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Questions of Method and Theory…

August 15, 2018

tumblr_nquok7K7v51u0ar0do1_500.jpgDuring a recent online exchange, we were asked whether there was “an official history” of the IMG available, like those written by Peter Taaffe and Ian Birchall on the Militant and IS/SWP respectively.

The lack of any such history is one of the reasons we have published several items on Red Mole Rising, under the heading “Notes For A History of the IMG”

We are pleased therefore to publish “Questions of Method and Theory in the History of the IMG-SL 1970-1985” by Mike Mcnair.

As Mike notes, at over 200 pages this is arguably nearer a book than a document. It also was written for an audience that was familiar with many of the events described rather than for an external audience.

We would like to thank Mike Mcnair for his permission to publish the material on Red Mole Rising.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Mike Martin permalink
    August 17, 2018 1:37 pm

    Thanks to Mike for posting this contribution.

    I was in IMG 1966-73 more or less when Mike takes up the story. By 1971 I was away from London and had dropped off the National Committee, but followed some of the tendency struggles via the documents. I don’t think they were very edifying and Mike’s summaries seem more helpful than the originals. Ross’s ‘Truckload’ was presented to be voted on as the ‘general line’ for the group’s work: a recipe for confusion.

    Why was the IMG so unstable? I don’t think it stemmed from the politics of the FI as established in 1938, but has its roots in the post-war situation. Contrary to reasonable assumptions about continued crisis, both Stalinism and Social-Democracy were massively strengthened by the war and stabilised capitalism.

    Part of the FI led by Pablo adapted to this by disappearing into the mass Stalinist and S-D organisations. Later, under Mandel adaptation took the form of liquidating the programme and politics into a series of alliances. It is possible to defend orthodoxy, usually by appealing to the classics of Marx and Trotsky (or Stalin and Mao if that is your orthodoxy), while behind the formal structure that is presented to the world there take place an endless series of concessions to the pressures of a wicked world. Thus, while the USFI adapted to guerrillaism, Gorbachevism and latterly identity politics, Mike’s own group (cpgb / Weekly Worker) has had a Turkish Stalinist phase, a left republican period, a Scargillite one and currently a Corbyn one. (Admittedly, this is a case of pot calling the kettle). Adaptation was not the sole preserve of followers of the FI

    When a new generation of radicals emerged in the late 60’s, they were critical of the old organisations, but subject to the influence of new theories that left the working class on the margins. Most of us were radicalised individually in relative isolation from the working class struggles. Initially at least, they were more likely to have encountered the theories of academics who were hostile to Marxism, or “improved” on Marx than to have studied. If they came from a left upbringing it would most likely be Stalinist influenced. The situation would have been much better if the IMG had enjoyed an influx of workers who had broken with the old organisations in the course of strike waves. This could not happen given the dominance of reformist politics and the background of the economic boom. Most TU action tended to strengthen reformism.

    Mike Martin


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