Public meetings on the defence of the revolutionary organisation
In May the ICC began a series of forums on the theme of the defence of the revolutionary organisation. Despite the very serious events taking place on an international level (the US ‘war on terror’, the massive anti-fascist campaigns in Europe, etc), the ICC felt that it was necessary to keep to this theme because it has been subjected to a very grave attack, in the shape of a campaign of slander being waged by a few ex-members of the ICC grouped under the name of the ‘Internal Fraction of the ICC’ around the element Jonas, who has been expelled from our organisation for political unworthiness (Note 1). Faced with such a situation it was the responsibility of the ICC to carry out the public defence of its principles of functioning. Without an organisation, there can be no intervention, and this is precisely the aim of the bourgeois state and its accomplices in the parasitic milieu: to destroy revolutionary organisations from the inside and discredit them in the eyes of the working class, and above all in front of those who have been looking for a class perspective in this moribund social system.
The ICC’s section in Britain held a meeting around this theme on May 18. A number of sympathisers came from several towns to offer their solidarity with the ICC against the attacks being mounted by the so-called ‘Fraction’. Some wrote letters of support which we publish below. All the participants regretted the decision of the Communist Workers Organisation (British affiliate of the International Bureau for the Revolutionary Party) not to attend the meeting. According to a verbal communication, this decision was a matter of principle based on a disagreement with the theme of the meeting. We await a more developed written explanation from the comrades. But as we said at the forum, if the CWO felt that the ICC was making mistake in talking about organisational questions at a public meeting, it would have been better to have argued the case at the meeting rather than boycott it. More importantly, we think that the CWO’s decision is based on a real underestimation of the dangers facing revolutionary organisations in today’s period - above all the danger of parasitism which the ‘Fraction’ expresses so graphically. The IBRP is itself by no means immune from this danger: we refer readers to the latest issue of our publication in the USA, Internationalism 122, which contains an analysis of the recent crisis among the IBRP’s US affiliates or sympathising groups. In our estimation, the evolution of the Los Angeles Workers Voice group, which has recently broken away from the IBRP, is another clear manifestation of the phenomenon of parasitism - political activity geared not towards the construction of serious revolutionary organisations, but towards the discrediting and destruction of the whole proletarian political milieu.
The following article is an account of the meeting that took place in Paris on 4 May, which is of particular interest because it is where the ICC and its sympathisers confronted the ‘Fraction’ directly.
Sixty people, coming from a number of towns in France, but also from Switzerland, Germany, Britain and Belgium, judged the question sufficiently important to attend this meeting in order to hear the arguments of the ICC and confront them with those of the ‘Fraction’. Other contacts, not present at the meeting, sent us letters of support and solidarity that were read out to the meeting.
The choice of the theme for this public meeting was strongly criticised by an ex-member of the IBRP who recently left that organisation. He considered that the ICC was being scandalously irresponsible not to have dedicated the meeting to the situation in France at a time when the working class was faced with a huge anti-fascist campaign.
In reply, we pointed out that in 1872, even though the working class had just been through the two of the most important events of this phase of history - the Franco-Prussian war and the Paris Commune - the Hague Congress of the First International (the only one where Marx and Engels were personally present) made the question of the defence of the organisation its priority.
In fact, if the intervention of this element exposed any irresponsibility, it was his own. This was no surprise to the ICC who had already underlined at a previous public meeting that he had been irresponsible in leaving the IBRP because he had disagreements with the organisation’s analysis of the events of 11 September. It is obvious that you cannot expect the least rigour on organisational questions from an element who has spent the last 20 years roaming through virtually every group in the proletarian political milieu, thus demonstrating the elasticity of his convictions. There has been however one constant in all the variations in his positions: his unbreakable hostility to the ICC owing to the fact that we didn’t integrate this element in 1982, because we considered that he had not overcome all the political confusions that derived from his Trotskyist past. A hostility which, during the course of this public meeting, led him to make common cause with the members of the ‘Fraction’, who in the last few months have shown their ‘sympathy’ towards him as well.
The real nature of the so-called ‘Fraction’
We haven’t got space in the context of this article to give a complete history of this parasitic circle that calls itself ‘The Internal Fraction of the ICC’. In the previous WR we wrote about the extraordinary conference of the ICC which was held at the end of March. A good part of this article dealt with the activities of this ‘Fraction’ and we also refer the reader to the article in WR 253, ‘A parasitic attack on the ICC’ which response to the first public slanders which these knights in shining armour hurled at the ICC.
To summarise the heroic exploits of this so-called ‘Fraction’ we can cite:
The systematic use of lies as an argument, based on the master of Nazi propaganda, Goebbels’ “a lie repeated often enough becomes a truth” and “The bigger the lie the more force it has to banish doubt”;
Using the most repulsive slanders and denigrations as a way of silencing those who don’t share their point of view;
The repeated violation of the organisation’s statutes (such as the refusal to pay their full dues, the secret circulation of documents and the holding of secret meetings aimed essentially at spreading slanders and refining lies);
Undying loyalty to citizen Jonas who has been behaving in a manner worthy of an agent provocateur;
Behaving like thugs, through provocations, threats, the theft of material (money, address lists, internal documents).
The only other example of such behaviour on the part of militants of the ICC is the Chenier tendency in 1981. At that time, the ICC showed that this gangster-like behaviour was inspired principally by the individual Chenier, expelled in September 1981, who was later revealed as an agent of the bourgeois state. Today it is clear to the ICC that the thuggish behaviour of the members of the Fraction has been inspired largely by Jonas, who has played a role quite comparable to that of Chenier (even if the ICC has not yet pronounced on the underlying reasons for his behaviour and has renewed the mandate of the investigation commission at our extraordinary conference in order to shed the maximum possible light on this question).
The presentation of the discussion at the public meeting
The presentation had the aim, before reporting on the destructive behaviour of Jonas and his friends, of affirming the positions of the ICC and the whole workers’ movement on the question of the defence of communist organisations against the attacks of the ruling class. It focused particularly on the following questions, which the activities of the so-called ‘Fraction’ have highlighted.
1. Communist organisations need to arm themselves with statutes and its militants have to respect them, otherwise they will paralyse or destroy the organisation. In the case of members who do not respect the statutes, communist organisations must be able to apply sanctions in proportion to the kind of breaches committed. This has the dual aim of allowing the organisation to defend itself and the militants to understand the gravity of their mistakes and get back on the rails.
2. Political debates aimed at clarifying divergences have to be carried out openly within the organisation. Nothing is more alien to the methods of the proletariat than conspiratorial practices which seek to elaborate stratagems, spread calumnies or destabilise militants in order to take over or stay in “command” (this is Jonas’ own term).
3. The bourgeoisie always has the objective of destroying revolutionary organisations. In certain circumstances, it uses direct repression, going as far as jailing or murdering militants. However, even when it doesn’t use such methods, the bourgeois state doesn’t renounce its overall objectives, but uses different means, one being the infiltration of agents provocateurs whose role is to accentuate conflicts between militants and introduce suspicion and distrust between them (as the GPU did in the Trotskyist movement of the 30s). Alongside common political convictions about matters of principle, confidence between militants is one of the main bonds of the organisation; as soon as this confidence is lacking, the organisation is in mortal danger. When it comes to the problem of agents provocateurs, the organisations of the workers’ movement have always created particular organs (commissions of inquiry, juries of honour) which ensure that any suspicions about a militant cause the minimum damage to the organisational tissue. It is directly mandated organs of this type which have to shed light on such matters, not the subjective impressions of this or that individual. The presentation pointed out that at the time of the foundation of the Communist Party of the USA, one of its leaders, Fraina, was accused on several occasions of being a state agent; in fact the person who originated these accusations turned out to be an agent of the FBI.
The performance of the ‘Fraction’
After this introduction, the ICC opened the meeting to all those present, giving priority to the members of the ‘Fraction’. Its spokesman began by declaring that the ‘Fraction’ demanded to be re-integrated into the ICC while asserting that it was carrying out political work with an element expelled from the ICC (as we learned in a letter sent to us by the ‘Fraction’, Jonas is officially a member of the ‘Fraction’). He then made a long intervention (the essentials being contained in a leaflet distributed to the participants), the main aim of which, apart from a series of absolutely inapplicable historical analogies, was to justify the ‘Fraction’s’ acts of indiscipline, its violations of the statutes. Concerning the secret meetings, the spokesman of the ‘Fraction’ had the nerve to justify them by referring in particular to the example of the left oppositions within the Bolshevik party in the 1920s, at a time when the members of the opposition risked prison; whereas the ICC, which had counted on the capacity of its militants to get a grip on themselves (which two of them actually did) did not take the least sanction after the discovery of these secret meetings and of their scandalous content. Apart from this point, the spokesman of the ‘Fraction’ did not give the slightest response to the questions raised in the ICC’s presentation.
The ‘arguments’ of the supporters of the ‘Fraction’
The interventions of the three ‘sympathisers’ of the ‘Fraction’ only confirmed the political vacuity of this parasitic clan and the destructive nature of its activities.
The first was an ex-militant of the ICC who resigned in September 2001 after participating in the secret meetings which were held during the summer of 2001. His intervention was a series of totally untruthful complaints about the bad treatment he had receivedber of the ‘Fraction’). He then made a long intervention (the essentials being contained in a leaflet distributed to the participants), the main aim of which, apart from a series of absolutely inapplicable historical analogies, was to justify the ‘Fraction’s’ acts of indht lying to it. As the presidium remarked, when the secret meetings were discovered, we asked this element how many of them had been held; he replied two when there had really been five and he knew this quite well. This liar is also a braggart because, during the 4th secret meeting (the minutes of which fell into the hands of the organisation by chance), he boasted to his acolytes that he had succeeded in duping a member of the central organ of our section in France. All the evidence indicates that what really concerns this ex-militant today is not the defence of the ICC’s principles, but the defence of his own little personality and of his pals in the ‘Fraction’, to use the words of one of its members in a secret meeting, maintaining “an iron solidarity between us”. Against this “iron solidarity” of a parasitic body within the organisation, the ICC defends the class solidarity that has to unite all the militants of a communist organisation.
It’s not the first time that a militant, tired out by a number of years of commitment, has been unable to admit his new passion for his slippers and his night-cap, and has blamed the organisation for his fatigue. To such ex-militants, one of our subscribers addressed the following advise in a letter to the ICC: “if they are tired, they should just go to sleep”. We could add: that would be the best service they could render to the proletariat.
The second supporter of the ‘Fraction’ is also an ex-militant of the ICC who resigned in 1996. He gave the ICC a lesson in the defence of the organisation by declaring that this meant first and foremost the defence of its principles. These were fine words but this element has not been to an ICC public forum since 1996, even when they were devoted to the defence of communist principles in the face of imperialist barbarism faced with the Kosovo war or more recently the war in Afghanistan. It’s only very recently that this element, a bit like Sleeping Beauty, woke from a long sleep to come and give us lessons in morality. It seems that the ‘Fraction’s’ public attacks on the ICC have had the same effect on this element as the prince’s kiss. His whole political approach is summed up in the fact that it’s only now that he comes to our forums to sow trouble among our contacts. During the 1993 crisis in our organisation (which he described as “war between chiefs”), this former militant of the ICC distinguished himself by engaging in all kinds of manoeuvres, in doublespeak and corridor denigration against other militants, notably members of central organs. In response to this behaviour the organisation passed a special resolution on this element, adopted by all the members of the present ‘Fraction’, calling on him to cease this behaviour and make a criticism of it. This was too much to ask of him and he preferred to leave the organisation shortly afterwards, maintaining a deep hostility towards the ICC, a hostility which was obvious to all the sympathisers present at this meeting.
In his intervention, this element asserted that the ICC had rejected his demand for a jury of honour to clear him of the accusation of being a state agent. If that had been the opinion of the ICC as he claimed (he even said he had “proof” of this), this element would have been expelled and publicly denounced via a communique in our press, which was not at all the case. Furthermore, it’s not up to the ICC to call for a jury of honour for a militant whose intrigues we have certainly criticised, but who left the organisation by his own choice.
These are the kinds of ‘sympathisers’ that the Fraction is waking up today: elements who came to this public meeting not to defend the principles of the workers’ movement and the ICC by taking position on our presentation, but to settle old personal scores with our organisation. This supporter of the ‘Fraction’, having avoided taking any position on the ICC’s presentation and the behaviour of Jonas, presented himself as a victim of ICC slander. It is thus the ICC which has been spreading slanders and not the individual which it has expelled from its ranks. We should also note that in his intervention this element also in a subtle way took up the defence of JJ, whom the ICC expelled in 1995, and whose friends at the time formed a parasitic grouping called ‘The Paris Circle’. Should we then expect to see a rapprochement between the latter and the ‘Fraction’? We know in any case that the ‘Fraction’ has begun to send its “internal bulletins”, which it now says will be sent out “for discussion within the proletarian political milieu” (bulletin no. 9 of the ‘Fraction’), to members of this circle. Do the friends of Jonas now consider that the Paris Circle belongs to the proletarian political milieu and not to parasitism, which was their position when they were still militants of the ICC?
The third ‘sympathiser’ of the ‘Fraction’ (as he described himself) was also a former member of the ICC who resigned in 1993 (Note 2). But contrary to the second supporter of the ‘Fraction’, this element has up till now been one of our most loyal fellow travellers, who has always intervened with us and given us invaluable support over the years. It was with deep consternation that all the ICC militants and the sympathisers who know this element witnessed the sad spectacle of his turn towards parasitism. This element made an incomprehensible intervention that showed only that he has become violently hostile to the ICC. This is a success for the policy deliberately being carried out by Jonas and his ‘Fraction’: to destroy our milieu of contacts and turn the ICC’s sympathisers into its enemies.
The mobilisation of the ICC’s sympathisers for the defence of the organisation
The numerous contacts of the ICC who intervened supported the political framework given in the presentation and called on the ‘Fraction’ to take position on it. Several interventions protested vigorously against the theft of the list of the addresses of our subscribers, insisting that they had confided their address to the ICC as a political group and not to Mr Jonas and his cabal.
Faced with the interventions by our contacts who, with different arguments, affirmed the necessity for a revolutionary organisation to defend its statutes and to condemn very firmly the methods used by Jonas, what was the response of the ‘Fraction’? Silence! The members of the ‘Fraction’ refused to speak in response to the questions posed to them by the subscribers to whom they had sent their parasitic prose.
In response to this evasive attitude, one of our contacts called on them again to answer. What was the response of the ‘Fraction’? To quietly sidle out (followed by their supporters) giving the pretext that their departure was motivated by “family obligations” (their families seem to be very well synchronised!)
In reality, the reason they preferred to quit the room all together on tip-toe was that they knew that they would be unable to sell their wares to the serious elements of the proletarian political milieu who had come to this public meeting.
Following the remarkable performance of this so-called ‘Fraction’, several of our contacts who had not spoken before intervened to give their full support to the ICC. As one of them said at the end: “I did not see things very clearly when I arrived at this meeting. I give my support to the ICC. It is the attitude of this ‘Fraction’ which has convinced me. These people have discredited themselves by leaving the room when they had been asked to reply to the questions and to take position on what the ICC is saying”.
Before the departure of the ‘Fraction’, one of our comrades (an ex-member of the Jonas clique) gave an eye-witness account of the conspiratorial methods of this enterprise of destruction into which he himself had been dragged. One of our contacts saluted this intervention and said that, in contrast to the vengeful complaints of the fractionists and their supporters, “real courage is what this militant has shown”, because he had managed to put the historical interests of the proletariat above his personal pride, and remain a loyal militant of the organisation.
This public meeting clearly showed that the parasitic behaviour of this ‘Fraction’, animated by loyalty towards declassed elements who have become adventurers, is a pure reflection of the social decomposition of capitalism. The intervention of a sympathiser from Germany demonstrated that the repeated slanders by Jonas and his ‘Fraction’ against members of the organisation in order to destroy them (or “destabilise” them, according to the term used at one of the secret meetings) are very similar to the phenomenon of “mobbing” which has been seen in various workplaces. This sympathiser had himself been a victim of this and talked about his own experience (Note 3).
The discussion also highlighted the danger this cabal represents for the proletarian political milieu, as can be seen from their meeting with the IBRP (which the ‘Fraction’ has described in no. 9 of their bulletin, sent to all our subscribers in France).
One of our sympathisers said clearly that this policy of the Jonas clan is aimed at getting the IBRP publicly mixed up with its intrigues, and thus at compelling it to take up the cause of the ‘Fraction’ against the ICC. “This was not just opportunism but the worst kind of manoeuvring”. For our part, we consider that publishing the discussion between the IBRP and the ‘Fraction’ can only have the aim of discrediting the IBRP in the proletarian political milieu (Note 4).
At the end of the meeting, certain contacts came up to us to offer their help, considering that, as in 1981, the ICC had to recuperate the material and money stolen by the fractionists.
The ICC’s sympathisers cannot help feeling directly concerned in this, seeing that the funds of the organisation emanate not only from the dues paid by its militants but also from their own subscriptions as sympathisers of the ICC. Thus, it’s a part of the money from these subscriptions that has been stolen without scruple by the ‘Fraction’. This is why the ICC is continuing to insist that the Jonas cabal return money stolen from the working class (here we see no problem in the racketeers opening a subscription among their own supporters in order to help reimburse their debts). This is a matter of principle on which the ICC will make no concession, whatever the ‘historical’ and ‘theoretical’ justifications which the fractionists have cooked up to cover their sordid little deeds.
This public meeting showed that, faced with the lumpen methods of the Jonas clique, the Marxist method does indeed “carry enough weight” (Note 5).
The ICC has never before received so many letters of support (some of them were read out at the meeting). Or as the ex-member of the IBRP rather spitefully observed “we have never seen so many people at a public meeting of the ICC in Paris”!
This public meeting was a step in the ICC’s combat for the defence of communist principles. But we know that this combat is not over because revolutionary organisations, being irreducible enemies of the capitalist order, will always be the object of the efforts of the bourgeoisie to destroy them or discredit them. These attacks may be carried out by specialised organs of the bourgeois state or by declasse individuals, as well as by former militants whose loss of conviction can turn into hatred of the organisation they once belonged to and of their old comrades in arms. It is this wearing out of conviction which can push them into resigning over the smallest difficulty, into capitulation to bourgeois ideology and the betrayal of proletarian principles. The fractionists are trying to cover up their real betrayal of the organisational principles of the ICC by posing as the real continuators of the principles of the ICC and all the left fractions before it. Well, a child of five can imagine himself to be Superman, Wonderwoman or Luke Skywalker, but that doesn’t mean that this is true and that grown ups are fooled. Our knights of the ‘Fraction’ may try to tell us that they are the real heroes of the defence of communist principles. However, their political behaviour and their intervention in this public meeting have shown how far away from this they are, and our sympathisers could see it quite clearly. “It’s in their practise that men prove the truth of their thinking” said Marx. The practise of the fractionists proved only the truth of their imposture.
(1) See the ‘Communique to our readers’ in WR 252. Among other things this communique says “One of the most intolerable and repulsive aspects of his behaviour is the veritable campaign he led against a member of the organisation, accusing them in the corridors and even in front of people outside the organisation of manipulating those around them and the central organs on behalf of the police”. (Back)
(2) This element, who at his first reappearance for at least 10 years at a public meeting of the ICC, last winter, had begun to denigrate the IBRP, told us twice at this meeting that the break up of the International Communist Party (the main Bordigist group) in 1982 was something to be welcomed! The destruction of revolutionary organisations, even when they are gangrenous with opportunism, has always been a blow against the proletariat and communists never salute such an event. The amiable exchanges between this element and the members of the ‘Fraction’ were founded upon a common political denominator: hostility not only towards the ICC, but also towards the whole proletarian political milieu, even if the ‘Fraction’ claims the opposite. (Back)
(3) This phenomenon of ‘mobbing’ typical of capitalist decomposition has also appeared in the Satanic games at certain educational establishments where gangs of adolescents amuse themselves by selecting one of their number as a target and subjecting them to all sorts of torture, even murder. Perverted games like this are, as with serial killers, an obvious product of a deep mental unbalance, but they are above all expressions of the barbarism of a rotting society which has turned Nazi sadism or the methods of the torturers from the Algerian war into a parlour game. (Back)
(4) And this is indeed Mr Jonas’s aim: to lure the IBRP into a trap and discredit it while at the same time spreading all kinds of suspicion between the groups of the communist left. (Back)
(5) When a delegation of the ICC met the ‘Fraction’ to discuss the modalities of recuperating material belonging to the organisation and to demand the reimbursement of money stolen from the ICC, the brave spokesman of the Jonas clique offered the following threats against our comrades, illustrating the thuggish mentality of this so-called ‘Fraction’: “In any case, in Paris, you don’t carry enough weight!” (Back)