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.
Usenet Groups: Alt Politics Socialism Trotsky
(Luciano Dondero, Italy
06/24/17 5:33 AM)
I wish to thank our esteemed editor for his question about apst, which I referenced in my post of June 21st.
Here is a glimpse of it:
A brief history of Internet shows that its crucial expansion took place in the mid-late 1990s: "The Internet's takeover of the global communication landscape was almost instant in historical terms: it only communicated 1% of the information flowing through two-way telecommunications networks in the year 1993, already 51% by 2000, and more than 97% of the telecommunicated information by 2007" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Internet ).
Usenet groups played an important role as some kind of bridge to move from the narrow and somewhat elitist BBSes and the truly universal "world wide web." Initially they would be accessed with a newsreaders, i.e., a news client; nowadays they are accessed quite easily on the web, for instance: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/alt.politics.socialism.trotsky .
Their relevance is smaller now: "Today, Usenet has diminished in importance with respect to Internet forums, blogs and mailing lists". (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usenet )
But in their heyday, Usenet groups were a big deal.
When in 1995-6 a bunch of racists tried to set up a group called rec.music.white-power, some progressively minded fellows launched a campaign to squash it.
It was fun, as we (the starting nucleus were a New York Jewish Activist, a very young and energetic Norwegian kid and Yours Very Truly), managed to get the entire Usenet bureaucracy furious with us, as we actively campaigned in a very "irregular" way. But "the vote end results was 592 yes votes, versus 33,033 no votes." (See: https://goo.gl/V3epbX , and https://goo.gl/xawkjC ).
I have not even read apst for a long time now, and I really don't know how it goes. But there are so many different venues for debate and information these days.
Yet earlier, a newsgroup like apst was an interesting place where you could find conflicting left-wingers spouting their truths against one another. Notwithstanding its name, and the bickering among Trots that would have put any definition of Byzantine to shame, apst was also home to Maoists and sundry Stalinists engaged in denouncing Trotskyism.
To give you a little flavour for the place, here is a post by one Luciano Dondero in 1997:
Dear friends and comrades who read a.p.s.t.,
I am afraid we are all being taken for a ride here.
A person claiming to be "Klo_McK." pens long posts about Lenin and
Trotsky, claiming a continuity in "Marxism-Leninism" through Stalin to
himself, yet he is no real Stalinist.
Real papists (as my Irish Protestant friends would say) don't discuss
with atheists about their Church's assertion that the Virgin Mary was
indeed a "virgin."
True Stalinists don't debate "Trotskyite-Hitlerite" dogs: they either
jail and kill us, or deliver us to the Nazi henchmen. If they can't do
that, at least they stick to insults and threats, like do the
gentlemen from the "Shining Path Support and Reading Group" (or
whatever it is they are called).
This man is a fraud!
He must be really some kind of former member of some insane
"Trotskyist" group pretending to be something he is not: please don't
just take his word for it. Ask for his "credentials":
(1) How many Trots has he eaten?
(2) How many Trots has he delivered to the Nazi secret police--or if
he [is] too young, to any other bourgeois repressive regime?
Failing the two above,
(3) How many Trots has he beaten up in real life?
And if even that doesn't work,
(4) How many Trots has he slandered using the foul language typical of
If he can't provide positive evidence to any of the above, well, my
point will be proven for all to see.
Shame on you, Stalinist pretender!
PS: I thought [might] even cross-post the above msg to alt.rec.humor,
but I am afraid only people to think of themselves as "us Trotskyists"
may possibly [understand] that..."
Words in brackets [ ] added/corrected twenty years later.
JE comments: How many Trots have you eaten? This question will stick with me for a long time.
Luciano Dondero was an early practitioner of Internet activism, and he's given us a fascinating snapshot of the Wild West e-1990s. Please tell us, Luciano: what were some of your "irregular" tactics for combating the White Power group?
WWW in Its Infancy
(John Heelan, UK
06/25/17 3:07 AM)
Luciano Dondero's comments on Usenet (24 June) resurrected some memories of my using it.
Usenet was the birthplace of trolls. We had an in-house global email and file transfer system well before Tim Berners-Lee "invented" the WWW (using our hardware/software at CERN, by the way). I used to demonstrate to customers the uses of worldwide comms systems--borrowed from our advance development labs--by showing them weather forecasts in far-flung locations of our corporation. Japan, California and Australia were the ones most asked for.
JE comments: Tell us more about those pioneering days, John! What were your thoughts in the late '80s about the nascent 'Web? (The first time someone described the Internet to me, I thought: Well, that will never catch on.)
- WWW in Its Infancy (John Heelan, UK 06/25/17 3:07 AM)
- Usenet Groups: Alt Politics Socialism Trotsky (Luciano Dondero, Italy 06/24/17 5:33 AM)