Seeing out 2018, 1- an update on the RSO

Back in April we commented briefly on the short lived Revolutionary Socialist Organisation

At the time we received a detailed resume of the RSO from one of its participants, Bastian O, which we reproduce here (and will also add to the original post):

I guess an obscure footnote in a book on British Trotskyism is exactly where the RSO belongs. For the sake of Sectariana I can give you a brief account of that group, which I was a member of for pretty much its entire existence.

I personally did indeed leave the League for the Fifth International’s youth group Revolution in 2006 together with the people who are now RIO in Germany. There was a Czech group too, all very sound people but unfortunately I have completely lost track of them. I left iRevo, as we called ourselves unwilling to give up the Revolution franchise due to a personal fallout with another comrade in late 2008 and joined the RSO which at that time had groups in Switzerland, Germany and Austria and did a sort of intellectual orthodox Trotskyist thing without most of the madness and self-grandeur you usually find in small Trot groups.

Shortly after about half of the German iRevo section left, forming the bulk of the RSO’s German franchise. The rest of the iRevo people took up the Argentinian FT’s brand and became their German sattelite under the name of RIO.

In 2010 I moved to the UK to study and joined Communist Students, the not-youth group of the CPGB (Weekly Worker) but most definitely youth group of the CPBG. Already in 2008 first contacts were made between the RSO and the French Lutte Ouvriere and the RSO soon started LO type interventions in about two larger workplaces in Vienna, thus taking a turn away from its earlier intellectualism and becoming more workerist.

I initially wasn’t too sure about all this as my head was still full of LFI-kind of ideas but whole heartedly embraced the new line after a year or so as I realised more and more that the LFI was completely mad and its politics weren’t going anywhere (not that I have anything to show right now). We also adapted LO’s more intense cadre culture, or at least we tried to as well as we could, meaning we were very strongly focused on serious activism and education. As LO was at that point our focus I started to regularly meet with comrades of their UK branch in London, where they were sort of treating me just as another recruit and I underwent their intense education programme, which meant reading several books a week and bussing down to London regularly. I went to the LO fete with them as well and started to feel quite uncomfortable around them as it often seemed like just a very small group of people with social anxieties. At the end of the day I don’t think they will be going anywhere despite having a decent focus on the industrial working class.

Meanwhile the student movement of 2010 was kicking of, which was tremendously exciting for me coming from pretty much small town Switzerland and with Communist Students we participated in most of the protests and occupations going on in Manchester. Doing the intense study of ideas with Workers’ Fight as well as living through the student protests were really my formative experiences and extremely insightful, I am very glad I was able to do both and even though having sort of distanced myself from a lot of the mad stuff that came with it I am still very grateful for the experience.

CS was like the CPGB just to a large extent a complete fantasy product though. The Manchester branch was better to a good extent and people were much more grounded in reality, but it was very much a talk shop pretty much unable to connect to the realities of the day. At a conference in early 2011 I proposed a large outline of work focusing on education, better contact work and somewhat approaching the working class in form of university workers. The motion was defeated by people turning up whom I had hardly ever seen before and instead a lot of time was used for a strategic discussion on whether we could turn the Labour Party into a quasi Soviet. This, obviously, was complete madness and James O and I started thinking of a political activity beyond Communist Students from that point onward.

During that Summer of 2011, the RSO main group in Austria split, with a minority of people wanting to go off and do a closer co-op with LO. At the end of the day all it was, was an inter-generational conflict and some people just not able to get along with others. It also meant we were at this point sort of falling out of love with LO and decided to approach the LO-faction instead. We were however never truly a part of the same international structure, we held camps and conferences together and at later points people from France came over regularly to discuss our work. Anyway in the Summer of 2011 we were just two people sort of fed up with the student-y type of activist and tired of the smoke screen debates in CS. When CS came out with a new issue of its paper which was terrible we refused to hand it out and where then ingloriously expelled from CS. For a time there were some hard feelings but all has been mended and everybody is good friends again.

The RSO developed some traction over the coming years and made it to about half a dozen members with about twice as many sympathisers around. We adopted the LO hardcore cadre model, where it was actually hard as hell to be a member and people had to wade through a few years of education first. We started producing a paper and a journal which we would sell regularly outside of some Manchester colleges as we were sick of students and wanted younger people. We were also stressing the need to go to more working class colleges to immerse ourselves more in the working class. Our paper was becoming more and more fun and we were rather happy to write a more popular sort of class hating thing rather than the leftist-introvert types or super boring types other groups produce. We also did regular meetings, classes and education days, as the education of new members was our primary focus. These were fun and we worked through a variety of important classical Marxist texts and history books, so if nothing else everyone was able to benefit from that even after the thing dissolved. We also did regular cultural outings, like theatre and cinema trips, they were probably the best part and a lot of fun.

Things really didn’t work out great and on advice of the LO faction we tried to do some entryist work in Manchester Anticapitalist Students. That was in 2013 when identitiy politics were at its worst. Instead of winning new people we just all got massively pissed of with everything, remember, the whole point of us leaving CS was to get away from the students! So after half a year of terrible meetings and debates I was proper done with it and left the RSO in late 2013. I moved back to Switzerland the following year, but the decision came to quit politics for a while came before not after.

At the end of the day I don’t regret much about the whole experience. We never became cultish nor adopted any super weird points of view. In fact we were extremely unimiginative in our theory and pretty much stuck to orthodoxy and read more historians rather than philosophers. Within that I would place us relatively far left, as LO is leftist, with very strong criticisms of the labour bureaucracies and the organised labour movement as a whole. We also steered clear of any form of nationalism, such as anti-EU rhetoric. But we didn’t have a unique theory of the Soviet Union or any of these things. We also read a lot of novels and we got more from Victor Serge’s novels than from abstract categorisations. I am happy to see that many of the people involved in the RSO still are somewhere around on the left or at least interested. Our organisation has just slowly fizzled out after 2013, there was never a bang or a falling out, we are all still good friends and I am still friends with and have a lot of respect for all the nice comrades I met from all over the world.”




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