Tony Cliff

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Tony Cliff

Tony Cliff (May 20, 1917 May 9, 2000) was a Trotskyist politician. Born Yigael Gluckstein in a Jewish Zionist family in Palestine, he eventually changed his name to Ygael, although in later years he would become far better known by his pen name Tony Cliff. In the late 1930s and early 1940s he used several pseudonyms in three languages due to the illegal status of the Revolutionary Communist League in which he worked. Due to his lack of established residency rights in Britain in the early 1950's and during his brief exile in Ireland the name Roger or Roger Tennant would be used. Much later in the 1960's Cliff would revive many of his earlier pseudonyms in the pages of International Socialism in which journal reviews are to be found by Roger, Roger Tennant, Sakhry, Lee Rock and Tony Cliff. But none by Yigael or Ygael Gluckstein.

Although he identified with Communism he never joined the Communist Party of Palestine, as he never met any of its members before becoming a socialist activist. However, he did join a Zionist Socialist group, Hashomer Hatzair, becoming both a Trotskyist and a confirmed opponent of Zionism. After becoming a Trotskyist in 1933 he was involved in leading groups until his death in 2000.

During World War II, Cliff was imprisoned by the British authority then governing the territory. After his release, he moved to Britain in 1947, but was never able to become a citizen and remained a stateless person. He was for a while deported to the Republic of Ireland and was only permitted to take up British residency due to his partner's status as a citizen. On his return to London, he again became active with the Revolutionary Communist Party onto whose leadership he had been co-opted.

For most purposes Cliff was a supporter of the leadership of the RCP around Jock Haston and as such he was involved with the discussions concerning the nature of those states dominated by Russia and the Communist parties initiated by a faction within the RCP. This debate was linked to other discussions on the nationalised industries in Britain and the increasingly critical stance of Haston and the RCP as to the leadership of the Fourth International with regard to Eastern Europe and Yugoslavia in particular.

Cliff developed a version of the theory that Russia and the 'glacis' countries, as they were referred to in the Fourth International at the time, were state capitalist. This theory was not at the time as iconoclastic as it came to appear later, as the Fourth International held at the time that the 'glacis' states were already state capitalist even if they maintained the position that Russia was a degenerated workers' state. In fact one leader of the Fourth International (Ernest Mandel, writing under the name Germain) remarked that the ideas that both Russia and the glacis were capitalist or that both Russia and the 'glacis' were workers' states were both obviously incorrect and had no place in the Fourth International. However within months he would adopt the viewpoint that both Russia and the 'glacis' were workers' states himself.

Since then the consensus in most Trotskyist groups, until the events of 1989-1991, has been that all the states dominated by Stalinist parties and characterised by state planning and state ownership of property are to be seen as degenerated workers' states. In many ways Cliff was the main dissident from this idea although some of his opponents have sought to associate his state capitalist view with other ideas, for example the theory of bureaucratic collectivism associated with Shactmanite Workers Party in the United States. However Cliff himself was insistent that his ideas owed nothing to those of Max Shachtman, or earlier proponents of the theory such as Bruno Rizzi, and made this clear in his Bureaucratic Collectivism - A Critique.

On the break-up of the RCP, his supporters joined Gerry Healy's group The Club, although having been deported to Ireland Cliff himself did not. Indeed he was unable to settle permanently in Britain until 1952 whe he joined his wife, Chanie Rosenburg, and their children in London. By this time his supporters in The Club had been expelled due to differences on Birmingham Trades Council as to socialist policy concerning the war in Korea, where Cliff's co-factionalists refused to take a position of support for either side in the war.

In 1950 he helped launch the Socialist Review Group which was based around a journal of the same name. This was to be the main publication for which he wrote during the 1950s, until it was superseded by International Socialism in 1960, eventually ceasing publication altogether in 1962. The group was renamed the International Socialists at the same time and was to grow from less than 100 members in 1960 until it claimed in the region of 3,000 in 1977, at which point it was renamed the Socialist Workers Party. Cliff's biography is, as he himself remarked, inseparable from that of the groups he was a member of.

Cliff's wife, Chaine Rosenberg, was herself an active member successively of the SRG, IS and SWP, in which she remains active to this day. As well as authoring many articles on social questions for the groups' publications she was an activist in the National Union of Teachers until her retirement. In addition three of the couples' four children became members of the SWP. with one son, Donny Gluckstein, co-authoring a book on Trades Unionism with his father.

Cliff was a prolific author and journalist. His works were published in many languages as a result of the international nature of the movement of which he was a leader. A list of some of the more important of his works appears below. The date shown is mostly that of first publication.

  • All That Glitters Is Not Gold (1945)
  • State Capitalism in Russia (1947) (out of print; originally issued as The Nature of Stalinist Russia)
  • The Class Nature of the Peoples Democracies (1948)
  • Bureaucratic Collectivism - A Critique (1948)
  • Stalin's Satellites in Europe (1952) (out of print)
  • Economic Roots of Reformism (1957)
  • Perspectives For The Permanent War Economy
  • Mao's China (1957) (out of print)
  • Rosa Luxemburg: A study (1959) ISBN B0000CKFSJ
  • Trotsky On Substitutionism (1960)
  • Incomes Policy, Legislation and Shop Stewards (1966) with Colin Barker
  • The Employers Offensive; Productivity Deals And How To Fight Them (1967)
  • France, The Struggle Goes On (1968) with Ian Birchall
  • Party and Class (1971) ISBN 0902818007
  • Portugal At the Crossroads (1975)
  • The Labour Party: A Marxist History with Donny Gluckstein (1988) ISBN 0906224454
  • A World To Win (2000) (autobiography) ISBN 1898876622

See Also

External links

fr:Tony Cliff


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