Reply to the ex-members of our Turkish section
In January 2015, the members of the ICC’s section in Turkey announced their resignation from our organisation: their explanation of their departure was published a couple of months later under the name of a new group calling itself "Pale Blue Jadal", with the heading "On our departure from the International Communist Current". Our aim in the article that follows is to address what, in our view, are the main issues posed by the departure of these ex-comrades.
The editorial to the first issue of our International Review, published in 1975, lays out clearly the goal that the fledgling ICC set itself: “In this period of general crisis, pregnant with convulsions and social upheavals, one of the most urgent and arduous tasks facing revolutionaries is that of welding together the meagre revolutionary forces that are currently dispersed throughout the world. This task can only be undertaken by beginning straight away on an international level. This has always been a central preoccupation of our current”. For such an organisation, to lose one militant is a misfortune. To lose an entire section is a failure. We therefore owe it to ourselves, to all those who identify with the tradition of the Communist Left, and to the working class in general, to examine this failure in a ruthlessly critical spirit, and to lay our conclusions before our readers.
This necessity is all the more pressing given the nature of the text written by our ex-comrades from Turkey, who we must now call “Pale Blue Jadal”. There are points in this text with which we can agree, and yet overall it is such a welter of half-truths, distortions, recriminations, and general confusion that it is only barely recognisable to those of us who lived through the events it attempts to describe, and must certainly be completely unintelligible to anyone outside the ICC. This will not, of course, prevent PBJ’s text from having a certain effect: the faint-hearted will find further cause to doubt, and our enemies (some of whom bear us a hatred that lies more in the domain of psychopathology than politics) will read in it what they have been longing to hear.
To answer every one of PBJ’s accusations, we would have to undertake something like Lenin’s dissection of the 1903 RSDLP Congress in One step forward, two steps back, but over a period of almost ten years: we would have to quote in detail from a mass of conference and congress minutes, not to mention correspondence and the minutes of meetings and conferences. This would take too long, it would try our readers’ patience, and moreover it would lay the internal workings of our organisation open to the public gaze, something which no revolutionary in his right mind would do today. We will therefore limit ourselves to stating our case as clearly as possible, and to correcting, in passing, some of PBJ’s more egregious errors and insinuations.
Let us begin with one point where we agree with PBJ: that our integration of the EKS group as the ICC’s Turkish section was a process infested with opportunism. We do not propose here to go into the reasons for this: suffice it to say that we tried to force the pace of history, and this is a classic recipe for opportunism.
“Forcing the pace”, of course, was at our own small level; principally, it meant the decision to “fast-track” the discussions with the EKS group which was to become our section in Turkey. In particular we decided:
To drastically reduce the time spent on organisational discussion with the members of EKS before their integration, on the grounds that the art of building an organisation is learnt essentially from experience.
To integrate EKS as a group, not as individuals. Although our statutes provide for this, it holds the danger that the new militants will see themselves, not first and foremost as individual militants of an international organisation but as members of their original group.
With hindsight, our cavalier approach to the organisational question was both unpardonable and incredible. What was EKS, after all? As PBJ says, it was “just a collection of politicised circles of friends”, and moreover circles drawn from the politicised petty-bourgeois student milieu. In other words, it was precisely the kind of circle that Lenin had described in 1903. Given all our past experience, not to mention our awareness of the way our own failings derived from much of the ICC’s origins in the student movement of the 1960s-70s, how could we fail to see that one of the biggest questions facing us with the integration of the EKS group would be precisely that of passing on our own organisational experience? How could we lose sight of our own critique of the futility of hasty, opportunist integrations as they have been practiced in the past by the TCI? As it is, our experience with the section in Turkey only serves as further confirmation – if any were necessary – that this critique is fundamentally correct and applies to ourselves just as much as it does to others.
The forthcoming article on our 21st Congress gives a general answer to these questions: "The Congress emphasised that the ICC has always been affected by its ‘youthful error’ of immediatism which has repeatedly caused us to lose sight of the the historical and long-term framework which is the setting for the organisation’s function". Such failings are all the more difficult to overcome inasmuch as they were present in the organisation from the outset.1 Concretely, this laid us open to an illusion particularly prevalent among some members of EKS, that our difficulty in getting across our positions among the newly politicised younger generation (especially in the relatively new medium of the Internet forum) was essentially a matter of presentation,2 and that we could therefore increase our influence by watering down our insistence on organisational principle (this is what PBJ calls “recognising that our traumas posed problems”). As a result, we lost sight of the historical, materialist, foundations of our organisational practice as embodied in our Statutes which can only be understood historically, as political principles,3 and as the result of both the past workers’ movement (Internationals and Fractions) and our own experience. We treated the Statutes as mere "rules of behaviour", and the "discussion" on the subject was rushed through in a day (contrast this with the months of correspondence and discussion with EKS on the positions embodied in the Platform). There was no discussion on the "Commentaries on the statutes" (a text which places our Statutes in the context of the historical experience of the workers’ movement and of the ICC itself) nor on the basic organisational texts. Nor did we insist that these texts be translated into Turkish.4
For all this, let us repeat, the ICC – not the members of EKS – bears the entire responsibility.5
But the result was that the Turkish section’s attitude to the Statutes was not that of militant marxists who seek to understand and put into practice the principles behind them – or if necessary to argue that they should be changed, with all the international debate within the organisation that this would imply: it was more the attitude of the pettifogging taproom lawyer whose only interest is to seize on the surface of words to his own advantage.6
"We had to leave"
This, in the end, is PBJ’s justification for their departure: "we had to leave". But what exactly is meant by this? After all, the Turkish members were not expelled, either collectively or individually, nor were any sanctions applied against them. Their "minority positions" were not suppressed – on the contrary, they were constantly being pressed to express their positions in writing so that these could be published and brought to the knowledge of the organisation as a whole.
If we try to extract the main points from PBJ’s text, the overall picture that emerges is something like the following:
The ICC suffers from “a culture of agreement” which makes debate difficult. With this at least we can agree, up to a point.7 We will come back to the "culture of agreement" within the Turkish section itself.
The "old" militants tried to impose a "unilateral transmission" of experience on the young.
“The section was dissolved”.
In short, therefore, “We had to leave”.
PBJ, to summarise, is the “critical left” of the ICC, better than that they are the “youth” who refuse to accept the “unilateral transmission”, the “dictatorship” of the old whose “traumas” “pose problems”.
Indeed, barely months before their resignation, the section confronted the organisation with a grandiloquent statement of position in which they declared that they were "the left" within the organisation. Let us take them at their word and consider for a moment what that means: what does it mean to be "the left" in the context of the ICC?
The ICC very consciously claims to derive its origins from the Communist Left, but more explicitly, as far as organisational questions are concerned, from the tradition of the Italian Communist Left. What did it mean to be a "left fraction" in the days of the Italian Left, the days of the Communist International’s degeneration? "The Left Fraction is formed as the proletarian party is degenerating under the influence of opportunism, in other words its penetration by bourgeois ideology. It is the responsibility of the minority, which upholds the revolutionary programme, to conduct an organised struggle for its victory within the party (…) It is the responsibility of the Left Fraction to continue the fight within the party as long as there remains any hope of redressing it: this is why, during the late 1920s and early '30s, the left currents did not leave the parties of the IC, but were excluded, often by means of sordid manoeuvres".8
The left, in short, fights for its organisation to the limit:
to convince, to win over the organisation as much as possible;
to save as many militants as can be saved;
for clarity about the reasons of the organisation’s decline, for themselves, for other militants, and for the future.
Finally, the Left does not run away at the first sign of disagreement and opposition. It does everything possible to stay in the organisation and defend its ideas – and is excluded. It does not play the rabbit in wolf’s clothing by running away.
The Italian Left Fraction was formed as a reaction against the degeneration of the Communist International towards the integration of its constituent parties into the political apparatus of the ruling class. Whatever our defects, this is not the situation for the ICC, nor indeed did the members of the Turkish section make any such claim. There was not, therefore, any reason to suppose that the various disagreements voiced by or in the section could justify the formation of a "fraction" in the ICC; on the contrary, we could hope that open discussion within the organisation would make it possible to clarify these disagreements, perhaps leading to a clearer position for the organisation as a whole.
Nonetheless, the underlying point remains valid. It is the responsibility of any minority within a revolutionary organisation, to defend its positions for as long as it is able to do, to try to the utmost to convince the rest of the organisation of their correctness. Nobody will pretend that this is easy – but it is the only way to build an organisation.
Why did the Turkish comrades so signally fail in this respect? We can point to two main factors:
The first, we already highlighted in 2007, in a text on "The culture of debate",9 which posed the absolutely vital necessity for debate within the organisation, for its own internal health: “The second major impulse for the ICC to return to the question of a culture of debate was our own internal crisis at the beginning of the new century, characterised by the most malignant behaviour we had ever witnessed within our ranks (…) One of the conclusions we came to was that a tendency towards monolithism had played a major role in all the split-offs that we suffered. As soon as divergences appeared, certain members began to assert that they could no longer work with the others, that the ICC was becoming a Stalinist organisation or was in the process of degenerating. These crises broke out in relation to divergences which, for the most part, could be perfectly contained within a non-monolithic organisation, and in all cases should be discussed and clarified before any separation takes place”. The Turkish comrades fell victim to this same "monolithism of the minority".
The second, is that a precondition for accepting the demand that the Left should fight to the limit rather than quit the organisation in haste, is the conviction that the organisation itself is a vital necessity. This is precisely the problem in the political milieu today, which has no experience of Party life (as it existed, for example, in the Bolshevik Party in Lenin’s day), no experience of revolutionary agitation by a Party with real, determining influence in the class struggle, and moreover is infested not just by the old councilist opposition to the Party but by a much broader, profound suspicion of any form of organised political activity beyond that of the circle, as such. In fact, PBJ does not really take organisation seriously. This is why PBJ is so shocked by "positions which developed in the organization that if the ICC somehow ceased to exist the party couldn’t be founded, the proletariat couldn’t make a revolution and the world would face unavoidable ruin, [and] expressed that we hoped we wouldn’t be alone in continuing communist activity in case a situation like this took place". We should ask PBJ: do you believe (as you supposedly did when you joined the ICC) that the existence of an international, centralised, political revolutionary organisation is critical to the success of any future revolution? Unlike some, we have never pretended to be "the Party", nor to be the only group in the world to defend proletarian internationalism. There are two few revolutionaries in the world, in all probability this will be the case for a long time to come, and the proletariat needs to gather all the forces it can: the existence of a revolutionary organisation is not a matter of individuals but the product of the proletariat’s own historically revolutionary nature. As Bilan pointed during the war in Spain in the 1930s, if there is no Party – no political organisation recognised by the international working class as its own – then there is no revolution. And yet such an organisation will not come into being by some mystical process of self-generation. Building an organisation is immensely difficult, it takes years of painstaking effort, and yet it will always remain so fragile that it can be demolished in a matter of months or even weeks. If the ICC, which is today much the largest organisation of the Communist Left10, finally fails, what will be there to take its place? How and on what basis will the international organisation be built? To these questions, PBJ can only answer "we hope we won’t be alone". "Hope springs eternal", as the saying goes, and in the meantime superficiality reigns supreme.
We want to conclude this point by responding to the supposed "dissolution of the Turkish section". There is no doubt that mistakes were made on both sides in the process that led to the section’s departure; there is no doubt either that a certain mistrust built up, which we were unable to dispel.11 It is untrue, however, to suggest that the section was "dissolved". This claim is based on two points:
First, that the section was asked by a resolution of the central organ, to replace its own meetings with the participation of all its members (via Internet) in the discussions of other ICC sections.
Second, that the section was asked to translate all its articles into English and submit them to the IB before publication.
Let’s take these in order.
As PBJ’s own text says, the participation of its members in other section meetings was an attempt to break down the localism in which the section was entrenched – and which they cannot deny. What they fail to mention, is that the same measure was applied in other sections in the run-up to the ICC’s Congress. The purpose was to open up the local life of the sections to international discussion, to try to let in some air and allow all comrades to have an idea of the life of the organisation as a whole beyond their own immediate preoccupations before the delegations arrived at the Congress. The measure was not originally intended to last beyond the Congress itself. Not only that – what PBJ fails to tell its readers is that, once it became clear that the Turkish section did not agree with – because they did not understand – the proposed measure, it was withdrawn by the central organ: communist discipline is not something that can be imposed bureaucratically.
As far as the press is concerned, our Statutes state unequivocally that (even in Turkey) "The territorial publications are entrusted by the ICC to the territorial sections and more specifically to their central organs which can nominate editorial committees to this end. However, these publications are the emanation of the totality of the Current and not of particular territorial sections. Because of this, the IB has the responsibility for orientating and following the contents of these publications". Given that the IB as a whole does not speak Turkish, and that the section – as PBJ would hardly deny – was not in complete agreement with the rest of the ICC on a whole series of points (including for example, the analysis of the "social revolts" in Spain, Egypt, Turkey, and Brazil), it was surely not unreasonable for the IB to ask that articles be submitted to it before publication: at all events, the IB was entirely within its statutory rights to do so. Just how right the IB was, the reader can judge for themselves on the basis of the very article about the Soma mine disaster of whose non-publication PBJ makes so much. In this article we read, for example, that "the deaths of the workers in shipyards, construction sites and wars happen because the bourgeoisie consciously wants them to happen; the massacre in Soma which is called an accident has been consciously conducted", and it goes on to say that "In war or in the workplace, workers are valuable if they die for capitalism". Even for the most vulgar marxist (and the members of the Turkish section did, at the time, claim to be marxist, regaling us at length with ill-digested lessons on "the law of value"), this is arrant nonsense: workers are valuable for capital if they produce surplus value, something they can hardly do if they are dead.
Far from "dissolving" the section, the organisation had every interest in its participation in the international life of the ICC, including and especially its international Congress. One could expect that "the Left" would jump at the chance to express themselves at the Congress, all the more so inasmuch as our Statutes explicitly require the over-representation of minority positions. But not so PBJ: not only did they resign precipitately before the Congress, they rejected our organisation’s invitation to appear, and speak, as an outside group. They had too much "important work" to do – we leave our readers to judge for themselves the results of PBJ’s "important work" on their own web site. "The proof of the pudding is in the eating" after all.
The transmission of experience
PBJ makes much of the so-called "conservative comrades",12 who "emphasized that the 68 generation needed to transmit its experience to the youth one-sidedly. This emphasis presupposed that the young comrades were bereft of any experience on the question of organization". That "the young comrades were bereft of any experience on the question of organization" is merely a statement of fact,13 but it is worth taking up this question in a little more depth than PBJ bother to do.
“Each generation forms a link in the chain of human history. Each one is confronted with three fundamental tasks: to receive the collective heritage from the previous generation; to enrich this heritage on the basis of its own experience; to pass it on so that the next generation can achieve more that it was able to.
These tasks, far from being easy, represent a particular challenge. This also goes for the workers movement. The older generation has its experience to offer. But it also bears the wounds and traumas of its struggles, has had to learn to face up to defeats, disappointments, and the realisation that the construction of lasting acquisitions of collective struggle often requires more than one lifetime. It needs the energy and élan of the following generation, but also its new questions and its capacity to see the world with new eyes.
But as much as the generations need each other, their capacity to forge the necessary unity is not automatically given. The more society distances itself from traditional natural economy, the more incessantly and rapidly capitalism "revolutionises" the productive forces and the whole of society, the more the experience of one generation differs from the next. Capitalism, the system of competition par excellence, also pits the generations against each other in the struggle of each against all”.14
Schematically, we can say that there are three possible reactions to this need for the transmission of experience inherent in every human society:
The Master’s authority is unquestionable, each new generation has merely to appropriate and repeat the lessons of the previous one. This is the attitude characteristic of old Asiatic societies, and which has infected the proletarian movement in the form of the Bordigists’ caricatural devotion to the untouchable works of the Master.
The contestation that dominated the 1960s youth movement, condemned – because it failed to learn from its predecessors – to repeat their errors in boring detail.15
Finally, we have the scientific – and marxist – critical appropriation of past experience. As a previous article16 pointed out, it is this ability to appropriate the work and the thinking of previous generations, and critically develop it, that characterised the emergence of scientific thought in Ancient Greece.
Examples of such critical appropriation by a new generation of militants are not lacking in the workers’ movement. We can cite that of Lenin with regard to Plekhanov, or more strikingly still, of Rosa Luxemburg with regard to Kautsky and the SPD in general, as well as to the theories of Marx which she both criticised and developed in The accumulation of capital. These examples show us that a precondition for criticism is, precisely, the appropriation of our predecessors’ ideas, in other words the ability to understand them – and an ability to understand is dependent on an ability to read (since half the section did not read any language other than Turkish, this was clearly a physical impossibility). Having understood the ideas, you can only criticise them, especially in the context of an organisation where the aim is to convince other comrades, by engaging with them, which the members of the Turkish section signally failed to do. PBJ claims this is untrue.17 Yet they would be hard put to point to a single text on organisational issues (other than the "infamous" position on parasitism) which engages with any of the ICC’s basic documents, either internal or external. If our readers need convincing of the vacuity of PBJ’s organisational understanding, we can only invite them to consult a text by Jamal (a frequent contributor to the ICC’s forum) which PBJ have published on their web site without a word of critical comment: it reads like some kind of manager’s manual produced by the HR department of a new start-up.
What it means to join the ICC
At this point, we want to take a step back and return to the words we quoted at the beginning of this article. "One of the most urgent and arduous tasks facing revolutionaries is that of welding together the meagre revolutionary forces that are currently dispersed throughout the world". Confronted with the ICC’s failings (and none are more aware of them than we), it is all too easy to forget how difficult, how ambitious such a task is. To bring together militants from all across the world, from utterly different cultures and backgrounds, into a single international association capable of taking part in and stimulating the reflexion of a world proletariat billions strong, to unite them not in a lifeless homogeneity but in a whole where unity of action is founded on the diversity of debate within an accepted political framework – this is a gigantic undertaking. Certainly, we fall short of our ambitions – but we only need declare them to see how different they are from the circle mentality which dominated EKS, as its members recognise themselves.
In fact, the members of the Turkish section never understood the fundamental difference between being a circle and being militants of a revolutionary organisation, especially an international one. This is not entirely their fault, since we failed in transmitting our organisational conceptions to them – in part because we had, up to a point, lost sight of them ourselves.
We have already dealt extensively with the question of what Lenin called the "circle spirit".18 Here we will just recall some of the main points.
First, the circle is characterised by a membership based on a mixture of personal friendships and political agreement; as a result, personal conflicts and political disagreements are conflated – a sure recipe for the personalisation of political argument. It is hardly surprising that the life of the Turkish section was marked by a series of bitter personal animosities leading to splits and periods of "paralysis".
To maintain its cohesion, the circle closes like an oyster against the outside. This in turn is a recipe for personalised antagonism between the circle and the rest of the organisation: "Under the name of the ‘minority' heterogeneous elements are regrouped in the Party who are united by the desire, conscious or not, to maintain the relations of a circle, previous organisation forms to the party".19 The circle spirit in the organisation leads to an “us and them” attitude, the circle against the “central organs”; the circle completely loses sight of the organisation as a whole, to become obsessed with the "central organs". One example we can cite amongst many is a text written by one member of the section titled “Is there a crisis in the ICC?”; the critique voiced in this text was taken up and both answered and developed by another section, yet this response was completely ignored. Only "the central organs" are deemed worthy of consideration.
The circle maintains its cohesion by opposing the rest of the organisation en bloc, while at the same time avoiding any debate within the circle of its own divergences. This was clearly apparent in the debate on ethics and morality engaged within the ICC: where one comrade developed a critical argument which (cf the note above) was to some extent directly inspired by the organisation’s own texts, another put forward a position which owes more to Hobbes than to Marx – and yet never a word of critique did we hear from the Turkish comrades.20
A more striking case of this closure to the rest of the organisation came with the debate over the events around the massive Gezi Park demonstrations in Istanbul. According to PBJ, "It was claimed that the section failed to inform the organization of its disagreements during the Gezi process whereas within the heat of the events the section had a meeting with the comrades from the secretariat trying to explain its disagreements". It is certainly true that there was a lengthy discussion between members of the International Secretariat and members of the Turkish section over the editorial modification of their article concerning the events at Gezi. It is also true that the members of the IS had difficulty making head or tail of these "disagreements", and for good reason: at the section’s conference held shortly afterwards it became apparent that there were at least two, if not perhaps three, different positions within the section itself. The members of the section committed themselves to writing down their different positions to carry the discussion into organisation as a whole – our readers will be astonished to learn that these documents have still to see the light of day.
The ex-comrades from Turkey remain silent on yet another of their internal disagreements, on the "tone" of our "Communiqué to our readers: The ICC under attack from a new agency of the bourgeois state".. According to PBJ, "Nevertheless, the members of our section in the central organ of the ICC didn’t fail to criticize the extremely angry tone of the communiqué written in response to this attack". Perfectly true. But the text fails to mention that two other members of the section found the communiqué perfectly appropriate, and said so unambiguously during a meeting held in July 2014 with members of the section in France.
We have already mentioned (cf note 6), the insistence of Leo and Devrim on carrying on their forum debates without any restrictions. This calls to mind, once again, Lenin’s words: "Certain eminent militants of the most influential old circles, not having the habit of organisational restrictions that the Party must impose, are inclined to mechanically confuse the general interests of the Party and their circle interests which can coincide in the period of circles". They "...naturally raise the standard of revolt against the indispensable restrictions of the organisation and they establish their spontaneous anarchism as a principle of struggle (...) making demands in favour of ‘tolerance' etc".21
“An image is worth 1000 words” as the saying goes, and certainly this holds good for PBJ. Thanks to the technical wizardry of the Internet, we discover that the image that Pale Blue Jadal have chosen to represent their group comes straight from the world of sentimental hippiedom.22
Their "political principles" are devoid of any reference to the Communist Left, or indeed to any past heritage at all. PBJ thus declares itself a new group based solely on itself, on ignorance and an assemblage of resentments, discontents, and personal loyalties.23
There is no mention either of capitalism’s decadence, which for the ICC that they have just left is the materialist foundation-stone of its political positions. PBJ has no criticism to make of this theoretical foundation, nor have they any alternative to offer. PBJ may be unaware of it, but by jettisoning any reference to the past and any attempt at giving a materialist grounding to their positions, they are already compromising the process of "political discussion" to which they claim to be committed.24 In for the list of discussion topics proposed in PBJ’s "road map" (which should keep them occupied for the next 20 years at least), it is worth remarking the presence of "The National Question in the Middle East"... and the complete absence on PBJ’s site of the least comment on the concrete situation in Turkey, the renewal of Erdogan’s war on the Kurds, the resurgence of Kurdish nationalism and the Syrian refugee crisis, the bomb attack in Suruç, etc etc.
We have said above that the existence of an international revolutionary organisation is a precondition for the successful overthrow of capitalism. If the proletariat does, one day, prove itself capable of "assaulting the heavens" (to use Marx’s expression) then its decisive strength will be found in those countries with a strong working class and a certain historical experience. Turkey, at the gateway between Europe and Asia, is one of those countries and a rising proletarian movement will necessarily produce a political expression which can only be based on the heritage of the Communist Left. By turning their backs on this heritage, the members of PBJ disqualify themselves from participating in any such political expression, and this is their tragedy.
Let us end on an optimistic note however. All our past experience indicates that PBJ is condemned to go the way of previous circles – those who refuse to learn from history (and you cannot learn from history if you know nothing about it) are condemned to repeat it. But let us remain open to the possibility that we may be wrong, and that PBJ despite all appearances to the contrary may yet produce something worthwhile for the proletariat and the revolution. To do so, they will have to find their way back to the revolutionary theoretical and organisational heritage of the Communist Left.
ICC, November 2015
1The TCI (ex-IBRP) offers another striking illustration of this extreme difficulty of overcoming failings which are, so to speak, set in the organisation’s genes: its origins in the profound opportunism that presided at the creation of the Partito Comunista Internazionalista in 1943, have haunted it ever since.
2This, of course, is not to deny that we have made mistakes in this domain also, largely as a result of our own tendency towards schematism.
3This is why our Statutes explicitly form part of our Platform, and are part of the basis on which militants are integrated into the organisation.
4The lack of Turkish translations only became critical when the section (without asking anybody else’s opinion on the subject) integrated new members who were unable to read English.
5The attentive reader will have noticed that our view of the ICC’s organisational opportunism is very different from PBJ’s. At the risk of trying our readers’ patience, we want to answer briefly one of PBJ’s little "myths" (to borrow their expression): that "the most obvious example of the opportunism in the section’s integration process, that comrades who disagreed with the platform and the statutes were accepted to the organization". What exactly does this refer to? In fact, there were two potential disagreements raised in the process of the discussion. The first was Devrim’s disagreement on our Statutes’ ban on trade union membership (interestingly, PBJ apparently sees nothing dishonest about accepting integration into an organisation with whose positions one disagrees...), the second refers to a woman comrade’s disagreement on the Statutes’ ban on belonging to any other political organisation. Let’s take these one by one.
The ban on trades union membership is aimed at any concession to "entryism" (the idea that it would be possible to influence trades unions positively from within, or even that one could intervene "more effectively" by being a trade union member), or to "red trade unionism" of the Bordigist variety, or to its cousin revolutionary syndicalism. The Statutes however, allow for exceptions due to "professional constraints". This provision was included to take account of workers in "closed-shop" industries where trade union membership is a condition of employment – a situation very common in 1970s Britain, but also in some industries in other countries (the French printing industry was then completely dominated by the CGT, for example). Devrim’s objection was that workers’ might be forced, though not in a closed-shop, to rely on union membership for access to social security, insurance, or other critical benefits such as legal representation in a personnel dispute; at no time (to our knowledge) either then or since did Devrim argue in favour of either entryism or revolutionary syndicalism, and we considered (as we explained to him) that the cases he cited, in the conditions of the 2000s, fell under the heading of "professional constraints".
In the second case, the comrade in question participated in a women’s group and was reluctant to give this up. We asked what sort of a group this was. She explained that it was a group of women who met to discuss specifically women’s problems (both social and political) and preferred to do so without the presence of men – perfectly understandable in the conditions of a country like Turkey. This group – as far as we could understand – had no political platform, indeed no political agenda as such; on this basis, we concluded that this was not a political group as defined in the Statutes but rather a discussion group and that consequently we could not only see no objection to her participation but on the contrary would consider it part of the organisation’s intervention.
6We will limit ourselves to one example. According to our Statutes, debate within the organisation is made public only when it has reached a degree of maturity such that, first, the whole organisation is aware of the debate and its implications, and second, it is possible to express it with sufficient clarity that it contributes to clarification and not confusion. These provisions, let us recall, are in the same Statutes that all the members of EKS signed up to. Two of them, however, continued to debate between themselves in public on the various Internet forums they are in the habit of frequenting, without at any time thinking it necessary to keep the rest of the organisation informed either of their intervention or their disagreements. When it was pointed out to them that this directly contradicted both the letter and the spirit of the Statutes, they replied that the Statutes having being written before the existence of the Internet, they could only apply to the printed press.
Now of course, one could perfectly well argue this point – but what you cannot do, when you accept the Statutes of an organisation like the ICC, is simply ignore them when they don’t suit you and then try to justify yourself afterwards by quibbling over the difference between the printed and the electronic press.
7The article on the Congress speaks of the "intellectual dimension" to the ICC’s crisis and the necessary struggle against "routinism, superficiality, intellectual laziness, schematism...". But can the members of PBJ honestly claim to be free of these defects themselves?
8International Review n°90, "The Italian Fraction and the French Communist Left". See also the forthcoming "Report on the Fraction" addressed to the ICC’s 21st Congress.
9International Review n°131, "The culture of debate: a weapon of the class struggle".
10More importantly, the ICC is the only organisation today which derives its positions from a synthesis of the main advances of the different currents of the Communist Left, other groups identifying themselves exclusively with either the Dutch-German or the Italian Left.
11PBJ mentions a meeting of the International Bureau at which the right of the Turkish section’s delegate to attend the meeting was called into question by one of the other delegations. This was undoubtedly a serious mistake on the delegation’s part, and indicative of precisely that atmosphere of distrust that had built up within the organisation – but as PBJ themselves point out, the idea that the Turkish delegate should not be admitted was decisively rejected by the IB as contrary to our statutes and our conception of the organisation.
12PBJ is very exercised by the "personalisation" which supposedly characterised our approach. Yet throughout their text, militants are described as being "expansionist" or "conservative" completely irrespective of the political arguments involved. Let PBJ take care of the beam in their own eyes before worrying about the mote in other peoples’.
13Some of the Turkish section’s militants had a long organisational experience prior to joining the ICC... in leftist sects. But whatever may be the conscious intentions of their members, these groups are fundamentally bourgeois and as such wholly imbued with bourgeois ideology: it is our unvarying experience – confirmed to the letter by PBJ – that for an ex-leftist to be a militant in a communist organisation means first of all unlearning all the attitudes and practices acquired in leftism. This is far more difficult than coming to communist politics without previous experience.
14"The culture of debate", 2007, op.cit.
15In the Belgian singer Jacques Brel’s song "Les Bourgeois", three students mock the stuffiness of the provincial "bourgeois"... until they themselves have aged and find themselves complaining to the police about the intolerable insolence of the young students. Brel could have been writing for Joschka Fischer, Dany Cohn-Bendit and all the other ministerial leaders of the 1968 students’ movement.
17According to PBJ, "The claim that an internal text written by a member of the section on ethics ignored the texts written by the organization on this subject previously was another legend since the said text was in fact written in response to the organization’s orientation text on this question". In reply, let us quote from a response to the text in question, which PBJ left too precipitously to read: "A precondition for the ‘culture of debate’ is that there should be a debate: this means that opposing positions must answer each other. Although L's text begins with a brief quote from E&M [the text on Ethics and Marxism, cf http://en.internationalism.org/ir/127/marxism-and-ethics] on the definition of morality and ethics, and tells us that ‘from these definitions stem a series of confusions, overestimations, relapses to idealism, divergences from the marxist method, and a variety of other errors’, this is the only place in his text where he makes any reference at all to E&M, we are left in the dark as to what exactly these ‘errors and confusions’ are, and in what way they are the result of the ideas advanced in E&M. Moreover, it is clear to us that parts of L's text are in agreement with, or even directly inspired by E&M, and yet these areas of agreement are never made clear either".
18Notably in "The question of organisational functioning in the ICC", International Review n°109.
19Lenin, One step forward, two steps back, quoted in the text on organisational functioning.
20To give some idea of this text’s Hobbesian inspiration, we offer this brief passage: "The relationship between human beings is an unequal one. This inequality stems from the use value and exchange value produced by human beings [apparently the author here is unaware of the tens of thousands of years of human history where exchange value did not exist]. This real material basis determines human relations all the time and completely [the classical bourgeois objection to the possibility of communism]. And this inequality produces a tendency to dominate. This tendency emerges for human beings to survive in natural conditions. Primitively, it is the tendency for one to secure his or her own survival". Man is a wolf for man, human society is the war of each against all, à la Hobbes, etc., etc.
21Lenin, op. cit.
22Those interested can find the original here: http://markhensonart.com/galleries/new-pioneers. It is accompanied by the following edifying text: "The epic drama of life, death, war, peace and the inalienable right to choose is depicted in a huge panorama. Refugees climb out of a war zone, a pioneer comes to a graffiti wall where the choices are scratched out. We all want to live in peace but somehow many are attracted to values that are so dissimilar, war seems to be the only option for a humanity gone berserk. The pioneers and refugees make it to a new world of awakened consciousness".
23It is worth noting that one comrade, in his letter of resignation, expressed no political differences with the organisation at all.
24Our readers can judge how committed PBJ is to discussion and clarity from their refusal of our invitation to attend the ICC’s last congress, whether in the organisation or out of it.