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Democratic Centralism

  • Crisis in SWP raises general issues for marxists   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 ...
    Posted 3 Feb 2013, 04:52 by Admin uk
  • Report from the IMT February 2010 IEC (in full) 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 ...
    Posted 7 Feb 2013, 04:00 by Admin uk
  • Proyect on Lars Lih Lenin Reconsidered Historical Materialism symposium on Lars Lih’s “Lenin Reconsidered” by Louis Proyect, 4 March 2010http://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/historical-materialism-symposium-on-lars-lihs-lenin-reconsidered ...
    Posted 5 Mar 2011, 03:03 by Admin uk
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Crisis in SWP raises general issues for marxists

posted 3 Feb 2013, 04:40 by Admin uk   [ updated 3 Feb 2013, 04:52 ]

  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.

The opposition within the SWP has gathered most of the document and comments at http://internationalsocialismuk.blogspot.co.uk/. The most prominent member is Richard Seymour who runs the well established Lenin's Tomb blog at htttp://www.leninology.com

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".

Marxist tradition

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.

Flexible tactics

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.

Escalating struggle

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.

United fronts

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."[1] 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.[2]

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.[3] 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!"[4]

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.[5]

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.[6]

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.[7]

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.[8]

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."[9]

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.[10]

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."[11]

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."[12]

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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Unfinished Leninism

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.[13]

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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Notes

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.

F) CONCLUSION

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.

Report from the IMT February 2010 IEC (in full)

posted 22 Nov 2011, 15:17 by Admin uk   [ updated 7 Feb 2013, 04:00 ]

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.

 

This organisational 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 most places. 

 

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 sectarianism.

 

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 workers struggle.

 

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 secrets.

 

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.

 

The International 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 defensively.

 

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 truth.

 

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.

 

The witch hunt

 

"I have seen these methods before. This is Healyism! This is Cannonism! This is Stalinism!"

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 on Iran.

 

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 restrictive resolution.

 

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 life”.

 

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 Communist Parties.

 

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.

 

The International 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 particular opinion?)

 

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.

 

Theoretically the 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 anarchists.

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, petit-chauvinist,  un-dialectical, 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 ago.

 

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.

Democratic centralism

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.

 

More accusations 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 to leave.

 

Then came another surprise session during what was supposed to be our afternoon off.


Version:1.0 StartHTML:0000000222 EndHTML:0000042610 StartFragment:0000012052 EndFragment:0000042574 SourceURL:file://localhost/Users/heikokhoo/Desktop/politics/org/IEC%20report%20by%20Martin%20and%20Jonathan%202.doc

Expel Heiko Khoo session

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:

“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 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 the recordings.

 

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.

 

Appendix

 

  1. Unity resolution of the IMT presented by the International Bolshevik faction at the IEC
  2. Resolution on party unity from SWP 1930s
  3. 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 IBF

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:

1.     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 or expulsions.

2.     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 other side.

3.     Both sides obligate themselves to loyal collaboration in the daily work of the IMT during the period of the discussion.

4.     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 national leadership.

5.     A parity 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.

6.     An unrestricted distribution of factional documents, besides those published on the intranet or in an official bulletin.

7.     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.

8.     The discussion 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 minority.

9.     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.

10.  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 adopted positions.

11.  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 work.

12.  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.

The following 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 PC.

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:

1.     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.

2.     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.

3.     Both sides 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.

4.     A parity 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 recommendations.

 

Supplementary Resolution on the Organisational Question

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:

1.     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.

2.     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.

3.     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.

4.     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 positions.

5.     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.

6.     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.


Proyect on Lars Lih Lenin Reconsidered

posted 5 Mar 2011, 02:47 by Admin uk   [ updated 5 Mar 2011, 03:03 ]

Historical Materialism symposium on Lars Lih’s “Lenin Reconsidered”

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 the proletariat.

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:

http://www.columbia.edu/%7Elnp3/mydocs/american_left/leblanc_wald_review.htm

http://www.columbia.edu/%7Elnp3/mydocs/american_left/wald_mclemee_lovell.htm

http://www.columbia.edu/%7Elnp3/mydocs/american_left/reply_to_leblanc.htm

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 Menshevik leader.

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 organizations.”

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 meaningful fashion.

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 social democracy.

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 working-class.

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 said:

“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 ‘against us’.”

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.

The Origin of the ‘Slate System’

posted 19 Mar 2010, 02:51 by Admin uk

Pat Byrne   March 2010
The Origin of the ‘Slate System’ used in elections for the leadership of Leninist Groups
The 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:
“Until 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:
“Through 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:
“In 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.” (p.357-358)
In addition to the ‘old Bolshevik’ leaders, Lenin promoted less well-known figures who he thought would be more supportive of his position:
“Basically 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 totals.
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)
At 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)
“At 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 total.” (pp.363-364)
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 delegates.
“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
How 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:
“At 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 the SWP")
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

Political leadership of the proletariat (letter from Greece)

posted 13 Mar 2010, 20:03 by Admin uk   [ updated 13 Mar 2010, 21:14 ]

The virtual alternative political leadership of the proletariat 

The dynamics between social reality and political self-imaging in the epoch of crisis of capitalism 

Labros Kostopoulos 

Athens, February 28, 2010

 

The failure of the leadership 

The essential 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 party. 

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 party.   

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 life. 

Further more, the leadership has been proved also to be incapable to maintain the unity of the organization.  

Concretely, 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 the scene.  

So, this conclusion is also a simple fact of life. 

The irresponsibility 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, etc, etc.  

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!”.  

This irresponsibility 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”.  

The negation 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.  

So, instead of discussing with the comrades, the leadership expels the comrades who dare to put it in the corner of reality and responsibility. 

The negation 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. 

The gradual silent destruction of the organization by the leadership 

Of course, 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.       

The political 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 program. 

The leadership’s complete political incapacity to lead anybody to anywhere is extremely flagrant in the case of Venezuela.  

“Bolivarian 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. 

The leadership 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. 

The evident 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 in practice”. 

The organization 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.

Letter on Iranian explusion from ex-IMT member

posted 13 Mar 2010, 00:28 by Admin uk

More 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 ridiculous.

 

But 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.

 

So 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.

 

The 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 are

Degeneration of the IMT leadership at the IEC

posted 11 Mar 2010, 03:06 by Admin uk   [ updated 11 Mar 2010, 03:11 ]

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 
 
Dear Comrades, 
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 him. 
 
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 (see resolutions). 
 
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 effect). 
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 sounder basis. 
 
JC's walkout 
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 represent "democracy"! 
 
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 the IEC. 
 
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 World Congress. 
 
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. 
Comradely, 
The IS 
 
*** 
 
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. 
[Passed unanimously] 
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 their limit. 
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 from within. 
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 channels. 
[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 events. 
[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 members. 
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 normal channels. 
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 faction. 
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 discussion. 
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 attack. 
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 will be." 
[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. 
[Passed unanimously] 
 
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, 
The IEC 
5 March 2010 
[Passed unanimously] 
 
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 discipline. 
[Passed unanimously] 
 
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. 
[Passed unanimously] 
 
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 countries. 
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 in these 
participate in the founding conference of the V International in Caracas in April and other meetings like that, where we will defend our programme and ideas 
[Passed unanimously]

Answers to the document In Defence of DC

posted 27 Feb 2010, 11:49 by heiko khoo   [ updated 15 Mar 2010, 17:03 by Admin uk ]

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

 

The 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.

 

There 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 emerge strengthened.

 

The 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.

 

Unfortunately, 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 building?


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]

 

There 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?

 

The 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 organizational. 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.

 

Is 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 on organization.

 

Are all splits bad?

 

The 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:

 

“A 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.)

 

As 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.

 

The 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:

 

“In 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 their comforts.

 

“The 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

 

The 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

The 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.”

It 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.

From 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:

“He 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.)

From 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

 

Whatever 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 thousand times.

 

The 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 Trotsky.

 

This 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.

 

As 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.


To 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]


To 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 cadres.

 

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.


Unfortunately, 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]


The 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.

 

Trotsky 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?

 

Our 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.)

“The 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.

 

This 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 place? We 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.

It 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.

We 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)

Now 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”.

 

HK 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:

 

“The 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 CapitalismThere was one amendment, which was passed and a critical contribution from comrade CB in Italy…”

 

One 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 place.

 

It 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 our organization.

 

China 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).

 

Anyone 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.

 

One 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”.

 

JC 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)

 

On factions

 

The 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)


We 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 elected.

 

But 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)

 

Have 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.

 

With 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”:

“It 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.)

 

It 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)


 

There 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)

 

The 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

 

The 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.

 

The 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.)

 

When 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.

 

The 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)

 

Lenin 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:

 

“First 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”:

 

“The 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.”

 

Lenin 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]

 

And 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.)

 

From 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.

 

Unity 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.

 

What 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

 

Since 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 basic rule.

 

“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.)

 

“The 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.)

 

These 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)

 

In 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 come.

 

“There 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.)

 

When 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.”

 

It 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.)

 

“Top-down leadership”

 

No 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.”

This 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 Iranian sections.

Who 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.

The 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:

“As 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).

This 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.

 

This 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”.

 

“Constant intercommunication”

You 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.

 

HK 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:

“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.”

 

This 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.

 

But 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?

 

This 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.

Let 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.

This 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.

The 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 members.

However, 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]

“New ideas”

 

Since 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 comrades.

 

There 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.

Here 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.”
In 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!

 

JC 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.)

We 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!

As 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.

 

A 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.

 

Now, 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”.

 

Nothing 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?

 

‘Freedom 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.

 

“In 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.”

 

“Thus, 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:

 

“He 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.”

 

That 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

 

Comrade 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 about.

 

The 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.

 

The 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?)

 

The 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 International.

 

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

 

JC 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:

 

“It 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.)

 

On 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.)

 

So 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:

 

“I 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.)

 

This 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.”

 

He 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.)

 

This 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 can answer.

 

In 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)

 

The 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]


The 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 SWP:

 

“In 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.

 

“The 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.)

 

The 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 reformism.

 

The 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 anywhere else.

 

Not 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.

 

However, 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

 

We 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:

 

“Maybe 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.)

 

So 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”.

 

A 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.

 

What 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.

 

We 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.

 

From 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:

 

There 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.

 

The 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.

 

To 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 leaderships.”

 

The 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.

 

We 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.

 

It 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.

 

“Accidental” issues

 

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.”

 

In 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).

 

We 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.

 

In 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.

 

In 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 own purposes.

 

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.

 

Previously, 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.

 

This 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.

 

The 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.

 

The 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.

 

JC 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.”

 

Isn’t 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 (Mallorca).

 

The 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.

 

These 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.

 

The 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.

 

By 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.

 

This 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:

 

As 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

 

The 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.

 

The 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.

 

The 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.

 

Comrade 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.

 

Comrade 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 to follow.

 

And 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 extremely poor.

 

Comrade 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.

Comrade 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”

 

JC 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.

 

The 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.

 

The 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.

 

Our 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.

 

In 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.

 

One 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.”

 

They 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.

 

The 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.

 

The 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.

 

HK 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?

 

Pat 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.”

 

We 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 comrades.”

 

These 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 anarchists.

In 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

 

The 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.

 

A 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.

 

It 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.

 

Confidentiality

 

It 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.

 

We 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 possible informed.

 

That 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.

 

In 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.

 

Trotsky 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:

 

“In 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.)

 

That 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.

 

He 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:

 

“I 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.)

Security

The 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 bourgeois state.

 

As 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 wonderful openness!

 

It 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.?

 

Oh, 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.

 

This 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 to ignore.

 

In 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.

 

The 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 our work.

 

Trotsky and leadership

 

The 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.

 

The 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.

 

Within 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.

 

It 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 International.

 

There 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 their duties.

 

Trotsky 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.

 

The 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.

 

This 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.

 

We 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:

 

“Petty 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.)

 

To 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.

 

Stalin 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

An IS statement called In defence of Democratic Centralism

posted 27 Feb 2010, 00:49 by Admin uk   [ updated 27 Feb 2010, 00:55 ]

In Defence of DC


Revised IB statement of the British Faction on Internal Democracy

posted 26 Feb 2010, 03:11 by M MacDonald   [ updated 18 Feb 2013, 08:36 by Admin uk ]

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

2010

 

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 brief:

 

In the field of Theory we detect a drift towards empiricism, this has been revealed in the discussions on China and on Marxist economics.

 

a.              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 providing feedback.

  

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 structures.

 

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 ineffectual way.

 

  • 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?

On Factions

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.

“Democratic Centralism”

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.

Written 1992?

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