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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

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