206.

11. Th Scilist N 235, pril 1990, p 10. Thr cn b n dubt but th rprsnttivity f th Blshviks in ctbr 1917, r th scp f th mss mvmnt bfr, during, nd ftr th ctbr Rvlutin. Fr ywitnss ccunts s Jhn Rd,Tn Dys Tht Shk th Wrld, Pnguin; N.N. Sukhnv, Th Russin Rvlutin, 1917, Vl II, xfrd, 1955, pp.528 nd pp.579-585. Mrtr-Dn Gschicht dr Russisi Scildnnnmkrt. Brlin, 1926, pp 300-301. Shil Fitzptrick, Th Russin Rvlutin, 1917-32, p 57 nd p 60. Ditrich Gyr, Th Blshvik Insurrctin in Ptrgrd in Rvlutinry Russi, ditd by R. Pips, Hrvrd, 1968, p.164. rnst Mndl, ctbr 1917: Cup d'tt r Scilist Rvlutin? Ntbks (IIR N 17-18 , 1992, pp 8-12. Mndl cits mny surcs.

12. Mndl, Pwr nd Mny, p cit. chptr 1.

13. ngls nd Mrx rmind rvlutinris t th nd, lthugh Dvid McLlln cits sm quttins frm th lt Mrx tht suggst Mrx did nt rul ut pcful trnsfrmtin in th US nd UK s rsult f univrsl suffrg. S Dvid McLlln, Th Thught f Krl Mrx, Fntn p 228. Sm qustin whthr r nt ngls blivd in his lst yrs in th pssibility f pcful trnsfrmtin flw frm dltins md t his prfc t th 1895 ditin f Mrx's Clss Struggls in Frnc by th Scil Dmcrtic Prty f Grmny, ginst which ngls prtstd. S fr dtils ngls' Lttrs t Kutsky by Ln Trtsky, Nw Yrk, Mrit, July 1969.

14. Yltsin's ppls tdy t th cpitlist wrld fr cpitl fr th Svit cnmy shw th lck f fr r fixd cpitl, which th cnmy nds t functin in th wrld mrkt. Th IS pprs t cnfus th ccumultin f cpitl with th ccumultin f things in th USSR, in prticulr militry quipmnt. S Th Scilist N l76, Jun 8, 1985, p 8, nd N 221, Jnury 1989, p 12.

15. Nt nly is thr lck f cpitl but ls lck f cpitlists in strn urp. Th dumping f mny strn urpn burucrts in 1989-90, which bruptly ndd thir "cpitlist sttus" withut sizing thir prprty, shwd wht ws plin t s: tht th rl lndlrds nd cpitlists hd bn xprpritd dcds rlir. Th bsnc f stck xchng, privt prprty nd cmpny lw r prblms tht fr-mrkt invstrs hv rcntly hd t fc.

16. Mrx, Cpitl, Vl. 1, p 1, dscribs th cpitlist md f prductin s "n immns ccumultin f cmmditis" nd lswhr dfins cpitlism s gnrlisd cmmdity prductin. Yt th bsnc f cmmditis hs bn th mst glring filur f USSR-styl burucrtic scitis. Th pridic criss f vrprductin f cmmditis tht ccur undr cpitlism r nt fund in burucrtic scitis. Tny Cliff himslf cnsidrs tht thr is n cmmdity xchng in th USSR s fr s th mns f prductin is cncrnd, nd gs furthr in sying tht lbur pwr is nt cmmdity in th USSR bcus nly n buyr f lbur pwr xists, nmly th stt. Furthr n, Cliff dmits tht invstmnt is nt dtrmind by th cpitlist lw f th tndntil dclin f th rt f prfit. Tny Cliff, Stt Cpitlism in Russi, Lndn, 1955, p 158, pp 172-3.

17. In fct n imprtnt cnsqunc f th ntry f th fr mrkt int ths cuntris is th numbr f industris tht wuld bcm pn t th mrkt, but which wuld prduc littl r n prfit. In th cs f th Svit Unin this culd mn up t 30 millin Svit wrkrs wuld b sckd nd third f th st Grmn wrk frc wuld b dismissd. ccrding t Hrvrd figurs qutd in Th Scilist, N 256, Sptmbr 1991, p 8, it ws th xclusin f th mrkt tht nbld industry t b built in th first plc nd tht prvntd sinc thn ny mdrnistin prcsss tht wuld limint jbs r cut wrkrs' living stndrds. Plnd hs shwn lrdy tht this is th rsult f th ntry f th fr mrkt int such cnmis, nd th first csultis hv bn jbs nd living stndrds fr mny wrkrs.

18. vrything Within th Rvlutin, Thms C. Dltn, xfrd, Wstviw, 1993, p. 136.

19. Th Lft nd Grbchv, Rbrt Bllrd. Scilist Rviw, N 5, utumn 1992, pp 57-58, IS Publictins, Mlburn.

20. Th Scilist, N 214, July 1988, p 819. S ls Tny Cliff, p 161.

21. Citd in Th Scilist N 221 , Jnury 1989, p 12. S ls Mndl, Pwr nd Mny, p cit.

22. Kn Trbuck hs ls pintd ut tht ny rl wrkrs' stt my nd t prduc cmprbl rms if it is fcd with xtrnl ttck. Kn Trbuck, Stt Cpitlism: Th Clck Withut Spring, Intrntinl, Lndn, 1970. Wuld this nd thn mn tht th lw f vlu f cpitlism wuld b intrducd int th wrkrs' stt which, by virtu f this, wuld bcm stt cpitlist rgim? This wuld mn tht wrkrs' stt wuld nt b pssibl whil n cpitlist stt rmind intct. Givn tht ll stts thrughut histry hv pplid prt f thir scil surplus fr militry dfnc, r in th IS's trms, cmptd with thir rivls, wht is thr in militry cmptitin tht is spcificlly cpitlist? Th cst f rrming cn hstn th dclin f systm, but it ds nt dfin tht scity.

23. Jhn Minns, Th Scilist, N 187, My 1986, p 9. r whn Din Filds rgus: "USSR is cpitlist bcus wrkrs sll thir lbur pwr t ths wh cntrl th mns f prductin. (Th Scilist , N 255, ugust 1991, p 13. S ls N 250, pril 1991, p 8; N 233, Jnury 1990, p 7; N 248, Mrch 1991, p 5; N 247, Dcmbr 15, 1991, p 5). lswhr Grbchv's Prstrik is sid t b similr t Pul Kting's rstructuring (Th Scilist, N 214, July 1988, p 8-9). Th writr nts, hwvr, tht in ustrli unprfitbl businsss wuld b clsd dwn, nd tht in Russi this ds nt hppn. Th vrius nn-Russin ntinl stts in th USSR r qutd with Wstrn clnis dspit th quit diffrnt cnmic rltinship invlvd. (Th Scilist, N 214, July 1988, pp 8-9). gin bsd n similr pprncs, th strng ccumultin undrtkn by th Stlin rgim in th 1930s is qutd with th plicis f th Miji rstrtin in lt 19th cntury Jpn lthugh th dmstic nd intrntinl pliticl situtin f ch ws quit diffrnt. n th Miji rstrtin s Thd Skpl, Stts nd Scil Rvlutins, Lndn, CV Prss, 1979, pp 100-104.

24. Th uthr culd hv ls includd Npln Bnprt nd th Rmn mpir using such critrin. S Th Scilist, N 221, Jnury 1989, p 12.

25. Th Scilist, N 229, Sptmbr 1989, p 5.

26. Th Scilist, N 252, Jun 1991, p 13.

27. Th Significnc f Grbchv, rnst Mndl, FI Publictins, Intrntinl Mrxist Rviw, rprintd Lbr Cllg Rviw, N 8, Mrch 1990, Mlburn.

28. Hdrick Smith, Th Nw Russins, Nw Yrk, Rndm Hus, 1990, pp 433-498.

29. Judy Bltt, Th nd f Cmmunist Rul in strn urp. Gvrnmnt nd ppsitin Vl 26, N 3, 1991 pp.368-390. Bltt dtils th limitd rl plyd by th wrkrs in th fll f th burucrcis.

30. Th Scilist, N 248, Mrch 1, 1991, p 5.

31 Th Scilist, N 233, Jnury 1990, p 6.

32. Th Scilist, N 255, ugust 23, 1991, p 12. S ls 252, July 1991.

33. Th Scilist, N 257, ctbr 1991, p 13.

34. s th IS itslf bsrvd, nly in Rmni did th dicttrships mk ny ttmpt t sv thmslvs. Th Scilist, N 238, July 1990, p 9. S ls Judy Bltt, p cit.

35. n nd nly tk th cs f Frnc, whr cpitl hs ruld undr prsidntil systm, undr mprrs (th Bnprts), fscist gvrnmnt (during Wrld Wr II) nd wid rng f prlimntry rgims frm limitd prprty frnchis nd wid rng f prlimntry rgims (during th rul f Luis Phillipp) t univrsl frnchis. Th lst cntury in Grmny, Spin nd Itly shw similr divrsity in frms f cpitlist rul.

36. Whn th CPSU lst its lding rl in th Svit Unin in Fbrury 1990, th IS sw fit t limit its xplntin f this histric rtrt by rfrnc t dmnstrtin f 200,000 ginst th mnply psitin f th CP. Th Scilist, N 234, Jnury 1990, p 61.

37. Th Scilist, N 227, July 1989.

38. Th Scilist, N 233, Jnury 1990, p 6.

39. Th Scilist, N 255, ugust 23, 1991, p 13.

40. Th Scilist, N 257, ctbr 1991, p 13.

41. Citd in Th Scilist, N 256, Sptmbr 1991, p 8.

42. Th Scilist, N 227, July 1989, p 12.

43. Th Scilist, N 237, Jun 1990, p 4.

44. Th Scilist, N 239, ugust 1990, p 15.

45. Th Scilist, N 256, Sptmbr 1991, p 2.

46. Th Scilist, N 255, ugust 1991, p 2.

47. Th Scilist, N 257, ctbr 1991, p 14.

48. Th Scilist, N 255, ugust 1991, p 3.

49. Lttr t Th Scilist, N 257, ctbr 1991, p 14.

50. Th Scilist, Nvmbr 1991, p 11.

51. Lttr t Th Scilist, N 259, Dcmbr 1991, p 11.

52. n might sk did nt this burdn in prt cntribut t th dclin f th US in its cmptitin with rivl imprilist pwrs? Ds it mn tht stt cpitlism ws prt nd prcl f th US systm? nd wht f indisputbly cpitlist ntins lik Grmny r Jpn in th prid f hug rrmmnt prir t th wrld wrs? Did thy bcm stt cpitlist scitis? N lngr is th intrnl clss structur th critrin f th ntur f th scity but n rbitrry cut-ff pint. rmmnts my b fctr in th dclin f ntin's pwr but thy r n dfinitin f scil systm itslf.

53. ccrding t full-timr Mick rmstrng.

54. Iltn, p cit, p 54.

55. S ls Th Bttlr, Ns. 11-19.

56. Th Bttlr, N 39, ctbr 1, 1977.

57. Th Scilist, N 160, My 12, 1984.

58. Th Scilist, N 191, Jnury 1987, p 10.

59. IS Publictin, 1986, Mlburn.

60. Crisis nd th IS Strtgy, Th Scilist, N 160, My 12, 1984.

61. Building in Prid f Rtrt, Th Scilist, N 191, Jnury 1987, p 10.

62. Wht Clss r Studnts? Th Scilist, N 224, pril 1989, p 4.

63. Th Scilist, N 191, Jnury 1987, p. 10.

64. Rthr thn judging th succss r thrwis f th prty in trms f its influnc n th clss in th ctul curs f th clss struggl, th IS, whil rcgnising tht th studnts wr lss significnt thn th wrkrs in ffring chllng t th plns f th Lbr gvmmnt, sw th studnts' ctin in th f cmpign "s mr imprtnt t us." (Th Scilist, N 216, ugust-Sptmbr, 1988, p 151) bcus it ws sir t intrvn in th fs cmpign nd "w stnd t gt mr ut f it". S ls Th Scilist, N 223, Jnury 1990, Wht is t b Dn, by Phil Griffiths.

65. Th Scilist, N 219, Nvmbr 1988, p 9.

66. Th Scilist, N 233, Jnury 1990. S ls Th Scilist, N 235, pril 1990, p 8.

67. IS tctics t th IDX dmnstrtin wr dbtd with th SWP/DSP, which bjctd t th supr-militncy f th IS, but th SWP prpsls includd th pssibl rrst f ppl lik th IS. Th Scilist, N 263, pril 1992, p 12.

68. Th Scilist rprtd th nti-Bush dmnstrtin rnd th IS nin nw mmbrs, ll btwn 17 nd 22, six f whm wr studnts. Th Scilist, N 260, Jnury 1992, p 3.

69. Th Scilist, N 260, Jnury 1992, p 7.

70. Th Scilist, N 263, pril 1992, p 9. ls Th Scilist N 265, Jun 1992, p 9.

71. Th Scilist, N 271, Dcmbr 1992, p 3.

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