[Marxism] Revolutionary imperialists

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Jan 3 06:18:54 MST 2006

The Alliance for Workers’ Liberty:
Britain’s Revolutionary Imperialists

Tony Greenstein

IT MAY seem to be a contradiction, a revolutionary imperialist, and of 
course it is, but that is in essence the contradiction that lies at the 
heart of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty. Not of course that the AWL is 
alone in wrestling with this dilemma. On the contrary, the AWL stands in 
the finest traditions of labour imperialism. It was Hyndman’s Social 
Democratic Federation that pioneered the belief that socialism and 
imperialism could be reconciled. Coming from a rich Ulster family, Hyndman 
was antagonistic to the struggles of the Irish, supported the Boers and 
eventually the British in world war one. Another prominent British 
socialist of the period, Clarion editor Robert Blatchford, later to join 
the Tory Party, was equally a supporter of British imperialism and its 
foreign ventures.

Marxism is to be distinguished from Fabianism and the different varieties 
of reformism in that it is wedded to a class analysis of society and in its 
historical materialist approach. New Labour is forever talking about its 
values (even if they end up in imprisonment without trial at Belmarsh) but 
socialists deal with concrete actualities. What is it that has led 
generations of socialists and their organisations into supporting the wars 
and adventures of the ruling class? What material base do these politics 
have? Although it is fashionable to deride the thesis of Lenin, it is 
unarguable that his thesis, that the conservatism of the British working 
class was due to their being the recipients of the crumbs from the fruits 
of imperialism, explains both the racism and the lack of revolutionary 
fervour of this class.

British racism, at its heart, has material foundations. It does not exist 
solely in the realm of ideas. The relative privileges of the British 
working class, compared with their Argentinian or South African 
counterparts, lies in the operation of British capital abroad, the returns 
from their investments in the form of a social wage – the NHS, Social 
Security etc. Repression abroad paid for reformism at home. The greatest 
reforming Labour Government, under Attlee, was also the government which 
most intensified the robbery of the African and Malaysian colonies, in 
order to fund the dollar deficit.

I first came across the AWL when I was a young member, about 18 at the 
time, of the International Socialists (now the SWP). I was in the Liverpool 
branch when a proposal came from the leadership that the organisation 
should expel the Trotskyist Tendency as they were called. A speaker was 
invited from this group and Andrew Hornung, their most effective speaker 
and someone with whom I worked closely over Palestine in future years, 
spoke to the branch. Nonetheless the branch split 2-1 in favour of the 
expulsion and delegates were elected proportionately.

full: http://www.whatnextjournal.co.uk/Pages/Latest/AWL.html



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