The ICFI Defends Trotskyism

“Morality and the Revolutionary Party”

This article was originally published in the News Line on November 2, 1985

It is now four months to the day since Aileen Jennings’ letter was read out to the Political Committee of the Workers Revolutionary Party.

In those four months the party has undergone an irrevocable qualitative change and the most traumatic and unforgettable experience. For the first time, and possibly the last, the party has been split not on tactical and programmatic issues, but on the most basic question of revolutionary morality.

The split has taken place on the relation between the sexes in the party and the right of the party to defend the basic rights of its members and to judge and discipline any leader who abuses his authority and the power vested in him by the party.

Any party or leadership which tolerates or condones in any way the abuse of political power for personal gratification is opening the door to bureaucratic degeneration.

The former member of the Workers Revolutionary Party Central Committee Gerry Healy violated the most fundamental principle of Bolshevism, the principle on which Lenin split from the Mensheviks in 1903.

His refusal to answer to the Central Committee, the highest body in the party between congresses, was a total and irrevocable break with the principles which he had hitherto claimed to uphold.

Bolshevism teaches that no person can stand higher than the revolutionary party, the historically determined instrument of the struggle for workers’ power.

As Trotsky put it in The New Course: “Leninism is genuine freedom from formalistic prejudices, from moralizing doctrinalism, from all forms of intellectual conservatism attempting to bind the will to revolutionary action.

“But to believe that Leninism signifies ‘anything goes’ would be an irremediable mistake. Leninism includes the morality, not formal but genuinely revolutionary, of mass action and the mass party.

“Nothing is so alien to it as functionary arrogance and bureaucratic cynicism. A mass party has its own morality, which is the bond of fighters in and for action.

“Demagogy is irreconcilable with the spirit of a revolutionary party because it is deceitful: by presenting one or another simplified solution of the difficulties of the hour, it inevitably undermines the next future, weakens the party’s self-confidence.”

These are the essence of the political differences between the Workers Revolutionary Party and the anti-party group. Their philosophy is based on the principle of “anything goes.” It is positivism and pragmatism.

The essence of their position is that there is no such thing as principles, that there is no such thing as objective truth and therefore no absolute within every relative.

The criterion therefore is pure expediency and opportunism, where truth is purely what is considered profitable and useful to one individual or one particular clique.

It is a completely individualist philosophy which glorifies the will of the individual, of the great leader, and the cult of individual infallibility and counterposes it to so-called “mob rule” which is the movement of the masses expressing law-governed historical necessity.

This is not to deny the role of leaders and their will and perception in history. But the method and outlook of an anti-party group which rejects the will of a democratic majority in the party rejects the revolutionary role of the working class and above all its vanguard in the form of the revolutionary party.

As Trotsky said, again in his History of the Russian Revolution: “The masses go into a revolution not with a prepared plan of social reconstruction, but with a sharp feeling that they cannot endure the old regime.

“Only the guiding layers of a class have a political program and even this still requires the test of events and the approval of the masses... Only on the basis of a study of political processes in the masses themselves, can we understand the role of parties and leaders, whom we least of all are inclined to ignore.

“They constitute not an independent, but nevertheless a very important, element in the process. Without a guiding organization the energy of the masses would dissipate like steam not enclosed in a piston-box.

“But nevertheless, what moves things is not the piston or the box but the steam.” (Leon Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution, page 18, Gollancz edition)

The arrogance, the cynicism, the perverse indifference and hostility to democratic centralism is not only a clear expression of the reactionary subjective idealist outlook of this group, but bears the unmistakable imprint of a reactionary middle-class clique.

It is not prepared to subordinate itself to the historic interests of the working class represented by the revolutionary party, its organizational rules and discipline.

Such a group cannot and never will lead a revolutionary struggle to overthrow capitalism. But they are entirely capable of assisting the counter-revolutionary labour bureaucracy and imperialism itself against the revolution.

That was the essence of their unsuccessful attempts to mount a counter-revolution within the Workers Revolutionary Party. The morality of the revolutionary party is the indispensable foundation for the organization of the party, the mobilization of the masses and the overthrow of the imperialist state.

We will let Trotsky have the final word: “Bolshevism created the type of the authentic revolutionist, who subordinates to historic goals irreconcilable with contemporary society the conditions of his personal existence, his ideas, and his moral judgements.

“The necessary distance from bourgeois ideology was kept up in the party by vigilant irreconcilability, whose inspirer was Lenin. Lenin never tired of working with his lancet, cutting off those bonds which a petty-bourgeois environment creates between the party and official social opinion.

“At the same time Lenin taught the party to create its own social opinion, resting upon the thoughts and feelings of the rising class. Thus by a process of selection and education, and in continual struggle, the Bolshevik party created not only a political but a moral medium of its own, independent of bourgeois social opinion and implacably opposed to it.

“Only this permitted the Boisheviks to overcome the waverings in their own ranks and reveal in action that courageous determination without which the October victory would have been impossible.” (History of the Russian Revolution, Vol. 3. Page 166, Gollancz edition)

That is why the Redgrave-Healy group must and will be expelled and the party cleared of this corrupt bureaucratic degeneration as well as its reactionary subjective idealist outlook and method.