Alliance for Workers' Liberty: Part of Capitalism's Left Wing

In 1992 the editors of Socialist Organiser, the newspaper of the Socialist Campaign for a Labour Victory, launched an organisation under the name of Alliance for Workers’ Liberty (AWL). The particular brand of Trotskyism with which the AWL identifies is strongly influenced by its leader Sean Matgamna, who has been active on the Trotskyist left since the sixties. The founding document of this tendency, What We Are And What We Must Become [1], was published in 1966 as a critique of the Revolutionary Socialist League (Militant), the political ancestors of the Socialist Party of England and Wales (SPEW) and a number of other smaller Trotskyist groups. We will return to that document later as we examine “What they have become”.

Since that time, Matgamna has been a key player in defending his group throughout the myriad splits and fusions that have marked the Trotskyist milieu. Prior to the formation of the AWL, Matgamna’s followers were organised in the Labour Party under the banner of a succession of newspapers: Workers’ Fight and subsequently Workers’ Action preceding Socialist Organiser. Alongside those journals aimed at participation in the Labour Party Matgamna was the leading figure in groups that openly acted within the Trotskyist constellation. During the 1970s and 1980s that role was played by the International-Communist League followed by a merger with Alan Thornett’s Workers Socialist League whose name was retained by the combined organisation.

Over time Matgamna’s tendency has abandoned orthodox Trotskyism in favour of Third Camp Trotskyism. [2] What has remained a consistent theme is the peddling of illusions in the Labour Movement as a vehicle for social change on behalf of the working class.

Leftism in Action

The AWL’s core justification for that immersion in the “Labour Movement” – that is, the Labour Party and the trade unions – is that their supporters must organisationally be “where the class is at”. The focus of the AWL can be roughly divided into four categories:

Electoral activity. The AWL was part of the Socialist Alliance in the 2001 election [3] and the Socialist Green Unity Coalition in the 2005 election. [4] Within these it worked in coalition with organisations such as the Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP), Socialist Party of England and Wales (SPEW) and the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB-PCC). At times it has put up its own candidates (in safe Labour seats). All this while still campaigning for a Labour victory.

Participation in the Labour Party. The AWL is an affiliate of the Labour Representation Committee (2004). It re-founded the Socialist Campaign for a Labour Victory ahead of the 2015 general election. Later that year, with the emergence of Corbyn, the AWL instructed all its members to join the Labour Party. Its members are also expected to be active within Momentum.

Reformist activism. The AWL has set up, or been highly involved in, campaigns such as the Welfare State Network (1994), No Sweat (2001), Education not for Sale (2005), Feminist Fightback (2006), Workers’ Climate Action (2008), the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (2010) and Another Europe Is Possible (2016). Within these anti-cuts campaigns and the student movement, it pushes a pro-Labour line.

Union organising. The AWL is active in trade unions (to the point of serving on their executive committees), particularly those affiliated to the TUC and the Labour Party. On the London Underground, Southern Rail and in Sheffield, the AWL produces its own bulletins, Tubeworker, Off The Rails and On Guard. These reinforce trade-unionist and Labourist perspectives.

Unlike most other Trotskyist groups however, the AWL has a reputation for a culture of openness and discussion which is one of the reasons that it attracts young militants. At the height of the UK student movement it tended to present itself as a more “libertarian” alternative to the main Trotskyist organisations on the British left (in its constitution, the AWL does state for example that “the emancipation of the working class must be the task of the working class itself”). Ever since 2015 however, the AWL has been successfully riding the wave of Corbynism, promoting the idea that a Labour government could prevent or reverse measures that have been taken (and not just by the Tories) to attack the living standards of the working class, such as privatisation of public services, cuts to the NHS, welfare cuts, introduction of student fees and loans, etc. It is because the AWL appears to attract a number of genuine young militants who are seeking change that we have decided to examine here the politics and activity of the AWL.

Trotskyists and the Labour Movement: Seeing “Through a Glass, Darkly”

The AWL’s fundamental approach to the Labour Party and the Trade Unions is neither novel nor unique. The Trotskyist DNA is stamped through with a need to find shortcuts, to be loyal cheerleaders for, or active participants in, “progressive“ movements. This manifests in its support for “national liberation” movements or integration into the trade unions and social democratic parties, twin pillars of capitalist order.

That poisonous mix of confusion and blurred class lines has deep roots in the political origins which Trotskyists take as their political starting point. [5] Trotsky’s presence within the Soviet Communist Party and the CPSU during its degeneration has never been re-evaluated by those who claim to be his followers. This means that the twists and turns which began with the 3rd and 4th Congresses (1921-22) of the Comintern lie at the very centre of their efforts to relate to the capitalist order which has continued to assert its global hegemony since then. The “turn to the masses” and accommodation with the pro-capitalist social democracy translates very readily into “being with the class” in shouting hurrah for Corbyn and electing left-sounding windbags to positions in the trade unions.

The Trotskyist movement has remained in a constant grisly performance attempting to apply the decayed method developed during Trotsky’s life to the world which emerged after the Second World War. Rather than developing an independent proletarian revolutionary nucleus with a clear understanding, Trotsky preferred factional alliances with other forces in the Soviet Communist Party in the 1920s and “entryism” into Social Democracy in the 1930s.

Since 1945 the Trotskyist movement internationally has split many times and this has also been reflected in Great Britain. These splits have often appeared as factional rivalries but are invariably rooted in questions of how best to implement the tactics and politics of 1920s and 1930s Trotskyism. That is the background to the AWL’s previous history and current positions.

The AWL’s Vision of “Socialism”

The AWL proudly claims to be a “revolutionary socialist organisation”. And at first glance, their positions as set out in the section “Where we stand” in their weekly paper Solidarity might give some credence to this idea, especially to those who are first exploring revolutionary politics.

After all, the AWL claims that it “is an organisation fighting as part of the Labour movement for a socialist alternative to capitalism and Stalinism, based on common ownership and democracy.” And that it is for the “social ownership of the banks and industry,” as well as “taxing the rich.”

To achieve this, the AWL wants to see an “independent working class representation in politics” [6] and “a workers’ government, based on and accountable to the Labour Movement” together with “a workers’ charter of trade union rights” and “Democracy at every level of society, from the smallest workplace or community to global social organisation.” There should be, they say, “maximum left unity in action and openness in debate.”

On an international level, the AWL wants “open borders” and “global solidarity against global capital” – workers everywhere have more in common with each other than with their capitalist or Stalinist rulers. There should be “equal rights for all nations, against imperialists and predators big and small,” they say.

What does this vision of “socialism” really amount to? Nothing more than the long peddled leftist mystification that state control of capital is equivalent to socialism. To nationalise the banks and bring industry under state control simply increases state control over capitalism, it does not get rid of capitalism. This is not socialism since wage labour, commodity production and the law of value all still exist. “Taxing the rich” is presumably supposed to pay for the public services that the AWL imagines comprise socialism. But in real socialism the rich will not exist since money will have been abolished and the property of the capitalists expropriated. Following such a revolution, production will be for human need and not profit, the working class will have transformed society and in the process transformed itself. The AWL’s vision of “a workers’ charter of trade union rights” and “democracy at every level of society” simply amounts to the working class participating in and voting for their own exploitation.

The AWL peddles the illusion that the capitalists will be forced to go along with this reformist agenda but we know from history that they will either undermine it through international economic pressure (capital withdrawal), or – as has happened so many times across the world – the “radical agenda” will be gradually watered down and then abandoned. We can already see this happening with Corbyn’s Labour as John McDonnell tries to appease “small businesses” – and they are not even in power.

In fact, communism can only be built once the proletariat has overthrown the bourgeois state worldwide. This is the precondition for building real socialism – a global society of freely associated producers. It is quite true to say that “workers everywhere have more in common with each other than with their capitalist or Stalinist rulers”, although we would make no distinction between types of capitalist state, since all states in the world today are capitalist. And this means that the enemy of the world working class is the capitalist system in whatever form the capitalist state takes anywhere around the world.

Although it would come as a surprise to the AWL, given their Trotskyist lineage, their recipe for socialism amounts to “socialism in one country”. This in itself is an aberrational idea which came out of the Stalinist counter-revolution in Russia; and is no more than state capitalism with workers control or “socialism in one country” without Stalin. Before the revolutionary wave that started in 1917 ebbed away the Marxist movement never talked of socialism in one country. It was always understood that it had to be achieved on an international level. Therefore under communism, to talk of “open borders” is a nonsense since in a socialist world nation states will have ceased to exist, and there will be no borders. But to say there should be “equal rights for all nations, against imperialists and predators big and small” is to insult the intelligence. When has there ever been “equal rights for all nations”? Who is going to look after the interests of the small capitalist states in the AWL’s vision? Capitalism by its very nature is predatory. And imperialism would not cease to exist even if all capitalist nations in the world were to adopt the AWL’s state capitalist “socialist” veneer.

As supposed “Leninists”, the AWL ought to recognise that the capitalist system entered its imperialist phase by the beginning of the twentieth century. The First World War was definitive proof of this. It is part of capitalism’s very nature for the larger imperialist states to prey on the smaller capitalist states and for the large imperialisms to compete with one another for control of world markets, sources of raw materials and cheap labour. In this scenario, there can be no “equal rights for all nations”. This is why to give support to national liberation movements is to give support not just to a local bourgeois clique but also to whichever imperialist power is sponsoring them. In an imperialist world no nation’s struggle for independence can ever be independent. There can be no independent, democratic “third camp” national movement, as the AWL would have it. The working class have always paid dearly for aligning themselves with their “own“ bourgeoisie in such struggles.

Underlying everything of course is the capitalist crisis. Capitalism has been in open crisis since the law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall brought about an end to the post-war boom and caused the re-emergence of the crisis at the end of the Sixties. In order to really solve its ever-deepening crisis, capitalism needs a large-scale devaluation of capital. This has been achieved in the past through world war. Short of this, the capitalists are forced to adopt the short-term measure of squeezing more surplus value out of the working class. This can be achieved by productivity increases, by reductions in workers’ living standards (wage cuts) or simply moving production to countries where labour power is cheaper. The problems the system faces are internal to capitalism itself and would not be altered by nationalisation of capital or workers’ control of production.

Governments of the left as well as the right are obliged to manage a capitalist system which takes a greater share of the surplus value produced by the working class, both by increasing the rate of exploitation in the workplace and by reducing the social wage, pensions, benefits, etc. Faced with the need to ‘manage’ the crisis all talk of reforming capitalism is utopian.

Supporting the Labour Party

And how is the AWL’s distorted vision of socialism to be achieved? It is, no less, by trying to make the capitalist Labour Party act in the interests of the working class! A party which has loyally performed the role, when needed, of managing British capitalism at the expense of the working class for more than a century. Whether it is support for the First and Second World Wars, the breaking up of strikes by the Attlee government, or the development of the British atomic bomb, the Labour Party, even at its most social-democratic, has always been on the side of the bosses. [7] At this time, it is horribly ironic that the Labourists decrying “austerity” want to elect the Party that introduced “austerity” as an economic principle during the Attlee government.

In 1997, during a period when the Blair leadership had made the Labour Party into a difficult terrain for Trotskyists, the AWL described the Labour Party as “a bourgeois party, a bourgeois workers’ party”. [8] Since then, because of the factional machinations at the centre of the Labour Party, the AWL restarted its strategy of “entryism”. In practice, that strategy means they encourage their members to join the Labour Party and Momentum in order to try to radicalise it by pushing for more “left wing” leaders and the adoption of more “left wing” policies through an increase in local democracy in local Labour Party constituencies. It is unclear whether the long-term goal is to transform the Labour Party into a real workers’ party, or cause a split that could initiate the formation of such a party, in the meantime pushing Labour “to the left”. But the key to the politics and activity of the AWL is that Labour must be revitalised and made more attractive to the working class.

This was, in fact, the thrust of Channel Four’s Dispatches programme of the 19th of September 2016 prior to the Labour leadership contest which Corbyn ultimately won. While, no doubt, Dispatches was trying to influence the outcome of the leadership election in favour of Owen Smith by suggesting that the AWL and their ilk are trying to take over the Labour Party, the AWL’s denunciation of the programme as a “witch hunt” demonstrates that the programme’s makers had touched a nerve. In fact, the AWL’s robust defence of the policy of “entryism” leaves no doubt where they stand on this issue; and that is to rally workers, and especially young people who are increasingly dissatisfied with the status quo, around the defence of bourgeois democracy and the idea that the Labour Party can somehow be made to defend the interests of the working class.

An AWL Lewisham Momentum organiser eloquently defends the AWL against the Dispatches programme’s charges in a video on the AWL website [9], and in doing so, demonstrates how the AWL are helping to breathe new life into a Labour Party that most working class people had dismissed as being Tory Lite. He says that the AWL are trying to democratise the Labour Party and make its MPs more accountable to the party’s members … and to make it easier for local parties to choose their candidates freely without restrictions. This is important, he says, so that MPs represent the interests of their members and fight for policies that support working people rather than for their own selfish interests and those of the rich and powerful. He says those behind the programme are frightened of the “socialist” ideas that the AWL are advocating; such as taking public ownership of the banks, taxing the rich, rebuilding decent public services, providing decent jobs and homes for everyone, and scrapping Trident. He finishes by saying that making Labour MPs accountable is the way in which these policies can be implemented. This combination of “democracy” and “socialism”, he says, is what the programme makers are really bothered about.

But even in their own terms the AWL have failed here. They and their fellow leftists have not even been able to democratise Momentum, let alone the Labour Party. In 2017, in an effective coup led by Momentum’s founder Jon Lansman and his allies, the newly formed National Coordinating Group arrogated to itself the main responsibility for the governing of Momentum and can essentially block any decisions it does not like without consultation with the membership. [10] Contrary to what the AWL have promised, Momentum will be more top-down than ever before. A number of AWL members have faced expulsions from the Labour Party (and by extension from Momentum). But these setbacks have not deterred the AWL from continuing to sow illusions in the Labour Party and bourgeois democracy.

Bourgeois democracy is a powerful mystifying force and has served the bourgeoisie very well over the years. The Labour Party has played the role of reconciling workers with capitalism ever since it was first created. After all, it was originally set up to divert workers’ anger into safe channels. So we have to reassert this basic truth that the AWL, as cheerleaders for the Labour Party and Corbyn, have long since given up defending. Far from warning young workers who are looking for a completely different kind of society, the Trotskyists and the rest of the left of capital try to encourage those who would listen that voting Labour is the path to a better future. The AWL and their fellow leftists proclaim the need for a further push for more “young people and workers” to be drawn into the next Parliamentary exercise.

That endemic leftist mystification illustrates precisely how the organisations that operate as part of the left wing of capitalism have long been lost as potential parts of the proletarian revolutionary movement. If capitalism is to be overthrown – the only road to a sustainable human future – then the essential first step is that the working class becomes conscious that capitalism is beyond reform. This consciousness has to be fought for openly and honestly. This is the exact opposite of “entryism” which tries to take over one capitalist instrument in order to force change from within. Real change and real socialism can only come about when the proletariat itself takes control of society through its own autonomous organisation and activity. That model will be based on mass working class involvement in assemblies and organisations such as Workers’ Councils or “Soviets”. The politics of left reformism/Corbynism are separated from that perspective by at least two vast gulfs.

Firstly, assemblies and structures based on open participation with all representatives being accountable and recallable are totally different from bourgeois electoral structures. The former are expressions of proletarian democracy, whereas the latter is bourgeois democracy which amounts to atomised individuals voting in their secret ballots for institutions which are all designed to help the bosses’ system of power and control to keep running.

Secondly, the critical process by which the working class achieves its potential as “the gravedigger of capitalism” depends on the maturation of our class-consciousness from “a class in itself” to “a class for itself”. That process crucially depends on the material reality of class struggle and the uneven manner by which sections of the class reflect on the process, absorb lessons from it and develop analysis. It is crystal clear that the AWL and other leftists who encourage illusions in the nature of the bourgeois state and the usefulness of reformist strategies serve to block and divert the necessary steps towards that clarity.

Parliament is not the State

There is another seriously harmful dimension to the AWL’s encouragement of participation in elections, whether in favour of Labour or their own groups or coalitions. The pretence that the election of more well-intentioned politicians could actually lead to the end of the capitalist system is part of the mystification circulated by, and on behalf of, the ruling class. The AWL leadership is fully aware that elected representation up to and including the “Executive” (Prime Minister and their Cabinet) is only the window-dressing. The state in modern society actually exists to maintain the domination of the ruling class.

Beyond the layers of elected representatives lies the real power vested in entities such as the civil service, the armed forces, the police and the secret and semi-secret state and not least the controllers of the majority of the national capital. These are replicated beyond national boundaries in the kaleidoscope of transnational institutions including the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, the Bank of International Settlements, World Trade Organisation, military alliances such as NATO and, of course, the European Union and other regional trade organisations such as NAFTA. That whole range of state institutions would still exist and exercise overwhelming power even if the UK population were to elect 650 Corbyn clones.

Leftist organisations such as the AWL, in their inner circles, very probably understand that full well. Similarly they understand that the state and its various organs exist to maintain control over every aspect of our lives which flows from the means of production being owned by firms, trusts, companies and conglomerates, and in some cases by states themselves.

The pretence that electing left MPs can counter those interests is a cruel deception. In most cases it only serves to help strengthen the grip of bourgeois ideology. In other cases such as Chile in the 1970s it meant death, imprisonment and torture for those working class people who had been persuaded that there was a parliamentary road to socialism.

We recognise that revolutionaries have a duty to engage with those taken in by the false promises of reformism, from either the left wing or right wing of capitalism. Therefore we will not condone, let alone join with, those who encourage the belief in false perspectives and build hope and expectation that will only end in disillusion and confusion. Being “where the class is at” for the leftists involves sowing and encouraging illusions, falsehoods and confusions that prevent the awareness of the need and possibility of the working-class overthrowing the state and taking power organised in our own class organs. The revolutionary reconstitution of society is the only viable path available to put an end to a system that is very evidently breeding war, misery, famine and ecological destruction across the entire planet. That path does not start by voting for, much less joining, the Labour Party.

Internationally, Corbynism has other parallels which clearly demonstrate where support for a parliamentary left party gets you. In Greece the financial implosion brought a supposedly very left new party (Syriza) to power in opposition to austerity imposed by the IMF and the EU. Rank and file Syriza members at the time claimed they were in control of Tsipras and not the other way around, just as Corbyn supporters do now. The result is that Syriza has “managed” the introduction of the very policies they were elected to oppose. This has been, and remains, the function of the capitalist and reformist left everywhere.

The logic of the defective political method of the pro-capitalist left in Britain comes out when they line up against each other in favour of this or that capitalist option. For example, despite their position that referendums “work against, rather than for, informed debate and accountability”, [11] the AWL has supported a “No” vote in the Alternative Vote referendum (2011), a “No” vote in the Scottish independence referendum (2014) and a “Remain” vote in the EU membership referendum (2016). Their politics of “lesser evilism” do not end there – while wars and massacres spread across the world the left chooses which side to cheer on.

The same applies when we look at historic atrocities such as the bloody breakup of the Yugoslav state (1991-2001), the current suffering caused by the struggle between the Ukraine and Russia and its supporters (2014-present), or even the war in Syria (2011-present), called the “worst man-made disaster since World War II” by the UN human rights chief. In each of these conflicts the AWL has taken the side of one ethnic group or another, of one state or another, by supporting the self-determination of Kosovo, Ukraine, and the Kurds. Wherever decaying capitalism generates conflict and misery, the leftists cannot resist choosing sides while the workers on all sides bear the cost.

Matgamna’s Trotskyists – What they were and what they have become

We mentioned the 1997 document above (see footnote 7) where the AWL refer to the Labour Party as “a bourgeois party, a bourgeois workers’ party”. In the interests of supposed theoretical continuity they claim that such a dual description originated in their founding document of 1966 (see footnote 1). In fact, as we commented in Revolutionary Perspectives (RP) 10, the 1966 version of Matgamna and his followers had a sharper and more precise description of the class nature of the Labour Party. As we quoted, they wrote that “Judged politically it is not a workers’ party with deformations, inadequacies (its ‘inadequacies’ amount to a qualitative difference), but a bourgeois party with the special function of containing the workers – actually it is a special section of the bourgeois state political organisation. The Labour Party is the main instrument of capitalist control of the workers ..... is now the means of integrating the drives and aspirations of the workers with the capitalist state machine. It is ..... an active canaliser of the class - against itself, against the proletariat’s own interest”. [12]

Even in 2009, the fully evolved AWL recognised “In history, the Labour Party’s policies have always moved in line with bourgeois thinking. The first (minority) Labour governments, 1924 and 1929-31, were old-style Liberal in economics and politics. The 1945-51 and 1964-70 governments were in line with the new Keynesian bourgeois consensus”. (see footnote 7) In other words Governments of the Labour Party have always been capitalist governments. So how do these rogues square that understanding with their day-to-day practice of encouraging their followers into capitalist structures?

Again, we dealt with it in RP10 (Summer 2017) where we looked at the AWL, now 100% returned to “entryism”, “ .... they were only focussed on attracting new layers who would help build, join and vote for the Labour Party. The doublethink is as clear as it is sickening. While the ‘cognoscenti’ may understand the world, they deliberately and consciously avoid explaining the nature of reformism and parliamentarianism to their followers. Only the organisation, or perhaps its core, are allowed to understand while the Corbyn cult followers are treated as gullible vote fodder left in a state of abject confusion and false hopes.”

Dealing out deception to better build their position in the capitalist order has evidently become a habit.

In 1975 Matgamna’s followers (then Workers’ Fight) were able to resist the temptation to fall into either of the camps of capitalism arguing for a “Yes” or “No” vote in a referendum on British membership of the Common Market (now EU). They argued for abstention and saw it as a badge of honour, issuing material with slogans such as “Bosses’ market, Bosses’ Britain, No choice! Don’t Vote!” and “In or out the fight goes on”. Indeed, at a large demonstration of leftist anti-Common Marketers (political ancestors of the 2016 Lexiters) they issued a leaflet explaining “Why we are not marching” and their arguments for abstention.

40 years on, now firmly encamped in the left wing of the Remain camp, they offer no justification for their 1975 position or explanation of their subsequent position. In their own selective history, published in 2009 [13], they simply make no mention of the episode. Stretching generosity to its limits, perhaps a case could be made that it was overlooked as in 2009 the bourgeois arguments about UK membership of the EU was “on the back burner”. To try and apply such an argument in 2018 is beyond credibility, so instead of ignoring his own history, Matgamna brings out the airbrush.

Published in September of this year [14], Matgamna wrote a history of “the life and times” of the AWL and its predecessors as part of an introduction to the republication of writings by Max Shachtman. In that history, Matgamna devotes more than a page (pp 35-6) to “The left and the EU in the 1970s”. He deliberately misleads his readers in a way that echoes the most mendacious Stalinist lie mongers. The key paragraph is “There were two possible left and socialist responses. To accept the progress made in its own way and with its own limitations by the bourgeoisie and to build working-class unity across Europe inside the EU, aiming to fully democratise and transform the bureaucracy clogged EU. Or to advocate “Brexit”, on the plea of those bourgeois limitations but for varying, not always respect-worthy, “real” reasons”.

In fact, since 2016 those committed to proletarian revolution have had to consistently explain the option to refuse to be drawn into the camps supporting either of the “two possible .... responses”. By whatever quirk of political development the 1975 Matgamna was able to advocate the abstentionist “third camp”. Not so the 2016-18 version! Sucked into the whirlpool of the politics of left-wing capitalism, Matgamna projects backwards so that in his imagined past only today’s capitalist choices were available. The reality that he once advocated independence from the bourgeoisie, even in a situation of an electoral exercise, is a guilty secret to be hidden from the current generation of Labour Movement activists. No explanation, no justification, pure denial and deceit.

Towards a Revolutionary Party

No more Labouring in Vain

Communists will not be part of exercises in deceit. A more left Labour Party, with Corbyn as its leader or not, is not a new alternative but just a return to the same old programme of the past. For the present, we will continue to explain that there is no quick fix to capitalist exploitation and austerity. On the contrary, the road to a better future lies through the working class rediscovering its confidence and combativity. This can only be achieved when workers on the ground actively shape and expand their own resistance to the thousand and one attacks which amount to a historical reversal and decline in living standards as the crisis of capitalism grinds on, whichever party is in government. This is qualitatively different from the headless chicken activism for activism’s sake or the short-term perspective of “getting the Tories out”.

There is a way for would-be revolutionary militants to help build up workers’ resistance to capitalism. It lies, not in promoting a particular personality or faction inside any of the established parties, but in helping to promote the long-term movement of resistance to capitalism and ultimately an international political organisation of the world working class. The CWO and our comrades in the Internationalist Communist Tendency are organised to maintain and spread that theory and practice. We invite all those who share our understanding to discuss with us and join in the struggle for a truly human, classless and stateless future. The AWL and other leftists represent one of the barriers to that perspective.


December 2018



[2] The Third Camp was a group of left wing writers (largely based in USA) and their followers who broke away from certain positions of the “official” Trotskyists during the 1940s and 1950s. Two of the most prominent figures were Max Shachtman (1904-72) and Hal Draper (1940-90). Shachtman developed a theory that the degeneration of the Soviet Union had resulted in the creation of a new form of class society , “bureaucratic collectivism”. In common with other Trotskyist splinters such as those around CLR James, Raya Dunayavskaya and Tony Cliff, the Third Camp did not qualitatively break with the Trotskyist method of relating to “progressive left wing” movements. We published a critique of the Third Camp and its adoption by AWL in 1999. The article can now be found at



[5] For further background on the roots of the efforts by Trotsky and his contemporary and later followers to reinsert themselves into the left wing of capitalism see CWO Pamphlet Trotsky Trotskyism Trotskyists: From Revolution to Reformism.

[6] The need to involve themselves with the Labour Party and bourgeois electoral politics means that the AWL’s view of “independent working class politics” involves an “independence” entirely circumscribed by the need to satisfy ruling class rules. In 2010 AWL registered with the British state’s Electoral Commission to allow them to stand candidates in their own name. In 2015 with the Blair/Brown leadership being replaced by Corbyn they deregistered to attempt to remove an obstacle to their followers being members of the Labour Party.






[12] Revolutionary Perspectives 10 (current series), p.8


[14] In Defence of Bolshevism, Max Shachtman (Phoenix Press, 2018)

Tuesday, January 29, 2019


Have we heard anything about a possible AWL response to this article yet?

Also, where does the cropped image at the top of this article (which seems to show the relationship between various British left groups) come from? I would be interested in seeing the full image if possible.

In Solidarity No 493 (30 January 2019) the AWL wrote:

"coming soon, but probably only on, will be a reply to the recent long article criticising Workers’ Liberty and Solidarity by the Communist Workers’ Organisation in their magazine Revolutionary Perspectives."

But nothing yet so far.

The full image of the Trotskyist family tree can be found here:

Revolutionary Perspectives

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