a united front of a reactionary kind: the swp, islamophobia and the united front

by Joe Thorne

In 1946, Tony Cliff, who was later to found the Socialist Workers Party, described the Muslim Brotherhood – an international, ultra-conservative, Sunni political movement – as “clerical-fascist”.[1]

the racist English Defence League planned to march in Tower Hamlets on 20th June

In 2010, SWP members describe any criticism of particular Muslim figures, or Islamic political tendencies, much more conservative than the Muslim brotherhood as “Islamophobic”.  This condemnation has been routinely wheeled out in recent weeks by members of the SWP in Tower Hamlets.  It is being used, in effect, as a tactic to subdue, intimidate, and silence critical voices within the Tower Hamlets labour movement, and within local community politics, who object to the SWP’s uncritical alliance with some of the most marginal and reactionary elements amongst Muslims.

How did this come about?

To answer this question, it is necessary to understand how the SWP sees the theory of the “united front” — that is the theory of how revolutionaries should work politically with others.  In particular, we need to understand how the SWP’s application of the theory contradicts the version set out by Trotsky and the early Communist International. The point of returning to the theory as it was put forward by Trotsky and the early Comintern is not to make heroes or prophets of those figures, or to uncritically defend their theory.  On the contrary, the popular practice of whitewashing Trotsky, ignoring the concretely counterrevolutionary aspects of his theory and practice, is unnecessary and damaging.  But, as I will show, on several points related to the “united front”, Trotsky was absolutely correct, and gives us an excellent basis for a critique of the contemporary SWP.  By showing the SWP’s divergences from Trotsky, we show that the SWP cannot draw on the authority of the Bolsheviks for justification.  Also in this article, I will show that, meanwhile, they have no alternative theory of their own, and do not seek to justify their rejection of their political forefathers.  The conclusions of revolutionary generations past are not infallible.  But since the SWP themselves claim to stand in the tradition of the Bolsheviks, and claim that the conclusions of the Bolsheviks support their conclusions now, it is worthwhile exposing that pretence for the nonsense it is.

What is the “united front”?

“The united front tactic is simply an initiative whereby the Communists propose to join with all workers belonging to other parties and groups and all unaligned workers in a common struggle to defend the immediate, basic interests of the working class against the bourgeoisie.”[2]

The classical theory of the united front, as set out by Trotsky and in the official Comintern documents of 1921 and 1922, consists of a series of warnings on how the tactic must and must not be implemented.  This is not the place to go into each of these, or all the nuances of the theory.  But for present purposes, two particular conditions are worth drawing out.

The need to be openly and specifically critical

Firstly, the communists, the revolutionaries, the role the SWP seek to play, must be relentlessly and openly critical of the non-communist forces with which they ally.  The Comintern was very clear about this:

“While accepting the need for discipline in action, Communists must at the same time retain both the right and the opportunity to voice, not only before and after but if necessary during actions, their opinion on the politics of all the organisations of the working class without exception. The waiving of this condition is not permissible in any circumstances. Whilst supporting the slogan of maximum unity of all workers’ organisations in every practical action against the capitalist front, Communists cannot in any circumstances refrain from putting forward their views, which are the only consistent expression of the interests of the working class as a whole.”[3]

Trotsky consistently supported this position.  In the following passage, he warns both about the dangers of failing to criticise front allies, as well as the lack of full freedom of criticism within the ranks of the communists.  (This second point also happens to apply to the SWP, who ban factions for nine months out of every year, making them less internally democratic and free than the Bolshevik party in 1917.[4])

“the policy of the united front contains not only advantages but also dangers. It easily gives birth to combinations between leaders behind the back of the masses, to a passive adaptation to the ally, to opportunist vacillations. It is possible to ward off these dangers only if there exist two express guarantees: the maintenance of full freedom of criticism of the ally and the reestablishment of full freedom of criticism within the ranks of one’s own party. To refuse to criticize one’s allies leads directly and immediately to capitulation to reformism. The policy of the united front in the absence of party democracy, that is, without control of the apparatus by the party, leaves the leaders a free hand for opportunist experiments, the inevitable complements of adventurist experiments.”[5]

Trotsky also makes clear that criticism cannot be a matter of differences kept in the back pocket, or raised separately from the united struggle itself: they must be a real part of the communist activity in the united front.[6] As soon as parties

“renounced mutual criticism and the winning of adherents from each other, by that alone they ceased to exist as distinct parties. To invoke “principled differences” which remain, changes nothing. As soon as principled differences are not manifested openly and actively, at a moment as laden with responsibility as the present, they cease thereby to exist politically.”[7]

Contrast this clarity, this sharpness, with the practice of the SWP around the recent threat of an English Defence League march in Tower Hamlets.  Search high or low, you will find no specific criticism of the leaders and organisations with which the SWP built its ad hoc front.[8] One SWP member explained that their understanding of the united front in the following terms:

“You have make alliances with people you don’t agree with (while being honest about your areas of disagreement) to counter a greater threat, of fascism. No one in UAF has said they agree with homophobia, rape or anti Semitism. They said they oppose fascism. That’s what UAF is there for. It does what it says on the tin. Here endeth united fronts 101.”[9]

For SWP activists, it is apparently only necessary that Unite Against Fascism members do not actually say they agree with “homophobia, rape or anti-Semitism” — although, as we shall see below, even this poor condition would be too much for some of the SWP’s united front partners.  There is no sense that these positions must be living part of all communist activity.  This activist also labours under the confusion, common to many members of the SWP, and that the idea of the united front has something in common with the liberal idea of the single issue campaign, which necessarily avoids all large political questions.[10]

The English Defence League and the Islamic Forum of Europe

On 20 June 2010 the Troxy cinema in Tower Hamlets was due to host an Islamic Forum of Europe conference.  The “English Defence League”, a proto-fascist, anti-Muslim street organisation, called a counter demonstration.  In turn, local antifascist and community organisations began to mobilise in response.  Some based on their approach on working with local Bengali socialists, propaganda against both the EDL and the IFE, and support in the form of “bust cards” with legal advice for militant, antiracist local youth.[11] The strategy of the SWP, driven by their understanding of the united front, was different.  They formed an uncritical united front with the IFE, for purposes of issuing a statement and calling a demonstration.[12]

Whitechapel Anarchist Group collated some of the reactionary views promoted by some of the IFE speakers:

Aba Usamah – “ If I were to call homosexuals perverted, dirty, filthy dogs who should be murdered, that’s my freedom of speech, isn’t it?”

Suhaib Hassan – “If once – just once – an adulterer is stoned, no one would commit this crime.” “Even though cutting off the hands and feet, or flogging the drunkard and fornicator, seem to be very abhorrent, once they are implemented, they become a deterrent for the whole society. This is why in Saudi Arabia, for example, where these measures are implemented, the crime rate is very, very, low”

“Sheik Yusuf Estes… moved to the subject of disobedient wives, First, “tell them.” Second, “leave the bed.” Finally: “Roll up a newspaper and give her a crack. Or take a yardstick, something like this, and you can hit.”  . . .

Hussain Yee – a fan of wife beating A Muslim man doesn’t have a right to beat his wife in anger or in order to injure. But you can do it if you do it in love, out of consideration,” and a virulent anti-Semite who thinks ‘the Jews’ did 9/11 and alleges of ‘the Jews’ – “If they want to kill, they kill, because they believe that they are the chosen people. They are children of God. The blood that flows in the body of the Jew is the blood of God. It is holy. And the blood that is not Jewish, they are all like animals, you can kill them and they don’t feel that it is a sin.”

Murtaza Khan “The fornicating woman and the fornicating man, flog them 100 times…”[13]

A statement released by number of local Bengali activists read:

“IFE act as the sole representatives of ordinary Muslims but are in fact operating under the direction of their parent organisation Jamaat-e- Islami in Bangladesh. It is Jamaat that was party to the massacre of innocent Bangladeshis in the 1971 war of independence that establish the independent state of Bangladesh. A war Tribunal has been established in Bangladesh to try leaders of Jaamat-e-Islam who are IFE’s real ideological and organisational gurus. In other words IFE represent a virulent form of political Islam that is fascistic in nature like Jaamat Islam and verges on the anti-Semitic and is very exclusivist and undemocratic. . . . All progressive forces must realize that the gut reaction to EDL is to defend everybody including IFE because they might be accused of being Islamophobic. But we boldly proclaim that it is not Islamophobic to have no trucks with the heirs of Fascist Jaamat.”[14]

Yet these are the people with whom the SWP, through UAF, has formed an uncritical alliance: what they call a “united front”.  Apparently SWP founder Tony Cliff, who called the Muslim brotherhood “clerical fascist” was not “islamophobic”, “racist”, or “offensive”, but local trade union and community activists who raise similar criticisms are.

The self-censorship of the SWP does not end there.  At a demonstration against the English Defence League in October 2009, UAF put a Liberal Democrat councillor on the speaker’s platform.  The Lib Dems in the Leeds were then involved in an attempt to smash a strike by refuse workers to defend their pay and conditions.  The LibDem was heckled as a strike breaker, but a leading SWP activist shouted back: “You don’t have to be in favour of strikes to be against fascism”.  For some in the SWP it seems, workers’ interests should be kept within the unions, and battling homophobia within LGBT caucuses.  These questions must certainly not be foregrounded during antifascist or anti-war work!  In January 2009, SWP activists at an anti-war demonstration chanted “we are all Hamas”, never minding that Hamas cemented its power by causing acid to be thrown in the face of women in Gaza.[15] Before the rise of the “Green Movement” in Iran, SWP members would refer to critics of the Iranians regime as “Islamophobic”[16], or at least argue that such criticism should be suspended on the grounds that it fed into the hands of the “imperialist West”.  We could almost forget that these are the modern day epigones of Trotsky, under whose leadership the Comintern insisted that communists “must systematically expose the reformists when they refuse to support the revolutionary struggle of the workers.”[17]

“Direct and immediate struggle”[18]

Secondly, according to the classical theory of the united front, the purpose of the front must not be propaganda, electoral campaigning or even peaceful demonstrations.  Rather, the united front must be organised in order to deliver the united action of the workers.  Action means strikes and physical, potentially violent, perhaps armed, mobilisations.  Action does not mean conferences, and implies no organisational form except those necessary to directly organise physical class struggle action at a grassroots level.[19] Since this will be a surprise to most SWP members let us prove that these were the conditions under which Trotsky advocated the united front.

In 1922, Trotsky saw the point of the united front as “the struggle of the proletariat for its daily bread”, and emphasises the importance of winning economic demands through union action.[20] A decade later, with the threat of fascism rising in Germany, the proposals he makes are no less immediate, no less physical:

“it is precisely in the sphere of propaganda that a bloc is out of the question. . . . no common publications, banners, placards! March separately, but strike together! Agree only how to strike, whom to strike, and when to strike!  . . . The program of action must be strictly practical, strictly objective, to the point . . .” [21]

In this respect, also, the SWP very precisely violates the objective of Trotsky’s united front.  If their approach had a slogan it would be march together, don’t strike at all![22] That is, the SWP’s “united fronts” produce propaganda, leaflets, and organise demonstrations.  But while many individual SWP members have a heroic record physically confronting fascists, the organisation as a whole seeks to keep its protests non-confrontational, and firmly under control.

This is a long tradition of the SWP. Here is a statement from a former leading member of the Asian Youth Movement (a large, radical leftist, Marxist influenced movement of Asian Youth, strong in the ’60s and ’70s) on the first Rock Against Racism (predecessor of Love Music, Hate Racism) concert in 1978, and his experiences trying to repel a fascist attacks on his community on that day:

“When we found out that the fascists . . . they were mobilising across London and they were going to attack Brick Lane . . .  we had an idea there were likely to be a couple of hundred, we did have punch ups as well, you know, we kept them off the streets, and it was really terrible because it was the day, same day they’d organised these Rock Against Racism concerts, there were hundreds of people dancing to racism . . . I believe they endangered the Black community of Brick Lane and did a terrible disservice to the struggle against racism.  But it was a harbinger of what was to come because they did that over and over again, in a sense they were so preoccupied with their own agenda they forgot to see what, where the shit was hitting where.”[23]

The SWP were asked to support the physical mobilisation, but refused to do so, saying “No, there’s not much we can do, we’ve got a concert organised which mustn’t be spoiled”.[24] The SWP’s united front, therefore, appeared in opposition to physical mass action, not a complement to it.  Oddly, the SWP are now happy to memorialise the mobilisation which they refused to support at the time.[25] Similar antics have been repeated recently, in Aylesbury.[26] Furthermore:

UAF, under the leadership of the SWP, has repeatedly shown itself willing to lie to demonstrators; to impose its decisions on local campaigns; to hold back militancy to look respectable and maintain good relations with the police; and to work with the police against its critics in the anti-fascist movement.  The events of 31 October [in Leeds, 2009] are appalling, but they are only the latest in a long line of similar incidents on anti-fascist demonstrations — notably in Derbyshire in August and Liverpool in November 2008.[27]

The Alliance for Workers’ Liberty sometimes criticises the SWP’s approach by stressing Trotsky’s references to the workers’ united front.  (Although Trotsky generally does stress the importance of a workers united front, on one occasion he advocates a united front between “the proletariat and the middle classes”.[28])  They say that groups like IFE or the Muslim Association of Britain are not workers’ organisations.  But in fact, such groups do have an overwhelmingly proletarian base.  From the point of view of Trotsky’s theory, the fact that their politics are reactionary is not really the issue.  This was also true of social democracy after World War I, which could lay claim to have endorsed millions of needless proletarian deaths.  Nor is the sociological extraction of their leaders important.  Many Bolshevik leaders were not working class by origin.[29] What is important for Trotsky is the capacity of the organisation to mobilise working-class people for action in defence of a given set of interests.  In principle, it is perfectly possible for an Islamic organisation to fulfil this role.  When Trotsky criticises the inclusion of the Radical Party in an alliance in which the communists are also participating, in France in 1936, he does not do so on the basis that they have a reactionary programme, although they do, but rather on the basis that they cannot mobilise working-class people for action.[30]

Why these conditions?

Trotsky insisted that these conditions be recognised in united front work for good, common sense reasons.  Both of them are means to ensure that the working class achieves the unity in action which it needs to fight effectively, whilst the communists maintain complete political clarity and honesty.  Trotsky understood that the approach of the SWP represents the worst of both worlds.  The united front campaigns which they launch are not effective at combating fascists physically, whilst their diluted propaganda and public statements are unable to combat them politically, on a principled, working class basis.

Communists are supposed to light a constant and unwavering beacon of principle for the working class.  If they do not express that principle, there’s not much point in being a communist in the first place.  Communists are supposed to believe that communist ideas are vital, and express views that will seen to be true by the working class in the course of developments, in the course of struggle.  But the SWP offers no higher political principle and no practical proposals to distinguish it from its coalition partners (and no real struggle, for that matter).

Most of us will find it downright odd that the SWP is willing to gag itself for an alliance with the IFE.  But in truth, most SWP members are no longer considered themselves to be holding their tongue.  Rather, years of this sort of accommodation has given them over to the view that there are no criticisms to make — hence the appearance of the “islamophobia” charge.  What is most odd, in some ways, is that the SWP actually rejects more principled, more powerful allies.  For example, in Tower Hamlets, the Bangladesh Welfare Association and a whole host of local, secular organisations have repeatedly approached Unite Against Fascism with criticisms of the IFE such as those levelled above, and undoubtedly have more roots in the local community.  (The large East London Mosque would not even allow the IFE event to be held on their premises.)  UAF’s tactics also alienated local socialists and trade unionists who wanted to oppose the EDL, but also some of the views expressed by IFE speakers.

The SWP theorise the united front

This section is based on a review of all theoretical material of the SWP on the united front currently available online, including articles written between 1975 and 2009.  A 1975 article by Duncan Hallas describes the historical background to the development of the united front idea in the early 1920s.  It does not, however, attempt to describe the specifics of the theory as it was set out by the Comintern.[31] An article by Hallas the next year, on the other hand, picks up, albeit not very sharply, the two considerations set out above.  He says it is “not a “let’s forget our differences and unite” approach”, and makes clear that “its aim is above all to generate united action“.[32] But in the 30 years since then, these insights have been forgotten.

A clutch of eight articles published in International Socialism Journal and Socialist Review between 2001 and 2009 constitutes the attempts of the SWP’s leading lights to theorise the united front. [33] In a 2002 article, prior to the launching of Respect, John Rees characterises the Socialist Alliance as a united front.

“we are not making any great theoretical innovation in describing the Socialist Alliance as a united front of a special type. . . . in its political construction it is a united front because it brings together former Labour Party members who are not revolutionary socialists and those, like the SWP, who are revolutionaries.”[34]

He was echoing his 2001 view that “The Socialist Alliance is thus best seen as a united front of a particular kind applied to the electoral field.”[35] In advocating a united front for electoral work (whether of a “particular kind” or “special type”), Rees completely ignores several injunctions on the part of Trotsky and the Comintern that electoral united fronts are bound to end in disaster.

“the united front tactic has nothing to do with the so-called ‘electoral combinations’ of leaders in pursuit of one or another parliamentary aim.”[36]

Chris Harman, looking back from 2007 on the Respect project after its catastrophic collapse could nonetheless say, even with the benefit of hindsight:

“Our duty to the left as a whole was to try to create a credible electoral focus to the left of Labour . . .  The scale of opposition to the war provided far greater possibilities for building a broad electoral united front.”[37]

They would have done well to heed Trotsky’s warning from 1932:

“in a number of countries . . . the functionaries of the Comintern tried their hand . . . at creating artificially and “from above” a “Left” social democracy-to serve as a bridge to Communism. Nothing but failures were produced by this tomfoolery likewise.  Invariably these experiments and filibusterings ended catastrophically.”[38]

It is precisely this tomfoolery which Respect reproduced.  Trotsky’s theory was light years ahead of even the best SWP intellectuals, whose accumulated experience of revolutionary mobilisation is, between them, nothing.[39] Indeed, what is most remarkable about SWP theory on the united front is its astonishing blindness and lack of reference to the most explicit and important warnings given by leading theorists during the 1920s and 1930s.  It is not even that modern SWP theorists consider the sort of stipulations set out above — about the importance of explicit, open criticism of united front partners and physical action — and set out to explain why those conditions have been dropped, or even deny that they have been.  Not one of the texts examined for the purposes of this article make an effort to do any of those things.  The preferred approach is simply to ignore these elements of the classical theory which do not fit with their current practice, and presumably rely on none of their membership bothering to read the original texts, or think critically about the problem themselves.

Perhaps the most important piece of SWP theory on the united front is not in any lengthy theoretical text at all.  It is in the party’s basic principles.

“Keep it broad: Long manifestos don’t win . . . struggles — practical unity does. We fight alongside anybody or any organisation that wants to build the movement . . .”[40]

Trotsky was not in favour of this approach.  Think of the SWP as “theoreticians of the popular front”:

“The theoreticians of the Popular Front do not essentially go beyond the first rule of arithmetic, that is, addition: “Communists” plus Socialists plus Anarchists plus liberals add up to a total which is greater than their respective isolated numbers. Such is all their wisdom. However, arithmetic alone does not suffice here. One needs as well at least mechanics. The law of the parallelogram of forces applies to politics as well. In such a parallelogram, we know that the resultant is shorter, the more component forces diverge from each other. When political allies tend to pull in opposite directions, the resultant proves equal to zero.”[41]

Of course, if the communists opt themselves to pull in the direction of pacifist liberals or conservative religious leaders, the resultant is a negative.  Trotsky’s approach was not “keep it broad”.  It was to maximise the unity of the working class in concrete, practical, physical action, and to maintain the unfaltering political clarity of the communists.

What has changed, what stays the same

The theory of the united front always had its problems.  After 1917, the Russian revolution, and the global split of communism from social democracy, social democrats have always been wary of working with communists.  They were well aware that heightened mass class struggle of the sort that the united front sought to produce was not in their best interests.  Trotsky’s theory relies on a coalition partner which is both capable of mobilising workers for mass action, which is interested in doing so and which is willing to put up with a relentless criticism of the communists.  In fact such partners were always hard to find.  As Mike Macnair puts it, commenting on the period immediately after the First World War:

The socialists, including their lefts, proved unwilling to enter into agreements for common action with the communists on these terms.  The initial result was a period of zigzags between unity with elements of the left socialists and trade unionists on the basis of self-censorship of the communists in order to function of the political differences between them, and simple denunciation of the ‘lefts’ by the communists and isolation of the communists.[42]

Perhaps some SWP activists will argue that times have changed.  That was then, this is now, and a different approach is needed.  Trotsky was used to these sorts of people — who use the vague and general spectre of changing circumstances, generally without specifying precisely what changes have occurred and why they are important, to justify every abandonment of principle and long term strategy:

“We warn them duly not to attempt in answer to reply that conditions have changed since that period: the matter does not concern questions of conjuncture; but . . . of the A B C of Marxism.”[43]

What has changed though?  Most importantly, the general level of class struggle has declined, which means that action is no longer the ready object of politics in a way that it once was.  Calls for mass strikes and physical defence squads seem abstract.  Perhaps only within the more militant unions, and the occasional direct action campaign, does the context of the united front theory still find an echo.  But the whole point of the theory of the united front was always to produce that very physical action.  If it cannot be produced in a given context, it does not follow that there are necessarily any good grounds for alliance with reformist forces at all.

Nonetheless, we ought to analyse the more specific changes which have taken place which condition, but which do not justify, the SWP’s approach to the united front antifascist work. The real mobilising power of social democracy, the reformist socialists — for the sort of action discussed above — is much declined since Trotsky’s day.  Social democracy has travelled a long way politically since that time, and are no longer pretends to represent the interests of the working class against the capitalist class.  It no longer pretends to be an expression of working-class power.  The mobilising power of the communists has declined too, and we are divided, no longer deeply integrated into the working class, and broadly mistrusted.  Political movements have opened which are in many ways to the left of the traditional revolutionary socialists.  There has been a rise of ultraconservative, pseudo-emancipatory religious forces with some working-class mobilising power.

Both the threats to which SWP “united fronts” typically respond and the available partners for alliance have changed.  Understanding these changes is key to understanding the pressures which have led the SWP to their current path.

First of all, Trotsky’s united front theory was designed to respond to threats against the entire working class, at least on a national level.  For example, the spectre of fascism in Germany, the capitalist state in France, or both at once in Spain.  This is not how things appear now.  There is a sense in which fascism in Britain, in the form of the BNP or the EDL, does pose a threat to the entire working class.  But, at present, their most concrete and immediate threat is to ethnic and religious minorities, and to migrant workers.

Secondly, reformist social democracy — with whom the communists proposed the united front — has lost both the capacity and the will to mobilise working-class action.  In place of mass social democracy, there are now a bewildering variety of fragmented interest groups.  Of these, for the SWP, the most important — with whom fronts have been built in the Stop the War Coalition, Unite Against Fascism, and Respect — are Islamic community and religious organisations.

These are the important changes — and in setting out we do more to locate the current context of the united front than the SWP in all their published material.  The question is: do these changes justify less public, less active, less open criticism of front partners, and do they justify a decreased emphasis on action, in favour of propagandistic rallies, conferences and election campaigns?  And if not, are there any tactical modifications which they do justify?

The “new” front partners have much less mobilising power than traditional social democracy.  Their politics, in so far as they particularly oppress women, the LGBT community, and sometimes target Jews, are more divisive, and much more regressive in relation to society at large.  (Note that we’re talking about the SWP’s specific partners here, not Muslims in general.)  Their social vision and political programme is more hierarchical, more conservative, less democratic, more alienated, and more superstitious than that proposed by social democracy — whether now or a century ago.  They are less representative of specifically “class” interests.  Do they “represent” in some sense an oppressed social group?  You could say that, though in many cases that would overemphasise the real base of formations such as the IFE.  But this was far more true of social democracy, which represented huge portions of the working class.

On this basis, there is no justification whatever for waiving either of the criteria discussed in this article.  In fact, if anything, it seems that there may be grounds for having more exacting criteria for working with such formations, or not doing so at all.

Conclusion – on theory

Theory is supposed to be accumulated experience, systematised, summarised and made useful.  Too often, instead, theory appears as opposed to experience, as a barrier to engagement with reality.  It should not be necessary to be acquainted with Trotsky’s writings on the united front to see that the way that the SWP behaves is wrong.  And indeed, it is not.  But because the SWP pretends that its approach is based upon a vast well of revolutionary experience, made solid as theory, and because the verbiage of its members on the topic of the united front can baffle or intimidate, it is worth proving that, beyond a shadow of a doubt, their claims have nothing to do with any revolutionary experience, historical or contemporary.  On the contrary, they are making it up as they go along.  And they’re not doing a very good job of it.


[1] http://www.marxists.org/archive/cliff/works/1946/07/provocation.htm

[2] http://www.marxists.org/history/international/comintern/4th-congress/tactics.htm

[3] http://www.marxists.org/history/international/comintern/4th-congress/united-front.htm

[4] “If factions are not wanted, there must not be any permanent groupings; if permanent groupings are not wanted, temporary groupings must be avoided; finally, in order that there be no temporary groupings, there must be no differences of opinion, for wherever there are two opinions, people inevitably group together . . . It suffices to study the history of our party, even if only for the period of the revolution, that is, during the period when the constitution of factions became particularly dangerous to see that the struggle against this danger cannot be confined to a formal condemnation and prohibition of groupings.” http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1923/newcourse/ch03.htm

[5] http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/germany/1933/330314.htm (my emphasis)

[6] it is habitual for SWP members to explain that whilst they are revolutionaries, they cannot support revolutionary policies within united fronts, because that would exclude non-revolutionaries.  An example of this is their collective vote against a “no borders” policy in Respect.  Since the entire activity of the SWP is directed through united fronts, their politics exist only formally, and in their publications.

[7] http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1936/whitherfrance/ch00.htm

[8] http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/art.php?id=21579

[9] seen on Facebook.

[10] Though in fact SWP theorists such as Alex Callinicos dissociate the united front from the single issue campaign: http://pubs.socialistreviewindex.org.uk/sr262/callinicos.htm

[11] http://whitechapelanarchistgroup.wordpress.com/2010/06/19/sunday-20th-june-united-against-division/; http://whitechapelanarchistgroup.wordpress.com/2010/06/04/whitechapel-united-against-division-june-20th/

[12] http://uaf.org.uk/2010/06/unions-and-mosques-back-east-london-demo-against-edl/

[13] http://whitechapelanarchistgroup.wordpress.com/2010/06/08/hate-not-hope/

[14] http://whitechapelanarchistgroup.wordpress.com/2010/06/19/unity-platform-against-racism-and-fascism/

[15] https://thecommune.wordpress.com/2010/04/22/gender-nation-class-and-the-first-intifada/

[16] http://community.livejournal.com/swp_watch/52516.html

[17] http://www.marxists.org/history/international/comintern/4th-congress/united-front.htm (Of course, the groups in question are not really “reformists” in the traditional mould.  The point is that the SWP’s own interpretation of the united front does cast these groups in precisely that role.  Later in this article, I try to draw out the differences between the classic reformists, the contemporary reformists, and the groups which the SWP allies with today.)

[18] http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1936/whitherfrance/ch03.htm

[19] “Such an approach would be purely bureaucratic and consequently barren. The workers will be able to elect a Committee of Action only in those cases when they themselves participate in some sort of action and feel the need for revolutionary leadership.”  http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1936/whitherfrance/ch03.htm

[20] http://marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1922/02/uf.htm

[21] For a Workers United Front Against Fascism, 1932 – http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/germany/1931/311208.htm (my emphasis)

[22] [excerpted]

[23]In Kala Tara (film about the Asian Youth Movement), from 19:00 http://video.google.co.uk/videoplay?docid=1267501025633493514#

[24] http://www.workersliberty.org/story/2008/08/25/1978-when-brick-lane-was-abandoned

[25] http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/art.php?id=21579

[26] http://www.workersliberty.org/story/2010/05/02/edl-aylesbury-May1

[27] http://www.workersliberty.org/uaf

[28] “A real alliance of the proletariat and the middle classes is not a question of parliamentary statistics but of revolutionary dynamics.  This alliance must be created and forged in the struggle. . .”  http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1936/whitherfrance/ch00.htm

[29] http://libcom.org/history/social-origin-educational-level-chief-bolshevik-leaders-1917

[30] http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1936/whitherfrance/ch03.htm

[31] http://www.marxists.org/archive/hallas/works/1975/01/unitedfront.htm

[32] http://www.marxists.org/archive/hallas/works/1976/01/unitedfront.htm

[33] http://pubs.socialistreviewindex.org.uk/isj90/rees.htm; http://pubs.socialistreviewindex.org.uk/sr262/callinicos.htm; http://pubs.socialistreviewindex.org.uk/isj97/rees.htm; http://www.isj.org.uk/index.php4?id=5&issue=100; http://www.isj.org.uk/index.php4?id=397&issue=117; http://www.isj.org.uk/index.php4?id=396; http://www.isj.org.uk/index.php4?id=484&issue=120; http://www.isj.org.uk/index.php4?id=556&issue=123

[34] http://pubs.socialistreviewindex.org.uk/isj97/rees.htm

[35] http://pubs.socialistreviewindex.org.uk/isj90/rees.htm

[36] http://www.marxists.org/history/international/comintern/4th-congress/tactics.htm

[37] http://www.isj.org.uk/index.php4?id=396

[38] http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/germany/1932-ger/next02.htm

[39] according to Trotsky and the early Comintern, united fronts in relation to Parliament arise under the slogan of the “workers’ government”.  The assumption of the workers’ government theory is that communists go to the polls on the communist platform, and social democrats, on a social democratic platform, and some sort of arrangement is made afterward.  There are many problems with this theory — see for example https://thecommune.wordpress.com/2009/12/31/is-a-workers-government-a-capitalist-government/ — but it certainly does not propose communists adopting a watered down the program with non-communists.

[40] http://www.swp.org.uk/about.php

[41] http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1937/xx/spain01.htm

[42] Macnair, Mike (2008) Revolutionary strategy, p106

[43] http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/germany/1932-ger/next02.htm

2 thoughts on “a united front of a reactionary kind: the swp, islamophobia and the united front

  1. Now it is you who are the useful idiots. Thanks again socialists for ruining everything. Basically you have to destroy a society/culture to get power. Its always the most ruthless vile people who end up ruling when it is done that way. Great. When will you ever learn.

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