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Entryism (also referred to as entrism or enterism, or as infiltration) is a political strategy in which an organisation or state encourages its members or supporters to join another, usually larger, organisation in an attempt to expand influence and expand their ideas and program. In situations where the organization being "entered" is hostile to entrism, the entrists may engage in a degree of subterfuge and subversion to hide the fact that they are an organisation in their own right.
Horton (2014) gives the "example of entryism -- the infiltration of a self-proclaimed human rights activist into an institution committed to neoliberalism, a market fundamentalism that has been credited with eroding health systems in dozens of low and middle-income countries.". Leslie (1999) uses the example of gender: "alternative, yet complementary, strategies of "entryism", with attempts to enter and transform these institutions' gender inequalities from within (as missionaries)"
Trotsky's "French Turn"
The French Turn refers to the classic form of entrism advocated by Leon Trotsky in his essays on "the French Turn". In June 1934, he proposed that the French Trotskyists dissolve their Communist League to join the French Section of the Workers' International (SFIO) and that it also dissolve its youth section to join more easily with revolutionary elements. The tactic was adopted in August 1934, despite some opposition. The turn successfully raised the group's membership to 300 activists.
Proponents of the tactic advocated that the Trotskyists should enter the social democratic parties to connect with revolutionary socialist currents within them, and steer those currents toward Leninism. However, entry lasted only for a brief period: the leadership of the SFIO started to expel the Trotskyists. The Trotskyists of the Workers Party of the United States also successfully used their entry into the Socialist Party of America to recruit their youth group and other members. Similar tactics were also used by Trotskyist organisations in other countries, including The Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland and Poland. Entrism was used to connect with and recruit leftward-moving political currents inside radical parties.
Since the turn in France, Marxists have used the tactic even if they had different preconceptions of how long the period of entry would last.
- A "split perspective" is sometimes employed in which the smaller party intends to remain in the larger party for a short period of time with the intention of splitting the organisation and leaving with more members than it began with.
- The entrist tactic can work successfully, in its own terms, over a long period. For example, it was attempted by the Militant tendency in Britain whose members worked within the Labour Party from the 1950s on and managed to get a controlling influence in the Labour Party Young Socialists and Liverpool Council before being expelled in the 1980s. Many other Trotskyist groups have attempted similar feats but few have gained the influence Militant attained (See Militant's Problems of Entrism pamphlet).
Deep entrism/entryism sui generis
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In these types of entrism, entrists engage in a long-term perspective in which they work within an organisation for decades in hopes of gaining influence and a degree of power and perhaps even control of the larger organisation.
In entryism sui generis ("of a special type"), Trotskyists, for example, do not openly argue for the building of a Trotskyist party. "Deep entryism" refers to the long duration.
The tactic is closely identified with Michel Pablo and Gerry Healy, who were leaders of the Fourth International in the late 1940s and 1950s. The "deep entry" tactic was developed as a way for Trotskyists to respond to the Cold War. In countries where there were mass social democratic or communist parties, it was as difficult to be accepted into these parties as Trotskyist currents as to build separate Trotskyist parties. Therefore, Trotskyists were advised to join the mass party.
In Europe, this was the approach used, for example, by The Club in the Labour Party, and by Fourth Internationalists inside the Communist Parties. In France, Trotskyist organizations, most notably the Parti des Travailleurs and its predecessors, have successfully entered trade unions and mainstream left-wing parties.
Some political parties, such as the Workers' Party in Brazil or the Scottish Socialist Party allow political tendencies to openly organise within them. In these cases the term entryism is not usually used. Political groups which work within a larger organisation but also maintain a "public face" often reject the term "entrism" but are nevertheless sometimes considered to be entryists by the larger organisation.
Examples by country
In Australia, the practice was widespread during the 1950s, where Communists battled against right-wing 'Groupers', for control of Australian trade unions. The Groupers subsequently formed the Democratic Labor Party. Today the practice in Australia is often known as a type of branch stacking.
In recent times RSPCA Australia has been described as being the victims of the practice. The National Farmers' Federation and Animals Australia have each been accused of infiltrating branches of RSPCA Australia in an attempt to promote opposing policies concerning battery hens, intensive pig farming, and the live export of sheep.
Since the 2000s the religious right has been practicing entryism into a number of state branches of the Liberal Party of Australia, notably in New South Wales, Western Australia, Queensland and Victoria.
Although the term entryism was used little if at all, opponents accused David Orchard and his supporters of attempting to win the leadership of the former Progressive Conservative Party in the late 1990s and early 2000s (decade) with the intention of dramatically changing its policies.
Orchard had made his name as a leading opponent of free trade, which was perhaps the singular signature policy of the Progressive Conservative government of Brian Mulroney in the late 1980s and early 1990s. While opponents pointed to this remarkable distance, Orchard and his supporters argued that they represented "traditional" Tory values and economic nationalism that the older Conservative Party, and the Progressive Conservative party before Mulroney, had espoused, namely that of John Diefenbaker.
Opponents of the 2003 merger between the Progressive Conservative and Canadian Alliance parties also charged Alliance members with infiltration. It was widely speculated that most, if not all of the approximately 25,000 Canadians who swelled the PC Party's membership before the merger vote were Alliance members. They would likely have voted in favour of the merger.
Members of Socialist Action, a small Trotskyist group, play a leading role in the New Democratic Party Socialist Caucus, a small faction on the left wing of that social democratic party, and advocate that their members join and engage with the NDP. This however does not fit with most definitions of entryism due to their continued existence apart and separate from the NDP in addition to their work there. Fightback, a rival Trotskyist organization, carries out a more classical form of entryism in the NDP, particularly in its youth wings, modelling itself after the British Militant tendency which practiced entryism in the Labour Party and which at its peak was the one of the most successful entryist organizations on record.
After the fall of Social Credit in British Columbia, the British Columbia Liberal Party saw the shift of former Social Credit members into the BC Liberal party. As a result, the new membership saw the party shift much more towards the right on fiscal policy. In this way, entryism led to a complete takeover of the original party by former Social Credit members. This however isn't formal entryism as former Social Credit members did not operate their own organization within the Liberal Party.
During the Warlord Era in China, the Chinese Communists joined the party of the Chinese Nationalists for a time (1923-1927), creating the First United Front against warlordism, but one of the Communists' ideas behind doing so was that they might eventually gain a majority in that party and shape its policies. Eventually the situation degraded, the Nationalists expelled the Communists from their party, and the Chinese Civil War began. The latter war was paused for a time (1936-1945) to allow for a Second United Front during the Chinese resistance to Japanese imperial rule. However, the civil war resumed again and remained active until 1950.
The Marxist-Leninist Party of the Netherlands was a fake pro-China communist party in the Netherlands set up by the Dutch secret service BVD to develop contacts with the Chinese government for espionage purposes. It existed from 1968 to the early 1990s.
The country's four small Communist parties the Communist Party of New Zealand (CPNZ), Socialist Unity Party (SUP), Workers Communist League (WCL), and the Socialist Action League (SAL) have tried to influence the Labour Party, the trade unions, and various popular issues like the anti-Springbok tour protests, the Māori biculturalism, and the anti-nuclear movement. During the ANZUS diplomatic crisis 1984-85 which resulted from NZ's nuclear ship ban, the pro-Moscow SUP tried to infiltrate anti-nuclear organisations as part of a strategy of steering New Zealand's foreign policy away from its traditional ally the United States.
New Zealand's Christian Right also attempted to obtain electoral influence. During the 1987 general election, several conservative Christian groups including the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), Women for Life and the Coalition of Concerned Citizens tried to infiltrate the National Party by running conservative Christian individuals as candidates. These groups also attacked the Labour government's policies towards peace education, sex education, abortion, Maori biculturalism, and the ANZUS alliance. Several CCC supporters contested the 1987 election as National candidates including Rob Wheeler (Mount Albert), Andrew Stanley (Onehunga), and Howard Martin (Papatoetoe). However, these efforts met little electoral success and the Lange government was re-elected for a second term.
During the 1990s, another conservative tendency emerged within the National Party through the establishment of the informal Christian Voice group in 1998. However, it had faded by the mid-2000s when several minor Christian political parties including former National MP Graeme Lee's Christian Democrat Party, Peter Dunne's United Future, and Brian Tamaki's Destiny New Zealand emerged to court the evangelical Christian vote. As a result of these attempts at taking over the party, National quietly centralised its candidate selection procedures.
Despite these tensions with moral conservatives, National Party leader Don Brash still accepted covert assistance from the Exclusive Brethren during the 2005 general elections. This assistance included organizing a separate electoral canvassing and advertising campaign which attacked the incumbent Labour and Green coalition government. This strategy backfired and contributed to Prime Minister Helen Clark's second re-election. Due to the controversy arising from the Exclusive Brethren's canvassing on behalf of National, Brash's successor Prime Minister John Key explicitly rejected any assistance from the Exclusive Brethren during the 2008 election.
A long-lasting entry tactic was used by the Militant tendency (a Trotskyist group), whose initially very small number of supporters worked within the Labour Party from the 1960s. By the early-1980s, though still only numbered in the low thousands, they had managed to gain a controlling influence of the Labour Party Young Socialists and Liverpool City Council, but almost simultaneously Militant activists began to be expelled after an internal Labour ruling that their organisation breached the party's constitution. A remnant of the group now operates within the Labour Party as Socialist Appeal but the majority left to form the Socialist Party (England and Wales).
The Guardian columnist George Monbiot claims that a group influenced by the defunct Marxist Living Marxism magazine have pursued entryist tactics amongst scientific and media organisations in the UK, since the late 1990s.
The 2015 Labour leadership election in the United Kingdom was the target of a campaign by The Daily Telegraph for Conservative sympathisers to join the Labour party as £3 supporters in order to vote for the left wing candidate Jeremy Corbyn, with the view this would render the party un-electable.  This strategy was labelled 'entryism' by observers.
Another example of charges of entryism involving the United States Reform Party involved supporters of Fred Newman and the New Alliance Party joining the Reform Party en masse and gaining some level of control over the New York State affiliate of the Reform Party. Another United States politician, Lyndon LaRouche, has attempted an entryist strategy in the Democratic Party since 1980, but with little success. The Democratic Socialists of America pursues reforms generally through the modus operandi of the US Democratic Party, rather than establishing itself as a third party. Many Libertarians or libertarian-leaning politicians have run for office as Republicans, and several have been successful.
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- Leslie, A. (1999). Missionaries and Mandarins. United Nations Chronicle, 36(2), 82-83.
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- The Guardian comment, December 9, 2003. "Invasion of the entryists" by George Monbiot. Online at  and , retrieved on October 25, 2007.
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