Previous posts in this discussion:
PostEntryist and Entered Politics (John Heelan, UK, 06/19/17 12:07 am)
Luciano Dondero's comment (17 June) is interesting.
However I would suggest that his view that "In Europe the 'entryist' tactics have been reproduced in many instances, but nowhere with any significance" ignores the impact of Militant Tendency in the 1960s UK, with its subsequent banning by the Labour Party, as well as the undoubted success of Momentum in 2016-17 to the extent that Momentum's organisers have started to boast of their success:
Further JE commented: "[Luciano's] distinction between 'entryist' and 'entered' politics is crucial. With the former, the goal is to get your foot in the door in order to change the system. With the latter, the point is to join the system." I suggest the words "and change the system" should be added to the latter definition as well, as there should be no purpose for either "entryist" or "entered" tactics. This tactic relies on the apathy of local Labour branch members and trades union branches that allows "entryist" candidates to win positions of political influence locally and nationally with the intention of changing the fundamental policies of the respective organisations.
(Is this approach not similar to the inroads that the Tea Party made in US politics a few years ago and Trump's election campaign last year?)
JE comments: Luciano, I believe, was also stressing the appeal of government "gravy train." Why change it (the system) when it can change...you?
What Do Trotskyists Seek?
(Luciano Dondero, Italy
06/21/17 6:37 AM)
Given that WAIS is not apst (https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/alt.politics.socialism.trotsky ), I will do my best to keep this as concise and non-polemical as possible.
I understand that John Heelan and other people look at the Labour Party and Trotskyism from a different angle than mine; and therefore "changing the system" may be interpreted in many ways.
Surely, anybody joining a political party and pushing it to an electoral victory will have certain ideas about running a city, a region or a country. They may be viewed as radical or revolutionary by some, while others may just see them as a return to a glorious past, or perhaps even as a better way to stick to what exists now.
It is a matter of standpoints to a great extent.
However, if someone claims to be doing anything on the basis of a certain political ideology, what they engage in should bear at least some resemblance to their stated intent.
Namely, a revolutionary communist of the Trotskyist persuasion aims to overthrow the capitalist system and replace it with some kind of proletarian dictatorship (whatever that may mean in practice). Some may claim that a left-wing Labour government may be a step in that direction, and act accordingly.
But in actual fact, the Labour party in Britain has been for several decades one of the best example of a political body with the ability to absorb plenty of "entryists" and turn them into tame, regular politicians, albeit loudmouthed at times.
Not the only one, mind you, the French Socialist party did this pretty well too!
John Heelan mentions the relevance of the Militant group. I am aware of Militant, I was even involved with their international body (the Committee for a Workers International) between 1992 and 1997, after they came out of Labour and established their own "Socialist Party."
Do you know how many MPs they took away from Labour? The same number that they had managed to elect in the first place, running on their own platform to get a Labour nomination--i.e., two. No split within the ranks of the proper membership of the LP. Not surprising this, because Militant's activity within the LP had been pretty open over the years. Their most significant success within the LP had been conquering the Liverpool City Council: "During the 1980s, the Trotskyist Militant group gained control of Liverpool's Labour Party and the council, and attempted to challenge the national government on several issues including refusing to set a budget in 1985." (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liverpool_City_Council#Liberal_followed_by_Militant-dominated_Labour )
And they were not the first (nor the last) Trotskyists to enter the LP and then come out of it with something gained, but nothing really significant.
The group that did that first, led by Gerry Healy, did it in the late 1950s, to become the SLL and later the WRP; then the International Socialist Group led by Tony Cliff did it, roughly at the same time as Militant, except they came out quite early (by 1969) to become the SWP.
How does one judge success or failure?
Well, if you lead a revolution or a coup (like the Bolsheviks did, and then Mao, Ho Chi-Minh, Fidel Castro, the Algerian FLN, Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein, ISIS at first, etc. etc) that's a success--whether you spent your life cheering them or striving to overthrow them, you know it.
If you fail (like Lumumba in Congo, Che Guevara in Bolivia, Osama Bin Laden, now ISIS hopefully, and countless lesser known groups of people all over the place), that's also clear to everybody.
In a narrower, and more peaceful sense, one can look at it in terms of electoral success.
Which must, however, always maintain some connection to their overall goals.
From a Trotskyist standpoint, among the most successful groups there have been the Argentinian MAS (Movimiento al Socialismo Workers Party): "At one point in the mid-1980s, the MAS grew to be the second largest left organization in Argentina and was the largest Trotskyist organization in the world with over 13,000 members." (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nahuel_Moreno ); amd earlier the Bolivian POR (Workers Revolutionary Party).
In France no less than three different Trotskyists groupings did manage to achieve some degree of success within the trade union movement, and one, Lutte Ouvriere, also in various elections. Their long-standing presidential candidate, Arlette Laguiller, herself a working woman (at the French National Mail, the PTT): "Her best result was in 2002 when she came in fifth place and received 5.72% of the vote". (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arlette_Laguiller )
Entryism was also attempted elsewhere. The Italian Trotskyists made themselves into some kind of a joke, as they spent 17 years (1952-69) burrowing into the Italian CP, and when the time came to get out of it during the "Hot Autumn" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hot_Autumn ), it so happened that everybody in and around them left the PCI to build some other organisation, leaving the Italian GCR as a tiny and irrelevant grouplet.
Various attempts took place within parties other than the European Communists and Socialists. This was always a bit trickier and dangerous, as nationalist movements in Africa, Asia and Latin America were always closer both to a real chance to get into power, and to a significant level of violence (both their own and their enemies') and therefore also less prone to indulgence toward entryists.
Whereas the Labour Party might expel the Trots, and the Italian CP might land a few blows, others could be a lot deadlier.
The Vietnamese Trotskyists who crossed Ho Chi-Minh's path in 1945, and could have been a real contender for power, were swiftly dealt with. Others also had to learn with their own blood the same lessons, thus following in the steps of the Communist Party of China trusting Chang Kai-Shek's Kuomintang in the 1920s, and being massacred in Canton.
The most successful Trotskyists of all, the only ones that actually got into a government, albeit as second fiddle to Mr. Bandaranaike, were the Ceylon LSSP in 1964. However, many of their comrades elsewhere promptly denounced their "capitulation" and even "betrayal," expelling the LSSP from the Fourth International, and generally regarding them as nothing but "reformists of the second mobilization."
So, the most successful Trotskyists were those who acted independently; and that's why I think that by and large entryism has been a failure for the Trotskyist movement.
Momentum, in my humble opinion, bears the same relationship to Trotskyism as a cat resembles a tiger, nay, in the Bard's inimitable words: "I'll roar as gently as a baby dove. I'll roar like a sweet, peaceful nightingale."
JE comments: I've learned a lot from this excellent post. How many of you knew of Ceylon's flirtation with Trotskyism in the 1960s? Trotsky, beyond his association with Emmanuel Goldstein in Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, is now mostly remembered as a historical curiosity, one of history's "What might have beens," especially in contrast to the nasty path the Soviet Union took under Stalin. Luciano Dondero very clearly shows us that there have been, and still are, Trotskyists in our midst.
Luciano: please tell us more about the Google Group alt.politics.socialism.trotsky (first link above). I am intrigued.