A crisis has erupted within in the Socialist Workers Party, the UK'S largest left group and the main section of the International Socialist Tendency. We do not intend to enter into the inevitably messy debate over specific allegations. But the conflict raises many important questions about democratic centralism and revolutionary organisation so here are some documents and links which can help readers explore the general issues.
SWP leader Alex Callinicos replied to the opposition in the following article and we follow it with contributions from leading Americans, blogger Louis Proyect and International Socialist Organisation intellectual Paul Le Blanc (the American ISO was expelled from the IST several years ago).
Is Leninism finished?
Feature by Alex Callinicos, January 2013
Do revolutionary parties, like the Socialist Workers Party, that draw on the method of organising developed by Lenin and the Bolsheviks still fit in the twenty first century? Alex Callinicos challenges the critics and argues that Leninism remains indispensable
The demise of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and of the political tradition that it seeks to embody have been widely proclaimed on the British left in recent weeks. Thus the columnist Owen Jones has announced that "the era of the SWP and its kind is over." Is he right?
The flood of attacks on the SWP originates in some internal arguments that culminated in our annual conference in January. The conference discussed a difficult disciplinary case. But wider political differences emerged. Two factions were formed in the lead-up to the conference to fight for changes in the model of democratic centralism - the system of decision making used by organisations in the revolutionary Marxist tradition - that the SWP has developed.
These issues were argued out in vigorous political debates at the conference, and the positions put forward on democratic centralism by the outgoing Central Committee (the main party leadership) were approved by large majorities. Unfortunately, a small minority refused to accept these decisions. Through a series of leaks and briefings some ensured that a highly distorted account of the disciplinary case was circulated on the web and taken up by some of the mainstream media.
The minority has used this coverage to argue that the SWP was now "toxic" and to make a variety of demands - for example, a special party conference to nullify the decisions just taken, the censure or removal of the newly elected Central Committee, and various changes to the party's structure.
One thing the entire business has reminded us of is the dark side of the Internet. Enormously liberating though the net is, it has long been known that it allows salacious gossip to be spread and perpetuated - unless the victim has the money and the lawyers to stop it. Unlike celebrities, small revolutionary organisations don't have these resources, and their principles stop them from trying to settle political arguments in the bourgeois courts.
Moreover, in this case a few individuals, some well known, others not, have used blogs and social media to launch a campaign within the SWP. Yet they themselves, for all their hotly proclaimed love of democracy, are accountable to no one for these actions. They offer an unappetising lesson in what happens when power is exercised without responsibility. All of this would be of interest solely to the SWP and its supporters, were it not for the political conclusions that are being drawn. Both Owen Jones and "Don Mayo", an ex-member of the SWP leadership who recently left the party, have targeted what "Mayo" calls "the orthodox Trotskyist model of Leninism". Like Jones, he says this is "an historically outdated model".
So what's at stake here? The SWP has sought, since its origins in a handful of people expelled from the Trotskyist Fourth International in 1951, to continue the revolutionary Marxist tradition. Started by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, this tradition reached its highpoint in the Russian Revolution of October 1917, when the Bolshevik Party led the first and still the only successful working class revolution. Leon Trotsky, who with Vladimir Lenin headed the Bolsheviks in October 1917, then fought the degeneration of the revolution with the rise of Stalin's tyranny between the mid-1920s and the early 1930s.
What does continuing a tradition mean? There are plenty of sects, Stalinist as well as Trotskyist, who think this involves the mindless repetition of a few sacred formulas. But genuinely carrying on a tradition requires its continuous creative renewal. Marxism is about the unity of theory and practice so this process of renewal has both intellectual and political dimensions.
The theoretical development of Marxism requires above all deepening and updating Marx's critique of political economy. His target was the capitalist economic system: in his masterwork Capital he uncovered its structural logic. But capitalism develops historically, and, as it does, so must Marxist analysis. In the SWP we have contributed to this process, most recently with Chris Harman's great last work Zombie Capitalism - not alone, however. There is a great renaissance of Marxist political economy under way at present that can help political activists understand what's happening to capitalism during its greatest crisis since the 1930s.
But Marx's political legacy - the necessity of working class organisation to overthrow capital - is less secure. In 1968 the SWP's predecessor the International Socialists decided to adopt a Leninist model of organisation. In other words, we decided to take our reference point in how we organise the way the Bolsheviks organised under Lenin's leadership in the years leading up to the October Revolution.
In fact, as Tony Cliff (the founder of the SWP) showed in his biography of Lenin, the Bolsheviks were very flexible in their political tactics and organisational methods. But there were some common factors. Most fundamentally, as has been confirmed by subsequent experience, workers' struggles have again and again developed into revolutionary movements that challenge the very basis of capitalist domination.
But the same experience also shows that these revolutionary movements tend to be held back by traditions that represent a compromise between resistance to and acceptance of the capitalist system. Historically the most important of these traditions has been reformism, whether in the shape of mainstream social democracy or the Western Communist Parties after Stalin's triumph. But there are other ideologies embodied in organisations that have played a similar role - social Catholicism in Poland during the great Solidarnosc movement in 1980-1, or variants of Islamism in Iran in 1978-9 and Egypt today.
The hold of these traditions on workers is reinforced by the way in which the workings of capitalism tend to fragment their consciousness and encourage them to think in terms of the interests of a smaller section rather than the class as a whole. And so major working class struggles, from the Paris Commune of 1871 to the Great Miners' Strike of 1984-5 in Britain, have ended in heroic and inspiring defeats once the question of political power is posed. The reason why the experience of October 1917 is so significant is because here the Bolsheviks succeeded in breaking the grip of the reformists (in this case the Mensheviks and the Social Revolutionaries), which had been overwhelming in the months after the overthrow of Tsarism in February 1917, and winning the active support of the majority of workers for the conquest of power.
What this involved was the Bolsheviks acting as what is sometimes called a "vanguard party". They represented for most of their existence before October 1917 a small minority of the Russian working class. But this minority was united by a shared Marxist understanding of the world. And, above all, it organised and acted on the basis of this understanding.
The Bolsheviks collectively intervened in the struggles of the Russian working class. In doing so, they put forward proposals that would help to advance the struggle in question. But they simultaneously sought to encourage workers to recognise that they had to fight for political power and, to achieve this, to support the Bolshevik Party itself.
So the Bolsheviks won the majority of the working class through a continuous process of dialogue between them and their fellow workers, in which they sometimes changed their minds, learning from workers who had actually moved ahead of them. But in this process the party sought to overcome the uneven experiences of different groups of workers and the way capitalism fragmented their consciousness.
How the Bolsheviks organised as revolutionaries became obscured with the degeneration of the October Revolution, which developed as a result of the isolation of the new workers' republic and the disintegration of the working class itself caused by civil war and economic collapse. When we rallied to Leninism in the late 1960s we were trying to apply this original model. But renewing Leninism wasn't simple. In the first place, we faced different conditions from those confronting the Bolsheviks: reformism, rooted in the trade union bureaucracy, was far more entrenched in Britain and the rest of Western Europe than it had been in Tsarist Russia.
Secondly, these conditions were changing. From 1968 onwards we were able to turn ourselves towards a wave of escalating workers' struggles that culminated in the fall of Ted Heath's Tory government in early 1974. The picture was the same in the rest of Western Europe: this was the era of May 1968 in France and the Italian "hot autumn" of 1969. But then in the mid-1970s everything began to change. The Labour government of 1974-9 was able to halt the rising tide of workers' militancy and to incorporate rank and file workers' leaders into managerial structures.
Then in 1979 Thatcher came to office. She successfully renewed the capitalist offensive that Heath had attempted and defeated the miners and other key groups of workers. Her administration and that of Ronald Reagan in the United States marked a global turning point. The neoliberalism they pioneered sought to revive the profitability of capital above all by fragmenting the working class and weakening its organisations. Its effects were contradictory: as the present global economic crisis shows, it failed to resolve the underlying problems of profitability, but workers did emerge more divided and with less effective organisations.
This doesn't mean that resistance to capitalism has vanished - far from it. The Arab revolutions were fundamentally caused by the effects of neoliberalism in polarising societies such as Egypt, Syria and Tunisia. But certain trends are visible.
First of all, the mainstream political organisations of the working class continue to decline. The Italian Communist Party - in its prime the largest Western party - has vanished almost without trace. The social democratic parties have tried to adapt to neoliberalism by moving rightwards and embracing the market - the project of New Labour under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.
But not only did this end in disaster (Brown's devil's pact with the City helped to bring about the 2008 financial crash), but the base of the social liberal parties (as many now call them) in a more fragmented working class has continued to shrink. This doesn't mean that reformism is finished: François Hollande beat Nicolas Sarkozy in last year's French presidential elections and Labour is running ahead of the Tories in the opinion polls. But it's weaker.
Secondly, we have seen since the Seattle protests of November 1999 waves of political radicalisation directed at neoliberalism and sometimes at capitalism itself. The great protests against the invasion of Iraq whose tenth anniversary we are about to celebrate were a high point. In 2011 the Arab revolutions helped to stimulate first the 15 May movement in the Spanish state and then the Occupy movement that spread from Manhattan around the world.
These movements are tremendously important. But they have not led to or been sustained by workers' struggles that have reached a similar level of generalisation or intensity. Of course, workers have been playing an important role - think of the pensions strikes here in Britain on 30 June and 30 November of the same year, of the general strikes and other workers' struggles in Greece, or of the strike across southern Europe on 14 November 2012.
Streets or factories?
The fact remains that, while an insurgent working class was at the centre of the radicalisation of the late 1960s and early 1970s, so far this is not true today. Even in Egypt, where the struggle today is most advanced, the movement on the streets has been more central than the movement in the factories in the two years since Hosni Mubarak was overthrown. What conclusions should we draw from this?
It would be ridiculous to assert that the working class is finished. The neoliberal era has seen a contradictory and uneven expansion of capitalism that has drawn wider social layers into the net of wage labour. The struggles that I have referred to (and there are many others - for example in the new centres of capital accumulation such as China and Vietnam) represent the learning experiences of a working class that has been restructured to meet the changing demands of capital. There's no reason why they should repeat the pattern of the upturn of the late 1960s and early 1970s, any more than they did those of earlier waves of working class struggle.
Nevertheless, one consequence of the form taken by the present radicalisation is that the centrality of workers' struggles in the fight against capitalism is less obvious than it was in the past. This is one reason why - along with the atrophy of the mainstream political parties as they are drawn deeper and deeper into the corporate world - contemporary anti-capitalist movements tend to be suspicious of political organisations. The burden of proof is on those of us who still think Leninism is the best form for revolutionary organisation to show why this is so.
This is the serious question raised by the polemic launched by Owen Jones and his like. Jones seems to be stating his alternative when he writes, "Britain urgently needs a movement uniting all those desperate for a coherent alternative to the tragedy of austerity, inflicted on this country without any proper mandate."
This sounds very nice but is quite misleading, since Jones is an increasingly high profile member of the Labour Party. And indeed he writes, "so long as trade unions ensure Labour is linked to millions of supermarket checkout assistants, call centre workers and factory workers, there is a battle to be won in compelling the party to fight for working people."
In other words, although Jones is critical of Ed Miliband for failing to "offer a genuine alternative to austerity", he thinks that activists should devote their energies to pushing Labour leftwards. This is a project that generations of activists have pursued since the 1920s (indeed Jones says his parents met as members of the Militant Tendency, which fought valiantly to win Labour to socialism till most were expelled during the 1980s).
The nature of the Labour Party
The failure of the struggle to win Labour for the left isn't a matter of lack of effort or determination. The very nature of the Labour Party defeats its left wing challengers. It is geared to the electoral cycle, so that discussion of policy and support for struggle are subordinated to the effort to win votes on terms set by the Tories and the corporate media. Miliband's opposition to the pension strikes is just the latest in a long and sad story of betrayals by Labour leaders that goes back to Ramsay MacDonald during the 1920s and Neil Kinnock in the 1980s.
The power of the parliamentary leadership has historically been buttressed by the social weight and financial muscle of the trade union bureaucracy. Today the union presence still ties Labour to the organised working class, but at a price. The role of full-time trade union officials is to negotiate the terms on which workers are exploited by capital. Sometimes this leads them to take action, as they did on 30 November 2011, but only in order to improve their bargaining position. The subsequent betrayal of the pensions struggle is therefore absolutely typical.
So the trade union bureaucracy is a conservative force within the workers' movement. But, far from addressing this problem, Jones is currently campaigning for the re-election of Len McCluskey as general secretary of Unite. McCluskey talks a good fight, but he sat by while other union leaders killed off the pensions strikes. He has also thrown Unite strongly behind Labour under Miliband. This is why the SWP conference voted to support the campaign of Jerry Hicks to challenge McCluskey as a candidate committed to strengthening the rank and file.
Despite his radical rhetoric and the excellent stance he takes in the media on specific issues, Jones is defending an essentially conservative position, lining up with Labour and the trade union leaders. "Mayo" represents an apparently more radical option. He aligns himself with some other former leading members of the SWP, Lindsey German, John Rees and Chris Bambery, in arguing that the mass movements that have developed since Seattle represent an alternative to Leninist politics.
But if we look at the movements against neoliberal globalisation and imperialist war that developed at the start of the millennium, we see that they had an astonishing global impact, but failed to sustain themselves. The same proved true of Occupy, which emerged very rapidly as a worldwide symbol of anti-capitalist resistance - and then equally rapidly dissipated.
There are various reasons for this pattern. Probably the most important is the absence of a sustained revival of working class militancy, which would give a social weight to the protest spectaculars offered by the movements. But the situation hasn't been helped by the domination of the anti-capitalist movement by "horizontalist" hostility to political parties and by unworkable (and ultimately undemocratic) methods of decision-making based on consensus.
When "Mayo" and his like renounce Leninist politics and uncritically embrace the movements they are evading these problems. They are equally shifty when it comes to confronting the biggest problem facing the progress of resistance to austerity in Britain - the role of the trade union leaders in blocking strike action. Like Jones, "Mayo" and his co-thinkers are backing McCluskey on the grounds that he "is no bureaucrat". Neither they nor Jones are offering an alternative to the dominant forces inside the British workers' movement.
But maybe the SWP is just too hopelessly sectarian to provide the basis of this alternative. Yet Jones pays us a curious if back-handed tribute: "The SWP has long punched above its weight. It formed the basis of the organisation behind the Stop The War Coalition, for example, which - almost exactly a decade go - mobilised up to two million people to take to the streets against the impending Iraqi bloodbath. Even as they repelled other activists with sectarianism and aggressive recruitment drives, they helped drive crucial movements such as Unite Against Fascism, which recently organised a huge demonstration in Walthamstow that humiliated the racist English Defence League."
So the SWP is awful, but it has played a crucial role in the most important movements of the past decade. How can this contradiction be resolved? In reality we are committed to the politics of the united front. In other words, we will work, in a principled and comradely way, with political forces well to our right to build the broadest and strongest action for common if limited objectives - for example, against the "war on terror" or the Nazis. We have followed the same practice in Unite the Resistance, an important alliance of activists and trade union officials to campaign for strikes against the coalition.
Moreover, what our critics dislike most about us - how we organise ourselves - is crucial to our ability, as Jones puts it, to punch above our weight. Our version of democratic centralism comes down to two things. First, decisions must be debated fully, but once they have been taken, by majority vote, they are binding on all members. This is necessary if we are to test our ideas in action.
Secondly, to ensure that these decisions are implemented and that the SWP intervenes effectively in the struggle, a strong political leadership, directly accountable to the annual conference, campaigns within the organisation to give a clear direction to our party's work. It is this model of democratic centralism that has allowed us to concentrate our forces on key objectives, and thereby to build so effectively the various united fronts we have supported.
But this model is now under attack from within and without. Scandalously, a minority inside the SWP are refusing to accept the democratically reached conference decisions. What they, and some other more disciplined and more reflective comrades are arguing for is a different model involving a much looser and weaker leadership, internal debate that continually reopens decisions already made, and permanent factions (currently factions are only allowed in the discussion period leading up to the annual party conference). If they succeeded, the SWP would become a much smaller and less effective organisation, unable to help build broader movements.
The stakes in these debates are very high. The New Anticapitalist Party (NPA) in France imploded in 2011-12, leading to a very serious breakaway to the Front de Gauche led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon. This has weakened the far left in Europe, and indeed the rest of the world. The implosion was caused by political differences and setbacks, but it was exacerbated by an internal regime very similar to the one advocated by some SWP members. All the debates within the NPA went through the filter imposed by the struggle between four permanent factions. Members' loyalties focused on their factional alignments rather than the party itself.
I am confident that the SWP is politically strong enough to overcome its internal differences. Our theoretical tradition and our democratic structures will allow us to arrive at the necessary political clarity and to learn the lessons of the disciplinary case. But if I am wrong and the SWP did collapse, this would not solve the political problem that it exists to address. The anti-capitalist struggle won't be advanced by relying on Labourism and the trade union leaders or by uncritical worship of the movements. If the SWP didn't exist, it would be necessary to invent it.
Published online on 28 January 2013. This article will be in the February issue of Socialist Review http://www.socialistreview.org.uk/article.php?articlenumber=12210
Leninism is finished: a reply to Alex Callinicos
by Louis Proyect
After a month’s worth of attack on the SWP leadership, including from its own members, Alex Callinicos has taken to the pages of Socialist Review (“Is Leninism Finished?”) to frame the fight in terms of a defense of Leninist orthodoxy. I think this is useful since it helps to crystallize the broader issues facing this fairly important group in Britain and the socialist movement internationally: is the “democratic centralist” model that is the hallmark of aspiring “vanguard” parties appropriate to our tasks today?
Just over 30 years ago the American SWP was going through a profound crisis involving the democratic rights of its membership. The Barnes leadership had decided to dump Leon Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution overboard in a bid to make itself more acceptable to what it saw as an emerging new revolutionary international with Havana functioning as a pole of attraction. When many long-time members, including those who had worked closely with Trotsky, fought to have a debate over this change, Barnes decided to forgo a constitutionally mandated party convention and began expelling members on trumped-up charges.
I had left the SWP by this point but was so disturbed by these developments that I began calling comrades I respected. Les Evans was a member of a group of expelled members who hoped to resurrect the “good, old SWP”, a task tantamount to reassembling Humpty-Dumpty.
My next phone call was to Peter Camejo, who had been expelled mostly because he was an independent thinker popular with the membership–a terrible threat to the SWP’s leader. After he began figuring out that the party he had belonged to for decades was on a suicidal sectarian path, he took a leave of absence to go to Venezuela and read Lenin with fresh eyes. This was one of the first things he told me over the phone: “Louis, we have to drop the democratic centralism stuff”. That is what he got out of reading Lenin. I was convinced that he was right and spent the better part of the thirty years following our phone conversation spreading that message to the left.
In the early 80s it was a tougher sale to make. Back then orthodox Trotskyist parties, and ideologically heterodox parties like the British SWP, did little investigation into the actual history of the Russian social democracy and were content to follow organizational guidelines based on what someone like James P. Cannon filtered down to them through books such as “Struggle for a Proletarian Party” or Tony Cliff’s Lenin biography.
Largely through the efforts of Lars Lih, it has become more and more difficult to ignore the historical record. The publication of his 808 pageLenin Rediscovered: What Is to Be Done? In Context was like Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the church door in 1517, except in this case it was the door of the Marxist-Leninist church. Unlike Peter Camejo or me, Lih was not interested in building a new left. He was mainly interested in correcting the record. As a serious scholar with a deep command of the Russian language, he was quite capable of defending his thesis, namely that Lenin sought nothing more than to create a party based on the German social democracy in Russia. There was never any intention to build a new kind of party, even during the most furious battles with the Mensheviks who after all (as Lih convincingly makes the case) were simply a faction of the same broad party that Lenin belonged to.
The British SWP has been deferential to Lih, whose scholarship was beyond reproach, but at pains to dismiss its implications. The September 2010 issue of Historical Materialism organized a symposium on Lih’s research in which they made the case for “Leninism” as they understood it. While HM is largely inaccessible to the unwashed masses (where was Aaron Swartz when we needed him?), you can read SWP’er Paul Blackledge’s contribution at http://www.isj.org.uk/?id=218. We can assume that he was speaking for Callinicos and the SWP leadership when he wrote:
The novelty of this form of organisation was less than obvious in the early part of the last century, and Lih is right to point out that Lenin was attempting to build something like the German SPD in Russia. Nonetheless, it is also true that Lenin did succeed in building something different, and better, than the SPD. It is in this respect, I think that Lih is wrong to reject Georg Lukács’s interpretation of Lenin, upon which many of the activists have based their analyses.
When I first ran across the British SWP on the Internet back in the early 90s, I never would have dreamed that they would have ended up with such a horrible scandal on their hands. I was impressed with both their theoretical prowess and with their work in the British antiwar movement. My only caveat was that their organizational model would prevent them from breaking through a glass ceiling imposed by their sectarian habits. I put it this way:
I believe that the methodology of the [American] SWP was flawed from the outset. In its less lethal permutations, such as the Tony Cliff or Ted Grant variety or the SWP of the early 1970s, you end up with a “healthy” group but one that is destined to hit a glass ceiling because of its self-imposed “vanguardist” assumptions. In a nutshell, the group sees itself as the nucleus of the future revolutionary party no matter how much lip service is given to fusing with other groups during a prerevolutionary period, etc. In its more lethal versions, you end up with Gerry Healy or Jack Barnes where megalomania rules supreme.
Apparently some SWP members were grappling with the same problem as I discovered from a document written by Neil Davidson for their 2008 convention (it can be read on a blog devoted to a discussion of the SWP crisis. Davidson writes:
The problem is rather that there seems to be a limit beyond which the Party is unable to grow. In 1977, shortly after International Socialism (IS) had transformed itself into the SWP, Hallas wrote in The Socialist Register that “the SWP is ‘something approaching a small party’. But a small party has no merit unless it can become a much bigger party”.
I imagine that if Martin Smith had not been such a sexist pig, the SWP would have meandered along in this fashion for a number of years. Like a match thrown into a room filled with gasoline fumes, the rape incident and the Central Committee’s role in covering it up has provoked a crisis threatening the very existence of the party.
Returning to Callinicos’s article, I was struck by his exasperation over how “internal” party matters have spilled over into the Internet:
One thing the entire business has reminded us of is the dark side of the Internet. Enormously liberating though the net is, it has long been known that it allows salacious gossip to be spread and perpetuated – unless the victim has the money and the lawyers to stop it. Unlike celebrities, small revolutionary organisations don’t have these resources, and their principles stop them from trying to settle political arguments in the bourgeois courts.
In a nutshell, this is the same mindset that is on display at MIT, the elite institution that insisted on prosecuting Aaron Swartz for purloining JSTOR documents. Like the Gutenberg printing press that made possible generations of revolutionary-minded print publications like Iskra, the Internet is the communications medium for 21st century socialism. If anything has become clear, the “internal” documents of the SWP cannot be bottled up behind a firewall. In the same way that a Madonna video will make its way into Pirate’s Bay, some controversial SWP document will get leaked to the wretched Andy Newman’s Socialist Unity website. I am not even taking a position on whether this is reflecting the “dark side” of the Internet–only that this is the reality we operate under.
But more to the point, there really is no basis for revolutionary socialist organizations to keep their business internal. This was not the case in Lenin’s day, nor should it be the case today whether we are communicating through the printed page or on the Internet. This idea that we discuss our differences behind closed doors every couple of years during preconvention discussion was alien to the way that the Russian social democracy operated. They debated in public. We are obviously more familiar with Lenin’s open polemics with the Mensheviks that some might interpret as permissible given that a cold split had taken place (a false interpretation as Pham Binh and Lars Lih have pointed out.) But even within the Bolsheviks, there was public debate as demonstrated over their differences on whether the bourgeois press should be shut down.
In John Reed’s “10 Days that Shook the World”, there is a reference to divided votes among party members over key questions such as whether to expropriate the bourgeois press. At a November 17th 1917 mass meeting, Lenin called for the confiscation of capitalist newspapers. Reed quotes him: “If the first revolution had the right to suppress the Monarchist papers, then we have the right to suppress the bourgeois press.” He continues: “Then the vote. The resolution of Larin and the Left Socialist Revolutionaries was defeated by 31 to 22; the Lenin motion was carried by 34 to 24. Among the minority were the Bolsheviki Riazanov and Lozovsky, who declared that it was impossible for them to vote against any restriction on the freedom of the press.”
Get it? Lenin and Riazanov debated at a mass meeting and then voted against each other. This was normal Bolshevik functioning. All discipline meant was a deputy voting according to instructions from the party’s central committee, etc. For example, if Alex Callinicos was elected to Parliament and instructed to vote against funding the war in Iraq, and then voted for funding, the party would be entitled to expel him.
Instead, democratic centralism in the Fourth International parties, and in parties following such a model like Callinicos’s International Socialist Tendency, has meant something entirely different. Discipline has meant enforcing ideological conformity. For example, it would be virtually impossible for SWP members in Britain to take a position on Cuba identical to the American SWP’s and vice versa. As it turns out, this is a moot point since most members become indoctrinated through lectures and classes after joining the groups and tend to toe the line, often responding to peer pressure and the faith that their party leaders must know what is right.
Keeping watch on the ideological purity of the group leads to the formation of a priesthood that is in the best position to interpret the holy writings, whether of Trotsky, Tony Cliff, Ted Grant, or whoever. When they are also full-time functionaries, their power is magnified. For a rank-and-file member of such parties to raise a stink over some questionable strategy or tactic is almost unheard of. It takes something like a rape to get people mobilized apparently.
Virtually none of the latest thinking on the problematic of “democratic centralism” is reflected in Callinicos’s article. Instead he uses the term “Leninism” as a kind of shorthand for revolutionary politics that the SWP is defending against what he views as Owen Jones’s Labourite opportunism. Callinicos describes Jones as a “an increasingly high profile member of the Labour Party.” This is the same party that rests on a trade union leadership that “is a conservative force within the workers’ movement.” To cap it off, Callinicos draws from the same poisoned well that goes back to the Soviet Union of the 1920s:
Despite his radical rhetoric and the excellent stance he takes in the media on specific issues, Jones is defending an essentially conservative position, lining up with Labour and the trade union leaders.
In other words, Callinicos is resorting to the “scratch to gangrene” method of attack that is the hallmark of the Trotskyist movement going back to the late 1930s and to the Zinovievist Comintern of the 1920s, which Trotsky adopted as a model. It is basically a way of stigmatizing your adversary as reflecting “alien class forces”. To protect the integrity of the party, you must ward off the disease-carrying agents of the ruling class.
Jones has it right. This kind of disgusting “Leninist” politics belongs not only to the twentieth century but a socialist politics debased by the USSR’s “dark side”. We need a new way of functioning, one that is free from the sectarian “us versus them”, small proprietor mentality of groups like the SWP as currently constituted.
In Jones’s Independent article—as opposed to the straw man that Callinicos erected–he called for the following:
What is missing in British politics is a broad network that unites progressive opponents of the Coalition. That means those in Labour who want a proper alternative to Tory austerity, Greens, independent lefties, but also those who would not otherwise identify as political, but who are furious and frustrated. In the past two years of traipsing around the country, speaking to students, workers, unemployed and disabled people, I’ve met thousands who want to do something with their anger. Until now, I have struggled with an answer.
This is simply another way of stating that something like a British SYRIZA is necessary. Perhaps anticipating the struggle that has broken out now, Richard Seymour defended the Greek multi-tendency electoral formation in an open challenge to the SWP leadership.
I have no idea how the fight in the SWP will be resolved but I have a strong feeling that if the current gang is removed from the leadership, the party can be a powerful catalyst in moving Britain in the direction that Owen Jones outlined and that the revolutionary left contingent of SYRIZA in Greece is working toward. And if they are defeated, I would only hope that the comrades consider becoming part of a broad initiative that aims to unite the left on a nonsectarian basis.
In a post I wrote on the debate over SYRIZA on the left, I offered this conclusion. I think it is worth repeating:
Finally, I want to suggest that SYRIZA has much more in common with traditional Marxist concepts of a “revolutionary program” than many on the left realize. (I will be elaborating on this at some length in a pending article.) Our tendency is to mistake doctrine with program. For example, not long after I joined the SWP of the United States in 1967, I asked an old-timer up in party headquarters what our program was. (A Maoist friend had challenged me about our bona fides.) He waved his hand in the direction of our bookstore and replied, “It’s all there.” This meant having positions on everything from WWII to Kronstadt. Becoming a “cadre” meant learning the positions embodied in over a hundred pamphlets and books and defending them in public. Of course, this had much more in common with church doctrine than what Karl Marx had in mind when his Communist program sought, for example:
- Centralisation of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.
- Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, &c, &c.
When you stop and think about it, this is sort of the thing you can find in SYRIZA’s program. Maybe it is time for the left to rethink the question of how we demarcate parties? Instead of demanding that new members learn the catechism on controversial questions going back to the 1920s, they instead would be required to defend a class orientation in their respective arenas, like the trade union movement or the student movement, etc. That would make us a lot stronger than we are today. We need millions united in struggle, especially since the death rattle coming out of capitalism’s throat grows louder day-by-day.
Leninism is unfinished
The crisis in the British SWP has stirred a sharp debate among party members about the allegations of sexual harassment and rape at the center of the crisis and about how a revolutionary organization deals with disputes and disagreements among its members and leaders. In response to an article titled "Is Leninism Finished" by SWP leader Alex Callinicos,Paul LeBlanc, author of numerous books, including Lenin and the Revolutionary Party, commented both on the article and the resulting discussion.
A TRAGIC development has unfolded on the British left--the destructive crisis of that country's Socialist Workers Party (SWP). People have been hurt and humiliated, the organizational measures taken (and not taken) have aroused fierce controversy, there have been expulsions and resignations, after a narrow vote at a party congress there has been an unsuccessful internal ban on further discussion of the matter, and serious damage has been done to one of the most important organizations on the global revolutionary left.
A public intervention in the discussion by the SWP's most prominent theorist, Alex Callinicos, has posed a key question--in part as a defense of the decisions implemented by the leadership of his organization--as the title of his article: "Is Leninism Finished?"Responding to him, a U.S. socialist blogger, Louis Proyect, has affirmed: "Leninism Is Finished." The question and answer would seem to have great significance for revolutionaries of all lands.
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The British SWP
The scandal and subsequent organizational developments and measures within the SWP, together generating the crisis, have been discussed at length and in depth by others. Some of the Internet discussion is saturated with voyeuristic speculations, rumor-mongering and sectarian gloating far removed from serious, genuinely progressive or revolutionary politics. Some of it, coming from members of the SWP, has been informative and thoughtful. Anyone with access to the Internet can easily read it all, if they have the time and the inclination. Since both Callinicos and Proyect cite an article by Owen Jones, a left-wing columnist in the pages of The Independent, I will allow him to summarize what seems to have happened:
The largest far-left organization in Britain, the Socialist Workers Party, is currently imploding in the aftermath of a shocking internal scandal. After a leading figure was accused of raping a member, the party set up a "court" staffed with senior party members, which exonerated him. "Creeping feminism" has been flung around as a political insult. Prominent members, such as authors China Miéville and Richard Seymour, have publicly assailed their party's leadership. Activists are reported to be in open rebellion at their autocratic leadership, or are simply deserting en masse.
This might all sound parochial, the obscure goings-on out on the fringes of Britain's marginal revolutionary left. But the SWP has long punched above its weight. It formed the basis of the organization behind the Stop The War Coalition, for example, which--almost exactly a decade ago--mobilized up to two million people to take to the streets against the impending Iraqi bloodbath. Even as they repelled other activists with sectarianism and aggressive recruitment drives, they helped drive crucial movements such as Unite Against Fascism, which recently organized a huge demonstration in Walthamstow that humiliated the racist English Defense League. Thousands hungry for an alternative to the disaster of neoliberalism have entered the SWP's ranks over the years--many, sadly, to end up burnt out and demoralized.
The first paragraph tells us that the SWP is "imploding," which is really not clear as of this writing, but to say that it is currently wracked by crisis is to state the obvious. Nor is it necessary to take sides in regard to the charge of "sectarianism and aggressive recruitment drives" (and also to the assertion that many SWPers "end up burnt out and demoralized"). All the more impressive, in the face of these criticisms, is the acknowledgement that "the SWP has long punched above its weight," with a capacity to organize impressive struggles and to mobilize thousands and even millions. This cannot be said about most left-wing groups in Britain or the U.S., and Callinicos makes the obvious point:
What our critics dislike most about us--how we organize ourselves--is crucial to our ability, as Jones puts it, to punch above our weight. Our version of democratic centralism comes down to two things. First, decisions must be debated fully, but once they have been taken, by majority vote, they are binding on all members. This is necessary if we are to test our ideas in action.
Secondly, to ensure that these decisions are implemented and that the SWP intervenes effectively in the struggle, a strong political leadership, directly accountable to the annual conference, campaigns within the organization to give a clear direction to our party's work. It is this model of democratic centralism that has allowed us to concentrate our forces on key objectives, and thereby to build so effectively the various united fronts we have supported.
In fact, there is an overly expansive aspect to Callinicos' definition of democratic centralism--a point to which we will need to return. But there does seem to be some correlation between the way the SWP seeks to organize itself (consciously drawing on the Leninist tradition) and its political effectiveness.
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Leninism Is Finished?
Louis Proyect has long wrestled with the question of revolutionary organization, driven to do so in large measure because of his own traumas (shared by others, including myself) in the SWP of the United States a quarter-century ago. The political traditions of the U.S. SWP and its crisis of the 1980s (and consequent implosion) are not exactly the same as the traditions and crisis of the British SWP--but there are certainly parallels. Proyect focuses his attention on these, for the purpose of making what he hopes will be useful generalizations for the left as a whole. Yet there seems to be a serious contradiction in the line of argument that he puts forward.
Early in his article, Proyect tells us that he was especially influenced by former SWPer Peter Camejo:
After he began figuring out that the party he had belonged to for decades was on a suicidal sectarian path, he took a leave of absence to go to Venezuela and read Lenin with fresh eyes. This was one of the first things he told me over the phone: "Louis, we have to drop the democratic centralism stuff." That is what he got out of reading Lenin. I was convinced that he was right and spent the better part of the thirty years following our phone conversation spreading that message to the left.
The contradiction is that for much of his article, Proyect insists that Lenin's own organizational thinking (including on the matter of democratic centralism) is consistent with the thinking of Proyect himself, not with the thinking of Callinicos and others whom he accuses of following in the footsteps of Gregory Zinoviev and Leon Trotsky. Callinicos' conceptions, he insists, are rooted not in Lenin, but in "the Zinovievist Comintern of the 1920s, which Trotsky adopted as a model." But this means a more appropriate title for his essay would be: "Cominternism is Dead, Long Live Genuine Leninism!"
It may be, however, that Proyect's position is similar to that of Charlie Post, who argues that there was nothing in Lenin's thinking to distinguish him from Karl Kautsky (of pre-1914 vintage), and that "Leninism" is an invention of Zinoviev and other leaders of the Comintern of the 1920s.
Among the many problems with this, however, is the fact that the 1920s Communist International of Zinoviev and Trotsky was also the Comintern of Lenin himself. (There is also a reality highlighted by the immense, very rich contributions of John Riddell and others, that there was much more of value in the early Communist International than one would be led to believe by superficial attacks on "Zinovievism.")
There is no question that Lenin was profoundly influenced by other comrades in the pre-1914 Socialist International, particularly George Plekhanov and Karl Kautsky. But his thought cannot be reduced to that. Nor did his thinking stop in 1914. In fact, the 1921 Comintern theses "The Organizational Structure of the Communist Parties, the Methods and Content of Their Work" were put forward at Lenin's insistence. Not only did Lenin help to shape the theses (which included a substantial emphasis on democratic centralism), he also defended them after they were adopted.
Apparently to present a Lenin more consistent with political points he wishes to stress, Proyect chooses to leave this and much else out of his account of the history of the Bolsheviks. Yet a fairly selective reading of Lars Lih's contributions cannot render more than a fragmentary understanding of Lenin, Bolshevism and the Russian Revolution. This is not to deny an important point that Proyect makes:
Lenin sought nothing more than to create a party based on the German social democracy in Russia. There was never any intention to build a new kind of party, even during the most furious battles with the Mensheviks who after all (as Lih convincingly makes the case) were simply a faction of the same broad party that Lenin belonged to.
In elaborating on this, however, Proyect tends to play fast and loose with the historical evidence in order to "prove" that Lenin himself was no "Leninist" (when, as we shall see, Lenin actually was an approximation of what we would call a "Leninist"). Such dilution results in the loss of ideas and historical experiences that we really cannot afford to lose. It is unfortunate that a selective utilization of John Reed's classic Ten Days That Shook the World serves to push aside, for all practical purposes, what is presented in Trotsky's classic History of the Russian Revolution. Consider the complex and dynamic notion which Trotsky advances in his preface:
The masses go into a revolution not with a prepared plan of social reconstruction, but with a sharp feeling that they cannot endure the old régime. Only the guiding layers of a class have a political program, and even this still requires the test of events, and the approval of the masses....Only on the basis of a study of political processes in the masses themselves can we understand the rôle of parties and leaders, whom we least of all are inclined to ignore. They constitute not an independent, but nevertheless a very important, element in the process. Without a guiding organisation, the energy of the masses would dissipate like steam not enclosed in a piston-box. But nevertheless what moves things is not the piston or the box, but the steam.
We need to wrestle with the meaning of this dialectical passage if, as revolutionary activists, we are to make our way through the no less dynamic complexities of our own time. Proyect presents as the "essence" of Lenin's approach the fact that he and other Bolsheviks could publicly argue against each other and openly vote in opposite ways. But this draws us away from the actual Leninist "essence" that Trotsky points us to. This is especially unfortunate because it can obscure the positive contribution Proyect actually makes in his article.
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Revolutionary Vanguard and Mass Struggle
Proyect argues that revolutionary socialist organizations must stop giving in to a fatal sectarian temptation, the false vision that they are the "revolutionary vanguard," or perhaps the nucleus of the revolutionary vanguard party of the future. Even in its less pathological variants, he warns, revolutionary socialist groups can thereby create for themselves a vanguardist "glass ceiling." The problem is that "the group sees itself as the nucleus of the future revolutionary party no matter how much lip service is given to fusing with other groups during a prerevolutionary period, etc." At some point, the perceived necessity of preserving and advancing the group's special role as "nucleus" will nurture fatally sectarian dynamics within the group and between that group and other forces.
In criticizing the relatively healthy pre-crisis British SWP and the relatively healthy pre-1980 U.S. SWP, Proyect makes the point that "it would be virtually impossible for SWP members in Britain to take a position on Cuba identical to the American SWP's and vice versa." He tellingly adds that this is "a moot point since most members become indoctrinated through lectures and classes after joining the groups and tend to toe the line, often responding to peer pressure and the faith that their party leaders must know what is right." To the extent that he is right (as I know he is about the U.S. SWP and suspect he may be about the British SWP), this suggests an issue that defenders of any kind of "Leninism" (and of political-organizational coherence in general) must wrestle with.
No serious socialist group can afford to abandon the education of its members around theory and history ("indoctrination") in the form of lectures and classes. Nor can any human group abolish "peer pressure." But what healthy countervailing tendencies can be nourished that will help overcome the negative tendencies to which Proyect usefully directs our attention?
Proyect tells a story from the late 1960s of his discussion with an older veteran of the Trotskyist movement when both were members of the SWP. After a Maoist friend had challenged him, the young recruit asked what the SWP's program was. The old-timer "waved his hand in the direction of our bookstore and replied, 'It's all there.'" It is interesting to consider Proyect's interpretation of this--that it "meant having positions on everything from WWII to Kronstadt. Becoming a 'cadre' meant learning the positions embodied in over a hundred pamphlets and books and defending them in public." This was, in fact, the conception of many (not all) comrades of that time--but there is another, quite different way of understanding the old comrade's comment.
It is not the case that SWP bookstores were simply stocked with pamphlets and books outlining positions on everything from the Second World War to the Kronstadt uprising of 1921. Rather, they contained a rich array of material--accounts of labor struggles, anti-racist struggles, women's liberation struggles, the history of the revolutionary movement, writings by Marx and Engels, Rosa Luxemburg, Lenin and Trotsky, Isaac Deutscher, Ernest Mandel, Che Guevara, Malcolm X, (in some cases, also Simone de Beauvoir, Kate Millett, Sheila Rowbotham), as well as some of the most creative thinkers in the SWP--not simply James P. Cannon (worth reading despite the criticisms made of him), but people like George Breitman and Joseph Hansen who developed insights and innovative formulations incompatible with any closed "orthodoxy."
To say "it's all there" could be seen as reference not to a closed system of Truth, but to a rich and multifaceted tradition, an approach that is rigorous but also open, critical-minded and revolutionary, with theory and analysis rooted in the actual mass struggles of one's own time. This may not be what that particular old comrade meant, but I did know some old comrades who happened to think this way.
The proposed political orientation that emerges from Proyect's piece could be stated, I think, with four basic and interrelated points:
1. There is a revolutionary vanguard layer that is part of the working class (broadly defined) and of the workers' movement. This layer consists of those who have more information, analyses, organizing know-how, a sense of how to get from the oppressive "here" to the more desirable "there," and a greater conscious political passion than the majority. It has the capacity to connect with and help radicalize and mobilize growing sectors of that working-class majority. But this vanguard is multifaceted, not concentrated in a single organization, and some who are part of it are not necessarily in any revolutionary organization.
2. Only through the coordinated efforts of different components of this broad vanguard layer will it become possible to mobilize tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, and millions of people in serious challenges to the capitalist status quo, which should be the primary goal of revolutionaries today.
3. Mass action coordinated by the broad vanguard layer obviously must go parallel with--and is inseparable from--efforts to nurture revolutionary consciousness within more and more of the working class as a whole. Various groups and individuals can and should feel free to develop theoretical perspectives, share their ideas, disagree with each other, engage in debates, etc., while continuing to collaborate closely in building the mass struggles. This is the pathway to revolution.
4. If one or another segment of this broad vanguard layer--under the banner of some spurious "Leninism"--seeks to dominate the broader effort at the expense of other segments, the result would be fragmentation and defeat. Along with this, the program of the Communist Manifesto should be the decisive element in the programmatic orientation of these unified vanguard elements. There is no need for "programmatic agreement" on such historical matters as analyses of the 1921 Kronstadt rebellion, or the Second World War, or the nature of the former USSR.
This approach, which I think Proyect is advancing, makes sense to me. It projects the seasoning and tempering, through mass struggle, of substantial layers of activists who are part of the broad working-class vanguard, helping prepare the social base and organizational experience that are preconditions for the crystallization of a genuine revolutionary working-class party, or the practical equivalent of that party.
Owen Jones similarly seems to get it right when he argues for "a broad network that unites progressive opponents of the [neoliberal] Coalition. That means those in Labour who want a proper alternative to Tory austerity, Greens and independent lefties, but also those who would not otherwise identify as political, but who are furious and frustrated. In the past two years of traipsing around the country, speaking to students, workers, unemployed and disabled people, I've met thousands who want to do something with their anger."
A broad left front, agreeing on certain basic programmatic principles, "could link together workers facing falling wages while their tax credits are cut; unemployed people demonized by a cynical media and political establishment; crusaders against the mass tax avoidance of the wealthy; sick and disabled people having basic support stripped away; campaigners against crippling cuts to our public services; young people facing a future of debt, joblessness and falling living standards; and trade unions standing their ground in the onslaught against workers' rights."
The way Alex Callincos dismisses this seems odd to me. "This sounds very nice but is quite misleading," he tells us, "since Jones is an increasingly high-profile member of the Labour Party." He then goes on to repeat the traditional SWP critique of the British Labour Party, counterposing this to the tradition that the SWP is attempting to continue: "Started by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, this tradition reached its high point in the Russian Revolution of October 1917, when the Bolshevik Party led the first and still the only successful working class revolution. Leon Trotsky, who with Vladimir Lenin headed the Bolsheviks in October 1917, then fought the degeneration of the revolution with the rise of Stalin's tyranny between the mid-1920s and the early 1930s."
All of which is fine--and which could be quite consistent with responding positively to the Left front for working-class mass action that Jones is proposing. It seems obvious to me that the SWP could make powerful contributions to the process being projected here.
If, however, instead of seeing the revolutionary vanguard and its organization(s) as being forged through actual mass struggles, one sees the Socialist Workers Party as the true, already-existing revolutionary vanguard organization, making its way through a morass of flawed competitors, then perhaps one can afford to be dismissive. Is that what Callinicos actually believes? If so, then the parallels Proyect is drawing between the two SWPs and his warning about a "vanguardist glass ceiling" may be appropriate.
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Boundaries of Democratic Centralism
If something approximating a revolutionary vanguard party, with good politics and a mass base, can actually be forged by different currents joining together in the class struggle, then the question is posed as to how such a formation can hold together and be an effective force for the advance of the working class and the revolutionary cause. And this brings us back to the question of democratic centralism.
In their different conceptions of what this meant for Lenin and what it should mean for us, it seems to me that Proyect veers off the path of historical accuracy and political logic, while Callinicos traps himself in a problematical formulation that may be related to the present crisis of the British SWP.
Here is how Proyect explains the meaning of Lenin's conception of democratic centralism and relates it to our own time:
[According to John Reed's Ten Days That Shook the World, in a 1917 public discussion on freedom of the press for capitalist newspapers] Lenin and Riazanov debated at a mass meeting and then voted against each other. This was normal Bolshevik functioning. All discipline meant was a [parliamentary] deputy voting according to instructions from the party's central committee, etc. For example, if Alex Callinicos was elected to parliament and instructed to vote against funding the war in Iraq, and then voted for funding, the party would be entitled to expel him.
This very narrow interpretation, however, is not the way the Mensheviks (Lenin's factional adversaries in the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party) understood democratic centralism --and they were the first ones to introduce the term into the Russian revolutionary movement. The term involved much more for them than simply control over parliamentary delegates.
According to their resolution of November 1905, "decisions of the guiding collectives are binding on the members of those organizations of which the collective is the organ. Actions affecting the organization as a whole...must be decided upon by all members of the organization. Decisions of lower-level organizations must not be implemented if they contradict decisions of higher organizations." The Bolsheviks fully accepted the term. In a 1906 discussion, Lenin explained: "The principle of democratic centralism and autonomy for local Party organizations implies universal and full freedom to criticize so long as this does not disturb the unity of a definite action; it rules out allcriticism which disrupts or makes difficult the unity of an action decided by the Party."
At this point, it is time for us to turn our attention back to the formulation of Callinicos that we questioned earlier--that "our version of democratic centralism" involves two key points: 1) "decisions must be debated fully, but once the vote has been taken, by majority vote, they are binding on all members," and 2) "a strong political leadership, directly accountable to the annual congress, campaigns within the organization to give a clear direction to our party's work."
This two-point definition is different from the way Lenin and his comrades defined the term. Missing in what they put forward is Callinicos' emphasis on "a strong political leadership...giving clear direction to our party's work." But also missing is the broad insistence that "decisions" as such "are binding on all members."
In fact, Lenin was absolutely resistant to the efforts of some of his Menshevik comrades to establish "limits within which decisions of Party congresses may be criticized." As he stressed:
In a revolutionary epoch like the present, all theoretical errors and tactical deviations of the Party are most ruthlessly criticized by experience itself, which enlightens and educates the working class with unprecedented rapidity. At such a time, the duty of every Social Democrat is to strive to ensure that the ideological struggle within the Party on questions of theory and tactics is conducted as openly, widely and freely as possible, but that on no account does it disturb or hamper the unity of revolutionary action of the Social-Democratic proletariat....
We are profoundly convinced that the workers' Social-Democratic organizations must be united, but in these united organizations, there must be wide and free discussion of Party questions, free comradely criticism and assessment of events in Party life.
Lenin went on to argue that "criticism within the principles of the Party Program must be quite free,...not only at Party meetings, but also at public meetings."
One might expect a change in the way Lenin and his comrades discussed the concept of democratic centralism in the 1921 organizational resolution on organization--but the section of that document dealing explicitly with democratic centralism contains nothing to contradict what Lenin was saying in 1906.
In fact, the document contains warnings regarding efforts by Communist Party leaderships to go too far in the direction of centralization. "Centralization in the Communist Party does not mean formal, mechanical centralization, but thecentralization of Communist activity, i.e., the creation of a leadership that is strong and effective and at the same time flexible," the document explained. It elaborated: "Formal or mechanical centralization would mean the centralization of 'power' in the hands of the Party bureaucracy, allowing it to dominate the other members of the Party or the revolutionary proletarian masses outside the Party."
Freedom of discussion, unity of action remains the shorthand definition of Lenin's understanding of democratic centralism. The creation of an inclusive, diverse, yet cohesive democratic collectivity of activists is something precious and necessary that serious revolutionaries must continue to reach for. It is not clear that the world can be changed without that.
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As a serious Marxist theorist and educator, Alex Callinicos, in explaining the SWP commitment to the Leninist tradition, asks: "What does continuing a tradition mean?" He answers quite aptly that "genuinely carrying on a tradition requires its continuous creative renewal." This dovetails with points made by the organizational resolution which Lenin helped to prepare for the 1921 congress of the Communist International:
There is no absolute form of organization which is correct for all Communists Parties at all times. The conditions of the proletarian class struggle are constantly changing, and so the proletarian vanguard has always to be looking for effective forms of organization. Equally, each Party must develop its own special forms of organization to meet the particular historically-determined conditions within the country.
Both the 1921 resolution and Callinicos' article, each in their own way, make the point that there has not arisen some qualitatively new form of organization--whether reformist or "movementist" or anarchist or syndicalist--that makes unnecessary the kind of revolutionary organization that Lenin sought to build. We will need something like that kind of organization in order to challenge capitalism effectively and to replace it with socialism.
Some of the formulations Callinicos advances seem to indicate such an organization already exists in the form of the British SWP. To question whether that organization is actually the party of the revolutionary vanguard (as opposed as an element of the future organization that has yet to be forged) does not eliminate the underlying point: the centrality of revolutionary organization.
If there is truly the need for such a revolutionary organization--inclusive, diverse, democratic, cohesive--then it seems clear that Leninism is far from "finished" in any sense of the word. It is something that is needed, it still has relevance.
More than this, the organizational forms and norms associated with Leninism must be applied creatively and flexibly, continually adapting to the shifting political, social, cultural realities faced by revolutionaries. These forms and norms must never become a final, finished, closed system--they are necessarily open, fluid, unfinished. In seeking to accomplish what the Bolsheviks accomplished, but to do it better, we need to engage with the praxis (thought and practical experience) of Lenin and his comrades, making use of it in facing our own realities. Much work remains to be done--the struggle continues.
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1. Alex Callinicos, "Is Leninism Finished?" Socialist Review, January, 2013, and Louis Proyect, "Leninism is Finished: A reply to Alex Callinicos," The Unrepentant Marxist, January 28, 2013.
2. Owen Jones, "British politics urgently needs a new force--a movement on the Left to counter capitalism's crisis,"The Independent, Sunday, January 2013.
3. For a massively documented account of the U.S. SWP experience in the 1980s, see Sarah Lovell, ed., The Struggle Inside the Socialist Workers Party, 1979-1983, and Paul Le Blanc, ed., Revolutionary Principles and Working-Class Democracy, especially my introductory essay to the latter, "Leninism in the United States and the Decline of the Socialist Workers Party."
4. In fact, a day later, Proyect posted a communication from some dissident SWPers that approximates such formulations, in a response to Callinicos entitled "Is Zinovievism Finished?" The Unrepentant Marxist, January 29, 2013, and which concludes: "The time for Leninism to be tried is now long overdue."
5. Charles Post, "Lenin Reconsidered" (review of Lars Lih's Lenin), International Viewpoint, November 3, 2011. It seems to me that this is challenged by a serious examination of Lenin's thought--– for example, in V. I. Lenin,Revolution, Democracy, Socialism, Selected Writings, edited by Paul Le Blanc (London: Pluto Press, 2008). For a response to Post, see "The Enduring Value of Lenin's Political Thought," Europe Solidaire Sans Frontières, 8 February 2012.
6. I touch on this in footnote 12 of my essay "The Great Lenin Debate – History and Politics," Links, September 1, 2012, criticizing an interpretation by Paul Kellogg, which led to a clarifying interchange between myself and Kelloggthat provided substantial documentation.
7. Leon Trotsky, "Preface," The History of the Russian Revolution, Marxist Internet Archive.
8. Proyect sees this as being related to the experience of SYRIZA in Greece. The meaning of SYRIZA is a focus of debate on the revolutionary left±see the presentation of Strathis Kouvalakis, "On tasks facing SYRIZA," Links, December 10, 2012, and Nikos Tamvlakis, "Could SYRIZA Become a 'new PASOK'?" International Viewpoint, November 26, 2012.
9. Quoted in Paul Le Blanc, Lenin and the Revolutionary Party (Amherst, NY: Humanity Books, 1993, 128, 130. The Menshevik quote is taken from Ralph Carter Elwood, ed., Resolutions and Decisions of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Vol. 1: The Russian Social Democratic Labor Party, 1898-October 1917 (Toronto: University of Toronto, 1974), 93-94. The Lenin quote is from Lenin's Collected Works, Vol. 10, 442-443.
10. Le Blanc, Lenin and the Revolutionary Party, 130; Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 10, 310-311.
11. Le Blanc, Lenin and the Revolutionary Party, 131; Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 10, 442-443.
12. "The Organizational Structure of the Communist Parties, the Methods and Content of Their Work: Theses," in Adler, ed., Theses, Resolutions and Manifestos of the First Four Congresses of the Third International (London: Ink Links, 1980), 235.
13. Ibid., 234.
A reply to Paul Le Blanc
by Louis Proyect http://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2013/02/01/a-reply-to-paul-le-blanc/
Paul Le Blanc of the International Socialist Organization just wrote an article titled “Leninism is Unfinished” that tries to circumnavigate the differences between my approach, that of Alex Callinicos, and his own.
I will turn to Paul’s article but only after providing some background. I have been debating these questions with him since 1998 when he still shared the perspectives of The Fourth Internationalist Tendency, a small group that had recently disbanded and entered Solidarity as a group. The FIT had operated as an expelled faction trying to persuade the SWP of the United States to return to its gloried past. I certainly hope that the British comrades don’t get any silly ideas in the course of reading back issues of the FIT’s magazine about wooing their own leadership back to Planet Earth.
Unlike me, Paul viewed the American SWP’s collapse as a function of a radicalization that had run out of steam combined with Jack Barnes’s abnormal psychology. Although I put little stock in the psychological angle, I did get a smile when reading this:
The impact of Barnes in the SWP is a reflection not of Leninist principles or the tradition of Cannon, but of basic human psychological dynamics. The functioning of some SWP members, responding to the powerful personality and tremendous authority that Barnes assumed, brings to mind Freud’s insights on group psychology: ‘the individual gives up his ego-ideal [i.e., individual sense of right and wrong, duty, and guilt] and substitutes for it the group-ideal as embodied in the leader.’ The authority of the leader (in the minds of at least many members) becomes essential for the cohesion of the group, and the approval of the leader, or a sense of oneness with the leader, becomes a deep-felt need that is bound up with one’s own sense of self- worth.
But why do we have so many crazy Trotskyist leaders? Were they crazy to start with or does the burden of being “the Lenin of today” make people crazy? When you get Pablo, Posadas, Moreno in Latin America, and Gerry Healy, Jack Barnes, and now Charlie Kimber in the English-speaking world carrying on like the cast of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, you have to wonder if it is something in the way these organizations are structured rather than their qualification to be listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic manual.
I want to start off with a clarification. Paul states my article contains a contradiction, namely that I defend Lenin’s approach even though I blame “the Zinovievist Comintern of the 1920s, which Trotsky adopted as a model” for the British SWP’s problems, as well as the American group of the same name that is virtually extinct. He wonders if a more appropriate title for my essay would have been: “Cominternism is Dead, Long Live Genuine Leninism!” and drives the point home with this: “Among the many problems…is the fact that the 1920s Communist International of Zinoviev and Trotsky was also the Comintern of Lenin himself.” So how can I be critical of Lenin when he launched the Comintern, not Zinoviev?
I don’t expect Paul to be familiar with my thinking on Lenin’s role in all this, but I have written:
There are no shortcuts in building revolutionary parties, but the overwhelming tendency in “Marxism-Leninism” is to do things in the name of expediency… Unfortunately, this type of behavior is deeply ingrained in the Communist movement and got its start in the very early days of the Comintern, even when Lenin was in charge.
This is an excerpt from my article on The Comintern and German Communism that takes pretty strenuous exception to how Lenin treated Paul Levi, despite being applied in the name of “democratic centralism”. If Lenin’s organizational principles of the early 1920s represent the fruition of some sort of breach with the Kautskyite orthodoxy of “What is to Be Done”, then I’ll stick with the old soft drink rather than the new and improved formula.
What the Communist Party of the Soviet Union tried to do immediately after taking power was to create a model that other parties could follow. The first clear statement on organizational guidelines appeared in July of 1921. They stipulate: “to carry out daily party work every member should as a rule belong to a small working group, a committee, a commission, a fraction, or a cell. Only in this way can party work be distributed, conducted, and carried out in an orderly fashion.” It is not hard to understand where this kind of mechanical application of the Bolshevik experience was coming from. When you have a successful revolution, there is a tendency to write cookbooks with recipes for every occasion. That happened with the Cuban Revolution as well, the sad evidence being Che’s ill-fated venture in Bolivia based on Regis Debray’s “Revolution in the Revolution”.
Lenin was uneasy with these guidelines, writing “At the third congress in 1921 we adopted a resolution on the structure of communist parties and the methods and content of their activities. It is an excellent resolution, but it is almost entirely Russian, that is to say, everything in it is taken from Russian conditions.” I think if he had lived longer, he might have dumped them altogether. Indeed, the fact that he was considering moving the Comintern to another country showed his grasp of problems that would only deepen.
The remainder of Paul’s article gets into the minutiae of how democratic centralism was understood variously by Bolsheviks and Mensheviks. I would prefer to deal with a question that is not addressed in the article but one that is essential to the tasks that face us today. Ironically, they are very much bound up with the opening words of Leon Trotsky’s “Transitional Program” that are embraced by some of the worst sectarians on the planet: “The world political situation as a whole is chiefly characterized by a historical crisis of the leadership of the proletariat.” The sectarians feel that forging a revolutionary program and recruiting cadre around it can resolve the crisis. This is how James P. Cannon, Tony Cliff and every other Trotskyist of note started out.
But I don’t think that Trotsky really understood how the crisis could be resolved. It was not by launching small propaganda groups that competed with each other, like small businesses each advertising its unique product line. Instead it requires building a framework that will allow the natural leadership of the working class to come together in a common framework.
Here is the problem. Ever since I have been involved with the left, there have been exceptional individuals who have emerged in the mass movement with socialist politics but who belong to no group. For example, many of the left wing leaders in the trade union movement are unaffiliated. The same thing is true with the Black, Latino, women’s and gay movements. I estimate that the layer of revolutionary leaders steeled in the struggle numbers in the tens of thousands.
The same situation confronted Lenin in 1903. He proposed that a newspaper be created that could provide a framework for the already existing working-class leadership that had no party. When there was a massive social democratic consciousness in Czarist Russia that had spread like a wildfire from Western Europe, the primary task was to help link up people like Kamenev, Bukharin, Trotsky, Plekhanov and Martov.
For example, Bukharin’s political life began at the age of 16 when he and his friend Ilya Ehrenburg built support for the 1905 revolution in student circles. The leadership of the Russian social democracy was men and women who had proven themselves in battle long before a party existed.
The problem with groups like the British SWP, the American SWP, the ISO et al is that they can never hope to attract the broad layers of such a leadership even though occasionally someone as talented as a Peter Camejo or a Richard Seymour is drawn into their ranks.
If you had visited Nicaragua in the 1980s, you would have met FSLN members who were neighborhood leaders of the fight against Somoza. They were leaders before they joined the FSLN. All the FSLN did was give the natural leadership of the Nicaraguan working class a vehicle for their aspirations. The same thing was true of the July 26th movement in Cuba. Ironically, despite the hatred directed against Stalinism from the Trotskyist movement, the Vietnamese CP was far more like the Bolsheviks than any section of the F.I. in this regard. I opposed the repression of the Trotskyists in Vietnam after WWII but like most of their co-thinkers they had no possibility of ever reaching the masses. Ho Chi Minh understood better.
In the final analysis, I don’t have any problem with the ISO being constituted as it is at present. They have little interest in the kind of approach I am laying out and know that if anybody spoke this way to me in 1969 when I was in the SWP I would have denounced them as petty bourgeois centrists, swamp dwellers, talk shop kibitzers, etc.
My appeal is really to independent-minded young people (and even some old fogies) in the tens of thousands who are sick and tired of the capitalist system and have learned to fight. They—we—need our own organization that can allow everybody to thrive within it and to draw upon each others’ abilities to move the struggle forward. I have seen encouraging signs of movement toward such a new approach and am sure that by the time my life is over a new period of revolutionary history will have begun.
I want to conclude with an article I wrote about a decade ago. I have posted it before but feel it is worth posting again since I have attracted many new readers since the last time it was posted. Instead of dealing in abstractions about how reach the workers, etc., it is a pretty specific set of proposals. I am no Lenin but I think the SWP would have been a lot better off if it had followed them.
The Speech that Jack Barnes Should Have Given in 1974
Comrades, 1974 is a year that in some ways marks the end of an era. The recent victory of the Vietnamese people against imperialism and of women seeking the right to safe and legal abortion are culminations of a decade of struggle. That struggle has proved decisive in increasing both the size and influence of the Trotskyist movement as our cadre threw their energy into building the antiwar and feminist movements. Now that we are close to 2,000 in number and have branches in every major city in the US, it is necessary to take stock of our role within the left and our prospects for the future.
In this report I want to lay out some radical new departures for the party that take into account both our growing influence and the changing political framework. Since they represent such a change from the way we have seen ourselves historically, I am not asking that we take a vote at this convention but urge all branches to convene special discussions throughout the year until the next convention when a vote will be taken. I am also proposing in line with the spirit of this new orientation that non-party individuals and organizations be invited to participate in them.
A) THE TRADE UNION MOVEMENT
While our political work of the 1960s was a necessary “detour” from the historical main highway of the socialist movement, it is high time that we began to reorient ourselves. There are increasing signs that the labor movement is beginning to reject the class collaborationist practices of the Meany years. For example, just 4 short years ago in 1970, various Teamsters locals rejected a contract settlement agreed to by their president Frank Fitzsimmons and the trucking industry. They expected a $3.00 per hour raise but the contract settled for only $1.10. The rank and file went out on a wildcat strike that Fitzsimmons and the mainstream press denounced. Fitzsimmons probably had the student revolt on his mind, since he claimed that “Communists” were behind the teamster wild-cat strike. Nobody took this sort of red-baiting to heart anymore. The burly truck-drivers involved in the strike were the unlikeliest “Communists” one could imagine. The trucking industry prevailed upon President Richard Nixon to intercede in the strike at the beginning of May, but the student rebellion against the invasion of Cambodia intervened. The antiwar movement and the war itself had stretched the US military thin. National guardsmen who had been protecting scab truck- drivers occupied the Kent State campuses where they shot five students protesting the war. In clear defiance of the stereotype of American workers, wildcat strikers in Los Angeles regarded student antiwar protesters as allies and invited them to join teamster picket lines. The wildcat strikes eventually wound down, but angry rank and file teamsters started the first national reform organization called Teamsters United Rank and File (TURF).
It is very important for every branch to investigate opportunities such as these and to invite comrades to look into the possibility of taking jobs in those industries where such political opportunities exist. What will not happen, however, is a general turn toward industry that many small Marxist groups made in the 1960s in an effort to purify themselves. Our work in the trade unions is not an attempt to “cleanse” the party but rather to participate in the class struggle which takes many different forms. We are quite sure that when comrades who have begun to do this kind of exciting work and report back to the branches that we will see others anxious to join in.
B) THE ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENT
We simply have to stop observing this movement from the sidelines. There is a tendency on the left to judge it by the traditional middle-class organizations such as the Audubon Club. There are already signs of a radicalization among many of the younger activists who believe that capitalism is at the root of air and water pollution, etc. Since the father of the modern environmental movement is an outspoken Marxist, there is no reason why we should feel like outsiders. Our cadre have to join the various groups that are springing up everywhere and pitch in to build them, just as we built the antiwar and feminist groups. If activists have problems with the record of socialism on the environment based on the mixed record of the USSR, we have to explain that there were alternatives. We should point to initiatives in the early Soviet Union when Lenin endorsed vast nature preserves on a scale never seen in industrialized societies before. In general we have to be the best builders of a new ecosocialist movement and not succumb to the sort of sectarian sneering that characterizes other left groups who regard green activists as the enemy.
C) THE ANTI-IMPERIALIST MOVEMENT
This will strike many comrades as controversial, but I want to propose that we probably were mistaken when stood apart from all the various pro-NLF committees that were doing material aid and educational work. We characterized them as ultraleft, whereas in reality those activists who decided to actually identify with the Vietnamese liberation movement were exactly the kind that we want to hook up with. In the United States today there are thousands of activists organized in committees around the country who are campaigning on a similar basis for freedom for the Portuguese colonies in Africa, against neo-colonialism in Latin America, etc. Nearly all of them are Marxist. Their goals and ours are identical. While we have had a tendency to look down our noses at them because many of the insurgencies they were supporting were not Trotskyist, we have to get over that. For us to continue to regard the revolutionary movement in a Manichean fashion where the Trotskyists are the good forces and everybody else is evil is an obstacle not only to our own growth, but the success of the revolutionary movement overall. This leads me to the next point.
D) RELATIONS WITH THE REST OF THE LEFT
One of the things I hope never to hear again in our ranks is the reference to other socialists as our “opponents”. Let’s reflect on what that kind of terminology means. It says two things, both of which are equally harmful. On one hand, it means that they are our enemies on a permanent basis. When you categorize another left group in this fashion, it eliminates the possibility that they can change. This obviously is not Marxist, since no political group–including ourselves–is immune from objective conditions. Groups can shift to the left or to the right, depending on the relationship of class forces. The SWP emerged out of a merger with other left-moving forces during the 1930s and we should be open to that possibility today.
The other thing that this reflects is that somehow the SWP is like a small business that competes for market share with other small businesses, except that we are selling revolution rather than air conditioners or aluminum siding. We have to get that idea out of our heads. We are all struggling for the same goal, which is to change American society. We only disagree on the best way to achieve that.
Unfortunately we have tended to exaggerate our differences with other small groups in such a way as to suggest we had a different product. This goes back for many years as indicated in this quote from a James P. Cannon speech to the SWP convention nearly 25 years ago. “We are monopolists in the field of politics. We can’t stand any competition. We can tolerate no rivals. The working class, to make the revolution can do it only through one party and one program. This is the lesson of the Russian Revolution. That is the lesson of all history since the October Revolution. Isn’t that a fact? This is why we are out to destroy every single party in the field that makes any pretense of being a working-class revolutionary party. Ours is the only correct program that can lead to revolution. Everything else is deception, treachery We are monopolists in politics and we operate like monopolists.”
Comrades, we have to conduct an open and sharp struggle against this kind of attitude. The differences between the SWP and many other left groups is not that great and we have to figure out ways to work with them on a much more cooperative basis. For example, La Raza Unida Party in Texas shares many of our assumptions about the 2-party system and they are open to socialist ideas, largely through the influence of the left-wing of the party which has been increasingly friendly to the Cuban Revolution. We should think about the possibilities of co-sponsoring meetings with them around the question of Chicano Liberation and socialism. The same thing would be true of the Puerto Rican Independence movement in the United States, which shares with us a positive attitude toward the Cuban revolution. In terms of the Marxist movement per se, we have to find ways to work more closely with the activists around the Guardian newspaper. While many of them continue to have Maoist prejudices, there are others who have been friendly to our work in the antiwar movement. The idea is to open discussion and a sure way to cut discussion off is to regard them as “opponents”. Our only true opponents are in Washington, DC.
This new sense of openness to other groups on the left has organizational consequences that I will now outline.
E) REDEFINING OUR ORGANIZATIONAL PRINCIPLES
Much of our understanding of “democratic centralism” has been shaped by James P. Cannon’s writings. Although the notion of 500 to 1500 people united ideologically around a homogenous program has a lot to recommend itself, it can only go so far in building a revolutionary party. This was Cannon’s contribution. He showed how a small band of cadre dedicated to Trotsky’s critique of Stalin could emerge as a serious force on the American left.
Although this will sound like heresy to most of you, I want to propose that Cannon’s writings are a roadblock to further growth, especially in a period when Stalinism is not a hegemonic force. In reality, Lenin’s goal was to unite Russian Marxism, which existed in scattered circles. Our goal should be identical. Despite our commitment to Trotsky’s theories, we are not interested in constructing a mass Trotskyist movement. That would be self-defeating. Many people who are committed to Marxism are not necessarily committed to Trotsky’s analysis of the Spanish Civil War, WWII, etc. We should take the same attitude that Lenin took toward the Russian left at the turn of the century. We should serve as a catalyst for uniting Marxists on a national basis.
Are we afraid to function in a common organization with Castroists, partisans of the Chinese Revolution, independent Marxists of one sort or another? Not at all. We should not put a barrier in the way of unity with the tens of thousands of Marxists in the United States, many who hold leading positions in the trade union and other mass movements. The only unity that interests us is the broad unity of the working people and their allies around class struggle principles. Our disagreements over historical and international questions can be worked out in a leisurely fashion in the party press. In fact we would encourage public debates over how to interpret such questions in our press, since they can make us even more attractive to people investigating which group to join. It is natural that you would want to join a group with a lively internal life.
This question of ‘democratic centralism’ has to be thoroughly reviewed. Although the Militant will be running a series of articles on “Lenin in Context” this year, which explores the ways in which this term was understood by the Bolsheviks and then transformed by his epigones, we can state with some assuredness right now that it was intended to govern the actions of party members and not their thoughts. The Bolshevik Party, once it voted on a strike, demonstration, etc., expected party members to function under the discipline of the party to build such actions. It never intended to discipline party members to defend the same political analysis in public. We know, for example, that there are different interpretations of Vietnamese Communism in our party. We should not expect party members to keep their views secret if they are in the minority. This is not only unnatural–it leads to cult thinking.
As many of these proposals seem radically different from the principles we’ve operated on in the past, I want to make sure that all disagreements–especially from older cadre who worked side by side with James P. Cannon–are given proper consideration. The last thing we want is to railroad the party into accepting this new orientation. Since a revolution can only be made by the conscious intervention of the exploited and oppressed masses into the historical process, its party must encourage the greatest expression of conscious political decision-making. There are no shortcuts to a revolution. And there are no shortcuts to building a revolutionary party.
To the IS, the IEC
and all members of the Internatonal Marxist Tendency ( http://www.marxist.com )
Report from the February 2010 IEC
by Martin Lööf and Jonathan Clyne,
IEC members from Sweden
The IEC meeting has
given us a clear picture of the direction in which the IS and the international
is heading organisationally and politically after the Spanish split.
The main conclusion drawn by the IS is that the reason for the split was
laxity on their part. It is true that they have been sloppy for years. However,
what they fail to understand completely is that this is a political and not an
organisational question. The Spanish leadership, unlike the IS have been well
organised for years. To be
organised is obviously a good thing. However, the Spanish leadership has been
reliant on the international for political guidance. They spent a lot of time
and effort on organisation, but not on developing politically.
This division of labour, which was also encouraged by the IS, worked for
some time. But then something happened. The political analysis of the IS
started to decline, and when the Spanish discovered this after a few years when
Ted became too sick to really contribute, they saw no reason why they could not
produce bombastic formulas themselves. They realised they had no real need of
the IS at all. It was just a drain on their resources, and what is the point in
having to put up with being the perpetually bullied pupils of Alan?
The IS refuses to
acknowledge that the main reason for the split is its own political weakness.
After all, they are “standing on the shoulders of giants” and therefore
possessing the magic wand, the method of Marxism”. They act as if Marxism is a
number of set formulas, not a method that constantly has to be applied in new
situations, a process that is both time-consuming and difficult, and something
that Ted always did for them. So, the only conclusion they are able to draw is
that the problem is that they did not have complete organisational control over the Spanish leadership.
This means that the
IMT is in for a period in which the already 'top-down' method of leadership
will be even more pronounced. They are going to reinforce the international
centre at all cost. Because they have lost a large proportion of their income,
they will have to sack one full-timer and cut back on a whole number of other
things. But their aim is to employ a new full-timer by the end of the year and
they will go all-out to achieve that. This will be at the expense of everything
else. Already now they are raising the international subs by 10% and for the first
time ever all sections in the Third World will have to pay subs too.
And that is just the
beginning. The sections will be sealed off from one another, unless contact is
made under the auspices of the IS or their local loyalist. Every decision about
the work that affects anything at all international (and many national
decisions) will have to pass through the international centre. The same type of
regime will be instituted in the sections, with the branches not being allowed
to have contact with each other without permission from the EC. This is the
real meaning of having to go through “the correct democratic channels”. Some
sections will deal with this more intelligently and flexible, but most won't.
turn goes hand in hand with a political turn. Deep entrism will be the policy.
This is not how it is presented, but it is the logical consequence of the new
line. The other reoccurring reason, apart from laxity, given for the
degeneration of the Spanish leadership is that it has not done consistent entry
work. Therefore, in order to distinguish the IMT from the Spanish/Latins, they
are putting an enormous emphasis on entry work. This is also the result of a
shift in the balance of forces within the international from the Spanish
section to the Italian.
It is false that the
present-day situation in what used to be the Spanish section, is due to a lack
of entry work. The Spanish were expelled from the Socialist Party in the second
half of the seventies and have not done consistent entry work since then. On
the other hand, the degeneration of the British section during the eighties
happened after decades of consistent work in the Labour Party and long before
we were pushed out of the Labour Party. We had a lot of very important work
there when it was decided to make a 'turn'.
But again, because
they cannot point to the real cause of what happened in Spain, they must point
to an imagined one. And make up an imaginary way forward. Back to the seventies
is the tune of the day. Secret entry work.
The work is not secret
in the sense that we don't openly put forward our programme in a paper. But the
organisation itself is secret. There is a fear that if the bureaucracy is aware
of us being “entryist”, we will be expelled. In one case, we first publicly dissolved the organisation
and then re-emerged within a party. However, this is not the seventies. The
traditions of the Cold War when everybody had secret factions in the Labour
Party has been almost wiped out. Then it was accepted by workers as a necessity
born out of a war like situation. Today the workers parties are weak with few
active members. The bureaucracies are weak. Because of this there is less of a
need to be secret. On the contrary, it is counter-productive. It makes any
defence against bureaucratic attacks much more difficult. This is something we
have experienced in Sweden. If we are open about everything the leadership
cannot produce enough hysteria to be able to expel us. Actually, open entrism,
the entrism suggested by Trotsky, has never been more accessible than today in
However, there is an
important difference to the thirties. Because there is not much of a leftward
moving rank-and-file at this stage, our main work in the parties consists of
using our membership in these parties to initiate campaigns, connect to workers
struggles, and help our union work. By being members of the mass organisations
we can reach out to workers on the move outside. That will bring workers into
the parties and strengthen our position in the parties, which in turn will give
us even greater chances of reaching out to workers struggles. This is the real
preparation for a future radicalisation which will bring new layers of
radicalized workers into the mass organisations. But this is obviously something that has to be discussed in
detail from place to place.
This is not the
perspective of the IS for the work, nor is it how we generally work in France
and Italy. Our main emphasise there is for campaigns within the party. There is nothing wrong with a
campaign for a socialist programme within the party. We should take part in the
ideological struggle within the parties we are active in. But because these
parties are quite small, with few active workers in them, our main aim should
be to get the party to connect to workers in struggle outside the parties.
Today, the labour
bureaucracy can accept a Marxist current that talks about socialism and
Marxism. They may even find it amusing. However, a tendency that challenges the
parliamentary forms of the party, one could say the “correct democratic
channels”, is a different matter. Bringing workers struggle outside the party
into the party and taking the party to the struggle outside, is definitely
frowned upon. That is a tougher task, but it is essential. Otherwise, there is
a clear risk of an adaption to the bureaucracy. We cannot win by playing the
bureaucrats game better than them.
In the seventies we
always based ourselves on the radicalised workers that were joining the mass
parties. Now we must mainly base ourselves on the radicalised workers that are
outside the mass parties. If we do not do this, our entrist work will lead to
opportunism. This can already be seen in Italy where Sonia Previato is standing
in a regional election without any transitional demands. Instead the focus of
her campaign is that she is an ordinary working women, which she is not after
sixteen years as a full-timer. (See Sosteniamo
Sonia Previato on Facebook)
Compared to the
seventies, the IS is putting forward one major change to the entrist work.
Everybody should do work in the communist parties or ex-communist parties, in
so far as they exist, and not in the social-democratic parties. Now the Italian
model (the result of 18 years work) is to be exported, in the unthinking manner
that has become the norm.
In the main, the
communist and ex-communist parties are small and disintegrating. Yet now we are
supposed to be extremely loyal to these parties. In the seventies, we clearly
identified ourselves with the Labour Party or the Social Democratic Parties,
because that was identifying ourselves with the broad layers of the working
class that were in these parties or supported them. To be more 'communist' than
the orthodox Stalinists in the Communist Parties today, is simply identifying
ourselves with a dead tradition and a present-day insignificant bureaucracy.
Yet this is what we are doing in France and Italy, even opposing electoral
alliances with other left parties because that would be “liquidationism”. (What
we heard is that in France we recently changed our line. But only after it was
clear that there were so few in favour of the PCF standing alone in the
elections, that it would have left us completely isolated). This is
This loyalty to the
Communist Party will also lead to opportunism. Especially as most sections are
not at all equipped to do entrist work today. The main pre-condition for such
work, a high political level, is not there. In the seventies we had comrades
that could debate any political question with facts and arguments, picking up
on what was actually said by our opponents and in a calm and friendly way
explaining our ideas. That will not be possible today, especially considering
that the turn in the internal regime will reduce the internal discussions, the
pre-condition for raising the level. Therefore there will be a tendency for on
the one hand taking positions (not difficult at all today) without having won
the political argument, and on the other hand, to just act as megaphones putting
forward some basic slogans, and thereby isolating oneself.
The paradox is that in
Britain the leadership of the Tendency
will not decisively turn to the Labour Party, despite some lip-service,
because it is not a Communist Party. Instead the main focus is, and will
remain, on paper-selling on the streets. All forces to the point of attack! No
double orientation! Those are the main slogans of the IS today. That should be
applied internationally as well as nationally. Now the international will try to
present itself as a communist international. The same thing in Eastern Europe.
Hang on to anything that is remotely connected to the old communist parties.
Never mind that in most East European countries they are small sects, bourgeois
parties, or even anti-semitic nationalist parties, as in Russia today. And
where there are absolutely no remnants of the CP, then the orientation should
be to a myriad of tiny sects, instead of orientating to the trade unions and
A major problem for
the Tendency is the difference between what we argue for in the labour movement
and what the rules are inside the IMT. Inside the labour movement we argue for
our right to exist as a separate tendency with our own paper. We are not so
concerned about the “correct democratic channels” there either. And we demand
to know what the leadership is really deciding behind closed doors. Within the
IMT it is almost impossible to form a faction, opposing views are given a hard
time. And we have a very formal approach to raising differences. When the
bureaucracy in the labour movement find out about this, which they always do at
some stage, they get all the
ammunition against us they need. They attack us for being hypocrites who complain
about the rules inside the labour movement but have stricter rules within our
own organisation. This contradiction also leads to a fear of internal
information being revealed to our enemies. Since it is even less possible in
this day and age to seal off the IMT from the rest of the world, an inordinate
amount of time has to be spent searching for the “enemy within” who reveals our
The tightening of the
internal regime and the orientation to secret work in the CP's, lead inexorably
to paranoia within the Tendency. As comrades cannot be trusted, the leadership
must control everything in detail. And because the work is 'secret', nothing
about what is going on in the Tendency must leak out. Security, instead of
politics, has become the thing which they are using to keep the organisation together. The detailed report below of the hate
sessions at the IEC show this beyond a shadow of a doubt.
The banning of our
faction (because our platform was not considered good enough...by those it
criticised!), the suggestion that we might be allowed to form a faction only
once we had been voted down all over the place (after “debates” in sections
that we were not allowed to participate in), the expulsion of Heiko (without
him being given a chance to defend himself) and the Iranian section (because they
supposedly exposed two comrades to the Iranian state, who in actual fact are
public political figures on for example facebook), the forbidding of factional
material on facebook and “indiscriminate” emails, the behaviour during the IEC,
the placing of us (Jonathan and Martin) “outside the organisation” because we
left the IEC meeting, all show that the IMT is un-reformable. Events during and
around the IEC finally proved this. The reply to our platform set the tone. The
IS is incapable of leading by political authority. Up until the Spanish split
there was a progressive decline in the political capacity of the IS. The split
could have provided the opportunity for a regeneration that we were hoping for,
but instead the IS used the opportunity to jump into the abyss.
Internally the IS is
well on its way to creating a regime where all opposition is seen as an enemy,
and externally it is heading the wrong way. The IMT is incapable of adjusting
to modern times. The leadership has converted our entrist work in the 70s into
a formula. It cannot analyse what is happening in China, it does not understand
what has happened in Eastern Europe, it can't relate to the working class in
Western Europe (where are the party loyalist workers that the IS refers to?).
The IS talks about real workers in the factories, but is not even aware that
computers are used on a daily basis by a large part of the modern working
class, both at work and at home. Since internet creates “security” problems,
they will not use the modern means of communications to the extent that it is
possible to do.
In 1933, there was no self-criticism from the
Comintern or its national sections after Hitler came to power and destroyed the
KPD. The leadership’s conclusion was that the “general line” had been correct.
Trotsky drew the conclusion that the Communist International was dead. And that
was a mass international! When
Alan in his lead-off at the IEC implied that the setback in Spain, Venezuela,
Mexico and Colombia was a positive development it should ring a bell. When a
leadership is not even able to call a major setback a setback, a new
international organisation must be built.
What we do next should
be dictated not by looking back and attempting in vain to reform the IMT, but
by looking forward at what kind of organisation we want and need. We should be
an open and completely honest organisation. We should have the same rules
within our organisation as we want for the whole movement. We are based on the
Marxist tradition (that distinguishes us), but we use it as a method to apply
intelligently to the modern existing world. This is what we should be, and we
should project this from the start.
We should not be born
into the world as another one in an endless row of splits in the Trotskyist
movement. A split filled with the usual acrimony, accusations of betrayal,
obscure quotations, show trials, antiquated language, and above all -
expulsions. Those kind of splits are incomprehensible to most workers and young
people. They will wonder how we could ever come to join an organisation like
that. Nothing good can come out of it.
In Sweden and Poland
we also have the situation that we have been fighting for years to establish
ourselves with a serious and honest image in the Labour Movement, because we are
serious and honest. Now we are beginning to reap the benefits of this and we do
not want it torn down.
Bolshevik Faction, together with anybody else who can and wants to, should
begin preparing the grounds with the prospective of building an alternative
international organisation. This is going to take time. We should not be
sloppy. We should discuss things through carefully, peacefully and thoroughly.
Going over issue after issue on the intranet, at meetings, telephone calls etc,
before announcing the formation of a new organisation. We want to create a
serious alternative, not a gathering for random ex-members of the IMT. We
should not waste time on meaningless struggles against a bureaucratic regime in
the IMT, but get start doing something positive now. If we do this, we will
create a solid and successful organisation. Therefore we should not wait to get
expelled, but after a process of democratic discussion, vote to disaffiliate
from the IMT. We should make a simple statement that we are leaving because the
organisation that we once joined no longer exists. That although there remain
good and honest comrades there, that we hope will join us when we show that we
can create a living organisation, we must begin the constructing of an alternative.
In our opinion, the IMT has no future.
We should never leave
the Labour Movement voluntarily. We should always fight every inch. We should
always let ourselves get expelled, because we want to signal to the working
class that we want to be a part of it. But the Labour Movement is something
else. It is the organised expression of the working class. The IMT has become
just another Trotskyist group,
that has placed itself outside of Trotskyism, in the sense that it in
practice bans organised disagreement with the leadership. As a matter of fact,
outside of Pakistan (where we will probably never know what the real membership
is and even more unlikely actually communicate with them) there are today about
1200-1300 members in all. Of which perhaps half are active. It would be
dishonest to pretend that we think it worth remaining in the IMT, by waiting
around until we follow in the Iranian comrades foot steps and get expelled.
Leaving and beginning
the construction of a viable Marxist organisation will make us a pole of
attraction for those that we want to win from the IMT – the serious activists
who want to know that there is a living alternative before abandoning the
organisation they have been fighting for years. A typical “Trotskyist” faction
struggle will mean that most of these comrades will become demoralised and end
up leaving politics. Given the hostile pressure building up inside the IMT, we
probably have a better chance of reaching them from the outside. Then they do
not have to sit in the crossfire, an experience that normally demoralises
comrades. They can follow our development and ideas (through the internet!) and
compare that to the IMT and then make a choice.
Furthermore, a long
factional struggle risks demoralising comrades. The bureaucrats will use any
methods available in this struggle – lying, blackmail, threats, bribery,
whatever. Anything but a real
discussion about the real issues. They would rather destroy the organisation
than let us take over. We cannot win against such methods in a small
organisation with no roots in the working class. They have all the advantages,
because we refuse to use the same methods. The longer we stay, the more they
will demoralise comrades. Not politically, but psychologically. Comrade will be
turned against comrade. Friend against friend. For a period of time a factional
struggle could act like a snort of cocaine, giving a high. But afterwards comes
the depression, when faced with the task of having to construct a new
organisation. That is how it was in 1992. What we need instead is positive
creative energy that goes from strength to strength.
In some places there
are branches which are sympathetic to our ideas. There the best thing is to
take a collective decision to leave and start working for a new organisation.
And produce a statement about this to the remaining members, appealing to them
to follow suit.
Some comrades think
that the tactic which we are putting forward here is an emotional reaction to
an unpleasant experience at the IEC meeting. Of course, what happened there was
not what you would normally expect in a revolutionary organisation. But it was
not unexpected for us that attended. Things developed approximately as we had
discussed before the IEC. For Jonathan it was not unfamiliar either. It was
similar to what happened in 91-92 and when we got expelled from the Swedish
Young Socialists in 1982, not to mention numerous smaller incidents when
fighting the Swedish bureaucracy. We were therefore well-prepared for the the
IEC meeting. We remained completely calm and on the offensive throughout (which
probably enraged them even more).
We should avoid empty
gestures like 'fighting to the end'. That costs more than it gives. We have no
need to prove our 'macho' credibility. We need to think afresh and break the
old “Trotskyist” mould of splits. We should act offensively, not just
In early 1938, Ted and
eight other comrades walked out of the Militant, the main Trotskyist group in Britain at the
time, because of the use of slander against one of the members. They
established the Workers International League and within a few years most Trotskyists in
Britain and many new workers were united under their leadership in the Revolutionary
Communist Party. Ted explained
clearly that they would have wasted their time trying to reform the Militant. We should be inspired by Ted's, to our mind,
bold step in walking out.
Of course, our leaving
will be used against those that stay. But then it makes no difference what we
do, they will always find arguments against us, however contrived. Comrades who
remain should use our leaving as an argument against the leadership: 'The lack
of real democracy in the organisation is causing splits and walk-outs. It is
time to call a halt, before the organisation disintegrates even more.' That is no tactical manoeuvre. It is
The IMT is rotting
from the head downwards. We do not want to be members there. We want to create
a real revolutionary international organisation. Honesty should always be at
the centre of any tactical considerations, as honesty in the long run is what
works best. It arms comrades with a clear understanding of what they are trying
to achieve and why.
If our main aim is to
expose the leadership, we already have more than enough ammunition to do so.
Instead, we can focus on starting something new. Reaching good comrades who are
in the IMT is a concrete thing. We can do so from the outside via the internet,
but above all by example. It is better to leave with our heads held high after
a proper democratic discussion. That is what we believe. But we don’t want to
leave as an individual stand. We want the decision to be made collectively by
the Swedish section and by other comrades in the opposition.
Below is another
report from the IEC meeting – it takes up the witch hunt at the IEC rather than
focusing on the political aspects of the IEC meeting. The two aspects are of
course closely related.
"I have seen
these methods before. This is Healyism! This is Cannonism! This is
Ted during the CWI split, 1991-1992
From the IBF four
comrades took part in the IEC. Jonathan, full member of the IEC (Sweden).
Martin, alternate member (Sweden). Wojtek and Amin, guest (Poland and
Iran). Amin only attended the session
We went to the IEC
with our platform Forward to
democratic centralism! and the hope that a proper debate would take place. In addition, the IBF had agreed on a
“unity resolution” to present to the IEC during the discussion on democratic centralism.
In the resolution we made a number of proposals to avoid a split in the IMT.
Above all that we would be given factional rights on the condition that we
would abide by democratic decisions and work loyally in the IMT up to the world
congress. Our resolution was based on different resolutions that were the
policy of the SWP in the famous factional struggle in the late thirties in the
USA. The resolutions of SWP were written in close contact with Trotsky. Alan
and Fred rejected this resolution as “blackmail”.
We expected that we
would be in for a rough time at the IEC. So we were not surprised that, after a
“gentle” sarcastic prodding start, the IEC moved from one hate session to
another to push us towards making a self-criticism and removing some of our
strongest criticism. These sessions were accompanied by a flood of resolutions
and statements to tie us up and make it close to impossible to argue for our
ideas. On Thursday evening we decided that it was pointless to stay in the
meeting. On Friday morning we made a declaration and walked out of the meeting.
We have written this report to show all members why we made this decision.
During the IEC a mood
of hysteria and paranoia was built up. The main means of doing this was to whip
up a feeling that the organisation was under attack. The “enemy within” was a
threat to the organizations and that the only “responsible” thing to do is to
remove the threat. Anything else was deemed “completely irresponsible”.
To create a paranoid
mood, some chock effects were needed. Suddenly new information had to be
brought up and circulated. Surprise sessions were held after long days of
discussions. Nobody was warned beforehand about what the extra sessions were
about. Everybody felt under pressure to get up and condemn “the enemy”.
Neutrality was not allowed. The mood in the meeting went from bad to worse. A
bidding began – who can damn the enemy the most, who can come up with the most
Some comrades got
frightened and just wanted it to stop so that the meeting could 'get back to
normality'. But the only way out presented to them was to fall into line to get
rid of the “enemy” as quickly as possible. Once this hysterical process began,
it was not possible to go back to normality.
The constant stream of
lies and threats, the closed-in atmosphere, the long sessions, the emphasis on
the “attacks” against the organisation disorientated comrades who normally
would not be carried along. The whole process was a carbon copy of the methods
employed by the bureaucracy in the Labour Movement in extreme circumstances.
Day 1 Monday - World perspective
Alan led off on world
perspectives. In his speech he made sarcastic comments on all issues that would
be discussed during the IEC. Alan explained to us that “there was no
faction”. He explained that the
split-off groups in Spain, Venezuela, Mexico and Colombia were ex-comrades.
(The first time this was made official). He presented the split in the
international not as a setback for the IMT but as something positive. It was
presented as something normal - “ a man goes through crisis, it is normal in
In Alan's summing up
he said that the faction’s claim that the IMT was lead by a “monstrous
totalitarian “ bureaucracy had no base. (We had never used any expression even
near that to describe the IS). The he spent the largest part of the summing-up
ridiculing a caricature of Jonathan's position on China. He also spent
considerable time on claiming that the orientation of the work in Eastern
Europe was incorrect, because we had not orientated sufficiently to the
The Austrian IEC
members handed out a resolution where they explained that they would not send
material to the IEC since it could be leaked by some IEC members.
The world perspective
discussion continued after dinner.
Day 2 Tuesday - The split in the IMT
The IS covered up
their own responsibility for supporting the Spanish EC for many years. They
denied on several times promoting the Spanish section as a model. They said it
was a lie that the IS tried to set up a secret faction in Spain with
ex-comrades. It was claimed that the expulsion of the Municio group was
accepted because “they did not appeal for re-admission”. Furthermore it was
said that the question of the internal regime in Spain could not be raised
earlier because “people do not understand that kind of thing” and the
leadership has to “help members understand and take them with you gradually”.
It was stated that the leadership must lead and therefore members should not receive
all information because then the organisation would become a “discussion club”,
that information was there to “help build and inspire the membership”. That the
sending out of emails had created “panic and insecurity”.
During the day
alarmist reports were made that the intranet and the Facebook discussion group
was sabotaging the work of the sections. The intranet “was the beginning of the
end of the international” and that the CIA gained an enormous amount of
information from Facebook.
Bolshevik faction was accused of being a ”self-appointed group”. (How can a
faction be anything but self-appointed? Should the leadership decide who has a
Manzoor was in the pay
of the Pakistani state and secret service. We were helping him. In addition, we
were “giving a present to the Polish secret police”. And we risked destroying
the work in one country for “ten to twenty years”. At times it seemed the session was not about the split in
the IMT but about the Swedish section. Jonathan was accused of manoeuvring for
the last six months.
By a peculiar logic
the blame for everything bad in the Tendency was put on us. Because we are
guilty of pointing out the many contradictions in what the IS is saying and
doing we are demoralising people left, right and centre.
Ted and Alan pointed
out in 1992 in Against
bureaucratic centralism in
whose interest the argument about security is used.
“The fact is
that the argument about “security” has been used to violate internal democracy
and keep vital information from being distributed. It is not a weapon against
the labour bureaucracy, but against the rank and file.”
In the end of the day
it was reported that an evening session on internal security and democracy
would be held after dinner. We received no information about what the content
of this session was going to be.
Extra session on internal security and democracy
The session was
introduced by Greg. In his lead-off he managed to combine saying that he is
known for being mild and at the same time he threatened us with expulsion. IEC
members and visitors went up and said that our activity was sabotage of the
international. Earlier Ubaldo from Mexico described how the old leadership in
Mexico dealt with political opponents; they ridiculed them as a first step to
expelling them. That was exactly how the meeting was. We were called babyish by Greg because we don’t understand
the ABC's of Marxism. We were
given 24 hours to close down the intranet and the Facebook group. It was a
difficult choice. In the end we decided to follow the resolution and we asked
the members of the faction to follow the decision.
What was the Facebook
group? It was an internal group on Facebook, where only those that where
invited had access. As Jonathan pointed out, in the last faction meetings we
asked comrades to wait with setting up the Facebook group so that we had some
guide-lines for how this was supposed to work. The intranet had a no more than 50 people with access, and
the Facebook group had 35 people.
bureaucracy in the labour movement and the state could get access to our
internal documents from this. But that is a very paranoid description of the
situation. The dumbest bureaucrat or police could easily go into our homepages
and find out that we are doing entrist work in different organizations just by
reading History of British
Trotskyism and seeing who has
links to www.marxist.com.
If they want to get
our internal material they can easily send someone in as a member (there are no
security checks on who becomes a member), as they have often done in the
past. The real problem is that
there is no forum where rank and file comrades in the IMT can discuss with each
other in-between World Congresses, especially if one is forbidden to form a
faction. Another big problem is that the “democratic structures” are in the
hands of the IS. During the IEC there was plenty of talk that the amount of the
oppositions material that should be sent to members should be limited. “I don't
have time to read 500 pages” and “ a worker who comes home from work tired
doesn't want to read such a lot”. In the past year most of the IEC discussion
material about the Spanish conflict was not distributed further than the
national leaderships, whose task was then to verbally interpret the material
for ordinary members. On the other hand, the IS feels free to start a one-sided
public campaign on Marxist.com against our position claiming that we are
Day Three - Iran
Alan had written an
insulting letter filled with distortions about the Iranian sections position to
Razi. Razi had written a reply. There was some discussion about why Razi's
statement had not been sent to all IEC members. Alan exclaimed that it should
not be sent out to all IEC members, because Razi had not come to the IEC.
Nobody questioned Alan's outburst. So, a full member of the IEC can't send out
letters to the IEC if Alan doesn’t like it.
A debate between Jordi
and Amin took place. A lot of fuss was made about the fact that Razi had boycotted
the IEC meeting and about his “tone”. There were accusations that the Iranian
section was allied with the ex-comrades. At one stage Alan said that Razi was
probably in Madrid, supposedly meeting Juan Ignacio. This was another example
of the paranoia during the IEC meeting. The Iranian section and Amin were
accused of being workerist, sectarian, rigid, mechanical,
lecturing workers, not being able to build anything in 300 years, pretending to
be what they are not, talking third worldist trash, and only having 2 members
in Iran and 4 outside. This was the same section that had been highly praised
when they were voted into the IMT at the world congress just a year and a half
Razi published a
letter where he criticized Chavez for supporting Ahmadinejad, Iran's
fundamentalist leader, and condemning the popular movement as
“counter-revolutionary”. It was claimed by Jordi that Razi's letter “could
destroy all our careful work” in Venezuela. That “the bureaucracy could use it
to attack us” and expel comrades from Venezuela. And despite Amin referring to
films on youtube showing demonstrations in Iran chanting slogans against Chavez, the Iranian section was accused
of a “cruel fabrication” when it said that there was an anti-Chavez mood in
Iran after Chavez embraced Ahmadinejad.
Alan demanded that
Amin would say how many comrades were working secretly in Iran.
After the session Amin
was informed that he was not allowed to stay in the meeting. Other
visitors had no restrictions on
what sessions they could attend.
If the session on Iran
had some resemblance to a political discussion, that was not the case with the
one on democratic centralism. The session was more like cross-examination by
the police. All kinds of questions was asked: What kind of relationship did we
have with Pat Byrne and the Democratic platform? Why did one faction member
call another comrade fascist at the Winter School? Why had somebody said that
Alan Woods was crazy? How many members are in the faction? How many members
were the in the EC's of the sections that supported the faction? At what level
in the section were the supporters of the faction? We did our best to answer
all the questions. Then we were accused of bringing down the level by just
talking about who said what. On those questions where we couldn’t give a full
answer (we were not given any chance to prepare our replies) we were told that
we didn’t want to reply. In the middle of the debate we were told that we were dishonest
for not wanting to debate. These were clear example of double-punishment –
there are no right answers, whatever we said could be held against us – a
classic method for people at the top of the hierarchy to control those below.
We were told that the
platform of the opposition was “infused with the method of philosophical
idealism” and that it referred to “universal abstract laws” because there were
“no quotes”. Fred claimed that the political level of Jonathan's lead-off was
very low. He felt no need to explain why.
It was said that we were trying to “inflict as much damage as possible”
and that “expulsions are necessary as a means of self-defence against
pollution”. It was “disgusting” that 5% were dominating 50% of “our time”. That
“we were causing big problems” and that our “accusations of totalitarianism”
had demoralised comrades and contacts.
A resolution was
handed out from Alex from Canada where the Swedish EC was accused of lying when
we said that he demanded access to Adam Fulsom's private correspondence with
Heiko (something Adam has confirmed in writing). Accusations were made that we
were responsible for the fact that Adam Fulsom became demoralised and left with
a group in Ottawa because he received emails from us. Similar claims was later
made by Fred that the Berlin branch collapsed due to our demoralizing effect.
In reality, these comrades left because they felt that the leadership is out of
touch with reality.
Alan said we were
“trying to foment a crisis (in the international) where none existed”. And that
“we can't just declare a faction, but if we persist there are limits to all
things. Expulsions can be necessary.” After falsely claiming that Jonathan
leaked everything to Heiko he said that “any comrade leaking information from
the IEC, should be taken off the IEC mailing list”. He said there was an
international campaign “of threats and blackmail”.
It was claimed that
worker comrades “on the ground” had no interest in the discussion about
democratic centralism and the split in Spain.
of “petty-bourgeois views” were
made from Serge from the section in Brazil that has recently joined. He put
forward two resolutions. One for postponing the congress of the Swedish section
until a perspectives document had been written and another resolution that our
platform was full of “insults and slanders of the international and was not a
basis for a political discussion, but an attack on the whole international –
its structures, methods and policies” and that it “questions the foundations”
of the international. We should therefore retract our criticism. He said that
Jonathan should come and work in a factory in Brazil.
Day 4 – Mass organisations
Fred led off and
explained the new turn of the IS. The “discussion” was used for more attacks on
us. Tanvir told us that we are supporting both Manzoor and Zadari. Comrades
started to say that it would not be possible to speak in the sessions in our
presence since we could leak information to any one and that we should be made
Then came another
surprise session during what was supposed to be our afternoon off.
They now tried to do
everything to force us into submission and support the expulsions of Heiko.
Once again psychological pressure
was used to try and force us say things that we didn't believe in. It
was said that it was a matter of principle to vote in favour of Heikos
expulsion. That this was necessary to protect the international. A paranoid
resolution was presented. Alan said that Heiko is a “police provocateur”. When
they had no more arguments they just used insults, Miguel from Spain called the
faction “a whore house”. In vain we hoped that at least that remark would lead
to some reactions from someone at the IEC, but he received loud applause. He
also claimed that because of us 50 comrades from the majority had not joined
the minority in Spain and said we were “mean and selfish and spiteful”. Tanvir
said that Heiko had sent an email and then a comrade in Pakistan had died. The
connection between the two events was never explained. It was proposed that the
emails of the three oppositional EC's not receive emails from the IS and IEC
and that they should be asked to leave the IEC.
The level of hysteria
and paranoia was so great that when Jonathan received a text message to his
phone and wrote a reply, Alex from Canada reported this suspect activity to the
whole meeting and demanded that he reveal whom he was texting and about what.
Alan exclaimed to the IEC that Jonathan was taking detailed notes and asked
what he was going to do with them.
We were tricked into
believing that Heiko had published all the audio files from the winter school
on the internet (including contributions of comrades working in secret). In
reality he had only published his own speech, although by using some nerdish
technology it was possible to access all files. They wanted us to either say
that we supported everything Heiko had done or that we would distance ourselves
completely from Heiko. We were not prepared to do either. We explained that we
were clearly opposed to the expulsion of Heiko, but as we didn’t support all
his actions we would abstain. In retrospect, this was a mistake. We should have
voted against the resolution. Now the IS is claiming completely dishonestly
that we did not oppose Heiko's expulsion. In this loyalty test even the
visitors voted. After that Rob Sewell explained that “the real IEC had voted”
in favour of Heiko's expulsion.
Day 5 – Our departure
On Friday morning we
went to the meeting in time. The first thing that happened was that Ana tabled a resolution that Wojtek's
recordings of the meeting should be wiped out. Wojtek is almost blind. He uses
a white stick and for years he has recorded meetings he attends. It is his way
of taking notes. The real reason why they confiscated the audio files was that
it gave us evidence of the behaviour of the IS and the majority of the IEC.
Last summer the IS complained about the hacking of emails. Now they were
prepared to use similar kind of police methods. Ana told Wojtek that he would
receive “the recordings that they saw fit”.
In addition, a group
of resolutions was presented. Among other things our faction should be banned.
Factional activity on Facebook was forbidden. The Winter school was condemned.
The Iranian section should be kicked out. The IS was given a mandate to expel
anybody immediately. The only means of increasing the pressure on us at that
point was through the use of physical violence.
There was no point in
remaining at the IEC meeting. Jonathan went up and declared:
unfortunately this IEC has proceeded in a manner which is both expected and
familiar. I recognize it both from the last period in CWI and the last period
in the Swedish Young Socialists. And we will leave the IEC now, because there
is no point in continuing to be here. We will go out into the sunshine. We’ll
have dinner tonight, we’ll have a laugh tonight, tomorrow morning we’ll get up
and have a shower. And then based upon our firm convictions we will recommence
the building of a revolutionary organization. Other people will leave the IEC
with different attitudes. Some comrades will be pleased about what has happened
this week. They will feel a sense of belonging and a sense of power and they
will build nothing. I think the majority of comrades will be a bit disquieted.
Maybe in one year, maybe in two years, maybe in five years, they will
understand what has happened and I hope, at that point, they don’t draw the
conclusion to leave revolutionary politics. Because that is the most common
conclusion to draw at that point, but we must continue the struggle, and we
certainly will be.”
Despite Martin and
Wojtek explaining that leaving the meeting did not mean that we had had left
the IMT, the IS has chosen to disseminate the myth that we have left. They
claim this is proven by Jonathan
saying that we would “recommence the building of a revolutionary organization”.
However, after reading this report it is not difficult to understand that after
a four day witch hunt, we intended to do something better when we got home –
build, which ought to be understood as something very different from leaving
the IMT. Even after we sent an email explicitly stating that we remained
members of the IMT, IS members have “informed” comrades that we have left.
The IS naturally denies what the real
discussion at the IEC was like. They claim that it was a nice calm democratic
discussion. However, we can prove that all the things mentioned above were
said. Everyday Wojtek transferred his audio files to Martin's laptop. Only the
last hour of the IEC meeting was eradicated from his recorder. We have no
intention of publicising these recordings. We have no intention of disrupting
the work of comrades who mistakenly think they have to work in secret. Nor do
we not want to let it be known to the labour movement that we have been members
of an organisation where the meetings of the leadership are a madhouse.
However, any comrade who does not believe what we have written can listen to
This report tells the
truth about what happened at the IEC, but the IEC has forbidden us to tell the
truth. All discussions at the IEC are supposed to be “confidential” now. This
is the method by which the IS hides its true face. We cannot accept that.
The leadership of the
CWI behaved better during the factional dispute in 91-92 than the present
leadership of the IMT today. There was the same dishonesty, the same hysteria
and paranoia. However, when Ted and Alan stood up and said that they wanted to
form a faction to fight a bureaucratic clique, there was no decision that they
had to wait until all “democratic channels had been completely exhausted”.
Faction rights were granted. And at the expense of the international debates
were held in most sections, even down to branch level.
The manner in which
this IEC meeting was conducted has injected a massive dose of poison into the
IMT. Trust and honesty cannot be rebuilt, even if we leave. Most of the
leadership will never be able to admit the shameful role they have played.
Therefore they will continue down the chosen path against anybody and everyone.
What is not already dead in the IMT will inevitably be killed off. We are more interested in
building a living organisation than sitting around the death bed.
- Unity resolution of the IMT presented by
the International Bolshevik faction at the IEC
- Resolution on party unity from SWP 1930s
- Supplementary Resolution on the
Organisational Question from SWP 1930s
Our resolution is, as
comrades can see below, basically a cut and paste of the classic Trotskyist
position on the rights of minorities. We merely modernized the language
slightly and added a few details about the internet. It is we, not the IS, that
stand for the Bolshevik traditions.
Unity declaration of the IEC of the IMT and the
In view of the fears
expressed by some comrades that the present internal discussion can lead to a
split, either as a result of expulsions by a majority or the withdrawal of a
minority, the IEC and the leading representatives of the IBF declare:
It is necessary
to regulate the discussion in such a way as to eliminate the atmosphere of
split and reassure members that the unity of the IMT will be maintained. Toward
this end both sides agree to eliminate from the discussion all threats of split
The issues in
dispute must be clarified and resolved by normal democratic processes within
the framework of the IMT. After the necessary period of free discussion, if the
two sides cannot come to agreement, the questions in dispute are to be decided
by a World Congress, without, on the one side, any expulsions because of
opinions defended in the pre-congress discussion, or any withdrawals on the
obligate themselves to loyal collaboration in the daily work of the IMT during
the period of the discussion.
The intranet is
to be jointly edited by two editors, one from each side. All members who wish
should be allowed access to this site, after being vetted by the appropriate
commission of four - two from each side - is to be constituted. The function of
the parity commission is to investigate all organisation complaints,
grievances, threats, accusations, or violations of discipline which may arise
out of the discussion and report same to the IEC with concrete recommendations.
distribution of factional documents, besides those published on the intranet or
in an official bulletin.
A discussion at
all levels in all sections about the issues concerned. Both sides should be represented, if
possible, and have equal time for lead-off and summing-up.
shall continue until the World Congress. The discussion may be continued in
literary form if the representatives of either side, or both, so desire.
Articles dealing with the theoretical-scientific aspects of any disputed
questions may be published on www.marxist.com. Political discussion articles
are to be published in the intranet, under joint editorship of the majority and
The decisions of
the World Congress must be accepted by all under the rules of democratic
centralism. Strict discipline in action is to be required of all members.
The IEC shall
publish all resolutions considered by the World Congress, those rejected as
well as those adopted. Editorial comment shall be restricted to defence of the
No measures are
to be taken against any member because of the views expressed in the
discussion. Nobody is obliged to renounce his or her opinion. There is no
prohibition of factions. The minority is to be given representation in the IEC
and assured full opportunity to participate in all phases of the Tendencies
In order to
acquaint the IMT sympathisers and the radical labour movement with all aspects
of the disputes, and the opinions of both sides, the IEC shall publish in
pamphlet form and on www.marxist.com the most important articles about the
disputes. This shall be jointly edited and each side may select the articles it
wishes to publish.
is taken from Cannons “Struggle for a proletarian party”:
Resolution on Party Unity
A Proposal for a Joint Statement to the Party
Membership, to be Signed by the Leading Representatives of Both Groups in the
In view of the fears
expressed by some comrades that the present internal discussion can lead to a
split, either as a result of expulsions by a majority or the withdrawal of a
minority, the leading representatives of both sides declare:
It is necessary
to regulate the discussion in such a way as to eliminate the atmosphere of
split and reassure the party members that the unity of the party will be
maintained. Toward this end both sides agree to eliminate from the discussion
all threats of split or expulsions.
The issues in
dispute must be clarified and resolved by normal democratic processes within
the framework of the party and the Fourth International. After the necessary
period of free discussion, if the two sides cannot come to agreement, the
questions in dispute are to be decided by a party convention, without, on the
one side, any expulsions because of opinions defended in the preconvention
discussion, or any withdrawals on the other side.
obligate themselves to loyal collaboration in the daily work of the party
during the period of the discussion.The internal bulletin is to be jointly
edited by two editors, one from each side.
commission of four—two from each side—is to be constituted. The function of the
parity commission is to investigate all organisation complaints, grievances,
threats, accusations, or violations of discipline which may arise out of the
discussion and report same to the Political Committee with concrete
Supplementary Resolution on the Organisational
In order to assure
the concentration of the party membership on practical work under the most
favourable internal conditions, to safeguard the unity of the party and to
provide guarantees for the party rights of the minority, the convention adopts
the following special measures:
The discussion in
the party branches on the controversial issues is to be concluded with the
convention decisions and the reports of the delegates to their branches. It may
be resumed only by authorisation of the National Committee.
In order to
acquaint the party sympathisers and the radical labour public with all aspects
of the disputes, and the opinions of both sides, the NC shall publish in
symposium form the most important articles on the Russian question and the
organisation question. These symposia shall be jointly edited and each side may
select the articles it wishes to publish.
As an exceptional
measure in the present circumstances, the discussion may be continued in
literary form if the representatives of either side, or both, so desire.
Articles dealing with the theoretical-scientific aspects of the disputed
questions may be published in the New International.
Political discussion articles are to be published in a monthly Internal Bulletin, issued by the NC, under joint editorship of
the convention majority and minority.
The NC shall
publish all resolutions considered by the convention, those rejected as well as
those adopted. Editorial comment shall be restricted to defence of the adopted
The decisions of
the party convention must be accepted by all under the rules of democratic
centralism. Strict discipline in action is to be required of all party members.
No measures are
to be taken against any party member because of the views expressed in the
party discussion. Nobody is obliged to renounce his opinion. There is no
prohibition of factions. The minority is to be given representation in the
leading party committees and assured full opportunity to participate in all phases
of party work.
The September 2010 issue of Historical Materialism includes a
symposium on Lars Lih’s “Lenin Reconsidered”, a mammoth book that
includes his own new translation of “What is to be Done” (Chto Delat
in Russian)—the object of his research. Put simply, Lih argues that
this seminal text is not a harbinger of a party of a “new type” but
rather Lenin’s call for building a party in Czarist Russia that is
modeled on the German Social Democracy. Not only did I come to this
conclusion long before reading anything Lih has written (I confess to
having read only partial selections of “Lenin Reconsidered”), I have
quoted this selection from WITBD frequently to support this claim:
Why is there not a single political event
in Germany that does not add to the authority and prestige of
Social-Democracy? Because Social-Democracy is always found to be in
advance of all others in furnishing the most revolutionary appraisal of
every given event and in championing every protest against tyranny. It
does not lull itself with arguments that the economic struggle brings
the workers to realise that they have no political rights and that the
concrete conditions unavoidably impel the working-class movement on to
the path of revolution. It intervenes in every sphere and in every
question of social and political life; in the matter of Wilhelm’s
refusal to endorse a bourgeois progressist as city mayor (our Economists
have not yet managed to educate. the Germans to the understanding that
such an act is, in fact, a compromise with liberalism!); in the matter
of the law against “obscene” publications and pictures; in the matter of
governmental influence on the election of professors, etc., etc.
Everywhere the Social-Democrats are found in the forefront, rousing
political discontent among all classes, rousing the sluggards,
stimulating the laggards, and providing a wealth of material for the
development of the political consciousness and the political activity of
I especially love the business about “obscene” publications and
government interference in the election of professors. That’s a Lenin
who would appreciate what we are up against today, with neo-Czarists
like Glenn Beck and Daniel Pipes on the scene.
It should be stressed that Lih was not the first person to develop
this approach and neither was I. Back in 1982 or so after I started
working with Peter Camejo to launch a new left organization, he advised
me to read Neil Harding’s “Lenin’s Political Thought”. Harding was very
careful to stress Lenin’s debt to Karl Kautsky on organizational
questions. For reasons I cannot fathom, Lih does not acknowledge
Harding’s ground-breaking work in this area.
Lih has two aims in his book. The first is to challenge the academic
“textbook” interpretation of WITBD that blames it for Stalinism. It
interprets the idea of socialist consciousness coming to the workers
from the outside by intellectuals as elitist and a necessary building
block in the erection of the totalitarian state. In high school, my
teachers used to sneer at the USSR as a “dictatorship of the
proletariat”, words they assured us during the height of the Cold War as
meaning dictatorship over the proletariat. Lenin is blamed for Stalin and Marx for Lenin.
The other challenge is to activists like Tony Cliff, John Molyneux (a
disciple of Cliff), and Paul LeBlanc who are singled out in the
introduction (the introduction can be read in its entirety in the google
books entry for “Lenin Reconsidered).
The articles break down into two categories, one comprising left
academic experts whose approach to WITBD is of a more specialized and
scholarly interest. It is simply beyond the scope of this article to
address their arguments.
The other category includes a couple of those “activists” who Lih
finds fault with. One is the late Chris Harman who obviously shares the
views of Tony Cliff and John Molyneux, fellow members of the state
capitalist current. The other is Paul LeBlanc, whose article I found
quite interesting. I have had exchanges with LeBlanc going back to the
mid-90s that can be read here:
While I understand that HM is not the sort of thing that most
Unrepentant Marxists have a subscription to, I recommend tracking it
down at a research library since the question of Lenin’s intentions back
in 1903 are very germane to the problems we face today. While Lih does
not have any kind of activist past—as far as I know—the elevation of
WITBD into some kind of guidebook for party-building throughout the ages
has led to terrible problems. Ironically, despite Harman and LeBlanc’s
praise for Lih’s research, they can’t swallow the main point he is
making, namely that Lenin was never about building a party of a “new
type”. As members of the SWP in Britain and, in LeBlanc’s case, the ISO
in the USA, it is clear that must adhere to concepts of “democratic
centralism” that have hobbled the left ever since Zinoviev turned WITDB
and other of Lenin’s writings on party-building into a kind of cookbook.
If tracking down HM is too daunting a task, I would recommend a look
at John Molyneux’s 2006 review of “Lenin Reconsidered” that can be read
here: http://johnmolyneux.blogspot.com/2006/11/lihs-lenin-review-of-lars-t-lih-lenin.html. Molyneux writes:
My argument, then and now, is that, in
the period 1903–14, there developed a fundamental difference between the
(reformist) practice and nature of the Social Democratic Parties and
the (revolutionary) practice and nature of Bolshevik Party. This is
explained, in the main, by three factors:1) differences in the objective
social and political conditions between Russia and Western Europe,
including the non-emergence in Russia of a trade union and party
bureaucracy; 2) differences in the level and intensity of struggle,
especially in 1905 and 1912-14; 3) Lenin’s concrete, sometimes ad hoc,
empirical (‘instinctive’) political responses to these circumstances.
Here, as elsewhere in the history of our movement (the Paris Commune,
the role of Soviets in 1905 and 1917) practice ran ahead of theory. In
1914 the scales fell from Lenin’s eyes regarding Kautsky, Bebel and the
rest and theory caught up with a vengeance (see Imperialism- the Highest
Stage of Capitalism, Imperialism and the Split in Socialism, the
Philosophical Notebooks, Marxism on the State, The State and Revolution
and much else besides).
You can also find the same argument from Paul Blackledge, an SWP
member who also wrote the introduction to the Lenin symposium in HM.
Again, we are fortunate enough to be able to read his views online at: http://www.isj.org.uk/?id=218.
Once again, the formulations are the same as Molyneux’s and Chris
Harman’s—a symptom, alas, of the problems inherent in a schematic
reading of Lenin’s party-building articles. Blackledge writes:
The novelty of this form of organisation
was less than obvious in the early part of the last century, and Lih is
right to point out that Lenin was attempting to build something like the
German SPD in Russia.53 Nonetheless, it is also true that Lenin did
succeed in building something different, and better,
than the SPD. It is in this respect, I think that Lih is wrong to reject
Georg Lukács’s interpretation of Lenin, upon which many of the
activists have based their analyses.54
And just to drive the point home, let’s see what Chris Harman has to say:
It took the outbreak of the First World
War to reveal to Lenin that his interpretations of Kautsky’s argument
had been very different to those of Kautsky himself. This because it was
only then that the practical implications of the Kautskyite approach
became clear internationally. Until that point, people could read what
they wanted into Kautsky’s writings, within certain limits.
Paul LeBlanc says exactly the same thing in his article:
The reality of German Social Democracy
was certainly more problematic than what Lenin was able to glean from
the very best writings of Karl Kautsky. This became clear to Lenin
himself in 1914. At that point, it became obvious that Lenin was
building a very different party than the actual SPD.
Fundamentally the problem with Molyneux, Blackledge, Harman and Le Blanc is that they superimpose problems of program on that of party building.
If your main point is to demonstrate that Kautsky was a reformist,
arguably long before WWI, while Lenin was a revolutionary, then the
investigation revolves around what the American SWP used to call
“revolutionary continuity”. Instead of putting the emphasis on what at
least I see as the real problems with how to interpret WITBD—namely, how
do socialists organize themselves—they shift it to questions of what
socialists should fight for.
This is especially critical in coming to an understanding of what
Lenin meant by a “vanguard”, a term that is so poorly understood in
self-declared vanguard organizations like the SWP and the ISO (of course
it should be understood that they pay lip-service to the idea that a
vanguard can only emerge through struggle and might encompass broader
forces than their own, etc.). Lih does a good job demonstrating that the
term predated WITBD, specifically on page 556 passim of “Lenin
Rediscovered” that can be read online (with all the usual frustrating
deletions) on google books.
Let me conclude with my own remarks on WITDB that owe much to my
reading of Neil Harding as well as my sad experience in a group with
“vanguard” pretensions that reduced itself to rubble. It was part of a
long article titled “Lenin in Context” (http://www.columbia.edu/~lnp3/mydocs/organization/lenin_in_context.htm) that I wrote back in 1994 or so.
The next time you run into one of our
latter-day “Marxist- Leninists” who trace their lineage to the historic
split between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks in the Russian Social
Democracy, give them a little quiz. Ask them to identify the authors of
the following 2 opposing motions around which the historical split took
place. One is Lenin, leader of the Bolsheviks, the other is Martov, the
1. A party member is one “who recognizes
the Party’s programme and supports it by material means and by personal
participation in one of the Party’s organizations.”
2. A party member is one “who recognizes
the Party’s programme and supports it by material means and by regular
personal assistance under the direction of one of the party’s
Lenin is the author of the first motion
and Martov the second. As should be clear from this, the split between
Bolshevik and Menshevik did not involve the kind of deeply principled
questions that caused the Zimmerwald Movement to emerge as a counter to
the socialist parliamentarians who voted for W.W.I.
It is essential to understand is that the
whole purpose of the convention at which this historic split took place
was to form a party where none existed. It was Lenin and Plekhanov’s
intention to form a new social-democratic party on the model of the
Western European parties. It was not, as our contemporary
“Marxist-Leninists” believe, an initiative to innovate some new
“democratic-centralist” type of party. Plekhanov was the father of
Russian Marxism and Lenin considered himself a disciple of Plekhanov. In
the articles leading up to the convention, Lenin continuously pointed
to the example of Kautsky’s party in Germany as something Russian
socialists should emulate.
As often occurs in the socialist
movement, Lenin was confronted by roadblocks. The most important of
these was “Economism”. Economism was a current within Russian social
democracy which tended to limit struggles to bread- and-butter issues at
the individual factory level. It was suspicious of any efforts to make
the struggle nation-wide and general, such as was the goal of more
orthodox Marxists like Plekhanov and Lenin.
Lenin was a master of getting to the
heart of underlying socio-economic dynamics. He explained that
“Economism” was a reflection of the more primitive, handicrafts phase of
Russian capitalism when shops were smaller and more isolated. He
noticed the great concentration of large factories in major cosmopolitan
centers and concluded that a more professional and more generalized
approach was needed in line with the changed circumstances.
Economism belonged to Russia’s past;
orthodox Marxism was the way forward. He saw modern social democracy as
corresponding to the highly complex and specialized nature of modern
mass production. He saw socialist parties as the working-class
equivalent of large-scale industrial plants. A centrally-managed,
large-scale division of labor was needed to move the struggle forward,
just as it was necessary to construct steam locomotives. Lenin was no
enemy of capitalist technology and mechanization. Rather he sought to
appropriate its positive features whenever necessary.
The split between Bolshevik and Menshevik
took place at only the second convention of the Russian socialist
movement not the 22nd or the 32nd. The basis goal of the convention was
to establish the structure and purpose of a new Russian socialist party.
One of the key ingredients of a socialist
party, according to Lenin, was a newspaper. He saw a national newspaper
as a way of uniting and orienting social democrats. A newspaper would
allow the party to have a national focus. It would allow all of the
particular economic struggles to be politically linked together in a
Lenin did not envision the newspaper as a
means of propagating a “party line”.It had just the opposite role. The
newspaper would be the vehicle for allowing opposing views to be
compared and weighed against each other in order to allow the party to
arrive at a political orientation.
Lenin argued that unity must be “worked for”. He said:
“Before we can unite, and in order that
we may unite, we must first of all draw firm and definite lines of
demarcation. Otherwise our unity will be purely fictitious…We do not
intend to make our publication a mere store-house of various views. On
the contrary, we shall conduct it in the spirit of a strictly defined
tendency. This tendency can be expressed by the word Marxism. … Only in
this way will it be possible to establish a genuinely all-Russian,
Social- Democratic organ. Only such a publication will be capable of
leading the movement on the high road of political struggle.”
Another common source of confusion is
Lenin’s use of the term “professional revolutionary”. In his view,
“professional revolutionaries” are the key to the success of Russian
In modern “Marxist-Leninist” groups,
“professional revolutionaries” are those who are on movement payroll.
People who are not full-timers but who contributed lavishly of their
time and funds are lower on the hierarchy. They are like the drone bees
who keep the hive functioning.
This of course has nothing to do with
Lenin’s understanding of the term. For Lenin, the need for “professional
revolutionaries” arose within the context of the difficult and
semi-clandestine nature of socialist activity under Czarism.
Professional revolutionaries were needed at the core of the party to
keep the apparatus functioning in case of police crack-downs.
As an extension of his ideas about
divisions of labor in large-scale capitalist enterprises being adapted
to socialist organizations, Lenin saw the need for gradations of skill,
expertise and conspiratorial training appropriate to the levels of risk
in each phase of organizational activity. At each level the degree of
risk could be minimized by introducing specialization of function, so
that, at no matter what level, activists would have the chance to become
proficient in dealing with their own area of work.
As in every aspect of his recommendations
for Russian Social Democracy, Lenin was operating within the concrete
conditions of Russian objective conditions at a given time in history.
In 1907 Lenin was very specific about the particular framework of “What
is to be Done” which addressed problems in the 1899-1903 time-frame.
“Concerning the essential content of this pamphlet it is necessary to draw the attention of the modern reader to the following.
The basic mistake made by those who now
criticize “What is to be Done” is to treat the pamphlet apart from its
connection with the concrete historical situation of a definite, and now
long past, period in the development of our Party.”
So much for our contemporary Bolsheviks
who use Lenin’s writings the way amateur cooks use the recipes of French
masters such as Jacques Pepin. If they don’t follow the recipe to the
letter, what comes out could be inedible. But we now have to create our
own recipe, just the way Lenin did.
Let us conclude with an examination of
the question of democratic centralism, probably the most vexing legacy
of the period coincident with “What is to be Done” and one that has been
most widely misinterpreted. In 1906 Lenin said that “the Russian Social
Democracy was in agreement on the principles of democratic centralism,
guarantees for the rights of all minorities and for all loyal
opposition, on the autonomy of every Party organization, on recognizing
that all Party functionaries must be elected, accountable to the Party
and subject to Recall.”
Later Lenin clarified how tolerant of
political disagreements his concept of democratic centralism was. He
wrote “The principle of democratic centralism and autonomy for local
Party organizations implies universal and full freedom to criticize so
long as this does not disturb the unity of a definite action; it rules
out all criticisms which disrupts or makes difficult the unity of a
definite action; it rules out all criticisms which disrupts or makes
difficult the unity of an action decided on by the Party.” Nowhere does
Lenin suggest that democratic centralism applies to doctrine. Every
member would of course have his or her interpretation of political
questions, but once a decision had been made to build a strike or a
demonstration, etc., it was incumbent upon each member to concentrate on
building the action. Many contemporary “Leninists” attach some kind of
apocalyptic meaning to the split at the second congress of the Russian
Social Democracy in 1903 as if two radically different and
irreconcilable sets of principles were counterposed to each
other–Bolshevism and Menshevism. This split is seen as the fountainhead
of all 20th century revolutionary politics, the dividing line between
communism and opportunism or some such thing.
Those who think that the rival motions
between Martov and Lenin constitute some kind of fault-line of
revolutionary politics must then explain why Lenin told participants at
this congress that, referring to Martov’s motion, “we shall certainly
not perish because of an unfortunate clause in the Rules.”
Let’s let this sink in. Lenin, arch-enemy
of opportunism, said that the motion which caused the
Bolshevik-Menshevik split was simply “unfortunate”.
The differences between orthodox Marxists
who were educated by Plekhanov and, on the other hand, the Economists
who gravitated to the newspaper “Rabochaya Mysl” were principled and
clear. The differences within the orthodox camp, which included the
Bolshevik Lenin and the Menshevik Martov, were not so clearly defined.
The Bolsheviks were anxious to rid the party of all elements who
resisted the creation of a centralized Russian Social Democracy, while
the Mensheviks tended to be more conciliatory to the Economists and the
Bundists. The Bundists shared with the Economists a resistance to a
centralized and unified Russian party that could coordinate struggles on
a national level. Their particular interest was in preserving some kind
of automony for their exclusively Jewish membership, a goal that was in
conflict, needless to say, with creating one party for the entire
So when Lenin and Plekhanov triumphed,
they maneuvered to isolate the Bundists and Economists as much as
possible. This meant overruling the original Menshevik proposal that
would have preserved some representation on the editorial board of Iskra
for Bundists and Economists. The proposal passed by the new Bolshevik
majority at the congress consisted of only three seats on Iskra, none to
be allocated for the decentralizers.
It was this issue more than the original
fight over Lenin and Martov’s rival motions which precipitated the
split. The narrowing of the Iskra staff meant that such long-time party
leaders as Zasulich, Akselrod and Potresov would lose their posts. Why
was Lenin so anxious to dump these old-timers? Was it because they were
smuggling capitalist ideology into the pages of Iskra? The real concern
of Lenin was much more practical, as befits a revolutionary politician
who strived for professionalism above all else. In his “Account of the
Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P.”, Lenin describes the motivation for
getting rid of them:
“The old board of six was so ineffectual
that never once in all its three years did it meet in full force. That
may seem incredible, but it is a fact. Not one of the forty-five issues
of Iskra was made up (in the editorial and technical sense) by anyone
but Martov or Lenin. And never once was any major theoretical issue
raised by anyone but Plekhanov. Akselrod did no work at all (he
contributed literally nothing to Zarya and only three of four articles
to all the forty-five issues of Iskra). Zasulich and Strarover only
contributed and advised; they never did any actual editorial work.”
Lenin was simply interested in getting
rid of dead wood, people who were not carrying their load. Those who
simply “advised” were not needed. Lenin sought to place genuine
contributors at the helm of the major newspaper of Russian Social
Democracy. I empathize deeply with his lack of respect toward people who
are simply “advisers”. The revolutionary movement needs people who can
get things done. If this Marxism list ever went through a split between
“advisers” and people who know how to get things done, I’m sure that
most of us know who these two respective groups would include.
Who did Lenin propose as the three people
best qualified to lead the new Iskra editorial board? They were Lenin
himself, the great Marxist educator Plekhanov and Martov. Martov, we
should remind ourselves, was the individual who put forward a motion
rival to Lenin’s on the requirements of party membership. This motion
has become synonymous with Menshevism itself. It is like the apple in
the Garden of Eden for dogmatic interpreters of the historic split. The
trouble is that these dogmatic interpreters can’t account for the fact
that Lenin then proposed to put Martov–the Serpent himself–in a leading
position at Iskra.
Also, to be perfectly blunt, the
reduction of representation on the Iskra leading bodies generated bitter
personal rivalries. Personal rivalries! Can you believe that? Aren’t
you glad that we’ve evolved beyond those sorts of problems. As it
developed, Zasulich and Akselrod were deeply insulted by their firing
from Iskra. Martov, an old friend of theirs, rallied to their defense
and then decided to step down himself from the newly re-constituted
editorial board. Even Plekhanov, one of the most hard- line Bolsheviks,
eventually drifted into the Menshevik camp. (Does this sound like
typical movement wrangling over “petty” issues? Well, yes it does.
Because, believe it or not, it is.)
The Menshevik Akselrod, who had every
reason to be bitter at Lenin, saw no great principles involved in the
split either. Years later he confided to Kautsky that personality was
what caused the great divide between Bolshevik and Menshevik. Kautsky
“As late as May 1904 Akselrod wrote that
there were ‘still no clear, defined differences concerning either
principles or tactics’, that the organizational question itself ‘is or
at least was’ not one of principle such as ‘centralism or democracy,
autonomy, etc.’, but rather one of differing opinions as to the
‘application or execution of organizational principles…we have all
accepted’. Lenin had used the debate on this question ‘in a demagogic
manner’ to ‘fasten’ Plekhanov to his side and thus win a majority
Would genuine political differences
between the two factions eventually emerge? Certainly they would and
sooner rather than later. In 1905 and 1906 major struggles between the
Bolsheviks and Mensheviks developed over how to overthrow Tsarism and to
create a democratic republic. In 1903, however, at the famous “split”
conference, there were none. Furthermore, attempts to derive some kind
of new organizational approach to revolutionary party-building from the
split are just as ill-advised.
When one of today’s “Marxist-Leninist”
groups votes to change the party line at a convention, then every member
has to defend this new line in public. It would mean, for example, that
CPUSA members would have been under discipline to defend Soviet
intervention in Afghanistan publicly. Party rank-and-file members who
oppose the line have to wait patiently for the next convention in order
to persuade the majority of his or her position.
The problem, of course, is that in
“Marxist-Leninist” formations, it is difficult to maintain such contrary
positions and resist peer pressure to conform to the rest of the group
in between conventions. When individuals or groupings decide to maintain
dissident points of views like these, it is often the prelude to a
split. This has nothing in common with Lenin’s concept of democratic
centralism. The Bolsheviks were free to criticize party positions
publicly as long as they acted in a disciplined fashion with respect to
demonstrations, strikes and other actions.
Pat Byrne March 2010
The Origin of the ‘Slate System’ used in elections for the leadership of Leninist Groups
leadership-recommended slate system for internal elections to the
national leadership is used in most leninist groups. It is not a
natural system arising from the workers own experiences and democratic
instincts but something artificially imported into the workers
movement. In theory, the slate system can be used to recommend a list
that consciously includes a good balance of talents and personalities.
In practice, it gives the existing leadership a temendous advantage in
elections and experience has shown that it has allowed leaders to
secure their continuous re-election along with a body of like-minded
and loyal followers.
Let’s examine how the ‘slate system’ arose. As the leninist
movement supposedly bases itself on the example of the Bolshevik Party,
we need to start our process of discovery here. The following
information comes mainly from a study made on how Communist Party
internal elections were carried out in Revolutionary Russia. The study,
‘The Evolution of Leadership Selection In The Central Committee
1917-1927’, was written by the well-known sovietologist and academic
Robert V. Daniels who drew most of his information from the official
records of Bolshevik and CPSU party congresses. His essay was published
in a fairly obscure academic study of Russian Officialdom which covered
Russian society from the 17th to the 20th centuries.
The first thing that may be surprising to state is that the Bolshevik
Party did not operate slates. By Bolshevik Party we mean the party that
led the Socialist Revolution in October 1917. This party, the Russian
Social Democratic and Labour Party (majority), used the normal system
of electing its leadership that has naturally emerged in every workers
movement across the world – voting for individual candidates in a
competitive election. Thus those successfully elected to the Central
Committee (the leading body of the Party) had to receive higher votes
than the unsuccessful candidates. Of course, unofficial slates did
exist based on political questions and there is absolutely nothing
wrong with that. But there was no official list of candidates
recommended by the outgoing leadership with all the advantage and
status that would have conferred on a candidate.
This normal election procedure continued after the revolution and the Bolshevik Party changed its name to the Communist Party:
well after the Revolution the makeup of the Communist Central Committee
was governed by genuine elections at the party congresses, however they
may have been influenced by factional controversies and pressure by
the leadership (i.e. Lenin). Congress delegates voted for as many
individuals as there were seats on the Central Committee, and the
appropriate number with the highest votes were declared elected.
Candidate members were originally the runners-up, but by 1920 they were
being voted on separately after the roster of full members was
announced. Under these conditions the membership of the Central
Committee was naturally drawn from well-known revolutionary activists
and key figures in the central party leadership.” (pp.357-358)
Thus the relatively small Central Committee was made up of well-known individuals:
1920, at least, the numbers were small enough so that most aspirants
were being voted on by the Congress delegates on the basis of personal
or direct knowledge. However, or perhaps for this reason, election to
the Central Committee was sensitive to personal popularity and the
interplay of the factional controversies that freely animated the life
of the party during the War Communism period. Some individuals (A.S.
Bubnov, for instance) reached, fell, and returned to the Central
Committee as many as three times.” (p.358)
However, a significant change occurred in 1921. This was a key year in
the development of the Soviet Union. In many respects 1921 was the
turning point from which we can trace the degeneration of the Communist
Party and the Soviet state it ruled. This was the year which saw mass
hunger in the countryside and strikes in the cities. A major factional
battle ensued between Lenin on one side and Trotsky on the other over
how to solve the crisis. The old Central Committee was almost evenly
divided. In the elections for the delegates to the Tenth Party Congress
Lenin’s more flexible and positive position won a large majority. But
the delegate election campaign also reflected the growing ability of
the official party bureaucracy to manipulate the party machine with
many examples of the packing of meetings etc. Lenin’s victory meant the
abandonment of War Communism and the introduction of the New Economic
Policy. The latter allowed the partial reintroduction of the market and
small-scale capitalism. However, the serious revolt of the sailors at
Kronstadt which threatened the whole future of the revolution brought
matters to a head. It was in the midst of this crisis that the Tenth
Congress of the Communist Party met.
Quite apart from the division within the party leadership caused by the
Trade Union Debate, discontent was rife at all levels of the Party.
There were two rank and file opposition factions: the Democratic
Centralists who protested that the democratic aspect of the party and
state life was being lost; and the Workers Opposition who were pushing
for direct trade union control of industry. It was in this situation
that Lenin introduced his disastrous proposal to ban factions. Although
this was only thought to be a temporary measure to prevent the party
being torn apart in the crisis, it became a permanent rule within the
Soviet Party and was used by Stalin again and again to silence dissent.
The same was true with the proposal to purge the party of uncommunist
elements who had joined for opportunist reasons. This had originally
been put forward by the Workers Opposition and was taken up and psuhed
forward by Lenin. But its implementation was carried out by Stalin and
his loyal party apparatus who used it to remove poilitcal dissidents
and recruit more ‘reliable’ elements.
The third organisational measure that was to make it much easier for
Stalin to assert and maintain control was the introduction of a block
slate system in the elections for the Central Committee:
1921, at the Tenth Party Congress, the first signs appeared of a basic
change in the actual manner of selecting Central Committee members.
This was the practice of making up a semiofficial slate of aspirants,
to be voted on de facto as a group by the Congress delegates. The
occasion happened to be the most acute crisis ever experienced by the
Soviet leadership, when it came under attack both externally from
peasant rebels and the naval mutineers at Kronstadt, and internally
from the left and ultraleft factions represented by Trotsky and the
Workers' Opposition. Having decisively defeated his critics within the
Communist Party in the pre-Congress delegate selection, Lenin
evidently decided to use his influence not only to oust several key
oppositionists from the Central Committee but to expand the body from
nineteen to twenty-five, thereby creating in all nearly a dozen
openings for new people.
The fact that a slate of recommended official candidates was prepared
for the Congress delegates to vote on is made clear by the totals of
individual votes announced after the ballot. Lenin was everyone's
choice, with 479 votes. But nearly unanimous votes were received by
numerous other people, tapering down to 351 for the twenty-fourth
member, the newcomer I. Ia. Tuntul, ... far ahead of the next
contender, the deposed Trotskyist party secretary Krestinsky with 161.”
In addition to the ‘old Bolshevik’ leaders, Lenin promoted less
well-known figures who he thought would be more supportive of his
Lenin's slate making to curb the opposition factions that so plagued
him in 1921 relied on the award of Central Committee status to loyal
but not widely known provincial functionaries who would have stood
little chance in the earlier style contest for a smaller body of
stellar personalities.” (p.359-360)
At the Eleventh Party Congress in 1922, in which Lenin was unable to
play a major role due to illness, the individual figures for the
elections to the Central Committee were for the first time not even
announced. Presumably because it would have appeared strange and
embarrassing to see the unofficial leadership slate all gaining similar
votes, way ahead of the rest of the candidates.
1922 was also the year in which Stalin was able to decisively take over
the party machine. As with other measures introduced by Lenin that were
intended to temporarily minimise dissent, the tactic of increasing the
size of the Central Committee was seized upon by Stalin who combined it
with a leadership-organised slate as a means of securing the election
of new more loyal members. This culminated at the Twelfth Party
Congress in 1923 (with Lenin absent):
“Nineteen twenty-three was the year of Joseph Stalin's signal
breakthrough in setting up a personal political organization in the
Party, following his designation as general secretary the year before.
Turning Lenin's proposal for an expanded Central Committee to his own
advantage, Stalin persuaded the Twelfth Congress to increase the body
from twenty-seven to forty. 7 This substantial expansion, together with
three vacancies, gave him sixteen slots to fill. Slate making was in
evidence once again when the Twelfth Congress came to the election of
the Central Committee, though the mathematics of it were covered up by
a motion at the Congress to withhold announcement of individual vote
7. Trotsky led the opposition to the proposed expansion, holding out
for a small body that could continue to exercise quick day-to-day
decision-making authority.” (p.360)
each succeeding Party Congress up to and including 1927 Stalin
increased the size of the Central Committee, thus allowing him to
promote yet more grateful party and state functionaries and thereby
increase his domination of the leadership:
“The Thirteenth Party Congress of May 1924, was the first to come after
Lenin's demise and the open break between Trotsky and the party
leadership. It was the occasion for another substantial expansion in
the ranks of the Central Committee, this time from forty to fifty-two.
While practically all incumbents were confirmed in office. 9
9. One—Lenin—had died; one was transferred to the Central Control
Commission, which ruled out Centra! Committee membership, and one—Karl
Radek—was dropped for his activities on behalf of Trotsky.” (p.361)
the Fourteenth Party Congress, in December 1925. when Zinoviev broke
with Stalin and went down to defeat, the Central Committee was once
again substantially enlarged—this time by eleven men, from fifty-two to
sixty-three. In this manner Stalin continued to build his power base
while minimizing the head-on confrontations that would be implied in
removing his leading opponents.” (p.362)
“The Fifteenth Party Conference, held in December 1927, a year later
than the rules called for, saw the dramatic expulsion of the Left
Opposition headed by Trotsky and Zinoviev. The unprecedented number of
eight Central Committee members were dropped for oppositionist
activity... With the seventy-one members of 1927, the Central Committee
had reached a level that was to hold constant through the post-purge
Eighteenth Congress of 1939... 121 members and candidate members in
Daniels concludes his assessment thus : “Within the short span of five
years under Stalin's organizational domination the central leadership
body (Central Committee members and candidates) was expanded more than
two and a half times and almost totally realigned from an elected group
of the articulate and politically popular to a body de facto appointed
on the basis of bureaucratic constituencies.” (p.366)
Stalin’s peversion of democracy within the Communist Party of the
Soviet Union reached the point at the Seventeenth Party Conference in
early 1934 where the only way the delegates could express their
feelings in the elections was to cross out the name of the people they
didn’t want. This they did in the elections for the Politburo with
Stalin receiving 267 negative votes in comparison to the more moderate
leader of the Leninigrad Party, Sergei Kirov, who only received 3
negative votes. This result was of course not reported to the Congress
“The 17th Congress has also been given the name ‘The Congress of the
Condemned’ because of 1,996 party members present, 1,108 were arrested,
and about two thirds of those executed within three years, largely
during the Great Terror. Of the 139 members elected to the Central
Committee in the 17th Congress, 98 would be executed in the purges. And
of the remaining 41, only 24 would be re-elected to the Central
Committee in the 18th Congress.” *
Kirov himself was assassinated later in the year and much of the
evidence as well as the motive points to Stalin as having ordered the
assassination against Kirov as a popular alternative. The results of
the election at the 1934 conference would have not only marked Kirov as
a dangerous rival in Stalin’s eyes but also convinced Stalin of the
party’s disloyalty to him. It may explain not only the Kirov
assassination but the use of it as a pretext for the Great Purge which
saw the removal of 850,000 members from the Party, or 36% of its
membership, between 1936 and 1938. Many of these individuals were
executed or perished in prison camps. “Old Bolsheviks” who had been
members of the Party in 1917 were especially targeted. Additional
triggers for the purge may have been the refusal by the Politburo in
1932 to approve the execution of M.N. Riutin, an Old Bolshevik who had
distributed a 200-page pamphlet calling for the removal of Stalin and
their refusal in 1933 to approve the execution of A.P. Smirnov, who had
been a party member since 1896 and had also been found to be agitating
for Stalin’s removal. The failure of the Politburo to act ruthlessly
against anti-Stalinists in the Party combined in Stalin’s mind with
Kirov’s growing popularity to convince him of the need to move
decisively against his opponents, real or perceived, and destroy them
and their reputations as a means of consolidating Stalin and the
bureaucracy’s power over the party and the state.
* ‘The Russian Revolution’ by Sheila Fitzpatrick
The Trotskyist Movement And The Slate System
and why the slate system was adopted by the trotskyist movement would
be a very useful subject for study. It could be that it was just
carried over with the rest of the democratic centralist model imposed
on individual communist parties by the Communist International. Or it
could have been stalinist baggage carried into the trotskyist movement
when the international left opposition was formed out of so many splits
in the communist parties.
Interestingly, there was a reference to its introduction into the
British Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) at its conference in 1950:
this conference Healy introduced another novelty - a slate for election
to the National Committee. The EC had drawn up this slate and if any
delegate wanted to nominate someone who was not on the slate they also
had to nominate someone else to be taken off!” (‘The Methods of Gerry
Healy’ by Ken Tarbuck, published in Workers News No.30, April 1991,
under the pseudonym of "John Walters" and with the title "Origins of
Bear in mind that the 1950 conference of the RCP was the one where
Healy was able to overcome all his opposition. The slate allowed him to
get a Central Committee entirely to his liking. In previous years the
RCP had operated a system where the factions in the organisations
automatically had a number of seats on the CC according to the level of
support they had among the membership. And the faction’s
representatives on the CC were decided by the faction themselves.
Compare this to the situation in the rare occasions that factions were
allowed in the Militant Tendency. Then whether a faction had
representatives on the CC and who they were lay in the hands of the
majority leadership when they drew up their recommended slate. A
completely undemocratic situation.
Pat Byrne March 2010
virtual alternative political leadership of the proletariat
dynamics between social reality and
political self-imaging in the epoch of crisis of capitalism
February 28, 2010
of the leadership
task of the leadership of a revolutionary organization is to direct
its development towards the formation of a mass party. So, the final
criterion of success of an alternative political leadership is the degree
in which it has built and the rate in which it is building the mass
In the past
two decades this task has been facilitated by the fall of the soviet
bureaucracy and its associated Stalinism. Further, this task has been
facilitated by the social movements that have developed in Latin America.
Finally, the current world crisis of capitalism facilitates incredibly
this task but also imposes a quick pattern in the building of the mass
Has the leadership
contributed to the achievement of this aim either in quantity or in
quality? No, it has not on any criteria and at any rate. So, the leadership
has been proved to be completely incapable to do what is supposed to
be the reason for its existence. This conclusion is simply a fact of
the leadership has been proved also to be incapable to maintain the
unity of the organization.
the sections in Greece, Pakistan and Venezuela have been split from
the organization. The sections in Spain and Mexico have left the organization.
The Russian and Turkish connections have disappeared mysteriously from
So, this conclusion
is also a simple fact of life.
of the leadership
Has the leadership
recognized these elementary facts of life? No, it has not and still
does not! The leadership does not interest in what happens in reality
as well as in the organization. Instead, it is exclusively interested
not to take any kind of responsibility for its obvious failure.
The way for
diverting responsibility is very well known and familiar to all of us:
the failures are due to some “bad guys” who hate the leadership,
have betrayed the revolution, do not respect the collective discipline
defined by the constitution and the principles of democratic centralism,
This is a childish
reaction when caught out in front of the teacher: “Sir, I didn’t do it.
S and L did it in Greece. M did it in Pakistan. Etc, etc. … Any other
person did it, except myself!”.
of the leadership leads it to “the restoration of the disturbed order
by the expulsion of every one who is fount to be guilty by it each time
of political failure”.
of the internal discussion and collective decisions
from the part of the leadership
But this “restoration
of order” by the leadership is not done on collective terms, openly
and in the framework of the established procedures of the organization.
Oh, no! It is done “privately”, in the framework of a parallel informal
network established by the leadership for its defense against its own
rank and file. So, a part of the leadership has substituted the proper
operation of the whole organization by its parallel informal network.
of discussing with the comrades, the leadership expels the comrades
who dare to put it in the corner of reality and responsibility.
of any internal discussion is proved by the fact that the leadership
has not be able and willing till now to establish an internal discussion
bulletin / internet forum for the members of the organization.
It seems that
the leadership thinks that the political participation of the rank and
file is incompatible with their employment as fulltime wage-earners.
silent destruction of the organization by the leadership
the leadership’s expulsions and splittings do not restore any order.
In reality the leadership sacrifices each time of failure a part of
the organization without being able to replace it with new recruits.
So, the leadership continuously reduces the organization. In the final
step of this diminishing process the leadership will be indentified
with the organization. Leadership and organization will be one and the
same thing. But for this reason there will be neither leadership nor
organization. There will be only independent journalists and columnists
striving to get a retirement from anywhere it seems to them to be possible.
content of the leadership’s failure
Why is the
leadership irresponsible and consequently destructing the organization
as well as self-destructing? Is its attitude due to the “foulness
of grandeur”, to the ill belief that it is the “reincarnation of
Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky all together in one collective person”,
to the “professional incompetence for the task to be wage-paid revolutionaries”
or to the fact that it is composed simply by “bad guys”?
All these factors
as well as others not included in the above list can be valid or not.
But also in this symmetrical case, it is not a question of others’
faults. All these factors are not the causes of the actual leadership
failure but the effects of leadership’s incapacity to formulate a
revolutionary program of political action, a historically updated transitional
complete political incapacity to lead anybody to anywhere is extremely
flagrant in the case of Venezuela.
revolution” is considered by the leadership to be the nucleus of the
of the contemporary world revolutionary process. Consequently, the first
mass revolutionary party has to be built in the context of the ongoing
revolution in Venezuela. Has the leadership built this mass party after
a decade of revolutionary mobilization of masses? No, it has not! And
that’s not all: not only the leadership has failed to build a mass
revolutionary party but it has also achieved to split the small organization
in Venezuela in two mutually competitive parts! This is not building
something, this is destroying everything.
can not engineer in a ten years period of time a transitional set of
slogans to overthrow Chavez’s Bonapartist regime! Lenin was
politically capable to overthrow Kerensky in about 3½ months and the
leadership can not overthrow Chavez in ten years!
On the top
of that some comrades think to join in the 5th International
proclaimed in the end of the last year by Chavez! These comrades fail
completely to understand that the revolution is against Chavez and not
in association with him.
inability of the leadership to transit politically from February to
October in Venezuela is the historical cause of the actual disarray
in its state of mind and conduct. The major political issue to discuss
openly and thoroughly in the organization is this unfinished transition
and not either the “civic rights of revolutionaries in privacy”
or “what democratic centralism is in theory and how it is applied
can not intervene politically anywhere in the world. Its ideas and principles
have not the least appeal on the proletarian vanguard, the intellectuals
and the rebelling youth. For this reason, now in the epoch of crisis
and of the associated mass action, the organization is disintegrating
under the leadership of its leadership. Only politics, a brand new transitional
political program of social action, can save it from the fatal end already
coming to us very quickly.
experienced left activists will see through the arguments used by the IMT's
leadership against its Iranian section. The story about exposing two Iranians
living abroad is just not logical. Once someone in exile starts
to carry out solidarity work whether by writing an article, making
comments on the web, picketing an embassy etc. they will inevitably come to the
attention of the security forces of a country like Iran. As I understand it,
these comrades had been quite open in their political work and were active
on the IMT's public websites. Thus all this talk of the IMT's Iranian Section
acting like a police informer is a complete smokescreen. And all these
accusations about putting these comrades lives in danger is just plain
why would the IMT's Iranian Section even refer to these two people who I
understand were not members of their political group but just IMT
members in the countries they live in? From what I have heard, the IMT
leadership in preparing to pushing out the independent-minded Iranian
section were trying to gather together any Iranians they could find so
that they could claim that there was a split in the Iranian Section or at least
that it was only a partial loss of comrades. This was exactly the same tactic
applied in Spain. For months, the IMT leadership secretly conspired with a
small group of Spanish comrades against the democratically elected leadership
of the Spanish Section. Discovery of this was one of the main factors
that accelerated the split with Spain and convinced them to leave the
IMT. When the other Latin American comrades heard of this it opened their eyes
to the undemocratic nature of the IMT leadership.
you can see that the IMT leaders have been carrying out all kinds of manouvers behind the
scenes. They are doing this because they are not willing to tolerate an
international composed of equals. Their model of an international is based on
the myth of the world party inherited from the Communist International. In such
an organisation, the international centre has the right to intervene in any
national section, suspend or expel people. The IMT make a big song and dance
about not having expelled people in the last twenty years. The reason for this
is that by treating comrades who question their rule or raise political
differences as enemies, they have usually been able to make these comrades life
so difficult that they leave of their own accord. Often this happens in such a
way that comrades in the rest of the international only get to hear that
so and so has dropped out. When people ask why, they are usually told that
the comrade was tired, demoralised or some other bullshit excuse.
significance of the current crisis in the IMT is that it is the first split to
happen in the full glare of online communications. As we shall soon see, the
IMT leaders will not be able to get away with the usual diet of false
accusations. For the first time the victims of their actions will have the
right of reply. Thus the democratic mask that the IMT leaders wear will be torn
away to reveal the intolerant and authoritarian characters that they really
The following document was sent to me by a non-member of the IMT, it confirms what I had been told about the hysterical atmosphere in the International leadership.
The explusion of the entire Iranian section passed without the right of defence against allegations.
To IEC members, national leaderships,
sections and groups
We send you a first report on the IEC meeting of March 1-7. This IEC
represents a turning-point in the International's development. Contrary
to the false impression that a small group of individuals are attempting
to create, there was no mood of crisis, and all the discussions took
place in a calm and serious atmosphere. The comrades in Spain, Mexico
and Venezuela displayed complete confidence and enthusiasm for the perspectives
that open up in these countries.
The experiences of these sections provide both the comrades concerned
and the whole International with important lessons, which we will discuss
in detail over the next few months. We had very in-depth discussions
on orientation, tactics, organisation building, etc. for all these three
countries. The reports show that possibilities in Venezuela and Mexico
are tremendous, and that the reorientation of the work in Spain can
give important fruits in the next future.
We will produce more detailed material on these subjects in the future.
All comrades should study this material and learn from it, as it is
rich with lessons for our future work in the mass parties and the unions.
The explanations of the comrades from those sections shed a lot of light
on the problems of the work that was being done there before, the real
political differences that were emerging with the old leadership, and
organizational methods that had become or were becoming consolidated
which were completely alien to our traditions. It goes without saying
that we were not looking for a split. But it is clear that, under the
circumstances, a split was inevitable.
The quality of the comrades who support the International is very high.
In Mexico we took a big majority. In Venezuela we took a majority of
the active members. In Spain the comrades have regrouped and are already
intervening. For example, in a recent demonstration in Bilbao, we had
more comrades selling our brochure as against the supporters of the
EC and we have recruited our first worker since the split and have many
contacts who can join. In spite of the difficulties they have experienced,
the morale in all three sections is excellent.
The expulsion of HK
Comrades will have seen the resolution on the expulsion of HK we sent
out on Friday, and the attached explanation. We do not often resort
to expulsions. In almost twenty years we have never expelled anybody.
But where it is necessary to defend the organization against provocations
and sabotage, we have the right to take the appropriate measures. We
point out that this resolution was passed with no votes against and
the abstention of only one full member and one alternate. This means
that not even members of the "faction" were prepared to defend
We have been informed today that HK is continuing his provocations.
As part of his personal war against the International has decided to
publish on the internet, available to the broad public, the whole content
of the intranet website that was set up by the self proclaimed "Bolshevik
Faction". By his deeds HK is showing to the whole organisation
how well founded were the objections we raised to the use of intranet
or facebook forums to host internal debates. This is not a game, nor
a justified difference of opinion between comrades. It is an all-out
attack against the International.
We ask all sections to inform all members of the International as soon
as possible of these developments, in order to counter the lies and
disinformation that is being spread by this individual.
The IEC had to take other measures to defend the organisation from what
is quite clearly an organized and concerted attack against the International,
namely, the expulsion of MR and the disaffiliation of the Iranian section
A criminal act
What is the reason for this drastic step? Before the IEC, MR had publicly
attacked the positions of the International on several occasions. In
spite of being offered all the internal channels to express his disagreement,
he decided to boycott the IEC, considering it to be a bureaucratic rubber
stamp for the IS (he sent a representative to read a statement to this
His deliberate boycotting of the democratically elected leadership of
the International and his slanderous campaign against it were sufficient
reasons for disciplinary action – suspension from the IEC at the very
least. But what he did subsequently can only be described as a crime.
In his latest tirade of insults against the International, sent out
to undisclosed recipients, he deliberately leaked personal information
on two young Iranian comrades who support the line of the International.
This information was enough to allow the Iranian state to identify them,
making it virtually impossible for these comrades to return to Iran
to build the International or even to visit their families. These comrades'
"crime" was to disagree with the position defended by MR that
there is no revolution in Iran. This is no longer a political question.
It is a betrayal of the most elementary principles of the workers' movement
and is equivalent to acting like a police informer. The only possible
response was immediate expulsion. And since these actions were carried
out in the name of the whole Iranian group (there are only a few of
them), the consequence was the disaffiliation of the group itself.
This does not mean the end of our work in Iran. On the contrary, it
will be stepped up and put on a far healthier basis. Our ideas are having
a big impact in Iran and we have many contacts in Iran and in exile,
in addition to the Persian speaking comrades in Pakistan. The antics
of MR, who denies that there is a revolution in Iran and has a sectarian
approach, has alienated many people on the Left who would otherwise
have joined us. His departure from our ranks, far from being a problem,
will open new doors. On this basis we are sure that the work in Iran
(which was at a very embryonic stage) can be quickly rebuilt on a far
For months JC and his followers (including HK) have been waging a noisy
campaign to the effect that there is a "bureaucratic and totalitarian"
regime in the International. He issued a document putting forward a
completely false and distorted picture of the International. He was
offered the chance to participate in an orderly debate, and the IS guaranteed
to distribute his document, first to IEC members and then to the whole
International and give him equal time to defend it on the IEC. Instead,
he immediately distributed it to an undisclosed list of recipients.
How did the IEC react? Did it decide to suppress the views of JC and
his supporters? No, it gave them plenty of opportunity to put their
views, including a special session devoted to these ideas. During the
IEC discussion on democratic centralism, contrary to the norm, which
would be an IS lead off followed by a counter lead off, we proposed
JC to give the only lead off, to allow for more time for discussion.
In his speech in the session on democratic centralism JC complained
that there were "unwritten rules" that he did not recognise
and would not obey. These rules are really ABC for anyone with the slightest
knowledge of democratic centralism and the history of our movement.
What did the IEC do? It simply to put these rules in writing. In that
way there could be no confusion or ambiguity about the position.
What the IEC did was to establish the rules by which a genuinely democratic
debate could be conducted, and what was acceptable and what was not.
It established certain perimeters that must not be transgressed. It
prohibited the irresponsible use of emails to conduct campaigns against
the official positions of the International – both inside and outside
our ranks. It prohibited the practice of leaking internal IEC correspondence
and publishing internal documents on Facebook. It specified our attitude
towards the formation of factions etc.
It was precisely at this point that JC decided to walk out, together
with the representatives of the self-proclaimed "Bolshevik faction":
ML (a Swedish alternate), and WF (a visitor from Poland), walked out
of the IEC, announcing they were leaving the IEC and would the next
day "recommence the work of building a revolutionary organization".
This happened on Friday at the beginning of a session where a number
of resolutions were to be discussed and voted, including one reaffirming
the right of the IEC to confidentiality.
An organized walk-out
There was also nothing spontaneous about the walk-out of JC, ML and
WF. In the resolution of the "faction", we read the following:
"In view of the fears expressed by some comrades that the present
internal discussion can lead to a split, either as a result of expulsions
by a majority or the withdrawal of a minority" (our emphasis)
Nobody had mentioned expulsions before. Neither had anyone hinted at
the possibility of a "withdrawal of the minority". On the
other hand, in the emails of MR, there were implied threats of a split,
if the IS did not print his views denying the existence of a revolution
on the website of the International. These threats and ultimatums were
a form of blackmail: "do as I say – or else!" HK used the
same method: "do what I demand or I will denounce you as Stalinists!"
But we have never given in to blackmail and do not intend to start now.
What we have here is an unscrupulous and cynical attempt to force the
majority to accept the ideas and methods of a tiny minority, on the
basis that the latter can make a lot of noise, cause a scandal, throw
mud at the organization in public, provoke splits etc. This is like
the behaviour of a spoilt child, who shouts and breaks his toys and
wrecks his bedroom because he cannot get everything he wants. Such behaviour
is not acceptable on the part of adult people, and far less on the part
of people who claim to be revolutionary Marxists.
The International is a democratic organization, with well-established
channels in which comrades are free to defend whatever views they wish.
But in a democratic organization, there are rules that everyone must
obey, and the majority decides. This is not the first time our movement
has seen such conduct. In the Second Congress of the RSDLP, Lenin broke
with Martov and his supporters precisely because they would not accept
being in a minority. Let us remember that the word Bolshevik originally
meant a supporter of the Majority (bolshenstvo in Russian) and Menshevism
meant a supporter of the Minority (menshenstvo). It was the refusal
of the Martovites to accept the decisions of the Congress that led to
the split in 1903, although on all the political questions there were
apparently no differences.
Let us be clear. Nobody forced JC to walk out. Nobody prohibited him
from expressing his opinions inside the organization, and not outside
it, following the rules of debate agreed by the majority, not made up
by an unelected and unrepresentative minority, using the internal channels
that are open for democratic debate, not facebook, Intranet and emails
to "undisclosed recipients".
JC walked out, complaining of an "unbreathable atmosphere",
but everybody in the room was breathing quite normally. What did he
mean by this? Only this: that JC can only feel "free to breathe"
when there are absolutely no rules and anyone can behave as scandalously
as they wish – including in the public domain – with complete impunity.
When he realized that this game was up, and the IEC was going to pass
resolutions that would finally introduce some order into the proceedings,
he decided to walk out and organize a split. And this is supposed to
What do they represent?
Other than those who walked out, these ideas received no support whatsoever
on the IEC. We could only interpret their words and actions as an indication
that they were leaving the International. The full transcript of JC's
statement is attached as the resolution condemning their walkout that
was passed with one abstention of an alternate member.
For months we have been receiving emails and documents signed by the
"Swedish, Polish and Iranian ECs". When he was asked who was
on the Polish EC and when they were elected, WF from Poland told the
IEC that their EC is composed of just two comrades. He also admitted
that they had only sent out their factional documents two weeks before
In other words, they flooded hundreds of comrades and non-comrades from
around the world with their factional emails signed by the Polish EC
(jointly with the Swedish and Iranian ECs) before they even informed
the comrades in their own section. All this in the name of democracy.
The representative of the Iranian group (who we invited to the session
on Iran, although we were under no obligation to do so, since MR, the
elected IEC representative had boycotted the meeting) was asked several
times to give the figures for membership of this group, but refused
to do so "on security grounds". But they showed no such concern
for security when they effectively betrayed two young Iranian comrades
to the authorities. To the best of our knowledge the group consists
of only a handful, with not more than a few in the interior. And the
"Iranian EC", like the "Polish EC" consists in reality
of two people: MR and A.
The situation in Sweden is not much better: only around 12 members are,
according to the EC, actually active in the labour movement of the 45
members. Of these twelve active members, five have declared their disagreement
with the EC on these questions, including the whole of the Gothenburg
branch. Moreover, the question of declaring a faction has never been
put to the Swedish CC.
The mass organizations and the Fifth International
The IEC was not devoted purely to these questions, which we reluctantly
had to deal with as a result of the scandalous campaign that has been
waged inside and outside the International.
The IEC held very good discussions on a number of very important matters
that will be part of our discussion up to the world congress. We held
an in-depth discussion on the question of our work in the mass organisations.
Throughout the last 20 years we have accumulated much experience in
many sections which should be discussed and shared with the whole International.
On the basis of this discussion, the IS will present a short document
to be discussed in the International in the lead-up to the World Congress
and voted upon there.
Also of great importance, is the IEC's decision to support Chavez's
call for the 5th International and participate actively in it. In the
words of comrade SG (Brazil): "this is a discussion of transcendental
importance because it concerns the essence of what Trotskyism is."
We will be publishing material on this question very soon and it will
be discussed at all levels of the International in the lead-up to the
We will also be re-emphasizing the Venezuela solidarity work in light
of the upcoming regional elections, and will hold a Panamerican gathering
in Caracas in April, in conjunction with the official launch of the
5th International. We will have more statements and information coming
soon, and the sections should prepare to organise delegations to Caracas.
We will also be launching issue 2 of the Pan-American journal. More
information on this will be forthcoming.
IEC resolutions – March 1-7, 2010
1) The split in Spain, Venezuela and Mexico
This IEC notes that the Spanish EC and their supporters in Spain, Mexico
and Venezuela split from the IMT in December 2009 and have now publicly
announced a separate group. They have not been expelled by anybody who
supports the IMT. They were not expelled, but have left of their own
accord and in a completely undemocratic and bureaucratic manner.
This is an unprincipled split which was decided without any consultation
with the rank and file members of these sections. The political differences
that emerged in the polemic between the IS and the Spanish EC in 2009,
though important, did not justify a split. The Spanish EC, fearing an
open and frank debate of ideas, decided to split away. This shows a
light-minded and irresponsible attitude towards politics, one that puts
the prestige of the leadership above principled political considerations.
The split also reveals a completely bureaucratic attitude which deals
with political questions with administrative measures by resorting to
splits and expulsions. These methods are alien to our international
and to the genuine traditions of Bolshevism.
The casual way in which they decided to split also reveals a narrow,
parrochial and nationalist approach, which has nothing to do with genuine
proletarian internationalism. Rather than attempting to convince the
IEC and the membership of the International of their points of view,
they decided to split away before the debate could take place.
From the end of November, comrades in the Spanish section who did not
agree with the Spanish EC were excluded from branch meetings and other
activities. The Spanish EC refused to pay international subs, JIR resigned
from the extended IS and they cut off all links with the IMT. This process
led to the expulsion by the Spanish EC of anyone who was not in favour
of splitting away from the IMT, including comrades who did not support
the views of the IS in the debate in 2009.
At least in Spain there had been a semblance of a debate. In Venezuela
and Mexico the situation was worse. In these two countries, the supporters
of the Spanish EC in their ECs and CCs decided to split even before
any documents had been sent to the ranks and before there was any debate
about those, never mind a debate about splitting away from the IMT.
In the case of Mexico, the majority of the EC took the decision to split
against the expressed will of the majority of the members of the section.
In the case of Venezuela, 40 comrades, representing at least half of
the active membership, signed an appeal for an extraordinary congress
which the EC completely ignored, fearing that such a meeting would never
support the split with the international. The small group in Colombia
decided, without hearing the opinions or the IMT to also split away
with the supporters of the Spanish EC.
The IEC therefore:
condemns this unprincipled split in Spain, Venezuela and Mexico.
appeals to all comrades in these countries to come back to the IMT,
regardless of their political views, as long as they are prepared to
work within the democratic structures of the International.
fully supports the efforts of the comrades in Spain and Venezuela who
are rebuilding the sections of the IMT.
recognises the democratic congress of the Mexican section of the IMT
which took place on January 16 and 17, and the CC that was elected.
2) On Security, Intranet and FB
It has been brought to the attention of the IEC, presently in session,
that a "Facebook" discussion group has been set up in order
to discuss the internal affairs of the International. The IEC has not
authorised this initiative – and was not even asked to do so – and
considers it to be a totally unacceptable breach of internal democracy.
It poses a very serious security threat to the work of our national
sections. In a number of countries, this work is carried out in extremely
difficult and potentially dangerous conditions. Such methods expose
our organisation to attacks from the ruling class, from the state, and
also from our enemies within the workers' organisations.
The IEC understands that not all comrades will necessarily agree with
this point of view. These comrades have the right to put forward their
arguments, on this and on any other question, within the organisation.
In the meantime, however, as the elected leading body of the International,
the IEC demands that this discussion group, together with the "Intranet"
site set up for the same purpose, should be immediately closed down,
and formally instructs the comrades who are responsible for it to do
this within the next 24 hours, as from 22h.00 this evening (2nd March).
The IMT is a democratic organisation. All comrades, at all levels of
the organisation, are free to present their views and criticisms on
all aspects of our policy, perspectives and organisational methods,
through the democratically established structures of the tendency. However,
the unauthorised publication of internal discussions, outside the structures
of the organisation, is clearly an intolerable breach of revolutionary
democracy. The maintenance of these public networks would amount to
active sabotage of our organisation.
[Passed in a special session on Tuesday, March 2]
Full members: In favour: 24; Against: 1; Abstentions: 0
Alternates: In favour: 5; Against: 1; Abstentions: 0
3) On the Expulsion of HK
For many months, the International has been subjected to a systematic
campaign of harassment and intimidation, organized by Heiko Khoo.
This campaign, allegedly intended to "inform" the membership
of the International, is in fact based on an avalanche of lies, insults,
slander and disinformation. It is calculated to create the maximum confusion,
disrupt our work and demoralize comrades.
These attacks on the International have been deliberately introduced
into the public domain, where they are being used by our enemies, to
blacken the name of the International.
The only effect of this campaign has been to cause resignations, damage
the work in a number of sections and assist our enemies.
In the face of gross, deliberate and repeated provocations, the International
has shown extraordinary patience and restraint. But all things have
We have made repeated requests to Heiko Khoo to desist from his disruptive
actions. He has had every opportunity to make use of the democratic
channels of the organization to put forward his ideas. But he has not
used these channels and all our appeals have been cynically ignored.
These actions show a complete contempt for the most elementary norms
of revolutionary morality and discipline.
The exact motivation behind Heiko Khoo's activities remains obscure.
But we can say that they constitute a deliberate and systematic sabotage
of the work of the revolutionary tendency.
Whether Heiko Khoo is conscious or not, such activities are indistinguishable
from the work of a provocateur who seeks to destroy the organization
The International has the right to defend itself against sabotage and
provocation. We therefore resolve that Heiko Khoo is expelled from our
ranks with immediate effect.
[Passed without votes against – Thursday, March 4]
Full members: In favour: 24; Against: 0; Abstentions: 1
Alternates: In favour: 5; Against: 0; Abstentions: 1
Visitors: In favour: 9; Against: 0; Abstentions: 1
[On Friday morning, March 6, before a session where a number of resolutions
were meant to be voted, JC (Full member), ML (alternate) and WF (visitor)
announced their walk-out – See full transcript of the statement of
JC further below.]
4) Resolution on Intranet Forums
1.This IEC pledges to uphold the democracy and security of the International.
All differences and discussions should be channelled through the existing
structures of the organisation.
2.This IEC for reasons of internal democracy and security rejects the
setting up of online discussion forums (intranet). Such mechanisms are
wide open to security breaches where our internal material would be
easily made available to our enemies. This has already occurred. They
are in flagrant contradiction with our existing policy making structures.
They would be dominated by those with plenty of time and immediate access
to the Internet and would tend to exclude those comrades with restricted
time and access. This is a recipe for substituting control by elected
leading bodies by the rule of unelected and self-appointed cliques.
3.The "assurances" that it will be "strictly controlled"
and "for members only" are worth nothing. In the period that
opens up, and especially with our growing success, witch-hunts and attacks
on the organisation will become more frequent. As this intranet will
make available all our internal material in electronic form, such sites
would be a magnet for provocateurs and infiltrators, eager to get their
hands on compromising internal material. It greatly increases the risk
of expulsions, proscriptions and witch-hunts in a number of countries
and also of state repression in others. This is completely unacceptable.
4.For these reasons, this IEC places a ban on intranet sites and calls
on sections to keep all discussions and disagreements within our internal
[Passed unanimously, Friday March 6]
5) Resolution on emails
1.This IEC recognises the damage done to the International by the indiscriminate
circulation of emails, in a completely destructive manner. It is an
attempt to undermine the democratically elected structures of the organisation.
2.The practice of sending unsolicited blind carbon copies of email correspondence
for factional and destructive reasons has resulted in our security being
breached and our internal affairs being leaked to non-members and enemies
of the tendency.
3.This kind of behaviour creates disruption, forcing the elected bodies
to drop important work in to respond to the a mass of misinformation.
If this practise is allowed, it will have a damaging effect on our work
and undermine the organisation.
4.This IEC views such behaviour as an assault upon the democracy of
the organisation and condemns it. The International must take steps
to defend itself. We consider such activity to be incompatible with
membership of the IMT and call upon national leaderships to take whatever
measures they consider necessary to put a stop to it.
[Passed unanimously, Friday March 6]
6) Resolution on Winter School
This IEC considers that the manner in which the 2010 Winter School was
organised is unacceptable. The IEC resolves that in future the Winter
School or any other events encompassing more than one section should
be in the hands of the IS, the appropriate elected body to oversee such
[Passed with 1 abstention (alternate member), Friday March 6]
7) On Confidentiality
1) The IEC is the highest body of the IMT between World Congresses.
Membership of the IEC implies rights, but also obligations. There is
no question of IEC members or invited guests doing whatever they please,
without reference to the rules of conduct agreed by the IEC as a whole.
2) The IEC guarantees to provide the membership of the IMT with full
reports of the political discussions and organizational decisions.
3) However, the practice of systematically leaking information about
internal discussions on the IEC is unacceptable.
4) Without the principle of confidentiality, it would be impossible
to have a free and frank discussion on any question. The leaking of
internal IEC business is a violation of the democratic rights of IEC
5) Correspondence between the IS and IEC members is of a confidential
nature, unless otherwise stated. It is impermissible for any IEC member
to circulate internal IEC correspondence to persons outside the IEC.
Any member who breaks this rule will receive a warning, and if these
actions are repeated, may be suspended from the IEC, subject to ratification
by the next World Congress.
6) The use of Facebook, or any other public electronic media, for unauthorized
and unofficial factional purposes, and the unauthorized publication
of internal documents , audio recordings and other information, which
in the hands of our opponents does serious damage to the work of the
International is unacceptable.
7) The IEC has the duty to take whatever measures are necessary to preserve
the democratic rights and security of the membership. Members of the
leading bodies of the International, must be able to express their ideas
and criticisms without fearing the communication of these outside the
8) The IEC instructs the IS immediately to take whatever measures it
deems necessary – up to and including expulsions – in order to protect
the rights and the security of the membership of the International.
[Passed unanimously, Friday March 6]
8) On Factions
The right to form a faction is a democratic right, which is recognized
by the International. However, it is not the case that every group of
comrades can simply declare themselves a faction without more ado. Factions
are not a good thing, but are sometimes necessary, after all the normal
channels of democratic discussion have been exhausted. They are not
a first, but a last resort; they should not be resorted to in a light-minded
manner and should reflect a clearly defined political line.
The "declaration" of a faction by some comrades in the last
few weeks does not comply with the most elementary conditions for a
In the first place, we have yet to see a coherent political platform
for such a faction. The document "Forward to Democratic Centralism"
does not constitute such a platform. What is being proposed, in effect,
is a faction formed on the basis of forming a faction. This is not serious.
Before forming a faction, the comrades should have exhausted all the
normal channels for democratic discussion that were open to them: branches,
central committees, national congresses, the internal bulletin, the
IEC, and the World Congress. This was not done. At this moment in time,
therefore, we consider a faction to be premature and out of order.
We call on the comrades to take a step back, to dissolve the faction,
and participate in the common work of building the International and
strengthening it politically through a comradely exchange of opinions.
This must not be a confrontational and public discussion of differences
on the Internet and Facebook, and the indiscriminate distribution of
alarmist and misleading emails to members and non-members alike.
We draw the comrades' attention to the fact that we are at present in
a pre-Congress period, where there will be every opportunity for every
comrade to express their point of view on any subject. We invite the
comrades to participate in the pre-Congress discussions and to go through
all the normal democratic channels inside the organization. Such discussions
will help to raise the collective political level of the whole International.
[Passed - Friday March 6]
Full members: unanimously in favour
Alternates: In favour: 4; Against: 1; Abstentions: 0
9) On the Walkout of JC, ML and WF
The IEC condemns the walk-out of JC and ML from Sweden and WF from Poland.
This behaviour is unprecedented in the whole history of the International.
The tactic of boycotts, walk-outs, threats, ultimatums and blackmail
is completely unacceptable in our organization. We note that in the
resolution on "Unity" which they submitted they talked about
the dangers of a split and the "withdrawal of a minority"
(which until then had not been raised by anyone). Within 48 hours, these
comrades had staged just such a withdrawal. This clearly indicates that
this was a premeditated act.
The IEC stresses that nobody forced these comrades to leave. They had
every opportunity to speak and defend their ideas. In fact, a whole
session on Wednesday was devoted to a discussion of JC's document "Forward
to Democratic Centralism", where JC gave the introduction and the
IS renounced its right of reply in order to allow more time for the
On Thursday, the IEC voted for the expulsion of HK for his actions,
which amounted to deliberate sabotage of the work of the International.
The vote was unanimous except for JC and ML, who abstained. This indicated
an ambiguous attitude toward the destructive activity of HK, who is
a member of the self-proclaimed "Bolshevik Faction" set up
by JC, ML and others.
In recent months, internal IEC correspondence and documents have been
systematically leaked and published on the internet. This has led to
serious damage being inflicted on our work in a number of sections.
The IEC was going to vote on a resolution on confidentiality which prohibits
these unacceptable practices. Before the matter could be discussed and
voted on, JC announced that he wished to make a "Short Statement".
He stated that the International was "like the [Taaffeite] CWI
and the Swedish Young Socialists". He concluded by saying that
they were leaving the IEC, and "we will recommence the building
of a revolutionary organisation".
He then walked out, followed by ML and WF. As he was leaving, he was
asked to clarify whether he was leaving the International, but he said
only, "I have answered enough questions". These words and
actions can only be interpreted in one way: they have split from the
International. The conduct of their faction in recent weeks confirms
this. The publication of internal documents and audio recordings on
the internet, the sending of factional emails to non-members and to
the leaders of the split-off group in Spain, were clear acts of sabotage,
calculated to do maximum damage. Comrades in Spain and Venezuela were
given to understand by the Spanish split-off group that something serious
was going to happen at the IEC. In addition to this, there is the scandalous
attack of MR, who has circulated personal details of comrades, exposing
them to reprisals by the Iranian state.
By their words and actions, it is clear that these three comrades have
split from the organization. The International must take immediate action
to defend itself against what is clearly an organized and systematic
The IEC therefore instructs the IS to intervene in the Swedish and Polish
sections to rally the forces that support the International.
[Passed with no votes against and one abstention (alternate member)]
Appendix: FULL TRANSCRIPT of JC statement
"Well, comrades, unfortunately this IEC has proceeded in a manner
which is both expected and familiar. I recognize it both from the last
period in CWI and the last period in the Swedish Young Socialists. And
we will leave the IEC now, because there is no point in continuing to
be here. We will go out into the sunshine. We'll have dinner tonight,
we'll have a laugh tonight, tomorrow morning we'll get up and have a
shower. And then based upon our firm convictions we will recommence
the building of a revolutionary organization. Other people will leave
the IEC with different attitudes. Some comrades will be pleased about
what has happened this week. They will feel a sense of belonging and
a sense of power and they will build nothing. I think the majority of
comrades will be a bit disquieted. Maybe in one year, maybe in two years,
maybe in five years, they will understand what has happened and I hope,
at that point, they don't draw the conclusion to leave
revolutionary politics. Because that is the most common conclusion to
draw at that point, but we must continue the struggle and we certainly
[He was then asked whether he was splitting to which he replied:]
"I have answered enough questions. I will not answer any more questions."
10) On the Work of the Spanish Section
This IEC ratifies the decisions adopted by the provisional National
Committee of the IMT in Spain, held on 6-7 February.
Particularly, we think the Spanish comrades must take advantage of the
project to relaunch Izquierda Unida and decisively orient their forces
to work in IU, as a Marxist current, linking the newspaper of the section
to this orientation.
We mandate the IS to produce a more detailed resolution to serve as
a basis for discussion in the debate that will take place in all branches,
in the lead up to the June conference which must take definitive decision
on the tactics we should adopt.
In the meantime, we call on the comrades in Spain to intervene in the
movement and not limit themselves to an internal and introspective discussion.
11) On the M. Appeal
Having considered the appeal by the group of comrade M., this IEC concludes
that these comrades were unjustly expelled from the former Spanish section
of the International.
Irrespective of the political positions defined by comrade M., the methods
used by the former Spanish leadership, including the hacking of emails,
were unacceptable, and amounted to an attack to eliminate by bureaucratic
means an opposition that they were unable to answer politically.
The IEC recognizes that the International made a very serious mistake
in failing to investigate these matters with the necessary attention
at the time, and in accepting as good coin the false arguments of the
Spanish leaders to justify their actions.
We express our appreciation for the courageous and principled stand
taken by the comrades in maintaining their commitment to revolutionary
internationalism under difficult conditions. We accept the offer of
the comrades to open the lines of communication and discuss our ideas,
with the aim of arriving at a principled agreement. We understand that
the comrades have expressed some doubts and differences concerning the
positions taken by the International, and the prolonged period of separation
may have deepened these differences. We hope that we will be able to
overcome those differences through patient discussions, and, where possible,
practical collaboration. The IEC therefore instructs the IS to open
a discussion with the Municio group, and report to the next IEC meeting
on its progress.
With comradely greetings,
5 March 2010
12) Resolution on the Conduct of Comrade Maziar Razi (1)
This IEC condemns the action of comrade MR in boycotting this meeting.
Comrade MR was elected to the IEC by the World Congress. If he has serious
differences with the line of the International on Iran or any other
question, he had the duty to attend the IEC and explain his ideas. For
unacceptable reasons, he has refused to attend the IEC and instead sent
a letter announcing he was boycotting the meeting. The International
is a democratic organization where comrades with differences are given
every opportunity to put their point of view. The IEC has guaranteed
comrade MR's right to express his ideas freely, with the same time as
the representative of the IS. For unacceptable reasons, he has refused
to attend. We reject the undemocratic method of "debate by email".
Neither do we accept the method of threats, ultimatums and blackmails
that has characterised comrade MR's correspondence with the IS in the
recent period. We totally reject the unfounded
allegations made by comrade MR against the IS, and in particular the
assertion that he has been "censored". We point out that,
while any comrade is free to express criticisms and differences within
the normal channels of the International, the articles published on
the public organs of the International must reflect the line of the
International, decided democratically by the World Congress and its
elected bodies - the IEC and the IS. Neither comrade MR nor anyone else
has any right to demand that our public organs must publish opinions
that contradict the line of the International. The actions of comrade
MR, in publishing articles in alien websites, and giving interviews
on the radio, attacking the positions of the International and the International
itself constitute a blatant and unacceptable violation of revolutionary
13) On the Provocations of MR (2)
Following the deliberate and scandalous boycott of the IEC, MR has launched
a vicious attack on the International which has been sent to an undisclosed
list of recipients. The material he circulated includes personal attacks
against two young Iranian comrades whose only "crime" is that
they dared to disagree with the political line of MR. In making these
personal attacks, MR saw fit to publish detailed information about them,
from which their identities can be easily determined by the Iranian
state forces. One of these comrades has previously been arrested, imprisoned
and tortured in Iran.
By publishing information that compromises these two comrades, MR has
made it impossible for them to return to Iran to build the International
without putting their lives in danger, even to visit their relatives.
MR is not an inexperienced person. He is well aware of the question
of security. His group has even refused to give the most basic membership
figures to the International, alleging it was a "security risk".
He was therefore well aware of what he was doing when he circulated
this information. It was an attempt to strike back at his critics by
exposing their identity, thus opening them to identification by the
Iranian authorities. This was the action, not of a Marxist revolutionary,
but of a vulgar police informer. This is a crime against the International,
against the working class, and against all the democratic and progressive
forces in Iran. We therefore declare that MR is expelled with ignominy
from the International with immediate effect. In
view of the fact that this criminal conduct was carried out with the
active participation of both the internal and external ECs of the Iranian
section, the IEC hereby disaffiliates the Iranian section of the International.
14) The IMT and the V International
In November 2009 Chavez made an appeal for the formation of a V International.
He specifically explained that this international should be anti-imperialist
but also anti-capitalist and socialist. He also put the appeal in the
context of the previous Internationals (I, II, III and IV). Some of
the representatives present at the Gathering of Left Parties in Caracas
opposed this call with the argument that we already have the "Foro
of Sao Paulo" and that such an international did not need to be
openly anti-capitalist. Chavez said that the appeal is made to parties,
organisations and currents.
The appeal has opened a mass debate in Venezuela and also a debate within
many left wing parties and organisations throughout Latin America and
beyond. In El Salvador for instance, while president Funes has opposed
the V International and said he has nothing to do with socialism, the
FMLN has officially come out in favour. In Mexico the idea has been
taken up by sections of the PRD and other mass organisations. In Europe
this will be surely discussed in the Communist Parties and ex-Communist
Parties in Europe.
We as Marxists are in favour of the setting up of mass international
organisation of the working class. The IV International created by Trotsky
was destroyed after the 2nd World War, and in effect is only alive in
the ideas, methods and programme defended by the IMT. As Marxists we
carry out work in the mass organisations of the working class in all
We do not know wether this appeal for a V International will actually
lead to the formation of a genuine international or not. It is possible
that it will remain on the level of an idea, or a meeting of bureaucrats
from different parties on a regular basis.
However, it is clear that the fact that this appeal comes from Venezuela
and president Chavez means that it will be an attractive proposition
for many. This appeal will also raise many questions about the programme
such an international should have and about the history of the previous
internationals, their rise and fall.
This is a debate in which the IMT, which is already recognised widely
for its role in building solidarity with and providing Marxist analysis
about the Venezuelan Revolution, must take a clear position.
We need to take a bold initiative and declare our support for the setting
up of a mass based revolutionary international, and make a clear proposal
of what we think its programme and ideas should be.
This IEC agrees to:
issue a public statement of the IMT supporting the appeal for a V International,
while at the same time stressing that this should be armed a clear socialist
programme, and based on the struggle of the working class.
discuss in each country how we can participate in or launch initiatives
to promote the V International and how we can best intervene politically
participate in the founding conference of the V International in Caracas
in April and other meetings like that, where we will defend our programme
This page is a page for comrades to contribute to a comprehenive rebuttal of this document from Alan Woods and the IS.
As an experiment I propose that each comrade EDIT this document by ADDING their remarks in RED with their name in Brackets. Please add your remarks in colour after the relevant paragraphs whilst leaving the existing document in black. We can then select a comrade to pull together the best comments and draft a final reply from these.
Put longer comments in the comments section at the end and don't forget to save your changes as you go along (I just lost an hours work by forgetting this!) (Heiko).
In Defence of Democratic Centralism
Reply to the ECs of Sweden, Poland and Iran
crisis in Spain has caused deep concern amongst a layer of comrades.
How could it be otherwise? A split can have very negative effects if
comrades are not clear about its political basis. We have a duty to
answer the concerns of comrades and give a clear explanation for this
split. The IS has attempted to concentrate on the political questions
in order to raise the level of the whole International. In our view,
that is the only serious way to approach the question.
is a healthy and critical attitude in the ranks of the International.
There are questions that need to be answered. Did we make mistakes?
Could we have handled the situation better? Are the priorities of the
International centre correct? These are valid and serious questions
that deserve answers. In the next few months, up to the World Congress,
we will have an opportunity to deal with them in a calm and serious
manner. If this is handled correctly, we can all learn from it and
prior condition for this is that we keep a cool head and examine these
questions with the seriousness they deserve. What is not required is a
noisy and disorganized campaign designed not to clarify the issues but
to foment a climate of panic and crisis to create a mood of general
suspicion and mistrust towards the International and its leadership. No
one is immune from making mistakes, including the IS. If the IS has
made mistakes, these must be criticized and corrected through the normal democratic channels within the organization.
a small number of comrades have drawn some wrong conclusions, which
challenge the very basis of our organization and its method, democratic centralism.
We strongly disagree with them, but we welcome the fact that they have
put their ideas in writing. A serious discussion on the document
written by comrade JC and signed by the ECs of the Swedish, Polish and
Iranian sections (which, for the sake of brevity, we will henceforth
refer to as JC’s document) will undoubtedly help us to clarify our
ideas. Above all, it will help us to decide collectively where we are
going, and answer the question: what kind of organization are we
They document says that it will henceforth refer to the document as JC's document. This decision early on allows them not only to ignore its endorsement by the various ECs, but personally attack JC, including a whole section in which they attack supposed ideas of his not contained in the document (under the heading «JC's Contribution to Marxism») [CB]
is a lot of sniping and sneering in the document, which we will ignore.
However, we note that the same people who constantly criticize the
“tone” of certain statements of the IS always feel free to indulge in
the rudest and most offensive personal attacks both in writing and in
speaking. Whenever they detect even the slightest hint of a criticism
of themselves, they immediately complain to everybody that their
sensibilities have been hurt by the “tone” of the leadership. However,
when they attack the leadership, all restraints disappear. Here we see
the real meaning of the complaints about “tone”. It is a case of “don’t
do as I do, do as I say!”
Unlike our critics, we are more interested in content than in form. We are not very interested in how things are said, but mainly in what is said. And that is what we will concentrate on. If we approach the question in that way, we can all learn from it. Any
split causes problems. We are striving to overcome these problems and
learn the lessons so that we can emerge from the split not weakened but
strengthened. The coming world congress will enable us to do this, to put an end to all confusion and ambiguity and arrive at clarity. But
the arguments contained in the document of comrade JC, if they are
accepted, will not serve to strengthen the International but to
undermine it fatally.
Is there a guarantee against splits?
comrades try to use the split-off of the former Spanish section as
“proof” of the existence of a bureaucratic regime in the International.
Surely our organizational structures have contributed to the situation?
The thrust of JC’s document is clear: the split was caused by excessive
centralism and “bureaucracy”. Apparently, with a more open, less
centralized structure, we could have avoided the split and lived
happily ever after.
It is a nice thought but it overlooks one small detail: the
split with the former Spanish leaders was not accidental but reflected
serious differences over a whole series of questions, political and
The IS is firmly of the opinion that these differences – though
extremely serious – did not justify a split. But it is absolutely false
to say that there were no differences and therefore one must look for
the reasons for the split elsewhere: in the alleged deficiencies of
democratic centralism and our model of revolutionary organization that
can be traced right back, not just to Lenin but to Marx.
there not something in Marxism itself that creates the conditions for
splits and crises? This is an argument that has been repeated ad
nauseam by the bourgeois and anarchist critics of Marxism. From the
days of the First International, we have heard the same old arguments.
Marx was supposed to be “intolerant”, “tyrannical” and “authoritarian”.
Bakunin and others wanted to abolish the General Council, or reduce its
role to merely sending out information and statistics, a view that Marx
rightly ridiculed. In order to clarify these questions and raise the
level of the comrades, we are publishing a series of articles on the
controversy between Marx and Bakunin. A careful reading of this
material will show quite clearly that all the arguments against
“excessive centralism”, “bureaucratism” and “top downism” are not new.
It will also show clearly who stands for the genuine ideas of Marxism
Are all splits bad?
argument against “excessive centralism” and for the “rights of the
individual” against “authoritarian leadership” is as old as the
movement itself. There is an excellent letter from Engels to Bebel
written on 20 June 1873, where he takes up in some detail the problems
of party building in Germany. Engels quoted Hegel’s words:
party proves itself victorious by splitting and being able to stand the
split. The movement of the proletariat necessarily passes through
difficult stages of development; at every stage part of the people get
stuck and do not join in the further advance; and this alone explains
why it is that actually the ‘solidarity of the proletariat’ is
everywhere being realized in different party groupings, which carry on
life-and-death feuds with one another, as the Christian sects in the
Roman Empire did amidst the worst persecutions.” (Marx and Engels, Correspondence, pp.284-85, Moscow edition, 1965.)
a matter of fact, the whole history of the movement shows that internal
crises and splits are unavoidable. Crises are a necessary part of the
life of individuals. Crises
are a fact of human existence: birth is a crisis, as is adolescence,
old age and death. Weak individuals will allow a crisis to drag them
under. Men and women of stronger character will overcome the crisis and
emerge stronger and more confident than before. Only through these crises do people develop, mature and become stronger. The same is true of revolutionary organizations.
history of the international Marxist movement is not a picture of
smooth and harmonious development. One has only to glance through the
pages of the Marx and Engels Correspondence to see that the building a
real revolutionary movement is full of problems, splits and crises.
Likewise the Russian Marxists had to pass through a whole series of
splits, starting with the split of 1903. And Trotsky was faced with
many crises and splits in the ranks of the Left Opposition from 1928
until his death. He explained at the time that there was not only a
danger of a Right tendency, but also what he described as petty-bourgeois dilettantism:
Russia the opposition is fighting under conditions which permit only
genuine revolutionists to remain in its ranks. This cannot be said
without reservations about Western Europe, particularly France. Not
only among the intellectuals but even among the upper layer of workers
there are not a few elements willing to bear the title of the most
extreme revolutionists so long as this does not impose upon them any
serious obligations, i.e., so long as they are not obliged to sacrifice
their time and money, submit to discipline, endanger their habits and
post-war upheaval created not a few such
revolutionists-by-misunderstanding, essentially discontented
philistines masquerading as communists. Some of them also fell into the
Opposition, because membership in the Opposition under the present
circumstances imposes even less obligations than does membership in the
official party. Needless to say, such elements are ballast, and very
dangerous ballast at that. They are one hundred percent prepared to
adopt the most revolutionary programme, but rabidly resist when it is
necessary to take a first step towards its realization. Under difficult
conditions they will of course leave our ranks at the first convenient
pretext. A serious testing and a strict selection is needed on the
basis of revolutionary work among the masses.” (Trotsky, Writings, 1929, pp.237-38.)
This whole sections seems to lack of self criticism, to me it is quite obvious that there is a problem when the second largest section and several other important sections leave en masse. That there also have been groups leaving during the recent years in USA; Greece and several other countries too seems to indicate that there are some problems in the IMT. (Jonas Ryberg) [Chris Borges]
A caricature of democratic centralism
comrades begin with a fundamental mistake in their presentation of
democratic centralism, which they attempt to reduce to a few “basic
rules”. They then subject these “basic rules” to a withering criticism.
They have made a kind of “shopping list” which they also use as a
series of headings (from p.4 to p.8):
1) The leadership must lead
2) The leadership must be in complete control
3) Discussion must be channelled through the democratically elected bodies
4) Factions are generally considered a bad thing and need approval from the leadership
5) After a vote, the discussion ends and everybody is bound by the decision
6) Discussions within the EC, CC, IEC, etc. are “confidential”; likewise with private discussions
7) The leadership decides what information and whose ideas reach the members
8) Discussions to be kept within the organization
comrades then say “all the above eight rules are bureaucratic methods…
the more they are used, the more there will be a tendency for a
bureaucracy to crystallise within the organisation.” (p.9) “Lenin never
bothered about ‘the basic rules of democratic centralism’.” (p.10)
“These rules were non-existent among the Bolsheviks. They have nothing
to do with Lenin’s conception of democratic centralism.”
is easy to set up a straw man and knock him down. It is just as easy
distort things and create a caricature of “rules”, which the comrades
have done. As a matter of fact, it is not possible to reduce democratic
centralism to a cookbook of rules. The balance between centralism and
democracy is not at all fixed, but changes dialectically according to
the needs of the organisation and the stage the organization is at.
start to finish, the authors of the document place everything upside
down. With no evidence to back it up, the comrades assert that Lenin
“never bothered about ‘the basic rules of democratic centralism’.”
Really? Let us see what Lenin actually said about the typical attitude
of a Menshevik in 1904 in One Step Forward, Two Steps Back:
thinks of the Party organisation as a monstrous ‘factory’; he regards
the subordination of the part to the whole and of the minority to the
majority as ‘serfdom’ (See Axelrod’s articles); division of labour
under the direction of a centre evokes from him a tragic-comical outcry
against transforming people into ‘cogs and wheels’ (to turn editors
into contributors being considered a particularly atrocious species of
such transformation); mention
of the organisational Rules of the Party calls forth a contemptuous
grimace and the disdainful remark (intended for the ‘formalists’) that
one could very well dispense with Rules altogether.” (LCW, vol.7, p.392, our emphasis.)
these few lines one can see that Lenin showed a great deal of
importance for the Rules, as opposed to the Mensheviks who had contempt
for them. What was the reason for the split between Martov and Lenin in
the Second Congress of the RSDLP? It was precisely the refusal of the
former to accept the rules, the refusal of the minority to accept the
decisions of the majority (the words Bolshevik and Menshevik originally
meant supporters of the Majority and supporters of the Minority).
The “Original Sin” of Bolshevism
else one could accuse the comrades of, they cannot be accused of
originality. The comrades try to paint a “Big Brother” image of the
organization, which allegedly treats the members as sheep and controls
their every action and thought. Exactly the same argument was used by
the Mensheviks against Lenin from 1903 onwards. We have heard this
argument against the Leninist conception of the party (Bolshevism) a
argument is put forward that the degeneration of the Russian Revolution
was rooted in the organizational forms of Bolshevism, and that there is
therefore no real difference between Stalin and Lenin or Trotsky. This
false and pernicious idea has recently been revived in the bourgeois
ideological offensive against Marxism, Communism and the Russian
Revolution. It is an essential part of the campaign of calumnies
against Lenin, Trotsky and the Bolsheviks. The latest poisoned offering
is by Professor Robert Service in his biographical assassination of
campaign has clearly affected some comrades, who imagine they have
stumbled across the “new” idea that centralism is the root of all evil.
Inherent in centralism is degeneration, bureaucracy, splits and all
kinds of unsavoury things. The comrades even go as far as to say “‘the
basic rules of democratic centralism’… are really bourgeois methods
which can be found in many management handbooks… They are also the
rules of the bureaucracy, both reformist and Stalinist… They are the
stick which the bureaucracy has always used to beat us with!” They
conclude: “We have adopted the methods of our enemies.”
The implication of Alan's statement is that there is nothing that can be organizationally wrong with the IMT's interpretation of Leninism, which is obvioulsy a foolish concept. It seems obvious that you can have a bureaucratically degenerate organization (as Alan is alleging about the Spanish section of the IMT) and a "correct political line" at the same time. One does not have to drag in Robert (in your) Service for this.
a matter of fact, JC has stated that the problem with democratic
centralism started in 1921 after the banning of factions at the 10th
Congress of the Bolshevik Party. This is an old story. What JC is
actually saying is that both Lenin and Trotsky are responsible for the
Stalinist degeneration of the Soviet Union, the same reactionary idea
put out by the ruling class that Bolshevism and Stalinism are basically
the same thing.
To point to failings in the way the IMT works is not to say the same was the case with the Bolsheviks unless you imagine that the IMT is the same as the Bolsheviks, which appears to be part of the system of the 'Thoughts of Alan Woods'. He imagines that because the IMT wants and tries to be like the Bolsheviks that is it the same as the Bolsheviks. But wanting and trying is not the same thing as being no matter how good your intentions may be. One can try to emulate good models and one can fail or emulate a caricature.
imagine that a “free for all” can in some mysterious way prevent future
splits or is a guarantee against them is absolute nonsense. Nobody
wants splits, but there are times when they are inevitable and even
necessary, as Engels explained. The split between the Bolsheviks and
the Mensheviks was a political split between revolutionary politics and
opportunism. It began in the first instance as a split over seemingly
secondary and unimportant organizational questions, which were an
anticipation of future political differences.
The preceding paragraph seems to imply that we are Mensheviks, opportunists, and are hiding some sort of contrary opinion and analysis to revolutionary Marxism. We have said nothing to indicate that we are at odds over the basic tenets of Marxism, nor has the IBF ever wavered from the commitment to building a revolutionary organisation and supporting the revolutionary processes when and where they actually occur. [CB]
present every crisis or split as a catastrophe is a philistine concept
that has nothing in common with Marxism. Engels also pointed out that
the revolutionary party becomes stronger by purging itself. What does
this mean? Of course, this has nothing whatsoever to do with the purges
associated with Stalinism but everything to do with maintaining the
ideological principles of the movement. Genuine unity (“solidarity”)
must be based on clarity and this is connected with the ideological
struggle. A crisis is not necessarily a bad thing if it serves to
arrive at greater ideological clarity and raises the level of the
The problem is that you are acting like you are in absolute denial that there even is a crisis! And you are presenting each and every split as a positive thing. It is possible that a split can be positive, if there are serious theoretical and practical errors with the group from which you split. But in the case of Spain, Venezuela and Mexico the differences in theory were minimal, there were differences about who controlled the section, i.e. about power games between leading groups. In the case of Iran, Sweden, Poland, and myself, there are principled differences of ideas. Ideas the IS and the leadership have been incapable of responding to.
the comrades do not see it in this way. They are thrashing about
looking for gold-plated guarantees against crises. But such guarantees
do not exist. We heard the same kind of panicky arguments in 1992 when
we broke from the Taaffites. Some comrades demanded guarantees that no
such disaster would ever happen again. It was not possible then and it
is not possible now. We can no more give such guarantees than Marx or
Engels, Lenin or Trotsky could. Trotsky made the point in his book In Defence of Marxism
that “only a victorious revolution is capable of preventing the
degeneration not only of the party but of the proletariat itself and of
modern civilization as a whole.”
In other words it is perfectly possible and likely that every now and then organisations claiming to be Marxist parties will degenerate. and their leaderships will too! And it probably does not help to have three out of six leaders of this worldwide 'marxist' organization all springing from one family. Where in the history of Marxism was such a family club dominant as in the IMT? Not only do we have this now, but you have had this 'family affair' since 1992! Is this helpful in preventing the possibility of degeneration? Perhaps your family have some unique DNA which has innoculated them against political degeneration despite there being no 'victorious revolution' 'capable of preventing degeneration of the party'?
We have never argued for a guarantee against splits, however we maintain that the IS should be held in account of their actions which may have had an influence in the split. We have never said that all splits are bad, but to go as far as the IS does, in praising them, would certainly lead to accusations that we are preparing one of our own. Nothing could be further from the truth. [CB]
idea that there can be some kind of written guarantee that would
prevent splits and bureaucratic degeneration is entirely false. The
only real guarantees one can have is a high political level, an
organization of cadres who are capable of thinking critically. Precisely the virtues you claim to support yet in practice do all you can to smother and stifle! But
there can be no absolute
guarantees about anything in life. The old organisation had a very
democratic constitution, but it did not prevent the lowering of the
political level of the organization, or the bureaucratic degeneration
of the leadership, and did not prevent the split. It was worth
precisely nothing once a serious struggle opened up.
already answered the demand for such guarantees in advance: “You seek
an ideal party democracy which would secure forever and for everybody
the possibility of saying and doing whatever popped into his head, and
which would insure the party against bureaucratic degeneration. You
overlook a trifle, namely, that the party is not an arena for the
assertion of free individuality, but an instrument of the proletarian
revolution… You do not see that our American section is not sick from
too much centralism – it is laughable even to talk about it – but from
a monstrous abuse and distortion of democracy on the part of the
petty-bourgeois elements.” (Trotsky, In Defence of Marxism, p.92.) (Well that settles the matter...another Trotsky quote!)
A totalitarian regime?
International is portrayed as a totalitarian organization based upon
mind-control and ruthless suppression of all independent thought. Such
is the degree of tyranny inside the International that the individual
is mercilessly trampled. There is a kind of thought police, where: “the
working out of perspectives and theory is mystified… the result of some
mystical process going on in the head of the supreme leaders or leader…
an idea finally pops out of the head of the leader.” (p.5)
There is a Big Brother atmosphere:
“In reducing human beings to robots. It is destined to create
artificial enthusiasm that sooner or later leads to bitterness.” (p.7.)
There is wave after wave of expulsions:
“One expulsion inevitably leads to more expulsions. Every expulsion is
a substitute towards finding a political solution to problems.” (p.5.)
closed in atmosphere acts like a tropical greenhouse. Exaggerations are
legion. Personal irritations multiply. A state of siege mentality
develops. Inevitably things leak out anyway. The search for the traitor
begins. The political level of discussion sinks to the level of
personal insults and paranoia.” (p.8.) By this time the reader is
gripped by fear and trembling. The sections of the International begin
to resemble the streets of Moscow in 1937, gripped by fear and paranoia.
Instead of a serious document, this resembles some cheap political thriller. Now let us leave the realm of fiction and compare this apocalyptic picture with the facts. What
are the facts? Every perspective document, whether national or
international, is submitted for discussion at every level of the
organization. It does not “pop out of the head of anybody” but is the
result of a democratic collective discussion and can be amended in part
or in whole, and is voted on in a democratically elected congress.
is the first invention that “popped out” of JC’s head. It is not the
only one. What about the waves of expulsions that have supposedly taken
are entitled to ask what comrade JC is talking about? When and where
did the International Secretariat ever expel anybody? JC has been a
member of the IEC for almost 20 years. If he has not been asleep for
all this time, he must know that the IS has never expelled anybody. This is just another invention that “popped out” of his head.
is true that we have had splits. But in every case (including Spain) we
have argued against the split and offered the comrades every
opportunity to remain in the International. What we have done on more
than one occasion is to defend comrades against expulsions (Denmark)
and bureaucratic treatment (Greece). In the case of Spain we tried to
defend the minority against a bureaucratic regime that was attempting
to eliminate them by the most reprehensible methods.
are implacably opposed to such methods, which were linked to a clear
ultra left political deviation. But we never expelled the Spanish
section. On the contrary, we made every effort, including some serious
concessions to try to keep them in. In the end they organized a
criminal split, using the most bureaucratic, undemocratic and dishonest
methods. We will deal with the question of Spain in a separate
document, and will show that there is not an atom of truth in the way
JC and the others have presented this question.
It seems quite peculiar that the campaign against Anarchism is aimed at Heiko Khoo and yet the Spanish are the group which Alan Woods established and were his pride and joy until a year ago, yet it is precisely they who according to Woods adopted ultra-left political orientation, and according to the IS are controlled entirely by one individual who refused to debate, Juan Ignacio Ramos. So why is JIR not accused of being and anarchist and Heiko is? This seems rather illogical. (HK)
let us first see how the views of minorities are “ruthlessly
suppressed” in the International. When HK first raised differences
about China in the British section, he was not even a member of the
Central Committee. What did the IS and the British EC do? They invited
HK to come to the CC and put his ideas forward, with the same speaking
time as the representative of the IS.
At that time HK’s ideas had no support. He represented nobody but himself. (By what means does one judge if views have no support if they have not been published or discussed? Heiko) The British EC was under no obligation to invite him to address the CC. Yet he was not only asked to speak but given the same time as the IS. After this, he was given every opportunity to put his ideas forward. The first meeting to discuss the question was a London aggregate, the contributions to the debate by JM and RS, adopted the method of falsifying the arguments of your opponent. On this basis there cannot be a democratic debate even if there is a formally democratic procedure. (Heiko)
The systematic falsification of HK’s argument increased at the CC in January 2009, where JM, RS and AW in addition to FW, all comrades on the IS, contributed by falsifying the position put by HK, leaning on the fact that most CC comrades had not actually read HK’s document. Thus the discussion was diverted from a discussion of whether China is a form of workers state, a deformed workers’ state, into a spurious line of argument from the IS comrades that HK argues that China is “genuine socialism” and the Communist Party a “genuine workers’ party”. A method of falsification that In Defence of Democratic Centralism takes to a new high! The IS comrades were incapable of discussing the substance of the arguments revealing a shockingly low theoretical level at the heart of the leadership of our international on this absolutely determining issue for the future of the world revolutionary movement.
In the mean time HK was elected to the CC. The IS comrades gave the National Conference and the CC spurious and by self-admission false reasons to oppose him being elected to the CC. When on the CC, HK used the constitutional right to demand the document be circulated within 28 days to compel the leadership to disseminate the document to all members. Even then JM claimed the constitution did not permit dissemination. But as the constitution was so explicit it was impossible for the IS comrades to justify concealing such a document. These comrades then started saying the constitution needs to be changed. (Heiko)
The “totalitarian” IS would
have liked to be able to reply to it, but did not have the time (we
were busy with problems in Spain). So his document was circulated to
all members of the British section without a reply. The recordings of
the CC session were also made available to all members. It was HK who demanded that the audio file be made available and only when he demanded that they be made available under the constitutional rules did the leaderhip permit this. (HK) That is how his
ideas were “trampled on” and discussion on China “stifled”.
has several times alleged that the decision on whether China was
capitalist or not was taken empirically, in a light-minded way, out of
a survey an IS member made “after a few beers one night” at the world
school in Barcelona in 2005.
If you listen to the audio files of the summation by Fred in Barcelona it is completely clear that a decision on the class nature of China was made at the school. You can hear Jordi heckle Fred asking “well it is capitalist or not” Fred finished with the words “So comrades China is capitalist. There that wasn’t so difficult was it?” I argued that an Spanish comrades put pressure on the IS to produce this ultra-left line again this is clear in the contributions from leading Spanish comrades. (Heiko)
This is typical of the tone of those who
constantly moan about the “tone” of the IS. It is a tone of sneering cynicism
that conceals complete dishonesty. Needless to say, HK’s allegations
contain not an atom of truth. The process we followed is explained in
the IS document China: What is the real nature of the regime? – A reply to HK and JC:
importance of developments in China explains why at the 2005 World
School we decided to hold a special session dedicated to the subject.
In the process of researching into material (what souces were researched? China's Long march to Capitalism does not indicate any extensive research, it does however indicate sloppy, incompetent, inaccurate research methods, many of these errors were explosed in the Critique. (HK)) for that discussion it
became apparent that the process of capitalist restoration had gone
much further than we had imagined. As a result the IS began the work of
drafting a document, the outlines of which were discussed at the
January 2006 IEC. A draft was finally finished and sent to the sections
for translation and discussion. At the 2006 World Congress we
discussed, voted on and approved the document, China’s Long March to Capitalism…There was one amendment, which was passed and a critical contribution from comrade CB in Italy…”
might wonder where HK and JC were throughout this process that engaged
the whole international in a serious discussion for months. The answer is: they did not participate in it. Comrade
JC complains about the debate on China at the 2006 World Congress. But
he was not present at that Congress. Why? Maybe the totalitarian IS
stopped him from attending. Maybe he was not told about it? No, he was
definitely informed about it and nobody stopped him from attending. The
only reason was that he had decided to take a year’s holiday with his
family, and this took precedence over the World Congress, although he
was actually on holiday in Barcelona while the Congress was taking
was during this year’s holiday (as he has told us) that JC developed
his important differences on China. However, the first rule of
democracy is: you must be there.
JC was not there, for reasons that cannot be regarded as serious and
therefore has no right to complain about anything. At the world
congress, China was debated and different opinions were expressed.
Comrade CB of the Italian EC had differences with the IS position and
was given extra time in the debate to put forward his point of view,
which he did in a very interesting and coherent manner. He also
expressed his opinions in writing and this was circulated to the IEC
for consideration. This is the correct way to express differences in
is a complex and important question and deserves to be discussed
seriously. It is not surprising that there should be differences on
China. It would be surprising if there were none. Unfortunately, the
irresponsible and anarchistic way in which this important question has
been used by HK and JC has diverted attention away from China
altogether. The IS held a meeting with JC in the autumn and told him that the debate on China is closed, and the debate at the world school as "very bad" (HK).
with the slightest experience of our International knows that there is
not a shred of truth in the accusation about a bureaucratic centralist
leadership. JC knows very well that his differences on China have been
circulated to the whole International. Not only that, he was invited to
speak at the 2009 World School and put his position on China with the
same time as the IS representative. Who issued this invitation? None
other than the IS.
has to admit that, for a totalitarian bureaucracy, the IS has handled
things rather badly. But maybe this invitation was issued because of
the tremendous pressure of the rank and file of the International?
Well, no. As a matter of fact, there was no demand for comrade JC to
speak, and we received very many protests after he had spoken. We were
obliged to draw his attention to the many complaints we had from
comrades, which greatly surprised him, as he thought he had spoken
extremely well. No doubt this is why he concluded that the IS was – a
“bureaucracy” or at least “a regime that uses bureaucratic rules”.
and co. complaints make a lot of noise about censorship, the need for a
free flow of information and whether “the leadership must be in
complete control”, but then on what model do they organise their
faction? “At the intranet site discussions and documents will be moderated by an elected
admin staff”. But surely this is bureaucracy! (is electing an administration of a web site a bureaucracy? This really is a little childish! (HK) In the same letter to the
IS they add: “We can assure you that if we reach an agreement we will
make sure that all members of our faction follow it.” This sounds to us
more like the offer of a Mafioso leader. What will happen with those
members of their faction who do not follow the agreement? Will they be
disciplined? Will they be expelled from the faction? The increasing pressure of the leadership for everyone to distance themselves from HK meant that it was natural and correct to try to disprove the diversionary tactics of the leadership by taking attention away from HK himself, and focusing instead on the issues, thus it was felt that it was good to state that HK would not run a one man campaign, but would collaborate with other comrades and carry out our collective decisions on action. (HK)
comrades have now “declared themselves” to be a faction. This is yet
another example of their frivolous attitude towards the International
and its structures and rules. Within
the structures of the International, there is ample opportunity for any
comrade to express differences and criticisms: the branches, district
committees, aggregates and conferences, the ECs and CCs of national
sections, national congresses, the IEC, the world congresses and
internal bulletins. It has been a long established tradition that
before posing the question of a faction, it is necessary to have
exhausted all these possibilities. Does "a long established tradition" constitute exactly the same thing as "rules and structures" or is this a means of trying to confuse the two to justify the denial of faactional rights? (HK)
Was this done? In
the branches, there are regular discussions in which everyone is free
to participate. There are also regular congresses (usually once a year)
when the branches discuss documents and vote on them. They also elect
delegates to the congress, which debates the documents, amends them and
finally votes on them. In the constant emphasis on a pyramidical structure of discussion, no collaboration between comrades outside of specific geographic areas is envisioned or permitted within these "structures" and collaboration across national frontiers is similarly forbidden in this theory of "long established tradition", that is in fact the negation of Marxist internationalism, in favour a form of bureaucratic federalism. (HK)
In Britain we attempted to change the leadership of the organization by proposing at the CC that 3 members of the new executive committee be changed. The leadership responded with hysterical outbursts and manoeuvres, which so shocked Andy Viner, who was one of the alternative candidates (Andy is a Union official on the London Underground) that he resigned from the organization.
At the following CC meeting Ian Ilett proposed that the CC determine the roles of the EC comrades, at which Fred D'A. threatened a boycott of the CC vote and a walkout. He claimed that the EC is more powerful constitutionally than the CC. (Heiko)
are well aware that some comrades who support this document do not
bother to attend branches. We also note that comrades who support the
document (including the comrade who wrote it) have not “bothered to
express what they think” on the leading bodies to which they were
whose fault is that? Who has prevented them from putting forward their
ideas on these bodies? Was it the totalitarian bureaucratic leadership
of the International? No, it was not. Nobody ever prevented them from
defending these ideas. Yet they never did so, but instead they rush to
form a faction, send emails to everybody and his uncle, and send out a
series of alarmist documents attacking the International, which they
have light-mindedly made available to our enemies.
Who are “our enemies?” there are many people in various socialist groups outside our ranks are these really to be considers as 'our enemies'? Many of them by the way seem to think that the IMT should try by all means to remain united. 'Our enemies' are primarily the capitalists and their representatives not other socialists in fact the language of this document seems to imply that we are the biggest enemies!
Sadly the IS and British EC, the latter being an extension of the former, wrote in World Perspective and British Perspectives 2010 of a perspective of purging the petty bourgeois out of the organisation. Now these same quotes are repeated in this document! Call me stupid, but I think it is rational to make a connection between these documents. These shameful parts of the perspectives documents are in fact an undeclared factional call by the IS to expel people who disagree with the IS. (Heiko)
JC or ML, two members of the IEC, ever put these ideas forward in the
IEC, giving the elected leadership a chance to express their opinions
on it? No, they have not. Have they put forward their idea of forming a
faction in the Swedish Central Committee and asked its opinion? No,
they have not. Have the Polish comrades who claim to speak for the
Polish section ever put these ideas before the membership and asked for
their opinion? No, they have not. We doubt whether the position in the
Iranian group is any different.
regard to factions within the organization, there has been a lot of
confusion, which has not been helped by the conduct of comrade JC and
co. This comrade thinks that factions are a good thing. He says in his document that factions are “a necessary part of working out a political line”:
is a strange phenomena that the claim that factions leads to hostility
is put forward without any evidence whatsoever. It is just assumed to
be correct, when the exact opposite is the case. Factions politicize
conflicts. They force comrades to state openly what they actually stand
for. They have to consider that they have to defend what they are
saying in front of the ranks of the organization. They have to put down
energy in trying to convince the ranks, not in manoeuvring behind the
scenes. This creates and altogether healthier, and, if you like,
friendlier atmosphere. The Russian Social Democratic Party and the
Bolsheviks had many factions and factions within factions. Some of the
conflicts were very bitter politically, but that did not mean that
different constellations were not continuously being created based not
on personal hostilities but on political differences. Thus Lenin,
Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Plekhanov and many more of the leaders of
Russian Marxism sometimes found themselves in the same faction and
sometimes in different factions.” (Appendix to Forward to Democratic centralism! By JC, February 12, 2010.)
is true that there were many factions in the history of Bolshevism. But
it is not true that Lenin thought that factions were a good thing, as
the document suggests. On the contrary, at best he regarded them as a
necessary evil, or last resort, which is the view we take. Factions are a last resort. They should not be resorted to in a light-minded manner, nor should they be encouraged.
Well it is quite clear that you think one thing and we think another on this question. We think is it essential to save the IMT from destruction revealed by the break up of key sections of the International and intellectual deviations on other theoretical issues, eg. China and economics. So we seek to come together on a national and world scale to combine to discuss our concerns and develop our ideas and platforms. This is a faction, like it or not whether something is defined as “light-minded” is hardly an objective criteria. (Heiko)
are many channels through which comrades can express their ideas in the
International. It is ridiculous to suggest that in order to have a
serious discussion it is necessary to form a faction. All the
experience of the sects shows that a light-minded attitude to factions
is a recipe, not for a good political debate and a friendly tone, but
on the contrary, it is a sure way of fomenting crises and splits. We
have no intention of going down that road.
But what are the means of combination between comrades on a national or international level who agree that we need to bring about fundamental change, for example changing the leadership? (Heiko)
right to form a faction is not automatic. Before taking such a serious
step, it is necessary to exhaust all the normal channels of debate and
discussion within the organization. The International does not
recognise self-proclaimed groups and factions. This is an anarchistic
and undemocratic method and is completely unacceptable.
We are not asking to form a faction, we have formed a faction, we are not children in a middle class Victorian salon asking permission to speak. (Heiko)
The document states that Factions are not in every case permissible, and that in any case Lenin only supported them on some occasions not all. First of all, just how much in common does the RSDLP and the Bolshevik faction of the RSDLP, and its various groupings have in common with a modern revolutionary organisation. Second of all, if we're going to be using Lenin to justify everything we do, then we could go on forever trading quotes. Third and most importantly, it is should be self evident that any minority position, in a democratic organisation, should have the right to form a Faction if they so chose. }Chris Borges|
Lenin in 1906
comrades try and drag in Lenin to justify their attacks on democratic
centralism. Even then they can only find a phrase from 1906 to justify
their position. Following a most peculiar logic, the comrades of the “3
ECs” call for “Back to Lenin” – not the Lenin of 1917, but “the Lenin of 1906”.
What is the reason for this strange proposal? Presumably Lenin had the
right idea in 1906, but for some obscure reason, he no longer had the
right idea thereafter. We do not know why.
attempt to use Lenin by the comrades is simply absurd. Let us recall
that the original division between Bolsheviks and Mensheviks was a
split between the “hards” and the “softs”. The Bolshevik Lenin was very
hard when the situation demanded it. As Trotsky explained,
“Revolutionary centralism is a harsh, imperative and exacting
principle. It often takes the guise of absolute ruthlessness in its
relation to individual members, to whole groups and former associates.
It is not without significance that the words ‘irreconcilable’ and
‘relentless’ are among Lenin’s favourites.” (Trotsky, My Life, p.177.)
quoting Lenin, whether it is in 1906 or any other year, one needs to
understand the context in which he was writing. Unfortunately, the
comrades are not interested in this. All they are interested in doing
is using an isolated quote from Lenin to justify their position. If you
look hard enough you can find an isolated quote to prove almost
anything. This is a dishonest method. Lenin’s emphasis
does change at different stages of the development of the party. That
is true. But at all times he stands for centralized control of the
party’s work and publications, as we shall show.
RSDLP had split at its Second Congress in 1903 into two factions,
Bolsheviks and Mensheviks. But the 1905 Revolution brought the two
factions closer together. The membership of the party grew enormously
reaching 84,000 within the following 18 months. As a result, a Unity
Congress of both factions of the party was held in Stockholm between
April and May 1906. Lenin’s platform was written for this Congress.
It must always be remembered that in 1906 the Bolsheviks were not an independent party but a faction inside the RSDLP
and acted as such. This fact is reflected in Lenin’s writings at the
time, when he obviously advocated the most “liberal” application of the
rules, for factional purposes.
He was defending the rights of the Bolshevik faction to put across its
views unhindered by the Menshevik opportunists. However, even at that
time he maintained a principled position on centralism.
Given that the Bolsheviks themselves were a faction how can you argue that Lenin did not like factions? Obviously Lenin wanted to have a unified party on the Bolshevik programme but so be it, so he organised the faction. (Heiko)
always had a flexible attitude to organization. At this point in time
(1906) his overriding consideration was how to strengthen the
ideological position of Bolshevism within the RSDLP. While Lenin is
arguing for democratic centralism, at the same time he is obliged to
wage war within the Party against the Mensheviks, who were drifting
further to the right: “Against this tendency of our Right Social
Democrats we must wage a most determined, open and ruthless ideological
struggle. We should seek the widest possible discussion of the
decisions of the Party.” (Lenin, Collected Works, May 1906, vol. 10, p.380.)
Prior to the Unity Congress of the RSDLP, Lenin wrote an article called Party Organization and Party Literature (November 1905), in which he outlines his views:
of all, we are discussing party literature and its subordination to
party control”, states Lenin. “Everyone is free to write and say
whatever he likes, without any restrictions. But every voluntary
association (including the party) is also free to expel members who use
the name of the party to advocate anti-party views.” (LCW, 13th November 1905, vol. 10, p.47.)
What exactly did he mean by anti-party views. Surely not the differing views and opinions of various comrades who disagreed with specific issues and questions of practice, but rather those that expressly went against the ideas that form the ethos of a revolutionary organisation? [Chris Borges|
He goes on to explain what is meant by “anti-party” and goes on to criticize those advocating “freedom of criticism”:
party is a voluntary organization, which would inevitably break up,
first ideologically and then physically, if it did not cleanse itself
of people advocating anti-party views. And to define the border-line
between party and anti-party there is the party programme, the party’s
resolutions on tactics and its rules, and lastly, the entire experience
of International Social Democracy, the voluntary international
associations of the proletariat, which has constantly brought into its
parties individual elements and trends not fully consistent, not
completely Marxist and not altogether correct, and which, on the other
hand, has constantly conducted ‘cleansings’ of its ranks. So it will be
with us too, supporters of bourgeois ‘freedom of criticism’, within the party.” (Ibid, vol. 10, p.47.)
The comrades refer to Lenin’s phrase “Freedom to Criticize, Unity of Action”, which he put forward in an article 20th May 1906. But they conveniently forget to explain that this
was written after the Mensheviks had gained a majority at the Unity
Congress and took control of the editorial board of the Party’s paper
and took a majority on the Central Committee.
The three Bolsheviks elected to the CC were supposed to act in Lenin’s
words “as a kind of supervisors and guardians of the rights of the
opposition.” (Ibid, vol. 10, p.375.)
In the above article of 20th
May, Lenin refers to a resolution from the Menshevik-dominated CC,
“that in the IParty press and at Party meetings, everybody must be
allowed full freedom to express his opinions and to advocate his individual views.”
criticizes this resolution saying: “No ‘calls’ that violate the unity
of definite actions can be tolerated either at public meetings, or at
Party meetings, or in the Party press. […]
“The CC’s resolution is essentially wrong and runs counter to the Party Rules. The principle of democratic centralism and autonomy for local Party organizations implies universal and full freedom to criticize so long as this does not disturb the unity of a definite action; it rules out all criticism which disrupts or makes difficult the unity of action decided on by the Party.” (Ibid, vol. 10, p.443.)
Lenin goes on to clarify further what he means. “In the heat of battle, when the proletarian army is straining every nerve, no criticism whatsoever
can be permitted in its ranks. But before the call for action is
issued, there should be the broadest and freest discussion and
appraisal of the resolution, of its arguments and various
propositions.” (Ibid, p.381.)
Are we in the «heart of battle»? Should we run our organisation based on the siege mentality that was necessitated by the events occurring in Russia cicra 1906? Lenin made it clear that in his opinion, there should be full freedom to criticise, as long as it doesn't impair unity of action. The problem in our organisation is that the freedom to criticise is not valued under any circumstances, and if debate is never held and held freely, how can we move forward with unity of action? [CB]
again Lenin sharpens his definition. “Freedom of discussion, unity of
action – this is what we must strive to achieve. But beyond the bonds
of unity of action, there must be the broadest and freest discussion
and condemnation of all steps, decisions and tendencies that we regard
as harmful.” (Ibid, p.381.)
1906 to 1912, the Bolsheviks were working inside a party controlled by
the Menshevik Liquidators. That determined Lenin’s tactics and also his
attitude towards organizational questions. He advocated greater freedom
of criticism and factional activities because they were working in an
alien milieu. Under such conditions his attitude was quite logical, but
only someone totally ignorant of the history of Bolshevism could regard
this as the norm.
with the opportunists could not last. This struggle against opportunism
ended in a final split with the Mensheviks and the creation of the
Bolshevik Party in 1912. Two years later, there was yet another split:
the split in the Second International, between the forces of
revolutionary socialism and social chauvinism. At no time did Lenin
portray these splits as a “tragedy” or a “disaster”. Like Engels he
showed nothing but contempt for the unity mongers who tried to bring
about reconciliation with mutually incompatible tendencies.
Lenin’s attitude got in common with those who try to paint the split in
the International as a great catastrophe, or with those who run around
in ever-decreasing circles crying “Crisis! Crisis!” or who say they are
demoralized? Lenin was not afraid of a split. On the contrary, he
recognized that a break with the Mensheviks and the building of the
Party on Bolshevik lines was inevitable, necessary and positive.
What Lenin really stood for
JC is so fond of Lenin, let us remind ourselves of what Lenin really
stood for: “Social-Democracy is a definite organizationally united body
and those who refuse to submit to the discipline of this organization,
who ignore it and flout its decisions, do not belong to it. Such is the
“But the liquidator who let the cat out of the bag is also right. He is right when he says that those who do not subscribe to Social-Democratic ideas do not belong to the Social-Democracy.” (LCW, 29th October 1913, vol.19, p.468, emphasis in original.)
working class needs unity. But unity can be effected only by a united
organization whose decisions are consciously carried out by all
class-conscious workers. Discussing the problem, expressing and hearing
different opinions, ascertaining the views of the majority
of the organized Marxists, expressing these views in the form of
decisions adopted by delegates and carrying them out conscientiously –
this is what reasonable people all over the world call unity.” (Ibid, 3rd December 1913, vol.19, p.519, emphasis in original.)
quotations reflect the real evolution of Lenin’s ideas on organization
and the party: the principles of democratic centralism, where after
democratic discussion a majority view becomes the view of the party and
the minority has to respect the decision of the majority. Lenin
explained the need to “pursue their Party
line under all conditions, in all circumstances and in all kinds of
situations, to influence their environment in the spirit of the whole
party, and not allow the environment to swallow them up.” (Ibid, 28th January 1909, vol.15, p.354, emphasis in original.)
The leadership seem to think that this applies to all manner of theoretical questions as well issues of action. So no views on China can be disseminated except that voted on. Only comrade Alan Woods is himself so confused about China that he has put a confused version of China being a deformed workers state in recent speeches on China. Francesco claimed at the Winter School that China is not yet capitalist but is moving towards capitalism. With such confusion how can anyone be expected to defend a line on China? (Heiko)
1909, after the expulsion of Maximov [Bogdanov] from the Bolsheviks,
Lenin wrote: “The question here is not a split in the [Bolshevik]
section but in comrade Maximov’s break-away from the extended editorial
board of Proletary”.
And he continued: “Our supporters should not be afraid of an internal ideological struggle, once it is necessary. They will be all stronger for it. It is our duty
to bring our differences out into the open, the more so since, in point
of fact, the whole Party is beginning to line up more and more with our
trend. We call on our Bolshevik comrades for ideological clarity and
for sweeping away all backstairs gossip, from whatever source it may
are no end of people who would like to see the ideological struggle on
momentous cardinal issues side-tracked into petty squabbles like those
conducted by the Mensheviks after the Second Congress. Such people must
not be tolerated in the ranks of the Bolsheviks. The Bolshevik working
men should strongly discourage such attempts and insist on one thing,
and one thing alone: ideological clarity, definite opinions, a line based on principle.
Once this complete ideological clarity is achieved, all Bolsheviks will
be able on matters of organization to display the unanimity and
solidarity that our wing of the Party has always displayed hitherto.”
(Ibid, 28th January 1909, vol.15, p.359, emphasis in original.)
Bogdanov, with the connivance of Gorky, organized factional Party
School in Capri, where the ideas of the revisionists were promoted,
Lenin condemned it:
“After considering the question of the school at Capri, the extended editorial board of Proletary
is of the opinion that the organization of this school by the promotion
group (which includes comrade Maximov [Bogdanov], a member of the
extended editorial board) has from the outset been proceeded with over
the heads of the editorial board of Proletary and been accompanied by agitation against the latter. The
steps so far taken by the promotion group make it perfectly clear that
under the guise of this school a new centre is being formed for a
faction breaking away from the Bolsheviks.”
continues, “the extended editorial board, on the evidence of the whole
line of conduct of the initiators of the school at Capri, declares that
the aims pursued by these initiators are not aims common to the
Bolshevik wing as a whole, as an ideological trend in the Party, but
are the private aims of a group with a separate ideology and policy.” He described these tactics as “fatal to the Party.” (Ibid, 3rd
July 1909 p.444.) They were fatal then, and they are not less fatal
now. And he added: “The important thing here is correctly to understand
the formulation of the question of the ‘Party Line’ of the Bolsheviks…”
(Ibid, 8-17 June 1909, vol. 15, p.432.)
trust in leadership! Everyone must lead! Make public our discussions
and disputes! Bring out every criticism! No collective responsibility!
No secrecy! No control! Set up factions! Constant discussions! Down
with bureaucracy! Down with centralism! Every criticism must be
encouraged! These are the slogans that are being constantly shouted by
the comrades, in the hope that this deafening chorus will so numb the
minds of our members that they will forget to think.
The comrades object to what they call “top down leadership”. The
comrades have a clear problem with leadership. “Our organisation often
emphasises that the working class needs a leadership. This emphasis on
leadership we very much have in common with the bourgeoisie.” (p.10.)
After this, they leap to the conclusion: “In the poor material world of
revolutionary politics this leadership by prestige is reflected in
among other things in who does the important lead-offs and who writes the important documents.”
criticism would appear to be aimed at the leaders of the national
sections and the international. The universal rule for avoiding
“top-downism” is: leaders should not give the important lead-offs or write the important documents.
However, on closer inspection it immediately loses its general
character, and we are faced with some important exceptions. Who gave
the lead-off at the recent Winter School on democratic centralism? It
was comrade JC. And who wrote the main faction document? It was JC and
ML (the Swedish IEC members), aided by the leaders of the Polish and
led off in the important debate against the Spanish at the Swedish CC
in December? Yes, it was comrade JC and ML. Furthermore they prevented
NA from putting forward the position of the IS with the argument that
JC would defend it. But as we know JC does not share the position of
the IS. He put forward his own position. What about Iran? The main
lead-offs are done by RM, who, as we have discovered, gives anybody who
disagrees with him a very rough time. We have received numerous
complaints about this bullying behaviour from young Iranian comrades
who dare to contradict him. According to comrade JC, all this must be a
manifestation of “prestige leadership”. But as always with these
comrades, it is a question of “don’t do as I do, but do as I say!”
The IS talks about bullying, and then goes on to make personal attacks themselves. So typical of their behaviour, whereas Forward to DC never indulged in specific anecdotes, these comrades see it fit to make unsubstantiated accusations against duly elected comrades. [CB]
The comrades maintain that they defend Lenin’s concept of the Party. But
in the Bolshevik tendency, even in 1906, who wrote the documents and
resolutions? Who gave the main speeches at the Congresses and Central
Committees? Who wrote the editorials and main theoretical articles of
the Bolshevik press? Was it a “free-for-all” in which the youngest and
most inexperienced member was asked to write the document and articles
and give the lead-offs? No, sad to say, this task was reserved for the
“top leaders”, usually Lenin. That was the case even in 1906, and it
was the case in 1917 and until Lenin was laid low by illness.
So as we can see, in the Bolshevik Party we have a very bad case of “top down leadership”.
What have the comrades who, for reasons that are incomprehensible, call
themselves “the Bolshevik faction” got to say about this? Presumably,
comrade JC would sternly correct Vladimir Ilyich, reprimanding him for
his “top-downism”. He would complain about boring lead-offs that
constantly repeated the same old ideas (Lenin did defend the “old
ideas” – of Marxism), stifling orthodoxy, and so on and so forth.
Actually, these complaints against Lenin were made many times – by the
Economists, Mensheviks and other revisionists.
main purpose of a revolutionary organization is precisely the opposite:
to raise the level of the new and inexperienced comrades to a higher
level. This cannot be done “from the bottom up” but precisely – “from
the top down.” Lenin insisted precisely on this question in his
analysis of what happened at the 1903 congress:
a matter of fact, the entire position of the opportunists in
organizational questions already began to be revealed in the
controversy over Paragraph 1: their advocacy of a diffuse, not strongly
welded, Party organization; their hostility to the idea (the
“bureaucratic” idea) of building the Party from the top downwards,
starting from the Party Congress and the bodies set up by it; their
tendency to proceed from the bottom upwards, allowing every professor,
every high school student and “every striker” to declare himself a
member of the Party; their hostility to the “formalism” which demands
that a Party member should belong to one of the organizations
recognised by the Party; their leaning towards the mentality of the
bourgeois intellectual, who is only prepared to “accept organizational
relations platonically”; their penchant for opportunist profundity and
for anarchistic phrases; their tendency towards autonomism as against
centralism—in a word, all that is now blossoming so luxuriantly in the
new Iskra, and is helping more and more to reveal fully and graphically the initial error.” (Lenin, Preface to One Step Forward, Two Steps Back, our emphasis).
is the Leninist position and it is the exact opposite of what JC is
arguing. What does the programme elaborated in comrade JC’s document
really add up to? It is a programme for the liquidation
of the revolutionary tendency, to use Lenin’s expression (in 1906!).
The comrades want an organization in which everyone can be free to say
and act as they please internally and in public. They wish to question everything. But on closer examination, they
do not question everything but only the basic political and
organizational principles of the International, of Marx, Engels, Lenin,
Trotsky and comrade EG. They attack, not the theories of the
bourgeoisie, but only those of Marxism and Bolshevism.
reminds us of the man who wishes to quench his thirst by drinking salt
water. Here we have the transformation of the revolutionary
organization into a talking shop, a discussion club for intellectuals
who spend all their time “deepening” their understanding of the world. Such people are always trying to get to the bottom of a well that has no bottom. It was about people like this that Hegel wrote in the Phenomenology: “But just as there is a breadth which is emptiness, there is a depth which is empty too”.
can agree or disagree with what the leadership says or does. That is
the right of any member. But it is necessary to propose an alternative
that would be better. The leadership is elected and can, if necessary,
be removed by a simple vote. So far, the only alternative we have heard
is that of HK, who believes there should be no International leadership.
We consider this proposal to be incorrect, but it is at least coherent,
and consistent – consistent with an anarchist viewpoint, not that of
Marxism. What is neither coherent nor consistent is to elect a
leadership and then spread mistrust towards it, organize a guerrilla
war against it and undermine it by every means.
argues as follows: “There should not be an ‘International Centre’,
which ‘does the International work’. Instead there should be an
International composed of members who are in constant
intercommunication.” (HK document Marxists & the Internet, p.1.) We
note that this line has been subsequently changed. Evidently, HK’s
overtly anarchist views are embarrassing for other members of the
“Bolshevik” faction. They do not, of course, disagree with his views
but he expresses himself too frankly, too openly, and the aim of
abolishing the organization is too obvious. This is inconvenient.
Therefore, in order to cover the tracks, they reworded it as follows:
should not be a single location for the ‘International Centre’, which
‘does the International work’. Instead there should be an International composed of members in constant intercommunication.”
is mere playing with words. What substantial difference is there in
saying that there should be no international centre or that the
international centre should be disseminated in a network of comrades
located in different countries? Let us dispense with sophistry and
word-play and say what you really mean to say: that there should be no international centre.
This is tantamount to advocating the dissolution of the International
into an anarchist jumble of autonomous national sections or interlinked
cyber-warriors. That was precisely the idea that Bakunin advocated and
Marx fought against with all his might. Over a century later, under the
guise of advocating “new ideas”, the comrades are reviving the old
bankrupt ideas of Bakunin.
matters do not end there. If you say A, you must also say B, C and D.
The existence of an International centre contains a serious risk of
bureaucratic degeneration. By exactly the same logic, there should also be no national centre either, but only autonomous national centres “composed of members who are in constant intercommunication." Likewise, there should be no branches, congresses or conferences. Delegates may degenerate too. Why should we elect delegates (and thereby sacrifice part of our freedom and autonomy), when we can all be in a state of constant intercommunication by courtesy of the Internet?
argument for “direct democracy”, superficially attractive though it is,
is full of holes. In the real world, most men and women have to work
for a living. They cannot be “in constant intercommunication" because
they cannot be constantly before a computer screen. Admittedly, there
are exceptions, and HK is one of them. There are people who have all
the time in the world to sit before their computer, sending a
never-ending stream of emails about everything imaginable and some
things that are unimaginable too.
us accept, for the sake of argument, that we must abolish conferences
and congresses in favour of the system of “constant
intercommunication". Would this really be more democratic? In the real
world it would lead to a situation where the internal life of the
organization would be dominated, not by an elected leadership, but by a
few individuals with unlimited time to sit before a computer all day
and subject the organization to an unending barrage of emails.
method is not democratic. Actually it comes very close to a refined
form of intimidation and bullying, especially if it is accompanied by a
brawling tone and all manner of accusations, threats and ultimatums.
The recent months are sufficient proof of this. It is actually the
opposite of democracy, where every comrade is entitled to put his or
her point of view in a democratic debate where all sides of the
argument can be heard.
debate takes place, firstly, at the branch, then at regional level,
through aggregates and conferences, then at national congresses, and
finally at the international level, in the world congress. Delegates
are elected on the basis of a democratic discussion in which every
member is free to participate. It is important that minority views
should be given a fair hearing at the debates that are held at every
level, up to the world congress. In addition, minority views can be
expressed in internal bulletins that must be available to all the
the principle of democracy states that the majority must decide the
political line of the organization. This is decided by the congress at
national and international level, and the decisions of the congress
must be respected. It is sometimes hard to be in a minority, but in a
democracy, the minority must accept the verdict of the majority. What
is not acceptable is a situation where any individual, or group of
individuals, can do just as they wish with no regard for the wishes of
the majority. That is the position that is now being put forward by the
comrades of the “Bolshevik” faction.
HK document was a draft, a rough one at that, and was not released to be published in any way, shape or form with the document to which they are supposed to be replying. Nowhere does the document refer to, or Forward to DC, refer to the abolition of congresses, branches etc. [CB]
the fall of Stalinism, many people, particularly the ex-Stalinists,
have abandoned Marxism and the struggle for socialism altogether, and
set off on quixotic quests for “new ideas and methods” (which, like the
pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, they never find). The general
atmosphere of ideological confusion, questioning of Marxist “orthodoxy”
and rejection of theory can have a negative effect on some of our own
is a shrill demand for “new ideas”, “new methods” and a revision of the
fundamental postulates of Marxism, which is identified with dogmatism,
“orthodoxy” or even “Stalinism”. There is nothing new in this. Marx,
Lenin, Engels and Trotsky all had to deal with the same campaign for
“new ideas”, which is always the battle-cry of every revisionist from
Dühring and Bernstein to Dieterich and now some of the would-be
“original thinkers” in our own ranks.
is what JC writes: “Lead-offs and contributions are mere incantations…
deadly boredom begins to emerge. The mind closes up… [our books] have
the character of text books that summarise old established ideas and
break no new ground. So unlike the Marxist classics… gender equality,
the environment, art and culture just ran on in the old tracks… There
has been an ossification of thought.”
passing, we could point out that Lenin already answered JC in advance,
when he wrote: “high-sounding phrases against the ossification of
thought, etc., conceal unconcern and helplessness with regard to the
development of theoretical thought.” (Lenin, What is to be Done, Part 1 a. What Does “Freedom of Criticism” Mean?) Even the language is the same!
continues: “The leadership should help somebody with an opposing view
to find the best way to make himself as clear as possible. Not by stamping down on new or different opinions, but by encouraging them. The leadership should learn from these opinions… This is how we develop real cadres. And a real leadership”! (Our emphasis.)
definitely ought to listen to all opinions of all comrades. But this
does not imply that we all ideas have to be encouraged. In our
innocence we had always believed that it was the task of the leadership
to educate the members in the ideas of Marxism and encourage the young
comrades to read the classics and learn. But it seems we were mistaken.
It is the task of the leadership to ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO MAKE MISTAKES!
long as EG was alive this kind of thing was unthinkable. He was always
implacable in his defence of “orthodox Marxism”. He would never
tolerate the kind of superficial dilettantism that passes for “original
thought” in middle class university circles. Some people thought he was
unjust. They complained a lot in corners that one man should always
lead off and write all the most important documents. Oh yes, we have
heard all this before.
big factor in the split of the old organisation was the petty jealousy
and frustration of small minded people who resented EG’s enormous
theoretical superiority. They rankled under his withering criticism and
grumbled under their breath, but rarely dared to come out against him
in public. EG kept the organization on the correct road – the road of
Marxism. Once the split took place the political and organizational
degeneration of the old organisation became irreversible.
however, things have changed. EG is no longer with us, and the critics
of “orthodoxy” are beginning to overcome their timidity. The demand is
raised with ever greater insistency: “down with Orthodoxy!” “Give us
new ideas!” “We demand the complete freedom of criticism!” Recently we
were informed that a small group of comrades wish to form faction in
Britain not only on “internal democracy”, but on: class nature of
China, causes of capitalist crisis, empiricism, routinism, voluntarism,
and, of course, the ever-present “drift towards bureaucracy”.
is spared – even, according to some, the origin of the family and art.
All must be criticised and revised! And everyone must have the right to
say just whatever they think – no matter how superficial, ignorant or
just plain absurd. It is not the first time that we have heard this
peremptory demand for the “freedom to criticize”, and the persistent demand for “new ideas” is neither new nor accidental. Lenin referred to this long ago in What is to be Done?
of criticism’ is undoubtedly the most fashionable slogan at the present
time, and the one most frequently employed in the controversies between
socialists and democrats in all countries. At first sight, nothing
would appear to be stranger than the solemn appeals to freedom of
criticism made by one of the parties to the dispute. Have voices been
raised in the advanced parties against the constitutional law of the
majority of European countries which guarantees freedom to science and
scientific investigation? ‘Something must be wrong here,’ will be the
comment of the onlooker who has heard this fashionable slogan repeated
at every turn but has not yet penetrated the essence of the
disagreement among the disputants; evidently this slogan is one of the
conventional phrases which, like nicknames, become legitimised by use,
and become almost generic terms.
fact, it is no secret for anyone that two trends have taken form in
present-day international Social-Democracy. The conflict between these
trends now flares up in a bright flame and now dies down and smoulders
under the ashes of imposing ‘truce resolutions’. The essence of the
‘new’ trend, which adopts a ‘critical’ attitude towards ‘obsolete
dogmatic’ Marxism, has been clearly enough presented by Bernstein and demonstrated by Millerand.”
the demand for a decisive turn from revolutionary Social-Democracy to
bourgeois social-reformism was accompanied by a no less decisive turn
towards bourgeois criticism of all the fundamental ideas of Marxism. In
view of the fact that this criticism of Marxism has long been directed
from the political platform, from university chairs, in numerous
pamphlets and in a series of learned treatises, in view of the fact
that the entire younger generation of the educated classes has been
systematically reared for decades on this criticism, it is not
surprising that the ‘new critical’ trend in Social-Democracy should
spring up, all complete, like Minerva from the head of Jove. The
content of this new trend did not have to grow and take shape, it was
transferred bodily from bourgeois to socialist literature.” (What is to be Done?)
What this shows is the pressure of alien ideas: bourgeois and petty bourgeois ideology, inside the ranks of the Marxist movement. Lenin was quite clear and scathing in this respect:
who does not deliberately close his eyes cannot fail to see that the
new ‘critical’ trend in socialism is nothing more nor less than a new
variety of opportunism.
And if we judge people, not by the glittering uniforms they don or by
the high-sounding appellations they give themselves, but by their
actions and by what they actually advocate, it will be clear that
‘freedom of criticism’ means freedom for an opportunist trend in
Social-Democracy, freedom to convert Social-Democracy into a democratic
party of reform, freedom to introduce bourgeois ideas and bourgeois
elements into socialism.”
could have been written with JC in mind. A hundred years later, Comrade
JC uses exactly the same language and exactly the same arguments as the
Russian opportunists who Lenin bitterly opposed. And this is hardly
surprising because he stands for exactly the same tendency: a tendency that seeks to blur, water down, revise, and, if possible, obliterate, the revolutionary essence of Marxism.
What in the IS view would be valid criticism, and when is it appropriate? They don't seem to specify, other than making accusations through quotes that any such defence of the freedom to criticise is petty bourgeois. [CB]
How JC enriches Marxism
JC is one of the main exponents of the gentle art of Criticism. He is
constantly enriching Marxist theories with all kinds of new ideas. At
the 2009 Winter School he surprised an audience of young comrades with
amazing new theoretical formulations such as “Deformed Primitive Communism”
– an entirely new stage of human history (or Prehistory) completely
unknown to Marxist literature. Even these young comrades could see that
this had nothing to do with Marxism, and asked how it was possible for
someone to give a lead-off in a school about something he knew nothing
following is another excellent example of how JC creatively enriches
Marxist thought: “A dialectical contradiction is a unity. Both
centralisation and discussion exist at the same time – all the time!
Otherwise there is no contradiction any longer, only monotonous
uniformity of one or the other. Without contradiction there is no
development. The point is that one or the other will be dominant –
greater, stronger, more noticeable – at any particular time. The unity
of opposites means that perfect equality between opposites is
impossible, except momentarily when one is passing from one side being
dominant to the other side being dominant. As soon as the leadership
tries to artificially decide that one or the other should be dominant and not base itself on what really happens, they either create a thought-free zone or chaos and splits.” (Appendix to Forward to Democratic centralism! By JC, February 12, 2010.)
And this comrade accuses the IS of “mystifying” Marxism! In
the case with China both JC and comrade HK have completely capitulated
to the Chinese bureaucracy, arguing that the latter is playing a progressive role and that the Chinese Communist Party is a genuine workers’ party.
It is quite ironic that these comrades should speak in the name of
comrade EG! Let us accept for the sake of argument that China remains a
deformed workers’ state. Does that mean that we adopt the position of
uncritical support for the Chinese bureaucracy? But that is what these
comrades do, and this is the essence of their “freedom of criticism” –
the abandonment of Marxism in favour of opportunism at every level.
same Lenin wrote: “Without revolutionary theory there can be no
revolutionary movement. This idea cannot be insisted upon too strongly
at a time when the fashionable preaching of opportunism goes hand in
hand with an infatuation for the narrowest forms of practical
activity.” (Lenin, What is to be done?)
struggle for revolutionary theory implies a careful study of Marxism.
It takes many years to educate and train a cadre. There is no easy
road. After all, Marxism is a science. There is nothing worse than the
notion that “everyone must be a theoretician” and “everyone must be
encouraged to say anything they like”. This is the attitude of a petty
bourgeois dilettante, who sees the revolutionary organization only as a
great stage where he or she can show off their oratory talents. Such a
view has nothing whatsoever to do with the views of Lenin – or our
What does this have to do with the document to which this is supposed to be replying? Theoretical points on the debate on the class character of China are not made in Forward to DC, so why are they brought up now? And where in the China Bulletin is it stated by anyone that the CCP is a «genuine workers' party»? [CB]
Rights and duties
sternly criticises the IS for reminding the Spanish EC of their
obligation to pay international subs. He continually distorts the ideas
of Lenin and Trotsky, attempting to portray them as liberals who would
allow any breach of discipline with a smile and a friendly wave of the
hand. The document quotes Trotsky (it is the only quote by him, and
this is hardly an accident) on page 2, and refers to the non-payment of
subs by the Dutch and Belgians:
is very, very good that you are sending a bit of money to the IS. They
were boycotted all the time by the Dutch organisation and half the time
by the Belgian. Your support will have the greatest influence
materially as well as morally upon their activity. In all the
fundamental questions they were right against the Dutch and Belgians.”
(Trotsky, Writings 1937-38, page 161.)
this JC says: “Despite the boycotting of subs, despite political
differences, Trotsky did not pose the expulsion of the Belgium and
Dutch section. There is a simple explanation for this. Precisely
because of the political differences, Trotsky did not want the Fourth
International to cut away the best possible means of reaching the
members of the two dissenting sections and convincing them politically.
This was Trotsky’s most important aim, not using formal obligations as
an excuse to get rid of a political problem.” (p.2.)
says JC! However, in reality Trotsky's attitude was completely
different. Two months earlier Trotsky wrote to the head of the Dutch
section (Sneevliet) about their attitude to the Fourth, including their
refusal to recognise the IS:
personally am ready to do everything in order to reintegrate the Dutch
party into the ranks of the Fourth International… But at the same time
we will free ourselves from equivocation. In any case I say in my own
name, openly: if
you don't accept common rules for collaboration and active solidarity;
if you renounce participating normally, like every other section, in
the International Conference; if you will continue with the totally
ambiguous attitude – in words with the Fourth International, in deeds
against it – then it is better to undergo an open and honest split…
“It is possible that you will use this frank warning in order to accelerate the split. But I have no other choice.” (Trotsky, Writings 1937-38, p.83, our emphasis.)
is hardly the nice, smiling, liberal face that comrade JC would like to
portray. But it is the face of a genuine revolutionary who has a
serious attitude to organizational questions and discipline. He would
never have been accepted into the “Bolshevik” faction. But then, he
would never have asked to join it.
The last paragraph is a purely personal attack on JC and speaks volumes of the theoretical level of this document, so low that they must resort to accusations and demonisation in nearly every section of the document. [CB]
Endless discussions and public debates
There are dialectical contradictions and there absurd contradictions. The contradictions in which JC entangles himself are of the latter sort.
He writes: “Will there not be endless discussions, if the leadership does not limit the discussions? Yes
and no [!!] There will be continuous discussion. But this is nothing to
fear. On the contrary, it is the pre-condition of effective action.”
continues to wriggle: “However, we do not always have to discuss until
everyone agrees. If the continuation of the discussion is going to
hinder our action, especially if we’re going to miss a crucial
opportunity, then the leadership, with the agreement of a majority,
should concentrate on the action, not on discussing.”
And wriggle: “But
why not let those that want to continue discussing do so? If they think
that is more important than an important action, let them do so. They
will just be in the way otherwise. This was Lenin's attitude in October
1917 to Zinoviev and Kamenev. If they don't want an uprising, let them
continue to argue for that. Lenin even said they should do that openly
in the press!! In the meanwhile, he wanted to just get on with
organizing an uprising and not bother with them. It was not until they
went out with the date (!) of the uprising and voted against the
Bolshevik CC's decision in the Soviets that he completely castigated
them as strike breakers. This is a brilliant example of “freedom of
discussion and unity of action” in a most extreme and decisive
situation.” (Appendix to Forward to Democratic centralism! By JC, February 12, 2010.)
is the worst of the innumerable distortions of the history of
Bolshevism of which JC is guilty. Lenin was so impressed by this
“brilliant example” of strike-breaking
that he demanded the expulsion of Kamenev and Zinoviev from the Party!
But we have already said enough to show that comrade JC is completely
ignorant, not just about the history of Bolshevism, but about every
other aspect of Marxist theory. Reading his material brings to mind the
old Russian proverb: a fool can ask more questions than twenty wise men
the resolutions of Communist International in 1921 (the Third
Congress), the rights and responsibilities of membership are outlined
as follows: “The directives and decisions of the leading Party bodies
are binding on subordinate organizations and on all individual
members”. And at the Second Congress, the first condition for admission
into the Communist International states: “The periodical and other
press and all the Party’s publishing institutions be subordinated to
the Party leadership, regardless of whether at any given moment, the
Party as a whole is legal or illegal. The
publishing houses must not be allowed to abuse their independence and
pursue policies that do not entirely correspond to the policies of the
Party.” (Theses, resolutions and Manifestos of First Four Congresses, p.93, our emphasis)
comrades have raised the idea of taking debates into the public domain.
This is not our position. The public organs of the tendency must
reflect the agreed line of the tendency. From time to time, the
leadership may consider it necessary to open a debate on this or that
question. Normally, this would be done in the internal bulletin. Under
certain conditions it could be public. But the decision to go public
must be decided by the elected leadership. It cannot be taken
unilaterally by individuals and groups to suit themselves.
How do we decide what the agreed line of the tendency? And when, and in what circumstance would the IS permit a debate, as they say that it is their role, and only theirs, to decide when it is necessary to have a debate? [CB]
rules of democratic centralism are not the same for a small propaganda
group as they are for a mass party. This issue was dealt with very
clearly by Trotsky when it was raised by the Minority in the American
the Bolshevik Party the opposition had its own public papers, etc. He
[Shachtman] forgets only that the Party at that time had hundreds of
thousands of members, that the discussion had as its task to reach
these hundreds of thousands and to convince them. Under such conditions
it was not easy to confine the discussion to internal circles. On the
other hand the danger of the co-existence of the Party and the
opposition papers was mitigated by the fact that the final decision
depended upon hundreds of thousands of workers and not upon two groups.
The American Party has only a comparatively small number of members,
the discussion was and is more than abundant. The demarcation lines
seem to be firm enough, at least for the next period. Under such
conditions for the opposition to have their own public paper or
magazine is a means not to convince the Party but to appeal against the
Party to the external world.
homogeneity and cohesion of a revolutionary propaganda organization
such as the SWP must be incomparably greater than that of a mass party.
I agree with you that under such conditions the Fourth International
should and could not admit a purely fictitious unity under the cover of
which two independent organizations address the external world with
different theories, different programmes, different slogans and
different organizational principles. Under these conditions an open
split would be a thousand times preferable to such a hypocritical
unity.” (Trotsky, In Defence of Marxism, p.161.)
comrades reject this position. They write: “Everywhere else the fight
is on for our right (!) to be a completely open organization. Anything
else is living in the past”. This method marks a complete break with
Bolshevism. If it were accepted, this approach would inevitably lead to
the dissolution of our organization into the general left. It would
result in the blurring of the differences between revolution and
document mentions the analogy of a strike. What do they say on the
subject? They defend the right of a strike-breaking minority to agitate
against a strike: “In the beginning they will be in a small minority,
but in all likelihood, eventually, there will be a majority opinion in
favour of returning.” One could imagine giving this “democratic” view
to the striking miners during the 1984-85 strike in Britain. “At almost
any strike meeting there will always be somebody arguing in favour of
going back to work. This is completely acceptable by almost all
workers.” With such opinions, more at home in a reactionary newspaper,
we will never win the militant workers of Sweden, Poland, Iran or
content with demanding the right to discuss anything and everything at
all levels, at all times and under all circumstances, the comrades also
demand that we hold our internal debates in public. That is not a
question of principle. It depends on circumstances. Normally, we do not
parade our internal debates in public, like the irresponsible sects.
However, if it were in our interests to organize a public debate on a
particular question, we would not hesitate to do it.
such decisions are not the prerogative of any individual or group of
individuals, who wish to place their private opinions in the public
domain, without any reference to the elected bodies of the
International. That is not our method, but anarchism pure and simple.
We cannot tolerate a free-for-all, where the internal affairs of the
organization can be paraded in the public domain regardless of the
consequences, where sensitive internal correspondence is sent to the
enemies of the International and our work is systematically sabotaged.
That is something no serious organization could ever allow.
The Spanish question
did not look for a split in Spain, and did everything in our power to
avoid it. We remind JC that in July 2009 he was highly critical of the
IS for making too many concessions to the Spanish leaders. Yes, he was
very intransigent then! Now, all of a sudden, he is very concerned
about the loss of Spain. Then he accused the IS of being “too soft”.
Now he accuses the IS of being too hard! There is simply no pleasing
some people! For months JC and his friends have been shouting about a
“catastrophic split”. Yet from this document it is clear that he was all in favour of a split in July 2010.
Let him put it in his own words:
there would have been an immediate split if the there had not been the
attempt to paper over the conflict at the IEC this summer. But a split
then, on a principled basis about the lack of democracy in the Spanish
organisation, would have been far better than the present split.” (Appendix to Forward to Democratic centralism! By JC, February 12, 2010.)
there we have it. JC is not against a split with the Spanish leaders.
He thinks that there should have been a split far sooner – in July
2009. We are entitled to ask: why
did JC take a “hard line” in July 2009, and why does he take a “soft
line” now? It is not difficult to find the answer. In the summer of
2009 he and HK had already cooked up the idea of an international
faction. From the internal correspondence of the IEC, JC understood
that the Spanish leaders were going for a split. He and HK went to
Barcelona with the hope of “fishing in troubled waters”.
sudden split would have caused great consternation in the ranks, and
they hoped to take advantage of the ensuing chaos to stir things up and
hopefully attract people to their faction. Although JC is a member of
the IEC, he never posed the question of a faction on that body. In fact, he has never put forward any of the ideas present in this document in the IEC.
Instead, he chose the world school (which is not an elected delegate
body, and cannot be said to be representative) to announce publicly the
launching of a faction.
conclusion do they draw from the Spanish crisis? Only this: that there
were two bureaucratic cliques (the Spanish EC and the IS) fighting over
prestige! How do they draw this interesting conclusion? Because,
according to them, the struggle has no political basis: “Are there fundamental political differences between the IS and the Spanish leadership that justify a split? There have been no major differences.” (our emphasis).
One scratches one’s head in astonishment. For
the last six months we have circulated a pile of documents, raising a
whole series of political differences that exist between the IS and the
Spanish leadership. They are important differences, on the Basque
strike, on how to work in the unions, on our attitude to the
nationalists, on work in the mass organizations, on organization, on
democratic centralism, on perspectives and the nature of the period, on
the relation between the economic cycle and the class struggle.
have circulated all this material by email, so there cannot be a
problem with the post. We have circulated it in fairly good English, so
there cannot be a problem with the language. And yet, despite all our
best efforts, the comrades say there are no political differences. Why?
Did we ever make such a claim? No, what we said was that there were no political differences that could justify a split. And that is something entirely different.
the very beginning, the IS has tried its best to bring out the
political questions and focus the debate on those. That could have
raised the level of the whole International and possibly averted a
split. On the other hand, the Spanish leaders (and also JC) have
constantly tried to drag the level down to that of the gutter, with all
kinds of anecdotal stuff, complaints, allegations, insults, rhetoric,
to show – what? To show that the IS is – bureaucratic and tyrannical:
is absolutely no substance to these claims. But they happen to fit in
very nicely with the positions defended by JC and co. The Spanish
leaders and JC are in complete agreement on this. Perhaps that is why
Sweden was the only section where they agreed to come and speak to the
CC (they even sent two!), whereas they refused all other offers. They
thought they might form some kind of united front against the IS.
Unfortunately it did not work (it would have been too much for the
Swedish members to swallow). But they seem to have had more luck with
“the Iranians” – i.e. with RM.
Spanish EC (and JC) accuses the IS of “interfering” in its “internal
affairs”. The very fact that such an accusation should be made speaks
volumes about the nationalistic mentality of the Spanish EC. We are a
revolutionary International, with a leadership that is elected
democratically to run its affairs. The IS and the IEC not only have the
right to “interfere” in the affairs of the national sections where that
is seen to be necessary, they have a duty to do so.
accuse the International leadership of excessive centralism and a
desire to interfere constantly in the life of the national sections is
a joke in very bad taste. In answer to this we can quote the resolution
of the Italian EC in answer to the document of JC and co.: “The
description of an IS ‘running around the place trying to control every
detail’ (p. 3) can only convince someone who has never seen our
International at first hand. If a criticism can be made of the IS (and
one that has in fact been made), it is the exact opposite, i.e. of
giving preference to an ‘extensive’ work which has created difficulties
in checking the work of the sections and in the debate with their
image presented by JC and co. of a monstrous bureaucracy in London that
is obsessed with control and always seeking to intervene in the
internal affairs of the national sections is not merely false, but the
precise opposite of the real situation. Given the extreme shortage of
manpower at the centre, where seven comrades have to deal with a
colossal amount of work in about 30 countries, it was very difficult to
deal with such questions seriously. Where internal problems and
disputes arise, the IS simply does not have the means to intervene,
even if we wanted to. Therefore, normally, we would take the word of
the national leadership or the IEC members from the country concerned.
After all, without a degree of trust, no organization can function.
trusted the word of the Spanish EC on more than one occasion. This was
a serious mistake. This is now very clear to us and to everyone else,
but the wisdom of hindsight is the cheapest of all. What is not so easy
is to be placed in a position of having to run the affairs of what is
now quite a large organization on a daily basis without the necessary
resources to do so. Under the circumstances, it is not surprising that
the IS made mistakes. It is surprising that we did not make many more.
is a regrettable fact that, because of the chronic shortage of
resources at the International centre, we have been unable to intervene
sufficiently in the sections. That was precisely a big factor in the
degeneration of the Spanish section. In other words, JC, as usual,
stands the truth on its head. It is not excessive centralization and
control, but the absence of it that is the main problem of the work of
the International in the last period. And this problem can only be
solved by strengthening the centre, not weakening it nor doing away
with it all together as JC and his friends propose.
JC says: "Suddenly it has become popular to manufacture political differences."
What does this mean? It means that the IS (for unexplained reasons) has
invented political differences with the Spanish leaders. That must mean
that no such differences exist. But anybody who can read will
immediately see that differences do exist on a whole series of
important issues. That none of these differences justify a split, we
entirely agree. But this point should be made, not to the IS, but to
the people who have organized the split.
Half aware that he is presenting a false and misleading argument, JC adds as an afterthought: “Of
course, any split has a logic of its own. Even though the real cause of
a split may not lie in politics, it is inevitable that in the course of
splitting that there is a need to justify a split politically. So,
what initially were just differences of emphasis that should be
contained and discussed within any living revolutionary organisation,
tend to accelerate, and become irreconcilable differences. But to say
that those differences were the cause of the split is putting the cart
before the horse.”
the history of the Marxist movement it often occurs that a split can
occur unexpectedly on what at first sight appear to be secondary,
accidental, or even trivial matters. In 1903, when the Second Congress
of the RSDLP ended in a split, there were no political differences. In
all the political sessions, there was complete agreement between Lenin
and Martov. The differences emerged on an apparently secondary issue
related to the clause on membership in the Party Statutes and later on
the composition of the leading bodies (the Editorial Board).
leave to one side the fact that JC and HK now repeat Martov’s mistake,
blurring the differences between a member and a sympathizer. They want
the right to publish all kinds of opinions on the website of the
International, to distribute internal IEC correspondence to everyone
and his uncle through undisclosed email lists, to include non-members
in the internal debates s of the International. This is supposed to be
“democracy”. In reality, it is a violation of the internal democracy of
the International, an anarchistic procedure, which, if it were to be
permitted, would lead to the complete dissolution of the organization.
the final analysis, there is always a connection between political
differences and “secondary” organizational questions. A genuinely
Bolshevik policy requires corresponding Bolshevik methods of
organization. A Menshevik policy requires a loose, undisciplined,
anarchic method of organization, which is what the comrades are
advocating. They constantly complain about “excessive centralism”,
which was precisely the complaint of the Mensheviks against Lenin from
1903 onwards. What the comrades advocate is not Leninism, but a
grotesque caricature of Menshevism.
the dispute with the former Spanish leadership, the IS tried to bring
out the political basis for the dispute (See the documents, Reflections on the Basque Strike and On the Tasks, tactics and strategy of the Spanish section).
We appealed to the comrades to allow a calm and comradely discussion of
these questions. But the Spanish leaders were not interested in a
political discussion. They replied with insults and false accusations
about an alleged “bureaucratic coup”, which they had invented for their
JC claims that the IS and the Spanish leadership agreed on everything.
This is the product either of ignorance or bad faith or (more likely)
both. We will produce a document that details all our relations with
the Spanish leadership that will explode all the myths that JC is
spreading. For the present, we wish to make clear that by repeating the
false allegations of JIR and the Spanish leaders against the
International leadership, he is de facto, playing the game of the
splitters and actively helping their cause.
JC was the most vocal in his denunciations of the Spanish leaders. He
bitterly complained that the IS made too many concessions to the latter
at the July 2009 IEC. Now, for his own reasons, he repeats word for
word the calumnies of JIR and the Spanish EC. He says that the split
has no political basis. Why does he say something he knows very well is
untrue? The answer is clear: if we accept that the split has no
political basis, then how is it to be explained? Only on the basis of
the theory of a “bureaucratic coup” – that is, by accepting all the
lies put out by JIR and the Spanish EC to justify their criminal split
from the International.
The political differences of the International with the Spanish EC can be summed up in two words: sectarian ultraleftism.
After many years outside the mass organizations in Spain, the Spanish
leaders developed some very bad habits: an unhealthy tendency to
exaggerate their own importance, a shrill and boastful tone in their
agitation and propaganda, a one-sided and mechanical interpretation of
the perspectives developed by the International, and so on.
tendency developed slowly over a long period, and we knew of its
existence. But we did not realize how far it had gone until fairly
recently. If the IS had had the necessary forces, we could have
intervened far earlier, and possibly corrected the mistakes before they
had acquired the character of an organic tendency. The mistake,
therefore, was not excessive centralism, as the comrades argue, but the
very opposite: insufficient control from the centre, insufficient
participation of the IS in the internal affairs of the Spanish section:
in a word: insufficient centralism.
ultra left deviation of the Spanish leadership was bound to find its
expression in organizational matters, and it did find such an
expression. In recent years the Spanish section (and by extension, the
Mexican section, where JIR had influence with the leadership)
experienced a number of crises, splits and expulsions. The IS was
concerned about this and raised it with JIR on a number of occasions,
but was presented with excuses.
incorrect policies (ultraleftism) of the Spanish leadership did produce
an unhealthy internal regime. It was this dynamic that eventually
produced the split. Whether or not it would have been possible to have
avoided the split if we had adopted other means is a matter of opinion.
But what is very clear is that our International could not coexist for long with an alien tendency. That is why the split occurred, and that is why the “theory” of two rival bureaucracies falls to the ground immediately.
writes: “The IS wants to destroy the possibility of discussing with
members in three of the most important sections by expelling (or
“placing themselves outside the international”). At this time,
everything should be done to keep these sections within the
international. Then delegations of the best cadres of the international
could be organised to tour these sections and argue the case.”
this priceless? The same man who was pushing for a split with the
Spanish majority in July is now demanding we do everything in our power
to keep them on board. We must immediately send “the best cadres of the
international” (starting with JC) to Spain to persuade JIR not
to split. There is only one little problem. JIR has already split. He
has split in the most disgraceful and hooligan manner possible. He has
expelled all the comrades who support the International (not the IS, as
JC says, repeating the slanders of JIR). He has even expelled those
members of the Spanish section who asked questions about the split
most serious aspect of the antics of the “Bolshevik” faction is that
they play into the hands of the splitters, and, in practice, constitute
an apology for the former Spanish leaders.
JC writes about our comrades in Spain in terms of the utmost contempt,
but shows the most tender concern for the unprincipled bureaucrats in
Madrid who have expelled them in the most monstrous manner, including
with physical violence.
comrades have courageously been defending, not the IS, as JC claims
(echoing the arguments of JIR) but our International organisation. They
have been subjected to all kinds of persecution, insults, the hacking
of their personal emails, provocations, expulsions, but have remained
true to the International. Now,
under very difficult conditions, they are attempting to win over
comrades in the former section who have doubts about the split.
IS has not expelled the Spanish section or anyone else. The Spanish
leaders have been repeatedly invited to come to the IEC and the world
congress to put their case. They have refused because they hold the IEC
and the world congress in contempt. Their problem is not with the IS
but with the ideas, methods and traditions of the International as a
whole. One needs to be blind not to see that, and there is none so
blind as those who will not see.
acting as they have done, JC, HK and the others have seriously damaged
the work of our comrades in Spain. Until recently they were having an
effect. Then along comes JC and his band of merry men, distributing
emails that portray the International as a bureaucratically degenerate
organization (which is what JIR says) that is falling to pieces (which
is what JIR says) and sends this material to a list that includes some
of the worst witch-hunting bureaucrats in Spain.
scandalous material will surely be sent to every member in Spain by
JIR, with the result that the work of our Spanish and Venezuelan
comrades suffers serious, possibly irremediable, damage. The leaders in
Madrid are naturally delighted at this unexpected and invaluable
assistance. JIR rubs his hands. This conduct can only be described by
one word: sabotage. A British comrade, a veteran cadre and trade unionist, has pointed this out:
for including the sections and groups that have walked away in Spain,
Venezuela and Mexico, this is appalling. These groups could and should
stay and debate their position through the democratic structures they
agreed. The actions of the International Faction will give succour to
these leaderships that are not allowing a democratic debate on the
split in these countries. They will be saying to their supporters –
look the International is falling apart, why would we want to stay with
them. This is at a time when we now have little choice but to appeal
over the heads of these organizations, directly to individual members.
As such you are seriously harming the organizations attempts to salvage
something in these countries.”
This says all that needs to be said on this subject.
The proof of the pudding
document speaks in contemptuous terms of the Spanish supporters of the
International, who were bureaucratically expelled by JIR and co. as “a
handful of comrades”. But this “handful” of comrades is bigger than the
membership achieved by the present Swedish section after nearly twenty
years’ work, as the Italian comrades correctly pointed out. In fact, it is bigger than the active membership of the Swedish, Polish and Iranian sections put together.
comrades of the Swedish, Polish and Iranian ECs want to give the whole
International a lesson on the correct methods of building the
organization. There is nothing wrong with that. We are all anxious to
learn. But if the comrades are to give us lessons, they first have to
show that they are themselves capable of getting results. It is easy to
preach, but not always so easy to preach by example.
comrades are constantly placing all kinds of demands on the
International. They demand that we provide the most detailed
information on everything under the sun. But when it comes to providing
detailed information about the work in their own sections, they are
surprisingly reticent. But if it is true that they have found the
secret for success, it is reasonable to ask a very simple thing of
them: show us.
JC has been responsible for the Swedish section for almost 20 years.
When he came to London in September 2009, he was asked how many
comrades were active in his section. After some hesitation, he replied
that there were about twenty-five who were “more or less active” (that
is, they attend branches), of whom, ten or twelve are actually working in the labour movement.
After 20 years, these results are very poor, especially when compared
with the Danish section, which was built virtually from nothing in a
far shorter space of time.
JC had the chance to demonstrate the superiority of his methods not
only in Sweden but also in Poland. What are the results? At the recent
school held in Poland (which had a purely factional character) only four comrades
from the Polish section attended. This does not suggest to us that the
Polish section is a very good example for the rest of the International
the Iranian section? One might think that in the middle of a
revolution, there would be very good prospects for growth. It is true
that there is a problem of repression. But in the first place, the
repression has not prevented millions of people from participating in
revolutionary activity. In Spain also there was a problem of repression
in 1976, when we began to build the section, but we grew from six to
350 in just over a year. That was on the basis of the correct methods
and ideas of the International. In Iran, by contrast, the results are
RM is in no position to give anybody lectures on the correct handling
of differences within a section or on the need for the leaders to use a
correct tone, or of encouraging young comrades to speak their mind.
We have had numerous complaints from young Iranian comrades concerning
the way he talks to people whose ideas do not coincide with his own.
And we have had plenty of experience of this, as comrades who have seen
his emails to the IS will know.
RM seems to have all the time in the world to spend writing emails
about control commissions, Chavez and democratic centralism, but not
much time for intervening in the real mass movement in Iran or even
writing about it. Of course, it does not help that he does not accept
that there is a revolution in Iran to start with.
The “Democratic Platform”
and the comrades who support his document never understood the meaning
of the 1992 split. From the content and conclusions of their document,
it is abundantly clear that they are now trying to abandon everything,
even the most basic organizational principles of our movement. There is
absolutely nothing new in what they say. From the first line to the
last, all their arguments about “centralism”, “leadership”,
“bureaucracy”, “democracy”, “control freakery” and so forth, are merely
a tedious repetition of the arguments the so-called Democratic Platform
of 1992, which claimed that inherent in any form of leadership were the
seeds of inevitable bureaucratic degeneration.
fact that they call themselves Bolsheviks is frankly surreal. If we are
to call things by their right name, the document of the Swedish, Polish
and Iranian ECs represents an opportunist deviation from Bolshevism.
Its proposals make the Russian Mensheviks look tame by comparison. Just
as ultra left politics finds its expression in organization, so
opportunism in the organizational sphere will also find its expression
in politics. One is closely related to the other. It is an attempt to
drag us back to the days of the so-called Democratic Platform, which
caused so much damage after the split with Taaffe.
1992 split in the old organisation had also a progressive content,
although it adversely affected many comrades. But the 1992 split was
not about creating a “new” organization, as the Swedish, Polish and
Iranian ECs seem to believe. “We transferred too much of the old into
the new organization”, says their document. They are still blissfully
ignorant of the fact that the fight of the Opposition was precisely in defence of the old ideas and methods which were being undermined by the Taaffeites.
tendency is not new at all, but a very old tendency that can trace its
roots back to Marx and the First International. Unfortunately, in the
course of the 1992 split the Opposition attracted to its banner all
kinds of individuals, including some highly undesirable elements, who
were not fighting for the programme we were fighting for. They were
against Taaffe but not for the reasons we were. They had scores to
settle, people who had gripes and complaints, some had their vanity
wounded, others simply detested authority, and were opposed, not only
to the Taaffeite regime, but to the “regime” in general. They also
included elements who had clearly adapted to the reformist milieu
inside the Labour Party.
a completely unscrupulous manner, the “Democratic Platform” tried to
use the Bogeyman of Taaffeism to frighten the comrades into abandoning
the organizational principles of Bolshevism and adopting a loosely
knit, heterogeneous, undisciplined federal organization, which is the
perfect medium for all kinds of intriguers. Instead of a revolutionary
organization, we would have had a discussion club, where everyone
should say and do whatever they liked, whenever they liked. This would
have suited these people very well. But it would have meant the
complete destruction of the organization.
of the most prominent supporters of the “Democratic Platform” was HK,
whose anarchistic conception of organization is well known. After the
1992 split he played a very disruptive role in the British section,
which was already severely weakened by the split, playing on the
comrades’ natural feelings of distrust towards the leadership. The
behaviour of HK and the “Democratic Platform” was a clear example of
this “anti-authoritarian” (i.e. anarchistic) trend. Their outlook
resembled that of the American farmer who, when asked what he thought
of the government, answered: “Well, I don’t know what government that
is, but I’m against it.”
did not succeed in winning a majority and remained a small minority.
When they were defeated politically in a democratic debate, they all
resigned from the organization and “went home”, hurling accusations of
“bureaucratic centralism” as they slammed the door. All they achieved
was to demoralize a layer of the membership in Britain, who dropped out
of all activity. Now they are trying to do exactly the same.
departure from the tendency of the DP people was a positive thing and
helped to clarify what kind of organization we were building. After
causing significant damage, HK left the organization with this group,
only to ask to rejoin it a couple of years later. His application was
supported by comrade AW, despite the fact that he had attacked AW
viciously. The majority of the British EC was opposed to his being
accepted back, but were convinced to give him another chance.
leader of the “Democratic Platform”, Pat Byrne is an organic intriguer
and a disruptive element, with a long history of participating in
splitting activities in Left groups. It cannot be an accident that this
element has recently surfaced and contributed to the writing of a
diatribe about the crisis in the International, which has been
published on the internet and is being surreptitiously distributed in
certain quarters of the International. It is not an accident that HK
was a leading light in the “Democratic Platform”, or that Pat Byrne has
been actively associated with its latest reincarnation, although he is
not even a member of the International.
demands that the faction should be open to people outside our ranks.
Doubtless he has in mind his old friend Pat Byrne, who in reality is
already participating actively in this factional activity. Byrne says
in his document that in the age of the Internet, the International
centre should be dissolved and its functions “distributed across the
various national sections.” The structure of the International, he
says, is “too top-down” and not the way to… “develop a cadre
membership.” The “bureaucratic, dogmatic and elitist” leadership is
“self-selecting” by means of a slate system in elections. Are these
ideas not familiar?
Byrne then goes on to say that all internal debates should be held in
public, with China being held up as “a great example”. “The idea that a
central leadership will be able to direct operations across the world
is utopian.” He then goes on to urge International members not to
replicate the “same old bad practices”, but develop “a new, more
healthy tradition.” This is exactly the same programme that Byrne and
HK advocated in 1992. The only difference is the invention of the
Internet and “instant, free communication.”
are not particularly interested in Byrne’s “friendly” advice, since we
learned long ago that it was not a good idea to smile at a crocodile,
but it does show the kind of revisionist ideas that are circulating
outside the tendency and which are being assiduously disseminated
inside the organization. The document of HK on “Marxism and the
Internet” is an example of this. Like Byrne, HK stands for the
dissolution of the international leadership and the organization
transformed through the internet into an “international community of
are not the ideas of Marx and Lenin, but those of Bakunin. They
constitute not simply a rejection of democratic centralism but the very
concept of the revolutionary organization. History does not begin with
us. We did not invent our organizational principles from scratch. We
stand on the shoulders of the Bolshevik Party, the first four
Congresses of the Communist International (those under Lenin and
Trotsky), Trotsky’s Left Opposition and the Founding documents of the
Fourth International. That is our revolutionary heritage. We are not
Stalinists, but neither are we Social Democrats, left reformists, or
his document, JC repeats all the nonsense of the “Democratic Platform”,
which we answered almost 20 years ago. Just compare this nonsense with
what Trotsky poses the question: “The revolutionary party has nothing
in common with a discussion club, where everybody comes as to a cafe
(this is Souvarine’s great idea). The party is an organization for
action. The unity of party ideas is assured through democratic
channels, but the ideological framework of the party must be rigidly
delimited.” (Trotsky, Writings, 1930,
p.94.) If instead of café, we write Internet café, the “great idea” of
Souvarine becomes the “great idea” of Pat Byrne and HK. “Plus ça change plus c'est la même chose”, as the French say (the more things change, the more they stay the same).
The role of leadership
question of the leadership of the revolutionary tendency is not a
secondary one. Trotsky made the point that the role of leadership of
the revolutionary tendency is as important as the role of leadership in
the working class as a whole. The only authority a revolutionary
leadership can have is a political and moral authority. The leadership
is prepared over years and decades and is selected according to the
contribution they make in theory and in practical work.
leadership is not appointed for life, but is democratically elected and
regularly submits itself for re-election. The leadership is under the
democratic control of the membership through its elected bodies and
congresses. It has continually to earn the right to lead through its
devotion to the cause, personal sacrifice, and ability to build the
tendency. The continuity of the leadership is an important part of
maintaining the stability and integrity of the organization.
goes without saying that the leadership should be reinforced by the
entry of the best of the younger cadres. An organism that does not
renew itself will die. However, the advancement of the youth must be
carried out in a careful and responsible manner. It is the
responsibility of the leadership to develop cadres within the tendency.
But it is extremely damaging to promote inexperienced young comrades
too fast, or to encourage an arrogant and conceited attitude on their
part. This method played a fatal role in the degeneration of the old
organistation and also of the former comrades in Spain.
is necessary to provide the membership with full and detailed
information. Without the necessary information it is not possible to
have a self-acting and critical membership. However, this issue is
being used in the most demagogic fashion that to say that all information on all matters should be made available to everyone, preferably by internet. This is also just demagogy.
elect leading bodies to carry out tasks and deal with problems as they
arise. This is the function of an elected body such as the IEC. The IEC
members must provide regular reports to the sections both about the
political discussions on the IEC and developments in the organization
in the sections internationally in order to keep as many comrades as
is true, but we need to have a sense of proportion. A huge amount of
information passes through the International centre. The demand that
all correspondence and reports be made available to comrades would
means that dozens and dozens of such items, dealing with day-to-day
problems and questions, would flood the entire organization. Would this
facilitate the work, or would it rather tend to paralyze the
organization? The experience of the past few months will provide the
answer. Instead of a serious, balanced and democratic discussion of the
issues, comrades have been subjected to a continuing barrage of emails
and documents, which contain a lot of false and misleading information.
the course of the work the leading bodies need to deal with many issues
of a personal, sensitive character, disciplinary questions and
sometimes work of a clandestine or illegal character. It would be
completely wrong for this to be made public and would seriously damage
the work. In order to have a free and frank exchange of views between
comrades, confidentiality is a vital component of our work at different
levels. This attempt to undermine our elected bodies by leaked
correspondence to undisclosed recipients is utterly irresponsible.
took a very stern view of this kind of activity. When he found out that
this was being done in a factional manner by one of the leaders of the
minority faction in the American SWP, he wrote the following:
the first session of the new National Committee, the first decision
should proclaim that nobody has the right to divulge the internal
happenings in the National Committee except the committee as a whole or
its official institutions (Political Committee or Secretariat). The
Secretariat could in its turn concretize the rules of secrecy. If, in
spite of all, a leak occurs, an official investigation should be made
and if Abern should be guilty, he should receive a public warning; in
case of another offence, he should be eliminated from the Secretariat.”
(Trotsky, In Defence of Marxism, p.163-64.)
is how seriously Trotsky regarded the practice of leaking. He
considered that any member of the leadership who behaved in this way
should be unceremoniously kicked off the leading body. There is nothing
“bureaucratic” or “dictatorial” about this. In calling Abern to order,
Trotsky was calling on and for all comrades, and especially leading
comrades, to respect the democratic functioning of the organization.
expressed himself even more sharply in his withering criticism of the
French group. The petty bourgeois composition of this group was
reflected in its complete lack of discipline, anarchistic methods and
organizational looseness. Trotsky warned against these methods, which
also had very serious implications for security:
found in the internal bulletin your decision to open the doors of the
Central Committee to every member of the organisation. I confess, I
cannot understand this at all. The Central Committee is the
revolutionary general staff. How can it sit publicly? You must have in
the organisation a serious percentage of police agents, Stalinists, GPU
agents, etc. These will be the first visitors to the Central Committee.
At the Central Committee there are secret or confidential questions.
There is the need to discipline different comrades, etc. To have a
little ‘gallery’ for the sessions means to hinder
the normal work of the leading body. I am not at all astonished to find
the name of Molinier as the initiator of this disastrous proposal. Is
it for purposes of democracy? No! It is for purposes of demagogy and
personal intrigues… I find this question very serious. It is impossible
even to correspond with a Central Committee that sits publicly.”
(Trotsky, Crisis of the French Section [1935-36], pp.146-47.)
question of security is not a secondary matter. As we see, Trotsky was
not even prepared to write a letter to a group that made everything
public. The irresponsible leaking of internal documents and
correspondence, apart from its disorganizing and paralysing effects,
has even more serious consequences. It provides useful ammunition to
our enemies: not just the sects, but the labour bureaucracy and the
a result of the activities of JC and HK, every petty sectarian in the
world is now entitled to participate in our internal debates and
comment on our internal matters – even before the IEC or the world
congress has had the opportunity to do so. Let the whole world see what
we are doing! Let everybody participate – not just members but
non-members, not just friends but enemies! Taaffe recently boasted that
he had “all our documents”. What a wonderful example of democracy! Such
may be said that is just a minor irritant, but it is one that is quite
unnecessary. Why should we facilitate the work of the sectarians, and
provide them with ammunition to use against us? This is not democracy
but stupid irresponsibility. Far more serious is the effect of sending
our internal material to the split-off sections in Spain and Venezuela.
This has undoubtedly done serious damage to the work of our comrades in
these countries who are fighting under difficult conditions to rebuild
these sections and win over comrades in the split-off groups. We know
that many of them have serious doubts about the actions of the Spanish
leaders in splitting from the International, and are open to our ideas.
What will they think when they receive a barrage of documents that
assert that the “International is tearing itself apart” and that it is
run by a “totalitarian bureaucracy” etc., etc.?
but in the age of Internet it is impossible to keep such matters inside
the organization, they will reply. This is false. We have had many
problems and splits in the past, including the split off of Manzoor two
years ago. None of this had the slightest echo on the Internet, and our
enemies were unable to take advantage of it. Now it is all over the
Internet because a small group of irresponsible elements in our ranks
have assumed the right to publish it.
is not a joke. It constitutes a blatant and deliberate act of sabotage.
It lays us open to the attacks in many countries, where the bureaucracy
is seriously concerned about the work of the Marxists. This does not
include Sweden, Poland or Iran, where very few people know about our
work and nobody feels threatened by it. But in other countries things
are different. The comrades of the Swedish, Polish and Iranian ECs can
afford to adopt a light-minded attitude but this poses a serious threat
to the work of other sections – a fact that they nevertheless feel free
some countries our comrades are directly threatened by the state and
its agents. Our comrades Pakistan are risking their lives on a daily
basis and there has been a serious attempt to destabilise the section
organized by the PPP leaders in cahoots with the state. The
distribution of the lying propaganda of the Manzoor group constituted a
deliberate act of sabotage against the Pakistan comrades. These lies
were deliberately placed in the public domain, allegedly in the
interests of “information”, but in reality as part of a vicious
campaign of disinformation aimed at wrecking the section.
work of our comrades in Pakistan was already sufficiently difficult and
dangerous before this. But the deliberate circulation of Manzoor’s
propaganda provided invaluable assistance to our enemies, which in
Pakistan include, not just the PPP bureaucracy and its paid agent
Manzoor, but also the state, which sees in our Pakistan section a
serious threat that must be destroyed. From this we can see that
democratic centralism is not a secondary matter. The abandonment of
democratic centralism and the systematic violation of confidentiality
have very serious practical repercussions and can cause major damage to
Trotsky and leadership
International is a voluntary association of like-minded comrades who
stand for the programme, methods and ideas of revolutionary Marxism.
Nobody is obliged to belong to the International, but if you join the
International, you must accept its rules. This is an elementary
proposition. It is not specific to democratic centralism but applies to
any organization whatsoever: a trade union branch or even a football
club, never mind a revolutionary organization.
rules of the International are decided by the leading bodies of the
International, the World Congress, the IEC and the IS. No national
section, individual, or group of individuals has the right to ignore or
disregard the rules of the International or refuse to recognize its
democratically elected bodies.
the structures of the International, there is ample opportunity for any
comrade to express differences and criticisms. These are: a) the
branch, b) the district committee, c) aggregates and conferences, d)
the ECs and CCs of national sections, e) the national congress, f) the
IEC, g) the world congress, h) internal bulletins.
goes without saying, that the majority will decide on all questions,
and the minority must accept this. No national section, individual, or
group of individuals has the right to go outside the structures of the
International to express differences with the agreed policies of the
are no duties without rights, but there are no rights without duties.
Comrades who hold different opinions are free to express their views in
the democratic structures of the International and attempt to win a
majority. But all comrades are expected to abide by the decisions of
the majority and work to build the organization, loyally carrying out
and Lenin had no time for the “let me do as I please” attitude and
neither have we. No comrade can be allowed to disregard to the rules
and interests of the tendency as a whole. Trotsky repeatedly returned
to the problem of leadership and party organization many times during
his lifetime. This was no accident. In 1935 he wrote that the work in
which he was involved was the most important of his entire life.
organizational forms of the tendency are determined by its
revolutionary line. What the comrades are proposing is, in effect, the
liquidation of the organization. They may be perfectly sincere, but if
we should take this road we would certainly suffer complete
destruction. We cannot make any compromise on this question. We will
continue to defend that heritage against all forms of revisionism.
tendency has achieved great things and will achieve still greater
things in the future, on one condition: that we stand firm on the basis
of our ideological heritage, that we are not blown off course by
events, and that we do not water down our ideas to suit the prejudices
of others. The International has a duty to wage an implacable struggle
against political deviations – not just ultraleftism, but also to
political and organizational opportunism.
did not conduct the struggle against Taaffe in order to be dragged into
the swamp of left reformist politics and anarchist organization that
was advocated by the Democratic Platform. Neither did we break with the
Spanish leadership in order to be dragged in the same direction, which
is what JC and HK are inviting us to do. Trotsky dealt with the same phenomenon in In Defence of Marxism:
bourgeois, and especially declassed elements divorced from the
proletariat, vegetate in an artificial and shut-in environment. They
have ample time to dabble in politics or its substitute. They pick out
faults, exchange all sorts of titbits and gossip concerning happenings
among the party ‘tops’. They always locate a leader who initiates them
into all the ‘secrets’. Discussion is their native element. No amount
of democracy is ever enough for them. For their war of words they seek
the fourth dimensions. They become jittery, they revolve in a vicious
circle, and they quench their thirst with salt water. Do you want to
know the organisational programme of the opposition? It consists of a
mad hunt for the fourth dimension of party democracy. In practice this
means burying politics beneath discussion; and burying centralism
beneath the anarchy of the intellectual circles. When a few thousand
workers join the party, they will call the petty bourgeois anarchists
severely to order. The sooner, the better.” (Trotsky, In Defence of Marxism – An Open Letter to Comrade Burnham, pp.116-17.)
the end of his life Trotsky was trying to pass on to the new generation
the genuine traditions of Bolshevism – not just in the political but
also in the organizational sphere. Despite all the persecutions and
tragedies, Trotsky managed to lay down the foundations for a New
International in terms of ideas, programme, method and tradition. The
Fourth International ceased to exist in the post-war period after it
was destroyed by inadequate leadership.
knew what he was doing when he had Trotsky murdered. Once Trotsky was
no longer present, the leaders of the Fourth were completely blown off
course. Such is the importance of leadership. The Fourth International
was stillborn. But Trotsky’s work was continued by comrade EG. We stand
firmly on the traditions that he laid down, and which represent the
real Unbroken Thread that takes us right back, through Lenin, Trotsky
and the Bolshevik Party, to the original political and organizational
positions of Marx and Engels.
London 25th February, 2010
After some issues raised by the British EC, we agreed to withdraw the earlier version and replace it with this amended, final version of the statement of the British Faction on Internal Democracy. We will post the reply from the EC as soon as we get it. We ask that comrades refrain from distributing this document to other members before we have the EC reply.
First IB statement of the
British Faction on Internal Democracy
The members of the British faction wish to put our differences with the
leadership in writing and circulate them in the Internal Bulletin.
We are comrades who wish to ensure that the organization fully utilizes
the opportunities available to it, and overcome any difficulties encountered,
through a deep and serious analysis of theory, organization, strategy and
tactics. Our aim is to build on our successes and limit the damage from our
errors. This means self-critically and openly assessing our strengths and
weaknesses, particularly when they are revealed by significant splits, ruptures
and disagreements. We are still developing our ideas and expect that our
suggestions will stimulate the leadership to respond constructively.
Our main concern is deficiencies in internal democracy, which we
believe is producing a drift toward errors of a number of kinds. These are in
In the field of Theory we detect a drift
towards empiricism, this has been revealed in the discussions on China
and on Marxist economics.
On China: We welcome the debate that has developed on China.
We note that the leadership acknowledges that the official position on certain
points has been strengthened by the debate. However we feel that the method of
the leadership has a tendency to substitute abstract formulae for thought-out
analysis. The leadership has not responded to the substance of the arguments
raised, which at root are about the nature of economics in a transitional
society. This has resulted in poorly formulated and contradictory positions
being propagated by leading members of the IS, in written and spoken form, both
internally and in public.
b. On Economics: The leadership has engaged in a rather confusing
polemic that misrepresents Marx's theory of crisis as presented in the third
volume of Capital by the comprehensive and multi-faceted theory of the law of
the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, and seem to be trying to replace it
with a series of selective quotes and a repackaged version of pre-Marxist
theories of crisis i.e. the lack of purchasing power of the masses is the
primary cause of modern economic crises.
In the field of Organization we detect a drift
towards voluntarism. This is reflected in a mechanistic concept of
political development, based on crude numerical models and on motivational
speeches. We feel that education of revolutionary cadres requires the
nurturing, promotion, development and cultivation of the critical faculties of
the membership and the leadership. We recognize that not everything is the
fault of the leadership but feel that the problems of the leadership reflect
the lack of initiative within the whole organisation. Instead of a routine in
which the centre acts and the members criticize, we would like to see comrades
taking greater individual responsibility and the leadership learning from and
In the field of Innovation we detect a drift
towards Routinism. This is reflected in the gradual downgrading of
Socialist.net and the complete absence of living, on-going Internet discussion
forums. There is an hostility towards the establishment of internal discussion
forums for members; where we can all openly discuss issues of the day, theory,
controversy, perspectives, strategy and tactics as we get on with our work of
building the movement and empowering workers with the ideas of socialism.
In the field of Democracy, we detect a drift
towards Bureaucratism. We think that not enough is done to promote genuine
internal democracy and the leadership tend to have an overly centralized method
in how they develop analysis, theory and tactics and organization.
We think these concerns are sufficient grounds for the formation of a
faction. We feel the development of cadres requires greater on-going
participatory discussion throughout the section and the entire International.
This in turn will strengthen the authority of the leadership; limit the effect
of damaging overstretch at the International and national centres; increase
participation; reduce the many burdens placed on full timers; and enhance the
disciplined unity of the members. This unity can only be founded on living
participation through collectively assessing problems and making decisions on issues
that confront the revolutionary movement, on a permanent basis. We are very
lucky to be living in an age where instantaneous collaboration on a world-scale
is made possible by the material development of the means of communication,
which can augment our current means of revolutionary combination and
production. This can provide us with opportunities to speed up the struggle to
unify the workers of the world, in ways and at tempos, that the great Marxists
in history could only have dreamt of.
We note that the January CC rejected our call for official recognition
and faction rights. This does not however, forbid comrades from talking to each
other and presenting ideas as a group using any available means of
communication. The January CC also rejected our call to provide open access to
our discussions on an intranet site.
The formation of a closed members-only intranet discussion site will
contribute toward the improvement of internal democracy in the organization. The
leadership need not act as a filter for all internal communication. This is one
of the lessons we must learn from the degeneration of the Spanish and
Venezuelan sections. More communication at all levels would have significantly
reduced the damage caused by the mistakes made in these sections, and may even
have averted the split. Our aim is to have an organization that is not a
centralized leadership and a subservient membership, but an organization of
leaders. This will allow us to build on stronger foundations.
We call upon the leadership to trust the membership to participate in an
open ongoing discussion to share ideas and learn from our collective
experience. An intranet site would not replace existing structures but augment
them. We call on the leadership to set up such a site as part of our official
Until then, our effort to improve the organization and its methods
cannot stop. We will continue to raise awareness of the problems we have
identified and to find solutions, and we invite all comrades to participate. Any
member of the organisation can review all our documents and write to the
unofficial intranet site run jointly by the British Faction for Internal
Democracy and the International Bolshevik faction (IBF).
Points of clarification in response to recent emails sent out by RS
for the EC, the IS and recent articles on socialist.net and marxist.com:
- We would like
to take this opportunity to affirm our belief in the need for a
revolutionary leadership, elected and accountable. We are opposed to
anarchism. We believe that the working class will only conquer power lead
by a disciplined party based on the ideas of Marxism. We believe that the
current task of the party is to be realistically prepared for the events
that lay ahead.
- Our concerns
are not fabricated but have emerged from an accumulation of experiences
over time. We understand that not all comrades have had the same
experiences and will not agree with us. Nevertheless, we expect this
discussion to unfold in a comradely manner and on a high political level.
We hope that it will not be reduced to alarmist and unsubstantiated
accusations of sabotage. We do not want to see the leadership of our
organisation reduced to the language and tone of the Spanish leadership. We
believe that how we build the revolutionary party is a very political
question and should be taken very seriously.
- At the January
CC comrades MM and DH announced the establishment of a British faction,
which is in compliance with point 12(b) of the constitution. The
announcement was made before a faction statement had been finalized. This
was in order to be as transparent as possible and not to be seen as
secretly factionalising. It was agreed at the CC that the British faction
would use the IB to release its statement by the agreed deadline of Feb
22, which is exactly what we have done and will continue to do. It should
be made very clear that it was the leading bodies of the Iranian, Swedish
and Polish sections that released the announcement of the intranet, not
the British faction (And only after the Iranian leadership felt
communication with the IS had completely broken down). Therefore it is
erroneous to accuse the British faction of any breach of the structures.
We do however take this opportunity to announce that we intend to
officially join the international faction (IBF) and we will be helping to
develop the members only, closed discussion site (called the intranet) in
collaboration with them.
- The members of
the British faction do not, and never have supported the tactics of the
leaderships of the Spanish, Venezuelan and Mexican sections. We applaud
the leadership for criticising these methods, albeit too late and in an
- We would
like to formally apologize for any emails that have been accidentally sent
to non-members. We need to work with the leadership on how to
resolve this on going problem while maintaining the right of members to
communicate with other members of the same organisation freely and openly.
- Finally, for
those who feel there is no justification for the formation of a faction in
Britain and internationally, a list of concrete examples behind our
criticisms is currently being compiled and will be made available to
comrades upon request.
Comrades, thank you for taking
your valuable time to consider our concerns.
Comments on some
of the attached documents
In addition to the above statement, it was agreed at the British CC that
the following documents would be attached to this IB (please note that we
would like to reserve the right to provide the latest versions of all the
documents below and wish that no docs attributed to us should be attached
without our approval):
Forward to Democratic Centralism! The first faction document
from the Swedish, Polish and Iranian ECs.
Appendix to Forward to Democratic Centralism. Questions and
answers by the Swedish, Polish and Iranian ECs.
Marxism and the internet: suggestions on how to expand the
influence and strength of the revolutionary Marxist movement is a draft,
discussion document by Heiko Khoo sent out to members in January. After initial
reaction, he has modified the document by amending the line:“There should
not be an ‘International Centre’, which ‘does the International work’. Instead
there should be an International composed of the members who are in constant
intercommunication.' which could be misinterpreted if taken out of
context to mean that he advocates for no leadership at all. This is wrong and
the corrected document reads: "There
should not be a single location for the ‘International Centre’, which
‘does the International work’. Instead there should be an International
composed of members in constant intercommunication.” Heiko
regrets any misunderstanding.
It should also be noted that the Marxism and the Internet document is NOT an
official British faction document meant for the IB but is a document that has
been submitted by an individual comrade. Therefore, members of the faction do
not wish to present it in the IB.
Against Bureaucratic Centralism - by Alan Woods
We republish this document as a useful contribution to the literature on democratic centralism and also the history of the British Militant Tendency and the Committee for a Workers International. The shame is that Woods was to go on to use the same methods in the IMT that he dissects so well here. Clearly 'more of the same' is not the solution to our problems.
The conflict that opened up in the Militant in 1991 eventually led to breaking point. The “Majority”, no longer able to tolerate any form of internal debate, decided to expel the Opposition, starting with Ted Grant, the founder of the Tendency. This act put the final seal on the degeneration of the old Militant. From a healthy, vibrant Marxist Tendency, it had been transformed into a bureaucratic, sectarian and undemocratic outfit. The opposition started to draw a balance sheet of the whole experience and this document is part of that.
“Representatives of the majority, despite the silence of the Opposition, began a vicious slander campaign against it, presenting the party with monstrously distorted versions of the views and proposals of the Opposition. This more and more one-sided discussion has been and is being conducted only to prepare the party for even more unhealthy organisational measures. Never before have the methods of intimidation, terrorising, smearing, and expulsion been used so unrestrainedly as now. The most responsible assignments are made exclusively from the point of view of factional selection... The Stalin group wants to finish matters off organisationally as quickly as possible.”
Leon Trotsky, October 1926.
“...the bloc continued to exist and its adherents did not stop their underhand work against the Party. They went on banding together their anti-Leninist party, started an illegal printing press, collected membership dues from their supporters and circulated their platform.
“In view of the behaviour of the Trotskyites and Zinovievites, the 15th Party Conference (November 1926) and the Enlarged Plenum of the EC of the Communist International (December 1926) discussed the question of the bloc... and adopted resolutions stigmatising the adherents of this bloc as splitters whose platform was downright Menshevism.
“Instead of submitting to the will of the Party they decided to frustrate it… the ring leaders of the bloc of Trotskyites and Zinovievites had outlawed themselves from the Party...”
J Stalin (History of the CPSU, 1938).
The Opposition has been banned. Opposition leaders expelled. Throughout the country a purge is taking place against Opposition comrades, with branch committees being called as kangaroo courts. Using the methods of McCarthy, comrades are being asked to choose: the Opposition or the Tendency. Opposition branches are being systematically closed down and “reorganised” by Full Timers. This witch-hunt is the culmination of the neo-Stalinist campaign that has been waged against the Opposition since its formation. By these actions the majority faction has engineered a split – despite the protests of the Opposition – and, true to form, immediately publicised it in the pages of the capitalist press, before the ranks had any chance to comment.
Over the last six months, many comrades were extremely concerned, if not deeply alarmed, by the way the “debate” over the “turn” had been conducted. Following in the traditions of Lenin and Trotsky, our organisation had always correctly prided itself with its democratic methods in dealing with differences over political and organisations issues. Trotskyism was born out of a struggle with the counterrevolutionary policies and methods of the Stalinist bureaucracy. Correct policies and a healthy internal regime were equally essential in the construction of a revolutionary tendency. We condemned the sects who, unable to answer the arguments of opponents, always attempted to distort and twist arguments in order to ridicule them, and eventually expel them. These false undemocratic methods – the product of an unhealthy regime – always produced convulsions and splits at every stage in their development.
Unfortunately, the recent debate marked a fundamental departure from our past methods. Far from being an open and genuine exchange of ideas and opinions, which could serve to raise the level of the organisation, the Majority faction used its position and resources to wage a relentless attack – using dirty methods – against the Opposition. A key weapon in this assault was the Full Time apparatus whose loyalty was abused to ensure the leadership’s “line” was carried through to a victory.
This dispute over the attitude towards the mass organisations has laid bare other differences over perspectives, both in Britain and internationally. It has also highlighted a dispute over organisational methods and approach as well as the character of the regime in the organisation. These differences have not fallen from the sky, but have arisen from both subjective and objective reasons.
What we have witnessed is a degeneration of the organisation.
How did it happen?
The move towards “activism” and the relegation of theory in the tendency is again not accidental, but flows from the broader degeneration that has taken place within the leadership.
Many comrades have asked themselves the question: how could our organisation, with its high political level and democratic traditions, have gone down this road?
The question is not a simple one, and does not admit of a simple answer. It would be wrong to look for a single cause, although undoubtedly some factors weigh more heavily than others in determining the fate of a revolutionary organisation.
Many of us were for a long time unable to detect the real nature and scope of the problem, because we consciously or unconsciously refused to admit the hypothesis of a political and organisational degeneration in the tendency that we had worked for decades to build. We attributed the problems and faults we observed to the individual mistakes of this or that comrade, which would be rectified in the course of experience.The blindness towards the processes which were taking place in the apparatus, the refusal to admit the existence of serious problems was itself one of the most harmful elements in the situation. Relatively minor mistakes and deviations can be easily resolved, if checked in time. But an uncorrected mistake can become a tendency, which can, in time, undermine the whole organisation. This is exactly what has happened here, and none of us can avoid our personal responsibility for it.
It is a peculiar paradox that, right up to the present moment, a great part of the comrades who support the majority still honestly believe that this tendency is basically democratic.
This is partly due to the fact that the full-time apparatus has succeeded in concealing from the comrades what is going on. The activities of the centre, the EC, the CC, etc. are a book sealed with seven seals for the great majority. Contrary to the traditions of Bolshevism, the activities of the leadership are shrouded in secrecy. It has become an obsession. And what goes on in the International is even more of a mystery to the average comrade. Given the complete lack of information, and the colossal trust in the leadership built up over decades, many comrades are inclined to take the word of the majority leadership against the Opposition, particularly when the internal controversy is presented as a “struggle to defend the organisation”. The whole thing is presented as a gigantic loyalty test. And the loyalty of the comrades has been systematically abused.
Where does this loyalty come from? From the colossal political and moral authority of the leadership. And this, in turn, was fundamentally the political and moral authority of comrade EG, who established the tendency on the basis of unshakable theoretical foundations.
For many years, the correctness of our ideas was demonstrated in practice, and this established an enormous confidence in the leadership. In a genuine Bolshevik organisation, the only authority a leadership can have is a moral and a political authority. You cannot demand authority on the basis of positions and titles: “full-timer”, “leading comrade”, “CC member”, “EC member” or even “General Secretary”. All this means less than nothing unless it is built on the correctness of your ideas and your ability to convince and inspire with political arguments.
The immense authority of the leadership created an enormous degree of trust, as we have said. Trust is, of course, a very fine thing. But you cannot build a Marxist working-class organisation on trust alone. In reality, the leadership of this tendency enjoyed more than trust. It had virtually a blank cheque (even in the most literal sense of the word) to do what it liked, without any real check or control. No leadership, no matter how honest or politically correct, should have that amount of “trust”.
To this day, the present leadership, which has, by its actions, abandoned all claim to political and moral authority, appeals to the membership to trust it. “Trust the EC, comrades! Trust the CC! Trust the full-timers!” Not by accident, the first reaction of the leadership to the crisis was to call numerous meetings which were required to passvotes of confidence in the national and international leadership. Never mind about the issues, never mind about the facts, just trust us, and everything will be fine. But everything is not fine, and thinking men and women will not be satisfied for long with attempts to play on their feelings of loyalty, in order to divert attention from the real problems we face.
As a result of a long period in which, in general, the ideas of the leadership were shown to be correct, we built a politically homogeneous tendency.
Up to the recent period there did not appear to be any serious political disagreements. In fact, there have been disagreements on all kinds of political and organisational matters, but these were never allowed to reach even the level of the CC or IEC. Nothing was permitted to indicate the slightest disagreement in the leadership. PT was particularly insistent on this. And since, in general, the disagreements did not appear to be of a decisive character (in retrospect they were extremely significant), it did not seem necessary to make much of them.
Unity is, of course, a valuable asset to a revolutionary organisation, provided it is a genuine unity, based on the coincidence of ideas. But in this tendency, there was something more than just unity. There was uniformity, which at times came dangerously close to conformism.
In a Bolshevik organisation, the main ideas come from the top – that is the justification for the existence of a leadership. But the ideas must be thoroughly discussed, criticised, amended, or rejected by the entire membership. Room must be given for the participation and creative initiative of the rank-and-file. Criticism and dissent must not be stifled. But that is precisely what has happened here.
We paid a very high price – far too high – for this “unanimity”. The tendency became unused to genuine discussion and debate. To be frank, many comrades (including “leading comrades”) simply stopped thinking. It was sufficient just to accept the line of the leadership. This, in itself, was a recipe for political degeneration in the long run.
In the past, we had a very open internal regime, where comrades could freely express any point of view, criticise, demand, and expect to get, answers to their questions. Over a number of years that has been undermined and now largely destroyed.
The present debate has revealed that any serious criticism or difference is regarded as high treason. This is presented as an “attack on the organisation”. Those who put forward such views are, therefore, to be treated as traitors. That applies to comrade EG, the founder of the tendency, just as much as to any rank-and-file member who dares to question the behaviour of the full-timer in his local branch.
The same is true in the International, where any attempt to even to ask for detailed information about the real state of affairs in Britain, is denounced as an “attack on the British section”.
How can we have a genuine discussion, when matters are presented in this way?
The history of the Bolshevik Party was completely different to this. Throughout its entire history, the Bolshevik Party had an intense internal life, with internal debates, controversies, differences among the leaders, openly expressed, yes, and factions also.
When we formed a faction to combat the disastrous “British Turn”, we were immediately accused of disloyalty. In a circular the EC attempted to prejudice comrades attitudes by feeding the “suggestion” that members were “shocked” at this action. In doing this, the majority merely demonstrate their abysmal ignorance of the real traditions of Bolshevism and democratic centralism. Trotsky had this to say on the subject of factions:
“In the Comintern, factions were forbidden, and this police ban was alleged to be in keeping with the Bolshevik tradition. It is difficult to imagine a worse slander on the history of Bolshevism It is true that in March 1921 factions were banned by a special resolution on the Tenth Party Congress. The very fact that this resolution was necessary shows that in the previous period – i.e., during the seventeen years when Bolshevism arose, grew, gained strength, and came to power – factions were a legitimate part of party life. And this was reflected in practice.
“At the Stockholm Party Congress (1906), where the Bolshevik faction was reunited with the Menshevik faction, there were two factions inside the Bolshevik faction involved in an open struggle at the congress itself over a major question, the agrarian programme. The majority of the Bolsheviks, under Lenin’s leadership, had come out for nationalisation of the land. Stalin, who spoke at the congress under the name Ivanovich, belonged to a small group of so-called “partitionists” that advocated the immediate partitioning of the land among the small property-owners, thus restricting the revolution beforehand to a capitalist-farmer perspective.
“In 1907, a sharp factional struggle was fought over the question of boycotting the Third State Duma (parliament).supporters of the boycott subsequently aligned themselves into two factions which over the next few years carried on a fierce struggle against Lenin’s faction, not only within the confines of the ‘united” party, but inside the Bolshevik faction as well. Bolshevism’s intensified struggle against liquidationism later on gave rise to a conciliationist faction inside the Bolshevik faction, to which prominent Bolshevik practical party workers of that time belonged: Rykov, Dubrovinsky, Stalin, and others. The struggle against the conciliationists dragged on until the outbreak of the war.
“August 1914 opened a period of regroupment inside the Bolshevik faction on the basis of attitudes toward the war and the Second International. Simultaneously a factional group was being formed of people who opposed national self-determination (Bukharin, Pyatakov, anthers).
“The sharp factional struggle inside the Bolshevik faction in the first period after the February Revolution and on the eve of the October Revolution is now well enough known (see for example, L. Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution). After the conquest of power a sharp factional struggle broke out around the question of the Brest-Litovsk peace. A faction of Left Communists was formed with its own press (Bukharin, Yaroslavsky, and others). Subsequently, the Democratic Centralism and the Workers’ Opposition factions were formed. Not until the Tenth Party Congress, held under conditions of blockade and famine, growing peasant unrest, and the first stages of NEP – which had unleashed petty-bourgeois tendencies – was consideration given to the possibility of resorting to such an exceptional measure as the banning of factions. It is possible to regard the decision of the Tenth Congress as a grave necessity. But in light of later events, one thing is absolutely clear: the banning of factions brought the heroic history of Bolshevism to an end and made way for its bureaucratic degeneration.” (L. Trotsky, Writings 1935-6)
A prior condition for internal democracy is the free flow of information. Without information, it is impossible for the membership to express an opinion, much less to determine policy. In this respect also, our tendency has been completely unlike the Bolshevik Party or the Communist International in its healthy period.
For the first five years of its existence, the Comintern held annual Congresses, despite the extreme difficulties involved. Every section discussed the problems of every other section. There were debates and controversies. The Russian party, despite its overwhelming strength and authority, did not attempt to use this to impose its views upon other sections. The Germans, Dutch, Hungarian and other parties pursued policies which were completely at variance with the standpoint of Lenin and Trotsky (usually with very negative consequences), but never experienced disciplinary measures or bureaucratic pressure. The only weapon used by Lenin and Trotsky was the weapon of convincing people by the superiority of their arguments. The tactic of character assassination, bureaucratic manoeuvres and the pressure of the apparatus was not the method of Leninist democratic centralism, but of Zinovievism and Stalinism.
Compare the situation with us. There is virtually complete ignorance about the work of comrades in other countries. This is true not only of the rank-and-file, but even at IEC level. This body only rarely meets. The Comintern held annual congresses. The IEC itself only meets about once a year. The “reports” given to it are, in reality, a list of our successes (very real and important, to be sure), for the purpose of boosting morale.
But very rarely do we get information about the problems faced by the comrades in difficult situations. This is not meant to be discussed outside the centre. Thus, an entirely false and one-sided picture is given even to the leading international comrades.
But the area about which there is complete ignorance is the workings of the centre itself. Even the leading international comrades know nothing about it. In the course of the recent debate, a representative of the IS minority went to one of the main European sections that supports the majority and asked the EC a simple question: “What do you know about my work, or the work of any other IS comrade?” The answer was a most eloquent silence. That speaks volumes about our internal regime.
The same is true in relation to the British EC. At the beginning of the dispute the Welsh CC cdes admitted that “they hadn’t a clue about the workings of the EC”. That goes for the rest of the CC, who never received any reports of its work, etc. Again the real state of the organisation is kept secret. Comrades in one area have no idea what the situation is in other areas – all they hear about is the successes.
In the past, the lack of any written information was justified in terms of security. It should be made clear that this refers almost exclusively to security, not in relation to the state, but in relation to the Labour bureaucracy.
It is quite ironical that the other faction now tries to justify the regime at the centre on the grounds of “security” when they have blown security sky-high by declaring an open organisation and publishing detailed information about the tendency in the pages of the bourgeois press.
The fact is that the argument about “security” has been used to violate internal democracy and keep vital information from being distributed. It is not a weapon against the labour bureaucracy, but against the rank and file.
Let us pose the question concretely: We have a situation where the leadership enjoys such trust that it amounts to a blank cheque; where there is uniformity of ideas, in which all dissent is automatically presented as disloyalty; where the leadership is allowed to function with virtually no checks or accountability, under conditions of complete secrecy from the rank-and-file. In such a situation, it is not surprising that a clique should exist. It would be astonishing if a clique did not exist.
Some comrades have posed the question as to whether the manifest reality of a political and organisational degeneration in our midst is not some kind of inherent consequence of democratic centralism.
In the first place, anyone with the slightest knowledge of the history of Bolshevism will see at a glance that this regime bears not the slightest resemblance to the internal regime of the party of Lenin and Trotsky. What we are confronted with here is not democratic centralism but bureaucratic centralism.
In the second place, it would be naive in the extreme to imagine that the fundamental cause of the degeneration of any workers’ organisation lies in its rules, statutes and constitution.
Statutes, of course, have their importance. But from a Marxist point of view, they cannot explain, still less determine, the fundamental evolution of a party, which is linked to all kinds of phenomena, both objective and subjective: the quality of its leadership, the development of its cadres, its links with the working class (or lack of them), the concrete stage through which the class itself is passing, the pressure of alien class forces on the party and its leadership. All these factors are a million times more decisive than any constitution, and can make or break any organisation, no matter how perfect its statutes. This is, after all, the lesson of that happened to the Bolshevik Party, the most democratic party in the history of the world working class, which degenerated under unfavourable historical conditions.
Today, at a time when Stalinism has been overthrown, not by the working class, but by capitalist counterrevolution in Russia, the strategists of capital are striving to blacken the name of Marxism in the eyes of the working class. There is a constant barrage of propaganda which attempts to slander the spotless heritage of Bolshevism, trying to show that “Leninism and Trotskyism are the same”. Part of this campaign is to identify Stalinist authoritarianism with the “original sin” of Democratic Centralism. This is false from beginning to end.
To begin with, the Bolshevik Party was neither the first, nor the last, example of a workers’ party which suffered a bureaucratic degeneration. All the parties of the Second
International experienced a complete bureaucratic-reformist degeneration, despite the fact that not one of them was organised on the lines of democratic centralism, and most had a very “democratic”, loose and “federal” structure. Only the Bolsheviks organised on Leninist lines succeeded in resisting the pressures of capitalism, maintaining the banner of revolutionary Marxism and leading the workers to power in 1917.
Not only the reformist, but also the anarcho-syndicalists, who enjoyed mass support in a number of countries up to the First World War, experienced a bureaucratic-reformist degeneration, and betrayed the working class. In France, the anarcho-syndicalists leaders dropped their demagogic slogan of a “general strike against war” and joined the war-time coalition – the “Union Sacree” – with the bourgeois at the first sound of the trumpet. Two decades later the leaders of the Spanish CNT betrayed the Spanish Revolution. Having refused “on principle” to organise a workers’ government in Catalonia in 1936, they did not hesitate to join the bourgeois Popular Front, even accepting ministerial portfolios. Yet, in their day, they vociferously protested against “democratic centralism”, and had the most “democratic” of constitutions, in which de-centralisation and federalism formed the main pillars.
In fact, no constitution in the world can guarantee against the danger of bureaucratic degeneration. Let us recall that Stalin’s Constitution of 1936 was hailed as “the most democratic Constitution in the world”. And so it was – on paper.
The American IWW – a semi-anarchist organisation which enjoyed big influence among certain sections of the workers before 1914 – had no full-timers, but only “part-timers”. That did not prevent a bureaucracy from forming in the leadership of the IWW.
In reality, you can have a bureaucracy in any organisation, even outside politics. You can have a ‘bureaucracy” in a knitting circle or a football club – and frequently very poisonous bureaucracies they are. We are not, of course, referring to a fully-fledged bureaucracy like that of the Labour Party or the Soviet Union, but cliques of people who are greedy for prestige and positions, who indulge in all kinds of back-stabbing, gossip and intrigue to gain their ends. This is a. common enough phenomenon not to require further elaboration.
Such a bureaucracy does not require a material base. The argument (which has been used by the “Majority”) that a bureaucracy must have a material base, in privileges, huge salaries and the rest, is entirely false and mechanical. We have heard the same argument from every piddling sect since Trotsky was alive: “Look, we have no privileges, no big cars. How can we be a bureaucracy?” Nevertheless, some of the worst examples of neo-Stalinist bureaucratic cliques are to be found precisely in ex-Trotskyist sects, like the Healyites.
The bureaucracies of the Labour Party and the trade unions, as well as the Stalinist bureaucracies of the East, are a different phenomenon. They rest on privileges and have a direct material interest in maintaining them at all costs. Here we are dealing with something else. But to ignore the existence of cliques and bureaucratic tendencies which have crystallised at the top of our organisation, and which have gone from bad to worse, would be the height of irresponsibility and would lead to the wrecking of the tendency.
The only defence against bureaucratism does not consist in paper rules and regulations, but in the consciousness of the membership, the formation of cadres and the political and moral standing of the leadership.
There is no historical law which says that degeneration is inevitable. How did it come about that Lenin and Trotsky did not go the same way as Stalin and Zinoviev? Why did Rosa Luxembourg not end up like Kautsky? The role of the individual is tremendously important, and even decisive at certain moments in history, for good or for ill.
Any workers’ organisation will come under the pressures of capitalism. These pressures are multiplied a thousandfold in periods of capitalist upswing like the period of more than two decades that preceded the Fist World War and set the seal on the degeneration of the Second International, or the period from 1950 to 1974 which had similar effects on the leaders of both the Social Democratic and Stalinist partiesand also led to the degeneration of the leaders of the so-called “IV International”.
Or course, we must maintain a sense of proportion. Even if Marx, Lenin and Trotsky would have been alive at that time, it would not have made a fundamental difference to the general processes, within society and the working class. But it would have probably enabled us to preserve the bulk of our forces intact and prepare for the big possibilities which opened up in the subsequent period, beginning with 1968 in France. This, in turn, would have meant a fundamental change in the situation. That is the importance of the subjective factor, of genuine Marxist leadership.
The importance of good generals in war is not only for periods of advance. In a situation where, for historical reasons, the Marxists are forced to retreat, the importance of leadership is even greater. With good generals you can retreat in good order, preserve the bulk of your forces, dig in, and prepare for a new advance when conditions permit. With bad generals (like those who only know one word of command: “Charge!”) you can turn a defeat into a rout.
Pressures of Capitalism
With the wisdom of hindsight (the cheapest of all types of wisdom), it is clear that we did not give sufficient weight to the effects of decades of capitalist upswing on the entire evolution of the present period.
The consciousness of the working class, both in the West and in the former Stalinist states, has been thrown back for a time, although this will be overcome by a series of convulsive leaps on the basis of experiences in the coming period. Neither in the East nor the West can capitalism offer a way out for the working class. But that fact is not evident to the mass of the workers, whose consciousness has been affected by the fact that capitalism has been able to develop the productive forces for a whole period. This fact has a great importance in working out our perspectives and tactics, yet it is a closed book as far as the leaders of the other faction is concerned.
Prior to the miners’ strike, we had experienced a period of steady growth. This was the result of correct ideas, policies, tactics, perspectives and methods. It was also the result of the fact that the workers in Britain and internationally, were beginning to draw revolutionary conclusions from their experience of the great class struggles of the 1970s: the Portuguese and Spanish revolutions, the fall of the Greek Junta, civil war in Cyprus, big movements of the class in France, Italy, Britain, and so on.
The first big economic recession since 1950, in the mid-1970s, caused a shock-wave throughout the world. The perspectives of the European bourgeois at this time was not a period of stability, prosperity and “democracy”, but civil war and military coups. The “P-2” conspiracy envisaged military dictatorship not only in Italy, but in Belgium, Spain, Norway, etc. In Britain, Brigadier Kitson was openly discussing the possibility of a coup. It emerged that sections of the British ruling class had toyed with the idea of a coup against Harold Wilson.
All these processes were cut across by the Reagan boom which began in 1982. The objective situation changed. Capitalism succeeded in re-establishing a certain, temporary, equilibrium, albeit with rates of growth far inferior to those of the past.This fact inevitably had an effect on the consciousness of all classes. It is the fundamental reason for the long period of Thatcherism in Britain and of Republican administrations in the USA. It is also the basic reason for the move to the right of all the social democratic leaders, not just in Britain, whether in or out of power, and the collapse of the Left Reformists.
In all periods such as this, the pressures of capitalism upon the working class and its organisations enormously increase. We see this, not only in the open capitulation of the Labour leaders, but in the collapse of the sects, and above all, the “Communist” parties. But it is clear that the same pressures have also had a profound effect on a section of the Marxist tendency, starting at the top.
Without wishing to admit it publicly, the faction which bases itself on the apparatus, has drawn pessimistic conclusions about the working class and its organisations. In words, they continue to repeat the old phrases about the labour movement inevitable transforming itself “in the future”. But in practice, they have abandoned any such idea, and are looking around for a alternative to base themselves upon. They believe they have found this in the so-called “unorganised layers”, i.e. the most downtrodden and exploited layers of the working class. This marks a decisive step away from the traditional orientation of our tendency, and the beginnings of a break with the methods of Marxism.
One of the characteristics of this faction is its total inability to admit a mistake.This is not an accident. It flows from a desire to preserve at all costs the prestige of the ruling group, by giving it a aura of “infallibility”. But a mistake, if not corrected in time, will turn into a tendency. This is exactly what has happened, with disastrous consequences.
In the recent period, we have seen a tendency to avoid putting forward a definite perspective on any subject, on the grounds that “perspectives must be conditional” and that “the present period is very complex”.
Of course, perspectives are conditional by their very nature. There are different variants. But at the end of the day, a Marxist leadership must decide which variant it considers to be most likely. This is for a very simple reason. A Marxist organisation is not a debating club. Perspectives are supposed to be a guide to action. To fail to indicate the most likely path of development in society and the working class is to disarm the comrades, who require direction for their work, if it is to be effective.
Imagine a patient who went to the doctor with stomach pains and was told:
“a) It may be colic, b) it may be an ulcer, or c) it may be stomach cancer. Good morning!” The problem is that, at the end of the day, a Marxist leadership must put forward a definite perspective, for the same reason that a doctor must work out a definite diagnosis: because from it flows a series of practical conclusions relating to tactics and orientation.
The leadership of the other faction no longer tries to put forward a scientific Marxist perspective, firstly because they are incapable of doing so, secondly, because they are motivated by considerations of personal prestige, which is closely connected to the idea of an “infallible leadership”.
The authority and prestige of the leadership in the past was based upon correct perspectives, ideas, tactics and methods. Now all that has gone. The present leadership pursues incorrect perspectives, tactics, methods and ideas. Yet itdemands authority. That is precisely the political basis for Zinovievist methods.
Zinovievism, at basis, is the attempt to solve political problems by organisational means. It is characterised by the use of the apparatus in internal political disputes, and the attempt to slander and distort the arguments of opponents. All these methods have been employed against the Opposition by the present leadership in the most shameless fashion. But these methods – entirely alien to the democratic traditions of our tendency, did not drop from a clear blue sky, but are rooted in a fundamentally mistaken method of party-building which has been present, in embryo, for some time and which has got steadily worse over the last few years.
How the Clique Developed
The development of a clique in the top of the organisation was the product of a whole series of factors, both objective and subjective, political and individual. It did not happen
overnight, but was a gradual process, the full significance of which was not immediately evident. There were symptoms of all kinds of negative manifestations, but the full extent of the degeneration only became clear when EG and AW finally challenged the clique. From that moment onwards, the process has become accelerated. What was implicit has become explicit. Quantity has become quality. The degeneration of the apparatus has reached such a point that it threatens the very existence of the tendency.
This is not to say that unhealthy tendencies did not exist before. The difference is that, having been publicly challenged and exposed by the position, the bureaucratic faction has become conscious itself, its interests and its identity as a clique. It is now consciously struggling to establish a complete monopoly of the apparatus, excluding every critical element, by the most unscrupulous means. The conduct of this faction in the present struggle is a final proof for all those comrades who doubted the existence of the clique.
The clique itself was not the product of a conscious conspiracy. It did not originally work according to a plan. Up until recently, it consisted of a very small group of personal friends and close collaborators of PT, a man of considerable ability, especially in the field of organisation who played an important role in the development of the organisation, although the political ideas, and many of the organisational ideas also, were borrowed from EG.
Until quite recently, the CC was not under the complete control of the clique, nor was the full-time apparatus as a whole. Superficially, the organisation was run on democratic lines. But in practice, there was an increasing tendency for control of the apparatus to be concentrated in the hands of the general secretary, although this was not evident to many comrades.
When the tendency was much smaller, with a handful of full-timers, the question of democratic control and accountability did not seem to be of vital importance. With such small numbers, if anyone was guilty of abuses, it would be immediately known, and would be quickly rectified.
But quantity becomes quality. When you reach the stage of 8,000 members and 200 full-timers, the question of control and accountability becomes a matter of life and death for the organisation. In effect, the apparatus acquired a dynamic and a life of its own, without reference to the needs and aspirations of the “rank-and-file”.
The original cadres of the tendency had a certain political level. The building of the tendency was conceived of in political terms. Organisation was regarded as the necessary vehicle for carrying the ideas of Marxism to the working class, not as an end in itself.
However, over a period, with the rapid expansion of the full-time staff, the political level of the full-timers suffered a decline. Less attention was paid to their political capabilities. Increasingly one heard more stress being placed on the organisational, or even purely administrational, aspects, “Committee-itis” came into fashion. The conversation of the full-timers centred obsessively on the functioning of committees of all kinds: ECs, CCs, DCs, BCs and so on.
Paradoxically, this fetishism of organisational forms led to the undermining of the very organisations themselves. The branches became subordinate to the committees, the committees to the full-timers.
The idea that “the full-timer” solves everything is false to the core. The health and viability of a revolutionary organisation depends on the health and viability of the branches. The branches are the roots of the organisation. Without healthy roots, the plant must wither and die.
Of course, full-timers play an essential role in the tendency. Without a solid full-time apparatus, we would be reduced to a group of dilettantes – a debating club. But the role of the full-timers is to assure the best possible functioning of the branches, not to substitute themselves for them.
The full-timer must provide leadership. But leadership consists in the ability to patiently convince, encourage, motivate and inspire. It also involves the ability to listen to and learn from the membership as a whole. This, in turn, depends on the political development and personal qualities of the comrade concerned.
Unfortunately, in many cases, those comrades who went full-time were not always the best candidates, but those who were available, or prepared to accept the extremely low wages of a full-timer. This often meant unemployed comrades or students, with little or no experience of the life of the working class and the labour movement.
There is no doubt that the great majority of full-timers were, and are, dedicated and self-sacrificing comrades. With adequate political training, most could have made the grade as revolutionary leaders.
However, the theoretical development of the full-timers was systematically neglected. This fact is clearly understood by the majority of the full-timers themselves, who have repeatedly complained about it. This neglect was a conscious decision by a group within the leadership which, in effect, has a contempt for theory.Schools for full-timers were regularly cancelled, alleging lack of time, resources, or “other priorities”. Any excuse was used to downgrade and belittle the importance of the theoretical development of the organisation, starting with the full-timers. This was the start of the slippery slope to disaster.
That the political level of the tendency has suffered a decline is not open to serious doubts. Gradually, ideas and politics have been pushed to one side, and replaced by an unhealthy and one-sided insistence on “organisation” (badly understood) and “agitation”.
The idea that cadre-building must occupy a central place in the building of the party has been discarded. The latest idea is that “you educate yourself on the streets”. That is, instead of reading the basic works of Marxism, you should be out selling papers and collecting money. These activities are, of course, very necessary. But we have always criticised the sects in the past for turning their organisations into “paper-selling machines”. We understood the extreme damage caused by groups like the Healyites, who picked up raw youths off the streets, “educated” them with a couple of slogans, and sent them out with piles of papers. Without ideas, perspectives and theory, and without an anchor in the labour movement, these youths rapidly become burnt-out and dropped out of politics altogether. Now the leadership of the tendency has, in effect, gone over to these false methods, with lamentable consequences.
The inability to explain, convince and motivate by political argument leads directly to the sin of “commandism” and office-leadership. The full-timers tend to order and bully the comrades, instead of convincing them. They rely upon the loyalty of the membership, built upon the political authority of the leadership handed down from the past, in order to get their way. If you do not accept the targets handed down by the full-timer, you are “not a good comrade”, you are “conservative”, and so on.
By degrees, the rank-and-file has been displaced by the full-time apparatus. A whole new “theory” has been elaborated by the leading clique. This boils down to the following formula, which is mechanically repeated by the supporters of this faction, as a key to open all doors: a) “Form a team at the top” and b) “bring on the youth”.
It is laughable to hear these essentially empty slogans being repeated even by members of the international leadership, as the “secret” of how to build. Thus, all the complex tasks of building a national section are reduced to a couple of banal ideas, which would be child’s play for a six year old.
How are we to understand a “team at the top”? A Marxist collective leadershipundoubtedly ought to involve a number of comrades with different political and organisational talents. But at all times the political elements must predominate. However, this formula has been understood in an entirely different way by this faction.
The “team” referred to is regarded as “people who can work together”. Or, more accurately, people who “fit in”. Fit in – with what? People who fit in with the concept of party building handed down by this faction. A conception of party-building which is essentially non-political, which consists in the mechanical repetition of the slogans currently in vogue with the leading group, unquestioningly accepts targets and “hands them down” to the membership, and so on. That is how this faction understands a “team”. And anyone who does not fit into the “team” is considered an “awkward customer”, a “conservative”, or whatever, and, by one means or another, removed.
Something similar occurs with “bringing on the youth”. It is an elementary proposition that we base ourselves on the youth. It is necessary to give the young comrades every help and encouragement to develop and take initiatives. It is necessary to train the best of the youth as cadres and potential leaders, to continually renovate the leadership.
But, here too, an idea which is correct in itself, has been twisted into its opposite. If it is wrong to stifle the youth and hold them back, it is also wrong to flatter the youth, to fill them full of demagogic ideas, to pander to their impatience, and to turn them against the older generation of revolutionaries.
From quite an early date, the present general secretary decided to select a series of young comrades, promote them to leading positions, via the student work (NOLS), the LPYS NC and the Labour Party NEC, and finally, bring them to the national centre, where they worked under his direction, in different organisational fields.
Unlike the previous generation, which had to struggle for their position as a tiny minority of the YS, these comrades entered at a time when we had already conquered a majority. They rapidly rose to key positions as “leading Youth comrades”, without necessarily having earned it.
These comrades were competent politically, but with very little depth, with a strong organisational bent, and a great deal of arrogance, which, far from being combated, was regarded as a positive feature. Above all, they “got on with the job” and “got results”, by which was frequently meant that they told the leadership what it wanted to hear. A lot of the present “drum-banging” and “chest-beating” which characterises the leadership comes directly from this source.
The formation of a clique, based around the figure of the general secretary, and largely recruited from this layer of ex-youth comrades, was not, at first, a conscious process. A process of selection began of those elements who completely shared PT’s conception of party-building, and threw themselves into it, in the process exaggerating these false methods to the “Nth degree”.
For a long time, comrade EG acted as a brake on the political mistakes and organisational excesses of this group on the EC. For a long time also, they did not feel sufficiently confident to challenge EG’s authority. Usually, if it came to a clash, they would retreat. PT, in particular, dreaded the prospect of an open clash with EG and did all in his power to prevent these differences from surfacing outside the EC. That is the main reason why the differences which did exist never went to the CC and were completely unknown to the membership, which assumed that the leadership was completely united.
Being unwilling to clash openly with the founder of the tendency, they resorted to underhand methods. EG was gradually pushed out of direct contact with the organisational side of the work. The story was assiduously put around that EG was “too old”, “impossible to work with”, “an obstacle”, and so on. PT stated on numerous occasions that it is “impossible to have an honest discussion with EC present”. Starting in the EC, these slanders were gradually repeated in private conversations to CC members.
This situation led to meetings of comrades taking decisions outside the EC, always with the excuse that “we can’t discuss if EG is present”. It would be wrong to think that this was a conscious conspiracy. This group merely found its irksome that their pre-conceived ideas of how the tendency should be run should be challenged continuously by EG. Evidently, he did not fit into the “team”.
At first, this was an unconscious process. The group around PT met together to bemoan the activities of EG, then to circumvent him, then to isolate him, and push him into the sidelines, while still taking advantage of his theoretical insights. In order to “get on”, one had to declare one’s loyalty to the General Secretary, and come out clearly against EG. Those who failed to do so were regarded with suspicion, marginalised, demoted and pushed out, in one way or another.
Of course, it would be wrong to attribute the degeneration of the leadership purely to a question of individuals. Thus the majority faction has attempted, from the beginning of the present crisis, to present it as a “personality clash”, involving “personal attacks” on the General Secretary, and so on. In reality, the accusation of a clique and Zinovievist methods are not at all of a personal character. They are political accusations, unlike the type of abuse directed against the leading representatives of the Opposition (“senile”, “mad”, etc).
Nevertheless, the role of the individual can be decisive, for good or ill.Without Lenin and Trotsky, the October Revolution would never have taken place. And while it would be entirely wrong to say that Stalin was personally responsible for the bureaucratic degeneration of the Bolshevik Party, nevertheless, as Trotsky explains in his masterpiece Stalin, that individual undoubtedly set his personal stamp on the way in which the degeneration proceeded. The same was true of the personal role played by Gerry Healy in the degeneration of what used to be the Revolutionary Communist Party. Marxism does not at all deny the role of the individual in history, but explains concretely how certain processes, which ultimately have an objective social base, can express themselves in different ways through different individuals.
The positive aspect of the work of comrade PT in the building of the tendency, especially in the organisational field, cannot be denied. But the one-sided nature of this contribution, with its heavy stress on the organisational, as opposed to the political, the importance of the apparatus, as opposed to the branches, and the heavy stress on “action” and constant campaigning as a panacea, as opposed to cadre-building and patient work in the labour and trade union movement, had a potentially negative side, which only now has become completely dear.
So long as these tendencies were kept in check by the intervention of comrade EG on the EC, they did not appear to be particularly harmful. Important advances were chalked up, which also meant that many comrades – including those in leading positions – felt reluctant to criticise those defects and abuses which were already beginning to make their appearance.
Gradually, however, the leading group around the General Secretary, succeeded in pushing EG to one side and establishing a firm grip on the organisation. An important role was played in this by the Organisation Bureau, which was completely under the control of the General Secretary, although the “public face” of this committee was comrade RS, who was responsible for carrying out its policies.
One of the peculiarities of the General Secretary is that he acts with extreme caution, and makes it a rule never to appear as the person responsible for unpopular actions. These are always entrusted to other people, who get all the odium for policies and decisions which invariably emanate from PT’s office.
Of course, nobody can refuse to accept their personal responsibility for carrying out unacceptable policies and using bad methods. All this must be openly discussed, criticised and rectified.
But anyone with the slightest knowledge or experience of the workings of the leadership over the past 8 years or more knows perfectly well that no decisions of any significance are taken without the full knowledge and consent of the General Secretary, and that the great majority of them are taken, either on his initiative, or at least with his active participation.
Would the leadership have degenerated without the role of this individual? That is not an easy question to answer. In any event, we would find ourselves in the realm of pure hypothesis. But one thing is abundantly clear: the lack of vigilance, the complete trust which was deposited in comrade PT, enabling him to concentrate an enormous amount of power in his hands, played an absolutely fatal role.
Many comrades have pointed to the establishment of a full-time Central Committee as a decisive step on the road to degeneration. Certainly, the elimination of a series of experienced trade union comrades was a factor which removed an important check on the full-time apparatus. After this, the mood on the CC has become increasingly divorced from the reality of the working class and its organisations. At present, there is an air of complete unreality in all the discussions which take place on that body. The CC is now living in a world of dreams.
At the time, comrades EG and others supported the idea of a full-time CC as a step towards a more professional, Bolshevik organisation. It must be said that the idea of a full-time CC is not, in itself, either incorrect or necessarily a formula for bureaucracy. But none of the checks and balances which were originally proposed were ever allowed to function. In particular, the calling of regular industrial bureaus, bringing together the experience of our trade union activists, never took place. In effect, the trade union comrades found themselves squeezed out of the decision-making process of the tendency. This was to have fatal consequences when a more difficult period developed.
The period of 1981-83 saw a rapid expansion of the full-time apparatus. This was necessary and correct, in view of the increase of the membership and the number of branches. However, as we have seen, the quality and political level of the full-timers was not always what was required. Nor was any attempt made to guarantee the control of the membership over the full-timers, who were under the constant pressure of the Centre to get quick results.
The rapid growth of the organisation created the illusion of permanent successes. ‘The sky was the limit”. Despite the beginning of the “Reagan boom”, and the victory of Thatcher, there was still a potential for growth. This idea, also, was not necessarily incorrect, on condition that we had a sufficient number of cadres to explain our ideas to our periphery which numbered thousands at that time.
However, the idea of growth was understood by this faction in an entirely simplistic and organisational sense. The most crass expression of this tendency was the “Organisational Resolution” drafted by JT for the International in 1984. This argued that the question of growth was entirely down to the subjective factor, and that there was no reason we should not double, treble, quadruple the tendency in all countries, and so on and so forth. This resolution, which was criticised by EG and AW, did a considerable amount of damage in a number of sections which took it seriously (some, fortunately, did not). It led to an unhealthy competition, a scramble for growth, to see who had more figures on the blackboard at the next meeting. Very soon, figures were being systematically falsified by national leaderships who were afraid to be “shown up” for not following the wretched advice from the Centre. In this way, dishonesty, double-book-keeping and the defence of prestige was introduced into the International straight from the “experts” in London.
JT was later removed from his position as international secretary and “exiled” to the USA as a result of his manoeuvres and impermissible conduct, especially in Ireland. But to this day, all information concerning this scandalous affair has been suppressed and kept from the membership, including the IEC It is a fact that from 1985 to the Summer of 1991, JT was not permitted any contact with the Irish section, either in person, by writing or by telephone. He was not even allowed to attend the Irish Commission at the IEC. These facts can serve to illustrate the serious nature of his violation of the norms of revolutionary conduct. This is all well known to the IS, yet today JT is one of the main spokesperson of the IS majority faction internationally. This despite the fact that the campaign to remove him In 1985 was orchestrated and led by PT and PH (N Ireland).
The Miners’ Strike
The British miners’ strike was a major turning-point, not only for the working class, but for the British organisation. Given the importance of the dispute, the decision of the leadership to make a major turn towards it was obviously correct. However, the way in which this was done had calamitous consequences for the organisation.
On the political plane, the miners’ strike, which at times approached a level of struggle and consciousness unparalleled in recent history, had the effect of temporarily disguising the effects of the boom in British society.
By this time, the leading group was already suffering from certain delusions of grandeur. We had made a major breakthrough in Liverpool thanks to decades of patient work in the traditional mass organisations of the working class. It was correct to say that we were already an element in the political life of Britain. But the leading group has taken this correct idea and exaggerated It to the point where truth has been changed into its opposite.
One of the principal sources of error of the clique is its complete lack of a sense of proportion: a gross over-estimation of the real strength and influence of the tendency inside the working-class movement. This has led to fatal consequences, culminating in the “Turn”.
During the miners’ strike, we already saw a tendency to substitute ourselves for the real movement of the class. It was correct to put forces into the coalfields. But in many areas, our own comrades ended up running miners’ support groups and the like, instead of involving other people in the work.
One of the most negative features of this was that the branches were ignored, and begun to fall into disrepair. “Activism” was put forward as the be-all-and-end all.
The branches are the fundamental unit of the organisation. In a healthy tendency, the branches should be lively places, where the comrades can participate in discussions, learn, make decisions, and organise and plan the intervention in the labour movement. But in most areas, this is far from the case.
For sometime now, trade union work has not been discussed in the branches. All sorts of excuses were given, but, in reality, the trade unionists have been pushed out. Political education hardly takes place in the branches, which concentrate on discussing the latest “campaign”. Moreover these “campaigns” are increasingly based on marginal issues. Also campaigns are increasingly raised in a manner divorced from the labour movement.
In the past the Women’s Charter campaign and the campaign against sexual harassment at work were clearly focussed towards the trade unions and workplaces. In contrast, the recent Sarah Thornton campaign has been raised mainly as an individual issue and largely in a non-class manner.
In this way, the tendency is being pushed further and further away from the realities and aspirations of ordinary working-class people and the labour movement. We are being driven down a path which has already been well-trodden by all the sects and trendy lefties in the past.
Before this happened, there was a layer of cadres in the branches and DCs who were capable of building independently, and exercising some check on the full-timers. Now many of these comrades have dropped away, burnt out by the mindless “activism” dictated from the top. More and more, everything depends on the full timers. This is a false and unhealthy method and will eventually undermine the entire organisation.
Instead of political education in the branches we now get 15 minute lead-off on things like “What We Stand For”. A worker’s time is too valuable to be wasted in going to meetings to be told what he or she already knows. Hence the increasing lack of interest and participation in the branches.
Over a period we have lost a whole layer of experienced comrades who have been replaced by inexperienced comrades who have been replaced by inexperienced youth, who are given no serious training in the ideas and methods of Marxism. A kind of “Lenin levy” has taken place, which has had the effect of lowering the general political level land swamping the older generation of cadres.
The heavy emphasis on “bringing on the youth” is not an accident. Trotsky explained many times that the older generation represents the political capital of a revolutionary party. Anyone who seeks to change the nature of such a party must first destroy its political capital and make it forget its own past. This is a task which the ruling faction has been engaged upon for years – with the results we now see before us.
It is necessary to win and “advance” the youth, but it is criminal deliberately to turn the youth against the older generation, to give them a swollen head and to use them as a battering ram against the cadres. Yet this has been the conscious tactic pursued by the clique around the General Secretary, not only in Britain but internationally. The aim, furthermore, is not at all to “advance” the youth, but to advance the apparatus,by removing all those who stand in its way.
As we have seen, many of the present members of the clique are former “youth leaders” who have been selected and groomed by the General Secretary as his chosen supporters.
The miseducation of these comrades began very early on. Already at the annual conferences of the Youth Organisation in the late seventies, when we had overwhelming control, certain unhealthy tendencies were visible.
The “opposition” in the YO was quite small – a mere handful of sectarians and left and right reformists. They posed no threat, either politically or organisationally. Yet, instead of answering them politically, which would have served to raise the political level of the youth – our principal objective – on many occasions the “leading youth comrades” resorted to insults and “hammering” sessions. Instead of convincing by argument they based themselves on slogan-mongering, clichés and rhetoric. And this method, completely alien to those of the past, came to be regarded as normal, and even “clever”.
In the early days, we fought for ideas. Our conception of fighting for control, was the fight for political control. However, the leaders of the bureaucratic faction have a different idea altogether. They are obsessed with control in an entirely bureaucratic sense: of getting and holding onto office. They must be in the majority. They cannot stand the idea of being in a minority. Hence their obsessive reference to the Opposition as “The Minority”. As if that were a conclusive proof that the ideas of the minority must be wrong.
This apparatus mentality has done colossal damage to our work in the labour and trade union movement. The launching of the BL organisation was a tremendous event, pregnant with all kinds of possibilities for extending the ideas and influence of the Marxists among millions of trade unionists. Yet the BL organisation failed to develop. Why?
The first task of the Marxists is to work out correct ideas, policies, programme and perspectives. The second task, even more complicated and difficult than the first, is to find the way to link up the scientific programme of Marxism with the necessarily unfinished, confused and contradictory movement of the masses. If we fail to establish this link, we become a sect, neither more nor less.
The leadership of the bureaucratic faction has never understood this. Their sole concern is that we should “control” the movement, at whatever cost. They are like those Bolshevik committee-men who in 1905 turned up to the first meeting of the Petersburg Soviet, read out a declaration of the Party’s principles, and, when the astonished delegates refused to accept the Bolshevik programme en bloc, walked out.
The golden chance for the BL organisation to take off was during the miners’ strike. But it played next to no role in the strike, because it was not allowed to. Control had to be kept firmly in the hands of the tendency. The full timers were terrified that we might lose control, so it was never really permitted to function as a living entity. The result is well-known.
This fear of differences is deeply-rooted in the psychology of this faction. It is not an expression of confidence, but quite the opposite. It reflects an inability to convince by argument, whether in the YO, the unions, the LP, or our own organisation. It leads directly to bureaucratic methods, the attempt to solve political differences by organisational means, and, ultimately the swamp of Zinovievism, which the internal regime has now sunk into.
The apparatus faction lacks all confidence in the rank-and-file. Congresses are called with increasing infrequency. Even at these congresses, the views of the rank-and-file are not really welcome. “Awkward” resolutions are usually withdrawn under pressure from the EC. Those who insist on holding out can expect a public verbal “hammering”. The slate system of elections – which is not the only method of electing a leadership in a Bolshevik organisation – has undoubtedly been abused to make it difficult for leaders to be removed.
All these things did not remove the discontent of the rank-and-file, but merely drove it further underground. Many comrades were unhappy with the way things were going, but felt themselves to be isolated. How could they take on such a powerful and (apparently) united apparatus? Many gradually dropped out, others were deliberately pushed out, others fell into passivity, merely ticking over in the branches.
Those who attempted to give voice to their discontent found themselves confronted by a powerful apparatus which quickly moved to isolate them, branding them as “conservatives”, “whiners” and the like.
Under the given conditions, there was no chance for the rank-and-file to express its opposition. This fact gave the leading group a sense of almost complete invulnerability. They believed they had neutralised EC and those who were uneasy with the organisational methods and who felt the need for a more political approach to the work. They were capturing one position after another, without a shot being fired.
However, their self-assuredness led them to make mistakes. Having got control of the British section, the next objective was the International. TS and LC were sent in to undermine the position of AW, in the same way that EG had been undermined in the British leadership.
By this time – 1987/88 – there can be no doubt that this faction was working in a planned and coordinated manner. They got control of a number of sections, where they invariable succeeded in making a mess. For all their boasting and bragging about their alleged superior organisational capacities, they have never succeeded in building a section anywhere in the world, but only in disorganising the work and destroying good comrades.
By late 1990 they were planning a “coup d'etat” in the International, under the slogan of a “smaller IEC” (They had earlier tried the same thing in relation to the British CC, but failed). This plan involved the elimination of virtually all the old leaders (including RSi) and their replacement by people who were unconditional supporters of the clique. The Spanish section, for example, was to be reduced from four representatives to one – the same number as Australia! On the other hand, prominent members of the clique in Britain, LW, CD and LC were to be brought onto the IEC as full members and even the IS. Thus the same type of regime would dominate the International as in Britain.
But the organisers of this plan tried to move too hastily. They came into collision with AW, who for some time had been receiving complaints from sections where the clique was pursuing its methods, with disastrous results. A secondary incident sparked off a row within the IS which served as the catalyst which brought the whole thing to a head.
It is clear that a split at the top was the necessary precondition for the emergence of a serious Opposition tendency. The fact that two recognised leaders of the tendency, including its founder, comrade EG decided to confront the clique in the international centre transformed the situation.
But neither of these comrades were prepared for the vicious reaction of the apparatus, when it felt itself challenged. Like many others, they had not realised just how far the process of degeneration had gone.
Since the start of the crisis, all the processes have speeded up. There has been, on the one hand, a consolidation and hardening of the bureaucratic faction. Those for whom the power of the apparatus was more important than ideas have quickly gravitated to the ruling faction. This includes all but a small part of the full time staff.
There is a layer of comrades who have been so miseducated by the regime that they are prepared to follow anything which comes down “from the top” without question, no matter how monstrous. This is what is mistakenly considered to be “party loyalty”. In reality, it is disloyalty to the elementary principles upon which a genuinely Leninist party is built.
The apparatus leans to a great extent on a layer of young comrades who have not been seriously educated in Marxist ideas and have no knowledge of the past traditions of the movement. Many of these will, unfortunately, be burnt out and drop out of politics in the next period, particularly when they see that the “New Turn” does not fulfil the promises of the leadership.
But the great majority of those who support the leadership do so because they do not believe that the tendency could degenerate to such an extent. They have persuaded themselves that the problems and faults they see are secondary issues, the product of individual mistakes. They are desperately concerned to maintain unity and avoid a damaging split.
This instinct for unity is undoubtedly a natural and healthy one. But what is clear – and clearer by the day – is that the bureaucratic faction which treats the apparatus as its private property and attempts to deal with Opposition, not by convincing people but by crushing them and driving them out – this is the greatest threat, not only to the unity of the tendency, but to its very existence.
Around the banner of the Internationalist Opposition the basic forces of Trotskyism are beginning to regroup. Workers, trade unionists, unwaged, students, full-timers who have rebelled against the ruling faction and were not afraid to be sacked and victimised – that is the stuff a genuinely revolutionary tendency is made of.
A large part of the cadres, including the historical leaders nationally and internationally, support the Opposition, which has restored theory and political education to the central position from which they were excluded.
There is no doubt that, on the basis of their own experience of the bureaucratic regime, with its sectarian, adventuristic policies, many honest comrades will begin to draw their conclusions and will come over to the Opposition.
Realising this, the bureaucratic faction has resorted to a policy of mass expulsion of oppositionists. While spreading the lie that the Opposition has “split”, they themselves are carrying out the most monstrous split by expelling our comrades, starting with comrade EG, the founder and theoretical leader of our movement. That will not save them. In the struggle of ideas against the apparatus, it is ideas which inevitably win, in the long run. We remain as confident of our ideas as when we started building this tendency, decades ago. What we did then we can do again. And in the interest of the world working class, we are duty-bound to do so.