Despite its small size and secrecy, a Trotskyist group that has had excessive influence is Socialist Action. This is because the organisation is often regarded as having had influence over Ken Livingstone during his period of time as mayor of London. Andrew Hosken, (Ken: The Ups and Downs of Ken Livingstone [Arcadia Books, 2008] p.256) explains:
Socialist Action is an organisation so discreet and secretive that it does not even admit its own existence and its members will not confirm they have ever belonged to the group….
It has a website and it has a printing press and those who have been associated with it have enjoyed great influence over London. By my calculation, at least five of [mayor Ken Livingstone’s] advisors are or have been members of Socialist Action, and there are several others who do work for the mayor or organisations with which he is associated. They include: Simon Fletcher, the mayor’s chief of staff; Jon Ross, director of economics and business for the Greater London Authority(GLA); Redmond O’Neill, GLA director of public affairs and transport; Mark Watts, GLA climate change advisor; and Jude Woodward, senior policy advisor. Others have included Atma Singh, the former advisor on Muslim issues and Professor Alan Freeman, who became prominent in the Unison branch at City Hall, and also runs the Venezuelan Information Centre – a propaganda organisation of which Ken Livingstone is president.
One of the problems (and there are many problems) for the Trotskyist left is that they spend far too much time arguing with each other. This gives them less time to argue with their acclaimed real enemy: “the bosses.” Those of us who do not consider ourselves to be Trotskyist can just sit back and watch the show.
Far simpler than spending time in the vaults is having someone else do the work. Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, another Trotskyist group, has put up on its website some of the views that Socialist Action expressed during the period 1989-1993. It makes interesting reading. Their bizarre views did not start in the late 1980s: the author remembered “being on an anti-war demo at the start of the Falklands war in 1982 when the Socialist Action sellers’ slogan was ‘Sink the Fleet’!” One can concur with the author’s conclusion:
This type of ‘anti-imperialism’ is the anti-imperialism of idiots. It amounts to backing the enemies of the larger capitalist powers, and doing so no matter what is being fought for, and no matter who is fighting. It is the opposite of independent politics: it simply involves opposing, blindly, the policy of the big powers.
I copy below some of the views of Socialist Action from the period 1989-1990, that were highlighted by AWL:
It is impossible to exaggerate the importance in world politics of the Chinese [Maoist] revolution. After the Russian Revolution it is the greatest blow struck against world capitalism.
Socialist Action no. 3, May/June 89.
The creation by Gorbachev of conditions for Germany’s reunification into a single united imperialist state sets the seal on the catastrophic course on which he has led the international working class movement.
Socialist Action no 6, Feb-March 1990
The destruction of at least some of the workers’ states in Eastern Europe, and the imperialist reunification of Germany are both the greatest defeats suffered by the working class since World War 2 and overturn the post-war world order.
Socialist Action no. 7, Summer 1990
The creation of the Zionist state of Israel, involving the turning the entire population of Palestine into refugees [eh?] was a key aspect of US-strategy in the Middle East.
Socialist Action no. 7, Summer 1990
Semi colonial regimes have turned to desperate adventures… [like] Saddam Hussein’s seizure of Kuwait…. [but in] a struggle between a ‘democratic’ imperialism and a ‘dictatorial’ semi-colonial country socialists are therefore on the side of the semi-colonial country.
Socialist Action no. 8, Autumn 1990
the Pentagon must be reconsidering the possibilities of a successful military strike against Cuba.
Socialist Action 1990. It is not clear from AWL’s web page which issue of Socialist Action.
The AWL article is headlined with questions asked about Socialist Action: “How Stupid are these people? How wrong can they be?” If anyone has an answer to these questions, please send them in.