Tendance Coatesy

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CWI Split: New Root and Branch Criticisms of the Socialist Party Published.

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The present crisis within the CWI comes as no surprise to us. The only surprise is that it did not come sooner. With sufficient material resources, a rotten regime can last quite some time, as we saw with the Healyites. But in the end, it fell to pieces. This will be the fate of the CWI” (In Defence of Marxism).

The fallout from the CWI split continues.

Socialist Appeal, the ‘Grantite’ wing of the old Militant, has got round to producing their commentary.

This has just been published:

The recent convulsive faction fight and split in the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI), driven by Peter Taaffe, the General Secretary of SPEW, the Socialist Party of England and Wales, is now plastered all over social media for the world to see. Despite the stream of allegations coming from the Taaffe faction, and the rebuttals from the other side, the dispute in reality centres around prestige politics, a highly pernicious tendency that is invariably fatal in a revolutionary organisation.

It occurs when somebody places his or her personal prestige above all other considerations.

As the title of their piece indicates they intend to give their point of view, as loudly as possible, about their own break with what is now the Socialist Party.

The CWI split of 1991-1992: setting the record straight

The article continues in the same vein,

Prestige politics is closely connected with personal ambition, self-promotion and delusions of grandeur. These things have characterised Peter Taaffe from the very beginning. At first they generally passed unnoticed. Most members of the Militants were unaware of them. But to those, like myself, that worked closely with Taaffe on a daily basis for some years, they soon became quite evident.

Unlike Ted Grant, who was a Marxist theoretician of considerable stature, Peter was a very superficial thinker with no ideas of his own. Insofar as he expressed any, they were all filched from Ted. But Taaffe felt no gratitude to Ted, of whom he was intensely envious. On the contrary, he spent most of his time systematically undermining Ted behind his back, whispering in corners to his group of adepts that Ted was “impossible” to work with.

What Taaffe wanted was an organisation of yes-men and women – unconditional supporters who would never contradict him. Lenin once warned Bukharin: “If you want obedience, you will get obedient fools.” That reads like the epitaph on the grave of the CWI. Over a period, the yes-men and women in the Militant – raw, young careerists, politically ignorant, but greedy for personal advancement, crystallised into a clique, which, behind the backs of the elected bodies, was deciding everything.

That was the real basis of the 1991-1992 split. The rest is pure fable. After nearly 30 years, it is about time we put the record straight.

The following, by contrast,  are long, serious, documents and should be read through.

Just to signal their importance here are some passages.

A matter of prestige

A case study in bureaucratic centralism, prestige politics and rule or ruin sectarianism.

The struggle within the Committee for a Workers International.

Extracts.

The recent split in the forty year old Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) followed the declaration of a Faction by Peter Taaffe and his supporters on the International Secretariat (IS) after they lost a vote at the International Executive Committee (IEC), which is the organisation’s leading body, other than the World Congress itself. The Faction claimed major “political differences” with their opponents on the IEC who represented a considerable majority of national sections and members of the CWI. The Majority were accused of abandoning work in the trade unions and, in a calculated provocation, of capitulating to Identity Politics and “petit-bourgeois Mandelism” i.e., to a reliance on social forces other than the working class. The United States of America and the Irish sections were specifically targeted as culprits.

In affecting to “call things by their proper name”, the Faction described the Majority as a “Non-Faction Faction”. This opportunist and unintentionally comical characterisation did not honestly reflect the nature of the CWI Majority either politically or organisationally. There was no fully formed and homogeneous “Non Faction Faction” but a non-factional opposition with a number of different trends representing some quite diverse trains of thinking. A healthy regime, based on the principles of democratic centralism, would have viewed the emergence of “political differences” as a prelude to a patient extended debate in an attempt to identify and resolve them, not a precipitous rush to a split in order to prevent what the Faction themselves described as “regime change”. Whatever “political differences” that may or may not exist they could never justify the crude organisational methods employed by the Faction to split the International before every last avenue had been explored in an effort to resolve the areas of contention. In splitting the CWI they were responsible for an act of political nihilism in which nothing mattered except their own status and political self-interest.

McInally continues,

The Socialist Party of England and Wales (SP),of which Taaffe has been general secretary since the mid-1960’s, held a conference in late July of this year that was quickly followed by an “international conference” consisting almost exclusively of English and Welsh members, at which a newly “reconstituted CWI” was announced. Those in England and Wales, who support the CWI Majority, were told at the SP conference they had “placed themselves outside the party” i.e., subjected to administrative expulsions without the right of appeal. At the “international” conference, a World Congress of the “re-constituted CWI” was announced which meant the inevitable expulsion of the rest of the Majority internationally. The SP leadership took administrative action against leading supporters of the Majority in England and Wales, including removing them from positions and withholding their wages. In pursuing such tactics the Faction demonstrated its over-arching imperative was the maintenance of power and to secure for themselves the resources of the International including its considerable finances and the CWI “brand” itself. These actions constituted a “coup” by the IS and SP leadership group, the same people in reality, against the overwhelming majority of the CWI.

In making the maintenance of status, power and position their key imperatives the Faction employed a “rule or ruin” methodology, which constituted the worst type of sectarianism and which in this instance meant they calculated splitting the International was a price worth paying to retain their leadership position and, not a secondary consideration, the money. In the process of splitting the CWI they have also split the SP in England and Wales tooin which they have lost some of their best activists, including amongst its more youthful elements.

..

Conclusion:

These events mark a critical juncture in the affairs of the SP which under its current leadership is marked for a process of inevitable descent into irrelevance and isolation. If the leaders of the new International that is emerging from the CWI Majority are to place themselves on a principled, non-sectarian basis, they must do more than denounce the false methods that led to this splitThey must examine and re-examine the whole history of the CWI over the past thirty or more years in particular, including the crisis of 1991-1992, to trace just how this bureaucratic degeneration developed. Only on that basis will they make the contribution they are capable of in the coming period.

This is also interesting from a US perspective – Oakland Socialist.

Another crisis in socialist movement: The split in the CWI

Particularly this:

Brexit
Taaffe compounded these mistaken perspectives with a blunder of massive proportions: He and the Socialist Party supported Britain leaving the European Union – known as “Brexit”. Oakland socialist has had many articles explaining this issue, and the Socialist Party is not alone in this blunder. Much of the socialist left in the United States supported Brexit, just as many of them either overtly or covertly support the most bloody dictator of this century, Bashar Assad. Taaffe & Co. argue that the vote for Brexit was a working class rebellion against the European Union-imposed austerity. To the degree that workers supported Brexit (and that degree is questionable), it was a “revolt” in the same way as how some workers voted for Trump out of anger at what happened during the Obama years. All reactionary movements of any size have a working class element within them. That doesn’t change their nature. Brexit may have had some working class support, but that doesn’t change the fact that it was based on the idea that British workers and British capitalists have more in common than do British workers and their fellow workers throughout the European Union. It doesn’t change the fact that it was an anti-immigrant vote. (Not all workers who voted for Brexit are xenophobes, but that doesn’t change matters either.)

In any case, the ultimate responsibility for austerity lies with global capitalism, not with the European Union, which is merely recognizing this accomplished fact. It is more obvious now than ever as Britain edges closer to a trade deal with the United States if and when it leaves the EU. Such a deal will mean austerity and destruction of the British health care system on a scale many times worse than anything the EU imposed. Not only that, but as the departure from the EU looms, British politics is turning to the right. The looming Brexit has brought the British version of Donald Trump to power in the person of Boris Johnson. It has also strengthened the divisions within the Labour Party and weakened Jeremy Corbyn.

Another recent articles

The Split in the CWI: Lessons for Trotskyists

The Committee for a Workers International (CWI) has split in two. Is one side adapting to identity politics and abandoning the working class? Is the other losing touch with new mass movements against oppression?

Update: Comment.

While many of the criticisms of the CWI/Socialist Party seem organisational and party focused (comrades remark)  it is interesting that the US Oakland Socialist has begun to listen to the internationalist left on the issue of Brexit, which, for obvious reasons, plays a big part in British politics.

It is worth noting that the SP promoted this chap’s organisation, (which received funding from the far-right Arron Banks), Trade Unionists Against the EU,  during the Brexit referendum.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

August 14, 2019 at 12:56 pm

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