The Jury of Honour: a weapon for the defence of revolutionary organisations (Part 2)

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At its 11th Congress in April 1995, the ICC took the grave decision to exclude one of its militants, the ex-comrade JJ, for destructive behaviour incompatible with member­ship of a communist organisation, notably his attempts to create within the ICC a secret network of adepts of the ideology of freemasonry (see WR 194). JJ rejected the arguments given for his exclusion, claiming that this decision was the result of a “serious deviation” by the ICC, the result of a “col­lective paranoiac delirium”. Faced with this “alternative analysis”, the ICC, in conform­ity with the traditions of the workers’ move-meat, has for two years continually at­tempted to push this ex-militant to defend himself by calling for a Court of Honour composed of representatives of other revo­lutionary organisations in order to allow the proletarian milieu to pronounce on the validity of this exclusion and to shed as much light as possible on JJ’s actions.

In the first part of this article, published in WR 201, we provided various historical examples to show that calling a Court of Honour is part of the tradition of the workers’ move­ment. We pointed out that any militant, when he considers that he has been unjustly accused of faults that he has not committed, has the duty and responsibility to defend his honour as a communist militant, by appealing to a revo­lutionary tribunal.

Any militant who refuses to engage in such a public political confrontation can only con­firm the validity of the accusations raised against him.

From JJ’s suspension to his exclusion from the ICC

When JJ’s secret propaganda for Masonic ideology (in particular among comrades who had recently been integrated into the ICC) was first discovered, in autumn 1994, the organi­sation did not immediately take the decision to exclude JJ from its ranks, but suspended him from all militant activity . This suspension was accompanied by a demand that he must pronounce in writing on an ICC resolution which affirmed that the esoteric ideologies he had disseminated in the organisation were totally alien to Marxism. For four months JJ remained silent, refusing to make a political critique of his actions, refusing to take a written position on the class nature of the ideology and methods of freemasonry, with the one and only argument: “I have a block about writing”.

At the same time, while recognising a certain number of the overwhelming facts revealing his destructive policies towards the organisa­tion, he rejected the accusations of the ICC with the sole argument that he had acted in a completely “unconscious” manner. His deni­als were accompanied by attacks on the ICC, which he accused of making him into a scape­goat. It was not his own activities, notably those in favour of Masonic ideology, which represented the serious deviation from Marxism, but the extremely firm reaction of the ICC in defence of the class principles of the prole­tariat which had to be denounced and attacked as a “collective paranoiac delirium” and as a neo-Stalinist deviation.

Faced with JJ’s disagreements with our analysis of his anti-organizational behaviour, the ICC kept on exhorting him to defend himself within the organisation, notably by opposing our “interpretive paranoia” with his own interpretation of the charges against him. In particular, in conformity with the statutes of the ICC, he was called upon to appeal to the 11th Congress of the ICC if he considered that his suspension was unjustified. Unfortunately, JJ refused to present himself at our Congress to refute the political arguments which had motivated this sanction. He preferred to send the ICC a letter of resignation which called on the Congress not to pronounce his exclusion because such a decision “would be very grave for the ICC”.

On 17 April 1995, just after his exclusion, unanimously voted by the Congress (follow­ing a long debate in which all the sections of the ICC took up very detailed positions), the ICC continued to demand that JJ, given his disa­greement with the decision of the Congress, should assume his own defence by calling for a Court of Honour composed of groups of the proletarian political milieu in order to remove any suspicion of partiality. JJ categorically refused to do this, putting forward the follow­ing two arguments:

1. In any case, the ICC has a thick dossier on my account” (interview between JJ and the ICC, June 95);

2. I have no illusions in the proletarian political milieu. The milieu will say the same about me as the ICC” (interview between JJ and the ICC, 17 April 95). Why such cer­tainty? JJ knew quite well that any proletarian organisation worth its name would not tolerate in its ranks an element who had made secret propaganda for Masonic ideology, and that it would be impossible to convince the revolu­tionary milieu of the unconscious nature of such activities.

But JJ was not content to just play dead and refuse to assume his defence. Through his very noisy and active silence, he carried on with a policy aimed at the destruction of the organisation. Since his suspension, this indi­vidual had been putting considerable pressure on his closest friends within the ICC. By constantly presenting himself as the victim of a degenerating organisation, he was using the emotional ties with those close to him to get them to take up his cause against the ICC, to assume his defence in place of him. Thus, while refusing to come to the 11th Congress of the ICC, JJ was pressurising his two closest friends by explicitly calling on them to “de­fend their divergences” and to not “submit” to the ICC’s analysis of his case. Apart from the evident political cowardice of such behaviour, it is clear that this was a very skilful example of manipulation and emotional blackmail aimed at pushing militants to adopt JJ’s thesis: the ICC, having fallen prey to a “collective para­noiac delirium” had entered into a phase of degeneration that had to be fought. His exclu­sion was a sort of “purge” comparable to the Moscow Trials.

Such an attitude of ‘sentimental solidarity’ was to lead certain JJ loyalists not to constitute a minority or oppositional tendency on clear political bases, but to attack the ICC from the inside then to desert its ranks in order not to betray friendships[1]. And JJ was perfectly well aware of this!

After seven months of pressure, the ICC pushes JJ to request a Court of Honour

It was not until over seven months after his exclusion that, under permanent pressure from the ICC, JJ finally yielded by writing to the IBRP[2], as we had vigorously advised him to do, a letter asking them to participate in a Court of Honour: “I am writing this letter to you in order to ask for the holding of a Court of Honour, in conformity with the traditions of the proletarian political milieu, precisely in order to defend my political honour in the face of the suspicions and harassment of the ICC towards me” (letter from JJ to the IBRP, 21.11.95).

The very manner in which JJ describes the reasons which motivated his call for a Court of Honour reveals all the duplicity of this person, who by a skilful use of rhetoric was trying to sow trouble in the direction of the IBRP, saying not one word about those long months of “harassment” in which he had resisted the ICC’s proposal that he call for a Court of Honour.

Contrary to his claims, it was certainly not in order to remain faithful to the tradition of the proletarian political milieu that JJ finally yielded to this persecution by the ICC. The only thing that forced him to write this letter to the IBRP was the fact that, by refusing to call for a Court of Honour to defend himself against the accusations of the ICC - which he continued to reject energetically - certain of those close to him began to doubt his loyalty and to distance themselves from him (notably his own partner, who is still a member of the ICC). In effect, it was obvious to all the members of the ICC that such behaviour was unacceptable and incomprehensible on the part of a communist militant. JJ thus had no choice: if he was to maintain his hold over certain comrades and convince them of his sincerity, he had to risk playing his cards. This very late request for a Court of Honour was the only way JJ could regain any credit and influence among those militants who, unable to throw off the weight of the circle spirit, continued to put personal friendship links above the defence of political principles. JJ’s request to the IBRP for a Court of Honour was nothing but a new manoeuvre aimed at creat­ing trouble and at carrying on, outside the ICC, his policy of destruction, by regrouping around himself a maximum of elements trapped by his sentimental manipulations.

JJ’s manoeuvres to avoid a Court of Honour

After writing this tardy letter to the IBRP, JJ did all he could to prevent the Court of Honour being held. Thus, in April 96, the IBRP sent a letter to JJ asking him, in particular, if he still wanted a Court of Honour to be held. To the extent that this organisation did not want to constitute this body on its own, it also sug­gested to JJ that he appeal to the Bordigist group Programma Comunista. 0n 23 May 96, an ICC delegation met JJ to find out if he had replied to the questions posed by the IBRP. JJ’s reply: “I have a block about writing”. It was clear that JJ was in no hurry to defend his “political honour in the face of the suspicions and harassment of the ICC”; that he was above all trying to gain time. During a meeting between the ICC and the IBRP on 26 May 96, we learned that the latter had given JJ a deadline: if he did not reply to them by the end of May 96, the IBRP would consider that he no longer maintained his request for a Court of Honour, and would consider the matter to be closed. It is obvious that if JJ had not replied to the IBRP’s letter, and if he had rejected their proposal to appeal to Programma Comunista, it would have shown clearly that his request for a Court of Honour was just a bluff. JJ therefore had no choice but to “unblock” himself. He finally sent his reply to the IBRP, after the deadline had passed (perhaps hoping that the IBRP had already closed the case), renewing his request for a Court of Honour, accompanied by a letter to Programma Comunista asking them to participate.

Following Programma’s negative response, which we heard about several months later through the IBRP[3], the ICC again exhorted JJ to show more determination in his approach to the groups of the communist left. Thus, on 10 December 96, the ICC sent a letter to JJ which said: “We would like to know whether, faced with this situation, you are definitively renouncing your request for a Court of Honour or whether you intend to approach another group of the proletarian political milieu in order to compensate for the defection of Programma”.

JJ’s response to this letter was to indulge in a real conjuring trick. He totally avoided responding to our question, restricting himself to expressing his “surprise” at “learning” that the IBRP was no longer intending to meet with his request (this new contortion, a particularly dishonest one, shows the level of the duplicity of this element who had known for more than six months the conditions posed by the IBRP - not to be the only group to have to sit in on his case!)[4]. In the same letter to the ICC, JJ announced his intention to write to the IBRP to ask its position about participating alone on a Court of Honour given Programma’s refusal.

Unfortunately, and contrary to what he had announced to the ICC, JJ never sent this letter to the IBRP. In order to push JJ to put into practice his “will” to call for a Court of Honour, the ICC sent him a second letter on 15 January 97, reiterating the same question and pointing out his flagrant lack of determi­nation.

JJ finally decided to respond to our question (after a month and a half of avoiding it) in a letter dated 24 January: “I confirm by this letter my will to maintain my request for a Court of Honour. Programma Comunista’s refusal to participate in such a Court of Honour unfortunately expresses the present situation of weakness of the political milieu. As political organisations, the Bordigist groups will make the same response as Programma. Among the remaining groups, such as for example the FOR or the EFICC, I don’t think that the ICC would be ready to accept their participation on the Court of Honour. In the meantime, I therefore intend to ask the IBRP whether it would be prepared to participate in a Court of Honour with independent personali­ties of the proletarian milieu.” (JJ’s letter to the ICC, 24.1.97).

This letter calls for a number of comments:

1) It first of all reveals that JJ’s “will” to call for a Court of Honour is nothing but a pious wish because, from the start, even before making the slightest approach to other groups of the communist left, he considers it impos­sible for such a body to be set up within the proletarian political milieu (owing to the lat­ter’s “weaknesses”, as revealed by Programma’s refusal);

2) JJ affirms that he intends to propose to the IBRP a Court of Honour made of “independ­ent personalities of the proletarian milieu”. Unfortunately, once again, JJ’s “intentions” were not followed up by any action: he never wrote to the IBRP to make this proposal;

3) Concerning the FOR and the EFICC, JJ says that “I don’t think that the ICC would be ready to accept their participation on the Court of honour”. Now, on 7.3.97, two months after receiving a letter from the IBRP announcing that it did not intend to follow up JJ’s request (since the latter had taken no initiative to make up for Programma’s defection), he made a proposal that he himself had considered would not be acceptable to us... the EFICC and the FOR (as well as other elements hostile to our organisation, such as Henri Simon)! Thus it is clear that JJ has done everything possible to sabotage any chance of a Court of Honour being held within the proletarian political milieu. Concerning his last proposal, it is with the IBRP (and not with his “accusers”) that he has to negotiate the participation of groups and “personalities” hostile to the ICC. Finally, it is worth pointing out that in his letter of 24.1.97, JJ himself recognised that he had lacked determination in his approach to the Court of Honour: “I would have preferred to have had the energy to act with more determination. This was not the case. And this is still not the case”. At least things are clear.

One other fact, among many others, show­ing that JJ has no interest in shedding light on his activities in front of a Court of Honour, even though he says the opposite. In the same letter he writes: “...in the concern to assume my defence as well as possible... I reiterate to you my request that you communicate to me the dossier of accusation you have compiled”.

The ICC, in a letter dated 8.2.97, proposed that he should consult this dossier in the presence of a delegation of our organisation. There was no reply to this letter. The ICC sent two more letters to JJ (the last dated 19 March) asking him whether he agreed with this pro­posal. On this point our organisation has met with total silence (perhaps he is still “blocked”?). By all the evidence, JJ doesn’t even want to prepare his defence in front of a Court of Honour because he hopes that such a body will never be set up, as demonstrated by all his evasions over the past two years.

For our part, we are still just as determined (as good Stalinists!) to make things clear by patiently insisting that JJ “unblocks” himself and decides to appeal to other groups of the communist left. We consider that only an open political confrontation in front of a body setup by the proletarian political milieu can cut short the rumours (put about, among others, by the “supporters” of JJ) which fuel the campaigns of the bourgeois state that identify communist organisations with Stalinism.

Just as Marx and his comrades made public the intrigues of Bakunin and his “Alliance” against the General Council of the First Inter­national, so the ICC remains determined to bring out into the light of day, in front of a Court of Honour, all the manipulations of the individual JJ[5].

In his last letter to the ICC, dated 7.3.97, JJ said that he had not written to any other group of the political milieu asking them to take part in a Court of Honour because, being once again “blocked”, “I have not managed to keep to the deadlines that you (the ICC) want to impose on me”.

For more than two years now the ICC has been trying to push JJ to prove in practise his “will” to call for a Court of Honour in order to defend in front of the working class his “thesis” that his exclusion from the ICC is the result of a “paranoiac delirium”, symptomatic of an internal degeneration of our organisation. JJ’s repeated “blocks” about writing to the groups of the proletarian political milieu, his multiple contortions and his double language (which is not at all “unconscious”) that he uses to hypo­critically affirm his “will” to call for a Court of Honour while at the same time manoeuvring very intelligently to ensure that it will not take place, only reinforce our conviction. Not only does this element have no place in any revolu­tionary organisation, but he also constitutes a danger for the proletarian political milieu, as shown by this statement in his last letter to the ICC (7.3.97): “I have not abdicated my politi­cal will”.

We are profoundly convinced of this and would not be at all surprised to see the revolu­tionary milieu one day confronted with a new anti-ICC “theoretical” publication produced by JJ’s “allies” and inspired by him.

The ICC, May 1997.

[1] Including one of those close to him who, after a long debate, was convinced by the political arguments developed by the congress, and voted his exclusion, declaring in front of the organisation: “Nor to exclude JJ would show contempt for the idea of what it means to be a militant of our organisation, a contempt for our organisation”. Unfortunately, after returning from the Congress, this “friend” of JJ was once again subjected to sentimental pressure aimed at making him feel guilty and at pushing him to again close ranks around JJ.

[2] International Bureau for the Revolutionary Party: Communist Workers’ Organisation in Britain and Battaglia Comunista in Italy

[3] Here we can only welcome the responsible attitude of the IBRP (that of accepting the very principle of participating in a Court of Hon­our) and deplore the incomprehensions of Programma Comunista concerning a question as crucial as that of the defence of revolution­ary groups and of proletarian principles of organisation. Unfortunately, it has to be rec­ognised that such an attitude on Programma’s part simply gave the individual JJ a free hand to continue his manoeuvres, in particular those aimed at spreading the idea that if a Court of Honour doesn’t take place it’s solely because of the weaknesses of the proletarian political milieu. This can only discredit the left communist current, making it appear that it doesn’t care about the honour of militants who have been unjustly excluded from their or­ganisation.

[4] In mid-January, JJ received a copy of the letter that the IBRP had sent him previously (and which he says he never received), con­firming that it did not want to appear on its own in a Court of Honour.

[5] Let’s recall that when confronted with the intrigues of Bakunin and his friends, Marx wrote an internal circular for the General Council of the International, ‘The so-called splits in the International’. After this, the 1872 Hague Congress decided, given the cam­paigns and rumours the bourgeoisie was utilis­ing against the International and the General Council, to publish the report of the special commission nominated by the Congress to examine the case of Bakunin and the Alliance.