Workers' Power (UK)

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Workers Power
LeaderNational Committee
Split fromInternational Socialists
Political positionFar-left
National affiliationWorkers' Power
European affiliationNone
International affiliationLeague for the Fifth International
European Parliament groupNone

Workers' Power was a Trotskyist group which formed the British section of the League for the Fifth International. The group published the magazine Workers Power and distributed the English language journal Fifth International.


The group originated in the International Socialists (IS) as the Left Faction. The Faction argued that IS needed a fully developed programme. It also criticised the stance IS adopted on the Provisional Irish Republican Army's paramilitary actions in 1972. In 1973, it set up a faction, then when it refused to dissolve in 1974 it was excluded from IS and formed the Workers Power Group. In 1975, it briefly joined with Workers Fight to form the International-Communist League which split into its constituent parts soon afterward.

In 1980, Workers Power abandoned the position that the Stalinist states were state capitalist, seeing this position as an error on the part of Tony Cliff who argued that the USSR was state capitalist, functioning as a giant company which competed on the world market militarily. In that year it co-published "The Degenerated Revolution" which argued that countries other than the USSR (such as those in Eastern Europe and Cuba) were "degenerate workers states" and "degenerate from birth", representing a nuance to the Fourth International's 1948 analysis that the USSR was a degenerated workers state while the other countries were deformed workers' states.[1]

Activity and alliances[edit]

In the mid-1980s, Workers Power was involved in solidarity around the miners strike, arguing for a general strike against the Tories and for picket line defence against police violence towards strikers. Workers Power was active in the anti-fascist movement against the National Front and the British National Party. Towards the end of the 1990s, it was a key organiser in the Coalition Against BP in Colombia, highlighting abuse or workers and environmental giant by British Petroleum. Workers Power members were involved in No Sweat along with the Alliance for Workers Liberty until 2002.

In 1995, Workers Power founded a youth organisation, Revolution, which was politically independent though closely linked to the group. Revolution played an active role in the anti-capitalist and anti-war movements.

Workers Power took part in the Socialist Alliance, standing a candidate in the London GLA elections in 2000 and in the general election in 2001. They subsequently withdrew in 2004 as the Socialist Workers Party prepared to drop the Socialist Alliance and launch the Respect Party coalition, which Workers Power argued was a reformist, populist and cross-class alliance which would be unstable politically. In the General Election of 2010, Jeremy Drinkall stood as an Anticapitalist - Workers Power candidate in the Vauxhall constituency in South London. He polled 109 votes (0.3%).

Workers' Power called for a rank and file movement in the trade unions, and for a new mass workers' party in Britain. The group grew in recent years through work in the student and anti-war movements. Members in the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers won support for a resolution calling for a conference to discuss the formation of a new workers party, which led to the RMT sponsored conference in London in January 2006 on the crisis of working class representation, which was attended by over 350 people. Workers Power subsequently joined the Socialist Party-initiated Campaign for a New Workers' Party, even though they were critical of some of its formulations in the original statement (arguing the need for the party to be revolutionary from the start). They left the CNWP in 2007.

Internationally Workers Power were strong advocates of the Social Forum movement, attending both the World Social Forum and European Social Forums. Their position was that the international forums providing a basis for launching a Fifth International in the struggle against globalisation and the international institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and World bank.

Workers Power participated in the discussions on the Left after the 2009 European Elections on left unity, arguing for a conference to create a new workers' party which they argued should form in the same way as the French New Anticapitalist Party through local committees focused both around developing a programme and organising action.

In the austerity crisis in Britain after the 2008 credit crunch, Workers Power was involved in the local anti-cuts groups and the student organisation National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts. Its main slogans were for the creation of a rank and file movement in the trade unions, a national anti cuts federation and for a general strike against the cuts.

In 2013, Workers Power members and supports entered and formed the Class Struggle Platform in Left Unity.[2] In January 2014, Workers Power entered unity talks with Socialist Resistance and the International Socialist Network (ISN),[3] although the ISN has since dissolved itself.

In September 2015, Workers Power dissolved, calling for all socialists to join the Labour Party.[4] Former members have since formed the Red Flag Platform, describing itself as "a revolutionary socialist initiative campaigning in the Labour Party".[5] It published the first issue of its Red Flag newspaper in November 2015.[6]


The degenerated revolution in Russia, and the degenerate workers states[edit]

The Soviet Union[edit]

The League believes that the Russian revolution degenerated because of the takeover of the party by the Stalinist leadership. They agree with Vladimir Lenin's position that the young Soviet state had become "bureaucratically deformed" before it degenerated under the Stalinist leadership. The League disagrees with the Cliff tradition that the revolution was doomed without world revolution happening in the period after the First World War, and who also see it as degenerating into state capitalism around 1928. The League viewed it as still having post-capitalist property relations and therefore remained a degenerated workers state (degenerated because it was once a healthy workers state, then deformed, before the Stalinist caste takeover). Before the state degenerated in the thirties, Leon Trotsky and the Left Opposition had the programmatic demand to "reform" the "bureaucratically deformed" state by revitalising the Soviets and bringing more democracy to the party. In the thirties Trotsky viewed the USSR as being unable to be reformed, and therefore needing a political revolution not a social revolution.

Eastern Europe and states "degenerate from birth"[edit]

The League differs from other groups in that it calls Eastern European states "degenerate from birth" rather than deformed. It also viewed Josip Broz Tito in Yugoslavia as a "disobedient Stalinist" whose actions moved Yugoslavia in a direction towards, not against, imperialism. This is against groups such as the US SWP and eventually after the Third World Congress, the Fourth International, who viewed Tito as an unconscious Trotskyist and sent greetings to the Yugoslav Communist Party (YCP) asking to attend their conference in order to help them in a revolutionary path. This analysis by the Fourth International which originally came from Michel Pablo was the reason they saw the Eastern European states as having only quantitative deformations, not being qualitatively degenerate. The FI thought there was a possibility that the communist parties in Eastern Europe would break with Stalin as the YCP and Tito had done, and through this become revolutionary. The League disagrees, arguing that whilst divisions in the Stalinist bureaucracy like the Tito split were possible, these parties would remain bureaucratic, and while they could carry out a bureaucratic, top down, social revolution and create post-capitalist property relations, there would need to be a political revolution against them as they were a bureaucratic caste, like Joseph Stalin's in the Soviet Union. Because of this these states were classed as "degenerate from birth" instead of "degenerated", although the tasks for revolutionaries in them – political revolution – remained the same. This is just a "linguistic" difference in order to show the historical circumstances these states came into existence by.

The Death Agony of the Fourth International and the need for a Fifth International[edit]

The League believes that the Fourth International became centrist in 1951 when it adopted the position that the Stalinist parties in Eastern European countries like Yugoslavia could be reformed back to a healthy state and that the Stalinists were roughly 'blunt instruments' for carrying out the proletarian revolution. As a result, the Fourth International has started deep entryism in social democratic and Stalinist parties.

As they regard both sides of the 1953 split in the Fourth International to have affirmed this stance, which they regard as a fundamental breach with Leninism and Trotskyism, and as they believe all the major forces having emerged from the Fourth International to be implementing this false 'processist' methodology today, they call for a new Fifth International to be built by the working class forces fighting neoliberalism worldwide, including from the workers' trade unions, parties and other forces participating in the World Social Forum and analogous continental formations like the Asian and European Social Forums.

Workers Power (UK) published a book in 1983, called Death Agony of the Fourth International[7] which remains the group's major work on analysing the post war Trotskyist movement.

Trade unions[edit]

The League for the Fifth International calls for the creation of rank and file movements in the trade unions, based on the National Minority Movement formed by the Communist Party of Great Britain in the 1920s. It is an anti-bureaucratic organisation and is critical of 'Broad Left' alliances in the unions which, they argue, act as electoral machines for left wing leader trade union bureaucrats. The Broad Left projects prevent criticism of left leaders in the unions and can act to frustrate action at certain times since it does not create a rank and file mechanism for organising strikes. Their analysis includes differentiating between left and right wing bureaucrats but also between the union full-time apparatus and the members of the union in the branches and work places. The bureaucrats will always tend towards a compromise with the owners of industry since their role is to negotiate and act as brokers between their members and the capitalist class. The large wages and luxurious lifestyle of trade union leaders undermines their ability to represent their members interests, since they are disconnected from the living and working conditions of large parts of the union movement.

Other theory[edit]

The League emphasises the transitional programme and incorporates political demands in their publications. They also advocate a strategy of permanent revolution (i.e., not in stages, and in the impossibility of the bourgeois in semi-colonial countries leading revolutions). They support Lenin's analysis of imperialism as a higher stage of capitalism based on international capital concentrated in the 'developed' western world, rather than simply as militarism and war. In 2010 the League adopted the position that China had become imperialist.[8]

They see the current stage of their organisations project as being a 'fighting propaganda group'. They are critical of groups like the Socialist Workers Party and Socialist Party which they argue are not mass parties of the working class and therefore should not declare themselves as parties.


Workers Power published a monthly newspaper. The last edition appeared in September 2015.

Workers Power published the journal of the League for the Fifth International, called Fifth International. This included a special edition entitled "The Credit Crunch – A Marxist Analysis". The last edition appeared in Autumn 2010.

Workers Power has also published many pamphlets and books, the two most important in terms of their tradition being Death Agony of the Fourth International and The Degenerated Revolution. Other pamphlets include "Marxism and the Trade Unions", "Women's Oppression", "Black Liberation", "LGBT Liberation", a critique of the SWP/Cliff tradition and on the crisis of Stalinism after 1989.

In 2007 they republished "The Road to Red October", a pamphlet originally released in 1987, to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the Russian Revolution.


In 2006 the League for the Fifth International suffered a split which particularly affected the British section. The minority, which left to form Permanent Revolution, believed that the world economy was in a long upward wave (a position they adopted from Ernest Mandel) and that the possibility of a crisis of capitalism was unlikely for several more years. They criticised the majority as having an overly optimistic perspective or a pre-revolutionary period.

In 2012, two further groups split, one criticised Workers Power's position on the NATO intervention in Libya and 16 more left to launch what the majority described as the "liquidationist" Anti-Capitalist Initiative,[9] the latter reducing Workers Power's membership by about a third.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Degenerated Revolution
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Unity Organising Meeting". International Socialist Network. 18 January 2014. Retrieved 23 January 2014.
  4. ^
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  6. ^
  7. ^,418,0,0,1,0
  8. ^ "On the class character of China". League for the Fifth International Sun. 11 July 2010. Retrieved 20 July 2017.
  9. ^
  10. ^

External links[edit]