Despite its length, Daniel Harvey’s full-page response (‘Environmental crisis is real’, November 15) to my wee letter (November 8) essentially reinforces the point I am making: climate change - even dramatic climate change - is a natural process, which has occurred throughout the life of the Earth since its inception.
My point that Antarctica was ice-free, with tropical blue seas, was not to promote time travel to some idyllic, pre-human historic period. I am, of course, aware that the overall environmental conditions for existing humanity would be unsustainable. That wasn’t the point: the point was to illustrate the cyclical nature of heat and cold on the planet. Ice caps are not some sort of indigenous feature of Earth - we neither invented climate change nor can we stop it, as the green lobby demands. Much of what Daniel says in his article is entirely complementary to what I said - except perhaps to state that 90% of all species which ever lived on the planet were extinct before we got here.
What we have to do is to minimise our contribution to climate change, which may be as high as 50% of the current effects. The other factor, of course, is the misdistribution of wealth and power. Why is it that the Netherlands can cope with rising sea levels, and indeed reclaim land from the sea, while third-world islands risk submersion? The answer is the lack of wealth, and of science and engineering capacity, in those impoverished countries. These are questions of class power, which are well within our human capacity to resolve.
Me and Daniel may disagree as to what the main human driver of climate change is, but let us agree that fossil fuel production of C02 is a principal factor. If the effects of coal, gas and oil in producing C02 is such a pivotal question, than the pivotal answer is carbon capture and storage (CCS) and other clean coal/gas systems.
Jim Cook suggests we will not be able to resolve this question without the overthrow of capitalism (Letters, November 15). I don’t agree - sophisticated CCS systems have already been developed. The Don Valley scheme (based at my colliery, Hatfield Main, Doncaster) would have taken 100% of C02 emissions, and 90% of all other emissions out of the process. Its by-product is hydrogen, which was planned to be given free to the council to operate trams and buses (hydrogen is an inert, non-polluting gas) and in turn could have produced virtually free public transport in the region.
The scheme would have been up and running within two years, producing the cheapest fuel in the country at something like £30 per megawatt hour. Under a ‘free’ market - and now free of the fossil fuel ‘emissions’ tax - there would have been a ‘dash to coal’, with the last-minute revival and rebirth of the National Union of Mineworkers.
The European Union called it “the best carbon reduction scheme in the world” and offered £1 billion to help fund it. A further £1 billion was raised from private funding and the government was supposed to match this. No-one can tell me it was anything other than politics and class spite which caused them to pull the plug and let the scheme fall.
But if the rising levels of C02 around the world is the critical element in climate change, CCS is the urgent and critical solution. No other scheme could virtually end fossil-fuel C02 emissions within a five-year period without killing the vital industries of massive developing countries like China and India. That would not meet with the approval of the green lobby, of course, because it allows the coal and gas and oil industry to continue, while taking away the main stick to whack them with.
50% of the world’s energy comes from coal, and we haven’t scratched the surface in terms of reserves. It will be mined and, that being the case, we must ensure it is burned as productively and environmentally safely as possible. The elimination of C02 emissions and continued coal, gas and oil extraction are perfectly compatible.
There is indeed a crisis, but one well within our capacity to manage and contain.
On October 19 the world was stunned to learn the International Bolshevik Tendency had split. We realised the seriousness of this occurrence because the split statement was titled: ‘A note on the world situation. Recent departures and line change on Russia’. The falling out of a few dozen, at the most, might seem to be a storm in a teacup to cynics, but these were the last living remainders of True Trotskyism and so contained the only hope of humanity for the world revolution and universal human liberation. Or so some, at least, believed.
The split came after a 10-year internal faction fight. The majority - ‘Nimps’ (‘Russia is not imperialist’), followers of Tom Riley from Canada - walked out, and now the minority - ‘Imps’, followers of Bill Logan from New Zealand - took over with their new line. However, the mystery of why a majority should abandon ship was solved when the majority statement came out on October 24. This revealed that the majority was not the majority at all, because another faction, based in South Asia - IBT SA - existed, which correctly denounced both as pro-imperialist. Those who said Russia was not imperialist wanted to be neutral in the coups in the Maidan in February 2014, in Egypt in July 2013, in Turkey in July 2016 and also in the constitutional coup in Brazil in May 2016, because they were all bourgeois forces and it didn’t matter what happened as a result.
This led to outright denial by the Nimps that there was any US/Israel involvement in the Egyptian coup - or at least that it did not benefit the US or Israel in any way, despite open boasting in the Zionist press of their victory. The slaughter of Egyptian workers was a matter of indifference, to which the SA comrades objected strongly. In Turkey it was merely a matter of degree of democracy, US involvement was denied and when proof was requested by the SA, reply came there none.
Previously the ‘left’ opposition Nimps had attacked Imp Barbara Dorn for formally taking a dual defeatist position on the 2014 Maidan coup and subsequent civil war, whilst demanding Russia hand over Crimea and Sevastopol, Russia’s Black Sea naval base, to Ukraine: ie, to Nato and the USA. However, the Nimps took a neutral position in the US-funded and organised and fascist-led Maidan coup. The SA roundly denounce both:
“It has flinched from the struggle against imperialism, particularly the USA. The ‘defenders of [IBT leader Joseph] Seymour’s Marxism’ … are seeking the line of least resistance, revising Lenin and Trotsky’s lessons. They are defending the treacherous position, especially for the colonial people, as ‘tradition’. They have showed a cynical and bystander’s attitude on the events of imperialist ‘regime change’ and national liberation. The persistent abstentionist arguments from both factions, covered by ultra-radical phrases about ‘dual defeatism’ - from the argument that ‘Russia was and is imperialist’ just after the Russo-Georgian war in 2008 to the neutralist position on the coups in Egypt in 2013 and in Turkey in 2016 - were the result of the subordinating attitude before imperialist pressure. (This attitude is also related to Iran, Libya, Ukraine, Syria and Venezuela.)”
The remaining Sparts hang together because they all think the original 1963 split from the US Socialist Workers Party took with it the golden thread of the continuity of Trotskyism and this golden thread made in the only genuine Trotskyist group on the planet until the late 70s, when Tom and Bill began to go into opposition.
In the summer of 2017 there came a bolt from the blue - or, more specifically, from the mothership. The struggle against the chauvinist hydra - document of the Seventh International Conference of the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist), translated from French, told us the shocking news that the ICL had been wrong on the national question from at least1974. They had degenerated into supporters of US imperialism (correct), but they were all right now that they had corrected these gross errors (incorrect). And they surely flagellated themselves massively in that document. But the golden thread had not been broken, fortunately, because it was all the fault of that scoundrel bogus Trotskyist ‘theoretician’, Joseph Seymour, who was accused of continually undermining and subverting Robertson’s clear revolutionary line since 1974 - at least, when the first major capitulation to US chauvinism (that monstrous Hydra!) began to kick in. Seymour is Robertson’s regular whipping boy and seems to like it. In fact, there is little change of line and it is all down to the need to recruit a group of French-speaking Quebec nationalists by giving ground on the national question and positively advocating the right of Quebec and Catalonia to secede from Canada and Spain and form their own (bourgeois) nations.
This turn led to difficulty for the IBT, because crucial to the whole Spart tradition is the theory of ‘interpenetrated peoples’. As AG, who lives in Ireland, puts it:
“The position you critique is just the recognition that in situations where there are intermingled/interpenetrated populations of relatively similar sizes with different national self-identities then there is no simple application of the bourgeois democratic demand of right of self-determination, which can be implemented in a democratic fashion. It is only by establishment of a workers’ republic that the national question can possibly be resolved democratically.”
Demanding the withdrawal of British troops, whilst sanctifying a vile, racist, supremacist ideology as a legitimate culture, is shocking. Was Nazism the ‘culture’ of the Germans, and so be respected? Defending the rights of the Zionist oppressor and equating that racist ideology with the ideology and struggles of the Palestinians for basic democratic rights is contemptible. Likewise in Cyprus the imperialist forces were the EOKA and the invasion by Turkey was a legitimate defence of that population against the neo-fascist coup.
And, no, we are not seeking a ‘democratic’ solution to the division of Ireland, but a revolutionary one. That division was imposed by fascistic terror in the months of July and August 1920 and it will have to be undone by revolutionary violence.
The Sparts had placed a big question mark over the theory of interpenetrated peoples, which contains the concomitant opposition to the forcible reunification of Ireland under capitalism. In Ireland this involves the Spart family in a ridiculous reduction of the conflict to a Catholic v Protestant conflict and adopting Gerry Adams’ loyalist veto on a united Ireland 21 years before the Good Friday agreement sold out the struggle against British imperialism. And that pernicious 1977 ‘Theses on Ireland’ was actually a move to the left. Previously the IST had a ‘For a socialist Ulster’ position - a direct capitulation to the neo-fascist Progressive Unionist Party et al.
The Hydra document contains the following on Puerto Rico:
“However, it is false that colonial oppression can’t be ended short of socialist revolution. And denouncing the possibility of Puerto Rican independence under capitalism as “neocolonial independence” is to deny Puerto Rico’s right to self-determination: ie, it’s chauvinist.”
But the ‘interpenetrated peoples’ theory still allows Workers Hammer, the ICL British paper, to deny Ireland’s right to self-determination that they have now grudgingly conceded to Puerto Rico:
“Northern Catholics, part of the Irish nation, remain oppressed. But they live within the same territory as the Protestants - a distinct community which largely defines itself against the Irish Catholic nation and which fears becoming an oppressed minority within a united Ireland. As Leninists, we oppose the Irish nationalist programme of reunifying the six counties of Northern Ireland with the southern Catholic Irish bourgeois state. An equitable solution to the conflicting claims of the interpenetrated peoples of the north requires the overthrow of capitalism throughout the British Isles.”
Does this really mean that we cannot begin the struggle against British imperialism without the permission of the loyalists, Britain’s most loyal agents in Ireland? Ah, but you see the Hydra document has thought of this condition too. Trotsky’s permanent revolution applies only to colonial countries like Guadeloupe and Puerto Rica, which has no real interpenetrated peoples. What about the Malvinas? Oops, that is a British colony with British settlers, like Gibraltar - definitively British, so no support for the 1982 invasion by that horrible Galtieri. The ICL did not seek the defeat of the British expeditionary, because they said the war was fought in the wrong place and did not threaten Argentine sovereignty.
The whole Spart family must support that imperialist position, because the golden thread depends on it. The socialist revolution requires anti-imperialists, not these apologists for the masters of life.
True or false?
Jack Conrad accuses me of giving a “standard”, “familiar” and “well known” account of the events leading up to the publication of Trotsky’s Lessons of October in 1924. He omits, however, to answer one critical question: does he think my account - based upon the works of Isaac Deutscher, Moshe Lewin and EH Carr - is accurate in the essentials?
If he thinks otherwise, I invite him to supply an alternative account. If not, he might explain why he portrayed Lessons in a way that readers - especially those less knowledgeable about Soviet history - were bound to interpret as an offensive move by Trotsky: an attack on the “revolutionary honour” of old Bolsheviks (“throwing down a political gauntlet”), written with the purpose of furthering his own political ambitions. In fact it was an attempt to defend himself and the historical record against a mounting wave of distortion and falsehood. This was concocted as part of an anti-Trotsky campaign, initiated and prosecuted by the ruling triumvirs - Kamenev, Zinoviev and Stalin.
The 6,000 words it took me to recount the major episodes of this campaign up to 1924 were in my view necessary to correct a seriously misleading impression created by comrade Conrad in fewer than 150 words.