GEM Refounded on a Trotskyist Basis
Printed below is a translation of the article on the refounding of the Grupo Espartaquista de México from El Antiimperialista No. 1 (May 2023). Espartaco, the GEM’s previous newspaper, has ceased publication.
In the colonial and semicolonial countries, the struggle for national emancipation against imperialism is not just another aspect of the revolutionary program; it is the fundamental strategic question for the revolution. However, the GEM’s program since its founding has been the opposite: a capitulation to U.S. imperialism, on the basis that the main task and strategic objective for Marxists in a country plundered and devastated by imperialist predation is the struggle against bourgeois nationalism and that the main enemy is the Mexican bourgeoisie. By rejecting the fact that the whole country, including the national bourgeoisie, is oppressed by the imperialists and by rejecting the strategic nature of the struggle for national liberation, the GEM basically took sides with imperialism. This line, “Made in U.S.A.” and imposed on the GEM, was an absolute repudiation of the Trotskyist program of permanent revolution in the service of social-chauvinism. As Trotsky explained:
Espartaco’s line necessarily required repudiating the Leninist distinction between oppressor nations and oppressed nations, and thus repudiated the distinction between the nationalism of the oppressors and the nationalism of the oppressed, which is an ideological reflection of the daily oppression and humiliation at the hands of the imperialists. It is deeply reactionary to deny this distinction. In the oppressed countries, nationalism has a progressive character insofar as it impels the working masses to struggle against imperialism; it also has a reactionary character insofar as it is used to subordinate these masses to the populist national bourgeoisie, as supposedly the only fighter for national liberation.
But we denounced every manifestation of resistance to imperialism as a bourgeois-nationalist deviation from the struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat. In a centrist manner, we wielded seemingly orthodox formulas, such as “proletarian internationalism” and the “dictatorship of the working class,” as battering rams against the nationalism of the oppressed, betraying their national aspirations and renouncing, in deeds, the anti-imperialist struggle.
This means, in the final analysis, renouncing the revolution. It is Menshevism disguised with red phraseology: starting from the proposition that the nation-state in all its manifestations is reactionary, that our struggle is for world socialism, we would yield in a perfectly natural way the leadership of the anti-imperialist struggle to the national bourgeoisie, thus capitulating also to populism. This is completely counterposed to Trotskyism:
In 2002, at the urging of comrade Jim Robertson [the late central founder of the International Communist League], we repudiated the slogan for Mexico that “The main enemy is at home!” Yet, the content of that struggle was to uphold the essence of that slogan. When the late comrade Ed C. made the obvious assertion that in Mexico “the main task…[is]leading the nation in struggle against imperialist domination,” the leadership of the International, particularly in the U.S., was up in arms against him.
Symbolic of the social-imperialist character of the ICL’s line, it was the SL/U.S. Political Bureau that codified that struggle through a motion stating: “Regarding Mexico, a workers party that is not guided by a revolutionary, internationalist, proletarian perspective but instead embraces as its main task ‘leading the nation in struggle against imperialist domination’ would be a party that shrinks from fulfilling its proletarian program—i.e., it would be at least tacitly Menshevik.” Who’s the Menshevik? Contrary to the SL/U.S. PB’s assertion, the fight against imperialism means a constant and protracted struggle to wrest the leadership of the worker and peasant masses from the hands of the bourgeoisie, the struggle to demonstrate in practice that we are not only the best but, in fact, the only consistent fighters for national liberation by exposing at every step the vacillations and capitulations of the national bourgeoisie. This is the only way to break the influence of populism and bourgeois nationalism on the Mexican working masses.
The articles “A Marxist Analysis of the Mexican Revolution of 1910” (Espartaco No. 12, Spring-Summer 1999) and “Break with All the Bourgeois Parties: PRI, PAN, PRD!” (Espartaco No. 14, Fall-Winter 2000), considered seminal documents of the section, spit on the aspirations of the masses for national emancipation and presented the Mexican Revolution as an orgy of reaction. The Espartaco No. 12 article affirms that “the nationalism encouraged by the bourgeoisie, which seeks to tie the exploited to their exploiters, intoxicates the masses.” It denigrates even the Independence of Mexico as an event that “had a distinctive smell of counterrevolution” and denounces the Cardenista land redistribution as “a way to deactivate workers struggles, offering pieces of land so that dissatisfied workers could become small peasant landowners.”
The Espartaco No. 14 article states: “Ever since the Mexican Revolution, the bourgeoisie has used nationalism, opportunist anti-clericalism and a socialist-tinged populist rhetoric as an ideological weapon in consolidating its power against competing factions and justifying its repression of workers’ struggles and peasant insurrections.” Thus, it rants against the nationalism of the oppressed and the separation of church and state and presents the populism that emerged from the Mexican Revolution as purely reactionary and nothing more than an ideological ploy to “repress” the workers and peasants. It also totally denies the contradictions of populism and that populism is also directed against the imperialists.
Both articles denounced Cárdenas because his “intention was to modernize the country for the benefit of the Mexican bourgeoisie” and because his legacy “was the consolidation of the Mexican bourgeois regime.” Far from being reactionary, these measures were historically progressive insofar as they were directed against the imperialists. One can only deny the progressive character of Mexico’s national development if one rejects the struggle of the workers and peasants against imperialist oppression.
To give an air of authority to our reactionary position, we misrepresented a quote of Trotsky:
Certainly, the Mexican Revolution ended in a bloodbath of the peasants, and Cárdenas subdued the working masses. The problem with Espartaco is not that it denounced the reactionary outcome of such processes, but that it used this quote to oppose the progressive measures and objectives that Trotsky himself emphatically defended during his stay in Mexico. The real content of this quote is that the actual crime and expression of the reactionary nature of the national bourgeoisie are to suppress at every step the only force capable of achieving national liberation.
Only the proletariat, at the head of the poor peasantry, can realize this goal in an uninterrupted struggle leading to its own dictatorship and, ultimately, through a whole series of revolutionary convulsions at the global level, to the abolition of social classes themselves. Insofar as the national bourgeoisie maintains its hegemony, then, as Trotsky wrote, “the struggle for national liberation will produce only very partial results, results directed entirely against the working masses.” By repudiating the anti-imperialist struggle, Espartaco contributed to perpetuating the hegemony of the national bourgeoisie.
This line was maintained until the last issue of Espartaco. The article “Permanent Revolution vs. Bourgeois Populism” (Espartaco No. 51, April 2019) is a long denunciation of nationalism that draws a sterile line against the national bourgeoisie while rejecting the progressive character of the struggle for national emancipation. Not only did we go back to the Cárdenas period to present the same reactionary arguments against AMLO, but we went so far as to denounce any reform directed against the imperialists, however limited; and, at least implicitly, we denounced the Cardenista oil nationalization by writing:
Given that the entire programmatic basis of every article on Mexico that appeared in Espartaco was contrary to Trotskyism, we ended its publication. We are launching as of today a new publication under the masthead El Antiimperialista with the slogan “For workers’ and national emancipation!” which evokes in a condensed form genuine permanent revolution. As Trotsky stated, the anti-imperialist struggle is the key to liberation.