Defense of the revolutionary milieu

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The ICC is not the only organization in the communist left milieu to find itself under parasitic attack in the current period. A similar attack has been launched by the Los Angeles Workers Voice (LAWV) against the International Bureau of the Revolutionary Party (IBRP). All of this follows the collapse of the IBRP's American affiliate that had been inaugurated at a conference of IBRP North American sympathizers in Montreal in April 2000. The IBRP-sympathizing section was a regroupment of the Los Angeles Workers Voice (LAWV) with another sympathizer (AS), then based in Wisconsin, now in Indiana. This US regroupment, which organized around the name Internationalist Notes (a newsletter published for several years by AS), quickly began to unravel.

By the summer of 2001 we were given a public glimpse of a bitter political and organizational internal dispute within Internationalist Notes that had apparently be brewing almost from very beginning on some very fundamental, basic questions pertaining to organizational functioning, centralization, and intervention in class struggle. By December there was a parting of the ways with LAWV, which had broken with the organizational orientations and practices of the IBRP, and for that matter, the communist left. Initially the IBRP offered to retain, cordial, fraternal relations with LAWV, and encouraged them to continue their political development. In a letter to LAWV in December the IBRP wrote, "Perhaps you may develop towards us in the course of time or perhaps you develop towards another tendency. The important thing is that you develop…We would though encourage you to investigate all the tendencies of the communist left own political basis." However, shortly afterwards, following outrageous charges of dictatorial practices by the IBRP, the IBRP denounced the LAWV for "resorting to slanders, which pre-empt all further discussion."

This collapsed regroupment is an unfortunate setback not just for the IBRP, but also for the entire communist left political milieu on the international level, especially here in the US. Whatever divergences separate the organizations of the communist left milieu, the political legacy and principles that we share far outweigh the differences. The class line separating the communist left milieu from the groups of bourgeois leftism is very real, and very critical. The ability to strengthen all the political organizations in the communist left milieu, both in terms of numerical growth and in political influence within the working class, is a reflection of the deepening of class consciousness within the proletariat. For nearly a quarter century Internationalism had been alone in defending the communist left perspective in the US. With the growth of the IBRP in the US there was an increased presence for this perspective.

The dispute that tore apart the American affiliate of the IBRP centered on a basic organizational question, long ago settled in the revolutionary workers' movement. There was apparently a heated disagreement on the need for a regular press, regular public meetings, a reasoned and purposeful political intervention in the class struggle, centralization on the organizational level. From what we are able to make of the debate, it appears that LAWV, a group that was in the process of breaking with leftism, was mired in localism, immediatism and activism. In the words of the IBRP, "What they (LAWV) object to is not a Bolshevik model of organization but any organization which goes beyond their little group. As it is, United States Workers' Voice (as LA now calls itself) remains a loose grouping of individuals which does not consistently hold a clear set of positions but consistently show themselves unable to work with anyone outside their immediate circle" (Statement Regarding the Relationship of Los Angeles Workers Voice (LAWV) with the IBRP). The texts published by LAWV draw heavily on stalinist vocabulary and ideological formulations, such as "party building," "agit-prop," the need to be with the masses in motion, etc., and a complete confusion about so-called "reforms" won by mass, interclassist movements in the US in the '60s, and '70s.

It's not surprising that the LAWV had political confusions. They were coming to the communist left after a terrible experience in bourgeois leftism, actually stalinism, bringing with them tremendous negative political baggage, which was bound to effect their political evolution, and required firm political discussion. Their immediatist and localist weaknesses were clearly apparent in the period before their formal affiliation to the IBRP from their continuous grinding out of leaflets for distribution at leftist and union rallies and demonstrations, without any political assessment of the appropriateness of the intervention. Indeed this was one of the weaknesses criticized by AS in his debate texts published in the IBRP press. But again militants coming from leftism often suffer from these immediatist, activist and localist confusions. Their break with leftism is often marred by sentimental attachments to "mass struggles" and "agit-prop," an antipathy towards theoretical reflection, and a lack of patience in regard to intervention in the class struggle. They often distrust organizational centralization because they mistakenly identify it with the totalitarian domination by central committees in leftist organizations that they were subjected to in their prior political experience. The only chance for the LAWV to overcome this leftist political baggage was to put themselves in a positive orientation towards the communist left, to learn and assimilate the lessons of the past, and to subject their own past to a severe self-critique.

But during its brief and stormy affiliation with the IBRP the LAWV's actions clearly reflect that the influence of alien class ideologies predominated. The LAWV carried out political intrigue and maneuvering within the IBRP, holding secret and private political and organizational discussions in Los Angeles, without the participation, or even the knowledge, of AS, or the rest of the IBRP. They disregarded the rules and mode of functioning in revolutionary organizations, and of the comportment of comrades within a proletarian organization. The fruit of this bourgeois leftist mode of operation was the unilateral taking of organizational decisions, and eventual announcement of abrupt changes in basic class line positions without even a murmur of discussion within the organization. When criticized for these gross organizational violations, the LAWV responded with personalized attacks against AS, and with slanders against the IBRP. A group of individuals who carry on secret, clandestine political decision-making within the organization had the temerity to denounce the organization as being undemocratic!!!

We express our solidarity to AS, and to the IBRP, on this score. We, too, are very familiar with this type of behavior from the parasitic milieu that exists to attack and discredit communist organizations. Indeed this righteous charge of "undemocratic" and stalinist practices is incredibly reminiscent of the filth emanating from the so-called "fraction" recently causing problems within the ICC. There are obvious differences between the LAWV and the "fraction" formed by former members of the ICC, most notably that the LAWV were individuals in a process of breaking with leftism --actually stalinism -- and with only a minimal grasp of communist left principles, whereas our "fraction" was comprised of much more experienced militiants, some of whom had been entrusted with important responsibilities in the central organs of the ICC. Nevertheless, there are remarkable similarities in comportment; both are very much cut from the same cloth. There is the same influence of alien class ideologies, the same tendency to compensate for the inadequacy of their political arguments with peronsalizations in the debate, the same violation of basic rules covered with denunciations of stalinism and undemocratic practices against the organization, and the same attempt to insist that is they who are the continuators of the communist left tradition - the same parasitic behavior.

Once the LAWV had put itself into a negative dynamic in relation to the IBRP, it quickly fell into a sharp political regression. Thus, for example, the LAWV, which had affirmed its agreement with the platform of the IBRP since the mid-1990s, abruptly adopted the ridiculous notion that the Russian Revolution had degenerated into a state capitalist regime and the Bolsheviks had become counter-revolutionary by 1918. Indeed it was the appearance of this anarchist view in a publication that claimed affiliation with the IBRP, that help precipitate the IBRP's decision that a parting of the ways was necessary. While this is not the appropriate place to enter into a lengthy refutation of the LAWV position, we do wonder how the LAWV can explain the fact that these supposedly counter-revolutionary Bolsheviks of 1918 then undertook the formation of the Communist International in 1919, and exhorted the revolutionary proletariat of the world to break with the social democratic parties and prepare to spread the revolution throughout the world. For LAWV, the failure of the Russian Revolution is not due to the failure of the revolution to spread internationally, but because of the betrayal of the Bolsheviks and because conditions for socialism in Russia were not ripe. This pearl is actually a variant of the Stalinist theory of socialism in one country, since it implies that socialism in a single country is possible; the problem was that it was attempted in the wrong country, one that wasn't developed enough.

The political regression of the LAWV is continued in their new platform published in their new publication, the New Internationalist (LAWV bowed to pressure from the IBRP to abandon the Internationalist Notes name which has been used historically by ICP- Battaglia Communista). The platform is a poorly written, two-and-a-half page document, presented as a single, never-ending paragraph. Especially in the beginning, the LAWV text appears to follow very closely the Basic Positions that appear in all issues of the ICC's press (not as a platform but as merely a summary of the major points of the ICC platform), and borrows various formulations from the ICC.

The ICC is not flattered by this seductive imitation by a parasitic group. We are well aware that parasites often seek legitimacy by making overtures to established groups in the proletarian milieu, as part of an effort to play one organization off against the other. In any case, the LAWV redrafts and adds many formulations and points to what they have lifted from our Basic Positions document, which reflect their inconsistencies, confusions and political regression away from the communist left traditions. For example, instead of talking about the decadence of capitalism, the LAWV refers to a period of barbarism ushered in by World War in 1914. But later in the document there is a reference to "decadent capitalism" without any explanation what decadence is. The document is also unclear as to whether state capitalism exists only in the stalinist countries or as a universal tendency in all countries in decadent capitalism. The "dictatorship of the proletariat," a fundamental acquisition of the revolutionary workers movement going back to Marx and Engels, is totally unmentioned in the document. From the rightwing of the American bourgeoisie, the LAWV borrows the conception of "term limits:" "No delegate [to the workers councils] can serve consecutive terms."

Unfortunately, today in the US, not only do we have a weakened IBRP presence, and hence a weakened communist left presence in the US, but now we are confronted with the presence of a parasitic group of former leftists, with only a half-baked comprehension of communist left positions, heavily imbued with an amalgam of localist, immediatist, activist, and stalinist ideological conceptions from their past, and libertarian distrust of centralization and the Russian Revolution, affirming themselves as spokespersons of the communist left in America. At the same time they distort the positions of that political tradition and slander one of its most important organizations internationally, the IBRP. It won't be long, we suspect, before the ICC, too, is subjected to the slander and denouncement by such parasitic elements.

JG, 24/5/02.