The UAF/SWP is just as much Leninist as it is Trotskyist, perhaps more so (at least in certain important respects).
There are two fundamental ways in which the UAF/SWP is fundamentally Leninist. One, its belief that, politically, the end justifies the means. Two, that Leninist ‘democratic centralism’ is the best way to run a ‘revolutionary socialist’ group/organisation and state.
Let’s take the first fundamental aspect of UAF/SWP Leninism firstly.
Vasily Starkov, an engineer and a member of a St Petersburg Marxist group which Lenin joined in 1893, said (a while later than 1883):
‘The main thing [for Lenin] is ends, and every means of struggle, including terror, is good or bad depending on whether, in the given circumstances, it conduces to the attainment of those ends or, on the contrary, divers from them.’
This can be most clearly seen, with the UAF/SWP, in its support of Islam, Muslims, Islamists and even, at times, Islamoterrorism. After all, what does the UAF/SWP want? It wants to destroy ‘Western democratic capitalism’ or even just ‘the West’ as a whole. And what do millions upon millions of Muslims want? Pretty much the same thing. (The emphasis on capitalism depends on the type of Muslims you are talking to. Islamists have at times had many critical things to say about many aspects of capitalism - or of capitalism itself. More ‘traditionalist’ Muslim certainly don’t have much to say on this subject.)
The UAF/SWP is a Marxist materialist group which is also supposed to be against ‘reactionary’ views, ‘bigots’, ‘imperialism’, misogyny and the rest.
The problem is that all Muslims, by definition, are not materialists. And they cannot be Marxists. In addition, they are often reactionary, bigoted, misogynist and even believe in (Islamic) imperialism (not, of course, ‘Western imperialism’).
That massive set of distinctions doesn’t really matter to the UAF/SWP because this group believes that they can use, or utilise, or radicalise, or ‘mobilise’, Muslims, even Islamists, as ‘useful fools’ - or useful tools. (The problem is, as we all now know, that Muslims, especially Islamists, use them.)
None of that matters, however. According to Marxist materialism, religion is but a mere epiphenomenon of much more basic, and important, economic and socio-political realities – perhaps only of economic/material realities. That’s why religion, therefore Islam, is ‘the opium of the people’ (Marx). It is an opium precisely because it is not part of ‘material reality’ but merely a opium-dream or epiphenomenon of economic/material reality.
However, when UAF/SWP members interfaith with Muslims, which they very often do nowadays, these Marxists never tell their Muslim ‘friends’ about their critical and even patronising view of religion - therefore of Islam. Of course they don’t!
All this is by way of saying that because Leninists, such as the UAF/SWP, believe that the ends justify the means, then all this deceit, lies, false camaraderie and mutual use between revolutionary socialists and Muslims, is fine because the goal, TOTAL REVOLUTION - or whatever - makes all this bullshit OK. (This doesn’t matter as much as you may think because many Muslims are playing exactly the same game – that of using the UAF/SWP; as they do with liberals, the legal system, etc. for their own ends, and as they also do with the non-Muslim interfaith movement.)
Lenin himself supported violent bank robberies and outright terrorism as suitable means to bring about the end that was revolution. (One of the best Bolshevik bank robbers was none other than Joseph Stalin.) However, Leninism, and no doubt the UAF/SWP, do have problems with terrorism (as they did with the anarchists of yore). Terrorism was often seen as being ‘individualistic’ and thus it often occurred in complete separation from the ‘revolutionary movement’ and, basically, of the control of someone like Vladimir Lenin (Alex Callinicos). Thus Lenin was often, but not always, against terrorism because as a means to the end of revolution, it was not suitable and did not necessarily further the revolution. However, as with the UAF/SWP today, Lenin might well have said that TO BE AGAINST THE TERRORISTS IS TO BE ON THE SIDE OF THE STATE. Or, to paraphrase the SWP’s Chris Harman: With the Islamic terrorists (or IRA) sometimes. With the state, never. (Hasn’t that ‘the State’ got a strong platonic resonance to it – as in ‘the State’ with a capital ‘S’?)
*) One vital consequence of this belief that the ends justify the means, specifically within a Leninist context, means that more formal political processes and procedures, as well as the nature of the state itself, will themselves be seen as means to an end in Leninist and UAF/SWP theory. That end could be revolution, a 'classless society', or even a 'permanent revolution' (in the Trotskyist case). So even when Lenin gained state power, or when and if Leninists like UAF/SWP gain state power (which they won't because the 'culture war' has already been won), such people will still be upholding the doctrine that the ends justify the means.
Thus, for Lenin, even political democracy was seen as just a means to an end. He claimed that democracy had 'mainly instrumental value' in that it enabled the workers to effectively improve their fight for socialism. However, such 'instrumental democracy’ was nowhere near enough for Lenin. It didn't guarantee a communist state and it certainly didn't guarantee a full-scale revolution. Thus, despite political democracy's 'instrumental value', it was equally and still the case that Lenin hated what he called 'looser mass organisations' even though they guaranteed 'greater diversity and spontaneity'. Indeed he hated them precisely because they allowed greater diversity and spontaneity.
That's also why the UAF/SWP has always tried to take over, or infiltrate, truly democratic organisations and movements; from rock concerts and rock groups to organisations fighting against racism or 'Islamophobia'. After all, as Lenin believed, such movements or organisations might not further the revolution in any real way. They might even be seen as slowing down, or even stopping, the revolution - even if they were not, strictly speaking, 'counter-revolutionary'.
So just as the UAF/SWP, or, more historically, the SWP, used Rock Against Racism and a whole host of other movements and organisations to 'further the revolution' (thus further the SWP), so Lenin (as well as Trotsky) believed, in 1917, that the Soviets, so far not controlled by the Bolsheviks, would be 'a suitable instrument of the next revolution'. Why the Soviets? Because, at that time, their popularity and numbers were increasing dramatically in pre-Communist Russia.
As I argued, for Lenin, pre-1921, 'instrumental democracy' was but a means to an end. That end being his 'revolutionary dictatorship'. So it is no surprise that Lenin was very frank about this. Not long after the 18th of January, 1917, when the Bolsheviks broke up the Constituent Assembly, Lenin wrote:
"The dispersal of the Constituent Assembly by the Soviet regime is the full and open liquidation of formal democracy in the name of the revolutionary dictatorship."
It also logically follows from all this that if the end (a good end, no doubt) always justifies the means (as it did for Lenin), then above and beyond the destruction of 'formal democracy' Lenin also included the suppression of all his opponents, both in and out of his party, as justifying means to bring about communism. And that's what he did. At the Tenth Congress of the Communist Party, in March 1921, Lenin explicitly said that it was now time 'to put a lid' on the opposition, which he and the Party did.
The Leninist, and indeed Trotskyist, popular idea that everything that was bad about the Soviet Union, from the Gulag through to mass starvation and the many mass purges, was due to one man, Joseph Stalin. This is ridiculous. For a start, Stalin was a sincere believer in Leninism. That, in and of itself, doesn't make him a genuine Leninist, of course. But where it matters is Stalin's commitment to 'democratic centralism' and the annihilation of all opponents - in order to further the END that was communism - then Stalin was a true Leninist - regardless of what the UAF/SWP says! There may have been differences between Lenin and Marx and even Engels and Marx. The fact that Lenin, in the year or two before his death in 1924, had a few problems with Stalin proves nothing. It could accurately, and historically, be said that Lenin's problems were with Stalin's character and temperament, certainly not with Stalin's commitment to, well, Leninism. As late as April 1922, just two years before his death, Lenin approved of Stalin becoming the General Secretary of the Communist Party. He did change his mind, however, but he did so because of Stalin's high-handedness. He was not against Stalin's power and position as such; only his temperament.
More relevantly to this piece. Stalin undoubtedly shared Lenin's belief that the ends justified the means. And because I’m also talking about UAF/SWP here, I can also say that Trotsky also most definitely shared this belief with Lenin. So when it comes down to it, perhaps Trotsky's, and therefore the UAF/SWP's, emphasis on the 'permanent revolution' - or the 'international revolution - amounts to little that is important if Trotskyists/Leninists like the UAF/SWP also believe that their ends justify any means.