Tendance Coatesy

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Committee for a Workers International (CWI – Socialist Party) Splits and Expels “Petty Bourgeois Mandelism”.

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Struggle against “petty bourgeois Mandelism” creates international split.

This, some might say, bland announcement appears on the Socialist Party’s website.

Socialist Party conference reaffirms the CWI’s historic approach

It requires close reading to get to the gist of the important bits.

On Sunday 21 July over 200 delegates at a special conference of the Socialist Party (England/Wales) voted overwhelmingly, 173 – 35 with 0 abstentions, to sponsor an international conference to reconstitute the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI – the international organisation of which the Socialist Party is part).

This followed a nine month long international debate. Key issues included the central role of the working class in the struggle for socialism, the need for consistent work in the trade unions, the danger of making concessions to identity politics, and the importance of fighting for a programme which links the immediate struggles of the working class to the need for the socialist transformation of society.

In the view of the Socialist Party, and the majority of CWI members internationally, it is vital to defend the CWI’s historic approach to these issues in order for our international to be able to play a role in the struggle for socialism in the coming period.


To give in to the pressures created by the complications of the current situation, as a number of the CWI’s  previous co-thinkers have unfortunately done, is a fundamental error.

It is followed by these optimistic, some might suggest out-of-touch and wild,  claims.

At the present time our method has allowed us to orientate effectively to those mobilised in support of Jeremy Corbyn, campaigning for the removal of the Blairites and the transformation of Labour into a workers’ party.

We are pioneers of the fight against council cuts.

We play a vital role in the trade union movement, including our members playing a leading role in the rank-and-file National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN).

At the same time we have built a significant base on the university campuses.

Most importantly, we are building a party based on a clear socialist programme, currently over 2,000 members strong, which will be able to play a vital role in the mighty struggles of the working class which are ahead.

Opposition to this “method” has come from the Non Faction Faction (NFF).

After the conference, in which it is said 9 sections of the CWI led by Taaffe’s Socialist Party) have expelled the other 31 they held their own rally attended by dozens.

Today we learn that scores of individual members have been expelled, in England and Wales, for opposing Peter Taaffe’s “reconsitute” line.

The NFF have set up a Fighting Fund to back their initiative to Refound the CWI.

One wonders how anybody who backed efforts to affiliate the hard-line pro-Brexit Socialist Party to Labour would now welcome a group bent on expelling members who disagree with the leadership.

Background to this dispute is given in these articles (extracts):

Pete Boggs.

The SP (Socialist Party) is holding a special conference on 21 July to discuss issues from the conflict in the international network linked to the SP (Committee for a Workers’ International, CWI), and a split looks likely.

SP doyen Peter Taaffe has formed a faction in the CWI, “In Defence of a Working-Class Trotskyist CWI”. They contend that the Irish section has moved into “petty-bourgeois Mandelism” through its work in its feminist pro-choice campaign ROSA and an overemphasis on students.

The “Non-Faction Faction” (NFF) in the SP, aligned with the majority in the CWI, charges Taaffe with bureaucratism and being unable to relate to the new wave of left-wing and liberation movements across the world.

Taaffe’s faction has a comfortable majority in Britain, and has been able to remove NFF supporters Sarah Wrack and Claire Laker-Mansfield as (successive) editors of the SP’s weekly paper and from the SP’s Executive Committee.

Evidence for the NFF’s claims of bureaucratism comes from an email sent in error by Taaffe- supporting CWI secretary Tony Saunois to every national section revealing plans to expel Taaffe’s opponents if they convened a meeting of the CWI’s leading committee.

From another well-informed activist:

Petty bourgeois deviations?


Monday 22 July 2019 Manuel Kellner

The CWI is an international organization in the Trotskyist tradition. [1] Its strongest national organization is the “mother party” Socialist Party in England and Wales. In the 1980s, when its members were still working in the Labour Party, then as the “Militant Tendency”, it gained great prestige through its fight against Margret Thatcher’s poll tax, among other things.

According to reports, this organization could be threatened with division. By all accounts ‒ and that is where the problem begins. We are dependent on “leaked” internal documents on the Internet, press articles based on them from other left-wing groups in the English-speaking world and a kind of Kreml-astrology. The CWI does not publicly discuss the differences of opinion that have arisen.

In particular, a 12-page text by Peter Taaffe (English member of the leadership of the CWI for almost 50 years) dated 15 January this year and entitled “In defence of a working-class orientation for the CWI” is available on the Internet. At the very beginning, heavy guns are fired at the CWI: “… the CWI is confronted with …tendencies towards petty bourgeois Mandelism”. [2] Above all, Taaffe accuses the Irish organization of the CWI of “abandoning the necessity of an organization based on the working class movement” in favour of “identity politics”…

Taaffe is obsessed with defeating “petty bourgeois Mandelites”…

Defence of a Working-class Orientation for the CWI Peter Taaffe for the International Secretariat (Majority).

It is necessary to call things by their right name. Barely a month has passed since the IEC and yet it is already quite clear that the CWI faces an opposition to the policies and programme of the CWI with tendencies towards petty bourgeois Mandelism. This opposition originated with the leadership of the Irish section, but it is also present in the leadership of a number of sections of the CWI who support them. This is most prominently displayed in the recent lengthy Greek Executive Committee’s resolution written by Andros P, which represents an open political retreat from the policies and analysis of the CWI.

This is a complete apologia – both organisational and political – for the false methods, policies and perspectives of the Irish organisation.

We have characterised this as representing substantial concessions to ‘Mandelite’ political positions on identity politics, the abandonment of the need for a revolutionary organisation based upon the movement of the working class and the internal regime and democracy of the revolutionary party, and the revolutionary programme and perspectives that flow from such an approach.

Ernest Mandel ( 1923 – 1995) was a greatly respected, and liked, leading figure in the main international Trotskyist current represented in the Fourth International.

In total, he published approximately 2,000 articles and around 30 books during his life in German, Dutch, French, English and other languages, which were in turn translated into many more languages. During the Second World War, he was one of the editors of the underground newspaper, Het Vrije Woord. In addition, he also edited or contributed to many books, maintained a voluminous correspondence, and went on speaking engagements worldwide. He considered it his mission to transmit the heritage of classical Marxist thought, deformed by the experience of Stalinism and the Cold War, to a new generation. And to a large extent he did influence a generation of scholars and activists in their understanding of important Marxist concepts. In his writings, perhaps most striking is the tension between creative independent thinking and the desire for a strict adherence to Marxist doctrinal orthodoxy. Due to his commitment to socialist democracy, he has even been characterised as “Luxemburgist”.

As a young member of the same Fourth International as Mandel (in the International Marxist Group, IMG) I read many of Mandel’s articles, pamphlets and books. In the International Marxist Group, and the wider left, his influence was important. From books, such as The Formation of the Economic Thought of Karl Marx (1971), Late Capitalism (1975), the Leninist Theory of Organisation (1970) to From Stalinism to Eurocommunism (1979) Mandel played a significant role in shaping the thinking of the left – even those who disagreed with his (open-minded) Leninism and Trotskyism.

Taaffe is fixated on the way Mandel (and the FI) related to what was initially called the “new mass vanguard”. This was the FI’s was of describing  the radical left that broke from traditional social democratic and Communist leadership in the 1960s on issues such as the Vietnam War,. In the 1970s, the “new social movements” that emerged in the wake of the events of 1968 existed at a time (above all in the UK) with mass worker unrest and anti-fascist and anti-racist struggles, including the emerging black movement. Other issues emerged, more associated with the intelligentsia, such as the Second Women’s movement, which came to interact with struggles in the unions.

It is true that Mandel’s wing of Trotskyism, across Europe, was receptive to the issues of feminism and gay rights, and later, developed innovative ideas about green politics. Unlike the remnants of traditional Trotksyism who, when they finally recognised them, spent their time trying to control these forces, this tendency tried to grapple with their autonomy as well as the need for unity.

The IMG was one of the forums in which many of these activities and debates took place,  in a period when Taaffe’s progenitors in Militant dismissed feminism as middle class, “petty bourgeois”, supported the self-organisation of women comrades and published Socialist Women. The group was open to the debates created by the path-breaking Beyond the Fragments by Sheila Rowbotham, Lynne Segal and Hilary Wainwright (1979). This widely read pamphlet, subtited Feminism and the Making of Socialism, contained, amongst other ideas, a critique of the leaden form of top-down political organisation represented by Taaffe’s little band of always-right comrades guided by their “perspectives”.

The IMG also backed those who became involved in wider movements such as the Abortion rights campaigns of the 1970s.

The highly regarded IMG comrade Leonora Lloyd was a leading light in the new wave of the women’s movement.

This is the record of the comrade, which speaks for itself.

By 1975, Leonora was living in Harrow, and was a member of a socialist women’s group. When it was learned that the anti-abortion Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child was planning a local public meeting, the group organised a picket and got in touch with other women’s groups. The result was the formation of NAC.

Abortion law had been reformed in 1967, but the anti-abortion lobby was mounting well-resourced campaigns, and Scottish Labour MP James White was introducing his abortion (amendment) bill, which would have seriously curbed the numbers of legal abortions. NAC was launched at a major London rally and Leonora was central to it from the beginning. As NAC full-time coordinator from 1983 to 1993, she campaigned against White’s bill, and the others that followed. She spoke at meetings, debated on radio and TV, organised demonstrations and lobbied MPs. She didn’t ignore routine either; stuffing envelopes, phoning, photocopying. No task was too daunting, no task beneath her.

A stalwart of the left, she played a key role in the birth of the women’s movement (Liz Davis. Obituary 2002)


The contrast with the Taaffe faction’s stand on the Irish campaigners on the same issue does not need underlining.

The main issue is that the SP does not believe in working in campaigns which they do not control and would prefer to run isolated front organisations that they can tell what to do, rather than engage in broad movements

A final point on the IMG.

While the majority, and particularly the tendency this writer was part of, was influenced by the largest section of the Fourth International (the wing called at time the Unified Secretariat (USFI) the French Ligue communiste révolutionnaire (now the Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste)  and Mandel himself, there was never a sense of being led by a senior party (like the SP…) or a unique guiding figure (Taaffe).

The idea would have seemed ridiculous.

Here is one of many tributes to ‘petty bourgeois’ Ernest Mandel.

The Life and Struggles of Ernest Mandel

Comrade Mandel had weaknesses. He made mistakes. But he had a great capacity to admit his errors and to take the necessary steps towards correcting them. He was dedicated to building the revolutionary party, no matter how modest its starting point, because of, as he taught us, the essential importance of programme and revolutionary method. But he was also and at the same time oriented to the masses, to the big struggles of our century. He had no patience for sidelined commentators, for abstract critics, for sectarians of any stripe. His last work is a polemic against sectarianism, which you can read in BIDOM.

I will quote only the closing paragraph, a stanza that is really more about empowerment and socialist humanism, in the face of difficult obstacles. And I appeal to each person here. If you agree with these words, join us. Your place is with us, in Socialist Action and the FI, in the fight for a better world.

Ernest Mandel wrote these words: “Do not succumb to despair, resignation, or cynicism, given the terrible odds we all have to face. Do not retreat into “individual solutions” (the flesh pots of the consumer society are still open for some, be it on a much more restricted basis than before) … Never forget the moral commitment of all those who claim to be Marxists: the intransigent defense of the interests of the exploited and the oppressed on a world scale, everywhere, all the time.

“Never content yourself with pure propaganda activities. Never forget the initial and final commitment of Marx: The philosophers have interpreted the world in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.”




5 Responses

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  1. […] via Committee for a Workers International (CWI – Socialist Party) Splits and Expels “Petty Bourgeois… […]

  2. On our page’s new name

    Following our expulsion from the Socialist Party (see statement here) CWI supporters in England & Wales are in discussion to determine the name of our organisation.

    In the meantime, we have agreed to provisionally name our publications Socialist Alternative. Watch this space!

    Socialist Alternative – Manchester and Trafford
    Yesterday at 14:52 ·
    The Socialist Party, and before it the Militant tendency, has been a section of the Committee for a Workers International (CWI) in England and Wales since 1974. The CWI is an international organisation based on the ideas and methods of democratic socialism, Marxism and Trotskyism, and further developed by the hard work and sacrifices of comrades across the world.

    This includes 3 TDs (MPs) in Ireland, an elected councilmember in Seattle, and members fighting in the revolutionary movements in Sudan, Hong Kong and elsewhere. Sadly, after 45 years, the majority of the leadership of the CWI and England and Wales section have chosen to abandon the CWI and the bold ideas it was founded upon.

    On Sunday 21st July, a Special Congress in London passed a resolution stating that the many members of the Socialist Party who still support the CWI, “will have to do so outside of the Socialist Party”. In reality, the resolution is a cowardly method of expulsion from the party, following a campaign of witch-hunts, bullying and lies against the majority of CWI sections.

    This was all but confirmed when the SP’s Welsh Secretary said from the platform “goodbye and good riddance” to CWI supporters – a remark the leadership has refused to retract.

    The majority of the SP leadership are running scared from a debate about socialist programme and tactics, only half way through an agreed one-year process of debate. Instead of having a discussion in the democratically convened leadership bodies of the CWI – the International Executive Committee and the World Congress (which all sides had agreed to) and risking losing a vote, they have chosen to expel the majority of the organisation and walk away with the resources, including hundreds of thousands of pounds, against the will of the majority of its members.

    They have, in effect, attempted to enact the bureaucratic expulsion of the majority of the CWI: entire organisations and groups in Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Greece, Hong Kong, Israel/Palestine, Ireland, Italy, Ivory Coast, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Quebec, Romania, Russia, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Taiwan, Turkey, Tunisia, and the USA from the CWI, as well as a majority of members in Germany and South Africa who oppose their plans.

    Over 100 comrades in England & Wales, including a majority of active members in over a dozen key cities, stand together with the CWI majority in opposing this course of action. A meeting on 22nd July voted unanimously to refound the CWI in England and Wales, rejecting these bureaucratic expulsions and continuing to organise in the proud tradition of Militant in Britain – the traditions of socialist democracy and Marxism.

    Further explanation and analysis will follow. We call on all Socialist Party members, and in the wider workers and social movements to join us in fighting for a socialist world!

    Andrew Coates

    July 24, 2019 at 4:04 pm

  3. By John Throne. Expelled member, Committee for a Workers’ International. (CWI).

    I became active in the workers’ struggle in the Bogside Uprising of 1969. I was a member of the Free Derry Defense Committee. I was the first member of what was to become the Socialist Party of Southern Ireland which went on to affiliate to the Committee For A Workers International, (CWI). I was its first first full time organizer in Ireland as a whole.

    I was also an international organizer for the CWI for some time and later its first full time organizer in North America. I was expelled from that organization in 1996. As I continued my work against capitalism and for a world run by the international working class, I drew some conclusions from my experience and especially in relationship to organizing. I go into these in detail in my recent book; “We’ll Take A Cup Of Kindness Yet”, published in 2018. I believe it has information and conclusions which are useful in this present period of crisis in the self-styled revolutionary organizations and also in the mass organizations of the working class as the leaderships of these organizations are either consciously pro-capitalist or have no program or strategy to end capitalism. As a result, capitalism threatens to destroy life on earth as we know it and wipe out the human species. Helping to build a mass revolutionary international organization of the working class is the task of the day.

    I would ask readers to purchase my book and also read, follow and if you are interested, contribute to this US and international blog that I co-founded, Facts For Working People. My book and this blog seek to contribute to a discussion on how to organize, how to end capitalism and how to build a democratic socialist world.

    As an example of some of the contents of “We’ll Take A Cup Of Kindness Yet” published before I ever heard anything about any tensions in the CWI, I wrote in relation to the more general issue of organizing:

    “There is no possible way that the CWI, or its Irish or any section, or any of the self-styled revolutionary socialist organisations that presently exist, will become a semi-mass or mass organisation with their present internal life. The larger these organisations become the more differences and debates will inevitably arise. This is not only healthy, not only inevitable, but also necessary for a developing semi-mass or mass organisation. And if the internal life of the CWI is not changed to where it will be able to have a democratic and healthy internal life and tolerate different views and different factions, and openly admit its mistakes, the future of the CWI and all the self-styled revolutionary left organisations will be one of splits and expulsions and fragmentation.

    If members of the CWI want to give that organisation a future, they have to conduct an internal struggle to change the internal life of that organisation. It will take an international organisation of tens of millions, perhaps hundreds of millions to overthrow capitalism. There is no way an organisation of such a size can be built unless there is open debate, democratic rights and genuine faction rights, unless there is a genuine collective leadership, not a Peter Taaffe dictatorship, and unless there is an end to slander and lies. The CWI as it exists at present does not fit this bill. Nor do any of the other self-styled revolutionary organisations”.

    Comrades, in my book “We’ll Take a Cup of Kindness Yet,” I deal with my experience in the CWI. Some of the chapters are titled:

    “The Wrecking of the CWI”.
    “Wrong Methods – Mistakes of my own”.
    “Democratic Centralism – Cover for a multitude of sins”.

    You can see all the titles of the chapters in the book in the link above to the book on our blog or immediately to the right. From there you can order the book and my other book that became a best seller in the North, The Donegal Woman.

    I would ask Comrades to purchase a copy of “Well Take a Cup of Kindness Yet” and consider the conclusions I have drawn from my experiences inside the CWI and outside the CWI. And consider the ideas myself and other comrades who work with the Facts For Working People blog now have on how an international revolutionary organization can be built. This book, as well as my first book, The Donegal Woman, can be ordered from this page at Books.ie . Books.ie distributes worldwide. You can visit the Donegal Woman’s Facebook Page here. There are also reviews of the The Donegal Woman here.


    Andrew Coates

    July 24, 2019 at 5:22 pm

  4. […] Well known Pabloite revisionist Andrew Coates has a very good overview of the split and a useful primer on Ernest Mandel here: Tendance Coatesy […]

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