Trotskyism and May 1968
It was the role of Stalinism that prevented revolution, insists Rex Dunn
In his article, ‘May 68 to colour revolutions’ (Weekly Worker May 31), Mike Macnair relies too much on sweeping generalisations. You cannot criticise Trotskyism without first considering its nemesis: ie, Stalinism. This becomes abundantly clear when you examine the Trotskyist archives of the post-war period. Despite everything, they bring us closer to the truth, whereas Mike’s abstract arguments take us further away.
Let us begin with the Fourth International. Founded by Trotsky in 1938, it was a descendant of the Left Opposition within the Bolsheviks. Factions and splits appeared even before Trotsky’s death and more were to follow. In 1953 the FI split into the International Secretariat, on the one side, led by Ernest Mandel in Europe, along with JP Cannon, Joseph Hansen and George Novak in the United States; and the International Committee, led by Gerry Healy. There was a partial reunification in 1963, based on an agreement between the International Secretariat and the American Socialist Workers Party over the nature of the Cuban Revolution, and they formed the United Secretariat of the Fourth International (USFI). They were joined by the Moreno group in Argentina, who were supporters of guerrilla struggle. But Healy rejected the reunification on the grounds that the FI was “revisionist” and heading towards “liquidationism”.
Like the FI, the IC developed other sections in other countries, as well. They were the dominant groups in the post-war period (of which more later).
As the bearer of “the mantle of October”, why did Trotskyism not flourish? To quote Marx, “The weapon of criticism cannot, of course, replace criticism by weapons; material force must be overthrown by material force, but theory also becomes a material force as soon as it has gripped the masses.”1 Unfortunately, as history shows, more often than not, this can take a reactionary turn. Concretely, between 1928 and 1938, Stalinism completed the counterrevolution from within, which had been started by imperialism without (ie, it fomented the civil war in 1918).
In order to defend its own interests, the bureaucracy, now headed by Stalin, adopted a utopian ideology, or ‘socialism in one country’, linked to ‘peaceful coexistence’ with imperialism. Nationalism and autarky was to be the way forward. But the imposition of the five-year plans required a ‘terror state’, whilst the international revolution was abandoned, in the name of ‘communism’. At the same time, Stalinism became a material force within the international working class - in a negative sense. Thus imperialism was given a free hand to determine the course of world history - including another world war and its aftermath. By allowing this to happen, Stalinism denied the Trotskyist movement the opportunity of becoming a material force in the sense that Marx intended.
Crux of the matter
According to Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky, if the socialist revolution is to be successful, the bourgeois state must be overthrown by the revolutionary class. Only then does it have a chance to bring about the socialist transformation of society.
But, according to Mike, after 1968 the far left did not “think about revolution and revolutionary strategy” in that way. The Fourth International was “shaped by the character of the cold war regime and ideology”: ie, “the decision of the United States not to go for World War III”. The Marshall aid programme was designed to shore up western Europe economically, as “a preliminary to the overthrow of the Soviet Union”. But, following the Chinese revolution of 1949 and the development of nuclear weapons by the Soviets, “the United States adopted a policy of containment, as opposed to rollback”.
Apropos May 1968 itself, Mike argues that it “had the symptoms of a revolutionary crisis”, but it was not really like that at all. Therefore it is wrong to describe it as such. (In fact this is a reflection of the degeneration of Trotskyism.) Yet Mike is right to criticise the Mandelites’ characterisation of Hungary 1956, Czechoslovakia 1968 and later Poland 1980-81 as a manifestation of the “political revolution”. (Cf Trotsky’s theory of the Soviet Union as a degenerated workers’ state - therefore the overthrow of the Stalinist bureaucracy was all that was needed to put the socialist revolution back on track.) In reality, of course, these events marked the resurrection of nationalism, combined with the reactionary role of the Catholic church, in response to years of Stalinist repression.
At this point Mike introduces Richard Vinen’s book, The long 1968; radical protest and its enemies. Even though the Trotskyists (both the Mandelites and the increasingly reformist American SWP) were critical of Students for a Democratic Society, following Vinen, Mike cites the SDS as an example of how sections of the far left anticipated “Bill Clinton’s Assertive Multilateralism and humanitarian intervention”. Later “68er Jack Straw adopted his contemporary Robin Cook’s tag of an ‘ethical foreign policy’ to justify Blairite interventionism.” Cue the rightward trajectory of the remnants of the International Marxist Group and especially the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty: the IMG has merged with reformism, whilst the AWL ended up supporting imperialism in Ireland and the Middle East.
On this basis, Mike proceeds to develop a link between US containment and his own theory of bureaucratic collectivism, which, he claims, was adopted by the British, French and German establishment:
the theory of convergence between east and west, driven by the common needs of modern industrial society - bureaucratic, technocratic regimes, utilitarianism. Social democratic governments were widely accepted, but equally nationalists like de Gaulle.
(Compare the rise of finance capital and neoliberalism over the past 50 years, which is based on privatisation, welfare cuts, globalisation as opposed to economic nationalism or the free movement of capital and labour, the atomisation of the workforce, in order to extract more profit, which gives rise to the working poor, etc. Although neoliberalism is now being challenged by a move towards economic nationalism, on both the right and the left - with Trump on the one side and a pro-Brexit Corbyn on the other.)
1. Much of the above is abstract, which under closer inspection does not bear relation to the facts. Rather, in the real world, things develop in a much more contradictory way, wherein mediating factors play an important role. Vis-à-vis a tiny organisation like the Fourth International, it was unable to test its theory of revolution in practice, which led to bitter factional fights over strategy and tactics, ending in splits and the tradition of left sectarianism.
2. Mike’s understanding of the post-war dispute within the FI is also wrong. Bureaucratic collectivism was the basis of the first big dispute among Trotskyists before the war (ie, between Burnham/Shachtman and Trotsky), which centred on the nature of the Soviet Union, not convergence between east and west.
(At this point, I should mention that other split between the FI and the International Socialists/SWP in Britain, led by Tony Cliff. The latter went on to develop his theory that the Soviet Union was ‘state capitalist’, based on the ideas of Burnham and Shachtman. Then there is the question of its activism. Here Mike is right to criticise the SWP, because it privileges strike action above revolutionary politics. Of course, this is an opportunistic way of party-building, which is self-defeating. In this regard, the SWP can never make up its mind whether it is a Trotskyist or syndicalist movement!)
3. These disputes were a reflection of the enormous pressure exerted on the Trotskyist movement by Stalinism, which had reduced it to an impotent movement on the fringes of the class struggle, unable to move to centre stage and influence events.
4. May 1968 was a revolutionary crisis, even if the “old state order” was not challenged. This was not the fault of the far left at the time, which was under the influence of the Trotskyists, circa 1948-49. Rather the working class and the students, who started the uprising - let alone the Trotskyists themselves - were never in a position to challenge the bourgeois state, let alone overthrow it, because of the counterrevolutionary role of Stalinism; in particular the French Communist Party, which preferred peaceful coexistence to revolution.
In The prophet outcast, Deutscher tells us that in 1939, Burnham and Shachtman “attacked national ownership of industry and national planning, saying that these served as the foundations of bureaucratic collectivism and totalitarian slavery”, whereas Trotsky continued to defend the Soviet Union, even after the Red Army invaded Finland. Deutscher writes:
When they spoke about the Soviet Union’s “new class” and bureaucratic collectivism, he reproached them with abandoning Marxism and that it was preposterous to speak of a new mode of exploitation in a country where the means of production were nationalised. Yet had he himself not declared, if within a few years socialism were to fail in the west, bureaucratic collectivism would supersede capitalism as the new, universal system of exploitation? [Eventually] The American Trotskyists split into a “majority” which, led by James P Cannon, accepted Trotsky’s view, and a “minority” which followed Burnham and Shachtman. Trotsky trusted that, after the exit of the “petty bourgeois and careerist elements”, the SWP would strike deeper roots in the American working class. This did not happen: the SWP remained a tiny chapel … Trotskyist groups in other countries were also affected, for everywhere, especially in France, quite a few members accepted Burnham’s or Shachtman’s views.2
The Trotskyist archive needs to be examined, because it reveals the true nature of the problem - not just for the Trotskyists, but for all revolutionary Marxists: ie, how to re-establish the revolutionary political continuity, based on the ideas of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky, which had been broken by the victory of the Stalinist counterrevolution? I can only scratch the surface here.
Note: (i) Trotskyists (like myself) must refrain from knee-jerk responses to old foes, because, as history shows, no Trotskyist group was immune to the pressure of political degeneration. (ii) For the sake of clarity, I have confined my study to the bitter factional struggle between the Mandelites and the Healyites, which erupted at the end of the 1940s and continued thereafter.
This year is important, because the FI was grappling with the post-war situation - in particular, the state of the Soviet Union, the situation in Europe, and the threat of another war.
In this context it is worthwhile summarising the draft theses of Mandel (aka Ernest Germain) on the post-war Soviet Union. These constituted the position of the International Secretariat of the FI.
Note that Germain expresses the same rational optimism in the capacity of the masses to achieve “adequate” consciousness, which we also see in the works of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky. His main points are as follows:
(i) “The Soviet Union … and the Red Army dominates the European continent”. But it was not the dominant power in the world. Internally it pursued a policy of “bureaucratic expansionism” - Stalinism’s answer to “encirclement of Russia” by the “imperialist bloc”.
(ii) Given the devastation of the Soviet Union, the need for reconstruction was the “dominant factor”.
(iii) The Soviet Union’s “deep-going internal crisis” prior to 1941 was averted by Hitler’s invasion. But this only provided a temporary respite, because the regime was unable to resolve “a single one of its contradictions”.
Therefore, argues Germain, the “fundamental alternative for the USSR, a degenerated workers’ state”, remains: “forward to socialism or backward to capitalism”.
(iv) Stalinism is still capable of “left turns” by “bureaucratic methods” as before (eg, the turn to the five-year plans and collectivisation to resolve the 1927-28 crisis).
(v) But in 1945 it began with a campaign against “pro-capitalist tendencies” (eg, the Red Army was “infected” by fraternisation with allied soldiers in Europe). It also introduced a new five-year plan, whose aim was to restore the status quo prior to 1941.
(vi) Eastern Europe was treated as a “buffer zone”. Initially it would be used to exploit the resources of the occupied countries for reconstruction of the Soviet Union. This was accompanied by the redistribution of land to middle and poor peasants.
(vii) Nationalisation of industry and agriculture was not a top priority, so the social nature of the buffer countries would remain the same.
(viii) Germain doubts whether the Soviet Union will “objectively carry through socialist revolution” in eastern Europe.
(ix) The policy of plunder is a “catastrophe” for the people of the occupied countries. For the time being, Stalinism’s strategy is not to establish organs of dual power.
(x) The Nazi occupation did not overturn socialised property relations in the USSR. Therefore it continues to have a “different social character” to the capitalist countries, despite the oppressive role of the bureaucracy. Compared to private property relations, it is still a “superior social system”. The characterisation of the Soviet Union as a form of ‘state capitalism’ is “playing with words”.
(xi) If imperialism is to be defeated, there must be a true proletarian revolution which “pass[es] over the corpse of Stalinism”.
(xii) Meanwhile, we defend the USSR, but this does not mean remaining “silent” about the nature and crimes of Stalinism or “abandoning the principle of class struggle”.
(xiii) Whither the Soviet Union itself? The fourth five-year plan will provide momentary respite, although it is insufficient to prevent the return of an economic and political crisis. The latter will enable the proletariat to “recover again its energy and revolutionary will to struggle” towards the necessary political revolution to overthrow the bureaucracy, and restore the workers’ state.
At the same time, the document shows that the FI was gripped with a strong fear of a new imperialist war: The capitalist order is impelled towards war, because it needs to find an outlet for the productive forces, which are threatened with “asphyxiation”; “normal growth of production is insufficient” because there is insufficient demand, given the immiseration of the European masses. Hence war and armaments production can offer a way out.
(In reality, the Marshall Plan based itself on economic investment to aid recovery in western Europe, especially west Germany, in order to allow American imperialism to maintain its hold over the west, and control the working class. In response, the Kremlin tightened its control over its “buffer zone”.)
Apropos Germany, Germain states: “In reality, only the revolutionary action of the German masses is capable of foiling both the plans of the occupying powers as well as those of the German bourgeoisie and thereby deprive imperialism of its main base in continental Europe.” Similarly, “a revolutionary tendency must arise in the British labour movement” - and in America, where the masses are solidly behind Truman. As for the world situation, “Above all the colonial sphere continues to experience the most profound turmoil and to revolutionise the dynamics of the entire world situation.” (NB: We have not yet reached the position, whereby the colonial sphere has become the “epicentre” of world revolution.)
On the basis of all the above, the FI adopted the following tasks:
(i) It demands an end to the “killing weight” of Stalinism in the buffer zone: we must “fight the Stalinist terror against the workers’ movement”. We also demand “the immediate withdrawal of occupation troops”. The reactionary role of the latter will only throw the middle classes, along with many workers, into the arms of imperialism.
(ii) It must instil in the masses the need to struggle against war. The reformists - ie, the centrist and social democratic parties - have chosen the camp of the bourgeoisie and imperialism against the USSR. This leads them to extol the virtues of bourgeois ‘democracy’ at home, whilst “their imperialist robber operations” continue against the colonial people now in revolt. This “ties the masses to Stalinism and wipe[s] out in their eyes the Stalinist treacheries”.
(ii) The FI needs to wage an ideological offensive against centrists and reformists. This includes a struggle against the division of Germany, which plays into the hands of both the Stalinists and the imperialists …
(iii) It must seek to organise a powerful revolutionary movement against reformism and Stalinism in western Europe and in the USA. Central to this is the demand for the “United Socialist States of Europe” …
(iv) Support and build the independent struggle of the proletarian and colonial masses. (N.B. I have left out Yugoslavia.)3
Considering the context, I do not think that there is much to disagree with here.
In Pabloism reviewed,4 written by comrade Peng Shuzi for the FI, the main themes of Pabloite revisionism are examined:
(i) The prognosis of “centuries of deformed workers’ states”.
(ii) The “new reality” consists of a new epicentre for the world revolution: ie, the new revolutionary upsurge is limited to colonial/semi-colonial countries. (“From the traditional Trotskyist viewpoint, only a revolutionary upsurge and victory in the advanced capitalist countries constitutes the ‘fundamental condition’ of the disintegration of Stalinism.”)
(iii) The self-reform of the bureaucracy is possible. Therefore Stalinism can move from betrayal of the world revolution to becoming its ally.
(iv) Communist parties are capable of being reformed, under pressure: ie, being transformed, so that they can lead the revolution to victory.
(v) “This concept not only leads to a fundamental revision of the positions of Trotskyism in regard to Stalinism, but also denies the Trotskyist movement all justification for its continued independent existence.”
(vi) It also entails the public disavowal of the transitional programme.
Peng’s conclusion was that our “historic mission” is to struggle against Pabloism, to raise individual consciousness, consolidate and reinforce the whole movement, to “reaffirm the fundamental principles contained in the Transitional Program and all the fundamental conceptions of Trotskyism, especially in relation to the nature and role of Stalinism”.
In order to do this, “a democratic procedure completely in the Bolshevik manner must be adopted”.
The next section raises difficult questions, which are a challenge for all Marxists. For one thing, the colonial revolution in the post-war period had become an objective factor in the international class struggle; whilst the long post-war boom in the west had given social democracy and reformism a new lease of life; therefore the class struggle was at a low ebb.
The far left also had to take into account the fact that these were national liberation movements led by Stalinists and nationalists (eg, China on the one side, the Viet Minh in Indo-China, etc). Although they were nationalist in character, given the weight of imperialism, national independence could only be achieved by means of the expropriation of capitalist ownership (nationalisation from above), accompanied by the move to a one-party state, the repression of all opposition, etc. Thus in the long term, these revolutions could only succeed as part of a worldwide socialist revolution, led by the proletariat of the advanced countries.
What follows is based, firstly, on criticisms of the FI by the International Committee: ie, Healy’s Socialist Labour League/Workers Revolutionary Party in Britain (Cliff Slaughter was one of its main theoreticians). I shall include Joseph Hansen’s reply on behalf of the United Secretariat of the FI.
Volume 1 of Trotskyism vs revisionism, edited by Cliff Slaughter, covers the period, 1953-63.5 In his foreword, Slaughter attacks James Cannon, leader of the US SWP, because he had an “idealist and subjective brand of politics”. Hence the SWP was
unable to fight Pablo politically, because they shared the same positive method, which, though they differed in tactical questions, such as the attitude to Stalinism, nevertheless constrained Cannon to accept … the entire perspective of Pablo on the inevitability of a third world war (pxvi).
Hence this had implications vis-à-vis any alignment with Stalinism against imperialism, which is rightly seen as the perpetrator of the cold war.
Volume 4 focuses on the IC’s charge that the FI is guilty of adaptation to the colonial revolution, which now becomes the epicentre of the world revolution. Slaughter points out what happened a decade down the road - the ‘reunification’ of the SWP with the Pabloites, based on agreement about the nature of the Cuban Revolution and its leadership:
Cuba, according to [the reunified FI], was a workers’ state led by a political movement (July 26 movement of Castro), which was forced by pressure of events to successfully undertake the tasks of Marxist leadership. Castro was hailed as a ‘natural Marxist’. Ben Bella of Algeria … would in all likelihood follow his path. [Thus] The IC, and particularly the SLL, were vilified as sectarian opponents of the real revolution.6
In Cuba - the acid test: a reply to the ultra-left sectarians (1962) Joseph Hansen attacks the SLL for its refusal to accept that Cuba is a workers’ state, however deformed! Therefore, despite nationalisation of the land, etc, Cuba represented a “new type of capitalism”. Hence, when the Cuban missile crisis erupted in October 1962, the SLL could only take a pacifist line against American imperialism: ie, Kennedy’s brinkmanship vis-à-vis his threat to start World War III and unleash nuclear armageddon if Khrushchev did not back down.
On the other hand, the charge that the FI had adopted Pablo’s position - ie, that the colonial world is now the epicentre of the world revolution - is correct. Henceforth the FI is in danger of succumbing to Pabloite revisionism and liquidationism itself!7
In the draft resolution for the Ninth World Congress of the reunified Fourth International (October 1968) the drift towards the ‘periphery’ of the class struggle received a massive jolt!8
Whilst the draft begins by referring to the setbacks for US imperialism in Vietnam, the preoccupation with the colonial revolution is disturbed and the FI is forced to react to the May events in France. Hence we see a return to an overestimation of the possibilities of a revolutionary upsurge in the imperialist sector (cf Germain’s prognosis, way back in 1947).
The draft reiterates the leadership’s existing position: the world revolution continues to be based on three sectors: firstly, “the colonial revolution”, secondly, “the revolution in the bureaucratically degenerated countries” and, lastly, “the proletarian revolution in the imperialist countries”. But following the May events, “the dynamic of this interrelation has changed” - because now the revolutionary struggles in the latter sector “occupy a more important place in this worldwide process … than in the past 25 years”. Yet even at the very heart of imperialism, the United States, the struggle at the “periphery” still occupies an important place - viz, that of the black masses (p5). On the other hand, there is “a profound crisis [within French] society, and parliamentary democracy in Britain”, as well as a “pre-revolutionary situation in Spain”, plus “a stirring of the West German workers after their long passivity”, not to mention “the rise of a youth vanguard in Italy”. All are “signs that this is no passing phenomenon”.
Apropos the May events, the document adopts the same position as Jack Conrad 50 years later:
For a few days (May 24-30), the May 1968 mobilisation put the overthrow of the bourgeois order and the conquest of power objectively on the order of the day. The absence of alternative leadership, or the components of such a leadership, with sufficient authority among the workers enabled the traditional leaderships, most importantly the [Confederation Générale du Travail] and the [Parti Communiste Français], which had the greater majority of the workers behind them, to betray this movement and divert it to big economic strikes.
Compare this to comrade Conrad:
Without a revolutionary party, with the working class still dominated organisationally and ideologically by the PCF, there was never going to be a socialist revolution ….
a real Communist Party would have ensured that the working class identified with, defended and moved to lead the students. As the workers swung into battle, the party would advance the minimum demand for a Sixth Republic ever more boldly, ever more concretely ….
If only … the general strike had been allowed to continue. If only … the workers’ occupations had been encouraged to welcome in the student revolutionaries. If only … workers had gone beyond the economic limits of wages and conditions. If only … the action committees had been coordinated and given unified national expression. If only … workers had established defence guards. If only … they had raised their sights to include the demand for a Sixth Republic and a workers’ government supported by the middle classes ….9
We are all Pabloites now!
On the one hand, 1968 had the effect of slowing down the turn to the periphery. On the other, the betrayal of this movement meant that, over the next decade the turn to the periphery was resumed, albeit even more so. This was partly because the worldwide youth radicalisation continued throughout the 1970s, which was political, as well as counter-cultural.
Before long it would be extended further to include new movements; not just feminism, but also gay and lesbian rights, black liberation. At the same time, the FI leadership and its descendants conveniently downplayed the fact that they were in no position to lead the proletariat in a struggle to defeat their old nemesis: ie, Stalinism, (assisted by social democracy). In the objective sense, at least, this was through no fault of their own. But the FI’s response was reprehensible.
The fate of the International Marxist Group (British section of the FI) is a case in point: it was dominated by students and teachers. In 1968 Mandel famously urged the students to go the workers. Ditto, in the 1970s the IMG tried to build a revolutionary party by linking the anti-colonial struggle with the working class struggle in Britain. But, once again, it was powerless in the face of the Stalinist and Labour bureaucracy. It was the latter, of course, which betrayed the workers during the ‘winter of discontent’ (1978-79). A few months later Thatcher won the election and set about dismantling the post-war consensus by means of privatisation, deregulation of the market, attacking trade union rights, etc.
What was the IMG’s response? It made a turn towards the Labour Party! Within a few years it was supporting the Labour bureaucracy, along with what Mike calls ‘human rights’ issues, such as oppressed minority groups. (Cf the situation today, whereby the far left remains caught up in this new periphery. But these oppressed minority groups have a habit of multiplying: gay and lesbian rights have become LGBT, whilst socialist feminism has been abandoned. What next? Moreover, these human rights issues, in the guise of identity politics, is compatible with the ideology of neoliberalism: ie, its social agenda, which masks its vicious, anti-working class economic agenda.)
But other Trotskyists were not immune either. In 1995, for example, the post-Healy ‘reconstructed’ WRP, led by Cliff Slaughter, liquidated itself into the spontaneous struggles that had briefly erupted: ie, the so-called ‘street people’ (only myself and one other comrade opposed the decision!). Thus both the Mandelites and the Healyites had become Pabloite revisionists - given the insurmountable obstacle of Stalinism and social democracy, they decided to abandon the centrality of the proletarian revolution, in favour of the periphery, despite a ‘temporary adjustment’ in the aftermath of 1968.
The rest of Mike’s article focuses on things such as the mass strike (which can become a tool of the right as well as the left) and the “human rights offensive”, which took off in particular after the American defeat in Vietnam. This is extended right up to the level of the state: by the late 70s, partly as a result of the Jimmy Carter presidency, “The US stopped backing military nationalist regimes” and saw
democratic transition, in the first place in Latin America. This involved the creation of parliamentary forms … and, of course, those who ran the new ‘democratic forms’ were completely bought by the US. They went along with large-scale privatisation.
As for the “colour revolutions” over the next 20-30 years, such as in Kosovo and later in Tunisia, Egypt and the Ukraine, etc, once again Mike lays the blame at the door of the May events in France, because it was “too short, too concentrated, too shallow to actually amount to a serious revolutionary crisis” ! He notes that “the Socialist Workers Party and others on the left also believe that if people come out on the streets the mass movement will materialise out of nothing”.
When imperialism decided that regime change in Libya was a good idea, and that bombing the hell out of the place was the right way to do it, this led to a failed state and the rise of Islamic extremism. Yet “the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty still thinks that this was a worthwhile humanitarian intervention”. And so on. Today, “the SWP members who could be politicising the hundreds of thousands who have been drawn into politics thanks to Jeremy Corbyn are not interested.” Remember the fate of the IMG!
The primary reason for the rapid degeneration of the remnants of the Trotskyist movement rests with the counterrevolutionary role of Stalinism and its poisonous legacy. As a result of historical isolation and marginalisation - ie, its impotence and inability to influence the class struggle, wherein the working class is the main component - Trotskyism as a whole began to move towards the “periphery”, abandoning Marxism in the process. Yet it was Stalinism which opened the door for the rise of “post-war modern society”, as Mike puts it - or what I prefer to call the “society of the spectacle”, whereby “news/propaganda, advertising and [entertainment] … serves as a total justification for the conditions and aims of the existing system” (Guy Debord).
But, as Mike himself reminds us, the central task remains, which is to organise the struggle of the working class “under its own independent international policy”. In this regard, the fundamental problem for the left as a whole is that rational optimism - characterised by the writings of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky - is rarely matched by reality. But once in a while, it does!
The thing is we should be working out how we can best be prepared for the next time this happens. Meanwhile we must make sure that we do not let Stalinism off the hook, when it comes to explaining the events that surrounded May 1968.
1. K Marx, ‘On the Jewish question’ CW Moscow 1977, p182.
2. I Deutscher The prophet outcast London 2003, pp384, 84, 86.
9. J Conrad,‘Wonderful yet unperformed’ Weekly Worker May 10 2018.