Learn the lessons

Tony Cliff A world to win: life of a revolutionary Bookmarks, London 2000, pp247, £11.99

On the day before Tony Cliff died he rang Rob Hoveman, a leading member of the Socialist Workers Party with the responsibility for taking this book through to publication, and asked him whether it would be out before he "kicked the bucket". Sadly, it was not to be. But this desire to keep his finger on the pulse - still apparent at the end of his life - shines through in comrade Cliff's final book. He was active until the last.

Cliff set out to write his memoirs after doctors instructed him to slow down: "The thought of doing nothing filled me with horror," he writes, explaining the initial impetus to put his life down in words (p1). This loathing of passivity clearly shaped him as a man. Cliff was definitely an activist first, even before he was a theorist. His activity as a young man in Palestine pushed him toward original thought. Yet this urgency to grasp what he thought was the next link in the chain seems to have also led him to an ecleticism and empiricism throughout his life - Cliff's famous hunches.

At first read, A world to win seems rather impersonal for an autobiography. But this is merely a surface impression, because throughout the shifts of 20th century politics as described by Cliff, his personality shines forth. Every turn of his political life is buttressed with a joke, an anecdote or an aside which reveals his foibles as well as his strengths.

The comrade's approach to life and politics has left its mark - positive and negative - on his creation, the Socialist Workers Party. Cliff says: "The key is to be part of the one or two ready to experiment, to find new ways to take things forward, and if successful, to win the majority for the new direction" (p76). Although the intention here seems admirable, this method is not presented in any strategic fashion. It is not backed up. It seems to boil down to 'suck it and see'. While revolutionary organisations must also develop new methods for new situations, or correct old, false directions, this must involve strategic thinking. This is crystalised in a revolutionary programme. Cliff and the SWP have seen their lack of programme as a positive virtue, quite pleased that they have never been 'straitjacketed' by any such democratically debated and democratically agreed document; but experimentation without a compass leads to the centrist zigzags, to the ultra-left and reformist errors that we have seen throughout the SWP's history.

This book is an invaluable read. Cliff's journey, from left Zionism to his own brand of Marxism, surveying post-war British working class politics, is a must for any left activist wanting to understand the SWP. Cliff's frankness and self-criticism is far-reaching, though finite, and is a refreshing break from the closed thought-world we are used to from the SWP and the rest of the detritus of post-Trotsky Trotskyism.

There is too much in the book for me to give justice to an exhaustive critical appraisal. What is most revealing is that throughout Cliff's account of the history of his current, from the Socialist Review Group to today's SWP, are two main interrelated strands. First, his organisation is revealed as a sect by his own account: he does not relate the history of the advanced part of the class, but of a group of co-thinkers, defined around his doctrine of bureaucratic state capitalism. And second, the SWP's (ie, Cliff's) methodological and programmatic weaknesses are exposed.

Sect method

The Socialist Review Group was born out of Cliff's rejection of the official Trotskyite 'degenerate workers' state' model for the USSR. The group had humble beginnings. Cliff mustered eight members from around the Revolutionary Communist Party after it collapsed. These seven others agreed that the USSR was a bureaucratic state capitalist society. To this day, agreement with this viewpoint remains a necessary requirement for active SWP membership.

In Cliff's account of his time in Palestine, we see the paucity of the Fourth 'International' (FI). Cliff struggled to carve out a political niche for himself in Palestine - then under British occupation - with little success. These were his formative years. Cliff clearly yearned for a way out - not only from the intellectual isolation, but the theoretical cul-de-sac he had been bequeathed by the official Trotskyites. Egypt's working class beckoned, but the national 'section' of the FI consisted of hopeless dilettantes par excellence. He gave up on Egypt and the Middle East and grabbed an opportunity to leave.

To London with Chanie (his "long-suffering wife") and, after a brief exile in Dublin, the formation of the Socialist Review Group.

This autobiography largely takes the form of the history of the SRG/International Socialists/SWP. His urgent desire to carve out a pole of attraction separate from Stalinism and official Trotskyism is admirable, though the site of struggle he used to for this purpose - the Labour Party - also shaped him and what was to become the SWP.

From the CND marches in the early 1960s, through the start of the civil rights movement in Ireland and the collapse of the SWP's rank and file movement as the social contract took hold, we see Cliff trying to build his organisation. But his theory of the 'party' and his economism continually reproduce themselves as sect-building within a loyal orbit around Labourism.

Until the late 1960s Cliff's group was tiny, isolated and on the outer fringes of the Trotskyist movement. Its impact on the workers' movement was minimal at best. Yet, quite correctly during the dark and difficult days of the Cold War, this did not deter the comrade. After a period of steady recruitment in the early 60s which also saw the SRG become the IS, from 1967 onwards the IS grew markedly. Vietnam and the burgeoning student movement propelled it forward. Added to this was the rise in industrial struggle, the Pentonville Five and Saltley Gates. The left had the scent of revolution in its nostrils.

Yet the IS never broke out of its sect theory. Despite a dishonest break with a 'federal' Luxemburgism (Cliff fails to explain it clearly) in favour of a bureaucratic centralist 'Leninism', the practice never matched up to the democratic centralist ideal Cliff sometimes advocated. Apart from a brief flurry of openness in the early 1970s (the pressure of the class movement perhaps coming to bear), Cliff returned to type, expelling and driving out oppositionists later in the decade with a vengeance. Much of the left fragments that exist in Britain today emerged from this orgy of splits and expulsions - AWL, Workers Power, LM, RCG, RDG, Red Action, Red Pepper, etc.

We have noted how Cliff's sometime view of Lenin clashed with the general practice of the SWP. In his book, Cliff quotes Lenin: "We have more than once already enunciated our theoretical views on the importance of discipline and on how this concept is to be understood in the party of the working class. We defined it as: unity in action, freedom of discussion and criticism" (VI Lenin CW Vol 9, Moscow 1977, p230). And again: "The proletariat does not recognise unity of action without freedom to discuss and criticise" (ibid p321). This is the Lenin I recognise, but it clearly jars with the current SWP regime where no organised dissent is tolerated, and sharp differences (let alone shades of opinion) are kept private - clearly not for the digestion of the working class. Such an approach is alien to the culture needed by a Communist Party - the advanced part of the working class which inevitably contains within its ranks all manner of different experiences, levels of consciousness and rival theoreticians.

Quite clearly, it was an error to declare the IS a 'party'. This is obvious for us Leninists. In hindsight Cliff's own tendency must feel this too.

Cliff rightly criticises the formation of the Fourth International. During the 1930s and 1940s, Cliff shows that, "Trotskyist organisations always consisted of tiny groups on the margins of the mass movement" (pp22-23). Not the conditions to launch a world party. But Cliff and his group launched the IS as a 'party' during a period when the IS suffered from what he later describes as "a complete loss of way in the years of the Wilson-Callaghan government" (p154). Hardly the time to declare a 'party'. This is confirmed by the 'clever' formulation employed by Cliff and other SWP tops to excuse the gulf separating theory from reality: ie the "smallest mass party in the world" (p236n) or a "modest party" (p178).

Cliff's approach to other schools of thought shows an appalling philistinism. He says: "One rule I have always followed is not to read sectarian literature" (p62). This proud ignorance of the rest of the left only reveals weakness: it is not a sign of strength. Cliff, above all others in the SWP, should have known that truth first fights as a minority.

The sect-building has continued in the international field with central committee member Alex Callinicos in the driving seat. Comrade Callinicos is quoted as stressing the necessity for "building a group based on the theory of state capitalism" in the international arena (p207). Where is the freedom to discuss and criticise here? While the creation of this mono-theoretical group "inoculated" (Callinicos's word) the SWP from the realities of a post-Soviet world, it has not armed it for the future.

The other clear weakness revealed by the autobiography is that of programme. Throughout A world to win, the reader is given an insight into the method of Cliff and the SWP. Rather than breaking completely from Trotsky's catastrophist Transitional programme Cliff instead falls back on a mish-mash of minimalist economistic agitation, combined with maximalist gestures.

"Our propaganda," writes Cliff, "must be an arch connecting two pillars. It must (1) relate to immediate struggles, but it must also (2) carry the battle of ideas, the battle for socialism" (p145). And again, he says: "But we have to walk on both legs, projecting the big picture in the ideological battle, and to relate to every workers' struggle, however small" (p225).

Such an approach in the hands of the SWP actually leaves "immediate demands" and the "big picture" unconnected. There is no "connecting arch", because there is no programme. Instead of worshipping every spontaneous economic struggle on the one hand and totally abstract propaganda for socialism on the other, what is needed is a minimum programme based upon what the working class needs to become a fully conscious, political and self-activating class - demands theoretically possible under current social relations, but which form a bridge to our maximum programme of working class power, international socialism and communism. That bridge is, and can only be, democracy.

Thanks to Cliff, the SWP is stuck with a centrist minimalist-maximalist unwritten programme. Such methodology can lead you to propose œ4.26 an hour minimum wage one day, and claim that a student demonstration, if diverted to the houses of parliament, could spark insurrection the next.

Contained within this method is not only the worship of the spontaneous demands thrown up by the day-to-day trade union struggle, but economism. However, Cliff cannot see this because he has no or very little understanding of economism.

In discussing the development of Bolshevism, he describes Lenin as starting out with a group of agitators distributing factory bulletins. But, says Cliff, this was too one-sided: "Lenin did not want the party to limit itself to immediate economic concerns, and two years later he had to attack the narrowness of 'economism', which had taken the organisation too far in one direction" (my emphasis, p87). Cliff suggests this was a danger for the IS group in the late 1960s.

This fundamentally misunderstands economism. It is not taking the struggle around immediate economic concerns "too far in one direction". It is an approach to the working class per se. Is the class approached, fundamentally, as merely an economic class 'to which we lend its economic struggle a political character' (to paraphrase the Russian economists)? Or is the working class addressed, fundamentally, as a political class, with political tasks? It is a question of method, not a question of going "too far" one way.

Cliff later says: "If one relates to the workers' resistance to the bosses without making a basic criticism of capitalism, one is trapped in 'economism' and opportunism" (p225). Again, he reveals a false understanding of the term. In fact, if one "relates to the workers' resistance to the bosses" and merely make "a basic criticism of capitalism" - ie, lend this resistance a political character - one is practising economism, not elevating the class struggle beyond the economic sphere to a political struggle.

In a strange passage, Cliff tries to defend his own personal record on this, trying to show he kept to the political hard line and did not water down his organisation to the prevailing ideology: "To give one example, there was a time when the SRG was tiny, with between 25 to 30 members only. A worker wanted to join. He liked our programme, but he thought that our opposition to immigration controls would prevent other workers from joining. I said, 'You join the group over my dead body.'" This is quite bizarre. Far from showing how uneconomistic Cliff is, he shows what a sectarian he is. The requirement to agree with a group's every position as a requirement for membership is the characteristic feature of a sect.

Not only does Cliff display an inability to understand what economism actually is: he provides an almost chemically pure example of it when it comes to Ireland. He writes: "The republicans cannot unite catholic and protestant workers, as for them the struggle for a united Ireland has nothing to do with bread and butter issues" (p96). For anyone who knows anything about Northern Ireland, if there is one 'bread and butter' issue, it is the border. It is partition. It affects everyone. Unless the working class has a consistently democratic position on the border, Irish unity and the rights of the British-Irish, it cannot become a ruling class. Working class unity for itself is developed through championing consistent democracy for all minorities, oppressed elements and interests. It does not arise from a programme which advocates the working class unite around its economic conditions - which workers do anyway, in the most part without the aid or permission of the 'revolutionary vanguard'.

Downturns and upturns

The IS tradition is fond of its "upturns" and its "downturns" in explaining the various tacks, twists and turns of its organisation. While no doubt we can see general upswings or troughs in the class struggle, it is almost as though the SWP believes these ups and downs have a life of their own, impervious to subjective political intervention or sudden change.

For Cliff, there was an "upturn" in the class struggle in Britain from 1967 to 1974. This, was followed by a "downturn" from 1974 to 1992. Now, according to the SWP, there is neither. The election of the Wilson government signalled the beginning of the "downturn", but this was not recognised by the IS/SWP until 1979 - and after a long internal struggle at that. As I noted above, Cliff admits that during the period of 1976 to 1979, the SWP "completely lost its way". However, I believe that it is this whole approach which blinds the SWP to the more complex realities of the class struggle.

One example of this is the attitude Cliff displays to the miners' Great Strike of 1984-85, which posed the necessity for generalised working class action against the Thatcher offensive - and held out the possibility of that in the dockers', railworkers' and Liverpool disputes. Miners' support groups formed throughout the country. Meanwhile, in the pit villages there was civil war. Hit squads imposed proletarian terror and the police employed the methods developed by the army in Northern Ireland. Writing of this period in general, Cliff says: "The conditions of the downturn gave us [he and his son Donny Gluckstein] the time and space to research and write" (p183).

For Cliff, downturn-upturn is judged on strikes - in 1983 they were lower than in 1973. (As an aside, how it can be, even according to SWP logic, that we are now no longer in a downturn, when 1999 saw the second lowest number in British history, beaten only by 1997, is beyond me.) But politics, for Cliff, is outside the sphere of upturns and downturns. He says: "The catastrophic downturn in the industrial struggle from the mid-1970s had a peculiar side effect. It went hand in hand with a political upturn, expressed in the rise of a new and powerful Labour leftwing current" (p187). However, for the SWP, this was a dead end, because nothing was really possible during the downturn.

Cliff again: "The moment of truth for the Bennite left could not be postponed for long. The industrial downturn had engineered a political upturn, but it would not be long before the political level of the movement was adversely affected by the low level of class struggle" (p189). The iron law of strike statistics forbids any sudden and sustained advance of the working class on the political front.

This pessimism and passivity was manifested in the miners' strike. During the dispute, Chris Harman - in explaining why the slogan for a general strike was wrong - infamously stated that the period was more like 1927 than 1925. That is, the working class had to all intents and purposes already suffered its strategic defeat. This was clearly a gross misreading of the situation. The defeat of the miners in 1985 was itself a general strategic defeat for the class. The SWP failed the test in 1984. For Cliff, this was the time to write books, not to transform a defensive mass economic strike into generalised political attack.

Cliff writes: "Alas, the long period of the downturn, of declining militancy, led to the final defeat of the strike" (p191). Yet in the dispute "the SWP threw themselves into the fray". But what did this amount to? "Despite our efforts, the SWP's role ended up mainly as one of fundraising for the miners. This was essential to keep the strike going, but clearly not enough to win it" (p192).

Despite your efforts? Your efforts were framed within the perspective of the "downturn", of being 'more like 1927'. In other words your efforts had to be confined from the outset to fundraising. Yet if defeat was inevitable, why keep the strike going? If the SWP was being honest, then it should have called for an ordered retreat. If its perspectives were correct, that the downturn meant that victory was out of reach, it should have been arguing that the miners keep their organisations intact: they ought to have retreated, not acted like lions led by a donkey.

Despite the alleged nature of the period, Cliff says the SWP still had a duty "to explain what action was necessary to win victory ... But no less important was to answer the question why that action did not take place" (p223). But the SWP refused to raise the slogan of a general strike of a political character which in reality was what was necessary to win victory. This is all a muddle. Far from the activity of a class-party during the greatest strategic battle of post-war Britain, we see the crass, mechanistic floundering of a propagandist sect.

The source of this confusion is the economism underlying Cliff's upturn-downturn pronouncements, with, in practice, the complete separation of the economic and the political struggle.

Anti-Nazi League

Another contradictory phenomenon of the 'downturn' years was the success (for the SWP) of the Anti-Nazi League, formed in response to the growth of the National Front. The profile of the SWP was greatly increased through ANL work. Its carnivals were massive, the first attracting 80,000 in April 1978 - yes, during the downturn. The divorce in Cliff's mind between politics and the class (ie, for Cliff, industrial) struggle is again revealed.

As an aside, I have always thought it odd that the SWP's anti-fascist front was called the Anti-'Nazi' League. For me it always seemed that this was an accommodation to British chauvinism, as the identity of post-war Britain was formed around being "anti-nazi": "our finest hour" and all that. Cliff reveals his version of how the SWP leadership discussed the name: "'Anti-Racist' - too soft! 'Anti-Fascist'- not tough enough! 'Anti-Nazi' - yes! After all, Hitler went much further in his bestiality than Mussolini" (p164). Frankly, this is quite strange reasoning. After all, the general frame of reference for the left in terms of the counterrevolutionary danger of extreme reaction has been that of fascism. The SWP, far from reacting to the reality of a potential British fascism has clearly been compromised by the 'anti-nazi' character of British particularism.

Yet the weakness does not end there. The ANL has always had a popular front feel to it. And its attitude to the state reveals a flawed analysis of what fascism is anyway. Specifically, Cliff refers to the Southall demonstration against an NF meeting where Blair Peach was killed: "The local Tory council gave the Nazis permission to hold the meeting," writes Cliff. "A plea to the Labour government home secretary, Merlyn Rees, to ban the Nazi meeting fell on deaf ears" (p165). This touching faith in the bourgeois state to help defeat the "nazis" is quite shocking from a self-proclaimed Marxist organisation. This is consistent with the SWP's belief that Mein Kampf should be banned from public libraries! This is not the place for a detailed critique of the SWP's anti-fascist work, but Cliff's own attitudes reveal to a large extent the source of the organisation's errors.

Cliff enters into a detailed self-criticism, of both the SWP and himself, during the height of the ANL. Cliff says that the SWP was carried away by the success of the ANL, and this made it blind to the reality of the "downturn". During the ANL period, Cliff advocated a revamped Socialist Worker - in reality a dumbed down and what Roger Cox called a 'punk' version. Cliff says he was wrong to have advocated this. But perhaps some of the reasons behind this belated public self-criticism should now be aimed at the current orientation of Socialist Worker.

In criticising a 'dumbed down' paper, Cliff looks back at the differences between Lenin's paper and Trotsky's paper of 1912. I will quote in full. I think it has profound relevance for today:

"We must just compare the experience of Trotsky's Pravda, published in Vienna in the years 1908-1912, with Lenin's Pravda published in Petrograd from 1912 onwards. Trotsky intended to address himself to 'plain workers' rather than to politically minded party men, and to 'serve, not lead' his readers. Isaac Deutscher comments on this statement that Trotsky's Pravda's plain language and the fact that it preached the unity of the party secured to it a certain popularity, but no lasting political influence. The same could not be said of Lenin's Pravda, which played a key role in schooling the Bolshevik Party" (pp168-169). I could not describe the kind of role a revolutionary paper ought to play better myself. A brief comparison of the Weekly Worker and Socialist Worker will show which one aims to "serve, not lead", which intends to address itself to "plain workers" and which one is aimed at a key role in schooling the politically minded activists in the politics of today.

The SWP and elections

It is pertinent for me to end this review with a look at Cliff's appraisal of elections and how revolutionaries ought to relate to them. Post-Cliff, the SWP is entering into elections for the first time since the brief flirtation of the late 1970s. The extent to which we are able to generalise the lessons of this period - as the left belatedly unites to challenge Labourism where it lives, in the ballot box - will surely be of significance in the future.

The SWP clearly smarts, and smarts badly, from its foray into elections in the late 1970s. This was revealed by its hesitancy and then collapse in the moves to forge a united left challenge in the June 1999 European elections.

Cliff writes of the 1970s: "To stop demoralisation in the ranks we drifted into standing candidates for parliamentary by-elections" (p139). An admission that there was no strategy guiding electoral work. However, rather than stopping the demoralisation, Cliff admits that the "pathetic" votes they got took "demoralisation to the extreme" (p141). Clearly, this is no way for a serious revolutionary organisation to treat electoral work. The SWP was brought down to earth by the votes it received.

Quite simply, Cliff does not understand elections. Irrespective of the size of the vote, we can and must use the opportunity of elections to put forward a working class alternative. Having hooked his organisation onto Labourism since its inception with its 'Vote Labour, but...' approach, Cliff and the SWP leadership subsequently hammered into their membership that standing in elections was 'electoralist' by definition. The Socialist Labour Party was dismissed as electoralist, as was Militant Labour. No, after the experience of the 70s the SWP shunned all election work: 'mass struggle' - ie, economistic trade unionism - was the main thing for them.

Cliff quotes Lenin in attempting to explain why elections are 'unimportant': "The Bolsheviks regard the direct struggle of the masses ... as the highest form of the movement, and parliamentary activity without the direct action of the masses as the lowest form of the movement" (VI Lenin, CW Vol 16, Moscow 1977, p32). I took the trouble of opening my volume 16, as this quote seemed out of context to me. I was not wrong.

For Cliff - and most of the revolutionary left - participation in elections without the direct action of the masses is so unimportant that it is pooh-poohed as electoralist, substitutionist and, at best, optional (though normally irrelevant and a diversion not to be followed). For us Leninists, participation in elections is, except in the most extreme circumstances - ie, counterrevolutionary elections designed to end a revolutionary situation - obligatory. And during periods of low working class activity - such as now - it becomes a central focus of our work, not less important. What did Lenin say on this?

In the article cited by Cliff, Lenin is not belittling electoral work: he is berating those who learnt 'boycottism' during the revolutionary upheavals of 1905-1907 and continued prattling on about it during the period of reaction from 1908-1912.

Lenin says: "Get this into your heads ... when the force of this reaction really severs the connection with the masses, makes sufficiently broad work difficult and weakens the Party, it is then that the specific task of the Party becomes to master the parliamentary weapons of struggle; and that is not because parliamentary struggle is higher than any other forms of struggle; no, it is just because it is lower than them ... Then why does mastery of the lowest form of struggle become the specific task of the Party? Because the stronger the reaction and the weaker the connection with the masses, the more immediate becomes the task of preparing the minds of the masses (and not the task of direct action), the more immediate becomes the task of utilising the methods of propaganda created by the old regime (and not a direct onslaught of the masses against the old regime)" (original emphasis ibid p33).

The very quote Cliff pulls out to praise the direct action of the masses and prove how unimportant elections are is for Lenin something boycottists "heard and learned by heart, but they did not understand it, and so disgraced themselves" (ibid p32). Clearly the case for Cliff.

For Lenin, standing in elections is the very lowest form of activity and in that sense it is obligatory, particularly in periods of low class activity: "Our view that social democratic participation in the Third Duma is obligatory, for instance, follows inevitably from our attitude to the present moment" (ibid p38-39). And in his famous attack on the 'left' communists 10 years later, Lenin writes: "Participation in parliamentary elections and in the struggle on the parliamentary rostrum is obligatory on the party of the revolutionary proletariat specifically for the purpose of educating backward strata of its own class" (original emphasis, VI Lenin Leftwing communism Moscow 1975, p44).

Having ridden the coat tails of Labourism, for the SWP elections became something that the Labour Party did, and the role of the class was to meekly vote them in ('elections aren't important anyway') and then return to 'real' mass struggle in between elections. With no compass, with no strategy during elections, it is no wonder that the SWP became so demoralised during the late 1970s, despite its growth and successes with the ANL.

The SWP must be warned now. Look back and learn. Cliff writes: "The result of the Walsall North by-election was not very encouraging: 574 votes, 1.6% ... while the National Front got four and a half times our total." In the GLA elections, the LSA received ... 1.6% of the vote in the list, beaten by the British National Party.

In 2000, the SWP is talking of a full-blown general election campaign. Given the theoretical heritage bequeathed by Tony Cliff, it is ill-prepared for the consequences of electoral work in a period of low class activity. If, as many SWPers once seemed to believe, elections are for reformists, then perhaps it is not surprising that many SWP comrades are actually acting like reformists in their electoral work. The SWP's LSA election material could hardly be said to contain revolutionary propaganda to lift and educate the class.

And Cliff's ecleticism, his lack of programme, have left the SWP rudderless. What is the political nature of the period? For Candy Udwin in 2000, "There has never been a better time to be a socialist." For Tony Cliff in 1999, "Since the landslide victory of Labour, the shift to the left has continued" (p198). Now, for Chris Harman, Chris Bambery and John Rees, there is a polarisation of society, following on from Cliff's "insight" that the 1990s have been "the 1930s in slow motion". We are neither in downturn, nor upturn. Cliff says: "The last couple of decades in Britain remind one very much of the situation in France in the years before the biggest strike in world history took place there" (p196). Don't worry, comrades: the revolution is just around the corner.

Unfortunately there is no sign yet of an end to the confusion and zigzags. A misunderstanding of the period, of elections, of the nature of fascism, a dumbing down of principles (from 'no immigration controls' to 'asylum-seekers welcome here') and a continuation of economism are problems which could continue to beset the SWP. Despite Cliff anointing Chris Bambery - "At present, Chris Bambery acts within the SWP in basically the same way as I used to" (p76) - divisions at the top are more than likely to intensify in Cliff's absence.

For our part, we want to see this sea of contradictions resolved in a positive manner: towards Leninism, towards consistent revolutionary democracy, and to the sort of democratic centralist party of which we can all be members - as envisaged by Cliff in his 1970 interview recently reprinted in Socialist Review. We do not want the SWP to collapse under the weight of its own contradictions.

Cliff, very much a 20th century revolutionary, is as much ours as he is the SWP's. His legacy is the property of the movement. To move forward, the SWP does not have to 'renounce' Cliff: it has to ruthlessly criticise what is and what has gone before. The organisational and theoretical legacy of comrade Cliff has taken the SWP where it is today. But his methodology is a cul-de-sac in the struggle to reforge a revolutionary weapon for the working class.

The young Tony Cliff was able to break from the dead end of orthodox Trotskyism. Yet to do so he did not have to renounce Trotsky. That same challenge now lies before the Socialist Workers Party.

Marcus Larsen