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The Trots will destroy ESF

John | 19.10.2004 19:38 | European Social Forum | Analysis | Globalisation | Indymedia | Liverpool | London

In the West, whenever an industrial dispute or popular protest erupts, one thing can be counted on – Trotskyist groups will descend to ‘organize’ the struggle. Then, when all is done, the comrades pack up their papers, posters and pamphlets and move on to the next picket line or rally. Disillusioned workers are left behind as groups like Britain’s Socialist Workers Party (SWP), Resistance in Australia and others breeze in on the latest ‘Protest of the Month’.

Whenever tragedy strikes, one thing can be counted on – the media will descend on the location like a plague of locusts. Then, when all is done, the swarm unplugs microphones and laptops and moves on to the next disaster. Bewildered survivors are left to their fate as the media spotlight shines on the latest ‘Horror of the Month’.

In the West, whenever an industrial dispute or popular protest erupts, one thing can be counted on – Trotskyist groups will descend to ‘organize’ the struggle. Then, when all is done, the comrades pack up their papers, posters and pamphlets and move on to the next picket line or rally. Disillusioned workers are left behind as groups like Britain’s Socialist Workers Party (SWP), Resistance in Australia and others breeze in on the latest ‘Protest of the Month’.

The impact these groups have far outweighs their actual numbers. But what they lack in political imagination, creativity and mass base, they make up for in sheer organizing prowess. Consummate opportunists, they tirelessly weave their way into leadership positions of important social movements such as the anti-racist and anti-capitalist movements and, more recently, the anti-war efforts. Often shunned by progressive groups, the Trots bounce back with new front groups such as the anti-capitalist tour operator Globalize Resistance–active in many countries in Europe – and psuedo-Trot front group Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER) in the US. Where front groups fail, they also form new alliances such as the Stop the War Coalition in Britain. They seek to assume leadership and assimilate diverse movements for their own partisan aims irrespective of the cause concerned. An Irish environmental festival, Dutch trade campaigners’ strategy meetings, Belgian protests around a business summit, a student network conference in Britain, anti-capitalist protests in Scandinavia, North America and Australia: all these have been targets of authoritarian Socialist groups bent on securing leadership roles, gaining recruits and, of course, selling papers.

Extremely hierarchical, they prefer top-down leadership bordering on authoritarianism rather than grassroots participatory democratic organizing. Their largely anti-democratic tendencies are well documented and often characterized by manipulating important organizing meetings, forcing out dissenters and subverting key platform goals if these are deemed ‘counter-revolutionary’. They ‘represent’ movements in the media, flooding demonstrations with placards and banners promoting their own groups and socialist branding, and packing meeting rooms with their own members such that dissenting views drown in a sea of revolutionary rhetoric.

Their classic vanguardist political philosophy is perhaps best described by themselves in the British Socialist Workers Party’s magazine, Socialist Review:

‘Mass movements don’t get the political representation they deserve unless a minority of activists within the movement seek to create a political leadership, which means a political party that shares their vision of political power from below. Such a party will be much less than the movement numerically, but much more than the movement ideologically and organizationally.’1

The most disturbing current developments are Trotskyist efforts to control bodies such as the World Social Forum and the European Social Forum (ESF). The ESF in Florence in 2002 was heavily dominated by the Fourth International, one of the oldest international Trotskyist groups. Already the preparations for the European Social Forum in London have been disrupted by the classic assimilation tactics of the Socialist Workers Party and their front group, Globalize Resistance. The situation has become so bad that activists determined to have a truly open and democratic forum have launched a campaign to ‘democratize the ESF’, calling themselves the ‘horizontals’. While the horizontals struggle to ensure that another social forum is possible, the ‘verticals’ – the authoritarian Socialists – are not going away without a fight. As musician David Rovics humorously captures it: ‘Cause I am the vanguard of the masses, and all of you should just follow me. If you doubt my analysis, you must be in the petty bourgeoisie.’



Hide the following 12 comments

The SWP Dont have the Power Destroy the ESF

19.10.2004 21:36

The following paragrapgh explains why the SWP are actually insignificant participants in the ESF, and cannot destroy it. Written about a lot because they have wound up a lot of people, they do not have political power.

To realise why the power of the SWP is over-rated you have to understand that they cannot build significant movements nor can they destroy them. What they can do very well is act as a break on significant movements, mainly by holding back them through bureaucratic inertia. Their expertise is in gaining the necessary bureaucratic positions . Small organisations, like the socialist Alliance, can destroyed in this way, but they don't have the power, skill, or resources.

The SWP do not have the capability to destroy the ESF. They are a pain in the arse, and a break on the growth of movements, tactically inept, and face a strategic black hole, but their influence in the ESF has already been greatly exaggerated. In a few years the SWP will be down to a few hundred members, with even fewer full-times when their influence will become negligible.

Even over the last few years their organisation has shrunk considerable over the UK, and continues to do so. But they are fading away - it is a long and painful Goodbye, because their real influence is to act as a break on the present anti-capitalist movement.

They getting to the end of the cloud cuckoo land stage of their collapse, because fantastic opportunities have presented themselves, better than in their whole history, but they haven’t fully grasped that they have blown their chances. This will sadly become self-evident after next years general election and anti-g8 movement.

For example, they have always wanted electoral success, but the political party RESPECT will go nowhere very fast, because for one, they don't have the resources to campaign - money and supporters. Besides, an 1/2 million pounds would be needed for deposits to stand, say, 100 candidates in the general election. This money, which they will not find, and could not afford to lose even if they could, would certainly be lost. They will not build an electoral Party, and they will not get electoral success

.So, they will continue to lose members, money, and assets. They continue to alienate the rest of the left whose help they would have badly needed to make a success out of any of their latest fronts. Lastly the circulation of their paper is falling and they continue to lose active members and subscriptions.

These days there is a sort of Comradeship that unites the left: socialists, communists, anarchists and Libertarians that wants to see the sectarian tactics of this organisation disappear from the left. But the SWP just don’t see it, and will not change, that’s why the left want to see the back of them.

As to all other Trot. organisations in the UK they are completely insignificant. Just one more to go.

Harry Hamlet

Your argument doesn't hold water

19.10.2004 22:14

You say that 'trots will destroy the esf', but recent events would seem to disprove this.

We've just had a hugely successful European Social Forum with about 25,000 participants - many international. We debated how to fight for a world where the needs of the many will be fulfilled rather than the greed of the few that is the case under our present capitalist system. There followed a major demonstration that attracted 100,000 protesters against the slaughter in Iraq.

'Trots' - ie parties like the SWP etc - played a key role in organising this important event - the ESF. I don't see how this constitutes 'destroying' the ESF.

In fact, it seems more like anarchists will destroy the ESF, I'm sorry to say. On the Saturday they broke up a anti-fascist meeting at the ESF and assaulted delegates. They said they wanted to protest about being excluded from the event, but in fact they said months ago they were going to boycott the event and in fact they set up an alternative event to run in competition with it.

Surely the way to win a better world is to work with other activists - even though you might not agree with everything they say - rather than beat them up?


Nobody's listening ...

20.10.2004 00:24

lll gives the SWP Party line - arrogant, arrant nonesense, all of it. Dont, it really makes me feel sick.

Ask yourself? Why are you defending the idiotic people who run this party? (Perhaps you are one of them, on a power kick?) To get a better world? I dont think so.


I have tried

20.10.2004 00:42

"Better to work with activists than beat them up.."

Sorry but that is what I have been trying all this year... only to end beaten up and shopped to the police by the SWP. I will face in person to defend my arguments, outside the anonymity of the virtual space of Indymedia, anyone who wants to challenge the fact that the SWP leaders are lying scumbags who deserve nothing but oblivion.


some comments from a heterodox trotskyist

20.10.2004 14:54

1. don't forget the gla and the renegades around "socialist action review", when you talk about the destruction of the esf
2. answer in the us isn't a trotskyist-dominated or -inspired organization, the "ruling" party here is the "revolutionary communist party usa" (rcp), who are homophobe mao-stalinists (close to peru's shining path)
3. some trotskyist groups have broken since the seventies with vanguardism, for example the fourth international (unified secretariat), whose most important section ist the french lcr (they have a text on this problem, i don't know the exact title in english: ernest mandel: lenin and the problem of proletarian class-consciousness) or sozialismo rivoluzzionario in italy or the freedom socialist party in the us; they criticise the auto-proclamation of vanguard, the real vanguard are those, who are able to play a progressive role in concrete struggles (who ever it is, a party, non-organized people, etc.). and my personal experience of 17 years in the radical left ist, that there are many anarchists or autonomous groups, who practize the same vanguardist behaviour as the swp or socialist party (cwi) without having a "party"

der nestscheißer
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20.10.2004 17:23

Please, always haranging, from both sides. It makes me want to drift away.

Can we not keep it political, by all means critisize tactics, episodes, maybe even concede the other side has some value.

Where I am if it wasn't for SWP members there would be no anti-war group, people wouldn,t have gone to the esf, political (not swp) meetings wouldn't occur each week. I've met many members genuinly involved in workplaces, campaigns etc.. I've also seen politicking and undemocratic behaviour under the banner of majority votes and elected committees.

On the other side I've seen great imagination and directness from the more autonomous tradition, campaigns which wouldn't have come to prominance without you, I've also seen aggression (not physical), elitism and sneering, and undemocratic behaviour under the banner of consensus.

If you're gonna make a critique it has to relate to peoples experiences.

I am a socialist, a Marxist even, I don't see myself as closed minded unopen to a variety of means - I think its important, I actually like differences and arguments as this potentially reflects and engages real differences in an increasingly atomised society.

And I want to see a different world, based one way or another on our ability to co-operate rationally, holistically, as difuse parts of a whole. Problems of course will remain but at least we then have a basis to learn from our mistakes and make meaningful decisions.

This process has to start now in a creation of an alternative, a counteracting tendancy to all the pettiness we're capable of. Yes a better world is possible but when I read the abuse thrown on these forums I wonder if it's probable.


Harry Hamlet has a point

21.10.2004 12:00

There's an issue here, if the SWP can so easily derail or destroy the anti-capitalist / autonomist movement, then how will the movement ever cope with confronting the much more powerful forces of capitalism itself?

Our argument has always been that the very autonomous / de-centred / vertical nature of the movement makes it virtually impossible to destroy or co-opt. But that rather falls flat if we then seem to be afraid of the Trots!

If we are right then we should simply ignore the SWP because the nature of our movement means nothing they do or say can stop us anyway.

Doktor Logik

esf future

23.10.2004 10:56

the whole experience of the global discussion and debate held not just in the formal confines of Alexandra Palace but on every street in every tube and in the Millenium dome a city of sleeping bags and not a boy scout in site.
people had travelled by hook and by crook to get to this home of the us/gb war government the first cracks have started to appear in the Labour party front the rest of the ratbags will obviously rally rounfd as they send more trops in to quell the rebellion in fallujah noticeably from from liverpool and glasgow slum areas ,more cannon fodder for upper class generals and other moneyed scum to slaughter.

we should perhaps address the crying problems of stopping the imperialist slaughte machine attack all their bases here both propagana and active resistance aimed at the trops break them from loyalty to the scum monarchy and turn their guns the other way and shoot the rich not the poor.

other than that the city of London was rocked.


You sound like Joseph Stalin

24.10.2004 11:34

I understand the irritation caused by the SWP.
I have been on the receiving end often enough.
However they are only going to be defeated
by people who understand their arguments
and counter them.

And who in their right mind refers to the
SWP (who broke away from Trotskyism about
50 years ago) as Trotskyists?

I think their opportunism over the Iraq war
should be criticised. I think they have
blurred the distinction between defending
Muslims against attack and tailending the
right-wing clerics who are (mis)leading
the Iraqi resistance.

However writing as if you wanted to tar all
trotskyists with the same brush (by identitying them
with a group which is decidedly not
Trotskyist and never war) is just going
to make you sound like Jo Stalin.

Bad idea.

Derek McMillan
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have to agre with javier

24.10.2004 12:55

The leaders of these organisations are
Scumbags... and diologe with them is like diolgiging with a corpuse.

We need to be more posative than the "lets here two sides of the argument" bergade... haveing worked with them for the first 3 months of the ESF process I came to realise that they were "fantasists" who had littel conection to the ESF process... lets move behond dilog with the dead and talk to the liveing. The arnt two sides to this arguemet one of the sides is a fantasey... move on...



25.10.2004 09:54

The SWP are sectarian and their hierarchy is comprised of middle class internationalists. Everything you say about them is true. The SWP care nothing about what is happening in poor British working class communities. In fact many of them work as community outreach workers and council officers who work with and in the community. All of the oppressive community participation methodology that is imposed onto communities, especially communities that have received regeneration funding, comes from outreach workers and council officers who are members of the SWP.

Yes the SWP are a repressive bunch. You are right what you say about their organisational skills, but don’t most of the middle classes have these skills? If you go into the poor communities you will find middle class community members speaking on behalf of the community. Lets face it; from childhood up these middle class ginks are taught to come to the fore and to organise. George Orwell, who was middle class himself, said of the middle classes:

A person of bourgeois origin (middle class) goes through life with some expectation of getting what he wants within reasonable limits. Hence the fact that within times of stress, educated people tend to come to the front. They’re no more gifted than the others, their education is generally quite useless in itself, but they are used to and accustomed to a certain amount of deference and consequently have the cheek necessary to a commander. That they will come to the front seems to be taken for granted, always and everywhere.

But petty inconvenience and the indignity of being kept waiting about, having to do everything at other peoples convenience is inherent in working class life. A thousand influences constantly press a workingman down into a passive role. He does not act he is acted upon. He feels himself the slave of some mysterious power. (George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier 1937).

I have no respect whatsoever for the SWP they are all a bunch of middle class control freaks. How the hell working class people can join their ranks is beyond me.

Marxist Leninist not Trotskyite
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08.11.2004 01:21

i am totally offended that you would dare attack our fellow redder than dead comrades and brothers. Come the revolution you will be first up against the wall.

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