Programmatic Agreement for an International Conference

From Class Struggle 51 July-August 2003

We call for an International Conference, in which groups, fractions, militants, who are for the following principles and programmatic points, will be able to take part:

(1) All kinds of pseudo-theories have been adopted or invented by the revisionists to explain that decadent capitalism can overcome its crises and develop the productive forces without limits: “technical and scientific revolution”, “monopoly state capitalism”, “neocapitalism”, “the permanent arms economy”, “neoliberal globalization”, “new economy” etc.Against all these false theories, we affirm that for the whole imperialist epoch, capitalism has already exhausted its progressive role and is reactionary through and through.The current imperialist counteroffensive and the war against Iraq is proof that this capitalist system in its dying, destructive, imperialist phase, survives only by ferociously exploiting wage earners, and casting millions of workers out of production where they are condemned to misery, destroying the productive forces by means of economic crises and wars, each time more parasitic and destructive than the last, and threatening to destroy the whole of human civilization.
(2) All the imperialist powers, in the present crisis phase and the recurrent failure of the world economy – that since 1997 has struck from Asia and Japan, to Brazil and Russia, to Argentina and Turkey, and has now arrived at the heart of the United States itself – as well as exploiting their own working classes, urgently need cheap sources of commodities, slave labor and reserves of unemployed to boost their superprofits by superexploiting the colonial and semi-colonial world, so that they can resolve the present crisis and restore the rate of profit.The present colonising offensive of US imperialism is for a new repartition of the world at the expense of the imperialist powers of the second or third order.The second war against Iraq carried out by the US and Britain, despite the opposition of France and Germany, illustrates the inevitable increasing rivalry among the imperialist powers.If the revolutionary proletariat does not stop it first, capitalism will take humanity to new depths of barbarism beyond that seen in the 20th century.
(3) Revolutionaries must join forces militarily in the trenches of every oppressed nation attacked by imperialism, and be for the military victory of that nation and for the military defeat of imperialism. But we fight for the proletarian leadership of the war, and to transform that national war into a socialist revolution both in the country attacked and also in the aggressor imperialist nation. We proclaim to all who will listen, that those who, in the imperialist countries, are not unconditionally for the defeat of their own imperialism and for the victory of the working class and of the oppressed nations, are neither revolutionary nor anti-imperialist. We call on the US working class, today confined in a straight jacket by the national patriotic politics of the AFL-CIO, and the Japanese and European working classes, to fight to break the subordination of workers organizations to the imperialist bougeoisie and to ally with its class brothers and sisters in the colonial and semi-colonial countries, to overthrow the their own imperialist bourgeoisies, their governments and their states,on the road to the socialist revolution.
(4) We fight against the reactionary utopia of a united capitalist Europe, and we call on the European working class to oust the monarchy and the reactionary government of Aznar in Spain, the Gaullist 5th Republic in France, the anti-worker imperialist government of the united Germany, and the monarchy and the imperialist government of Tony Blair in Great Britain, etc.In other words,we call on all to defeat the governments and the states of the imperialist powers, by overthrowing the bourgeoisie, by demolishing the bourgeois state and putting in place Workers and working Farmers’ governments in these countries, opening the road to the United Socialist States of Europe.
(5) We reaffirm the validity of the theory and program of Permanent Revolution, against the policy of the "united anti-imperialist front" refuted after the tragedy of the Chinese Revolution in 1927. We support the widest anti-imperialist unity for action which takes even a small step forward in the struggle against imperialism for the working class and the exploited, always maintaining our absolute independence and political intransigent before all bourgeois currents in opposition or in government. Every semi-colonial bourgeoisie is necessarily pro-imperialist. As the smaller partners of the imperialists they can haggle over the surplus value extracted from the workers of their own countries, but, because they are an exploiting class, they are more afraid of the proletarian revolution than of the victory of the imperialists. Bourgeois or petty bourgeois nationalism, secular or clerical, always gives up the national struggle against imperialism and contains the proletariat and the masses under the yoke of capitalist exploitation. We fight for the overthrowing of the bourgeoisie and for the imposition of a Workers' and Peasants' government, because the only class that can liberate the oppressed nation from the domination of imperialism is the working class, leading the peasants and the exploited and oppressed masses.
(6) We denounce the surrender of the Iraqi bourgeoisie and of Saddam’s anti-worker officers and the Republican Guard before the imperialists attack, for betraying the national war of the Iraqi people and the anti-imperialist struggle ofthe masses of every Middle Eastern country, which today allows many leaders of the Ba’ath bourgeois nationalist party to collaborate with the Yankee and British occupiers. We denounce the bourgeois nationalist leaders of the oppressed Kurdish people because they were the allies of the invading Yankees and British in their war of colonial occupation against Iraq, and who will deepen the oppression and crush every struggle of the people for their legitimate right to national self-determination, includingtheir right to secede from Iraq,Turkey,Syria and Iran. We denounce the governments and states of the Persian and Arabian bourgeoisies of the Middle East, who kept “neutral” in the war against Iraq, refusing to constitute, against the imperialist military coalition, a coalition of all the oppressed nations of the Middle East to send arms, military equipment and supplies to fight against imperialism in Iraq.
(7) We denounce the Palestinian bourgeoisie and its political leadership, the PLO of Arafat, who gave up the revolutionary struggle of the Palestinian people and who kneel down before imperialism, before the "two states" plan of the UN and before Zionism. The Palestinian bourgeoisie wants to administer a caricature of a State as an agent of imperialism, in exchange for the blood of the martyred people. We declare war against all the treacherous leaderships and the renegades of Trotskyism who support the Zionist State of Israel by endorsing the counter-revolutionary policy of "two states" of the UN and the imperialists. We fight for the destruction of the State of Israel and for a secular, democratic and non-racist Palestinian State with a Workers’ and Peasants’ Government of the self-organized and armed Palestinian masses, on the road to a Federation of Socialist Republics of the Middle East.
(8) We denounce Chávez and his Bolivariano Movement for giving up the anti-imperialist struggle of the Venezuelan masses. Chávez sat at the negotiating table with the USA, with governments like that of Lula, and with "ambassadors of democracy" such as Carter and Alfonsín, and signed an agreement in which everything the imperialist and putschist reaction had not been able to achieve in the streets in two counter-revolutionary attempts was then handed over to them. We denounce also in Bolivia, the truce made by the COB, Quispe and Morales – leader of the WSF – with the murderous government of Sánchez de Lozada, thereby preventing the working class and the peasants from making the uprising they started last February victorious. In Colombia, for years, the truces and agreements of the FARC with the successive genocidal governments of this country have isolated the peasants’ war in the country from the proletariat in the cities who face the fascists "death squadrons". At the same time, the Stalinist leadership of the FARC refuses to expropriate a single oil well, or a millimetre of territory that it controls. Down with the truces and the agreements! For the independence of the workers’ organizations from the regimes, governments and lackey bourgeoisies! Only with such a proletarian strategy will we be able to set up a workers’ and peasants’ movement that, united with its class brothers, the American workers, fight to put an end to the slavery and misery in the "backyard" of Yankee imperialism. It is from this perspective that we raise the cry: Yankees out of Cuba, Ecuador; Puerto Rico, Colombia and the whole Latin America! Out with the European powers who are as much exploiters and oppressors as the Yankees! British out of the Malvinas! For a Federation of Socialist Republics of Latin America!
(9) We call the Russian working class to take up again the road of the Red workers, soldiers and peasants who in October 1917 made the first triumphant workers’ Socialist republic. The fight to create new workers’ states in the territories of the former USSR is an urgent task for the European and the world proletariat. We fight against Kim Song II of the North Korea, Fidel Castro and the Cuban restorationist bureaucracy, and with the new restorationist Chinese bourgeois, who adopted the reactionary and anti-worker pseudo-theory of "market socialism" which, as is shown by the brutal exploitation of the Chinese working class, and by the advance of restorationist measures in Cuba, and the submission of the Argentinean working class, is the counter-revolutionary policy of the World Social Forum to make the working class subservient to the capitalists. At the same time, in the case of the bureaucratized workers' states that still remain in existence, we unconditionally defend them from imperialism, in order to better overthrow the bureaucracies that are anxious to restore capitalism in these states.
(10) We declare war on all those leaderships that cling to the shirt-tails of the bourgeoisie, on their policy of class collaboration and their "popular fronts".History has proved time and time again that conciliation of class interests between the capitalists and the workers leads to the defeat and massacre of the masses. There is no possibility that the situation of the world proletariat nor the emancipation of any exploited class can be improved by submitting to the interests of any faction of the exploiters.
(11) We denounce and declare war on all the servants of the UN, including the majority of the renegades of Trotskyism who kneel before it. They follow their new leader Gladys Marin of the treacherous Chilean Stalinists, General Secretary of the Latin American Communist Parties Conference that meets twice a year. She is the spokeswoman for Fidel Castro, who abandoned the Chilean revolution in 1973, the Central American revolution in the 80s, and who also went to Argentina to support Kirchner against the revolution.Fidel Castro and Gladys Marin, mainstays of the World Social Forum, have declared that "another world is possible" without expropriating the capitalists, and continuing the exploitation of the working class. They call for the "redistribution of wealth" just as do the liberal democrats, hands in hand with the UN, the “thieves kitchen” of the imperialist gangsters. The same UN that approved the first war against Iraq, the genocidal blockade, and today is trying to get back into Iraq to defend the interests of the French and German imperialists. The same UN that in 1948 established the occupation of Palestine and the creation of the State of Israel, and which today supports the Zionist massacre of the Palestinian people with its policy of "two states". The same UN that promoted and supported the war against Korea in 1950, etc.
(12) We proclaim that, as it has been clearly demonstrated by the Argentinean revolution, in a pre-revolutionary or revolutionary situation the basis of any revolutionary program must be direct democracy and self-determination to enable the development, extension, centralization and arming of the masses’ organizations, such as the popular assemblies, the occupied factories, the commissions of the factories won from trade-union bureaucracy and the piquetero movement, which are expressions of the movement of the masses to create organs of dual power. In other words, when a revolution starts, those who do not fight for power and for the creation of Workers and Peasants Governments are no more than the servants of the bourgeois state. This is why in the Congress of the COTP-CI we put forward the demand: “For a government of the Third National Assembly of workers, unemployed and popular assemblies, with their self-defense organs!”
(13) We declare war on the pacifism that infects the consciousness of the working class.We also oppose the petty-bourgeois policy of individual terrorism that separates itself from the masses and disarms the masses.The uprising of the Bolivian working class and peasants with their cry: "Guns and grapeshot, Bolivians will not stay silent", shows the necessity to arm the proletariat. The bourgeois and counter-revolutionary leaderships prevent the arming of the proletariat, the formation of workers’ militia, and the destruction of the officer strata of the bourgeois armed forces. This has been proved in Palestine where Arafat and the bourgeois leadership of the PLO, along with Hamas and Hizbollah, prevent the generalised arming of the Palestinian people and sacrifice them to the murderous Sharon and his genocidal army.Despite this, we defend all anti-imperialist fighters against repression and demand the liberation of all anti-imperialist fighters in the world.
(14) Everywhere we confront the bureaucracies of all shades in the workers' organizations, bribed and corrupted by large capital; the bourgeois nationalists, social democrats and Stalinist trade-union bureaucrats, paid by the State to confine the workers to their narrow economistic interests and to the interests of the bourgeoisie and imperialism; the leaderships of the organizations of piqueteros that dominate the Argentinean working class, now begging for crumbs from the reformists, and that prevent the unity of the occupied workers and the unemployed and divide the workers ranks. The trade unions that were created to defend the economic interests of the workers have been transformed, over several decades by the trade-union bureaucracy coming out of the aristocracy of labour, into apparatuses where the bureaucracy is paid to collaborate with the bourgeoisie and its state to subordinate and impoverish the workers. We Trotskyists fight in the trade unions to eliminate the bureaucracy, and to win workers' democracy. We affirm that this is not possible without fighting for the complete independence of the workers' organizations from the bourgeois state that incorporates and corrupts them. We fight to impose workers' democracy based on the factory committees and the strike pickets; for renewing the leadership of the trade unions by resolutely putting up militant delegates at critical times to form a revolutionary leadership in the trade unions.
(15) We proclaim that any people that collaborates in the oppression of another people is unable to liberate itself. The imperialist bourgeoisies oppress what remains of their colonial empire(Puerto Rico, Northern Ireland, Martinique, Guadeloupe, New Caledonia…) and occupies again dominated countries (Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq…). We are for the independence of all protectorates and all colonies from imperialism. We are for the national rights of those peoples kept under armed oppression within bourgeois states (Basques, Kurds, Kabyles, Tamouls…). We categorically support the oppressed and invaded Chechyen nation against the genocide it suffers at the hands of the troops of the white counter-revolutionary army of Putin and the Russian bourgeoisie, today the agents of imperialism. We are for the unconditional right of national self-determination of all oppressed peoples, including the right to separate if the majority demands that right. In no case do we adapt ourselves to bourgeois or petty bourgeois nationalism. Only the recognition of the right of the self-determination of the oppressed people ensures the unity of the proletariat. For the same reason, we pronounce ourselves for the freedom of movement and settlement of workers, and for the complete equality of rights of all workers.
(16) We reaffirm the validity of Leninism–Trotskyism, of the program of Fourth International, as the continuity of that school of revolutionary strategy founded by the Third International of Lenin and Trotsky. It is from this strategic position that we call all the currents that say they fight for the interests of the working class, to break with the bourgeoisie and to start the struggle for power based on the autonomous and armed organizations of the masses. In the process of this combat, we are prepared to enter all united fronts and united actions with any workers' current ready to make even a single step forwards to advance our class. But as Lenin would say:while we are ready to strike together, we march separately. Before, during and after any such action we will not weaken our criticism of the reformist leaderships that are obliged to leave their luxurious offices and to put themselves at the head of the action of masses.
(17) The social democrat and Stalinist reformists poison the workers with the claim that capitalism can be reformed by means of the bourgeois state. It is useful for the plans of the bourgeoisie that the political apparatuses of social democracy and of the trade unions allies with it through "participatory" or "popular" democracy and manages their state to prevent the proletarian revolution. Social democrats and Stalinists are agents bought by the capitalist enemy.
(18) Pseudo-Trotskyist centrism has claimed to be revolutionary for fifty years while in practice it was subordinated to the reformist apparatuses. The Pabloist IC-USEC, the Lambertist IC-AIT, the Morenoist LIT, UIT, MAS and CITO, the Hardyist UCI-LO, the Cliffite IST, the Grantist ICT or The Militant, Altamiraist CI, the Loraist POR, etc., represent tedencies that have broken from Trotskyism into the camp of reformism.
(19) Social democracy, Stalinism and the trade-union bureaucracies have liquidated the most elementary principles and morals of the class. The centrists, revisionists and liquidators of the Fourth International are following in their path. The proletariat wants staunchness, honesty, loyalty, and the broadest workers' democracy. To discuss, to decide and to act, workers and youth must expel from the workers' organizations the method of lies, misrepresentation, and physical violence introduced by these leaderships who try to suppress or conceal the political differences inside the workers' movement
(20) We affirm that the 21st century has begun in the same way the 20th century finished: as an epoch of crises, wars and revolutions, highlighting all the characteristics of capitalism in decomposition. Against all the revisionists of Trotskyism who want to put the responsibility for the defeats on the masses and to hide their own capitulations and treacheries by saying that the problem is the "crisis of subjectivity" of the masses, or its "backward consciousness", we state that the start of 21st century confirms the central premise of the program of the Communist International and of the Fourth International: without a social revolution in the next historical period, all of human civilization is threatened by catastrophe. Everything depends on the proletariat, and on its revolutionary leadership: the historical crisis of humanity is reduced to the crisis of revolutionary leadership.
(21) Those who call for this International Conference, proclaim the necessity for revolutionary internationalists to build revolutionary workers' parties and the world party of the socialist revolution, from the forces emerging out of the struggle of the masses. With such organizations, the proletarian insurrection will be able to triumph, world revolution will succeed, and socialism will be able to develop.

Call for an International Conference of Principled Trotskyists

From Class Struggle 51 July-August 2003

The revolutionary organizations that jointly wrote and signed this document – Lucha Marxista of Peru, Groupe Bolchevik of France, the Communist Workers' Group of New Zealand, the Grupo Obrero Internacionalista (CI) of Chile and the Liga Obrera Internacionalista (CI)-Democracia Obrera of Argentina – agree to call, on the basis of the principles and the programmatic lessons contained in it, an International Conference of Principled Trotskyists and revolutionary workers’ organizations.

We met in the Congress of the COTP-CI [COPT-CI is Committee of Principled Trotskyists - Fourth Internationalist – the grouping of Workers Democracy of Argentina and Workers International League of Chile.] in Buenos Aires in December 2002 and, during the heat of the Argentinean revolution, the heroic fight of the Palestinian people and of the preparations for the war against Iraq, we decided to launch a call for an International Conference on the basis of revolutionary lesson and essential programmatic agreements on these crucial facts of the world class struggle. A first result of these agreements and this common fight, was the joint declaration before the war against Iraq, published on January 22nd, 2003,[Class Struggle # 48 March/April 2003] raising a principled and internationalist position against it, and concentrating the struggle against the treacherous leaderships grouped in the World Social Forum – a real counter-revolutionary international – and against those revisionist Trotskyists and the liquidators of the Fourth International currents whether they are subordinated to the WSF or not.

In the few months since then, the world proletariat has entered into new struggles and suffered new defeats and repeated betrayals such as in Iraq, in Palestine, in Argentina, in Bolivia, in Venezuela.

We, the revolutionary internationalists, must firmly say that the partial victories won by the counter-revolution and the bourgeois-imperialist reaction are not because of the lack of heroism of the exploited in these fights, nor because of the technical and military advances of the genocidal imperialist troops, but the betrayals of the treacherous leaders of our class.

The revolutionary upsurge at the end the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s was a world wide process: themobilization of youth and workers in China; the anti-bureaucratic revolution in Czechoslovakia; the war fought by the Vietnamese people; the general strike in France; the large scale strikes in Italy; the victorious miners' strike in Great Britain, the national movements in Ireland and the Basque Country; the students' movement in Mexico; the revolution in Bolivia; the Cordobazo in Argentina; the fight of the Blacks and anti-war movement in the United States; the revolutions in Chile and Portugal; and so on. But this wave was contained and betrayed by the bourgeois or petty-bourgeois nationalists and the treacherous leaderships of the workers' movement.

From the 1980s, new defeats inflicted on the world revolution allowed the bourgeoisies of the imperialist countries to take the offensive again. A critical turning point was the defeat of the British miners in 1985, but the decisive event was the destruction of the USSR in 1991 and the subsequent restoration of capitalism in the former USSR and Eastern Europe by the Stalinist bureaucracy that had usurped workers' power from 1924.
This historical victory of the world bourgeoisie encouraged American imperialism to lead the coalitions that crushed Iraq in 1991, the Balkans in 1999, Afghanistan in 2002, and Iraq again in 2003.
But the imperialist powers cannot stabilise the situation. At the end of the 20th century, the Palestinian Intifada that began in 1987; the mass demonstrations in East Germany and in China in 1989; the strikes of November-December 1995 in France; the strikes of 1997 in South Korea; the revolutions of Albania and Indonesia in 1997; came one after the other. The 21st century began with powerful mobilizations of the masses, such as the heroic struggle in Palestine in 2000, the revolution in Argentina in 2001, and the rising in Bolivia in 2003. The imperialist mobilisation for war on Iraq was answered by an enormous anti-imperialist mobilization of the masses all over the world, that reverberated in the heartlands of the imperialist countries.Today the workers of Europe put up a fierce resistance to the liquidation of the historic gains won during preceding revolutionary advances.
It is necessary to tell the truth to the masses, no matter how hard and cruel: the defeats, the retreats in the revolutionary processes, the military defeats of the oppressed nations, they all resulted from the treachery of the existing leaderships of the proletariat and the exploited masses, which are in most cases, grouped in the World Social Forum today.
Imperialism, with this succession of counterrevolutionary victories, is looking for a way-out from the world economic crisis, by making the world working class and oppressed peoples produce more surplus value. At the same time each imperialist country is competing against its rivals for the resources and markets of the colonies, semi-colonies of Latin America, Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and the former workers’ states. It has to be seen yet whether imperialism can resolve its crisis by these means.To achieve this the counter-revolutionary leaderships of all kinds must consolidate the triumph of the counter-revolution by forcing the masses to the conclusion that imperialism cannot be defeated, and therefore must be accommodated.
Therefore, the immediate perspective for revolutionaries in the current world situation is dictated by the reality the working class is experiencing of the wars, economic crises and sharpening of the class antagonisms of the imperialist epoch.
We believe that under these new conditions it is necessary, on the basis of the revolutionary lessons of the many struggles, of the defeats and the betrayals suffered by the world proletariat, to clearly separate the reformists, liquidationists and centrists from the revolutionary internationalists, and to prepare the international proletariat for the coming battles, as the imperialist counter-offensive begun in the mid 1980s, now sharpens against the working class, the workers' states,[countries were capital has been expropriated and which so far survive capitalist restoration. The ‘group of five’ agree that Cuba and North Korea remain ‘bureaucratic workers’ states]and the oppressed peoples of the world.
Under these conditions of economic crisis, war, and revolution, the struggle of revolutionary internationalists to unite on the basis of these lessons and a revolutionary program to prepare for the coming struggles, is a task of utmost urgency.
Today the imperialist war against Iraq –as before it the heroic Palestinian struggle and the Argentinean revolution –has established a new Rubicon not only of the treacherous workers’ leaders, but also of the revisionists of Trotskyism who provide a ‘left cover’ for the class traitors. The various wings of the liquidators of the Fourth International cling to the shirt tails of the UN and the French and German imperialists, collaborate with the stinking corpse of Stalinism and social democracy, with the national bourgeoisie as in Venezuela, and with the radical petty bourgeois nationalist movements such as Hizbollah and Hamas.
In the Argentinean revolution, they are the enemies of the struggle of the masses to create armed, self-organising mass organs based on direct democracy, and they use the minimal and democratic demands of the revolutionary program as a chain around the neck of the masses. They became the servants of the stinking remains of Stalinism and supporters of the notorious, hated regime.
In Brazil, the revisionist currents of Trotskyism and liquidationists of the Fourth International have openly supported and called workers to vote for the class collaborationist government of Lula-Alencar, and some ministers, governors and Secretaries of State of the Brazilian reactionary regime come from their ranks.
In France, these currents support of the imperialist regime of the Fifth Republic: they have openly called workers to vote for "the lesser evil", for Chirac against Le Pen; or they have supported it by of refusing to fight for an election boycott and for a general strike before the second round of the elections. In France, in Spain, in Italy, in Great Britain, etc., these currents are completely subordinated to social democracy, to the new parties of recycled Stalinists, and to the workers’ aristocracy and the trade-union bureaucracies.
These are only some examples how the liquidators of the Fourth International have crossed the Rubicon. These liquidationist and revisionist currents do not leave in place one stone of the theory and the program of revolutionary Marxism. Their bankruptcy is complete.
Because of this bankruptcy we must extract the revolutionary lessons from the past struggles and the betrayals we have suffered. We must prevent the flags of Trotskyism and of revolutionary Marxism from remaining in the hands of these misleading usurpers. We must unite the dispersed ranks of revolutionary internationalists. We must fight to set up Leninist combat parties, and to build a revolutionary international.To achieve all of this, is it necessary to convene an international conference to re-group the healthy forces of the workers’ movement and in particular of those who say they continue to fight for Trotskyism and the Fourth International.
Those who call for this Conference all come from the splits in the Fourth International, and we still have differences that we will publicly debate in our press in the period before this International Conference. The most significant of these differences is over the present character of the revolutionary international.
For the comrades of the CWG of New Zealand, it is necessary to struggle for a new Fifth International. The comrades of the Groupe Bolshevik of France and of Lucha Marxista of Peru say that the organization built by Trotsky, the Fourth International, is dead, but its program is still alive and that militants and regroupments are still seeking to apply the program for the world socialist revolution. Consequently they raise the algebraic expression "for the revolutionary workers’ International" saying that it will be the debate and conscious action of the living forces building this international that will determine its concrete form.
For the Argentinean and Chilean comrades of the COPT-CI, the fight today, more than ever, is for the regeneration and the refoundation of the Fourth International. The theory and program retains their validity and actuality and have passed the test of history. It is the usurpers and renegades of Trotskyism who have not passed this test. Therefore, it is the validity and actuality of its theory, program and strategy that determines the number of an International, as has been demonstrated several times by the experience of the world proletariat since the middle of the 19th century.
But we will discuss these differences –and others that exist before the International Conference –within a common international bulletin, since we are linked by our programmatic agreements facing the explosive events of the international situation: of crisis, revolution and war. So, we are far from any centrist alchemy and from signing agreements with those who will then go away and betray the proletariat.
Therefore, we call for an International Conference to go forward towards setting up an International Center of Revolutionary Marxism. The program we promote here for this Conference is not written for small circles of intellectuals or for the editorial boards of Marxist papers. It is a program that we undertake to develop –and to fight for it –in the heart of the workers’ organizations in our countries. Hundreds of workers’ and class struggle organizations are affiliated to the World Social Forum, tied to the UN and the French and German imperialists by their treacherous leaderships. Our fight will be to win mass support for this revolutionary program from the combat organizations of the working class. They will have an honoured place beside the revolutionary Trotskyists.
The epoch of crises, wars and revolutions will not allow the would-be liquidators of Marxism and of the Fourth International to rest in peace.Our forces are very weak, but our program and the ideas that we defend are the fruit of more than 150 years of struggle by the world proletariat. They deserve to live, and sooner rather than later, they will be adopted by the many millions of exploited who enter into class combat.
Long live the struggle for an International Conference of the healthy forces of Trotskyism and of the revolutionary internationalist workers’ organizations!

July 2003

Collective for an International Conference of the Principled Trotskyism

§Communist Workers’ Group (New Zealand)
§Groupe Bolchevik pour la construction du Parti ouvrier révolutionnaire, de l'Internationale ouvrière révolutionnaire (France)
§Grupo Obrero Internacionalista Cuarta Internacional (Chile)
§Liga Obrera Internacionalista Cuarta Internacional - Democracia Obrera (Argentina)
§Lucha Marxista (Peru)

World Social Forum vs Principled Trotskyism

 From Class Struggle 51 July-August 2003

The urgent task facing revolutionaries today is to confront and destroy all those forces that try to convince workers that they cannot overcome capitalism and imperialism, but rather must adapt or accommodate to it. We say that most of these forces are gathered today in the World Social Forum (WSF). Against the WSF we seek to build a new revolutionary international. Here we explain why the WSF seeks to adapt workers to capitalism. We make a ‘call’ to all the healthy forces of Trotskyism and revolutionary workers organisations to unite to build that new revolutionary international that can destroy the WSF, and with it, capitalism.

In NZ today an Oceania Social Forum is being organised and will meet in Wellington in October this year.The Oceania SF is a spin-off from the WSF that has met three years in a row at Porto Alegre in Brazil.On the face of it this ‘movement of movements’ seems harmless enough. After all a wide range of political views are presented at each meeting, it has no clearly defined program, and its organisation is ostensibly very open and democratic.

But is it harmless? As we pointed out in earlier Class Struggles, [Class Struggle # 43, 48, 49.] the WSF is run by a narrow group of trustees based in the Brazilian Workers’ Party of President Lula, the French ATTAC (itself a front for the so-called Usec 4th International soon to be joined by the Cliffite International Socialist Tendency) and some reformist intellectuals associated with Le Monde Diplomatique and Z Mag. It promotes the trendy left humanist ideas of Chomsky, Arundhati Roy, Naomi Klein, Walden Bello and others.

The WSF is dangerous for workers.It is a very sinister movement because it is linked politically to actual governments such as those of Cuba, Venezuela, Colombia and Brazil. This means that these countries are promoted as examples of how popular governments can resist imperialism and improve the lot of the workers and peasants. Much is being made of Lula being able to balance the interests of his working class supporters and the World Bank! 

[Many workers internationally look to Lula as a turning point in working class history. For example, the IRSL (Iranian Revolutionary Socialist League says, “…the left-wing movement in Iran…prescribe this as a model for Iran. They purposely disregard the truth and the reality of the anti-revolutionary and anti-working class nature of such a movement and describe such an amalgamation as a ‘modern’ version of the working class struggle against global capitalism.”See article at:]

Second, some of the left democratic politicians (and right wing ex-Trotskyists like the Usec who have Euro MPs and MPs in Lula’s government) associated with the anti-globalisation movements claim to be part of the WSF giving them left credentials while they embark on openly anti-worker policies.

Third, the WSF is linked politically with the remnants of the Stalinist parties that in some countries have a long history and still carry some credibility. Despite its role in helping Allende disarm the workers before Pinochet’s coup in 1973, the Chilean Communist Party today leads Latin American Stalinists in alliance with the WSF. In Iraq today the Communist Party despite serious oppression still survives, has a representative in the US’s puppet government, and is playing a role in organising workers behind a peaceful transition to a new bourgeois regime. (See our article on Iran for evidence of the same in that country).

Fourth, widely supported by the Stalinists, the authority of Fidel Castro in the WSF is strong, particularly in Latin America, because, despite its deficiencies and the sell outs of Stalinist bureaucrats like Castro, the Cuban revolution has survived all attempts so far to destroy it. Castro’s Cuba lends its authority to the reformist model of ‘market socialism’ that goes down the same road as ‘Socialism with Chinese characteristics’ to the World Trade Organisation, and in Brazil today with President Lula goes all the way to the Free Trade Area of the Americas!

[Our position on Cuba is that it is a degenerate workers’ state which must be unconditionally defended against capitalism, but which needs a political revolution to replace the bureaucracy with a democratic workers government before Castro allows capitalism to be restored.The model of ‘market socialism’ is the view that socialism can coexist with the capitalist market put forward by those who seek to restore or adapt to capitalism under the cover of ‘modern’ socialism.]

Fifth, all of these currents join together in supporting the United Nations as an organisation that acts for so-called ‘democratic’ imperialism. Like Castro, they called for the UN to complete its inspections for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, opposing the US unilateral invasion in the name of multilateralism. Like Castro they backed the UN in its propping up of Israel, its sanctions against Iraq, and its ‘peacekeeping’ in Bosnia and East Timor. Today they back the UN going into Iraq to cover for the US invasion by taking responsibility for ‘peacekeeping’ and ‘rebuilding’.

Finally, and most important, the WSF now includes in its ranks so-called Trotskyists who are to the left of Stalinism and Castro and whose ‘street cred’ is significant in drawing into the WSF new layers of workers in struggle so they can be contained in this reformist international.For example, recently in Argentina, pseudo-Trotskyists united with Lula, Chavez and Castro to welcome the election of the populist Peronist Kirchner as an ‘anti-imperialist fighter’!

When we sum up all of these influences we can see that combined together as a world wide tendency, the WSF is a counter-revolutionary international that unless challenged and destroyed will lead workers and peasants everywhere to defeat and disaster. It is precisely to build a revolutionary opposition to the WSF that the ‘group of five’ have produced the following document calling all the healthy forces of Trotskyism and revolutionary workers’ organisations to a conference of Principled Trotskyists.

These principles can be the first step in uniting those forces that can go on to build a new revolutionary international communist party capable of not only destroying the WSF, but of leading workers everywhere in the struggle for socialist revolution.

Is Iran next on Bush's Hit List?

From Class Struggle 51 July-August 2003

Iran is now a prime target of Bush’s administration. The Islamic Republic is facing mounting domestic opposition. The US is openly supporting the opposition. But will it become the next item in Bush’s ‘evil axis’ hit list? We examine the historical causes of the current crisis in Iran, and put forward our view on how workers can defeat the US plans for ‘regime change’, and at the same time overcome all the barriers to the formation of a secular, socialist republic in Iran. 

In Iran today the situation is very unstable. Since 1999 there has been a gradual build up of opposition to the Islamic Republic headed by Ayatollah Khamenei. In the last weeks tens of thousands of students have taken to the streets in opposition to the privatisation of the universities. In Tehran, Shiraz, Mashhad, Esfahan, and many other cities, they have been joined by workers protesting the shortages of water, electricity, prices rises, unpaid wages and poverty. Both students and workers are calling for the end of the Islamic Republic. The mounting unrest is being used by the US to demand a “regime change” from within. Not only has Bush named Iran as one of the rogue states in the ‘axis of evil’, after the victory in Iraq he has made direct threats of unilateral US intervention to stop the development of nuclear weapons in Iran. Not to be outdone, France is arresting and jailing exiled members of the Mujahadeen, a radical militant Iranian organisation. 

Many Iranians after 24 years of Islamic rule do want a ‘regime change’.Some capitalist and petty capitalist elements believe that the US can rescue them from the Islamic Republic and reinstall a Western-aligned democratic regime. But the working masses are strongly opposed to US intervention.Others want the Islamic regime to become more moderate and democratic without reorienting itself to the West. What do we make of these positions?

Whatever is wrong with the Islamic Republic, ultimately imperialism is to blame.So the US cannot be the solution whether it intervenes directly or not. Nor has the crisis of the regime be solved by the politics of religious fanaticism. As we shall see, the very nature of the Islamic Republic as a clerical regime prevents it from reforming itself.We shall show that the unpopularity of the government flows directly from its origins in 1979 as a counter-revolutionary regime that rode to power on the backs of an insurgent working class and poor peasantry, only to turn on the masses and smash its leading organisations. That is why the demand “Down with the Islamic Republic” is becoming the catch cry on the streets with the students and workers. There can be no compromise between the interests of the emerging mass movement and the repressive Islamic regime. 

To understand why this is happening today, and why the opposition in Iran poses a potential threat not only to the regime, but also to the US and the other imperialists, we have to go back to the 20th century history of Iran.

[Much of the material in this article is drawn fromthe Worker-Communist Party of Iran’s webpage: http:/// and “Khomeini’s Capitalism: the imperialists close in”inRevolutionary Communist Papers No 6 Theoretical Journal of the Revolutionary Communist Tendency (Britain) June, 1980.]

British Imperialism’s semi-colony.

[Semi-colonies are oppressed countries whose political independence does not mean that the national bourgeois has any control over the economy which remains dominated by imperialism. They can include neo-colonies like India, but in some cases because they emerged out of existing non-capitalist empires like Turkey and Iran, do not originate as capitalist colonies.]

After the Ottoman Empire collapsed during WW1, British and French imperialism divided up the Middle East and created artificial semi-colonies or client regimes with puppet rulers. Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia etc were all born as the stunted children of imperialism who were destined to remain dependent and could never grow up so long as imperialism ruled. (We must not leave out Israel – in the Balfour Declaration of 1917 the British gave the Jewish capitalist class the green light to settle in Palestine.)The children were stunted because they were trapped in an international division of labour dominated by the imperialist powers, a division which made them exporters of cheap raw materials and importers of manufactured goods. Thus the semi-colonial capitalist ruling classes of the Middle East remained dependent on imperialism and could not follow the path of the US or Japan to economic independence. 

Client regimes were delegated the task of managing the dependent semi-colonial development of capitalism so that the imperialists got the lion’s share of the oil and other wealth created by the workers in the region.While the local capitalists had an interest in negotiating with imperialism for as big a slice of the profits as they could get, they had to collaborate with imperialism for their class survival. Whatever their differences, both imperialists and the national ruling classes had a common interest in profiting from the super-exploitation of workers and poor peasants. 

The difficulty for imperialism was to find semi-colonial regimes that could extract maximum super-profits without being overthrown by the masses. Because the national bourgeoisies were weak, they had to rely on regimes that formed alliances with the petty capitalists and to some extent the working class under the guise of ‘populism’ or ‘patriotic alliances’. Thus when the poor masses resisted their super-exploitation and demanded independence from imperialism, these regimes pretended to be anti-imperialist, and aided by reformist working class parties, made minor concessions to the masses to try to keep them quiet. When the imperialists applied too much pressure this strategy failed and workers threatened to break through the controls of the reformists and overthrow the state.The regimes then had to appeal to traditional petty capitalists as a class base for radical nationalist regimes that posed as anti-imperialist, but whose interest was ultimately to protect national capital by eliminating the threat posed by the revolutionary masses. Not until the masses organised independently of both the bourgeoisie and the petty capitalists would there be a class alliance strong enough to win the poor masses, including the impoverished petty capitalists, to a class alliance that could liberate these semi-colonies from imperialism’s deathly grip.

Iran’s 20th century history followed this pattern. Under Reza Shah in the 1920’s and 1930’s Iran’s economy was dominated by Britain and the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (ADIOS). [AIOC later became British Petroleum, now selling itself as Beyond Petroleum, and soon to be Beautiful People.]
The Shah attempted to negotiate a better share for the weak Iranian bourgeoisie. Because Iran had little private capital, he used the state to develop the domestic economy, imposing import controls and creating public monopolies in sugar, tea, cotton, jute, rice and carpets.He then built large scale manufacturing plants for textiles, food processing, forestry and mineral production. But inefficiencies and low quality made these industries unprofitable.When the Shah failed to get financial support from Britain in the 1930’s to prop up the stagnating economy he turned to an alliance with Hitler. To secure the oil fields and a supply line to the Soviet Union the British and the US invaded Iran in the south, and the USSR in the north. This invasion brought to an end this first phase of Iran’s attempt at insulated economic development. 
The war and its aftermath gave a boost to economic protectionism from another quarter. From 1941 to 1951 the wartime economy encouraged the petty bourgeoisie of shopkeepers and small industry to expand to meet the domestic market, particularly the small businesses supplying the occupying military. But there was no large investment by imperialism to allow the economy to take off. This drove sections of the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie to adopt a more radical ‘economic nationalism’.[Most semi-colonies experienced this expansion of the domestic economy under wartime conditions because they had to substitute domestic production for imports and got good prices for their exports from countries at war.] 
At the same time the working class which had begun to develop under the Shah’s protectionist policy in the 30s continued to expand during and after World War Two and developed a strong anti-imperialist sentiment. [At the turn of the century 90% of the labour force worked in agriculture. By 1945 this hadfallen to 75%, in 1966 it was 47% and 1980 less than 40%. By 1920 there were at least 12 unions with a total membership of over 20,000. Many of these were affiliated to the Red International of Trade Unions. In the mid-1940s the Tide-controlled Central Council of Unified Trades Unions (CCUTU) had more than half a million members who marched under its banner on May Day 1946.]

The rise of Tudeh

Now the national bourgeoisie had once more to steer a course between imperialism and the anti-imperialist sentiment of the masses. It tried to advance its national class interests by riding the anti-imperialist wave but still keeping the exploitative relationship between the bourgeoisie and working class intact. It was helped in this task by the Stalinist organisations that dominated the political leadership of the working class. Rather than mobilise workers and poor peasants to overthrow the bourgeoisie, the Communist Party took the Stalinist view that Iran had to first develop as an independent capitalist country before it could become socialist. This was a convenient theory that allowed it to ally itself with the national bourgeoisie against imperialism to create a ‘democratic’ Iran as a ‘friend’ of the Soviet Union. But the price of this policy was subordination of the working masses and the nation minorities to the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie and to the inevitable counter-revolution. 

[Trotsky condemned such patriotic popular fronts as leading to the destruction of the working masses at the hands of the national bourgeoisie and imperialists. He called for workers united fronts independent of the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie that could take the lead in the fight against imperialism and carry on to overthrow the national bourgeoisie as a ‘permanent revolution’. This was what happened in Russia, and had been prevented in China in 1927 by the Stalinist leadership’s popular front with Chiang Kai Chek (see Class Struggle # 46)]

As we have seen, the working class grew rapidly in Iran along with capitalist industry.It was mainly under the influence of the Stalinist Tudeh party. The Tudeh party was formed in 1941 by the survivors of the Communist Party of Iran. It quickly became the strongest force in the working class. But its policies were always tied to the USSR and to the Iranian bourgeoisie. While the USSR occupied the north of Iran, Tudeh supported the national independence movements of the Azerbaijanis and the Kurds as a means of prolonging Soviet influence and gaining oil concessions. By 1945 both Azerbaijani and Kurdish republics had been formed with the support of the Soviet troops and Iraqi Kurds. But once the interests of the USSR had been served the Tudeh was prepared to sacrifice the national rights of the minorities and the interests of the working class.

The Tudeh joined the government of the bourgeois liberal Prime Minister Qavam in January 1946. He promised oil concessions to the Soviets if they would withdraw their troops. The Soviets did so and the new republics were crushed. [The Azerbaijani republic was invaded in December 1946 and its leaders imprisoned or executed. The Kurdish republic fell soon after and its leader Qadi Muhammed was executed.] Qavam later reneged on his promise. The sell-out of the oppressed nationalities was hailed by the Tudeh as a victory. 

Now Qavam could turn the screws on the Tudeh. He formed the Iranian Democratic Party (IDP) representing the landed aristocracy, the bourgeoisie, and a government-sponsored union. Tudeh joined an IDP-led government, providing three cabinet ministers. When the oil workers of Khuzestan staged a general strike in July 1946 and several casualties occurred on both sides, and the British Labour government threatened to invade Aberdan, the Tudeh general secretary Reza Rusta, who was also secretary of the CCUTU, [See note above] went to Abadan and persuaded the workers to call off the general strike without any of their demands being met. The betrayals of the national minorities and workers led to a falling off of Tudeh support at a time when the working class was still on the rise. Even so, its next task was to direct the working class in behind the economic nationalist policies of Mossadegh.

Nationalism serves US imperialism

Between 1949 and 1951 a series of strikes culminating in a general strike hit Iran. The Shah appointed Mossadegh to ‘re-establish social order’. As one Senator at the time observed:

“Class tensions have reached such a point that they threaten the whole fabric of society…The only way to save Iran is to unite all classes against the foreign enemy”. (RCP p 12).
Like the Shah before him, Mossadegh was an economic nationalist, but he went further in his attempts to insulate the Iranian economy. By 1949 he saw the need to harness petty bourgeois and worker support and formed the National Front for a sweeping nationalisation of industry. He calculated that Britain would even tolerate the nationalisation of the IAOC so long as it needed Iranian oil and could make a profit.

Mossadegh wasted no time in nationalising foreign industries including the IAOC. This suited the US which welcomed the loss of its rival’s oil assets.However, the IAOC called Mossadegh’s bluff, boycotted Iranian oil and shifted its operations to Iraq and Kuwait. Iran did not own a single oil tanker and its oil production fell to near zero. This crisis forced Mossadegh to retreat to his core support in the national bourgeoisie and working class against the Shah and the landed aristocracy.He took on more powers and sought to transfer control of the army from the Shah to the Prime Minister – i.e. himself. 

This alarmed the US which saw the mobilisation of the poor working masses and the USSR gaining influence in Iran as a threat to its interests. When the Tudeh joined the National Front in 1951 in support of Mossadegh’s nationalisation plans, this was too much for the US. It started to move against him. The petty bourgeois were already opposed to Mossadegh’s radical plans for land reform and modern education. So the US cut off his loans and isolated him further by offering bribes to the petty bourgeois parties in the National Front. 

“Most of the middle class and petit bourgeoisie soon realised that mass mobilisations against imperialism would eventually threaten their interests. They opted for a deal with imperialism rather than countenance any radical threat to their class position; Imperialism was quick to oblige. As soon as oil production was restarted massive American loans flowed into Iran. Economic policy once again fell into line with the requirements of imperialism” (RCP p 8). 
The CIA and the army replaced Mossadegh in 1953 and the workers organisations controlled by the Tudeh then paid the price of the Stalinist popular front with the national bourgeoisie, becoming the victims of the Shah’s anti-worker policies.[The Shah banned trades unions and imprisoned many militants. New labour laws in 1959 allowed state-run unions but no right to strike combined with paternalist social insurance and profit sharing schemes. The Shah’s secret police SAVAK had spies in workplaces and employed thugs to break strikes.] They had learned the hard way that the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie were more afraid of a insurgent working class and a poor peasantry, than of imperialism. The dominant US imperialism moved to bring the national regime back into line with its economic interests, and under the Shah, the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie also fell into line. Thus ended of the second phase of economic nationalism. 

The Shah as US imperialist puppet

The Shah Pahlavi was installed and ruled Iran for 26 years as one of the many US–friendly dictators in the region. He instituted the ‘white revolution’ designed to eliminate the social barriers of pre-capitalist classes, such as the landlords and the petty bourgeoisie, to modern capital accumulation. His aim was to reorganise the state along efficient lines to allow the free flow of capital. This was not to be another phase of economic nationalism but rather state-assisted capitalist industrialisation dominated by imperialism.The state would invest in new ventures and then privatise them once they were profitable. 

State investment in the economy grew rapidly in heavy industry notably the Esfahan steel mill, Arak heavy metals factory, Tabriz tractor plant, Ahwaz Aluminium works and the Khuzestan petrochemicals complex. [RCP page 8]
Public spending on health, arms etc jumped from 27% in 1971 to 45% in 1976.ehi The traditional bazaar moneylenders were replaced by a state central bank and state banks in joint ventures with British, Dutch and Japanese banks. This period of rapid growth and expansion was possible only on the back of rising oil revenues to cover Iran’s balance of payments deficits. 

The Shah opened up Iran to direct foreign investment and super-exploitation. Rising oil revenues fuelled economic development until the mid-1970’s. Growth rates went from 9% in the 1960s to over 35% in the early 1970s. National capital expanded into the production of consumer goods such as radios, refrigerators and cars for the domestic market. Foreign capital leaped over the import controls and invested heavily in rubber, chemicals, drugs, mining and aluminum.

While the Shah’s agricultural reforms failed to convert the landlords and peasants to capitalist farming, they created millions of displaced peasants.By 1977, Iran, which had been self-sufficient in food production in the 1950s, had to import 16% of its rice, 20% of its wheat and 25% of its meat. By the mid 1970s the increasing dependency on oil revenues left Iraq’s economy heavily indebted to foreign investors and unable to meet its debt repayments. Iran’s inability to escape the trap of imperialist super-exploitation by state-aided foreign investment in industry and agriculture was now obvious in its ballooning debt crisis.

The classes that bore the brunt of this crisis were the workers and poor peasants. The Iranian working class grew from 2.7 million in 1956 to 4.7 million in 1976, and the greatest increase was in the public sector. The failed agricultural reforms forced peasants off the land into the shantytowns around the cities. At the same time a shortage of skilled workers saw tens of thousands of foreign workers employed. Low productivity led employers to force workers to increase their output. In the 1970s opposition began to mount against the rising exploitation of the workers and peasants. More and more illegal strikes and go-slows occurred despite the harsh repression. The regime made concessions to skilled workers such as pay increases and profit sharing, but failed to stem the rising militancy of the working class. By 1978 the Shah was prepared to met this militancy with state force which in turn only produced more strikes culminating in mass demonstrations and the oil workers’ strike of October 1978.Here was a massive working class and poor peasantry, led by a section of militant state workers, ripe for social revolution. 
Meanwhile, what had happened to the petty bourgeoisie, that backward class which the Shah tried to eliminate as a social barrier to modern capitalism? As we have seen, the ‘white revolution’ failed to modernise agriculture. The landlords retained their dominance in the countryside. The bazaar which brought together small traders, craftsmen and businessmen, survived and grew, but increasingly came under threat from the Shah’s modernising policies.The petty bourgeoisie suffered at the hands of the foreign banks and resented the Shah’s plans to replace the bazaars with supermarkets.The Islamic mullahs as a traditional petty bourgeoisie were aligned to the bazaars. So the Shah’s attacks on the bazaars challenged the whole social system of which the mosque was the centre. As the economic crisis further undermined the economic existence of the bazaar, from the early 1960s opposition to the Shah rallied behind the Ayatollah Khomeini. 
So along with the emerging working class and poor peasantry, the petty bourgeoisie had became a force for change. However, rather than follow the course charted by the workers’ interests, the anti-Shah movement was taken over by a petty bourgeois radical Islam with its popular appeal to class unity against the repressive regime.How was it that the modern, expanding, and militantly led working class allowed itself to be dragged backwards into the reactionary Islamic Republic?
The left and the ‘revolution’
The ‘Islamic revolution’ has long been a highly contentious event for the revolutionary left. The basic sequence of events is clear enough. The Shah was overthrown by a bloc of the national bourgeoisie, the petty bourgeoisie, workers, landlords and poor peasants in which the masses provided the troops, and the Islamic leadership, the officers.The bourgeoisie wanted to take back more control over the economy from imperialism but was too weak to do this alone. The petty bourgeoisie and the landlords were desperate to prevent the Shah’s reforms from wiping them out. They rallied to the Islamic opposition. The workers and poor peasants mobilised in their millions to get rid of the repressive regime. They lent their support to what they believed to be a genuine national revolution. 
The first phase of the revolution between 1979-81 was dominated by the workers movement which easily outweighed the petty bourgeois and bourgeois forces. The mass power of the insurgent workers owed nothing to the Tudeh which backed the Shah until September 1978! 

Khomeini had to make concessions and posture as an anti-imperialist to keep the masses’ support. But the revolution while it had the potential to be progressive and lead to socialism, rapidly turned into a counter-revolution.Why? Its ‘anti-imperialism’ was more apparent that real.Its real purpose was to subordinate the revolutionary masses to both the Iranian bourgeoisie and the imperialists. But to do this it had to keep the only revolutionary classes, the workers and poor peasants, on side. This required the collaboration of the political parties that represented those classes.To achieve this the regime had to convince the mass membership of these parties that it was genuinely ‘anti-imperialist’ and ready to break with imperialism and establish an independent, democratic, Iran.

The main parties of the left subscribed to the Stalinist or Menshevik position that the Shah’s pro-Imperialist dictatorship had to be overthrown and an independent bourgeois democratic nation created before the conditions for socialism could be built. As we have seen, this stagist view of history served the interests of the national bourgeoisie, but also imperialism, because no semi-colonial nation can become independent of imperialism unless it is lead by a workers and poor peasant’s revolution. 

[Tudeh’s collaboration with the Islamic regime was a total capitulation.It called Khomeini and co ‘progressive clergy… struggling for freedom and democracy’. Even after Khomeini turned on the workers, closing down party offices and banning left newspapers,the Tudeh was silent. It backed the reactionary Islamic constitution of December 1979. So slavish was its backing of the clergy that the Tudeh general secretary was contemptuously referred to as ‘Ayatollah Kianouri’.]
The main parties of the left – the Tudeh, the Mujaheddin and Fedayeen all supported the Islamic leadership of the revolution. [The two guerillaist groups the Mujahedin (Muslim Marxists) and Fedayeen (Castroists) believed that guerilla action could ‘detonate mass action’, but that action was still limited to a bourgeois democratic stage with an ‘anti-imperialist united front’ of all classes.]
They collaborated with the Islamic Revolution in the belief that it was more progressive than the Shah’s regime. But this was never the case.Khomeini’s forces were based on the Mosque and the Bazaar, the two main institutions that represented the surviving pre-capitalist social relations in Iran and whose adaptation to Iranian capitalism was to foster petty capitalism or a protectionist national state-capitalism.Inevitably, because of its weak position, the bourgeoisie had to rely upon the petty bourgeoisie Islamists to renegotiate a deal with imperialism. Initially this relationship was indirect and mediated by a ‘Bonapartist’ Islamic regime between 1979 and 1981. 
Bonapartism is a form of bourgeois state named after the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte where power is held temporarily by a strong leader or powerful clique standing ‘above classes’ ruling indirectly on behalf of the bourgeoisie when the bourgeoisie is weak and under challenge from below. [Trotsky wrote: “In the industrially backward countries foreign capital plays a decisive role. Hence the relative weakness of the national bourgeoisie in relation to the national proletariat. This creates special conditions of state power. The government veers between foreign and domestic capital, between the weak national bourgeoisie and the relatively powerful proletariat. This gives the government a Bonapartist character. It raises itself so to speak, above classes’. Actually it can govern either by making itself the instrument of foreign capitalism and holding the p proletariat in the chains of a police dictatorship, or by manoeuvring with the proletariat and even going so far as to make concessions to it, thus gaining the possibility of a certain freedom toward the foreign capitalists”. (Writings, 1938-39, Pathfinder, p. 326)] 
The Bonapartist state cannot encourage the masses too much without itself being overthrown. Nor can it balance between the two main classes indefinitely so it must crack down on the masses sooner or later. From 1980 the interests of the petty bourgeois class base of the regime forced it to rapidly align itself with national capitalism and re-negotiate its relation with imperialism. [Khomeini deliberately used a populist mixture of radical Islam, Persian nationalism and the glorification of petty commodity production to activate the petty bourgeoisie as the social base of his regime. The mass base of the regime was the Committees for the Islamic Revolution, led by local merchants and mullahs which formed the Pasdaran (Revolutionary Guards) that have played such a reactionary role in attacking workers and women opponents of the regime.] The outcome was the consolidation of an extremist clerical capitalism in which the Islamic leadership became the dominant fraction of the national bourgeoisie. 
Khomeini’s Capitalism
As we have seen the Shah was overthrown by a workers’ revolution that had the potential to go on and become a permanent revolution for socialism. Instead it became a reactionary capitalist counter-revolution. At first Khomeini maneuvered towards the workers, the oppressed nationalities and women because he was too weak to smash them. Once he had contained them and consolidated his power he was able to establish a police state to secure bourgeois rule. Khomeini’s anti-imperialist rhetoric and his seizure of the US Embassy were ploys to deceive the workers and disarm them while he rallied the petty bourgeois forces for the counter-revolution. 
The US was prepared to pay the price of an Islamic Regime because it forestalled a socialist revolution in Iran. Like the Iranian bourgeoisie, the first consideration of the imperialists was to back a regime that could restore order. Besides it was impossible for the bourgeois government of a semi-colony to break all ties with imperialism. The most it could do was re-open negotiations with imperialism.It sought new contracts with the EEC and Japan to lessen its dependence on the US. Yet the US contracts that were cancelled received full compensation out of oil revenue. The only real worry for the imperialists was the Islamic regime’s ability to contain the workers’ revolution from below. A German businessman expressed this concern:
“Iranian workers seized six employees of a foreign company, locked them in an office and then demanded to see the company’s books. They showed that the company was bankrupt, but they also showed that the European parent company had a bank account in Switzerland. The workers refused to release their European hostages until the parent company dispatched funds to settle all wage claims at the plant.” (RCP, p 23)
As insurance against a workers’ revolution succeeding the US tried to win support in the Iranian army.This failed when Khomeini purged the army in 1984. The US also backed Iraq in an 8-year war with Iran that wasted the lives of millions of workers and peasants and allowed Khomeini to consolidate the counter-revolution. 
Rejecting the ‘white revolution’ of the Shah, the regime embarked on a road to economic nationalisation similar to that taken by Mossedegh in the early 1950s. But it was far too late for economic nationalism as a solution to Iran’s dependence. Under the Shah the Iranian economy had been integrated into the world economy. Cutting off important trade, finance and technical links to imperialism meant that the economy was doomed to stagnate. As a result the Islamic state managers became the most powerful section of the national bourgeoisie overseeing this decline. Stagnating state-owned industries became increasingly the property of ‘millionaire mullahs’ whose cronies benefited while the masses suffered increasing economic hardship. Mounting opposition was met by open repression. 
Over the 24 years of its existence the reactionary class character of the Islamic Republic has become clearer. The mounting reform movements and the militant student and workers’ oppositions of recent years show that once again a mass mobilisation against a repressive regime is building. This has given the US under its current neo-conservative leadership the opportunity to strike a pose as liberators once more in the never-ending war against the evil axis of terror. This time it is Iran’s nuclear arms program that is the pretext for targeting a ‘rogue’ state. But in reality, after 24 years, the Islamic regime has become expendable. Today US imperialism is embarking on military smash and grab raids to try to patch up its crisis-ridden economy. Iran’s oil reserve is nearly as big as Iraq’s, and US imperialism is desperate to make sure that its imperialist rivals, the EU and Japan, do not get access to this reserve of black gold.

The lesson of permanent revolution

What are the lessons for today? A potentially strong working class has existed in Iran since the onset of capitalist development after World War 1. It became a class capable of revolution by 1979 as we have seen. But in 1953 and 1979 workers were betrayed by the Stalinists (and the other left tendencies) who made deals with the national bourgeoisie and the petty bourgeois Islamists that led to the defeat and destruction of the most advanced layers of the workers’ movement. 

Today these Stalinist and guerillaist parties will again collaborate with the bosses and the clerics and play their deadly treacherous role. They must be politically destroyed by healthy revolutionary forces. The masses are impatient with the Islamist dictatorship and are calling for democracy and human rights.Revolutionaries must back this struggle for the basic democratic rights necessary for any social progress. But we have to say that only a socialist revolution can win and defend such democratic rights. 

That’s why these basic demands should be accompanied by a complete transitional program of demands that mobilises workers and poor peasants against not only the threat of US imperialist intervention, but the backward national bourgeoisie, the petty bourgeoisie and their reactionary Islamic leadership – for freedom of expression, freedom from the veil, release of political prisoners, the rights of the nationalities to self-determination, and the right of Iran to be armed with nuclear weapons to defend itself from imperialism.These demands must be accompanied by those calling on workers to organise and to occupy the factories and form workers’ councils and militias capable of taking power and creating a Workers and poor Peasants’ Socialist Republic as part of a Federation of Socialist Republics of the Middle East. 

To take this program to the workers and poor peasants in Iran the urgent need is for and armed independent working class movement led by a Leninist/Trotskyist party as part of a revolutionary International.

For a Leninist-Trotskyist party in Iran!

For a Workers’ and Peasants’ state!

For a Federation of Socialist Republics of the Middle East!