Sorting Out the Enemy

Colin colin at
Thu Sep 16 16:30:51 MDT 1999

Phil - This and your peice for LM are absolutely spot on, particularly, the
Militant stuff.. I remember that one of their front page headlines during
the Falklands war was 'The Taskforce is sent.' I was quite new to politics
at the time but I remember arguing with one of their members, what's the
point? It's like saying, 'the train is late.' It's factual but so what.
Buit that was the whole point.

I also liked your email about Clinton in NZ and the fact that
demonstrations are more likley to be about calling for intervention than
opposition. Here, amongst the 'left' it's not the case at all but in a way
it doesn't matter. The audience for anti-war stuff has got smaller. This
has nothing to do with the left, apart from the fact that they, or us for
that matter, have no influence at all. Of course, the SWP, etc, don't
understand this at. They really don't think anything has changed since the
Sixties, in some ways. The key thing is that no-one really gives a fuck on
a 'class' basis; on the other hand, plenty of people will see things on the
TV or in the newspapers, where they think something is outrageous. To
conflate the two, what is bad and what people think is bad, like the left
does is dangerous, as the two don't necessarily mean the same thing.

Going back to the 'Burgess' book, it is the best thing I've read on
'eastern Europe', for a long time, despite my problems with it. It's just
if it had been written by a Marxist, it would be so much better. There are
parts of the book, where you think something significant is going to be
said, but it just doesn't materialise.

Still, the Burgess book is, whatever my view of it, a serious enterprise.
The latest book by Cliff's son, Donny Gluckstein, called something like
'Capitalism, Fascism and the working class' is not by any measure serious.
In fact it's full of very blatant errors. The Burgess book is more
worthwhile because despite my disagreements, I can use the information
within it for the right arguments.

Time to go to bed.


> From: Philip L Ferguson <PLF13 at>
> To: marxism at
> Subject: Sorting Out the Enemy
> Date: 16 September 1999 07:02
> Back at the time of the war in the South Atlantic I had for some reason I
> forget now strayed into membership in the Labour Party Young Socialists
> during a period of living in Britain.  The LPYS at the time was totally
> dominated by the Militant Tendency, the largest Trotskyist formation in
> Britain.  (Since then Militant has largely disintegrated, the rump of it
> now called SPEW, the Socialist Party of England and Wales).
> The LPYS branch I belonged to was one of the relatively few not
> Militant-dominated.  We were against Britain's war efforts and got up a
> special resolution for the LPYS conference which was taking place at the
> time, a resolution calling for the withdrawal of the British fleet which
> had just been sent down to the South Atlantic.
> From what I knew of Marxism I understood that for those of us living in
> imperialist country, like Britain, it was fundamental that we should
> our ruling class and government going to war against anyone, especially
> against a Third World country like Argentina.  I had read stuff like
> Lenin's 'Socialism and War', in which he states that it is immaterial who
> fires the first shot, in a war between imperialists and non-imperialists,
> we are on the side of the latter.  Especially when the imperialists are
> own rulers.
> Although Militant was a weird marriage of Fabianism and Trotskyism,
> than undiluted Trotskyism, I just assumed that on something like this
> too would be against the British war effort.
> I was therefore somewhat shocked when they used their control of the
> conference to prevent any emergency motions being put which
> attacked/opposed the British fleet then steaming down to sort out 'the
> Argies'.
> Militant totally opposed calling for the withdrawal of the British fleet.
> Their  main slogan seemed to be unionisation of the British forces then
> heading off to slaughter Argentinian conscripts.  Now, I was (and am) in
> favour of unionisation of the armed forces, but this was a complete crap
> demand to raise at that time, especially when it was counterposed to
> against the British war effort.
> Now, how did Militant justify being on the side of Britain against
> Argentina?  Well, their great leader and 'theorist' Ted Grant argued that
> Argentina was now an imperialist power in its own right, the proof being
> that Bueonos Aires had a stock exchange!
> At the conference, speaker after speaker from Militant - they had almost
> all the delegates and controlled the microphone etc - got up and launched
> ringing denunciations of the Argentinian junta and how great it would be
> Argentina lost the war because this would bring down the junta.
> Of course, the problem with this or, should I say, one of several
> with it, was that we were not in Argentina, we were in imperialist
> Our task was to find ways to turn the war against the British ruling
> not help them bring down the junta.  That was up to the Argentinian
> to sort out.
> Militant's position was a national chauvinist one.  It deflected
> from the British ruling class and turned the Argentine junta into the
> enemy.  Of course, no workers in Britain supported the junta nor was the
> junta an obstacle to working class advance in Britain; British workers
> however, have illusions in British capitalism and the British state.
> was what needed to be dealt with by British leftists.
> (I might add here that Militant also had a disgusting position of going
> along with British imperialism in Ireland.)
> In the end, the ratbag politics of this appalling group have done them no
> good at all.  They are a pale remnant of the massive obstacle they used
> be, and good riddance.
> Sadly, however, the politics of forgetting about opposing your own
> imperialist ruling class are not dead.  Just as Militant wanted to make
> overthrowing the Argentine regime the focus for British leftists, while
> British armed forces intervened against Argentina, so there are sections
> the Australian and NZ left who want to forget all about our tasks as
> Marxists in relation to our own ruling class and state, and instead focus
> on the Indonesian regime as the main enemy.
> Personally, I hope the Indonesian masses overthrow the regime, and they
> string up Megawati Sukarnoputri at the same time as far as I'm concerned.
> But as Marxists living in Australia and NZ, that is not *our* main task.
> Our main task is to find ways to challenge the illusions that workers in
> our own countries have about *our* ruling classes, governments and
> Our task is most immediately to oppose the intervention of Australian and
> NZ troops in East Timor.  The fact that the most important left-wing
> organisation in Australasia/South Pacific area actually demanded
> troops go in makes this task a great deal harder.
> Rather than patting the Indonesian people on the back for opposing
> and the army, we should take a leaf out of their book and learn to oppose
> *our* rulers and their military actions abroad with the same
> people in Indonesia are opposing theirs.
> I hope the DSP leadership will reverse their position, although the signs
> do not seem to be propitious.  The longer the DSP leadership holds to its
> current awful position, the harder it will be to reverse it and the more
> likely it will become entrenched as a response to 'humanitarian
> imperialism', especially when conducted by the DSP's own ruling class.
> Philip Ferguson

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