Internationalist Notes underestimates the danger of LAWV

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The November 2002 issue of Internationalist Notes (publication of the newly constituted Internationalist Workers Group regrouping the remaining sympathizers of the International Bureau for the Revolutionary Party (IBRP) in the US and Canada) rejects the ICC's expression of solidarity in the face of the Los Angeles Workers Voice's (LAWV) parasitic attacks against the IBRP(see Internationalism 122). Readers will recall that in that article we not only defend the IBRP against the ludicrous LAWV accusation that it was no longer a working class organization, but also supported the IBRP's criticism of LAWV's reprehensible behavior on the organizational level and its headlong retreat from the political legacy of the communist left. Calling our article an "unfortunate intervention," IN criticizes specifically our criticism of the LAWV for violating revolutionary principles of fraternalism and organizational functioning because "they held secret and private political and organizational discussions in Los Angeles." Dismissing our expression of solidarity, IN writes:

"As usual with the ICC there is always a clear lack of proportion in their accusations. Though the LA group is clearly localist, the ICC needs to add accusations on its effort to characterize them as parasites so as to give support to their own sectarian theory of parasitism. How else could the LA people meet other than privately as the closest IBRP supporter was many hundreds of miles away? This has permitted the LA group to respond to the ICC accusation in a way that can imply that the IBRP could have demanded some kind of mandatory observation at those meetings."

Of course, we're not so stupid or naïve that we don't recognize that geographically dispersed militants in revolutionary organizations normally meet without the physical presence of comrades from other geographical locales. However, we are well aware that geographically dispersed militants in revolutionary organizations communicate with each other through letters, documents, texts, minutes, etc. and have a responsibility to keep each other and the rest of the organization informed of discussions and decisions, which are taken within a shared framework. Our point was that these "private" meetings in LA were held secretly, that they violated earlier collective decisions and were deliberately hidden from the other comrades - just as the comrades who recently split from the ICC held secret meetings hidden from the organization, in gross violation of our statutes.

Just for the record, the "unfortunate intervention" we made in Internationalism 122 in regard to these "private" meetings was the following:

"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 are of course a bit baffled by IN's apparent complete turn around on LA's comportment, for our comments in that article were merely a paraphrase of what the IBRP and the militants of IN themselves had already published on this episode. The defense of "private" discussions in Los Angeles in the November Internationalist Notes constitutes a retreat from the clarity of the IBRP's own previous analysis and description of the situation in its external press and on its web site, upon which Internationalism drew heavily in writing our previous article.

For example, in the "Statement Regarding the Relationship of Los Angeles Workers Voice (LAWV) with the IBRP", which was originally published on the IBRP web site, and which IN republishes as part of the November 2002 article, "The IBRP, Internationalist Notes and the US Workers Voice," the IBRP explained unprincipled secret behavior of the LAWV in these terms:

"Thus, although LAWV formally agreed to work in tandem with the Bureau the differences between us were growing rather than diminishing. Rather than tackle these differences politically as they emerged, LAWV preferred to pretend they did not exist and instead produced a smokescreen of diversions and virulent attacks on the IBRP comrade elsewhere in the USA, including demanding his expulsion from the Bureau."

"…they agreed to take on the work of publishing Internationalist Notes Volume 3. When it finally came out, however this was labeled 'US Workers Voice magazine' and all reference to the existence of other IBRP supporters in the US was omitted, including acknowledgement of the articles contributed. All this was no accident. To the criticisms that there should be a collective discussion of all US comrades on the contents of the publication, LA replied that from now on 'the majority' (i.e. themselves) would decide. This is their idea of resisting 'authoritarian' practice! Theoretically there was little to distinguish this effort as a publication o the communist left."

"Now post hoc (since it was never part of the discussion)…LA now find that the Bureau is 'non-working class', not to mention favoring Bolshevik methods of 'top-down elitism and commandism.'…LA are now resorting to slanders, which pre-empt all further discussion".

A similar point of view on the danger of the so-called private discussions in Los Angeles, also appeared in the article "The Debate Among IBRP Sympathizers in the US," by AS.This article presented very persuasively and correctly the argument that the regroupment in April 2000 of militants in Los Angeles and Wisconsin (now Indiana) as a sympathizing section of IBRP meant that the comrades were "obligated to openly discuss and inform each other and the Bureau of proposed decisions that affect our activity…" But instead of functioning according to the principles of a revolutionary organization, AS's article points out:

"The comrades of Los Angeles Workers' Voice made a decision privately amongst themselves when they changed the rate of publication in Internationalist Notes without open discussion. They also adopted the organizational name of "US Workers' Voice" without open discussion. They discarded the agreement that we made regarding the joint publication of IN. They refused to answer any questions regarding their actions preferring to make accusations and recriminations. We cannot claim to be a sympathizing section of the Bureau if we are not willing to work with the comrades of the Bureau and definitely not if we are not willing to work together as a group….a vote cannot just be taken in private without allowing a minority voice to be heard. The process of how revolutionaries make decisions involves much more than simply taking a vote. The first thing that revolutionaries do is to open a debate and try to reach a consensus through this debate. If all else fails then we make decisions by means of a majority vote."

So, it seems a bit disingenuous of IN to chastise the ICC for agreeing with and reaffirming the IBRP's own earlier criticism of the "private" meetings of the LAWV. In this apparently sectarian brush off of our expression of solidarity and our theory of parasitism, IN seriously underestimates the danger posed by LAWV (now calling itself USWV) to the workers movement. Previously, as the quotations reprinted from the IBRP above demonstrate, the IBRP and IN saw the LAWV as guilty of comportment totally at odds with the tradition and principles of the workers movement, of abandoning fundamental class positions, and publishing a journal which as the IBRP put it contains "little to distinguish this effort as a publication of the communist left," and slandering the IBRP as "non-working class." But as of November, IN now sees the main problem with LAWV is that it is localist. But in fact LA's localism is the least of their shortcomings, as the IBRP and IN themselves previously pointed out.

The small forces of left communism in North America now face a very serious problem. As we noted in Internationalism 122, "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." The LAWV (USVW) actively distorts the positions and political traditions of left communism and now denounces the two most important organizations of the international left communist movement, the IBRP and the ICC, as non-working class and irrelevant.

After we expressed our solidarity with the IBRP, LAWV turned its venom on the ICC, distorting our views - for example literally lying about what we have written in our press on the Kronstadt rebellion. To their credit, IN notes this outrageous slander by their former Los Angeles comrades in their article, but makes an egregious error when it basically equates the ICC and the LAWV, essentially saying "a pox on both your houses." In this sense, IN announces that the political struggle against LAWV "is of no interest to the revolutionary movement and the international working class," as if the parasitic attacks and political distortions of the LAWV will disappear if they are ignored. It is critical that IN resist any sectarian biases against the ICC, and join with us in countering the confusions and distortions of revolutionary principles being peddled by the Los Angeles group. Even if they don't accept our theoretical understanding of political parasitism, surely IN must understand that against the LAWV attack against the very idea of a revolutionary Marxist organization, against the conception of the revolutionary party, against their rejection of the Russian Revolution, against their rejection of the concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat, against their ridicule and denunciation of the organizations of the communist left, we share a common bond and common struggle. This is especially true since the IBRP and IN bear a particular responsibility for the fact that the LAWV gained a certain aura of legitimacy as partisans of the communist left because of their sojourn as members of an IBRP sympathizing section, despite their inability to deal with and break with their leftist past. It is impossible to "go forward" as IN wishes to do without taking up the responsibility to defend the communist left against a monster they helped to create, even if at the same time they are aware of political disagreements between the organizations of that milieu.

JG, 12/16/02.