Revolutionary Communist Party: Out With the Old, In With the Old

The International Marxist Tendency (IMT) is in the process of rebranding as the Revolutionary Communist International, with many of its national sections now taking the name of the Revolutionary Communist Party. According to the IMT, the time to launch a new International is now, since in the last decade there has been a “major shift in consciousness” – following the failure of the social democratic revival (Corbyn, Sanders, Syriza, Podemos, etc.), supposedly “millions of young people have accepted ideas of communism”.(1) The IMT aims to fill the political vacuum and to this end has launched its “are you a communist?” campaign, encouraging young people to join their ranks en masse. The British section (formerly Socialist Appeal) now boasts over 1,000 members.(2)

Does this development represent a step forward in the struggle for the self-emancipation of the working class, or is it yet another opportunist manoeuvre from a bankrupt political tendency? We argue it is the latter.

A Patrimony of Entryist Gymnastics

First, a little background. We bring this up not to score points, but to understand how the IMT has reached its current positions and how much – if at all – this rebrand represents a real political break with its past.

The political origins of the IMT are closely tied with the figure of Ted Grant. Grant was born in South Africa in 1913 and converted to Trotskyism at a young age under the wings of Ralph Lee. In 1934 Trotsky made his “French Turn” – asking his supporters to enter social democratic organisations in order to boost their own membership. So when Grant and Lee moved to Britain, they became involved in the Militant Group, an entryist organisation in the Labour Party. However, after Lee was accused of misusing strike funds, he and Grant split from the Militant Group and, together with Gerry Healy, they formed the Workers' International League (WIL) in 1937. In 1938 the remainder of the Militant Group ended up merging with a couple of other Trotskyist groups to form the Revolutionary Socialist League (RSL), British section of the newly formed Fourth International. The WIL refused to join and decided to remain in the Labour Party, but it soon grew to a bigger size than the fledgling RSL thanks to its focus on trade union activity.

During the Second World War, the WIL attempted to re-orient itself as an independent tendency, renaming its newspaper Socialist Appeal and enthusiastically taking up the Fourth International's “Proletarian Military Policy” – i.e. the idea that the Allied war against Nazi Germany would be transformed into a revolutionary war. Rejecting revolutionary defeatism, they tried to utilise the “fears of the workers of a Nazi invasion – especially after the fall of France in 1940 – to raise class demands and to win supporters to the banner of Trotskyism”.(3) When Nazi Germany finally turned against the USSR in 1941, the WIL called for its defence. Even to this day, the IMT continues to uphold the notion that the USSR’s occupation of Eastern Europe meant that “capitalism was overthrown” there, since the “Stalinists had introduced a nationalised planned economy, but on the same bureaucratic basis as in the USSR”.(4)

In 1944, the Fourth International helped the Trotskyists in Britain to regroup once again, this time leading to the formation of the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), which Grant’s WIL played a leading role in. This brief period of unity did not diffuse the internal tensions brewing within the movement. In the RCP, Grant distinguished himself by now arguing against entryism into the Labour Party, and by defending the “progressive” character of the Red Army’s advance into Eastern Europe. Upon the collapse of the RCP in 1949, Grant briefly joined Healy’s new deep entryist organisation, The Club, before being expelled. A period of political isolation followed, but in 1958 Grant’s own entryist group, taking up the name RSL again, fused with another small Trotskyist group and became recognised as the Fourth International’s new British section. In 1964 the RSL founded the Militant newspaper, which is how the Militant Tendency got its name.

In the late 1960s, Militant ultimately fell out with the remains of the Fourth International, Grant blaming its degeneration on “the pressure of capitalism, reformism and Stalinism, in a period of capitalist upswing in the West, the temporary consolidation of Stalinism in the East, and the perversions of the colonial revolution”.(5) Instead, Militant and its international contacts set about forming the Committee for a Workers' International (CWI). Militant’s main claim to fame in Britain arrived in the 1980s, when it managed to gain control of the Liverpool City Council. At the time, we had the following to say about this sorry episode:

The Militant-dominated council began in Liverpool an ambitious programme of public spending on such necessary things as housing. But under capitalism, everything must be paid for. The floundering of the Militants since the money ran out shows exactly how socialist they are, and more importantly, the impossibility of using elected bodies such as councils or parliament to run the state or sections of the state in the workers' interests. ... That this is the case is shown by the council's subsequent proposal to make its workforce redundant and re-hire it after three months, saving a quarter's pay and, after that had been rejected as it was too damaging to Labour's popularity, its idea of laying its workers off for January, locking them out for only one month instead of three! In short, Militant and its fellow assassins are "knifing" the council workforce.

Workers' Voice 25, 1985

In another infamous episode, Militant declared its resistance to the poll tax introduced by Thatcher’s government in 1989. After calling for a mass demonstration in London, where police ended up clashing with protestors, Militant denounced the protestors:

The Militant leadership of the "Anti-Poll Tax Federation" announced after the London battles that they would hand over names and photographs of the rioters to the police. To put it plainly they offered to help the bosses mercenaries in their job of oppressing workers and forcing us to submit to the injustices of capitalism. … The Labour Party screws the tax out of us, the unions isolate anyone who won't help the bosses screw us, and when we dare to defend ourselves the so-called "left" wing of the Labour party denounces us to the police!

Workers' Voice 52, 1990

Despite Militant’s best attempts to appear as responsible politicians, the Labour Party machine was now moving against them, resulting in expulsions and Militant members being prevented from standing as Labour candidates. This led to a debate within the organisation on the way forward, with Grant finding himself in a minority. The majority gave up on entryism, and formed what is today the Socialist Party of England and Wales (SPEW). Grant was expelled, but he and his supporters continued their entryism into the Labour Party, now under the name of Socialist Appeal. They formed the Committee for a Marxist International, which in 2004 became the IMT. Alan Woods gradually replaced the ageing Grant as the group’s ideological guide.

Apart from entryism, in this period Socialist Appeal was mainly distinguished in the Trotskyist universe by its fervent support for the Cuban and Bolivarian “revolutions”, to the point of contradicting some of their earlier positions. If in 1970 Grant condemned the infatuation of the Fourth International with Castro and Guevara, going as far as to say that “to endeavour to repeat in the countries of Latin America the policies of Castroism in Cuba, is to commit a crime against the international working class”(6), now gradually Castro had become a “tireless revolutionary fighter” who “transformed the national liberation struggle into a revolutionary struggle against capitalism”, “a beacon for the oppressed masses far beyond the shores of Cuba”.(7)

Like many Trotskyist groups, the IMT has over the decades targeted its recruitment more and more at young students, who will attend meetings, go to protests, and sell the paper, before eventually moving on to other pastures. To this end, the Marxist Student Federation became the youth wing of Socialist Appeal across campuses. In Britain, this set-up has allowed the IMT to benefit from the popularity of Corbyn. Members were encouraged to get actively involved in Corbyn’s campaign, and when that fell through, the IMT was there to attract some of the disappointed Corbynistas now looking for something a bit more radical. This helps to explain the growth in membership the IMT has recently experienced, but so does the hyper-activist attitude towards mass recruitment that has been adopted:

When you meet a communist, ask them to join the party straight away. Give them a bundle of papers to sell and posters to put up. Ask them what they can do to help build the party. Give them a task immediately.

All you need to do is to stand on the street corner, proclaim communism, take a banner, take a newspaper if possible, and the gold will come to you. They will come to you.

A Politically Dishonest Manifesto

Our attitude to Trotskyism is no secret.(8) As our political ancestors already recognised in the 1930s, when Trotsky and his followers took up entryism into social democracy as a tactic and the critical defence of the USSR as a "degenerated workers' state", Trotskyism lost any revolutionary credibility. Instead, it has been gradually integrated into the left of capital alongside the social democrats themselves (who saved capitalism back in 1919 by allying with nationalist paramilitaries to butcher workers on the streets of Berlin and, ever since, have been coming to capitalism’s rescue when called upon). Grant's own political trajectory, from the twists and turns of the early years, to the long march through the Labour Party, is a consequence of the bankruptcy of Trotskyism as a tendency.

Nevertheless, there have in the past been exceptions – erstwhile Trotskyist groups and individuals who attempted to critically reflect on the central tenets of their tendency, more or less fully breaking with Trotskyism as a result. Some of the more notable examples include Raya Dunayevskaya in the USA, Grandizo Munis in Spain, Agis Stinas in Greece, Ngo Van Xuyet in Vietnam, or indeed Trotsky’s widow herself, Natalia Sedova.(9) Woods calls the IMT’s decision to launch a new International “a rebirth, a renaissance”.(10) But does the shift away from entryism constitute some kind of critical reflection on its political past? An examination of the recently published "Manifesto of the Revolutionary Communist International" shows nothing of the sort.(11)

The general perspectives of the IMT can be summarised as follows. The capitalist system is now in an "existential crisis" and "no longer capable of playing any progressive role". The "present crisis is not a normal cyclical crisis of capitalism", but a "general crisis of culture, morality, politics and religion". The bourgeoisie has no solution to the crisis, but this does not mean it “lacks the means of delaying crises or of reducing their impact". Such measures, however, “merely create new and insoluble contradictions", such as the 2008 financial crash or the economic response to Covid-19, both of which only increased inflation and debt. As a result, the "world is heading towards an uncertain future characterised by a never-ending cycle of wars, economic collapse and increasing misery". Nevertheless, capitalism can “recover from even the deepest crisis, albeit at a terrible cost for humanity", so it is up to the working class to overthrow it. On the surface, putting aside the Trotskyist verbiage, this seems close to what we argue, but upon closer examination the whole edifice crumbles.

  • Capitalist Crisis: The IMT considers the main causes of capitalist crisis to be “on the one hand, private ownership of the means of production and, on the other, the suffocating straitjacket of the national market, which is far too narrow to contain the productive forces that capitalism has created". However, without reference to the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, for Marx “the most important law of modern political economy”,(12) the IMT is unable to explain the dynamics of the cycle of crisis-war-reconstruction. Furthermore, the IMT lays all responsibility for the crisis at the hands of the “free market economy”. It refuses to admit that state ownership, as Engels could already see in the 1870s, “does not do away with the capitalistic nature of the productive forces”.(13) Hence its infatuation with various state capitalist schemes which only distort the meaning of socialism (which is a stateless, classless, moneyless society, without exploitation, national frontiers or standing armies).
  • Imperialism: The IMT recognises that globalisation has given way to "economic nationalism and protectionist measures", and that the US, a declining superpower, is now facing new challenges from imperialist rivals, key among them Russia and China. But they still consider US imperialism "the most powerful and reactionary force on the planet." We have criticised this notion in the past – picking and choosing which imperialist power is the "most reactionary" in fact opens the way for siding with the "lesser evil". The document does not openly communicate this, but at the same time the IMT claims that Russia and China (and, for some reason, India) were only incorporated into the capitalist market "following the collapse of the Soviet Union". The implication is that previously Russia and China constituted “degenerated” or “deformed workers' states” which would need to be defended from US imperialism (and the IMT seems to think countries like Cuba and North Korea are still to this day not quite integrated into capitalism). What this amounts to is critical support for Stalinism as a third way between capitalism and communism. And, as we pointed out in a recent article, the ongoing praises for the populist nationalist Chávez, with whom Woods claimed a personal friendship, undermine any “internationalist” pretence the IMT attempts to give itself today:

When it came to Venezuela, the IMT praised Chávez as a "true internationalist" and a "threat to US capitalism". Of course, Chávez's Venezuela was a significant military and economic ally of Russia and developed strong ties with Iran. This is the same Russia which today the IMT decries as an imperialist power, and the same Iranian regime which the IMT considers "totalitarian". Was Chávez a "true internationalist" when he cosied up to his "brothers" Putin and Ahmadinejad, or was the IMT just too excited about Chávez quoting Alan Woods on national TV to notice what else he was up to?
  • Drive to War: Regarding the drive to war, the IMT believes proxy conflicts will proliferate, but "world war is ruled out under present conditions". This is apparently for two reasons: (a) nuclear war would mean mutual destruction of both sides, which is not in the interest of the capitalist class; and (b) there is mass opposition to war, particularly in the US. The first point assumes Cold War conditions are still in place. But we live in different times: the imperialist chessboard is far more unpredictable and the players have access to new technologies (such as hypersonic missiles), which increasingly puts the principle of mutually assured destruction (MAD) in question. Even if MAD does rule out a nuclear holocaust, there is no reason to assume that this rules out conventional warfare; capitalist powers often decide to avoid using certain weapons if they fear their opponents will use the same in retaliation, such as nerve agents during the Second World War. The second point is justified by statistical means: "only 5 percent of the US population would favour direct military intervention in Ukraine". Such a poll can, at best, reflect popular sentiments at a particular moment in time, but does not take into account how quickly those sentiments can change under different circumstances – as they did at the outbreak of both previous world wars. Furthermore, the trigger for a wider conflict might not be Ukraine (other potential candidates already exist in East Asia, Middle East and Africa).
  • Anti-Fascism: The IMT rightly rejects the logic of anti-fascism but... only in the context of Trump in the US. They criticise those who encourage a vote for Biden because "by advancing the false idea of ‘the lesser evil’, they invite the working class and its organisations to unite with one reactionary wing of the bourgeois against another". But they base this argument simply on the fact that Trump is not a “fascist”, which then leaves open the question of what would be their attitude to the "lesser evil", if faced with something they did consider "fascism". In any case, the IMT does not see prospects for “fascism” in the immediate term, because the "working class, in most countries, has not suffered serious defeats for decades". This is backwards logic. Irrespective of whether capitalist reaction needs fascism today (or whether it can do with other ideological substitutes), the reason there have not been "serious defeats" is because the working class movement in most of the world has been beaten down over the past five decades – economically undermined by the breaking up of old industries, politically confused by the right and left of capital, and unable to impose its interests on the capitalist class. The fact that populist nationalists like Trump even find a degree of support in working class communities is a consequence of this.
  • Identity Politics: The IMT says the “struggle against all forms of oppression and discrimination is a necessary part of the fight against capitalism” but they “utterly reject identity politics, which, under the guise of defending the rights of a particular group, plays a reactionary and divisive role that ultimately weakens the unity of the working class and provides invaluable assistance to the ruling class". Yet, a recent IMT article congratulates the "tub-thumping leftwinger George Galloway" on his win in the Rochdale byelection, in what they call a "kick in the face for the establishment".(14) The IMT fails to see how this was in fact a victory for identity politics – Galloway's leaflets distributed to Muslim constituents were devoted entirely to the theme of Gaza, while to non-Muslim constituents he played up British nationalist and transphobic talking points and pledged to "Make Rochdale Great Again". It is one thing to denounce identity politics in theory, and another to recognise and reject it in practice.
  • Left of Capital: The IMT considers bourgeois democracy “merely a smiling mask – a façade behind which lies the reality of the dictatorship of the banks and big corporations” and denounces the "particularly pernicious role … played by the so-called Left, who have everywhere capitulated to the pressures of the right wing and the establishment. We saw this with Tsipras and the other leaders of Syriza in Greece. The same process can be seen with Podemos in Spain, in the USA with Bernie Sanders, and in Britain with Jeremy Corbyn". But this is the pot calling the kettle black. Not only because when they had control over the Liverpool City Council, the IMT’s precursors behaved in similar ways, but also because in each case, the IMT encouraged its members to work within these social democratic parties in an attempt to push their leadership further to the left, spreading the widely held illusion that the rule of capital can somehow be undermined by means of bourgeois democracy.
  • Mass Parties and Trade Unions: The document opens with the classic Trotskyist formulation: “the historical crisis of mankind is reduced to the crisis of the revolutionary leadership”. Which already indicates the tactics of entryism are not to be questioned. For the IMT, it is the leadership of the mass parties and trade unions which has “come under the pressure of the bourgeoisie". For us, one of the most important lessons of the Twentieth Century is that it is these institutions themselves which have crossed the Rubicon, becoming an integral part of the capitalist system as pressure valves for channelling working class anger onto grounds safe for capital. It is not just the parties of the right which have been carrying out attacks on the working class, but also of the left. Instead of a break with the mass parties and trade unions and the creation of independent organs of struggle (mass assemblies, strike committees, and ultimately workers’ councils), the IMT calls for the regeneration of existing structures. And, when the time is right, it is more than prepared to once again send all their “forces into the reformist organisations in order to win over the leftward-moving workers”. This approach goes far deeper than tactics. It reflects a fundamental disregard for how the working class as a whole is going to change the conditions of its own existence. It reduces the working class to a passive, mindless mass to be moulded by the “leadership”: a leadership which the fate of entryism itself demonstrates inevitably winds up embroiled in obscure battles to gain positions of power within the existing frame.
  • Trotskyism and the Russian Revolution: The IMT’s political approach is based on the “theses of the first four congresses of the Communist International”. In other words, it sees the failure of the Russian Revolution mainly in what happened “following Lenin’s death”, at the hands of Stalin. This is an over-simplification. Many IMT members are simply unaware of Trotsky’s own contribution to the process of degeneration of the Russian Revolution: the reorganisation of the Red Guard into a professional standing army (which created a powerful military bureaucracy outside the control of the soviets), his support for militarisation of labour (which undermined working class self-initiative in the workplace), his denunciation of the Kronstadt sailors as a plot of "White Guard" generals in order to justify their repression (analogously, Stalin was to later denounce Trotsky as a “fascist agent”), his support for the ban on factions (later used to justify Trotsky’s own expulsion), his support for state-directed industrialisation (taken up by Stalin in his five-year plans), etc. The degeneration of the Russian Revolution is not down to any single individual (but a consequence of the failure of revolutions outside Russia); however, Trotsky’s record is something which he and his epigones have never reckoned with.
  • Trotskyism and Stalinism: The IMT says Stalinism and “Bolshevism” are “mutually exclusive and mortal enemies, separated by a river of blood”. Yet, as we have already established, the IMT continues to justify its past critical support for Stalinist regimes as “lesser evils”. Let us be clear: aside from actively reinforcing the relations of wage labour, these so-called “degenerated” or “deformed workers' states” also physically eliminated revolutionaries, subjected workers and peasants to forced labour, starvation and sent them off to war, all for the profits of a clique of party bureaucrats.(15) And even within this very document, the IMT dedicates a whole section to courting the Stalinist Greek Communist Party (KKE), praising it for its “correct internationalist stand on the Ukrainian war” but politely asking it to drop the “anti-Marxist theory of socialism in one country and to adopt a Leninist united front approach”, presumably in the hopes it will also be attracted to the call for a new International. Elsewhere in the document, the IMT mourns the evolution of the Italian Communist Party (PCI) which from the “biggest and most-powerful in Europe” underwent a process of “national-reformist degeneration” that led to its dissolution and “transformation into a bourgeois reformist party” in 1991. The original Communist Party of Italy (PCd’I), formed under the leadership of Bordiga and the Italian Communist Left, was indeed a revolutionary party. However, the process of its “national-reformist degeneration” was already well underway in the 1920s, with Togliatti and Gramsci’s bureaucratic manoeuvres to expel the Left at the behest of Moscow.(16) So when in 1943 Togliatti’s PCd’I renamed itself the PCI, it was already a Stalinist formation. In other words, the IMT’s attitude towards Stalinism is another case of denunciation in theory, exoneration in practice.
  • United Front and Transitional Demands: The IMT’s primary reference point remains Trotsky’s The Death Agony of Capitalism and the tasks of the Fourth International, and it is to this document, along with Lenin’s Left-wing Communism, an Infantile Disorder, that they direct readers to for their understanding of the united front and transitional demands. Despite their praise for Lenin “who stood implacably for a break with Social Democracy”, as we have seen the IMT’s application of the united front amounts precisely to joining forces with social democracy and Stalinism. Finally, regarding Trotsky’s “transitional demands”, it is a myth that they in any way went “beyond the limits of capitalist property relations and of the bourgeois state”:

What Trotsky in fact gives us is a grand plan to reform capitalism by demanding such things as nationalisation of the banks, workers’ control of industry, public works and a sliding scale of wages in advance of the seizure of power by the proletariat. Precisely such ‘radical” demands were already being advanced by Trotsky’s contemporary, Keynes, as an explicit plan to save capitalism and, in fact, all these measures were adopted by bourgeois states in order to preserve the capitalist order. Nationalisation of the banks in Eastern Europe, workers’ control in Yugoslavia - both of course hailed by modern Trotskyists as “destroying capitalism”; the sliding scale of wages - like the scala mobile in Italy or indexing elsewhere; and public works - in virtually every corner of the advanced capitalist world are steps to shore up capital not destroy it.

Towards a New international

There is no shortage of organisations already declaring themselves to be the Party or a new International. A document claiming to be the manifesto of such a body needs to provide workers with the tools to navigate the challenges ahead. The IMT’s manifesto, while couched in revolutionary rhetoric and aesthetics, smuggles in all the Trotskyist baggage of its past. In light of this, their claim to have “broken radically with reformism and cowardly ‘left’ opportunism” is revealed to be nothing more than an empty phrase to bolster recruitment. Sooner or later, the same old cracks are bound to emerge.

We in the Internationalist Communist Tendency (ICT) do not claim to be the Party or a new International, but we do think such a body is necessary, and we hope to be one of its constituent parts. This, however, has to be the product of clear political demarcation, on the one hand, and of getting rooted in the struggle of the working class, on the other. Trotskyism, with its false claims to be the only Marxist current to challenge Stalinism, is itself a product of the counter-revolution. Over the decades, it has led many devoted militants down the path of disillusion, opportunism, or worse, to actively undermine the struggle towards self-emancipation by the working class. We would encourage all those recently attracted to communist ideas to critically reflect on the Trotskyist legacy, and if what we say resonates, to read our Platform,(17) and about how we see the fight for a new International.(18)

Communist Workers’ Organisation
April 2024


(1) What many young people actually understand by the term “communism” seems not to be a cause of concern for the IMT: “Real communism comes from gut instinct, the need to fight and change things. These new layers call themselves communists – they haven’t read the books, but that’s what they are! They don’t need convincing.”

(2) Even by Trotskyist standards, these are not particularly impressive numbers. At its peak in the 1980s, the Militant Tendency claimed some 8,000 members (but, now as then, much of this will consist of paper members).






(8) See our pamphlet, Trotsky, Trotskyism, Trotskyists. An updated version is currently being prepared.

(9) See Sedova’s letter to the Fourth International:






(15) For a more in-depth analysis of Stalinism, see:

(16) For a brief history of our political ancestors in the Italian Communist Left and their struggle against Stalinism, see:



Friday, May 3, 2024