Tendance Coatesy

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Posts Tagged ‘Trotskyism

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.

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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

Socialist Party’s Irish Bust-Up Fall Out – from Irish Times to Socialist Democracy.

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“Like a hermit crab it lived for decades in the British and Irish Labour parties and patiently burrowed into lower level of the union bureaucracies to win positions.” (Socialist Democracy)

The Irish Times published this last week,

Socialist Party documents illustrate criticism from international comrades

The inner workings of the Socialist Party are not usually on display for all to see.

Its TDs – Paul MurphyRuth Coppinger and Mick Barry – are the most cogent left wing voices in the Dáil.

Also operating under the Solidarity (formerly Anti-Austerity Alliance) banner, they have led debates on issues such as abortion and water charges.

In our view a tendency has also developed of some leading Irish comrades seeing all struggles through the prism of the women’s movement, rather than seeing how it interconnects with other struggles

Documents recently circulated within the party, however, illustrate how their movement has been criticised by international comrades for an excessive focus on abortion and women’s rights issues.

And this:

Inside Ireland’s Socialist Party: telling the ‘digestible’ truth

Paul Murphy advocates ‘united front’ when dealing with Sinn Féin, documents show

The – well informed – article cites ‘Internal Documents’ – i.e. those made available on this site, not to mention elsewhere.

The Socialist Party will present the truth “in the way which is most digestible to the working class at a particular time”, TD Paul Murphy has said.

In internal documents discussing Brexit and wider strategy, he asks: “Are we guilty of not ‘telling the truth’ to the working class when we don’t bring a demand to leave the EU?

“We always tell the truth to the working class. But we present the truth in the way which is most digestible to the working class at a particular time.”

In exchanges with members including Joe Higgins, he advocates a “united front” method of dealing with groups such as Sinn Féin.

“The guiding line for us all in this debate should be what Lenin, approvingly quoting Trotsky, argued, that ‘ideological struggle within the party does not mean mutual ostracism but mutual influence’.”

He also corrects his comrades’ “inaccurate historical description of the united front as ‘tactics the Comintern and revolutionary parties adopted . . . in the 1920s and 1930s’.

Irish Times readers were spared the reference to ‘Mandelism’, in this ‘debate’ a sugared almond only us hardened Trainspotters could chew over.

The below is definitely for the Trainspotters.

Irish Socialist Party internal debate

The issues should concern us all.

The programme of the Socialist Party is rather narrow and restrictive and it operates a vicious internal discipline. Like a hermit crab it lived for decades in the British and Irish Labour parties and patiently burrowed into lower level of the union bureaucracies to win positions.

Socialist Democracy.

The publication of internal documents from the Socialist Party has led to a gleeful attempt to rubbish the left by the Irish press and by an outbreak of gossip on social media.

In neither case has there been any real discussion of the issues arising in the SP’s internal debate. This is a pity, because the documents highlight key strategic contradictions for the Irish left that are not being addressed.

The areas of dispute are; feminism, relationships with Sinn Fein and the overall strategic direction of the reformist left in terms of a ”broad left party” and a “left government.”

Two issues stand out,

The Irish organisation is criticised by the British group for opportunism in the abortion referendum. That is the claim that they simply supported what young militants already believed and made no attempt to introduce socialist policies. Both sides of the argument are hampered by distorted ideas of what a socialist policy would be. For the critics, it is an orientation to the working class, by which they mean speeches in dusty trade union halls. For the Irish group, it was moving the front group ROSA to a more radical position focused on the right to choose.

And (this is where SD hits home),

The dispute around Sinn Fein inside the Socialist Party between Paul Murphy and the majority represents a much greater division than simply debates on feminism. Unfortunately that debate is poisoned at source, with both factions agreeing that Sinn Fein is a sectarian party.

What this means is that Paul Murphy, the advocate for a softer line, defines sectarianism as:

“trying to coerce the protestant working class into the southern state via a border poll”

The policy of the party is that a democratic majority vote for a united Ireland would be sectarian and coercive because it might provoke loyalist paramilitaries to violence. The extreme unionism of their position does not stop there. They routinely see far right loyalists as legitimate representatives of Protestant workers.

So at a fundamental level members of the Socialist Party exhibit a deep hostility to a unified Irish democracy. What then divides them?

Paul Murphy is in effect pointing out that their policy, brought to the fore, will alienate workers and limit their electoral appeal.

All this has happened before. The programme of the Socialist Party is rather narrow and restrictive and it operates a vicious internal discipline. Like a hermit crab it lived for decades in the British and Irish Labour parties and patiently burrowed into lower level of the union bureaucracies to win positions. Today the union leaders, locked in partnership with capitalism, are content to front protest activity led by communities and activists. This gives an area of intervention to the SP, but if the struggles are big enough they challenge the fixed ideology of the group.

So the bin changes campaign of 2003-2004  saw an electoral boost for the Socialist Party but also saw the expulsion of their national secretary and Joan Collins standing as an independent TD.

One cannot resist a laugh at this though,

Many sniggered at the use of Marxist theory in the Socialist Party’s internal debate. It’s true that it was somewhat turgid in places and self-serving in others. But it structures the debate around ideas that are themselves the fruit of many decades of struggle by the working class.

Now I wonder who that can refer to….

Written by Andrew Coates

March 12, 2019 at 5:48 pm

As Labour and Tories Split, Committee for Workers International (CWI/Socialist Party, ex Militant) Rows on “petty Bourgeois Mandelism” Escalates.

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Image result for cwi socialist

Call to Purge Labour as they face International Split of their own.

In the latest copy of the Socialist you’ll find this call to purge Labour,

Eight Blairites split – Now kick out the rest

  • Gang of eight traitors must face by-elections
  • Mandatory reselection to kick out the rest

Corbyn and unions must call mass action – for a general election now

They also demand they be allowed back into the Party, through the convening of a special conference in which they will happily particticate,

The Gang of Seven have exposed more clearly than ever the real nature of the battle that must be waged to refound Labour as a genuinely democratic, socialist party, with a renewed, federal structure. The Socialist Party calls for the convening of a labour movement conference, in which all anti-austerity forces, including trade unions and socialist groups such as our own, could participate.

Such a conference could discuss the urgent tasks facing our movement. Most immediately, these include building mass action to fight for a general election, deselecting Blairite MPs and their replacement with fighting socialist candidates, and building the struggle to transform society along socialist lines.

What you won’t read is an account of their own split, an international one involving their Irish and Greek sections, inside their mini-International, the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI).

In Defence of a Working-class Orientation for the CWI Peter Taaffe for the International Secretariat (Majority) 14/1/19 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.

More: IS-majority-and-PT-Statement-one.pdf

While the above magistral masterpiece  has been the subject of many discussions amongst the Leftists Trainspotters’ Permanent Central Committee (FB) over the last few days, there is also this:

Members bulletin Documents on the dispute that arose at the IEC

At the recent IEC meeting a major dispute erupted involving, in the view of the majority of England and Wales comrades who attended, fundamental issues. Arising from that dispute an international faction has been formed which the England and Wales IEC members are members of. There will now be a process of debate, leading up to a World Congress in January 2020, in order to discuss out and clarify the issues. The faction will be producing written political material explaining its view, and will invite others to do the same. Organised debates, with all views being put, will then take place. We recognise that it will not be possible for most comrades in England and Wales to draw firm conclusions prior to that process of discussion.

“It is not complete, as some confidential issues cannot be reported in writing…”

Contents:

IS statement following meeting with Irish leadership 3

Email from PS to KMcL, PM, DB 4

Our response to the issues 7

A brief contribution on some political issues mentioned by PM 13

IS letter for discussion on a marxist challenge to identity politics 19

Women’s oppression and identity politics – our approach in Ireland and internationally A Response to the IS document “Women’s Oppression and Identity Politics” Response of Belgian IEC members on IS document 46

T he United Front method and putting forward a Socialist Programme today Resolution from faction to the IEC 65

Concerning IEC 2018 66 30 51

Notable extract,

A crisis has developed. The IS and representatives of the leadership of the Irish section have met to have extensive discussion to try and find a principled solution to the problems which have arisen. 3.  This meeting followed the revelation that a comrade, CP, had [redacted]. The IS totally condemns these actions and finds them reprehensible. We agree that this needs to be reported and discussed to the NC of the Irish section which should discuss and agree what disciplinary sanctions should be taken against CP.

See also Urban 75.

A screenshot has been circulating containing the opening paragraphs of a document titled ‘Crisis in CWI’ and penned by head honcho Peter Taaffe. The tirade accuses the Irish section, their star section and most successful in electoral terms, of ‘political retreat’ and lurching towards ‘petty bourgeois Mandelism’. No substantive differences are raised and I don’t have access to the rest of the document, but the accusatory and intemperate tone suggests a split is on the horizon.

Irish comrades, not in the CWI, fail to detect substantial differences over wider Irish issues, though the Socialist Party’s pro-British Brexit nationalist line may well, they suggest, have caused tensions.

The “redacted” section suggests something that they wish to hide.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 21, 2019 at 6:27 pm

Review: In Defence of Bolshevism. Max Shachtman.

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IDoB cover

“The force of things and the behaviour of men have contradicted all Lenin’s optimistic forecasts, his hopes in a superior democracy as much as his semi-libertarian ideas expressed in the State and Revolution and other writings of the same period, at the dawn of the revolution. Nothing in the individual theses of Trotsky has stood the test any better, in particular his wordy and abstract theory of the ‘permanent revolution’.”

Boris Souvarine, Stalin. A Critical Survey of Bolshevism, 1939.

The labour movement is striving “to renew and reconstruct itself in politics”, writes Sean Matgamma in his Introduction (The Labour Movement and Bolshevism) to In Defence of Bolshevism by Max Shachtman. (Purchase here.) How can this take place? The AWL’s best-known activist¬writer observes that many who identify with Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership have “no conception of socialism at all as the negation of capitalism.” Most Corbynistas are enthusiastic and open¬minded people. It would be a mistake to patronise them. But some, the observer of past left wing surges states, may be first of all looking for a career in politics, think tanks and NGOs. Predictably there is plenty of flotsam and jetsam floated in the “social media age”.

A half-thought out “anti¬imperialism” linked to “absolute anti¬Zionism” has become a minefield of “left anti¬semitism”. There are “posh Stalinists”, close to the party chief, who reheat a Boy’s Own view of the gallant Soviet Union fighting Fascism. Socialism in One Country reappears behind efforts to portray Brexit as a working class revolt against elites. And, let’s not forget, in cyberspace, there are over-educated Corbyn supporters. Some see capitalism’s replacement, through Nick Land’s “accelerationism”, pushing forward immanent tendencies, as re-worked by Aaron Bastani, into “fully-automated luxury communism”.

British Labour Movement.

The opening essay, “The British labour movement and Bolshevism” is a settling of accounts with those who have returned to politics after Corbyn’s win and who have been supporters of the British “toy¬town Bolsheviks”. The “Little Great Men” of the far-left have considered their groups the revolutionary Party. One stands out. The Workers Revolutionary Party (WRP) was sold to the “Libyan government and secret service”. Their state sponsored hatred of “Zionism” lingers on, in some cases through those who had been directly associated with the WRP such as one¬time London Mayor, Ken Livingstone, Matgamna’s sketch of the history of let-wing opposition to the European Union is also highly relevant.

This became a defining feature of the 1970s Broad Left (alliances of Labour left and the Communist Party of Great Britain, CPGB). An early version of a People’s Brexit, the Alternative Economic Strategy (AES) advocated “an amalgam of World¬War¬Two¬style state controlled ‘siege economy’ and Stalinist models of planning, but linked to bourgeois¬democratic liberalism”. (p.43) At present the Morning Star and its supporters, including advisers to Jeremy Corbyn, are fixated on the last point, asserting national sovereignty against “Brussels”.

This is not the centrepiece of In Defence of Bolshevism. To open a dialogue with Corbyn supporters and talk about socialism Matgamma offers the practice of the Bolsheviks in the years immediately after the 1917 Revolution. They created a “democratic class dictatorship exercised by the elected workers’ councils…” In this they are due honour amongst the “glories of the working class’s past”. The writer that is chosen to shed light on the Bolshevik achievement is Max Shachtman. For Sean Matgamna, the American one¬time leading figure in Trotsky’s Fourth International was the founder of “heterodox” Trotskyism.

Shachtman broke from Trotsky over the defence of the USSR when Stalin ordered the invasion of Finland in 1939. Shachtman’s current supported the judgement that the USSR under Stalin had become a new form of class society that could not be uncritically supported. The AWL has convincingly argued that this turned out not to be anything “new” but a blood¬stained historical by¬way in capitalist development, not any “transition” to socialism.

Marxism.

Under the Banner of Marxism, the main polemic reprinted here, was, as Alan Johnson indicates (Solidarity 5.12.18), directed against an attempt by Ernest Erber to trace the origins of Stalinist totalitarianism in Lenin’s political theory and practice. Most people, including this reviewer, will have never heard of Erber, or his split from the Shachtman group, which was a small minority within a small minority of Trotskyists on the already marginal American left. What is the importance of the writings from this dispute?

This document, and the articles also included in the book from New International and Labor Action, offer an independent defence of Bolshevik practice in 1917 and the immediate aftermath. They are clearly of their time and place. This is not entirely a bad thing. Shachtman was concerned not just to teach “muddlehead “ Erber a thing or two, with echoes of the purple prose of Engels’ Anti¬Dühring and Lenin’s “polemical” style. The heterodox Trotskyist that he was at this point aimed to stand against “apostates” who moved from revolutionary socialism to an acceptance of the “American Way of Life” and who “identify Stalinism with Bolshevism”. His pages are concerned with the “bourgeois struggle against socialism.” In other words, he stood up for Marxism and communism at the onset of the Cold War.

A wide range of quotations from the writings of Marx and Lenin supports the defence of the Russian revolution. His authorities include the Communist Manifesto, and AntiDühring. Lenin’s State and Revolution is cited to defend the power of the Soviets against the Constituent Assembly. The Soviet type of state is the best “genuine democracy”. As for the Bolshevik dissolution of the Constituent Assembly, elections in nation-wide ballots are no great shakes. “Like the prettiest girl in all of France, universal suffrage cannot give more than it has.” (p.127)

Shachtman is a relentless user of the argument “by circumstances”. This blames any repressive anti-democratic action of the Bolsheviks when Lenin was at the levers of power on conditions beyond his, the Bolsheviks’, and the democratic soviets’ control. Lenin gambled. They were “summoned to hold the first revolutionary citadel against frenzied and maddened besiegers until the relief columns of the Western proletariat could be brought forward” (p.175).

Bolsheviks Eliminated Workers’ Democracy.

One may accept that the alternatives to the Bolsheviks in that fight were worse without having a present need to join the defence on the battlements. Russia, telescoping democratic and working class stages of the uprising together, did not just fail to trigger any successful socialist revolution in Europe. It did not just set the path for the rejection of democratic representative forms, as Johnson rightly point out. It did not only, from early expulsions and splits and moral annihilation, turn to the policy of physically eliminating opponents. The Bolshevik leadership eliminated workers’ democracy in the Soviets themselves.

Inside the workers’ movement the Bolsheviks assumed the right to lead the proletariat above the wishes of wage earners. In June 1918 the All¬Russia Soviet CEC decided that the Left and Right Socialist¬Revolutionaries, and the groups of the Mensheviks, should be deprived of their mandates in the Soviets. They resolved that, “all soviets of workers’, soldiers’ peasants’ and Cossack deputies remove representatives of these fractions from their midst”. In these conditions it is a bold claim that Soviets run in the early 1920s — under Lenin’s rule — exclusively by one party plus “non¬party Bolsheviks” were a model for workers’ democracy and socialist practice.

Whatever the misdeeds of their political opponents, how could any different opinion be expressed freely without opposition parties? How exactly can socialist forms of the economy be run without open democratic debate? The purge included those, Mensheviks, who had been comrades in the same Russian Social Democratic and Labour Party (RSDLP) as Lenin, a party marked by a remarkable “freedom and an openness that was known to no other working¬class organisation of the time and has certainly had no equal since the rise of Stalinism.” (p.202) Sean Matgamma states, “The Bolsheviks did not say the last word on socialism. If there is a last word, it has not been said yet. But they said much that socialists now need to heed, learn, remember and work to apply in our conditions.” (p.68)

Indeed. Some socialists, including Corbynistas, explain the crack down on opposition by the disastrous Maduro regime in Venezuela and the repression in Nicaragua on the grounds that these “citadels” have to be defended against imperialism. They might learn from the Bolsheviks that eliminating democratic institutions is nothing but a deviation from the road to socialism.

Solidarity.

30th of January 2019. 

Leftist Trainspotting Quiz of the Year.

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Image result for chart of British trotskyist groups

2018 Leftist Trainspotter Quiz.

1. What is the name of the split from Socialist Party in the  Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) union?

  • Socialist Action.
  • Socialist Voice.
  • Socialist Future.

2. How often did the far-right millionaire Aaron Bank’s  funding of the Communist Party of Britain  and Socialist Party Backed Trade Unionists Against the EU get into the Morning Star and   the Socialist?

  • Never.
  • Absolutely never.
  • Why are you asking this question you Soros funded Neo-liberal Blairite?

3. Who replaced Comrade Harpel Brar as Chairman of the CPGB-ML this year?

4. What was the dispute and split in the International Bolshevik Tendency around?

  • Open answers, including the “real reasons”.

5. Where did Red London originate?

  • The  Donetsk People’s Republic.
  • Lambeth.
  • Eel Pie Island.

6. Which left-wing figures have attacked Momentum’s pickets of David Icke?

  • Jackie Walker
  • Tina Werkmann (Weekly Worker).
  • Alice Walker.

7. What was the “polemic against the Revolutionary Communist Group” about?

8. Why is there a  call to Unfollow the Movement for Justice?

9. Who  resigned this year from Tony Greenstein’s Labour Against the Witch-hunt?

  • Chris Willamson. M.P.
  • Michael Mansfield.QC.
  • Marc Wadsworth.

10. Who in 2018 Blamed Israel for the rise in anti-Semitism?

  •  Dieudonné.
  • David Irving.
  • Tariq Ali.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 21, 2018 at 2:08 pm