A parasitic attack intended to discredit the ICC

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Since the following article was written the ICC has held an Extraordinary International Conference in which the organisation as a whole was able to discuss and take a position on the behaviour of the 'Fraction'. In next month's WR there will be an article on the work of this conference.

Revolutionary organisations have always had to defend themselves against attempts to discredit them (see our article in WR252, "The struggle of revolutionary organisations against provocation and slander"), and the ICC has not been spared this task during its more than 30 years of existence. Today, it is once again the target of a destructive attack by a small number of its own 'discontented' militants, who for months have been carrying out a scorched earth policy within the organisation. They have produced a text titled On dit qu'ils ont la rage! (Note 1), which some of our subscribers have received in the post. This text was also distributed at the ICC's Paris public forum on 16th March, along with another titled New exclusions from the ICC. Our intention here is to make our own position clear, and to counter this flood of lies and slander with the truth. We will return to a more in-depth analysis of the significance of a method which consists in covering a revolutionary organisation in dirt.

The two texts protest against several of the ICC's political positions and attitudes:

  • The exclusion of Jonas, "a founding militant of the ICC [whose] only fault was to have been one of the first and most determined to combat, without hesitation or compromise, what we had begun to analyse in recent years (and not only in France) as an alarming turn within the ICC both on the level of its internal functioning and at the level of its general political orientations".

  • The supposed 'persecution' directed against a 'fraction' which has emerged within the ICC, and which is the author of the two texts in question: "Today, it is not just an isolated ex-militant who has been treated as unclean and expelled from the ICC; the exclusion of a fraction is in progress. It only remains for the ICC to find a 'credible' justification in order to make public the exclusion of the other members of this fraction, one after the other".

Still according to the authors of these two texts, this situation is the result of a serious crisis within the organisation, which is described as follows: "The ICC is today confronted with a flagrant contradiction between the image it wants to give of a healthy, open, fraternal organisation that encourages debate and (...) the reality of its present refusal of any expression of internal disagreement, along with a regime of constant pressure, rumours, and slanders against its own militants". In fact, the ICC is supposedly in a state of degeneration, as one of the two texts suggests elsewhere: "The ICC's accusation of 'political unworthiness' has as much effect on us as that directed by a degenerating Communist International against Bordiga, Trotsky, and other Bolshevik militants to justify their exclusion".

We are thus confronted with a group of militants, proclaiming themselves an 'internal fraction of the ICC', who openly defend an ex-militant of the ICC, Jonas, whose exclusion we have made public in a communiqu� published in WR252.

The exclusion of Jonas: an individual whose behaviour was that of an agent provocateur

Among the reasons we gave for this exclusion was the following: "One of the most disgusting and intolerable aspects of his behaviour was the veritable campaign that he both led and promoted against a member of the organisation (...) with accusations, behind the scenes and even before people outside the ICC, of manipulating both friends and family, and the central organs, on behalf of the police" (Communiqu� to our readers (Note 2)). The members of the so-called 'fraction' cannot deny this fact which is obvious to all within the ICC, nor have they ever done so any more than Jonas himself. In reality, "the fact that Jonas has refused to meet the ICC to explain his behaviour is in itself an admission of the fact that he is aware of having become a sworn enemy of our organisation, despite the theatrical declarations to his 'comrades' whom in reality (with the exception of those he has succeeded in dragging in his wake) he depicts as either 'cops', inquisitors, or poor manipulated cretins". In deciding to exclude Jonas, we have done no more than adopt the traditions of revolutionary organisations within the working class: "Since the beginning of the workers' movement, its political organissations have always reacted with unbending severity (including with exclusion) against the authors of slanderous accusations against their militants, even when these were in good faith...". (Note 3)

The militants of the 'fraction' recently informed us of their disagreement with the decision to exclude Jonas, which they considered 'iniquitous', and 'demanded' that the ICC give them the right to reply in our press.

It is perfectly possible that the facts with which a militant is charged may be contested either by himself or by others (which is not the case as far as Jonas is concerned), but the press is not the place for the expression and discussion of such disagreements. The organisations of the working class have adopted specific means for dealing with such delicate questions, in commissions mandated to do so. As a last resort, a militant who considers himself unjustly dishonoured can also appeal to a jury of honour drawn from groups of the Communist Left. Needless to say, we have also proposed this possibility to Jonas.

However, we have accepted that the members of the 'fraction' should put forward an opposing viewpoint on the sanction, but with the following proviso: "For it to be productive, the defence of such a viewpoint should make critical reference to our article on 'The struggle of revolutionary organisations against provocation and slander'; in particular it should demonstrate in what way our predecessors in the workers' movement were mistaken, or in what way historical conditions have changed such that their practice in the defence of the organisation is no longer valid today". The 'fraction' has answered the ICC's proposal by distributing, behind our backs, one of the two texts denigrating the ICC (our subscribers informed us of its existence as soon as they received it), while we only discovered the existence of the other at our public forum in Paris.

In reality, Jonas' refusal to defend himself according to the rules and methods in the workers' movement corresponds to the fact that his real concern, above anything else, is that the group that has remained faithful to him should take his defence by covering the ICC in dirt. And this is indeed what the 'friends of Jonas' are doing.

The 'fraction': a parasitic body within the ICC

After trying for months to destroy the organisation from the inside, Jonas' friends have now begun the same destructive attack against the ICC and the contacts around it on the outside. Why are they behaving like this?

This is not the first time that the ICC has confronted organisational problems. We have already given an extensive account of these in our press (Note 4), in particular as regards a tendency to personalise political questions, more especially as the result of the domination by criteria of affinity and individual loyalties, to the detriment of a party spirit, which presupposes the fullest development of militants' individual commitment and responsibility in the service of the collective body that is the organisation.

We have also highlighted the similarities between the problems with which we have been affected and some of the episodes of the 2nd Congress of the RSDLP (Russian Social Democratic Labour Party) in 1903. Faced with the attitude of the Mensheviks, the attacks of which he was the target, and the subjectivity which had infected Martov and his friends, Lenin replied: "The 'minority' regroups within the Party heterogeneous elements united solely by their desire, conscious or not, to maintain the relations of the circle, the forms of organisation that preceded the Party". These elements "naturally raise the standard of revolt against those vital restrictions that the organisation demands, and they erect their spontaneous anarchism into a principle of struggle, wrongly describing this anarchism (�) as a demand in favour of 'tolerance', etc". Later he continues, "When I consider the behaviour of Martov's friends after the Congress (...) I can only say that it is an insane attempt, unworthy of Party members, to tear the Party apart (�) And why? Solely because they are displeased at the composition of the central organs, since objectively this is the only thing that divides us, the subjective considerations (offence, insults, expulsion, pushing aside, wounding, etc) being nothing more than the fruit of wounded pride and a diseased imagination" (Lenin, Account of the 2nd Congress of the RSDLP).

The historical experience of revolutionary organisations shows that questions concerning their functioning are political questions in their own right, and deserve to be treated with the closest attention and the greatest depth. This is why we will return in our press to the analysis of those weaknesses which have made it possible for such difficulties to reappear in our own ranks. For the moment, we will concentrate on this concrete expression of those difficulties.

These comrades' discontent was crystallised by the fact that the ICC's 14th Congress called into question certain orientations that they had defended, both within and outside the old central organ. Contrary to the 2nd Congress of the Russian party, the make-up of the central organ was not in question, since those among them who had previously belonged to the central organ were re-elected by the Congress, which counted precisely on their experience and the confidence which up to then they had deserved.

As the 14th Congress' resolution on its activities demonstrated, the ICC diagnosed the existence of a threat to its organisational tissue and functioning, resulting from the persistence of a circle or clan mentality, an idea to which the comrades were bitterly opposed. The Congress also rejected their previous positions by highlighting the danger of over-optimism in our ranks, leading us to underestimate these difficulties. Moreover, the Congress appointed an investigation commission mandated to shed light on the malfunctioning in the permanent commissions of our central organs, something that these comrades saw as a real threat, with the consequence that they shortly began to do whatever they could to sabotage the investigation commission's work.

Just like the Bolshevik party before its Stalinist degeneration, the ICC does not have a monolithic conception of the organisation. The existence and expression of disagreements within the organisation are not a problem in themselves. The existence of differences is recognised in our statutes as being a part of the necessary process of clarifying political disagreement. What is a problem however, is the fact that since then a certain number of militants in our French section have adopted a policy of systematically violating our organisational rules. Reacting out of "wounded pride", they adopted an anarchistic attitude of violating the decisions of the Congress, of denigration, slanders, bad faith, and outright lies. After several violations of our organisational rules, some of them serious to the point of forcing the organisation to react firmly, these comrades held a series of secret meetings during August 2001, which finally gave birth to a group baptised a 'collective for reflection'.

The organisation has since acquired a copy of the proceedings of one of these secret meetings � something the participants would have liked to avoid. These proceedings demonstrated clearly to the other members of our organisation that these comrades were fully aware that they were fomenting a plot against the organisation, demonstrating a total lack of loyalty towards the ICC, which was expressed in particular through:

  • the creation of a strategy to deceive the organisation and impose their own policy on it;

  • a putschist, leftist approach, which posed the political problems we were confronting in terms of "recovering the means of functioning" (in other words, control of the central organs);

  • the creation of an "iron solidarity" among the participants and against the central organs, clearly turning their backs on the freely accepted discipline of a proletarian organisation.

We have since learnt that at the same time, some of these militants were already establishing a secret correspondence with members of other ICC sections.

After lengthy discussion, notably on the significance of the approach expressed in the notes of the secret meetings, those taking part in or supporting the 'collective' decided to dissolve it, and to rejoin the debate within the organisation's framework. They recognised in particular that a real desire to clarify has nothing to fear from an open debate, where every comrade is called to involve himself completely with a view to strengthening the organisation. They recognised that only after such a debate would it be possible to see whether there existed two irreconcilable political orientations, and if such were the case, whether it were necessary to form a tendency or fraction with a real and responsible content. Moreover, the comrades committed themselves to undertake a profound reflection on the reasons that had led them to behave as enemies of the organisation.

Sadly, a month later some of the members of the late 'collective' turned their backs on their own previous decision and formed a group which they called 'internal fraction of the ICC'; they then began a campaign of systematically and repeatedly violating our organisation's statutes. To cite only a few examples: the use of other comrades' personal addresses; refusal to pay their dues in full; refusal to attend the meeting of the central organs to which they belonged or were invited, under the pretext that the ICC should "first discuss the 'fraction's' status"; threat to publish in public the internal documents of the life of the organisation; refusal to deliver to the organisation a document that circulated among certain militants and apparently contains extremely serious accusations against other militants; refusal to meet with other members of the organisation on the pretext that the organisation had decided to retain the notes (which could be consulted at any moment) from any meeting of this kind. (Note 5) On top of this long list, we now have to add yet another: the theft of the file of addresses of the subscribers to R�volution Internationale by the member of the central organ to whom this responsibility had been entrusted, even before the 'collective's' existence was openly declared.

Faced with such destructive behaviour, and not because of any political differences, the organisation had no other choice than to defend its own survival by adopting the sanctions laid down in the statutes. Without the common respect of those organisational rules which are embodied in our statutes and freely accepted by all, there is no organisation.

This phenomenon of an organisation within the organisation, acting within it like a parasitic and destructive body, is not new either. It existed in the First International in the form of Bakunin's Alliance for Socialist Democracy, against which Engels declared: "It is high time to put an end, once and for all, to the internal struggles which are provoked daily within our Association by the presence of this parasitic body.

These quarrels only serve to waste that energy which should serve to combat the regime of the bourgeoisie. By paralysing the International's activity against the enemies of the working class, the Alliance admirably serves the bourgeoisie and all its governments" (The General Council to all the members of the International).

Contempt for the spirit and the letter of the ICC's statutes

Each time that a group of militants has left our organisation, trying as they did so to cause it the maximum possible damage, they have never failed to accuse the ICC of 'Stalinist' degeneration, and to present themselves as its real continuation. The militants who today have grouped under the banner of the 'internal fraction of the ICC' are no exception. Their declarations claiming that they want to undertake a political struggle within the ICC are nothing but a fig-leaf to hide their constant war against its internal life and its activity.

In fact, it was these comrades' own behaviour that created a growing conviction within our organisation that their proclaimed desire to undertake the work of a real fraction was nothing but a bluff. The problem is that � for a while at least � they are likely to create confusion and distrust outside the organisation, now that they have decided to reveal their idiocies in public. We can only answer whatever doubt they may succeed in sowing by reminding our readers that throughout its existence the ICC has only very rarely excluded a militant, and then only on the grounds of extremely serious faults that endangered the organisation. Never has any militant been excluded for political disagreements. Today, the ICC attributes the greatest possible importance to the clear expression and confrontation of disagreements, on the basis of texts and contributions to its internal bulletins, while all the discussions are summarised in reports at every level of the organisation, to give an overview of the advance of the debate. However, for us as for Rosa Luxemburg, the principle of freedom of criticism within the organisation is accompanied by this non-negotiable precondition: "independent thought is of the greatest importance to us. But this is only possible if � all slanders, lies and insults aside � we welcome gratefully and without distinction of tendency, the opinions of people who may be mistaken, but whose only aim is the health of our Party" (Freedom of criticism and science). (Note 6)

As for the accusation that the ICC is violating its own statutes by refusing to recognise the 'fraction', this is a gross falsehood.

The 'collective' and the 'fraction' that followed it were not formed on the basis of a positive alternative orientation to a position adopted by the organisation, but by a gathering of the 'discontented', who put all their disagreements into a common stew and then tried to give them a semblance of coherence. This is why the premature and totally unprincipled formation of the 'fraction' has nothing to do with what the fractions in the workers' movement represented historically: "Unlike the tendency, which only arises in the case of differences of orientation on circumstantial questions, the fraction is justified by programmatic disagreements which can only end either in the exclusion of the bourgeois position or in the departure of the communist fraction" ("Report on the structure and functioning of the revolutionary organisation", point 10, in International Review n�33). The organisation could not simply ignore this analysis because of the 'fraction's' temper tantrums and its demands for recognition. Nor has it in any way violated its statutes by calling into question the right of organised tendencies or fractions to exist within the ICC. Quite the contrary. It is precisely because, as our statutes say, "the organisation cannot judge when such an organised form should be either constituted or dissolved", that the members of the 'fraction' can meet as they choose to put forward collectively within the organisation whatever positions they choose. Just as for any other comrade of the organisation, the press is also open to them to put forward clearly elaborated minority positions. Indeed, it is for this very reason that we proposed that these militants should use the columns of the International Review to express their disagreements with our conception of the fraction's historical role, as we presented it in an article in n�108 of the Review. Needless to say, they hastened to 'accept' this proposal� by posing a whole series of preconditions which were completely unacceptable to us because they implied that the whole organisation should in fact adopt their positions. This episode is eloquent in demonstrating that the expression of their disagreements with the ICC, in public and before the working class, is the last of their concerns.

Far from adopting an approach aimed at convincing us of their positions through serious political argument, these militants' 'struggle' for the official recognition of their "fraction" has in their eyes justified a series of gross violations of our statutes (to the point where within the ICC these comrades are commonly known as the 'infraction'). They have trampled underfoot one basic principle of our functioning: "the fact that they defend minority positions in no way absolves members of the organisation from any of their responsibilities as militants" (extract from the ICC's statutes). Without this, a united organisation that allows disagreements to exist within it, is impossible. One of their violations � the reduction by 70% of their dues (obligatory for all), in order to cover their own expenses � is a clear demonstration of this. If the organisation were to accept this, then it would be violating its own statutes, and would open the door to a situation where every militant could vary his dues according to his level of agreement with this or that position of the organisation. Such a situation would lead directly to the destruction of the organisation.

The 'friends of Jonas' clearly intend to drag the organisation to its destruction. And against such 'rabid' destructiveness, the ICC is more determined than ever to defend itself and to defend the principles of the workers' movement.

ICC, 21st March 2002

NOTES

(1) We can render this roughly as "They claim we have rabies", a reference to a French saying according to which if you want to kill your dog, you first accuse it of having rabies. (Back)

(2) In the same communiqu�, we also reported that the militant of the ICC accused by Jonas of being "a cop" demanded that a vigorous enquiry into the truth or otherwise of the accusation be conducted, before being allowed to continue to work within our ranks. The enquiry concluded that these accusations were totally without foundation and were indeed slanderous and ill-intentioned. This did not prevent Jonas from continuing to spread his slander. (Back)

(3) Extract from a resolution voted during a discussion in a meeting of the ICC, and for which those members of the 'fraction' who were present also voted. (Back)

(4) See in particular the International Review n�82, and the article on the 11th ICC Congress and the struggle to build the organisation, and the "Theses on parasitism" in International Review n�94. (Back)

(5) A practice on the organisation's part which was all the more justified by the blackmail to which we were subjected by the 'fraction' threatening the public distribution of our internal documents. (Back)

(6) This restriction, apart from the extreme measures of suspending comrades, has taken another form. All the militants who had taken part in the 'activity' of the 'collective' were asked to develop in writing the reasons that they had already given orally for its dissolution. Our organisation's intention was to allow all its members to get to the roots of the incomprehension which had allowed such hostile and destructive behaviour to develop amongst us. Since no such contribution was forthcoming, we decided that the comrades concerned could not write on organisational questions in the internal bulletins, until this condition was satisfied. This is the reality that the 'fraction' now fraudulently travesties as a demand for Maoist-style 'self-criticism'. When the 'fraction' appeared, the organisation changed this requirement, given that the 'fraction' actually defended the late 'collective'. We no longer asked the militants concerned to undertake an in-depth criticism of their destructive behaviour, but only to take an argued position on the facts, either for or against. To this day, and despite the promise published in the "fraction's" own Bulletin n�1, they have failed to do so. This is why the members of the 'fraction' who took part in the meetings of the late 'collective' cannot publish contributions in the ICC's internal bulletins. This has not stopped the organisation itself from taking the decision to publish certain of their texts when it was necessary for one reason or another that the ICC be aware of their content. (Back)