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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.

 

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Written by Andrew Coates

August 14, 2019 at 12:56 pm

Latest on the CWI, “Re-founded with Determination and Confidence” – allegations of Dissident Full-Timers Left Unpaid Grow.

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CWI Refounded with “determination and confidence” against miserable Mandelite identity politics petty bourgeois, blunters, opportunist, anti First Four Congresses of the Comintern lot.

“the SP leadership has stopped salaries owed to hard-working full-timers. These are devoted people on low wages and with few financial resources. Despite political differences, the SP must continue to pay these people until they have found new work. It was the SP’s choice to leave the CWI, and it should not ruin comrades financially as a way to punish them for loyalty to the CWI.”

The Taaffites persist and sign!

Posted on 29 July 2019 at 14:43 GMT

CWI re-founded with determination and confidence

Hannah Sell, Socialist Party deputy general secretary

On Sunday 21 July over 200 delegates at a special conference of the Socialist Party in England and Wales voted overwhelmingly, 84% to 16% (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).

The international conference which followed over the next four days was attended by delegates and visitors from England and Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, France, Austria, Finland, India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Chile, South Africa and the United States.

Unfortunately, comrades from South Africa and Nigeria who had planned to attend could not due to visa problems.

The international conference’s decision to reconstitute the CWI followed an intense debate and political struggle in the CWI over the last seven months.

Indeed.

This political struggle has been fought between those represented at this meeting who defend the Trotskyist method and programme the CWI was founded on in 1974 and an opposition moving away from this position.

This opposition has taken a right-ward opportunist turn, buckled to the pressures of identity politics, turned away from conducting a systematic and consistent struggle in the trade unions and blunted the socialist programme that the CWI and its sections have fought to defend.

How these bucklers were ever members if beyond most genuine Marxist salt-of-the-earth-Trotskyists.

The international conference in London had lively discussions on the world situation and the tasks facing the working class and socialists, the revolutionary and counter revolutionary upheavals taking place in the neo-colonial world, and also a balance sheet of the recent debate in the CWI and tasks for building the re-founded CWI in the coming period.

The re-founded CWI was constituted on the basis of the political and organisational principles adopted by the first four congresses of the Comintern, the founding documents of the IV International in 1938 and the congresses of the CWI.

The determination and confidence of those present and represented at this conference was reflected in the collection which raised over £25,000.

Money shows where the mind, and the heart, is.

The conference agreed that the International Secretariat will seek to convene a world congress in 2020 of CWI sections and groups that defend the programme of the CWI and also invite revolutionary socialist organisations which are committed to building revolutionary socialist parties based on the working class and which are prepared to discuss and collaborate on an honest and principled basis.

Following the decision of the Socialist Party conference, a small number of our members have announced they have left our party.

They have tried to disguise their decision by claiming they were expelled. This is not the case. The resolution that was overwhelmingly passed by the Socialist Party conference called on all members, regardless of their position in the debate, “to continue to help build the Socialist Party as part of a healthy Trotskyist international organisation in order to prepare for the mighty class battles ahead.”

The resolution agreed was “confident that the overwhelming majority of Socialist Party members will wish to participate in this historic task.”

However, it went to on to explain that, “if a small minority decides instead to build an alternative organisation” based on opportunist policies, they “will have to do so outside of the Socialist Party where they will have the opportunity to test their ideas against the reality of the class struggle.

Good luck to them – the miserable Mandelite identity politics petty bourgeois, blunters, opportunist, anti First Four Congresses of the Comintern lot. Reality, and the First Four Congresses (1919 – 1922), not to mention the Transitional Programme will teach them some hard lessons!

We expect some relevant sections from these lessons in the next Socialist:

War, Revolution and the Split in the Second International:
The Birth of the Comintern (1919)
The Second Congress (1920):
Forging a Revolutionary International
The Third Congress (1921):
Elaboration of Communist Tactics
and Organization
The Fourth Congress (1922):
The “Workers Government” and the Road
to the German Revolution

Lo, and hey, look what the opposition – left of their own free will have gone and done just as the Mighty Class Struggles Approach!

Even before the Socialist Party conference had taken any decision a small number of members had clearly made plans to launch a new, rightward-moving organisation, the launch rally of which was held an hour after our conference had finished.

No matter….

The vast majority of members, however, have come out of the recent debate with a renewed confidence in our party.

Look what we’ve done!

We defend the programme and approach of the Socialist Party which historically, in an era of heightened working class struggle, enabled us to lead the struggles of Liverpool City Council and the battle against the poll tax, the latter bringing down Maggie Thatcher.

We were also central to numerous struggles against racism and the far right. At the present time our methods have 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 with a socialist programme.

Corbyn’s best best friends continue.

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. 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.

So there!

We will publish further material on the issues in the debate, and the key documents from it, on our websites in the coming weeks.

We look forward to a reply to this:

Bureaucratic Coup Will Not Stop CWI Majority from Building a Strong Revolutionary Socialist International!

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A minority of the CWI has bureaucratically forced through an unfortunate and damaging split in the worlds largest and most influential revolutionary socialist organization, the Committee for a Workers’ International.

Those who follow the CWI, in its publications and activities, will be aware of the important debates that have taken place in our revolutionary socialist international during the last seven months or so. These debates have arisen from a complex world situation, with capitalism economically, socially, and ecologically exposed as parasitic and its institutions largely discredited, while simultaneously most workers’ and left organizations and their leaders internationally have not been up to the challenge. As a result, the workers’ movement in general has not as yet decisively put its imprint on events.

Bold Initiatives or Conservatism in Thought and Action

On the other hand, the conditions suffered by large numbers of workers, youth, women, migrants, and other layers in society have brought many into action. In the case of mass movements against specific forms of oppression, these have often been marked by ideological confusion, and varying degrees of bourgeois and petit bourgeois influence. The majority of the CWI and its ranks believe the best way to help overcome this confusion is by participating as the most dynamic and programmatically clearest component in those movements, clearly drawing a line between our working class approach and that of our opponents.

The former day-to-day leadership of the CWI which has carried out a bureaucratic coup in the organisation (the majority of the International Secretariat and the minority fraction it gathered around it), showed a lack of confidence about intervening in these movements. They emphasized the fear that our membership would be intoxicated by petit-bourgeois Identity politics and other “alien ideas” in these movements and preferred, in their own words, to “dig in” and await events within the official labor movement.

More via link above.

As the Transitional Programme (1938) says,

Most of the sectarian groups and cliques, nourished on accidental crumbs from the table of the Fourth International lead an “independent” organizational existence, with great pretensions but without the least chance for success. Bolshevik-Leninists, without waste of time, calmly leave these groups to their own fate. However, sectarian tendencies are to be found also in our own ranks and display a ruinous influence on the work of the individual sections. It is impossible to make any further compromise with them even for a single day. A correct policy regarding trade unions is a basic condition for adherence to the Fourth International. He who does not seek and does not find the road to the masses is not a fighter but a dead weight to the party. A program is formulated not for the editorial board or for the leaders of discussion clubs, but for the revolutionary action of millions. The cleansing of the ranks of the Fourth International of sectarianism and incurable sectarians is a primary condition for revolutionary success.

It finishes,

The present crisis in human culture is the crisis in the proletarian leadership. The advanced workers, united in the Fourth International, show their class the way out of the crisis. They offer a program based on international experience in the struggle of the proletariat and of all the oppressed of the world for liberation. They offer a spotless banner.

Workers – men and women – of all countries, place yourselves under the banner of the Fourth International. It is the banner of your approaching victory!

A better guide to the Socialist Party side of the CWI practice is given here:

Afew years ago Andrew Murray, then in the Communist Party of Britain, now in Labour, described very accurately this strategy as,

…trying to create a shadow labour movement around itself, with its own electoral front, its own shop stewards’ network etc.

Left Unity or Class Unity? Working-Class Politics in Britain. Andrew Murray. Socialist Register. 2014.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 30, 2019 at 4:44 pm

After Struggle Between “Trotskyist Method and Organisation” and “Petty Bourgeois Opposition” CWI is on the Way to Refoundation!

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Victors in Fight Against Petty Bourgeois Opposition.

Refounding the Committee for a Workers’ International on the basis of a Trotskyist programme and method

This document recalls the glory days of the 1953 split in the world Trotskyist Movement.

At an historic meeting held in London between July 22nd and 25th over 200 delegates and visitors to an international conference of the International Faction for a Trotskyist and Workers CWI took the decision to refound the Committee for a Workers’ International. Present at the meeting were delegates and visitors from England and Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, France, Austria, Finland, India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Chile, South Africa and the USA. Unfortunately, comrades from South Africa and Nigeria who had planned to attend could not due to visa problems.

This decision has followed an intense debate and political struggle in the CWI over the last seven months. This political struggle has been fought between those represented at this meeting who defend the Trotskyist method and programme the CWI was founded on in 1974 and a petty bourgeois opposition. This opposition has taken a right-ward opportunist turn, buckled to the pressures of identity politics, turned away from conducting a systematic and consistent struggle in the trade unions and blunted the revolutionary socialist programme that the CWI and its sections have fought to defend.

Other views exist..

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 council member 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!

One aspect of this dispute could do with some exploring.

The Socialist Party, the leading force in the CWI, and the self-proclaimed ‘victors’ in the battle, has a long record of its own identity politics rooted in opposition to the internationalist Remain side in the Referendum on the EU, and support for the Arron Banks funded Trade Unionists Against the EU (TUAEU).

It is based on the spurious claim that the “real” working class, to which they have unique insight and feeling, back their assertion that the UK outside the EU would be on the path to socialism.

At present this political strategy is in tatters.

Lexit or a ‘People’s Brexit’, a kind of Care Bears version of Boris Johnson’s Trump-led Brexit is marginalised in the Labour Party, and clings on only in the stubborn assertions of a “Labour Party Spokesman” (who’s name is ) and the clique of Andrew Murray, Len McCluskey and other diehards.

  • The Socialist Party also stay true believers.

Writing in their theoretical journal, Socialism Today (July-August)  the Editorial warns against the “The people’s vote clamour.”

.some lefts like the journalist Paul Mason have now adopted the same stop Brexit position is a reflection of the broader evolution of such figures away from socialist ideas in a complex political conjuncture.

After this pompous assertion we learn that,

A rerun referendum – the capitalist establishment telling working-class leave voters they were wrong – would not be guaranteed to result in a Brexit reversal.

Nonetheless the people’s vote propaganda still has its purpose, above all within the Labour Party. It provides an allegedly ‘progressive’ cover for the right wing – deputy leader Tom Watson claims to “support the EU because I’m a socialist” – to build its base to move against Corbyn’s leadership when the time is right, either to sabotage a Corbyn-led government or form a new party.

Combating these agents of capitalism within the workers’ movement is the duty of every socialist.

No editorial from this crew would be complete with a final facile assertion,

The Tories’ Brexit travails are creating new opportunities for the workers’ movement and must be met with a clear programme for a socialist and internationalist opposition to the EU bosses’ club.

This is their own “clear” “socialist” and “internationalist opposition to the EU: the SP worked hand in glove with the TUAEU and it’s infamous Blue Labour, Spiked contributor, leader, Paul Embery – just barred from office from the FBU.

Here is Embery’s backing from a Brexit Party candidate:

Here is the Socialist Party’s own work with the same individual.

The socialist case against the EU: TUSC tour continues

London June 2016

“The Tory government could be brought down if Brexit triumphs” declared Socialist Party general secretary Peter Taaffe to a packed London meeting of 120, part of TUSC’s 20-city tour ‘The Socialist Case Against the EU’ (now in fact 25 cities).

Paul Embery, London secretary of the Fire Brigades Union and national organiser of Trade Unionists Against the EU, pointed out: “The EU is rampantly pro-austerity and that approach has caused suffering throughout Europe, a collapse in living standards, the rise of the far-right and the decimation of public services.”

Critic of “rootless cosmopolitans” Paul Embery is pictured on this tour: (Cardiff 9th of June 2016)

The re-founded CWI was constituted on the basis of the first four congresses of the Comintern, the founding documents of the IV International in 1938 and the congresses of the CWI. The determination and confidence of those present and represented at this conference was reflected in the collection which raised over £25,000.

Just like the early years of the Russian Revolution!

The conference agreed that the International Secretariat will seek to convene a world congress in 2020 of CWI sections and groups that defend the programme of the CWI and also invite revolutionary socialist organisations which are committed to building revolutionary socialist parties based on the working class and which are prepared to discuss and collaborate on an honest and principled basis.

The International Secretariat of the CWI will publish a fuller report of this crucial meeting in London and material related to the debate which has taken place in the coming week which has crucial lessons for all workers’ and revolutionary socialists.

One lesson we have already learnt is that the Socialist Party, which campaigns to be an affiliate of the Labour Party, expels “petty bourgeois” opponents, and would no doubt like to throw out from the Labour Party anybody who is an “agent of capitalism”.

Or who looks at their Leader Peter Taaffe the wrong way….

Other documents emerge:

Spanish section of the CWI walks out

Statement from the ‘In Defence of a Working Class Trotskyist CWI’ Faction to all members of the CWI

Dear comrades,

At the meeting of the International Faction in London held on 27-28 March the Spanish and Portuguese delegations unfortunately walked out of the meeting. In a final declaration JIR made the completely false assertion that they were being excluded from the Faction because they had raised political differences.

At this meeting a series of important political differences arose. This followed a telephone conference which was held between the entire Spanish EC and members of the IS Majority on Friday 22 March. At the meeting comrades from Spain raised a series of differences relating to method, the decisions taken by the leadership of the England and Welsh section at the recent congress of their section and also a clear declaration of important differences relating to the analysis of the CWI regarding the lowering of socialist consciousness following the collapse of the Stalinist regimes and the consequences this had for the international workers’ movement at the time alongwith the extent to which these effects are still present today.

At the end of this telephone conference JIR made clear that these issues were of critical importance to the Spanish leadership. It was agreed that they would be discussed in more depth at the Faction meeting in London. This was done on the first day. In the debate important differences emerged in relation to socialist and political consciousness, the consequences of the collapse of the former Stalinist states and the analysis we have had on Venezuela and some other issues which JIR stated were fundamental questions. During his intervention JIR argued that these questions had not been sufficiently discussed during the process of unification and that the comrades had been “deceived”, something which is completely false. He declared that these issues would be reported back to a special Spanish CC meeting which would then decide on its attitude towards the Faction.

In informal discussion following the meeting between the Spanish, Portuguese comrades and Phillip Stott (Scotland) Clive Heemskerk (England and Wales) and Tony Saunois (IS Majority) JIR made clear that these differences were fundamental and implied that the comrades would recommend to the Spanish EC and CC that they leave the Faction. He also stated that this would mean it would make no sense to remain in the CWI.

It was agreed that he make a formal statement of the situation to the Faction meeting the next day. At that meeting he was asked to make such a statement and argued that firstly Peter Taaffe should reply to the discussion. This was not acceptable as the content of the reply would partly be dependent on the declaration made by JIR

This approach by JIR was a continuation of the ultimatist approach which unfortunately has been the approach adopted by the Spanish leadership throughout the CWI factional struggle. JIR eventually made a declaration protesting against the alleged methods used in the meeting and falsely claiming that the comrades were being excluded from the meeting because they and the Portuguese delegation had raised political differences. As Tony Saunois was responding to this declaration, refuting the allegations made by JIR, stating that we were prepared to continue the discussion on these issues the Spanish and Portuguese delegations walked out of the meeting.

The members of the Faction at this meeting reject the false claims that the Spanish and Portuguese were excluded for raising political differences.

At the meeting it was clear that the Spanish and Portuguese delegations were arguing in our opinion from an ultra-left and sectarian standpoint. The International Faction is involved in a political and theoretical struggle against the opportunist capitulation represented by the Non Faction Faction. However, in conducting a principled defence of the methods and traditions of the CWI against this trend we are not prepared to paper over or mask important political differences with the sectarian approach adopted by the Spanish and supported by the Portuguese leadership for the sake of opportunistic expediency in the factional struggle within the CWI. The Faction openly discusses political issues and, unlike our opponents, we do not hide any disagreements that may arise. The Faction was formed to defend a principled Trotskyist approach in opposition to opportunism within the CWI. Now a sectarian ultra-left trend has also emerged which we will also politically oppose.

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

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Image result for socialist party CWI

 

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?

THE COMMITTEE FOR A WORKERS’ INTERNATIONAL (CWI) IN CRISIS

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.”

 

 

 

James Robertson, Founder of the Sparticist League, and Progenitor of the Private Eye Columnist, Passes On.

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Sparts’ British Supporters.

James Robertson, (born 1928) was National Chairman of the Spartacist League (US), the original national section of the International Communist League. Robertson is now, it is reported (Marxism List), a consultative member of the ICL’s international executive committee in the depths of Hades.

Contacted by this Blog the venerable scion Comrade Dave said,

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Julian Assange,  Aaron Bastani…and now Comrade Robertson, who has not been the victim of the racist declining British empire as it is smashed by the Spartacist League/Britain  which will honour his memory in our fights to build such a revolutionary workers party, one that stands as the tribune of the people in defending all the oppressed including the downtrodden. Building such parties internationally is part of reforging the Trotskyist Fourth International as the world party of socialist revolution.  As Trotskyists, we stress that just as workers in the US must defend their unions against the bosses despite the sell-out union leadership, the international working class, especially in the US, must stand for unconditional military defence of the Deformed North Korean Workers’ State against imperialism and internal counterrevolution.

Down with the Pabloite Revisionists!

Glory and Hail to the Memory of the Robertson Victorious Red Army!

Dave Spart: Chair of the Aldeburgh Climate Collective/Free Julian Assange, People’s Brexit Alliance.

Full accounts of his life and his passing, the public mourning,  and planned commemorative meetings have yet to appear.

For those who only know the Sparts from the celebrated offspring’s regular Private Eye Column the excellent Hatfull of History offers this introductory guide, which concentrates on their British activities.

Taking a break from writing book chapters and ARC proposals, I have been plunging into bizarre world of the Spartacist League (UK) through the recently digitised Spartacist Britain (1978-84) and Workers’ Hammer (1984-2011), made available online through the Riazanov Library Digitization Project and the Encyclopedia of Trotskyism Online. The Spartacist League were a breakway group from the Workers Socialist League (led by Alan Thornett) who had broken away from Gerry Healy’s Workers Revolutionary Party in the mid-1970s. The SL joined up with other Spartacist groups in the United States, Australia and New Zealand, forming the International Communist League – a version of the Fourth International that opposed the Mandelite Fourth International which the IMG belonged to. In his 1984 work, John Sullivan described the Spartacist League as ‘very unpopular’ and ‘increasingly unbalanced’ and are probably best known nowadays for their absurd defence of regimes such as North Korea (accompanied by unintelligible placards announcing their position – see here).

SECTARIAN HILARITY FOR THE LEFT-WING TRAINSPOTTER! THE UK SPARTACIST LEAGUE’S PAPERS FROM 1978-2011 NOW DIGITISED AND ONLINE

(Note if I could be arsed there is an issue which denounces ‘Bully Boy Coatesy’ to boot).

 

A guide is offered in the Bible, our look-up-to, As Soon as This Pub Closes. (1988) – one could update it at length, right to the recent expulsion of the Polish section (maximum 3 members, “ICL Expels Members of Polish Section. Statement by the International Executive Committee. 5th of April 2019).

THE Spartacist League (Sparts for short) are a colony of an American group of the same name who split from the American SWP in the early 1960s, when the parent group became Castroites, lost interest in the labour movement, and became ardent supporters of armed struggle (except in the United States, where guerrilla war is illegal). Consequently, the SWP fired Gerry Healy, who had been their British concessionaire up till then, made it up with their old enemies Pablo and Mandel, and created the United Secretariat of the Fourth International. Those, mainly in the SWP’s youth wing, who could not accept the change in policy were expelled and eventually became the Spartacist League. They tried to work with Gerry Healy, who the Sparts’ leader, James Robertson, recognised as a kindred spirit, but Healy demanded unconditional obedience and worship at his personal shrine. If the group was to escape from national isolation it needed its own International, so teams of missionaries were despatched to strike at the revisionists’ European base. Although less successful than the Mormons, they managed to recruit some natives and now have a group of about 60 people, which publishes a journal named Workers Hammer.

The Sparts’ complete parasitism on other groups makes them very unpopular on the rest of the left, so, regrettably, little attempt is made to understand the theory which explains their behaviour. The Sparts’ core belief is that, for the foreseeable future, it is impossible for revolutionaries to address themselves to significant sectors of the working class, as anyone open to revolutionary politics is already a supporter of one of the groups which falsely claim to be revolutionary. The key task of revolutionaries is, therefore, to win over supporters of these Ostensibly Revolutionary Groups (ORGs), by heckling their meetings and hoping to be thrown out. The Sparts will in this way achieve the primitive accumulation of cadres which is a necessary stage to be gone through before proceeding to a direct involvement in class struggle. The belief in the long slow haul is combined with the view that there is not much time left to build the vanguard party before the final struggle between socialism and barbarism. Such a theory may be contradictory, but it is necessary if the group is to maintain revolutionary fervour while confining its activity to a propaganda onslaught on the ORGs.

Surprise is sometimes expressed that such an introspective strategy comes from a group born in the stirring 1960s, heyday of youth revolt and the movement against the Vietnam War. Are the Sparts not too kind to the ORGs, in spite of continually bad-mouthing them? As usual, an examination of the group’s own history and political predicament will provide an explanation which eludes us if we confine our attention to the realms of grand theory where the Sparts would like to contain it. The core of the Sparts joined the SWP in the late 1950s, after splitting from Max Shachtman’s Independent Socialist League, a formerly Marxist organisation which moved rapidly to the right during the 1950s. Shachtman had split from the SWP in 1940 and ended up supporting the Vietnam War, so the young men who joined the SWP were accepting that that party embodied the revolutionary tradition. They were almost alone in joining what was already an ossified liberal sect, which is why they immediately dominated its youth movement and breathed some life into a decrepit structure.

When the Sparts found themselves outside the SWP, they had, in order to justify joining it in the first place, to construct a myth that it had degenerated recently. The contention puzzled other American leftists. Some of the old SWP members were loyal and dedicated comrades, but the party’s intellectual level was abysmal, it had hardly any industrial clout, and young people, apart from those who were to become the Sparts, saw it as an irrelevance. So did their younger sisters and brothers, when the anti-Vietnam War movement developed in the 1960s. James P. Cannon, the Healy prototype, who the Sparts continue to see as the American Lenin, retired from active leadership but retained political solidarity with the subordinates who replaced him. The SWP, after the departure of the Sparts, acted as handboys of the liberal Democrats in opposing the more radical elements in the anti-war movement. Our indigenous Sparts are carefully brought up in a myth which dates the SWP’s degeneration a decade-and-a-half later than the facts warrant. The contradictions in the Spart view of the movement’s history conditioned their inability to understand British politics, once they stepped ashore. The antics of the American SWP’s co-thinkers here were appalling, so the Sparts slated them mercilessly. On the other hand, the theory said that such groups embodied the revolutionary tradition, in however deformed a fashion, so the Sparts could not abandon them and search for a healthier corpse to feed off.

Why stick with such a contradictory theory and live in such a repulsive environment? It is a more intellectually satisfying variant of the Mandelite belief in the revolutionary potential of the flotsam of that milieu, and fulfils the same function of providing a justification for avoiding the working class. No one unfamiliar with American society can appreciate the enormous difficulty in maintaining a hold on reality in an environment where student radicals have to compete with Hari Krishna and Lyndon La Rouche, a former Spart who is now a leader of a Moral Majority sect. It is surprising, not that the Sparts are crazy, but that they are not even madder. The Sparts’ belief that the ex-Trotskyist movement was healthy until the 1950s allows them to avoid any discussion of the much more important discussions of the 1940s. They cannot help but be aware that the British section of the Fourth International, the Revolutionary Communist Party, was one of the healthiest and most working-class and that their hero Cannon helped in its destruction when he imposed his clone Healy as its leader. Consequently, their anti-British chauvinism seems like a mirror image of Militant’s patriotism. The Sparts’ fixation on their very individual view of history and their chosen field of operations limit their interests. They found it easy enough to outrage your average middle-class trendy by reiterating traditional Marxist views on such issues as Black and Female separatism. As unusually learned Marxists, they are well aware that the founding fathers’ views on Gay Liberation are even more shocking to many of those who consider themselves their followers, but they wisely decided not to press that point. [1] It is more difficult to extend this method to cover areas such as political economy where the trendies do not have a view. In any case, the Spart heart was not in this. Once the overriding aim to zap the ORGs is understood, everything else about Spart activity falls into place. For example, a revolt in South Africa is intrinsically less interesting than the wrong response of the Dutch or German Pabloites to that event. As illusions in Eurocommunism, feminism and the youth vanguard crumbled in the mid-1970s and the radical left was thrown into crisis, the Sparts hoped to benefit from the decline of their softer rivals. In practice, the collapse of that milieu had a calamitous effect on them in the early 1980s. When the dog dies, the fleas also die. Unused to developing the independent activity which was clearly necessary, now that there was not much meat on the ORGs, the Sparts lost most of their cadre in Britain.

Because many of the Sparts’ formal positions are more acceptable to labour movement activists than the lunacies peddled by their competitors, there is the danger that people outside the radical middle-class milieu will want to join them. To prevent the inevitable tensions which would result from recruiting working-class militants, reasonable positions are expressed in an intolerably harsh manner that works quite well. American ex-Sparts describe a very Healyite organisation where Robertson sits behind a steadily growing pile of empty beer cans carrying on a rambling drunken harangue interspersed with senile laughter, yet we have found Robertson charming on his visits to London. It is true that many of the leading Sparts go in for a macho-man image of guns and swords. The perfectly reasonable call for the abolition of the licensing hours is elevated to a central demand, and there are signs of a flirtation with Scots nationalism. As befits its American origin, the Sparts are individually competitive. New ideas are floated, and if successful their originators get promoted, while if the idea is found to be revisionist they are demoted. If you believe that she who lives by the sword will die by the sword, you have probably guessed the Sparts’ destiny. In the early 1980s, a group of veteran Sparts in the Bay Area of California, where they had their only toe-hold in the labour movement, defected. The renegades, who originally called themselves the External Tendency, had absorbed their Spart training well. They re-classified their parent group as an ORG and turned up to intervene at its meetings, carefully restraining themselves against attempts to goad them into violence. Innocents in Bootle or Lyon can hardly be expected to understand that the main purpose of all Spart literature is to discredit that tiny group in California.

Goaded by the External Tendency, the Sparts became increasingly unbalanced, and now agree with the despised Pabloites that a wave of sexual repression is sweeping over Britain. If the External Tendency (now known as the Bolshevik Tendency) are able to smuggle a colonist with the requisite ethnic qualifications past Thatcher’s racist immigration police, so that she or he could do to the Sparts what they do unto others, they would lose control completely and go the way of the Healyites and accuse their rivals of working for the CIA. The Bolshevik Tendency is an extremely small flea, but its bite could well prove fatal.]

See also: (1964), EXPULSION LAID TO TROTSKYITES; Socialist Workers Accused of Arbitrary Actions

 

The Socialist Workers party the American Trotskyite group, has been accused of expelling members solely “on the basis of opinions,” allegedly for the first time in its 35‐year history.

The charge is being circulated by the expelled members, led by, James Robertson and Geoffrey White. Mr. Robertson is the editor of a new 16‐page bimonthly, Spartacist, started here by the ousted group; Mr. White is the West Coast editor.

Mr. Robertson said in an interview last week that “more than a quarter of the membership,” including Mrs. Myra Tanner Weiss, former Vice Presidential candidate, and Arne Swabeck, a founding member, had opposed the expulsions last December although many disagreed with the opinions of the expelled group.

Farrell Dobbs, national secretary, has declined to comment on the charges, circulated in a Spartacist edition of 2,000 copies, according to Mr. Robertson.

Mr. Robertson asserted that past expulsions had been based on actions outside the party. He cited the ouster of Max Shachtman and James Burnham in 1940 after they began operating an independent publication.

While the Socialist Workers party does not make known its membership, Mr. Robertson estimated it was down to about 500 members nationally. A subscription drive recently brought its weekly publication, The Militant, up to perhaps 7,000 to 10,000 subscribers, he estimated.

The Trotskyites’ policy flows from the world Communist program of the late Leon Trotsky. The party is currently running a Presidential ticket headed by Clifton DeBery, who Mr. Robertson said was Mr. Dobbs’s sonin‐law. Mr. Dobbs polled 40,165 votes as party candidate for President in 1960.

Mr. Robertson said that five members of his so‐called Revolutionary Tendency group were expelled by the national committee on Dec. 28 on charges of having a “hostile attitude.” He said the five were not granted “the formality of a trial.”

Another, he said, was expelled by the New York local on Feb. 13 for having picketed Queen Frederika of Greece “without prior consultation or approval.” Five more, he went on, were expelled by the local last Thursday on charges that included their having voted against a report branding his group “a hostile faction.”

Mrs. Weiss voted against the latest expulsion on the ground that the party should allow “different democratic interpretations” even though she opposed the Robertson group politically as “sectarian and ultra‐leftist.” Those expelled are demanding readmission and could appeal to a national convention.

The Revolutionary Tendency group was formed in 1961, The Spartacist said, in response to what it called the national committee’s “surrender of all Marxist responsibility toward the Cuban Revolution through abasement as an uncritical apologist for the Castro regime.”

The group asserted this had been repeated with regard to the Ben Bella regime in Algeria. Most recently, it contended, the majority engaged “within the United States in a will‐o’‐ the‐wisp chase after Black Nationalism.”

Of those expelled, Mr. Robertson said, the oldest was Mr. White.

Mr. White, 37 years old, is a former chairman of the Communist party of Rhode Island. He resigned from that party in 1957 after Premier Khrushchev’s disclosures of Stalinist terrorism.

Mr. Robertson said that Mr. White then joined the Socialist Workers party and polled 2,000 votes as its candidate for the City Council in Berkeley, Calif., Jast year.

Mr. Robertson said he himself was 35 and had joined the Communist party in California at the age of 18 in 1946. From 1949 to 1957, he said, he belonged to Mr. Schachtman’s Workers party, called the Independent Socialist League in its later days, and then he joined the Socialist Workers party.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 12, 2019 at 4:24 pm

Walks Outs by “ultra-left and sectarian” Spanish and Portuguese Sections in Growing Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) Split.

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Socialist Party in Split with “ultra-left and sectarian” Spanish and Portuguese Sections.

It seems as if the international far-left is undergoing some serious splits.

The American International Socialist Organization, which is known to the present site for some serious political articles over the years), has dissolved.

THE ISO’S VOTE TO DISSOLVE AND WHAT COMES NEXT

MEMBERS AND recent ex-members of the International Socialist Organization (ISO) have decided to dissolve the organization and end publication of SocialistWorker.org over the coming weeks, but also to support several working groups and initiatives going forward, and to work toward continued collaboration in rebuilding independent revolutionary socialist organization.

These decisions followed a week of online voting that ended March 29 on nearly two-dozen proposals put forward ahead of an all-member conference call on March 24. Nearly 500 members, participants in disaffiliated branches and recently resigned members took part in the vote.

The decisions came in the wake of a severe crisis in the ISO after information surfaced about a horribly mishandled sexual assault accusation in 2013. An independent disciplinary committee at the time came to the conclusion that an ISO member had clearly violated the organization’s code of conduct and should be expelled, but the 2013 Steering Committee interfered with the committee’s work, overturned its decision and effectively

Meanwhile the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI), best known for its British section, the stridently pro-Brexit Socialist Party, and which has yet to produce any serious political articles, is undergoing a split of its own.

It seems that in its dispute with the Irish group SP leader Peter Taaffe has found himself in the minority.

This is latest (April the 2nd).

Statement from the ‘In Defence of a Working Class Trotskyist CWI’ Faction to all members of the CWI

Dear comrades,

At the meeting of the International Faction in London held on 27-28 March the Spanish and Portuguese delegations unfortunately walked out of the meeting. In a final declaration JIR made the completely false assertion that they were being excluded from the Faction because they had raised political differences.

At this meeting a series of important political differences arose. This followed a telephone conference which was held between the entire Spanish EC and members of the IS Majority on Friday 22 March. At the meeting comrades from Spain raised a series of differences relating to method, the decisions taken by the leadership of the England and Welsh section at the recent congress of their section and also a clear declaration of important differences relating to the analysis of the CWI regarding the lowering of socialist consciousness following the collapse of the Stalinist regimes and the consequences this had for the international workers’ movement at the time along with the extent to which these effects are still present today.

At the end of this telephone conference JIR made clear that these issues were of critical importance to the Spanish leadership. It was agreed that they would be discussed in more depth at the Faction meeting in London. This was done on the first day. In the debate important differences emerged in relation to socialist and political consciousness, the consequences of the collapse of the former Stalinist states and the analysis we have had on Venezuela and some other issues which JIR stated were fundamental questions. During his intervention JIR argued that these questions had not been sufficiently discussed during the process of unification and that the comrades had been “deceived”, something which is completely false. He declared that these issues would be reported back to a special Spanish CC meeting which would then decide on its attitude towards the Faction.

In informal discussion following the meeting between the Spanish, Portuguese comrades and Phillip Stott (Scotland) Clive Heemskerk (England and Wales) and Tony Saunois (IS Majority) JIR made clear that these differences were fundamental and implied that the comrades would recommend to the Spanish EC and CC that they leave the Faction. He also stated that this would mean it would make no sense to remain in the CWI.

It was agreed that he make a formal statement of the situation to the Faction meeting the next day. At that meeting he was asked to make such a statement and argued that firstly Peter Taaffe should reply to the discussion. This was not acceptable as the content of the reply would partly be dependent on the declaration made by JIR.

This approach by JIR was a continuation of the ultimatist approach which unfortunately has been the approach adopted by the Spanish leadership throughout the CWI factional struggle. JIR eventually made a declaration protesting against the alleged methods used in the meeting and falsely claiming that the comrades were being excluded from the meeting because they and the Portuguese delegation had raised political differences. As Tony Saunois was responding to this declaration, refuting the allegations made by JIR, stating that we were prepared to continue the discussion on these issues the Spanish and Portuguese delegations walked out of the meeting.

The members of the Faction at this meeting reject the false claims that the Spanish and Portuguese were excluded for raising political differences.

At the meeting it was clear that the Spanish and Portuguese delegations were arguing in our opinion from an ultra-left and sectarian standpoint. The International Faction is involved in a political and theoretical struggle against the opportunist capitulation represented by the Non Faction Faction. However, in conducting a principled defence of the methods and traditions of the CWI against this trend we are not prepared to paper over or mask important political differences with the sectarian approach adopted by the Spanish and supported by the Portuguese leadership for the sake of opportunistic expediency in the factional struggle within the CWI. The Faction openly discusses political issues and, unlike our opponents, we do not hide any disagreements that may arise. The Faction was formed to defend a principled Trotskyist approach in opposition to opportunism within the CWI. Now a sectarian ultra-left trend has also emerged which we will also politically oppose.

Signed:

Tony Saunois, Bob Labi, Clare Doyle, Niall Mulholland, Senan Uthaya (International Secretariat);

Peter Taaffe, Hannah Sell, Judy Beishon (International Secretariat and English and Welsh EC);

Paula Mitchell, Clive Heemskerk (English and Welsh EC);

OKSascha Stanicic, Micheal Koschitzki (IEC and German EC), Angelika Teweleit (German EC);

Christine Thomas (IEC and Italy EC);

Phillip Stott (IEC and Scottish EC).

Further material available here: More documents from the CWI faction fight

From Trainspotters – the texts are now in the public domain.

The sentence, “The International Faction is involved in a political and theoretical struggle against the opportunist capitulation represented by the Non Faction Faction.” already looks headed for the annals of classical Marxist quotations.

American Socialist Worker, “a momentous convention devoted to addressing the organization’s unaccountable leadership structures and a damaging internal culture.”

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As the British pro-Brexit Socialist Party’s ‘international’, the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) appears to be disintegrating amid a dispute with the Irish group, the US International Socialist Organisation (ISO), which produces its own Socialist Worker (often a source of real news and serious analysis) is in trouble.

There are reports of acrid exchanges on Facebook and other social media.

From above which is publicly viewable:

I’ve been a member of the International Socialist Organization for 19 years and it’s time for me to speak some truth. It has recently come to light that Joe Richard, elected to our leadership body this year, raped someone in 2013. Instead of expelling him, Sharon Smith, author of “Women and Socialism”, and Nicole Colson, a leading contributor on gender oppression to Socialist Worker, covered it up and protected him. Luckily, Sharon and Nicole were not elected to leadership this year and Joe is no longer in leadership now that this has come out. I don’t yet know who else knew about this in our leadership when this happened.

The same year, in San Diego, it came out that a comrade who I had been friends with for many years, Chuck Stemke, attempted to rape someone. Another longstanding member, Avery Wear, protected him. It took other people outside of the organization making it public for Chuck to be expelled, but Avery is still a member.

I joined the International Socialist Organization because I wanted to fight for the liberation of women, of all oppressed people, and of the working class. I have fought within this organization for justice for survivors of sexual assault. At the same time, I have accepted or gone along with many destructive practices of keeping information internal (or among a select few) and enforcing ideological purity. Those practices have been harmful, particularly to people of color in the organization, women, and trans comrades. I am going through a process of grappling with what that means for me and how to make amends and build in a better way.

Because we have elected almost all new leaders and I trust a number of them to clean house, I am remaining in the organization for now. There is a lot to answer for. Some people need to be expelled. Some people, who were in proximity to the disgusting cover-ups, need to be removed from all leadership positions. A handful of people who were in leadership then remain on leadership bodies now and I think that might need to change.

There is a possibility that I will face backlash and/or disciplinary consequences in the organization for making this information public before our leadership bodies have decided to do so. I have determined that it is far more important for everyone to know what has gone on, than it is to protect my own standing or follow bureaucratic procedure. I firmly believe that any organization existing in our deeply racist, sexist, and exploitative society will face situations like these. The test for us is how we choose to respond. Many left organizations have fallen apart because they failed to root out sexism and racism from within. I am choosing to put everything out on the table because I think it’s the only chance we have to build a left that can change our world for the better.

The ISO has not responded in the attempts at papering over the difficulties, that is, following the way its |(former) British counterpart did to the Comrade Delta crisis.

A MESSAGE TO OUR READERS

 

THE INTERNATIONAL Socialist Organization (ISO), publisher of Socialist Worker, is in a deep crisis whose immediate cause is the exposure of a 2013 sexual assault case that was horribly mishandled by our national leadership at the time. Last Friday, Socialist Worker published a public version of the letter written by our recently elected Steering Committee to ISO members regarding the revelation and initial steps that had been taken in response.

The news about the 2013 case came shortly after a momentous convention devoted to addressing the organization’s unaccountable leadership structures and a damaging internal culture that had a disproportionate impact on people of color and others with oppressed identities. The convention resulted in a thorough change in our national leadership and a commitment to chart a new direction so the ISO could be more engaged in struggle and with the new socialist movement.

In the convention’s aftermath, many ISO members felt a mixture of hope, pain and uncertainty. Those feelings have been replaced by ones of rage, despair and betrayal. Some have felt they can no longer be a part of the ISO. Those who remain recognize how difficult it will be to reckon with this crisis and all the damage it has done.

Certainly, there is a shared understanding among all that the only future for the ISO begins with a frank and searching discussion. So regardless of what the future brings, the main goal of Socialist Worker in the coming weeks is to be of service to current and former ISO members and the wider left by providing a platform for socialists to grapple with the many issues that have led us to this point.

It’s unclear at what pace these articles will appear. We plan to begin this process with contributions from current or recently resigned ISO members, and we won’t rush those into publication. So as much as we want SW become a forum for continuing discussion and reflection, we can’t yet say how regularly we will be running articles in the coming days.

More via above link.

See (from the present blog (2014): The American International Socialist Organization (ISO): Facing its own SWP Crisis?

One can only commend the ISO’s present open approach to these issues.

LETTER TO THE ISO MEMBERSHIP

The International Socialist Organization’s Steering Committee sent this letter to members about a deep crisis in the ISO. We are sharing it publicly here on SW. We have edited it slightly to be published on a public website and have added updated information.

THREE WEEKS ago, the ISO held its most important convention (translator’s note, National Conference), which was also its most painful. Much of the convention was devoted to reckoning with the damaging impacts of our past practices and internal political culture. As branches have reported back and opened up these discussions, more examples of a damaging political culture have come to light. This brief letter from the new Steering Committee (SC) was written to update comrades on those incidents and on timelines with respect to mandates voted on by Convention delegates, while offering some thoughts on how to proceed.

As this letter was being drafted, the SC (as well as several members of the National Committee (NC) and several socialist feminist allies) received a document from a former member (FM from here forward) on March 11, detailing the ways in which the 2013 SC had badly mishandled an allegation of rape in 2013. Moreover, the document explained that the respondent in the allegation had recently been elected to our SC at this year’s convention. FM was on the National Disciplinary Committee (NDC) that originally heard the case. FM’s account has been corroborated by other members of the NDC at that time who remain active members of the organization. We are grateful to FM for having taken the time to write this and reach out to us. FM also copied on the e-mail allies outside of the ISO whom we have worked in socialist-feminist and queer activism.

The SC held an emergency meeting on Tuesday night, and then a joint meeting on Thursday night with the NC and other members, including members of the National Branch Council ad hoc organizing committee, the survivors’ caucus and the #MeToo commission, to begin a discussion of the implications of this document and what next steps need to be taken. Here are some of the immediate steps we have taken:

 We immediately responded to FM and to the allies who were copied on the e-mail to thank FM for sending it, informing them that we would be sending it out and discussing as a leadership, and stating that we take this very seriously.

 On Tuesday, after SC members asked that the respondent identify himself and resign, he did, voluntarily resigned from the SC and said he would take a leave of absence. The SC voted to suspend him and stipulate that a decision would be made on his membership status later.

 On Thursday, the joint meeting of the NC, SC and other members agreed unanimously to expel the respondent according to the original decision of the NDC. In addition, the meeting voted to suspend from membership three members of the 2013 SC directly involved in the outcome of the case, while a complete investigation of what happened in 2013 takes place. The meeting also voted to suspend from a position on any leadership body any member of the 2013 SC, along with a recently elected NC member who had played a role in undermining the work of the NDC, for the duration of the investigation.

 We now need to empower a body independent of the current SC that can investigate the conduct of the 2013 SC and other participants in that 2013 process. Whether that should be the recently formed #MeToo commission, the NDC or some other body still needs to be determined, but will be soon.

 Another joint meeting of the same participants this weekend will continue the discussion and develop a process for a further public statement. It will also be discussing how to create spaces for membership-wide discussion. All members are invited to a meeting via conference call that is being set up for Monday.

 A member from Portland is organizing a support call for survivors or others triggered by this document. A survivors’ caucus is being formed and resources for survivors are being collected.

The document from FM is very clear, and rather than editorializing, we will leave comrades to assess it for themselves. We will be writing much more and providing space for analysis and discussion of what took place, lessons learned from it and what needs to change in the coming weeks. We believe it speaks both to failures of our political culture that we have identified as well as failures to adequately address the needs of survivors, a lack of understanding of the dynamics of rape and sexual assault, and the failure to create a process that could prioritize doing our best to determine the truth of what happened over bureaucratic proceduralism. This is not separate from the issues we have been reckoning with and the culture we are fighting to transform — though this experience is a particularly acute and devastating manifestation of this culture. There is no way to move forward from this without the utmost honesty and critical assessment.

The rest via link above.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 20, 2019 at 11:57 am