TONY CLIFF Biography - Theater, Opera and Movie personalities


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Tony Cliff (May 20th 1917 ? May 9th 2000) was a Trotskyist politician. Born Yigael Gluckstein in a Jewish Zionist family in Palestine. Opposed to Zionism, he 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 was forced to employ several pseudonyms in three languages.


Although he identified with Communism he never joined the Communist Party of Palestine as he never met any of its members prior to becoming a socialist activist. However he did join a Zionist Socialist group, Hashomer Hatzair, and in it became both a Trotskyist and a confirmed opponent of the Zionist project. 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 haton within the RCP. This debate being 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 described in the Fourth International at the time, were state capitalism. 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 germain (Ernest Mandel) remarked that the ideas that both Russia and the glacis were capitlaist 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 concensus 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 workers’ states. In many ways Cliff was the main dissident from this idea although some of his opposnents 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 clear that his dieas owed nothing to those of Max Shactman, 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 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.


None the less it is well worth noting that Cliff’s wife, Chaine Rosenberg, was herself an active member succesively of the SRG, IS and remains active in the SWP to this day. As well as authoring amany articles on social questions for the groups publications she was anactivist in the National Union of teachers until her retirement. In addition three of the couples four children became members of the SWP. 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 that of first publication.


All That Glitters Is Not Gold (1945)
State Capitalism in Russia (1947)
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 (1959)
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
Portugal At the Crossroads (1975)
A World To Win (2000) (autobiography)